Hi from the San Blas Islands!
We have landed in Panama - 2 ½ hours late, but we got here!! Our Chicago -Texas flight was cancelled, so we were moved to a flight to Newark and then Panama City, Panama. The taxi driver was absolutely wonderful, taking us to our hotel, carrying our baggage into our hotel and chatted all the way. Our hotel was very nice and after a short sleep, we were up and the same taxi driver gave us a ride to the Air Panama airport in Panama City.
We took off on a 6-seater plan and flew down the coast, across Panama and landed on a runway that ran the length of the island. There were 4 Japanese "Peace Corps -like" volunteers on the plan with us, so we chatted almost the entire way with them. When we set down on the island and bumped a bit, the girl in the front seat with the pilot screamed and then apologized for having done so. Randy and Dawn were there to meet us and we jumped into their dingy and motored out to the sailboat. We have explored an island, sailed our way here, and snorkelled as well. A nap was on order for us, too. We just bought 3 lobster and 3 conch from some natives who drove their canoe up to our boat. We paid $15.00 for it all. They will be tomorrow and the next night's dinner. Tonight we head to another island, via dingy, for happy hour and a potluck supper amongst all of the sailing people that are anchored here. This is the life!!
I am already a bit red on arms and shoulders, but I'm using sunscreen. We are loving being with dear friends. I think this will be the trip of a lifetime.
The taxi driver's name is Roger and we highly recommend him. His contact info. Is: mago50hotmail.com
Wendy and Jess
We are sailing the San Blas Islands of Panama which lay no more than five miles off Panama's Caribbean coast, and go from eighty to one hundred east of the Panama Canal. The islands are small and picturesque with palm trees, sandy beaches and surrounding coral reefs. Laying several miles apart at most it is a great place for exploring and swimming as the water is 84 - 86 degrees. The Kuna Indians which live here gained self rule from Panama in the early 1900s and still live their traditional way of life, calling the area Kuna Yala. It also includes about one hundred miles of what is referred to as the Darian, Panama's eastern most province, a mountainous tropical jungle stretching to Columbia. It is still very remote. There are only a couple of roads into the area so the main mode of transportation is by boat, There are also two air strips with the shortest runways I have seen yet, going from shore to shore across islands which are only four hundred yards long. Some of the local traders have open thirty foot fiberglass boats with twenty five to sixty HP motors. They are run from the back, and carry everything from barrels of fuel, food, school children and backpackers to Kuna Yala islands and communities.
At any time you can see several Kuna in their dug out canoes fishing over reefs or paddling miles between islands. The dugouts are very well crafted from what would have been massive trees, as most are about twenty feet long. Some have outboard motors up to ten HP, and some have crude sails. Several times a day they come buy with a few lobster, crab, fish, bananas, mangoes or avocados to sell. There isn't much other food to buy out here. On occasion one of the industrious Kuna with a hut on an island from which they sell beer will have some potatoes, peppers or onions as well. We are eating our way through our lockers of canned goods.
The Kuna women make Molas, traditional squares that appear at first to be like appliqué but are multi layered with the patterns cut out and stitched over each other. Very intricate work. There are several traditional designs which are sewn onto the front of their clothes and other traditional designs for healing and for ceremonies. The women come by in their dugouts and sell them as Molas are one of the main incomes for the women.
The islands are all dry so we have to catch rain water to fill our tanks. We hold one hundred gallons and were down to the point of being concerned as we had only light rains for a week, but then yesterday the clouds dumped on us and we filled out tanks in fifteen minutes.
The Kuna on the islands are usually an extended family group living in several bamboo huts with palm thatch roofs, one hut with hammocks for sleeping and another with a fire for cooking. Rice, beans, bananas and fish are their staple foods. They still live by some of their traditional beliefs and ceremonies, tending to the coconut palms and fishing. Every coconut tree is owned and the coconuts are sold abroad, which is their main income. Most islanders spend part of the year on the mainland with others of their extended families. The children are sent to larger communities for elementary school and will live with family or friends.
There are quite a few sail boats here. Some people staying for several years finding it hard to leave for more than a few months when they leave their boat at a marina and fly home to visit. It looks like we will be part of that community for a little while.
San Blas 2
Still having fun in the sun in the south! Not travelling too far these days Have been to the West Lemons, that is where these abandoned dogs are. The boaters are feeding them and bringing them fresh water. Their owner, an old man, died and the gossip is that the Kunas think his spirit is in the dogs so they plan on letting them starve! Different world! Breaks my heart sometimes! Had a pot luck supper in the Eastern Holandes and now we are in Coco Banderos. Had a fabulous supper aboard Blue Sky, Debbie and Breeze hosted a party for 12! Great food, company, stories! Love getting together with other boaters! Going snorkelling with Respite , Gloria and Mike later today. Both these couples have been live boards and hanging out in the San Blas for years! Randy and I saw 2 rays swimming together yesterday when we were out. How very beautiful! Just magical the flow and grace of these beautiful beings! Randy and I are working on Spanish and as Kimba shows it is exhausting at times! Baby it is hot here! Just standing here in the galley with 2 fans going I am dripping sweat! And I don't sweat! Have been in the ocean once already, but I am sure the water temp is 90 plus..
Last night Randy and I were lying on the bow before bedtime watching the stars and we heard a splash! Angel went for a midnight swim! Randy jumped up swung over the rails, held on to the rail, picked Angel up and swung her into the boat and pulled himself out of the water, not getting the waist band of his shorts wet, or spilling his beer that he was still holding onto! Impressive! I do have a jock for a Captain. All those chin ups are paying off! This is not the first time Angel has gone for a swim but at night it is particularly dangerous with predators about - sharks and crocodiles may like the occasional kitty for supper! One of the other times she went in we had just anchored: that's when we unleash them to let them walk about the boat freely. Splash, in the ICW and there was a 3 knot current and she was swimming her little heart out, but loosing ground fast! We had a flutter board that we had taught them to swim to earlier in the trip but I couldn't get it too her. Our dingy was on the front of the big boat and it usually takes 15 minutes or so to get it off. I was getting ready to jump in and low and behold Angel and the flutter board connected and she was now surfing away from us! We threw the dinging in, put the motor on as the current was too strong for Randy to row back to the boat without it and he went to rescue her. Meanwhile Prima Donna, a beautiful trawler anchored behind us about 300 feet, looked out and thought a bird was surfing towards them. They investigated and pulled a wet cat out and saved her for us!!! This was so traumatic for me I couldn't write about it until now. Another time, we wanted to give the cats play time as we had been gone much of the day and they were locked below. We couldn't find Angel, but Kimba was at the back of the boat meowing, so Tom, one of the crew looked out and sure enough Angel was swimming. Tom pulled her out and saved the day! She had been in the water a long 5 - 10 minutes we figure and she was shaking! I love my cats but they have been the biggest trauma for us on this trip! The number of times I look for them, worry about them is too many to count. They hide in the boom, under the sails, and in other places when they are hot or afraid. Another concern is in the Bahamas there is a type of flea that our medicine doesn't work on and many an animal have died other sailors tell us! Here, in the San Blas there are many sand fleas we are afraid to take the cats to shore because the fleas are terrible here, they itch like crazy for days! Not as bad as Bahamian ones though Jaime! Any way, have to go play in the sun - till later --- Dawn
09 30 7N
87 37 1W
Not much internet here for us so haven't posted yet. We are continuing to play in the water and go to different islands. Went to Nargana yesterday where bought fuel from Pocco. They have different type gas stations here! Toured the town, bought a few things then had a nice lunch at the local restaurant. Randy gave his left over chicken to a very hungry cat! Last night had another supper over to Respite. They have been great friends and supper swimmers and we will miss them. They are going state side for the summer. Many people spend their winters here and go home for the rainy season. We haven't had much rain yet. Last night though spent and hour or so with our water catcher and trying to fill the water tanks as they are getting low. It is quite the process! The rain started an hour after bedtime so we wake up from a dead sleep to catch the precious water! Our catcher needs continual attendance to catch the water. As well, we cleaned the decks and have the water flow into the inlet valve! In addition we have pails under the cockpit awning on both sides with different techniques to catch the rain. In drenching rain, flashes of lightning like I have never seen, both of us running around in the buff tending to things, it is quite the site! But our water tanks are looking better today! Have to go snorkelling, till later!! Dawn and Randy
We have found a different world! After a few days sail and passing many freighters' in Panama waiting to get through the canal we arrived!! All is well on Nirvana Now. After killing humidity in Shelterbay Marina, in Colon we are now in the San Blas! It is still very humid but we at least get to jump into the ocean and almost cool off. The water is 86 degrees so not very cool! We have bought our token Molas and lobster from the local Kuna population but they keep coming up to the boat! Randy bought 3 lobster for $5 dollars today! Found out last night lobster are out of season for the rest of the month so won't do that again! They have very strange looking crabs as well, also off season! The Kuna's have dug out canoes but some have motors, some have sails and all have hand carved paddles. They live in bamboo type shacks but have store bought clothes. Strange meeting of two worlds. The Kuna population are trying to keep ancient ways. One feels obligated to buy Molas from everybody. I am sure my family and friends all want one! We meet some boaters last night at the little island near us. World travelers, some left home years and years ago, others just out for a few years! Randy made us a water catcher as one can't buy water here. Got 2 gallons after hours of effort! We put it up and down 3 times before the rain really lasted long enough. May modify another type of catcher for the bimini cover or dodger cover. Went snorkelling today, beautiful coral and some nice fish. May not be able to do many entry's for the next while. They say it takes 1 hour to download 1 picture so they might not be too plentiful either! I am at a Kuna bamboo shack, on an island ¼ city block, sitting outside someone's home. No one speaks English here. The speak Kuna or Spanish. My ten weeks of Spanish has helped a bit but needs practice. We have taken to study it a few hours a day. Randy can do magic with the language and the r's but not me! Expecting our friends Wendy and Jess in a few weeks. Randy was in Africa with them many years ago. The airport they are landing in is impressive! Hope I can load to pics to the blog! Discussing today how to make this lifestyle work for us! In 2 months today we fly home. It is too soon! I miss home but we want more! I think we have the traveling bug! We shall see... Til later Dawn and Randy
Hanging out in Sheltered Bay Marina these days, doing boat repairs and waiting on a weather window. Sounds like Tuesday may head to the San Blas Islands. Went for a few trips into Colon, had to go across the Panama Canal to get to town. Very big boats going through there. Many of the boats at the Marina are waiting to go through. It takes about 2 weeks to get space booked to go through. Many people need rope handlers - to help them lock through or else you hire local guys to hold the lines for you. It takes two days to lock through so you end up having people for sleep overs! Maybe when we get back to here in July we will have the opportunity to help someone go through. It is recommended to go through on some one else's boat to learn the routine before you go through on your own. A woman was by yesterday promising a massage to those who came with her. She is a registered massage therapist and has her things set up on her boat! Went for a walk today in the jungle, didn't set any monkeys but heard howling ones! Sounds like they are 200 pounds but Randy says they are only a foot and a half or so. It is sooooo humid here. The temperatures are much the same but the humidity is something else. Hard to breathe, to sleep to even move! Slow mode I am in! Kimba's posture in the photo gallery says it all! Had a pot luck and happy hour under the eves at the marina a few days with some hearty sailors. It was pouring rain but hey we're sailors! There are people from all over the world here, mostly couples but some single handlers who have crossed the both oceans at least once! We feel quite humbled to be in their presence. Over to the neighbours boat "Better Days" yesterday - Connie and Steve, who gave us a wealth of information about the San Blas as they have cruised them for over 3 years. The adventure continues for only a few more months. We are both concerned about going back to work - and how hard it may be after this wonderful world of exploring, sailing and living the dream! But may need a new engine and sails and .... Til later! Dawn and Randy
April 20th we left Clearance Town, Long Island at 0300 for Great Inagua, the south eastern most island in the Bahamas. The wind was 15 kts with 1m - 2m seas on the beam making for a lively sail. That night the wind picked up and gusted 22 kts as we romped along in the dark. The moon two past full was hidden in a partly cloudy sky after it rose just before midnight.
We set the anchor off Mathew Town at noon just before the rain squalls hit gusting to 25 kt. Our buddy boat BAKA wasn't so lucky. They lagged behind us several hours by mid night and got hit with some squalls that we made it past. Having their boat knocked down by the wind and waves caused Jewels to fall on the stairs down to her cabin and bump her head. That, and some generator malfunctions, and loosing their dingy the first night anchored in Mathew Town, made them decide not to carry on with us but to sit back and regroup. Some times it is a very fine line between riding in your personal comfort zone and too much.
We spent three days in the VERY rolly anchorage off Mathew Town, talking to boats coming from other Caribbean islands to check into the Bahamas at this remote spot.
We ourselves checked out Easter weekend for Panama, leaving Saturday at 1700 after a southern squall. We had been in the Bahamas five great months. I think we will always keep the Bahamas as a place to go for some easy living.
We arrived in Colon, Panama this morning, Saturday, making 850 kt mi in 7 days. The first day we had good winds, 15 kt and 1m -2m seas.
The 2nd and 3rd day were almost calm and we just drifted along east of Cuba and Jamaica at about 3-4 kt.
The 4th and 5th days were very windy and wavy, 16 kt- 18 kt gusting 22 kt with 2m-3m seas on the beam, so we made good progress. At night the phosphorescence in the water gave us a sparkling show that made us feel as if we were sailing on a fantasy ocean.
The last day was light wind and we started the motor at supper and motor sailed to Colon arriving at Shelter Bay Marina at 0900. We were advised by Henry, the previous owner and friend that by the time we left the Caribbean we would be used to 20 kt winds. We now conceder them acceptable if not on the bow!
On this passage, our first long offshore sail, we realized the importance of good equipment. I am convinced that the best money I spent was on (1) the Marine Single Side Band Radio with which we receive our weather routing info and keep our family updated daily with position reports via e mail. When a medical emergency arose hundreds of miles and days from shore we were able to e mail for advice. (2) The Monitor wind vane self steering unit. We would never have been able physically put in the hours of concentration needed to steer the boat for days in 20 kt winds and 2m - 3m seas. At no time was I able to keep as good as course as it did! Using no power I am sure it will be the last piece of equipment working in a deteriorating situation. If you are planning trips longer than just an overnight passage, where an electric auto pilot would suffice, I would recommend considering this unit.
We will be here about a week I think, making minor repairs and arrangements to leave the boat in July. There is a marked difference in the boats down here as compared to those in Georgetown, these are more of a function over form variety, set up for offshore work and remote sailing. Many of the sailors here have been where we want to go so we will spend some time with them taking notes. It used to be called networking but now we call it happy hour. A much preferred name and attitude.