This is our last few weeks in the San Blas and of our one year leave from our usual lives! Feeling bitter sweet about this journey coming to an end. No more sailing until we can make enough money to take more time off! We miss our family and friends but love the cruising life. What is a couple to do! How much money does one need to retire really? Unsure of what the future brings but we both know we want more of this! Had Randys 58th birthday- we celebrated early before Wendy and Jess left. Unfortunately I couldn't buy him a present as there are no stores here! We snorkel on his birthday, looked at the stars of the southern sky from our vantage point near the equator, from the bow of the boat and contemplated life. Have had a few great days at Gunboat Island, snorkelling but got scared - Randy saw this shark that didn't look like a nurse shark. We got out of the water for a day but were back in, our friends Debbie and Breeze from Blue Sky joined us and gave us courage! Spend our time reading, studying Spanish, talking a bit to the locals who come and sell us fish and lobster - though Randy is getting to be quite the spear fisherman, just enjoying life. Happiness - we both have decided we are as happy as we have ever been. Now how to keep that feeling when we go back to the insanity of our old lives, that is the question. We know being well rested, well fed, visiting with wonderful people, appreciating each other and taking good care of ourselves and each other helps. So does contemplation and connecting with the God and the universe and all its glory are some of the keys of happiness for us. It has taken us most of this time off to recover from the stresses of our work and lives. Don't want to loose the feelings that we have now of inner contentment and peace. Love the swimming in 86 degree water. I am mesmerized by squid. They are sooo beautiful, they change color as they fly in the water over different backgrounds and interact with each other and us. Never going to eat calamari again! Randy had a up close and personal connection with a predator of the sea. I leave it for him to tell you about next blog. Our last swim on the coral was fabulous. Started with a dotted ray under our boat and included all my favorite fish on the reef a swim away from our boat in the Holandes. Clouds are breathtaking every day and because of the low lying islands we can see 360 around us! It is the beginning of rainy season so we have lightning like I have never seen before, every night. Bit scary for even a storm buff like me! Many boats get hit each year and loose their electronics. Have had 2 boats hit reefs in the last few weeks. One was destroyed, the other towed back to safety. No lives lost but realize we are living a little closer to the edge than sitting on the chesterfield at home out here! Out last day in the San Blas was interesting. While Randy went to shore to check us out with customs 3 Kuna boats with women and children came to visit me and sell me stuff! I bought from each one beads and things and gave them gifts of clothes and nail polish and make up which they loved! They hung around for a while. Unfortunately they speak Kuna and Spanish. My Spanish is still poor and Kuna non existent so I just sat on the side of the boat and listened as they chatted to each other. Just like they were going for tea at the donut shop! After a while they left, only for one boat to return as it started to rain. They wanted shelter. We got them aboard, made them supper and then sent them on their way after the rain stopped. Tomorrow on our way home! The cats are content enough but looking forward to land more than us!
06/15/2011, San Blas
We are still enjoying life in the San Blas Islands. Our long time friends, Wendy and Jess Meisner, have been with us for the last two weeks marveling at all the wonders here. For them, and myself as well, it is the most different place we have been since we were in West Africa together half a lifetime ago.
Sitting on the boat at anchor dugouts with Kuna men and boys come by selling fish, lobster and fruit, or with women in traditional dress and children selling crafts. Bartering for items in Spanish, which we are making a try at, gets us repeated phrases from the Kuna. We have trinkets for the women and children and our extra clothes for the men and boys. On receipt of these it is not uncommon for them to ask for a shirt if they received a pair of shorts, or for another for someone at home.
There are several villages here that encompass their islands in their entirety. Little laneways weave through the yards of houses and past shops and community huts, most of which are made of cane tied to a frame, with thatched roofs. As we wander by the women rush out with their Molas to sell. Looking in the open doors we see hammocks hanging for beds, cooking pots on walls by an open fire on the dirt floor, and in some, a TV. Those with power have meters mounted on boards or to a stick tied to the hut, the wires run unsupported to the main lines and are spliced in and rapped.
Some days we spend sailing to another tropical is land covered in palm trees, ringed by a little beach. Most days we spent three hours or more snorkeling over the coral reefs looking for lobster or fish for supper. We missed a few monster lobster and crab and speared a few smaller ones, but would have gotten very hungry if we couldn't buy some more.
We took a river tour a ways into the mainland then hiked for several hours over the mountains covered with tropical jungle, flowers, fruit and ants, to a water fall where we had lunch, and jumped of the rocks into the fresh water. The walk back in the hot humid afternoon was splashing down through the river to the local Kuna cemetery where we had left the dugout.
There are forty to fifty other sail boats in the area which makes for some social diversion. We have joined six other couples at a raft up in our dingies for happy hour and potluck supper. Organized by a long time single woman sailor we passed drinks, stories, and plates of food between us. Another night we joined our friends on their boat to celebrate their guest's birthday. After happy hour, with sushi salads and casadias for supper we played maracas and drums while singing along to a Jimmy Buffet concert DVD.
Yesterday we went to the island with the air strip and found the local woman in charge of the flights in her house, there isn't an office, just an air strip. We asked what time to show up. She asked if they had tickets but didn't ask to see them and said half and hour before the plane arrives at 6:30 AM. Standing on the grass beside the runway with Wendy and Jess this morning the agent recognized them and hustled them onto the twelve passenger airplane just as the arriving passengers got off. Nobody asked for tickets or looked at the bags which were being stuffed into the baggage space. On occasion people with tickets have been left behind until the next day's flight because Kuna without tickets have gotten on the plane and taken the seats.
We are on our own now for the next three weeks. After that we head to Colon where we will leave the boat when we fly Back to the Soo at the end of our year of adventure. Thoughts of our return are starting to creep in but not enough of them to depress us yet, we are still having too much fun! Randy
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