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Kokopelli's Travels
Lagoon 37 catamaran--liveaboard cruising http://picasaweb.google.com/kokopelli37/
Wild Ulu Drivers Break Things!
Liz
04/30/2012, Nargana, San Blas, Panama

We took a 2 hour sail southeast to Nargana to get some diesel fuel for ourselves and another boat that was heading west. We offered to ferry the 20 gallons of fuel back to our friends who are dealing with trying to figure out what to do with the 3 boats here in the San Blas that belong to their husband/brother who died earlier this year of a heart attack. Since they were overwhelmed with all of the chores associated with figuring out what to do with these boats, we made the run to get fuel so they could stay put. We needed 50 gallons of diesel ourselves anyway. We left early and arrived in Nargana about 9:30. I called Paco while underway--he's the guy who organizes the fuel and filters it through an old t-shirt into jugs--to alert him to our arrival and our need for 70 gallons of fuel. Upon arrival, we launched the dinghy and went in with jugs for the 20 gallons for our friends. They needed 1/2 hour more to fill those, so we went off into town for a few provisions at the local tiendas. We got bread, flour, milk, garlic, Tang, and some canned meat. Our breakfast was delicious cheese empanadas for 25 cents each. We met Frederico in town--another Kuna facilitator, who stayed with us and came to help deliver the fuel to the boat. Paco's helper drove the ulu with the fuel and we returned in the dinghy. When pulling alongside Kokopelli, the ulu driver slammed it into forward (rather than reverse) at about a 90 degree angle instead of sidling up alongside. YIKES! There was nothing to be done as the large wooden prow of the ulu smashed through the port hole window on the starboard side. The loud CRRAAAAAAAAAAAACK was deafening in the still anchorage. Ugh! The good news was it was only the port hole and not a huge hole in the fiberglass on the side of the boat. Luckily, with some trusty duct tape, I made a quick repair that held the window together for the trip back up to the Holandes Cays and, since the seas were light, we didn't take any water into the boat. Now we have to figure out how to fix this...all the spare lexan we have is either too thin or too thick. Wish we had some of that magic lexan glue that melts the surfaces and fuses them together!

05/09/2012 | Karen and Ralph
Hi guys! Ralph would use some G- flex on the port window. It's the greatest thing and you never know one of the other boats might have some on board. It's from West Marine. It's a type of epoxy and is great to use on glasses, might work here too!
Rain, Rain Go Away, Come Again Some Other Day!
Liz
04/25/2012, Central Holandes Lagoon, San Blas, Panama

After a few weeks of really beautiful weather--bright sun and moderate breeze--the weather became very still and steamy for a few days. The boats pointed every which way in the "no wind" conditions. It was so hot and steamy, we had to swim or snorkel several times per day! Then, it started to rain--and it has been raining for several days! With heavy, heavy rainfall and lots of thunderstorms, everyone has been hunkered down and been starting to get "cabin fever". In one 15 minute period a few days ago, we had nearly 2" of rain! One of the weather gurus here with an onboard weather station has been monitoring the rainfall and we've been having an average of about 4" per day--often times more. At least one boat has been struck by lightening, destroying all of their electronics. Another boat--with an absent owner--began sinking yesterday and several cruisers were able to get permission to get on board and were able to find a leak and replace failed bilge pumps. The good news is that we have been collecting water in a 5 gallon bucket and our 50 quart cooler and managed to fill our water tanks. We tie the bucket and cooler near the aft bows of the bimini and wait for the runoff to fill the containers. Then, in our bathing suits, we carry the water up to the bows (where the fill openings are) and use a rolled up chopping mat as a funnel to pour the water into the tanks. Then, we do it all over again once the containers are refilled. We've also been able to do laundry (by hand of course) using the captured rain water. Of course, with all of the rain, the laundry isn't drying! To ease the "cabin fever", we had a session of Mexican Train dominoes aboard Kokopelli with 3 other boats yesterday. The folks came over in their foul weather gear between squalls. It was a bit sweltering inside the cabin as we only have 2 fans in the salon, but we'd crack open the hatches during the lighter periods of rain and get a bit of breeze until the table got wet. We are sure that the sun will come out...tomorrow :(.

Patience is a Virtue
Liz
04/16/2012, West Lemmon Cays, San Blas, Panama

While anchored in the West Lemmons, I took a trip into Panama City with a fellow cruiser while Alan stayed behind and watched the boats. We arranged the trip to the mainland in a launcha that took us to Carti Tupile. The launcha ride took 30 minutes and we arrived ashore surprisingly dry. When we arrived there, the driver we had arranged was no where to be found and we watched other jeeps come and go bring folks in and out. After about 45 minutes, Carol phoned our driver and, with somewhat broken communications, managed to learn that SOMEONE was coming, but not the driver we'd arranged. About 1 1/2 hours later, another driver showed up and took the two of us, along with 3 Kunas, into Panama City for $25 each. The ride takes a winding route through the jungle--up and down steep hills. In the dry season, this ride was fairly routine with some beautiful scenery, but I can imagine that in the rainy season, it could be much more exciting as there were some washed out sections even in this dry season. We arrived in time for Carol's appointment and were able to run all sorts of errands for provisions, spear fishing supplies, 6V batteries for another cruiser, medicine for another cruiser, etc. We enjoyed a nice, luxurious meal in the city. The following morning, our jeep driver arrived at 5:30 a.m. This time it was yet another driver and not the one we'd organized. We'd asked our scheduled driver if it would be possible to stop for coffee. He agreed, but this new driver--although he seemed to be aware of the request--never stopped, but headed straight back to Kuna Yala. We arrived back at Carti Tupile at 7:45 a.m., but this time our launcha was no where to be found. The air was completely still and the no-see-ums were out in force. Unfortunately, neither of us had bug spray. We waited for about 45 minutes and then I phoned Miguel on Isla Elephante. Again, in a somewhat broken communication, we managed to learn that the launcha was coming--and had either left 20 minutes ago or would be leaving in 20 minutes. The launcha arrived about an hour later. HOWEVER, we weren't leaving...we would be waiting until another jeep arrived from the city with more tourists for Isla Elephante. Sigh...patience helps. By 11:30 a.m., we were back aboard our respective boats, but exhausted from the whirl-wind journey to the big city.

Internet in Paradise
Liz
04/09/2012, West Lemmon Cays, San Blas, Panama

When mid-April approaches, it's time to think about doing our taxes and to do that, we need internet access. So, we sailed the 3 hours from the Holandes Cays over to the West Lemmons where there is a satellite internet setup with 3 hard-wired connections powered by solar panels. Isla Elephante in this island group has a small bar and provides many services for cruisers in addition to the internet including propane fills, moorings for folks leaving their boats for a short period, trash disposal, gas or diesel shuttled over from a nearby island, and arranging of launchas (small boats) to take you to the mainland where you can get a jeep ride thru the jungle into Panama City. The cost of internet here is $3 per hour and, after several sessions, we successfully filed our taxes. It's good to have that behind us!

Adventures in Snorkeling
Liz
04/07/2012, Swimming Pool Anchorage, San Blas, Panama

Life aboard is good as we get to snorkel every day--sometimes twice per day! We have found several "new" sites this year that are exciting and different. One of the sites is an intricate series of caves and caverns that leads to the outer reef of the Holandes Cays. For this snorkel, access is tricky and you must weave your way toward the outer reef--dodging shallow sand bars and scattered coral heads. Closer to the reef, the depths increase with some nice sandy patches for anchoring the dinghy. A "slot canyon" with large overhangs and deep caves leads out to the edge of the outer reef. When the winds and seas are up, snorkeling this site would be impossible. But when the weather is calm, as it has been recently, this is a GREAT experience. The canyon is about 4 feet wide at the top with lots of different corals at the surface. About 4' down, the slot opens up with large overhangs and huge caves. When diving down, there are tons of fish--including some nice "dinner sized" snapper, an occasional nurse shark, and other creatures, like lobsters and HUGE bearded fireworms. (Typically, the fireworms are about 3-4" long, but in this canyon, they are 10-14" long and perhaps bigger.) If you are brave, you can dive down and swim thru a cave and up into another opening (or "vent") in the reef for another breath of air. The first time into another portion is a bit intimidating as you can see the light, but you have to hope that the opening is big enough to poke your head out! Luckily I sink when I let out my air as one of the small openings was just big enough for my head and snorkel to poke out, but not wide enough for my shoulders. This meant that I had to breathe out and "sink" without doing the typical jackknife type dive to dive down in order to get back out again. Another of the sites is called "the waterfalls" by the cruisers here. At this site--again on the outer reef and accessible only in calmer conditions--the waves crashing into the outer reef spray high into the air and come over an overhang with a nice air pocket. Swimming against the current created by the crashing surf (the waves crash here even in calm conditions as the seas on the outer reef are always running 3-5' even when the winds are dead calm), you dip under the surface so your snorkel clears the overhanging ledge and come up into the air pocket. As the waves crash on the reef, the water rushes over the overhang creating a thunderous roar and a beautiful waterfall that you are looking at from the "inside". It's always a good idea to have a "look" into the small cave created by the overhang before going "in" as the day we did it, there was a large nurse shark resting on the bottom--wouldn't want to inadvertently sit on it! And, of course, we have continued our night snorkel excursions since the first experience was so fantastic. Last night we had a glorious night snorkel under a full moon. We saw octopus, tons of lobsters--including a slipper lobster, several eels out--many free swimming, spider crabs, along with urchins, sea cucumbers, and brittle stars out "walking". One of the other divers came up and nearly bumped into a huge sea turtle--scaring herself and it so much that it actually "jumped" out of the water making a huge splash! This night snorkeling has become a "tradition" with a 'raft-up' of dinghies with hot chocolate spiked with rum, Baileys, or some other spirit and a snack--last night we had chocolate chip brownies and banana bread. It's a tough life, but someone's gotta do it.

04/12/2012 | Karen and Ralph
Hi guys! Wish we were there! Sounds like the weather has finally improved too. Now I want to come back and try out those reefs, have fun!
Night Snorkeling
Liz
03/29/2012, Central Holandes, San Blas, Panama

A couple of nights ago, we had a "night time" excursion to snorkel on a near by reef. After the afternoon snorkel to the outer reef, we stopped along the way back to the boats to set a large fender on an anchor to mark the shallow reef for the night dive so we could find it again in the darkness. Each dinghy prepared a thermos of hot chocolate and brought along some rum or cognac to add in after the snorkeling. We set out just after sunset and anchored near the marker buoy. We waited about 10 minutes for the darkness to settle over us and everyone slipped into the water with their dive lights. At night, the reefs are alive with creatures that remain hidden during the daytime. We saw several lobsters out walking, including a slipper lobster, eels, tons of brittle stars crawling over the reefs and about a dozen toadfish (Sapo Bacon). It was incredible! After circumnavigating the shallow patch reef, we returned to the dinghies and rafted up to enjoy the spiked hot chocolate and some banana bread and chocolates with the moon glow on the water.

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