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Sound Effect does the big U
Swimming Pool

Friday we got up early to the cadence of marching drums and followed the noise to town where they were having day two of Panamanian Independence Day. Typical small town parade, town officials followed by school children two marching drum units and various clubs etc, marching all over town.
We upped anchor for Cocos Banderas. Just another example of small islands fringed with reefs, white sand and clear water.
Saturday we moved once again to the "swimming pool".... You guessed it turquoise water and white sand with small coconut fringed islands. This is what we imagined when we set out to go cruising.
There are about 60 cruising boats divided among hundreds of islands, but by Christmas we are told it will be 3 times that number. By then Sound Effect will most likely have moved on to Roatan or Belize.
Kokomo however is planning to stay here for a long time. They have a more open ended cruising plan and are going to take advantage of staying here for a season. Sound Effect is moving on before the infamous Christmas winds set in.
Sorry we cant show you pictures due to not having internet.

11/07/2011 | Kelly Stover
Sounds like you guys are having a great time. Can't wait to see pictures.
11/08/2011 | Simon
Still reading........with envy ;-) Plastic bags full of garbage is a bit upsetting! Glad you got it off the prop
November 3

We spent Tuesday night at Gunboat Cay. We were alone, for a perfect evening, soft tropical breezes, starlight sky with no light pollution. There we no bugs, so I stayed in the cockpit and watched the starlight sky for hours. No rain squalls, no buzzing boats, and no worries, all alone in the Caribbean Sea of the Kuna Yala.
Wednesday we got up and motor sailed to Elephantes off the West Lemon Cays. We had heard there was internet so we had a mission. We elected for the north entrance to the lagoon rather than the closer South entrance. We had to wait for a squall to pass for visibility but once inside we had anchor down quickly, fired up the dinghy and went ashore. They had wired internet so we hooked up and did some banking which we needed to do, and looked at the kids blogs because we hadn't seen them in a while and were rewarded with new grand baby pix.
Thursday morning we sailed to Nargana. We actually sailed the whole way which is not usually the case but the winds cooperated. I hope this will be a more common experience now that we are in the Caribbean. Enroute we participated on the local SSB net and got to talk to "Eyes of the World" These are the folks that helped us transit the canal. They were on the Pacific side of Panama but heard us well on the local net. Also Sunnyside up copied us from Bocas Del Toro. We had first met them in El Salvador, and most recently for a brief encounter hear in the Kuna Yala before they moved on.
We may see them again in the Western Caribbean.
We expect Kokomo here in Nagana later today

Gun boat Cay

Tuesday, we got up, fed Idelphonso pancakes and coffee, pick up his nephew off the island and headed back to Mormake Tupu his home island.
When we arrived we took a tour of the island and his home. We paid our repects to the Saila (chief) ($5 tax) and went back to check on Idelphonso's solar panels. They have been broken for some time.
I brought my multi meter and determined that the panels are indeed putting out 17 volts but his battery bank is shot. He had removed the controller from the circuit because he was told it was broken. Unfortunately he has wired the the panels directly to the batteries. This means he is putting 17volts directly into the batteries. This is a problem as they will not accept more than 14 so I believe he has "cooked" his batteries. I believe he will need a controller and new batteries not easy to find nor in his price range. We toured his home which was a succession of thatched huts, mud floors, and hammocks.
The clothes are hung in the rafters using the vertical space. However it is dark, smoky and full of people. Water is a nearby spicket, and outhouse stretches over the water. I asked him for a head count, and he had to think but eventually counted 20 family members in residence.
He has a new baby born Oct 6 so I took many photos and brought him back to the boat where we selected one and printed on photo paper one for him, and one for the mother in law who is traveling back home today. We were happy to do this for him.
Afterwards we moved on to Gunboat Cay where we are presently anchored all alone.

Solida Muria

We left Kokomo early this morning and motor sailed to Isla Maquina to pick up our guide to see Kuna ceremonies. The guided Idelphonso is a nice young man who had brought his brother the master mola maker to the boat Sunday.
When we picked him up he brought his nephew and suggested a nearby island as a better place for the ceremony. So off we went.
The island of Soddad Miria turned out to be a surprise. Anchored behind we went ashore in the dingy and went to find the chief to ask permission. For $2 bucks we were brought into a dark wooden longhouse of very crude construction. The women were all dressed in native costumes of Molas on shirt and skirts, beaded leggings, and colorful head scarves. They wear a thin black line painted from top of the nose to chin down the center of their face and often some gold jewelry as a nose ring.
The men are dressed in cast off western clothes. Surfer shorts and Tee shirts. The only ceremony we saw was everyone getting drunk. The history goes back to a fermenting of sugar cane, however rum is cheap and better so they buy cases of cheap rum. However, holding a conversation with drunk people in your own language is difficult when in Spanish or Kuna next to impossible! We had enough and retired to our boat. The young boy stayed with his grandmother and uncles on the island and Indelphonso came back to the boat.
The whole experience was Natural Geographic meets the cell phone age.
This was a native village of huts built of small pieces of wood and palm frond roofs. They were cooking on open fires with dirt floors, and hammocks for sleeping. Children were running around naked, bare chested women, and public bathing on the beach. This contrasted with TV antennas, cell phones, and solar panels. The other sad observation is that the garbage is dumped in the sea which years ago may have been ok, but today with plastic packaging it isn't going to degrade and is piling up in three feet of crystal clear water.
The people were shy but friendly and it was a privilege to get a glimpse at their culture.

Kuna House

We went ashore on Porvenir on Saturday to confirm that indeed the port captains office is closed, so we moved 6 miles to a new anchorage called Kuna House. There we anchored near three other boats and counted ourselves lucky since many of the anchorages have 15-25 boats and the high season isnt until December! The entrance to the anchorage like most in the Kuna Yala are a long series of waypoints that has you twisting and turning around reefs to enter and area that is safe for anchoring. We seem to be anchored in the middle of the ocean with a few scrawny islands near by but not close. We are well protected behind a series of reefs so quite peaceful. We swam half way to "Sunny side Up" a boat we had first met in El Salvador and were met half way for an impromtu "pool side " chat. This was broken up by a squall so back to the boats and an evining of rain.
Just before sunset an official boat from the Kuna Yala stopped by to check cruising permit and passports. They asked if we spoke spanish so I tried in my best Spanish to tell them we had arrived yesterday afternoon, had gone ashore in Porvenir to get the cruising permit but the office was closed.
He told me that it would be open Monday, we asked what time he said 8 am and he left to go to Kokomo. Kokomo calls and said dont you want to check in??
Denny told me he spoke English and he bought the cruising permit and one for me. My problem was I failed to ask if he could sell the permit now rather than go to the office as I was instructed. Alls well that ends well we are now free to move about the country.

Sharks, trash and Kuna Yala

Sound Effect, pulled anchor and left for the Kuna Yala on Friday morning at dawn. We needed light to traverse the passage just beyond our anchorage and 9-10 hrs to make the journey and arrive with plenty of daylight to spot corral heads. Unfortunately the wind failed to cooperate; light and on the nose, so we motor sailed the bulk of the distance.
Late morning we heard a clunk as we hit something. Although we keep someone on watch at all times hitting debris is common enough. There is run off from the nearby shore and all the rain of the rainy season. However this time the boat began to vibrate so we slowed, stopped and shifted to reverse which shot some debris out the back. Returning to forward the vibration continued. Stopping once again, I put on snorkel gear and went under the boat to investigate. While I was putting on the gear Connie spotted sharks, but when I came on deck I noticed 4ft white tips. Pretty small so I went in.
They disappeared immediately, but I saw why they were interested in the first place. There was a sack of garbage in a black plastic bag tied around the prop! I know the Hefty people are proud of their product but it took 20 minutes to cut away the plastic wrapped around the prop.
We continued on and anchored off Porvenir as this is the official entry port for the Kuna Yala(San blas) The Kuna Yala is a section of mainland and hundreds of Islands where the indigenous native tribe of Kuna's live. Known as San Blas by the conquering people, the Kuna prefer Kuna Yala Before we could get our anchor down we had two dugout canoes selling the local handicraft called molas, and a fishermen trying to sell fish. We won't have to go shopping the shopping will come to us.

The port captain's office is closed most likely until Monday so we will shift anchorages today most likely and come back Monday.

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Who: Jim & Connie Merritt
Port: Tacoma WA
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