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Cruising with Vida Dulce
Early AM Excitement
Susan / squalls, thunderstorms & buckets of rain
04/25/2012, Central Holandes Cays, Kuna Yala, Panama

Before 8am, and after 9pm, VHF radio traffic is seldom heard, thus it gets your attention. We keep a VHF portable radio next to our bed in addition to the main one in the salon, both always on tuned to the Kuna Yala hailing channel. At 3am a radio call is made by the boat anchored, per our last look, windward and directly in front of us toward the reefs; they're report they're dragging their anchor and are currently between the sandy spit and Vida Dulce. Our subconscious hears the words Vida Dulce and rousts us out of the fog of sleep. There's little navigable space between us and the sandy spit. We throw on the clothes in our path as we turn on the salon lights so they can clearly see us and rush out into the driving wind and rain to check their position relative to ours, and to prepare to offer emergency assistance. Their keel does touch bottom but they are able to use their anchor windlass to pull the boat forward & off. We stand by with lights until we see them successful move away and re-anchor. Mid-morning we hail them on the radio and ask if all is ok. They reply that while they haven't yet dove the keel, there are no leaks and all seems fine. Whew!

More Molas
Susan / partly cloudy, 86 degrees F
04/16/2012, Eastern Narguargandup Cays / Nabadup, Kuna Yala, Panama

When a Kuna woman finishes a new mola to wear, she tries to sell the old ones. The newest one is typically more finely made than previous ones. It's unusual but not out of the question to buy her mola literally off her back and that's what we do today. There's just three boats in this anchorage, s/v Kokopelli (Liz & Allen), s/v Somerset33 (Carol) and us so when the Kuna arrive to sell molas, Liz & Carol come to Vida Dulce so that we can all see them at one time. We each select a mola from their stacks (really buckets) and just as we're negotiating the price I notice the mola one of the women is wearing; a snorkeler with a turtle. This is a design I've never seen and the perfect mola to give as gifts to a couple of Jerry's dive buddies who will be hosting us on our upcoming trip to Seattle. We ask if she's willing to sell it. She is. The other woman then stands up to model her mola for us, and Carol thinks it's the perfect one for her gift list. Both women hide behind the sail of their ulu, readjust their skirt to cover their breasts and take off their molas for our inspection. They're less willing to negotiate price but neither of us can resist and the sale is made. They put on older molas from their stack so they're properly dressed again then ask that we give them the top part and sleeves from the molas we just purchased so that they can use them again. No problemo. We're pleased with our gift purchases, especially since worn molas carry good luck and these were worn today! The Kuna women are smiling and laughing about selling the molas they were wearing and waving their cash. Everyone is happy.

02/06/2013 | Lisa McCann
What is an average cost for a quality mola when buying direct from the Kunas?
02/07/2013 | Jerry Barber
Hi Lisa, It really depends on the quality of the mola; how many layers, how fine the design and stitching. Round numbers in USD: a mola (single panel) from a local woman is $20, $25 or $30, perhaps more if you purchase the one she’s wearing and if that’s the case, she expects you to purchase both panels (the entire blouse). A single panel mola from a master mola maker is $40, $50, up to $100 or more depending on the design. Susan
Self-Guided River Trip
Susan / partly cloudy, 86 degrees F
04/15/2012, Eastern Narguargandup Cays / Nabadup, Kuna Yala, Panama

Seas are building again which makes the outer reef anchorages less desirable so Liz & Allen, s/v Kokopelli, and we move to the Eastern Narguargandup Cays where the anchorage is calm and the snorkeling is good in the surrounding reefs. But no snorkeling this afternoon.. today we take the dingys up Rio Mangles, a river on the mainland that is salt water at the mouth then a mix of fresh water and salt water a few hundred yards in, then fresh water the rest of the way. We take a couple of beers and a snack and after making sure there are no crocodiles in the immediate area (we do see tracks...) we cool off in the river in between walks along the river bank which is lined with lush green vegetation, flowering trees, lots of birds (and so bugs), and palms. It's nice to get off the boats and walk a bit.

Keeping The Central American Breakfast Club Net Going
Susan / mostly sunny, 88 degrees F

Everyone who's a regular net controller for the Central American Breakfast Club Ham Net is out of the area for several weeks. Gary, s/v Kaija Song, the stalwart net controller and his wife Kaija are taking an extended land trip in Peru; Tom and Julie, s/v Gris Gris, both net controllers are back in New Orleans for the Jazz Festival; Owen, s/v Hiatus and his wife Betty are on a cruise ship heading for Florida; and the others who filled in while we were away ourselves have moved on to Colombia or Florida or have gone through the canal and are in the Galapagos or beyond. Which means it's the Vida Dulce show every day of the week until others in or around Kuna Yala start checking in and can be persuaded to take over a day. Other than needing to be awake and coherent by 8am, it's not heavy lifting. And by the time we leave, we should have the script memorized, & hopefully have a new batch of people checking-in.

Holiday Beach Potluck
Susan / mostly cloudy, 88 degrees F
04/08/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

Our dance card has been unusually full here in the Swimming Pool. Everyday there's an opportunity to snorkel with a group, every other day there's been a get together on BBQ Island (the Kuna call it Isla Tortuga now), every third day we enjoyed yoga led by Suzanne, and also dinners with Gris Gris and Nautibear just before they departed, with others waiting in the wings for a mutually open day for a happy hour or dinner gathering. Todays social event is an afternoon potluck on the island. For those celebrating Easter, Easter potluck dinner. It's a beautiful day here in Paradise, mostly cloudy and hot but a nice breeze has filled in making it quite pleasant. The other part of our days have been spent in the usual way: boat maintenance and cleaning, and other projects. I've taken Jerry up the mast three times in two days to end-around the halyard and repair the lazy jack lines. On one of the trips up, Jerry's sunglasses fall off; they hit the hardtop with a terrible sound and the lenses fly in separate directions. One lands on the sun shade strung above the trampoline, the other goes into the water and sinks into the sand under one of the hulls. Thankfully neither broke and the frame while dented, repairable. We hunt down a pair of glasses tethers before he makes the next trip up.

During holiday weekends rich Panamanians join us cruisers in Kuna Yala. They're easy to spot in their mega-yachts. Of the 22 boats in this anchorage, two of them are mega-yachts, one of which looks like the Presidents'. The Kuna Congresso take this opportunity to collect their monthly fee, $20 plus $2 per person. Everyone is suppose to go to Porvenir each month to pay this Kuna Yala permit fee but it's just ridiculous to think that over one hundred cruisers would navigate those reefs to anchor in a small, deep, poor holding anchorage just to pay it. When the Congresso representatives come to Vida Dulce, Jerry tells them we've just arrived from Portobello. "Welcome, $24 please." If the Congresso representatives visit all of the popular anchorages this holiday weekend, their coffers will be full.

Full Moon Friday
Susan / mostly cloudy, 91 degrees F
04/06/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

We wake to mostly blue skies and calm winds. The roar of the waves breaking over the outer reefs is also subdued which gives us glassy calm pool colored water in the anchorage. It's easy to see schools of fish swim by, even the nearly translucent houndfish, and to see the many yellow and red-orange starfish. In the late morning, many of us gather under the palm trees on one of the nearby islands for yoga led by Suzanne, s/v Nautibear. We'll both miss these sessions when Suzanne & Hans leave Kuna Yala in a couple of days. After yoga we work on a couple of boat projects then have an early dinner because Jerry needs to be fueled and ready to join the group going for a night snorkel at one of the larger reefs inside the anchorage. As the three dingys head for the reef, an orange full moon rises between the cloud layers in the west while the east skies are streaks of pinks and purples; a beautiful sunset. The moon doesn't reappear unfortunately during their snorkel, just too many clouds. They all have underwater lights, of course, and the report when Jerry's back to Vida Dulce is that they saw lobster, crab, octopus, eels, lots of fish and Suzanne had a near encounter with a huge turtle.

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