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Cruising with Vida Dulce
Back In Propane!
Susan / mostly sunny, calm, 90 degrees F
04/29/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

At yesterday's potluck we're told about a full 20 lb bottle of propane on s/v Melody. Mark's wife is here (he had a massive fatal heart attack a few weeks ago) liquidating as much of the stuff as she can on the boats he kept here; apparently he used them as floating storage units. They'll be a "fire sale" tomorrow but when she learns we are completely out of propane she lets us pick up the 20 lb bottle last night after the party. This morning Mike & Gloria, s/v Respite, lend us their propane transfer apparatus and by 3pm we have one 10 lb tank available to use and the other is nearly full. Which is great on a number of levels, one of which is we have nine days including today, before we drop off Vida Dulce and about that amount of fresh & frozen food to eat. I've kept a running inventory of all food supplies this past month and made flexible weekly menu plans to make sure the fresh items are used optimally and in a variety of dishes. Having a working stove & oven is critical to that plan so all is once again good on Vida Dulce. I must say I'm looking forward to being able to easily buy a variety of fresh foods, and ready-to-eat ones if needed!

Rice-maker To The Rescue
Susan / mostly cloudy, 88 degrees F
04/28/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

Several months ago, friends visiting Vida Dulce from the States made disparaging comments about my rice-maker. "I don't see how difficult it is to put water and rice in a pan and boil it for 20 minutes", she said. That may be but I like my rice-maker. I use it to prepare a variety of rice dishes as an extension of my 3-burner, but too small to use 3 pans simultaneously, propane stovetop. I love that it sits on the counter and when the dish is ready for its final phase of cooking I can close the lid and not worry about whether it will turn out perfect. It's fuzzy logic automatically switches the cooker to keep warm at the right time.

Last evening it came to the rescue when we discovered, much to our dismay, that we are completely out of propane. All tanks, even the used one we just purchased from another cruiser who said it was three-quarters full and it did feel heavy enough for that to be possible, are completely empty. No stove, no oven, no bbq. Three kitchen appliances will have to keep us fed until we can fill up a tank; a tea kettle for heating water, a waffle-maker and the rice-maker. I was planning to prepare a casserole for today's cruiser potluck but Thai Curry Rice is a yummy stand-in that's quickly gone.

Cruisers Do Love A Potluck
Susan / mostly cloudy, showers, 86 degrees F
04/27/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

This morning on the Panama Connection Net one of the cruisers here in the Swimming Pool mentioned they were working with the Kuna on BBQ Island to gain approval for a potluck on Saturday (tomorrow) evening. In years past, Monday was potluck day on BBQ Island; it's an institution, or rather was, up until this year when a Kuna family moved to this formerly unoccupied island and starting charging people to visit the island for any and all reasons. The Swimming Pool quickly became a deserted anchorage, especially with the weather we've had this season. That Kuna family has left, replaced by three middle (meaning more than 40) aged men who are accommodating if they are invited to fill their bowls with the food we all bring. At the time of this morning's announcement there were six occupied boats in the shallow Swimming Pool anchorage. By noon there are fourteen in the anchorage, four anchored in deeper water, and more on the horizon heading this way. The anchor dance is at times scary, at times hilarious, as the light winds clocking around changes everyone's relative position.

Word travels in the Kuna community that boats are arriving in droves; we're visited by a veggie boat with very little good to sell, several Kuna fisherman trying to sell lobster even though the season is closed to allow for future lobster catches, and of course Kuna women selling leg wraps and molas. The local Kuna elder is kept busy paddling his ulu to gather his $10 monthly fee to visit the anchorage. By nightfall the anchorage is full with 30 boats in the area.

One of the special things about this anchorage is the many snorkeling spots, many on reef walls, all with interesting and beautiful reef creatures. Jerry & I join a group going to the area called the waterfall in the late afternoon. It's a challenging snorkel yet worth the effort. The waterfall is the sea rushing over a long tall section of the outer reef. As the water rushes over it, it looks just like a waterfall, and as it hits you, all you see is bubbles as you fight to stay in place between the reefs. Quite the rush. On the way there and back, we wind between reef sections, see lots of fish and reef dwelling creatures. Most of the group sees a reef shark; a sight I'm glad to have missed.

Last Swimming Pool Visit Until July
Susan overcast, squalls in the area, 84 degrees F
04/26/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

The sea swell shifted last night causing all boats in this Central Holandes anchorage to rock back and forth in an uncomfortable way; even the catamarans. Our small social group weighs anchor at 8:30am and splits up, most of us head to the Eastern Holandes Cays, just a short distance away, and one goes to Provinir to renew her cruising permit. The other two stop in the Hot Tub, we continue a bit farther and head into the Swimming Pool where we find calm wind and seas. Aahhhh, that's better! We're happy with our choice especially when the other two report having noseeum issues in the Hot Tub. We'll be here only a few days before needing to start West to make our way to where we'll leave Vida Dulce for a couple of months. Just enough time to catch up with Mike & Gloria, s/v Respite, and Ken & Marilyn, s/v Dream Ketch'r, and to complete some of our boat projects.

06/12/2012 | Mike
I own a TOCK like Ken and Marilyn's. There's only a few of us left! I'd like to communicate with them. Coud you pass my email address to them? Mikeblecher@gmail.com. I am in Los Angeles, and I used to follow their. Log but I have now lost track of them.
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

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