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s/v Wanderlust
Our trip down the West Coast from Washington to San Diego, and then beyond.
Stuck in Paradise
03/16/2012, West Lemon Cays, San Blas Islands

I guess being stuck in paradise shouldn't be so bad, but we've been here about 2 months now, and it is time to move on. We thought it was just the weather that was keeping us here since there has been nothing but 25-30 knot winds and 10-12 foot seas along the Columbia coast for the last month or so. But it turns out we also have some engine problems. Our starter is acting up and when we tried to get it going yesterday it wouldn't turn the engine over. After 4 hours of trying many things which included trying to hand crank it, we gave it one more try with the starter button and away it went. A sweeter sound was never heard! At the time we were in a fairly secluded anchorage where getting anything fixed would have been very difficult. While I tried to control my panic, John worked away at fixing it. We are now in a place where we have an internet connection on shore and access to the mainland. It still won't be easy to solve the problem, but it is possible.

When we do get out of here, the plan is to head for Cartagena, Columbia which is due east, and will be about a 36 hours passage. It will be our first overnight passage this year. We have gotten lazy! Cartagena will be quite a contrast to the San Blas Islands. We will be leaving behind these beautiful tropical islands many of them uninhabited with crystal clear water and lots of good snorkeling. Of course, we have the conveniences of the city to look forward to, and from everything we read and hear from other cruisers it is a beautiful place. The anchorage is right in the heart of the old city which is a world heritage site and they say the crown jewel of Columbia. Tourism is important here so the police keep the streets safe and walking all over the city is not a problem. After 2 months of seeing no cars, and only walking on sand and dirt packed streets in small villages it will be an adjustment. I do look forward to having large stores to shop in again even though I have gotten pretty good at finding useful items in the one room Kuna hut stores, and buying our fresh food from the vege boat when we are lucky enough to be in an anchorage when they come around.

So we have lots to look forward to, but you can't be too sure of anything going as planned in this cruising life. We are hearing hopeful weather reports now and the hope is that March in the Caribbean will follow the saying "In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb". That said, there is a possibility we may have to change our plans and miss Cartagena if the engine or weather delay is too long. We will keep you posted as to when we make our next move, and hope to hear news from home too.

03/16/2012 | kathy steffen
well glad to hear from you. Was getting a little worried. The pic looks awesome. We are having wonderful weather here. Suppose to be in the 70's for a week. We are all hoping winter is over as everything is budding
We enjoyed our vacation--and now wouldlike to go see the cherry blosoms in D.C. I will have to talk Bob into it and take out a loan for gas.
Stay safe-enjoy and I'll be glad when you are back on land--Love --Kathy
03/23/2012 | Gerard Woldtvedt
Finally reading the more recent entries in your blog. I'll be commenting soon. It's great keeping up with you, finally. Gerard (be back very soon, Karen too)
03/23/2012 | tRUDY
Gee - I really like this picture - looks just like one that I took (ha ha). It's a realy good picture if I do say so myself. John - Michael's ex from high school looked at my camera and showed me a button on the fron that you push one and it takes you exactly to whatever you want ie: underwater, landscape, portraite, etc. Super simple. It was a really DUH! moment. Have fun - wish I were still there.
Update from Kuna Yala Land
02/29/2012, San Blas Islands, Panama

My how time has flown by here in Kuna Yala Land. We've been here about 6 weeks and have been moving around quite a bit. We are just now starting to repeat island visits and are starting to pick out our favorites. Since almost all of these islands are drop dead tropical gorgeous we have developed other criteria for our favorite spots. First of all it has to have good protection from the swell so we don't roll at all when anchored. Then it should have a little wind to keep the bugs off the boat but not too much so that we feel like we are living in a wind tunnel. We achieve that by being somewhat behind an island for protection and somewhat just behind the reef so we can still get the wind. That usually means anchoring just at the corners of the islands. Then we like to have a good walking island where we can circumnavigate the island along the beach without having to cross a mangrove area where the bugs like to live. There is always good beachcombing along the shore. Unfortunately most of it is plastic trash that has floated ashore, but there are some shells. We also like to have a good spot for swimming and snorkeling. We are getting a little picky about our snorkeling too. It is always much better when the sun is shining, and lately we have been having a lot of cloudy skies.

So life has gotten pretty laid back here, and it is to the point where we feel good if we get one major job done per day. That may mean a little cleaning, varnishing, clothes washing, or even blog writing. Even though we have all the time in the world I still mange to procrastinate on getting chores done. This tropical life is making me very lazy. We did manage to get over to one of the more traditional islands for the Kuna Revolution celebration. It was an interesting experience as we watched them re-enact the events that led up to their declared independence from Panama. It was an all day event, and we were treated to guest accommodations which was a bench to sit on and someone to interpret into English from the Kuna language what was going on. Even though it was a mainly cloudy day it was hot sitting through it, but well worth the discomfort. The Kunas during this time, the early 1920's, were abused by the Panamanian Government for many of their customs and way of life. There were many beatings taking place and there was bloodshed. The present day reenactment of this was very emotional and graphic as beatings were simulated and blood was spilled thanks to capsules hidden on the actor's bodies filled with red kool aide. This is a yearly event and besides being a commemoration it is a means of passing on their Kuna history to the younger generation.

Now that it is the beginning of March we are getting anxious to get a weather window and move on to Columbia. So far that has not looked promising since there have been gale warnings in the area we will be moving towards with 25-30 knot winds and 15 foot seas. Since we will have to be beating into the wind to get there, this is definitely not the time to be going, and only the brave or foolish are doing so now. So we will sit tight in this little patch of sailing paradise until the weather settles down. We do like hearing from family and friends while out here so feel free to comment or send us an e-mail. We do check it daily as long as we can get a connection on the Kindle.

Jungle River Tour
02/20/2012, San Blas Islands, Panama

We have been waiting for an opportunity to take one of Lisa's river tours and it finally came when we were making our way up to an island close to where she lives. Lisa is the famous, at least among cruisers in this area, master mola maker. I have been reading about her for a long time, and was always told she had the best molas in the San Blas Islands. I already had a lot of molas, but was saving some money for hers and got to have a showing the other day when she found us in one of our anchorages. The other interesting thing to know about Lisa is she is a transvestite and a very good one at that. It is a testimony to how open minded the Kunas are that this is accepted in their culture. She seems to be highly respected and a big part of her community. I managed to add a few more molas to my collection.

What I hadn't heard about Lisa is how hardy and adventurous she is and that she leads one of the more rigorous river tours. We didn't quite know what to expect, and were surprised at how long, and how much fun it was. We joined 6 other cruisers for the trip. We were picked up by a panga for the 50 min. trip over to the mainland. We were surprised to see how narrow the river mouth was and that we weren't taking the boat up the river, but were mooring it and hiking a trail back into the jungle. Fortunately I had worn my better shoes and brought my bug spray along. She told us there was a waterfall involved so we already had our swimming suits on. After weeks of getting our exercise just from swimming, snorkeling and laps walking around small islands, we were in for about a 6 mile hike taking us through the jungle and up and down steep hillsides. Along the way we stopped at a couple of Kuna cemeteries which were unique. One of them was Lisa's family and you could tell she was quite proud of the fact that she was able to provide such a nice resting place for her family. The Kunas are very spiritual, and they seem to have to provide their own cemeteries for their families. A roof over the grave was important preferably one made of natural materials so that the spirits were able to pass through. They were decorated with personal belongings and some had incense or coco chips burning.

Once we made it to the waterfall the really fun part of the trip began. It started with a 15-20 foot jump down into a deep pool just below the waterfall. The water was incredibly cool and refreshing. We had a rest here and then Lisa informed us we could take an alternate route back along the river but we would have to do some swimming in places. It was slow going because we had so many fun diversions along the way. We had a couple of water slides to go down and a vine swing to jump from into another deep river pool. It was beginning to feel like we had our own �"Survivor Panama�" episode going on. It was all a lot of fun and after about 6 hours we were delivered back to our boat. I don't know how the others were feeling but we were pretty exhausted and glad to be able to take it easy for the rest of the day. We got some fun pictures that I will load once I get internet.

We will continue our tour around the San Blas archipelago for the next 4 weeks.

02/18/2012 | kathy
OMG how do you do it? What is molas and what are pangas? This sounds like too much adventure for me but it does sound beautiful.
stay safe
kathy and bob
02/22/2012 | TRUDY
I was wondering when or ifyou were going to make it to the jungle tour - sounds like you had a blast. Take it Lisa's tour is different than the one the mola guys brogher was talking about. Can't believe you bought more - did you make your cushions yet and if so how did they come out I sort of regret tht I didn't try and find a green turtle to be framed for my little boat, but oh well I got enough. Framing is turning out to be quite costly $100 each to do them right. I'll try and send a pic of the first one I framed if it comes out goodl Keep having fun. I wish i were still there!

Our jungle Disney Land came with a fun waterslide.

Vine Swing

And the vine swing let us play tarzan.

Waterfall Hole

The water was so refreshing after a long jungle hike.

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Who: Janet & John Hart
Port: Friday Harbor, Washington
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