A Cross Ocean Experience

Seven thousand miles of outstanding cruising since November 2008 means it's time to do a little renovation and more planning for the future. Find out what ...

20 February 2013 | Fishtail, Montana, USA
15 March 2011 | Swallow Falls State Park, Garrett County, MD
07 January 2011 | Deep Creek, MD
01 January 2011 | Tacoma, WA
17 December 2010 | Sierra Madre, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, Ca
12 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
20 November 2010 | New Orleans, LA
13 November 2010 | Lexington, KY
09 November 2010 | Louiville, KY
05 November 2010 | Lexington. KY
01 November 2010 | Deltaville, VA
29 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
22 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
08 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA

A slightly different view

04 October 2009 | E. Holandes Cays, Kuna Yala
Virginia and I have slight differences on our time in Kuna Yala (the San Blas Islands). It is true that it was not for us the wonderful experience it has been for many others, in spite of the physical beauty of the place. This only proves that a single experience of a place cannot render a full description and remains merely a moment in time image reflected in the circumstances and constraints of the viewer.
There is a sizable "resident" population of mostly U.S. cruisers in a small part of the San Blas and here we felt a debilitating ennui. Most are there for long periods of time, sometimes years, and basically do nothing but snorkel. This is not for us. To get an understanding of the local Kuna Indians requires moving further east away from the highly visited islands and spending time, far more than we had available.
Life here consumes time. Travel needs high sun to pilot through coral heads in and out of anchorages and in the rainy season in particular this can limit available sailing time to a few hours a day and sometimes several days a week are not suitable for moving around. Then to meet and spend time with the locals also requires spending long periods of time.
So without investing that time our view of the San Blas was restricted. It's OK we're off to Columbia now and that will be a contrast for sure.

Not my San Blas

03 October 2009 | Nagarna, Kuna Yala
We have read about the San Blas Islands for more than ten years as we got ready to do this cruising business. The photos and stories were always enchanting; of a distant island chain set in the south west Caribbean where gentle, indigenous people live in harmony with their ancient ways.

Well, not exactly! It is true that the Kuna Yala (tribe from the mountains) live in closely knit palm villages throughout the chain of around four hundred coconut covered islands. They moved out of the mountains to escape the heat, humidity and mosquitoes. They used to subsist on fish and lobster caught from dug out canoes, which they supplemented with crops grown along the mainland coastline, and for the most part this is still the case. But, somewhere along the line their independent, self governing body has encouraged them to sell out to blatant commercialism. Their lobster supply is in serious trouble since they began large scale lobster fishing to fill the weekly airplanes sent in by "Red Lobster," a family style restaurant in the U.S. Their traditional dress has also become a commercial enterprise and the women are merciless in their pushiness to sell their embroidered "molas." It may sound cynical but half the time it feels as though the only reason they women still wear their traditional dress and gold nose ring is to request money after a photo has been agreed upon. Ouch!

The Kuna are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They say they want to preserve their traditions and ancient ways, but the 21st century is all around them, creating a pressure that must be crushing to both young and old alike. The couple of islands we have visited are not only surrounded by white coral sand beaches and coral reefs beyond, but also sadly, are ringed in piles of plastic waste washed up onto the shores from the ocean where the Kuna attempt to dump their 21st century trash in the ways of old. The alternative is burning the trash but their coconut husk fires are not in any way hot enough to dispose of modern plastic rubbish.

Each time we have anchored at a new island location hoping for solitude, we are hounded by Kuna after a buck for whatever they can carry in their sail and paddle powered canoes. There are always at least one or two small, very cute children wedged in between the molas, lobster, fish or bananas, and if you do not buy something, the guilt factor is employed, with a pointed demand for a present or sweets for the wretched children, whose teeth at that rate will all have fallen out before they are fifteen. It is seriously depressing.

Something most unsettling occurred the other day. After we had fought off another hard nosed sale, the old boot paddled back half an hour later and, out of her traditional, embroidered Kuna smock pulled a cell phone with charging wire attached. She boldly clambered up onto the deck and rudely demanded we recharge her cell battery for her. This gave her another chance to push her wares and then again no less, when she returned for the phone an hour later.

It has been a long while since our exciting transit through the Panama Canal and despite the existence of cell phones there is no computer or internet available in the islands, which is not a bad thing, but for an enforced blog break. I am glad to have finally visited the San Blas to see things for myself and will be infinitely glad when we can leave.

Its good to turn around

02 October 2009 | Isla Tigre, Kuna Yala
In our precisely timed and tightly scheduled lives using cars, buses, planes and trains we usually get where we plan to within a few minutes (or hours) of our expectations and are mightily disgruntled if it is otherwise. In fact we depend on it. The concept of turning around, backtracking and waiting a day or so or indeed not being able to reach our chosen destination at all has become alien to us, and so it has taken us a bit of adaptation to quietly accept that some goals need to be deferred or changed.
Our first encounter with the wisdom of this was early in Mexico when we were bemused by the equanimity with which "old salt" Lou Freeman accepted the 20 miles he had had to backtrack in the middle of the night to spend a few days in Bahia Chamela waiting for the Northerlies to ease. Remembering that acceptance of conditions as they are not as we would like them made it a little easier for us to make the decision to turn around and give up 25 hard earned miles on the way down the Costa Rican coast. So what that we arrived back at our previous day's anchorage a little after midnight, tired and frustrated that we had spent all day going nowhere. We realized we should accept it and take solace in the fact that neither body nor boat were any the worse for wear.
This month in the San Blas Islands we had planned to meander our way down the island chain and leave to Cartagena through a pass seventy miles to the east. On the 20 mile leg from Isla Tigre to Snug Harbor we ran into 35 knot head winds and building seas. With no possibility to crack off because the channels through the coral reefs are narrow and plagued by the consequences of my stupidity in electing to tow the dinghy, after two hours of pounding we gave up and headed right back where we had come from. Again frustrating and plans needed to be redrawn, but no real damage done.
So when all this is over and we are on to new adventures we will try to bring this freshly learned patience and adaptability to bear in a new environment. If we don't like the look of the road ahead, we'll turn around, go home and wait a day or so. It will get better.

Zoo Volume 2

02 October 2009 | Central America
Back by popular demand here is the second instalment of creatures great and small seen in Central America.

Decompression time

16 September 2009 | Chagres River
To relax after the canal transit we spent a few days in the beautiful Chagres River. It was this river that was dammed to provide the water that powers the canal system and long before that Drake used to get inland to play hell with the Spaniards. Good chap!

Mandy, a West coast girl ventures East

16 September 2009 | Panama Canal, Panama
A smooth transit is now history

Vessel Name: Mandy
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol Channel Cutter 28 - http://www.capegeorgecutters.com/BCC28/index.html
Hailing Port: San Diego, CA USA
Crew: Richard & Virginia Cross
Having spent 30 years in the racehorse business we felt it was time for a different kind of adventure. Both originally from England we have sailed for fun for over 30 years. We have owned MANDY for five of those and are planning to head south for Mexico etc. in November 2008 - ready or not. [...]

There Goes Mandy!

Who: Richard & Virginia Cross
Port: San Diego, CA USA