Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What is a good day???

OK so here is how it goes...a good day is one when nothing breaks. Also you get a little bit of rain you can collect overnight(this is after your watermaker has broken) and you can wash your sheets...very important as they are sweaty and stink and one can sleep much better in clean sheets.The next thing is that the vegie guy comes selling fresh fruit and vegetables to everyone in the anchorage...the food is few and far between here so fresh is very good. Then because nothing has broken and so that you aren't spending the time to fix it you can have a 2 hr snorkeling expedition.Bill and Gram went for a dive and borrowed a friends spear gun and even snared us a nice red snapper...Perfect for Gram's friends Meg and Bree's visit as thye are quasi vegetariansThat was our yesterday...to be topped off with a beach party in the evenling with 2 other boats.

Yes...life is good. love to all Jo and crew

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Swimming Pool

Monday morning our friends Lewis & Julie on Sympatica were kind enough to raft asside us and fill our water tanks relieving the need to head into Rio Azucar to fill with somewhat questionable water as well as saving a ton of time.....THANK YOU! We headed up to the Hollandes and eventually put down an anchor just outside of the anchorage known as "The Swimming Pool". It is called this because the water is so clear and calm, it is like being in a swimming pool. We anchored in 30 ft, drifted back over a 25 ft spot and could see the fish and coral heads below the boat.

The last few days we have been snorkling up a storm and today we formed a convoy of three dingies as we showed our friends on Valantina and Slip Away to a cool area called the "Grotos", a series ofcanyons and caves in the "sea wall" of coral that protects the swimming pool from the north. The others snorkled while Bill and I donned tanks for a dive. Towards the end, we borrowed some spear guns from our friends on Valantina and got a nice red snapper. Bill mamed him with a through-and-through gut shot using the high powered gun and I finnished him off and got control of him with the smaller gun.

Tomorrow we head to the east Lemons where I hope to find a volleyball game before we head down to Nargana Sunday night to pick up Meg and Bree on Monday morning.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Night Out on the Villiage?

Since the last episode of the blog we have managed to live 4 days on what has been termed the "Hanukkah tank" as we expected it to run dry the morning of the 15th and it only just gave up the ghost this afternoon. Not quite 8 nights like the Maccabees, but our own little miracle. We just switched over to our 2nd tank which holds 55 gallons, so we are really hoping for rain tonight, but one of the Kunas in the villiage we visited this afternoon promised it would rain at about 10:00 pm....perfect.

We spent the last few days in Green Island. We were in a beautiful little anchorage, very protected, with white sandy beaches surrounding us. Arround the corner we found an excellent snorkle on the outside of the reef with about a 40 to 45 foot wall. I managed to free-dive down to about 40 feet, but reality was the platau at about 6 to 10 feet was the best, so we didn't bother scuba-diving the wall portion.

Today we sailed down to Isla Tigre, really the furthest west (and most western) traditional Kuna Villiage. Clearly they are more used to tourists and judging by the size of some of the teenagers playing soccer, they are of much more mixed blood as there is no way there are any pure kunas that big. Tonight we will head into the island for dinner at the local resturaunt to be followed by traditional Kuna Dancing. This is the real reason for our visit to this island as they are available to dance on Sunday nights for a reasonable fee. Dinner ashore will be a treat as well, but not having to do dishes will be the best part.

If we don't get rain tonight we will head into Rio Azucar on Monday and fill up before heading out to the Holandes for the week. We pick up Meg and Bree next Monday morning. Bree will have parts for the watermaker so we can get back to more than just fresh water rinses.

Late Update: Dinner was an excellent seafood creole like dish with octopus & lobster served over rice and lentils with an excellent salad. Then the dance group did four dances (The dance of the bird, dance of the conquistadors, unnammed dance, and dance of the crab). The music was particularly cool as it was reed flutes played by the male dancers with maraca percussion by the women. Very square dancy with lots of crossing and other patterns. For the final dance the reed flutes were replaced by crab claws again played as a flute....very cool. A lot of kids came out for the show and had a ton of fun with the people taking photos, with one little boy running arround with one of the backpacker girl's camera snapping pictures of everything. We also learned some Kuna, but all I remember is that thank you is pronounced "New Gambia". I am sure I am butchering it and it isn't spelled anything like that, but that is how I can remember.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Western Lemon Cays

We had intended to leave Coco Banderas on Monday morning, but I spent most of the night up sick (stomach) so we took it easy, moved into the inner anchorage, went for a short sail on Lewis and Julie's 47' Catana Catamaran Simpatica (poping Bill and Mom's cat cherry as it were) and then had a beautiful 15 mile sail up to the Lemon Cays finally having enough wind in a direction other than on the nose allowing us to actually sail somewhere for a change. It took a while to find a decent anchorage, but we finally did and settled in for a nice night. In the morning we woke to squalls in the area and around 7:30 got hit pretty hard with steady 25 kts, gusts to 35 to 40, and an incredible amount of rain. One puff hit us broadside, and with the side curtains down on the awning, we heeled over about 8 degrees. Unfortunately this broke a stantion mount, so our morning project was to glue a splint inside the fiberglass tubes that the stantions mount onto. We will have to come up with an alternate arrangement or leave the curtains up at night which isn't a great deal as they help block a lot of rain when it isn't windy.

In the afternoon we went on a very nice snorkle and scoped out a dive for tomorrow. Upon returning we couldn't get the watermaker to work so I spent a few minutes on the phone (got to love technology) getting some advise from tech support. Unfortunately we may need a lip seal we don't have onboard which will be a bit tricky out here, but I have a few things to try in the meantime and am halfway through the rebuild with plans to finish it in the morning. Hopefully I can get it to make enough water to get us through the next few weeks and have Meg or Bree (my nursury school and high school friends respectively who are joining us at the end of the month for 4 days) bring the part when they fly in.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Snug Harbor, San Blas, Panama - 9 19.5N 78 15.2W

We had spent an absolutely beautiful afternoon on a reef finally gettin some good snorkeling in/perfectly clear water and pretty nice fishies. Decided we would be better off 2 1/2 miles away in a more protected anchorage for the overnight. So we are motoring along as the wind has constantly been on our nose so I have yet to even see the main sail up...we've used the stay sail once and the jib once but mostly we are a very tall motor boat. Gram is on the bow watching for reefs and I am navigating and all of a sudden an alarm goes on...engine oil pressure...we immediately need to shut down the engine,get the jib up and sail just a little further in to put down an anchor. Gram went down to see what might have happened and came back to inform us that there was oil everywhere. Seems as if a gasket failed on the oil filter and ugh ugh ugh. So now they are cleaning up all the oil and we are in hopes that we(they) have fixed it. The guys do make a great team and we certainly lucked out where this happened as it would have been much dicier coming into the previous spot under sail.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Captains log - Greetings from Isla Pinos

We spent 4 days in Isla Pinos - well, really 3 days and 4 nights as we motored over to Mulatupo, a neighboring village our first day there. This came about because we were visited early that first morning by a young man named David who paddled over in an "ula" ( similar to a a large dugout canoe) with 3 other younger lads. It seemed that they were headed to Mulatupu so that David could visit his wife who was in "hospital" with abdominal pain. It quickly became apparent that David was hoping we could ferry him in our dinghy, but Malatupu was 3 miles across the bay and there were 6 foot swells remaining after a tropical low passed in the eastern Caraibbean. David who spoke english very well was beginning a carreer as a San Blas "guide", We decided to visit Malatupo with him, pulled up the anchor, and motored across. The other young men paddled back the 3 miles on their own - I was afraid to tow the ula as it might have overturned.

(Picture David on bow) - pictures that will come later with that thing called internet!

We met his convelescing wife and 2 children, and toured the village and school. Of course, I couldn't resist going to the hospital with him, and meeting the local doctor. The hospital seemed more like a well stocked clinic, and was staffed by 2 doctors and 2 nurses.

(picture hospital)

Mulatupu is now the fourth Kuna village we have visited, and they all are different in terms of how traditional they are. Remember, we are starting in the eastern San Blas where the more traditional villages reside, but most visitors and cruisers approach from the western San Blas and the canal region, where there are more options in terms of transportation, and where the water is famous for it's clarity and reef life. We will be there soon, but we could not resist the opportunity to see this part of the San Blas.

Mulatupu is a larger Kuna village, and has a mixture of wood and thatch, and concrete homes. There are several tiendas (little stores), a restaurant, and a hotel with hammocks. We were able to find some cheese (American cheese slices - this is not the French Caribbean) but the restaurant offered hot dogs as it's blue plate special, and there were no other choices on the menu so we passed. The Edge, it was not! The town did have a discotech - sort of. I think that it meant a bar that plays music and serves beer, and if I understood correctly, it was there in part because of the doctors and nurses that come to work on the island.

Ulas tend to appear the moment we anchor off most any Kuna village. Natural seaman, the ulas are invariably filled with two or more children; the curiosity is astounding. While the first inclination is that they are interested in the boat, it is really we they are interested in as we are often followed in a smaller village by an entourage, or at least accosted serially by children who run up to be with us. The braver ones stay when we say "hola`" but most giggle and run away. I must admit that I could not resist some games of hide and seek with them. All the children also like to have their photos taken so that they can see themselves in the digital display. Our boat is also visited by spear fisherman, hopefully with pescado (fish). The Kunas dive to spear a mackeral type fish, barco rioja (red snapper), and catch langostino. On Sunday we bought 3 snapper, and Berez, the fisherman, asked us if we were interested in langostino (Caribbean lobster). He took our order and returned yesterday with 4 langostino and another nice size snapper. Who can complain?

Our first stop, Puero Perme (see previous post), was one of the more traditional villages. We understand that 300 people lived in the village, 200 of them children. Most every home was wood and thatch, with minimal concrete. Vertical wood strips form the walls, and the waterproof roofs are constructed of dried palm fronds shingled and tied over a framework. It will take 6000 leaves to form an average (small) roof. The homes have a hard packed sand floor, hammocks for sleeping or sitting, and a small fire pit for cooking. There is sometimes a covered outside hut adjacent to the home. The Kunas have been described as well proportioned people of relatively short stature, and the entry doors may be quite low.

(picture with pineapple)

People live off the land, farming small gardens, coconut, plantains, and fishing. It is a matriarchal society, and the men might work in the fields one day or fish another; work begins near 6 AM, and is usually over by mid-afternoon. Children are revered and there is much time for family. There is no electricity in Puerto Perme except for solar panels at the "congreso", a hall where Kunas gather (nightly and mandatory in the most traditional villages) to discuss their concerns before their neighbors and the chief, or Sailis. Each village has chosen one chief sailis and there are several assistant sialis' (saili?).

(picture of homes)

It is customary and appropriate to ask to meet the Sailis when one arrives at a village. The sailis will be accompanied by at least one translator (Spanish to Kuna)and perhaps an assistant sailis. The village will have likely already sent a "secretary" out to collect their "anchoring fee" which has varied so far from $8 for the boat to $5 per person, good for 1 month. We will then ask permission to visit the community, walk or hike around, etc. The Kunas seem particularly interested in our ages, and in no way hesitate to ask Jo, or Gram or I how old we are. I suspect that judging anglo age is hard from their perspective.

The village color comes from the women, who dress in traditional garb called "molas" and beaded wraps around their arms and legs i forget the Kuna name. Unlike children, photos are discouraged, or sternly allowed only for a fee. Young ladies are not so adorned until they elect to leave school; when they decide to stop schooling, they are told to cut their hair short and wear the appropriate dress of a woman. The granddaugther ofthe sailis in Pinos had just cut her hair the day before we met with him, and her pony tail was hanging outside their home.

(picture mother and son and picture mola)

Isla Pinos was somewhat in the middle - traditional but with electricity (note that these opinions are quite objective and only my own). I think I became the official island photographer. A local man named Horatio spoke enough english to be quite helpful. As he spent time with us, he was not shy about asking for things, however. He asked for pictures of his grandchildren, and soon handed us a greasy old fry pan with a spinning handle that he asked us to bring back to the boat and fix. We tried, but couldn't. A grandchilld then brought over an old an old broken discman to be fixed, but I did not even try. We bought a coconut from him which he sliced and diced with a ease and a machete, as well as a small basket he weaved. I printed 5 grandchild pictures for him (we brought photo paper and ink just for that purpose) and were given a gift of delicious mangoes in return, which felt great from this end.

We left Isla Pinos this morning after early rains and thunderstorms. While we had planned an early departure, the admiral advised against it. As usual, she was right and I correctly delayed our anchor up time from 0800 (8 AM for you landlubbers) to 0930. The good news is that the delay plus the intermittant and heavy morning rains allowed me 1 1/2 hours to scrub the decks with what we cruisers call water free-o. We motored to one of the largest Kuna towns called Ustupu - the most "industrial village yet. Gram, working with Davids advice, found a sim card for the unlocked cell phone. Score!! We do not know how expensive the calls are yet, but we will soon find out.

After Ustupu, we motored to a small inlet pool named Bahia de Golondria by Eric Bauhaus in his cruising guide. Beautiful and calm, surrounded by mangroves and rimmed with mountains, the inlet is small but deep enough. A Kuna just canoed up and offered to sell us langostino, and who could say no? Not us. We leave to hopefully get to the area where we will be able to snorkel and dive tomorrow.

(Picture Bahia Golondria)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Murphy's Day

Isla de Pinos, Panama -- 08 59.85N 77 45.61W

I will get to the entry title later, but first I need to catch you all up on our travels.

We left Cholon Bay on Tuesday the 31st, and had a very uneventful 20 hour passage across the western Carribean to the southern-most city in Panama, Obaldia. We anchored, went to shore and sought out customs and imigration. Luckily there is quite a Panamanian Army presence as it is a border town and they were very helpful in directing us to the proper officials. We found imigration first and started the process. Apparently Panama's new President took office on the 1st, so it was a holiday. Luckily they were working till noon, but both immigration and the maritime authority charged an extra $20 each for working on the holiday. The workers pull started their generator so they could power up the computer. Apparently, the town only has electircity from 18:00 to Midnight. After about 30 minutes, the maritime authority guy took Bill to his "office" while mom and I stayed with the passports. After about another hour we were finished with immigration and went to find Bill. The Maritime authority guy had just started working on our paperwork and what appeared to be his 2nd and3rd beers (mind you it was only about 10:15 by this point). By 11:15 or so we were finally finished and had all of $8 to try to find a late breakfast. Unfortunatly, all the resuraunts were closed, so we headed back to the boat, had a quick bite, and headed on our way to Puerte Perme.

Puerte Perme is a small villiage (approx 300 people, of which 200 are children) well off the beaten path with a beautiful small cove. This required us to lay out two anchors in what is known as a "Bahamian Moore" arrangement. We hit the reasonably clear water and mom and I headed off to the reef about 50 yards off the stern. The reef was a bit dead in areas, but still had some very cool coral and some nice fish. We had an early night and tried to catch up on our sleep from the night before. The next day we headed to shore looking to meet the Sailas (cheifs) and ask permision to see their villiage and ask directions to the path to Carreto which we had read about in our guide book. As we approached the villiage we were greeted again by two Panamanian Soldiers who directed us towards the villiage. As we wandered about, asking for the Sailas we met a wonderfully nice woman named Sheila who spoke english. She is a teacher in town, from mainland Panama and schooled there who has been in the villiage teaching for 3 months with a total commitment of 3 years before she will get her desired teaching job back home. She took us to the Sailas house, but the primary Sailas was out looking for medical plants and the other six were in Colombia for a meeting. We would have to come back later. Sheila took us to the school where we met three other teachers and were surrounded by about 100 kids all wanting to see the strange looking folks. We then headed off, looking for our hike with the promise to come back in the afternoon with some school supplies and to meet the cheif. We asked the Panamanian Soldiers how to get to Carreto on our way out of town, but they warned us of Colombian Guerrilas in the Area. We waited a few minutes for an english speaking (sort-of) leutenant to speak to us. They warned us of walking away from the villiage and particularly against going over the mountain to Carreto. There were reports of over 50 Colombian Guerrilas in the area which was the reason for the increased military presence there. As we were leaving about 12 soldiers came in from a patrol, so we headed back to the boat and went for a swim instead.

When we headed back in the afternoon, Sheila had made us a small meal (incredibly generous considering the supplies she has available). We had brought a few pads, some drawing paper, and some pens and pencils (not much, but what we could spare...we will need to bring more supplies back when we go home in August), as well as two bags of popcorn for the kids. She showed us around the rest of the villiage and then we met the Cheif Sailas and his secretary/translator. The conversation went from english to spanish via Sheila, then to Kuna via the translator. After some preliminary conversation, Sheila told the cheif about Bill's examination of a child with a muscular problem in this neck which after looking at he thinks is just muscle weakness and should be solved with time and some excersizes. The Sailas immediatly called one of the women over who had a one year old with a skin infection. Mom actually knew what it was first, but the real concern was the 20 day old brother who would be in much more danger if he got it. Bill promised to come back with some medicine and rubber gloves and after a bit more conversation we headed back to the boat. Bill and Mom went back with the ointment and some other supplies while I relaxed onboard. The Cheif was very appreciative and gave us some limes.

Last night the real "fun" began. The AC fridge shut itself off which isn't that abnormal with all the junk in the water. I found a fair amount of eel grass in the intake which after much struggling, I got out, put the system back together and turned back on. Unfortunately, it shut itself off again so we decided we would wait on that till the morning. At the same time, we noticed that the water tank guage had stopped working so we didn't know how much water we had left. As we finnished dishes, we determined "not much" as the tank ran dry. "That's OK, we will just make water tomorrow, and we can use the last bits left in the forward tank in the mean time." The good news was that the Air Con was working great and what would have been a second misserably hot and muggy night in a row was instead almost cold down below as we had dinner and watched an episode of House on the TV.

This morning I woke up with an apparent ear infection (which I am rather prone to for some reason). I continued to troubleshoot the AC fridge while Bill went about switching water guages between the forward and aft tanks so our primary tank would have a working guage. Around 10:00 we finally got started on the anchors only to find out we had done a 720 since we had put them down. We tried untwisting with the engine with no success, then climbed in the dink and tried to pull the small anchor up manually, again with no success. We grabbed my mask and fins and the "spare air", a small scuba tank that gives you about 10 mins underwater and I tried to pull the anchor out of the bottom directly, then tied a line onto the head and we tried to pull it out with the dingy. Having already spent about an hour and a half with no success, we decided to spin the boat using the dingy as a tugboat which worked after about 20 mins. We could then pull the small anchor up (needing the run the boat over the anchor as the windlass couldn't break it from the mud either), then pulled the big anchor and headed out about 2 hours later than we had planned. The "sail" up to Isla de Pinos, was right into the wind, with a wicked swell on our beam, making for a VERY uncomfortable 3 hour motor, especially with my ear making be a bit dizzy to begin with. To make matters worse, the water maker wouldn't make any water so now we were worried not just about showers, but about drinking water for more than a day or so.

We got into Isla Pinos, anchored off a beautiful sandy beach in a cut with a great breeze and got started on the problems. I had the watermaker ETD (Energy Transfer Device) apart, the seals refinished, and back together in about 35 minutes and making water. Bill just finnished tracing through all the AC refridgeration piping and apparently got rid of the air-lock that was causing it to still overheat (knock on wood, but it has been running for 15 mins now and isn't too hot yet) and the water tank guage is now just starting to show some increase in water level. A frustrating day to say the least, but the good news is, it seems to have a happy ending. Dinner tonight is Filet Mignon, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Brocoli, and a salad. Then we have Brownies and whipped cream from Better Days.

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