Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SCORE. Fish on the Table

The great hunter went with snorkel and spear yesterday and brought home dinner. Hawk hit an Ocean Trigger - a good sized one - and brought it back to the boat, filleted it and we'll cook it up for dinner. The hunting drought has ended. We saw lots of lobsters - but all too small to add to the dining adventure.

The Ocean Trigger has a really tough skin - making it often a tough fish to spear. Cleaning it is equally challenging for the same reason. But Michael managed to get two very nice filets off the fish - plenty for dinner (and leftovers).

It's gotten quite windy here in the Eastern Holandes - and the seas have kicked up outside the reef. Even in the anchorage it is a bit "noisy" with waves slapping against the hull all day and night. Snorkeling options also get cut down when the wind picks up - so we headed to a reef protected by an island for yesterday's fish catching and snorkeling trip. A tiny fish adopted Barbara and swam with her the entire time - and whenever she stopped to explore a coral outcropping - it would swim in front of her face mask as if asking what the hold-up was.

After a nice snorkel we had a nice evening aboard Astarte with Lili and Otto from Vagabond and a tasty "Mexican" feast. It was good to reconnect with them after spending some time with this South African boat in Curacao.

This morning was yoga in paradise - a windy day but a perfect setting to stretch those muscles. The island this time was filled with students from a large three-masted German boat - the Thor Hyerdahl. They camped out on the island the night before with hammocks strung between the palm trees and a few tents. They were still there and a few even joined in on the yoga session. The boat came into the anchorage a few days ago at sunrise and was quite a magnificent sight. It's a beautiful dark hulled boat and looks like it's right out of the movies like "Master and Commander" or "Mutiny on the Bounty."

2009 is nearing its end…and it'll end with a full moon. Cool.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Kuna Christmas and Boxing Day

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Talking to our families, it seemed cold in many parts of the US - so we hope you stayed warm with family and friends. Our Christmas was spent with about 25 boats in the "swimming pool" area. It was a warm and sunny day with a nice breeze to keep things comfortable. A potluck on one of the islands was attended by about 60 people and this included a fun gift exchange with some crazy gifts, from bazooka style water pistols to inflatable parrots. The food was tasty including everything from smoked salmon, chicken curry and turkey to lentil salads and quiche. The dessert table was filled with pineapple upside down cake, a yummy pecan pie and cakes and cookies galore. It was a fun event with people from many countries. Lots of Santa hats and festive outfits adorned the cruisers and that evening the boats seemed particularly pretty with their Christmas lights and decorations.

Christmas night brought in a few squalls and one catamaran that had anchored a bit close to us got mighty close when the wind changed directions. But they seemed to be able to sleep through it all - though we were up at 0400 and stayed up on anchor watch the rest of the morning. We couldn't wake the other boat even with calls on the radio (several channels), yelling at the boat and even spotlighting their boat with our mighty spotlight. The wind, rain and our attempts didn't work to wake up the crew who seemed oblivious to the situation. Oh well! In the morning when they finally got up and saw how close we were they let out more chain and went back below decks.

The fleet of cruising boats is international - so there were "Boxing Day" greetings also sent out for December 26th to celebrate the day after Christmas. This is a tradition in the British (and former British) commonwealths (so all the Brits, Kiwis, Canadians, Aussies, South Africans, Irish and others celebrated).

Today, Michael completed a few big projects. Stealing an idea we saw the other night on Calypso, a South African boat, he made some good window "sticks" to keep our hatches open. He also installed a fan to keep the refrigerator compressor cooler. This last project was accompanied by some not so pleasant language, a few more bruises on his head and some contortionist moves. But it got done. Three cheers for Hawk!

So to all - Happy Boxing Day!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve in Kuna Yala

(First, a house keeping note. Please bear with us, we do not have internet access. Anything sent to the, the blog or our aol account can't be checked till we get somewhere with internet. We want to apologize early, if you haven't gotten a personal response lately. We still receive the and addresses on the boat.)

Merry Christmas to all our readers. It is a different Christmas for us this year. Last year we were in chilly New England with Barbara's mom and enjoying family time with her sister and family. That included some Polish Christmas eve traditions; eating lots of cookies and seeing all the beautiful decorations.

This year, we're anchored in the Eastern Holandes, in the area known as the "swimming pool." It's hot and sunny - not very Christmas like. At night, we see many of the boats here all decorated with their Christmas lights - its one of the only ways you can tell it's the holidays. Richard and Rene's visit brought Christmas cheer as they gifted us with holiday stockings and ornaments now hanging on the boat.

Today will be cookie baking time onboard Astarte. With a tiny oven (and one cookie sheet) - this will be a bit more time consuming than normal. Tonight, we'll have some folks over (our old friends Lil and Otto from Vagabond that we just reconnected with, after spending time with them in Curacao).

Tomorrow, there is a potluck feast on the island that we'll partake in and a gift exchange with things from the boat. We've made a copy of the CD that Kathryn sent us as our gift and Barbara's trying to make rope trivets as another gift (not so easy and they're not made yet!) The Kuna's that come by the boat joke that Michael (with his now pretty white beard) is Santa Claus - he's getting good at the "Ho Ho Ho" to get a laugh. He's scared a few as well!

It's a different Christmas. We miss celebrating with family and friends. And, with Michael's dad's recent death, it has some additional sadness. But we are in a beautiful place, doing what we are truly enjoying. We are meeting interesting and wonderful folks from all over the world. Holidays are difficult - but it also makes you really remember what they are all about. This year we weren't at all caught up in the commercialization of Christmas - and making homemade gifts reminds us of college days.

We wish you all a very special holiday and may your dreams be fulfilled.
Merry Christmas from both of us - Michael and Barbara.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adios Rene and Ricardo! Feliz Navidad.

Dear Readers - you are now back with Barbara's (and Michael's) entries. Thanks for the guest blogs R&R!

Richard and Rene said their farewells yesterday from Astarte and boarded the ponga for their boat, then car ride into Panama City, and finally their plane ride home. They fly out this morning back to Christmas in the states. It was a great visit filled with lots of snorkeling and visiting various islands. We covered a lot of area - staying only in one place more than a night! They were good sports aboard - living out of suitcases and having to empty the v-berth each night before being able to climb in. We lucked out with weather - having nice breezes and sunny skies. We traveled a lot - but didn't get all that much actual sailing in - the wind on the nose or the need to make power and water.

The last night unfortunately was a very still night, close to the mainland and that meant a buggy good-bye. The "chi-chis" (no-see-ums) were thick and biting. There seems to be no screen small enough not to let these things in. It was also very still and hot, making for less than ideal sleeping conditions. Plus, Richard didn't feel very well for his last few days on board (probably my cooking!!)

They loaded up the boat with lots of fun treats and goodies and we had a nice (surprise) Christmas celebration with them. They brought Christmas stockings filled with magazines, books, CDs, a beautiful handmade bracelet, ornaments and more snacks! Plus they delivered greetings from many of our "Dolphin" friends. Thanks to all of you for your holiday messages. And thanks again Richard and Rene for the visit.

After R&R's early morning departure, it was time to clean the forward head, shut it down and re-make it into the hanging locker/laundry room. The V-berth was stripped and re-loaded with "stuff" from the aft stateroom (turning it back into the "attic"). Though Nonomulu is buggy (and has crocodiles) we decided to stay the night to keep Honore on "Will o' the Wisp" company. They did that for Michael as well when I went to Panama City - and he went in to meet their guests and re-provision. We all took a dinghy ride over to Acuadup. This is a traditional island and we were shown where the panaderia was and picked up some bread - as well as getting shown many molas and bracelets. Barbara got a bracelet and had it tied on Kuna style by the one of the Kuna woman.

We re-organized, cleaned and relaxed through the hot afternoon. Then we had some squally weather that kicked up the seas and dropped a bit of rain. The wind would hopefully keep the chi-chis away and keep the boat cooler. Honore came over for fish tacos and then the weather settled and the bugs returned. The boat seems filled with these little biters. We called it an early night.

Thanks again Richard and Rene for making the trek to Panama and Kuna Yala. Thanks for all the goodies but, mostly for the company.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our Adventure Continues

Our plans for Friday fell flat when Lisa our tour guide notified us that her ponga engine was damaged and she would be unable to take us on our planned trip up the Rio Sidra (Sidra River). Lisa did, however, eventually make it to the boat to show us her molas. She is a renowned mola maker and Richard and I bought several. The mola selling process is interesting one. If you don't go into a village to look at molas, sellers come to the boat in an ulu or a ponga (defined previously) and offer to show you their molas and often beaded bracelets both of which they carry in plastic buckets in their boats. Sometimes Barbara and Mike invite the Kunas into the cockpit to show us their wares. We usually look at everything, show them what we want to buy, ask the price of each item, and then try to bargain. Some will bargain, but mostly we have run into fixed prices but they have not been too high. The whole process can last an hour or more. We have walked away from some deals that we did not think were worth the price.

Since we were not going up the Rio Sidra, we moved to the Western Holandes Cays and anchored South of Waisaladup (there are lots of "dups" in this area; do you remember "ooh poo pa dup?"). We had wonderful snorkeling this afternoon seeing lots of colored coral (the pink was especially beautiful) and magnificent fish. After snorkeling the reef on the side of the island where we were anchored, Richard and I walked across the island and then around it. We discovered a small Kuna enclave with about 8 huts on the Eastern end and we noticed a few men, women, and boys who cheerfully greeted us with, "Hola." It is so beautiful here; we could easily be in the South Pacific. We had no idea that Panama was such a beautiful country.

Saturday, we have decided to leave Waisaladup because it's too rolly and the Captain's rule of thumb is "Just one night of rolling and that's it." So we moved to the "Swimming Pool," a large circular area between two islands that is the color of a swimming pool and yes, one of the islands is another "dup," Banedup and the other is Bar-B-Que Island. We snorkeled over some grasses and saw some sea cucumbers called Donkey Dung (Mike claims he has eaten this stuff in Canada) but we passed. We saw lots of star fish that looked gigantic with the magnification effect of the water, sea biscuits, and sand dollars. We had fun swimming along for a while with a large trigger fish. We also found an old fisherman's or navy anchor with a large rode still attached. Many tropical fish had already found a home there. We all like it here.

Sunday morning we snorkeled over a close-by reef that was shallow enough to really look at the fish, coral, and sponges. I also saw two eels which were the first of this trip and a neat scrolled file fish swimming vertically, face down. We played around with some of the feather duster tube worms by touching them so they would retreat into their tubes. A small barracuda passed us by and we went the other way. The fish we have seen are too numerous to list but there are so many beautiful and unusual ones.

We swam so long in the am that we stayed aboard and relaxed that afternoon. Around 4:30 we joined Bob and Sandy from S/V Sapphire (from Tierre Verde) and their daughter Terry and husband Brian and 3 year old son Hudson on BBQ Island for hors d'oerves and drinks and a game of bocce ball. It was fun to meet up with old friends in this remote place. We had a great time on this beautiful little island that is covered with a low-growing grass and shaded with coconut palms; perfect for bocce ball.

Now it's Monday and we put the dink on the front deck for the 20 mile run back to Nonomulu where we will be picked up tomorrow for our trip back to Panama City. We have motored the whole way and made water too. As we were anchoring, some Kunas arrived in their ulu and were selling fish; they had one gorgeous snapper which Mike and Barbara bought for our last dinner on the boat. Richard jumped in for a quick bath while I did some packing. Another boatload of Kunas showed up who are to pick us up in the morning. It seems the plans have changed slightly and they will take us in their ponga (wooden boat with a motor) from Astarte all the way up the river where we will meet our SUV and driver for the trip back to Panama City. This is great news because we will have yet another adventure before going home!

After they leave and just before I am ready to jump in for a bath, Mike yells out that that a crocodile is swimming nearby so we all rush out for a look. Sure enough there is a croc cruising by and my plans for a bath have disappeared. However, there is an alternative since we just had a great downpour and have collected rainwater. I stood on the swim platform, got lathered up and Barbara poured a couple of buckets of pure rainwater over me for rinsing. Doesn't get any better than this.

Then we sit down to our grilled snapper dinner with yellow rice, and slaw, with a lobster appetizer and brownies for dessert. What a feast. And as out trip comes to and end, we thank our host and hostess for providing a fantastic week in the San Blas Islands with first class food and accommodations and consideration for all of our wants and needs. We wish Michael and Barbara Feliz Navidad and Fair Winds. With love from Rene and Richard.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Rene Catching Up with Richard's Help

On Tuesday we dinghied to Carti on the island of Sugdup where we first met the Sailas or Chief who charged us $10 to anchor and $3 each to visit the Kuna Yala museum which was a thatched hut with dirt floor much like the Kuna homes. A young Kuna man who spoke English asked us to sit in chairs as he lectured to us and pointed to objects and pictures explaining Kuna history, customs and lifestyle. We learned about chicha beer made from bananas and sugarcane, that everyone has a spiritual doll called a nuchu that after death is put in a small boat and set out to sea to release one's soul, and that from birth to burial a person sleeps in the same hammock. We saw a communal kitchen hut which makes sense to consolidate the heat in one place. There were many children in the paths between the densely placed homes, and one concrete school which is now closed until March for the dry season.

In the afternoon we motored to the Los Grullos group of islands and anchored between two of them to catch the breezes. Barbara had a swim while others napped, then Richard and I snorkeled to one of the islands and checked out the reef. The opposite island had a small resort where reportedly for $75/night one could stay in a dirt-floored hut with a mattress and receive 3 meals per day. Entertainment there included snorkeling, swinging in a hammock, riding in a ponga (motor-powered local wooden boat) or just veging out. After our showers on the back of the boat, we got ready for a turkey dinner shared with Honoree and Walt from Will o' the Wisp. We had a great evening hearing more stories about the San Blas Islands.

Wed. morning when I awoke I thought we had a beautiful deep blue sky but when I shook the cobwebs out I realized it was the blue canvas shade Mike had hoisted over our hatch! The real sky was beautiful too. We pulled anchor mid-morning and sailed to the Naguargandup Cays, passing Moron Island where Michael wants to be King, and finally anchoring near Salardup. Richard and I caught a quick swim to the island before lunch and then naps after. That afternoon we visited Pixie and George aboard Silver Seas, a 38' Island Packet, who are friends of Elaine and Howard Rothstein. We were interested in checking out storage modifications on their boat and we had an enjoyable hour chatting with them. Thank you Matt R. for the supremo eggplant parmesan recipe that we all thoroughly enjoyed for dinner. Yum.

Thursday we followed Mike out to the reefs to see nature at its best. We not only saw beautiful, living coral, we saw a crab and stone fish hiding inside a coral formation, and many amazing fish and sponges. It was a challenge for us to swim into the current yet we learned how to maneuver with the ebb and flow. We moved the boat to the Rio Sidra island and before we could finish anchoring some Kunas in an ulu (paddled dugout boat) came by to sell molas. There had been others at other sites but finally we decided to buy 4 from Belasario, a Kuna albino who was obviously getting burned from the sun. We gave him some sunscreen and Barbara and Mike added more sunscreen and sunglasses. He expressed gratitude for the purchase as well as the gifts. Walt and Honoree called on the radio to say they had bought crab and lobster for us at a great price. They showed up in the afternoon and the crustaceans were steamed and left for cracking later. The 6 of us went ashore for a tour of the island and were greeted by Ena and Toby who acted as our guides. This island only requested $1 each to enter and we were on our way. Cold beer and soda was needed on a hot afternoon as we walked the dirt paths between the bamboo huts and greeted the many Kunas who came out to see us. There were so many children on this island; 375 in their school we were told. We saw the Congresso hut, the Christian church, school, chicha building where festivals are held, and the communal kitchen. I bought another mola from Ophelia and felt pleased with the day's purchases. When we returned to the boat, Richard, Mike and Barbara cracked and picked the crab, which looks somewhat like King crab, and Rene make slaw. With fresh spinach added to that, we had a feast. Tomorrow will be an exciting day; stay tuned.

From Rene. The SUV trip on Monday, literally across the country, was a highlight for Richard and me. We were so loaded with provisions and our duffle bags that we were afraid to open the back door. Cases of beer, wine and milk were strapped on top and we could only hope that the heat wouldn't cause any explosions. The countryside was beautiful and lush. Initially the road was great. We went from two-lane hardtop to one-lane gravel and then to clay which at points was slick and wet. One two occasions we came face-to-face with road graders. Hills became steeper requiring 4-wheel drive, and turns, tighter raising our adrenaline and fun. And then we arrived at the river, a surprise to me, and we drove right in heading a bit to the right and then turning left to tackle a steep hill, very slick with red clay. Don't need the movies for this adventure. Oh, and along the way we have passed wrecked and now stripped cars that had taken the tumble down one of the ravines! Arriving at the water's edge, Michael was bobbing in the dinghy just off the concrete docks and we began to offload the many boxes and bags. It took three trips to get everything to Astarte and Barbara had the unenviable task of putting everything away. And then she graciously prepared a delicious dinner and we relaxed in the in the cockpit enjoying a wonderful reunion with our friends.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Boatloads of Stuff

From Rene. The SUV trip on Monday, literally across the country, was a highlight for Richard and me. We were so loaded with provisions and our duffle bags that we were afraid to open the back door. Cases of beer, wine and milk were strapped on top and we could only hope that the heat wouldn't cause any explosions. The countryside was beautiful and lush. Initially the road was great. We went from two-lane hardtop to one-lane gravel and then to clay which at points was slick and wet. One two occasions we came face-to-face with road graders. Hills became steeper requiring 4-wheel drive, and turns, tighter raising our adrenaline and fun. And then we arrived at the river, a surprise to me, and we drove right in heading a bit to the right and then turning left to tackle a steep hill, very slick with red clay. Don't need the movies for this adventure. Oh, and along the way we have passed wrecked and now stripped cars that had taken the tumble down one of the ravines! Arriving at the water's edge, Michael was bobbing in the dinghy just off the concrete docks and we began to offload the many boxes and bags. It took three trips to get everything to Astarte and Barbara had the unenviable task of putting everything away. And then she graciously prepared a delicious dinner and we relaxed in the in the cockpit enjoying a wonderful reunion with our friends.
Boatloads of Stuff!

Rene will submit another post soon - but you're back with Barbara for this entry!

It was a Panama City adventure this past Sunday and Monday. The ride in was a trip - I was one of 14 people in a van going over muddy steep, curvy roads and through (yes through) a river. It's amazing. We did get stopped by the National Police twice - once they unloaded everyone and checked all the baggage thoroughly - that is all the bags except my backpack. Interesting. I did see a ROUS crossing the road on the trip out! (Sorry Kathryn and Mark)

Got to PC and started the shopping rounds. It was hectic and Richard and Rene were really good sports about helping. The return was in a small SUV with the three of us, a Kuna and the driver and cases of beer, wine, milk, bags of veggies, giant boxes stuffed with meat (including a frozen turkey to keep the cold stuff chilled), frozen meat (that was an adventure communicating how I wanted to buy the meat, have them vacuum seal it and freeze it overnight!) and lots of staples like flour, sugar, pastas etc. I was amazed it all fit in this car. And I was even more amazed that the car made it through the river which was a bit higher and the car a bit lower.

Upon arrival in back in Carti we offloaded the car with the help of several Kuna and a wheelbarrow. IT took three dinghy trips back and forth from the boat to load it all up. Storing it - that's another whole story - especially with guests and their luggage and all the stuff they brought for us etc. We are piled high on board and sitting yet lower in the water.

It's been great having R&R on board and we're enjoying going to new islands and snorkeling, visiting and eating! We've hit a town in Carti and went to a Kuna museum that shared more info about the Kuna culture. But I'll let Rene share more.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our Guests Have Arrived

Richard and Rene, our good friends from St. Petersburg, the Dolphin Cruising Club and the lovely sailboat "Sea Tryst" have joined us in Kuna Yala. As with all travel, there are adventures from the very beginning. They are now aboard Astarte after a re-provisioning trip to Panama City. Loading up on food and supplies is always adventure. But the additional adventure of getting from SV Astarte in Kuna Yala to PC and back added to the fun. The following entry is from Rene who, together with Richard, will be guest "loggers" for the next few days. It's always fun to have a fresh perspective - so enjoy!

Rene's entry:
We met Barbara in Panama City on Sunday about noon just after returning from a 3 hour walk in Parque Nacional Soberania, an accessible rainforest about 40 minutes out of PC. We saw some beautiful birds and butterflies but we are out of luck when it comes to identification but did see and get a snapshot of a sloth. The best of sightseeing in PC is the Panama Canal. We saw quite a few freighters going through the Miraflores Lockes; what a feat it was to build this wonder. And now additional locks are being built to handle additional and larger ships.

Sun. afternoon we started with lunch at a "Café" that was really a cafeteria with a grill. Barbara and Richard ordered from the steam table and left me trying to order a bacon and tomato sandwich from two cooks who spoke no English and I, limited Spanish. Got that done but the bacon was only warmed for 2 minutes. I did manage to get the bacon cooked longer and it tasted great since I never eat real bacon anyway.

The three of us spent the afternoon shopping for provisions at a large grocery Reba Smith and a Sam's type of store, Mega Depot, where beer, wine, milk, tuna, etc. could be bought by the case. Barbara was also able to replace their broken stereo at a recommended store. The grocery was filled with American products at surprisingly reasonable prices as well as local items and produce. Some produce was high such as cauliflower was over $4. While I sat with the groceries at Reba Smith, Richard and Barbara went to Mega Depot but when finished they could not find a cab to pick them up because of their huge pile. Finally the cab that stopped would not come for me! So Barbara and I got a ride with a different cabbie who at first said no and as we found out, he had just stopped to pick up his wife. He had a 4-door truck so there was plenty of room. After he pulled away and Barbara went to check in to the hotel, she realized she had left her small zippered bag with money and passport in the cab. She immediately went into panic mode and then along with the hotel manager we went into crisis management mode. Shortly thereafter, a call came in from the cabbie that he would return the purse later that evening. This cabbie was meant for us. Barbara left a generous tip and we left for a nice dinner out. What a Wonderful World!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nonomulu and Snakes

Astarte moved from the Lemmons to the Carti group of islands after filling the propane tanks and doing some serious cleaning. We enjoyed meeting George and Pixie aboard Silver Seas and laughed at the "North Shore" (Massachusetts) connections. Pixie's from Beverly and George is from Danvers - nearby towns where Barbara grew up! We had a nice supper with them aboard their Island Packet 38 the other night and enjoyed hearing those strong Boston accents.

On Friday, we sailed with a nice downwind breeze to the Carti Islands. We are anchored between the mainland of Panama and a small island "Nonomulu." The birds are fun to listen to and watch and it's a pleasant anchorage. Good thing there is a steady wind to keep the bugs at bay - they look like they would like this place! Can't really swim here as the water is a bit muddy from the nearby rivers. But we learned that snakes CAN swim - and do! We found a small boa constrictor on the boat huddled between the rail and a bucket - enjoying the warm sun. We're guessing it swam from shore and climbed up the swim platform and on-board. Michael got a boat hook and carefully (after many photos) scooted him off the boat. He didn't want to leave - preferring the luxury and company of SV Astarte - but we had company coming and it would already be cozy enough without him! So he took a swim back to shore. We watched him go quite a way - and hopefully he didn't turn around and head back. It's kinda scary in a cool sort of way.

We chose this location because it's close to the "aeropuerto" where Barbara will catch a taxi into Panama City to meet Richard and Rene and do some re-provisioning for their visit. The wine supply is just about non-existent! Plus we need some other basics like flour and sugar and noodles. It should be an adventure.

Finishing up the cleaning and organizing for our guests. We bought two nice crabs from the local Kuna fishermen yesterday. It takes awhile to clean them - but they are mighty tasty. This is a nice spot other than the not so clear water (and maybe the snakes). Hope the breeze stays with us and the snakes stay off us.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Night of Rain - Water for Cleaning

We made it back to the East Lemmons in the hopes of filling our propane tank so we won't run out of cooking fuel for Richard and Rene's visit. Guests also mean getting Astarte all shiny and clean for company. Last night we had an 1130 wake-up call with a good squall coming through - but it did fill up a water bucket for today's cleaning.

The heads are all spotless and the headliner (ceiling) and all the wood is all washed. A chili "mishap" required the stove to be removed and some serious cleaning behind it. It was probably needed even without the chili disaster!

It's a hot day - with little to no breeze - not an ideal day for cleaning. But we're running out of time - so it must get done.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Party Time

Yandup and Corezon de Jesus (the two villages that make up what's known as Nargana), celebrated Dias de Madre (Mother's Day) with big fiestas on Monday. There was the crowning of the "Queen Mum" which entailed lots of dancing by the runner-ups, line dancing trough the crowd and lots of cheering and speeches. Some traditional dancing as well as party dancing took place. One side, Yandup, held their festivities in a concrete building so it was pretty crowded. The other side, Corezon had theirs on the outside basketball court. Both places were decorated and quite festive. We went in with the folks from Will o' the Wisp and Wonderland. Fireworks were being set off by kids (and adults) and everyone was drinking beer and seemed to be having a great time. We did some dancing (Barbara and Honore even got some young Kuna teens to dance with them!) It was a fun evening. As it celebrated "mother's day" we wish our mothers' a happy day - Panama style.

After a night of partying, we headed to a new anchorage. We picked a place called Esnasdup. It was only about ten miles away - and we had a wonderful sail (albeit it short) to the new location. No joy on the fishing front. This location is a small group of islands surrounded by a reef (sound familiar?). We are with one other boat on one island and there are three more boats near another reef/island. So you do feel like you have the place to yourself. The water is very clear. We had a nice snorkel and swim yesterday followed by the not-so-nice cleaning the bottom of the boat. After all that activity, we reciprocated with a dinner invite to Honore and Walt and had them over for a chili feast. This was followed by a big domino tournament. It was a good match with the lead changing throughout the game (except for Barbara who maintained last place for all but one round!)

Another fun night - but that made it two nights in a row of staying up past "cruisers' midnight! Today we awoke to a drizzly, grey day. This anchorage is closer to the mainland - so the clouds build over the mountains. Most likely we'll move to the East Lemmons - we need to get more cooking gas prior to Richard and Rene's visit. That is a bit of a challenge here - the local Panamanian tanks use a different adaptor and it's butane. The bottom line is, that you need a special adapter to fill the American style propane tanks. So we understand Mr. G in the East Lemmons has an adapter and hopefully he'll also have the gas. (Getting the two together is always the challenge). Then we'll need to head to Carti by Saturday for the arrival to our much anticipated guests

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Monday, December 7, 2009

The Devil's Laundry Room

We're back in Nargana for diesel and gasoline - meaning the end of zero dollar days in "the swimming pool." We had a large northeast swell on Saturday as we headed the 15 miles to Nargana - but in spite of that, it was a decent motor sail. We ran the water maker underway and had the fishing lines out - this time using one of the gifted lures that Tommy "Boats" gave us. It was called "Lil Stubby" and was the color of choice right now by other boats - purple. We dragged it at perfect boat catching speed. No joy! Maybe Mark's right after his fisheries survey - "there are NO fish here!"

We got to Nargana and anchored further from town - a bit closer to the "jungle." There is a steady breeze so we hoped that would keep the "chi chis" away. (Those would be the blood sucking bugs that leave itchy bumps!) Michael proceeded with fuel runs - at $3.75 a gallon for diesel we burnt through $100 plus quickly. You go to Paco's dock for the fuel (Frederico will deliver it to your boat for $4.00 a gallon). We then went into town - and did a run to Tienda Eides and picked up some nice tomatoes, eggs, and Kuna bread. Had a beer (Hawk) and ice cream (Barbara) with some friends and enjoyed seeing the town getting decorated for Christmas. It seems the Kuna's are quite excited about the holidays with decorated trees in their huts and the town square set up with man made lighted trees (lights strung up poles with a star on the top). It is very festive - but with the heat, it's hard to think its Christmas. The kids are all out school for vacation so there are lots of activities, music and teens and young children running around.

On Sunday, we decided we'd do laundry up the Rio Diablo (Devil's River). We had done a dinghy trip up this river one very rainy day with our friends from Tumshi. But today, we had a mission. A lot of laundry. We had been waiting for rain since Mark and Kathryn left - but Kuna Yala rained itself out ON them! We loaded the dinghy with buckets and bins, lots of laundry, soap, bleach and "stain removers" (like that's going to actually work!). We went quite a way up river until the water got very clear and anchored in the middle. We washed and rinsed in the river - this was the best rinse the clothes ever got! No crocodiles - but lots of pretty bird to see and to listen to as we laundered.

Back to the boat, lines were strung everywhere to hang the massive amount of laundry. Luckily it was a sunny and breezy day - so most of it dried quickly.

Late afternoon, we went into the village again for gasoline, bread (no joy - the bakers didn't work) and dinner out! This would be the first dinner out since Cartagena! We went to one of the two "fondas" in town with Honore and Walt from "Will o' the Wisp" and Jim from "Wonderland". This fonda (restaurant) is run by the local congresso (governing body of the villages). It's under the "pool hall" and next to the Panama army headquarters. There was a bit of a battle between competing "boom boxes" for music rights… of course we thought the guys with the guns would win! Of course that particular boom box was actually in the restaurant so it could get a bit loud. The restaurant is a little covered and open patio with a few tables. We got there about 1700 and the verbal menu for that night included lobster, a crab dish and chicken. No fish. No conch. No whole crab. When asked the price of the lobster dinner - the answer was $4 or $5. Barbara and Honore had the lobster - they were very small (guess the congresso doesn't follow the catching rules) - but very tasty. Michael had the crab "stew" - it was also tasty. A huge platter of tomatoes was also served to the table. Jim from Wonderland treated us all to the dinner (very nice of him). After dinner, we took a little walk around the island and then everyone headed back to Astarte for some dessert and conversation. It was a busy and fun day and we stayed up way past "cruisers' midnight."

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Spared, Not Speared

It was huge. A giant Nassau grouper barely hiding under a ledge - looking at us. Michael with spear in hand, decided to spare the giant's life as he was so magnificent. He wasn't that afraid and he was really beautiful in an ugly kind of way (the fish - not Michael!) The snorkeling was wonderful yesterday - seeing a giant crab (with all it's claws), file fish, giant trigger fish, lots of small tropicals, healthy coral and a variety of underwater "land" scapes. The water was a bit chilly - but it was pretty clear. It was great to get a good snorkel in after several days on board.

Barbara participated in a fun yoga class on the beach on Tuesday - almost every woman from the boats anchored here went in and Suzanne on "NautiBear" hosted the class. It was great to be amongst the beautiful palms on a sunny day stretching into poses like "warrior," "triangle" and trees.

New boats come and go from the "swimming pool" so it's fun to watch the bay movies. It's a friendly group of folks - from a variety of countries. There are Germans, Dutch, Italians, French, Brits and US boats anchored here. The Kunas don't come by very often - so the supply of fish, crab or lobsters is limited. We're getting through our meat stock quickly.

Getting ready for our next guests to arrive - Richard and Rene get to the boat on the 14th of December. They'll arrive in Panama City a few days early and Barbara is planning on meeting them in PC to do some provisioning and heading back in a car with them.

The sheets and towels are all clean so once we get more provisions, we'll be ready for the next guests. Their list of things to bring is getting longer.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In the "Swimming Pool"

Exploring Kuna Yala continues. After several days in the Lemmon Cays (between Tiadup, Nuganachirdup and Koledup), we moved to an area called the Holandes Cays. This is a group of 21 islands (or "dups") behind a 7-mile long protective barrier reef. Most of the islands are uninhabited. There are two main areas, the eastern and western Holandes. We settled in an area called "the swimming pool" between Banedup and Barbeque Island. The water here is the clearest in all of the San Blas area because it is the group furthest from shore. We came in on a cloudy day and had to watch the reefs carefully as it's a bit tricky to get into. We anchored in a shallow area amongst the 15 other boats here. This is a popular spot. Several boats here have "swallowed the anchor" in this spot for many years. One boat has been here for six years!

After settling into our new home, we appreciated why this is such a popular spot - it really is beautiful. There is a pretty strong current, but the water is crystal clear and surrounded by beautiful palm covered islands.

On Sunday, we decided to just get here and relax after the move from the Lemmons. Michael dove the anchor (where is "clap, clap. . . anchor boy??") and did a little exploring of the reef near the boat. He saw two giant trigger fish and lots of little critters. This area is supposed to have terrific snorkeling when the winds settle. It is a breezy day - but that's good for power and comfort. Made a bread (still need to cut into it to see how it came out). We invited Joan and Ted from Panchita over for sundowners. We met them in Cartagena and they were in the Lemmons.

On Monday, it was laundry day! More guests are coming (Richard and Rene) and Kathryn and Mark recently left, so the sheets and towels had to get washed. Looked like a good power day (sun and wind) to make water (of course no real rain since Kathryn and Mark left!) We had to find a bigger bucket than the "Laundromat" that Richard and Rene gave me (two white buckets). We emptied out a big blue tub and that worked for the mattress cover (one load); sheets (another load) and the bucket served the purpose of pillow cases and a few small towels. That was an all day project. Michael made water and Barbara worked on her upper body strength. Between bread kneading and laundry - she's building up some muscles! There are days you miss the convenience of a washing machine!

Monday night was "potluck" finger food (no plates, forks or knives) on BBQ Island. All the cruisers get together and trade books, DVDs and enjoy snacks. There were some tasty treats brought - barracuda bites, crab cakes, conch fritters, fish dip - all from the local waters. We met some interesting folks - people who have been here a long time - and got more good local information. We did our first charging up of a Kuna's cell phone - but failed to ask for payment for the service. Next time, we'll negotiate ahead a coconut or fish as payment for the charging service. Still learning about this whole Kuna economy.

Hardly realize its December first already!

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