Panamanian Streets

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 by issycf

Panamanian streets wind and cobble their ways around the city. There is an old man in a hat playing a banjo and singing his heart out.  Salsa music and reggeaton are pumping from the modern stores, which sell brightly coloured clothing and silver sandals while small stray kittens scavenge for food underneath park benches.

The buildings are beautiful and old, there are ferns growing between the cracks in the concrete as if to say that nature will have its way eventually. The paint of the weatherboard is worn and chipped away.150

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James and I walk into a small café and sit down. The elderly are perched at every table, eating fruit and drinking warm milk tea. While we sip at our tea I watch as an old lady pulls out her lipstick and re-applies it to her lips, giving them a lick when she is finished to remove the excess. She then resumes flirting with the old man sitting opposite her.

There is a man sat at the bar who tells us he is the guy who can get you what you want, from marijuana to cocaine to a tour around the city. He is eating a packet of instant noodles he brought in and watching x- men in Spanish on the T.V. in the corner.

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A Kuna woman sits on a bench weaving a Mola, dressed in her traditional clothing.

We celebrate because after four days, we finally got our engine working again and soon enough we should be on our way to the Galapogas. A nice meal of sashimi and a cold beer does the trick.

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The Panama Canal

Posted in Uncategorized on September 5, 2009 by issycf

IMG_1944.JPGLine handlers Dicky and Isabelle, and photographer Jennifer

Transiting the Panama Canal was an experience to be remembered. While you can hire line handlers, we decided to take other yaughties instead and boy was it an adventure! We took Jennifer and Dicky, Sue and George. While we knew Dicky and Jennifer well and had made friends with them during our shared nights in the Shelter Bay pool, we hadn’t had a chance to get to know Sue and George but we were kind of desperate for handlers and when they offered, we were thrilled. Little did we know what lay ahead.

After a nice dinner of Tacos, both Dicky and George got out a bottle of rum each. Jennifer and Dicky were keeping us well entertained with their stories of cruising life. An hour later both litre bottles were empty and while one of those bottles was shared between five of us, George drank a whole bottle himself. First he started rocking forwards and backwards humming. We all thought he was just joking around until he got up to take a pee and nearly fell into the water.

George sung his drunken ballads all night, keeping everyone awake, and then we heard him get up to take a pee. His wife Sue tried to help him but he was too drunk to go close to the water and he was way too drunk to climb into the cockpit and go to the toilet. Then we all heard the inevitable. Georges pee hitting our deck! I was lying there in bed praying that none of it would go onto the mattresses we had outside for him. We certainly learnt that it is a good idea to get to know people before you allow them to come on board. And my hat off to George who despite having what must have been a killer hangover, still managed to do the lines in the morning.

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Canal workers throwing out the lines

IMG_1998.JPGThe Canal Locks

The experience of the canal itself was incredible, going through the locks was exciting as they filled with water and then on the way down were drained. We had to attach four lines to the dock and have the line handlers pull up the slack to prevent the boat from hitting the sides of the canal. 24 hours after entering the canal on the Atlantic side, we were sailing out of the last lock and into the Pacific, it was such a thrill, we were finally on our way. The adventure had only just begun.

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                        Dicky                                       Beautiful Jennifer, Captain James

A thank you to our line handlers for you help getting us through the canal. And especially to Dicky and Jennifer for all of your jokes and stories not only during the transit but also at Shelter Bay. We look forward to hearing more when we catch you again somewhere on the deep blue!

Favourite pics from the San Blas

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2009 by issycf

Just before we put a posting up of our journey through the Panama Canal, here are some faves of the San Blas!

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Quote of the month: “You know, i could do with a break.. from Lobster” ( Isabelle)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2009 by issycf

Hard to believe, I know! But moderation in all things is good, as they say.

Although the seafood was wonderful, we really did need a break occassionaly. But it could be very hard to resist at times, especially when the Kuna fisherman is almost giving away his catch for a couple of dollars!

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Although it was great for us, it was not so great for the fishery. So we came we came up with a bit of a plan we call ‘buy-and-release’. We bought a turtle that we could not bear to kill and eat, for three dollars and waited until the fisherman had gone on his way. Then we both hopped in the water and released our turtle and watched as he happily swam away into the deep.

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We figured this way, the animal gets a second chance, the Kuna get to catch the same animal twice, or more, so the fishery could in effect double, as well as the Kuna income. That is, if the yachties want to fund it.

Holandes Cays (The San Blas)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2009 by issycf

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First Mate on the Bow (on the way to Holandes)

There was some decent snorkeling to be done around the Holandes Cays. 

Sadly, we started to realise how extremely over-fished the whole of the San Blas is. Often the fishermen would have lobster, crab and turtle in the end of the day’s catch but no fish. After spending some time in Indonesia and finding the same situation there, it really hit home how over-fished the world’s waters are. In an effort to feed their families, the Kuna also catch pre-mature lobster. The legal length that a lobster can be to take it from the sea is a tail of four inches because by that stage they are able to reproduce, but the Kuna are (from necessity) plucking tiny lobsters from the sea and wiping out the breeding stock. We found quite a few lobster under rocks and logs while snorkeling but they were all too small to take. 

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James starts the day with a swim in the ‘Swimming Pool’

I woke up from an afternoon snooze to hear the voices of our friends Gary and Linda outside. They had motored over in their dingy and were talking to James. I went out to see them and they invited us over for dinner in their anchorage which was called ‘The Swimming Pool’.

Now, there is something you should know about the San Blas. Basically, navigation can be a challenge at times because there are so many shoals and coral reefs. I think it would be close to impossible for any vessel bigger than Kuna canoes to navigate around the islands without an accurate map. Our guide map was about 10 years old yet quite trust worthy and although we could pretty much rely on that and our GPS, it was often  a good idea to have someone on the bow looking out for potential dangers. 

When we first entered the swimming pool, we didn’t have our map out and no-one was on the bow. We could see a number of boats in the anchorage but we couldn’t quite tell where the deep water channel was. As we were getting closer to Gary and Linda’s cat, our nose hit sand and we felt a jolt go through the boat. We had run aground! Luckily the sand was soft and James maneuvered our way out backwards and into the deep water. 

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The dinner party, Linda sitting there in blue

That night we had a feast fit for kings of Linda’s cuban black beans, Gary’s day’s catch, Neils famous ginger carrots and Vicky’s to die for pumpkin pudding of which James had three helpings and finished off everybody’s left-overs! It was a great night listening to tales of pirates and cruising stories.

Chichime Cays (The San Blas)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2009 by issycf

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After about 4 hours motoring against the wind, James and I arrived in the San Blas just before sundown. We anchored in the Chichime Cays between the islands Uchutupu Pippi and Uchutupu Dumat. The scenery was so idyllic, with turquoise waters and islands filled with coconut palms, like some picture city folk would have on their desk to remind them of where they will be going when they get some time off.

Almost as soon as we had anchored, some Kuna paddled out in their canoes to the boat selling lobster and Molas. We had a good feed of lobster and potatoes that night. In the morning a Kuna woman paddled out again selling traditional Kuna bread, which is flat and delicious. A Kuna family also came to the boat asking us for caramello, chocolate and if we could charge their cell phones. They are living these secluded, traditional lives but they have cell phones!

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Kuna Fisherboy

That day we set sail for the Eastern Holandes Cays. We had a good North- Westerly wind and nearly got all the way there on one tack.  As we came in to anchor, a Kuna man was holding up a pretty decent sized fish, calling out to us and laughing. I think he was pretty proud of his catch.

The San Blas

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2009 by issycf

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Uchutupu Pippi

The San Blas is an archipelago of around 364 islands which stretches over 120 miles from Golfo de San Blas to Tiburon on the border of Colombia. The islands are inhabited by the Kuna, the indigenous people of Panama. They call the islands Kuna Yala, which means ‘Kuna Land’. The Kuna make their living fishing and selling Molas, which are their traditional embroideries. Coconut and lobster exports also provide income, there was a freighter called Medio Million which came to a port near the San Blas, each time to fill with half a million coconuts.

In 1925, after attacks from the Panamanians, the Kuna made an attack on the Panamanian government and killed many police officials. To prevent an extermination of the whole Kuna people, the U.S. government stepped in and through a series of negotiations persuaded the Panamanian government otherwise. Today the Kuna live independently of Panama with their own economic system and laws, the women still wearing their traditional dress of colourful beads around their arms and legs.