December 30, 2008 - February 15, 2009
San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala)
December 30 - 31, 2008
After a pleasant overnight motorsail from Isla Fuerte, Colombia,
we came rolling into the eastern San Blas islands atop 10-foot
ocean swells. Our first stop was the long, sheltered bay at
Puerto Escoses. At the very end of the bay we found a tranquil
mangrove lagoon with excellent holding and protection from
the waves crashing on the other side of the hill. This was
a great place to rest and recoup, clean the boat, and celebrate
putting the treacherous Colombian coast behind us. On New
Year's Eve, after dinner and a movie onboard, we played "Auld
Lang Syne" and danced on deck under the twinkling stars.
Caribbean Soul anchored at Puerto
Crocodiles inhabit the shores of Panama and
the nearby islands. Boa constrictors have also crawled onto
several cruising boats, even as far
from the mainland as the Hollandes Cays.
January 1, 2009
From January through March, the northeast trade winds crank
up over 20 knots and generate seas often exceeding 10 feet.
These large swells originating off the Colombian coast filter
through the San Blas islands, so even a short trip can be
a bash if you don't wait for moderating conditions. On New
Year's Day we decided things had calmed down sufficiently
to pound our way out of Escoses and travel 6 miles to Suledup.
We spent one night anchored in a lovely spot behind some small
islands a short distance from a village.
Colombian trading boats are a vital means
of commerce in Kuna Yala.
They bring goods from Colombia and purchase the Kuna's coconuts
bananas. However, they aren't the most seaworthy looking vessels.
January 2 - 3
Chicha inna is a sacred religious ritual performed
by the Kuna to celebrate a young girl's coming of age. Chicha
is an alcoholic drink made from pressed sugar cane, and the
preparation for this event may take a month. In Mulatupu,
we had the privilege of attending this event, which the traditional
villages do not normally open to foreigners.
Our arrival in the bay off the community of Sasardi was met
with great enthusiasm. Adults and children rowed out to greet
us in their ulus (dugout canoes). Most Kunas speak
Spanish, so we spoke to each other in our second languages.
Among our visitors was the tax man, who collected a $10 anchoring
fee. One young man introduced himself in English as Mr. Arcesio
Hackins and offered to introduce us to Mr. Green, the saila
(town chief), that afternoon. In Kuna villages, there are
several sailas who govern the people. As a foreigner it is
important to meet the saila and receive permission to be in
Some years ago, the community had a rift and now two independent
governments control Sasardi and Nuevo (New) Sasardi. The contiguous
villages are built on a low island and connected to the mainland
by a bridge about 200 yards long. Homes are built of bamboo
poles tied together and covered with thatch roofs. The huts
are tightly spaced with narrow dirt paths between them. The
village has electricity, fresh water, a school, a hospital,
and a pool hall. Kuna villages are centered around two important
public huts. The congresso hut is the location of nightly
meetings where the sailas lounge in hammocks and dispense
wisdom and decisions on issues in the community. No less important
is the chicha hut where the periodic puberty celebrations
The ocean is the Kuna's waste bin. Pigs are kept in self-cleaning
pens built on stilts over the water. Outhouses for the human
residents are built on the same principal. The outhouse might,
if you're lucky, have a seat over the hole or, as did the
one I used, just a concrete frame. According to custom, trash
is thrown in the sea. This practice was not detrimental in
the past when trash was mostly biodegradable. However, the
introduction of foreign products containing plastic has created
an unsightly rim of trash along shore.
As Mr. Hackins led us along the dirt paths, mobs of excited
children ran up yelling "Hola!", grabbing our hands
and grinning from ear to ear. Nick was surrounded by a throng
of kids who were infatuated with the camera and delighted
to see their images in the preview window. Kuna kids are the
sweetest and friendliest children we've encountered anywhere.
Among the children were a number of albinos, the result of
a gene pool lacking adequate diversity. In Kuna Yala, albinos
are considered special and held in high esteem. The albinos'
fair skin was splotchy red from the sun, and they squinted
in the bright glare. MiLady had some extra sunglasses
on board and gave two pairs to a brother and sister. The boy
was thrilled with his gift and strutted around the village
looking very cool in his new shades.
The villages in the eastern San Blas are considered traditional,
and Sasardi was a good example. Married women wear the signature
Kuna reverse-applique mola shirts, wrap skirts , nose
rings, and beaded leg and arm bands. Men, children, and unmarried
women wear casual western clothes: T-shirts with shorts or
pants. Men typically wear ballcaps, while the older sailas
wear bolero-style felt hats. The Kuna people are short in
stature, but lean and strong. The society is matrilineal,
and a woman picks a husband to live with her. A Kuna man or
woman may have more than one spouse, but this is not typical.
Homosexuality is also an accepted part of Kuna society. Some
men are raised from birth to dress and behave as women. Many
of these transvestites are master mola makers, and we saw
one of them in Sasardi.
Visiting gringos with greenbacks are a welcome windfall for
the Kunas. Our walk through the village ended at the local
"bar," which was a group of plastic chairs near
the shore. Inside a thatched hut was an electric ice box from
which cold Balboa beers were delivered for 78 cents apiece.
Apparently when gringos are present they buy the beer for
everyone. Before departing, we and MiLady offered Mr.
Hackins $10 for his assistance during our visit.
On Saturday, Mr. Hackins escorted us to the chicha hut where
the sailas were already taste testing the chicha prior to
that evening's ceremony. We had requested permission to take
photos of the event, and Mr. Green informed us that the congresso
had decided this would be allowed for the fee of $1000 US
dollars. Unfortunately we did not have the foresight to enlist
the National Geographic Society's sponsorship of our cruise,
so you won't find any chicha pictures in this log.
The chicha ceremony commenced on time at 7:00 P.M. Women
wearing their finest molas sat on one side of the large hut;
men, on the other. Twenty-five large jars of chicha were partially
sunken into the dirt floor and covered with banana leaves.
Mr. Hackins found us a seat just behind the jars where we
had a great view of the pre-chicha drinking ceremony. Two
candles were placed on the floor in the front of the jars.
Three older men (sailas, I presume) wearing cane necklaces
that rattled as they ran, positioned themselves in front of
the jars. Another man jogged in place behind the jars and
handed the sailas large banana leaves. The sailas carefully
inspected each leaf, rejecting those that were not up to standard,
before placing them in a neat stack on the ground between
the candles. After each layer, the men would run in place
jangling their cane necklaces. Several items--a pole, a gourd,
and feathers--were laid atop the banana leaves. The collection
was then tightly bundled with string. On either side of this
altar area, a three-pronged stake held a gourd of water. Running
children kept bumping the stake, and at one point a gourd
of water flew off its perch completely dousing Nick and me.
With the preliminaries out of the way, it was time to start
drinking and the crowd perked up. The women left and returned
a few minutes later with china bowls of chicha to drink in
a dignified manner in their area of the hut. For the men,
there was a drinking game. Eight men sat on stools placed
in a row, while eight other men filled calabash bowls with
chicha. When the chicha-bearing men approached them, the seated
men jumped up together with a hearty "Yeah!", grabbed
the chicha bowls, and downed the contents in one chug. Certainly
fraternity boys back home never had this much fun.
Nick and some visiting Colombian gringos were allowed to
take their seats among the Kunas for the chugging contest.
Although we didn't observe it at Sasardi, some cruisers who
attended a chicha festival in another village said the Kunas
drank until they vomited, then continued drinking. Mr. Hackins
said this event would last three days, and he would not return
to his house during that time. Three days of drinking and
running and no sleep--those Kunas are quite the party animals!
On Sunday morning, some children gathered to play along the
shore and spotted a crocodile. When the children started pelting
him with rocks, the belligerent reptile could have easily
swum away but it refused to back off and the youngsters killed
it. Adults were called to view the children's prize and oversee
the butchering of the animal. I would say that some Kunas
in Sasardi were wearing crocodile boots that week, but most
of them don't wear shoes.
Just as we were preparing to weigh anchor, Mr. Hackins came
by to say degimalo (good-bye), looking a little sad
and hungover. We gave him a Caribbean Soul hat, some
reading glasses, and printed vocabulary sheets to help him
improve his English. We waved good-bye feeling sad as the
tiny figure in the ulu disappeared from sight.
Caribbean Soul anchored in Mulatupu.
Deanna and Mr. Hackins posing with statue
of a famous saila.
Narrow dirt paths wind through the thatched
Dinner cooking over an open fire.
Hut under construction.
Kuna villages are built on the low islands
near the mainland.
This bridge connects the Sasardi villages to the mainland.
Pig cage over the water is "self-cleaning."
The children of Kuna Yala are the happiest
and friendliest you'll find anywhere.
No life vest and no adult supervision! It's
common to see young children
rowing ulus around the protected waters near their villages.
Yala, children are independent at an early age.
An ulu is a dugout canoe and the primary
means of transportation in Kuna Yala.
Two ladies in traditional dress including
a mola shirt, head scarf,
nose ring, wrap skirt, and wini beads on their arms and legs.
Adults typically want money for posing, and this picture cost
Nick two sodas.
A prosperous looking hut made of concrete
with an ulu "garage."
Volleyball and basketball are popular sports
in Kuna villages.
Sasardi and Nuevo Sasardi are the politically
divided villages on Mulatupu.
Flags flying over the village show support for different political
Mr. Hackins in his new Caribbean Soul
Our next stop in the lee of Isla Pinos was a short six-mile
trip pounding into a large ocean swell. That afternoon, some
men in an ulu came by to collect the anchoring fee ($8 for
two people). They asked if we had a copier since they were
down to their last receipt. We don't have a copier, but we
offered to print them some new receipts on our printer. A
few days later, we visited the village with Livin' the
Dream and Akka. The saila, Demetrio Diaz, offered
the services of his son to guide us up the hill to the radio
tower. We paid $2 a piece to follow him up a clearly- worn
trail that ended at a tall microwave tower and a small solar
panel farm that fed a battery bank.
When we returned to the saila's hut, he asked Nick to take
a picture of his wife and grandchildren. Nick took the photo,
which we printed out and gave to him later. A man working
in the congresso hut wanted copies of a handwritten form,
so Livin' the Dream got the assignment of printing
a stack of those. The saila also asked for antibiotic cream,
which Andy on Akka happened to have in her tote bag.
The Kunas seem to like yachties, and I guess we all did our
part to maintain the goodwill.
Deanna and Dakota on the beach at Isla Pinos
Coconuts are the main source of income for
Kunas and should not be taken by
foreigners. We paid 50 cents for one that yielded a yummy
rum drink from its milk,
two loaves of coconut bread, and a coconut pie. Yum!
View from the microwave tower on Isla Pinos.
Kuna laundry station.
The saila's wife and grandchildren.
In Kuna Yala, there is an odd mix of the
primitive and the modern.
Approaching the village at Isla Pinos.
In Kuna, achutupu means dog island. This community
is traditional but not isolated. The Dolphin Resort hosts
foreign guests for a pricey $175 a night and is serviced by
a nearby airstrip. An English-speaking man named Plinio Tijada
rowed out to greet us, as did a number of women and children
selling molas. Later we went ashore where we paid a $10 anchoring
fee at the saila's office.
We had read that lobsters could be purchased here, so we
asked Plinio to point us in the right direction. He led us
to a large, open-air tank containing lobster, crab, and starfish.
Someone had to be called to dive in and pluck one unlucky
fellow out and onto the scale. Two kilos (about 4.5 pounds)
cost $10. Before heading back to the boat, we devoured several
hot and tasty loaves of Kuna bread and washed them down with
a couple of cold beers. Later we had a delicious meal of grilled
lobster, eggplant sauté, and rice.
Some ulus harness the wind with patchwork
sails. The oar is used as a rudder.
Kuna kid with a mouth full of peppermint
Jennifer rowed out with her sister and talked
with us for a long time.
January 8 - 10
With strong trade winds in the forecast, we decided to move
east 10 miles to Mono Island, described in our cruising guide
as having excellent protection and calm enough to work on
your mast. Apparently the author did not visit the anchorage
in January. With a northwest wind and swell wrapping around
the island, the boat rolled quite uncomfortably. We finally
found peace by moving the boat deeper into the mangrove lagoon
and attaching a swell bridle.
Although the nearest village was several miles away, we
still received a visit by the anchor fee collection committee
requesting another $10. For boats on the move, these fees
start to add up.
One day a fisherman came by and sold us three crabs and a
lobster for $5--quite a bargain. It wasn't until after the
fisherman left and Nick had snapped the legs off one crab,
that we realized two crabs were females full of eggs. We pitched
the other female overboard and had a delicious dinner with
the remainder. We realized that the Kuna do not practice sustainable
harvesting techniques, and cruisers should try to change this
mindset by refusing to purchase juvenile and female shellfish.
After three quiet days anchored in virtual solitude, we were
ready to move on.
The nearest village is several miles from
Mono Island, so the Kuna use
sails on their ulus.
The weather had settled enough to entice us out of our mangrove
lagoon, so we made a 5-hour upwind (huh?) motorsail to Isla
Tigre. The entrance was a little tricky since we arrived with
late-afternoon sun in our eyes, and we had to anchor in 43-feet
of water with our stern close enough to a shoal to hear breaking
waves all night. The next morning, the anchor fee collection
boat was making its rounds as we pulled up our anchor, so
we slipped away just in time. ($5 for the boat and $3 per
Anchored behind the reef at Isla Tigre.
Nargana at Rio Diablo
January 12 - 13
The sister villages of Nargana and Yandup are located on
islands at the mouth of the Rio Diablo. These villages have
given up their Kuna traditions, although a few women do still
wear molas. Most of the crime (petty theft) we've heard reported
in Kuna Yala has occurred in or near Nargana. I have to wonder
if the abandonment of Kuna traditions has something to do
with this. Cruisers visiting this area should secure dinghies
and jerry cans, and they should lock their boats when ashore.
Rio Diablo is a major stop for reprovisioning. Here we paid
$3.50 a gallon to top off our diesel and gasoline, and we
resupplied our produce. The village appears modern by Kuna
standards with many concrete buildings, electricity supplied
by generator, a bank, and a medical clinic. However, the community
does not have a reliable fresh water supply from the mainland.
When the cisterns run dry, as they were during our visit,
the residents paddle up the Rio Diablo to get fresh water.
We gathered up our dirty laundry and dinghied several miles
upriver until we found clear water and a rocky outcrop. What
luxury to have unlimited fresh water to wash and rinse our
clothes and towels!
The mix of primitive and modern in Kuna Yala seems counterintuitive
to an outsider. Each thatched hut in Nargana has an electric
meter mounted outside. Peering inside a typical hut, you might
see some plastic chairs and a few hammocks strung from the
eaves. Cooking might be done on an open fire or an electric
stove. The family would be gathered around a TV watching a
snowy satellite broadcast of a soap opera. We've been told
the thatch roofs don't leak, so presumably these electronic
devices stay dry. One afternoon as we walked along a dirt
street in Yandup, we saw a sign containing one of our favorite
Spanish words: helado. Ice cream! Inside the dark hut
was a refrigerator, and inside the freezer compartment was
a cylinder of homemade rum raisin ice cream. Thirty cents
for a small scoop--yum! Sometimes you find the most delightful
surprises in the most unlikely places.
As we hiked along the dirt paths in search of produce, we
noticed two young men strikingly out of place with their pale
skin, black pants, white shirts, and ties. The only concession
to their signature uniform were the sandals on their feet.
These fresh-faced Mormon missionaries were newly arrived in
Nargana to spend two years in Panama. We introduced ourselves
and they were friendly and courteous, eagerly shaking our
hands several times. I think some Kuna have probably mixed
Christian beliefs with their traditional ones, but I doubt
those boys will have much luck getting the Kuna to give up
A steel bridge connects the communities of
Yandup and Nargana.
Doing laundry with unlimited fresh water
in Rio Diablo.
Ulu coming down the Rio Diablo
Bird watching is good along the shore.
Deanna inspects produce at a store in Nargana.
Telephone booths provided by Cable &
Coco Bandero Cays
January 14 - 18
"We've sailed into a postcard!" I exclaimed as
we carefully navigated the reefy entry into the Coco Bandero
Cays. We dropped the hook in a pristine anchorage nestled
among four round little islands populated with dense groves
of towering coconut palms. A rim of powdery white sand bordered
each island, and the water was clear and turquoise. A picture
We spent five pleasant nights in Coco Bandero where we snorkeled
on the reefs and visited the nearby islands. Nick and John
on Livin' the Dream went spearfishing several times,
but only found a few small lobsters. The more accessible parts
of the reefs in Kuna Yala are over-fished. I'm sure the gringos
have played a part in this, but as I mentioned earlier, the
Kuna have no compunction about taking juveniles and females.
Around 4:00 A.M. on our last night, a strong squall with
20-30 knot winds came through and switched the wind slightly
northwest. Of course, the howling wind awakened us and we
got little sleep from that point. By morning the wind had
laid down, but it continued to clock to the west. No one expects
a west wind at this time of year, and we were dismayed to
find our stern drifting precariously close to the beach. With
squalls visible in the distance, we went ahead and weighed
anchor since we couldn't risk getting blown ashore. Fortunately,
the squalls stayed away for our two-hour trip north to the
Hollandes Cays, where we found the wind blowing from the northeast
just as it should be this time of year.
Picture postcard perfection awaits cruisers
who visit the Coco Bandero Cays.
Round islands of coconut palms, powdery white
sand, and clear turquoise water.
Island interior. Some folks strung up their
Dakota enjoys an afternoon on the beach.
Venancio, a male master mola maker. Females
traditionally make and
wear molas, but some males learn the art at a young age. These
are often transvestites who dress and act as women. Venancio
effeminate but dresses as a male. There is no stigma attached
to homosexuality in Kuna Yala.
Swimming Pool, Hollandes Cays
January 19 - 22
The Swimming Pool anchorage in the eastern Hollandes Cays
is one of the most popular in the San Blas. During Christmas,
over 50 boats were anchored in the Pool, but now the number
was less than 20. Our main reason for visiting the Pool was
to meet Texans Susan and Bob on S/V Sunrise, with whom
we had several mutual friends. The Pool is a shallow, sandy
area that reflects the turquoise green color of a swimming
pool under bright sunlight. There wasn't any bright sunlight
today though. We dropped the hook under cloudy skies and spitting
rain. Fortunately, the water was so clear that we could spot
the shallow spots even in poor light.
The Swimming Pool is a popular social gathering place in
the San Blas, and our arrival on Monday coincided with the
weekly appetizer potluck. Throughout the Caribbean there are
places where retired cruisers like to put down roots, and
several of these boats call the Swimming Pool "home."
During our four days here we did some snorkeling and spearfishing
with Livin' the Dream and Infinity. Again, lobster
were hard to find and small. We've seen a number of nurse
sharks on the reefs, but Nick was a bit alarmed one day to
find himself the object of curiosity for a large reef shark.
Nick pulled out his knife while the shark circled him, but
I suppose one gringo looks about as unappetizing as another,
so it swam away.
The Swimming Pool is located behind a large reef and shoal
area, which knocks down the waves but does nothing to curtail
the wind. Although the boat rode comfortably and the anchor
held, after several nights of howling winds and 20-30 knot
squalls, we were ready for a more tranquil setting.
A weekly potluck is held at the Swimming
The Swimming Pool anchorage is protected
by a reef that knocks
down the waves, but the wind and current can be quite fierce,
especially during dry season (winter).
January 23 - 27
As Nick put it, we were tired of getting our skirt blown
up in the Swimming Pool, so we set off in search of a calm
anchorage with shelter from the howling northeast trades.
We found peace and solitude in the lee of Esnasdup behind
the tall palm trees.
Our only complaint was the lack of good snorkeling nearby.
Each day we set out in the dinghy searching far and wide,
burning lots of gasoline, in hopes of finding some nice coral
and maybe a few lobster for dinner. We did finally discover
a couple of spots with the nicest coral we'd seen in the San
Blas, but the lobster were all babies.
One day some fishermen came by and offered us about half
a dozen small to medium lobster for $8 US. We handed over
the money and asked them to throw in a coconut. Since I'd
already defrosted chicken, Nick put the lobsters in a burlap
bag, tied it closed with a line fastened to the boat, and
dropped the bag overboard. The next morning he checked the
bag and found the captives alive and well. That afternoon
as our mouths watered in anticipation, he pulled up the line
and discovered just the bitter end without the bag. Sigh.
So we ended up with an $8 coconut and leftovers for dinner.
I tried to take heart in imagining those lobsters scrambling
out of their burlap prison and running for the reef just as
fast as their spiny legs would take them, celebrating their
unlikely escape from the executioner.
January 28 - 29
From Esnasdup, we made a quick trip around the corner to
Miryadup in the central Naguargandup cays. We dropped the
hook in 20 feet of white sand and backed down. All was well,
so we had lunch. In the afternoon, I jumped in for a snorkel
and discovered that the last 30-40 feet of chain was laying
on a pretty reef just below the boat. The anchor, however,
was laying on its side in the sand. When we backed down earlier,
the chain had wedged on a coral head and did not set the anchor.
Since we had deployed extra chain, we decided to pull in
enough to clear the coral and then back down again. Normally,
Nick is on the bow tending the anchor while I man the helm.
This time he stayed in the water to observe the anchor, so
I had to perform his job. I removed the chain snubber (a hook
on a piece of rope) and laid it on the foredeck before pulling
up the chain with the windlass. After retrieving just a few
feet of chain, the windlass suddenly stopped. I pressed the
foot pad again--nothing. I looked down at the windlass and
was horrified to see that the chain snubber had been sucked
into the windlass. I must have laid the snubber against the
chain. What a mess!
So a wet and unhappy captain had to climb aboard, pull out
his tools, disassemble the windlass to remove the snubber,
put it all back together, put his snorkel gear back on, and
jump back in the water to try again. But alas the anchor dragged
across the hard sand and could not set. So we pulled up the
anchor and chose another spot where the anchor finally after
much coaxing plowed up enough sand to set itself. So much
for our relaxing afternoon.
Esnasdup and Caribbean Soul in the
Gorgidup, a small uninhabited island near
Deanna with Lisa, a famous transvestite master
mola maker. Lisa wears
western-style female clothes and poofy girl-hair. (Tip for
cruisers: bring lots
of Coca-Cola to the San Blas. The Kunas love it, and a master
will expect to be served a cold Coca-Cola while displaying
his or her wares.)
Otilda, a female mola maker from Isla Maquina.
West Lemmon Cays
January 30 - February 2
Ready for a change of pace, we left the Narguargandup Cays
to check out the possibilities at either Los Gruillos or Gunboat
island. Neither place seemed to offer good protection or clear
sand for anchoring, so having wasted several hours we then
motored north to the West Lemmon Cays. Our midafternoon arrival
found the main anchorage already full. Finding a decent spot
was complicated by water depths that were either 10 feet or
60 feet, with little in between. We finally anchored in 20
feet on a shoal behind the reef and dropped back into 60 feet.
We spent four nights here during which time the weather was
mostly overcast or raining, and the wind howled around 20
knots. It was too windy and dreary to snorkel even though
our cruising guide said some beautiful coral was nearby. We
only got off the boat a few times for social activities on
the beach and to burn the paper and plastic trash we'd accumulated
over the past two weeks.
Caribbean Soul anchored at West Lemmon
Cays during a brief spell of sunshine.
Gaigar and Mormaketupu (Maquina)
February 3 - 7
Chris Parker's Tuesday morning weather forecast was not promising.
After several days of dreary skies and high wind, conditions
would worsen that evening and persist through the week due
to a stalled frontal system stretching from Hispaniola to
Panama. We did not want to ride out the bad weather where
we were, sitting behind the reef with full wind exposure and
a long stretch of fetch.
Under gray skies, we made our way south across black and
virtually unreadable water to the Gaigar anchorage near the
"mola maker" island of Mormaketupu. A group of low
mangrove islands protect this anchorage from swell but do
little to impede the wind. After two frustrating and unsuccessful
attempts to set the anchor, we finally found good holding
in 40 feet of water.
Our secondary reason for choosing Gaigar was its close proximity
to Mormaketupu, which was hosting a chicha festival that day.
As in the eastern villages, we paid a $10 anchoring fee before
being escorted by an English-speaking guide to the chicha
Sitting on log benches with 10 other gringos, we observed
a ceremony that was similar but less involved that the one
we'd seen in Mulatupu. Somewhere hidden from us was a girl
making the transition from niña to senorita.
Meanwhile the rest of the village chugged chicha from shared
calabash bowls and heartily puffed on cigarettes and pipes.
The men, as in Mulatupu, were quite spirited in their partaking
of the holy liquid, dancing in a tight circle and hooting
and hollering. How could one observe this spectacle and not
believe that people (or at least men) aren't all the same.
The Kunas were gracious hosts, so the gringos got their turns
at the calabash bowls. Nick and I chugged ours down in one
long gulp as expected, not wanting to be wimpy gringos who
can't hold their chicha. We found the Mormaketupu chicha to
be a bit vinegary with a surprising coffee after-taste.
That night, as predicted, the front arrived bringing steady
25 knot winds and squalls with 35 knots that continued for
the next four days. At least lightning is not common during
dry season, but the screaming winds made it difficult to sleep
peacefully. Being anchored in a mangrove lagoon, there was
nothing to do and no place to go all week. One day, Gary and
Louise on S/V Lulu invited everyone to their boat for
Mexican Train dominoes, providing a welcome escape from our
boats. We were effectively snowbound, but without the snow
Mormaketupu means mola maker island, and
many of the best mola
makers come from here and nearby islands.
Another photogenic Kuna kid.
East Lemmon Cays
February 8 - 15
By Sunday, moderating conditions enticed us to relocate and
find relief for our cabin fever. We decided to head for Chichime
and stage for our pending departure to the mainland. After
bashing straight into 25-knot head winds and choppy waves,
we arrived at Chichime but didn't like its exposure to the
crashing waves and howling wind. So we backtracked to nearby
East Lemmon Cays, where we found a beautiful anchorage with
good holding in shallow water.
On Monday we dinghied around to visit the small islands surrounding
the anchorage. We hadn't set foot on land for five days, so
it was good to feel the sand between our toes. On Banedup,
we bought hot-out-of-the oven Kuna bread and then sat at a
picnic table devouring the tasty buns and drinking cold Balboa
beer. Even while huge breakers smashed onto the reef just
north of us, the anchorage was calm so we could get off the
boat and snorkel or walk around the islands. We also enjoyed
socializing with Southern Cross (whom we hadn't seen
since Bequia), Livin' the Dream, and La Sirena.
We stayed in the East Lemmon Cays until the following Monday,
when we bade a sad farewell to Kuna Yala and headed west to
the Panama mainland. The San Blas islands are truly a paradise
of breathtaking beauty. We enjoyed meeting the friendly Kuna
Indians and observing a primitive culture that, while not
untouched by modernization, still retains its traditional
East Lemmon Cays
Anchorage at East Lemmon Cays.
When you hear the conch horn, the Kuna bread is ready.
The prettiest outhouse in the world.
Molas, molas, everywhere. Deanna struggles
to resist temptation.
OK, just one!
Deanna and Dakota. The Kunas love dogs and
often ask for Dakota's
name before asking for ours.
Pelicans in flight
Rare double rainbow appeared on the birthday
of Nick's mother. Did she
ask Someone to send us a message?
Ulu moored on a stick
After a week of bad weather that halted commerce,
the veggie boat finally
arrived with fresh produce.
Hot Kuna bread and a cold beer in paradise. Yum!
We ate lots of lobster in the San Blas.
"What the @%&! happened here?"
Nick contemplates the three-quarters of a mackerel that he
caught on the way to mainland Panama. Apparently a shark got
Caribbean Soul reaches the end of the rainbow in