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December 30, 2008 - February 15, 2009

San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala)

Puerto Escoses
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 Escoses.

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 and
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 the village.

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 are held.

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 huts.

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. In Kuna
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 candidates. .

Mr. Hackins in his new Caribbean Soul hat.

Isla Pinos
January 4-6

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.

January 7

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 candy.

Jennifer rowed out with her sister and talked with us for a long time.

Mono Island
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.

Isla Tigre
January 11

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 person)





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 their chicha.

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 & Wireless.

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 of paradise!

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 hammocks here.

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 males
are often transvestites who dress and act as women. Venancio is
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 Pool anchorage.

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 distance.

Gorgidup, a small uninhabited island near Esnasdup.

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 mola maker
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 hut.

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 to shovel.

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 essence.


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 the tail.

Caribbean Soul reaches the end of the rainbow in Kuna Yala.


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