Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kuna Transportation

The Kunas use dugout canoes that they call Ulu to row and sail all around Kuna Yala in pretty much any conditions. Integral to using an Ulu is knowing how to bail one – a constant job. They are built out of a single tropical hardwood tree,
Here’s some photos of Kuna’s sailing around on their normal daily activities. Many live out on the islands and go to the mainland to work the coconut and banana fields each day.
sailIMG_6445 This ulu is longer than most. The oar is for steering and paddling. Notice the waves breaking on the outer reef.
sailIMG_6450 Making time with a big sail
A full crew going neck and neck to the finish line
A performance sail – probably donated by a cruiser
Almost home after a long day. If you look closely (click to biggerate) you can see a few solar panels in the Kuna village.
And Georgia anchored behind a few ulus

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It Doesn’t Look Like A White Christmas

To all our landed friends, we hope you enjoy great holidays. May the New Year bring you good health and happiness. To our sailing friends, we hope the New Year delivers fair winds and clean diesel.
Paul & Chris

Friday, December 5, 2014

Alarming Article

I forgot to post on the blog that I got an article on boat security alarms published in the December issue of Blue Water Sailing. The article isn’t up on their site as freebie yet. Magazine articles pay even better than this blog does.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

More Ustupu Celebration

We wanted to post some more photos of the Children's Day Celebration in Ustupu. Although they are very tolerant of visitors, the Kuna do not appreciate strangers taking pictures in their villages.  Apparently, they used to be fine with it until they saw the photos of themselves for sale on postcards in Panama City. The following photos are posted on this blog with respect for the privacy of the Kuna. They are posted here with the intent of sharing with our friends and family the remarkable Kuna culture and are not to be reproduced or used for any other reason.
Andres’ mother, decked out in beautiful silver necklaces and mola, looking ready for some two-fisted chica drinking.
The men are not as dressed up for the festivities, but they definitely enjoy it.
Pelican wing bones make an impressive necklace.
I hope these pelicans were already dead.
A little more chica while dancing in the morning!
The big bowls are for offering chica, smaller ones are used for scooping out individual servings.
ustupuIMG_6403 ustupuIMG_6404 A nice sequence shot of me trying a little chica. Check the guy on my left’s smile.
The women offered Chris chica a lot more often than the men offered it to me.
A little of the outside parade action.
The young and the elderly all take part in the festivities.
Tobacco is another important part of the celebrations. The otherwise nonsmoking Kuna really smoke it up at these fiestas.
The harmonica
Check the detail on the beaded arm (and leg) wrappings and the mola. Not sure of the significance of the Tootsi Pop, but there were a lot around. Maybe to get some quick energy back after a night of dancing and chica.
In Spanish it is borracho, aka drunk. This is about 10am and these ladies are feeling no pain. It sure seemed to us that the older women drank a lot more than the younger ones and at least as much as the men. Even with all this drinking, the crowd stays very peaceful and friendly. Try that in a bar in the US.
Still happy! I think the kerchief over the face is a signal that she’s had enough.
Chica cups being passed around.
One of the head men, looking regal.
Later that afternoon Andres came back to the boat to film this Apple advertisement and to copy some music (thanks Ken!) onto his MacBook. He keeps the MacBook charged with a solar panel.
Had to re-use this shot just so you could remember how much taller both Chris and I have grown since we left Seattle.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Full Circle

We are anchored back in the Cocos Banderas islands. The island in the background is Dupwala. This is in the western end of the San Blas islands, where there are many more cruisers. We only saw one other cruising boat while in the eastern end. And right now there is only one other boat in our anchorage. This is the island that Chris was midwifing for Julie (on Amuri Mina) a couple of years ago, see The Night Watch Can Be Tougher Than the Dog Watch. The birthing hut that Kevin built out of palm fronds is nowhere to be seen now. But we hope to catch up with them while we’re here.
In the intervening time we’ve managed to circumnavigate the Caribbean with stops in up the US East Coast including Washington DC, New York, Boston, Maine and even Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.  Seems like a long time ago.
It is ugly and rainy out today. Winds are gusting to 29kts and there’s my nemesis lurking in the background, lightening.
cocosIMG_6445 We passed this Kuna in his ulu as we were sailing up here yesterday. The oar works well as a paddle as well as a rudder. You can see the waves breaking on the outer reef in the background.
If the wind lays down a bit, we’ll head towards Isla Porvenir tomorrow so we can get checked into Panama officially.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ustupu – The ‘Day of the Children’ Celebration

Traditional Kuna ladies preparing for the fiesta.
We were sailing along in the eastern part of Kuna Yala (aka Guna Yala, aka San Blas Islands), Panama, when we decided to head into an anchorage near the traditional town of Ustupu. The eastern end of Kuna Yala is home to the more traditional villages. From a distance we could see that Ustupu had a cell tower and we wanted to try to buy SIMM cards for our phones so we would have a local Panama number and access to internet if really really lucky. On our way to the tienda to look for cards we ran into a local named Andres. He speaks some English and is very worldly. Both he and his father have traveled to a number of countries outside of Panama including Europe and North America. He has over the years also befriended many cruisers passing through Kuna Yala. Andres invited us to watch/partake in/visit the Day of Children celebration that was starting that afternoon and served as our guide for that day and the next, introducing us to his family and others in the community and telling us about Kuna culture.
We have a lot of really great photos, but they will have to wait for a better Internet connection. These are just a tease. It was a two day party, with a lot chica drinking. Chica is the local liquor made for these celebrations out of sugarcane. To me it tasted a bit like a mix between mead and port. The women enjoyed offering the chica cup to Chris (documentary proof in a later blog). That is a chica bowl in the picture above.
ustupuIMG_6345 Andres and his daughter with the soccer ball we gave her and her brother. (Soccer balls courtesy of San Diego’s very own Juli Veee- thank you, Juli!)
ustupuIMG_6347 The celebration began with participants dancing, accompanied by harmonica and whistle, through the streets of the village, and then past the basketball court to a large community building.
Here we are in the Congresso hall during the peak of the second morning celebration. The Congresso hall is where the official meetings regularly occur to discuss village business with the chiefs.  A lot of chica has already been consumed at this point. Interestingly, the elders in the community really tie one on but the younger members seem to partake only in limited quantities. And there are no drunken melees… different from our culture. As you can see in this photo, Kunas are a small people, reportedly second only to pigmys of Africa. It made Chris and I feel tall for once.
ustupuIMG_6414 Andres’ son posing in their house with his new football ball. Note mom’s handpowered sewing machine on the table behind, where she was constructing one of the traditional mola blouses all the ladies wear in Kuna Yala.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Made it Panama

We had a not so fun motor sail from Rosario, Colombia into the San Blas islands in Panama. Winds on the nose and 1-1.5kt current against us. This is the longest motor we've done in over a year. The bay we dropped anchor in is the bay where the Scots tried to put up a fort to gain an overseas colony. Didn't work out for them. If you look at the jungle here, you'd have to wonder what they were thinking.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We’re Wimps

Ain’t she pretty? These brightly coloured ladies sell fruit and pose for tourist pictures in old town Cartegena. Just one of its many charms.
cartegenaIMG_6271 We checked out of Cartagena with our agent David. You are required to use an agent in any port in Colombia. This guy was easy to work with and had good English (if he is not around the Club Nautico docks at 10am, have the office call him). It is always smart to pick an agent with red shoes. Total cost was COP$200,000 or about US$92 for the week we stayed.
I ended up getting a nasty sore throat and cough (thanks, Andrew on Eye Candy). There was no wind out at the anchorage, it was the hot and steamy of a tacky detective novel. Like oppressively steamy. I finally broke down and re-invigorated the A/C units, started the genset, closed every port and laid back to enjoy an hour and half of A/C. What wimps we are.
We left Cartagena this morning for Panama.  The winds were too light to be able to make the San Blas islands at a good time of day and I was still feeling sick – I know wimp. So we stopped at an anchorage on Isla Grande in the Rosario islands for the night. Chris bought a big crab off a local panga that followed us in. It’ll be off to the San Blas in the morning. This will probably be the last Internet we’ll have for awhile.
cartegenaIMG_6270 The beach area outside the old city walls is called Boca Grande. Sometimes known as Little Miami. We really enjoyed the old town of Cartagena. Not sure I’d come back in November though – too still and hot!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Old Walled City

The old walled city of Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t get me going on how UNESCO is blowing the value of their brand by applying it to so many places and things. Like to traditional Japanese or Mexican cuisine.  The walled city deserves the recognition. It reminds of a much larger and in some ways less touristy version of Antigua in Guatemala.  If you are into photography , you could take pictures on every corner for weeks on end and not get bored.cartegenaIMG_6165
Lots of 16th and 17th century churches, government buildings and just plain houses.
cartegenaIMG_6167 Locals use the plazas, restaurants and stores. This is a preacher and what appears to be parishioners quaking in one of the plazas.
cartegenaIMG_6171  Chris gazing over one of the interior courtyards of a colonial building.
Street after street of colonial and republic buildings. Colonial being the buildings put up during Spanish rule (1533-1717) and Republic after the independence of Cartagena (Nov. 11, 1811). That’s 11-11-11. The same day they do the country’s beauty pageant every year.
cartegenaIMG_6182 We took a detour into the museum of the Spanish Inquisition, the building where they actually held the inquisitions in Cartagena. Chris really liked the bruja section – witches. The seat above is where the accused witches were strapped in and a metal screw was slowly twisted into the base of the neck, until the unfortunate ‘witch’ confessed.
They also used simpler methods to determine if a woman was a witch. Weighing was effective. If they were too light, then they could fly and were clearly a witch. If they were too heavy, then they were full of sin and were also clearly a witch. No wonder women are so obsessed with their weight.
cartegenaIMG_6185 Here is a list of questions that helped the Inquisitors determine if a women was a witch. A few sample questions:
1. How long have you been a witch?
6. What is the name of your master amongst the evil spirits?
11. What demons and people attended your wedding?
22. To which children have you cast the curse of the ‘evil eye’ and why did you do it?
25. Why does the devil strike you blows at night?
27. How can you fly through the sky?
31. What worms and caterpillars/slugs have you created?
33. Has the devil put a bow/ribbon to your curses/oaths?
Now really, how many people could pass this test today without a lawyer?
cartegenaIMG_6186 Makings for a witches brew.
A machine for getting to the truth or painfully crushing the skull.
cartegnaIMG_6189 Not sure how you are supposed to confess with this on your neck. I guess it didn’t really matter.
Only the lucky ones got it over quickly.
Testing out the guillotine. Not sure why this was here, as I thought it was a particularly French instrument. Turns out its been used by many countries, even East Germany in an official execution in 1966. Either way, Chris gave me a reprieve when I promised not to create any more worms and caterpillars.
cartegenaIMG_6202 Here is a tile plaque excusing the Inquisition as not that bad and an artifact of the times that suffers from exaggeration. Argh!
Those that forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
cartegenaIMG_6199 Building plaque at the palace of the Inquisitors
Meanwhile, on the commerce side, this chest used for carrying gold and other treasures back to Spain was seriously built of iron strapping and rivets. It would be tough to get into even with today's tools.
Bill working on lunch.
And lunch itself. Fried plantain with good stuff on top.  
OK, I forgot this famous Colombian sculptor’s name. But he liked big women.
Can you guess what time it is?
Patina on old building wall.
Smiling fruit lady and local policia.