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.