Thursday, February 16, 2017

San Blas - Panama


San Blas a beautiful place. Turn back the clocks one hundred years.

These archipelagos are populated by the Kuna Yala people native Indians of Central America. They speak very, very little English but like everywhere they know the value of money. They sell there needle works they called molas, fishermen sell fish, crabs, lobsters. To take their photo costs a dollar. As we arrived we were swamped with dugout canoes with the Kuna people selling their wares. I left Nancy to deal with them as I had to get showered, shaved, and tidied up to go and clear in. Another wonderful job the skipper has to do.
Entering San Blas)
(They arrive almost as soon as the anchor touches the water)
 (Here to sell molas)
 (These are the molas all done by hand but look as though they have been done by machine they are so accurate)
(You pay a $1 for a photo)
(They did there sale now off home)

I lowered the dinghy and went ashore to clear in, I found the building I think it was built during the war and has not had any maintenance since. There have been some colourful paintings on the walls showing the Kuna heritage. I went into the first room where the passports were stamped and I paid $20 fee, I then had to go to the next room to obtain my cruising permit. I went in and sat down, the gentleman asked for my ships papers, he read through them a number of times, then he asked, “What size is your boat”, I said “12 metres” he then asked, “mono hull”? I answered, “Two hulls catamaran”. He then went into the thought process and then asked “how long do you stay in Panama”? I said I wished for a three month permit as we will be going from here to Colon and then through the canal. He went into thought process again looking out the window, and then he said, “Well Mr. Yenks I can give you a 3 month permit for all in the Panama, no longer than 3 month and that will cost you $81.70”. This is the same price everyone pays. The next thing is that he gets out five large forms all with a number of duplicates and commences to fill them out with the assistance of my ships papers, our passports, and our previous clearing out papers from Bonaire. I am sitting there thinking the tide is coming in the dinghy is on the beach it will probably have water under it by now and be floating away. I kept an eye out the window in case that happened I could run out and retrieve it. Apparently it did float and a local dragged it further up the beach for me. It is taking ages for the paperwork to be filled out, the only saving is that it is he that is filling it out and not me; in other places I have had to do it myself, but usually only one or two forms. He is about half way through and I sit patiently watching him fill out the paperwork which he must have sensed. He looked up and said, “Lot of paperwork heh”. I smiled and offered some sympathy. His attitude changed after that, I would say others probably show their impatience and that would annoy them. After finishing I got my wallet out to pay and realized that Nancy had taken the small notes for the Kuna women, I gave him $90 knowing he would not have change, they never do or at least say they do not, I said that will be fine, I thanked him and shook his hand. He then said, “Now you have to go to other office and pay donation to the Kuna people $8”. He took me to the office, again shook hands and left. I shook hands with the Kuna people representative he informed me that I had to pay $8 for the Kuna people I said that’s fine, all I had was $20 notes, knowing the routine I asked “the money is donation to Kuna people for me to travel their islands”, he indicated the affirmative, I said, “then I give $20 donation to the Kuna people”, he made out the receipt for the $8 dollars there’s no brownie points for guessing where the change went.

I went back to the boat, we weighed anchor and headed out to quieter islands in a sheltered area away from the swell where there are several other yachts, we anchored a little away from them so we don’t live on their doorstep, made sure the anchor took hold, it should do we have enough cable out, I put more than enough out to please Nancy after her experience of dragging anchor. After securing the boat and organised I jumped in the water to check the port propeller to see if I have caught a fisherman’s net. Bad news I have not, that means it is something else. Just as I was drying myself a dinghy came alongside, it was Ernie and Charlene (Americans) from another catamaran they and others had been on one of the islands playing volleyball. They dropped in to say hello and invite us to a Mexican night on the island tomorrow starting at 1600 hours, we gladly accepted. We had a chat and I told Ernie my problem, Ernie has been sailing around for the past ten years so he knows a fair bit about boats, radios etc. He said that it could be your engine mounting has collapsed, he was right.

(The Kuna Indian home, there are up to three generations living on an island like this)
 (There are many islands that the Kuna Indian live)
 (These is one of the good anchorage spot between two islands)
 (We only saw some of the islands there are a huge amount)
(This is the smallest island that we saw, all these islands will be in trouble as the sea level rises in future years)

I did not bother checking it out that night I did the next day, I was looking forward to a cold beer and a relax., The next day Ernie came over with some information for us and he also looked at what I needed to do to complete the installation of the HF Radio, he also confirmed that the front RH engine mount hand collapsed.

They are a nice couple; Ernie was a senior police officer in Florida before retirement, so we had a little in common both having worked for the emergency services. He was very helpful with a lot of information regarding Colon and going through the canal as he has done it. He also gave us names that can get the parts we require.

I then had to work on a couple of other repairs we had developed a fresh water leak in one of the hot water service heater pipe connections, so after cracking my head twice, I didn’t do a good enough job the first time, second time was a good one. I repaired the fault. With the hammering the boat has had it is a wonder that we have not had more problems.

Near 1600 hours I jumped overboard for a swim got out soaped myself up on the back of the boat and jumped in again then using the transom shower cleaned off with fresh water. At the moment we probably do not need to conserve water the way we have been, but we needed to practice it to see how we will go on the longer trips in the pacific. We had only used about one quarter of one tank since Bonaire, that’s about 120 litres.

Anyway after cleaning up it was time to go ashore for the Mexican night, everyone from each yacht joined in we all took a Mexican dish for dinner. One of the yachties who suggested the night said he would make cocktails; part of the day was chasing ingredients from the different yachts. We supplied the limes. The cocktail mixer was a blender driven by a whipper-snipper engine. (See picture).
(The party ashore)

 (They gave me a dry seed pod to use as an instrument, a Kuna Indian women with her child thought it was fun)

 (The main musicians)
 (I think they think we are all mad, probably right)
(Grandma does not seem happy about the photo)

People also brought books and put on one end of the table as a book exchange (one-for-one). Then the music started, one fellow had a Mandolin, another had a Guitar, in addition were a small hand drum and other instruments like a large seed pod that was like maracas and small egg shaped instruments that had a similar sound. We had all types of songs, some words made up along the way some dirty limericks. Just for the record the picture of me with the seed pod, which I must say I played exceptionally well, is not a phallic symbol and there is definitely no similarity in size. Nancy kindly took the photo at a very bad angle and probably on purpose.

The Kuna women and children on that small island came out and sat with us after standing a distance away we invited them to sit. Their laughter was either because they enjoyed the fun or they just thought we were all completely mad. Not being able to talk their language or them ours made it difficult to know.

It was a very good night and they have talked us in to staying longer, we have a volley ball match to play at 1500 hours today.

14 /06/ 2007

Whilst I type this Kuna fisherman and partner came selling lobsters we bought one that is in the pot right now for $5, we could select which one we wanted, you would probably pay $30 or more back home. We also bought and cooked a crab last night, it was so big we had to twist the legs to fit it into a very large pot. So this evening we are having Crab and Lobster. It’s a bugger of a life but someone has to do it.
 (We gave this couple a can of coke, it is good to be friends, many sailors that treat them bad suffer in the long run, ropes disappear during the night) 
(We would not buy this as it was too small)
(He came back with the right size)

Friday 15/06/07

Well we are still here at San Blas and we had a storm experience this morning. A tropical wave went through resulting in 35 knot winds, all anchored boats sat at the helm with engines running in case we dragged anchor. Prior to this we were watching a storm passing through the north of us that had two water spouts, we were keeping a close watch on the direction it was travelling. The tropic wave was part of that storm cell, fortunately the water spouts faded out.

(Two water spouts approach, but I notice that the local fishermen in the canoe centre picture are not concerned and continue fishing after a while the water spouts changed direction and disappeared)
( 15 minutes after the spouts had gone the wind came in from the direction that it went to, I looked and I noticed the locals in the canoe had already come ashore, they knew)

We fared quite well through the storm, kept one eye on the GPS the other on the surrounding yachts. We did swing out on the anchor chain close to shallower water and had the starboard rudder tapping on a coral head; we took in some anchor chain to move us away from it.

We were leaving today but Ernie just put a general call out for a fish dinner at 1700 hours tonight, so we decided to stay another day and leave tomorrow, we will leave around 1500 hours as it is a 14 hour sail to Colon, we will sail through the night arriving in daylight the next morning.

Saturday 16/06/07

Last night was very nice we had fish and rice cooked for us by the local people on the one of the islands, each of these very small islands have one or two families living on them, the families can consist of great grandchildren to great grandparents. The meal cost US$3 a can of cold beer cost US$1. It was Nana’s 13th birthday a young local girl that helps organise these dinners for the yachties that visit, so every yacht search their yacht for a birthday present, Phillip one of the yachties he is Spanish taught us all how to sing happy birthday in Spanish and Charlene cooked a birthday cake.

When items are required for a function people get on the radio net, the one here is VHF Channel 72, like yesterday Charlene needed some icing sugar so the call goes out over the radio and anyone that can help answers.

(Icing the birthday cake)
(Nana getting ready to blow the candles out)
(Cake for everyone)

One person said to me last night that the only problem in sailing around the world is that you meet so many wonderful people then you have to leave them. It is probably true in one sense but I have noticed in our short time that on many occasions you do or will catch up with people that you have met at a later date. There are three couples that we have met here that will be sailing to Oz in the next two years that will probably look us up when they get there or keep in contact through radio. There is always an exchange of cards with email details and phone numbers for future contact.
 (Wonderful sunset from the island)

One thing that was said to me before we left Dubbo is you will find it hard to make friends, people have moved to the coast, later to return because they could not make friends and missed there old friends. It is true you do miss the friends and workmates and naturally your family, but this life you meet new friends and renew acquaintances every time you enter port or anchor. The other part of this trip has been the experience of meeting local people in their way of life. The rough seas long hours sailing and some sleepless nights at sea are forgotten when you anchor or enter port and meet people and see they way some live.

San Blas would have to be the most primitive of people we have encountered so far, they lead very simple lives, their huts as you can see by the photos are made from palm leaves, dirt floors and most the time they are outside. They dress quite well and they like some jewellery. The women make jewellery and needlework (molas) and the men fish or grow fruit to sell to visitors as well as feed their families; these can be the visiting yachties or people that fly in during tourist season. There are a number of backpackers that also travel through. They have learned how they can make money, they will collect the aluminum cans from the boats, there is an endless supply of crabs, lobster, and fish, and you can by lobster for as little as US$3 each and the same with crabs.

It is comical to watch when a new yacht approaches the women on the islands start packing the dugout canoe with their wares along with the little children yes they have a purpose to. If you want to take a photo it is a $1 per head, most people want to take photos of the children, the other side is that you see the family that are trying to earn their living. They may live in a primitive way but they are not silly. The prices you pay once you get to now what you should be paying is dirt cheap. When you first arrive the prices go up they are smart enough to lift the prices before you get to know what the norm is from other yachts.

Well later today we set sail for Colon, this city is not a nice place in fact you do not walk anywhere or you will be robbed, you catch a cab wherever you need to go. Colon is an evil necessity, you need to go there to go through the Canal. We have chosen to go to Shelter Bay Marina, it may be a little expensive as it is a new marina, however, the water is clean and you are away from Colon city, it is a distance away from everything but they run a bus twice daily into City.

1 comment:

  1. awesome place that you feel some force of attraction lets you spend more time in this heaven. One of the best historic and beautiful places in India… Please don’t miss out this place. You will love it. Here is a documentary about Hampi. Wonderful – sailing in san blas