Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just Another Day in Paradise

Another view of our Private Island for the day.

Strong Current at Anchor

Valiant Checking out the Dorado

Parida Islands - first group in Panama

Gamez Island, Parida Archipelago, Panama

We left Golfito, Costa Rica at the end of July.  I had very little time to prepare once Courage decided that we should leave that evening for Panama.  We thought we’d be out for maybe 2 weeks before getting back to mainland and another store.  We ran to the local fruit and vegetable stand (pretty nice large store, but only fruit and vegetables).  We bought $106 of food.  I went by a
Panaderia (bakery) on my way walking back to the boat, so bought some bread, rolls, and cookies as a bonus, and we were off.  No cans, boxes, or other supplements.  Fortunately we did have a reserve on the boat.

We left during a thunderstorm in the evening.  Beautiful evening, but couldn’t see a thing!  By morning we arrived at a gorgeous set of islands, the Parida Islands.  We were aiming for a little harbor that looked very protected, but as we rounded the corner and saw the little fishing village on a dark sand short beach and also saw the most gorgeous large white sandy beach lined with palm trees and green waters.  We aimed right on Gamez Island and didn’t regret it.

We were anchored so close that the kids could swim to the beach. The water was so clear, we had fresh coconuts, and we could walk across the island to the other side.  Cassidy kayaked around the island in about an hour.  

We bought some lobsters from a local guy that came by on his kayak; not so much that we wanted lobsters, but thought we’d support his efforts.  

During a couple of days, we had tourist boats coming by for a few hours each day.  It was fun to meet the people.  One group was studying tourism.  They loved watching the kids swim since some of them couldn’t swim even as adults.  We made a campfire and shared marshmallows with them to roast and brought our paddleboard out for them to try.   They were trying to take a picture with Vitality (it seems that everyone in Central America likes pictures with the blond kids), but she was too shy and scared, so we traded out Innocence who loves the attention.  It seems they just wanted a blond kid.  We spent a few days at this island, ideal pictures and a wonderful time!!

We headed out to a nearby island, Bolaros, which was also quite nice.  Courage found a large bamboo pole and was able to shake and twist free a fresh coconut from out of the tree.   We sat under the shade of our umbrella and I took some ideal pictures again.  

The kids had gathered 4 beautiful crabs with purple pinchers, orange legs and black bodies.  A tourist group came through.  One guy was from Santa Barbara and studied crabs, so showed us how to tell if they are male or female based on their abdomens.

In the afternoon we went for a cool-off swim.  I don’t know if I can explain this, but we had a good laugh at my expense.  We were body surfing waves and I jumped forward as the wave was breaking behind me in order to catch it with some momentum.  There was a large undertow and the wave basically stopped in its tracks as it approached me.  I on the other hand got the momentum I was looking for and plunged forward doing an immediate belly flop right onto the sand.  I was laughing so hard I couldn’t get up before the next wave broke over me.  Cassidy had a good view as my witness.


In the Middle of Nowhere - Bayarena Island

This is the tiny island at low tide.  Great snorkeling!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Our Private Island in the distance

About Kids Play

I love watching the kids play on the beaches.  They are so smart and creative in their play.  We never seem to bring out water/sand toys to the shore, there's no need.  Unfortunately there's tons of washed up plastic bottles, shoes, toys, Styrofoam, etc. for them to play with.

The other day the boys were playing rolling wheels down the beach and chasing them into the surf rescuing them while the girls had found a large Styrofoam block and made a table.  They found a bowl that they were filling with a mud cake with a ball on top as a whipped cream topping.  They had found 2 spoons to eat with, as well as a thermos and cups for drinks.  They had an actual tea party going on.  It was fun to watch.

Later that same Styrofoam table came out into the surf as a raft for them to climb on, flip over, and float on.  They found a second floating Styrofoam piece, so could do it two at a time.

Then they found 3 figurines, a small plastic pig, cow, and dog.  They made Styrofoam rafts for them and launched them across a lake.  They have used shells as shovels, sticks as pens for all kinds of beach art and tic-tac-toe, coconuts as rafts, etc.  When we have fires, they light up the ends and use the charcoal to write on rocks or other things.  I can't even tell you how many wheels and balls we've come across.  We have 3 new balls onboard this week alone I think; a soccer ball that floated into the bay 2 days ago, a basketball that we found on the beach a week ago, and a beach ball that we found yesterday.  There have been other ones that weren't as nice, didn't hold air, and were too small or too hard, that we didn't keep.  These are the good ones.  Most evenings we end up on the trampolines after dinner tossing balls back and forth and around, so it's nice to double our ball population.  So far, we've rescued all of the overboard balls, but now we've got spares.

The other day I made a treasure hunt for Cassidy for her birthday.  I put a clue on a coconut, made a necklace of shells, coral, bones, small buoys and a plastic key we've found.  One was in a plastic bottle tied to a rock and thrown underwater (which sadly broke free and washed up on the beach by the time she'd arrived, so she didn't have to dive for it.)  As I placed one clue I slipped on the rocks and bloodied by elbow.  Next beach, just before I jumped out of the dinghy to drop off the clue on shore, Courage says "shark!!"  You could make out the shadow of a shark swimming just by the shore in front of us.  I told him I thought he was kidding when he said it because the last thing I wanted to do was jump into the water with blood and a shark.  He pointed out that it was probably not the last thing I wanted to do since I was going to do it anyway.  The shark was only 3-4 feet long and looked like a reef-shark, which would be harmless.
Cassidy had 10 clues and 3 pieces of map spread out along a 2-mile stretch of coast that she kayaked along to find a buried treasure birthday present.  I wrote "happy birthday" on the shore with sticks and shells.  It was fun, both a physical and mental challenge for her (and me).  These are the things you'll remember.

So much for all the recycling, upcycling, repurposing, etc.  Call it what you will, you can be creative and have as much fun and family bonding time without being a consumer.  You don't need to spend lots of money to impress people, or have all the matching tablecloths, napkins, plates and cups to have a great birthday party.  You don't need tons of toys; you can play with what you have around you.  You don't need tons of teaching materials, you can learn from the world around you.  You can make letters on the sand, you can count hermit crabs, you can sort them by the shape or color of their shells to learn patterns, you can sink/float all kinds of things, you can build dams and learn about water flow as well as strength of sand vs. rocks as building materials, etc. We have brought onboard new shoes (not matching), balls, shells, a carved wood turtle and a couple of other things from shore.  I also have a reed of bamboo that I hope to use to make sides to my new shelves since it's not too pretty, I'm out of wood, and I don't want things to fall off the sides.  It's in the cockpit, maybe my next project to get done . . .

There is so much that you can do with the things around you to have fun.   I love watching the kids, much to learn from them in that respect.  They destroy things quickly, but they can also make anything fun and interesting and fit into their dialogues and spend hours and hours contentedly creating, exploring, and learning about the world around you!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Remote Island Garbage

It is sad to see how much washed up plastic garbage is out here.  We’ve noticed more here in Panama than in Costa Rica, but that's probably not a fair comparison since in Costa Rica we were on mainland and Panama we’ve mostly been on remote islands.  In Costa Rica there were garbage containers on most beaches, but they don't exist here.  But who would collect it on a remote island?  In the towns of Catalina and Puerto Mutis, the only 2 mainland stops we've had in Panama, there were garbage cans on the beach also.

Much of what we've seen in plastic bottles, with assorted other shoes, Styrofoam, toys, ice chests, 5 gallon buckets, rope and fishing line.  It's been very interesting to see what must float and not decompose.  It's also interesting to see how local attitudes affect the environment around you.  When we gave candies to the kids in the town of Esmerelda, they took the wrapper off and threw it straight into the water.  And it seems that everything you buy comes with packaging these days.  These little outlying villages have tiny stores that only stock things with long shelf lives - soda, not juice, cans, no fresh fruits or veggies, etc.  Now I’ve never been a fan of bottled water.  OK, I am a huge fan of the marketing strategy that can sell municipal water for $1.00 per bottle or maybe even filter the trace elements out of it and the added fluoride, then mark it up for that service.  But, not a fan in that I like to buy it or believe that I must have it rather than drink a glass of water from the tap. Therefore it’s disheartening to see all of these bottles out here washed up and know that we’re marketing bottles all over the place and consumers are eating it up hook, line and sinker.  And don’t get me wrong; there are times a bottle sure is convenient to bring in your car and not spill, or in a backpack or whatever.  Love the option!!  Just wish people would be a little better self-managed and a little more aware not to just drop them when they are done.  Solution? - no idea.  Need to change local attitudes about litter I think first and foremost.  Wish cruiser groups or local fishing groups, or even rangers would come and gather them up.  Collect them and bring them to mainland?  Maybe if they had a big enough value you'd get poor fisherman to come and collect them?  We have paid extraordinary fees for being in National Parks.  The rangers just seem to go around and collect the fees and maybe give tours.  I wish I saw them even just once go and do a beach clean up day since we paid them so handsomely.  On mainland Catalina I did see one sign that said "no more garbage on the beach, please place it in trash”.  And another handmade flyer on a post saying, "Saturday is beach clean up day" so they are trying at a local level, which is great.  Problem on the remote beaches is you need prevention since it's so hard to get access and room for all of the garbage you’d collect.

We burn our garbage when we get a bag full.  We recycle overboard anything that decomposes once we are 3 miles out and keep it in a separate bin when close to shore.  When we burn our garbage, we gather up all the plastic we can handle and burn it also.  Hundreds of bottles each time, the kids gather it or firewood in exchange for marshmallows to cook.  But it’s overwhelming, I spent hours at the fire the other day and only dented the 20-foot circle around the fire.  Guess in these remote areas, the litter affects few people also.  Would like to see it improved by people being responsible for their garbage rather than making it other people's issues.  Think education and local attitude is the most important step here.  Tourism being a big industry could be the best angle to take.  If you have litter all over the beaches, you won’t impress your tourists, they won’t give a good review, you won't get as many more tourists.  That being said - despite the garbage, Panama has been awesome.  Gorgeous islands, beaches, weather, water, and friendly people!!  Could work on the plastic litter issue.

From Crew-Member Shannon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Little Girl, Big Fish

Notes from 4 Days Ago

We are doing great still.  Some pongas came by; we bought some bananas, watermelons and corn, so restocked a little bit with fresh stuff.  Probably going to check out Panama City in a week or so, then pick up Loyal.  Saw a small village, Ensenada, yesterday.  Interesting.  They have a public payphone, but not a lot else.  No cars or roads.  Small store that only sells things with a long shelf life.  Few guys lying in hammocks; then a pot on a fire beside them.  Guess they were making lunch?  Kind of a Crockpot plan.  Had a little school, but it was about 10 am Tuesday and all the local kids were in the ocean and no one was at the school.  I saw September was Bible study month.  I wonder if someone comes once a week to teach or something?  Really no idea.  Didn't all add up.  But they were nice.  Wild dogs running around and chickens wandering aimlessly around town.  A small church with no doors, a wire with a bulb up on the roof, otherwise just a solid concrete building with benches for seating.  It all works.

Nice campfire on the beach today, burned our garbage so it doesn't build up.  Then had marshmallows.  We are much more prepared this time since my restocking was at an actual store.  Had some pizza yesterday night, marshmallows today, not just canned things and dried grains.  Got netting put up around our lifelines for Valiant mostly.  It's great though, now it's like an enclosure and our clothes hanging out to dry stay on better, we can toss balls on the front trampoline and they don't go overboard (as often).  It's made the space much more useful as well as safe.

We are in a beautiful place between 2 islands with beaches in all directions and seeing whales.  Yesterday snorkeling Courage found the largest hermit crab I've ever seen!!!  It was in one of those nice big conch shells, maybe 4-5 inches wide? The kids continue to find treasures on every beach.  We find buoys, shells, buckets, shovels, wheels, balls, etc.  Even found a carved out wood turtle. We are seeing turtle nests and crocodile tracks too.  Disheartening, I guess they move the turtle nests because where a turtle is born is where it will lay its eggs. But they crush many shells in the process and the places they are moving them from look very safe and protected.  I don't think there's a need out there. We've been seeing many turtles; they don't appear too endangered.  I would rather see the efforts of those people picking up the garbage littering the shores washed up.  Lots of plastic bottles and shoes.