Thursday, October 24, 2013

To Panama City via Perlas Islands

We are headed toward the mainland later tonight.  The sail from Rio Sambu to here was fantastic. We had about 20kts of wind on a nice reach.

Today we met a nice French family with 4 little ones. They came around the horn and are headed to the Atlantic.  If all turns out we will help them throughout the canal in a month or so.

Time to get a little sleep before heading out.  Goodnight from a mosquito free boat.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Rain . . . It has not really rained since I got here. We actually totally drained my hull, so we only had about an 8-day supply of fresh water.  Not that we were worried.  Actually, we gave 10 gallons to Windsong as they were having an issue with their water maker. This afternoon we filled the Port hull and half the starboard hull. So we are pretty set.

This morning we got a call from Grace saying a log was headed our way. Windsong said it had hit them in the night. Since we are pulling 30-foot logs off our bow regularly we figured I should take a look.  It turned out to be a 70-foot tree.  Courage, Mother and I were walking on it as it drifted past the boat.  We decided to tie it to the bank, as we did not want it returning tonight. We will set it free before we depart, but are not taking any chances of a midnight collision.

This after noon we visited the village for dinner. They killed a few chickens and cooked them in onions, a type of cilantro, and something red. It is a powder that does not have a smell or taste. They said it was just for color. What ever it was, it was great with rice.  For desert we had yellow plantans that we placed in the fire. They peal them and just set them in the ash - - So good. They also do it with the green ones, but the yellow are my favorite.

We will most likely depart tomorrow with the tide. A group of the local ladies are coming out to say goodbye and if the weather holds we will take them for a little tour of the river. They are really a nice group.  Rather shy when Courage and I try to talk with them.  It usually ends up with them covering their mouths and giggling.

Charles from the Peace Core will join us for the trip to Panama via some of the Perlas Islands. We plan to take advantage of his Spanish and see if we can learn a few things.

Storm: Mother and I visited the palm tree that has the Seeds and I will send a few back. When they dry they are very hard. Sound like rocks when you bang them together.

Since it rained the termites are out in force. The boat is covered in them.  I think they scared off the mosquitoes for today :-)

Sending big smiles.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Notes from Crew Member Loyal

Once again we find our selves anchored outside of Rio Sambu waiting for the tide to come in. We want to confirm the channel is still where it is supposed to be.  Amazingly it is. This time it is a lot easier to do as our friend on Alba has a hand held depth sounder. We zip back and forth mapping the channel in just an hour.  That is when I remember I forgot to refuel.  We are down to less then an inch of the go juice.  Time to cancel the tractor pulls, concentrate on finding dry land.

Once the tide has come in 7 feet we figure it is safe to start heading in. There are 4 of us here. Alba, Windsong, Grace, and Lil Explorers. Drawing the least of the group we take the lead, with Alba second as she draws the most.  We are doing well when a panga approaches at full speed waiving their arms. There is a net across the channel just 30 feet ahead. We all stop and Cassidy and I head out in the dingy with the boat hook to lead the way around the net. At low tide the area was underwater so it should be okay, but we need to be sure.  No problem at all. A small detour and we are under ways again.  No sooner were we back on track than a second net is spotted. This one is about twice the size as the first. The end is in an area where we had spotted a sandbar earlier.  Back in the dingy and checking depth. It is not long before it is too shallow to continue. The current is drawing us along at 3kts so there is some frantic turning to get everyone back on course. We start backtracking the net to find the other end. At least on this side we have 7 feet of water giving Alba a whole foot to spare.  It must have been quite the sight with four boats ducking behind the panga looking for deeper water.

We made it up the river without any further incidents. The four of us are anchored off La Chunga Village getting ready for dinner when we hear some hollering from the beach. Turns out someone spotted us and wanted to come say hello.  A very nice young man, Charles, and just as nice young lady, Tally, had heard we had returned and came out to confirm.  We were invited to come into town the next day to a small celebration in our honor. Mind you we had only been here an hour or so.  We were also told the iPad had been recovered and returned in the morning. Great news.

Early this morning we all (17 of us) headed in to say hello. Excited children in traditional dress met us along the way. The boys in loin cloths with little spears, the girls with the local type of skirt, beads around their necks, and flowers in their hair.  As we approached the bridge we could hear the drums, flute, and rattle, welcoming us. It was quite the sight as we crossed the bridge to their welcome. All the men and women in traditional garb with flowers, the children racing all over the place--very nice indeed.

Later in the day we even go to dance with them. It is pretty much a two-step in a circle, to a nice drumbeat accompanied by the flute. I will post a recording when we get good Internet.

We then headed over to the sugar cane press where we had a chance to make our own juice. You would not believe how much juice comes out of the cane. Andrew from Windsong and I worked the press. There are two logs on top of each other held in place by two posts. Through the logs is a stick and you rotate the logs using a long pole. Pictures will do this justice.  The juice is really great with a little lemon. It is probably lemonade I have had.

Later in the day a few of the guys started heading down the road to do some work and I tagged along. It turns out 200 90lbs bags of cement were in need being carried to the village. It was like the good old days of carrying the concrete at Sonnenland.  For the next hour or so we trudged back and forth with those bags. I think I brought in 900lbs of the grey stuff.

By the time we were done with the first half I was ready to cool off.  A few of the kids and I headed to the river for a refreshing swim. They were a bit surprised to see me jump in fully dressed, but I figured I was covered in enough cement to start my own factory.

Logs are a bit of a problem this time. They are over 30 feet long and if they come down sideways we can get quite the logjam on the bow. This morning it got so big we finally pulled the anchor out. Luckily Courage notice before we were too far down stream. We now try to clear the bow before it gets to be too much.

Goodnight all,

PS: It has been a great couple of days moving around, and I am sure I am forgetting a few things due to lack of blood.  I think the SS Mosquito has anchored nearby and is sending over as many visitors as she can muster.

Events According to Crew Member Cassidy

We spent the last week in La Paz and another indigenous village called Puerto Lara. Unlike La Chunga, Puerto Lara was a Wounaan tribe and wasn't nearly as nice. There were streetlights, a car road, and satellite dishes. Sad to say, that village has been corrupted. Oh, we met up with three other boats from the cruising community and they also came up Rio Sabana (Puerto Lara) with us.  Having some awesome adventures with our new buddy boats.

Last night we came back to La Chunga with the other three boats and ran into a bunch of issues. First, on the way to the mouth of the river, there is a 6-mile mud flat and only one way to get in. It is really difficult with the muddy water because we can’t see how deep it is until we are on top of it. Anyway we were following our last track with three other boats right on our tail and everything was going well until a fishing boat came by and said that we were headed right for a net and we had to go around the black flag that was half a mile into the shallow bank.

With a lot of effort we managed to get past that and get back onto the original track. A few minutes later we noticed another net about ten feet off to our side. We ended up following it until it got to shallow then all four boats had to turn around (very difficult). We followed it back the other way and were just able to pass (one by one) tightly around a small fishing boat. If we went anymore than 5 feet from him, then it would be too shallow to cross.

We made it up the river with only a few log problems, but nothing much. Each boat safely anchored out from the village dock. Last night we had to take the dinghy and pull a few logs off of our front. The current here is pretty severe and it was difficult to pull against it, but eventually we got it.

Then this morning, a mere hour ago, we started dragging. We had drug almost all the way around the first river bend before we noticed it. Apparently, we had built up so much debris and it added so much weight and friction that the anchor slipped. The thought is that we dropped the anchor on a rock bed, too (we only stick in mud). It was a challenge to get all the debris off the front, pull up the anchor, not run into the tree line, not get any of the debris into the propellers, not run aground, and get another anchor to prevent from drifting and more.

Eventually we didn't have to send out another anchor, but it was still a hectic morning. In an hour, all the boats are going into the village and there is going to be a welcoming celebration for the other boats. I'm really excited, we have been proclaimed as friends because we came on our own and came back with more tourists. My tattoos have faded and I'm hoping to get another one before I head back to the states.


Back to La Chunga - With 3 buddy boats this time

October 19

We had a full day journey from La Palma back to La Chunga.  We have 3 boats following us. We left with a strong current going out of the river and were doing 8-10 knots.  After getting out to the ocean, we set the anchor to wait for the incoming tide.  It became very hot while we waited so we jumped in for a swim.  All the kids went too.  We had a pretty strong current, so we'd jump in off the bow and catch a rope off the back swim step.  Even Vitality was doing it in her life jacket.  She was catching the rope and pulling in nicely!  The tide was steadily increasing the current and by the end of the swim I was only able to break even with the front of the boat, not able to swim ahead at all.

It was a good refresh, and then we were off for quite a journey.  We planned to follow our prior track coming in and were going to be in great shape.  First we came across a fishing net.  We sent the dinghy ahead to depth sound with the boat hook and set a new track.  As we found our way around the first one, we headed back to the channel to continue on.  Shortly thereafter, we came across another fishing net right on our starboard side.  We turned, warned the other boats, and set the dinghy off again.  We made it almost to the black flag indicating its end, but were coming on a sandbar and had to turn around.  So we headed to find the other end of the net.  It turned in toward shore and we followed it getting more and more shallow.  We draw 4 feet; some of the other boats draw 2 meters (closer to 7 feet).  The depths were nearing 8-10 feet.  We proceeded slowly with the dinghy with Loyal and Cassidy in front.  Turns out the net was tied to a panga (fishing boat).  We all rounded the panga with a very close distance since we were steadily losing depth as we went.  I got a video as the boats behind us were all rounding this little panga.  Must have made them wonder just a little why we all came so close.  They obviously don't draw what we do.  They wave you around the nets if they see you, but there's not always enough water where they suggest.  We could finally make our way to the mouth of the river over the final mud flats.  Once in the river it's plenty deep.  We have our prior course over the mud flats and one set by Eyoni (another boat we met in Panama City), but obviously the nets prohibited using them.  Many other boats like having a prior course and go almost exactly off of them.  We now have a crazy course that someone can follow weaving and bobbing through all the fishing gear out there.

Once we all anchored off the dock to the village we got some nice rain and collected about 15 gallons of fresh clean stuff (the kids played in our prior fresh water collection).  A panga passed shortly after our arrival and some people were waving as they went.  Shortly after, 3 village kids arrived at the dock.  Courage picked them up and the kids went up to play on the trampolines.  
Not so long after that, the Peace Corp volunteer and 3 of his friends came out and we picked them up.  They hadn't eaten, so we made a little dinner and chatted.  It was nice.  They found Grandmother's iPad.  It was taken by an early teen who paddled out on a dug out and took it when no one was here.  We speculate whether he came out to steal or it was opportunistic, but think he came during the dance display when no one was here.  We are happy to have it back and glad they took it seriously and found it.  Feeling bad for the kid, but they will probably never do that again.  The Peace Corp guy used it as an example, telling them it will end their tourism immediately if word gets out that you cannot trust the community and things will be stolen.  The other boat that was here was missing their Internet stick.  We heard it showed up also, but they weren't sure where it was last time we were here.  Hopefully we can pick that up also.  I don't think theft is a big issue, but appears to be something they need to address.  They don't have electricity for the most part, the iPad was dead, no computers, so an Internet stick is useless.  Seems a bit odd, but Cassidy was showing off her iPad quite a bit to the kids and they were impressed.  She never lets go of it, so is unlikely to lose it!!

They plan to put on a nice welcome back for us tomorrow morning and thank us for bringing friends/tourists to their village so asked that we all come in together rather than stagger in.  In the afternoon we asked if we could have the "full show" that they do for their cruise ships (24 passengers).  They teach about dances, jagwa (painting/tattoos), canista (basket weaving), tagwa (carving of palm nuts), etc.  While I think that we experienced most of it, it'll be a great summary and I'm sure we'll learn more.

The concrete for the basketball court had not arrived on schedule when we were here last.  Well, it finally arrived.  It is staged along the path to the village and everyone helps carry it as they can.  They have another push tomorrow morning also to get the concrete to a better storage area in the village.  They may do the pour on Monday.  If we are here, maybe we can help them??  Maybe we'd hinder them, you never know!  See how it all works out.

We may take Charles, the Peace Corp guy here, with us when we leave.  He needs to get to Panama City to visit his brother who's coming.  He can go by hiking, bus, etc. or by boat via the Perlas Islands.  We shall see how schedules mesh, but it could be a fun journey across.

Definitely back in mosquito territory.  Netting is up, but still killed about 5 mosquitoes on the boat.  I made a new net for Integrity's bed today since he lost his last one, so the kids all have netting over their beds as well as the netting over the doors and windows.  They are double protected and doing well.  Our bed isn't as easy to net over, so we are just hoping for the best and planning on a few bites.  Valiant is also getting some molars and not enjoying that process so much, but we had a cold watermelon today, which he loved!

Off to bed before another fun day tomorrow.