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December 16, 2014

This morning we reluctantly said goodbye to R&R Kedger and Neko who were headed north bound.  We headed south to Carti.  Its another relatively populated native Indian island.

Alas, when we arrived we discovered with the prevailing winds the water was choppy.  And the two boats that were at anchor were taking up the best anchoring spots.  We dropped anchor once, but weren't happy with how close we were to the nearby reef.  So we pulled up the anchor and headed for Nalia.

Its a beautiful small hurricane hole surrounded by mangroves.  At the very end the bay is just big enough for one boat to anchor.  It was glassy calm.  The sun set and the water became so clear you could see all the stars reflected in the water.  We sat up on deck listening to the crickets all night.  We absolutely love it here.  Except for the bugs.  Dang little no-see-um types that bite all night.  Hate those little rascals.

Last night with Neko Fleet

December 15, 2014

This morning we headed to "the changing room" which is adjacent to "the swimming pool" and "the hot tub" anchorages. It was glassy smooth the whole way. Its a tropical paradise here. 

After we arrived, Rob on R&R Kedger called to see if Dave and Pete would head over and help him go up the mast to fix his wind indicator and check the radar connectors.  Ever since the big electrical storm a few days ago, his radar has been inoperative.  No bad connections were found, and unfortunately that probably means a bigger repair.  But the wind indicator is working better now.

While at the top of the mast, Rob took this photo of Neko and Apsaras at anchor.

Photo courtesy R&R Kedger

And this one that really shows how scary it is to be up that high.

Photo courtesy R&R Kedger

Dinner was aboard R&R where Rose had made a yummy crock pot full of eggplant parmesan.  Yum!  Was our last night with Neko and R&R as they are both headed north tomorrow.  Will be lonely without any buddy boats. Though Salty Dog is on their way to Panama.  So we will get to go through the canal with them here soon!

Whole lot of nothing

December 14, 2014

We did pretty much nothing today.  Melissa read her book, and Dave went snorkeling.  Oh, and Dave along with the 3 other boats in Neko fleet burned their trash on the beach.  Someone asked if any of us had kerosene to start the fire.  No one had any till Dave pointed out kerosene is just a cleaner burning form of diesel fuel.  (Oh, and in case you were wondering, kerosene and Jet-A are the same.)  

Photo courtesy Neko

Photo courtesy Neko

We ate those giant crabs we bought yesterday for dinner.  Afterwards Melissa had to take a shower she was so covered in crab shell bits.  Those big guys were tasty - right up there with Dungeness Crab, but their shells were thicker and harder to crack.  Though interestingly the leg meat was tastier than the claw meat - which was a bit tougher.

Big Red Crabs

December 13, 2014

This morning we headed over to Green Island again, this time with R&R Kedger and Second Wind.  Neko having stayed overnight there last night.  Neko had reported that the anchorage had cleared out, so we figured there would be enough space for us to anchor properly here today.  First thing as soon as we arrived, the Kuna Indians showed up - this time selling crab!

They were so big, they wouldn't even fit in our largest pot!  So Dave cleaned them right away, and Melissa cooked them up.  They are chilling in the fridge for lunch tomorrow.  Yum!

Second Wind came over to the boat for a lesson on how to recharge Digicell here via the web interface.  Much easier than going into town, finding a Digicell vendor, and then putting money on the account.  Determined to always have internet, Melissa's become the local expert on how to recharge the money on the account, and how to buy a new data package when the old pre-paid plan runs out.  Though as Dave says, the network backbone here is run by carrier pigeons.  And sometimes they get tired and go to sleep.  And when they run out of carrier pigeons, no more internet.  In reality, the network here is actually all 4G because it is relatively new.  The problem is that in populated areas they don't have enough bandwidth.  So in Nargana web browsing was agonizingly slow, but out here at Green Island in the middle of nowhere its blazingly fast because no one is using it.  Backwards to what you would expect in the US - high speed in the cities and slower connections out in the countryside.  Though at about 8pm tonight it went out completely.  We suspect the cell tower was hit by lightning because both data and voice were completely down - no signal at all.  Fortunately it came back up about 8:30am in the morning.

Meanwhile we have been talking to Shelter Bay Marina about the possibility of leaving the boat here for a while.  One of the things they brought up was that we should have a dehumidifier aboard to cut down on the mold.  We told them that we already have one.  To which they replied we needed to check and see if it was on the list for recall.  Apparently there has been a huge recall on them because 121 of them have caused fires - damages totaling $4.5 Million to date.  We checked the list of affected units, and sure enough ours was on it.  Scary!  We are hoping to be able to find a new one down here somewhere as we can't use the one we have!

Green Island

December 12, 2014

We decided to go over to Green Island today to do some snorkeling.  When we got there we discovered the anchorage was very crowded.  Took us two tries to settle into a spot where we weren't in danger of swinging into another boat.  But it was in 30 feet of water and we could only put out 100 feet of chain.  So while it was ok for a few hours, it wouldn't hold during a squall.  Fortunately a couple of days ago, Dave took a look at the faulty anchor winch "up" switch that was sticking.  He took it apart and put it back together and now it seems to be working.  Like Mike says, sometimes the equipment just decides it needs a little love and attention as it wasn't clear what was wrong.

As soon as we arrived, the Kuna Indians showed up selling ankle jewelry.  They make elaborate bead work that is wound around and around the ankle and lower leg till a pretty pattern takes shape.  Mary decided to have one put on.

After the gang went snorkeling, we decided to head back to Nargana as we didn't want to stay in the crowded anchorage where there was not enough room for us to put out sufficient chain.  So we headed off with just enough daylight to make it back before dark.  We pulled into the anchorage, put down the anchor, and as Melissa was putting on the snubber assembly she could hear the rain coming down on the other side of the bay.  Just as she dashed back under cover, the downpour began.  It rained all night.  2.4 inches worth.  We both took long showers because we knew the tanks would fill back up with no problem.  Though we have such ingrained "sailor's shower" habits now (get wet, turn off the water, soap down, turn on the water just long enough to rinse) that it was hard to actually use much more water than we normally do - despite the abundance.


December 11, 2014

This afternoon we went into town here at Nargana.  We were delighted to find fresh food.  Apparently its hit or miss here - depending on when the last delivery to the island came in.  But there was an abundance of everything - and super fresh.  We bought a whole chicken for Melissa to put in the oven and roast with some potatoes for dinner.  She even took the leftover bones and made fresh chicken stock!  When Neko pulled in we returned again with Mary for more supplies, and the fresh bread that the bakery told us would be ready later in the day.

The houses around town are built from canes tied together.  It would certainly change a society's view of privacy as anyone can peek through the cracks.

The town has a bad problem with trash.  Its littered everywhere.  And the mangroves near by are filled with it.  Basically because there is no good way to dispose of it - its just piling up all over the place.  The cruiser guide books tell us to be careful who we give our trash to here because its likely to end up just being dumped along the shoreline.  We gave our trash to an older gentleman yesterday who promised to burn it rather than dump it.  We can only hope...

The Kuna Indians who live here still have close ties to, and do a lot of trading with Columbia.  This is one of the trade ships that runs back and forth.  Doesn't exactly look seaworthy to us, but these tubs make the crossing routinely.

When we got back to the boat we got the great news that the US Coast Guard has (finally!) approved Dave's captain's credentials, and his license will be issued tomorrow!  What a buracratic nightmare.  Dave says he would have long ago given up had it not been for Melissa's tenaciousness at getting through the piles of paperwork.

The Kuna Indians are always coming out to the boats to sell us stuff.  Sometimes its fruit.  Sometimes fish.  This was a first.

Yes, those are iguanas.  Apparently they eat them.  Having no clue how to clean them though, we figured we would stick with chicken, as you know they're gonna taste like chicken anyway, right?  They wanted $2 to let Melissa take pictures.  Dave negotiated them down to $1.  I think the picture was worth $1.  We found out later that the Kuna used to be very afraid of people taking pictures of them.  But at some point some of them visited Panama City and saw postcards being sold for $1 with tribal pictures on them.  They concluded that was the going cost to take pictures - $1 and immediately decided it was another revenue making opportunity.






Use your own judgement

December 10, 2014

This morning we left Gunboat Key.  Melissa is having trouble with the anchor winch because the "up" button keeps sticking.  She was pounding on it madly trying to get the winch to stop pulling after the anchor was all the way up, but it just kept pulling.  So despite Dave's admonishments not to do it, she hit the down button to make it stop.  The risk being that this blows the main circuit breaker on the windlass - connecting the up and down circuits at the same time.  Fortunately it didn't blow the breaker.  We do have another way to raise and lower the anchor - a remote switch back in the cockpit.  Till the switch is fixed, we will have to raise the anchor with Melissa relaying to Dave when to hit the button.  Fortunately when we were back in Seattle we bought a pair of wireless headsets.  We don't typically wear them as we have our hand signals down pat, but in this case they are going to come in handy.

We headed to Coco Bandero Keys    Its another beautiful spot.

Alas, what isn't really evident in the picture is that the wind was blowing like crazy, and the boats are packed in tight.  Neko and R&R Kedger arrived ahead of us.  We looked around for a good anchor spot, alas, there wasn't anything super appealing.  Dave attempted to anchor in close to one of the islands, but when we let the chain out, we bumped the bottom on the key.  This means Melissa has to reel in the anchor quick like a bunny.  No time to plug in the remote and get out the headsets.  So she hits the up button and reels it in.  Fortunately this time the button didn't stick.  We try a second time to anchor in deeper water.  Alas the bottom is covered in grass and the anchor won't set.  This time Dave reeled in the anchor from the cockpit.  Third time's the charm, right?  We pick a spot close to R&R Kedger and manage to get the anchor to stick.  But we are much closer to them than we would like.  And if the wind shifts tonight we risk hitting the reef.  Ug.

Discussion with Neko and R&R Kedger ensues.  R&R Kedger isn't happy with the anchorage either.  No one is going to sleep tonight because everyone is going to be on deck worrying about the wind and anchors.  R&R suggests we head for Nargana (also known as Yandup) which is only 5 miles away.  Not as picturesque, but safe and calm.  We agree with R&R to head there, and Neko will stay behind with Second Wind (another cruiser couple we've met several times previously).  We cruise over to Nargana, and set the anchor yet again - this time with oodles of space in calm waters.  Yeah, ok, the view is not as good:

The post script to this story is that we made the right decision.  The next day Neko and Second Wind joined us here at Nargana.  Second Wind was up all night with anchor alarms and depth alarms going off.  The wind swung around during the night and boats were moving about.  Neko awoke to discover they were nearly on the beach.  Rarely do we get this kind of validation of good decision making.  Most of the time you feel like you "chickened out" when you back away from a tough spot when others seem to think its fine.  Not that any one else's judgement was wrong.  Neko slept soundly - albiet in the morning finding themselves not where they started.  And Second Wind had been at anchor in that same spot the previous two nights without problems - seemingly in similar conditions.  And the wind wasn't predicted to swing around the way it did.  So they had every reason to believe they would be fine staying put.  But in the end we felt like - yeah, you gotta trust your own judgement about what you and your boat are willing to do.

Rob on R&R Kedger has blogged about the risk of buddy boating being "the herd mentality" where you go along with something that you are uncomfortable with.  Fortunately we have found with the boats we are buddy boating with that everyone is willing to employ their own judgement and everyone else respects it.  Neko called when we reached Nargana to make sure we had arrived safe and were snug at anchor, clearly indicating that they were ok with us splitting up for a night.  When we turned around because the seas were too high for us from Isla Porvenir (we were in the lead and first into the big swell), everyone else turned around too.  And yet, we benefit from the sharing of information.  Each of us brings slightly different experiences to bear.  Decision making has a nice comradeship to it.  Everyone tosses out their thoughts and opinions and those thoughts are listened to and truly heard by everyone else.  As a result we end up with the best of all possible buddy boat relationships.  We are going to miss these guys when they head north next week!

Mike and Holly take off

December 9, 2014

This morning at 6:30am we watched as Neko took Holly and Mike to the airport.

Their plane was supposed to take off at 6:50am, but the plane wasn’t on the ground till almost 8am.

After that we went over to the nearest island with a small store and stocked up on wine, beer, and hot dogs.  Hot dogs!  Wow haven’t seen those in a while.  And the Kuna bread will make due as hot dog buns.  Weenie roast on Apsaras tonight!  The town was sort of sad.  The Kuna Indians live a subsistence level existence in shacks made of canes tied together.  Their toilet facilities consist of a shack over the ocean.  Their water supply comes off the roofs into barrels draped with fabric to filter any debris.

Then we sailed over to Gunboat Key.  Another good sail today, though a bit slushier because the seas had picked up a bit.  The anchorage here is moving us around a bit, but because the wind and waves are the same direction its mostly a little bit of hobby horsing.

Then it was time for the weenie roast.  Melissa made coleslaw and Rose made macaroni salad.  Mary brought the baked beans.  It was a nice dinner!

Great Day for a Sail

December 8, 2014

Today we left the “swimming pool” and headed back to Isla Porvenir because Mike and Holly have a flight out tomorrow back to Panama City.  The trip was about 4 hours and was some of the best sailing we’ve had.  It was calm seas but the wind was blowing 15 to 20 knots on our beam, so we were on a reach, engine off sailing along at 6.5 to 7 knots.  Dave was a happy captain.  And there wasn’t even a small screech from the squeal-o-meter despite the boat leaning over.  Well, in nice calm seas nothing is flying around the cabin!  Because Holly and Mike are leaving tomorrow we had goodbye drinks on Neko.  It was hugs and tears all around as we don’t know when we will see them again.  We’ve been together for 7 months virtually every day – ever since El Salvador.  Maybe we need to put together an inland car trip in Panama before everyone scatters?

Everyone on deck!

December 7, 2014

Early this morning the wind started to blow and it poured rain.  Melissa awoke in the dark and realized we had left all the portals open.  Ooops.  Then at 6am Dave awakens, and shortly thereafter wakes Melissa up, saying "The boat in front of us is dragging.  If they drag across our anchor and pull it out we will be too.  Need you up in case we need to pull up anchor in a hurry."  Not the way you want to wake up in the morning.  Melissa scrambles to get dressed.  Fortunately the couple on board the dragging boat were able to get themselves reset without any further complications.

Melissa was totally frustrated not having internet.  Some other cruisers reported that they had internet here though.  So Dave sent our wireless device up the mast, and voila!  4G full speed.  Melissa is happy again!

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