Friday, February 22, 2008

Isla Banedup, San Blas Islands Panama

Isla Banedup, San Blas Islands Panama

February 7-22, 2008

N 09 33'42.4", W 07851'37.0"

We arrived at Chichime Cays on Thursday February 7thafter a nice motor-sail from Isla Linton. We left the Sloths and a couple of new friends behind but I am sure we will return in the weeks ahead. We followed the inside passage and other than carefully navigating around the Escribano Shoals it was an easy 5 hour motor-sail averaging over 7 knots. The kids played games and napped while I chewed my fingernails, this is all still so new. When it was all said and done it was a good passage and our first longer trip on Mima went well.

Sailing into the SanBlas is reminiscent of a scene from a 1940's Hollywood movie. The islands are covered in coconut palms all placed atop white sandy beaches. The indigenous Kuna Indians still live in huts constructed of palm fronds and the primary mode of transportation remains the Cayuco or dugout canoe. Most of the islands are clustered together forming beautiful cays and all are protected inside a large barrier reef providing lovely anchorages protected from the ocean swells but benefiting from the ocean breeze.

We had no sooner arrived, I mean the anchor had barely touched bottom, and we were visited by the local children in a dugout saying hello and welcoming us to Chichime. The fact that we have children aboard quickly delineates us from most of the cruisers and certainly has attracted attention from many of the local kids. We spent 3 days in Chichime snorkeling,walking the islands, playing with the children and getting to know Ceto and his family. I had the privilege of diving with Ceto for lobsters and crab. Well I guess what I should say is Ceto did a lot of diving and I did a lot of watching. He is almost as comfortable underwater as I am above.

After diving it was a pleasure to have Ceto aboard Mima for mid-morning coffee and cookies. Although communication was difficult, Ceto speaks Kuna not Spanish, we consider it a treat to welcome aboard those whose country we are guests in. Ceto provided us with fresh coconuts during our say and later his wife made me a traditional anklet of beads that I now proudly wear.

We moved to the East Lemon Cays for the next week and again enjoyed great snorkeling and scenery. The local Kuna family (Lydia, Anasio, and Florina) have a small tienda and restaurant and bake Kuna bread daily. We found ourselves just enjoying being somewhere and not moving. We had a traditional Kuna lunch of smoked fish and green bananas boiled in coconut milk with Lydia. It was fun to try but we all agree we will stick with our regular food. Fresh bread warm from the oven was great and at 10 baguettes for a $1.00 we treated ourselves daily. We even had a visit from Lisa Harris, the famous transvestite master mola maker, while at anchor and purchased a couple of her molas.

While at the Lemons we finally got our cell phone working again and were able to contact family. It was during this time that I learned my dear friend Gary Skaggs had taken a turn for the worse and I arranged to return to Idaho to see him. The next day I learned my Grandmother (96years old) fell and broke her hip so I will be making a one day trip to Phoenix to see her while back home for a week. Sue and the kids will stay with the boat while I am gone and with all the cruisers around to help out in case something comes up I am sure they will be fine.

We left the Lemons to visit the Holandes Cays and one of the most famous anchorages in the San Blas Islands called "the swimming pool". We had a nice ride and en-route we hooked a 33inch King Mackerel. Our first catch while sailing and a load of fun for all of us as we scrambled around trying to take pictures and land the fish while underway. Upon arriving we anchored in 10 feet of crystal clear water over sand and immediately knew why the name. It was like anchoring in the middle of a great big swimming pool with a light blue bottom. We were immediately surrounded by very large Ocean Triggers and while I was cleaning the Mackerel Marshall noticed a large fish approaching. Upon closer inspection he began yelling "shark, shark". It was indeed a 6 foot nurse shark and as soon as we identified it Amy and I got our mask and snorkel on and Marshall proceeded to bait a hook and try to catch the shark while Amy and I got in fora closer look. It was very cool and Amy has quickly gotten over much of her fear of sharks and I think has a newly found appreciation for them. We explored and snorkeled with Spotted Eagle Rays, Giant Stingrays and tons of cool fish. The coral was beautiful here and we enjoyed four fun days at two anchorages before sailing back to the East Lemons to prepare for my return to Idaho.

We gave the kids a few days off from school while in the Holandes and they will double up on school work while I am gone for 9 days and they are stationary. Sue and I are beginning to feel like we are adjusting to the new lifestyle and pace. The kids continue to struggle with school. The hardest part seems to be the lack of structure they were used to.

We have been without internet for a couple of weeks and I hope to return to the boat with the necessary equipment to get us up on email. We think of you all often and certainly miss the luxury of frequent and easy contact. On the other hand we are learning more about ourselves (some good and some not so good) and each other and remain committed to our time afloat. Thanks for journeying with us and know you remain in our thoughts and prayers.

The 4Wheelers

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Isla Linton, Panama

Wednesday February 6, 2008

Isla Linton; Anchored at N 09*36'49.0" W079*35'03.0"

Good morning. We are on our way to the San Blas Islands. We are making slow progress however since we keep seeing cool places to explore. We have spent time on beaches,riding horses, meeting some interesting locals, celebrating Carnival and even an afternoon holding and getting to know an adult 2 toed Sloth and a young 3toed Sloth.

Meeting the folks who have been rescuing sloths for the last decade and spending an afternoon with them in their home and garden while enjoying the company of Bandito (juvenile 3 toed sloth) and Lightning (adult 2toed sloth) was truly an experience we will never forget. These are amazing animals that deserve our care and attention. Not to mention they are downright cuddly. I think Amy would have held Bandito all day and night if she could.

We are taking it easy in terms of sailing and just doing short manageable hops. Adjusting to life on board remains a challenge but we are hanging in and holding on. We are at day 32 so we are getting there. Hopefully 4-5 weeks in the San Blas will really get us in the cruising mood.

Trust you are all well and we will talk soon, Mark

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Sailing Serendipity; Fried Plantain, Sorel and Capitan Medinoche

Life brings unique and special moments of interaction to all of us. Some call it fate or providence, others divine appointments and still others serendipity. Regardless of what term you use, these chance encounters and experiences provide opportunities to expand horizons and deepen roots. Cruising can bring many rewards, serendipities; let me share three with you.

Plantain is basically a large banana. As far as I know it is always cooked and never eaten raw. In its green state it is very starchy and is served in place of our good old Idaho potatoes. All 4 Wheelers would agree that we prefer Idaho's' finest to green plantain. However, if allowed to ripen, the sugar quantity increases dramatically and they become a real taste treat. The Panamanian way to cook them requires only butter and spiced rum. Cut the ripe plantain into bite-size pieces (like you would cut a banana to put on your morning cereal only a little thicker) and sauté until golden in a little butter and spiced rum. The result is a taste treat that has shown up aboard Mima for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Give it a try and remember to get ripe plantain (all yellow and even a little black on the outside).

Roger and Frankie Marshall, aboard S/V Infinity, while slipped next to us in the Colon marina simply stepped outside their cockpit and said, "hello Mima" and in so doing have become lifelong friends. Roger and Frankie are from South Africa. After Roger retired from retail sales they both took a 10 day sailing course and decided to buy a boat and go sailing for one year. That was 10 years ago and they are still going strong. Frankie asked one morning if we would like to go with her to the local vegetable and meat market. We quickly agreed and were off. The following two hours was a full-sensory experience, as anyone who has attended an outdoor market in a third world setting can attest to.

In the process 3 of the 4 Wheelers were introduced to Sorel. Sorel is a plant that grows in the tropics and produces a beautiful red flower. The flower is boiled along with sugar and sometimes cinnamon or ginger to create a concentrate that when added to water makes a wonderfully refreshing drink. I grew up drinking Sorel in Trinidad and Jamaica and Frankie knows how to make it, so that afternoon Amy and Marshall helped Frankie make Sorrell aboard S/V Infinity. In so doing they made a new friend and I got to share with them an experience from my childhood, Sorel.

Having first gone to sea as a boy in the 50's Capitan Medinoche (Captain Midnight) is pure gold. Born in the Caribbean, Capitan has lived a life few could have imagined possible. His life experiences include being visited by a Russian sub while sailing with a Russian Princess in the sea of Cortez to working in Hollywood and building the motorcycles in "Easy Rider". An original member of the 60's motorcycle gang "Chosen Few", Capitan has also studied photography and art in New York and France. Now sailing single-handed on S/V Amistad, he is now on his way to Africa. His quiet demeanor and warm smile quickly connected with Amy and he often brings fresh cookies from his favorite vendor for the kids. Capitan is one wearing the sunglasses in the photo below.

Fried Plantain, Sorel and Capitan Medinoche share one thing in common. Each has added a wonderfully new and colorful thread to the tapestry that is our lives. Fried Plantain will be a fun family memory and a taste treat I am sure we will enjoy for years. Roger, Frankie and Capitan will always be remembered as gracious, caring friends who took the time to befriend the new cruisers on the dock. Our prayer is that we can live life at a pace that allows us to see the daily serendipities that come into our lives and to be serendipity to others. Live well.

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