Posted by: catamarantwooceans | December 29, 2014

Sailing the Kuna Yala with my Family

19.12.14 – Friday – I woke up very early wishing to go out at 0500; somehow I thought there would be enough light at that hour but I had to wait until 0545 for it. The forecast was for winds of less than 10 from the northeast. Remember the reality factor of about 10 knots?  The wind blew 15-20 knots and without the benefit of the mainsail (the wind was 30 degrees off the bows, prohibiting using the jib) I had to use two engines.

The sea was quite bumpy and the fenders I left on the trampoline to dry were dancing the rumba. Attaching my harness to the safety line, I went forward to tie them to the boat. Coming back I saw the fishing rod bent and the line going slowly out. I started taking it in thinking that it was a small fish but what came out was a nice sized wahoo that yielded 20 man meals. No more fishing on that trip, unless I give some of it away.

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On the last 16 miles the wind angle became bigger and the jib was opened to replace the starboard engine. Porvenir was reached at 1530, thirty minutes before they close the offices. Mr. Lopez of the Capitania checked me in quickly and I went back to the boat for a well deserved dinner of grilled fresh wahoo.

20.12.14 – Saturday – At 0645 I saw the small twin engine aircraft approaching the runway. Jumped into the dinghy and met Nogah, my daughter, her husband Shay and the kids; Aya, a bit over 11 and Yotam, almost 10 years old. They flew through the night so were understandably very tired and went straight to bed for a few hours. Once the grownups woke up, we motored to Lemmon cays for the night. No one in that young family is a sailor; I was hoping that in the relative calm waters of San Blas there would be no seasickness.

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                              Nogah and Shay

The kids woke up on the way and were anxious to try driving the dinghy. Some slaloms and unplanned revving up of the motor occurred but on the whole we had a  lot of fun.

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                Yotam; unhappy about something

In the late afternoon Shay helped me connect the mainsail to the mast and boom. To think I planned doing it all by myself seemed ridiculous; it was hard enough for the two of us. I left fitting the new battens for the next day.

21.12.14 – Sunday – Aya tells the day’s story:                              We woke up in the morning, and got ready to sail to Dog Island. I was in the bathroom changing from my bathing suit and got slightly seasick with the rocking back and forth. We reached the island and found many people had stopped there. The island to the left was not with as many tourists. My family and I boarded the dinghy, drove to the island and relaxed there. As my grandfather came back to get us, the motor had a problem and it took a long time to fix. At least we made it back to the catamaran.

Later in the day I went to another island which was smaller than the others. I swam there with my father and rested there for a while, then when I returned my brother left for the island with my father. It was a long and tiring day. At the end of the day as night approached, we ate a delicious dinner of freshly caught lobsters from some natives of the island. They were thrashing around in the little pail they were in and they made a big mess. It was my first time eating lobsters, and they tasted really good! I was filled to the brim as we lit the candles for the sixth night of Hanukkah.

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                              Aya takes the wheel

Grandpa’s addition: Even before the kids woke up, we had to face a major "crisis"; droves of strange, half a centimeter long larvae were seen around the saloon and kitchen area. Yuck! Anti insect spray did not seem to affect them.

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We had to collect each and every one of them and flush them with salt water down the sink drain. Good thing the kids were asleep. Regarding the outboard motor problem – it wouldn’t tilt, so I could not bring the dinghy ashore. During the effort to tilt it the cover cracked. Both were dealt with when we came back to "Two Oceans". A lot of WD 40 for the axis of the tilt and fiberglass epoxy for the cover.

22.12.14 – Monday – The battens job was finished this morning; now the mainsail is fully operational. We left the East Lemmons to go to Holandes cays, about 11 miles away. The sea was really calm, but my visiting family are no sea people and Nogah and the kids did not feel very well. Aya assumed a strange position in the cockpit which made the trip bearable for her.

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We anchored in the area known as "The Swimming Pool"; As I went into the water to check the anchor I saw two strange fish under our boat. They had those wings that fan out whenever the fish felt threatened plus two hand-like fins, with which they moved sand in search of food. I think they are called Gunnards.

We took the dinghy to explore some of the small islands in the area. After dinner everybody was dead tired and we all went to bed early.

23.12.14 – Tuesday – In the morning we went ashore on BBQ island and walked around a bit. We bought drinking coconuts from the people inhabiting the island and the kids had their first experience of real coconut water straight from the tree. Took the anchor up and sailed to Coco Bandero group, one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Kuna Yala region.

After we’d been there for a while, a dinghy approached; a young couple with a toddler less than a year old, came to invite us, especially the children, to a meeting on shore, where children from several boats could play. The couple, Karina and Gonzalo, she from France and he from Spain, with their three young kids, were sailing a Lagoon 450, planning to cross the canal on their way around the world. On shore we met ladies with kids from two other boats. The children vented extra energy while the grownups had a nice talk.

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Gonzalo told us that the cruisers used channel 71 for communication; we opened the V.H.F on that frequency and heard a fantastic conversation between two yachts. It seems a yachtie had severe stomach pains; a yacht named "Southern Comfort" took him to the clinic in Nargana where he was diagnosed as suffering from a burst Appendix. He was flown to Panama City to undergo an operation. 

24.12.14 – Wednesday – Being short on veg and wishing to fill up water, we motored to Nargana, four miles away. Six years ago we were assisted by a man called Frederico, who was a yachties helper for a fee; I wondered whether he was still around. When we entered the bay we approached one of the yachts at anchor for information. "Frederico? he is probably on ‘Southern Comfort’ over there". Frederico made a big show of being happy to see me; frankly, I don’t believe he remembered our last meeting. Anyway, he is a good man to help with water and shopping and knows how to get good compensation for his work.

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He arranged for us to take 50 gallons of fresh water brought over by boat from up the river. The Water Walla did not have a pump and filled our tank using a pail and a funnel cut out of a plastic water jug.

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After filling up we went to town to search for vegetables. "It will be here in half an hour" promised one vendor. We went on across the bridge to Corazon the Jesus, the neighboring island, where we found a tienda with tomatoes, hot chilly peppers, watermelon and potatoes.

Mission accomplished, we thanked and handsomely paid Frederico, who reminded me of the coming holy day and the new year. The time was close to three pm and we wasted no time to start the engines and proceed to Green island, reputed to be one of the most attractive places around. That fact attracted a large number of yachts into the bay, which felt like a big parking lot.

25.12.14 – Thursday – I understood that whenever the Eric Bauhaus guide recommends a place, it is always full of yachts. Sometimes you want a bay all for yourself so I found a place that did not have an anchor symbol on the chart in the Naguargandup Cays and decided to sail there. The wind blew 20 – 25 knots; I put the sails in first reef and we ran to our destination at around 8 knots on the flat seas. Even from afar I could see that I was not the only one to have the above mentioned idea; four yachts were already at anchor there. We anchored near a Manta 40 catamaran from Mystic Connecticut.

I went into the water to check the anchor and an area which seemed to be a reef, to which I wanted to take the children. That area turned out to be a big fish-ball, a swarm in which a huge number small fish assumed the shape of a big creature. Back to the boat to take Shay’s Gopro, I returned to take videos of the phenomenon, plus two stingrays that happened to pass by.



26.12.14 – Friday – Another enchanted bay beckoned; it had the strange name of "Gunboat Island" and it promised good snorkeling reefs around it. From the distance we saw a catamaran at anchor in the bay; it took a while to recognize the fact that it had no mast. We anchored just behind her and later spoke to the owner. He told us that the mast was lost near San Andres, a Colombian island east of Nicaragua, the reason being a failed fitting in one of the stays. I didn’t ask but if he could not save the mast he probably lost the sails too!

The pretty island had a few shacks on it and a shed that looked like a communal dining place; probably a hostel. I went snorkeling to see whether the reefs were suitable to take the kids to; they were quite uninteresting and the sea was a bit rough. Instead, Shay took them to the island to play on shore. A local lady appeared and declared that we had to pay 10$ for the anchorage plus 2$ for each person going ashore. I’m used to the idea of paying for the anchorage but a going ashore fee seemed to be too much. We retreated back to Two Oceans. The receipt we got for our money showed that the payment was for a full month.

27.12.14 – Saturday – In search of reefs we motored to the East Lemmons where the reef near the small island southwest of Banedup is quite nice. We stayed there until after lunch and then sailed to Porvenir; my guests would be leaving early in the morning. My daughter and her family live in California so I don’t see enough of them. Their time on the boat gave me a good opportunity to bond with the young ones and vice versa. It was great fun.

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  1. A Happy new year to my dear friend


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