November 2009

Isla Pinos, Kuna Yala

There is a Kuna fellow David, who calls himself a guide. We spent a lot of time talking to him and learning about the Kuna culture. We met his wife and kids. They have two huts, one for the kitchen and one for sleeping. He came to the boat so I could help him with his English lessons and he gave us a root vegetable and explained how to cook it.

David was suppose to take us to the lookout but he ended up going fishing so we went by ourselves. We hiked through the humid and buggy rainforest up a never ending hill, finally we reached the radio tower. But for all that effort once we reached the top all that was there was this ugly fenced in radio tower. I couldn't figure out what we had done wrong, did we take a wrong turn? Did we not go far enough? There were three children who followed us but we could communicate in Spanish well enough for them to understand. We found out weeks later by some other cruisers who actually went with David was how you get to the lookout to see the beautiful view is to climb UP the radio tower!!

Isla Pinos was a very nice, tidy village, with very nice people. We bought a bunch of mola's from the ladies who laid all their molas on the ground for us to examine (but they would not allow me to take a picture). They are not allowed to bring molas out to the boat in this village. A couple of boats came into the anchorage and set up their volleyball net so we played a few games of volleyball. The Kuna's are very good at volleyball, basketball and soccer. We tried to do another purge of the boat, so before we left we dropped off a few large garbage bags of kids clothes and toys to David and his family.


November 3, 2009 Isla Pinos to Ustupu, Kuna Yala -- 13.86nm

Happy Birthday Mom!!

Ustupu is the biggest village in Kuna Yala (10,000 people not including the children!) therefore we won’t be swimming here. It is a reefy anchorage, not much room to manoeuvre and lots of garbage floating around. Plus all their toilets are hanging directly over the water! The policy of the congresos here is against tourism development. No photography of any kind is allowed here unless people invite it and they do not allow drawing or painting either. Villagers to not come to visit yachts.

There are two other boats anchored here, Sapphire and Argo. We ended seeing them on and off for the next six weeks. They have been cruising together for a few years and know the San Blas really well, we got together with them a few times and they told us all the really great spots that they thought we should see on our way through, such great people!

November 5, 2009 - Ustupu to Igancio de Tupile - 13.86 nm

Anyone who plans to cruise these waters, absolutley must get Eric Bauhaus's cruising guide. We were cruising during the wet season, therefore the winds and waves were at a minimum. The Bauhaus guide has many waypoints through the very reefy passages between villages - I wouldn't have wanted to do it without the waypoints, they turned out to be spot on and it reduced the anxiety dramatically (except for the 1 out of 35 that I erronously entered)!!! The day started out very sunny and warm. We had a beautiful motor through the area. We saw the mountainous mainland, different islands and villages, sailing fisherman, Kuna ladies sewing molas in ulus. It was a spectaculary beautiful scenery, the pictures don't really cut it.

All of a sudden as were making our way from waypoint to waypoint like a dot to dot picture, it started to get cloudy, dark and started to pour rain to the point where we couldn't see one mile ahead of us. We just happened to be motoring right on one of the anchor symbols on the chart so we just dropped the anchor and stopped for the night. No other boats around.

The saying that "if it is too good to be true then it probably is" is true in Kuna country as well. A fisherman came over and sold us 3 crab and 4 lobster for $5.00. We thought we were getting a great deal until we realized that that the "he" crabs were "she"crabs so we threw them back into the water. We dingyed across the bay to the island, (village – Mono Village)! They have pigs over the water in little pens so they don’t have to clean the pens. There was one mentally retarded man standing naked in the road, which we had never seen before. We have seen many albino kuna children in almost every village (they are usually sunburned), the Kuna call them "the children of the moon."

November 6, 2009 - San Ignacio de Tupile to Isla Tigre - 24.34 nm

Motored all the way, wind on the nose and not much of it .

They are more used to tourists here and the village is very nice. Ryan brought his soccer ball and of course all the kids in the village followed us. When we arrived at the soccer field they played a fun game of soccer baseball, even Cari ran a few bases. There is a restaurant in town, so we went out for a nice dinner with another boat mv Ocean Dancer. This has to be the cleanest village we have seen yet. We really liked Isla Tigre.

November 9, 2009 Isla Tigre to Nargana (Rio Diablo) -- 5.1nm

We were told that we would be able to buy groceries here and use the internet, however in our experience we couldn't do either. We did find a great bakery though, a little restaurant by the dingy dock, and a Columbian trading boat selling diesel and a few vegetables. We found Nargana to be rather dirty, garbage strewn everywhere. Nargana is one of the most modern or western in all of San Blas. Many building are made of concrete instead of the more traditional grass huts. The village does not have running water. The pipeline going up into the mountains has been neglected for years so people collect drinking water from the river. We decided to take the dingy up the river (Rio Diablo). We used the motor on the way up and drifted back using our paddles, all the kids took turns rowing and they loved it. We saw a few water walking lizards, lots of birds, and there was suppose to be a crocodile around but we didn't see it (thankfully)!

The Kunas have farming plots all along the river, they have planted palm trees for coconuts.


The children seemed to rediscover the joy of rowing since our river trip so they have been rowing around the anchorage fishing, they had fun but got bit by bugs, it is also pouring rain, but they don`t mind, they have their rain coats on and it is slightly cool for a change.

November 12, 2009 - Nargana to Green Island (Kanlidup) -- 5.1nm

The kids are continuing their new found passion for fishing while rowing the dingy around, even in the continuing rain.

Tyee III motored into the anchorage this afternoon, so that was exciting for everyone. They had some guests aboard and invited us over for a potluck. We bought these huge crabs from a local fisherman, I made ginger squares, chicken fingers, my new cream cheese appetizer - she made potatoes, salad, ribs, more crab, red wine, it was a major major feast - just as we sat down to dinner and I was about to take a bite of the biggest juiciest crab leg I have ever seen, Cari started moaning that she was going to be sick so I had to leave all the food on the table and take her home!!

I had a chance to borrow a kayak from Tyee and Lucy and I paddled around the island. The kids went ashore and tried to fly some kites and walked around the island.

You think you are on a deserted island but you are not. It is 1200 and their have already been 6 boats by today already, 3 fisherman selling lobster; 2 grocery boats and 1 master mola guy (Valencia).

Garbage is a real problem in Kuna Yala. You see garbage floating everywhere. There are no waste facilities. The garbage gets burned. Personally, we have been going to whatever island we happen to be near every few days and burning our garbage. We have been told by other cruisers not to give it to the Kunas they will just throw it into the water instead of burning it like they say they will do (for a $1). We do not know so we burn our own garbage.


November 16, 2009 - Green Island to Coco Bandero Cays, Kuna Yala -- 3.5nm

We are anchored between the islands of Tiadup and Oloscuidup. It is really beautiful here. There were very high winds last night, thunder and lightening. I beleive a few boats in the anchorage were dragging. I stayed up on anchor watch for one hour but we didn't budge. Tyee came into the anchorage so we have all been snorkelling, playing soccer and eating and drinking!


November 20, 2009 - Coco Bandero Cays to Hollandes Cays - 9.147nm

We had a beautiful sail with full main and genoa in 18-20 knots of wind. Chris went out in the dingy to see if we need to move as during this season the winds clock around so we need to be able to do a 360 at anchor. We are anchored in 8 feet of water (a nice change from the usual 30-40). This anchorage is called the swimming pool. Lots of boats come here, anchor and stay here for months. There is a boat who has been living here for 12 years. They take care of the island called BBQ island. They rake it everyday and clean up leaves etc. It is really nice with lots of palm trees and a beach. There is a cruisers pot luck here every Monday night (hence the name!). This is probably the most popular anchorage in the whole of San Blas. There are 21 mostly uninhabited islands and they lie behind a 7 mile long protective barrier reef. It is beautiful to see the large waves smash 20 feet high on the reef while we sit at a peaceful anchorage, now if it would just stop raining we would be all set.