Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rovers Return

  Cartagena, Columbia

The Fruit Lady
Old Town Cartagena

The 200 mile  plus crossing from San Blas Islands, Panama, to Cartagena was a real endurance test. Two days and two nights of 8 to 10 foot waves, hobby-horsing across the Caribbean, casually referred to as 'the washing machine' effect…..or, ' where's the barf bag?' We did in fact make excellent speed at times,
averaging six and seven knots for the first 12 hours, with good downwind sailing at times, and almost no rain to speak of. Later on progress was reduced to a crawl when the wind turned East and we stalled out regularly crashing onto  the big seas right on the nose.
Such memories are short lived, however, and after arriving at Boca-Grande Harbour, Cartagena, we
promptly forgot our ordeal, and took in the magnificent view before us. Established in the 1500's, the
city is protected by three ancient forts and includes the old walled city of narrow streets and majestic
domed cathedrals. Nearby is the long strand of skyscrapers and beaches of Boca Grande that denote the modern,buzzing, city. Quite a spectacle, especially from the deck of Chantey at sunset, as all the lights
illuminate the scene.

Don Blas- The Pride of Cartagena
The story goes that in Cartagena's colourful past, a young officer, Don Blas de Lezo of Spain, joined
the king's service and had the misfortune to lose a leg at Gibralter at only 16 years of age. He was
soon to lose his right eye at the battle for Tolon, and then his right arm at the Battle of Barcelona!
Not one to be easily discouraged, Don Blas then volunteered to lead the fight to defend Cartagena from invasion by the British in 1740. Against incredible odds, Blas, (or what was left of him), managed to whip the Brits and went on to liberate the city. To this day Don Blas' indomitable spirit is the pride of Cartagena. What a guy!

Club Nautico Anchorage

Well all good things must end, and so must this chapter of the adventures of Chantey V. At least for the 3 months while we take a break from cruising to visit with family and friends. So much has happened along the way......the Three Amigos became The Two Amigos when First Mate Georgie had to be packed off home due to the hot weather. We avoided a near-grounding at the entrance to Mazatlan Harbour when we realized the channel had not been dredged and we had to reverse off a sandy bottom in 5 feet of water! We dunked the dinghy one night at Catalina Island with Colin and Dora aboard and had to retrieve our outboard motor and bring it in for de-watering repairs at Newport Beach. We made a spectacular surf ride into El Salvador only to  narrowly avoid a massive bee infestation.  When the queen and her hive eventually chose Bravo,  the boat next door and swarmed, driving the owners, Cindy and Adam ashore. A freak storm with gusts up to seventy knots hit Bahia del Sol two days after we departed , damaging many of the boats in the bay, one terminally. We made Daragh's dream a reality and crossed the Panama Canal into the Atlantic Ocean. Oh yes, and we got married in Puerto Vallarta along the way, making this the longest honeymoon ever, and we're still together!  Stay tuned for future adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, Daragh and Cathy, sans puppy dog, when we return to Colombia for the long trip homeward via Belize, Cuba,the Bahamas and the good old U.S.A. Until then we bid you fair winds and following seas .
Chantey at Rest

The Crew of Chantey

There are places in my past,
fading faces in a waking dream.
But though they never seem to last very long,
there are faces I remember ,
from the places in my past.

I said, Oh the deadhead miles,
and the insincere smiles,
sometimes I can laugh and cry,
and I can't remember why.
But I still love those
good times gone by.
Hold on to them close or let them go,
I don't know, but I just seem to sing these songs
and say I'm sorry for the friends I used to know.

James Taylor  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Paradise aka Kuna Yala

The San Blas Islands.
The indigenous people that live here, the Kuna’s, call their home Kuna Yala. This was the name of the archipelago of tiny islands that dot southern Panama, long before the Spaniards arrived. Officially a part of Panama, the Kuna Indians have ruled autonomously over their islands for hundreds of years.
As we dropped anchor at Porvenir, a rustic dugout canoe containing two very diminutive ladies, pulled up alongside. The Kuna are physically small, rivalled only by the Pygmies of Africa. They were draped in multi-coloured dress, adorned with colourful bracelets and nose rings, and decorated with tattoos. They spoke a strange language, but soon we realized the purpose for their visit. They waved brightly embroidered and appliqu├ęd squares of fabric, known as  ‘Molas’, a traditional local handicraft. These tiny, wizened old ladies are very persistent, and we purchased two items before they happily paddled off.
 Later we met Venancio, Master Mola maker and a real entrepreneur, who spoke English, and told us he had been perfecting this fine art for thirty five years. His beautiful Molas reflected the delicacy and elaboration of the traditional style. He drove a hard bargain but we eventually settled for one in return for some cash, half a bag of cookies, and a pair of reading glasses for his mother.
The view before us was almost surreal in its’ perfection; miniature white sand islets dotted with palm trees and grass huts, shimmering in a pool of aqua-marine waters. The Kuna are a matrilineal society where women control the decisions of their daily lives. They are forbidden from marrying outside the tribe, and there are a noticeable number of albinos in the villages. Cross-dressing is also culturally acceptable, and you may see men dressed as women, wearing jewelry and face paint.  The villages are a random assortment of bamboo walled huts with sand floors and palm-leaf roofs.
It is difficult to imagine how these simple island folk have adapted to, not only the influx of cruisers with their sailboats visiting the San Blas, but more recently the invasion of cruise ships, which often are bigger than the islands!  After seeing their photos on tourist stands in Panama the Kuna now often charge $1.00 for having their pictures taken.
Glug, Glug, Glug!
The snorkeling here at Chichime Island is amazing! At first it appeared that the only sea life on display was the usual sardines and a few very elegant Starfish. But descend a little deeper and an entire world of undersea delights appear: angel fish with black and yellow stripes, glittering mauve and purple flatfish that become paper thin when turned sideways, golden smiling sunfish, fish with both eyes on one side, polka dot fish, fish with just one giant black dot, schools of glowing silver and white fish (Piranha’s?!), all darting in and out of a living coral reef! Worlds within worlds.  Bite me! I think I even saw Nemo.