Jan 26

Isla Porvenir, Capital of Kuna Yala

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We made it safely to this small island , where there is a Kuna operated Immigration office,a hotel, restaurant, and frequent flights to Panama city. There is no village but still considered the capital of Kuna Yala.

Our engine ran well, but we needed to pump out the bilge about every 15 minutes, water still trickles in. We kept ahead it the whole way. soon as the anchor was down, we shut off the incoming through-hull, to make sure we stayed dry. There was just one other boat, a trawler, in the anchorage, when we sailed in. The weather was unsettled,  so for the next few hours we watched as 4 other boats joined us.That night we had a very uncomfortable sleep. The waves and wind tossing us around. The next morning just after daybreak, I noticed us getting closer to the  trawler. We were dragging the anchor, and on second look they were churning up sand close to the reef. We turned on the motor, and used full power to move to a safe area, pulling the anchor behind us. Some how we managed to miss the other boats in the anchorage in the excitement I didn’t notice that there were a total of 4 boats dragging including us all at the same time. All this caused by a squall with very high winds. we had been warned about the sudden, “out of no where squalls”, that come through the San Blas. A father and son from the Brazilian boat, Allegro, came over and offered to help when they saw us struggling with the manual winch. We dropped and reset the anchor probably 4 times before it bit in. we were very grateful for the two strong men for there help. Not feeling confident of getting a good sleep that night after a day of high winds we took an offer by a local to move to a spot that was more secure. the problem being a coral bed with just about six inches of sand on top, not good holding. Nester a Kuna Guide and sometimes charter boat crew, lead us to a spot just off the dock amongst the huts. What a difference, The next afternoon we dinghied to the store with a small bar and patio on the side. We toured the small island of Wichubhuala with Nester who agreed to crew on Mistress for our next leg. He showed us his physical qualities by climbing a coconut tree.


All supplies bought to these islands come by boat, the main ones being trade boats from Colombia. We watched coconut being loaded and goods being unloaded. Even children helped out. Our best place that we found was from the patio of the local hangout.We met some interesting guys who were eager to share info about their way of life, and find out about us.  Gabriel, a local who runs the ferry to the airport, told us his  favourite music is “Gons and Roshes”. Because we said we had never heard of it, he told the bartender to play it for us….apparently , he likes Rock….. Guns and Roses.

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Jan 19

Major Breakdown

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Why does everything happen at night?   Like captain Ron said “If it’s going to happen boss, it’s going to happen out there”.  We are thankful it happened while we were at anchor. there are so may reefs in San Blas you need a working  engine.

. WE HAD SEA WATER COMING IN !!!!!,  and that is never good. The previous day while sailing along our high water bilge alarm went off. It was a new item, I had bought that was actually made to sound a loud alarm when water is detected in houses. It is usually behind washing machines, dishwashers, under sinks or bathtubs or water heaters. Luckily I bought one to back up our onboard system. This water alarm made in Brampton On. by www.waterlineproducts.com saved us from sinking.

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We had finished dinner, the sun had set and it was getting dark fast. On hearing the alarm, I lifted the floorboards. to look in the bilge, I was surprised to see how much water we already had in the boat. I turned on the pump….. no sound,…. panic starting to set in,…. Breath,.. calm down,… think this through. The reason I can’t hear the pump is because it is 2 1/2 ft. under water. After checking the outflow I could see that water was indeed being pumped out. I opened the motor cover and could clearly see that we were taking on water through the heat exchanger. A boat does not have a radiator like a car, but instead uses seawater to cool a tank, filled with coolant to keep the motor at the correct operation temperature. This unit is called a heat exchanger, right now it was pumping in sea water into the boat. We tried many things in a short time but could not stop the leak. That’s when I heard the solution “shut off the intake valve” coming from Muriel. Sometimes in panic situations we don’t think of the most common sense solutions. Once I shut off the valve I started to  think about our predicament.

We are in the middle of nowhere anchored behind an island the nearest town sixty miles away. Marine dealers in Panama city, more than 5 hours away. All we would have to do, is flag down a passing fast boat, then travel 2 1/2 hrs. to Carti, a busy harbour with a direct road to the city, We could hire a jeep to take us over 2 hrs. through the jungle on the road to Panama City, which means at least one over night. One of us staying on the  boat alone, “out of the question” . We talked to the man in Cambombia  and he agreed to watch Mistress as long as we returned with Coke a Cola. We set out extra anchor chain, shut off through hulls, and boarded a fast boat to Carti at 5 am to, make the connection with the jeeps to Panama city. The only other passengers were lobsters being delivered to market. Small ones in a cooler, large ones walking around the boat.

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Fast boat = Large canoe with big engine

Slow boat = Large canoe with paddles

We were loaded into a SUV, 4 wheel drive type vehicle, their all called Jeeps, to travel through the jungle of Kuna Yala,  which is very rough. They even have a border of sorts, between native territory and mainland Panama almost a 1/4 of the total land area.

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The flag of Kuna Yala has a large swastika, but has no political connection to the Nazi symbol.  It was first used in a rebellion in February, 1925.

Our driver took us to a hotel he recommended in the downtown area with access to the Metro so we could easily travel anywhere in the city to find new parts all I can say about Panama city is we will return, right now we want to de-stress and find the part needed to fix our problem. .We will cover Panama City in a future blog post..

When we visited the Yanmar dealer, the maker of our engine, we were told the parts we required had been discontinued,.The only option for us was to seal the leak, and get to a place where a mechanic could have a look at it. No mechanic was going to come to us. Giving up on marine stores and listening to our son Jonny, “Dad real mechanics can fix anything with zip ties and silicone”. So we loaded up with both epoxy and high temp silicone.

The following morning we checked out at 5 am to start our long journey back to Mistress. We took more than a week of applying a layer,… then drying 18 hrs., …turn on the water, checking for leaks,…. re-applying, till no leaks appeared. When we turned on the engine, it was  still leaking but it was just a trickle, we had to get to a marina. Light wind so the motor needed to be used.

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Here we go next stop Porvenir !!!!!!    

Jan 12


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The Naguargandup Cays are a beautiful chain of mostly uninhabited islets scattered along a six  mile long barrier reef, they are situated close to the mainland the water is well protected and calm. We had the opportunity of spending more then a week here in this little piece of paradise. We sailed to the small island of Morbedup,  better known as Cambombia, meaning conch one of the food staples.As we were lowering the anchor an “ulu”, canoe to offer help and welcome us to the community.There are only two cousins with families who had  huts at either end of the island. Approx. 10 adults and six children. A few of the children were away during the week on a bigger island to attend school. The island is about half a mile circumference, covered in coconut trees, with no electricity. The men rise early before Sun-up, leave in their ulu’s to go fishing, or collect lobsters and conch. Others days are spent travelling to the mainland where they have farm plots, that grow bananas, breadfruit, coconuts, yucca, pineapples. and or collect fire wood.  The only income earned is by selling things to the visiting cruisers. The women offer their beautiful Molas,  which are Panama’s most famous handicraft, and are appreciated in most countries. They are intricately made by sewing and cutting different layers of colourful cloth. Each Mola is unique, and they usually show abstracted forms of birds, animals, or marine life. Some take almost a month to complete.They also sell fruit, or offer seafood meals served on a large table beside the huts, Lobster, fish, or conch with rice and plantains and fresh baked bread less, then ten dollars.

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The trading boats stop by loaded down with goods to sell. The oldest women on the island, which was Grandma, is always the first out on to the small dock to haggle with the men over prices, she bought eggs, limes, tomatoes, frozen chicken, and cooking oil. I couldn’t resist getting in on the action, whole bird, insides, head and all…..$2.

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The islands here are being threatened by 2 major problems……Global Warming and Plastic.

The oceans are rising and washing away the shoreline of the low-lying  islands, trees falling into the water.

The other problem, and one we can make a difference with, is to, stop using so much plastic. Some beaches have piles of various objects, 50% water bottles that have ended up in the water. With nobody recycling, it will remain an eyesore for a long time. Burning it is not an option. Imagine this in your own backyard, with nothing you can do about it.


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Jan 05

Islands in Kuna Yala, Isla San Blas

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Isla Pinos


This small island was going to be and is a most cruisers original landfall into the San Blas, but we changed our minds when we were still in Colombian waters.

The Anchorage on this island has a bar/restaurant that serves fresh seafood and cold Panama beer with a small beach, right out front, in a postcard setting. It also serves as a over night stopover for the boats delivering backpackers into Colombia. We had one of these boats show up with more than 20 passengers, who spent their time enjoying a lobster dinner then drinks on the beach, before,setting up hammocks and sleeping under the thatched roof.

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Snug Harbour


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At the mouth of the Rio Diablo, close to the mainland are 2 communities united by a bridge, the islands of Nangana and Corazon de Jesus. The residents have decided to give up the traditional Kuna way of life. Most of the women don’t wear molas, and the chef has little authority. Still we were encouraged to go meet with him. This is one of the most “advanced” communities in all of Guna Yala, and has some real benefits. There is a bank, but wouldn’t work for us, a health center, library and best of all, the internet, it came in better if you stood directly under the antennae near the bridge. Pages took around 30 seconds to refresh. Good enough for email.

Walking through the town we noticed the flicker of televisions from the huts. Most of them were huge sets 40 inches or more.Rum and beer can be bought freely at any of the bars., in town there are several. We found a good deal at the pool hall., $12 US for a 1 litre bottle. In the evening, just before sundown, there was fresh bread from a small bakery.

We took a trip up the river but didn’t go the 3 hrs. to a lake and waterfalls where the Kuna go to get fresh water.

The Colombian trade boats are always in the port one leaves, another one arrives.

The men all ages in the evening play basketball, the teenagers play Volleyball ,the town has won several championship awards.


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The sign list what’s for sale at the store…..beside it…We Cut Hair

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