With an anxious mind I sat on the boat with the rest of the crew sipping our morning coffee waiting for our friends to arrive.  They were set to arrive in the small “airport” at Corozón de Jesus in the San Blas/Kuna Yalla Islands in the morning by plane from Panama City.  Although the plan for them to visit had been set long ago one must allow for flexibility in this part of the world.  Not to say that Panama runs on the coined phrase ‘island time’ but; life comes with a lot less stress if you avoid looking at your watch and then back at the time printed on your travel itinerary noticing the ever expanding margin. The estimated time of arrival given to us was 7:00 a.m.  We had learned from the other yachters who run charters in these parts that the planes never get here earlier than 8:00 a.m. and might not show until noon depending on any number of factors.  If the plane was not full they might fly to another town before heading our way.  If the pilot, crew or airport employees were late to work on that particular morning the flight schedule for the entire day might be affected. With this news we decided to just keep a watchful eye from the boat and wait for the plane to come instead of one of us sitting on a small strip of asphalt for the better part of the morning.

 

            As we were putting the final touches on what was already a clean boat trying to find things to occupy us while the anticipation of their visit grew, we heard the two prop plane break over the mountains of mainland Panama and make its approach to San Blas/ Kuna Yala.  The plane that burst through the cloudy morning was small, and could not have fit more than 10 people.  As it approached the runway the plane circled and made a second pass to get the tricky landing perfect.  By this time Rachele and I were already in the dinghy making our way over.  I waved to the plane with the hope that my friends might be looking in my specific direction.   I was later informed that my gesture had gone unnoticed as they were more concerned with the landing.  As I approached the airport, actually just a small island with a strip of concrete and a dilapidated building I was filled with the excitement of receiving our first friends from back home. With big waves and even bigger hugs we greeted the Ulmer family.  They had made it, now the rest would be living the easy life.  With two shuttles there and back we got everyone and there belongings aboard.  Since they only had a limited amount of time to spend with us I had no intension of wasting a single moment except for those that were supposed to be squandered and tossed to the wind with any good island vacation.

 

            First on the agenda was to show them how the Kuna’s lived on more densely populated islands.  Even though the Kuna live simpler than what we are accustomed to, they are not living like savages.  Corozón de Jesus is the one Island in San Blas/Kuna Yalla where a diesel powered generator supplies the island with enough electricity to power streetlights all night, keep refrigerators, and even watch there favorite programs on satellite TV.  A local informed me that the 50,000 gallon diesel tank that fuels the generator must be refilled every week.  While this island may have some modern aspects the Kunas here have still kept several of there native traditions. As I may have mentioned in earlier blogs the Kuna frown upon their photos being taken.  I passed this information on to the Ulmer’s who decided to leave there cameras aboard as we went to check out the island.  We took a pleasant stroll along the roads taking in the sights.  Little kids came up to us with warm greetings and smiles just to run off again giggling with delight.  We walked pass the local school with a computer room filled with at least 40 new laptops, a bar complete with pool table and no smoking signs, and Banco Inernational that was heavily fortified but ready for daily commerce. After making a solid lap past all the thatch made homes and along the whole islands edge I suggested a trip up the nearby river, Rio Diablo.  With Lasse, Karra, Nick, Wendy and myself all safely aboard the dinghy we began heading to the narrow entrance over the shallow delta and into the river.  The unobvious path required us to navigate through sand bars and hidden logs and branches before reaching the mouth of the river.  I was fortunate enough to have been shown the way a day earlier, by a local who helped Rachele and I run the dinghy up the river to collect fresh drinking water.  This in itself was a great day full of stories about the Kuna’s and there relationship with the river.  Our guide spoke only Spanish and what I didn’t pick up was translated to me by Rachele.  The local was a one man show only stopping in his stories to splash a little fresh river water on his face or wave to a passing friend. We had made the trip with him five times and I felt confident taking my friends though the murky labyrinth. As we came to the shallows I lifted the outboard engine so the prop was positioned just below the waters surface.  I continued ahead keeping a look out for the specific signs that would guide me through.

 

            When I was little I was fortunate to have been taught a few things about the ocean. One of the first and biggest rules I can remember was my mother reminding me continuously ‘never turn your back on the ocean’.  She was simply saying that waves are powerful and if you are not aware of a wave it can take you by surprise and force.  So after all these years of heeding my mothers warning I find myself in need of a refresher course.  In the dinghy with the Ulmers I happen to look behind us to see a small but breaking wave only a foot or so off the stern of the boat.  As the wave came it pushed the boat down and turned the port side to face the wave.  The next few moments happened in slow motion.  The boat rose higher and higher on the port side and everyone’s weight moved further and further to the low side of the boat. Lasse and Karra were on the high side and Nick Wendy and I were on the low side. At this point I new what was going to happen, it was horribly clear.  In three or four seconds of helpless eternity it all came to a splashing and soggy end. I know it is lame to quote a movie but if you have ever seen Inception it was like the scene were the van is falling from the bridge into the water.  When my head broke the surface my concern was getting the dinghy back under control and getting the moving prop away from any body parts.  Luckily we were in only a foot and a half of water and no one brought their cameras.  Even more luckily Karra had managed to stay aboard.  She took quick action and got control of the throttle.  We all climbed back into the boat and checked to make sure everyone was ok.  Minus Nick tweaking his back a little as he was tossed so unexpectedly and my shear embarrassment of dumping my friends within only a few hours of having them everyone was good.  With slightly less than high spirits I promised that from here on out they would only become submersed in water by there choice and we continued through the entrance and up the river.

             In short, the rest of the trip from the river to the islands, to the beaches to coral reefs, and all the way back to the landing strip where we had said hello only days ago was sheer pleasure.  We laughed, played, and defiantly relaxed getting a taste of that ‘island time’.  Unfortunately true to its nature island time continued with the return flight being several hours late.  The Ulmer’s missed there connecting flight to the western part of Panama, but the staff at the local airport apologetically booked them on the next flight out and only a few hours and a little of Kerra’s sanity were lost.    

Qué sera, sera.

 

To Lasse Karra, Nick and Wendy, we are so glad you came to visit One World and truly enjoyed the time spent together.  We think of your visit often and hope all is well in beautiful Colorado.

Peace and Love

Jeff and Rachele

 

Advertisements

Our story is set on our way from Cartagena, Columbia to Kuna Yala, Panama.  The wind was again at our nose and we were forced to motor the whole way.  We as always put the main and fore sails up to steady the boat as she pushed through the swell.  The weather was consistently inconsistent as rain squalls moved over the sky showering us for 30 minutes at a time.  Making the trip from Columbia to Panama means that the 36 hour open sea passage is done right away as we head to San Blas.  This also means the passengers are immediately put to the test.  Will they get their sea legs or does the consistent turning and rocking put their heads over the rails?  On this particular passage a few adjusted to the boat quickly leaving plenty of room for the other few who would prefer to be called land lovers.  As the open sea became the entrance to the Kuna Yala  Archipelago one would hope that the water would calm to that of a placid lake.  The Sea is fickle and a fresh squall ensured that there was rough water among the islands as well.

 

As we came into one of the many open channels our Captain, rightfully behind the wheel, noticed a Kuna boat “olu” out in the wind chopped water.  “Wow!” he thought “what superb sailors these Kuna are to be out in this weather.”

The Olus are hand carved canoes that take true skill and balance even in calm conditions.  As our boat came closer to the olu the situation became clear and the next few hours became tense.  The Owner was not sailing, instead he was clinging to the bottom of his capsized boat throwing up the occasional wave to make sure he was spotted.  He was in need of assistance and we were the first people who just happen apron him.  Clay announced that we needed to get ready to get this man out of the water and attempt to get his boat right side up and floating properly.  I ran to the forward locker to grab some loose line and dock lines to aid in the rescue.  The wind and water were blowing harder as the squall settled around the boats.  With a couple passes and a few tossed lines falling short of the mark we were unable to get the man or the boat where they needed to be.

 

It was obvious that the man holding onto the boat was very fatigued and in no shape to manage himself and his boat on his own.  Two of the passengers were very eager to help and asked permission to jump in and help.  They posed this question to me and as a good shipmate I waited for the Captain to make the call.  Before any OK was given and as I turned my back to the passengers I hear two splashes and look back to see the two passengers swimming in the brewing water.  Now with three people in the water, we are nowhere closer to getting the first one in.  I ran aft and got ready to through lines.  With Clay getting our boat in better position to drift down on the olu I cast the lines overboard which were retrieved.  After some solid swimming by our fearless passengers the three men and the olu were up along the side of ‘One World’ (our boats name). All three people were now safely back on our boat. The Kuna was given a change of warm clothing, water and food.  His hands and feet were were incredibly pruned and he had very little energy.  He sat quietly as we worked on righting and tying his boat to ours.

 

The process to get a capsized olu back over and free of water was no easy chore.  They weigh a freaking ton and have the tendency to flip with the slightest pressure put in the wrong place, not to mention this was a big olu (room for 5) with an outboard motor.  With all our fenders in place and four lines holding we got her behave to some degree.  The wind and choppy water made it very difficult to call the setup excellent but we did the best we could.  Still on deck with a big glass of mostly drank water and a few empty cracker and cookie packets the Kuna pointed to the water where we saw a floating object.  He explained that it was his.  So, with excellent maneuvering and fast hands we were able to do a drive-by grab of the would be lost loot.

 

The exhausted Kuna told us that he had been on his way to deliver a package from Carti to another island when his boat flipped. This happened at 4 or 5 pm the previous day.  When we got him on board it was 8 am.  This young man had just spent15 hours, through the night in rough water!  He told us that he thought he was going to die.  One of the passengers was very nice and let the Kuna use his bed.  The Kuna introduced himself, Berto, and then quickly feel into a deep sleep.

 

Our original plan was to arrive in a small island town called Carti where the passengers can get a good look at island life and learn about the local history and culture with an excellent tour and informative museum.  Berto had mentioned earlier this was ideal for him since he lived on the island.  As the wind kept pushing right at our nose we attempted to push for the island of Carti.  After a strenuous hour or so of continually bailing the filling olu and making a horrible speed of 1 or 2 knots we were forced to abandon the plan and turn away from the wind and seek refuge by another leeward island.  After two more hours making due with what we had rigged between the two boats we finally made it to a spot where we could anchor.  The anchor chain came ripping out and down as we let all 400 feet taste the salty water.  The combination of water depth at 60 feet plus the increasing wind we wanted to be sure that our anchor held.  Surrounding us was a large reef and an island, neither of which we wanted to get to know too personally.

 

What a morning!  As the adrenaline wore off and the boat settled back into island time I found myself pondering what it must have been like to be in Berto’s position.  There have been only a three near death experiences in my life but none lasted for 15 hours.  To keep a clear positive head must have been as much of a chore as holding on to the boat.  Much later that day, the late afternoon Berto arose.  We gave him a dingy ride to the nearby island so he could talk with the other Kunas.  I went along with another passenger who was Argentinean and acted as  translator.  As we found out that evening to add to the whole ordeal there were originally two men in the olu and the second disappeared in the night.  The other man was Berto’s step father and a much older man.  Berto opted to stay with us for the night and we could make room for the passenger who was kind enough to give up his bed.  That evening we got the whole boat, 11 people, to fit around the table.  Dinner was fast and the language barrier kept conversation limited between Berto and us gringos.  Besides what are you going to talk about? The weather? Berto ate heartedly and then quickly feel back asleep.

 

In the morning we pulled anchor and set motor for Carti.  Along the way another big olu with and outboard motor came along side One World.  We awoke Berto who came on deck for a quick conversation with the other men before the boat quickly speed off ahead.  An hour passed when a second local boat came along side One World.  This was a large manufactured launch with a hefty outboard that is capable of holding a dozen people and cargo.  Within only a few minutes Berto had moved to the launch and the Kuna men had untied the olu from our boat and tied it to theirs. Just like nothing had ever happened Berto and his olu were gone.  With never so much as a thank you or a hand shake of gratitude from Berto or any of the other Kunas involved at any time it was a surreal ending to a surreal story.  Not that I was upset or felt cheated, it is just a unique cultural difference one would not experience in an average encounter.  We stood in a moment where a good deed had been done and now it was over.

To truly need something doesn’t happen every day. Sure, there are lots of times when you want something. Like, I really want one million dollars or, I really want ten million dollars.  At the same time I don’t need all that money even though I would have so much fun with it.  To need is to survive.  Needing food and shelter are basic.  Being loved, a hug or a powder day can also be needs.  The scale is varying and changes with each individual.  My story beings with the need for food.

Coming to our last evening with our group of backpackers we had scheduled a nice fish BBQ dinner.  Nothing incredibly special but something that would get tummies full and happy.  The error in the meal was that we had no fish to serve.  In planning the meal we had assumed we could either catch the fish ourselves or purchase some from the local Kuna’s.  Throughout the three days amongst the islands we could not catch or buy what we needed to feed our guests. The only glimmer of hope was a small tuna that we caught trolling the first day as we entered the archipelago.  The tuna was staked and served as a side for lunch, just enough for each person to have a small taste.  This catch had been our first success after hours and hours of trolling over months of sailing.  Even though the fish was small we were excited to finally know our lures worked.

Although the Kuna’s are skilled fisherman we were only able to purchase lobster.  Now, I know what you are thinking, who cares about fish when you can have lobster!  Well, believe it or not, there are people who don’t like the delicious alien sea bug, and besides we already had them the night before for dinner and our goal is to keep a good variety of food.  Sample all the local flavors.  As the day was coming to an end and running out of options we purchased four lobsters from three tiny guys in a tiny cayuka, and pulled anchor from our personal island harbor.  This would not be enough for a full on dinner but could be modified to serve the nine people on board.

Bunny Food: By definition it is anything that comes from the hand and mind of me (Jeff) that appears on a plate and is to be consumed.  There is no recipe, there is no set ingredients and there is no guarantee that it will taste good. Albeit, my track record is good, there have been two occasions where one or more of the items thrown into the pot should have been thrown overboard instead.  One must crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

This particular dinner was to be Bunny Food.  I had a few ideas tossing around and had settled on a seafood paella.  As I prepped dinner the boat literally sailed into the sunset.  Like every other occasion we hopefully dropped the trolling lines off the side of the boat.  As I sat on deck with guests and crew we all watched the sun cast a warm glow over the clouds.  Rachele got my attention and said the end of the trolling line was making strange movements.  I went to the line to have a look excited for the potential.  I grabbed the line and gave it a pull.  Nothing.  One of the guests looked over and mentioned he had just done the same check further down the line which had made for the movement that Rachele had seen.  I stood next to the line pondering the intelligence of fish.  Then as if to reassure me of mans evolution to the top of the food chain the bungee relief system began to tighten.  I grabbed the line, A FISH!  I wrapped up the line as one of the guests pulled in the fish.  The whole boat watched in excitement as an eighteen inch cero mackerel  reluctantly came aboard.  The seafood paella just got a little better.

“Put the line back out!” yelled a passenger “No time like the present.”

The line went out for only a few minutes and there was another fish hooked.  Using the same technic we pulled in a 22 inch cero mackerel.  This one flopped and trashed around displeased with its current situation.  A great trick to kill fish quick without all the smashing and bashing is to spray alcohol into their gills.  The process is much less painful and barbaric.  A few squirts and the fish only has one or two more flippty-flops before it is all over.  The two fish would be just shy to feed the boat.  With little hesitation we tossed the line back into the water.  Alert, I stood next to the line holding it, giving it a few tugs to entice.  The extra movement worked and I was holding the line as a third fish took the bait.  Again we had another cero mackerel on board this one bigger than the rest. A good 2 feet and a few inches.  We now had plenty for a proper fish dinner.

With all the guys eager to help the fish were filleted and dinner was soon cooked, served, and consumed.  The meal came out great and everyone was very excited to eat freshly caught fish.  Our need was met at the most opportune moment.

I have a great story about changing oil.  I have been changing the oil in my car for a very long time.  My dad taught me long ago and since then I have saved tons of money by doing it myself.  The process is simple, the only real hassle for me was removing the oil filter and catching all the dirty oil that inevitably spills out.  I used to use this little tupperware that I could squeeze in place right under the filter so that once the seal was broken most of the hot black oil would fall into the catch. This never went as smoothly as I wanted it to. Inevitably oil would leak all over creating a relative mess.  So back on the boat after I had pumped all the oil out from the oil pan and  it was time to tackle the filter.  As I went to get a bowl to catch the oil Clay asked if i could also get a long screwdriver and a hammer. With these tools he hammered the screwdriver through the end of the filter and let the oil drain out  ever so easily into the bowl.  I was speechless.  As an added bonus once the oil drained you could reinsert the screwdriver and use it as a leaver to break the tension of the filter, no more awkward filter caps. These caps are always tricky and inevitably slip off the filter and make you curse like a sailor.  Always love to learn a new trick to make life a little more simple.

 

-Jeff

On our first trip to Cartagena we were able to partake in an unusual activity.  After spending three days in the Kuna Yala islands we are now faced with a 36 hour sail in open water to get from Central America to South America. It is the first and only time on our trip when we can no longer see land on the horizon. At the furthest point we are about 100 miles from land.  During the windy season December to April the sailing conditions become more intense in these waters. With plenty of Easterly winds and three to four meter swells I look forward to the adventure of some true sailing. For now we have been forced to motor the majority of the way. The wind is minimal and fickle.  At best we get to keep the sails up while the motor does most of the work. For what ever reason every time we set off in a direction the wind is always on our nose and very light.  Although we spend more money on gas there are a few pros to the clam weather. The absence of sea sick passengers and a level cooking surface make for a pleasant trip.
Making excellent time on the first day we decided to kill the engine in the placid water.  As the boat became more or less stationary we all jumped overboard to relax and cool off. The water depth was two miles and we were 100 miles from any coast. To say we were surrounded by nothing but a whole lot of water is an understatement.  All the passengers made comments on how blue and clear the water was.  Even looking through with a mask the blue seemed to be endless.  It was without a doubt the deepest water I have ever swam in.  To abandon the boat for a quick splash in the open water does not happen very often. The boat was floating just as carefree as us.  After an hour of rope swinging, diving, underwater group photos and general horseplay we all climb aboard salty and refreshed.
With only the GPS to keep a record of our location there would be no way to ever find this exact private swimming hole again. We set motor from a spot that most likely no one has or will ever swim in.  Captain Clay mentioned to the group what a treat it is to just stop for a quick dip in the middle of the sea.  With the whole boat in high spirits and cabin fever remedied we continued on to Cartagena.

My story begins by driving the rental car from Portobelo to Sabanitas to retrieve gasoline for the dinghy.  It was a cloudy calm day and Clay and I decided it would be nice to get the gas with the car and not bother with the local busses. Bringing a tank of gas on the bus might be more trouble than it’s worth.  In no serious rush Clay and I passed a local wood workers shop and decided to stop for a look (clay is an avid woodworker and a true enthusiast). A Columbian man greeted and welcomed us to have a look around.  All his art was created out of salvaged wood. He told us that he is a great scuba diver and searches for old trees that had sunk into the deep. With large pieces that weighed well over 500 pounds he described the process of getting his unusual medium to shore and turning it into a piece of art. With hours of labor for the whole process we listened to his stories as we casually walk around the open air shop admiring his work.  Even though we did not purchase any art we did buy two bags of delicious roasted coconut flakes that he said were made by a friend in Hawaii.
Moving past the ornate stumps and polished cuts exposing the rings of the trees we came to another great collection of salvaged treasures. On a shelved wall of our new found Columbian friends workshop was a vast and amazing collection of old bottles. Ranging from government issued ceramic jugs with that old timey stopper lid, to whisky bottles from England he estimated some bottles to be over 300 years old and could be sold for 100 dollars each.  With just under 200 bottles to choose from he gave us permission to touch. I put one in my hands but then thought it best to put it back before i owed for a broken bottle.  Some of the glass bottles were warped from extreme heat caused by the burning and then sinking of the ship they came from. The saying “If only these walls could talk” enters the mind.  After some more chit chat about living in Panama and a suggestion to date a local to learn the language we shook hands and said goodbye.

When traveling through life it is important to stop and smell the roses or wood shops.

Portobelo, Panama.  This quiet harbor town is located about an hour outside Colon.  Colon is the third largest city in Panama and is where the Panama canal opens into the Caribbean. Traveling down the winding coastal countryside road to Portobelo makes for a visual treat.  Dense suburban neighborhoods change to farmland and rural living.  With only one major road running along the coast it is continuously moving with trucks and busses shuttling goods and people.  Restaurants, schools and Super Mini Marts are relatively numerous and quickly identified.  Small hotels catering to local panamanians are scattered throughout offering a weekend getaway with great waterfront views.
Stray dogs use the road just as freely as the cars.  I have found that the dogs are so sure of themselves that they will wander right into the middle of the road whenever they please but have the sense to walk ever so casually to the side as a bus or car comes screaming around the corner.  I think of Charlie, (the dog I left in CO) and wonder how he would handle life as a Panamanian street tramp.  Most of the street dogs are friendly but skittish. When a dog discovers you are not going to kick it they will follow you around in hopes of more scratches behind the ears or a scrap of food. In Portobelo the same street dogs can be found each day. We have even named a few based on their personalities or physical traits. We are all partial to Licker, and try to get a pet in without being licked too much.  Mangey Black Ass reminds me of our friends dog Abby if she were a forgotten street dog.
Coming into Portobelo you pass an old fort that overlooks the harbor. Then a few cement houses that are abandoned and falling apart.  The center of town is recognizable only by the square with a newly built gazebo.  Although there are businesses occupying most of the buildings the crumbling walls and deteriorating structural integrity makes it look a bit sketchy.  They are working on the town square but most of the town is falling apart and seems to meld with the ruins of the Spanish empire that once occupied the town. Walking around is the best way to get a feel for the history here.
In 1502, during the spanish conquests, Christopher Columbus named the harbor Portobelo, “Beautiful Port.” As the town developed it became particularly important to the Spaniards. It was the main port where all the gold and treasure was brought from throughout South America and loaded onto ships where it was sent back to Spain. Across from the town square is a building that was once used as a giant vault to store the gold and keep it protected. It has been told that there were times when there was so much gold that the building could not hold it all and the overflow trickled out onto the streets. Oh the things you could do with a time machine.
Two blocks east of the old gold bank sits the pride and joy of Portobelo. A large catholic church is home to a very special and unique statue of Jesus. A Black Jesus. The specific origins of the statue are not clear. People have guessed it washed ashore from a ship bound for Spain in 1658. The townspeople at first thought that the statue was a bad omen because it was black and tossed it back into the sea.  Some time later it washed ashore again and this time the townspeople associated it with the curing of disease.  This time the statue of black Jesus was thought to be sign from God. Today thousands of Panamanians pay homage every October 21st. The greater majority walk 22 miles from the neighboring town of Sabanitas while some walk the 53 miles from Panama City all wearing purple robes. To make the homage even more serious the patrons will crawl the last mile on their hands and knees. I have been told that people watching the event will through things at the men and women who are crawling. In the evening once they have made it to the church they leave the robes on the steps.  This small town is flooded with thousands of people for this event.
Needing to get our hearts pumping we decided to go for a hike.  With the aid of our dinghy we left the town and scooted across the harbor to do the small hike up and around an old fortress. With no road access the area is quite remote even though you get a clear view of the whole town. We climbed the stairs and walked atop the fortress walls touching and looking at history, bugs and nature. The stones used to build the fortress are primarily made of old coral. The fossil patterns of the coral mixed with the green and black moss crated large walls of spectacular intricacy. Mother Nature is a great decorator. The fortress had three separate levels. The first at water level the second halfway up the hill and the third sitting a the top overlooking the harbor. The top offers the best views and is worth the hike.
There are a few things not to miss when visiting Portobelo. Captain Jack’s Hostel. Meet Captain Jack himself in his newly opened hostel. With food, beer, and all the services you would expect from a hostel Jack has got a good thing going. In town there is a panateria with great fresh baked bread and stone oven pizzas. Next to the church there is a young howler monkey kept as a pet that will entertain any who pass. Although it is great to be able to get up close and personal with our not so distant cousin it is hard to imagine that this monkey has a good life. She sits on the patio with a large chain and collar.
A word of warning for the traveler on a time frame.  On several occasions the locals of the town block the road so no cars can leave or enter.  With large rocks and dead trees tossed into the road the locals protest to the Panamanian government.  Although my spanish is not great I was able to gather enough to get the gist of the protest that caused us to miss the return on our rental car.  Apparently the government had failed to keep a promised to fix areas of the town that were damaged or destroyed in a mud slide that happen over a year ago.  As the rental car sat in the line of cars I walked to the edge of town were all the commotion was taking place.  In the street two government representatives were taking on the angry mob.  I recognized many of the people as the proprietors of the shops and restaurants.  Even though voices rose and chants came and went the arguing never broke into violence.  I stood for a while observing but eventually became tired of waiting on what looked like a solid standoff and we had already wasted enough time to be charge for another day for the car rental.  Portobelo is a nice place for a visit especially as the starting point for a voyage with us on One World!

Hanging In The Balance

The boat gently rocks side to side as she moves gracefully through the water.  Although the motor is running with a consistent hum it is still easy to find a sense of serenity at sea.  As i look beyond the boat i watch the wide open sky compete to be more expansive and more open than the sea.  Blue against blue, air against water, final frontier against final frontier.  A magnificent battle on center stage, as the sun acts as a timer counting down the daily match.  As an added bonus there is an opening and closing, the sunrise and sunset.  A ceremony where the sun sets both air and water alight in a stunning array of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples. The light comes to an end signaling the end of the daily event. The judges come back with a tie!  The event will have to be played out again tomorrow.

The boat gently rocks from side to side as she moves gracefully through the water.  I walk to the bow of the boat to adjust one of the sails.  The line I walk is not a straight line.  Not because the deck between aft and forward is crooked but the sway creates enough motion to make the otherwise simple stroll of 50 feet much more labor intense. It helps to move in time with the boat, letting yourself sway as she does.  Grabbing the stay rigging or the metal railing also holds me on board if the boat is hit by larger swell.  When to grab and stop, and when to move freely begin to feel like steps in a dance. It is important to be light on your feet and not trip over your partner.

With the option to climb the rat lines I can sit perched on the yard arm some 50 feet above the boat.  This view is truly something spectacular.  Everything is accentuated from this perch, I can see out to a further horizon and deeper into the water below.  This position is to act as look out as the boat enters shallow waters with potential threats of reef. It is also a good spot to sit and ponder.  The metal rungs on the rat lines make the climb up is easy.  From the stay rigging to the yard arm one only needs to shift and wrap a leg to become perched on the foresail mast.  It is also possible to climb the main mast. There is no room to sit, but there you are ten feet higher.  Up either of the masts the pendulum effect is felt, what are slight movements on deck are greatly amplified atop the 40 or 50 foot mast.  With a few taught cables as hand holds the lack of true security adds to the experience.  In my opinion the risk is worth the reward.

A similarly risky spot where movement is exaggerated is the very front or bow of the boat.  From the deck there is an extra sturdy piece of metal that stretches twelve feet from the edge of the deck. It is called the bow sprit and its purpose is to create more room for the jib sails and allow for a greater angle of resistance to support the tension of the stay rigging to the top of the mast.  Out on the bow sprit one finds themselves with the job of attaching the hanks, halyard and sheets of the flying jib sail.  Moving straight up and down well over 6 feet while holding a heavy sail is only made more difficult by the limited hand and foot holds. Here one must stay focused and vigilant to the task at hand.  With the risk of error there is the reward of adrenaline, that jumpy feeling you get in your stomach on amusement park rides and of course the views.  When perched here the water in front of the boat is untouched by the breaking bow.  Looking back at the boat you get to see her breaking the surface like an ice skater on a freshly prepared rink.

Below deck one does not escape the movement of the boat dancing in the swell of the moving sea.  As the day comes to an end and everyone makes their way into bed you get rocked to sleep.  Cradling you like a baby there is a real maternal connection to One World in the time before dreams.  Maybe that is why boats are always referred to as female.  The amount of soothing rolling motion all depends on the type of water you happen to be in.  If out in the open water the rocking may exceed what you might find comforting.  The sea and your stomach become one, moving and sloshing your innards seem to bounce back and forth.  I am an optimist as always, and think that the mixing in your gut only helps expedite the digestive process.  The opposite sensation can be found in well sheltered harbors.  Here the water is so calm and placid that the boat may not rock at all.  Waking to no movement can play tricks on your mind.  In the few seconds it takes to fully wake up you might not be sure where you are.

Many things occur below deck.  These daily activities are starting to make One World feel like our home.  The most common and labor intensive chore is the preparation of meals.  Each one seems to be a separate event.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all chopped mixed, cooked and baked in the galley.  As I have been reminded frequently, “there is no kitchen on a boat.”  If the boat is at harbor and the rocking is minimal the only thing you have to be careful of is not hitting your head on the port hole, and getting the fan to point just right to create much needed circulation.  Under way however the experience becomes more challenging.  As Emeril would say “lets kick it up a notch!”  The stove can be unlocked so it sways with the boat. This keeps your pots level with the pull of gravity.  This event is called gimballing and is very strange.  The first time you experience the boat healing over and you see how far the stove is tilted you almost want to grab the pots off.  Without this feature your food might end up sliding right of the stove.  There are also adjustable hands that can be secured around pots to assist in any large rogue movements.  The goal for yourself, as you fall into the cabinets and counters is to not cut or burn yourself, and to remember that the counter does not gimballe.  Keeping the food from going everywhere is easy if you don’t spread it out too much and employ the help of a sticky matt.  I must say we have had great success with our meals, this life style allows for time to plan and study cook books and attempt things that otherwise might be over looked in a normal kitchen when grabbing a quick bite.  The food we use has been purchased at local marts, from the back of trucks and even out of the locals chukkas.  We had our first experience with a floating supermarket when an ‘hola’ came from out side.  We peaked our heads above deck to see who was calling and found a full boat of supplies pulling along side One World.  It was perfect timing and not very much more expensive than going to the mainland and shopping and hauling everything back to the boat ourselves.  What service, to have your groceries delivered to your boat in the middle of a tropical island paradise.

The food we eat consists of some canned items, dried beans, rice, lots of fresh produce, and as much fresh seafood
as we can get our hands on.  Here one comes face to face with the balance of life and death.  The locals are skilled fisherman.  You can watch them everyday paddling around in their cyuka’s or ulo’s as the Kunas call them.  These hand carved canoes sit very low to the water.  It is not uncommon to see the men tossing water overboard as even a small swell splashes water into the boat.  They sit out on the water all day using only fishing line, a hook and simple bait.  Then with time practiced perfection they hand reel the catch of the day.  Snapper and tuna seem to be a favorite. Another local and my personal favorite is lobster.  Caught and snared by free divers langusta is easily found for a affordable price of about 4 dollars per pound.  When bought they are very much alive and will stay that way for the day. When purchasing the lobster from the locals we do not purchase the small youngsters or mamas carrying  eggs.  We accidentally bought a huge lobster that had eggs.  Upon noticing we tossed her back into the sea.  This is just the responsible thing to do and we hope are actions will be recognized and followed.  We do not want to be greedy or wasteful and we respects that each creature has given its life for us.  Processing the meat from a living creature to what you get on our plate may make some a little queasy.  To look the animal in the eye as you take its life connects you with what you are about to eat.  It makes you think how easily one can wolf down a double cheese burger or juicy  steak and have little appreciation of how that food came to be.  Killing my food is not going to make me a vegetarian but I imagine it would create a few more herbivores if everyone had to make the kill themselves.

When the boat is under way one can’t help but think of all the fish that live right below the surface of the water.  To elaborate on the thought one might think how good it would be to have some of those fish in your frying pan.  Getting a fish to transform from an unseen creature under the surface of the water to a tasty morsel in your stomach is not easy.  Becoming a skilled fisherman takes time, practice and above all patience.  There has been lots of trial and error.  Clay knows the most about fishing but admits his skills are limited.  His limited knowledge easily surpasses the combined knowledge of the once land locked mountain folk.  Our fishing started out with zero success week after week.  Trolling as we made passage from port to port we ended up loosing our lure as a large fish yanked the line from deck.  We were a step back from where we started.  On a sunny day at our very first anchorage in Kuna Yala (San Blas) we were greeted by the locals as they all paddled out to sell there services and wears, mostly island tours, molls and beaded bracelets.  One local by the name of Raul seemed to be expecting us.  He mentioned some of the people we had met from or previous anchor in Porto Bello.  Speaking a fair amount of english he told us how he has a small bar with cold beer and coke.  His wife who was keeping quiet in the ulu with him showed off her molas.  Raul explained she would also barbecue fish and prepare coconut rice for us and our guests at a very reasonable price.  We told him when we start bring backpackers throughout the islands we will be sure to take him up on the offer. At the end of our conversation he told us he would come back to exchange numbers so we might be able to give him advanced notice of our arrival.  On his return he asked if he could use our electricity to charge his cellphone.  Of course we where happy to oblige.  As we sat on deck making small talk he noticed a school of small fish who were hiding under our boat.  He asked if we had any fishing line.  I quickly ran to the deck locker and returned with newly purchased hooks and line.  He pulled out several feet of line and tied the end to one of our small hooks.  He asked if we had anything we would use as bait.  I made a second trip, this time to the freezer, to cut off a piece of tuna.  By the time I had returned he had already caught one with no bait!  We all watched in amazement as Raul worked the simple rig to pull out 6 inch fish.  He passed the line to me and said “mas practicar.”  I gave it a toss and watched as the baited hook slowly sank in the water.  The school of fish came to investigate as I tugged the line.  A bite!  I pulled the line quickly and with it a fish. Although only 5 or 6 inches I was pleased as punch to have finally caught a fish.  For lunch we fried them whole in butter and oil and were served with some conch that we bought from Raul for only 3 dollars.  He gave us a tip that conch is great bait, so we saved the scraps for later.

Since our lesson with Raul we have had great success with catching all types of fish.  That night we pulled five foot long snapper in a matter of minutes.  In the following days we continued to pull grunts, grouper, and yellow tail snapper.
The adventure continues.  We have arrived in Kuna Yalla (San Blas) and made our way to the airport while we await the arrival of our first scheduled guests.  Time to see what it will be like with a boat load of people…. pun intended.
~Jeff
and Sailing One World

Hello Dad-
Just wanted to send you an update on life on the boat.  We have made our maiden voyage from Shelter Bay marina to Bocas Del Torro.  There was wind, but it was coming right over her nose so we ended up motoring the whole way.  On several occasions we brought the sails out and worked on running the lines and tacking into the wind.  One World is a heavy girl, she displaces close to 50,000 lbs!  This, along with the mass amount of rigging and her hull shape makes it difficult to run close hauled.  None the less it was great to see her in action and be out on the open sea.  The rigging, terms, and processes seemed daunting but as we worked the lines the lingo has been falling into place.  To arrive at our destination on time we ended up motoring straight through the night taking 4 hour watches staggering them with two people up at all times.  I had the 12 to 4am shift, the first two hours were spent with Rachele and the last two were spent with Captain Clay.  I sat and looked at the stars, read a little on the benefits of positive thinking and watched the pitch black water sparkle with bioluminescence.  The rhythmic hum of the engine is not as intrusive as I thought it would be.  Of corse I would prefer to be under sail.  I would also like to add that while on deck we were wearing safety harnesses and clipped into the jack line (this is to appease the mom, who worries like any mom should).  When I was relieved of my shift I crawled into my berth to catch a few z’s.  The boat gently and quickly rocked me to sleep.

There are a few good ways to be woken up.  One is on your own time where you and you alone say ‘i’m ready to get up’.  Two, when your significant other is looking for some attention and grabs you the right way.  Three, when the sun is cresting over the earth and you hear the word ‘Dolphins!’  I clambered out of bed and up on deck to see a pod of dolphins swimming and playing right at the bow of the boat.  Only a few feet from where we stood the dolphins rolled around one another as they easily kept pace with the boat moving at about 6 knots.  They seemed to be doing this for the shear pleasure of play, and maybe to show off a little. The effortless movements and the sleek clean look of them was captivating.  All crew on deck we hung from the bow sprit and rigging to be as close to the creatures as possible.  They eventually got board with us and moved on.  We had all just experienced a great moment.

With high spirits from the morning and a strong wind (still on her nose) we ran the sails once again.  This time we killed the engine and made large tacks, 150 degrees, which was not getting us in the direction we wanted but still great fun.
A side story:  We had been trolling from our boat hoping to catch a fish that we could eat.  Forgetting about the line when we began to set the sails and before we killed the engine the line made its way to the prop were it quickly got wrapped and tangled.  We hoved two which is basically using the sails to stall the motion of the boat.  I was concerned for the boat and volunteered to dive in and remedy the situation.  Mind you this was in open water, not particularly rough but  it was holding a current of a least 2 knots.  It was something I quickly regretted doing as I found myself under the boat wrestling with the forces of the water and the boat swaying in every direction. The tiny barnacles on the boats hull that cut my hand was the icing on the cake. I came aboard learning a valuable lesson of the power of the seas and the stupidity of humans (me).

We anchored 50 miles from Bocas on the leeward side of a small island for the day and night to relax and enjoy our surroundings.  The following morning we headed to Bocas Del Torro.  This area of Panama is a small grouping of islands off the North West side of the country.  Although small and not over developed there is still a fare amount of tourism.  The girls have visited the town several times when traveling with their family.  It had been five years since their last visit and they were amazed to see how much development had occurred. At the far southern peninsula the town sits on the edge of the water.  The water front buildings actually sit over the water.  This makes for lovely patios for restaurant patron to enjoy the service and the view.  The town has all that you would want and nothing you wouldn’t (no fast-food!).  As you casually walk along the road you pass local shops selling hand woven bracelets and hammocks, restaurants serving freshly caught fish and tanned surfers (or  sun burnt tourists) making there way to and from the waves.  Bikers, taxis, and the occasional long boarder pass as they go about their daily life in this small island community.  We were approached by several cute girls on the streets promoting there particular bar and the special it will be offering that night.  At first the encounter is welcome, but as the days go on and the flyers keep coming the novelty wears off.  I will soon have enough flyers to hand out myself.

We have been anchored for five days only a couple hundred feet off shore and take the dinghy to a dinghy dock when we need to use anything the land has to offer.  We were very generously gifted two collapsable bikes by the previous owner Todd, and  were able to put them to good use promoting to all the hotels and hostels.  The locals ride personalized beach cruisers complete with front baskets and rust spots.  The unique design of our bikes and lack of rust stood out in the crowd, and many children smiled and pointed at our tiny tires as we combed the streets in town.
We have had great success with our marketing.  There is the odd ball every once and a while, but mostly we are warmly welcomed and encouraged to put up our poster and leave a stack of cards.  There are several places that seem very excited about us and One World and we hope to build a strong partnership with these like minded business owners.  Sharing clients and recommending one place and service to the other.

The third day at anchor we awoke shortly after the sun and began boiling water for the coffee and preparing for the day like any other.  On deck checking a few things we noticed a storm front coming in from the North East. “looks like it is going to rain” Captain Clay observes.  Only a moment later the storm had moved on us in a flash.  Wind and rain came in strong pushing the boat and whipping at the shade tarps.  There was a moment of panic as everyone else went below deck to secure the hatches and a large gust pushed the boat out of anchor and made everything on deck fly to the port side.  My arms went out grabbing anything and everything.  Cups, towels, chairs, rope, bagged sails, buckets and fishing gear all lurched in an unwanted effort to find the salty depths.  One Worlds excellent bulwarks were able to trap the errant items as i wrestled them under the boat.  I did miss the man overboard buoy, but hey it floats. The storm came in even harder the wind was hurling rain so fast that it hurt against your bare skin.  What was once a calm bay was now alive and tousling like the water in a kiddy pool full of youngsters the water splashed everywhere.  As waves formed to whites caps the wind was there to blast it into bits, this created a rain mist on the surface of the water.  Captain Clay had made his way back onto deck and jumped behind the helm.  The Bruce anchor held fast on the bottom and One World’s anchor chain was tested by the force of the wind.  The engine was turned on as a precaution if the anchor let go.  As if the storm wasn’t big enough, even stronger gusts of wind and rain came in waves showing mother natures power.  All on deck and me in my foully (rain coat) we stood watch and faced the adventure head on. (Well actually, we kept our backs to the wind because the rain stung the face, but you get what i mean).  One of our neighboring boats added to the danger and excitement as we watched her drag several hundred feet toward several other anchored boats with no one aboard.  She was off to our port side so we were in no risk of colliding but the two catamarans aft of her could have made quite the expensive pileup.  Luckily enough the wayward anchor found a solid home and held fast for the rest of the storm.  With the storm still ragging and the temperature low enough to make me shiver we went below to dry and wait out the rest of the storm.

After several hours the storm came to an end.  The heavy rain and harsh wind had moved South leaving a light drizzle and steady wind behind.  At this time Captain Clay and I decided to board the dinghy and search for our man over board buoy.  As we made our way South we saw no bobbing buoy.  Accepting it as a goner we started motoring back to One World.  Along the way I noticed a wooden paddle floating and picked it up as a consolation for the lost buoy. The paddle is used by the locals in their tiny hand built Cyukas. These kayak shaped vessels are chiseled out from one solid trunk of a tree by the most basic of tools.  Wonder what happened to the owner of the lost paddle in the fierce storm.  With even more luck shortly there after i noticed the buoy off the starboard bow.  With nothing lost and something gained we felt quit pleased with our dinghy outing. I am pleased to have a meaningful and useful keepsake to add to our boat.

The following day we went to the into town where we heard all the tales of the storm.  Apparently the storm had been stronger than anything the locals could remember.  There had been some damages to buildings and roofs but no injuries.  Even though we might have heard a big fish story or two from the locals.  I can be confident in saying the wind speed was more than 40 knots with gusts over 50!  Even Captain Clay said he had never felt the rain sting his skin like that before.

As a mix of fun and work we decided to attend a grand opening luau for a hostel on a neighboring island.  We did what one does with a movable house, and pulled anchor to set up in a new closer location.  After the tedious task of washing the chain clean and free of the mud that had collected in each and every ring of the anchor chain we motored off to the party.  With limited instructions on the location of the Luau we made a small detour to the exposed side of the island to see if there was a convenient place to anchor.  Deciding against looking arrogant parking in front of the party we turned back to find the comfort and security of the cove on the other side of the island.

Another side story, this time of coincidence:  The previous day we had a real hankering for some fresh lobster.  We had met a local fisherman who, true to his word, came back with a bag full of lobster for $27 dollars!  With a deal like that we asked for a return visit.  He agreed and said he could return the following day.  Not giving the date as much thought we realized once we were out of the harbor and on our way to the party that we would not be there to meet our fisherman.  Rachele felt horrible for breaking the promise to such a nice man and was in the process of convincing us that we should return to our original anchorage when we passed a local fisherman a good mile or so from town.  Too far from our ship to see his face we could only make out a full bag hoisted into the air.  Captian Clay suggested we see what that man has to offer.  Pulling back on the throttle we came back to the fisherman sitting low but confidently perched in his hand carved boat.  To our delight we see the very man we would have missed. With small chit chat and lots of smiles we purchased the same amount of lobster for the same price, this time it included a fish!  We said goodbye and parted ways much happier that the seas brought us together again and that we were able to keep our word.

The beach party went great!  We had fun, ate well, and made some great contacts with owners of local hostels.  People on vacation are some of the best people to be amongst.  I was also able to get into the water and play in the light surf.  As the party came to a close we hung around the hostel talking with the owners making plans for the future.  Not overstaying our welcome we said our farewells and walked along a path through the jungle island towards our boat.  With my keen sense of direction I lead the crew along a winding path with shadows and noises that tantalized the imagination.  As we emerged from the thick jungle we realized we had come upon another hostel, “is that ping-pong?” Captain Clay asked with enthusiasm.  That is all it took before we found ourselves with a cold beer in the left hand and a paddle in the right.  Oh what fun!  After several rounds of ping-pong we decided to make haste to the dinghy made easier by an offered lift from a friend and her golf cart.  Our night ended with a late night lobster boil back on the boat.  Yum.
Now, to take you to the present moment I find myself at the hostel Casa Verde which we have made our port of call.  We use their internet and eat their dollar tacos.  For the past hour Ariel and I have been entertained by and old salt named Jon Smith who, for the past 45 years he has been sailing the world only sleeping on ‘dirt’ for less than a month in all that time!  He has the most basic of boats with no holes in the bottom and no electrical wiring.  He is what you would call a purist and of course has never-ending stories. Entertainment for hours, days even weeks possibly.

As for general life I have been busy and entertained for as long as I please.  Each day there is something to do, mostly it is fixing, cleaning, or organizing parts of the boat.  The boat was designed with a work area in the engine room.  Todd, the previous owner, left the work room fully stocked.  Tools, nuts, screws, electrical, plumbing, spares for everything, and all other types of gadgets would keep even the seasoned handyman sleeping well.  Captain Clay is a very experienced ship wright and handy with all aspects of the boat.  I have found a new teacher to fill in all the gaps I missed when under the teachings of my dad.  Just like I experienced with dad, even the simplest of projects always need an extra step to finish correctly.  Among many things, i thank my dad for teaching me patience.

On hard land I am feeling a little ‘land sick’.  It is a weird sensation that the second i get back on the water the moving in my head and body stops.  On land sitting or holding still makes the wobbling stronger and if i find myself in a confined space the swaying sensation increases.  There are times i could swear that the whole building is moving as if it were afloat.

Living on a boat i hope to improve my fishing skills.  We have some simple tools and lures for trolling while the boat is moving. While the boat is at anchor and near a reef we also purchased fishing spears.  Although not for the lazy fisherman or even the novice, Captain Clay swears it is a great way to get some delicious snapper in your skillet.  Eager as I was to try my hand with spear fishing, I was quickly reminded how much there is to learn about the marine world.  Not only were the fish hard to get close to but even identifying the fish was a challenge.  After practicing approaching fish and preparing the spear to be shot from my hand I ended up never taking the shot.  I had no guarantee that the fish would be edible and have no desire to kill something that will just go to waste.  Captain Clay had no luck either and said he only saw one fish that would have tasted any good.

Thats all for now, another chapter coming soon.
Jeff and One World

We have all heard the word ceiling, you know the part of the house that’s above you.  If you were to point to the wall of a house and call it a ceiling you might get looked at kind of funny.  But, if you point to what you land lovers would call a wall on a boat and call it a calling you would be a whizz with the nautical terms. There are no walls on boats. The ceiling of a boat is the inner siding of the boat, and is where the word originated.

As the story goes there was a time when the ceiling did not exist.  Back in the day boats were built by creating a frame and then planking the outside of the frame.  If sealed correctly this was good enough for the boat to float and thought to be good enough to carry cargo.  For the first large cargo ships this was as far as the construction went.  Food and people found themselves stuffed to the gills on boats making treks from one port to another.  These boats packed with goods, especially those that expanded as the temperature or humidity increased started to have problems.  The increased weight and stress would push directly on the planks of the ship and the planks would warp and begin to separate from one another. This would create gaps and bring in water, thus ruining both cargo and ship. To solve the problem boat builders constructed a second frame inside the first, completing it with slatted boards to create an inner chamber to contain the cargo and take the pressure off the planks that were intended only to take pressure from the water.  These boards were and still are called ceilings and the thus the term was born. This new finishing technique also stored dry goods better and created a more ascetically pleasing smooth finish.

This new interior of boats was noticed by carpenters and wealthy owners of houses as a great way to seal roofs from the inside to hide the less visually striking frame. They would use the same slotted wood technique to create a ceiling of wood across the top. Thus the term Ceiling was born and the part of the house you probably spend the least amount of time looking at our thinking about turns out to have quite a history behind it!