|09:28.88 N 78:37.99 W|
Thursday, January 14, 2010
We are finally in the area of Kuna Yala we have read and dreamt about! These are ideal cruising waters. There are hundreds of tiny islands covered in palm trees and sandy beaches set amidst encircling barrier reefs. Sailboats are everywhere moving silently from one island to another (with the exception of a few trawlers). Dozens of possible destinations are within a few miles of each other. Most of the islands are uninhabited. The islands belong to kuna villages located on the shore or on larger islands near the mainlands. I have heard that when there is only a family or two on the small islands, they are taking their turn maintaining the islands (and their coconuts) for the village. Apparently each family stays a month on the island until another family comes to relieve them.
Green Island was our first destination. It has one of the largest anchorages and MANY boats were taking advantage of it when we arrived. We knew the entrance was very narrow and very cautiously picked our way behind the boat at the back of the pack. Fortunately Dave was very attentive and suddenly stopped us and reversed when he found the bottom shallowing to just 6 inches below the keel! The sun was not yet high enough to see that the boat was JUST in front of the shoal. Then we caustiously wended our way AMONG the boats until we found an ideal spot at the front of the pack.
This is the view from our bow. Nothing but sea and sand and palm trees.
It is picture-perfect! EXCEPT that there really is not good snorkelling. There are only turtle grass flats everywhere. I swam around the island as far as I could before the shoals and strong current won out, then returned to the anchorage area and explored the shoals where we almost ran aground. By this time the current on the route back to the boat was very strong and I was digging in very hard to make progress. Suddenly I felt a stinging sensation on my face and left shoulder. Usually, if it is siphonophore, you just leave it alone and the pain will disappear in about 15 minutes; you should not touch the area as you will release more toxins and prolong the agony. But this time the pain became stronger and spread to my lip, my right arm and my right leg as well. I saw a purplish thread on my right arm and rolled over to try and dislodge it. Nothing seemed to help. I tore off my snorkel as it was really irritating my face and mouth. Finally, I decided to approach a French catamaran and asked them to give me a ride home. After having Dave douse me with vinegar and them stripping down and showering with cool water, I was about to rinse off my mask and snorkel. On the bend in the snorkel was a very small (1.5 inches) Portuguese man of war! Its tentacles must have been over 10 feet long to reach all the spots it hit. I had a mild fever and much pain for the next three days, but all the welts have now disappeared. I have even managed to get back in the water and swim again- the chance of it happening again are astronomically small.
The next morning most of the boats had left and there were only about four of us left in the anchorage. We had just been discussing the matter of going to the mainland for fresh produce when suddenly we saw a mirage! A lovely big ulu filled to the gunwales with fresh fruit and vegetables! Apparently this is a new service this year and everyone absolutely loves shopping at home. Unfortunately we were so busy buying all this treasure, we forgot to get a photo! EMILY GRACE was even more upset as they had left for the mola makers island and missed the reprovisioning opportunity.
They also made their trip in vain, because soon after the veggie boat, who should appear but the master mola maker, Venancio, they were going to see! He spent a lot of time aboard and we examined his beautiful work. We eventually settled on a mola depicting fruit (a papaya, I think). It is beautifully made with exquisite attention to detail. I am not overly fond of the orange colour, but love the design and workmanship.
Venancio the master mola-maker at Green Island
We have had a few days to decompress and are now eager to get on with exploring as many of these wonderful islands as we can!