Another side to Kuna

Wed 29 Jan 2014 23:00
9:26.669N 78:34.883W

We were celebrating being in a part of the world where you don't need to be locking everything away all the time, how nice it was to be able to leave our dinghy in the water instead of lifting and locking it every night. The Kuna don't use dinghies, and although some use outboards, they're all Yamaha (unlike ours) and the close communities would be suspicious if they suddenly turned up with a new one.

We were unlucky.

In Trinidad we had bought a new dinghy and outboard. We got an aluminium based RIB, instead of our Avon fully inflatable, because we knew we'd be taking it around coral reefs so an inflatable bottom wouldn't last long. Our new outboard is 9.8HP, a big step up from the 2.3 and 4 respectively ones we had before. We knew we'd be exploring up rivers and crossing large lagoons. It took us ages to get it as we had to pay cash and the cash machines would only give a little each day. So every day we maxed out our cards and went into the shop to pay a little more off. Finally it was ours. We loved our new set up - we could plane (ride on top of the bow wave), which is such fun, we had a locker to store things in on top of which is a little pad for me to sit on - my own seat! It could take our dive bottles and such easily and we could take passengers too. We buzzed around the place merrily, giving lifts to all and sundry and exploring further afield.

A few days ago we found it was gone. It had been taken in the night. The brand new painter was well tied on, it was a night of light winds, there was no way it undid itself.

We unrolled and pumped up the old Avon and got out our old outboard. We'd had both of our old ones 'serviced' in Trinidad so we were confident. No go. The float in the carburetor was stuck, it just weed petrol and didn't run. So we got the 2.3 HP one out, it ran, but only on full choke, on half throttle. It also kept on giving up. Just visiting the next door boat it died and we had to paddle the rest of the way. We were due to go eat with some other boats on a nearby island that evening, we managed to limp half way, to a friend's boat, who took us the rest of the way. On the way home we touched a reef and broke the shear pin. We had to paddle the rest of the way, and to add insult to injury our automatic light sensing anchor light had failed, so we couldn't even see our boat 'till it eclipsed the anchor light of the boat beyond. We were sad.

The following day a canoe with three Kuna turned up. They knew where our dinghy was. What's more they would let us have it back for $1,000. We didn't have $1,000. Eventually they agreed to $410, which was all we had on board. The dinghy was tied up under a tree, out of sight of inquisitive eyes, a few islands away. The contents were all there, except the petrol was gone, which we'd filled up the day before, there was just enough to get the boat back, and my croc flip flopswere gone too (Phil's were too big for these small people).

So we got it back, phew, but with a bad taste in our mouth and our eyes open wider. Mark from Field Trip was kind enough to lend us some money to see us through to Colon. We keep looking around us here at all the boats with dinghies just tied on the back thinking "If only you knew what we now know".

The thing is, here, a dinghy is not just like a car would be for land dwellers. At least on land you can walk if your car is taken, take a bus or train or cycle. You can't walk from your boat. You could swim, but without being able to transport anything, and then only to unoccupied islands - the occupied ones are ringed by outhouses on stilts, no one swims there. The good things about being here are visiting islands, going snorkeling,visiting other boats, exploring coastlines, all of which need a dinghy.

They had us over a barrel.

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