Panama (November 2004)
Happy Holidays.

Here is a quote from “A Pilgrim’s Almanac” by Edward Hays:
December 15th- Halcyon Festival- Traditionally seven days before and after the Winter Sostice, this
feast was believed by ancients to be a time of great peace and calm.  It was named after the halcyon
bird who was said to calm the winds and waves.  

Here’s hoping the halcyon brings calm to your holiday season so you may enjoy the ones that you love
and that love you!  The Ace crew wants you to know you hold a very special place in our hearts!

Look for two different articles by Emily and Mary in the December issue of Latitude 38.  We haven’t
seen them yet, but heard they were published.  And check our website for recent photos:  www.malindi.

We arrived in Panama on November 2.  We were to meet our friend, Alex at Isla Parida, an island near
Pedregal- a suburb of David on November 4th.  Alex was given only vague e-mail instructions about
how to meet up with us.  He was up to the challenge.   And on November 4th—almost like clockwork, in
comes a fishing boat to our anchorage with Alex aboard!  It happened to be a national holiday and a
guy was just going out to fish and Alex asked for a ride and they gave it to him!    I’m glad Alex
accepted the challenge.

We then headed to Islas Secas (that is “dry” to you!).  We had a great time with Alex—fishing,
snorkeling and he taught the kids how to play the blues on their guitars.  We ate from the sea every
night.  Alex reminded us how to harvest scallops, as we had done with him in the channel islands a
year before.  The scallops here are not as meaty as California scallops, but we enjoyed the challenge
of free diving and picking them off of the rocks.  Islas Secas is owned by a rich Californian that is trying
to build a luxury resort on this island.  He has several yurts (the round tents used by Mongolians).  He
is going to charge people $600 per night.  The biggest problem is—you guessed it on an island called
Secas—WATER!  I mean, think about it, if you are going to spend $600 per night, you want a shower
(and a hot shower) when you want a shower.  You probably wouldn’t accept the lame excuse, “Hey, its
dry season and we don’t have any water!”  But, we had lots of water while we were there.  I think it was
because I arrogantly said, “Hey, I think I know why they call this place the Secas—it hasn’t rained for
several days.”  And well, for the next couple of days straight it rained!    Now imagine, being cooped up
on a 42 foot boat with 4 other people.  Just wanted to let you know that it isn’t Paradise all of the
time!    Alex was a great sport—he was probably very happy to go home to bachelor life.

Once Alex left, we had another deadline, my parents were coming to visit on November 20th in Panama
City.    Lou and I love passages.  The rhythm of life at sea under passage is very invigorating.  (Okay,
ask me after 25 days when we make our passage from Galapagos to the Marquesas how invigorated I
feel and maybe I’ll have a different opinion!)  So, although we had planned to stop at a couple of
places, if we were sailing and the rhythm was right we just kept going through the night towards
Panama City.

We did find a nice spot for surfing and met some French cruisers who are cruising for 8 months of the
year and giving ski lessons (to make money) in France for 4 months of the year.  Lou and Martin
enjoyed the waves at this spot.  And the both caught the “best waves of their lives”.  Emily and I walked
the beach and found two beautiful sand dollars.  Unfortunately,  they are so fragile they crumbled
before we got them home.

My parents arrived safely in Panama City and stayed at a hotel adjacent to the Balboa Yacht Club
moorings where Ace is tied up now.  Emily and Martin moved right in to their hotel room and enjoyed
being spoiled for a week.  Emily is delighted that they have Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia in a store
here.  The problem is that it costs $5.84 per pint.  Yikes!  

Mom and I went by bus to a town that has a Sunday artist’s market.  We had a good time traveling by
bus and it gave us time to talk.  We have had only e-mail communication with them since we left El
Salvador.  It was nice to have time just to talk—and I didn’t have to tell my mom too many times that I
had heard that story before.  The drive through the countryside was beautiful.  

One morning there was a lot of commotion- helicopters flying over and boats speeding by the
moorings.  Lou and I looked out of the boat and there was a submarine gliding past headed for a canal
transit.  We headed into the hotel to pick up mom, dad, Emily and Martin and rushed over to Miraflores
locks to watch the submarine transit the canal.  When we got to the gate at the Miraflores Locks, we
were told by the security guard that we wouldn’t be able to see the submarine because of security
reasons. Well, after a 15 minute delay he let us in and we reached the observation posts at the
Miraflores locks.  And what would be there but the submarine preparing to go through the lock!  We
have pictures to prove it!

Another great experience that we had with my parents was going to the San Blas Islands (in the
Carribean)  where the Kuna Indians live.   I had heard that it was better to go to the more southern
islands of the archipelago.   We took off from the national airport in a DeHavilland Twin Otter.  Lou,
Dad, Martin and I enjoyed sitting behind the pilots and watching them make their short take off and
landings.   Each island has a chief and a separate economy.  So, therefore, each island (practically)
has a runway.  It is from the planes they receive many of their supplies and newspapers.  On our way
to the islands we made three landings.  On our way back to Panama City, we made five landings!  One
time Lou and I looked at each other and agreed that this was a one way runway and that we would
certainly taxi back to the other end before taking off—not these guys!  They took off almost straight
into a hill and then immediately banked to the right.  What a thrill!   

The Kunas moved from present day Columbia to the eastern coast of  present day Panama  around
the time of Columbus’ arrival on these shores.  They moved out to the islands gradually.  Now they live
very densely on these small islands.  We stayed on Uaguitupo (Dolphin Island). We had tours of the
islands that made us feel like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.  As we walked through the maze of walkways
through the huts, we encountered many Kuna women selling their molas (beautiful handsewn
tapestries used on their blouses.  They developed these blouses in reaction to European pressure
during colonialism to cover their bare breasts.  So, they decided to do it with finesse!).  The children
joined us, much in awe of Emily and Martin.  They do have fair haired Kunas.  They are called moon
children and treated very well.  They are not offspring from Europeans, but rather a genetic mutation, a
bit like albinos, but not with pink eyes.  Their eyes are very sensitive to the sun.  

It had rained so much a few days before we arrived, that it had busted some of the water pipes in the
village.  So, the people had to go in their dugouts (“cayucos”) and sailboats (dugouts with sails) to the
freshwater river.  We saw many older women paddling with three or four children in the dugout plus
every container imaginable to retrieve water in.

Emily, Martin and Mary got their noses decorated in typical Kuna fashion.  I had been warned that it
would stay on for four days.  I thought that I could wash it off if I didn’t like it.  Well, you guessed it… it
stayed on for four days.  Lou told me mine looked like Frankenstein stitches.  He has no sense of high
Kuna fashion.  Emily tried to rub hers off with soap and ended up rubbing it raw.  The scabs on her
nose lasted longer than the decoration would have.

Mom and Dad took everything in wonderful stride.  Mom bought molas to make a bed spread.  She
enjoyed the negotiating.  Every one they encountered—fell under their charm!  It continues to be a joy
to travel with them.  Emily and Martin blossom under their love.

A week is always too short a visit!  But, thankfully, they have their fully engaged lives in Topeka.  

What we are reading:  Mary-  The Blue of Capricorn,  Lou- The Wonder of Boys (about raising boys).  I’
m now re-reading the Pilgrim from Tinker Creek.  
Lou and Alex cleaning fish and scallops at
Islas Secas Panama.  This was pretty
much a daily occurrence during Alex's
week-long visit.
US submarine going through the Miraflores
locks.  You can't see all the inflatable
gunboats behind the sub, and also the
helicopter gunship flying around.  All this
security is new since 9/11, though it's hard
to see what good it does.  The sub motored
within 100 feet of our boat and all the others
in the Balboa mooring field on its way to the
Mary, Marge, Martin, Barney and Emily,
in the San Blas islands on the Carribean
side.  These islands are the home of the
indigenous Kuna people.
Marge being swamped by her new
friends on Isla Ailigandi.  Little girls wear
western clothing until they become
teenagers, when they adopt the
traditional Kuna dress, seen below.
Martin bought some some colorful molas
from this woman for gifts.  The Kuna
don't like to be photographed, but will
allow it if you buy something from them!  
Almost all of the women in the islands
wear this traditional clothing.
This is a big Kuna cayuco (dugout canoe)
with outboard motor, and we were proud of
Marge for climbing into it to get around the
islands.  Every family has one, usually
propelled only by sail and paddle