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The Two Captains


Monday, November 20, 2000   Achutupu & Isla Mona, San Blas, Panama

Achutupu: Latitude: 09-11.60N Longitude: 077-59.40W
Isla Mono: Latitude: 09-16.30N Longitude: 078-07.50W

We have moved twice since the last update and are currently sitting in a very beautiful inlet behind a small island called Isla Mono, and we are the ONLY Yacht and almost the only people here. The nearest village is two miles to the west. How quickly we tire of "civilization" and people!

Saturday we left Ustupu for the long 4 mile leg to Achutupu. I say "long" because the Two Captains have been sailing with the use of the GPS, computer electronic charting and autopilot steering for so long now, that eyeball navigation calls for a major change in approach. (No electronic chart availaba great sailor just to get the damn dugout to move.

We happened to anchor in a direct line from the village to what turned out to be the airstrip. Since this was to be just an overnight stop, to regain our composure and wait for better sun light on Sunday, we choose not to run into the village and check in with the Sahila, pay our $6.00 and give a few pounds of candy out to the local kids. Instead we figured we'd stay on the boat, read, relax and enjoy some time without all of our yachtie friends at our sides. Little did we realize that at the airstrip on the mainland softball games were underway and about 50 to 75 per cent of the villagers were there. Those that weren't already at the games were on their way to the games, and all wanted a better view of the big white sailboat in the bay. These people are amazingly shy, friendly and CURIOUS, all at once. All the kids start shouting "Hola" as soon as they can see us. They continue to shout until we turn, look at them, wave and call "Hola" back. Then they immediately giggle, cover their faces and look away and the adults just smile, laugh, point at something, and finally wave back. A couple of hours later it rained; guess what, somewhere between 300 and 500 hundred Indians in dugout canoes -- a few with engines, more with sails and the majority under paddle -- some with as many as 25 people in them, all passed by the boat in the rain to look and wave as they headed home. So much for the relaxing afterle for this first stretch, and when we finally crossed into a charted area, we found ourselves driving over islands! Hmmmm.) What a concept: look out side and steer the boat BETWEEN the breaking waters over the reefs and shallow areas, identify the landmarks to plot your position!!!! Whew! Good thing the hops are short because the stomach can't take the stress for very long. Other than that, no problem, we are learning a new boating skill. HA!!!

Achutupu is another large "village" with thousands of resident Indians. One of the pecularities of this village is thattheisland is a mile and a half off the main land, and they have no fresh water. So, the women man the dugouts with various type of sails attached, and they fetch water from the mainland, EVERYDAY. The women here are expert sailors, even if they don't sail out in the open ocean. With the sails made up of patched together "feed sacks", strips of different materials, lots of holes from rot, wind and sun, you'd have to be noon.

Sunday morning we were up at our usual time for coffee, about 7 AM. Walked out in the cockpit with cup in hand to be greeted by 3 or 4 canoes going by (within arms reach) on the way to the ball field. For the next 2 hours there was an endless procession of wavers amd smilers. All very nice, but we felt like we were parked in the middle of Macy's Parade for two days. Time to head out to the next stop.

Leaving was not so easy. From this point on it really gets touchy with the reefs and shallows. With a bright sun over your shoulder it should be a piece of cake. However, by the time I got all the mud off of the 90 feet of chain from the bay floor, the the bright sun had turned to haze with a thin layer of high clouds. The first two areas to go around in the bay we fairly clear so we decided to continue to move. Once we cleared them, however, we never saw another shallow area that we were supposed to see. YIKES!! Anyway, with the help of the fine Colombian coffee left in the pot we made it the next 5 miles, threading through various shoal areas and reefs, to this very calm, quiet and LONELY anchorage. However, we are not leaving again till the sun comes out and stays.

Once the anchor was down here, we were visited by one of the local Indians and his 2 daughters. In the Kuna culture when a daughter marries the new son-in-law moves into to the bride's family hut and goes to work for the father. Not a bad itea if you think about, and this guy looked like he was about to hit pay dirt with the girls. Anyway, we managed to buy a coconut for 25 cents (that's full retail but I felt generous), and he very quickly hacked it open with his machete. Cool coconut water and then fresh coconut meat to snack on. (Right after he left I swallowed a piece the wrong way and almost had to "sing to the fishes" over the side before Gwen got me a piece of bread and some water). Today Senor Morales is to return with lobsters for $4.00/lbs. We'll see, so far all the lobsters we have seen for sale could be big shrimp with antennae.

Late in the afternoon, after several hours of reading, (no schematics or caution paragraghs included) we jumped in the dingy for a little exploration of the inlet. Almost completely lined with mangroves with some hidden coves, this would make a great hurricane hole--YIKES, what am I saying! This would make a great place to hide from the weather, open ocean or anybody on the ocean that you did not want to see--that's better. After the dingy trip we had our usual "noodle" hour and cold beer, ALONE! The real highlight of the evening after a great pork dinner was our first movie night in the cockpit. We have a DVD player in Gwen's computer, which we had yet to debut along with four DVD discs purchased on special at Walmart. We placed the computer on the table in the cockpit facing forward and each sat in our seats on the sides. Nice movie on the inside, great starlight all around us on the outside--COOL!!! Now we have to figure out how to hook the coumpter into the surround sound sytem!!!

The sun was spotty this morning and our friends are only 5 miles east of us. They won't leave without the sun--strange! So we are planning having a nice day in Mono alone. Only 10 miles to go to be in a position to pick up Diane and Alex in 10 days; I think we can make it if the coffee and Maalox hold out. As I'm finishing this the sun is really coming out and it suddenly looks the way paradise is supposed to look: the greens are bright, the water is aqua, and we can actually see the shallows where we thought they were. We may not need all that Maalox if this keeps up.


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