Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Hectic Christmas 2013 – by Gary

Christmas gets hectic for lots of folks - ours was certainly no exception!  We had originally planned to spend it quietly in a group of islands called the San Blas, a place where the traditional owners, the Kuna, live pretty much as they did pre-contact.  But as luck would have it we never got there.

A pre-Christmas Christmas dinner with friends immediately before leaving Cartagena

Soon after leaving Cartagena it was apparent Mojombo had a problem.  We had had some warning after leaving Trinidad that this was on the cards, and had ordered and received a replacement part while in Curacao. You see our stern gland – the part that seals out the seawater where our propeller shaft passes from inside the boat to the outside – was leaking.  It had started as a drip, drip, but had suddenly progressed to a steady small trickle.  We debated various actions such as turn back, carry on regardless, or leapfrog the San Blas and make for Colon.  In the end we settled on this latter option and headed for a marina called Shelter Bay adjacent Colon (a city in Panama standing at the Caribbean entrance to the canal).  We hauled out on Christmas Eve.  That day and the next were spent in furious activity to enable an early morning splash-back on the day after Christmas.  The not inconsiderable rates at this marina precluded our taking a more leisurely approach to the repair, but as well, Mojombo’s almost new bottom paint was not going to take kindly to an extended dry-out.

Mojombo at the jungle’s edge in Shelter Bay, Panama

In between our labours we fitted in Christmas as best we could.  Up with dawn on Christmas morning we found that Santa had managed to find us, notwithstanding the absence of chimney.  A new bike for Nina (she had outgrown her last and this new one is full size).  Vicki and I managed to keep it an absolute surprise and Nina was beside herself with joy.  Zeke scored an iPod nano and some books (maybe not joy but evident satisfaction), while Vicki scored the (alas small) emerald pendant set in silver (an emblematic memento of Colombia). We enjoyed a reasonably leisurely Christmas breakfast, put Nina’s new bike together (as well as Zeke’s) and sent the kids off to play while Vicki and I re-convened work on Mojombo.  Around midday we washed off the grease and the grot and sat down together for a bang-up meal of turkey, ham (bought pre-cooked and vacuum packed in Cartagena) and sumptuous salads – well done Vicki.  Then it was back to work.  By 3pm it was basically finished.

Nina and I spent much of the remainder of the day investigating the nearby jungle trails on our bikes – we even found a troop of Howler Monkeys, what an incredible eerie noise they make.  Early evening was spent in the marina swimming pool.  Later in the evening I sat down with Zeke and a computer and together we got his iPod working.  Finally we all collapsed in to bed.  That was our Christmas day!

The next morning, back in the water, we immediately back-tracked along the coast to the little town of Portobelo, that myth shrouded piratical heartland of the Spanish Main.  This is our current location and we will probably hang-out here a few weeks before transiting the canal.

Potobelo:  our current location
Our residual San Blas experience:  buying a 'mola'  a piece of traditional  Kuna reverse applique artwork (actually the design Vicki holds is very contemporary).  Some of the Kuna women come to Portobelo to sell handicrafts to the tourists.  As you can see, they are small of stature and often wear traditional clothing.  
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