Catalyst log February 22, 2013


Dear Friends and Family,

We are torn between two life styles here in the San Blas Islands.  There is the cruiser side with sun and fun with fellow cruisers and there is the village life with the Kuna people.  It is interesting to me how different and separate these two life styles are.  We have been indulging in the first most of the time we have been here, but this week, we will be concentrating on the latter.

Let me back track a little and share some of what has been up in the cruiser life category.  One of the things I started doing when we were first cruising was to give bread baking classes on the boat.  So many people asked about the rolled sandwich roll I had made for the pot lucks that I decided to offer a class.  This time, I had one group of  5 and a few days later, a group of 2.  I will have about one more class coming up as soon as we are in an anchorage together with those interested.  I forgot to take pictures of all of the playing with dough, but on both occasions, we were interrupted by either Venancio to sell molas, or Lisa, who just came to visit.  You will know who these molas makers are if you have been reading the logs.

On the first occasion, we had someone who wanted to buy from Venancio and so much of the time was spent doing that.

P1080009We got to eat the bread I baked which was a sandwich roll and some cinnamon rolls but the others didn’t do their dough on our boat as planned.  All reported success when they did try though.  It is fun to get the ladies together for any reason.  Trouble is that I am running out of ingredients and some are almost impossible to get locally, especially flour and butter.  Every other year, I could always lay in more after using a lot for a lesson.  Luckily, we are having company in mid March and I will send a shopping list to Panama City so they can bring things with them.

This next section is titled VEGEE TALES!

We also get time taken up with the vegetable boat that comes about every week or 10 days.  After almost 2 weeks without, we had 2 different boats come twice each within 4 days.  We made the mistake of contacting the fleet by radio to let them know the boat was in the anchorage before it actually left our boat.  We were near the back of the anchorage where they come in and so were the first boat they stopped at.  We had not yet finished buying when people started coming up on dinghy’s to shop.


That meant that he was tied up to our boat selling.  Usually, you wait your turn and he comes to your boat, but you have to be alert to signal him or he may not stop.  A few people were angry that others jumped the line, so to speak, and there was a big discussion about Vegee Boat etiquette.  On these boats you can often get chicken, eggs, beer, wine and soft drinks in addition to a range of vegetables and fruits.  The big thing is to float your egg to be sure you are not getting bad ones.  It happens a lot.  Did you know that if an egg is bad, it will float?  If it sinks, it is OK.  All these life lessons I never needed to know at home in Florida.

We spend time visiting with other boaters and with the men, the conversation turns quickly to boat projects and how to fix a broken system.  We had visited a boat with a younger couple and their two children.  He was trying to get his water maker working again.  He and Rob discussed it but a few days later, he came over to visit with Rob about it again.  Here is Rob, drawing a diagram of something he recommended.


It is so great to be on the giving side of experience as we both certainly continue to be on the receiving side.  Rob also talked with another boater who had a similar water maker to ours.  The manufacturer seemed to think the problem was a part that needed replacing and it would cost $500 plus the difficulty of getting the part here.  Rob went over to look at the water maker and found some loose wiring.  Problem solved!  If he had spent the money and waited for the part, it would have not done him any good because that was not the problem.  This happens over and over to capable, knowledgeable boaters here.  They think they have a fix and it is not.  We know boats who have been in one spot for months because they can’t fix the engine.  They have lots of help from other capable cruisers, but nobody is able to diagnose the problem and have it properly repaired.  They keep going back and forth on the arduous and expensive trip to 2-3 day trip to Panama City where hopefully a qualified repair shop will fix it.  They bring the part back, only to find that what they bought or had repaired did not fix the problem.  That is why I like catamarans!  We always have two of most things, including engines.  Thankfully, almost all of the things on our boat still work fine.

What is amazing though is how someone will come on the morning radio net and request some help or some obscure part and Rob will scoff and say, “he will never get that!”  Then, in the next second, someone comes on and has it to offer.  Of course not all issues are solved, but a remarkable number of them are, thanks to the generosity of talent, supplies and labor of the cruising community here.  The boaters really come to the aid of each other, even perfect strangers.  If only all the world could live this way.  User groups or special interest groups on the internet have been a way of spreading this connection and we use those a lot as well.  I think that generosity is easier when you understand and identify with the need.  Even as we speak, another boater called Rob on the radio for advice.  He was able to give some suggestions that helped solve one problem but he is hopping in the dinghy to go over and help trouble shoot the other issue.  It is the HAM radio this time.

Boaters are always working on their boats but we do have time for some fun.  Another boater had started calling for a Sunday Pot luck.  They also organized bocci ball on the beach and snorkel trips.  They moved out of the anchorage to another location and so I called for the regular Sunday pot luck.  It only takes doing a radio announcement and people will come.

P1080109Around here, we drink a brand of box wine called CLOS.  We like to say it is not great wine but it is Clos!  So, some people have made a new shaped wine bag to bring their beverage to the pot luck.


Often there are talented musicians who share their talent and we have sing alongs.


We really enjoy that!  It is very beautiful being in these beautiful palm covered islands looking back on the water and our boats at anchor.


It is idyllic for sure and a big draw so it is sometimes hard to leave it.  What we are looking at next though is getting more involved with the local Kuna life.  But that will be the next logs.

Our Blog master will be out of town until after March 1st but expect a lot of great pictures and interesting stories after that.  Life here is very full and I am grateful that I have friends and family to share it with.  It makes it all the more meaningful.

A correction to the last log.  Two pictures got switched.  The first picture should be the man in the pink shirt.  The first picture goes with the man with the crying child.

Fair Winds,

Sue and Rob

Aboard Catalyst

San Blas Islands, Panama

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