Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Taste of Colombia

I have to say it...Columbian food is UGLY! Not only is it scary looking, but it is also bland - no spicy kick whatsoever, and much of the street food is deep fat fried. But, after whining about it for a couple of weeks, we have discovered some really tasty items!

Here's an example - the traditional Tamale Tolimenses. I buy these little bundles at the local grocery store. It is a precooked full meal in a banana leaf for about $2 US! I just have to cut the twine, unwrap, and spread it out on a plate to heat in the microwave. Next, I hunt through the blob of food to find the chunk of pork fat and toss it in the trash.
So what is here anyway? There is always a small chunk of chicken on the bone, a tiny piece of pork ribs, about 1/2 of a hard-

boiled egg, potato slices, yellow whole peas, and a carrot piece. These are all mixed together with a delicious dough of corn and rice flours. Yep. The flavor is wonderful! Rich, and earthy.

Finally! I found an adorable model for my Snuggle Time Baby Blanket & Hat Set! This little tyke is Daisy from the sailing vessel Emma. She was born here in Columbia to her British parents. Daisy's reward for behaving like a perfect angel during our photo shoot was to receive the blanket and hat. Yes! She does need these warm items as the family will be traveling back to England in a few months and we all know that it can be quite chilly there.
And these are the latest pair of socks for the Akkol Orphanage as part of the Mittens for Akkol yahoo group's 2009 Sock Challenge. The yarn was given to me a few years ago and I'm not sure which brand it is, but the red & blue colorations came automatically from it. Because it was a partial skein, I supplemented with some Regia sock yarn that I had form another project for the heels. Then I knit both socks at the same time (on two sets of double point needles) until the yarn ran out. Then I finished the toes in the matching Regia yarn. Ta-da! Another kid's feet will be warm next winter in Kazakhstan.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Coffee in Colombia

If you want a quick splash of coffee here in Cartagena, Columbia, listen for the tinkling of a little bell. That sound signals the arrival of the coffee vendor. These wandering street vendors - always young men - sell hot, strong coffee sweetened with panela (a semi-processed sugar) called tinto. He will pour your beverage from one of an assortment of thermos containers with great flair.

And when I say a quick "splash" I mean exactly that. Check out the size of the cup! The cost? A litle less than 10 cents US. Actually, in the late afternoon this size of coffee is exactly right for me - a little pick-me-up. In this heat, I don't want a lot of hot drink. Seeing as coffee is grown here in Columbia I'm surprised that I don't see more being consumed - or available in the grocery stores.

And when I'm all recharged - I knit! Here are my "Cartagena Socks". The pattern is currently being tested by several knitters and will soon be available for sale on my website. It is worked with two 50gr balls of sock yarn. For the sample socks, I used a solid color for the vertical lace sections, and a multi-colored yarn for the garter/stockinette sections. These are a quick knit and a good use of stash yarns especially if you have a couple of odd balls that will work together. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Kuna Yala with our Boys

Having survived the transit through the Panama Canal, we spent two nights at the Shelter Bay Marina tied to a dock to relax. We put Sal, our hired-hand into a taxi that his father had sent to pick him up for the 2-hour drive back to Panama City. Because we took 2 days to get through the canal we were obligated (gladly) to pay him for 2 days of line-handling @ $90 per day - $180 US dollars.

The rest of our crew explored the rainforest and beaches around the marina and spent several hours in the swimming pool (I did laundry as it was my last chance for a while). Brett volunteered to ride the marina's van with me into the mean, nasty city of Colon to re-provision with yet more groceries. I had grossly underestimated the consumption requirements of young people as far as bread, juice and eggs are concerned. We got to drive across a gate in the canal which was very interesting. Colon has a terrible reputation - high crime area - so we just went to the grocery store.
Finally! We sailed out to Portobello, and then the Kuna Yala, San Blas Islands. It was time for lobster and crab feasts, kayaking, snorkling, and of course heady afternoon snoozes.

Here's Stephanie sprawled out in her V-Berth stateroom (up in the pointy end of the boat). Doesn't she look like a sleeping goddess? She deserved a little nap after all of the water activities. (Yes, I taught her how to knit and she went home with rosewood knitting needles!)

Ryan and Stephanie swam out to a tiny islet snorkling most of the way. You can't really see in this photo - but they are both there, walking around in the soft sand and looking at whatever was there. They reported that there were exactly 7 palm trees on that islet.

So, time to eat! The San Blas Islands are a seafood lover's paradise! The Kuna indians came by occasionaly with lobster, crabs, and fresh fish. We had lobster for dinner one night, and then crabs another night. The killing and cleaning of these critters was horrible! I couldn't do it! Thank goodness we had Josh onboard who really seemed to relish the butchering. Hmmmm...scary?
We were all amazed by the size of one of the lobsters - check out this beauty that Ryan is holding!!A little bit of melted butter, some side dishes and we ate every morsel available.

The crew" wanted to dinghy around the islands so they loaded themselves into our dinghy (named Scooty Puff Jr.). This was a rather new experience - the dinghy wiggles and heaves as more people get in it and move about."Move your foot" "Don't touch my sunburned knee" "How the heck do you make this thing go?" "I'm holding on, but don't rock the boat". Soon they were settled in and ready to go out and explore. Bye explorers!

But too soon, it was time for the big "Goodbye". They all had to go back to their jobs and lives. We motored on over to the shore of the mainland to a tiny place called Carti. The airport on the main island of Porvenir was closed for repairs. Now, you need to know that we are using the term "airport" rather loosely.

Early the next morning we took our guests to shore and walked to the Carti airport. Okay...here's the group...doing what we have all been trained to do...waiting. This is the airport building. Yep. This is it. Inside is a counter where they collect the $3 per person tax, and a small kitchen where we got scrambled eggs on bread for about $1 per person.

As we waited, we saw many SUV's and jeeps exit the jungle, cross the airstrip and offload their passengers. This is how some of the local folks travel to the cities in Panama. Carti is the end of the road. There are no more roads south of here - only jungle. There is no road that connects Panama to Columbia and therefore Central to South America. And the road to Carti is only passable during the dry season. During the wet season the road is flooded.

Eventually the little plane arrived, circled the field and landed. Our guests tossed their duffle bags in the luggage compartment and climbed the stairs into the Twin Otter airplane.

Here are my babies, who will always be my little boys, waving good-by to their mom and dad from the tiny windows of the airplane.

Bye!!! Bye!!! Come back again!! Jonesy stood out along the airstrip and waved goodbye to our boys and guests. We sure enjoyed their company and they were the BEST line-handlers. Josh had brought Jonesy his very favorite candy (Abba-Zabbas and Big Hunks) down from the states. Jonesy is still enjoying them - one treat per day. I especially enjoyed having another female onboard. There's a special bond between women and I instantly felt relaxed and happy around Stephanie. We miss you guys every day!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Yaneris Socks

Introducing...the YANERIS Socks! These are another one of my new sock designs this summer. They are knit from the top-down, with traditional heel flap and gusset construction at the ankle. The tiny 2-st cables start in the cuff, move around to create a lacy motif from dropped stitches. Yep, drop stitches on purpose.

At the ankle, the cables move around again and return to the same patterning as the cuff on the heel and top of the foot.

The lovely test knitters on Ravelry are busy testing the pattern which will available for sale soon on both my website and Ravelry. Enjoy!


The Panama Canal Part 2 of 2

After a rainy night out on Gatun lake in the rainforest, we awoke to begin waiting. Waiting for a new Advisor to arrive by boat so that we could head out on our trek through the 3 locks stepping down to the Atlantic Ocean / Caribbean Sea. Interesting wildlife shared our boat that morning – dragonflies on the fingers and a giant beetle to oogle. You know that HAS to by our oldest son, Ryan's hands - he's the only one of us who can tolerate touching these critters.

Then we were off! The second day of our adventure went quite smoothly. All tossed lines were caught and we looked like professionals. Of course, we only had to catch lines that were tossed a short distance as now we entered the locks when the water level was almost to the top of the walls so we were close to the canal workers. Then the gates would close behind us and the water level would drop quickly.

So where’s Terry in all these photos? Well, I was the cook! Yep. Somebody had to feed this crew of 8 hungry people and that took a lot of meal, beverage and snack preparation and clean-up. As the only member of the crew, besides Jonesy who was at the helm, who doesn’t get seasick, I’m assigned the “down below” chores. My boys love to cook – but they just hadn’t been on the boat again long enough to get their sea tummies. And our friends were having a tough go of it too.

The "fun" began when we left the last lock and entered the big ocean. Wind! Lots of wind - at least 25 knots right on the nose. With this wind came waves. Welcome to the Caribbean! Our poor crew were once again popping sea sickness pills and looking a little pale around their sunburns. We motored towards the Shelter Bay Marina where we planned to spend a couple of nights resting. There were big ships moored everywhere and we had to dodge these monsters in the rough seas, figure out where to go, and avoid the shallow spots where other sailboats had run aground. Quite stressful for Jonesy at the helm.

The marina was our only option as just a few weeks before, the company which operates the freight terminal had bulldozed the Panama Yacht Club! So there was no use going to anchor over in that area (known as "the flats") because there was no way to get to shore anymore - no dinghy dock.

But, we made it safe and sound. Brett had even thought enough ahead to have bought a bottle of champagne so we toasted the sucessful transit (note the classy plastic glasses). Next adventure...the San Blas Islands of the Kuna Yala.

Friday, July 03, 2009


The Panama Canal - Part 1 of 2

First, I have a confession. When I did it with Jonesy, it wasn’t my first time. Nope. I had strayed. At the last minute, our friends on the sailing vessel Sailfish needed another line-handler so my first experience transiting the Panama Canal was on another sailboat the week before our transit. I had a blast with the family on Sailfish (Hi Xiao-li, Taj, Jaki & Digger who are now in Nova Scotia!)

The transit of the Niki Wiki:
Because we were crossing from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic/Caribbean Sea (northward, yes, really – look at a map), we were scheduled for departure in the morning with the expectation that we would be out of the last lock by 5 or 6pm on the same day. Pleasure boats coming the other way (southward) leave in the evenings and spend the night on Gatun Lake in the center of the isthmus of Panama. They then continue their journeys the next day.

Jonesy had gotten up at the crack of dawn to dinghy over to the pier and pick up our hired line-handler, Sal, who was the teenage son of our driver Federico. We were standing-by the VHF radio and ready to go at 7:30am as instructed. Our rented long lines (120 feet) were coiled on deck, 18 used tires were hanging along our sides as bumpers, Mexican sleeping floor pads were secured over our solar panels, food was packed in every available space onboard, and our nerves were tingling.

So, it was like this that we waited. And waited, until 11:00am when our “Transit Advisor” arrived by Canal Authority boat and was dropped off on the Niki Wiki. Ah, Panama Time. The photo is of another boat being boarded by their Advisor.
Okay – let’s go! We left the anchorage at La Playita and motored past the Balboa Yacht Club moorings towards the first lock – Miraflores lock. Waited again. There are 3 locks up to the center Gatun lake and 3 locks down. Finally, we were instructed to follow a tugboat into the lock and to toss our starboard lines to the port side of the tug. Fine.

No problem right? The current from the water coming down into the lock from Gatun Lake was running at about 4 knots against us. As we approached the tug, their stern (back end) line-handler caught our line easily and secured it to the tug. Fine. Their bow line-handler was...where the heck was he? He was nowhere to be seen. Sal was up on our bow, line in hand with nowhere to toss it!! $&#$@! Hurry! Yikes! The current caught our bow and we started veering off to the port (left) away from the tug.

Within seconds we were perpendicular in the lock, bow pointed at one nasty, rough concrete wall and stern close to the tug. Within a few more seconds we were totally headed in the wrong direction – back out of the lock towards the Pacific. Stay calm. We continued to spin around and with Jonesy steering and pushing the throttle, we completed our full 360 degree counter-clockwise spinner in the lock.

Our Advisor radioed the tug’s Advisor, they had a few choice “words”, a tug crew member showed up to handle their bow line and we managed to get ourselves secured alongside the tug on our second attempt. Amazingly we hadn’t hit a thing! What a way to start.The giant doors of the lock closed behind us and the water started to rise. Fast. Soon we were level with the next section of the canal, the front gates opened. After separating ourselves from the tug we motored out. Whew! Only 5 more locks to go.

For the 2nd lock – also called Miraflores Lock, we were again instructed to side-tie to the tug. This time their man was ready and other than the fact that we kinda crashed into the tug and lost a fender in the process – all was fine. This lock has a modern visitor center. Tourists, who line the rooftop viewing platform and lower balconies can look down at the ships in the canal in comfort and take photos. Hey! We take photos of you and you take photos of us! We probably are in somebody’s vacation pictures.

At the 3rd lock upward, the Pedro Miguel Lock we didn’t have to tie to the tug. We were center-tied, which means we were supposed to be centered in the lock and have 4 lines from our decks to the top of the concrete canal walls. Way up there. The canal workers toss down a line with a “Monkey Fist” on the end of it. The monkey fist is a rock with line tied around it in an old nautical decorative style. This is why we covered our glass solar panels with padding – to prevent one of these rocks from breaking an expensive and important piece of equipment.

The job of our line-handlers was to snatch up the monkey fist, tie it to our long lines and signal the canal worker. The worker then pulls up both lines, and slips the large loop that we’ve tied in our line, over a bollard (a big metal stump) on top of the wall. Then as we rise in the water, our line-handlers continually take in the slack in the line. See on the top of the wall? That's a worker adjusting two of our lines from the starboard side of the boat.

All went well for us – initially. All four of our talented line-handlers grabbed the monkey fists, tied up our lines, and the canal workers hauled up the lines. Then, when the worker handling the port bow (front left) line went to slip the loop over the bollard, he fumbled the line and it fell down into the water.

As he tried to re-toss the monkey fist, we drifted farther and farther away from his side of the canal and he just couldn’t get the fist to go the distance. Eventually, we drifted right up against the rough canal walls, but didn’t hit it because our trusty crew & Advisor went forward to hold our bow off of the wall.

Finally, the canal worker gave up. The canal authority closed the gates behind us and the worker walked across the tops of the gates, got the line, and walked it back to the correct side. There was a lot of friendly bantering going on the radio between our Advisor and the canal workers. The crew on this lock had just won the contest for monkey fist tossing and now they were blowing it with us.

But, it all worked out fine - the water came rushing in and we floated up to the top of the walls. Next up is a 4 hour motor cruise across Gatun Lake at top speed - 8 knots. We are supposed to cross the lake and descend down the 3 locks on the other side to the Caribbean. Here's a photo of the "new" bridge (one of only 2 connecting North & South America) over the lake as we approached it.

During the relaxing lake portion of the transit we passed many freighters going the other way on the lake. Most were your everyday container ships, but we were excited to see this Dockwise Yacht Transport ship! See the yachts on the deck? This is how some folks get their boats thru the canal. I think we had a lot more fun and spent a lot less money. It cost us $900 to go thru the canal with a $900 deposit for damage which we have already gotten back. Shipping your yacht from ocean to ocean runs about $15,000 and up.

We also passed a few passenger cruise ships. Hey! That's "our" ship! The Holland America Line Statendam which Jonesy and I took to Mexico many years ago - B.C. - Before Cruising. This was the time of year when many cruise ships "reposition" from the Caribbean over to the Pacific Ocean for summer cruising up to Alaska.

Well, it was another case of hurry up and wait. When we finally got to the locks, we were notified that they had closed early that day for us pleasure craft. So, we "had" to spend the night tied to a GIANT round mooring out on the lake. Out on a lake, in the middle of the rainforest, with only another sailboat which had come from the other direction moored to another buoy.

We were indeed happy campers! Nothing better to do than flop out on the decks and listen to the monkeys howling in the rainforest and the birds squawking to each other. A Canal Authority boat came and off loaded our advisor - he got to go home. There would be a new advisor for tomorrow's voyage down the locks.

Next posting: Part 2 of 2


Burro Kickstand?

Count the legs on this burro - 5? Naw, the "leg" on the left side of this photo is actually the Burro Kickstand. Yep. Drive your burro up to the delivery site, drop the kickstand and unload your bags of gravel. Actually, it's a good idea. The kickstand takes the weight of the cart off of the burro while the cart is stationary.

This little guy was hauling loads of gravel for the new dock that is being built here at Club Natutico in Cartegena. I fed him a carrot and a couple of cubes of "panela" which is a delicious local minimally-processed sugar. Locals make hot and cold drinks from this sugar, and candies of all sorts, and put it in their coffee.

The guys in the photo are chuckling because I wanted to take this photo of a burro. Silly gringa.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


The Boys

In April we had some very special guests - Our BOYS! Plus friends! We had all been planning this for a long time – coordinating our travels and their lives so that everyone could be here for the passage through the Panama Canal. We had to have 4 "line-handlers" plus a captain who drove the boat to go through the canal - so why not have our big strong kids? It’s so hard for them to get time away for work and to scrounge up the extra bucks for travel – but we love it when they do!

So here we all are on the Amador Causeway outside of the anchorage in Panama City with the city in the background. From left to right that’s Jonesy, our oldest son Ryan, me, our younger son Brett, and friends Josh and Stephanie. Those tall buildings in the background are locally known as "Cocaine Towers" - buildings that drug money built and are largely unoccupied. I was told that they launder the cash by borrowing money (clean $) from the banks to build these condos, then pay back the bank with the drug (dirty) cash.

One of the best things about having guests is that it gets us out of our routine. We go see the tourist attractions – not just the inside of boat yards and hardware stores. Everyone wanted to see some jungle wildlife so we hauled ourselves out of our bunks super early the next morning for an adventure. (Everyone except Jonesy – he wanted to do “boat chores” and I gave everyone the choice of jungle trip or boat chores. Which would you choose?)

Our local driver – Federico, took us for the long ride out to a nature observation site on the world famous Pipeline Road. This area, in the interior of Panama, is known for the large number of species of birds. As we were crawling along the dirt road to the facility, we passed quite a few “birders”. Real “birders” – folks who are totally into bird watching. They had all the gear; high powered binoculars, cameras, jungle outfits, made me feel sorta ill-prepared with my entry-level binos and only 2 bird identification books.

Anyway, we paid our fees ($20 per person) and picked up our own personal guide. He led us to the observation tower in the jungle. Great! Where’s the elevator? Oh. Stairs. So we tramped up the winding staircase to the top.

What a view! Our guide had a high-powered scope and he would find the birds or monkeys and then let us all look at them.

We saw toucans, and, um…well…um…yellow birds and blue ones and woodpeckers and beautiful butterflies. I guess I should have had Ryan (our family bird expert) write them all down for me because I’ve forgotten what everything was called. At the visitor center there were literally a hundred hummingbirds! We just hung out on the tower, scanning the tree tops, searching our bird books to identify what we could find and enjoying the view.

Finally, we decided to go down to the jungle floor and walk over to a lake for more bird life. The Panama Canal and Gatun lake were close by. Along the trail we spotted these 4” wide bare strips of earth. What were they? Looking closer we saw that they were ant trails! If you dropped a leaf in the way, the ants would quickly get together and move the leaf to the side, clearing the trail. Fascinating!

Right next to the “La Playita” (free) anchorage in Panama City, there is a Smithsonian Research Institute and a little visitor center ($2). We wandered around the grounds and saw a large number of iguanas in the trees. And – this sloth. He was just creeping along upside down along the arbor trellis. It wasn't a fence to keep him (her?) in at all - he's just wild and free. So, now I know…they are 3-toed sloths!

Next blog will be about the Panama Canal transit!

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