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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Conundrum re Kayuka Kids: Laguna de Bluefields, Panama

Our first visitors at Laguna de Bluefield.
Their traditional dugout canoe
is called a kayuka.
“Honey, We’ve got visitors coming!” I hollered, warning Wayne, who was still busily completing our anchor set as we’d just arrived in Laguna de Bluefields, named for Blauvelt, a Dutch pirate who prowled its shores some three centuries ago.

Today it’s Laguna de Bluefields PANAMA locals looking for treasures – from their visitors.  At least they do ask, they don’t steal.

This girl was particularly sweet.
I was glad I had a suitable book for her.
Two boys, preteen boys approached.  I’d noticed them watching our entrance into the lagoon, excitedly making way for their kayuka as we readied to drop anchor.  We were ill prepared, in our “where-is-the-bathroom?  What-does-that-cost” pedestrian tourist Spanish, in our understanding of cultural correctness, and in our stock of sharable stuff. 


As did she.  Neither wanted to return them!
He enjoyed posing in my sunglasses.
How do you converse with a child when your skills in their language encompass at best a few hundred mostly wholly inadequate words?  What is appropriate?  Are we encouraging them by reinforcing a precedent that cruisers should give them stuff?  What makes sense given our boat carries little beyond what the two of us need for our journey – otherwise it gets given or thrown away post haste?


"I'm the best!" this pose seems to say.
I rifled through our navigation table, and gave them each a pencil from our pack, first sharpening them.  After several more clumsy attempts at conversation, we smiled and wished them an “Adios!”  They just looked back at us.  “Via con Dios!” Wayne added, “We have nothing more.”  He retreated to our cockpit.  Looking mildly puzzled, the boys eventually pushed off and paddled back home.

They were followed by several other sets of kids, each arriving in turn on their kayukas.  The “girls,” one solo 19 year-old mom, were more interested in conversing than the boys.  The requests varied from general to requests for clothing, books and rice.  Wanting to be even-handed, we gave them each pencils, except the one book I gave to the first girl that asked for one.  “The Supernaturals,” it was young adult fiction I’d just finished, though we were surprised they’d be interested in a book in English.

laguna de bluefield panama youth in kayuka
This gal told us she had a one year old son.
I wish we had something suitable to give her.
We left to explore the peninsula a bit.  We had no fear our boat would be pilfered while we walked about, but it might be a bit tempting for some curious albeit innocent mischief – like the time some kids set our dinghy free playing on it in St Lucia (click here for the story on our 'runaway dinghy').  We didn’t want to risk anything getting broken or disappearing.  We locked the boat up.

Walking along the trail, past the neighborhood, we waved at the families, mostly kids, stared at us in passing.  We noticed one of the kids furtively taking our picture with what looked like an iPhone.  Made me feel a little better about having less to give, and after first asking permission, taking their photos.  They each wanted to see what they looked like, and typically re-posed after seeing their first shot.

As we returned to the boat, we noticed another kayuka hovering nearby, awaiting our return.

laguna de bluefield panama
If you're lucky enough to find these
diminutive bananas, wait for them
to ripen and enjoy the best bananas
you've ever eaten! 
At last, our last visitor was a return visit from a girl who’d asked us earlier if we wanted any bananas.  Yes, I told her.  She returned with a small cluster of several green bananas, each not much bigger than my thumb.  Not what I was expecting, though recalled they looked similar to the ones we ate on our honeymoon in Kauai and were the tastiest bananas I’d eaten – ever.  I gave a dollar, as it seemed a fair trade for so tiny an amount of fruit.

Just in time - our but one of our pencils were gone.

Did we get more visitors because it was Sunday, when there was no school in session and no churches?  We don’t know. 

What would you do, in our shoes?

cruising destinations
Sunset at anchor, Laguna de Bluefields, Panama.

Location Location
Bluefields (N09.09.498 W81.54.244) is roughly 13 nautical miles from our prior night’s stop, the Zapatillo Cays (N09.15.855 W82.03.586).  They were 16 nm from alongside Bocas del Toro marina (N09.20.041 W82.14.606) where we began our PANAMA cruising.  This was written while we docked at Shelter Bay Marina (N09.22.033 W79.57.097), outside Colon PANAMA, in anticipation of family and traversing the Panama canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific and playing catch-up in internet.  

Current plan?  Take the weather window out to Portobello on Monday, then return in time to join friends and family for our transit.  It's looking like cruising the San Blas will remain on our ever-growing bucket list.  So many cool places, so little time!