Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ulu Sail Project, the Delivery.

                   Justino, my Kuna Indian friend, raises his new sails.

A problem with the sewing machine stopped production of the last 54 sails, for now.
 I decided to fly to Panama with approximately 75 sails stuffed into suitcases, rather than ship the all 260 sails by ship.

They were folded,

then compressed using leverage and weight

and then vacuum packed in heavy weight plastic bags before wrapping them with clear plastic wrap, to hold the compressed shape during shipping.  This allowed me to load maximum number of sails per suitcase. 
 Each black bag contained 10 main sails, so I was able to pack more than 20 sails in each suitcase.

A two legged flight to Panama City, Panama went well and as always the view of what's often called the cocaine skyline was awesome and still changing vertically.

Construction cranes seem to be on every block, as the older mansions of the city are destroyed for the new modern architectural theme.
The upper floor of the Hilton Garden Inn offered a hot tub pool and comfortable seating outside for a wonderful view of the city....especially at night.  Room prices were excellent booked online. $72. for the night.
 I hired Rogellio de Hoyo, to drive me around the next day to specialty stores, to pick up school supplies for the island's 4 schools, paint for the Kuna's ulus as well as food I would consume while out on the islands.  I've known this gent for years and he  'Know's' the city'!!

  You want it?  He'll take you to where it is!

                                                         Loading school supplies.

He drives a diesel powered, manual shift Mitsubishi mini van...(not sold in the US)  What a great vehicle!  Wish I had one.

Older, US school buses are common for mass transportation in Central America, but most often are decorated with wild paint jobs.

 Last year, when asked "What colors would you paint your Ulu's (dug out canoes)?"  Justino responded that, if they had money to, the color pallet they would use..... was a black hull with white, red and yellow trim on the upper edges and then a sky blue interior.  They could embellish the paint design and once upon a time, they did, but now money is tight.  So, I bought them the basic colors they needed in oil based exterior paints and also brushes, buckets and thinner.  Enough to paint about 10-20  Ulu's completely.  If nothing else, this should be a serious morale booster!
 On the drive over the mountains from the Pacific Ocean side to the Caribbean Sea side of the country, we noticed the continued development of an Ecological Resort.  Supposedly, this will be for anyone interested in eco tourism, but more importantly, for study and research.  Down below, shipping containers were being placed on new concrete foundations and then stacked 3 high.  They are then modified into living quarters and working spaces for workers and guests.
It's certainly a large project and not sure who is financing this.  Lots of investment from foreign enterprises.
I hired Anibal Morales, a retired US Army gentleman I have know for several years to take me over the mountains in his 4 wheel drive SUV.  He also helped in other transportation needs...  'a good guy'.  Justino was waiting with a very large outboard powered ulu to transport me and all the material over to his island group.
Once there, we offloaded all material and entered his family's complex of palapas, thru one used for cooking.   The old American flag is hung with pride facing the open waters showing love for the US, not disrespect for  the flag.  The display of the flag shows all who pass by or anchor nearby, that this family is happy to see Americans .
Justino was anxious to see the new sails, so as soon as we could get all my gear upstairs in his family's 2 story hut, I opened a bundle.  He was ecstatic with the colors.

 I was brought a late lunch, this time a fish and boiled yucca, lime and salt.

Another day, dinner was fish and fried yucca.

The elders do most of the cooking and as you see, yucca is a staple of their diet.  All cooking is done on an open wood fire that is kept burning 24/7.
Fresh fruit is grown in their fincas (farms) on the mainland.

 Mangos and pinapples.
  The men work the farms when not fishing.  The women tend to home chores, children and making molas to sell.  HEY, it sounds good, but their diet is lacking many things.
A package of oatmeal and raisin cookies went fast.  Food is usually not stored but eaten immediately.  Of course, the kids were giddy with the sweet taste.

Kids take care of kids in the Kuna culture and as soon as nature allows, they become the parents of the next generation.  Yes, that means more mouths to feed, but also another worker to help the family and later on, care for the elders.   Time flies, especially when life spans are often short.

By now, most of the islanders here, know me by sight and rather than shy away from the camera, they now ask me to take photos.  In the past, I printed them out aboard my boat and gave them the copies.  Now Walmart does the printing and they have to wait until I return...but they line up in full dress and even smile.. ;)

Ulus get old.  Time, weather and water take their toll on the grain and occasional knots in and of the wood, so the craft of building new ulus has not been forgotten and repair is ongoing.

 As much as possible, they are repaired.  A local young craftsman works every day, chopping and carving new ulus.
New log has just been started.  It begins with typical but expert axe work.

He begins with the base of a tree and works with basic hand tools.

 Sadly, my 4 day stay and attempt at delivery of the 80 sails I brought, was interrupted by 2 days of heavy rain and winds.  The palapa shook seriously... in the winds that ranged up to my estimate of 40-45 knots.  Measured by depth of water in an ulu, I estimate 15 inches of rain dropped in the first 3 hours.  It rained hard....all day, flooding the island homes.  Rainy season has begun.
                                               this shows the effect of just 2 hours of rain!

At the end of the second day, the rains lightened to a drizzle and the kids went out to play on the water.  The kid in the back with paddle raised, is a constant bundle of energy, always smiling and goofing around.

As they passed by, the little comedian plays his paddle.... as a guitar.... for me!

                                                 (Click any photograph to Enlarge it!)

This sail, we made last year, like others I saw, are holding up fine.  This one, had been dedicated to Dorothy.  It's taking this family to the next island.

We sailed to a number of the nearby islands when we felt safe from weather. 

On the clear days the wind died and we had to paddle miles and miles.  Yes, I paddled too!
On the last day, you could see the families out in their newly powered ulus....kind of like a Sunday drive in the family's new car!  They waved and smiled.  It was good.

This is an example of what they were using before....  Basically, these patchwork sails could only push a ulu down wind.   The sails I brought were made with real sail cloth and aerodynamic shape to work like a wing and therefore drive their boats upwind too.  No matter what the angle, they produce a much faster ride, more control and safety.
                                                                 Justino on coat #2!
Before leaving to head back to the US Wednesday, I helped Justino paint his boat 2 coats of black.  the rain had stopped, the sun was blistering. We painted.  He was a proud puppy.