The Kunas live in villages, scattered throughout the islands. The streets are narrow sand paths. The homes are made of bamboo with thatch roofs. The floors are dirt and the furniture is mostly hammocks.
All of the women wear traditional dress. They are barefoot and have beaded bracelets up and down their arms and legs. A traditional red and yellow scarf covers their head and they wear a ring in their nose!
They all make molas, which are colorful hand-sewn squares, each with a unique design. The more expensive and intricate ones are made by sewing together many layers of cloth, then cutting through the layers to expose the colors beneath, and then using tiny, evenly spaced stitches to form the design. Then the women make the molas into blouses.
Last Sunday, an ulu (a canoe carved from a tree trunk and powered with paddles and sails) came up to our boat and there were five local ladies in it, all wanting me to buy their molas. They do not speak any English and know only numbers in Spanish and "dollar". It was overwhelming, as they each had dozens for me to choose from!
Sometimes the ulus have only the men aboard, and they want to sell their catch, which can include lobster, purple spider crab, octopus, conch, and parrot fish.
After leaving the San Blas our Canal voyage took us from the Caribbean side of Panama, starting at Colon, to the Pacific side near Balboa. It took several days to make all the necessary arrangements, including acquiring a dozen tires to use as extra fenders.
We went through the locks with a Norwegian vehicle carrier called the Terrier, 638 feet long and 105 feet wide. Vehicle carriers are like huge floating boxes and have been specifically designed to transit the canal. They can carry as many as 6000 vehicles.
We had asked for center lock, meaning that we would have two bow lines and two stern lines to the sides of the locks, but we ended up tying along side of the tug that was accompanying the Terrier. It seemed much easier as we had only to raft up with them in each lock, and they had lines to the sides of the lock that they could winch in electronically as we rose, or let off as we descended.
The weather was rather rainy, and it was a very long day. We had hired two line handlers and we also had a pilot. We did not reach Balboa until dusk, and ended up picking up a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club for the night.