Beware the fertile ants.

25 Jan


Well…it’s been a while. We don’t carry satellite comms on Alliance, so internet has to be begged and borrowed from the locals in a place where power was only first introduced a year ago, and indoor plumbing does not exist any where in the 365 islands. I’m speaking, of course, of Kuna Yala.




Rewind a few weeks. We left Cape Charles, Virginia on Christmas Eve, heading out late in the afternoon. We cleared the colregs line bound for sea and broke into watches for the first time at 18:00, with alpha watch assuming the ship. A watch was made up of Laura as the watch officer, myself and cousin Will as the deckhands. The watch schedule was to be a Swedish watch, wherein we would start at 0700 with two sixes followed by three fours. This meant a minimum of 8 hours off watch, with a 12 hour break every three days, and it was AMAZING. Unlike my past trips where I slowly got more and more tired, I always felt rested and well this trip. The first three days we met mild rolling seas, and half of the crew was plagued with seasickness. Of 10, six of us were offshore veterans, with four making their first trek into the wild blue. All told, we made the 1700 miles from Cape Charles straight to Cayo Holandais in 12 days, clocking multiple 200+ (nautical) mile days.  We faced very mild weather with nothing extreme to speak of.  Fishing was also excellent, with A watch being the proper fishing watch.

Will's first mahi!

Will’s first mahi!

As was the case last time, the night watches were the most amazing ever, and many times I couldn’t help smiling wildly in a moment of pure bliss.  It was odd to me to suddenly be completely overcome with a feeling of happiness, and I liked it. I now know many more stars and constellations than ever before, thanks to Laura. It was truly enjoyable to stand watch with her as officer. A few of my future posts will be direct transcriptions of my journal posts at sea.


Alliance at anchor in the Robeson Islands

Alliance at anchor in the Robeson Islands


Having arriven in Kuna Yala, we spent the first night in Cayo Holandais before pulling anchor and moving over to Porvenir in order to clear customs. After some minor paperwork issues involving proving that the volunteer crew was departing Panama once they left the ship, we went for our first local meal ashore and retired for the night. The next morning saw us to Las Islas Robeson, where we met Justino, a local Kuna guide who had served as a guide to Greg & Laura on their last visit. After arranging a trip for the next day, we once again retired. I should mention Eno hammocks. They are awesome. I have not used my bunk since we arrived in the San Blas. The Kuna sleep in hammocks, and I am doing a fine job of living like the locals do.

The crew looking out for the Robesons

The crew looking out for the Robesons



The next day, Bredio arrived (Justino’s brother in law) and we promptly set out in a giant ulu canoe headed up the Cangandi River. (Pronounced Khan Ghan Dee) I’ll continue the story of the trip with Bredio in the next post. For the time being, I am writing this in a hostel in Carti Sugdub known as the Carti Homestay. The proprietor of this fine establishment, Eulogio Perez, is an excellent host. Again, Laura & Greg have been here before, and he remembers them from the past. 2000 people make their home on the tiny island of Carti Sugdup. The volunteer crew have departed. They have been excellent shipmates, and it is nice to have made three new friends of the seagoing variety.

The volunteer crew departing Kuna Yala via panga.

The volunteer crew departing Kuna Yala via panga.

I am now in Panama City on a provisioning trip with Laura.  Our first guests arrive this coming Tuesday.  She and I will make the trek back through the jungle this afternoon, and will be back in Kuna Yala aboard Alliance by sundown.  We’re currently anchored in Carti, and we’ll haul back and head for Corazon de Jesus some time tomorrow.  Theoretically, I SHOULD have internet on the boat now…I’ve secured a smart phone with which to tether my computer and, although the network is a spotty microwave repeater that is prone to downtime, the cruisers all have net via this same process.  Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to post straight from the boat before too long, and then I can get the massive backlog of blogs and photos going.  There are more photos on my facebook as well as that of the Alliance facebook page.

Alliance way outside at Naghandup.

Alliance way outside at Naghandup.


Right….Almost forgot; the fertile ants.  So…we make this plan to go trekking in to the jungle with Bredio to see a mainland village (pics on facebook, blog post describing the trip is the next one to be posted) and Jim says to me “beware the fertile ants.”  Or at least, that is what I thought he said.  Jim was one of the volunteer crew.  He has sailed Alliance before as a relief captain, and he has extensive experience around the world as an unlimited ocean’s master and as a pilot.  He has also spent a considerable amount of time in Panama, having done the canal run many, many times.  He is a great guy with awesome sea stories.  He is quite amusing and prone to laughter so, when he gets real serious and tells me to beware, I tend to take him rather seriously.  Somehow though, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

Leaf cutter ants, which may or may not be fertile.  No one knows for sure.

Leaf cutter ants, which may or may not be fertile. No one knows for sure.

I have never heard of a fertile ant.  He tells me they are very territorial, but they don’t mark their territory.  If you inevitably stumble in to their territory, they will jump out of the bushes to chase you almost indefinitely, and their bite can be deadly.  Now, at this point in the conversation, I have a picture in my head of a massive, pissed off, ant in heat chasing my unknowing white ass through the Panamanian jungle in an attempt to kill me.  I’ve lived a sheltered life in America, and I’m used to hearing stories of all types of critters that are out to get me when visiting other countries.  I gather myself a little and ask “Can’t you just step on it if it gets too close?,” to which I get the reply “No!  They’re fast!  It’ll bite you and kill you!”  I replied “It’s an ant!  How fast can they be?”

It is at this point in the story that all parties met with confusion.  I was confused.  Jim was even more confused.  “It’s a snake!,” he proclaimed.  “What do you mean ant?!?”

B. asper, or the fer-de-lance snake.  Pic courtesy of wikipedia with Casper S listed as the photographer.  From

B. asper, or the fer-de-lance snake. Pic courtesy of wikipedia with Casper S listed as the photographer. From

You see….it turns out that fertile ants and fer-de-lance sound a lot alike.  He was trying to warn me of a venomous territorial pit viper, not a horny ant.  We all had a good laugh, and now I have to keep an eye out for ants AND kamikaze pit vipers.  Thanks for reading!  I’ll post more soon.



– CC


2 Responses to “Beware the fertile ants.”

  1. Mom January 26, 2014 at 11:27 #

    Love you Son!

    • Clownshoes January 28, 2014 at 12:06 #

      🙂 I figured you’d get a kick out of it. Love you too.

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