CRUISIN’ WITH QUILTERS TO THE PANAMA CANAL
By Mary Stori
Who would believe a quilting needle could turn into a magic carpet?
Mine has! It’s taken me places I only dreamed about, and provided experiences I could never have
imagined. At the time of my high school graduation, I’d seen only my home state of Wisconsin and
one town in Michigan. Since then, my teaching duties in this country alone have taken me to all
but seven states.
A recent survey suggests 48% of quilters travel. The internet has not
only brought the world to our finger tips, it’s stimulated the yearning for first hand experiences.
As host for quilting cruises/tours, I get lots of questions about what we actually do on these trips,
here are some examples:
* Do we sew ? - YES
* Do you need to bring your own machine? - NO - when the project requires machines, Pfaff provides machines for me.
* Are the workshop fees included in the cruise cost? - YES
* When are classes held? - DAYS THAT WE ARE AT SEA, so you can even travel with a non-quilting partner
and not miss any of the onshore activities.
* Formal dress? - NOT TO WORRY - There are usually two “formal” nights, which does not mean wearing a
slinky cocktail dress or a tuxedo. (Though you can if you wish.) Dress styles vary a lot, wear the best
outfit you might wear to a wedding or to church. Many ships now have flexible dining options, as well as
the traditional fixed seating, so one can avoid dressing for formal night if desired. We usually choose
to dine as a group, (though again, not mandatory) either first or second seating, which allows us more
time to get acquainted outside of the classroom.
A group of over 60 happy and excited participants boarded the Coral Princess
in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Oct. 21, 2004, for our 10-day cruise to the Panama Canal. My friend, and well-known
U.K. quilt instructor Barbara Barber joined me to lead workshops. Due to the summer’s hurricanes, we weren’t
able to do the scheduled stop in Grand Cayman. Our students were ecstatic to learn we would hold classes for
a 5th day instead! That worked out to 2 1/2 days with each instructor. We were at sea the first two days,
sewing like crazy, here are the results:
Classroom (aka the Wheelhouse Bar)
Limon, stretching along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica has just begun developing
its tourism. The beauty of the country can be experienced by taking one of the numerous ship tours. Many of us
signed up for a river boat excursion through the rainforest where we were thrilled by the exotic wildlife such
as howler monkeys.
Experiencing the grandeur of the Panama Canal is on the wish list of many travelers.
It didn’t disappoint! We traveled toward the Pacific Ocean through the Gatun Locks where eight electric locomotives
guide us safely through, with only 2 feet of clearance on each side of our ship. Our captain informed us the cost
of our ship’s passage through the canal was $245,600, the highest toll paid by a cruise ship!
Passing through Gatun Locks, view from Mary’s balcony looking straight down at the trains.
We anchored in Gatun Lake and took tenders (small boats) to the dock where we boarded
buses for the various tours. I visited old Panama City, which showed signs of a grander time. The area is undergoing
a very badly needed revival, but fascinating none the less.
We were being rushed a bit by our tour guide, but some of our savvy quilt group
managed to purchase Molas from these Kuna Indians who where selling their crafts along the ocean front. The
quality of the workmanship varied a great deal, and the cost didn’t necessarily reflect the craftsmanship.
We were shocked to notice some where totally machine stitched....they tried to convince us they were hand
stitched...quilter’s can’t be fooled!!
Kuna Indians selling their Molas
Two more days at sea, then we visited Cozumel where turtle farms, spectacular
coral formations, and a zillion jewelry stores can be experienced. Next, we headed to Belize for our final
port of call. It’s located off the base of the Yucatan Peninsula, where you’ll find the world’s second largest
barrier reef, offering some of the finest diving in the world. Along with many of our group, we spent the day
touring. First, on an ecological river cruise where we were astounded by the variety of wildlife, even our
guide exclaimed how lucky we were that day. Though my camera wasn’t as fast as the critters we saw, I assure
you we saw dolphins, manatees, many huge crocodiles, monkeys, colorful iguanas (it was the mating season), and
birds galore. As we headed from the sea into the river system, I realized we might have discovered a new fashion
trend if you like the color orange. We visited Mayan ruins in the afternoon, and a final shopping stop where we
raced to make our last purchases of the cruise.
Quilters lifeboat wearable art
Iguana on the front lawn of an estate
Our final day at sea allowed most of the students to complete or nearly complete their
projects. Show and tell is always anticipated and no less so on our cruises. This quilt was shown by Virginia and
her daughter, Cynthia Chin.
Sampler quilt at show & tell
Then it was time to say goodbye until our next “traveling quilt guild meeting”. There
are many “repeaters” who travel with me and all are very welcoming and anxious to add more “members” to our group. I
hope you consider this great way to meet other quilters, learn new techniques, and explore other cultures.
I’ll be traveling again Oct. 19, 2005, with my friends at Traveling
Together - www.travelingtogether.com. It’s an 8-day quilter's tour to
Canada in conjunction with the Creative Sewing & Needlework show in
Toronto, and to Kingston, and we'll conclude in Ottawa where we will
meet with the Common Thread Quilters Guild. Visit the above website or
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. These trips
fill quickly, so make your plans now.
Mary Stori is an internationally recognized quiltmaker, fashion
designer, instructor, lecturer, judge, author, and leader of quilting
tours. Her most recent book is: “Beading Basics: Embellishment
Techniques for Quilters”, (C & T Publishing, 2004). For more about
Mary’s other books, workshops, and lecture information visit her
website: http://quilt.com/MaryS or email her at:
©2004 Mary Stori
Author: "Beading Basics" - C & T
2004 Professional Teacher of the Year