02/07/2012, Darien Province of Panama
Febuary 7, 2012
Into The Darien We Go
The Darien area of Panama is an impenetrable jungle in the south only reachable by boat or plane where the indigenous Wounan, Embera, and Kuna Indians live in settlements scattered along the numerous river valleys. The Pan-American Highway, which runs continuously from Alaska to southern Chile, has its only interruption here originally because the United States wanted to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease from South America, therefore creating the Darien Gap. Environmentalists have since jumped on board wanting to preserve this amazing jungle area. Between the pictures in our Panama cruising guide and visions of a National Geographic experience, Larry has pressed hard on Ben and I to travel here on the boat. "No way" said Ben, "I don't want to see naked people!" It did sound intriguing and as we talked about going here with more of our cruising friends, peaking their interest as well, a group slowly formed and we left together on the day before the Superbowl for an unknown adventure.
Pax Nautica, Eyes of the World, and us were anchored by Saturday afternoon by Isla Iguana, excited about our new surroundings as well as sharing Ben's yellow fin tuna for dinner that night that he caught along the way. My first fish ever that I have filleted! In usual Ben fashion he says, "I HAVE to get off this boat and put my feet on land!" So off we go in our dinghy to check out the little island near Isla Iguana called Isla Iguanita. We notice right away after we land a dog off in the distance. Hmmm...is there someone here? We proceed to walk around the entire island, only seeing lots of birds, doggie footprints, and an old fishing net that at one time someone had tied three hammocks out of between some trees. Making our way back to the dinghy, there is the dog lying close by. At closer inspection, it is the skinniest, mangiest thing with a horribly damaged eye that is about three times the size of the other. It doesn't want to run away from us, but it doesn't want to come closer either. We send Ben back to our boat to get fresh water and dog treats. The poor thing could not get enough fresh water. Later that evening as we enjoyed the most delicious fish EVER, our friends teased me lovingly that only I could come to a remote area of the world and find an abandoned dog on an island. Just another thing to haunt my thoughts when I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep....
The next morning, up early, we return to the island with a large amount of rice with chicken and carrots, and a 5 liter bottle of water with the top cut off that we bury in the sand so the dog can't knock it over. He was sitting on the beach waiting patiently, staring out at our boats. We all take off together in our own dinghy's to explore the mangroves up one of the many rivers. We see quite a few birds and have a lot of fun but are kind of surprised to not see any other wildlife. On our way back we stop at a small village on the water's edge. The people stare out their windows from homes that are built on stilts. As we slowly make our way up the beach, waving, saying, "Hola", and handing out candy to the children we quietly assess in our minds how welcome we are here. Turns out the people were delightful and had a wonderful sense of humor. We could not believe how charming some of the homes were, just in the little details. On our way back to the boat suddenly our brand spanking new 15 horse dinghy engine decides to stop working. Fortunately Val and Stan from Pax Nautica noticed and quickly turned around and gave us a tow home...sigh...just another thing in the long line of things that have gone wrong with our boat lately. We host a Superbowl party that night, Lion's Paw having pulled in that afternoon joined us as well, having a wonderful time enjoying it with our friends somewhat in disbelief that here we are, anchored in the middle of nowhere being able to watch this...satellite good!
Monday morning, after serious discussion and planning with our fellow cruisers to plot our course up the Rio Tuira to reach the town of La Palma, we all weighed anchor and followed each other up - having to remind ourselves to breathe as we slid quickly through the swirling brown water from the rising tide. A boater's worst nightmare is running aground, therefore we take navigation very serious. Our charts on our electronic chart plotter are off here, meaning you can be in the middle of a body of water and yet the chart will show that you are on land...or vice versa...which can be somewhat unnerving. But, with the help of our Eric Bauhaus - The Panama Cruising Guide (a must for any boater coming to Panama) we drop anchor by this quaint, pretty good size town built up on the hillside in a bay. Next thing we know, here come the kids paddling up in their cayukos. We invite them up on board and enjoy a couple of hours of their company giving them candy, popcorn, and water as they fished over the side of the boat with Ben. From the ages of 10 - 15 years, they were delightful. As usual, Ben was very generous with his fishing lewers and almost every kid went home with one. The souvenir of choice here are the beautiful baskets that are handwoven so tightly that rumor has it they can hold water. A few different women paddled up to sell their baskets, coming up on the deck as well, and somehow we ended up with a puppy sniffing his way around! Our fellow boating friends I'm sure we're looking through binoculars chuckling as our boat was sinking lower in the water with the weight of all the people! With a polite, "Okay people time to go, Ben has school now!" They all loaded up in their various boats and paddled away with smiles. The three of us felt really good.
Tuesday morning we were happy that Mark and Sylvia, our friends on Rachel lll, had arrived for "the adventure". We were to be picked up on the beach in a cayuko and be taken for a two hour ride up a river to visit the Wounan village called Puerto Lara. Rick on Eyes of the World had been kind enough to offer to pick us up and drop us off on the beach, therefore our dinghy would not be left there all day while we were gone. Now let me explain, there is a significant tide change here, I think about 13 feet at the time, so once again you have the homes that are built on stilts to accommodate the water when it comes in. There are even small huts/outhouses that are built the same way, thus probably allowing everything to drop through to the beach/water below (you get my drift). Well, when Rick dropped us off I took one step out of the dinghy and immediately sank to my knees in the muddy, gooey, (shi_ _ _) guck! Then I started falling over and put my hand down ending up with it up to my wrist. Oh my God... I think I'm gonna die! I yelled at Rick, "Do NOT bring the others here," and we slowly traipsed up trying to find more solid ground as we looked for our cayuko driver. I wished we had taken pictures because it would be really funny now, but at the time I was mortified. A nice lady offered a small bowl of water for us to wash but I did not have the heart to use any of her limited fresh water supply and when we followed our driver back down to get in his boat we just washed off on the river's edge. (Oh people, if you only knew how far I've come!) After picking up the other cruisers and filling up with fuel (you have to look at the pictures of this!) we are on our way for the adventure we've come for. Now if you've never been in a cayuko - it's like being in a really wobbly kayak- only with a big engine on it. As long as you're moving it's not so bad, but when it slows down, and if anyone even slightly shifts their weight, you feel like it's going to tip over. After the long, pretty uncomfortable ride, pinching myself occasionally - thinking I can't actually believe I'm here, we pull up to the indigenous village of Puerto Lara and are immediately greeted by a half dozen topless women who are covered in tatoo's, Wounan style, which is a sort geometric print painted on by a sort of indigo dye. The village looks charming with the huts built high on stilts and with thatched roofs. The people are so warm and have a wonderful smile. We each get a tattoo of our own, a tour of the village by the "president", an opportunity to buy their local crafts, a performance of a native dance, and a lunch of chicken and rice that has been cooked over a wood fire in the community hut. Pretty primitive stuff although it looked like the people were doing well and were happy. About 80 - 90 people visit a year so they don't quite have the touristy thing down and I thought it was a bit pricey for what we saw however it was authentic and we are certainly glad we came.
Leaving the next morning with the outgoing tide was very exciting to say the least. I took the helm, and we had a good track on our chart plotter to follow, only needing to make one small course change where we had hit a shallow spot on the way in. Again, I have to tell you, a narrow channel with this bubbling, swirling milky brown water is a hard thing to drive into, purposely. Then the feeling...with the engine idled down yet we're sliding through the water at 11.5 knots, it felt the same as when I've been driving in a car and accidently slide on black ice. "There's no steerage", I tell Larry. "Well speed up", he says. "Huh?!" The current is going faster than we are, therefore if I don't speed up I can't steer. Phew, we make it through, and all take a deep breath. Larry's mission at Punta Alegria, our next anchorage which is in the middle of nowhere, is to see a Harpy Eagle. Mark and Sylvia on Rachel lll are approached first by a cayuko driver and arrangements are made to take all of us to an Embera Indian village this time, up another river. We had a lot of fun on this ride, and I just couldn't help but laugh as the engine died for the umpteenth time and we would just drift silently like a scene from a horror movie in the Amazon, bumping into logs and hidden obstacles in the water making an awful noise as we grind over them. By this point I so wished I had brought a flask of something strong that I could nip at. I was starting to feel done with our "adventure".
Click here to ride in the cayuka
The village was sweet, slightly different tattoos on the ladies, same drooping boobs. We hand out small toys, candy, paper and crayons to the kids. Same style of huts and thatched roofs, chickens and skinny dogs running around, and even a pig - that we fed m & m's to - I think it thought it had died and gone to heaven. The kids were like, "What are you doing??!! Feed ME those m & m's!!" Larry and Stan from Pax Nautica got their wish, a hike was arranged for early the next morning with a guide to see a Harpy Eagle. It is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas, and among the largest extinct species of eagles in the world. Excited for the next day we are invited aboard Pax Nautica to share a lasagna that I had put together earlier and celebrate a successful trip with some champagne as well. It is very dark out, a little windy, and there is quite a current running through where we are all anchored. Larry had taken off our (heavy) 15 horse motor on our dinghy and put back on our slow but "old faithful" 5 horse. I in the meantime had sent the champagne ahead with Rachel lll since we were a few minutes late and we had a lot of food to carry. The three of us jump in to the dinghy to bash our way to Pax and...the motor dies! (To our mothers, you probably shouldn't read this next part.) Okay, we remain calm, Larry tries to start it over and over with no luck. The oars get pulled out and as Larry starts rowing we are thankful for the four things we did right. We have oars, we have an anchor, we have a flashlight, and we have a radio. I'm sure a lot of us cruisers go out and don't have any of these potentially lifesaving things. Hey, we also have the food but I gave the champagne away!!! What was I thinking?! So, Larry is huffing and puffing, rowing like a madman...against the wind...against the very strong current...he asks me, "How am I doing?" I say, "You're not getting anywhere! We're just drifting farther and farther away!" We call for help and Mark on Rachel lll slowly motors out, looking for our light we're flashing in the distance. It seemed like an eternity for our hero to arrive, and for him to tow us back took even longer. By the time we reached Pax Nautica we were all soaking wet and I was quite shook up. This was the first time I started to think, am I ready to be finished with this cruising life? Does this fall into the category of not having fun anymore? We wouldn't have died. We either could have tried to steer towards a piece of land as we were getting sucked out or if it was shallow enough we could have thrown the anchor out and waited for the tide to change and then start rowing again, but still...Looking forward to sleeping in the next morning and having an easy day on the boat while Larry hikes away, at 4:45 AM we hear someone pounding on the side of the boat and calling Larry's name. It was Victor, Larry and Stan's cayuko driver for the day, an hour and fifteen minutes early because he doesn't own a clock of any kind and didn't want to miss the job! We brought him inside and gave him coffee and breakfast. He was very sweet and this was just another thing we tucked away in our minds to laugh about later. Stan and Larry ended up having a terrific day, were absolutely exhausted from their 12 mile'ish hike into the jungle aaannnddd...no eagle. They did encounter a couple of mean dogs followed up by two Guerillas, not Gorillas, with rifles. They seemed to be familiar with the guide, not sure if they were some type of security or what, but it was a reminder to the men that Colombia is nearby and there can be trouble with drug runners in this area. Needless to say, us wives gave a huge sigh of relief when they returned safe and sound in the late afternoon.
We all kind of split up the next day with the exception of Rachel lll and us who headed back to the Las Perlas island of Contadora. Carl and Cristina on Bamboleiro was waiting for us with open arms and Ben was especially excited to get back to swimming, snorkeling, and killing fish to eat with them. I can't even begin to describe how much Ben loves our Bamboleiro friends. They are truly the perfect younger couple, where Ben can act his eleven years of age and they don't mind, teasing and laughing right alongside him. We are grateful everyday for our cruising friends, never taking any moment for granted as we know how fleeting they may be as the wind can blow us in any direction at any time. Panama is a huge jumping off point, some people heading to the Galapagos, then Marquesas and French Polynesia, or to Ecuador for the upcoming rainy season, or North - back up to Mexico or the west coast of the States, or through the Panama canal and either turning right or left. We fall in the "going through the canal" group, then hanging a right to the San Blas Islands for a few months. From there...we'll keep you posted!
Photos for this update are found in the gallery section "Darien Jungle"
02/02/2012, Panama City & Las Perlas Islands
Panama City Night Lights
Dec. 2011 - Jan. 2012
The Pearls of Panama
Wow. After traveling for a month by ourselves, seeing very few people and then suddenly being in Panama City, all we thought initially was wow! The shock of being around so many people, cars, traffic jams, noise, was somewhat overwhelming. We tied up to a mooring ball (this was no easy task due to the tight space and the speed of the current) almost directly under the Bridge of Americas, which essentially is the entrance to the Panama Canal. Huge, and I mean GInormous container ships and cruise ships and tug boats and pilot boats are zipping by. It really is a sight to be seen, and felt, as our boat would rock back and forth from the wakes of these ships. We radio for a water taxi to pick us up to get to land because there is no place for us to land our dinghy. We walk up to the Balboa Yacht Club office to check in and they are just so casual. Now let me explain, when you first enter a new country you always feel a bit of apprehension until you are officially checked in. We have already been in Panamanian waters for several weeks and are anxious to be legal. First off, the nice lady in the office asks us how long we are staying..."We're not sure," we say. No problem, pay before you leave, just not on a Saturday or Sunday because she's not there. Huh? We explain we still need to officially check in to the country. She says, "Huh?" It was like no one had ever asked her where to go. Someone else finally is able to explain to us to walk up the ramp and look for immigration, near the laundry room. The very business- like woman in immigration, who spoke only Spanish, and whose office was literally the broom closet, looked at us like I was crazy when I tried to explain in my poor Spanish that we needed to check in. After a few words, she stamped our passports and said, "Adios". Hmmm....we chuckled to ourselves and said, "That was easy enough." We excitedly walked to the yacht club restaurant for a meal and INTERNET! We had been out of touch with the world for what seemed like forever. And, that was the beginning of one bad meal after another here in Panama. Bummer, because I was so looking forward to some great meals, but I'm starting to lose hope. And worse yet, not only is the food bad, the service is deplorable. I don't know how to explain it, but you feel bad even asking for a glass of water. It's like you're putting them out if you order something. It's the strangest thing. A waiter will never ask you if you would like another drink or dessert. I'm not sure if this happens when the tip is automatically included, or if it's just the attitude of the people. Sigh....
The next morning we head off to the Port Captains office, catching a ride from a very nice ex-pat who had been living in Panama for ten years. We are all dressed up, which now means Larry is in long pants and a shirt with a collar, me in something other than a tank top, and Ben in a collared shirt. And all of us in shoes other than flip flops. This has all brought on a huge protest by Ben, but we have read in our books and been warned by other sailors about how proper this country is. The Port Captain couldn't have been nicer, even driving Larry to an ATM machine to get cash to pay for our entry fees. While I waited the secretary downloaded a load of Spanish Christian music on our memory stick because I had noticed she had her bible at her desk and asked what chapter she was reading. I have to say, as I am writing this at a later date, we have met some of the nicest people in Panama. My other observation is that I no longer feel like a tourist here, nor do I feel like we stick out like a sore thumb. It is just much more international here. I almost jumped over the counter and hugged the first Chinese person I saw, making me feel like I was back in the Bay Area. However not as many people speak English, or they don't let on that they do, which can make it a little more challenging when you're trying to get things done. It's totally my own fault. I should have this language down pat by now. Another sigh....
Anyways, now that we are all checked in and legally here, or so we think (more on this later), we jump right into reunions with old friends and a slurry of social activities. Once again, and I know I've said this before, but I feel like a child on Christmas morning when we meet up with our long lost boating friends! Dave and Renae on Bella with their new puppy Maggie, and Rick and Karen on Eyes of the World have been in Panama City for quite some time and we are so excited to have caught up with them! We share laughs and tears, joy and frustration, many meals (and lots of wine!), and just plain old good conversation, with an understanding of each other and what this lifestyle is like. And, they all love Ben, which warms Larry's and my heart.
We are also now suddenly thrust into the Christmas rush. Panama City has several very large malls and by the amount of people in them there is definitely no recession here. It can take what seems like an eternity to drive downtown in a taxi, and I need to add that these are the most aggressive drivers I have ever seen. If we don't get our act together, and catch a cab before 1 PM, they just simply will refuse to take us downtown. The infrastructure here has not kept up with the population boom, but as I write I believe an underground subway is being built. The Panama City skyline is a sight to be seen. Massive high rises are built, or are in the process of being built everywhere. And what is strange, which took me a few evenings to figure out, is that at night only about a third of the windows are lit up. You would think it would just be spectacular at night, but it sort of disappoints. In other words, a lot of the buildings are empty. So, I guess that level of the economy has yet to catch up. How is the grocery shopping you ask? Well, I am a happy camper here. I can find almost everything I want, and for much more reasonable prices.
December 23rd we excitedly picked up our daughter and boyfriend Seth at the airport for eight days of Christmas fun! While we were still in the big city we did a complete tour of the highlights in one day, including a hike in the Metropolitan Park - seeing sloths and many other kinds of animals, a visit to the old ruins of Panama Viejo which had been burned down by Captain Morgan and his pirates in 1671, the Miraflores Locks including a wonderful lunch at the restaurant that overlooks the ships as they pass through, then wandering around Casco Viejo which the pirates developed and settled in to have a better view of the bay and potential invaders. There is so much history here and it really was a fascinating tour. The town squares and statues, the cathedrals, the narrow streets and some of the newly renovated buildings are charming and make your imagination run wild with what this area must have been like in its time. For Christmas Eve dinner, we went back to the Casco Viejo area and ate at the restaurant Las Bovedas, which was an actual dungeon hundreds of years ago. After barely making it back to the boat in a taxi, yes I am convinced we will probably die in one someday, we all fell in to bed exhausted...except Ben...who was so excited for Santa to come he could hardly sleep. At 4 AM I was rudely awakened by big feet pattering on the deck, then Ben rushed into our cabin claiming Santa had left a note for him telling him to look up on deck for something too large to fit below. Yes, Santa brought Ben a 15 horsepower engine for the dinghy! No gift has ever delighted our child more! We can now zip around anchorages, pull away from shore quickly if needed in breaking waves, and skurf behind our dinghy - which is like water skiing only you are being pulled on a surfboard. Super fun!
Christmas day we head out to the Las Perlas Islands for a week of fun in the sun! These islands are gorgeous, with white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, the best snorkeling as of yet. This is what all of us cruisers have been searching for since we left the west coast of the United States. Ahhh..."Finally!" we all say, giving each other an understanding nod. Bella is here as well, and we are also delighted to hook up with our old (young) friends, Carl and Cristina on Bamboleiro, whom Ben has really developed a strong friendship with. (You can read about Bamboleiro's adventures by clicking on their link on the right side of our blog.) We spend our days looking at colorful fish, swimming, kayaking, working on our tans, seashell and sea glass hunting, skurfing, and of course eating and drinking. Ben has made it his personal mission to feed us all by spear fishing. A spear gun is what he decided to spend his Christmas money on from his grandmother, and I have to say he is a good shot. Carl and Ben are quite the team, always coming back with fresh fish and usually some oysters to throw on the grill.
Watch this video of Ben fishing offshore!
Jessica and Seth had a vacation of a lifetime and we were so delighted to spend the holidays with them. Sadly we bid adieu on December 31st, looking forward to the promise of another visit in an exotic location. Ben, Larry, and I, exhausted from all the fun, spent a quiet New Years Eve on the Lisa Kay. Watching the magical fireworks fall over the Panamanian skyline we each thought to ourselves...what will the new year bring... what amazing people will we meet...what adventures lie ahead of us as we set sail again to new and exotic lands? To quote a saying from the John F. Kennedy, "We have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea - whether it is to sail or to watch it - we are going back from whence we came."
Happy New Year family and friends! We wish you happiness, good health, and prosperity in all things important!
Pictures for the blog are in the gallery "Pearls of Panama"
11/20/2011, Golfito, Costa Rica
Monkey in Manuel Antonio Park
November 20, 2011
Goodbye Costa Rica
Suenos to Quepos was a quick, six hour, uncomfortable run, which made it seem much longer. Motoring in a steep swell, on our beam, never makes for a comfortable ride. The boat rocks back and forth, beam to beam, and every dish, glass, can, pan, bottle, and toiletry is tossed within its' compartment making a loud crashing noise. But, as awful as it sounds it doesn't create the anxiety it used to with us because we know what's going on and we're not afraid. I have complete trust in the "sea worthiness" of our vessel, but what I don't trust are long liner fishing boats!
We are 12-14 miles off shore, and there are these thin sticks sticking up in the water now and then, with a small black triangle hanging sideways simulating a flag. Sometimes we get excited when we see one with two black flags ..."Does that mean it's the end of the line?" But I'm talking tiny, people! You could so easily miss this tiny black dot in the ocean and not realize that you're running into a trap, miles and miles of fishing line, an inch or so under the surface, that has fishing hooks hanging off of it to try and catch fish...or birds...or turtles...or sharks? These hooks are very indiscriminant. We try, we stand on deck, we look through our binoculars, trying to figure out the web they have spun and which way we can go without getting caught up and wrapping one around our prop, therefore making us a sitting duck. We stop the boat, we back up, we turn left or right, we proceed with great caution. But all of this leaves us with a very sour feeling in our stomach. This is ridiculous. Who has the right to do this? I'm not talking 40 or 50 feet, I'm talking miles. And they're out here at night too, in the pitch black. I'm really, really tired of this. It just seems like the water around Costa Rica is dead. We have not seen a dolphin, whale, or turtle, nor has Ben caught a fish. It's kind of eerie. We know that Costa Rica has sold out to the Chinese and is allowing them to rape and pillage off their shores, so is this what the locals are having to resort to get something to eat? (Please read Ben's article on shark finning for more on this subject)
We pulled into the new, sort of completed marina in Quepos and paid for two nights, almost $400. Even though it is nothing to write home about the staff was really nice. It is just nice to be tied up to a dock sometimes and stop the motion of the ocean, if you know what I mean. We were super excited to do a tour of the Manuel Antonio National Park and it did not disappoint. Hiking around felt really good on our sea locked legs, and the animals were everywhere. Ironically, we actually saw the most animals in the busiest areas of the park where the most people were. Monkeys, sloths, raccoons, pesoti's, and deer. The monkeys and raccoons were stealing peoples backpacks as they rested on one of the many beautiful beaches, people were hand feeding them, it was kind of sad. It did not seem natural at all and we wondered, where are the park officials and why is no one monitoring this? I have to say it was kind of weird.
We pulled out the next morning at 0600 heading for a safe anchorage called Drakes Bay for the night, as we continue to work our way to Panama. We are trying to only travel during the day so we have better visibility for those, "you knows". Then on to Golfito, our last stop in Costa Rica.
More long liners, more stopping in the middle of the ocean, exasperated. This time we were traveling around 3-4 miles off the coast thinking we might avoid them. Nope. Only this time we were determined to just take our boat hook, pull the line up and cut it with a knife. However, this time we could always see a panga off in the distance, and we would just aim our boat at them (probably scaring them to death!) getting as close as we could and raise our arms as if asking the question,"Where should we go?" They would nicely guide us, or point us in a safe direction. I still felt like my blood was boiling.
Golfito is our last stop in CR. This is where we will officially check out of the country and get our International Zarpe. It's kind of a cool stop. VERY wet. We made several hikes up into the rainforest, seeing titi's, apparently the smallest monkey in CR, and toucans! Very cool. And, something I had been dreaming about for a long time, a tour of the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary by Carol who runs the center. We were picked up in a panga and driven around the peninsula for about 45 minutes to this stunningly beautiful little bay where she lives and nurtures various wildlife that is brought to her. These animals have either been injured in some way and hopefully rehabilitated and released, or have been confiscated from people who have kept them illegally therefore rarely being able to be released due to the emotional trauma that often accompanies the captivity. We loved every minute of our tour and instantly connected with Carol. Kudos to you Carol, for devoting your life to these animals in need. You are awesome!
Bruce, the owner of Banana Bay Marina where we anchored in front of, was so helpful and nice. We really appreciated him. Check out was a breeze, and we were on our way at 0415 the next morning...in the pitch black...rain...fog...with Larry standing on the bow with a flashlight, giving me direction on where to go through our headsets, as I steer blind. One way or another, Panama...here we come!
For pictures go to "Goodbye Costa Rica" in gallery
11/08/2011, Bahia Herradura, Costa Rica
National Geographic M/V Sea Lion in Los Suenos
November 8, 2011
Los Suenos, The Dreams
We have "dreamed" of coming to Los Suenos for 15 months, that is since we met Zephyr! Zephyr happened to be one of Ben's instructor's when he took sailing lessons at the Puerto Vallarta Yacht Club last summer and we instantly fell in love with her. She ended up living with us for a week, as the summer camp finished, filling in as our surrogate daughter as we miss our own Jessica so much. Since Zephyr (I just love saying her name!) is from the Los Suenos area, we vowed to her we would come to visit...and here we are!!
This was only about a three hour passage for us across the Gulfo de Nicoya and we screamed. Yes people, we actually sailed! Sometimes hitting 8 knots! Just us and the breeze, it felt like a beautiful thing. We had a lot of fun. And after anchoring in Bahia Herradura and paying a $200.00 fee to Marina Los Suenos for the privilege of using their dinghy dock for a week, who do we run into but our Zephyr!
Now let me tell you, it is stunningly beautiful in this bay, surrounded by steep, very green mountains. Stepping on land at the marina is like stepping into "little America", and it kind of takes you back for a moment. But the village they've created is lovely and everyone was very nice. We just weren't used to so many gringos and such a large upper scale area. This is truly a sport fisherman's heaven.
There were two things that Ben was so excited to do with Zephyr. One being the first kid to try out her first Opti sailboat for the youth sailing program she is starting up, and then surfing of course, at the well known Jaco beach. He had such a great time, and even mom and dad managed to get in a little surfing as well! Meeting Thomas, Zephyr's fiancée, sharing great meals and catching up really meant a lot to us.
Before we left Islas Tortugas we ran our water maker to refill our water tanks. After two hours it just stopped working (sh_t!). Now at anchor in Bahia Herradura, Larry is troubleshooting the problem with help from Rich Boren from Cruise RO Water & Power. Rich has been great and we love our 45gph water maker we bought from them and installed in Ixtapa last year. After some elbow grease the water maker is up and running and off we go to Quepos, and Manuel Antonio National Park for some flora and fauna...with full water tanks!
See Los Suenos photo gallery
11/07/2011, Isla Tortugas, Costa Rica
S/V Lisa Kay at anchor, Islas Tortugas
November 7, 2011
You guessed it, Islands of the Turtles (not!). As usual this once upon a time turtle haven no longer has any turtles, but despite that I think this is the loveliest anchorage we have ever been to. Solitude, beauty, powdery white sand beaches, palm trees, and turquoise water...awww....Thank you to Len and Erin on S/V Maestro for encouraging us to stop here!
After a short two hour scenic motor over from our last stop, anchoring in front of the secluded island, we couldn't wait to get in the water and explore the beaches. Islas Tortugas is two islands, one uninhabited except for the chattering parrots that would return in the evening to roost, and the other that has a daytime beach club for the tourists that are boated over for a day of snorkeling and relaxation on a lounge chair. Needless to say, Ben jumps on his surf board and paddles over to the empty beach, finding the biggest hermit crabs ever! And, unfortunately, piles of (mostly plastic) garbage that has washed up on shore with the tide, over and over.
We notice another sailboat pull in, drop anchor, and a single man jump off with his dog and swim to shore. How cute. Gotta go meet him, and for those of you who know us, pet the dog! Nice man from Germany, living and working here for many years, who just loves to sail to these islands for a one night get away. We also meet another tourist couple here from Kentucky, who really just came to Costa Rica for a dental vacation. Yep, what would have cost them over $20K in the States, cost a little over $6K here, was finished in a few days and with all the latest and greatest in technique and hardware. They were very happy and had met many tourists doing the same thing. Something to think about for those of you who want some work done.
No sooner do we return to our boat when a panga pulls up offering fresh oysters. "No gracias", says I, and no sooner do I say this and the guilt creeps in. I just should have bought some, even if we don't eat them just to help these people some. Oh well...next time. I really do wish we were more adventurous when it comes to seafood. But like I've said before, it really grosses us out. No matter how fresh it is, it still seems to smell fishy, and we just love seeing things alive, not dead.
We proceed to have a yummy dinner, with a clean conscience, of something vegetarian and it just so happens the movie Dead Calm is on TV which Ben has never seen before. What fun to be all snuggled in this cozy little anchorage watching this scary movie while swaying on the hook on our creaky boat!
About 8 AM the next morning we hear a tap on the hull and here is one of the men from yesterday who was offering oysters, now all alone in a sort of dugout canoe, offering some sort of beautiful white meat fish fillets. "Okay", says I, "Cuanto questa?". We settle on $6.00. (For the record, we did eat this fish the next day and it was yummy...minus the 8 MILLION BONES!!...Sigh...) Our new friend with the name of Roja, or something like that, asks us if we would like lobster for dinner. "Si", we say excitedly! (Hey, I never said I was a perfect vegetarian!) "Comida," he asks? He wants some food. Now let me explain, because this guy is quite a sight. First of all like I said, he is in this canoe that looks like it shouldn't even float. His oar is a stick with an old street sign attached. He has on some tattered shorts and a very small long sleeved wool sweater (seriously in this heat?!). It looks like a child's size on this man, and the holes are sewed together with fishing line! Well, what can lame me pull together? A banana, an apple, two nut granola bars, a large box of juice, and a cold glass of water. Our boat suddenly reminded me of my mother's pantry, which means it is virtually empty. We don't have a lot of "snacky foods", just things that we prepare fresh. He simply says, "Gracias," and is on his way.
We spend our day attempting to snorkel at the nearby pinnacle, but the water is very murky and we give up after a short while. Instead, we bring a large hefty bag to the deserted island to pick up garbage. Again, another lame effort on my part because we fill the bag within ten minutes and only make a dent in what was there. We know our next stop we'll be near a marina where we will be able to bring all of this and it will be recycled, but I have to admit that the fear crawls into my mind of bringing bugs on our boat. Ben enjoys an afternoon of "skurfing", that is surfing behind our dinghy, water ski style, and then we turn in for the day. Suddenly who's there but Roja! And with enough lobster to feed an army and he wants $50.00.! "No,no,no," says I. "How's about I pick out what we want and pay you $25?" ( now stop yelling at me you fellow boaters, I know we probably way over paid) but, we had a delicious dinner and were very grateful for it.
Later on in the evening, as Larry and I were swinging in our hammocks, watching the sunset, we are astonished to see Roja, paddling across the bay, the BIG bay, for a long, long time...wow. The next morning we ask him, as he visited us again, "How long does it take you to get home?" Two hours says he! Whoa! I pack him more food, this time rice, beans, and canned corn, and a chocolate bar, and tell him we are leaving. "Buen viaje" we say, and really mean it.
After a few hours of fantastic snorkeling, and going back to pick up more garbage we wave goodbye to these beautiful islands, feeling so blessed that we came.
For related pictures see gallery titled: Isla Tortugas
11/03/2011, Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica
Goodbye Marina Papagayo!!!
November 3, 2011
The Adventure: Season Three
The time has come to bid adieu, and ouch...as Ben says, "This one is gonna hurt." Marina Papagayo has only been our home for the last five months, minus the two we spent in the States, yet it feels like so much longer because of the friendships we have made. Thank you, thank you to: the management- Dan, Brian, Shirley, Jesse, and Raquel, the Ship Store - Herman, the fuel dock crew- Ermine and Flo, the Dive Bar staff- Johnson, Adrian, Luis, Tony, Francisco, the best dock workers EVER- Eric, Luis, Jesus, Carlos, and Douglas, my two best "tican" girlfriends- Kattia and Nasira, AND all the security guards - who faithfully have watched over us. We have shared many great meals and laughs together and we will never forget you!
After almost two months of pretty intense labor on our teak decks we have stopped all of the leaks in the boat, and though we are not 100% done the time has come to start working our way to Panama before our time runs out on our passports. We decided to stay and celebrate Halloween at the marina which turned out to be a big hit with the kids, who not only got to carve pumpkins but play a sort of Amazing Race/scavenger hunt game, followed up by some trick or treating. Then we, the remaining boating group getting ready to move on, were thrown a party, authentic Costa Rican food with all the fixin's, by the marina that was so generous we were just blown away! Four days later we untied our lines for good, after many hugs and kisses goodbye. This truly is the hardest part of the boating life.
Bahia Ballena, Bay of the Whales, is where" the adventure-Season 3" begins. After getting caught in a fishing long line for our very first time just after we rounded Cabo Blanco (thankfully it got caught on our keel and we were able to back off of it before it got into the prop) we pull in and anchor around 9:20 AM, 17 hours after saying goodbye to all of our friends. All of a sudden we feel exhausted and all alone. It is a beautiful bay, empty besides some fishing pangas tied up to a high concrete dock. There is a long curving beach, surrounded by lush green mountains and palm trees. There is a scattering of homes, some even built on stilts over the water. It looks rather deserted. And this is where the fear starts to creep in for me. We constantly are fighting, in our minds, other people's fears (and sometimes legitimate experiences) of theft usually. Now in our logical mind we realize that this can happen anywhere at any time, and that no matter where we are we need to be prudent in not letting items that are easily picked up to sit out and all other things should be locked up therefore, in theory, being very inconvenient to take. We are still hearing of, and meeting boats that bypass Costa Rica for this very reason...fear. But we don't want to be this way! So after a short nap, we pull ourselves up by the boot straps and forge ahead with our plans - the reason we stopped in this pretty little anchorage. We were told not to miss the funky sort of hippy surfer town of Montezuma, and hike the waterfalls. The only place to leave our dinghy here is to tie it up to that concrete dock that has about 15 panga's already attached to it as well. It is slippery and slimy, covered in sharp barnacles and bright red fish blood and just the smell alone, of the fish market up above is enough to gag even the strongest stomach. We know that even if we tie our dinghy to it, we also need to set a stern anchor, thus stopping our dinghy from getting sucked underneath with the tide and then popping on the barnacles. No sooner are we there, and up comes this nice, twenty something year old man, named Norberto, that speaks pretty good English! "Can we leave our dinghy here for a few hours," we ask? "No problem", he says, "I'll even keep an eye on it with the outgoing tide". "Can we catch a taxi here to Montezuma?" "No problem," says he, "I'll walk you to town to pick one up." Hmmm...this is going far too well...can we trust him...? So, off we go with our new friend, chatting the whole way, walking on a long, lonely dirt road, cutting off on a path that runs along the shore...fear creeps in...and next thing we know we're in the VERY small town of Tambor. And sure enough Norberto calls his friend, who happens to be the local taxi and off we go, Norberto promising to meet us back on the dock at 5 PM.
Now we were told that Montezuma was like Carmel, California. That, it is not. Funky, yes it is. We met several young tourists there, from Australia, England, Germany, Canada, (how do these people hear of these places?!) and after a quick lunch off on a dirt road we went looking for the waterfalls. Near the base of the trail to the waterfalls here comes a man bringing back some other sucker/tourists and asks if we want him to be our guide. "Sure", we say, "Why not?" Sam, this crazy looking dude, turned out to be awesome! Only working for tips (we paid him $6.00 at the end and bought him a coke), he safely guided us up the very muddy, slippery trail where at one point, after walking through the strong rushing water, we had to climb on the hillside hanging onto only a thin rope. The waterfall was awesome, and Sam took Ben in to swim under the falls, then climb the rocks behind it and dive in. He had a great time. But time went by fast and I was anxious to find a cab that would take us back to our boat before dark. Well, guess who took us back to town to find us a cab? You guessed it, Sam. He said he was done working for the day after we paid him our money, he now had enough to feed his family. (Awww...) Well, Sam found us a friend/taxi driver of his that drove this...how can I describe it...worst piece of dump of a van we have ever seen! Seriously, most of the windows had been broken out (natural air conditioning the driver called it!), the sliding door side had been totally bashed in - barely being able to slide open, and the sputtering motor sounded like it was gonna die at any moment. He wanted $30.00 to take us back, $4 more than we had paid to come, which we quickly negotiated down to the original $26. "Adios Sam, gracias and buen viaje!" and off we go, Larry and I looking at each other, silently thinking "Oh my God!" The van barely makes it up the steep mountain to get out of town, and next thing we know he turns down this narrow, very muddy road. I clear my throat and say over the very loud engine, "This is not the same road we came in on!" (What I was really thinking was, "Okay, now we're really dead!" and "Crap, maybe we should have agreed to pay $30!") "Pura vida, pura vida," says the driver. Then, after sliding down a steep hill, we actually crossed a river in this piece of junk and climbed back up the other side! (I had to close my eyes for this one) And sure enough, we're back on the main road, knocking off a huge chunk of the trip and make it back to our dinghy right at five! And, bless his heart, there is Norberto, who has taken very good care of our dinghy. We happily pay him $10.00 and a big muchas gracias!
We really are exhausted now, but feel exhilarated. It's good to be back in the game again! Hopefully, after a good night's sleep, it's off to Islas Tortugas in the morning, and another adventure!
For pictures with this story go to the photo gallery then to album "Marina Papagayo & Bahia Ballena"