We flew back to Costa Rica this week. The warm weather is welcome, but we'll have to get acclimated to the humidity again. Tony, the skipper of s/v Sweetie who hails from Arizona, explained to us how high humidity can add 5 to 10 degrees to the air temperature (85 degrees "feels like" 95 degrees in high humidity).
We last posted mid-September, when we had been in California 2 months. We stayed three more months, hopping from house to house of generous family and friends. We were able to get some business done such as checking in with the renters of our house. There were a few gardening issues, but otherwise they had no problems to report and they are taking good care of our home. We were also talked into refinancing our house - and did get a great rate. But we have a whole long story that we won't bore you with here about the hoops we had to jump through because the underwriters found it curious that now that it was "income property", we would be leaving the country right after securing a new loan. Adding more doubt, they didn't understand how we could possibly stay on top of our loan payments, make sure the house is cared for, etc. while abroad. Can you say, "Internet?" Our broker earned his commission on this one. We also found a wonderful home for our dogs for this next year. Jeff has known our dogs for about 8 years as we all walked our dogs daily in the same "off leash" preserve area. Our dogs loved him and would go crazy looking for him when they caught his scent on the preserve. He and his significant other, April, agreed to take on Kiwi and Coco. Their house is set up very much like ours was (dog door, baby gate, multiple dog beds, etc.), so they should feel right at home. Jeff and April took them over just before Thanksgiving and they appeared to have quickly integrated into the new family before we left. Bill, our friend who had them for the past year, was great to them, spoiling them rotten so I know they will miss him.
But with no work responsibilities or house projects, mostly we played. We continued our weekly hikes, visited out of town family and friends, gave a presentation about our trip thus far to numerous groups including Virginia's former staff, Dennis' Rotary group, and our boating club. Although the nights were getting nippy for these two "tropics zone travelers", we enjoyed several men's UCSB soccer games as the team worked their way to the NCAA third round of playoffs. We got to spend a lot of time with our son's family (including two granddaughters). Our daughter-in-law prepared a small picture album for us that highlighted the events in their lives that we had missed while we were out cruising. We have it on the boat now - a wonderful keepsake. Some events we did see while there were Kira's gymnastic competition and her doing her routine down State Street for the holiday parade, Devin's ballet performance as one of the "sweet mice" in the Nutcracker, and their school jogathon. Dennis got some quality time with our son, helping him do prep work (demolition) for their bathroom remodel. We celebrated Thanksgiving with them. In years past we'd host the event at our house, but without that option this year we did something different. We went to a fabulous buffet at the Frog Bar & Grill where Darren and Carrie were married, which made it quite special. Kathleen, Carrie's mom, was there too; we really enjoy her - she's become a close friend to Virginia. We got in numerous visits to our parents, including birthday celebrations for Dennis' mom and Virginia's dad and a fun-filled day trip to San Diego Safari Park with Dennis' mom and Virginia's parents. Time with siblings and friends was also fun.
Sadly, Virginia's younger sister (54) was diagnosed with breast cancer just before we returned home in July. She was recovering well from her surgery, but the chemo had some terrible side effects causing major internal organ issues. She died quite suddenly. It is such a shock to Virginia and her family, but we are happy that we were there to visit with her when she was healthy and to be a part of the celebration of her life that took place on Dec. 7.
Our trip back was uneventful, but tiring -about seven hours airtime with a three hour layover followed by a rather harrowing five hour taxi drive in sporadic rain on Costa Rican two-lane highways. Fortunately we found the boat in good condition, which was a great relief. We had been reading the blogs of other cruisers in the area during the Green Season who were having a constant battle with mold and mildew. The dehumidifier that we had rented from Tim at Land Sea did a wonderful job inside the boat. No mold or mildew of any kind. The outside however didn't fare as well. The marina had kept the deck washed and clear of bird droppings, but all of the running rigging lines are green or black with mildew or mold. We're taking them down one by one and soaking and scrubbing. A small garden had started growing on the Man Overboard Recovery line in an open bin in the cockpit.
The first few days back we were reminded of the tight network that forms the cruising community. Arriving by boat, the same day we did by plane, was another cruising couple we'd met in El Salvador, Tony and Shannon on s/v Sweetie. Two days later a power boat, Pax Nautica, we had also met in El Salvador moved into the slip next to us. All three of us had our boats in Ventura/Channel Islands marinas before we started our cruising. Small world.
We'll stay here in Golfito for at least a week, working on boat projects. We had to clear a clogged galley drain and will be installing a new propane solenoid, alternator, replacement fan, microwave, and ice maker. From the US we brought a small fan for the refrigerator (to force more cold air from the freezer section down to the produce section), some supports to construct an additional shade structure, and better patches for the dinghy. Dennis will also need to do the standard maintenance on the engine and watermaker before we head out. Parts for the boat filled two extra pieces of luggage on the return trip with no custom hassles at all.
Some friends from Santa Barbara are vacationing in Costa Rica for Christmas. Coincidentally, they are going to be staying just across the bay from us. We plan on getting together with them while they are here. That will somewhat ease the sadness of not being with family for the holidays.
We'll probably be here for at least a week finishing up the project list. Then we will head to Panama.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !
After bonding our boat at Fish Hook Marina in Golfito, Costa Rica and setting up a dehumidifier that we borrowed from Tim at Land Sea, we flew to California on July 13. Due to several flight delays, we didn't arrive in LAX until after midnight. From Houston, we let Virginia's sister off the hook for our previously scheduled 8pm pick-up and scheduled a shuttle ride to her parents' home in Long Beach (cell phones be praised). Soon after being dropped off at 2am, an exhausted Virginia realized she had left her 'purse' (backpack) on the shuttle. Since her passport was in there she immediately called the shuttle company, despite it being the wee hours. She was so relieved to hear that they did have it and that the shuttle driver would make another trip to Long Beach the next day to deliver it.
We stayed with Virginia's parents and visited with her siblings and friends in the Long Beach area the first week back. We spent the next few days in La Mirada with Dennis' mom and then drove her to Lake Tahoe for the annual Johns' family reunion. This year we didn't have any of our toys to take along (kayaks, bikes) as they were on Libertad in Costa Rica but we didn't do without as toys were available from others in the family. We did a lot of hiking and took in a lakeside production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. One day we had lunch in South Lake Tahoe with Mary Lee and Lewis from s/v MerryLee whom we met while cruising Mexico. They had been reading our blog and realized we would both be in the area that week so we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch at a lakeside restaurant. It was great to see them.
August 1 we finally got to Santa Barbara and visited with our son and his family. It was wonderful to see them. Our granddaughters are 9 and 6 now and they both looked so much taller than when we left in January. We have been in Santa Barbara staying with various friends, as our house is rented. We have received several housesitting, dogsitting, and catsitting invitations and one of Virginia's Soroptimist friends has been especially generous filling in any open weeks. Our first week in Santa Barbara was highlighted by the city-wide Fiesta of Old Spanish Days (www.oldspanishdays-fiesta.org) -we had no trouble staying busy. We have some good friends from Louisiana who arranged their annual visit to California to overlap with ours. Our return also served as an excuse for a college-buddy get-together, bringing together six of eight of Virginia's roommates -one coming all the way from the east coast (Virginia) and another from Tucson. We have reconnected with our community groups and are enjoying seeing those groups of friends again. We delivered a presentation of our first 'leg' of our cruising adventure to our boating club at a general meeting and then again at Dennis' Rotary club. We will talk again at a boating club Weather class about our practical experiences in Mexico and Central America. Dennis has jumped right back into Rotary, even leading a meeting for the current club president while he was on vacation. One day we took a highschool-aged Rotary exchange student from Germany down to Los Angeles for a soccer game of the US National Team vs. Costa Rica. You could easily identify the Costa Rica fans by their "Pura Vida" hats and shirts. US lost but it was interesting to see how well the American team has adopted new tactics introduced by the imported German coach.
One our primary projects while we are here is to find a new home for our wonderful dogs. Litter siblings, our two female Weimaraners never embraced boating life and we had to leave them with a friend when we headed off on our adventure. Our friend advised that he is moving to a smaller home and will be unable to keep them, so we've posted flyers around town and placed an ad on Craig's List. Getting these two sweet dogs a new loving home is a top priority before we resume cruising.
We're catching up on our annual doctor visits. We both had dental and eye check-ups (often the first to fail from age!!!). Dennis had hand surgery this week for his trigger finger on his right hand and is looking forward to painless hauling of sheets and halyards. We're trying to keep active, scheduling weekly hikes in the Santa Barbara area with friends. Since we aren't staying at our own house, we don't have gardening or house maintenance projects to keep us busy. It is great to be retired and explore our home town, attend the college soccer games, enjoy local theater (especially those with friends in the cast), dine with friends, and basically goof off. We are also spending time with our dogs. We pick them up most days for their daily walk. We are trying to keep track of our cruising friends via blogs, email, and Facebook.
We are planning on returning to the boat in Costa Rica after Thanksgiving, first week of December. We still have lots of fun to pack in before then, including a trip to the Bay area to visit with Dennis' two sisters and some friends, one to San Diego with Virginia's parents, and one to Disneyland with our granddaughters (we'll let their parents tag along).
Saturday July 2 - Tuesday July 5 When we first realized we wouldn't make Galapagos and crossing the Pacific this year (given our late start from California) we thought we'd stop in Ecuador and put the boat up there, but as we reported earlier, we met some folks from Ecuador who discouraged us from doing that given some new legislation. Our next plan was to go as far as Panama but we found that the options for storing the boat on the Pacific side are few. The one that seemed reasonable didn't have room for us and in fact had a waiting list. So we asked ourselves, why not just stop right here in Costa Rica. This area is very protected from severe weather. We would have loved to leave the boat with Tim at Land Sea, but he only has moorings - no slips- and thus isn't allowed to 'bond' boats. Since we would be leaving the boat for about 4 months (and thus beyond the limits of a 90 day cruising permit for this country) we needed to 'bond' it - meaning get it in a slip under the care of a marina and promise not to move the boat at all during that bonding period. Having investigated the three marinas in Golfito, we decided on Fish Hook marina right next door to Land Sea. It's considerably more expensive than a mooring but we essentially ran out of options.
Wednesday July 6 - Sunday July 10 To complicate matters, our 30-day visas for Costa Rica expire on July 7 and we needed a few more days to get Libertad and ourselves ready for our return to the USA. We needed to exit Costa Rica by July 7 or get a daily fine for exceeding our visa. So we decided to take a land trip across the border to Panama. We needed to stay there for at least 72 hours before returning to Costa Rica so that we could get a new 30-day visa. We took the bus to David, the second largest city in Panama, and did more shopping for our microwave and icemaker. We bought an icemaker at Price Smart (like a Costco, requiring a membership card). Dennis approached two women at the entrance, flashed them a smile with his dimples, and they agreed to let him use their card. The first night in David, we stayed at the Mirage Hotel and Casino. It was recommended in one of our cruising books, convenient as the bus into town passed right by it and it was very cheap ($27/night). Clearly someone staying there would have been more interested in enjoying the casino than the room. It was a tiny with no window and a humidifier that put more water into the air than it extracted (our clothes hanging in the closets were wet in the morning). It smelled of strong bleach and mildew and caused Virginia's headache to flare up. We didn't get any sleep because someone was blaring their TV all night long. Needless to say we got out of there first thing in the morning and moved into the Castilla Hotel. It was very nice. It was located right off of the Central Plaza with lots of shopping and restaurants within walking distance. It advertised $55/night, but when they found out we were not Panamanians, they gave us the tourist rate of $33.50/night. We hadn't heard of tourists having a lower rate before! We had quite a pleasant stay there. Chris and Paul from s/v Jeorgia joined us there on Friday. On a previous shopping spree, Dennis had spotted a small, hole-in-the-wall hat shop. Upon hearing that, Paul said he was particularly interested in obtaining a classic Panama hat. After wandering the streets a while, we just happened to recognize the hat shop owner on the sidewalk and followed him back to the shop. After trying on several styles and sizes, Paul found his hat and wore it for the rest of the trip, getting admiring comments daily.
The four of us decided to book a few days in a mountain resort in the nearby city of Boquete. After an hour bus ride through the Panamanian foothills we arrived at the Boquete Garden Inn, 3000 feet above sea level. For three days, we enjoyed cooler weather with much less humidity. It rained every day but did not deter us from what whatever we decided to do. This was another very nice hotel with beautiful grounds. They set fruit on some of the statuary to attract birds and we saw some lovely birds in these spots. We rented a car one day and drove all around the area to a waterfall, 'castle' (large house abandoned during construction about 16 years ago), fincas (coffee plantations), agricultural areas (potatoes and onions were being harvested but we understand they grow other things in this area including citrus). We visited a wildlife refuge and were able to walk into the cages and see some of the animals up close and personal that were hard to photo in the wild. The locals had quite a range of housing. Many were subsistence farmers living in small shacks of poles and corrugated sheet metal while others were in more substantial houses made of a variety of conventional construction materials. High up on the hillsides and ridges were very large, in some cases quite ostentatious, houses which looked quite out of place. Evidently in 2001 some magazine declared Boquete one of the top 4 places in the world to retire which resulted in an influx of foreign retirees buying up land and building their dream homes here. We also stopped by a fresa (strawberry) stand for a snack - delicious strawberry yogurt, juice, fresa con crema, and strawberry splits (we each tried something different).
Monday, July 11 we went back across the border, getting a new 30-day visa for Costa Rica, and returned to the boat. This time Paul negotiated a less-than-the-going-rate, 40 minute taxi ride back to Golfito rather than the 2 hour bus ride we had experienced previously. A real treat for Dennis as he was carrying the ice maker we had purchased. Tomorrow we will spend time preparing the boat to be locked up for a few months: cleaning out all perishable food, setting up a dehumidifier which we are renting from Tim, packing broken parts we want to take home for repair, etc. We fly out Wednesday July 13 and look forward to seeing all our family and friends in California. At this time we are planning on returning to the boat late November, but we've learned to remain flexible - plans change, again and again.
Friday June 24 - Tuesday June 28We took a few days after our adventures with Dennis' brother Greg to catch up on chores and boat projects. For the first time, we had run out of propane, so we were looking at some cold meals unless we got some more quick. A few bus and taxi trips were required. We took the bus to Ciudad Neilly to turn our burned out alternator into a repair shop and the nearest place to get a propane refill was on the way (quite a heavy and awkward load for Dennis to take on the bus -especially since the bus driver is not supposed to let you on the bus with a flammable container, so he had to carry it concealed in a large gym bag). Also took a bus to Paso Canoas, which is at the border of Panama and Costa Rica. There is a duty-free shopping zone there. It's an interesting area. The town is precisely on the border between the two countries with no physical separation (i.e. wall, fence, etc.). In fact, one side of the main street is considered Costa Rica while the other is Panama. So it's easy to understand why the area is considered duty-free, there's no way to really control the movement of goods. We were looking for a microwave and icemaker - two appliances that will be helpful in keeping our boat and us cooler in the tropical areas (less cooking on the propane stove which heats up the salon and guaranteed cold drinks). Priced things, but didn't buy anything.
Back in Golfito for happy hour that evening, we learned that Katie and Tim that run the Land Sea Marina where we are moored are from Santa Barbara. She went to college at Westmont and after his time in the service Tim attended the SBCC Dive program. They are wonderful folk and have really created a comfortable stop for cruisers. Having done a lot of sailing themselves, they know what we need: internet, laundry service, advice about local services and official procedures, boat sitting when you do a land trip, a comfortable spot to gather with other cruisers. Anybody cruising in this area really should make a stop here. When we arrived in Golfito, a Dockwise Yacht Transport (www.yacht-transport.com) was there to take on some boats. This stimulated speculation on how we might make the passage past the Somalia pirates and through the Suez Canal.
Wednesday June 29 - Thursday June 30We took another land trip - this one a jungle adventure. Carolyn and Tom of s/v Sunny Side Up and Chris and Paul of s/v Jeorgia went too. We took a water taxi to Puerto Jimenez which is near the entrance of Gulfe Dolce, on the tip of the Osa Peninsula. We then took a 45 minute 4-wheel drive taxi ride on a wash-board dirt road to Encanta la Vida - a resort in the middle of the jungle just outside Corcovado National Park. It was a bit isolated and so three meals a day were included in the room fee. We had the upstairs room in a 2-room cabana. It had mosquito nets on the beds which we did use because although we didn't notice mosquitoes in particular there were plenty of other bugs flying around. It wasn't an open-air room, it had walls and a roof, but it was very rustic and fitting for the location. We had a large veranda outside our front door with a hammock, rocking chairs, padded sofa. We spent a lot of time out there watching for wildlife as at that height we were closer to the canopy. And we saw lots of animals. It was fantastic. The monkey video that we have posted with this blog was taken from our veranda. Some of the monkeys were just a foot or so away. It was awesome. It was safe on the veranda, but if you were standing on the ground below with no roof overhead, you might have gotten hit with some of the sticks, leaves, and other jungle rubbish that they were throwing down from the trees. They were so playful. While at Encanta la Vida we saw squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, and the white-faced capuchins that we captured on the video. The fourth type of monkey in Costa Rica is the howler. We aren't sure we saw any of these, but in the early morning (3am) they would be in the trees just above our cabana doing their howling, loud enough to wake us all up - it was amazing. On the property we also saw red macaws flying in pairs (they mate for life), flocks of noisy parrots overhead, other colorful birds, numerous types of lizards (in the middle of the path to the office, a large iguana would greet us and then duck into his den under a rock), a coati (?), and butterflies. The blue morpho alluded us, but we did find one beautiful blue wing on one of our hikes and snapped a photo. The grounds were beautiful and they weren't landscape plantings, it was natural jungle flora. Absolutely fabulous.
We took several hikes: to the nearby beaches, to another resort on the peak of the nearby hills where they had a lovely view, and our longest hike was to a waterfall which had plenty of watershed given we are here in the 'green' (aka rainy) season. It was 60 ft. high; swimming in the pool at the foot of the falls and standing in the mist was welcome refreshment. The hike was a bit technical for some of the group (rock climbing and stream forging) but the only casualty was Dennis' 'amphibious' shoes of which the soles came unglued -hmmm wonder if there was a recall he didn't hear about. There were other very interesting people staying at Encanta la Vida - a young couple who were there for the surfing - she had just passed her medical boards to be a Physician's Assistant, he is an artist. They live in San Clemente. Unfortunately for them, the days we were there the swell had completely petered out but that's why they enjoyed that area so much. When there's no surf, there's so many other things to do. We met several folks with connections to Santa Barbara. The owners of the resort weren't there that week, but they are from Santa Barbara. There was a couple there who had both gone to UCSB and they have two children there now; they live in San Francisco. There is a pool there and we did enjoy it one day, but we spent most of our time hiking the area looking for the wildlife and enjoying the beauty of the Costa Rican jungle. Our last night there it rained really hard, but we were dry and comfy in our cabanas. It was a wonderful trip with some good friends.
Friday, July 1 - Happy 61st anniversary to Virginia's parents! We returned from the jungle to our boats. It took us a while to actually get to our boats. That torrential rain the night before had put about a foot of water in our dinghies and had to be bailed out before we could use them. Finally got back to Libertad to happily find her dry as a bone having sealed a few leaks discovered in earlier rain storms. We now needed to get serious about sorting out where to leave our boat for our planned trip home to California.
(note: some of you have asked what we eat, so we'll try and include some info on that in this post)
Thursday, June 9 Playa Panama (in Bahia Culebra) was very beautiful and calm so we got a good night's rest there each night. The closest town with any facilities is in the bay between Panama and Coco, named Hermosa. But Hermosa is mostly resort hotels, so we decided we would bus back to Coco and spend the day as our cruiser guide suggested. We went to the corner bus stop and waited there with two locals for about 45 minutes - no bus. We found out later that they come only once an hour and we must have just missed it. While we were waiting, a Hermosa resort van stopped and gave us their timeshare sales invitation to tour the resort with a 90 minute "presentation". We tried not to be rude so when we showed a little interest and they found out we were headed to Coco, they offered us a ride as they were headed that way. We had an enjoyable conversation with them. They were excited because Costa Rica was playing El Salvador in the soccer America Gold Cup that night. We had lunch at Woody's - reasonable food with two caged parrots that talked nonstop for atmosphere. Had a conversation with a couple of women on a business/vacation trip here from Washington DC. They were staying at one of the resorts in Hermosa. We provisioned with some groceries and some items we needed at the hardware store and then took a taxi back to Playa Panama. That evening, we went to a restaurant/bar that we had noticed just a short distance from the beach in hopes that they would be showing the soccer game. But they were closed. We ate on the boat and played scrabble. We still hadn't had a big rain in that anchorage - just watched the lightning in the distance each night.
Friday, June 10 We found another restaurant in a hotel that was more hidden behind dense foliage, but is also close to the beach where we are anchored. We had a nice lunch there and used their wifi. Wish we had found it one day earlier so we could have watched the soccer game! We did hear that it ended in a tie 1-1, so it probably was pretty exciting. s/v Jeorgia joined us in the anchorage later in the day.
Saturday, June 11 we moved to the nearby Papagayo Marina - also in Bahia Culebra - so that it would be convenient for Dennis' brother Greg to get to us. We filled up with fuel and water and told the marina we were staying for one night. We met Larry, Lisa, and Ben aboard s/v Lisa Kay as they greeted us at the dock, helping with our lines. Greg arrived at the boat earlier than expected which was great because it meant he had an easy time finding us. He pitched right in and helped us with a few boat projects (finding the leak in our dinghy for instance). It was hot and humid that day so the marina's pool was very refreshing that evening. We went to happy hour at the marina restaurant where we spoke more with Larry and Lisa. They were so nice to us during our stay, including hooking us up with some friends of theirs that were further south (east) in Costa Rica so we could get info on anchorages, and providing fresh baked goods (yes, Lisa baked even in the hot and humid weather -their boat had three air conditioners!). We noticed that our friends, Sylvia and Ken aboard s/v Ann Lucia, are here but they are on a land trip for a few more days. We last saw them in Huatulco, Mexico.
Sunday, June 12 Happy Birthday to our son, Darren! In the morning we worked on more boat projects (finding the second hole in the dinghy, working with the marina to get a new mount fabricated for our alternator - the weld on the original one broke). We had to admit that it was sure nice to do some of our boat projects in a marina instead of floating in an anchorage and the marina was so accommodating about helping us get connected with the services we need. And the pool, large beautifully tiled showers, fast internet, and air conditioned recreation room are luxuries that we fully enjoyed; so we decided to pamper ourselves and stay at the marina a few more days. But we took Libertad back over to Playa Panama for a few hours to join s/v Jeorgia for some snorkeling and then happy hour at the beach restaurant where we poured through the travel guides and the internet to choose a ziplining adventure. We ate dinner at the marina restaurant and watched the Costa Rica/Mexico soccer game -Costa Rica was not doing well and the kitchen staff were a bit sad (Mexico won 4-1).
Monday, June 13 We made arrangements to zipline at Buena Vista in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. We rented a car for the adventure. It was Chris and Paul from s/v Jeorgia, along with us and Greg. Ken and Sylvia came back from their land trip and came over to Libertad in the evening, bringing a delicious sushi dish. We had a great visit with them. Ken gave Virginia yet one more weather site she could check on the internet (she can't seem to get her fill). They are from Japan and started their cruising adventure with 53 days at sea crossing from Japan to Canada.
Tuesday, June 14 most of us hadn't been ziplining before and found it enjoyable. But we were disappointed in how the activity seemed to be geared toward speed and excitement rather than a "jungle tour." They rushed us through, not giving us much time to look around in the canopy to see wildlife and get some photos. We did see one monkey and lots of lush green jungle foliage. We had a productive day, driving to Liberia to do some errands and having lunch at a restaurant that offered a 'typical' Costa Rican meal. It consisted of black beans, rice, grilled meat of choice, beet salad, and fried plantains and was delicious accompanied by the local Imperial cerveza. We celebrated our last night in the marina with some of Dennis' delicious barbequed chicken, corn on the cob, and coleslaw. Greg walked up to the marina restaurant and got 3 root beer floats to go - total indulgement that night.
Wednesday, June 15 We said our goodbyes to Ken and Sylvia who will be following us in a few days, and to Lisa, Larry, and Ben who are flying home for a few months and eventually going through the canal to the Caribbean. We decided we would do an overnight run to Bahia Ballena in the Gulf of Nicoya. We saw storms (no lightning) all around us, but we didn't hit any of them. We were motoring all night and Dennis noticed that our alternator wasn't charging our batteries. Evidently it got too beaten up when the bracket broke and although it worked when we tested it after mounting the new bracket....it of course decided to wait until we were out at sea to give it all up. But we have backups for nearly everything and Dennis hooked up our portable generator and charged up the batteries - no problemo.
Thursday, June 16 our granddaughter Kira's birthday! We got some wind in the early morning and were able to sail for a couple hours but we had to tack offshore to take advantage of it, so we arrived a bit later than originally planned (0200 instead of noon), but still in daylight. We caught two mackerels that day; they were small so we released them. We were able to reach Kira on the satellite phone. We ate barbequed porkchops, stuffing, applesauce, peas and canned corn. Greg and Virginia played scrabble. Bahia Ballena was a very calm and pretty anchorage. There were a few residences and a restaurant (which looked closed) and some panga fishermen. We had quite a downpour after arriving and we began to understand why this is the wet season. We didn't go ashore.
Friday, June 17 All of Dennis' work before we left to load us up with spare parts came in handy. He installed the spare alternator before we headed off for Quepos. There is a new marina there which is even more expensive than Papagayo so we planned on anchoring. We arrived at dusk to find that the marina had been built on the former anchoring site which had been somewhat protected by a breakwater. The new site, just outside the marina entrance was unprotected and very rolly and we saw no other boat anchored there with people on board. So we immediately headed to the nearby cove which at first seemed quite calm. Unfortunately we encountered a current running parallel to the beach that kept the boat broadside to the incoming swell. We put out our flopper-stoppers to counteract the swell but the current disrupted their function. By the time we finished dinner (spaghetti) we decided to pull up anchor and make an overnight run for Golfito -having three crew members made the decision easier.
Saturday, June 18 We had very calm seas and we motored the whole way, dodging debris - including some very large logs -flotsam resulting from the downpour the previous evening. At times there would be birds perched on the debris giving us an early warning, but we had to keep a close lookout. At 1630 we arrived in Gulfe Dulce at the Land and Sea cruiser's club. They didn't have any mooring balls available, but anchoring was no problem in the calm waters. It is so pretty here. We went ashore (in the rain) to scope out the facilities at the club house and to have dinner. Tim and Katie run Land and Sea have been doing this for awhile. They are so helpful and friendly - you can understand why some boats extend their stay here. A number of the cruising friends we have made this year highly recommended this stop and we're glad we came.
Sunday, June 19 Happy Fathers' Day! We walked the town. Nothing much was open, but we scoped it out -with rain sprinkles to keep us cool. That evening we sat on the clubhouse patio (Tim and Katie's home) visiting with Tim and Katie and the crews of s/v Sunnyside Up (whom we met in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador), Windfall, and Patience. We made an oriental stir fry for dinner.
Monday, June 20 We rented a car for our second land trip with Greg - a whitewater rafting adventure. Costa Rica is quite mountainous as we learned on our short ziplining trip. This time we drove all day through one mountain after another to Turrialbe - beautiful country - even greener than El Salvador. We spent the night at a very basic hotel recommended by the tour company - Interamericano Hotel. It was very inexpensive ($35 for a double room with a private bath; only about half that price with a shared bath). It was owned and run by a woman from the US (New Jersey or New York) who had obviously been in Costa Rica for awhile. She said the streets were very safe at night, so we took a walk to see a bit of the town and have dinner. She had a small entourage of dogs and it was very homey and comfortable.
Tuesday, June 21 Tico's River Adventures picked us up at the hotel (actually we followed them in our car part way to the launching site) in the morning. We rafted the Pacuare river with Fabio as our guide and Roberto accompanying us in his very small personal kayak to take photos of us. We have included some of his shots in our website gallery. There were three others in our raft: Tom, his daughter Samay, and Jacob. They are from Miami, but have family here in Costa Rica that they visit regularly. It was awesome - so much fun! The first part of the trip was easier rapids and the last part class 3 and 4 rapids. When Fabio mentioned that the rain of the night before was going to make this trip exciting as the river was higher he saw a bit of apprehension in Virginia's eyes so he told her not to worry - he would take care of her just like she was his mother. He teased her all day calling her 'mom' but she played the part well watching and worrying about all of us throughout the day. About 2/3 of the way down the river we stopped for lunch which they had brought in a water-tight barrel - delicious fixings for burritos along with fresh pineapple. We then headed for San Jose as Greg's flight left early the next morning. We had reserved rooms at the Berlor Airport Hotel . We had trouble finding the hotel and circled around in San Jose for a few hours (asking directions several times). We still haven't gotten used to the lack of road signs and navigation by landmark versus a map and street names. But Mexico, El Salvador, and Costa Rica were all very similar so as we get more experience with it, we are getting somewhat better at it...but we have a ways to go. The hotel was a bed and breakfast/boutique hotel with just 10 rooms. The rooms were very basic and relatively inexpensive ($68 for a double room) but the staff were so friendly and helpful.
Wednesday, June 22 the hotel shuttled Greg to the airport very early. We had the breakfast that was included and then headed out to see Volcan Poas. We had gotten detailed directions from the hotel staff, but it turned out that the road was very well marked with road signs to this national park. The volcanoes are oftentimes covered with clouds but we were lucky and Poas was completely visible this day. We got some pictures looking down into the top of the volcano at the lagoon and rising steam. We took the hike to a nearby lagoon that is the top of the Botos volcano that has been inactive for many years. The whole area was just gorgeous with lush vegetation. We decided to take a small detour before heading back to Golfito and visited Grecia (the homes on the hillsides indicate that some of Costa Rica's wealthier people live here) and Sarchi (known for the many artisans). We ate lunch at a restaurant that had a menu item for "typical" Costa Rican cuisine and ordered that. It was identical to the meal we had in Liberia so we had confirmation that indeed it was 'typico'. We had a long ride home through winding mountain roads, with rain (sometimes very heavy), lightning, fog/clouds, and slow trucks to pass. We took turns driving. Sometimes the rain got so heavy that we contemplated stopping somewhere and napping in the car, but about that time the storm would weaken and we would plow on. We arrived in Golfito about 2200 and had a sumptuous dinner of apples and peanuts as we hadn't stopped driving since leaving Sarchi. As we ate a storm blew through dumping more rain. We contemplated sleeping in the car, as Tim had given us a ride ashore the day we left so we wouldn't have to leave our dinghy in the water while we were gone. We didn't want to awaken him at that hour so when the rain stopped Dennis scouted the dinghies tied to the dock for one with oars that he could borrow to get us out to the boat. Apparently Tim was awake, heard Dennis on the dock and came out and volunteered to give us a ride. He had been watching our boat for us while we were gone, charging the batteries when they got low, standing by to move it if the anchor started dragging, etc. so all was well when we got back to Libertad, and we sure got a better night's rest than we would have in the car.
Thursday, June 23 was a rest and recovery day. In the early morning we took our gasoline cans to the station to be filled (we use gasoline for the dinghy, our portable generator, and trading for lobster -see our earlier blog entry), provisioned at the SuperMercado and the local produce stand, and then returned the rental car. It rained most of the day - a first for us - and we used that time relaxing on the boat reading, catching up on email, and posting this blog. We knew our propane was low and we were running the refrigerator on it while we were on our latest trip, so indeed it ran out today. Oh well, can't cook tonight - dinner ashore and bus trip to the propane shop tomorrow. We'll be here a few more days at least before we head to Panama.
Sunday, May 29 we left Bahia del Sol around noon at high tide. The pilots for guiding you across the bar ride on a ski jet ahead of you. The one sitting on the back takes pictures and talks you through it on the VHF radio, giving instructions such as "slow down, we're gonna let a few of these pass under you" or "Ok full speed ahead now" or the favorite "anybody get wet on that one?" Of course everyone in the anchorage knows you are leaving as there has been several "good byes" and "good lucks" leading up to the departure and they are all listening to their radios being thoroughly entertained. Our trip out was certainly more exciting than our entrance had been, but it wasn't bad, judging from other stories. Bill of Metakulu (the pilot in the rear seat) sent us some good pictures which we'll post. But our adventure had only begun.
Just an hour or two out of port we caught a mackerel. We had purchased a long handled net and it worked great; it was so easy to bring the fish aboard (and keep it aboard). We had a wonderful fresh fish dinner. After sunset we realized something that will undoubtedly get us an "award" in our boating squadron - we hadn't taken on fuel as planned in Bahia del Sol. Whether it was the distraction of all the land travel - who knows, but we messed up. We checked our charts for the nearest fuel - Barillas in El Salvador. We were only a few miles away, but it also has a bar and you can't go over it after 3:00pm. We weren't sure if we had enough fuel to putter around all night waiting for the opportunity to cross the bar so we headed a few more miles off shore to get away from nighttime encounters with fishing pangas and turned off the engine (where's the wind when you need it!). Then the typical evening rain storm came. We bobbed around in the storm throughout the night, closely watching our position which didn't change much as the storm didn't bring any wind with it. Neither of us got much sleep that night.
Monday, May 30 we turned on the engine in the early morning and headed toward the anchorage, calling the Barillas port authority to make arrangements for a pilot. At that point our friends Rose and Jani on Lovely Lady radioed us that they were waiting to cross the bar as well and had arranged for their pilot to take us across together, given we are about the same size. We had been told that a swell was coming into this area which would certainly close the entrance (which is one reason we had left Bahia del Sol when we did). Well it had already arrived and the pilot was now advising us to go east to La Union (no bar there) which is in the Gulf of Fonseca. Lovely Lady had just come from there and wasn't looking forward to a return trip and we notified Barillas that we did not have enough fuel. No problem - they would send a panga out with 15 gallons for us. Lovely Lady decided to wait for us so we could buddy boat to La union (great friends - as it was going to be a wait of about 2 hours to get the panga to us with the fuel). We loaded the diesel without any hitch other than fuel all over us and the deck as the boat pitched in the swell. The panga reported conditions back to the port and now they were telling us that they might be able to take us across the bar. Neither boat liked the sound of the 'might', so we decided to go to La Union. We arrived after dark, but Lovely Lady took the lead and took us to their previous anchorage spot just off the navy base. It was so easy for us with their local knowledge. Lights out - sleep!
Tuesday, May 31 we had to clear back into El Salvador (as we had cleared out and gotten our international Zarpe when we left Bahia del Sol). Rose had made friends with the local authorities on her previous visit and they made it so easy for us. We met them at a restaurant (Resturante Amanecer Marino) on the beach near our anchorage. We learned that morning that Lovely Lady had their share of dramas (traumas) recently including the pilot grounding them on the bar upon their first entry to Barillas (they had planned to haul out there and store for the winter). After the grounding they needed to haul out to check for damage but the lift in Barillas was occupied so they had come to La Union only to find the lift at the navy yard had broken when trying to haul a large navy boat (that was somewhat good fortune as that could have been them). That navy boat was still sitting askew in the hoist. So they were heading back to Barillas to wait for the lift there (the night we were bobbing out there) when they hit a panga boat in the pitch blackness of the storm. We were even more amazed at their generosity to wait to buddy boat with us - great friends. Things began to look up for them when we departed as they had had an inspection which revealed no critical damage. Two other boats that had been with us in Bahia del Sol were in a nearby anchorage and radioed that they would come into town and join us for lunch. There is no fuel dock in La Union (which we found amazing given they have a fishing fleet) so we had to jerry jug the fuel from the gas station in town. It took us awhile to get the arrangements set up (find a spot where we could land the dinghy and load fuel cans in and out, where it would be safe, and where it was close to a street with taxis, and then move Libertad closer to that spot) but we found a great spot where the staff at the small tienda located there was very nice and one even spoke some English. Dennis really cranked and made each run in about 30 minutes. We figured we needed about 4 runs to have plenty of fuel to get us to Costa Rica. Virginia stayed aboard and watched the tides and anchor. On his way back to Libertad on the last run, the daily rainstorm hit and this one had some wind with it. We were both soaked by the time he was aboard. We learned our lesson - don't think we'll forget about fuel again.
Wednesday, June 1 - Thursday June 2. Wednesday morning we cleared out of El Salvador for Costa Rica (again). We used the Resturante Amanecer Marino again. The proprietor is so nice to allow this. He even asked us if we wanted to go into a private air conditioned room. We headed for Isla Meanguera - a nearby island at the mouth of the Gulf. Our friends on Jeorgia (Chris and Paul) and Rapscullion (Henry and Pam) were going to be there that night. It was a beautiful spot - so peaceful. From there you could see the three countries that bound the Gulf of Fonseca (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua). There is a hotel in the anchorage run by a family. The father is American (raised in Los Angeles) and the mother is El Salvadorean (but also spent time part of her childhood in LA). They have a daughter, about 10 yr old, that is so sweet. We pampered ourselves, staying in that anchorage 2 nights and having dinner at the hotel out on their veranda overlooking the Gulf both nights. We were the only people there. We would highly recommend that any boats passing this way, visit this island and the patio of Hotel la Joya del Golfo (www.hotellajoyadelgolfo.com), the father is very sociable, tending to every need and the wife is a marvelous cook.
Friday, June 3 - Saturday June 4. Friday morning we headed out with Jeorgia at about 0530 bound for Santa Elena, Costa Rica. We saw lots of floating sea turtles and two dolphins were swimming around the boat at night leaving a phosphorescent trail. Two boobies perched on our masts overnight. We motor sailed all except a couple hours and had another rainstorm with lightning. It was nice to have company. We set up a check-in schedule at 2000, 2400, 0400 and when the storm was nearby we checked in more frequently to share information and ideas on where to run and how to avoid it. We saw a few pangas as we left the Gulf of Fonseca and one large container ship near a Nicaraguan commercial port - otherwise we appeared to be the only two boats out there. They left a bit earlier than us, but once we caught up we stayed within sight and VHF range of each other the entire passage. We had selected an SSB channel to use for our check-ins in case we got out of VHF range. If we had each been able to sail more, we might have diverged. We arrived at the Santa Elena anchorage on Saturday at about 1830 just as the sun was setting. It was gorgeous and calm. We got the daily rainstorm, but it was light.
Sunday, June 5 - Monday, June 6. We noted some irregularity with the condition of our batteries. With the help of Paul from Jeorgia we got a better understanding of the state of our batteries and got ourselves fully charged and the monitor reset. While recharging the batteries Dennis & Paul diagnosed and fixed our GPS-to-laptop connection and now we have GPS data on our laptop plotting software. Dennis also had to do some maintenance on the propane system as the solenoid switch failed. Five months of wear and tear and some of the systems are now asking for attention. But we also had some play time, kayaking the estuary and snorkeling in the bay. There is coral near the islands at the mouth of the bay and we saw a variety of beautiful fish there. This was our first snorkeling of the trip. Virginia still needs to get more comfortable with it and so she floated around using the boogie board as an aid. We saw some beautiful birds - bright green with long tail feathers (motmots). We saw pairs of parrots fly overhead numerous times (you can hear them chattering away). In the early mornings and evenings it sounded like the animals were having a party ashore. We would have liked to do a hike at those times to get some good pictures, but rain and boat projects got in the way. It was a beautiful and very calm anchorage.
Tuesday, June 7 we left Santa Elena at first light, 0500, and headed to Playas del Coco. We needed to check into the country and get prepared for meeting Dennis' brother Greg who would be joining us for 10 days. We arrived around 1230. We had lunch aboard and Dennis headed to shore to start the check-in process, which we were told would be lengthy and take a full day. We had also heard that the swell here made it hard to land the dinghy so he took one of the kayaks. But there was very little swell that day and he had an easy landing. He met with the port captain and immigration and made an appointment for the agricultural inspection for 0830 the next morning. Immigration wanted to see Virginia in person but gave Dennis what he needed for the port captain and trusted him to bring Virginia back the next day. That night the anchorage became very rolly and so we experienced interrupted sleep even with the flopper-stoppers deployed.
Wednesday, June 8 we both went ashore in the dinghy to finish the check-in process. In keeping with the rolly night we had, there was a bit more swell, but Dennis carefully eased us in. We locked the dinghy to a metal stand. Virginia stayed at the port captain's office while Dennis took the agricultural inspector in the dinghy out to the boat. This is the first country where we had such an inspection. Because we had heard about the rolly anchorage, difficult dinghy landing, and petty thievery in Playas del Coco we had originally planned on anchoring around the corner in Playas Panama and bussing here to clear-in. But some other boats that had been in El Salvador with us and had recently cleared in here warned that the port captain was not happy with folks that did that, and we can now see why given the agricultural inspection requirement. Virginia made her visit to Immigration. Our last step was to go to customs, near the airport in Liberia. We took a bus. It cost us 500 colones apiece ($1US). It was an easy trip out there and we had all our paperwork in order so the process was quick. But....then we tried to get a bus back. There was no official busstop at the Aduano (customs) but we were told the buses would stop there if you waved them down. This was a busy highway so it was hard to see the signs on the buses as they approached, so we had to try to flag down all of them and then wave them off if not our bus. Few of them would slow down or stop. We decided to walk down the road to an official bus stop. Finally we saw the Coco bus, but despite both of us waving to flag him down, he just kept on going. That had been about an hour wait. We decided to take the next bus headed in that direction and then transfer to a Coco bus. 45 minutes later and we had seen nothing but local route buses. We walked back to the Aduano office to ask them to call us a taxi. Just as we got to the Aduano driveway another Coco bus passed and again ignored our waving. So we took a $50 taxi ride back to Coco. Clearing in here does take time as reported, but only that final leg of the trip was frustrating - the rest went smoothly and the officials were patient with our very limited Spanish. This is the first port where the officials didn't speak English. We moved the boat around the corner to Playas Panama. It is much more scenic and calm here. We contacted the nearby Marina Papagayo and they have room for us. We plan to take a slip for one night to charge our batteries, take on water (which is potable everywhere in Costa Rica), and pick up Dennis' brother.