Wed Feb 29 At 2200 we took a taxi to the bus terminal. Our bus didn't leave until 2330, and indeed we had gotten there too early. Despite the heat, we dug into our duffle bags and got out long pants and jackets so that we could cover up as much as possible as there were mosquitoes everywhere. We spent the next hour just pacing around so that they didn't have a convenient place to land. The locals each carried a small towel that they would constantly swing and use to swat the mosquitoes. At one point Virginia considered asking one of the taxis if we could pay them just to sit in their taxi for the next hour, but decided that would be too wimpy. We were glad when we could board the bus and dozed during the 4 hour ride to Guayaquil.
Thu Mar 1 The bus terminal in Guayaquil was in a bit shopping mall; but at 0400 not much was open. We took a taxi ride to the airport for the first flight to Lima. In Lima we had to disembark and check into our second flight to Cuzco. We had obviously forgotten about some of the airline rules about what is acceptable to carry on in your luggage as we both lost parts of our manicure sets there. They double checked some of Dennis' bags and in the shuffle his tilly hat and our mouse pad (with the pictures of our grandkids!) were lost. We were met at the airport and taken via taxi to Corihuasi hostel. It is right off the central plaza up a steep cobblestone road. We got lots of exercise while we were there. Our first stop was to an ATM to get Peruvian soles and then to a pharmacy to get medicine to prevent altitude sickness. We wandered the cobblesone streets of Cuzco and bought Dennis a souvenir - a hat. It rained off and on every day we were in Cuzco and we were wishing we brought our umbrellas as we couldn't find any to purchase in town. But we had our hats and windbreakers. We made our arrangements through a travel agency four our trip to Machu Picchu. When we got back to the hotel, we noticed that we had a leak in the roof which was dripping onto our bed. The hotel staff was very accommodating and moved us to a different room. Corihuasi is a very simple but clean and comfortable bed and breakfast. We spent some time on the internet and skype trying to track down our wind generator circuit board which was to be shipped to Ecuador only to find that it had been shipped to Panama. So we ordered a second one to be shipped to Karen who is joining us in just about a week so that she can bring it down with her. Valerie and Stan on Pax Nautica graciously agreed to take the one that arrived in Panama to the Galapagos with them and we'll hook up with them there. We ate in a cute restaurant - got sucked in by a street hawker. But we enjoyed the Peruvian food. We even tried an alpaca appetizer; but we did not order the cuy - guinea pig - also considered a 'typico' dish here.
Fri Mar 2 We are off to Machu Picchu. We took a bus (large van) from Ollyntaytambo and then transferred to a Peru Rail train for the second half of the trip to Agua Callientes. Each leg was about 2 hours. Our bus driver was stopped at a random check point for a documentation check and he drove like a madman through the windy roads to get us back on schedule. The countryside was so beautiful, spotted with farming settlements. The bus ride took us above Cuzco, giving us a nice view of the city. The train was quite comfortable - groups of 4 around a table. We lucked out and were seated on the side by the river - the best views. The river was raging wildly - not navigable by kayakers or rafters - eventually feeding into the Amazon. We followed the river down to Machu Picchu. We were greeted in Agua Callientes by our 'transfer' person who walked us to Pirwa hostel. Again a very simple room, but clean and comfortable with private bath and breakfast included. That night our guide, Peter, came to the hostel at 1900 to give us a briefing so we would know what to expect and what to bring. It rained all day and night. We were glad we had found some umbrellas in Ollyntaytambo near the train station.
Sat Mar 3 We awoke to a beautiful day - no rain. We took the 0700 bus ride up to Machu Picchu from Agua Calientes (about 30 min) and met Peter at the entrance. We only had 8 in our group which was wonderful. We saw much larger groups of 20+ that were quite unwieldy. We were able to move about quickly from spot to spot. Peter's English was very good and he was a wealth of information. Machu Picchu was amazing. It is a huge settlement and so well preserved. Since it was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors, it wasn't destroyed like the other ruins near Cuzco that we visited. However, when Hiram Bingham did come across it in 1911 it was deserted and any artifacts of value or symbolic importance were gone. It is believed that the Incans in Machu Picchu and other nearby settlements voluntarily evacuated and took all their treasures to "the lost city". They were afraid of being discovered and pillaged by the conquistadors. The engineering and architectural feats are unbelievable. For instance, there are two earthquake faults there which you can see from visible fissures in nearby mountains. The Inca designed the city around these, providing a break in the walls at critical points to allow for fault effects. We had the guide for two hours and then were on our own to explore. We walked to an Incan drawbridge and Dennis walked part of the Inca Trail while Virginia rested and people watched. We only had 10 minutes of light sprinkles the entire day. It was amazing. We were so lucky. By taking the 30 min bus ride from Agua Callientes we took the easy route. You can also hike from Agua Callientes to Machu Picchu (couple hours) or take a 4 day hike that starts closer to Ollentaytambo. We met a young woman from Australia in the airport who had done the 4 day hike with her sisters. She said that it is very difficult when it is raining as the Inca Trail is all cobblestone and by the third day when their legs were rubber they were all constantly slipping and falling. Also they just could not get warm as everything got wet. We were glad we had taken the easy route this time.
Sun Mar 4 Took Peru Rail back to Ollyntaytambo at 0830 and then a bus/van back to Cuzco. We returned to Corihuasi Hostel.
Mon Mar 5 Went on a guided tour of the city in the afternoon. It included a cathedral, Incan temple, and several ruins just outside Cuzco. Our English speaking guide, Raul, gave us a lot of info about the Incans, especially their use of astrology. It rained as we explored the ruins but we came prepared with our jackets and umbrellas.
Tues Mar 6 We walked the city on our own, visiting several museums and discovering small hidden plazas and fountains. We attended a folklorica show that night with traditional Peruvian music and dancing. The costumes were beautiful and elaborate. Both men and women danced very energetically throughout. It was a different style than we had seen in Panama.
Wed Mar 7 We flew to Quito and stayed at the Sakti Hostel, recommended by Suzanne and Michael of Namaste. Elena and Humberto run a French vegetarian restaurant and small hostel. The rooms were simple with French country style decorations. They were very pleasant people - such nice hosts. Dennis found a Rotary club that was meeting that night and we attended their dinner meeting. Fernando Lasso spoke wonderful English and was the first to greet us. As he was on the board and had duties to attend to, he sat us with a former Rotarian Governor who belongs to that club. He was kind enough to keep us apprised of what was happening. It was a very enjoyable evening. The next day, Mar 8, was Women's Day which evidently they make a big deal of in Peru so they gave some special recognition to all the women Rotarians present that night as well as Virginia.
Thu Mar 8 Sakti's included breakfast started out with a big bowl of fruit - delicious. We took the bus to the airport to meet Karen. She brought an extra small suitcase full of gear for us. She breezed right through customs. We had a late big vegetarian lunch at Sakti and took an early evening walk around town. There was a large children's park with every imaginable play structure, including a run similar to ziplining. It was fabulous. We had obviously just missed a parade and other festivities. They were cleaning up. We skipped dinner and just relaxed in our rooms.
Fri Mar 9 We had another great breakfast with fruit at Sakti before heading off to the airport. We took a short hop to Manta and then a bus ride to Bahia de Caraquez. A short taxi ride got us to Puerto Amistad around 1730. The staff took us out to Libertad in a panga. We had eaten a hurried, but substantial, lunch in Manta so we skipped dinner and called it an early night as we, especially Dennis, were exhausted. It was more of an emotional exhaustion than physical , from the surprise that awaited us when we returned to Libertad. We had hired Raymundo to run the engine periodically to charge the batteries while we were gone. Although he had dutifully done that, we came back to only a 33% charge. Dennis traced it to the alternator (again!); he took off the 'new' one and put on our rebult one and we were charging again. We ran the engine for several hours to get back up. Meanwhile Virginia and Karen cleaned out the freezer because it had turned off automatically when the battery voltage got too low. All the meet was unfrozen, warm and smelly. We cleaned the freezer several times with soap, water, vinegar...and the small somewhat dissipated. We took the spoiled food ashore to put in the trash and proceeded immediately to the bar for a cold drink.
Sat Mar 10 Tripp Martin, the harbormaster of Puerto Amistad has returned from the his trip to the states so we got to meet him and get things rolling for our departure. We need to be topped off with diesel, gasoline, water, and propane. We also need to get our paperwork, zarpe. The port captain has been gone but they are expecting him back Monday so hopefully we can leave early next week. Meanwhile we are provisioning the boat and installing the new wind generator circuit board that Karen delivered to us (among other projects). We have been without propane since we returned as they didn't fill the one tank we gave them before we left for Peru. Since non-ecuadorians aren't allowed to buy propane, Tripp buys it in large canisters and then his staff gravity feeds it into our smaller containers - very time consuming. We got one tank back today so we were able to cook aboard.
Sun Mar 11 Caught up on internet work in the morning. Worked on boat projects in the afternoon. Dennis finished the wind generator installation and Virginia sewed a new canvas cover for our outboard and for the generator. Karen assisted with both; Virginia was so happy to have someone willing to do all the seam ripping of the old cover so she could use it as a pattern. Movie night: Karen had not seen Captain Ron yet so we had to watch that.
Mon Mar 12 we were hoping to leave today or tomorrow, but it looks like it will be Wednesday before all preparations are in order. We have provisioned. They've delivered the diesel and gasoline. We still need the propane, water, and our zarpe. They say it will arrive Tuesday so that we can leave Wed. morning. Tonight we went over to Suzanne and Michael's house for dinner - enjoyable evening swapping cruising stories.
Mon, Feb 6 - Tues Feb 7 Spent a couple frustrating days dealing with insurance issues. Dennis hates the very concept of insurance, so Virginia was pretty much on her own trying to figure out a solution. Found ourselves in a catch-22 where the insurance company requires a haul-out for a survey before they will bond the insurance (not unusual), the marina requires liability insurance to haul-out our boat for the survey (not unusual), yet the insurance company won't even issue us the liability-only insurance in advance to get the haul-out that they require (ergo Dennis' opinion of insurance is perhaps well-deserved). Additionally, although it was so easy to get liability-only insurance in Mexico, the companies in Panama we contacted said that they don't have such a thing as "we don't have that problem here", namely the boatyards don't require it here (we beg to differ). s/v Sweetie was in the same situation so the two of us tried every angle we could and Shannon on Sweetie saved the day. She found a company that said they would give us 6 months Panama-liability-only insurance. Then the next shoe dropped - our selected surveyor wasn't going to be able to make it at the appointed haul-out time as they were doing another survey on the Atlantic side of Panama earlier that same day. So we found another surveyor and rushed approval of him through our intended boat insurance company.
Wed, Feb 8 We went to the Cruiser's dim sum breakfast at the Chinese restaurant with Sweetie before heading over to the insurance company to pay. The dim sum breakfast was delicious and we were surprised that we had never experienced that wide-spread tradition before. At the Insurance company, when we paid they told us if we just hung around for a while they would produce the policies right then. We pulled out our deck of cards, that cruisers always carry for such 'waiting' situations and after about an hour of enjoyable gin rummy we walked out with our policies. Shannon's Spanish and great ability to connect with people saved the day. That evening we had dinner aboard AnnLucia to say our farewell as they were leaving in a couple days for the Galapagos. Now I have a new item on my bucket list - go to Japan and visit Ken and Sylvia.
Thu, Feb 9 Boat project day, doing final things to get the boat ready for the haul-out. Spent the greater portion of the day doing errands around town on the buses. Attended the pizza cruiser night.
Fri, Feb 10 About an hour before our scheduled haul-out time we motored over to Flamenco Marina and took on full tanks of diesel and water. While we were at the fuel dock, another Amel pulled in just ahead of us. The captain told us that he had almost bought our boat about 10 years ago (making it just before we bought it). He knew enough details about the boat and former owner that we agreed it was this same boat he had considered....small world. We were then told that the haul-out would be delayed about an hour. The surveyor came aboard at the fuel dock and did most of his work such that when we were hauled out, he just looked at the bottom of the boat and performed a very cursory checked for about 15 minutes and then we went right back in the water. When we met him and he understood he was surveying an Amel, he said, "Why are you hauling her?" We replied, "Because the insurance company required it." Dennis cringed again at spending nearly $1000 on a needless insurance issue ($4500/hr -nice work if you can get it). He found all to be ship-shape and so we were able to move ahead and finalize our insurance. The only frustrating part of the day was that a small panga had taken 'our spot' in the anchorage by the time we got back and so we had to relocate to a more rolly spot.
Sat Feb 11 Virginia and Shannon stretched their legs with a long walk down the malecon. Virginia's broken toe is healing well. Richard from Tisha Baby dinghied over to our boat to let us know that the panga had now moved and we could come back to his neighborhood. We did that. For some reason the anchor just wouldn't hold and it took us about 4-5 times before we were set.
Sun Feb 12 We had intended to go to El Valle (artisan area) today as they have a big market on Sundays. But an Ironman contest is being held out on the causeway and traffic will be shut down for a good portion of the day. The running part is down the causeway with the turnaround point right near our boat. We have a great view of the water stop which includes both cups of water for drinking as well as a squirt with a fire hose for those who want it (and very few are turning it down as it is hot out there today). Lance Armstrong participated and we are told he came in second. Tisha Baby (Pam and Richard) invited us over for Ironman cocktail hour, along with Sally and Dave from Hopalong. Turns out that Dave went to UCSB for one year and their son graduated from UCSB and is still working and living in Santa Barbara with his wife. Some fireworks were set off that evening while we were visiting. It was quite a pleasant night.
Mon Feb 13 A diver we met while in the Flamenco Marina, Marvin, cleaned the bottom of our boat this morning for only $40 - very inexpensive compared to other quotes we've heard. He did a nice job and word spread quickly through the anchorage such that two other boats asked us to give them a call when he was done and they'd come pick him up to do their boat. He was happy to have the work. We hired a taxi driver, Tony, to take us around in the afternoon so that we could pack in a number of errands quicker than via the bus, and utilize his knowledge of the area. For instance we asked him to take us to an alternator expert and a shop that would weld an aluminum part for us. He was very helpful and friendly. We also needed to drop by Gente de Mar - the service that cruisers use for a lot of things here in Panama City. They do pick-ups and deliveries at the dinghy dock for laundry, propane, gasoline jerry jugs. And they have a package delivery service. We had three packages mailed to their Florida office (for parts under warranty: hookha compressor piston, air bladders for our shade structure, circuit board for our wind generator). We have only received two of them and we are now told that there will be no shipments next week due to Carnival...ugh. We need to get onto Ecuador.
Tues Feb 14 Today we arranged for Gente de Mar to mail our last package directly from Florida (it has already been received there) to Ecuador. Crossing our fingers that this works as we need that wind generator for the pacific crossing.
Wed Feb 15 Starting today the metro buses are using a pre-paid card - will not accept cash any longer. We went to Machitozo, a supermercado on The Walking Street, to get our bus cards. Then we put them to good use, packing in so many errands that we took just about every bus route there was. Our last errand was to stop by the Tinajas Restaurant to make reservations for dinner and traditional folklorico show the following night.
Thu Feb 16 We cleared out of Panama this morning as they allow you to do it a few days in advance and with Carnival starting today, many places are closed the rest of the week. This was our designated tourist day. We took a bus out to the Miraflores locks. We got to see three sailboats, rafted together, going through the locks ahead of a big freighter. We had hoped to do a canal transit with our friends but this was the next best thing to get to see those sailboats so close. We took pictures and when we returned to the anchorage we saw that two of the boats were anchored near us. We copied our pictures onto a flash drive for them -t hey were thrilled. That night we went to the show at Tinajas. It was a very fun evening. We got to the restaurant really early due to carnival traffic. The taxi that was taking us back to the anchorage after our Miraflores adventure was stopped dead in traffic. So we told him just to turn around and take us to the restaurant. He cleverly managed to find a u-turn opportunity. That gave us about 2 hours at the restaurant before show time. But the restaurant staff were very happy to see us and treated us well. We sat in the bar having margaritas and watching Panamanian baseball on a big screen. Then we had a very leisurely dinner and a nice conversation with a tour guide who had accompanied a big group that night. She was looking for a little break from the crowd and sat near us in the quiet corner of the restaurant. We then moved into the showroom and had seats at the stage level - perfect view. The women dancers moved very gracefully and fluidly. The men kept the upper half of their body completely still while their legs and feet moved in intricate, frantic patterns. It was very interesting. Near the end of the show the 8 dancers each chose someone from the audience to come up and dance with them and Virginia was lucky enough to get selected. We really enjoyed the evening.
Fri Feb 17 Provisioning day. When checking out the previous day, we met Barbara and Michael from Astarte. They are headed to the Galapagos, bypassing mainland Ecuador. Barbara went with us to Abastos and we all came back loaded down with produce. She was much better than us at negotiating a good price from the taxi driver - it's an art. Pam from Precious Metal and Henry from Rapscullion came over for dinner. Those of you who did the 2008 Baha Haha with us will remember that Pam loaned us her Honda generator when we were having the starter problems. We had met up again with her and Henry in El Salvador and then hadn't seen them since. This was our one chance to connect with them before heading further south. Pam has been to Ecuador, the Galapagos, and Peru, so she gave us some helpful hints about those areas. We had an enjoyable dinner with them and Pam's dog Reilly. That evening we reviewed our chart inventory for the Galapagos and beyond.
Sat Feb 18 In the early morning we went to Islamadora to get some more detailed charts of the Galapagos and French Polynesia. It is a great chart store that prints charts on demand. It is fairly close to the anchorage - at the end of the causeway; just a short taxi-ride away; thus we didn't get into Carnival traffic headed downtown. The Artesan market was right next door. Since we didn't get to El Valle, Virginia made a sweep through this market and found a beautiful hand-woven basket that now adorns our salon. We pulled up anchor at 1100 and headed for the Perlas Islands enroute to Ecuador. Our first stop was Isla Contadora.
Sun Feb 19 Pam and Henry recommended that we go ashore at Contadora to the Restaurant Romantico. We did so and had a delicious lunch from a table with a great view and good Internet connection. We were able to get a few more high priority Internet tasks done. We pulled up anchor at 1430 and headed further south in the Perlas to an anchorage between Isla del Rey and Isla Spiritu Sancto. We ended up anchoring right next to s/v Tisha Baby.
Mon Feb 20 We cleaned the boat topsides and stowed items for the 5 day passage to Ecuador. Virginia polished the stainless lifeline, BBQ, etc. We hoisted the outboard off the dinghy and secured it on the rail, cleaned/deflated/stored the dinghy, scrubbed the decks, installed the hydrovane rudder, etc. We pulled up anchor and waved goodbye to Pam and Richard at 1500. At about 1645 we were clear of the islands and had enough wind to SAIL! It was so peaceful not to listen to the engine. The wind was consistent enough that we were able to use the Hydrovane to steer us, allowing us to turn of the autopilot which made it even quieter and reduced our power usage. The wind (and seas) whipped up in the evening around 2300 to consistently over 20 knots and gusted at times to 30. With the wind coming from the north, it was behind us pushing us along so we made great time. We were consistently doing 7-8 knots (we generally average 5-6) and a couple times we saw it hit 10. A few of the waves managed to spray into the cockpit so it was a bit of a wet ride. We reefed, and then double reefed which made it a more comfortable ride. We saw lightening, but in the distance - we had lots of stars overhead. At one point we saw another sailboat ahead of us. We were catching up and deciding how to steer clear of them when they changed course and headed away from us. It was too dark to see who it was. We saw a couple freighters headed for the canal.
Tues Feb 21 The winds calmed down a bit in the morning, but we still had plenty of wind to continue sailing. We got to shake out the reefs and put up full sail again. It was an uneventful day. We didn't see any other boats, obstacles, or wildlife. The evening watch started out very calm and peaceful with lots of stars overhead including the Southern Cross. Around midnight the winds increased to 20-30 as they had the previous night, and again we reefed. The seas weren't as heavy this day and we didn't get wet; but we did bundle up as it got cool.
Wed Feb 22 0900 we checked into the PanPacific net as we like to do each morning, especially when we are on a passage. It allows us to check on the progress of our friends, record our position with the net controller, get weather updates (mostly from Richard on Tisha Baby), and hear reports from other cruisers "ahead" of us. Those heading to Galapagos have been experiencing very light winds, so we are thankful for the wind we have now. In fact we made 300 miles the last two days which is amazing. Around 0930 the wind lessened to the point that we put up the spinnaker (first time in a long time, so some relearning was in order). The wind vane is having trouble with the following seas and less consistent wind so we are using the autopilot again - it is doing wonderfully under these conditions but does suck up the battery. We are continuing to learn more about managing our power. We have the engine, prop alternator, solar panels, (and hopefully soon will have the wind generator again) to generate power. We have been changing out our lights to LED which use less power. Today we read the manual and learned how to use our radar on standby mode which we will use during the day. This allows us to use it to see our course, progress towards the waypoint, and other particulars being fed to that device by the GPS, but turns off the radar scanner. We keep a constant watch and feel that during daylight hours we don't rely on the radar to help us see upcoming obstacles any way. We turn on the radar to full mode at night and during the day when we are in a shipping lane. At lunch we had a mini-celebration because Dennis noted that we are more than half way (mileage-wise) to our Ecuador destination. It has been only two days of an anticipated 5 day trip. Around 1830 the wind died; we tried a number of sail combinations including wing on wing with the jib out to one side and the main out to the opposite side, but eventually turned on the engine when we couldn't even make a consistent 2 knots....bummer. We motored all night in very calm seas. We are travelling about 100 miles off shore. Our visual passage software suggested this route and for the most part it has served us well wind-wise. We also wanted to be off shore when passing Columbia as some boats were reporting that the Columbian navy was boarding all vessels travelling closer to shore. When they came onboard they were very professional and polite, but they were approaching boats at all times of the day and night and it was frightening for those who were approached during the night. We just wanted to avoid it all together and we did.
Thu Feb 23 0800 we had enough wind to hoist the sails. The track on mizzen mast was damaged when we first bought the boat and trucked it across country. Dennis' repair job has worked well these past 12 years, but it now needs a bit of TLC. So we aren't using the mizzen until he has a chance to affect another repair. But we have plenty of other sails. Today we are using the main, jib, and forestaysail. On the morning net we talked with s/v Azimuth who will be following us to mainland Ecuador in about a week. We had originally offered to bring some parts from Panama to Ecuador for a boat currently in Bahia de Caraquez (our intended destination). But the parts were delayed, so we handed off to Azimuth who will bring them. We emailed the waypoints for our path to Azimuth, who hopefully can get some of the wind we had. We are both headed for Puerto Amistad a marina/yacht club in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. It has a field of mooring balls and comes highly recommended by other cruisers for the services they offer. They handle the check-in and check-out procedures with the officials making it very convenient in a country that requires you to use an agent. They are allowing us to ship our wind generator circuit board to them. Additionally, they provide propane fill-ups, laundry service, restaurant, nighttime security guards, etc. Lost our wind about 2300 and motored through the night, watching lightning in the distance.
Fri Feb 24 We are in Ecuador waters now and it appears we have hit the ITCZ (Intertropical convergence zone) where doldrums are common. We had some light rains in the morning - not enough to even collect in our water tanks though. A panga approached us , directing us around the 'long-lines' they had set out. We could see the flags, but it was still helpful to have their direction. Dennis decided this must be a good fishing zone so he put out our lines. A few hours later we thought we had caught 'the big one', but it turned out we had snagged a sea turtle's flipper. It was a big one, about 24 inches wide and 30 inches long - heavy sucker. Dennis slowly reeled it in. When he got it to the back swim platform, the turtle rolled over on its back, looking exhausted. Dennis was able to remove our hook. The turtle turned back over and swam away. A happy ending. We crossed the equator at 1600. We had the requisite celebration. As the pictures in our photo gallery will show, Dennis had a net full of fish around his neck (he was to be King Neptune) and Virginia as his queen had a fish necklace. We had chilled the bottle of Brut that our friends the Ciolino's had given us for this occasion. We toasted each other and offered some up to King Neptune (poured it in the sea). It was fun. We arrived at Bahia de Caraquez at 2300. We anchored in "the waiting room" outside the entrance to the Rio Chone. A pilot would take us over the bar the next morning at high tide. Before bedding down we finished up our equator celebration (and the Brut) with some mimosas.
Sat Feb 25 The pilot, Juano, arrived at 0500 as scheduled to prepare for the 0600 high tide. Since it was overcast we had to delay a bit for the sun to peek through the clouds and give him better visibility. Juano took over the helm and led us through the surf at the mouth of the river with no mishaps. Watching the depth sounder though we could see that at times we only had a foot, if that, of water under the keel. He anchored us at Puerto Amistad. We took a nap. At 0900 we checked into the PanPacific net. The staff at Puerto Amistad have been very helpful. Raymundo came to the boat this morning to pick up our documentation so that they can start the check-in procedures. He scheduled the agriculture/health inspection and that officer showed up a short time later; he was interested in what meats, produce, and prescription medications we had aboard. He didn't confiscate anything and that fee was only $5. Raymundo and another fellow assisted us in moving over to a mooring; they secure each of the bow and stern to separate mooring balls here and they pack us in close together.
Sun Feb 26 We spent some time today rearranging the pots and pans storage as they were making too much racket on our last passage. We walked the malecon into town and checked out a few of the stores. We ran into an American couple who live in Ecuador now: Miriam and Dave Weaver . They were helpful in orienting us to the town and directing us to the produce Mercado.
Mon Feb 27 We connected with Ricardo Arenas via sat phone. He says our Galapagos permit is all squared away and he will be emailed us the Autografo about one week prior to our expected arrival date, so soon. We need that to check out of mainland Ecuador. We emailed Suzanne and Michael of s/v Namaste whom we had met in El Salvador to let them know we had finally made it here. They live in Ecuador but were moving their boat from Bahia de Caraquez up to El Salvador as a 'home port' given some new tax laws in Ecuador. They emailed us right back inviting us to meet at their house that evening and go out to one of their favorite local restaurants. They have done a lovely job renovating the house they bought here. It has a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean from all rooms of the house and especially from the rooftop patio. We always like to search out the local cuisine in each new stop and the restaurant they chose provided just that. We were the only customers there that night and got a lot of attention from the very nice owners. They also answered a lot of questions we had about getting ourselves to Peru, and then Quito. The local Rotary Club was meeting that night and although it was kind of late, the clubhouse was on our way back; we stopped in to find the group still there having their social time. Dennis gave them a Sunrise of SB Rotary banner and they were thrilled. The President and his wife are biologists working at the University and both spoke English. Their 4 youth-exchange students (high school age) were in attendance; they were from Alaska, Minnesota, France, and Germany. They all spoke English AND Spanish. Thus, despite our miserable Spanish, we were able to communicate and had a wonderful time.
Tues Feb 28 Trip planning day. We spent most of the day on the Internet making travel arrangements for our Peru trip. We get a bus out of here tomorrow around midnight to Guayaquil, a plane from there to Lima, another flight to Cuzco. We will spend the night in Cuzco. We take a train the next day to Agua Calientes where we booked a hotel. The next morning we take a 5:30 am train up to Machu Picchu. Can't wait. Internet reception on the boat was poor today, but Puerto Amistad has a nice area designated for Internet users with plugs for charging the laptops etc. at the clubhouse so we spent most of the day up there. We did take a break to take a taxi to the bus terminal to secure our tickets for tomorrow night's bus trip to Guayaquil. The driver was so helpful. Without us even asking, he followed us into the terminal and assisted us in purchasing the tickets. We hopped back in the taxi and rode back to the boat.
Thu Jan 19 0400 we headed around Punta Mala. We decided to make the passage to the Perlas in two day hops, stopping at Isla Iguana the first night. We got around the point with no problems and beyond the point the winds were stiffer and on the nose, but the seas were much less confused than our last attempt. We saw another sailboat actually sailing as they were coming from the opposite direction with the wind behind them. We were jealous until Virginia hailed them and talked to them on the radio, discovering that they wanted to be going our direction but when they lost their transmission and engine and had only sails, they had to turn around and head for a place accessible by 'sail'. We arrived at Isla Iguana at about 0945. It is a wildlife preserve and it was beautiful; the skies above it were filled with birds. That night we got some big rollers in the anchorage that caused us to bounce up and slam back down; we didn't sleep much and kept anchor watch. 50' further into the bay is a calm area, but that's because it is a reef - too shallow for anchoring.
Fri Jan 20 had planned on leaving at 0530, but the wind wasn't cooperating. We listened to the morning net , got our sailmail and buoyweather forecasts and decided to spend a second night at Isla iguana. It can't be perfect all the time! We anchored in a slightly different spot hoping for more protection. Two officials approached us and asked for $50 for anchoring there. It was for a good cause - the preservation of that area, so we paid it without too much argument. Hamburgers and movie night. We slept in the salon as it is more comfortable when the boat is porpoising, but the movement was less than the previous night anyway.
Sat Jan 21 in the early morning at low tide we had to move the boat to deeper water. We left around noon for Isla San Jose in the Perlas Islands (finally!). We reefed the sails as we had stronger winds than predicted but the seas were small so it was a fairly comfortable night. We dodged several commercial vessels and fishing boats - looking for the nets and trailing lines -a bit nerve-wracking in the dark.
Sun Jan 22 Arrived at the anchorage at about 0300 -another near-overnighter. It was a big anchorage; two catamarans were already anchored there. We used our big spotlight (thanks Darren and Carrie) to find a spot. Got up in time for the morning net and then cleaned the boat interior and did some reading and relaxing. We were tired. That night we got together with Sunny and Blake from s/v Slow Mocean and Pam and Richard from Tisha Baby on Tisha Baby to celebrate Pam's birthday. Richard made a delicious stew. Pam made a cheesecake in a pressure cooker (we have to try that). The other boats brought appetizers. We had a great time. Back at the boat that night Virginia stubbed her toe on the table base -no rocking boat, no alcohol-induced stumble, just a misstep and very painful. The toe didn't look right. We got out the medical kit and read the book. We thought it might be dislocated so Dennis followed the instruction to reset it...didn't help. So Virginia taped and iced it. Hopefully it is just badly bruised.
Mon Jan 23 Tonight we are having a potluck on Slow Mocean. Sweetie will also join us as they arrived this morning. We were assigned dessert and had to get creative with the slim provisions we had remaining on the boat. We played with the GPS connection to our computer and got it working again without the erratic 'mouse' symptoms. We took a dinghy ride around the anchorage to see the caves and various geological formations. It's beautiful. Made a loaf of bread. Virginia's toe is turning black and blue as is the whole right side of her foot. She banged the fourth toe on the right foot. She got a good night's rest though (took one of the codeine pills we have aboard). But that didn't stop us from having fun aboard Slow Mocean. We made vanilla wafer mini crusts in cupcake pans. Made a vanilla pudding, substituting coconut juice to get the right amount of milk; adding canned apricots to the pudding. Layered the crusts and pudding just before eating. Tasted pretty good.
Tues Jan 24 in the morning we hopped over to Isla Pedro Gonzales. We thought we might catch a couple friends from El Salvador, but instead had the anchorage all to ourselves. It was very calm. We noticed that here the pelicans didn't nest in rocky cliffs like they do on Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands, but instead used the treetops. There were lots of them flying around, but we didn't see any of them fishing in that bay - no diving. Curious.
Wed 1/25 Happy Birthday to our youngest granddaughter, Devin! 0500 we headed for Panama City. About 0830 Dennis caught a big Mahi Mahi - our first! Thanks for the good luck Devin. We had flat seas and very little wind. Most of the big freighters we saw were anchored so dodging them was an easy task but we wouldn't want to arrive in the dark as the group of them made it look like solid land on radar. We anchored in La Playita near our friends Sylvia and Ken on s/v Ann Lucia. We buzzed by their boat to say hi on our way into shore to start our check-in process. Port Captain was our first stop, but we arrived there at 1530 and he closed at 1500. We treated ourselves to a cold drink and gelato before heading back to the boat. We toured the anchorage and saw a few boat names we recognize from the morning net but also many new ones. We anchored next to another Amel. We don't have Internet here on the boat as the CLARO stick we purchased in David isn't working. On the morning net all other boaters with CLARO report the same issue. And the Bad Boy extender isn't helping either. Turns out there is a lot of navy radar nearby. But there is free wifi on shore near one of the cruiser hangouts so we'll just go in to use it each day.
Thu 1/26 Early morning after the radio net we started our check-in process. First stop Port Captain at Flamenco Marina (within walking distance, but we took a taxi due to Virginia's toe injury), next was Immigration at the Balboa Yacht Club, then into Diablo section of town for the cruising permit. Now that we had our visas we took a taxi to Hospital Nacional. Tom on Feel Free (Benao anchorage) had injured his wrist while here and gave us great detailed instructions on how to get orthopedic help. At the ER room at the hospital a doctor looked at Virginia's toe and decided it needed an orthopedic specialist so he gave her a referral (no charge). We walked around the corner to the Centro Ortopeco Nacional where they took an Xray ($23), the doctor determined it was broken at the base, 'adjusted' it and taped it ($100). Local anesthetic was offered, but Virginia turned that down and the adjustment was quick and painless anyway. He gave her a prescription for anti-inflammatories and pain meds. It was all so easy, thanks to the good medical facilities of Panama and the good hints from Feel Free. She is to get a checkup in 3 weeks, if we are still here. The cruisers in this area have a routine for evening social events and Thursday is discount pizza and beer night at a restaurant near our La Playita anchorage. We took advantage of that and the pizza was better than any we'd had so far.
Fri Jan 27 On the morning net we asked about grocery stores as we needed to provision. Mike on s/v Fraid Not, said he had a car and was driving to Price Smart. He has lived here 10 years. He is now married to a Panamanian woman. They have a house but recently bought a fixer-upper catamaran (Fraid Not). He was so helpful, driving us to Price Smart (like Costco), allowing us to use his membership card, gave us some history and hints for the city. Besides stocking up we purchased two new propane tanks as ours are ten years old, starting to rust out and propane is a critical piece of equipment aboard. We cooked some of the Mahi Mahi aboard for dinner.
Sat Jan 28 We took a bus to Albrook Mall (huge indoor mall like in Cerritos California) where we bought a map of the city (the maps we had proved to be inadequate as we had missed our original destination which was Abastos) and another bus to Abastos, an outdoor produce market where we walked through acres of stands and really loaded up. We took a taxi back to the boat as we could hardly carry our purchases. There are now two more Amels in our anchorage and they positioned near us. The three besides us are among the group of boats here that are a part of the ARC rally which is a group of boats travelling together around the world having started in Santa Lucia in the Caribbean. So they are kind of at the beginning of their trip. We'll likely see a lot of them further along in our travels. As we look out across the anchorage we see flags from many different countries: US, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Great Britain...to name a few. Sweetie arrived today from Las Perlas.
Sun Jan 29 In the morning we accompanied Shannon and Tony from Sweetie to the Abastos market, and yes we bought a few more things. In the afternoon we were joined by Darryl and Gail from Gone Bambu for a bus ride to the El Dorado mall. We boarded a Tumba Muerta bus, as instructed, not realizing that we had gotten a local route bus which by passes the mall. A very nice local woman understood our problem, had us get off the bus with her, and she was going to wait an hour with us for the next bus coming through that would take us to the mall. When we realized what she was doing we felt badly and said we would just take a taxi; she then negotiated a 'larger' car to take all six of us for a good price. It was a bit cozy, but just fine. What a wonderful person she was. It was a good trip, a bit of an adventure -saw parts of Panama that we never would have, and we got some electronic parts we needed along with non-produce provisioning at a grocery store. We got back to the boat via taxis after dark. We had fish tacos for dinner and played some cards.
Mon 1/30 After the morning net we went ashore to turn in our laundry to Gente de Mar. Gente de Mar provides a daily service at the anchorages (laundry on Monday, propane on Tuesday, etc.) as well as being a good marine resource in general. Back at the boat, Dennis went up the mast to do some tests on our wind generator which hasn't been working since the wet season in Costa Rica. The tests all failed so he disassembled it and took photos to email to the manufacturer. We did Internet ashore in the afternoon. Had chicken teriyaki stir fry with lots of our fresh veggies and pineapple. We moved to a quieter, calmer, part of the anchorage -large canal pilot boats would blast through the anchorage causing a wake that would send everyone rocking.
Tues 1/31 After the morning net we went ashore to turn in our propane tanks to be filled. We walked to Flamenco boatyard to check on getting hauled out, since we had struck out at Balboa Yacht club. They asked us to email them our request and said they would get back with us. We took a taxi into town to the Cinco de Mayo Plaza and explored the Walking Street (no vehicles allowed). There are lots of small shops (at least 30% selling cell phones) and some produce stands. We walked to Mercado Marisco for a seafood lunch and cruised the market - but didn't buy as we still have some Mahi Mahi in our freezer.
Wed 2/1 The cruisers here have a social routine that rotates among 3 of the nearby anchorages. Monday night happy hour at Balboa Yacht club, Tuesday night pizza and beer at a shop on the Las Brisas anchorage side of the causeway, Wednesday morning Dim Sung at a restaurant in town near several stores that cruisers frequent, Thursday night pizza and beer at a restaurant on our anchorage (La Playita) side of the causeway. At this point we should probably explain a bit about the setup. At this Pacific entrance to the canal are two islands very close together, Flamenco and Perico, which are connected to the mainland by a two lane road (causeway) that was built with the rocks and dirt removed to build the canal. There is a very expensive but nice marina and boatyard near Flamenco Island, and two anchorages - one on either side of the causeway. Las Brisas is between the causeway and the mainland, it is supposed to be the preferred anchorage in the wet season. La Playita is between the canal channel and the causeway and is the preferred anchorage in this, the dry season when the winds are coming from the north (gets a bit rolly in Las Brisas). La Playita actually has a marina now that can handle about 30 boats. At the end of the causeway where it connects with the mainland is Balboa Yacht Club which has moorings. This "yacht club" is a very cruiser friendly place that has an outdoor restaurant and provides a meeting room for the cruisers (very different from something like the Santa Barbara Yacht club). We are at La Playita. Under normal circumstances all of these would be within walking distance for us and welcome exercise. But we are taking taxi's until Virginia's toe heals.
We went to the Dim Sum gathering this morning for the first time - actually it was the first time that either of us had Dim Sum. It was delicious. Lloyd and Maria whom we had met in Boca Chica were there too as they were down here at their city apartment for a few weeks and Sweetie invited them to join us. It was nice to see them again. They had brought another couple along; the woman owns a panaderia (bakery) and we decided we needed to find a time to visit and get some of her butter cookies and lemon meringue pie. Lloyd and Maria escorted us around the area to various stores where we needed pieces and parts then we all retired to their apartment. Their apartment is beautiful with several solid glass walls overlooking the city. That evening we had Sylvia and Ken from Ann Lucia aboard for dinner. We had a great visit with them, learning that Ken was a professor of physics and chemistry at the university in Japan and Sylvia worked as a translator for a German school there (she is German). It was so funny to hear her talk about how she had to fashion correspondence between the German management of the school and the Japanese board of education that had very different styles of corresponding. They are heading from here to the Galapagos soon, but we hope to hook up with them again in the Society Islands. Just after they left for the evening there was a fireworks display that entertained us -don't know the reason for it, Panamanians have a lot of holidays this time of year.
Thu Feb 2 Tisha Baby who we met at the Perlas Islands came in today and anchored near us. We did errands in town and then met them at the La Playita pizza night. We got a good lead from one of the other cruisers there on getting a fumigation certificate, which is a new requirement this year for the Galapagos.
Fri Feb 3 We did lots of errands in town via bus. We were going to attend a cocktail party at Lloyd and Maria's but we were too exhausted. We cooked a leg of lamb - delicious - and watched a movie.
Sat Feb 4 today was a designated 'tourist' day for us. But of course you try and accomplish a few errands along the way. We went back to the Walking Street to Jose's shop. We were told he could work wonders with the Internet sticks. Indeed, for $20 he 'opened' up our Claro stick so we can use it with other Panamanian carriers and in other countries. We bought 15 days of Digicell coverage for $9 and we have Internet on the boat again. We wanted to purchase some red film from a sidewalk fabric shop - to use in our cockpit light. The man selling the fabric was confused when Dennis said he just wanted to buy one of the scraps but when he finally understood that we needed just a small piece he had a big laugh and gave it to us for free. We stopped at the Coca Cola Café (supposedly the only restaurant in the world that has been allowed to use the Coca Cola name, red script and all) for a cold drink and then headed into the Casca Vieja area - the 'old city'. We visited the canal museum, several cathedrals, got a look at the Palace (although the armed guards surrounding the area made sure you kept your distance) but not at the fabled 5 foot , live, red cranes that live there. We had Pam and Richard from Tisha Baby and Shannon and Tony from Sweetie aboard for dinner. That night we were lying in bed being serenaded by a band ashore that had an amazing guitar player.
Sun Feb 5 Superbowl Sunday - but no party at the Johns' house. Paul on s/v Sunrunner came over to work with Dennis on diagnosing a problem with our prop alternator. Our boat has the ability to have a free-wheeling prop when the engine is off which generates power to the charge the batteries. Every little bit helps, so we want to get that running again. We used SKYPE to call home today to Darren and family and our parents. We went to TGIFriday's near the Balboa Yacht club for dinner as they have numerous big screens where we watched the game.
We have now travelled more than 4,000 miles!
Dec. 31 - Jan 1 On New Year's Eve we headed out at first light (0530), rounded Punta Burica at the Costa Rica/Panama border and anchored nearby at Punta Balsa. We caught 2 bonita and actually were able to sail a bit. While sailing, we checked out more of the systems that had been unused and rained on for 5 months in Costa Rica. The jib furler and a winch were a bit stiff. We were all alone in the anchorage watching fireworks on shore eating fresh bonita for dinner. We only traveled about 30 miles east but changed to Panama time (Eastern time zone). However, that didn't help us stay up to see in the new year. We spent the next day in the anchorage on projects (winch overhaul) and called family.
Mon Jan 2 Moved on to Isla Parida. It was a gorgeous anchorage. We kayaked around the anchorage. Meeting a boy on shore, he tried to get us to follow him but with our limited Spanish we didn't realize until later that he wanted to show us some small crocodiles in a lagoon that they coax out and feed for tourists. Dennis spent the afternoon cleaning part of the hull. He used our hookha system for the first time while Virginia stayed aboard monitoring the equipment and polishing the stainless. An hour later the hookah pump made a terrible clattering and Virginia turned it off. The piston arm had broken! With Internet access a few days later, we contacted the company and found that they, of course, had discontinued that model but would be happy to sell us the new version. With shipping charges to Panama more expensive than the unit, no thanks. A week later, a new email advised that they had found a replacement part for us and would ship it for freight cost only. That night we ate in the cockpit with Orion clearly visible overhead. The stars were so bright.
Tues Jan 3 Dennis went up in the bosun's chair to replace some rivets on the jib forestay that were discovered missing when we dropped the jib to try and loosen up the furler. Later he overhauled the carburetor on the outboard and fixed the gasket on that engine cover. What does Virginia do when Dennis is working on all these projects? She has projects of her own of course, but mostly she mans the safety line when he goes aloft and stands by to retrieve tools, hoping to soak up some know-how along the way. In the afternoon we went snorkeling - got to try out the dinghy steps (thanks to brother Greg for setting those up when he was here); they make getting back into the dinghy a lot easier for Virginia. Later that day we moved over to Isla Gamez where Sweetie (Shannon and Tony) were anchored. It was so picturesque. We bbq'd some more of our freshly caught bonita for dinner.
Wed Jan 4 We have to tell on ourselves. We need to expose our absent-mindedness so we can talk about our saviours. In a panic this morning we searched the boat for our 'brown binder' which carries all our important boat papers and passports. We had last used it to check out of Costa Rica in Golfito. We got on email to ask Tim and Katie if we had left it on their patio - and found we already had an email waiting from them saying that we had done just that and asking what they could do to help -they were worried we wouldn't discover it missing until we got to Panama City. We thought we would go ashore at Boca Chica, Panama and take a bus back to Costa Rica and retrieve it (we'd traveled that route before, so we knew where we would be going). But Katie made it so easy for us. She was headed to the Panama border the next day for shopping. She took the binder with her and gave it to one of the bus handlers on a bus headed for David, Panama. He held it as the bus terminal for us until we were able to get to David 2 days later and retrieve it. We paid him $20. We are so grateful to Tim and Katie at LandSea in Golfito for going above and beyond. Anyone cruising Central America must stop in and meet these wonderful people and enjoy the cruiser-friendly haven they have developed.
Dennis cleaned more of the hull today (big boat and lots of barnacles from these warm tropical waters!). Without the hookha equipment it is very tiring. By the afternoon he was ready to play. Some visitors from the mainland were partying on the beach of "our" island of Gamez. We decided to get in the kayaks and check out their party. First we kayaked back over to Isla Parida to see some sea caves we had sighted on our passage to Isla Gamez. As we rounded the corner of Gamez we were surprised to see a big schooner anchored which was also now unloading guests into tenders to bring them to "our" island. By the time we arrived, there were maybe 30 people on the beach, speaking various languages. We saw some young men gathering coconuts and cracking them open. Dennis has always wanted to learn how to do that so he combed the beach and found himself a coconut. One of the men gave him some brief instruction , stood back, and was quite impressed with how quickly Dennis had it husked (using a pointy stick stuck into the sand) and cracked open (using a rock). It was delicious. Coconuts abound here so now we have a new staple. Tony and Shannon from s/v Sweetie came over for happy hour. They brought coconut martinis. We had a very brief light rain which had Tony running back to close up their boat. We talked until bedtime.
Thursday, January 5 Happy 38th wedding anniversary to us! We headed over to Boca Chica, on the mainland, around 0915, arriving around noon. Sweetie led the way through the channel. Lloyd and Maria were in the area on their new (rescued) boat Oye Como Va and heard us arriving. They came out in their panga and directed us around the rocks and into good anchoring spots. That afternoon Sweetie picked us up and we went over to visit Lloyd and Maria on their boat. Very nice people from Florida (former United Airlines pilots) who spend part of the year in Panama and have purchased a nearby island with plans to build a house. They have an apartment in Panama City and recently bought Oye Coma Va, which was partially sunk and in need of repair and cleaning. It is a Beneteau Oceanis and they have it all cleaned up but are still working on sails and rigging for it. Lloyd enlisted the help of Tony (a sailmaker) to help him figure out the rigging. They entertained us all afternoon and toasted our anniversary. We swapped stories about how the couples each met. And we got lots of useful information and local knowledge from them. Upon their recommendation, we contacted a taxi driver, Rodney, who took us into David the next day for provisions and retrieval of our "Brown Binder". Taking our leave of Oye Como Va, we decided to stop by the Hotel Boca Brava to enjoy an anniversary dinner with Shannon and Tony overlooking the water. Quite pleasant. While at the hotel we met Jay (water taxi owner) and arranged for a ride to shore in the am so we wouldn't have to leave our dinghies ashore all day. It was a lovely day.
Fri Jan 6 Jay and Rodney were right on time in the early am and we headed out to David. We had quite a productive day. We filled our propane tanks, reclaimed our documents (yea!), hit several Ferreterias (hardware stores) and auto part stores, purchased an Internet connection stick (Claro) for Panama, loaded up at the grocery store and Price Smart (like a Costco) using Lloyd and Maria's card, had lunch and much more. Our only disappointments were that we couldn't find a battery for Shannon's camera and the local shop that makes Panama hats was closed. Jay was waiting for us when we got back to Boca Chica which made it very convenient to take our provisions back to the boats (we had filled the back of the pickup truck Rodney had driven). After storing it all we were exhausted and had a quiet evening on the boat watching a movie and reading.
Sat Jan 7 Lloyd and Maria picked us all up in their panga and we went across the bay to visit with two couples who live here year-round. Kendra and James live on a houseboat, and also have a sailboat. Richard and Barbara have a sailboat anchored in the bay and built a lovely house on shore. Both couples had cruised for a number of years before settling here. All very nice folks. We then headed to a rustic resort where we planned to have lunch, but they were out of food, so we went back to Hotel Boca Brava and enjoyed the view from the top deck. Back at the boat Dennis installed a fan in the small freezer section of our refrigerator to get more of the cold air circulated down to the bottom refrigerator section. But it didn't work so we tried leaving the freezer door off altogether and that has had the best results. The freezer doesn't freeze anymore, it's just all refrigerator now, but also cooler than before. We have the big standalone freezer so it all works out. Virginia is much happier. We did some Internet work with our new Claro stick and had a late dinner of BBQd hamburgers.
Sunday Jan 8 Spent time on various boat projects such as getting our Bad Boy wifi range extender working - no success. Happy hour was on Libertad with Sweetie and Oye Coma Va crew and they all managed to talk us into staying a few more days.
Mon Jan 9 Went ashore and explored Boca Chica. The produce truck happened to be coming through town and we scored a big papaya, watermelon, and pineapple. BBQ pork chops for dinner with stuffing and tomato/cabbage salad. We will probably leave tomorrow for the Secas as we want to get to Panama in time to be line handlers on s/v Ann Lucia as they transit the canal from east to west.
Tues Jan 10 Happy Birthday Brother Greg! We left at noon for the Secas. It was only an 18 mile run so we arrived about 1530, averaging 5 knots. We had enough wind to raise the sails. Dennis caught 2 bonita but they were smallish so he released them. It is beautiful here. One other sailboat, Encore was visible in the distance. We had a great breeze there to keep us cool so we got a good night's sleep after making calls home and playing a game of scrabble.
Wed Jan 11 We got up early to make ice while it was still cool outside. This has become a morning routine most days. Dennis worked on installing an ammeter for our prop alternator. When we were ready to go, the engine wouldn't start. Appears to be the starter solenoid. Dennis bypassed that and got us started and we were on our way, arriving in Bahia Hondo around 1630. It is a very confusing Bay with many sub-bays and many islands that blend into the mainland landscape, making it hard to confirm bearings. We ended up at Domingo's anchorage and were greeted by him soon after anchoring. He talked to us at length (in Spanish supplemented with hand signals) - asking where we were from, if we had children...and telling us about how many children he had and that he sold fruits and vegetables. We asked for 2 coconuts and some red bananas (small and very sweet). As he headed back to shore we noted that he had to continually bail his dugout canoe while he rowed to keep himself afloat. A few minutes later a younger man arrived with red bananas and avocados. We figured Domingo sent him and got our order confused given our poor Spanish. He suggested we set the price, so we gave him $5. Then he asked for cookies for his children; gave him a box of vanilla wafers. Then he told us a long story (in Spanish) about working his way around this bay with a friend at night - where the ending was that he needed a flashlight. We gave him a small one with spare batteries. He asked for 'grande', but we didn't have a larger one to spare. After he left, back comes Domingo, this time with a young girl to help with the rowing and bailing. He had the coconuts and red bananas. Now we had an abundance of bananas (but they were delicious and we ate them all, making banana muffins with the last few). He asked for cookies for his children. We gave him Oreos along with $5 for the fruit. No more visitors. It was beautiful and very calm in that bay. Made pizza with chorizo to replace our standard Italian sausage. It was delicious.
Thu Jan 12 Dennis changed the starter solenoid using a spare and we pulled up anchor at 0730 to head to Ensenada Naranjo. We caught another bonita at 0845. We kept this one. We arrived at 1530, earlier than we expected. There was a slight swell and roll in the cove so Dennis put out the flopper stoppers. Dennis is now thinking we might have an ignition switch issue vs. solenoid issue as had engine starter troubles again.
Fri Jan 13 engine started right up - go figure. We got underway and Dennis went below to shave. Just as he got lathered up, we caught a fish on each of our 2 lines. They were bonita and since we just had some, we released them. About 30 minutes later we caught another bonita and this one was hooked really good such that we couldn't release it and expect it to live, so we kept it. We set the fillets in Ziploc bags in the cockpit while we were cleaning up and a gull came aboard and almost snatched the bag! A couple of dolphins came by to play at the bow and do a few acrobatics. In the afternoon the winds increased to about 20 knots (on the nose of course) and the seas were confused. Punta Mala ("bad point") was just beyond our intended anchorage of Ensenada Benao. It wasn't too uncomfortable and we slogged along and arrived before dark at 1730. There was a catamaran anchored near us - the only other boat in the anchorage. They were flying a Canadian flag and appeared to be a young family with 2 children aboard. We cooked up the bonita in some marinara sauce and served it over pasta with a side salad of cabbage, carrots, and avacados. We watched a movie.
Sat Jan 14 We weren't able to hear the PanAmerican net in the morning from this anchorage - had hoped to get some real time weather information from boats on the other side of Punta Mala. Our weather forecasts were showing reasonable winds in the Panama Bay, pacific side. It really calmed down in the anchorage so we decided to try rounding Punta Mala and head towards Isla San Jose in the Perlas Islands - about a 17 hr trip at 5-6 knots per hour. We left at 1930 so that we could arrive midday in daylight. We had nice 10-15 knot winds across the beam as we headed out of the anchored and travelled along the Punta Mala coast. As we neared the point we got 20 knot winds and bigger seas. As we angled down towards the Perlas we had to head into the wind- at about 30% off the bow. With the current , our speed had slowed to three knots or less and we could see we'd be bashing for quite awhile so we decided to head back to Benao. It was a quick trip back, travelling at 7 knots with just the main up. We did see 3 freighters, but had no trouble avoiding them. Arriving back in the anchorage at 0230 we didn't get to sleep until about 0330, still wound up from the rough night. Slept to just before 0900.
Sun Jan 15 The catamaran was gone in the morning. Managed to get on the PanAmerican net. s/v Feel Free is headed out from Panama City and would be rounding Punta Mala in the early evening so we agreed to meet on SSB frequency 8143 at 1700. When they called they had relatively calm winds coming from behind them, but confused seas. By the time they joined us at Benao, the wind had piped up again.
Mon Jan 16 Weather reports indicate that we will be holding up here in Ensenada Benao probably for another 5 days or so until the winds calm down. We had to email our friends on s/v Ann Lucia that we wouldn't make it to Panama City in time to help with their canal transit...bummer. But good news, we got our Bad Boy working and were able to connect to a local unsecured hotspot.
Tues Jan 17 Bad Boy Internet not working again...maybe it's the wind as they are high again in the anchorage....but just seems like there must be some configuration element we don't yet understand. We have been having email conversations with the company and they are very responsive, but we need to connect up with a skype call so they can talk us through it. When the wind calmed, we put the dinghy in the water and went ashore. Virginia was in need of social contact. This area is a surfing destination. There are two restaurants on the beach as well as a hotel for the surfers. Thus most of the beach is not accessible by dinghy. But there is one spot in the far corner that is safe. We walked the beach, had a cold beer at the outdoor restaurant and watched the surfers. The waitress even changed the music that was playing to Stephen Bishop and Brian Adams and other artists she thought we would enjoy. As we headed back to the boat, the crew of Feel Free were also returning from a shore adventure and came aboard Libertad for a visit. Tom and Liz appeared to be a bit younger than us and they have already been cruising for 25 years. Many years they would spend the summer working back home in Canada and cruise in the winter. Other years they would find jobs as English language instructors in foreign countries. They were headed north to Costa Rica so we won't be crossing their path again most likely, but we'll keep in touch on the radio net.
Wed Jan 18 Weather forecast said lighter winds coming, but not until Saturday. Spent almost an hour on the satellite phone with Bitstorm configuring our Bad Boy. They were so patient and helpful. They believe our troubles are related to the type of inverter we have and can be resolved any time they recur with a particular sequencing of plugging things in vs. turning on the inverter (and we have been fine ever since). Now that we had Internet Dennis worked on bills and Virginia researched an additional weather tool. We subscribed to BuoyWeather which will give us spot forecasts and passage forecasts on a selected schedule directed to our SSB radio email system. We have to be on the Internet to set up the request and tell it how many days to send a particular spot or passage forecast. But we can get the reports out to sea via our radio email. It seemed like a nice addition to our sailmail grib file capability. This truly tested our ability to 'wait for a weather window'. We did it but it was hard!
We celebrated Christmas in Golfito, Costa Rica. It was hard not being with family, but we were surrounded by friends which made the holiday very enjoyable. The Curry family (friends of ours from Santa Barbara) were vacationing in Costa Rica for the holiday and just happened to be right across the bay from us near Puerto Jimenez. They took the ferry over on Saturday and spent Christmas Eve on Libertad. So we had a bit of home with us on Christmas morning! We skyped Darren and his family with video and got to see our granddaughters in their fancy new dresses and Kira without her braces (which had just been taken off a few days ago). We also called our parents later in the day. Felt great to be able to connect with them. Christmas dinner was a potluck with 12 other cruisers. Tim and Katie of LandSea (Tierra Mar) graciously hosted us on their big covered patio . Two of the cruisers had gone to the Panama border and bought turkeys for the feast. We each brought side dishes. We tried to make it somewhat traditional with mashed potatoes, stuffing, "the green bean casserole", jello salad, and sweet potatoes (among other things). I made the sweet potatoes, but had to actually use camotes - the local variety which are a different color than what we are used to, but with pineapple and brown sugar glaze they tasted very similar. We got a big downpour of rain during dinner, but we were nice and dry on the patio. We exchanged white elephant gifts which added more fun to the event. There were cruisers from Australia, Germany, Washington, and California there. There were three boats from California, us along with one from Ventura and another from Channel Islands. Katie and Tim were also from Santa Barbara prior to relocating to Golfito. Small world.
We will be enroute to Panama on New Year's Eve - Happy New Year all!
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 !