A Cross Ocean Experience

Seven thousand miles of outstanding cruising since November 2008 means it's time to do a little renovation and more planning for the future. Find out what ...

20 February 2013 | Fishtail, Montana, USA
15 March 2011 | Swallow Falls State Park, Garrett County, MD
07 January 2011 | Deep Creek, MD
01 January 2011 | Tacoma, WA
17 December 2010 | Sierra Madre, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, Ca
12 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
20 November 2010 | New Orleans, LA
13 November 2010 | Lexington, KY
09 November 2010 | Louiville, KY
05 November 2010 | Lexington. KY
01 November 2010 | Deltaville, VA
29 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
22 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
08 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA

A final, for sure, goodbye

31 August 2009 | Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Mandy and Sidewinder say goodbye, for certain this time. David and Suzi will help us with our canal transit which will be a great send off, but then they are headed for Ecuador and the south Pacific and we for the Caribbean so it will be adios for sure. We have had some great times and will cherish fond memories.

Casa Orquideas

30 August 2009 | Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Trudy demonstrates the wonders of the Hawaiian Shampoo Plant which you simply squeeze to get an amazing aromatic water gel that washes hair or the skin to leave it fragrant and soft. The gel feels like watery aloe vera. Suzi Sidewinder looks on meanwhile I was rubbing it on all over. The Casa Orquideas is a garden of incredible beauty and tranquility. We ate our heads off and all our senses were overflowing.

What's better than one water spout?

29 August 2009 | Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
And then his brother joined him

Freak of nature

29 August 2009 | Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
We left Golfito to head up into the Golfo Dulce and spend the night off the Casa Orquideas, the lifetime "Garden of Eden" project of an American couple Trudy and Ron MacAllister. That night out in the gulf this beauty formed and ran around for a while.

Route planning

28 August 2009 | Golfito, Costa Rica
When we left San Diego last November our overall plan was to head south to Panama and then decide, turn left through the canal or right across the Pacific, with the ultimate goal of getting to Europe. To head across the Pacific now and then later return to Europe would entail a commitment of at least a further two years, whereas a canal transit, some time in the Caribbean, up the eastern seaboard of the States and then perhaps across the Atlantic is realistic within a year. At this point everything points to another year and therefore we have decided on the canal option.
For eight months and nearly 4,000 miles our route planning has been simple and largely predetermined, with only the anchorages and duration of stay to be decided. Even the weather issues have been straightforward and needed very little analysis. That is about to change.
With Panama always seeming so far off and buried in guide books of Nicaragua and Costa Rica we have spent little time planning the next stage, but now Panama is within sight. Here in Golfito, comfortably waiting out the incessant rain storms at the Land and Sea Cruisers Club we have dug into the charts, routing guides and cruising guides for the Caribbean. At this little cruising crossroads we have met others with Caribbean experience. Jean-Claude Fleuret, an Swiss salty old dog, arrived here from Portugal, via the canal, on his way to the fiords of Chile. For the last eleven years Jean-Claude, a retired school teacher, has run a school taking groups of eight thirteen to fifteen year olds on eight month voyages across and around the Atlantic on his 60' "Drisar IV". His experience of the Caribbean is deep and he tells his stories with the enthusiasm and wonder of the youngsters he has guided. A fascinating fellow and wonderful resource.
So, armed with charts and guide books given us by Jean-Claude, Jimmy Cornell's "World Cruising Routes and Virtual Passage Planner, a very clever computer program based on the Pilot Charts, we are trying to formulate a plan to accommodate the following criteria:

- A crossing of the Caribbean to the East or North from Panama is easier in November than December when the Trades fill in hard and it becomes almost
- We will need to leave the boat somewhere safe and secure during the latter half of October to return to the States for Daisy's wedding
- We would like to visit Cartagena in Columbia

This leads us to the realization that we must now push on and get through the canal as soon as practical. It is a shame that we will not be able to spend time exploring the west coast of Panama, which looks intriguing and could easily occupy us for some months, but we cannot dance with every girl at the party.
Once through the canal we will push on east along the chain of San Blas Islands as far as we can before turning north to Cartagena. Here we hope to leave Mandy whilst we visit New Orleans and returning in early November we will try to get north to Cuba or Hispaniola before December.
All sailing plans are written in sand at low tide and if we have learned anything it is to be flexible, so don't be surprised if this gets changed a thousand times, but for now we have checked out of Costa Rica and are making haste to Panama where we will see how one of man's greatest engineering feats deals with Mandy.

The accompanying map shows our prospective route to Cartagena and three possiblities onwards from there.

Difficulty at Quepos

16 August 2009 | Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica
I know that we left all of you with the recession and sailed away into the sunset, but to make you feel better, here is a slice of life from the past week on Mandy in Costa Rica.

The famous Pacific southern swell has been up. Way up! All well and good when out sailing on it. The effect is rather that of moving across open stretches of grassy hillside. However, when stopping in an anchorage that has little protection from the south (most of them in Costa Rica) the feeling is one of slow, steady torture as the boat rolls constantly side to side, sometimes through 60˨ as the wave sets enter the anchorage. It helps when the breeze is blowing from the same direction, then the boat straightens into the swell and the roll becomes more of a hobby horse motion. Is anyone reaching for the Drammermine?

The effects of "Restless Boat Syndrome" (RBS) mean that we have moved from place to place rather quickly down this coast, searching for a calmer anchorage. We suffered for three nights with almost no sleep. Our boat maintenance, aside from the bare essentials, had gone out the window, and the bulging laundry bags lurked steaming under the bunk.

We arrived at Quepos badly in need of some rest, not to mention provisions, diesel and an ATM. The signs were good on our approach. We were hailed on channel 16 by a lovely gentleman Gabriel Araya, a local business man who was out sailing with friends that afternoon. He welcomed us warmly to his neck of the woods and suggested some pretty anchorages away from the town.

Our town errands were foremost though and we set Mandy's anchor near the site of a brand new marina that is being built and just behind the mooring field. Once again, though, we were rolling in a major way. As soon as everything was secured another friendly local approached us in his panga. His name was Johnny and he drove the water taxi. He told us where to find everything we needed in town and he suggested we use his taxi as it was difficult to land a dinghy in the swell. "Oh yes" he added, "and you should move your boat several more meters north as you are in line with the fisherman's path to the estuary, they may not see your boat as it is a dark color."

We were firmly in the grip of RBS. Now we had to haul in 200 feet of chain and move. The swell increased with the low tide and another night of sleeplessness was upon us.
The next morning we arose early feeling un-rested and grumpy from a long night of teeth clenching, and gripping onto the bunk to avoid rolling out. Our long "to do list" was a blessing as we could be off the boat for the whole day.

We filled the dinghy with shopping bags, back packs, the huge and putrid laundry bag, a couple more bags full of more putrid rubbish, and two empty diesel containers. Through the swell we went, towards a small floating dock full of tourists off for a day's fishing or diving. Halfway there we remembered the warning given us by Johnny, but we decided to give it a shot anyway.

Arriving at the dock, it was heaving up and down by several feet. We managed to unload our unpleasant cargo and Richard was looking for a place to tie Mandy Minor (dinghy) up for the day. Just then an official came along and told us that we would not be able to leave the dinghy there. He suggested tying her up to some steps under the pier. The place was impossible with the swell, we would have returned to find a piece of wreckage on a rope. So, I was left with all the stuff and Richard rowed back to the boat and returned shortly with the very wise water taxi man.

The building of the new marina at Quepos, combined with the daily heavy rains of the season, has caused the access road to the pier and dock to be full of heavy mud and construction vehicles. We dumped the rubbish, but we were still laden down. One minute I saw Richard picking his way around the puddles ahead of me, but the next time I looked up he appeared to have got into a mud-wrestling fight on the ground with the laundry bag and the air was turning blue with his curses. A smiling construction worker in sun glasses and a chest adorned with gold chains rushed to help him find his glasses and his feet. He directed us to a faucet where Richard could clean up. Sadly the tap was on the ground and had no hose attached, so the effort only went as far as his ankles.

The mud-baby looked like dejection itself by the time we found the lavanderia. But here was the lovely laundry lady who suggested we go to the second hand store to buy some temporary clothes while she dealt with the mess we had delivered. She even offered us a small discount on the job "por el accidente en el camino." How sweet was that?
The selection of clothes at the thrift shop was slim to say the least for someone of Richard's height and build, but we came away with a smallish cranberry colored tee-shirt and a largish pair of cut off jeans. But they were at least clean(ish).

By now it had begun to rain again and we still had the grocery shopping and diesel to do.
We exited the supermarket laden with bags and hailed a convenient taxi to complete the day's errands. All our shopping was packed into the trunk and we settled ourselves into the back seat, directing the driver to take us to the gas station. Five seconds into the trip he smacked himself on the forehead with his palm and delivered the news that the road to the gas station was up for construction and there would be no access until the following day. He apologized for his forgetfulness and we asked him then to drive us back to the pier.

After another jaunt in the water taxi, we were finally back on rolly-polly Mandy in a state of near exhaustion. Richard reached into his pocket for the boat keys; they were not there. We searched through the back packs and then the awful truth dawned...the keys were still in the mud soaked shorts back at the laundry. There we sat in hot and humid air with the cockpit full of perishables supposed to last us the next few weeks and no way to get into the boat. Richard got to know Johnny quite well that day. An hour later he returned back with the keys. What a day! The only good thing was the warmth of the people of Quepos whose open friendliness kept us from going batty.

We got no sleep that night either, and it would be two more stops and a meltdown on my end before we found respite from the terrible RBS. At this rate building a house in the north west of Spain will be chicken feed, RBS will be an amusing memory and maybe, by then, that old recession will cause construction costs to come way down.

Vessel Name: Mandy
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol Channel Cutter 28 - http://www.capegeorgecutters.com/BCC28/index.html
Hailing Port: San Diego, CA USA
Crew: Richard & Virginia Cross
Having spent 30 years in the racehorse business we felt it was time for a different kind of adventure. Both originally from England we have sailed for fun for over 30 years. We have owned MANDY for five of those and are planning to head south for Mexico etc. in November 2008 - ready or not. [...]

There Goes Mandy!

Who: Richard & Virginia Cross
Port: San Diego, CA USA