Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Riding the Christmas Winds

Riding the Christmas Winds of the Western Caribbean
The weather changed, giving us a window of opportunity to go as planned to San Andres and Providencia for Christmas, so we left the San Blas islands and forged north. Twelve hours into our 48 hour trip we lost our auto steering and had to steer by hand in 6-10 foot seas that were steep and square with 4-5 seconds apart swells-trashy waters! We were about 55 miles from land and with the help of the wind made it back in 6.5 hours-a record for our boat! We dropped anchor in Linton, famous for a great French restaurant, and slept. A few days later Dave made a two day trip to Panama City to turn in the auto pilot to have it rebuilt. Having now been here for a week we are part of the "family". We ate a 3 hour meal at the French restaurant on Wednesday, and Helen played dominos with the ladies on Thursday. We went to Colon on Friday for groceries, and Owen (on Hiatus) drives boaters to the local pizza parlor on Sundays. The last couple of nights we have been able to sit in our cockpit and been entertained by a number of fire fly type beetles. We have not seen these before down here, and have not seen fire flies since our trip to the Midwest twenty years ago. It has been fun to have them flying around our cockpit; our little Christmas lights.
So for now, we are sitting here in Linton, waiting for our part to arrive from Texas. If it arrives, and we get the auto pilot installed, we then have to wait for a weather window so we can head north…but the radio net this morning reported the temperature in Belize is a chilling 60 degrees, not much incentive to head north in a hurry.
In the meantime we have become a part of the social circle here and invited to attend the four holiday gatherings organized by locals and cruisers. We will be cheering and sharing times with these new friends and thinking of all the wonderful past times with our old friends and family.
After the holidays we will go back to our routine of wait and play, not a bad life after all!

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San Blas Islands...a world without electricity

San Blas Islands...a world without electricity
We spent late November and early December in the lowest latitudes we will see for a long time. The San Blas islands, off the coast of Panama, are a slice of life backwards and forwards. The islands and atolls are mostly uninhabited, and if they are inhabited the huts are what you see on Survivor, the series. In fact the islands are pretty much what you see on the series as well. There are no stores, no roads, and the altitude on these islands is 2-4 feet. Global warming will be taking them away in a short amount of time.
When we arrived to our first inhabited island we were greeted by 2 young men in a hand made wooden canoe called an ulu. They asked for food, and milk, and magazines. After getting a bit from us they pulled out their cell phones, called their wives and wanted us to talk to the wife and kids. Who would of thought we would get cell service out here when we didn't get it in parts of Arizona or Texas? The Indians were hopeful we could also charge their phones for them because there is no electricity out here. Their payment was a promise of fish, lobster, or crab.
In the islands known as the East Lemons we met people who have stayed there for 3 years. Quite a few of the cruisers spend 8 months or more in these islands with a trip to Cartagena, Columbia to meet cruising permit requirements. You can dive off the back of your boat and snorkel in 82-85 degree water with 20 foot visibility. As we were dropping our anchor 2 men in a canoe tried to sell us fish, I waved them off so we could concentrate on setting the anchor and not drifting into one of the 30 boats in this small space. During our week there four of the local mola makers arrived. We bought the beautiful reversed embroidery (that they are famous for making) featuring traditional designs and scenes from their daily Indian lifestyle. Other enterprising locals showed up in bigger wooden boats offering produce and beer, handcrafts, fish, turtles, conch shells, and some even offer to work on your boat for a full day at the cost of $20.00 plus a meal. Our boat is now waxed, polished, and shiny. The man and son who did it worked from 8 AM until 5PM. Over lunch he explained that his new born child needed a towel and that he would have to paddle many miles to the mainland to find a store that sold towels, but that this was so important in their culture that he would make the trip and give up three days of work. At the end of the day, I presented him with a towel and his wages. The look of sincere, deep appreciation and gratitude was unmistakable. He teared up and thanked us for our kindness…
The next island we went to an atoll called the Swimming Pool because of its color and shape. The seas changes from a pale green, to turquoise, and deep blue. There are at least 9 reefs and 8 islands in this atoll. Within its boundary is an area called the Hot Tub which has a rock face that plunges down 70 feet and is home to more coral, sea creatures, and fish than we had yet to experience. I felt like I was in a Jacques Cousteau film and scenes from the Abyss flashed in my mind. Daily we dove off the boat and snorkeled, went on dinghy rides and saw two kinds of sharks not far from our boat, sea horses, conch shells, and all matter of native fish as well as some new species to the area, the dangerous Lion fish are now cruising these waters. What we haven't seen are many dolphins, whales or turtles. However, with the full moon a turtle arrived on one of the islands, dug holes, and laid her eggs. We covered them so the birds and local natives would not harvest them. We stayed long enough to have two Monday get togethers, take yoga lessons, play bocci ball, and meet a bunch of cruisers. Being a sailboat we follow the winds and wait for the right wind to blow our way...

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rio Chagres


I ended up spending the whole two and a half weeks in the Chagres while waiting for Helen to fly back. It was having such a wonderful experience I just couldn't leave. I anchored in 4 different locations on the river and each had its own unique feeling. My first anchorage was closest to the dam that forms Lake Gatun which is the main part of the Panama Canal. It was an easy
anchorage and I was treated to my first sighting of toucans since being in Panama. I saw a few monkeys and a tarpon(fish) that was as big as my kayak. It came up right along side my kayak while I drifted down the river watching the wildlife. It was long and slender, but felt the size of a dolphin as it surfaced next to me. I stayed there 4 days and then decided to go down stream to explore another area. I anchored off the mouth of an inlet and was able to explore it using the kayak as well. I saw a few crocs, parrots, an anteater, and sloths but no new toucans. This jungle river was a true jungle cruise, unlike many I have taken before in Costa Rica and Mexico. Once I made it back to the boat I was sitting in the cockpit and noticed a couple of toucans about 50 yds away. I watched them when two more came into view. It was quite a treat to be able to watch that many. Over the next couple of days I was treated to many more wildlife adventures as I explored the many inlets. I was able to see all three different types of toucans and I have good pictures of two types. A new group of toucans were about 50 ft from the boat eating berries off a bush right next to me. On one of the afternoons when I was again just sitting on the boat I saw a Howler monkey on a limb over the water. I watched him scurry out to the end of the limb and then retreat back to the main trunk. He went back and forth for over 45 minutes. I was down below when I heard a splash. I went up and discovered that the little monkey had jumped into the river and was swimming across. The howlers on both sides were going crazy. I have no idea what would motivate a monkey to swim across a swift river with crocs about. He made it in about 20 minutes, must have been love!

My last anchorage was down stream towards the mouth. I wanted to go ashore and explore the fort so being closer was a little better since the dingy had been acting up. The trail from the landing was a nice 1.5km walk up hill to actually get to the fort itself. I again saw two types of monkeys and many birds. The fort has a history going back to construction in 1597. It was taken over and destroyed three times. The fort was used to both protect the river of gold, and to plunder it depending on who had control. They said it was the richest river in the world for the amount of treasure that was moved down the river and later sent out on ships. It was very well fortified but still taken after very bloody attacks. I took many pictures of the remaining cannons.
The next morning I woke up to the dam dumping copious amounts of water with a 5.5knt current. I didn't dare get off the boat for the whole day. I spent the day watching the anchor chain stretch to its limits. The next day when I left it was back to normal. Thanks to the sea gods.


My time in the Rio Chagres was absolutely magical. I am hoping to take Helen back there, but the amount of rain that has dumped worries me that there will be another water release right when I am trying to enter the reef and sand bar tricky and narrow entrance.

Life is good. Helen is back on the boat, and we are ready to take off on our next adventure. Next we are headed to the island group called San Blas. 300 islands, 39 inhabited, and life there is the same as it has been for over 800 years. We will be greeted by Indians in dug out canoes selling fruits and vegetables, fish, lobster, conch, and hand made molas(reversed embroderied rectangles). They take American dollars, there are no gas stations, no banks, and no worries.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sometimes you have to remember where you are!!!

I am sitting here in my cockpit having a wonderful dinner of Steak, roasted potatoes, and salad with fresh blue cheese dressing I made myself. It is 85 degrees and I dressed up for dinner. I am eating Filet Mignon because in Central America as well as Mexico the locals don't eats it and you can buy it for $4.20 a pound. They average 3.5 lbs for the whole filet and I bought 3 the before I left. I have a nice yellow shirt and green Columbia Sportswear shorts. I have been accused of being a Columbia Sportswear billboard. Oh I wish!!Most of my clothes are thanks to Bob at Columbia in Lake Oswego. I hope that is his name I know he reads my blog. I am 3100 miles away from Oregon as the crow flies and 4000 miles from Skagway when we turned around and headed south. I am in Panama, sometimes I forget just where in the world I am. Solstice I know you can relate you are much further than I. But I am here in the land of jungles, pirates, and incredible scenery. My current location is on the Rio Chagres it is 8 miles from Colon, but a world away from mankind. At the mouth of this river is a fort called San Lorenzo it was over taken by Captain Morgan, of the famed spiced rum Morgan. He knocked the crap out of this place. I'am not exactly sure why, I haven't look it up on the internet yet, it is on a bluff all by itself but he blasted away with bigger cannons and scored this piece of Panama. If I go up steam about 4 mile I run into the dam that forms the Lake Gatun which is part of the Panama Canal. Where I am anchored I am surrounded by jungle. There are parrots, Toucans, crocs, fish the size of my kayak(Tarpon), snakes, incredible amount of foliage plants that I had only seen in the DC zoo prior to this. Tuesday I am going to Portabelle. Columbus landed there. It was his first step on mainland America. They celebrate the Black Christ. They are the only people in the Americas who believe in a Black Christ. I choose not to go to the celebration last week because of the rumors of bad people taking advantage of good people. When Helen arrives here in two weeks we are headed to San Blas Islands. These islands are so incredible they are their nation within Panama, the land of the Kuna Indians. They have not changed there lifestyle in hundreds of years. They have their own laws which as cruiser we all obey. Their islands are nothing like we have experienced before. In the next year we will go Isla San Andres(Columbian Islands), Nicaragua offshore islands, Roatan, Cancun, Cozumel, Bocas Del Toro and back here to store the boat till next season.
I just wanted to sit back and reflect on who we are and where we are. What an incredible life we live. Sometimes we take it for granted, another beautiful beach or incredible island. Sometimes we need to just step back and look at what we have experienced. We are in Panama on our own boat. How cool is that. WOW

Life is so good

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I am out of here

After three months of either being in the work yard or at dock, I have finally cut the ties and left. Well at least for 2.5 weeks, then Helen comes back and I go to Shelter Bay to pick her up. I spent almost two month back in the states visiting Mike and Kelsey and helping Helen take care of her mom. Her mom passed away shortly after I left to come back to the boat. I was sorry I wasn't able to be there for the funeral or other events, but all of our permits to be in Panama were to expire in 5 days and it needed my immediate attention. Once that was taken care of I started on the boat projects. Fixing the boat after my damage during my crossing was a whole different story. When I broke the strut I also bent the shaft at the taper. I ended up with a new strut, new shaft and new coupling. The later two we machined here in Colon. Removing the broken strut took four days by it self. I wont go into details but I never want to attempt that again. All the parts went back together fairly well and was back in the water a week later. Shaft alignment turned out to be easy because it was so close to start with. It took another week to get the boat provisioned and ready to go. I tackled a few below deck varnish jobs and was good to go. The only problem was I was so nervous to leave the dock I didn't sleep much the night before. It was worse than being a newbe. I had been at the dock way too long. That morning my heart was pounding, my blood pressure dropping , and my head dizzy and spinning when I left the dock not knowing if everything I fixed was going to work or not. There were times I even felt like I could black out. I set it on auto pilot and tried to eat something and calm down. My whole passage was only about 8 miles but it was like crossing an ocean for the first time. I felt like crap the whole way and couldn't believe I was doing this to my self. I really was pathetic. I made it with no problems and am currently anchored about 5 miles up the Rio Chagres. This a jungle river about 50 to 75 yrds wide. There are parrots, Toucans, monkeys, snakes, and all sorts of jungle animals all along the river bank. I haven't put the dingy in the water yet, but I think I will put the kayak in first to explore this evening. It is so nice to be back out here and away from the dock. I enjoyed meeting new friends, and will probably be going a different direction than they are, but this is what it is about. Today I am relaxed and feel great.

My position report is finally updated.

Life is great

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Friday, July 10, 2009

We made it through the canal!!!


We made it through the Panama Canal, and we are now sitting in the Western Caribbean. How great is that? Our trip through the canal was flawless and easy. The weather was perfect all the way and we were able to make it in one day. I had gone through the canal, on another boat 4 days earlier, so I knew what to expect and that made my trip so easy. My one hired line handler and my friends from Leo Scotia and Panchita were awesome. For those coming behind me I would recommend Luis as a competent crew. He treated me well. His phone number is 67770222. He also arranged for lines and cabs. Now the other side of the story!!!

We were told on Monday that our advisor would be at our boat at 6:00 am by the canal control. Everyone knows they are always late so my crew for the trip was going to arrive at 5:45 giving us plenty of time to get ready. Last Friday, on the boat I went through on, the advisor was 1 1/2 hours late. At 5:20am Signal Control calls me and tells me my advisor will be there in 15 to 20 minutes, and I have no crew. I see my crew on the dock at the same time the pilot calls me and say he is here and could I bring the boat out into the channel it meet him. I still had no crew on the boat. I figured I had to take the boat into the fuel dock to pick up everybody instead of waiting for a panga. On my way to the dock in the dark I ran over a mooring line and wrapped it around my prop. This is a 1 inch line and it stops me dead, Oh %%%%#!#!!#!!!#####(abbreviated short version of the 4 minute ranting and raging. My crew isn't on the boat, the pilot is out in the channel waiting, and if I cancel the trip now it would cost me about $1500 plus maybe some fines as well. It is still dark so I put on my mask, no fins, and jump in the water with a fishing knife to see if I can cut myself loose. I have zero visibility because it is dark!!! I find my prop and start hacking away at everything, including my hand, as best I could. Each time I went down I had to search for the prop in the dark and only had a couple of seconds to keep cutting. After about 5 minutes I had enough of the line cut away that the prop would turn. I still felt a big knot but I had to get going. I made it out to the pilot boat about 10 minutes late, but the shaft was vibrating pretty bad. My Auto Prop wouldn't pitch right so I could only go 6.4 knots. I decided to give it a shot anyway thinking I would ruin the cutlass bearing, but hopefully make it through. If I would have broken down in the canal and had to be towed it would cost $2000 an hour for the tow, plus a whole bunch of fine and penalties. We actually made pretty good time and were able to go through the last locks with a small freighter at 2:50. We were told it would be a two day passage so I was very excited to get through in one day. We limped into Shelter Bay and found a slip. Yesterday I dove on the boat and discovered more damage than I expected. There was in fact a huge knot of rope still around my prop, and all the vibration had broken off my strut which supports my drive shaft. I was really lucky to make it through at all. Now I have to figure out what to do. I am able to haulout here which is a real blessing, but it is very expensive to do so. I now have plenty of time to figure it out. I am just stuck here in Paradise till I do.

Helen's last week on the boat(she goes home for 3 months to spend time with her mom) will be here, at a marina sitting around a pool, sitting in an air-conditioned room doing the internet, or reading on a soft cushy couch in air conditioning. She says she can handle that for a week. I however will be here off and on for two months. So by the end of my time here I will know everyone's name, life story, and have tons of new stories. I was planning a trip home and now my shopping list is a bit longer... till later our thoughts and love...and yes, life is still good!

I just found out the part I mess up is over $1000 ugh

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Panama City were are here


Our crossing to Panama City was very easy with little traffic to worry about. We did get caught in one storm, lightning on all sides and approaching us… and had a water spout touch down about 100 yrds away from the boat. I had to do a 180 degree turn to avoid being sucked up by it. It was only about 200ft across, and was kicking up maybe 3 ft seas in the middle. I don't have any idea on the wind speed, but it looked pretty scary. Once we arrived in PC we took a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club to start the process of going through the canal. Across from us was Grace, Jim and Kay, who invited us for Happy Hours. We met Wolfgang from Germany and Ed from the U.S. Parked behind us was Natasha, from Poland, who is single handling her small sailboat around the world. She is one leg from finishing this 2 year trip. We were all getting things repaired-boat life is not just Happy Hours. There is work involved to keep this lifestyle going.

The first duty once we arrived here in a Panama City was to get checked into the country. We were told the steps to follow only to find they had changed. They were even different from the day before. Every cruiser we met had a different story to tell and paid for different inspections . We found a taxi for $8 hr to run us around and help with the process. Our first stop was the Port Captain. We were told we no longer check in there and need to meet a Port Captain representative at our boat. The phone call was made and off we went. Instead of the boat we meet him and the health inspector at the BYC bar. The PC took our paperwork and issued us our clearance papers. The health inspector told us we needed to be fumigated because we came from Costa Rica but he would let it slide for a $46 fee. We received a clean bill of health and no receipt. No one else we have talked to have been charged or inspected by the health inspector, others had an agricultural inspection, and still others had a $20.00 something inspection. We then went back to immigration and received our visa for 90 days. We were legal for the time being.

My next order of business was taking care of the alternator and Honda Generator. I called Honda America about warranty and was told since I am out of the country the warranty in not valid. After a long conversation about not standing behind their products and what good is a warranty he hung up on me and left me to find my own help at my expense. So much for customer service.
The next day I hired Prado to take me to the local mechanics. I took the alternator to a local shop and the generator to the only Honda dealer and hoped for the best. We drove through at least ½ to 2/3 of Panama City that day. Mostly on the back streets and saw the real Panama. Both projects were fixed quickly and I am back in power.
The next week was spent doing all the paper work for the canal transit, and scheduling line handlers, renting 125ft lines, and finding 20 tires. The process was actually much easier than expected and we saved $400 in agent fees by doing it ourselves. About the only other thing we really did accomplish was to spend $600 on provisions and visit the large mall to get a phone and just walk around. We are set to make the crossing. Four days before our scheduled transit I was able to crew on Ecos, a friends sailboat, that would give me great experience on what to expect. The transit was two days and I was ready to tackle the Panama Canal in my own boat

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Traveling to and around the Perlas Islands


We were expecting this portion of our trip to be both long and nerve racking because of all the ships moving to and from the canal. The currents against us were supposed to add to the tension. To our surprise neither the ships nor currents became an issue. We made great time in pretty benign conditions. Our first land fall was on the west side of Isla San Jose called Ensenada Bodega. This was a very shallow bay with five distinct beaches to explore. We all felt we were anchored in a lagoon created by Disney. That evening we had a 3 dingy raft up and floated around the bay and down a short river drinking rum to celebrate our last step before the Panama Canal.
We stayed two or more nights in all the anchorages we visited in the Perlas chain. Each had something different to see and enjoy. On most of the islands we were able to trade with locals for lobster, mangoes, and avocados. Lobsters were small to medium in size and we averaged paying less than two dollars apiece. The people have no concept of conservation so they collect every single lobster they can find. We ended up with a couple so small they could have been mistaken for crawdads without the claws. It won't be too many years till they have stripped the local areas of all lobster. Another island we visited was Isla Pedro Gonzales. Here we anchored in a cove next to a small village of about 400 people. Upon dropping our anchor Maurice came paddling out with his leaking dug out canoe to sell us avocados, and then asked for a tow back to the shore. His paddle was a palm frond and it had broken on the way out to us. The homes were all identical except for color. We were not sure if they were government built or private industry, but they were all the same. There were two small stores, which barely had any staples, and seem to cater to the snack and beer crowd. Maurice saw us and took us in to his favorite store. The Spanish they speak here is a different dialect from the Spanish we understand, it's a blend of languages. We did anchor on the other side of the island and found one of the most pristine beached in all of the Perlas islands. We found out later that locals were paid to keep the beach free of trash. Again we were offered avocados, mangoes and found shells to collect. Unfortunately the whole island is planned for full development.
On the Southern tip of Isla Del Rey we anchored in a small bay north of Punta Cocos. At high tide we took a river cruise and enjoyed the mangrove covered shoreline. There were a lot of birds but not much else. We moved to anchor off of Isla San Telmo to look for a one hundred year old submerge submarine. We spent 3 hrs snorkeling and searching for the sub and couldn't find it. Only one of the cruising guides even mention the sub and it doesn't give the exact location. Our friends in San Cles had snorkeled on the sub last year so I knew it existed, but where? Just before giving up and moving I spotted a odd shape emerging from the water next to shore; it was round and appeared to be the hatch. Sure enough it was the sub. The location is just off the only sandy beach in about eight feet of water. Terri on San Cles tells the story about sub better than I could so I give you her account:
"Everyone else got a close-up look at the Sub Marine Explorer. One of the earliest submarines ever built, it was constructed in the mid 1860's by German engineer and U.S. immigrant, Julius H. Kroehl. It was reportedly more advanced technologically than the infamous Hunley and was designed to retrieve things from the bottom of the sea, but with the Hunley disaster still fresh in the their minds, the U.S. government was too gun-shy to show any interest, so Julius and some partners formed the Pacific Pearl Company and took the sub to Las Perlas, Panama where she made several successful dives for pearls. Unfortunately, nitrogen poisoning was an unknown danger at that time. Julius and the rest of the diving team died of a mysterious "fever". The sub was ultimately abandoned and is now a rusted hulk in the shallows off Isla San Telmo."

Just before we left Isla San Telmo to move up the shore on Del Rey we experience a very violent T-storm and saw our first water spout. It was about a quarter mile away, but still very impressive. The storm lasted less than an hour. Our next stop was a spot behind Isla Spiritu Santo. I spent the afternoon in the dingy searching for lobster in the outer islands, but none could be found. Our charging systems were still giving us major problems so we moved on. We had to run the engine three to four hours every day to keep up with our needs . The alternator was only putting out 22amps and our Honda generator was having reverse polarity problems.
We anchored off of Isla Casaya, which was surrounded by reefs except a very small opening 100 magnetic degrees off of a white sand beach on an adjacent island. I was very nervous but made it in. Once the tide went down I couldn't believe how dangerous it really was.
Our last anchorage in the Perlas islands was Isla Bayoneta. I was getting really concerned about all the projects I had to take care of on the boat and just wanted to get to Panama City and get started. We said good bye to Lea Scotia and Panchita for the time being and headed for the city.

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Isla Santa Catalina to the Perlas Islands

Isla Santa Catalina is an island off of the village with the same name. Santa Catalina is a famous surfing area in Western Panama. The village itself was full of young surfer dudes from all over the world. Since the surf was so good the anchorage was very rolly and unsettled. We would not be spending much time here. When the tide was low a reef protected the anchorage, but when the tide went up we lost our reef and it's protection. Our first trip into shore to find the restaurant named Jamming Pizza was a good surf landing with no real problems. Leaving that evening was a little more eventful in the dark, but we only took on eight to ten inches of water in the dink. The next day when the surf was much higher we tried to land in a different location and swamped the dingy and both Helen and Joan (on Panchita) fell out and into the water. The dink was totally swamped, but didn't roll. It would have made a great video on what not to do! We did find Jamming Pizza at the end of a half mile muddy road. It was a cool place but they didn't open till 6:30pm and we didn't really want to have to walk back to the boat in the dark jungle. We ended up at a small beach front palapa by the dingy landing. Great food and a good price.
With such an uncomfortable anchorage we moved on to Isla Gobernadora. It was an open anchorage, but at least it was calm. The next morning we travel about 30 miles to Ensenada Naranjo. Naranjo is a very pretty and somewhat protected anchorage on the mainland of Panama. The water was clear. The fish were big, and the beach was inviting. We made one hike into the jungle looking for monkeys. At the end of the trail we found a herd of cows, a wild lemon tree, and mangoes. We kept hearing the monkeys but never saw them. It was nice to see the different terrain just a short walk away from the beach. Our next hop was an overnight passage to the Las Perlas Islands.

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Isla Secas and beyond

Our first anchorage in the Isla Secas was on the east side of Isla Cavada. We were very surprised to find Panchita anchored there waiting for us. We had not seen Panchita for about 3 weeks so it was a good reunion. Isla Cavada is a private island as are a lot of the islands in Panama. There is a very exclusive resort on the island where the minimum accommodations are $300 a night. The funny part is all the rooms are separate and they are Yurts. Yurts are canvas covered structures on wooden platforms. All are very nice and come with every amenity you can think of (yes, even internet), plus the locations of each yurt was incredible,... but they are still tents! We were told we were not allowed on shore so we didn't push it and try. The next day we decided to go to a friendlier island that was still in the Secas. The island is in the southwest section, and called Isla Pargo. Only Rains book shows you can anchor there, but it was probably the best anchorage we had since leaving Mexico. We were protected on three sides from the weather and the visibility was 25 to 30 ft. The best so far. We were able to hike the island and snorkel in clear water right off the boat. Most of the fish we have seen before but it was still amazing. We stayed 3 days and probably should have stayed a week. When we left the Secas we decided to skip the Isla Coiba park islands because of cost. The cost varies depending on what they think they can gouge you for. Some friends of ours were told it would cost the $150 a night to anchor and $20 per person per day. They settled on $150 flat rate for 2 days and no receipt. When they moved to a new anchorage they were hit up for the same fee. As you can imagine this is out of my budget. Instead we went to Isla Medidor. We were told it was beautiful. With all the coming and going of construction workers the beauty was overpowered by the noise and commotion. We stayed one night and moved on to Bahia Honda. We checked out where every cruising guide said was the best place to anchor and ended up finding our own place near the entrance. We had much more protection and clear water so we were happy. That evening two families came by and offered us fruits and vegetables for trade or money. We scored bananas, spinach,culantro, mangoes, and avocados. The next day we tried to help one of the men fix his outboard, but he need to go to Panchita to finish the project. Later another local needed help with his spark plugs and I happened to have the right tool for the job. The next day I dove, looking for lobsters and found a 12 place setting of steel dinner plates. Later that day a load of local kids came over to see us and get whatever we were handing out--pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers and steel plates. We stayed three very enjoyable days at this anchorage, but moved on to Isla Santa Catalina to find a place called Jamming Pizza. At the time we thought it was Jammin' Pizza, so the quest was on.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Isla Parida and Isla Gamez

Our Land fall at Isla Parida was uneventful. We were able to miss the rock pinnacle that Batwing had warned us about. It was almost dark when we anchored and were almost immediately attacked by bugs. Mosquitoes, and no see-ums were everywhere. The bay is shared by a small resort but since it is the rainy season there seemed to be no activity anywhere. With all the bugs we just put up the screens and huddled below decks till the the sun came up. We decided to move to a small island called Gamez. We were hoping for less bugs. Isla Gamez is probably the first truly tropical island we have been anchored off of. It look like a island jungle paradise. To a point it was, but when we went ashore there were bugs everywhere. The pictures were great because you can't see the bugs. We went back to the boat and decided to try a little snorkeling. Visibility was about 10 to 15 ft so it was good but not great. We were suprised at how few of fish there were. We were hoping for better. That afternoon Carlos came by with a few Bananas and wanted to know if we wanted any lobster. This was the first time since the Sea of Cortez we have been offered lobster so we jumped at the chance. 30 minutes later he was back with three nice lobster and we gave him the $10 he was asking for. We had a great evening of BBQ lobster even with the bugs everywhere. The next day we decided to move on with the bugs, no visibility, and the threat of thunder and lighting we were hoping to find an even better paradise. Our next stop would be a short hop to Isla Secas. Leaving the Parida group of island you started to see what an incredible area it was. There are over 100 islands and reefs to explore just in this area. If it wasn't the rainy season and not knowing what was ahead it would have been fun to do more exploring.

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Out of Costa Rica

Helen arrived back on the boat on May 22. It took only 4 days to get provisioned and checked out of Costa Rica. Golfito was a great place to wait for Helen and I made the most of it. Land and Sea became my second home for about 2 weeks. It gave me a place to get internet and just hang out with fellow cruisers. While I was there I went with the people from Batwing and Sarana to the boarder of Panama to do some duty free shopping. It was a lot of fun and very interesting place. We were able to walk freely across the border, but our first crossing was by sneaking between two buildings through a 2ft gap called the tunnel. We later found out you can just walk over the border with no questions asked. The border reminded me of Tijuana only with US type junk being sold at very good prices. I am sure most name brands are counterfeit, but there were some bargains to be found. The duty free area in Golfito actually had better prices on liqueur and that was the main reason for going. I loaded up on Nicaraguan rum and was ready to head for Panama. I enjoyed Costa Rica but I am very glad to be moving on. Our last stop in Costa Rica was at a small surfing area called Pavones. Knowing that it was a surfing place, actually it is the home to the longest left breaking wave in the world, we should have known that it would be a very uncomfortable anchorage. It was, and not being surfers we did not appreciate the surroundings. As soon as it was daylight we were out of there. Next stop will be a very long day to Isla Parida in Panama.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Rincon Golfo Dulce

Rincon turned out to be a nice place just to sit. Two other boats were there. Batwing and Sarana shared the anchorage with me and we spent a couple of nights enjoying eash others company. There really isn't much there but a very small outdoor eatery and a small tienda. I went ashore with Batwing once to walk the road and try to find the veggie truck. It was a great walk but missed the truck so we went back to the boat. That evening I saw a large Croc swimming about 50 ft from the boat. This was the first one I have seen in open water and it made me think I'am not going into the water to clean my hull. Two days later he came out to the boat and caught something about 10ft in front of the boat. I saw him do a full body roll as he attacked what ever it was before he headed to the bottom. I stood up on deck thinking all sort of thoughts about what had happened when about 5 minutes later he surfaced about 20ft from the boat and swam to shore. He probably wouldn't attack a person, but there is no way I would go into the water around there. I decided to leave the next day for Golfito and the Land and Sea cruising club. The nice thing about the location of Rincon is that it is all the way up in the end of the bay. It is very calm, and most of the thunder, lightening, and wind went right by the anchorage because it is tucked into the hills. It was a good place to sit.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Still heading south or is it east?

During my trip south I wanted to make short hope since not only was I traveling with no other boats I was also still alone. The following are just a brief description of each anchorage. I have not uploaded any new picture but will do so when I have internet.

Punta Quepos very good anchorage. I anchored further into the bay because some of the rocks on Sarana guide seem to be miss placed. The main reason I went there was to avoid paying the anchorage fee for the first night I was there. Not much roll but some.

Manual Antonio park. One of the prettiest and clearest anchorages I have been to in Costa Rica. I was the only boat here for two nights and surrounded on three sides by jungle. It was quite rolly the second night. I got up at 5 and left for the next leg. I only paid one night and the ranger wanted to see my receipt to get back to the boat. He came after hours and looked out at me? I left at 6 that morning so no problem. The park was a very interesting place to walk around. They get hundreds of tourists a day but you still manage to see 2 and 3 toed sloths, monkeys, parrots, and the Jesus Crist Lizard was sort of a topper. I was told it is the only four legged animal that actually can walk on water. It walks on its hind legs so fast it actually walks on water. This is also the only area you can find Squirrel monkeys filling out my list of seeing all 4 types of monkeys.

Bahia Dominicalito it says it is a protected anchorage. Beautiful place right out of Napa Valley huge homes everything looks like Calif. Probably one of the top 5 worst nights of rock and rolling I have had. By far the worst since entering Mexico 2 yrs ago. Large swells and crosswave made for no sleep. I wanted to leave in the middle of the night but there were a lot of fishing nets I had seen them put out the evening before. I left at 4.45 when I could see the flags.

Bahia Drake I got there and I couldn't get off the boat. There was a 6+ ft swell coming through. Mystic Moon forwarded me the bouy weather report to verify what I already knew. I wanted to explore the park so I stayed. During anything but high tide the entrance to where you park the dingy had such huge breakers across it I didn't dare try to enter for three days. The swells were very steep and I would roll off the back side sideways. Bent part of my bow roller because of weird wave action. Once the swell calmed down I went to shore and had a great hike out to the point about 3 hrs away. Only saw green parrots and scarlet macaws. A lot of macaws. No Tucans I would have stayed longer but 5+ft swells were called for the next day. Don't know where they were coming from, but they were unusual.

I decided to go to Puerto Jeminez because the pirate surfer guys said I should. I love it here. It is a great town. As far as anyone can remember I am the first cruising sailboat to come here maybe since the new year. They can't remember the last one. I have been treated like a guest in the town by everyone. The Palms bar and motel has a two and a half little boy who is fluent in both Spanish and english. There is a little neighbor girl who is three, who isn't around right now, but she speaks enlish, spanish and some portugese. Really cool place. I was introduced to a Canadian who took me around the town to show me where to shop and then introduce me to the people she knew. I would definitely not pass this place up. I am going to spend a couple of days or more here then head up to Rincon. Everybody here says don't hurry to get to Golfito. There are a bunch of Tucans here. They are even just hanging out on the wires above the streets. One place I went the owner showed me two of the five thieves in town( really only five) and where not to go, bars on the left side of the road. While I was there one of them was trying to sell stolen DVDs he said were his brothers. Pretty entertaining. I even meet the ex ambassador to Tonga and Bolivia. He now owns a bar in town. Really cool older man. He owns an entire city block for his gardens and bar. He also has a bonsi collection back in Sausalito that has several 150 year old specimens that he has someone from Japan come over and take care of a couple of times a year.

Thats about it. I have not seen another cruiser since Ballena. Every anchorage I have had to myself. Actually a family on the beach in Manual Park were the only people I talked to since I left Panchita and Vida Libre. There is just no one down here. Both Equinox and Mystic Moon left Sunday for Panama. I wasn't here yet.

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Heading South

My overnight trip down to Bahia Bellena was pretty much uneventful. The only catch was I was by myself and I wasn't going to get there for about 20hrs. I stayed awake the whole trip except for four 15 minute timer naps. That is where I set the timer for 15 minutes and close my eyes. The timer goes off and I am awake, if I went to sleep at all. Once I arrive around noon I set the anchor and went to sleep. On the way in I had talked to friends on Mystic Moon and they had invited me to Isla Tortuga for Easter dinner and meet their son. I said I thought I would be too tired but thanks. I woke up 3 hours later and decided to make the six mile trip up to Tortuga. Had a great night and was very glad I went. They left for points south and I headed back to Bahia Bellena to be with Equinox and Lea Scotia . We went ashore and made a hike out to the point to look at rocky shoreline and a bunch of howler monkeys. Once we got back we had a great lunch at the Bar and Restaurant in the bay call Bahia Bellena Yacht Club. We spent two more days there pretty much enjoying the area and the food. Equinox headed south to Golfito and I headed to Isla San Lucas. the sight of an old prison. Somewhat like Alkatraz but a smaller scale. It was closed in 1997 but it looked like it had been closed for 30 yrs. The jungle had reclaimed its land. I only spent one night there and said good buy to Lea Scotia for a couple of weeks. I went back to Isla Tortuga to try and do some snorkeling and relaxing alone. I only spent on night because the wave action made in very uncomfortable. I was going back to Bahia Bellena. I wanted to be there for the Saturday organic market. It turned out to be a great find and bought a couple of weeks worth of veggies. While I was back there Panchita and Vida Libre were also at the anchorage so I went with them on the same hike as earlier to show them the monkeys, They were not disappointed, and again we had lunch at the yacht club. It would be the last, I was heading south the next day.

There was a lot of worrisome hype about thefts in Golfa de Nicoya. I had no problems and would recommend this are to everyone behind me. I had a great time, but I also always locked my dingy when I went ashore and put it up at night. I doesn't hurt to be cautious. I have updated picture file I sent to Picaso the link is on the side bar.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dolphins and Sunsets

It doesn't get much better that this. I have about 10 dolphins gliding through my bow wave while the sun slowly set to a beautiful orange hue. No green flash, I was hoping. The only thing better would be to have Helen here with me and not 3,000 mile away. Helen went home for a couple of weeks to see her mother and spend some time in Portland. Last year it was my turn this year hers.

I have been in Costa Rica for about 3 weeks and have spent most of my time around the Cocos area. Northern Costa Rica is not jungle green at this time of year that was one my big surprises. Most of it is brown until the winter rains begin in about a month or less. The low valleys are green with palm, mango and other ever green trees, but the hills are brown and bare. I have explored 4 different anchorages all having something a little different to offer. Playa de Coco is the hub of activity for the area. It has 3 grocery stores and two banks. Pretty much all that is important to me. Oh ya then there is Coconutz. One of the gringo hangouts. They have happy hour every day and beer and well drinks are only about a dollar and a half. Which for this area is a great deal. They also have Pizza and salad buffet with a movie on Wednesday. I made it there twice. Playa de Coco is also where you have to check in and out of Costa Rica. I then anchored in Playa de Panama. This is a very nice quite anchorage. A little more protection from the strong afternoon winds and waves. The only other attraction in Playa de Panama is a very nice small eco resort. Lea Scotia's relatives stayed there and had a fantastic time. I was able to make one inland trip with them to a Volcano Nation Park. Had a good time hiking through the true green jungle. We were very disappointed because we saw no wild animals, and hardly any birds. I then went back to reprovision (which is about double the cost of anywhere I have been)and meet up with Mystic Moon for a well deserved reunion, that lasted 3 days. Together we moved to Bahia Gaucayama a very small bay. Room for just a couple of boats. The snorkeling was supposed to be good, but the water clarity was not very good. There wasn't much to see. We did find a Sea Horse washed up on the beach giving us hope of seeing them in the water. They were too elusive. I then moved back to Coco for a couple of hrs to get a National Zarpe. This is a piece of paper letting me travel along Costa Rican waters for 90 days. When I was done with check out I moved out to Bahia Heuvos and meet up with Lea Scotia and Equinox the two boats I am traveling with right now. The water was a lot clearer but the temperature dropped to 72 degrees. I cleaned the boat bottom and that was pretty much my underwater adventures. We also had a power boat friend come into the anchorage Panchita. They will be there a few more days to check into the country then head our way. A schooner called R-Dreams share our anchorage very nice people coming up from Panama they share a wealth of information with us. After a short night stop back in Gaucamaya I am on my way heading south to Bahia Bellena. It is an overnight passage, the first I have done alone, but I am in the company of 2 other boats. The coolest thing about Costa Rica so far is the Monkeys. There are monkeys everywhere. Even in the town of Cocos. One night in Bahia Heuvos I watch 20 or more Howler monkeys play in the trees for about an hour about 15 minutes before sunset they all moved up the hill and sat there in about 5 trees looking west. I swear they were digging the sunset just like me. When the sun set they all dispersed down into the other trees. It was totally cool. So far I have seen three different types of monkeys. There are four types in Costa Rica so I am doing pretty good. That pretty much brings everything up to date for Jammin. Except for not having Helen here and what she, her family, and her mom are going through life is good down here in Costa Rica.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

El Salvador heading to Costa Rica

After waiting 3 days for a bar crossing window we were given the ok for 7am Monday morning. The bar had been close because the waves were too large for safe crossing. We had no problem waiting til the right time after what we went through coming in over the bar. Our pilot arrived at 7 sharp and Lea Scotia went first again. It looked a lot worse than it was. We tipped the bar pilot $10( a whole days wage) to try to insure a dry crossing. It worked but not until sitting in the middle of 6 ft breaking waves waiting for that right moment to climb over the top of 3 no breaking waves and escape into the open sea where we were at home again.
We were on our way to Golfo Fonseca 72 miles away. The trip was uneventful and we arrived just before dark. The amazing thing about the Golfo is that every island is a volcano and two very large ones guard the entrance. The Golfo is territory of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. While sitting at anchor getting ready for an early bed time, I heard the strangest noise coming from our boat, or at least I thought it was our boat. I can only describe it as the sound a thousand frogs would make if kept in a small room. I could not figure out what in the boat would be making that sound. I finally called Lea Scotia and they were hearing the same sound. No idea what it was but it quit about midnight. The next two nights were spent off of quaint little villages all painted in brilliant colors. Cows, pigs, horses, and dogs roamed the only beach in front of the homes. We were serenaded by really bad sing along music coming from the church on the beach. The next night we again anchored off an area of homes and one very small resort. At midnight firecrackers and bottle rockets were set off for some unknown reason. It lasted about 20 minutes and it started all over again at 4 in the morning. We took the hint and left at five for our trip down the Nicaraguan coast to Costa Rica.
(Thursday night)The coastal view of Nicaragua is amazing. No matter what direction you look on shore you see multiple volcanos. At one point I could see 8, all incredible sights. Very few beach front resorts or properties were visible from the water. Just before Costa Rica we did see some amazing European style villas. Huge water front estates. I could guess where the money comes from! We are now about 70 mile from Costa Rica. I have the Big Dipper on one side of the boat and the Southern Cross on the other, pretty cool. Orion's Belt is always our center of attention as the night sky flows overhead. The wind is just picking up and it is expected to blow about 25knt by morning. These are the Papagallos which we have been trying to avoid. I hope they are only 25 for a short period of time. Tomorrow we will be in Bahia Santa Elena Costa Rica. It is suppose to be a wonderful place. Monkeys, big cats, and many kinds of birds await us. Coooool!
(Friday)The wind blew us in to Costa Rica, or was it a gale? We saw and felt 45 mph gust for over 5 hours. It started at midnight and its now 3 PM and still blowing. It pays to notice the barometer swings--3 down equals windy conditions. If the grib files shows it might blow a Papagallo believe it! If it shows 25knts it will probably blew 40 to 50 in some locations. If it doesn't show anything it will probably blow anyway. I am glad it is over. We had a reefed main and no jib all the way down since morning in 35mph constant and one peak gust of 49. The boat did well, I was only afraid of my 4 scuba tanks breaking loose in the middle of everything. One strap may not be enough. Nothing happened to them but I will be resewing my jib's sun edge which ripped out for the second time.

It is evening, and we are anchored in Bahia Santa Elena; it feels visually like the northwest and it looks to be a fun place to explore. One parrot sighted,no monkeys yet!! But tomorrow we will walk in the jungle, and up to a waterfall. More later, Dave and Helen

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Exploring Around Bahia del Sol

The blog now has some new pictures to support this story and some of the previous experiences. Our first exploration was a dinghy ride to the end of the estuary to a town called Herradura. We landed at the pier, a working fishing village and walked through the water front food court. Then we entered the town, its streets, and traffic. As we walked we passed store fronts that use garage doors at night to close their store fronts. With national elections in full swing, the liberal communistic party headquarters were full of supporters and flag wavers--Americans are not their favorite people right now which explained the stares and suspicious looks the males in our party received. Our goal was the weekly market for fruit and vegetables. There the stalls and stands were so tightly packed that one had to walk sideways to get through the narrow path. Everything from toilet paper to strange looking vegetables was available for a price. The people were friendly and helped us with our Spanish. With fresh produce in hand we walked out and down to the local bakery. Using huge ovens fueled by burning wood they bake incredibly delicious bread. The batter is stirred by hand in stainless tables that are 4 feet by six feet and 5 inches deep. The lady dipped her hand into the batter and slopped it into the cooking pans and then handed them to the baker. No utensils to wash and few pans this way. Some of the party bought bread and cookies shaped into butterflies. Now being hungry we took a 3 wheel taxi back to the pier for a delicious lunch. Dave and I shared a sausage plate and a shrimp dinner--garlic and butter grilled.
The next morning we woke and completed a few projects before setting out to the structures that sit on piers in the entrance of this bay. The structures are restaurants where ladies grill fish or serve freshly made clam cocktails. While you wait you can lay in hammocks and toss back a few cold beers. The scenery is stunning and the atmosphere is definitely, "No worries, no problems." If they run out of something they yell over to the next structure and borrow whatever they need.
Another day we walked down the main road to a local store and bought coca light and ate pupulas. Earlier that day we explored the island across the way, visited their store, school, and the local goat farm. Animals are plentiful and roam from shore to shore. We caught a ride with Jan, from Canada, one day and saw the carts delivering goods, the cattle free roaming to find food, and the volcanoes in the distance.
The buddy boat we are traveling with had a birthday. Kiera turned three. Jan invited children to her house and bought a pinata. We played games and everyone swung at the Tweedy bird. The chocolate cupcakes were so good.
Having now decided it time to hit the tide and pull out for points south, we provisioned one last time in a town further in called Zacatecoluca. This town has banks and more stores, but the market place is the same as anywhere--stalls crowded together, small passages, and such a variety of goods. They did have a super market and there we bought enough meat and hard goods to take care of our needs for another 3-4 weeks. As we left the town there were roadside stalls selling coconuts, honey, melons, and road stops where trucks were being inspected and people unloaded...why wasn't clear.
Many nights were spent with mago salsa and rum cocktails on Jan's porch. One night she brought out her home brew cashew concoction. Blaze, a musician from San Francisco joined us and we philosophized into the wee hours.
So, now here we sit by the pool(plugged into the wi-fi), music and tropical birds in the background, kicking back some cool ones,just waiting for the surf to lay down and let the boat cross the sand bar that stands between us and the next adventure. This morning Dave completed the checkout paperwork and a bit later our sand bar guide came by and said, "Not today, maybe not for two or three more days." What an ideal place to wait out a weather window!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We are in El Salvador




We arrived on a wave to Bahia Del Sol Resort, El Salvador on March 2 at 6 PM. The photos taken of the boat ahead of us altered our optimistic outlook of our own ride in; so when it was our turn we were ready to roll and get wet. However Neptune took mercy on us and we barely caught spray over the side. Thankful for the smooth entrance we had a drink, compared notes with our friends, and went to sleep—10 hours of uninterrupted sleep! When dawn arrived, the sounds of tropical birds, crowing roosters and a blaring horn like on a locomotive roused us from our sleep. Looking around we saw low lying land trimmed in palm trees and one story round huts on the beaches and red roof piers filled our view. We took a walk on the resort grounds and 3 wild parrots perched in the trees cawed, Guinea hens in a pen with geese and a lone sheep and deer ate away at their breakfast. Out on the main road we heard the locomotive horn again and around the corner sped a bright green bus, front tires lifted higher than the rear, and graphics painted up and down its sides—our guide book explains it is the local commuter bus with huge speakers and a blaring stereo that will require ear plugs for the one hour ride to the capital city. That adventure we will leave for another day.

Our voyage to El Salvador started last Thursday night when we left the shelter of Huatulco, Mexico to cross the dreaded Tehuantepec, leaving Mexican waters for Central American shores. The crossing can be calm or 8 to 25 feet of confused seas, more like chop, with gusts in the 40-60 mph range. We were fortunate and the first two days were great sailing (10-20 mph) and fairly calm waters. During Dave’s watch the dolphins performed for over 45 minutes darting, diving and doing acrobatics. My watch was the parading of turtles so thick it felt like a land mind field. They were very skillful in diving and avoiding being run over by our boat. It was when we left the Tehuantepec and were approaching the border of Guatemala that the seas built, the wind howled, and we were tossed and dropped for over 36 hours by the winds on our nose known as the papagallo. Taking turns of about 3 hours each we made it and arrived at the mouth of Bahia Del Sol around 10 AM. There is a sand bar, current, and breaking surf to avoid and the hour to enter that day was 5:30 PM(high slack). Being 7 hours ahead, we took well needed naps as the wind blew 20-25 all afternoon. At 5:30 the launch (panga style boat) met our buddy boat and showed him the way in. The attached pictures show his ride which was wet and wild, not unlike the log ride at Knotts Berry Farm. They did get wet. We thought you might appreciate the view we were given. But as stated above we lucked out. This country is friendly, and behind the low lands are numerous volcanoes with a layer of smoke filling the space between the two areas. It is harvest time for sugar cane and they burn the canes down all day and night long resulting in shards of ash floating on the winds and covering your boats, covers, and steps. One cannot escape the sweet odor it creates nor the desire to sweep up the mess.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Good Morning. It is Sunday

It's Sunday at least that is what we think. We had Lea Scotia (Trevor, 39, Carissa ?, and Kiera, almost 3)who we will be traveling to Central America with over last night. One of our discussions was how we never know what day it is. If it wasn't for the computer we would never know. The only day that is different is Friday because there is no weather by Don Anderson on the SSB radio. We are anchored in La India a beautiful little bay surrounded by rocks and reefs on 3 1/2 sides. Our anchor sits in 20 ft of crystal clear water. It is part of a National Park so taking care of the reefs are serious business. We went snorkeling three times yesterday on the third time I set all my snorkel gear on the back step and sometime later it got knocked off into the water and floated away. All my good gear was gone. I got up at daylight and kayaked around the bay and the outer bay with no luck. I have some back up equipment but it is all old stuff. Oh well. Life is still good. We just heard on the SSB weather that it is blowing 60+ knots out in the Tehuantepec today and tomorrow, and 45+ all the way down to Costa Rica. I guess we are glad we are sitting here. The winds come over from the Caribbean side and funnel through to this side. Nasty stuff when it does. It is so shallow the seas build to 15-18ft on a 5 to 6 second period. Even ships have problems. It can extend out 700 miles from the gulf. You don't take chances with the Tehuantepec. By the way the Tehuantepec is where we are headed after a few days in Huatulco.

Two days ago we were anchored behind Isla Cacaluta. This is also part of the parks system but more open to the seas so we just stayed two nights. The surrounding shores are very rugged and rocky. Not something you would expect to see in Southern Mexico. Reminds me of Southern Oregon Coast. Every where we go seems to be magnificent snorkeling in clear water with tons of fish and coral. There always seems to be something new to see.

We plan on staying here till tomorrow or the next day and then move to the marina till we get a weather window. We need fuel, propane, provisions and to check out of the country. Then when the weather opens for a 3-5 day period we will then be off the El Salvador.

Hope everyone is doing well

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

We made it to Acapulco



Our arrival to Acapulco was at 5 this morning the city looked like a cluster of sparkling jewels covering the hillside. We are currently anchored in a bay just outside of Acapulco. The bay is beautiful with palapas and palms along the beach, but the city itself is very hotel commercial and not very interesting to us. We will spend two days here recuperating from the overnight passage then head south to Puerto Angel. Before our overnight sail we spent one night in Papanoa and left at 9pm to make the 13hr trip. We were able to sail all but about 3 hrs towards daylight when the winds died. It was a great downwind sail. For some reason neither Helen or I could sleep all the way down so we have spent the whole day just kicking back and trying to catch up on sleep. There are 3 other boats all on the same time frame for leaving here and heading south. We look forward to the company since we are usually alone on our overnight passages.

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27 days in Zihuatanejo






We arrived, set the anchor down and decided we would be in Zihuatanejo for awhile. That decision was easy because while the anchor left its cradle and settled down into the mud we heard metal parts being chewed up. We realized our anchor windlass was not going to raise the 82 pound anchor or the 100 foot of heavy chain and either were we, or I should be honest, Dave.

Our time here was well spent. We had planned to arrive in time for a sailing fest and here we were 2 weeks early. The fest was designed years ago to help build schools in the hills surrounding the area. One of the first things we did was sign up to sell items to raise some of the funds. Linde from Rosebud and I sat at the table often and what a great way to meet people. One day I took a tour of the school we wish to help this year and as you can see by the photos (part of http://picasaweb.google.com/zihuasail) they need much help to create a clean conducive to learning structure. It is amazing to see the children in these humble settings listening to the volunteer teachers and working on their lessons. The fest raises the funds to buy building materials and build stairs to get to the school, the parents volunteer the labor to construct the walls, floors, roof, and bathrooms. We also visited the school built by previous fests and there we found the same eagerness to learn in a solidly built school yard. Los Ninos is the non profit organization that distributes the funds and gets the materials into the hands of the grateful parents and students. If interested, please check out their site. www.losninos.us/contactus.html. The man in charge of U.S. donations is from Portland, OR and can give you more information.

With less than half of the normal boaters in port for this fest the land base "cruisers" who live here for months at a time, or permanently, went into full battle action getting raffle donations, working the sales booth, setting up a music festival, restaurants, and events. They did a tremendous amount of the work this year. We were lucky to have them on board. Two days before the fest started more boats arrived and volunteers lined up for various jobs. As in past years everyone was treated to the smiling face of Nathaniel, the local dinghy service master who helped us in, and stayed on duty till 10 PM every night. Some crew flew in to be of assistance and thanks to Dean's arrival from Don Quixote, we received our anchor windlass parts. His wife, Toast, had been here with the boat, three daughters and the cat. The three girls had become our morning net controllers and enriched all our lives with their zeal and zestful commentaries each and every morning for almost a month. As we talked often with Don Quixote family, I learned Aeron and I had something in common-we both were awarded the Baja Ha Ha Extreme Snorer Award (I in 2008 and she and her sister in 2009). Such a small world!

A major event early on in the week for the sailors was the Pursuit Race. Adirondack, Jim and Diane, were the official committee boat and did a wonderful job. Ed, from A Cappella, was the statistician with Rene and Annie picking up the other duties. Jammin's Dave joined the crew of Full Quiver and managed the spinnaker as a "grinder" (but this time the parts stayed in one piece) and the crew not only had a great time but won the race on adjusted time. Lou, and the crew on Cirque, crossed the finish line first and it was a great event for all.

Then there was the night of the auction and bids flew as fast and furious as possible. Social events included the meet and greet Parade Day captains and passengers party (organized by Pam on Precious Metal and Bill on Someday). It was followed by musical entertainment. Another money maker and great time was the annual music concert, on Wednesday, featuring at least 5 professional performing groups. We had to miss this as the next morning was our event. Other events during the week were the dinghy poker, organized by Don Quixote, a Chili feed, street fair, and individuals meeting for dinners, drinks, dates for foraging for food and parts, and exploration. Some of us squeezed in a dentist vist to Dr Oliverio Soberanis, Av.5 de Mayo. He speaks a bit of English and had us smiling with bright white teeth in 30 minutes. What a great town this was to be stranded in for 27 days. Every night the square's athletic court was in use and the local people filled in the spaces to view and enjoy each others company. There were so many wonderful restaurants, wine stores, and special finds. We cleared out every packet of Zuko Light watermelon and bought 400+ envelopes of other flavors and CLight products-no more carting boxes of high calorie fruit juice boxes for us!


My responsibility was helping with the Parade of Boats and getting 160 passengers aboard 27 boats in less than an hour using dinghies (small rubber boats that hold 3-4 people plus a driver). With the assistance of many volunteers (Cornelia and Ed, A Cappella; John and Cathy, Mystic Moon; Paul and Erin, Romany Star; Pam and IV, Precious Metal; Mike and Sylvia, Vamoose; Tom Collins and Doug McCloy, Phil, Dave and Sandy Weed, Rick from Cosummate, Annie, etc.) and patient guests we accomplished the task. This event was the biggest money raiser, I believe. What was the best part of this job was greeting the passengers as they returned from a day of sailing. Every face was aglow with sheer excitement and joy. They had the glow of love in their eyes and childish grins as they professed their day to be the best day ever and they will definitely be back next year, or they are in so much trouble as the wife now wants a boat and smiling about that prospect! A surprise outcome was many of the host boaters were invited to their passengers' hotels or condos and treated to dinner later in the week and a chance to swim in their pools.
Saturday was beach day for the school children. Many of them never come off the hill and down to the beach. Life guards were placed in chairs in about 16 inches of water to keep an eye on the overly brave and give confidence to the timid. Tug of War, water balloons, and other games and events gave them a great day of fun and play.
On the Zihu Fest's final day there was time for a few rounds of Mexican Train with Rosebud, A Cappella, and Sue and Bill from Sun Baby. Later there was the Rubber Ducky race organized by Joan and Ted of Panchita and the BBQ. There it was announced that even though there were fewer boats this year, we raised more pesos than last year's group! Yahoo! Great things can be done when the goal is understood and the focus is kept on a positive outcome. Over the following two days birthdays were celebrated, I received a special birthday song from Tom on Dream Seeker who was playing at a local club, and tearful goodbyes were said to all the folks heading north as our plans will be taking us south. With a rebuilt winless in place, Jammin' will lift anchor and be on our way to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama before hurricane season arrives in June.
P.S. We lifted anchor, moved from Municipal to Playa la Ropa (about ¼ of a mile), now known as the Litter Box (three cats are parked there), to clean the 27 day growth off the bottom of the boat and had another round of goodbyes …cruisers sometime have trouble letting go of friends.
If you are making plans to attend next year be sure to go on-line in November and get the calendar of events-some change due to cruise ship days and other considerations-just query Zihuatanejo SailFest. A new web master will be taking over the site later this year.

Helen's entry

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Zihuatanejo

We had a wonderful stay at Isla Grande, near Ixtapa. We wish we could go back for the great snorkeling and clear water. There were at least 4 separate dive areas all with something different to offer and visibility in excess of 25 ft. The water was warm and refreshing. Even though the beaches were full of palapas and tourist during the day, everyone was gone by 5:00pm and the area was dead quiet. You might have noticed my comment about wishing we could go back, well it happens we are stuck here in Zihuatanejo till we get parts for our anchor windlass. Whether it is age or something else, we tore up both of the gears inside the gear box on our windlass. We almost didn't get our anchor out of the sand at Isla Grande. Once we got to Zihua I spent all day taken the unit apart only to find the worst possible news. On the bright side after 4 days of waiting for an answer, DownWind Marine in San Diego was able to find the parts in California. We also lucked out and Don Quixote's husband is up in the states and coming home next Tuesday. He is willing to bring down my parts so a really bad situation has tuned out to only be a pain in the butt, but we are stuck here in the mud till then.

Now there are worst places to be stuck. Zihuatanejo is a pretty cool place, even though it is touristy when the cruise ships arrive (3-4 per week). There is pretty much anything you could want in the area including a machine shop for when I get my parts. Helen has become involved in the planning of Z Fest next week so most days she is in town for a couple of hours. There is a central tourist district with cobblestone walking streets and all sorts of shops and restaurants. Some are ok but to get better food and much lower prices you have to get away from the normal tourist hang outs. There is a canal that runs along the town with a pathway to follow to the more commercial area of town. Everyday when we are in town we explore a little more of the older less traveled area of town. They have a flower district, a fruit district, a shoe repair district, and a doctor district. It appears they put all the competition together so the customer can see what the options are and choose the one on the left, right, or middle. The local markets are wonderful and we actually found a new fruit. It looks like a brown avocado on steroids and it has the same type of hard seed, but it has orange flesh and it taste like a fruity sweet potato. We still have one more so I will try to take a picture of it. The Z-fest supports building schools in the hills above Zihuatanejo for Indian children. We are going to take a tour of the hills on Thursday. Then next week the events and parties start. Every day from Feb 3-8 something will be going on. We will miss the famous guitar fest that they hold here, as we are still working our way south as planned.

Life is still great and we enjoy at least most of every day. Some days the heat is a bit much.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Caleta de Campos

What a great find! We had actually thought about passing this small anchorage by because the cruising guides are not all that kind about the bay. They say it is rolly and exposed. Exposed it is, but the large swells that come through the bay are a gentle rock unlike Maruata. We ended up spending 4 day anchored in the bay that reminded us of Chacala, but better. The beach has about 6 palapa restaurants, but the rest of beach is incredibly beautiful. The line of palm trees and the rock cliff background makes it feel like the South Pacific. The beach lies at the bottom of a hill and the small town is above overlooking the bay. It is a very friendly Mexican town with very few gringos. We actually saw only two older hitch hiker type gringos the whole time we were in town. We had asked a young guy if there was a good place to get street tacos in town when we were on the beach. He told us up the hill about a 30 minute walk. We started up the hill and and hadn't gotten 5 minutes when the young guy shows up in his pickup truck and says he will take us. The ride reminded me of the wild toads ride at Disney Land, but in no time we were in front of his favorite taco restaurant. It was Sunday so the whole town was out walking about in their best Sunday clothes and sun umbrellas. It's quite a sight, plus the Taco's were excellent as well. We picked up some fruits and vegetables at the small market then browsed a couple of other stores on the way back to the beach. The next day we with Pamela and I.V. from Precious Metal came ashore for lunch. Great shrimp and fish lunch right on the sand with our boats a hundred or less yards in front of us. Helen and Pamela went to the little tienda across the street asking for dish soap. He said he didn't have it but come back in a little bit. He then drove up to town to get the dish soap from another location and brought it back. Talk about friendly people and great service. We loved our four days exploring the area. I have to say when we went snorkeling in the next bay I couldn't believe the lack of fish. There were small coral heads everywhere so the bay was healthy, but there just were no fish. I didn't spend a bunch of time looking but was very disappointed at what I found.
We left Caleta at 3am to make the trip to Isla Ixtapa and arrived at 4pm. We were able to motor sail most of the way so it was a nice trip. There is only one other boat currently anchored here with us. I know it gets hopping with tourist in a short time but right now it is beautiful. Five palapas line the beach and snorkeling is just a short swim away. We look forward to a couple of days here before moving on to Zihuatanejo. Since starting to write this three more boats have arrived. One boat we have been running into(from Californa last fall)is named Pageantry and from Las Vegas, we are yet to meet..but the afternoon seems promising for that...the life of a cruiser...wait and see what happens.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Heading to Zihautanejo also New pictures in our Mexico Adventure file

We are on our way south after spending a great holiday season in Tenacatita and Manzanillo. It is now time to move on. Manzanillo is a great place to provision having a WalMart and two other large stores to pick from. The bus ride is 5 pesos which is about 35 cents to go to any of the stores. We limit ourselves on what we buy based on what we can carry. This time it took us three trips to get everything we wanted. While we were there we also took a two bus trip to Old Town Manzanillo. The fresh market is a city block square and has all the fresh meat, fruits and vegetables you could want and then some. Thanks to catching a 4'4" Mahi on the way over from Tenacatita, our freezer is still full so we didn't need any meat. The fish was the biggest so far on the trip and before he was finished he had knock a 6 gallon container full of water overboard and a laundry bucket followed a few seconds later. Our man overboard drill ended with me swimming to retrieve the lost items. Trying to subdue a 4+ foot fish when he is tangled up in the steering wheel and still has a gaff and a hook in him is no fun. The pictures in our Mexico Adventure tab on this page are from before he went crazy.

Last night we anchored after an overnight passage in a small bay called Maruata. It was totally open to the ocean so we rocked and rolled all night. I needed my sleep so I didn't even notice. On our trip down, in the dark of night, we were shadowed by a very large target on the radar getting as close as 1/2 mile on our side and moving back and forth between us and Precious Metal who we were traveling with. For two plus hours he was lurking off our side running in total darkness. We were unable to see a thing. We guessed it was military and when dawn broke it was confirmed. Once we were anchored we were ask, in English, for the "Favor" of a courtesy boarding and inspection. How could we refuse a request like that, actually you can't. The ship stayed 5 miles off shore and sent a launch in with two officers and two guards. One officer and guard were unloaded on Precious Metal and one came two Jammin. The interview and inspection were done very courteously and non threatening. Once they found that PM was out of water and needed some they sent the launch back out to the ship and brought back 15 gallons of water. They said they would have brought the ship in to fill the tanks but depth was an issue. It was amazing how much they wanted to help. They ask us if we needed any water or anything else before they went back to the ship. The only glitch was we had to entertain our officer for about an hour while they went back to the ship for water. It was great; we served him tea and cookies and learned he had had the night watch duty, too. We worked on our communication skills with our guest, he spoke very little English and we had a good time practicing our Spanish and he his English. The experience turned out to actually be quite a treat except we were dead tired and wanted to go to sleep. The Captain of the ship came back with the water, introduced himself, and again asked if their was anything they could do for us. Upon leaving he gave us a full weather report for the next week, told us while in Mexico we could call upon the Mexican navy for help or assistance, and to call on the radio if something came up. He also added that if we are contacted in the future by another navy ship we can refer to the paper they left with us, say we were inspected by the Armada del la Vega, and be free to continue on our way. What a pleasant encounter it was for all concerned.

Our next stop will be Caleta de Campos another open anchorage then on to Zihau.

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