Thursday, December 23, 2010
It has been a bit of an inauspicious start to our little change of plans. On the day of our scheduled crossing, we had three guests onboard to line handle and picked up two canal advisors at 0545. We were on our way until, for the first time in 20 years, the Panama Canal was closed to ALL traffic for bad weather considerations. It had been raining for several days and all of the spillways were at full open. Debris was littering Gatun Lake and it was determined that navigation would be hazardous. We were placed on the schedule again three days later. Brady went back to the store for fresh food and we hoped this would be the end of it. I called the scheduler to confirm our time and found that we were delayed again for one day. The day finally came and we up-locked into Gatun Lake without incident. We spent the night on the lake with all guests aboard and down-locked the following afternoon in lots of rain. We were finally into El Caribe!...and were met by 30 knots of wind and terrible conditions (inside the breakwater!). The anchorage in front of Club Nautico is large enough for 4-5 boats and we were the 10th to arrive. Not ideal, but the anchor was down and it was time for much needed sleep. This could be the end of our little story, but OH NO. The next night in 30 knots of wind and 3 foot waves entering the anchorage, our anchor slipped for the first time. We were both asleep and if not for hitting the cruise ship channel marker, would have drifted on past leaving about 100 yards for the anchor to re-catch...or not before hitting a container ship or the rocks. We almost needed to rename the boat Ran-aground-parents. The marker did not damage the boat and we were able to motor our anchor free (it did get caught briefly on the buoy). We re-anchored and you can imagine how well I slept for the rest of the night. We had intended to wait for our friend to cross the Canal a few days later, but could not take Colon (pronounce it without the spanish accent and you may BEGIN to get a feel for how nice this place is). Most of the town was built during the canal construction around the early 1900’s and it looks like not much has been touched since. The town looks like the most dangerous place I have been ever. Everyone we have spoken with advised us to take a cab EVERYWHERE or risk being robbed. So, despite visits from cruise ships (?????) you can all safely remove Colon from your list of must see places. We are off to Bocas del Toro for X-mas and I hope to keep the blog updates coming with lots of new stuff. Ta-Ta for now,
Friday, November 26, 2010
Since last we wrote we have changed our plans and are now going through the canal. This winter will be spent cruising the beautiful San Blas islands. Every cruiser we have spoken to has said that the San Blas islands are one of their favorite places in the world, which leaves us with great anticipation for our next season of travel. We are planning on crossing the canal in 1-2 weeks and should have plenty of details to start blogging again (hopefully nothing too dramatic). We are getting excited to start moving and seeing something besides Panama City's skyline, not that it isn't wonderful. We have really enjoyed Panama City and have met some amazing people, but are overdue on a departure. For all those who have dreams of traveling the caribbean by sail boat, you are always welcome to meet up with us. We love having visitors. Wish us luck on going through the canal. Brady
Monday, November 1, 2010
I know it has been a long time since our last entry, but I have excuses, really. OK, not really. The truth is that Panama is not a very big country and we have already seen the majority of what it has to offer us on the pacific side. My sister, Stacy, is coming for a visit on the 3rd of November (WOO HOO!) and we are seriously getting the itch to move on. The reason for the layover is that we can only visit parts of Colombia, which will not take long, and Ecuador does not have much to offer either. From there, crossing the Pacific should happen around February. This is when all of the Pacific Puddle Jumpers set sail from Mexico, Panama and Ecuador for the islands of the south pacific. The cyclone season in that region is from October to March and you shouldn’t arrive too soon before March unless you like hurricanes...Since we last posted, there have been a plethora of mechanical problems and I am learning to fix most of them myself. A brief re-cap: replaced headsail bearing, rebuilt fresh water pump (port side), replaced upper sail-drive shaft bearing (starboard), portable generator fell into the ocean, while running (still working on that one), replaced faulty wiring on bilge pump (port), repaired hole in fresh water line, re-plumbed refrigerator cooling line from salt to fresh water. So you can see that I have at least been busy.
Fortunately, Panama is a good place to find supplies. Brady has been back to the U.S. to visit her mom, we have re-visited the Perlas Islands (three times), and will probably head back again with my sister. Hopefully, we have come to the end of our boat project list (wishful thinking) and will be heading south before too long. Meantime, we are exploring the city one little bit at a time. Apparently, Panama has a family day at the...horse track. Wouldn’t want to wait too long to expose the children to the wonders of gambling at the track, so of course, we went. The kids enjoyed seeing all the horses and Dad gave a good lesson on why you shouldn’t bet the horses by losing every time I did. Finally, Halloween was an altogether different experience. One pirate captain, one pixie princess, two fairies, and mother nature set off in a dinghy to trick-or-treat through the anchorage. Surprisingly, they got a pretty good haul before hitting the shore. From there it was off to our friends neighborhood for some real candy action. About one in 10 houses was decorated to the nines and that is the candy signal here in Panama. We walked around for about an hour and saw four other kids motivated enough to trick-or-treat. The rest just followed behind us asking for our candy...The concept hasn’t quite caught on fully, but it was a great time. The final stop was the Multiplaza mall, but it was near closing and most of the stores were out of candy. One McDonald’s dinner for the me and the kiddos and another Halloween is over. Until next time...Ciao! Troy
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Well, so much has happened since our last post. After my dad left, we jumped headlong into some overdue boat projects. When returning from the Perlas, our roller furling headsail became jammed several times when we needed to bring it in and our single sideband radio was not transmitting. After several trips into town, we located most of the parts and service we needed and stopped at a local firehouse along the way. I met Jose Rodriguez of the Panama City Fire Department and traded several DFD shirts for a Panama City Fire hat and shirt. We became instant amigos and have since had dinner at his place and had him out to the boat for a visit as well. We were planning to take him and his family over to Isla Taboga for a day trip when Brady, the kids and I were offered a trip through the Panama Canal if we served as line handlers in the locks. The boat was a beautiful 65' steel ketch called "White Falcon". Andreas, the captain, needed one more set of hands, so I offered it up to our new friend Jose, who was thrilled at the opportunity to see his country's beautiful canal by boat. We started the trip at 0600 and headed into the first, of two, Miraflores Locks around 9. We held the boat in the middle of the chambers with four lines and could feel the rush of water lifting us from below. After going through the locks, we crossed Miraflores Lake to the final up lock. The Pedro Miguel Locks were the only thing separating us from Gatun Lake and our brief trip to the Caribbean. We traversed 30 miles or so of the freshwater lake and arrived at the 3 Gatun "down locks" around 3 P.M. The story gets a bit interesting at this point. Every sailboat that goes through the canal has an "advisor", or canal employee, on board. Ours failed to mention a few important details on how to tie up alongside a tug boat. We were joined in the locks by a giant container ship behind us and a tug boat next to us. Usually, this is much easier because you only need to manage lines on one side. In our case, we got the bow line to the tug, but could not get the stern line attached before the White Falcon drifted helplessly sideways with no steerage and a lot of cussing. We managed to get the boat into position backwards in the lock and secure for the trip down. A we were lowered, we were informed that the boat still had to turn around before moving into the next chamber. This was also a bit tricky since sailboats do not steer well until they have forward motion and most do not steer at all in reverse. After pushing off the bow and drifting sideways through the locks for a bit, the captain did get the boat turned around and we were once again secured to the tug boat. We opted to leave the lines attached at this point and let the tugboat drag us alongside into the final chamber. We were finally through and without a scratch, despite the small mishap. What lay ahead-the sunny skies and crystal clear water of el caribe? Nope, we never got to the other side of the giant breakwater and headed straight for the Shelter Bay Marina in lots of rain. From here, we got a glimpse of post U.S. control of the Panama Canal and the consequences of our withdrawal on the local community. As sometimes happens when a major military base is removed, the local economy struggles and Colon, Panama is a prime example of this. We were always told that Colon is dangerous, but I did not realize that when the U.S. military base was closed, there was a political power play in Panama City that basically decided to let Colon go, so to speak. What we found was a lawless, grungy and rather scary place. It was a $20 ride from the marina to the city and we were told to pay very inconspicuously to avoid being seen with any money, cameras, phones, anything basically. I asked why and the reply was that if you are seen with any money, there will be an armed robbery. That being said, we did not stick around to see any more of the city and took the direct express bus back to Panama City. The experience was a grand one and today I fixed the headsail, installed a new bowlight, and reattached the radio tuner behind the girls bathroom wall. Hopefully, we are headed to the Perlas in the next few days for some clean water in the islands, snorkeling and R&R. Ta-Ta for now,
Los Vagabundos Medinas
Friday, July 30, 2010
Around the Northeastern point of the island, we snorkeled in about 25 feet of water and saw thousands of fish, a beautiful starfish, manta rays, 5 sharks (four bottom feeding nurse sharks and a white tipped reef shark), and lobster. If that wasn't enough, we saw a whale about 100 yards away playing in a pile of floating trash of all things. We coasted up a little closer and killed the motor to watch. I suggested that we get in the water to get a better look, but Greg was not to savvy on that plan so I went solo. The next thing I heard was, "Troy, it's getting pretty close!". Out of the deep blue about 25 feet in front of me emerged a giant humpback whale headed in our direction. My bravery gave way as well and I made haste back into the dinghy. The whale headed away when Greg fired up the motor and we hurried back to get my dad and the girls for another round of snorkeling. Two weeks flew by and we had to get back to the city, but we all visited the Miraflores Locks Museum to learn about the canal and watch a ship head through the locks toward the Atlantic. One cruiser pizza night later and my dad and sis were off again to Colorado. Back to normal for us as well with laundry, grocery shopping, and boat projects to be done although we treated ourselves to a grand mall experience complete with Taco Bell and a movie before resuming school for the ladies. Oh, and Brady needs feedback on the blog. Think of sad Brady face and post a comment or two please :) Until next time...Troy
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I love Panama so far it is awesome. We have seen a lot of dolphins in Panama. I love the towns in Panama. There are a lot of islands in Panama too. Panama city is so big it is bigger then Denver. We all love Panama. We have done a lot of school. Panama has a lot of pretty towns. There are a lot of boats. There are a lot of trees in Panama. There are a lot cars driving by in Panama city. We are in Panama city anchored in a giant anchorage. We have met a lot of boaters in Panama. There are a lot of big buildings in Panama city across the anchorage we can see them but not even close to all of them. There are long beaches in Panama. We see a lot of buses and trucks in Panama city. We see a lot of big rocks in Panama city. It also is clean water in Panama city.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Golfito and Panama!
After Isla del Cano was Puerto Jimenez. This was a sleepy little town with a calm anchorage. The people were once again very friendly and inviting. After several days our approaching visa expiration could not be put off any further and we were off to Golfito the last port of entry/exit on the southern pacific side of Costa Rica. We ran into our friend Greg from sweet dreams again in this perfectly flat calm ancorage. As it turns out, we wished we could have spent more time here since the anchorage was full of sailboats and the shore services were great. Tim and Katy from Tierra Mar (former cruisers) provide a dinghy dock, laundry service, showers, and internet. We met Julio, Livia, Theo, and Valeria a family on Ilha do mel, who had sailed from Brazil and several other colorful characters. We filled our propane tank, got groceries, cleared out of the country, fueled the boat, and had a great potluck dinner before setting sail for Panama. We were hoping to travel with Greg until Panama City, but 2 hours into our trip he radioed to tell us that “something big broke” in his engine. We offered to help, but he turned around solo and we hoped all was well. The setting sail part was rather optimistic since we motored all day to Punta Balsa, which was surprisingly calm. Our first experience with the locals was a breath of fresh air. An elderly man greeted us at the beach to welcome us and shake my hand. After a walk down the beach in a torrential downpour, it was back to the boat and off to Isla Parida the following morning. After a 2 hour sail, a 6 hour motor and another downpour, we rounded the corner of the island towards our anchorage to find a dinghy headed right at us. Lo and behold, it was Greg! His big problem turned out to be an alternator bearing that only held him up for a day and $60. He left overnight and headed straight for the island and we managed to pick the same anchorage. Isla Parida is a picturesque location with clear water, beautiful beach and lush jungle. There are several other islands within dinghy range and we enjoyed snorkeling, hiking and a picnic lunch. After Isla Parida was Isla Cavada in the Secas Islands. This Island was as beautiful as the last and we finally found what we have been looking for all along: countless islands, pristine beaches and endless snorkeling reefs with an abundance of fish. We next headed to Ensenada Pixvae which was a small local town. There was one phone in the whole town and more kids than we have ever seen in one place. We walked through the town with a local who kindly offered his guide services. We were actually looking for some produce, but found only fruits...on the trees! So, we got a few cokes, beers, 45 bananas on the bunch (still not ripe a week later by the way) with some fresh limes thrown in, 4 coconuts including a how to open with a machete demo, fresh sugarcane, and some locally grown and hand separated brown rice (very, very whole grain...read tasted like dirt)-all for about 10 bucks including a bag of candy that we passed out to the local kids. Greg has been having more luck at the fishing than Brady although she did catch a 3 foot spanish mackerel. Greg, meanwhile, has reeled in three tunas and some mahi mahi. Next was Playa Benao, which was where we were supposed to wait for a weather window to pass around Punta Mala (bad point) towards Panama City. This was a terrible rocky rolly anchorage, but ashore was more paradise. There we found a beautiful beach side restaurant owned by a great couple with four kids. Their family recently sold everything in California and bought the entire beach for a different life. They now have a bar/restaurant along with some rooms to rent in a little boutique hotel. Our kids played for hours with theirs on the beach and the trampoline. We took a bus to the next town called Pedasi and Brady is officially ready to put Panama at the top of our list. One more sleepless night and we opted to head for Punta Mala with a favorable weather picture. This turned out to be the best sail of our trip. As we rounded the point the wind came around behind us at around 25 knots, and with spinnaker alone we managed to sail for 14 hours straight at up to 10.5 knots. We covered the 130 miles to Isla Tobago in about 20 hours. This anchorage is also beautiful and has a pretty big town on the island. From the boat we can see all the ships at anchor waiting to transit the canal and the very dramatic Panama City skyline. We will be moving over to the city in the next day or two and will get our fill of all that it has to offer before my dad and sister visit for two weeks.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
After leaving Drakes Bay we thought we should take a little detour to Isla Del Cano, a famous diving island. This area is infamous for having a large population of sharks so I ran the idea of snorkeling at the island by the kids. We read that the reef sharks are non-aggressive and as a family we decided to risk the sharks for the beautiful snorkeling, hoping that the guide books were indeed correct about the sharks.
The guide books were wrong about one thing. We didn’t see a single shark. Not that I was sad about the missing sharp toothed fish, and it was definitely nice to have made it out of there with all my limbs attached. I did keep a good look out for them though, left, right, behind my back, kind of manically. What we did get to swim with were graceful turtles, lobsters, brain coral, parrotfish, clown fish, and all of Nemo’s other friends. The reef was amazing and active with colorful schools of fish.
I am glad in the end that we didn’t let our shark fears get the best of us and that we were able to explore the beautiful reefs of Isla Del Cano. This trip was about seeing the world on and off land and this island was an important part of the journey. So, we are reminded every day why you look past your fears and embrace the incredible life that you have been given.
I know many of you have expressed concerns for the close quarters that we live in and the affects that it can have on a relationship. Well, I have to admit the certain times of the month can be quite challenging to say the least, but I am so lucky to have a wonderful, understanding husband. The tip of the week- if you are ever sailing on a boat with PMS, a patient spouse is a must.
-the less sane spouse of the week
Monday, June 14, 2010
We have started heading south and have found ourselves in the prettiest part of Costa Rica, Drakes Bay on the Osa Peninsula. If you come to Costa Rica this is a must visit spot. This area is filled with scarlet macaws soaring over head, hiking trails with the most fragrant flowers, wildlife peaking out of the rainforest, beautiful beaches, and friendly folks. The town isn’t huge, but the houses are adorable stilt houses with views of the gorgeous bay. This is the Costa Rica that I had envisioned before we came down here. I am just sorry that none of our visitors got to see this amazingly unique area. -Brady
Ditto, on all of that. We heard that this was the place to see and so far, we have not been disappointed. After my mom left, we did some grocery shopping and headed south. The trip here took about 18 hours and we managed to avoid every thunderstorm that surrounded us. The water at the anchorage is crystal clear, the houses are beautiful, the beach is long and sandy, the trails leading to and through the Corcovado National Park are seemingly endless, and all in all a paradise. We are going to take the dinghy up a local river to check out the wildlife and then head to Isla del Cano for some snorkeling. Supposedly, this is second only to the likes of the Galapagos and Isla del Coco for snorkeling on the Pacific. Then it is off to the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) to clear out of the country and head for Panama. We can’t wait to see my dad and little sister, who are coming for their second visit in July. This will hopefully be followed by Suzi’s (Brady’s mom) second visit in as many months. We are truly thankful to our wonderful families for their love and (sometimes reluctant :) support and their continued efforts to visit us in tropical paradise.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
(photo info: Picture #1 is a great swim if you like to get eaten by crocs! Picture #2 is at Punta Leona at the slippery tidepools- Brady fell here as well.)
It is time for another post as we sit on the boat for the fourth consecutive day. Apparently rainy season and rain forest means that it rains A LOT. Who knew? We left the Los Suenos marina area for Bahia Ballena again to kill some more time before my mom arrives on the 4th of June. We entered the bay by GPS and Google Earth alone as we could not see the land 1/4 mile away. Brady finally had to get off the boat yesterday, for sanity purposes and we landed on the rocky shore in a slight drizzle. Brady proceeded get her leg crunched by a piece of driftwood the size of the dinghy (still attached and no marks, so don't worry). This was followed by Brady catching her flip flop on the dinghy and tumbling into the water. Grace is her middle name (her line, not mine for all of you mothers and wives out there). A few tears of frustration later and we were off to donate comforters, clothes and shoes to some local squatters, who happened to be among the nicest people we have met. Their houses were made of bamboo, corrugated metal and black plastic to keep out some of the rain. They were very appreciative and we wish we had more to give. The local school is flooded due to the rain and some help with education and construction would go a long way here. We have considered, albeit briefly, squatting next door, but we are leaving soon if the rain ever stops. We walked to the local town for treats and avoided the worst of the rain inside the store. The return dinghy trip was just about as eventful. We were all doused by salt water and dirt from an incoming swell and Sam briefly lost a flip flop. We are hoping to head to some other spots before heading to the Costa Rica Yacht Club for Sams's birthday (10 this year, wow) before heading back the Jaco area.
Ta-Ta for now,
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I had two wonderful trunkshows and countless visits with friends and family in Colorado. I do have to say that nothing is better than boat life. I enjoyed seeing everyone, but I don't know how you all put up with the rush of American lifestyles. Life on the water is full of entertainment, but without the havoc. I am back in my comfortable habit with swimming off the boat and hiking daily. My mom is visiting for the week, which she seem to be getting her sea legs in gear. I will give you a better update when she leaves. i can't leave my guests unattended for long:)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
We left San Juan Del Sur after several days of wind (25+ knots) through the anchorage. It was well protected from waves, but the wind was a little much. We got our zarpe (international clearance) for Costa Rica and headed for Bahia Junquillal. As we left the bay, the wind stayed at 25 knots and we covered the 20 or so miles in a little over two hours. Brady and I expected Costa Rica to be lush tropical jungle, but this far north was still very desert like. Our new anchorage gave us one nights break from the wind and when it built in the morning (gusts to 30), we moved one bay over to Bahia Tomas. This was not much better, so we headed over to Bahia Santa Elena the following morning. As we left the anchorage, we were met by 40 knot winds and hoped this move would be better. When we arrived, the wind was noticeably diminished, but a boat anchored inside informed us the gusts were up to 50 (#$%&). We stayed for several days exploring the trails and meeting new boaters (Paula Jean, Pacific Voyager and Emma Joe). We decided to move on to Playa del Coco to check into the country officially, despite the wind. As it turned out, the wind wasn’t so bad outside the bay and we covered the 38 miles before dark and found our first real gringo hotspot in Costa Rica. This a very cool town with lots of bars and restaurants (We recommend Coconutz for great atmosphere, live music, food and a pretty cool new owner-Hi Dan!). Oddly, there are four grocery stores in this small town and I found Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper for the first time in many months :) Unfortunately, this would be too expensive for us in the long run and you can expect American pricing and more if you visit. There are not many services on the beach (like food, chairs, umbrellas, or anything...), but overall we like the town. Costa Rica has built its economy around tourism, and other than the windy anchorages and the high prices, we have seen: turtles, dolphins, parrots, monkeys, manta rays, sea snakes, and a yet unidentified giant lizard. Hopefully, we will see plenty more of the sights while we are here. The next stop was Playa Tamarindo. This is another very cool town, but again, lots of gringos and high prices. Brady and I had a bit of trouble anchoring here since we are a bit short of anchor chain these days. This means that we have to put out most of the chain and then attach a rope (rode) to the end and then let out the rest of the chain and more rope. Then we have to pull on the anchor to set it and hope that we do not have to pull it all up and try again if the bottom is foul. We had to do that here and after anchoring twice, we were ready for some R & R. We have been on the same track as Danny and Paula from Paula Jean and we headed south together to Bahia Samara. Today, in this location we got a real taste of what our new lives are like. After homeschool, we snorkeled to the island that we were anchored near. After swimming back to the boat, we had lunch and towed Danny and Paula on their kayaks with surfboard in tow across the bay to the town. Danny threw in free surf lessons for the five of us and we were all up in a snap, with the girls being the quickest learners. They all rode several waves in and apparently we are now in the market for a surfboard and a kayak along with a new outboard for the dinghy. Next, we toured the town and then readied ourselves for the craziest return ever. The surf had built and the breaks were pretty stiff, so Danny and I pushed the dinghy out past the breaks and I motored in circles until Brady and the girls swam out. We towed our new friends back to their boat and had chicken tacos for dinner. We are all tired and are leaving again for Bahia Ballena en route to Puntarenas to pick up our first guests since Mexico! Wow, so much has happened since the last line! We went to the puntarenas yacht club to wait for Todd and Jessica and got groceries, propane and the laundry done. Puntarenas was a very local town with plenty of services. After we left, our first stop was Isla Cedros, an abandoned prison island turned park. The area was very dry and dead, but the prison was neat. We saw howler monkeys in the trees and a nice beach on the other side of the island. It was still early, so we went to Isla Muertos for the night. This anchorage was very calm, but there were no services for us or our guests, so after a quick dinghy trip and walking tour, we were off to Islas Tortugas. These were touted as highly visited with snorkeling and some of the best white sand beaches in Costa Rica. The water was murky at best and the beach was OK, but we stayed for about 20 minutes and then took the dinghy across the bay to the Curu biological preserve. This hike afforded us a fantastic view of the bay and capuchin monkeys. Brady pointed out some yet identified sloth like monkey creature that Todd hereafter referred to as a slonkey. The next morning, we were off to Jaco. This is another small town and the dinghy landing required the kids to bail out and swim to shore while I rode the dinghy like a surf board. One night here and off to Quepos. This town has the best services and is finally lush green. It is a short ride to the smaller town of Manuel Antonio and the national park of the same name. We passed on the park since Todd and Jess had seen it already and we will see it when both Brady’s mom and my mom visit in the next few weeks. Next was Dominical. This is a sleepy little surf town with bars restaurants and a well stocked store. There was a restaurant that overlooked the ocean on both sides and a great ice cream shop. We stayed a night and then back to Quepos to drop off our visitors. We did and saw a lot in a short time. We all laughed a lot, motored a lot, drank a few and had a great time.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
We left San Juan Del Sur after several days of wind (25+ knots) through the anchorage. It was well protected from waves, but the wind was a little much. We got our zarpe (international clearance) for Costa Rica and headed for Bahia Junquillal. As we left the bay, the wind stayed at 25 knots and we covered the 20 or so miles in a little over two hours. Brady and I expected Costa Rica to be lush tropical jungle, but this far north was still very desert like. Our new anchorage gave us one nights break from the wind and when it built in the morning (gusts to 30), we moved one bay over to Bahia Tomas. This was not much better, so we headed over to Bahia Santa Elena the following morning. As we left the anchorage, we were met by 40 knot winds and hoped this move would be better. When we arrived, the wind was noticeably diminished, but a boat anchored inside informed us the gusts were up to 50 (#$%&). We stayed for several days exploring the trails and meeting new boaters (Paula Jean, Pacific Voyager and Emma Joe). We decided to move on to Playa del Coco to check into the country officially, despite the wind. As it turned out, the wind wasn’t so bad outside the bay and we covered the 38 miles before dark and found our first real gringo hotspot in Costa Rica. This a very cool town with lots of bars and restaurants (We recommend Coconutz for great atmosphere, live music, food and a pretty cool new owner-Hi Dan!). Oddly, there are four grocery stores in this small town and I found Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper for the first time in many months :) Unfortunately, this would be too expensive for us in the long run and you can expect American pricing and more if you visit. There are not many services on the beach (like food, chairs, umbrellas, or anything...), but overall we like the town. Costa Rica has built its economy around tourism, and other than the windy anchorages and the high prices, we have seen: turtles, dolphins, parrots, monkeys, manta rays, sea snakes, and a yet unidentified giant lizard. Hopefully, we will see plenty more of the sights while we are here. The next stop was Playa Tamarindo. This is another very cool town, but again, lots of gringos and high prices. Brady and I had a bit of trouble anchoring here since we are a bit short of anchor chain these days. This means that we have to put out most of the chain and then attach a rope (rode) to the end and then let out the rest of the chain and more rope. Then we have to pull on the anchor to set it and hope that we do not have to pull it all up and try again if the bottom is foul. We had to do that here and after anchoring twice, we were ready for some R & R. We have been on the same track as Danny and Paula from Paula Jean and we headed south together to Bahia Samara. Today, in this location we got a real taste of what our new lives are like. After homeschool, we snorkeled to the island that we were anchored near. After swimming back to the boat, we had lunch and towed Danny and Paula on their kayaks with surfboard in tow across the bay to the town. Danny threw in free surf lessons for the five of us and we were all up in a snap, with the girls being the quickest learners. They all rode several waves in and apparently we are now in the market for a surfboard and a kayak along with a new outboard for the dinghy. Next, we toured the town and then readied ourselves for the craziest return ever. The surf had built and the breaks were pretty stiff, so Danny and I pushed the dinghy out past the breaks and I motored in circles until Brady and the girls swam out. We towed our new friends back to their boat and had chicken tacos for dinner. We are all tired and are leaving again for Bahia Ballena en route to Puntarenas to pick up our first guests since Mexico!
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I bet you don’t hear that everyday. From the marina in El Salvador, we headed to an island in the Gulf of Fonseca (still El Salvador) and anchored for a few calm days. We had to hike to the other side of the island to check out the local town. They don’t mess around with their hikes (see photos). When we left the anchorage, we were met by 30 knot winds and crazy confused seas, but sailed along at 7+knots and found ourselves at Marina Puesta Del Sol in Nicaragua by dinnertime. The marina was great, but a bit pricey when you consider the area and the fact that they burn sugarcane fields miles away and the ash rains down incessantly on the boat. Other than that, we have nothing but fantastic reviews for Nicaragua and would recommend it to anyone interested in an off the beaten path vacation. Check out www.labahiabeachhotel.com and the attached photos of a beautiful hotel/restaurant near the marina. Though many of the houses are little more than sticks and plastic and the children go dirty and unshorn, they are a very happy and pleasant bunch of folks. We ate at the shackstaurant of a Portuguese sailor, who circumnavigated the globe twice, once each direction, that settled here and founded the pueblito of Joe Portunica. I am starting to see why. The beaches are beautiful and the climate beats a sharp stick in the eye. We sailed for twelve hours from Puesta Del Sol and motored the last bit to San Juan del Sur to find a grand little touristy town. The houses are very colorful and there is an abundance of local services. The water in the bay is very clean, along with the town, and once again very friendly. I think Brady and I would seriously consider moving here. Don’t worry Todd, we are only 25 miles or so from Cost Rica and we will reluctantly move on.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
While traveling, we have come across many that are less fortunate than ourselves. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere and, in places, people walk miles to get water from a local well. They have to deal with rolling black outs and live in conditions that would bring you to tears. We have tried to think of ways that we could help improve the lives of the many people we have met. In San Juan Del Sur we ran across an organization that is making a difference. A well travelled young man, with parents from Norway and education from Denver approached the local population and asked what needed the most attention. The overwhelming response was the schools. He formed a non-profit organization called proyecto remedios educativos. They help by building schools and providing computers and other much needed supplies in Nicaragua. If you would like to make a tax deductible contribution to a great cause their website is www.prehelps.org. We will continue to post any information of this nature as we find it and hopefully, we can all make a small difference.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Thoughts from the kids:
Samantha- All of our family adventures have been great. We have been taking turns staying up with mom and dad on their night watches. So far only Emily and Ashley have had turns and my turn is coming up soon. The next place that we are going is Nicaragua. I hope that in Nicaragua we are going to a marina with a pool. This life is great and I would not trade it.
Emily- We have met lots of people and all of the people are very nice. My favorite place is Puerto Angel . When we meet people it feels good. All the places we have gone to are okay. I like Puerto Angel because the water is so clear. I like the boat a lot. When we sail there is lots of wind that blows in your face. We see lots of dolphins when we sail. We also see lots of whales. We got a new kids fishing pole, which I am glad about. I have been fishing a lot now. I have not caught anything yet but I try. We have school every day but school is fun. We are at Isla Meanguera right now. We are very close to Nicaragua. Yesterday, we hiked a big hill to go to town. On our way to town we saw lots of cows.
Ashley- El Salvador was okay but Puerto Angel was the best because it had restaurants and a stone path and the water is so clear. We met a guy named Ed and his boat name is Lorien. The marina in El Salvador has 2 pools. The pool was fun and we were with other boaters like Steve and Sherry on Demaris and Greg on Sweet Dreams. Now we are at Isla Meanguera and have to hike to get to town. We are so close to Nicaragua, we can see it! I love living on the boat.
So, All went according to plan with our repairs and we left Puerto Madero for El Salvador. We passed Guatemala due to the fact that there is basically one entry port ($500 for five days) and no real services in the port. We entered into El Salvadorean waters with little fanfare and lots of motoring. Of course, we arrived at night and could not enter into Bahia del Sol without a pilot (guide) to take us over the ever moving sandbar entrance. We anchored off the beach with a six foot swell and waited for morning. At around 8 AM, I radioed the marina to request the pilot and was told to wait until around 10. A few minutes later, I heard a familiar voice from the trimaran Demaris on the VHF informing us of the tsunami warning now in effect due to the Chilean earthquake. To be safe, we headed out into deeper water about two miles off shore and waited for what turned out to be a non event thankfully. At 12:30 or so, we were met just outside the breaking waves by Rogelio, the local pilot, on a jet ski. We entered the estuary with the incoming tide and had no problems. Finally, we tied up to the dock and kicked back at the resort/marina pool with some $1 beers. It was nice to wash the salt off the boat and have easy access to the services. As it turned out, there was a 6+ foot tide, which meant a crazy tide current. This added to the local panga traffic and it was time to move to a mooring ball in the middle of the estuary. We tried the local fare (almost everyday) called pupusas, which are basically extra thick stuffed corn tortillas. They put beans, cheese, pork, shrimp, etc... inside and you top them off with a tomato sauce and pickled cabbage. Near the resort, these could be enjoyed for $.50 each and three is plenty. Up in the mountains, I found them for $.25. We took a guided day trip with some other boaters for a 13 hour tour of San Sebastian (old fashioned looms and crafts), Joya de Ceren (ancient town buried by ash similar to Pompeii), San Andres (mayan pyramids), Santa Ana (Spanish colonial town), and Price Smart (basically Costco for groceries). After realizing that the barnacles on the mooring ball were shredding the gelcoat on the boat, it was time to leave again. After refueling and ordering pupusas for the road, we headed for Isla Meanguera in the Gulf of Fonseca. This is a quiet anchorage on a big Island administered by El Salvador. We hiked to the town on the other side of the island this afternoon. When I say hiked, I mean up a 45% grade on a cow trail with the cows. The town was small and had a cool hotel owned by a retired american. We had tacos at a stand run by a mexican and talked with locals making fresh french fries in the street. We are within sight of Nicaragua and are headed there next. For those of you looking for off the beaten path vacations, I would not put this at the top of your list. There are plenty of sights to see and you can travel between the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua by land fairly easily, but overall, there is no great beach areas with restaurants and services and the towns are sketchy without local knowledge. If you must, the town of Santa Ana was very scenic and clean and there are several hotels (Bahia del Sol, Comfort Inn, etc... on the Costa del Sur) that would be fine. The price structure is odd as the food is dirt cheap, but everything else including property and hotel rooms are basically american prices. I hope I am not boring everyone to death with the details, but I am trying to be as informative as possible. As far as I am concerned, this really is neat. It has been everything I expected and more. There are definitely ups and downs, but I have absolutely nothing to complain about right? Work on the boat never ends and we are not on vacation by any means, but this lifestyle suits me. We are able to interact with local people and customs and have seen some truly amazing things already and we have barely travelled over 1000 miles. We have met people on boats from all walks of life from the 30 foot sailboats to the 80 foot yachts. Single handers and families all just traveling for the sake of it. I met a couple (yes you Volo) who have been sailing for 40+ years. After circumnavigating in a basic boat, they upgraded and went back for more traveling from Australia to Alaska to here en route to a trip around the tip of Chile. Life is short, play hard!
Sunday, February 28, 2010
HOLY $#%@ !!!
So, I am checking wind/weather by weather fax (Shortwave radio connected through the computer via NOAA) and a few other sources. The few other sources as previously mentioned are less than accurate, but the weather fax has been spot on. So we were waiting in Huatulco for a weather window to cross the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec. Apparently, winds funnel across the narrow section of southern Mexico from the caribbean and accelerate up to 60+ knots on our route. We have been doing nothing but motoring, so I was actually looking forward to SOME wind. The other boats waiting to cross the gulf were planning on leaving this past Thursday with nothing but motoring in mind. The weather fax showed a gale warning through Wednesday, diminishing on Thursday. The weather bulletin from the port captain showed 25 knots both days, so I figured since we had 60 miles to cover before the bad section of the gulf (Salina Cruz), we would arrive at the tail end of the wind and sail through the gulf pretty quickly. Let’s just say that forecasts are basically wild ass guesses and I will wait until there no signs of a gale warning before leaving in the future. We had 20 knots of wind all the way to Salina Cruz and covered the 60 miles before dark. The wind started to build and we reefed the sails (reduced sail area) at around 26 knots and then further at 33 knots (both times were more difficult than I thought it would be, but it went pretty smooth). The waves were steadily building as well, but nothing to worry about. I took the first watch and Brady and the kids went to bed around 8. The wind was dead on the nose at this point, so I took the main all the way down. I learned that in 35 knots of wind, the boat will not go straight ahead very well. We did not have enough forward velocity for the rudders to work properly, so the wind actually pushed the nose of the boat to leeward. With the helm all the way over, the boat headed off course 30 degrees. During the lulls, the boat would come back on course and then push the other direction if the auto pilot corrected too far. At this point, the wind was gusting to 40 knots and backing to 20. I was wearing my life jacket and attached myself by harness to the boat just in case. Other than the occasional salt spray we were making progress toward the beach past Salina Cruz. I had to steer by hand through 4 container ships anchored directly in my path, but made it through despite the steering issue. As we reached the beach, the waves disappeared. This happens because the wind comes from the land to the ocean and the waves do not have a chance to build up yet. What I didn’t mention is that I had to steer a course in 35 feet of water, 1/4 mile from shore, in the dark....GREAT! 3 GPS’s side by side and maybe I could get some sleep since it was 3 AM by this time. I woke Brady and gave her the rundown. She had some obvious reservations about taking over, especially since we were coming up on a lagoon entrance that we would have to pass 2 miles off shore (think bigger waves and a more uncomfortable ride). She agreed to stay up with me at the GPS’s while I steered our course from outside (in winds that gusted to 49 knots!). Despite the wind and waves (6-8 feet), the boat remained incredibly stable, which I am thrilled about. Brady is a little less aware of the actual stability and is convinced that we were mere minutes from reliving the movie Titanic. I can tell you that not only were the kids sleeping soundly this whole time, but she fell asleep on a stool at the navigation station (clearly uncomfortable huh?) We passed the lagoon entrance and returned to the relative calm of the beach. At 5 AM, I finally got to bed and the winds calmed down to the forecast 25 knots. Woo hoo!, we made it...maybe. The following afternoon, after making great time with the sails, the wind slowed and the mainsail started to flog. Just as we were getting ready to take it down, I hear a rrrrriiiiiiippppp. Not good, but we could use the headsail and motor the 280 miles to El Salvador. I turned on the port side engine and nothing, nada....HMMM. One engine and one sail. Maybe we better stop in Puerto Madero, Mexico, about two hours away. This after spending several hours clearing out of Mexico in Huatulco. I contacted the port captain and let him know that we would be making an unscheduled emergency stop for repairs, in the middle of the night of course. We entered in the dark again, but found an anchorage and went to bed. Ten minutes later, there was a commotion outside and we were visited by the navy for a standard entry inspection with drug sniffing dog Cassiopeia in tow. We have heard nothing but bad things about Puerto Madero, but the people have been very nice. The mainsail did not actually tear, but a seam blew out and left a ten foot hole. Brady and I spent three mornings working with our non existent sewing skills and I think I tracked the problem with the engine down to a bad starter. I had a new starter sent from Mazatlan and as soon as it arrives, we should be back to both engines and both sails. I cleared out of Mexico again and we are leaving as soon as the starter arrives, hopefully tomorrow. As a sidebar, we were able to take the kids on a great field trip today to the Olmec ruins (pyramids and carved stones) in Izapa. We are pleasantly surprised by everything we have found on our accidental side trip. P.S. Don’t worry Todd, we will make it in plenty of time...or not :)
A SHORTER AND MORE DRAMATIC VERSION. HOLY CRAP!!!! Troy definitely has more tolerance for gales than I do. Picture yourself in a little boat, because at this point I felt like I was in the dinghy, being blown so hard that the ocean was drenching el capitano Troyo and the waves felt like they were going to flip the boat. Troy has ensured me that I am being a drama queen and that we were not in as bad of weather as we are going to be in the future. So, I am not sure about crossing the Pacific yet, maybe the Bahamas will be our next destination. OK, maybe a little over reaction, but next time lets skip the wind and motor. Sailboat or not, 49 knots is a little too much adrenaline for my blood. Peaceful cruising with a corona in hand is the picture I had in mind. So, please pray for future safe calm passages for us in the future. I am just so happy that we are in safe harbor in an unexpectedly beautiful place. ( Warning: I have added some of my creative expression to make a better blog entry. Don’t worry.)
P.S My night watch didn’t go so well.
P.S.S This is why Troy was the firemen and I just played with stones. Mas cajunes!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Since last time I wrote on the blog we have done several overnights...... I know, you are thinking I crashed or slept or did a 360, but I made it through the night with no mishaps. Not as good of a story as my previous overnights, but Troy actually gets to sleep now and I have figured out how to stay awake. At present we are at a marina waiting for a weather window to cross a notoriously dangerous bay. I think that we could possibly be sailing for 5-8 days straight. This will be our longest overnight trek yet and I hope my new skills for staying awake will work for this long of a journey. I guess you never know until you try. I will let you know how it goes. Hopefully my next blog entry does not include any sleeping at the helm or crazy stunt tricks. Until next time, " See you on the flip side" - Brady
Sunday, February 7, 2010
We finally left Acapulco, but I have to tell all of you that this is no vacation. When I pulled up the anchor chain a bit, I realized that our second anchor rope had twisted itself around the chain several times. After untangling the mess, we were able to bring up the primary anchor only to realize that our extended time in Acapulco furthered the corrosion on our chain. The chain will have to be replaced ASAP as we are down to 50% of the original 3/8 in spots. The good news was we were leaving. I spent three hours cleaning the barnacles off of our anchor bridle (the rope used to take the tension off of the anchor windlass while at anchor). The barnacles on the chain went into the locker and has started to produce a nice rotten fish smell...sweet! After several hours of motoring, we were able to sail awhile. The guide book showed an anchorage about 80 miles down the coast, but after checking the chart, they missed the mileage by 60 miles! The trip to the anchorage was now going to require two overnights to cover the 140 miles. Brady and I opted to shorten the shifts to three hours and start them at 8 PM. This seemed to help with the drowsiness and we opted to skip the anchorage and head straight to Puerto Escondido (approx. 40 more miles). We caught two fish en route (little tunny according to the fish ID book), which Brady beer battered and pan seared for some awesome fish tacos. The trip took 52 hours and we motored for 44 of them (not exactly the sailing adventure we planned), but we saw lots of dolphins, sea snakes, sea turtles, and a humpback whale w/ baby 50 feet from the boat and every bit as big. As we arrived in Puerto Escondido, the famed guide book showed two possible anchorages. The first was completely crowded with local pangas and the second was an anchorable shelf in the middle of the bay. There was another sailboat there, so we moved in along side in 35 feet of water. As the anchor hit bottom we heard the telltale sound of a rocky bottom, but the anchor caught and we settled in for some much needed rest. I sat down for all of 5 minutes when I heard the anchor slip on the rocks, so time to move. This proved easier said than done. As we raised the (dwindling) chain, the anchor was clearly stuck...@#$% After 20-30 minutes of maneuvering and breaking and attachment point on the crossbeam (bridle pulled on the bowsprit cables-oops my fault...@#$%) we were loose. Good news except the freshly clean bridle rope was knotted beyond removability from the stuck anchor. I had to cut it loose...#%&$ I checked the depth over the whole shelf but lost faith in the bottom, so time to move closer to the beach. Unfortunately, we were in 60 feet of water which means all of the crappy anchor chain plus some additional rope had to go into the water. Too tired to really care at this point, we were finally anchored and Brady and I slept like teenagers. Yesterday, we had A.M. homeschool and then finally off to the beach for some R & R. The kids tore up the waves with a boogie board and later we headed off to the town proper for some street tacos and groceries. The store was very well appointed and we headed back to the boat before dark. I wish we could have spent more time in Puerto Escondido. The town was a perfect size with many services, friendly locals, lots of expats, and an awesome beach. I did not get a chance to check the property values, but there is an airport and we could definitely live here. Unfortunately, after spending three long weeks in Acapulco, we need to continue South at a quicker pace. So, as I write this, we are motorsailing to Puerto Angel (someone please tell bloater about this and give him our email as this was a recommendation of his several years ago) which is about 40 miles down the coast. With any luck we can shut off the engines and still get there before dark. Hasta luego for now
Monday, February 1, 2010
Finally, the next update in the world travels of the Medina clan. Our last entry found us in the sunny climes of Acapulco. A haven for the rich and famous of the 30‘s, John Wayne owned a hotel here back in the day. This entry finds us...still here three weeks later. I assure you that this is not for lack of trying to leave. The care package from my mom that I spoke of in the last entry, is still not here. Brady had to order some supplies and my mom threw in some books, candy, tea, and such for our travels south. After shipping delays to my mom of more than a week, the stuff was on its way. Then, customs grabbed our box in Mexico City and after throwing away the candy and tea (sorry mom), charging us $125 dollars in duties and being just a normal Mexico pain in the rear, the package should arrive tomorrow (Tuesday Ferbruary something) after another week of delay. I will have to take a very loud, colorful and kidney damaging bus with a crazy bus driver (which incidentally, kind of reminds me of riding with Andy on the rig :) across town to pick it up. Acapulco has actually grown on us. The people are friendly, the food good and cheap and the weather balmy. The warm water has required me to clean the bottom every week and our anchor chain is officially growing barnacles. I was able to snorkel near the boat with a giant school? of manta rays, which was very cool. Yesterday, we took the dinghy over to watch the famed cliff divers. With any luck, we will be on the move tomorrow. We will have to hurry a bit now, since we need to be in Costa Rica in early April, for storm season and guests. I hope to be in El Salvador by the third week in February. We still have all of the same intermediate stops planned and I will let you know how each pans out.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Ta-Ta for now,
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Being on the boat is such an adventure. Some of the dolphins that we see in the dark flash with little speckles of light because there are tiny plankton that give off light when they are disturbed. Every time we see dolphins in the front when it is not dark my mom tries to hang off the front and touch them. My mom goes crazy every time we see dolphins. We all do. Except for dad. Since we are on a boat we see so many different things than we did at home. I say that because one time I got up in the morning and a few minutes later the dolphins greeted me. We have met so many people on boats that we might not see again. That is a bummer but we meet new people every where we go. Today my dad thought he saw a baby turtle, turned out it was a coconut shell. Even I mistake a bird from a dolphin fin. I miss every one but would not trade it.
I saw a raccoon on a leash in Mexico that was cool. I learned how to roll my r’s. I love Mexico. We went to Dairy Queen in Manzanillo and Wal-Mart. Right now we are in Papanoa. We have been to a lot of places in Mexico. We haven’t been to any other places besides Mexico. Our sail attracts dolphins. We go sailing a lot. I like sailing. Everywhere we go is very interesting. I like a lot of places. The boat is the best and I love the boat.
I like what I do in Mexico. I like all the dolphins. We are in Popanoa right now. We go everywhere. We go to town a lot. I like to go to town. We meet lots of people. We met people on boats called Ohana, Sapphire and Rockstar. They were cool people on boats. I like swimming by the boat. Zihuatanejo’s water was very dirty. I like the palapas everywhere in Mexico.
How do I follow the girls with stories of racoons, dolphins and rockstars???? They have really summed up our traveling life well. Everyday is different from the next, no monotony what so ever. We have started doing overnight sailing which is still a challenge for me, since up till now I have pretty much let Troy sail the boat. OPPS! I guess I should have been paying a little more attention. So, now I just wake Troy for every little change in the night. “ Troy, the boat is rocking and the sail is flogging!!! WHAT DO I DO!” as I shake his leg. You get the point and Troy misses out on the sleep. I have to say my last overnight went much better, but that could be because we motored the whole night with no wind. So, tonight is the next overnight and I will try to keep you posted on the improvement of my skills, since they can only get better from here.
Monday, January 4, 2010
We hope everyone had a Happy Holidays and finds everyone well. We are currently in Zihuatanejo. The trip was very uneventful. After Barra de Navidad, we were off to Manzanillo, which was only a day trip. We anchored outside of beautiful Marina Las Hadas and cleared into Mexico officially as Seaparents. We stayed for several days while I searched for a generator to no avail. We finally left because of the 8 or so ski boats and jet skis that were playing a game called let's see how close we can come to hitting the catamaran. We prepared ourselves for our first overnight sail and hoped to be in Marina Ixtapa in 36 hours or so. The first night went well with Brady and I alternating 4 hour watches. The bad part was the lack of wind. We motored for about 8 hours the first day/night. The following day, we also made no progress and around 2 A.M. I opted to tuck into the nearest anchorage (Maruata cove) for some rest. We left the following morning under power again and motored most of the way to another anchorage (Caleta de Campos). We were going to stick around to check out the town, but the wind came up to around 15 knots and we were off. We sailed at 6 knots for most of the day, but again we found ourselves floating on a vast lake. Motoring again through the night we made Ixtapa on the morning of the fourth day. Hoping to get a hot shower and a marina slip proved to be not possible as they could not accommodate the width of our boat, so off to Zihuatanejo, which was an hours motor to the South. We thought we could park it for awhile, but for all you would be vacationers, pass on Z-watt. The water in the bay is green and raw sewage flows in from the river. I was still hoping for a generator, but after filling up on diesel, water, gasoline and food, we will be off to Acapulco with two intermediate stops along the way beginning tomorrow or the next day. The weather is balmy, the family is doing great and we still are waiting to hear from many of you via text message, e-mail or skype regarding the latest updates and rumors from home. Glen, thanks for the text, keep em' coming. To Jimmy Leo, sorry to ruin it for you, but the hair policy out here is way better than back home. Ha! Hasta Luego for now,
Los Vagabundos Medinas