Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Back in Costa Rica

We had a pretty uneventful day, all things considered. No car breakdowns, no missed airplanes, etc. We did run into what looked like a big backup on I-95, but we were near an exit, so we cut over to the Turnpike and still arrived before our target time.

Checking in at American Airlines in Ft. Lauderdale was a breeze. Very nice. We got there early enough that there was no one in line.

Dave had his toothpaste and yogurt confiscated at the security check. I expected the yogurt (I tried to tell Dave), but the toothpaste??? After Dave whined a little "What am I going to do without toothpaste?", the guy let him keep one of two standard-sized tubes. Each tube was about 60% used. We couldn't figure how that was over the 2-oz limit.

They also wanted to confiscate Dave's mouthwash. He said he'd give up the mouthwash but he wanted the empty bottle (it's a nice travel-sized plastic bottle that he's had for years). So they had to escort him out of the security area so he could dump the mouthwash in the bathroom.

We don't usually carry on our 'shaving kit', but our checked luggage was so full, we put them in our backpacks. Hence Dave's indoctrination into the rules about carry on luggage.

Our plane actually left the gate early and arrived in San Jose about 20 minutes early--so early that the plane at the gate we were supposed to pull into, hadn't left yet. So we had hang out on the tarmac for a few minutes, waiting for a gate.

We breezed thru Immigration and Customs, they x-rayed our 4 huge bags and all our carry on stuff, but hardly looked at it. No questions, no duty.

After a $25 taxi ride, we were at the Fairamon Hotel, where we had made reservations before we left. This is just down the street from the well-known 'Tranquilo Backpackers' hostel. Same price, much quieter atmosphere. And the nice lady who runs the place went and purchased our bus tickets for us. It is a few blocks from the center of San Jose, near the museums, the shopping district, and the bus station.

Tomorrow we catch the 7am bus for Golfito.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our Bags are Packed, We are (Almost) Ready to Go

After another 7 hour road trip, this one to Hawthorne to drop our car off at my brother's house, and pick up a rental. And after hours of stressing over what goes and what stays, and how much each bag will weigh, I think we're almost done. There is no room for anything in any suitcase. They are all at 49.5 lbs. There is no room for anything else in the storage room at Nicki's house.

We just have to pack our backpacks now. I think we still have too much stuff for the backpacks. Mine is going to weigh a ton, with my computer and all the electronic gadgets we haul around. I think Dave is going to carry his computer outside his backpack.

We hit the road in the rental car no later than 9am this morning, and board the flight in Ft. Lauderdale at 2:15. By 4:15 Costa Rica time (CST?) we'll be landing in San Jose. Then at 7am the next day (31st), we board a bus for a 6 hour bus ride back to Golfito.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We Got the Car Back!!! It Works!!

Well, $890 later, we have the Kia back. Plus, of course, the outrageous car rental, $322 for a total of 3 days. It was a nice car, the only car available in the Homestead area at 15 minutes before closing on Christmas eve. But still!!!

And we essentially got a front end overhaul on the engine (new waterpump, new thermostat, some new seals, etc). Made sense as long as they were doing $500 in labor to get to that area.

However, as we got up to speed on the Turnpike, headed back north, we noticed a bad shimmy in the car. (bad words!) I was afraid the guys at Precision Auto Tune in Homestead had somehow damaged the front end. We stopped at the Snapper Creek service plaza to have a look, and Dave found that our left front tire had broken a belt. So we had to change the tire. Fortunately we have a good spare, and were back on our way soon.

Lumpy Tire

On the way down, we called the shop and they said the car wouldn't be ready til 2pm. So we stopped off in Ft. Lauderdale and visited Sailorman and Blue Water Books. We also had a nice long phone conversation with Dave's friend Paul Furstenburg, who called us while we were in Blue Water Books.

Though we saw lots of really good books we'd like to have, our bags are already full and we can defer buying western Pacific books until next year. We already have pretty good coverage through the Galapagos, French Polynesia, and everywhere else we are going until the end of 2010, when we'll be in Hawaii and be able to get the rest of what we need.

Due to delays at the shop, and the tire change, we missed Nicki's Christmas Dinner by 5 hours. But she saved us leftovers. So we had our second Christmas Dinner last night at Nicki's. And we got to watch our family Christmas classic movies: Emmet Otter Jug Band Christmas and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

It was nice meeting Phil's family. And Nicki made a fantastic dinner.

Only 2 days til we are winging our way back to Costa Rica! Today is packing day. Tomorrow is 'drive to Hawthorne and drop the car off', and Tuesday we fly from FTL on American.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

TWIC Cards Acquired

Our TWIC Mug Shots (UGH!)

One of the things on our list for this trip was to get our 'TWIC' cards. TWIC stands for Transportation Worker Identification Cards.

Someone in the .gov realm decided that to make the ports safe, everyone who has 'real business' in a port must have a chip-encoded electronic-finger-print-protected background-checked ID card. And the US Coast Guard decided that, to put some teeth in it, any USCG-certified professional mariner MUST get this card, whether they need it or not.

Note that anyone with a 6-pack Captain's License is considered a USCG-certified professional mariner.

So even though we really do not currently need this $120 apiece ID card, we need it to keep our Captain's Licenses valid.

We talked to someone from Sea School and they advised to wail until April (the final deadline) to get it, because Sea School and probably other similar low-level licensing people are fighting it. But we couldn't wait.

So on one of our trips over to Largo to see (Dave's cousin) Bryan, we made an appointment and stopped in at the Port of Tampa to get our cards applied for. They told us it would be 4-6 weeks to get them done and we could only pick them up in Tampa. We were suprised when, only about 3 weeks later, we were notified that the cards were ready.

So we made a special trip Friday over to Tampa and back just to pick up the cards. We managed to squeeze in a turkey leftovers lunch at Bryan's too.

If you have a Captain's license and want to keep it, below is the link to the place to start. Other than the cost, it is very easy. We could have done it in Port Canaveral if we'd had the time or the foresight to schedule an appointment there.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Car Disaster on Christmas Eve

Well, we pulled out of Marathon about 10am on the 24th, headed for 'home'. We made it past Key Largo and were on what is called by locals as the Death Stretch. It's the 18 mile portion of road between Key Largo and Homestead that used to very accident-prone.

(They have since made improvements on the road, so it's probably not called that by the Tourism Board anymore). But it killed our poor Kia. One clunk and the engine quit, out in the boonies.

Fortunately we had a Triple-A card and the tow-truck was there within about a half hour. AAA had a local auto repair facility on their list. So we called them to make sure they were still open and could diagnose the problem. Well, it was 2:45 on Christmas Eve when we pulled in in the tow truck. Everyone was anxious to get going on their Christmas holiday.

The mechanic took a quick look before they locked up, and said he thought it was the timing chain. IF (a BIG if), it didn't destroy anything when it broke, it could be repaired tomorrow. Our mechanic friend told us there's a 50/50 chance it didn't cause any additional damage. They promised to take a good look at it first thing in the morning--hope to hear the verdict fairly early tomorrow morning, so we can figure out the plan to get the car back.

We managed to secure an exhorbitantly priced rental car from the Enterprise Rent a Car place down the street, just before they closed (all the other rental places were closed or out of cars, or a $50 taxi ride away at Miami airport).

Anyway, by 3:30 we were back on the road in a nice (but expensive) car, and we actually made it to our planned dinner with Nicki and Phil in Melbourne, with 15 minutes to spare!

The simplest scenario will be that the car gets fixed by the end of the day tomorrow. We'll drive down Sat am in the rental and get it. (7 hrs R/T). If it DOESN'T get repaired, then we've got to scramble to find someone who can go get it for us after it gets repaired. We're leaving for Costa Rica Dec 30 no matter what (I think).

Just one more wrinkle in our eventful trip to the US this holiday season!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

I think this will be our Christmas Card this year. There's really not much point in writing a Christmas letter, because all of you have been 'riding along' with us on a day-by-day basis. I can't think of one significant event that we haven't already posted on the blog.

We return to the boat on Dec 31. We are flying on American out of Miami, after we could not come to terms with Spirit Airlines over extending our stay. We'll be staying at the nice and inexpensive Fairamon Hotel in downtown San Jose overnight.

We plan to do a little touring around Costa Rica in January, but will have to leave the country by the end of the month (ready or not... our 3 month visa is running out then, and apparently they are not renewing tourist visas any more).

Our plan then is to head for Ecuador via Cocos Island. We hope to stop over in Cocos for a few days and dive with the sharks. Links to Cocos info here and here

We plan to spend most of next year based in Ecuador, touring inland in South America. You can find our detailed plans here:

We welcome visits from our friends, so if you've always wanted to see a little of South America, now's your chance!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Dave and Sherry

An afternoon in Key West

Historic Schooner "Western Union" off Key West

Everyone seems to think we're down here in the Keys goofing off. But we're not! We've worked really hard this past week. We have interviewed 3 realtors, 1 lawyer, 3 lawn companies, and cleaned a lot of junk out of the house. We got 'For Sale' signs painted. We have also done a lot of internet research on home values in the Keys, finished off the website, and posted links to the website in a lot of real estate locations (look for us on CraigsList and Zillow).

So Sunday afternoon, we took the afternoon off and went to Key West. We stopped off to see Dave and JoAnn's new trawler at the marina at Boca Chica Naval Air Station. It looks a lot better than the last time we saw it (just after Dave took posession of it). I could see living on a trawler eventually.

We got to Key West just in time for sunset at Mallory Pier. Boy has Key West changed! The Mallory Pier area is so upscale now, from when I was in my teens and there were still people selling marijuana brownies out of the basket of their bike. But you can now buy a $5 beer on the pier, the are public restrooms, and the crazy performers are still there.

Dominique and his Flying House Cats

We spent some time watching crazy Dominique and his Flying House Cats perform. For anyone who knows cats, this is an amazing show. Cats usually either won't do anything, or do exactly the opposite of what you tell them to. But this guy had his cats doing all kinds of neat tricks, including jumping through a flaming hoop (well, not exactly a hoop, but an old fish net with rags soaked in kerosene).

Cat Thru a Flaming Fish Net

Then we watched the 51 year old black gymnast from Jamaica.

Gymnast Jumping over Girl on Bicycle, Thru Hoop (not flaming!)

And the dog walking a tightrope. The dog would also take your dollar bill from you and drop it in the bucket. It was cute, but too far away to get a good pic at night.

And a musician who had about 20 instruments on his body. He played a flute with his mouth, a guitar with his hands, and did the drum and cymbals by moving his elbows and legs, etc.

Finally, we met Dave and JoAnn and John Viely for dinner. John's claim to fame is that he has written a very nice series of books on the rich Maritime History of Key West. We had a nice dinner at the Thai Restaurant on Green Street (Dave's favorite dinner place in Key West) and then headed out for Duval Street for a little nighttime sightseeing. Dave got this great shot of Sloppy Joe's bar on Duval Street.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Delay our Return to Costa Rica for 2 Weeks

Well, we're not back in Costa Rica yet.

We made a last-minute decision to delay our return for another 2 weeks, so we could help the family sell our Dad's house in the Keys. So Dave and I are temporarily in Marathon meeting with Realtors, Lawyers, Lawn Maintenance guys, etc, trying to get the house on the market.

The house is beautiful after my brother Jimmy's construction company, Cupecoy Construction, completed a renovation. It's a shame to sell it now! But no one in the family is inclined to either live here, or take over management of the property as a rental.

Anyone looking for a great waterfront home in the Keys, with a dock, check out the website:

The website is still under construction, but should be finished within the week.

I think we'll be in Marathon through about Dec 22, and then head back to Melbourne for Christmas.

We have reservations to fly back to Costa Rica now on Dec 30.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nice Pic from SSCA Dinner

Left to Right: Dorothy Knight, Roger Smith, Ron Sheridan, Mike Beilan, Dave, Sue Beilan, Sherry (Thanks to Ed Marill for taking the picture)

A good time was had by all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2008 Presentations

Sherry did a half hour presentation on the San Blas at the East Coast Sailing Association and Melbourne Yacht Club monthly meetings.

Dave did an extensive presentation on Cruising the Western Caribbean at the Seven Seas Cruising Association 2008 Gam.

Both presentations (and some useful cruising links) can now be found on our Presentations page.