Thursday, December 31, 2009
We sent Nicki and Phil off to the Guayaquil airport at 5:30 this morning. Rather than call a reputable taxi for us, they sent us out on the street to wave down our own taxi. One of the 20 reasons I don't recommend Ecuahogar in Guayaquil.
We haven't heard from them, so assume they are safely back in Melbourne by now.
Dave and I took the 9:45 Reina del Camina bus to Bahia, arriving at about 3:15pm. We are glad to be home!
Now we start our final preps for leaving for the Galapagos.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Dave and I took the 'Cuenca City Tour' on a double-decker bus. It is a 2-hour drive around town past the major sights (mostly churches). The last stop is the church up high on the hill overlooking the city. We didn't get much in the way of pictures, because we took our tour at night.
The next day, while Nicki was hanging out in the hotel with 'stomach issues', Dave and Phil and I hiked out to the Arenal Market. This is a HUGE open-air market in which they sell everything from shoes, to plasticware, to fish, to veggies, and even 'Cuy' (guinea pig). But we never found any handicrafts. They may be there, but we did a 'random walk' through the market for about a half an hour and didn't find them. This market is mostly for locals, not tourists.
|On our walk out there, we passed the Flower Market and yet another 'Christmas Parade'.|
|And of course we visited some churches. There is almost an old spanish-style church on every street corner here. The big one on the square is so big that we had a hard time capturing the whole thing. The white one is the first church in Cuenca, circa late 1500's.|
Sunday, December 27, 2009
When we set out to see the Ingapirca ruins from Cuenca, we had 2 or 3 choices. Our friends chose a dedicated tour, for $48 per person. We didn't think that was necessary. We chose the $5 bus ride instead. The price was certainly right, and we got to see how the real Ecuadoreans live.
But after it was all over, Nicki commented "Next time, Mom, lets make sure the time at the site is longer than the bus ride." (5 hour bus ride, 1 1/2 hour there)
We had been told that the bus ride was only 1 hour each way. You might be able to make it in a car in an hour, but in the bus, it took 2 and a half hours, each way. Our bus stopped for anyone on the side of the road who waved it down. By the time we got into the major town of Cañar, there were people standing in the aisle. We also had at least one 5-minute wait for 'road repair'. Plus a stop in each major town at the bus station. And on Saturdays, the bus comes back at 1pm instead of 2pm.
But it turns out that an hour and a half were just about enough time to see what there was to see. It would have been nice to have another hour to browse the local craft vendors tables, and get a bite to eat.
We had a good English-speaking guide, named Segundo. He was well acquainted with the local history and the structures there. He guides for tips, so we gave him $5 for the four of us. Plus we had a couple of other people join our group during the tour.
Ingapirka has ruins from two cultures: The Cañari and the Inca. The Cañari started there in about 800 AD, and the Inca first tried to conquer them, and then intermarried with them, in about 1400 AD. The ruins and the architecture are nothing like the quality and the extensive ruins in Cuzco, Peru. But it was interesting all the same. Certainly worth a day and $11 per person (bus + entry).
More about Ingapirka on Wikipedia
Seems his 24-hour-a-day 7-day-a-week super high pressure job is getting to him!! Oh how I can identify with that.
But, I also agree with Dave's cousin Bryan, the quintessential Gator fan:
Just when things were set for years.
Wonder if Bobby Bowden needs a job?
I'm on suicide watch!"
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
We had a great american-style Christmas breakfast (included in the room price) and then went out to walk around town. Most things are closed, but we did get to go into the big cathedral (amazing) and walk along the 'waterfront' (more like a babbling brook). By afternoon some of the shops had opened up and we went gift shopping for a few of Nicki and Phil's friends. Dave also bought me a nice pair of handmade earings for Christmas.
The evening was capped by a nice Christmas dinner at a local restaurant, the Eucalyptus Cafe. It caters to 'gringos' and does a great job at it. They had Christmas music in english (on CD) and then some live local music for an hour. Very nice.
Today we head out for the Inca Pirca ruins nearby. More to follow.
Friday, December 25, 2009
But I can identify so much with it:
Twas the night before Christmas and when all through the house,
Not a card had been sent,
The stockings were not hung the tree was not even up,
I jumped in my car and dashed out to Walmart to buy cards,
The lines were too long so I cracked open my computer,
In hopes everyone would accept my email card and poem,
I knew in a moment that all would receive their email card,
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And I whistled and shouted, and inserted their names,
(insert names here)
and all those we carry in our hearts!!
WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
We have been really busy getting Soggy Paws ready for the open sea. Our date with destiny is Jan 7, which is only 2 weeks from now! And we are spending this week with Nicki in Cuenca, Ecuador.
We never put up a Christmas tree, and we hardly listened to Christmas music. We are on teh Equator (almost) and it's been hot and very un-Christmas-like. We got to Cuenca too late to watch the annual Christmas parade. But we have family here, and we know our friends and family in the U.S. and all over the world, are thinking about us, as we are about them.
We are so grateful for the internet, Facebook, email, and blogs!!!
Merry Christmas to all, from Ecuador.
Sherry & Dave
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Our world is one of shared adventure/shared adversity. So we become nearly instant friends with the other cruisers in an anchorage. At Puerto Amistad, there is a 'palapa' built specifically for the cruisers. A palapa is a Central American word for an open air thatched hut. But this one has a power plug every 2 feet, so no matter how many computers, iPods, cell phones, etc one brings ashore, there are enough outlets to plug everyone in.
The palapa is a cruiser's meeting place, away from the bar, where we can bring our computers in, hang out and use shore power and faster wifi, exchange books, music, DVD's, travel stories, maintenance issues, etc. Not a day goes by where there isn't a long discussion about some important issue... everything from renewing visas in Ecuador, to buying batteries, to outboard motor problems.
For example, a boat here called Dream Caper is looking for new batteries. Over the past couple of weeks there have been discussions on (a) reviving their old batteries (b) shipping heavy stuff into Ecuador (c) the merits of sailing back to Panama for batteries (d) Locating deep-cycle batteries for sale in Ecuador (e) The merits and downside of AGM batteries. I think they finally settled on buying Chinese AGM's via Quito. No Golf Cart batteries to be found here, unfortunately, and they don't want to go back to Panama.
As another example, we were having waterpump problems. We had several discussions ashore about our pump issues, and discivered that the boat next to us, Victoria, is also having water pump problems. So when Dave sat down with this box of spares to take apart our water pump and repair it, Kim and Pierre from Victoria came over and got a lesson from Dave in water pump repair.
Another boat, Amigo, is having his Perkins Front End taken apart by the local diesel mechanic. Dave wants to watch, just to get any tips from the mechanic on attacking the front end of a Perkins diesel.
Another boat is working on dinghy repair. We had been monitoring their progress and hoping to borrow a smidge of their 2-part glue to re-glue one of our oarlocks. But it turns out they don't have enough glue for their project... so ensued a long discussion on (a) whether they could bring glue back in their luggage from their trip home (b) the chances of finding the right glue in Ecuador (c) the merits and pitfalls of using 5200 Fast Cure instead.
Someone has a computer problem... word has gotten around that I'm a 'computer wizard', and any time I'm in the palapa, I get consulted on the latest computer issues (my computer runs too slow, my mouse jumps around when I turn my GPS on, Maxsea can't find my charts, Maxsea won't recognize my GPS, will xyz program run on Vista, what about Windows 7, etc). I have been repaid several times--never in cash--but usually with a bottle of wine or a nice meal.
There is also a "pay it forward" mentality here...I help you, you help someone else, they help someone else, and we all get that warm feeling.
And yes, here like every other anchorage, there are some "lost sheep"... people who's boats and mentality are totally unprepared for the cruising life... While WE were spending hours in Panama City doing maintenance and hunting down spares, they were hanging out in the Balboa Yacht Club drinking beer.
Those people tend to end up in remote ports with broken/inadequate gear, no tools, no spares, and no know-how. They are the bane of every anchorage, but we help them too. (Actually, we end up helping 2 or 3 times, and then ducking around the corner when they come ashore !!)
Saturday, December 5, 2009
We opted NOT to fuel up at Puerto Lucia Yacht Club's nice easy fuel dock... their price for 'foreigner diesel' has gone up to a whopping $3/gallon. This is partly because they are trying to recover the cost of all the extra equipment they had to put in, to be able to legally sell diesel to foreigners. Mario, the PLYC manager, told me they had spent over $100K to comply with the permitting process to be able to sell diesel to foreigners.
Diesel in Ecuador, on the street corner, sells for about $1 per gallon. This is so cheap compared to prices in neighboring countries, that some 'fishing' boats opted to start transporting diesel instead of fishing. So the Ecuadorean government declared that NO foreigners could buy diesel. At All. This was a couple of years ago, and you can imagine the gasps that swept through the cruising community. The wind is so light and flukey in this area, that even most budget cruisers opt to turn their motor on rather than roll around in a sloppy sea. We arrived in Puerto Amistad last February literally on fumes, because of our long windless passage down from Costa Rica.
When the government declared that foreigners couldn't buy diesel, there WERE ways for an enterprising cruiser to GET diesel... usually involving handing your portable tanks to an Ecuadorean and having them go buy it. But this kind of felt like cheating, and 'clean wake' cruisers didn't like to go around the system.
What has evolved in Puerto Amistad is a legally permitted process whereby (accompanied with lots of paperwork), Puerto Amistad buys the diesel in a portable tank at the gas station, and pumps it into your tanks from their launcha. Puerto Amistad is working on a more permanent solution, but for now, they are still using Carlos, a big lancha, and what looks like a big black plastic water tank with a small electric fuel pump. The overhead is low, and so far, so is the price. We bought 91 gallons at $1.50 per gallon. A savings of about $120 over fueling up at PLYC.
Part of the checkout process when you leave, is documenting how much fuel you came with, how much you bought, and how much you leave with. More paperwork!
Today is the SEC Championship game, and our team, the #1 ranked Florida Gators, go against the #2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. We are, of course, rooting for the Gators. We are not sure we'll be able to watch the game, but we're going to try.
The owner of Puerto Amistad, the cruiser facility where we are, is from Alabama, so he's committed to trying to get a video feed off the internet. We're just not sure how we'll do. It might also be televised on the Ecuadorean cable, since it is such a big game.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
But here is Dave's cousin Bryan's account of watching the game. Bryan is a true Gator fan, with season tickets and all, and when he says he's never seen anything like it...
Assume y'all know by now that the mighty #1 Gators rolled over the unranked Criminoles 37-10 last Saturday at the Swamp.
It was packed with prox. There were an additional 20,000 Gator fans tailgating without tickets, outside the stadium.
You could feel the electricity in the stands especially during the first half.
The noise level was unbelievable until we were ahead by 30! I just got my voice back today.
It was senior day, and when they announced Tim Tebow they joint went nuts. I thought my ear drums would explode! It even brought tears to #15 as he waved to the Gator Nation.
He ran for 2 TD's and passed for 3. Good finish against an average team.
It was 30-0 when the Criminoles decided to try a field goal--a give up play only trying not to be shut out! Their starters scored late in the 4th quarter against our 3rd team players who hadn't got in a game this year along with some volunteers from the student section.
During Tebow's final drive early in the 4th quarter, all of a sudden 30,000 plus flash bulbs started going off all around the Swamp every time he went to the line of scrimmage. For about 10 plays it looked like a gigantic Christmas lights display. I even got my cell phone out and took some pixs too. I've never seen anything like it ever!
After the blow out, #15 went all around the stadium shaking hands with his fans who were leaning over the railing. The whole stadium stayed (except for the Injun crowd who headed back to their reservation) yelling Tebow-Tebow!!
Even I got emotional.
It was a game to remember.
Next week Alabama (12-0) for the SEC championship and the BCS title game.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Though we have been in and out of Bahia once, and have waypoints from several sources, we thought it prudent to pay the $30 for the Puerto Amistad pilot to take us in. We had been emailing them for several days, apprising them of our progress, so they were ready for us. They even answered us on 69 from the bar at Puerto Amistad when we called!
Carlos, the pilot, finally made it out to us at about 10:15, so we ended up going in at just before high tide. We saw 7.5 feet at the lowest, but our high tide was a fairly low high tide. (A week later, the high is more than 2 feet higher). The tide reference used here is the Ecuadorean Navy site: http://www.inocar.mil.ec/mareas/mareas.php. This corresponds also with the free tide program WxTide32, for the tide location Rio Chone.
With calm winds and seas, and Carlos aboard, our entry over the bar was uneventful. Carlos took us right to the mooring that Puerto Amistad had saved for us and helped us get tied up.
By noon we were all secured, and I was below making Pumpkin Pie! We had one can of pie filling we had brought from the U.S. But that wasn't enough for 2 pies, so I got some Ecuadorean pumpkin pieces in the market before we left PLYC, and cooked them down (an easy process, and it tastes much better than the canned stuff).
They turned out 'not bad'. It's the first time I've cooked a 'totally from scratch' Pumpkin Pie since our isolated Thanksgiving in Tobago oh-so-many-years-ago (about 1995).
Puerto Amistad had invited not only the cruisers, but a lot of local Ecuadoreans to their Thanksgiving feast. I heard they had about 120 people there--with 6 Turkeys, some Pork Loin, and a bunch of cruiser and Puerto Amistad-supplied side-dishes. Tripp and his wife gave nice 'Thank You' speeches in both English and Spanish, explaining the Thanksgiving tradition in Spanish to the Ecuadoreans.
It was great fun for us to be with a bunch of other cruisers again. Though at the end at Puerto Lucia, we did have a few cruisers there, we've REALLY missed the cruising social life. We sat with our friends from Neos, who we last saw in March 2008 in Bocas del Toro, Panama, on the Caribbean side.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The wind was howling (~15-20 Kts, which is howling for Ecuador) and the seas were up, as we rounded the two capes and peeked at the anchorage from offshore. We could see waves breaking and only 2 fishing boats. It didn't look like much of an anchorage in the conditions. But we decided to go in and take a look anyway. We also prepared to divert to Manta, another hour further along the coast, in case we needed to.
The anchoraged turned out to be perfectly acceptable. We found a nice spot, good holding, seemed like sand, in about 25 feet, behind and slightly shoreward of the two fishing boats. What we had seen breaking from offshore was a small reef extending from the point, that gave a little extra protection to the otherwise open bay.
While the wind was blowing (afternoon and early evening), it kept our bow mostly pointed into the chop and swell. After the wind dropped, we did roll a bit whenever we were beam-on to the swell, but not too bad. By morning, both the wind and seas had dropped to nearly nothing--with just the gentle long Pacific swell left.
We left the anchorage at 4:30 am, in the dark. There were fishing boats about, but all the ones we could see were lit. We kept a good bow watch until it was sufficient daylight to see well from the cockpit (about 5:30am).
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Even though we are a bit on a schedule, and the wind is light, we managed to sail for most of the day yesterday. Our light air 'Code Zero' sail is invaluable in these conditions (without having to deal with the complexities of a spinnaker). We anchored overnight at Isla Salango, using waypoints from the Ecuador Cruiser's Handbook http://svsoggypaws.com/files/EcuadorCruisers2009.pdf We will stop tonight at San Mateo, and then get a very early start on Thursday morning, to be at the 'Waiting Room' for Bahia de Caraquez at 9:45am to be piloted over the bar.
We have a small stuffing box leak and a very small transmission oil drip, but neither is serious and both are fixable. (The 'stuffing box' is the hole where the prop shaft goes from the engine out to the prop. It is stuffed with some magic stuff that lets the shaft turn but theoretically keeps the water out. It is always a delicate balance between 'too tight, and there's too much friction', which is bad. And 'too loose, and the water comes in', which is also bad.
Dave is happy with the engine, though a little stressed by a couple of drops of transmission oil in his clean white bilge. But he is optimistic that he can stop that. We ran the engine for about 2 full hours yesterday, and Mr Perkins sounded good.
We have a few more chores to do on our 'must do before setting out for the Galapagos' list, and we are hoping to fit in one more adventure in northern Peru, and also see a little more of Ecuador. Daughter Nicki and her significant other, Phil, are coming for a Christmas visit to Cuenca (Ecuador). And then we set out for the Galapagos around the 6th or 7th of January. Our Autografo (cruising permit) for the Galapagos is 'in process'.
At 11/25/2009 12:55 AM (utc) our position was 01°35.56'S 080°51.68'W
Finally the agent who handled our clearance in, and 2 extension requests, and our clearance out, got paid his $183.50 fee, plus a fee of $45 to the Port Captain for the zarpe.
After all the stories we'd previous heard about boats in Salinas overstaying their 3 month 'limit' (a limit imposed only by the Customs man in Salinas, and not elsewhere in Ecuador), and the troubles they had leaving. But we had been very proper with our paperwork (the extension letters). It turned out to be a non-issue for us.
In general, other than the cost, we are VERY VERY happy with our stay at Puerto Lucia Yacht Club. It is a top-notch facility, and we thought the cost somewhat reasonable for the level of service, just a little high for Ecuador, and for a typical cruiser's budget.
At 11/25/2009 12:55 AM (utc) our position was 01°35.56'S 080°51.68'W
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
But he had fun up there, and we managed not to drop him.
He's a really fine young man, and we are sorry to have to say goodbye.
We were supposed to go in first thing in the morning, because that's when the high tide was. But we're on Ecuadorian time, so finally about 11am the lift came. We were afloat by 11:45. They didn't drop us. There is no water coming in any of the wrong places. The engine works. The bottom paint survived the lift. What more can you ask for?
Tomorrow we leave for Bahia de Caraquez. We plan to arrive there on the high tide at 11am on Thursday, just in time for Thanksgiving Dinner!
Monday, November 23, 2009
And better yet, we fired 'Mr. Perkins' up and he roared to life. Yay!!
The first time we tried, Dave had forgotten to switch on part of the ignition cut-out circuit, and as I listened from down below to the engine turn over and not start... my heart sank. My job was to sit down below with a hose jammed in the intake, to let cooling water flow while the engine was running. So I couldn't tell what was going on.
But once all the switches were in the right place, it started right up. We ran it for a couple of minutes while Dave checked things out. Other than needing to tighten one belt up, everything's ready for our early morning launch.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Almost all boats carry a liferaft. This is a $3,000-$4,000 investment that you hope you never use. I have never even seen our liferaft, except in a brochure. Ours is a Revere Offshore 6-person raft.
Life rafts are required to be 'serviced' every few years. You take it to a certified facility, they open it up, blow it up, make sure it still holds air, and change out the perishable supplies. In the U.S., it's a big deal, and costs a lot of money, between the labor rates and the regulations as to what the can and can't do.
But all 'overseas' repackings are not created equal either. A friend in Panama had theirs done and it cost them about $1200 (!!). So we were pretty careful in asking questions about what the costs were before we took our raft in for servicing. At most places, there is a fixed price for the repacking, and then a price for each item that might be changed out. It is wise to not just compare the fixed price, but also look at the supplies price list. There can sometimes be a huge markup on the supplies.
There are 4 companies that we found that said they could do it in Guayaquil (the big city a 2 hour bus ride away). All of them are certified by some well-known liferaft company, NONE of them are certified by our manufacturer (Revere). Dave finally settled on Parfi Engineering and Inspectors
Jofrey Parfi, the owners son, speaks great English, and offered to pick us up from the bus station and take us to his facility. One of our requirements was that they allow us to watch them open it up, blow it up, and repack it. Another was that we could choose what 'disposables' actually got replaced. Another was good English, so we could communicate easily with the personnel. A final requirement was the ability to vacuum seal the bag when they repacked it.
We teamed up with fellow cruisers Steve and Josie from the British vessel Elysian, and took the 9am CLP bus from La Libertad. It was no trouble 'checking' our 75-lb liferaft in the bus's cargo bin. On arrival in Guayaquil, there was a guy with a cart waiting, and for $1 he carted the two rafts out to the pickup point. 5 minutes later, Jofrey drove up in his truck, and picked us up.
Within a few minutes, we were in their warehouse facility and opening up the rafts.
They inflated the raft with their compressor, rather than 'using up' our inflation bottle. Then they have to leave it inflated for 30 minutes and check the pressure, to make sure it holds air. While doing that, they inspect all the perishables, which in our case was batteries, water packages, and flares. We opted to replace the batteries and water packages and NOT replace the flares, which are very expensive. Our experience at New Years Eve, firing off old expired flares, was that even those 10 years out of date worked well. We also have an extra supply of flares in our 'ditch bag'.
We got to get in the raft and check it out, and notice where all the accessories were and how they worked. It seems like a very well-built raft, much bigger and heavier-built than our friends' raft. It comes with a waterproof instruction sheet, telling you what you need to do in the first few minutes of your adventure.
It turns out that the inflation/inspection was the EASY part. Getting the deflated raft back IN the package was what took all the time.
They had to re-fold ours about 4 times to get it in a small enough package. Then they put these big straps around it, and squished the crap out of it.
Then they had to put it in the vacuum bag, seal that up, and pump the air out of it (using an industrial vaccum cleaner!) And into the Revere bag and then back into the hard case.
We had to go run some errands, and so didn't get to watch them do the final couple of steps on our raft. But it took them a total of 5 hours to complete the inspection, get the raft sealed up, and finish the paperwork.
We are very satisfied with what Parfi did for us, and would recommend them to others who want to repack their raft before making the big jump.
Friday, November 20, 2009
We couldn't find gold paint, so we used silver instead. I hand-painted with a small paintbrush. It looked pretty good when we finished. The silver paint matches our grey canvas pretty well.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
We put on 4 coats of bottom paint (plus some extras at the waterline and leading edges) in 2 days. Now we let it dry. We have a launch appointment for early Monday morning.
Today we take our 75-lb liferaft by bus to Guayaquil to get it serviced. More on this adventure tomorrow!
Friday, November 13, 2009
We've been white, red, blue, black, and now cammo-green.
Today we have them come lift us and move the blocks and stands around, so we can epoxy the places where they were. We're giving the epoxy time to dry really hard, and on Monday and Tuesday we'll put 4 coats of bottom paint on.
We couldn't get black bottom paint (our preferred color). I kind of liked the red, but I think we'll end up blue. Dave says he read that was the best color to keep from getting sunk by whales.
While the Stewart Yacht Services guys have been applying the epoxy, Dave has been putting the engine back together...bell housing on, the flywheel, pressure plate, transmission, and shaft coupling. He also worked on our starter, which has been a little cranky when trying to start the engine when it was hot.
Dave is also responsible for painting all the underwater bronze bits.
We have had Ignacio working on more varnishing, and he's now painting the 'trailboards'... the wooden (black) trim pieces on the bow, and our second spinnaker pole. (Note the Gator hat we brought back from the U.S. for him). We couldn't find any polyurethane paint at the local Ace Hardware, so we're using enamel. It should hold up for a couple of years.
And I have been working on finances... trying to get everything set so our financial lives will run pretty much on autopilot next year. We WILL be able to get internet in some places in French Polynesia, but it will be slow and expensive, and I don't want to have to spend all my shore time sitting at a computer.
I've also been provisioning... I've made 3 $250 trips to the grocery store so far. We generally spend $300-$400/month on groceries, and I'm trying to buy a year's worth of groceries!! Of course we won't be able to really carry a year's worth, so it's strategically buying and then carefully stowing.