Friday, January 30, 2009

Leaving Saturday for Ecuador via Cocos Island

We are finally getting ready to leave Costa Rica! The fuel and water tanks are topped, the provisioning is done, we have paid our bill at Land n Sea, and we've checked out of the country.

Our plan is to leave Golfito today and stage at Puerto Jiminez (across the Golfo Dulce from Golfito).

Then we'll leave there early tomorrow morning on the outgoing tide, and head for Cocos Island. That leg is about 300 miles, so we expect to be there late Monday. We expect light winds and will motor if necessary to get there in a reasonable time. It looks like it may be blowing like stink north and south of us, but there's this light and variable zone right on the direct path from Golfito to Cocos!

Cocos Island (Isla del Cocos in Costa Rica) is a world famous dive destination. It is a closely-guarded national park, and we think it will cost us something like $100 per day to stay there and dive. Yes, that's a lot of money, but the only other way to get there is by live-aboard dive boat, at $5000 for a 10-day trip!

So we'll stay a few days at Cocos, and then head south for Ecuador. The Cocos-Ecuador leg is about 500 miles. Hopefully by going out as far as Cocos, we'll have a decent angle to be able to sail to Ecuador. But usually people say it is a choppy nasty trip with wind and current on the nose. We'll see.

We'll be sending in blog updates and position reports as we go, and you can watch it via the links on our 'Positions' page.

For you geographically challenged, here is our course in the bigger scheme of things.

Goodbye Central America! Hello South America!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Boquete Road Trip - Part 2

Sherry and Sarah on the Porch

On our full day in Boquete, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on their porch, looking out to the Pacific Ocean (Gulf of Panama) about 20 miles away.

The View from the Porch

Then Craig and Sarah took us out in their 4WD truck, just looking around. We explored up on the back roads in the mountains as far as the Vulcan Baru Park, just to give us feel for the area.

It was beautiful and cool up in the mountains. We had lovely weather... clear and bright sunny day in the morning... until the clouds and light sprinkles poured over from the Caribbean side of the mountains.

The Clouds Rolling in from the Caribbean

The Beginning of the Hiking Trail

We had a nice time in the evening, too. Craig and Sarah invited some of the other ex-pat Americans over for some burgers. They are all building or have built a house in the area. A very interesting and well-traveled group of people!

After a nice weekend in the cool mountains, it was kind of a shock to get back to hot, humid Golfito. We can see why everyone likes Boquete so much.

At the border crossing, we were again struck by the difference between the Panama side and the Costa Rica side... Costa Rica's road is a poorly-maintained 2-lane road. Just over the border, Panama's version is a 4-lane highway. I have always thought that Costa Rica was one of the wealthiest of the Central American countries. But they aren't spending it on infrastructure down south!

Though we've really enjoyed our time in Golfito--after it quit raining--we are now ready to get going!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Road trip to Boquete, Panama

Even though we could have caught the bus out front of Land n Sea, on it's way out of town, we opted to go down to the Duty Free Zone and catch it at the start of the route, to ensure we had a good seat. By the time it went past Land n Sea, it was already standing room only!

The ride to the border was about an hour and a half.

The Costa Rica/Panama Border

The bus actually lets you off PAST the Costa Rica exit point. We got off the bus and walked forward and found Panamanian officials. But they sent us back to find the Costa Rican officials to officially exit Costa Rica.

Exiting Costa Rica

Then we could proceed to the Panamanian side and enter the country. We were charged $7 per passport for a Panamanian tourist visa and $1 for a stamp of some kind.

Entering Panama

It didn't look like a very secure border. As far as we could tell, you could walk in the front door of one of the shops from the Costa Rican side and walk out the back on the Panamanian side. But there was a border guard about half a mile down the road in Panama, spot checking paperwork.

Craig was there waiting for us at the border in Panama. We forgot when coordinating pickup that there's an hour time difference between Panama and Costa Rica!

The first stop was at Dave Bandel's farm in Bagala, Panama, where most of the HP2XBA Winlink station resides, and the Panama Sailmail station. Dave and Craig are partners in the operation (Dave provides the space and operates the setup, Craig runs the business and helps Dave with operations).

The Winlink/Sailmail operation is really just a couple of radios, PTC-2's, and computers, plus some large antennas out in the field. And it's housed in a non-descript old building and a couple of containers. So it's not very photogenic.

Winlink Building

Winlink Station

Dave, Craig, and Dave

Winlink Station Neighbors

More on our trip later!

Clever 12v Timer for Boat/Solar Applications

We've been looking for a timer to automatically switch on our 12v refrigeration. We finally (with the help of friend Ron Sheridan) found one for $60.

It will control either 12v or 110v devices and is programmable for up to 8 different "on" times per day, and for 7 days of the week in any combination.

We bought this while back in the States and have recently gotten it installed and operating. It's pretty slick!

Source: Backwoods Solar
Direct Link to Timer Page

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Marine Flea Market Today

Dave is a big fan of flea markets--both to buy and sell. He tries to organize one among the cruisers every few months, to clear out old stuff we don't want.

Today is another one, here at Land n Sea. We have already bought something...2 more diesel jugs. I never thought I'd get Dave to put jugs on the deck, but the reports of $10/gal fuel in the South Pacific has encouraged him to think about it. (Not to mention 2 nice jugs at $4 apiece).

This afternoon we are hitting the road via bus, across the border to Boquete, Panama. We have a friend there with a farm, who has offered to meet us at the border and take us to his farm for the weekend. Craig and Sarah on Pogo II, another CSY. Craig also runs the Panama Sailmail station and the HP2XBA Winlink station, and he's promised to stop at the station so we can see his setup firsthand.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Inauguration

Cruisers Watching the Ceremonies

We, like the rest of the world, watched the inauguration of our new president with a lot of hope that he can turn things around. Not just the economic situation, but also the 'America as the bad guys' situation.

Good luck, Barack Obama! Let's all pull together and get things going again!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Alternator Repair

Dave's Alternator Repair Tools

Last week, Dave disassembled our alternator and replaced the diode tray.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Already Planning a Trip to Chile

We have spent a good bit of time in the last week planning our first South American inland trip--to Chile. Right now (mid summer in Chile) is the best time to be going, so we wanted to launch off from Ecuador almost as soon as we arrive.

We finally got our tickets booked for certain critical legs of the trip:

1. Guayaquil, Ecuador to Santiago, Chile - March 10 - via air (we'll take a bus from Bahia de Caraquez to Guayaquil). LAN Chile about $275 per person, booked through Costamar Travel in Lima Peru. We plan to hang out in Santiago for a week and do some local sightseeing. We fly out of Guayaquil at 11:40pm and into Santiago about 6am on the 11th.

2. Santiago to Punta Arenas, Chile - March 17 - via air. Sky Airlines at $112 per person, booked through Costamar Travel in Lima Peru.

3. Navimag Ferry from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt (a 5 night 4 day trip thru the Chilean fiords) - April 7-11 for $435 per person.

4. Flight back from Santiago to Lima, again on LAN Chile, on May 2. Also booked through Costamar for about $250 per person (#1 and #4 booked together as a multistop gave us better rate than 2 one-way tickets).

From Lima, we plan to take a Spirit Airlines flight back to Ft. Lauderdale (and then another flight on to San Diego) for Dave's son's wedding on May 9.

This plan gives us about 3 weeks in Patagonia, to hike Torres del Paine and to see Ushaia and Puerto Williams (right next to Cape Horn). Then we'll start working our way back north towards Santiago.

The rest of the trip, we'll take buses and local transportation, and 'wing it'.

We looked at doing a 10 day cruise to Antarctica from down there, but it's still WAY too expensive--the cheapest cabins start at about $5,000 pp.

Any of our friends interested in coming along? Spirit Airlines flies out of Ft. Lauderdale to Lima Peru pretty inexpensively.

You can download a free 'getting started with your Chile trip' guide from Lonely Planet.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dinghy Raftup

We had a dinghy raftup the other night, in the bay here at Golfito.

Tim and Katy from Tierra Mar were the 'anchor boat' in their lancha, and everyone else tied up to them. They are the ones with the 'balloons' on a pole (actually inflatable beach balls).

Hors d'Ouvres made the rounds. Doggies walked from dinghy to dinghy (following the hors d'ouvres!). We had a good time watching the sunset.

Some of the local Gringos joined us too, so it was nice to meet them.

My opinion of Golfito has improved a little, since it quit raining so much and since a few other cruisers showed up. There are now about 11 boats anchored out, and only 2 are unoccupied. In November, we were the only boat in the bay with people on it.

We managed to arrive at the peak of the yellow tree bloom. On the hill above Land n Sea, there were 4-5 big trees with bright yellow blossoms. It was a beautiful site with the sun shining on them. (most of the blossoms have fallen now).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

No Earthquake in Golfito

Just noticed the headlines on

"14 dead, 22 missing after Costa Rica quake"

This was in North Central Costa Rica, and we in South West Costa Rica. No problems here (thankfully)

The Price You Pay for the Life You Lead

My friend Deb, after reading all the whining I did about having to watch the football game in Spanish, wrote me this...

"It's a small price to pay for the life you are living!! Imagine cruising in the "olden days" (and that's not really too very long ago; only 15 years ago.....) No internet, no email, no cable TV, no cell phones."

"You remember--awaiting a mail delivery at some remote outpost; receiving (or not) letters from friends and family. And standing in line in a government phone facility paying $5 a minute for a bad phone connection to family back home. I think it is fantastic that you could see the Florida game!! (pretty nice for your team to have won, too.)"

Thanks, Deb, for the timely reminder about what we have.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Florida Gators - BCS Champs!!!

Yahoo! Gators did it again!

We watched the game on Fox on cable. But it is Costa Rican cable, and the commentary was in Spanish. When the spanish-speaking commentators would quit talking, we could hear the english-speaking announcing going on in the background.

I tried to get the live game video on I wanted was the commentary in English. But all I could get was a stuttering video feed (because our internet is so bad here), and game noise, but no commentary.

I searched all over trying to find a live audio feed on the internet, but couldn't find it. (Oh, I longed for the Gator Radio Network!) So we finally gave up and watched in Spanish. It ain't the same!

The commercials are unbelievably bad. Apparently they don't have enough soccer commercials to fill the time slots available, so they play the same commercials over and over.

I guess it's just "the price ya pay for the life ya lead".

But it was great watching the Gators win over Oklahoma.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Grilled Mahi Mahi Potluck

The only problem with Golfito is that the fish are too plentiful.

The guests staying at Land n Sea's bungalow caught ANOTHER big Mahi Mahi yesterday. Everyone else they knew were tired of eating fish, so they shared it with the cruisers.

We had a nice grilled Mahi potluck last night.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Splitting the Blog Up

I have moved my older posts to here:

I think everything is pointing to the right place now. Photos in the old blog show up properly, and the links and labels work right, too.

I have added some cross-reference links between the two blogs.

Surfing in Pavones

Well, we had a nice trip to Pavones. The bus ride was an adventure, and it was nice visiting with Nathalie and Shawn, and their two cute kids.

The bus ride out to Pavones did indeed take 2 1/2 hours. It left promptly from the 'bus terminal' in Golfito, across from the hospital, at 10am. It goes right past Land n Sea, somewhere around 10:15am. As of January 2009, it is a tan bus 'Pavones' on the front. A typical old school bus.

The ferry trip was a blast. Dave loved the old 3-cylinder Lister engine that ran the ferry (a rusty old barge) back and forth. Dave says the engine was probably salvaged out of an old tractor. They hand-cranked it to start it.

We stopped at the crossroads in a little town called Comte to wait for another bus coming from Zancudo. But we arrived at Nathalie's house, in Cocal Amarillo, a little outside of Pavones, at about 12:20.

Though Nat and Shawn have bought a house up on a hill, for now they are renting a small place right on the beach. This house is right next to a school and a small store, and they can literally surf in their backyard.

The View from Nathalie's House

In the afternoon, they loaned us their "quad" and we went roaming around the heights around Pavones, looking for a great view, and then down into Pavones. It's a cute little surfing town with about 3 restaurant/bars, one surf shop, and 6 or 8 places to stay. Our friends from another boat stayed in place called Las Perlas, and paid $50 US per night, but it was a brand new place with A/C and a small fridge. We hear you can rent a place on a monthly basis for about $200-$300/mo.

Though it is high season in Costa Rica now, tourist-wise, it is low season on the surfing scene. High season starts in March when the good waves roll in, and again in Sep-Oct. So Pavones was pretty quiet. We only saw a couple of people surfing. But Shawn says that in high season there might be a hundred people out trying to catch one of those long rides around the point in Pavones.

Dave on the Quad

After our dusty ride on the quad, Dave went for a swim in the fresh water stream down the beach from Nathalie's house. Nat assured us there were no crocodiles there. (But the next day, on the way to town, we saw a guy who had just killed a venomous snake near one of the streams... they come down from the hills for water during dry season).

We went for dinner into town to one of the less touristy places to eat, and had a full-up Mahi Mahi dinner for $6, which is about the best price we've had for a meal in Costa Rica.

Nat and Shawn shipped a nice pickup truck back from the States this fall, with room for all us adults and the kids inside. But the kids like to ride in the back of the truck. So Nat and I rode in back with them. The only problem is, all the roads are dirt/gravel roads, and with no rain in a week, it's very dusty when another car goes by. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often.

Kids Surfin' in the Back of the Truck

We had wanted to take the boat back from Zancudo for the return trip, just for the experience. But the boat leaves Zancudo at 7am, so we would have had to leave their house about 6am. We opted to take the bus back, and go surfing in the morning.

Even though the surf wasn't much, both Dave and I got a shot at a good wave. And little Zoe got a ride with Mama too.

We caught the bus back to Golfito from the road in front of Nathalie's at about 1pm, and were back in Golfito at about 3:30pm.

If you're interested in some reasonably-priced real estate in southern Costa Rica, Nathalie is one of the few scrupulously honest realtors I know. So check out Point Break Realty if you ever get to Pavones.

And Shawn does surfing lessons and kitesurfing lessons on the beach behind their house. Costa Rica Surf and Kite

Monday, January 5, 2009

Headed for Pavones, Costa Rica

We are headed today on a small side jaunt to the surfing town of Pavones. It supposedly has the best 'left break' in Central America. My friend Nathalie lives there and has offered us a place to stay overnight, and we are just going for the heck of it.

Map to Pavones from Golfito

The trip to get there is a typical Central American trip... on a bus down a bad road, offload from the bus, on a rickety ferry (not big enough for the bus) and then on another bus. It is only about 20 miles as the crow flies, but it will be at least a 3 hour trip on the bus.

On the way back, we'll get Nathalie to drop us at Zancudo (another surfing town) and take a lancha back to Golfito.

Should be an adventure!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

We had a nice time partying with the cruisers hanging out at Land n Sea in Golfito.

The fireworks shooting got a little crazy around midnight. Tim has a small brass cannon that is just perfect for aiming rockets. There was a playful 'exchange of fire' between the 3 marinas. But everyone was pretty careful to aim away from the boats. Nothing caught fire and everyone seems to have come away from the evening with all their limbs intact. Tim did most of the dangerous stuff out in his lancha.

Dave went with him on one trip in the lancha to fire off some of our old flares. These were the big expensive offshore hand-held parachute flares, all with expiration dates in the 1990's. When fired correctly, every one of them worked. On the other hand, the little pencil flares...none of them worked.

Moral: don't trust your life to the cheap stuff.

This may have been the first time in several years that we actually stayed up til midnight.

It's a beautiful day in Golfito, and we are very glad to be back aboard.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Maintenance 2008

You can view our 2007 / 2008 Maintenance posts here:

Yay! In Golfito!

We got up at 5:30 am to make the 7am bus leaving for Golfito. It was a long bus ride--we finally pulled into Golfito at 2pm. But the bus dropped us off right in front of Land n Sea, so we only had to lug our 6 bags and 250 lbs across the road and down the dock. And Tim was there to meet us and take us out to our boat.

We did a quick shopping trip before the stores closed... having left nothing fresh on the boat when we left.

We are gearing up for a New Years Eve Party complete with fireworks tonight. Hopefully we can last til midnight.

It's great to be back on the boat.