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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

John's "hospital" stay

May 21, 2008

After 2-3 days of running a fever (Friday - Sunday), and then diarrhea starting after the fever broke, John decided to pay a visit to the doctor for some lab work today. John's been religiously consulting our copy of "Where There Is No Doctor" as his symptoms changed. So we thought, no problem, a doctors visit is cheap insurance, we'd get the results, get some drugs, and go home. We got to the recommended clinic at 10 AM and the recommended doctor ordered up lab work for everything under the sun (including HIV, hepatitis, cholesterol, liver, you name it) before going in to deliver a baby by C-section (we assume, because he said surgery, and an hour later there was a newborn). After finding out that said blood/urine/stool lab work cost $60 I made a quick trip to the ATM machine to get more money for the doctor's exam (another $50). Finally at 2 PM the lab work came back and the doctor took us into his office. Everything was excellent except for some pesky amoebas that appear to be the cause of the problem. But instead of a prescription the doctor told John he needed to stay in the "hospital" for 48 hours to be on an IV for rehydration and an antibiotic for the intestinal infection. So before we knew it they had John taking a shower, getting into hospital pajamas, into bed, and then hooked up to an IV.

We heard this is the best doctor in town so John is in good hands, and of course we want anything serious to be completely eradicated. But we certainly weren't expecting this, and [I'm updating this a month later] it turned out to be overkill. He had a private room with its own bathroom, A/C and a small TV with channels in English. There's even (oh joy) another bed in case I want to sleep over with him. But it's a little depressing to look at. At the moment I'll be content to return home to Ziggy in the evening.


Since, except for the diarrhea, he seemed to be getting better, this is one of those "not good" cruising experiences. But we'll keep our fingers crossed that it all turns out for the best, and at least it isn't anything terribly serious. [He was fine, and nothing further was done at the follow up visit. Total cost was $290.]

I'm off for a late afternoon hospital visit to take him things like his Gameboy and ear plugs (for the roosters next door and the newborn baby downstairs in the nursery).


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Puerto Amistad

Last Tuesday morning we had arranged to be brought across the river bar of the Rio Chone to enter Bahia de Caraquez. I believe it's a requirement of the local Port Captain that every boat use a licensed bar pilot (at a fee of $30 for a single boat, less if you can get more than one boat to cross at a time). Apparently the licensed pilot is away for some time so Tripp Martin, the owner of Puerto Amistad (PA, a river front restaurant/bar with a mooring field out in front), came out with an employee of his, Carlos, and they came aboard Nakia to point out the way. After signing a waiver absolving PA of responsibility should Nakia come to any harm, we were fortunate to have completely calm conditions and a favorable tide and thus entered without incident. Carlos helped tie us up to a mooring buoy and we paid him the $30 fee.

The cruising situation in Ecuador is a new one for us. Currently there are four "host" "yacht clubs" which were created after last season's furor over the whole expensive agent mess, during which boats were required to use an agent to check in and out of every port at a cost of over $100 for each arrival and departure. As a result of the cruiser outcry at this price gouging four of the largest facilities catering to cruising boats banded together to create the current system wherein they will check a boat into the country only if that boat pays to stay at their facility.

On January 1 of this year we made a reservation at a small resort called Saiananda to stay on a mooring there. We first heard about this charming spot last summer from our friend Garth, on Inclination, and then read even more about it in Latitude 38 and SSCA Bulletin articles by Migration and Iwa. Saiananda is farther up the Rio Chone from PA and we were attracted to the quieter surroundings and smaller group of boats since Saiananda has fewer moorings and no anchor outs. As Garth described them to us the moorings are of a type that are very secure, and we had heard reports of boats breaking loose at PA. As a major animal lover I fell in love with descriptions of the animal and bird rescue menagerie located on the premises. As full time liveaboards we looked forward to making Saiananda our summer home for six months, with a few inland trips to keep things interesting. We were unsure of how we would feel about being parked in one spot for that long, but we thought Saiananda would make it all worth while. We figured we would be making visits for drinks and meals with friends staying at PA and that it would become a home away from home when we needed a town fix.

Our plan was to stay at PA while we got checked into the country. This process includes a visit to Immigration in Manta, a two hour cab ride away, along with a shopping expedition and any errands requiring the services of a larger city. So we figured we'd be staying at PA for at least a week to get checked in and oriented to Bahia before moving up river to Saiananda. Unfortunately just before we departed Costa Rica, Tripp Martin became annoyed by boats coming in and doing just as I described. His policy is that any boat he checks in should stay at his facility for the entire season. He reported Saiananda as an "illegal" destination to the Port Captain, and no one has been able to move there since.

PA is a lovely facility with nice showers and bathrooms in an upscale restaurant/bar overlooking the river. There is inexpensive laundry service and wireless internet on site. Unfortunately the PA business model is designed to limit the WiFi signal to the restaurant only and not to extend it out to the mooring field. Undoubtedly this is to help boost bar and restaurant profits, but it's a major inconvenience for anyone living on their boat full time to have to schlep everything back and forth in the dinghy whenever you need to go online. For $270/month/mooring or $100/month/dinghy dock (for anchor outs) fees, it seems reasonable to expect WiFi to reach the boats, especially when PA has plans to invest its profits in additional local WiFi hot spots.

There's also the issue of a bridge which is being built just south of the PA mooring field. In their great wisdom the Ministry of Transportation has decided to go with a low, fixed bridge, preventing any large boat traffic from continuing up river when the bridge is completed. So not only will boats be physically unable to get to Saiananda (most likely not until next year), but there will be first bridge construction, and then bridge traffic noise and dirt right on top of the PA mooring field making it a less attractive option for cruisers in Ecuador. It's a crime against the local economy that bridge planners took such a short sighted view, and didn't design a higher span or an opening bridge with future marine expansion up river in mind.

So here we sit, living in limbo, in hopes that Saiananda will be able to jump through the bureaucratic hoops required to make it a "host" facility so that we can move there before summer's end. If we liked Ecuador, we had initially planned to spend two summers here, but given the lack of freedom to move about the country by boat we doubt we'll return next summer.

Linda and John


Friday, May 16, 2008

Pics from Equator Crossing

Here's a picture of the GPS, just to prove we were actually there. Take a look at the temp and humidity on the thermometer.
Here's Linda sending off her tribute as Neptune departs...
Here's John taking a little swig before he sends Neptune off with his tribute...

and here's the king of the deep himself, Neptune.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Day 8, Ecuador Passage

1900 Monday, May 12

Neptune came aboard NAKIA this morning to supervise the inauguration of three Pollywogs into the ranks of the Shellbacks as we crossed the equator. He was resplendent sitting on his throne of sea foam, in a cape made of blue from the abyss, holding his trident, and wearing a crown of silver made by the denizens of the deep. (The crown was a little crude because the denizens don't have thumbs, but Neptune doesn't mind and wore it at a jaunty angle). He posed for a picture against a backdrop of golden sun. We will post the picture shortly for you land dwellers. He left with tribute from the crew: a bottle of Damiana which he shared with John, some cream cookies that he shared with Linda, and his likeness which he shared with Ziggy.

Shortly after crossing the 'the line' we set sail to make for our land fall at Cabo Pasado. Finally, the wind came aft of the beam and we were reminded how well NAKIA sails. Either the bucket that was tied to the keel fell off some time this morning or the current finally let go of us, and we had our best sail of the passage covering 36 miles in 6 hours an average of 6 knots! Compared to the 3.5 knot averages of the last couple days it felt pretty good to be sailing fast again.

We dropped anchor shortly before sunset and started the water heater to take hot showers in celebration.

(Note: only a 10 hour day)
Distance traveled: 55 nautical miles
Distance made good (towards our destination): 49 nautical miles
3 hours motoring, 7 hours sailing

John and Linda


Day 7, Ecuador Passage

0600 Monday, May 12

Well, I guess we're beginning to understand what people mean when they say Ecuador has weather "just like San Diego." Once we hit the Humboldt current we saw a completely new pattern emerge. Most of the time there's a marine layer which might break just enough in the afternoon for a glimpse of the sun. Then you get a day like Sunday when the rising sun just barely kept its head above the clouds until it burned them off entirely and we had a crystal clear blue sky, blue sea day again. Then it started rolling in again in the afternoon until it cleared off later that night. The great thing now is that even when you're standing in the Noon sun, the breeze is nice and cool. John actually broke out his favorite fleece jacket for night watches. It's reminding us very much of the California coast.

We had a great day of sailing, and even put the wind vane on to steer instead of the auto pilot for a change. We weren't able to go straight to our waypoint, but it was nice to be sailing along at a reasonable pace again. The wind shifted against us and then subsided so we put the pedal to the metal in the late afternoon to try to eat up some more miles.

My sister wrote that it's hard to imagine that we're out here so far from land (and home), and the weird thing is that it's often hard for us to grasp that idea too. Nakia has been our home for over 16 years so it's old familiar territory, and it's only our back yard that's constantly changing. Since we're always "home" do we ever really leave home? I think it kind of takes the edge off of visiting new places to have your home travel with you. But it also means never completely getting out of your comfort zone to have a familiar place to return to at the end of each day. This might make us take our adventures a bit for granted, especially when we stay in one place (like Mexico) for so long. And so what may sound exotic to someone else, is just our life. We're not on vacation, we're still doing the dishes, cleaning the toilet, fixing things that break, cooking meals, socializing with friends, and learning new things, just like everyone else. We're just doing all those normal things in foreign countries afloat in a boat.

Funny the things that pop into your head. This morning I came on watch at 0400 and found myself singing (to the tune of "Shenandoah"), "Oh, Ecuador, I long to seeeee you!"

Distance traveled: 96 nautical miles
Distance made good (towards our destination): 87 nautical miles
14.5 hours motoring, 9.5 hours sailing

Linda and John


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Day 6, Ecuador Passage

0600 Sunday, May 11

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers reading this!

We had a bit of excitement Saturday morning when we started hearing whistles and odd cries. I thought it was birds (which shows you how out of it I am!), but John leapt up and ran on deck to find three guys in an open panga waving at the fishing gear they were frantically pulling in so that we wouldn't run over it. This was the first boat of any kind we've seen since we left on Monday. They were sooo nice, all smiles and waves, as we quickly rolled up the jib and started the motor to avoid the tail end of the long line. John asked how many days they had been out fishing and they told us 15 days! And this is over 200 miles from the nearest land. We passed over some cold Cokes, and decided we'd better quit feeling sorry for ourselves at that moment.

Ziggy had us worried after refusing food and water for over 24 hours, even turning up his nose at tuna water (drinking water with a little water from a tuna can) which he's never passed up before. I finally got him to take some of it in the afternoon, after which he actually got out of bed and ate a few bites of his kibble. He took a cautious walk around the boat, and I know he would like to play, but the motion is too rough and he has nothing to hang on with. We'll keep trying the tuna water and hope that the seas flatten out enough for him to perk up.

We took showers while we were motoring and not heeled over sailing. It was still a little bouncy but that's what the seat and grip rail are for. We are obviously in the Humboldt current now because our tank water is cold again. We are so disappointed not to have been able to watch that temperature transition on the fish finder, and will have to get it fixed before we go back north to Panama this winter.

After consulting our bird guide, "Seabirds" by Peter Harrison, we're fairly certain that the new birds we've seen on this trip are the masked boobie and the swallow-tailed gull. We've had up to 10 of the latter birds follow us at night to fish for squid attracted to the glow of Nakia's running lights. Ziggy sure knows when one of those little squid (only up to about six inches) lands in the cockpit. Last night he managed to sneak by me with one in his mouth and carried it into the cabin. I feel terrible about taking them away from him, but I'm not sure an entire raw squid is good for him, and I really don't want to find out when his stomach decides it isn't...

The past couple of nights have been cloudy with only a few stars visible now and then but last night was clear until 2200 with clouds only low on the horizon. We'd hoped to take one last look at Polaris (the North Star) but it seems we've seen the last of it until we return to the northern hemisphere next year. Polaris is just too close to the horizon for us to see above the clouds. We had some sun in the afternoon yesterday, but it was overcast and grey the rest of the day. This has meant cooler temperatures (79-81) which has been nice for a change. A few more sprinkles but no serious rain, and just some overhead cloud lightning at night.

Distance traveled: 89 nautical miles
Distance made good (towards our destination): 78 nautical miles
12 hours motoring, 12 hours sailing

Linda and John


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day 5, Ecuador Passage

0600 Saturday, May 10

Now I know why those cruisers less delusional than me looked at me doubtfully when I described our plan to "bounce back and forth between Ecuador and Costa Rica/Panama just like we've done with the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico." Because once you've done the passage to Ecuador you'd have to be insane to do it again (no offense Iwa and Secret o' Life). It might be more comfortable and less of a strain on a boat and crew in a bigger, more weatherly boat than Nakia, but here we are again, bashing into head winds and seas, going nowhere very slowly. My current knee jerk reaction is to live in Ecuador permanently, sight unseen, or bash back to Mexico next spring. But I sure don't see any more long distance passage making to unknown ports in my future.

How on earth do really old people do this (no offense old people)? It's a huge effort just to move about the boat, hanging on with both hands and still getting slammed into things. I washed my face at the sink with one hand Friday morning so I could brace myself from being thrown across the cabin with the other. Going to the bathroom requires strength of will, let alone doing something more complicated like making a sandwich. It's bad enough just motoring, where you have basically two motions - forward pitching and side to side rolling. But when you add hard on the wind sailing to that equation you get a herky jerky motion in the extreme heel on top of the rest that's enough to knock you off your feet. The bow coming off the top of a big wave slams into the water with a bang as if we've hit one of those logs we saw earlier in the trip.

John anxiously pores over the weather faxes and files in an attempt to figure out what to do to get us out of this mess while lining up the best possible outcome for the final days before landfall. We don't want to go too far east yet in case we get more south winds before we've gone far enough south. And there's a wicked north bound current as we close with the coast that we don't want to be north of either. It's almost like reading tea leaves, you just can't predict what's going to happen.

There are also issues with where we planned to spend the summer once we arrived in Ecuador. We have a reservation for a mooring in Saiananda, which is a couple of miles up river from Bahia de Caraquez. It's a quiet retreat with a smaller community of boaters, lots of animals and birds on the premises, and secure moorings, and we were really looking forward to making this our summer home. If you have a Yahoo account and are interested in reading why we may be forced to stay at Puerto Amistad instead, go to Yahoo Groups and pull up the Southbounders list. Follow the recent thread on "Entry Procedure for Yachts in Bahia de Caraquez." Needless to say we are extremely bummed about this turn of events because we foolishly based most of our decision to go to Ecuador on the premise that we would be staying in Saiananda.

So if we'd had a crystal ball to see the events of the past couple of weeks, would we be where we are now? No, we'd probably be in the Sea of Cortez enjoying another summer in Mexico. However we're hoping Ecuador will turn out to be as fabulous as everyone says it is, making it all worth it.

Ziggy refused his kibble Friday night for the first time in his life. Not sure what the problem is there. He managed to eat half a small squid later that he found in the cockpit. He's become quite the flying fish and squid alarm. He manages to hear the fish hit the side decks and races for the nearest porthole and then out the companionway. He has to be out in the cockpit to see the squid hop in since they are more slippery silent. It's too bad all this action occurs at night when we keep him on a tight leash in the cockpit. But it keeps us on our toes when we hear his little bell jingle.

Distance traveled: 95 nautical miles
Distance made good (towards our destination): 74 nautical miles
9 hours motoring, 14 hours sailing, 1 hour hove to

Linda and John


Friday, May 09, 2008

Day 4, Ecuador Passage

0600 Friday, May 9

Cloudy, rainy, windy (not terribly windy but enough to make progress uncomfortable)...

So much for our nice motor sail over calm water. We finally made our turn towards Ecuador early Thursday morning and ever since it's been a struggle. Nothing dangerous, but NAKIA is not very good at sailing into the wind. 320 miles to go as of Friday 1200 UTC, hopefully it will get better.

Distance traveled: 86 nautical miles
Distance made good: 73 nautical miles
9 hours motoring, 14 hours sailing, 1 hove-to

John and Linda


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Day 3, Ecuador Passage

0600 Thursday, May 8

On Wednesday I woke up at Noon to go on watch and my eyes felt gritty for the first time. They will feel like this for the rest of the passage as my sleep deficit begins to grow. The bad thing is that we haven't had to do anything to tire us out yet since we're not even sailing. But at this point the most important thing becomes the ability to sleep on your off watch. Our watch schedule is our usual:

0700-1200 John
1200-1700 Linda
1700-2100 John
2100-0100 Linda
0100-0400 John
0400-0700 Linda (my favorite because of sunrise)

John checks in to the Panama-Pacific SSB radio net at 0800 and, because our auto pilot goes wacky when we transmit on the radio, I have to steer while he does this. So I don't usually get to bed until 0900 for that off watch. Then John loses about the same amount of time or more during his afternoon off watch from pulling weather faxes off the radio and sail handling or navigating. It seems like there's always something to keep him up. Plus it's usually too hot by then for him to be able to sleep well. Then there are those pesky things like eating and personal hygiene eating up your precious sleep time.

John got about an hour of sleep Wednesday afternoon before I had to get him up to zig-zag around a few rain clouds. That morning we woke to an almost clear sky with just a few small rows of cloud on the horizon. But by mid-afternoon we were into a row of gray clouds, some of them obviously raining. We didn't see any lightning but you never know what kind of wind is underneath them so we chose to avoid them. Afterwards we wondered if we might have missed out on an easy boat wash!

Earlier in the day, when the skies were still clear and the ocean was glassy calm John spotted a large object off in the distance. We usually don't divert for floating junk, but this was too big to pass by without investigating. It turned out to be a huge tree trunk with the root base floating on its side. Two large black and white boobies (a new kind we've only seen on this trip) were sitting up on the top edge of it, and as we drew closer we could see fish and over half a dozen 3' sharks in the water beneath it. The water was crystal clear and it was so amazing to see the fish swimming from the tree over to their new home base, Nakia. We took some pictures and then had to leave them behind as we sped off south again.

It was soon after our diversion that the weather changed so dramatically. Once we were clear of all the rain John decided it was time to change the engine oil. So we rolled out the jib and shut off the engine to enjoy an hour of blessed silence. John toiled over the hot engine while I walked Ziggy on deck as we slowly drifted along at about two knots. When he was finished with that chore we got to take showers!! Man, did it ever feel good to get clean again, even if I'm sweating already as I write this four hours later.

Distance made good:110
23 hours motoring, 1 hours sailing

Linda and John


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Day 2, Ecuador Passage

0600 Wednesday, May 7

The brilliant blue of the sky overhead fades to a pale baby blue as it brushes the horizon. The ocean is a sparkling blue green with indigo patches of shade from the clouds above. The sky is mostly clear with a ring of raw cotton clouds low on the horizon. We watch in fascination as the puffy white clouds shape shift. They are beautiful in spite of the hint of menace behind each one. Dolphins pay a brief afternoon visit, going airborne directly in front of Nakia's bow, making it the "splash zone" on an E-ticket ride.

This morning we changed jibs from small to large in hopes of eventually sailing. It's hot in the cabin (high 80s) during the day making it hard to nap even with all the fans pointed right at us. We try to stay on deck in the shade of the sails where the breeze is coolest.

Monday we passed three fishing vessels but saw no boats on Tuesday. We went through a patch of water thick with jellies and saw two turtles making a fine meal of them. John saw a few whales, and a booby tried roosting on our solar panel before I tipped him off. We encountered a strange convergence of currents, creating what we call "jumping waters" similar to something we saw north of Bahia de Los Angeles one year. After we were through that we saw a minefield of logs, some of them obviously trees. Fortunately those seemed to disappear before sunset.

Life is very slow on Nakia during passages. We concentrate on trying to get enough sleep, eating when we feel like it, and watching the world go by (very slowly). Ziggy sleeps and strolls the deck when it's calm enough. The noise of the engine has everyone's ears ringing, and Ziggy actually escaped to the cool and quiet of the sink in our forward head. I didn't think he could still fit, but he curled up tight and managed to squeeze in.

I don't think an hour goes by that we don't see one or more pieces of plastic garbage floating on the surface of the water - a milk crate, a styrofoam cup, plastic wrappers, bottle tops, and mostly bottles in all shapes and sizes.

Last night we heard a couple of small thunks meaning we probably hit two small pieces of wood in the dark.

We had a favorable current most of the night which is still with us this morning. Our top cruising speed is at 2,000 RPMs but in conservation mode we keep it at 1,800. With the help of the current we can cut this back to 1,700 and still make 5-6 knots over the ground. This is nice but a 10-12 knot sailing breeze out of the west would be even better!

Nautical miles covered: 130
Water Temp: 81-85 degrees (our Furuno LS-6000 fish finder, which we use as our depth sounder, went on the fritz this morning; everything but the water temp reading is fine, but we're getting water temps of 99 and 100 degrees now)
24 hours motoring, 0 hours sailing

Linda and John


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Day 1, Ecuador Passage

0600 Tuesday, May 6

A starlit night so bright that I saw a piece of white plastic trash lit up against the glassy ocean. The southern cross like a beacon off our bow as we finally head due south (after so much easting, southeasting, and even northing). Dolphins making an occasional brief visit (weird how we can hear them so well through the toilet!). No lightning or rain yet, although we saw some of the latter under one or two clouds off in the distance. The rain clouds show up well on radar, but so far they are few and far apart so we're able to skirt them. And we had enough wind yesterday to sail 6.5 hours. Not much but we're anxious to get through the convection as quickly as possible before we relax and take things easy.

Nautical miles covered: 112
Water Temp: 82 degrees
18 hours motoring, 6 hours sailing

Linda and John


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

We said hello and goodbye again to Fortuitous and Zephyrus at Islas Tortugas. They arrived from Bahia Ballena before we got there on Friday. We had a dinghy raftup cocktail hour to catch up on what everyone had been doing since we left them in El Salvador. They did an inland trip to Guatemala from Barrillas which they enjoyed very much. They're going to Golfito from here before jumping off for Ecuador.

Saturday morning we had a slow sail against the current to our last stop in Costa Rica this year. We're anchored close to the fishing pier in Bahia Ballena right in front of a row of small houses built out on pilings over the beach. They look a little ramshackle from a distance but we took a walk on the road behind them today and they have lovely landscaped yards and gardens. The hibiscus is in bloom and people have planted a wide variety of ti plants in all different vibrant colors.

John dropped me off on shore after we arrived yesterday so that I could walk the short trip to the local grocery store in Tambor. Charlie's Charts (our guidebook) is overstating things by calling it a super mercado, but I guess it's a step above a tienda. Unfortunately we missed an organic produce market that is supposedly run on Saturday mornings. The Tambor mercado (Super Lapa) had a number of surprising items (Nutella, sliced dill pickles, and a healthy liquor section) but was woefully bereft of fresh produce. I bought some tired broccoli and a few green tomatoes (hoping they'll last for the passage), and two big pineapples that haven't started to ferment yet.

Those will last us awhile after we eat the two beautiful mangoes that Carmen, on Isla Jesusita, gave us. Thursday, May 1, we went for dinghy ride around the two islands and stopped in at the house we were anchored off of to see if they wanted a jerry jug we were no longer using because of a small crack it had developed. They were happy to take it off our hands and we made the acquaintance of Angel (the grandfather), Carmen (grandma), Alexander (son), and his son Brandon. Alexander's wife and newborn baby were up at their house on the hill. They kindly invited us back later for fried fish or to walk the roads and trails from their property, but we were getting ready to leave soon. We'll look forward to returning for a longer visit with them next year.

We thanked Carmen again for the mangoes, launched the dinghy, and went around to the south side of the island looking for the howler monkeys we'd seen through binoculars from the boat. Jackpot! We counted 20 monkeys, including babies clinging to their mother's backs, in the trees above our heads. They didn't seem disturbed by our presence so we got a nice long look at them before quietly rowing away.

It's amazing how the weather has changed since we left Puntarenas. The days are consistently cloudy now, with rain every night. Sometimes it's just a sprinkle but there are times like last night when it poured for a short while. So we get up and close all the hatches and portholes and then go back to bed. The flies have been noticeable after all the rain, but we haven't had too much of a problem with no-see-ums or mosquitos yet.

And now a word about garbage. For as progressively "eco" as Costa Rica is touted as being we have come to the conclusion that we've seen more garbage in the water and on the beaches here than anywhere else, including Mexico. I can't recall seeing any educational signs or slogans in Costa Rica asking people not to litter - we saw these everywhere in Mexico. We have been dismayed to find that a literate, eco-friendly, tourist oriented country could have such a huge problem with trash on its beaches and in its waters, and not appear to be doing anything to correct it.

Costa Rica has a beautiful coastline with friendly people, and we hope to return for another visit next year.

Linda and John


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Islas Jesusita and Cedros, CR

We're currently lying a dozen miles south of Puntarenas, tucked into a calm large bay formed by an elbow shaped channel between the two islands. There are a few homes in view, each on its own small beach and landscaped with palm trees. The homes are basic and a bit run down, but the properties are large, and sea walls, cement walks, and beautiful shade trees hint at former prosperity. One father regularly transports his elementary school aged son to and from the beach on the opposite side of the channel by panga. Yesterday afternoon the boy, still in his school uniform of short-sleeved white shirt and long black slacks, was allowed to man the outboard tiller on the trip home.

John completed the checkout process Monday morning. It was probably the most difficult one yet because it was split between offices in Puntarenas and the nearby commercial port of Caldera. For anyone who is interested, John wrote a detailed description of each step required to checkout of Costa Rica from Puntarenas and posted it to the Southbounders group on Yahoo yesterday.

We enjoyed our stay at the CRYC very much, and got a huge internet fix there. Laundry was still expensive at $1/pound but using the hose on our float I was able to do a small amount of bucket laundry. It was nice to have the opportunity to rinse out salty shoes and hats, but the water pressure was very low so we skipped doing a full boat wash.

Ziggy loved having the extra "real estate" of the float and an unoccupied boat tied up on the opposite side to explore. He became quite adept at catching the small crabs that climbed the mooring lines. We didn't mind him playing with them on deck and then eating them, but we drew the line at him bringing them down below to run around on the cabin sole. He also did the neighbor boat a favor by knocking down an old bird nest which had been tucked under their main sail cover.

Buses to Puntarenas (heading west towards the end of the spit) were inexpensive, frequent, and stopped right outside the CRYC gate. We found decent shopping at the Super Mega and Pali grocery stores, though neither is as nice as the Luperon store in Playas del Coco. John bought a new lightning protection system in the form of jumper cables from a great little auto parts store we found by asking around (who knew "jumper cables" translates to "cawbless de yumper" in Spanish?). There's a very complete pet supply store/vet just down from the Pali, and I bought another 20 lb. bag of Tidy Cat litter because it was almost the same price as in the States. With over 80 lbs. of cat litter now stowed aboard Nakia, I don't think John will let me buy any more - but who wants to run out of cat litter in the middle of nowhere!? I'll feel better about using it all up once we find some in Ecuador.

The only form of street food we saw were takeout empanadas - fried pocket breads with fillings of beans, cheese, potatoes, or meat. We ate too many of the flaky fruit pastries at Musani, PPK (Pan Per Kilo), and another panaderia, and we stocked up on high quality Zaragoza sandwich meats at a nice meat store on the same street. Terry, on Secret o' Life, was in the mood for pizza so we joined him at La Terrazza one night. The Fantasia pizza (bacon, garlic, onion, sweet chilies) was so good that we all returned a few nights later along with Shared Dreams (Frank and Gisela) and Caravan (Gene, Vici, and Fiona). John and Terry had calzones (a small is too small but a large is big enough to have leftovers) which were tasty but needed some marinara sauce on the side. Eight year old Fiona had a huge plate of spaghetti with butter (hold the garlic) and Parmesan cheese. Frank also had a generous plate of spaghetti de carne and I had "lasana de carne" in which I actually detected the nutmeg flavor of a bechamel sauce! It was very cheesy but I was thrilled. La Terrazza was a great find and we would definitely return for more. We also ate at the CRYC where the best deal on the menu is their fish sandwich with fries. Terry says their steaks are excellent but we didn't have time to get to those during this visit.

After topping up our water and fuel tanks we're ready to go, but from the satellite photos it looks like rainy season hasn't ended yet in Ecuador. We've had a little rain (and lightning off in the distance) for the past two nights but we're in no hurry to leave here while the weather is still decent. And although we don't make a practice of buddy boating we may wait for Terry's boat to get out of the yard and back in the water before we start our passage. John estimates it will take us about eight days to get to Ecuador so it wouldn't hurt to have another boat out there in the general vicinity for company.

A big Happy Birthday to one of our loyal readers in Santiago Bay! You know we wish we could be there to help you celebrate!

Linda and John