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Monday, June 08, 2009

Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

Here we are back in cool, grey Bahia again, but this time we elected to stay on a mooring at Saiananda instead of at Puerto Amistad. There's been little progress on the bridge over the Rio Chone, and boats are being allowed up river to Saiananda this year so we thought we'd take advantage of our brief detour to stay in this more remote setting. I had no idea the difference between the two places would be so significant! Life on the boat is peaceful and tranquil with none of the rolling from tidal changes, fishing boats, or ferry wakes, and with only eight moorings (bow and stern, all in one row) there's no jockeying for position or swinging at anchor. We never notice anything but the snapping shrimp through the hull and the gentle slapping of a little wind chop in the afternoons. There is the occasional rumble of a truck or bus on the nearby road but it's nothing like the traffic and accumulated noise of the city. And while the bridge pile driver isn't running 24/7 at the moment, when it does start up we can hear it carry all the way up to Saiananda, and we thank our lucky stars we aren't anchored right next to it at Amistad.

We had an uneventful crossing of the river bar at the entrance to Bahia, though it's always tense when you start to see depths of 8' and no visibility at all through murky water. We had barely dropped the anchor in front of the Port Captain's office when we were boarded by a "health inspector," complete with a surgical face mask, who checked us out for swine flu ($5). This entailed nothing but a brief interview, and then the rest of the welcoming committee (Immigration - $20, though the receipt says $15, Customs, Port Captain's office - $35, and Navy; also $5 for the panga to bring them to Nakia, which the Navy used to provide for free; plus $60 for the round trip taxi fare to bring the Immigration and Customs officials from Manta, a trip we used to be able to make ourselves) squeezed into Nakia's tiny cabin. We literally had no time to get fenders over the side, or change into our "meet and greet officials" outfits (we were still in our slightly grungy underway clothes), and it was a bit overwhelming having everyone asking for papers and firing questions in Spanish all at once. But it was late in the day and they were all anxious to get it over with so they could go home, and once they had what they needed we were underway again for the short trip up river to Saiananda. Dave, from Revenir, met us in his dinghy and picked up the mooring line for us. All I had to do was reach down, pull it through the hawse pipe, and put the loop over the bits on the samson post (how nautical does that sound!?).

Right away the next day John got to work on all the minor boat projects he had thought of during the passage. During our stay here he disassembled the Cape Horn wind vane (self-steering) to clean and adjust it, moved the AIS antenna to get it out of the way of the wind vane, went up the mast to inspect the rig, changed the engine oil, fixed a small tear in the main sail and reinforced the most vulnerable area (near the reef points), disassembled the dinghy to clean and patch it, and even sewed the soles of my old Tevas which won't hold together with rubber cement anymore. I stood by to assist for some of the projects, did my usual household chores and the shopping, washed the boat, scrubbed the green waterline and the black tire marks left on the hull by the welcoming panga, polished a little stainless, and defrosted the fridge.

When we took the bus into Bahia (.35 for the two of us and about a 20 minute ride to town from Saiananda) we noticed that the town seems to be doing well. The gas station is under new ownership with bright new signage, both Columbiu's and Cafe Gal have new signs, there's a new Chinese restaurant called Chifa Canton, and the park out in front of Coco Bongo is being spruced up with new walk ways, grass, and curbs. Above the town up on the hill by the Cross is a large new tower reminiscent of a lighthouse which is a new cell tower for Movistar phone service. At Puerto Amistad there's a new, round, thatched palapa in the garden with a nicely finished concrete counter lining the inside and plenty of electrical outlets for a new wireless computing area. The table we were using in the bar gets pretty crowded and is in the way of bar traffic so this will be a nice addition for the cruisers staying at PA.

In local news (for all our cruiser friends out there): Suzy was held up at gunpoint on a bus in Guayaquil. It was a city bus full of University students, at 9:30 PM, she was with a male friend, and fortunately no one was hurt. But they got her purse with all her ID, cell phone, and cash so she had to spend days going back and forth between Manta and Portoviejo redoing her papers. She also told us that Hotel Bambu in Canoa was robbed by people who came and left by boat. Gary has Archie's Way up on the "haul out" beach and is doing lots of work to get it ready to sail again; he hasn't developed the property he cleared on the waterfront. Dan is renting an apartment and has bought ocean view property above the malecon. He's continuing his Spanish lessons with Ampara. ;-)

Here at Saiananda, Michael and Suzanne of Namaste are volunteering at Alfredo's school. They are teaching English to 8th and 9th graders, two classes, three mornings a week. Our hats are off to them for tackling this huge commitment! We on the other hand (now that most of the boat chores are complete) are selfishly kicking back and enjoying the sights and sounds of Saiananda: peacocks, macaws, assorted parrots, pigeons, chickens, pheasant, small birds, geese, turtles, huge wild iguanas, dogs, a cat, a donkey, horses, and goats round out this miniature farm. Alfredo breeds birds, fish, and animals, and grows plants and cacti, for sale to earn money to support his school (which is free for the children attending). Each year as the original class of children grows he adds another grade to the school so they can continue their education. He recently held a weekend seminar here for one of the grades, and they seemed to be having a wonderful time. I happily collect our kitchen refuse to feed my favorite, Shanti the donkey, and I use Ziggy's hated curry comb to brush anything that will let me (mostly the four dogs and the cat, but once the ram seemed to enjoy it!). There's a two month old filly to cajole (the horses were rescued from an abusive situation so they're extremely people shy), and one morning I went ashore early to discover the ewe had recently give birth to her adorable wobbly baby. After mentioning it to staff, I appear to have been the first one to notice it!

Last week we had a nice overnight getaway on the Canoa side of the river, visiting our friends from M/V Illahee at their gorgeous "mansion," Casa Mora. At least that's what we call it because it's painted a deep pink like blackberry juice (and it sounds more dignified than "the pink house"). We had lunch in Canoa, walked the beach, played with their Siamese, Wayne took John to the lumber yard, and Cher fed us homemade lasagna to die for. It's always nice to have a vacation from our "vacation," and it was great to catch up with friends we first met way back in '96.

We are happy to have had the break in our trip, but we are looking forward to resuming our passage to the Galapagos early this Thursday. Ideally it's a five day trip, but we're planning on 7-10 days to set our expectations low.

Apologies for playing the role of proud Auntie, but here's a photo of my niece, 2009 Pendleton Round Up Princess Mackenzie Beard, at the Rose Parade in Portland, Oregon:


Oh, and check out this web site (click on the Activities link) for a nice photo of Nakia in Bahia last year:


Linda and John