Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Its time to leave Pedregal

A week is more than we can tolerate of this anchorage; infested with bugs and way too hot to close the hatches to keep them out of the boat. Although even then they manage to find their way in. No see-ums, mosquitoes and the new one tonight.. flying roaches!! We provisioned today, enough to survive for maybe a month. We will be island hopping and maybe out of touch for a while. Tomorrow, along with our friends from Ganymede we will be sailing away with the high tide out through the mangroves all the way to Boca Chica. It will take us 2 days given that we can only sail with high tide and it would take 2 cycles to cover the distance.

A day of hiking

Sunday morning, after breakfast, found a bus that would take us to a place called “Bajo Mono” where we were about to embark in a 3 hour hike to a waterfall. The truth is that it may not usually take 3 hours, but less and that it may not have taken us 3 hours, but more. We must go at the weakest link speed…hehe. Trini! Hurry up! The trails are called “Los Senderos del Quetzal” We didn’t see the quetzal, but what a fun and beautiful walk! The first point of interest was the housing of the local Indians “Gnobe-Bugle”, with their colorful dresses hanging on the clothes lines. Then were the obstacles; logs acting as bridges to cross the river, bridges barely wider than a foot with only one side barrier, mud, cliffs and rocks, There was also nature; the green, the bugs, the flowers, the hanging vanes and there was THE WATERFALL! What a pay off to the effort and the patience of the kids. Putting up with the “we are almost there” “we are almost there” when we were still not there requires patience. There was one point when Trini said to me “Mom, we should go back, this is not the day to do this” “I think we have seen enough; we have seen bugs, flowers, water, mud.. we have seen it all!” My response was always “we are still missing the best part” Anyway, talking, singing, complaining, crying, looking at bugs, taking pictures, playing follow me the leader games and eating cookies and chocolate, WE MADE IT! Just to add a little bit more excitement to our expedition, it started to rain, rain hard. Matt took his pocket knife out and cut three perfect umbrellas. Samantha was in heaven using big leaves as umbrellas were a big innovation; she is all up for that! Trini didn’t last long with hers before getting tired of it so she and I shared the real, Chinese umbrellas I carried in my backpack. We were now back, at the starting point, and the bus is there just in time to take us back to Boquete.

I realized our adventure was not over when the bus at full capacity (12 including the driver) stops to pick more passengers and more and more. We ended up being 25!. Matt, the girls and I are cramped all the way in the back with another man. Not as bad as the man sitting in between the two overweight ladies and their packages We manage to end the ride all the way back to town in the bus with very little air and with a very small desire to breathe. I was so proud of my family!

Nothing beats the feeling of a Hostal

I just love being in the middle of where things are happening; the French come in with their groceries straight to the kitchen, the Argentinean checks his jewelry stand that has traveled with him for the last 6 months providing him enough to go onto his next destination; Mexico. The Australian helps in the front desk with the Americans who just arrive, the Chilean (me) observes, the others, that I could not identify, check their email or Facebook accounts. It is the United Nations in the relaxed form. We are all in here with the same objective; explore!

Mamallena was a comfortable hostal right in front of the plaza where we were able to get a clean room with 2 queen size beds and a private bathroom with HOT WATER!! What a treat and for a reasonable price of $27. The house was roomy, with several open areas including the kitchen, the back yard with the hammock, the BBQ, a library, the TV room, the front room with computers and internet and a living room where we shared a bottle of wine with a fresh baguette from the local market, salami, cheeses, olives and a game of UNO with the girls. The place also included a delicious pancake breakfast and coffee in the morning. The kids loved it!

A trip to the mountain

Backpacks are full and loaded in Ganymede’s dinghy. Ben volunteered to take us ashore so we can go explore a little more of Panama. A few steps in the heat and we are now at the bus stop to catch the local bus to downtown. The girls love this part! The buses are minivans and the driving is, normally, civilized in comparison with the other countries they have been in along this trip. Today was a little more on the edge, but still tolerable. We got even lucky with a Jehovah’s Witness lady riding along who shared her good words. It amazes me how they can talk without getting nervous or sound incoherent. If it was me I would probably get whistled out of the bus for annoying. She didn’t. She did great! I even found inspiration in her speech! We got off the bus at the bus terminal where we found the school bus that would take us to Boquete for only 2.90 for all of us!! Wow! Panama is cheap! In the bus, I am excited to enjoy the view, play games with the kids and relax.

I just happened to sit right behind a friendly Panamanian who decided we were in need of help and he was the right person to offer it. Well… by the end of the bus ride he had a whole plan and I didn’t have the guts to turn him down. First, he took us to his mother’s house where he wanted us to spend the night, but we did manage to politely decline, he showered us with presents; crafts, flags, newspapers, pictures of him. He gave us a couple of necklaces made by the Kuna Indians in the San Blas islands that are supposed to protect us from “mal de ojos”, literally translates as “the evil of the eyes”. In other words, it will protect us from any bad wishes, envy and jealousy. However, he then charged us $20 for them… ok, we couldn’t back off the deal, I guess we can spare that money despite our priorities. We invited them for ice cream and later took our friend to lunch as a token of appreciation. Although, I was starting to regret I spoke such a good Spanish that made him so comfortable with us. Right after lunch he had to catch a bus so he left us!... Now we can relax a little, but wait.. he forgot something… oh nooo!! He has more presents… typical Indian dresses for the girls, little purses, and a few bracelets. He then says; just give me $50 for it. At that point… Matt was annoyed, we explained to him that we didn’t need those things, he shouldn’t have taken the liberty to just make purchases for us. He then says, ok just give me $30. Oh well! lesson learned.. if a stranger comes and gives you flowers… ruuuuuunn!!

Walking the streets of David

Matt, wanted us to leave him alone to do work on the boat… fine!!! We went alone to adventure through the streets of David in search of something special, cultural, historical something to store in our memories and stories repertoire. It is hot and humid.. we are not even half a block away from the marina and the kids are complaining. I could sympathize with their discomfort, but if I responded with what they would like me to respond, we will likely be stuck at the boat most of the time and this trip would be purposeless. I also like to justify the torture I give them with the growth they get with the simple interaction with the locals; people and their ways of living. At the end of the day, they always feel as if they have discovered something. My main accomplishment was to take them to the oldest part of the Chiriqui Provence where a few houses and a church tower remains. It was not too impressive, but it could have been... I live according to my motto “Don’t miss your chance to see something or meet someone new every day”

Today, their big discovery was the shaved ice for a quarter!! They were delicious! In a plaza, outside the elementary school stood “El Tata”; a man in his bicycle cart shaving ice for the kids that were about to get out of class. We ordered right in time, the bell rang and the kids run to him extending their arms with their quarters trying to get their order; Strawberry, mint, grape or pineapple, condensed milk on top. Samantha was impressed with the success of his business even Trini quoted: “He will be rich someday!”

As we are walking back to downtown, I meet Mr. Armando; a young man in his 70s. Who for some reason said to be touched by us. He was a kind man, he said he was a surgeon taking a vacation in David, his place of origin, he seemed honest, he assured me that next year he was going to Chile on vacation and he would like to take me… wow! He was a sweet man, but at that point I felt I better move on!...hehe.

Our day in town ended after treating ourselves to some fresh bread and a taxi ride back to Pedregal.

We stood at the dock hoping for Matt to see us from the boat anchored in front, but on the other side of the river. We waved, we yelled, we dance and nothing, except we did call the attention of some workers in the marina who then started whistling to help us, they succeeded!. Matt picked us up.

Its time for dinner and I planned to make spaghettis, some of the worse dishes to make in the heat. The boat turns into a sauna, but it was worth it. Samantha had seconds. After dinner the girls from Ganymede came over and watched a movie with our girls, they had cookies and milk.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In Search of our Friends; Ganymede.

A power boat anchored beside us saw Ganymede come and go. They left yesterday at high tide to Boca Chica, We are in Boca Chica and Ganymede is not anchored where all the other boats are. Matt suggested going up the river a little further… There they were! We see them. We put the motor in full thrudle and went, the girls are excited, we are excited we are almost at the point of singing larai-larai-la la… when we hear a loud whistle.. OH NOOO!! Matt maneuvers quickly, the boat is turned as fast as possible and the verbal manifestation of having been terribly scared came out of my sweet husband’s mouth. Right there no more than 2 yards away were the electric cables crossing our path. We don’t know for sure if we would have made it under and across or with it and a RIP cross.. Some local fishermen told us that we could, so we tried again. Again we had to turn around. We will try again tomorrow. Now the whistle was not for the cable as we found out, but for a rock straight ahead of us. Cable or rock, the boat would have been toasted!

We are now anchored where everyone else is anchored and Ganymede is up the river. Matt got in the dinghy and went to see them. We were surprised! Very surprised to hear his statement “if I knew there was going to be another sailing passage like the one the night we left, I quit! Ben, his wife Danielle and her 3 daughters (all under 6) are full time sailors, fully committed and purist, they build their own boat, the travel with the bare minimum equipment, they write articles for sailing magazines, they are hard core sailors ( In my opinion). This whole time I was thinking he would put up with any sailing conditions and returning to the point of origin due to fear was a complete no-no for them, but the truth is that he tried to turn around, but his motor could not handle it. The thought of calling a Mayday crossed his mind, but he realized that no one could have help fast enough before their boat would run into the rocks. He needed to stay focus and rely only in his ability. I feel for them as I did for us that night. It was a gale of 40 knots of wind and heavy rain that would make anyone wonder if sailing is so great after all. We all hated it that night!

Waking up in Isla Parida

I hear Matt get up, put the water in the stove, open the jar of Nescafe, drops one teaspoon in a cup, 1 teaspoon of sugar and then fill the cup with boiling water. The aroma spreads quickly all over the boat. I rolled over and commenced to picture myself getting up and having one of those. It usually takes me a while to go from the picturing it to the doing it, but today, I was excited, I wanted it to see the place where we had dropped the anchorage last night. An island! An island in Panama!... The thought of an island is illusive; I had the illusion that I look a few pounds thinner, totally fit and gorgeous, the same feeling I get when being into the cobalt blue or turquoise green beaches that I may have described before. Despite the reality crashing onto me, it was beautiful!

We are in Panama!

Successful and meorable were these 14 hours of beautiful sailing; whales, turtles and dolphins, good food, good games and the crossing to a new country. Now we are anchored in one of the many islands in the Pacific Coast of Panama. Our friends from Ganymede are not here? Where are they?

Leaving Golfito Again

It’s almost 10 AM we are sailing the last little of bit of Costa Rica… for the second time. We did this the night before yesterday, in fact we were in Panama, but the wind, the rain and the swell made it impossible to continue. We were more than half way, with the conditions looking worse every minute, the wind has reached gale force (40 knots), it is frightening. Matt considered that the safest course was 180 degrees back to where we came from. He stayed out in the cockpit watching and imagining the worse case scenarios and the best possible escapes, tethered onto the boat, wearing full weather gear, but getting soak anyway and fighting his exhaustion. The girls were sleeping in apparent peace and I… I was praying. I managed to fall asleep, but only to be awaken a few minutes later by the plates, the cups and the books flying out of the covers and by a wave that splashed down the galley vent and by Trinidad who thinks we should be laying down together and by Sami complaining that there is a drip of water over her head. I was extremely queasy. My thoughts were those of desperation; I want out! I want out right now! I want a helicopter to come get me! I want to push the button to stop the show!, %$#%@^##! Matt told me we should be there in about 2 hours, those were one of the longest 2 hours we have had in this trip. What a difference! Once we made it back into Golfito, the rain and wind continued, but the water was calm. We had a good sleep then. Now, where is Ganymede? They most likely put up with the conditions and made it all the way, we had no way to communicate with each other, they carry a turned off VHF radio, only for their emergencies.

The big issue was that we were officially illegal in the country, we checked out the day we left and therefore we were not supposed to be there. I imagine that under the circumstances they would understand, but we were not about to check, we just had to sneak into the Bay, anchor and remain in the boat the whole day we were there. We didn’t make a lot of noise or wake; we just caught up on our sleep and tried to decide when to try again; with the afternoon high tide (Friday the 13th???), to sail overnight or with the morning high tide, to sail during the day. I voted for day! We certainly don’t want to ever experience those conditions again.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Finally! We are here! I like it! The anchorage is perfect! Mirror like water! It’s green! No bugs! Our friends from Ganymede are here, we are reunited after 2 months of crossing each other and almost the lost hope of a reencounter. As we entered the channel we get a call from them announcing the birthday of their boat and extending an invitation to have cake at the club house of the Cruisers Lodge. Soon Ben and his girls are over to get Samantha and Trinidad. That was joy; for them to see one another and for us to see the girls’ faces.
There are several places to anchor, moor or dock the boats, but we followed the recommendations of our guidebook. We anchor and use and enjoy the amenities of “The Cruises Lodge” The place was built by an American couple who have done an amzing job at giving it character and practicality. For $6 a day we could use the dingy dock, the shower, browse through a nice library, watch cable tv, use wi-fi and have free Costa Rican coffee, although, I never made it early enough to have a full cup.

My favorite part of this place were the walls.. What and awesome idea! All boats have left their mark for which they supply the paint and tools. I made sure we left a good one of Endurance. If you are ever there, you wont be able to miss it.
We have checked out and must go today! We’ll be back sometime before Yacht Path leaves… it could be a 1 or 2 months!

Dealing with Formalities

  It was over a month that we spent in Puntarenas. We desperately needed…wanted to get out, move on!, but we were trapped with the dilemma of what to do regarding our immigration status, the boat status and Matt recovery. The tourist visas for Costa Rica are given for 90 days, on that day or before one must leave the country for over 72 hours, not a big deal when Nicaragua or Panama are easily accessible. The boat, on the other hand, is give 90 days, but it must remain out of the country 90 days before re-entering. BIG DEAL! On August 15th our documents expire, but we must ship the boat out of Costa Rica on September 15th. Our options were the following, as we were able to find out:
  •   Mechanical problems; a mechanic must issue a letter, then this must be certified by a lawyer and presented to Customs. Customs then will require you to put the boat in Bond. It means that the vessel will have to stay in a marina and we would not be able to move it without proper authorization… then we are really stuck and paying marina fees. The marina manager in Puntarenas offered to do all this for us, but he asked us to wait until the last minute. We were getting really nervous, so further our research.
  • Suspend the boat permit travel out of the country and then comeback and use what is left of it. That meant for us to leave Puntarenas immediately, sail to Golfito, check out 5 days before the time expired, head to Panama and stay in Panama until 5 days before we have to ship the boat.

Drake’s Bay

Visiting a bay like this one makes up for all those down moments in our cruising voyage. What an amazing place! The contrast of colors is outstanding; black volcanic rock, green trees, pink, red, white and yellow flowers, grey sky, yellow birds. The sounds are invigorating; macaws, toucans, craws, waterfalls, river rapids, frogs. The strong fragrance of Jasmine covers the bay!

Its been said that the famous privateer; Sir Frances Drake’s ship, supposedly, anchored here over 400 years ago with a pirated cargo of gold worth $140,000,000 in today’s currency. So, shovel on the shoulders; we get on the dingy and entered the beautiful river mouth of Drake’s river, almost hidden from the bay. We motored all the way to where the rapids ended and let the currents takes us back out. Later we walked through the hanging bridge and up the muddy trails, but the sun was setting and we did not want to adventure in the dark. Instead, we visited a mystical hotel spa where we had a juices and a couple of margaritas, while watching the white cappuccin monkeys run back and forth on the tin roof.

Good bye Puntarenas

“Put her to the rudder!” yells Matt, that means leave Puntarenas. A “panga” from the yacht club leads us out the shallow, 2 mile estuary to open water, sails are hoisted and along we go at a cool 5.5 knots.

Four hours latter we drop the hook in Heradura, Great! Another rolly anchorage, we were forewarned by friends and our guide book so we slept as best we could and headed the next morning to Punta Uvita, where we actually had a decent nights sleep. Excited to unload the dingy in the morning and explore the beach we were halted by the Costa Rican Coast Guard informing us we anchored in a marine national park. Up comes the anchor and four hours later we are in Drakes Bay.

My view of Puntarenas

It used to be that Puntarenas was “The Place”; a couple hotels, the Marina Yacht Club, the vacation homes of the affluent people of San Jose, the main port, the most accessible beach in the Pacific of Costa Rica. Some people remember this place with an incredible amount of nostalgia. Today, the roads have opened to visit much better beaches conveniently and comfortably and the port has been moved to Caldera; a town near. Puntarenas lost its sources of income and over the years it has become what it is today…

My sister-in-law puts it the right way, the prettiest view of it is from the rear view mirror as you are heading out…poor Puntaarenas! It really needs help. The town is messy, the streets are dirty; trash is piled up in the streets, the sidewalks are all broken, it smells. The stores are cluttered with Chinese shoes, Chinese clothing, Chinese brand name imitations and Chinese toys. Some stores I had to check twice to see if what I was looking was a thrifty item or a new one, the front houses are barred, a lot of people walking around with deformations, retardation or clearly on drugs. Not a very sophisticated place to come for vacations, we didn’t have a choice. Fortunately, the Yatch Club was nice, we spent hours by the pool and restaurant area

In spite of the looks and feel of the place, we did meet kind and helpful people such as the bicycle shop owner where I bought my backpack. The girls got a great impression of him when he shared with them his stack of chocolate. A Taiwanese lady, restaurant owner, who after hearing what we were doing gave me money back saying the juices are on me!!!, most of the marina personnel. We also had the opportunity to meet a wonderful Family; The Pacheco’s who had an 8 year old girl; Sofia. Samantha, Trinidad and Sofia played, ate, swam and talked for hours. They had a blast! I was able to play a few matches of backgammon with her dad on which I was defeated. I got to know the family; I hope we see them again, maybe in our way to the airport in San Jose.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Time to reconsider

Another rainy night in Puntarenas, Matt was still recovering, but in pain, the boat is still out of the water and we are letting another 30 dollars go for a room with one and a half bed, bad lighting, cold, grey. The moods are fragile, the air is heavy, its hard to breath, it is hard to think, I feel my brain spinning, my heart sinking, my spirit breaking! We are at a point of change, we have to change the plans, the route, the diet, the attitude or something must change. We are going south! Literally and figuratively speaking… Matt walked out of the room, he returns and as if lighting strikes he announces “We are shipping the boat back to Mexico”… I feel a blow of fresh air! A decision has been made, we are committing with something already known, we will go back to La Paz and sail what is left to see of the Sea of Cortez. My heart aches with feelings of disappointment, I was really looking forward to crossing the Panama Canal, explore the San Blas Islands and Bocas del Toro in Panama, but at the same time I don’t want to push against reality and reason.


• I have to be back in the US no later then December 15th to retain my residence status.

• The best time to sail back to the US is in November, no earlier due to hurricane season. We will need more than a month to take it back to Texas. (Where we had planned to take it)

• Bringing the boat to San Carlos in the Sea of Cortez is the closest point to our house in the US.

• The Sea of Cortez has so much to offer, It is a sailors paradise!

• The rolly anchorages and rain make the water muddy and un swimmable, because you never know where the crocodiles are, not to mention the unstoppable mildew.

• The money… is not growing on trees? Although I am still searching and Matt continues to looks under our saloon cushions for coins.


• Sailing across Panama will put us in a completely new adventure… I am adventured out… well… not really.. Its just a consolation!

• We don’t have the time to sail at the right time comfortably and peacefully up the Caribbean.

• It will be easier to take care and manage the boat affairs if it is in San Carlos. In Texas we will expose her to hurricanes and oil spills. In Texas we will probably see her very little.

• I do want to see the Sea and sell sea shells…with Sally sailing.. haha. I want to explore it and maybe run into our friends who found refuge there this season.

• I want to be in a drier climate, I want my hair to be straight… (did I say that loud? How vain!) and I want to stop this acne that I am experiencing in this weather… or is it a late manifestation of adolescence? I want my clothes to stop smelling like my great aunt’s closet. I want the books, the wood, the clothing, the bags, the food and who knows what else to STOP GROWING MILDEW!!

 Sooo, YachtPath is scheduled to take our boat to La Paz, Mexico on September 15th, we will sail to Golfito where the boat must be loaded, we will try to get an extension from Customs officials to wait until then (our visas and permits expire on August the 19th). We will fly to Cabo San Lucas, take a bus to La Paz and just wait there until November to sail up the sea, in the mean time we will stuff ourselves with, La Paz’s bacon wrapped hotdogs, ice creams at La Fuente, Tostilocos, tostielotes… etc, etc, etc.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trip to Sarchi

Darn! Darn! I should have taken the long way!, I tell myself as I start to feel in trouble. The girls and I are standing on the freeway, trying to flag a bus down to get back to Puntarenas, after an exploratory trip to a different town, many of them have gone by with no intention to stop, it has been 1 hour and the rain is getting stronger, we have two flimsy umbrellas, the girls are sharing one and I am sharing mine with a local lady about 3 times my size who was also waiting for the same bus. The umbrella was enough to cover half of her and my backpack with my camera in it. It’s getting dark and I am truly worried, 30 more minutes of it and I would have dropped a thousand tears.

This all happened after visiting the town of Sarchi; where they elaborate the famous Costa Rican Oxcarts, carts that were used to transport the coffee in the old days and today is used to rip off the tourists. I was told it was easy to get to.. (easy my a…rm!!) and worth the visit. I must have done something wrong because it was a 4 bus ride to it, not that easy in my standards, and once there I found very little to see, except a giant oxcart in the middle of town. After our unsuccessful search for excitement, we were at the bus stop to take the first bus home when someone made the suggestion to go directly to the freeway in a taxi and catch the bus to Puntarenas directly. What a deal! I was saving time and money… WRONG!!