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Squall on the way to Boca Chica

July 18, 2014

We awoke to a beautiful morning.  Isla Gomez was deserted and Wanuskewin took their dingy off to explore so we had the place to ourselves.  We took the kayaks over to the island to poke around.  Because it was so calm, we decided to wash the kayaks which had been full of sand from previous adventures.  We would fill them with water, shake them around and then with each of us taking one end, lift them out of the water to clean them out.  They’ve not been so clean since we left Seattle.

Then it was time to pull up anchor.  Melissa managed to do this without incident this time.  Dave is jealous of Wanuskewin’s anchor cleaning system.  Though at this rate Melissa would be sure to break that too if we had one!

We headed off to Boca Chica.  The islands around here are beautiful.

But only minutes after that picture was taken, the sky started to darken.

And a few minutes later it looked like this.

We were in 3 feet of water (below the keel) in a shallow area.  As Wanuskewin draws 1.5 feet more than we do, they were very hesitant to continue through this area in the squall.  They preferred to wait till the tide came up a bit.  Dave was also hesitant because the storm was blowing so hard.  Even though we had our sails down it was still nasty.  So we both dropped anchor to wait out the storm.  Melissa got soaked to the skin putting down the anchor.  Ironic because we were only one mile from our destination.  The an hour later the squall was gone and a pleasure boat came flying past us everyone waving and hollering.  They seemed quite amused to get their picture taken.


That night Melissa made beef stew in the pressure cooker, and we watched the movie Sahara.


Panamanian Navy doth approach

July 17, 2014

Overnight it was quiet.  But in the early dawn hours we were approached by the Panamanian Navy.  Though in a boat just larger than a panga.

They wanted us to go to Puerto Muelles to do our check in paperwork, but we told them we were going to Panama City to do our paperwork.  They seemed ok with this, so long as we switched to flying the Panama flag rather than Costa Rica.  The irony of this is that Mike and Dave had just been discussing that they should switch flags, but since Melissa wasn’t awake yet, Dave isn’t allowed out on deck alone.  But of course when Dave cut the engine when the Navy pulled up along side, she immediately woke up to see what was going on.  She dug through the nav station to find the right flag so Dave could make the switch.

Melissa cooked up chorizo and eggs for breakfast.  The chorizo had been made fresh only a couple of days prior by the meat market we bought provisions from.  By 11am we had reached Isla Gamez and set the anchor.  Dave went down for a couple of hour nap.  We hung out on the boat, and had burgers for dinner.  Melissa having figured that since he drove all night he should be well fed.  Then we were both asleep by 8:30pm!

Melissa breaks the boat

July 16, 2014

This morning we got going early as there was a ton of stuff to get done if we are going to depart for Panama tonight.  We went to the big duty free mall to buy a bunch of cheap liquor.  Then the gals finished the provisioning while the guys did the checkout paperwork.  They had to go to immigration to get our passports stamped (odd but not everyone has to be physically present for this), the bank to pay the exit fees, customs, and then the port captain for the final clearance paperwork to Panama.  We had been hearing bad things on the forums about a corrupt official at the port captain’s office who was requiring a little extra cash to do the paperwork.  And we’d been told by some locals that particular official was just awful.  And we think the gal the guys dealt with was the same one.  But apparently this is another advantage to (1) not dressing in cutoff shorts and stained t-shirts (some of the locals may have been off the grid a bit too long drinking the local beers), (2) traveling in pairs (i.e. with witnesses), and (3) looking like clean cut all American white bread.

We needed to pull up anchor and head for the fuel dock.  So Melissa headed up to the bow to pull in the anchor.  A couple of weeks ago we blew out our normal anchor snubber system and Dave had rigged up a temporary system that involved screwing a bow shackle to the chain with two ropes attached to the cleats.  This means Melissa has to pull up the chain part way till she can reach and unscrew the shackle.  The problem is that the two ropes tend to get wrapped up and stuck in the chain as its pulled up over the bow.  So while she was getting the ropes free she failed to notice that the bow shackle which was still attached went all the way into the windlass (winch that brings up the anchor).  Between the bow shackle and the knots tying the ropes to it, the windlass got miserably jammed.  She immediately realized her mistake and tried to reverse direction on the winch, but to no avail.  The winch was hopelessly jammed tight.  She yelled back to Dave, “Oh no!  I’ve totally screwed up!  Come help me!”  Dave comes forward takes one look and says, “Uh oh”.  We both worked to try to unjam it.  Dave managed to untie the ropes but they were so wedged into the winch that even with the knots undone they wouldn’t come out.  Eventually we heard a loud SNAP!  And the plastic part of the windlass that helps keep the chain in the track had broken clean off.  The only good news is that this left enough space for us to pull the chain back out and remove the shackle.  Now the question is whether we can make the windlass work without the chain protector thingy (technically known as an anchor rode management module).  So Melissa puts on her keens shoes (to protect her toes) and stands on the winch as it pulls the anchor up to keep the chain in place.  And that worked!

(Note: Apparently Melissa shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the windlass because while taking this picture a few days later she managed to lose the bungee cord that holds open the compartment when it slipped through her fingers and went whizzing off into the water.)

As soon as we got to the fuel dock, Melissa powered up her laptop and started looking for the replacement part.  Dave had already told her that our model winch was no longer in production.  So the fear was that we would have to replace the whole winch.  But fortunately one of the Hunter owner forums gave a link to the one place that still has spare parts in the UK, and Melissa was able to get one on order – a mere $125 including shipping.  So we will only have a few weeks of anchoring without the replacement part.  Whew!

Then it was time to say good bye to the sleepy town of Golfito.

As we departed Golfito, Melissa snapped a picture of the US Coast Guard ship that has been at the main dock most of the past week.  It seems odd to see the US Coast Guard here, but presumably they are protecting US ships headed through the Panama Canal.  It sort of made us laugh though because there was a Costa Rica Coast Guard ship parked behind it.  Melissa had taken a picture of it up north while we were at anchor.  This picture shows both boats in scale relative to each other.  Funny to think the US Coast Guard ship is so much more substantial than the local ships.  This isn’t unusual though.  When we traveled through El Salvador and Nicaragua the local Navy (their Coast Guard) would have been jealous of the Costa Rican ships.

As we headed out into the night, Melissa got a picture of Wanuskewin sailing into the sunset.


How many cavitites?

July 15, 2014

Our days here in Golfito have been quiet.  We wake in the morning to sunny hot weather.  Then in the afternoon the rains come.  Yesterday we went to the dentist.  We figured while we are hanging here waiting to check out of the country(officials here aren't available till Tuesday to do our paperwork) we might as well make the most of it.  For $50 USD each we got our teeth cleaned.  The dentist himself did the cleanings.  He gave us the zippiest cleaning we've ever seen - 20 minutes.  But that didn't mean he skimped.  He had modern equipment including one of those ultrasonic cleaners.  He was just super efficient and got 'er done. 

He told Melissa she had 5 cavities.  Melissa had been told by her dentist back home this would happen someday because she has deep crevices in her molars which would give her cavities eventually.  The dentist back home wanted to charge $1500 over what insurance would pay for some type of sealant to prevent the cavities.  But Melissa wouldn't pay that out of pocket.  And, its a virtual certainty these cavities didn't form since her last appointment with him 6 months ago.  Melissa remembers him picking at them after the dental assistant pointed them out.  He just decided not to treat them.  Bad judgment call because what the Costa Rican dentist found when he filled them all today, was that they were deeper than they looked.  Oh fun times with the drill.  Total cost to have them all filled?  $200 USD.  And he did a great job and used modern materials.  You can't even see that there are fillings in those teeth because the amalgam he used matched the color perfectly.  So why on earth would we ever pay for dental insurance in the US ever again?  They don't cover most major procedures, and your co-pay is more than they charge for the whole procedure here in Central America.  Why not spend that $1000 per year on a long weekend trip to Mexico and get the work done dirt cheap - but high quality instead?  National Geographic study says that Mexico is the best place in the world to get dental work done, and now we believe that about Central America generally.  We just picked this particular dentist at random because he happened to be open on Saturday as we walked by and could make appointments for Monday.  Yet super high quality.  Zippy.  Cheap.  What's not to love about that?

As Melissa was walking to the dentist she heard a loud noise above her and looked up across the street to see a waterfall of sparks coming down.  At first she thought maybe someone had lit off a firework.  But closer inspection revealed a giant lizard hanging from the power lines with his claws over the highest wire, and his tail hanging across the lower wire.  The current surely killed him as he wasn’t moving at all, but was now just hanging from the wire his claws frozen in place.

In Costa Rica, the import taxes are super high on everything foreign you buy.  Because Costa Rica doesn’t manufacture large appliances, TV’s, wine, etc. this means buying these types of goods is particularly expensive.  So people in Golfito and other southern parts of Costa Rica took to driving across the border to Panama to go shopping.  We’ve heard that there is a street just over the border that is lined with shops to serve the Costa Rican population.  Costa Rica realized this meant there were dollars that were leaving their economy.  So they created this weird duty-free shopping mall.  Foreigners and locals alike can shop there – albeit with some limits.  You can only go once a month and spend $1000.  And you can’t buy more than 2 cases of beer, plus 2 cases of wine, plus one case of hard liquor.  You have to register with your passport and be given papers where the shops each log your purchases – which you then show as you checkout of the mall.  So we went today and registered, and will return tomorrow to purchase liquor before leaving for Panama as in the north end of Panama places to provision up are somewhat scarce.  Why we can’t register and shop the same day isn’t obvious.

In the evening, we had a pot luck with Wanuskewin and the folks that own the local marina here.  While we were sitting around yapping, we discovered that Tim somehow managed to get his hands on the boom from the boat used in the making of "Captain Ron".  Captain Ron being the bible for all cruisers.  One night in La Paz Mexico the marina manager sent out a hail on the radio because she had planned Captain Ron for movie night but had discovered it was rented out when she arrived at the video store.  She wanted to know if anyone had a copy.  A fight broke out amongst the cruisers as to who was on a dock closest to the office who had the movie onboard their boat.  So for Tim to have a piece of the actual boat used in the movie is super cool.  He uses the beam to hold up the roof of his patio area.


After the pot luck we headed back to Apsaras in the dingy.  The 2.5HP motor that has been problematic recently managed to sputter and die completely half way back to the boat.  Dave got out the oars and started rowing against the strong current as the tide was headed out.  He rowed and rowed.  Melissa volunteered to help and Dave took one oar and Melissa the other.  Not clear whether she actually helped or not.  It took a while before we weren't practically going in circles.  After 15 minutes of rowing like crazy we finally managed to get back to the boat.  The next morning Mike asked why we didn't just holler for help as they would have come and towed us.  Dave said that his backup plan was to just let the current push us towards their boat if we couldn't actually make headway to the boat.  Guess that's our workout for the day.






Whole lotta nothin'

July 13, 2014

We've been hanging at anchor in Golfito for the past two days.  Doing a whole lot of nothing.  Well, we have been working on planning our trip to Lima in October.  Machu Picchu here we come!  Oh, and maybe a trip to the Galapagos too!

Golfito the last Costa Rica stop

July 11, 2014

We awoke to bright sunshine and beautiful clear waters.  We pulled up anchor and headed for Golfito - only a few miles away.  We anchored in Golfito and headed ashore to a tiny cruiser marina called Land and Sea. Its a funky place run by a couple of ex-pat cruisers.  There's a room where you can watch TV, an outdoor workshop area, a BBQ, and a library.  We plan to hang out here for a few days before heading for Panama.

Missed the botanical garden

July 10, 2014

While we were just loving the flat anchorage at Rincon, it was time to move on.  So we sailed over to Casa Orquidea where there is supposed to be a wonderful botanical garden.  Unfortunately, when we arrived the skies opened up and poured on us, preventing us from touring the garden.  Bummer!

Dave falls in

July 9, 2014

For breakfast we headed into the restaurant.  There we met a young grad student who was majoring in aeronautics.  He was here working on a project using an autonomous helicopter he had built to video the local dolphin population to help the scientists here in the bay study them.  He was flying the helicopter off the point near the restaurant.  As you might imagine, Dave and Mike were fascinated and had a long discussion with him about how he had built it and what technologies he was using.

We spent the day reading and swimming.  For dinner we headed into the small single restaurant here in the bay.  Rain was threatening and we debated with Wanuskewin whether to try to beat the rain or wait it out.  We decided to go for it.  Wanuskewin was anchored closer to the dingy landing and managed to get to the restaurant just as the first drops started to fall.  We were not as fortunate.  By the time we got to the landing it was coming down in buckets.  Melissa pulled the umbrella out of her backpack and managed not to get completely drenched.  But Dave couldn't afford to block his line of sight with the umbrella and got wet.  Though not as wet as when he stepped out of the dingy and found the bottom further down than he expected.  Splash.  He fell in.  Now he looks like a drowned rat.  When Melissa offered to share her umbrella on the walk to the restaurant Dave shrugged and gave her the "what would the point be?" look.


July 8, 2014

In the morning Dave dropped Melissa off in town for a much needed haircut.  She's been threatening to have it cut as short as Dave's because of the heat down here, but she just had a couple of inches trimmed off.  After that we headed over to another anchorage called Rincon.  It is by far our favorite thus far in Costa Rica because the water was nice and clear for swimming and it was flat as a pancake making for a good night's sleep!

For dinner we headed into shore.  The restaurant here in the bay is run by a family that lives next door.  Their 7 (?) year old son was there to greet us.  He was covered from head to toe in dirt and leaves and pushing a miniature wheelbarrow.  He rapidly discovered that Mike and Dave were as much kids as he was.  The net result was an evening filled with foosball tournaments.  Mike and Dave took turns playing against the little boy.  As darkness fell the boy insisted that one of them hold the flashlight while the other one played.

And then there was this beggar who kept coming round looking for handouts:


Stupid Pelican

July 7, 2014

We hung out in Puerto Jimenez for the day. 

Around noon we figured we would head in for lunch.  Wanuskewin headed over to us in their dingy.  We piled into ours.  Dave pulled the starter rope on the 2.5 HP outboard engine, and wham!  The handle came right off in his hand.  Sigh.  Mike said, no sweat, they would hang out and wait till Dave repaired it.  Dave took the engine apart.  Twice.  Got it all put back together.  We started her up and headed for shore.  We might have gotten 100 yards before it died.  Dave started it.  It died.  Dave started it.  It died.  Eventually Dave gave up, and (horror!) Wanuskewin towed us back to Apsaras.  We piled into Wanuskewin's dingy and headed to shore.  Dave was not happy.  After lunch, Melissa stayed on shore to do some errands, and Dave went back to the boat to work on the outboard.  A couple of hours later Melissa radioed Dave - he was rebuilding the carburetor for the third time.  Eventually he sent Mike to pick her up.  Dave suspects contaminated gas might actually be the problem.

When we got back from lunch, we found that a big pelican had decided to hang out on the top of our mast.  He was sitting atop the wind indicator and was bending it to the point where it might break.  So Dave started shouting at it, rocking the boat back and forth, and rattling the rigging to try to scare it off.  It could have cared less.  Though eventually it did wander off.

For dinner we headed into the local pizza joint.  It has a really weird name - PizzaMailIt.com.  But its run by an Italian family and was great.  Nice thin crispy crust.  Mmmm.


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