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On March 1 we pulled into Golfito in Southern Costa Rica. This was to be our last official stop in this country. Here, we would provision for our time in Panama and check out of the country with all of the authorities (Port Captain, Immigration, Customs, etc...) Our first night, we wandered around town by foot and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Golfito is very different than the rest of Costa Rica, which is pretty civilized. Golfito is a little rougher, kind of an out west, cowboy, outlaw feel to it. We never felt unsafe, but it was definitely different. The next several days were spent shopping and stocking up. The kids would work on school, and Mike and Nancy would go out and look for supplies. There is a great cruiser hang out in Golfito. It feels like home. There are several different areas to sit and hang out, a great book exchange, nice showers, a fridge stocked with drinks that you consume on an honor system basis and laundry facilities. There is even a TV in the upstairs sitting room that the kids were glued to. All in all, a very comfortable, fun, and easy place to be. On our 90th day (the maximum allowed) in Costa Rica we were checked out of the country and pulled the anchor. Right before we pulled out, there was a call on the radio that the bakery truck was out front, so in we went. It was a father and son Mennonite team that sell bakery goods out of the back of their truck on Saturdays. We had only a few dollars of Costa Rican money left, so it was perfect, Nancy just kept adding to the pile of yummy treats until all of the money was gone! This kept us in treats for several days.
On the very most southern point of Costa Rica is a famous surf spot called Pavonnes o. This is reputedly the second longest left hand break in the world. Usually boats do not anchor there, and it is a long overland trip to get there, but we thought that we would give it a try in the big boat. The waves were perfect o and the anchorage really was not that bad. We spent several days there and Fletcher was surfing about three times a day. He was all over the place, catching tons of waves o. He was the furthest out surfing with the big boys on the big waves. It was really fun to see him go! We spent four days there before heading out around the point for the islands of Panama. We had a fairly easy overnight passage to the first island, Parida, where we stayed for several days at several different anchorages. It was very peaceful and beautiful. We found some of our best coconuts on the beaches there. There are so many small islands and reefs o that it is a bit nerve wracking moving around in these waters, but with all of us up on deck it was no problem. The time changes in Panama, and we now get up late, eat dinner late, and go to sleep late. Our second night in Panama, we were anchored next to a small boat. We went and talked to the person and he was a single hander from Santa Barbara who has been in Panama about 8 years. He came over for pizza and beer that night and we all had a good time. He was full of information about the area. The beaches on these islands are beautiful white sand. One day, Mike and the kids went in and took the dingy all apart and scrubbed it inside and out o. It took several hours to take it all apart, clean all of the nooks and crannies and then put it back together. While they were gone, after cleaning the inside of the big boat, Nancy ground some peanuts and made fresh peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Everyone said that they should clean the dingy more often!
After a taste of island life, we headed into a mainland anchorage where we could take a taxi into a large town to pick up some batteries that we had ordered a couple of weeks earlier. This is called Boca Chica and is a cute little area that cruisers stay in when they need to go to town to resupply or fly out of Panama. One night we went to dinner at a place on an island across the river and we saw an armadillo and a large, long tailed possum. We really were very excited about this as we have not seen any mammals for a couple of weeks. We got our new batteries and more food supplies and headed back to the boat. It was a long day, but we got a lot accomplished. The store that we ordered the batteries from had brought the wrong ones in for us. They were a little smaller than what we had wanted, but we just hoped that they would satisfy our needs. They gave us a discount since they were the wrong ones, but we would rather have had the right ones. We shall see how it goes. The next day we headed out for more island exploration. It was windy and Mike was sorely tempted to just head out for Ecuador. Nancy had been looking forward to our time out at the islands of Panama for diving and relaxing. We had stocked up on many items that we had heard that the islanders needed and that we could use for trade. This included flour, coffee, sugar, salt, candy for the kids and pencils for school. Originally we had planned on spending about 6 weeks in Panama, but we had changed our plans to shorter so that we would get to Ecuador sooner. Nancy and the kids talked Mike into staying at least a little longer so that we could do some diving and get some things done before we headed out to sea. The next islands that we went to were called the Secas o. The water was so clear here and the diving was great. The second day there, everyone snorkeled and Nancy and Fletcher went for a SCUBA dive o. They saw several white tip reef sharks, eels, rays and lots of fish. It was beautiful. The next day was Easter and we started with gingerbread pancakes after the traditional Easter hunt. We all went for a snorkel and Mike and Dana did a dive. This was the kids first dive since their certification class. Mike somehow has a blown out eardrum (not from diving) and was not doing very well under pressure. We had a nice relaxing day, had a traditional Easter dinner of smoked ham, candied yams, green bean casserole, ate Easter candy, and watched a movie. The next day we went to a sea mount that we had heard about. The diving here was incredible! The water was so clear and there were so many fish! Since Mike was out of commission for diving, Nancy did one dive with Fletcher and after a short time on the surface, did another dive with Dana o. This sea mount was amazing. So many fish, incredible visibility o. Like a site out of a magazine! We were very excited, even Mike who had been watching form the surface as he snorkeled above us and took some pictures. The next day we headed to another spot on the mainland called Bahia Honda. At this spot there is a local farmer who has become a friend to the cruisers. As soon as you arrive, he paddles out in his canoe and offers you whatever he has. We bought some cilantro, small green peppers, bananas, papayas, and watermelon . We had some projects to do before we left for Ecuador. One was a sail repair. We waited for the wind to be calm and then down came the sail and out came the sewing machine. We were checking things off of our list that needed to get done before our crossing of a chunk of the Pacific. Nancy also wanted to get through the kids current testing series so that we would not be trying to do tests while we were underway. Finally, everything was done and we were ready to go. Right before we were leaving, a fellow paddled out to the boat with some carvings that he had done o. We bought one of a turtle. As soon as he left, we pulled the anchor and headed out.
Our first night at sea, we were between Isla Coiba and the mainland. There was a beautiful sunset o and everyone was settling into the routine that we would have for the next 6-10 days. The best that any sailor can hope for is fair winds and following seas. We could not have asked for a better passage. We had good winds for most of the trip, we never hit adverse currents (which we had been worried about) and had a very pleasant passage. Most days, the kids got through a days worth of school work, we ate well at every meal, and the watches went pretty smoothly. Other boats that were in the same vicinity had a lot less winds than us, so we felt very lucky. We were in this small pocket of wind. Boats one degree north and south of us had 3-5 knots and we had 12- 15! Luck? Prayers? We are not sure, but we sure felt blessed for the great conditions. There were some large, rolling swells out there, but it was a pretty smooth ride. The hardest part of the whole thing was lack of sleep for Nancy. For our watch schedule at night, Dana had 8-10, Fletcher 10-12, Mike 12-3 and Nancy 3-8ish. The night watches are nice, it is one of the only times in this lifestyle that you have any time to yourself. It is beautiful, peaceful and quiet. So, what does one do during their night watch? We listened to our i-pods, read books, played solitaire, baked cakes, danced around, did art, looked at the stars, enjoyed the quiet time and munched our way through the hours. During the day it was mostly Mike. While we were at sea, Mike was also working on the generator and electrical systems. We are still not holding a charge, even with our new batteries, and our generator keeps overheating. Not the best combination. As we got closer to the equator, we had to slow down. The way we were going, we would hit the equator in the middle of the night and we wanted to get there in the daytime and have our celebration. When you cross the equator on board a boat, you change from a "pollywog" to a "shellback". We heard all kinds of things that you are supposed to do to celebrate this occasion. One was funny costumes, another weird haircuts, toasts to King Neptune and whatever other kinds of shenanigans that you can think of. We arrived at latitude 00 just before noon o. The seas were flat calm and it was beautiful o. We toasted Neptune with some champagne poured over all of us before jumping in the watero. It was crystal clear and soooo blue. It was a little spooky swimming around out there in the deep blue! After our swim, we all took turns shaving off Mike's beard o. We all had fun and celebrated more with gingerbread for lunch. It was declared King Neptune Day and was a Desiderata school holiday. After our fun, we slowly proceeded to our point of entrance to Ecuador. Again, we had to slow down so that we would arrive at high tide for entrance into the estuary that will be our home for the next six months or so. All in all, we would have made the crossing in 6 days, but since we slowed down for the equator and for the entrance into Bahia, we completed our trip in 7 days. Still, really good for our old, slow boat! We were very pleased with the whole thing. The last hurdle was getting into the bay itself. We really had not heard much about it. There was another boat coming in at the same time. We were both anchored out there waiting for the guide boat to come out at a designated time. We hung our Ecuadorian flag, along with our Q flag (quarantine) o and waited for our guide boat. After lunch, here they came and we were to follow the other boat in. We were going through the waves, waves on both sides and more coming behind us o, when the boat in front of us hit bottom and came to a screeching halt. We needed to turn so that we would not hit them and there was a large swell coming behind us. The one thing that you do not want to do is get sideways to a wave, and we were about to do just that. We could not straighten out or wait for the wave to pass, or else we would hit the boat in front that was stuck on the bottom. There were several moments of tension, but it all worked out just fine. We got past the other boat and straightened out, making it in without any more adventures. We are looking forward to some good nights sleep and to exploring this new country.
Please click to enlarge!
Pavonnes, the fabled surf spot of Fletcher's dreams! Day after day of perfect waves. A beautiful visitor to the boat.
The islands of Panama. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Dingy cleaning 101, Great diving, tons of fish and incredible visibility!
Just before leaving Panama, a local showing us his carvings. Leaving Panama, our first sunset underway, and the kids entertaining themselves while underway.
At the Equator! The celebration for King Neptune. Mike sacrifices his beard to the sea god.
Putting up the Ecuadorian flag and the Q (quarantine) flag. An exciting entrance into Ecuador, waves in front, waves behind, waves under us, coming into the river mouth.
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