Saturday, January 31, 2009

The rest of the story

Still the 29th of January. We tucked into a deep enough place across the river from the tiny marina and parallel to the bank of mangroves. Knowing that the tide would change in about 2 hours, we also set a stern anchor (45 lb. bruce anchor, for those who care) and tied off to a tree on the bank. The three officials came to inspect our boat and paper work and stamp us into the country. Just after the sun set, we were still dripping with the heat and swatting no-see-ums. Next thing we knew, there was the firm steady tapping of rain which turned into a down pour. We were so relieved for the coolness and the ordeal of trekking up estuary to be finished, we just stood outside and got soaked. We could hear the drippy, buggy, crackling noises from the mangrove forest, smell the freshness of wet leaves, and see lightning off in the distance. This was as good as cruising could get.

This kind of weather called for a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup! As it was simmering, I heard some noises outside and assumed it was wind flapping. A little bit later, more cracking kinds of noises caused Brian to poke his head out of the hatch. All he saw was a tree! The strong current of the changing tide had drug our stern anchor and pushed us firmly into the branches of a tall tree. Our dinghy and upper part of our back stay were both tangled in branches. Brian hacked one branch off with our axe and after a lot of reversing and forwarding at high rpms, a lot of debris on the decks and a few large cracking sounds, we were free in the channel and able to swing away from the bank.

The relief of being free was short lived because we knew that the next tide change was only 5 hours away. So, we set an alarm, re-set the stern anchor, untied ourselves from the tree and tried to sleep until 1am. 1 am rolled around. I woke without an alarm clock and sat outside waiting. Nothing happened for an hour. All of a sudden, I could see the bank again getting closer. Darn! the stern anchor was dragging again. Brian got up and tried to set a third anchor to pull us out into the channel. It caught for a while and then slipped. Soon we were brushing the trees again. We decided to throw off the stern anchor rode (sailor term for a rope attached to an anchor) with a float attached to it. Retrieving the side anchor as quickly as possible, we motored at high rpms out and into our primary anchor. This allowed us enough space to let the tide water turn us around without hitting the bank. Great, 3am and only 5 hours until the next tide. After he retrieved the stern anchor, we decided it would be easier to do without any auxiliary anchors and just swing with the tides. This has been our strategy since then. Seems to be working. Fortunately, the tiny marina has an opening for us and we'll tie up to a dock tomorrow. Much less to think about! Now we can get going on our projects.

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Monday, January 26, 2009


Here´s a link to a picture of the lovely bird I saw two of last week in Matapalo, Costa Rica.  I saw two males trot across the path in front of me.  Very cool.

hi family

hi all.  <i´m sitting in an internet cafe in Golfito.  That´s why you´ll see weird punctuation marks.  please disregard.  I have 3 more hours until the bus leaves to go back to Pavones.  Let´s see, we left Golfito on Saturday despite the fact that our propane tank hadn´t been returned yet.  Brian was getting sick of what he calls the RV Park.  Since he was getting grumpier and grumpier and I was getting more and more business sewing sails and canvas for other cruisers, we headed 3 hours down the coast to Pavones.  Pavones is a well known surf destination and there´s a safe place to anchor.  We have escaped the RV Park mentality of sitting around discussing where you´ve been and not going anywhere and doing anything. 

This allowed us to traipse around a small small town, find a coconut on a beach, play in a river with cool water under green jungle trees, and play a game of checkers (I won) and see free ranging horses drinking ocean water (no kidding, i´ll  post the picture).  And most relieving of all, for Brian, he got to surf. 

However, I had to ride 2 hours on a jarring yellow school bus, get off, get on to a metal, rusty ferry, cross a river (only cost 10 cents) and get on to a different jarring yellow school bus for 30 more minutes.  After all that, I arrived in Golfito to discover that the propane truck didn´t come at all last week and so our tank is still empty.  GRRRR.  I guess we´ll be barbecuing a lot.

Tomorrow, we head for some Panamanian islands.  Allegedly some of the best cruising there is.  We´ll let you know.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Costa Rica Pictures

1. Megan and Brooke in the hot springs below Volcano Arenal in the Cjosta Rica mountains
2. Megan and Matt being silly
3. Crab on log in Bahia Santa Elena, North Costa Rica

Drake's Bay, Costa Rica

Today was a special day of discovery after pulling in to Drake’s Bay, Costa Rica on the Oso Peninsula. Our cruising guides briefly mentioned a lagoon where we could land our dinghy. We anchored after a 30 hour mostly motor ride and ate lunch and were off to find a place to hike. While anchoring, we noticed a high pitched buzzing coming from shore. We motored in to the lagoon and saw small pangas and tour boats moored in front of 3 small docks. The high pitched buzzing was much louder and coming from the trees, we realized. We passed this area and made a left turn up the lagoon . There were only a couple of pangas motoring around and we already felt like we’d accidentally turned up Disneyland’s Jungle Ride. Green Green Green all down to the edges of the lagoon. Vine-covered trees reached their roots down the volcanic rocks lining the water and we were craning our necks to see the tops. The next right turn brought us under a rope and cable bridge slung low across the water. It was a pretty instantaneous decision to find a nook in the rocks, pull the dinghy up into it and start exploring the land on the other side of the bridge. The trail led up and past some remote jungle cabins that as yet have no electricity. The cicadas making the furious singing in the trees (we learned from a fellow hiker, that’s what they were) varied in intensity depending on the thickness of the huge branches overhead.

We felt like we were walking in a jungle paradise. Sweet perfumes from white flowering trees mingled with the moist smell of earth. Broad leafed plants stood between towering, fat trunks traced with vines. Other vines, thicker than my upper arm, twisted down to the ground from the highest branches. Hibiscus bushes with apricot or cherry-colored flowers interspersed with other lower shrubs with variegated leaves. All of this along a path that occasionally opened onto narrow palm-lined beaches broken up by volcanic rock formations and fresh water creeks trickling into the surf. Never once did the cicadas cease, only varying in intensity and tone.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


We left Bahia Santa Elena this morning and sailed west to Punta Santa Elena, made an almost 180 degree U-turn south around that cape and sailed close to the southern side of it and north of the Bat Island chain. After weaving between a couple of islands we pulled in to Bahia Potrero Grande. This is a very remote part of one of Costa Ricas National Parks. You surfers may not even recognize that this bay, home of consistently strong off shore winds, egg-laying sea turtles and mangroves is otherwise known as "Ollie's". You non-surfers will be surprised to hear that after 3 days of seeing NO one in Bahia Santa Elena, as we pulled into this bay, approaching the Ollie's surf break, Brian pulled out the binoculars, "I see 3, no 4... 5....7...8 surf charter boats" At a full capacity of 5 surfers each, we estimated up to 40 surfers would be on the water. Two more charter boats zipped in to the bay while we anchored.

It didn't matter. Brian has been so frustrated that this sailboat, with potential to access remote surf spots, has been the very thing keeping him from surfing. Whether it's boat repairs, the fact that anchoring in safe places often keeps us from access to surf breaks, or just the slow travel of sailing keeping us from getting to the right place at the right time...Brian has realized that the ideal of being a "surfer/sailor" is not as beautiful as it sounds. So, the closer we got to Ollie's, the more ready Brian was to hop off of Nomad onto his board and start paddling. He even had his surf trunks and rash guard on before we anchored. His Eric Rausch custom fish was unpacked and waxed before the anchor was set. Finally a good surf/sailboat location. And there's even a really great swell at 17 seconds pushing through. Despite the fact that the wave looks like Santa Cruz's Cowell's Beach on a sunny afternoon, we know that every one of these people has an itchy Costa Rican boat captain eager to leave this afternoon before dark to head them the 20 odd miles back to the hotels and bars of Playa de Coco. Not us. Brian will have the waves to himself soon enough and then first thing in the morning before the charter boats return to disgorge more eager surfers.

I also like this place. There's a neat looking beach waiting for me to explore. I'm close to Brian and can watch him wait in the surf line up (if I was really that bored and had nothing else to do). I know that if an emergency happened he'd be able to paddle over to me in plenty of time. AND there's no rocking an rolling. The steady off shore wind keeps the boat lined up nicely with the waves.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hi from Bahia Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Merry Christmas and a very wonderful New Year to all of our friends!
Our very best thing about Christmas away from Santa Cruz was my brother, Matt, and his wife coming to visit us. Despite some really lame treatment by Mexicana Airlines (avoid them if at all possible!!) and not getting their luggage until 10pm the night before they returned home, we had a great time. We snorkeled in the area of Playa de Coco and went running on the beach together and ate yummy food and had lots of good talks. Matt, Brooke and I went up to the mountains to some hot springs and spent a lot of time on the very personality-filled public transportation. Good times to talk and see the scenery.

It's amazing how much we miss conversations with friends. It was very refreshing to have friends (aka family) on the boat with us.

With the new year already here we are acutely aware of how little time we have left before we leave the Americas. We've decided to leave from Panama the 3rd week in February and arrive in the Galapagos Islands a week later. That's only 7 WEEKS AWAY! Although we have the inevitable list of things to do (fill the boat to the brim with food, buy a new outboard engine, take the mast down to run new wires to the light at the top, finish some sewing and repair projects, get charts for the south pacific islands, etc.) we are very grateful that the major projects have already been done over the last few years. We're also grateful for a year of practice on Nomad. We know her better, know each other better as sailing partners, and have made a few mistakes that were good to learn from. We're as ready as we could be.

Brian and Megan