Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Isla Cebaco & Playa Benao

We left Bahia Honda for Isla Catalina and ended up at Isla Cebaco instead.  Once again, the wind piped up preventing us from heading northbound to Isla Catalina.  We decided not to fight it and headed to Isla Cebaco.  I'm glad we did because we ran into a great family on SV Windrose that we had met last cruising season.  There is not much to Isla Cebaco.  There is no civilization on land, but there is a barge that offers ice, beer, soda, wifi, and diesel.  It's not exactly cheap, but in the middle of nowhere an ice cold Coke is pretty amazing.  We waited here for a few days until we had a good weather window to head to Bahia Benao, then on to the notorious Punta Mala.,,

The supply barge

Playa Benao

We did an overnight sail to Bahia Benao to wait for a good weather window around Punta Mala and into Panama City.  By now, we expected to get our butts kicked every time we pulled anchor and set sail to a new destination.  The kicking continued as we encountered inconsistent gusting winds coming from exactly where we needed to go.  Sailing the Pacific Panama coast proved to be very challenging.

As we arrived at Bahia Benao we were faced with a decision to rush and leave the next day for a mediocre weather window around Punta Mala or wait another 7 days for a potentially better window. We decided to wait.  This allowed us to re-provision in Pedasi, a cute town a 20 mile bus ride away. We also toured a tuna research center, surfed, and had too many happy hours and pizzas.  

The wind does howl through the anchorage, however, there is little chop and it is very comfortable. The dinghy landing on the beach looks intimidating, but it is very doable on the east end of the beach.

Playa Benao is an up and coming surfer town with a lot of potential.  We truly enjoyed our time there and can see it developing even more as a major tourist destination.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bahia Honda, Panama

The nice thing about the Pacific Coast of Panama is that you don't have to go too far for a change of scenery.  For the most part the next anchorage is just a day sail away - no overnights.  We had a beautiful sail from the Isla Cavada to Bahia Honda, that is until the wind picked up.  We began to notice a trend at this point.  Anytime we were ready to head north into an anchorage, the wind would fill in from the north at 20-25 knots making it very challenging to sail into an anchorage.  With the help of the engine, we made it in just fine and anchored near the "town" of Bahia Honda.  At this point, it had been a good 2 weeks since having a meal off the boat and our provisions and water were running low.  We quickly launched the dinghy in search of a cheeseburger.  I felt bad for the local kids who surrounded the boat in their dugout canoes, we were not in the mood for chit-chat.  We filled the dinghy with our water jerry jugs and headed to the dock.  

Once on land, we were greeted by Moses who spoke pretty decent English.  We explained to him that we needed water for our boat.  He quickly led us past several water spickets and to a teacher's home for a key.  We didn't quite understand the process, but went along for the walk.  The teacher then led us up a hill and unlocked the gate to the school property where he began filling our water jugs from a spicket near the basketball court.  After filling all five containers we began our journey down the hill to the dock.  Along the way, the teacher and Moses stopped male passerby's to carry jugs for Katelyn and I.  We would later find out that the island is divided into two sections, each section had running water every other day, the section we were in did not have running water that day (except for the emergency school spicket).  Did they tell us to come back tomorrow for water?  No, they just wanted to help.  

Our quest to find a cheeseburger was unsuccessful.  We settled for an ice cold Balboa at one of the three local bars.  By bar, I mean a concrete structure with six stools and possibly a small table that serves Balboa or rum only - no food.  We found that the locals didn't have much to do and spent a lot of time in the "bar."

We did find a tienda on the island.  It was more like a concession stand counter where you place an order from a window.   Options for groceries included eggs, pork & beans, spam, ramen, chips, and Gatorade.  I may have had a discussion with the captain about not stopping in Boca Chica for provisions...

Kennedy and his family paid a visit to the boat.  Kennedy is the son of Domingo who is referenced in the cruising guide books.  We traded a few items for bananas, pipas, papaya, and pineapple.  He wanted to make sure that we share with other boaters to stop and anchor near his home (shown in the guidebooks) for trading.  He needs batteries, gas, flashlights, fishing hooks, and backpacks.  He is not interested in money, just wants to trade.  Super nice family!

The island school is at the top left corner of the picture.  They have a magnificent view of the bay. 

I dug out extra school supplies that we were not using to donate to the school.  They have 130 students on a tiny island!  And that is just primary grades, secondary school is on the mainland.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Islas Secas, Panama

After receiving our fair share of pipas at Isla Parida, we headed about 30 nm down the road to Isla Cavada, part of the Secas.  We stayed in the Secas for 2 nights.  The water was spectacular with the best visibility we had seen thus far in the Pacific.  We enjoyed a beautiful white sand beach and lots of snorkeling.  

We did have a bit of wind (up to 30 knots) and crappy seas heading to the Secas from Isla Parida.  We would later find out that the trade winds were creating problems all along the coast of Panama...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Good-Bye Costa Rica! Hello Panama!

Although Costa Rica is beautiful, we were happy to move on to new adventures in Panama.  Tropical islands, white sand beaches, cheap food and beer... What more could a cruiser want?  The only thing that was missing along the Pacific Panama coast was wifi and cell service.  That is my excuse for being so far behind on the blog, therefore, I will be backdating all of the posts to match approximate times that we were actually there.  I am currently sitting at a sushi bar in Bocas del Toro.  Life is good.

We left Golfito, Costa Rica around noon to head about 80 nm to Isla Parida, our first stop in Panama.  We chose to anchor in the SE anchorage, vigilantly making our way through the land mine of rocks before anchoring in 15 feet of water surrounded by lush, tropical islands. We were anchored right in between Isla Parida and it's smaller neighbor, Isla Paridita. 

After a short nap, we launched our kayaks for some much needed beach exploration.  Low and behold we were exploring on an indigenous family's beach.  Underneath a small thatched roof structure was a beautiful family with many, many kids (I would later count a total of 7 kids!).  Introducing ourselves to the family was an interesting experience that involved our family dressed in bikini's and swimming trunks and the local family wearing their traditional dress - awkward.  I guess we didn't offend them too much because after a short walk down the beach, one of the girls brought us several pipas (coconuts) and limes as a parting gift.  This kind gesture lead to many trades over the next few days.  We rummaged through the boat and were able to find many gifts for the family including; a soccer ball, football, baby dolls, clothes, canned veggies, milk, nail polish, and a surf board.  In exchange, we had tons of coconut water, limes, and yucca.  This was our first real trading experience with locals.  The girls, especially Hannah, felt so good about giving her toys and clothing to other kids that did not have much. This was an experience that will stay with us forever.   

Monday, February 1, 2016

Playa del Cocos to Golfito - and everywhere in between

Yes, it has been a while since I've updated the blog.  So much for my New Year's resolution...

We are currently in Golfito, ready to check out of Costa Rica tomorrow.  So, I will update you on our stops and adventures from Bahia Santa Elena to Golfito and all of the stops in between.

Our first stop from Bahia Santa Elena was Playa del Cocos.  We left on 1/9 at 0900 and arrived at 1630 traveling about 40 nm with no wind.  We needed to round Punta Santa Elena with good conditions so we planned to go when there was not much wind.  At this point we were still in the Papagayo wind area and wanted to avoid any high wind events on the nose.  Luckily, we were able to get spotty cell phone reception in Bahia Santa Elena so Jake could download GRIB files for weather. 

We dropped the hook right around dinner time in Playa del Cocos.  After, eating on the boat for seven days in a deserted anchorage we welcomed the civilization that Cocos had to offer.  We quickly launched the kayaks and headed to shore in search of cheeseburgers.  Eighty dollars later, our tummies where full and the rumors about Costa Rica prices were confirmed.

Playa del Coco

Playa del Cocos is a port of entry for Costa Rica.  We checked in the day after arrival with the port captain and immigration, right in town, and took a bus to the Liberia airport for customs.  Total check in cost FREE.  Yay!

Overall, Playa del Cocos was just ok.  The beach was ok.  The dinghy landing wasn't too bad most of the time as long as you timed it closely.  We pulled the dinghy on to the beach and chained it to a palm tree. They did have showers at the beach that we always welcome.  We filled up our jerry jugs with the water from the showers.  I would not recommend doing this on a Sunday when all of the locals are trying to use the showers... There were plenty of markets off the main road for provisioning, however, prices where very high.  It's not easy provisioning in Costa Rica when you are used to Mexico and El Salvador prices.

We left Playa del Cocos on 1/13 and headed to Brasilito at 0845 and dropped the hook at 1315 after having a great sail for the 15 nm journey.  We anchored at the Playa Flamingo anchor waypoint from the Sarana guide.  We were the only boat in the bay.  There was a pretty cool rock island within kayaking distance that had a picturesque white sand beach at low tide.  We spent a day there snorkeling, exploring the tide pools, and beach combing.  The town had a few options for dining and a market or two with basic provisions.  

Katelyn getting buff on the beach.

Next stop on the agenda was Bahia Ballena.  Well, actually, we set out to for Bahia Carrillo only 50 nm down the coast.  We ended up having such a beautiful sail straight out of Bahia Brasilito that we decided to keep on going overnight the 98 nm to Bahia Ballena.  It was one of those overnight passages that make you just fall in love with sailing all over again.  We had no more than 10 knots of wind, sometimes only 4-5 knots, but we were cruising right along on a close reach the whole way.  Such a peaceful passage.

We left Brasilito at 0630 and arrived in Bahia Ballena at 0800 the next day (1/16).  We anchored off the small fishing village and were immediately treated to monkeys hooting and hollering at each other.  Bahia Ballena is part of the Nicoya Penninsula and we noticed that the landscape was turning from dry to more lush and green.  The beach in the bay was disappointing though.  Not really a beach you would want to swim in.  Although, on the other side of the bay we did spot an anchorage that appeared to be a more picturesque beach from a distance.  The town had a couple of eateries, one with great pizza, and one market and hardware store. 

We also ran in to two more cruising boats in the anchorage.  We met up with s/v Alcyone and Klikittat.  It was nice to have some company.  We had not seen any other cruisers since leaving El Salvador.  

On 1/18 we left Bahia Ballena for a short 30 nm sail to Herradura.  We left Ballena at 0915 and arrived at 1335.  We quickly identified the Los Suenos Marriott and made plans to sneak into their pool for a refreshing dip.  Sometimes you just need a break from salt water.  Going onto their property was just too easy.  We strutted right in from the beach.  The never ending pools were amazing and to top it off the pool bathrooms had showers.  We spent two days lounging around the pool and using their wifi (no password).  Normally, when we do this we would patronize their establishments.  However, we couldn't bring ourselves to spend $20 for a cheeseburger or $7 for a beer.  Sorry Marriott - thanks for the memories!

Moving right along... On 1/20 we motored 34 nm to Quepos.  We left at 0645 and arrived at 1425 in the anchorage off of Punta Quepos, a much quieter more picturesque anchorage versus the anchorage right off the town.  We were super excited to get to Quepos to meet up with friends on s/v Red Thread.  They had stored their boat in Quepos for the summer and were a great resource for getting to know the area.  

We had a great time exploring the area.  Again, the anchorage was beautiful.  We were surrounded by beautiful beaches and reefs for snorkeling.  We spent a day at Manuel Antonio National Park and saw some amazing creatures - capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, red-eyed tree frog, and iguanas.  Everything was very up close and personal, much better than the monkeys in a cage at the zoo.  My only complaint - it was HOT.  There were a million stairs to traverse and our clothes were soaked through in sweat by the time we left the park. 

It's hard to find qualified electricians in Costa Rica.

Cool restaurant on the way to Manuel Antonio Park

Watching the sun set never gets old.

We left Quepos at 0600 on 1/25 to head about 60 nm to Bahia Drake.  We arrived in the dark at 2030 under a semi-full moon.  Luckily, the bay is wide open and shallow a ways out so it was an easy night time arrival.  Bahia Drake was extremely lush with dense tropical foliage.  It is one of the most isolated destinations in Costa Rica, located on the Osa Peninsula.  It was also very humid. It's getting hotter the further south we get... 

Drake's Bay

We left Drake on 1/28 at 0300 and headed 63 nm to Golfito arriving at 1530.  We are currently tied up to a Land & Sea mooring ball for $10/night.  This gives us use of their dinghy dock, wifi, and cruiser's clubhouse.  We have heard a lot of bad things about Golfito, but we kinda like it.  The marina next door, Banana Bay Marina, has happy hour everyday from 5-7 with half price drinks and great prices on food.  There are also many choices for provisions.   

The plan is to check out of Costa Rica tomorrow and head to Panama on Wednesday. We ended up spending an entire month in Costa Rica, much longer than we had anticipated.  We were happy to slow down a bit and explore and enjoy the beaches, water, and wildlife.  Seeing monkeys up close and personal has been amazing, along with the macaws squawking and flying overhead in pairs.  The Ticos and Ticas have also been very friendly along the way.  

My next home.

Golfito waterfront

When we first arrived in Golfito, we anhored next to this yacht - Dorothea III.  They thought we were too close so they asked us to move...

The next day, we found this in our cockpit.  Forgiven.