Saturday, March 28, 2009

 

Panama!

We finally hit the high seas again after getting “stuck” for 25 days (on purpose) in the peaceful, social little anchorage in Golfito, Costa Rica. When we left the Land Sea Cruisers club, there were no boats with people actually on them, as 4 boats had been loaded on the Yacht transportation ship and the rest of us had sailed off or were off on land excursions.

But, as we motored out of the channel and into the Gulfo Dulce, we heard another cruiser hailing the club on the radio for information on anchoring there. Yep, that’s how the cruising lifestyle is – a constant changing of the social scenery as folks sail/motor along their chosen routes. We meet, become best friends, and then part to go our separate ways all in the space of a week or two.

The passage from Costa Rica to Bahia Honda, Panama took us the planned one full day and overnight. As usual, we planned for me (Terry) to take the night watch giving Jonesy a block of sleeping time. With sunny skies and fair winds, we were able to see dolphins and schools of jumping rays, read and knit. I finished knitting the second sock of the wild colored red & yellow pair (thanks to everyone who encouraged me to just finish them for the kids) and started on a pair of simple adult-sized mittens. Sorry, no photo of the finished socks because they will be one of the new patterns for this year’s Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo Group.

Pictured above for your fiberly perusal is a pair of adult-sized mittens that I started during the trip from the leftover yarn. It is a light sport/heavy fingering weight wool that I dyed many years ago. Here's a photo of me knitting, which I: 1) do all the time, 2) do even in the dark with a headlamp, 3) do instead of washing the dishes or other menial chores. Gawd, I'm really getting old - and so are all my clothes. The sun, sea, and romping take a toll on the lightweight cotton clothes we wear.

Along the way, I managed to catch TWO fish on my trolling lure! Both of which gave me fun little fights! Jonesy isn’t into fishing, but he loves to eat them. I let the first one go because I mistakenly identified it as a not-good-to-eat fish (bonito). But when I double checked in my fishing guide I discovered it was a Mexican Tunny (tuna) which is supposed to be good eating. Dang! The second fish looked similar, so I kept him. Nope, he was indeed a bonito. When I sliced off a couple of filets the meat was as dark as liver. Yuck! Sure, folks do eat this stuff, but not us. But, I kept the meat as bait for fishing later.

After the sun set, Jonesy went below to get some shut-eye while I took the helm. The stars were magnificent! Out on the seas, you can even see them twinkle and the Milky Way is so huge! But, soon the winds started to build so I had to stay in the cockpit which is fully covered and tether my lifejackt & myself to the footrest. We had a weather forecast that suggested slightly stronger (15 knots) of wind in the night, but before long it was gusting over 30 knots. The seas became quite lumpy with wind waves standing straight up. Of course, Jonesy wasn’t able to sleep a wink and he returned to the cockpit to take over.
We rode up over the waves and crashed down into the troughs taking water over the bow. This was one of the rare times during our years of cruising, that we had to close ALL of the hatches and ports. We reefed in the main sail (made it smaller) and the jib (the front sail) down to very small area sails. Because it was so gusty, when the sails were larger and the wind calmed for a moment, the sails would flap violently. This will cause them to tear, or to break their hardware so reefing is prudent. We used the 130hp Perkins engine to drive us through the night.

Around 11pm the winds suddenly ceased as if somebody and turned off the switch. The seas slowly calmed, and we motor-sailed past some islands in the dark. At dawn, we entered the serene, protected bay of Bahia Honda.

Cruisers whom we had met along the way encouraged us to anchor in a cove near the home of a local man named “Domingo”. There was only one other sailboat there which we found out later was being watched by Domingo while the owner was back in the states. This remote part of Panama has NO roads to it and is only accessible by foot, horse/burro, or by an hour long boat ride.

Jungle came right down to the waterline and we could SMELL it! At times it was an earthy/woody scent, and sometimes it was a pleasant floral fragrance. There were several types of trees blooming so we assume the smell came from one of them (it certainly didn’t come from US after a rough overnight passage!) And the sounds!! So strange - there was an almost constat whirrring sound like the bearing going out on a motor. We found out later from our new friends, that the sound comes from a type of cicada.

The tidal range down here in Panama is about 16 feet – that is there is 16 feet of vertical difference between the high tide and the low tide. Check out these two photos of the shore taken from our boat. It is the same spot, just different times in the tide cycle – sometimes a beach and sometimes, as in the photo above, not.

No sooner had we dropped the hook, when a dugout canoe approached. It was Domingo and he was ready to do some trading. We chatted in our broken Spanish and finally determined that he had red bananas and pineapple available. We had Tylenol, vitamins, razors and other goodies. Off he went to gather his fruit for us and we sat down to our breakfast.
Well…we tried to eat breakfast. Another little canoe approached with a mother and her darling 9-year old daughter holding a plastic baby doll. She had fruit ready for us – I picked out some yellow bananas and a couple of limons (bumpy sour citrus fruit). We gave her a tin of cookies and some little toys (MacDonald’s Happy Meal toys that I collected for years before we left the states) for her children. She asked if we had pencils or bleach – so I checked and found only felt-tip markers, and a paper notebook.

We gave her these and some more little toys, a liter bottle of Clorox, a baggie of nails – and a large card of assorted sewing needles. Her eyes lit up at the sewing needles and she hugged them to her chest! Thank you to all my buddies who gave me supplies to distribute to the people we meet along these secluded coastlines of Central America. The gifts are certainly much appreciated.

She also needed women’s clothes. All I could spare was a couple of t-shirts a lightweight pajama top that I don’t wear and a swath of floral fabric. I just don’t have many clothes myself!!! We realized later that the woman was Domingo’s daughter and the girl was his granddaughter.

Domingo returned with the fruit while we were chatting – and he also had a roughly carved wooden tray and some stone axe heads. We hung a big bunch of small soon-to-be-red , but still green bananas up as instructed and now must wait 8 days for them to ripen. We paid him $5US for a couple of the axe heads and $6US for the tray. I have seen these trays in other areas but not for sale – just being used in little restaurants or in homes and I’m thrilled to now own one. We shared our supply of manufactured goods and they shared their bounty of fruit, fresh eggs, and handmade items.

Soon, Domingo’s son, Kennedy and his wife arrived in their canoe and the trading continued. Kennedy needs a diving mask and fins so if anybody reading this is a cruiser and is heading to Panama, please give a thought about exchanging these for his eggs and fruit.

Whew! What a busy couple of days. Not being (too much) of slakers, we made arrangements with Domingo to go visit a remote village the next afternoon at high tide. So stay tuned...


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

 

Just for Fun

Just for fun, we rode the bus from Golfito here in coastal Costa Rica to the border with Panama. It takes a little over an hour and costs $1.50US each way. Such a bargain for being able to see some of the interior of this beautiful country. We rode past huge Palm tree plantations of the types of palms which produce the fruit (like dates) that palm oil is extracted from, and we gazed up at cloud enshrouded rainforest mountains.

At the border, there is a "Duty Free Zone" where you can buy all sorts of liquor and other goodies without having to pay the heavy Costa Rican duties. All we bought was a 2-litre bottle of Panama Jack Spiced Rum for $8.50 - an order from a fellow cruiser. The "Zone" itself is seedy. Just a couple of larger stores crowded with various merchandise and lots of scruffy stalls jammed with everything we never wanted. So, we ate lunch at a chinese restaurant which was very good and grabbed the next bus back to Costa Rica.

Today, we did the paperwork Cha-Cha to get permission to exit Costa Rica and take our boat with us. First, we walked to the Immigration office where we gave them lots of copies of documents (passports, US ownership papers, and crew list) and got back assorted papers to deliver elsewhere. Lots of vigorous rubber stamping was done and carbon paper employed. Next was a bus ride to Customs. Here, we gave them more copies of our documents and some of the papers from immigration. Our third stop was with the National Bank where we had to pay $20 for an "International Zarpe" document to be typed up which is permission to leave the country with our boat. Finally, we boarded another bus to take us to the Port Captain's office where again, lots of rubber stamping, carbon paper was used, and multi-colored documents exchanged and we were done! Whew!

So, tomorrow we set sail early in the morning to go see the Western islands of Panama. First stop will be Bahia Honda. We have provisioned the boat with fuel and food and are all ready to spend a couple of weeks or more in fairly isolated places. We'll miss this sweet spot in Costa Rica though. We'll miss all the little doggies here at the Land Sea Cruiser hangout. Yep, we'll even miss little Vinny who just had to romp in the fabric that I was using to sew up slipcovers for the cockpit cushions.

We'll miss Tim's bananas ripening on the hook and the orchids that Katy grows on the deck. Oh, and we'll sorely miss the great BBQ bring-your-own-meat dinners that she has thrown for all of us cruisers. Last night Katy whipped up a giant super-duper salad, brown rice, and steamed fresh vegetables. Tim managed the grill and we threw on some chicken breasts with BBQ sauce. The combination of great conversations, good food, plenty of adult beverages and a tropical rain storm made for a memorable evening.











We'll even miss the funny little cartoon character-looking fishing boats that noisily motor past us all day. But, they sure do bring home the best fish! Red snapper, mahi-mahi, and grouper. Okay, I won't miss the bad karioke singing sounds that travel over the water from the fishermen bars in the shacks along the shore at night.











What do folks do who want to go cruising in other locations of the world but don't want to sail/motor the boat there themselves? Well, they hire space on one of these ships!

Several of the boats here in Golfito were waiting for this freighter from YachtPath to pick them up and take their yachts to Fort Lauderdale Florida! First, several boats were unloaded by two giant cranes by putting slings under the yachts and swinging them over the side and down into the water.

Next, they hoisted up the four yachts waiting here and off the big freighter went! Sure, those other cruisers will beat us to Florida by a couple of years - but we'll have more fun!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

 

Getting My Vitamins

Oh yeah! I'm getting my vitamins and eating sweet at the same time. I guess the nutrition folks figured that Central Americans eat a lot of sugar and need more Vitamin A so they've fortified the local sugar with the vitamin.

Let's see...each 16 calorie teaspoon has 2% of my daily requirement. So, 48 teaspoons in a cup - that's 96% of my MDR! Whooo hooooo! Oh wait, that's also 768 calories. So I'll be fat and have good skin and eyesight. There's always a catch.

Friday, March 06, 2009

 

Knitting & Scary Stuff

It's done! The size 34-35" vest made from leftover Lopi wool yarns is completed. I was really sweating it (literally) over whether I would have enough yarn to make a whole vest and the answer is "yes". Whew!

And the two different "second" socks for the new sock book have been reknit too and are on their way to the states. How? Well, I used the most trusted package transit system available - a fellow cruiser. Here's Jerry with the important package. This is the safest way to get mail or small packages from Central America to the states. When I have more details on the book I'll share it here of course.

Another knitting project this past week was a little sweater for old "Cujo". She's one of the doggies here at Land Sea Cruiser central and she actually gets COLD when the temperatures drop after a thunderstorm. She loves her sweaters! So I knit her a lightweight one with some eyelet hole rounds from leftover sock yarn.

And then there are the "mystery" projects. Yep. Cruiser Jerry (photo above) made a suggestion for a knitted article. Ooooooo....needles and yarn started clicking and after a false start - too small - a prototype was completed. Sorry - this pattern will not be available until sometime in September when we start the 2009 Holiday Mystery Gifts Knitalong. Some things just have to stay a mystery. And then...another potential mystery project fell into my lap yesterday when a local barkeeper requested help with a vintage knitted object. Oooooooo again.

So...last week we joined up with fellow cruisers Jerry and Darby and took the water taxi over to Puerto Jimenez on the other side of the gulf. The boat was really nothing more than a fishing panga with a roof and seats. Inside it was packed FULL of people too. Right before we left for the 20-minute ride a woman came onboard selling baggies with frozen fluids inside - mysterious, scary frozen stuff. Folks would chew open a hole in a corner of the baggie and suck on the frozen concoctions.

Puerto Jimenez, a dusty little village, was alive with gold mining back in the 1960's but is now a quiet place visited by a few of the tourists from eco-lodges on the Osa Penninsula. We went over there to see the wild Scarlet Macaws who hang out in the trees. Yep. We found them - couldn't miss them. They are great big red, yellow and blue parrot sized birds and are so noisy! I tried to get a photo, but just couldn't. So I took a short video with sound. You can sorta see a few birds up in the right corner. Listen to this...




video

After an imitation-mexican meal at a local restaurant (Costa Rican food is so bland), and some excellent coffee ice cream at a little cafe we headed back to the water taxi for the ride back to Golfito. Sitting in the boat, I found that I could actually stick my arm out the window and dangle my fingers in the water. Low-rider for sure! The afternoon winds had come up and were whipping up sharp windwaves out in the open seas of the gulf. While the ride to the penninsula in the morning was smooth, this return trip was rough. At one point we suddenly rolled over to one side from a big wave. Everyone was scared - except for the driver who never slowed down, and his associates who seemed to enjoy dodging the waves coming up over the boat. Here's a little video I shot inside the boat. I thought that maybe it would be my swan-song video recording the end of our lives.


video

Whew! Scary! And speaking of scary...check out this bug I encountered the other day! Yikes! Tropical bugs....eeeeeewwww. But then there are also the beautiful flowers such as this bundle that we found on a tree in a vacant lot. The total bloom was about 6 to 7" across!



We've been here in Golfito quite a while now - it's just so dang comfortable. But it is time now to get headed on down/over to Panama. So next Wednesday we will hoist the sails and explore the islands of Western Panama.

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