Bahia de Caraquez

Our planned two day fuel stopover in Costa Rica didn’t quite take a month, but almost. After our colds were gone we moved south to the Gulf of Nicoya and visited a few anchorages there, including a ten day stay at the Costa Rica Yacht Club in Puntarenas. It’s simply amazing how the days can roll into weeks without noticing.

Costa Rica looks really pretty from the outside, and the folks are certainly nice enough, but the problem with theft is just a constant annoyance. The police have publicly taken the attitude of “watch your stuff”, which means anything is fair game and I was in a constant state of paranoia about having things stolen. Rightfully so, I believe, after hearing reports of a boat having their dinghy and motor stolen from off the boat at night. We locked everything everywhere we went but I still worried about the hassle and expense of replacing our dink.

Now we’re in a river estuary in Ecuador where we’re told it’s very safe and nobody’s going to bother us. As long as we stay here. Once we’re out of this area the thievery becomes a big problem, particularly on the buses. Our friends on Sailor’s Run were asked last week how their recent trip was, and Debby’s response was “Great, we only got robbed once!”.

That being said, we’re still very excited about seeing some of South America. I came rather unprepared since we had planned not to come down here when the Ecuadorian President was making things difficult for yachts last year. But now I’m hearing about trips that others are making and doing some research and looking forward to some exploration. There are several “cat boats” here in the bay, so we’ll have our turns watching other cats and know that Maya will be well cared for while we’re away.

We’re also working on a huge “to-do” list. With five months here we hope to get a bunch of chores done. The weather is perfect for boat jobs – usually overcast but warm and not raining. When the sun is out it’s pretty hot, but that’s only happened once in the week we’ve been here. Our friends from California complain about the overcast, but we’re feeling right at home. And the price of help can’t be beat – we have reports from another boat who had someone helping them who did a great job for $10 / day. We’re hoping he starts working with us early next week after we get finished with customs and immigration and start our jobs.

I’ll skip a repeat whine about the passage south and leave the reports in the passage blog. We’re just about done cleaning the salt water off the boat, sails and from inside where we discovered some new leaks. Good news is that there are several boats here who travel between Ecuador and Panama annually, spending 6 months in each respective dry season, and we’re told the passage back to Panama between seasons will be very easy.

bahiadecaraquez

Right now I count 39 boats here in the anchorage, but many of those are without crew as people travel inland and home from here. Ecuador is very strict about only allowing us here for 6 months so everyone has to watch the calendar closely or risk having to head back north before the rainy season is over. We’ll be fine, though, as we only plan to stay until November(ish). And we’re definitely enjoying the prices here in Bahia de Caraquez. Meals are in the $3.00 range, and the food is really good. There are a couple of small grocery stores and a big public mercado where fresh veggies and meats are available. And when we refuel from our bash south we’ll pay $1.50 a gallon for diesel.

Upriver from our anchorage is a private park called Saiananda where boats are also at anchor. Apparently the owners have built a beautiful park with animals and gardens. Unfortunately there’s a big controversy here between where we’re at and Siananda. The owner here did the work to become an official port of entry with the government and believes that if boats are coming in here and using his services to check in they should have to remian here and patronize his other services (bar/restaurant, dinghy dock, laundry and water delivery, etc). Rumor has it that the Port Captain agrees and won’t let boats move once they’re anchored here. But as Joey on Friends once said it’s all a “moo” point anyway, because they’re beginning to drive pilings for a bridge across the river here which will block boats from going upriver to Siananda anyway.

Today on Yohelah we’re putting the final touches on the project list and getting ready to do some boat chores, and we’re sad that we’re missing Jeffrey and Nicole’s wedding today……

Bahia Caraquez is here

Ecuador

Well we are definitely enjoying our stay here in Ecuador so far. It’s impossible to believe we’ve already been here a month. It took 10 days to get checked in to the country, including two 4 hour / $40 each taxi rides into Manta (a large city south of here) to visit Migracion. The first time we went the President was there for a groundbreaking on a new refinery and they were closed, so we had to come back later in the week.

Speaking of the President, we’re paying close attention to the politics while we’re here. We knew coming in that Correa (the pres) hates Americans. That was confirmed by Rob’s sister Lynn who works for our State Department (it’s very nice to have a sister at State). He’s very left and a good pal of Chavez in Venezuela, who not surprisingly was in Manta that day. He’s also trying to convince the Ecuadoreans to let him rewrite the constitution and change the term limits for his office. He’s taken control of the local television stations, claiming the owners were corrupt “enemies of the state”. So there is constant media pushing his agenda on the people as the vote date approaches.

Last weekend Rob & I took a three day trip down to Guayaquil just for fun. It’s the biggest city in Ecuador and about 4.5 hours south on the bus (more on that later). On Sunday we were in a taxi going across town and Correa was on the radio again. The look on the taxi driver’s face was not positive at all, so I asked him if this new constitution was good or bad for the people. He gave the PC answer and said “I haven’t read the entire document yet so I don’t know”. And who knows, maybe it’s just not a good idea to discuss politics at that level, particularly with foreigeners.

The good news is that the vote is September 28th, so we’ll be back from Peru and onboard. I totally doubt there’s going to be trouble, especially way out here where we are in the boonies, but it’s just good to be aware and prepared. Our boat is fueled up and ready to go and I’ll keep an eye on the weather before then so we can decide if we should go north or south. Our friends Jeff & Debby on Sailor’s Run (another Baba40) left last week to head south to Peru for a while and are bashing into headwinds and a 2.5 knot foul current for 800 miles and I just don’t think that sounds like fun.

Our trip into Guayaquil was nice, but a bit of a culture shock. After months of being in small coastal towns, a city with millions of people was a big jolt. The most surprising thing was the constant barrage of noise from all the stores selling expensive consumer goods. Guayaquil is the industrial center of Ecuador, and obviously people there are doing well financially. We stayed in a nice $25/night hotel right in the city and had a really nice dinner out one night. Unfortunately it was at an Italian restuarant that had no Italian wine. I asked the waiter, and he said it just was not possible to buy imported goods. So I guess even if you’re doing well financially you have to remember it still is a third world country and you can’t always get what you want!

The bus ride to Guayaquil cost $7 each on an “executivo” bus. On the way in we had the front seats and occasionally I would look up from my book and see how we were doing. Eventually I decided it was just best not to know. On the way home we sat back further and I kept my head in my book the entire time. Rob was leaning out into the aisle to watch just for amusement. He told me when we got home that at one point our bus passed another bus who was passing a truck at the same time, so we were actually passing on the left shoulder. I’ve decided I definitely want the buses with the older drivers, hoping that’s some sign we’ll survive the trip. I also would pay triple if we could take the bus that got there in 7 hours instead of 4.5, but they all drive like that. And the roads are so bad out here you can’t rent a car and drive yourself (besides, then you’d just be on the same road with the buses passing).

ariosto

We’re in our third week of having a local named Ariosto helping us onboard. He’s just an absolute treasure. He’s 33 years old and has a wife and three kids who he supports on the $60/week we pay him. He said he likes to work on the boats because it’s more secure than fishing, where he often comes home with no money in his pocket. He’s cleaned all our stainless, waxed the gelcoat, is helping refinish lots of wood and helped me grease winches and is just a really hard worker and handy guy. And he’s a really nice guy, but he sure does lose patience with my horrid Spanish (BTW, he speaks absolutely no English at all). On Saturday he comes to work for a couple of hours and we send him home for the day with some treats I’ve baked or bought for his kids. I’m hoping to have the boat all spiffy and shiny by the time we head to Panama in the winter.

I’ve gotten most of the travel arrangements for Peru settled finally. We’re very excited about our trip there with Brittney. After we get back we may coast hop south a bit just for something different. There’s a marina south of here we could stop at and do some travel into southern Ecuador and the Amazon basin. Seems kinda wrong to be this close to the Amazon and not go visit the area. Unfortunately there are no roads in so you have to fly in and pay big bucks for tourist places, so we’ll have to decide if that’s in the cards for us.

Today on Yohelah we’re totally enjoying Ecuador……

Bahia Caraquez is here

Secret O’ Life

“The Secret O’ Life is enjoying the passing of time.” It’s the first line of the James Taylor song Secret O’ Life, which is also the name of the boat sailed by Terry Bingham for many years. Everyone who knew Terry knows he did an exceptional job of honoring that name. Sadly, Terry passed away this week after a battle with severe pancreatitis in La Paz, Bolivia. He was on an inland trip exploring South America with his girlfriend Tammy when he became ill.

secretolife

I only knew Terry for a short time in person, but his website was one I had read for years while we were preparing to go cruising. He was a “home boy”, and Secret O’ Life was in the same marina in Eagle Harbor with Yohelah when she was known as Vita. The tragic news is that Terry was young and healthy and strong; but Terry got to live the life he wanted cruising aboard his boat for many years before a very untimely passing.

Today in Bahia we had a rememberance ceremony at Siananda. Usually I don’t talk alot about other boats in these logs because friends and family reading at home don’t know these folks, but I will now because I want to remember. It was organized by Nakia, and memories were also shared by Sarana, Blew Moon, Batwing, Che Bella, Mita Kuuluu, Encore, Shared Dreams, Taremaro, 9 of Cups, Diesel Duck and Jubilee.

Sometimes I think we should be at home being responsible and putting money in the bank for retirement. And then we get a very sad reminder that life can be short and living your life the best way you know how is sometimes far more important than being responsible. Terry had just started receiving his social security check and said there was no way he could possibly spend that much money every month.

Today on Yohelah we’re remembering that the Secret O’ Life is enjoying the passing of time….

Peru

One of the benefits of cruising is the opportunity to get off the boat and travel inland to see the countryside away from the coastal areas. We haven’t done too much of that yet, but did take advantage of the opportunity this month and spent two weeks traveling in Peru. The trip south on the boat from here is a hard bash to weather. Some friends recently had to sail 1,800 miles to get to Lima (which is 800 miles away), so we took the easy route and caught a 767 out of Guayaquil.

We got to our hotel in Lima about 8:30 at night and asked the taxi driver if he would take us back to the airport at 4:00 the next morning to pick up Brittney. Sure enough we walked out of the hotel and he was waiting for us asleep in his car out front. Brit had left Seattle at 9:00 the morning before and was understandably a bit tired when she got there. We spent two days checking out Lima and the suburb of Miraflores where we were staying, then headed south on a bus. We took the overnight bus to Arequipa, which left Lima around 6 pm and got into Arequipa around 9 am the next morning.

monastery

Arequipa is a very large city in the lower altitudes (7,700 feet) of the Andes Mountains. 13 years ago an expedition unearthed several sites where they found 500 year old remains of frozen humans they believed had been sacrificed to the Gods on the mountain tops. Like the Mayan people in Guatemala the Incas had no written language, so all the history is speculation based on archeological findings and interpretation. In the case of the sites on the mountaintop, the remains were covered and frozen for years and remained very well intact. The best specimen was named Juanita, a girl estimated to be a young teen when she was sacrificed, whose remains included even her hair, teeth and clothing. Today Juanita’a remains are on display at a museum im Arequipa, likely not the destination intended by her tribemates making the sacrifice.

Also in Arequipa is a huge monastery that was home to cloistered nuns. The monastery has been restored to resemble original living arrangements in many rooms and is open for public viewing. The facility is enormous, encompassing 20,000 square meters and took us a couple of hours to tour one afternoon.

Unfortunately Arequipa is where my altitude sickness problems began. Our trip was planned to gradually increase in altitude, allowing us to acclimate as we headed higher towards Machu Picchu. I had a persistent headache in Arequipa the three days we were there, which is only at 7,700 feet above sea level. Our next stop was at the end of an 8 hour bus ride uphill into the Altiplano (high plains) of the Andes, ending at Lake Titicaca. It was amazing to be up at 12,500 feet above sea level in rolling plains, not mountainous terrain, with a lake a 100 miles long. But I contracted all the typical symptoms of altitude sickness and ended up in bed for a day and a half feeling like I had a bad flu and a head that was just going to completely explode. Fortunately Brit found Machu Pizza in town so Rob & her were able to eat while I was sick. And luckily some serious doses of medicine in the form of caffiene and ibuprofen proved succesful and I got to go on the daylong tour of the lake.

uros

It started at the Uros islands near the town of Puno where we were staying. The islands are floating, and made completely of reeds. They are constructed of sections of the reed root structures lashed together and anchored to the bottom of the lake in the shallows near shore. When we stepped from the tour boats we felt the surface flex under us as we walked around. It was a very interesting place. The locals have lived like that for 500 years on both the Peruvian and Bolivian sides of the lake. Recently the Bolivians all moved ashore but the Peruvians remain on the islands where they now welcome tourist boats during high season to supplement their fishing income.

Our second stop that day was at a real island in Lake Titicaca named Taquile. We had a 45 minute walk to the top of the island where the town square was at 4,000 meters above sea level (13,123 feet – nearly the TOP of Mt. Rainier which is 14,410). The locals were dressed in their traditional attiture, which you can see in Rob’s pictures in the Peru album. Their costumes are a hodgepodge of styles worn by outsiders to the island since the Spanish conquistadors. The colors of the men’s hats signify their marital and social status, and the women’s skirts are up to seven layers thick. I don’t remember what the layers signify, but I’m sure it’s important. The women are spinning yarn as they walk and the men all knit, as you can see in some of the pictures. Unfortunately they have an intended income stream from tourists taking photos and we object to that strategy. We had a nice lunch on the island and headed back to Puno on the boat.

The next morning we boarded the Andean Explorer, a Peru Rail train headed to Cusco. It was our biggest financial splurge of the trip, but worth the high price. It was an 8 hour ride and included lunch and snacks along the way. We traveled north across the altiplano and down into the valleys of the Andes mountains. We passed through the highest point of our trip at 14,172 feet and started a descent into Cusco that my head was greatful to feel. Cusco is known as “gringo central” in Peru because of the number of tourists visiting the Sacred Valley area, and we stayed 5 days.

pisac

Our first day there we took a trip to the town of Pisac where they have a Sunday market that we believed would rival the one we had enjoyed so much in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. We weren’t disappointed at all by the size of the market and the quality of the goods for sale, but were surprised at how calm and quiet is was compared to Chichi. We all had fun shopping for souvenirs, including Brittney who realized she didn’t need to know Spanish to barter, just how to convert US dollars to Peruvian Soles and punch numbers into a little hand held calculator that was passed back and forth between her and the vendor.

The second day we took a Sacred Valley tour to see the Inca ruins in Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. We were at a much lower altitude than Lake Titicaca, but we quickly learned the Incas liked to build their temples high on the hills and we still had a significant amount of climbing to do in the mountains. The ruins were fascinating though, and the quality of the Inca stonework is amazing. The next day we just poked around Cusco and had a quiet day before the climax of our journey, the trip up to Machu Picchu.

machupicchu

We scheduled Machu Picchu as our final stop to ensure we were acclimated to the altitude and because we wanted to save the best for last. And we were not disappointed; it is incredible to witness in person. Perched high on a mountaintop, surrounded on three sides by the Urubamba river running below and mountain peaks in every direction, the setting is absolutely magical. It’s understandable why the Inca rulers treked three days from Cusco to this retreat (or rather why the Inca rulers had their slaves carry them for three days on the trail). Our first afternoon Rob & I hiked up the Inca trail towards Cusco to a spot they call the Sun Gate, where you first enter the valley that Machu Picchu is in. It was about 45 minutes up the trail and the views along the way were incredible. And since we chose not to make the three day hike up the real Inca trail, it was fun to walk on it a little bit. The next morning we joined 400 of our new best friends (a la Tikal) to see Machu Picchu at sunrise. Again, like Tikal, it was worth the 4:00 am alarm. We had a private guide who showed us through the ruins and pointed out the sights we had read about in the “Self Guided Tour to Machu Picchu”. It was a great day and we were blessed with incredible sunshine for our photos.

Now we’re back in Ecuador onboard the boat and settling back in. The customs agent at the airport in Guayaquil stamped our passports with another 90 day visa, so we don’t have to leave for Panama before the rainy season is over. But we’re ready to move on so I think we’ll head south to Salinas and check out the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club for a few weeks. It’s about a day south of here near Guayaquil, and a good location to explore southern Ecuador from.

Today on Yohelah we’re glad to be home with great memories of the wonderful people and beautiful sights of Peru…..

Macchu Picchu is here

Still In Ecuador

Well it’s been a very interesting couple of weeks, to say the least. The topic for this log update was going to be about crossroads, and how Ecuador is truly one for the folks here. We were getting ready to head south for a month for a change of scenery and preparing to say goodbye to friends, many of whom we likely won’t see again as people leave here literally headed in all directions. But we discovered a completely corroded heat exchanger in our engine and realized we weren’t going anywhere for a while. Then the stock market imploded and things just got even crazier.

Today Rob headed back to the states for a couple of weeks. We were hoping he was going home to pick up a repaired heat exchanger and bring it back, but it was too far gone and we had to bite the big bullet and buy a new one. Either way he gets a chance to see his family for a visit, which is always good. While he’s home our good friends Bill & Jean on Mita Kuuluu will leave and head north to Panama, then up to Mexico where Bill can play music for a while. Robin & Jean on Winter Trek will head home to see family and we’ll leave before they get back. Here in Bahia folks are beginning to say their goodbyes as people head off to travel South America or home for a bit and realize while they’re gone boats are starting to leave here and move on. The rainy season in Central America is ending and boats return there to cruise, or head into the Caribbean, or like us head into the South Pacific.

Other cruisers frequently ask us if we’re retired, and our standard answer has been “no we’re not retired, we’re just irresponsible”. Well, we’re irresponsible to a point. We came cruising with the blessing of our financial advisor who believed like us that the savings in our retirement account would grow in the coming years, we could work enroute to supplement those growing savings and have enough for retirment and a little house. After this week it appears all bets are off on that one. So we’re trying to decide now what to do. My first instinct was to point the boat north and hope we could find work back in the Northwest. We know if we can it’ll be the best pay we’ll make and hopefully offset some of the losses to our savings from this market meltdown. And Rob wants more than ever to build that little house for us to hang out in when we’re just too old to climb into that bunk in the forepeak.

spacificcharts

In the immediate we’re still going to transit the South Pacific this coming season. But which direction we point at the end of the season is going to depend on how we’re feeling financially. Are we done cruising? Absolutely no way. We love this life, but have to be practical about retirement at the same time. If we do head back to the northwest it’ll take us 18 months to get there, making a big loop into the North Pacific and arriving into Alaska. For now we’re getting ready for our highly anticipated South Pacific passage, including getting Maya microchipped and vaccinated so we can take her to New Zealand if that’s the way the boat points in November 2009.

Today on Yohelah I’m making bagels and plans for the South Pacific while Rob’s heading north on a 767….

Bahia Caraquez is here

Time To Leave South America

The “must do” list of things to finish up before we head back to the rain is almost done. On Wednesday we should be ready to get our Zarpe from the Port Captain so we can go back to Manta on Thursday to Immigration. High tide on Saturday morning is at 11:52 am, so we should be on our way out of Bahia by 11 am. Once we leave here we’ll essentially be on the road for a year, with no nice long stops like this one.

We’re glad we made the decision to come to Central America and South America for a year. The Latin American people are marvelous, the sights gorgeous and the weather beautiful. I would recommend to any cruiser headed south to take the time and enjoy this part of the world before hurrying into the Caribbean or South Pacific. And of course we’ve met some great folks on other boats along the way as well. The social scene here in Bahia has been been busy with progressive happy hour parties, girls nights, pizza parties and card games here on Yohelah, boys night poker on Hello World, celebration of German Carnival on 11/11 at 11:11 am, and lots of going away dinners out.

But now it’s time to move on. We’ll sail south into Panama to the Darien River jungle for our first stop. Then into Panama City and the Pearl Islands in Panama. After Maya’s rabies blood test is done for New Zealand we’ll travel north into Western Panama and up through Costa Rica. T2 (Teresa Lennstrom) and family are coming to Costa Rica in February and we’ll rendezvous with them in Playa del Coco where we first stopped in Costa Rica last year. Hopefully we’ll get to do some diving and sailing with them. Then it’s time for our crossing.

We’ll leave Playa del Coco and sail out 200 miles to Cocos Island, a Costa Rican national park. The diving there is supposed to be spectacular and we’ll meet up there and dive with our friends from Hello World. Then it’s back across the ITCZ (intertropical convergence zone) again to the Galapagos, which should be about a 5 day passage. We’ll stop and tour and dive in the Galapagos and provision for the Marquesas Islands. The 2900 mile passage to the Marquesas should take 20 or so days.

The French are very fussy about visitors in French Polynesia and only allow non-European boats to remain in their waters 90 days without a long stay visa, which is impossible to get from here. In those 90 days we travel through the Marquesas, Tuamotos and Society Islands. A straight line course through the area is nearly 1,000 miles which means lots of time sailing to places with names like Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea, which are all on the must see list. Hopefully Leslie & Fred will make it down for a trip through the Societies with us.

Then it’s on to the Cook Islands, with stops at Raratonga and Suwarrow and possibly others. After that we may go up to American Samoa and visit Pago Pago. Then it’s on to Niue where Jeffrey & Nicole will join us for a passage to Tonga. My brother John and his wife Christine are planning a visit to Tonga. We’ll stay there until the beginning of cyclone season and then we’ll find a weather window for our crossing to New Zealand. Unfortunately that’s a 7 day passage for our boat and a low pressure system travels through every 5 days so the timing is tricky.

I know we’re both ready for this upcoming year, as is the boat. And hopefully Maya is as well.

Today on Yohelah we’re finishing up chores and eagerly thinking about the year to come……

Bahia Caraquez is here