Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cowboy David and Family / Fun Times with Friends at 9th St Beach

Home with family and friends

We have been warmly embraced by family and friends since the night we arrived at LAX and the time is flying by. Speed is the name of the game on the freeways and my little CRV seems to be doing quite fine. Sister Jane picked us up from the airport and we enjoyed a smooth and swift ride home, which all seemed extremely casual.  Welcome to the land of modern technology! The next morning we drove to Orange County in my car which my sister has been diligently guarding and we picked up warm clothing for our winter stay. The days have been quite warm here, thank goodness, but the nights are chilly and dry. We have been so fortunate to have friend, Lynnie, lend us her house in Capo Beach for the months we are here; having one place where we can stash our stuff has been great. We stayed in the wonderful oceanview home of friends, Cindy and Mick, who were visiting kids in Northern California, and found ourselves back in South Laguna close to our home that has been rented, able to visit our wonderful friends and play some volleyball on one of the prettiest beaches in the world. We love our community and treasure our friends. How special it is to be home! Thanksgiving week was spent at the family ranch, an amazingly peaceful place on this planet, and that, too, made us realize just how very lucky we are. We are now finishing our third week and it seems like I just can't get enough of my friends; what an unbelieveable group of talented people they are.  Kris and I have been relishing our walking talking hikes and are trying to make the most of our precious time together. David has been diligently making important contacts and ordering boat parts nonstop and we have much to do to get ready for the next leg of our cruising journey. I definitely have been having more fun than he has, but I know he will catch up soon. Life is so good. May the holidays be a time of celebration and thanksgiving for all that we have been given. Warm blessings to all!  Love to all,  Suzi and David

Glimpses of home with friends and family

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ecuador to Laguna Beach!

We have had a fabulous week exploring the Ecuador I knew nothing about, and we have so many other places to go when we return. It is a beautiful country, and we have only touched the surface. Hosteling our stays has given us a chance to also meet other fascinating young travelers, most of whom are out in the world looking for ways to make it better and that is so encouraging.
We spent two days in Otavalo, exploring the surrounding villages and shopping at the wonderful market, and then after busing our way back to Quito, we took the bus south to the province of Cotopaxi. We stayed one night at a beautiful Hostel of Papagayo just out of the village of El Chaupa and then worked our way up to the unbelieveable Secret Garden of Cotopaxi where we spent the last three days. We ran out of time for the rest of the touring that I had planned; it is crazy to try to do so much in such a short amount of time.

We have been pampered with delicious homegrown food, an incredible staff, vast vistas beyound belief, and such tranquility and peace from the high elevation, brilliant blues skies, and warm sunshine nurturing our beings. We catch the plane from Quito at 2 PM and arrive tonight [Nov. 17] around 10:05.  I sent just a few pictures to make my contact a little more interesting, but will write about our inland adventures after we arrive home. David's pictures have not been entered yet. Can't believe I will see you tomorrow. YIKES!  WHOOPEE!!!!!!  :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Hi there!  We are in Quito tonight and off to Otavalo tomorrow with a great tour of all the villages, hopefully, on Thursday. We have booked the Secret Garden in Cotopaxi for Saturday and Sunday nights and look forward to hiking and riding horses up there. The highlands are beautiful and the air is fresh and thin after experiencing sea level for a year. It feels great.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tentative Plans for Take-Off

We are almost ready to leave Sidewinder for the interior of Ecuador. Plans are hard to make, given our lack of resources and time, but the following itinerary is what I have written down so far and hope we will be able to experience. We take a bus from La Libertad on Tuesday morning and depart from Guayaquil airport on Tuesday at noon to arrive in Quito at 12:55 PM. There the Secret Garden Hostel will pick us up, and we will immediately find ourselves in Old Town, Quito. We have reservations for two nights, but there is a chance we will go to Otavalo on Wednesday morning so that we can be there for #2 market day. Lonely Planet describes this area so well and we look forward to exploring the weaving and leathering villages surrounding Otavalo. "Behind the broad and bountiful selection of the woolens stalls at the Otavalo market is a living-breathing industry with a culture unto itself. Small indigenous villages outside of Otavalo are home to weaving families Weavers gather in a small dirt-floor room to do their swift, silent work.....There's beauty in the artistry handed down from the generations."

Rodrigo Mora is a well known guide in the area, and he does tours which are supposed to be wonderful.  We may stay in Otavalo or one of the surrounding villages for a day or two and visit Laguna de San Pablo, a very beautiful lake with spectacular views. We will arrange from the Secret Garden to also visit Parque Nacional Cotopaxi and, perhaps, even stay there to do some hiking and exploring. There are also hot springs near Quito which are supposed to be great. Another area in the highlands lead us to Ambato, where Alex's girlfriend, Daniela lives and works, both at the university and her family's bookstore. We hope to make it there on our way to Banos. It has also been suggested to us to do the Quilotoa Loop, visiting the Sunday market in Pujili, the Thursday market in Saquisali, and take in the incredible scenary going from village to village by bus. We don't have that many Thursdays and Sundays, but hopefully we can coordinate our plans to find some of the markets. We must also see the crater lake of Quilotoa, hiking in the area or renting horses. There are some special hostels in Chugchilan that cruisers have highly recommended to us. YOW!  I have so much more to do with the planning, and David is busy getting the stuff done which we both need to do. Bye for now;  I must get to work. I hope to know more before we really leave.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

David Up Close w/ the Locals

Last night was pizza night. A small place on your way to Salinas offers two for one pizzas, and if you don't want to bring any home, 8 people can eat for around $30. It's pretty good pizza also but there is only one drawback, and that is they don't serve beer?? But there is a small market across the street that sells large bottles of "Pilsner" for $.90 and the pizza place doesn't care if you bring it in. So while Suzi and the rest of them ordered the pizza, I headed for the market and returned with enough beer for the crew.

After doing our best to down the pizza and finishing the beer, I returned to the store to cash in the bottles. Outside the store was a group of 20 or so guys sitting and standing around, and as I was leaving the store I was beckoned over to join them. My gringo paranoid radar went up, and I hesitated but only for a moment, as they seemed to really want me to join the group. Some of them were drinking beers, some had cokes and some were just sitting there empty handed but with smiles on their faces. The guy who was the first one to hail me was an older chap with a funny looking Quiksilver hat on and as I walked up, he put his arm around me and started speaking rapid fire Spanish into my ear. Well my Spanish has improved a bit over the last year, but not well enough to understand any of what he was saying, so I quickly made it known that my Spanish was no muy bueno, but that didn't have any effect on this guy as he continued at 100 miles an hour. Now this was also obvious to the rest of the group and some of them came to my rescue telling the old guy to mellow out, which he did. But this break in the action only gave him time to introduce me to his son, who was about 12 or 14 and who had a smile that would light up a room. I shook the young man's hand and asked him his name but his father cut in explaining that he couldn't talk !! This didn't douse the flame in the young man's face but as I looked at him he gave the international gesture of "whatever." I then asked him (through spanglish and hand signs) if he knew sign language. The twinkle in his eyes and the glow from his smile disappeared !! He looked at the ground and shook his head no, a sure sign to me that funds weren't available in his family for such a thing. My heart broke!! This kid had everything going for him, good looks, a loving community to grow up in and a father who obviously loved him in spite of handicap. But he couldn't do one of life's most basic needs, communicate!! It was time for me to get back to the group of cruisers, so I said my good-byes to the gang which included shaking hands and exchanging smiles with almost everyone. As I walked away I couldn't help but think that some of our tax dollars that are distributed around the world sure could be used here to help a young man tackle life on a more even playing field. Just as I was turning the corner I looked back at the group and as soon as my eyes met theirs, I saw arms raised and hands waving, and I saw the young man with the beaming smile giving me the peace sign. Well I haven't flashed the peace sign to anyone for about 35 years, but I did to him. And it made me feel good also. I'm not sure why, maybe because if I hadn't gotten over the initial paranoid reaction of joining that group I would never have felt the love that was there and how they extended it to me. I'm also glad I may have demonstrated to them that some of us Gringos are no different than them, just a lot luckier in some ways!!

After I send this to Kris, I´m Googling Sign language Schools in Ecuador. Wonder if our budget could handle it???

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More 'Life on the Hard'

Today David went to the machine shop and they were able to get the prop body off of the shaft and to straighten the shaft. Yay, success!! I reorganized my little cupboard of clothes and found some cool ropas I did not remember bringing, so how fun is that!?! The hotel activity is winding down after three days of kids competing for trophies and titles in sailing, tennis, volleyball, and ping pong. Alex has been busy doing it all, and he and Daniela go back to the highlands tonight on the all night bus to Ambato, where she lives and teaches at the university. She also owns a bookstore with her family, so after she teaches classes, she works the bookstore. We hope to reconnect with Alex when he returns on Friday and hopefully we will stop in Ambato and visit Daniela on our way to Banos. There are some great places we will be exploring after we fly to Quito next Tuesday from Guayaquil. We will have a week to adventure out in several directions before we fly home; I will let you know our plans when we get closer to the time. I did make reservations at the Secret Garden Hostel for our first night in Quito and we are leaving our bags there so that we can do some traveling without dragging stuff with us.  I'm excited. We still have much to do to ready ourselves and Sidewinder for our vacation. -Suzi

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Ecuador

Halloween has always been very special to David and me. Our second date, long ago, was going to a great party in Majeska Canyon at Paul and Ellen's house and much to my surprise, David came to my cabana on the cliff of 9th Street, dressed as superman. I will never forget the bright red tights and the buffed out  S-symboled chest and cape of my interesting new friend. We had a fantastic time and were fortunate to somehow safely drive ourselves home.

Here in Ecuador, Halloween is alive and well also. Early in the day, just like during the previous days, the harsh whine of the grinders taking away the fiberglass damaged by the saltwater was continuous, and Felipe and Dania, our tenacious workers remained late, as they do everyday, to wash the fiberglass dust away. David, who just recently got a haircut and I am sure plans on joining the Ecuadorian military soon, has worked with astounding patience on removing the prop for days, with Galo Ortiz, the director of the marina, looking on with interest, but unfortunately was not successful in achieving his goal. Next stop for the shaft and prop body is a machine shop on Tuesday, after the holidays are over.

In the late morning, the mall was ready for Halloween, an American tradition adopted by the coastal towns of La Libertad and Salinas, probably because they are very trendy and touristy during the high season, and beach oriented, while the people from the highlands, many bus hours away, are preparing for El Dia de Los Muertos, which has inspired a four-day holiday in Ecuador. We wish we could witness the traditional ceremonies, but there is much work to do here on Sidewinder before we head up to the mountains around Quito. Every store in the mall had Halloween decorations and the staff even wore witches' hats. We escaped from the mall rather quickly after shopping a little, came back to Sidewinder and worked on projects the rest of the day, and finally readied ourselves for a possible late night with our new local friend, Alex and his girlfriend, Daniella. What a wonderful evening we had with them!  Beautiful, energetic Daniella teaches English at the university in Otavalo, about a two hour bus ride from Quito ( which is 10 hours from here) and both she and Alex are talented musicians who play and sing with soaring souls.
After our traditional Ecuadorian barbeque dinner, we strolled the crowded malecon of Salinas, with many costumed Halloween partiers, ate ice cream, listened and swayed to Andean music, and embraced the special time with our new friends. When we returned to Alex's home, they serenaded us with their own traditional musica romantica, and we finally left, riding our bikes near midnight through the streets of La Libertad, not too far from the marina, giggling because we were sure this is not recommended in the guidebooks, and were swiftly locked inside the gate by the security guards, safe, sound, and very blessed. Halloween in Ecuador, 2009, will always be another special adventure to always remember.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old Pictures from Panama

The pictures above capture some of the special moments we had sailing with our new friends, Jodie and Michael, on Savannah, and those wonderfully friendly people from remote Pixvae in Western Panama where we were greeted with such genuine warmth and enthusiasm. These will always remain fond memories. 

Life on the Hard in Puerto Lucia

The pictures above will let you know what we have been up to lately. Sidewinder has been ground down to the fiberglass, and David just spent some time circling the spots which appear to still have moisture. In the next couple of days, the tenacious workers will do the cutting that needs to be done, and then she will be ready to begin drying. David and I ventured by bike to the people's mercado in La Libertad yesterday with Johanna and Graham. The market place is huge and is the center of their world. We bought tons of natural peanut butter for David's nutritious addiction, we picked up a few fruits and veggies we needed, and we were awed by the fabulous fish market. We have no refrigeration or freezer, because the unit is water cooled, so we can only keep a few things fresh with ice that doesn't keep for more than a day. We are finishing up the last of the frozen food we were so fortunate to have all this time, and when we leave, we will have everything shut down. We tackled getting the bolts out of the strut and have yet to finally remove the prop, which seems to not be an easy task. Hope all is well with everyone at home.  -Suzi

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Landlubbers in S. America

It is Saturday at the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, and, although Alex said that weekends bring many people who want to workout, it is still very quiet; it could be because of the June-gloom type of weather. Yesterday's venture to the mercado with Alex was wonderful, and I regret not having my camera with me, although once I bought every possible exotic fruit and vegetable available, it would have been difficult to put everything down to take pictures. Alex is so gracious and helpful; it is such fun speaking the language with him because he knows what I am trying to say and fills in the words I do not know. I am bound and determined to become more fluent in Spanish during this cruise, and this is my opportunity to practice.

Last evening we had cocktails, munchies, and dinner on board Bill and Johanna's 57 ft. state of the art custom cutter-rigged sailboat, Visions of Johanna, and we all had a fabulous time. Luckily I was able to bring special home-made salsa, hummus and veggies, french bread and clam dip, TJ's brown rice medley, and Tequila so we were able to enjoy sharing as well. The family is from Maine. Bill is an orthopedic surgeon who reminds me of Tom with lots of stories and vitality, and Johanna is an energetic Berkeley graduate who reminds us of Cindy O. Her oldest son, Graham and their son, Zack, are also cruising with them this year. Graham is a naval architect who can answer any of our questions as well as teach us so much just through conversation. They are off to Guayaquil this weekend, sending Bill back to work for his last 2 wks. before he takes a year sabbatical; the rest of the family will be back after the weekend, and I look forward to getting to know them better.

This morning we met with George, who runs the boatyard, to assess the needs of Sidewinder. It looks like she needs a complete bottom strip, blister holes filled, barrier coat, and new bottom paint; this is a full-on redo of the bottom, and we will also finish by raising the water-line because we have so much shit aboard. Good thing we have found such an outstanding situation here, and we will benefit by leaving her on the hard for the two months we come home, giving her a chance to dry out. We hope and pray that El Nino does not kick in down here.  We are also very fortunate that we did not completely lose the strut that supports the propellor shaft after it exits the boat; upon scrutiny it is cracked almost all the way through. We are grateful that it did not break, given the intensity of our journey. So, here we are, with work already being done on Sidewinder, and it appears that we cannot do much to help with the process, except to clean her every evening after the dust settles. We have other stuff we need to do, but we are also contemplating some travel time, maybe even to Peru, before coming home. We do know that we will leave at least a week early to venture inland through Ecuador, which is supposed to be awesome as well. 

The pictures show Sidewinder being taken out of the water, work being done on her, the cracked strut, and our new friend, Alex, the head chef at Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, a talented composer and guitarist who seems to enjoy showing us his Ecuador. In the faces of the Ecuadorian women here I see our wonderful friend Jessica Puma, Jim Mamer's wife. We are on a new land adventure. Love to all.

Friday, October 23, 2009

David's Take on the Panama-Ecuador Run

Hi everyone- We made it to Ecuador safely after 6+ days of bashing into the wind and current. It was a long hard trip, so much different than sailing down wind with the swells behind you, letting the boat surf down the waves smoothly instead of blasting into each one and then falling down the backside only to plow into the next one at the bottom of the swell. But Sidewinder was amazing: she holds a course all by herself (if the sails are trimmed properly) and put up with all we handed her. The only thing that broke during the whole time was the adjustment for the wind generator loosened up and it started vibrating big time, so I locked the blades down and that was the end of that problem!! It doesn't give us that much juice if the winds are under 15 knts., and since most of the wind we saw was between 10 and 20 we didn't really miss it.

The trip wore us both down with the watch schedule, and I am so proud of Suzi for being able to produce the meals she did, considering the conditions. Just trying to make coffee in the morning was like doing so while riding a cutting horse in a corral during branding. But we are here, and Sidewinder gets lifted out of the water today so we can check her bottom and do what has to be done. We know she has some blisters but aren't sure how many and how bad. It may mean some major work but we have the time if needed since we don't leave for the states until Nov. 17th.

Speaking of which, both of us are looking forward to seeing family and friends again; it's the only bummer about this cruising life, not being able to drop what we're doing and drive over to someone's house to say HI. Hell, most of the time we can't even give them a call or even an email without a little hassle. But that will change soon, and we plan on taking advantage of having two months to make those visits and calls, so don't be surprised if you find us knocking on your front door with backpacks in hand. But don't worry too much about it, after a year living on a boat we don't need much, believe me!!! That's all for now and I'll try to do this again soon.  Love to all of you --- David (& Suzi)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Safe & Sound in Ecuador

YIPPEE!  We arrived in Puerto Lucia near Salinas this morning, so ready to stop bashing. PHEW!  Sidewinder did an outstanding job of trudging through the waves as fast as she could sail. averaging 100 plus miles a day. The intensity for that many days was exhausting, and it is so good to just stop. We are pulling the boat out of the water tomorrow morning and the bottom work will begin as soon as we assess the needs. We were checked in by the authorities this afternoon and since then we have met nothing but amazing people. It feels like a whole new adventure has begun, and we are quite ready. It is cool here today, reminding me of home, and although I suddenly felt cold, it seems quite refreshing for now. Happy fall. If I have the time tomorrow, I will send some pictures and thoughts for the blog. Bye for now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day Five of Blue Water

It is day five and we still have about 300 miles to go. YIKES! Fortunately the seas have calmed down, and the wind has remained consistent, and this morning is absolutely stunning: blue skies, deep blue seas, 12 kts of wind, and warm sunshine but coolish air. We are out at sea with Ecuador east of us and we are headed west so that we can miss the Humboldt Current that is extremely strong going north along the coast.

Both of us had forgotten what a long passage feels like, especially when sleep deprivation begins to take hold. Fixing meals is always a scene, even when one knows what to expect and being down below is not a place you want to be for long. We have had a few midnight challenges on deck with 18 kt winds and 6 ft sloppy seas, a scene of edgey minimum terror and frustration, but we have both survived. PHEW!

The beautiful sunrises always bring the light, a new day, and morning calm, and we have fun drinking our freshly brewed coffee and reflecting on the intensity of being out here, especially at night, going to weather. The long passage to the South Pacific should be quite different with following seas and warm winds, but I know from experience that any passage can be scary and very tiring. There is a wildness and awesomeness about being so far away, with no land in sight, and a momentum which propels us forward (and in the last few days, every which other way); the perpetual motion feels wonderful. I'm sure all of you who are prone to seasickness can just imagine that and thank your lucky stars you are on the land! Our present location is N 02 degrees 25.5 and W 81 degrees 48.2. It will probably take at least three more days to complete our journey to La Libertad, Puerto Lucia. Mucho love to all, Suzi  (and David)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On the Pacific

We left Santa Catalina yesterday morning and motored for about an hour before finding the wind to sail. What a wonderful day of sailing away from Panama. We were escorted by some dolphins who played with us for a short while, but it was at a time when we were going only 2 knots, so I think our wake was quite boring to them. One did put on a bit of show, jumping about 8 feet out of the water, a sight I have never before experienced out here. A whale slowly meandered by us, blowing hello about 20 feet away, and David was extremely happy he or she happened to be going away from us.

We were able to skirt two squalls last evening as we motored for a while, and, fortunately, we were able to sail again much of the night and early morn. The winds are light but nice enough to push us 3 and 4 knots. Even though Perkins is on, once again, sitting out on the bow, it is an incredibly awesome morning with blue skies surrounded by clouds on the horizon and deep, intense blue blue ocean. A turtle with an interesting hump just floated by and the feeling I have, being out here once again, is bliss. There is just something amazingly wonderful about the Pacific Ocean away from land; the constant motion, energy, and beauty makes me always realize just why I am here.  Please give anyone who needs one a big hug for me. I miss sharing my love with all. I am continuing to learn more and more about myself and what I need to work on. What an ongoing task!

Our landfall is pretty far south, where the city of Salinas is, and we are going to Puerto Lucia, which has a website. Please let my sister know I love her! I don't have her email on sailmail. Bye for now. Suzi

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Five Days at Sea Coming Up!

I deduce from this very Suzi blog entry that the adventurers are about to leave Panama for Ecuador, from which fact I further deduce that Suzi's eye is much better. Perhaps I will get more info. when they hike three miles to the internet cafe this afternoon. -Kris

It's dark and the rain is thick and intense. I climb over the companionway door, keeping the water outside, and allow the shower to cleanse my entire being while I open the water tanks to be topped off by the heavens. It is cool but not cold, and as I go back inside, Sidewinder's warmth immediately embraces my being. Just another rainstorm from heaven, and now it is quiet. I will open the hatches and ports and soon the stars will light up the sky. Ah, the rainy season in Panama..........Around 2:00 AM I crawled out on deck and lo and behold, there was a little patch of stars, surrounded by clouds and a light drizzle. It almost happened!  I am sailmailing you now but will send pictures this afternoon when we hike 3 mi. to the internet cafe. I hope all is well with everyone. Tomorrow we leave and will be at sea for at least 5 days; that is the longest passage Sidewinder will have made. I look forward to gentle 12 knt winds and good weather.:)

Received this an hour later:
It's getting late and I'm not sure if we will make it to the internet cafe. If you don't hear from me again, that's why. Love you mucho. We are going to Ecuador; I just got a wonderful sailmail message from Diana [the eye doctor] and she thinks we just go on with our plans. YIPPEE!!!!!

Finally, I received these photos a few hours later, along with this brief message:
Hi buddy. We made it to the internet cafe between rainstorms, and it is time to go. I am sending you a few random pics for the blog and will tell some stories when I find myself snug in a marina in Puerto Lucia, Ecuador. We leave tomorrow morning, and I will keep in touch by sailmail, propagation willing.  Bye for now.