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.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Heading for Isla Catalina

We are continuing down the coast of Western Panama, with islands everywhere around us, very small remote pueblos connected only by dirt roads and miles from any major highway, and mucho rain. This is this essence of the rainy season, but we hear that it gets more intense in November.

My eye seems to be better, but I am still not sure whether we are going to Panama City or Ecuador when the time comes to make our turn. By then I hope I will have heard back from Diana, given my symptoms. I am being extremely careful, not doing anymore diving, and, when I am near any internet connection, I will try to make our way home a bit earlier so I can take care of this.

I'm sorry you have not been able to find these pristine spots [I told Suzi I couldn't locate some of their islands on Google Earth]; they are so removed from any tourism that I guess there is no reason to put them on google earth. That's why they are so wonderful to explore! It is really interesting to find two little poor pueblos so close in proximity but so very different. Yesterday everyone was so friendly and seemed to be filled with joy; today the people did not seem happy at all. We are in Bahia Honda tonight, and we may leave for Isla Catalina tomorrow, depending upon when a very helpful local, Domingo, can get some extra deisel for us. He brought us some homegrown spinach, culantro (like cilantro), peppers, and bananas yesterday. Thank goodness! The fresh food has disappeared, and I have grown to fully appreciate the hardships of being out in the middle of beautiful nowhere during the rainy season where supplies are extremely scarce. Phew! We certainly are fortunate! We have beauty and bounty! We are still a long way from being near internet connection, so have patience.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Isla de Afuera, Panama

We left Rio Santa Lucia and the Isla de Afuera yesterday, tried our best to sail but there was so little wind even the spinnaker couldn't move us beyond 2.3 knots. We arrived in a tiny, incredibly beautiful, pristine, quiet Bahia de Muerte in the afternoon just as a squall hit us. We were able to put up the awning just in time to do a little collecting of rain water, then snuggled into the warm embrace of Sidewinder's belly for the evening. David gassed up the generator, and we even watched a cowboy movie called Appalosa with Spanish subtitles (a great way to practice some Spanish). The movie is not one we will ever want to see again, but the experience was quite fun for us; we have only watched one movie since we left home! The peaceful morning greeted us, and although we could spend some fun time here just exploring the jungle, we are moving on to Bahia Honda. We will keep in touch.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rio Santa Lucia, Panama

The last few communiques from Suzi have been about her eye. She is having some issues but has discussed them with her eye doctor. She may have to go in to see a doctor in Panama City and is awaiting further instructions from her ophthalmologist here, having recently answered more questions regarding her symptoms. I'll keep you posted.-Kris

Hi there. Seems like it has been a very long time since I have talked to you and I am hoping to find a message from you when I send this, letting me know that all is well. I think in my last message to you I said that the storms had been quite light with little thunder and lightning. The last day we did our wonderful clear water snorkling and managed to build a fire on the beach ended with the scariest storm of the year; the lightning was way too close, popping like a real gun. YOW!

We had a great sail over to Rio Santa Lucia where we are now, and we explored the land a bit. It is beautiful ranch land with only one tienda many miles away from where we are. We were lucky to hitch rides both ways, but we did get a chance to walk quite a ways, and it was really wonderful. We will check out the waves around the island just off of here tomorrow and I will let you know what it was like. I am still seeing through a spidery web and I look forward to hearing what Diana Kirsten thinks about it. Love to you. I hope all is well. Suz

Hi Kris, David here letting you know that last night and this morning have been so beautiful, full moon and stars everywhere with only a few clouds here and there. It's been a long time since I've seen a sky that doesn't have any clouds in it; they are pretty in themselves, but there is a lot to say for a cloudless sky. And if there are no clouds there won't be any rain. Even though they say this has been a really dry year, we have still seen enough rain to last us a long time. This has gotten a bit long so I better say goodbye for now. See ya soon. David      

PS- We have tried 3 days in a row now to send this but have been unable to get out from here. Hopefully this one will go through; Suzi is anxious to hear what the outside world says about her eye!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Isla Carada, Western Panama

We are in a bit of paradise right now, anchored in a pristine bay which is surrounded by live coral reefs with amazing fall colors and beautiful fish galore. The clarity in the next cove down, around the corner, was unbelievable yesterday; it is by far the best snorkeling of the trip so far and close to the best I have ever experienced. We have our camera loaded today inside the housing so that we can capture a bit of the beauty. Great white hunter, David, is about to arm himself with the speargun Julie and Casey gave him for Christmas last year, and the big parrot fish we saw yesterday better be hiding (my little wish :)) I always feel so sorry for any fish that we catch; they are all such beautiful manifestations of life. Oh well, guess I really shouldn't eat them!

We are at Isla Carada in Western Panama, and it is extremely peaceful out here among the little islands during the rainy season. The water is so clear today, even though we were blessed with a huge rainstorm last night; luckily we have not had the thunder and lightning that we were warned about.  Jodie and Mike on Savannah are here with us and we are lucky they enjoy hangin' with us ol' folks! They harvested some oysters and made fresh ceviche for yesterday's second cribbage tournament. Fortunately for them, they skunked us the second game after we won the first. Today we are just enjoying the moments as they unfold.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

From Panama

Sorry for the delay of communication. We made our escape from Golfito on Saturday morning and surfed Pavones that afternoon. What a rush, getting into the warm water and actually catching some great rides on waves chest to shoulder high. We were hooked right away and had to stay two more days just to bask in the luxury of the fun life. We enjoyed cocktails and munchies on A Cappella that first evening and they left on Sunday for Ecuador. It was great surfing with Mike and Jodie from Savannah and so cool to check out the waves from Sidewinder, jump in Worm with the boards, motor a short distance to the surf, drop anchor, hop in, and just enjoy being in clear, clean glassy warm water.

The second night was a bit too rolly, so after our wonderful morning session and a short trip into the market, Savannah and Sidewinder departed across the bay to the Matapalo side of the Gulfo Dulce where the water was flat. Great sunset, fresh pineapple chicken veggie barbecued kabobs, and a starry starry night; ah, this is what cruising is all about!

We left early on Tuesday for a glorious day of motoring and sailing with Savannah; the skies were blue and the water was even bluer. It was exhilarating to be out in the Pacific Ocean one more time, especially with such awesome weather. Puffy clouds in the distance intensified the views, dolphins welcomed us to Panama while playing in our bow wake, I think I counted 15 of them at one time, and we caught a small yellow-fin tuna for a scrumptious sashimi dinner. Savannah and Sidewinder dropped anchor in a surprisingly calm area just around the corner from Punta Balsa and motored yesterday to Isla Parida, where we are now. We found Kate here and enjoyed their company last night. Woke up to a gray, rainy morning but the sun is now shining; perhaps we will get in the water and snorkel with Mike and Jodie and later today we will meander around the corner of this island, where the diving is supposed to be spectacular. We may stay for a few days enjoying the clear water and then continue island hopping through Western Panama on our way to Ecuador. As you can see, life is good!