Sunday, 30 May 2010

Golfito Costa Rica

Golfito is a well protected bay in Southern Costa Rica. We arrived early in the morning after our second attempt at an overnight passage from the out islands of Panama. The first departure from Islas Secas was abandoned. After coming out from the lee of the island, we found the wind to be, as most cruisers will complain, coming from exactly the direction we wanted to go! No Problem, we will motor sail and tack back and forth. To further complicate things a large squall was also on our path. The combination of the large Pacific swells and the wind chop created by the squall made the sea state confusing and uncomfortable.Two and a half hours later, Islas Secas was still close astern, it was 3 in the afternoon and we were reaching the point of no return. If we turned back we still had plenty of time to get back to the anchorage before happy hour, get a good nights sleep and try again manana. If we continued we were committed to sailing all night, with the wind in our face and the squall, which had grown, but moved slightly south of our route. Decisions decisions......Common sense prevailed, and we turned tail and ran back. Turning 2 1/2 hours of pounding, into 45 min of running downwind. A pod of dolphins greeted us a we sailed into the shelter of the island, playing on our bow for 10 or 15 minutes.... always a good sign.

The next morning we again started out, this time a bit earlier, with enough time to stop at Isla Parida, an anchorage 17 miles along before dark. The squall was gone, there was no wind, and although the Pacific swells, are 8-10' high they are 17 to 20 seconds apart, making them comfortable. The glassy sea allowed us to see schools of fish, dolphins, birds and a turtle. It also allowed several fish to see our lures. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the fish none were the tuna, or Dorado that we hoped for. Because of the easy traveling, our arrival to Golfito was going to be in the DARK...never a great idea, so we stopped off at Islas Parida.. The entrance, although a mile wide and 60 ' deep, combined with a falling tide, caused the swells to build in size and shorten in period, making it quite exciting. After some food and rest, just before dark, at the end of the ebb we departed for Golfito

The steep jungle surrounding the bay provides an earthy smell that greets you while still a fair ways offshore. We tied to a mooring ball out in front of "Land and Sea" which is a small clubhouse, with showers, laundry, and Wi Fi.
Checking in to the country was a 2 day affair, seeing Immigration and Quarantine, and returning to see Customs and The Port Capitan the next day, then going back to quarantine , to the bank, and back to quarantine. The bureaucracy, can be frustrating, watching them fill out forms in triplicate with ballpoint pens and carbon paper.
Golfito is a discarded Banana port, and shows the signs of any one industry town that the industry has abandoned. Although clean, there are litter cans all over, the buildings, roads and sidewalks are all in need of repair, even the resorts need a power washer and paint.
Tourism is the only growth industry, Golfito is a stop on the route to the Osa peninsula, and one of the many national parks.
Being such a sheltered bay there is very little wind, this combined with the rainy season makes the air stiflingly hot and humid. Add the daily rain showers and you have a very hot boat to live in.
After 5 days in Golfito we decided to go to Puerto Jimenez.This is a former Gold mining town accross the Golfo Dulce from Golfito. The anchorage is a bit more open than Golfito, but well protected from the Ocean swell. Here we hope to see the national park and some of the animals that Costa Rica is famous for. Maybe even do some surfing.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Panama City Anchorage

OK so we have gotten a lot of email asking us to update the blog. Sorry for the delay sometimes the days just get away from us. While in the anchorage at Panama City we discovered that the anchorage that 98% of the time is calm and tranquil if not a bit too hot can do an about face and within a very short period of time the wind and waves will pick up and blow the @#@%@%@ out of the anchorage. It was a peaceful Tuesday morning when we headed in to take care of some internet school and laundry. We left the boat in a slight chop but nothing dramatic. We had been on shore for about an hour; the wind was stronger on shore but did not seem dangerous. Suddenly Alex the 12 year old son from the Canadian boat Artemo arrived at the internet café in his life jacket and was as white as the Canadian snow, He shouted an undecipherable sentence we had to ask him to repeat it 3 times and finally understood that our anchor had started to drag and our boat was heading towards the rocks. Gary and Tavish kicked out of their flip flops and took off across the parking lot towards the dingy at a faster pace than the kids ever thought their father could run at. (He can run really fast!) When they got to HIGH FIVE Brian and Amanda from the sailboat Clara Katherine were on our boat, they had gotten the engine started and were in the process of lifting the anchor, and driving High Five away from the rocks.
Artemo had been watching other boats drag, and the people resetting their anchors, they even told us later that they had commented that High Five was OK...……moments later she was dragging across the anchorage. Artemo put out a call on the radio and proceeded to launch their dinghy, damaging their wind generator with a halyard in the process. Meanwhile Brian and Amanda had leapt into action and were on the boat trying to figure out how to start her and get the anchor up. Once Artemo got to High Five, the engine was going and they raced to get us.

We want to make it very clear that these people completely saved our boat from becoming splinters of fiberglass!

A lot of boats in the anchorage drug that day but High Five came closer to the rocks than anybody ever wants to see a boat get. We are very grateful that we still have a functional boat as a worst case and are not stuck in a boat yard in Panama fixing the damage the rocks would have done to High Five. Nobody in the anchorage could believe it but our boat did not suffer a single scratch that day.
Since we have arrived in Panama City we have met several cruisers who have tried to leave and run into various mechanical and environmental conditions that have kept them here or forced them to return (some three times over). We felt this place had some bad energy and really wanted to get out. Our planned departure date was compromised as we were waiting for a part for our autohelm. It was going to be the next business week before it arrived so we decided to go to Las Perlas Islands 35 miles away for a few days and return when our part was in Panama City. This would get us out of the anchorage (with all the garbage floating by) and to some beautiful islands where we can swim off the boat. It turned out to be an excellent decision. Las Perlas Islands were beautiful and the people were very nice. If you are looking for a vacation that is off the beaten path but still has modern day amenities check out Isla Contadora in Panama. It is actually where they film Survivor Panama the TV show. We met some of the participants and film crew from the Survivor Turkey version of the show while we were there. The beaches are beautiful, the water is warm and the fishing is world class. There are whales and dolphins as well as protected turtles. We had been given a surf board by the family on Artemo before heading out and we all put it to good use with our new sport which we call dingy surfing. We stand on the surf board being towed behind the dingy much the same as a wake board but minus the foot holds. It is a lot of fun! We spent 5 days in Las Perlas which past so quickly. On the Monday we called back to Panama City to learn our part had arrived. We returned to Panama City on the Tuesday, and spent a day and a half doing laundry, grocery shopping and boat maintenance. As well as the hard task of saying goodbye to the wonderful people we had connected with while here.
The highlights of Panama City would have to be first and foremost the Canal. It has a ton of history and is amazing to transit on your own boat. Panama is very lush and green so the city reminded us of Vancouver, also the city lights at night could easily have been Vancouver if you were anchored in English Bay( on a night hotter and more humid than Vancouver has ever seen). We must also give mention to the malls, they are huge, airconditioned and one of them has a full size carousel in the food court! The shopping in Panama City is very cheap so we were able to refurbish our wardrobes with new shorts and shirts.

On Thursday the 13th of May we left Panama City and headed 10nm to the Island of Taboga which isn't far but is a big step away from Panama and towards Costa Rica.

From the crew of High Five

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Web cam shots

These are a couple of shots that Gary's sister sent us from the Pancanal Webcam. Thanks Nancy!