After the loss of Benita, Jon and I only spent one more week in the Biesanz anchorage. We headed off for Drakes bay on August 14th, there was no wind so we motored, which seems like the theme for Costa Rica. I guess that warning from the catamaran we chatted with off the Mexican/ Guatemala coast was true, I remember it was almost my watch, when I was rudely awaken by someone blaring Enter the Sandman by Matalica on Vhf channel 16, shortly followed by a vague hail from a catamaran who was trying to identify us through the array of fishing vessels. We chatted for a little about where we were going and where we came from. That is when his statement/warning happened, he told us ” Well, I hope you like motoring!” We laughed and didn’t think much more of it. Oh man what he right, Costa Rica was a MOTOR FEST!
We didn’t go ashore again in drakes bay, we felt that we had explored enough when we went there with the family. So we only spent one night and getting a 5 am morning start with a 50 nautical mile motor around the Oso Peninsula.
We got to Puerto Jiminez just before sunset. It is known to be a difficult place to anchor as the bottom is very irregular. We set the hook in 20 feet, at one end of our scope ( that’s boat lingo for the chain we let out when we anchored) we sat in 40-45 feet. Then when the tide changed we would sit in 9 feet at low tide at the other end of our scope. That made us laugh.
We really wanted to see what Golfito looked like and we only had one week left before we had to check out of the country, so we headed across the gulf and entered the protected harbor that is Golfito. We anchored right in front of Land Sea Services. Tim and Katie were a world of knowledge and very helpful. For a very small fee of $7 a day you can use their dinghy dock, club house, showers and of corse… their internet. We also got to paint out logo on the wall, where many before us had done the same.
The town of Golfito is kinda sad though. Our first night there, we were invited over to SV Sirena, where once again Chris and Shawna spoiled us with ice-cold rum drinks, dinner and very cold iced cream. When it was time for Jon and I to go, we loaded up into our dinghy that was tied onto the back of their boat. Falkor was right where we left him, but their dinghy was nowhere to be found. Stolen, the lines were cut and the thieves took off with their prize. Tim informed us that is the first theft problem they have had ( boats at anchor wise) in almost 4 years. The saddest part, they most likely took the engine off then sunk the very nice aluminum/ hypalon 12′ dinghy. On the up side for us…..it shows that no one wants our little rowing plastic Clorox bottle of a dinghy we call Falkor.
We spent the next few days exploring the town, and we’re very impressed by the University of Costa Rica, it was a beautiful campus. Chris and Shawna also invited us to join them on a hike one morning. We went in search of good views and to see more toucans! We accomplished both!
Our cruising permit was good till the 28th of August and you do not want to check out late. A fellow cruiser in the anchorage made that mistake. The poor man went to check out on the last day he had, which was a Monday… Well that Monday happened to be Mother’s Day in CR, and he did not know that customs is never open on Mondays. He should have checked out the pervious Friday, they tried to impound his boat and fined him over $1000.00. He was lucky enough to talk them down to only $100.00 fine and not to impound his boat. He then checked out and left the following morning. Jon and I did not want to chance it, the 28th fell on a Saturday, so we aimed to check out on Thursday just in case anything happened we could follow-up on the Friday. So on Wednesday we set off on the town to locate where all of the places we needed to go. The buildings were a little harder to find than we thought, cause we never found them… turns out we were very close and they were hiding in plan site…kinda.
On Thursday we headed to Immigration and were met with a very nice officer. He asked for all our paperwork, one of which apparently I did not have ( the formal crew list). Luckily he did not seem too worried about it and just asked me to fill out a new one. He finished all our paper work, stamped our passports and thanked us for visiting the country, he’s words were ” Thank you so much for coming to Costa Rica, it is so nice to see beautiful young people here” and shook our hands with meaningful gratitude. He then told us where customs was, and that we would most likely want to take a cab there as it was almost 3 miles away and pouring rain.
The customs office is located in the duty-free area which Golfito is known for. It feels like you are entering a maximum security prison as you come into the very large shopping center. If you want to shop there, you have to first, show up, fill out paper work then come back the following day. You are only given one day to get your shopping done in the duty-free zone and can only come once every 6 months. To visit the customs office though you do not need to fill out the duty-free zone paperwork, you simply just have to find the right door that leads to the office. The woman we spoke with here did not speak any English, and did not have the same warm welcome or smile that the immigration officer had, luckily I know enough Spanish to get through the paperwork cha cha. When she came back to the front desk, she gave us our paperwork and then went back to her desk. Jon and I were a little confused, so I asked her if we were done? With a little more information, that didn’t make any sense, Jon and I were off, we got into another cab and headed to the Port captain.
Once we got to the port captains office, they smiled at us and laughed because we forgot to go to the bank first. Well Jon didn’t forget, but the lady at customs told us to head to the port captain, we I asked customs about the bank she said nope, go to the port Captain. Any ways….So Jon and I turned around and took the short walk up to the national bank, glad that the rain had let up. We waited in line for 30 minutes, only to be told we were in the wrong spot once we got up to the window. I think they could see we were slightly confused, so we were directed to a little desk where a very nice woman filled out a non official looking piece of paper that we then had to take back to the original window we waited for. The teller did not make us wait again, once we were back in the main waiting area she waved us up to the front so we could pay our $20.00 exit fee and the $5.00 bank fee. Once we paid, we took that little non official looking receipt back to the Port Captain and got our international Zarpe. Boom we were officially check out of Costa Rica. Apparently you have 24 hours to leave the country once you have been given your zarpe, but it does not seem to be enforced.
Jon and I did some last-minute shopping, said goodbye to Tim and Katie from Land Sea services, Chris and Shawna( who are waiting to have their new dinghy shipped down to them, thank goodness for insurance) and SV Gaia then headed once again across the gulf to Puerto Jiminez. Before we left Shawna gave me a beautiful ring she made for my birthday! ( Check her stuff out at www.treasuregrotto.etsy.com ) Thank you so much Shawna!!
There was no way we were going to leave Costa Rica without checking out the Oso Peninsula. And oh my was it worth it!! Puerto Jiminez was great, the little town had a welcome warm feeling that was completely lacking in Golfito. Plus it had an amazing super market, one of the biggest we had been to in the whole country, with good prices!
At this point Jess and Josh had caught back up to us. We left them back in Quepos, as they had some engine issues to fix before they could keep heading south. The day before my birthday was bright blue skies and warm sunshine, then my birthday… It was I think the wettest day in all of August. It rained all day! Jon and I had to ware our bathing suites during a downpour to row over to SV Oleada where Jess and Josh made a birthday dinner and Jess made a delicious cake! Wow 29! The last of my 20’s pretty incredible, and I’ll be spending pretty much all of it in Panama!
We spent a few more days hanging on the beach and exploring the little town before leaving Costa Rica. Sadly we did not explore the park nor any of the incredible hiking trails that the Oso Peninsula have to offer. Oh well, I told Jon it just makes a good excuse to have to come back to Costa Rica someday.
Well we left this morning around 5:30 am. The skies were filled with clouds but it looked like it might clear up…. Yea no. Oh and did I mention the swell was up. So our 50nm voyage today was spent in the rain.. Well Jon stained in the rain.. I cat napped all day inside as Prism got pushed around by the 3 meter swell on our beam. Fun. The reason I was cat napping was to avoid feeling sick and possibly making a mess. So Jon did all the work and I slept till we rounded the point and were a about 30 minutes out from our anchorage. ( Jon thinks it was more like 5 minutes out from our anchorage) The swell was now behind us and getting smaller and smaller the more we tucked in behind the large shoal. We have arrived to our first spot in Panama, Punta Balsa! This anchorage is kind of roadstead, but a clam roadstead with an irregular bottom which always makes anchoring an exciting event. The first try did not take, we must have found rocks or something, it didn’t quite make sense as with our 2nd try the spade anchor dug in right away and didn’t give us any grief even though we were in the same area as the first try. Weird.
Any ways… We also set a stern hook to keep our nose into the small swell that is coming over the shoal, but it is not enough to make it bouncy. It doesn’t look like there was much on land, so we figured why not just head out tomorrow morning.
September 2, 2016
We seriously thought we were going to get in sailing in today. When we left Punta Balsa this morning we had a light breeze on our beam, Score! We hoisted everything and were sailing for about 30 minutes, then it all started to shift and die. We tried to follow the wind for a while, break off so much our heading was more towards the Galapagos. Short tacking our way across the 30 mile bay at 1knots to the Island of Parida was not an option as we would not get there till 3am…And well because the island is surrounded by rock islets and reefs we opted to once again turn on the iron pony. Vroom vroom. (** apparently “iron pony” is not the correct lingo, Jon says it should be “iron spinnaker” but I like mine better! Like there are 30 iron ponies in our engine trotting forward***) Awyways…….5 hours later we were here. It was pure paradise as we rounded the north point off Isla Pardia avoiding shallow spots and rocks the we saw our anchorage. Hello little slice of white sand, palm tree-lined beach paradise on the island of Gamez.
I told Jon once we got the hook set, ” Alright lets bust out a mooring, cause we don’t ever have to leave!” Of corse this little island has nothing on it, except bugs, birds and crabs… But still it’s sooooooo pretty. The weather today was much nicer than the day before, and we were both hot, so we filled our to go cups with margaritas and made our way to the beach. Not a sole was around, we have the whole place to ourselves! We got a buzz on and noodled in the shallows enjoying our slice of paradise.
***You know you have it good, when you have been drinking margaritas on a beach with no one around, then head back to your beautiful boat to hang out on the foredeck watching the sunset…all doing so without the need of clothing…. Pure bliss.***
And that is all she wrote folks 🙂
September 5, 2016
Our little slice of paradise was bombarded over the weekend with people from the mainland coming out to enjoy what we had been enjoying. Bla vacationers… Just show up because they can and make us put our clothes back on, lame.
On the up side, Jess and Josh have caught up to us once again. So today we spend the day on the beach, playing smash ball, Jess and I did some yoga and we threw the ball around with Uly till he was done with us and wanted to swim back out to the boats with Josh.
Jess Jon and I stayed a little longer, and got the chance to talk with a local fisherman who was selling fresh caught lobsters for $6.00. It’s weird to be back in a county that uses US Dollars as their currency. Any ways, Jess asked him, Carlos, if she could interview him, and they headed back to her boat. And right now as I am writing this, Jess and Josh just invited us over to share the lobster they had just bought from him. Gez they are good friends! I told Jess she was going to have to twist my arm pretty hard in order for us to come over to eat fresh lobster. The price…. She told me to bring a big pot over to cook them in. Done and done. Seems like we will eat like kings tonight. You all at home… Be jealous as your reading this.
September 8, 2016
Well after our lobster dinner we left our paradise anchorage at Isla Gamez the next morning and headed to an even better paradise. We are currently anchored in the Las Secas islands in the northern cove of Isla Cavada. Panama just keeps getting better and better!! And guess what!!?!?!! WE ARE ANCHORED IN THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE SEA OF CORTEZ IN CLEAR WATER!!!!! We went snorkeling the afternoon we got here and actually got to see the fish that were swimming around, and the bottom and coral, we even saw a massive moray eel and a baby lobster! I’m pretty stoked to be here. The beaches are white and sadly covered with trash that has made its way to the island by the sea. The whole island is private and has one very large Eco resort that is currently under a major re-model, so it’s closed down now, which gives us the freedom to wonder the island without bothering any high paying guest.
Yesterday we set off in search of a water fall. We made a slight detour that ended up leading us up to the air strip and the solar field. The whole island is powered by solar! Very cool. We thought we were never going to find the waterfall and after a quick conversation with a local who was checking on the solar panels, he told us there was no waterfall on the island. Bummer, so we set off to check out another beach, and wouldn’t you know it.. On the far side of the beach a fresh water stream and tucked in the trees was a waterfall!! We all laughed and enjoyed the cool fresh water in the little tiny one person at a time pools. We also made it a point to find a waterfall when all possible because we failed at hiking to waterfalls in Costa Rica!
Last night sure did suck. A rain and electrical storm decided to pay us a visit in the middle of the night. The lightning bolts where so close that there was no delay between seeing the strike and hearing the soul crushing and frightening ga-boom-crack. We kept looking over to make sure that Sv Oleada’s anchor light was still on, hoping that they didn’t get struck. This went on for about 3 hours. There is just something so terrifying about close striking lighting that makes you feel like a little kid again wanting to be held tight till the storm passes. Needless to say, we did not get much sleep last night and postponed our early morning dive this morning. We will try again for the dive tomorrow. Well I will… Jon apparently didn’t think he needed all fingers on his right hand and stabbed the middle finger, being a deep cut he no longer gets to go diving for a few days. Lucky for him we are in no rush to leave.
September 10, 2016
On Thursday we were invited by Jim and Steve to check out the South Island, go for a swim and have a few beers to celebrate Steve’s birthday. Jim is an ex cruiser who is the contractor rebuilding the Eco resort on the island and was also who informed us about the waterfall we could find on the beach. Jess was still way too tired from the lack of sleep, so Josh stayed with her while we took Uly and piled into Jim’s skiff. It was overcast, but it was fun to be on a fast-moving boat for once! Jim pointed out areas that he thought would be good for diving, then we got to the little beach on the South Island. These islands are so beautiful, I feel,like we could spend months here. We stayed for about 2 hours swimming and playing with Uly on the beach before heading back to the boats.
Yesterday we woke early to attempt to be in the water for a morning dive, well as most of you know, I am not an early riser. Even though I was up at 7:30, I was not ready to dive till about 10. So we all got into Jess and Josh’s dinghy and made our way to the little islands to the east of our anchorage. Jon and I were geared up for scuba, while Jess and Josh were free diving.
It was a great dive! It most likely would have been better earlier, but we still saw a lot of cool things, including moray eels, turtles, a crazy looking star fish, tons and tons of fish all the while hearing whales sing. The whale songs were so loud at times Jon and I seriously thought we were going to swim right into them at some point. Unfortunately the water visibility was not super clear so we never saw the whales while below the surface.
This morning, much like every morning the group of humpback whales gave us quite the show.
The rest of the day was gloomy and raining, so we edited videos and watched a few movies, while I made fresh pizza and English muffin bread.
Just as I wrote the date to write some blog I realized what today was. So we will have a drink and remember all those who lost lives and thank those to helped save lives. Sad day for America, kinda puts a damper on how my day was going…. Woke up to a beautiful day went diving, then went dinghy exploring, snorkeling, found another waterfall, more snorkeling, whales! It is so beautiful here!
We are thinking about leaving tomorrow, we are running out of fresh food, dinners now will be can based and baking goods. We hope we can get a few fresh items at our next stop in Bahia Honda, we will have to see.
September 27, 2016
Well we are officially checked into Panama! But let’s back track a few days…..
Bahia Honda was a great anchorage, but the little island did not have much to offer. We were able to buy some very fresh fruit from a local, so fresh that we still had to wait about 6 days before we could eat any of it. BUT!!! We were stoked to order $1 beers. THAT’S CHEAPER THAN MEXICO!!!! Sorry that was exciting for us. We worked on some boat projects in the very calm waters and even rafted up with Sv Oleada! We stayed there for 3 days waiting for nice weather to move on to Isla Cebaco.
We stopped at Isla Cebaco for the night to break up the longer distances. We were able to get to the anchorage just as a huge squall passed over us, as soon as the hook was set we were down below just as the rain pummeled us.
We blew past this part of the coast, as we were running very low on supplies and really just wanted to get to Panama City. So the next morning at day break we made a run for Punta Naranjo.
This anchorage was beautiful, but the swell funneled right in. So we set a stern hook next to Oleada. They took off the next morning, while Jon and I set off to explore the beach and trails filled with cows. Yes I said cows.
The beach was okay, not the best we have seen, but it was still nice to get off the boat and stretch our legs. On our hike we thought we were going to be killed by a stampede, we could hear the cows ( loud and close) but we could not see them. Jon and I both started to back up quickly thinking we were going to be bombarded by the cows coming around the bend. Ha we laughed so hard once we saw they were on the trail above us on the hill-side. They were running away from us as fast as we were running from them!
The next morning we headed around the corner, passing the point which put us the furthest south we have ever been. It was short-lived though because as soon as we rounded that point we started to head north-east. South is now a thing of the past. Weird. Because we would never be this far south again, well at least for a long time, we decided to make our very first message in a bottle. We wrote a little message, but the date our coordinates and our contact info. We hope who ever finds it will be able to contact us some day.
We were heading for an anchorage that asks as a waiting point / jump off point to round the infamous Punta Mala, which translates to Bad Point. It’s knows to be worse than point conception in California. Not only does it have the cape effect in weather, but your also turning the corner into the gulf of Panama, where once again like the Tehuantepec in Mexico, and the Papagayos in Costa Rica the gap winds build to extreme heights making it a living hell for north bound boats.
I should mention that while Shawna and I were taking in the views, looking at cute birds, flirting in bad Spanish with some locals while drinking cheap beer. Our men…. Chris and Jon were sweating and cussing at a broken genset on Sv Sirena. Luckily Jon was able to retro fit the faulty starter with a new brush and some other kind of love that when over my knowledge of engines and got it working for them again. When us girls got back to the boat the AC was on and the ice-cold drinks started to be poured.
The next morning we all set off to round the formerly mentioned Bad Point. We did not have a bad experience around the point though. Because we are in the end of the wet season, the gap winds are rare and when they do blow they are light. We, get this… had wind from behind! Even as we rounded the point! The wind veered to stay behind us! We actually got to sail!! So the wind and sea state were not that bad, but once we were a few miles beyond the point the afternoon squalls started. We are talking angry, no visibility type of squalls. But still all from behind, we had to reef the main but still! Prism handled it all with such ease, the ocean looked angry but it did not feel that bad. Or maybe we are just becoming more accustomed? I think they call that being salted? Or simply that we are salty. Can I get some tequila with that salt please?
When we left our jumping off point we were excited to anchor at Isla iguana. Jess and Josh had spent the night there and told us it was beautiful!!! But un lucky for us once we got there the squalls made it a nasty lee shore with a huge coral rock wall that has been known to eat other boats who tried to weather out bad weather there. So we headed over the mainland, trying to hide in the lee of a tiny point called Punta Purio . We rocked ear to ear in this anchorage, so trying to make dinner was quite the mission for me. We thought we were going to get zero sleep, and considering we had a 4 am departure scheduled the following morning… We were not looking forward to the lack of sleep. Around 8 pm, after dinner and a movie, the swell died and we were able to sleep like babies! That was a nice thing mother nature did for us.
We left the roadstead anchorage around 3:55 am, with a 63nm journey to Isla Otoque. Once again we were blessed with an amazing passage! Well we had zero wind so we motored, but we have gotten used to that. But the weather was beautiful! Blue skies and only kinda hot, the current was even kind to us.
We made such great time that we got to the anchorage before dark. But we made the stupid decision ( and I mean me when I say we) to stay in the open to the south anchorage, when SV Sirena moved to the west anchorage ( that could become a lee shore if the winds came up). We dealt with another rolly night, but I still got a good amount of sleep. Oleada had pulled in next to us just after dark.
We were both upset with ourselves for not going over to the west anchorage, which Shawna reported to us the next morning, was dead flat calm all night. Damn. We left that morning early, Jon and I motored around to anchor till the tides changed in the west anchorage where Chris and Shawna invited us over for breakfast. It is like we are repeating customers at the Cafe Sirena. We had fresh fruit smoothies, eggs made to order, pancakes and BACON! These people spoil us!!!
Once the tide switched to our favor we made the small jump of 12 mm up to Isla Toboga, and for the first time we could see..well first all the tankers but just beyond all the rusting steel was the amazing skyline of Panama City.
Jon and I anchored in the bay that faces the city. It’s crazy to be anchored so close to such huge ships. There were a few times when I woke up to see a huge tanker just outside our port light and I would have a slight panic attack before I remembered where we were.
We explored Isla Toboga a little bit. Used the Internet and had a few beers. The anchorage we were in was very empty during the week days, but during the weekend it is busy like Cabo San Lucas! Party boats filled with people having the time of their lives! Then the afternoon squalls start, and some boats go home, while others wait it out and dance like crazy on the foredecks during the downpour.
On Sunday afternoon we made our way through the tanker explosives anchorage. I’m sure your thinking.. Umm why would you go through the explosives anchorage… Well simply because it was the quickest way through. Lol Jon kept a sharp look out on the bow, looking for any kind of movement from any of the ships, also watching for any traffic coming in or out of the locks. We only need to cross the shipping lanes once and at times it can be very nerve-racking. Lucky for us we only needed to look out for one ship, who needed up turning around and headed away from us. We crossed with no traffic moving near or away from us. Sweet!! We made our way to the wet season anchorage on the other side of La Playitas Marina. It’s a good thing that the skyline is so pretty to look at, because if you looked at the water your boat is sitting in, you become very sad. There is trash floating everywhere, and I think you would get very sick if you even touched your toe into it. We read that there is a cruisers dinghy dock, but when we checked it out, it seemed to us like more of a hassle and possible injury waiting to happen. So we went back around the island and anchored in the Playitas anchorage.
The check in procedure was pretty simple, the port Captain at Flamenco Marina (office located in the duty-free building) took care of our ships papers, and the cruising permit which would be ready for pick up later in the day. Then the immigration and customs is in the same building. We got our 72 hour visa and paid the $20 agriculture fee then headed to Albrook to get our Mariners visa.
After a slight confusion with the taxi driver, we grabbed some lunch with Chris and Shawna before we made our way to immigration. Funny that the building was struck by lighting, and all systems were down. They asked us to come back the following day, and that we needed colored printed passport photos along with the cruising permit. So we headed back to the Marina to pick up our permits and then Jon took our pictures, passport style. We were able to print them on photo paper Shawna had the following morning while we met up Oleada and Scooby ll and all headed to get our visas together.
After we all had our visas Jon and I went our separate way and picked up a new phone and plan, as we plan on staying in Panama for at least a year. It’s odd to have a cell again!
Today we are editing more videos, answering emails, doing blog, photos and social media.
We are working on some goodies and perks for our patreons… That should be ready in the next month or so.
We are also working on the logistics for shipping our brand new shiny red Bata Marine Engine. It can not be here till mid November, so we will cross though the canal just before it gets here. Until then, we have a lot of city exploring to do!!