6-20-2017 – Golfito, Costa Rica

We ended our last posting from Quepos, Costa Rica, losing hope that we would be able to haul Lungta out for a long-overdue repaint, because we couldn’t find an insurance company that would write us a short-term liability only policy. As it turned out, a proactive woman at the marina was able to find an agent at the national insurance company who could do it. Although we had already talked with an agent at that company who told us it wouldn’t be possible if we only had a temporary permit for using the boat in the country, somehow that hurdle was not a problem for the new agent. Unfortunately it was quite an expensive policy; we were quoted $550 for one month. After gritting our teeth, we accepted – and then they raised the rate to $850. Ouch! But we did a little research into other options further south and coudn’t find anything significantly cheaper (and would run into the same issue with finding insurance if the boatyard required coverage). So once again we gritted our teeth and agreed.

The Marina Pez Vela in Quepos is a real class act! Their boatyard is only a couple of years old and all of their equipment is virtually new. All of the employees we met were conscientious and knew what they were doing. It was a real pleasure to haul out there. Although it was roughly twice the cost that we had previously paid for a haulout, it was a pleasant surprise to find that they did not under-quote and then pile on additional charges at the end. Our bill was just slightly LESS than we expected.

We spent 10 days with five of us (including our crew Justin, Leigh Anna & Eduardo) working diligently on the boat. The marina would not allow us to spend the night on the boat, so we stayed in the Wide Mouth Frog Hostel in town, a ten minute walk away. Although it added expense to the overall project, it also gave us a clear ending time each day, time for a dip in their swimming pool and a warm shower before dinner out. This was the first time since leaving Portland 6 years ago that Dan and Kathy had help with a haulout, and we could certainly get used to it! The boatyard pressure–washed most of the sea life that had accumulated on the hull, but there was still a lot of sanding required before it was ready to be painted. The first four days were mostly spent sanding. The remainder of our time there was spent on applying two coats of primer and three coats of paint, after which we had the marina reposition the boat on the supports so that we could sand and paint the sections that were initially covered up by the stands. In between coats of paint we squeezed in a few other projects. We installed a new transducer for our depth sounder, using the same hole in the hull as the previous one – although we did have to enlarge it, which is not a trivial task in a boat made of cement! We also put in a new hole (and installed a thru-hull fitting and ball-valve to close it off) for future use by a foot-pump that will provide seawater to the kitchen sink for washing dishes. It may reduce our total water consumption by as much as 25-30% once we complete that project! As we always seem to say after a haulout, it was a lot of work but we’re very glad we’ve done it! Many thanks to our three hard-working crew!

Bunny Suits!

 

Painting the Hull

Removing the Masking Tape

Lungta & Her Team

We went back into the water on a Friday evening, topped off our fuel tanks and drove around the corner to a guest dock where we could leave the boat for an hour while we visited the weekend produce market. We dawdled a little longer than we should have, and it was nearly dark when we motored out of the marina and back to the anchorage a couple of miles away. By the time we got there we had to anchor in the dark. Although we had spent plenty of time in this anchorage before, none of us could remember exactly where the clusters of rocks were and they weren’t all shown on our charts. Can you tell where this is going? :-( We all were happy to be sleeping back on the water again, and to be heading back out to play in and on the water! In the early morning some of us were sitting in the pilothouse before breakfast when we heard a disturbing sound – our newly painted keel bumped against some submerged rocks, crunching a few times as we spun around on the anchor chain. Ouch! We quickly started the engine and relocated 100 yards away. Later we dove to inspect the hull and found three or four small patches with the paint and a bit of cement chipped away. Our anguish was similar to someone driving a new car off the lot and getting a ding in the door during a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home! Of course, it would have been a much more serious event if Lungta was made of fiberglass.

We spent a day putting the boat back in order and relaxing, and the next day we headed south again. Since none of our crew had done an overnight passage before, they were anxious to see what it was like. It was a relatively uneventful passage, but the two of us split the night’s shifts pretty much like usual, while our crew faded away late in the night.

We stopped at an anchorage about 50 miles away, on the northern corner of the Osa Peninsula. Drake Bay is one of the places that caters to tourists interested in hiking in the Corcovado National Park or diving at nearby Isla del Caño. But when we asked around the town, we learned that the entrance fees were significant; the parks are not really set up for self-guided access. We didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for a guide, so we settled on a hike along the coastline towards the park entrance but not that far. We enjoyed several close sightings of small monkey troops and spent a bit of time snorkeling at a pretty beach (along with a few tourists that came in on tour boats). We also spent a couple of hours exploring a river estuary by dinghy. We’ve done this sort of thing several times in Mexico and El Salvador, but this is the first one we’ve done in a jungle rather than a mangrove forest. The jungle of this region is lush and nearly pristine! We turned around when we got to a section of rapids that a small group of tourists had just tubed down.

San Josecito Beach

Capuchin Monkeys

Smile!

Justin and Leigh Anna had plane tickets back to Texas in two weeks, though, so they were interested in moving further south and seeing a few more places. We did another overnight passage to Pavones, a surfing spot on the mainland just beyond the peninsula. This time all of our crew took a turn at doing a night shift. It’s not unusual for the wind to die down at night on a coastal passage like this, and when it does the sails often “flog” back and forth when the boat rolls in the swell. It can be hard on the rigging, and we had some damage on both Leigh Anna and Justin’s shifts. The first was “just” a line that chafed through and was fairly easily replaced. (The attachment point for the blocks holding the sheet to the end of the boom for one of the staysails had broken earlier and we had temporarily rigged it with a line, but it needed tweaking.) However the second failure was much more significant; as Justin summarized it when he came to our room to get some help, “the mizzen sail is in the water, but the mast is still up”. Yikes! It took a few moments to figure out what had happened, but the roller furling system had parted and the top of the sail fell into the water while the bottom stayed attached in place. The four of us spent somewhere around 30 minutes tugging the assembly back onto the boat and securing it for more attention in the morning. We spent the rest of the passage without our aft-most sail, causing steering to be a bit more difficult. Eduardo slept in the fore-most cabin, and heard none of the excitement. He was quite surprised when he came up for his shift later in the night to learn of the problems. Fortunately his shift was uneventful!

We stopped in Pavones because there’s a world-class wave there that Eduardo and Justin were both enthusiastic about spending some time surfing on – and a larger than usual swell was coming through for a couple of days. We anchored in the rolly anchorage near town and took the dinghy ashore to find some surfboards to rent. We explored the small town and managed to find a couple of longboards that suited us. Eduardo already had his own shortboard with him. The next morning Eduardo hopped out of bed just as the sun rose and paddled out to the waves for a surf session that made him dance. After he rested for a couple of hours, he went out again with Justin, Kathy & Dan to give us pointers (Justin) and instruction (Kathy & Dan). It was a fun session – but we have a lot to learn. :-) Kathy managed to stand up on a moving surfboard for perhaps more than a second – perhaps. We’ll give it another try soon! Eduardo and Justin went back out the next morning, but the peak of the big swell had passed and left somewhat unsettled seas behind. We turned in our rental boards and moved on to Golfito, where Leigh Anna and Justin could catch a bus to the capital city and its airport for their trip back to the States. It’s been fun having them with us as we learn how to live in a larger community. They brought aboard a different set of interests and perspectives, knowledge and abilities. They made the place lively with their enthusiastic love of the water, from playing in Ziji the sailing dinghy, to jumping off of the big boat, movies and TV programs on demand from Justin’s hard drive, Leigh Anna’s cooking and her new ukelele (which was enjoyed by more than just her). The place will feel a bit empty for a while without them around.

Golfito is a bay within a gulf, offering super-flat water that is really useful for getting boat projects done. The town is strung out for perhaps three miles along the shore with jungle-clad hills just behind. We took a short hike with Leigh Anna & Justin before they took off, and another longer one after we finished our major projects. The jungle is beautiful and full of birds and butterflies. This area seems to have lots of scarlet macaws, which are frequently heard screeching as they fly in pairs overhead. We saw a pair of toucans on the second hike, sitting high in a tree and repeatedly making a clear-toned high-pitched call. Although monkeys are not unusual to find once you get slightly away from the town, they are still a novelty for us.

Golfito Vista

Toucans in Profile

In addition to the shoreline (dotted with 4 small marinas and a fancy new one) and the jungle, the town’s main attraction seems to be a duty-free mall – which we spent the better part of a day in. It’s a little confusing navigating this place because of the complicated rules established in order to retain the duty-free status. Each individual has a certain limit that they can purchase per day (or per week?). You have to register before purchasing anything, but the day we went we didn’t happen to have our passports with us. However it turns out there are plenty of people willing to “sell” their quota just waiting for the opportunity. So the process was to “pre-pay” for the item and then come back later with the person whose quota it was to be applied towards. After all the purchases are picked up, there’s one final check-out station where they make sure that the quota hasn’t been overspent. We were hoping to find an inverter to replace the one that we use for our daily household devices (as opposed to the “big” one that also can handle cooking, vacuuming, and power tools); this “small” inverter was damaged by a lightning strike one night while we were in the boatyard in Quepos. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a 24V inverter, only 12V ones. We didn’t come away empty-handed, though; we found a 4-slice toaster and a big 14″ pan with a cover, both of which will prove very useful in our larger household.

We managed to repair our mizzen sail and rebuild the furling system, replace an injector which had been leaking exhaust whenever we ran our main engine and replace a damaged battery in our main bank: three major projects that were seriously impacting our capabiliity. Our power situation had been pretty challenged for the last couple of weeks, because we had temporarily taken one of the three battery banks out of service when the one battery died. We had been running the generator 2 or 3 times each day for several hours to compensate and to make sure that the fridge and freezer had enough juice to keep running. In addition to the bad battery our power system has been struggling under an as-yet not understood issue with the solar panels not producing as much power as expected and a small component in the charging system that was damaged in the same lightning strike that took out our inverter (this component measures the current going in and out, helping us manage the power, but doesn’t affect the actual charging of the batteries). We’ll get it straightened out, but don’t know when; it’s part of the fabric of our lives. And of course there’s the old saw, “cruising is doing boat repairs in exotic places”!

A couple of days after we arrived in Golfito, we heard a familiar voice paging us on the radio. Our friends on Georgia B had ended up in Golfito rather than Panama. Elizabeth had to go back to Chile quickly and John had stayed back to secure the boat so it could be left unattended for six months. We got together a couple of times before moving on again. We also met a wonderful couple on a boat called Freya. Marta and Rafa first stopped by to see if we could help them with programming their new auto-pilot. We were not able to be of much help there, but we did have a nice conversation and enjoyed several enjoyable hours together over the next few days. (In fact, we’re having dinner with them again tonight!)

This is the wet season for Central America, and they say that the Osa Peninsula’s two seasons are “wet” and “wetter”. Well apparently this “wetter” season is even wetter than most! We have had strong rain most days in the last month, and some of them have been real torrents. Every day is different, and we can’t tell in the morning what the afternoon will be like; the clouds roll in quickly and a clear morning can turn into a downpour with just a few minutes warning. We’ve rigged a water-collection setup on the awning over our back deck and have been putting some of it in our tanks, relieving some of the pressure on our watermaker. We’re scheming up an even better setup for our mid-ship deck. It should provide almost twice the water and also be less troubled by wind. Our to-do list will never run short! :-)

So life has been full of friends, exploration and repairs; just another month in our lives. :-)

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05-11-2017 – Quepos, Costa Rica

We’ve spent the better part of a month on the Nicoya Peninsula in northern Costa Rica. It’s a highly touristed region, with numerous small towns packed with hostels, cafes and surfing waves. We enjoy that scene in small doses, but tend to seek out the less visited corners.

At the beginning of the month we met our new crew, Leigh Anna and Justin, in Tamarindo, one of the busy towns. Their bus broke down an hour before arriving, so they shared a taxi with a couple of other stranded passengers. They arrived just at sunset – whew! We got a ride from a tour boat tender out to our anchored dinghy and made it home just before dark. We chose to reverse our course for the week, so that we could spend our time together relaxing and playing in places we already knew. We spent 4 nights in Bahia Guacamaya, where the snorkeling was very nice (much better than our first visit!). Justin and Dan spent an afternoon playing with the windsurfer, and came home exhausted! We swam to a nice beach one day, where we thought we might have a bonfire, but never got around to it. It was one of those lazy times where you recharge your batteries but don’t have much to say for yourself. :-) We ate well, we slept well. The end of the week loomed quickly, so we moved to Bahia Culebra, a large bay near the town where they would leave us, and made the short hop the next morning with a marvelous sail. They had a scheduled family visit, and made plans to join usJustin & Leigh Anna

After they left, we resumed our southward travel. We made a long jump, including an all-nighter, around the bottom of the peninsula to a big bay called Bahia Ballena. As we sailed into the bay in the late afternoon, we noticed some splashes nearby that turned out to be the small manta rays that we saw throughout Mexico. These guys jump frequently and apparently joyously. We once experienced a magical morning near Isla San Francisco, north of La Paz, when hundreds of them were leaping all around the bay. It was somewhere between watching a ballet and watching a pot of popcorn. :-) The more recent event was the most well-attended that we’ve seen in more than five years! There were dozens of them leaping in small groups, all around the entrance to the bay, but not inside. A wonderful sight to behold!

As we approached the anchorage in the Eastern corner of the bay, we noticed that there were already four boats there. We sailed in behind them, dropped our anchor and went to bed. :-) The next morning we saw a lot of activity on the closest beach. We went ashore later in the day, and met a Costa Rican man from one of the sailboats and his 9-year-old son. Adrian and his wife Elena live in the capital city, San José, but keep their boat, Pura Vela, in Puntarenas. His mother was also with them for the holiday week. We had a pleasant conversation before helping him launch his dinghy. Shortly afterwards we met an American ex-pat who owns some land at that end of the bay. He and his wife had a lot of family visiting for the Easter weekend, so he didn’t spend a lot of time with us, but promised to come by later in the week. We enjoyed both of these encounters and suddenly felt part of a transitory community again. That night, we heard music wafting over the water that came from an electric keyboard mounted in a mini amphitheater halfway up the hillside. It was a one-man concert, and it was very good!

A couple of days after we arrived, the Easter holiday was over and the crowds dissipated. :-) We heard that one of the nearby boats, Estrella, housed a Dutch couple and their 1-year-old son, and that they were preparing to cross the Pacific in the next few days. We stopped by one evening to wish them well, and had yet another very nice hit from the conversation. The next day they relocated to the other side of the bay in order to be closer to the town where provisioning would be easier. We were alone in our anchorage, and remained that way for the rest of our stay, another week!

Bahia Ballena Sky

We slept on deck most of that time, enjoying the cool night air and waking up to the odd calls of the howler monkeys. These guys inhabit the treetops throughout most of Costa Rica, communicating with other troops with throaty cries that sound like something between the rumble
of thunder and a Wookie (from Star Wars). We haven’t seen them here yet, but we saw them last year in Peru’s Amazon jungle and two years ago in Guatemala’s Tikal ruins. We continue to hear them most evenings as we head further down the coast.

There is a small town on the other side of the bay – about 8 miles away! We dinghied over there several times and left our dinghy tied up to a big pier that is primarily used by the fishing pangas. It doesn’t float with the tides, so after being gone for a couple of hours we had to figure out how to get in the dinghy that was now 3 or 4 feet lower than when we had arrived! One time the boat had swung around to the other side of the pier and was completely out of view – we were very nervous as we walked back along the shore that it had gone missing. What a relief to finally see it as we reached the pier! On Saturdays there is a wonderful organic market in this town. We dinghied over first thing and wandered through the rows of boxes, oohing and aahing over the basil, dill weed, kale, squash – what variety! We’ve made pesto and frozen it for many future meals, and started some dill pickles that didn’t last nearly as long. :-) We also took a bus to the next larger town, Cobano, several times. We ended up making three trips in to get a replacement inner tube for our dinghy’s wheel. It’s been sometimes inconvenient to be unable to bring our dinghy up the beach away from breaking waves and rising (or falling) tides! We thought that the hardware store had special ordered the right size for us. The first time we tried to pick it up, the bus was much later than we expected. We were told that it runs every 40 minutes, but in fact it’s about 2 hours in between – you don’t want to miss it by just a few minutes! By the time we arrived, the hardware store had closed, after their short Saturday hours. When we returned on Monday, we realized that there had been a miscommunication – the tubes they had were 2″ too big for our wheels. Isn’t life hard? :-)

We also took the bus one day to another beach town a bit further away, called Montezuma. This town is known for having a nice series of waterfalls nearby, with one that has a cliff that adventurous tourists jump off! We started to walk there, but one of Dan’s flip-flops broke only a quarter mile down the trail. He limped back to the road while Kathy went ahead to see the the first of the falls. It was a nice enough trail and a pretty cascade, but much more crowded than we would have hoped for. There will be others down the road… On one of our trips into Cobano, we ran into the folks from Estrella, doing their final provisioning before crossing to the Marquesas Islands. We had a heart-felt conversation together on the way back to the bay, and expect to meet up with them again next year in New Zealand.Montezuma Waterfall

A Basilisk on the Trail!

When we went to the Saturday market, we met the woman who owns the land at our end of the bay. When we mentioned that we were thinking of moving on to the next bay because we wanted to do some hiking, she invited us to use the trails on her property. The world is full of kind and generous people; we are lucky to have met quite a few of them! We spent a great morning wandering on the trails and roads behind their home. Some of it looked over the rocky coast beyond our bay, some of it out towards a jungle valley, and some out over our own bay. We saw lots of pretty birds, including a motmot, which has a tail with feathers that narrow down to a thread before flaring out again to form a distinctive round marker. We saw more iguanas and lizards than we could count, and one skinny snake that wasn’t happy to be seen. We were pleasantly exhausted when we returned home – we haven’t been hiking much lately, and we’d like to correct that situation!

Pistachio Fruits (with Nuts Below)

We stayed in contact with the family on Pura Vela, and arranged to meet them for the weekend at another bay about 15 miles away. We had a wonderful day’s sail across the Gulf of Nicoya to Punta Leona, where their family owns a beautiful house with an astounding view of the bay. We dinghied ashore in the morning and met Adrián, Elena and Felipe on the beach. We had a lovely “tipico” breakfast along with Adrián’s father and brother. Delightfully warm people! After breakfast, the five of us piled into the dinghy (along with a surprising amount of baggage!) and headed out to Lungta to begin our weekend adventure, sailing 40 miles south, to Quepos. This was the first time the family had done an overnight passage together (although Adrián had done one before, when he relocated the boat a year ago). They have owned their boat for about three years, but knew absolutely nothing about sailing when they got it. They spent every weekend for the first year just figuring it out. And they continue to figure it out, just at a higher level. (Isn’t that what we all do, throughout life?) We sailed through Saturday and Saturday night, and arrived mid-morning Sunday. Overall, it was a pleasant passage, with many hours of perfect sailing winds, but also a reasonable number of hours where there wasn’t as much wind as we would have liked or not coming from the right direction. :-)

When we arrived in Quepos, we anchored out in the very rolly anchorage outside the entrance to the fancy marina. We tried to find a way to get to town, but had a frustrating experience – both the marina and the “public pier” told us that we couldn’t use their dock to come ashore with our dinghy. The coast along this area is mostly rocky, even cliff-like. And the beach near town has waves breaking a long way – with surfers enjoying the ride! We learned that there is an estuary where the town’s fishing boats are kept, but it took a while for us to figure out how to get in! There’s a deep channel running along the beach inside the breaking waves, which heads right into the estuary entrance. To get to that channel, small boats can sneak along the breakwater of the marina which runs perpendicular to the beach and roughly forty-five degrees off of the “usual” swell, creating a shadow of sorts. In the right swell and tide conditions, we can hug the breakwater, take a sharp left to follow the channel along the rocky coast into the estuary. There is no formal place to leave a dinghy, but we’ve tried tying off to a boat in a small boatyard and paying the workers to watch it for us, and also tying to a barricade near a stairway that’s been carved into the 15′ cliff along the roadcliff and leaving the dinghy floating in the channel at the entrance to the estuary. Both techniques have worked for us, but both feel a little insecure. Before we figured this out, though, we were a bit discouraged.

Quepos Channel

Quepos Stairway

We decided that the rolly anchorage wasn’t a place we wanted to hang out with our friends, so we moved a mile down the coast to another anchorage that was snuggled into the crook of a point. This nook is reportedly inaccessible by road, but lots of tourist boats bring visitors daily to snorkel, kayak or sunbathe on a small beach. And we have the place all to ourselves in the evenings. On Sunday we spent a couple of hours playing in the waves along one small beach. It was really sweet watching Adrian toss his boy over the waves that were breaking onto the beach behind them. Adrian decided he wanted to jump off the boat, from the tip of the bowsprit, and he invited Felipe to join him. It was very cute watching the two of them jump, then climb out on the swim ladder, only to go back to the sprit and jump again! Felipe is a bit shy, so it was particularly endearing to see him enjoy himself unabashedly. Elena donned a windsurfing jacket and floated nearby, watching her two boys leap and squeal (well, one of her boys squealed anyhow), and calling encouraging support. Elena brought plenty of food along to feed all of us, and offered snacks at just the right moments. She also brought all the towels and bedding that her family would need; we teased her about bringing so much baggage, but her thoughtfulness was certainly appreciated.

Monday morning we picked up our crew Justin & Leigh Anna again. (The “public” pier denied us the privilege of allowing them to walk down to the dinghy, and we had to figure out the channel into the estuary and have them walk to meet us. Sheesh!) After they got settled on the boat again, all seven of us spent some time playing in the water near the boat, including some fun time pulling the windsurfer behind the dinghy and trying to surf. Late that afternoon, Dan repeated the trip to the estuary channel, carrying Adrian and family and their luggage back to town to meet Adrian’s father for the ride back home. We had such a nice time with them that it was sad to see them go.

Since their departure we’ve spent another week near Quepos. Since the anchorage has a swell rolling in pretty continuously, we’ve set out a stern anchor, a smaller anchor attached to our stern to keep us pointed in the direction of the swell, instead of allowing us to swing sideways which makes for a rolly night. Unfortunately, the anchor seems to have ideas of its own. It’s because the bottom of the anchorage is soft sand, and the anchor isn’t catching hold. The anchor is being dragged back and forth following the boat as it swings according to the current and wind. It’s actually pretty funny. We’ve tried three times to reseat the anchor, but so far no luck. Sometimes we say that sleeping on Lungta is like being a baby rocked to sleep, but this is a little more dramatic. :-)

May 1st marks the “official” start to the rainy season, and the weather has indeed changed dramatically in the last few weeks. Right now, regardless of the morning’s weather (which varies widely from day to day), we’re getting rain – often *lots* of rain – every afternoon beginning at 4. Sometimes it only drizzles, most of the time it’s a downpour, and sometimes it lasts all night! It kinda reminds us of Portland! :-) We’ve still got a few leaks in our ceilings, but we’re quickly tracking them down!

Rainy Season Arrives

We’ve been looking for a place to haul our boat out of the water, in order to paint the bottom, since before we even arrived in El Salvador. We were excited to learn that the marina here in Quepos has a brand new boatyard, with a huge TravelLift – rated at 200 tons! That’s more than enough to haul Lungta’s 64 tons, and the largest we’ve ever seen. We’re looking into hauling out here, but have not yet got all the details sorted out. The final sticking point seems to be finding a liability insurance policy, which is required by the marina. Most of the companies we’ve talked with in the last week will only sell liability insurance as a package along with full insurance, but they don’t want to insure this big old boat (mostly because it is a one-off cement hull, which is difficult to assess, and it’s not part of a population of boats with a similar history). We have a few more leads, but it’s starting to look less and less likely. While it would be wonderful to have a newly painted hull, it will certainly not disappoint us to be able to move a bit further south to where there are a couple of national parks that sound amazing… It’s all good!

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04-05-2017 – Tamarindo, Costa Rica

It’s hard to believe that we spent almost two years in one place (Bahia del Sol, El Salvador) – but we filled that time full! We made good use of the car that we bought early on, and saw many places in Central America while our boat safely rested in the Jaltepeque Estuary. We also enjoyed our longest trip away from the boat, almost two months traveling in South America. Bahia del Sol was a good place for us to accomplish many of our boat projects – short of hauling out or re-powering. We were able to have some large items shipped to us from the States, and it was quite convenient to have friends and family visit. We lived there long enough that we created our own network of “go-to” vendors, from a top-notch machine shop (Moldtrok) to a diesel lab (Manasa) to a repair shop for electric motors (Remesa). We got a custom-built propane stove from Imperial and lots of stainless steel parts from La Palma. We developed relationships with a couple of local men who refinished our cap rail (Reymundo), filled our water tanks (Deny), and cleaned the barnacles from our boat’s bottom (both of them, with helpers!). There is a small community of expats and boaters that we enjoyed socializing with while we were there, and a fairly regular stream of new faces coming in (and leaving again!).

Bill and Jean are the tireless force behind this community, organizing the El Salvador Rally to get the word out about this place as a cruiser’s destination. They not only arrange for cruising boaters to be guided safely across the entrance bar, and provide loads of advice and assistance to this community, but are also a huge boon to the local community living on the undeveloped island where they are putting together their own home. They are the focal point for many charitable activities to help the very poor families living there, including building cisterns to collect and store rainwater, acquiring the supplies and equipment needed to spray for mosquitoes that carry zika and chikungunya, providing ecologically sensitive stoves to reduce the need for firewood for cooking, and training several people in services that can provide a good living (like cleaning boats and sewing canvas). This couple has made an incredible mark on the lives of these people! Many thanks to them both!

We were very busy up to the last day, getting ready for our next adventure. It was nice to have Jonnie aboard for a few weeks before we left, so that she could settle into her new space and learn her way around. In this period, we decided to do a 5-day diet that we’ve been doing quarterly for the last year or so. Jonnie joined us on this Fasting Mimicking Diet, which leaves one very hungry – and occasionally grumpy. :-) Although it wasn’t the intent, it also turned out to be a good way to form a bond, sharing a bit of hardship, even though it was intentional. She was a real trooper! We sold our car to our friends on Isleña, who graciously shared the use of the car with us during the last week or two, even taking Jonnie to the dentist with them. On our last trip to town we were topping off our provisions when a local couple stopped us, saying that they recognized us from our boat. They introduced themselves as Luis and Lorena, and we had a short but pleasant chat in the canned foods aisle (almost made us sad to be leaving…). They have a small boat that they enjoy on weekends and have shared friendly smiles and waves across the water for the last few weeks. We were tickled that they recognized us, and also surprised to run into someone from one context in such a different one!

Sadly, SaM and David, our friends and neighbors on Isleña, who crossed the bar the same day as we did two years ago and had been planning to join us on this trip down to Panama, had a change of plans at the last minute which led them to stay behind when we left – with only three people on board a boat provisioned for five. :-) No one needs to worry about us going hungry! We added a food hammock to store some of our produce in the pantry. Jonnie has done a phenomenal job of monitoring all of the fresh produce, assuring that we enjoy all the fruits and vegetables in their prime, and introducing new foods into our routine diet. We’ve never had so much papaya, cabbage, jicama or cucumber; and we’ve been reveling in the bounty of avocados, tomatos, and in-season mangos that we “over-bought” before we left (as if that’s possible). :-)

We set a date for our departure, based on an appropriately high tide, and got one last delivery of water and one last cleaning of the boat’s bottom. Then, two days before we were to leave, it became apparent that the weather gods were not going to play along. A seasonal pattern of very high winds, beginning in the Gulf of Mexico and funneling over the Central American isthmus (how often do you get to use *that* word!?) meant that traveling conditions would be very uncomfortable for the coming week. These winds occur in a few places, most notably Costa Rica’s Gulf of Papagayo, and are often referred to by cruising sailors as “Papagayos”. We got a taste of them when we crossed Mexico’s Gulf of Tehuantepec on the way down to El Salvador (here, they’re sometimes called “Tehuantepecers”), and we were not enthusiastic about experiencing them again. So we consulted our tide tables and chose another date, 10 days out. It was a little bit disappointing, but also a bit of a relief, because we were able to do a much better job of getting the “house” ready for the rocking and rolling of the ocean’s waves. Lots of things needed to be stashed and stowed and lashed down. This is SOP when we’re underway, but when we sit in one place for a long time things have a way of finding a new resting place. It was good to have a little more time to get everything ready to go!

On the morning of Saturday the 11th, we visited the Immigration official and the Port Captain, to officially check out of the country. In the early afternoon, we placed the dinghy onto the new chocks that were built as part of our skylight project – and promptly cracked one of them in two! They will still do the job for now, but the dinghy won’t sit as securely as we’d originally intended. :-( After lashing the dinghy down, we started the motor and raised the anchor (yes, the anchor, we’d moved from our mooring ball a few days in advance, to give SaM & Dave an opportunity to settle in on our mooring ball and to make sure that our anchoring system was still in working order). We headed towards the dreaded bar, following Bill and the local pilot in a panga. We were delighted to be greeted shortly before we reached the mouth of the estuary by two people in a dinghy offering a gift bottle of wine up to us – they were the same two people that we’d met the week before in the grocery store, Luis & Lorena! How very friendly and thoughtful! We were really touched!

Going over the bar, the conditions were not as tranquil as when we’d arrived, but they were perfectly manageable. We continued to follow the pilot boat always heading for waves that looked scary, but never really encountering them ourselves. We were nervous, but all turned out well. The least depth we saw was 14 feet, which compares favorably with the 11 feet we saw on the way in – we didn’t need to furrow a channel for our deep boat. :-) We were also pleased that there were no big crashes coming from down below as we rocked from side to side, in a manner probably not described as “gentle”, but also probably not as rough as most of our peers. We had done a good job of preparing for this crossing, securing loose items that had accumulated on shelves and counters. It was a successful crossing, and we breathed a big sigh of relief as we said our goodbyes to Bill (and he turned his attention to the other boats crossing that day who also needed his attention) and made the big turn to the left.
Following Pilot Boat Over the Bar

It was wonderful to be back on the water, sailing only under Mother Nature’s powers. We knew we were really on our way when the cell towers disappeared and we lost our internet connection. :-) We sailed through the night and into the next day. The winds were pretty steady and we made consistent progress, but the seas were a bit choppy and even confused for much of the time. Jonnie was excited and nervous, and had taken some Bonine to make sure that seasickness would not cause her to be miserable. It worked, but also made her very sleepy. Dan and Kathy traded watches through the night, although not much needed to be done. We encountered a few pods of dolphins that came to say hi, and had a couple of booby birds sit on our bow pulput for a while, taking a break from their time on the wing.

The sailing was good, but a little bit hard on us and the boat. After so long away from actually sailing, both the boat and us needed some time to get back in the swing of things. We had several equipment failures that were disappointing, including our new depth display, our old radar, and our newly-repaired autopilot. The new water jacket that we put on our engine’s exhaust stack to help keep the heat from the engine’s exhaust from turning the boat’s living space into a sauna ended up putting more pressure on the water system, so that there was less water circulating through the engine. The result was a nearly over-heated engine. We were able to repair the autopilot underway (it turned out to simply be a loose connection between the motor and the hydraulic pump, so reseating the set screw at the shaft fixed the problem), but learned to live with the other issues until we could stop for a while.

We sailed through another two days (and a night), and stopped in Corinto, Nicaragua’s largest port. We arrived just after sunset and night descended as we worked our way in through the channel that was well-marked with many buoys with flashing lights. It was a challenging entry, that kept all three of us carefully watching to make sure that we stayed on course. Corinto has a constant stream of freighters stopping at the two commercial docks and off-loading containers full of cargo. When ships come in, the city’s streets fill up with semi trucks ready to carry the goods away. When we came ashore in the morning we noticed that there was not a lot of other traffic in town, except that there were quite a few pedicabs trying to drum up business by taking us to the beach or around town. But we were on a mission to get ourselves checked into the country (and get a sim-card for our hotspot so we could get connected to the internet again – it had been more than 72 hours, after all!) It was nice to have an extra crew-mate, because Jonnie was able to tend the dinghy while Dan & Kathy took care of the official formalities. We parked our dinghy in a shallow area where there were a number of small pangas and other fishing boats tied up, but realized that the falling tide would leave the dinghy up high and dry by the time we got back. Over the 90 minutes we were gone, Jonnie moved the dinghy periodically as the water retreated.

Meanwhile, Dan and Kathy found the Port Captain’s office, and waited while he rounded up officials from four different offices to process us into the country. We were seated in the lobby of the Capitania, while the officials pushed papers around behind closed doors. From time to time, one of them would emerge to ask a question, ask for a signature, or send us to the bank to pay a fee and return with the receipt. Altogether it cost us about $65 to check in. Finally they told us that we were almost clear, only needing to have a brief inspection by the immigration team. These two men, in long pants and shiny leather shoes, walked back to the dinghy with us to be transported out to the boat. There was some confusion as they contemplated wading through 9″ of mud, and eventually negotiated with a guard at the neighboring commercial docks for us to pass the gate and bring the dinghy to a ramp inside their purvue. They got things done pretty quickly, but then called their boss to sign off on things. Unfortunately the boss was busy (or somehow delayed) and it took about an hour to get that approval. The Migracion officials wrote up a long report, summarizing their wide-ranging conversation with Dan, including our careers, the original cost of the boat, the observation that we had a friend we hoped to look up in San Juan del Sur, and our future travel plans. Eventually the phone-call from the main office came in, and we got the green light. We took the officials back to the dock and moved on with life. Checking out was only slightly less officious. :-)

Corinto Commercial Docks

While in Corinto, we visited a Claro office and got a new sim-card with a Nicaraguan number for slightly more than $1 and a week’s internet package for about $8. Happy campers! We spent a couple of days catching up on our sleep and cooking some fresh meals. Dan also added a bypass to the water going through the exhaust stack, so that the pressure was reduced enough to avoid the engine over-heating problem. We wandered through the town’s streets one afternoon, and enjoyed chatting with a pedicab driver who took us back to the dinghy for less than $2. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America. It has a lot of natural bounty and promise, but is still developing. The people seem generally content and kind-hearted, but also subdued and burdened.

We spent the next three days sailing down the coast. Even though we had tried to choose a good weather window, the Papagayo winds were blowing pretty consistently during this passage. We frequently had winds above 20 knots and choppy seas of up to a meter. One night just before sunset we had a challenging but somewhat laughable situation arise. The sheets controlling the jib caused both of the kayaks to pop out of their generally-secure grip between the life-lines and trail along with Lungta by their skinny painter lines. Since Lungta was moving pretty quickly at this point, over 5 knots, it was exciting to try to pull them back up onto the boat. One of the kayaks had flipped upside down and scooped up a good bit of water, so it was quite heavy. We ended up tying a halyard (a rope going to the top of the mast) to the kayak’s handle and using a winch to pull it up, hoping that the handle was strong enough to support all the extra weight. Once it was high enough, we bailed out as much water as we could and swung it over the deck where we were able to lash it down for the rest of the trip. It’s unlikely that this retelling comes anywhere close to conveying the tense moments we had as we dealt with this unexpected situation, trying to bring the kayaks on board without anyone getting hurt, and wondering if we were going to lose one or both of them! We’ve never had one pop off before, and it was surprising for both of them to jump off at the same time. We decided that it was likely because we had changed the angle of the jib sheets when we disassembled that space in order to varnish the caprail more than a year ago! Sitting unused has caused things on Lungta to work differently than before, both because of the inactivity and because of things that we (intentionally) changed.

Fishing Vessel with Bird Cloud

When we arrived in San Juan del Sur, the souternmost port in Nicaragua, we were glad to duck out of the strong winds. We were also pleased to see a familiar name: we met Elizabeth and John on the sailboat Georgia B when they visited Bahia del Sol and left a few days before us. They had already been here for four days, and hadn’t been off their boat because of the winds. As soon as we arrived the winds moderated, but were still more than we usually see in an a harbor! We were able to get to the Port Captain’s office to check in, and we spent a little bit of time wandering the town in search of a market, partially to stock up on some fresh veggies and partially just to stretch our legs. The first night there was a Saturday, and the whole town was hopping, kind of like we imagine Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale. There were several stages set up around the bay, and the music lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Sunday there was also a lot of music, much of it featuring drumming; at different times of the day we thought we were hearing Japanese Taiko drummers and high school marching bands. Fortunately it was a special fiesta, and the town was a lot tamer after the weekend. We stayed for about four days ourselves, catching up on some projects, relaxing, and waiting for a weather window to proceed on down the coast.

We repaired tears in three of our sails, including the jib, which needed to be slipped out of its 60′ track during a calm moment and slipped back in again during another calm. We gave up on that latter point before leaving, instead travelling down to our next stop without a jib. We had a great sail from San Juan del Sur into a beautiful bay in the very north of Costa Rica, Santa Elena, where we once again ran into Georgia B. We had a lovely dinner with John & Elizabeth, and also went for an afternoon hike with them. We’re not quite travelling together, but it’s been fun playing leapfrog! We enjoyed three nights in this bay that we had all to ourselves. The night we had dinner on their boat we were thrilled to see the wake from our dinghy was completely aglow – the Jetsons have nothing on us! After we got home we stayed on deck and watched lots of fish creating luminescent splashes and trails alongside Lungta. Then we noticed something a little different and got the flashlight. It turned out to be a sea snake sinuously winding its way next to the boat. Before long, we had discovered 4 of them! One of them was coiling up like a stereotypical rattlesnake, and then unwinding. Kathy thinks this might have been a mating display. We haven’t seen these snakes since that night, so perhaps there’s something to that.

Cliffs of Bahia Potrero Grande

Just around the next corner we checked into Costa Rica in the town of Playas del Coco. This is an interesting combination of tourist destination and sleepy beach town. In contrast to the check-in in Nicaragua, but true to the info in our guidebook, it took an entire day to check in. We still had four stops to make, but we had to walk from one office to the next (first the Port Captain, who gave us something to take to immigration down the road, then to immigration who gave us something to bring back to the Port Captain, and finally to customs who were located a 30-minute bus ride away at the airport). We had half a dozen taxi drivers anxious to take us to the airport for $40-60, we opted to take a local bus for just over $1 apiece (that would be 695 colones). Our information about where to find customs seems to have been outdated, and we asked a tourist information guy and a security guard before we managed to get a customs official to come out from the secured area where they process arriving airline passengers. Once we got the attention of the right person, he easily understood what we needed and quickly processed our paperwork. While we were out we also tracked down a new sim-card for our phone and internet hotspot, since we are in a new country. Hooray, internet!

We spent the next 4 or 5 days moving from one sweet bay to another. We were looking for good snorkeling and few people. I’m not sure that our search is complete, but we found a few good candidates. We snorkeled at three different places, and walked one beach. We found quite a nice variety of fishes in the latest stop, Bahia Brasilito. The water in this area is very clear, and we’ve enjoyed being able to see our anchor again from on deck. The weather is quite calm, but there is a persistent swell coming in from the south. When the winds die down in the evening, the boat turns sideways to the swell and rolls from side to side, sometimes becoming annoying. So add to the criteria a bay that is protected from this swell! We’ve stopped every night, and enjoyed some beautiful sunsets. One morning, a small pod of dolphins was seen chasing a school of needle fish, perhaps 24″ each, in towards the beach. The needlefish were skipping along the water’s surface on the tips of their tails as they tried to escape. It was a dramatic show!

Dolphins under our Sprit

Our time with Jonnie has been fun. She has really participated in the galley, more than any other guest/crew we’ve had to date. She did a lot of the final provisioning, and then took the lead in managing what produce was getting near it’s useful life. She also participated in meal planning, preparation and cleanup – all much appreciated! We eat pretty well on Lungta, and Jonnie has certainly helped to maintain that standard! Kathy has particularly enjoyed doing yoga many mornings with her. Jonnie is a yoga instructor, and encouraged Kathy to give teaching a try. So the two have been trading off leading yoga sessions on the deck most mornings this last week. It’s been a real treat! Jonnie also brought a couple of books with her that we’ve been reading aloud, as a group. It’s a slower way to read, but we’ve all found it to be very enjoyable. (Future crew, take note! :-) ) The first book is called “The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You”, a rather obscure book that Jonnie has listed among her favorites for many years, and Dan & Kathy now include it on our lists as well! After we finished that book, we were enthusiastic about doing another. She happened to have picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Lacuna”, which is a very long book, but well worth the read. Dan has even declared it his new favorite book. We finished it the night before Jonnie’s departure, after a few “marathon” sessions of reading!

Jonnie in Bahia Guacamaya

At the moment we are in the town of Tamarindo, where we have just dropped Jonnie off for her return to the States. We expect to pick up our next guests, Justin and Leigh Anna. This anchorage has the strongest surf beach we’ve visited yet, and we may end up swimming out to our dinghy rather than run it up and over the breaking waves. Always something new… It’s a good life!

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03-05-2017 – Jaltepeque Estuary, El Salvador

We’re in a busy place in time these days, and a lot has happened since our last blog update. It seems that we’re often opening our blog postings with apologies for long delays between posts. Difficult though it is, I’m resisting apologizing yet again. :-) We’re still in El Salvador, but getting close to heading out of the estuary. We’ve been immersed in our project to-do list, getting ready for our passage down to Panama and then across the Pacific. We’ve been talking with some other boaters (esp. Henry and Pamela on Rapscullion) who have been telling us wonderful things about visiting the islands on Panama’s Pacific coastline. So much so that we’ve been considering spending an entire season there, and delaying our Pacific crossing until 2018. All three of our friends who we’re hoping will join us on that trip sighed a big sigh of relief – or even did a happy dance! As we’re constantly reminded, plans in this life are always provisional, and we’re tentatively changing ours again. We’re now thinking that we’ll leave this coming weekend, cross the bar and make our way slowly down the coast to Panama. We’ll spend a few months there and then probably move on to Ecuador, where the turbulent weather of the wet season is much milder. This choice reduces the pressure to get our projects done on a specific schedule, which is much appreciated! As a matter of fact, we were intending to leave this past week when the tides got high, but strong winds made us decide to wait another 10 days or so until the next cycle of high high tides.

Our stay at the Paradise Marina lasted significantly longer than we originally expected. The rudder repair/rebuild project stretched out quite a while when we realized how much our welding equipment had degraded during the “flood” of last spring. We needed to replace many of the parts, and they were included in the freight forwarding experience that we described in the last posting. We started out tacking one edge of a piece of sheet-metal to the trailing edge of the rudder, cutting it to size/shape, and wrapping it over the top of the shaft. Then we clamped it as tight as we could and tacked it in place with the welder. Once the rest of the parts arrived, Dan went to town welding all of the edges and making sure there were no holes left. Once he got going, this last part went quickly. We painted the whole thing four times, once with a primer, and three times with bottom paint (where we used two different colors, hoping that when we see the color change that it will provide a warning/reminder that it’s time to start looking into repainting).

Painting our "New" Rudder

Installing the rudder was a whole project of its own. We had the marina team help us get the rudder into the water. Five strong men hoisted it up onto a trailer and pushed the trailer to a boat ramp next door. Dan had the brilliant idea of tying some big fenders to each end of the rudder’s shaft, just in case it was too heavy to float – we had added nearly two full sheets of sheet-metal, which weighed around 80lbs. The rudder with its two big fenders just barely floated, but “barely” was sufficient for us to tow it from the boat ramp to Lungta’s stern, perhaps 50 yards away. Once it was close enough, we tied on a halyard and hung the rudder (in the water) vertically from the top of our mizzen mast. We opened up the fill port and poured in 25 gallons of cooking oil that we’d gotten from PriceSmart, a Central American CostCo equivalent. When that ran out we jumped in the car and went looking for a local shop that could sell us some more. We got 6 more gallons, which the rudder swallowed up. As we returned from our second outing with another 5 gallons, the marina’s manager Willie produced yet another 5-gallon jug of used oil from a local restaurant that he knew. Finally the rudder was full – and we have 4 gallons of unused cooking oil sitting on our deck! :-) We put the cap back on the opening and moved on to the process of installing the rudder. Although straightforward, it turned out to be much more recalcitrant than expected. We tied lines to the top and bottom of the shaft, some pulling to the left and some to the right. We lowered the rudder until the top of the shaft was just poking into the hole in the boat’s hull, and then tried to align it with the skeg at the end of the keel. We pushed it and tugged it, manually and with ropes from all directions. We used halyards and sideways-pulling ropes from the winches and cleats on the dock. We grunted and moaned and schemed and struggled and *finally* the shaft slid up and into the hole that it belongs in. Then we were able to slip on the “boot” and secure it to the skeg. Hooray!

Moving Rudder Back Home

We had hoped to have our projects done and be back in our “usual” spot on the mooring by the time our series of visitors arrived, but it didn’t play out that way. Michael and Cate arrived the day after the rudder clicked into place. We picked them up at the airport and were all happy at how easily the relationship picked up right where it had left off. Their faces and voices were as familiar to us as if we’d seen them only a few weeks ago, when in fact it had been very close to a year. We met them on the cruise boat that we took around Cape Horn, and have stayed in contact over the last 11 months. They stayed with us for a month, testing the water so to speak, to determine whether they might be interested in joining us on our trip across the Pacific. They settled in easily and we all enjoyed our time together, although Dan & Kathy continued to spend a lot of our time working on our boat projects. These two are voracious readers, and we were surprised to find a number of books back on board that we had recently put into the book exchange. :-) We enjoyed many great conversations together, mostly in the evenings over dinner or under the stars. Michael, Cate and Dan all enjoy playing the guitar, and they spent hours teaching one another songs or techniques. We spent one afternoon at Lynn & Lou’s Sunday pool and barbecue gathering, where they had the opportunity to meet more than a dozen other cruisers. Another half day was spent poking around the mangroves on the other side of the island nearest our boat. There were lots of birds and very few people. :-) The four of us spent almost two weeks on a roadtrip to Guatemala, where we did a whirlwind tour of Antigua, San Antonio on Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango, Todo Santos and Semuc Champey. These were five of our top six favorite places that we’ve already visited (only missing Tikal), and provided a broad overview of what the country has to offer a traveler. Unfortunately we took turns getting sick, so most days there was *somebody* not feeling well. Our time together passed quickly, and it was a shock when the day printed on their return tickets arrived. They have gone back home to do a short contract and replenish their travel kitty, and to think about when they will be back and for how long.

Swimming at Semuc Champey Chichicastenango Market

Although we were sad to see Cate and Michael leave, we were excited that Kathy’s sister Jean was arriving two days later, with her new boyfriend James. We had a full day in between, trying to make good progress on our project list while there was no one else around who might tempt us to dawdle. :-) During this period we put our mizzen sail back up, with a new strip of sunguard in place, we replaced a leaky valve in the house water system that was causing the pump to lose its prime frequently, we secured the new skylight to the pilothouse roof, and we made progress on a half dozen other larger projects. While Jean and James were with us, we continued to work daily but also spent plenty of time visiting (but never enough!) One afternoon we again puttered around the mangroves behind the nearby island, enjoying the many birds nesting and flying overhead. These two are enjoying their new relationship, and are experimenting with new foods, new activities, learning what the other likes and what makes them tick. It’s always nice to be around a couple in love. James spent the last afternoon with us dangling a line in the water, trying to tempt a fish to play along. Although he couldn’t entice a finned friend to dance with him, he enjoyed himself and Kathy enjoyed some sister-time with Jean. Our last night together we had dinner at a restaurant with seating on a dock over the water about a mile up the estuary from Lungta – it was fun to see our boat from our table.

Family Photo

Two busy days after Jean and James left, our next crew-mate Jonnie arrived. Jonnie is also a sailing novice, and is excited but nervous about the adventure ahead of us. She’s been with us about 2 weeks now, and seems to be fitting in well. Kathy is thrilled to have a yoga partner, and we’re all enjoying the conversations and meals together. She’s been taking lots of photos and posting them to FaceBook, so those who are our FaceBook friends have already seen some of her impressions of El Salvador and our life on Lungta. A couple of nights ago we watched the sunset – and then noticed that there was a volcano erupting about 50 miles north of us! We’ve installed a handhold and an additional step to the “trapeze ladder” on Lungta’s transom, so that Jonnie (who is quite a bit shorter than either of us) can climb aboard from the dinghy more easily.

Welcome Aboard, Jonnie!

Our two biggest projects have just about been completed (at least to the level of being seaworthy). The big skylight in the middle of the boat has been replaced with a beautiful new sheet of plexiglass, and framed in a hardwood frame that Dan has crafted almost single-handedly. It doesn’t yet have the hardware that we dreamed up: latches, pneumatic shocks and a hinge. We have also rebuilt our watermaker, building and programming a control panel similar (but still not full-featured) to the original – at a significantly reduced price! Woo-hoo!

Final Touches to Skylight

We’re enjoying ourselves with Jonnie here in El Salvador, but also really looking forward to moving into the next phase of our travels. Hopefully the next post will be from somewhere beautiful a bit south of here!

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12-22-2016 – Paradise Marina, El Salvador

It’s been a busy month, filled mostly with boat projects. We did take a small break to celebrate Kathy’s birthday, driving up into the mountains for the night, we stayed in a big town called Berlin. There are some nice overlooks nearby and a hike to a lake in an old caldera that we didn’t end up doing. :-) We sat for a while in the town’s square, which was just beginning to be decorated for Christmas. Lots of people passing through, living their lives and surprised to see that there were tourists in town. We had a relaxing evening, and came back the next day feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work.

Where's Lungta?

Our ship has (finally) come in! We moved into this marina almost two months ago, intending to only stay one month. As it turns out, though, our freight shipment was delayed, both in getting it ordered and then again in its tortured progress through the customs office. We ordered quite a few items, having them shipped to a warehouse in Florida that collected our boxes until we said we were done. Our new generator was the gating item, because it turned out they build to order rather than keeping some in inventory. Once it arrived, the container was loaded and put on a ship the next weekend. Four days later it arrived in Guatemala and was trucked across the border into El Salvador. We spent more than a week after that working our way through customs, driving the 90 minutes into San Salvador four times to meet with our agent and the customs officials to keep the wheels rolling. We really saw the “sausage-making” process in action! Usually these shipments are processed under the name of the freight forwarding agent, but for various reasons he suggested that it would be a good idea to do this one under one of our names. (One reason was the size of the order, but another reason had something to do with a previous shipment having been flagged with fines, which might cause delays in subsequent shipments under the same name.) Fortunately for us, we already had the necessary identification card that we had acquired when we decided to buy a car last year. On our first trip into town, we visited three locations to try to get an account set up using this id card, but had troubles because of various people being out of the office. On the second trip into town, we went through the entire list of purchases, making sure that the agent (and his team) understood what they were so that they could categorize them correctly for the customs process. At this point, we thought we were done, but then the actual customs assessment began. A randomized “green-light/red-light” process determines the degree of inspection required for each shipment, and we unfortunately got the “red light”, the more rigorous inspection. The customs official looked through the paperwork and expressed concern that we might be trying to sell the items (illegally, since we just have tourist visas). So our third trip was to meet with her and show her that we were just a couple living on a boat which needed a lot equipment in order to continue on our way. After the morning’s review of the paperwork, we stuck around for the afternoon inspection of all the goods. In the quarantine area of the warehouse, our agent opened all of the boxes and laid the items out in the same order as they were listed on the import papers. When the customs official came by, we walked through all of the items, explaining what they did, why we needed them, and confirmed that the quantity was what had been declared. She had several questions, and suspiciously eyed the tub of thermal paste that we wanted for our electronic components that get hot enough to require heat-sinks. Ultimately she fined us $190 for the mis-classification of one of the items as a gasket instead of a belt. It seemed that she wasn’t satisfied until she found something that was out of order. After that long day, we again thought that we were done. But again we were called in the next morning to participate in the processing of the paperwork. We needed to sign the document that levied the fine, in triplicate, and then take it to a manager at another location for approval (because the manager of the location we were at was out that day). The papers were brought to three more desks for additional copies, signatures and stamps. Finally we had our clearance and the truck was called to bring our stuff out to the boat. It was after dark by the time they arrived at the marina, and the local team of workers stayed late to help unload the truck. We couldn’t have unloaded the almost 600-pound generator by ourselves! We left the three biggest items on the lawn near the marina office, and brought all of the boxes down the dock to the boat.

Still in El Salvador

The next morning was like Christmas for us! We opened all 37 of our packages, stowing electrical components here, kitchen stuff there, and parts for the welder in that box over there. We installed our replacement solar panel and got the generator placed into the newly painted hold. We had spent a week preparing the hold, including installing our bowthruster once again. This *big* motor gets installed in a hole in the floor, connected to a pair of sideways propellers that can turn the boat more quickly than the rudder when needed. Unfortunately it has gotten flooded with salt water several times over the years, when our old generator had problems related to the cooling system. Each time we vow that it will never happen again, but somehow it does. Now we are hopeful that it really will not happen again, because we are installing a new generator which should not have the same problems as the old one. (Hope really springs eternal, doesn’t it? :-) ) We have also installed a new switch which will ring a loud alarm if there is water in the hold. We are very excited about all the updates to this area of the boat! Now the cover to the lower area is on, and we are working on getting the generator installed: fuel, exhaust, cooling water, battery connections, control panel – it’s a couple of days’ work, but we’re happy that it’s all coming together. Dan is getting the welder all put together with lots of new parts, to finish up the work on our rudder. Kathy is putting a new sun-guard cover on another sail. And in between we’re catching up on lots of other smaller projects.

New Generator

Our freezer motor gave up the ghost this last month. It’s been having troubles for a few months now, so we weren’t completely surprised. We had a new motor coming in our big shipment, but it couldn’t hold out that long. We tracked down a shop to see if it could be rebuilt, but the news was not good. The commutator was completely worn down and would cost more to replace than the motor was worth. So we swapped our fridge motor in to the freezer’s place, and have been using the fridge as an ice box for the last 10 days or so. Two or three times a day we move 3 or 4 containers of ice from the freezer into the fridge and 3 or 4 different containers of water the other way. The freezer is running almost continuously (with the fridge’s motor), but it’s making ice – and we’re not short on power, because we’re at the marina. We will swap the new motor into the freezer now that it’s arrived, but we have to adapt a few parts – which necessitates another trip into San Salvador!

Clamping in the Tropics

The other major activity going on with us this month is the search for companions on our travels next year. We’ve had several people contact us and express interest. We’re still exploring the fit with some of these people, but aren’t “full” yet! If you know anyone who might be interested in joining us as we travel to the South Pacific, please refer them to our web-site, www.lungtalife.com, and have them contact us. We’re not always as nose-to-the-grindstone as these last few months! :-)

We’d like to take this moment to wish all of our friends and loved ones (those two categories are not necessarily different!) a wonderful holiday season, taking time to be grateful for the people in your lives and the bounty that we all happen to have as citizens of the 21st century. I know that there are many people on this planet who have not been blessed with as much opportunity and resources, and I feel very fortunate to be living the life I am! Thanks to each of you for supporting us and encouraging us along the way! Here’s to a wonderful New Year – 2017, here we come!

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11-20-2016 – Paradise Marina, El Salvador

Again a long time since the last post, and again mostly boat work, which although engaging to us doesn’t seem like it would be of much interest to readers. (Please let me know if I’m mistaken!)

We had another family visit, this time with Dan’s family in New York. We spent the weekend spanning September and October along with 15 others in Maine, staying near Acadia National Park in a small group of cabins. For us this trip will serve in place of the Thanksgiving gathering that we have been attending for the last several years, so on the way up we spent the night at Dan’s Aunt Nancy’s farmhouse, where that gathering happens. We initially thought that this would break up the journey into two smaller segments, but when Dan’s sister Beth said “look at a map” we realized that it took us far enough west that it cancelled out the gains made by being further north. Hmmm, how’d that happen? :-) So we turned our one day’s drive into two! But it was nice to see Nancy, if only for one night. The gathering was partially a celebration of the life of Dan’s father David, and it was great to see his wife Shlomit again. She organized the event, remembering a previous trip there that happened during the New England Fall. Although the colors this year were not at their peak, we did nonetheless keep an eye out for all of the lovely displays of red, orange, salmon, gold and yellow – and were not disappointed! We all enjoyed some hikes and strolls, wandering the spectacular coastlines of this island park. A few people got up very early one morning to watch the sunrise over the fog, but we chose to stay snuggled deep under the heavy covers of our bed. :-) I think our blood has gotten a bit thinner after spending 5 years south of the border! We enjoyed meeting Davis, the (no longer so) new partner to Dan’s youngest sister Aria who, some long-term readers may remember, was with us when we first left Oregon in 2011 on our way to Alaska. They are threatening – but not yet promising – to join us on the next big passage, when we cross the Pacific next spring. But she is also whining about being busy as she works on a PhD at MIT. Sheesh! It was also a treat to see Eve, the sister from Washington (State) that we can never get enough time with, and both of Dan’s sons Jesse and Evan – at the same time! The winner of the (non-existant) photography competition was of Jesse on the coast (sorry it’s small here; it’s the only copy we have!). In addition to the 5 days in Maine, we spent another 10 days in New Jersey staying with Dan’s mom. We popped into New York City once or twice to get some culture, but it also served to remind us just how much we enjoy the quieter life on the water. We came home again with full bags and a renewed energy for tackling our many projects that will help us get across the ocean.

Acadia Vista  Highway Fall Color  Jesse at Acadia

Back in El Salvador, we began laying the groundwork for another fairly major project. Our rudder, which we built in 2011 before leaving Oregon, has developed a number of holes (we have several inconclusive ideas about just what caused them). We found a tiny marina nearby which has a space that was suitable for doing the sort of welding work we needed, and we purchased some sheetmetal in town. Two days before we planned to move down there – for a week of hard work (how naive! :-) ) – our generator stopped, and in what turned out to be a dramatic manner. So we moved in a day early – and negotiated a monthly rate instead of daily. The marina’s staff disassembled the generator for diagnosis and found that a valve stem had broken, causing the valve to get caught in the cylinder and get crushed into the piston. None of those parts were better for the experience. :-) Given the high costs of repair parts for Westerbeke generators, we are now in the process of buying a replacement. We will have it shipped down from Florida by a local man named Pablo, who we worked with last February. As long as we have that shipment coming, we are coming up with lots of other large (and small) items that we need at the same time. It turns out that our (spare) outboard motor was stolen off of Lungta while we were in New York. Shortly before that trip, we damaged one of our solar panels when something unbelievably small fell while we were working up the mizzen mast. :-( And our freezer keeps acting up, making us think that it is a good time to change out the 50 year old motor. We began work on our rudder, but quickly ran into troubles with our welding system because a number of the accessories were damaged in May when they got covered in salt-water. Although we were able to find a few items in San Salvador, the cost and ability to work with the welder we already own (rather than buying a whole new one!) inspired us to order parts from the States and have them shipped – delaying our rudder project by maybe as much as a month. Yikes – these are some big-dollar items for our budget!

Getting the rudder off the boat was a project of its own. Kathy dove three or four days in a row, whenever the current was slack, first tying a rope securely around it and then trying to remove the boot that holds the rudder’s shaft to the skeg of the boat, a finger of cement-encased stainless steel which extends from the trailing edge of the keel. It’s been a bit more than 5 years since it was last removed, but the marine growth added a lot more work separating it. Once it came apart, Dan hauled it up on the halyard and deposited it on the dock. Then 6 men from the marina tied it to a long pipe and scraped/hauled it down the length of the dock and up onto the main pier – fortunately it was high tide and they only had to negotiate 3 or 4 stairs! They left it for us in a small covered workspace, where we’ve spent a number of hours cleaning it up and fitting a new skin. We’ve amassed quite an assortment of tools up there, which they’ve allowed us to keep in their storeroom so we don’t have to lug them to and fro every day. The work is coming along nicely, and is now essentially on hold until our freight shipment comes in with the TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding parts.

Moving the Rudder

It will probably be another three weeks before this shipment arrives, but in the meantime we have a number of “smaller” projects that we can make progress on. We removed a portion of our main engine’s exhaust stack and had a local machine shop build a stainless steel water jacket around it. The idea is that this will channel *much* more of the engine’s heat out of the boat, which would be a welcome relief whenever we have to motor. We also replaced a very rusty bow roller, which directs the anchor chain out to the point on the bowsprit where it goes down. We made it from ultra-high molecular weight (UMHW, or something like that :-) ) plastic, which is super slippery and easy to machine. We had a carpenter install some brass latches into most of the floorboards on Lungta, each of which has a finger that hooks under the joists to hold the board in place even if turned upside down. We bought these before we left Portland in 2011, but weren’t able to do a nice enough job ourselves to want to make a permanent installation to the boat. Once we heard about this carpenter we took advantage of the situation to have the work done. The price was great (we paid him double and were still pleased), and he turned around 16 boards in 3 days. (He would have done them all in one day if we’d agreed to being without a floor for the whole time!) We installed a water-level sensor in our tanks and wrote up a new program for an Arduino computer, like we have monitoring the power consumption from our fridge and freezer. We’re becoming quite enthusiastic advocates of this gadget, and have envisioned half a dozen more projects that could use them – whenever we find the time…

"Pregnant" Exhaust Stack  UHMW Bow Roller

The move to this marina has been a little bit of culture shock, in that our “regular” place is much more developed and this place is much sleepier. We moved from a mooring ball where we were totally self-sufficient, to living on a dock where we have all the power we need from shore and a hose that dispenses (brackish) water at the turn of a knob. All of our friends (which at the moment only means three boats) are at the other marina, so our social life has changed dramatically. There’s a cool stretch of mangroves immediately next to the marina where a large number of egrets congregate every evening. We had no idea that egrets were social animals, since you always see them standing still and solitary along the shore. They gather together with a lot of squawks and cackles, somewhat reminiscent of a coffee-clatsch, and sometimes sounding like squabbling children. They are easily spooked by people make noise on the docks and a dozen or more may take flight, only to circle back around to find a new perch. The manager here called them their “avian watchdogs”.

Egrets of Paradise

We have the sense that we’ve entered the “chute” in preparing for our next passage. Much of the work we’re doing now is to make Lungta sea-worthy again, after being stationary for almost two years. We’re both excited at what’s coming up and daunted at the long to-do list. We’ve updated our web-site and started actively looking for boatmates to join us. While the timing is related to having company during the 30 day crossing of the sea, we are really hoping for people who become family and end up staying for several months or even years. If this sounds like someone you know, please point them at our web-site, www.lungtalife.com. We’re enthusiastic about communicating with anyone who expresses interest!

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