Posted by: catamarantwooceans | November 29, 2008

The Way to Costa Rica

I am having a bad internet connection so some of the pictures and text will be updated later!

20.11.08 – Back in Panama. Landed tocumen airport at 2210 and went looking for Oscar the driver who was supposed to wait for me. Oscar is not there. I phone him and he says:”I am waiting for you in the marina”… This is after I explained and gave the flight details. Never mind, took a Colectivo to the marina(cheaper). Ran took me with his dinghy to Two Oceans and I was happy to see that everything was O.K on board.

21.11.08 – In the morning I saw an interesting catamaran anchored north of my position. I thought it was a Wharram cat and decided to look at it later. Ali, who came over later told me it was not a wharram after all but some strange design built in Gabon, Africa. I met the couple who sailed her – Hans and Harike (not sure I got the name right). I did not have the time to speak to them and get all the information. I just learned that it was Hans’ design, the starboard hull was 70 feet long (!) while the port one only 57 feet. The boat was built out of massive planks, stitched and maybe also glued together. The mast is very short and the mainsail is in “Crabclaw” style. Really an impressive boat!

Hans' boat

Hans' boat

My crew for the trip to Costa Rica arrived in the afternoon; Avner Turm, my friend Yoshi’s cousin and his daughter, Yael. We went shopping in the big Rey supermarket in Albrook, had dinner and early to bed.  

Yael Turm

Yael Turm

22.11.08 – Tina arranged our Zarpe, the cruising permit, we entered the Flamenco marina for water and then motored to Isla Otoque, 20 miles away. Tried to anchor in the bay on the south of the island but it was too rolly so we went back to the village on the west and dropped the anchor there. When the tide turned and the water started rising, it made for waves that made sleep difficult.

23.11.08 – This was going to be a long day because the next anchorage on our way, a place near Puerto Purio,was 63 nautical miles or 11 hours away. This meant we needed to go as early as 0530 with the first light. As there was no wind we motored with both engines in order to arrive at destination with good light. Avner, who started his career working on a ship longlining for Tuna in Africa, is still a keen fisherman and very quickly took out two Spanish Mackerels. One of them left teeth marks on my finger, ouch! With this quantity of fish in the freezer we stopped fishing. The next attraction was a group of dolphins who swam around our bows for more than 15 minutes and once they left – another group showed up and stayed even longer. At 1030 I decided to go for a rest. Went to my cabin, thinking how good everything was working on the boat, a thought that immediately brought an act by Poseidon. My slumber was cut short by the shrill water temperature alarm of the port engine. Jumping out, we shut it down and Avner went to investigate, returning with the torn waterpump belt. He later squeezed his not inconsiderable bulk into the engine room and replaced it. Going on, we saw another example of life at sea, when a big Mahi Mahi leaped out of the water twice, chasing a flying fish. Later Yael saw two yellow sea snakes, with brown stripes, passing right between our hulls. These waters are so full of life! Getting close to destination we started scanning the shore with the binoculares to look for the suitable anchorage we saw on the electronic chart. I have to say that the only fault I found with the Bauhous guide was that the area between Isla Otoque and Punta Mala is not represented properly – not enough information and no good chartlets – just a short text. So here we were, sailing along the shore and not seeing any good anchorage. A small boat approached us, but their description was simply confusing. Looking at the electronic chart I saw a place on the south side of Isla Iguana, four miles to the south, that had 6.5 meters depth and was protected from the northely wind. We started sailing there , met another local boat who tried to steer us to a place with 20 meters depth. Of course I declined and proceeded with care to hide behind the island. We came to a quiet spot and dropped the anchor. Avner started fishing right away and got: a piece of coral, a smal grouper that he let go and finally a moray eel which did what moray eels do – made himself into a tight knot around the fishing line. Avner had no choice but to sever the creature’s head in order to extricate our hook and sinker. Even then, horrifying as it may seem, the ugly head kept biting at the pliers Avner used for the job!

24.11.08 – I didn’t sleep well at night but managed not to notice a shower in time and woke up with wet sheets and mattress. At 0630 I was already snorkeling. All around our boat there were many species of colorful fish. At one point I dived to peek beneath a rock and saw a 1.5 meters white tip shark. When scuba diving I go looking for sharks but snorkeling… Decided not to take a chance and swam back to Two Oceans. We waited a bit before leaving, hoping that the wind will pick up some but when it did not happen we went out and followed the shore to Benao bay, 17 miles to the west, which seemed to be a good place to spend the night. Avner was still hot for trolling but I said we had enough fish in the freezer and declined. He then argued that he, being the commercial type, will barter any fish he will catch for goods we need on the boat. I did not think it was feasible but let him fish thinking we could always give the catch to one of the small boat fishermen or to another yacht. Avner put the lure in the water and we sailed along for quite a while with no results. What I’ll tell you now happened to me more than once: seeing a bird over our intended course, I looked at my watch and said:”A fish will be caught in nine minutes from now”. Nobody takes it seriously but when the ninth minute has passed the reel sang! Avner had a big fight on his hands and brought in a nice Jack.

Avner and Jack

Avner and Jack

We prepared it for business by cleaning it’s inside and leaving it whole. After about half an hour we noticed two small fishing boats. “Let’s give it to one of them” I said and Avner concured, admitting later he was already thinking of the next fish! The gift made the fishermen very happy for it was a good size fish. As we left them to resume our trip a group of dolphins joined us, including a mother and baby dolphin. Of course the lure went into the water again… Checking the charts I see that on the western side of the destination bay, ten miles to the west, there is an anchorage that if we use will cut tomorrow’s mileage considerably. I wanted to anchor there for the night but we thought we’ll enter Benao for some time, maybe go ashore and do some shopping. When we were about two miles to the bay I started reeling the line in and as I was doing it a fish took the lure. Another Jack! I gave it the same treatment as it’s predecessor and we went into Benao. The bay was quite nice, a yellow Wharram Tiki 31 that I saw in Panama city was at anchor and we saw that the water surface was calm. However, thinking about the leg for the next day made us decide to go the extra 10 miles to Punta Guanico. Right then the wind piped up and we had a nice sail. Again we found a fishing boat and gave them the Jack, they reciprocated by leading us to the best anchorage which, not surprisingly coincided with the one we had in our guide book.

And Avner went fishing again… He was casting as a seagull circled above, dived after the bait and got hooked. Doctor Miki came to the rescue and as gently as possible freed the bird who flew away, probably in a state of shock.

25.11.08 – We all had a good night rest and woke up ready for the day’s leg, about 35 miles along the coast to the west and then a few miles to the north to Ensenada Naranjo, supposedly a good anchorage for the night. The sky was overcast with grey rain clouds; This was not to be a pleasant tropical sailing day. We started sailing but were surprised by the wind veering to the west. We did not have the time to play tacking back and forth so the jib was rolled and we motored, first with one engine and when the wind freshened – with two. The wind rose further and the sea turned ugly. The pacific swell was enhanced by waves generated by the local wind and at time was more than 3 meters high, coming from 30 degrees off our bows. And then it started raining…This area gets so much rain, you can see small waterfalls all along the coast. Half a mile west of the point where we could turn north there is an island and west of it – a shoal. If we go around it will take us an hour longer. Shall we go around – the safe, conservative way or through the narrow passage with the big swell behind us? Looking at the latter with the binoculars I could see no breaking waves and decided to go for it. The scene was dramatic, “Two Oceans” passing, while on both sides waves breaking on the rocky shores. Reaching Naranjo bay it seemed to be open to the big swell and wind so we motored on to the next bay, Bahia Arenas, dodging a dangerous shoal and a huge floating tree. In the bay we saw a few fishing boats and some simple dwellings on shore. Approached the first boat to hand them the Jack we caught in the morning (yes! another big one, about 7 KG) and consult about the best place to anchor. Now, as I write this, the rain goes on and on and we are pissed off by the fact that tons of water are falling on the boat and our tanks are down to a quarter of their quantity and we need to find a place to fill up.

26.11.08 – It rained all night long and morning did not bring any respite. We were going west to Isla Cebaco, where we thought we could find a shop and replenish our dwindling stock, especially in the area of bread, soft drinks, fruit and veg. Reaching the island we stopped by a fishing boat to get information about the shop whereabouts and then anchored and went ashore with the dinghy. The shop was supervised by a girl who looked no more than 13-14 years old and there was almost nothing we needed there. No eggs, no bread – nothing! We hoped to get water and came ashore equiped with our two water jerrycans. hauling them up a slippery path, we got to the school building where we found the village administrator. He explained we could get water in the spring, flowing on the other side of the hill. We started going down there but when I saw where it was I decided to give it up. I did not fancy lugging a 25 KG water container up and down slippery hill paths. Back at the boat, we looked at the guide book for hints about a possible provisioning stop. The island of Gubernadora, 5 miles to the northwest was supposed to have “basic tienda items”. This was the time when the rain mercifully stopped and we could enjoy the view around us. We anchored and Avner went with Yael to try and buy some stuff. I was diving along the boat, trying to take down the barnacles that two weeks at anchore in Panama city produced.It wasamazing to see how many forms of life found “Two Oceans” to be a suitable home; Baqrnacles, gooseneck barnacles, algae, all sort of plankton creatures and small crabs. When I finished cleaning the starboard hull I got out of the water feeling very tired, took a quick shower on the aft stairs and then felt some tingling in my left ear. I thought it was a bit of sea water but soon understood that I have an unplanned visitor there. I put in some ear drops that I have in my meducine kit. The intruder did not like it, obviously, for immediately it rushed outside. It looked like a tiny crustacean and I was happy we parted company. A bad thing was that I lost the knife in the murky water and although I dived for it a few times, the visibility was so bad – less than half a meter – and the current did not help either, I could not find it. At five p.m we remembered that we did not take the chicken breast out of the freezer and decided to have only pasta, but then Avner fished a nice snapper and dinner was secured. Provisioning is still our major problem and will dictate the next destination. Of course there is no internet here, even the cellular is out of range, on the other hand the scenery is magnificent, palm trees ashore and there is no rain at the moment.

27.11.08 – The “No rain” situation did not hold for long, it rained on and of during the night. In the morning we were determined to do some shopping, water was on top  of the list, we took two jerrycans with us. Accompanied by a few dolphins, we motored to Hicaco, a village on the mainland about 4 miles away. We anchored opposite the village and took the dinghy ashore. I thought it was low water in it’s maximum and tied the dinghy to a fisherman’s rope, putting the small anchor as backup. We made our way to the village and the firat inhabitantes that we saw were a family in a house near the beach. The master of the house was washing himself outside with water out of a garden hose. They had water in big barrels on their porch and agreed to let us fill our containers. When we wanted to pay for it, they declined, saying it was for free. We went to the tienda, the shop, and they did have some things we wanted. A young lad took me to his home to sell me oranges and coconuts. He then lead me to a shop where I bought some vegtables, not a simple thing in this area! Going back to the dinghy, we gave the water suppliers a bag of rice and a bottle of cooking oil that we bought for them and went to the beach to find that the water receeded even more. We had to pull the dinghy in the mud for quite a lot until we reached the necessary 40 cm depth that enabled us to row and then motor out. By that time we were all wet and covered with mud, my boots were full of muddy water, we were having fun! Back on the boat at 1030 we thought of stopping for lunch at thw island of Santa Catalina, where a Pizzeria and an internet cafe are supposed to be in operation. Alas, the rain became stronger and the thought of taking the dinghy to shore under those conditions did not seem inviting. We sailed in heavy rain around the island and on to Bahia Honda. The glimpses we had of the coast through the rain and mist made it clear that we are sailing in an especially beautiful place. Bahia Honda itself is fantastic, a perfect, protected bay, jungle all around it and in it’s middle Isla Honda with a fishermen village on the northern shore. . Through the rain I could see a single yacht at anchorNot long after we dropped our anchor, a small boat approached. A man with his son. Identifying himself as “Kennedy” he asked if we wanted fruit. He had pineapple and bananas. We asked him if he could fill our jerrycans with water and he agreed. He asked if we could give him some gasoline for his outboard motor and got a gallon of the stuff. Seeing that we were generous he had a few more requests, like candy for the boy (gave him) rapala lure for himself (no way) batteries for the boy and reel for a fishing rod that he had (sorry…) Oh, of course we gave him two Bonitos that we caught on the way. (Kept a small tuna to ourselves). The rain is getting on our nerves, we are not so sure if it is worthwhile going to Cohiba island, a beautiful nature park if the conditions persist. Not to mention the high humidity inside the boat. I could not take my matresses out to dry for the last four days and am sleeping on damp sheets. Let’s see what the morrow will bring!

28.11.08 – It’s raining and the sky is grey. We decided not to go to Coiba but to an island group called Secas which will bring us closer to Boca Chica and make the length of the daily legs more or less equal and so easier. We circled Isla Honda and exited the bay. I practically made up my mind to comey back to this region in February and March 09, before going to the Galapagos. It is very beautiful and should be visited in the dry season. On our way the starboard engine changed it regular noise and started to vibrate a little. We shut it down and continued on the port one, intending to check it while at anchor. On the approach to the islands the wind became stronger and we had to reef . Right then a fish was caught and in order to reduce speed I furled the jib completely. After the fish was on board we continued motoring on a single engine against a 20 knots wind and some waves. “This is where I need the second engine” I said “Let see how it works”. Avner opened the starboard engine room, I started it and inexplicably it worked just fine! Perhaps something was caught by the prop and released itself later. Islas Secas turned to be another magnificent place, they are commonplace here. The island we went to had a resort with super luxury tents that are reputed to cost 300$ a night. I hoped to have internet there but we learned that the place will only open on December 1st. There were four other yachts in the bay and we anchored near one that hailed from San Diego, first exchanging information and then going through our “Fish Donation” routine, we made Tom and his lady very happy. There was a motor boat with two local men who, when we asked them where we could fill up water said they will bring it to us. They motored away and came back with a big plastic barrel which, surprisingly filled our tanks to the top. I write this after dinner, it is 2100 and still RAINING!

29.11.08 – Morning. It is still raining. Sailed out to Boca Chica, a fishermen village near the town of David and our one stop before the last in Panama. The channel to the village is not buoyed at all but the combination of the electronic chart and the guide book shows the way. A half mile to the village dock we see a power line crossing our path. Can we pass? Not going to take any chances, better to anchor a mile away where we saw a three masted schooner and a trimaran at anchor. We plan to go to David to do some shopping and Avner has a friend living there that he wants to meet. We approach the schooner, the woman on the yacht, Suzie, gives us a lot of local information including the fact that the rain we experienced created havok in several parts of Panama with floods blocking all land connection to Bocas del Toro. She mentions that it takes two hours to get to David and of course two hours back! This makes up my mind for me; I’ll do the shopping in the village and let Avner and Yael go there without me. Suzie explains that both the boats belong to her and her husband Tom, he loves the schooner and the trimaran is hers! They just got the “Resident – Pensioner” status and are very happy living in Boca Chica.

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