South for Panama and then Ecuador.

OK everyone, Willow has been in Golfito for several days now and we are finally moving on. We will be leaving this morning for the Panamanian border and some surf we have heard about. The basic plan is to spend several weeks out in the western islands surfing and swimming. Then we will make a direct passage to Ecuador. Once there we will haul Willow out for several months while we head back to the states for work and the wedding of Bonnie’s sister, Dawn, to a fellow named Hudson. We are looking forward to the trip to visit family and put a few more dollars in the bank for the next leg of our journey across the South Pacific. But that is a long way off, so I will not think too much on it.

For now Bonnie and I are looking forward to surf and crystal clear water to swim in. I will put together a nice entry here for the next time we have internet access, as well as work hard on the Building Willow site. The reality is this; Western Panama is rather remote and will probably not have much internet access. From Panama it is about an 8-10 day passage to Ecuador, so you will probably not hear from us for quite a while.

We’re off, wahooooooo…….

Oh, one more thing. Thanks to Jim, the comments button below works. Please send us any input or hello’s out there. Send us your e-mail, or questions, we enjoy meeting new people, especially folks with a liking of boats and beautiful places.

Greg and Bonnie

Work in progress.

Thanks to our good friend Jim, we now have a link that will eventually give you a good look at the process of building Jay Benfords 34′, junk rigged dory. I have not gotten going on it yet, but will do so very soon, I promise.

Here are the two shop mates helping with the lofting process at the start of the journey;
Willow and Jake.

1willowjak.jpg

Lots more to come.

Untitled%2011.jpg

Monkeys and Lizards

Untitled%201.jpg

Guess what?
We almost had a new crew member, but common sense prevailed. It was a very near thing however. While in Bahia Ballena we met a Canadian couple (Kimberly and Mike) who were renting a house right on the beach. They let us use their shower and fill up water jugs, all we really need I suppose, and we offered to take them out sailing on Willow for the day, which we did. The morning I went to pick them up they had this kitten crawling all over the place. It seemed homeless and they did not want to leave it alone until they could find a home for it. So, we took the critter out to Willow for the daysail. She was a bit put off a first, but was soon cruising all over down below, finally settleing on top of our guitars as a good spot. Kimberly is trying to pull the little guy down.

Below are Mike and Kimberly. They were good fun to have out with us and seemed to really enjoy the experience of sailing a junk rigged boat. Thanks a lot you two, hope to see you in the future.

Untitled%202.jpg

Another great couple we met were the owners of S/V Swagman II. Dominic and (…). We made some music together several nights and did a lot of laughing. Will need to find some pictures of them.

After taking our ease for about a week in Bahia Ballena, we made the 20 mile sail across the Gulf of Nicoya into Bahia Herradura, entrance to the very swank marina/resort of Los Suenos. We did not stay in the marina. I do not know what it would cost to put Willow their for a day, but it would have cost $50 to tie up our little dingy “Jake” for the day. Needless-to-say, we stayed clear of that spot. It was very handy to get a few cans of diesel and water in the dingy’s, so that was a chore for the morning.

One thing of interest about this bay was what appeared to be a very big surf break on the south side. Bonnie and I headed over to check it out and see what it looked like close up.

Bonnie here, looking beautiful in her anti-sunburn garb, surf behind.

Untitled%203.jpg

From where we were anchored it did not seem very big, but as we got up to in the the skiff we realized it was a rather large break after all. As it turns out, this spot only breaks and is ridable about a dozen times a year, this was the first time this year that it did.

Untitled%204.jpg

So, why were we not out there? Well, that was the intention. Unfortunatlely, Ben and Nikki were off on an epic journey by bus, foot, bicycle and taxi to get their propane bottles filled. We were their ride back to Tara, so we waited a bit to see if they would show. In the meantime, word got out that the wave was pumping I guess. Before we knew it there were over 50 people out there. We are just getting into the sport. That kind of crowd, mainly locals I later learned, was not for me. Then there was the issue of the big boulders sticking up to dampen my enthusiasm. Oh well, I am sorry Scott and Liz, we are trying to live up to your standards, but falling short I am afraid.

Untitled%205.jpg

Well, the wave quit that night and off we went. Next stop, Quepos, below. It is a nice town, but we did not stay very long as we were anxious to get to the anchorage just aroung the corner in Manuel Antonio Natinal Park, and it was well worth the visit.

Untitled%206.jpg

We have finally made it into rain forest latitudes and they are beautiful places. Huge trees, monkeys, sloths, lizards of all sizes and shapes, birds all the colors of the rainbow, oh, and hundreds and hundreds of large, white and burnt red North American tourists on the quick tour. Never fear, we got up and into the park by 6am, and saw virtually no one until we emerged at the end of our walk.

Untitled%207.jpg

We did the best we could to get some good pictures of the creatures all around us, here are some of the better shots.

Untitled%208.jpg

Untitled%209.jpg

As I have mention before, Ben has an affinity for all creatures, particularly lizards, snakes and other critters you may find under a rock or in a dark hole. He grabbed this little guy at the start of our hike and the cold blooded creature rode on top of Bens head for the rest of the morning. Obviously it was sucking the heat generated in Ben’s brain caused by thinking…… har..

Untitled%2010.jpg

This one is for Bonnies mom, Linda. There are many beautiful flowers out here, even in the dry season.

Untitled%2011.jpg

It is always starteling to see such large iguanas just sitting around right next to you, unseen until they move. This one was a bit more in the open as it warmed up in the early morning sun.

Untitled%2014.jpg

Then of course their were the monkeys. We came across a whole gang of them right along the trail. They were not in the least put off by us. In fact, I had set my little camera bag down at my feet in the trail and what do you know. One little guy lopes out towards us, two feet away, just staring at us. Then, a quick snatch and it was off into the trees with the bag. No big loss, just a ziplock and padded sack, I thought. As I watched them all gather around to divide the spoiles I suppose, I noticed one of them tentatively biting on something colorful. “Shit, the monkey is eating my money,” I exclaimed (or something like that) and off Ben and I were to retrieve the stolen goods. We got it all back, it not being very tasty I suppose.

At this time the camera battery died, leaving us with these two mediocre pictures. Sorry!

Untitled%2012.jpg

Untitled%2013.jpg

Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

Willow is now anchored in a fantastic spot called Bahia Ballena, located in the Golf of Nicoya, Costa Rica. Once again I am amazed that we have a wireless signal out here in the anchorage when all you really see on the beach is a small fishing pier and some local homes amongst the palm trees and forested hillside. I have to admit that I really do like this technology and its consistent availability when we would least expect it.

Not much has happened since the last entry, but all that did happen was good. Jim was with us up until this morning, when he hopped into a cab to catch a small plane back to San Jose and then on to Seattle tomorrow. He was a great boat mate and would gladly have him back any time. Besides being an all around entertaining fellow, he has helped me with my computer skills, hopefully making this log a bit more entertaining. Thanks Jim.

I have received some feedback from a few people requesting bigger, better pictures, more shots of wildlife and local color. It has been noted, and I am aware of the issue. Others in the past have asked for more pictures of the boat and us. What to do… Well, I will do my best to make it as interesting as possible. One of the biggest obstacles for wildlife photography is our little camera. It has little to no zoom at all, making it difficult to capture the really cool creatures we see. Perhaps our next work cycle will involve buying a nice camera. It has also been suggested that I somehow set up a donations button on this site for just such a reason, but I need to consider more deeply the moral issues involved in asking for money. To be truthful, when I think about heading back to Seattle and hopping on a tugboat bound for the Bering Sea again, the donations ideas has great appeal. Oh well, enough on that.

Another note about my skill as a writer. I am aware that there is much to be worked on; grammar, spelling, sentence structure, that sort of thing. Well, no need to get to hung up on that I suppose, I will either improve or not, and hope you all can suffer it. Another suggestion or rather request is that Bonnie write some on here. I have no effect in that area, but she is working on a wildlife log that she has been keeping in writing during all of our trips. Perhaps she will get it set up and online; there is some really good stuff in there. Here, for example, is a creature we scooped up floating by Willow just this morning. We do not know what it is; it is in none of our books. Perhaps someone seeing the picture can ID it for us. It is only about the size of a thumbnail. At the moment the entire bay we are in is choked with a red tide algae. It is not an uncommon phenomenon, but makes going for a swim a bit less appealing. This critter was floating amidst the red tide and is the first time we have seem anything of its kind. So please, send an e-mail if you know what it is.

bluedod.jpg

OK, that brings me to our latest crew, Jim LaGasse. Here he is blending in nicely with the local flora. It took him all of about 10 minutes to relax into our pace of life out here (which is rather slow). That is the most important trait for a guest on board boats of our limited size and speed. The most we moved in one shot while Jim was on board was 45 miles, and that took us about 11 hours due to no wind at first, and then winds on the nose later. A few other things to keep in mind should any of you consider visiting us or any other boat out there: Pack very, very lightly. I figure if it does not fit into a carry-on bag, it is too much. We are living in a place where a Hawaiian shirt is considered foul weather gear. A pair of walking shoes and a pair of flops (i.e. flip-flops, thongs, slaps, go-aheads) is all that is needed for the feet. In fact, I can honestly say that I have not put on a pair of shoes that has laces in nearly 4 months. All of the bottles of shampoo, lotions, soaps, herbal this-and-that, various hair care products, forget it. Have toothbrush, will travel.

Done here. The point was that Jim was the ideal crewmate, low maintenance and low impact.

jimpalms.jpg

We were visiting with the crew of sv Swagman last night for Jim’s birthday. Here is the man taking in the music and conversation from a very comfortable spot.

jimhammock.jpg

The following few shots are back a week or so in Bahia Garza. Jim was making new friends.

jimgirl.jpg

Here is the same beautiful little girl. Her family owned the beach restaurant we often ate in. The dogs also seemed to be part of the family. She was thrilled with the instant look at herself digital cameras offer.

littlegirlgarza.jpg

The next two pictures are of Bahia Carrillo, simply put, awesome.

bahiacarillo.jpg

For everyone headed this direction on his or her boats. Note the breakers extending way out from the right hand (northern) side of the bay. The south side is clear. That is Tara and Willow outside of the sports fishing boats mooring field.

bahiacarillo2.jpg

This afternoon I will try to get some good shots of our current anchorage in Bahia Ballena and surroundings. For now, Bonnie is napping the heat of the day away and I am considering going for my swim. The thick, red water really is a deterrent and I am not sure if I will follow through, it will clear up eventually.

Huatulto, Mexico-Bahia Garza, Costa Rica

Now that I have gotten a bit of the past taken care of I will try to slow down and give a bit more detail. Punta Galera was about as much fun as we have had in our travels. None but good people around, the sun always shining, surf as much as we could handle and lots of food and drink, not to mention the music. The anchorage there was a bit on the rolly side, but by setting a stern hook it was not unbearable. The surf break was at the mouth of a huge estuary system. Bonnie and I took the mighty dingy “Jake”, in company with Sarana’s crew and skiff “Puff” up into the mangroves for a little tour.

galeraeandsmang.jpg

Here they are working our way through a tunnel of green and life, it was awesome. We managed to get in and out with no mishaps, which was a good thing, being rather remote and all. No worries we had water, beer, some snacks and a knife or two I believe, arrrrrr.

Here are a few shots for our good friends Debbie and Andrew.

bird1galera.jpg

bird2galera.jpg

birdgalera3.jpg

Well, it is not exactly out in the middle of nowhere I suppose, but damn close to it. You know what, every single person we met there was smiling and gracious in their own way. These fellows were just tooling along smiling and laughing with us at the day and how good it was; well, that’s what I figure they were doing, and I agreed with them.

localgalera.jpg

Onward, south and east some more, next stop Huatulco, Mexico and the first marina Willow had been in since San Carlos months before.

Hmmmm, I have just taken a look for some great shots of Huatluco, but can come up with none, hang on, just remembered one.

Ah yes, here is Ryan with his very cool parents on board Willow while tied to the dock in Marina Chahue. We had good fun with them and everyone we met there. Part of the reason for going into a marina was to give the boats a real good fresh water wash down for the first time in months. Another part was just the luxury of showers a short walk away, resupplying with food and fuel and all sorts of fun things like that. Also, the next leg of the trip was to be crossing a notoriously bad stretch of water call the Gulf of Tehuantepec. We wanted a nice spot to sit and listen to weather forecasts, helping us make the decision of when to make the crossing.

ryanandfolks.jpg

We did not have to wait all that long really.

Wait, back up. Tara, Godspeed and Willow left Punta Galera together, Ocean Lady, Sarana and Get Lost stayed there a bit longer, and we have not seen them since.

So, there we are. We talk to this guy, listen to that guy on the radio, look at the various web sites dealing with the forecast for the Gulf of Tehuantepec and make our move. This time it is just Tara and Willow moving on, in company with another boat named Sunshine. (A father and daughter team on a great trip).

I had better tell this little tale, just to illustrate the small community out here and how our paths seem to cross when not expected. It has to do with S/V Sunshine. A year and a half ago Bonnie and I had just gotten Willow to San Francisco with or friend Jason Rose on board to help. We tied up at the San Fran municipal marina, directly in front of a small boat named Sunshine with a little girl and her father as crew. We had a brief interaction and a few laughs one day and they took off, southbound the next day. That was that, never heard of them again, until we are tied up at a dock in southern Mexico and there is Sunshine. The fathers name is Lou, but this time it was his older daughter, Eden with him, not the little one I met before. He is still going strong and loving the life.

Anyway, there it is. They left with us and we took the deep breath and headed off to see what the Tehuantepec would deal us. It was a very uncomfortable motor sail for two day working our way north and east into the gulf. We stayed near shore, avoiding the wind that was still blowing, biding our time and waiting for it to moderate. Well, at some point the hardy crews of Tara and Willow said, “looks good to me, what to you think”, “yep, looks good to me, lets go”, and we turned east, straight across the gut of the thing.

Well, very quickly, as we left the beach, the wind built to a fresh 30+knots, or so. We do not have an anemometer (wind gauge), nor does Tara; so, you will just have to take my word for it. Willow was reefed down, with only two panels of each sail flying. The only other time we have had to do that was in a two-day gale in the north pacific, trying to make way in 40 knots. Tara had nothing but her storm staysail up, mixed in with a bit of double reefed main. We both fell off to take the winds and seas just aft of the beam to ease the motion. Now, the wind was not dangerous and would even be considered nice sailing wind, except for the seas that had built up. I figured them at about 8-10ft or so, not so crazy really. However, the wave period was only 3-4secons. That means, every few second we were getting hit by another wave, and another and another. The boats handled it just fine, no real danger, but it was sure as hell not very comfortable.

This is Tara, dealing sweetly with the conditions. We did not think to take a picture, and I cannot say why, will work on it.

taratpec.jpg

I have to admit, it was awesome to see Willow maintain 7.5knots for long periods, over 8knots at times. All I could think at times was, “unreal, we built this thing and it can deal with this craziness, and goes like stink on top of it, I love this boat and the beautiful, stout, incomparable junk rig.” (or something like that anyway.)

Needless to say, we made it in fine form and very quickly after the winds mentioned above, we were motoring our way towards Guatamala. So it goes. Once again, Bonnie and I failed to take any pictures of the coastline as it slid by. Partly because our little camera simply cannot take effective pictures like that, but mostly because we do not think to do it. I can tell you that Guatemala is a very volcanic part of the coast here and it must be amazing to travel upland there.

Bound for Costa Rica.

Our plan was to go nonstop into Costa Rica to meet up with my brother, Dan and then our good friend Jim, who would be traveling with us for 3 weeks. We had a goal, and goals are good, they give you something to focus on and work towards, I reckon.

Well, we got into Nicaragua and the wind started building, opposing us and we were already tired and we were going nowhere. I decided to plot out some potential spots to hide out and realized something very fortunate. We were 5miles or so from a place called Puesta del Sol, Marina-Resort. Nice……. Did not take much convincing to talk Ben and Nikki into it. We waited for daylight and made our approach and entrance and very soon we were in one of the most beautiful spots we have been to.

Here I am suffering through the heat by the pool on the inland side of things.

delsolpool2.jpg

Here I am recovering from the walk from the inland pool across the peninsula to the pool overlooking the ocean. Never fear, I suffered no long-term harm.

delsolpool.jpg

We became good friends with some of the local boys. That canoe is a true dugout. That is to say, it used to be a giant tree that was cut down, hollowed out by burning and carving and such and walla, a very heavy canoe. This thing was very old and these young fellows new how to handle it with style.

canoegang.jpg

They just loved Bonnie, all smiles and smooth talking to woo her, what fun.

bonandcanoeboys.jpg

The canoe crew multiplied. It stared with four. Then I gave them a tow back, up stream from a fishing expedition and was a star. Next thing we know, there were 5 and eventually 6 or 7.

canoecrewwillow.jpg

They were as polite as you could imagine well-raised lads to be. All they asked for outright was some clothes, which we gave gladly.
The binoculars were a big hit, wish we could afford to give them away as well, but they were fine with taking turns.

binocpicture.jpg

Ben and Nikki gave the crew two pairs of sunglasses, which were by far the coolest thing they could have acquired from us. Well, that left 4 or 5 of them with no styling shades, so they came over to Willow.. They were good buddies by now, so the formalities were dropped and they asked if we had any to spare, which we did. So, we gave them all some glasses from our sack of cheap glasses we had acquired along the way, and they were psyched. This crew will for sure be running the place in another 10 years or so.

canoegangglasses.jpg

Here we are on the walk back from the beach. We met the crew of another boat and had a good time with them.. The are Brad and Nikki, they were crewing on sv Inherit the Wind, however, that is not their boat, they were helping a friend. Their boat is named “Wind Thief”, and will be headed south from San Diego in another year or two. We were very glad to have met them and hope to see them again in the future.

nicawalk1.jpg

Ben finally came through for us and captured some new crew for Willow. Dogs and cats are out, the only reasonable thing came down to critters that were real small and ate bugs. So, he snagged this tree frog as well as two geckos, we brought them back to Willow and let them loose. The geckos immediately disappeared. The frog was an up front kind of critter. It would launch from one spot to the next. Upside down, sideways, what ever. It really seemed to like our hair. We quickly decided on the name Splat for it and it was accurate. Within about an hour, I stepped on it and Splat was no more. Sorry buddy, but the floor is not place for a creature as big as my little finger.

splat.jpg

Splat, about to go aerial, it was a good pet while he made it.

splat2.jpg

Another Ben shot, he as an affinity for creatures of all sorts.

bigbug.jpg

Eventually we decided we needed to leave Puesta del Sol and move down the coast of Nicaragua into Costa Rica and brothers Dan and Jim, so we left, and it got really windy.

nicaraguagirls.jpg

It was only about 150miles, but it took us a solid week to cover. The wind never fell below 20knot, right on the port bow. Usually it was over 30knots. The only way we could make any way at all was to stay within about half a mile from the beach, motor running hard, deeply reefed mainsail sheeted in. If we got even a mile offshore the fetch was enough to kick up the seas to a condition that was completely untenable. It is amazing how comfortable you can get with running a Frisbees toss from the beach, in 30+knots of wind, down a coast that has not really been charted all that well. We were happy to make 20 miles in a day. We would then go do our best to find a somewhat sheltered spot, drop the hook and hope nothing gives way.

The wind was relentless, we were on edge and it did not let up for nearly 3 weeks. Below is one of our first anchorages in Costa Rica, on the western end of Punta Descartes. Notice the white caps. The boats are anchored only about 150yds off the beach, behind a big hill. Still, they would get hit by gusts that would put us rail down and mast vibrating. Eventually Tara and Willow were sitting nicely with two anchors set.

windyanchorage.jpg

One thing about a windy place that is fun, kite boarding. This is a mecca for it. People come from all over the world to ride in Bahia de Salinas. Here are Tara and Willow anchored in the lee of a mostly submerged reef near the launch beach. The reef gave no protection from wind, but did lessen the wind waves. None-the-less, we were never comfortable leaving the boats out site and only stayed there for two days I think.

willowkites.jpg

We did in fact meet up with my brother Dan there. He had been in the country for nearly a month and was taking some lessons here from the guy in red, Kent.

dankite.jpg

Bonnie, hiding out from the sun as best she could out there.

bonkite.jpg

Ben and I had mixed luck with the kite boarding. We are both just learning the sport and that was a lot of wind to learn in. Ben had a really sweet ride across the bay; I had a gear complication with one of my launches that was a bit unnerving. We survived, but needed to get the boats to a more protected spot as the wind was predicted to pick up even more, and it did. We sat at the above-mentioned anchorage for about a week in up to 45knot gusts and the never ending howl of the papagayo winds.

Eventually our friend Jim showed up as planned and we geared up to head further south with him on board as crew and chief party planner. He has done a stellar job of it so far; the time has gone by far to quickly.

We had a windy rounding of Cabo Santa Elena, but no problems there. Then the wind regrouped and really let us have it in a place that I would have sworn would have been in the lee and out of the brunt of the wind. So, we stayed put at a place called Key Point, just east of Santa Elena and got absolutely blasted for two days straight. For sure we had gusts over 50knots and I was sure we were going to pop loose of the anchor and head out to sea. (Which would probably have been more comfortable than what we dealt with at anchor.)

All held fast and we got the hell out of there when we felt it had come down to 30knts or so. Off we went across the Golf of Papagayos, bound for El Coco and the official check in point to Costa Rica for visiting vessels. I will skip the logistics of checking in, unless someone writes to ask in particular. Just lock everything up while there, there are many, many characters running around, obviously on serious drugs and looking for more.

That about gets everyone up to speed with us to date. We are currently in a fantastic spot called Bahia Garza and love it here. Good people, beautiful scenery and lots of creatures. Here is our first sighting of monkeys since arriving in the country.

monkey1.jpg

Jim has been the king fisherman on the boat and here is the first fish he caught on the rod and reel. Crazy thing, we did not eat it. These cuties will kill you after all.

puffer2.jpg

The only restaurant in Brachia Garza. The folks here have been super friendly and helpful to us. Refilled water tanks from their tap and leaned a lot about the area.

garzafood.jpg

Bonnie always makes friends with the children and animals of the local spots.

bongirl.jpg

Arghhhhhhhhh, where next, time to go…..

arrrrrrrrgh.jpg