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Bahia Ballena and My Little Mast Monkey

Posted on Thursday Jan 10, 2008

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It was a hard slog from Tamarindo to Bahia Carrillo with over 2 knots of current against us most of the way. For you landlubbers imagine getting in your car for a 600 mile non-stop drive, and right after get on the road and hit the gas you discover your destination is really 1000 miles away -- and you can't stop or exit anywhere.

We spent the night in a rolly anchorage with our new buddies on Desidarata whom we had surfed with in Tamarindo. Early in the morning we departed and headed to Bahia Ballena where we are right now. Of course we had to battle another 1 to 1.2 knots of current.

There wasn't much wind, so we had to tax our raw water pump which has been leaking water and I've been repacking the seal ever 6 engine hours or so -- NOT fun. Fortunately we seem to be rid of our dirty fuel now and are pulling in nice clean stuff from the tank. I'll have to scrub it all out once Sherrell is off to Seattle. Oh, and more good news. The bay and the winds were finally calm enough for Sherrell (my Mast Monkey) to ascend the mast and work on our roller furling extrusion. It appears there's some slight damage to the sail, so we were able to get it down and I'll patch that too while she's gone. It's a relief to finally have that problem under control. Normally our roller furling works flawlessly. However I think we did something wrong when we hoisted the sail because I heaved on the halyard really hard expecting lots of resistance and the sail shot up and banged into the top extrusion. Then I think with the wild winds it seperated. Anyway no sign of damage to the foil, just some tiny sail repair required.

I just found out that they filmed "Temptation Island 2" here. I don't know what that is, but if you thought they were on an island you're a sucker. I think the guide books call this place Playa Tambor after the town, but cruisers know places by the bays and points. Apparently they stayed at some fancy resort here for the film, I suppose you could look that up on the internet but it seems rather boring to me.

Tomorrow we are headed back to Civilization where we will tie up to a dock for the first time in 13 months, and we will have water at the dock (I hope!) for the first time in over 18 months!

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Photos!

Posted on Friday Jan 4, 2008

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Here's a shot of one of our last few anchorages in Nicaragua, Playa Romanso. We were treated with goodbye double rainbow -- an apropriate goodbye as we'll miss Nicaragua.

We visited a few more places before stopping in Santa Elena which is in the middle of a protected park. Since we are right at the end of rainy season things are still green and there are some fresh water rivers still flowing.

The Bay is very well protected and the first time we've been 100% out of swell for months. It was a weird adjustmant to make. Humpback whales swam off the enterance, dolphins hunted around our boat in the evening for fish, birds had several discussion groups in the hills and early in the morning howler monkeys would call out with the rising sun.

Someone turn off the wind

The Gulf of Papagayo has been cranking for days. We've been waiting for it to calm down so we can continue down the coast, but it has been blowing like mad. We finally escaped the Gulf of Papagayo today but we didn't get far before the wind really started howling again. So we managed to tuck into this little bay and anchor off the beach to get out of the wind. As I write this, it is blowing about 34 knots and the boat is surrounded by whitecaps, even though we are probably only 1/4 off the beach.

There is wifi here so I'll try to post some photos.

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Happy 2008

We're enjoying Costa Rica. We've found a few hidden bays and secret short cuts around this area. We're in a popular and pretty spot right now called Bahia Huevos (Eggs Bay?). It's very protected in here and we have hopes of fixing our roller furling here as soon as we get a break in the wind. I don't feel safe sending Sherrell up the mast to work on the sail unless the conditions are very calm. She's itching to fix it, but I'm insistent we need the right conditions before trying it. We've made progress on the other problems, the engine is running better (dirty fuel) and I repaired the torn sail slide on the mainsail. Our raw water pump is still leaking, but Sherrell can bring back parts to fix it when she returns from Seattle.

Did I mention Sherrell is going back to Seattle for 3 weeks to help her mom? It will be the first time back in the US for her since we left 4 years ago, and she hasn't driven since then either. Clear the sidewalks.

The dry season is in full swing here and that brings mating turtles, rays, whales, and lots of sea birds. The water is clear and warm and this bay is nice and calm.

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Getting Spanked (not the fun kind)

(Date written DEC 22)
The little jaunt around Cabo Santa Elena is 15 miles. The problem is this area is in the vortex of a region famous for high velocity winds called gap winds. Having left San Juan later than we wanted because of the stupid kidney stone, we pushed up against the start of Papagayo season when these gap winds are at their worst. The forecast promised 20 knots in the "Papagayo Region". Well at Cabo Santa Elena you have to double the forecast and add some.

We started off sailing downwind in 20 knots, and ended up rounding the point turning upwind and being crushed by 40 to 50 knot headwinds. The seas were so steep they were like walls of water that flowed onto the decks and crashed over the dodger. We prepped the boat before hand for a rough passage around the point, but we had quite the battle reaching the anchorage which was protected from the waves, but we still had 30 knot gusts which heeled us over 30 degrees all night long.

Outside of the bight where we were anchored the wind blew so hard it created a fog of sea water--ripping the tops of the waves off and sending them vertical through the air. It was quite an experience and one of the slides on our main sail tore out from the beating we took.

Strangely the wind calmed down in the afternoon, so we plan to make our escape about noon tomorrow and hope for a calmer crossing of the Golfo de Papagayo, the heart of the gap winds.

On the plus side, we found out the why the engine was running strangely -- dirty fuel. So now we are changing filters and trying to get rid of the stuff. However the fix to the raw water pump isn't holding up so we're leaking water again (sigh).

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Spanked Again

Our clever idea of leaving around noon didn't work out. We still had some fierce winds howling out there, but the forecast only appeared to worsen over the next few days. So we sucked it up, tied stuff down and set out on the 20 mile crossing of the Gulf of Papagayo.

The scariest part of the crossing was we had to sail between a lot of rocks and islands in a solid 45 knots of wind with gusts in the low 50's. However we just flew the staysail and trimmed it so the boat was well balanced even for the heavy gusts. Once we steered clear of the islands and entered the gulf we were able to at least breathe and our plus rates dropped to a mere 150.

Out in the open gulf we started to enjoy the heavy winds because we could slam our way through the waves rather than get tossed around by them. As the wind got lighter we started wishing for more wind -- strange what you get used to.

Nonetheless we arrive in Playa Panama, a very calm spot, very tired and sore. This crossing probably had the strongest winds I've every sailed in anywhere. And the only wind I would say compared to this strength was the hurricane that almost hit Mazatlan last year. Pretty crazy stuff. The weirdest part is when we reached the other side of the gulf, we had no wind and had to motor into the anchorage. I'm sure the wind is still raging out at Cabo Santa Elena....


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Moving again

Posted on Thursday Dec 20, 2007

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Despite all our setbacks we are underway again. For some reason we keep running into problems:

Leaky exhaust system: 4 days and about 10 attempts before it was fixed
Leaky raw water pump: 6 hours and 3 attempts before fixing the seal (hope it holds)
Roller furling extrusion loose: Can't use the foresail, need a day without wind in a calm anchorage to repair (also need some metric set screws -- who carries metric set screws onboard?)
Engine running rough: No idea why. Was running great leaving San Juan, we adjusted the alignment and did lots of basic work to it, but now it's running rough.

Fortunately we've been able to sail most of the time so far in strong winds, so the staysail and main are enough and we can keep the disabled foresail rolled up (we can't even get it down due to the extrusion problem).

The good news is we're still going and we've seen some rarely visited spots in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Right now we are in the famous Bahia Santa Elena that is in the heart of Costa Rica's largest nature park. Lots of birds, monkeys, and we even had a humpback whale greet us as we sailed into the bay!

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Free!

Posted on Monday Dec 10, 2007

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The trying times are over. Today's $15 ultrasound shows the stone has left
the body. I'm still trying to absorb the fact that after almost 6 weeks of
drinking gallons of water and jumping up and down, we're free!

We'll need a few days to work on the boat, replenish the stores, say goodbye
to friends, do our official paperwork, but we're free!

"In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Speech, September 22, 1936

Back on the water

Posted on Friday Nov 16, 2007

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We've officially moved back onto the boat. That means the cats are here too. We're trying to get things organized and recover from the trauma of living on land.

We went to Managua yesterday to consult with my doctor about the Kidney stone. He was very positive that it should pass on it's own in about a week. He gave me some diuretic pills and some pain pills for when it tries to pass.

A cruising boat arrived here today, which is a rare event. It's nice to see some fellow travelers, however they seem to be in a hurry and we haven't had a chance to say hello. Not much else to say, I just really just wanted to send something from the boat to announce our return!

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Rolling Calcium Oxcalate Stones

Posted on Tuesday Nov 6, 2007

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The weather has finally improved dramatically. Lots of people say that
Nov. 3 is the magic day when the seasons switch. This year it was Nov. 4
when the winds did a 180 and the seas died down.

We returned from Managua yesterday after having an x-ray measurement of
the kidney stone. The X-rays show it to be 4mm x 6mm. The smaller 4mm
dimension helps improve my changes of the stone passing on its own. It's
at the bottom of my ureter right now and once it exits the ureter I'm
basically homefree. Most people are surprised to learn the ureter is
actually the most painfull and difficult section of the body for passing a
stone. Our fingers are crossed, but I can't shake the depression and
agony of just waiting.