Nancy and Sam welcome you aboard Windfall, our 1977 Maple Leaf sailboat. Windfall is a center cockpit design, 42' length, 13.5' wide, and 40,000 lbs of cruising fun!

On August 7th, 2010 we set sail on our "No Itinerary" world cruise and enjoying the "Cruising Life" very much! It's a wonderful adventure!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Panama Canal with Varuna

Varuna's Line-Handlers  - The American Bridge over the canal.

Well, it's been busy since our last blog, Nancy is in Reno helping Denielle with our new grandson Bodhi Kai Erwin born Friday July 22nd. I've been aboard Windfall waiting...and waiting!
    In the meantime, the crew of SOMF Jerry and Lauren, and I were invited by our friends Mitch and Anne (Varuna) to go to Panama and help them bring their boat through the Panama Canal! A date was set and confirmed, so with a couple bus and taxi rides, we found ourselves at a anchorage on the Pacific side of the canal and at 6am the next morning we were on our way.
In the canal with Varuna, a tugboat, and that big ship coming behind us.
    What a great experience this was for us all, especially since we will be taking Windfall through the Panama Canal sometime near the end of this year. 
    I learned a lot of how things are done in (and at) the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal has three sets of locks – Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores – each of which has two lanes. These locks serve as lifts, elevating vessels 85 feet above sea level from the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans to Gatun Lake.
   There are new locks being built right now and expected to open in 2014 to accommodate the newer "Post Pana-Max Ships", as of now the canal can only take "Pana-Max"container ships (designed for the width of the canal) carrying about 4000 containers aboard. Though this may sound like a lot of containers aboard one ship, they have "Post Pana-Max" Ships that carry 10,000 containers! While we were motoring to the first set of locks, we were fortunate to see one of these Pana-Max...WOW! Huge doesn't even begin to describe the size of one of these big ships and they are way too big (width) to fit into the current canal. The ship unloads the 10,000 containers, place them on the Panama Canal Railroad and transport the containers  to the opposite side of the canal...where they are unloaded from the train and placed back on other ships waiting to make the destination complete.
You see that huge ship in the lock ahead and BELOW us?
    With the new canal locks opening in 2014 this will increase shipping through the canal and help reduce shipping costs....and if you're wondering it's about $400,000 to take one of the big ships through the canal.... The cost for Varuna was about $700 including an
    We were hoping to make it all the way through the 48 mile long canal in one day, but as with all good plans we couldn't make the time to the next locks on the Caribbean side. So, we were able to spend the night in Lake Gatun which is between the Pacific side and Caribbean side. Lake Gatun at one time was made with the worlds largest dam...and Lake Gatun was also the largest man-made lake in the world. 
    Shelter Bay Marina, on the Caribbean side, has a wonderful pool that we jumped into as quickly as possible. The city of Colon is just across the bay, but to get there must be timed with the canal bridge...which can be a 2 hour wait. There is a shuttle bus 4 days a week to Colon, but a Taxi can cost $80 each way to Panama City.
    And, to top things off, we were invited to an exploration group searching for Captain Morgan's ship that is sunken in a nearby bay...somewhere. We were treated to a nice presentation and history of Captain Morgan and his 33 ships that were entering the harbor when the Captain's ship hit a rock and sunk. Of course the exploration is sponsored by Captain Morgan Rum....which was not available at the bar. Hmmmm.
    Well, time to get back to Windfall and get ready to fly to Reno to see Nancy and our new Grandson Bodhi!! We'll be in the US for a month visiting Jeff and Denielle in Reno, my Mom in Oregon, and lastly Nancy's family in Florida. We must have Windfall out of Costa Rica by August 23rd.....Panama we'll be on our way soon!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Inland Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park beach.
 Hola!  We took off on a 1 week adventure with Jerry and Lauren, from SOMF, after renting a 4x4 vehicle in Golfito (where our boats are now moored).
    Wow! What a great time we had exploring Costa Rica's high volcanoes, beautiful beaches, high mountains, waterfalls, and the famous "Cloud Forest".
Hey Lauren! Be sure to get Jerry's good side!

    We began with  Manuel Antonio National Park with a walking tour where we spotted 2-toed and 3-toed Sloths, and seen several monkeys in the trees and even on the beach! Some were just a few feet from us as we walked the trail! Now, let me just say how FAST monkeys can be when you're wanting to get a good picture, so no monkey pics from the beach. Although, we did spot the ever popular Lauren and Jerry taking several typical tourist beach pictures! Defiantly, this is a beautiful place not to be missed on any Costa Rican visit.
    We ate many delicious foods including sandwiches made from a true Italian deli that made our mouths water and we couldn't wait to devour! Costa Rica's foods are of a worldwide mixture and delicious to say the least.
Runway Models Nancy and Lauren showing off the "Rain Poncho"
These beetles are about 6" long! Ouch!
    We toured the famous "Cloud Forest" where we were "so lucky" to experience the heavy rain as well! We purchased ponchos from the gift shop ($8 each) and the rain was warm, so we made the best of a forest canopy tour. Here, we walked 14 bridges towering high above the forest and seen people on zip lines passing overhead! After driving 20 miles of washed out, very rough,  4-wheel drive dirt & gravel road, we spent two nights in Fortuna and stayed in a lovely 2 bedroom cabin located on a family owned coffee and sugarcane plantation.
     We stopped at a butterfly farm where they raise butterflies and study insects...including a beetle the size of a banana that actually flies and has a beak! Imagine one of these splattering over your windshield! Ewwww!
    We hired a guide to take us on a tour of the area. where first we stopped where "strangler vines" wrapped around old growth trees and actually kills the tree it's wrapped around leaving only the hollow vines. Here's Jerry, who bravely climbed inside the strangler vines and where once was a huge tree now rotted away completely..I could only picture one vine slowly wrapping itself around his leg like in an old science fiction movie.  
Oxen with cart carry milk to the dairy each day
Beautiful isn't it?
Our guide, Carlos, took us  a local Quaker owned dairy and they make famous cheeses. The Quakers moved  moved to the remote Costa Rican mountain region to avoid the US-Vietnam war. And, if you're wondering...No, they don't dress like the guy on the oatmeal box...but, I knew you were curious! We were treated with seeing the morning delivery made by Oxen pulling a cart loaded with old style milk cans. Yes, this is how they make their morning milk deliveries from one local farms. The dairy farms are located on high elevation, steep, green-grass covered mountainsides with deep canyons.
Believe me...this is COLD water!!
   From here, Carlos took us to a banana plantation with a jungle-covered mountain trail leads to a beautiful waterfall. We wore swimsuits and were anxious to jump into the water...only to find it's COLD water under the falls! Bravely, we dove in providing instant "brain freeze" as our heads went under! Upon sticking a finger into the fringed water, Nancy (smartly) decided she didn't need to swim after all!  Lauren bravely dove in....and right back out before the numbness set in!
Costa Rican Coffee...the BEST we've ever tasted!!
    Our day ended at a small family owned organic coffee plantation where the coffee is grown at high elevation and  shaded by taller trees, harvested, processed, and roasted,by the family. I, not being a real "coffee groupie" and mostly drink Starbucks "foo-foo" coffee, can attest that this was the BEST coffee I have ever tasted. It was so delicious I only added cane sugar to sweeten....that is, cane sugar fresh from the cane press located in the nearby shed.
    Not a bad tour for $40. and worth every penny...thank you, Carlos!
High elevation plant called the "Poor man's Umbrella"
Just another waterfall...Costa Rican style!
     The next day we drove to "Volcan Poas" in the Northern part of CR. This is a live volcano with sulfur laden steam venting from the crater. From the top we were told on a clear day we could see the Caribbean Ocean...but with the cloud cover we only seen clouds.     The rich fertile volcanic soil provides much nourishment for the sizable plants as you can see in the picture with Nancy.
Volcan Poas is still steaming, and we're not sure what about!
We drove to "Volcan Arenal" and enjoyed an afternoon and evening at the hot springs...more of a resort. For $22 per day, or $28 with a buffet dinner, we opted for the $28 deal. If we purchased tickets at the resort they were $45 each, but from our hotel we paid $28. We had a ball here, several fun water slides, swim-up bars in the pools, and hot pools of water from 98 degrees up to 152 degrees that I could could only stand in for 2 seconds! And the dinner....wonderful, delicious, and a true bargain.
     We spent 2 days in San Jose exploring the city and it's beautiful sights. Sadly, the Gold Museum was under construction and we opted not to enter...I was hoping for free "samples" at the door! We seen the elegant theater, jade museum, parks, and central market area as well.

     There is one thing, if you drive a car, about Costa Rica I should warn you about... speeding tickets are way out of line here. We were stopped for "speeding" about 10 kph over the speed limit. We were flagged over by a policeman who's tow truck was parked along side the road. Yes, the police drive tow trucks here! Let me continue the story with me standing at the tow truck and learning that my ticket can be paid at any bank in Costa $500 US dollar ticket that is! What the *&^%$###@ % 500 dollars! No way!
    Yes, it's true, and I seen other tickets in his book well over $900 US dollars. Oh, and it's a $700 ticket we learned as our passengers (Jerry and Lauren) were in the backseat not wearing seatbelts! He "let me go" on the seatbelt ticket as he gave instructions of how I am to go to the bank and pay my fine. (I found that's what the tow truck is used for, when the locals cannot pay the fines they tow the vehicles). For those who know me know I can BS with the best of them, so, with my best BS I was able to work out a "cash fine" of $40 paid directly to the very polite officer who promptly placed my reduced fine into his pocket! I was torn between being pissed or relieved that I didn't have to pay $500 dollars!
    Now, to add to the story, we dropped Nancy off at the San Jose airport to catch her flight to Reno, and began our 6 hour return trip to our boats in Golfito. We were again stopped at a police roadblock (which are common). Lauren was laying down asleep in the backseat and sat up as the policeman approached the vehicle. He smiles and pointed at our seatbelts, then pointed to Lauren, who actually did have her seatbelt on, (thank goodness!) and waved his finger as if to say, "You must to wear your seatbelts... or I will write you up!" 
    Yes, sir! Thank you, Sir! We drove off with beads of sweat still wet on our foreheads and relieved we avoided yet another ticket.   Oh, and the tickets...well, they all go to the driver of the vehicle! But then again, it might be worth watching Lauren working off $700 by scrubbing, polishing, and waxing Windfall till she sparkles! Hey Lauren, you know I'm just kidding...right? Right???
    Currently, Nancy is in Reno, Nevada and awaiting the birth our new grandson "Bodhi", and I'm aboard Windfall till he decides to make his appearance. Then, I'll fly back to the US. Nancy and I plan to travel to Oregon to visit friends and family, then on to Florida to visit Nancy's family before returning to Costa Rica. Once we return to Costa Rica, we will get Windfall in "sea-ready condition" and set courses for Panama and through the Panama Canal!
    Our friends aboard Varuna are in Panama and arranging to go through the canal. If all works out, before I travel back to the US, I will meet up with Varuna to be a "line handler" and go through the canal. This will be a great adventure and an experience before we take Windfall through the canal later this year.
    Happy 4th of July everyone!