It’s a partly sunny day, the fishing lines are out and crew spirits are much improved. Rough seas continued all day and much of the night. Although we had about 12 knots of wind, the angle we would need to be on to take advantage of it put us too far in the wrong direction and we risked being pulled even farther off course by the prevailing current. So, we started the engine at sunset and motored through the night. The seas finally started to calm around midnight and by this morning are reasonably comfortable. The wind has shifted around and we’re sailing on course with a nice close haul to beam reach. The main challenge is getting around the boat while heeling 10-15 degrees. We hope to make up some ground today and tomorrow if the wind speed holds in the 10-12 kt range as predicted.

Current location: Lat 02 26.382N Long 083 12.871W
Distance traveled: 137 NM

Day 5: Rainy night

When the birds flew off yesterday they left behind quite a little mess on the bow. Someone made an offhanded comment about needing a little rain to rinse it and all the salt off the decks. Well, after a nice sunny day we got that “wish.” It started raining last night and hasn’t stopped yet. And with the rain came some uncomfortable seas but little wind so we were forced again to motor throughout the night. We’re finally getting wind today and are sailing on a nice beam reach for now. The seas are starting to calm a bit and we’re hoping this incessant rain will leave us soon. Crew spirits are waning but still fairly high, nothing some sunshine won’t cure.

Current location: Lat 03 15.170N Long 081 33.116W
Distance traveled: 149 NM

Day 4: Boobies aboard

The computer has revived itself, at least for now, which is nice because it’s much easier to type out updates on a keyboard than old-school texting the 160 allowable characters on the InReach device. The confused seas from the previous day calmed down and we had a good day of sailing yesterday. The 1-2 kt current in our face, however, is definitely slowing us down and will likely add another day to our passage.

We had our first avian hitchhikers, two red-footed boobies. They showed up early in the afternoon and liked it so much they spent the entire night perched on the bow pulpit. Well-rested and hungry, they finally took their leave this morning.

Current location: Lat 04 59.391N Long 080 34.863W
Distance traveled: 131 NM

Day 3, 27 May: Underway. Computer died. Sending via InReach. All is well. Lat 06 32.863N Long 079 50.943W. 159 NM

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Tom Racette sent this message from: Lat 6.497244 Lon -79.849641

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Day 2 was spent at anchor enjoying the bay and wrapping up boat projects (at least for now). After breakfast we went for a snorkel. The water clarity wasn’t great but it was nice to cool off. In the afternoon we explored the beach and gathered coconuts and mangoes. While we were ashore our buddy Tom, who is crewing with us to the Galapagos, flagged down a local panga and procured four freshly caught lobsters. A great meal, another calm night at anchor and we’re ready to sail!

Location: Lat 08 24.114N Long 079 04.941W
Distance traveled: 0 NM

Our first day was a short 6-hour trip to Isla Pedro Gonzales in the Las Perlas islands. The anchorage is beautiful, calm and the perfect place to do our last few preps for the jump to the Galapagos islands on Saturday.

Location: Lat 08 24.114N Long 079 04.941W
Miles traveled: 41 NM

If you can see this post you should be able to follow along with our daily updates as we cross the Pacific!

We recently passed our 2-year mark of leaving Anacortes for Alaska and starting our dream of cruising the world on our sailboat. Much has changed since then and we’re constantly revising our plans but it continues to be a fantastic experience. Here are some of our thoughts and insights on some common questions we’ve heard along the way.

Q&A:

What was different than expected? 

Wags: There were a lot more people most places we visited. I guess it makes sense that anywhere there is a beautiful bay there will likely be tourism, but there weren’t a lot of isolated anchorages throughout Mexico. It wasn’t until Costa Rica and Panama that we started enjoying the postcard anchorages with palm trees, clear water, and us as the only boat. Also, I expected to be able to surf more often. It’s a natural contradiction that good places for surf aren’t usually good for anchoring your boat, but I still had high hopes. As it stands, I think I have only surfed two or three times in the last six months of travel.

Paula: First, I thought we would actually sail more than we have. Sure, there have been days when we sailed but most of our time has been spent motoring between anchorages when the wind is either non-existent or straight on our nose. I’m sure this will change on our next leg as we enter an area of more consistent trade winds. Second, we’ve spent more time in marinas than I expected, especially in Mexico. We still anchored out quite a bit but the convenience factor of a marina when one is at hand is pretty high for us. Being able to step off the boat and walk into town to provision, eat, do laundry, explore, etc. is very nice. And, of course, we can hook up to power, which means… air conditioning!

What motivates you/gives you pleasure? 

Wags: I think I secretly thrive on the challenge of it all. Even though I bitch and moan every time something difficult happens or something breaks, there is quite a sense of accomplishment in overcoming adversity or repairing stuff.

Paula: I’m glad Wags thrives on the challenging stuff because my answer is more on the fluffy side. Sharing experiences with friends, interacting with wildlife, seeing new places and learning about other cultures is what gives me pleasure. Some of the best moments so far have been when friends are aboard and get to experience all of this wonder with us.

How do you live in such close quarters 24 hours a day?

Wags: I once spent 111 days without a port call on an aircraft carrier with guys I barely liked…this is easy. Seriously though, it can be challenging but communication is the key. We get snippy at times, but we call each other out if we are being snarky or passive aggressive. Honest communication.

Paula: We communicate with each other and realize we need “me” time, which can be as simple as alone time reading in the cockpit or sitting at the bow looking for whales.

Do you get seasick? 

Wags: Sort of? I often feel green but I have never progressed to actual mal de mar. It usually happens to me because we get underway from somewhere sheltered and enter rough seas while I am running around above and below decks getting sails set, stuff stowed – too much movement on too many axis.

Paula: Yes, sometimes, especially at the beginning of passages or in very rough seas. A friend gave me some Stugeron (cinnarizine), which works wonders for preventing seasickness and that has helped immensely. After a couple of days at sea, my body adjusts and I can stop taking the medicine.

(Photographic proof has been banned by one particular seasick crew member.)

Best moment? 

Wags: Surfing a tidal surge at Ford’s Terror, Alaska. It was a perfect day of great friends, incredible scenery, and a once in a lifetime experience.

Paula: For me, it’s still the one amazing day in Glacier Bay, AK filled with wildlife encounters.

Scariest moment? 

Paula: Nearly colliding with another boat while under sail at night off the coast of Mexico during the early stages of the 2016 Baja Ha-Ha rally. We were close enough to see the crew of the other boat emerge from below into the cockpit when we blew our air horn to alert them of the situation. Why someone wasn’t there on watch already remains a mystery.

Wags: Ditto, Paula nails the single scariest moment. Overall there aren’t a lot of memorable scary moments, thankfully. Don’t get me wrong, there have been adrenaline shots brought on by botched dockings, ropes caught in the prop, bar crossings, etc. but more often than not it’s a low grade continuous gnawing pit in your stomach, like when you are in bad weather and the sea is unrelenting and won’t stop. You want it to end, but the ocean gets the final say.

Best aspects of the boat? 

Wags: There are a lot. She is very solidly built, beautiful joinery, etc., but I think the single aspect we come back to again and again is how much we love the cutter rig. This sail plan gives us a variety of options. At night we sacrifice knots and just use a reefed main and the staysail. That way the person on watch can handle all lines from the cockpit and we are prepared for squalls. During the day when the wind gets forward of the beam we put out the Yankee and staysail together. The slot effect accelerates the wind and it is like having another gear.

Paula: She is way tougher than me and I trust her oceangoing capabilities to give us safe passage. She is very comfortable. It never feels like we’re camping; she’s simply our home on the water.

Worst aspects of the boat? 

Wags: A definite lack of storage on deck (only one deep lazarette) and a wet bilge. Several items drain into the bilge such as air conditioning condensate and the anchor locker. I know, I know…I can remedy these things…and I will, but I wish Tayana had done it first.

Paula: There are several areas that are difficult to access for maintenance and/or repairs. Also, I wish there were a few more large storage spaces.

Does it cost more or less than expected? 

Wags: I’ll have to defer to my actuary. It ‘feels’ like we spend more, but I am a notorious tightwad. I think it stems from the costs coming in big hits. We will often have weeks where we don’t spend a cent, but when we hit a populated port we have to reprovision, repair, take on fuel…

Paula: The real skinny… so far, it’s about the same as expected. Some months we’ve spent more than anticipated, as Wags said, but overall our estimated costs have been fairly accurate.

Do you miss flying/working? 

Wags: I get asked this a lot…anytime anyone finds out that I was a Naval Aviator. The answer is easy, OF COURSE I miss flying! It was the most amazing job a guy or gal could have, but we all move on. It was an incredible chapter in my life, but so is this one.

Paula: Work itself, no. I miss the social interaction and the intellectual stimulation that work provided, though. It’s always a treat when we spend time with friends with whom we can have intelligent, diverse conversations.

What about pirates? 

Wags: It is a concern. We don’t go (anchor) where we shouldn’t be. (You wouldn’t walk down back alleys in Baltimore, would you?) We institute measures against petty theft, and we trust our instincts.

Pirate

Paula: High piracy-prone areas are well documented and we will plan our route to stay clear of them. There’s always the risk of petty crime, of course. We take appropriate precautions, such as lifting our dinghy out of the water at night, locking our outboard motor, and securing the boat when we go ashore.

Do you carry guns on board? 

The previous question always leads to this corollary. The short answer is “No.” If you have a gun on board you need to declare it in every country. Officials will typically confiscate it and (in theory) return it to you when you depart, which means you won’t have it available to you while sitting in the anchorages. If you fail to declare a weapon and they find it on board (dogs have very good noses), then you could be looking at prison time and/or forfeiture of your vessel – we’ve watched enough TV to know we don’t want to see the inside of a foreign prison. So, as defensive measures, we carry
everything that is legal to be carried. There is a machete by the bed along with a can of wasp spray (shoots up to 20 ft), and just like in all the movies, we have a flare gun.Flare gun scene

Favorite place so far? 

Wags: Alaska, no doubt. We worry that we saw the best first and for the rest of our travels we will be trying to find somewhere that can compare to Alaska. So far that is true.

Paula: By far, Alaska. We can’t wait to return.

Best aspects of cruising? 

Wags: The wildlife. The stuff we get to see on a daily basis is amazing. I mean, this is what people take high priced vacations for and pay tour operators to show them. This was what I hoped cruising would be like.

Paula: The marine life (our almost daily visits from dolphins are always a treat) and  wildlife in different places – sea lions, whales and bears in the Pacific NW, whale sharks in Mexico, monkeys in Central America, and tons of really cool birds (the blue-footed boobies are still one of my faves). Aside from nature, building new friendships is always special. We’ve made many close friends over the past two years, some fellow cruisers and some landlubbers in places we’ve visited, friendships that will last a lifetime.

Worst aspects of cruising? 

Wags: Rough passages and thunderstorms with lightning. As mentioned before, Neptune can be unrelenting. It’s tough to describe how uncomfortable it can be, but the good news is, everything ends sooner or later.

Paula: What he said, plus I get the added bonus of seasickness. Luckily, none of these occur very frequently.

(The pics never seem to do these things justice so we’ve stopped trying to capture it.)

What are your favorite pieces of gear on board, and why? 

Wags: I use a lot of stuff regularly, but here are three that I have found to be necessities: 1) My Myerchin knife. It is super sharp and has a bosun’s fid that has a multitude of uses. I use it every day. 2) A bench vice. You don’t need it very often but it is irreplaceable. When something metal gets bent you can put it in the vice to re-straighten it, hold things while sawing, and the hard metal anvil part is good when you need something to bang against. There aren’t many places that you can hammer on a sailboat. 3) My little grabber tool. This has rescued SO many dropped items from hard to reach places (i.e. the bilge).

Paula: Honestly, I’m a big fan of some of our luxury items: the electric head that requires only the push of a button to flush; the toaster built into the microwave; and, of course, the air conditioner, which has saved me mentally many times in the stifling heat and humidity of Mexico and Central America. What can I say? I’m a Pacific Northwest girl! My absolute favorite, although not really a piece of gear, is the bowsprit seat Wags made. It’s the best seat in the house for watching the dolphins ride the bow wake only a few feet below!

What’s next? 

Paula: We’re leaving Panama next week on a ~7 day crossing to the Galápagos Islands. We’ll spend a few weeks there following in Darwin’s footsteps then…

Wags: A downwind run to Pape’ete.

Panama-Tahiti route

We’d love to hear your comments and if you have additional questions, we’re happy to answer them. Thanks so much for following along and being a part of this adventure!

Pura Vida

It’s been a whirlwind month of traveling down the Central American coast. We left El Salvador in late March and spent a couple of weeks in Nicaragua. We had a wonderful, albeit short, visit with our good friend, Kevin, who lives on the Caribbean side of the country and traveled by planes, buses and foot to meet us in Puesta del Sol on the Pacific side, just in time to celebrate Wags’ birthday.

From there it was a crazy slog in 30+ knot Papagayo winds (Papagayo literally translates to “parrot” although we’re still not sure where the similarity lies) to the charming town of San Juan del Sur (AKA SJDS), which is a mix of backpackers, expats and Nicas (local Nicaraguans). The one thing about SJDS is that it really funnels the wind. We never thought we’d be comfortable leaving Gadabout anchored in 25-30 knots of wind to go ashore but the lively scene during Semana Santa (Holy Week), confidence in our Rocna anchor and, frankly, our craving for a good wood-fired pizza gave us the push we needed. Our friends John and Michelle on S/V Pineapple came along for the wet, windy ride and we had a fun weekend of exploring, eating and hiking – we even went to a carnival (although none of us had quite enough “confidence” to set foot on any of those rides). We checked out of Nicaragua with much left on the table… perhaps a future visit is in order.

A brisk day sail brought us to Costa Rica and we were welcomed with the protection and calm water of Bahia Santa Elena. Costa Rica is fairly laid back about checking in to the country right away so we were able to spend our first few nights fully relaxing (after too many days of high winds), hiking and racing hermit crabs, as one does, before doing the international paperwork shuffle at the official port of entry.

We tend to lose track of which day of the week it is (occupational/cruising hazard) and arrived in Playas del Coco too late on a Friday afternoon to check in, so we enjoyed the weekend and attacked the aforementioned paperwork shuffle – immigration office to port captain to customs (requiring a bus ride to the airport, 45 min each way) and back to the port captain – on Monday, a process that took the better part of the day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The next few days were spent in a marina where we gave Gadabout some washing, polishing and maintenance love while we had the benefit of shore power and, hence, air-conditioning (aaahhh…). We then we continued south to Tamarindo (or as it’s called locally, “Tama-gringo,” because there are so many gringos living and vacationing there).

Much like Playas del Coco, Tamarindo is very touristy with party boats ferrying vacationers to nearby islands and beaches, tons of restaurants and trinket shops, and lively nightlife. It’s also a surfing mecca, which is why we went, although, sadly the one day we were there it was so windy and the surf so blown out, not even the beginner surf classes were in the water. C’est la vie. We enjoyed a couple of good meals and headed on our way.

One overnight sail brought us to beautiful Bahia Ballena in the Golfo de Nicoya. This is the Puntarenas province of the country, where the true Costa Rica, at least in our minds, began to reveal herself. The local villages are small, with Ticos (local Costa Ricans) focusing on everyday life outside the tourist trade, the vibe is more relaxed, and the vibrant green landscape and abundant wildlife offers the scenes we had imagined. We spent calm, quiet nights in nearly empty anchorages. In fact, the only other boats, if any, were typically fellow cruisers with whom we explored and swapped stories over sundowners.

We woke to the sound of howler monkeys in the trees – and boy, are they loud! We watched scarlet macaws fly overhead in pairs. We visited nearby towns, hiked to jungle waterfalls (and even swam in what can only be referred to as a mud hole), dined at eco-resorts reachable only by boat, explored by dinghy and on foot, and marveled in the beauty of our surroundings.

Our last anchorage before entering the southernmost gulf in Costa Rica was Bahia Drake on the Osa Peninsula, home to Corcovado National Park. This was the most rural Costa Rica yet, where mud paths are the main thoroughfares and the main mode of transportation is by foot, horseback, dirt bike or by boat. People come here to experience the beauty, solitude and wildlife of the peninsula. The Osa Peninsula also produces its own unique weather system, which equates to one thing, rain… and lots of it. We held our breath as the daily thunderstorms rolled in, bringing with them plenty of lightning, but tried to look at the bright side – it was a free boat wash every time and we identified all our new leaks!

From Bahia Drake we rounded the cape and explored Golfo Dulce, the most remote area we’ve seen. Many places are accessible only by boat and there are plenty of secluded anchorages to satisfy the secret hermit in both of us.

Aside from the stifling heat and humidity we loved this entire area. Its natural beauty and remoteness soothe the soul. How can you not love a country whose whole ethos is captured in two words you hear everywhere you go: “Pura Vida” (pure life)!

Here are some more highlights:

Curu Wildlife Reserve where the monkey to person ratio was at least 20:1.

Squirrel monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park putting on a show.

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary in the Golfo Dulce.

PURA VIDA!

Departing Mexico we followed the coast south for a two-overnight leg, past Guatemala, to visit El Salvador. We had read much about this beautiful country that has often received a lot of bad press. Originally we had not planned to stop here due to the warnings about crime and the fact that to enter the estuary where we would be staying we would have to cross a treacherous sand bar (more on that later). After doing more research about recent tourism improvements and receiving reports from numerous yachts that this was not to be missed, however, we plotted our course for Bahia del Sol. We spent a little over a week there and now that we have moved on, we reflect on our time in this country with a kind of internal conflict that we reckon every El Salvadoran deals with every day.

The Good

The people of El Salvador are hard working, friendly and helpful, and the country itself is beautiful. If we had to choose one word to describe El Salvador’s landscape it would be “Volcanoes” – large, distinctive, and visible in almost every direction.

The country is working hard to shed the stigma of crime and past civil wars and has undertaken a concerted effort to promote tourism and ensure tourists’ safety and comfort. With that in mind we rented a car and took a two-day exploration to several very cute colonial towns built high on the side of one of the volcanoes. We spent the night in a gorgeous restored mansion with beautiful grounds, a decent martini, great breakfast and wonderful service, all for less than the price of a roadside Holiday Inn in the U.S.

We also toured some interesting Mayan ruins dating to 800 BC.

We enjoyed a lunch with amazing tropical vistas from high on the volcano while looking down on the capital city of San Salvador. Rounding out our trip we were able to stop at a modern grocery on our way back to the marina and purchase some much needed staples (and cravings) that had been very difficult to find in Mexico (i.e. Goldfish crackers). All in all it was a very enjoyable tour and a nice change from life in marinas and at anchor.

Back at the boat we took some time to tour the estuary and the communities along it.

The Bad

It’s no secret that El Salvador is dealing with some problems. It emerged from a 12-year civil war in 1992 that cost approx. 75,000 lives. The instability that followed led to economic weakness and vacuums of leadership and civil control that were quickly filled by criminal elements. This was the story line for over two decades but the country has finally begun to emerge from this dark period with increased export trade of sugar and ethanol and also tourism, as mentioned earlier. While we were traveling we never once felt unsafe. There are armed guards almost everywhere to ensure the safety of tourists as well as maintain civil order. While this can be disconcerting for some, we took it as a commitment to improving and sharing their country.

But, a dark side remains. After so many years of lawlessness, our friend at the hotel explained to us that mafia style criminal elements control almost every town, requiring payments from everyone from the bread seller on a bicycle to larger stores and tiendas. The price for non-compliance is often a bullet to the back of the head. Unfortunately, during our travels we saw two dead bodies on the roadsides, both almost certainly the result of this type of criminal activity. We don’t know how to positively spin this sharp contrast with our experience. Hopefully the country will continue to grow and flourish and eventually law and order will give the citizens back the safety and security they deserve after so many years of strife.

The Ugly

Remember that bar crossing mentioned earlier? For those not familiar, a “bar” is formed where rivers or estuaries meet the ocean and their sand forms a shallow area. That shallow area causes waves to stand up disproportionally high and make the crossing a difficult and often dangerous endeavor. Most bars have a channel that can be navigated at high tide but local knowledge is often required. This is the case in Bahia del Sol where they provide a pilot boat to lead you across the bar. The entrance/exit can often be quite dramatic so they are also nice enough to take photos (for you to be able to send to your insurer, I presume.) Our entry into the estuary was a non-event. We even wondered aloud what all the fuss was about (big mistake).

Our exit was a different case indeed. Our departure began innocently enough with smooth seas forecast as we followed the pilot boat to the bar. Everything looked ducky until a set of three surf-able sized waves rolled toward us. We had a pretty good head of steam going and Gadabout launched her 20 odd tons off the peak of each one in quite spectacular fashion. The good news is that nothing broke and no pants were soiled, although it was nip and tuck on both accounts. We’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

So there you have it, a warts and all summary of our time in El Salvador. Overall, we are glad we didn’t skip this stop. It is actually these kinds of real, unedited experiences we enjoy most when we travel, the opportunity to see a country for what it is and for what it can be. We sincerely hope the situation continues to improve for the El Salvadoran people and we look forward to a return visit in the future.

Resident parrot

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gad·a·bout ˈɡadəˌbout/ noun a person who travels often or to many different places, especially for pleasure.

SV Delos

gad·a·bout ˈɡadəˌbout/ noun a person who travels often or to many different places, especially for pleasure.

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