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Below are the complete Cruising Notes published in Zihuatanejo. It is a document of 113 pages, published as a Word document and as an HTML file.


S/V “SIESTA” Edited Notes on Central America, Ecuador, the Galapagos, and the Western Caribbean


January 18, 2003





Zihuatanejo, Mexico – January 2003


1.     Introduction from the Editors



IMPORTANT! READ CAREFULLY!  None of the contributors to this compilation of cruising notes, nor its editors, assume any responsibility for the accuracy of the information. USE THIS INFORMATION AT YOUR OWN RISK!


We hope you find these notes useful as you head south from Zihuatanejo. We have compiled the information in these notes from many sources. Virtually all the material comes from letters and emails from cruisers who have recently explored the Pacific Central American and Western Caribbean waters. Some also contributed their experiences in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, as well.


The idea for these compiled notes came to us as we sat here at anchor in beautiful Zihuatanejo Bay, aboard ¨SIESTA” (our CSY 44 center-cockpit cutter), preparing for our trip south to the Panamá Canal and on to our home in the Florida Keys. We felt we needed current information. Conditions can change quickly in these waters.  We wanted access to fresh, recent information from other cruisers like us, to supplement the many excellent cruising guides that already exist. And we wanted this information organized in such a way that it could be referenced easily. Yet we wanted to do a minimum of editing, to keep the scope of work manageable to a reasonable period of time.


We give our thanks to the many cruisers who have contributed to these notes. For example, Anne, from the ketch MICHAELANNE, came on the VHF in Zihuatanejo and offered her own cruising notes and those of other Southbounders she had compiled on diskette. Other cruisers currently in Central America were contacted via email and immediately started sending very useful information about places they visited. And we already had a file of cruising notes of our own, received from many cruising friends and owners of other CSY 44’s. We are particularly grateful to Don and Gwen on TACKLESS II, and Dave and Stacey on SOGGY PAWS for their many detailed cruising notes. But there are many, many others. So thanks to all of you, you know who you are, and your names all all over these notes, using as much detail as we could find!


The emails, logs and letters included in these edited notes in many cases were not meant to be included in a cruising  “guide” type of format. We have done very little, if any, editing on these letters. As such, they include a number of illustrative, anecdotal, sometimes even quasi-personal observations, that we feel best colors and exemplify the best of the cruising life.  As a result, you will find very different styles and types of information intertwined into a cruiser’s “patch quilt”. We hope that all these genuine stories and sketches will help you get into the frame of mind of a cruiser about to enter the beautiful waters of Pacific Central America and the Western Caribbean.


We also found some other excellent sources on Central America, which we recommend reading. In the spring of last year, 2002, the Southbounders in Puerto Vallarta put together an excellent set of cruising notes, and published them as the SOUTHBOUND CRUISERS RESOURCE DIRECTORY 2002/2003, on both paper and CDROM media.  Rick offered us a copy from Rick’s Bar’s files. We have added this document to the Zihuatanejo CDROM as well. Also, Walt made available his file of paper documents kept at the Zihuatanejo Yacht Club, from previous Zihuatanejo Southbounders. We selectively copied small portions of these paper documents for our own use, but could not include this information, since the text was not in machine-readable form, and could not easily be added to the CDROM.


We welcome comments and future articles and emails from the readers of these notes. We will publish what we receive on our web site, along with these original notes, to enable future Southbounders to benefit from your new experiences and adventures.


We wish fair winds and following seas to all the Southbounders from Zihuatanejo! ¡Qué tengan todos una aventura maravillosa por Centro America!


Ed and Daisy Marill

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

January 18, 2003




These cruising notes were made available to cruisers in Zihuatanejo, in CDROM media form, both as a Microsoft Word document, and as an HTML file, viewable by any web browser, without the need for Microsoft Word. These notes were distributed via CDROM during the 2003 Zihua Sailfest Event, for the modest contribution of $10US to benefit the local Indian school. Printed copies of this CDROM were not made available, although they could easily be produced from the CDROM. Copies of this disk will be left at Rick’s Bar and at the Zihuatanejo Yacht Club, for the use of future Southbounders who come here to prepare for the journey south.




1.     Introduction from the Editors  1


3.     The Zihuatanejo "Southbounders" Class of 2003  7

4.     General comments about cruising Central America: 8

4.1 From Slainte (Allan and Liz, 2002) 8

4.2 From John and Anne aboard  the Morgan OI 41’ Chula Mula, summer, 2002) 9

5.    Notes on Communications: 10

5.1 From Anne and Michael aboard the Whitby 42’ ketch MICHAELANNE (2002): 10

5.2 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  Spring 2002: 10

6.     Notes on Weather in Central America: 12

6.1 Weather Wisdom from Don, of s/v SUMMER PASSAGE   12

7.   General Information about Central America: 13

7.1 Hauling Out in Panamá – Pacific Side - from SUN DAZZLER, Spring, 2002  13

7.2 Hauling Information from s/v SLAINTE (2002): 13

7.3 Other General Information (from Michael and Anne aboard MICHAELANNE, Spring 2002): 14

8.    Notes on Zihuatanejo to Mexico Border: 16

8.1 Acapulco report from Mark aboard TONDELAYO on 1/3/2003: 16

8.2 Acapulco report from Jutta and Ferdy aboard the Endeavour 40 PIPE DREAM, Spring 2002: 16

8.3 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002: 16

8.4 Anchorages around Huatulco, Mexico, from Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002: 17

8.5 Huatulco and Puerto Madero  reports from Jutta and Ferdy aboard the Endeavour 40 PIPE DREAM (Spring 2002): 18

8.6 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002: 18

9.      Notes on Mexican Border to Guatemala: 19

9.1 From Diane on WINBIRD, from Bahia del Sol, in El Salvador, Jan 1, 2003: 19

9.2 From Jutta and Ferdy aboard the Endeavour 40’ Pipe Dream, Spring 2002: 20

10.   Notes on El Salvador: 22

10.1 From Michael and Anne aboard the Whitby 42’ ketch MICHAEL ANNE, spring 2002: 22

10.2 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan 41 OI CHULA MULA, August 2002: 23

10.3 From Jutta and Ferdy aboard PIPE DREAM, Spring 2002: 23

10.4 From Diane on WINDBIRD, from Bahia del Sol in El Salvador (2003): 24

10.5 From Matt aboard ELSEWHERE, received in Zihuatanejo via Winlink on January 1, 2003: 25

10.6 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA,  Spring 2002: 27


10.8 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002: 28

10.9 s/v RAGTIME--January, 2002  29

11.    Notes on Nicaragua: 31

11.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002: 31

11.2 From Michael and Anne aboard the Whitby 42’ ketch MICHAELANNE—April, 2002  32

11.3 s/v RAGTIME—June, 2002: 32

11.4  From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002: 33

12.    Notes on Costa Rica: 34

12.1 From Michael and Anne aboard the Whitby 42 ketch MICHAELANNE, Spring 2002: 34

12.2 From Allan and Liz aboard SLAINTE, 2002: 36

12.3 From Greg and Meg aboard the motoryacht  WET BAR, December 2002: 36

12.4 From Pete aboard s/y NEENER 3-- June, 2002  37

12.5 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002: 37

12.6 From Jutta and Ferdy aboard PIPE DREAM, Spring 2002: 44

12.7  From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002: 45

13.    Notes on Pacific Coast of Panama: 47

13.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002: 47

13.2 s/y RAGTIME--February, 2002  49

13.3 s/y AKAUAHELO--June, 2002  51

13.4 From Tom and Kathy on the s/y TAI-TAM--spring and summer, 2002  51

13.5 Three Anchorages on the Way to Punta Mala, Panama—from Tai-Tam   52

13.6 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA: 53

13.7 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002: 54

13.8 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002: 56

13.9 From Beverly and Paul on the 40’ Manta Cat TOUCH’N GO (February 2002): 57

14.       Notes on Transiting the Panama Canal: 59

14.1 Notes on the Panama Canal passage from Sailing Vessel AVALON, a Valiant 40, with Randy and Eileen on board  59

14.2 From Greg and Meg aboard the motorboat WET BAR, December 2002  61

14.3 Tai-Tam on Preparing to Transit the Canal 61

14.4 From Brent and Susan on the s/y AKAUAHUELO--July, 2002: 65

14.5 s/y NEENER 3--Summer, 2002  65

14.6 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002): 66

15.   Notes on Colon and Portobelo: 68

15.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002: 68

15.2 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002): 69

16.     Notes on the San Blas Islands: 71

16.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002: 71

16.2 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002: 72

16.3 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA, Spring 2002: 74

16.4 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS, 2002: 75

17.    Notes on Cartagena, Colombia: 76

17.1 From Dave and Stacey aboard the CSY 44 cutter  SOGGY PAWS, December 2000: 77

17.2 From John and Anne on the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA, Fall 2002: 78

17.3 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS, 2002: 79

18.    North from Panama/Cartagena) to Roatan area: 80

18.1 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002: 80

19.     Notes on Roatan and Guanaja: 83

20.    Notes on Rio Dulce, Livingston and rest of Guatemala: 84

20.1  Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002: 84

21.    Notes on The Bay of Islands, Honduras: 87

21.1 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002: 87

22.    Notes on Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico: 89

23.    Notes on Isla Mujeres, Mexico: 90

23.1 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002: 90

24.    Isla Mujeres to the Dry Tortugas and Key West, FL   92

25.     Notes on Ecuador: 93

25.1 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002): 93

25.2 From Gwen and Don aboard the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II, 2002: 94

Ecuador Coastal: 94

26.    Notes on the Galapagos Islands: 105

26.1 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002): 105

26.2 From Mitch and Rise aboard s/v KOMFY, May 2001: 106

26.3 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II, 2002: 109

27.    Bibliography of Cruising Guides and Books of Interest 114

3.     The Zihuatanejo "Southbounders" Class of 2003


Boat Name


Boat Email

Depart. Date






BREILA (2004)



Atlantic via Horn



April-December 03





































E. Caribbean




W. Caribbean



next year, 2004

W. Caribbean



late Jan  - early Feb




early February





South Pacific



end of January




early January




early January




end of January

Panama Canal




Florida Keys







next year, 2004





South Pacific



January 7th

W. Caribbean



late January

W. Caribbean




South Pacific








Costa Rica

*second time down south!





NOTE: There were other Southbounders, headed for Zihuatanejo and points south at the time of this writing, who were not included in this list.

4.     General comments about cruising Central America:




4.1 From Slainte (Allan and Liz, 2002)


“The rainy season is great, we used our rain catcher and showered on deck.  The rain would hang with us for 1 to 4 hours and then sun.  Mold life was enhanced and things on the boat would get fuzzy.  Vinegar and water or bleach would fix that for a day or two.  We stayed at both Del Sol and Barillas in El Salvador (just south of the Tehuantepec).  Chat with Mat on Elsewhere as they have been in Bahia Del Sol for 8 months via the SSB, 8143 at 9 am eastern time.  Barillas is a gold cage where you’re at a compound for the wealthy and they take you to town twice a week for groceries.  Both are calm, either anchored in the river or tied to a buoy.  The bay of Fonseca was beautiful and so were the many kids.  We stayed at Conchita (sp) island.  From the Bay of Fonseca to Northern Costa Rica, in my opinion is barren.  We past the area three times as the anchorage called No Name was where we found the lightening.  The bay Santa Elena in CR was beautiful.  From Santa Elena to Coco first place to check in is a long day's sail.  Hang above Cocos and delay checking in, as this is the best of Costa Rica.  Once south of Coco, the water clarity sucks and is very very dirty.  The advertising on Costa Rica is overstated.  Once you visit, Nicoya, Golfito and hit Panama, slow down and enjoy their islands.   They are the best;  Parida, Seca's, Contradras and the Las Perlas.  Undiscovered and wonderful. Panama is a great place.  Undiscovered Islands, wonderful fishing and great resources.” 



4.2 From John and Anne aboard  the Morgan OI 41’ Chula Mula, summer, 2002)


“We actually left Puerto Vallarta on 4-20-2002, and with a few stops, arrived in El Salvador on 5-9.  We left El Salvador on 5-23 and arrived in Costa Rica 5-25 and stayed until 6-27, Panama we arrived 6-28 and stayed on the Pacific side until the last week of July and went through the canal on 8-3.  The islands of Panama are so wonderful, don't miss the opportunity to enjoy them.  They are all within a short distance of each other and uniquely beautiful in their own way. 


We traveled from El Salvador to and through Costa Rica with 2 other boats, Trilogy and Good Medicine.  From Costa Rica and through the canal with Sea Loco.  We arrived in the San Blas at the end of August 2002.”



5.    Notes on Communications:


5.1 From Anne and Michael aboard the Whitby 42’ ketch MICHAELANNE (2002):


SSB Nets:


Panama Connection:  8107.0 at 1330 UTC  (7:30 AM local time except Panama, 8:30 AM)

Panama-Pacific Net:  8143.0 at 1400 UTC  (8:00 AM local time except Panama, 9:00 AM)


Note:  All of Central America is on CST all year round except Panama, which is on EST.  No change for daylight savings.


5.2 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  Spring 2002:


Western Caribbean/Panama Area Nets:


Central American Breakfast Club – 7083 LSB at 1300 UTC  -- Ham Net, Willie, TI8ZWW of Pacific Child, irregularly comes up to give weather.  He is very knowledgeable about this coast. He has been based in Golfito when not cruising.


Panama Connection Net – 8107 USB at 1330 UTC – SSB Net for both sides of Panama.


Pan Pacific Net – 8143 USB at 1400 UTC—SSB Net for Boats cruising Pacific side of Central America.


North West Caribbean Net – 8188 USB at 1400 UTC – SSB Net for NW Caribbean


Other Nets/Eastern & Central Caribbean:


Caribbean Emergency WX Net – 7165 LSB at 1030 UTC – Earliest weather report, from Barbados & Trinidad.  Note:  Can’t participate without and Extra License


Alex’s Net – 8155 USB at 1130 UTC – more informal chat net by Alex of sv Albatross, usually based in Margarita.  Does a brief but good weather report for southern Caribbean right at start.


Cruiser’s Hailing Net – 8104 USB at 1200 UTC – Open boat to boat contact for 15 minutes, mostly eastern Caribbean


Safety and Security Net – 8104 USB at 1215 UTC – Slightly obsessive report monitoring theft and security problems throughout the Caribbean.


David Jones (uses call sign “Misstine”) Weather -- 8104 USB at 1230 UTC -  Rapid fire delivery of comprehensive weather for Caribbean and SW North Atlantic.  This is the net you have to pay $100 (or whatever is current) to be able to talk to him.  He offers the useful emergency contact service. If you wait until the absolute end of his broadcast you can call as a non-subscriber to get info about his service. He also has a very good website at


David Jones Weather Redux -- 12359 USB at 1300 UTC -  David does a second broadcast aimed at Western Caribbean.  Same deal.  (Also does one on 16 megahertz.)


6.     Notes on Weather in Central America:



6.1 Weather Wisdom from Don, of s/v SUMMER PASSAGE


The NWS HIGH SEAS FORECAST is just that; seldom any help for Central America coastwise passages.  However, I use it twice daily as input for my forecasts. Whenever offshore winds are expected to be less than 20 kts they do not consider it significant weather and rarely give a forecast.  Whenever there is no mention of winds east of 090W, one may reasonably assume that coastal winds, Nicaragua and western portion of Coast Rica will be less than 30 kts. However, when they forecast winds of 20 kts or more, then one should double the speed to get an idea of what it really could blow close to shore.  Their forecasted wind direction is usually reliable.




Note from the editors:


Don, on SUMMER PASSAGE, based in Newport Beach, provides an invaluable ongoing  service to cruisers on the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Central America. Don’s cheerful disposition, insightful analysis, darn good weather forecasts, and easy availability on multiple SSB and Ham Nets make him a major factor in safe cruising on the Pacific Coast. Get acquainted with his radio schedule, and listen to the various SSB and Ham nets for his forecast information.


Patrick and Alicia, on NASTALGIA, based in Puerto Lopez Mateos, on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula, also provide an invaluable service, by regularly transcribing and distributing Don’s weather information via voice and email. You will find them on practically every Ham or SSB Net. Patrick provides weather information just prior to the start of the SSB Southbound Net every evening.


The cruising community is deeply grateful to Don, Patrick and Alicia for making our cruising life safer and much more fun! We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

7.   General Information about Central America:



7.1 Hauling Out in Panamá – Pacific Side - from SUN DAZZLER, Spring, 2002


There are 2 places to haul this side of Canal.  The better facility is next to the anchorage at Flamenco, and very nice.  Flamenco Marina runs the haulout facility; $300 in and out, $75 per layday, excl. day in and day out.  If you haul at high tide in the early AM, there is no wind.  You can splash late on your day out also, and this is like getting two long work days free.  They charge $10 per hour for self-service pressure wash, $16 per hr if they do it.  $10 per day for power and water.  One shower in the office was available.   There are LOTS of guys to take your lines coming into lift, and a diver goes down to guide the straps into position.  We also have a cutaway forefoot, so we had to insist they angle the forward strap back a little so it didn't slip.


Their labourers are about $6.50 hr but we hired our own and did better. Enrique worked for 3 days tirelessly; pressure washed & sanded hull, cleaned upper hull, 2 coats of paint, waxed hull and polished brightwork all for $100 - on a 50' boat!!!   We were very pleased; fed him lunch and gave him lots of water and soft drinks. He gave me a huge hug when we paid him with a tip. There is another guy, even better, Robinson, aka Tula, but he was already working for a month elsewhere.   Enrique's Tel. No is: 620 7086.   Robinson-Tula's is: 643 4566 (cellular). There was a rumor that Marina Flamenco marks up outside labour by 10%, and we were willing to pay that, but it did not appear on our bill.


Enrique and Tula work quite a bit at Balboa Yacht Club yard (BYC), which has a railway haulout, so you can look them up there in person perhaps when you check in at the Immigration desk next door.  Several folks used the railway, but check it out first, it is about $50 per day and about the same for the haul, but getting around the rail is very hard to do work; but if you are only doing bottom paint and hiring workers, then maybe it doesn't matter.  At least they got to use the BYC facility for showers.


On the negative side, the scheduling in Flamenco is a little off, and there is nowhere to side tie when you are waiting for the lift to pull you - we had to hover for over an hour.  That may change as they continue construction and improve. 


You have to INSIST they use plastic on the straps on their very large 150 Ton lift; if you don't you will end up with black marks on your hull and some boats had chunks of bottom paint lifted off. They have carpets they can put on for your haul out which is OK, but for splashing if they don't put any plastic on, insist on it or use lots of trash bags or wax paper, and tape on yourself.



7.2 Hauling Information from s/v SLAINTE (2002):


Costa Rica Yacht Club, in Bahia de Coco:  This is the only place in all of Central America that we know of that can dry store your boat for any period of time. They have a good-sized travel lift that can handle almost any vessel.  They also have a special haul-out railway for multihulls for work on the boat, but as to dry storage, maybe not.  A catamaran was hauled in June of 2002 for $80 per day flat fee and that included the labor to do the painting on the bottom.   For monohulls, haul-out fees in 2002 were $10 per foot out and about $400 per month for the average 36-42 foot boat.


7.3 Other General Information (from Michael and Anne aboard MICHAELANNE, Spring 2002): 


ATMs:  In most Central American countries you will find only a VISA card (Plus System) is valid for ATM cash withdrawals.   The exchange rate in El Salvador is a flat 8.75 colones to the dollar.  In October, 2002 the exchange rate in Costa Rica was about 368 colones to the dollar and the exchange rate doesn’t seem to fluctuate as in just keeps going up.


Provisioning: Liquor is less expensive in Central America than in Mexico.  Food is somewhat more expensive, closer to US prices.  Most fresh foods in El Salvador are imported from Guatemala.  Panama is lower on food prices than Costa Rica and El Salvador.  During the rainy season (June to December) you will be lucky to find produce of any decent quality except in El Salvador or Puntarenas in Costa Rica.


There is a Free Zone in Golfito, Costa Rica; it is called the “DEPOSITO LIBRE”.    You get your “tarjeta” at the Customs office in the free zone, a piece of paper that permits you to shop, and it limits you to something around $500 US...and you have to wait 24 hours before using it.  You may purchase goods there once every six months per passport from June 30 to December 24 and January 1 to June 30.


The only really good value in this free zone is the liquor and wine.  You are limited to the following liquor and wine  purchases per “tarjeta”:  12 units of hard liquor (a unit can be any size from airline type bottles to half gallons);  24 units of wine, size of units the same as with liquor. 


Everything else is TVs, Refrigerators, Washing Machines, clothes, and the like.


Inland Travel:  El Salvador is an excellent place from which to make relatively inexpensive trips to Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.  In Costa Rica, the best place from which to make visits to the volcanoes and the rain forests is Puntarenas.  Puntarenas is the closest port to the capital, San Jose, only about a 2 hr. bus ride away.  If you are in Golfito and wish to travel to San Jose, you can take a 9-hour bus ride or a short airplane trip on Sansa Airlines ($60 one way as of October, 2002).


Veterinary Services:  There is a veterinary store and consulting vet in Puntarenas.  They sometimes have Science Diet food products and kitty litter.


In Golfito, see Katie of Land & Sea Services and she will put you in touch with Francisco, an excellent veterinarian from Cuidad Neilly (45 minutes away) who makes house and boat calls...we know this from personal experience when one of our cats needed surgery for bowel impaction.  He lives today thanks to Dr. Francisco.

7.4 Anchor Log for Randy and Eileen aboard the Valiant 40’ AVALON, Panama to Zihuatanejo, spring, Fall 2002



8.    Notes on Zihuatanejo to Mexico Border:



8.1 Acapulco report from Mark aboard TONDELAYO on 1/3/2003:


The anchorage is littered with crazy motorboats, jet skis, etc.  Also, 60 feet deep.

Did I mention the 200 foot long derelicts that take up almost the whole anchorage?  Oh, and the marina was destroyed by a hurricane.  Club de Yates is still fine, but full.  For 24 bucks a day you can land your dink, and have full run of the place.  But, at least the water is clear.


Acapulco is a real city.  Kinda culture shock.  I recommend a visit for that reason only.  3 to 1 scope should do for anchoring, or pick up a mooring ball, which is kind of a gray market thing, you just grab one and see what happens.  Usually nothing for a few days.  They are for the fishing boats during bad weather.



8.2 Acapulco report from Jutta and Ferdy aboard the Endeavour 40 PIPE DREAM, Spring 2002:


Acapulco Yacht Club: Quite expensive (don’t remember how much), very tight med-moor on non-floating concrete docks. We stayed on a buoy for 20 pesos/day. The guy who collects for the buoys asked $ 10/day, but the price is very negotiable. The Acapulco Marina docks are in a very bad state, but they let you use their docks for dinghy tie-up and access to the road. Fuel and water is available at the Yacht Club fuel dock.


You don’t need to check in with Immigration, only with the port captain (near the cruise ship docks). API fee is quite expensive (about $ 7/day). Most cruisers check in and out with the port captain in one visit on the assumption that they are leaving the next day, thus avoiding API and a return visit. Nobody seems to check if you stay for another few days after check-out.



8.3 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002:



It was no problem picking up one of the mooring bouys, which reportedly the owners don’t mind when they’re not using them. The staff at the marina (the older one, not the Acapulco Yacht Club, which wanted twenty bucks a day to land your dinghy) was most friendly and helpful, letting us leave our dinghy at their dock; and getting a bus to anywhere (even Wal-Mart) was easy. The marina guard let our taxi come in the driveway, and they provided a cart for hauling our provisions to the dock.



We stayed close to shore and had no problems,except occasionally dodging a fishing panga or their buoys. Our first night out from Huatulco we anchored in Bahia Chipehua which was calm and restful.



8.4 Anchorages around Huatulco, Mexico, from Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002:


Huatulco (15*45.10N; 096*07.70W) is a kind of crossroads for cruisers.  Because it is 353 miles south of Zihuatenejo, typically the southernmost destination of the Mexican winter cruising contingent, the only boats that come through here are passage-makers, either those headed south to Central America, or, in a smaller proportion, those headed north to Mexico like us.  Because it is adjacent to the “dreaded Tehuantepec,” the cruisers that do pass through Huatulco are more focused on watching weather windows or recovering from their crossing than on the area in its own right and move on quickly. 


This is a shame.  We have now spent two weeks here, and could easily spend longer.  There are nine or so small type anchorages, mostly uninhabited, along a ten-mile long stretch of coastline, that runs, surprisingly from northeast to southwest on either side of Huatulco. In addition to the attraction of these small private anchorages, there are 40 new dive mooring installed by the Mexican government along with Huatulco’s Triton Dive Shop which are available for anyone’s use for diving.


On the most detailed navigational chart we have, the bays look rather like someone cut the coastline with pinking shears.  In reality, each has a tremendous amount of personality, which includes all sorts of submerged rocks and reefs! . Rains’ Boating Guide to Mexico has the only detailed chartlets we’ve seen, however if you don’t have the Rains Guide, you can go to Huatulco before exploring where you can obtain a small chart of the area from the Triton Dive shop next door to the Capitania.


Working (backwards) from Huatulco going SW (toward Acapulco!) the first two bays are the double-lobed Maguey (W) with the palapas and Organo (E.)  We anchored happily in Maguey 15*43.89N; 096*09.07W in about 25’ in sand.   There is nice snorkeling all along the shore, and several dives in dinghy reach.  The next “anchorage” is NE of Isla Cacaluta, between the craggy island and the beautiful long beach.  Great bottom for holding; a bit rolly.  The mooring ball close in to the NW side has great coral in snorkerable depths.  We did not stay the night but returned to Maguey; probably could have remained with a stern anchor.  Next is La India, a hidden baylet (15*42.6N; 96*11.9W) on E side of B. Chahacual. Go in behind the rocks. Stern anchor good here, especially with more than one boat.  Good sand.  Absolutely gorgeous here and protected, but tour boats will besiege you for a couple of hours midday.  Next bay we liked was all the way to Sacrificos.  Pass N of Isla Sacrificio, anchor north of the two rock piles in the middle of beach (one tall one low).(15-41.40N; 096-14.10W) This put us fairly close to beach, but good sand and depth right to shore.  Set your stern anchor to shore.  Great snorkeling on the rock pile right up near the beach palapas.  Lots of coral!  Lots of stingers in the nearer rock pile???  A few vegies for sale at one palapa in middle of “town”; block ice delivered Mon (at least);  good food there.  3 Hermanos (to right) super nice couple, and good, slightly more $ food.  She got vegies for me in town; He returned a forgotten knapsack by panga


We did not check out any of the bays to the NE of Huatulco (toward Tehuantepec) as they are more developed with resorts, although we have been told that the Club Med is currently closed..  In Huatulco itself, the beach of Playa Entrega (looking seaward, the second on your right before the point) has lots of palapas, a roped off swim area and great coral and boulders, with big schools of fish.  Favor the NW side.  The dives around Piedra Blanca were quite rewarding, especially on the east side.


Don’t eat out in Santa Cruz!! Very $$$$$. However, great coffee beans available in Santa Cruz at Cafe in center of zocalo (park).  Wish we’d bought more. Taxi into La Cruceita to eat and shop—13 pesos.  Cheaper and better.  Great mercado central.  Very clean, and nice lunch counters. Also a nice bakery on Flamboyant, I think. Fancy ice cream/internet place a block to left of church.  Yamaha dealer, stationers and another Huatulco coffee vendor farther along.  We had a good pizza along the north side of square.  Can’t remember the name.”



8.5 Huatulco and Puerto Madero  reports from Jutta and Ferdy aboard the Endeavour 40 PIPE DREAM (Spring 2002):


Good anchorage but very busy with pangas, jet skies, tourist boats. The port captain will give you weather info, but I found it’s easy to predict a Tehuatepecker: If there is a high over Texas, stay put; when the high moves out and a low moves into the Gulf of Mexico, go for it. Some cruisers cross on the rhumbline directly to El Salvador, which can be risky if your weather window slams shut. We hugged the beach – had to motor all the way to Puerto Madero!


When checking out of Huatulco, get your intl. Zarpe to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador with puntos intermedios, that way you don’t have to stop at Puerto Madero.


Puerto Madero: Entry is fairly easy at night unless there is a big swell running into the entrance. The port captain is the friendliest we’ve ever met. We told him that we were in transit and only came in for fuel and rest. He merely made a note on the back of the Zarpe and asked to call him on the VHF when leaving. All boats, commercial or pleasure, have to check in and out with the Navy (they come to your boat) because they are trying to clean up drug trafficking. Fuel and water are available at the fuel dock.



8.6 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002:



Great place to stop, check out of the country, and provision. Tapachula is an interesting city and has excellent hardware stores, etc. The port captain here is exceptionally helpful. Anchor in the back bay.

9.      Notes on Mexican Border to Guatemala:





9.1 From Diane on WINBIRD, from Bahia del Sol, in El Salvador, Jan 1, 2003:


Guatemala: Puerto Quetzal: 13.55N x 90.48W:

This can be a good stop over point, especially if you do the rhumb line across the Tehuanapec or need to stop. You anchor in the middle of the naval base, so it is probably the safest anchorages around. There is easy (and inexpensive) bus service to Antigua and Guatemala City (12 quetzales, about a $1.50 US). The navy personnel are wonderful. However, it is an expensive stop. $100.00 US to check in (which includes the first 5 days of anchorage), then $10.00 US a day after that. Visas were $10.00, but some were charged more (depending on the mood of the immigration officer I guess). Immigration is a short bus ride and then a short walk. When arriving, call the port captain for permission to enter (there is a

lot of commercial traffic, so they like to know what’s coming and going). If there is no answer, proceed in anyway. After anchoring, raise your Q flag and then wait for them to come to your boat to check you in. It could take them up to about 3 hours to show up, so relax and have a beer.


9.2 From Jutta and Ferdy aboard the Endeavour 40’ Pipe Dream, Spring 2002:


The crew of Pipe Dream have bid farewell to Mexico and are off on another adventure.  We were holed up in Huatulco for several days waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec. This bay, at the southern end of Mexico, is 250 miles across. The absence of a mountain range running north/south between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico forms a venturi between both bodies of water. If there is a significant northerly wind blowing in the Gulf of Mexico, it funnels through this valley and, as we say in the sailing world, it creates a blow known as a Tehuantepecker.  For you land lubbers, it blows like stink.  In the Gulf of Tehuantepec, it usually blows a full gale about 150 days a year.  Sudden storms can come up with winds in excess of 50 to 60 miles per hour creating huge waves.  A boat can easily be blown several hundred miles out to sea.  The best way to get across, is to find a good weather window. You are advised to hug the coast, or as Captain Rains puts it, “keep one foot on the beach”. If the wind picks up, you get pelted with sand from the beach but Mother Nature doesn’t have time to elevate the seas. Our crossing was perfect and we sailed in 15 knots of wind during the day and motored at night.  We spent the night in Puerto Madero, the most southern port in Mexico.  The next morning, we entered Guatemalan waters.


Our first port of call, don’t you just love this sailing jargon, was San Jose/Puerto Quetzal.  We dropped the hook, (the anchor), and checked into the country with a crisp $100.00 American greenback for the Port Captain, and $40.00 dollars for immigration.  This allowed us a 5 days’ stay in Guatemala. Jutta and I jumped on a chicken bus for a 2 ½ hour ride to Guatemala City, where we changed buses for another hour to Antigua.  Oh, by the way, there were actually people holding live chickens on the bus. One guy had two chickens in a plastic shopping bag with the heads sticking out of two holes. If you ever wondered where all the old Blue Bird school buses go, they are all in Guatemala. Some of them still wear their yellow coat of paint, while most are painted in bright colors and patterns. One of the buses still sported a large sign in English above the driver reminding him to check for sleeping children on the seats before the end of the run.Antigua, a quaint old colonial town, is nestled in a mountain valley about 5000 feet above sea level and surrounded by three smoldering volcanoes towering to 9000 feet.  It is the Spanish language capital of Central America.  Foreigners from all over the world come here to take full emersion Spanish lessons.  Antigua is a don’t miss stop for anyone visiting Guatemala.  After two nights’ stay we boarded our chicken bus and were off for Panajachel on Lake Atitlan.


Panajachel, nicknamed Gringotenango, is a small tourist community on the shores of the lake.  The lake was formed from a volcanic crater and is also bordered by three active volcanoes.  It is about eight miles across and 1000 feet deep.  Both, Antigua and Panajachel, are relatively “new”, 400 years or so, as you can probably guess they have been destroyed several times by mud slides or earthquakes from the volcanoes.


Our last, and most interesting, stop of the trip was Chichicastenango, which is a mouthful in any language.  The natives just call it Chi-chi.  This town, in the dry highlands, is not very scenic but on Thursday and Sunday every week all the Indians from miles around come to Chi-chi to sell their wares.  Everyone arrives in native dress, the women in woven skirts and colorfully embroidered blouses and the men wearing similar garments. The goods offered include anything from beautiful textiles to everyday staples such as beans, rice, spices, fruits and vegetables. The women balance all their goods in huge baskets wrapped in colorful cloths on their heads. We saw men carrying enormous string bags of oranges or firewood on their backs with most of the weight concentrated on the bag strap around their forehead.


Bargains are plentiful after a little bit of haggling over the prices. Jutta and I spent more money shopping in Chi-chi than we have anywhere in our travels in the last two years.  I even have my own purse now.  If there is any question, no, I have not switched my earring to the other side!!!! We left Chi-chi on a chicken bus that afternoon bound for Guatemala City (a very dirty, noisy, dangerous, sprawling metropolis) and on to Puerta Quetzal, and finally back to Pipe Dream.  On the bus, my camera slipped off of my belt and it was gone forever.  Someone picked it up and exited the bus.  I wish they had left the roll of pictures.  Ferdy and Jutta

10.   Notes on El Salvador:




10.1 From Michael and Anne aboard the Whitby 42’ ketch MICHAEL ANNE, spring 2002:


“When you check into El Salvador at either of the locations listed below you have a renewable visa for 90 days.  Entry cost is $10 per passport for Americans and Canadians.  UK citizens pay nothing.  New Zealanders aren’t allowed off the boat unless they have a prior paid visa. 


There is no import permit for your boat and the length of time you keep your boat in the country doesn’t seem to be of any concern to them.  (Foreign registry automobiles have to leave the country every 3 months or something like that, but not boats, as of 2002.) 


There is no limit on the time you can leave your boat in El Salvador.


Barillas: The consensus is that the best place for long-term storage is Barillas Marina Club.  It is totally secure.   Charges in 2002 were $8 per day, considerably less than most marinas in Mexico or other places in Central America.  They will also provide, for a small fee, boat cleaning, bottom scrubbing, and other services such as you may want to use.


Barillas Marina provides a free bus ride twice a week into Usulutan, a fairly large town, where provisioning is very good.  There is only one place in town where you can use your ATM (and it has to be a VISA) to get cash.  That is the Super Selecto Store.  The big yellow ATM machine delivers dollars.  The exchange rate is 8.75 colones to $1 US although the country is quickly changing over to the dollar as its only currency and is fast phasing out the Colon.  La Despensa de Don Juan has an ATM machine but it doesn’t take foreign debit cards.  This store, however, has the best deals and selection of products.


Note:  You will probably have heard that there is a boat yard adjacent to Barillas Marina Club.  It is basically a yard for the shrimper fleet of the yard’s owner.  They have hauled out a few yachts there but that requires a lot of shoring up inside the cradle that’s set for 25-ft. wide shrimpers.  They hauled a Norseman 447 and a Saturna 32 in 2002 but refused a Peterson 44 and a Whitby 42 and some others.  There is no way you can store your boat on the hard there, either.”



10.2 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan 41 OI CHULA MULA, August 2002:


One of our best stops was at Barillas Marina, El Salvador.  We do not recommend stopping at Bahia del Sol.  It was far too dangerous to go over the bar and if I had to do it again, I would not.  Other people loved it. 



10.3 From Jutta and Ferdy aboard PIPE DREAM, Spring 2002:


On Monday, April 15, we went to the Port Captain and checked out of Guatemala bound for El Salvador.  Thursday morning we sailed and after 20 hours of motoring in windless seas, we arrived in Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador.  The anchorage is located  inside a beautiful lagoon surrounded by jungle. To get to this paradise, one has to enter in between two shoals with breaking waves. We were advised to wait at a certain waypoint in front of the entrance and to call a local panga for guidance.  For several days, boats had to anchor in front of the entrance to wait out a large Pacific swell, which made an entry too dangerous. We had timed our arrival to coincide with the peak of the high tide and it looked like the seas had calmed down some. The panga finally appeared and we followed his zig-zag course in between the breaking waves. It was quite a ride and we breathed a lot easier once we were inside the lagoon. After listening to some of the harrowing tales of other cruisers, our entrance must have been a piece of cake!


We are now anchored in a huge lagoon in front of the Bahia Del Sol Hotel.  This hotel loves cruisers and gives a 30% discount on food and bar.  They offer 1 free night stay including breakfast, use of all facilities (there are two large swimming pools), and every Wednesday night they have a hosted happy hour with a speaker.  To top all this, there are no port entry fees!  The only fee is for a 10 Dollar tourist visa. As you can probably tell, we are basking in luxury!  A new adventure begins!In reflecting back to our leaving Mexico, the one thing we will miss is the food.  Mexico has the most wonderful flavors and varieties.  The cuisine in Guatemala is very simple, black beans, rice, chicken, and corn tortillas.  You can get rice soup and for variety they will put chicken in it, black bean soup with chicken added upon request, or each item separate.  The national dish is some sort of chicken broth with a piece of chicken in it, believe it or not.  It helps keep the weight off.



10.4 From Diane on WINDBIRD, from Bahia del Sol in El Salvador (2003):


El Salvador: There are two places in El Salvador: Bahia del Sol and Marina Barrias.

 General info: check in is free. Visas are $10.00 US each. Both anchorages have full time navy presence, and (at this time) Bahia del Sol has  Immigration present during the cruising season (about November thru June), and Barrias has full time Immigration. Money is being converted to US dollars and is accepted everywhere, although 'colones' are still used and many of the prices are still shown in colones.


 Bahia del Sol (in the 'Estero de Jualtepeque'): 13.16N x 88.53W

 Good calm anchorage, with easy access to buses. It is about 80 km from the capital of San Salvador. Bahia del Sol resort (hotel/marina) has the following cruiser services:

   30% discount for food and drink,

   happy hours on Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri.

   Cruisers night on Wed.

   a free hotel room for one night. (as of this writing).

 Anchorage is free. Moorings are $5.00 US a day, and floating dingy docks and a marina is under construction. Very little English is spoken. Call Bahia del Sol on channel 16 before trying to enter the estuary. Generally, they don't answer, but one of the cruisers will, and will set up a time to have someone come out and guide you in. The Navy will come out to your boat to check you in. Sometimes immigration will come out with them. If not, you may check in with Immigration on the hotel grounds.


 Marina Barrias (in the 'Bahia de Jiguilisco'):

 Barrias is very isolated, about 10 miles up the bahia/estero. Access to a bus is very difficult, and taxis are expensive. They do take cruisers in (via van) to a local town twice a week. Almost all employees speak some English. Call Marina Barrias on Channel 16 before entering the bahia/estuary to set up a time to have someone come guide you in.




   Pros: Cruiser friendly, easy bus access, free anchorage, good


   Cons: Entrance can be a *fun* ride sometimes, poor (and expensive)

         internet access, Only some of the office personnel speak English.


   Pros: Very cruiser friendly, private, isolated, easy entrance, good

         internet access.

   Cons: isolated (no access to bus), expensive (moorings), snack bar only

         (which closes early), more mosquitoes then Bahia.


Please note: I have only been to Marina Barrias by land, so all information is gathered from other cruisers and the Marina personnel itself.


SSB net info for El Salvador area:


  Pan/Pacific net: 8143.0 (8137.0 backup) at 1400Z

  Panama Connection: 8107.0 (8167.0? backup) at 1330Z

 Ham:   C/A Breakfast Club: 7083.0 (plus/minus) at 1300Z


Cruisers in both anchorages monitor channel 16.


Please feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions (I'm sure

there will be plenty).  Tootles, Diane, svWindBird



10.5 From Matt aboard ELSEWHERE, received in Zihuatanejo via Winlink on January 1, 2003:


As you know, we are at Bahia del Sol and love it.  We have been here since May and have left the boat here while we went back to the States and again for a land trip into Guatemala.


Here is how to find us. Call on channel 16 as you get near the rendezvous point.  The hotel or one of the sailboats in here will answer you and send a guide out to bring you in. The rendezvous point is 13°16.5N  88° 53.5W .  This will put you right in front of the entrance (boca).  Don't go by the chart.  The entrance has moved several miles since they made the charts.  You may need to anchor and wait for an incoming tide, best close to high tide.  Anchor to the north/west of the above coordinates in 30 feet of water.  There is a big white house on the point.  It makes a good landmark.  Stay on the north/west side of it.   Come in close enough to get into about 30 feet of water but don't come in closer than this.  You need someone to guide you in.  The bar deserves respect and you want a guide but don't let it scare you off.  This is a wonderful protected anchorage.  Only rarely is it dangerous and if it is, you will be told that.


Last year we did have big swells in the late spring.  Three boats arrived here at that time and anchored out for three days.  During that time the Navy put a man on each boat to guard it while the cruisers enjoyed free hotel rooms at Bahia del Sol.  The anchorage out front is safe enough but rolly.  The bar may keep you here a couple of days longer than you want once you are in but that is just waiting for a good weather window like anywhere else.  The bar has not been closed since last summer so it is not an everyday affair.  Sports fishing boats go in and out every day.


Bahia del Sol is not a body of water.  It is the Hotel.  The bay here is Estero Jaltepeque, a totally protected anchorage with room for more than a hundred boats.  It is huge and also very pretty.  The hotel wants us here, the more the merrier.  They give each boat one free night in a hotel room.  There is no charge to anchor or to use the hotel facilities.  They do want you to spend a little money but $20 a week is enough to keep them happy.  They have an excellent restaurant, a bar, huge swimming pool, new showers will be completed in a couple of days, laundry, garbage disposal, a fuel dock, etc. Happy hour is from four to six on weekdays, two for one. There is not a haul out facility or repair facilities.  The buses to everywhere stop at the front gate.  The beach is beautiful and only walking distance away.  We make good use of it.


The town of Herradura is 25 minutes away by dingy. Supplies and hardware stores are available there but really are kind of limited.  There are also a couple of little tiendas and local restaurants just down the road here from the hotel.  For major provisioning we take a bus in to Zacatecoluca or San Salvador.    We prefer going to Zacatecoluca which has an excellent US style super market and it is not as far as the city.  San Salvador is a big city of several million people and anything and everything is available there if you can find it.  Taxis are available too and for $35 Jose will take you in to San Salvador and be your chauffeur and guide for an entire day.  His phone number is 747-2104.  Jose speaks good enough English and is very knowledgeable about the area.


There are lots of places to go from here by bus, car, airplane or dingy.  You can leave your boat with confidence and you don't have to worry about your dingy.  We can leave them in the water overnight without worrying about theft.  People that go inland can also leave their dingy on shore and the security guard will watch over them.  When I had to go home for surgery I was confident that everything would be OK when I got back two months later.


(Note from Matt: we had to divide what we wrote into two segments.  Afraid Sailmail would truncate the message so you missed some of it).


Segment 2: As you can tell I am very partial to Bahia del Sol.  My info on Barillas is sketchy.  We did drive down to see it and were pleasantly impressed.  It also is a very pretty  place with lovely pools and restaurant.  Security is very good.  The marina is surrounded by a barbed wire fence and there are lots of security personnel.  At Barillas anchoring is not an option.  You must stay on a mooring ball which costs you $8.00 per day.  To our point of view, the negative is the isolation.  It is very isolated, no buses here.  They have a van that will take you into town for shopping on Tuesday and Thursday and give you about 4 hours in town at no charge.  There is a boatyard next door so some repair facilities are available and I was told that a boat could haul out but only in an emergency.  There is a Habitat for Humanity project ongoing here but I don't have any info about that*.  There is also a free panga to take you to and from your boat.  I think they want you to schedule your trips on the hour, or maybe the hour and the half hour.  They have a very good internet setup.  There is a charge for using it; I am not sure of the amount.


*Note from Anne on MichaelAnne on Matt’s information above: The project at Barillas is an Earthquake Relief Project that was started right after the 7.9 Richter Scale earthquake that struck El Salvador on Jan. 31, 2001.  Several cruisers got together and collected money and chose a particular village where homes had been wiped out to help.  They managed to get a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Government and lots of private donations.  Barillas Marina Club donated the use of a van and a generator.  The money collected was and still is used for rebuilding destroyed homes and facilities.  Between Jan. 2001 and now, cruisers have in the village of Santiago de Maria helped the villagers construct 6 duplexes and 6 individual houses with better construction material than that of the homes that were destroyed.  Homes were built only for people who owned the land, not rented.  Now they are working closer to Barillas and of late have helped to rebuild and re-supply a local school.  Work still goes on wherever needed as over 1,000,000 people were left homeless by the earthquake.  All of this was done by and through cruisers who were at Barillas.  The owner of Barillas has been extremely supportive.


We worked right along side the people when we helped them to put up the homes...Dennis of KNEE DEEP taught several villagers how to weld.  Village women and children hauled buckets of cement for pouring foundations.  Villagers learned how to lay out a foundation plan. Kids pitched in to paint the steel supports for the wall frames.  We all hammered and banged and painted. Cruisers taught villagers to use a chop saw.  Neil of PARAQUINA helped with the wiring and taught a couple of local villagers how to do it themselves.  It was a very worthwhile experience and all just by cruisers and locals doing it.



Barillas is the easier approach in bad weather.  I understand it is accessible in just about any weather. Like here, you call them on channel 16 and they will give you rendezvous coordinates and come out and guide you in.  You then have a 7 mile ride up the river.  The approach coordinates are 13° 06.77 N  88° 27.65 W.  These coordinates may be out of date so check with another source on this.


Don't miss El Salvador, they even use American money here exclusively.


Notes from Matt: the first message meant to say that sailing the rhumb line only saves a few miles and the coastal route is safer in the Tehuantepec.  (Our opinion)


Boats with 8 1/2 feet draft have been in Bahia del Sol.  We draw 6 feet.  At low tide Murray was out checking the channel and the lowest he saw was 9 feet and we have 6 to 7 foot tides.  The sports fishing boats seem to in and out at any time.  However, you need to come in on a rising tide.  When the current is going out and the swells coming in, they trip over each other and it gets messy.  With the tidal current coming in it settles right down.  Usually boats come in within the last two hours of an incoming high tide. It is quiet then and there is lots of water.  We anchor in about 17 feet on a sand bottom - good holding.  Matt, S/V Elsewhere



10.6 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA,  Spring 2002:


“I have been working on the log of the Chula Mula with way points, anchorages etc. for you but it has been slow going.  So I want to tell you briefly that some of our best stops were at Barillas Marina, El Salvador.  We do not recommend stopping at Bahia del Sol.  It was far too dangerous to go over the bar and if I had to do it again, I would not.  Other people loved it.”





“Barillas Marina Club: (Waypoint at the entrance: 13°07.079’N/088°25.163’W.)  You can call them on Channel 16 anytime from 7 AM to 5 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  The rest of the weekdays, you have to wait until 8 AM.  It is a good idea to let them know ahead of time when you expect you might arrive.  The e-mail for the General Manager of the Marina Club is: It takes about 20 minutes for the panga to get to the waypoint from the marina.  He will then lead you the 10 miles up the estuary to the marina mooring fields.  (There are NO berths, only mooring balls.)  Once the panga gets you placed on a mooring ball, the driver will bring the customs and port captain representatives out to your boat along with someone from the marina office.  Then they give you a ride into the marina complex and you go see the immigration guys who have their office right on the property. 


Bahia del Sol:  (Waypoint at the entrance:  13°15.760’N/088°53.479’W.) We don’t really know the procedure there.  For a while they had immigration at the associated hotel, then they didn’t, then they did.  Check with Matt on Elsewhere who is almost a permanent resident there now (or Colette and Murray on Terezad who are residents, having purchased property nearby. 


Personal note:  Bahia del Sol has a very shallow bar over which big waves break all the time.  It can be a dangerous ride, surfing in over the bar and is even more dangerous when you are trying to leave.  Many vessels leaving even when the panga driver says its safe have taken damage.  People have been stuck here for weeks on end, particularly after February when the big swells begin to roll in from the southwest.  These swells last  through October.  Be warned.”


“Bahia del Sol: Although we did not stop in Bahia del Sol, which is about 30 miles west of Barillas, we have had many good reports of the facility, with the chief reservation being the approach across the bar.  The resort will come out and guide you in the daylight hours, and slack tide is the preferred time.  In any kind of sea, it would be prudent to give it a miss.  The advantage of Bahia del Sol over Barillas is said to be more “independence” with public buses outside the gate, plus a very attentive hospitality. Neener 3 sent us this information for getting into Bahia del Sol.”


The stand by waypoint for Bahia del Sol is:  13'15.7N 88'53.48W   which is 2 miles offshore, we anchored 3/8 mile from shore, with offshore breeze, at:  13'15.050N 88'52.190W   which is 1/4 mile east of the entrance, in 38' good holding sandy bottom.........if it is blowing, the depth at the waiting waypoint is still only 58', 2 miles off, possible to anchor with plenty of room to the beach, try to time arrival to high tide (La Libertad +40 minutes), we went out Monday on the hotel 700 hp boat and check depths, found 2 channels through bar, never saw less than 16' at either channel, the channel is deep at the narrowest part, 30-50', it's were it(sand) fans out in front that gets shallow and moves around like sand dunes on land.....the 2 big tides a day move lots of water through the bar, both ways.......also flushes the lagoon and you can go in the water at the higher tides, some boats make water then too, not us.............there are lots of people here on weekends, only an hour to San Salvador by car, 2 by bus, many wealthy Salvadorians have beach homes here, with hot boats and jet skis......-FRI, very quiet again.......The lagoon is huge, will handle many boats, ranges from 15-30' depth and runs beyond the hotel for 16 kilometers, paralleling the beach on other side of peninsula, that's about it, oh, their building 16 slips at the hotel, 2 showers by pool for cruising boats, this is going in now, as we speak,  30% discount on all meals, drinks, internet, laundry,  have a few moorings you can hook up to to go inland, the hotel picks up at the airport and brings them to the hotel to do your check-in/out......”


“Barillas Marina:  Rendezvous waypoint is 13*07.126N; -88*24.977.  Call Barillas Marina one hour before reaching waypoint and panga will meet you to guide you in behind the reef and up the maze of mangrove channels.  Reef entry is wide and easy. Manager is Heriberto Pineda.  You can email him in advance at, but it is not necessary.  Marina has 75 moorings along the mangrove channel at $8 per night.  Very tranquil with lots of bird life, cool nights and only about an hour of bugs before sunset.  Hourly panga service to shore.  Compound has lovely pool, jacuzzi, palapas with Internet hook-ups, air-conditioned computer room with a dozen or so machines, tiny convenience store, laundry service, fuel dock (Diesel @$1.75) and a pretty restaurant facility with very limited and pricey choices as well as limited hours.  Assume all services to cost you, except for the Tuesday and Friday shuttle to Usulutan for shopping.  Nice supermarket and great street vegie vendors, especially back in.  Very nice golden cage!  If you want to do a tour to San Salvador or anywhere, including Guatemala, inquire about Discover El Salvador.  The guides, Celina & Max, are truly special people, with a very nice air-conditioned van.  A trip to San Salvador can include a stop at Price Smart.”



10.8 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002:




We anchored off several hours at 13°16.395N,088°53.391W in relative comfort. A navy patrol boat came out to check on us and communicate when the panga would guide us in, at high slack tide. We were the first boat in after the bar had been closed a couple of weeks and had a bit of an exciting ride through the breakers, but if you follow the panga and DON’T LOOK BACK it’s really a piece of cake. Dolphins escorted us in. We’re a 31’ trimaran with a 8hp outboard motor… a little more power would be better.


The little village of La Herradura, a 20-minute dinghy ride up the estuary, has a good public market and is like going back fifty years in time, while San Salvador, a two-hour bus ride, is a big modern city. The Express bus direct to San Salvador comes by the hotel entrance at 5:30 AM and 11:00 AM; otherwise transfer at Los Arcos.

The last return bus leaves San Salvador at 4 PM (or a little before!); look for #495. Do you have a copy of CRICKET’s very informative email about El Salvador? Our only correction is the address of COPLASA, the excellent commercial fabrics store in San Salvador centro which is hard to find: it is on Calle 1a Poniente, one block north of  Calle Arce. On Saturdays you can call the States for about 15 minutes with a three-dollar phone card. There are card phones in La Herradura; the closest one is about five miles up the highway.   


Jim went out almost every day to observe conditions at the bar and got to know the bumps and channels, so when we went out it was like slicing through the Red Sea with Moses, although the boat right behind us took a header from a sneaker wave. Timing is all. Dolphins also escorted us out.



10.9 s/v RAGTIME--January, 2002


The Passage from Barillas Marina, El Salvador to “No Name” Anchorage, Nicaragua


“Some impressions on the next leg of the journey . . .sv RAGTIME traveled from Barillas Marina to No Name anchorage, Nicaragua. leaving outside the Barillas channel at noon 10 January, arriving No Name anchorage at 1 am on 12 January.  After exiting the channel from Barillas to the open ocean, we turned left approximately 1.5 miles from shore and almost immediately hit a current running west (north) against us.  At best the current ran 1 knot, at worst 2 knots.  Probably 60% of the time it slowed RAGTIME down 1.5 knots; nothing we did to get the boat moving at her regular cruising speed, 5.5 - 6.0 knots made any difference . . .so we went. . . 3.5 to 4.9 knots 85% of the time.  We traveled approximately 4 miles offshore after trying unsuccessfully to shake the current further in.  Frankly, we were hesitant to travel out further because of potential Papagayo winds and wanting to be close to shore if the winds gusted up.  After speaking with and obtaining the recommendations from three boats heading north, Annie Two, TACKLESS II and Po Oina Roa, we traveled with 2 reefs in the main and the full head sail.  We encountered 5 - 25 knot winds, a crazy choppy confused sea and the aforementioned current.  Sailing was great!! Mostly on a port tack.  Off the Nicaragua. coast, we encountered many lighted fishing pangas; the nets we saw were parallel to shore, 0.75 - 1.0 miles offshore, all were marked with flags and REAL colored buoys - red, yellow, orange and white.  The most concentrated area of nets was after Cabo Desolando, along the "Venadillo Road", (see chart book, page 57) just after the power plant at Puerto Somoza.  We entered No Name at 1 am, pitch dark skies.  ENTRANCE WAY POINT FROM TACKLESS II:  11.30.036N, 086.12.572W; ANCHORAGE WAY POINT FROM THE FORGOTTEN MIDDLE: 11.30.4N, 86.10.2W.  The anchorage is a WIDE crescent, easy to enter right down the middle. The bay is well lighted and you can identify it from off shore.  Look for lots of lights on beach at the head of bay, specifically 4 "street light" lights in a row off on the SE end of the bay.  Drop hook in 22 - 26 ft water 0.25 miles off beach in SE corner.  NOTE:  there are rocks and reefs on both the north and south sides of the bay, but it is easy to enter right down the middle and anchor toward the southeast corner at the head of the bay.  You will be very protected from the wind here.  As I write this, the wind is gusting to 45 knots off the land with calm seas, no chop at all in the bay.  Holding is good.  The pangas are NOT anchored; they are beached.  The fisherman set nets close to the rocks and reefs at both sides of the bay.  There are no nets in the middle of the bay.  This is a rustic anchorage with no services, very raw and beautiful with friendly pangaroas.  We hope to see you all in Costa Rica very soon.”  Ragtime


11.    Notes on Nicaragua:




11.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002:


“No Name”:  (about 30 hrs at 5kts from Barillas) pretty much as presented in The Forgotten Middle.  For offshore waypoint use 11*30.036N; 086*12.572W.  You can turn in a little earlier if you can see.  Waypoint in the book is the at-anchor waypoint.  Try to get in before dark and note position of buoys marking traps if planning a pre-dawn departure.  We found clear passage out before dawn from the anchoring waypoint on a course of 260*C.


San Juan del Sur:  We enjoyed our stop here.  Very dramatic entrance with big cliff on south side.  Lots of fishing vessels on south side of anchorage.  As you enter try calling “Ivy Rose” on VHF !6.  Sid is a cruiser who has been hanging out there awhile.  We anchored in 28’ (HT) at 11*15.390N 085*52.590W.  The surf will break in front of you, but the wind will hold you steady.  The Port Captain & aide will come to your boat in blue camies!  Their Spanish is hard to understand, but very welcoming.  They will do a search.  I called the Capitania on VHF 16 out of politeness as we anchored.  Capitania is the brown A-frame on the hilltop. If you just want a quickie rest stop, with maybe a meal ashore, he will probably let you stop with no paperwork.  If you want to stay longer, you will have to take a taxi  (around $15) to “frontiera” for Immigration.. This allows you to see Lago Nicaragua with its two impressive volcanoes in the middle.  Fees were $15 Port Captain arrival, $9 pp Immigration in-and-out; $15 for the boat at Immigration (?Customs) and $10 for the zarpe.


San Juan del Sur is a charming beach town, relatively upscale for Central America.  A launch – a be-fendered local fishing boat – will collect you and carry you to port facility.  From there an easy walk into town.  No supermarket, but there are corner tiendas and there is a fresh market about two block in.  We bought Flor de Cana rum by the case for about $4.80 a bottle from a corner tienda (ask Sid) and you can do a $1 better if you are there on a Wednesday buying from the truck (See the gal at Ricardo’s Bar – burgers –real and tofu – etc and young beach scene.)  Good breakfast at Sunrise Café (aka Iguana Bar) offered by Canadians morning through midday.  We had a great shrimp diablo from El Globo.



11.2 From Michael and Anne aboard the Whitby 42’ ketch MICHAELANNE—April, 2002


 No Name Anchorage – Nicaragua


Outside Waypoint at Edge of Deep Water

11˚30.036” N



Watch out for buoys on either side of entrance…rocks on SE outer side, also middle to N.  Stay on the SE side of anchorage.


Inside Waypoint

11˚ 30.4 “N

86˚10.2 “W



11.3 s/v RAGTIME—June, 2002:


San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and miscellaneous weather information:


“RAGTIME is sharing information with all of you that was given to us by Gwen and Don on TACKLESS II, with whom we spent several days at Barillas Marina.  All credit for this information goes to TACKLESS.


WEATHER:  David Jones Weather (call sign “Misstine”), 8104 USB at 1230 UTC – Rapid fire delivery of comprehensive weather for Caribbean and SW North Atlantic.  This is the net you have to pay $100 (or whatever is current) to be able to talk to him.  He offers the useful emergency contact service.  If you wait until the absolute end of his broadcast you can call as a non-subscriber to get info about his service.  He also has a very good website at  David Jones Weather Redux – 12359 USB at 1300 UTC – a second broadcast aimed at Western Caribbean.  Same $ deal. 


ANCHORAGES:  San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua:  We enjoyed our stop here.  Very dramatic entrance with big cliff on south side.  Lots of fishing vessels on south side of anchorage.  As you enter try calling “Ivy Rose” on VHF 16.  Sid is a cruiser who has been hanging out there awhile.  We anchored in 28’ at ll.15.390N, 085.52.590W.  The surf will break in front of you, but the wind will hold you steady.  The Port Captain and aide will come to your boat in blue camies.  Their Spanish is hard to understand but very welcoming.  They will do a search.  I called the Capitania on VHF 16 out of politeness as we anchored.  Capitania is the brown A-frame on the hilltop.  If you just want a quickie rest stop, with maybe a meal ashore, he will probably let you stop with no paperwork.  If you want to stay longer, you will have to take taxi ($15) to “frontiera” for Immigration.  This allows you to see Lago Nicaragua with its two impressive volcanoes in the middle.  Fees were $15 Port Captain arrival, $9 pp Immigration in AND out, $15 for the boat at Immigration (Customs) and $10 for the zarpe.  SJdS is a charming beach town, relatively upscale for Central America.  A befendered fishing boat will collect you and carry you to the port facility.  No supermarket but many corner tiendas.  Fresh market about two blocks in.  Good breakfast at Sunrise Café aka Iguana Bar.  Good shrimp diablo from El Globo.  Hope this is helpful and thank you TACKLESS.” Patricia, Don and Pike


From MICHAELANNE:   “We never checked in at Nicaragua but others have stopped at Corinto and San Juan del Sur.  Overall, the costs have been around $100 per boat (with two on board). “



11.4  From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002:




We anchored just outside the breakers each night, which was much more comfortable than bashing around in the lumpy seas.


12.    Notes on Costa Rica:




12.1 From Michael and Anne aboard the Whitby 42 ketch MICHAELANNE, Spring 2002:


“Most cruisers stop at beautiful Bahia Santa Elena first (or Salinas or some of the smaller bays prior to Santa Elena...see Charlie’s Charts of Costa Rica) and no one has ever been hassled by the Costa Rican navy or coast guard about hurrying on down to Playa del Cocos to check in.  So don’t sweat it.  When you do get to Cocos, the check-in procedure is pretty easy.  Stop at the Port Captain’s office (Charlie’s is incorrect as to placement) and let him know you’re there...then go to immigration way up the street, give them what they want to see (boat papers, passports, zarpes) and know you might have to make some copies, no big deal.  Go back to the Port Captain who in the meantime will have called the customs guy (aduana) who is in Libertad, some 30 minutes away.  The customs guy will come to Cocos and make out your temporary boat import permit. 


There was never a charge for any of this.  In October, 2002 the aduana tried to eke out $10 from Dreamweaver and some others but they said “you’ve never charged any of the other boats anything.  Why are you trying to charge us?”  The aduana gave up the attempt.  So be warned.  You will have to pay about $20 plus some exit stamp fees when you check out of the country but there’s no charge for getting in so far as we have known.


When you check into Costa Rica at Playa del Cocos, be sure you get a ZARPE NACIONAL from the Port Captain.  This is the internal zarpe and with this you don’t have to check in anywhere else until you reach your final destination in Costa Rica as stated on your crew list ... this should be GOLFITO.  Everywhere in between, including Puntarenas, you don’t have to check in as long as you have a Zarpe Nacional indicating your last stop is Golfito.


Your visas and temporary import permit are good for 90 days.” 


Costa Rican Marinas:  Costa Rica allows you to renew your temporary import permit once for another 90 days.  After that you will need to put it in bond if you will be leaving the boat longer than the second 90-day period.  Only a “qualified marina” can bond your boat.  They charge different fees for this.


According to Tim Leachman and Katie Duncan of Land-Sea Services in Golfito, Costa Rica, “ can bond for up to a year, allowing you to leave the country or just extend your stay in the port you bond with. When you bond your boat, it means you cannot move the boat anywhere although you are allowed to stay on it.  As far as customs is concerned, the time you spend in bond is more or less equal to time spent legally checked out of the country.  So if you use up the 6 months of cruising (temorary import) permits, you can enter bond for 3 months and then be eligible for 6 more months of cruising.


The marina facility must have an agreement with the customs office to provide the bonding services. In Golfito the Samoa del Sur and Banana Bay currently offer the service. Since they will be legally responsible for securing the boat, they do have the final say as to where they want the boat and what they will charge to provide the service.”


“Marina Flamingo:  Near Playa del Coco. Docks with electricity and water. Not always willing to accommodate you, especially short term.   A 42 foot boat paid $17 per day to stay there for over 3 weeks.  Dinghy thievery in the anchorage area is pretty rampant, especially if you’ve been anchored there for several days.  Nighttime theft most common...they have taken dinghies right off davits while the people were on board and asleep.  Not many services or goods locally need a cab to get anywhere.  They have a gas dock (floating) and you can get diesel and gasoline there.  Check the tide level though.  Pretty steep range here.  Cost in October 2001 for diesel was about $1.89 per gallon.


Costa Rica Yacht Club, in Bahia de Coco:  This is the only place in all of Central America that we know of that can dry store your boat for any period of time. They have a good-sized travel lift that can handle almost any vessel.  They also have a special haul-out railway for multihulls for work on the boat, but as to dry storage, maybe not.  A catamaran was hauled in June of 2002 for $80 per day flat fee and that included the labor to do the painting on the bottom.   For monohulls, haul-out fees in 2002 were $10 per foot out and about $400 per month for the average 36-42 foot boat. 


They also have wet storage on moorings, fore and aft tie-up.  We stayed there for about 10 days and the cost for the moorings was $15 per day.  They have a fuel dock and the water is potable.  Panga service from the yard across from the club and from the moorings was free.  They have the services of one of the best mechanics we’ve ever encountered.  His name is William and he is very talented and his prices are very reasonable. 


The club is way up the Naranjo River behind Puntarenas and tide range is quite wide.  Call them on Channel 06 VHF for a panga to guide you up the river and around all the sandbars.  Carlos Chinchilla is the manager there and speaks good English.  Contact him by e-mail at:


Los Sueños:  Located in Bahia Herradura at the southeastern end of the Gulf of Nicoya.  There have been mixed reviews from various cruisers for this very expensive marina ($2 per foot per day for transient vessels).  The marina manager is VERY UNFRIENDLY to any boats anchored out in Bahia Herradura and discourages their use of his dinghy docks.  The shore landings at Bahia Herradura are difficult at best.


Banana Bay Marina, Golfito:  All bright yellow buildings make this facility stand out.  Docks have electricity and water and fuel (highest price for fuel in town) and a very expensive restaurant (food is good, though).  They also rent motel rooms for $75 per night.  Laundry service is available for $3 US per load. Transient vessels pay $1.25 per foot per day at the dock or may take one of their 3 moorings for $10 per day or may pay $7 per day if anchored out and using their dinghy dock.  Security provided for vessels on moorings, but theft has occurred on vessels at the dock.  Contact them at


Land & Sea Services, Golfito:  Located immediately next door to Banana Bay, owned by Katie Duncan and Tim Leachman who have been there for over 10 years.  They have a small dock to which one large sailboat may med-moor and use electricity.  They have also a houseboat to which they can raft two sailboats, no electricity. Cleaning and bottom scrubbing services are available.  Contact them at for berth/tie-up charges.  For vessels anchored out and using their dinghy dock, water, garbage disposal, and 24 hour security services the charge is $15 per week or $3 per day.  Laundry services are available as well for $1.60 per kilo.  They also have a collection of some of the most beautifully carved and painted balsa wood masks we have ever encountered...half the price you would pay in San Jose during high season.  Katie has an exclusive contract with the Borucan Indian artist and you won’t find these masks anywhere else in Golfito.  Katie is also a property manager and real estate agent for the area.   She can also make travel

arrangements for you.”



12.2 From Allan and Liz aboard SLAINTE, 2002:


“The bay Santa Elena in Costa Rica was beautiful.  From Santa Elena to Cocos, first place to check in is a long day's sail.  Hang above Cocos and delay checking in, as this is the best of Costa Rica.  Once south of Cocos, the water clarity sucks and is very very dirty.  The advertising on Costa Rica is overstated.”



12.3 From Greg and Meg aboard the motoryacht  WET BAR, December 2002:


In your prev email you mentioned that your friend was looking for marinas in CR to leave his boat, here are the only 3 worth mentioning. Los Sueños has excellent security but it is not a cruiser type place, he could anchor out in Bahia Herradura and check it out though. Their website is, I don't have an email address for them. 


We would strongly recommend Banana Bay or Land & Sea in Golfito. They are next door to each other, and a third marina is being completed next to them. Website for Banana Bay: Email address for Banana Bay: and Land & Sea:  Hope this helps. Give him our email address if he wants more specifics.



12.4 From Pete aboard s/y NEENER 3-- June, 2002


Notes on Bahia Drake, Costa Rica (Oso Peninsula)


“Hi All! We wanted to pass along our thoughts on Drake's Bay (Bahia Drake)...we really enjoyed it, it's on our"want to return" list. We bow and stern anchored for 4 days and the current in there made it very hard on ground tackle, and each swing was a jerk on the anchors, we went to retrieve the stern anchor and couldn't break it loose, free dove and couldn't even see it! Kurt on WILDBLUE came over and with 2 dinghys and combined 23 hp we got it up, so watch the current (tide).


We enjoyed hiking in 2 places, go in the river and the first dock on left, we asked and got ok to leave dinghy on back side of dock, looking at it to the right and around the end. Go up the steps and to the right, the trail starts there, and goes across the suspension bridge, up the hill, at top turn left and follow path with turtle reserve release goes back down toward the ocean, beautiful beaches, coves and the trail is maintained, walked every day by Leon, and his machete. The trail goes many miles, all the way to Corcovado National Park. Along the way are monkeys, butterflies, birds and 2 people! Our favorite spot has a swing, grass, and palapa...a very special place.


Back to the river, on the right side is Drakes Bay Resort, tie off to the big white panga by the concrete dock...ask for Eddy, the manager, say hi for us, and he will give you a tour and invite you to use the salt water pool and the bar, with a happy hour! We had a meal there, was great but it's off season and supplies are limited...Vanessa, the hostess, is from Santa Cruz, Ca., our home, and has a beautiful daughter named "Star", and she really is! She will lead you to where you can pick the 'star' fruit. Have you had this delightful fruit yet? It's our favorite of the tropical fruits. Vanessa's husband, Shuan, runs the diving and whale/manta ray watching expeditions, all are really neat people.  We also stopped at the Paloma Resort, you will see it on the trail to the coast, at the top of the hill from the suspension bridge, great for a cold, cold, beer or soda on the way back from the hike. Again, very nice people... we asked if they served lunch. With limited supplies, they fixed lunch from leftovers for 9 of us, NEENER, SEA LOCO and WILD BLUE...a half of pizza, cheese, green salad with all the dressing bottles, they had left in various amounts, and Quiche! It was great after our hike. There is a little tienda on the beach, veggies on Thursday, if the truck can cross the river, and a bar/restaurant(red/white building past the soccer field) And go up the river past the resorts, under the bridge and up as far as possible...many monkeys, Howlers very high up and white face monkeys by the water, good fresh water swim in a pool just before the rapids.  If Eddy asks if you would like to see the farm, do's where they raise veggies and beef, pigs and is a very worthwhile trip.



12.5 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002:


“Bahia Santa Elena.”  As per the book, but definitely one of the most beautiful bays we have ever anchored in.  We anchored in NE corner near fishing camp as shown in CC. No bugs.  We snorkeled out at mouth of bay on the rocks to the east.  OK.  There is a river you can explore by dinghy, and a road along coast to west you can walk.  Paper nautilus shells have been found on western beach.


Key Point, Cabo Santa Elena. If you need or want to stop at Cabo St. Elena, we overnighted at key Point only we anchored to west of the rocks (10*53.790 085*54.95W) instead of east of them (like the book indicates) based on the advice on Jim McVeigh of Flamingo Marina.  We did not feel we were more protected from the hefty gusts, but holding was good with lots of scope.  The Bat Islands are very dramatic, and small rays leap like popcorn.  Snorkeling was so-so. 


Bahia Huevos has a good report, but we didn’t stop


Bahia Culebra has several well-protected anchorages.  We spent several days at Play Iguanita.  Almost as restful as Barillas.  The beach to the west of Playa Manta is said to have good clams (little thumbnail-size ones.)  Playa Panama had great reputation with Sid & Manuela of Paradise, but seems to be closed by reports?


Playa El Coco is a required stop for entry into the country.  Anchorage is no great shakes, beach is 50% dirt, and town has reputation for theft.  Lock boat up, don’t leave it at night, and chain your dinghy to the dock when ashore.  Official offices a little hard to find, but officials very friendly.  From the dock, walk along the beach to the right.  There will be a small park.  Take a left after park.  Your will see the post office on your left.  Port Captain is behind post office.  He will direct you to Immigration, which is along that same street but on the right, just before the Tequila Bar. Had good meal at The Tequila Bar.  There is an Internet Café across the street.


Supermercado fairly well stocked, but poor on vegies.  I think Tuesday is vegie delivery day.


Bahia Portrero/Marina Flamingo:  We liked this bay a lot.  Maybe because we had such a rough trip in around Cabo Velas, and it’s a big change from points to the south.  Very gringo/ resort area.  Winds can set up a bit of a chop, but holding was good with lots of scope.  No roll.  Jim McVeigh runs the marina and small chandlery.  Can orchestrate needed parts with patience.  Dinghy dock in marina proper.  Not much dockage available for transients.  Fuel dock in the second basin to the right.  Fuel dock easy to get on, but only about 7’ of water at low tide!  Fuel around $1.50/gal.  Water free.  Hangout was the Spreader Bar at Mariner Inn, bunch of gringo transplants.  Internet at Costa Rica Diving. Good dinner deals at Marie’s. Hair cuts and all luxury salon services available at the Paris Salon at Flamingo Beach Hotel.  There are no flamingos around, but there are said to be roseate spoonbills.  Rental car was available for $28 a day.  Nearby is Brasilito.  We had a great dinner at the Happy Snapper there (we won it in a raffle!)  Also in Brasilito, a top notch Internet café that will allow you to bring in floppies for uploading and downloading. They also have nice breakfasts.  An hour away is Santa Cruz which had a surprising market – Kion – with some gourmet items, including wasabi, nori etc. While we had the car, we checked out Tamarindo a surfer dude town.  (Tamarindo is a popular spots with cruisers that surf.  Anchorage looked rolly.)


Bahia Carillo is the recommended stop to break up the trip from Portrero to Gulf of Nicoya.  Although the bay is pretty, it’s an awful anchorage.  The book shows two spots.  We chose the one on the left for the room.  Very rolly, albeit with good holding.  The other spot near the handsome hotel seemed cramped for two boats, esp. with hotel boats there on moorings; also the bottom was billed as sand and rock.


Note:  We caught three tuna between Carillo and Cabo Blanco.  Also a couple of mahi in gulf of Nicoya.


Bahia Ballena:  Delightful stop.  Medium pretty, but very calm with howler monkeys in the hills.  We anchored in western corner off the cement dock.   There is said to be fuel, although none of us did any.  Excellent dinner at the Bahia Ballena Yacht Club – great ceviche, and pargo a la plancha with garlic yum!.  On Fridays you can buy organic vegies from the owner of the restaurant (Honey aka Mrs Heart Interface).  “Tambor” itself is down the road, bear to the right.  You can walk along the main road or along the beach road.  There is a Swiss restaurant towards town called Perle Tambor (on the main road look for obscure sign with a tiny Swiss flag/on the beach road it is a white two story with dense gardens.).  Their food was quite different, not local.  Doris can arrange horseback riding, which we did when our daughter was visiting.  Small horses but well cared for; very good value at $5/hr/pp.  Great ride out along beach with howlers overhead.  If you can survive a 5-hour ride, you can go to a nice waterfall that drops into the sea!


Islas Tortugas  Very pretty spot with the clearest water in Nicoya.  Where CC shows “public access”, many day trip boats anchor during the day and small fishing boats often pass the night.  “They” charge for you to come ashore at the beach!  We anchored instead off the near corner of the other island “Alcatraz” just on the other side of the cut.  Snorkel boats do the little islands to the east.  First visit was quite calm; second visit quite rolly.  Gorgeous sunsets! 


Punta Leona:   A really worthwhile rest stop.  Anchorage was mostly settled when we were there, but others have chosen to use stern anchor.  The Resort is an older one, with development scattered around the huge property, which include both primary and secondary rainforest.  Highlights are the nice walking trails and the free nature tours available 3x day (not every day) Sign up at front desk.  The pools are nice and there are so-so restaurants and bars.  Grounds are gorgeous.  Beach access by dinghy, and roll it up.  Playa Blanca is a nice beach accessible by stile at SW end of Playa Mantas, and there is a little waterfall on the beachlet on the east side of anchorage.  


This is a good place to leave the boat for short inland trips, especially if there are other cruisers in the anchorage to keep an eye on things.  You can arrange for rental cars, either National at the front desk, or Budget by phone.  Both will deliver the car to Punta Leona.  We made several trips to Jaco, a surfer dude town to south with a good supermarket and produce market and Internet.  We also did a day trip down to Quepos, managing to get in to “The Rainmaker”, a fabulous private park with the suspension bridges in the treetops without a reservation.  Not cheap but we paid about half price making do with a local Spanish worker as guide rather than the bi-lingual naturalist.  We had the place to ourselves!  You can email for info at or call 506-777-3565.  Quepos is a sizeable little town with stores and restaurants for gringos.  Nice feather art store.  We did not do Manuel Antonio.


We also made a day trip to San Jose (Price Smart and MegaSuper supermarkets, also Ace hardware) about 1:15 hr drive on good roads with some beautiful mountain views.  Later we took an overnight (two nights would be better) to Monteverdi. This is supposed to be cloud forest, but when we were there it was crispy clear.  The turn to Monteverdi is a fast hour north on the InterAmericana until you turn off and then it is 37 kilometers and 3 ½ hrs on a mostly dreadful 4WD road.  Hard to believe this is their major tourist destination!  Still it was terrific.  We stayed at the Sunset Hotel in Santa Elena, neat clean and I think about $40.  Fabulous sunset view.  Avg food.  We did the Monteverde Canopy Tour (in Santa Elena) and it was a BLAST.  Good value, as canopy tours go (this is the cable ride thing.).  The sleeper highlight was a turn down a side road between Canopy Tour and Sunset Hotel north to little Tico restaurant which I fear I don’t remember the name.  The sign has a knife fork and plate on it.  The road is dreadful, but the reward is a nice  simple meal and (depending, of course on clear weather) a truly awesome view of Vulcan Arenal and Lake Fortuna, a real bonus if your aren’t going there independently.


Bahia Herradura/LosSueños:  The new Marriott Hotel/Marina has a fuel dock.  Otherwise a rolly anchorage and a pricey marina, although many people like it.


Drake Bay:  We did not stop in at Quepos or Manuel Antonio in the boat.  Said to be really rolly and it was really rainy when we passed by.  We did an overnight trip between Punta Leona and Drake Bay..  Lots of fishing boats, lit but no running lights.  Drake can also be rolly, but was settled when we were there.  Nice rest.  Fringed by wilderness resort camps, simple to elegant.  The resort to west reputed to have nice happy hour.


Puerto Jimenez:  We were here twice.  We liked it.  Narrow anchoring shelf between deep and shallow!  Plan ahead.  Crocodile Bay is a nice sport fish resort, but we’ve heard they are back to discouraging cruisers using their facilities as high season is back in swing.  The town is full of backpackers, Internet Cafes and tour operators to Osa Peninsula.  If you hike, a day trip is well worth it.  We saw all four monkey species, a huge flock of scarlet macaws up close, toucans, sloths, etc.  We booked our hike through Escondido Trex in Restaurant Carolina, but you can get the same guide – Pedro -- through the beauty salon next door (his girl friend) for less $.


Golfito:  A pretty bay gone shabby.  We disliked it our first week there (in August), but when we returned everything seemed much nicer, albeit rainier.  The bay entrance is buoyed and there is a range.  There are three places to go after you turn right past the last buoy (almost ashore!).  Samoa is the first “marina” on your left, The docks are really in poor shape.  I stepped between them one night!  Can you say disappearing act!  But the restaurant is good.  Second, you can anchor or take a mooring off Banana Bay Marina for $7/nite which entitles you to their services, including check in and out (we think @$35) their 2-for-1 happy hour, and laundry service, and the best efforts of the security guard. Vulnerable time is in rain showers. Or you can take a slip if available.  Quite pricey, but very good facility; we left our boat there for two months.  Only really secure option.  If you crave a burger this is the place to get it.  $5, but definitely, $5’s worth!  Other cruisers anchor off Las Gaviotas Hotel farther along in the bay.  Quite nice facility with good weekend BBQs and a nice pool.  Willie of TI8ZWW weather fame, often hangs out here on Pacific Child with his young wife and her son.  Prettier, but downside is no security and vulnerability.


Golfito has surprisingly good provisioning. Vegie truck come 2x a week, I think Monday and Thursday, but ask.  A Monteverde “cheese product” truck comes about once every 9 days.  Great cheese and yogurt.  (Try the smoked cheddar.) .  Most convenient Internet Café is Coconuts Café.  They have a GREAT vegie burrito.  Bought a lot of meat from the butcher (; its on the side street that slopes up from the main street just before Coconuts) and it’s the right hand (uphill) of the two side by side meat markets.)  Pork  and Lomito.  3 supermarkets, the first on the left being the best.  Mike Restaurant, out of town to the south, has excellent Hungarian type food, and Mike makes real sausage, breakfast and Italian, the you can buy in bulk.  Order ahead.


Also you have the Free Zone.  Taxi to the zone with your two passports and obtain your “tarjeta”  (looks like an invoice) .  Then window shop and make your list of what and where..  24 hours later you can return and buy two cases of beer, two cases of wine, one case of liquor, and $500 of other merchandise per person for good prices.  There is one little store that sells Planter’s Peanuts, candy, and sundries (shampoo, sunscreen etc) for good prices too.


On Cocos Island, Costa Rica: Chatham Bay, Isla de Cocos, Costa Rica

Latitude: 05-33.097N; Longitude: 087-02.528W

24 June 2001


Our 364nm leg from Genovesa Island in the Galapagos to Cocos Island was as gentle a trip as we have ever had.  The weather was mostly gorgeous and sunny, the water temperature steadily warming degree by degree enabling the 2Cs to shed clothes layer by layer.  We haven't been in swimsuits underway since the Caribbean!  The winds were light, 8-15 kts from behind us, and we sailed most of the way, resorting to the engine only in the wee hours of the night when our speed dropped below 4 kts.  It was during one of these motoring sessions that we had our only boat mishap.  With a hefty pow, the exhaust pipe flange blew clean off the engine dumping smoke and cooling water into the bilge!  The good news is that Captain Don had been suspicious, and we were ready with replacement parts purchased when Captain Gwen was in Ft. Lauderdale last February.


We caught no fish.  Every time Don would go to put the lure out, a booby would show up.  On our first day out we had a seriously bad booby day.  At 0630, just over the dicey part of our exit from Genovesa, a young booby hooked himself and was being dragged until we could reel him in.  Fortunately it proved his upper bill was more wedged in the hook than anything, and Don was able to shake him off with a little judicious use of the pliers without major damage to his bill or the new lure.  Last we saw him he was upright in the water shaking his head, obviously a little boggled from his experience.  Unfortunately our next booby incident around midday didn't end so well.  What we heard was a couple of thumps, and next thing a booby body dropped into the water at my elbow!  Our best guess is that he flew into some rigging or maybe the wind generator and ricocheted off the mainsail.  He landed head down and never moved.  Very sad.  For this reason perhaps we were much more tolerant of the pair of blue-footed boobies that rode through the night on our bow pulpit. The fact that they will stay there with the sail luffing and snapping amazes us.  They were, however, unusually considerate, sitting with their business ends forward over the water!


We allowed ourselves to go very slowly the last day in order to approach Cocos in the morning light as opposed to midnight.  This prudence rewarded us with a spectacular arrival.  Around 4am the last bit of moon rose with a bright planet alongside, and dolphins paralleled the boat making comet-like vapor trails through the bioluminescent plankton in the dark water.  The island was black and mystical, rising steeply to a cloud around the summit, and as dawn gradually broke it became greener and greener until it was a color so bright we couldn't believe it.  Dodging the seasons back and forth across the equator, we'd completely forgotten what a dense tropical green could look like, although in truth I don't think we've ever seen an island this lush anywhere!  Waterfalls actually burst from the sides and tumble directly into the sea!  (Opening scenes of Jurassic Park were filmed here!)


As we rounded the point into the Chatham Bay anchorage, hundreds of frigate birds circled the boat along with dozens of boobies, to the point camera work on the bow could be considered risky business!  Ahead in the bay was just one boat, our friends Kathy and Bob on Briana.  We picked up a mooring, had a bacon and egg feast and a short snorkel just to remind ourselves what warm water was, and had just dozed off in the cockpit when the park rangers showed up to do business.  Before we knew it we were all arranged to do a dive that afternoon.


A little background.  Cocos, plus a dozen or so satellite rocks and islets, is one of the premier diving destinations of the world.  Belonging to Costa Rica, it is entirely a Marine Park and is totally uninhabited but for some park rangers and volunteers who reside in one of two stations, a small one here in Chatham Bay, the other larger base half-way around the north side of the island.  There are no facilities ashore for tourists, so all must come by sea.  The bulk of visitors to Cocos are scuba divers coming on one of two top-notch liveaboard dive boats, the 115' Sea Hunter and the Okeanos Aggressor  (the latter at one time was skippered by my old Tropic Bird friend Dan Morrison.)  The other vessels that trickle in are either cruising boats like ourselves, or fishermen, who, though they can't fish in the park waters, are permitted to seek shelter here.  The fees for cruisers to be here are a bit steep, although not so steep as rumor had it.  For us it costs $15/day for the boat plus $15pp/day for us, which is a total of $45 a day.  About like being in a marina.  For this you have a nice mooring (yes, we checked all its attachment points!), access to fresh water (they have a pipe rigged in a waterfall that carries fresh water out to an offshore buoy!) and an onshore laundry tub and showers, none of which we need on TII but which are welcome amenities for many cruisers.


Diving requires having all your own gear, including dive compressor.  Fortunately, since ours is still down from the failed hose in Galapagos, the Sea Hunter was here and the very friendly captain filled all our tanks for us.  Then, as he was leaving on Monday,  he went one step further and lent us a fill hose for our compressor.  The other hitches with diving here are we must be accompanied by a park ranger and we have to get there in our own dinghies.  This puts us at the mercy of the rangers' schedules and restricts our range to how far we can practically get by rubber duck.  However for $4/day it's a good deal as you get a guide and, as all the dives are drift dives, a chase boat that tows the dinghy along after you. 


The diving had been great.  Similar to the Galapagos, the waters are thick with fish, with 3-5' foot white-tip sharks as common as trumpetfish in the Virgins and lobsters carpeting the rock faces (which may well be a main reason we have to be shepherded by rangers!).  Unlike the Galapagos the water is warm enough for skins only and the visibility is a clear 70', but there is still very little coral, which we have since learned is thanks to the disastrous El Nino of 1987.  On one dive - Roca Sucia - we had dolphins leaping around the dinghy topside and several schools of hammerheads swirling around the underwater formations.  Lots of marble rays and turtles too.  We've seen four huge Manta rays, but every one of them was from topside.  It seems they like to glide just inches below the surface with their wing tips curling into the air!  I did managed to get in with one briefly on snorkle and we hope we got a photo of another at least 12' wide!


The downside of this paradise is the amount of rain they receive -- 280" a year.  There's a reason it's green!  Given that, it's been relatively nice weather during the time we've been here, with only one full day of rain and but two days of nasty roll!  The rangers say the best time of year is November through January.


Briana left Thursday for the Galapagos, leaving us all alone ...for about four hours, the Okeanos Aggressor arriving to fill the void of the departed Sea Hunter.   Friday afternoon, Kaylor the park ranger picked us up in the drizzle for our last dive and took us back to Isla Manuelita, which is just north of Chatham Bay.  This time we dove alone, Kaylor having an ear infection; we deduce we have passed inspection as divers.  We had some misgivings about returning to Isla Manuelita, the site of our first dive, but they were washed away by the best critter turnout of all.  Many, many MANY hammerheads, and QUITE CLOSE, too!  Two divers are clearly less intimidating to them than four or six! It raises the question of who is watching whom?  There were actually more hammerheads on this dive than the ubiquitous white tips!  We must have seen ten marbled stingrays, swimming this way and that or on the bottom, and five very large green turtles, three of which were circling together (mating?) and two swam right up to us curiously.  For a grand, not the infamous whale shark,..sigh... BUT that elusive underwater manta ray!  We surfaced to find Kaylor and Gabriel shivering in the rain, so we brought them home for hot chocolate (their choice).  It was the one time there were no English speaking rangers in the group, but it went just fine.  Don had fun showing them his engine room and the computer charting, but they were most impressed with the solar panel installation.


Saturday we dinghied around to Wafer Bay for a hike to Cacades Genio (like the genie in the lamp!).  The park provided us with a guide, a thirty-one year-old engineer volunteer from Spain by name of Luis Sanchez.  He proudly displayed to us his first contribution to the park, a supension bridge over a river made of steel cable, turnbuckles and chain-link fencing!   From the bridge the path led through true rainforest -- this is primary growth rainforest and this is a 2 million year old island! -- and up the river course itself.  It was perfect for these old Trini-trained waterfall-keteers, (Snake would have loved it!)   and the conversations in Spanish on the way up made for great camouflage for the 2Cs' lack of conditioning!  There was a lot of evidence of the destruction wrought by the islands' feral pigs rooting around in the moist soil to dig up roots.  We also saw some neat birds, both males and females of the endemic Cocos finch, as well as a white dove that hovered overhead like a hummingbird.  Luis said the Spanish conquistadores took them for the "espiritu santo!" and they were so otherworldy and out-of-place, that we could understand the impression.


All the way up the upper course of the river were secondary falls leaking down the sides of whole hillsides.  Still the "cascades" themselves, when we reached them, were superb.  I'd guess a 100'+ drop into a pool from two separate falls, and the water temp -- unlike Trinidad -- was mild.  You will have to take our word for all this as we discovered at the falls, that I had left the chip out of the digital camera!


Back at the boat, our anchorage had swelled to included five Costa Rican long-line fishing boats.  These are wooden craft about 30-45 feet in length, all brightly painted with crews of four to six people aboard.  From the top stick up up to a dozen tall poles with garbage-bag "flags" rather reminiscent of the Baptist residences in Trinidad, only these poles are used to mark the long lines when they are deployed.  When we left for the hike, the crews were congregating for a game of "football" on the low-tide beach.  Don had given one crew a lift to shore, and inquired if it was possible to buy fish.  "Mas tarde," they said.  Well, upon our return the fishermen GAVE us a huge wahoo, a 40 pounder, already beheaded and gutted!  When we pressed the subject of what we could give them in return, they opted for cold pills...they all had the grippe!  Don worked away steaking the fish, but even after filling up the freezer we had so much fish left we gave the back half of it to the park rangers!  It was definitely a more effective way of getting a fish than throwing all those lures in the water!


By dark there were more than ten fishing boats and by morning fifteen. There are only three other moorings in the harbor, so many of the boats instead of anchoring tied up one behind the other making a string! It made for a surreal night landscape for not only were the boats lit up themselves, but the marker poles each had strobes firing off!  All this was quite educational for us as we learned quite a bit about how they fish, how long the trolling lines are (1000 meters, with 250 snap-on hooks along its length baited with squid) and what to look for as markers when we cross paths with them at sea. We certainly will feel more accommodating next time we encounter these guys in our course!


On our last day in harbor, Kaylor and Issaac came by to answer some questions for for a potential article about the Park.  In Kaylor's six years as a Cocos Park ranger, he tells us he has never seen an assemblage of fishing boats in Cocos like this. Apparently fishing has not been good.  Many Costa Rican boats have in the past edged in to Galapagos waters.  Now, with the aid of the US Coast Guard, Ecuador is clamping down on this, and indeed several Costa Rican crews have been arrested.  Kaylor does much of the offshore patrolling, and he's up all night making sure no fishing is happening within the eight-mile limit.  Isaac told us, "Kaylor has many friends (sic) in Punta Arenas who would like to kill him!"  which immediately answered our question of whether the fishermen regularly gave the rangers fish like our wahoo.


It is hard to imagine that we almost didn't come here.  It has been a special stop, not just for the beauty of the island and the superb diving, but for some nice bridges between interesting and different people.  Today we prep the boat for our eastward trek back to Panama.  We should be underway at sunrise.


Some Internet websites of interest:


Isla de Coco National Marine Park:

mv Sea Hunter:*

mv Okeanos Aggressor:*


Even more than in the Galapagos, the best way to visit Cocos is on a liveaboard boat.  Actually, it the only way!  Okeanos and Sea Hunter are both very top-notch ships, very oriented to high-tech scuba diving, but they do make some provision for shore excursions and kayaking etc.  We are also told that the small cruise ships we saw in the Galapagos do a couple of tours each year that include Cocos.  It is, however, hard for us to even imagine more than 20 people here at a time!  It's just not that kind of place.


The only other way to spend time at Cocos, it to come as a volunteer, minimum commitment being a month.  You can get information about volunteering from the Marine Park website.



12.6 From Jutta and Ferdy aboard PIPE DREAM, Spring 2002:


Bahia Santa Elena/Costa Rica is a beautiful bay - can be very gusty. The enlarged insert of this bay on our computer chart is completely off - use the regular scale chart. The entry waypoint on the1991 Charly's Chart is also wrong. Correct entry waypoint at Bahia Santa Elena is 10 56'708"N, 85 48'654"W, at a depth of 118'. Explore the mangrove channel at the end o f the bay.


After that we anchored at every anchorage listed in Charly's and found them all beautiful. Check-in into Costa Rica is at Playa de Coco. Very friendly port captain, NO FEES! Get an internal zarpe to Golfito. You also need a copy of the capt.passport and boat documentation for the boat import document. The aduana comes to Cocos from Liberia. Good provisioning at the super mercado in Cocos. There is an excellent machine shop in Liberia but we don't remember the address. It's about 3 blocks from the Central Market. Internet and Laundry are available in Cocos. Laundry is expensive in Costa Rica.


Bahia Brasilito: beautiful, anchored in north corner below Punta Salinas. Don't attempt a dinghy landing at the beach.  Marina Flamingo looks pretty bad, fuel is available there.


Bahia Carillo: Another beautiful bay, very rolly - we put out a stern anchor. Walk up to the Hotel Guanacaste - gorgeous views - small grocery stores.


Puntarenas: Enter the estuary to the Yacht Club at high tide only. Follow the line on Charly's. When you get to the Muelle Moreno, call the Yacht Club on Channel 6 (Manager Carlos, speaks English) for a guide to lead you in. (note your GPS points, then you can enter/leave on your own). Buoys at the Yacht Club are $ 16/day. There is a bar/restaurant/swimming pool. Fuel, water and laundry available.


Haul-out: Very efficient, $ 400 in and out, no daily charge. Bottom paint labor:$200, Petit-Trinidad Paint $ 95/gallon. They also have Oceanic Paint.


Certified Surveyor: Ing. Mauricio Gomez Francescolo, Cell (506) 389-7340, FAX (506) 641-0241, 661-3836, Email:, Tel.Home: 663-7925. Price for survey: $ 300. He prepares the survey in English and Spanish. He wants pictures of the hull out of the water. We had him survey Pipe Dream and found him to be very efficient.


We are presently in the Gulf of Nicoya - don't miss this area. There are so many beautiful bays and islands. Still don't know when we will cross the canal - heard lots of good things about Ecuador and may head there first - who knows.



12.7  From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002:




Pleasant anchorage, pretty grounds. We sailed out on a heading for Bahia Herradura, and after three miles were just able to tack back into Punta Leona. The currents are strong!




Follow the directions in Charlie’s for entering. We entered from the north and discovered that a reef extends well out from Islas Gemelas. Better to enter from the west and go between Isla Salera and Islas Gemelas.




Xinia at LandSea does such a good job of washing, drying and folding laundry that we emptied our lockers and took everything in for her to do… so nice to have sweet-smelling clothes and linens again. The free zone is great for shopping. You have to get a permit with your passport one day before using it, and it is a one-time use in a three-month period. Five hundred dollars max; limit of 12 bottles of wine and 12 bottles of liquor each permit. A one-liter box of Clos chilean wine was $2.20; here in Panama at the PriceSmart in David it is $1.89. A bottle of Flor de Cana rum was also $2.20; in Panama it is $4.50. After we had purchased our booze (and used up our limit) we learned that you can get the rum in 12 larger bottles.

13.    Notes on Pacific Coast of Panama:




13.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002:


Panama is well documented by the Zydlers’ Panama Guide.  Be advised before you leave Golfito that Western Panama does not have any easy access to shopping.  There is very little development along the coast, which of course is what makes it so beautiful. Most cruisers clear out of Golfito for Balboa and skip checking in at Puerto Armuelles. .  Panama doesn’t seem to care that you are in their waters for months before checking in.  We cleared out there, and it had some charm, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. 


Only options for civilization on this coast are, first, Pedregal and David, and second,Puerto Mutis.  Getting up the river to Pedregal is a pain in the ass, either in your own boat (for which you need a pilot and maybe two days), or by panga (3-4 hours on a hard bench in the hot sun!)  David, however, is a nice little city, and should you need to leave the boat or make a plane connection it is a reasonable option.  Another alternative is Puerto Mutis, accessed up the Rio San Pedro in the Bahia Montijo just before Punta Mala.  This is a relatively easy trip on your own.  Go on a rising tide and follow Zydler religiously.  A nice sidetrip is Boca de Trinidad.  Puerto Mutis is a tiny town (eat at Gladys) in a muddy stretch of river.  We anchored in 13’ on the opposite shore.  There is an hourly bus to the city of Santiago.  The bus goes right by the Super 99, a modern supermarket. If you buy too much to carry on the bus you can hire a taxi/pickup for about $12 to bring you back.  You can get fuel in Puerto Mutis (there is a dock, but we jugged it).  You can even clear into Panama in Puerto Mutis.  If you need to leave the boat, (via bus through Santiago; its about 3 hours to Panama City) ask around for Carlos Iguana.  He is a fisherman who can watch your boat and even run the engine to charge batteries.   There is also a young American – Tom Yust- with a sportfishing business based up the river to chat with.  The Port Captain can call him.  They don’t get many cruisers up here and are tickled when you come.


Punta Burica -  A rest stop, protected to west.  Anchor waypoint is 08*04.16N;  082*50.84W in about 22’, another narrow shelf!


Isla Gamez – Small island west of Isla Parida.  Gorgeous stop.  Anchor on North side of palm lined beach.


Islas Secas-  Clearest water in Panama. Anchor near 08*04.931N 082*01.897 in front of isthmus.  Nice snorkeling on south end on the little island to NE.


Bahia Honda -  Gorgeous Bay in the same league as Bahia Santa Elena.  Sounds like its still rainy, even in the dry season.  That should be slowing down.  There is a little island in the center of the bay with a village on it with some stores, ice and a telephone.  Where the book shows “Yacht Club” is a private construction project, part of a huge private development taking place in several locations inside and outside of the bay.  They don’t seem to mind curious visitors, and we got a tour of the whole premises, including a jaunt out to the residence going up on the island just north of the bay entrance.  We chose to anchor away from the construction, way in the sw corner of the main bay off a little honeymoon beach.  Gorgeous.


Isla Catalina -  Nice lunch stop with yellow sand.


Isla Gubernadora – In July we had a good anchorage on the east side of the island.  We did not like any anchorage along north coast of Cebaco.


That’s where we came in from Cocos, having taken the “long way” around Punta Mala.  We have no knowledge of the Punta Mala anchorages.

Gulf of Panama-  By the  time you get this far there will be many contacts with people who have spent time there. Anchorages change with the season and we were there in March. We liked Contadora, off the nude beach on the south side.  We went next to Pedro Gonzales to the southeasternmost anchorage which is a gorgeous palm-lined beach. This can get bouncy if the wind shifts a little east of north, and be sure to stay enough offshore that you can swing.  We especially liked Isla Bayoneta (p. 260, the anchor is actually between La Vivienda and Isla Malaga, although it takes some careful navigating to get in.  We approached from the south (do not go between La Vivienda and the reefs, although it looks possible, several boats that did hit reef.  Take those reefs to port.) and departed, after reconnaissance by dinghy up through Canal Gibraleon at high tide.  It is very protected, and a dinghy trip around La Vivienda and to the beach is really nice.  Finally, a truly peaceful spot is Isla Espiritu Santo, on the east side of Isla de Rey.  Launch the dinghy and drive around to the east side and to the tiny unnamed island to the east.  It is full of white ibis and we caught some snapper.


We also spent a few nights at Isla Taboga.  It is pleasant during the week, but on weekend is plagued by jetskiis and runabouts.  Best as a close-to getaway from Panama City. 


I won’t go into all the Canal Info, as you will get fresher info as you get closer.  Simply suffice it to assure you that you don’t need an agent.  Balboa Yacht club is more expensive than Flamenco anchorage, but a lot more convenient.  Your best source of info in the area is Pedro Miguel Boat Club, which is worth visiting for Saturday Night potluck even if you don’t plan to stopover there.  Good people and a reliable mail drop.  They have a Miami address for shipping in parts.  Very efficient.


Do try to take in the Canal Museum, especially if you have been able to get through David McCullogh’s The Path Between the Seas, a fat tome on the history of the canal.  Available in Panama City.


Shopping is outstanding in Panama City.  Special highlights.  Mini Max for veggies and any Japanese or Chinese product you can imagine! Nearer to Pedro Miguel for daily vegies is Fung Sick, nice vegies and fruits, oftenall cleaned and diced for you. Nearby is Super Kosher, only place for whole wheat flour, but has many other gourmet items (Try the Syrian breads in the freezer and great canned hummus and eggplant dip, bulk spices,couscous etc.)  Price Smart and Mega Max for bulk buying, but Mega Max canned stuffed all too big.  Down from Mega Max and Abernathy’s (marine supplies and fishing supplies) is a great supermarket with a women’s name (escaping me at the moment.)  In El Dorado neighborhood,  large Novey Hardware store.  Just beyond it is a small plaza with a corner grocery that stocks canned chicken and turkey.  Only one anybody found!  Good Rey Supermarket, too.  Liquor can be bought duty free from Motta in Panama City, but its is most economical in a group.  (here’s a $50 customs agent fee.)  If going through Canal, duty free is more readily organized from Free Zone in Colon.


Note from MICHAELANNE on above:  We never got there.  Most cruisers report that the authorities are pretty lax about your timing to check in as you wander through the islands on your way to the Canal Zone...Zydler’s Guide is pretty accurate so use that for info.  One note:  The Flamenco Yacht Club in the Canal Zone is not cruiser friendly.  They were not allowing cruisers to anchor out near their facility or use their dinghy docks when we left in October from El Salvador.  For the latest on that, listen to the Panama-Pacific Net on 8143.0 USB daily at 1400 UTC.



13.2 s/y RAGTIME--February, 2002


Boca Chica, Panama up the creek to Pedregal and David:


Here are waypoints/verbiage to enter into lower end of Boca Chica river - if you need to reprovision in David after a while in the islands, or make the land trip to Boquete.  We anchor just off Franks's, a German owned very casual restaurant/bar -  0.80c beers and very very reasonable prices for GOOD food.  Veggie truck comes Fridays to Boca Chica, and there is a telephone there, and soon a diesel pump.  Reuben in the first house on the right has a King Cab pick-up - $15.00 to get fuel - a 2.5Hr round trip bumpy ride to the main highway.  He charges $50 for the whole day to do PriceMart & Super Baru market (w/nice Internet).  He can seat 4 plus himself, it is a bumpy ride first 45 Mins.


Best deal we found this trip however was Victor's 12 Pass. Van - $13 ea to Boquete for 5 of us - negotiable with more folks.  $10 ea for all day shopping in David incl. laundry stop/pick-up too.  Victor's phone No. is: 697 2809.   If you're on your own, lots of the backpackers use Victor for the Boquete and David runs; and you will meet lots of them at Franks which is highly rated in Lonely Planet.      


1-08 11.975N, 082 13.545W

2-08 12.040N, 082 13.522W

3-08 12.058N, 082 13.491W

4-08 12.104N, 082 13.390W

5-08 12.181N, 082 13.172W

6-08 12.463N, 082 12.670W

7-08 12.602N, 082 12.670W

8-08 12.734N, 082 12.308W


We anchored off Frank's dinghy dock at 08 12.763N, 082 12.407 in 30'.

We use Chart View Pro & had good accuracy using chart #21584S0 - Approaches to Puerto Armuelles and Pedregal.  Make sure your GPS is set to WGS-72.


First waypoint is close to the West end La Ventana (P 258 Zydlers Guide), then turn sharp right (East) make a fairly broad curve to Franks Point, which is on Eastern tip of Boca Brava.  You cannot see blue/white striped roof of Frank's until you get closer.   Best time to come in is on a mid rising tide, so you can still see the rocks.  Shallowest water we saw with above waypoints was 11' but we were before mid tide.  Also see page 250.


If you enjoy the Parida/Gamez and Secas as much as we did, this is a good spot to have a few cooked meals with lots of backpackers coming in daily from all over the world, get more fuel or veggies.   The trip into David is a nice drive apart from the bumpy beginning.  Monkeys come right up to the restaurant and the breeze is great up there.  Oh yes, they have a good dinghy dock.   We have not heard of any boat security problems here.


Lastly, we highly recommend BAHIA HONDA as a fresh fruit provisioning option.  A lagoon-like anchorage, best spot is in the NW corner where it says 30' in Zydlers - 7.45.932N 81.32.608W puts you near the small waterfall during rainy season where we did our laundry.   Domingo comes out to offer his great fruits - He never quotes a price, but will accept Dollars to put his 2nd daughter thru school and will also trade for anything he needs like soap, rice, etc.   Plse give special greetings from "Janice & Dorsey on Sun Dazzler and Ted and Shari on Mystique", if you get there.  


You can leave your trash at the fancy retreat being constructed in NE corner, and water from a spigot on the beach.  Couple of small tiendas in village on island, poorly stocked, but they often have good onions, eggs etc. and a telephone.   Domingo can take you to get Diesel ($2.25 gall) and Gasoline ($3.00 gall), which we all bought from the fisherman’s home - fuel was fine but of course higher, priced than Panama City.  You pay the man direct, and tip Domingo who shows you where it is (high tide is better) and helps you.


Please spread the word about Domingo; lots of cruisers have been very pleased there.   We enjoyed this quieter anchorage to do sewing projects, varnishing and resting up before the Punta Mala "bash"; and Domingo is a very nice man. 



13.3 s/y AKAUAHELO--June, 2002


Experience with the Panamanian  Coast Guard


Confirming the net-com this morning regarding being checked by the Panama Coast Guard.


S/V AKAUAHELO checked out of Golfito CR for Balboa.  A little concerned about this because we will not be in Balboa for about a month.  We did not want to check in at Armuelles because we have heard it is sometimes difficult there.


Our second day in Panama we were anchored off the east side of Isla Parida and were kayaking around the many small islets.  A large, grey, twin engine panga approached us and identified themselves as the Panama Coast Guard and wanted to see our passports and papers.  Right ... like we always carry them in our kayaks.  We explained they were on our sailboat way over there.  The CC said "fine, lets go see them."  Great!  So they followed us as we slowly paddled back to AKAUAHELO.  We tied the kayaks up to each side of AKAUAHELO so the CC would not be able to easily raft up to our hull.  No obvious fenders.


Brent got on the boat and got our Costa Rica exit documents and passports and climbed into our dinghy to give them the papers.  The CC guys were friendly but quite serious.  They inspected our papers for several minutes, asked some questions about where we had been and what our plans were in Panama.  There was no question from them about the lack of fishing licenses even though our poles were out in the rod holders.  The leader actually had his shoes off which was encouraging if they intended to board us.  Finally he said, "everything looks in order, welcome to Panama".  They did not board AKAUAHELO for inspection. 


So, it appears that what we heard is true, once checked out of CR, Panama will allow you to travel through their country without checking in until you arrive Balboa.  Happy Trails...   Brent & Susan, S/V AKAUAHELO, Panama



13.4 From Tom and Kathy on the s/y TAI-TAM--spring and summer, 2002


Bahia Honda, Panama


For those of you who are coming down to Panama I suggest strongly that you stay over at Bahia Honda. It is a very lovely, lush and peaceful place with many small secluded anchorages and nice water to swim in and it is absolutely calm water without any swells when we were there for the few days. It is in the same league as "Bahia Santa Elena" (Costa Rica) and we think even better.  There is a little village on the island in the center of the Bay with 2 very basic tiendas and a police station - (don't ask me why - this is so desolate) The people there are very friendly and like their pictures taken. Where the Zydler book references the "Yacht Club" located next to "Islote La Mona" there is now a construction site and apparently this is being developed (we didn't find out into what) by an American and Italian. We did not anchor there as there are two moorings in the deeper water occupied by two small boats and we didn't think we had enough swinging room. Also, this little Bay shoals very, very rapidly from 30+ ft to 7 ft. and less - so, be careful. This applies to many of the secluded coves - depths vary rapidly and the holding is dubious in some of the places as the bottom appears to be a mixture of small stones and occasionally some mud. So, plenty of scope.


We anchored in the Bay to the left of the "Yacht Club" and managed to finally get good holding in 25+ ft of water after making several attempts. When you drop anchor there you will be visited by "Joe Domingo" in his dugout canoe who will trade fruits and vegetables for milk, sugar and detergent. He lives up the river on the west side of the anchorage and his son, Kennedy and his family, live just off this anchorage and you can be assured of a visit also. Very nice people. There is also a gorgeous cove just when you enter the Bay on your port side. Beware, there is a shoal in the middle and we almost run aground. Supposedly there are also some rocks - so watch out.


Our waypoints to get in to Bahia Honda were (for those who might arrive at night - but beware - at your own risk):


Off Isla Pacora 07 43.265 N  81 35.403 W

Off Punta Guarida 07 44.120 N  81 32.348 W

Off Isla Talon 07 45.049 N  81 32.126 W

Our anchorage  07 45. 892 N  81 32.293 W


Fair winds, Tom and Kathy, S/V Tai Tam



13.5 Three Anchorages on the Way to Punta Mala, Panama—from Tai-Tam


Just a quick note and comments on our recent passages. We left Bahia Honda in Panama on the 9th and made our way to Punta Mala to get into the Guild of Panama. On our way we stopped at Puerto Viejo on Isla Gobernadora - a small island just north of Isla Cebaco. This is a good anchorage - very isolated and we put the hook down at 07 33.995 N  81 11.526 W. Good holding and not rolly. When you leave there to continue to Punta Mala you have two choices: 1. Backtrack and go west around Isla Cebaco or 2. the somewhat shorter way, go east across the north side of Cebaco. This requires some careful navigation as the depths are limited  i.e. you must follow a channel and stay within it otherwise you risk running aground at low tide.


We choose that option but were confronted with another problem once we rounded Cebaco. The southerly swell started building up in the channel between the mainland and Cebaco due to the much reduced depth. And believe me, these were rollers. So, we had to follow a zig-zag course to take advantage of the areas with greater depth and therefore lesser rollers. So, be careful and watch for shoals and resulting swells. For the night we put into Ensenada Naranjo - also a very picturesque anchorage and only a little bit rolly. We anchored at 07 16.444N  80 55.531 in good holding ground.


From there the slogging began the next day as we started to run into adverse current and strong winds on the nose. The decision you have to make is to whether to go further offshore - say 7 miles or so or stay in as we did about 1 mile off the coast. We talked to someone who went further out and who had stronger currents than we did but much less choppy seas because the water depth is much greater than the 100 feet or less you find closer to shore. So, you pick your evil.


At times we were down to 2 knots punching into the seas. So, be prepared for that part of the trip and have patience as you approach Punta Mala. We intended to put into Punta Guanico but were advised against it by another cruiser who had been there a day earlier - 6 ft seas and breakers in the anchorage. So, we went 10 miles further east to Benao Cove and dropped anchor there amongst a just borderline swell. Just as cocktail time started I looked off the stern and saw a big wave coming at us, about 6-7 feet, that I thought was going to break into our cockpit - it didn't but that was enough and we raised anchor just as it got dark and made a beeline out of there and continued throughout the night to the Don Bernardo anchorage on Isla Pedro Gonzales in  the Las Perlas Archipelago.


This is about the nicest anchorage we have ever been at, small, white sand beach, clear water and palm trees along the beach. No swell whatsoever and light winds from the north - just lovely. The holding ground is sand and we are at 08 23.986N  079 04.966W - don't miss this anchorage! By the way all of these anchorages are in Zydler's book.


Tai-Tam on the Las Perlas Islands


Just a quick note to let you know that you should not miss the Las Perlas Archipelago in the Gulf of Panama. This is an absolutely pristine cruising ground (top rated by us before Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica)without civilization and just one beautiful island after another. The water is fairly clear and somewhat cool and refreshing (75 degrees right now) and allows excellent snorkeling or scuba diving around the many rock outcroppings. All of the beaches have white sand and shell collectors can also keep busy here


We are currently on Isla Pedro Gonzales at the Don Bernardo anchorage. This has a very beautiful white and palm lined beach with only one local resident who goes by the name of Leonid living in a very funky house on stilts. Leonid is very friendly and loves to trade fruit for anything "American" and basic supplies such as rice, powered milk and clothing. At night only the stars and no electricity surround us here and the light rocking of the boat puts us to sleep at an early hour.

Anchoring is a bit more difficult here than along the more Northern Coast of the Pacific as there are many rocks and shoals and one must use "eye ball navigation" judiciously - although Zydler's "Panama Guide" is a must and of much help. All of the Panamanians we have met on our way here from Costa Rica have been great, very friendly, outgoing and curious. One thing to bear in mind though is that there is not much opportunity for provisioning until one reaches the Panama Canal, so stock up in Costa Rica.


If you just want to take it easy and enjoy lots of nature, these are the islands to be. We strongly suggest a week or two for those making their way to the Panama Canal - where we will be a week from now.

Fair Winds, Tom and Kathy Knueppel, S/V Tai Tam



13.6 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA:


In Panama, which we liked a lot, Isla Gamez (my favorite), Isla Secas, Bahia Honda, Isla Pedro Gonzales, and Contadora in the Perlas Islands.



13.7 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002:


Puerto Mutis & Bahia Montijo, Panama


Puerto Mutis, as a major supply port for Western Panama fisherman, is the only fuel dock readily accessible for cruising yachts between Puerto Armuelles on the Coast Rican border and Balboa Yacht Club in Panama City!  At high tide a typical cruiser needing fuel could pull right up to the wall and have the hose passed down. (We opted to jerry jug.)  It also has good road and bus connections to civilization, another rarity in Western Panama.


The catch is that Puerto Mutis is six miles up the Rio San Pablo, which is at the north end of Bahia Montijo, which itself cuts a 15-mile deep wedge into the watershed of Veraguas province.  On paper it may look way out of the way, but, just west of Panama's bulky Penisula Azuero (i.e Punta Mala and Punta Mariaco), it is located ideally midway on a coast that offers little other easy options for getting fuel.  Additionally, Veraguas, the only province in Panama with both Caribbean and Pacific coasts, has, on the Pacific slope, lighter than average rainfall during the rainy season, resulting from the unecological clearing of the natural forests to make grazing land for cattle.


Fortunately, accessing Puerto Mutis is straightforward on a rising tide with the Zydlers' indispensable "Panama Guide" book (no boat should think of cruising Panama without it; we have used nearly every page!)  Plus, unlike Pedregal further to the west, the trip upriver can reasonably be accomplished in a day by most boats, and the entrance to the river system is protected by Isla Cebaco lying like a breakwater across the Bahia. Although Pedregal, once you reach it, has an actual marina available for cruising yachts and the larger city of David is much closer at hand, there is much suspense about which entrance to the estuary will be usable given swell conditions, the bars in the waterway shift about, and there are high tension wires that cross the river inland from Boca Chica that sure looked low to us (we went up river by panga from Parida.)  Stories about sailboats being stuck on bars for days and even one of a boat being rolled in the surf, discouraged us from going to Pedregal!  


Bahia Montijo has none of these drawbacks.  The bay itself is quite shallow, and over a dozen rivers empty into it from all sides. Many of these are navigable at least for a ways.  Ever prudent, we followed the recommended course which kept us in 30-40 feet of water most of the way. 


Before going on to Puerto Mutis, however, we did take one of the many available side excursions up a watercourse that led to an inland lagoon called Boca de la Trinidad.  Dense mangrove forests, much taller than we could have even imagined back home in the Virgin Islands and matched by root systems able to survive the ten-foot tidal range, encircled the anchorage. The lagoon was the most still place Don and I have ever been in our lives!  Herons of several colors were the most common bird, plus a few parrots, pelicans and frigates.  There was no hint of man in sight, no motors sounds or electric lights.   We were attracted here by reports of roseate spoonbills, but we had to go hunt for them.  Many herons later, after puttering deeper and deeper into the low tide flats, we finally found one dead tree with eight pink birds that, of course, all promptly launched themselves and flew away!  Clearly this is an area worth visiting in its own right!


After a couple of days relaxation we backtracked out to Isla Verde, and going all the way around, continued on upriver to Puerto Mutis.   Travelling again on the rising tide, which is an hour later than the tide station at Isla Cebaco, the lowest water we saw was nine feet.  In addition to refueling, our hope was to find Puerto Mutis to be a secure place to leave the boat for several days while we traveled overland to Panama City.  The town proved to be even smaller than we imagined, a single road climbing at an angle up a hill.  The basin off the town was dotted with a couple dozen wooden fishing boats, but we found a spot for ourselves where we'd have enough water at low tide practically on the opposite shore! Another option for deeper draft boats is turning up the Rio de Jesus just before Puerto Mutix.  Despite the muddy river, the bottom was sand, and with plenty of scope we had no problem with the 9' tides or any squalls.


Puerto Mutis proved to a delightful place, albeit very, very small and simple.  There are only a couple of eating/drinking places -- Gladys' became our hangout--, and even fewer little tiendas with hardly any products to sell. People, however, are very friendly and eager to chat!  When we checked in at the police station the officer promptly called the only American in town, who turned out to be a young man named Tom Yust.  Tomas, as they call him here, is one of those folks who seems to have been everywhere and done everything.  Most recently he has put several years hard work into building a sportfishing charter business based on the wild island of Coiba, to the west of here.  (See Tom's fantastic website at


Later we discovered that we were able to get our cruising permit for Panama (we had just come in from the Galapagos & Cocos) right next door to the police station.  Immigration, however, must be done in Santiago (or, as we did, in Panama City if you are going there.) 


Busses do the 50-minute trip to Santiago every half hour for $0.95.  You could pop off halfway in the town of Montijo for basic groceries, but in Santiago, the bus passes right by a well-stocked Super 99 whose manager Jose Felix was particularly friendly and helpful.  There is a panaderia right across the street, and if you have all you need the bus stops there on its way back as well.  If you have too much stuff, you can catch a cab back for $12, and this will enable you to beg a stop at the fresh market, a street full of fruit and vegie stalls, on the way. Prior to our provisioning run in Santiago, we'd filled a cooler with "exotic...aka green" vegetables at Panama City's wonderful Mini Max (oriental greengrocer in Patilla area) and brought it back on the bus!  You won't find a lot of such "exotic" stuff in Santiago, although there is a second modern supermarket called Machetes in a mall on the Pan-American Highway (but it is not on the bus route) that has some different cold items, with a great Spiegel/True Value hardware next door.


To travel to Panama City you can catch a bus at the terminal in Santiago, or you can hop over to Los Toucanes Restaurant, a few blocks away on the PanAmerican Highway, and try to snag the Express bus from David making its pit stop there.  It is allegedly faster.  Our trip took us 3 hours for $6 on a Saturday.  The return was a bit slower on a weekday.


Everybody in Puerto Mutis knew we'd be gone for three days.  While I doubt anything would have been touched regardless, we did hire a fisherman known as Carlos Iguana to look after the boat, even to running the engine (from the cockpit) and hour and a half each night.  He came recommended by Tom Yust, and it was a great choice as everyone in town clearly held Carlos in esteem.  The boat was safe and sound with batteries fully charged upon our return. We paid him $20 for his services.



13.8 From Jim and Suzy aboard s/v SPARTA,  Fall 2002:


PANAMA - We’ve been here three months now and haven’t checked in, which doesn’t seem to be a problem. Another boat did check in at Pedregal (only because they were flying out of the country); their visas as well as the boat permit were given for 90 days, not the 30 days mentioned in most cruising guides.


The water is clean and clear, fishing is good, islands are unspoiled, the people are lovely and generous, and you can get almost anything in David or Panama City, cheap. Around Isla Parida, local fishermen with lobster and dorado will trade for goods like powdered milk and dulces; they will come to your boat. The shrimp boats will give you iced camarones in trade for food and rum (no money); you have to go to them.


PEDREGAL, the port of David, is a five-minute taxi ride ($2.50) into David. You can anchor off the Pedregal yacht club in about ten feet of water, and for fifteen dollars a week get use of the dinghy dock, water, and trash. There is fuel there with gasoline ($2.20) and diesel ($1.70)… prices as of January 2003. The port captain and aduana are right there at the yacht club; you take a taxi into David for migracion. There is a small minimart and a restaurant.


There are several ways to get to Pedregal:

 1.        You can anchor your boat in Boca Chica and call Victor (cel phone 603-7511); he drives a 9-passenger van and will pick you up in Boca Chica, take you to David, run you around, and take you and all your stuff back to Boca Chica for six or seven dollars per person each way, depending on how many of you there are.

2.         From Isla Parida, where you can leave your boat in relative security in Bahia Varedero, it is a 1-1/2 to 2-hour trip by panga. You can hire a local panga for fifty to seventy dollars to take you in and bring you back the next day. We like staying overnight in David.

3.         If you take your own boat to Pedregal, you can either go through Boca Brava if you have good local knowledge, or from Boca Chica if your mast height is less than 50-58 feet (no one seems to know exactly how high the wire is that goes across from Boca Chica to Isla Boca Brava).


BOCA CHICA. There is a big rock right smack in the middle of the narrow channel just past the wire. This uncovers at low tide but otherwise you don’t see it.  This is a very dangerous rock, not mentioned in Zydler’s, and I would not proceed under the wire until I had identified that rock by dinghy at low tide. If you can get under the wire, you’ll see you have to cross over to the Boca Chica side of the channel just before the wire and be sure you are very close to the Boca Chica shore at the narrowest part of the channel. Also, the current runs strong here so time it so you don’t get swept onto the rock. We anchored close to the Isla Boca Brava side between Frank’s restaurant and the sport fishing private dock, then explored by dinghy at low tide.


We were also surprised at the location of the dock in the entrance, which is shown in various locations on different charts. Page 250 in the Zydler guide is the most accurate; entering up the recommended channel leaving Isla Linarte to port, continue that course until you can see the channel opening past Boca Chica, and only then turn left towards Isla Boca Brava to favor that side of the channel.


DAVID.  We really like David. You can walk almost everywhere, and find lots of good stuff…industrial fabrics, hardware, etc. Lots of household goods for one dollar. Taxis are one dollar to anywhere in the central city, two dollars further out including Pedregal. Speedlan internet café is open 24 hours, air-conditioned, with the fastest machines we’ve ever seen, for a dollar an hour. It is safe to wander down there at night. PriceSmart, plus three very nice supermarkets well stocked with American stuff and other goodies. A huge cartful of groceries, including meats and booze, won’t cost more than a hundred and fifty dollars. City water is potable (also at the yacht club).  Four-plex cinema with current movies. MacDonalds, KFC. Good barbecued chicken dinner at El Molino ($1.50 taxi from town center). Yamaha (also handles Yanmar), Suzuki, and Johnson outboard agencies. Three bus companies; trip to Panama City is approximately eleven dollars, six and a half hours.


Very little in marine parts in David, e.g. no epoxy resin; but Jim took the bus to PANAMA CITY and found West System epoxy and just about anything you could get in the US. Four nice marine stores in Panama City:  Abernathy, Centro Marine, NautiPesca, and Novey. All taxis know these. Travelift at Flamenco: 150 tons, can handle beam to 25 feet, possibly 26. At this time $300 in and out, three lay days included, $1.65 per foot per day thenceforth.


There are many nice beaches suitable for careening and taking the hard in the vicinity of Isla Parida and Pedregal.



13.9 From Beverly and Paul on the 40’ Manta Cat TOUCH’N GO (February 2002):


This passage takes you from Isla Parida via the channel leading westward from Boca Chica to Pedregal Yacht Club.

We anchored at Isla Gamez, off the NE side of Isla Parida. Many people were camping at Isla Gamez during Mardi Gras. Small boats were coming and going and the women were coating large pots of great smelling chicken and rice in red sauce. We were conversing with them when all of a sudden in this primitive setting, we jump at the sound of 2 cell phones ringing. I guess the men in Pedregal wanted to know if dinner was ready!


We decided it would be fun to go to Boquete, a mountain village 90 minutes from David by bus. David is a short taxi ride from Pedregal Yacht Club. From David, you take a bus to Boquete. You can also go to Boquete from Panama City, a 7-hour bus ride. We chose to go by boat!


We read the instructions on page 252 of the Panama Guide, but it seemed confusing. As we left Isla Gomez, we spotted a boat coming in and asked for directions. They told us we needed a guide, and loaned us their 16-year-old boat boy, Tatin. Tatin took over the wheel and guided our boat through the channels and surf safely to Pedregal Yacht Club. The trip took 8 hours for 35 nautical miles and the minimum depth found was 6.5’. The river scenery was interesting, with many channels, islands, and fishermen in dugout canoes. The current in the river approaching Pedregal can be quite strong, depending on the tides.


We anchored off the PYC, along with four other boats. Another sailboat arrived the next day. This boat was taking on water, since it had hit bottom so many times. It had no guide.


During the second night out, our boat dragged in the strong current and softly bumped another boat. Our anchor marker float had wrapped around the anchor and lifted it as we turned with the tide (no more anchor float!).


We went to David and then to Boquete by bus. The town of Boquete is a quaint mountain village with a mountain stream and two very interesting run-down bridges to cross (scary). We visited “Mi Jardín Es Su Jardín”, a wonderful artistic display of flowers and plants. This is a must see! There are many shops, restaurants, and places to stay. David has all the large grocery stores for provisioning.


We left PYC at 7am to go out the Boca San Pedro channel. We were told the shrimpers used this channel. All the cruisers (monohulls) said they would not use this channel in case they hit bottom. They were right. We managed to get all the way to the buoy and surf. We hit bottom (4.5’), a wave lifted us up and full throttle ahead, another wave or two, and then the big one came over us, and then all was well, except for the wet cockpit and salon (oops, two top hatches open!).


It was shallow for a half hour, and then we were safe in deep water. Quite an experience, but we would recommend returning via Boca Chica, with a guide, if possible.


It is interesting that these are the type of adventures you don’t want to experience, but once completed, you want to share with others.


Beverly and Paul

14.   Notes on Transiting the Panama Canal:




14.1 Notes on the Panama Canal passage from Sailing Vessel AVALON, a Valiant 40, with Randy and Eileen on board


The Panama Canal is a CASH operation.  For boats under 50 feet in length, the transit cost on April 4th, 2002 was $500.00 US Dollars.  The measurement fee was $50.00 US Dollars.  A REFUNDABLE deposit of $900.00 US Dollars is collected at the same time the transit and measurement fees are taken.  You can use Visa, MasterCard,, BUT while it appears that you are signing a credit voucher just as any other purchase, it is a cash advance.  You will not be informed, but it will show up on your next statement.  B of A was kind enough to credit the cash advance charge when I complained a few months later.


Here’s how it works: Call for a measurement.  The numbers are posted in several guides.  The measurer will come out and check your documentation, insurance, etc.  He will measure the length and width, ask you what speed you can maintain, do you have line handlers, etc.  His tape is very liberal.  This 42 Valiant grew to 46 feet under his tape.  He measures from the very end of your anchor to the last thread of the flag that flies behind you. Pull everything in and take your dinghy off the davits if it applies.  Take his paperwork to CitiBank and pay the fees.  You will sign two vouchers if you’re using a credit card, one for $550.00 and one for $900.00.  They will process the $550.00 and it will show up as a cash advance on a future statement.  The $900.00 voucher will be held until you complete the transit and as soon as the paperwork is turned in, they will destroy the signed voucher.  That is unless you damage the Canal and they want you to pay for something. The $900.00 is a security deposit.


About 48 hours after you pay, you can call and see when they have you scheduled through and whom you will be going with.  The measurer will give you the number and what time to call.  If you are scheduled to make the transit in one day, the pilot will board early.  Ours arrived at 5:30AM.  Most likely you will be scheduled with one or two other boats, nested together, and put in the center of the lock.  As with us, schedules and methods can change.  We were nested on the uplock but they split us up, delayed us at Gamboa cut, and we tied to a tug on the way down.  We had entered Gatun locks just before 8:00AM and we cleared into the Pacific just before sundown.  We arrived at the Flamenco anchorage well after dark.  If you can’t maintain enough speed to cross in one day, or if there is a commercially generated delay, be prepared to anchor overnight in the lake and continue the next day.  It’s not all bad, because the bass fishing is great!


You will need four 125-foot lines sufficient to hold your boat.  The measurer will want to inspect them when he comes aboard.  They can be rented, but we found it easier to purchase a 600-foot roll at Nautipesca and make our own lines.  I intended to keep them and make new mooring lines but someone offered to buy them from me at my cost on the other side.  Tires!  You will notice that boats getting ready to transit, and those having just transited, will have automobile tires tied as fenders.  They can be obtained from just about any taxi driver for $3.00 apiece, or you can just get on the radio and take them from someone who has come through for no cost.  Wrap them in trash bags and secure the bags with duct tape.  Use old painters, lines, etc. to tie them to the cap rail.  Don’t tie them to the lifelines because they get some serious pressure and pulling if you have to tie to a tug or the wall when going down. Avalon had ten on each side.


We suggest that you volunteer as a line handler one or two times before you take your own boat through.  The experience is invaluable, you’ll learn about procedure, and you won’t be near as nervous when you are at the helm.


Finally, it is a tradition to feed the pilots and line handlers on the passage.  The easiest thing is a sandwich bar, but some get real elaborate and put on a feast for the crew as they are motoring across the lake.  It really is a good experience and good food and drink make it more so.


A few facts from the Panama Canal Commission plus the editors comment.


Entering a lock chamber is a humbling experience in a small vessel.  These gigantic structures, when they were being built, required a continuous pour of 3000 cubic yards of concrete every day for two and one half years!   To put this in perspective, figure that your 2000 square foot house filled to the ceiling with concrete would hold about 590 cubic yards. 


The locks are 1000 feet long and 110 feet wide, and each one is deep enough for a ship with a 39 foot, 6 inch draft.  There are 100 four-foot diameter openings in the bottom of the lock that allow it to be filled or drained in 12 minutes.  There are no pumps; every thing is gravity fed.  Every time a lock is drained, 50 million gallons of water are released from Gatun Lake.   On average, 45 ships a day, every day of the year, pass through the canal.  Do the math, and you can see why Gatun Lake is the biggest manmade lake in the world.  Figure also, that the only source of water replenishment is the rain that falls on the Isthmus of Panama.  No wonder that there are some beautiful rain forests in this part of the world!


Sailing across Lake Gatun, you pass over a part of the original Panama Railroad, built between 1850 and 1858.  It was a popular route for the forty-niners traveling to and from the California Gold Rush, and it played a major part in the construction of the Panama Canal.  It is said that a man died for every tie under the tracks.  That is probably an exaggeration, but thousands did die.  The fatality rate during construction was about 20% per month.  A train ran every day to collect the cadavers, which were pickled and sold in the US and Europe for teaching and medical research.  Talk about recycling!


Fifty trainloads of rock and soil were removed every day during the height of the excavation through the Continental Divide.  The French failure in their attempt to build the Canal was partially because they couldn’t figure how to get rid of all the spoil.  An American, John Stevens, an expert in railroad construction, designed an ingenious rail system for removing the excavated dirt.  Today the cut is being continuously widened and dredged.  Mother Nature is still angry with man for making that scar and she continues to try to fill it back up. 



Finally, the average ship passing through pays $50,000.00 US dollars for passage.  No wonder the Canal pays for itself!  Small boats under fifty feet such as us pay $500.00 US dollars.  It costs us more for the insurance than it does for the passage.



14.2 From Greg and Meg aboard the motorboat WET BAR, December 2002


The Wet Bar is anchored at the Bridge of the Americas, Panama City. What a place! Ships pass within 100 yards of us as they make their way to & from the canal, there's activity 24 hours a day. Panama is as beautiful as Costa Rica, friendlier, and alot more affordable. There are lots of cruisers here and more arrive each day. Happy New Year with best wishes for good health and happiness always.


We are anchored off Isla Gamez, Panama and it is beautiful. Caught three yellow fin tuna on our way over from CR and Greg has caught a red snapper and a giant needlefish since we've been here. Greg & Meg

14.3 Tai-Tam on Preparing to Transit the Canal




We are now at the Balboa Yacht Club after having spent some wonderful time in the Las Perlas Archipelago. We have just completed all of our paperwork and the visit by the Admeasurer and are now waiting to find out when our transit date might be. Here is some information that might be of help to you once you get here.


Places to stay: You have essentially two choices, namely going to the Balboa Yacht Club (BYC)or staying at one of the anchorages at and around Flamenco Island.

BYC costs a one-time fee of $ 25 and then $ 0.50/ft/day. You cannot use your dinghy and must use the BYC panga drivers to get to and from other boats and/or land. You should consider tipping these drivers occasionally if you do not want to wait an eternity. The club responds (sometimes/mostly) to channel 06. There is a fuel dock (don't know the cost) and there is swimming pool - military version, many years old that you can use if you pay $ 35 instead of $ 25 one-time fee. There is a small toilet on the dock with a shower. There is a small BYC tienda style restaurant (Hamburgers etc.) and also a TGIF in the hotel just across - food is not too bad at US prices. Before I forget it, there is a local Cruiser's Net from 0745 local time on channel 67 which is also the local hailing channel.


Anchorages: We are staying at the BYC as it is more convenient but have heard that there have been two dinghy motor thefts last week at the anchorage. Water apparently you can take on by taking jerry cans to a seawall and if the tide is up fill these cans. Don't know about dinghy landings but there must be one. The anchorage is obviously free of charge.


Getting to BYC

Stay in the shipping channel (red-right-return <bg>) and wait until you get to Buoy 14 - don't turn there!!! continue to 14 1/2 and then turn into the mooring area - you see the masts. The panga drivers will help you with the mooring lines which are attached to the mooring ball. Watch for anyone who approaches you to sell you tires. Don't - this is all part of the package price - see below under drivers.


Cab Drivers outside the BYC.

There are 3 main guys (Tony, Enrique and Louise). All of them speak more or less fluent English and they are the ones you should hire to get you to places and to get you the tires and lines and line handlers (if you use locals). The cost appears to be $ 8 per hour for them to drive you around. The cost of the line handlers is $ 50 per man per transit - you need 4 people. The cost of the package (4 lines minimum 125 ft and 7/8' plus mucho tires - we use 14 ! should be $ 65 to $ 80. This is for a rental not a purchase!


Canal costs as of 4-22-02

Boats <50 feet (this means from the bowsprit to the end including everything hanging over like davit's is $ 550 plus a $ 900 buffer fee. Boats 50-80 ft are $ 800 plus $ 900 buffer. Here comes the trick: Effective May 1st if you stop over in the Pedro Miguel Boat Club - PMBC -(we are doing so) you will have to pay a further $ 450 once you are ready to leave the PMBC. Also, rumor has it but the Admeasurer did not confirm this is that there will be an issue with the speed of smaller boats like ours. I hear things about 8kts. What this appears to mean is that if you cannot go  at a high speed i.e. not make the transit within a certain time - you will pay extra - don't know how much.

You can pay by Visa card - contrary to what you might be told not Mastercard or American Express. The way this works is that at the Balboa Citibank office they take an imprint of your card and do not fill in an amount and you must sign it!! Feels good to issue a blank check - doesn't it? Your only receipt is your copy of the Admeasurement Clearance form on which the clerk writes your fees.



Assuming that you stay at the PMBC and that you will stay in  Panama after clearing the Canal. You will need to go to the Immigration shack at the foot of the BYC. Then to the Immigration office in Balboa. Cost $ 10 per person to get checked in. Then to the Port Captain to get you cruising permit. $ 65 for 3 months. You will check in there and pay $ 4 in stamps which you have bought before at a Bank. As I said earlier, the Cab Drivers will drive you around. It took us about 1 1/2 hrs. So, you do not need an Agent!!!

If you just make your transit and continue to get out of Panama you don't need a cruising permit and you check in and out at about the time when you know your transit date approaches. The number to call to check on your transit date is 272-4202. Fair winds, Tom and Kathy, S/V Tai Tam


Tai-Tam on the Pedro Miguel YC in Panama, Miraflores Lock:

We have now been here at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club located on the Miraflores Lake in the Panama Canal for over a week and I remember that when we came south we had heard and read a bit about this Club but didn't have too many details on it. So, here it goes for anyone who might be interested:


The Club goes back many years and it is my understanding it was initially set up for "Zonians" (the Americans who lived in the Canal Zone before Panama took over on Dec. 31, 1999) and was used by them to keep their boats in a club like setting. Apparently, during those days the "Zonians" could move their boats along the Canal for $ 20 per, it made sense to keep their boats here even though there is not anywhere else to go unless you make a transit to the Caribbean or the Pacific or go to the Gatun Lake which many years ago was open to boats.


The Club is now somewhat dilapidated (but quite charming and funky) and there is an ongoing dispute with the Panama Canal Commission about the Club's future but apparently the land title is in dispute and nobody seems to be able to resolve the issues. So the Club moves along having become a haven for cruisers going South or North. It is really the only place where one can keep his/her boat for longer periods of time in a safe and protected environment in the Panama area and you can do your own work on your boat as there is a crane and dry storage facilities are available. Crane rental is $ 160/hr and 6 jack stands are included in the dock fees - additional jacks for $ 3/mth. You can also rent scaffolds and high pressure washers.


The current dock fee is $ 0.35 per (Admeasurer!!!) foot if you stay less than a month and $ 0.25/ft if you stay over a month in addition to a one-time Club membership fee of $ 15 every 3 months.  The docks are borderline and rickety and all of the boats are secured by many, many lines running from pilings in the water to moorings, to other boats....quiet a spider web <bg>. You should see the activity once a boat decides to leave! In addition, the water depth is questionable all throughout but do not fear, the bottom is very soft mud or crud that does not harm your boat's bottom. Most boats appear to touch ground and slowly carve themselves a bed as they move around from the wash of the commercial tugs moving the large freighters. We have seen several boat pulling themselves over the mud to get to their destination. Even though you might be apprehensive at first it is not an issue.


Theft is not a problem at the Club as the facility is secured by an infrared perimeter alarm system and patrolled by geese and crocodiles <bg>. The showers and toilets are very basic but the water is very hot and has good pressure. In the clubhouse there is a large kitchen for use by the club's members (you) with stoves, microwaves, coffee makers, blender, toaster, kitchen utensils and several large freezers and refrigerators where most of us store some of our food. There is also a soda machine which sells sodas or beer for $ 0.50. The club also has several washing machines and dryers and you can use the telephone system free of charge to make local calls or long distance calls can be made if you pay for them. The club also provides free Internet access using their machine or you can use yours for $ 20/month. There is also a TV with Direct TV where you can get your fill of US movies and/or news. Transport to and from Panama City is easy as the Club is served by the SACA bus systems ($0.35 or $ 0.50 for the air conditioned bus)


For shopping you either go into Panama City or each day the Bread man comes to the Club or on Fridays the Vegetable Man. You can also walk about 1 1/2 miles to a small store or take the bus. Panama City obviously has many large US style supermarkets and a number of marine suppliers.  You can also get mail and parts easily to the club from the USA using the Club's Miami based freight forwarding service.

Lastly, here is the email address for the club: or you can email the Manager directly (Katherine) at The phone number is 507-232-4509/4184 and the fax number is 507-232-4165.


If you need any further info, you know where to find us. Fair winds, Tom and Kathy, S/V Tai Tam



14.4 From Brent and Susan on the s/y AKAUAHUELO--July, 2002:


Don’t try to get  your Chain Galvanized in Panama!


We are at last in Ecuador at the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club.  We are at a slip surrounded by rock breakwater and travel lift so Net reception is lousy.  I have a QST that I hope you can pass to other cruisers going to Panama.



Our anchor chain was beginning to show a need for re-galvanizing so I investigated services in Panama City.  We had the chain galvanized at CLAVOS Y ALAMBRES PANAMENOS.  They had a hot-dip tank and samples of their work that appeared quite good.  We got the chain back in about a week and the galvanizing looked excellent, no burrs and a good price.  But, after leaving Panama and anchoring the chain is now a total rusted mess.  All the galvanization has disappeared and the chain is probably ruined.  And this result after about seven days anchoring.  We strongly caution all cruisers about galvanizing in Panama and especially using CLAVOS Y ALAMBRES PANAMENOS.


Regards, Brent & Susan, S/V AKAUAHELO, Ecuador



14.5 s/y NEENER 3--Summer, 2002



Bocas del Toro YC and Marina, where we are and are leaving the boat, is a new marina, not really a YC, friendly people, Elaine & Cortney, clean showers, 3 each, calm,well protected...we had a good feeling here as soon as we arrived. The water in the marina is so clear, you can check out your keel and prop from the dock! Cost is $7/ft/mo plus .20/KWH electricity. email:  Phone is 507-616-6000, ask for Elaine. The town is a short dinghy ride, very caribbean in a funky way, kinda laid back, you know, Cruzer Style.........has internet, fast, Bank with ATM-Visa, Veggy stands, airport, Gourmet store, small Marine store that can get stuff from PC on the shuttle plan..........good walk around town. You won't believe the clarity of the water!

  I haven't been to the other, Marina Careneros, 20 slips, med tie, no finger slips, but had dinner with TAI-TAM Sat nite, They are there, and moving over hear after their month is up.....1 shower, cold, and the managers fight all the time.......same price, it's across the channel from town, more lights and noise. email:  No phone.... for us, we love it, there are bugs, mangroves, no see-ums, at sundown if it's not raining, RAGTIME was right, we leave in the morning, fly to PC, Delta to ATL, on to LAX, rent and drive up to go Santa Cruz.



14.6 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002):


Panama Canal:    (we transited canal from Caribbean to Pacific Feb 14, 2001)

- Approach from the Pacific – visit Las Perlas Islands, stay at Balboa YC vs near-shore island anchorages/bus trip

- Check-in in Balboa (country check-in, not Canal), Cab from YC

- Customs – Immigration $10 visa for Americans

- Call the Canal Authority: Arrange Visit from Admeasurer

Admeasurers Visit: About 2 hours:

- Measure boat (you hold the end of tape measure, so don’t go over 50’)

- Give your preference for “Center – alongside a tug – or side wall transit” (only a preference, not binding of the Canal Authority) State your boat speed (not too important) (describe how boats are scheduled, ie., up in morning, then down, etc., and yachts are purely at their convenience).
- DeRATification certificate (you are asked how many of your ship’s rats have died in the last six months!).
- If you want to stay at Pedro Miguel YC or in Lake Gatun, arrange now.

- Pay - $500 < 50 feet + $800 refundable “buffer” : Visa or cash only: Pay at bank.


Appointment to transit – call anytime past the afternoon of making payment at the bank – they will probably accommodate any date you want.


Trivia Question: You’re going from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. What direction do you go?  West!


Before the transit:

Make trip on another boat

Line up yachtie linehandlers

Get lines in order: 4 @ 125 ft. (two 200’ anchor rodes will do) There are some available to rent, or you can borrow from your linehandlers boats. (Travel back and forth between Colon and Balboa is quick & easy by bus)

Tires – $3 each or free from boats coming to Pacific - $1 to get rid of in Colon or give/sell to people on Atlantic side.

(more people coming than going)

Food for crew & advisor for two days.

Day of transit:

Get your line handlers on board. (early)

Your transit will be announced on radio the night before and in the morning. 

Advisor arrives on Pilot Boat – they tell you when on the radio.

Probably a waiting area on Pacific side.


Transit: All locks on both the Atlantic and Pacific side go up in the morning, then down in the afternoon. Then up in the evening (no yachts allowed after dark) then down at night. So the trick for a one day passage is to start early, go fast between locks, and hope the right ships are available to get in the lock with, since you can’t go in with a Panamax ship, and they aren’t allowed at night either. 


- First set of Locks is the Miraflores double lock. This is where the WEB CAM is. Check the site on the internet and have your friends watch. There are two sets of locks side-by-side.

-  Freighter goes in first going up from the Pacific. It takes a while to get tugs/mules in place. Freighters use their own prop for forward propulsion, so you’ll wait for him to stop.  Your advisor will tell you how they want you (center tie, rafted, alongside a tug or side wall).

- Monkey’s fists from hand line men.  Put a 3 foot loop in end of your lines ahead of time, then tie an easily untied knot with the hand line (sheet bend best for different diameter lines)

- Up you go – 30 feet.  Stay tied up until freighter leaves (turbulence) and goes into the 2nd lock. Then you go in behind him again and go up another 30 feet.

- Exit the lock into small man-made Lake Miraflores. It’s about a mile across to the Pedro Miguel Lock – a single lock. If you’ve arranged it ahead of time, this is where you’ll stop at the Pedro Miguel YC.

- Follow your freighter into the lock and go up another 30 feet.

- Now you’re up 80 feet and in the Gaillard Cut. You’ll motor along the side of the channel for about 7 miles until you get to Gamboa, where Lake Gatun starts. The Chagres River that feeds Lake Gatun comes in from your right – it’s jungle and there are crocidiles. We stopped and swam, then got warned by Canal Authority officers about the crocs.

- You continue across Lake Gatun another 20 miles or so and if you’re lucky, there will still be enough time to finish your transit in one day, otherwise they’ll have you anchor nearby and finish up the next day. They will pick up the pilot, though, so you’ll only have your crew and line handlers on board.

- Going down, you’ll go into the lock first and the freighter comes in behind you.  Can be exciting!

- Last lock and you’re back in salt water in the Atlantic. Your advisor will direct you to the Mooring area for yachts and his pilot boat will pick him up.  Now you can enjoy beautiful downtown Colon!


Colon and the Panama Canal YC:

Leave quickly! … Colon is not a pretty place!  OK cheap beer and cheap food at YC, we did restaurant or two in town, great deals in duty free shop for adult beverages, we used the MOTTA store (go in with other yachties to share delivery cost … good Chilean wine $2-3/bottle).

Check out using a local taxi guy, if you didn’t check out in Balboa.


15.   Notes on Colon and Portobelo:



15.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002:


Colon: The marina at Panama Canal Yacht Club isn’t bad if you need it.  Most people anchor in the flats (be sure you are within the buoys!) and dinghy in.  Colon is not quite as bad as its reputation, but it isn’t great.  Always use a taxi.  Shopping is much less good than Panama City.  Cruisers occasioanlly organize busses to PC.  Colon is best for getting into a buying group for the Free Zone.  Very cheap liquor.  Double check with the locals boats, but I think you just clear out from Colon to wherever your next major destination is, regardless of plans for the San Blas


Rio Chagres: Although to the west of Colon, this is a lovely getaway.  The entrance takes some attention, but the river is gorgeous.  We liked the first major bend.  We did motor all the way up river almost to the dam and then came back down.  It was not as tough getting back to Colon as we imagined.


Colon to San Blas:  It is a bit of work to get east from Colon to the San Blas, but it is well worth it.  The San Blas are very special islands with a fascinating culture trying hard to hold on to their own ways.  The farther east you can get, the purer your Kuna experience.  If you are squeamish about less than US sanitary conditions, don’t go.  Go open-minded and you will have a delightful time. 


Portobelo: first anchorage headed east.  Gorgeous in its own right.  Be sure to hike the forts.  Easy busses to Colon, too.




15.2 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002):


Anchorages between Colon & San Blas Islands: We came from Cartagena (w/ NE winds) but sizable group of yachts go to Panama down the west coast of central America & thru canal after transiting the canal, head east along Caribbean coast of Panama.


1st stop; Portobelo  Columbus 1502, Drake used port as base in 1570 to rob Spanish merchants, returned 20 yrs later to destroy fortifications, died nearby at sea  (Isla Drake); Spanish continued to use as gold & silver storage port until British invasion in 1739

2nd stop: Isla Linton or  Isla Grande - nice scenery, clean water, long bus ride to Panama City





16.     Notes on the San Blas Islands:



16.1 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II,  2002:


Jose Pobre:  Funky little moored “marina” for boat storage behind a reef, popular w/ Europeans.  Not much anchorage outside.  Memorable octopus in Jose Pobre restaurant.


Isla Linton:  Another nice spot but crowded.  Tuck as far in behind Linton as you can to avoid roll.  Half tame spider monkey on the island’s dock.  Keep a distance, can get nasty.  Great birds on private estate ashore.  Wait here for weather window to go east;  leave early.  Head for Chichime.  Need to get in daylight.  Forget Porvenir.


Isla Grande:  Busy local vacation hotspot.  Rolly anhcorage.  Striking pass out towards San Blas (pay attention to charts, submerged reefs.


San Blas Islands:  The are several important things you need to know about San Blas.  To start, I highly advise you to color in your Zydler charts for the San Blas.  There are reefs all over.  Zydler is your most dependable resource.  Use a different color for islands, for reefs, for recommended anchorages and then highlight the route that looks best for you.  This is a huge help. 


Next, you need to know about Julie Arias and Panama Yacht Services (email; 507-229-7110 or cell phone 613-6337.  Julie can help with anything from shopping for you and air freighting it to a strip in San Blas to meeting guests and getting them from one airport to connecting flights etc.  She is a delightful person and worth every penny!  Fortunately food is so reasonable in Panama City that even with freight and her service fee it is not out of line with the Caribbean. Last, don’t try to avoid paying the silahs.  Paying the silahs gives you rights in the community.


You could spend years in the San Blas (and many people do) and not see all the islets and anchorages.  We’d recommend Chichime Keys, Nuinudup in Eastern Lemon Cays, the Hollandes both West and East (don’t get stuck in the “Swimming Pool”), Coco Banderas, and Green Island and its surrounding islands.  (Great dive at western end of Ogopsibudup).  You can get some provisions in at Rio Diablo.  As you see we missed a lot.  We did not do much on the mainland as it was rainier there.  If you have time to go farther east, we liked Snug Harbor and Los Pinos particularly.



16.2 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002:


While still in the San Blas Islands, Panama we had another type of adventure.  A lot of the islands are still very traditional, however‘white man’ has had some influence on the locals.  For example some one has taught some of the locals about greed.  We went into a very nice anchorage with a small but beautiful river.  We had been told by other cruisers that this was a very nice river trip and hike worth every bit of the $5.00 per person for the guide.  Well, by the time we got to the anchorage the leaders of the island had decided that $5.00 was not enough and that they wanted to charge $15.00 per person.  In fact we had arranged for the trip with the local guide the day before.  He arrived at the appointed time with the bad news.  We happened to be the first boat that they were trying this on.  We were still traveling with Homeward Bound and Camryka.  We thought that the $15.00 was excessive, so Dave, Richard from Homeward Bound and Carl from Camryka were encouraged by the guide to go to the local leaders that afternoon to make our case.  Of course Dave was the only one of the three that spoke Spanish, the other were there for moral support.  The ‘sahila’, which is leader of the island only speaks Kuna, so throught a Spanish interpreter, in Spanish Dave gave it his best shot.  A little background on the way these people live.  They live in ‘stick’ houses on dirt floors with thatch roofs.  They sleep in hammocks and cook on an open flame all in the same room.  So the ‘congreso house’ was just another very large stick house with a thatched roof.  There are many wooden benches in the ‘congreso house’ and in the middle is a hammock that is for the ‘sahila’.  So with the sahila in his hammock and the others gathering on the benches (no women are allowed in these meetings) Dave launched into his story.  The pitch was that $15 was too much money for poor cruisers, there was a lot of competition with the other villages who charged $5 a person/trip, we had already paid $5 each for anchoring off their village and finally since the guide was doing all the work he should get all the money and he only wanted $5 pp.  After a lot of translating to the sahila, and a lot of talk among the others gathered in the house, the ‘sahila’ finally stood up and quiet fell on the house. The ‘sahila’ announced his decision to allow the trips to continue for the original price of $5.00.  YEAH, for the ‘whiteman’.  So hopefully they won’t try to take advantage of the next cruisers.


We went on the river trip the next day, and it was very nice. First an hours sail on a ulu, a local dugout canoe with mast and two sails.  Then about an hour and a half walk in the woods to the top of a small hill with a nice view of the anchorage.  This hill is where the locals plant yucca, pineapple, bananas and plantains.    After a stop for some lunch, we started back down the same trail until we crossed the river and then finished the walk down the riverbed to the boat, stopping at several refreshing swimming holes along the way.  All and all a very nice experience....


Each day is an new adventure out here.  We  seems to get a new challenge

every time we turn around.  Water is a big problem for us as we only carry 135

gallons on the boat.  With salt water showers (only the final rinse in fresh water)

we can go about 13 day with this amount.  We are always looking for more fresh

water.  Now, we so have a watermaker, this takes salt water and makes VERY

GOOD drinking water.  However the watermaker takes a lot of electricity to run,

( this is another whole story just about how we make electric) so we use it only

for drinking water .  So finding fresh water is always on our mind.  In the

Easteren Caribbean it was pretty easy because there were so many small

islands that were populated.   Usually there was a place by the anchorage that

was ‘cruiser friendly’.  Meaning that we could tie our dingy there when we went to

town, take our trash to them, and usually get water.  Well, the western

Caribbean, San Blas is a little different.  I have already described the Kuna

villages, not exactly a thriving metropolis, they get there water from the river.  It

is pumped in by gravity feed buy pipes, so the pressure varys with the amount of

rain there has been.  And of course if there is to much rain, the pipes burst and

the Kuna’s are forced to get into there small dugout canoes and paddle up the

river to get their water in jugs.  Anyway, back to our water problem.  When we

were close enough to the river we got water in our jugs with the dingy.  Now that

we have moved a little further off the mainland, we are to far from the river, so

we look other places...such as catching rain.  It is not unusual to hear all the

cruisers in an anchorage getting up in the middle of the night if there is a hard

rain.  We get up and collect the water after enough time has passed to clean the

decks.  I have a pretty good system that works by itself.  So after about 15-20

minutes of clean the deck I can go back to bed.  Other people like Cameryka,

catches rain off the dodger top and has to do this manually, so they are awake

as long as it is raining.  I put a small dam around of fill tank intake and it fills

automatically.  It rained so hard two days before New Year’s eve that I collected

90 gallons in less then 30 minutes.  There were estimates that it rained 12-18

inches in 36 hours.  We were all collecting water in everything that would hold

more then 1 gallon.  As soon as the rain was over (2 days later) everyone had

out clean laundry, you have to use the water when you get it, the boats only hold

so much.  Well, the reason for this letter is to tell you that we have raised ‘water

collecting’ to a  fine art...We have found a fresh water lens on the island that we

are anchored by.  This is a layer of fresh water that is filtered through the sand

and is caught under the island.  Fresh water is lighter then salt water so it floats

on the top of the saltwater.   All you have to do is dig a whole about four feet

deep and you have fresh water!!   This was even a little strange for me, but  like

I said it is free water.   We measure our days a little differently then most...for

example, I can now blow a note on the conch horn for 6 seconds.   This is a great

improvement over my prior record, and I’m still practicing.  We use the conch

horn to welcome friends into an anchorage, or the say good-bye.  Also, it has

become a ritual to blow it at sunset when you can see the sun go down.  Here

there are a few mountains in the way, but in the eastern Caribbean it was a

nightly occurrence. 


One of the greatest things there were the giant crabs.  Now some of you divers might recognize them as the common reef crab that we see in Florida , Well,

here they are much larger and the locals eat them!  One day we got 4 of them, boiled them

up and ate crab legs until we almost busted.  The meat from the body was very sweet and

made a lot of crab dishes.  Now boiling them was another story...They of course have 10

legs, two with claws.  They are suppose to be alive when they hit the water.  The largest

pot I have aboard is the pressure cooker, just barely large enough.  The good thing is the

crab will ‘drop’ his legs when he gets in to the water.  So trying to get the crab into the

hot water holding it by thongs, and not letting the claws get you was a real treat.


The other thing I would like to tell you about is the Palm Trees.  Palm trees are

used for food as well as making ropes and they even use the husk of the coconut for their

fires for cooking.  Since so many Kunas live on one island, they tend to have their crops

and animals on another island.  It is not unusual to see an island as small as a swimming

pool with 15 or 20 palm trees on it.   As soon as a sand island starts to form they are out

there planting palm trees( see picture). 


One more thing, the children.  There are so many children on one island, they

follow you around.  There is a 40% mortality rate on some of the islands, so they just keep

popping out the kids.  They are really beautiful children, and very friendly(See picture).

These boy are having a great time  in the rain and mud as you can see.

Well, it is time for us to move on from Panama.  I’m sorry if I didn’t get to your

personal letter, We have read them all and will answer them as soon as we can.   I will

send letters  and pictures about Panama when we make land fall again around the end of

May.  Please don’t send any more pictures as they take a lot of space of memory in

Yahoo.  I will let you know when to send them again.



16.3 From John and Anne aboard the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA, Spring 2002:


We did the San Blas Islands by ourselves.  We would have spent more time in San Blas had the generator not crapped out again and we are really dependent upon it although we have other support systems.


One more thing...Zydler's book is very good in Panama but it is more difficult to comprehend so I would suggest you alter your copy by putting in page markers for the chapters and on the chartlets put in the lat & long lines.  Also some magic marker colorings are great too.  It is much easier that way and because it addresses Panama from the Atlantic side first and it can be very confusing to those coming in from the Pacific side.  You will find it quite a change from the straight forth writings of Charlie's Charts. 



16.4 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS, 2002:


San Blas Islands   (we were there for 4-5 weeks Jan/Feb 2001)


-or  “Kuna Yala”  -  independent region governed by Kuna Indians

Kunas # 50,000; ? last full blooded strain of Carib Indians

shortest people in the world except for Pygmies

-San Blas =150 mile chain of 365 islands – 50 permanently inhabited

-Kuna income from coconuts & molas (reverse applique fabric designs)

-jan – april dry season

-entire region south of hurricane tracks

-Porvenir, port of entry on the west end of archipelago

-At the time  $30 entry permit … ? 90 days … may also be local village fees

-very limited provisioning & supplies, but great conch & lobster

-beautiful, Robinson Crusoe-like islands;

-most island names end in “dup” – others just fun to say:

Banadup, Tiadup, Wassaladup, Uchutupupippi, Chichime

-Kunas very friendly, simple – they want sunscreen for albinos, cloro for reefs (be aware that they want cloro which is Clorox to bleach the reefs to get fish, and this destroys the life of the reefs)



“The Panama Guide:   A Cruising Guide to the Isthmus of Panama” 

by Nancy & Tom Zydler


After San Blas, sail north into Caribbean or on to Cartagena (may be rough Dec – March)

Guidebooks say northbound yachts can avoid worst of rough conditions by going eastward on the inshore San Blas route & from there sailing to Providencia or Bay Islands of Honduras should be a more comfortable reach instead of a beat from Colon. I you’re going to Cartagena you also benefit from going east through San Blas!

17.    Notes on Cartagena, Colombia:




17.1 From Dave and Stacey aboard the CSY 44 cutter  SOGGY PAWS, December 2000:


The trip to Cartagena from Bonaire lasted 25 days total and some of the highlights included: a 1 1/2 hour lighting storm from Hell, our first 48 hour crossing without stopping, and catching a 25 pound Blackfin Tuna.   First the started about 9:00pm.  Of course we don’t have storms in the day light!!!!!  The whole sky lit up, with what we from Florida would call ‘heat lighting’.  It was all around us and would light up the sky about every 1 to 2 seconds.  This was truly a beautiful sight until it got nasty.

There was another boat ahead of us so we had about two minutes warning.  Then all Hell broke loose. We did get the sails down this time,  but the rain hit so hard that it  made little bruises on your face when you looked out to see other boats.  We had 35-40 knots of wind, driving rain, and then the cloud to ground lighting started.  The whole storm lasted about 1 1/2 hours.  Now remember that 39 knots of wind is a tropical storm.  By comparison this one was a little milder than the one in the Dominican Republic, but still not my favorite way to spend an evening.  There was an upside to the trip.  We hooked a 6 foot Sailfish, but never got it to the boat.  This is our third Sailfish/Marlin that we have hooked since we have

started this trip (Dec 98).  And the really good news is that we did land a 34”, 25 pound Blackfin Tuna, enough to share with others and have A LOT left over.  Finally we arrived in Cartagena October 25.


The best way I can sum up Cartagena is it’s NOTHING like ‘Romancing the Stone”!!  I saw the movie and figured that all of Colombia was that way.  What a pleasant surprise to find out differently. The city is rich in history, very clean and safe.  We did a two day tour through the old city visiting two forts, a convent, several emerald factories and all three major museums.  We’re told that Cartagena is the major vacation spot for the ‘drug lords’ and their families, which makes it very safe for us gringos.


There are three large squares on beautiful cobblestone streets, that have dining under the stars in the evenings.  The weather here is VERY hot during the day, but cools off in the evening.  This is when the locals come out to enjoy the night air.  I was surprised at the many very tall condos on Boca Grande. This is a large peninsula of land on the beach; it reminds me a lot of Miami Beach.  This is the ‘high rent’ district.  And of course Columbia is famous for their wonderful coffee.  This is served in very small cups and available from street vendors on every corner all day.  I often wonder how they can drink the hot STRONG coffee all day.   Another claim to fame for Columbia is their supply of emeralds.  You cannot go ten feet without seeing an emerald shop.   They are not as inexpensive as one would expect.  Since there is such a grand history, they also sell pre-Columbian replica earrngs.  So I opted for 3-4 pairs of the pre-columbian earings instead of one pair of emeralds.   I did get a pair of earrings with two very small green stones in them that I was told were emeralds; however, they were only $3 so the chances are pretty slim. 


One side trip I made was to Totumo Volcano.  This is a mud volcano about 50 kilometers out

side of Cartagena.  Well, needless to say the guys were not interested in going, so 4 women got together for a ‘ladies day out’.  Well this was not you ordinary day out.  We hired a taxi to take us for the 1 hour ride to the volcano.  Here we changed into bathing suits and were escorted to the ‘MUD”.  Now try to imagine your average size jacuzzi filled with mud.  Of course this is ‘therapeutic’ mud, but mud all the same.  It had the consistency and color of chocolate pudding.  And of course you just ‘jump’ in.   It is 500 meters deep but you just didn’t sink!!  All four of us were laughing so hard we were almost crying. Anyway, after the laughter died down a little,  3 local men came to give us a massage.  You could

literally lay on top of the mud without sinking!   After about 45 minutes of massage and playing in the mud, it was time to go to the river and wash off.  There were two local woman there to help.  Well they just kept pouring water over us until most of the mud was gone.  Again the laughter could be heard for miles, because the  local woman (who spoke no English) would tug at your bathing suit until you took it off!  What a HOOT!!  So ladies, what did you do on your last day out? 


Well, even being ‘out here in bugga bugga land’ we have managed to get on the WWW!  You

can see Soggy Paws and some of  the improvements that we have made to her at, then to CSY sailboats, CSY Projects, and finally SoggyPaws projects.



17.2 From John and Anne on the Morgan OI 41’ CHULA MULA, Fall 2002:


Actually the city of Cartagena has been declared a neutral zone and although I would not travel anywhere else inland in this country, we find the city as safe as any large city can be.  The U.S. Coast Guard has a ship here and if there is any high level goings on happening, this is the place for such meetings.  We have met some of the state department people and although the government will not come out and say that this is a safe place for fear of retribution, they find it acceptable.  There are a few cruise liners who pull in here from time to time, not Americans but others.  But everyone has their own comfort level.  We have quite a large cruising community from both the Atlantic and Pacific as well as, from other parts of the world.  I am very glad we have had so much time to actually explore the old city with all of its history, fine shops, and great inexpensive restaurants.



17.3 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS, 2002:


Cartagena – we loved it!

·        Two entrances:  Boca Grande & Boca Chica

·        we did Boca Grande ànarrow & shallow over wall from old fortification

·        continue past statue of Virgin (middle of shallow bay)

·        Club Nautico right side across from Navy base; anchor & dinghy in

·        check-in w/ agent; we used Manfreid, paid  $60

·        club = $1.50/day for dinghy dock, water, restaurant, bar, laundry

·        Club walking distance: bank, internet, big grocery store “Magali Paris”

·        taxis are cheap & old city is beautiful!!

·        Parks, Cathedrals, old mansions, Navy Museum, art galleries, Fort

·        and great restaurants!!  Favorite = San Pedro across from church

·        also, $2-3 lunches!

·        safe  and  worth the trip!!



18.    North from Panama/Cartagena) to Roatan area:




18.1 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002:


PANAMA TO ROATAN     May 1 - 29,  2001


Time for another installment about life on Soggy Paws.  After five months in Panama we left Portabello, Panama, May 1, with a friend of Dave’s, David Whall.  From here on out he will be called Whall, to keep the confusion down.  Imagine the response that I got when I called ‘Dave’.  Whall had agreed to this trip after some pressure from me to help ward off pirates and from Dave to help locate shipwrecks that were indicated on some of our charts.  Also, this was the first real trip for Radar, ship’s official cat and our new crew member.   We left Portabello headed north at 6:30 am and arrived at the Cayos Albuquerque Islands at 6:30 pm the next day.    Whall being a seasoned sailor did fine and Dave & I were OK too even though we had been in port for some time.  However, Radar did not do so well.   I think he was ready to jump ship.   When I gave him a little Dramamine (about 2 crumbs from a mashed pill) he was fine, and he slept the rest of the way.


The Albuquerque Islands were two small islands in the middle of a fringing coral reef.  On the northern island was a Colombian Marine outpost with 9 soldiers and on the southern island was a local fishing camp.   We spent an enjoyable 3 days there relaxing (me) while Dave and Whall hunted for shipwrecks.  None were found despite three full days effort dragging each other behind the dinghy all over the reef.


From there we went to San Andres, another Colombian island.  This was the only heavily populated island that we stopped at. We took on fuel and water, and of course that last fresh veggie run.  Because the weather was going to turn bad, we had to leave the next day, or be stuck there for longer then we wanted.


So  the next morning we were off to Low Cay just north of Providencia.  This was my personal favorite.  The water was a calm cobalt blue and you could see for miles. The boys found a real shipwreck on a glassy calm day outside the reef, but alas no gold coins.  They had been looking for the Jack Law a shipwreck from the 1800’s shown ‘just there’ on the chart, but found a huge modern freighter totally demolished with a couple of tractors still on deck instead.  Over all the hunting and fishing were pretty good.  We caught a 12# tuna , a very large lobster, and a couple of conch.  So with the food that I got in Panama, and the fresh things we ate pretty  well.   As we got a little further to the north the anchorages were not as calm.


After a few days we left for Quinto Sueño Bank a full day to the north.  There was no land, just miles of coral reefs out in the middle of the ocean with narrow passages between them.  It is an area 25 by 8 miles virtually unexplored except by local fishermen.  There were four large shipwrecks aground on the outer eastern reef but again no gold.  We did find our fill of conch; they were everywhere even crawling around under the boat!  It was a beautiful area but we finally had to move on after spending about a week working our way through the maze.


Our next destination was Serranilla Bank, a 24 hour sail to the northeast.   The main island, Beacon Island, was inhabited again with nine Colombian marines who made us feel very safe in this part of the Caribbean pirate world.  The marines treated us very well even greeting us with a fresh cocoanut drink when we landed on their island.


It, like the Albuquerques, was very neat and well kept.  Even the sand was freshly raked all over the island.  But the small island did not provide enough protection from the weather.  So after a few days we prepared to get underway for Swan Island.  A half hour before we were to leave we were called on the VHF radio by the Colombian Coast Guard vessel, which had just arrived.  They wanted to come and inspect the gringo boat.  While Whall, Radar and I were on the bow of the boat with an armed guard, Dave showed the inspectors around the inside of the boat.   They were impressed to learn that we had two US Naval officers aboard that outranked their captain!  The inspection took about an hour and was very professionally done. 


Finally we were off for a 48-hour trip to the northwest.  The night was uneventful except for one squall that we just missed.  With three people for watches we were all, including Radar, doing pretty well the next morning.  As the sun was coming up on a new day we saw a US Coast Guard Cutter on the horizon.  Well, Dave decided to call them on the VHF radio and say hi, hoping to talk his way out of having to stop for an inspection.  When they asked where we had come from Dave had to tell them Colombia, even though it was only their offshore islands.  Well, this perked up their ears and they decided to send a boarding party over, but the good news was we did not have to stop.  They came alongside and then aboard using a large RIB inflatable boat while we sailed on with the autopilot.  This makes two Coast Guard boardings in 24 hours!!  The inspection including drug swipes and answering a long list of questions took the better part of two hours.  They were all well mannered,  very nice and took great interest in what we were doing way out here.  At least this time Whall, Radar and I got to sit in the cockpit. We arrived at Swan Island the next morning and finally found a protected anchorage on the northwest coast.   Dave and Whall swam in with our ship’s papers to meet the five Honduran Navy caretakers of the island.  They got a full tour and historical briefing (in Spanish) of the old Contra training facilities that had all but been demolished by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.  There were very few trees or buildings left but they did  have lots of fresh water, 150 cows and a 6000 foot airfield on the ilsland.   We left Swan Island after two days because we were running out of time.


From Swan Island we went on to Guanaja in the Honduran Bay Islands.  This was

our first stop in the Bay Islands.  The main island of Guanaja is a fairly large island (8 miles long x 2 miles wide), and is only sparsely populated on the southern side along the very edge of the water front.  The bulk of the people live on a tiny island (300 yards across) one quarter mile offshore because the sand fleas on the main island are so bad.  Now being from Florida I am use to these little bugs, but here in the Bay Islands they RULE!  This little island was packed with people.  Most houses were built within 2 feet to each other and more houses were built out over the water on stilts.  I bet I know where all the sewage goes.  It too had been demolished by Hurricane Mitch but was soon rebuilt.  The anchorage was very nice and calm after the past few rolly ones. 


From Guanaja on 29 May we went on to Roatan proper to drop Whall off to catch a plane home.  We stayed at the old CSY facility at Brick Bay on the southern coast.  I will start the next letter with our adventures in Roatan.  Until then,  take care...Stacy (author) , Dave (editor) & Radar (lucky participant)

19.     Notes on Roatan and Guanaja:



Information to be added at a later date.


20.    Notes on Rio Dulce, Livingston and rest of Guatemala:




20.1  Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002:


Guatemala Sept 2001 - March 2002


Just can’t believe we have been here so long!!  We have definitely had our adventures.  When we arrived a friend, Mike from Guam, came to see us to do 10 days of inland touring.  We started in Antiqua, a beautiful old city high in the Guatemalan mountains with nearby volcanoes, well kept churches, colorful buildings, and great shopping.   We stayed in a GREAT hotel here with big beautiful rooms and a fireplace.  Radar loved the room and so did I.  There was a marvelous courtyard-- I took 15 pictures before we ever left the hotel.  This was a special treat, as usually we stay in the lesser hotels.   From here we went by shuttle van to Panajachel and lake Atitlan.  This place was like being at a Swiss lake in the Alps but also with three large volcanoes. Panajachel was a great small town with lots of shopping stalls in the street and of course the great view of the lake and volcanoes.  We found a neat little outdoor restaurant very near the hotel appropriately named the Sunset Grill.  We went there every night, watched a spectacular sunset over the lake and enjoyed a cold beer (or two).   We also took a boat trip on the lake to Santiago, a small typical Guatemalan mountain town (this is the photo of the 3 men).    Also from Panajachel we toured the famous Chichicastenango Market.  We went on a Sunday, the best day to go.   There were lots of locally produced goods from all over the highlands of Guatemala including beautiful hand carved masks, wonderful hand embroidery material, and hand made leather belts and such.   They were seriously lacking in earrings though.  But I found three great pair of earnings in Antigua, one of which was green jade from a real jade factory showroom.  It was in Panajachel that  we saw the September 11 terrorist attack.  Our hearts went out to you all. We have been in places to follow the CNN news, and we keep up as we can.    We then headed to the Copan ruins in Honduras through Antigua and Guatemala City.  Copan is an extraordinary example of the Mayan culture.  The stones have been preserved very carefully, and the grounds are immaculate.  It was a VERY long 6 hour bus ride to get back to the Rio Dulce.   Radar (our cat) went on this trip, but I will let him tell you his side of the story later. 


After we all settled back onto the boat, Mike had a nice rest before heading home. Dave and Mike took the dingy up two of the small rivers near the marina and saw lots of birds and monkeys.   After eating out in restraints for the past 10 days, I took a lot of joy in my  cooking again.


In the early part of December we had more guests, Chris & Serena from Michigan. During their visit we took the boat out of the river to some nearby small Belizian islands,  the Sapodillas.    It is always nice to have guests to show around.  We enjoyed some crystal blue water, snorkling and some beautiful sunsets.   The islands had pristine white beaches and great shelling.  The boys caught a huge reef crab that made a wonderful dinner.  Upon our return we spent some time in the river exploring small creeks, Indian settlements and local restaurants. For their departure we took them back out the river to the nearby major seaport of Barrios to start their journey back home. 


We of course spent the holidays in the marina.  Mike liked Guatemala so much he came back for a relaxing Christmas visit.  He got to stay in his own bungalow on the marina grounds with the parrots to wake him every morning!  One day we took Soggy Paws up river to nearby beautiful Lake Isabel with our friends from CAMRYKA.  It was a really nice day and we were able to sail for several hours under spinnaker alone.  What a treat for Dave.  For Christmas all the cruisers had a pot luck with a turkey and all the trimmings.   Christmas eve we had a cocktail party with gifts for all and of course a Super Bowl party at the end of January. 


We are still in the Rio Dulce and plan on leaving the end of March.  We have been to Guatemala city several times for shopping and doctors’ visits.  Unfortunately, while we have been here I (Stacy) developed a herniated disc in my lower back that needed  surgery.  We were both very pleased with the doctors and the medical care here.  The  two hospitals were very old, but the staff was well trained and the rooms were spotless.  The food was another story, as in all of Guatemala.  It was very ‘local’ and not to my gringo tastes.  


Since we were going to be here so long for me to heal after surgery, Dave decided to start a major project, redesigning the refrigeration system and building a new top loading freezer box.  This has been on his list for a while, and the price of material and labor to build the new exterior box was very reasonable ($20 per day for two carpenters!).   So now we are within about two weeks of being done with the refrigeration/freezer project.  My back surgery has been a great success, I continue to get better and stronger every day. 


Again, sorry this was so long in coming.  I will try to do better.  We are heading back to Roatan and then on to Belize, before returning to Guatemala in August.  We also have a change in long term plans-- we will be heading back to Florida now in December.  Stacy & Dave


21.    Notes on The Bay of Islands, Honduras:




21.1 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002:


BELIZE  June 2002 - July 2002


We left Roatan in early June with a friend of ours from Roatan. This was a real treat for me (Stacy).  It meant that I did not have to do the ‘blue jobs’ on the boat, hauling up the anchor, pulling up the dinghy, raising the sails, etc.  So this made me a happy camper for a while.  I took us about 4 days to get to Belize and get checked in.  Then we were off to Glovers and Lighthouse atolls.  First it was Glovers Atoll for four days.  It was wonderful.  The water was very clear and there were many fish, especially along the wall which started at about 40 feet.  Both of the atolls are Belizean National Parks so every thing is protected and in good condition.  Off Half Moon Cay at Lighthouse there were wonderful cuts in the vertical wall with  lots of caves and visibility over 150 feet!  On one dive we saw a turtle, a spotted eagle ray several very large grouper and snapper and many conch.  It is nice to see so many large fish in one area.  While at Lighthouse we also dived at the famous Blue Hole about 10 miles to the north.  It was not so spectacular but rather just a large deep hole in the reef with poor visibility over the first 70 feet of depth.  This made the dive rather eerie and dark.  There are small patches of reef all alone the way to and from the Blue Hole that kept us on our toes navigating.  These were places that we could have looked for lobster and conch, however, the fisherman had pretty well fished this area out.  However, we were able to find 4 lobster and 8 conch over the 2 weeks that Brian was with us.  After dropping Brian off at Placencia, in southern Belize, so he could go back to Roatan, Dave and I started heading north to Belize City for some major food provisioning, and to pick up our next guest, Mike.  As always when Mike comes to visit we do a little inland traveling.  On our inland trip we went west into the mountains to San Ignacio.  We saw four Mayan ruins, including Caracol, one of the four best sights in Central America.  That was an all day trip into the jungle by four wheel drive vehicle.  We also did the famous Belize Zoo.  The Zoo is in a natural setting and was really great.  You could get really close to the animals.  Dave and I also did a canoe trip into a wonderful cave with only a high powered light to light our way.  This was a highlight for Dave.  San Ignacio is a small ‘backpackers’ town.  Many young people travel here ready for adventure.  From there we headed for the boat in Belize City to explore the reefs.  We took Mike to several islands including Rendezvous Cay and English Cay, where Mike met another 79 year old who had made a 60 year career out of lighthouse keeping.


We also got in some exploring, snorkeling and sunset watching.  I think Mike was just pleased that there was a ‘Happy Hour’ each night.  We feasted on conch and fresh fish from the reef.  After returning to Belize City to drop off Mike we picked up yet another set of guests, KC and Roger Smith, long time friends of Dave’s.  After a day of provisioning we set off yet again to the atolls.  This time we went to Lighthouse and Turneffe atolls.  The diving was again spectacular at Half Moon Cay where we stayed for several days.  Here we visited the modern shipwreck on the reef and the Booby bird rookery ashore.  Next we set off in search of a historical shipwreck off south west Turneffe Atoll.  The search was compounded by several sets of inaccurate directions, including a declaration by the local lodge owners that there were no shipwrecks in the area.  We finally found a very special shipwreck site with large anchors, chain, hull fittings, a water box and many other sailing ship parts.  Roger, our onboard underwater archaeologist, put it as having come from the last half of the 19th century.  While at Turneffe we did get a little shore leave.  KC and Roger treated all the crew of Soggy Paws to a BBQ dinner at Turneffe Cay Lodge.  What an excellent night of shore leave that was!!!  The rum flowed, the food was great, and we all had a wild night of dancing!!  We were all a little slow to get out of our bunks the following morning, but the diving fever persisted so off we went for another day of diving.  After about ten days at sea we finally returned to Belize City.  One day Stacy took us on a tour of the old downtown cemetery at St James Church where we saw graves dating back to 1800.  The following day we went tubing through a maze of caves and tunnels at a resort out in the jungle.


After KC and Roger left, Dave and I did a little food shopping and off we went to

MEXICO via Ambergris Cay and Chinchorro bank.  At Chinchorro Bank we found the best historical shipwreck yet, aptly named Cuarenta Canones (Forty Canons).  Sure enough we counted twenty nine and there were more buried under the coral and huge pile of ballast stones.  Here there was also a very old 15 foot long anchor made for rope not modern chain. 


22.    Notes on Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico:




Information to be added at a later date.


23.    Notes on Isla Mujeres, Mexico:




23.1 Dave and Stacey on the CSY 44 Cutter  SOGGY PAWS,  2002:


We did not spend much time in Mexico, heading pretty much straight to Isla Mujeres.  Isla Mujeres is a VERY touristy town much like Key West.   Soon after we arrived Dave flew to California for the commissioning of the USS McCampbell, a guided missile destroyer (ship) named after Dave’s  dad.  His father was a famous WW II  fighter pilot, shooting down 34 Japanese  airplanes.   This was a great honor for Dave and his son Chris who both attended with about thirty other family members       I know in our last update we said that Alaska was our next adventure, well this has  changed.   After much discussion regarding the cost and time involved in ‘winterizing’ the boat, we decided to go back to plan A and do the Pacific first.  So, we are on our way back to Marathon, Florida as you read this.  We will be in the Keys for about 6-8 months working on the boat and reprovisioning.  Then in about April  2003 we plan to start heading down the western Caribbean to the Panama Canal, going through to the Pacific  side in about December.  Of course this is a VERY loose plan, time will tell. 


When we get back to Marathon we will have completed our circumnavigation of the

Caribbean almost 5000 miles.  It took only 3 years 8 months, which is 1 year 8 months longer than we planned.  One thing you learn out here is that there is SO much to see and so little time.


This will be our last update letter for a while.  I am sure no one wants to hear about

the work we are doing on the boat.  However, while we are in the states Chris, Dave’s son, is going to set up a McCampbell web site. 


Stacy, Dave & Radar, Isla Mujeres, Mexico


24.    Isla Mujeres to the Dry Tortugas and Key West, FL




Information to be added at a later date.

25.     Notes on Ecuador:




25.1 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002):

Ecuador Coast

·        Manta

·        Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, La Libertad  near Salinas .... great!!     Manager is Galo Ortiz


Ecuador Inland  ... we toured the Sierra Regions

·        La Libertad to Guayaquil  (2 ½ hour bus ride)

·        Cuenca & Southern Highlands (Loja)

       Ruins at Ingapirca, silver ‘filigree’ jewelry in Chordoleg & Panama Hats made in Cuenca!

·        Riobamba – central Ecuador  “all roads lead to Riobamba”

     Chimborazo (extinct volcano, highest mtn), Baños, Guamote, Quichua Villages

·        Latacunga, Lasso (rose capital)  &  Cotopaxi (volcano)

·        Quito – big city but easy to get around – go to Anthropology Museum

·        Mitad de Mundo (Middle of the World) walk on equator!

·        Otavalo (huge market- crafts, leather & woven goods) & Ibarra

·        Hotels  $7 to $25 (although there are upscale hotels too!)

·        Distance buses comfortable & economical

·        Recommend bus to Guayaquil & thru towns, then fly back from Quito

·        Short trip inland = Cuenca;  Longer = Cuenca à Quito or Otavalo


Recommend Lonely Planet “Ecuador & the Galapagos” book



25.2 From Gwen and Don aboard the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II, 2002:


Ecuador Coastal:


May 4, 2001, Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, La Libertad, Ecuador

Latitude 8*56.09N; Longitude  79*33.28W


Just to let you know we have arrived back in civilization. We spent a total of three nights at Isla de la Plata, which we grew quite fond of despite the chilly air and water(Did we mention the water temp was 67 degrees?)  Then, on Monday, the 30th we wrenched ourselves away, despite the promise of the first sunny day and cruised 21 miles over to the mainland to check out an anchorage in the Parque Machalilla called Los Frailles. We actually sailed a bit of the way in the cool, clear sunny morning, before the wind died away, but it was joyous to get some sunshine.


Los Frailles proved to be a big open bay with a long sandy beach with dramatic rocky cliffs at each end.  Parque Machalilla protects the very last bit of original tropical dry forest along the Ecuadorian coastline and it appears to be a popular vacation beach.  Popular did not make it crowded.  At most we counted a couple of dozen people, all well spread out.  With the wind out of the SW, TII sat with her stern to the beach and her bow bobbing nicely in the slight swell. Rationalized by lee shore and our inherent laziness, plus the fact that water was unpleasantly discolored by red tide, the decision was made just to hang out on the boat, do laundry and enjoy the sunshine.  We actually peeled off all those long layers and did a little sunbathing!  We got fried!  Several people swam out to talk to us, however.  The first was a group of three young Europeans -- Spain, Great Britain, and Finland -- on holiday from their cultural exchange jobs in Quito; and then a businessman from Quito.  The next day we did actually swim to the beach ourselves, and it did feel good to stretch our legs.  Interestingly, no one spoke to us on the beach! 


The next morning we weighed anchor in the wee dark hours and motored nine hours, dodging several fishing boats and nets along the way, to arrive midday into Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, one of the most modern and new facilities we have seen since we have left St. Thomas.  There are two condo towers, a hotel for members' guests, a fancy restaurant, big pool, gym, and jacuzzi. The marina has its own yard (where Baker & Cindy are hauled out) which is small but clean as a pin with solid tile/stone  paving and a 50 ton Travelift.  Besides slips on the floating docks, they have Med-Moor "slips" as well as regular moorings.  The Yacht Club here charges $16,500.00 just for annual membership and then monthly fees are on top of that.  When you think about the economy here, you realize that is a bloody fortune!  The club is five years old, and we're told they have 400 members.  However, in mid-week, off season, we yachties are the only souls in sight.


Upon arrival we picked up a mooring that was pointed out to us by one of the marina workers in a dingy that lead us in around the breakwater. Friends Cindy and Baker on Lite N Up were "on the hard" finishing their bottom job and waved and greeted us by radio.  The Club Manager appeared and announced that he had ordered lunch for the four Americans to be delivered in a few minutes to the yard.  Some spread--shrimp,fish, calamari, french fries, fried plantatins AND cold beer and a bottle of white wine.  All served off the back of a golf cart with plates and glasses (no paper or plastic here), cloth napkins and a bucket of ice to keep the beer and wine at the temp that you know ALL boaters require of their beverages!!!!  Baker and Cindy had talked about their other "American" friends so much that he wanted to welcome us personally.  Clearly, they are working very hard to attract more transient boaters.  The hospitality sure worked on us, but I will have to say right now, we did not ask for a membership application. 


Later, Baker and I had to make the "usual" trip to the hardware store for more paint and parts for LITE n Up, while Gwen went with Cindy to another American's apt to do laundry and emails.  Baker introduced me to a local bar on the corner (and if any of you speak to Cindy, you should refrain from mentioning this as she thinks I'm a bad influence on Baker!) of the main street in town.  I know, however, that it was not the first time Baker had been there (they have been in the marina for 4 days) because the toothless, 4' 10" bartender waved and smiled while grabbing a "grande" cerveza with two small glasses and greeted us with "Senoir Baker, como esta?"  I may be slow, but this old boy KNEW Baker and now he knows ME!  Anyway, we returned to the marina (not too long after that-honest) and found the girls still gone so we did the only thing we could do, have a beer and wait for them to return.  They did not return.  Instead we got a messsage to meet them at one of the local steak houses for dinner.  Great meal, little more costly than we are used to (at least for the last few months), but it is the first time I have not been able to finish my steak--can we say "MUY GRANDE".  Returned to the boat and slept like the dead......


This morning upon making the coffee and trying to decide in which way we were going to relax for the day, I poked my head outside to the cockpit and realized we were not in the marina.  We were not even close to the marina!  There was no wind to speak of and no seas to speak of, so we did not realize the mooring had come apart at the base and TII (and the mooring) had drifted out on the tide and whatever little breeze there had been.  Now you have to understand that there is only one way into the marina.  It is surrounded by land and most of that land has big rocks.  On the way out of the marina we had to pass TWO channel markers and another pretty good-sized power boat on a mooring right in the middle of the channel. We are not sure how far out in the open we got as the tide was actually coming back in when we discovered where we were.  At this point we were actually at least a half mile outside the breakwater.  Can we say "holy shit!"  Not long after we realized where we were, the club's Security force (all 5 of them) appeared in one of the club dinghies.  They didn't notice us "leaving" either; they just noticed us gone!  I finished making the coffee while they untied the mooring ball from the bow of the boat, and we motored back in to the fuel dock.  Hey, we were going to get fuel anyway.


About an hour or so later the club manager shows up, shakes his head and looks to the heavens before walking down the ramp to the 2 Captains sitting in the cockpit.  (Cindy had intercepted him at his truck, so if the crew had not explained it to him, she sure as hell did).  Well guess what?  We all got invited to our second "welcome" meal, this time breakfast, and this time in the fancy restaurant, even as the marina crew donned scuba gear and tried to figure out what went awry.  We heard later they couldn't even find our mooring in the mud, but we did notice that they checked out all the other moorings. We must say that this is the kind of response to a situation you like to see.


We have since fueled the boat, and moved into a "Med moor" slip--2 lines to the shore from the bow and 2 separate mooring lines to the stern, (note: that makes FOUR attachment points!), plus water and power from shore.  They could not do enough for us or fast enough for us.  We are thinking it might be a good time to ask for a "discount" on one of those memberships!!!!!  HA!


All in all, pretty damn scary, when you stop to think about it.  BUT "no blood, no foul."  There is a reason we alway prefer to use our own ground tackle, but it is not an option here.  We may get a discount on our total stay; we really haven't asked yet.  At the very least we should be able to use the fancy pool without the $6.00/pp/day guest fees. It is a great place, and we will not worry about leaving the boat for a few days (one of the Captains IS going to check the underwater connections before we leave it). Lite N UP goes back in the water this afternoon and the girls have researched our inland adventure.  Until then, Gwen and Don, The 2 “Married Captains” (Gwen and Don were married in December of 2002)


April 29, 2001, Coastal Ecuador


Leaving Bahia

The momentum of our downhill return to Bahia from Quito carried over the next day to a determination to pick up our anchor and get a move on.  Cindy and Baker on Lite'n Up had moved on during our absence to the southern port city of Salinas for a much needed haulout, and HF radio contact with them urged us to follow.  It took a couple of days, however, to get the boat ready to go again.  We had our frozen food to get back aboard, our zarpe (clearance paper) to get, another couple of rounds of diesel by jerry jug to fill us back up, 150' of anchor rode to pre-scrub of river grunge, and some fresh vegies to purchase, clean and store.   We had also decided to be more prudent on our departure than we were in our arrival and to use the local pilot.  But with amazing efficiency we got all this arranged, and our departure was set for high tide - 0600 - Friday morning.  The prudent thing would have been to get to bed early for a good night sleep, especially since we were still struggling with colds and other various travelers' maladies.  However, we had been invited to a 31st birthday party our helper Marcelo was throwing for himself Thursday night, and it was one of those invitations to which you can't say no. 


Until this party, I would have described Marcelo as kind of an overgrown kid.  His day job is a tricycle driver.  The tricycles are a sort of rickshaw taxi with a front half of two wheels supporting a bench and sometimes a canopy, powered by a bicycle back-half.  There are at least a hundred of these around town, many of which are worked by kids (who probably ought to be in school!), and the cost of an average ride is 25 cents. These make a lot of sense in the relatively flat town of Bahia, but we saw tricycles elsewhere in Ecuador, including, incredibly, parts of Quito, albeit less often. As you can imagine, they are real convenient for schlepping stuff such as groceries, bottled water and jerry jugs of diesel as well as bodies. Our association with Marcelo was a hand-me-down from Baker & Cindy, who had used him for odd jobs on the boat during their year in Bahia, and in addition to tricycle work, we had hired Marcelo (at $2 per night!) to sleep aboard Tackless II while we were gone to Quito.


Apparently, when Baker and Cindy left Bahia, they gave Marcelo a gift of $100.  This is a HUGE amount of money in Bahia, where loose change still matters and just trying to break a $20 bill is a big deal.  It was a particularly big deal coming from Baker and Cindy who have made a real campaign to keep visiting Americans from overspending.  Anyway, I think we saw the results of their largesse.


Marcelo came to collect us at 8pm, already a late hour for the 2Cs.  Well, upon arrival at Marcelo's house, one of a string of shacks side by side on a dirt lot kind of off the road in a field, it was clear that not only was this was going to be a big event, but that we were way early.  A circle of twenty or so chairs framed the perimeter of the dirt yard, lights had been strung overhead, and a big sound system with two guys in attendance was cranking out music to the empty chairs.  Marcelo introduced us to his mother, a woman who never came out of the house once through the course of the evening, and his sister, a very attractive girl in her twenties.


As our eyes grew accustomed to the shadows outside the lights, it became clear that there were already clumps of neighbors and relatives sitting outside the party perimeter.  There were more introductions, but frankly the volume of the music made the lack of a common language a fairly moot point.  We nodded and smiled a lot, and retreated to our chairs of honor where we waited for things to get going. 


If there is any single impression that most stands out about that night, it is the transformation we saw in Marcelo from trike kid to host.  After settling us into our chairs, he disappeared to change clothes.  We had never seen him in anything but a red T-shirt and shorts.  When he emerged in khakis and a long-sleeved cotton shirt, he looked like a different man.  As people began to arrive, he suddenly appeared with trays full of plastic glasses of "punch" which he personally passed among his guests.  Although every round was completely different from the one before, we are quite sure there was nothing alcoholic in any of them.  And despite the thumping music, no one had started dancing.  It was probably about 9:30 now, and it was looking to be a very long evening.


Then two things happened.  Marcelo appeared at Don's elbow with two glasses of ice and a bottle of Cacique rum, "a gift," he said, "from a rich friend" (Cacique is about $3 a bottle.)  The second thing was that Marcelo asked me to dance.  The party at last was launched!  Once the dancing started it got going with a vengeance.  And people didn't just dance with their dates. Indeed, it seemed like people rarely danced with their partners.  Certainly Marcelo didn't spend much time with his "novia," a shy, pretty girl wearing a bug extermination T-shirt!  This meant, however, that the two gringos were not left to sit.  As is usual in the tropics the tunes go on and on, and the Latin flavor meant most of it was at high speed.  One slim young lady who happened to be quite tall for the local population took quite a shine to Don, hauling him out for dance after dance.  Don believes it was due to his Cacique-inspired dancing abilities, but personally, I think it was probably the first time she'd had a dance partner taller than her!  When they finally played a slow number, the 2Cs got a round of applause for our romantic solo turn on the floor. 


We tried to make a graceful getaway several times in the course of the lengthening evening, but it was absolutely not permitted.  We had to stay until "the torte." It is clear we were quite the guests of honor, gringo stand-ins (we think) for Baker & Cindy.  At about 11:15, Marcelo began serving plates of rice pilaf.  This was both good news and bad news:  good news because it was very good and we'd consumed nothing but rum on the rocks since lunchtime; bad news because it wasn't the "torte."  Don was quite intrigued that, over the course of the evening, absolutely no one else assisted Marcelo in the hosting of his party, not counting of course, whatever his mother was doing inside.  A far cry from back home where the B-day celebrant is the guest of honor and rarely lifts a finger!


At 12:15 as the party welled to upwards of fifty people, Marcelo's conscience (he did know we had an early departure) must have finally caught up with him, and actually, I think, as he was keeping us company in the Cacique, that something else was catching up with him as well!  He cast us free with heartfelt emotions by delivering an advance piece of "torte" to take away with us and providing his brother to escort us back to the dinghy.


We were hot, dusty, soggy with dance sweat (we'd worn jeans and long-sleeve shirts against the bugs), and more than a little buzzed.  Meanwhile, the tide had gone way out and the dinghy was high and dry with about ten feet of ooze between it and the water!  Delightful.  We still had not only to get back to the boat, but to get the dinghy broken down and hoisted aboard for transit.  It was about 1:30 am when we sat down to our "torte" (a kind of coconut cake) and a very tall glass of cold water.  We could still hear Marcelo's dance music thumping across the water!



To Isla de La Plata (Latitude: 01-16.00S; Longitude: 081-03.90W)


Tito, the pilot, arrived promptly at 6:05am, a little anxious that our anchor was not already up as he had instructed, but appeased when it came up quickly.  Tito's real job, you see, is driving the ferry, and he had to be back for the 6:45 run!  He guided us out around the point into conditions much calmer than the big swell we'd arrived in.  This may make it sound like his presence was unnecessary, but actually, without the swell it was impossible to tell where the sand bars were, so we were glad to have him.


On the other hand, had we not had the pilot, we would probably not have left.  As you might guess, we were not feeling our best.  In fact, this captain was really feeling punk.  My highland cold was well entrenched in both my lungs and my two dozen sinus cavities, and the night's sweaty dancing  had pulled out the final stops of my tourista.  The seas were flat and the wind non-existent, so, once we got clear of the shoals, we put the throttle ahead and put the autopilot on (which perversely had decided to work!) Our destination was Isla de La Plata, a small offshore island that is part of the Parque Nacional Machalilla.  It is described as "a poor man's Galapagos," but it lured us mostly as a remote anchorage away from civilization, of which by now we'd had enough.  There are no cruising guides for this part of the world, and indeed not very many places anywhere along the coast are suitable for stopping.  All the info we had about Isla de La Plata was a waypoint and word that "the only anchorage is right in front of the only house."  Lite'n Up had had to pass it by as engine trouble got them there after dark.


I expected to feel better at sea, but I did not. I was just about to throw in the towel and retreat to my bunk (now about a couple hours out) when we were approached by an open boat with the familiar paint job of the Ecuadorian Armada!  For a moment I thought we had forgotten something back in Bahia, but it quickly became clear this boat was from a different port.  There was an officer in white and a seaman in blue, but the fellow at the tiller looked like any old fisherman, and indeed, the bilge was ankle deep in fish!  I guess patrolling duties were light!


The Navy guys boarded to check our papers which were all in order, we made the required chitchat, which my Spanish was up to, and we gave them three cold sodas to take away.  They offered us some fish, which was kind but most unappetizing the way we were feeling!  Don sent me below where I stayed most of the day, actually running a fever.  When I emerged to make him lunch, the wind had come up and he had gotten the staysail up alone.  We decided to raise the main before I went below again.  The wind, of course, was on the nose, forcing us to decide between motoring dead on and tacking off. We had a big headland to round, and the current was not in our favor.  We mixed the options back and forth, but no matter what we did, as the afternoon progressed, it became increasingly clear that we too were not going to make it before sunset.


Fortunately, I found a fairly detailed chart of Isla de la Plata on our digital CD, and it showed an approach free of obstacles.  That was the good news, because we could approach on radar without fear of submerged rocks, and it would be a perfect opportunity to use our hot-shot night scope which would show the anchorage as if in daylight.   The bad news was that the anchoring shelf was quite narrow.  As the light dimmed (it had been overcast all day), we took in sail and motored straight for it.  Imagine our joy when we made out a light on shore from the house!  Imagine our dismay, when we went for the night scope and could not find it!  Frantically, we ransacked every nook and cranny in the boat with no joy!  Suddenly, the night approach did not seem like such a piece of cake.


However, with Don up on the bow with the handheld radio and me at the helm with the radar on, we managed to inch our way into anchoring depth and get the hook dropped.  Just as we needed it, Mother Nature helped by sucking away the day's overcast, seemingly in the blink of any eye, leaving us with sparkling stars and the crescent moon.  The moment the engine was off the air was filled with the slosh of surf against the beach and boobies quacked in the cliffs.  The anchorage was calm and empty but for us and one little fishing boat (who kindly showed a light as we approached.)  The light ashore went off.  We ate our supper from cans and had a cool deep sleep.  We were very glad we didn't balk at stopping.


We still haven't found the Night Scope, and are unwillingly coming to the belief that it has been stolen.  Nothing else seems to be missing, though, and the likelihood of the Night Scope being a thief's choice when so many other familiar and useful things are right out front make us persist in resisting the idea.  But, we have been through EVERYTHING!  It would have to have occurred in the first couple of days in Bahia before the boat was locked up, as we last used it the night before our entry there.


Meanwhile, we are delighted with our anchorage.  We've been here two nights so far, recuperating from all our ailments.  The island is steep-to, with exposed rocky protrusions covered in guano like a dusting of snow.  The producers of the guano, a huge flock of blue-footed boobies, circle and swirl feeding on schools of fish around the rocks.  The sea is settled and the water appears fairly clear.  The temperatures however are not equatorial.  Clearly we are under the influence of the cold Humboldt current that comes up from Peru.  The water temp is a brisk 67 degrees, and the air temp about the same! We spend most of the day in long pants, sleeves, and, yes, socks for warmth, violating one our cardinal rules.  Don has not rushed into the water to check out the growth on the propeller, as is his usual thing.  Sleeping is real good, however.


We are not totally alone.  As it is the weekend, tour boats have come and gone with hikers and even (ye, gods) snorkelers and divers.  Local fisherman overnight here, and today a cooperative of four matching boats came in to seine for bait fish.  Last night six sportfisherman came in for the night and partied until late.  But none of this activity has intruded on our peaceful contentment.  We are reading, writing, and eating normal American food.  We are, all in all, feeling much better, and we are in no hurry to move on.



Ecuador Inland:


April 26, 2001

Inland Trip, Ecuador - Quito & the Andean Highlands


The past week was the first full-fledged dose of tourismo for the Two Captains since our junket to Angel Falls in Venezuela last July.  No wonder people only vacation for a week at a time.  It's work!  Seriously, though, we had a simply wonderful time.  Ecuador is a delightful country. "You find Ecuador tranquile, no?" the people repeatedly ask us.  Compared to its neighbor Colombia, Ecuador is indeed tranquil….at least now that the furor over the "dollarization" of their economy and some resultant price increases has died down.


We left Bahia promptly at 8 am Wednesday morning, and I rode most of the eight-hour , 10,000-foot ascent to Quito with my face plastered to the window like a little kid.  Inland of Bahia the river edge has been cordoned off into ponds for shrimp aquaculture.  The Lonely Planet Guide blasts the destruction of the mangrove environments this has wrought, but as catfish farmers we found it pretty interesting.  The next major stage was a swampy plateau that brought to mind images of southeast Asia, and indeed many of the cane houses were built on stilts above standing water that may or may not have been planted in rice.  Next came a land of very steep convoluted hills covered in grassland and topped with luck by a single palm tree.  Then a big agricultural plateau where we saw trucks and stands full of fruit and vegetables.  And finally the long climb up into and over the Andes themselves. I don't know what was more amazing: the mountains, the road, or the amount of  heavy commercial trucking - like large flatbed trucks of cement blocks, not to mention all the busses  - going both ways…and passing!… on this serpentine, two-lane highway!  We went over the top in the clouds, and descended out of them again into Ecuador's central valley, dubbed the Avenue of the Volcanoes, down which runs the Pan American Highway.


Quito is really one of the most amazing cities you will ever lay eyes on.  Even though it is 2850 meters above sea level (about 9400 feet), huge mountains loom over it.  Imagine a bunch of woks crowded together, and you'll have an idea of the steep bowl-like formations of its urban sprawl.  And, then, when that sprawl ends, picture orderly fields continuing on towards the summits!  Come to think of it, make a perimeter of upside-down woks, and you'll have an idea of the immense flanks of the surrounding volcanoes!


The bus station is in Old Quito, which is packed especially tight into some gorges. Throughout it are colonial buildings of great historical significance and charm.  However, old Quito is where most reports of pick-pocketing and mugging take place, and our desire to avoid THAT negative experience, along with a mutual indifference about historical buildings, made the bus station the only part of old Quito we spent any time in.  We promptly grabbed a cab (which over-charged us handsomely before we discovered they have two settings on their meters!) to Hostel Nassau, our B&C recommended hostel, in a part of New Quito known informally as "Gringolandia."  Gringolandia is a seventy (or so) square-block area of hostels, cosmopolitan restaurants (something other than beef and ceviche!), T-shirt shops, tour agencies, and Internet cafés in which the population is mostly Euro-American and younger than thirty! 


One more thing about Quito.  The guides describe its high mountain climate as perpetually spring-like.  Well, on a bright sunny day it's delightful, but overcast after a thunderstorm as it was upon our arrival, it can get downright chill.  Brrrrr! 


Fortunately, the next morning dawned bright and sunny for our excursion to Mitad del Mundo. This is the site where a French expedition in the late 18th century made the measurements that determined the location of the Earth's equator, as well as the fact that the Earth isn't exactly round, but flattened at the poles, and, incidentally laid the foundations of the metric system.  It is also one of the few places in the world you can actually stand on the equator, as much of the rest of Mother Earth's middle is lost in jungle or ocean.  The monument at Mitad del Mundo takes you up in an elevator to a lookout that gives a good view of the surrounding territory, the landscape of which is pretty much a scrubby desert.  Descent inside the monument winds down through exhibits of all the various indigenous peoples - their customs, their history, their special crafts and their distinctive dress (they prefer "indigenes" to "Indians") - that make Ecuador so culturally diverse.  This would have been really interesting if more than four of the twenty or thirty placards had been in English!  A side exhibit at the park displayed a current scientific/archaeological research project being done that suggests that a very early pre-Inca people had located the "Center of World" even more accurately than the French, about 800 yards away.  This culture had built temples on sites precisely equidistant from one another at angles of 23 ½ degrees, accurately lining up the declination of the winter and summer solstices in the geometric star pattern that we see depicted over and over in traditional weavings.  The description of this project and its findings was presented in a rapid-fire delivery by a multi-lingual scholar who gave the same spiel all over to the next couple in French!  A piece of geographic trivia this fellow pointed out was that Ecuador's highest volcano Chimborazo, albeit slightly lower than Everest in height above sea-level is actually higher when measured from the center of the Earth, since the Earth is fatter at the Equator!


After Mitad del Mundo, our taxi driver convinced us to let him show us La Virgin of Quito (our initially well-bargained fare now going down the tubes!).  This is a monument in the fashion of the Statue of Liberty that was given to Quito from Spain.  The hollow figure sports a crown of stars, eagle's wings (that give her an uncomfortable-looking hunched posture) and a chained dragon…something Biblical.  While smaller than Ms Liberty, the Virgin is set high up on a hill above the Old City, which gave us a fabulous 360-degree panorama of the entire Quito metropolitan area from her observation platform.  Would that we'd dared to go back at night!


On Friday morning we boarded another bus, this time for a two-hour trip east and north out of Quito.  Initially the landscape was more mountainous desert cut by deeply etched gorges that the bus had to negotiate, but then, abruptly we came over a rise into lush green farm land.  The central purpose to this excursion was the world-famous Saturday morning market in Otavalo, but, based on Cindy & Baker's recommendations, we had decided to stay in the nearby provincial capital of Ibarra.  Both these communities, along with a string of others, have grown up on the lower flanks of the majestically Buddah-like extinct volcano Imbaburra (4609m), which we learned later the Indians call the Sleeping Father.  We thought, as the bus pulled in to Ibarra, that we had made a mistake, for it looked like just a crowded noisy town.  We grew more worried after B&C's recommended hostel was full.  We needn't have fretted.  There are probably several dozen hostels in Ibarra.  The one our cab driver took us to was the Hostel Madrid, where we were welcomed in English by a young girl who'd spent a year as an au pair in North Carolina.  There we got a nice bright room (like our Quito hostel @$5 pp/nite!) only this one with a TV!  We got settled in, had a nice "almuerzo" in the downstairs restaurant (the only restaurant we've been in with cloth napkins in lieu of the notably puny paper napkings endemic to this country!) and then set out boldly on our tourist "To Do" list.  Unexpectedly this was the beginning of a very special sequence of events.


First stop was the village of Cotacachi.  We have to take a moment here to admit that the tourist "To Do" list for this part of the world almost reads like a shopping list to a bunch of outlet malls.  The Indians of these highlands have specialized in a variety of crafts, and these specialties seem to get concentrated in particular towns.  Therefore, to go to Cotacachi means you are going to look at leather goods.  Leather is not something particularly practical for a couple of tropically-inclined yachties, and we really are talking LEATHER: jackets, pants, belts, bags, briefcases, shoes, hats (tried, but failed, to talk Don into a suede ball cap!) PLUS a whole range of goods made with leather and woven or knit combinations, shawls, dresses, vests, more bags….. It was endless!  Still we enjoyed wandering the streets, and Don did buy a horse-hair hatband for his Panama hat plus a sweater jacket of llama wool (which he has worn non-stop since!) while I bought a CD of Andean folk music.


Back in Ibarra, Don felt he deserved a cold beer so we went looking for the El Encuentro, a bar recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide.  How convenient that it turned out to be around the corner from our hostel.  The bar is in an inner courtyard, with rooms filled with antique ranching equipment jigsawed in around the center.  If we haven't mentioned it before, the beer, called simply Pilsener, comes in over-size 600ml bottles for between 65 cents and a $1@.  We were racking up a few when a group of young professionals arrived at the table near us.  One of their party, hearing English, instantly came over and introduced himself. An English teacher at the college, despite never having been to an English-speaking country, Victor was keen on taking advantage of the chance to speak with us.   But, the cultural exchange was hardly one way.  To start with he invited us to a concert that night.  We went expecting something traditional, possibly Spanish, perhaps even classical, but were astounded to get a performance of quite progressive original New Age style music, as well as several modern dance performances. We parted late with a pledge to come meet his family the next afternoon.


Saturday morning dawned very early for the 2Cs and apparently too early for any Ibarra breakfast establishment, so, coffee-less we boarded yet another bus (hopefully, you are getting the very valid impression that public transportation is well-developed in Ecuador) back to Otavalo.  We were rewarded by stumbling on the best breakfast we had anywhere in Ecuador at a cheerful café a block from the market.  Good thing Don was fortified, because the market could have otherwise been overwhelming.  Hundreds of stalls teeming with the handicrafts of local Indians fill a large open square and spill onto adjoining side streets.  The Otalaveño Indians in particular are renowned for their weaving and there was stall after stall of sweaters, hats, gloves, socks, bags, purses, ponchos, blankets, hammocks, and wall hangings.  There were tiny painted boxes, dolls, bracelets, wood carvings, embroidered shirts, music instruments and on and on and on!  The sheer volume of wool (from llamas as well as sheep) was awesome.   The people selling were as fascinating as what was being sold.  The men wear white pants that stop mid-calf with ponchos on top, a long braid down their back and the ubiquitous felt hat.  The women wear a cream wool full-length skirt with a second black or navy skirt over it, embroidered blouses, shawls, a neck-full of gold beads and either the felt hat or a elaborately folded headscarf.  These are just the Otalaveños; there were probably another dozen groups represented each with their own distinctive dress.  Babies were everywhere,  often strapped to their back with a crisscross of sheeting, sometimes left to amuse themselves in a pile of product, and quite often nursing openly!  We tried very hard to peruse all the offerings before any buying took place, but suffice it to say it to say we surely have at least one of everything!  And although we tried hard to bargain, I'm sure we paid half-again what we needed to.  The good thing about this is the stuff is so cheap, everybody thinks they did well by the deal.


Despite being laden with our purchases we hopped off the bus short of home to take in the tourist luncheon featured at the Hostelria Chorlavi.  This is a working Hacienda which doubles as an upscale resort for wealthy Ecuadorians.  There's a pool, tennis court, and stables, and all the ground between the buildings is planted for home-grown vegetables.  On Saturdays after the market they feature a traditional band and young folk dancers for entertainment during lunch, served in the beautiful Spanish-style central courtyard.  Ironically, food-wise, it was the meal we enjoyed the least of our trip, and I blame it for the beginnings of a long bout of tourista.


We barely had time for a short rest back at the room before we were collected by Victor and his friend Anabel.  The walk took us out of crowded downtown through some very beautiful older parts of town.  Victor's home was relatively large and contemporary, and  six members of his family - (we should have anticipated this) were present and dressed as for church!  Now you need to realize that Victor was the only truly bi-lingual person there.  Anabel and Victor's brother Ivan spoke a smattering of English, and we all know the extent of Don's Spanish (although he is making great strides), but if I thought Victor was going to interpret I was mistaken.  Teacher that he is, he left me to present our story on my own.  You could feel the room swell with group support as I would reach for a word or a particular verb conjugation!  Victor's Aunt  Maria, in turn, tried to tell us about a big church chorale concert she was involved in, and when it came clear that we had just missed it that very morning, she gave us a personal reprise of her performance.  This turned out to be a quite lengthy recitation of a poem celebrating, I think, "my beloved countryside".  It was a very dramatic presentation, and one didn't have to understand a word to be impressed!  This was followed by a round of sweet pink wine in tiny crystal glasses, which was then followed by coffee with bread, biscuits and cheese at the dining room table.  Afterwards, after having heard all about our Otavalo shopping spree, Victor's brother Ivan packed us into his car to take us to San Antonio de Ibarra, a community famous for its wood carvings, predominately of  religious motifs.  Only a few shops were still open at this hour, and I hope we were not a grave disappointment as we could not bring ourselves to buy one more thing.  All in all, it was one of the most special evenings we have yet enjoyed in our travels.


The next day we packed up to leave, but hopped off the bus one more time at the cross-road for the community called Peguche.  There was some enticing talk about some Cascades in the guidebook, but our real motivation for the extra effort was to get a special T-shirt Cindy was regretting not buying from the Hostal Aya Huma, where she and Baker had gotten married.  It was a fortuitous stop, and, had we to do it all again, given that so much of our great experience in Ibarra was entirely accidental, we would plan to base ourselves here.  As it was we stayed one night only, but it is the first place we stayed that was not urban.  The Hostal Aya Huma , (email:;  website (not working at the moment) is .), owned by a Dutch-Ecuadorian couple, is built straddling an abandoned railroad track that is now a de facto road.  The original family building is now the restaurant/bar, which has a delightful chalet-like atmosphere and fire-place, as well as sunny courtyard out front.  The rooms are built down the side of a wooded gorge filled with bird chatter, at the base of which was a trickle of a stream and two hammocks.  It was a little pricier than our other hostels at $10pp/nite, but it was a place you could happily spend a lot more time, as we later found out many people do.  We spent several hours reading in hammocks before lunchtime, and then, in the afternoon took the walk to the Cascades.  The path led through park-like woodland (in fact it is a park) to a right nice waterfall where many locals were enjoying the Sunday afternoon.  We branched off onto a side path hoping to gain an overlook, which we found, but we had to negotiate a couple of cows with whom we got into a shoving match.  The next couple up actually got chased…delusions of el toro!


In the evening we met Ali, a young Dutch woman on her last night of a month-long stay. Ali had been there so long she had acquired a pet piglet -Knorry - with wiry red hair, with whom she was spending her last afternoon.  Later,  we joined her to sip wine on a stone wall from which we could watch the winding up of a typical Otalaveño Sunday --  the women and girls herding home the cows, the old men staggering home under the influence of their once-a-week indulgence, the boys in American garb, strutting their stuff -- all against a backdrop of a fantastic evening light weaving through thick piles of cloud  over the beautiful valley.  We moved the wine inside to the fire place and a good dinner, which made a perfect cap to the day before a deep quiet sleep under a pile of five Otavaleño blankets.


We woke to a parrot in the branches outside our window.  After breakfast we took a walk through town, where weekday life was already under way.  Throughout the town we could hear, if not see,  the thunder of looms.  We caught a glimpse of an old man spinning wool at a wheel right out of Sleeping Beauty. What we consider one our really special moments came went we stumbled upon several young women making hammock yarn.  They were up a side road, across was strung wires at about 20'ft intervals.  Giant skeins of white yarn were dumped in a big basket, out of which were drawn several strands which ran up through a wire hanger attached to the eave of a house.  One girl walked the "U" of the strand over the wires some 300 feet up the road.   The ends were attached to an electric motor where we stood watching which then wound the whole length into a single piece in about 60 seconds!  This was pegged over to the side until another length was wound, when the two were spun together.  Then one of the girls would wind up the whole into a ball about the size of a basketball and the process would repeat itself.  Beneath the winding yarns, children and dogs played happily in the dirt. This is not tourist stuff.  This is real, everyday work.


We could have, and would have, stayed on, except that we had had an email from our young Peace Corps friend in Bahia relaying a message from our Port Captain that he was unable to secure permission for us to sail on to the Galapagos and that we would have to pursue it ourselves in Quito.  Fearing a bureaucratic snafu - and a totally illogical one at that, since every cruiser we knew had sailed directly to the Galapagos from Panama without any special permission - we hurried back to Quito.  Needlessly, as it turned out, as we determined that, despite the Port Captain's beliefs, no permission was needed at all for us to go.  And, better luck, we found that out in one stop!  Still, once back in the big city, we found we were ready to go home.  A week away from the boat, without the boat being secure in at least a marina, was a record for these two captains, and all the bus travel, chilly climates, altitude, and foreign diet were starting to take their toll on these tropical bodies. 

26.    Notes on the Galapagos Islands:




26.1 From Katherine & Craig Briggs aboard the Amel Santorin 46 Ketch SANGARIS (2002):


Galapagos  Anchorages : 


1. After 4 easy sailing days from mainland Ecuador (Puerto Lucia Yacht Club in La Libertad near Salinas) we made landfall @ Wreck Bay on Isla San Cristóbal, the Easternmost of the Galapagos Islands

· Toured Galpagos Nat’l Park Interpretation Center (excellent!)

great intro, history & current efforts to preserve ecosystems & wildlife

· Go see large sea lion colony w/ hundreds of “Lobos Marinos” & black marine iguanas … some up to 3 feet long!


2. Santa Fe – 2nd anchorage (for afternoon then couple of nights later on)

· Quiet anchorage, north side of island; uninhabited (except sea lions)

· Good snorkeling & swimming with pups


3.0 Largest town and anchorage is Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz

· Harbor  =  Academy Bay

· Airport

· Rough anchorage due to swell (bow & stern anchors)

· no dinghys ahore (no tie up space),  use water taxi

· cruise ships (20 passengers)

· Darwin Research Center ashore

· town had decent provisioning (produce) but limited marine supplies


4.0 Isla Isabela  largest island in group

· Anchored at Puerto Villamil on southeast corner

· no major commerce, simple shops

· Giant Tortoise Breeding Center

· Darwin’s Finches in the woods

· Flamingoes at the lake

· Hiking & horseback riding around Sierra Negro volcano

· Close to anchorage (in the cove) checkout iguanas, penguins & white tip reef sharks Permits & Fees

· Conflicting stories from other yachties

(ranged from needing to do it a year in advance to “just go”)

· Fees were variously reported as $100 per boat for five days to $200 per person per day, plus a mandatory guide

· When we left Ecuador mainland asked Port Captain for zarpe to Mexico with interim stop in Galapagos. He said go to Quito for Galapagos permit, so we just took the zarpe for Mexico and left … didn’t get a clear answer in the Galapagos, either, despite questions to Nat’l park folks, so ended up just being there – no park fees!  If you go, system may be different with more restrictions in terms of anchoring locations and length of stay


                Galapagos  “Best Wild life Adventures”:


· Horseback riding to Sierra Negra Volcano

· Swimming with reef sharks

· Snorkeling with juvenile sea lions

· Blue Footed Boobies



26.2 From Mitch and Rise aboard s/v KOMFY, May 2001:


We spent 58 days in the Galapagos, so had the opportunity to see lots.  Important

item that we were not aware of before we arrived is that there is only

one bank in the Galapagos which is located in Santa Cruz.  They only

accept Cirrus Network or MasterCard at the ATM – no VISA.  The bank will

cash Traveler’s cheques, but not personal.  We had to have money wired

from our bank in San Diego which took 3 business days.


Get a guide book.  The best we found is called “Independent Traveler

Galapagos Handbook”, about 8” x 5”, with a pic of an Iguana on the

cover.  Lots of good info.


Wreck Bay, San Cristobal

1) First port we checked in and had to pay $70 for Boat, $5 each for

Immigration and $100 ea for Park Fee.

2) Would NOT enter in the dark

3) Cheapest place to buy T-shirts surprisingly

4) Two Internet Cafes (good connections)

5) Dinghy beach just to right of Port Captains office

6) Tourist stuff

   a)  Horseback ride to the highlands to see the giant Tortoises in

their natural habitat, then hike to the lake (El Mirador), then to the

giant lava tubes; followed by truck ride to the Sea Lion Swimming Pool,

a fantastic place to swim with them, plus you may see Marine Iguanas.

Interpretation Center and hike is wonderful.


Academy Bay, Santa Cruz

1) Port fee $4-6 and we stayed over 30 days

2) Several stores for provisions (thou you probably don’t need it).

3) “El Frio” has great frozen meats, cheese, bagels, etc.

4) Several laundry facilities – 1$ per kilo

5) Several great restaurants – check out “Chocolates” – order a “Roasti”

and a piña “Batidos”.  Also, down towards the Research Station on the

left is a place called “Capricho” in funny letters. Veggie food, as well

as an exquisite pasta with mushrooms.  The kind of place you would

expect to see the “Mother Earth Newspaper” lying around.

6) No dinghy beach or dock.  Local water taxi the only way ashore; cost

is 30 cents one way per person. 

7)  Water (8 cent a gallon) up by the fuel station.  Diesel is

$0.76/gallon, but they will put 6 gallons in your five gallon

containers...Propane available near the big welding shop. 

8) Tourist stuff:

   We splurged  and took two boat trips: 

1st Cruise – 4 nights 5 days on the “Tropic Sun” (booked with Moonrise

Travel Agency) where we ate well and we kept busy by hiking and

snorkeling both in the morning and afternoon.  Went to 6 islands and saw

lots of wildlife ... from penguins to iguanas.  Highly recommend it if

you have the time and budget ($500 a person).


2nd cruise – One day cruise on “Santa Cruz II” to Isla Bartolome, where

we were fed breakfast and a delicious fresh fish lunch, hike up 300+

steps to the top of the island with a great view of the volcanic harbor,

and after the hike snorkeling with a penguin, white-tip shark and other

fish.  Good photo op here.  Cost $60/ea.


Free stuff –

1. Bring water, snacks and snorkeling gear and take water taxi about

10AM to Hotel El Delfin and follow directions to Las Grietas and follow

lava rock trail until you come to steep stairs that leads you to the

first grotto.  The swimming grottos are wonderful and worth the hike.

Fresh (not salt) water, crystal clear

2. Charles Darwin Center – On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they feed

the tortoises, go about 7-8AM.

3.  Tortuga Bay – Great hike (go early it’s a hot hike) just follow the

signs in town that point to Tortuga Bay on Charles Binford Ave.  You

will reach a ranger’s headquarters where you will need to sign in.  Then

follow the stone path that leads to a beautiful white baby powder beach.

 Then ENJOY the scenery!  No shade, but a beautiful beach


Villamil, Islabela (our favorite anchorage)

1)  Port fee $4 and we got our Int’l Zarpe here (there is no Immigration

office here so need to check out of country for Immigration at the

Police Office in Academy Bay)

2)  Few stores for provisioning.   One Bakery.  The best day to get

fresh veggies, fruit & eggs is on Saturday afternoon after the trading

boat comes in.

3)  Some laundry services (Azul Ballena Hotel who also sells good water

for $0.20/gallon.  She’s a nice lady, if you see her say “hi” for us).

She also arranges tours and does dinners by appointment.

4)  Good restaurants (the best pizza in Galapagos is at a restaurant

near the run down looking park, just around the corner from the Port

Captains office, on the beach.  Part the weeds and walk up to the

building, it always looks deserted.)

5)  Tourist stuff:

a.  Hike to Wall of Tears (go in morning as it’s a long walk, also try

to catch a ride both ways ... a lot of cruisers didn’t think it was

worth the walk.  It’s cruiser nickname is the Walk of Tears...

b. Flamingos in the lagoon up the road as you go out of town.  You pass

by the lagoon on the way the the wall of tears. 

c. Horseback ride to the cater – a must and can be arranged with one of

the hotels or if you can find the person with the horses it will be

cheaper.  The more people you get to go the cheaper it is.  HOWEVER, I,

Rise (recommend no more than 6-8 people unless you are expert horseback

riders, as the horses tend to get really close to each other and I got

my legs smashed against several horses several times luckily only

resulting in bruises (I am a novice rider)

d.  Tortoise Reserve Center – We liked Charles Darwin center better as

the tortoises were allowed to roam freely and you could get really close

to take pics.  Here they are enclosed and it’s hard to get good pics.


Well, we think that’s all our brains can remember to tell you...


Oh, our course to the Marquesas, we did not follow the rhumbline from

the start and headed south due to wind and recommendation from Don on

Summer Passage (a weather dude doing weather from Newport Beach-Ralph

(KK7PR) knows him).  It was a big mistake, as the second week we had to

jibe north, as we were being set well below the rumbline.  The further

South, the more our course would have had the wind directly aft, not our

best point of sail.  Oh well we are learning.  We also had to rig the

boat for wing-to-wing in order to be able to sail downwind and keep on

course.  Note: be sure to use aft and fwd guys, and lock the pole in

solid, as the swell is pretty awesome.


Well, will close are we are tired.  Last night we had nasty squalls all

night and early hours of the morning bring high wind (25-40K), lots of

rain and high seas that slammed KOMFY around.


Take care and hopefully we will see you somewhere in the South Pacific.


Jusqu’ à plus tard, Mitch & Rise



26.3 From Gwen and Don on the CSY 44 cutter TACKLESS II, 2002:


Santa Cruz & San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands


Academy Bay, Santa Cruz

Latitude: 00-44.90S; Longitude: 090-18.50W


We entered the Galapagos Islands, under overcast and drizzly skies, May 16 at Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay) on Isla Santa Cruz.  Although Santa Cruz is in the center of the archipelago, it was the port of entry required by the peculiar red tape entangled around our “zarpe” from Salinas, Ecuador.  The good news was we actually found the official we were supposed to find, and he indeed gave us the time we’d been promised.  Of course, he subsequently said it would have been OK to enter at San Cristobal, which is the geographically logical first stop.


Academy Bay is an awkward anchorage.  It faces South which leaves it pretty wide open to the prevailing wind and swell. All the boats, which include everything from fishing boats to large tour boats (including, to my surprise the 148’ three-master Alta, which Captain Rob & Barb ran in the Virgins!), do their best to crowd over to the protected side of the anchorage, and stern anchors are required to keep all bows pointed into the hefty swell.  It is also one of those places that totally addles my generally reliable internal GPS; the morning after our arrival I would have sworn the sun was rising in the west! I never could get it straight!  Frankly, we were just grateful to see the sun, for our first impressions of the Galapagos were somewhat anticlimactic.  On the charts, the archipelago of islands is almost reminiscent of the Virgins, but in fact the islands are spread out with some 40 miles of water between them, and in the dismal grey they are pretty much out of sight of one another!  With the sunshine, the whole aspect changed.  The smooth volcanic slopes of Santa Cruz swept up greenly to the summit of Cerro Crocker, only 864m high but still wrapped in mist.  It reminded us strongly of Nevis and St. Kitts.


Between post-passage recuperation and a few more encounters with red tape, (we were required to have a fumigation certificate and the inspector failed to show up two days in a row!), we got a slow start on our sightseeing. The other problem we encountered was that, although Puerto Ayora is the usual center of tour activity, the airport there was closed for repairs. The result was most of the action had packed up and moved over to Cristobal where the flights were then arriving!  This was a big handicap, because in the Galapagos, we are not permitted to just sail around and anchor wherever we might wish.  Indeed, we are limited to just four anchorages.  Nor can you just climb in your dinghy and venture out.  Most access to “visitors sites” and island “landings” is restricted to organized tours with licensed guides. As you might guess the same restrictions apply to scuba diving.  Most cruisers who care bite the bullet and spend the $$ to partake of both day and extended tours.  Although it requires leaving the boat, we were game.  It just wasn’t  available!


Ashore on Santa Cruz, however, there are several visitor sites we could walk to.  The first was the Charles Darwin Research Station.  This is a well-designed breeding center for the endanged Galapagos Tortoises, of which there are eleven surviving subspecies (ten if you discount Lonesome George, the lone remaining member of his!)  Visitors can wander the paths between naturally landscaped “corrals” and see the tortoises from hatchlings on up to breeding adults.  One corral houses tortoises that were once pets, whose exact subspecies is uncertain and which are therefore not included in the breeding program. Visitors are allowed to get right down into this corral up close to these tortoises.  There was also a nice exhibition on the natural history of the Galapagos, most of which was already familiar to us from reading our various guidebooks. (Check out “The Galapagos Islands” by Pierre Constant, available in Borders Bookstore; nice photos.)


Our second Santa Cruz excursion was a 3km walk over to Tortuga Bay.  This was surprisingly nice with a “path” paved in tiles which led through a jumbled terrain of rugged lava rocks where grow the arid-zone plants of palos santos and cacti, including the quite intriguing Giant Opuntia Cactus that actually has woody trunks!  This gave us our first exposure to the famously fearless Galapagos birdlife that so struck Charles Darwin.  Birds – most notably the Galapagos mockingbird, the vermillion flycatcher and a cactus finch – would allow us so close, that we repeatedly wondered who was checking out whom.  One little flycatcher female was quite fascinated with Don’s ringlets as we each inched closer and closer to one another.  The path was also a great place to make the acquaintance of various endemic geckos and lava lizards.  The white sand beach at the end of the trail would have been the envy of any resort, yet the expanse was unmarred as far as the eye could see and dotted only with a very few beachgoers and surfers, most of whom we guessed to be young volunteers from the research station.


Sunday we did our first two dives in the Galapagos (indeed, in the Pacific!) at the justly famous Gordon Rocks.  We were a little anxious about jumping right in at this “advanced-rated” site given that we hadn’t dived since December and that we had a lot of new cold-water equipment to inaugurate. Fortunately, the water was not as cold as we feared, nor were the currents as stiff as advertised.  Unfortunately, visibility was also not as good as we would have liked.  Still, what a dive!...sharks, manta rays (coasting along like some sort of stealth bomber!), eagle rays, turtles (big), moray eels, octopus, lobsters and a ton of fish!  There were so many big fish you couldn’t even pay attention to the little ones, and all of them are different from their cousins in the Caribbean! (Paul Humann, the man responsible for the great set of Caribbean reef ID books we have always used on TII, also has a Galapagos fish book.) Coming up a few minutes before the others on the first dive, we were bummed to find out we missed the hammerhead sharks!  On the second dive, we hoped to add the hammerheads to the day’s list, but our divemaster got disoriented and we spent half our time swimming hard in a huge empty circle in midwater!  The only thing we saw during that stretch was a manta that cruised by curiously, clearly asking the very question in all our minds:  “What the hell are you guys doing out here!”  At the end, finally back at the rock, I lasted a few minutes longer than Don and saw my first underwater sea lions scooting along the base of a ravine, plus, just before reaching the surface, an ethereal school of 14 golden cownose rays (we don’t have anything like them in the Caribbean)!


Despite all this, the real highlight of the day was our rest stop between the dives.  There, in a slot of water between the Plaza Islands,  we got to get in the water and snorkel with a whole tribe of sea lions.  While the fat old adults lounged around on boulders, the youngsters happily played with us.  Incredibly COOL!  Imagine going to a pet store and standing in the middle of the big pen they keep the puppies in.  These guys just swam up to us and looked us right in the eye, then with a flip of their front flippers they’d roll upside down under you and blow bubbles or nip at the ends of our fins.  A couple had little rocks in their mouths which they would toss out like a ball only to chase after them as they fell, grab them in their mouths again, swim to the surface and then do it over.  When they swim, their rotund little bellies seem to twist independently of their skin, so that it is hard to keep track of which way is up!


Monday morning at the crack of dawn we hauled up our two anchors and motored/sailed 42 miles back east to San Cristobal to rendezvous with Lite N Up, arriving that day from Salinas.  In the process we “caught” probably the biggest fish we have ever hooked, about a 5 foot Wahoo(great eating).  Unfortunately, it was not a “real” catch, as the wiley critter broke the line right at the stern of the boat by diving under the rudder.  We had two more good hits after that, but both times the line or lure broke loose.  So after losing about $30.00 worth of equipment, we gave up on the fishing.


Wreck Bay, San Cristobal

Latitude: 00-53.70S; Longitude: 089-36.70W


Wreck Bay is a world away from Academy Bay.  We cruised in and dropped the hook at the back of the pack in 30’ of clear water, and sighed happily as the boat settled back quietly!  No more swell! What a concept, a protected anchorage!  Up ahead were fishing boats with the fat hulks of sea lions sprawled on them, and several swam by Tackless II as if to greet us. This is kind of more what we had imagined!


Not only had Lite N Up arrived, but about four more cruising boats whose voices we had come to know on the morning radio net.  One was Magic Four, a family of four from Australia, and another (we kid you not) Up Chuck, four middle-aged guys from Manchester, England. In the way that is peculiar in the cruising community, we suddenly found ourselves with an instant social circle, which we have exercised in several establishments in town.  Also we had our young Peace Corps friend Amy, whom we’d met in Bahia.  She is now stationed here as a volunteer with the Charles Darwin Foundation to develop small business projects with the local fishermen’s wives.  Only here a few weeks herself, she has already made many connections, including one with the owner of the local dive shop!


Which brought about Wednesday’s dive trip to Kicker Rock (aka Leon Dormido or “Sleeping Lion”.) Kicker Rock is one of the awesome volcanic “tuff” formations that abound in the Galapagos.  It sticks up from the sea in a truly vertical thrust, and a split in the formation allows boats to motor through it!  It is also rated as an excellent site to see hammerheads.


Nothing is easy, however.  Chalo’s Dive Tours, the “operation” owned by Amy’s friend, has a broken air compressor.  Step in Tackless II Dive Charters.  We’ll fill the tanks and barter the service for our dive.  No problem.  Don fills eight shop tanks, and the next morning, off we go with a boatload that included John from Magic Four and Frank, Hugh and Mike from Upchuck, plus Victor, our local divemaster. I was very impressed with the speedy and smooth ride out to the dive site, which the guidebook described as a three-hour boat trip.  The big 125hp outboard on the dive boat made it in a half hour!  We made two dives on the rock, essentially in the same place, and this time we did indeed see our hammerheads!  Quite close in fact!  Several of them!  We also saw Galapagos shark, silver shark, huge turtles, an eagle ray, several morays, another octopus, and a lobster along with several billion reole wrasse and an equal number of urchins and sea biscuits lining the near vertical wall!  Even with four Galapagos dives under our belts, the 2Cs are still stunned by the volume and size of all these sea creatures.  In the Caribbean, we’d be thrilled with a ray or a shark a week!  For Hugh and Mike it was only their third or fourth dive since certification!  I think they’re going to be ruined for life!


Remember I said, nothing is easy?  Trouble started on the way back when the giant outboard developed a knock that grew worse and worse (and we went slower and slower) until the engine up and quit!  The boys went back and tinkered to no avail.  No, shit, there we were, about eight miles away from home along a completely undeveloped coast!  Do we have a radio?  Surely, you jest. It’s about 3 o’clock in the afternoon! We decided our best, most realistic goal was to get to Los Lobos, home of a sea lion colony popular with tour boats.  The divers jumped in with mask and fins and we started towing and pushing the dive boat toward our goal.  There were skeptics mind you, but in fact we made it to within a half mile before we were rescued by a lobster boat and shortly after by a park service boat.  We all bought lobsters from the lobster boat.


Now, all those empty tanks (14) came back to Tackless II, and Don and Victor got together yesterday to fill them.  The idea was that we’d leave Victor to run the compressor while we went island touring, but the day was full of small challenges.  First, the bleed valve (about the size of a nickel) on the fill hose flew off and overboard, which resulted in a search of the bottom on scuba by Victor and me, which, miraculously produced the piece. (Thank you St. Anthony!) Next problem, the fill hose fails.  This is the NEW hose we had made a mere month ago in Quito.  Hmm.  So Victor went off to get the hose off their non-functioning compressor, which, of course turned out to have different fittings.  The boys prevailed, BUT by then it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and they still had six tanks to go!  The pressure was on because we had a big group trip planned for Friday with two boats, half to dive again and half to snorkel, with a picnic at Los Lobos, the sea lion island.  We will take our OWN hand-held radio!


Well, the day trip went without a hitch.  What made it particularly fun was the conglomeration of cruising boat crews that had been getting to know one another.  We had six divers, and although it was the same dive site we had already done Wednesday (Kicker Rock), the visibility was so much improved that it was like being in a different place. Unfortunately, there was only one hammerhead, and Baker, on his first dive in years, missed it.  A highlight for the 2Cs was a sea lion that passed us at 80 feet, heading down out of sight like a torpedo! What was he after? Meanwhile a passle of eight or so snorkelers putzed about the great rock on the surface.  After the dive, we moved both boats to Las Lobos to play with the sea lion colony there during lunch, and then the divers made a shallow dive nearby, the highlight of which were several sea lions who played with us at depth!  We also saw our first marine iguanas (they actually feed on algae underwater!) and a lot of seabirds including blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, and a great blue heron.  All boats made it home without problem this time, and all in all a good time was had by everyone. Don, however, insists it will be the last time we put ourselves in such an “organizational” position.  Retired is retired.


We capped the day off with a mass dinner at a really good restaurant in town called Albacora.  There 21 gringos filled the tables, and the owners produced a great meal in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, several of us are down with the revenge yet again, which is keeping us close to home and putting a damper on today’s land touring plans. Baker and Cindy and Amy have a friend flying in this afternoon from Bahia for a week’s visit, and the 2Cs are getting ready to move on.



27.    Bibliography of Cruising Guides and Books of Interest


CRUISING PORTS: Florida to California via Panamá, by Captains Pat and John Raines


SAILING DIRECTIONS (ENROUTE), West Coasts of Mexico and Central America, 2000, Ninth Edition, Pub 153, US Government Printing Office


CHARLIE´S CHARTS of the Western Coast of Mexico, by Charles E. Wood


MEXICO BOATING GUIDE (Baja, Sea of Cortez, Pacific Mainland, Gulf Coast and Yucatán) by Captains Pat and John Raines


MexWX, Mexico Weather for Boaters, by Captain John E. Raines


THE FORGOTTEN MIDDLE, A Cruisers Guide to the Pacific Coasts of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua by Roy and Carol Roberts


CHARLIE´s CHARTS of Costa Rica, by Margo Wood


COVE HOPPING SOUTH to Panamá, by J. A. Rogers


The PANAMA GUIDE, Second Edition, A Cruising Guide to the Isthmus of Panama, by Nancy Schwalbe Zydler & Tom Zydler


A Captain’s Guide to: Transiting the Panamá Canal in a Small Vessel, by David W. Wilson


The Cruising Guide to the Northwest Caribbean: The Yucatán Coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Bay Islands of Honduras, By Nigel Calder (currently out of print)


HONDURAS and its BAY OF ISLANDS by Captain Rick Rhodes


A Cruising Guide to BELIZE and Mexico´s Caribbean Coast, including Guatemala´s Río Dulce, by Freya Rauscher


CUBA, A Cruising Guide, by Nigel Calder


The Concise Guide to Caribbean Weather by David Jones


SOUTHBOUND CRUISERS RESOURCE DIRECTORY 2002-2003, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panamá, by the Southbounders Group in Puerto Vallarta, Spring of 2000


THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, The Creation of the Panamá Canal Between 1870-1914, by David McCullough


CENTRAL AMERICA AND MEXICO PILOT (East Coast), Office of the US Navy, 1927