Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Old Town Quito

Quito lies in a valley oriented north to south. We entered from the south, labouring through stop and go traffic until we arrived in Old Town where Jordan found us a $20 hotel room with the prerequisite secure garage for motorcycle parking.

Jordan made exploring and navigating around and through the narrow streets of Old Town and beyond seem easy. I don't know how he does it all the time when we travel with no map through large cities. He seems to have a sixth sense for direction - me, I get lost right away! Quito is a very large city (population of over 2 million) and lacks any charm, in our opinion. But Old Town Quito is a totally different area full of the charm of old colonial architecture and lots of narrow 1-way streets.

Old Town Quito (Ecuador)

We did a lot of touring around Old Town Quito including a scary climb through spiral stairs and steep ladders to the top of the spires of an ornate church that was started in 1926 and is still not finished! The unnerving steep climb...

...compensated us with fabulous views to the town below.

The reversed transit seemed even more precipitous as we were now looking down and crossed a very long hanging bridge-like appendage. This is the largest Neogothic Basilica in the Americas.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Flavio Alfaro

On the road again...

With Ruby (Jordan named her) our little iron pony all saddled up, we started our inland journey today, riding from the marina at Puerto Amistad towards northeastern Quito Ecuador in the spine of the great Andes Mountain range. We had started out on rough and potholed roads, the callousness of which was matched by the somewhat barren landscape. You would think that the immediate coastal hills with the prevalent clouds would promote a more verdant terrain. But shortly afterward, we were rewarded better tarmac in the presence of a greener countryside full of beautiful trees and plantations.

As we had left late in the day, our first stop was at Flavio Alfaro after 2 hours of riding. Flavio is a small town and we found a nice little hotel for only $10 US, but as we were still in warm country, there was no hot water. No big deal - we very seldom had hot water during our motorcycle trip through Mexico in 2009.

Flavio Alfaro under threatening skies

The next day we were greeted to a light drizzle. We got an early start after purchasing a couple of cheap rain coats (2 for $5) as the skies looked like they would continue their threat. After riding for about an hour in light rain, our jeans got wet but they soon dried in the wind as we passed into drier climes. Whenever we approached a toll booth, we were waved through as motorcycles do not pay. Nice! As we got closer to Quito, we begin to ascend the Andes Mountains on cliff-clinging serpentine roads. The intoxicating scenery steepness was cloaked in emerald foliage punctuated with flowing waterfalls. The jagged mountain tops at times disappeared into the fluffy white clouds as we weaved past the precipices.

Serpentine asphalt ribbon of blacktop

So engrossed in nature's stage, we totally neglected the thirst of our irony pony. We had almost made it to the top of our elevation climb of 2,850 m when, without presage and acting more like a stubborn mule than a pony, she stopped completely and demanded a full drink! Thank goodness we could just coast downhill to a nearby gas station. This 200 cc motorcycle has a much smaller gas tank than what Jordan is used to with his larger 650 KLR. But what she lacks in fuel capacity, she more than makes up in dauntlessness.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Our lucky 7

Jordan and I celebrated our 7th anniversary in a unique way. Tripp of the Puerto Amistad Marina held a "crawfish bake" that we attended. We have never tasted crawfish before and I must say it was quite delicious. They are also called crayfish or crawdads and resemble lobsters to which they are related.

With everyone seated at tables lined with paper tablecloths, the food came on! It was served on a big tray set in the middle of the table filled with boiled crawfish, potatoes, onions, and corn. There was no silverware or plates. Finger-food only. Oh yeah, free beer and wine too! Everyone had a great time and left with full bellies and a smile on their face.

Looks like a small lobster to me!

When the party broke up, Jordan and I were invited to a "party after the party" at a friend's condo (Dave & Miriam) With Jordan's fiddle, Eduardo's guitar, and Tripp's canned music, there was lots of entertainment, dancing, and fun! (Click on the collage of photos to make larger.)

This turned out to be a very special day that we will remember for a long time to come!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


We are moored at Puerto Amistad Marina (Bahia de Caraquez) in Ecuador. The town of Amistad has all your basic needs covered, but to do a major provisioning, you will presently need to bus or taxi to Manta which is about an hour away. (A new mall is in the works here that will have a major grocery store but it is not yet built.) There is a simple fruit, veggie, and fish market which has great products and is CHEAP!

At the marina, we have access to hot showers, internet, same-day laundry service, and restaurant/bar.

On our passage, the dinghy was deflated but must have been leaning on something sharp. Upon arrival, Jordan found a few slow leaks and quickly fixed them.

Once our check-in was complete, we toured the town and found it to be appealing, but I think we are running out of things to do! We have visited the museum which was interesting. And one evening, we attended the circus which was in town for a few days. No animals, but they had the usual such as a contortionist, 3 trapeze artists, 2 clowns, and a guy performing in a circling gizmo thing. But for 5 bucks, it was a night out and something different to see.

Another day, we saw a great view of Amistad. At the top of a hill, there is a massive cross that you can walk up inside of and look across the town.

There is now a brand new bridge between the towns of Amistad and San Vicente which is across the Chone estuary. The bridge is lit up at night with green LED lights on the west side and blue LED lights on the east side. One day when Jordan and I were trying out a motorcycle we took a quick ride over the bridge.

Before the bridge, people transported to San Vicente aboard a small passenger ferry for 30 cents. People with cars were transported aboard a barge-type of ferry.

Many people get around via 3-wheeled bicycles that serve as taxis. (There are of course the regular yellow motorcar taxis.)

Slow easy taxi ride to enjoy the view

And many others get around via small motorcycles (200cc). In fact Jordan and I just purchased one of these 200cc motorcycles to do inland touring. The reason we purchased this motorcycle is because the paperwork is so expensive and complicated to import our KLR from Victoria. It's not expensive to ship the KLR here but the importation is impossibly convoluted and not worth the effort.

The weather here is about the same every day. Never hot, never cold. The skies are sometimes cloudy and sometimes sunny. It hardly ever rains and hasn't since we've been here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 11: Bahia de Caraquez

Winds throughout the early hours were very light and changeable. Going was slow with a lot of tacking and a bit of back tracking.

Started the motor at 06:00 to get round the point at Cabo Passado. Only about 20 nautical miles to go in our 10.5 day passage from Panama City to Puerto Amistad at Bahia de Caraquez (Ecuador).

Once round the point, we continued to sail the rest of the way, arriving at 13:30 (ahead of schedule) at the "Waiting Room" where we set anchor until it was time to cross the bar. Jordan had a brief nap while I tidied up. The Waiting Room is, as the name suggests, where you wait to cross the bar.

Sea Turtle with Pilot panga (fishing panga at back) courtesy of Eduardo

To cross the bar at Bahia de Caraquez, which must be done at high tide, it is required that you be escorted in. At the pre-arranged time, our pilot Ariosto jumped from the panga onto Sea Turtle.

Good-natured Ariosto approaching in a panga

Ariosto pointed out the directions to go with a lot of zig-zagging and brought us safely to our mooring (S00°36'388" W080°25'278"). After tying up, the panga then brought us to Puerto Amistad Marina where we were met by Tripp, the owner and agent. He took care of all of our paperwork for checking into Ecuador. He also said that he would pre-arrange the required agent for us when we head to Galapagos next March. Galapagos is part of Ecuador and requires 60 days notice before you can go there by sailboat. It can get very complicated dealing with all the paperwork but Tripp said he could make it much easier.

It was so nice to set foot on shore and relax over a nice meal as we received many tips and information from Tripp.

Throughout our passage, via Ham radio, we have had daily contact with SV Passion (friends from Panama City) and eventually SV Encore in Ecuador. Passion has been recording our current position in case of emergency and also checking our blog for our midnight position reports. Then on August 13th, through the PanPacific Net, we were able to get information on waypoints, tide levels, and contact personnel from SV Encore for when we crossed the bar at Bahia de Caraquez. And Aaron, Jordan's son, has been sending us weather information too. Sure glad we spent the time to get our Ham license and radio equipment.

Sea Turtle's positions around midnight each night made our route look fairly straightforward (see "Our Position" link at right of blog page). But in actuality, it was full of reverse-direction tacks and zig-zagging tacks making our total nautical miles covered (868 NM) higher than the distance made good (around 565 NM). Distance made good basically means the distance travelled over ground or straight line(s).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 10: Equator crossing!

We had a visitor today - 1 lone dolphin. This is unusual as most dolphins travel in numbers in a pod.

We also had a wakeup call today. You see, at night, we get organized. We secure stuff on deck and maybe reduce sails a bit, we get out the timer for checks throughout the night and designate each other to watch times. Then during the day, we both are up and about, sometimes taking catch-up naps and the watch routine somehow didn't bear the same degree of vigilance. Jordan had put his head down on my lap for a power nap, but before drifting off (and usually that is about instantly), he thought he better go up and do a check as neither of us had probably done it for awhile. Well as he went up the companionway, I heard a loud "holy shit". I jumped up and all I saw was a wall of steel passing right beside us. We had just sailed right across the path of this large behemoth. Jordan said he almost crapped his shorts.

Shaken, we immediately called a safety meeting and implemented the rule of a continued vigilant watch routine throughout all 24 hours of the day.

We watched that freighter travel away and determined that it would take only 20 to 25 minutes before it would be out of noticeable sight.

Then not much later that day, with the new schedule working, Jordan again went up to do his 15-minute check and sure enough just up ahead was another freighter on a converging course. We mustered stations and tacked to avoid at best guess a direct hit. We re-tacked and passed behind.

Today is equator day! We finally reached and crossed the equator at 14:09 today - we're in the Southern Hemisphere, officially! This is a first for Sea Turtle (but Jordan & I did cross the equator last year as crew on another boat).

ALMOST at the equator

Snapped the camera 1 second too soon!! We celebrated this momentous occasion with a bottle of chilled Hungarian bubbly from good friends Lou & Angie of Victoria. They gave us this bottle 2 years ago and we saved it for this special day.

The occasion also called for getting dressed up, as sailors traditionally do something different, outrageous, and/or memorable (i.e. shave their heads, put on a costume, etc.) As Jordan recently had to shave his head when struck by a fan blade, and I most definitely did not want to shave mine, we decided to get fancy.

Captain Winston O'Vanely (Windvane for short)

and 1st Mate Castaway Coco

We posted a video on Google Photos. Here is the link:

We also gave the traditional toast and taste to Neptune to stay in his good grace. Ours went as follows:
To Nautical Neptune, here is our ocean offering for positive passages, merry moments, and sustained safety on our various voyages.
Then glug, glug, glug overboard. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun and will remember this day for a long time to come.

Today's position around midnight: S00°07'60" W080°29'45" (notice S00..., no longer N...)!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 9: Full charge

Jordan at bow with breeze blowing

We're both amazed at how fully charged our batteries have kept with our two 80-watt solar panels and our Sea Breeze wind generator. We hardly ever had the motor running as we were sailing the majority of the time. We charged the iPod, camera, and computer batteries all in 1 day and the house batteries were still fully charged. We originally debated the necessity of having a wind generator but Sea Breeze has definitely proven its worth many times over.

We've finally reached the 00 latitudes (00°58) on the GPS - only 58 nautical miles more till we reach the equator!

Sea Turtle has been starting to complain lately (a ship is said to do this when she is creaking). Now she sounds like a real mariner.

Sailing and tacking, sailing and tacking...

Handling the sheets

Today's position around midnight: N00°22'20" W080°16'90"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 8: Stay...

We tacked at 23:45 last night with abating winds, and an hour later there was no wind at all. So we continued in a westerly direction under motor power and hand-steering.

As I tried to nap, I could hear Jordan at the helm merrily singing along to his iPod...stay, just a little bit longer...oh won't you stay just a little bit longer...please please please say you will...

At daybreak 5 hours later, sails were hoisted under gusty winds and we were able to maintain our desired westerly direction.

The slide-in to our entry hatch fell from where it was lying on the cockpit seat and down onto the galley floor, splitting it apart. So we now have no closure at the entry way. Hope it doesn't rain!! We will get it repaired as soon as we arrive at Bahia de Caraquez.

Sightings today: 1 breaching whale, 1 flying fish on deck, 1 fishing panga about 60 km from shore. What's amazing about that is with the strong offshore winds, if their motor packed it in, they wouldn't stop drifting for possibly 800 km. I'm sure it happens as these guys go way way out there for their catch.

Headed further offshore on this tack to round the NW prominent Ecuadorian point (Punta Galera). Then 4 hours later, tacked back again with a full moon thinly veiled under a skirting of clouds. Temperatures are getting mildly cooler in the evenings.

Our location around midnight (which for some unknown reason did not post on our map, as also happened on Day 1): N01°16'20" W080°08'05"

Friday, August 12, 2011


We've been going generally in the same direction since 14:00 yesterday. But we tacked at 10:30, with sails still balanced. We are sure happy by our lack of fuel consumption!

Saw 3 whales (1 breaching) today and spotting more and more flying fish.

Waters have been much calmer, no more storm cells so sunny skies, generally warm temperatures, and lower humidity levels. Life is good!

We rounded the point with strong winds at Cabo Manglares, very near the Columbia/Ecuador border, and around 22:00 we crossed into the waters of Ecuador!

We needed to tack west once again at 23:45 as on our southerly route we had cut very close to land to pick up a back eddy as a respite from fighting the normal counter-current. Winds were abating.

Today's position around midnight: N01°22'50" W079°03'15"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 6: Alarm

We tacked to the west shortly after midnight as the winds were now taking us close to land. Sea Turtle is now under balanced sails, giving us a break from steering. It's been great to not have to hand-steer - who needs an autopilot!

We are now starting to use our lee cloths as we heel quite a bit and do not want to end up on the floor while sleeping.

The bilge pump alarm blared at 03:00 in the morning - what a scary sound for 2 reasons: (1) it is very very loud, especially when sound asleep, and (2) does it signify a major leak? It turned out to be a slow leak in the brand new seawater pump that we will have to keep an eye on until we get to port.

Jordan saw a large shark about 100 meters off that jumped straight out of the water and into the air!

We tacked once again at 14:00, heading more southerly now. Time seems to go by quickly and the days are running together...

Today's position around midnight as indicated in our map link to the right: N02°29'00" W079°07'30"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 5: Illusions

Yesterday Jordan had a hard time getting caught up on sleep which was unusual as he can generally fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. Dog-tired in the wee hours of the morning, we stopped to bring in sails for lack of wind. It was then we found ourselves enveloped in clouds right to the sea surface. With no reference and the boat meandering, Jordan got disoriented and in his tired state thought the compass wasn't working. Starting the motor, he realized that it was the same conditions some pilots fatally find themselves in while flying in obscure conditions and their plane gets totally out of control. So rather than have me take over a shift and continuing, he decided to turn off the motor and drift again so we could both sleep.

After drifting 3 nautical miles, we awoke to pouring rain at daybreak and immediately motored away. Shortly thereafter, the clouds quickly dissipated and we were under sunny skies and sailing with a light breeze.

Around 11:00, the winds died and it started to pour again. Sails were taken down and the motor started. Weirdly enough, the seas had become confused with choppy short waves that we were bashing into to try to make it through a dense cloud band. As we came out the other side, we saw where the waves were coming from. It was really windy there.

When the wind kicked up again, Jordan continued to practice balancing the boat and sails. Especially now that we are without an autopilot. Very basically, balancing sails means to adjust the sails perfectly so that the boat stays on course relative to the wind without constantly manning the helm.

Dolphins and 3 pilot whales came around Sea Turtle today. And so far, we've seen only 3 freighters in total but no pleasure or fishing boats.

Today's position around midnight: N02°57'17" W078°27'00"

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Day 4: AP dead

We had horrendous rain today. A real downpour. Storm cells were everywhere and we were both soaked but not cold. It was raining so hard that Jordan filled 1 of our water tanks in only 10 minutes!

Our autopilot no longer works sporadically - it doesn't work at all, dead. I want to throw it overboard. Still a long way to go to Ecuador so it's going to be a lot of constant hand-steering, night and day, which gets very tiring.

We took advantage of the favourable westerlies what were blowing today and made good time sailing. As we get further south, it will be harder for us to gain the needed west direction due to ocean currents and wind direction.

Today's position around midnight: N03°59'14" W078°08'80"

Monday, August 08, 2011

Day 3: More AP issues

It was calm and the autopilot worked occasionally, but not very often. After doing shifts hand-steering, Jordan finally turned off the motor around 03:30 in the morning (so we could just drift a bit) and we both slept till 06:00. Only slightly off course, we continued hand-steering upon rising. It was still calm with a little breeze but not enough for a spinnaker.

Excitement of the day was spotting 2 turtles and noticing that humidity levels in Sea Turtle were slowly dropping.

Nothing new, same old...

Today's position around midnight: N05°21'94" W077°49'41"

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Around 02:00 when it started to rain and I did my quarterly hour check, it was discovered that the autopilot was not working and we were off course. I woke Jordan up and he got us back on course and tried unsuccessfully to fix the autopilot. By 03:30, I was exhausted so Jordan hand-steered for the rest of the early morning hours. At daylight, he turned on the autopilot once again and got it work for a couple of hours.

With sails up again, we hoped the autopilot would continue to operate properly. But of course, it quit soon afterwards.

At 10:00, rip-snortin' winds started to blow. Jordan put 2 reefs in the main and added the small staysail (between the mast and the bigger head sail) and we continued to motor-sail and hand-steer throughout the day and evening, but at least we were making good time.

A gray and white bird landed on deck. Too pooped to fly, he walked the entire deck searching for a safe spot to rest, back and forth he went. Jordan eventually picked him up and set him in a small cubbyhole in the cockpit where he stayed for several hours before flying away.

Aargh! It's not a parrot but it is a sea bird!

We passed the Panama/Columbia border around 22:30 this evening. So we are now entering South America, a new continent for both of us, and leaving Central America behind!

Today's position around midnight: N06°41'62" W078°19'17"

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Day 1: To Ecuador

We hoisted anchor from Las Brisas de Amador at Isla Perico (near Panama City) at 08:30 today, under sail, for what we think will be about a 10-day voyage to Ecuador of South America. Once again, it's sad to leave our newly-made friends and our old friends behind.

We had a 2-hour total run with our spinnaker today and then sailed wing-on-wing until around 01:00 when we had to start the motor as our batteries were too low to run the autopilot. We had used too much power making water during the last 4 to 5 hours. Too bad as we still had great winds.

Jordan hauled out the sewing machine and I made the flag for Ecuador. The flag for Columbia is the same as for Ecuador except that Ecuador's has a crest in the middle. I did not bother with the crest as so far the countries don't seem to mind if you omit the crest. 

I will be posting our position way out there in the big blue by marking Position Reports through Airmail which automatically posts into our blog. Just click on the link called Our Position on the right side of our blog. These positions are where we are around 23:59 (11:59 each night). But we will be marking many more positions than this on our charts!

Our location around midnight (which for some unknown reason did not post on our map): N07°47'22" W078°57'18"

Friday, August 05, 2011

Passage preps

As soon as our company left, we needed to get things ready to leave Panama for the passage to Ecuador. First project was to get the boat out of the water and do new bottom paint and polish the hull. There were 2 options, 1 yard that was very expensive and the other very reasonable at Balboa Yacht Club's "marine ways". The downside was the boat sat in the trolly lift that came up on rails and was very awkward to manoeuvre and work around. But the total cost for paint, a bit of paid labour, haul out, 3 days out, and going back in the water was $500 - very inexpensive compared to Canada or USA.

Jordan trying to work with Sea Turtle above the "rails" used for hauling out

Jordan hired some labourers but they didn't pan out too well so they were let go after 1 day. With a 1-day extension (3 days total), Jordan was able to get all desired work done between periods of rain and high tide that came up to the boat. I had an excellent WiFi connection, so I got caught up on some needed downloading and program installing since we had a new hard drive installed. I also did several loads of laundry at the cheapest rate yet - $0.50 to wash and $0.75 to dry!

Our entertainment was the 4 friendly cats that made the workshops home. And as the marine ways were right beside the canal shipping approach lanes, we had a constant foreign flagged parade.

Back at our anchorage, a power boat had discount diesel for sale but when Jordan was emptying the jerry jugs, there was too much crud in it. So he stopped that delivery and plans to get the rest at the fuel dock today. So much for discount fuel.

Then it was the provision routine. The easy part was the shopping and taxi ride. Loading it into the dinghy, sorting it on board, de-wrapping much of it (removing labels and cardboard, etc.), stowing, and recording an up-to-date inventory list were the hard and time-consuming part. If we don't do an inventory list, it is amazing how we forget what we have in some of the deep holds. I once bought Jordan some chocolates as a present but when it came time to give it to him, it took me 6 months to find where I hid them!

The last thing to do was get our Zarpe (official exit document that the next country demands to see) from the Port Captain and an exit stamp from Immigration. Immigration informed us that we did not have the proper visa stamp in our passports from when we checked in at Pedregal so we had a bit of running around to do to get the needed stamp. But everything was sorted out quickly.

We are now ready to leave for Ecuador! This passage can take anywhere from 10 to 20 days depending on sea state, storms, currents, winds, etc. We will pull anchor tomorrow morning, August 6th...