The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.

Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.

Our favorite sailing quote:

"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Panama City, March 25, 2015

Panama City is a sight after months spent in small beach towns and villages. We are at the crossroads of the commercial world and it feels busy. In the anchorage there must be 50 large tankers and super tankers just waiting to transit and the VHF radio is a buzz with traffic. After crossing the Gulf of Panama with completely flat seas, we anchored in a small bay with another 30 other boats from around the world. Instead of just San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco boats we are now seeing German, South African and French flags to name a few. We are officially entering the world of circumnavigators and ocean crossing sailors and it is a little intimidating.

We have a couple of days of canal business to deal with; getting officially measured, paying the multiple fees, finding line tenders and getting tires to attach to the boat to use as large fenders. We have three locks to go through and we don't know the boat configuration in each lock. Will we be side tied, tied to a tug, tied to several other sailboats? We have to use a canal pilot and we have to have 4 line handlers in addition to a captain. On our last canal visit we were buddy boating with a power boat and they handled lines for us to get some experience before they went through the locks with their own boat. It worked out great! This time, we expect to use Zander and myself and we will either trade with another boating couple, and subsequently help them cross, or try to pick up some local travelers that are interested in a more intimate canal experience.

Today we visited the canal museum and viewing platform. We watched several large ships go through the Miraflores locks. It's an interesting process and while you are in the locks, you are so worried about your job of tending lines or steering, that you don't get a chance to really look around. The engineering is impressive today, a hundred years ago it must have been incredible. If you don't know your canal history the gist of it is, the French tried several times to create a canal bridging the continent and failed each time. It was expensive and located in an area of the world where many of the workers were succumbing to malaria and yellow fever. I don't know all the details, but Teddy Roosevelt made a deal with Panama to complete the canal and have the US keep control of a swath of land on either side of the canal. The US had the canal zone and a large army base that was all under US jurisdiction. In turn the Americans helped Panama gain independence from Colombia. More than 60 years after the canal opened, in 1977, Carter signed a treaty that would give the canal back to the locals in the year 1999. And so, Panama has operated and controlled the Panama Canal for the last 15 years. It just celebrated its 100 years of operation, meanwhile adjacent property is currently being excavated for canal expansion. Next door (give or take a small country) in Nicaragua a completely new canal is being contemplated by the Chinese. Apparently they will be breaking ground this year, and it will be completed in 5 years. People down here have their doubts that it will actually be completed, but it will be something to keep tabs on. I'm not sure if the increasing ship traffic will be able to sustain two large canal operations, but it will be interesting to see how it unfolds. Maybe with a little competition the $1000 price tag for small sailboats will be reduced. Actually it is a bargain going through the canal as a small boat considering they charge some of the big ships 100K to get through and having a few small sailboats rafted up together certainly doesn't bring in that kind of money. I'm sure we are nothing short of a pain in the butt to deal with. We often wish Carter inserted a little clause allowing American flagged boats to pass through free of charge!

The canal is about 50 miles long and contains three locks. From the west, two locks raise ships 75 feet to Gatun Lake. Once passed the locks, ships travel 40 miles or so through the flooded Gatun Lake area until they reach the third set of locks which lowers them back into the Atlantic. A lot of people wonder why there are locks at all, why not simply cut a waterway all the way through, connecting the two oceans. By flooding the lake, most of the transit is passive along a channel that just has to be dredged and only the areas near the locks themselves had to be cut out. As it stands, 200 million cubic meters of material were removed during construction, were this material to be placed on railroad flatcars, we are told it would circle the globe four times.  The only hardship with the locks (other than maintenance ) is they use fresh water and gravity to raise and lower the water level. During drought years there is always concern that a lack of water will shut down the canal. The new canal, being built adjacent to the old one, will have a recirculating water system to save the water. Three new locks will be built new, but they will also deepen the existing channel through the lake and widening Culebra Cut on the Atlantic side.

Last time we were in this area I was sick as a dog and in Panama we found out Zander had joined us as a stowaway. Needless to say the little bit of the Caribbean I saw was only when I picked my head up from chumming over the side of the boat. I'm very much looking forward to a more comfortable trip through the Caribbean.

Friday, March 20, 2015

More Panama, March 20, 2015

Porter has been a little sad lately and homesick. The last month has been particularly hard. Yes, we've seen some cool things; monkeys, volcanoes, rain forests, etc, but in between we've had to cover a lot of miles and we haven't seen any kids. For our socialite, these have been hard days and he is voicing his dislike of the trip as a whole. Also, the kids have been really having a hard time getting along, and there has been a lot of teasing and tears. Again, we've been spending a great deal of time on the boat in close quarters and off the beach where they would normally play well together.

The day started as we left our previous anchorage at dawn so the kids could sleep through some of the 30 miles we wanted to cover. The passage was lovely from Isla Seco to Bahia Honda, we sailed most of the early morning and then got into some lush forested islands and had to turn on the motor to zig zag through them in the low wind conditions. We anchored about noon in a completely still, large bay surrounded by jungle. Our new usual is being able to hear howler monkeys in the distance and this anchorage didn't fail. The boys immediately took to the kayaks and explored a small island near by. A little later some locals approached us in their boat to trade for some of their fruit. We gave them some clothes, fish hooks and boxed milk. They gave us two huge stalks of bananas and plantains, a pineapple, a bag of lemons, chilies, limes, cilantro and lemon grass. Mike later helped, our new friend, Domingo and his family get their generator working, so in turn they took us over to the nearest village on an island and gave us a tour. We toured the school, which was in really good condition; clean and spacious. One of the classes of secondary students was still there working on some math problems. Zander noticed right away that it was the same stuff he has been working on. No matter where you are in the world, you can't escape linear equations! The evening before another cruiser came by and gave us a huge red snapper and we still had it in the fridge. We cooked the fish up with lemongrass, Mike fried some plantains and we had a meal even the kids thought was decent. While much of the worlds population may subsist on plantains, I'm not usually a huge fan. Mike occasionally brings them home back from the market in Oregon and I suffer through them, but these were actually almost good!

Sounds all good, a great day, right? For most of us, it is all still good. Porter, dramatic as he is, sometimes broods over the things he is missing, which most of all is his friends. While we were meeting up with other kid boats, all was well in his world, but lately there have been few boats and zero with kids. It would be great if he could meet some locals, but again, we have been moving so fast, even that doesn't happen often. This won't be a shock to anyone that knows him, but his mood is pretty mercurial, and one moment he is on top of the world motoring around in the dinghy by himself with his dive knife strapped to his leg playing great explorer, or shadow boxing on the bow, body blowing an invisible opponent and the next we are the worst parents in the world for taking him on this trip. Dr. Porter and Mr. Bradford. You never know which one you will wake up with. Zander on the other hand was made for this life (it may help that he doesn't have an older brother criticizing his every move) and is loving our trip. He knew more about sailing than I did about 2 weeks into the trip, but he is really becoming an expert as we go along. It has been fun to see the transformation from little boy to confident young man, totally in his element.

As we were getting ready for bed and Mike was putting the dinghy up on the davits, he noticed the phosphoresce was particularly bright. He called us all on deck for the show and the evening ended with a swim in the most amazing phosphorescence display ever. We could have been floating in space, the lights twinkling all around us. The boys dove down with their masks leaving a lighted trail in their wake. Ana loved it, she thought she was covered with diamonds. Add sparkles or anything glittery to her world and she is happy. We made phosphorescent angles and played for half an hour in the otherwise dark water. I'm not normally a big fan of night swims, but I took some comfort in the fact that if something was going to come up from the abyss to get me, at least I would see it coming!

Anyway, Mike and I (really all me) agonize over our decision to take the kids away, because they are certainly missing things. Some days are like this. Tears in the morning, but "best night ever" by the end. My nerves and that kid....but that's a whole different blog post!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Anchored in Bahia Honda, Panama, by Mike, March 19, 2015

We are currently anchored in Bahia Honda, Panama. We sailed in today to a calm landlocked bay where the ocean swells can't enter. The bay is very remote and can only be reached by boat or horseback via a rough trail. The locals are extremely friendly. As we settled into the anchorage, a local named Domingo and his family paddled out to us in their wooden boat. We had heard from other sailors that Domingo likes to trade the fruit he grows for items he can't easily obtain. We were invited ashore to visit his home. Once there, I was able to repair his broken diesel electric generator and then we traded a bar of soap, several kids clothes and some fish hooks and line for three huge stalks of bananas and plantain, lemons, limes, cilantro, chilies, grapefruit and a large basket of lemon grass. As the sun set, we could hear several troops of howler monkeys either declaring their territory or just talking across the bay to one another. We had a huge red snapper to cook for dinner so I filleted it and wrapped it in some foil to steam it with the chilies, lemon grass and cilantro. As the fish cooked, I fried up some of the starchy green plantain. It was an excellent meal which even the kids enjoyed. Each item on the menu, even our reverse osmosis drinking water, had come out of the ocean or someone's garden that afternoon. After dinner, I went on deck to raise the dingy and kayaks into the davits. The moon had not come up yet and I noticed that the phosphorescence was unusually bright. I called the kids up on deck and we all decided to jump in for a night swim in the sparkling water. The phosphorescence was brighter and longer lasting than I have ever seen it. As we moved our arms and legs around in the water, the swirling wake would leave a 2-3 foot trail of phosphorescence which would last from 7-8 seconds. Diving under with a mask on was mesmerizing but also disorienting since the stars in the sky would blend with the stars in the water. The phosphorescence was so bright, like a flashlight shined in your eyes, it actually prevented you from being able to see well into the darkness around you. While swimming, Porter filled his mouth with sea water and as he squirted the water out of his mouth, it traced an arching trail of glittering little green diamonds. It was a fun day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Made it to Panama, March 17, 2015

We left Costa Rica with stops in Manuel Antonio and Isla Cano on the way south. Manuel Antonio is a highly visited park with some of the highest biodiversity of any park in the country. Maybe we were a little jaded with the number of people in the park, but we probably wouldn't list it as a highlight. We had to wait to enter the park because it was so crowded, so that kind of soured us from the get go. We didn't see a sloth, but we did see lots of Capuchin monkey's, which is always fun. We also ID'd several different frogs and A Jesus Christ Lizard that ran across the path on his hind legs. We were able to anchor in the bay and when all the other visitors had to leave the park by 4pm, we at least had the bay to ourselves. We could hear Howler Monkeys on the hillside and I did a nice sunset kayak by myself (living on a 42 foot boat, alone time is very coveted).

While we were anchored in Manuel Antonio cove we took turns scrubbing the water line of the boat. We really need a bottom paint job to keep the growth off, but in the meantime it just means a little sweat labor. Unfortunately we are growing our own little tropical reef below us. As Mike was scraping the algae off, little larval crabs were floating away. When we got back to the boat Mike thought he had water in his ear that he couldn't get out. Turns out it was a little crab and it had found a new home. Now if that had been me, I would have fully freaked out and probably stuck a fork in my ear to get it out. Instead Mike calmly asked me to try and pull him out. We eventually irrigated his ear with Witch Hazel and the crab floated out. It's always something out here! So far, knock on wood, I haven't had to put my EMT skills to much use. A few scrapes, a light sprain for Porter (only he could fall into the deep end of an empty swimming pool), and a few cases of swimmers ear. So far so good!

We also stoped at Isla Cano, another national park on our way south. Again, we couldn't stop, we couldn't dive with our own gear and we couldn't get permission to land on the island from the island. We were supposed to get permission ahead of time from the mainland. Officially we didn't anchor, but we did take turns jumping in and snorkeling off the rocks. Reef fish are getting more colorful and we are starting to see different kinds of coral. Zander was hoping to see some reef sharks, supposedly this island is second only to Coco's Island as a dive spot. We would have loved to have gone diving here, but we would have had to hire a boat from the mainland and dive with a dive master at $150 each. Kind of defeats the purpose of having your own boat, dive compressor and dive master on board. It was a nice stop anyway and break from our passage to Panama.

I would certainly return to Costa Rica, but not by boat. It is expensive, the winds are super strong in the north and almost non existent in the south, the parks are incredibly popular and the clearing in and out of the country was a nightmare. Mike spent almost two whole days clearing out in Punta Arenas, including 4 trips to the bank, 11 government buildings and a lot of waiting in lines (on occasion an official would coincidentally become available just after a televised soccer game finished up). On a tangent, they do love their soccer here and Porter is popular anytime he wears his Barcelona jersey. National pride runs deep, but Lionel Messi seems to transcend lines of national patriotism. Messi is a God everywhere we go.

Panama Arrival
We arrived early this morning and anchored off our first official Panamanian Island. We dropped the hook just 16 miles shy of our desired anchorage of Parque Isla Seco. After 30 hours at sea the wind increased to over 20 knots right on the nose. Normally that wouldn't stop us, but we were tired, it was 5 am and when we looked at the speed decrease to 3 knots per hour we just didn't want to beat into it for another 4 hours. Instead we tucked into a quiet little cove off of Isla Partida and we seem to have the place to ourselves. After the kids finish their homework we will probably explore a little and then poke back out and see if we can cover the last few miles before sundown.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Laundry and the Volcano, March 14, 2015

Did I mention Costa Rica is expensive? We brought two bags of laundry in to have washed, dried and folded and it cost us $63. Before you go thinking I am spoiled and don't do my own laundry, I do, as often as I can. Laundry mats are few and far between in these countries. Occasionally we have to bite the bullet and have our laundry done by a service. Generally it is pretty reasonable, maybe twice what it would cost to do it ourselves (ourselves meaning me) at a self serve. We also have the option of hand washing our clothes. We have a set up for that, but fresh water is at a premium and I don't do more than a few articles of clothing or a favorite sheet that had something spilled upon in at a time. I generally try not to do full loads at a time. However, we expect to be in remote locations for the next two weeks, and we spent several days getting dirty up in the highlands and we needed to do another couple of big loads. We didn't want to shell out another $60+ so we decided to do it all ourselves. We are not at a traditional marina, we are moored to a small floating dock that has one other boat on it. It is actually pretty nice, it gives us a nice platform to stage things, move everything off the boat to wash, leave garbage, but pay the price of a mooring ball rather than the $100 slip fees the other marinas charge per day. We got lucky and on this particular dock they have piped agua dulce in (fresh water). It is a small stream without any pressure, but it's fresh water and we don't have to make it ourselves. I got the boys working, which is a small miracle of miracles, but they actually did a great job. We have a large plunger, especially made for washing clothes, two buckets and a wringer. Instant laundry mat! The kids worked for about two ours, agitating (they have lots of practice there), wringing and rinsing. This is the first time they have helped me and it will hopefully make them more aware of the clothes they are throwing in the dirty pile that miraculously end up clean on their bunks. Anyway, they did great, they did a bunch of clothes and sheets and all I had to do was find a place to hang and dry them all. We laid clothes out on the deck, along all the lifelines and eventually and rotated things through and got every thing spread out and drying. It was all in all a very successful endeavor. Until...the volcano on the other side of the country, that had been dormant for the last 20 years, decided to blow ash all over the country. We woke up to a nice sprinkling of ash all over our freshly laundered clothes! Agh! Oh well, it was Friday the 13th after all, what did we expect?

Ah, the tropics. Always sounds like paradise right? It is most of the time, but the heat and humidity is such a constant here it is hard not to complain just a little. It is regularly 90 degrees, maybe dipping down to 85 at night, and we live in a state of sheen. We go through so much drinking water that we've created a boat task to someone to keep water bottles full and refrigerated. Our air conditioning is the great outdoors and when the air doesn't move, as it doesn't much in this part of Costa Rica, it is hot! We love our water maker, the luxury of taking several two minute, cold showers a day is priceless. The ocean temperatures are over 91 degrees and even swimming is not refreshing anymore. We've taken to diving in the water and trying to get as far down as possible, below the thermocline, to reach some cooler water. I'm sure if you've just shoveled your driveway, you won't take much pity on us, but believe me, paradise comes at a price. We are looking forward to those Caribbean winds to cool us down.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Costa Rica, March 10, 2015

We officially cleared into Costa Rica in Playa Coco up in the gulf of Papagayo.  It was windy, very windy.  The anchorage was fairly flat, but the wind was regularly about 25 knots.  Certainly not terrible, but it makes for choppy dinghy rides ashore and sand blasting spa treatments on the beach.  People love that area, for us...not so much.  We checked out a few of the beaches and small beach towns and then decided to move south where the wind would not be a constant.  We sailed down the Nicoya Penninsula and had planned to anchor in the early morning near a small island just outside of Punta Arenas.  We had light winds most of the day and the night was nicely illuminated with a full moon that rose just as the sun went down.  I love those nights.  Have I mentioned before I love having the presence of the moon?  On moonless nights the bow looks like it is going into a black curtain and I have no idea what is in front of me.  OK, I have some idea since I have radar and a navigation chart, but I really like to be able to see more.  In any event just before we reached the islands, the wind piped up, the seas got confused and choppy and as we were beating into it, I looked at the chart, noticed we had to thread the needle between several islands and there was a rip current warning on the chart.  Wimpy me says abort, abort.  I turned the boat around, headed back the way we came, and started searching for a protective bay.  The course change woke Michael up and while he didn’t really want to turn back, he finally gave in and agreed that we should probably tackle that stretch of water during the light of day.  We anchored at about 5am and sleepily hit our racks.  Porter woke saying there were parrots on the lifelines and he could hear howler monkeys on the hillside.  The kids are always anxious to know where they are when we arrive into a new anchorage and they get up early. This spot was a jackpot for them.  Meanwhile we were exhausted and begged for 5 more minutes about 100 times before they finally got us up out of bed.  

The motor up through the Gulf of Nicoya Islands was great.  The beaches are white sand, lined with palm trees and the water is very clear.  It was lovely to cruise through, but unfortunately we didn’t stop.  Punta Arenas marinas are accessible only at the highest of tides, so we needed to make tracks to get there in time.  Punta Arenas is not the nicest of towns, but we were hoping to get a bottom paint done, as well as leave the boat at the PA Yacht Club for a few days and travel inland.  We had called ahead of time to see about hauling out, but when we finally got there they told us their winch was not in the best working order and they didn’t feel comfortable hauling out a 20 ton boat.  Hmm, that would have been helpful to know on the phone. It still was the most economical place to leave our boat in all of Costa Rica, so we decided to stay and explore.  We found Costa Rica to be pretty expensive, maybe we were just accustomed to Mexico and the other Central American countries, but all the other marinas in CR wanted $100 a day just for a slip.  Anyway, we rented a car and spent three days in the Volcan Arenal area.  This is a fantastic area, very commercial, but the rainforest is an awesome experience and worth facing  the hordes of people.  We hiked every trail in the national park, soaked in thermal springs and the boys tried zip lining.  They traversed valleys, skirted waterfalls and skimmed over the canopy.  I’m not sure if they fully appreciated all the natural beauty they were zipping past, but they sure loved the adrenalin sport of it all! This was sort of a budget buster for us, but given the lack of "things" to get the kids for their birthdays, we've promised future activities and Porter held us to this one!  We also participated in a rainforest chocolate making tour, the boys are totally intrigued with making chocolate from scratch since we are in the land of the cocoa plant. Arenal Volcano is one of the 10 most active volcanos in the world, but unfortunately for us it has not had lava flowing in the last 5 years.  The drive through the country side was my favorite.  The highlands of the country are so lush and green and such a contrast from the coastal areas we have been visiting.  The farmers make fence posts out of branches and small trees and they almost always take root and the fence post becomes a living tree, only in the rainforest would you see that (and maybe Oregon).  The towns were clean and well organized and reminded us of Chile.  There is a large German influence in the Lake Arenal area, but unlike other expat areas we have visited, these are expats from the 40’s and 50’s and they are fully assimilated into the culture and landscape.  Swiss chalets style buildings pop up on the hillsides and everything is neat, tidy and on schedule.  Just slightly different from the rest of Central America! 

Later we toured the capital city of San Jose.  I don’t think San Jose has the attraction other large cities have in Central America, the plazas and architecture are not outstanding, but we visited a really well done pre-Columbian museum and the kids really got into it.  Maybe I have budding ethno- archeologists in the making!  Porter in particular loves everything Native American, so we try to indulge his interests as much as possible.  It started with arrow heads and spears, but happily has progressed to include all aspects of early Native American life.

We enjoyed our time in Costa Rica, although I don’t think having a boat gave us any special privileges, the best of Costa Rica is inland.  Costa Rica is such a stark contrast to the other countries we’ve visited and it was interesting from that perspective.  We’ve been teaching the kids about the history of the Spanish in California, Mexico and Central America and the conquistadors.  In the 1500’s the Spanish managed to appropriate some of the Costa Rican gold from the indigenous people, but for the most part the crown left the country (at the time part of Guatemala) alone.  For one reason it didn't have the amount of gold and silver some of the other countries had, so they were not as interested in the area, but the major reason was it did not have a large number of indigenous people to force into labor.  The settlers needed to work the land themselves, causing them to look elsewhere.  In 1821 it gained independence from Spain, as did all the Central American countries, and had a fairly non violent history from then on, again in contrast to many of it’s Central American neighbors.  It has, in general, been politically stable, so much that in 1948 (or somewhere in there), they abolished the army.  I don’t think communism was ever a threat here because everyone was almost level, and it was ruled as a rural democracy for a long time.  Costa Rica also has retained 25% of their land in some sort of protected status.  This high percentage of protected lands give it rich biodiversity and bolsters the tourism sector which the country now relies on heavily.  Costa Rica also has obligatory education through high school, further distinguishing it from other Central American countries.  Locals regularly asked us how we were able to keep the kids out of school for so long, as homeschooling is not an option in Costa Rica.  

We are now back in Punta Arenas. provisioning and getting ready to check out of Costa Rica, although we will officially be en-route to Panama, we will make a few more stops in the country to visit Manual Antonio and Drakes Bay.  From there, there are several islands in Panama we would like to visit before getting to the canal area.  Time is flying by and we have officially been out here for 6 months and have traveled 5000 nautical miles.  Before we know it we will be in the Caribbean.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Forgotten Middle, March 3, 2015

The Forgotten Middle refers to the portion of Central America south of Mexico to Panama where few cruisers stop.  Our stop in El salvador, one of two marinas, had a total of 4 boats in it.  The Port Captain in Honduras, the only port of entry on the West Coast, said they have 4 boats a year check in and a trawler we passed going north said we were the first cruising boat they had seen since Panama.  Where is everybody?  14 years ago we port hopped with about 10 other boats down this coast.  As we cruised down the coast and got hit by different gap winds (winds funneling across the isthmus and accelerating), we quickly reflected on why more boats don’t cruise this area.  It can be brutal out here!  We’ve had sustained winds of more than 30 knots for 6-12 hours at a time, gusting to 40.  These are well known weather systems and we hope they will be some of the bigger winds we see on the trip.  We don’t always love living at a 30 degree angle, but our boat loves the big winds.  The bigger the better, the more portholes underwater (we see a lot of green water at 30 knots), the happier she is.  It is the crew that suffers. We have to hunker down, find a safe place to read, play games or sleep.  Ana spends hours in the back bunk playing with her toys, oblivious to the fact that her world is off kilter.  Meanwhile the floor of the boat is usually littered with everything that was not nailed down or behind a locking cabinet, and all the hatches have to be closed due to the spray so it is stifling hot down below. It’s tough living like that for an extended period of time but the kids have been such troopers.  

The first thing we noticed after leaving Mexico, was that life appeared harder for the locals in El Salvador and Honduras and presumably in Guatamala and Nicaragua.  The standard of living is much lower and locals struggle to survive in these countries. People are pretty poor and unlike Mexico, there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle class.  In talking to the locals, there is still quite a bit of violence as well.  Not directed at tourists, but gang violence and recruitment of  young boys in poor rural areas of the country. Some of these kids have no choices if a gang targets an area.  The church’s seem to offer some amnesty and there are quite a few evangelical missions offering safe options for the kids.  Another difference in Central America is the lack of tourists. In the markets we stood out more, more people touched the kids’ heads and we got more stares in general.  Even in our tanner than normal state, we still look pretty white comparatively. Fortunately the kids are natural ambassador and we eventually get smiles and friendly conversation from the locals, but it did take a little more effort than it did in Mexico.   While we were in the country, El Salvador was gearing up for a national election. There is a communist and a conservative party and there were rallies and other impromptu gatherings throughout the country.  Although that makes for interesting politics, we tried to stay away from potential hot spots.  We keep to where the happy people are!

In Honduras we stopped at a old American CIA base at the top of a dormant volcano.  Regardless of weather, Mike was so not going to miss this stop.  Secret evil lair inside a volcano, how cool is that? Mike and the boys took a guide and hiked the grueling, overgrown, fully sun exposed trail to the top of the Mountain in 90 degrees.  They were pretty beat on the return and Porters only comment was “Not nearly as cool as it sounds”.  I think he was expecting at least some sharks with lasers guarding the base or at a minimum some ill tempered sea bass!  I guess not having been alive during the cold war and hearing about weapon sales, proxy wars and civil wars in Central America, he couldn’t quite grasp the importance of this simple site serving as a listening center or place for weapons transfer. Honduras, one of our allies, was strategically straddled between two hotbeds of civil unrest.  This stop was one of those, interesting in a historical sense, but not necessarily worth going back to sites.

When we finally sailed into Costa Rica we were all ready for a break.  We were tired, we hadn’t eaten a real meal in several days and the wreck (messy) of a boat had to be put back together.  On the plus side, no one got sick, nothing broke, the boat was bone dry below deck and other than being a little stinky and tired, we were no worse for wear.  The bay was frothing with the wind gusts, but fortunately, in the far corner where we anchored, no fetch was able to build and it was flat.  We arrived early evening into Bahia Elena, a huge bay in a Santa Rosa national park, and heard Howler monkeys in the distance and saw our first parrots.  This park, with its arid scrub foliage and Acacia thorn trees, looks more like a scene from the African Savannah, but the wildlife is very Costa Rican. During the few days we were there, we explored the park by dinghy and by foot.   In the early mornings we watched white faced monkeys forage near the edge of the bay, later we scared up some white tailed deer and listened to many different amazing bird calls.  A highlight for the boys was taking our new machete and deforesting some of the world’s largest remaining stand of tropical dry forest. Our first stop in Costa Rica was fantastic!  We look forward to many more adventures.
view of the Gulf of Fonseca