Provisions, Provisions…

How do you buy enough food and supplies for two people of at least a month? This has been our recent challenge as we prepare to head across the Pacific from Ecuador to the Marquesas on what will be our longest passage by far. We’re estimating the crossing will take us 25-30 days at sea. As we’ve learned from previous passages, your body is always working even if you don’t realize it. So, getting lots of calories and good nutrients is essential. On top of that, we’ve been reading up on what items are difficult or impossible to find or extremely expensive in French Polynesia, so we have to stock up on those items as well. For example, apparently it is difficult to find peanut butter, and mayonnaise and honey are really expensive. Who knew?

Our boat was pretty empty of food when we started. When we pulled the boat out of the water in October, we pulled all food out to either eat it or toss if it was old. That means, we didn’t even have dry/canned food or condiments and had to start over. We also need to stock up on things like shampoo and toothpaste.

Going to the store is quite a process. There’s a store about a mile from the Marina we can walk to. But, to get it back to the boat, we take a $2 taxi ride. Then we have to haul all the bags down the ramp to the boat, get them inside and find a place to store everything. We didn’t want to be too overwhelmed by the shopping, so we decided once a cart was completely full, we were done shopping for the day. We’ve done about 4 runs and have one left to go for all our fresh fruits and veggies.

Not even half of it…

We are always worried about bugs on the boat (especially cucarachas, yuck!) that can come in the groceries. We dispose of all cardboard packaging immediately. I rinse banana stalks and pineapples in salt water. And, I take each can, write the contents in a sharpie on top, remove the label and rinse in water with bleach. Apparently bugs like to lay eggs in the glue that holds the labels on. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

On our last passage, i also premade a bunch of dinners and froze them which were perfect to easily heat up when we encountered rough weather and it was difficult to b in the galley for very long. I did the same this time. I spent the last few days cooking chili, pasta with meat sauce, red curry beef stew, and chicken veggie quinoa. I can get 2-3 dinners out of each. We also frozen chicken, pork chops, etc. that we can cook while underway. And, hopefully we will catch some fish! If we run out of fresh items, we now have enough canned and dried food to feed an army!

Our preparations for the Pacific crossing haven’t just been about food. The boat went back in the water about a month ago with fresh bottom paint, and since then we have been ticking off a laundry list of boat maintenance items. Most were just little items, but we did replace the lower shrouds. We also checked all the sails and halyards for wear and chafe, but everything looked good. There is definitely peace of mind in checking that everything is in good order!

Adagio going back in the water…

We have had a little fun this month in addition to all the hard work. We’re planning to go to the Tuamotus this year, where one of the fun activities you can do (because of the consistent wind) is kitesurfing! But, neither of us have been kitesurfing before or have gear. We started searching online and found out that there is kitesurfing in Ecuador in a beach town called Santa Marianita where they have kitesurfing schools. Unfortunately the windy season was over, so there was no more kitesurfing until May. But, one of the instructors we found, Javier, had used gear for sale that was only a year or so old. They buy new gear for their students each year and were happy to unload last year’s kites that were still in good shape. Javier even offered to let us stay at his house for free.

So, Mike, Dan, Amy and I hopped on a 4 hr bus ride to go learn about kitesurfing. The town was getting ready for Carnival, so there were lots of people at the beach and preparations for the party. Even though there wasn’t enough wind to learn how to kitesurf in the water, Javier gave us some technical lessons on the sand. Now, we’re just going to have to find someone in the Tuamotus to really teach us how to get up using our new kitesurfing gear!

We got back to Salinas just in time for Carnival. Monday and Tuesday leading up to Ash Wednesday are holidays here, so everyone was at the beach during the day. We headed into town Tuesday night to have dinner and see the craziness. The young people have some pretty hilarious traditions for Carnival. Everyone has water squirt guns and cans of spray foam. Kids sit in the back of pickups and spray people walking on the sidewalk as you walk by. And, some people take paint and run up to you smearing it all over your face.

Amy and I both got smudged with paint by random people on the street. We started running from the people with spray foam cans, but Dan had his own spray foam and started instigating spray foam attacks. At one point we were sitting ducks in the back of a taxi with the window down and got drenched in foam. Thanks, Dan…

So, I think we’re ready to go! The officials are coming to check us out tomorrow. We’ll likely leave Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. We plan to update our Facebook page during the crossing with tweets via sat phone. We will be checking in at least once a day if you want to follow our progress. And, I will plan to do more substantial updates on the blog a few times during the crossing. Other than the sat phone, we would be able to respond to anyone until we reach Nuku Hiva. Wish us luck!

Katie

French Polynesia Long Stay Visa Saga Continues

After Colombia, we headed back to Quito. In my previous Quito post, I told you about the first part of our saga to obtain long stay visas for French Polynesia at the French Embassy in Quito. Well, we were back in Quito to head back to the French Embassy.

We arrived back in Quito on the weekend and wouldn’t be able to get to the Embassy until Monday, so we decided to have a bit of fun. We took the TeleferiQo, which is a gondola lift, up to the Pinchincha Volcano. This is the place to get the most fantastic views overlooking Quito.

We weren’t quite up to the serious hikes you can do to the top having just arrived and not quite acclimated to the altitude yet. But, there were horses for rent! For $10, they gave you a poncho (it was chilly) and you got a nice little ride up the volcano. I dubbed us “The Three Amigos!”

Silliness aside, we were here for some business, so bright and early on Monday we were at the French Embassy waiting for them to open. We each got called individually into the interview rooms to present our applications and paperwork. Luckily one of the officers spoke English. He had some brief questions for us, looked through our paperwork to make sure it was complete, took our fingerprints, passport and payment and sent us on our way. We felt relieved but weren’t going to celebrate until we actually had the visas in hand. We were told to come back in a month and they would call or email us in the meantime if they needed additional information.

After that quick stop in Quito, we headed back to Puerto Lucia to unpack and repack and head out the next day for our month long trip to visit family in the States. As fun as it was seeing all our friends and family in the States, part of our task was to order and pick up supplies and parts that we are simply unable to get in Ecuador. Ecuador is a nice country, but getting boat parts is near impossible. Even if you could import them (which is questionable), there would be such an exorbitant duty charged that it isn’t worth it.

Because our plans are to take us across the Pacific to French Polynesia, we wanted to make sure we had spare parts of everything. So, that meant taking stock of what we have and making a long list of items to purchase in the States and haul back with us on an airplane.

We ended up with four bags (two we could carry on) and two large boxes that we would have to get on the plane, bring to Quito so we could hopefully pick up our visas, put back on a plane to Guayaquil and then somehow make the 2 hour trip from Guayaquil to Salinas. That is a lot of stuff to haul that far and not cheap!

Our flight out of Dallas got delayed (on the plane, off the plane, on the plane again…) which made us miss our connection in Miami. Despite the hassle, it ended up great as we had a day in Florida to visit with some of Mike’s family, who graciously put us up for the night, and a friend I got to catch briefly on our way back to the airport.

It is always a bit nerve wracking going through customs in another country, especially when you have a ton of boat parts that you can’t easily explain in Spanish and that could technically be subject to duty. We got questioned about what was in the boxes and asked for receipts about the solar panels. We’d had these extra panels in the garage for years, and I explained that I didn’t have a receipt as they were not new. So, the official asked, “Usando?” (“Used?”). Si! Yes! That was the magic word, usando. We got waved through.

We had called the French Embassy before departing the States and told to come in at 3:00 on Thursday afternoon. Dan (Kini Popo) wasn’t with us as he was already at his boat in Puerto Lucia, but we were told that one person could pick up all three passports. I got called in first and the officer told me that two of the passports were ready (mine and Mike’s) but Dan’s was not ready. Ugh. He said it would be ready the next day at 3:00. We were scheduled to fly to Guayaquil Friday morning. We called Dan and explained the situation. It didn’t make sense for him to fly all the way up there. We offered to change our flight and stay an extra day to pick up his passport.

With some time to kill in Quito, we found a tour the following morning of a neighborhood we hadn’t been to yet called La Floresta. This was a unique neighborhood with old hacienda style homes interspersed with new cafes, restaurants, independent movie theaters and lots of street art. The guide told us about the history of the street art and murals around town. They were fascinating and added such a colorful flair to this neighborhood. I wish we had found this area the last time we were in Quito!

Friday afternoon at 3:00 we were back at the French Embassy to try and get Dan’s passport and visa. There are two parts to the Embassy, the visa section where visitors go to get visas and the French section for French citizens. There was absolutely no one at the visa section where we had been the day before. We tried calling and there was no answer. After a few minutes, a local security guard told us that they were closed today and would be open on Monday. What??? He suggested we walk around to the French section if we needed to talk to someone.

At the French Section, a nice French Gendarmerie greeted us with Bonjour! And then, Francaise or Espanol? I guess it is Espanol, because I only know a few words in French and definitely not enough to explain what was going on. In Spanish I somehow got across why we were there and that we were told to come back this afternoon. He again explained they were closed on Friday and would be back on Monday at 3:00. At this point, I’m pretty much begging in Spanish, explaining we are leaving the next day and totally blaming the officer from the day before who apparently forgot that it was Friday!

Mike and I were led to a nice room with a couch while the Gendarmerie was rapidly speaking in French on the phone. After a few back and forths with us in Spanish and on the phone in French, he disappeared into another room and came back a few minutes later with Dan’s passport. He was a bit confused that the picture was clearly not Mike and we explained it was our friend’s passport, but he gave it to us anyway. OMG! Did we really just pull that off! Hallelujah! We are going to French Polynesia!

~katie

Beautiful Colombia

So, I think Colombia has just gotten a really bad rap. Yes, they’ve had problems with corruption, drug cartels, etc., but today’s Colombia is not what you see in the movies. It is a beautiful place to visit and they are very welcome to tourists. We spent a total of three weeks there and I really wish we’d had longer. If you are adventurous and looking to vacation somewhere relatively cheap and not far from the US, Colombia would be a great place.

I got a bit behind on the blog because we had less than a 24 hr turn around after finishing our Colombia adventures to repack our bags and head to the States (4 different states!) to visit with friends and family for a month over the holidays. But, we are back on the boat in Ecuador and I can finally catch you up. So, here is a summary of our wonderful time in Colombia…

Cali

After leaving Pasto, we took a quick flight to Cali. Flights within the country are relatively cheap ($40-$50). Rather than burn a day on an eight hour bus ride, which would probably have only cost us $5, we decided to fly. A friend back in the States connected us with her friend in Cali who had an AirBnB for rent, and it worked out beautifully. We were staying in the cute neighborhood of San Antonio. There is a beautiful park overlooking the city, and fun little cafes on every corner.

Cali is known as the salsa capital of Colombia, and we were definitely here for salsa! The great thing about the neighborhood was that there were multiple salsa dance studios and salsa clubs all within walking distance. On our first night in Cali we ventured out to a local salsa club and got to check out the scene. It was during the week and pretty casual. There were all levels of salsa going on. There were beginners just trying it out and professionals giving it their all in the middle of the club. There was even a contest at one point with two couples battling it out. They were fantastic.

Having not had any lessons yet, we mainly just watched the scene for a while. But, the salsa music is infectious and soon Mike and I were out on the dance floor. I’m sure we looked hilarious, but no one cared and we had a fabulous time. There is definitely an indescribable thing that pulls you in to salsa. Call it joy or maybe the Spanish equivalent of joie de vivre, but salsa is just pure fun.

After our first night on the town, we were eager to get some lessons. Over the next couple of days we took some group lessons and then decided to splurge and take a more private lesson (just 4 of us) to really learn some more moves. We were no experts by the end of the week, but we could certainly get on the dance floor and be part of the action.

Thanksgiving came around while we were in Cali. We didn’t have any turkey celebration, but it was also our anniversary. So, Mike and I went to one of the fancier restaurants in the neighborhood and had a fun night out to celebrate another year together and look forward to another year to come.

On our last night in Cali, one of the dance studios where we had taken lessons was having a party. They had great salsa music and performances by some of their students which were so much fun to watch. We were sad to leave Cali, but our next stop awaited us…

Salento

Next we took a bus to Salento in the Zona Cafetera (coffee region). If you’ve heard of Juan Valdez, you know that Colombia has great coffee. Salento is in the Cocora Valley, which is known for its huge Quindio wax palm trees, the largest palm tree in the world. There is an excellent hike you can take to see the palm trees and even some hummingbirds!

If you are into coffee, you have to take a tour of a coffee plantation. We decided to head to Ocaso where you can do a three hour tour where you learn everything about the coffee process, from the plants to picking, drying and roasting. And, then you learn about the different coffee flavors and coffee brewing methods. We really love good coffee and found the tour so interesting and fun. We liked their coffee so much that we bought a bunch to bring back to the boat with us. (By this point we had already had to buy another bag to carry all of the souvenirs and gifts we had purchased!)

We also took a trip into Filandia, another cute town nearby which also had some coffee plantations and lots of good cafes. To get around the area, all of the taxis are these really cool old jeeps. They are a bit bouncy but make it easily through the dirt roads leading to the coffee farms. We even found a kid size jeep in the square in Filandia, which makes Mike look like a giant.

Medellin

From Salento we took a bus to Medellin. Medellin has probably undergone the biggest transformation of all the cities we went to since the time of Pablo Escobar and the control by the drug cartels. Our first day in Medellin, we took a free walking tour of the city and learned so much about the history and efforts the people have made to reinvent their city. There is still some poverty and crime, like any major city, but the major violence has dissipated. Old, abandoned buildings have been repurposed into attractive shopping centers or cafes. And, people on the street are eager to find out where you are from and introduce you to their city. As tall and blonde as Mike is, we got comments everywhere we went. Our tour guide explained that the women can even be a bit forward, which we discovered when one woman grabbed Mike’s butt on the street. So funny.

We liked our first tour so much, that we signed up for another one the next day. This tour was called the Exotic Fruits Tour. Mike was especially excited as you may know by now how much he loves fruit! We met at the produce market, which was a huge multistory warehouse type building. Each vendor had their own stand selling their produce. Our guide took us around the market explaining various items that were unlike anything we had ever seen. Who knew there were so many fruits that do not get imported to the States? We got an explanation and taste of all these wonderful fruits, which included curuba (banana passion fruit), maracuya (yellow passion fruit), guilupa (passion fruit), granadilla (sweet granadilla), pitahaya (dragon fruit), tomate de arbol (tree tomato), chontaduro (peach palm), borojo (borojo), algarroba (west indian locust), higo (prickly pear), uchuva (cape gooseberry), feijoa (guavasteen), mamoncillo (spanish lime), and guayaba (guava). If you see any of these fruits at a market, give them a try!

The people in Medellin are known for being a bit snobby. (They will tell you that themselves.) But, we found them to be anything but snobby. We made instant friends with people we met, including our tour guides who we ended up hanging out with long after the tours were over. Such a neat city and well worth the trip.

Cartagena

From Medellin we made our way to our last stop in Colombia on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena. One of the things that was fun about traveling in Colombia was how different each place was. Cartagena was a world away from Medellin. It has a true Caribbean influence as well as the old Spanish colonial ties.

We stayed in the Old Town section of Cartagena right across from the water. It was hot and humid and a true tourist mecca. The influx of tourists, especially from cruise ships which brings out the hordes of hawkers, was definitely the downside of Cartagena. But, it is worth it to overlook the annoyance of constantly being approached to buy something. The architecture in Old Town is fantastic. They have done a wonderful job of preserving the look of the old colonial town.

We checked out the old fort and learned the history of Cartagena as a Spanish port and all of the battles with the French, English and pirates! There are several informative museums around town also. One is the history of the Inquisition in Cartagena, which I really knew nothing about. I didn’t realize the Inquisition extended outside of Europe to the New World, but it most certainly did. It is an excruciating history, but I was impressed that a very Catholic country is open about their sordid past.

We couldn’t leave Cartagena without drinking some rum. If you go to a restaurant called El Arsenal: The Rum Box, the owner will schedule a private rum tasting for you. We tried all types of rums from sipping rums to rum cocktails. All were local Colombian rums that are difficult, if not impossible, to find outside of Colombia. We were introduced to so many great rums that we took the limit of bottles of liquor that you can bring into Ecuador duty free. Sorry Ecuador, but you are poorly lacking in available good rum!

That brought our Colombian adventure to a close as we headed back to Ecuador. I hope we will be able to return to Colombia someday.

~katie

~katie

New Border Crossing

We headed back to Quito for a night to get an early start the next morning on our way to Colombia. In order to bus to Colombia, you must take a bus from Quito to Tulcan and walk across the border.  The border crossing from Ecuador to Colombia was quite an experience.  As it started to rain, we had to wait in line for an hour and a half on the Ecuador side just to check out of the country.  Once we got that stamp in our passports, we had to carry our bags across the bridge to immigration on the Colombia side of the border, where we had another hour and half wait in line to get another stamp. Whew!

Once we were through the immigration lines, we had to taxi to the bus station in Ipiales to get on another bus to Pasto.  The bus ride was uneventful, but it was after dark and still raining by the time we arrived in Pasto.  Our first challenge upon arriving was to figure out how to get to our AirBnb that we had rented.

For whatever reason, we had a really difficult time getting a taxi to take us at the bus station.  There were plenty of taxis, but we had to practically beg an open cab to take us.  So weird.  Once we finally got a taxi we got our first taste of the ridiculous address system in Colombian cities. Our taxi could not find out apartment, even with multiple phone calls with the owner of the apartment.  We drove around the city for what felt like forever before we finally found it.

So, our first impressions of Pasto (and Colombia) were not too positive.  But, that all changed the next day when we arranged for a car to drive us to Laguna de la Cocha just outside Pasto.  This fresh water lake set in the mountains was a bit like a fairy tale place with green hills and volcanoes surrounding it.

There are little shops and restaurants on canals with boats for rent. So, we decided to take a boat tour of the lake.

 

In the middle of the lake is an island that is a nature preserve with walking trails.  We walked through the beautiful park and enjoyed the views.

Overall, we enjoyed our short trip to Pasto and Laguna de la Cocha, but it was time to move on to Cali!

Canyoning in Baños

Our next stop was Baños, about 3 1/2 hours from Quito by bus. The buses are cheap, but not always the most comfortable. We have yet to ride in a bus in Ecuador that has air conditioning or a bathroom. But, when the ride only costs $5, you get what you pay for.

Baños is a cute town that was obviously popular with the backpacker crowd. There are lots of cheap hostels around and a “zona rosa” that is a bit of a rowdy bar scene. But, the real attraction in Baños is the geography. There are stunning mountains, rivers, waterfalls and hot springs everywhere.

Our first night in town, we checked out the nightlife and had a nice dinner out. We avoided the crazy bar scene and found some more subdued hangouts. There were lots of locals out around the town square, and we really liked the vibe of this cute town.

Yes, they eat guinea pig (cuy) here…

I even tried the Ecuadorian version of a Michelada (no tomato juice), which was a bit bigger than I expected!

The next day I wasn’t feeling all that spectacular, so I sent the boys out in the morning without me. They rented mountain bikes and stopped at some gorgeous waterfalls.

The rest did me good, because the boys informed me that we were signing up for a a canyoning trip the next day. That morning we put on full wetsuits, helmets and climbing harnesses and headed into the mountains.

We quickly learned what our day of canyoning would involve as we got a brief safety tutorial. We were going to traverse the river In the middle of the canyon, we would wade through water, climb over boulders, jump off rock overhangs into pools of rushing water and repel down waterfalls. Our two guides were there to help us find the safest way down.

Our initial plunge was a bit of a shock as the water was quite cold. I was instantly glad to have on the wetsuit. In addition to keeping us warm, the wetsuits gave us buoyancy to help us float when emerging from a deep pool we jumped into.

After the initial scramble through the water, we reached the first jump. It was a bit intimidating not being able to see how deep it was below, but we made into the next section of the river. The second jump was even higher as we had at least a 20 ft drop. The water over the overhang was rushing so quickly that our guide had to throw us each a rope in the pool below to help us to the side.

We had reached a large waterfall at least 50 feet that we had to repel down. I lost my footing twice as the rocks we covered in slippery moss, but the guides had a safety line on us the whole time. We had to keep our heads down as we descended or the water from the falls would pummel you in the face. We all made it down and were wondering what the guides were going to through at us next.

We reached the next set of falls and the guides rigged up a zip line with their ropes, so we all flew down the next set of falls and safely into another pool of water.

By the time we had made a few more jumps and repelled another waterfall, we were all starting to feel a bit fatigued. I don’t know if the guides sized us up when we signed up for this tour, but I think most people would not have been physically able to get down the entire length of the river. We were all pooped by the end! It was a thrilling experience that I would highly recommend to anyone that can handle it. Sometimes the best experiences are the hardest ones!

Mike had our GoPro attached to his helmet. Below are some still shots from the trip. I’ll work on editing video eventually. Our guide took tons of pictures and video on his camera for us which he put on a USB drive for us. Unfortunately, the drive got stolen in Colombia before we were able to download to a computer! Ugh! Do not put anything of value (even a USB drive) in checked baggage with the airlines! Lesson learned!

Our canyoning trip included lunch, and we all had fresh grilled trout at an unassuming restaurant on the river. It even had its own trout farm! It was the best meal we had in Ecuador.

After a long day canyoning, we were hoping for a good night’s rest as we had to head back to Quito the next morning. We had been staying in Airbnb places the whole trip, which frankly were hit or miss. As they were much cheaper than a hotel, I again had to say that you get what you pay for.

Our rented home had a courtyard out front surrounded by several other rental properties. Our hosts had rented the courtyard out for the day for a wedding. The wedding tent was literally 2 feet outside our front door. This wedding party had been going all day. When we returned from dinner around 10:30 and found that the party had now switched to extremely loud karaoke, we’d had enough.

We called the hosts to ask how late the party would run to which they had no answer. So, they offered to move us to another rental 10 min away. We packed our stuff and jumped in the taxi with the host’s boyfriend who was Russian and spoke no English. Trying to understand his Russian accented Spanish was a bit amusing. What we did understand was that he was offering us some weed to make up for the inconvenience, which we politely declined. But, at least we got some sleep in a quiet apartment. Lol.

Back on the bus the next day to overnight in Quito before heading to the Colombian border!

~Katie

Soaring over Quito

After a month of working on the boat in the yard, we (along with our friend Dan on Kini Popo) decided to take several weeks to travel throughout Ecuador and Colombia. Unfortunately, a few days before we had to be out of our condo and we were due to fly to Quito, all three of us came down with a horrible stomach flu. Dan’s comment was that it was like something out of the Exorcist. Very bad.

Somehow Mike powered through to have some energy those last two days (I couldn’t move) to help load everything back onto both boats that we had been storing in the condo. Thankfully by the morning we were scheduled to leave, we were all finally feeling a bit normal. We made the two hour drive to Guayaquil to get on a plane to Quito.

Quito sits at almost 9500 feet in the Andes. It is a dramatic view as you drive into the city from the airport. It was quite chilly and we could definitely feel the altitude walking around the city. We had rented an apartment on airbnb that was in a great part of town with lots of restaurants and cafes to walk to. After a quick trip to the market for some snacks and breakfast items to stock in our kitchen, we cleaned up and headed out to find some dinner and check out the nightlife.

We walked to a little outdoor courtyard that had a bar, cafe and restaurants. The boys were apparently ready for tequila and had a couple of tamarindo margaritas. After being sick, that sounded horrible to me, so I stuck with tea. But, we struck up a conversation with the bar owner who had spent some time in the States and was eager to tell us everything there was to do in Quito.

He mentioned that paragliding was big in Quito, and that it was a fantastic view over the city. After a couple of phone calls, we were set to be picked up the next morning, Mike commented that this was a bucket list item that he didn’t even know was on the bucket list!

A short drive to a clearing outside the city the next morning introduced us to our pilots, as we would each be flying tandem with a separate pilot. There was a pretty big group of people gathered on a Sunday morning to fly off of the cliff. It was a clear and sunny day and the conditions were impeccable. After a short briefing of what would happen, we each donned our harnesses and got ready.

As we were flying tandem, each of our pilots would be strapped on our backs. The pilots had the kites and controls attached to them; we were just along for the ride. I was the first one off. When my pilot said to run, I had to lean forward and run toward the end of the cliff. I only got to take a few steps before I was lifted up into the air. The kite lifted us up even higher over the cliff we just left. Our gages said we reached 3200 meters (10,500 feet)!

We soared over the valley with the mountains in the background. The green, fertile hills were like something out of a painting. What a fabulous way to take in the scenery. As we headed toward the landing area, we needed to descend. My pilot asked if I was up for some tricks, which I agreed to. He then started spinning us around and around as we dropped quickly in altitude. My face in this picture probably says it all!

We then slowly started to descend the rest of the way to make a soft landing in the clearing. I watched as Mike and Dan also made their way down, and we all high fived each other after an awesome experience. Check out our Facebook page for the videos our pilots put together for us!

While in Quito, we also took in some other sites visiting the Old Town area and the beautiful churches. We sat in the square drinking coffee and people watching.

 

We also visited the Capilla del Hombre, which is the home and museum of Guayasamin, the famous Ecuadorian artist. I didn’t know anything about him or his art before visiting. He was a contemporary artist, and you can see a lot of influence of Picasso in his work. His artwork was also a social commentary on what was going on in the world and specifically in South American during his lifetime. I found it very interesting and moving. If you go to Quito, I highly recommend visiting Capilla del Hombre.

We also went to Mitad del Mundo, which is a bit of a tourist trap where the equator runs through the city. After having crossed the equator by boat, it didn’t quite have much of an effect on us. But, we had fun anyway eating some local cuisine, tasting chocolate and picking up some souvenirs.

One of the other reasons we were in Quito was to visit the French Embassy to apply for long stay visas for French Polynesia. Without a long stay visa, we would be limited to only 3 months in French Polynesia. There are so many islands to see, and everyone we know that has made the crossing has told us that we have to get it.

We had put together stacks of paperwork, including bank statements, proof of insurance, etc. However, when we attempted to give them our applications, they told us they wouldn’t take them unless we would leave our passports for at least a month! This was a no-go for us as we had planned to travel to Colombia and the States before January. So, we left defeated.

Dan and I were pretty resigned to us having to return to apply in January, delaying our Pacific crossing next Spring, but Mike was determined. Mike headed off to the US embassy to come up with Plan B. A couple of hours later, we got a call to meet him outside the US embassy. We arrived around the block from the embassy where Mike explained we needed to get passport photos. The US embassy would issue us a second “emergency” passport to allow us to travel while our other passports were at the French Embassy. We had no idea!

Excited that we were going to figure out a way to do this, we couldn’t wait to call the French Embassy the next morning to try and get another appointment. Our excitement was a bit short lived as they told us on the phone that we had to come back in December to give them the applications and passports. Argh! We are planning to leave for the 3-4week crossing at the beginning of February, and they now tell us that it is too early to apply. So, now we have to go to Quito in December to apply and return in January to pick them up. Whew!

Next up…Canyoning in Banos!

katie

Working Hard

Now that Adagio is out of the water, we have started our projects. The big project of raising the waterline and repainting the bottom won’t be completed until just before we go back into the water in January. When you apply the antifouling paint to the bottom, you have to go back into the water pretty quickly, so the final paint won’t go on until after the holidays.

It’s been 2 years since we’ve painted the bottom. It really doesn’t look that bad, but if we didn’t do it now, we probably would only get another 6 months or so out of it anyway. But, as I’ve mentioned many, many times, our waterline is a mess. In the stern, we are probably 6 inches of topside below the actual waterline. So, the new bottom paint has to go much higher.

We considered repainting the top sides too, but it is just cost prohibitive. We just repainted the top sides 2 years ago, and we should have gotten 10 years out of that paint. But, there are places above the waterline where it is starting to bubble. It’s just cosmetic, but annoying. We used good Awlgrip paint and had a professional do it, so we don’t know what went wrong. We’ll have to deal with it eventually.

Inside the boat, we’ve pulled everything out of every cabinet, hanging locker and drawer. Even the fridge and freezer got emptied and cleaned. We are cleaning every surface, throwing things away and reorganizing. I’m a bit surprised at our clutter after 2 years, but it is time to start purging! I think we’ve now resolved to do a “spring cleaning” every year on the boat.

This is why we’re not living on the boat in the yard…

Today, all of floor boards of the cabin sole also came out to be revarnished. I think they have the original 1979 varnish on them. They were looking a bit shabby with some damage in some places. We are really looking forward to a fresh looking floor to walk on.

Mike is also in the process of replumbing our holding tank and replacing the macerator pump to make our holding tank system work better (fun job…) The good news is that all our thru holes seem to be in good shape. Mike is just doing some clean up and fixed the one that was leaking.

Next, we have all of the outside teak to clean and seal and all of the stainless to polish. We also have some sewing projects to repair some canvas and create new canvas covers. Whew!

We’re still hoping to complete everything in a month (other than the bottom paint) to do some land travel before the holidays. I would love suggestions for travel in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. I’m trying to do some research into feasible (and inexpensive) trips from here. Any id as would be really helpful!

~Katie

 

Settling in…

We arrived in Puerto Lucia, Ecuador after our crazy eight day passage. It looks like the strangely strong winds we experienced may have been effects from tropical storm Nate which unfortunately damaged Pacific Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

To enter Ecuador by boat, you are required to hire an agent who completes the required paperwork and coordinates with immigration, the port captain, customs, etc. They require an advance 24 hour notice of your arrival to get all of the officials to meet you and check you into the country. This is especially challenging for sailboats whose speed depends on the wind, and was certainly a challenge for us.

We were looking at possibly a late Saturday afternoon arrival. Our agent said that the officials were only available until 5:00 pm, and it wasn’t clear to us that they would greet us on Sunday. Thankfully we had the satellite email to communicate with the agent. I really don’t know how boats coordinate arrival that don’t have a way to communicate at sea. It was going to be close whether we would make it in time to be checked in on Saturday, so our agent arranged for the officials to meet us at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday.

We did make the Saturday afternoon arrival and were required to tie up to a mooring buoy outside of the marina until we were officially checked in on Sunday morning. The marina gave us a ride to shore to make arrangements for our boat in the marina. Even though we weren’t officially checked into the country, they let us wander around the marina grounds, which included a hotel with a restaurant.

Mike was really craving a cheeseburger, and soon we were enjoying a meal and a beer overlooking our boat. What we were not expecting upon arrival was how cool it is here. We’re basically on the equator and we are wearing jeans and jackets. It feels a lot like Southern California.

A little while longer we were greeted by our friend Dan on the boat Kini Popo, who has his boat hauled out here at Puerto Lucia and were introduced to Arnaud who runs a charter sailing business out of the marina and also helps coordinate work in the boat yard. We were getting the lay of the land and making plans for our next couple of months here.

The next day we had nine people on the boat, including our agent, the immigration officer, the health inspector, the port captain, and various customs agents. Lots of paperwork later and beers passed all around, we were official in Ecuador! Next was moving the boat off the mooring and into the marina. The marina is a med-moor style tie up, except you don’t use your anchor.

We had to back into the marina entrance. (Adagio does not back well in a straight line!) Then we had to reverse so that the stern of the boat was up against a dock with multiple lines from the stern to the dock. On the bow we have two lines tied to mooring balls out in the middle of the marina. You can see how this took many hands to accomplish. There were several guys on the dock as well as two guys in a skiff in the water to tie the bow lines to the mooring balls. This was a first for us!

Our plan here is to haul the boat out to do new bottom paint, raise the water line, do some work on some thru-holes, and a whole list of other projects. We’ve been on the boat full time for almost two years and some wear is starting to show. As we’ve just now had to dig into our hanging locker to find jeans and sweatshirts, we discovered how much mold and mildew may be hiding in places we didn’t know about. So, everything is coming off the boat to do a thorough cleaning. Thankfully the air here is dry and we are out of the tropical heat and humidity.

Considering the work that we were planning, it did not make logistical sense to stay on the boat in the yard, so we started looking for a place to rent. Our friend Dan was also interested in doing this, and we scored when Arnaud found us a two bedroom condo across the street from the beach and walking distance to the marina for only $600/month. We jumped on it and immediately started hauling everything we could off the boat and piling it into our temporary home.

So, now the work begins. We have to arrange for the haul out, order the paint, and work as fast as we can. We want some time to travel around Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. But, in order to do that we need to get all our boat chores done. The goal is to get the boat ready for the next season. After the New Year we will be in full on prep mode for our South Pacific crossing!

~katie

Passage to Ecuador – Part 4

34 miles to go…

We’re almost there! I know we must sound nuts after my last couple of posts. We do the best we can to plan given all of the weather information we can acquire, but the ocean can still be a formidable opponent that does not bend to the will of men in sailboats!

I woke up yesterday morning just before dawn to the sound of our engine starting. My watch started at 6am, so it must have been around 5:30. After finally rousing myself from what must have been a dead sleep, I came out in the cockpit to find the ocean transformed. Gone were the towering swells, and the wind had stopped howling. Had Mike not started the engine, we would probably have been bobbing around in the calm for quite some time.

We had purposely reserved enough fuel so that we had almost 2 full days we could motor if need be. If we could maintain a speed between 5-6 kts, we could make it into port Saturday afternoon before sunset.

As morning turned into afternoon we realized we were finally approaching the equator. Crossing the equator in a boat is a rite of passage among sailors. You go from pollywog to shellback. I’d say we are earned our shellback status on this passage.

Many of our friends who have made the equator crossing have done elaborate rituals, dressed in costumes, made up a song or dance, and given their tribute to Neptune. After the last week at sea, I can’t say that we really had the energy to be that creative. But, we did want to take note of this special and unique experience. You only cross the equator for the first time once in your life. So, we wrapped some bandanas around our heads, pulled out the favorite rum, gave a tribute to Neptune and celebrated our new shellback status.

We motor sailed through the night taking advantage of what light winds there were the get some lift and improve our speed. As we began to get closer to the coast, we’ve had to watch out for local fishing traffic. This morning a panga approached us as I was on watch. They wanted something to drink and cigarettes. We gave them juice, but they were a little disappointed that we don’t smoke. They had probably been on the water all night. Four hardy and rough looking guys in a little panga. These guys seriously work had to make out a living fishing.

We’re excited to arrive at our new destination, and I will be very happy to get the boat cleaned up. Every set of sheets and towels and most of our clothes need to be washed. Anything that got salt on it needs to be washed. And then, we are going to start making arrangements to pull the boat out of the water to do the serious work. Another chapter will have begun in our adventure…

Katie

Passage to Ecuador – Part 3

227 miles to go…

The last two days have been really rough. We expected an increase in wind on Wednesday, but the forecasts looked like we would be south of the strongest winds and wouldn’t see over 20-25 kts. Weatherman total fail.

Starting Tuesday afternoon the winds started blowing 40 kts out of nowhere. The already big seas built to at least 20 feet with short periods creating some really steep waves. Those are not conditions a sailboat ever wants to see. And, it lasted for 36 hrs!

We shortened sail as much as we could with a triple reef in the main and just a tiny bit of the jib out. That was enough to keep the boat balanced and stable, let the Hydrovane steer, and keep us from being tossed around in the waves like a toy. We were moving southeast at 2 kts, which was the only direction we could sail. We hunkered down in the cabin to wait it out, not knowing how long it would last.

Thank God we had the Hydrovane, because hand steering through those waves would have been exhausting. Most of the time we would go up and over the swell, but occasionally we would get broad sided by a wave, or bury the nose in a wave, or rise up over a wave and slam down in the trough on the other side. One time I was in the cockpit and saw a wall of water coming out of the corner of my eye that just pooped the cockpit drenching me and leaving a pool in the cockpit that took several minutes to drain. We also discovered that our hatch over the salon table, which doesn’t usually leak, is not waterproof when it is buried by a wave. We ended up with water raining down in the salon.

We’re exhausted and every muscle in our bodies is sore. It takes considerable effort just to stand and not get tossed around. We’ve both fallen a couple of times. This is one of those times that we don’t go out without the life vests and harnesses on. But, through it all we are still maintaining good spirits and trying not to let frustration take hold. I think we’re doing everything we can given the circumstances.

Finally at 6 am this morning the wind started to back off to a more manageable 15-20 kts. The seas are still a mess but not quite as big. We were finally able to tack to head more westerly, as we were getting pushed east toward the Colombia and Ecuador border. We still need to make it around the point at Esmeraldas.

We’re still hoping for a Saturday arrival, but it really depends on what happens with the weather. We are both looking forward to a long shower and cold drink. At least we will have a story to tell about this one…

Katie