Category Archives: kids on boat

Culture shock: from remote Panama to City life…

Two months ago we checked out of Manzanillo , Mexico and sailed south to Costa Rica and later, Panama. Manzanillo was a big port for ships, and was busy with cars and people, but not too overwhelming. After experiencing mostly small villages in Mexico over the past 2 years, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo were the among the largest cities that we visited. From the day we checked out of Mexico, the next 2 months we would make a our 19 day crossing without seeing a single other soul and again only see small villages along the coast of the pacific side Costa Rica And Panama.

Bright lights, big city: Feb 11th, we sailed into Panama City after a 37 hour upwind and up current from Playa Venao. About 10 miles from making our anchorage we could smell the crude oil from all of the ships coming in and out of the Panama Canal. As we neared Panama City, the air got thicker and thicker with pollution, so much so that we could hardly see the skyline of the city itself until we were only a few miles away. Regardless of that, the air was filled with excitement and buzz. We were wide eyed with amazement as we entered the huge port after so many days of quiet seclusion.

We anchored in the anchorage known as Las Brisas just before sunset. We made dinner and ate outside, taking in the view of Panama City’s skyline. We all agreed that it is by far the largest cityscape that we’ve ever seen. As the day set and the darkness of night filled in, the city’s lights shown brilliant across the bay in our direction. This has now been our view for the last four weeks. Yep, four weeks already!

It took about a full week to get our bearings straight. We made friends quickly with a few other sailors who helped show us the lay of the land. I don’t honestly know how we would have figured it out without them. The very first full day we were there happened to be Carnival. Yes, to add chaos to our already overwhelmed feelings, it was Carnival. Places were closed that were normally open and places were packed that were normally not. Our new friends on Brisas 302 and Arc en Ciel showed us how to get into the city and use the bus system. We explored the mall and a few grocery stores, ate out for lunch and returned home for dinner. We avoided the nighttime Carnival scene, we were exhausted from our overnight sail and not quite ready for that kind of excitement.

We spent the next 3 days checking into the country and going to the city exploring. Yes, it took 3 days to check in. Ugh! Yikes! Over the next few weeks we met more sailors from all over the world, took the bus to town for entertainment, arranged for and completed much needed dental work, had family visit, friends visit, and slowly continued to prepare for crossing the Pacific Ocean. We quickly discovered that Panama City is just as expensive as the United States.

So here we are, four weeks later and still a few more to go before we head to the Galapagos and then French Polynesia. Why are we still here? Why did we get here so early just to hang out? We sailors always have our reasons. Ours being, much needed dental work that would take at least 3 weeks to complete. Taj needed is passport renewed, which we did at the US embassy. The turn around for that is two weeks. And most importantly we were waiting for our middle daughter to return from her time with her Papa on March 9th (today!) . She also needs her passport renewed, so we tack on a few more weeks before we can actually go…weather dependent.

I will post more pictures of our small Panama excursions in later posts. But here is this short video for now and a few pics.

Also, don’t forget to check out our videos (part 1 and part 2) of our passage from Mexico to Costa Rica.


#SurfPanama #SailPanama

We enjoyed 13 days of sailing through Panama’s remote Northwest coastline. Upon the end of the second week we sailed into a populated anchorage called Ensenada Venao, known for its protection, waiting to round the point into the Gulf of Panama. Also known as Playa Venao, its in the list of places in Panama for surfing. We went there for all of the above, but especially for the surf. We had a VERY long day sailing the 70 miles from Isla Cebaco to Ensenada Venao (aka Playa Venao or Ensenada Benao). We were able to sail for the first 2.5 hours until we started sailing as high into the wind as possible, with wind speeds fluctuating anywhere from 10kts to 30kts. To top it off, we had a current pushing is back. We were in a very frustrating situation. We needed to have our sails set for 25-30 kt winds for the times when the wind would blow that hard. As soon as the wind dropped to 10 kts we lost all speed (which was only 2-3 kts at best) and we would lose steering from all of the wind chop and current. After a few on and offs with the engine, we made the decision to motor-sail, bashing up into the wind and current. Our goal became “let’s just try to get there before dark”. We ended up motorisailing for over 13 hours. This was a first for us and was a hard choice to make. We basically motored more hours in one day than we had over the last 3 months. The good part of this sail was that we caught a large female Mahi Mahi!

Overall, the day felt like one of those times where you wonder if you did something to bring on bad luck. We were getting so much water over the bow, we discovered new leaks seeping into the V-berth. We lost one of our SUP paddles. A wind gust came on so strong along with bashing into waves that the paddle popped out of its tied up place and sank faster than you could say “we lost a paddle”. Another one fell off too! Of course there’s more to that story. I was down below, cooking, and Christian says nonchalantly, “well we get to do a man over board!” My heart jumped through the ceiling. Then he revised it to “sorry, Ellamae’s paddle fell overboard.” Heart rate went back to normal, mostly. It was great practice that’s for sure and I’m sure glad it wasn’t one of us in the water waiting for us to retrieve them. The good news is that we were successful at retrieving one of the lost paddles! As bad luck normally happens, things happen in threes… Davy Jones wasn’t through with us. As soon as we anchored a gale force gust came up and blew Ellamae’s boogie board right out of its tucked away spot and sent it skipping and flipping across the water and out to sea. The boogie board was in poor condition, so our disappointment in having it blow away was stemmed from feeling terrible about adding to the litter out at sea more than losing the board itself. (Sorry no photos of all the shenanigans, we were too preoccupied).

We arrive at Ensenada Venao at 7:20pm, just before dark. I’d been down below making “sushi” out our Mahi Mahi. I put “ ” marks around sushi, because we cooked the Dorado first, having never heard of it being used raw. A feast was ready to eat as soon as we anchored and relaxed. Based on the guide we had, we did not expect a beach full of hotels and restaurants that lit up the sky come nightfall. I guess we were officially out of remoteness. It brought a bit of excitement aboard. We hadn’t really conversed with many people and we were getting pretty low on our fresh fruits and veggies. The thought of surfing, conversation, people watching, and potentially having wifi was uplifting.

We spent the next four days surfing first thing after coffee. I’d go first, then we’d swap kid duty and Christian would go. I’m still learning, so an hour in the morning worked me. Christian could easily have surfed all day long. We managed to get the kids in through the surf and onto shore to play in the waves and socialize as well. Nina was very happy to meet some other teenage girls that were on vacation from Alaska. She even ended up having a sleepover with them. Lucky girl got a freshwater shower and a memory foam mattress in an air conditioned room!

The offshore winds were pretty strong for the first 3 days, but the weather was overall amazing. The sun is definitely more intense down here closer to the equator. The swell was on the rise starting on the day we arrived. Day 3 was getting so big, that after getting pounded on my surf session I decided it would probably be best to stay aboard with the kids for the day. The wind was blowing too hard to paddle to where the waves were smallest. The next day was just as big, but we needed to get our feet on ground. The wind had finally let up, so Taj, Nina and I hopped on the inflatable SUP, stopped over at the sailboat (S/V Jabiroo II) that came in during the night to say hello, then made our way to the more protected landing further down the beach. I was a bit of a paddle, but we were glad we did it. We explored only the few blocks of the vacation village that was there. We found a cute coffee house and ice cream shop. A produce truck happened to be driving through, so we bought a few affordable greens and plantains. The one and only mini-mart there was overpriced and had a very limited selection of food. We bought one dozen eggs for $4 (doubled that of Mexico prices.

On our way back out to the boat we stopped by S/V Jabiroo II again to chat. They had us aboard and we talked boats. We established that we had actually met them before, up in the San Francisco Bay Area while we were visiting last year and they were making their way south from Canada. It was great to see other cruisers and chat. They had tried rounding the corner to head into Panama City, but got pushed back by the wind and current. Their plans were to leave early in the morning with the ebb tide. Originally we were going to get one last surf in, but looking at the tides and weather, we jumped onboard with their plan. Nina putting away the inflatable xterraboard.

4am the next morning (Sunday) we left by motor alongside with S/V Jabiroo II. It felt great to have other people to commiserate with. We haven’t seen too many other boats down here. I’m guessing the strong winds and currents detours people from making this a regular route, unless of course the intent is to pass through the Panama Canal and head east. We’re glad we took this route though. Seeing Costa Rica and Northwest Panama has been awesome!

I made another S/V Luna Sea recipe. French Bread!


Northwest Panama, remote heaven.

Northwest Panama, remote heaven.

After 3 weeks to the day of exploring Costa Rica, our pocket book had enough hole diggin’. We were ready to move on to Panama not just to save money, but also to explore more remote places, hopefully catch some uninhabited surf and discover new food. Ellamae is back with her biological father for 2 months, so you will notice she’s not in these photos.

January 25th, we sailed off the hook from Matapalo, Costa Rica and set our hydrovane for Panama. Of our 46 miles that day we only motored for 1.5 hrs. We would have drifted more, but wanted to get the hook down before dark. We anchored in Punta Balsa at 6pm, just after sunset. Not in the Sarana guide book, we found a few houses, a hotel and some fishermen. In the morning, while drinking our coffee, the Howler Monkeys were louder than we’ve heard so far. This anchorage was only a stop over for us.

After coffee we motored out an hour to make our way toward Isla Parida. For most of the morning we lacked wind and ended up motoring a total of 3 hours. The entry to the anchorage on Isla Parida is not one you want to do with poor lighting, we therefore wanted to get there before the sunset this time. We had great wind in the afternoon, and perfect for sailing into the anchorage with a couple of tacks and set the hook under sail. We had time for a quick swim in the warm but murky water. As we ate dinner during the sunset, we came to the conclusion that this was the most beautiful place that we’ve been anchored at.

The next day there, we swam and paddle boarded. We also took buckets to shore to fill up at the fresh water spring. We found two older Panamanian boys siting around the spring. It turns out, the whole island is privately owner and by many different people. They were there to watch that particular property. With my not so good of spanish we did establish that we were allowed to walk around and they also let us fill up on fresh water. In the afternoon, we had coconuts on the beach. A deer came and joined us for coconuts scraps to wrap up the day before dinner.

January 27, we motored out of the anchorage, following the suggested waypoints for navigating through the rocks and reefs. Our destination, Isla Cavada, amongst the Islas Secas group of isles. We sailed all but the first hour and the time it took to anchor. The anchoring was the tricky part. Following the Sarana Guide recommended waypoint, we noticed that the one other boat, a sport fishing yacht, was already in that exact location. We dropped anchor, failing twice, a hundred yards south of the waypoint, due to rocky bottom. We had enough light left to see that there was a more shallow spot further south. Third time’s a charm, we anchored in 15 feet mid-tide, so hopefully all was good. And it was. The island was beautiful, but we soon found out that it was private and we were not aloud to explore on shore.

Successful Paleo Plantain Muffins cooked in the pressure cooker!

January 30, We sailed off the hook at 7:30 am from Isla Cavada. We sailed the whole way (30 miles) to Ensenada de Rosario on the mainland of Panama. We were approached by a Military high speed pursuit boat. Needless to say our heart rates jumped up a notch. We intentionally made Taj visible. They got up close. We said “hola”, they looked at us and Taj, nodded and went on their way. Phew! Shortly after, we turned on the engine to get us into the anchorage safely and set the hook well. Great day sailing! We enjoyed the calm anchorage, but had a surprise visit, yet again, from the Navy in a panga. At first we weren’t sure it was Navy, it could have been local thieves, but Christian recognized the boat’s silhouette from seeing it out and about earlier. We had turned off our anchor light, thinking it would draw less attention to us from possible thieves, but really it drew the Navy right to us. They ended up just asking us a few questions about where we were from, where we were going, who was onboard and told us to turn on our anchor light. Once we repeated that we had kids onboard, they said “ok” and “adios”. That was a little nerve wracking to say the least. Christian had our bear spray and spot light ready just in case, but thankfully we didn’t need it. In a way, it’s great to know that the Navy is out watching over the waters. They were probably making sure we weren’t up to no good, hiding in a cove without our anchor light on. 😂😂😂

We ended up having a great night’s sleep. In the morning, Nina got to eat her yogurt that she spent all day the previous day making for her biology lesson. It was a success! This was the first time any of us had made yogurt. I’m stoked to know how to do it now for future passages. After a morning SUP, swim and boat-schooling, we took the dinghy to explore the estuary at high tide. We are so awed by the beauty here. Slowly cruising through the mangrove, there were birds everywhere! We didn’t see the crocodiles we hoped for, but everything else was amazing.

Feb 1, the next morning, we motored 10 miles around the corner, to Bahia Honda (aka Bahia Chinche). We read in our guide book about an establishment and anchorage called Domingo’s. Apparently, Domingo loves company and loves to trade random stuff for his fresh produce as well. Knowing this in advance, I rummaged through our boat for items to give away, most of which were toys and shoes from Taj in which he outgrew. Sure enough, after only an hour of being anchored in front of Domingo’s, an older Panamanian and young child came motoring out in a panga. With the largest smile on his face, the man introduced himself as Domingo. He came out with a bucket of lemons to give us! He only spoke Spanish, but he was very clear and articulate, and very talkative, which made it easy to distinguish what he was saying. He asked us for medicine for diarrhea, in which I gladly gave to him and I grabbed the hand-me-downs to give to him as well. He then asked us if we wanted anything else like bananas, cilantro, coconuts. Of course we said yes! He came back later in the day with cilantro, red bananas, coconuts, and pineapple! He also brought some wooden platters that he carves himself to sell. We bought one for $10. Not that we needed a platter, but we felt good supporting him and it would remind us of his great spirit.Not long after Domingo’s visit, two boys rowed up in a small canoe. The older of the two brothers spoke to us in English and asked for water to drink. The oldest was 23 and he was self taught in English. He loved to practice. We were impressed with how well he spoke. He was a middle child out of 16 kids. He was out fishing with his 15 year old brother. Before leaving he asked for any magazines. We gave him one of Nina’s old Rollingstones magazines and a few of her old books. He was so happy! The next day Domingo’s son, Kennedy showed up to our boat on a kayak with his son. He had a bag full of grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. We didn’t think we had more to trade, so we offered him money. He was very grateful. His son that was with him was 6 years old. He asked if we had a backpack for him. We managed to find an old one and threw in some toys and fishing gear. We paddled across the bay to get wifi. The paddle was successful, but the wifi wasn’t too much with the one lonely wifi antenna. The locals would gather around outside near the antenna to get their free wifi. The locals were definitely interested in us. I don’t think they get very many American visitors. If you are a cruiser and you are sailing through here, make sure to stop at Domingo anchorage in Bahia Honda (Bahia Chinche) and either purchase food from him or his sons or plan ahead and bring items to trade. They said they like backpacks, clothes, fishing gear etc.

Feb 3rd, we sailed off the hook and down to Isla Cebaco. We sailed the whole way and tacked into the bay to set our anchor. A beautiful bay. We came here hoping to get surf. Our first day we stayed in the bay and explored. On the 5th, we looked for surf by motoring to where a local pointed us as to where the surf break was. We were barely successful. I chose to swim and walked instead and Christian went to surf when I got back. The kids did school and played as usual.Homemade tortillas! Thanks to SV Luna Sea for the amazing flour tortilla recipe!

We also did some not so nice boat projects.Fixed a clogged head (toilet). Yuk!

We are in love with Panama’s beauty. We haven’t entered the land of expensive and craziness that we hear of near Panama City. So far, it’s been tropical islands, small fishing and local huts, much wildlife, and NO wifi. The only bummer so far is ALL OF THE TRASH that we’ve seen washed up on the beaches. Most of it, plastic bottles and flip flops and crocs type sandals.I found my gym!Shawnigan anchored off of Isla Cebaco.

Please leave a comment! I will try to respond as soon as we get reliable wifi!


OSA Peninsula, Costa Rica

January 16, We had wind for a great sail down to Bahia Drake, our first stop on the Osa Peninsula. What a beautiful sight! A lot less traveled and a lot more rain, the Osa Peninsula’s rainforest is dense and attractive. After dropping the hook under sail, we immediately got the paddle boards out with just enough time to venture up the river against the current. This was by far one of the coolest jungle sightseeing experiences yet. The next day we took a hike in the jungle and along the beach. We took a dip and rinsed off in some much needed fresh water. On our way back we encountered a group of rambunctious Capuhin Monkeys. I will admit there was a few moments of “I’m not so comfortable with this”.

January 18th, we made our way south the Matapalo. We actually had good wind again for this stretch. We only motored for 2 1/2 hours, and that was mostly to give our batteries a boost and to get safely into the anchorage. Just before lunch we caught a yellowfin tuna! Sushi time! This was the first fish we’ve caught since November ! We anchor at 4pm and Christian was off the boat heading to surf by 4:15. I stayed behind to prep our Tuna dinner of Poke appetizer, a few Nigiri Sushi pieces, and Garlic Ginger seared Tuna with rice and beans for the main course. Yum!

We had two full days of double surf sessions. Christian took his SUP with an anchor and his board up around the corner to Matapalo break in the mornings. I surfed both days just in front of our boat. Both evening, we surfed together at a place just east of us, in which we paddle boarded to and anchored them just off of the break. Taj joined us the second evening with his Boogie board. He caught a few good ones right next to me! The third morning there, Christian went his way for his surf and I took Nina and Taj on a hike to the waterfalls. It was a beautiful hike, with lots of rainforest views. It was so nice to take a freshwater shower under the falls.IMG_2119IMG_2120

IMG_2220Josie and TajIMG_2235IMG_2214IMG_2218Nina


We then sailed off the hook and over to Jimenez to stock up on food and fuel and get at little wifi time in.


Costa Rica Continues

After our adventurous start with the zip lines, we sailed down to Quepos. We only spent one night just off the marina and one night anchored off of Punta Quepos. We didn’t find the town too exciting, but it was nice to get coffee, fresh food and walk around.


After Quepos, we sailed to Manuel Antonio. We anchored in the bay of the National Park, but after a few hours a guard hailed us from the beach. We weren’t allowed to anchor there on Monday, the day they were closed, so we motored over to the public beach. The next day we motored back over to the park and rowed to shore. Again we were approached by the guard stating we had to pay, which we expected, but we found out that we could only pay in Quepos, and then we also had to pay to get into the park, which we had to do in the town. Rather than going back to Quepos, we motored back to the public beach and rowed in with a surf landing that we timed carefully. We found a guide to hire and paid for us all to walk into Manuel Antonio National Park. We saw all sorts of wildlife and it was nice to get a hike in. See our post about it here.  

The next day we sailed down to Dominicalito, but first we stopped for a surf at Dominical. We anchored just off the break and all paddled in. After 2 hours there, we made our way to anchor off the little fishing village in a cove of Dominicalito. There wasn’t much to do there, surf, internet, and groceries were all in Dominical, so for two days in a row, we hitchhiked to Dominical. Dominical is a happening little surf town with many tourists. The prices are a little higher, but you can find Thai food, a natural food store, yoga and massage spa, and Cafe Mono Congo for good coffee and wifi.

Two days there went quickly. Afterward we sailed to Uvita, well more like motored the 12 miles there. One thing is for sure here, we have had to motor a lot more than we like to. The days are mostly cloudy, so our solar input has been low, and the wind has been sparse, so equally, our wind generator hasn’t put out more energy, and the wind leave us drifting. We’ve resolved to motoring, to boost our battery bank and to get to our next anchorage before sunset. Another reason Costa Rica is an expensive place for cruising, it cost more money in fuel.

Uvita is a pretty little town off of another National Park nicked named “The Whale Tail”. We anchored inside of the bay of the Whale Tail and didn’t have to pay to anchor there this time. Although a beautiful beach with lots to see, it was by far one of the rolliest anchorages we’ve been in. We spent two of the days there just checking out the beach area and swimming in the surf. On our third day there, we met up with Ellamae’s dad and his partner CC, who had flown over from Florida to pick her up and take her back with them after a week of traveling Costa Rica for themselves. Ellamae will now be with Papa and CC for the next 2 months and will fly back to Panama, to continue west with us from there.