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Friday, September 05, 2014

September 5, 2014-One lap of North America


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Somewhere East of Bakersfield

Somewhere East of Bakersfield in the Mojave Desert lies China Lake Naval Air Station and there we slid our Chrysler to a stop in front of a red stucco apartment where our granddaughter Candace answered the door and offered us an orange flavored craft beer. More importantly she gave us each a big hug and as we sat down to chat we were delighted to find that in the previous four years she has turned from a sharp navy boot to a confident and composed 29-year old woman.

Family in Twin Peaks

This has been the story of our 7500 mile loop in America; at each stop we have found that our family and friends have grown up, matured, and changed from the wonderful people we remembered into delightful people even more wonderful than we could have ever imagined. And our timing was good, for family events and tourism too. We got to Seattle just in time for the birth of our newest granddaughter, Helena Anne, we made it to Oregon for Jenny and Gabe’s wedding, we were in San Diego in time to be with the Waldrups as they celebrated the life of Aunt Levis. We even hit Sturgis South Dakota for the great motorcycle rally.

Gabe & Jenny's Wedding

So, so far, the trip it has been a success; we’ve spent quality time with my brother and sister, son and daughter, and all of their families. We’ve been together with most of Judy’s family, and we’ve reconnected with many of our friends, particularly ones we missed last time we were in the US. The car is running well, and we completed all of our shopping and bought everything on the boat list. Even the weather has been great. From Oregon south we’ve barely had a cloud in the sky, but it’s been hot; in San Diego it was over 100, and in Indio, California we had temperatures over 112. Never mind that, in the low humidity of the southwest desert, it didn’t seem too bad.


Now we’re back in Mexico. We drove through the Sonora Desert and it was stunning. We visited Mazatlan and boy has it changed; the marina area has been totally built up and then been run down. Now there is a tacky air about the marina which might cause us to reconsider whether we will bring the boat there. We’ll see.


We stopped in small towns like Tecuala, and in old cities like Cuidad Obregon, Morelia, which was historic and gorgeous, and Oaxaca. We had great meals in outdoor restaurants on centuries-old plazas. We dropped into the Valley of Mexico and struggled through Mexico City traffic for hours. We had been in Mexico City before and could have by-passed it but we wanted to experience the size of hemisphere’s largest city by driving through it and we did. Whew! Big!


Yesterday was the toughest drive. After the hours of Mexico City we finally broke free of the gridlock and climbed from the city’s 7500 ft altitude up into higher Sierra Nevada on a four lane freeway with sweeping curves and traffic moving faster than we were comfortable with, but you have to go with the flow, right? Then down the other side into Puebla with more curves and even higher speeds. The driving was tense and definitely tended to focus the mind. But too, it was exciting.


Oaxaca

Because of the traffic jams in the Valley of Mexico we were behind schedule and to get to Cordoba where we had reserved a room we had to drive into the night. In the last set of mountains we had fog, rain, road construction everywhere, poorly marked lanes, and darkness. It was exhausting, but we arrived safely in Codoba. Today we had another exciting day in the mountains with more stunning scenery and arrived in Oaxaca this afternoon.

Sturgis

Tomorrow we hope to be back at Marina Chiapas and back onboard Wings.

We have been driving long days and stopping rarely so there are few photos of the trip, but we have some of the people we stopped to see.

Click here to see photos from our lap of North America

Click here to see Gabe & Jenny's Wedding

Click here for photos from Sturgis.

Fred & Judy, Oaxaca, Mexico

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Sunday, August 03, 2014

August 03, 2014-On The Move Again

Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City

We loved Chiapas so well...

We left.

Monday we took a bus to Tuxtla, (great 6 hour bus ride and crummy dinner in Tuxtla Guiterrez.)

Tuesday we flew to Mexico City, (great dinner in Centro Historico, and stayed where I always do, for the last 32 years, at the Ritz; they gave us a suite for our loyalty.)

Wednesday we flew to Cleveland, Ohio.

Thursday we bought a used car, (Chrysler 300) and got USA phone cards.

Friday we drove to Iowa, where we are now (at Judy's niece Angie's house in Cedar Rapids).

Looks like we will drive to Seattle on Monday, or start anyhow, and visit relatives and friends in Washington State, then later in August go to Jenny’s wedding in Oregon.

Finally, after we pick up the new mainsail somewhere on the West Coast, a drive to Mexico and down all the way to Chiapas.

You can cover a lot of ground if you take to the air, and even by land you go faster than a sailboat

We’ll check in along the way.

Our New Ride

Click here for more images.

Fred & Judy, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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Monday, July 21, 2014

July 17, 2014-Mexico Again

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In Chiapas, Mexico

Today at 3:00PM we landed in Chiapas, Mexico, after a 3 day passage from Nicaragua, which pretty much gets us around the world.

How did that happen? We didn’t set out to go around the world; we just wanted to go sailing and live in some different places. We did that; some wonderful places. But in the end we got around.

It was the westing. We thought we’d go west, so west we went; west across the Pacific, to Bora Bora, Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, and others, where we saw dancing girls and met the Frangi Pangi blossoms. Then west again to the land down under, New Zealand and Oz, and of Kiwi and Roos, where sailors are kings. Finally we went west again until we got East. We arrived in China and stayed in the Far East for years, in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, and other exotic ports. Chop sticks became as familiar as fork and spoon, and spicy food became our staple. The East was nice. Friends of ours never left that place, in each of these remote corners there are ex-cruisers who dropped out of the line and they will never leave, but the need to go kept us itching for west.

So we left again and headed further west, crossing the Indian Ocean, and landed in Africa, where there are lions, and we stayed for there for a while, but there was more west to go.

Next we crossed the Atlantic and got back to the Western Hemisphere where we found the West Indies and all things Carib, and we drank the lime in the coconut and heard the Reggie but still the westing wasn’t finished.

There was Colombia and the Panama Canal, and Central America.

Through it all we kept on the move and we kept heading west.

And here we are, Mexico; back after 16 years. It feels good.

Now we look back on this voyage, and we think it has been pretty amazing, and we have more memories than we can ever tell, but are the travels over?

Maybe, maybe not, but west? No, we’re finished with west. Maybe we’ll try east.

Click here for other photos of Chiapas and Puesta Del Sol, Nicaragua


Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mexico

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16, 2014-Sailing to Mexico

What about the trip?

We planned three plus days to get from Nicaragua to Mexico. The forecasts, all of them, said light winds.

Or no winds. So we took fuel and went in a funk.

But there were some surprises.

There was wind. Not much, but we could sail.

And when the wind failed we could motor.

Until the motor problems reappeared. After two months of no motor problems, of no oil consumption, all of a sudden, 12 hours into a three day passage, the oil disappeared. Like that.

So we shut down the motor. We had enough oil to run for nine hours, at the rate which it seemed like we were losing it, so we decided to wait. When there was wind we'd sail. No wind? We'd sit. When we were nine hours out of Mexico we could motor if we wanted.

We had some really pleasant sailing after that. Days of light winds and calm seas. Blue ocean under blue sky. Close hauled: Wings' best point of sail. The off watch slept, like babes. The standing watch? We sat and enjoyed the best sailing we'd had for a long time. Glorious.

The wind vane? Great! Silently keeping us on the best angle. Who could steer that well? Not me.

Tacking? We did some. We beat up the coast. Past Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala. Long port tacks up the Central American Coast, short tacks off shore to get some sea room, then back at it. There was a moon, the light was nice.

That was the plan.

Some highlights? The Gecko reappeared. On a midnight watch he ran over my arm and hid under the dodger. Hadn't seen him for a month or so.

Welcome back.

Then my lifejacket inflated. I was shutting a hatch before the rain and PFFFT! My lifejacket filled and choked me like some kind of Boa Constrictor. What a surprise. I ripped it off and put on the spare. Need to get a new bobbin and bottle I guess.

Then, that was the night the oil alarm went off. So it was a night of drama.

We had some breeze on the last 20 miles into Chiapas, but the motor was already on, and we'd folded the sails, so we motored in.

You know what?

No oil consumption.

Now that has us baffled.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mexico

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Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11, 2014-Papagayo Update


The Papagayos are behind us!

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Judy enjoys a nice sail.


We rode at anchor in San Juan Del Sur, in Nicaragua, where the Papagayos were blowing, for a week, and watched the weather patterns. After noticing that the winds were strongest from midnight to noon and that in the afternoon and evening each day they got lighter, and that the strongest area where they blew was over Popoyo, a surf town about 20 miles west from San Juan Del Sur, we resolved to leave on an afternoon, hoping on that day to get past Popoyo during the evening lull, and we waited for the best day to leave.

By Monday the breeze was down a little and we were ready so at 4:30 we set out for Corinto, expecting to get there by about 7:00 in the morning and, based on our strategy, hoping for minimal problems. Even with a good plan in mind we were nervous; it was still gustier than we wished for and the big mainsail we were carrying scared us a little.

But we went.

The sailing, however, was good. We reefed the main and set a small jib and had winds mostly in the low twenties, though at times higher, and they came from a good angle; a broad reach. With the good wind and some long surfs from the SW swell we were hitting 8's and 9's and at 8:00PM we flew past Popoyo. By midnight we were well west of the worst area and the wind got lighter, which we expected, and in the morning it died and we motored into Corinto right on schedule.

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Wings at Paso Caballos

Corinto

Getting into Corinto, Nicaragua wasn't totally uneventful; the navy chased us down after we passed their base and told us to "Go Back! Go Back!" and to stop at the main port and clear into the country, which we had already done in San Juan Del Sur, but there is no resisting men in a speedboat in combat boots and armed with AK47's, so we turned around. But that was nothing, really, the officials in town agreed we were legal, and sent us back on our route, again past the navy base, but this time they let us go, to Paso Caballos, where we anchored under the watchful eye of the San Cristobal volcano.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Corinto, Nicaragua

The next day we walked in the small town of Corinto on brick paved streets, where traffic was mostly bicycles and a few cars, listening to music of a different culture coming out of the open doorways and seeing people in white aprons busy sweeping the streets; we were greeted with a friendly smile and incomprehensible Spanish by everyone we met. We found it delightful; Corinto is a great town. Totally absent any sign of tourism or tourists. Too bad most cruisers skip Corinto; we loved it. It's a seacoast town and seafood is a staple, so we had ceviche for lunch at the restaurante la playa and each of us had a fried whole Red Snapper at the upscale place on the estuary for dinner. The restaurant staff insisted that they drive us home (back to the boat) rather than let us walk, ("Peligroso" , they said; dangerous, but it didn't seem that way to us, however we accepted the ride).

Maybe we should have stayed at Corinto, but we wanted to keep moving, so the next day we sailed to Puesto Del Sol, which is only 15 miles, to a "fancy marina" but found a slightly run down, expensive, and mostly empty marina built by and run by an expat American, with high prices and not much to do but spend money in their bar and restaurant. Even the pool is too small to swim in. Oh well, tomorrow we'll check out the nearby village, and on Saturday maybe we'll take a 2 hour chicken bus ride to the nearest town and get some more money so we have enough to check out of the country.

We'll give you a report.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Nicaragua

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

July 6, 2014-Papagayo Winds


wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Judy Sailing

In the winter time, wherever there are gaps in the mountainous spine of Central America, east winds blow through from the Caribbean Sea across Central America and into the Pacific. Around here they are called "Papagayos" and they can be fierce, as can the "Tehuantepeckers" in the Gulf of Tehuantepec and northerlies in the Bay of Panama. They are all known, collectively, as the "Gap Winds".

We're finding they can happen in the summertime too.

A combination of high pressure in Texas and some low pressure systems on the Pacific side have got the Papagayos pumping. We are hunkered down in a small bay in Nicaragua off a town called San Juan del Sur, where there exists some protection but not much, happy to be here and waiting for the gap winds to subside so we can move north.

We had been in the northern part of Costa Rica, a rugged, remote, and unpopulated area that was stunningly beautiful with blue water sailing, wide open bays surrounded by forested mountains, and no signs of other boats, civilization, or even humanity itself. It was fantastic, but tense at times. The Papagayos were often gusty and wild and the water was white capped and dark. Squalls came up suddenly. We often found ourselves looking at the horizon ahead, and beating into it for all we were worth to make it to shelter just before it got really bad, hoping the sails would hold together and the anchorage we’d picked was a good one, which luckily they all were.

That was when the weather was nice.

But the forecasts we were receiving told us the weather wasn’t going to stay nice; the Papagayo was going to howl. So we dashed across the Golfo Santa Elena and into Nicaragua, and just got anchored before the blast of wind hit.

So here we are: Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur. We been here a few days and have enjoyed the funky town, the restaurants, the stores, and the bar where we have been watching the soccer matches, but we're looking at our weather windows, trying to find a shot at crossing the Gulf of Papagayo, (which gives those winds their name) on our next leg north. We have to say we are a bit nervous about it, mainly due to not having a good cruising mainsail; the racing main is huge and only has one reef point. Even reefed it is huge. If we get caught out with that sail we will have a tough time reducing sail area. We might have to take it down completely, not much fun in high winds. Well, whatever happens, we'll deal with it.

Meanwhile, as long as we're here, we'll enjoy Nicaragua and we'll just let the Papagayo winds blow.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Nicaragua

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29, 2014-Up the Mast and a Party in Paradise

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Fred at the Mast Head

I made a new windex, sort of primitive, works a little bit, and went up the mast to install it. Got some shots, click here. Maybe it will serve until we get a new one; we can order one as soon as we get to some place where we'll stay long enough to receive a shipment, probably Chiapas, Mexico. We'll also order a new mainsail from Hong Kong and have it delivered to the same port.

We have been watching the soccer world cup in the town of Playas De Cocos, where we are anchored. Today Costa Rica won the their third game and they move up to the quarter finals. The bar, the town, the whole country probably, went ballistic with this win. We enjoyed it too, but the party looked to last all night, might have been fun, but when they started to turn over cars we went home.

Ticos Celebrate

Tomorrow we will check out of Costa Rica and prepare to depart for Nicaragua.

Click here to see some more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Costa Rica

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 24, 2014-How We Blew Up the mainsail

By 8:00 PM we were hauling. The wind was 24 in a squall and still building and the boat was broad reaching at 7.5 knots. We had the full main up, maybe more than we needed but the wind came up quickly and at the moment we seemed OK and we were happy for the speed. Except that the autopilot alarm kept going off as the computer complained that it could not keep the boat from rounding up. I went back and took the helm. One good hard pull on the tiller and the boat swerved down and we came back onto the course.

Then the boat jibed; a sudden, unplanned, un-wanted, accidental jibe. Not my first but surely my most disastrous. The preventer kept the boom from coming across and that probably saved the rig, but the main tore right up the middle. It was a hole big enough to fly a drone through.

Judy came up, “What’s going on?”

“We jibed. Stay clear of stuff, I’m going to jibe back. The main is torn.”

But I couldn’t jibe back. The back-winded main, that part of it which remained whole, held the boat pinned down. I looked at the swirls of water in the glare of our stern light and saw that we were not making any forward motion. We were on our side and just sliding off to leeward, the rudder useless.

I tied off the tiller and together we eased the preventer and centered the main and got some way on, then tacked around, but it was slow, and took two tries, the main flogging constantly and that first tear was just the start; suddenly the mainsail simply ripped to shreds. It was an awesome sight.

“Look at the main.” I said.

Judy didn’t want to. Anyhow, she knew it was gone.

Somewhere in this mess the windex departed, so that was gone too.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Torn Dacron

We got the sail down, pieces of it all over the rig and over the side and tangled up in the runners and reefing lines. It took a couple of hours to get them untangled and cleaned up and it was difficult work with the boat rolling mercilessly in the pouring rain and darkness. We kept our harnesses clipped on and worked with hand tools and flashlights; the engine running slowly ahead and the autopilot steering again.

Now the shreds of the main are rolled into a ball and stacked on the quarter deck, a reminder to the skipper of his errors, and we have motored on to Playa del Cocos without having any further incident, but the emotional scars will not heal as quickly. This incident has left us shaken. We’ve heard stories of disasters like this happening to other boats but we’ve avoided them for all these years. Maybe we thought we were invincible. But it happens quickly and when it does there is no going back to the time before; you can’t unwind it, you just have to deal with it. Some of the memories of that squall will stick to us for a while, like looking aloft and seeing the entire mainsail flying in the wind like so many white streamers and like me hanging on to the boom for dear life while trying to undo the shackles on the clew, Judy holding a flashlight and urging me to hold tight as I swung from one side of the boat to the other like a rag doll.

And the total disorientation I felt when trying to figure out which way to safely turn the boat on that black night in that gusting and shifting wind. I kept looking up where the windex should be to see the wind direction but it wasn’t there and all the numbers on the B&G basically meant nothing. I remember one moment when I finally got a mental image of it: “OK, the wind is 165, we are heading 30, so I’ve got it; I have to turn right to tack.” Sounds easy now but then, when our course up till then had been 290 and the wind 110, it took time to make that new mental image. I was glad the shoreline was miles away; at least we had sea room.

So now we have to buy a new main. It’s no surprise; the cloth was old and getting brittle and just earlier that day I saw that some stitches on a previous patch were opening up new holes. I just hoped it would make it to Mexico but it didn’t. We put on the racing main so we can sail again, and we’re looking for a windex or some sort of substitute for wind direction aloft, and we have to start thinking about where and how we’ll get another Dacron main. But that can wait for Mexico. Right now we are going to get ready for another leg:

wingssail images-judy jensen
Fred

We’ll leave for Nicaragua in a few days.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Costa Rica

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 21, 2014-Back to Bahia Ballena


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Gulf of Nicoya

It’s twenty seven miles from Puntarenas to Bahia Ballena, less if you could go in a straight line but you can’t, Isla Negritos is in the way, and besides, on most days this time of year it’s a beat, and it was for us today, so you have to tack; you wind up going twenty seven miles.

That’s a long day if the wind is light, which it was. Longer if the bottom is foul, which it also was, and the boat is heavy with fuel and water, and which definitely we were.

But we made it. Even after waiting to leave until the wind filled in at 11:00 we got to Bahia Ballena by 5:30, well before dark.

There was a long starboard tack, a lift as the wind clocked to the west in the afternoon. We sailed easy, letting the wind vane steer, and we drowsed in the cockpit, taking turns watching for ships, never touching the sheets or the helm.

When we tacked to port for the leg into Ballena, Judy spotted the other sailboat.

“There is a sailboat,” she said, “behind us.”

I put the binoculars on it. A sloop, close hauled on starboard, with a tall mast and flat sails, looking good. They had been behind us all right, on a course to weather of ours, inside on the long lifted tack I thought, with some irony. I wondered how long they’d been tracking us, if they were, probably for a while. They could have been back there with an eye on us for a long time. We hadn’t seen them. Asleep at the switch. Lulled by the lazy day. We hadn’t seen a sailboat out here sailing in a couple of months so we’d become complacent. We let them sneak up on us.

We crossed ahead; there was that, at least.

The other boat tacked soon after we did and fell into an easy course to leeward. For an hour we sailed on parallel courses. I expected to leave them in our wake but it didn’t happen; they hung in there, neither gaining nor losing.

After a while I got irritated by their presence. I started to trim more aggressively. I cracked off a little and eased the sheets. I got on the helm. The speed went up, and we did not fall down on them. So it helped; we started to move, even starting to work up to weather of them. We were sailing better. I guess it takes some competition to make you sail better.

The wind continued to shift to the west. On this tack it was a knock. The other boat was benefiting by being on the outside of a knock, but by now it didn’t matter; the wind was lightening and they had sagged down quite a bit.

When it came time to tack they rolled up their headsail and turned on the motor. We sailed on to Bahia Ballena. They peeled off to the Tortugas.

I got out a beer.

Puntarenas.

Puntarenas is a province, not just a town. We took buses and traveled around a bit, to Jaco and Quepos. We saw some of the sights of Puntarenas, the province. We visited Manuel Antonio Park and saw sloths and howler monkeys, and a few hundred college kids from the US down here on break. We also saw a crocodile cruising just off the popular swimming beach in the park and a few dozen would be bathers gathered on the shore. The people and the croc eyed each other; a stand off. Once we took a long dingy ride up the estuary behind the marina and there were hundreds of fishing boats tied to small wharves and piers, and there were crocodiles.

In fact crocs are common in Costa Rica; we saw them often, besides when we were driving around in the dingy, but that part was the un-nerving bit since they are as big as our zodiac and have been known to be aggressive towards boats. After that we put the dingy away and stuck to tours we could take by bus.

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Fred watching the game

And we joined with a lot of enthusiastic Ticos to watch Costa Rica win its first two matches in the Soccer World Cup. That was fun.

Now, however, we have departed Puntarenas.

Next stop, Plays Cocos, Coco beach

Click here for images of Puntarenas

Click here for photos in town.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Bahia Ballena

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

June 5, 2014-San Jose, Costa Rica, and Poas Volcano

We parked the car and walked up the trail towards Costa Rica's Poas Volcano. We realized right away that we didn't need the extra clothing we wore; the path was easy and the exertion didn't make us sweat but the sun did; it was warm even at 8000 feet of altitude.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Poas Volcano

We reached the viewpoint at rim of the volcano and the stunning view of the caldera with the green sulphuric lake and the rising columns of steam made us forget the sun and the sweat and the climbing up there. We didn't say much, just looked at the lava field 900 feet below us and stared. We were spellbound.

The wind blew one of the columns of steam our way and the sulphur made us cough and brought us back to reality. We could hardly breathe. We'd been warned that sometimes the park is closed due to the sulphuric gas, but then the wind instantly blew it away again.

The wind also dried the sweat on our bodies and we were cool.

A burst of steam came up to the surface of the lake and threw a black cloud into the air. A boulder splashed back into the green lake. This was what we came for; to be close to an active volcano, our first since Tanna Island in Vanuatu in the year 2002, and it was fantastic to be here. We continued to stare silently at awesome beauty of the volcano and felt its power and we knew we were lucky to see it; often Poas is obscured by clouds and fog. They warned us of that too, when we came in through the park gates, but like I said, we were lucky.

We watched the constantly changing scene for an hour.

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In the Cloud Forest

Then we returned to the trail and hiked another mile, still higher, through the cloud forest. There was another crater, the beautiful, cold, green Botos Lake, in the park, and we wanted to see it. The air was thin and we breathed deeply and we trudged up the trail with measured steps towards the 9000 foot level but the air was also cold and clean smelling and again the sweat dried on our skin leaving the welcome coolness and there was a tingle from our muscles and that metallic taste in our mouths from hard breathing. It all felt good and we enjoyed the climb.

Botos Lake was attractive but the crater's vents are not active and while pretty and surrounded by a forest of ferns and pine trees, we spent little time there. We were ready to go down, first to the car and then down the mountain road to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, where we'd come for a three day visit, leaving Wings in the marina at Puntarenas.

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San Jose, Costa Rica

This was our trip: three days in San Jose and its surrounds, including one day going up to the volcano and back. It was a good trip. We liked San Jose; though it was far below the summit of the Poas volcano it's elevation is still nearly 4000ft and San Jose, too, is cool compared to Puntarenas. The city is pleasant and filled with walking streets, museums, and small shops. In the suburbs we found malls and fast food restaurants but the city center is older and historic and we enjoyed strolling around with our cameras. We stayed in a small hotel and had a great meal at an Argentine Steak house nearby where the waiter kept our glasses filled with excellent Malbec and then walked us home in the rain when we didn't have our own umbrellas.

On the bus back to Puntarenas, as we came down from the central valley, we felt the growing heaviness of the atmosphere and the heat and humidity at sea level, but even though we enjoyed the coolness of San Jose, it was good to get back to Wings. After all, it's home.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puntarenas

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