Wingssail Home Wingssail Images LogBookPages Map of our travels Index Email Fred & Judy

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 31, 2014-No Hay Problema!

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Puerto Azul

Well, we've exhausted everyone's ideas about what could be wrong with Wing's motor and we've found nothing.

We don't know what caused it to apparently and mysteriously consume eight quarts of oil.

Further, the problem is no longer evident; we're not losing any oil now, and we've put about five hours of operation on it without any loss.

So we are left with three choices:
1. We had a serious problem which we still have since nothing was fixed, but it's in remission.
2. We had a serious problem which fixed itself.
3. We never had a problem, we just thought we did.

Frankly I am leaning toward door number three, which is the same view as my mechanic here in Puntarenas, William Martinez, who seems to be very competent and thorough, and is highly recommended by several sources. William doesn't know what to think, he can't find anything wrong and can't say anything but good stuff about what he sees in our motor, although he's puzzled by the oil loss I reported. He also brought two other mechanics by to consult on the problem, and has taken the oil-cooler and fuel pump to test labs for examination. They came back certified sound.

Possibly he doubts my report about the oil loss in the first place but it's hard to argue with the empty oil containers which we kept and anyhow, he's too polite to say so.

So now what?

Well, Puerto Azul, the marina, is pretty nice, and the daily rate for ten days, which, as a condition for entry, we prepaid, covers 30 days at the monthly rate. So, effectively, we have paid in advance for a month if we want to take it.

We might. There is some touring we can do in Costa Rica, and life is pretty relaxed on the river in Puntarenas, so staying would be easy.

We'll let you know.

Oh, by the way, we replaced the water pump impeller, which we knew was going out although it still pumped heaps of water, and the engine never ran hot in the slightest, and upon taking it out, were surprised at how shot it was. Check out the last photo here.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puntarenas

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25, 2014-Sailing to Puntarenas

Clouds over Puntarenas

The motor’s broken and we need a mechanic. Puntarenas should have one, probably several; we need to go there and try to get our broken motor fixed.

The distance from Ballena Bay to Puntarenas is 25 miles but there is a good anchorage about 18 miles away and we think we can break the trip into two days. On Friday we will leave.


At sunup we are watching the bay for any sign of wind. At 10:00 there are a few ripples on the water, then a light breeze. It’s only four knots of wind but we can sail this. We immediately weigh anchor.

The breeze is an easterly, so it’s upwind, and we set the main and genoa and haul sheets out of the bay. We expect to have to tack to get around the heads but a lift is showing and we clear into the open water on one tack.

Now the wind frees and fills a little and we ease sheets and crack off to northeast. The speeds are good. We’re seeing six knots of wind and Wings is going better than 5 knots as we pass Isla Tortugas.

The wind vane steers and we concentrate on trimming the sails.

At noon, looking at the chart and the time, we decide to go for Puntarenas, now only 16 miles away.

This is not a race but we sail like we are racing. Trim, steer, watch the tides, follow the shifts. We’ve done this before; we know how to make a fast passage when we need to. The wind has shifted further around to the south and even though Puntarenas is north we are reaching towards the NE to keep the apparent wind on the beam. The computer program says to jibe when the mark bears 335, which we do, and the wind comes around to the beam on port side and we hold our speed.

And Wings performs. Even in five to six knots of wind we can make 4-5 knots of speed. In 11 knots of wind we are over six, almost 7.

At 3:15 PM we are a mile out and approaching the shallows off of Puntarenas. We drop the jib.

Thirty minutes later we come head to wind behind the point and drop the main; we’re in the harbor at Puntarenas.

It’s been a good sail today. Tomorrow, at high tide, we’ll go into the marina.


At an hour before high tide we weigh and motor slowly up the river the three miles to the marina.

We’ve topped the oil in the engine and we think we can run the motor that long.

Judy navigates us and though there’s less than 1 foot under our keel at times, she keeps us off; we don’t touch. Luck is still with us.

At the marina they are expecting us and they help us into the slip, which is tricky in the strong river current.

The mechanic says the motor sounds and looks fine; he says the problem has to be the oil cooler, can’t be anything else. He’ll come back Monday with tools to take the oil cooler off and into a shop for a pressure test. After he leaves we shrug; what can we do?

Meanwhile we watch the depth of the water in the slip; it’s the deepest berth they have but as the tide goes out we sink into the mud. I rock the boat to see if we are aground: if the boat moves we’re floating.

It does.

We decide the bottom is pretty soft. We’re OK.

So, here we are: the motor's still broken, but we're in a marina with a swimming pool, bar and restaurant, and we can float at low tide. We’ve got the mechanic going on the motor, and things could be worse. We’re fairly positive.

And we’ll keep you updated.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puntarenas

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 22, 2014

May 22, 2014-Mechanical Opportunities Change our Plans

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sailing Back

Today I got up early to work on the engine. I was looking forward to it just like I was yesterday morning when I got up early to rebuild the backstay cylinder which blew out the day before. I hate to go to bed with a broken boat but evenings are no times to start big repair projects. Working after dark on deck doesn’t usually bode well however the fix went OK in the early daylight yesterday and I felt good about it all day.

Today I had another opportunity. While motoring out of Ballena Bay yesterday afternoon with our newly repaired backstay the oil pressure alarm started chirping. New Problem! Low oil pressure! Killed the engine, checked the oil. Low! Added oil. Restarted. Looked OK…for an hour. Then the oil pressure dropped again. We’re losing oil. It’s not in the bilge, and there is no smoke, so we surmised it was the oil cooler.

When it happened we were 10 miles out of port with 110 miles to go the next port and that is not a city or anything, just another bay in Costa Rica. Couldn't run the engine, the wind was light and we knew it would get lighter overnight. What to do? No other choice, set sail, turn back. We did. The wind was light but at least there was wind. We needed to get back to the anchorage. We turned downwind.

It was 3:00 PM. We figured we had two hours of breeze. Up went the kite. This time it was for real; we needed it.

Set on starboard and heated it up a bit to keep going in the light stuff. Watched the headings in the shifting wind and jibed when we could just lay the harbor entrance. Reached in on port just off the rocks and then hardened up. When we couldn't sail any higher, dropped the chute and sailed in the rest of the way under main. Judy did all the physical stuff while I conned the boat. She is good. In the last wisps of the dying breeze, we came head to wind and dropped the hook when we coasted to a stop. We used the main to back down to set the anchor.

Miller time; job well done.

Today however, it didn't go as well as with the backstay yesterday. I took off the oil cooler and bypassed it but all I verified is that it is not the source of the loss of engine oil. I guess it was an opportunity. Now what? We now think it is an exhaust valve seal.

Time for a mechanic.

We hitched a ride to the nearest town and bought 4 gallons of oil. With that and a little wind we probably can get to Puntarenas and maybe a mechanic.

That wasn't the plan, but that's what we need to do, so we'll do it.

Click here for more shots of us sailing back to Ballena.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Costa Rica

Labels: ,

Monday, May 19, 2014

May 19, 2014-Sailing the Monsoon Trough

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sailing the Monsoon Trough

Yesterday we departed Golfito and set sail in a nice southerly breeze. We pointed the boat out of the Golfo Dulce and sailed close hauled towards the open Pacific Ocean. Soon we felt the lift of the long Pacific swells. The ensign on our back stay stood proudly. It was good to be under sail.

At Punta Matapalo we took a hitch into the beach and caught the lift around the cape, then held starboard tack well out to sea, looking for the right angle back to the north. The wind shifted, a knock which we didn’t expect, and we tacked on that shift and found we could sail on port right up the coast. It was a glorious sail.

To sail north along this coast, however, we must deal with the monsoon trough. The rainy season is in full swing and with the coming of this season the ITCZ has moved north. A monsoon trough is fully established over the Pacific Coast of Central America. There is a daily pattern which we have come to know well: Mornings are calm and sunny and you have to motor if you want to get anywhere in the mornings but at least the sky is blue and it is pleasant. Then by noon the sky becomes overcast and a wind fills from the south. From then until sunset you have very nice sailing. By evening the wind dies and you are on the motor again and the squalls come, bringing rain and lightning, torrential rain, and heavy lightning. Nights are dirty. We don’t like being at sea in those conditions but the harbors are far apart; we must keep going through the night, and we do, but we hang on with gritted teeth through the squalls, hoping to avoid a lighting strike, and water drips everywhere, inside the boat and out, as the motor drones onward.

Our next stop is in Northern Costa Rica, Ballena Bay, and here, if it is pleasant, we will stop a while and work on the leaks which have appeared in last few weeks. We’d like to keep the boat dry inside, which it has been in the past, even during the heavy rains. We are hoping, however, to get away from the monsoon trough, and away from the heavy rains and the hours of motoring. Perhaps when we reach the Papagayo, between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the pattern will change. There, and further north, across the Gulf of Tehuantepec, we might see northerlies blowing offshore during the night. But that brings its own issues. The winds over the Papagayo, gap winds, as they are called, often blow in the 20’s and 30’s. The Tehuantepeckers, as the heavy winds across Gulf of Tehuantepec are lovingly known, can blow even more fiercely. They can be strong enough to keep you in port for weeks at a time, although that happens less frequently during the rainy season.

And then there are the hurricanes. The rainy season is also hurricane season. This part of the coast is generally free of hurricanes, but it is not impossible to imagine one causing chaos in southern Mexico, or even bringing rain and strong winds here in Central America. We watch the weather, and when we get to Chiapas, the southern-most port in Mexico, we think we’ll hunker down for the rest of the season.

So that is the plan: get to Chiapas and hunker down. Right now, on the way to Ballena, we are having another nice sail, under spinnaker, and we push most of this weather stuff into the back of our minds and focus on the sailing.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Costa Rica

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 14. 2015-Golofito is no Boca Chica

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

REVISION: I think my previous version of this story gave a worse picture of Golfito than is fair. In fact, we liked Golfito

We’ve sailed from Boca Chica, in Panama, to Golfito, in Costa Rica. Golfito is another great harbor with fine protection which is second to none, being surrounded by mountains and rain forests. And it is beautiful, even in the rain (which pours down like clockwork every afternoon). Maybe especially in the rain: sitting under an awning on Wings, in the steady rain, looking at the still boats anchored in front of the town and the mists rising from the forests, reminds us of places on Vancouver Island.

But even with the beauty of the surroundings, a great anchorage, and lots of welcome rain, (welcome because it fills our water tanks), I’ve been kinda grumpy here. Could it be the mud? Everything is muddy. Could it be the rain, which we love and need? Every time we get into the dingy we find it totally wet and half full of water. I operate the dingy standing up, with water up to my ankles, holding an umbrella.

Mostly, I guess, it’s the poor Internet and Costa Rica’s high prices which put me in a bad mood. Costa Rica uses an unusual frequency band for its high speed Internet, none of our devices can pick it up, and the WiFi is unreliable, so we haven’t had much Internet. Then there are the prices. The prices are high here for everything, particularly food, fuel, and transportation. Today we took a bus down the Pan American highway and back to buy groceries in Panama and the savings made it worthwhile. Marina prices in Costa Rica are so high it seems downright unfriendly. We don’t know why everything costs more in Costa Rica but it does.

But despite all this, Golfito has been a good stop. At least our water tanks are full. The Cruiser’s Clubhouse at LandSea Marina is where we hang out to get out of the rain has been fun and Tim and Katie, the people who run it, are helpful and nice. THEIR prices are good, so overall the Cruiser’s Clubhouse is a net positive.

Next door the Banana Marina has a great happy hour. We’ve been there a few times for $2 rum.

And we’ve spent hours wandering up and down the main street in town looking for bargains and finding some, if not many. Oh, did I mention the “Free Zone”? Down in the rainy end of town (yes, one end of Golfito gets much more rain dumped on it than the rest of Golfito) there is a shopping area, all fenced off, where, if you go with your passport in hand, you can buy goods which are duty free, which brings the prices back down to almost, say, anywhere in Panama. But they don’t have groceries.

Well, this is all part of cruising, and even if it sounds like I am complaining, I’m really not. Whatever we find when we come to a new place, like Costa Rica, it is still very much a voyage of discovery for us. And what we learn when we come to a new place, well, we couldn’t really learn it any other way.

But by the weekend we’ll be underway.

Click here for more Costa Rica photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Golfito

Labels: , ,

May 5, 2014-Chillin’ in Boca Chica

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Boca Chica

We are incredibly content in Boca Chica.

We’ve been here one week. We love it. Nothing much happens in Boca Chica but our life is good. We get up late, we do lazy boat projects. And we chill out. That’s it.

The thing is that it’s peaceful here. It’s quiet; very quiet. We hear birds. We hear the monkeys on the nearby island. Except for the birds and the monkeys, there’s no sound. We love the quiet.

The water is calm. There is hardly a wave. It is an inlet of the ocean but it could be a river. The water around us just swirls past the boat, lazy like. Once in a while a fish surfaces and leaves a circle in the water. Even when one of the sports fishing boats from the resort goes by their wakes seem somehow subdued and we don’t much feel them or hear their engines.

So our boat sits with a peaceful stillness all day and that encourages a calmness of the mind.

It is not just us. Ashore, life appears to be at a standstill. The trees are motionless. Sometimes a cow comes down to the shore and moos. There are some big houses. Their lawn lights blink on at 6:30 PM and in the morning they go off again. That’s the limit of the activity we see. There is a town, a village really. In the village people move at that slow pace of the third world. They hardly walk. We saw six guys waiting for the bus one morning. They sat on the swing set in the playfield next to the bus stop. After an hour, when the bus didn’t come, they got up and walked to a nearby bar. We waited another hour. Then the bus came. We boarded the bus but the local guys stayed in the bar. I guess their plans changed.

I went in to town again today and at the pier a man was in the water cleaning the bottom of his Panga. It was anchored, floating a few yards away from the pier, which is really just a wall.

He had a scraper in his hand. He had a face mask. I had to go around his Panga to get to the pier. He looked at me to see if I knew that he was in the water. We made eye contact. Then he returned to his task. I tied up my dinghy and scrambled up the wall and went up the hill for some bread and ice. The store was open. Often it is not. There is no sign on the store to tell me the hours it is open and the neighbors are no help, the lady next door just shrugged her shoulders when I asked her about the opening hours of the store. But today the store is open. I picked up some bread and asked about ice. No Ice. Where can I buy ice? Shrug of shoulders and a burst of Spanish which I don’t follow. I just stand there. Then she motions across the street. OK. I buy my bread, and a beer, and then I go across the street and buy three bags of ice from the blue house on the corner. While I wait for the man inside to get me the ice a man on the porch talks to me. I see from his eyes he is blind, but when I stick out my hand he reaches for it. His hand is boney but strong. The ice is $.75.

I go back to the dingy and the man scraping his boat is still there. He looks at me again. I nod to him and I motor around him giving him a wide berth. He returns to his task.

You know, in fact, this place doesn’t have much to recommend it. But despite the shortcomings, we are fine here. It is serene.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Boca Chica, Panama

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 04, 2014

May 3, 2014-Sailing to Boca Chica

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

We departed Panama’s Las Perlas islands before lunch and in a nice south easterly set our course out of the Gulf of Panama bound for the Gulf of Chiriquri far to the west.

The Azuero Peninsula lay in the way. To get around it we had to clear three headlands: Punta Malo, then Morro de Puercos, and finally Punta Mariato. These three outcrops on Azuero Peninsula were reputed to be difficult and the forecast was for SW winds, on the nose, not the SE breeze we currently enjoyed.

So we expected the wind to switch around and our course would become a beat.

Well, we had plenty of time and the winds didn’t look to be getting stronger, so, if beat it was to be, we’d just beat, and off we went, close hauled on port tack, sailing at six and a half knots into the slowly clocking wind, sailing silently, each keeping our thoughts to ourselves as we wondered what night would actually bring.

But we were glad to be on the move. The season has changed and it was time to get going, maybe even a bit late. Our days in the Las Perlas were mostly overcast and grey and there were fierce thunderstorms and lightning each night. The anchorages which offered great protection in northerly winds were rolly in the swells from the south now that the northerlies were gone.

And there were the bugs! The rainy season brought bugs. Every night thousands of flying ants descended on us, determined to find a way in past our bug screens and far too many succeeded. We filled the trash cans with their bodies. Each morning we found hundreds more dead or dying on our decks. Sweeping them all off was a daily chore.

And our gecko was no help! Gecko? Yes, we have a gecko on board. He just appeared one day but he has not been out there eating bugs like we hoped he’d be. Instead he lurks behind the coffee cups.

Well, bugs, geckos, SW winds, and other adventures will probably keep us entertained as we work our way out of Panama and toward Costa Rica and the other central American countries and finally to Mexico, our destination this season.

Probably it will even be fun.

Next day

Well, that was a pipe dream, that we’d have a gentle beat around Azuero. Instead the wind died completely, the rain came in buckets, and we were surrounded by lightning. We motored miserably through the night.

Same story the next night: after a nice sail during the daylight hours, at night we had rain, lightning, (heaps of lightning), no wind, and tide rips. We motored again.

Finally, soggy and tired of the sound of the motor, we arrived in Boca Chica. Things immediately got better. The anchorage is quiet, the gecko has learned to eat bugs, and our water tanks are full (even if our fuel tanks are not) and we have friends here.

I quess we’ll go to town and do some shopping, and maybe try out the local bar scene before we head back out into the Gulf for more motoring, continuing on our way north.

Click here to see a few images, including our gecko.

Fred & Judy (and gecko), SV Wings, Panama

Labels: , ,

NEXT Page (More) , or... GO BACK to Previous Page