Lionheart Cruise

El Salvador to Panama



We left the great staff at Marina Barillas, and our new friends on
the cruising sailboats Margoline and Eleytheria, and had a hard
days run down to Puesta del Sol, which was our only stop in
Nicaragua. There are not many ports for cruisers on the coast of
Nicaragua, so thank goodness it's not a big country. Puesta del
Sol is a lovely marina and resort that is located just inside the
mouth of a river. It makes a very interesting approach parallel to
the surf breaking on the beach, guided by channel marking bouys.
We made it through, and enjoyed 2 nights at a dock where the
captain could wash the boat. It was very dirty both from salt spray
(to be expected) and the cinders from the continuous burning of
the cane fields of Central America. Nickolas was also happy to
have a dock to step out upon. He had a very rough day, as we all
did, because of high winds making the sea confused and choppy.
First Nick gave up his breakfast, then he spent the rest of the day
glaring at us and looking for the cat abuse hot line number!

We left Puesta del Sol January 20, in the late afternoon, making a
20 hour overnight run down to northern Costa Rica. It was another
rough night because we had to stay less than 2 miles offshore.
Further out the seas were very rough. Staying in so close, we were
running through what appeared to be the entire Nicaraguan Ponga
fishing fleet. Pongas are small boats that kind of look like big dory
boats. There are usually 2 to 4 fisherman on these small boats
who work all night (I suppose it is better to work in the dark than in
the hot sun). As we were running along in the dark, suddenly a
flashlight would come on to the left, right, or right in front of us to let
us know they were there. You do not want to hit a ponga or a
fishing net for obvious reasons. So, the captain had to be extra
vigilant. Nobody, including the cat, slept that night. We arrived at
Bahia de Salinas around noon on the 22nd. It is a pretty bay but it
was blowing about 40 mph all afternoon and evening. The anchor
held and we left the next morning for the nicest day of cruising we
had in a while (the cat napped). Our next stop was at Bahia del
Coco, Costa Rica, where we had to "check in" to the country.

Checking in and out of Central American countries can be time
consuming and expensive. Cruisers call it "the paperwork cha cha
cha". In El Salvador, all was handled by the marina staff and
on-site immigration officers at very little cost. The officials did come
out to our boat to inspect, getting a big paws down from a grumpy
black cat. In Nicaragua also, the officials came to the boat but the
cost was insignificant. In Costa Rica, it took all day to check in.
First you take the dingy to the beach, landing through the surf.
Then you walk into town and find the Capitania del Puerto. He
checks your papers, passports, etc., and tells you to come back at
2:00 pm for the immigration officer who has to come from another
town. We did some shopping and looked around and then went
back to the boat. Captain went back to the beach, through the surf
at 1:45, and is told to come back at 3:30 pm. At that time the
officer wanted to personally inspect Lionheart. So the captain
brings her down to the beach so he can take her through the surf
to the boat.....she decided to complete the inspection from shore
with binoculars. In any event, we had a great evening at anchor
with friends on 2 other cruising boats.

The next morning we headed south and east down the coast of
Costa Rica with our Zarpe (paperwork) in order. The coast of
Costa Rica is lusher looking and more jungle like than El Salvador
and Nicaragua. Those coastlines are flat with the volcanoes
(active and inactive) as the dominant feature of the landscape.
Costa Rica is jungle right down to the water with misty mountains.
There are lots of great harbors in which cruisers can anchor and
explore the water and the land. We stopped every night on this
leg of the trip in the following places, which are marked on the map
of Central America page: Bahia Cabrillo, Bahia Hurradura (home
of the world class fishing and golf resort Los Suenos), Bahia Drake,
and Golfito in the Gulfo Dulce. We anchored in the bay and toured
the marina at Los Suenos. There were at least 10 private fishing
boats in the 85-100 foot range. There were no boats in this marina
less than 50 feet, and 2 of the "100 largest US yachts" were there.
These boats are in the 180-200 foot range. They have full crews,
and it looked like they were just sitting there waiting for owners or
charters to come aboard.

We arrived in Golfito on January 28 and were able to check in and
out in one day. It cost rather a lot with all the tips, however, people
had to hustle around on Saturday to get it all done, with the last
stamp and signature for the Zarpe at 11:00 PM. This enabled us to
exit Costa Rica on Sunday, January 29, taking advantage of a
good weather window to travel 4 days and make it to Panama City
and the Canal by February 1, which means our friends who are
arriving on Jan. 30, only have to wait on us for one day. With all of
our lay days behind us, we are really looking forward to our
rendezvous with the Feslers and the Panama Canal.

Jan. 31, 2006, finds us in Benao Cove, a mere 107 miles from the
Canal. We have traveled 3506 miles since leaving Long Beach.
The most southern latitude reached thus far is 7 deg. 17 min. N.
We have now actually started to turn north to reach Panama City.
Today we are at 7 deg. 12 min N, which means we are going NE.
The Panama Canal runs north-south, thus we approach from the
west. As a reference, Los Angeles is at 33 deg. N. The most
northern latitude Lionheart has visited is 59 deg. N in Glacier Bay
in 2002.

Feb. 1 finds us still in Benao Cove. So near yet so far! The wind is
howling in the Gulf of Panama today, making for a very rough ride.
We tried to cross this morning early but the wind had picked up
considerably making the conditions really snotty (in the words of
the weatherman). After 3 hours out and at least 12 hrs to go when
we found out it would not be getting any better until Friday, we
returned to this cove to once again wait for weather.

On Feb. 3 at 2:45 AM we left our anchorage to head into Panama
City. The first 4 hours were a run in the dark. By dawn we were
around Punta Mala again and well into the Gulf of Panama. As the
day wore on, the seas went from choppy to calm with currents
intermittently against us and then helping us move faster. Saw a
few big ships way off in the shipping lane. At 2:00 PM we were able
to see Panama City in the distance. By 4:00 we were taking a
mooring in the Balboa Yacht Club area which is just before you get
to the Bridge of the Americas. In this moorage, we are about 100
yards from the main channel that leads into the Panama Canal
system. Huge ships pass at all hours. Here we will wait for the
formal measuring of Lionheart and then we will be assigned a date
and time for transiting the canal.

Our friends had found the hotel that is at the head of the dock
which leads down to the Balboa Yacht Club. (This is a very loose
use of the term yacht club!) We met up as planned and they are
helping us run around Panama City in cabs to replenish ships
stores and provisions. We are very excited to have reached this
objective in our cruise plan.

First sight of Panama - tip of the Burica Pennisula


Nick is enjoying an evening in Lioneart's air conditioned comfort.   The flowers are for Nick - he likes to eat them.
Bahia del Coco - also known as Playa Coco, Costa Rica

Los Suenos - posh marina and resort

K&B Marina in Golfito where everyone was very nice and accommodating in getting our papers in order and fueling for our run to Panama

Our first view of Panama....tip of The Burica Penninsula..

Isla Parida is the first stop in Panama, in the Gulfo de Chirique'...we shared the anchorage with two sail boats...there were lovely islands everywhere.

Benao Cove - only 107 nautical miles to Panama City.....waiting for weather - and Punta Mala was muy malo.

Panama City - approaching from the Gulf of Panama

The captain prepares to pick up a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club.  The Bridge of the Americas is in the back ground.  We are now in our 17th week.