CHANGES boat. Danielle and I ran the malecon every morning at about 7:30 a.m. When we arrived in Ecuador, we didn't know much about the country. But that soon changed, and we learned that the country has plenty of adventure travelling to offer. For example, thanks to a suggestion by crews of Otter and Nueva Vida, we rode on the roof of a train (!) as it zigzagged down El Nariz del Diablo (The Devil's Nose), which is a dizzying descent from Alausi in the highlands. The capital of Quito was interesting, but it's dangerous for vegetarians. When Brooke ate a T-bone steak at Adam's Rib in the safe and touristy 'new town' district, she fell in love with the country just because of the beef. And just $5 buys you a huge steak dinner with all the trimmings. The crew of She Wolf said the colonial architecture of Cuenca was great, and the taxi drivers and other locals said that beautiful Banos was a place that we shouldn't miss. Another reason we're so fond of Ecuador is that we met some wonderful local families. Indeed, they invited us to stay at their homes, and put on birthday parties for Brooke and Danielle. We finally set sail for the Galapagos in October of '05. Based on our experience, the only way to visit these fabled islands is on your own boat. Our 30-day permit allowed us to stay and explore the islands pretty much all we wanted. Isla Isabella was our favorite. There we
Greenwich, England is a good place to straddle the prime meridian. Quito, Ecuador is a good place to straddle the equator.
saw petite Galapagos penguins sitting on the shore while the white-tipped sharks glided by just below the surface. And on October 22, we had a bonus experience â€” we witnessed the eruption of Isla Isabella's Sierra Negra volcano. When November rolled around it was time to head back north again, so we sailed to Panama. If you're planning to cruise in Las Perlas, you'll want to get a copy of the Zydler's The Panama Cruising Guide. The snorkeling in the warm, clear waters of the Perlas Islands was Brooke's favorite. We also enjoyed the scenic one-hour train ride from Panama City on the Pacific Coast to Colon on the Caribbean side. While in Panama, we met lots of cruisers who liked Panama and Ecuador so much that they'd been sailng back and forth for years. Plus, there's a group of cruisers who bought retirement condos on the same floor of a complex in Panama City! By the end of January '06, Our Tern had made it all the way back to southern Mexico â€” which might make some of you think we cruise quickly. Granted, we only stayed two weeks in northern Costa Rica, where we spent Christmas and New Year's Eve with the crews of Encanto, Soy Libre, Carina, and RDreamz. And we only took a slip at the lovely Marina Puesta del Sol in Nicaragua for about one week. As far as weather and currents go on the way south from Mexico to Ecuador, we never saw the ITCZ. And we were able to sail most of the way from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos in October. When we left the Galapagos in November on our way north to Panama's Perlas Islands, we were able to sail most of the way and didn't have a strong adverse current. In fact, we didn't think the current was bad from Panama to Mexico either. Since we usually had northerlies on the leg up to Mexico, we'd go 20 miles offshore to make it a little more comfortable while beating. Nonetheless, our Valiant 40 sails to weather very well. Why hadn't we considered visiting Ecuador earlier rather than hanging around Central America for the hot summer months? There were quite a few reasons. For one, it's 900 miles further south of El Salvador. Another reason is that many of our friends were summering in El Salvador, and we didn't want to leave them. We'd also heard that El Salvador would get considerably less rain than Costa Rica, which is why it's not as green. Plus, people are naturally sequential, and we didn't want to miss Central America. Nonetheless, if we were going to make
the same two-year trip again, we'd leave Mexico right after the Zihua Fest in early February to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec. It's true that January has the greatest frequency of Tehuantepecker's, but they are predictable, so you just have to wait for a good window. Once across the Gulf, we'd stay in El Salvador until about April, as the weather isn't too bad until summer. In addition, this would still give us a month for a trip to inland Guatemala and to visit San Salvador. But before the end of April, we would head directly to Ecuador, which is about a 10day passage, or continue on to northern Costa Rica, which is only about a five-day passage from Ecuador. Another option would be to spend the month of April coastal hopping from El Salvador to Panama. But because Panama is so far east, it's still about a five-day trip to Ecuador. By being in Ecuador from May through November, we'd not only miss the bad summer weather of Central America, but we could visit inland Ecuador, Peru, and
The August 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.