Month: March 2017

Heading to Galapagos!

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The time has come, and we are so excited. All paperwork has gone through and at high tide this afternoon we will pull up anchor, raise the sails and head for Galapagos. It is about 545 nautical miles (627 land miles), and we are expecting about 8 hours of wind followed by absolute calm seas with no wind at all. We expect it’ll take us 3 or 4 days. Our friends on Zatara will be leaving at the same time and we will buddy boat the entire way.

This morning we loaded into the dinghy and Renee and her two younger munchkins and I walked over to the grocery store, while the girls went to the fruit market…it’s the divide and conquer provisioning approach.

The girls are so good at purchasing what we need, and are incredibly responsible. On the way we saw some little children working out in the mud harvesting shrimp.

They have a huge area to cover…

They spent $30 and returned with 2 huge watermelon, carrots the size of dinosaur eggs,

a couple dozen fresh croissants, a few dozen passion fruit, avocados, pineapples, 6 lbs of fresh shrimp, a few pounds of finger bananas, and a couple pounds of fresh peanut butter in a bag…because how else would you buy peanut butter!!!? It’s actually quite delicious.

At the store Renee and I were at, I bought beets, potatoes, cabbage etc – things that last a while. I also bought bottled water because the area we will be sailing through is once again pirate territory, and sometimes the way they have approached sailors is to come close up in their fishing boats and ask for water. People let them on board and give them water, which is when they pull out machetes and all goes to heck in a hand basket. If anyone comes close enough to ask for water we will not let them board or tie up to our boat but will toss them bottles of water.

Again, the good thing about buddy boating is that there is safety in numbers. We don’t expect any problems at all.

One of the unforeseen projects we’ve had to hurry and work on, is that the window in Mycah’s head started to separate. Danny showed Mycah how to remove the window, peel off all the sticky, messy black bonding nonsense and reset her window. She rigged up the bosuns chair, repelled down the side of the boat and went to work.

Check out the disgusting brown water below her. Since the earthquake last year, all sewage is dumped into the ocean, and between that and the water flowing in from the mountains during this rainy season, we feel like we are on the chocolate river in ‘Charlie and the chocolate factory!’

Danny and her worked hard, and Mycah learned a new skill and had fun swinging around.

During the process she did have a little accident…at first she had the dinghy tied to the side of the catamaran and was standing in it to work, and accidentally dropped the knife which landed on the dinghy, poked hole and fell into the depths of the muddy mess. Keith brought his patch kit over and saved the day.

In these last couple of hours we are cleaning things up from provisioning, getting checkout paperwork taken care of, and Emma and Anna are enjoying some delicious dragon fruit together. More fun times and grand adventures await!

Back on board

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I apologize for the double post today, but the previous post was unfinished and I sent it off accidentally…

Yesterday morning we left our hostel by taxi with our friend Cesar, at the wheel.

Danny had asked me to try find a couple parts for our engine, so Cesar told us he’d drive us around to try find them, then drop us at the bus station so we could buy tickets for our trip home. At that point we had no idea what the bus schedule was.

We traveled to 6 different stores before we found the parts, then set out for South Quito, where the bus terminal was. En route, we stopped at a look out that oversaw South Quito, and it was quite impressive!

About 2,000,000 people live in Quito.

Over 4,000,000 people are without jobs in Ecuador.

We have really loved our visit to Quito. The people are hard working and friendly, transportation is readily available for very cheap and the scenery is gorgeous. The only word of advice I must offer, is that when you use the restroom, take your own toilet paper, and many of the public restrooms cost 10c for guys and 15c for girls because they hand girls a paper napkin the same roughness as dry corn on the cob, to use for wiping.

When we stopped to take pictures, Emma collected a beautiful bouquet of yellow flowers. I love my sweet girl and her thoughtfulness.

When we reached the bus terminal, Cesar came in with us and helped us locate the correct terminal. We found that the last bus of the day would be leaving in 45 minutes, which was amazing, so we bought our tickets and said goodbye to Cesar. What a great guy.

We all used the loo and grabbed a drink for the 8 hour trip, and relaxed for a few minutes.

When the time came we loaded up, relaxed into our reclining chairs on the bus, and enjoyed reminiscing about the trip and the experiences we’d had.

Our adventures in Quito will always be such fond memories to reflect on. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to see more of Ecuadors beauty, spend time together as family and friends, and most of all, to hold precious angels – even for just a moment.

Back on board

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Yesterday morning we left our hostel by taxi with our friend Cesar, at the wheel.

Danny had asked me to try find a couple parts for our engine, so Cesar told us he’d drive us around to try find them, then drop us at the bus station so we could buy tickets for our trip home. At that point we had no idea what the bus schedule was.

We traveled to 6 different stores before we found the parts, then set out for South Quito, where the bus terminal was. En route, we stopped at a look out that oversaw South Quito, and it was quite impressive!

About 2,000,000 people live in Quito.

Adventures in Quito, day 2

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Our day began with a wonderful breakfast here at the hostel. I believe that Ecuador hot chocolate is the tastiest in the world. When the woman asked us how we’d like our eggs, we didn’t know the Spanish word for scrambled, so we told her in charade form. Imagine that! It’s not easy to do!!! Crazy thing is that she understood.

When we discussed how we wanted to spend our day, we all agreed that we just couldn’t stay away from the orphanage, so we spoke with Rex Head once again and he told us that we could go over to Ramar after noon when everyone had returned from church. We caught a taxi to a grocery store and bought some supplies to take to the children. We bought nail polish to paint the girls nails,

some cute things to put in their hair,

and teething rings and extra nipples for baby bottles.

We also loaded up on bags of potato chips, books and balloons for them.
As soon as the kids at the orphanage arrived, they ran to us and embraced us. They had no idea we were returning and were so surprised and excited.

We returned once again to the playground and got busy painting nails. They especially liked light blue nail polish.

We had an interesting experience when we handed out the books, balloons and hair things…

until that point, all the children were playing so well together, and were loving and compassionate toward each other. As soon as we brought the stuff out they began to fight and argue. Some tried to take more for themselves and didn’t want to share at all, some wanted more than we had and began crying. It made me wish we hadn’t taken anything for them because they respond so much better to love and attention than material things. Since I adopted a child from one of these orphanages about 15 years ago, I know from personal experience that gifts can be too overwhelming and causes anxiety.

We quickly distracted them with more nail painting, soccer and a game of volleyball.

The girls really liked Jude’s camera and took pictures of each other with it.

We read books and played.

Eventually we pried ourselves away, realizing that most likely, none of us would ever see these sweet faces again. That made us sad, but we hope that we have helped them feel important and loved.

We decided that since we’d been on our feet so much, walking the streets of Quito, we were ready to treat ourselves to a movie so we could sit and chill out for a bit. Beauty and the Beast was showing in English, so we bought tickets, grabbed some fast food and settled in to watch the show. It had been so long since we’d been to the movies, and was such a fun treat. The movie was wonderful!
Afterward I brought up our route back to the hostel on WAZE, and we began walking. Aidan was delighted when we came across an epic skate park.

Since we are all easy going and just happy to be here, we stopped for a while and let him have fun.

It was fun watching him with his ninja skills.

After a while it was time to head back, and as we walked it started to rain. We still had a couple miles to go so we hailed a couple taxi’s. It felt amazing to finally take our shoes off, wash up and snuggle down for the night. What another beautiful day.

Adventures in Quito, Day 1

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Our first day in Quito was packed with adventure from beginning to end!Our friend, Rene from Zatara, and two of her kids (Jack and Anna), and me and our four creatures, boarded a comfy bus at 10:45pm on Friday night for $6.50 a ticket.

We reclined our seats, fell asleep and woke at 5:45am when we arrived in Quito. We noticed that the bus terminal was at the airport – aside from that we had no idea where we were, and were completely content with that. We knew we wanted to explore Old Town Quito, so we set in search of transportation and found a bus that would take us there. While standing line for tickets, a taxi driver made us a sweeter deal, so we followed him out to the two waiting taxi’s. A few minutes into our drive Rene realized she’d left her glasses on the bus, so we turned around and began searching for the bus we’d been on. Her glasses weren’t in lost and found at the bus terminal, and the bus wasn’t at the main hub, but while driving we spotted it parked by a big metal building, so the taxi driver jumped out of his taxi at a traffic light and ran over to find it. A few minutes later, after lots of hooting cars had gone on their way, Rene and her glasses were reunited and all was well in Ecuador.
As we arrived in the Old Town section half an hour later, the kids spotted a McDonalds which they hadn’t seen in many months, and we were dropped off there.

While eating a breakfast of champions, I contacted our friend, Rex Head, who has a wonderful organization called OSSO (orphanage support services organization). They support orphanages and have an amazing volunteer program. Rex and his beautiful wife, Melodie, have hearts of gold and have had such a massive positive impact in so many lives. Check them out online if you’re interested in volunteering. I asked Rex if we could help at an orphanage anywhere in Quito, and he made arrangements for us so that we could.

From the second we arrived at Ramar to the moment we left, we had beautiful children in our arms, holding hands with us, playing games and giving hugs.

We left our backpacks up in a bedroom and made our way through the rooms and hallways to find a place where we could play.

It felt so good to be back. The last orphanage I had been in was in Belize, which was just too long ago. We have so much love to give, but always come away feeling and overflowing of love from the children…far more than we offered.

We went outside to an open courtyard, where Aidan and Jack played soccer with a bunch of boys.

They had so much fun.

We played on the playground equipment for a while.

Giggles and smiles and expressions of love have no language barriers.

Mycah fell in love with a baby girl named Scarlet, held her close, cried for a bit and showed her lots of love.

Such a precious angel, holding a precious little angel.

Jude was mauled by two sweet little girls,

Anna was kept captive too,

Emma was taken by hand and led around the entire place for quite some time.

We gathered all the kids in a circle and played duck duck goose, which was so fun.

After lots more cuddling and playing,

If I would have been allowed, I would have taken a baby home with me.

We took a nice big group shot, hugged and kissed the munchkins goodbye and headed to the grocery store with the orphanage managers.

We bought over 300 lbs of rice, as well as various other supplies for the orphanage, and sent it back with them. We feel so blessed to be able to have had the opportunity to spend some time with the children.
We walked down several streets in search of Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal, a local market.

The streets were lined with beautiful buildings,

and churches.

Finally we found the market and loved chatting with the locals and admiring their handiwork.

We of course had to get our beautiful granddaughter, Zailyn, some stylish Ecuadorian clothes! Aidan bought himself a spiffy hat.

Cute little kids played around while their parents worked.

We walked through a park with art work for sale,

chatted with vendors,

ate street food,

Got goofy,

And acted like tourists…just a little.

By the time we reached our hostel, our feet hurt and we were completely exhausted. What a great day!!!

Shots and surfing

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We’ve had a busy couple of days here in Ecuador.Danny seems to have hurt his knee somehow, and has been limping around with some sharp pains at the top part of his knee cap. I secured it with an Ace wrap and iced it, but it has not helped much. Yesterday when we had to make our way over to the vaccination clinic for yellow fever shots, we put Danny in a tak tak so he could rest it.

I asked the gentleman peddling to sit next to Danny and I would peddle them both, but he wouldn’t do it.
We were told by the doctor who boarded our boat with customs when we first arrived, that we had to be current on yellow fever shots to go to Galapagos, but have since then been told by the guy overseeing the Galapagos paper work that we don’t need it. We decided just to be safe, we’d go ahead and get it done.

Emma and Mycah have never been ok with needles, but both did beautifully. Mycah convinced herself that all would be well and she would feel no pain, and that’s exactly what happened. Emma squeezed the blood from my hand, and was such a trooper.

Keith and Rene from Zatara were well behaved too!

Aidan was so sweet, as soon as Emma was done he gave her a flower.

On our walk back we stopped by a park so the creatures could show us their ninja balancing skills on the see -saw.

Of course Danny and Keith were instant Pro’s too!!!

After that we stopped for ice cream, and then lunch. A curious bird watch us closely from the waters edge as we walked passed.

This morning Danny stayed home so he could rest his leg, while the rest of us made our way over the the creatures surf lessons. Emma was ready to tackle any wave she came across.

Jude climbed on the tandem with the surf instructor, and we followed them to his home to pick up the boards.

Several homemade looking boards were brought out from the house and neatly arranged out in front.

After that they were stacked onto a tak tak and everyone made their way to the beach a block away.

Jude and I eyed out the balancing bundle and the old man who was to peddle the load, and decided to stay and help him.

It was a good thing, because we had to stop and push hard to get over some bumps from construction in the road.

At the beach, the creatures were so excited to get started.

Everyone helped unload boards,

and before long they were all nicely arranged and ready for action.

After some exercises in the sand, the creatures grabbed their assigned boards and took off behind the instructor into the ocean.

They each took turns being taught and pushed along. The waves were small and perfect for learning. Jude got up on her first try!

All the creatures got stung by jellies, but ignored them and had a blast and a half. Aidan is a natural.

They all are!

So fun!

The Zatara creatures did well too. Here’s Jack,

and Anna.

After 2 hours of lesson, and lots and lots of progress, the creatures posed for a photo with their instructor.

Such a fun experience with an amazing group of kids. They now feel like they could rent boards and keep practicing on their own and learn by practice and repetition.

I found out the name of a doctor we could take Danny to, so he and I caught a taxi and had it checked out. The doctor examined his knee, said that it’s a ligament problem, and gave him a couple shots of cortisone right into his knee, and another shot into his butt.

He then attempted to explain to us what was going on, but we simply couldn’t understand each other, so I called my friend, Elayne, and she translated. Danny is supposed to stay off his leg for 8 days and take some prescribed medicine, wear a brace and hope things improve. If there is no improvement after 8 days, an MRI would be needed. The hour long appointment, shots and meds all came to $80!

In the mean time we are still waiting for our Galapagos paperwork to go through and continue to enjoy the beauty this country has to offer.

Road trip to Manta

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We recently found a great place to grab a bite to eat. The food is good, inexpensive and they have enough room for all of us to sit together!

Danny ordered a dish that had octopus tentacles in it. Luckily that sort of thing doesn’t bother him…it doesn’t bother me either, as long as I’m not the one eating it!

Yesterday we had to travel to a town a couple of hours away to sign some papers pertaining to our stay here in Ecuador, so all 12 of us piled into a van and set out on a 2 hour drive through the countryside to Manta.

The Tanda Malaika and Zatara creatures took up the back seats, chatting and laughing among themselves. They are having so much fun spending time together, exploring, watching movies in the evenings and playing games.
We passed through areas of really dense foliage where endless green reached far and deep.

Some hillsides were covered in neat rows of corn, and continued on as far as we could see.

After passing through a small town with some sketchy looking electric wiring jobs, we continued on into more green countryside.

We passed areas where rice was being grown. It was all fascinating to see.

What a beautiful country this is.

My favorite tree that we saw is the Ceiba tree. They stand tall with wide branches and look like they’d be perfect for climbing and building tree houses in. Many of the people from Ecuador and Peru believe that deities live in the Ceiba tree.

We thoroughly enjoyed our road trip, and got the papers signed that we needed to. Any day now we should have all paperwork approved for Galapagos. We are all excited and ready to set sail.

In the mean time, we continue to work on projects, explore our surroundings, and spend time together as friends and family. Life is good.

Loving Ecuador

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The people here in Ecuador are so friendly, welcoming and beautiful. They’re hard working and proud of their country.

The girls and I went to a market for fresh produce, and we loved being there among the hard working farmers and fishermen.

Avocado’s were 4 for $1, huge pineapples and melons for $1, rambutan 50 for $1, plantains, apple bananas, oranges, soursop, corn, beans, yuca, beets and so many more wonderful things.

Large blocks of freshly made cheese, and freshly ground peanut sat on counters,

and sausages hung by stacks of eggs.

Fishermen stood at tables covered in fresh fish,

while others sat with bowls and buckets of shrimp. We bought a couple pounds for $4 for dinner.

A sweet little man with beautiful blue eyes called us over to try his treats. The girls really liked some little roasted coconut balls that he sold.

Others called us to buy some of their butchered chickens, but we decided it might not be in our best interest.

A beautiful flower display stood neatly at the end of the market,

and just a few yards away from her, another woman with flowers sat in the shade of an old building.

We passed by a beautiful pink church with blue spires, and peaked inside to see some gorgeous stained glass.

I love this place. I love these people.

We are not going to be able to go to Machu Picchu due to terrible flooding in Peru, plus it ends up the cost would be pretty high. On Wednesday we’ll be going in for the required yellow fever shots for Galapagos, and hopefully soon after that we’ll be able to set sail for the Galapagos Islands. In the mean time we’ll continue to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us here.

Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

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When we arrived here in Ecuador, a pilot boat was sent out and a gentleman boarded Tanda Malaika and showed us where to go to avoid grounding ourselves. Large sand banks appear at low tide, and the locals know exactly where to go to meander through them. The surrounding hills looked so beautiful and lush.

Fishermen zoomed by in their pangas as the town of Bahia de Caraquez came more clearly into view.

The creatures watched from their perches and talked excitedly about exploring.

The twins make me smile, I love the way they love each other.

As we came in to the anchorage to drop our hook, our friends, Gary and Joanne, waved to us from their boat and welcomed us in. We met them when we were in Panama. The sailing community is a small world and we love meeting up with friends from the sea.

Zatara anchored close by, and we settled in to our new location. We have enjoyed exploring the town and meeting the locals. An earthquake caused so much damage here about a year ago, killing over 400 people and injuring thousands. Many buildings look like they are about to tumble to the ground.

Some still stand straight but are severely cracked all over. We asked if there was any way we could help, but were told that at this point, it’s pretty much just down to machine work.

Street vendors sell delicious fruits,

Freshly baked breads,

And many other critters…

These two fine amigos held up their neatly hung crabs for me to photograph.

We found a place for Emma to get her hair trimmed,

and this morning she tried out another color. She’s such a beautiful young woman.

Aidan and Fin have had a blast with their boards at the skate park, and haven’t broken any bones.

I love watching the sweet little children on the streets.

This munchkin kept running away from his mama…

We watched some guys playing soccer for a while. They are a fit bunch of blokes and have so much talent.

As always, I love to see the street art on buildings and walls, and there is a fair amount of it here.

This evening we watched the sun set over the water, which was a beautiful close to the end of a wonderful day.

As we walked back to the dinghy on our walk home, we passed a place in the center of town where swallows gather at night and sit on the wires. There are 100’s of them!

They are fun to watch and admire, but not good to sit or park under!

Sailing to Ecuador

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Day1:

Today we met up with our friends who are on their boat, Zatara, and began our sail to Ecuador. As we made our way to where we were to meet up, we were once again greeted by breeching rays, and also whales.

As we moved along, we caught a beautiful big red snapper, and Danny filleted it at the stern. What a gorgeous fish.

In one particular area there were so many whales all around us, so we stopped for a while to watch and listen. The creatures grabbed their masks and slipped into the water to see if they could see them from below, but quickly realized that visibility was extremely poor. As a group they drifted slowly with the current and watched below. Kiffin had decided it was not her cup of tea, so she stayed on board to take pictures. I had warned the creatures that without doubt, where there are whales, there are sharks, so they needed to be alert. About 10 minutes into this adventure, the creatures were about 100ft from Tanda Malaika, and I heard Emma yell “shark, big shark, and it’s circling!” Kiffin and I ran over to yell back to them, expecting Danny, who was at the helm, to turn the engines on and go to them, but he didn’t. When the kids saw we weren’t coming, they panicked and yelled once more that the shark (a large hammerhead) was coming back. They had instantly linked arms in a circle so they were all facing out and looking down, and had pulled their fins up so no appendages were dangling, and Aidan’s first thought was to tell his sisters that he loved them. He’s such a sweet brother. In the mean time I had yelled to Danny, who had been oblivious to all that had gone on, and he quickly started Tanda Malaika and moved over to where the kids were. When Aidan had seen how scared his sisters were, he took control and told them, ‘“here’s what we’re going to do, when we get to the boat lets get up in pairs.” Jude and Mycah showed the twins how much they loved them by allowing them to board first, and soon everyone was safely on board. Two important lessons were learned.
1. Don’t enter the water right after cleaning a fish off the back.
2. Don’t enter when visibility is so poor.

We continued watching whales for a while, listening to them exhale as they surfaced, spraying a cloud of krill flavored mist into the air.

Before long we met up with Zatara. We rafted up to there boat so we could help them attach and raise their new sail.

Everyone swam and explored for a little while, enjoying the feeling of sand between our toes for the last time for a few days before setting out.
It felt good to raise the sails and set our course. According to the weather report, winds were going to be light, so we set the fishing lines and enjoyed the breeze. Pelicans gliding just above the water, flying fish taking flight in and out of the waves, and frigate birds overhead like huge pterodactyls, escorted us out to sea.

We caught a couple of tuna, and once filleted, placed them in the freezer. They were bigger than they look in the picture. Really!

As dusk approached, we were greeted by a beautiful pod of bottlenose dolphins.

Everyone moved to the bow and watched them play for about 45 minutes.

Kiffin kept exclaiming that she was in love. Even though the rest of us have seen this many times, we never tire of it. It’s perfectly magical every time.

The sky soon turned yellow, and a dampness filled the air.

After our first 24 hours of sail we had covered 155 nm.

Day2:

Today we enjoyed another gorgeous day at sea. The ocean was so calm and yet we had enough wind to keep us going at a comfortable pace. Every once in a while I’ll see a solitary shark fin surface for a few seconds, then disappear once again into the deep. We’ve also had more bow riding dolphins. I love knowing that there’s so much life beneath us.

It’s been really fun to buddy boat with Zatara. Keith and Rene Whitaker are wonderful people from Texas and Montana, who have four sweet kids, Anna, Jake, Fin and Kate. Check them out on YouTube at sailingzatara. As we have passed through pirate waters, it has felt safer being with a buddy boat, and I know especially when we sail Ecuador to Galapagos where more pirate issues have occurred, we will appreciate the company.

This afternoon Danny caught a huge beautiful Dorado, and as he brought it to the boat, it flopped up the stairs, sending Emma running for dear life, screaming with the net in hand, then it flopped back in and just as Jude was about to gaff it, it shook loose and swam away. Ah well, there are many, many more fish in the sea.

The sunset this evening was exceptionally beautiful!

Day 3:

We are rapidly losing our wind. According to the passageweather.com, we’ll be completely windless from here on out. After a little sailing in the morning it was time to fire up one of the engine and motor until we could find wind once again.

The ocean is so calm, that Jude made South African pancakes and we put the bag on the end of our boat hook and handed it over to Zartara when they came close. They have a a wonderful gift bag with shirts and hats in it. Jake and Anna from Zatara wanted to come over and hang with the creatures for a bit, so Danny held our course perfectly while Zatara inched closer and the two kids hopped aboard for a while.

The most magical thing happened this evening!!! Right at sunset we saw pod of pilot whales slowly making their way through the water up ahead of us. As they raised to the surface, their bodies looked thick, heavy and black and yet their movement was so light and graceful.

I immediately ran to the grab my GoPro, mask and fins, and told the family I was going in. Pretty soon all the creatures except Kiffin joined me (Emma had a death grip on my hand), and we swam out to the pod. Immediately six from the pod came up infant of Emma and I, and one of them turned its head, looked us in the eyes, then turned and continued on. Emma raised her head out of the water and squealed, “I’m swimming with whales!!!”

I love sharing these experiences with my family. I can just imagine when they are old and have their grandchildren in their arms, telling them stories of when they swam with whales out in the Pacific…

We didn’t catch one fish today, even though we trolled from sunrise to sunset. I think that the Dorado that got away has gone and warned everybody!

We covered about 150 nm once again.

Day 4:

On my night watch last night I listened to some interesting podcasts. Radiolab has some interesting stuff.
We have no wind once again today so the ocean looks like a giant lake.
One of the major accomplishments for a sailor, is to cross the equator, and this morning at 8am we reached it. We stopped the boats and rafted them together, Danny dressed up like King Neptune and read to us from “Old man and the sea,” and we all had to take part in the traditional act of swimming around the boats naked. All the guys went down below while us girls did it, then when we were dressed the guys came out and did the same.

Luckily no one got stung by jelly fish in their nakedness, and after our little ritual we continued on until we were 15 miles from our destination to wait for the tide to change. No vessels can enter the mooring field except at high tide, so we had a Dorado BBQ, pasta salad and baked beans. What a feast. Keith did an amazing job grilling some of the huge Dorado he caught.
The coast of Ecuador is beautiful.

Everyone had a relaxing time and cooled off in the water.

Even the pickle enjoyed cooling off.

We feel like we made really good time considering our low winds, reaching our destination 600nm away in 4 days. We are now in the Southern Hemisphere and in the South Pacific!!!