Pippa’s Swan Song Cruise to Bocas

Pippa’s swan song cruise on Matilda was a huge success. We took her to Bocas Del Toro so that she could check out this amazing archipelago in the northwestern corner of Panama. Pippa is about to be a fulltime land-dog and southern belle. She is moving to Nashville to live with some of her favorite peeps and canines.

Bocas Del Toro is a wonderful cruising ground with 2 big bays, 8 major islands, 51 cays and over 200 inlets. Christopher Columbus “discovered” Bocas Del Toro on his fourth and final journey. Bocas Town is a very hip and happening place with an authentic Caribbean vibe.

Our first stop was the Red Frog Marina and Resort where we arrived after an overnight passage from Colon. This is one of the best marinas we have been to with access to all their restaurants, bars, beaches and hiking trails. We successfully avoided any harm from the red poisonous frogs. Indigenous people used the poison from these frogs on the tip of darts for hunting and warfare.

We were accompanied to the best anchorages in Bocas Del Toro by our good friends on SV Bohemia. Peter and Tom have a fabulous YouTube channel Sailing Bohemia. You should definitely check them out. Pippa will be starring in the next episode.

Our Thanksgiving was spent with the Bohemia crew and other friends at Gary’s Green Acres Chocolate Farm. Gary is an expat from LA who is devoted to environmental causes and he is definitely “walking the walk”to try to preserve as much as he can. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to Willy Wonka. This was a vegetarian “Friendsgiving” with people from South Africa, England, The Czech Republic, Australia, the US and Panama. We anchored in the bay in front of the farm and the next day went on a tour of the 30 acre property. This was a treat for one particular member of Matilda’s crew, seeing 4 sloths and scoring lots of chocolate.

Our journey continued to many more islands and secluded anchorages. We stayed very close to Bohemia because they are now the proud owners of a Starlink satellite dish. Elon Musk is changing the lives of sailors everywhere with this technology and we were able to do some serious Wifi poaching. The beautiful clear-blue water and sandy beaches were spectacular and the 84 degree water made this one of our all-time favorite cruising places.

We are going to miss our Pippa but she prefers the cushy life on land and will be happy being a land-dog in Nashville for 18 months. We are so appreciative that she will be with family who will love her and treat her as one of their own – AND THEN GIVE HER BACK.

Change of Plan (Rev. 1)

For various reasons we are revising our plans. Rather than beating into the wind and swell for 1,500 miles to get from Panama (where Matilda is currently moored) to St Lucia (where the World ARC starts) we are going to wait for the World ARC fleet to come to us in Panama. Other benefits of this new plan include an opportunity to cruise the Bocas de Toro area of Panama and being able to keep Pippa with us until December.

Our new itinerary looks something like this: Mid-October – Fly from LAX to Panama, finish boat projects. Early November – Sail to Bocas de Toro, cruise there until mid-December. Mid-December – Return to the USA for the holidays. Mid-January – Return to Matilda in Panama to meet up with the World ARC fleet.

Here is the World ARC Itinerary. We will be joining the fleet in mid-January in Panama.

San Blas Islands Season Finale!

We had been hearing of the stunning beauty to be found in the San Blas Islands for a few years now. The clear turquoise water, the white sand and the friendly Guna people who inhabit the islands. Very few tourists come here as there are no hotels and limited accessibility. Only those on their own boats can get here, and we can attest – it’s quite a difficult journey.

This was our last stop before getting the boat to the safety of the marina ahead of the hurricane season. We were able to get our fill of snorkeling, paddle boarding and swimming. The difference in the color of the water and the sand from the Pacific side to the Caribbean was remarkable. Sadly however, the pristine islands were strewn with plastic most of which had washed ashore with the currents. 

We are now ready to come home and see our family and friends and spend the next five months preparing Matilda for our circumnavigation which starts in January, 2023. Unless you want lots of  pictures of our stunning grandchildren and learn of some of their first words and antics,  there won’t be any more Matilda updates until then. Clearly we have travelled pretty far this season because what used to be a 3 or 4 hour flight from Mexico back home is now a 7 hour flight from Panama City!

On an interesting note, our friends on Sailing Bohemia have their  special 100th episode coming out on YouTube on June 16th. It features Matt’s birthday celebration in Costa Rica where we hiked to a waterfall, ate at the  Dolphin Quest Ecolodge and celebrated aboard Matilda. We haven’t seen the episode yet but the pre-release scoop rates it a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Hopefully you will be able to watch as Matt gets celebrated and roasted.


Adios until January 2023.

The stunning San Blas Islands

The Panama Canal

Transiting the Panama Canal

Yes we did it! On May 5th, 2022 Matilda and crew successfully transited the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal is an amazing waterway which was carved through one of the narrowest and lowest saddles of the long isthmus that joins the North and South American continents. It opened to traffic in August 1914. It took 10 years to build and the labor of 75,000 men and women. An estimated 25,000 workers devastatingly lost their lives during this difficult process.

We knew we were close when we saw dozens of ships at anchor in the bay just to the west of Panama City. And I mean dozens just sitting and waiting for their turn to go through.

We pulled into the marina and started the process to transit the canal. First we met with our agent and signed the paperwork and paid the fees. Next came the official to measure the boat. This official boat measurer showed up promptly however, apparently he had forgotten his tape measure. The only one we could locate was a tiny 6 foot one which apparently did the trick. That night we were notified of the date and time that we were scheduled to transit.

The next few days were spent provisioning and enjoying the wonderful city. Panama City is booming and is filled with high rise buildings. It is apparently overtaking Miami as Latin America’s business center. 

It was quite fun being in the marina and meeting mostly European boats who had transited the canal from the Atlantic side. We also met others who were, like us, awaiting their turn to transit from the Pacific. We had 2 friends join us from the US – Lou and Dave as line handlers and we also hired a local man as a line handler.

The appointed time of departure was 4:30am – we motored out to the buoy where we were joined by the Advisor who boarded our boat for the transit. We were prepared for his arrival and had a full service hot breakfast waiting for him. It was made very clear to us that the Advisor and line handlers were to be fed heartily and often and no vegetables or salad. We obliged and apparently we did well in this area because the Advisor ate 4 huge meals that day.

The transit was long and it rained all it day but was without any mishaps. We were initially in the center chamber behind a very slow grain ship. The Advisor realized that we would not be able complete the transit in one day if we stayed behind this slow poke. He made some frantic calls and encouraged us to go really fast to cut in front of slow grain ship. So we did,  the thought of spending the night in the Lake with all these people aboard was not sitting well with one person in particular! We then went through the next  locks with a motor carrier ship and it’s tug boat to whom we were attached. Finally for the last few locks we cut in front of motor carrier still sharing the lock but in front of the ship and latched to the wall of the lock.

Twelve hours later we arrived on the Atlantic side. One more large sandwich and some chips for the Advisor before we dropped him off on his waiting vessel. We motored to our marina and hastily tied up and headed to the restaurant for some dinner and well deserved drinks.

The next morning our crew was approached by the people on the catamaran directly across from us in the marina. They had been visiting the  Miraflores Lock and from the viewing platform they had taken a picture of us going through. This was incredible luck and hence we have these attached pictures.

We are still sitting in the marina waiting for a part for our water maker and itching to head off to the remote and apparently stunning San Blas Islands. Hopefully tomorrow……..

Approaching Miraflores Lock

In the Miraflores Lock

Family visit to celebrate the skipper’s birthday

Brave sisters and their partners traveled long distances to visit us in Costa Rica. This was no easy feat. They all used part of their scarce vacation time to join the birthday celebration. Flights departed from Newark, Nashville and Charlotte all bound for San Jose, Costa Rica. An overnight in San Jose was required and then an arduous 6 hour drive on the Costa Rica coastal roads. Reportedly some vague signs and gravel roads were part of the adventure.

A last minute hotel cancellation was foisted on one of the sisters however, AirBnb came through with a lovely alternative for them. All this to celebrate the skipper’s 60th birthday.

Visiting us on Matilda is like joining  someone for a leg of the Appalachian Trail. It sounds good from afar and is hard when you are doing it but in the end is something to be proud of. They were all troopers and Matilda got quite the workout shuttling everyone to places only accessible by boat. 

Day 1 we visited the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary where a woman rescues and releases all kinds of Costa Rican wildlife. Monkeys, toucans, sloths and others are all cared for and most are successfully released to their previous habitats. Day 2 took as to a very authentic Ecolodge. Dolphin Quest as it is known, provided a fabulous day of hiking to a waterfall “sans snakes” and a very impressive lunch of food grown on their land. Day 3 was a hit with a very challenging hike to a remote waterfall also “sans snakes” and rappelling  across the river head. Something we never have to do again. The last day we swam around a beautiful bay and ate the last of our provisions.

Being here on Matilda our main issue is that we miss our family and friends, particularly our grandchildren. This visit was a lovely spark in our lives and we are excited to continue our journey to Panama.

Dolphin Quest Lodge
Wildlife Sanctuary
sloth at work
Matilda at work

A Bunch of YouTube Sailing Royalty is HERE!

We have met many fascinating people on our journey and everyone has a story to tell. Most of us keep our families updated and hope that our friends like our instagram posts and read our blogs. We take some photos and call home when we can. Then there are the super-achievers, yes these are the people who tell their stories by videoing their sailing adventures. They are somehow able to record, edit and post them on Youtube. Please be assured that Matt and I are not capable of doing this, we can barely manage to send emails to our loved ones. We have some very good friends who are famous on Youtube and for some unknown alignment of the stars many of the top Youtube sailing stars are here in Golfito right now.

Our very good friends are on Sailing Bohemia. Their journey started in 2019 when they left San Francisco on their 36ft Beneteau. They are two guys who decided to leave the corporate world behind with the goal of visiting some of the world’s most beautiful and unspoiled cruising grounds. We first met them In the Sea of Cortez in 2020 and now they can’t get rid of us. We are on the same path and schedule this season and we will be going to Panama with them. Their YouTube channel is wonderful and funny and informative. They are approaching their 100th video release.

One of the “original” YouTube sailing stars, SV Delos, is next to us in the marina. A beautiful 53′ Amel this boat started in Seattle and is about to complete her 10 year circumnavigation. The skipper, Brian, met his now wife in New Zealand and they have a beautiful baby on board with them. They have an incredible 784,000 YouTube followers and have released almost 400 videos. Delos is heading north to Mexico and will complete her circumnavigation in Tenacatita, MX.

SV Parlay Revival is also in the marina with us. This YouTube story is about Colin, a New Zealander, who spends his life savings purchasing and repairing a 45ft Lagoon 450 catamaran which was deemed a total loss by the insurance company, after being damaged by Hurricane Irma. Colin has a ton of fun on his boat with lots of different crew joining him on his journey and two dogs who were eyeing Pippa in a not too friendly way. He has 208K subscribers and 159 videos. They are also heading north to Mexico.

We had drinks aboard Matilda with Brooke and Gary from SV One Life. They are a a young couple who also decided to leave the corporate grind and buy a boat and look for a simpler life. Their journey started in Florida a couple of years ago. SV One Life is heading north to The Sea of Cortez in Mexico for the hurricane season and then they head west across the Pacific next season. SV Calico Skies has a popular YouTube channel. They are in Banana Bay Marina about a mile from here.

The unusual boat in the marina on the other side of us is SV Karl with a YouTube presence called WhiteSpotPirates.This story is about a young woman who bought a unique aluminum old boat in Panama and wants to sail the world. She has been in Costa Rica for a while because she got sidetracked starting a non-profit called In Mocean. She realized that many sailors find plastic floating in the oceans and on the beaches. She decided to treat plastic waste as a precious commodity by setting up community recycling workspaces around the globe. These recycling operations will create new income streams for people living in remote areas and clean the oceans of plastic pollution. She has also placed some of these plastic recycling machines on 8 sailboats to raise awareness about plastic recycling in hard to reach places.

To put it simply we have been in the presence of sailing YouTube rockstars this past week. We love to learn of all the stories that our fellow sailors have to tell. It is a thrill to go from watching these YouTubers at home in Pasadena to actually meeting them. We have had a star-struck past week becoming groupies in Golfito, Costa Rica.

You Won’t Believe This – But it is True

Yesterday we met a British guy name Craig who recently sailed with his wife aboard their Beneteau 46 from Europe, down the Atlantic, around Cape Horn, up the West Coast of South America to Panama and is now anchored next to us in Golfito, Costa Rica. His wife gave birth to their son last year aboard their boat in a marina in Panama. She and the kid are currently in Switzerland visiting family while Craig does some boat repairs. He will be single-handing to northern Costa Rica to pick up his wife and kid in a few weeks. Oh, I almost forgot, he lost both of his legs at the hip and one arm at the elbow when he was “blown-up” (his words) in Afghanistan in 2009 when he was 18 years old.

We sat and talked with Craig for about an hour yesterday while drinking a couple of beers at the bar at Banana Bay Marina. The beers were well-deserved as he had just walked about a mile to a hardware store on prosthetic legs to buy materials for boat repairs. This is after he filled two ten gallon water jugs at the dinghy dock and loaded them into his dinghy, all unassisted.

Craig and his family plan to head to Mexico so he had lots of questions for us. We plan to head to Panama so we had lots of questions for him. He wanted to know which beach landings in Costa Rica were relatively flat because he said it was “almost impossible” to pull the dinghy up a steep beach by himself. We shared insights of beautiful anchorages and interesting places as is the custom among sailors.

The next time I start to whine about how hard it is to do this-and-that on the boat I will remember Craig and tell myself to shut the hell up.

Anchor Stuck – Unusual Stress Relief

Much of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is uncharted or has charts created by the British Admiralty in the 19th century which are entirely inaccurate. We do have satellite images, but they don’t show the depth of the water. Most of the information we have is gleaned from a guide book written in the 1990s before cruising sailboats had GPS so the locations given of anchorages are not very accurate.

One afternoon last week we entered a small bay. We slowly probed our way in watching the depth sounder which was showing 60′-70′. Keep in mind, we need less than 45′ to anchor and Matilda draws 6.5′ (that’s how deep her bottom is). Eventually we found an area that was 35′. Perfect, we thought, and dropped anchor.

Before we had time to jump in the dinghy and do some additional depth sounding with the handheld gauge the wind shifted 180 degrees and Matilda swung around on her anchor. This is when we saw on the depth gauge that the depth was now 12′. We must have swung over a rock shelf. A quick look at the chart table told us that the tide was going to drop another 6′ in the next few hours. That would put Matilda’s keel on the rock. Not to worry, we will just pull the anchor up and return to the anchorage where we spent the previous evening some 8nm away.

The wind shift brought with it a thunder storm which is fairly common in the late afternoons in this area. In thunder, lightning, and pouring rain I head to the bow to pull the anchor up while Fiona takes the helm. Unfortunately, the anchor was stuck fast. The windlass (boating term for anchor winch) was straining but it wasn’t budging. At one point as the anchor chain was pulled tight and swell forced the bow up the windlass actually went in reverse. I didn’t know that was possible but I assume it’s a safety feature to keep the thing from tearing the front of the boat off.

My best guess is that the anchor chain got wrapped around a rock. After about 15 minutes of maneuvering the boat around we were able to break free. This wasn’t a panic situation. Worst case is we release the anchor and chain into the sea. A replacement would cost thousands and could take weeks or months to obtain in Costa Rica. I would call it a near panic situation.

Once we were free I went down below to check on the batteries. Fifteen minutes of extreme load on the windlass can be quite a drain on batteries, but they were fine. When I came back up on deck I was surprised by what I saw.

In the midst of a downpour in thunder and lightning Fiona is out on the deck with a mop washing the boat. “What the hell are you doing?”, I inquired with my customary sensitivity. “I’m cleaning the deck. It’s dirty, and I’m stressed out, and I just need to clean.” she answered with a matter-of-fact tone. I just grinned and went below to get dried-off and grab a beer.

We made it back to that cozy anchorage from the night before just before sunset. An hour later the rain stopped and I barbecued some steaks. It was a great day.

Pura Vida

We have been trying to live the Pura Vida life in Costa Rica but first we had to find the Costa Rica we were expecting. We started our journey in the north and have travelled over 300 nautical miles down here to Golfito in Bahia Dulce. Distance on sailboats is not just measured in miles or nautical miles, it is also measured in degrees of latitude and longitude. We are currently about 8 degrees north of the equator. Having started at 34 degrees north in Los Angeles that’s a pretty good distance.

Being on a sailboat our view of Costa Rica is from a “boat’s-eye-view”. Apparently, there are fabulous resorts and amazing golf courses in Costa Rica however, from our view out here we see water, jungle, and coastal towns.There are also world renowned surf beaches however, surf = reef= shallow water which is something to be avoided on a sailboat. We anchor every night in either a Golfito, Bahia, Punta, Playa, Isla or Puerto. We judge these anchorages by the color of the water as we rely on ocean water to make all the water that we use and drink. So…… disaster struck with the appearance of a Red Tide in Golfo Nicoyo. Red tide is an algae bloom that makes the water literally toxic.

Prior to the dreaded Red Tide we spent one night at beautiful Islas Tortugas, and yes we saw lots of turtles. We spent a few nights at Bahia Ballena which sure checked a certain crew member’s boxes. Ashore we found an organic Ecolodge with glamping and howler monkeys in the trees. The third crew member, Pippa, was scared to a quivering mess by said howler monkeys. The owner’s son is an Xterra triathlete who swims across the bay every morning. He also runs swimming and paddle boarding camps from there. To make it even more perfect there were turtles hanging around the boat all day and crystal clear water. This was hard to leave.

Sadly, heading into Nicoya red tide was everywhere.

What’s not green is red (photo courtesy of Sailing Bohemia)

We did a quick u-turn and south we came. This is where the Costa Rica that we were envisioning started to appear. Jungle and heat are upon us now. Our anchorage in Bahia Drake was amazing. Hikes through the jungle revealed slithery reptiles and beautiful macaws. The monkeys were oblivious to us as we strolled to dinner. There are very few tourists down here mostly Europeans with huge cameras. Unfortunately we did not discover the treasure that Sir Francis Drake purportedly hid here.

At anchor in Drakes Bay
Just hanging out
Pippa the jungle dog

Bahia Dulce is beautiful and around the corner is Panama where we will head in a few weeks after enjoying this area with family.