My Maiden Voyage to the Sea of Cortez

Everything you read here is true.

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Paul, cooking french bread.  Yum!

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Paul offered to pay me a million dollars if I came sailing with him down in Baja; how could I resist.  He also offered to keep me full with all the beer and wine I could drink and all the fancy foods I could ever desire.  Paul has been sailing since he was 2 inches tall and has been around the world 27times.  He should be a gourmet chef but he’s a sailor instead.

This cactus might be two thousand years old!

Me, being attacked by a two thousand year old cactus!  Ahhhh!

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My name is Dana and I’m an ambling wanderer, young and sprout, sailed about 4minutes in my lifetime but always down for an adventure.  So I borrowed my friends snap on wings and flew down to the tippy tip of the Baja Peninsula and joined Paul on his boat, Romany Star.

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Our first night on the ship the waves were 20feet high, they were huge and she was rocking and rolling back and forth!  I hardly slept at all; it was so rough out.  I had a premoniscent dream that I interpreted to mean that I would find many treasures along my journey.

DSC03413The next day we discovered an island!  I thought we would name it Isla CarMan after my neighbor who collected cars from the prehistoric era.  We dropped anchor in a calm bay on the south side of the island and decided to trudge ashore and explore our new land!  We landed on shore at approximately 12noon April , 2013.  I planted a flag on top of a nearby hill to claim our land.  Isla CarMan was going to be fine property some day.  We had never been on such an island before!  The plants were all covered in spines and there was hardly a green leaf to be spoken for.  The geology was martian and dry, we concluded that it must be volcanic in origin.  The terrain was rough and our attempts to follow the trails the wild sheep had made were futile; the sheep apparently did not know much about trail maintenance.  Just as our last drops of water were drunk, we returned from our excursion, luckily, to find our red lanchita still waiting for us on the rocky beach.

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The next day the winds picked up from the south and we sped away to a northern anchorage for protection.  The north side was relatively calm so we decided to test the waters.  With our new age underwater spectacles, bamboo snorkels and shark fin flippers we swam over to what looked like a reef.  We saw sparkling blue fish the size of dinner plates, starfish the size of wagon wheels that had more than thirty tentacles and sea slugs the size of earthworms that flashed brilliantly red when they were poked with the tip of a finger.  We found no prospects for dinner, however, and returned to the boat empty-handed.  The water had been so frigid, we both came down with hypothermia.  Paul lost his smallest left toe and I lost a chunk off my right ear.

Continuing our voyage, we rounded the point and headed for an anchorage among tall cliffs that had been bashed fiercely by stormy waves enough times to have created deep dark caves.  Later I explored the caves with lanchita and discovered jet black serpents living in the rocks.  They sang enchanting songs and  I almost fell under their spell and entered deep into the cave, where they most surely would have strangled me alive.  I was brought out of the trance by a rogue wave that splashed over the stern of lanchita.

DSC03462The next morning we rose with the sun and took off to hike the width of the island.  We took provisions and plenty of fluids to last us the day.  At around midday we noticed a strange looking lake in the distance.  The lake had a fascinating shimmer to it, a color we had never in all our lives seen.  As we neared, the glistening increased and as we reached the shore we could not believe our eyes.  The lake was full of diamonds!  The diamonds clearly explained the strange shimmer we could see from afar.  Now we were even more exuberant to have been the lucky discoverers to have found and claimed this island.  We quickly filled our satchels with as many diamonds as we could hold and returned to our ship grinning ear to ear.

Sadly we had to leave our Isla CarMan because we could smell a strong wind a brewin’.  We sailed over to a much smaller island, just north of Isla CarMan and set our hook strong in the sand to wait out the storm.  The winds blew 100knots, the waves kicked up to 50 feet and splashed on top of the deck forcing her to heal over left and right.  The storm lasted 99days and on the 100th day the clouds parted, the wind calmed and we saw the sun again.  By this time we were starving with scurvy and needed to re-provision the boat with fresh stores from the mainland.

A short jostle and we were anchored outside the friendly little town of Loreto.  We stocked up on fresh vegetables and fruits to last a lifetime and returned to the sweet little island we found to be named Isla Coronado with the intent of summitting it the next day.

China in the distance

You can see China in the distance

When we finally found the trail that led to the peak of the smooth round volcanic mound, we were thoroughly impressed by the beauty and craftsmanship of the trail, especially after experiencing the sheep’s trails on Isla CarMan.  After about 5 seconds, the trail we so admired abruptly ended and we were climbing over massive volcanic boulders the color of dried blood.  We yelled and swore at the rocks as they toppled like falling dradles threatening to break our ankles and stub out toes.  After we had had it up to our yamakas with the rocks, we reached a sandy path and let out a sigh of relief.  The relief lasted seconds and to our dismay the sandy path got steeper and steeper and we began to slip seven steps backwards for every step we took forward.  We even counted it!  Tinny stones wedged themselves in our shoes and in between our toes as we scrambled up the side of the volcano.  We shouted blasphemies at the 18year old boys that must have sprinted the volcano making way for the first trail that led straight to the top.  Alas, we made our goal to the summit of the 900foot volcano of Isla Coronado and the reward was a view all the way to China and back.   The seven steps back turned into seven steps forward as we skidded like snakes down the slope and made it back in no time to the sandy shore and chilly water that I treasured like a glass of cold milk on a hot day.

San Juanico

San Juanico

Our next stop was a cove Paul had been to before, known as Bahia San Juanico.  It was a picturesque cove, with rock pillars jutting out from both the north and south entrances.  It was littered with small but high cliffed, cactus topped, islands inside it, ospreys soared and cried from island to island, sandy beaches lined the shores and 3 mansions sat atop the northern most cliffside.

I went for a hike one afternoon and came to a desert that seemed like it lasted for 2millions miles.  After what seemed like an eternity,

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I reached a cool stream.  Dire for thirst, I drank voraciously.  The water was so sweet and tasted slightly like coyote pee.  Yum!

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There were boats a glory anchored in the cove and we met other traveling sailors and joined them on the beach for a sailors feast and bonfire.  The moon was scheduled to rise an hour after sun down but this night it must have been held up at the border so arrived late.  We were all tapping our pocket watches, staring expectantly towards the west when suddenly someone turned around and exclaimed “By glory!  In fact the moon has risen in the east!  Oh joyous day! The world never fails to mystify!”

After some relaxing days in the sheltered bay, we decided to continue our journey north.  The winds seemed fair so we lifted the hook and sailed out of the bay.  After approximately an hour of good sailing, smooth and swift–just the sound of the birds and the water lapping at the hull of the ship–the wind died.  It went capoot, Zeus came along and slit its throat.  Patient sailors that we are– we bobbed.  We bobbed for 7days and 7nights; there was not a drop of wind.  While we were sitting and waiting for the wind we saw a house boat drift by with dogs, cats, chickens and 2 goats on it.  Next we saw a flock of penguins flying through the sky (I never did get a good look at them, in order to identify what species they were).  We thought we were going mad but soon enough, just as the sun was setting, a mermaid swam up to us and crawled on board.  She was surely real because she left a green glittery slime all over the deck.  She said she lived deep in the sea with many other mermaids and mermen; we asked her to bring her friends over and that we would have pizza and cookies for all.

It was the seventh night and we decided that we had been patient enough and we would rev up the engines of the time machine that would push us further ahead.  Paul was on watch and was distracted by one of the mermen who hadn’t left yet because he had eaten too much pizza and said that if he swam home with too much food in his stomach he would get a cramp.  So Paul and the merman, whose name was Neptune the 307th , were down below discussing matters of great concern when all of a sudden our time machine motor abruptly shut off.  I awoke from my slumber and came crawling up on deck to see what was the matter.  To our dismay a gargantuam sea dragon had wrapped its tongue around the propeller and had gotten stuck.  It wasn’t the dragons fault, it meant no harm, it was only out fishing for a midnight snack and just happened to be in the way.  The dragon moaned and looked up at us with its kind eyes, Paul hoped that the dragon tongue didn’t harm the time machine, I soothed the dragon to sleep with songs from the 60s and told it that we would try to unravel its tongue when the sun rose.  So after 7days of patience and a fast forward with the time machine, we were back bobbing in the sea, waiting patiently yet again.DSC03744

When the sun rose, we readied our gear, Paul warmed up the mermaid machine, slipped on his new mermaid suit that one of the mermen had given him and dove in to assess the damage.  Like a surgeon to his aid, he popped up from below and said one word: knife.   He was going to have to cut the dragon’s tongue; there was no other way.  I soothed the dragon some more and told him it would all be over soon, he wouldn’t have a tongue to taste but at least he would have his sharp teeth and strong lips.  When all was clear and Paul was back on deck, I flopped the dragon a few pieces of leftover pizza in his mouth and he sadly swam away.

Luckily, our time machine was not broken and did not need repair.  This was a huge relief and we were glad to have left patience behind and begun to move on our own accord once again.  The wind soon picked up and we had a smooth sail north.

We dropped hook at Punta Chivato mid afternoon and Paul had me rev the time machine backwards in time a bit to make sure the hook was planted snuggly in the sand.  I accidentally reversed her too far back and we saw scenes of Chinese explores in big Junk ships sailing by us until I got it back in neutral to present time.  Punta Chivato was known for its great shell covered beaches, so the next morning we trekked ashore to go treasure hunting.  On our return to the boat we spotted a strange creature with a large rounded dorsal fin and a long tipped tail fin cruising the waters.  Besides the mermaids and the dragon we had not seen many other large sea life so we paddled lanchita over to see what the creature could be.  Ahoooo!  It was a young whale shark.  A man warned us of their ferocious and aggressive nature but we knew otherwise.  We could clearly see the whale shark was only feeding on the microscopic squirming fairies that live in the waters and was truly not a hunter.

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Later that afternoon a peculiar north wind began to blow.  Sooner than we could sing Bohemian Rhapsody the wind was blowing a good 300knots!  As we were out fastening down our anchor chain so that it wouldn’t snap we looked towards the shore where a medium sized power boat was anchored.  We couldn’t believe our eyes, we thought we were seeing things!  All of a sudden the powerboat began to levitate out of the water.  We rubbed our eyes again and again, but sure enough it was

DSC03768floating in mid-air and drifting higher and higher into the sky!  Looking to shore, we saw the hurried boat-turned-hovercraft owners leaping onto their magic carpet and flying towards their boat, reaching it just in time before it left the atmosphere and exploded in space.  Later, we found that their boat was not actually a hovercraft and that there must have been a strong and strange wind that was able to lift the boat up.  After seeing this, we made sure to check our anchor chain so that we didn’t float away too!

DSC03807Our next stop was Santa Rosalia, a small, not Spanish but once French, mining town.  No one spoke French that we could see, but there was a distinctly French flare to the architecture, everyone wore curled mustaches, berettes and white and black striped shirts.  Instead of drinking Mexican beer and eating tacos these town folk drank fancy wine and ate smelly cheeses!  We couldn’t believe our nostrils!  Paul and I were in heaven because we also have a taking for the French palate.  The French came to the town to work the copper mine, withdrew when they noticed its decline, but left a well established lively town behind them.  I stopped to eat some tacos at a local joint and felt like I had smoked one!  While wandering the streets I came across a man wearing a raccoon strapped to his cowboy hat, a man delivering a secret package, a traveling plumber, a cat disguised as an old man or maybe it was an old man disguised as a cat, a talking palace guard dog and 11 recovering drug addicts selling lollipops.

We planned to leave Santa Rosalia and head north on a day where the winds were told to be fair.  As our departure time approached, the winds were whipping from just the direction we were headed.  So, we waited.  After a few hours the winds swapped around and it looked good so we pushed off the docks. We nearly scraped the powerboat next to us as I did not hold my line correctly.  The wind was fair and we were sailing, close on the nose, but like most winds we’ve experienced, it didn’t last long.

We were headed on a dark sail, an overnighter so they say and Paul was on the first watch.  We hoped we wouldn’t run into any more dragons this trip and swore to keep our eyes peeled for their fiery eyes in the distance.  At around 1030pm I awoke; something had changed.  I lay in bed, hoping to go back to sleep and that all was well, but soon enough I heard clanking and scraping as Paul hoisted the jib sail out in front.  I slipped on my salty gear and sleepily went out to assess the scene.  The winds were blowing in full force from the west, from the pacific, over the mountain peaks, through the valleys and onto the sea and into our sails.  They were fierce winds and we were heeled over making 17 knots through the water.  Paul was dressed head to toe in his foul weather gear he had imported from the planted Solaria, a planet 1073 light years away where the Space people live in an everlasting hurricane.  Needless to say, he stayed dry.  It was a rough night to say the least, but I slept through most of it as Paul took control and took over for him when the wind died down just before dawn.

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Northside of San Francisquito

We made it to the south side of Punta San Francisquito in the morning, and despite the lack of sleep in the air, decided to go to shore and explore.  The beach was a beautiful light colored sand but as we approached we could see that it was not a regular beach at all.  Our perspectives had been skewed and as the kayak neared the banks the sandy beach towered above us.  Climbing the beach we wandered in search of treasures in the form of seashells.

DSC03839The next morning we zipped around the point to the northside of San Franciscquito.  Paul expressed his cookie baking skills and I expressed my adventurer skills.  I paddled out with lanchita into the bay where we had seen sea lions lounging in the water.  I wanted to get a closer look as I had never seen sea lions act so curiously before.  They were floating on their backs and almost looked like sharks as they held their flippers straight up out of the water. As I approached they lolled their heads lazily to see who the strange red creature was.  A young one came close and invited me to play.  Without hesitating I  dove in after him.  He took my hand in his flipper and pulled me down with him.  His friends came to join us and we swirled and whirled through the chilly deep water.  I was having fun but my lungs were getting tired, so we nuzzled noses and I went on my way.

DSC03868As I was combing the beaches I encountered a mound of pearl oyster shells piled higher than I could jump.  The effervescent shells glittered purpley pink in the sun.  I saw evidence of sea lions in the form of skeletons and rotting carcasses so I accessed that the sea lion pups had gorged on the oysters and then decided to mound them up so high so that they could roll down them and splash into the water.  Only wild sea lions could have gathered so many oysters and stacked them in all one place.

Our next landing was out in the middle of the sea, a small island called Salsipuedes, which translates to Leaveifyoucan.  The channel west of the island has also been given this name and is known for its wild erratic currents—more boats have disappeared here than in the Bermuda Triangle.  We were tied to the sandy bottom from both bow and stern because the cove was so small we could have swung and smashed the rocks if the wind had shifted.  As I was kayaking I noticed strange birds with breasts sitting in the shade of the high cliffs.  They had feathers, wings, a beak like a normal bird and 2 large boobs as well!  They were absolutely bizarre, and they had blue feet too!

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We believe we have discovered the reason the area is called Salsipuedes and it’s not pleasant.   As dusk was upon us we began to hear horrific screeching coming from shore.  There were large Pteredactyls battling on the rocky slopes and the sound was terrifying.  We couldn’t believe our eyes or our ears, we thought the prehistoric bird reptiles had long been extinct but our eyes did not lie.  They battled in groups of three, flapping their long wings, snapping their beaks and stomping their feet.  The screeching lasted well into the evening.

From Salsipuedes we re-crossed the channel.  Luckily, we were shot northward with the current pushing us, dragging us, shwinging us along with it.  We made it to Punta Pescador.  The water was crystal clear and we could see life abounding below us.  As we were getting settled at anchor a couple of locals paddled over to us.  It seemed they had borrowed their son’s toy boat to come say hello and it was scarcely large enough for a rubber ducky.  As they were chatting to us the small vessel slipped out from underneath them and they went overboard.  Smiles all around, they quite clumsily attempted to balance themselves back onto the toy boat.  We could only hope that through this they learned that toy boats are only big enough for bathtubs.

Despite the chilly water, I could not resist the urge to snorkel around and see what I could see.  As I submerged myself, I thought my face might fall off but I swam hard and fast to keep my body temperature up.  As I was swimming over the reef, an extending piece of seaweed wrapped itself around my leg and began to pull me under.  I tried to kick it off but it held tight and my breath was giving out.  All of a sudden a small crab swam by and I instinctively grabbed the crab and used its claws to cut away at the seaweed.  Free at last I swam to the surface and gulped for air.  Tired from the struggle and on full alert to avoid any more groping seaweed I flippered over to a small island that was nearby.  I welcomed the warm sandy beach but as soon as I stood up I was brutally bombarded by squawks and flapping wings.  The resident gulls were protecting their land in full force and would not leave me alone.  I tried to calm them, tell them I meant no harm, but they weren’t hearing it and continued swooping and diving on me until I could take it no more and deserted the island for the chilly swim back to the boat.

Nearing BLA (as the cruisers call it) or Bahia (as the locals call it), both Paul and I were filled with reminiscent memories.  Paul summered over here years ago and I had come to Bahia in 2007 on my first trip alone to a foreign country.  As we were walking on the shore we ran into a man who claimed we owed him 2cents for leaving lanchita parked on the sand.  We told him we didn’t have 2cents and started chatting.  When I heard his name I realized that he was the same old gringo that I had drank margaritas with 6years ago.  Later in the day, Paul realized that he too, had been invited to drink margaritas and eat ceviche with good ole Herman…20years ago!

We wanted to see some more whales and whale sharks so we took off on a lovely day sail.  The winds were floppsy and couldn’t seem to make up their minds.  They kept clocking around and dieing off, but we kept sailing none the less.  At one point the wind was swatching around from north to east to south to west so fast that we started spinning in circles.  Just as soon as I was beginning to get dizzy, the wind made up its mind and we were sailing smooth again.  We didn’t see any whales but it was a great sail and we dropped anchor in between two small islands called Isla Pata and Isla Bota.

View of Isla Bota from Isla Pata.

View of Isla Bota from Isla Pata.

Isla Pata had a great trail that lead along its ridge top.  I hiked it once earlier on in the afternoon and decided to return after dinner to watch the sunset.  As I was sitting on the highest peak watching the sky’s colors change from blue to orange I was greeted by an internal force that directed me to strip naked and dance and sing around the cactus.  I had had this force come through me before and welcomed it with fierce joy and loving enthusiasm.  The force filled me and then went on its way and I went on my way.  I staggered with my flaming torch up and down the 5 or 6 peaks, weaving between cacti and quartz til I reached sea level again.

The next day Paul’s girlfriend Bonnie and her friend Shauna drove down to BLA from San Diego to visit for the weekend.  We had a great time sailing, drinking wine, eating fresh scallops and spinning fire.  Shauna and I were spinning fire on the beach one night and one of the balls of fire flew out of my hand onto the roof of someone’s house.  The occupants came running out screaming at us in some language we couldn’t understand.  We ran away as fast as we could for fear of being fed to the sharks (we had heard rumors that to save money the police fed all convicts to sharks instead of maintaining the town jail), we didn’t want to take any chances.  Luckily the town fire truck came and put the fire out before any damage was done.

DSC04084We said farewell to the two lovely ladies and we immediately set off to cross the sea on our way to San Carlos marina.  We made it to Isla Angel de la Guardia then the next day to Isla Tiburon then as we were leaving Tiburon our time machine began to sing a bit off key.  Usually she sang in B-minor but tonight she sounded like an Opera singer on crack.  We didn’t want  the off key wail to break the glass, so we decided to sail.  And we sailed and we sailed and we sailed some more and we tacked and we tacked again and again and again and sailed some more and tacked some more until finally, we had almost reached San Carlos.

Entrance to San Carlos at sunrise.

Entrance to San Carlos at sunrise.

We usually put the time machine in gear as we are entering marinas or anchorages and so we did just that.  But this morning, she decided not to sing.  Maybe she was offended that we didn’t like her voice.  Without control of time, we began to slip into a black hole that lead to some sharp rocks.  We telepathically contacted “the fleet” and cruisers came zipping to our rescue in their mini-time-machine-lanchitas.   They were about to pull us forward in time when she started to sing again.  Although the sound wasn’t pretty, we were glad to have her back even if she still was shreeking like a roasted chicken.    The dragon’s tongue must have caused some harm in the end and it had finally caught up to us.  Nestled into the slip at the marina we were both glad to be safe and sound although a bit worn and torn from the long time a sail.

I learned a lot on this sailing voyage, how to make friends with mermaids and sealions, how to trim the sails and tack the boat.  I learned about taking the helm and anchoring and salt.  I learned from the birds and the wind and the stars and the rocks.  I also learned a lot about my self, who I am and that I have a very unique way of seeing the world.
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For Paul’s version of the trip, click here to see his website.

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Hitchhiking the Oceans, One Boat at a Time

Do you love to travel but also love the environment and don’t like the way airplanes pollute the atmosphere?  But without planes, how could you get to Spain, Australia, South Africa, Thailand or Brazil?  If you’ve got the time and the drive, I’ve got the answer for you.  Sailing.

I had been sailing twice, for a few hours each time, before I got on a sailboat headed to the Bahamas.  I wasn’t too interested in going to the Bahamas, but the boat was on its way further and I wanted to sail the world.

How’d I find the boat?  An Internet site that allows captains and potential crew members to connect and find each other.  There are a number of websites that are designed for this purpose.  So if you are one to say, I don’t know anyone with a boat, I’ve never sailed before, then my answer to you is: it doesn’t matter.

Most captains, at least the captains of sailboats—which is what I‘m limiting this post to because motorboats and super yachts are not my scene—are willing and open to have crewmembers that don’t have any experience as long as they are willing to learn.

Below, I’ll run you through

  • What It Takes To Crew On A Sailboat
  • What To Expect To Do As Crew
  • Now that you know what to expect, where do you want to go?
  • Packing
  • Finding a Sailboat
  • Meeting the Captain and Boat; Questions to Ask
  • Gender Ratio: Male Captains Seeking Female Crew
  • Costs; What to Expect to Pay For
  • My Experience Sailing

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View from Isla Coronado in the Sea of Cortez.  You can see the boat I’m currently living on.

What It Takes To Crew On A Sailboat

  • Ability to listen and follow directions (fast).  When strong weather comes up, and as a novice, you may not know quite what to do, you must be able to take orders from your captain and lend a helping hand as best you can.
  • Seasickness.  In very rough seas, seasickness is almost inevitable, but in soft yet rolling seas, which are common, you want to hope that you don’t get seasick.  There are ways to avoid seasickness, such as staring out at the horizon and breathing deeply or taking some Dramamine pills or I sometimes chew on a piece of crystallized ginger, but it’s no fun to be seasick.  Try going on a day sail before you commit to a month or yearlong trip.
  • Knowing how to let go.  If you’re a control freak, maybe sailing isn’t for you, then again, maybe it’s exactly what you need.  Winds change, weather changes, plans change, life is ever changing, and a sailor must be able to adapt and let go of their desire to control the situation.  Being in control of the boat is one thing, but in control of the oceans and the skies is a whole nuther ballgame.
  • Ability to live in small quarters with one person, maybe more, all day and all night for a long time.  Sailboats are usually small and crammed.  Living spaces are shared and like to be maintained clean and orderly.  Picking up after yourself, communicating and compromising are some things you’ll have to do.  Most captains will let you know how they want their boats maintained as soon as you come aboard, so as long as you can go along with that, you’re good to go.
  • Adventure spirit.  Life is an adventure and it is even more an adventure when it’s lived out on a sailboat.  You will be snorkeling with fish, sailing with dolphins, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods, meeting new people and if none of this excites you than, I don’t know what to say.

Adam and I in the Bahamas on Ask For, Tam's beautiful Chesapeake Skip Jack wooden boat he built up in Nova Scotia.

Adam and I in the Bahamas on Ask For, Tam’s beautiful Chesapeake Skip Jack wooden boat he built up in Nova Scotia.

What To Expect To Do As Crew

  • You will definitely get to help sail the boat.  This includes raising and trimming the sails, steering the boat, keeping an eye on the water depth, etc.
  • Standing watch on long passages, possibly overnight.  This means you have to stay up on deck, probably in the cockpit, for usually 3-4 hours at a time while the rest of the sailors are either sleeping or resting below.  Your job here is to keep an eye on the wind direction and the sails, watch out for boats and steer the boat (but more than likely the boat will have already set its course on its Autopilot).  Any changes or rarities at this point are reported to the captain.  This is also a great chance to watch the stars, play the flute, sing a song or stare out into the dark waters and contemplate how expansive the ocean really is.
  • Help cook.  Some sailors like to cook and others like to make sandwiches and canned soups.  One of the main reasons you may be asked to come aboard is to help cook, no doubt the captain will ask you if you are a good cook.  In my experience on 5 boats we have always shared the cooking duties and I never felt like I was a slave to the kitchen, it is fun and a new experience trying to cook a meal in a small galley (boat kitchen) while the waves are rocking you back and forth.
  • Keeping the boat clean.  This may include scrubbing the head (boat bathroom), washing the decks, doing the dishes, etc.  Don’t worry; most boats are so small there isn’t too much to clean.  You may even get to clean the hull (bottom) of the boat.  Which I enjoy, so long as the waves are gentle and the waters are warm.
  • Have fun!  Most likely the captain doesn’t want you on board just to be a crewmember, they want a friend to pall around with.  Snorkeling and fishing are common sea activities, hiking the coasts, eating fish tacos or sipping coconuts on the beach are a few activities you may enjoy on your journey.  Some boats have DVD players to watch movies, games to play and stereos to blast.

 

Now that you know what to expect, where do you want to go? 

Sailboats move with the winds and depending on the time of year, winds blow in different directions and in different intensities around the globe. World Cruising Routes is a great book (CornellSailing) that has information that can help plan your trip.

If you don’t have a destination in mind and you just want to try out the sailing life, then try finding a boat departing from a port near you so that you have a chance to meet the captain and check out the boat.

Packing

Depending on where you plan to go, you will want to pack accordingly.  Pack for hot, cold, wet and windy weather.  I’m sure any captain could give you tips on what kinds of clothes to bring.  Also, plan for downtime.  Sailboats move slow and you will most likely have plenty of time to practice the guitar, read books, write in a journal, paint landscapes and whatever else you like to do in your spare time.

Finding a Sailboat

Use Your Connections

If you know anyone who has a sailboat or has ever had a sailboat in the past, talk to them.  They may have a friend that is looking for crew or they may point you in the right direction.

Hit Up the Docks

Another option, if you live on the water is to walk down to your local docks or marina.  You can ask around, get to know people or post a note on a bulletin board advertising yourself.  The benefit of finding a boat this way is that you are able to meet the captain and tour the boat well in advance.

Use a Website

I mentioned before about the opportunity to find boats through the internet, a great method as you can often search for the type of boat, length of trip, destination and other parameters that are important to finding the right boat for you.

Here is a list of websites that facilitate crew finding and boat finding.  Click them to be re-directed to the webpages!

DesperateSailors

Findacrew

Latitude38

SFSailing

FloatPlan

CruisersForum

CruiserLog

7Knots

WorldCruisingClub

Kaye and Peter on Dancing Brave just after our 6 day sail from Jamaica to Panama.

Kaye and Peter on Dancing Brave just after our 6 day sail from Jamaica to Panama.

Meeting The Captain And The Boat; Questions to Ask

Experience.  Ask the captain how long they have been sailing for, where they have sailed to and from, how long have they had their boat for?  Is this their first time crossing the pacific or their fifth?  Have they spent most of their time sailing in bays and lakes or have they crossed oceans?  What type of weather have they experienced?  Try to glean as much as you can from the captain about their sailing experience as you can because when it comes down to it, your life is in their hands.

Safety.  Ask the captain what types of safety gear they carry on board.  A boat should have a life raft, life vests, harnesses, a first aid kit and radio.  Do they have mechanical skills?  If something in the engine breaks down, you hope the captain can fix it!

The boat.  How big is the boat?  Are there 2 births (sleeping areas) or only 1?  How will the space be shared?  Is the boat fixed up and well maintained or does it have leaks and ripped sails?

Food and water.  Does the boat have a water maker onboard or will you fill up at marinas?  Will the boat be stocked for 3months or will it stop and get provisions every week?  An important question for me is if I can survive on the boat as a healthy vegetarian.  Will you pay for your part of the food costs or will the captain be providing food for the crew?

Drinking and smoking.  Are you a heavy smoker or drinker?  If so than maybe you’ll be lucky finding a captain with similar habits but if not, you’ll want to find a captain that agrees with your lifestyle or vice versus, that you can get along with theirs.

Personality.  You will be in close contact with your captain so you will want to get along.  Its hard to outright ask your captain if they are a racist, misogynistic, prick that needs anger management help but you can do your best through conversation and emails to find out how they might react in certain situations.  What do they like to do in their spare time?  What kind of music do they like?  What did they do in their past lives on land?

Gender Ratio: Male Captains Seeking Female Crew

This isn’t as creepy as it sounds.  There are many men out there—the majority of captains I’ve met have been men—who are looking for romantic companions who want to sail around the world with them, BUT most of them aren’t and if they are lets just hope that they say so up-front.   I can’t confirm these generalizations but I’m just putting it out there.  Captains often prefer women because they believe them to be cleanlier and good cooks.  There are many male captains out there whose wives have left them for life on land and they are just used to sailing with women.  The captain whose boat I’m on right now just told me he enjoys the yin yang energies of the masculine and feminine.  If you’re a male and want to sail on a boat that is looking for female crew, try anyways, maybe your personalities will mesh and the captain will change his mind about being gender selective.

Costs; What To Expect To Pay For

In the most common situations I have heard of, the captain covers boat expenses such as fuel, maintenance and repair, and marina or mooring costs.  Often food costs will be split, usually the costs divided by the number of people on board because shopping and provisioning is usually done in one big swoop.  Some captains may need the financial help, younger ones in my experience, who are looking for friends to come along, help sail and help balance the budget.  In this case you may be asked for help contributing to fuel and marina costs.  And in an even more rare case, the captain may offer to fly you to wherever they are and pay for all your food too—what a deal.  Either way, living and traveling on boats is fairly cheap since much of the time you’ll be at anchor which doesn’t cost a thing, fuel costs are low because you’ve got sails and food is cheap because your cooking in your kitchen as apposed to eating out.

My first Captain David holding up the small but prized Tuna we caught off the east coast of the states.

My first Captain David holding up the small but prized Tuna we caught off the east coast of the states.

My Experience Sailing

I was living in Maryland at the time and was lucky enough to find a guy my age that was docked at a port an hour drive from where I lived.  I drove down with my dad one afternoon and met him.  David and I got along, talked about where we would go, how we would share costs, ran me through the safety features of the boat, and he asked me if I wanted to leave the next day.  This was December 19th.  I told him no, but I could be ready a few days after Christmas.  So I met him down in Virginia along with a friend of his and off we went to the Bahamas.  We had a great trip, motoring the ICW, sailing across the Gulf Stream, and snorkeling coral reefs along secluded islands.  Click here and here to see my more detailed posts on this trip.  A point came in which he decided that he would be sailing towards the West Indies and I wanted to head to Cuba and over to Central America.  So on a busier island I posted a small note card advertising myself and that I was looking to join another boat.  That very same evening I met some people in a restaurant on shore that were looking for crew.

I joined Tam on his Chesapeake Bay skipjack—a beautiful wooden boat he built himself up in Nova Scotia.  I got along great with Tam and his friends that were traveling on another boat.  We went for wild day sails, went out dancing to Bahamian music, ate delicious nutritious food and had many great conversations on Taoist philosophy.  Like with David, our paths were changing, Tam was planning to head back up to Nova Scotia and I still wanted to go to Cuba.  Adam, who was crewing on another boat and I came up with the plan that we would travel together and find a boat to crew on that was going to Cuba.  At this point we were in Georgetown—a bigger more populated island of the Bahamas—and there were about 200 boats anchored nearby, so our chances were good.  In Georgetown, the cruisers hold a radio program every morning where boats can chime in, say hello to old friends, advertise dinghy races or ask for crewmembers.  Adam and I were listening one morning when we heard of a boat going to Cuba in need of crew.  We met the couple on the boat, new sailors, nice boat, the captain had a strong personality but we decided to go with it.  Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

The weather was rough from the Bahamas to Cuba and the captain and his wife weren’t quite prepared for it—mentally or physically—and didn’t very well know how to handle their boat in rough weather conditions.  Adam and I kept our cool, we helped cook, sail the boat, calm the captain, offer moral support and get ourselves to Cuba safely.  The boat needed some repairs by the time we arrived; the autopilot had failed, the mainsail had ripped in two places and the jib furler line had ripped.  Adam and I took off for a month to travel Cuba (see……..for more info) and when we came back to the marina we sailed on to Jamaica.  By the time we neared Jamaica our engine wasn’t working and we had to have our friends, Peter and Kaye on their own sailboat, tow us in to the harbor.  By the time we got into the marina, the captain and his wife were fed up with sailing and decided that they would sail the boat back to Florida, sell it and buy a camper van.  Again I was left with finding myself another boat, now to get myself to Panama, only a 6day sail away.

Luckily, Peter and Kaye, the friends that helped tow the boat, were on their way to Panama after a month relaxing in Jamaica.  Adam, kind soul that he is, agreed to help sail the couple back up to Florida.  I joined Peter and Kaye, we enjoyed Jamaica and soon enough were off to Panama.  Peter and Kaye were wonderful, like a sweet aunt and wacky uncle, I learned lots from them.  Their plan was to cross through the Panama Canal and head off to their home, Tasmania (after cruising the Pacific Islands and New Zealand of course).

I said goodbye to them on the Caribbean side of Panama, jumped on another boat that needed an extra hand to cross through the Panama Canal (boats are always looking for crew to cross the canal as there is a minimum number of people needed on board to go through).

Finally, after 5 boats I had made it from Virginia all the way across the Caribbean to Central America.  At this point I was glad to be on the mainland for a while and spent my time working from farm to farm enjoying trees and dirt.

And now, one year later, I’m writing this blog post from a boat bobbing side to side in the Sea of Cortez, waiting for wind.  Paul found me through my profile on FindaCrew and invited me to join his boat.  I accepted and here we are today.  I’ll sail with him until late May when we’ll sail from the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez over to the mainland side where he will haul out the boat for the summer.

Tropical Edible Greens

There are so many edible green leaves down here in the tropics of Central America.  I am a true admirer of the greens and like to incorporate them in almost every meal.  Here is a short list of only a few of the edible greens that you can grow in the tropics!

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Culantro

Culantro is commonly used in Panamanian dishes and has the same flavor as the plant we know of as cilantro.  Culantro can grow wild or planted.  The leaves can be cooked or eaten raw.

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Clitorial:

Strange name sure…I never tried this one unfortunately but I read that the flowers could be used to color rice!  Imagine, blueish purple rice!  If anyone has tried this please write and explain.  The leaves are edible too.

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Does anyone know what this plant is????

We were thinking a sort of nettle, but it is not the same stinging nettle that I know from Washington State, but the flowers, leaves and stems are very similar.  Any ideas?

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Spinach:  

Some sort of perennial tropical spinach.  Tasty and green! Who would have thought!

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Quail Grass: Celosia argentea: Amaranthacea family

The plant is slightly diuretic.  It likes rich soil but can be weedy in poor conditioned soil too.  Quail grass is a vigorous annual.  The leaves, young stems, and young inflorescences can all be eaten.  Careful not to overcook.

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Malibar Spinach

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Neem:  Azadirachta indica

The neem tree is known in India as divine.  At the farm we had neem trees growing around the house and were growing more in the nursery to spread around.  Neem contains antimicrobial properties, often used in toothpaste and soaps, used to make insecticides and various other medicines. I would just cut off a little stick from it, peel the bark, and use it to clean my teeth because of the antibacterial properties in it.  It was wonderful.  John at the farm claimed that since the neem trees were planted there were no mosquitoes around the house.  Just having the tree growing nearby it keeps insects away.  There is a big movement to plant neem all over India, I don’t know much about it but maybe it could be used to naturally deter mosquitoes in areas with malaria.  It is supposed to curve insect populations by inhibiting their eggs, so cutting them out at the source.

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Moringa: Moringa oleifera: aka horseradish tree, reseda

Moringa is a beautiful green-leaved tree with small white flowers pollinated by bees and ants, delicious leaves and flowers and stems!  So good in a fresh salad, smoothie, bitten like a giraffe off the tree, or cooked like spinach.  I grabbed a bite every time I walked by the tree we had, it was so delicious and nutritious!  Moringa has 7x the vitamin C of oranges, 4x the vitamin A of carrots, 4x the calcium of milk, 3x the potassium of bananas, and 2x the protein of yoghurt.  What!  This is a magical tree that I’ve often heard called the tree of life.  John loved to tell the story of a woman with a baby and her breasts were dry, so for 3 days she ate moringa leaves and on the fourth day her boobs had grown and she was milking her baby.  Check out this site: http://www.treesforlife.org/our-work/our-initiatives/moringa

Moringa can grow 5m in one year.  It can be maintained as a hedge but I have never seen this done.  The seed sprouts, young seed pods, young roots, leaves and flowers can all be eaten.  Moringa grows well at low elevations, is drought tolerant (up to 2 months) and enjoys well-drained soil.  Moringa reproduces by both seeds and cuttings.  If starting by seed , start seeds where the plant will be permanent, heavily seed, 1 inch apart and then thin.  Moringa is susceptible to termites.    The seeds can be crushed and “used in water treatment and will coagulate suspended particles in the water helping to remove disease organisms present in turbid water.”.

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Katuk: Souropus androgynus

The leaves, flowers, tender tips and small fruits are all edible.  The protein is 6-10% and careful because excess consumption can cause limb pain and lung damage.  Good sweet nutty flavor in the leaves, but they dry out if left un picked for too long, so trim the tops often and eat the leaves often, they slide easily off the stem, fresh in salads.   Katuk reproduces readily by seed as well as cuttings.  Cuttings should be woody and 30cm long.  Katuk grows well as a hedge, planted 10cm distance apart.  When the tops are cut off new shoots come up.  Grows tall, higher than 1metre, to propagate cut down to a foot tall, remove the stalks and leaves, cut into 1 foot pieces and plant the estacas/stems in the ground, easy to transplant like this, can grow close to each other, in shade might be better than sun.

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Chaya: Cnidoscolus chayamansa

Oh chaya, my love.  I first had chaya in mexico, where I believe it is native.  It is also known as tree spinach.  Make sure to cook it, as it contains hydrocyanic glycosides (whatever they are) and the obvious milky white sap that can be an itchy irritant if it touches your skin, so be careful when harvesting.  Chaya is rich in protein, calcium, iron, carotene, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid.  It is drought tolerant and grows well in hot, rainy, dry, well drained and partially shaded areas.  chaya reproduces well by stick cuttings and can be coppiced and regrows well after cutting.  It has no pest problems.

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TUBERS WITH EDIBLE LEAVES

Sweet Potato: Ipomoea batatas, aka Camote

You can eat the leaves as well as the sweet potato of course.  It is “one of the most efficient plants to capture the energy of the sun as calories” and is also rich in protein and iron.  It’s a good plant for erosion control or a cover crop and it is a minor nitrogen fixer.  Sweet potato can take over garden space if not kept in control.  Roots grow better when they are condensed to a smaller area and the vines are kept from creeping out.  Sweet potato can be propagated (cut a approx 1foot long vine piece, remove the leaves except for the last baby leaves at the tip, loop it in a circle, plant it in the surface of the ground by laying the circle down and lightly covering it with soil leaving the tiny leaves sticking out) .

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Taro: Colocasia esculenta, Kikisque, Malanga, and many more local names

C. esculenta has heart-shaped leaves and a big edible root.  It often grows wild and often grows right next to a poisonous lookalike, so make sure you are confident you have harvested the correct plant(a distinguishing characteristic is that the stem is tinged purple).  It can be planted in wetlands and also used to filter grey water and I read black water too but have never seen this done.  Taro and sweet potatoes can be planted along with bananas, yucca, papayas and under certain fruit trees aswell.

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Yucca: aka cassava

Yucca has a large root that grows pretty well in bad soils.  Yucca is planted using 6-10 inch long pieces of the stem.  The roots last long underground and if stored in a box of soil in your kitchen last longer than on the shelf in the open air.  The young leaves can be eaten cooked.

Sweet potato is propagated vegetatively

We Are The Way Into The Future!

Yea!

I just got all excited looking at all the visits to this blog. Learning from each other and supporting each other during our time of transition is so important.

I’m so glad that people are taking action in the physical world and doing their own mycoremediation projects and building hugelkultur beds and planting food forests! Wahoo!

There is so much that we can do to create beautiful worlds around us and one of those is to create a beautiful space of love within ourselves and thus radiate that beauty and love out and around us. Cultivating our inner peace, tranquility, harmony, wonder, amazement and jubilation might be the most powerful and effective thing that we can do!

I love that people are reading my blog and I hope enjoying it and learning from it. I welcome any feedback and insights from you!

Thanks so much for being who you are!
Love, Dana

La Biosfera; Permaculture Retreat in the Highlands of Nicaragua

La Biosfera is an awesome place to stop and stay awhile during your trek through Nicaragua. Suzanne holds down the fort with delicious food and great tales of her experience living in Nicaragua. Visiting La Biosfera you may enjoy a short hike up to the bat cave and fresh water spring, a sweat lodge, morning meditation or yoga, spectacular misty mountain views and ofcourse friendly people.

At LaBiosfera you can do what you want, stay for as long as you want (conditions of course), enjoy yourself, express yourself how you please as long as you’re not harmin anyone on your way. There are volunteer opportunities and apprenticeships as well as comfy spa retreats and “Glam-Camping” up in the jungle.

We grow a lot of our own organic herbs, veggies and fruits, an there is still alot of room to plant more, so if you have a green thumb come one by! LaBiosfera is always welcome to skilled folks who enjoy lending a helping hand.

La Biosfera is located just outside of Jinotega in northern Nicaragua. If you are exhausted from the hot heat in the rest of the country, you will enjoy the chilly nights accompanied by warm fires and steaming cups of tea.

Visit http://www.hijuela.com for more information on projects, visiting and directions.

Turning Cow Manure into Cooking Gas / Cambiando Estiercol de Vaca en Gas Metano

 At Finca El Guarumo in Costa Rico they use their cow manure and turn it into cooking gas!  They call it a biodigestor that they installed themselves.  They use it to cook with every day and rarely have to use their electric stove.  Keep reading to see pictures of how they do this.

En Finca El Guarumo en Costa Rica usan el Estiercol de Vaca para hacer gas para cocinar!  Le llaman un biodigestor y ellos lo instalaron sí mismos.  Ellos usan la cada dia para cocinar y casi nunca necesitan usar la estufa electrica.  Sigue leendo para ver photos de comos ellos hacen eso.

Gerardo has 8 cows and they meander all over the farm, eating fresh grass and plants.  Sometimes they come into the coral to eat chopped bananas smothered in molasses and this is also where they leave their manure.

Gerardo tiene ocho vacas y andan en la finca en diferente lugares comiendo pasto y plantas.  A veces vienen al coral para comer bananos en melasa y para dejar su caca de vaca.

Here you can see the corral where the cows come.  They keep one half covered in sawdust and the other is kept clean.  The half kept in sawdust is scooped and used to make compost.  The half kept clean is cleaned each day with rain water.

Aqui puedes ver la coral donde viene las vacas.  Ellos ponen una mitad del piso con acerin y el otro lado queda limpio.  Ellos usan el mitad con acerin pára composta y el otro mitad esta limpiado con agua de lluvia cada dia.

The cows come in each day, throughout the day to hang out in the corral, maybe eat some and definitely leave some.

Las vacas vienen cada dia, muchas veces al dia para descansar y aveces comer y siempre dejan algo.

Here you can see the corral where the cows are and the square holding tank where the cow manure is washed with rainwater.  We wash the floor each day and the poop and rain water flows into the square cement tank in the ground.

Aqui puedes ver el coral donde las vacas son y el tanque cuadrado donde la caca de vaca y agua de lluvia se va.  Limpiamos el piso cada dia y la caca de vaca y agua de lluvia va para el tanque de cemento en el piso.

The tank in the top left fills with rainwater from the roof and is used to clean the floor.  The rainwater mixes with the manure when we wash the floor and is necesary for creating methane because it has not been treated like tap water.

El tanque en la izquierda del photo se llena con agua de lluvia del techo y usamos para limpiar el piso. El agua de lluvia mezcla con la estiercol de vaca cuando limpiamos el piso y es necesario para haciendo metano proque el agua no es del municipio.

We pour 10-12 buckets (3gal each) each day. This barrel drains into the main tank that creates the methane.

Ponemos 10-12 baldes (de 3 galones cada uno) cada dia.  Esta tanque va al tanque principal que hace el gas metano. 

Here you can see how the liquid travels into the main tank.  The small pipe leads into the big cement tube which leads into the 4ft x 20ft rectangular gas chamber.

Aqui puedes ver como el liquido viajes hasta el tanque principal.  El tubo chiquito va para el tubo mas grande de cemento y esa tubo va para el 4pie x 20pie tanque rectangular para hacer gas.

Here is Gerardo, the genious creator of this biodigestor!  You can see the 4×20 gas chamber behind him.  It is built of cement and has a huge plastic bag in it.  The bag in the photo is not inflated but normally it is inflated and full of gas.  Even though it is not inflated it is still producing plenty of methane.

Aqui es Gerardo el inteligente de es creacion!  Puedes ver el 4×20 tanque atras de el.  Es construido de cemento y tiene una bolsa grandote adentro.  La bolsa en ese photo no es inflado pero normalmente es inflado y lleno con gas.  Aunque la bolsa no es inflado, todavia esta produciendo demasiado metano.

A pipe leads up and out of the bag.  The methane rises and moves through the pipe directly to the kitchen stove.

Un tubo va ariba y el gas sale del bolsa.  El metano mueve por ariba y va en un tubo directamente a la estuva en la cocina.

On the way to the kitchen there is a bottle that release excess gas.  This is incase there is an abundance in the bag and the pipe fills, the gas can escape from this cut water bottle full of water.

En la via para la cocina hay una botella de agua para salir el gas que es en exceso.  Eso es pro si aveces hay bastante gas y la bolsa y tubo estan llenos, el gas puede escapar por esta botella cortada que es lleno con agua.

The pipe stretches towards the kitchen.

El tubo corres hasta la concina.

And finally the methane gas reaches the kitchen stove where Lilliam cooks delicious food!  You can see the neon green pipe coming in through the window.

Y finalmente el gas metano llegas a la cocina y Lilliam cocina comida deliciosa!  Puedes ver el tubo verde entrando por la ventana.

VISIT FINA EL GUARUMO

Look them up on Facebook or visit fincaguarumo.wordpress.com

They offer volunteer opportunities, tours, and beautiful cabanas.  This was my second time visiting them and I had great experiences both times.  The farm has so much more than just the biodigestor.  They practice organic alternative agriculture and I learned so much from my friend Elmer and his dad Gerardo when I visited.

VISITA FINCA EL GUARUMO

Busca en Facebook o vas a fincaguarumo.wordpress.com

 Les ofrecen oportunidades de voluntario, tours, y cabanas lindas.  Esto fue mi segundo vez visitando ellos y teni un buen experiencia cada tiempo.  La finca tiene mucho mas que solo el biodigestor.  Ellos practican agricultra organica y integral y yo aprendi demasiado de mi amigo Elmer y de su papa Gerardo cuando yo visite.

Finca de Los Perezosos

It was so good to visit Finca de Los Perezosos for the second time in 2 years.  This is now John’s 5th year owning the land and boy does it look like he has been there for 10!

So many new projects have begun and taken shape that it is impossible for me to grasp them all.

If you are traveling in Panama, be sure to check out Finca de Los Perezosos http://www.organicpanamapermaculture.com/

Stay for a month and volunteer or get a longer term internship to really make a difference or just camp out for a few nights and enjoy the river and fresh fruit.  Either way, it is not to be missed, when traveling through Panama.  It is a great half way point when crossing from David to Panama City, just get off in Penenome and your half an hour away.

The view from the house is spectacular, don’t miss visiting Quintin’s house on the road to the farm, as he has an amazing view as well.  There is a cool waterfall just down the road from the farm that you can walk under and get a nice energizing waterfall massage.

FISH  John has recently, spontaneously bought a bunch of tilapia and another species of fish related to the piranha.  The pond and water system still needs a lot of work, but its a good start.  He is going to be working on sealing a natural pond dug in the side of the hill and finding different food sources from the farm for the fish (so far they dont like bananas or starfruit).

GARDEN   The farm garden is planted with perennial herbs like hibiscus and is crawling with lizards and hopping with toads!  John’s dream is to grow big juicy red tomatoes and the volunteers and Marcelino are going to be building roofs to go over the beds to keep the rain from pounding down on the tomato plants.  Well see if it helps.

BALO BALO BALO!    Everything should be covered and strewn with balo.  Balo is a plant full of nitrogen and it is grown on the farm specifically for the purpose of being a green manure (not to mention the many other random obscure uses it holds).  In the photo above you can see that the garden bed was covered in balo at some point to keep weeds down and fertilize the soil.

SHOWER    The new volunteer house has a new outdoor shower.  The farm is definitely not concrete /cement free but it is surely innovative, and the use of beer cans in this construction is hard to miss.

Talia, a recent volunteer, is showing off her artwork of the Garbage Goddess on the wall of the shower.  She is working on a shower-caddie made out of 6pack rings.

FERTILITY   Finca de Los Perezosos now has a composting toilette and will soon have some tree-toilettes going as well.  In this photo above, you can see how well the  excrement has broken down.  Woo hoo beautiful fertility!

And our shit is now home for happy bugs and beetles!