It is now late February, 2003, as we write this message to you from Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. At this time last year we were making our final decision to delay our Pacific crossing for one year. We wanted to stay closer to the USA for family reasons and we wanted to see more of South America during that time.
We had read SSCA messages about the comfort of Ecuador during the northern hemisphere’s summer months. After the heat and humidity of the Panama area and Costa Rica, that coolness sounded inviting. We were not sure where we would settle in Ecuador but decided to pick Bahia de Caraquez as our first port of call. Leaving the area of Golfito in Costa Rica we crossed to Isla de Coco where we spent three days. Yes, it is expensive, but worth every penny. We would recommend the stop to any boat whether you have divers on board or not.
We arrived in Ecuador on April 23, 2002 and called for a pilot to steer Satori into the anchorage. Bahia, as it is known all over Ecuador, is at the mouth of the Chone River 35 miles south of the equator. There are several sand bars at the mouth of the river making the entrance complicated and sometimes dangerous for those who are unfamiliar with it. A request for a pilot is made on channel 16 to the “Costera”. One should announce their approximate location to the city and the fact that “Nosotros necesitamos un piloto”. They will let you know when the next high tide is and that a pilot will be there.
Except for a month of haul-out at Puerto Lucia in southern Ecuador, we have spent our whole time at anchor in Bahia. When we first arrived there were 7 other boats, primarily American boats from the west coast who had worked their way south. Nancy and John on “Nanjo” announced their intention to leave their boat at anchor for one month while they flew to the USA to visit family. We felt positive that leaving our boat unattended at anchor was something we would NEVER feel comfortable in doing. Never say never!
We tried the waters, so to speak, with a five day trip around Ecuador. On our return Satori was still safely bobbing at anchor. It did not take much longer to feel confident enough about the location to make a 2 month reservation to fly back to the states ourselves…from June 20 to August 20. The crews left in the anchorage kept a close eye on Satori. The anchorage is directly in front of the office of the Costera and they do care about the safety and well-being of the boats. There are no storms to worry about in Bahia. There is, in fact, no rain during the months of May through December. This does cause a problem which we will explain below.
When we returned from the States, we were full of ideas for our bus trip around South America. After a month on board, we left for points south. We had an idea that we wanted to get as far south as possible and hoped to even see some of Patagonia. Because it was still early spring in Chile, Patagonia was out of the question but we did make it as far south as Puerto Montt before we gave up the idea. We traveled for a total of seven weeks and visited Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. Our favorite places were in Argentina. Of course, our most memorable sights were at Machu Picchu. We were able to travel for about $35/day including hotels each night with a private bath and hot water showers.
We reentered Ecuador on November 1, 2002 and were granted 90 more days on our visa. We headed south to Puerto Lucia where we hauled Satori on November 26 th for a one month stay on the hard. We were, in fact, the first to make arrangements for a haul-out since the raising of prices at the marina there. The negotiations were difficult as the marina managers had not carefully thought through the rate structure. The cost for our haul and splash with one month on the hard was $1,043…not an inexpensive proposition by any means. Rates can be checked out at their web site, www.puertolucia.com. As we reported in a short note to SSCA in December, the marina management is difficult to deal with. The haul out area is subject to surge most of the time and care should be taken to check out the procedure before the actual hauling. On the positive side the marina is very secure and the dry weather is conducive to hull work.
After splashing we came back to Bahia and have been here preparing for our Pacific crossing.
Because there are two sides to every coin, the negative aspects of Bahia need to be explained. From the end of April to the middle of January we saw no rain at all. The river is full of sediment most of the time making the use of water makers nearly impossible. Bahia has no running water. Yes, they have taps but no running water since an El Nino year of the late 90’s brought earthquakes and landslides to Ecuador. Water is available through the municipal aquifers. The water is then treated with chlorine. It should be ordered from a local tricycle driver who will bring it in a large barrel to the Costera office. From there you must be ready to cant the water into containers to move to your boat. Pure drinking water is also available in town at the rate of $1.50/5 gallons.
The second negative point about the anchorage is the affect that the river has on the bottom of the boat and the anchor chain. The build-up was not as bad as Cartegena, but it sure does run a close second. The boats will rotate four times during the 24-hour period with the change in tides. We found our chain hopelessly tangled after seven months. If you haul your anchor and clean your chain once a month, this could easily be avoided.
The third warning about a stay in Ecuador is the little known fact that immigration will allow only a total of 6 months in a year. The time begins with your first check-in at immigration. Because of our 2 months in the USA and our 7 weeks travel outside the country, we were able to make the best use of our allowed time.
On the other side of this same coin is the charm of the village itself. We are sure that we will never again find an anchorage so safe and a town quite so “tranquilo” and friendly as Bahia. The weather is marvelous during the dry months with no bug problems and comfortable temperatures in the 80’s due to the ever-present cloud cover from the Humboldt Current. The town has a produce market and two medium sized grocery stores. Pilsener beer is available in returnable bottles at a price of 55 cents for .6L. Lunch meals at the restaurants are priced between $1.20 and $1.80 for soup, juice, rice, choice of meat and a salad. Lomo Fino and ground beef cost $1.30/pound. You could get to like this place!
We have applied for and received our 90 day visas for French Polynesia through the French Consulate in Quito. This was a very difficult task that involved two passages to Quito. We would strongly recommend getting the visa at the consulate in Panama City if that is possible.
We plan to leave within the next ten days for the Galapagos and then the Gambiers and westward. We send our thanks to the staff at SSCA for their work on the bulletins. Our crew will often refer to the many recent articles on the Pacific islands as we go. If we can answer any other questions about Ecuador, especially the Bahia area, please feel free to e mail us at **
Sander van Peski & Jane Adams
S/V Satori, 56’ custom schooner with 5’3” draft