TLC for Satori in Ecuador

December 31, 2002

Prospero Nuevo Ano to you all. We have finished our one-month stint on the hard to give Satori all the TLC that she deserves. In fact we are still working at it as we sit here at anchor at Isla de la Plata on New Year’s Eve. We decided to make a week-long stop here on our way back to Bahia de Caraquez in order to rest and to avoid the loud music that is inevitable in any Ecuadorian celebration. This island is 20 miles off the coast of Ecuador. The only visitors are day tourists who come in small charter boats, cruisers like us, fishermen (see below), pelicans, frigates and boobies.

They say that there are seals here too but we have yet to find them. We cannot say that we enjoyed our stay in the area of the marina, which is part of a huge condominium complex. It is fairly obvious that the owner of the complex does not really care whether the marina does well or not. It is a nice looking place and the security is great. In fact there is a person on staff whose job it is to walk around the boats three times a day and record everything that is lying around. Hmmm! Satori has an old used dried-up paintbrush, a roll of toilet paper, an empty paint bucket and a rusty screwdriver lying there. Why should they care? The owner’s anchor was stolen from the yard once. The whole security staff was fired and from that moment on the gulag position was established. Oh well, things are not done the same way here as in other places.

We did complete all the tasks on the list. Satori now has a new bottom paint that is black and makes her look like a big black whale out of water. She also has an anchor windlass (the machine that electrically hauls up our anchor and chain for us) that can slowly let the anchor down as well as slowly lift it up. In the past Jane had to heave-ho the anchor over the bow roller and let it fall as it wished…this is a huge improvement.

We did have some unwelcome visitors during our stay in the marina. Sander used to believe that the frigate bird never rests except when it comes to nest once a year to raise a new brood of baby frigates. He now knows that someone fed him a story about that. We had several frigates that would land on our triadic (the rigging that connects our two masts) at night and poop all over the decks. Those are big birds and they can get rid of a lot of waste in one night. When they first started landing we found that we could frighten them off by pounding the rigging and flinging the halyards (ropes) around. They soon got wise to that and then we were totally at their mercy!

It was an interesting Christmas. We worked all day long and shopped for heavy items that we would no longer be able to buy in Bahia. Late in the afternoon we shared in a pot-luck dinner at the foot of one of the boats. Not at all like being with family around a fireplace with the wind and snow howling outside, but it was OK.

Boxing Day saw Fairwyn and Satori on their way back into the water with no mishaps. We anchored off the marina for that night in order to put everything back in order and prepare for the 60-mile trip the following day.

It was great to return to Isla de la Plata. We had stopped here on the trip south from Bahia. The water is clear and there are lots of birds and turtles to keep us entertained. During our previous stop we spent three days trying to clean the barnacles from the bottom of the boat in preparation for the haul-out. We were determined to enjoy ourselves this time and to work only when we wanted to do so.

In the mid 1900’s in the Chesapeake Bay area there were large (60’-70’) wooden planked boats called Buy Boats. Our friend Art owns one that Sander worked on during our time in the Chesapeake. They do not operate as Buy Boats now, but here in Ecuador a similar business continues. There is one here at the island that is about 65’ in length with a very high freeboard (sides of the boat). It supports 12 smaller boats and 40 fishermen plus the 6 that are working on the buy boat. Their function is to produce ice for the fishermen, take in their catches of the day to refrigerate, carry extra gasoline, and make the meals for the men. We watch the smaller boats come in the mornings and then again in the evenings to unload fish that are 3-4’ long.

Yesterday one of the smaller boats, actually two boats as they have a rowboat attached, anchored between Satori and the shore. We are being generous when we write “anchored”. These fellows are good fishermen, but they are not good boatmen. They throw the anchor out and hope that the weight of the anchor will hold them in place. Sander watched the boat drift out towards us, and nearly into us once. Later most of the fellows took the rowboat over to the mother boat and were visiting while the older two guys went to sleep in the forepeak. We watched their boat drag back again into Satori. We tried to awaken them by blowing our fog-horn and shouting, but to no avail. These guys were dead to the world! Their compatriots on the mother boat were no help as they laughed and whistled. They finally yelled to us “Chili agua”! giving us the idea to fill a bucket with sea water and throw it on the boat. The two guys came stumbling out, groggy and confused as their “friends” on the other boat howled with laughter. As they were leaving last night they promised to bring us a nice fish today for our evening meal. The wind blew hard during the night. It was the first night that we noticed four or five of the boats came back into harbor and fished close by. The seas must have been pretty rough.

January 4, 2003

We have arrived back in Bahia a little earlier than we had planned. Yesterday morning we realized that we have some engine starting problems and decided it would be best to be here (with shops and busses close at hand) to solve them rather than 20 miles out to sea. We had a great day of sailing yesterday with 25 knot winds at the stern and following seas. We made good time getting to Bahia about 8 PM. We needed to wait until 4 AM for the next high tide as there is a sizeable bar at the entrance to the river. When one problem comes, it never seems to be enough. The 25 knot winds that had helped us so much during the trip now played havoc with us when we needed to anchor. With the boat rolling and pitching in the dark, the anchor chain clogged in the hawser pipe and the anchor windlass quit working. We had the anchor down and it did catch, but we decided to keep it on a short tether so we would have less to haul up in the morning. We had a very uncomfortable and noisy night. At 3:30 we were out on deck with Sander hauling up 50’ of chain and a 65 # anchor by hand in the pitching seas. And some of you thought that we just have a good time… All’s well that ends well. We made the trip into the river safely and found that resetting a breaker solved the anchor windlass problem.

We still have much to do to prepare for our Pacific crossing. That should begin sometime in February. Our best to all of you for the New Year. We hope to hear from you via our ham radio address, *****.

Jane and Sander