Thursday, March 1, 2012

Costa Rica Vacation, February 2012

If you want to skip all the boring summary and go straight to the pictures (and a couple videos), you can just click here.

Day 1 

     We started off by dropping to dog off at his new home for the next couple of weeks and then headed to Dulles airport where we encountered out first problem.  It turns out that even though you have a valid passport it is supposed to be valid for another three to six months if you want to go to Costa Rica.  Unfortunately, we didn't know about this until we got to the airport and Lisa's was only good for another month.  We had to sit and wait while the lady at the check in counter called a bunch of supervisors and embassies trying to get it all figured out.  Talk about tense.  Thankfully it worked out and we were allowed to check in.  I can't say enough about the staff for Taca airlines at this point.  They were so nice and went way out of their way to make sure this situation was resolved.

     From there we flew to El Salvador for our connecting flight.  Of course we landed later than we were supposed to and had (we thought) about two minutes to catch our next flight.  I had a choice of sprinting through the airport with my luggage trying to avoid fellow travelers and keeping up with my wife or walking and hoping for the best.  I decided I like being married and chose the first option.  It turned out we had an hour still before the flight, plenty of time for me to dry off a bit.

     The flight in to Costa Rica was absolutely beautiful.  Plus we discovered another reason to love Taca,  free food and booze!  Have I mentioned how much I like this airline?

     When we arrived in San Jose we decided to cab it to Lisa's friend's mother's house.  She graciously let us stay in her guest house so we could get an early start in the morning.  It turns out that a cab wasn't the easiest thing in the world.  There are no addresses to speak of, so the directions sounded something like "100 meters north and 200 meters west of the US embassy, a small street with a white fence and two palm trees in the front yard."  Thankfully we had our host's phone number and when we got close the cab driver called and she came out front to meet us.

Day 2

     This is the day our host Elena (a college friend of Lisa's) drove us to Monteverde.  It was a couple hours of driving from San Jose but the scenery was breathtaking.  A decent amount of it was right along the Pacific coast making for a very pleasant first half of the trip.  Along the way we stopped at a roadside restaurant and took a quick walk out over a nearby bridge.  Apparently there is a slaughterhouse just upriver from here and some of the waste ends up in the river.  No worries about it going to waste, the local crocodiles seem to be taking care of that problem.

     The second half of the drive was even more amazing, but left us fearing for our lives on a couple of occasions.  The dirt road was steep, twisty, rough as can be, and had no guard rails or even shoulders.  We were doing OK until the point Lisa and I both felt our wheels sliding off the edge while trying to stay out of the way of a semi.  As much as we loved Monteverde, I would never recommend anyone try driving this.  Elena lived there for five years and without her I don't think we would have made it.  The picture doesn't do this justice, but if you look close you can see the Pacific in the background.

     We stayed at Cabinas Capulin, owned by Elena's friends.  We were excited before we got here just from looking at the pictures online, but they didn't begin to do the place justice.  We had a private cabin on the side of a hill overlooking forest that was amazing.  Plus it had hot water!  The proprietors here where so friendly and accommodating that we felt like family.  If you ever go to Moteverde I would recommend staying here in a heartbeat.  Just make sure to take a cab from town.  We walked it a few times, and while it isn't a long walk the hill up is pretty brutal.

     For our daily adventure we decided to do a canopy tour by zip lines.  It isn't the best way to take your time and explore the intricacies of the forest, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.  The video seems to have gotten cut off about half way through, but you can see how high up and fast it was.  The tour had thirteen zip lines, a little hiking, and a tarzan swing.  The video seems to not be working at times, so here is a direct link.  Zip Line Video

     Dinner for the night was at a friends house where we tried one of the world's tastiest dishes, chicharrones.  Fried pig skin with the fat and some meat still attached.  Combine this with some home made tortillas and salsa and you find heaven.


     After a tasty breakfast at Elena's friends house we headed off to one of the Cloud Forest Reserves for a hike.  A cloud forest is similar to a rain forest, but it is on mountains and instead of getting its moisture from rainfall it absorbs it from the constant clouds and mist  in the area.  Because of this most of the vegetation is very strange looking and relies on leaves and moss-like stuff rather than roots.  Lots of plants end up growing on other plants and stuff grows to unreal sizes.  We felt like we were hiking through Jurassic Park.

     We hiked for a couple of hours up to the continental divide.  You could actually see both the Pacific and the Atlantic from there because of the unusually clear weather we experienced.  On the way we actually saw a Resplendent Quetzal, a very rare bird that people come from all over to see, usually without success.  We took a bunch of pictures of wild orchids and other crazy stuff, but they just don't do this area justice.  There is also a short video of the mist blowing between two mountains here.

     After the hike we stopped at a hummingbird garden and saw about a dozen different types.  The size and color differences were pretty stunning.  Apparently, the hummingbirds here don't migrate the way ours do because it is so temperate in Costa Rica.

     After lunch we went to a small organic coffee farm for a tour.  Of course Elena knew the owners, so that made it more personal than it could have been.  The lady showing us around brought us through the fields, the fermenting and drying areas, and showed us how to separate the husk from the bean and how they roast it.  Of course we couldn't leave without any coffee, so we purchased four bags.  Delicious, and no, you can't have any.

     The next stop was for Elena to catch up with an old friend.  He made us some delicious coffee that he had grown and roasted as well as offering us an assortment of food.  The only catch was that we had to grind the beans with a hand turn grinder.  The horror!  Tortillas, home made bread and jam, and square bananas covered the table.  Who knew there was such a thing as a square banana?  As well as being one of the nicest people I have ever encountered, this guy was a gardening genius.  He had his yard completely filled with different plants and flowers he found in the cloud forest that made an absolutely amazing display.  I thought I took some pictures while he was showing me around, but I can't seem to find them

     Elena had to go back to work the next day, so she dropped us off in town and left us to our own devices. That turned out to be a long dinner and an early bed time.  Vacationing like this is hard work.

Day 4

    We decided to spend our last morning in Monteverde seeing the sights by horseback.  The guide wisely gave me a super sedate horse (mule?) that didn't need or want any guidance.  This was perfectly acceptable to me.  Lisa got a horse that took a little finese because he loved to run and always wanted to be in front.

     The first half of the ride was all misty and awe-inspiring going up a mountain.  The second half coming down the other side was hot and dusty.  I may be remembering this a little wrong because at this point it was obvious that my back side was not meant to spend very long in a saddle.

     After the ride we had a nice long relaxing lunch while we waited to be picked up by a van for our ride down the mountains to Lake Arenal.  The trip was down the opposite side we came up and was much less frightening.  It was still horrible and beautiful all at the same time, but I didn't feel like we were about to tumble off the edge...most of the time anyway.

     The next portion of the trip was a boat ride across Lake Arenal so we could get picked up by a bus on the other side closer to the town of La Fortuna.  From there we went to out cabin rental at Arenal Paraiso that had about a dozen semi-private hot spring pools, a couple of regular pools, impressive gardens, a hiking trail to a waterfall, and an amazing view of the volcano.  After the last couple days of beating ourselves up we spent most of the day doing nothing but relaxing by swimming, drinking, and eating in the overpriced hotel restaurant.

Did I mention one of the hot spring pools had a swim up bar?


     Probably my least favorite day of the trip.  The day started out pretty well with a hike and a swim before checking out, but then it became grueling.  We took a cab into town to reserve a "bus" to San Jose for a long, miserable ride.  We got dropped off at the airport, ran around trying to figure out what bus we needed from there, and finally caught the right one.  This led to an hour long packed bus ride through the city during rush hour with all of our luggage in our laps.  We finally made it to the next bus station where we just made it in time and bought the last two tickets for the ride to Turrialba.  This was a better bus with more room, but still not a pleasant ride.  About two hours later we arrived and caught a cab to Elena's house where we would be staying for a couple of days.  A quick dinner and into bed we went, exhausted.


     Probably my favorite day of the trip.  Eighteen miles of whitewater rafting on the Rio Pacuare, #5 on National Geographic's list of best places in the world to go rafting.  The sightseeing was unbelievable and the rapids were even more exciting than we were expecting.  We had a great guide who made a world of difference in the amount of fun we had.  He had us spinning in circles and going backwards through rapids.  We stopped about halfway through for lunch and a swim which was perfect.  After some more rapids we jumped out of the rafts and swam/floated through an amazing canyon.  We ended the trip at a little bar with showers, and that had to be one of the most refreshing beers I have ever had.  I splurged and bought the CD of pictures they took on the trip and I'm glad I did.  I only have a dozen or so on the photo site, but actually have a couple hundred on the disk.


     We started the day by taking a walk through CATIE to see an impressive amount of birds and fauna. We then took off in Elena's car (thanks Elena!) for a trip down to Puerto Viejo for a couple of days of relaxation at the hotel her brother manages, Le Cameleon.  I was a little concerned about driving in Costa Rica, but with my Spanish-speaking partner we did pretty well.  There are very few street signs in the country, but thankfully there aren't that many roads to get lost on.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the water and enjoying the hammocks set up right on the beach.


     Another amazing day on the beach.  The picture on the left is from sunrise.  Not too shabby, eh?  We didn't do a whole lot this day other than exploring the town a little bit.  This was kind of necessary because I left my bathing suite back in Turrialba on the drying line, and the one I bought the day before was just a wee bit too tight. No pictures available, sorry.  We got our exercise for the day fighting the huge waves multiple times throughout the day.  We also managed to stumble on a pig roast for dinner.


     We started the day off by enjoying a last swim before checking out and then heading up to Cahuita for a night.  It was only about a half hour drive up the coast, so we weren't in any hurry to leave.  We stayed in a cute little place Elena set up for us right across the street from the Ocean.  We tried swimming, but for the first time this trip were driven away by bugs.  Thankfully there was a pool at out hotel so we still got our dose of water relaxation in.

     We also encountered another first this day, rain.  Thankfully it wasn't until later in the evening when we were coming home from dinner so it didn't affect our day too much.  The powerful storm combined with our tin roof did make it a little difficult to sleep, but we managed.

DAY 10

     After a good breakfast in town we took a drive to Cahiuta National Park to try and find some monkeys.  Lisa had been looking the whole trip and so far nothing.  While we didn't actually see any, we did get yelled at by a howler monkey for quite a while.  We were right under him in the trees but couldn't seem to catch a glimpse.  We did however see a couple of toucans and some amazing beaches.

     Scattered through the park were little campsite looking areas with picnic benches and a couple of showers.  We took advantage of this by doing a little more swimming.  It's February after all, so you have to take advantage of the water while you can.

     Right about when the sun started getting too hot to be comfortable we went back to the hotel to clean up and check out for the drive back to Elena's place.

     When we got back to Turrialba we were treated to a tour of the botanical gardens at CATIE.  One of the highlights was getting to see multiple varieties of cacao plants and beans.  The one on the left is one we took home to break open and sample.  The pulp around the beans is a slimy mess, but tastes delicious.  You can eat it plain or drop the whole mess is a pitcher of water to dissolve.  The beans are fermented and ground up to make chocolate liquor which is then used to make the chocolate you know and love.

DAY 11

     Another travel day, but before we left we took another quick walk around the grounds of CATIE to experience a little more strange wildlife.  After that it was a mix of taxis and buses to get us back to the airport in San Jose.  From there it was lots of waiting and a little bit of flying to get us back home  After stopping to pick up the dog on the way we finally made it home around five in the morning.  It was a long day I wouldn't want to repeat anytime soon.

DAY 12

     While not actually part of the vacation, it sure seems like it.  I took this day off from work as well and I'm glad I did.  It may be a little colder here, it is still good to be home.  The dog and I did a little relaxing Maryland style for the day after sleeping in nice and late.

Costa Rica Travel Tips

- Make sure someone speaks Spanish.  I'm sure we could have gotten by without it, but Lisa's language skills saved us so much time and hassle.  Plus everyone seems to be much more hospitable if you try to communicate with them in their own language.  Go figure.

- Bring a watch.  US phones don't work down there which is great, but I've become so accustomed to using it as a clock that it was strange not having it.  Also, there don't seem to be clocks anywhere.  Not good when you are worried about check out times, tour start times, and bus schedules.

- Good, broken in hiking boots.  Not everyone probably does as much hiking as we did, but you will miss out on a lot of really sweet stuff if you don't do any.  Having a couple pairs of good socks is important as well; spring for the fancy wool ones.

- Lots of suntan lotion.  While the sun doesn't feel too hot it will still do a number on you if you aren't careful. Check out Lisa's feet after a day of rafting.  Her water shoes have holes that we didn't even think about.  Apply liberally and often.

- Lots of cash.  While most hotels and restaurants accept credit cards it is SO much easier to deal with cash.  Plus, most of your tours will either only accept cash or strongly prefer it.  Most people accept dollars as freely as the local currency.  We used a mixture of both.

- Eat lots of fiber before traveling.  Almost every meal contained rice/beans and lots of fresh fruit.  If you aren't used to eating this way normally I would recommend upping the fiber in your diet so you don't wreak havoc on your digestive system. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quick Update

     As you may have noticed, the lack of updates has gone on for awhile now.  I do have a pretty good reason though.  The wife and I just got back from an 11 day vacation in Costa Rica!  I'm working on a post to document the trip but it will probably take a couple of days to finish.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Picture by request

    This is the best picture I can find of what the whole boat looks like.  The picture below is a different one, but the same model.  It gives a good idea of what is underneath.  You should be able to use Google to find a bunch of examples looking for "Pearson Triton".  Ready to come for a visit and a sail?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


     48 hour shifts make for very little time to work on the boat, so I don't have any new progress to report.  I did finally get to play firefighter last night though.  Check it out....this is what it looked like on our arrival.

Friday, January 27, 2012

More head floor

     Yesterday I did some more painting.  I put the second coat on the head floor as well as the opening for the icebox.  I also painted out the forward portion where the water tank is, including the bottom of the pieces that cover that area.  It is supposed to be pretty good weather tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get to spend some time out there.  I'm not sure yet if I will buy some paint and start that or just spend the day cleaning and puttering about.  I guess time will tell.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Head floor

     Nothing exciting to report from today.  I put the first coat of BilgeKote on the floor of the head and it looks pretty good.  I couldn't do much else after that because I didn't want to kick up any dust.  That's OK though because it was a beautiful day outside and I wanted to enjoy it.  I took a little bike ride, sat outside reading for a bit, played fetch with the blond monster for who knows how long, and just all around enjoyed my day.  There may have even been a short snooze in the chair in the back yard.

     On a side note, it looks like the wife has settled on a light blue color for most of the boat.  After getting the head floor finished up I think I am going to do a little painting.  That should make some stuff look more finished and nicer.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Short day

     My available time to work on the boat today was shortened.  Because it is a holiday weekend the wife is getting off work early and I'm going to meet her out for happy hour.  Terrible shame.

     I got the fiddles for the locker and the head almost finished today.  They are all sanded down in preparation for being varnished.  What an improvement already over the purple and yellow that got sanded off.  I also have them (temporarily) installed.  I am going to take them back off to varnish the backs and bottoms.  Once that is done I will put them back on, fill in the screw holes, and varnish the fronts.  This most likely won't happen until after the painting.

     I also sanded out the floor of the head and a couple other areas and pieces of bare wood in preparation for priming and painting.  That will be another drastic improvement.

     Not a lot of time today, but I did get a decent amount accomplished.  Working tomorrow and off with the wife the next couple of days, so you probably won't hear from me until Wednesday of next week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wet tools

     The plan today was to do some sanding in the head.  Unfortunately, when I got out there my sander was sitting in a puddle of water.  Stupid leak.  Kind of hard to stick on the sandpaper in that condition, let alone use a wet power tool.  I set the sander outside in the sunlight to dry and proceeded to do some long over due cleaning and straightening up.

     I then moved on to fitting some fiddles for the shelves in the head.  I cut them to size from some left over painted wood I removed earlier in this whole process.  I honestly don't even remember where they originally were.  Hopefully I don't find out later that I still need them.  By this time my sander had dried, so I removed all the old yellow and purple paint from the new fiddles, and sanded the edges down to get a good fit.  I decided to leave the installation for another day.

     Next I moved over to the PVC pass throughs and sanded them down smooth.  I removed a big portion with a chisel first because of how much was there before sanding.  Of course that led to problems.  I chipped a piece off I didn't want to.  Oh well, what can you do?

     Now that I'm sitting at home I can't seem to get the pictures to upload from my phone.  I'll either dig out the cord later tonight or just wait until I get better connection.  Either way, there are a couple pictures that will be added to this post.

     Here are a couple of pictures to help explain.  Picture being worth a thousand words and all.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Been a while

     It's been a while since I have posted.  The main reason is that it has been a while since I have done any work on the boat.  We drove up to MI for Christmas to spend some time with family, went to Baltimore for New Years, my brother came down for a little visit, and I've been trying to cram in some OT for a planned vacation to Costa Rica in February.  Also, I brewed another batch of beer.  IPA this time.

     I did get out for little bit last week.  I cut out three holes in the forward head bulkhead for the sewage hoses to run through.  I still haven't bought a holding tank, but I'm actually leaning towards re purposing the existing (old and gross) water tank and installing a new water tank sometime in the future.  We are only planning on day trips so a couple loose gallon jugs should work fine for the time being.  After cleaning up my cut outs I put a couple pieces of 2" PVC in to make everything look cleaner.  They are epoxied in place and will be sanded smooth next time I get out there.  To the right you can see them pre-sanding.

     Next step in here is the floor.  I think I'm going to grind it smooth, patch up any rough areas, and paint it with some sort of super durable paint.  No idea on the color, but that isn't my department anyways.

     Hopefully life has calmed down for a bit and I'll be able to spend a bit more time out there in the next couple of weeks.  I'll keep you updated.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Head (mostly) primed

     Today started out with a bunch of sanding.  I got the epoxy securing the head backing sanded smooth as well as the patches on the bulkheads I did earlier.  After cleaning it all up I gave it a coat of primer.  Starting to look pretty good in there I think.  I bought a piece of PVC to connect the bottom of what is there to another piece to hide more of the sanitation hose when it runs through.  I think I'm going to have to cut out the back part of the pipe in order to get it installed, but you shouldn't be able to tell that from the front.

     The next step in here is to set the toilet in place and work on running some of the many lines needed to install it.  I will need a hose coming from the head to the holding tank, one from the tank discharge to a split, one from there to the discharge up top, and one from the split to the discharge seacock with a pump installed in line.  I also need a vent hose from the holding tank to up top and a line from the water inlet to the toilet.  At some point I'm going to need to get a holding tank, but for now I just plan on running all these lines to their general location and leaving them long.

     Once I have all of the holes cut out that I need I will sand down, prime, and paint the floor of this area.  Not sure what I'm going to use for this yet, but I don't think it is a decision that needs to be rushed.  Not a whole lot of sailing going on for the next couple of months.

     I also finished constructing the front of the locker box.  The picture is upside down, but you get the idea.  The piece of wood in the middle sits on the bottom piece already in place, and the piece on top helps to stiffen it up as well as giving the top a place to sit.  The bottom angle matches up with the floor in this area, and the corner that is cut out matches up with a drainage hole already in place.  After sanding everything down for a good fit I threw a coat of primer on it, as well as a couple other pieces I hadn't gotten to earlier.  Next time I am out I plan on painting this with white BilgeKote to match the rest of the box interior.  After the paint, the only things left in the locker will be the final paint (still need to pick a color), the trim for the shelves, and a bar to hang jackets and cold weather gear on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Epoxy in the head

     Yesterday I installed the back piece for the head.  It took some sanding to get everything to fit just perfect before screwing it in place, but not much.  I also cut out a spot on the bottom for the sanitation hose to run through on its way from the pump out connection to the holding tank.  Once I got everything screwed in place I was a little disappointed with how flimsy it seemed, mostly where the three pieces joined each other.  Enter the epoxy.  If you look at the picture you can see wetness where the pieces join up and along the edges.  I also did along the bottom edge because I had a little left over and figured why not.  The spot with the most epoxy is on the bottom left corner near the seacock.  I tried to make this a smooth of a seam as possible when I did the cut out, but...

     The plan for today was to cut out a replacement piece for the front of the hanging locker box, but it is pretty miserable out right now.  The rain is holding me back from getting the saw out of the barn for now.  Hopefully it will clear out later this afternoon and I get a chance to make the cuts.  I was also hoping to get a coat of primer in the head, but I think the chilly temperatures are slowing down the cure rate on the epoxy.  I should give it another day or two to finish curing.

     The good part about not going outside today is it allows time to cook up Thanksgiving dinner part 2.  While at the grocery store the other day we picked up a bunch of on sale items, including a 12 pound turkey for $0.54/lb.  Not too shabby.  It has spent the last couple of days in the fridge thawing and is finishing up in the sink right now.  Guess I need to get off this site and figure out how to cook a turkey.  Happy Thansgiving (2) everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Second Coat

     The wife took a work from home day today and I had a appointment with my oral surgeon, so my time was pretty limited today.  I did manage to sneak out for a little bit though, and put a second coat of primer on the backs of the pieces for the head shelving area.  That was my compromise between leaving it as is (was) and painting it with the Bilgekote.

     Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I'll be at work, but it looks like it will be quite the feast.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Head progress

     Not the best of pictures, but hopefully it gets the point across.  This was taken while I was sanding down the pieces trying to get them to fit properly.  The gap on top of the frame looks a little weird, but it is level; the boat is acually crooked, not the frame.  As you can probably imagine, all the wood on the inside of the frame is going to be cut out to leave a nice pretty hole.  I actually already did that, but can't seem to find the picture, so you get one mid work.  I also had to cut out little blocks of wood for the screws because it doesn't take much to go through 1/4" of plywood.

     After getting the fit good enough to satisfy me, I removed everything and cut out the inside scrap.  After that I sanded down all the edges and primed the back side of everything, including my little wood "washers".  I haven't decided if I am going to paint the backs with the BilgeKote or just leave them primed.  You won't be able to see it anyways, and that stuff is expensive!

     Before putting it all back together I still need to figure out where the sanitation hose is going to run through and make a cut out for it.  I'm thinking about getting more 2" PVC to hide it on the outside over to the forward bulkhead.  That should keep everything looking cleaner and a little more professional.  Once everything is permanently installed I will be adding fiddles to the front edge of both shelves that match the frame and priming/painting the bare wood.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Painted shelves

     I started off the day by making more cardboard templates for the front of the shelves in the head and the front piece of the hanging locker "box".  After that I tackled the second coat of paint in these areas.  I cheated a little bit and skipped the bottom of the shelves.  They looked pretty good already, they won't be getting a lot of wear, and I am running low on paint.  Everything looks pretty good, now it's time to close 'em up.

     There wasn't much I could do with the wet paint without messing it up, so I headed home.  I cut out the pieces I need.  I used 1/4" plywood for the head, and 3/8" for the locker to add a little extra strength.  Unfortunately I didn't have a large enough piece of 1/4" so I had to split it into three pieces that I will put together in place.  I'm not sure if I could have fit one large piece in there anyways, so it wasn't something I am upset about.