Rancho Margot, sustainable living

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2009 by issycf

IMG_2824 (Medium)Whilst we were in the area around Volcan Arenal, we made a visit to Rancho Margot, a working example of truly sustainable living.
The ranch was started six years ago by Juan Sostheim, an Argentinean, who had been visiting the area on holiday, but fell in love with the surrounding landscape.
He decided to buy 400 acres on the shores of Lake Arenal and has spent the last years applying old and new techniques of farming and science to create this marvellous place.

After arrival, we were taken on a tour of the farm by our guide, Jose.
We started through the gardens, with examples of much of the native flora of Costa Rica.
Then we were shown the hot water system – heated by Compost!
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There were six ‘pens’ of general garden and kitchen waste, in varying stages of decomposition.
In each pen were several metres of pipe containing water. As the compost is broken down by micro-organisms in the soil, it creates temperatures of around 40-50 degrees celcius in the middle, heating the water in the pipes which is used for the hot water in all the accomodation and kitchen. Hot enough for a nice shower, but not nearly hot enough to burn.
An even larger scale version is used to heat the pool.

The farm area consisted of organic vegatable and herb gardens as well as chicken, pig and cattle.
No pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are used. Undesirable insects are kept away from the open sided green-house by a surrounding row of Basil plants! As simple as that.
Fertilizer is the methodically re-constituted manure from the farm animals. Solid waste is seperated from liquid and then broken down by earth worms until it is rich, dark soil again.
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They also make all their own soaps, cleaning products, insect repellants and herbal medicines. All from what they grow on the ranch.

Electricity is provided by two small hydro-electric generators. One 8kW and the other 20kW.
They run off two streams flowing through the property, are quite unobtrusive, and provide electricity for a hotel of 15 or so rooms, 4 bungalows, bar, large kitchen, office, as well as the owners residences.

Gas for cooking is made by the bio-digestor: Liquid waste from the animals is collected in a large flexible tank, air is eliminated and then the liquids are broken down by micro-organisms to methane gas and further liquid waste which can then be treated through marsh and pond plants before going back into the natural system.

Besides being self sufficient, the ranch has other projects such as rescue and rehabilitation of forest animals, re-growth of rain forest, sponsorship of ranger patrols against poachers in the nearby Monteverde Cloud Forest and is a part of the program Children’s Eternal Forest.
They have a volounteer progam for individuals and groups to come and work and learn about their methods.
All in all, it was an eye opening experience, set in a magical, beautiful oasis.


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Mum’s Visit

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2009 by issycf


Two weeks ago my Mum (Bernadette, for those who need a name other than ‘Mum’) arrived at San Jose airport. James and I met her there and the three of us set out on an inland adventure of Costa Rica.

Our first stop was Volcan Arenal, one of CR’s active volcanoes! We went on a night hike to see the lava flow and it was truly amazing, seeing the orange glow of the molten rock, which travels over 200kph down the steep slope of the volcano was unforgettable and worth every second of the muddy, rainy, steep, snake ridden hike up to the viewing place. Unfortunately we didn’t get any photos of the lava ;( You’ll have to come here and see it for yourself!

IMG_2728.JPGVolcan Arenal from the town of La Fortuna

IMG_2716.JPGWaiting for lava under the small hand made shelter of the viewing spot


As if seeing an active volcano wasn’t enough, after the hike we were rewarded greatly…again, with a warm, steamy swim in the hot springs river. The muscles in our body turned to jelly as we finally relaxed in the naturally hot water which was flowing over our tired bodies, a full moon above.

The small town of La Fortuna where we were staying, positioned to the east of Volcan Arenal was built there to be a perfect viewing point for tourists, many hotels emerged and were able to raise rates due to their great position. In 2000 there was an eruption which killed three people and blew out a section of the west side of the volcano. The lava began to flow out the west side then, and all of a sudden, La Fortuna was in the wrong place.

Waterfall Hike

IMG_2646.JPGMum and James

IMG_2653.JPGCaptain and First Mate

IMG_2669.JPGIt was quite a rush, standing there so close to the powerful gush of water.


Bird Watching

My stepdad Graham is an avid bird-watcher (the feathery kind) and so mum tried to get some photos of the birds which were in the garden of our hostel but every time she went out there, the birds flew away. Soon enough, many of the other backpackers staying in the hostel would tell her when there were birds outside but still, they would fly away when she went out. In a final effort to get some shots of our feathery friends, she decided to go outside and wait for them to show up.


Mum waiting for birds

Manual Antonio National park


Our next stop was Manuel Antonio National Park on the Central Pacific coast. Lonely Planet says that if you hire a guide for $20 per day, you are almost guaranteed to see wildlife, but truth be told, you are guaranteed to see wildlife anyway, the park is literally brimming with it.



IMG_2853.JPGSloth- these creatures are incredible, they move so slowly, like they’re made of stone. Apparently it’s because of the leaves they eat which slow the metabolism.


IMG_2871.JPGOh I love these little crabs, they are so cute and feel so nice when they crawl on you!

IMG_2872.JPGCappuccino Monkeys



Big rat thingy

IMG_2891.JPGIguana again

IMG_2902.JPGBoa Constrictor


IMG_2840.JPGMe and Mum complaining about how sore our legs were!

Sadly, Mums time in Costa Rica was coming to an end, James and I were going to miss our cards buddy! We were so glad she came,  the three of us had a ball. Bon Voyage!

Ill finish here with some shots James and I took of our stay in Manuel Antonio after Mum left.

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Golfito, Costa Rica

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2009 by issycf


So this is our first post from Costa Rica. We have been enjoying our stay here, anchored outside Land and Sea marina, a small marina which is the home and business of owners Tim and Katie, the last place in Golfito, Costa Rica, which charge decent rates. For $5 a day, they provide a dinghy landing, coffee in the morning (which hasn’t helped my addiction), wifi access, a place to escape the boat for a while, laundry service and tourist information. Katie and Tim are being pressured by both of the million dollar marinas along side to sell up, give in to the dark side you might say, which would mean that sailors would have to pay about US $80 to &100 a night for all the same services which Tim and Katie provide.

The other day, out of interest and in an effort to expand our knowledge of the local area beyond the long main street of Golfito, we went on a 7-hour hike up the mountain bordering the main road and back down a small rain forest track. It was an amazing hike, beautiful scenery, much wildlife, although James was disappointed we didn’t see any ‘big’ animals like the famous local Jaguar! There were heaps of lizards, butterflies, insects, and frogs. It made for quite an adventure.



A view of Golfito Bay

The path down through the rainforest was so off the beaten track that it was difficult to find. After walking for about 5 hours, we weren’t sure if we had passed it or not. We had no idea whether or not to turn back. Had we missed the path and were we just walking further away from Golfito now?- we asked each other. But we both felt we should keep moving forward. Eventually James’ keen senses settled on a foot wide trail of red clay which turned out  to be the start of our path back to Golfito. Above us was the constant canopy of the rainforest where all of the trees and plants were battling to get their share of sunlight. Nature was thick around us and it felt so… right. We heard the gush of a waterfall and came accross a stream rushing over the boulders and rocks of the mountain side. For once, we couldn’t hear trucks or cars or speed boats. It was really a great experience. 






And then, after hours of greenery, it was all over, as if we had walked through a door into the land of humans again. Just like that we were in Golfito. It was like stepping into another world.


We had thought we were going on a two hour hike and so by this time, we were ravenous! We sat down and enjoyed a meal of Snapper, plantains (a staple of Central America, a bit like bananas but less sweet and starchier) and salad.


Bahia Honda

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15, 2009 by issycf

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Bahia Honda was a lovely, quiet, secluded anchorage we found in the southern part of Panama.

A beautiful harbour, well protected from the ever present swell outside. Surrounded by forrested hills and moutains. Abundant in fish and bird life. Fed by fresh water streams and waterfalls.

We soon made friends with Senor Domingo and his family, who came by seperately, wishing to trade fresh fruit, vegetables and some fish, for fishing lures, batteries, pens, gasoline or even a little cash.

This is an idyllic spot. Maybe what Sydney harbour would have looked like before being ‘discovered’ by white man. It certainly has million dollar views, but Senor Domingo has it all for next to nothing, plus fresh air and no crowds!


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Posted in Uncategorized on October 15, 2009 by issycf

IMG_2288 (Medium)On our way from Ensanada del Naranjo to Isla Cebaco we saw some whales doing impressive tail slaps in the distance.

We altered course towards them and kept a cautious distance, not wanting to incite any defensive behaviour, especially after we discerned that they were mother and calf.

It seemed that the mother was teaching her calf how to slap it’s tail in the water.

After a while they disappeared and we continued on our way, thinking the show was over, when suddenly they surfaced almost alongside ! They must have been shadowing us. We thought that was pretty good and then they both diverted 90 degrees to cut right under our bow! It was very exciting. So close and personal with these amazing creatures.

We’ve seen a few more since then, even one breaching, that is, jumping far up, almost out of the water and crashing back down. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it was from quite a distance.



Where are we now you may ask

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2009 by issycf

It’s been a while since our last update, so we thought we’d better let everyone know how we’ve been getting on.

After coming through the Panama Canal, we stopped at Balboa for a few days to provision for the up-coming trip to the Galapagos Islands and further afield. While we were there we had some engine problems, with the starter motor failing to engage, and the our newly purchased outboard also decided to not co-operate. A few days later we had both sorted out thanks to some encouragement and advice from some of the other cruisers anchored there.

Everyting seems to take longer than expected and we didn’t end up heading off for our intended destination, the Galapagos until the 22nd of september.

Three days out we were flopping around with no wind, lots of waves, Isabelle was suffering seasickness and I was re-considering our time schedule. We weren’t really going to get much time at the Galapagos, and have to do a lot of sailing, to get back up to Mexico, where we intended to leave the boat to head home for Christmas. We had thought we’d be able to head back to Equador after the Galapagos and cruise up the coast, but there just wasn’t sufficient time.

So, we decided on a new strategy. Head back to Panama, to somewhere calm as soon as possible for Isabelle, and then cruise leisurley up the Pacific side of central america towards Mexico.

As soon as we made our decision, we put the engine on, which promptly  died 😮

Thankfully a breeze sprang up and we were able to make good time back to land and a nice anchorage off the village of Bocara.

Since then, we have been enjoying quiet anchorages, quiet villages, where the main ‘road’ might be a narrow, flower bordered concrete path amongst the houses, and everybody smiles and greets you.

At the moment we are at Santa Catalina Island, heading for Bahia Honda, and then on to Costa Rica.

James and Isabelle

Sunday in Panama City

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2009 by issycf


Beuller the pirate!

Today James, our friends Beuller and Flo, Beuller’s dog Coffee and I went into town. It was flo’s last day here so we went to the Mercado de Mariscos to have a nice meal before he went to the airport.


Mercado de Mariscos


Flo and Boiler

The mercado de Mariscos is the place to go to get fresh seafood. The market is freshly supplied everyday by the fishermen and there is a resteraunt upstairs which is pretty cheap. If you want you can even buy your seafood downstairs then go up to the resteraunt and let the professionals cook it! It’s delicious!

After we said goodbye to Flo, Beuller, Coffee,  James and I went walking around the city simply taking it in and admiring its charm. We bought some ice cream- I chose grape-nut flavour (I have no idea what grape nuts are but it was really tasty!) and James and I tried on some hats!


Mr. Panama


Coffee sussing out a local cat


Me in my new hat

Overall, it was a really nice day and now we are all outside what we call the ‘Balboa Yaught Club’, but actually it’s just a few chairs outside a convenience store- the only place near our anchorage where you can get free internet access! Coffee is slumped at Beuller’s feet, exhausted and I think we all feel the same way right now.

Panamanian Streets

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 by issycf

Panamanian streets wind and cobble their ways around the city. There is an old man in a hat playing a banjo and singing his heart out.  Salsa music and reggeaton are pumping from the modern stores, which sell brightly coloured clothing and silver sandals while small stray kittens scavenge for food underneath park benches.

The buildings are beautiful and old, there are ferns growing between the cracks in the concrete as if to say that nature will have its way eventually. The paint of the weatherboard is worn and chipped away.150


James and I walk into a small café and sit down. The elderly are perched at every table, eating fruit and drinking warm milk tea. While we sip at our tea I watch as an old lady pulls out her lipstick and re-applies it to her lips, giving them a lick when she is finished to remove the excess. She then resumes flirting with the old man sitting opposite her.

There is a man sat at the bar who tells us he is the guy who can get you what you want, from marijuana to cocaine to a tour around the city. He is eating a packet of instant noodles he brought in and watching x- men in Spanish on the T.V. in the corner.

A Kuna woman sits on a bench weaving a Mola, dressed in her traditional clothing.

We celebrate because after four days, we finally got our engine working again and soon enough we should be on our way to the Galapogas. A nice meal of sashimi and a cold beer does the trick.

The Panama Canal

Posted in Uncategorized on September 5, 2009 by issycf

IMG_1944.JPGLine handlers Dicky and Isabelle, and photographer Jennifer

Transiting the Panama Canal was an experience to be remembered. While you can hire line handlers, we decided to take other yaughties instead and boy was it an adventure! We took Jennifer and Dicky, Sue and George. While we knew Dicky and Jennifer well and had made friends with them during our shared nights in the Shelter Bay pool, we hadn’t had a chance to get to know Sue and George but we were kind of desperate for handlers and when they offered, we were thrilled. Little did we know what lay ahead.

After a nice dinner of Tacos, both Dicky and George got out a bottle of rum each. Jennifer and Dicky were keeping us well entertained with their stories of cruising life. An hour later both litre bottles were empty and while one of those bottles was shared between five of us, George drank a whole bottle himself. First he started rocking forwards and backwards humming. We all thought he was just joking around until he got up to take a pee and nearly fell into the water.

George sung his drunken ballads all night, keeping everyone awake, and then we heard him get up to take a pee. His wife Sue tried to help him but he was too drunk to go close to the water and he was way too drunk to climb into the cockpit and go to the toilet. Then we all heard the inevitable. Georges pee hitting our deck! I was lying there in bed praying that none of it would go onto the mattresses we had outside for him. We certainly learnt that it is a good idea to get to know people before you allow them to come on board. And my hat off to George who despite having what must have been a killer hangover, still managed to do the lines in the morning.


Canal workers throwing out the lines

IMG_1998.JPGThe Canal Locks

The experience of the canal itself was incredible, going through the locks was exciting as they filled with water and then on the way down were drained. We had to attach four lines to the dock and have the line handlers pull up the slack to prevent the boat from hitting the sides of the canal. 24 hours after entering the canal on the Atlantic side, we were sailing out of the last lock and into the Pacific, it was such a thrill, we were finally on our way. The adventure had only just begun.

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                        Dicky                                       Beautiful Jennifer, Captain James

A thank you to our line handlers for you help getting us through the canal. And especially to Dicky and Jennifer for all of your jokes and stories not only during the transit but also at Shelter Bay. We look forward to hearing more when we catch you again somewhere on the deep blue!

Favourite pics from the San Blas

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2009 by issycf

Just before we put a posting up of our journey through the Panama Canal, here are some faves of the San Blas!