s/y Nine of Cups
Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
July - September 2008
Ecuador is a very special country and though disappointed that
we weren't making our trans-Pacific passage this year, we
weren't the least bit disappointed to be back in Ecuador.

Instead of going further south to La Libertad & Salinas as we
did last time, we opted to stop in Bahia de Caraquez. Located
on the Rio Chone, Bahia (as the locals call it) was considered a
major shipping port until the river starting silting. Now, the sand
bar at the entrance to the river requires a crossing at high tide
and a  pilot to advise how to negotiate the tricky entry.

We arrived around 0530 and Frank "Tripp" Martin, owner of
Puerto Amistad, met us along with the pilot in time to make the
early morning crossing of the bar without incident. After 77
hours of motor-sailing, it felt good to drop the hook  and relax a
bit. (
Hello World got the last available mooring) Cups definitely
needed tidying up and a good deck wash and the crew needed
a cup of tea and a nap.

An official from the Capitania's office came about 0930 to do an
on-board inspection and completed preliminary paperwork and
we were left to ourselves until going ashore in the early evening.
Our view of Bahia de Caraquez as we near the crossing of the
bar.
The Capitania, the white building above,  was close to Puerto Amistad.
Tripp completed paperwork for the Port Captain and Customs. It took
us three tries to get our clearance papers handled. Then two trips to
Manta (2 hours away) to complete our immigration paperwork and get
our passport stamps.
Nine of Cups anchored off Puerto Amistad.
Cups' view of Puerto Amistad  and its dinghy dock from the anchorage.
The thatched restaurant and bar is pleasant and a good cruiser hangout.
Laundry, a book exchange and hot showers are also a plus.
The street entrance of Puerto Amistad is pretty classy.
Passenger ferries and car ferries run regularly across the Rio Chone to San
Vicente and the towns across the river. A new bridge is planned and
construction is under way and scheduled to be complete by 2010. There is
much controversy among cruisers because the planned bridge will not be an
opening bridge which will preclude cruisers from going up river any longer to
a smaller marina/anchorage, Saiananda.The debate rages.
Bahia de Caraquez...the town
What goes on in a cruising community like Bahia?  Lots! Here's a sampling...
Bahia de Caraquez (ka-RAH-kez) is a resort town of about 30,000 people  which lies on the
Ecuadorian coast between Esmeraldas to the north and Manta to the south. It is strategically
located on the Rio Chone and though no longer considered a strategic shipping port, it is a
getaway place for Quitenos (folks from Quito) to come to relax during the vacation and
holiday months. A peninsular, with the Rio Chone on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the
other, the temperate climate makes this a year round destination for Ecuadorians,cruisers and  
tourists alike.
It seems as if we're always busy. Everything seems to take longer when you're cruising. For instance, we need to haul or have water delivered on
a regular basis since the river is too silty for the watermaker. Once on deck, the water needs to be decanted into the tanks. Going into shore
requires launching the dinghy which is usually kept out of the water because the growth on the bottom is a pain to clean. You dinghy to shore with
your garbage, perhaps your laptop if you want to do internet, anything else you might need ashore (including shopping bags for the market). You
invariably forget something (like your shoes or hat or glasses or camera) and have to go back for it. Tie up the dink and head out to do your
errands or perhaps have lunch or dinner or a drink at the bar. There's always someone there to chat with...it's hard to move through the bar area
quickly...this is a center of cruiser activity.

If you're doing a boat project (and few aren't), there are the multiple trips to the hardware stores for miscellaneous hardware, supplies and
lumber. Perhaps what you need is available in town. If not, it's off to Manta, the closest "big" city, two rough-road hours away from Bahia.
Need a loaf of bread? The closest place is about a 10-15 minute walk. You can take an eco-taxi (the fellows who pedal you around), but
sometimes it takes just as long. Produce (fruits and veggies)  is primarily sold at the fresh market and bread at the panaderia or perhaps we'll buy
some of the local pan de yucca sold warm by vendors on the sidewalks.

Ah, but there's quite a lot of social activities, too. In fact, it's hard to find a free night just to spend on your boat as there always seems to be
something going on. Just a few of the things we've done since we've been here:

*Cat sitting and boat watching                                                   
       Ongoing boat projects include:
*Met with Ecuadorian Minister of Tourism                                    *3 new fuel tanks designed/modelled/fabricated/installed
*Gave two cruising presentations: Peru and  Chile                         *New bimini and boom crutch cover and miscellaneous canvas projects
*Judged singing/dancing competition at Interamericano School       *Update to the website
*Potluck socials                                                                            *Annual maintenance on engine
*Resurrected cruiser "movie night" at Puerto Amistad                     *Repaired refrigeration (again...and again...and again)
*Italian night at the local Coco Bongo hostal                                  *Annual stove/oven removal/cleaning (yuck)
*Organized a tour with English-speaking guide to                           *Stripped dorades and repainted
local Museo de Bahia de Caraquez                                               *Repaired/rebedded several hatches, chainplates, hawser holes
*Attended Giti Neuman "Handmade Paper" exhibit and                   *Varnishing
met the artist  
*Visited Museo de Bahia de Caraquez to learn about
history & culture of the indigenous people here
*Miscellaneous dinners/drinks aboard lots of other boats
*Edited a book for a friend
Sidetrips...
Ziggy Stardust was adopted by John & Linda
on "Nakia" and needed watching while they
did a bit of inland traveling. We needed a "cat
fix" with Jelly gone, so we volunteered.
The immigration laws changed in Ecuador in
June 2008. Now only a 90 day visa is issued
and is non-renewable. Tripp and I met with
Veronica Sion de Josse, Ecuador's Minister of
Tourism in Puertoviejo to present our case for
allowing visitors the ability to renew their visas
for an additional 90 days as they had in the past.
Tripp & Maye's daughter,
Francesca Maria, celebrated her
first birthday while we were there.
You've never seen a first birthday
bash like this birthday bash...200
adults and 85 kids in hula skirts
and Hawaiian shirts. Maye poses
with Francesca below.
We bought a fine sampling of all that was
offered, but no tagua...we were holding out for
Sosote, the tagua town of the area.
This is a typical Ecuadorian hardware store which sells
everything from toilets to nails, rebar to meat grinders. This is
David's favorite store in town and he's on a first name with the
owner.
You can buy chickens "on the hoof" as it were
or already killed and plucked. Fresh cheese,
eggs, fruits and veggies are sold. There is also a
fresh fish market. Shrimping is a huge industry in
Ecuador and at $3/pound for jumbo shrimp, it's
quite the bargain.
The "mercado" or fresh market is held daily,
but the best and biggest day is early Saturday
morning. The whole town seems to be there
and it's the best time to buy fresh produce for
the week.
Eco-taxis or pedicabs are big in Bahia and
they're everywhere. Above David bought a
piece of plywood at Chavez and paid the
75cents to take an eco-cab back to Puerto
Amistad.
John on "Nakia" organized a swap meet at Joe's
(cruiser/ex-pat)house. Lots of locals stopped by
as well as cruisers and we sold a ton of stuff
which of course we promptly replaced with a
ton of different stuff.
A healthy cruiser and fellow SSCA member, Terry
Bingham, went traveling in Bolivia, developed
pancreatitis and died within a week, leaving the
cruising community in shock. At the same time, we
were notified that our good friend, Noel Marshall
died. The cruisers got together for a memorial service
celebrating the lives of two men who lived life well.
The Giti Neuman exhibit at the
local museum was extremely well
done and thoroughly enjoyable. All
of her pieces are constructed from
handmade paper.
Singing and dancing competition (above & right)
at the local bilingual school...Grades K-12!
Move over American Idol!
Despite the controversy over bridge
construction, several cruisers are still moored
at
Saiananda further up the river. It's an
interesting place, an eco-retreat of sorts with
lots of animals roaming the grounds.
We had lunch with Judy & Dave on
"Revenir". They are in the process of
building a home on the riverfront next
door to Saiananda. Above, Judy feeds a
banana to a critter with sharp teeth, long
claws, long tongue and a prehensile tail.
It's a
 kinkajou... a new one for us,
too. Learn more by clicking this link!
Every step on the Saiananda grounds is a treat.
Partridges ran loose as did the peacocks including
solid white ones. Lily ponds and frog ponds, ferns
and bamboo, a gazebo for meditating or wifi,
hammocks for hanging out. It's quite the place! We
had lunch there...excellent, tasty vegetarian fare.
The owner Alfredo Harmsen, a biologist by
training, raises peacocks, macaws, partridges,
ostriches, tropical fish and more! He's also involved
in shrimp farming.
Though we've been to some of these
places before, it was fun to go back and
see some of them again as well as to
discover new places to visit.

Montecristi is a small, dusty, but
colorful town known for its Panama hats
and baskets. They also make great
hammocks and swings. David got
himself a new Panama and I got myself a
swing. We still haven't figured how to
hang it from the boom, but that's the plan.
Baskets, hammocks, tagua and Panama hats are
the main offerings in Montecristi.
Manta is the closest "big" city offering two
modern supermarkets and pretty much
everything else a cruiser could want (within
reason). Manta is also the "tuna capital" of
Ecuador and a "Big Tuna" (he's a yellowfin)
adorns one of the roundabouts in town.
We stopped in Sosote on our way back from Manta one day to take a look at the taller de
tagua (tagua workshops) that line the side of the road there. We watched in fascination as
dozens of workers, sometimes whole families, ground, carved and dyed tagua pieces.
A drive along the beach in Manta is quite
interesting. Boatbuilders work on boats right on
the beach...new boats, old boats for refitting.
Sometimes they are just careened on the beach
during low tide and the bottoms are painted...one
side at a time as the tide comes in and out.
We watched as pieces of jewellry were created.
Hundreds of shaped tagua
pieces in a myriad of colors lay
on sidewalks, in bins and
buckets.
Sosote was a good buying trip for us. Marcie
was looking for gifts for her Solstice friends  
and tagua was perfect.
New Fuel Tanks
We've needed new fuel tanks for quite some time. David replaced one when we were in Ecuador last time. He constructed an epoxy tank
which fit inside the old steel tank and it has worked quite well, but it's a major project to undertake. We had gone across the Atlantic twice
with only one fuel tank and some jerry jugs on deck, but we thought it was time to take the plunge and get the tanks handled. We got quotes in
the USA for replacement tanks...way too expensive. We got quotes in Panama...better, but still too expensive. We got a new quote in Manta
and lo and behold, the price was reasonable and the company came with good references so we decided to go ahead. The process was a
long, arduous one.
Click here for a blow-by-blow description of our fuel tank travails.
A Day at the Beach...Canoa
Cruisers going to the beach? You bet...even we like
a day off from boat life once in awhile. So a group
got together to take the ferry across the Rio Chone
and then we caught a bus to the beach town of
Canoa, about a 1/2 hour away. Above, our friend,
Marlene,  ("Diesel Duck") boards the ferry.
We rented a cabana and beach chairs for a
total of $8 for the day and set up camp. We
lived the high life as a beach vendor delivered
cold beers to us while we sat and relaxed.
Canoa is a lazy, little beach town that perks
up on the weekends.
John ("Nakia") brought colorful flags to fly on our
cabana as well as kites. The adults took their turns
at kite flying, but it was the local kids who got the
biggest kick out of trying to keep the kites
airborne.
Beachcombing netted us lots of shells
including some "prostitute venus", a
new shell experience for us.
Random Views
Never miss an opportunity for a siesta!
My favorite character at the market...I
call her Dona Concha...she sells clams
for 10 cents a piece.
So long, Bahia de Caraquez...we had a great farewell party aka "the damned tanks are finally
finished" party at Donatella's Pizza with lots of cruiser friends in attendance. Next stop...a return to
Puerto Lucia Yacht Club in LaLibertad/Salinas to visit some old friends then on to Chile.
A closeup of this
peacock's tail
feathers netted me a
great screen saver!
As usual, the kids stole the show.
See the little article I wrote for
SSCA's
Commodores' Bulletin
about
Bahia de Caraquez.