September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica

By Tom Morkin

People often ask “Have you ever thought that you would like to settle in any of the countries you have visited?” For us, the answer is “Although we’ve loved most of the countries, and envision returning to some for prolonged visits e.g. Mexico, the idea of spending the rest of our days there just hasn’t appealed. We think we want to end up where we started.

That however, is not the case with all long distance sailors. Some in fact do find greener pastures while aboard their boats and are happy to drop the hook there (pardon the mixed metaphor). Tim Leachman and Katie Duncan are one such couple.

Eighteen years ago, Tim and Katie set off from Newport Beach California in an unassuming Islander 34 called Caribbe, to sail south. They weren’t exactly sure where, just somewhere south. Their break from mainstream America was not to be forever, in fact, after the first six months, they parked the boat in Mexico to return to California to re-stock the cruising kitty before beginning their second year’s adventure. They had caught the cruising bug.

During that second season they sailed Caribbe down the west coast of Mexico, then on to Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

They were bound for Panama but when they sailed into the small gulf called Golfito, located in the much bigger gulf, Golfo Dulce, Tim declared then and there they didn’t need to go any further. He just knew that this was the place for them: a safe, flat water harbour surrounded by impossibly verdant green mountains that almost run vertically from the shore in a hurricane free zone.

Having come from California where every square foot of waterfront was spoken for and at a premium, this lovely harbour with plenty of room for plenty more boats was like a dream come true. They could keep their boat there year round. The small town of Golfito had everything to meet their basic needs. The cost of living was low as was real estate.

One of the first things they did was spend $1,600 for waterfront property (nope, that’s not a typo, that’s U.S. $1,600) where they could moor their boat and construct a small home.

To support this new life Tim and Katie made themselves and their home available to the sailors that stopped in Golfito while cruising up and down the Central American coast.

This meant cleaning boat bottoms, babysitting boats when crews left their boats for other parts, doing boat maintenance, renting moorings, providing laundry and trash service, and local information.

Eventually they turned their home into a yachtie drop-in center/club house.

As cruisers, they knew what cruisers needed and they looked after those needs: dinghy dock, potable fresh water, laundry service, TV room, book exchange (probably the biggest and best in Central America), beer bar (honor bar no less).

They could and can answer all the inevitable questions one has when new to the area and organize social events like barbeques and happy hour get-togethers. In short, they made/make their home your home while in Golfito.

Needless to say, few sail past without spending time there and many spend more time than they imagine they will.

As time went on, their company, Land Sea Services began getting involved in property sales and property administration. This was clearly a wise decision because three years ago the Costa Rican government (Customs) introduced a law which insisted that yachts staying in Costa Rica in excess of three months need to pay importation tax on their boats.

Not surprisingly, boat owners that kept their boats in Costa Rica long term sailed off to more boat friendly countries like Panama, El Salvador, Ecuador and Mexico. This has had a dramatic impact not only on Tim and Katie’s marine venture, but on many others as well.

The yacht moving company Dockwise transports yachts all over the world. Until three years ago, they dropped off and picked up yachts in Costa Rica. Not anymore. They’ve discontinued their service because of a lack of demand. Other countries have at various times introduced similar misguided laws only to see that the overall marine business suffered as cruisers took their business elsewhere. Tim and Katie hope that the Costa Rican politicians will soon see the consequences of their importation tax policy. In the meantime, they are not going to starve and the place is still very much a going concern.

The upstairs Clubhouse functions as bar, TV room and internet access point. The adjoining balcony becomes the sunset viewing platform.

Rooms are tastefully furnished and even a couple of houses can be rented inexpensively, nightly, weekly or long term, to boat crews that want a little time ashore. Very cool place, very nice people

During our six day visit, we connected with boat crews from the U.S., Canada, France, Australia and Croatia. Here’s the crew of the Croatian Dora, a Beneteau 57- Captain Leo (43) along with his father Marino (63), and son Marino (21). It’s not often you get to meet and spend time with three generations sailing together, in fact, it was a first for us.

In the Clubhouse lounge while Liz was waiting for my return from town, she met Nancy from the San Francisco Westsail 32 Bag End. Over the course of a couple of hours they chatted and established some remarkable similarities between the lives of her and her husband Don, and Liz’s and mine:

  • Like us, they’ve been cruising for ‘yonks’. On their first offshore trip from San Francisco to Hawaii in the 80s, they relied on a sextant and celestial navigation, as we did when we set out in 1985. Here they are with granddaughter Lexa and Lord Jack their (beautiful) cat from Thailand.
  • They will complete their circumnavigation in Manzanillo Mexico and so will we, probably around the same time.
  • Don and Nancy have worked in various places around the world to support their lifestyle, as have Liz and I.
  • In 1991 Nancy taught 4th grade at South Pacific Academy in American Samoa. Liz taught 8th grade at the same school, four years earlier.
  • Nancy comes from a family of eight children, she being the eldest and Liz is the second eldest of a family of seven children.
  • They, like us, have one and only one residence, the boat.
  • They’ve chosen to ‘self-insure’ their boat and so have we (self-insuring sounds better than carrying no boat insurance).
  • They’ve visited 49 countries aboard their boat and so have we, different countries mind you, but same number.

Happily, Bag End will be on the same track over the next couple of months as both boats ply the Pacific coast of Central America. That’s a good thing because as kindred spirits, we’ve got a lot to talk about.