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Paddling in Costa Rica and the Bahamas

Dec. 2010
By Mark Andrus

I took a cruise leaving Fort Lauderdale, Florida last December. The first stop was Half Moon Cay, a private island for Holland America  I took a tour where we used tandem sit on tops to paddle a lagoon on the island. I was able to talk the other person on the boat to let me get in the stern where I would be better at controlling the boat. He was from Minnesota so I assume he enjoyed the warm weather in the Bahamas. I had to paddle without feather since the paddle was not adjustable to feather. I am not condemning no feather kayak paddles since that is what the Greenland Eskimos use, but I learned to paddle with a right control paddle even though I am left-handed. The feather makes a difference since I get used to where the blade is if I have to make any braces with it. Thankfully, I did not have to use the paddle to brace. After paddling the lagoon, I then swam on the beach.

 Williamstad, Curacao,
from ship
The next stop was Aruba where I took a bus tour of the island. We toured a cave on the north end of the island and saw a natural bridge on the shore. There was a tour of a farm where they grew aloe vera and processed it into products. I was wondering the aloe vera I had at home would freeze while I was away-it did not. After that, it was on to Curacao. The city of Williamstad had many interesting old buildings.  I took a tour to another swimming location. I swam and snorkeled there. It might have been possible to rent a sit on top but I did not.

 Panama mule
The next sight was the Panama Canal. I found that the mule locomotives did not actually pull the ships, but went alongside to keep cables to the ships tight so the ship would not hit the sides of the locks. The Zuiderdam is a Panamax ship that was about two feet more narrow than the lock width (108 feet) and about 40 feet short of the maximum length than can go into the locks (1000 feet). The ship went through the Atlantic locks and stopped in the Gatun Lake. I took a tender ashore (a ship lifeboat) to get to my tour, which was a bus ride into Panama City. There were many skyscrapers in Panama City and I was able to look out into the Pacific Ocean. San Blas Indians were there to sell their elaborate embroidery. I brought one with an owl on it and a pot holder. My sister took a different tour that took a train but did not go into Panama City itself.

The next paddling was near the coast south of Porto Limon. The paddling was on a river that went through a rain forest nature preserve. We boarded the tandem sit on tops from a pier.  We saw monkeys and sloths when the guide pointed them out when the tree branches would move. We saw two local paddlers in their canoe.  I saw a few coconut palms near the river. After that, it was back to Fort Lauderdale and the flight back to Houston.

 Bahamas guide
  Costa Rica local paddlers   Coconut palms    Costa Rica river