Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Puntarenas to Golfito

22:00, 11 Jan 2013, Puntarenas Just back from our day tour to a horseback riding and zip-line place high in the mountains near Puntarenas. The deal was that if I went on Fran’s choice of a horseback ride she would do the zip-line, or words to that effect….. Well, she did it. She didn’t sleep much last night fretting about it but after the first of 26 zips she started to enjoy it. There were also 2 rappelling points and a rope bridge to cross. The longest zip was 450 mtrs. What a blast!!! Prior to the zip-line we went on a 2-hour horseback ride into the mountains and up to a col where, on one side, we could see much of the area we have sailed in over the past week and, on the other, the mountains where Monteverde is located. The tops of those mountains were clouded over with ragged cumulus clouds and the Papagayo winds were blowing hard. All in all, a good day!
The owner of the boat next to us is an ex-American who has been here for several years. He is the inventor of a device that purifies water through ionization using an egg sized gizmo that you immerse in a water supply. Check it out at It sure made a difference to the taste of our drinking water. His products are in use around the world and have applications in fish ponds and aquariums too Beverly J and Risk Taker have arrived and will be here for a few days before they follow us down the coast. Tomorrow we re-provision at the local grocery store and market, finish watering up, pay our bill and off we go on another adventure. 21:30, 12 Jan 2013, Anchored between Isla Cedros and Isla Jesusita Another quiet anchorage, if it wasn’t for the stereo on a boat on the other side of the bay. We left Puntarenas about 14:45, just before high tide and followed our “breadcrumbs”, the track that we had created on our chart-plotters on our way in a few days ago. 45 mins later we were clear of the channel and headed into a 15 kts headwind to this anchorage. We arrived at what we thought would be a secluded hide-away to find quite a few other boats there already. Well, it is Saturday, after all, so the locals are weekending out on the water too. We are finding that the I-Pad, I-Nav-X program is a superb chart-plotting aid. The charts are very accurate and the system, with the built-in GPS, is very accurate, particularly useful when transiting a pre-planned route or a previously laid track of “breadcrumbs”. We are also using the Sarana Guide, a downloadable (for a fee) and recently updated manual with lots of detail about the various places that can be visited by cruisers. We also consult an older guide, Charlie’s Charts for Costa Rica, as a secondary aid. Between the two we are able to choose the places we want to visit and know what to expect when we get there. Before we left this morning we went to downtown Puntarenas and did our final shopping at the municipal market and a small grocery store. The market is typical of the indoor markets we have seen all over Central America with fruit and vegetable stands, fish mongers, butchers and with a few eateries interspersed here and there but here the atmosphere is brighter, more spacious and, definitely, cleaner. Fran and I chose one of the food stands for lunch and had an excellent seafood soup and a seafood rice dish. We were quite surprised to see a Chinese flavor to the town. There are a profusion of Chinese restaurants and the influence of Chinese cuisine is evident on menus of most other restaurants we entered. Even the lunch we had was a fried rice style dish. A few nights ago we even found a Chinese run bar that had $1.00 beer, the cheapest we have seen so far in Costa Rica where $2.00 to $3.25 is the norm. 21:00, 15 Jan 2013, Anchored off Manuel Antonio Park, Quepos Another idyllic and quiet anchorage, one of the best we have done to date. We are beat after doing a 2 hour trek through the park this afternoon. It is advertised as one of the best on the coast to observe wildlife and they are not far off the mark. Even though there was quite a crowd on the beaches and paths our guide was able to spot and show us some incredible things. How he spotted most of them is amazing, but then again, he is the guide and is paid to find the critters. Rodrigo was a fountain of knowledge, particularly on insects but we also saw 2 species of monkeys, 2 of sloths, a few hawks, several lizards (that he said taste like chicken), a few tree frogs, a family of raccoons, land crabs but, thankfully the boa constrictors were sleeping somewhere far away from the paths we took.
Anchorage at Manuel Antonio
Tree Frog It has been 2 days since I last updated this section. To summarize: our next stop after Jesuito was Bahia Leona, a very nice bay with a beautiful beach, but it was Sunday and the locals were enjoying their weekend. An interesting fact about schools in Latin America; kids here don’t go back to school until 6 Feb. This is their “summer” holiday period. They have a short break at Easter and another during our summer. About mid-day a big party boat came in with music blaring. It was full of what appeared to be business men having a religious retreat (NOT). By mid-afternoon the party got in full swing when the strippers started doing their thing. Many pairs of binoculars were burnt out that afternoon.
We left the following morning for Quepos and arrived by mid-afternoon. We anchored outside the new marina with lots of other boats. The marina isn’t very well patronized and, at $2.75 per ft per day, it isn’t surprising. We used a panga taxi service to take us ashore for $2 return and celebrated Carole’s birthday at a restaurant downtown and, later, back to August Moon for birthday cake. While we were in town a nice and refreshing downpour came through, the first rain we have seen since San Juan Del Sur. When we left this morning we saw another Canadian boat, Escape, from Calgary, in the anchorage. They are fast-tracking to the Marquesas. Why some cruisers resort to fast passages and miss all of the beautiful places in between is really sad. 21:00, 17 Jan 2013, Anchored at Bahia Drake, CR This bay has been reputed to have been visited by Sir Francis Drake in 1579, during his heyday as a “court appointed” pirate but the historians are not all in agreement. The island just off the coast here, Isla Cano, is reputed to have been another of his haunts, and later, of Captain Morgan. Isla Cano, now a national marine park, has some of the best diving and snorkeling waters in Central America and, in the last year, has become strictly regulated by those who aim at exploiting this reputation. The island is also said to get struck by lightning more than any place in Central America, so we’ll be keeping our distance. This part of the Osa peninsula has an average rainfall of over 220 inches and, true to form, we had a shower when we approached the anchorage. In fact we have had quite a few showers in the past few days as we have sailed down this coast. The evening thunderstorms are well inland but some of the precipitation has been spilling out onto the gulf where we are.
On our arrival here we met another Canadian boat hailing from Calgary, “Snowaway”. They are on their way back to Mexico after a few years in the Caribbean. They were a source of valuable information about places we have yet to visit. Since departing from Quepos we have stopped in Dominicalito, a small bay 20 miles from Quepos. It had been recommended by some cruisers we met in Playa Del Coco but the only saving grace was a good beach surf that Russ and I had to try out on our boogie boards. Later we had dinner on NautiMoments and feasted on fresh yellow fin tuna, Fran turning some of it into sushi rolls. We stayed another day in Drake”s bay and enjoyed a nice lunch at the Drake”s bay resort, a small, 13 room resort set among the natural rain forest vegetation and augmented by a profusion of exotic plants. This is one of the nicest small scale resorts we have all seen. It is ideally located for those who are looking to communicate with nature and within easy reach of the water activities at Isla Cano. 22:00, 20 Jan 2013, At a mooring, Land and Sea Marina, Golfito, CR We arrived here yesterday afternoon after a 10 hour passage from Drake’s Bay. We departed at 05:30 to arrive here in mid-afternoon. We encountered a lot of rain during the morning, some heavy but no significant wind. After rounding the cape on the western side of Golfo Dulce we had a nice following wind and we were finally able to fly our spinnaker for a few hours. We entered Golfito and. Initially, anchored just off Fish hook marina but today we moved to a mooring at the Land and Sea marina while the other 2 boats tied up at the Banana Bay marina. We were pleased to see Sunday, Gil and Lexi’s boat, tied up at Fish Hook and Jeff”s boat, Chasing the Sun, at another buoy close by. He has just been joined by his wife and they will be leaving for Panama in a few days. Sunday was one of the first boats we met when we sailed down from San Diego in 2008. We saw Gil and Lexi several times over the following 2 seasons but they sailed south in 2010. We knew they were on their way back home to the US and knew that we would cross paths at some point. As luck would have it we were able to meet them here where we will be able to have some quality time with them and re-kindle our competition for sexual supremacy with a board game called Jokers and Pegs. So far after last night’s games, we are tied.It will be sad to bid farewell to them again but we are hoping that our paths will cross sooner than later. 18:00, 22 Jan, 2013 Still at the Land and Sea buoy. It has been a couple of busy days getting re-supplied for our next leg and getting our exit Zarpe so we can legally leave the country and enter Panama. The process was quick and easy, only cost us $25 and the personnel at the offices we went to were more than friendly and helpful. The Immigration official was a hoot. He told us all about the rich and famous who have visited his office. He showed us a photo of himself and jack Nicholson. Tomorrow we will depart late and follow the other 2 boats that leave tomorrow morning. We will be entering Panamanian waters and slowly making our way towards Panama City with lots of island stops on the way. We will be out of internet coverage for some time so it may take a few weeks for the next update. 14:30, 23 Jan 2013, Same place Just a few last thoughts before I post. I am up in the clubhouse at Land and Sea. It is a funky room with logos of many of the boats that have used the facilities over the years. Had we been prepared it would have been fun to leave a memento of Gosling’s visit, however, artists we are not. The other 2 boats left this morning and are heading for a bay just south of the entrance of the Gulf. We’ll be leaving this evening and will join them at their next destination. We had the rig tuned this morning by a local rigger, Larry Devine and he advised us on a minor electrical issue that has been bothering us since we left El Salvador. We also went to the local “Duty Free” zone to do some shopping. We have no idea how the local shop owners can compete with this concept. The myriad of stores carry quite a range of products, mostly electronics and appliances but some shops carry liquor at greatly reduced prices. We stocked up on rum and white wine. We are actually running out of the 2 buck chuck we brought aboard last year…..

Friday, January 11, 2013

Golfo Nicoya - Puntarenas

22:00 5 Jan 2013, Day 2, Bahia Balena We are in the north anchorage of this bay after a bouncy night last night. We awoke in the same location but an hour later we noticed that we were dragging anchor in the fresh breeze that had come up. When the anchor was brought up the cable was wrapped around the base of the flukes. We repositioned and spent most of the day ashore checking out the small village buying some fresh supplies and having lunch. Fran has to have her weekly quota of fish so we opted for a Central American staple that has become one of our favourites, baked fish. This time it was barracuda and it was really good.
We also went to the fishermen's dock near the old and, now defunct, yacht club. The fish they brought in were astounding. We ended up buying shrimp and Dorado. Check out the photo of just part of the dorado haul:
When we got back to our boats in mid-afternoon we all moved to the more sheltered anchorage in the northern part of the bay. By this time we had been joined by Beverly J and Risk Taker. As I was pulling up the anchor to leave I felt a sudden jerk just as the anchor was supposed to break out of the mud bottom. When it came up, only the shaft was there and gone were the flukes. We didn’t bother to look for the missing parts as they would have been deep in the mud and, most likely, not repairable anyway. Now we have a 25 lb Danforth rather than a 35 lb so we’ll have to be more careful in our anchorages and we’ll be shopping for an anchor along the way. This side of the bay is owned by someone called Heart. Apparently he was the inventor and owned the company that made the Heart Interface. I actually have one as part of my electrical system. It would have been neat to meet the guy but he is a recluse. 21:00 7 Jan, 2013 Anchored in Bahia Curu You can’t ask for much quieter than this. There are no resorts, no shore music and the only sound is the surf slapping the shore at the end of the bay. Earlier we heard the howler monkeys screeching like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, a truly eerie sound. We left Bahia Balena early yesterday and arrived at Islas Tortugas before the onslaught of the tourist boats but by the time we were ready to snorkel the reef the hordes were among us. The cove is the ideal setting for a movie set with its beautiful sandy beach backed up with coconut palms. The tourist dollar has brought the souvenir shop, rental umbrellas and several canoe/kayak/jet-ski rentals that litter the beach. The people that arrive here by boat are mainly tourists from resorts, brought here by panga or catamaran to snorkel in the protected waters of the bay. If it weren’t for some colorful fish there wouldn’t be much attraction. Here, as it is everywhere we have been along this coast, the reef is dead; a brown mass of broken nubs.
On a mission....
A spotted ray in the shallows.
By 4PM the tourist boats were all gone and we had the bay to ourselves. We spent a quiet night and headed here, to Bahia Curu, first thing this morning. He bay is a nature preserve, a gift from a family that owned and farmed it years ago. It is said to have many species of birds and animals but we only saw a few when we went exploring this morning. Fran was overjoyed when she found out that they offered a trail ride tour, something she has wanted to do since we left El Salvador.
Apart from a few deer, some cows and a colony of monkeys the ride was rather dull; no seven banded armadillos or white nosed koatis as listed in the brochure. When we arrived back from the ride it was feeding time at the administration building. At noon every day the staff put out some fruit and today some iguanas and a group of capucine monkeys were in residence. The monkeys put on quite a show for us and a group of French-Canadian tourists from a nearby resort.
18:00, 8 Jan 2012, Anchored off Naranjo, CR The smells of dinner are wafting out of the galley. Fran is making paella for the group dins tonight. This follows on the bake your own bread and cinnamon buns that Doreen prepared for all 3 boats at noon. What a treat that was. It has been a long time since we have had fresh baked bread onboard but, Trish, if you read this you’ll probably remember that. Trish (Ka-Em-Te) was our baker extraordinaire when we sailed down the coast of Mexico on our first trip in Gosling.
Today was a leisurely sail down the coast looking at some of the anchorages and sights recommended by the Sarana Guide. When we left this morning the water was crystal clear but here there is evidence of pollution. There is lots of junk floating in the water and there is a scum on the surface. The clarity has reduced to about 2-3 ft and the colour is a dirty green. We have stopped making water to conserve our pre-filters. There won’t be any snorkeling until we get further out into the Gulf. We are poised to enter Puntarenas tomorrow. This anchorage is about 7 miles from the entrance to the basin where there are 2 marinas. Our destination will be the Costa Rica Yacht Club. We plan to be there only a few days to do some inland travel before we forge ahead towards Golfito and Panama beyond. There will be some significant changes to what I saw in 1984 when I stopped here in Oriole. We received an e-mail from Jeff, the solo sailor we had met in Samara. He has arrived in Golfito. We were worried about his progress and had put out a few advisories on the SSB net for people to look out for him. 21:00, 9 Jan 2013, Alongside a floating dock, Costa Rica Yacht Club, Puntarenas, CR We are tied up to a novel concept in docks. It is basically a floating, moored raft with accommodation for 2 boats and serviced by a water taxi service, supposedly 24 hrs/day. It even has a water supply from a hose leading from ashore. We are in relatively shallow water and, in the next 2 days, the spring tides will leave us with our keel in the mud at low tide. Not a big problem for us but for the other 2 boats with their fin keels and spade rudders it could be dicey. We entered Puntarenas just at high tide and slowly made our way up the channel guided by a boat from the marina and the waypoints provided by the Sarana Guide. With an 8 ft tide there were spots where we only had a few feet clearance. Once you are in here you are at the mercy of the tide. Getting information beforehand about our berths was impossible so we had to wait until the last minute to see the arrangement. It is not ideal but the price is right, they have services we will need and it is only for a few days while we re-provision and do our inland trip to the Monte Verde Park. Although somewhat disorganized the staff is very friendly and helpful. Security is paramount with 24/7 guards, a good feature. Leu and Cleas (Whiteshell) are here and their help was invaluable particularly with the medical issue Russ had on arrival. Last night he found a tick imbedded in his back. Doreen was able to remove it but was completely grossed out when it began moving after wards. It was promptly dunked in an alcohol bath and preserved. Both were worried about the possibility that it carried Lymes disease so Russ was immediately sent in for a medical consult on arrival. He was given some strong antibiotics and a reassurance that Lymes disease is unlikely, but only time will tell.

Entering Costa Rica and Christmas/New Years

2100, 28 Dec, 2012, Anchored off Playa de Coco We are back at Playa de coco for a few days. We are close to where we were last time we were here, just off the club on the beach. Tonight there is a decent live band playing. Last night they were playing some New Age music that drove us nuts till 22:15. Seems like the noise ordinance was only pre-Christmas. We arrived here late afternoon after a rocky departure and a squally passage from the marina. When we left the wind was blowing 15-18 kts and we had some difficulty getting away from the dock and getting Gosling pointed in the right direction. She doesn’t behave when backing up so we have to resort to a backing and filling procedure to get her head around. Good thing we have a powerful engine, a big prop and rudder. The 21 inch prop can throw a lot of water and we have been able to get the job done in some hairy predicaments over the past few years. From the berth we had to go to the fueling dock so we had to repeat the process. This morning we got our national Zarpe, so we are now legal to travel in Costa Rica for the next 3 months. The process took all of about 15 minutes for all 3 boats and still at no cost. The fees are due on departure and we expect to pay about $25. We also obtained some WIFI capability for this country. Instead of having to pay for another “stick” we were able to get a SIM card for the I-Pad at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully that will serve us well for the next month. We also did our last minute shopping at our favourite grocery store. It does have great choices of food but on this day they had a few booths giving samples of a Costa Rican hootch (similar to vodka) while another was handing out samples of beer. You’ll never see that back home. Fran liked the shoes on the girls in red…..
Tamborito Girls
Tona Girls 20:00, 29 Dec 2012, At anchor, Bahia Zapotal We are anchored in a lovely little bay about 8 miles south of playa De Coco. The full moon is giving us sufficient light to see the outline of the low hills on the shoreline to the east. The Papagayo wind is howling through the rigging and we constantly check to make sure we aren’t dragging, but our faithful Danforth anchor is serving us well. We left Playa de Coco about mid-day as the wind was ramping up. Had we left earlier, conditions would have been much lighter but we were delayed by some last errands in town. By the time we weighed anchor the wind was up to the mid-teens. It increased to 20-25 with gusts to 30kts as we headed to this bay. There are so many nice little bays described in the cruising guides but this infernal wind makes many of them difficult to access. We are due to round Cabo Vela tomorrow, on our way to Tamarindo. The cape is stated to be the southern limit of the Papagayo wind tunnel; however, I expect the winds reach will be felt much farther. It will be nice to escape its clutches but, as in many situations, we are looking at feast/famine We checked in to the Pan Pacific cruisers net this morning and heard our friends, Gil and Lexi (Sunday) checking in from Panama City. They are on their way north and we are looking forward to meeting them again. We left them in Barra De Navidad 2 years ago as they headed south. 13:00, 31 Dec 2012, Anchored off Playa Flamingo, Brasilito, CR We have been anchored off this pretty beach since about noon yesterday. The Papagayo winds continue to blow in the 15 to 30 kts range and we have been unable to launch the dinghy. Thankfully the wind is off the beach so there is no fetch to bounce us around. The weather forecasters indicate that the wind is supposed to diminish in the next day or so to something a bit more comfortable, just in time for us to head south and out of its influence. The beach is quite active with New Year’s revelers enjoying the sun, sand and loud music coming from several venues.
We are preparing for a big pot luck dinner aboard Beverly J in a few hours. It is the only boat that can comfortably accommodate the 10 of us. Last night we had 6 in our cockpit for dinner and it was crowded. We saw our first whale yesterday, most likely a fin-back, quite close to where we are anchored. 19:00, 1 Jan 2013, Anchored at Bahia Zapatal Another day, another anchorage further down the Costa Rican coast. We are in a lovely protected bay 47 miles south. It is soooo quiet after what we have been used to over the past few weeks. I wish I had the words to describe what I see and feel as I sit with this laptop on the bow of the boat. Let me try: The only sounds I hear are muted strains of music from ashore, the distant sound of the surf on the reef in the middle of the bay and the rhythmic slapping of the running rigging as we slowly roll in the gentle swell entering the bay. Fran thinks she heard howler monkeys as dusk was settling in and, with her super hearing, anything is possible. We can barely see the outline our partner boats, Nautimoments and August Moon are just a few hundred feet from us but their anchor lights are bright against the starry sky. Gosling’s position is defined by two Rona solar blinking torches, unmistakable in any anchorage we have been in. The heat of the day has been replaced by a nice cool shore breeze promising a good night’s sleep. We arrived just before sunset after a hard day of motor-sailing and, finally some short stretches just under sail, our first quality sail time this season. It is so nice to be out of the Papagayo winds. We are not supposed to see anything like them until Panama as we near the Canal Zone. 24 hours later, same location It has been a quiet day. We explored the bay and the village. There are many Canadians and Europeans here on holiday. They seem more numerous than the locals but, when you look around the bay, there are not that many hotels and resorts to be seen. People seem to be looking for alternative holidays, staying in small hotels, taking the family stay option with their Spanish courses or just camping. There are many young people here on stops during the travel phase of their lives, an opportunity we never had but one our son Michael took advantage of in his late teens. One of the locals ashore told us that there is a big resort in the next bay (Carillo) and Tom Cruise’s mega-yacht is there. Also at the resort are Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones. This seems to be a popular destination for the big stars. Mel Gibson owns property here and Ringo Starr has been a visitor. We also learned a weird fact about the bay. In September 2012 there was a 7-3 magnitude earthquake centered just below this bay. Locals claim that the bottom of the bay was pushed up 7-8 ft, exposing some of the reef and changing the shape of the beach to a very shallow and gradual incline. This came from 2 separate sources but we will have to check it out ourselves. About noon, Jeff, a solo sailor with terminal cancer arrived in the anchorage on an Islander 30. We had heard on a SSB net that he was on his way from Huatulco to Golfito and to watch out for him. He is a courageous individual to be taking on such a voyage, but as he says, “what do I have to lose?” He has been beaten up by the Papagayo winds offshore, his autopilot failed and he was almost out of fuel for his only engine, an outboard. He plans to refuel and have a day rest before continuing on. He will be here a few days getting fuel and water and he is hoping to get crew to help him sail the remainder of the way.
Carol and Ken have been working on a damaged sail all day so we have all decided to remain here today. 24 hours later, 45 miles further. Anchored in Bahia Balena, CR Another quiet and well protected bay. We arrived here mid-afternoon after an 8 hour passage from Samara. We 3 boats left just after sunrise to take advantage of daylight. Our hopes for some decent wind were dashed early in the passage when the early SW breeze died off. For the remainder of the passage the wind was fluky and mainly, on the nose. Yesterday we took Jeff into town to get his laundry done and to introduce him to a couple of Swiss kids who are travelling the world. They seemed to be very eager in joining him for the next leg of his trip. Both are non-sailors so this will, indeed, be an adventure for them and a challenge for Jeff but he will be able to get some rest. We hope to hear back from Jeff when he reaches Golfito. It will be interesting to find out how the kids worked out. I will have to split this submission as it is getting quite long. I am writing all of these on my laptop so I must wait until we have a good WIFI connection to send them to the blog site. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that done in the next week.
Fran's happy feet