Captains Corner

Monday, April 23, 2012

Costa Rica! Can you belive it - 1575 Miles!

Well a lot has happened, so this blog is long.  Grab something to drink and have a read.

Three weeks in El Salvador proved to be just the right amount of time.  Although the Estuary was beautiful, and the friends we met were fun, there was no real boating.  So, on March 22, we said adieu to everyone and left El Salvador.  Here’s a picture of us going over the bar.  At the helm, it was just an E-ride over some big waves.  On the bow, where Jewell was, they were huge, came over the top of the bow and soaked her.  She wasn’t happy!!!

Crossing the bar!  You can see the hull of the boat!  Definitely an "E" Ticket ride.  Thanks Bill for the photos.

The calm before the storm

We left at 3 p.m. because we needed high tide to get over the bar.  That screwed us up completely since we wanted to get to our first destination in Costa Rica in daylight.  Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men!!

We traveled 32 hours through some of the worse waters we’ve encountered.  For those of you who boat, we had 8 to 10 ft. waves with the wind on our nose, at intervals of 10 seconds with 3 to 6 foot swells in between and winds whipping up to 30 to 40 miles an hour.  It was a nightmare.  There was no moon.  There was no light.  There was no ambient shore light as we passed Guatemala and Nicaragua into CR.

We slammed down the whole passage.
We entered Costa Rican waters around 10 p.m. and went directly to our first stop, the Bay of Salinas.   It was pitch black.  At the entrance to the Bay the winds were blowing so hard that I had trouble holding course.  We didn’t know exactly where to anchor.  We saw no other boats.  Jewell, Lucio and I were panic stricken.  I turned around and left the Bay.   We went to the next bay over.  The same damn problem ensued. It was like a vortex that we had entered.   It was now around 12 a.m. and we hadn’t slept in well over 44 hours.  After a long while of fighting the winds, we once again turned around and left the Bay.  We made the decision to travel another 30 plus miles to Papagayo Marina.   

I put the pedal to the metal.  It was STILL pitch black when we entered the Bay of Papagayo.  It was frightening.  We called the marina on the radio and could not get them to answer.  The radar showed mountains all around us.  So I watched the radar and Jewell watched our navigation route.  We inched our way in but couldn’t see the marina.  We called them on the radio again and still no answer.  Then, to our surprise, we saw what we thought was a freighter.  Ah ha!!!  That must be the Marina.  We went towards the lights.  As it turned out, it was a 300 ft. vessel called Attessea IV. 

Attessea IV.  See it could have been a freighter.
It was leaving the Marina.   As she moved out, we saw the red and green markers for the marina entrance.  As soon as we crossed the marina entrance here come the marina guys.  Sure can't answer the radio, but enter their territory and here they come running.  We went in; side tied on an end slip, and finally got settled around 4:30 a.m.   Once we were settled Lucio said to us he had been very worried.  He was on the front of the boat and he could see the rocks in front of us.  He looked up and saw the top of my head and could see Jewell looking down at the computer and kept wondering “don’t they see the rocks?”  And he could hear Jewell saying, “I am not happy about this”.  But then once he saw the marina he was very relieved.  We were laughing.

At around 6 a.m., as the sun came up, we actually “saw” the bay.  It is huge.  Really huge.  We had to laugh because 10 boats could have passed through the channels and mountains without difficulty.  We felt a bit foolish, but, WE DID IT. 

We were quarantined because we needed to officially enter the country through customs.  They even made us hang a Q flag.  Because it was Saturday, customs wasn't open.  We were restricted to the boat.  But then, another 300 ft. vessel entered the Marina and had enough clout that customs came to them!  We lucked out and got cleared on Sunday.

The Sultan of Oman's Yacht!
The BIG boat that came in belonged to the Sultan of Oman.  It was gigantic.  Just to give you an idea, they use 50 tons of fuel in 24 hours at 14 knots.  And I thought what we used was way too much.  They carry a submarine, a helicopter and 4 skiffs (one of them is about 40 feet long). 

Also in the Marina was The Cracker Bay belonging to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and two other mega yachts.  This Marina is the only one in Central America that caters to Mega Yachts.

Cracker Bay

We were the only luxury small vessel in the 60-70 ft. range.  The other boats were 40’-50’ or less and on the other side of the Marina.  So, basically, we were the only boat on the entire dock for boats our size.  And, we were in the same channel as the mega yachts.  So, for all intent and purposes, we looked like a skiff!!!!

The gray boat is the Sultans boat, in front is Spirit and the left corner is The Elysium.  Skiffy right?
I want to describe the area we were in:  The Marina is on a Peninsula called Papagayo.  It is the first Marina entrance into Costa Rica.  There is absolutely nothing in the area except some beach towns which are about 20 miles away.  On the Peninsula is a Four Seasons Hotel.  It is completely isolated but has a fabulous golf course and rooms that look like houses rather than a large hotel.  It is very exclusive.  While out on a motor scooter ride Jewell talked our way through the gates and we really saw the property and then, later that week, several friends went with us to dinner at their steak house.  It was quite lovely.  

The area just above the marina itself.

The condos that house some of the workers and the marina office.

The golf center also where the steak restaurant was.  Very cool building.

What the Four Seasons housing looks like from the ocean.

There are about 13 bays where a boat can anchor.  There are about 5 or 6 beach areas with small towns and a few with big towns (like Playa de Coco and Hermosa).

The area is all jungle.  There are Howler Monkeys all over the hillsides.  We hear them howling every night and every morning.  When walking, you see them up close and personal.  There are also Puma, Lions, Bob Cats but we didn’t see them.

Howler Monkey

This guy looks like a gorilla.

Howler monkey balls.  The white are the balls.

The first time we went to Playa de Coco we rode the scooter.  It was harrowing but fine.  It took 45 minutes to get there.  

Where oh where should we land.
Good parking spot next to the truck.

The next trip we took was a skiff ride to Playa de Coco. We met up with our friends Larry and Vicki and tied our skiff to their boat and took their skiff. They can beach land due to a rubber bottom.  Our skiff bottom is fiberglass. 


Playa de Coco turned out to be a lovely beach town, reminiscent of a 70’s beach town in California.  Full of restaurants and clubs and the usual clothing stores.  They had a great market for food.  We had a terrific lunch and proceeded back to our skiff.  Larry and Vicki joined us for the ride back to the Marina and for dinner.  

Washing off yucky feet, from the red tide.

Such cute bars and shops.

And what would a blog be without one picture of a meal?  Yummy!

Around 9 p.m. we got back in the skiff to return them to their boat in Coco.  Guess what!?!  It was pitch black.  But, we figured we all knew exactly where Coco was and that we wouldn’t have a problem.  Once again our powers of deduction went awry.  The first bay we went to wasn’t Coco.  We deduced that the next one over must be Coco.  Larry pulled out his iPhone that has a GPS tracking system on it. Thank goodness.  We all realized that there were loads of reefs and rocks along the path.  Vicki put a towel over her head so the brightness of the phone would not blind us, and from under the towel we heard “a little to port, a little to starboard, more to starboard” and were in.  WHEW!!  What should have been a 20 minute skiff ride turned out to take over an hour.  Then, Jewell and I needed to get back to the Marina.  NOT WITHOUT THE GPS!  Jewell shouted.  So we borrowed Larry’s iPhone and followed our track out of Coco into the center of the Bay.  The water was very rough by this time.  And, it was still black outside!!    By the time we reached the Elysium, we were soaking wet.  And, tired.  It was after 11:15 when we arrived.

Our other friends from El Salvador, Scott and Joyce, were also in the Marina and the four of us went to Hermosa to a “tree house” restaurant called “Ginger” to celebrate Joyce's birthday.  It was absolutely fabulous!!!  Almost all Americans were there.  It was so surprising to find such elegance in these areas. 

Joyce and Scott at Ginger
Friends from Contento, Penny, John and Zoi (dog), also came from El Salvador and we got to spend some time with them.  They took Aggie again for a sleep over.  Zoi insisted they go swimming the next day.  We have tried and tried to get Aggie to swim and she puts up such a fight.  As you can see she is swimming around, that little creepy dog (Aggie) actually did it.  

I can't even believe Zoi got Aggie to do this.

Aggie swimming, huh?

Going back for more!!!  Never thought I would see this.

Now, to the not so good part of our trip!!  April 1st,  we were sitting peacefully on the boat and Jewell saw a bunch of flies flying around outside the door.  Then one came in the boat and it turned out to be a bee.  We rapidly closed the door and Jewell went out another door to see what was going on and we had a bee infestation up around our anchor light.  We kept everything closed, called the marina and they sent out the firemen.  After they were all suited up they began their work, but not before I called Jim on Skype so he could be a part of all the excitement.  They used soap and water and then swept them all up.  It was about 6 inches of bees that wound up in a bucket.  OY  

This is the first we see the bees, on the anchor light.

Jim is on Skype with us watching the activity.

Then if you notice the bees have migrated to the TracVsion dome.

There is the BEE MAN!

I think the saying is, you never want to keep all your bees in the same bucket?  HAHA

Well April 1st just keeps getting better. Since we were leaving the next day for a week of glorious anchoring in the many bays around here we needed to do some small provisioning.  So Jewell and I took a motor scooter ride to Liberia (about 25 miles).  We lunched, then went to the market to get eggs and fruit.  Then continued to peruse the area, and had a great time!  On our way home we were on the only road that goes from the Marina to the beach towns and Liberia.  Moving along at about 35 mph, I lost control of the scooter and we went over an embankment.  Yes, we were both wearing helmets.  Jewell somehow did a tuck and roll, and is black and blue with torn ligaments in her arms and upper back area, some cuts and bruises, but is just fine, although quite sore.  I, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. 

Just arrived in the hospital.
Knee missing 4 layers of skin.

My helmet flew off (as did my sneakers) and I was knocked unconscious.  Jewell had a few moments of real panic thinking I was dead!!  I guess it was not pretty for a couple of minutes.  On what is usually a pretty isolated road, all of a sudden several people appeared and called an ambulance.  We went to an emergency clinic first and then to a “real” hospital.   

We’ll need to discuss how great America is, how great our medical systems are, and how lucky we are, another time.  But, suffice it to say, they staved off any infection (I had three massive doses of IV antibiotics).  I needed to clean my wounds myself (I was missing several layers of skin, so that wasn’t much fun….and thank God for Jewell).  They did diagnose a concussion.  So they took me for two cat scans, one as soon as we got there and then the next day to be sure I could leave the hospital, two x-rays of my cheek because they thought it was broken (NOT!).  They also gave me a shot of Cortisone.  I was in the hospital for about 24 hours.  My bill, for the ambulance and everything:  $419.00.

After I was cleaned up a bit.  You can see the size of my cheek.  Yeikees

About 7 days after the accident our friends decided I needed to get out of the boat, and have a little fresh air and laughter.  So they took me with them when they went to celebrate Penny's birthday.  I was glad I went.

With John in the golf cart going to dinner 7 days after the accident.  Damn I heal good.

After my near death experience, I felt I needed a Root Beer float.  Boy, was it yummy.

The gang celebrating my outing and Penny's birthday.

Marina manager Dan.  They really helped us out with all of this.

And oh, lest I forget, Jewell threw the keys to the motor scooter to the guy who called the ambulance.  She got his telephone number but we never found him or the scooter.  AND just before the ambulance left, Jewell went to the motor scooter to get our personal items from under the seat.  When she opened the seat she saw the eggs and all 18 of them were intact.  I guess that is where I should have had my head.  It would have been safer.  We could not believe it.  Good riddance to the motor scooter and see you all (thankfully) next time.

Our friends Penny, John and Zoi, came for our last night there and off they go.