The concern of getting out over THE bar at Bahia del Sol was unnecessary as it was a doddle, being flat with light winds. (We departed Jan 8th) Rohillio escorted us out very carefully as the bar had recently moved. Just before HW we had no less than 2.2 m under us, with a total of 3.4m of water.
We were anxious to get going before the papagyo winds started to blow. We had the first of the season in Bahia del Sol with a honking NE wind! January and February they are at their peak. Getting across the Gulf of Foneseca was our first hurdle, with the southern end of Nicaragua/northern Costa Rica the second, some 230 nm away. All advice says to stick to the coast for flat water, which sounded good to us!
All was going well. We had a little wind and actually managed to sail for a while. Engine fault numero 1 was getting worse after the first night at sea. A fuel issue began to plague us. Just south of Corrinto, Nicaragua, a significant port in Nicaragua (that the CIA once covered with landmines!), a local SW wind suddenly blew up, creating horrid seas. We turned tail and ran back into the calm waters of Corrinto to review our situation. Anchoring at the said spot inside the estuary with some fishing boats, we had a good sleep, sorted the problem and found a solution. Peter nailed it down to the manual fuel pump, perhaps being gummed up whilst sitting for so long or at worst broken. If we kept the electric fuel pump running, it would be sufficient to run the engine below 2000 rpm. Our weather window was open for another 24 hours, so we set forth like thieves in the early morning, with a much more favourable wind and sea state!
For anyone else heading south, we would recommend Corrinto as an option to Marina Puesta del Sol, 14 miles away. We tried calling the Port Captain in Corrinto, but there was no interest in us. We did meet a strange fellow down the track, who took 48 days to sail there from La Paz (due to no wind), stayed 6 months in Corrinto and the only way they could get rid of him was for the Navy to board him and fire a shot into his cabin, but not at him! Scaring the westerners does it! He had obviously overstayed his welcome!
Our first anchorage in Costa Rica was the sensational Bahia Santa Elena. A very protected anchorage with no settlement; a national park full of wild life (jaguars if you can find them!) with howler monkeys making a racket and many birds happily chirping away.
With a papagyo forecast for the next day, we wanted to get around the Cabo Santa Elena and into the more protected waters around Playa de Coco, a major tourist haunt. It is amazing how this headland divides the weather. Leaving early morning, we had a sensational sail with 25 knots behind us until around Cabo Santa Elena, we entered a world of flat water, dolphins, fish leaping around with gay abandon and serenity! A magic sail…..this is what it’s all about!
After an easy peasy..... clearing into Playa de Coco (except the port captain did not like me being the owner and Peter the master with Peter doing the paper work! Some nice Spanish men, on holiday kindly wrote out the necessary paragraph in Spanish for us.) ........without any charges- although they were clearly posted in the Port Captain’s office, it was off for some R&R at a wonderful restaurant with wifi. We were told our dinghy was ok on the beach during the day, but after dark the outboard would be gone. There was a fleeting moment when that sounded like a good idea!!!!!!! Our dinghy looks so poorly, no-one would want that for sure! We had no safety issues in Costa Rica and felt that the theft risk was minimal.
Re-fueling at Marina Papagyo and a wiz around the bays, two nights there was enough. Another papagyo was starting to blow, and it would continue for over a week. We were outa there. These gap winds blow offshore from systems in the Gulf of Mexico. By all accounts, the wind speed can be more than double the forecast. We can now verify that this is correct! A forecast of 15 knots sounded good as we could sail! As we rounded Punta Gorda in light breeze (early morning), the wind started to pick up, from the stern quarter. Just when you think it was safe……………..
Enjoying watching the Wind Star (which we kept seeing as we moved south) who was anchored with the locals......
and the activity around Potrero, sailing forth around the next point and whammo……..we had sustained winds on the beam over 30 knots for two hours, with some heavy gusts up to 42 knots! We had continually reefed down until the leech chord had knotted itself and luckily we had dropped the main before the wind really hit! At least it was flat water! Of course we hooked a large fish at this stage but could do nothing about it as we had sailing issues at the time! The fish got to live another day! The literature says that the papagyos stop after Cabo Velas, however we were past this point with the worst wind! Having a look at the paper chart, we were in actual fact sailing past a gap in the mountains. Another 15 miles or so the mountains start again. In typical papagyo fashion, we later sailed out of 30 knots and into a nice 10 knot SE’ly! Looking behind we could see no white caps or evidence of wind!
An enjoyable overnight sail (I use this term loosely!) enabled us to reach Bahia Ballena, which was a calm sheltered anchorage in Gulfo de Nicoya. A place worthy of further exploration with a long, flat beach, nearby town and islands further north. However, we need to be in Panama by early February.
Across the other side of the gulf is Quepos, with another expensive marina, empty of course! The marinas in Costa Rica all charge around $2.25 to $2.50 per foot per day plus tax. That amounts to around $135/night for us. Similar to Caribbean prices without the amenities. We can’t get our head around the pricing as they are all empty. The marina in Quepos (Costa Rica) wanted to charge us $50/day for dinghy landing. Even the locals think the marina management are loco! Like Mexico, the prices rise as the customers fall!!!!!!!
There is a lovely young chap, Jorge, who provides a water taxi service to the local jetty for around $1.00/trip. This funky little town is now popular with cruise ships as the nearby Emanuel Antonio National Park has been ranked 11th best in the world. It certainly was worth the local bus ride out there and the tour guide. The first white sandy beaches we have seen since leaving the Baja!
Our first 3 toed sloth...buing slothful of course! Lots of wildlife that you could hear but not see unless you had a telescope! (Which our guide did!)
As we anchored in Quepos, I noticed a different engine noise as we backed down on the anchor. I relayed this to the master (on the bow) who responded with a grump! What would I know??? The master had a little surprise when he went to check the oil in the evening, as the prop shaft had fallen off the coupling!!!!!!!!!!! A few hours later, the engine was even better aligned (an existing problem since our purchase) and Peter mumbling that it could have been his fault when he installed the flexible coupling in Bahia del Sol! The engine is now the best it’s been and no longer has an annoying rattling sound coming from under the floor in the aft cabin!
On visiting the office at the pier in Quepos, we got on the wrong side of the officials as they wanted to see our papers and we did not want to go back out to the boat to get them, which of course we did! Not being interested in our passports to see if we were legal, the only document they wanted to inspect was our ships papers! The official took offence to our Small Ships Registration (British) document and would only let us stay a day! Mind you, we were surprised when we first saw our registration paper; A5 with no official stamp or proof of ownership! Nothing like the Australian Registration or USA documentation - you get what you pay for! Jorge, our water taxi thought that this guy was loco as well!
Between the marina and this official, it is sad that they turn yachts away as we are providing income for the local people. Quepos was certainly worth a visit and it had an amazing supermarket opposite the bus station! We collect all sorts of goodies when we can! The bays between Quepos and Bahia Drake are certainly worth checking out and it appears to be the best for snorkeling, diving and wildlife in surrounding national parks. Bahia Drake, our next anchorage looked like a wonderful place to explore, but for us an anchorage for a few hours before setting forth to Golfito to get the flood tide.
On our way to Bahia Drake we had a little visit. A precarious perch that it was, our friend stayed a few hours preening himself and didn't even mind when Peter went up on the foredeck to get the staysail out of the bag. As we passed a fishing boat he saw some better friends and flew off!
Our best catch so far..a Sierra. The freezer is now full and we will save some for Ann and Terry. (You will have to excuse the deck frock!!) Note our tacky dinghy!!
We had some more excitement coming into Bahia Drake as a burning smell (like burning wire!) was coming from the engine. The engine switch had turned itself off. Some hot wires to deal with! Peter replaced one wire which we hoped would be sufficient to get us to Golfito. Another 65 miles to go! Coincidently ( I don’t believe in coincidences!) the HF was lacking power (blew a fuse) so we could not send emails or get weather info. This sent the laptop into a frenzy as the HF is connected for sailmail. Oh no!!!!! Strange. A little chat with the device manager had the laptop up and running with the charts. So lazy now on using paper charts! However, they are both always on the chart table! Would we get to Golfito???????????
Golfito was our final Costa Rican port to clear out of; a funky little town clinging to the water’s edge at the base of a very luxurious rainforest. Some areas around here get 220 inches of rain/year! Dockwise load yachts here, so I best get Peter moving! This is a very popular yachtie hang out, and we can see why. Tim and Katie of Land and Sea are well known as they provide amazing amenities for yachties moving through. A welcoming place when you have boat issues to sort out. There is only one yacht heading north and another “Flame” type yacht anchored nearby. It certainly has that Bakewell – White look about it! A shared taxi in and out of town is just over $1.
Peter has terminals to clean, wires to replace and a new starter motor to put on (he thought there might be a short somewhere in the current one, but it urned out ot be in the alternator we had serviced in San Carlos!) We are going to do the bottom here (with crocodiles, but smaller than Australia!) and then all should be ok if we do it again before leaving Panama. Due to the cost, we are not going to haul out in Panama, but maybe wait until the Tuamotos; sounds luxurious…similar to the Maldives. 11 months of maintenance to do in 3 weeks!
Meanwhile we have a lot of paperwork and hoops to jump through to clear into French Polynesia (Marquesas to Tahiti), which is what you get when you have over 100 yachts each year on their way through the Pacific and some yachts creating problems for the rest. We would not have this problem if I was allowed a British passport…which we assumed I would get married to a British subject! Not so!!!! It’s so much easier for Peter travelling on his British Passport. We have to have health insurance which is something we have never had!!
Panama is just around the corner, with one more gap wind to deal with. There is a great window at the moment, which we hope holds, or at least comes back. We also hope our HF continues to work so we can get weather info!! There are many islands in West Panama that we will explore on our way through, albeit it quickly. I was chatting to an amazing little girl yesterday who was born in Texas, spends her time living between Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. She assures me Panama is a wonderful place and sadly, we only get a short time there. However, the ITCZ is almost at its southern-most point, below Panama, and I am sure this world changes when the wet season returns! Our Panama list of jobs grows by the day. We have a long way to go to New Zealand!