Sunday, February 15, 2009


Costa Rica

Now wait a dogone minute...THIS? is Costa Rica? Dry, brown hills? It looks more like Santa Catalina Island in Southern California. Yep. This is the dry season in northern Costa Rica. No rain and lots of wind makes for a dry forest.

Our 2-day passage from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was a wild one - we went from calm seas and gentle breezes to winds of 40 knots! Rough seas! The infamous Papagallo winds across the Golfo de Papagallo were kicking up as is usual for this time of year. We had the weather forecast and knew that we had a small window to get down to Costa Rica and get safely anchored in a safe harbor before an incoming "big northern blow".

This protected anchorage was in scenic Bahia Saint Elena where we were the only boat. The land around us was a national park so there were no structures, nothing. Whew! We were so glad to finally get out of the wind! We stayed here a couple of days to rest after the long passage.

We could hear all sorts of strange tropical noises coming from the land...birds & monkeys? Where are those guys? Although I spent literally hours scouring the trees with the binos, I only managed to see some green parrots.

All alone here, we simply ate, rested, read, and knit. Of course, Jonesy also "managed" the sunsets as usual. One of the simple pleasures of cruising Central America is that we get to see a beautiful sunset every night without fail.
Rested up, we left our safe anchorage and headed out to sail down to the town of Cocos. We needed to officially "check-in" to the country which means visits to Customs, Immigration, copy store (which didn't open until 11am) and the Port Captain. Doing this in Cocos was a heck of a lot harder than in El Salvador and Nicaragua where the folks all came to us. Not in Costa Rica, we did the "paperwork cha-cha" which took all of one whole day and multiple visits to each branch of the government, usually traveling by foot.

This official paperwork dance even included a taxi trip to the airport in the city of Liberia to obtain a Temporary Import Permit for the boat (our 2nd visit with Customs that day). We were hooked up with a taxi driver that spoke English and he narrated for us along the 25-minute drive each way and as we waited 20 minutes for the single typed page. We saw the fields of cantaloupe, sugar cane, and he described local life for us. So we had the $68 tour that afternoon I guess.

The dinghy landing in Cocos was a tricky surf landing which is always dangerous and often wet. As we knew the big blow was coming, and Cocos is not a protected anchorage, we left there and headed up to Bahia Culebra to wait out the storm. Sure enough we were blasted with 40-knot winds that even bent back the plastic blades on our wind turbine so we had to shut it off. These winds were nothing compared to what they were doing elsewhere - up to 70 knots! A full gale force Papagallo wind! Being stuck on the boat for all these days was nerve-wracking, and a little boring I have to admit.

We returned to Cocos when it was safe, did a little provisioning and then sailed off to Bahia Potrereo. Again, 40-knot winds in the anchorage and we didn't even go to shore. Early the next morning we headed out to Puerto Carrillo. This place had a couple of sleepy little tourist businesses - minus tourists. This has been a theme here in Central America...there are no tourists! There are facilities for tourist activities, but the tourists aren't here.

After a couple of scary surf landings in the dinghy, and the view of waves breaking over a reef parallel to where we were anchored, we fled for Bahia Ballena.'s finally getting green here...more like the lush tropical growth we expected to encounter. We visited the little town, and walked around a bit here. Again, it was pretty quiet. By now we were feeling starved for socialization with other people. Where is everyone? Solitude is great - but after a while we just need to chat it up with other folks.

The most activity was on the pier used by the local fishermen. We sat in the "Bahia Ballena Yacht Bar" - a little open-air local dive, and watched the fishermen and the frigatebirds, pelicans, terns, and kingfishers around the fishing boats.

We came across this old church on our strolls, which was a little sad looking. Also, in the picture below of the bay, you can see...if you look very closely...our boat anchored out there. All alone. There was one other sailboat here when we arrived, but they took off to another port to do some business.

Oh well, we're getting pretty used to the isolation. Soon it was time to move on down the coast.

We decided to skip a few more potential achorages as they were considered "marginal" and we were aching to get someplace where there were people! So, we headed out on another 2-day overnight passage to Golfito. This time there was no wind. None. During my night shift watch, I saw that the water was perfectly flat - not a single ripple. When the moon rose, it scared the bejimminies out of me - it was a giant orange ball on the horizon! Our trusty boat Niki Wiki never missed a beat - she performed flawlessly for all the passages.

On the afternoon of Valentines Day, we motored into the bay of Golfito. Lush, green hills and bright aqua blue water greeted us as we threaded our way through the channel to the little anchorage. There is a town here and fellow cruisers! I think we'll be here a while.

Great to hear from you! I was surprised to see the brown hills too. Glad you found some green - and some people.
Glad you made it safe and sound
May I ask, since I came to your blow well after your left a home port... just where are you planning on ending up?
Your BLOG... Sorry for the type-o....
that happens after knitting baby socks all day and blogging at 10 pm.
Great to hear that you are safe and have internet again. Going without that alone can drive one crazy. We're hitting the road for 5 days for a long weekend and a rodeo and I'm looking forward to the knitting and the reading.

Keep safe and pray tell me, where on a boat did you stash all your yarn? Pillows?

Buford, GA (a one time sailer, motorboater and now a motorhomer)
Hello. I came across your blog via ravelry, via the sock summit group. I find your blog fascinating and plan to keep reading. Your pictures are beautiful. I have one question. what do you mean by a "safe harbor"? OK, one more question? Where do you buy yarn when you are sailing?
Good to know your alive :) I studied White face Capucins ( monkeys) there on the Atlantic side. Hope all is well.
I am glad you are safe, I knew you had said you would be without internet for a while, but I did get worried after a while. I was in Costa Rica once and it was so darned hot I thougt I would melt :-)
Yeah Costa Rica!! I have been to the airport at Liberia - twice... whoopeee.....

Gotta do it.
End up? Well...the current plan is to eventually cruise up the eastern seaboard of the USA in the intercoastal waterway. Then what? Well, maybe hang out somewhere there or head back down to the Caribbean again. We'll just keep moving about until we are too feeble to do this anymore!!
Hi JJ! We used to live in Duluth Georgia!!
"Safe Harbor" is a description of a harbor/bay/cove that is shielded from the current direction of the wind, usually by hills,and swells from the sea. Depending on these factors, anchorages can be safe one month, and dangerous the next. We don't want big swells rolling us about, and we don't want the wind blowing us towards shore (a "lee shore") just in case the anchor fails. We study the weather forecasts and maps of the coast to determine where we should go.

"Safe Harbor" is also a international maritime law which allows us to use commercial harbors that would otherwise not let us come in if there are dangerous conditions at sea.

Yarn? Here in Central America? None, nada, zip except for crochet cotton. I have a LARGE stash that is stuffed into every possible spare bit of space (yarn squishes down wonderfully). Also, I'm planning to have my sons bring me yarn (kinda like drug "mules") down with them when they come to visit in April!!
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