Loading Map

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

After our snorkel at Islas Tortugas we hauled up the anchor and motored off towards Puntarenas. We took the tricky shortcut in our guide book between Punta Quesera and the Islas Negritos and only had a few heart stopping moments in the rocky waters. An hour later we were sailing downwind, flying along with the flood tide, and an hour after that it was time to turn the engine back on for the shallow passage down the narrow lagoon. The Costa Rica Yacht Club (VHF 06) sent a yellow panga to lead us through the maze of moorings and "docks" and we were still flying along in the last of the current. John did an absolutely amazing job of steering through the narrow aisles of boats, one of which we only missed by less than a foot. After hearing other people's horror stories of docking here we felt very fortunate to tie up without incident.

There's no longer any room to anchor, nor would you probably want to in the swift current which changes direction with the tides. CRYC has moorings for shallow draft boats and "docks" for deeper draft boats. The docks are wooden floats anchored fore and aft, and are just long enough to tie two boats up on either side. Nakia is 42' overall and we're hanging over at both ends. We were told that the reason for docks is so that when the tide goes out the boat will be tied in place and won't heel over as much when its keel is resting in the mud! At low tide this morning the top of our rudder was exposed by about eight inches and we were listing a bit to starboard (we're tied up on our port side). Hopefully that's as bad as it will get since the moon is past full now.

We're getting WiFi at the boat, there are nice showers on shore, we don't have electricity but there's a hose on our float, and we have a free lightning show off in the distance almost every night (but so far no more rain since Playas del Coco). This morning John struggled in the small space of the lazarette to fix our salt water pump, and now he's in the process of jerry jugging diesel so we don't have to mess with tides and currents to get Nakia to the fuel dock and then back to our float again. We dropped our laundry off at the office this morning (still at $1/pound), and maybe we'll hop a bus into town tomorrow. We plan to be here until the end of the week.

Oh, I forgot to write that on the 17th I let Ziggy out of the Pullman porthole at 3:30 AM. A little later I heard a scuffle on deck and he bounded back through the porthole, and then I must have fallen back asleep. John heard him playing wildly with something and got up to investigate. He had cornered a large turtle dove under the saloon table which John caught and released (hopefully it made it to a safe tree back on shore). Later that same morning I was making banana bread which called for six tablespoons of melted butter. Said melted butter was in a measuring cup on the galley counter and, when my attention was elsewhere, Ziggy jumped up and started lapping away at it. In my hasty "NO, Ziggy!" I managed to knock over the cup and Ziggy had two very buttery paws for the rest of the day. Maybe we should have named him Butters...

Linda and John


Islas Tortugas, Costa Rica

We were underway before dawn on Sunday for the all day trip to the Gulf of Nicoya. We sailed for an hour until the sun came up and the off shore breeze died away. We had a favorable current and as we approached Cabo Blanco the wind freshened and we were sailing with a reefed main. It's really feast or famine with the wind along this coast. Two more giant manta rays made spectacular appearances, one rolling over on its back alongside the boat, and another doing a back flip out of the water. John landed a small dorado at Noon and we sailed the rest of the afternoon in the SSE breeze.

We decided to bypass Bahia Ballena which is open to the SSE. There was heavy wind chop blowing straight into the anchorage, and we didn't feel like spending another rolly night. It was only another 10 miles to the Islas Tortugas where we set the hook at 5 PM and jumped in for a much needed sunset swim.

According to our guide book the island is private property so we didn't go ashore the next morning. There is a large beach concession with canvas chaise lounges, umbrellas, volleyball, kayak and paddle boat rentals, a banana boat, and a Welcome sign mentioning "Eco Tours." Promptly at 9 AM the first tour panga disgorged happy tourists, followed by a stream of various craft including a charter sail boat and a huge power catamaran that looked like a sailing catamaran topped off with a sport fisher bridge deck. The latter was actually very cool (M/V Manta Raya). Fortunately we left Nakia at 9 AM to snorkel a few spots around the island, and we were back in the dinghy after our last snorkel just before three pangas pulled up to the same spot. It was so nice to be in clear, warm waters again (wait, how often have we had that combination?!), and we enjoyed seeing all the friendly fish (who were obviously used to being fed since they followed us like puppies).

This was a lovely spot, perfect for the weather conditions we had, and we hope to return to it again on our way out of the Gulf.

Linda and John


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bahias Potrero, Samara, and Carrillo

As John alluded to in our last post, instead of meeting up with Harmony in Brasilito we anchored overnight with them at Playa Potrero, just half an hour down the beach from "Playa Cristal." We were a little sorry we made the move because Cristal had been a charming anchorage (with only a small hotel and two houses on the sandy beach) and it was rollier at Potrero. But it had taken us two tries to set the anchor at Cristal and we didn't want Harmony to have any trouble so it seemed the prudent thing to do. Robert and Virginia came over for lunch and we had a nice time catching up with them before it was time to get ready for the next big jump along the coast.

We were underway before sunrise on Friday for the 12 hour trip to Bahia Samara. The day was a mix of sailing and motoring with everything from flat calms to reefed sails, and 180 degree wind shifts. There were scores of mobula rays popping out of the waters around Isla Eyre at Punta Salinas, and we saw several black and yellow sea snakes, dolphins, and a few turtles. We had originally intended to go to Carrillo, which is the preferred anchorage, but we wanted to check out Samara along the way. Since we arrived at the latter late in the day, and it seemed fine, we decided to set the anchor for one night there.

Bahia Samara is a spectacular and scary anchorage to enter. It has one of the biggest reefs we've ever seen up close on its NW end, a smaller reef inside the bay to the NE, and an island with off lying rocks to the SE. Huge swells were breaking over the big reef creating a lot of wave chop in the anchorage off the village, so we chose to anchor between the island and the smaller reef where several pangas and small fishing boats were moored. We had a brief visit from Carlos and Enrique on the panga, Roca Bruja, on their way out for a night of fishing. They suggested we might be safer anchoring a bit closer in and away from the "window" between Isla Chora and Punta Indio if the north wind came up. It was rolly enough to use the rocker stopper but it was only very bad for an hour or two at the highest part of the tide. We had plenty of room and the bay was lovely.

The Roca Bruja stopped by Saturday morning to exchange a fish (sierra) for two liters of water and I threw in cold cans of soda and juice for each of the crew. Then we dinghied in through the small surf for a walk on shore, though we didn't go all the way to the village itself. This part of the coast is much greener and there are lots of beautiful new homes. We heard and saw several howler monkeys both in the trees along side the paved road and from the beach. After our walk we put the dinghy up on deck, hoisted the anchor, and headed a couple miles up the road to the next small bay, Bahia Carrillo. We had been warned that the best anchoring spot was full of moorings for small boats, but we were still very disappointed to see that there is next to no room left to anchor in the tiny protected cove in the SW corner of the bay. We started to head over to the opposite side of the bay, carefully skirting the underwater rocks noted on the chart (which were visible only by the glassy slick covering them), but it was quickly apparent that we were better off returning to Samara.

It was an especially hot day again with humidity in the mid-60s, and water back up to the low 80s. We were slamming down cold water as fast as the refrigerator could chill it, and John was especially overheated by all the sail handling. The trip could have been a waste of an afternoon, but the day was saved by a giant manta ray (8' wing span) which came gliding down the side of the boat just under the water's surface. It was absolutely magnificent, and is the only one we've seen since our first winter in Banderas Bay. Those are the kinds of things that really lift your spirits when you're hot and sweaty!

We're currently underway for Bahia Ballena in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Linda and John



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happy Zenith day

Playa Cristal, Costa Rica

I'm not really sure if that's the real name of the place where we're currently anchored, but it seems to fit seeing how there's a fancy hotel above the beach with a big sign saying 'Cristal'.

We ducked in here since the wind is blasting from the east and we hoped hills backing the beach and hotel would provide us some protection. It's working out ok, except the wind is very gusty and I know as soon as it shuts off tonight we'll be rolling terribly from the swell coming in from the south west. Oh well, there's good days and bad days...

But that's not why I'm writing this blog. Today is our Zenith day! So I thought I'd wish everyone else whose Latitude also happens to be around 10o 28'N "Happy Zenith Day" too. I'm sure you're wondering, what is Zenith Day. Well it's sort of complicated, but I'll try to explain.

Everyone who lives in the temperate zones of the world are familiar with the seasons of the year. In Winter the days are short and in Summer the days are long. This, of course, is caused by the tilt of the Earth on its axis. This tilt is about 23 degrees. The Sun, on the day of the Spring Equinox, is directly over the Equator and the length of the days all over the world is basically 12 hours (a little longer really, but we won't go into why now). As the year progresses, the Sun continues to climb higher in the Northern Hemisphere sky until the Summer Solstice at which point it will be over the Latitude of 23o 27'N. Northern Hemisphere days will be long and the Summer will be in full bloom. Of course it's all 'down hill' from there. After the Summer Solstice the Sun begins to recede to the South until the Winter Solstice, when it pauses over 23o 27'S before climbing back to the North.

Now, if you can picture the trek of the Sun as it makes it's way North and South, you may be able to picture NAKIA directly underneath it. Today. At about 12:42 local time. The Sun went directly over our heads, or passed through our Zenith (at least as close as it's going to get this year). Thankfully, as I said before, it's all down hill from here! While our days will not be getting shorter (we are, barely, still in the Northern Hemisphere where days are getting longer), we'll at least get a little break from having the blazing Sun DIRECTLY over our heads!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bahia de Culebra, CR

The bus trip to Liberia was over an hour each way for 450 Colones including a free polizia inspection on the way to town. We passed with flying colors using our California drivers licenses (or rather the color copy laminates we had made in Mazatlan to carry around with us instead of our real licenses). It was a long hot trip for a better selection of produce at the super mercado conveniently located across the street from the bus station, but we wouldn't make the trip again just for shopping. The day before we met Gene, Vici and Fiona from Caravan for another delicious daily lunch special at Soda Papagayo. This time it was fish soup which I almost didn't order because it's so hot out. But it had a mild curry flavor with big chunks of vegetables and firm pieces of fish similar to dorado which we learned was sailfish. We topped that off with another visit to the gelato place, and were happy campers.

Sunday we left Bahia del Coco for Bahia Huevos which had been highly recommended to us. At first we were delighted because it felt like a smaller version of Bahia Santa Elena, but after discovering that the road on the southern shore is private property guarded by men wearing Papagayo Peninsula T-shirts we weren't interested in staying more than one night. We anchored right in the middle of the bay and had no bugs come out to the boat at night. We heard many howler monkeys (yes, that's what the growling noise turned out to be) calling from all sides of the bay in the morning, and we finally saw four in the trees just inside the entrance to the mangrove river trip. Which was a good thing because we were immediately swarmed by a cloud of flies around our heads, cutting the river trip short. There were several interesting birds, but we couldn't stand to slow down for long to watch them. We visited a couple of the beaches but overall the water was green and murky so we didn't snorkel.

Yesterday we moved to Playa Panama to visit the Caravaners. We had them all over to Nakia last night (sans Clipper, the schipperke), and Fiona gave Ziggy a good play workout. This afternoon we're all going to the huge beach in spite of the gusty wind blasting away today.

Tomorrow morning John and I will depart for Bahia Brasilito to meet up with Robert and Virginia on Harmony so they can hand off our mail packet as they head north back to Mexico.

Then we'll be on the move to the Gulf of Nicoya, our last stopover in Costa Rica before sailing to Ecuador.

Linda and John



Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bahia del Coco

I hope everyone understood that the blog on Santa Elena wildlife was supposed to be sort of tongue in cheek (poor us, we didn't see any howler monkeys, just all these other phenomenal things...). John came up with the idea to try to make it humorous, but I'm afraid my execution wasn't as good as his premise.
From Bahia Santa Elena we made a three hour sunrise trip to Bahia Murcielagos and anchored at Key Point rather than the islands since we were only going to be there for one night. We had hoped the water would be clear for snorkeling the nearby reef but it was green and murky and John couldn't even see the rocks that he knew were down there somewhere. I spent the day on the boat while he explored with the dinghy. We were somewhat surprised to be paid a late afternoon visit by the park ranger in his panga. He came aboard and explained that the park entry fee is now $15 per person no matter how long the stay (there may be a maximum stay but we didn't ask; this fee is up from the old $6 per person per day fee that we had read about). Needless to say we were a bit peeved not to have known about this ahead of time since we could have easily avoided the stop altogether, and gone directly to Coco. The fee is for the marine park area from Cabo Santa Elena south, including Bahia Murcielagos, the Islas Murcielagos (Bat Islands), and Bahia Potrero Grande. The marine park does not extend north to encompass Bahia Santa Elena.
We made another dawn departure for the five hour trip to Bahia del Coco just south of Bahia de Culebra. We had to skip the latter to get to Coco for laundry, provisions, water, gasoline, etc. but hope to go backwards from here to explore that area. Playas del Coco is a beach town with lots of dive and souvenir shops. Yesterday we checked in with the Port Captain, Immigration, and Customs for no charge (yay!). We also paid about $27 to have our laundry done (13.5 kilos - yikes); made a first pass at the grocery store; had a great $4 per person lunch consisting of cubes of beef in a sauce with sides of rice, black beans, mashed potatoes, and a vinegary red cabbage coleslaw; and followed that with two scoops of gelato. We were starved by the time we got to the food (after taking care of all the other chores) so everything tasted delicious.
While we were in the internet cafe waiting for our laundry to be finished it started raining buckets, and John raced out to the boat to close up all the port holes. This was our first experience with a hard rain in months. Unfortunately the bulk of the rain storm passed through the opposite side of the anchorage from us and we didn't get a very thorough boat wash this time. As John was leaving the cafe I pointed out a monkey that was climbing up a trellis on the side of the building where we were standing. That sure was surprising!
John is getting water and gas ($5/gallon - yikes) today and we hope to take the bus to Liberia tomorrow for fresh fruits and veggies. The produce section in the market here is not very exciting. Oh, and we're having to learn yet another monetary system. We've been exchanging our U.S. dollars for Colones at just under 500 Colones for one dollar. So we multiply by two and drop three decimal points (50,000 Colones = $100); I'm having a terrible time with the big numbers!
It's been very hot - high 80s to low 90s in the afternoons, low 80s overnight - and the humidity has been 50-80% depending on the time of day. So we're drinking water like it's summer in the Sea of Cortez. Oh, and I forgot to write that the water temperature climbed 10 degrees while we were in Santa Elena from low 70s to low 80s, so swimming is nice again!
Linda and John
{GMST}10|33.260|N|85|42.360|W|Bahia del Coco|Bahia del Coco{GEND}

Bahia Santa Elena, CR (hiking)

During our week at anchor in Bahia Santa Elena (March 30 - April 7, 2008) we enjoyed several morning hikes along the dirt roads accessible from three different beach landings in the bay. We had some difficulty finding the roads, mainly because we were looking in the wrong place. So the main thing you should keep in mind is that none of the roads are difficult to access from the beach. If you find yourself bush whacking through the underbrush and trees, you are NOT in the right spot! We enjoyed catching glimpses of wildlife and birds including iguanas, spider monkeys, a white-faced monkey, two kinds of kingfisher birds, a small falcon, the ubiquitous white-throated magpie jay (any interesting noise you hear is likely to be this bird it being so gregarious), white-tailed deer, butterflies (including a beautiful, large, iridescent blue kind), and paper wasp (?) nests.

We've heard that if you're not checked into or have already checked out of Costa Rica, the navy may kick you out of Bahia Santa Elena. This didn't seem to be the case as we saw only panga fishermen and a Guardia Costa (Coast Guard) boat which made a brief pass by both boats in the anchorage solely to ask us if everything was okay. Friends saw a park ranger on shore but were not asked to pay a fee.

High tides can go right up under the tree line at the beaches so be sure to lock/tie your dinghy to a tree. Conversely low tides expose the shore so you'll need your dinghy wheels.

The deer/horse flies and other bugs can be a nuisance so you might want to take/wear insect repellant.

There are lots of thorn trees so watch where you step especially in the dry brush on the beaches. Flip-flops are not recommended (I found out the hard way)!

Take plenty of drinking water, especially for the longer hikes. It was very hot and dry when we visited.

HIKE #1 (Falls and pools)
Wear shoes suitable for walking on dirt roads, rocks and boulders, and wading through water.

10 54.543'N 085 47.599'W Beach landing (at the SW end of the bay)

10 54.481'N 085 47.588'W Beach road T's at the main road (take a Left)

Cross two small (probably dry) stream beds.

10 54.339'N 085 47.167'W Road crosses third (and larger) stream bed (there's a palm tree on the right side of the road); turn Right to walk up the dry stream bed; we found water in the stream bed before we reached the fallen tree visible from the road.

10 54.032'N 085 47.159'W Falls and first swimming pool; there are a few smaller swimming pools up and over the falls if you feel like going farther.

HIKE #2 ("Monkey" road)
10 55.115'N 085 47.235'W Beach landing (at the SE end of the bay north of the mangrove rivers; it looks like a single lane launch ramp cut into the mangroves).

From where you've pulled your dinghy up high into the mangroves take a Right and follow the back of the mangroves around a rocky ledge to the dirt road. The rocky ledge may be under water at high tide. It might be possible to leave your dinghy tied off to the mangroves there (a stern anchor would help), although this is where tour pangas unload their bird-watching passengers so be sure to keep out of the way of their landing.

10 54.604'N 085 46.635'W Road crosses a large stream bed (it was before this point on two separate walks that we saw three spider monkeys in trees off to the right of the road; you will hear them first, if they're there).

10 54.360'N 085 46.515'W Road intersects the main road to the falls and Playa Blanca (to the right); we took a Left.

10 54.346'N 085 46.415'W Road crosses stream bed again (probably leading to one of the two mangrove "river" rides at the head of the bay, both of which are navigable in a dinghy at high tide).

There was another road forking off to the right which we didn't explore. This road is not on the chart.

10 54.310'N 085 46.074'W Top of the rise in the road (this is as far as we went; this road continues on towards Bahia Cuajiniquil and beyond).

HIKE #3 (Playa Blanca)
We recommend timing this hike to arrive at Playa Blanca during a low tide. The high water mark came right up to the tree line, and it would be very disappointing to have walked all that way and then not be able to walk the beach. We arrived to find sand flats, an estuary system walled off by the beach, no birds, and no shells. However the hike itself was interesting in that it passed through several varieties of vegetation, and crossed dry, rocky, river beds (which would be amazing to see during the rainy season).

10 55.338'N 085 49.116'W Beach landing (this beach is to the south of the rock islet, and the road is at the north end of the beach).

10 55.298'N 085 49.273'W Right turn at main road

10 56.272'N 085 51.701'W Road ends at Playa Blanca

For a nice photo opportunity of the bay either turn towards Playa Blanca from the beach landing for the Falls hike, or turn towards the Falls from the Playa Blanca beach landing. The overlook is a little closer to the former.

10 54.833'N 085 48.261'W Scenic overlook to anchorage

We hope you enjoy your visit to the Bahia Santa Elena area of the Santa Rosa National Park as much as we did!

Linda and John

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bahia Santa Elena, CR (wildlife)

The bay here is surrounded by the Santa Rosa National Park which we were told is known for its population of howler monkeys. We have yet to see a howler monkey but one morning we did wake to see a pod of dolphins swimming in the bay. And on an afternoon beach walk outside the bay we caught glimpses of four sea turtles in the shallow waters off the sand. Still no howler monkeys after five days here, but we do see green parrots flying overhead in squawking pairs at sunrise and sunset every day. Oh, and one morning at sunrise there was a humpback whale lying almost motionless in the bay. After watching her for over an hour we decided she had either come into the calm protected waters to give birth to and/or to nurse the calf that periodically surfaced by her side. They still weren't the famous howler monkeys, but on a hike one afternoon we were scolded by three spider monkeys watching us from a tree just off the dirt road we were walking on. And yesterday, on our hike to the nearby waterfall and swimming holes, John twice caught sight of deer in the dry tropical forest. During a morning dinghy ride in the bay we were drawn to what we hoped might be the long sought after howler monkeys walking along the beach, but they only turned out to be half a dozen of some other kind of monkey with cream colored faces and shoulders having a good time swinging around in the low trees above the beach.

There are interesting noises at dawn and dusk that sound like a cross between a very loud bullfrog and a large cat growling repetitiously, as well as a long one tone hoooooot followed by the same thing in a different pitch. Perhaps these are the unseen howler monkeys? They are the first sounds of the morning followed by a jumble of bird song, and finally the sleepyhead parrots join the chorus before flying off to wherever they go for the day.

All in all it's been disappointing not to have been treated to an appearance by the mysterious howler monkeys, but we'll just have to console ourselves with the everyday sort of wildlife that has come our way so far...

Linda and John

message for Colum Muccio

You didn't give us an email address when you posted your comment on "Barillas Marina Club." I highly recommend BMC as an excellent place to keep your boat. We haven't been to Bahia del Sol (west of Barillas), which is also in El Salvador and very popular with cruisers, but based on what I've heard about its bar crossing we wouldn't stop there. One person told us that it's just a matter of time before someone gets killed crossing the Bahia del Sol bar.

For us (U.S. passports) the entry to El Salvador was only $10 per person to Migracion. All officials come to your boat immediately upon arrival and then you go to the office to check in with the club and to pay Migracion in their office on club property.

I can't answer your question about renewing your "permit" since I don't know what kind of a permit you need. We did not require an agent in El Salvador or Honduras for checking in/out of those countries. I understand Guatemala is a much more expensive process, as is Nicaragua.

Please include your email address, if you need additional information.

Thanks for contacting us,

Linda and John