“There are big ships and small ships. But the best ship of all is friendship.” ~Author Unknown
We had weathered high winds and a long night of storms and spent the morning close-hauled in 30+ knots as we bashed across the Golfo Papagayo. We sailed as tightly to the wind as Red Thread would allow, a course that landed us near shore a few miles south of Playa del Coco, Costa Rica’s northernmost port of entry.
Our friends had opted to vacation at the Riu Guanacaste, a monstrous all-inclusive resort that towers above a stretch of beach a few miles south of our destination. Tears of exhaustion and anticipation spilled from my eyes when the behemoth came into view. I had so longed for this reunion. One of the things I’ve learned about passages is that a few days away from land and thoughts dissolve into meaningless nothingness or become theatrical melodramas fit for daytime television. In the days leading up to our arrival in Costa Rica, my thoughts fit into the latter category. I had imagined a dramatic meeting in which I would fling myself into the sea and swim ashore to embrace my friends, while Neil shouted our excitement over the boat’s loud speaker. The reality was that the waters were shoal, which prevented us from cruising too close to shore; and even with the aid of binoculars, I could not identify our friends on the beach.We shook off the anticlimactic moment and motored north toward Playa del Coco. As we pulled into the bay, which had been described by our guidebook as “protected from Papagayo winds”, we were pelted with 30 knot gusts on our nose. We dropped our anchor and did our best to rectify some of the salty havoc the storm conditions had caused during the night. We poured a cold drink and toasted to our good teamwork during the storm and our safe arrival to a new nation, one we were both extremely excited to explore. The Costa Rican sun beat hot on the boat, and the temperature in our cabin climbed well into the 90s. Immobilized by fatigue and heat, we fell asleep early in the afternoon, deciding it would be best to tackle the tasks of clearing into the country and catching up with our friends after some rest.
We awoke the next morning with renewed ambition. We showered on the back of the boat (our first bath in six days); launched our dinghy, Miss Sassy Strings; gathered our boat documentation, and rowed to shore. Playa del Coco’s reputation for surf had preceded it. Regretfully, we had yet to master the art of surf landings in our dinghy and promptly flipped our little boat when we were spun broadside in the waves. Thankfully, we always keep our valuables in a dry bag, so at least the most important possessions (e.g., camera, USCG documentation) were spared the salty plunge. Neil and I, on the other hand, were soaked from head-to-toe. Fresh, clean hair and smooth skin was short-lived, as the effects of our long-overdue bath were washed away by the sticky itch of drying salt. Wearing jean shorts was a poor decision on my part, as I spent the better part of the day damp.
Salty and slightly aggravated, we began the check-in cha-cha-cha. Our first stop was the Capitania de Puerto, just a block of the beach. There, we ran into crews of m/v Sunday Morning and m/v Giddyup, cruisers we’d met in Chiapas. After a stop at Migracíon and a return trip to the Capitania de Puerto, we shared a 45-minute cab ride to the extremely inconveniently located Aduana (Customs) office. Despite arriving well within business hours, the appropriate worker was not present and after some deliberation by Van, the only Spanish speaker among us, we loaded back into our taxi and headed toward the aeropuerto to complete Customs there. When we arrived we were whisked into the airport and then immediately back out, this time with an official in tow. We crowded the six of us back into a car best-suited for four and headed back toward the first office. The proper official appeared soon our after return, and the two men got into what appeared to be a brief quarrel. We were then asked to pay the man from the airport a small fee, which we’re quite certain was actually a bribe. We were not sure what to think of the transaction and appreciated the advice we were given later to ask for a receipt in such situations, as individuals charging legitimate fees will happily provide one. Either way, the cost of taxi fare and that nominal fee sure beat the $450 we’d been quoted to use an agent to help us check into the country when, ultimately, it was done quite easily without assistance.
Let the fun begin!
Properly cleared into the country, the fun began! We joined our friends at their hotel and spent the next few days surrounded by happiness and laughter.
My best friend was to turn 30 during our voyage, and soon after I shared with her that Neil and I planned to embark on a sailing adventure, we agreed to rendezvous wherever we were by the time her birthday rolled around. Although we’d lived across the US from each other in Long Island and Seattle for four years by the time of our departure, 2,400 miles by airplane feels like a mere buzz around the block compared to the nearly 4,000 nautical miles Neil and I traversed by sailboat to meet again.
The bash we had imagined had come to fruition! Seven friends from Montana, New Mexico, New York, and Washington had traveled all the way to Central America spend time together and to celebrate!We laughed, danced, sailed, snorkeled, paddleboarded, kayaked, and lounged by the pool at their hotel. One of our friends, Lindsay, crashed with us on the boat, which was a blast! You’ll read more about her experiences during her stay in our next post. One day, we went headed inland to visit the Rincon de La Vieja, where we ziplined, went down a mountain water slide, rode horses, and visited a natural hot spring spa with mud baths.