Winds in this bay never seem to abate for more than an hour or two. Gusts have spiked as high as the upper 30s in the anchorage, and we see the low 30s almost daily. Some moments I’m convinced that the only redeeming quality of this bay is its good holding.
Okay, okay, okay. Maybe that reflection was a bit harsh. The Papagayo winds rarely abated. One afternoon two large fishing boats retreated from the open waters to the anchorage, seeking refuge from the building fetch. Nonetheless, the bay had a great deal to offer in addition to Playa del Coco. Peaceful Panama
Playa Panama is situated along the eastern shore of Bahia Culebra, two bays north of Playa del Coco, the northernmost clearance port in Costa Rica, where we had enjoyed time with our friends. Although the beach is lined with development, the more relaxed atmosphere was palpable, even from the water. We anchored near the shore and were more than a little pleased with the prospect of landing our dinghy without the perils of surf we’d wrestled with at Playa del Coco. The Playa Panama is a lovely stretch of beach that is sheltered by trees and trails that wind along its edge. A few local vendors stood beside carts selling seafood cocktails or candy. During our first foray to shore, we saw high in the trees a family of howler monkeys we’d heard the evening prior. Naturally, that was among our first shore trips in which I left the camera aboard the boat. We treated ourselves to breakfast with good WIFI at the Mangroove Hotel, a swanky beachfront hotel with a long rectangular pool, a bar and restaurant with a sand floor, and a bizarre statue of a man with oversized feet. The food was delicious (short rib eggs benedict – yum), and the internet connection was so robust we were able to skype with Neil’s mom! We hadn’t seen her face since she visited us in December and sailed with us from Mazatlán to Isla Isabela to Chacala and Isla la Peña, and finally to Banderas Bay.
That night, the moon was so bright that I crawled from the v-berth, concerned that someone was shining a spotlight through our portholes. We had sailed from Mexico to Costa Rica beneath a moonless sky, and the return of the night’s brightest light was a welcomed gift.
New friends in a cruiser’s desert
We were alone our first night but were excited to be joined by two other sailboats, Meridian and Ventured, the afternoon of our second day. We were becoming increasingly aware that cruising boats were fewer and farther between in Central America relative to Mexico, and we welcomed the opportunity to see fresh faces. We convened with our neighbors via VHF and agreed to rendezvous on the beach for an afternoon snorkel.The water was a bit chilly, churned up by the constant agitation caused by the Papagayos, but there were pretty fish to see. Sadly, the reef was dead and the once-many abalone had been pried from their abodes. Erlin on s/v Ventured departed later that afternoon, but the seeds of friendship we planted with s/v Meridian had an opportunity to grow in subsequent days. Dominique, Heinz, and Margrit are a family who have been cruising for the past couple of years. They are up for adventure, enjoy good wine, and make a mean mushroom risotto. What’s not to like?!Hitchhiking in Guanacaste
Neil and I walked the 5 kilometers from Playa Panama to Playa Hermosa for groceries. As is a predicament we commonly find ourselves in, we purchased a hefty amount of groceries and were now looking ahead carrying chicken and a variety of other perishables on a 30-minute walk, half of it being up a hill, beneath a scorching sun in 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Brilliant. We stuck out our thumbs, hoping to hitch a ride. Almost immediately, a sedan pulled over and waved us in. Thousands of miles from home, we met Rick, a delightful man hailing from non-other than Spokane, Washington, a city a mere four hours from Seattle. Rick had hitchhiked around Central America during his 20s and was amused to find himself paying it forward to a couple of Americans decades later.Rick is a man to be admired. On his current trip to Central America, he had spent the majority of his time participating in volunteer efforts related to education and access to clean water. A great dialogue about travel, life, and the beauties of cross-cultural experiences ensued during our ride and the remainder of the afternoon. His flight home to the US had been postponed, and he elected to get a hotel on Playa Panama. He generously invited us to dinner, and we wiled away the evening discussing love and loss, family and friends, and the building of a meaningful life. Among the many gems abroad, it is a beautiful thing to still find diamonds from home.