A few hours after we arrived in Playa del Coco, we dinghied to the beach, survived the surf landing, and got to the business of clearing back into Costa Rica. This time around, we were not rookies. We knew what to expect, and we managed to go through the process relatively quickly; half a day. The duration of time a boat may remain in Costa Rica is limited to 90 days. Fortunately, we found a loophole during our initial visit and secured a suspension on our Importacíon Temporal, which basically stopped the clock on our 90-day time limit. Had we not done that, we would have had to stay outside of Costa Rica’s borders for at least 90 days, regardless of the number we’d spent there initially. The clock began ticking again…
Our stop in Playa del Coco was short-lived. After clearing in, we made a quick stop to do a few things online, went on a provisioning run, and dropped off our laundry to a local lady. Sometimes bucket washing simply does not cut it. Period. The following afternoon, we weighed anchor and motored deeper into Bahia Culebra to Marina Papagayo, the scene of one of the most nerve-rattling boat repair fiascos of our voyage.
We decided to stop at Marina Papagayo for two reasons. First, we needed fuel. Secondly, we were considering leaving our boat there during the rainy season, while we went somewhere to work. Marina Papagayo is truly a state-of-the-art facility, and we knew our beloved boat would be well taken care of there. We had plans to meet with the Harbormaster, Dan, to discuss long-term moorage. We’d reached the conclusion that working in Central America was simply not going to be a viable option. Our Spanish was mediocre at best, and it was unlikely we’d be able to secure jobs that would offer wages that were any better than our command on the local language. We have a mortgage on The Red Thread and because choosing to not cross the ocean to Australia this season meant extending our trip by a number of months, we knew we’d need more cash to cover that omnipresent expense. We’d have more control over variable outlays (e.g., fuel, fun), but our mortgage wasn’t going to change. Working on a mega-yacht was still a possibility, but prospects were looking complicated and slim.
On May 2nd, we got underway. We planned to cruise as far as Tamarindo, a lively tourist beach town, nicknamed “Gringolandia” by locals. Fifteen- to 20-knots of northeasterly breeze had been forecast but were nowhere to be found. Halfway through our 30-nautical mile passage, westerlies picked up, and we were able to let the sails do the work.The wrong kind of rocking
Expectations play a major role in one’s perception of any experience. We had anticipated dropping the hook for the night in Tamarindo, resting, and then kicking off another overnight sail starting the next day. We set our anchor off Tamarindo in uncomfortable, if not miserable, swell. Our logbook reads, “This anchorage is rolly as shit with breaking waves nearby.” I stood on the bow, trying to capture on video the state of the seas, while Neil tried to take a nap. I found myself feeling seasick as a result of the conditions…in the anchorage.A testament to our increased comfort with sailing at night and evidence of just how wretched the anchorage, we did something we’d never done before: we set off on an impromptu overnight passage. Bahia Ballena was about 90 nautical miles south, near the Gulf of Nicoya, and we were going for it. In stark contrast with our passage from Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua, to Playa del Coco, which was among our most memorable, this stretch was our most disappointing. We arrived in Bahia Ballena in early afternoon of the following day, having caught zero fish and having only sailed for a few hours when the winds were amplified by a fleeting nighttime squall. Okay, it wasn’t all bad. There was a full moon, and Neil enjoyed a late-night dolphin visit. As we rounded the Peninsula de Nicoya, the character of the landscape began to morph. We were nearing a more verdant region of Costa Rica…
We entered the wide mouth of Bahia Ballena, and the onshore breeze that piped up as we neared the bay quieted steadily as we approached the anchorage. We set our hook on our first attempt off the town off the town of Tambor, which felt calm and protected. Fishing pangas were med-moored to a long dock with cement stairs, and for the first time in well over a month, we saw two other cruising sailboats. The next day, we hitched a ride to the dock with the crew of Seahorse V. We enjoyed a walk into the town and a beer in a modest café that had two outdoor tables (i.e., someone’s veranda, I’m pretty sure). Along the way, we picked a few mangos off the ground and spotted howler monkeys. Upon return to the fishing dock, local men were selling fresh fish and stringing hooks. Bahia Ballena seemed like a nice little spot, but we didn’t get to experience the full splendor of the area until we returned a couple weeks later…stay tuned!
Bahia Ballena anchorage waypoint: 09°42’.97 N 085°00’.54 WPassage perks
Point of departure: Playa del Coco, Costa Rica — 05/02/15
Point of arrival: Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica — 05/03/15
Distance traveled: 119 nautical miles
Total time: 27 hours
Engine roaring: 17 hours
Sails soaring: 10 hours
Average speed: 4.4 knots
Jessie’s musings: Two memories stand out to me. First was our in-n-out stop in Tamarindo, where the anchorage was truly unbearable. Tamarindo has a sour reputation among Ticos as being nothing but a tourist hole; hence the nickname “Gringolandia.” Still, the beach stretched long and golden and the town was appealing from the water. Secondly, we saw grand waves pummeling enormous crags at several points along this stretch of coastline. The power of the ocean was magnificent to observe, as the force of the waves rocketed foamy mountains of water stories into the air.
Neil’s reflections: Anchoring in Tamarindo sucks. It was the rolliest anchorage we experienced in our 8.5 months of sailing. Coupled with the loud music pumping from the resorts lining the shoreline and the panga dragging tourist around the water on floats, we had plenty of reasons to want to move on, and we did just that!