Our visit to Costa Rica began Los Suenos & Jaco, where we made our base for 2 weeks. We then continued to Golfito with stops at other various anchorages.
Costa Rica! Oh beautiful Costa Rica! Our first destination that allows us to finally relax for a few weeks. We arrived on a bright note as the seas were calm and Larry fixed the water maker so we were full of pure clean water. What a relief!
We entered Bahia Herradura in the Golfo de Nicoya, to the new marina destination called Los Suenos that translates to The Dreams. It was a dream after this long haul. The marina is brand new and surrounding grounds are beautifully landscaped with tropical plants and walking paths. The resort architecture is Spanish Colonial and the color palettes are deep terra cotta and yellow ochre. We were greeted at our slip by 10 dock hands, taking our lines and securing the boat. We felt very welcomed.
We had to remain on board four hours before the clearing officers could come and complete the paperwork “cha cha”. Ziggy had a hard time understanding why he couldn’t get off the boat as soon as we reached our slip. As is the custom, we hung our Costa Rican flag on our starboard station and the yellow quarantine on the left. This signaled our location and identified that we were not cleared for entry. Around noon our agent arrived with the clearing officers and the paperwork “cha cha” began. This time instead of agents in army uniforms, brandishing guns, and dirty black boots, this group was dressed in golf shirts, shorts, baseball caps, sandals and looked very resortish. They came in, sat themselves down at our salon table, all five of them, and ordered cervezas! Good thing, I had one six pack left and thank God it was in the frig and cold! It went pretty smoothly and we were allowed to remove the quarantine flag and go ashore but not without being warned that we were not to go anywhere without our passports or we would run the risk of being arrested!
We said our “goodbyes” to John Rains and the first mate Scott. They still had a long journey ahead of them. They are made arrangements to take a long taxi ride over the rough pot holed road to the mountain town of San Jose to make their flight connection back to San Diego. We were very great full for the experiences with them. Most of all we learned what the boat can handle and are now confident and looking forward to what lies ahead.
We’ve never seen anything like this marina. It is geared solely for MEGA sports fishing yachts. We are the only cruiser here and lucky that we were able to get reservations. Others that we knew going this path couldn’t get reservations or were lucky to get in for one night. Our boat length is 62 feet overall, and we feel small. Most lot of these monsters are 75 feet and more. We seem out of place and especially since we haven’t caught a fish to eat in 2500 miles. The place buzzes with guys in baseball caps, white t-shirts silk screened with sports fishing insignias or logos of their boats. Their feet are adorned with rubber flipper thongs. You absolutely cannot tell one from the other. Their sole purpose is going out everyday with the idea of catching something big. “Catch and release” is the motto here. It is supposed to be humane, but after I saw what it did to the three Bonita we caught and released, I’m not convinced. Each boat has a huge tuna tower on top. Some must be 60 plus off the water. It looks to me like a death-defying act to climb up on those things especially when out to sea and the boat is rolling back and forth. It’s a thrill just watching them climb to the top to clean them in the security of their dock slip. There’s plenty of entertainment each just watching theses mega monsters leaving and coming back each day. They maneuver them fast in and out of their slips. The hired captains, (mostly American that stay on the boats, and the owners fly down occasionally to go out) handle them like huge, slick polished Cadillac’s. With their backs to the helm, the captains manipulate the bow thrusters and gears behind their backs, they drive them into the dock slip with the speed of light. The sounds of the fine tuned powerful engines roar in and then powerful grinding sound of the thrusters start as they manipulate themselves left and right for a perfect landing. There is quite a surge in the marina and even at its calmest, it can be a challenge to get any thing in the slips. They’ve got themselves pretty protected though because they have tied huge fender balls to all sides of their slips to prevent any damage, god forbid the, master captain would make a wrong maneuver. The Costa Ricans call them “Cappies”.
Unfortunately, even these high priced pros and equipment haven’t been catching fish either. There’s definitely a cloud of disappointment hovering over the docks. There’s additional tension and concern since next week is an important tournament and the top booty is $500,000!! Pros are flying in from all over. Each day we watch as they come back and we ask, but the response is, “no luck.” The talk around the dock is that the “moon isn’t right” or the “water isn’t clear”, or “something is bothering the fish”, etc. It must be devastating having the expense of those huge boats for the sole hobby of catching fish and for days, and weeks on end not being able to catch anything. The home ports listed on the back of the yachts are from places such as Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Texas, Newport Beach and some names are so hideous like “Lucky Sperm, from Climax, PA”, “Topless”, “Jammer”, etc. You get the picture.
At our slip though, fish abound. Tropical striped ones, small and medium sized grey ones, round flat pink ones, and there’s one blow fish that slowly glumps around every afternoon. It’s become a thing with Ziggy to watch for him. He goes crazy over this particular blowfish. He chases him all around the boat and down the dock and the blowfish completely is undisturbed or bothered by Ziggy. He just continues to go about his way nibbling off the barnacles on the dock and ignores Ziggy completely. Ziggy does everything possible to catch his attention. He barks and lunges at him, almost falling in, but nothing stirs this fat fish. The Costa Rican boat hands get a kick out of it.
There are a few mega cruising yachts on the end piers and the others that are too big to get in or can’t get a reservation are anchored just outside the breakwater of the marina in the beautiful natural bay called Bahia Herradura, which means horseshoe, as that is it’s shape. John Rains said the last time he was here, Johnny Carson had his mega yacht named the Serengeti anchored in the bay.
This place is not an inexpensive destination. Our slip fees ran $170 per night for two weeks, which is more than anywhere else we’ve encountered, even in the US. The marina has ample power and we are totally “plugged in”. We get great cable TV and all the AC’s on the boat are running non-stop. The climate is very hot and very humid so we spend a lot of time in the boat. The marina has an open-air restaurant bar on the second floor of the office building that over looks the marina. It has 5 TVs running constantly, all tuned to different sporting events going on around the world and the music blasts most of the night and day. There is a new efficient fuel dock that most yachts on their way down fuel up at. I wish I had that concession. Our fuel fill up was $3000 including the oil change. You don’t just go and pull up to fill up. You make an appointment a few days ahead and great service. The diesel is $2.11 per gallon. There is a gourmet mini mart nearby with frozen Omaha Steaks, duck, pate, and Hagen Daas ice cream. While you’re filling you can also have cases of beer, both domestic and imported, cokes, and bottled water loaded on your boat. A short walk away is the Marriott resort with a beautiful golf course, restaurants, swimming pools, spa and casino, all flanked in front by a long crescent shaped black sand beach. The black sand beach serves as a picturesque backdrop to the many white egrets. There’s a walking bridge from the marina to the hotel and below on the sun heated boulders are multitudes of iguanas or hela monsters. They blend into the color of their surroundings and it’s like a puzzle to spot one. Once you notice one, you start to notice more and more the longer you look.
We spent a few days resting, cleaning and anxiously got ready for our friends to arrive. We rented a car to have for a week at $150 a day and drove North up the coast to Puntarenas. Puntarenas is the port that the majority of cruisers check into to get their entry papers cleared. John Rains had told Larry it was “a hell on earth. Larry wanted to see what a hell on earth was so we drove the hour and a half north over a potholed road to see the other place that we could have come into. It was a pretty sad looking place. It must b a tough existence here for the locals. Windows and doors were boarded up everywhere and buildings looked mostly like shacks. The streets were crowded and we noticed many prostitutes, hustlers, trash, etc. This town is also the destination for those wishing to take the ferry Golfo de Nicoya to other tourist and wildlife destinations on the Peninsula de Nicoya. It’s about the only way to get over to some of the remote destinations across the gulf except by private boat or small charter plane. This port unloads cruise ships here also, can’t figure that out. For such a busy stop over, this is not a pleasant place.
LUNCH IN THE JUNGLE
On our way back, we stopped for lunch at a small place off the highway, a few miles back into the jungle on a dirt road. The place was surrounded by acres of botanical gardens and had a magnificent view of the coastline that we had just crossed. The woman that ran the place was from the US and had been living in this wilderness for two years now. She had been living in Jamaica for the last fifteen and said she felt safer in this country. She invited all of us including Ziggy in for lunch. As we waited for lunch we listened to the amazing loud cacophony of insects in the surrounding landscape and the silly chatter two pet parrots perched next to our table who spent much of the time kissing and admiring each other. True love I guess.
Zig & parrots in dining room!
CROCODILES on the RIO TARCOLES
On our way back to the marina we stopped the car and walked across the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles. We had noticed other people doing the same on the way to Puntarenas and wanted to see what they were looking at. Just below the bridge, to our amazement, were several crocodiles sunning themselves on the gravel shore. They were motionless and blended in so well with the coloring of the gravel bed that I would have stepped or sat on one except that one slowly opened his massive jaws just to show us how fierce he could be.
We were anxious to get back as our friends were arriving. They were a day late because their flight was cancelled the day before. All communication to us is through email and we obtain that mostly though the radio over single side band once a day or rarely over satellite connection. We were worried when they didn’t show and had no way to communicate except by this email. Finally in the afternoon we received an email from them explaining their delay to our great relief.
FRIENDS ARRIVE! AND A LITTLE TIME TO HAVE FUN!
They finally arrived the next afternoon bringing much needed mail, boat parts to repair things that had failed on the way down and extra cash. We got them settled and had a wonderful dinner under the palapas of the local restaurant Le Galeon which overlooks the marina and our boat. The Chef is excellent and has cooked for some of the best like Wolfgang Puck. I couldn’t believe our friends were here and we were in this nice marina and having a fabulous meal. We were having the most delicious grilled peppercorn crusted tuna with chillie pepper mashed potatoes and appetizers of tuna tartar with sesame seeds and wasabi! It was delicious!
LITTLE TOWN OF JACO
The next day, we decided to rest up, lay around the pool at the Marriott and then head into the nearby town of Jaco and shop. We had a date to join John and Sue Spencer, off the “Uno Mas” (another Nordhavn that is heading south through the canal to Florida) on the same mission as we are), for dinner. They are headed for Fort Lauderdale to link up with the other 29 Nordhavns for the Nordhavn North Atlantic Rally in May.
Jaco, is a surfer-dude town. Cheap little tourist shops and restaurants. It’s our only place to get groceries in what they call the super mercado, “Mas X Menos”, mostly “menos” (less). I almost pass out every time I go in there because it is so hot. Larry always tells me to go outside because my face is getting so red. We’ve done pretty well getting delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, drinks, marginal eggs, the basics. I’m almost totally turned against eggs now. We get farm fresh but they are never really fresh. I have to test each one by submerging it in water to see if it floats or not. If it floats, it’s a definite bad one and gets thrown out. Before I knew this, I had cracked open a perfectly rotten egg on some meat loaf I was making. It had the most awful smell and was black. I almost pewked. Now when I test them, if they sink, I still don’t accept them unless they are laying flat. If they tilt up slightly, out the window they go. They don’t last but a few days. I’ve begun to wonder what’s in the eggs at home that I can keep in the frig for weeks on end and they still are good. Scarry!
We met John and Sue at Los Suenos, and all six of us plus Ziggy, crammed into the rental car with John in the back where the luggage goes.and headed to town for dinner on the beach that night. We headed to our next favorite restaurant right on the beach. The sunsets are like the billboard for the movie, Endless Summer. The beach is long and wide and the sand is black. It’s flanked with palm trees and at sunset people are riding horses and still swimming and wading in the ocean at dusk. It made for a magnificent backdrop to our dining experience. The food was great. They serve the freshest Dorado and Sea bass with garlic sauce. MMMMm yum! Ziggy is welcome too. That particular night he was interested in some frogs in the bushes nearby. The waiter told me they weren’t good for the dog. “Peligroso!” (dangerous) I realized later that Costa Rica has poisonous frogs that can paralyze or kill other animals. The Indians used to use their secretion for poisonous darts. Yikes!
Sunset on the beach in Jaco
Now on to the VOLCANO