Sunday, February 20, 2011

Costa Rica...Bahia Culebra to Drakes Bay

This is David...Info for our friends who are following us down the coast...
Playa del Coco..nice anchorage...
On our arrival in Playa Coco in Bahia Culebra.
I could find little on the net to quantify and explain the process for clearing in in Costa Rica. What follows is my experience. I found the whole process painless, although quite time consuming.

0920 entered the Capitania de Puerto office. The lady behind the desk told me to come back at 10am to meet the Capitain. First though, she explained the process and told me what photocopies I would need:

3 copies of:

 * Crew list
 * Zarpe
 * Passports of all crew and passengers ... the main page plus exit stamp from last country. I also needed to copy Sylvie's current visas for entry into the UK and Canada since she has a Zimbawean passport.
 * Boat registration

10:00 Capitain de Puerto took the original Zarpe, passports, and boat registration and asked me to wait a while. He also wanted to know up to 5 previous countries that I visted. I just told him that I had been in Mexico for two years and then visted Nicaragua for 2 days. He was satisfied. I was then given the passports and the boat registration. I was also given payment instructions for the search of the boat for infestations etc that I had to take to the bank. I was told to go to Officina de Migration that was just below the bank. I should return to the Capitania de Puerto at 2pm

1020 The Officina was closed. The official would be back at 11am .... so I went to the bank

1022 waiting in the bank. Finally get served just past 11am. They gave me a receipt for the 28500 colones (US$60) fee that I paid in cash. (the ATM is new and bi-lingual ... rate about 500 colones to US$1). They should give you both the white and the yellow receipt for the inspector ..... they only gave me the yellow.

1110 Officina de Migration. I was given a small form to fill in for each crew/passenger, essentially passport info and last and next countries. Process took a little longer than usual because of Sylvie's Zimbabwean passport. 1200 complete. Stamps in the passports and a stamped "Control Migratorio Maritimo de Ingreso".

1400 Pick up Official del MAG so that he could search the yacht for illegal bugs. Nice chap, but I should really have remembered to recommend that he removed his mobile phone from his trousers (pants to the Americans) before he waded into the surf to board the dinghy ... :-}.

1530 left yacht for the Capitania de Puertos office where I got the form "Direccion de Navigacion".

Tomorrow I have to visit the Aduana (Customs) at the aeroporte. I've been advised to take the bus as the Taxis cost US$30 for the 2km trip ?!! Later discovered that the trip was longer than 2kms...more like 15kms ...but still you can take the bus for a dollar and the Aduana's office is on the left side of the road a fair bit AFTER the turnoff to the airport. It has a small sign, in Blue and white, over the door'll have to look for it, carefully.
The anchorage...
Where we anchored..
The anchorage is split by a reef and the remnants of an old pier..keep well left when you come in. The anchorage is safer from theft if you stay on this side. Your dinghy will be safer too....

When David had to go to the Customs I decided to brave the surf and go with him. We went at low tide and the surf was small, so we landed without incident, but then had to haul the dinghy all the way up the beach to tie it to a tree....or as David did, dig a hole and bury the anchor..totally..It might get stolen otherwise, then we drag the dinghy over the dug up soil.
This section is quiet and cool..further up the road are a lot of curio stalls.
We took a short scenic walk to town and hit the main street looking for a restaurant where I could have a drink and use their internet till David came back from Customs, then we'd have lunch. Well, nothing opened till almost I sat on a bench under a tree and people watched.
A pretty part of town near the beach.
Fred and Linda walked by and stopped for a chat. At about 10:45 I walked back down to one restaurant that I'd liked and, yippie, it's open. They had internet..but alas it wasn't good enough for me to upload my experiences to the blog. sigh :-( David finally arrived, we had lunch and decided to try another place to see if their internet was luck there we bought some bananas, a Water-Mellon, a Cantaloupe, and a Pineapple and went back to the boat.
Ha ha..this was in one of the bars we went to.
Once at the boat we had a glorious swim, then a lovely wash in the sea and a good rinse off with fresh home made water ( reverse osmosis) :-)  A little later Mark off  'Spirit of the Sea' came to visit us. I love it when people just drop in to say Hi. He stayed for a while and then zoomed back to his boat. The next morning we took a sedate row over to Mark's boat to see what it was like and to meet his wife, Isobelle. She is a lovely lady who was a tad stressed as they had paying guests coming for the afternoon and she was trying to get everything in order...yup they do day sails and two or three night trips around this area. They have a great boat, it has two double cabins with their own heads for the guests. It's totally different to the normal mono-hull, perfect for chartering and parties. If you want to contact them send me a request... :-D

A humungeous rubber tree...on the beach.
walking along the beach to the dinghy...
Looking back from whence we'd come.

As David will tell you when he adds his bit on about the Papagayo trip..the wind seems to blow here all the time,,,from 15 to 30 knots is what we've seen. Fortunately there are lots of little coves you can anchor in, out of most of the wind. The rest swirls around you and keeps you cool. When we sail here we easily reach speeds of 7.6 knots with just the genoa's fun in the areas where the sea is flat and bumpy as heck in the Bahia Culebra.

Yep..King Kong Rock....
At the moment we are anchored in Playa Pochote  near the 'King Kong rock' and tomorrow we plan to do some snorkeling. I had to sew all day today, last night we were driven into bed early due to an excessive number of bugs that look like mozzies, but aren't, irritating lot scampering all over your body, tickling the heck out of you. My mozzie nets were a disgrace, the Mexican sun had worn them to a frazzel so I had to do repairs and make some new ones...SO tomorrow is PLAY DAY! We had breakfast and then went to swim the bay.
Ha! What a disappointment, hardly any vis and not a lot of fish to boot. We were advised by a chap who does charters here that this was the best snorkeling spot around....humph....What is it about these people...don't they know what good snorkel is? I mean really, it was as bad as in Mexico. I have heard that you should snorkel at low tide....we'll try that soon. However, in a day or so, we're heading south to try and see some worth while snorkeling. Monday...we've been here a week already! Today we sailed up to the Marina to get fuel...Diesel was US$1.05 per liter plus an almost US$10 charge for environmental purposes and two cans of Canada dry Ginger ale cost US$3.50 ...nope it's not a typo....A berth costs US$2.00 a foot per day or on a monthly rate US$28.00 foot per month..So you could get through rather a lot of your budget by staying here......and by the way there is nothing around the marina, it'll cost you about US$30.00 to get to Playa Coco and there aren't any buses from there either...

Back to Playa del Coco ....we went out to lunch

Beach Bums bar...
The sign...
We ate lunch at The Beach Bums bar and grill, found....on the beach of course...reasonable prices and good internet. BUT we did discover a great restaurant...with fast internet and cold's called Coco Nuts, further up the try them...we didn't eat there as we'd already eaten. Then we took a crowded bus to's the closest main town, where we attacked the local supermarket and eventually staggered out with two backpacks bulging with food and a couple of extra bags to boot. Across the road we waddled and climbed onto the bus...oops..sorry standing room only...for the next 30 miles or so...It costs 500 colones...or US$1 per person..for the trip...unbelievably cheap...wonderful.
The next day we sailed out of Playa Coco on the next step of our adventure....We visited various bays and coves but have decided that Bahia Ballena was a great place to stop..there is a newly opened rather posh place called the Ballena Yacht Club....It's a WONDERFUL place to go and eat and not at all expensive. They have live music on Saturdays, and space to do some dancing. It's well worth a visit.
I tried to find their site but couldn't, but if you are ever there give it a try. The store that sells produce here is very well stocked....we found everything we needed, food wise...

The local supermarket.

If you don't watch out the greenery can take your garden over.
We also met a chap called Tomas on his boat, that he'd built himself. Both David and myself fell in love with it. We managed to get together for a drink or two, but missed out on some more visiting as we seemed to be doing different things at the same hopefully we'll meet up with Tomas somewhere down the line...Justin was also on board, he's visiting, I think he's all the way from Canada...anyway he's having an adventure sailing down Central America with Tomas.
Justin...hanging out on Tomas's boat.
Justin and Orlando waiting for Tomas to finish surfing.

The other place we loved was Curu. You sail in towards the beach and the sea bed shallows to about 14 ft...we sailed on over this shelf and it deepened to 26 feet...we crept in closer and dropped anchor in 15 feet, just off the beach, and dinghied ashore ...we walked along the most interesting trails seeing the white faced Capuchin monkeys, loads of huge iridescent blue butterflies, Iguanas, large orange /red Crabs, birds of all types and some spider monkeys that they are trying to rehabilitate back into the wild. We also heard loads of Howler Monkeys. It was definitely a wonderful day in Paradise!!!
Coming into Curu to anchor.
Red Crabs..all over the place.
The road, carved out of the forest.
Unusual flowers..not a Hibiscus.
teensy grasshoppers.
Red Ants...of a type.
Trees with knobs that grow into thorns.
Puddytat anchored in Paradise.
Puddytat can be seen through the trees.
Spider Monkey.
Capuchin Monkey.
Rickety to walk over :-)
We could have stayed a lot longer...should have!

Quepos is a laugh. They have built the marina over most of the anchoring area and are charging US$140 a night to tie up to the slip...water and electricity are extra. The docks make a heck of a banging racket as they jerk their way up and down the pontoon tidal poles.We didn't stick around, there are no cruisers there. We've heaqrd since then that the anchorage is really rolly...for mono-hulls.
We sailed on through the night to Drakes Bay. What a lovely place this is. We came ashore and walked around...deciding in the end to eat at a restaurant called Mar de Marta.
The best place to eat!!
What a treat. we had their 'meal of the day' which was chicken cooked in beer served with veges and rice cooked in garlic...delicious!!
Wonderful to look at, wonderful to eat!
David says the Choc Mousse was perfect.
Daniel and Maritza are definitely going places! If you come here do NOT walk by their place. They are also trying to get WIFI internet set up there, but expect it will take a while. Daniel is from Spain and he knows how to cook! Tomorrow we are sailing around the corner to another bay that Daniel told us about, to explore the snorkeling there. We met Daniel, Maritza and the rest of their friends, one of whom is another Daniel who owns the supermarket here. He's a great guy. They had no metal grill for the fire, so they made a grill using green sticks...very innovative! We had a wonderful day with them.

We barbecued Pork kebabs on a home made Braai.
Next stop will probably be another secluded bay and then Golfito...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nicaragua......and sailing to Costa Rica

The next area we'll be sailing with a bit of a modification ...the chart is taken from the book  Cruising Ports the Central American Route, written by Capt. Pat Rains.
A little chart to show the layout or our first stop.....
7am..yeah Right. The Customs and Immigration wandered in at 08:30 and proceeded to do the paperwork. It's a great excuse for them to get out of the office for the day and we think they work in cahoots with the Marina, because, they didn't bring out our clearance paperwork. So you guessed it, we have been forced to spend yet another night at this Marina. We didn't have enough US$'s on board, we needed $65 to clear in and more to clear out, so the marina added the payment to our bill temporarily.
A long dirt road...ha ha
A bunch of bananas and three we go!
We had to take a trip into Chinandega, where there are ATM's that give you both US$ and Cordobes. Walking out from the Marina you see a long dirt road and you wonder where the heck you're supposed to catch a bus. We hitched a lift in the back of a pick-up that had a bunch of bananas suspended in the back and three cute little children in the back of the double cab. They dropped us off at a road where the buses pass often.
One arrived while we were still on the we jumped off and ran for it...they like you to get on at the back door..don't know why...and then a chap comes around and takes a US$1 or 20 Cordobas off you for the trip of 35 miles...
The bus was packed to the limit and they still loaded more people on..I think there were some sitting on the roof.:-)
A playground packed with swings and things.
The way they transport beef...
A slice of watermellon anyone?
The commercial centre of Chinandega. It's always like this.
When we arrived in town we succeeded in finding a bank and a fabric store and managed to buy some red fabric for my flag making. I'm going to cut the Nicaraguan flag in half, insert a red stripe and voila, a Costa Rican flag...I'm also going to make us a new Brit Ensign. We also almost got lost in the market place which was very similar to the one we saw in Ensanado, but much more squashed together. The people here are very friendly and on the whole, a lot thinner than the Mexicans. They look healthier too.

Loading the bus for the trip back..not our stuff.
Loading in bricks for someone's home...
An empty milk urn going back to the farmer to be refilled and ferried back to town in the morning.
We bought some fruit and veg and some local Rum, an absolute must! Dorian gave us great directions on how, when and where to catch the buses to get us into Chinandega and back again.  Chinangeda is a very busy place. Besides the stores there are vendors selling on the pavement, (sidewalk to some), they also come into the bus to try and sell their wares. On the bus trip back, the bus gets loaded with all sorts of things that are dropped off at the road side in front of various homes.
A local home..built without the aid of bricks.. ;-)
They dropped us off a short walk from the Marina, at the corner,(of two dirt roads), like we'd been sign posts or anything..ha ha...We When we arrived back from town we paid the marina our clearing in costs and decided to make use of their infinity swimming pool. The rules say no cooler boxes or glasses at the pool, so we poured our G&T's into our usual Plastic glasses and wandered up. No-body cared and we were the only ones there anyway. You can tell that there never are many guests there because the local swallows have invented a way to have a bath in the swimming pool. There is no bird bath for them and the pool has no shallow areas that they could use, so they swoop down to the water and belly flop in, then flap like mad and fly out. It's split second timing but they have it down.
An amazing feat!
Even whilst we were in the pool, if we kept still at one end, they came in droves to do this over and over. An amazing sight. The next morning at about 07:30 the Customs and Immigration people arrived again and this time they came aboard. We fed them coffee and the paperwork was done speedily, with Dorian acting as an interpreter. Then time came to pay them, the one bloke wanted US$19 and the Lady wanted US$25. We had 10's, 20's and four 1's. So David went up to the Marina hotel to see if he could get change..nada, he tried the bar...nada. He came back to the boat and managed to persuade them to take 44 and then work out the change when they got back to town. They come from different departments and were reluctant to do this, but they soon realised that that was the only way they would get paid. We have a couple of snakes on board and one of them, Slippy, took a liking to the Customs chap. I took a photo.
The customs man with Slippy our snake...
As soon as they left the boat we untied Puddytat and took her around to the fuel dock to fuel up. With that quickly and effortlessly done, David went up to the Marina office and paid for our dockage and fuel, then we went back to the dock to rinse the sugarcane ash off and to top up with water.
Clean the ash off!
It's 11:20 and Off we go yahoo! We're outahere! good riddance Nicaragua. I just hate being forced into a corner like that, it leaves a foul taste in my mouth. David had checked the weather forecasts on Passage Weather and NOAA and they both said that a 20 to 25 knot Papagoya was due to blow this evening. We wonder if it will arrive. Sailing down to Costa Rica we have been in between 100 and 350 feet depth of water which is pretty shallow 30 miles offshore. The waves are short and choppy. I've said it before "Into wind Coastal Sailing Sucks, in comparison to the trade wind sailing on the wide open ocean." As night fell so the promised Papagoya arrived with 15 knots True wind. Our apparent was soon seeing 23 knots which meant we were sailing at at least 8 knots...we put two reefs in the main and two in the genoa. The seas were causing Puddytat to bounce around and she had been taking a beating. With the two reefs in she was moving a lot better and we were still doing 6-7 knots. However we had a 2 knot current against us which was slowing the S.O.G down. During my watch the small dinghy, Flea, lost its cross ties and was only being held onto Puddytat with it's painter, (normal rope used to tie her to a dock).
So as David was already wet from the reefing he went forward to retie the straps. It didn't take him long. I was going to make the flags on this trip, but I've only managed to get about 2.5 hours sleep and the boat is still bouncing around like a toy duck in the bath, so I'll wait till we're at anchor, which means I won't be able to do any painting either...oh well enforced loafing :-). Yesterday I made Spaghetti Bolognese for lunch and I also baked David a cheese cake. During my watch even with us bouncing around I managed to cook down a topping sauce out of two canned peaches, some peach juice and sugar. This I applied to the cheese cake so that when he came up for his watch he had a good sugar hit to indulge in. :-D. In the early hours, at sunrise I was woken up by a metallic clanging sound, I had not heard that before, then I heard the braai's lid being shifted. I got up to take a look and David was sitting in the saloon doing the log. I told him about it and he went to investigate. He came back moments later...we had ridden over a 'long line' and somehow instead of it slipping under us it had managed to come aboard and was wrapped around the roller furller, the mast and it had knocked the braai's lid off. David had to cut it, there was no other way to free us. Long lines are miles long stretching across the top of the water with hundreds of baited hooks hanging from them. Some of these hooks had fixed themselves to the genoa and other various parts of the boat.
The long line wrapped around the roller furling genoa..what a mess.
We hoped that he fishermen would be able to find the two new ends and re-tie them, they should do because the line normally has a large buoy attached to each end, but unfortunately they are so far apart we don't see them. David also managed to take a video of the sunrise today 28th Jan 2011.
The sleeping cabin is hot and airless because all the hatches and portholes are battened down, when I woke up I tried to go back to sleep but eventually gave up and staggered upstairs. Even though we don't need the engine to move by, David has it on to charge the batteries...we've just gotta get us a KISS, an excellent, quiet wind generator. Some one asked me what all the fuss was about.."if you had no wind don't you just switch on the wind generator and sail away"....they said... :-D....giggle. Right now with all this wind it would be whirring around and generating power for the batteries. It would save us a fortune in fuel. David has decided that the original port we were heading for in Costa Rica is too far away, so we're stopping in what's promised to be a "pristine, nearly land locked cove in Northern Costa Rica." It's called Bahia Santa Elena, and the guide book says it has beauty and solitude, with parrots, exotic birds and howler monkeys in the Jungle canopy along the shore. There is a road that runs past this bay but that's all.
Another chart from Capt Rains's book.
The bay we have to clear in at is Playa del Coco, but that can wait a day or so. On this, the west coast of Costa Rica, there are many places to anchor, snorkel and enjoy the scenery..I'm really looking forward to it! Today I noticed that the dinghy had started to come loose again, we're going to have to find a better place to store her, so instead of getting all wet trying to retie Flea, we decided to hove-to. retie the dinghy..
This way the boat comes to a complete stop and we can do what we need to do and then resume sailing.It worked really well. We stopped in Bahia Santa Elena, for two days and rested....well rested from sailing that is, because I had to clean salt out of the inside of the boat and David decided to replace all the O-rings in the hatch handles. He thought that that was where some of them were leaking. Then he lost one of the handle spacers overboard and despite using up a tank of air, scuba diving to try and find it...he couldn't. He'd thrown a marker overboard when it happened but that handle was just determined to stay lost. We'd also managed to spend a lot of time sitting watching the parrots, they had a heck of a weird call, and the howler monkeys, well they sounded like someone trying  to start up and engine and failing at the job. Not like we are used to at all.....
On Monday we changed the position of the dinghy, Flea, to the port side and on the deck, hoping that she would travel better there. Just as we were finishing the job, a fast panga cruised up with two men wearing uniforms and POLICE printed on them. They wanted to know where we'd come from and where we were headed...We asked them about the wind outside this incredibly calm and protected anchorage, and the one guy said "no mucho vente", and the other said "si mucho vente" ha ha so there you have it, two guys in the same boat and you get differing reports of the weather. Then off they went. A few minutes later we were ready too, so we hoisted the main, lifted the anchor and motored out ....hhhmmmmmmmm...the waves were about 2.5 to 3 feet high and close together and we had to go into them. Still, it wouldn't be for long and then we could turn South and have those waves behind us.
Bliss Bliss I love down wind sailing...well we weren't actually down wind but close enough! The seas followed us instead of hitting into us, and the wind rose to 20 knots True. Soon we were flying along at 7 knots! What FUN! We came to a section where we could sail around the outside of the various islands or sail through them.
Sailing up to the gap..
It would save us 5 NM to sail inbetween them so that's what we did. The sea smoothed out and became nice and flat and then the wind died. David realised we were being blanketed by a rather large hill so he started the motor and headed away from it. The wind came up once we were out of the lee of the hill and, because the water was so flat, we were soon racing along at 9 knots. I took a video where I showed the chart plotter, now this has various speeds on it. The top one VMG/WPT ("voyage" made good) is the speed you're making to your destination, the next one down shows COG/S.O.G that one was showing 8.5 knots, then under that is just SPEED..that's the boats speed through the water. Kinda confusing, so I'll try to explain. You put an X where you want to go and the chart plotter tells you your course to steer, then it calculates how fast you are going towards that point, so that's the speed to waypoint (X). The COG/SOG  is the actual course and speed over the ground you are traveling, if you have a current going your way you are 'helped' and go faster. SPEED is what the boat is doing through the water without any SOG is your real speed. 'X' marks the spot, the red line is the course you are steering, the green line is where you are actually going...due to current...and the yellow arrow is the wind direction.
A shot of the whole chart plotter...
The different speeds...
THIS IS THE LIFE!!! ha ha This is what I call sailing, this is what it's like crossing the ocean. Yes siree by golly! By 5 pm we'd arrived in Playa de Coco, we dropped the anchor and sat back to take in the sights, with a long cool sundowner. This morning at 9am David left the boat, with our paper work to clear in with Customs and Immigration, after which he was going to stop for a few groceries like eggs, fruit juice, bananas and whatever other fruit he could get hold of. I've been pottering around the boat tidying and sorting. One of the things I did at our last anchorage was sand down a decrepit looking spice rack and varnish it. It has been stashed away on the boat. David refused to have it in the galley. But after I worked on it, it looked a lot nicer, even though you couldn't get away from the way it was made. So now it adorns my galley and it's so very nice to finally have a place for my spices. :-) Whilst David has been away I spoke to two folks who were traveling by on a kayak. They'd rented it for an hour and were on their way out to see a huge 4 masted cruise Ship that's anchored just beyond us.
The 4 masted cruise ship that anchored out of Playa Coco.
I invited them onboard on their return to shore. I was surprised and pleased when they came back and clambered on board, we had a great visit. Fred and Linda Wall. are all the way from Canada. It's now almost 2pm and David is still not back..hope he's OK....Clearing in can take at least two hours, and he still has to do the shopping...he also may have stopped for a's hot boring work clearing in, rather him than me. When he gets back we may lift the anchor and sail around the corner to another bay. It's difficult to get ashore here, you have to surf the dingy in and I ALWAYS end up getting absolutely soaked, so don't really want to attempt it, especially with my laptop with me. I need to get to an internet connection. Ahh it's 2:30pm and David has just arrived with the Agriculture inspector, Carlos, shame he has been doing the clearing in stuff all day. Carlos, filled in some forms, drank a cool drink, had a look at our food storage compartments and went back to shore with David. What a great fellow. David can now go and get some food stuffs....He'll be back soon, for a very late lunch. See you all soon. Oh as a PS: When we were in the Sea of Cortez we met a boat called Beau Soleil, owners Mike and Karen Riley. Mike writes fiction, and I bought one of his books called 'The Treasures of Cocos Island'. I've saved the reading of this book till now because it's set in Costa Rica. Cocos Island is a real island 300 NM off the Costa Rican shore. So far the book is great I have a hard time putting it down. Way to go Mike!
Mikes Book... :-)