When I left you last, I was moving a Leopard 40 catamaran up the Pacific, from the Canal to Canada with her owners – aka ‘the kids’. We had arrived at Golfito, Costa Rica in the black of night, and taken a mooring off of town. I had never been there. I was excited to get ashore and do some exploring.
We awoke to the wild sounds of howling monkeys and strange birds, and the warm scent of a thriving jungle. Across the water were two establishments. The freshly painted yellow one, I suspected, was Banana Bay Marina. I figured the kids would want to check that place out first. The western saloon looking two-story shack next door was where I’d be headed next.
Ex-pat Bruce runs the mini resort and he gave us the run down of on-site facilities and what to expect from town. Though we felt very welcome, Banana Bay seemed more of a high end fishing marina then a cruiser hangout. But we didn't let that stop us. “Cold beers all around.” And boy were they cold. There was free wifi in the bar/restaurant and a shower in the bathroom.
I found ex-pat Tim next door, proprietor of Land & Sea services, a perfect little cruiser haven. Included in the cost of the 8$ a day mooring was use of the dinghy dock, friendly dogs, an honor cooler stocked chocker with the finest CR brews, a big waterfall shower, BBQ's, a mini shop, cable TV, VHS videos, and decks and lounge areas with pillows, books and magazines. I left a Lats & Atts amongst the piles of sailing rags only to find it gone the next day. I left another.
To get the complete picture of our cruise north you should know that there were a few issues with the boat. Five years of charter company ‘maintenance’ had been hard on her twin Volvo diesels. For starters … we had a gear oil leak to starboard, shifter problems to port, and motor oil leaks and alternator mount failures on both sides. We ran with one motor at sea and kicked on the other to park. We would switch motors every six hours which gave me a chance to tighten or replace the belt and change the starboard engine's diapers. We kept a big stock of the white oil sorbent pads onboard. They'll suck oil right out of bilge water. Buy some! Much of my spare time was spent keeping those motors running.
I headed into town. I had exhausted the search for real Volvo parts in Panama City and had moved on to 'aftermarket'. Five minutes into my walk I found the belts, 6$ a piece. I busted the piggy bank and spent $1.20 on bolts and washers for the redesign of the self-destructing alternator mounts. The bitchin over-the-water machine shop, next to Banana, tooled some parts for me for 3$.
Work done, I embarked on a long trek across town to do the paperwork cha cha. I'm a fan of this side of Costa Rica. As always, it's the people who make the place, and here the people include some very friendly and beautiful Ticas. Not much to do in a little town like Golfito but tend your store and wait for the next cruise ship to come in. Still, the little town was buzzing and there was plenty to see. In the row of seaside shops on my left, an ancient blind woman swept a tiny cafe floor, while across the street, rickety shack homes straddled mini jungle creeks. Up ahead a pack of wild dogs chased kids around the park. Every nook held a story.
After a few days in paradise it was time to get back to sea. We fueled up, grabbed one last Imperial for the road and pointed her toward the entrance. The kids took the wheel while I put away fenders and lines. I looked back as we passed the last nav buoys to see the kids smiling and laughing. Always good to see the crew in high spirits.
We headed south down the long bay with the wind on the nose. We made the 90 degree turn to the west at the entrance and found … the wind on the nose. Cracked off the wind with the main up and one motor we were reduced to about 3kts VMG toward the next waypoint. We could get more speed with both motors but you would think the boat was going to break up, the way she banged. Most of the trip from Panama to Cabo, there is no wind or it's on the nose. It's tough to get quality sailing in while heading northbound.
On monohulls you put up some mainsail in all but flat conditions to keep the rolling to a minimum. On a cat you use it to help drive the boat and to keep the jerky motion to a minimum. And finally we had some wind we could use. With the wind just forward of the beam the cat sailed well. In 12kts apparent we could do 6+. It took two days to get to my favorite CR town – Playas del Coco. This time we motored right by the roadstead anchorage and rolled into the new Marina Papagayo. Can you say super-plush?
In a chilly second-floor corner office we filled out reams of paperwork and were relieved of large amounts of (the boss's) $ to be allowed to stay there. We were assigned our own cute Tika concierge who got us seats on the next van into town. I prefer hot on the outside and cold on the inside so we went down and encouraged the barkeep to open early. We sucked down some coldies in the beautiful open air bar over looking the new, mostly empty, marina.
The van arrived and I grabbed a couple roadies for the long trip into town. I know aircon is popular but I prefer a window open for pictures, the smell of land and the warm natural breeze. And then there's the need to re-acclimate. When cruising, you don't get to spend much time seeing inland parts. We saw ranches and farms and Costa Rican caballeros. The other couple on the van were the Carrs. They arrived in a big new Saleen trawler and were headed to el Carib. John was a fan of Lats & Atts. That is to say he'd heard of the magazine and somehow recognized me (from the cartoon?)
We pulled up to town and all agreed that a beverage was in order. The driver dropped us at Coconuts, a great outdoor bar, stuck in the trees and overlooking the calle primero which was packed with friendly locals and exotic backpackers sorting through Coco's custom crafts. I took a break and headed over to pick out a pareu for my girl and some stogies for the boys back home.
You had to tear us away but the next morning we headed back out to sea. It was a four day motor/sail to Puerto Madero, the southern most port in Mexico and the staging ground for crossing the legendary Tehuanapec – sinker of ships. If you are unlucky enough have a T-pecker kick up, then its hold on for dear life because it can blow 100 knots for days. Our death defying T-pec crossing next month.
I have an announcement! Sheridan House has agreed to publish my first book – Circumnavigating Low Key. It will be out toward the end of the year. I’ll keep you posted. Check them out for other great nautical titles too!
-Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake-