It is December the 6th and we are sitting at a table at the Costa Rica Sailing Club. The Sailing club is owned and operated by Justin and Jeff, expat, ex-cruisers who have made their home permanently here in Bahia Portrero, Costa Rica. They have a handful of 30ft production boats, a big Lagoon Cat and a sundry of little Cuba’s, Fivas and Hobie Cats for beginner sailors. Sailing lesson’s are taught to all ages by instructor Annie, who is from our neck of the woods, Orcas Island. The facility sports a beachfront restaurant and a swimming pool, as well as board rentals and scuba tours. It is a pretty spectacular discovery for us; today is member appreciation day, with free beer and appetizers! They have adopted us as “Honorary Members”, so naturally…. ….we are pretty stoked.
We arrived back in El Salvador on October 22nd and waisted very little time getting Epiphany ready to sail. There was a lot of work to do: raise sails, install solar, clean bilge, change oil, inspect rigging, flush water tanks etc. Plus, we had been struck by lightning, which had wiped out our entire battery system AND we had brought back a long coveted auto pilot system that needed to be installed. There was a lot to do. We did take time to enjoy our friends and the estuary: attending a pool party at Lynn and Lou’s, pupusa night at Bill and Jean’s, a cruiser lunch on the stilted palapas and even a Halloween party. But we were on a mission, ready to get back out on the ocean and begin our second season……. this time as seasoned cruisers.
Our friends Matt and Britt on Malolo and the wonderful Bizjak family on Litha were leaving soon and we wanted to get out with them, or at least close behind. We were skeptical about getting everything completed, but in the end we were ready to go with our new buddy boats (adios dear Agatha). Unfortunately, on Sunday the 3rd of November, at what turned out to be the last pool party Lynn and Lou ever hosted (every Sunday for a decade!), Matt suffered a freak accident, breaking his cheek bone and eye socket. It would be a six week recovery, there was an immediate realization that their plans had just changed. And so it came to pass, that with heavy hearts and a few backwards glances, only two boats crossed the bar out of the sheltered estuary at Bahia del Sol, that Monday.
We cruised leisurely down the coast, anchoring one last night in El Salvador before checking into Isla Tigre in Honduras. We spent three days anchored inside the little Honduran island, touring in a tok tok (six of us crowded into a vehicle meant for three!), hiking the volcano and hanging out on Playa Grande, a beautiful little beach located on the opposite side of the island. On the fourth day, we checked out with customs and immigration early and just went and anchored off of Playa Grande….we were going there every day anyway. Finally, we pulled up our anchors and set sail, with little in the way of expectations, for Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is the absolute best! Far and away the favorite place that we have ever visited. If your impression of “the land of lakes and volcanoes” is based solely on the US State Department and hyperbolic US media, then your notion of the country is at the very least, incomplete. To be sure, the beach San Juan del Sur, probably exist in a bubble. And you can find yourself in a bad situation, (an unfortunate truth that can be said about any/all places). Also, Daniel Ortega, appears to have become a characature of the very thing he claimed to be fighting against, when he struck heroic poses on US television in the 1980s and 90s.
But……..the country is beautiful! Warm, beautiful, friendly people, warm, beautiful, friendly beaches, every type of topography imaginable; bucolic rolling hills, volcanic peaks, clear lakes, hiking, fishing, camping, biking, surfing etc. etc. etc. Also, it is remarkably clean. No garbage on the side of the road, recycling efforts are abundant, they are on goal to achieve 90% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. And it is CHEAP! As one expat described it to us, “this is Costa Rica fifty years ago”. We stopped in San Juan del Sur intending to stay a night or two, but did not leave for two weeks. We love it there, and hope to return one day.
But all good things must come to and end and so, all too soon, we were lifting our anchors and bidding a fond farewell our Nica friends. We motor sailed just four hours south and anchored with Litha in the bay of Salinas, just across the border into Costa Rica. The next day we moved on, recrossing into Nicaraguan waters briefly, as we made our way to the exotic wilderness of Bahia Santa Elena in the Santa Rosa National Park. We were the only (human) souls there. We explored the bay, rode our dinghy up the estuary looking for crocs, parrots and howler monkeys. We hiked to a small water fall and bathed in the clear fresh water. At night we held happy hours in the cockpit of Epiphany and later, had dinner and games aboard the big ketch, Litha. We jumped from the boats into the dark, foreboding waters. One night, as we are won’t to do, he tied a flashlight overboard to attract the plankton and small fish that feed upon them. If you leave the light over long enough, the predators of the small fish show up and then their predators show up, until you have an aquarium beneath your boat….or that had been our experience. In the estuary fed jungle of Santa Elena, the nocturnal predator of small fish is one of the most poisonous sea snakes in the world! Dozens of them around our boat all at once!…….Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom snakes!……… Samuel L. Jackson, “ I am sick and tired of all these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking planes” snakes!……..we didn’t swim anymore. We left.
Around the corner and into the teeth of the infamous Gulf of Papagayo. Like it’s larger neighbor to the north, Tuahntepec, Papagayo offers a narrow non mountainous section of land, that the high pressure of the Gulf of Mexico and Carribean Sea dumps wind through. It creates absolutely treacherous winds. If you would like to learn more, check out,
Officially checking into Costa Rica at Cocos; the process was the most arduous we have yet encountered. Involving multiple trips back and forth from Port Captain, immigration and Customs, which was and hour away at the Liberia airport! But the town was cute and protected from the “Papagayo’s”. On the 28th,we moved an hour moved north to a remote anchorage and enjoyed an impressive Thanksgiving aboard Litha before returning to Cocos.
It was time to say goodbye to our cruising partners Litha. They were on a timeline to make it to the southernmost port of Gulfito, and Julianne and I were in no hurry. We watched them sail away knowing that we would see them again soon. We hung around Cocos doing boat chores and visiting the town. We decided to extend our stay even longer when we learned that the Seahawks would be playing Minnesota on Monday Night Football. We had a blast at an Expat bar, where we recruited all non Minnesota fans to our side. Soon people were buying us shots and cheering wildly for the Seattle home team.
Two Days later, we caught up with Litha again in a remote bay called Bahia Guacamaya. It is virtually only accessible by boat and we had the two glorious beaches all to ourselves. We built a big bonfire on the beach, drank rum and danced on the beach until late in the night. The next day, they were gone, but we lingered, swimming in the crystal clear water. When we finally left we chose no clear destination. We motored out, stopping to anchor, have breakfast and walk on the beach at Playa Zapatol. Another mile long stretch of beach that we shared only with seabirds and crashing waves. In the afternoon, the clouds rolled in and the Papagayos began picking up. We had planned on anchoring in a little cove known as Playa de Pan Azucur, but instead opted for the greater security of the larger, Bahia Portero. Justin and the crew from the Costa Rico Sailing Club watched us anchor through binoculars and welcomed us enthusiastically when we came ashore in our dinghy, inducting us as honorary members on the spot………. And today is members day, free beer and appetizers await! We are stoked.