The trip to Costa Rica was a bit crazy. It took us 4 full days, but it was more motor sailing than normal sailing. The wind was on and off. There was usually some wind in the afternoon, then it died down towards the night. On top of that, there were often thunderstorms during the night. This time we spotted them in time on the radar screen and managed to avoid the rain areas.
On the last stretch the wind came directly head on. Only shortly before Papagayo Bay, we were able to sail for 5 hours until there was no wind in the bay again and the engine had to be used to reach the anchorage. The area here is indeed no sailor’s paradise.
But the people are very relaxed. When we went ashore, probably with too serious faces, a woman told us to smile: we were in paradise, in Costa Rica – Pura Vida. We smiled, but we didn’t believe her about paradise. The people selling self-made bracelets or hammocks on the beach certainly didn’t feel like they were in paradise, and the broken kerbs and roads don’t belong in paradise either – ok, there shouldn’t be any roads at all in paradise. Perhaps the paradisiacal thing is to be able to overlook all these little things with good humour. Our long faces had nothing to do with the country, it is still the climate that is not to our taste.
Clearing in to Costa Rica has recently been possible again without any major difficulties. You just need a lot of time and patience. The skipper can go alone. Mathias had teamed up with the skipper of the “Mare Presto”, with whom we had already sailed here from Chiapas as a buddy boat. Another skipper joined us and the three of them went through the various stations. First to Immigration (on the right hand side of the main road, about half a kilometre from the beach, slightly set back building, right next to the bus stop. Be careful, it is easy to miss if you are walking on the other side of the road and there is a bus in front of it), then to the harbour master (small building on a traffic island, directly behind the beach promenade, beginning of the main road). There you get papers to go to customs, then you have to come back to the harbour master if you want to leave the bay straight away. Otherwise you can get your Zarpe (document for onward travel) on another day. Customs is at the airport. You either take the bus that leaves in front of the immigration building or a taxi. Our three took a taxi for $60 (return). At the airport, you have to go from the entrance to the left corner, where the customs officers come out to get the documents and bring them back at some point. The process takes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., when everything has to be ready because the harbour master’s office closes. It doesn’t work on weekends, the harbour master’s office is only staffed during the week. Apart from the taxi costs, no fees were due. Last time we had to pay some at a bank in town (also on the main road). I don’t know if they can’t charge any fees at the moment because the system has been hacked, or if none are due when clearing in. In any case, you can easily save the 3-500$ that an agent is supposed to cost and do it yourself.
While Mathias was busy with the border formalities, I went in search of a phone card. Ours from last year had expired. They do expire after 3 months of non-use. I wanted Kölbi again, as the coverage in Costa Rica is better than for Movistar. Especially in Drake Bay, Movistar has no coverage, but Kölbi does. The supermarkets did not offer this card. I got a tip from the internet that Kölbi cards were available at a “Luperon” supermarket. I followed the directions on Google Maps and found a Luperon, but they sold no cards. But on the main street there is a “Plaza Luperon” and a Megasuper Store and a computer and telephone shop on the corner. There I got my Kölbi card, the people spoke good English and set up the card for us right away. You need your passport for that (we have two, so it worked, although Mathias was still on his way). To our great regret, there was no longer the unlimited data volume for 7 days available. Now you had to buy GB packages, similar to Mexico. By the way, the phone card shop is right opposite to the very good supermarket.
While we’re on the subject of shopping tips: halfway between the telephone shop and the beach, a road branches off to the right at a supermarket. If you go down the road a bit and around a bend, you will see a kind of marine and fishing supply shop on the right (Distribuidora el Jobo, on the first floor) and a vegetable shop just before on the left. The marine supply shop looks unimpressive, but is well-stocked. The vegetable shop is also worthwhile, that was a tip from a local. We had picked up two people from a panga on a trip to the beach. They had dropped their guests off on shore and driven the boat to the buoy for the night. Then someone has to come and pick them up or they have to swim. They were happy that we had offered the ride.
“Shopping” is possible in Playas del Coco, especially when the skipper is otherwise occupied. We got a new “curtain” and a nice wooden cuttingboard. (Later, when clearing out of the harbour, a little dress 😉 )
We spent three days in Playas del Coco. On the last evening we met again with Gunter Winter, the Trans Ocean representative in Costa Rica, who had helped us so much last time. He is still tinkering with the renovation of his boat on land, does a lot himself and has good ideas. It was a nice evening.
Before continuing our journey, we went to the Papagayo Marina to refuel. You are only allowed to go there if you are (still or already) registered in Costa Rica. Since we had already been cleared in for about a week, I could answer the question in the affirmative, but we did not have to present any papers for inspection. Mooring at the petrol station was no problem, but the wind pushing us against the jetty forced us into a special manoeuvre. Without the turbo, the engine cannot generate much thrust, so Mathias had a line stretched from one of our stern cleats, around which he then slowly turned. Since there was help on the jetty, the manoeuvre worked.
May 7th was supposed to be World Fischbrötchen Day. At least on the Baltic coast 😉 . We celebrate with an imitation with hamburger buns.
From Playas del Coco we continued with 2 stops towards Drake Bay. At the first stop in Bahia Tamarindo, the motor failed while anchoring: the end of the dinghy side line had slipped into the water and wrapped itself around the propeller shaft. In the evening, in the dark, we didn’t feel like diving. Mathias sent me into the water at 6am the next morning before my hot drink because there was supposed to be some wind. Fortunately, it was easy to unwind the line again. I only had to dive down a few times.
A somewhat longer stop was made in Bahia Herradura. We needed good internet again for Mathias’ second lecture on anchor apps at DSV. We also went ashore in the bay to stretch our legs. It looks quite idyllic.
The sailing up to Drake Bay was again very mixed: motor sailing, wind in stretches, sailing around rain fronts. No real speeding possible, except for a short stretch along the outer edge of a rain front, where we once got up to 7.8 knots boat speed. I didn’t get much out of it though, it was at night during my bedtime.
While anchoring in Drake Bay, we already felt like we had arrived home, when suddenly there was a new problem. After lowering the anchor chain by about 1.5 m, the remote control showed “no sensor” as an error message and the chain no longer moved. Hm, the Carry On had already warned us of a sensor failure. Hm, the chain could no longer be operated from the second switch at the helm either. Hand crank? We found it quickly, but nothing happened with the winch. We finally got around the problem by unplugging the remote control and plugging it back in. After each reset, we could lower 1.5 m of chain again until the error message came up. We repeated this 36 times. A new task on the to do list!
The Carry On had left Playas del Coco two days before we arrived. They were still in Golfito for a while, but are probably leaving Costa Rica now. Too bad, it didn’t work out to catch up with them.
There is only one other sailing boat here in Drake Bay at the moment. So hardly any excuses not to clean the underwater hull or tackle annoying repairs like the rubber seals in the toilets. (Were patched with bicycle inner tube patches).
One distraction was talking on the phone with people who are thinking about buying a Neel too. Always nice to hear that there are other crazy people like us who can imagine a life on the boat.
Outlook: Sometime (in August?) a visit to Germany. The planning starts, but it’s not so easy when you’re so not used to living by the calendar anymore 😉
For now, we will stay here in Drake Bay. Even though the rainy season is starting now…..