three hulls, two people, one trip around the world…

From Costa Rica to Panama

Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Beaching the dinghy in Drake Bay is a little tricky, sometimes you have to surf to shore. It took a little while (1-2 wet landings) until we got the hang of it again and managed to get ashore with dry trousers, because we could recognise the right moment in the wave sequence.

As we had already done several trips from Drake Bay last year, we looked for a tour that we didn’t know yet. There was a tour on offer floating down a river, down some rapids and small waterfalls. Why not, at least it is nice and cool most of the time. The tour was run by the same provider as last year (Pacheco Tours) and we also got the same guide as when we visited Corcovado National Park. He is the senior boss who has been roaming the forests of the Osa Peninsula for 30 years and has also been to North American national parks. He has accumulated an enormous knowledge of the flora and fauna and used to supervise biology students during their practical training in the national park. Now, he told us, he is no longer allowed to lead guided tours in Corcovado Park because he does not have a science degree. Hard to believe, it’s red tape all the way!

Our tour did not go through the park, however, but started in the back garden of the guide’s home. To get to the house, we had to drive a distance inland. Quads were provided for this purpose. As we had never driven these things before, we were provided with a driver. So we sat behind one driver each and tried to desperately hold on somehow as we drove at a hellish speed over the unpaved roads. Potholes were circumnavigated and enormous inclines were thundered up and down – all without helmets, of course. My driver at least slowed down a bit when going downhill. Mathias rode with our guide, who had no regard for losses and only knew full speed or stop. Mathias made a comment on arrival that the ride hadn’t really been that relaxed after all. Good thing, we then got a car on the way back to pick us up. We were very grateful for that. On the one hand, it was raining cats and dogs on the way back, and on the other hand, we had to climb a very steep road, which made us dread being stuck on the quad. Even in the 4-wheel drive car, we were glad to have arrived safely at the top. The car was casually steered by a young local with only his left hand (you need the other hand to change gears every now and then 😉 ). Safety belts were available, but unused (except by me).

Between these two trips, which already resembled small adventures for us, we went on the actual tour. First we had to hike to the river. For this, a trail was laid out – up and down, through small watercourses, over tree roots and slippery stones. Now we knew why the tour had been postponed once because of rain. It was not the river that would then become too torrential, but the path would be far too slippery. Even now we had to be careful and always walked over wet leaves. After about 3/4 of the way there was a small rest stop and we were given an orange as trail snack. We knew that we should wear clothes that can get wet. However, they got wet long before the water slides. What the extreme humidity can’t do, the sweat of exertion and, in critical places, the sweat of fear will do 😉 You are also warmed by the life jacket that you have to take with you.

If you ever go on such a tour, wear decent shoes. It can be extremely slippery, not only on the trail but especially when wading through the river. I slipped 1-2 times despite my super hiking shoes with decent tread. We asked the guide about accidents. He said there was only one broken ankle. That was a boy who, despite being warned, had insisted on doing the tour in flip-flops and then jumped from one rock to another. After that he wasn’t cheeky at all and whined the whole time until a boat could be organised to come and pick him up.

Finally we arrived at the spot from where the journey down the river was to begin. The life jackets were put on as nappies and our guide in front we plunged into the floods.

The floating was quite relaxing, we got out of the river at most of the rapids and climbed down, only one he let us ride through. That was enough, because you could already feel the stones under your bottom, so it was good to stay straight and there was sometimes water spilling over your head. I think it depends on the fitness of the group which rapids they climb around, but for us the level of difficulty was just right.

I have a small film clip of the action. When it got faster, I didn’t film, I was busy with steering 🙂

The closer we got to the estuary, the more leisurely the flow became. At the end, we paddled with our arms. At the mouth of the river there was still a large sand dune around which the river flowed. Only when the rainy season is really underway will the river cross here directly into the Pacific.

The path from the estuary to the meeting point with the car led along the beach. This part of the beach is part of the national park. Beautiful bays with great surf waves, but there are too many rocks to swim or surf here. There also is an anecdote about this section. We came out of the national park to a section where our guide had once lived nearby for a long time. At that time, the children were walking to school along the beach. Once they were prevented from doing so and chased off the beach. Boats had landed from a yacht, closed off a section of the beach and wanted to film. They didn’t want footprints in the sand for that. An understandable request, but it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Instead of asking and explaining, they chased the children away. They ran home scared and because our guide was the only one who knew English, he went back there with the children. He explained to the US-Americans that in Costa Rica the beach is public. There is no private right on the beach and the children have to go to school. The fact that they could take a detour through the forest went unmentioned. Because the tone of the conversation was not right at all. On our hike, however, we were all alone on the beach sections.

A small note on language mix: I wrote about the boy with the broken ankle. The story was told to us in English, i.e. “broken ankle”. When I wrote it down, I couldn’t think of the German word for “ankle”. “Ankel”, “Enkel”? That can’t be. Mathias just grunted, but he also thought that “ankel” was a German word, somehow. Internet was not available at the moment, so I first wrote “Ankel” with several question marks and walked around for several days with the queasy feeling that something was wrong here. Then came the rescue: my (English) crime novel mentioned an “ankle”. In the Kindle I could call up the German translation for it even without the internet and there it was: “Knöchel”! Definitely a German word I had heard before 😉

In the rainy season, the boats quickly fill up with water. The pandas that are moored to the buoys in the bay are therefore additionally attached to empty barrels to prevent them from sinking too far into the water when full:

On to Golfito

From Drake Bay to Golfito is not a very long distance (61 nm). With little wind and the creep speed, which is possible without turbo of the engine, we needed a whole day and only arrived in the bay at Golfito in the dark. We went in anyway and anchored in front of the marina.

In Golfito we stayed again in the Banana Bay Marina. This is one of the smaller marinas a little deeper in the bay. The contact person here is Gabriela and she is very efficient and super nice. We also booked the marina’s assistance service for clearing out. In Golfito, you can go through the three stations yourself, but they are far apart and not so easy to find. Between the stations, it is best to take a taxi, which is also easier if there is someone with you who speaks Spanish. On top of that, you still had to make a payment at the bank. This is as good as impossible on a Friday. On Fridays, the queues in front of the counters are extremely long and you can stand in line for up to three hours. The marina tried to make the payment for us on Friday, but it didn’t work out in time to reach the other stations. So we stayed for the weekend and only cleared out on Monday. We used the time to spend the last colones, clean up the boat again more intensively and work on the next film. We met a Danish boat, a young family with two children. They were anchored right behind us and had greeted us when we came quite close to their boat while getting into the marina. Once we invited them to eat ice cream on the SAN. The children were thrilled, especially with the trampolines. They found a lot of arguments why their parents should also buy a trimaran 😉

Next Stop Panama

Monday afternoon we continued our journey. At first only to the other side of the Gulf. There we anchored for the night. The first time on a rather steep seabed slope. Mathias checked the chain length using the app as a precaution.

Let’s talk about the weather: Those who have been following my blog for a while know that we always moan about the heat and, of course, the humidity. Now the rainy season starts here. Last year it was ok, it rained a lot, but the individual showers didn’t last too long. This year we are just about to enter a phase where there are real rainy days: overcast skies all day and continuous rain. You don’t generate as much solar power and sailing is less than idyllic. The influence of the first hurricane of the season could be to blame for the persistent bad weather. Tropical storms of a certain force are given a name in alphabetical order and “Agatha” formed on 28.5.22 off the Mexican coast. It then made landfall on 30.05 near Huatalco. We had anchored there a month before and last year we were there even in mid-May. As is, unfortunately, so often the case these days, Agatha set a few records, being the most violent storm ever recorded in a May. The season also started unusually early in the year. We are glad to be further south and “only” have to deal with thunderstorms for the time being. 😉 Does that sound too negative? It shouldn’t, I’m just trying to describe that a globetrotting life doesn’t only consist of days in the most beautiful sunshine with crystal clear water. Keyword “crystal clear” – also a phenomenon that is supposed to be particularly bad this year: the “Red Tide”, that’s what it’s called when the water in a bay turns muddy red. This is caused by a type of algae that is slightly poisonous. You should not bathe then and we could not make fresh water then. We had experienced this Red Tide a few times in Banderas Bay in Mexico. You can watch the brownish water spread out and cover huge patches of the bay. The current makes sure it’s gone overnight or after a few days, but it sometimes came back daily. Last year we had also observed something like this, but it didn’t happen so often. In Banderas Bay, there is now a research project looking for causes. Climate change says hello?

Back to the nice topics.

The Golfo Dulce did not let us go so easily. Last year we fled a thunderstorm there and a lightning strike very close to the boat caused our stereo radio to break. This year, rain clouds hung over the land right and left again. How did they move? We cruised through the gulf to always stay in the areas of bright sky. That way we got away unscathed.

The rest of the journey brought us wind and, during the night, rain areas that had to be avoided, or at least through which we did not want to pass dead center. It took until 2:30 a.m. one night for the weather to calm down and Mathias to go to bed. For the rest of my shift, the wind calmed and I bobbed along at under 2 knots of speed (a good swimmer can swim alongside). When Mathias woke up, he just said, “We didn’t get very far.” I was expecting the skipper to praise me for holding out for so long without using the engine. 😉 That day, we only continued to Isla Perida, where we dropped anchor around 1:30 pm and rested for the rest of the day.

Days followed that became more normal again in terms of weather: no wind in the morning, wind in the afternoon and the sun shines. We adapted to this rhythm and continued island- / internet spot-hopping eastwards.

Isla Silva de Afuera

It was only in the Bay of Panama (a large sea area off Panama City) that we were hit twice. We got caught in large areas of rain that came in from the side or rolled over us from behind. This meant winds up to 40 knots (the upper end of 8 Beaufort) plus corresponding waves and lightning. In such weather we sail with 3 reefs in the mainsail and the jib. For safety’s sake, the engine is running to keep us on course. After each wave, we have to steer back on course. The autopilot takes care of that, but you can imagine that we don’t get much sleep in such conditions. We are happy about our tent around the helm. Once the spray splashed up to there and we would have been completely soaked without the protection of the tent. It’s also easier to operate the sails without the strong wind blowing around your nose.

Through such rainy weather we were also heading for Panama City. By now it was the middle of the night, so we first sailed to Taboga Island, where we dropped anchor. From here you can already see the city’s skyscrapers. So after a rest break, we can sail over in peace.

The picture shows Mathias’ construction with which the problem of the broken sensor on the anchor chain could be circumvented. While the chain is lowered, we operate a switch by hand to simulate the sensor.

The toilet repair also continued. But we will reorder some rubber parts as spare parts. Since we have three toilets on board, one is still working.

We gave up on the idea of crossing the Pacific. We gave our guidebook to the Danish family. They want to make the trip together with a few friends. A sailor friend told us on the subject of turning around: “The manoeuvre is much more difficult in the head than at the helm and on the sheet.” I agree with that. We are already looking forward to the San Blas Islands and to Cuba, the Bahamas, the Azores and whatever else awaits us. Regarding Reinhold’s comment on our last blog post: Sailing and being on the go is no stress for us, our home is always with us. The journey is the destination, as the saying goes.

Next tasks will be clearing into Panama, the canal passage and getting the boat out of the water.

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