SAN

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

Papagayo Winds

Up to now I have reported so much about single events that the balance needs to be adjusted. There is also „everyday life in paradise“ and not just holiday experiences. Sönke Roever summed it up very well when he called his book about sailing around the world „1200 Days of Saturday“. The time on a long-distance voyage is indeed a hybrid of holiday and work with many everyday days in the mix, comparable not to a hotel stay with full board but rather to a holiday in an appartement where, to reduce costs, one has agreed to also act as entertainer and caretaker.

To give you an idea, I’ve put together a few questions and tasks that keep us on our toes:

  • Does the water maker have to run today?
  • Do we want buns for breakfast? – Good, then prepare some dough.
  • Is there enough sun to use the solar oven?
  • Is there enough laundry, sun (for electricity), water to run the washing machine?
  • Put the solar batteries of the small lamps in the sun.
  • Do the bathrooms need cleaning?
  • Do the bed linen need to be changed, or has the odour limit not yet been reached?
  • Should one take a shower because there is hot water just after the engine has been running?
  • Will it do to just sweep the floor, or is it time to get out the infernal machine (steam vacuum) out?
  • What is for dinner? There are no ready-made meals, even pizza has to be prepared with homemade dough. Things only go fast in the kitchen when enough leftovers have accumulated. 🙂

Do I do the dishes now, or do I allow myself another quarter of an hour?

  • How will the wind be?
  • Will the anchor hold?
  • Is there a thunderstorm?
  • Tsunami warning?
  • What does the fouling on the hull look like? Do we have to get out and clean the hull?
  • Is it time to dive back to the propeller, rudder blade and stub keel and fight the barnacles?
  • Is the dinghy hooked up? Does it need to be hauled up / launched?
  • Is it possible to get ashore here?
  • Are there shopping facilities ashore?
  • Can you get rid of rubbish ashore?
  • Is there internet via mobile phone towers?
  • Is our prepaid card still charged?
  • Where can I get a local SIM card?
  • What are the entry requirements for the country?
  • Where can I have something copied / printed out?
  • Check machines, change filters
  • Check the rigging
  • Carry out minor and major repairs
  • Check solar cells and battery level
  • Is there time to edit pictures, write blog posts and work on the internet, spent a few hours at the big screen in the starboard hull to edit a video?
  • Answer emails
  • Answering comments and queries
  • Is anyone interested in the AnkerApp? (Reading statistics can be overdone here).
  • Checking account balances and credit card statements
  • Talking to friends and relatives on the phone
  • Finally filing and sensibly stowing away the last documents and things.
  • Skimming the various sailing chat groups and just don’t get involved everywhere.
  • Taking care of the work for NXP
  • Conference calls about property management
  • Working on the tax return every now and then
  • Writing a diary
  • „Quick, get the camera!“ – otherwise there will be no blog pictures and no videos
  • Find out where and how to get replacements for broken parts that are not in our spare parts collection?
  • Is there anything nice to watch on the media library?
  • Can we go to bed already, or do we have to wait until „Sailor’s Midnight“ (9 pm)? (Fresh air makes you tired.)

And while sailing:

  • Wind forecast
  • Should we reef? – Whenever Birte gets scared or it’s too much leaning for her.
  • Which sails do we set?
  • How far will we get?
  • Will we make it to the next anchorage in daylight?
  • Where do we want to sail to?
  • Logbook entries
  • Sharp lookout
  • Other ships nearby / on collision course?
  • Keep course
  • Observe water depth

Onwards in Costa Rica

Mathias reports on our experience near Isla Caballo:

We anchored at Isla Caballo (09º 58.60’ N, 084º 58.19’ W) in Costa Rica in a smallish channel between this island and the mainland – what a nightmare. First the anchor was really difficult to set. It took us more than an hour. I guess strong currents up to 4 kn and only a thin crust of sand over rock were to blame. Then, when night came, I heard strange noises from the anchor chain… Went outside and saw something strange extending back from our boat, slightly florescent, giving it a ghostly touch. At the anchor chain I discovered that a fishing net was entangled. Apparently, the fisher are out in small boats and drag a very long net with floats and a pulsing light at the end of the net. They fish in the strong currents that way and sweep more or less the width of the entire channel. And that chap had not had his net under control really, or did not see us, despite all the many lights we had on. Then the anchor alarm went off. The combined drag of the long net in the strong current, the engine of the fisher, and our own drag & windage was too much for the poor holding ground. So, slightly panicking I decided to cut the net. Then I reset the anchor alarm and got my air pistol and my taser out, in case I had any arguments with the fisher. Sure enough they came looking for their net, shouting from one boat to the next, but they did not bother us. I decided to stay on anchor watch, which turned out to be rather useful. At almost 3 in the morning we got caught in another net. By now being a professional fishing net cutter, I watched the single fisher a few minutes in his efforts to free it, but he had no clue what to do and eventually sped away with his boat. Then I took my knife again, which was still open and ready to be deployed, lying on the cockpit table… Also this chap never came back. I then watched for the remainder of the night another of these blinking lights slowly approaching us, but before it did so, the tide turned and it started drifting away… What a night! We left at dawn under sail, when the tide was still weak and we did not have to use the engine for approaching the anchor and could let the windlass do the work, as I was not sure whether the prop had been fouled in the process. Later during the day we dived down to the propeller to see whether it was all clear. And so it was! 🙂 No damage done around the boat, except for dirt marks from the various nets. Bottom line, I cannot really recommend anchoring there, at least not for the night… 😉

Diving to the screw while driving

And afterwards you have to climb back on board 😉

We attempted snorkelling at Cabuya Island.

After a few beautiful days of sailing with not so beautiful anchorages, we landed in Samara Bay. Although also a surfing spot like all the ones here on the coast, a reef should protect us from the worst swell. We wanted to stay here for a bit to tackle the daily tasks mentioned above.

„It’s dangerous.“ – „Could have been done better.“ – Or simply: “Shit happens!” ?

Two days, two mishaps. The first involved our flying drone, the second our dinghy. Mathias already has good practice as a drone pilot, we even managed to take off and land while (slowly) sailing. But sometimes the technology does what it wants. There were connection problems between the remote control and the drone. After the message beeped that everything was now well set, Mathias dared to take off. The drone started to take off, but suddenly tipped over and turned upside down. Unfortunately, there was not enough room to correct the flight. The water surface was reached too quickly and the drone plunged into the water. Unsuitable as a submarine, it sank into the depth, which here was 10 m – no chance of saving anything. Interestingly enough, there is insurance cover for such cases, which we had. Only, it is only valid for one year and had thus already expired. 🙁

Samara Bay is one of the surfing paradises. So it is not well suited for dinghy landings. Nevertheless, we gave it a try, after all, the ice crem was empty. At the very edge of the bay, behind a reef, the surf was not quite as high. Mathias dropped me off there without going all the way to the beach. That worked. Only on the way back I had the impression he was already heading for the beach again and he thought I had already picked a spot so we didn’t end up in the same place again. On top of that, it was high tide. I took two bags through the surf into the dinghy and wanted to go back into the village. Mathias turned around and could already use the engine, but he wasn’t fast enough. A breaker came rushing in, the dinghy turned almost vertical, turned on its side and overturned. Keel up it floated in the surf. Mathias was unharmed. Three swimmers came to help and with their combined efforts they managed to right the dinghy. I gave up my plan and preferred to come back to the boat with Mathias. The swimmers pushed us through the surf and we were able to row back. All was well. But stop! The engine had been stuck upside down in the water! Petrol engine and salt water – not a good combination. Mathias first rinsed it with fresh water and then it was time to dry it. You couldn’t get to the spark plugs and carburettor in the dinghy. Since we had developed a system to hoist the engine on board with the top lift, we quickly had it on deck. Mathias had watched the technician last time and now knew where to work at. Mathias was busy for a while.

After a while we put the engine back on the dinghy and made the first start attempt – white smoke. Good, that could be water vapour. Don’t give up, let it dry and try again later. The next time the same result. It was not until the evening of the next day that the engine started again! That was a load off our minds. We let it run for three quarter of an hour, checked the oil level and were able to use it fully again the following day. However, we made this trip at low tide and I got out before the surf. I also walked through the surf on the way back, so we didn’t risk the big breakers again. So far, so good. Only thing left was to get into the dinghy from chest-deep water – a sporting challenge for me. With the help of a line that served on one side to hold on while pulling myself up and on the other side offered a kicking loop in the water, I managed to pull myself up, but landed in a funny position nose first on the dinghy floor. A process with a lot of potential for improvement 😉

The next day, the series of small catastrophes did not stop. This time we were attacked by a mini fly plague. For some time we had been getting clusters of 2-3 mm flies at the stern. Gradually there were more and more of them and they moved further into the ship’s interior. That evening, we couldn’t turn on the LED lights in the kitchen, because underneath there would immediately form a trouser-shaped collection of small flies that would reach down into the food. I switched over to a headlamp and Mathias tried to suck up as many flies as possible with the hoover. We decided to sail on the next morning, maybe the flies would be blown overboard. But we didn’t have to wait for that. In the evening there were beach parties with campfires. The offshore wind blew the smoke strongly over our boat and the flies were smoked out!

Papagayo – Winds

Nevertheless, we left the next morning – because we breathed in the smoke all night. The coast remained surfer country, the wind was determined by the thermals, and with 10-15 knots from the side it was ideal sailing. I was sitting outside at the table working on blog posts, when all of a sudden the boat started to lean very much and the wind increased extremely – to over 30 knots! Mathias later said he could see a wind edge, we hadn’t realised before that it was an edge to the Papagayo winds. Equipped with gloves, I sprinted up to the helm to help. We quickly started to reef the sail – first two, then rather 3 reefs. Then Mathias wanted to take away the genoa and replace it with the jib – a sign that there was quite a lot of wind blowing! When the genoa sheet was released, it rushed off. Luckily I had my gloves on, so only a bit of skin burnt on my free index finger. With three reefs, the jib and engine support to hold the course, we continued. Everything was under control again. Anchoring in the bay took a little longer than normal. We also attached the bridle. Now the anchor should remain horizontal up to 35 knots of wind (according to the app). As usual, we anchored a little further out. To get closer to the beach, we would have had to sail around more reefs. When we were already well secured, we saw 6 more boats arrive and filled up the anchor field in front of the town. The local catamarans simply sailed over the reefs on their approach. We felt comfortable in our anchorage and were glad not to be stuck in the anchorage field where, when there is a lot of wind, you always have to wonder how well the other boats are secured and whether the distance to them is sufficient.

The Papagayo winds are a wind phenomenon that occurs when cold high-pressure systems from the North American continent meet warm moist air over the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. This creates powerful winds that are deflected off the land, but there are three places in Central America where the wind spills over and blows jet-like into the Pacific. We had already heard about it and remembered that we had to watch out for it before we left for Mexico. We had not yet internalised that the effect can already occur in the north of Costa Rica. And as it happens, on the day we were surprised by it, we hadn’t downloaded the weather forecast in the morning. In the real Papagayo areas, the gusts can be as strong as 50 knots (at least that is what is reported in the sailing groups), so the little reminder to us not to let our preparation standards drop was probably quite useful.

The photo is a screenshot of a wind gusts forecast. Florida can be seen at the top right. The large red circle is the Gulf of Mexico. The small white circle shows where we are. The red wind area directly in front of us are the Papagayo winds. The next almost black wind area is a similar effect, but it takes place in Mexico. There, the winds are called Tehuano winds and sweep across the Tehuantepec Gulf. As a small sailboat, you have little choice but to wait for a weather window in which these winds do not arise. If you are under deadline pressure, you should sail as close to the coast as possible, because the further out you are, the more the waves have built up and the storm is joined by heavy swell. By then, at the latest, sailing is no longer fun, even for people who believe 50 knots of wind are not dangerous. The third place where wind from Atlantic systems spills over into the Pacific is in Panama at the canal. We did experience this when we were there, but the wind speeds there were much lower.

Papagayo winds also mean that in sheltered bays they blow strongly over you every now and then. We had gusts of up to 40 knots while lying at anchor. Then there are also corresponding waves, the water simmers and it is good not to lie too far from the shore. We stayed in Bahia Culebra for a few days. The marina there is called Papagayo, probably because you can wait there until the Papagayo winds die down, or because the area is called „Golfo de Papagayo“. Anyway, we didn’t want to go to the marina yet, but only when we wanted to clear out of Costa Rica. There is not much in the bay except the marina itself. A little further south there is a place with supermarkets called „Playas del Coco“. However, it was not listed as a town on our map, so we drove to Culebra Bay. But we did not like the bay much. Besides the gusts, several „smokers“ (= jet skiers) were annoying. (Jet skis are driven by the Smokers in the film „Waterworld“ and they are the Badies who fight against the Goodies. The Goodies in the film sail a cool trimaran). One of these Smokers first passed next to us and then very close across our bow as we were anchoring. I had to reduce speed. The lady certainly hadn’t heard of braking distances on the water. A jet ski like that probably tips over from one moment to the next and stops like that. If that had happened when they crossed our path, I would have had to run over the woman and her child. Yes, I’m developing an enemy image. The jet skis are simply no fun for outsiders, they stink and make a lot of noise and you have to be careful not to get run over. They usually circle close around you and create a lot of suction and waves. 🙁

But well, we have moved to the bay at Playas del Coco in the meantime, where it is also rolly and papagayo gusts blow, but there is the village to discover on land. There are many boats in the anchorage and so far only two Smokers in sight.

Coco

Before we could leave Culebra Bay, another problem occurred: when there was still 35 m of chain out, it suddenly stopped and instead of the anchor coming up, the bow tilted to the water surface! Something was obviously stuck. For an hour we went round in circles and back and forth. In our minds we were already wondering if there would be a diver in the Papagayo Marina. The water depth was 12 m, which is too much for us without diving equipment. It was Good Friday, would anyone be available? But luck was with us. After the many turns, the chain could first be moved a little and with further dances finally the anchor came up. There was still a thick rope hanging tautly over the anchor, I wonder what had been lying on the bottom?

We will spend the next time waiting. Waiting for the Papagayo wind to die down, waiting for two packages to arrive, hoping that they arrive at all. Maybe visit another national park. It’s further inland, so we have to find out how to get there and where the boat can lie safely to leave it alone.

We will report back to you on successes and failures.

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