Love these city signs. Quepos with me and Sugar Shack in the background, see arrow

Cinco de Mateo in Quepos

We were up early again this morning as we had another 50+ mile passage to Quepos.  We readied the boat and had the anchor up by 0615.  It was another beautiful day, flat seas, clear skies and no wind.  Matt made an attempt to look like a sail boat by raising the main.  But, frankly, it just bopped side to side as the winds were mostly under 5 knots.

It was a truly an uneventful passage as we both tried to hide from the sun and the heat.  Kind of hard to do on a boat, but we did our best.  Even though we had the fishing poles out, we did not drop a hook as we were going fairly slow and were only in 25-40 meters of water (not very deep).

Quepos (pronounced kay-pohs) used to be a sleepy little village with a high built peer for loading bananas, pineapples and sailfish.  This was once a bustling banana exporting port, but the town was crippled by the demise of the banana plantations in the mid 1950’s.  Evidently, there was a banana disease that overtook the banana plantations in Panama which severely impacted exportation in Costa Rica.

Today, there are thousands of acres of palm oil plantations just beyond the beaches which are controlled by Palma Tica, Inc. (formerly United Fruit Company).  However, palm oil has a dubious future resulting from the concerns regarding cholesterol.  So, the town of Quepos is reliant on tourism which has been booming.   Quepos has over 7,000 inhbitants, a large marina (Marina Pez Vela), hotels, and vacation villas lining the beaches.

We anchored just outside the marina entrance as it was fairly shallow (8 meters) and a wee bit more protected than where the fishing boats were anchored.  When I say a “wee bit” I mean barely at all.  It was a a little rolly during low tide, but during high tide it got darn right uncomfortable.

The marina has a large jetty that is made of large, semi-circle, concrete forms giving it an unusual look from the outside.  Dozens of small fishing vessels anchor in front of the marina but come and go in the opposite direction of where we anchored.  Behind us, there is a long sandy beach backed by green lowlands that rise to a beautiful mountainous terrain beyond.

Quepos in front of MPV Marina.

Quepos in front of MPV Marina.

We had an unobstructed view of another very pretty sunset.

Sunset in Quepos

Sunset in Quepos

Matt wanted to spend his birthday walking around the small town of Quepos.  But first we had to find a way to get to shore. There is a large banana pier that has been converted to a commercial dock so we started there first (see above collage, bottom photo). They were very nice but told us we could not leave our dinghy there. So, we headed to the marina.

First, we passed a guard gate at the channel entrance who took our boat name, called into someone on the radio and told us to go to the to the fuel dock by their marine store.  From there, we were pointed to the office.  On the way to the office another guard stopped us on the street and pointed to the office. Then a third guard let us in to the marina where the office was located.  Tight security don’t you think.

At the office, the ladies could not have been nicer. They told us that the banana pier is under construction and not available for us and that they don’t have a dinghy dock. They normally charge $25 for 30 minutes to pick up and drop off (can you believe that rate?).  But, they allowed us to pay the fee for the day as long as we moved the dinghy close to the office and promised to be out of the marina before they close at 1700.  Sweet.  We had to give them our boat and clearance paperwork, passports and boat insurance.  Keep in mind, this is just to leave our dinghy for a few hours.

We meandered through town, had a late breakfast, caught up on a little wifi, shopped at the fresh fruit and veggie market, walked through the grocery stores, and then celebrated our day with a birthday beer.  Pretty cool little town!

Love these city signs. Quepos with me and Sugar Shack in the background, see arrow

Love these city signs. Quepos with me and Sugar Shack in the background, see arrow

At the fresh fruit and veggie market, there was a man squeezing sugar cane which was pretty darn interesting as I had never seen this done before.

Squeezing the sugar cane

Squeezing the sugar cane

We found a new little eatery called Love Shack…unfortunately, we had already eaten so we did not stop in.

Not Sugar Shack but the Love Shack

Not Sugar Shack but the Love Shack

They have a huge 3-4 meter tide here which exposes pretty dramatic shallow spots.  The top image is Sugar Shack in the bay just beyond the river and small sand bar.  Then middle shot is the view to the right where another small marina lives.  Boats have to hug the shore and follow the river to avoid the sand bar.  Bottom image is the view to the left toward the MPV marina.

Low tide exposing a river between the shore and ocean

Low tide exposing a river between the shore and ocean

Manuel Antonio Park is a biological reserve and is only 10 minutes away from Quepos making this another great tourist attraction.  This is Costa Rica’s smallest park at just over 4,000 acres and was established in 1972.  This is a tropical wet forest that receives over 150 inches of rain each year.  There are over 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds.  We hope to visit this park on another visit, so stay tuned for more to come.

PASSAGE DETAILS:

  • Total distance: 55.22 nm
  • Total travel time: 9 hours 13 minutes
  • Top speed 7.8 kn
  • Average speed 6.0 kn
Sugar Shack at sunset

Bahia Drake: Dark Sand & Strange Fishing Boat Floats

It took us an extra day to complete the paperwork in Golfito, but considering we were dealing with a holiday weekend, we were happy with the turn around.  We got up early to begin our 60+ mile sail to Bahia Drake (pronounced dray-hay).

A very easy motor.  We had flat seas, light winds on the nose and a bit of sea life.  We did see a few dolphins and birds. Matt put 3 fishing lines and 2 teasers out with the hopes of catching dinner, but only a small fish jumped on the line and we tossed him back- we think this was a Spanish Mackerel.

Small Spanish Mackerel caught and tossed back

Small Spanish Mackerel caught and tossed back

This passage is all around the Costa Rica peninsula.  The image below shows where we started (red dot on right side in Golfito Bay), our path around the tip, our boat (red triangle on left side of peninsula) and our destination at the end of the red line.

Golfito to Bahia Drake around the peninsula

Golfito to Bahia Drake around the peninsulaGg

Since it was a long day with little going on, I took the opportunity to clean our interior wood.  Wash down with 409, then vinegar, then Howard Feed N Wax Orange Oil.  Not a difficult process, just time consuming as we have a lot of wood in the house.  This is a monthly process.  You can see in the upper photo; the darker wood has white spots (mold) that needed to be cleaned and preserved.

Cleaning up our interior wood

Cleaning up our interior wood

This photo is the wood trim on our interior table, before top, after bottom.

Before and after table wood project

Before and after table wood project

Bahia Drake is a wide-open bay on the Costa Rica coastline about one day’s run from anchorages to the north and south.  There is a village on the south end of the bay, a few small hotels, and a wilderness camp can be found ashore.  Dozens of fishing boats line the shoreline making this a picture-perfect fishing town.

We anchored around 1700 and decided to take a quick dinghy ride around the bay to get a better look at the town.  Several of the boats had large barrels attached to either side.  We could not figure out what their purpose was – do you have any ideas?  It was if they were keeping the boats afloat

Bahia Drake shoreline and bay with fishing boats

Bahia Drake shoreline and bay with fishing boats

Back at the boat, we enjoyed a sundowner on the bean bags as the sun put on a glorious show.

Beautiful sunset at Bahia Drake

Beautiful sunset at Bahia Drake

PASSAGE DETAILS:

  • Total distance: 60.7 nm
  • Total travel time: 10 hours 22 minutes
  • Top speeD*8.2 kn
  • Averfe speed 5.9 kn
Celebrating in a new country, Costa Rica,

Welcome to Costa Rica, Golfito and Panama Posse

Our first port in Costa Rica was Golfo Dulce which is an enormous bay with several small bays inside it.  Once you enter Golfo Dulce you can go to Bahia Puerto Jimenez, Bahia Rincon, Punta Gallardo, Punta Voladera, Punta El Cabro, or Golfito Bay.  We were headed toward Golfito Bay which is surrounded by lush, green mountains.  Being that Golfito is a bay within a bay, it is very calm and tranquil with a nice, breeze.

Located at Golfito you have several marinas:

  • Banana Bay Marina has 20+ slips and a few moorings, restaurant, bar, laundry, wifi
  • Land and Sea, 3 slips and 6 moorings, lounge area, accommodations, wifi, laundry
  • Fish Hook, 25+ slips (fishing boats), restaurant, bar, wifi, accommodations, laundry
  • IGY Gulfito Bay Marina. New as of 2017 w/ 50 slips and plans to expand to 132 slips

As the first stop in Costa Rica, we had to accomplish some official paperwork.  We needed to check in (Immigration, Customs, and Port Captain), get a fishing license, and apply for a permit to visit at Isla del Coco.  We wanted to complete these goals within 2 days, if possible.

However, timing was not on our side.  We arrived on a beautiful Sunday morning, a day earlier than we anticipated.  But as you can imagine, a lot of businesses are closed on Sunday and the following day, 1 May is Labor Day, a public holiday.  Gesh!

Land and Sea

Land and Sea is located in between Banana Bay Marina and Fish and Hook Marina.  We dropped the hook in front of her small marina as there was good depth, holding, and a breeze.  We secured the boat and went ashore to begin our clearance process. Image below shows Banana Bay Marina (the yellow buildings with fishing yachts in front) and a small green two story building (to the right) with two boats in front.

Banana Bay Marina and Land and Sea Marina-

Banana Bay Marina and Land and Sea Marina-

Katie, the owner at Land and Sea, proved to be very helpful.  She told us where we could dump trash and recycling and where to find the market and immigration.  She also exchanged $20 U.S. for colones which comes out to 10,000 colones. For me, the easiest conversion is about 500 colones to $1.  Of course, the conversion is a bit better at 575 or so, but that math in my head, is too hard for me.

The town of Golfito is located on one long, main street.  There is one small secondary street that runs parallel to the main street, but it is short and has mostly bars.

Immigration (Migracion)

Immigration is located about ½ mile from Land and Sea and has a giant red and white antenna on its roof making it easy to identify.  Upon our first visit, Juaquin, the immigration officer, told us we needed to have copies made of our documentation (3 copies of our boat paper work, 3 copies of Matt’s passport, 1 copy of my passport, 2 copies of our Zarpe-exit paperwork from Panama).  Then he gave us instructions of where to get the copies at a place close to Land and Sea.  Oh dear, so we walked back, found the copy place, paid 1500 colones ($3) and went back to immigration.

As Matt did the formalities, I sat and chatted with Juaquin who was oh so willing to share his excitement of Costa Rica.  He informed me about park regulations, gave directions to the Port Captain and Customs, shared some tour tips, and gave me the scoop on the permit process for Isla del Coco.

Isla del Coco is about 300nm from Costa Rica.  Regulations state that you need a permit which requires that you be checked into the country.  Bummer.  You see, Isla del Coco is on the way to the Galapagos.  We wanted to clear out of Costa Rica, head 300nm to Isla del Coco and then sail 400nm to Galapagos.  It is 600nm and 5.5 days out of our way to go to Isla del Coco, then back to Costa Rica, then past them to get to Galapagos.  You see our quandary?  None the less, Juaquin told us to go to the Port Captain who would be able to give us the application for the permit.

Juaquin also found out that Customs was closed on Sundays, but they would be open on the next day, even though it was a holiday.  It is unusual to find someone so very accommodating, kind, and compassionate during the clearance process-what a gem!

Port Captain

Following Juaquin’s directions, we walked about 1 mile to the Port Captain’s building.  The boat clearance went fairly routine.  We inquired about the Isla del Coco application and were informed that we had to get the permit from MEREILT which was in charge of the National Parks.

Since it was extremely hot and we were a bit tired of walking, we hopped in a cab.  These offices were not far, but off a dirt road, surrounded by jungle.  It was amazing.  All of the wood buildings were connected by a long low bridge or walkway which was covered in plants and flowers.  Working here you felt like you were in the jungle, living, breathing among the animals.  Breathtaking, but hot and humid even in the shade.

Our timing was not the best as it was lunchtime on a Sunday.  We managed to locate one guy who spent a good 45 minutes trying to track down the right person who could help us.  Evidently, MEREILT handles all of the National Parks except the Isla del Coco.  The correct office to handle the Isla del Coco permit is the Cocos Island Marine Conservation Area (ACMIC).  He put us in touch with a man on the phone who promised to send the permit to Matt via email.  Sweet, feeling like mission accomplished.

The next day, we walked down main street and popped in to a few grocery stores before catching a cab to the Duty-Free Zone where the Customs office was located.

Customs Office (Aduana)

The process is fairly simple and efficient.  It took us about 30-minutes in-and-out.  Since we were there, we decided to walk around the Duty-Free Zone.  This was about 1/100th of the size of the duty-free area in Panama, thank goodness.  We could not technically buy anything as you are supposed to obtain a tarjeta (ticket) 24 hours before you shop.  It is meant to increase tourism and require people to stay at least one night. Not a big deal as most of the shops were appliances, home goods, and liquor.  We did not need anything from here.

Friends of ours told us about some cruisers who formed a group called Panama Posse.  About 80 boats started in Mexico and were headed toward Panama. This group shares information on the countries, anchorages, and places they’ve been along the way, including Costa Rica.  The organizer, Dietmar has put together several discounts with marinas, chandleries, and restaurants.  We decided to join, to get intel on Costa Rica and some discounts.

On Labor Day, the Panama Posse was having a party at the IGY Golfito Bay Marina with free beer, BBQ, and music.  We had not been to this new marina and wanted to check it out and meet some new friends.  There were about 25 people, primarily from the States who were heading to Panama.  Most of the other fleet were already in Panama.  We had a really nice time, met some great people, swapped stories about anchorages and islands, and got a cool new shirt!

Panama Posse Group at IGY Golfito Marina

Panama Posse Group at IGY Golfito Marina

IGY Golfito Marina and Me Enjoying a cold drink in the water

IGY Golfito Marina and Me Enjoying a cold drink in the water

Day 3, we headed back to Land and Sea to seek out information from Katie.  We needed to know if she knew of an agent that could help us with the Isla del Coco’s permit.  She directed us to Bruce Blevens who runs Fish Hook Marina next door.

Isla del Coco Permit

Bruce is an agent who helps a lot of fishing charter boats (who have a lot more disposable income than we do).  He was extremely helpful and informed us that it would take 30-35 days and cost thousands of dollars to get the permit.  He recently helped a charter boat who had to hire two attorneys, make two trips to San Jose, and hire a secondary agent. Evidently, Costa Rica is not wild about issuing permits except to local charter or fishing boats.  Shoot.  We decided to skip the permit and find another way. P.S.  the man from ACMIC never emailed Matt.

Fishing License

We were told we needed to obtain a fishing license if we have fishing gear on the boat.  Even if we never dropped the hooks in the water.  So, we found out that the fishing permits come from Incopesca.  The office was closed the two previous days so we were planning on stopping by after visiting Bruce.  However, both Bruce and Katie said that it was not necessary to pay for a license unless we were outfitted with a ton of outriggers – like a professional boat.  Since, we are only trolling for dinner, they said it would be fine.

So, even though we did not get the fishing license or Isla del Coco permit, we did manage to save thousands of dollars and a ton of paperwork.  As it turns out, it didn’t cost us a penny to clear into Costa Rica, except the cab rides to and from Aduana at $2 each way.

Coming Up Next:

  • Bahia Drake
  • Quepos