Cruising with Playpen
3/5 Capt. Fred went fishing aboard Speculator, Jeffrey Leerink’s fishing machine. Speculator is a 68’x20’ Tribute with posh, air-conditioned interior, all the electronic toys, and a VERY capable crew. Capt. Brendan, from FL lived in CR for several years and knows fish like nobody else. Mates Eduardo and Eduardo (Eddie & Dos) answer snap commands for fishing and serve food and drink with aplomb. Fred came back exclaiming this was by far the best fishing day he’d ever had. He reeled in and released 8 sailfish. Between Fred, Hans, Judy and the crew they caught over 20 sailfish in non-stop action with doubles and a triple. Then they came back to port at 30knots! I think I heard murmurs about buying a fishing boat.
3/6 We and Ann & Don from Annie went to the San Jose airport and met daughter, Tricia, and son-in-law, Pete. They were relishing the warmth and had many tales of the MD snow and cold. Of course all we wanted to hear were tales of the grand kids. From the airport we took a taxi van to Arenal volcano. Our rooms overlooked the cloud-enshrouded volcano, and we heard rumblings all night.
3/7 We hiked the rainforest for a "close-up" of the volcano and saw some hot rocks plummeting down the hill. It was hot & sweaty in the old lava field, and the returning shade of the forest was welcome. From the volcano we again boarded a van-taxi for a very bumpy ride around Lake Arenal to an even bumpier ride to the rainforest of St. Elena in Monteverde. We had pretty, comfortable rooms, and the mattress felt great after the teeth-jarring ride.
3/8 Pete, Tricia, and I zip-lined over the canopy while Fred, Ann & Don walked suspension bridges through the forest. The zip lining was really fun, but we saw no wildlife. Our whole rainforest adventure netted us sightings only of butterflies—no mammals or birds. The ride from St. Elena to Los Suenos was not only jarring, but scary as we negotiated pot-holed, boulder strewn, narrow switchbacks down the mountain. Once on the civilized road we stopped for "copos"(snowballs) and kissed the ground.
3/9 No rest for the weary! Jeff invited the family to go fishing. What an experience! We caught 2 blue marlin and 2 sailfish and almost caught several more in the calm seas. With filet mignon sandwiches and fresh pineapple and freshwater footbaths we were in fishing heaven. When it got too hot we cooled off in the air conditioned saloon and watched the action through the picture windows. This time I definitely heard fishing boat murmurs from Fred and Pete!
3/10 A day of rest! Tricia and Pete hung out at the Marriott pool and beach and fed the iguanas french fries. When they’d had almost enough R&R we taxied into Jaco for a delicious dinner at a beachfront restaurant. We shopped and provisioned along "Main St.", and returned for some dock walking before turning in. Most of the 200 boats were fishing machines from the east coast. There were a few large motor yachts and some small local fishing boats. All were very well maintained by the Ticos. We had hired Pedro to wash Playpen. He did such a good job from the top of the radar (!) to the keel that we kept him working the whole week.
3/11 The kids and I went horseback riding through the forest outside of Jaco and had a wonderful lunch of "Tipical Food" in town. The afternoon was spent lazing beside the pool and visiting with Hans, Judy, and granddaughter, Ally. In the evening we rented a car and went back to the sunset hotel for drinks.
3/12 We took our rental car along paved roads to Manual Antonio National Park spying a crocodile along the way. Manual Antonio is a wonderful little park (the 1st in CR), and our hike netted us a 3-toed sloth, purple and orange land crabs, and white-faced monkeys. The "most beautiful beach in CR" is also in the park, and there we spied a sea snake and lots of iguanas. On the way home we stopped for lunch at the cruiser hangout, El Gran Escape, in Quepos and then stopped for yummy pork chops in Jaco.
3/13 Our guests weren’t eager to leave this lifestyle and return home to cold, snow, work, and a 1 yr. old and 2 yr. old. We offered to fly the kids in and sail into the sunset, but common sense (?) prevailed, and they took off with our hugs and kisses for the kids. We paid our bills and headed out for the next 140nm run. Playpen has never looked so good. Pedro’s pampering (& wax & polish) really showed.
3/13-14/03 Los Suenos to Golfito 8 37.36N 83 09.16W 143nm 18 3/4hr
We’re spoiled by this pacified sea. It was a beautiful calm ride with bat rays giving us a phosphorescent light show. We arrived in Golfito, and with Annie’s crew, completed our exit zarpe paperwork. Golfito is in the middle of GREEN jungle with almost primitive buildings lining the harbor. "Town" seemed unorganized to us, but Banana Bay Marina was friendly and secure.
3/15/03 Golfito to Isla Parida, Panama 8 08.39N 82 19.27 W 80nm 10 hr
Beware the Ides of March! What happened to our pacified ocean? We headed off into 20+ kn winds and T’storms as we exited Costa Rica. The sea was choppy, but the breeze and cloud cover kept the temperature comfortable. We motored into the middle of a storm (our sparkling boat is again covered in salt) and did some crashing and thrashing—practice for the Caribbean seas. The calm, pretty anchorage at Isla Parida was welcome, and we settled in under black clouds and 3 min. rain showers.
Our impressions of Costa Rica: HOT, mostly brown coastline; spectacular sport fishing; not as friendly or cultural as Mexico and El Salvador; hard to see wildlife; no snorkeling; comparatively expensive; seems over-hyped. Fred says they have a good tourism bureau—great marketing.
3/16/03 Isla Parida to Bahia Honda 7 45.37N 81 32.40W 57nm 8hr
What a lovely spot! The protected, circular bay is lined with jungle and filled with calm seas. We rafted Annie & Alyssa (the 2 34’American Tugs) fro a trial fit for the canal. While we were together Ann made a stir-fry, Chris brought the wine, and we supplied dessert for a yummy dinner. It was too hot for me inside; so I bunked down on the bow seat with a breeze, gray clouds racing by the almost full moon, and monkeys howling nearby. I actually got cold (&damp) around 0400 and moved inside. At 0500 Playpen got her shower from the Panama skies.
3/17/03 Bahia Honda to Isla Coiba to Bahia Honda 36 nm 4hr
Bahia Honda was such a beautiful spot that I decided to kayak before breakfast. While I was gone Joe Domingo paddled his dugout canoe to Fred. Joe was peddling fruit, tortoise shell bracelets, and old axe heads. He wanted laundry detergent and money. My Capt. wanted Joe’s dugout, and they struck a deal! I returned to find Fred in his kayak lifejacket preparing to ride with Joe to his casa. The deal was made on a handshake and off they went. Joe paddling, Fred bailing, and about 1" freeboard on the leaky barco. What a sight! About ½ hr later Fred appeared on the horizon proudly paddling his new boat. The "Joe Domingo" dugout canoe sits on our enlarged (but not quite enough) swim platform where it will probably stay till we get home.
This part of Panama is beautiful, alternately reminding us of cruising through the Virgin Is. and Alaska. The lush, green, hilly islands dot the blue-green calm seas, fish jump, birds fish, and all shapes and sizes of clouds go by. Clouds are a rarity for us, and we really appreciate their cooling effects.
We leisurely motored over to Isla Coiba and its outlying island, Rancheria. Both are part of a national park, and our guidebooks said we’d get a free anchoring permit. Annie and Playpen anchored, had a relaxing afternoon in frequent squaws, and discussed the route to Balboa. About 4:30 a panga with 4 natives came out to Playpen. One of the men introduced himself as "Chief" (presumably of the park) and told us we had to pay $50 to anchor the boat and $10 per person to come ashore. We assured him we were not coming ashore and would be leaving at 1st light. He said, "Dinero to me" and pointed to himself. We said, "No, we’ll go back to Bahia Honda." He shrugged and went over to Annie with the same story. We told him we will spread the word that it will cost a lot of money to anchor in Coiba. He again shrugged. We left and caught the favorable current back to Bahia Honda, anchoring just at sunset under dark clouds. The anchorages at Coiba were beautiful, but Honda was just as nice and had friendlier people.
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