From Huatulco to Acapulco

On the 2nd of January we spent the afternoon walking around La Crucecita, one of the two small villages in the Huatulco bay. The town is full of colorful shops and bars. We had a margarita at a bar overlooking the main square, enjoying the company of a US couple that we met on our way to the town. They sail on Tivoli, a Beneteau First 42 and they are on their way back to San Francisco from where they left 9 years ago.

ZOE sailing

January 3rd – ZOE photographed from the sailboat Tivoli on our way to Puerto Angel

The following morning we left Huatulco (Marina Chahue) heading to Puerto Angel, about 25 nm north, unfortunately enjoying very little wind. The bay of Puerto Angel was crowded with pangas and with music at a high volume played at the restaurants on the beach. We were not impressed with this place that was supposed to be a fisherman village – likely some years ago! So the day after early in the morning we set sails towards Puerto Escondido. After a few dozen miles we had to turn on again the engine and motorsail. However, we were pleased to sketch dozens of turtles very confidently swimming close by our boat. In fact, this area is renown because of the high density of different spices of turtles that come here to deposit their eggs on the many beaches. For us it was a real surprise to be able to observe these beautiful creatures breeding apparently undisturbed by our presence.

Puerto Escondido is quite famous as a town for vacation and not surprisingly was quite crowded of people and beach games, possibly because this is high season for vacationers in this area.

2020-01-04 15.32.20 DMC-FZ200 Puerto Escpondido

January 4th – Puerto Escondido

We therefore decided to leave early the next morning to head to Acapulco as we had to travel about 180 nm. We arrived in Acapulco at about 3.30pm after a very smooth overnight navigation.

2020-01-06 14.51.46 DMC-FZ200 Acapulco

January 6th – Entering the Acapulco Bay

Entering the beautiful bay of Acapulco, we were impressed by this never ending line of white buildings all along the coast. We moored at the Marina Acapulco, a very protected place in the NW part of the bay.

2020-01-06 17.57.23 Armor_6E

January 6th – The Marina Acapulco

2020-01-07 07.51.09 DMC-FZ200

January 7th – The Marina Acapulco

We were very eager to explore the city for its controversial reputation. Acapulco, that today counts about 1 million people, grew dramatically in the late 40s becoming the favorite vacation place for Hollywood stars. We decided to take a tour to visit the city upon the recommendation of fellow sailors who did it before us. We visited the central market, enjoying the usual experience of colors and smells that extend along a very large area of the city. The tour took us to the Flamingo Hotel who was the vacation residence of some famous Hollywood actors (such as John Wayne and “Tarzan” Johnny Weissmuller) and that amazed us for the great panoramic position. However, the highlight of the tour were the divers at the Quebrada. Five young professionals jumped, in turn, in the narrow stretch of water 12 to 24 meters below them. To avoid injuries they must calculate the right moment to jump to catch the incoming wave. Despite the touristic character of the show, it was an exciting experience to be there.

2020-01-07 13.34.32 DMC-FZ200

January 7th – Entrance to La Quebrada

The day after it was Gemma’s birthday, so we booked a very scenic restaurant overlooking the Marques Bay, the new Acapulco high end residential area. We had an excellent dinner in a very cozy atmosphere.

2020-01-08 19.51.13 moto x4

January 8th – Dinner at Zibu celebrating Gemma’s Birthday

All in all, we enjoyed Acapulco very much, with its old taxi cars, the long beaches full of every type of people, the skyline, and the promenades. It was a “cannot miss” experience.

2020-01-06 18.16.28 Armor_6E

One of the promenades in Acapulco

2020-01-06 18.34.31 Armor_6E

The beach of the Acapulco Bay at night

2020-01-07 18.31.36 moto x4

2020-01-07 10.14.40 DMC-FZ200

View of the Acapulco Bay

On January 9th we left Acapulco, heading toward Zihuatenejo.

The new season in Mexico

On the 31st of October, after several months of city life spent doing some work and enjoying the company of relatives and friends, we flew to Mexico City. Our plans were to take a touristic trip in the South of Mexico for about 20 days before going back to the boat. Unfortunately, the knee of Sergio decided that our plans were not right, and made us return to Rome after only five days in Mexico. After a prompt operation to his meniscus and about 30 days of recovery, on the 12th od December we were again on a flight to Mexico City. We took the chance to visit the house of Frida Kalo and enjoy Diego Rivera’s murales at the Palacio Nacional.

2019-12-13 22.22.13 Armor_6E

December 13th – Diego Rivera’s Murales at the Palacio Nacional (Mexico City)

2019-12-13 23.10.37 Armor_6E

December 13th – The wold’s largest eco-skating rink (Main Square, Mexico City)

We finally arrived in Marina Chiapas on December 14th, where we found Zoe in excellent conditions. On the outside, the pvc sheets where intact and served the purpose to protect the deck, while in the inside the dehumidifier did its job preventing any mold to grow.

On Monday 16th, as previously agreed with the marina people, they started scraping the bottom and the following day painted the boat with the new antifouling. In addition, we painted the propeller with a special silicon coating that was recommended by one of the sailors we met in our trip. We were able to launch Zoe in the water on Wednesday the 18th.

2019-12-18 15.57.10 Armor_6E

December 18th – Getting ready to go into the water

2019-12-18 21.24.19 Armor_6E

We decided to enjoy the beautiful marina and its excellent restaurant for some additional days to carry out needed maintenance to the engine and other parts of the boat, as well as to clean and organize Zoe to prepare it for the new season. One of the key changes was the new main sail, which we brought in a suitcase from Italy. When we mounted it, we were pleased to find out that it was perfectly suited for Zoe.

2019-12-24 14.25.18 moto x4

Marina Chiapas is quite close to the city of Tapachula, where we could find some spare parts and make good provisioning in the well equipped Home Depot and Walmart department stores.

The marina was almost empty, so it was easy to meet the owners of two sailing boats travelling northbound like us. They invited us for dinner on Christmas Eve. Believe or not, we enjoyed Swiss cheese fondue as the main dish!

Keeping an eye on the forecasts for a good window of favorable meteo conditions, we decided it was good to set sails on December 26th. The challenge was to cross the Tuhantepec Gulf; this gulf is bordered to the west by Huatulco, and to East by Puerto Chiapas, with a span of 225 nm. During fall, winter and spring months, cold high presure systems move down from the USA into the Gulf of Mexico. When these systems reach the narrow break in the Sierra Madre mountains, they funnel through the gap to reach the warm Pacific waters of the Gulf of Thehuantepec, with a strenght that can even reach hurricane force and can extend several hundred miles downstream.

IMG-20191222-WA0002

Apart from choosing a time where winds forecasts were null or very low, we also took the precaution to cross the Gulf by staying very close to the shore so that in case of inaccurate forecasts we would have been hit by the wind but minimally by the resulting waves. So it took us four days to get to Huatulco, fortunately without finding any adverse situation.

2019-12-29 07.39.05 moto x4

December 30th – Bahia Chipehua

We moored at the Marina Chahue, that is conveniently located near the villages of Santa Cruz and La Crucelita , two small towns part of the Huatulco area, that developed a significant touristic attitude. We spent New Year’s Eve in a nice restaurant and at 10:00pm we were already sleeping despite the fireworks at midnight.

2019-12-31 18.21.10 moto x4

December 30th – Marina Chahue (Huatulco Bay)

From Bahia Carrillo to Bahia Santa Elena

On March 13th we left the beautiful Bahía Carrillo heading to Playa Hermosa where we could make the paperwork to leave Costa Rica. On our way we stopped in Bahía Potrero (nothing relevant to mention), and the day after at 1.30 pm we were anchoring in Playa Hermosa.

2019-03-14 13.26.29 DMC-FZ200

March 14th – Playa Hermosa

2019-03-15 07.02.00 SM-G903F

March 15th – “Bocelli Bar” in Playa Hermosa

Right after having had lunch we went by dinghy to the beach, took a taxi to get to the Capitania in Playa Coco, but we realized that all offices we needed were about to close. However, we were able to learn that the first place to go was the immigration office at the airport of Liberia, approximately 20 miles away. So, the day after we tried to hitchhike and we immediately got a ride from the manager of the local Sheraton Hotel. At the airport we were able to get our passports stamped, so we got a bus back to Playa Coco, a nice little village, where we cleared customs and Capitania, becoming officially ready to leave the country.

The next morning we crossed the Gulf of Papagayo heading to Bahia Potrero Grande as the weather conditions seemed to be ok to cross the Cabo Santa Elena, the area where the Papagayo winds always blow very hard, sometimes furiously. Early the next morning we left Bahia Potrero Grande with about 12 knots of wind, that raised to 35 by the time we were about to cross the Cabo Santa Elena with gusts at 40-45 knots and the wind almost on our face.

2019-03-16 08.53.59 SM-G903F

March 16th – Approaching the Cabo Santa Elena

2019-03-16 09.05.09 SM-G903F

March 16th – Cabo Santa Helena

When we passed the cape, everything became much more manageable and in about 3 hours we reached Bahia Santa Helena where we still had some gusts, but no waves. We spent 3 days there waiting for a window of lighter winds to reach San Juan del Sur to make our official entry in Nicaragua.

2019-03-16 10.44.42 SM-G903F

March 16th – From Cabo Santa Elena to Bahia Santa Elena

2019-03-17 17.24.36 DMC-FZ200

March 17th – Waiting in Bahia Santa Helena

From Puntarenas to Bahia Carrillo (91 nm)

On February 28th our friends from France, Marie-Helene and Thierry, arrived at the Yacht Club in Puntarenas to accompany us in our journey for about 10 days.  It is their second time on board, as they came visit us last year at the San Blas, Panama.

2019-02-28 11.43.52 SM-G903F

Costa Rica “Yacht Club”

2019-02-28 12.16.28 moto x4

Washed fruits and vegetables (to prevent potential cucaracha’s eggs to develop inside the boat)

On March 1st at 10:00 we left the Yacht Club with the raising tide following our previous track along the Puntarenas channel to avoid the sand banks. Along the way we observed the numerous abandoned houses and shipyards, memories of a very active fishing and commercial port. Now there are just a few fishing boats and occasional cruising ships that disembark hundreds of people who are quickly boarded into fleets of buses taking them to the various Costa Rica’s National Parks.

2019-03-01 11.02.29 DMC-GX80

March 1st – An abandoned house along the Puntarenas’ channel

2019-03-01 11.03.09 DMC-GX80

March 1st – Fishing boats along the Puntarenas’ channel

We first headed a few miles NW in the Gulf of Nicoya to Isla Caballo, where our friends enjoyed their first swim. In the afternoon, we sailed south and anchored in front of Isla San Lucas, which in the past hosted an infamous prison, now under restauration to become a tourist attraction.

The following day we sailed to Isla Muertos where the pilot guide mentioned the existence of an ancient burial indigenous site, later used also by the Christian community. Despite our efforts we could not locate it, so we continued south west toward Isla Cedros. The whole area of Guanacaste, where we are currently sailing, in this period of the year is extremely dry with trees and grass showing the effect of the lack of water.

2019-03-03 08.49.49 DMC-GX80

March 3rd – Isla Cedros

The day after we sailed to the Islas Tortuga, a popular snorkeling place. In fact, already from a distance we noticed dozens of tourists in their red life jackets exploring the marine life. We joined the crowd, dribbling the human fauna while enjoying some good snorkeling. We resumed our sailing to get to Tambor for the night. It was an exciting trip as we could spot dozens of rays jumping out of the water; this show continued for miles and miles.

Just before the sunset we got to Bahia Ballena (Tambor) where several other boats where anchored waiting the season for the Papagayo winds to stop blowing.

2019-03-03 17.58.12 DMC-GX80

March 3rd – Sunset at Bahia Ballena

It seemed to be a very nice community of people as the day after in the morning we were approached by the owners of a boat welcoming us and providing useful information on the nearby village and places to visit. As we landed the dinghy in the beach to get to the grocery store for provisioning, our attention was captured by the unmistakable sound of the Ara Macao; in fact, on the trees of a nearby garden there were about a dozen of these beautiful colored birds. And, on the same trees, several hawler monkeys were resting totally ignoring our presence. It was amazing to see once again such animals so close to us and to the nearby shops.

2019-03-04 09.34.38 SM-G903F

March 4th – Ara Macao and howler monkeys sharing trees

Bahia Ballena reserved us another nice surprise, a white sand beach with crystal clear water on the opposite side of the bay, which we reached after a 1.5 nm dinghy ride and where we spent a couple of hours in the shade of the palm trees.

2019-03-04 11.19.20 DMC-GX80

March 4th – Stunning beach on the south end of Bahia Ballena

2019-03-04 11.50.52 DMC-GX80

After lunch a lady on her canoe came to our boat to say hello. She told us she came with her husband from Alaska on their sailboat; they were now enjoying Costa Rica while waiting for the end of the month to head back north. She recommended us to take a walk on a trail in the north side of the bay, which we really enjoyed doing in the afternoon.

2019-03-04 15.53.47 DMC-GX80

March 4th – Entrance to the trail

2019-03-04 16.08.37 DMC-GX80

March 4th – Beach on the north side of Bahia Ballena

2019-03-04 17.32.15 DMC-FZ200

March 4th – Howler monkeys at Bahia Ballena

2019-03-04 16.31.27 DMC-FZ200

March 4th – Marie-Helene and Thierry with us

2019-03-04 17.17.12 DMC-GX80

At the end of the day we were pleased to see our friends so happy for the experiences we lived together.

On March 5th we sailed about 50 nm to reach Bahia Carrillo, a tranquil bay featuring a 2 miles long beach fringed by palm trees, and most importantly, a protected cove where we could land our dinghy despite the ocean swell.

2019-03-05 16.51.07 DMC-FZ200

March 5th – On our way to Bahia Carrillo

2019-03-05 16.58.43 DMC-GX80

March 5th – Entering Bahia Carrillo

2019-03-07 18.10.33 DMC-GX80

March 5th – Sunset at Bahia Carrillo

The day after we celebrated with our friends Sergio’s birthday in a very nice Italian restaurant, La Dolce Vita, located on the beautiful beach of the nearby village of Samara.

2019-03-06 17.19.42 SM-G903F

March 6th – The beach of Samara

2019-03-07 17.27.28 DMC-GX80

Due to the strong Papagayo winds blowing from NE, we spent in the area the remaining days of vacation of our friends as it would have not been comfortable to sail further north at the moment.

2019-03-07 16.46.11 DMC-GX80

March 7th – Shop at the live village of Samara

2019-03-06 07.19.32 DMC-GX80

March 8th – Life on board with very special guests

2019-03-11 08.30.38 SM-G903F

March 9th – Bahia Carrillo in the background

On Sunday 10th we went by car with Marie-Helene and Thierry to the Parque National Barra Honda, where we experienced to an extreme how dry is the north of Costa Rica in this season!

2019-03-10 12.05.22 DMC-GX80

March 10th – View from the Parque National Barra Honda

On March 11th we accompanied our friends to the beach where they parked their rented car to drive to the airport of San Jose. It was sad to see them leaving after the great time we had together.

Nicaragua and Costa Rica by land

On February 4th, after having secured Zoe at the Yacht Club Costa Rica, we spent about three weeks in south Nicaragua and northwest Costa Rica.

We took three buses to reach Penas Blancas, the border with Nicaragua, and from there a taxi to reach Granada, laying on the large Lake Nicaragua . We found Granada to be one of the most beautiful colonial cities we have seen in Central America, with its colored houses and churches. We explored the nearby area, the Volcán Masaya, Laguna de Apoyo, Volcán Mombacho, the Isletas of Granada, Isla Zapatera and Isla del Muerto. We rented a car to explore San Juan del Sur (where we will return by boat) and some of the nearby surf beaches, and to visit the Isla de Ometepe, a beautiful island inside Lake Nicaragua featuring two impressive volcano.

It took us about 7 hours to get to San Carlos (on the south east corner of Lake Nicaragua) by bus, and from there about 2 hours by boat to reach El Castillo, an enchanting  village on the Rio San Juan. In El Castillo we spent a few relaxing days admiring from the terrace of our B&B the waters of the Rio San Juan and visiting the old Spanish fortress. We took a day trip to explore downstream Rio San Juan and to walk along the trails of the Refugio Bartola park.

On February 19th we returned to Granada and from there to Costa Rica where we spent three days in the region of Guanacaste, a cattle and dry forest place, with a few volcano still giving signs of their nature. We had the opportunity to swim in a true hot water river, running for kilometers with its hot and later warm thermal waters. We took a bus from Liberia to return to our boat, getting the opportunity to appreciate this extremely live city, offering the best gourmet food we tried in the region.

We found Zoe in good health, still needing our attention for some maintenance we had procrastinated for too long…  And, we prepared it to host our friends Marie-Helene and Thierry who are arriving today to accompany us again for a small segment of our journey!

SOUTH NICARAGUA

2019-02-04 17.30.47 DMC-FZ200

February 4th – Granada cathedral and lake Nicaragua

 

2019-02-06 15.20.24 moto x4

February 6th – Laguna de Apoyo

 

2019-02-06 16.40.54 moto x4

February 6th – Artist at San Juan de Oriente

 

2019-02-06 17.34.59 moto x4

February 6th – Volcán Masaya crater

 

 

2019-02-07 09.25.12 DMC-FZ200

February 7th – Volcán Mombacho forest

 

2019-02-07 09.47.23 DMC-FZ200

February 7th – Orchid at Volcán Mombacho

 

2019-02-07 10.02.18 DMC-FZ200

February 7th – Orchid at Volcán Mombacho

 

 

2019-02-09 12.00.16 moto x4

February 9th – Beach at San Juan del Sur

 

2019-02-09 17.41.26 moto x4

February 9th – Sunset at Playa Hermosa

 

2019-02-10 08.33.03 moto x4

February 10th – Oxen pulling a cart in San Juan del Sur

 

2019-02-10 10.56.15 DMC-FZ200

February 10th – Volcán Concepción, Isla de Ometepe

 

2019-02-11 08.16.32 moto x4

February 10th – Volcán Concepción, Isla de Ometepe

 

 

2019-02-11 16.00.28 DMC-FZ200

February 11th – Leaving Isla de Ometepe by ferry

 

2019-02-12 09.31.43 DMC-FZ200

February 12th – Back to Granada

 

2019-02-12 10.30.26 moto x4

February 12th – Choice of vinegar at the Granada market

 

2019-02-12 10.33.11 DMC-FZ200

February 12th – Granada Market

 

2019-02-12 10.48.34 DMC-FZ200

February 12th – Granada

 

2019-02-13 10.04.53 DMC-FZ200

February 13th – School at Isla Zapatera

 

2019-02-13 10.44.31 DMC-FZ200

February 13th – Petroglyphs at Isla Zapatera

 

2019-02-15 16.38.30 moto x4

February 15th – El Castillo castle

 

2019-02-15 16.39.11 DMC-FZ200

February 15th – El Castillo, view of the river San Juan

 

2019-02-15 16.44.58 moto x4

February 15th – El Castillo, view of the river San Juan

 

2019-02-17 09.02.21 DMC-FZ200

February 17th – Parque Bartola, a green and black poison dart frog

 

2019-02-17 09.06.52 DMC-FZ200

February 17th – Parque Bartola, a blue jeans poison dart frog

 

2019-02-17 14.00.16 DMC-FZ200

February 17th – Rio San Juan, fish eagle

 

2019-02-17 15.38.23 DMC-FZ200

February 17th – Rio San Juan, Anhinga anhinga

 

2019-02-19 07.44.58 DMC-FZ200

February 19th – The village of El Castillo

 

2019-02-19 09.29.43 DMC-FZ200

February 19th – The boat from El Castillo to San Carlos

 

2019-02-19 16.50.27 DMC-FZ200

February 19th – The bus from San Carlos to Granada

 

2019-02-20 17.02.13 DMC-FZ200

February 20th – Back to Granada

 

2019-02-20 17.43.37 moto x4

February 20th – Granada Cathedral

 

2019-02-20 18.05.25 moto x4

February 20th – Plaza de la Catedral, Granada

 

GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA

2019-02-22 13.43.46 DMC-FZ200

February 22nd – Rio Perdido, a hot water (42° C) river

 

2019-02-22 14.07.54 DMC-FZ200

February 22nd – Rio Perdido

 

 

2019-02-22 16.19.52 DMC-FZ200

February 22nd – Baby hawler monkey at Rio Perdido

 

 

2019-02-23 11.33.07 DMC-FZ200

February 23rd – Spider monkey at Parque Rincon de la Vieja

 

2019-02-23 11.49.33 DMC-FZ200

February 23rd – Enchanted forest at Parque Rincon de la Vieja

 

2019-02-23 12.22.47 DMC-FZ200

February 23rd – White-throated Magpie-Jay at Parque Rincon de la Vieja

 

2019-02-23 15.33.08 DMC-FZ200

February 23rd – Hot springs at Parque Rincon de la Vieja

 

2019-02-28 12.16.28 moto x4

February 28th – Provisioning before leaving

 

From Quepos to Puntarenas (65 nm)

On January 30th we left Quepos heading toward Puntarenas, where we planned to leave the boat in a marina for about a month, to explore the interiors of north Costa Rica and south Nicaragua. Since it was a 65 miles trip, we decided to break it into two steps spending one night in Playa Manta, right after Punta Leona.

2019-01-30 17.27.05 DMC-FZ200

January 30th – Punta Leona

Puntarenas is a city laid out on a 4 miles strip of sand, surrounded on one side by the open ocean, and on the other side by a narrow bay with fairly shallow waters. The only two marinas that were built in the area are placed toward the end of the bay, so you need to navigate the shallow waters with the help of a pilot that knows how to dribble the sand banks. Most importantly, it is safe to navigate the shallow waters about a hour before the tide climax, to have the possibility to free up in case you would got stuck in a sand bank. Of the two marinas available we booked Puerto Azul, as they are the only ones to have docking facilities. They provide a pilot service to guide you in the shallow waters of the bay, so we set an appointment at 10.30am at the lighthouse of Puntarenas, about a hour before the high tide. After about half an hour of navigation we were able to moor at their dock with some challenging maneuvering due to the tidal currents.

2019-01-31 10.35.38 DMC-FZ200

January 31st – Approaching the entrance to the Puntarenas bay

2019-01-31 10.56.14 DMC-FZ200

January 31st – Pilot guiding us to Marina Puerto Azul

When we arrived, we were reassured by the dock master that the depth of the slip where we docked was sufficient to withstand the lowest possible tide (in fact, the tidal range is not the same every day, but changes depending on the Moon – Earth configuration). Surprise surprise, the morning of the second day that we were there, we found Zoe 50 cm out of the water. Since the tidal range was going to make the situation worse in the following days, we immediately asked the dock master to provide us with an alternative solution. After some consultations, they proposed us to move to a different slip where they were going to pump away the sand from the bottom with the use of an electrical pump. We soon realized that they did not have the right equipment nor the motivation to solve the problem. They waited until the early afternoon to start the operations, as this was the time when the tide would have been low. However, only then they realized they could not start the pump that they brought since the morning, so they sourced a smaller pump that was clearly not up for a job that should have been done differently anyway (they would have “pushed” the sand away just along the very short dock instead of removing it from a broader area).

February 1st – Marina Puerto Azul

We therefore decided to investigate with the nearby marina the possibility to stay safely at one of their moorings. Having received reassurance that this was the case (crossing fingers…), we asked for a refund of what we already paid at Puerto Azul. The manager on duty confirmed we would receive a full refund, so we immediately moved to the Yacht Club marina, where we left the boat for 3 weeks while we visited Nicaragua and the region of Guanacaste in Costa Rica.

February 3rd – Yacht Club Marina

From Golfito to Quepos (160 nm)

On January 18th around 2:00 pm we set sails toward Puerto Jimenez, where we spent the night before leaving the next morning the enchanting Gulfo Dulce.

January 18th – Puerto Jiménez

We sailed all day to reach Bahia Drake, where we found a good anchorage in calm waters. The following morning we motored to the close by Isla Caño that is a renown snorkeling and diving site. Unfortunately, while we were anchoring we were approached by some local people who warned us that we could only anchor in front of the ranger station, a quite crowded and choppy place. Nevertheless, we followed the advice and took a swim in the surrounding waters, which turned to be not an extraordinary site for spotting marine life. We feel we missed the best spots for diving that likely you need to get to with the local power boats. Taking the chance of the favorable wind that started blowing we decided to return to Bahia Drake.

January 20th – Isla del Cano

One of our dream places to get to was Bahia Ballena, a marine park where – sometimes in this season – you could be fortunate to spot humpback whales migrating from the South to the North Pacific. Amazingly, the shape of the beach emerging during low tide is resembling a whale’s tail. As we do not seem to be lucky in this respect, we in fact did not spot any whale, but really enjoyed the long walk along the beach and the small surrounding forest as well as the snorkeling in the clear waters of the bay.

January 22nd – Parque Playa Ballena

The following day we sailed to Bahia Dominical, where we did not feel to land with the dinghy because of the significant waves breaking all along the beach; we realized it was not bad to be cautious when we watched the carousel made by two people of a nearby boat who spent a lot of time and effort to overcome the breaking waves with their dinghy. This was also the first instance when we saw surfers enjoying the Pacific Ocean waves.

January 24th – Playa Dominical

January 24th – On our way to Quepos

After a couple of days we continued our journey reaching Quepos, where we anchored in front of a wonderful beach a couple of miles south of the city. We deliberately chose not to go to the marina – though we planned to stay in Quepos for a few days – because of its outrageous costs. It was a great decision as the place where we anchored was safe, calm, and with an easy access to the beach and the nearby village with a short taxi or Uber drive. It was also well positioned to reach the closeby Manuel Antonio Park.

January 24th – Playa Biesanz

The first day, as soon as we landed on the beach we were surprised by a sloth hanging on the tree under which we were securing the dinghy. After walking a few meters, we came across a large group of capuchin monkeys fearless of the number of people laying on the beach. And, while we were reaching the main road to go to Quepos, we spotted a large group of squirrel monkeys “flying” over our heads. We felt we came to an incredible place!
Quepos is a little village with a live atmosphere also due to the number of tourists lazily roaming around. We could enjoy some good food and, most importantly, be able to recharge our gas tank.
The following day we visited the Manuel Antonio Park; this is probably the most visited park in Costa Rica, ideal for families to enjoy wildlife and beautiful beaches. We entered in the early morning and spent the whole day experiencing numerous encounters such as a sloth with a baby, several young capuchin monkeys playing, as well as an adult monkey trying to steel objects from the bag of an oblivious tourist. As a matter of fact, we were alerted by the guardians at the entrance to not leave any bag unattended as monkeys might steel some of its from it.
It was a great day experiencing not only the close contact with the animals but also landscapes of an unparalleled beauty. All together, our stay in Quepos was a very pleasant experience!

January 26 – Squirrel monkey

January 26th – One of the beautiful beaches in the Parque Manuel Antonio

January 26th – Hawk

Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica (50 nm)

After crossing the border between Panama and Costa Rica, we spent the night anchored in a large, shallow bay in the Costa Rica waters.

January 8th – dawn at Playa Bonita, Costa Rica

The next morning, January 8th, we arrived in Golfito, a very protected gulf within the larger Golfo Dulce. We decided to spend a few days in the Banana Bay marina where Claudia, the marina manager, kindly briefed us on how to deal with the formalities to check in Costa Rica and described the amenities of the area, including several natural parks and the duty free zone.

Banana Bay marina

After weeks of solitary life in wild and mostly uninhabited places, we felt suddenly catapulted in the civilization again! The formalities to check in required us to move to different places (the immigration office, the customs and the port authority) and took us most of the afternoon. Then, we had dinner in the restaurant of the marina that was referenced as one of the best in Golfito; we celebrated Gemma’s birthday enjoying an excellent meal and a bottle of good white wine. The following morning we received the visit of the inspector of health who, after a fast check to our fridge, enthusiastically described the natural beauties of the places around us and especially the wildlife: several kinds of monkeys, the easily to be spotted red parrots (Ara macao) and suggested us a few walks close by Golfito. So, as soon as he left, we decided to follow his advices and reached by taxi Parque Naranjal. This is a small natural park at the edge of the village, just after the airstrip used by small touristic aircrafts. We followed a trail that took us to a pond of fresh water where two guys where standing armed with cameras and binoculars. Since we were curious we asked them what they had spotted; they, a Swiss couple, explained us that the day before, in the same place they were surrounded by dozens of small monkeys and had seen, in the thick of the woods a tucano. Envying them for such an “extraordinary naturalistic experience”, we continued walking hoping to be as lucky as them. Unfortunately it was not the case, though we truly enjoyed a very nice walk. When we reached the main road, all of the sudden we spotted a tucano ignoring the roaring of the departing aircrafts; we started developing a theory by which wild animals in fact prefer the urban life.

January 9th – Tucan near Parque Naranjal

Since it was time for lunch we decided to go to the nearby restaurant of another marina in Golfito, a bit more luxurious place than where we were docked. While choosing our table, we saw the Swiss couple we had met in Las Secas, the owners of the catamaran Kianga, who welcomed us to their table. We talked about our respective stories since we met in Las Secas and our future plans. They were going to leave the boat in Golfito for a couple of months and then recover their journey toward the Sea of Cortez. Since they were going to rent a car to visit the nearby area, they invited us to join and we readily accepted. We agreed to leave in two days. In the meantime, we spent a day walking for 14 km to reach “Las Torres”, that we discovered not to be ancient towers but rather very modern antenna towers. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a fantastic landscape of Golfito and spotted our second tucano.

January 11th – On our way to Las Torres – View of Golfito

January 11th – On our way to Las Torres – A different type of tucan

On Sunday morning Daniela and Beat, the Swiss couple, picked us up at the marina and we left towards San Vito, a small town founded by Italian settlers in the years after the second world war. In search for the road to get to a small church on the hill, we ended up in a villa that we found out to include the church as part of the property. We were welcomed by Cecilia, a woman who amazed us for her personality and very welcoming attitude, and that we discovered to be the daughter of the founder of San Vito. It was very enjoyable to listen to the story of his father, an official of the Italian navy, who felt in love with the nice of the President of Costa Rica whom he met at an official party. The second world war interrupted their love story, but seven years later they met again in Paris, got married and transferred to Costa Rica; he later founded the Italian colony of San Vito, where immigrants arriving from Italy could thrive thanks to the coffee plantations.

January 13th – Cecilia Sansonetti (center), Daniela & Beat, us

January 13th – The private church overlooking San Vito

The following day we went to Altamira, where we met Pancho Quesada, an artist following the footprints of Gaudi in a very personal way. He invited us to visit his “atellier”. We were fascinated by the number of objects he is collecting to create his artifacts.

January 14th – Pancho Quesada

January 14th – Pancho’s workplace

January 14th – An ice cream shop designed by Pancho

Upon his advise, we went to visit the Boruca People, an indigenous tribe of more than 2500 members, who are known for their art and craftwork, mainly painted balsa wood masks and textile works. We visited their small museum and enjoyed some live demonstration of textile production.

January 14th – A very cute Boruca child

The day after we went to Puerto Jimenez where, walking in the streets, we heard the unmistakable sound of some Scarlet Macaws (Ara Macao, a large and colorful parrot typical of the area) sitting on a branch above us.

We walked for about ten minutes and in a small wood a few hundred meters outside the town, we enjoyed an amazing show of hawler and squirrel monkeys jumping all around. This area is in fact quite close to the Corcovado park, one of the most important parks of Costa Rica.

January 15th – Squirrel monkey a few hundred meters from the dock of Puerto Jimenez

We then planned to return to have a guided visit of the surrounding area. A couple of days later we took a ferry from Golfito to Puerto Jimenez where we had organized a driver and guide to come to pick us up at the dock. After a half hour drive we parked the car and continued on foot. During this half day walk we could spot a lot of birds and monkeys. Following is just a small sample!

January 17th – A woodpecker

January 17th – Spider monkey

January 17th – Hawler monkey

When we returned to the boat we decided to take care of a never solved problem with our main sail, that kept ripping off due to the hot weather, for which it is not designed… After a thorough investigation we realized that our preferred option – replace it – was not feasible in Costa Rica due to the outrageous costs associated. We therefore decided we will purchase it in Italy and transport it in a suitcase! So we had to work on an extensive temporary repair…

Extensive patching on the main sail

The last days in Panama (120 nm)

As soon as we left Coiba, we were approached by a number of dolphins who made their usual show. We could not resist making one more video of them!

We mentioned that we love Isla Las Secas, and, since it was on our way to the border with Costa Rica, we were happy to stop there for a night. As soon as we arrived we had an adventurous snorkeling experience being surrounded by a large school of good-sized barracudas; when they started circulating around us, we felt they were not only curious but perhaps also interested!

2019-01-03 16.29.42 W510

2019-01-03 16.32.53 W510

January 3rd – Islas Secas

 

The following stop was Isla Parida, a beautiful island composed by several small islets where a few inhabited cabanas were spread around; it was a good chance to explore the area by dingy.

The most convenient place to check out from Panama is Puerto Armuelles, on the east side of the peninsula where the border with Costa Rica is. While sailing toward this little town, we had an extraordinary encounter: just 50 meters away from Zoe a large dark shape emerged from the water; at a first glance we thought it was a whale, but in fact its rounded fin made us figure out it was a shark whale and, actually, we realized they were two, likely the mother and her baby. After a first worried reaction for the vicinity of these huge animals, we stopped the engine and stood still for a while admiring them quietly floating a few dozen meters from us until they dived away.

When we arrived in Puerto Armuelles, we anchored just in front of a huge and run-down rusted peer and adventurously tided up our dingy to a pillar thanks to a boy who jumped into the water to help us. We were welcome by the port master; his name was Omar and took us to his office to comply with the first formalities. Then, when we asked him for advice for a good restaurant, he offered to take us with his car to a nice place where he used to help as waiter in his free time. The day after, while walking around to make provisions, we were approached by a very distinct lady, Maria, who realized we were Italians and shared with us her story. Many years ago she felt in love with an Italian tourist and didn’t hesitate to follow him to Italy where they married and had two kids. Unfortunately, his husband passed away a few years ago and she decided to return to Puerto Armuelles. She kindly invited us for lunch but we couldn’t accept because we needed to go back to our dingy before the high tide. The day after, on January 7th, we completed the formalities to check out of Panama and we were ready to leave.

2019-01-06 16.38.10 moto x4

January 6th – Puerto Armuelles

While sailing toward the border with Costa Rica we thought back to our wonderful two year experience in Panama. We recalled our days in Bocas del Toro area, with its hundreds of mangrove islets and its picturesque village on the water; the voyage to Shelter Bay passing through the scenic island of Escudo de Veraguas with its primary forest and the turtle nesting, surrounded by a gorgeous coral reef; the river Chagra and its crocodiles; the San Blas archipelago consisting of hundreds of palm fringed and white sand islets; the Kuna population with its peculiar culture and way of leaving; the unique experience of crossing the Panama Canal; the Las Perlas Islands and, most remarkably, the Coiba National Park and the islands around it. Much less worth of mention are the cities, characterized by strong urban degradation that testifies the still unbalanced development of Panama.

2019-01-07 17.44.46 DMC-FZ200

January 7th – The south most border between Panama and Costa Ric

Coiba National Park (85 nm)

On December 27th in the morning we sailed about 5 miles to the nearby Isla Rancheria. Here we found a small paradise on Earth. This island used to be privately owned and when the owner passed away it was acquired by the Smithsonian Society, one of the most important and renowned biological research association in the world.

We anchored in a beautiful bay in the eastern part of the island where we could snorkel among the most diverse population of fishes and turtles. We were amazed how confident and fearless they were, getting close to us at less than a meter of distance. Some of them appeared quite curious and amazed themselves.

2018-12-27 17.21.23 W510

December 27th – Snorkeling at Isla Rancheria

December 27th – Snorkeling at Isla Rancheria

After enjoying the marine life, we landed with the dinghy on the beach and we discovered a trail crossing the forest that shortly led us to an abandoned air strip with a colonial house at one end. There were a couple of guardians who explained us that this was the base camp for Smithsonian researchers specialized in different fields, such as marine biology, primatology, entomology, etc. Nevertheless, they allowed us to explore the island, including the long, wonderful beach facing Coiba.

2018-12-28 10.06.16 DMC-FZ200

December 28th – Bay on the east side of Isla Rancheria

2018-12-28 10.19.44 DMC-FZ200

December 28th – Smithsonian Base Camp

2018-12-28 11.44.09 DMC-FZ200

December 28th – View of Islas Cocos from Isla Rancheria

2018-12-28 10.35.36 DMC-FZ200

December 28th – Beach on the south side of Isla Rancheria

2018-12-28 10.44.46 DMC-FZ200

December 28th – Beach on the south side of Isla Rancheria

The footprints of crocodile below were not there when we first walked to the beach!2018-12-28 11.09.10 DMC-FZ200      2018-12-28 11.20.02 DMC-FZ200

After a couple of days, we sailed to Granito de Oro, an islet east of Coiba, that is a paradise for scuba diving and snorkeling. Here we admired even more fishes and turtles than in Isla Rancheria, including a nurse shark (known to be non-aggressive toward human beings). One turtle, while swimming to the surface to take a breath, went just in front of the mask of Gemma. We kept going back snorkeling several time and it was always a unique and unforgettable experience!

2018-12-29 14.39.07 DMC-FZ200

December 29th – Isla Granito de Oro

2018-12-29 15.56.41 DMC-FZ200

December 29th – People come to Isla Granito de Oro even by helicopter!

2018-12-28 16.02.05 W510

2018-12-28 16.09.22 W510

2018-12-28 16.24.28 W510

December 29th – Snorkeling at Isla Granito de Oro

The morning after our arrival at Isla Granito de Oro, the Park rangers came to our boat demanding us to pay what we thought to be an outrageous fee – 20$ per person + 60$ for the boat/day. When we asked to pay a more reasonable amount, they nicely replied they would need to check with their manager, and left. As after several hours they did not return, we decided to leave and sail to the next spot, the site of the old prisons. In fact, Isla Coiba was a penal colony until the end of the 20th century, where the life condition for prisoners must have been so terrible that sometimes they tried to escape despite crocodiles, sharks and the distance from the mainland. This is also the reason why these islands are still uncontaminated and present such a variety of fauna and flora. We spent the night anchored in front of the old buildings and early in the morning we took the dinghy to visit the area. We discovered that nowadays this is a site for the Aeronaval (the Panamanian coast guard) as a few armed soldiers kindly but firmly warned us to leave immediately Bahia Damas as the entire bay is off-limits.

2018-12-30 07.25.22 DMC-FZ200

December 30th – Former penal colony at Bahia Damas

We pulled the anchor and chose as the next destination Isla Jicaron, south of Coiba. We anchored in a nice bay in the north of the island, and decided to go ashore with the dinghy. This was too quick of a decision, as when we approached the beach we had to go through an adventurous landing due to the breaking waves. The payoff was a show setup by a flock of pelicans which were fishing with spectacular dives into the water.

The next day, the last day of 2018, we sailed to Isla Jicarita where we spent New Year’s Eve at the most rolling anchorage we experienced in the whole year – we can say we danced all night! It was definitely a very peculiar way to start 2019… For those that are curious, our dinner consisted of lentils and a “fake fish” (canned tuna, boiled potatoes, capers, and our own made mayonnaise) accompanied by a more than decent Italian Prosecco bought in Panama.

On January 1st, we moved toward more calm waters at Ensenada Hermosa on the west side of Coiba. Here we spent two days enjoying great snorkeling and a beautiful beach where we could spot a capuchin monkey making his noisy display on a branch just above us. From the beach you could walk up a small stream of fresh, clear water; it was great to take a bath in a lovely, natural cold pool. However, the most impressive close encounter was with a bright yellow fish, about 2 cm long, that followed us for the whole time we snorkeled, and left only when we reached the boat and got out of the water. We wondered what was the meaning of such “affiliative” behavior!

2019-01-02 12.26.31 W510

January 2nd – Gemma and our temporary pet, the tiny yellow fish

On January 3rd, while we were having breakfast, we heard some knocks on the hull: it was again a boat of Park rangers who informed us that we should either go to the Park station to pay the registration fees or leave immediately the island. Since this was really our last spot we meant to visit, we left this beautiful marine park, setting sails back to Isla Secas.

2019-01-01 13.31.19 DMC-FZ200

January 3rd – A sula taking a ride on our bimini sailing to Isla Secas