From Manzanillo to Barra de Navidad

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January 28th – Anchored outside the Marina Manzanillo

The town of Manzanillo overlooks the East side of an enchanting bay; on the Western side a set of luxurious resorts were built, including the marina complex in front of which we anchored. when we arrived in the evening, we found several other boats at the anchor. In fact, the site is just perfect for a long term anchorage, as it is well protected from the swell and it is easy to land the dinghy at the marina and take a bus into town.  The next morning, while we were going to the marina with our dinghy, we were invited by a nearby boat to have a coffee together. It was a couple of Canadian sailors, who have been leaving in French Polynesia for more than 15 years, and that decided to buy a boat and take a trip to Alaska; when we met them, they were on their way back to Tahiti. It was a very interesting and pleasant encounter, so we planned to meet in the evening for an aperitif on their boat. We continued our trip to town by bus, enjoying from a distance the beautiful view of the bay.

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January 28th – Marina Manzanillo

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January 28th – Manzanillo, the harbor in downtown

Downtown Mananillo is located right on the water, where fishermen and the Mexico Navy share the harbor, creating a curious contrast between the colorful little fisherman pangas and the large gray warships. Just in the center of the green and well maintained public garden is a huge blue sculpture symbolizing a marlin fish.

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January 28th – The marlin and the girl

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January 28th – Manzanillo’s gardens

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January 28th – Manzanillo’s library

In front of the park stands the local library, where we entered to poke around. We were very pleased by the welcoming attitude of the lady at the entrance desk who let us in. As it was about 12:30 pm, we decided to go to the municipal market and have lunch there. It is a well organized structure with a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, meet, etc. At the second floor we found the food court, where many of the stands serving food were closed for lunch break! In fact, we discovered that they start serving food at 6 am when the market opens. we were anyhow able to try the pozole, a filling soup made of white corn and pulled meet. We do not know if it was the best “pozole” of Mexico as advertised by them, but it was definitely very delicious and inexpensive (3$ for two people). We accompanied the soup with several fresh vegetable and fruit juices. We took the chance to make some provisioning at the lower floor before returning to the boat.

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January 28th – Manzanillo’s covered market

Though we really enjoyed staying in the bay of Manzanillo, we decided to leave, leveraging some favorable winds, heading to Barra de Navidad. We said goodbye to Paul and Susanne, the Canadian couple with the hope to meet again the future.  Although we experienced great sailing conditions, our next stop was not too far away, a few miles NW. Bahia Santiago was worth a stop as it holds a large wreck that has become an “aquarium”, where all sorts of marine species found home. We reached the beach by dinghy, experiencing the Pacific challenge of taking it up the shore, safe from the incoming tide. Miguel, a local fisherman, offered his help to bring it in front of the “palapa” – the beach restaurant – where he worked. We hiked up the hill from where you could enjoy the view of the bay as well as the lagoon where hundreds of birds were busy fishing. Of course, we had lunch at Miguel’s place, where we enjoyed for the first time delicious local oysters and clams.

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January 29th – Wreck at Bahia Santiago

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January 31st – Lagoon at Bahia Santiago

The following day we continued our trip to Barra de Navidead, making a stop in Bahia Carrizal, famous for its snorkeling sites that we could not experience because of the was very cloudy weather .

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February 1st – Marina Barra de Navidad

On February 1st we reached Marina Barra de Navidad, a  beautiful facility located inside a a huge lagoon and part of a luxurious resort. Differently from most of the marina we visited, it was crowded with sailboats (not only!), many of them owned by North American people who converged there to watch the next day the Super Bowl. Upon suggestion of our sail book, we walked to the other side of the peninsula to reach Playa de Coco, a desert beach where we spent a relaxing afternoon enjoying the show of the waves crashing against the rocks on the edges of the beach.

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February 2nd – Playa de Coco

On the way back we got a car ride by a local lady who manages several properties in that area. She mentioned that from November through April, Barra de Navidad is mainly inhabited by Canadian people, who spend the winter abroad with the subsidiary of the government that encourages the citizens to save heating resources. From April to October the town hosts mainly Mexican vacationers.

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January 2nd – The village of Barra de Navidad

In the evening we reached by water taxi the little village of Barra de Navidad, just on the other side of the lagoon, where we had a delicious dinner at Restaurante Manglito, that was recommended by the lady we met in the afternoon. Although we had planned to leave on Monday, we decided to stay one more day as it rained cats and dogs all day long. We took advantage of this to do some computer work in the lobby of the resort. On Tuesday 4th we left heading to Puerto Vallarta.

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January 4th – Leaving Barra de Navidad 

From Acapulco to Manzanillo

On January 9th we left Acapulco heading to Bahia Papanoa, a small harbor and village approximately 80 miles NW of Acapulco. We arrived in the late evening and we anchored in Playa Escondido opposite to the village of Papanoa. That was a nice and calm anchorage in front of the white sand beach. The day after we moved on the other side of the peninsula, in front of the village, where vacationers spend the weekend enjoying music, restaurants and water games.

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January 9th – Bahia Papanoa

On the 13th we left heading to Bahia de Petatlan where in the SE section of the bay is located a small village called Barra de Potosi. The name comes from the sand bar behind which there is a lagoon that is a wild life refuge, home to a lot of birds species.

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January 13th – Barra de Potosi (right hand side)

On January 15th we motored to  the bay of Zihuatenejo; we anchored close to the Playa Los Gatos, in the SE side of the bay.

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January 15th – Rocas Potosi on our way to Zihuatenejo

We immediately realized that Zihuatenejo is a very alive and turistic city. In fact, the bay was crowded with sailing and power boats,  and cruise ships as well!

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January 15th – Playa Los Gatos is “behind” the catamaran

The day after we decided to anchor on the NW side of the bay, in front of the city dock. We landed the dinghy on the beach with the prompt help of local people who also offered to keep a watch on it. Zihua, as the local call their city, has a nice waterfront walk full of restaurants and shops for the hordes of tourists that fill up the city especially when cruise ships arrive.

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January 16th – The waterfront of Zihuatenejo

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We found a very well equipped supermarket for our routinely provisioning, which included a delicious camembert made in Mexico! We had a great lunch at Leo Mariscos that was recommended by Alison and Dave, a couple of fellow sailors and friends that we met a couple of years ago. After two days we moved back to Playa Los Gatos where we had a nice snorkelling session just twenty meters from the beach.
Few miles further North of Zihuatenejo lies Isla Grande, where we anchored for a couple of days and – on top of the usual snorkeling – we had the chance to get a relaxing 1 hour massage right on the beach.

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January 18th – Isla Grande, Ixtapa

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January 19th – Day tourists leaving Isla Grande

While there, we realized that the outboard engine had a problem with the impeller (the cooling water was not circulating), so we decided to get to the close by Marina Ixtapa to have someone help repairing it. The canal to get to the Marina is well marked, however we had to pass through a very narrow stretch of water which is often dredged to keep it clear from the sand that builds up.

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January 20th – Entering the Marina Ixtapa

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January 21st – Marina Ixtapa

The marina is managed by all women, including the harbour master who kindky welcomed us. It is a nice and comfortable marina with a great shuttle service to Ixtapa and Zihua. Ixtapa is the result of a goverment development  project back in the 70s, concurrently with Cancun, but with very different results. In fact, in Ixtapa you can feel some sort of exclusivity and a relatively elegant set of buildings all along its very wide waterfront. We had the chance to visit a crocodile reserve,  open to the public, just behind Playa Linda; we were amazed by the number and the size of these crocodiles and by the turtles and iguanas that were all sharing in peace the same habitat.

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January 21st – Crocodiles reserve

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January 21st – Iguana at the Crocodiles reserve

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January 21st – Playa Linda

We were able to solve our engine issue thanks to a competent and quite inexpensive local mechanic. Having accomplished our main goal, it was  time to leave continuing our trip to North West, heading to Caleta de Campos. Unfortunately it was again a trip dominated by the absence of wind, so we arrived late at night after slowly motoring the whole day.

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January 23rd – Caleta de Campos

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January 24th – Caleta de Campos

The next morning we left the beautiful Caleta de Campos at 08:00 taking advantage of some wind. So we set sails heading to Maruata, the next possible anchorage on the way, 36 nm NW. After a hour or so the wind disappeared, so we had to start the engine again; this is quite frustrating for several reasons: the noise, the prolonged use of the engine and the cost of the diesel. We motored for 7 hours with a constant speed of 5 knots. Though, it was not boring because of the beauty of the cost that is fringed by green mountains, full of cactus overarching long white sand beaches without any construction or presence of people.

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January 24th – On our way to Bahia de Maruata

After a couple of hours of navigation, we were surprised by the sudden appearance of a whale at about 50 meters from the boat: it was a very rapid move and we could only see the shiny back of the whale arching outside of the water and disappearing soon after. We were accompanied by several schools of dolphins and turtles that were coming to the surface to breath for a few seconds. In the afternoon, while approaching Maruata bay and seeking the place to anchor, we saw in a distance the spray of another whale and its silhouette on the water. We noticed that all the whales we spotted so far were heading South.

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Januay 24th – Bahia de Maruata

Maruata bay is a beatiful place: a long white sand beach fringed by cabanas and small restaurants, surrounded by high cliffs on top of which there are some fisherman houses. The several dozens of pelicans were resting close to the beach, few of them busy with the last dives of the day while others were already flying to their sleeping sites, over trees or rocks. We were approached by two young local guys who canoed to our boat and explained us that in the bay they collect oysters, clams and several other kinds of “mariscos”.

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January 25th – Bahia de Maruata

In the morning we explored by dinghy the nearby coast, fringed by rocks of beautiful shapes, constantly hit and shaped by the waves and the wind. We were unable to land anywhere because in this part of the Mexican coast there are very few spots were the long Pacific waves do not break on the beach. And, in fact, you can often see local kids practicing surf on their rudimentary boards.

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January 25th – Bahia de Maruata

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Around 10.30 some sort of wind (6-8 knots) made its appearance and convinced us to leave. For about 3 hours we sailed at an average speed of 2.5 knots, until the wind ceased completely and we motored till Punta San Telmo, about 10 nm from Maruata. We spotted two whales in the distance, one while we were anchoring.

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January 25th – Punta San Telmo

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January 25th – Bahia San Telmo

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January 25th – Bahia San Telmo

On Sunday 26th we left Punta San Telmo to reach Punta Cabeza Negra, about 23 nm NW, and unfortunately we had to motor all the way up. Despite the ideal conditions for spotting whales, as we had the sun behind us and a totally flat sea, we did not encounter any.

We thought of some differences between the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean: curiously, when we were on the Atlantic we were very often approached by different species of birds such sulas, sternas, and even smaller birds, resting on the top of our bimini or on the solar panels getting a free ride. This has never happened so far in the Pacific where birds seem to be much less confident. Another peculiarity of the Atlantic were the numerous flying fishes, especially during the crossing – every morning we had a few of those on our deck. The only time when we had a fish coming on board was in Acapulco where we were waken up by a fish who centered the porthole and landed right under the table in the dinette.  And of course a big difference between the two sides of Central America is the tide, almost nonexistent on the Atlantic side and very significant on the Pacific side (even if in Mexico the tide excursion is generally limited to about 1 meter, much less than in Panama or Costa Rica).

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January 26th – Punta Cabeza Negra

At 6.30 am we set sails to reach Manzanillo. The wind was favorable and for 45 minutes or so we sailed at 7 knots. but the calms were behind the door, despite the forecasts. For about 3 hours we slowly motored waiting for the 15 knots wind that was foreseen to be on our face. We took the chance to enjoy dozens of dolphins and turtles coming by our boat.

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Around 12.30pm the forecasts became reality, and we finally started tacking to get to Manzanillo. The waves started building up, and we found that by sailing closer to the coast we could enjoy a calmer sea and higher speeds, but a worse wind angle (due to the Coriolis effect) – you can clearly see what we mean watching the curve in our track. As we wished to get to the anchorage with some daylight we decided to motor against the wind for two miles to cross the cape of the gulf of Manzanillo – motoring, and therefore having a flatter and a slower boat, gave us also the chance to bring on board in more comfortable conditions two tuna fishes we caught in the meanwhile. After we passed the cape of Manzanillo we sailed the last 5 miles at an average of 7 knots with a partially furled yankee and about 18 knots of wind at 60 degree. It was a wonderful horse ride. We got at the anchorage in the NW side of the Manzanillo bay right after sunset, perfectly on time to drop the anchor in the middle of a number of boats that were already enjoying this beautiful spot.

 

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January 28th – Waking up in the bay of Manzanillo

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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January 6th – The Marina Acapulco

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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.

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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.

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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.

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One of the promenades in Acapulco

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The beach of the Acapulco Bay at night

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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.

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

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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.

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December 18th – Getting ready to go into the water

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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March 14th – Playa Hermosa

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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.

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March 16th – Approaching the Cabo Santa Elena

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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.

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

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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.

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Costa Rica “Yacht Club”

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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March 4th – Entrance to the trail

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

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March 4th – Howler monkeys at Bahia Ballena

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March 4th – Marie-Helene and Thierry with us

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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.

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March 5th – On our way to Bahia Carrillo

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March 5th – Entering Bahia Carrillo

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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.

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March 6th – The beach of Samara

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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.

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March 7th – Shop at the live village of Samara

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March 8th – Life on board with very special guests

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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!

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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

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February 4th – Granada cathedral and lake Nicaragua

 

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February 6th – Laguna de Apoyo

 

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February 6th – Artist at San Juan de Oriente

 

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February 6th – Volcán Masaya crater

 

 

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February 7th – Volcán Mombacho forest

 

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February 7th – Orchid at Volcán Mombacho

 

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February 7th – Orchid at Volcán Mombacho

 

 

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February 9th – Beach at San Juan del Sur

 

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February 9th – Sunset at Playa Hermosa

 

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

 

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February 10th – Volcán Concepción, Isla de Ometepe

 

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February 10th – Volcán Concepción, Isla de Ometepe

 

 

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February 11th – Leaving Isla de Ometepe by ferry

 

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February 12th – Back to Granada

 

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February 12th – Choice of vinegar at the Granada market

 

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February 12th – Granada Market

 

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February 12th – Granada

 

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February 13th – School at Isla Zapatera

 

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February 13th – Petroglyphs at Isla Zapatera

 

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February 15th – El Castillo castle

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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February 17th – Rio San Juan, fish eagle

 

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February 17th – Rio San Juan, Anhinga anhinga

 

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February 19th – The village of El Castillo

 

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

 

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February 19th – The bus from San Carlos to Granada

 

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February 20th – Back to Granada

 

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February 20th – Granada Cathedral

 

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February 20th – Plaza de la Catedral, Granada

 

GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA

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

 

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February 22nd – Rio Perdido

 

 

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February 22nd – Baby hawler monkey at Rio Perdido

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

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January 31st – Approaching the entrance to the Puntarenas bay

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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