| Costa Rica
Guide books always write about the good
and bad of cruising in a particular country.
is portrayed as a country where burglary and theft are common and
cruisers are warned to be on their guard.
We were worried, but the need for a haul-out outweighed the risks. Our late transit of the Panama Canal put us
on the Pacific coast of Central America during
the rainy season, and constant monsoon rains make for miserable cruising and
worse repairing. What wasn’t turning
black with mold was turning green with algae, and after our hit and run in Grenada
Entr’acte was in serious need of a haul-out and repair. The only boat yard with an affordable travel
lift between Panama and Mexico was the
Costa Rica Yacht Club in Puntarenas, so we decided to make the five-hundred
mile trip against current and wind. We
would leave the boat and fly home to get much of the broken equipment repaired
and return after the rainy season to complete the repairs. In spite of our worries, we decided to stay open-minded to the possibility of the
adventure that lay before us rather than dwell on the potential problems.
In Arizona we sorted out the pile of boat parts
we had carried home, and began our jobs. Days
were spent in the machine shop fabricating new chain plates, bushings for the
windlass, and mounting brackets for assorted items. Ellen
spent days at 'rip and sew' making country
flags, rocker stoppers, redoing the multi-directional parrot wind
scoop, and altering
bathing suits. (Why the heck would you need to alter a bathing suit?
Just take it off and go nude for pete's sake!!! That's cruisin,
September, Ed had to return to Costa Rica to renew our boat
importation permit for three more months. He brought with him the
replaced water maker and many pounds of canned goodies like roast beef,
crab meat, and
shrimp - all the things we knew we couldn’t find in Costa Rica and
really wanted for
the Pacific passage. We returned to Entr’acte in December and were
pleased to find her as we left her; a mess waiting for work to be done.
While the boat was on the hard, we lived
in one of the yacht club’s courtesy rooms and ate all our meals at the club’s
restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed all
thirty-five days of our encampment. We
were up early to work on the boat; in the mid-afternoon heat, hot and
sweaty from our jobs, we lounged in the pool, surrounded by beautiful palm trees
filled with tropical birds. Occasionally
the resident monster iguana would sun himself on a palm tree and look down on
us. We ended the day in the open air restaurant dining on excellent cuisine while
the moon rose over the anchorage. We
spent many a pleasant evening practicing our Spanish with the restaurant staff.
On our first day back at the Costa Rica
Yacht Club, we left the swimming pool and walked into the bar, drawn by the
sound of local music playing on the stereo. The bartender looked up, smiled,
pointed to his CD player and greeted us with one word, “Cumbia!” (Cumbia is
a style of music indigenous to Latin America). With that one word all our fears evaporated
and we knew that we had found a new friend. As the days passed we became friends with
Carlos Hidalgo, the restaurant owner, who introduced us to his wonderful
country, first through the music, then the food and finally through his
family. One afternoon during our pool
time we were entertained by a group of young ladies parading around the
pool. Carlos informed us that we had
just witnessed the rehearsal for next week’s special fiesta, the opening of
Carnival, and the girls were contestants for Carnival Queen rehearsing for
their big night.
night of Carnival, Carlos seated us with his family in the place of honor, right
next to the dance floor and close to Grupo Gaviota, the best band in Costa Rica. We
learned to do the Cumbia and the Samba and got a first hand look at how the Ticos
celebrate. That night I danced with Carlos Chinchilla, the manager of the yacht
club, who does a pretty wicked samba. He
twirled me so much I almost fell into the pool! We were enamored with the music of Gaviota and
bought two CD’s. The next morning at
breakfast Carlos introduced us to the band members and their families. A few
weeks later they returned to the club for dinner and at their request, Ellen ran
to the boat for her violin and we had a spontaneous jam session. We had learned several of the songs from the
Gaviota CD and now we got to play them with the composer! For Ed, an Imperial beer can filled with rice
became a shaker, a Fanta bottle and spoon became a guiro, and Ellen’s violin
case was a Cajon. What a night of entertainment it was for the
yachties and Ticos who were lucky enough to be there. There were more cameras and video cameras
flying around than at any Broadway premier we had ever played. We
closed the club.
The evening we spent with the Quirmos
family began yet another new friendship.
Like their uncle Carlos Hidalgo in the restaurant, they were generous
with their time and patient with our Spanish.
They invited us to spend a weekend with them at their home in San Ramon
and they would show us their Costa
We visited the volcanoes Poas and Arenal, rappelled through the jungle
like Tarzan and Jane, ate local foods, and drove the twisty roads of Costa Rica for
hours on end listening to Cumbia, eating fresh strawberries and living a
Spanish immersion class directed by their son Jose Alberto. Their warm hospitality was another wonderful
indication to us of the quality of life here.
The Ticos call it “Pura Vida¨.
The highlight of our trip to Arenal was
stopping in the cloud forest of San Lorenzo for a canopy tour. In Panama we explored the jungle by dinghy but in Costa Rica we
were able to fly above and through the trees on cables, a thrilling
experience. The enormous, dense rainforest
must be seen from above to be appreciated and this is what the cables do for
you. Our tour lasted an hour and a half,
with seven cables and one Tarzan swing.
Our guides were very careful and polite.
Although the trip was somewhat energetic it is doable for most ages as
the guides help you in every way. This
is a must for any trip to Costa
Finally, our long list of
boat projects was finished and we launched on January 8, 2008. Remembering our haul-out in Trinidad it
seems amazing that we had any more work to do, but the Trini haul-out was
much more about cosmetics. This haul-out
addressed all the boat's systems. We
do not foresee such enormous boat work in the near future (from my lips to King
Neptune’s ears!) Although tinned meats
are in short supply, Puntarenas proved to be a good place for staples, boat
parts, and general stocking up. We are now is a position to consider
a departure date. We will depart from a place
that wasn’t on our rhumb line, a place we never considered visiting, but will
leave with fond memories that will constantly urge us to return. We will always remember the professional
quality of work in the yard, the careful handling of boats on the travel lift,
the friendliness of the panga drivers who carry you to and from your boat for a
vhf call, the evening patrol boats who keep the bad guys at bay by shining
their bright lights on every boat in the harbor every twenty minutes, the
friendliness of the people in town trying to help you find anything on your list
and the numerous Ticos and Ticas who can repair almost anything that is broken.
Once more Entr’acte has shown us
another side of life, as she has done for the
last thirty years. In her silent way
she opens up new worlds to us every day.
Without her, we would still be sitting in front of a fire
somewhere dreaming instead of living, as the group Gaviota wrote in
song “Distintos Caminos”, the “Right Pathway.”
Now the whole Pacific awaits our arrival. First stop, the Galapagos. Those turtles and
boobies better get ready!
We're on the way!
Oh yes, by the way, Carnival begins
this Friday night.