Seals, Sloths and Sodas

OK, where did we leave off? Oh yeah, three weeks in beautiful Bahia Culebra, going to rainforests (or cloud forests?) and enjoying zip-lining, horseback-riding, mud-baths, cool beaches, bars and restaurants in the area.  Well, all good things come to an end and after our friends, Matt and Madalin, returned to the hinterland and we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner with boating friends at Marina Papagayo, it was time to start heading south.

CR Christmas Dinner

As always, before we left I did a quick maintenance check on the boat and sadly found a constant stream of water coming in from our “dripless shaft seal”, which is the seal that prevents water coming into the boat where the propshaft enters the boat to attach to the transmission. It wasn’t fatal but it did mean we had to initially bail a couple of buckets of water a day out of the boat and that we had to get it repaired quickly.


To make matters worse, replacing the seal required the boat to be hauled out of the water, which couldn’t be done at Marina Papagayo because they didn’t have the facilities. After checking our guide books and talking to the marina manager, we determined that the best place to get the work done was in Quepos, approximately 160 nautical miles south of Papagayo.  Of course, we discovered the problem over the Christmas holidays which meant the marina’s yard was closed so after we got no responses to our emails we decided the best thing to do was just start making our way south and hope they could fit us in as soon as possible.

Fortunately, I’d been able to “McGyver” a temporary fix by hose clamping the seal when we were at anchor which meant water was only coming in while we were underway (yeah…). With this, the problem wasn’t critical but it did mean we couldn’t leisurely make our way south as we had planned. We made quick stops in Tamarindo (for dinner with our new UK friends, Danny, Lisa and Jenny); Bahia Ballena (for New Year’s Eve with our friends Rosetta and Tomaso on Manaia); Isla Tortugas (where we anchored off a gorgeous Windjammer-like cruise ship); and Bahia Herradura (where the marina apparently charges $50 a day to land your dinghy…no way!). But, our focus was on getting to Quepos asap so they were essentially one night stops.

CR Celebration Windjammer

Good news was when we got to Quepos, we connected to wi-fi and got an email from Scott Carter, Marina Pez Vela’s awesome Yard Manager, saying that they could accommodate Celebration and that we should go and see him asap. Long story short, they were able to get the part from Miami and repair the boat. Plus, since the boat was coming out of the water anyway, we decided to have the bottom painted (which prevents barnacles and other growth) as we were supposed to have it done in Mexico.

Celebration-Quepos6 Celebration-Quepos1

The bad news, for our budget, was we were not allowed the stay on the boat while it was “on the hard” so we had to check-in to the Best Western Kamuk, a quaint little hotel in downtown Quepos that was walking distance to the marina and close to all the stores and restaurants as well as a short bus ride away from the famous Manuel Antonio Park.

Of course, we made the best of it and had a great time enjoying another vacation from our sabbatical. One of the many little discoveries we did make was “Sodas”. These are tiny cafes that offer very affordable, good food where all the Ticos (Costa Ricans) eat. We found one on the main street that served a meal of fish (or chicken or beef), rice with black beans, salad, and plantain for only $4. In fact, the portions were so large and the food so good that we ate there 4 or 5 times in the six days we were in Quepos. By the time we left, we just referred to it as “our soda” or “the soda” since we stopped considering eating at any other soda.

CR Dinner w Manaia

The other discovery was Manuel Antonio. Not only the famous park but the little town and the beach, which were a 60 cent bus ride from Quepos. First of all, the park is Costa Rica’s most famous biological reserve. It’s relatively small but its hiking trails through the jungles reveal the habitats of sloths, squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, iguanas, exotic birds and tons of butterflies, insects, trees and flowers. We spent a day hiking through this beautiful park and though we spotted a few sloths, monkeys and raccoons, we were unable to locate the elusive Toucan so we made a few of our own.

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Second, the town, which we didn’t even know existed, has lots of shops, restaurants and hotels that range from cheap and cheerful backpacker hostels to 5-star resorts and luxury villa rentals. Finally, the beach is one of the prettiest ones in the country. We actually spent a full day at this beach, which is the first time we had spent a day at the beach on this entire sabbatical!!!

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As you can tell, aside from the hit to our budget we had a great time in Quepos. The marina even hosted a little champagne “celebration” for us because we were their 100th haulout. But, once the work was done and Celebration was splashed back into the water, it was time to move on to Golfito, our final stop in Costa Rica before crossing into Panama. This relatively short journey of 130 miles had one stop in Bahia Drake, where we experienced our first rainstorm in months, then an early morning departure for the 60-mile motor- sail to Golfito.

Quepos 100

Sadly, Golfito has been hit by an extended economic decline that began years ago when the banana company that founded the town closed operations. Since then they have tried different ways to revive the town (e.g. a duty free shopping “mall”) but it is a challenge. It’s still the main port of entry in southern Costa Rica and conveniently has Customs, Immigration and a Port Captain so we pulled up to a mooring at Land-Sea where owner Tim gave us the rundown on the town, his quaint cruisers clubhouse, and our country check-out procedures.

CR Land Sea CR Auds Land Sea2

Relative to how much time we spent in Mexico, six weeks in Costa Rica seemed short but we’ll never forget the seal (dripless shaft seal), sloths and sodas. I wonder if they have sodas in Panama?