Horizons Travelblogue

Sailing vessel Horizons, a Tayana 37 cutter, has been cruising the West Coast of Mexico and Central America for the past 9 years. This is the ongoing story.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Forward into 2006

The reason I’ve been living on a 37 foot sailing boat for 8 years and am presently cruising in Costa Rica goes back to 1993. That is the year when my old friend Tony (I think he still prefers to be called Anthony) invited me to join with him and a couple of his other friends on a two week charter of a sail boat on the south west coast of Turkey. A new experience! Something I’d not done before. I was a complete novice, although I had been a passenger on a sail boat on a couple of occasions years before. Great idea! I jumped at the chance.

What a place to have your introduction to cruising. The Turkish coast was magnificent, both culturally and geographically. My experience sailing in this area was like having a door open into a completely new universe. I was hooked. From then on, I absorbed everything I could about sailing and particularly cruising. I took sailing courses and later took a sabbatical from work which enabled me to experience sailing across the Atlantic as crew, between Florida and Gibraltar. That voyage convinced me as to the kind of boat I wanted to own – an offshore cruising boat. Horizons appeared on the horizon in January 1998, only about four months after my return from my sabbatical.

Tony earned his Horizons crew shirt in the first summer I owned the boat, on a trip to Desolation Sound north of Vancouver. He again joined Carol and I on a subsequent trip up the inside passage to the northern part of Vancouver Island. And he was wearing that Horizons shirt when he climbed aboard at my mooring in the Costa Rica Yacht Club at approximately the appointed hour on Boxing Day.

The following day we went shopping to add to the on board provisions. We then left the Yacht Club on the 28th, after topping up the water tank, and crossed over to a very peaceful anchorage in a well protected bay on Isla San Lucas, only about 4 miles from Puntarenas in the Gulf of Nicoya. It is a former prison island which has largely been abandoned. I think that there are a few people remaining on the island, but there seem to be more howler monkeys. They reach full voice in the early mornings and in the evenings. We could hear them in the trees, but we couldn’t see them.

Other than the rusting hulk of an old wreck jutting out of the water in the middle of the bay, the only other boat in the anchorage was Gitano del Mar. We spent a peaceful relaxing first day there and didn't do much except that I repaired the non-functioning windlass “Up” button on the foredeck. More relaxing in the cockpit the next day, except for the time I spent tracking down and resolving a problem in the electrical circuit of the cabin fan. (A boat owner’s work is never done.) The new cabin fan brought by Tony was now functional.

One of the pleasant aspects of having guests visit the boat is the introduction of imported new menus. As I tended to be the early bird each morning, I looked after the coffee grinding and brewing, as well as the breakfasts. Tony took care of the dinner menus. I’ve now added some of his menus to my own repertoire. My favourite was chicken stew – only one pot to wash up!

From Isla San Lucas, we then moved on south down the Gulf to Bahia Ballena, motoring all the way. No useable wind, and then wind on the nose in short, choppy seas. There were about 6 other cruising boats there during our stay, which was the most we saw throughout the whole trip. It's a very large bay but still very rural. It also has access to some interesting places nearby, which I'll try to visit when I go back there. We went to shore several times, a couple of times by rowing, and then by motor after I finally got the outboard out of the lazarette, connected it to the new gas tank and got it working again.

On New Year's Eve, we went out for dinner with the other cruisers to a really nice Italian restaurant run by a couple of genuine Italian-minted Italians. The other cruisers were Dwight & Jan, of Mira, Philip & Leslie, of Carina, Jay & Danica, of Alkehest, and Bruce, of 5th Element. The occasion was also the 61st birthday of Philip, of Carina, so we celebrated that as well by (with the aid of some accessories) making Philip look ridiculous for the cameras. The food was good and very reasonable in cost. As seems to be usual, the wine ended up costing more than the food! However, we all returned to our boats before midnight - cruisers don't seem to be a late night lot. Small fireworks were let off at midnight in various places on shore, including a couple of resorts in the bay. We could even see some fireworks across on the other side of the Gulf on the mainland.

We had a good sail a couple of days later from Bahia Ballena to Bahia Herradura, on the mainland side of the Gulf. All three sails were flying. The wind was steady and from a good direction and the seas were quite calm. It was sunny, and we had an ideal wind driven crossing. Bahia Herradura is a medium sized bay - much smaller than Ballena. There is also a very high priced marina on the northern edge of the bay.

With the crew of Mira, Jan and Dwight, who had arrived there the day before us, we dinghied to the marina with the intention of taking the bus to a nearby town to do some shopping. But the marina wanted us to pay $40 US to leave the dinghy at the dinghy dock for the day. So we declined the opportunity. We were told that a panga guy on the beach could ferry us to our boat from the beach. Mira dinghied back to their boat and Tony & I went to some nearby shops for some groceries and beer. The panga guy took us back to Horizons alright - about a 3 minute ride - for 5,000 colones, which is $10 US! They are positively highway robbers in Herradura. But we had a nice dinner and social on cruising boat 5th Element that evening. Bruce, a single hander, had caught a large dorado that morning on his way across the Gulf to Herradura. He grilled the fish and the rest of us added the other ingredients in a pot luck.

Our last full day out in the Gulf was a 27 mile trip from Herradura to the anchorage we'd started out in at Isla San Lucas. Not much useable wind until we were about two thirds of the way there, when it got quite strong - again on the nose (starboard nostril) - with short choppy seas. This slowed us down quite a bit, and with the currents also introduced a significant 15 to 20 degrees of leeway. It was a bit of a push keeping the boat on the correct course and getting around to the leeward side of the island. Later that evening, in the calm but windy anchorage, it was gusting frequently between 30 and 40 knots and I even recorded one gust at 45 knots. But by dinner time it eased off and we had a comfortable night.

The short trip the next morning into Puntarenas was quite routine and we got into the Yacht Club on the morning high tide. It was a relief that the winds had moderated overnight, as I had been a little worried that continued strong winds might have prevented us from getting back into the Yacht Club that day. Tony’s return flight to Canada was that evening and even a short delay might have resulted in him missing the flight, as a short delay would have meant missing the high tide. The Yacht Club can only be entered on a high tide.


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