Central Costa Rica Anchoring


 We reluctantly left Marina Papagayo after a lovely month.  This marina and grounds were beautiful and the people that we met there were extraordinary. 

Our plan was to anchor along the way to the Golfo de Nicoya and then several places in the Gulf.  

First stop was Guacamaya.  This was a short hop, but a world away from a busy marina.  Except for an occasional short term tour boat in the bay, we were it's sole occupants.  We snorkeled, walked on the beach and enjoyed our solitude for two days.

Next stop was Tamarindo. We wound our way around a dangerous reef in the center of the bay to anchor near the town and the many tour boats. This is a surfer's town, which means that the swells were a bit much for our Tiny Dancer, so we chose not to go ashore, but just anchor for the night. Although the town did look interesting!  It was quite a rolly night and we were happy to leave at 6:00 in the morning to get going to our next destination.

We woke early the next morning to a downpour.  We waited a bit, but still left in the rain.  Fortunately, it was short lived.  We traveled most of the day in 5-6 foot swells, but little wind.  As we got nearer to Samara, we saw a slick about a mile out from us.  There were no waves at all.  It was a little eerie.  We had to get our phones and search to be sure that there was no earthquake or tsunami offshore.  Nothing, so as it approached us, we enjoyed the smooth seas.

Our plan was to stop next in Samara.  Looking in at the bay, it did not look as we anticipated.  We again checked our coordinates and realized that we were looking at an island and the town was behind it.  OK, let's see what we can see.  This anchorage was a bit more protected due to the island. We were the only sailboat anchored along with the fishing boats. We were able to take Tiny Dancer to the beach on the second day, although we did get a bit wet, we made it!  We walked along the long beach to the town.  There we enjoyed lunch at a little beachside restaurant and found a fruit and vegetable market to get a few groceries.  The tide had gone out by the time that we returned to Tiny and we had to carry her quite a ways back to the water. The tides in this part of the world are around 8 feet, so the shoreline changes dramatically every 6 hours.

Our next anchorage was Bahia Ballena (Whale Bay).  It was a long passage and we needed to make it before dark.  We left at 5:30 and made it just fine. Again, we were the only occupied sailboat in the bay, although this is a fishing village and there are a lot of fishing pangas. We enjoyed watching the tiny planes take off and land at the Tambor airstrip right between a mountain and the beach.  The second day we ventured in to Tambor in our dinghy.  We walked the town, went to the tienda and had lunch.  The tide was going out as we left to return to Slow Dancer.  The waves had increased.  We watched and timed our departure between the largest swells.  Everything was working out great until the engine died and left us at the mercy of a HUGE wave!  Ken got the engine started, but not in time, Tiny surfed straight up in the air and dumped Ken into the water!  Fortunately the engine quit and we were able to get Ken in and the engine started just before another wave hit.  Whew…..both of us were soaked, but glad to be back at our mother ship safely.

The next morning, we left to go the short 7 miles to Isla Tortugas.  The reference guides said that these may have a few tour boats, but they only stayed a couple of hours and the anchorage was beautiful.  OK, we can put up with them for a bit.  WOW!  As we turned the corner, we saw 16 tour boats of every size.  We found a less than desirable spot, determined to wait out the crowd and move after they left.  We always anchor far enough from other boats for at least a 150' swing.  Apparently not everyone does this!  Johnny tour boat arrived late to the party and took a spot right between us and the boat that we had left enough space to swing.  Great!  Of course, as luck would have it, an afternoon storm came up.  This thing had winds of 24 knots and sheets of rain.  As we watched with horror, Johnny tour boat got closer and closer to us.  Hurry, start the engine! Suddenly our depth went from 34 feet to 7!  We draw 6 1/2, so this was definitely scary! We motored against our chain and back to our original anchor point to keep away from our uninvited neighbor while looking like a couple of drowned rats.  And what was Johnny tour boat doing?  He was under his awning bar-b-quing for his guests, oblivious!  We held that stance until the storm abated.  We stood on our deck soaked and noticed a beautiful double rainbow.  OK, life will go on.  Johnny tour boat then up anchored and tooted his horn as he left the bay!  

As we were drying everything up and breathing again, we noticed that our battery bank had not charged and was dropping significantly.  These should recharge every time that we motor as well as with our solar panels.  The most important things that we use these batteries for are:  refrigerator/freezer, instruments (depth, gps, anchor alarm, vhf radio, wind meter and auto pilot) not to mention the ability to charge our devices: cell phones, walkie talkies, etc.  Still wet, Ken proceeded to trouble shoot and change belts, etc to see why the alternator was not providing any charge.  He determined that the alternator was toast.  OK, we have a back up plan, we have a portable generator onboard.  Out it came, but as Ken pulled and pulled to start it, it became apparent that there was a problem.  After two hours of trouble shooting, cleaning filters, new fuel, etc. (by now 10 at night) it was decided that the spark plug could be the problem. This would have been a relatively easy fix, except for two small problems:  1) we did not have a spark plug socket on board and 2) we had no spare spark plugs.  Now we definitely had a problem! Without solar our power was dropping fast.  We had to shut off the fridge and freezer.  This helped but not enough. We knew that to leave in the morning we would need the GPS most importantly.  So to conserve enough power to use this in the morning, we would need to shut it off for the night.  Well, this is also our anchor alarm.  We were still in the same spot, so we knew that there was a 7' depth somewhere out there as well as rocks near the shore.  If another storm popped up, we would have a problem.  We agreed to divide the night and stand anchor watch to be sure that we were safe.  After a long night, we started out at 5:30 a.m. and headed for Quepos.  This was to be a very long day in order to make it before dark.  It was made even longer by the fact that we had to hand steer (no autopilot) and we only used part of our instruments.  We were hoping for enough solar to turn back on our melting fridge and freezer before we lost three weeks of provisions.  Yes, we are blessed……we had lots of sun and smooth seas making our trip much more bearable.  Hooray, we made it to marina Pez Vela and their repair yard!  

Goodbye Marina Papagayo!

Nice snorkeling

Watch out for the Urchins!


The fish checking us out!

Peaceful Bahia Guacamaya

Walking in to Samara

Samara beach

Sugar packet stealing lunch partner!

Weren’t we surprised to see this fly by!

Evening entertainment

Samara at night

Fishing village of Tambor


Enjoying lunch ashore in Tambor

Waterfront in Tambor
Beautiful night at anchor
Isla Tortugas

Crowds of tourists

Beauty after the storm

A welcome sight – Marina Pez Vela








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