Good time with friends – Part 2: Samara

We had a couple of goals in Samara. Graeme and Ryan were getting trained to scuba dive, and Mariya, who was already certified, was planning on taking some dives with them. Two days later, Nico, Graeme’s boyfriend was to join us for the rest of trip, and we knew that it was an important thing as Graeme’s dream was to sail the world and Nico was still to be convinced. On a more pragmatic side, our goals were to resupply the boat in fresh water and food for the rest of the trip and the cherry on the cake would be to get a shower at our friend’s hotel (cruisers enjoy simple pleasures).

Let me spoil you already: everything went above expectations (except maybe the scuba diving part) and we even got 2 showers!!

But, and I’ll be honest here, Samara was a sticky point during the organization of the trip over our many Zooms with Berkeley. Our friends were really excited about learning the diving in Costa Rica and had found a good opportunity in Samara. On our end, we were a little nervous about setting up a place to be with a hard deadline, worried that it would spoil the rythme of the cruise – for instance, pushing us to rush in places we would have enjoyed staying longer to chill. We ended up agreeing on pushing back the dives by one day on the overall schedule, and that had worked out quite well. Guacamaya had too many tourists boats to be the remote heaven we had fantasized and we had managed to arrive in time in Samara. The last thing that was to deal with, also responsible for part of our reluctance, was the rolliness of the place. The anchorage in Samara was only marginally protected from the dominant swell on the coast. As a result, Tire-Bouchon was still pretty much rocking and rolling at anchor (always a funny sight when you see your boat from shore when the masthead, whose movement is amplified, looks like a metronome happily marking the swell rythme), to the point that focusing on daily life activities, like cooking or doing the dishes, could be taxing and you’d have to take a rest to let a form of sea sickness (or anchor sickness) dissipate. We’d realize that the first place we had set our anchors (both bow and stern if you remember) might not have been ideal. We had hoped for some swell protection from an island at the Southern end of the bay, but since we could significantly feel the effect of the tides on the boat motion, we had come to realize that the water that could pass in-between the island and the shore at high tide, was bringing its own set of swell, which were actually perpendicular to the main direction swell direction. That combination was creating an even more uncomfortable motion every 12 hours. To reduce this effect, we moved the boat closer to shore after a couple of days, worrying our friends on-shore who thought Tirb ‘s anchor had dragged. It was heart-warming to know that so many eyes were watching over our beloved boat (even though at the precise moment, we were also on-shore and wondered for a minute whether the boat was actually dragging). This discomfort wasn’t terrible either as it was the perfect excuse to spend time on-shore with our friends outside their diving sessions and we actually got to be their guests in their nice little apartment/hotel by the beach several times, a big dose of land comfort for us and a welcome change of dynamics in our group too for a little while.

Breakers on the reef
In between islands

Sadly, the high swell doesn’t only bring rocking to the boat, it also creates surfing waves on the beach: awesome if you want to surf of course, but quite undesirable if you’d like to land a dinghy, not too mention full of groceries. Another point to make us nervous about the time in Samara, especially famous for difficult landings… and we had almost cancelled the day sailing with our friends by fear of not being able to dinghy them to shore in time. The least exposed part of the beach was supposedly in the South, where we had anchored, but Ryan, attentive to these navigation details, had noticed that behind the reef (rocks in the middle of the bay) was also calmer. It would turn out a welcome bit of “shortcut” to the town in the North of the bay that was already a 30 minute walk from that closer point.

Samara’s beach

Our first day in Samara, Graeme and Ryan had their swimming pool training in the morning and a scheduled dive in the afternoon. We, therefore planned our day on our own, before meeting them in town for dinner. It turned out, for obscure reasons probably involving a Euro cup soccer game, their dive instructor cancelled the dive of the afternoon, prolonging our stay by an extra day to complete the 4 mandatory dives for the certification. Instead, Mariya found them a lovely horse ride tour to make the most of their afternoon. We had planned to explore the island by which we had anchored and which looked like the perfect Robinson Crusoe island. We swam there around lunch time, time of the low tide and supposedly best time for snorkeling, with sandwiches in our dry bags for a picnic. Sadly, the dry bag turned out to have a hole and the sandwiches were wet (clearly not an ideal mix with spongy sandwich bread). Indeed the “landing” on the beach hadn’t been easy as cross swells were meeting by the beach, sometimes violently. We made it, had our food, accidentally disturbing the life of a group of crabs with a fallen potato chip (which got buried before further damage), and walked to the ocean side of the island. Invisible for us until now, it had no beach, only rocks, tidal pools and crabs in large number. Not as nice of a walk as we had hope for. After enjoying the view and looking at one other tourists trying unsuccessfully to snorkel – we must admit we hadn’t seen anything exciting while swimming in either and the water was rather gloomy – we decided to head back to Tirb. The conflicting swell by the little beach were building up with the rising tide, so we timed our departures. I went for it first with my fins and once I was past the action, Yalçın caught up. We then reached Tire-Bouchon where he dove the anchor he hadn’t dive on our way to the island, either bow or stern, to check if it was nicely buried in sand and holding us. We left for our dinner appointment in Soda La Perla. If our friends had tried to pick the place that would be the furthest from our boat, they couldn’t have succeeded better as it was the North most restaurant in the bay. Of course that wasn’t the reason, it was just an exciting local place recommended by their hotel, which turned out to be worth the endeavour. Actually, we appreciated the long walk during which we discovered the beach, scouted our friends’ hotel, then the little downtown, the supermarkets, the road going by the green fields and… our first Costa Rican monkey!! Not one of the howler monkeys we had been hearing over and over, just a black monkey perched in a tree. We reached Soda La Perla late but before our friends (a relief for me, I hate making people wait) who showed up 5 minutes after (best case scenario!). Around a nice Costa Rican casado, we shared stories of incredible running on a desert beach with horses, survivors island and eccentric (to say the least) diving instructor. The dude, though, intrigued by his students arriving to Samara by boat, had agreed to deliver water jugs on Tirb as they’d head out for their dive the next morning: a huge favor!! Nicely fed, we then took the road back to one of the supermarket to each get a 5L jug of water to bring back to the hotel to be picked up the next morning, along with the diving students. One of our traditional land ice cream stop along the way provided a welcome break before starting the long walk to the hotel where we unshamefully used the shower, and appreciated it as hotel guests probably really do. Clean and refreshed, we still has to keep walking on the dark beach for 15 minutes to reach our dinghy, take off in the surfs and the dark and ride back to rocking Tirb: an adventure to say the least. Not convinced? Then add to the mix, a river that had materialized on our way due to the rising tide (Mariya had warned us!) and a dinghy found with one of the tubes half deflated and you unquestionably get an adventure! One: the walk by the beach suddenly felt more exposed as we were just the two of us instead of 5 people and going deliberately outside the town. Should we turn on our headlamps or not? Second: the river. Since when had a bridge become such a desirable technology? was the question that crossed my mind. Our lives had definitely become… interesting! (Or at least I hope if you are reading!) A river had materialized, fed by the strong waves breaking on the beach and heading inland in the dark. Was it deep? Was there current to watch for? Many questions that made us decide to stay close to one another for the crossing. I changed to my swimming suit (I guess we had enjoyed not being salty from long enough already!) and made sure our dry bags were neatly closed. Then we went for it. The water kept rise up to waist level, before going down. A huge sense of relief and excited accomplishment reached the other side with us. This is all crazy, but we’re managing it!! Next: find the spot where we had left the dinghy. For safety, we had dropped a pin on the charts of Navionics (the nautical Google maps) to ensure we would find Bouchon (the dinghy), even in the dark. Luckily, it didn’t come to that, as the house in front of which it was had a light on and we spotted the tree pangas near our dink from afar. Less luckily… one of the tubes was partially deflated. We had been struggling with old patches leaking and were also planning to resupply the appropriate glue to fix them in Samara. However, we thought we had fixed the leak, but despite our efforts it had slowly leaked for the past two days for that sad result. Oh well, we didn’t have many options (we had come too far!) and there was a good chance we would still close the short distance to Tirb before we lost all the buoyancy on our left side. The takeoff went smoothly (you just have to give in on any hope of no getting wet and get in the water to waist level) and by positioning ourselves strategically inside the embarcation, we finally made it, still afloat, to our home! Tomorrow, we’d have to carry our dinghy pump all around…

Our second day began with the dive boat delivering the water. We had agreed yesterday that we would tie our (now nicely pumped up) dinghy at some distance from the boat to receive the jugs (too swelly for them to tie alongside jus safely)0, and Yalçın jumped in Bouchon at the appropriate moment to shuttle the delivery back and forth. We then got to see our friends took for their first dive in the bay not very far from the boat, in a place where the water turned out quite gloomy, which wasn’t such a surprise given our experience swimming the day before. In the meantime, we had headed to town to meet with Nico, who had just arrived from the US. To start his vacation in Costa Rica on a good note, we lead him back to La Perla, the soda of the previous day (surprisingly, most of the downtown restaurants weren’t open for lunch and we didn’t find anything appealing any closer) for a Tico lunch. A good opportunity to catch-up with our friend before being reunited as a group. Once we were nicely fed and back to the beach near the downtown area, we left Nico who was waiting for the others to meet us, to quickly take care of the grocery shopping before the afternoon rain starts making it more challenging. Despite our anticipation, we forgot it was Saturday and arrived too late for the hardware stores (for the dinghy glue for instance) and had to walk back our groceries in the heavy tropic rain. Our friends had retreated to a Italian restaurant by the beach where we accompanied their lunch with a long awaited tiramisu desert (we had been wanting for it since Huatulco in Mexico to the point that I had contemplated making one for Graeme’s birthday but couldn’t find the mascarpone cheese). The crew of 6 was finally reunited!! We carried the groceries back to the hotel where we would all do laundry, the scuba students would practice some skills in the hotel pool and the rest of us would finally take advantage of the waves and longboard! A nice revival from teenage with my cousins in the Basque country of France for myself and a sport that Yalçın picked up surprisingly quickly (I guess that’s what comes after carefully watching and counting wave sets for months!). We all had tons of fun, and a second shower became a must to wash off the sand that the wave cover your body in: two showers in two days, what a luxury! In the morning, we had decided to try our best to come back to the boat in daylight to take it a little bit on the lighter side today when it comes to adventurous commutes. Yet, as the sun was setting, we both felt it was stupid to go home the two of us, and miss a chance to spend an evening with our friends, who wouldn’t be with us in Costa Rica for that long. Plans were changed! We were staying for dinner. Sadly, once everyone was finally showered, the rain decided to pick up and keep showering us! Would we start eating the groceries (that were to stay in the hotel to also be shuttled to Tirb the next morning with the dive boat)? The apartment kitchen wasn’t supplied enough to make it work. After half an hour of back and forth between ordering a pizza or taking a Uber to town (the story of group decision making!), the rain had decreased enough that we were able to simply walk to an open food court where Ryan, Graeme and Mariya had already had lunch before their horse tour. A brilliant choice! We all got our favorite choice of food, mine served by a couple of French people working here (small world!), as well as a delicious pizza and some local brie that was quite delicious! With full stomachs and happy faces, we walked on the beach back to the hotel. Laziness was telling us to keep chatting with our friends forever in the comfy, not rocky room, yet we still had a long way to go to our home (this time we knew, hence the laziness!)… So we packed our clean laundry, left the groceries, told our goodbyes and left. For me, the whole beach walking-river crossing-dinghy take off and ride felt less big of a deal than the day before as I knew what to expect and that we’d make it (and we had the dinghy pump this time!). For Yalçın, it felt more heavy to have such a long commute when you are and just want to arrive home. On top of it, the take off went a little less smooth than the previous night. The darkness was deeper and the sky stormy (it had started afar since we were longboarding: seeing a lightening bolt in the sky in front of you as the wave takes you all the way to the beach is quite a sight!) and we got surprised by a succession of two larger waves as we were going for it with the dinghy, ready to walk it to high depth and jump in. Instead, we got water to shoulder level and had to lift the bow twice in a row to ensure Bouchon wouldn’t flip, ruining its engine. After those waves, we were able to jump and ride home, with again, that feeling of excited accomplishment! But the job wasn’t done until we had lifted up the engine to the push-pit and the dinghy altogether at the bow. Then finally, we could consider rocking in our beds. Hopefully, that had been our last night night dinghy ride, as we has planned to retrieve our friends directly from the dive boat after their last dives by late morning and Nico by late afternoon, after a horse tour. But as the Rolling Stones sing “you can’t always get what you want”

Diving…
… back to La Perla with Nico (!!!) …
… and longboarding

Day 3 started again with our dive boat delivery. This time, another round of water (we had brought back and refilled the water jugs for a welcome second round – good idea Mariya!), the groceries and our friends’ bags. After that, they were heading out of the bay for their last dives, and hopefully, the next time we’d see them, all three of them would be scuba certified! In the meantime, our plan was to prepare a gaspacho and get ready with a nice barbecue: it was 4th of July after all (US independence day) and what is a 4th of July without a proper barbecue!? I joked all day that I was happy that our American-flagged Tirb was to spend this day with fellow compatriots! However, when the dive boat came back, our friends briefly told us they were going back to the hotel (from which they were already checked out!) to shower and that they will picnic on the beach and that we were welcome to join if we would like to. Hum! Deception and misunderstanding creeped up until we managed to get in touch with them again (we can only have contact with them when they have wifi, so it took a while). We were not super inclined to dinghy to shore again, nor to have to shuttle 4 people now, instead of only Nico. Later on, we learned that Graeme had gotten sea-sick during one of the dives, which had prompted them to get a little more shore time to recover. After being disappointed, we felt sorry and arranged to pick them up from the beach by sunset. We tidied up the boat a little to welcome back our crew, had some food and decided to go to the beach early to chill for a bit and frisbee while waiting for our friends. They showed up a little later, with beers and wine to apologize for the change of plan – you guys are lovely people! We played some more frisbee and had a beer on the beach waiting for Nico. The sunset was gorgeous but filled with apprehension for once again having to take off at night, and this time with extra people. We therefore decided to shuttle back Ryan and Mariya to Tirb and then wait for Nico with Graeme on the beach. I escorted them in Bouchon, quite nervous in the swelly conditions. But it all went well, or that’s what I thought when landing safely back at the beach after dropping them off. However, with surprise and embarrassment, I’d realize I had left them to hang out on a locked boat for the hour or so we waited for Nico on the beach. They were locked out which explained their silence on the VHF all that time, when we had tried to communicate with them! Sorry guys!! And lesson learned: I’ll always, always, make a radio check in the future. Nico’s horse riding tour had turned out to be longer than expected. We were started to worry about him as the night feel since we had no news of him in the dark night, but he eventually reached out when he got wifi. 15 minutes later when he showed up, we were quite nervous again for a night dinghy takeoff and ride in the pitch black night, with the four of us. We probably were quite cold with Nico (sorry!), at least until the hard part was behind us and Yalçın shouted a “good job everyone” once we were out of trouble zone. We retrieved our friends patiently watching the beautiful Costa Rican sky on Tirb’s desk and finally opened the door to everyone’s new home for the week to come. We still had the barbecue, under the bimini that protected us from the rain that had chimed in. Ryan maned it beautifully and I was glad that everyone seemed to enjoy gaspacho very much! Our crew of 6 was back for another week of sailing adventure, starting tomorrow with a full day sail to reach the Gulf of Nicoya. But even before that, the challenge was going to get a good night of sleep on that rocky Tirb with fully-pack boat!

Waiting for the morning delivery
If there’s one thing that Andy, the dive instructor, can be thanked for, it’s delivering us groceries, bags and water (twice). A real game changer!

This took place from July, 2nd to July, 4th 2021. To be continued…

3 thoughts on “Good time with friends – Part 2: Samara

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