Triple-footed sailing to Golfito

We left Puerto Azul marina on the high tide of the last day of our slip agreement. We had calculated two weeks to reach Golfito, the last port of the country, where we needed to check out of Costa Rica at most one month from then. We were planning to leave the boat there while going to San Jose a last time for my (hopefully) final control appointment with the surgeon and get a first session of physical therapy. Since I was supposed to be able to possibly start walking by then, I was even hoping we could squeeze a little hop in Manual Antonio, one of the best National Parks in Costa Rica for which our plans to visit from the boat had been compromised by the injury. But one thing at the time, we needed to reach Golfito first and the trip was going to be a little special since I still had my boot and crutches for the two weeks we had allocated ourselves. Yalçın mainly would be in charge of the boat and to make his life easier, we had figured most of the almost 200 nautical miles could be covered in day passages. No need for night watches in that setting which would have been challenging as when on watch I would probably have needed to wake him up for any maneuver.

August, 22nd – Leaving Puntarenas

Leaving Puntarenas was emotional for me as I had lived there for a month and made connections especially during my time alone injured. I had failed to make my goodbyes in time and had this feeling, a bunch of people would just find an empty slip as ungrateful testimony. The Puntarenas channel is quite shallow, therefore boats go in and out at high tide. Luckily for us, the high was at 3PM, which left us plenty of time to get ready. The weekend party at the hotel swimming pool was going full throttle when Antonio, the marina manager, helped us slip our lines, after a motor boat and the sailboat next to us had just come in. I was able to tell him to pass my goodbyes to Luis, a joyful employee of the marina, that had come for a chat almost everyday despite speaking no English at all. I realized I had forgotten another dock good soul, Julian, but remembered he had given me his number to Whatsapp him in case I needed something. Yalçın was focused on the depth sounder and on following the path we had taken without running aground on our way in. Even if I was mostly lying down with my foot up, it was funny to see the channel rewind, the same way we had seen it exactly on month ago. The marina left place to the road Yalçın had walked so many time to go grocery shopping; half way was the building that signaled we needed to hug the peninsula to find the deep water. That’s around there that we met Julian, who was coming in, at the bow of his cousin’s fishing boat: I was happy, that would be a better goodbye than just WhatsApp. He wished us the best for our voyage and my recovery! The channel continued with more fishing boats, a wreck, a door leading to the water on one of the buildings, the passage really close to smaller fishing boats that had been claimed by sea birds, the ferry terminal where we had first arrived and its surrounding area that looked a little touristy but quite nice with its red and white striped tower. All these places I thought we would discover in our time here…

As we were passing the point, the waters became confused: The ebb current flowing out of the estuary was conflicting with the wind waves of the gulf. Yalçın had taken in all the dock equipment, fenders, dock lines etc. He unfurled the jib, we had only a short 8 miles to go. We were planning to go to the flat anchorage of Jesusita island across the gulf, where we would have some internet to wait for a good weather window and further organize the boat for sailing. Yalçın chose to cross the gulf first, trying to minimize the swell on our land accustomed bodies as well on my foot. It was a pleasant sail with a beautiful view of the cloudy sky of Costa Rican afternoons. The wind kept decreasing as we approached Jesusita, to finally turn to our nose. We motored the couple of miles left. I was trying to catch-up on blog posts and when I lifted my head from the phone, we were already in the channel between islands that constitutes the protected anchorage. Yet, we had wind from an unusual direction to anchor. Yalçın covered both our anchoring roles and I only helped him from the helm station by backing the engine at the appropriate time to set the anchor. This granted me the privilege to say the loud “welcome” he usually launches when we turn off the engine. He set up the anchor on the roller, my job usually, but a little special this time as we had remade the splice that ties the anchor chain to the rope and we wanted to double it with a second line in case I had made it entirely wrong – it would be a really bad time to loose the anchor and the chain!

How do you use your fenders at anchor? :p

August, 26th – Bahia Herradura

We waited several days in Jesusita to let some bad weather pass and, as a matter of fact, even there, in this very sheltered anchorage, we got strong winds, chops and strong rain as well as thunderstorms. As soon as the weather seemed safe though, we had to get on the go! Our schedule was getting tighter and tighter and that’s precisely the situation we were trying to avoid by scheduling two weeks for that trip.

Herradura was still a short distance of 20ish miles on the Eastern side of the gulf. We set off at around 10 and this time, Yalçın set us up with the full rig. The sail went smoothly overall, but as we got closer to the Eastern shore, we had to beat our way into the approach of the bay and we weren’t getting it easy – possibly some tidal flood working against us. After hours of patience and serving the hungry crew a delicious Turkish meal that he had prepared the day before, even the valiant skipper got tired of it. Around 4PM, he fired up the engine and it still took an extra hour to enter that difficult bay. We didn’t beat the afternoon rain but at least, we were able to anchor before the visibility disappeared altogether. Even though, we had gone all the way to the Southern end of the bay in hope of finding the best swell protection, the anchorage was rolly AF, amongst the worst places so far, especially since we were not accustomed to sea movements yet (at least, we would be for the next day!). A stern anchor would probably have helped but we didn’t set it up given the circumstances (short-footed and for one night only). It was even difficult for Yalçın to walk around. We finished the Turkish dish, watched a movie and went to bed at 8, hoping to leave this place early in the morning, for our next destination.

August, 27th – Quepos

It looked like we kept doubling our bets. After 10 nautical miles to Jesusita, we went 20 miles to Herradura. After the 20 miles to Herradura, we were now going for around 40 to Quepos. After a rocky, raining, but nonetheless quite long night, we left Herradura at around 6:30, hoping to make it to Quepos before the afternoon rains. Luckily for us, there were no afternoon rain, but it took us way longer than originally anticipated… And the reason for that is a counter-current along the coast that we hadn’t taken into account and seem to run as strong as 1.5 to 2 knots! Yalçın had to turn around at some point to believe it, at the same time, measuring it and checking that it wasn’t anything wrong with our Monsieur Engine. Our nautical guide did mention a current but only on the stretch of coast of Samara, before the gulf we were trying to exit. That current made our progress beating up out of the Gulf in the morning quite slow, then the wind decreased and Yalçın had to turn on the engine. I had spent 3 hours in the morning inside, catching up on sleep, hiding from possible rain and occasionally checking on our position on Navionics on my phone. When I finally came up, I welcomed the fresh air contrasting with the warm cabin. I read out loud the new sailing adventure book we had started the day before, Sailing in Pirate waters, by Julie Bradley. We were motoring by that time, and then the sound we wanted to hear the least happened: the engine buzzer. Overheat or oil pressure failure, nothing good comes from that sound. Yalçın immediately shut off the Monsieur, set back the hydrovane on a close hulled course that was taking us away from land in the barely existent breeze and went below to look at the complaining motor. Check number 1: the water intake part looked okay. In second, he took off the water vented loop which cleaning had been on our to-do list when pulling in Puntarenas but that we had left behind due, once more, to the circumstances. Taking it off was a pain as it is not what you’d call accessible. In the meantime, the wind wasn’t strong enough to let Avocet steer and the boat tacked. Quite useless single-footed, with the jib backed, I figured I’d heave to and let the main entirely out after disabling the hydrovane and setting the rudder against the jib. We were making subtle progress towards land, but that would do for now. The hose Yalçın had dismantled didn’t show any sign that the cooling flow of water would have been restricted. As a last resort, and after properring the course of the boat, he replaced the raw water intake pump with the new one he had recently brought back from the US, which has a higher water flow. Whatever the cause of overheat, it could only help. Once installed, we checked that everything was fine and decided to keep going forward with our attempt to reach Quepos. Or Yalçın decided since all the pressure was on him for the rest of the sail, and he had just spent 2 hours in the heat of the swelly cabin debugging the engine. Luckily, the wind had picked up again, and we were able to sail for a couple of hours before it was time to turn on the capricious Monsieur again, and hope for the best… It seemed that the pump replacement had helped as the engine carried us through the rest of the afternoon, through the beginning of the night and even through a rain squall. At 10:30 in the dark night, we dropped anchor in the more comfortable anchorage of Punta Quepos, quite tired but happy to be here and not back to super rolly Herradura.

August, 29th – Bahia Drakes

We decided to take it easy and take a day in the lovely, yet rocky (the night approach had required a lot of attention to the GPS and what we could see with our powerfully light beam), anchorage of Punta Quepos. After a pancake breakfast, Yalçın dove in the water to clean Tirb’s bottom hoping to increase the low speed we were making under engine. In particular, the propeller, which is not painted with the anti-fooling paint that prevents growth contrary to the rest of the hull, had grown barnacles that bonded so hard that we hadn’t been able to unstick them with the tools we had onboard. Yalçın had anticipated this and bought a metal tool that turned out appropriate. After almost 2 hours of scrubbing, we were able able to test whether the performance of the boat had increased by going to the fuel dock in Marina Quepos. If the marina turned out ridiculously obsessed with bureaucracy (they checked all our paperwork, including insurance, just for fueling and in particular once we were already at the dock), Yalçın was smiling broadly, we had regained our normal speed! With our tanks full of fuel and some chocolate for the road, we went back to our anchoring spot for the night, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset beer at the bow.

The joy of Yalçın about the engine performance persisted through the next day, making us hope to reach Bahia Drake before dark this time. And we did. Sadly, with very little wind and without fish despite trailing the line all day, only to discover the bait and the hook were gone, as if the knot hadn’t resisted. Oh well… That didn’t prevent us to enjoy another beautiful sunset from the anchorage which turned out less rolly than feared. Only cloud in the picture, we didn’t see any of the numerous whales we had been told about. Maybe tomorrow while going to Golfito…

August, 30th – Golfito

We took off early, at 5:30 in the morning, in order to cover the 63 nautical miles to Golfito. We caught a fish at around 10, that Yalçın filleted and we kept in the fridge for lunch. At 10:30, the wind picked up enough to justify sailing. We sailed for 30 minutes or so in 12 knots of wind. At 11:30, Yalçın tried to set the pole as the wind shifted to our stern. While doing so, he hurt his right foot as well, about to transform our triple-footed sailing journey to double-footed. Luckily despite being painful, it wasn’t a serious injury and got resolved by wearing shoes (which is actually a good habit on the boat, especially when healthy feet are such a scare resources). All the pole action turned out to be for nothing anyway, as the wind was too low and we had to got back to motoring. At noon, we had lunch of the raw fish that I prepared with soy sauce, some cucumber and with a yogurt version as well. Not disappointing! We were making good progress, approaching the point marking the entrance of Gulfo Dulce, with threatening clouds in the sky. At around 3PM, as we rounded the point, we got hit by a squall and the wind picked up to 25 knots. Rain kicked in and visibility dropped, killing all hope to see whales today either. These challenging conditions persisted until we reached the anchorage in Golfito with the advantage of providing us with good speeds, yet with some inconvenients. We got another fish as Yalçın was busy taking a reef in the rain. Sadly, due to the speed, it was able to run free. The loss of visibility was also not ideal as Golfito is a deep water port with container and cruise ship traffic. Luckily, our AIS cought an oil tanker leaving the harbor way before our eyes were able to make out the shape, only one mile or so from it. Finally, Yalçın got trenched in the process while I was sheltering my foot sitting on the step of the companion way. The final approach in Golfito was majestic, sailing in a channel bordered by the luxurious green vegetation so characteristic of Costa Rica. We were looking forward to discover it the following days. We finally reached the anchorage and discovered that our friends from Wild Rye hadn’t left the country yet! It had been tight, they checked out the next day, but we were happy to meet them again. We ended up anchoring between them and the Turkish boat of Fatih Aksu, which Yalçın knew from Instagram and YouTube. The skipper marked in the log book that we were “uncomfortably close to both”, but luckily in this calm waters it didn’t turn out to be an issue. We had made it! To Golfito, triple-foot!

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