We left the Northern Nicoya Gulf, dodged tide lines full of debris and worked our way down 27 nm to Bahia Herradura. It’s a beautiful bay with a marina full of sport fishing boats. We certainly knew when the boats left or were headed back to the marina as they kicked up big waves throughout the bay and had us rocking and rolling. By 6 pm all was calm again. We left early in the morning to try to avoid a repeat. Even that didn’t help as the departing “Captains” thought nothing of passing short distances beside us and making us endure their large wakes one more time.
It was 32 nm to our next stop Quepos. The recommended anchorage is just outside the beautiful marina. We scouted it out but suspected it was going to be a repeat of the day before, so we elected to move to the other side of the bay to Bahia Biesanz. It was a quaint little bay with a great beach. During the day there are a couple of food and beverage vendors that set up shop with chairs and sunshades. It was mostly locals on the beach and by 5pm everyone had cleared out. There is a trail that leads up to the road (keep your eyes out for white face monkeys and sloths) and from there a short walk to the Shama Hotel. It looks like a really nice place and they were kind enough to call us a taxi to take us to town.
We had the driver drop us at the marina so we could scope it out. Wow. Nice place. No wonder it was going to be nearly $200 a night for us to tie up. We would have been one of maybe a half a dozen sailboats amongst a hundred plus large expensive sport fishing boats. They clearly are catering to a different market that the one we are in. The best we could do was have lunch there. From there we walked around the town and picked up some groceries before heading back to the boat.
We moved 53 nm from there to Drake Bay. We anchored and dinghied into the Aquila de Osa Resort. They will let you tie up at the dock if you buy a drink or some food. We tried to get into the restaurant for lunch, full, how about reservations for dinner? Full. Found out the rooms are booking out a year in advance too. We were still allowed to tie up and go explore the town. After a couple of nights in Drake Bay, we headed 65nm to Golfito.
Golfito is the last Port of Entry in Costa Rica so it is here where we checked out of Costa Rica. I know checking out at a Port of Entry is nonsensical but hey its government, so you just go with it. We anchored the night we arrived then took a marina slip for a couple of days. The boat needed a serious wash, and we knew we would be making several shopping trips for supplies so it’s just easier in a marina. We also caught up with our friends on board Ghillie. We last saw them in Huatulco in January, it was great to reconnect with them.
Golfito has a unique shopping area. Its like a large open-air mall with lots of stores but the entire area is duty free. We entered through the gates and the first stop is to register your passport then you can go to the stores. So many stores all selling the same stuff. Lots of electronics and appliances, some clothing and tons of alcohol! Turns out rum is quite affordable here. I’m happy to report that most of our shopping was done at the supermarkets in town. On a side note, we had rain here. It’s the first rain we have seen since we left Vancouver last October. It was raining like it was making up for lost time but it only lasted an hour. We know we will have a lot more of this in our near future.
As we have noted before every country has its own procedures for clearing in and out. The check out process in Golfito went like this.
First step – Taxi ride to Immigration. Show ships documents and passports fill out forms and get stamped copies of all the forms back.
Second step – Taxi from immigration to Port Captain to get reference number for file.
Third step – Walk six blocks to the bank to pay $25 exit fee. It takes 40 minutes waiting in line at the bank.
Forth step – Take taxi to the Customs office to clear out of the country. Show all the forms from immigration and get our passports stamped.
Fifth step – Take taxi back to the Port Captain. Show them all the stamped copies, our stamped passports and the receipt from the bank showing we had paid the fee. Receive our Zarpe so the boat can leave the country.
We were at the immigration office to 8 AM and completed the Port Captain at 11:40. Government and efficient are rarely in the same sentence.
We departed early the next morning. This passage would take us out of Costa Rican waters and into Panama. An overnight stop at Playa Balsa then on to Boca Chica where we would check into Panama.
Boca Chica is the first time we have used an agent to check into a country. Carlos arranged to have the officialdom meet at his marina and clear in 4 boats all at the same time. All 4 boats arrived at Carlos’ place at 8 am at 8:30 the health inspectors arrived and we filled out papers and got stuff stamped. We were told the rest of the officials would be there at 9. At 10 we received a notification that they had been delayed. At 10:30 seven officials arrived. They represented the departments of Customs, Agriculture, Immigration and Port Captain. You guessed it. More forms and more stamping. Completed by noon. Unlike many of the other countries we have been to, where the cost to enter is either free or relatively minor, Panama has a whole litany of charges. In US Dollars: $92 for the Health Authority, $75 for Immigration, $40 for Agriculture, $35 for Customs and $120 for Carlos the agent. Total upon entry $362. In US cash, Carlos’s fee we were able to use a credit card. The ability to get information on how all these processes work through our membership in the Panama Posse Cruisers Rally has made the sign-up cost worthwhile.
Its nice to have the 3 boats back together again. We have spent the last few days enjoying a few of the anchorages around Boca Chica. Bahia Honda is a nice, protected bay. We anchored with the waypoints given for “Domingo’s house”. We had heard the local family will come out to the boats hoping to trade. Our anchors were down barely 30 minutes and 2 boats arrived. They had fish, fruit, wood carvings and jewelry. We got some fresh fruit and exchanged / donated for fishhooks, school supplies, rope, baseball hats and double A batteries.
Over the next couple of days we will be working our way towards and looking for a weather window to get around Punta Mala and enter the Gulf of Panama as we continue to close the distance on Panama City and our Canal transit.