Tuesday, February 22, 2011

El Golfo Dulce

Our next stop was Bahia Ballena, a beautiful bay with a little fishing community on the east-facing side of the Nicoya Peninsula. We spent two nights at anchor there, enjoying the internet access and blended fruit drinks at the yacht club. John took the long board out and caught a few waves, even though it's not an ideal surf spot. After two nights at anchor we headed south for Quepos, where we hoped to clear out of the country.

Bird-covered tuna boat off the coast of Costa Rica.

We got to Marina Pez Vela in Quepos around 8PM and although we’d tried calling them by phone earlier in the day, and again by VHF as we approached, nobody had answered the phone or the radio. Two security guards met us at the fuel dock and told us we may not be able to stay in the marina because we didn’t have a reservation, even though the place was mostly empty. Twenty minutes of deliberation and phone calls to superiors – spoken in both Spanish and English – concluded with the definitive verdict that we had to leave the marina. It was dark out and had started to rain. This was the first time we encountered a situation like this and we’ve come into a number of marinas during the night or after marina office hours. The marina manager, Perry, was extremely rude, unhelpful, and condescending. It was a miserable experience. That night we headed straight for the Osa peninsula planning to check out of Costa Rica in Golfito. After such inhospitality in Quepos, we didn’t feel they deserved any of our business.

It was just as well because our experience in Golfito was wonderful. The Osa peninsula is the most untouched part of Costa Rica. Everywhere you look, the dense and verdant rainforest cascades over the hills to meet the emerald waters of the Golfo Dulce. From the boat we could hear the roar of the jungle: a vibrant medley of cicadas, birds and howler monkeys.

Cabo Matapalo

Golfito itself is a slightly run-down town shaped like a green bean that lies along the northern shore of the Gulfo Dulce. The marina consisted of a funky wooden house built on stilts over the water and a tiny dock with room for one big boat and a few dinghies to tie up. We left El Tiburon at anchor and dinghied over to the “yacht club.”

Marina in Golfito

The owners had about five dogs that Kitty made fast friends with. They all seemed to get along well except for a miniature pincher with a spiked collar named Vinny, who would emit a low rumbling sound whenever Kitty got too close to him. The atmosphere at Land Sea Marina was relaxed and friendly. Cruisers could help themselves to a book and a beverage and settle into one of the padded chairs in the outdoor living/dining room of the club, maybe with a dog at their feet or on their lap. The exchange library and beverage cooler were regulated by the honor system, and the temperature under the thatched roof was always perfect.

One night there was a potluck dinner party in the yacht club, and all six dogs were running around sniffing and begging for scraps of fish taco and bacon wrapped figs. Just as one of the party guests was commenting on how well the dogs were getting along, Kitty and the big male boxer named Riley got into a tussle. There was a struggle with snarling and scuffling and I shouted commandingly for the dogs to stop. Kitty is a docile creature who I've never seen manifest a shred of aggression, so I was frightened about what might become of her in the grip of this unfamiliar muscular boxer.

Soon the brawl came to an abrupt halt. Kitty loomed calmly over the boxer with her paw placed rigidly on his cheek, pressing his head firmly to the floor. The dogs held their positions for a few seconds, as if waiting for an inaudible count of three to call the pin. Only then did Kitty release her hold on Riley. He scampered off to the other side of the deck, crawled up on the bench next to his owner and somehow managed to nestle all his bulk into her lap. I examined Kitty for damage but aside from some saliva on the ruff of fur around her neck, she was fine. I was so proud.

Don't mess with Kitty.

We stayed in Golfito for a few days, made a trip to some of the nearby surf spots and took care of our exit paperwork. With our zarpe in hand, we set sail for a four-day passage to Panama City, Panama.