[051122; 1354 UTC,
Playa Panama, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
N 10 degrees 35.5 /W 085 degrees 39.6]
With Thanksgiving approaching it's a time when we think about distant friends and family. Our life is full and rich but it's also bittersweet to be unable to bring friends to our home for the holidays as we have always enjoyed doing. Still, our small cruising "family" is strong and we are deep in the planning for a gathering for giving thanks for our health and our good fortune for being able to live the charmed life we do.
Preparations included putting a deposit on a spectacularly large turkey breast, planning which anchorage is best and most secure for the celebration (an early season papagayo is predicted) and calculating who can prepare which facet of the feast.
Well into our stay in Costa Rica, we've explored some of the anchorages surrounding Playa del Coco, the principal port in northern Costa Rica. Our favorite so far has been Bahia Huevos. This large, diverse bay is named for the two small egg-shaped islands (huevos means eggs in Spanish) that form its northern edge. We were so thrilled with this wild bay so close to Playa Cocos that, before we knew it, we'd stayed a week.
Bahia Huevos is, if nothing else, diverse. Rocky islands and sea stacks guard its northern edge. Monkeys and ospreys fill the air with their haunting calls. Coves lined with reefs and dark hillside caves indent its southern edge. A small beach of white sand dotted with flecks of volcanic black sand reveals tracks of sea turtles (Green Turtles or Olive Ridley Turtles) that have laid eggs just above high water. A longer steeper beach at the head of the bay terminates at a mangrove river that travels deep into an ancient forest filled with thousands of birds and at least one confident crocodile. Reefs amongst the islands show clearly in the brilliantly clear water that is populated by bright reef fish such as sergeant majors, barberfish, Moorish idols, triggerfish, filefish, giant hawkfish and grouper as well as stinging rays over six feet across and moray eels that stare open-mouthed at you from rock crevasses. Other cruisers have seen numerous beautifully colored yellow-bellied sea snakes which, though non-aggressive, are highly venomous.
We didn't have much luck fishing with rod and reel but a crew member off a catamaran called Wood Duck was swimming under a sea kayak and caught a glimpse of a giant fish. He quickly turned and shot with a spear gun an 18 lb. yellowfin tuna in the shallows of the bay!
We did have better luck fishing using our Hawaiian sling, Philip having shot a large filefish (a member of the triggerfish family). On such occasions, Philip cleans and filets the fish on Carina's foredeck under the watchful eyes of our cat, Jake, who meows for sushi and gobbles down each morsel until his already chubby belly is distended.
We also spent some time in Playa Panama, just NE of del Coco. This anchorage gives the best all-around protection within Bahia Culebra from wind and swell, and was a popular spot for boats summering over here. A local bus services Liberia twice per day, the main town in the province of Guanacaste, while Playa del Coco is accessible via taxi or a combination of bus and walking. In Playa Panama, the restaurant El Cangrejo ("the crab") serves somewhat as a cruiser base. A book exchange and reference library are available, while Paul, its owner, lends his truck (for fuel) and local knowledge to the fleet. The bus stop is right outside the gate.
Playa Panama is also popular spot for Costa Rican families to come with picnics and volleyballs or soccerballs. They set up on a rough lawn of machete-cut grass under palm trees and spend idyll hours visiting and playing in the warm water. (Men with machetes have been the only "lawn mowers" we've seen in a very long time. It appears to be backbreaking labor but men in t-shirts and (always) long pants work tirelessly cutting sometimes thick jungle vegetation - even during the heat of the day.) Locals even camp on the beach at Playa Panama just down the beach from what we are told is a five star hotel.
The previously-mentioned Liberia is a town with economic roots in the region's agriculture - from our bus window we've seen fields of sugar cane, rice, asparagus, etc. The town is visually disappointing with architecture that is uninspiring, though it is filled with small parks and green spaces including one with a spectacular example of the Guanacaste tree, for which the region is named. During a visit with friends we did get to sample a bit of local cuisine in the form of a "casado" lunch (that cost us roughly ¢ 1400 colones or about $2.90 USD). This consists of a main portion (fish, chicken), rice, fried plantains and a vegetable side dish such as curried cauliflower. When we questioned why the meals were classified this way (casado means "married") we learned that this complete lunch would be what a married man would expect to be served!
Thanksgiving is a time to remember how fortunate we are and to tell those who are important to us that we value them in our life. Please know we miss and love you and wish you could all be here with us for the holidays.
Sus amigos del velero Carina,
Philip, Leslie & el gato gordo, Jake the cat
Playa Panama, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
p.s. Be on the lookout for our article in the December issue of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine.