Between the breathtaking week in Panama and the upcoming weeks-long passage through the Pacific, we deserved a few relaxing days in Golfito Bay.
Between the bay and the nature reserves around there is only a narrow strip of land that the town of Golfito has utilized. Almost everything in this city is found on the 7km long main road along the coast. Shops, restaurants, hotels and apartment buildings are lined up like in a street village. There is a small airport at the end. Nearby there can be found a unique feature for Costa Ricans. A duty-free shopping zone. This is mostly worthwhile for household appliances, televisions and alcohol. For example, gin and rum are available here for well under 10 EUR per bottle.
Banana Bay Marina
The Banana Bay Marina, in which we are now for about a month, is almost in the middle of the coast. Most of the shops are on the left. To the right there are more apartments and restaurants as well as a convenient entrance into the jungle. As it is so often the case in South America, the staff in the marina is extremely friendly. Just by seeing their smile in the morning, any worries are only half as big.
About half of the boats on the jetty are fishing boats. Therefore, we are often visited by pelicans, fish herons and raven vultures. A nice variant of the harbor cinema:
Why are you staying so long?
I have been asked this question a lot in the last few days. These are the four main reasons for this:
- After I missed the chance last year to get started into the Pacific in time for the global border closings, I wanted to be in the starting blocks early this year.
- I badly want to visit the Isla del Coco. It’s been on my “bucket list” for decades. I think I will report on this in more detail in a few weeks. The permit can only be applied for in Costa Rica. Processing takes at least 14 days.
- We are still looking for a 3rd crew member. This is not an easy task in times of Corona. It has been much quieter on the nodes of the barefoot route. In early days you were asked almost every day, nowadays only few globetrotter are asking to be a crew member on a ship. We found someone on the internet who will be here in a few days. If it suits well, the third cabin of the Aurelia will soon be occupied.
- Last but not least, the weather and the seasons also play an important role. You can actually sail all year as far to the Marquesas. From there, however, you can continue mid-April at the earliest, if you want to avoid an encounter with a cyclone. Then there is the position of the ITC to consider. If you had to completely cross this calm area at an unfavorable point, you either have too little diesel or too little food on board.
Almost simultaneously with us a catamaran, steered by two professional ship carriers, reached the marina. After an evening together with beer and rum, we decided to explore the island the next day. First we took a taxi up to a point about 6 km up a mountain north of the bay. From here we went down to a small river with several also quite small but beautiful waterfalls. At first, a clearly visible path pointed us in the right direction. Later the vegetation became thicker and thicker, the path steeper and more slippery. I wasn’t prepared for this type of hike in terms of clothing or physical condition. When we arrived at the river, we had to cool off first.
While Maya hiked a little further upstream with the guys, I slowly started my way back. Several times I landed in my good beige shore trousers in the red-brown mud. My varifocal sunglasses flew off my nose twice and once my cellphone landed in the water. With a heartbeat close to the limit frequency, a lot of frustration in my stomach and little air in my lungs, I finally got back to the street. The remaining 6 km of hiking trails, however, were child’s play.
Next time I should better prepare. A hiking backpack, sturdy shoes and a waterproof bag are already on board and should be used. In the end we were back in the marina almost at the same time. Good thing I started earlier.
Hikes with Terry
On January 14th, Maya set off with her backpack to explore Costa Rica by foot. I contented myself with smaller excursions near the marina. Mostly Terry accompanied me. He had just arrived here with his sailing yacht Altere. His interesting tour had begun in his home state Washington.
He as a retired psychologist and I as a time-out computer scientist formed a good team for many interesting conversations on the daily 5-10 km long walks. In the end, we even found the ultimate formula for healing the world:
All you have to do is keep the R0 value for hate and vengeance below 1 and the R0 value for kindness above 1. It doesn’t take more :-).
In the evening we enjoyed a wide variety of sunsets with the sun downer. One night, however, there was also a fire on another boat nearby. Bad memories came up: When I was sailing with friends in Croatia in 2016, a motor yacht burned down right next to us. The only person on board managed to save himself, but the ship was literally doomed. I don’t want to experience something like that again. We were close to informing the Coast Guard when I realized through the binoculars that the crew here was actually burning something in an old oil drum. Crazy!
Preparations for the big trip
The temperatures in Golfito Bay are quite a challenge for me. After 35 °C during the day, the temperatures drop to 25 °C at night. One gets used to that quickly and easily. But it is all the more difficult to do something useful in the heat of the day. After 8:00 am, the sun develops enormous power and quickly heats up the ship. On the jetty youi can walk with shoes if you don’t want to burn your feet. On top of that there is often high humidity and no wind. The latter is atypical for January. The ITC is already partially well above the equator.
Long story short: actual work on the ship can only be done in the early morning hours.
On the whole, apart from the usual maintenance, I couldn’t find too much to fix. Only the oil level in the saildrive worried me. It was too high. This was either due to incorrect filling during the last maintenance in Locmiquelic (which would not surprise me) or due to the penetration of water via the shaft that drives the propeller. That would not be a good sign and might require the Aurelia to be hauled out of the water. Fortunately, Aurelia has the significantly improved SD60 into it. Compared to its predecessor, it has a more stable clutch and also has the option of changing the oil from inside the boat.
I was excited to pull out over three liters of used oil with a small hand pump and was relieved that there wasn’t a drop of water in it. After the new oil was filled up and everything was stowed away, I first had to compensate for my own loss of fluid. It was already unbearably hot again.
Water tank and maker
The permanently high temperatures also took effect in the water tank. A slight smell of sulfur is noticeable shortly after opening the tap. It disappears quite quickly and therefore doesn’t seem to be a major problem yet. However, I don’t want to wait for the problem to get worse. So the Micropur tablets that I have on board for such a case were used. They help kill the sulfur bacteria. I will also be sacrificing a portion of the Watermaker cleaning powder in order to be able to produce enough safe fresh water in the Pacific.
It is always a nice feeling to have the right remedy on board. At the same time it is also a bad one, since the stock is shrinking and will be difficult to replenish in the next few months.
I often spend the afternoons on the terrace of the Banana Marina. A large fan above the table ensures sufficient cooling. I definitely need it while doing the office work for the upcoming pacific passage. That includes:
- Route planning
- Climate and weather forecasts
- Entry applications for French Polynesia
- Track current Covid19 travel restrictions
- Creating blog posts
- Planning the provisions
- Search for crew reinforcement and much more.
The preparation of the list of emergency numbers and ports was done comparatively quickly. There aren’t too many of them on the nearly 4,000 nautical miles from Golfito Bay to the Marquesas.
Old and new uncertainties
The anticipation for the dreamlike islands, interesting cultures, beaches, corals, tropical forests and more starts increasing, but also the respect for the challenges that arise during the many weeks at sea. Have we thought of everything? There will certainly be one problem or another. But which one? Will it be one that we can cope well with?
Yesterday already brought a little foretaste of new uncertainties. Now that we have found a suitable third crew member with Sheila. Her arrival is delayed by 2-3 days. At the same time, French Polynesia is tightening its entry requirements. From now on, tourist trips are no longer possible. However, we have a special permit. Will it be valid when we arrive?
It remains thrilling!