Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

9 – Marzo - 2016

A visit with friends in an old Port City that is trying to carve a new niche.

We left Bahia Ballena midmorning for the leisurely trip through several Islands to Isla San Lucas, four miles from Puntarenas. You cannot enter the back channel in Puntarenas unless you have a high tide, so Isla San Lucas made a good staging stop to catch the tide right.
The long walk from the dock to the prison entrance

From 1885 until 1991 the Island was a notorious prison that became the subject of a book La Isla de Los Hombres Solos by Jose Leon Sanchez and a movie Island of Lost Souls. Now it is a National Parque with some trails and the buildings are in the process of being restored. The Park Ranger, Lucas, stays on the Island alone for ten days at a time and was very friendly.
The refurbished chapel and administration building

The prison has an interesting, eerie feel to it. The prisoner’s blocks are not cells but large barracks type rooms that could hold thirty to forty men are covered with very graphic drawings by the prisoners, definitely not General Admission type art. It was a relaxing stop to be ready for the morning tide. Again we were the only boat in the anchorage. The troops of howler monkeys entertained us at night.
The British tall ship Courageous

On the sail over to Puntarenas we could see a tall ship at the old muelle, dock, on the outside of the peninsula and we sailed over for a close look. She was the British registered vessel Courageous, a pretty three masted ship.

We returned to the lighthouse point to meet our pilot because the estuary on the backside of the peninsula is shallow with an unmarked channel winding three miles through estuary mud flats up to a marina and the yacht club. The shore line is lined with hundreds of fish boats of all sizes and states of disrepair. Some on the bottom with only the superstructure showing the channel edge.
The black line is our route, we were careful to follow it exactly on the exit out

Paul and Mary on Genesis III had arrived a week earlier and had checked into the marina so we went there to have both power and water at the dock. We later found out that the Yacht Club had some anchored off, floating docks that hold two boats that have water and even power on a couple of the floats. The power and water ones all appear to have permanent boats so the marina was a good choice. Seventy dollars a day with better rates for monthly or annual time periods. The tidal current races through the marina and the estuary water is a silt laden dark brown but Jose, Miner and all the staff were extremely helpful and friendly. It is built for powerboats to tie stern to with short fingers on each side. Almost a med mooring without the anchor off the bow. Great for powerboats, a challenge for sailboats, especially with currents running to 3+ knots. On extreme low tides sailboat sit on the bottom at some spots in both the marina and the Yachts Club. They try to mini dredge but the currents are constantly filling the areas back up. Although Genesis III was further out on the dock she leaned about 15 degrees at the low tide for three days. Kanilela seemed to have a hole under her and only on the extreme low did she show about six inches of hull at the bow.

We spent our first day cleaning the encrusted salt from Kanilela and getting her ready for visitors the next day. Mags’ friend Daphne and her husband, Bruce, from North Vancouver arrived by cruise ship en route from Miami, through the canal and on to Los Angeles.
A great visit with Daphne and Bruce
It was an interesting itinerary stopping in some of the lesser known old ports along the way and the timing for Puntarenas was perfect. We brought them to the marina because Bruce had not seen Kanilela before and we had a great visit. Poor Mags was definitely feeling some nostalgia moments hearing what everyone was doing but the weather reports mitigated the homesickness.

The local bus can be flagged down in front of the marina for the 85 cent trip to town and taxis are also available for about five dollars. Puntarenas has most marine supplies but finding them is interesting because the small Repuestas will stock only certain brands so you are checking lots of locations to get what you need. Fortunately they are all close together and the folding bike was a great way to travel. Although the peninsula is three miles long it is never more than four blocks wide and often down to a single block and most of the commercial section is contained within two blocks either side of the Calle Central that runs from the old deep sea dock on the outside across to the fish market on the estuary side. The two larger food stores, a Pali and Mega Super are not very big and selection was limited but various trucks on the street had a wide variety of excellent fruits and vegetables.  Puntarenas is definitely a bit on the scruffy side because the freighter traffic moved to a new port about sixteen miles away and the fishing industry has seen better days so unemployment is a problem but they are working at making it attractive to tourists and the old dock has a steady flow of cruise ships. 
The Cathedral

The old Cathedral is attractive and one of the few larger building in town, probably because the sand could not support large structures with earlier construction methods. We spent a week, got to know our way around town and had a good time.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi to both of you. We made it back to reality safe and sound from our Panama Canal Cruise - and boy what a shock it is too. We no longer can toss our towels onto the bathroom floor to find clean ones hanging in the morning. We now wake up and have to make our own breakfast, lunch and dinners - no more buffets and huge baron on beef carved for us..... but it was a great- very enjoyable time spent on our cruise.
    We also very much enjoyed our visit with the two of you - it was a pleasure to finally meet you Gord. I hope I did not horrify you Gordie by "contaminating" your awesome 20-year-old rum with "Coke" lol - one day I will develop the taste to savor the true rum flavour..... in the mean time pass me a "Bahama Mama" lol.
    The KANILENA is beautiful you have done an awesome job on her - it's too bad we didn't have more time to experience some sail time - maybe on our next visit - somewhere in the world.

    Thank you again for the great lunch, drinks and afternoon.

    So for now - sail on.... and we wish you calm seas with a breeze at you back.....
    talk to you soon Daphne and Bruce

    ps: it was pouring rain upon our return to Vancouver (Mar 13), but today (Mar. 16th) it's sunny but also 10cm of fresh snow on Grouse - so the wind is very cool..... but what a site - but not quite 30+ like your temp. "10-4"