Sunday, January 20, 2013

Costa Rica

One thing I really enjoy about being the hardest working unemployed yacht captain in the industry, is that I never know what adventure will come my way when the phone rings.

Sean Doyle at Yacht Zoo called me with an unusual yacht delivery... 


...load a 2012 model 63' Sunseeker onto Dockwise in Fort Lauderdale and then a week later, fly down to Costa Rica to unload yacht, reposition to it's new home 140 miles up the coast and train  up the owner's Costa Rican captain on the vessel's systems.

Super Servant 4, a semi-submersible heavy lift ship is in a class of ships which normally hauls floating oil platforms around the world. It was also this class of ship that carried the USS Cole back to the United States after it was attacked in the Yemani port of Aden.

The SS4, converted to haul yachts, has internal tanks that fill with water, which ballasts the ship down into the water. The yachts are carefully driven into the "well" where they are tied to cat walks. Once the yachts are in position, the ship pumps the water out of the tanks and is it rises, commercial divers in the water position jack stands as the yacht keel settles wooden blocks. The ship then sails to the overseas destination where the process is reversed and the yachts are floated off. I have personally been a "rider" (someone who rides along  while staying on the yacht) twice across the Atlantic from the Med to Florida. B O R I N G two week trip. No all night buffett, floor show, casino or movies under the stars on this ship!

The flight from Miami to Costa Rica is only about two hours and a half. However, if your flight is delayed (like mine was), you may end up at San Jose Airport with 5 other airliners on the tarmac. Note the happy bald guy in one of two lines of about 500 people; it took my half as long as the entire flight just to get through customs!

But, waiting for me at baggage claim, was the owner's right hand man, Rama.
Originally, our plan  was to drive from San Jose to Los Sueños (the yacht's new home) to check out the marina after which we would drive to Golfito, the port where the yacht will be discharged from the ship. However, the ship is delayed at the Panama Canal, so the decision has bee made to fly directly to Golfito instead.  So, with baggage in hand, Rama and I head to the Sansa Regional  Airline  gate to check in.

Sansa flys the 12 seat single engine Cessna Caravan which I affectionately call The Jungle Bus.
Just prior to boarding, we are informed that because of weight and balace, four pieces of luggage will not make the flight, but will be on the 0530 flight the morning next. Volunteering, I dig into my bag and grab my spit-kit, clean socks, shirt, shorts and bathing suit then board the little plane.

To drive from San Jose to Golfito is about 5 hours. The flight takes 45 minutes!
Once airborne one cannot help but press one's nose against the window and marvel at how rugged the mountains are and just how lush and green the topography is...

...and the sublime feelings it invokes. 

Golfito is on the Golfo Dulce on the Pacific side of the country. On the map below, Golfito is the nearly land locked bay at the yellow dot just right of center. Having been here over a dozen times, it is truly one of my favorite places in the world!

As it lies in the southern part of the country, the jungle literally spreades itself 
from mountain to sea.

Below/Right is the entrance to Golfito, one of the best natural harbors in the Eastern Pacific.

Once on the ground and on our way to the hotel, we stop by to arrange for boat fuel at 
Banana Bay Marina. For those who are familiar with Banana Bay, it should be noted that Bruce Blevin is no long  there; but has moved down the road to Fish Hook Marina.

We check into the Casa Roland for what will turn out to be a two day wait for the ship.

An absolutely stunning hotel, the rooms, are exquisitly decored. The lobby-bar is breathtaking and the paintings throughout, by local artists, are museum quality. amazing considering that Golfito is but a small village in a remote part of the world.

Breakfast is taken daily at the pool.

Looking towards the south end of Golfito Bay and it's entrance; our destination of exploration tomorrow.

Jorge, the yacht owner, brought a Toyota SUV to Golfito and I cannot see any reason why we should just sit in the room waiting for the ship. So Jorge, Rama and I pile into the rig and head to the south side of the bay; where the locals hang out.

After driving down a road that, in places, a 2WD vehicle  shouldn't go. It including a concrete bridge with a really big hole in it but we easily end up at Playa de Cacao.

A simply idyllic stretch of beach...

... clean as a pin...

... however, the lifeguard can be a bit impertinent!

Anchored off golfito is the 360 foot cruise ship STAR CLIPPER which carries 36,000 square feet of canvas. Below, Super Servant 4 finally arrives at Golfito anchorage and starts to ballest down.

Jorge,  his captain Rafa and I hitch a ride on a panga to the ship to take care of customs and  discharge paperwork before the yacht gets wet. It takes about 30 hours to ballast down the ship.
Note the wooded cross ties that the yacht keel rests on.

Jorge (L), his captain Rafa (R) and I perform a bottom inspection on the well deck. 
Note the yellow jack stands. In the loading evolution, commercial scuba divers position these as the ship is refloated and the keel settles on the cross tie. Once the well deck dries, these are spot-welded to the well deck to keep the jack stands and yacht from moving while the ship is underway. The yacht is then secured with six inch ratchet straps.  At discharge, with straps released, the yacht simply floats off the stands as the ship ballasts down. 
Paperwork completed, we return to shore and stand-by at the hotel for tomorrow's discharge.

The following morning, all of the various yacht crews arrive at 0800 for a ride out to the ship. Myself, Jorge and Rafa do the Dockwise "Walk of Death" down the enter catwalk to the back of the ship to make preparations (open seacocks, put up canvas/cushions) to get the yacht ready for discharge. Our plan is to reposition the yacht to Banana Bay, fill up with fuel and pick up the rest of the family for the six and a half hour run up the coast to Los Sueños; arriving before sunset. 

Well, as I always say,"itinerary is an abstract thought." We wait another hour and a half for discharge. Then it's a "No Wake" race to fuel dock against the other yachts discharging only to find that the marina fuel pump is inoperative and diesel is taken by gravity flow; which adds another hour and a half. But, after a couple of "inconveniences" we get everyone onboard and underway for Los Sueños under severe clear skies, breathless winds and calm seas.

The owner's daughters and a friend took little time to post the dolphin lookout and took great pleasure in bow jumping on the long Pacific swells encountered at 21 knots.

Irene, the other owner, decides that this couch is"just right."

At the southeast end to the entrance of the Golf de Nicoya is the man made harbor of Los Sueños.

Once the yacht is secured at her dock, I perform the time-honored rechristening ceremony; de-listing the vessel's old name and entering her new name into nautical records.
The ceremony of christening ships began in the distant past. Romans, Greeks and Egyptians all held ceremonies to ask the gods to protect sailors. Maritime superstition holds that a ship not properly christened would be considered unlucky.

And as such is the case, an offering is made to "Mighty Neptune, king of the deep and all that moves upon the waves. And  Aeolus, guardian of the winds and all that blows before it."

A libation is offered  in accordance with the hallowed rituals of the sea. 
Of course, it's Dom. Nice touch Jorge!

Another happy owner and family.

Captain Rafa, after a couple of days systems training, returns from his first solo trip (center). 
And with the conclusion of another project well done, we fade to black....

- - - - - -


I've got four days left before my  flight back to the world (funny how that got planned) and the owner has graciously provided the use of a very nice condo. Time to do some exploring!!

First on the list is grabbing my camera, tripod and renting a quad-runner to explore the mountain rainforest surrounding Los Suenos.

The fauna is lush and flowers abundant, like ginger (above) and lobster claw heliconia (below)

If you like the color green, this place is for you!!

Bird of Paradise (below) are everwhere!

There are well over 50 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica

Even though January is the "dry season" in Costa Rica, streams and rivers abound.

Without a soul around, it's swimmin' time!!

Cue the Ennio Morriconi music,  a la "The Mission" starring Robert de Nero

This Crestnut-mandibled Toucan (below) landed not 20 meters from me.

Monkeys jumping from tree to tree, parrots flying overhead, and this guy nearly drops in my lap!

I spotted this scarlet macaw nesting in an broken branch of a Ceiba tree

Yet another pair watching my activities.

After running the mountain back roads, it would be rude of me to return a dirty dusty quad. So....

Trust me, zip lining is harder than it really looks. Fourteen platforms and the last run, a 2400' drop with speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour; stopping before crashing into the next tree platform is a serious concern. Hench the heavy leather gloves for grabbing the cable to slow down!

Playa Herradura (below) with Los Sueños in the background.

After an exhilerating couple of days, I am only too happy to relax in the condo infinity pool.

Sunset (below) at Los Sueños
"Twizzle Twazzle Twozzle Tome, Time for This One to Come on Home"
(Kudos to Mr. Wizard from the Toter Turtle Cartoons)

More to follow...