March 11, 2000
BananaBayMarina--Golfito, Costa Rica, Central America

Yarns and Characters
By Lois Joy        



One of the joys—and necessities—of cruising is the interaction with other cruisers after one arrives in port. Most cruisers are interesting characters, we’ve found.

We arrived in Golfito March 9th, tired and sticky hot, after sailing overnight, under a full moon, to get here from the wilderness of the Panama coast. It had been 10 days since we left the Balboa Yacht Club at the Pacific side of the Canal. We were in need of rest and the accouterments of civilization. When we first set eyes on the décor of the Marina, highlighted by “Banana Yellow,” we were impressed. This is a place where we could relax and stay awhile. We were also in need of good conversation with other cruisers. Based on our first day here, it appears that this Marina will have plenty of that.

View of the BananaBayMarina from Our Mooring at the Marina.

We were having coffee out at the cockpit table yesterday when Dennis pulled up in his dinghy. He had been extremely helpful to me when I radioed on the VHF for the port captain. Our guidebooks had instructed us to do this here; in fact, they said that one must announce one’s arrival on Channel 16 and then anchor in the quarantine area near the commercial pier.

You are required to announce your arrival as well as departure to Base Naval on VHF channel 16 (Spanish only so buena suerte). Follow the radio instructions of the Port Captain as to chearance. Most often they require you to pick them up in your dinghy so that they can come out and inspect your boat. (From: Cruising Ports: Florida to California via Panama)

Wrong. Forget waiting for authorities to have the energy in this heat to “inspect” your boat! The port captain’s office has air conditioning now. Even the agricultural “inspection” was just a paper questionnaire—although they earned $35 for it!

We’ve found that books are seldom right about these things, and usually outdated. While in Panama we had often repeated the phrase, “Things are never as they seem.” It appears that Costa Rica will be similar. We’ve found that things do change rapidly in the tropics. The “Yacht Club” at Bahia Honda, one anchorage we had selected along the way, was only a little settlement with two families and no services. Another anchorage we’d selected from the The Panama Guide sounded like a dream come true:

One of the most popular anchorages on Isla Parida cluster around the northeastern point. In the bay between Punta Jurel and Punta del Pozo, a Canadian couple, Dave and Sharon Simpson, have based their motor yacht, NICOLA 11, and have started creating a little resort oriented towards cruising yachtsmen and boating people from the nearby town of David. From here one can obtain a ride to Pedregal for business or shopping in David using a local boat or the resort’s 24’ Bertram speedboat.

“Bad News,” we heard from a cruiser coming the other way (toward the Canal), unfortunately looking for fuel at the Bahia Honda “Yacht Club.” “There is no Canadian couple and no resort.” So much for going into David to perhaps make some phone calls, let our kids know we’re OK, and obtain supplies.

The advice and good-natured help from other cruisers has proven invaluable. Dennis is another example of that. Only Dennis had answered my VHF call. Dennis told me how to find the anchoring area, then how to proceed, giving the locations of the port captain, immigration, customs, and agricultural inspection. Then as we offered him coffee, juice, and Royal Dansk Butter Cookies (purchased in Bonaire), he filled us in on the local scene, and alerted us to what we will find as we voyage north up the coast of Costa Rica. Later, Dennis and Casey were part of a group having sundowners at the Land & Sea, a funky yacht services and travel agency near the Banana Bay Marina, where we dropped off our laundry and checked our emails. They had planned to leave Costa Rica yesterday on their ketch, Anastasia, after an unplanned stay here of six year years. Perhaps they’ll leave today. We’ll see.

Following is a sampling of the yarns spun last night. No names are given to protect the innocent!


Her boyfriend of only a few dates had invited her to meet him in Bermuda and to sail his boat back to Massachusetts. She was at the point in her life where she could use a little adventure, so she accepted his invitation and flew down to meet him. She stepped gingerly onto the yacht, in her high-heeled sandals, flowery sundress, and recently coifed hair. This was the first time that she had ever stepped onto a sailboat of any kind!

His buddy was already on the boat as crew for the trip. They would leave tomorrow. “You’ll learn to crew on the way,” her friend assured her.

The first day out of port they ran into a fierce Atlantic storm. It raged for three days and three nights. Since she didn’t know how to sail, the men took turns at the helm. Finally, they were exhausted and could take no more. “Here, you’ll have to steer,” her boyfriend said as he lashed her into the helm station. After a few minutes to see that she could stay the course, he went down below and crashed. Totally wiped out, the men didn’t show for twelve hours.

Our Lady had peed in her pants, not being able to leave the helm, but after those harrowing hours, she had become a sailor! The storm gradually subsided. Faithfully taking her turn at the helm during the remainder of the voyage, they were finally coming near their port. A huge welcoming party was planned.

There were two look-alike harbors along the Massachusetts coast, the first, littered with vessels who had crashed into the rocks and shoals, the second, the “real harbor.” She was at the helm, heading toward the second one, when her friend’s buddy grabbed the wheel and insisted that the first one was correct. He took the helm and promptly added theirs to the vessels lining the shoals. Leaking, it was pulled out, put into a shipyard for repair, and—as the story goes—never made it back out!

They eventually went on to the party via land. During the party, she met the Captain of a boat headed toward Nova Scotia the next day, who was short on crew. “Can you possibly get your gear and be here in the morning?” he pleaded. She thought for a few moments.

“Sure. Why not?” she said. And she was off on another adventure.

Years later, our Lady was still sailing, but in the tropics, where she met the cruisers who told this story at the marina here.


“I didn’t know anything about sailing either when we started out,” added another participant to our storytelling. “In the beginning, I was in love, and I just trusted my man to get us through anything. And knowing this, he never leveled with me. In retrospect, it must have been quite a burden.”

“The voyage down from the Washington coast, along the coastlines of Oregon and California, can get very rough. But I was naïve then, and didn’t know the difference. I had never sailed in the ocean before. One time during our passage, my man looked a little tense at the helm. I peeked out from the hatch, and saw that the waves were very high and the boat was tossing up and down. I thought I’d cheer him up, so I went down below to bake a fresh casserole and dessert. The gimbaled stove was swinging this way and that, and half the time, I was falling down. Finally, after managing to put the casserole in, I finished stirring the cookies while sitting on the floor, the bowl propped between my legs.”

“Later, after I began to understand such things, he told me that we had been in a Force 10 storm with over 50 knots wind!”

We met a charming couple from Washington, Dwight and Fran Fisher, during our lunch at the Marina. They are traveling south down the coastline on their Fisher 30 ketch, called WE THREE. When they talked about cruising, their friends said, “Aren’t you too old for cruising?” To set them straight, they have begun a website for cruisers over 60 (or couples with a combined age of 120) called seniors offshore

WE THREE, the Fisher Ketch owned by the Fishers

Dwight and Fran Fisher 



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