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The first of December found us frantically trying to get everything done to pull out of San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. At 4:00p.m. we finally pulled anchor and headed just a short way down the coast to a small cove with a great beginner surf wave. We spent a couple of days there all by ourselves. Mike and Fletcher went in a couple of times a day to surf. It was very beautiful and such a luxury to be the only boat there! The funny thing was that in this little isolated cove, we got great internet! We were trying so hard to load the website and it had been haunting us for weeks. Still no luck, so frustrating! Our next destination was just across the border of Costa Rica into a bay called Santa Elena. First, we had a big family discussion... Santa Elena was a spot that we had all really been looking forward to. It is located well inside a huge national park and is pristine habitat. However, there is a big point of land to get around after the bay, and the conditions were just right on this day to try to get around it. It is another one of those spots that is notorious for gale force winds. It was quite the decision to make: 1) to go into the bay and take our chances on having a very hard time getting around the point on another day, or 2) to skip the bay and just get around the point. The anticipation of Santa Elena won out. The bay is quite large and beautiful. The howler monkeys serenade you at night and in the morning whole flocks of parrots fly overhead. The fish are jumping and it is just nature everywhere. We saw caimans on shore right around the boat. We took a short walk, dingied around the bay a bit and had a great nights sleep. The next morning we were up bright and early to go up the river in the dingy to try to spot some critters. The only mammals that we saw were bats o, but they were very cute and all woke up and looked at us as we passed underneath them. We saw lots of birds, mostly parrots and then walked up a river to some waterfalls. It was a nice hike where we saw a beautiful frog o, orchids o, and had a great time jumping off of one of the falls o, and sitting under the massage action of another. We had brought a picnic lunch with us and had fun eating by the side of the waterfalls. In the afternoon, we explored some more beaches and went outside of the bay and did our first snorkel of this trip. The water was not real clear, but it was so nice to be snorkeling again. We explored the rest of the bay and even saw some turtle nests on these remote beaches. The next day we nosed out of the bay to see what the rounding of the point would bring. We had a very smooth passage around the peninsula. So far on this journey we have had great luck with our sailing conditions. Even Nancy (who gets seasick) has been able to actually enjoy sailing and looking at the beautiful coastline as we sail past. It was so smooth that we even managed to get some school done! Our next hope was to get to the Murcielagos Islands, which have great diving, but because of weather conditions, are not always accessible. Again, we got lucky, and we had very settled weather. We anchored between two of the islands the first night and did a quick snorkel in the afternoon. It was not very clear, but again, it was just great to get in the water. We also took the dingy and went around a few of the islands. We again saw turtle nests and had fun exploring some of the beaches. The next morning we got up early and dropped Mike in the water of the eastern most point of the islands, where we had seen lots of big fish the day before. Within three minutes he was back in the boat with a large fish for dinner o. We all went for a snorkel after that and the visibility was much better, we saw lots of fish and a bunch of pretty eels. We moved over to another anchorage that was near another dive site around some small rock islands. We did a long snorkel around the whole area to see if we wanted to do a SCUBA dive the next day. We saw a bunch of nurse sharks on the bottom sleeping, this was the first time that the kids had seen any kind of shark in the water, very cool. After our snorkel, we went into one of the beaches and had a nice beach walk. That night there was a beautiful sunset o that we enjoyed with our fresh ceviche dinner. The next morning we were up early and looking forward to our first SCUBA dive of this trip. We went back out to the reef islands. The kids waited in the dingy while Mike and Nancy went under. It was nice to be down under again. It had been over two years since either had been diving. Next, the kids went down with the hooka rig. This is a way that you can dive without having all of the equipment strapped on your back. They both had a great time. It turned out that while Mike and Nancy were down, the coast guard had come by and found these two kids by themselves anchored out in the middle of the passage near a reef! They just wondered about the boat and if we were checked into the country yet. I guess that they were not too worried as they did not stick around to talk to us. After cleaning up from the dive, we pulled anchor to head into a very famous surf spot called Ollie's Point. This is another bay in a huge national park, so there is no town or houses anywhere around, just nature, nature and more nature. As we were sailing in we saw a beautiful rainbow o. The bay is called Potrero Grande and is just awesome. Huge bay with a looooong white sand beach. There is a large estuary at one end which we explored with the dingy. The only great sighting that we had, was as we were coming back out of the estuary, there was a caiman on the shore, right where we had been swimming earlier in the morning. We were the only boat in the bay and felt like we were in paradise, long beautiful beach, calm anchorage at one end, epic surf at the other and pretty protected from the weather. We also were trying to fit school and daily chores into all of this great scenery, although it was kind of tough to enforce when there was so much to do every moment. Sadly, we left this perfect spot and headed down to Playa de Coco to do our check into the country. This was our first challenging passage of this trip. The seas were quite boisterous with winds up to 35-40 knots. We were very glad to get into Coco. The checking in process involves visiting the Port Captain, Immigration and the Customs agent with several different forms that we prepare ahead of time. It was very easy and free to check into Costa Rica. We walked around Coco and had lunch at a local place. We usually get the daily lunch specials as they are very reasonably priced and filling. If it is what the locals eat, we usually eat it too. So far we have had no problems as far as our bellies go and it has always been a good variety and very delicious. After checking in and picking up some fresh food supplies, we moved over to a beautiful bay. It was so calm that we thought that we were on land! The next day was Nancy's birthday and we had a very nice, casual day exploring the beach, swimming and having a nap. Of course a beautiful cake was baked and decorated, a chocolate brownie cheesecake. That night we went to dinner with some folks from another boat that had a birthday that week too. It was a very nice day. This area is so great as there are many anchorages all within an hour's sail from each other. You can have breakfast and a beach walk in one spot, sail to another for lunch and then head to still another for dinner and to spend the night. They are all beautiful and most of them have some good points or reefs to explore and snorkel as well as offshore islands and great beaches o. While we were in this area, on of our goals was to get the kids certified for diving for part of their Christmas present. We researched all of the dive shops and finally narrowed it down. The kids would get a week off from school, but they would be doing dive school, they both took it very seriously and it was good for Mike and I to review the material with them in the evenings. They spent the first two days studying in the mornings at the shop, and then spent the afternoon at a pool to learn the basic skills o. The next two days, the dive boat would pick us all up out at our boat on their way out to the dive sites. They did two open ocean dives a day and we accompanied them on one a day o. The conditions were not very clear, but the kids did great and we now have four certified divers on board. Oh great, now we need to procure two more regulators and BC's! While in Coco we also found a system that lets you make phone calls from your computer. It is so cool and only $.021/minute to call the states. The only thing is that we need to be in an anchorage where there is strong wi-fi. Sometimes we get lucky, and sometimes we don't. It is called Skype if anyone is interested. Once the kids finished their class, we provisioned up and got ready to leave to points further south. We were looking for somewhere nice to spend Christmas and we found in at Danta Beach in (another) Potrero Grande. There were three isolated pocket beaches and only us anchored there. We renamed it "Christmas Cove" and began to bake our Christmas cookies. We had a great Christmas Eve, with a nice dinner on board and opened one present each. Christmas morning found us eating fresh baked gingerbread as we opened our presents. The kids said that it was the best Christmas ever (and we were worried that it might seem kind of skimpy compared to the last two back in the states)! We spent the day on the beach with a picnic lunch o and a hike up to the top of a point. On the way we saw a beautiful, large, blue iguana o. We spent quite some time admiring him. For Christmas dinner we had Coconut Chicken Curry with fresh pumpkin pie o for dessert. Our oven sure did get a workout over the past three days! The next day we moved across the bay to have access to some stores. We were in need of some parts and transmission fluid. While the kids stayed on board and worked on school, Mike and Nancy went on a long walk to find the hardware store. We then sailed around the next point to Brasilito. On the way, two things happened, one we caught a fish that we like to eat, and two, our steering cable broke. We had no way to point the boat in the right direction. We were trying to wrangle a fish and the boat at the same time. One of those slightly stressful moments... Of course we figured it all out and got the fish on the boat and the boat back on course. That night, we settled in and watched a movie after our yummy fish dinner. The next day the kids went into the beach and did some boogie boarding in the large shore waves. The surf spot here was not quite a beginner spot, so the surf boards were not used. Our next stop was Tamarindo, which is surf central, one of Costa Rica's major surf destination towns. Again, as we were coming into the anchorage, we caught another great fish, a Sierra. And, again as we were catching the fish, we narrowly averted disaster, we almost hit the reef. We just have got to stop this fishing thing! NOT! Mike and Fletcher had a great time surfing a couple of the many surf spots in this area. They would go out once or twice a day. We also managed to sell one board and pick up another one while in this great little town. We did some nice long beach walks. We ended up spending New Year's Eve there. On New Year's Eve day, we picked up a girl from another boat and all went into the beach. The boys surfed and the girls boogie boarded and walked the beach collecting shells. We had a fresh ceviche lunch followed by a nap to prepare us for our late night. We tried to stretch the night out by having a late dinner, playing games and watching a movie. Finally, at about 11:00p.m., we all went up on deck and starting watching the festivities in town. There were plenty of fireworks and bonfires on the beach. The kids had sparkling grape juice and Mike and Nancy had their champagne. All in all it has been a very good year!
Please click to enlarge!
Bahia Santa Elena- Bats, Frog, Wild Orchid, Waterfall jumping.
The Murcielago Islands- Fish for dinner, Sunset, Rainbows and Caiman.
Nancy's Birthday Cake, A day on an island beach after a long snorkel.
The kids get their SCUBA certification for Christmas!
Christmas baking, cookies and pie. The presents under the tree. Christmas day picnic lunch on the beach. A new friend.
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