To Bahia Ballena - Gulf of Nicoya

Another nice day sailing and motor sailing about 44 nm in some 8 hours, put us around Cabo Blanco and into the Gulf of Nicoya here in Central Costa Rica, at about 3:30 p.m. As we were pulling into Bahia Ballena, the first bay in the Gulf from the SW, we saw another sailboat - our good friends GALLIVANT! They had left Coco about the same time we had gone to the Bat Islands, and we weren't sure if and when we would run into them again, and here they were! We dropped the hook not too far away from them and they came over in the dinghy and gave us the skinny on Bahia Ballena.

The lowdown was that the "Yacht Club" was not really happening. As opposed to what is printed in the Rains book, the dock there is not a good place to take a dinghy. Apart from the fact that you have to contend with a dozen or more pangas all tied up to the dock with lines and aft anchors, the steps are about 4' above water at low tide. With the 8-10' tidal range, therefore, it is easy for a singly tied dinghy to slip under the dock and then get seriously damaged when the tide rises and crushes it into the barnacles under the dock. Unless you are willing to drop an aft anchor from your dinghy and tie up to the dock in a "med-moor", Bruce told us, it's not a good place.

So early the next morning, to avoid the heat, we took Bruce and Marianne's advice and after the dinghy drill took DITTY ashore to the beach about 1/2 mile NE of the yacht club. After a somewhat exciting landing in the 1-2' surf, we were pleased to find ourselves in a virtual tropical paradise.

The warm waters lapping on the beach were in front of a small dirt road that we followed, passing very nice, lushly landscaped homes set back from the beach. After about 1/3 mile, we found ourselves in the small village of Tambor. Continuing our walk along the beach past the main street, we came upon a charming small resort, Hotel Tambor, all built of natural varnished wood, where we soon found ourselves having a sumptuous breakfast.

After our breakfast, we explored the town a little bit, but it was still early in the day, so almost everything was closed. We stopped by the internet place to no avail, then stopped for awhile to talk to some folks who rented jetskis and atvs and did tours around the area, but by and large, because it was already getting quite warm, perhaps 90 degrees by 9:30 am, after checking out the sleepy little village's grocery, we went back to the dinghy and suffered another somewhat exciting ride as we went out thru the 1-2' surf and shipped about 17 gallons of water into the dinghy, getting totally wet and laughing at ourselves in the process.

As we got back to RHAPSODY, a couple of other boats could be seen entering the bay, about a mile or two in the distance. As we watched them slowly come in, we could make out their names, SECRET OF LIFE, and CHE BELLE. After they were anchored, a quick VHF session ended up with us and GALLIVANT being invited over to SOL for cocktails later that evening. We spent the afternoon reading and doing boat chores, notably putting up a large 15'x20' vinyl shade over the boom and central hatches, since the sky was getting dark and it looked like it might begin raining. With the sunshade in place, we can keep the hatches open for air without getting flooded inside. After that, we took the dinghy over to SECRET OF LIFE for cocktails as a light monsoon rain began to fall.

Terry on SECRET OF LIFE and Dan on CHE BELLE are both here in Ballena Bay as their last stop-off before doing a pretty hefty set of legs to go down to Ecuador. They will sail about 300 nm to Isla Cocos (about 200 miles south off shore and not to be confused with Playa Coco where we stayed), then another 3-400 nm leg to mainland Ecuador. Since Bruce and Marianne are also strongly considering going down to Ecuador this season, they were very interested, as we all sat around drinking beers on SOL, in drilling Terry and Dan about their plans and understandings of the trip. Everyone talked about boats and boat problems, things broken and fixed, and tales of storms, waves, and other encounters during their cruising lives. Terry has been cruising on SOL for something like 14 years and Dan was also a font of knowledge, so it was a very interesting and engaging cocktail hour.

After that, we returned to RHAPSODY for a dinner of hamburgers and fish burgers on the grill. It rained quite hard at one point during that night. The next morning, Bruce volunteered to drop the girls off at the Yacht Club Dock for the weekly Veggie Market, and I stayed on the boat to work on webpages.

Not long after, Bruce dinghied back to say that they were going to weigh anchor and move GALLIVANT to a more protected bay due to the rising swell. He said they had not slept at all well the night before. Once he pointed it out, I noticed that the swell had indeed increased dramatically. We were looking at 3-5' swells rolling under the boats every 10-12 seconds. At that point, you can also forget about taking the dinghy to the beach as the now 3-5' breakers would surely tump it. So after a hasty decision session, we called GALLIVANT on the VHF and told them we would be right behind them.

In near record time, we stripped the boat and got it ready to go, taking down the sunshade we had erected the day before, doing the dinghy drill, and bringing in the rest of the canvas. By 12:00 noon we were ready to go and weighed anchor, leaving Bahia Ballena after spending two nights there.

On the way to Ballena
Images of Bahia Ballena