Update # 21 – Arrival at Los Suenos

[Playa Herradura, Los Suenos, Costa Rica 9 38.981N, 84 39.857W]

Our #1 problem this trip has been “how do we get to the beach?”. Coco Beach (10°33’26.09″N, 85°42’0.24″W) was another exercise in frustration. We were anchored in front of a cool-seeming small town, with a wide variety of restaurants, shopping, and things to do, but, our only way to get to the beach was to wade in from the tender. We’ve had crew on the boat the past two weeks, and they had to run me into the beach so that I could clear customs. It isn’t an easy process. We tried beach landing the tender, but the waves turned the tender sideways. With a couple of us we quickly had the tender turned the right direction and pushed out to sea, but it meant getting my shorts wet. Tracking water through the port captain’s office was unlikely to make me very popular. The lighter of our two tenders weighs over 700 pounds. Dragging it onto the beach might be possible. However, with the 10 foot tides the tender would either have floated away or be an impossible drag-distance away from the beach before we returned. The crew would have been happy to deliver Roberta and I to the beach, but we decided the effort outweighed the gain, and just had dinner on the boat (which was very good!). After this trip, I will definitely be dumping the smaller of my two tenders. My current thinking is to replace our current tender with an eight foot inflatable, with “wheels” on it, and a small motor.

Customs clearance was a two day process. On day one, Roberta and I went to immigration, who said that they needed to see everyone on the boat, and set up an appointment for the next day at 8am. We then went to the Port Captain’s office, who took copies of all our papers and said to come back the next day at 10am. Overall, our visits to immigration, and to the port captain went smoothly, but were time consuming.

I mention this only to explain why we were late getting underway on our second day. Our goal had been to catch up with a couple of other Nordhavns cruising in the area. We had spoken by VHF radio in the (very) early morning, and they said they were headed south to go to anchor. They were already underway when I spoke to Scott Bulger on Alanui (Nordhavn 40), and I couldn’t understand what he was saying about where they were going. I decided we’d just head to sea, and call to find them as we worked our way south along the coast.

We pulled anchor about 1pm, with only a loose idea of where we were going. This is a little unusual, but I figured we’d quickly be able to contact Scott and ask where he was, or if he didn’t respond, we’d just pick any good-looking anchorage.

As we headed south, I kept calling for Scott, and he didn’t respond. After an hour of this, I decided “OK. Let’s do Plan B. What’s ahead of us as far as anchorages?” Oops. As we looked at the cruising guides I discovered there wasn’t another good anchorage for another 80 miles! We had just passed “Bahia Brasalito” which was only about five miles behind us. I didn’t like the idea of backtracking, but I like it beats the heck out of arriving at a new anchorage in the dark. And, actually, it was looking like a great anchorage. So, back we went.

There are two side by side bays, each with good anchorage. The northern bay is called “Bahia Potrero” and the southern bay “Bahia Brasilito”. We dropped anchor at (10°24’11.82″N 85°49’0.25″W), on Playa Conchal, in the southern bay.

Sometimes you get lucky. Playa Conchal turned out to be a long pretty white-sand beach, and the water was calm enough that we could even beach the tender. We couldn’t begin our next run until the next morning, so, it was play time! We dropped both tenders. Roberta and I used one to explore an old abandoned marina a few miles north at Flamingo Beach. Meanwhile, Jeff, Kirt and Karl swam and explored the beach via the other tender. The afternoon wound up being a highlight of the trip.

The crew needed to fly out on March 16th, so we were running out of time. We decided to do one more night at anchor, but to choose an anchorage close to Los Suenos, which was 110 miles south. I wanted to arrive well before dark (no later than 5pm), and the guys wanted to run slow enough to fish. We set our plan to run at an average of 8 knots, meaning we had a run of over 13 hours ahead of us. To get to the anchorage at a reasonable hour, we would need to leave by 4am!

To leave the anchorage in the dark, we used the Nobeltec tracking feature (the red trail that is left on the chart showing where we’ve been) to EXACTLY retrace our steps. The run was long, but everyone was excited, as they knew this was our last long run of the trip. Once we reached the anchorage, we would have a short hop across the bay the next morning (to Los Suenos) and that would be it.

We dropped anchor, at Bahia Ballena ( 9°42’57.84″N, 85° 0’38.07″W), at approximately 4pm. Roberta and I wanted to go ashore and find a restaurant, but the little town at the back of the bay turned out to be a “fishing town.” We had hoped to find a tender dock, but the dock would have required climbing five feet up a very rough looking wall, and the town didn’t look, or smell, like it saw many tourists. The “anchorage” consisted of several commercial fishing boats, and us. Later in the evening one other sport fisher dropped anchor near us, but that was it. I am starting to understand that I won’t be seeing other cruisers here.

Even though we only had a couple hours before dark, we decided to drop both tenders. The charts showed a couple of rivers emptying into the bay, and we wanted to go exploring. This would be the crew’s last chance to have fun.

We used every last minute of daylight exploring, and had a blast. Roberta and I discovered one river that we did enter, but we had just barely gotten started when we ran out of light. The crew guys discovered another, but had breaking waves across the entrance and didn’t want to take a chance. Running fast across the bay, I was surprised by a log. In the northwest we have an endless stream of logs to watch out for, but I didn’t expect to see them here. We missed the log and made a mental note to be more careful. 

Dinner was on the upper aft deck on Sans Souci. We had the underwater lights on, and enjoyed watching the fish entertain us while dining….

Waking up the next morning, we got underway at 6am sharp. We wanted to get to Los Suenos early, so that the crew could do any last minute maintenance items before leaving for home.

For those not familiar with Los Suenos it has a tremendous reputation. Prior to Los Suenos there were no nice marinas between Panama and Mexico. Recognizing this need, Los Suenos opened a little over seven years ago. The marina is only a small piece of the story at Los Suenos. They built an entire development, with a marina, homes, condos, a hotel (with casino), restaurants, golf course, etc.

Some of the places at Los Suenos marina:

  • National Car Rental
  • Costa Brava Flowers & Gifts
  • Law Firm
  • Resort Wear
  • Galleria Valanti Latin American Art
  • Bambu Sushi & Asian Cuisine
  • Scotiabank (Bank)
  • La Casa Del Habanero
  • Mega Bytes Internet Cafe & DVD Rentals
  • Dolce Vita Coffee & Sweets
  • Lanterna Ristorante Italiano
  • Terrace Lounge
  • Arco Azul Salon
  • Galeon Restaurant
  • The Hook Up (restaurant)

And more!


I’ve heard several people refer to Los Suenos as the best marina in Central America.

In my last update, I mentioned that Kirt, one of our crew, had said of Los Suenos, that it was “a long way to go to wind up in San Diego.” Having just traversed El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, his comment sounded very positive to me! A little luxury isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In this picture you see me bringing the boat into Los Suenos. Behind me is Jeff. I am getting better at driving the boat, but still wanted Jeff backseat driving me as I brought Sans Souci into the marina for the first time. The turn at the entrance is tight, and I didn’t know what to expect from current or surge.

One interesting thing about Los Suenos – it’s all sport fishers. There is not one sail boat here. As we were approaching the marina, I jokingly mentioned to Jeff that I had a sport fisher dealership in site, but couldn’t find the marina. Later I asked about the demographics of who is here, and it is primarily an east coast fishing crowd. They fish their way south to the Panama Canal, go through, fish here in Costa Rica, then go back through the canal. Here’s the view from my boat:

As I type this, we haven’t yet ventured very far beyond the gates of Los Suenos. Our plan for the next month is to spend about half the time at anchor, and half the time exploring the interior of Costa Rica. It is too early to say how I will like the cruising in Costa Rica. My first reaction is to be a bit disappointed. Los Suenos is certainly as good as its reputation, or better. However, most of the beaches are black sand, or mud, and the water isn’t the crystal clear blue I had expected. I’ll know more once we do some serious anchoring, and very much hope that my first impression is wrong. My guess is that people come to Costa Rica for the waterfalls, monkeys, rain forests and inland touring, none of which we have done yet.

On a completely different topic, I’ve been worrying about our trip to Alaska. For some reason the Panama Canal has a serious backlog of boats. The freighter which will pick up our boat needs to come through the canal, and I’m hearing all ships are being held up for four weeks or more. I had planned a couple of weeks for the boat in Seattle to do minor maintenance prior to going to Alaska. I’m now assuming that we will need to turn the boat around in three or four days. I’m also thinking about a “drop dead date” by which the boat ships from Costa Rica to the northwest, or we have to reconsider the Alaska trip. The official word from Yachtpath (the shipping company) is that all is well, and that we will depart as scheduled. I hope they are right. One nice thing:: Sans Souci doesn’t really need any maintenance! If we had to leave for Alaska today, there’s nothing that would slow us down.

My next update may not be for a week or two. I want to wait until after we’ve done some anchoring to report further.

As always, thank you!
Ken Williams 
kenw @ seanet.com



Your Email (my responses preceded by +++)

Hi Ken and Roberta,

Glad to hear that you are comfortable in Costa Rica. When we decided to order 500 t-shirts for FUBAR, I was wondering what we would do with any left-over’s. Bruce assured me that we would take them on Cadenza and give them out along the way. He laughed and said that we would see those yellow shirts all over Mexico for years to come. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one would make it to Costa Rica.

Some people are still talking about getting more than one copy of your blog, I noticed that some of our FUBAR participants are on the list twice with different email addresses, I know that I was and most of our administrative team. I have deleted many of the duplicates that I knew about from the FUBAR mailing list but I suspect that they are still on your list twice. You might ask those who are still getting two copies to check their receiving addresses.

We enjoy reading about your adventures.

Donna and Roy

+++ Donna and Roy were organizers on the Fubar rally from San Diego to La Paz Mexico. As to the dual copies of my blog that are going out: There are certainly some people who are receiving it at multiple addresses, but most of the people who received multiple copies did so because I accidentally sent it twice. I am probably as well set up for internet access as a boat can be – but, even with that, things are far from perfect. Not all my email is being sent, and other emails are being sent multiple times. It is really frustrating, but there’s not much I can do about it.

+++ On the topic of Internet at sea: I’ve been studying my options, in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Alaska. Here’s a quick summary of the options…

WIFI – the single most important thing every cruising boat needs for internet access is an enhanced wifi antenna, allowing you to pick up remote wifi signals. Wifi is the cheapest and fastest solution for internet 99.9% of the time. Most marinas have wifi, but, generally they don’t have very good antennas. If your slip is not near the harbor masters office, or if you are at anchor in front of the marina, you can’t pick up signal. I use the system by Syrens:http://www.syrens-at-sea.com/

EVDO – wireless air cards used with cell phones work great close to shore inside the US. They are cheap and the speed is decent. Unfortunately, they only work where cell phones work, and outside the US I’ve found the cost (when it does work, which isn’t often) to be prohibitive. Check your service provider before using these things outside the US to determine cost. I was blindsided by a $1,700 bill for two days of use in Ensenada.

Cell phone – My Verizon cell phone (8830) works to check my email (most places, but not everywhere), and I haven’t seen big bills from it.

Fleet 77 – This is what we use on Sans Souci when everything else fails. It is slow, but not horribly slow, and has two modes: expensive, and really expensive (about $7 a minute or $70 a megabyte!). It works virtually everywhere in the world, and is very reliable.

BGAN – A new system called “Fleet Broadband” has recently come onto the market. It is a 10th the cost of Fleet 77, but doesn’t have coverage in the northwest or the Pacific. I use a non-stabilized version here on Sans Souci with great results. (The Hughes 9021) Allegedly there will be another BGAN satellite launched later this year, after which BGAN will have the same coverage as Fleet 77. When that occurs I may change over.

VSAT— Vsat is fast, and importantly offers an expensive “all you can eat” plan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have great coverage around the world, and uses a large dome. My current cruising plans won’t let me have vsat. dear

love your blogs with regards couple of weeks ago leaving port when marina was closed down i agree with joe k do you realize that you could have created a serious incident i have been in lifeboats all my life saving people at sea what you did was crazy and i agree with joe k i would have sacked your crew and given you a red card for 6 months yours tim

+++ We left the port early in the morning, before the winds had come up. We scouted the entrance, including passing through it multiple times on the tender, and checking depths. We were comfortable that the entrance was fine or we wouldn’t have passed over the bar. We were confident that had the harbor master been there she would have green lighted our passage. If there had been any doubt, we would not have gone.

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