Fun In The Mercialagos Islands
12 October 2007 | Mercialagos Islands, Costa Rica
Yesterday we sailed to the Mercialagos islands, a beautiful chain of islands located at the northern most tip of Costa Rica. Nicaragua lay just 50 miles north of us, and could almost be seen in the far distance. The sail out here was actually fantastic with excellent winds at a good angle. By no means do I consider myself an experienced or seasoned sailor, but I quickly learned about the angle of the wind, and how it directly relates to the way the boat rides, and how easy or difficult it is to make a peanut and butter sandwich while underway. We had a great angle (about 90 degrees off the bow...which means the wind was blowing almost directly on the beam) with consistent 15 knot blows, so we made zipped out to the islands quite quickly. We spotted 3 whales just as we got underway, which was fun for Kim and Janelle to see. Unfortunately we see fewer whales as we move further north and later into the seasons. However, we hope to spot some as we pass through the Sea of Cortez. Dolphins and a few large turtles also waved as we silently made our way through the swell and waves. The only let down of the trip out here was the fact that we did not catch a single fish. This posses a potential serious problem as we planned on eating fresh fish for meals, so kitchen creativity will be forced into the mix of things. Once again, this brings me back to the principle of "planning" and the difficulty of it. I continually remind myself to plan for the worst and hope for the best, although that is regrettably difficult at times.
We anchored in a breath taking cove just off Isla San Jose where a single ranger lives. We went ashore briefly to check in with the ranger and advise him of our presence. The term "ranger" to most people normally paints a picture of a earthy looking man or woman, dressed in some sort of green or dark khaki shorts, and most likely wearing hiking boots with knee socks. This wasn't the particular case on this pristine island as we met the young long-haired, bare-chested, board-short-wearing dude sitting on a wood table outside. He wasn't too terribly interested in seeing our documents or papers and basically smiled and gave us the thumbs up approval. We were also pleasantly surprised to find a small group of American university students camping on the island and studying marine biology. They were very excited to see us which makes me believe few people visit this interesting place.
We anchored the boat in a perfect spot giving us access to hiking trails, nearby reefs for snorkeling, and endless exploration via kayak. We checked all the "to do" items off the list and had great fun while doing it. The hike to the top of the adjacent peak provided us with stunning views of the islands and pacific. We took tons of pictures along the way and managed to get up and down with limited slip and falls. Snorkeling was exciting as well with tons of colorful reef fish, numerous moray eels (green, spotted, and white-very rare), and clear water. The highlight for me was actually when we were done snorkeling. Large turtles populate these waters and one came drifting in towards the boat just as we were putting our gear away. I surely wasn't going to let the guy float by the boat without saying hello, face to face. So I quickly donned my gear, swiftly and quietly slipped into the water, and slowly approached the large amphibian on the surface. I am a big fan of sea turtles simply based on the fact that they live in the water their entire life, breath air just like I do, and look totally prehistoric. This turtle was quite large too, possibly weighing easily over 100 lbs. I did not want to disrupt or scare it in any way, so I figured I'd let the bugger float toward me as I calmly sat neutrally buoyant in the water. We eventually met face to face and I stared into its dark eyes, wondering what it was thinking or how it would react if I gave him a friendly pat on the back. I swam along with the prehistoric creature for a bit and eventually grabbed onto its shell, which was approximately 3-4 times the size of my torso. The friendly giant didn't seem to mind and we peacefully rode the current together for a good 100 yards. I said goodbye, wished it a safe journey, and swam back to the boat. So, I guess I can now cross "giant turtle rides" off my list.
Julie managed to prepare a glorious dinner and we had a fun evening looking at Chris and Julie's pictures from around the world. Tomorrow we plan on sailing back to Playa Del Coco and signing up for a canopy jungle tour, which should get adrenaline going in the morning. I plan on passing on the coffee for the morning in hopes to keep the jitters down.