Leaving Golfito and heading home
27 May 2019 | Back home in Oregon
Barbara Johnston | Beautiful, warm, clear
We had made a couple of road trips from Golfito which I told you about in my last post. Coming back to Golfito we found things relatively unchanged. The weather was beastly hot when the sun was out, and only slightly cooler when it clouded over and the rains came. We noticed that the rainy season had definitely arrived, and the daily pattern was to have some sun, some clouds and at least a shower, if not a downpour. Most days there was thunder and lightning, sometimes for several hours. We scheduled our activities to fit in between the weather changes, avoiding both full sun and downpour. In San Vito we had acquired a pair of umbrellas, and those certainly came in handy.
On May 12, we were eating in the Fishhook Marina's restaurant, and I walked down to the boat to retrieve something. As I came back up the ramp, everything started to shake. I could see the pilings under the building shake back and forth, and the burgees decorating the ceiling inside the restaurant flailed wildly. The ramp was also shaking. This continued for 5 or 6 seconds and then stopped. Craig squirted out of the restaurant and onto the ramp, not wanting to be inside when the roof came down (which it didn't, of course). Then everything back to normal. Someone told us that Costa Rica experiences 700 earthquakes a year, but this was obviously stronger than most. It was centered close to the border with Panama, and magnitude readings came in at between 6.1 and 6.7, depending upon the news source. Our friend, Joe Carr, saw a news article about the earthquake in a Canadian newspaper, and he wrote us referencing the news article. What was somewhat bizarre is that the illustration for the article was a picture of the Puerto Armuelles dock, already falling down when we visited it just before reaching Golfito. It might look to readers like it was an illustration of a bad quake, but to us it looked pretty much the same as when we had seen it a few weeks before. There apparently was not much damage anywhere, just groceries falling off shelves in stores and that sort of thing.
Other than that earthquake, every day's high point was receiving an email from SevenStar Yacht Transport, giving us an update on when we might see the MV Kraszewski, the freighter designated to take Sequoia north to Victoria B.C. We had been told several months ago that our proposed shipping date of about May 20 was being moved up, and that the freighter might arrive about May 8 or 9. On that basis, we made an early arrival to Golfito on April 23. Throughout the end of April and the beginning of May the arrival date began to creep later and later, until finally the predicted arrival date was back to May 19. On May 18 we tuned into the Panama Canal's web cam and watched the Kraszewski going through the Gatun locks and then the Miraflores locks, and we thought for awhile that they would make it to Golfito by the 19th. The agent sent us loading times for the 20th: Sequoia would be loaded at 10 am and Julia Max at 10:30 am. On that basis, we bought airplane tickets for the 21st.
May 19 came and went, with no sign of the Kraszewski. But May 20, at breakfast, we watched the ship come into the Golfito Harbor, and we prepared to head out and be alongside a few minutes before 10 am. Fortunately, it wasn't raining, but the sun was brightly shining, and it was hot. We had taken down all the canvas for the passage aboard the freighter, so there was nowhere to get shade except to go all the way inside the boat.
The Kraszewski was already well behind schedule. They rearranged the order of the boats being unloaded and loaded, and we were obviously not going to load at 10. We milled around, motoring upwind, and then turning off the motor while we drifted downwind, back toward the freighter. We did that over and over, taking care not to run into Julia Max, which was doing the same thing. Noon came, and they all quit for lunch. Everything moved glacially slowly, and great amounts of time were spent changing the crane fixtures for lifting the various types of boats. This was a vastly different operation than what we had seen on each of our previous SevenStar voyages. The Kraszewski is not owned by SevenStar's parent company (Spliethoff), but instead is an independently owned freighter, chartered by SevenStar. Some of the crew didn't seem to have any idea what they were supposed to be doing. A SevenStar loadmaster was present, and fortunately he was completely fluent in English and Spanish, working at a breathtaking pace to keep everything in order. Finally, at about 3 pm we were told to come alongside. The sea was getting rough, and we hastily rearranged the fenders to avoid transferring too much of the freighter's paint onto Sequoia's rub rail.
The loadmaster and about 4 of the Kraszewski's crew climbed down a rope ladder onto Sequoia's deck. It took a long time for the lifting straps to be properly positioned, and the boat was far from level on the first lift. The loadmaster didn't like it, they set the boat down, repositioned the straps a bit, and then pulled it up again. It was a bit more level and they nestled Sequoia down into her designated location on the deck. Straps were tied to hold her in place, jack stands along both sides and wood under the keel, all before they released the straps to move on to lifting Julia Max.
Craig secured Sequoia's backstay and we made a few other adjustments, watched while Julia Max was nestled in beside us, then we climbed some very rickety stairs down to the water level, where a small boat awaited to take us back to the marina. It was VERY dicey climbing onto that small boat from those rickety stairs, but we made it. By the time we got back to the marina it was starting to get dark. (It was an all-day exercise as you can see). All day in the sun, and Craig had a sunburn - his first of the trip.
The last three nights of our time in Costa Rica we stayed in one of the hotel rooms at the Fishhook Marina. The air conditioning was very nice, and the room was worth the price. We had dinner and went to bed very early, anticipating our 5 am alarm clock so we could depart at 5:30 for the Golfito airfield.
Our flight from Golfito to San Jose, the capitol of Costa Rica, was scheduled to depart at 6:40, and we were told to get there an hour early. The "terminal" was an open-sided corrugated metal shed, manned by a security guard. When we arrived, there was no one else present, although we were told that the plane would hold 12 passengers and that it was to be full. In the shed, there were about 8 beat up seats, a scale, some chocks for the plane's wheel, a big battery on wheels, and a couple of toilets behind appropriately labeled corrugated metal doors. There was a separate office, apparently for the security guard, door standing open, and an open revolver on the top of the desk.
Finally, a very elderly gentleman showed up and began the process of checking us in. They weighed all the bags to be checked, and then weighed each passenger, carrying his or her carry-on. Eventually the plane arrived, the pilot and co-pilot took advantage of the restrooms and then they and everyone else loaded on, together with all the baggage. We managed to snag seats right behind the pilot and co-pilot, and really enjoyed the flight and all the beautiful views of the jungle and the ocean. The day proceeded with Alaska Airlines flights from San Jose to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Seattle, Seattle to Portland, arriving finally at 11:15 pm.
We've slept a lot the last few days but now we're emerging from the mists, eager to tackle the house chores and the big projects that await us.
We'll head up to Victoria in a couple of weeks to watch as they lift Sequoia off the freighter and we once again take possession of her - hopefully none the worse for wear. We think we'll bring her right back to Portland, although the idea of cruising in the San Juans this summer is also certainly tempting. Stay tuned for the last episode of this blog - at least for awhile!