Voyage of Escape!

Saturday, March-28-15

Voyage of Escape

Well our voyage of escape from Costa Rica went well. We departed from our little bay in Costa Rica at 3am Saturday morning with Bahia Del Sol in El Salvador as our intended destination.  It was very dark as it was a moonless night but the stars were all in full attendance.

By 7 am we had reached the northern limits of Costa Rica and Bat Island. The tip of the peninsula and area that for the past two weeks has been blanketed in continuous gales. This would be our fifth attempt in two weeks to get around this notorious headland. 4 times we had been driven back to seek shelter in a seclude bay to lick our wounds and question our sanity.

Fortunately, on this attempt,  the high winds and rough seas had subside some. As we rounded the barren rock island, we were greeted with 25 knot winds and 6 to 8 foot seas, a gift compared to what greeted us the previous 4 attempts. On our last try we were smacked with 40 to 50 knots of spray laden wind.

Since we had officially been kicked out of Costa Rica and were forbidden to return, (for at least 90 days) we had no choice but to carry on and find a friendly country.

The condition for the next six hours were a bit rough and I was rather concerned for Jan as the sharp motion was hurting her back. Fortunately the winds dropped and seas leveled out and it turned into a fine sailing day up the Nicaragua coast.

We had two days to get to Bahia Del sol and be there by the 5pm high as that was the only time we could pass over river sand bar into the protected estuary where a nice dock awaited us. We made good time, too good in fact as we arrived off the bar 15 hours ahead of schedule so we had a choice to either anchor and wait for tide change of carry on and make a run all the way back to Chiapas Mexico.

Chiapas is where we preferred to have the boat as there was a better repair facility and the steering was still giving us some grief. (I was not looking forward at attempting to surf Maiatla through the breakers over the bar with bad steering). See below our friends on SWEET CHARIOT crossing the Bar.

Seet Chariot at the bar

See what I mean?

So carry on we did. The fine weather held and we continued to make good time. We even caught a large Jack Gravel that took over half an hour to land which burned both Rick and I out. Nice fish. We even got to see the smoke from and erupting volcano on the Guatemalan coast. Way cool.

Well just over three and a half days after leaving Costa Rica we sighted the harbour lights of Puerto Madera, the home of Marina Chiapas. By 9 pm we were securely tide to the dock and ready for a full and uninterrupted night’s sleep.

We were lucky that our weather window was so good and lasted as long as it did. Just a couple of days after our arrival the weather deteriorated and the radio was reporting 30 plus knot winds and 8 meter seas. That would have been very ugly and I’m sure glad that we didn’t doddle along the way and get caught it that.

We could breathe a deep sigh of relief, but not for long. No sooner had we settled in, I got an email that the project that I had up in the Tar Sands that was scheduled to start in just over a week, was starting now and I needed to get back to Canada asap. So with, that I booked a flight home and left Jan and Rick to bed the boat down for the summer.

Jan is due to fly home next Wednesday. So the boat will stay in Chiapas for the summer and I hope to go back down in July to start on the many repairs in preparation for next seasons cruise. That is if we haven’t had our fill of the tropical heat and corrupt third wold officials.

Bye for now.

Advertisements

Finally got permission to leave Costa Rica. We are Free!

IMG_20150320_132433[1]Friday, March-20-15.

Our tour from customs, Immigration and the port captain went well and fortunately, we did not have to deal with our Nemesis Carlos, the bribe soliciting and threatening customs agent. I dealt with his boss and she was awesome. Ones we are safely out of the country, I will be forwarding to the head of customs and tourism bureau the video recording I made of Carlos threatening us with arrest then counseling us to stay in Costa Rica illegally and go ashore and shop. Hope to get his ass fired.

Anyway, within the hour we will be leaving the dock at Marina Papagayo in preparation to head back to sea. But first we are going to head around the corner to our favorite secluded spot and have a swim and BBQ with our friend Jim on his boat Meand’er, the other Canadian boat that has been interned in Costa Rica for the past two weeks.

The gales have dissipated so the weather is looking good for the 250 mile run up to Bahia Del Sol in El Salvador where we plan on leaving the boat for the next few months and work on her failing systems. The bonus with El Salvador is that there is a cruisers rally going on there with many other boats and dinners and BBQs to help sooth our weary souls.

I hear the marlin are nearby so I will be dragging lines all the way. We still have one black cloud hanging about in the form of steering problems so if you get a message from us in a couple of months from Tahiti you will know why.

Adios for now,

Andy and Jan of Maiatla.

All stressed out, think I need to go to work to recover from my trip!

Thursday, March-19-15.

 

It’s been a rather tiring week here in Marina Papagayo what with trying to get the boat ready for sea and battling with apathetic Costarican Offices. Officials at every opportunity remind us that if we very from the rules, the impoundment and taxation of our vessel was likely. But at least they weren’t still threatening to arrest us anymore.

I had a mechanic come out to the boat to inspect, bleed and refill the boats hydraulic steering system. After a sea trial the mechanic declared the helm pump needed rebuilding and with the availability of parts being no-existent here in Costa Rica, a month would be required to attempt the repair.

When asked if the pump could catastrophically fail, he said no! But it would likely get worse, sloppier steering over time. He then gave his reluctant blessing to head back to sea, that is if we dared.

The marina Lawyer is still fight on our behalf to stay long term in CR and it appears that he is making some headway but ebven if he does manage to pull this off, I’m not sure that we should stay. El Salvador is looking pretty good from here and the weather is shaping up nicely as the gales are dyeing. It still will be a “boisterous” ride But manageable.

Jan and I have decided that we will let the marine continue to see if they can get us Permitted, while we take the boat back out for another sea trial to further check out the steering, Admiral Jan wants to put the boat through maneuvers before committing to fleeing the country.

At least in El Salvador we will have time to work on the boat and make the necessary repairs. This has been a hard voyage and tough on the boat.

Aside from the steering being an issue, the solar panels don’t seem to be charging, (faulty Regulator?)And I may have a bum battery in my house bank. And of course the wind generator also decided to mutiny. So grows my list of repairs.

Anyway today is the day we decide if we go or stay and if we do go, the process will start by revisiting all the government officials that gave us such a hard time.

No-longer under imminent threat of arrest and seizure.

Jan and I celebrating at the Coconut Bar inPlaya Del Coco after leaving the customs office. Pic by Jim

Jan and I celebrating at the Coconut Bar in Playa Del Coco after leaving the customs office.    Pic by Jim

Friday, March-13-15

Well things have progressed a little down here in Costa Rica. Jan and I went to the one-agent customs office in Liberia to get our temporary import permit for the boat re-activated as we were told we could by the Lawyer from the Costa Rican Tourist bureau.

We weren’t happy about the prospect of having to see “Carlos” the same customs agent that had just days before, threatened us with arrest and boat seizure, but if it meant becoming legal again we would face him.

As we got out of the cab and approached his office my final words with Carlos at our last meeting was playing in my head.

His last words to me were “If you stay I will have you arrested!” and mine to him was, “Don’t worry, you won’t be seeing us again.”  That was just a few days earlier and here were, about to confront each other again and I could only assume that he wouldn’t be too happy with me for getting the Canadian consulate, two lawyers and his boss involved.

As we entered the office I was pleasantly relieved to see that Carlos, the agent of all our troubles wasn’t there but another rather rotund fellow, named Marcus sat behind the desk.

Later I we would assume that Carlos’s boss had decided that another confrontation with us and his pissed off agent wouldn’t have been good, so he was pulled from the office, perhaps just for the day.

Anyway, with our cab driver as interpreter, Marcus explained that they would suspend our import permit until we got the boat fix and were ready to leave. So all was looking good. We just had to write a letter (in Spanish) asking for the suspension and bring it back to him in the next couple of days and he would give us a new permit. He re-activated our old one and sent us on our way.

All seemed good but as we left the office, Jan asked me, “did you recognize him?” I thought he looked familiar but I couldn’t place him.

“That is the guy that tried to shake us down for a bribe when we first landed at the airport in January.”

Jan was right. When we arrive back at the boat after Christmas, I had brought with me a bunch of boat parts and a small gas generator. Items up to $800.00 and for personal use (or for a vessel in transit) are supposed to be duty free.

It was Marcus that then said that taxes up to 65% of the value of the item was now due! But if I put some money in the generator box, he would “Inspect it” and he would stamp our papers.

I was upset but being faced with possibility a several hundred dollars in taxes to pay, I had little choice. I discreetly pulled out my wallet and was about to slip a 100 dollar bill into the box when Marcus suddenly got very agitated and told me to put my wallet away and “just go.”

He quickly stamped my papers and sent us out the door as fast as I could push the cart.

As we left the customs inspection area I noticed that a couple of people, one a women had just entered the room. I can only assume it was Marcus’s boss and he didn’t want to get caught shaking down the tourists.

So despite getting our papers re-activated, I didn’t leave with good feeling about the whole customs process that were being forced to wade through.

We took the re-activated papers to the port captain and got permission to move the boat to Marina Papagayo where we will stay until a mechanic comes on Monday to look at our hydraulic steering pump.

While at the marina, the marina lawyer will be looking into getting us a longer extension so we can leave the boat in Costa Rica for the next few months, but considering all that has happened, I don’t think customs will go for it and as soon as our steering is fix, we will get expelled from the country.

There may be a small weather window moving in late next week, and if it appears, I think that Jan and I will be running for El Salvador. But at least if we go now, it will be a legal departure and we won’t run the risk of getting fined our impounded in our next country.

This cruising is not all sipping margaritas and watching fiery sunsets.  I will feel better when Jan, I and Maiatla are out of Costa Rica.

Oh an update on our friend Jim on Meandher. Jim is still hiding out (as best you can in a wide open bay)and waiting for his papers to arrive from Canada. The other day he was sure he was being watched by two police officers with binoculars from their patrol car on the beach. He too is watching the weather.

Under Threat of Arrest in Costa Rica

Thursday, March-12-15.

Crew of Maiatla threatened with arrest and boat seizure by Customs in Costa Rica.

Well it’s been a crazy couple of weeks down here in Play Del Coco, Costa Rica. Our trouble started when we decided to leave Costa Rica and head back to El Salvador.

We checked out with Customs, immigration then the Port Captain. All went well and we were given permission to leave. We then sailed a few miles up the coast to tuck into a nice little bay to wait for the Papagaoyo gale to blow its self out before heading back to sea.

I had previously injured my left arm two weeks earlier in a bad blow near Puntarenas that had us running for shelter at a nearby island. We wanted calm weather now as not to strain my arm any further so we waited.

Well a few small weather windows opened up but each time we pulled anchor, (twice in the early morning and twice at sunset) and headed to sea we found that the weather reports lied and we got slammed with 30 to 50 knots of wind and big seas, the gales weren’t finished.

It was during this time that we developed a serious steering problem as the hydraulic pump would intermittently fail. Not a good situation during a gale. With no break in the weather in sight, with the steering acting up and my arm worse off for the ware, we decided to check back into Costa Rica. See a doctor and a boat mechanic.

We anchored without incident back in Playa Del Coco and went to see the Port Captain and immigration and we had no problems until we went to see the Customs agent up in Liberia. This guy said that we couldn’t come back with the boat and despite a physical injury, and a partially disabled boat and a fierce gale blowing offshore, we were ordered to leave and NOW!

I protested but he was adamant, there was no provision in the law for us to return unless we had been gone with the boat for at least 90 days. We weren’t the only boat here in trouble with this guy.

Jim and his Canadian boat Meandher, from Kimberly BC was anchored near us and he also was under threat of being arrested by the same guy. The customs agent didn’t like Jim’s Vessel registration and demanded a new original copy issued by the Canadian government and that if he didn’t produce it in the next few days he would be arrested. Jim was also forbidden to leave as well.

As Jan and I left this guy’s office, he then said that if we stayed he would have us arrested and the boat seized. And I was to tell Jim that unless he had the document he wanted by tomorrow, he would send the police to arrest him and seize his boat.

We took a taxi back to Playa Del Coco then Jan and I had a rather heated and emotional discussion as to what to do.

I know legally they can’t force an un-seaworthy vessel with injured crew back to sea. But this is a third world country and as is typical, the officials often change the rules to suit themselves and there is little room for appeal.

We finally decided to go back to immigration and the Port Captain, get our international departure papers back, leave  the harbour and hide out in a nearby bay and see if I could get the steering fixed and wait for the weather to settle down. A reasonable plan but a new problem arose.

When we I went to see the Port Captain he told me that he and immigration need new documents from the customs agent before he could give us permission to leave. If we attempted to leave without permission we could be arrested and have the boat seized. I told him what the customs agent said and his reply was, “get a Lawyer!”

Ok new problem.

I have one government agency telling me to leave now or be arrested and two more tell me that I can’t leave, if I try I would be arrested. And if I did sneak out under the cover of darkness, arriving in the next country without proper exit papers they that could  get us fined, arrested, or boat impounded or all of the above.

Jim, I and Jan sat in Maiatla’s cockpit to try and figure this out. Jim was all for running for El Salvador. He had already talked to customs and immigration there and explained our problem.

They remembered both boats as we cleared into Bahia Del Sol couple of months before and they said we could come back without our international Zarpe. Finally officials with some common sense.

I couldn’t believe that here we were, making plans to sneak out of the harbour in the dead of night during a gale that was predicted to last at least another week and run 250 miles to El Salvador.  We had 20 to 30 knots whipping the harbour into a frenzy, I could well imaging what it was like offshore (been there before a few times).

But that’s what we were planning. I decided that despite my hurt arm, Jan wasn’t going. I called a friend who lived a couple of hours away and booked a cab to take Jan there. Jan could fly to El Salvador when I get there in a few days.

It was 1 pm and the best time to leave would be around 2 am so Jan packed her bag. I was mad as hell and couldn’t believe this was happening and all so fast. Jan and I stopped and took a deep breath to try and think this through. Jim and his wife, who was still in Canada both tried to call the Canadian Consulate here in Costa Rica but couldn’t get through but I thought I would try.

I called the consulate and somehow managed to get through. I was first told by the receptionist that this was not a consulate issue.

I lost it on her, “what do you mean? You have two Canadians on a Canadian registered vessel under threat of arrest for just being here and you say it’s not a consulate ‘issue! If this is not what the hell is?”

I finally got past the operator and talked to a now sympathetic consulate, she put me in touch with a lawyer with the Costa Rican Tourist Bureau and the nice lady said that she would check into it and get back to me.

I also called the Marina that I wanted to go into to get the boat fixed and they had their lawyer call the customs office as well.

Customs here has a lot of power and I was hoping that we weren’t just pissing him off even more.

I said to Jim that we need to give these people some time to do what they do and see what happens. Jim didn’t want to wait as the customs agent had already said that he would send the police for him tomorrow.

So we waited but still got ready to run like hell. Anyway, I was surprised that at 4 pm I got a phone call from the Tourist Lawyer who told me that it was all just a “mistake” on the customs part. I can go back to the customs office and get an extension for us and the boat.

So here we are two days later getting ready to go ashore to get our new papers and hopefully get into the marina for repairs. As for Jim, the lawyer said there was nothing they or the consulate could do for him. Jim is hiding out nearby waiting for his papers from Canada to arrive and he hopes that when he presents them to customs they will be accepted and he won’t be arrested.  But if the weather breaks I think he my just run as planned.

So we are off to see customs this morning, wish us luck. I will keep you posted if I can.

Andy and Janet of Maiatla II in Costa Rica