Wed 23/11-2022 Day 759

Pos: 09.4249,-84.1691
Loc: Quepos
Acc: Hilleberg Allak tent
Dist: 71,3 km
Start: 5:55 End: 20:40

It is time to leave this place. The skies are open, and the forecast says little rain today. Still, the breakers crashed all night noisily at high tide on my beach, but I am confident that the low morning tide will make them mellow like the other two days. I should be able to get afloat in the soup zone and wait for a suitable calm set or lull to break out. There is no soup zone at high tide, and the dominant outer brak is too far away to reach safely.
All goes well, and I can paddle out with a few splashes in my face. I know the offshore seas are still high, but as they did not bother me much on crossing the Golf, it should also be acceptable today. The alternative would be to wait for another three days on this beach, which is not a very tempting idea.
I cannot squeeze through the island gap this time but have to round Isla Herradura in a wide berth. A local fishing boat passes me inside. They are way more flexible in reacting to any unexpected breaker, having an engine. A tourist fishing boat stops at the bay entrance and is likely wondering if I am insane to go out to the open ocean and if I might need to call them for help. But when they see me happily paddling, they move on. A similar fancy tourist fishing boat prefers to pass me close by with high speed and, accordingly, high wake. I give them the middle finger for this impoliteness.
Soon, I find my rhythm in the moving seas, but I am happy when the rough island point is behind me, and a long beach expends to my left. Conditions are not too bad now, but far from calm and low. But I chose to be here, and I can handle this. I notice a slow speed and am determined to paddle only to Esterillos, not to get too many hours into the night when approaching Quepos. But will I be keen to land there around high tide? My mind plays through all options, but the possibility of turning back is not among them. I still think that Adrian, my coast guard contact, manages to send out an escort boat for the night hours, like most coast guards in the other countries I passed would have been happy to do. Recently, Guatemala and Nicaragua guided me into the nightly arrival at one of their ports. Not to talk about all those efforts from the South American countries keeping me safe.
When I approach the wide reef area before Esterillos, I read on my chart the name of the headland – Punta Judas. It does not sound attractive, though the landing of Esterillos looks not too bad on the satellite images. But high seas and high tide time tease me to get hopes it might be possible to land there safely. I expected it and stay far out. I keep going to Quepos on a beeline line of hundred and ten degrees and do not even try to get closer. I briefly text the information to Adrian and hope the coastguard sends an escort. If not, I will survive alone, but it would be nice. Soon, Adrian shatters my hope of an escort, as the coast guard might be ‘on a mission.’ No problems. I understand that just in case, nobody would be coming out to fish me out, and this would not happen anyway. I never expect to put others at risk. I am always able to handle the situation by myself.
But it proves to be more challenging than I expected. I decide to make one hopeful landing attempt around three o’clock and paddle away from my direct line about five kilometers off the coast to check on the surf on the receding tide. A ‘sandy’ note on my chart may have triggered that wishful thinking that this might be possible. I like one scary landing on an open sandy beach better than three scary night paddling hours. The surf looks fine for a long while of my one-hour paddle to the coast. The beach seems fine to camp. But when I am already geared up for a landing, I notice this is once more wishful thinking. The surf breaks heavily on the flat sandy beach. Even if I get dumped somehow on the sand in one piece, it might be tough to get out the following day. It will be safer to stay out and to suffer the darkness paddle. And I remember the satellite images showed no difference in the coastline here but a wide surf belt all over. River mouths are all guarded by breakers.
It feels a bit better to be closer to land. As no boat will come to find me, I see no reason to stay on my communicated beeline. I see the rainy sky already for a while hanging over Quepos and hope it will be done when the night falls. I don my jacket under my PFD I wear already all day. I am not cold yet, but rain and darkness might get me there without an additional layer. The rain is not heavy but does not stop when it darkens. I can still see the city’s lights for a while, but soon I have to aim into the pitch darkness of a rainy sky. Thankfully, to my left on the coast are still a few lights visible, and there must be a big boat offshore that has bright lights. I can keep my focus to stay in the dark gap of both lit sides and do not need to use my barely lit GPS screen. It would kill the rest of my night vision. My body and paddling work automatically with the still-rough sea movements.
I have a double red headlamp pointing to the front and rear on my head, which should give me some attention in case a lost boat passes me out here. But there are no other boats. No one else is so stupid to ride through this rough dark rainy night. The red light illuminates my paddle blades and bow a bit, which feels good. But my real friend of this scary night is the intense bioluminescence. It is simply fantastic! Every raindrop explodes in a cluster of bright stars on the water’s surface, and every paddle stroke leaves a shooting star to my sides. My kayak hull shines with sparkles on the tiny bow wave it generates. The occasional large sea creature shoots with a bright trace under my hull. It keeps me entertained, alert, and not lonely on my challenging dance on the dark seas. My ocean treats me well!
The rain is sometimes hefty, but thankfully without additional wind, thunder, or flashes. My recipe for staying mentally happy and focused is singing a random melody from my last playlist. I sing it repeatedly, like a mantra, with text I make up from thoughts coming to my mind. I switched off and stowed away my boom box and phone when I approached land to avoid those precious electronics getting in danger. I would LOVE to have a record of this mantra-sing-along.
The rain and the dark sky ahead of me last for an hour after nightfall before finally, I can see the city lights again. The worst of the night is over. Now it is ‘only’ about endurance and balance, which I know I have. I stop singing myself and manage to fish for my speaker and phone in my day hatch for entertainment. I gulp down a few bars to keep my energy up and drink enough not to get dizzy. I can listen to a text Adrian speaks on my Whats App, suggesting I should land and camp at the calm Naomi Bay next to the marina. But I will not land at a natural beach I do not know in darkness. Although he says it is sandy, my satellite images show it narrow and rocky. I am only focused on finding the safe marina entrance, exit on a floating dock, and crash, happy to be alive.
I know how to find the curvy entrance from satellite images. A red light on the right marina wall and a lucky quick check on the satellite image on my phone confirm my final choice. The walls could be better lit. Instead, the bright lights of the entrance guard house blind me. The surf breaks heavily to each narrow entrance side. No mistake now on the last few meters, Freya… Once safe in calm waters, I see spray breaking over the wall to the right. But I am in and out of danger. I orientate myself and find the low floating fuel dock where I hope to land. No one notices my arrival. Two large Coast Guard boast bob up and down on their only night’s mission to stay safe in the marina.
I remember I saw no slipway ramp or such on the satellite images where I might easier disembark than on a meter-high floating dock. It would not have taken much for me to sit here safely, but unable to get out of my kayak by myself. But not with me; I am a gymnast! A very tired and worn gymnast, I must admit to myself. I find a spot where a rubber fender helps me to hold to a metal attachment on the dock. I sling my bow line around the metal pole so as not to lose y kayak when I make my complicated disembarkment. Thankfully, the pier’s edge is wood, but my kayak has about half a meter of space to slide under the moving walkway. But it does not seem to be in danger of being squeezed to death. I grab the ropes of the fender and somehow get myself sitting safely on the back deck without flipping my rickety kayak. With some last desperate effort at the right time when my kayak is just not half-under the dock, I pull my bum up to an almost upright position and roll on the pier. DONE!
I lay for a while on my back, happy to be alive and to find my body and kayak in one piece. I strip spraydeck and PFD to roll on my stomach and unload bag by bag from the hatches. Only now, I can pull my boat out of the water by myself. Still, no one is around. I walk up the gangway to some buildings to maybe find a water hose or shower but only see a guard on a bike wheeling along my dock. Perfect! It is the one to talk to and to explain my emergency arrival here. Two more guards arrive soon. After many long phone calls, I also could speak to the dock manager Iby who received my email from Sunday evening but has not responded yet. Coast guard member Adrian is also on the phone – as a private person.
After a prolonged freezing and shivering time in wet clothes and an overworn mental and physical state, they see a reason to assist me. I would have erected my tent right here on the spot, as it would be easy, quick, tranquil, and peaceful. But the marina people will give me a hot shower and a safe campsite in the marina area for tonight. Thanks very much! The coast guard seems unable to put me up and look after me as expected and hoped for. Costa Rica has different rules than all the other countries I paddled. Everywhere, as a renowned international sportswoman, I was an honorable guest of the local Coast Guard and Navy. Here, I am not looked after by the coast guard but only by coast guard member Adrian as a private person, who, unfortunately, is not in Quepos at the moment.
My gear is loaded on two marina carts. We walk to the ‘hot’ showers, where I happily strip in the chilly air-conditioned bathroom area. Unfortunately, there is only cold water, but no big deal. Sweetwater is important. At the same time, I listen to and partly can see a gigantic light show with bombastic music around an artificial Christmas tree in front of the marina. I need to get this music! We continue to the sheltered campsite under a roof of a marina building they chose for me. I barely realize it is outside of the guarded marina area on public ground, though in the view of the night guard of the marina on the other street side. They say the night guard would watch over me and my camp. It looks sheltered, clean, and quiet. It even has electric plugs, but the bright neon light cannot be switched off. The guard should be able to watch my camp better well-lit, they say. While I set up my tent and empty the carts, the guards walk off to bring my kayak, which I feel better having by my side at night. So far, so good! Thanks for the shower, campsite, and transportation help.
Once organized, I plug in all my electronics and can keep them on a long cable inside my tent. Not too bad. I have enough water, and food, am showered and washed my hair, and sit on a seemingly safe campsite. Now, I need some physical and mental rest.
My hopes for the latter are shattered soon. I soon realize this building is in no way private and protected but sits only across the marina guard house, but on the public ground next to a street. It is freely accessible by everyone and seems to be a popular meeting spot for homeless, drunken, and drugged people. Soon, three young guys play noisy music twenty meters away from my camp, drink, and talk happily. I am still awake anyway and hope they will soon have enough and will go away for the night. Earplugs are no option here on public land. At midnight, they leave. Finally, peace!
I might have closed my eyes for about ten minutes before I notice a group of three returns, likely the same people, to settle down under my dry roof area. They also seem to like to sleep here, as the space under the house’s roof is dry and clean. Do I occupy their regular sleeping spot? I finally feel misplaced here, being guided in no way to a calm and secure sleeping spot by the marina guards. I instead feel like a luckily gotten rid homeless person, which was, by bad luck, arriving at their fancy marina. Now, they put her to her kind outside their private sheltered area. Did they not know how this place is used at night? I cannot think they realized it.
A silly other homeless man comes to my tent twice, sticks almost his head into my shelter, and calls loudly, “Venezuela! Venezuela!” What? Is that a Spanish synonym if I am available for him? The first time, I ignore the person, the second time, I call him to fuck off.
I dare to talk to the three guys next to my tent, telling them friendly I need my rest after a long, challenging paddle and to please leave this ‘private marina place’ I still thought it was. They become less loud but seemingly settle even more down. One comes back with a filled trash bag he uses as a pillow. Two others are lying on their backs, playing on their phones, and are likely also happy about the electricity access and dry space as it rains again.
Ok, as long as they do not touch my tent and kayak and behave silently, I will accept them as humans also needing shelter in the night. I almost feel like being disgraded to their level. But the silent night I am hoping for is not working out. There is a constant coming and going among the three for bathroom needs behind the house, picking new drinks or food, or for a bike ride. At least one of them seems drugged on ‘Speed,’ as he finds no rest. I constantly hear him slurping with his flip-flops around the whole building. Their conversations also soon become more lively again. Ringing phone noises and the arrival of a car on ‘our’ doorstep a couple of times, spilling out what- or whomever, add to the night’s concert. No way I can sleep at all. No way I would feel safe here with earplugs. The guys seem to respect my privacy and do not touch either tent or kayak directly, but it is not enough for a peaceful rest. I am only cursing out the innocent marina guys who guided me to this campsite. The marina night guard is not keen, able, or allowed to take any action to keep this site quiet and free of people.