Monday, May 16, 2016

Puntarenas: Misinformation and Hostile Officialdom

I’ve been in Puntarenas on a mooring at the Costa Rica Yacht Club (CRYC) for five days now. I came because CRYC seemed like a good place to leave Intermezzo for the summer. I had called from El Salvador in early April and spoke to their guest and visitor service manager, a very friendly and pleasant woman. One of the primary attractions of the CRYC is that they have a Travelift so that Intermezzo could be hauled out and stored on land (“on the hard” in yachting terms), which was preferable to me over the boat being in the water for six months growing barnacles and eating up zincs. I asked if the CRYC Travelift could accommodate Intermezzo’s nearly 20 foot beam and was told it could. I asked if I Customs would allow the boat to be stored on land for longer than the normal 90-day temporary import permit period. I was told that shouldn’t be a problem.

Well, yesterday I measured the Travelift. It is only 17 feet wide. And today I learned from Customs that the only way to keep the boat here longer than 90 days is to request an extension because “repairs or maintenance” are needed (wink-wink). Bummer.

The marina next door, Marina Puerto Azul, is a nice place but more expensive than CRYC and no Travelift, so wasn’t at the top of my list. However, “Sarana’s Guide to Cruising Pacific Costa Rica and Panama” states that this marina can “bond” boats so that they can remain in Costa Rica beyond the 90-days, provided they don’t leave the marina. So, after the double blow at CRYC, Puerto Azul ascended to my number one option. I went over and spoke to the marina manager, a really nice guy whose girlfriend’s small Prout catamaran is moored right next to me at CRYC. He told me that Puerto Azul does not bond boats but that he would contact Customs, as his experience is that they treat permit extensions on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, he was told the same thing by Customs, that the only way to extend beyond the 90-days is to “play the mechanical repair game”, which he didn’t like doing.  I suggested, okay, how about I take the boat out of Costa Rica after 90 days and then return and get a a new 90-day permit? He told me that the boat has to be out of Costa Rica for 90-days before another temporary import permit can be issued. He also said there are only three marinas that bond boats, one is always full and very expensive, the other two are in Golfito further south where it’s really rainy and your boat grows mold. Again, bummer.

A couple of short gripes. First, the cruising guides, Sarana’s and also Raine’s “Cruising Ports, the Central America Route” are horribly out of date and inaccurate, despite being advertised and sold as “regularly updated”. Unfortunately, there are no alternative publications, so these authors can get away making a few minor updates and misrepresenting their books as being current. The Raine’s book particularly ticks me off because it costs $70. Secondly, why is Costa Rica so unfriendly to foreign boats to the detriment of their tourist and marine businesses? Mexico issues 10-year permits, El Salvador and Nicaragua have no set limits, Panama issues one year permits. Costa Rica’s 90-day permit seems to be aimed towards deterring foreign boats from visiting and spending money in the country. It makes no sense to me at all. 

So, now I have to decide what to do. Turn around and return to Nicaragua? Leave the boat here for the 80 days remaining on my permit? And then what?

I’m feeling pretty lonely, a bit frustrated and somewhat worn out by the tropical heat.  I really want to head home. So I figure I will leave Intermezzo here, fly back in late July and then sail back to Nicaragua and leave Intermezzo in Puesta del Sol until October. It will result in an additional roundtrip airfare, sailing during tropical storm season and wrangling with insurance to modify coverage, but I just don’t have it in me to backtrack right now and it isn’t a good time for Renee to leave her mom to help me sail back. I’m going to sleep on it, see if I feel differently in the morning.

I appreciate that my little boating problems are trite compared to the awful daily struggles many people face each day. I try never to lose sight of that and remain grateful for the opportunity to take this journey. Even when officialdom and inaccurate information deal me frustrating blows.