Dog days

We are in a fugue state. What was supposed to be a lovely interlude of touring and exploring while we wait for our new rig has become a stressful nightmare of bureaucracy and stasis. We get conflicting information whenever we try to resolve the situation, and given the stone wall that is the local customs agent, we can’t even go to the source.

Exacerbating our plight is that our battery bank died. Yes, it had to choose here and now, in the most expensive place we’ve ever been, to go south on us. We found a store that said they had what we need at another of their locations and they could have them here in Golfito — for three times what they should cost — in three days. That was ten days ago. And the net effect is that instead of trying to find batteries nearby and for cheaper, we make daily pilgrimages to the store only to be told “they’re on the truck” or “I’m waiting for the driver to call.” At this point I call bullshit and want to tear his head off.

Our batteries no longer take a charge at all. We have to run an engine several times a day to keep the refrigeration going; there isn’t even enough charge to start the generator. The main engines have their own start batteries. We can’t run the watermaker and of course for the first time since we’ve been here we’ve been rain free all week. With barely any water in the tank we have to haul buckets of seawater to flush the toilets. This is not fun.

So as always, our real problem is the immigration/customs thing. We had such high hopes that we could leave the boat and go touring, especially to Peru and Machu Picchu, but that’s starting to look less likely as time goes on, only because Costa Rica has decided to treat yachts like undesirables.

Our first delay was because they insist on seeing the original Coast Guard documentation — the only country we’ve ever been to that does, and a problem for many yachts that come here. So between the initial first month of dealing with the insurance claim, then the second month of trying to get our renewal document so we could get permission to stay here, we lost two lonely months mouldering in Golfito, not the paradise of crystal clear water I’d hoped for.

After presenting our new papers to customs, we were only granted another three weeks. So now, in addition to tiptoeing around waiting for our extorsion-priced batteries to arrive so we can actually leave the boat for more than a few hours at a time, we have to launch into a full court press of trying to get permission to remain in Costa Rica long enough to get the new rig shipped and installed. The attorney we spoke to never called us back, and last night we learned from a delivery skipper that we have to present ourselves to the main customs office in San Jose to apply for an extension. Why are we just learning this now???

Of course we can’t go anywhere with dead batteries, unless we discard the food in the fridge and freezer and shut the boat down and hope there’s no need for a bilge pump while we’re gone.

I am, as you can tell, furious. I’m mad that Costa Rica has been a disappointment to us so far, with the exception of my wonderful family. I’m mad that we may lose this opportunity to travel to Machu Picchu; we can’t even make plans or reservations because we don’t know from week to week how long we will be able to stay in the country. I’m mad because I’d like to learn to dive but there’s no place nearby and we can’t leave the boat. I’m mad that we aren’t getting any exercise because it’s too hot to do most things, and the water here is filthy so we can’t swim. I’m mad because the new battery bank puts a serious unexpected dent in our budget and we’re being completely ripped off. I’m mad because Costa Rica has stupid, stupid rules about yachts. I’m mad at the rude woman at the customs office who is notorious in cruising circles for making it as hard as possible for yachts to visit this country, and yet she still has a job. And I’m mad that I’m mad. I wish I could just chill and read and do little projects around the boat and be happy with that. But we’ve been doing that for two months and I’m bored to tears. We’re lonely for cruiser company.

We’re in purgatory.


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6 Responses to Dog days

  1. Russ

    Have you tried reaching out to the US Embassy in San Jose. Their number is
    104, San José
    +506 2519 2000.
    They are open every weekday from 7:30 to 4:30 except Friday they close at 1:00. But open at 7. They may be able to expedite your USCG documentation papers.

  2. Sorry to hear your latest problems. I hope they all get resolved soon.

  3. Martin

    Mechanical problems must be bad enough, but unhelpful, untruthful folks and ridiculous rules compound them, and are harder to put up with. I hope this nonsense is behind soon, and that you can relax a bit.And a pox on that troublesome woman for making life hell for visitors.

  4. Bummer. We’ve had a few of our 47 countries want originals, but most are just bureaucrats.

  5. It’s good that you vented on the blog…I’m sure between the two of you it gets tiring with each other’s frustration. Vent to the internet as much as you want and keep your chin up!

  6. I have such empathy for the two of you and can only imagine the mix of frustration, sadness, and disappointment you are experiencing. Your Costa Rican experience has truly been unpleasant. I am crossing my fingers (and toes) for you that your batteries arrive soon, so that at the very least your quality of life can improve a bit…may the other elements fall into place soon as well. Cheering you on from Seattle, Jessie, s/v The Red Thread

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