Month: April 2015

Pitchpoled In Tenacatita

***You may want to pour yourself a cocktail and snuggle up next to the fire before reading this one. It is not a short post.DSCN2370

We had a nice 3 hour jaunt from Paraiso, accompanied by buddy boat s/v Terrapin, we landed in Bahia Tenacatita. “THANK YOU” Terrapin crew for the awesome shots underway. We opted to anchor in front of La Manzanilla for the first night, as we wanted to check out what the little town was all about. We landed the kayaks near some fishing pangas and went on the hunt for a good lunner (lunch and dinner combined – word origin courtesy of BUMFUZZLE) and some excercise beers. We found a random little restaurant with a ridiculously varied menu. Jolanda’s turned out to be excellent. We then walked the beach and found a heladeria and trampoline on the way back through town. After a ROLLY night lying beam to swell, we headed back to shore for the Crocodile tour. It was pretty cool to see these ancient creatures up close and personal. (And for the record, I am not referring to Court as an ancient creature on her up close photo viewed below.)

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After a most snackable lunch of pollo asada, we hoisted the anchor from the La Manzanilla anchorage and had a brisk hour sail over to the other side of the bay, where the primary anchorage is located. I couldn’t help but notice the excessively large swell that had built up in the bay (note this sentence as foreshadowing). We dropped the hook in 16 feet of water and surveyed the nice surroundings. s/v Terrapin had arrived a few hours before us and were itching to get to shore in their two kayaks. They made a nice beach landing cut out in some rocks, near the anchorage, but unfortunately, there was nowhere to walk from there. So, back out to the anchorage they paddled. By this time, we had lowered our own kayak from the deck and were ready to venture with them to the main beach. As a fleet of three kayaks, we started towards the surf landing. My own internal warning mechanism was sounding, as the scale of the waves I was seeing was causing me some concern. Having surfed in Costa Rica for 4 months, while back in university, I had learned an appreciation and respect for the power of water. Captain Phil of s/v Terrapin was having the same reservations about our continued approach to shore. We let “group think” get the best of our own appraisals of the situation and a fairly bad decision was quickly made.

Amy and Emma were the first to start paddling toward the beach. I looked at the swell pattern and elected to enter into the same trough. With some brisk paddle strokes by Courtney and myself, we quickly came even with Amy and Emma’s kayak. And then disaster struck. A massive breaking wave came up from behind us so quickly, there was nothing that could be done. We were now at the mercy of the sea. The kids, Courtney, and myself were forcefully EJECTED from the yak in a pitchpole event. I surfaced quickly seeing the kids floating (in their life jackets) a bit in front of me. I also saw Court in my peripheral vision, treading water, amazingly with paddle still in hand. The kayak was in between us and the kids and my concern was it hitting them on the next wave that was seconds away from breaking. Luckily, it quickly surfed past us to shore. After reaching the beach, the kids were crying, but more out of shock than anything else, as they were safely floating for the entire debacle. We counted all of our body parts and blessings once back on the beach. Amy and Emma also made it safely to shore, less a paddle and some sunglasses.  Where were Phil and Jessica? Fortunately, they had elected to wait for a different wave set and were just barely able to back off the giant wave that nailed us. They, wisely, paddled over to another area, with much less surf, and made a safe landing. One would think this is where the story ends….OH NO GRASSHOPPER, IT JUST BEGINNING.

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We went to a little palapa restaurant and recounted the entire ordeal from beginning to end, over a few Pacifico’s and Coca Cola’s. After about an hour’s time, we realized we needed to formulate a game plan on how to get back out to the boats. We decided to carry the  other two kayaks around the point to the rocky area where Phil and Jessica safely landed earlier, as the surf seemed to be less aggressive. I blew out one of my flip-flops during the kayak transfer, which made it all the more fun on the sharp rocks. After finally getting the kids hauled over to the area, as well, we realized that not only was the surf getting stronger but the tide was coming up. This was no bueno. We shuttled everyone back around the rocky point, across the estuary, and back to the main beach. Oh yeah, and it was approaching sunset. We were in a… how do you say, Pickle?

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Down the beach, a half mile, was a nice looking resort. A quick joint decision was made to seek lodging for the night. We all agreed to share a room, as this was not a planned expenditure. Looking like drowned rats and myself, literally shoeless, we hiked towards salvation. Upon arrival, we sent Amy in to check availability and hopefully book a room. Meanwhile, the rest of us sat on some beach chairs, getting eaten by mosquitoes, while a classy wedding ceremony was underway right next to us. Amy returned with the news. She booked a room. Not just a room, but the last room in the whole place, a junior suite, with max occupancy of four people (read 4 wristbands). And this wasn’t just ANY hotel, this was a Mexican All-Inclusive joint. Not a good thing. For those who have never been to one of these down south, understand this…the security on these properties is tight, real tight. Tighter than the White House, based on recent media reports. Heaven forbid some gringos free-load on some plastic bottle alcohol and institution grade food. Everyone must have a wrist band on this property, at all times. Without a band, you are a trespasser.

The Terrapin crew of 4 went up to the lobby to get “banded.” The plan was for Phil to return to the beach, and smuggle YOLO up to the room. Courtney and I were both skeptical, but you know the saying, “desperate times call for trespassing” (or something like that.) Phil did return and we followed him, closely, up to the room. I spotted no less the 5 security guards on our brief walk. We made it to the room and went straight into the shower, as we were all well covered in sand. During the shower, we heard knocks on the room door as well as muffled conversation. The cat was out of the bag, there were “UNBANDED” people on the premises.  We were instructed, by security, to be off the property in 5 minutes. As I said, these All-Inclusive resorts don’t mess around. Phil and I walked down to the reception desk. After 10 minutes of polite interaction with the desk manager and involvement of the general manager, we came to a reasonable solution (more $$ exchanged) that allowed us to remain, legally, at the resort.


We hit up the evening’s buffet and watched the tail end of a Mexican Independence show that was rather Anti-American. It was made even better by the fact that we were the ONLY gringos at the resort of probably 800 people or so. But, hey, we had food, shelter, and free booze. It could always be worse.

We rousted the next morning, hit the free breakfast and let the kids log some pool time. Presley and Colter even got their faces painted.

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We checked out at noon and made our way back to the beach where disaster had struck 18 hours before. Fortunately, the kayaks were where we left them and the tide was low, which allowed us the best odds of getting back out to the boats. With very careful timing of the swell periods and wave sets, we all successfully got through the surf break and made it back to our boats!

Lessons were learned and memories were made. Adventure? We are living it.



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