Costa Rica

This Boat is For the Birds

Pelican boat take-over

This boat is for the birds!

We went on a boat hunt.  We found a slew of cheap boats for sale on Craigs List. One ad says, “Motivated Seller”.  We answered, and 3 days later we got a response. None of the questions we asked were answered, but at least there was an indication the boat was still available, and there was a live person attached to it.

A friend of ours, Sergio, heard about one a friend of a friend was selling cheap. It hadn’t been used in 3 years and was sitting in the harbor off Puntanenas, Costa Rica. He didn’t say it was on the other side of the harbor in Tambor.

The plan was to pick up Sergio at 6:00 a.m. in Atenas, drive to the ferry in Puntarenas, get a good place in line for the 9:00 a.m. ferry, have a leisurely breakfast, head across the harbor, drive to the boat dock in Tambor, and check out the boat.

Sergio was at the designated meeting spot when we pulled up at 6. I climbed in the back seat to give him the roomier front seat of our little Hyundai. As we puttered up the steep mountainous highway, and had to downshift to second gear, then first to make it, Sergio good-naturedly dubbed it “El Rojo Poderoso” (The powerful Red).

We were proud of ourselves for being so organized; we purchased the proper ferry tickets, both vehicle and passenger, we were the second car in line waiting to board, and there was a breakfast soda (café) directly across the street. With over an hour before boarding time, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and somehow lost track of the time. I felt a stirring of the atmosphere and suddenly looked up to see the long line of cars moving onto the ferry! “Hurry, they’re boarding!” I shouted. “We need la cuenta (the bill)!”

Sergio said to Don: “Run. Go get the car on the ferry. I’ll pay the bill.”

As he sprinted across the street, I realized i had all the tickets in  my purse. I charged after him waving the papers in my hand. Sergio caught up just as the gate was closing! Whew. Phase one, complete! Now for the hour and a half ferry ride across the bay. 

Ferry ride

Sergio and Carole Jean

The ferry ride was pleasant with lots of options for passing the time; there is an air-conditioned lounge with a full bar and self-serve restaurant, there are two levels of open-air seats where you can enjoy the scenery, and there is an outdoor bar where the music is blaring, and the dance floor is wide open. Not bad for the price: $1.70 per passenger and $24.00 for the car and driver each way.

We disembarked in Paquera on the Nicoya peninsula, which is known for its delicious papayas, and hit the road for the drive to Tambor where the bargain boat was waiting. On the forty minute drive to the boat harbor, I envisioned being met by the owner, who would be dressed in a crisp white shirt, khaki shorts, and a captain’s hat. We would be squired to the yacht in a pristine dinghy and possibly have some umbrella drinks on board while he showed us the lovely appointments of the yacht.

The cartoon bubble above my head burst as soon as we slid to a stop on the dusty dirt road in front of the harbor. There was nobody to meet us. There were a handful of fisherman sitting around on over-turned buckets and a couple cleaning their catch of the day.

We had been emailed a photo of the boat and recognized it sitting in the water. It was covered with birds! Sergio got one of the idle fishermen to take us out to the boat in his panga, which was clean and dry.


Panga boats

When we told him our destination, I could swear he was smirking. He explained the boat had been sitting there for three years. THREE YEARS?! I’m no boat expert, but even I know you can’t leave a boat sitting for that long. As we approached, I thought it didn’t look too bad. Perhaps it was because it was covered with pelicans and seagulls, and I couldn’t see the actual boat. As we got closer and the birds fled, my sense of smell was assaulted!  I pinched my nostrils to ward off the putrid stench, and my smile turned to a grimace.  As we pulled alongside, I prepared to board the vessel. I reached up to the gunnel, and my hands slid off due to the thick layer of bird droppings. Talk about your poop deck! I sat back down and decided I had seen enough. I saw the name of the boat still barely visible on its side: “O ‘Day”, which I interpreted to say “Oh Dear!”, let’s get outta here! This boat should be re-named the U.S.S. Pelican Poop!


Pelicans have been here!

Close-up of sailboat

Close up “Oh Dear”!


The O ‘Day

Not to be discouraged by a little surface grime, my husband bravely climbed aboard and inspected the interior. He poked his head up and placed his hands about a foot apart indicating the amount of water inside the boat. Sergio and I looked at each other and shrugged. Our panga driver started laughing, and I shouted for Don to hurry and get in the panga, and get back to shore.

My hubby, ever the optimist, jumped into the little boat smiling. “Eh. I’ve see worse. Offer him a thousand bucks!”

“Honey, even if he gives us this boat for free, we’re not taking it. Let’s go have a nice lunch. A whole fish and a glass of chardonnay sounds good to me.

He persisted: “I saw one that was under water for months, and it was resurrected. A little power-wash and some elbow grease. This could be a great boat. We’ll have to buy some sails, but I’ll find them cheap on Craigs List.

Make that TWO glasses of chardonnay.

We piled into little “Rojo Poderoso” and Don kept nattering on about the possibilities of this boat. I did the mature thing: I put my fingers in my ears and chanted: “lalalalalalalalalala!” Sergio kept smiling and nodding. He speaks English, but I think it’s like my Spanish. I smile and nod even when I don’t really get it; I get the gist of it even if I don’t understand every word. Good thing, in this case.

We found a fabulous fish restaurant complete with white linens, and raced down the road to make the 2:00 ferry. Rojo Poderoso got us there, we had a quiet ride back to Puntarenas,

Car on Puntarenas Ferry

Rojo Poderoso

I’m looking forward to the next boat-shopping adventure. I hear there’s one available in Puerto Viejo for cheap. Maybe we can paint it loud colors, decorate it with rubber chickens, partner up with  Jack and call it the “Outback Jack” boat!

18 thoughts on “This Boat is For the Birds

  1. Oh Carole, you are EVER the good sport! You make everything an adventure, what a fabulous story – since I know the backside to it, I would say that this is truly magnificent. Like you.


  2. You have a gift for making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! Poop deck, indeed. Yuck!

    Fun seeing you last night…


    On Sun, Mar 9, 2014 at 9:58 AM, Carole Jean’s Capers wrote:

    > CaroleJean’ posted: ” We went on a boat hunt. We > found a slew of cheap boats for sale on Craigs List. One ad says, > “Motivated Seller”. We answered, and 3 days later we got a response. None > of the questions we asked were answered, but at least there was an > indication the “


  3. I can see it now; or maybe I don’t want to. Enjoyed your humorous tale of boat shopping. Bill and I owned 2 boats when we lived in Florida. Total ownership time probably 3 years and total number of times our boat(s) were in the water; probably 3 times. Good luck, ta-da, Mary


  4. Carol, What a day you had! I feel like I was right there with you , both of us, holding our breath, and gasping at all the bird poop, while still giggling at what was discovered. Thanks for sharing. You have such an interesting life. Every time I read your blog, I feel like I’ve been on an adventure..


  5. OMG! You had me in stiches! That is a riot! You are on the right road ,,,,,getting a nice
    boat down there is indeed a “cherry” idea for sure! Rots of ruck! I know you will do it
    Look for a catamaran and go to the Carib….XO


  6. Hi honey,

    Not sure where I am, however, I have a ticket to SJ Costa Rica in my hand.. Home soon..
    Load the diving gear into El Rojo Poderoso, found another boat. I think it’s only down about 10 meters..

    Donny K


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