Costa Rica. Finally. The idea of this trip came to me months prior to us actually showing up, starting with the Saltbreaker crew and I exchanging several emails. Alex was finally able to nail down, with apparent little to no confidence, that they might be in Costa Rica around March. This was good enough for me, and with Michael now on board to leave Chicago for this adventure as well, we booked our flights and immediately took on a kind of blank stare which we maintained until the day we left. Deep in thought, we contemplated what the upcoming trip would be like. How badly would we get sunburnt? What will we see? Will we be attacked by monkeys? Will we befriend possibly the greatest dog ever to live? Where, exactly, are we going to meet the Kleemans? (Dave was on a land adventure and did not join us) Should we, just maybe, have even the loosest of plans beyond flying into San Jose?
As it turns out, we did very little planning beyond buying tickets. About 48 hours before we left we were able to nail down a town to meet the Kleemans in: Tamarindo. I was able to find a taxi service last minute to drive us the 4 hours to the town from the airport. This particular taxi service, however, insisted on us giving them a real destination. The town of Tamarindo was not specific enough, apparently. So I quickly consulted the interweb, picked a hotel (The Zullymar) and set that as our destination. With a quick email to the Kleemans with further instructions to meet us there at 10:00 p.m. we were off to O’hare.
16 hours later Michael and I arrived in Tamarindo. We actually made it a little early, lucky that the Costa Rican roads were not overrun with cattle or 39 car pile ups that are without question quite common. Since we were so early and slightly travel weary, we decided to have a few beers in a bar on the beach. Not a bad way to start our vacation. After the beers it was still early, but we headed to the hotel to see if the Kleemans left a message or were also perhaps early. Now, for anyone who has met the Kleemans for even a minute this next part will come as no surprise. We asked the clerk if anyone had left any messages. The clerk said there were 2 very tall Americans in the hotel not long ago. They said they were meeting 2 friends and wanted to leave a message. Michael and I were relieved to hear this and asked the clerk what the message was. “No message” was the response. Of course not. No problem, we will come back and meet them at 10. Except the hotel is closed by then. Perfect.
So Michael and I wandered around. It turns out finding 2 people who are over 6’ tall in a small town in Costa Rica is much easier than we thought. Within 10 minutes we found our friends and were eating dinner on the beach. After dinner we decided to take the dinghy and get the bags to the boat and maybe have a few duty-free cocktails. Both Kleemans disappeared to the bathroom and returned with swimsuits. We asked if we should do the same and our response was a shrug. If Michael and I had any sense at all we would have immediately changed, but we were tired and anxious to get to the boat. And this is where we lost all confidence in the Kleemans’ boating skills. I should state first, as a little back-up, that the last time I was on a boat with both Kleemans at the same time (accompanied with several other friends on their first J-boat in San Francisco back in 2007 or so) the trip ended with an armed escort back to the slip courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard and field sobriety tests. So my confidence level was not extremely high to begin with. On this particular dinghy ride, somewhere between the 4th and 5th 4’ wave breaking immediately on top of us, I lost all remaining confidence and started to seriously second guess my decision to spend 2 weeks on board Saltbreaker. Actually, I believe the exact moment I lost my confidence was when, slowed down by my soaking wet clothes, I had to desperately (but successfully) grab for my bag that was being washed away by the current out of the swamped dinghy.
Finally on board Saltbreaker, after spreading out my clothes to dry and being greeted by an odor that made me immediately suspicious of the head, we set about starting a sort of tradition that we relived nearly every night for the next 2 weeks: we drank a bottle of rum and ate peanuts. And I will state with total confidence, despite the somewhat dubious start to this trip, that anyone who is even remotely considering meeting up with the Kleemans needs to do so. What followed was probably the best 2 weeks I have ever spent, full of countless unforgettable moments with my friends. And I will always be grateful and in debt to the crew of the Saltbreaker for so generously welcoming us into their home.
This is the first of a few posts that I will make about our 150 mile, 2 week trip down the western coast of Costa Rica. For the next post, I think I will relate, among other things, the story of the slightly suspect Coco and the unforgettable Potato Chip, whose loyalty and friendship I will not soon forget.
You may not be able to join us, but you can still help us buy parts, a decent meal, or a round of beers!