On December 18, 2001 we flew to Atlanta and then on to San Jose. The only interesting thing about this part of the trip was that Delta cancelled all of our original tickets 30 days before we left and did a reschedule over voicemail. They did not send out any type of letter stating what had changed.

We rented a 7 passenger van and headed up to lake Arenal. It was dark by now.  We had instructions on how to get to the sailing area but not to the lodge. We got lost a few times but after asking directions we did make it to Rock River Lodge.


Here is a picture of the front of the restaurant and bar:

Here is a picture of the Lodge from across the lake - the buildings in the center with the red roofs:

Here is a picture of the inside of the restaurant:

Here is a picture of the room where we stayed. It would sleep 3 and had a nice bathroom:

The bed was setup with mosquito netting but we really did not use it.

The owner Norm List has a true surf mobile with Gorge Racks.  It is a 1963 Chevy van in which he offers sailors rides from the hotel to the beach:

On Christmas Eve all the sailors got together at an Italian resturant not far from the lodge.  Norm was there with his mother, wife and two kids.  Norm runs a great lodge and our trip would have lacked in a lot of ways without his guidance.

The average day/night temperature in Coasta Rica is 72 degrees. It varies more by elevation than by time of year. The windsurfing season starts in December and ends in April. The lake is warm enough to sail without a wetsuit but when the sun comes you will need something for skin protection.

The windsurfing area is located on the end of a point which sticks out into the lake. This means if you get blown down there is a lot of lake to swim in. For this reason they have a jet ski which is used for rescue.

The sailing beach is on the end of this point and blocked from veiw by the trees:

The jet ski, used for rescue, is in the middle of the beach. The bottom of the volcano is visible in the background:

The water in the lake was very high from a very wet December. The waves were breaking onto some concrete
retaining walls:

The rental is made up of this year's gear. They have new JP boards and older Gorge Animals. The sails were Neil Pride. The gear was very nice. I did not like the stock fins on the smaller JP boards but they seemed to work okay on the 95L and above boards. If you rent from them, they offer a hot lunch, served at noon, with a main dish, a drink and desert. The lunch is served from the trailer on the left:

We sailed 8 out of the 16 days we were at the lake. I sailed a 4.7 on three days and 5.2/5.4/5.9 on the rest of the days. This was considered the worst December wind they had had in 10 years.

The URL for the rental is as follows:  http://www.ticowind.com

The sails are kept under a black cloth which blocks most of the UV:

The rental boards are kept in a large rack:

They offer storage for local sailors and a guard to watch the stuff at night:

Here are three sailing pictures:

There are lots of  things to do in Coasta Rica other than sail. Our group had 3 sailors and 4 people who did not sail. They did the canopy tour, a float trip, volcano and hot bath tour, Blue Falls hike, and lots of nature walks and sight seeing as well as several trips to the beach.  The shopping was fun too, for wooden crafts as well as woven goods, pottery, coconut jewelry, banana paper and more.

Here is a picture of the last landing for one of the canopy tours:

It was decided that the volcano trip was worth doing twice, so I went along on a no wind day. There are three classes of baths. The first is made up of hot pools that were temperature controlled (one pool had a swim-up bar) and cost $18 per person. The second was a stream that was probably about 103 degrees F. It had falls and pools which you could sit in; it cost $7 per person. The third was a freebie if you knew the right spot to park beside the road. We saw a woman who had been sitting in the falls pass out as she tried to stand up. A man who was standing close grabbed her and several others helped get her out onto the lawn. She came around in a few minutes. She had been sitting directly in one of the falls and the heat made her light headed when she stood up.  This was a neat place and well worth the trip.  Here is a picture of the falls:

Rocks were coming out of the volcano and rolling down the sides.  You could get quite close to this.  It was an awesome sight.
Here are three shots of the volcano. The first one is from our room, the second one is from the beach and the third one is from the bottom:

Now for some of the negatives. There are some very small black flies that bite. Bug spray on your bare legs is a good idea. The roads are good (narrow 2-lane with no shoulder) on highway 1 but when you get beyond the town of Arenal they turn BAD. A 4X4 makes getting around much nicer. When you order food, remember that there is a 10% gratuity and a 13% sales tax. This means you need to add 23% to the published cost.

Now for three stories:

There was a German named Horace who was staying with Peter, the owner of Ticowind. He helped clean up sails/boards/chairs at the end of each day. Near the end of our second week Peter went out for a sail at the end of the day. He can only do that when everyone has the right gear and is out on the lake. I had been sailing on a 5.9 and it seemed to me that the wind was starting to die. I jibed near the far end of the sailing run and saw that Peter was there on a small board and small sail. I made it back but Peter finally disappeared from view down wind behind a point. I went to Horace and told him that I thought Peter needed a rescue with the jet ski. Horace said "Peter is a good sailor; he will do just fine." About 20 minutes later I told Horace that we could no longer see Peter at all. He did not seem to be worried. After about another 20 minutes Peter came walking back around the point through tree roots and mud. Horace came over to me and said, "Clients have to swim. Clients have to walk. Bossman has to swim and walk."  When Peter got back there was a very heated discussion in German which I did not understand, but the body language said "You should have come and picked me up. That is what we have the jet ski for."

The wind often died before lunch and then came back after lunch. We would sit and watch for the wind to come back.  I often told the college kid we had with us to be the wind dummy. He would jump up and head out to see if there was enough wind. This happened one day and I was watching him with my glasses. He was headed out and there were two other people on the water. One was at the far end of the lake and the other was a guy we knew, who was coming back towards us. These two guys hit head on in a 48 square mile lake that had only one other sailor. They were both going full speed and the college kid stood on the rail at the last moment but the board spun out and I saw the fin come completely out of the water before they hit. No one got hurt but it did damage one of the boards. We gave these guys a bad time about having magnetic personalities. After some debate they decided to split the repair charges as the guy who had the right of way had changed direction shortly before the accident.

There were some kiters on the lake and at least one of them had to be rescued. The beach was quite small so launching a kite was hard. At some time in the past they had launched a guy from the beach and he had been pulled into the air and over 3 small trees. He had landed in the water on the other side without his swimming suit. The discussion was about whether it was more embarassing to have to be rescued with the jet ski or to loose your swimming suit in front of everyone on the beach.

This area is a big hydro project like the Gorge.  The lake and its three dams plus the windmills provide 85% of the power for Costa Rica.  The windmills shut off at about 60 mph and we saw that happen on a windy day.  Here is a close up of one of the windmills:

Here is a sunset over the windmills:

All in all we had a good time and would probably do it again some day. We would probably try to go in January or Feburary as the wind would probably be better.