As we all know, golf is very popular around the world. As more and more people move, invest and retire to Costa Rica, the need for quality golf courses continues. Every day I get an email from a potential client asking “How’s the golf?”
One of the best reasons to live in the Papagayo area of Guanacaste is because we have 335 days a year of awesome weather, with only October being our one wet month. As you golf these incredible courses, you are also fortunate to be surrounded by nature and wildlife; mountains, and oceans. What’s cooler than seeing dozens of monkeys and hundreds of species of birds and plant life, while wacking a ball down the fairway, looking out at the Pacifico Ocean? Its 88 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and the cocktails are cold.
Who’s got it better than me? Who? The other day my phone rings and it’s my buddy Danny from Baton Rouge Lousiana. “Mike, you gotta come fishin’ with me. I got a new boat, and I want you to check it out. Everything is biting right now, it’s some of the best runs we have ever had.”
You see, he retired and moved to Costa Rica about the same time I did, 11 years ago, and we have been friends ever since. Every time I see him he tells me about all the fish he catches, how great his boats are and what a fun time he has every single day. But I never took him up on his offer to go until the other day.
We met at 630 am at his condo and jumped in my truck and headed over to Ocotal, where he moors his 3 boats, and hooked up with his partner Rafi. We were loaded and ready to go within a matter of minutes, and headed south down the Gold Coast of Guanacaste. As we sat up on the fly bridge, 35 feet in the air, I found asking myself “who’s got it better than me?” Nobody. I have been out in the Papagayo Bay hundreds of trips since I moved to this paradise, from snorkel trips and scuba diving, to catamarans and sail boats, and the coastline still blows me away each time.
I may not have traveled all over the world, but I have been to more places than most people, and there is nothing like it in the whole world. Where the mountains meet the sea, they call it, and each time you are out there, it takes your breath away.
There are miles and miles of volcanic formations and cliffs broken up every couple minutes with some of the most gorgeous beaches, shorelines and private coves that God has ever created. We passed dozens of islands and protruding rocks and I swear on my life, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. While the rest of the world is freezing their asses off, sitting in traffic and struggling to make ends meet, I was lubbin’ up with sun tan lotion, stretched out at the top of the world, watching paradise go by, not a care on the planet. Within a couple minutes we had a school of dolphins racing the 55 foot yacht and we spotted dozens of turtles floating at the surface, soaking up the sun. Who’s got it better than me?
Danny told me that about every third day, he sees schools of Humpback or Gray Whales and just the day before there was a mother and her calf, playing in the surf. I guess the baby was jumping back and forth over the top of the mom, having the time of her life. Just the week before he told me they were fortunate enough to see a huge Whale Shark basking in the sun, a site very few humans ever get to experience outside of the Discovery Channel.
But to be honest with you, I was caught up in my own little world. Nothing is more relaxing than the sound of waves crashing against a boat, the wind whipping my curly blonde hair around while the 88 degree breeze blows against my face; my skin soaking up the sun; no cell phone, no emails, no worries. Now THAT is my kind of meditation. Who’s got it better than me?
The Captain, Rafael and his two crew mates, Freddis and Jorge, is one well-oiled machine. They had coffee brewed within minutes of us boarding the boat, and they started to get ready from the second that we launched. These guys are professional. They are here to CATCH FISH, no messing around; you could tell by the way they worked. As soon as we reached their “virgin territory”, the lines went out and we got down to business. This was not a pleasure cruise, I soon found out, as about 10 poles dropped into the sea. If I had any thoughts that I was here to work on my tan, they disappeared with in a couple of minutes, when that famous buzzing sound of a spinning reel, lit up the air. FISH ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rafi grabbed the pole within seconds of the hit, and you could tell that this guy is one SERIOUS fisherman. He was pulling and reeling, rockin’ and rollin’, and had the fish to the boat in minutes. This is where you separate the men from the boys, and Danny’s crews are all HOMBRES, I promise ya. They gaffed it and had it on the boat, hook out of the mouth and up in the air for a photo within seconds. Yeah buddy, it was a thirty pound Dorado (Mahi Mahi) some of the best eatin’ on the earth, and I was already looking forward to dinner.
BAM BAM two more within 20 minutes and Danny had to pull Rafi from the poles. “Let Mike give it a try” and down the ladder I went. I gotta tell ya, I was a little nervous. Watching a pro like Rafi reel these puppies in like they were minnows, the last thing I wanted to do was embarrass myself; like the weakling who got sand kicked in his face in those old 60’s commercials, but I didn’t have much time to dwell on the thought. FISH ON!!!!
Now if you have never been deep sea fishing, let me tell ya something, it is much more work than it looks on TV, but worth all the effort. Although they were pretty sure it was another Dorado, I thought it felt more like Moby Dick, and that sucker put up one hell of a fight. You have met your match today, punk, and I fought back. I was NOT going to lose this fish, I assure you, even if it was the last thing I ever did and I died on that boat. Bury me at sea with a 21 gun salute!!!!! After what seemed like an eternity, the most beautiful turquoise Mahi was reefed up on to the deck, flopping and slapping, ready for the grill. Where is the lemon butter? I have conquered the beast!!!! Who has it better than me? WHO?
I started to head to the cooler, to grab a cold Pilsen beer, like a warrior returning from battle: Exhausted but victorious, to celebrate my conquest. That captain’s chair was calling my name when Danny grabbed my Tank Top and pulled me back down the ladder. “Where ya going man?” He handed me another pole as one more had already taken the hook. I told ya, these guys are serious about fishing; there will be plenty of time for drinking later. My arms were already screaming and I could barely hold the beer if I had it, but your pride takes over and the adrenaline kicks in, and you start reeling for your life. I had grandiose visions of the Giant Squid from Ten Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, hooked on the end of my line, pissed off and ready to swallow us whole. Or maybe it was the Great White Shark from JAWS, who would leap onto the back of the boat, chomping on my legs while I pounded on his snout. It is funny because when I saw that beautiful blue color again I found myself chuckling. People go out for hours and don’t catch a single thing accept for a sunburn (that’s why they call it FISHING and not CATCHING) and I was already thinking, just another Mahi Mahi.
We had 5 within the first 45 minutes, more than most people catch in 8 hours, but that is why you want to go on THIS BOAT with THIS CREW. These guys CATCH FISH. They are not here for sightseeing, no matter how spectacular it is. By this time, I couldn’t even feel my arms, as the captain fired up the engine and we headed to deeper water. “Let’s go get something big, enough of these little guys!” Danny said, as the yacht reached full speed. The master Fishing God, Rafi, was back on watch, ready for the challenge.
As we got into some deeper water, the waves kicked up, and the swell expanded, but you wouldn’t know it on this baby. It is a 55 foot Ocean cabin cruiser, with huge ass twin diesel engines, bundles of power and it rides like a Cadillac. NO rocking sideways, like smaller boats, as it cuts through the chop like butter, and it is set up like a suite at a Vegas Casino. The entire interior is Air Conditioned and carpeted, with huge comfy sofas you can crash on and larger than my first apartment. There is a big screen TV, a rocking sound system and a kitchen that’s nicer than some of the condos I sell. You could easily spend a few days on this puppy and not leave any comforts of home behind. As a matter of fact, Danny went on to tell us about some of the overnight excursions he offers to his clients. This barge has 3 full staterooms, one with a queen size bed, and a couple of baths so there is plenty of room for guests. One of the coolest tours they offer is to a place called the 76.
It is out in the middle of the ocean, in 8000 feet of water. Down in the bottom of the abyss, there are two huge volcanoes, 4000 feet tall, that create this massive fish hangout where some of the largest monsters of the ocean party on like Woodstock. The fish just keep on coming, no rest for the wicked, so you definitely get your money’s worth. There is a Nicaragua overnight trip too, where the passengers fish all the way there, get to embark to shore, spend the night in a hotel, tear it up like Rock Stars and fish all the way back. I told you: these guys are here to catch fish, not to drive around burning fuel looking at the ocean.
I was just settling in to the Lazy Boy Recliner, when I heard the howls of the crew. FISH ON BABY!!!!! And Rafi was at it again, but this time there was no messing around. The thing about catching a Sail Fish is that they DON’T like being hooked, and they do everything in their power to break free from the line. Not 1 minute into the battle, and this absolute MONSTER fish, came flying out of the water, 8 or 10 feet in the air, twisting and turning, fighting for his life. It’s on baby, it’s on.
As Fish King was reeling away like there was no tomorrow, I found myself wandering off in thought again. It’s amazing how many people, who don’t really know how to fish, or don’t have the boat to do it right, always tell you that the fishing isn’t any good in the “windy” season. Well if this is bad, I would hate to see how many fish they caught when it was good. Every time we turned around, another fish was on the hook. Once again, Rafi got it to the boat in record time, the crew had it on the deck in seconds, the photo was shot, and Mr. Sail Fish was released, back into the sea, free as could be. I am sure he S#*% his little fish pants there for 15 or 20 minutes, but he was back to life as he knew it, no worse for the wear. I would imagine that as he dived to the depths, he might have passed a Mahi or two; and he had to be laughing. “They released me, Suckers, they always let ME go!”
Who has it better than me? WHO? Nobody!
Ding Ding Ding! The lunch bell rang, and we all headed inside, the first mates cleaning the fish, so we could take it home later for dinner. Now I have been on plenty of fishing boats in my days, but none of them had a meal like this one. No tuna sandwiches and chips for these guys, and the crew catered to my every need. Danny had prepared an entire loin of filet mignon, longer and thicker than my arm and it was seasoned like you would expect from a Coon Ass Cajun. There was rice and salad, and even a bottle of red wine; knives and forks, served on a real plate, and even a linen napkin to boot. Gourmet meal 20 miles out to sea. Now, I have to be honest with you again, I could have easily laid down, curled up into a fetal position and taken a long nap, especially with the AC cranking and Bob Marley playing, but my pride kicked in and I got my second wind.
We’ve got fish to catch, man, no time for restin’. Where are we going now, I asked Danny, and he smiled that evil smirk that a man gets when he has a plan. “The Secret hole, Mike, the Secret hole.” You see, there is this “tube” in the ocean, 300 feet deep, in the middle of God only knows where, that has hundreds, maybe thousands, of the tastiest meat in the sea, the fish every man would give his left arm to catch: THE GROUPER. These white, flaky, fish, which literally melts in your mouth after you cook it in garlic butter, can grow to be hundreds of pounds. So if you know where they hide, you don’t put it on Facebook. You take that information to the grave like a buried treasure on a pirate island. Arrrrrggghhhhhh Matey!!!!!!!!!
Within seconds of arriving, half a dozen lures were dropped to the bottom of the sea and they started pulling these dudes up like they were at a stocked lake. Not only did we catch 15 Grouper, but we were fortunate enough to get a couple Red Snapper as well. BIG ONES. I mean, you have to understand, that this is just not how it goes on most fishing boats. I have been out a dozen times and if we caught 3 or 4 fish we were ecstatic and today we had over 20!!!!!!!!!! And it was only 1 pm. We had to head back early because Danny had a business commitment, but I surely didn’t feel like I got cut short. I have never in my entire life, seen so many fish, pulled into one single boat, in any given day. Who has it better than me?
As the crew pulled in the lines, and we headed back to shore, I had a chance to spend some personal time with the owners of the boat. Rafi went on to tell me that when he left Chicago a couple days earlier, it was 15 degrees BELOW zero and 2 feet of snow on the ground. “Some people I know” he said, “tell me how much they love the cold. IDIOTS, I call them. You can have it. THIS is what I want; 365 days a year of PERFECT weather, beautiful people, great fishing, amazing beaches and a cold beer in my hand.” As I sat up on the front of the boat, the salt spray covering my sunglasses, we were joined by an entire flock of birds, local ocean birds, called Brown Boobies.
I smiled when they told me the name, because anyone who knows me knows I love Brown Boobies. Actually, I love every colored Boobies; every size, every shape. What man doesn’t? As these dive bombing lunatics veered back and forth in front of the boat, inches from getting drilled, swooping down to the sea every 100 meters or so to pick up a snack for the flight, I just kept sipping my Pilsen. The wind was in my face, the salt was on my lips and I didn’t have a thought on my mind. Who has it better than me? Nobody.
The next day was Sunday, and off to Matapalo Beach I went, my usual gig; all the hounds were with me, going crazy in the surf, while I wandered down the sand, my cup of coffee in my hand. For some strange reason I looked out to sea, almost as if something was calling me, and there I saw it and I couldn’t believe my eyes. May lightning strike me dead right now if I am lying to you; but about a half a mile out to sea was the Jacpot, off on another adventure. I knew it was them; there aren’t too many boats this nice, this big, heading South. Later that afternoon, I saw a missed call from Danny, and checked my voicemail. In his deep southern drawl, I heard the excitement of a man with passion and a plan. “Mike, we got our first Black Marlin of 2014. OVER 500 POUNDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” All I could think about was how lucky I am to know such incredible people and how thankful I am for their friendship.
And of course, I found myself asking; “Who has it better than me?”
Well, obviously Danny, because he gets to do this every single day of his life. Lucky SOB!!! When I grow up I want to be just like him.
Pura Vida, hurry down, I hope you can join us soon. Michael
I want to thank Danny Crosby and his partner Rafi Kodjavakian, and the entire crew of the Jacpot; Captain Rafa Gonzalez and mates Freddi Gonzales and Jorge Corrales. They have three amazing boats:
a 31 ft Bertram called AFISHIANADOS
a 32 ft Custom Sport Fish DONA DEL MAR II
and my new soul mate, the 55 ft Ocean JACPOT
and the best, most seasoned, professional fishing crews I have ever met. This is not a sightseeing tour; these guys are here for one thing and one thing only; TO CATCH FISH. Please check out their website, and tell them I sent you. They will take excellent care of you, I promise.