Costa Rica

The Ghosts of Casa Mar

On June 7, 2007, a panga carrying a tarpon guide, his son and two clients—both gringos—flipped at the mouth of the Rio Colorado, near Costa Rica’s eastern border with Nicaragua. Three of the men died. The crew’s rods and tackle were tropical flotsam.

The Caribbean was churning, throwing up steep, 10-foot rollers at the river mouth. Chocolate waves crashed on shallow banks of volcanic sand, grinding like the guts of a cement truck. The 25-foot boat, the Don Cote, was “not properly inspected, licensed, registered or certified,” according to a New Jersey lawsuit filed by the deceased fisherman’s relatives. The water was “turbulent and choppy.” No life jackets were on board. The Coast Guard had issued warnings but the boat’s captain had chosen to fish anyway. Bad decisions were made, etc., etc.

Such details, while noteworthy in the United States, were hardly news to anyone in Costa Rica, where it was still standard practice to drive a car with a cerveza between one’s legs. Traffic lights, speed limits and seat belts were offered only as suggestions. The fact is, it was a tragic and ill-fated decision on a shitty day and these things can happen anywhere—but especially in places like Costa Rica. May the men who died rest in peace…

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