Since 1975, Calypso Cruises has taken more than 3/4 of a million visitors across the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica for a day's outing to Tortuga Island. During these excursions nearly anything can happen - and often did (especially in the early days). Check out some of these anecdotes about the funny and fascinating things that have happened on Calypso's Cruises! You might be surprised!
In 1975, the original 50-foot tour boat passed too close to Costa Rica's maximum-security prison on San Lucas Island. "The nervous guards fired shots across our bow," says Cecelia. "The tourists thought it was arranged entertainment, and applauded."
ADVENTURES WITH SEA CREATURES
In 1975 the crew had to subdue a passenger after the Calypso ran alongside a huge manta ray! "He grabbed the boat hook and tried to leap onto creature's back, to ride it like Moby Dick's Captain Ahab," says David.
Once another huge ray surfaced off San Lucas directly under the Calypso's hull. It collided a shuddering thump. The ray was so big that its "wings" actually lapped out of the water on either side of the vessel (which is nearly 20 feet wide). "As it moved off, we could see its shadow for a long time under the surface," relates Cecelia. "It looked like the space shuttle Enterprise under water."
Over the years, The Calypso crew has encountered a giant whale shark basking off the Tortuga Island point, turtles mating in the calm, luke-warm waters, thousands of frigate birds floating on the updrafts over Guayabo Island and pilot whales in a feeding frenzy near Negritos Islands.
When the Calypso staff gets together for reflections, it's often the passengers who are the stars. "Six couples (that we know of) met aboard Calypso and later married," Cecelia notes. One wedding was even held on the beach at Tortuga Island with the passengers and crew as witnesses.
Calypso's schedule is less strenuous than most nature-based tours so it's a favorite with older travelers (even passengers in wheel-chairs have enjoyed the adventure). Calypso Cruises oldest passenger was a hale and hearty 92-year old who was in much better shape than his 67-year-old friend. He amused everyone aboard when he dived off the boat's transom for the short swim to Tortuga Beach. "Come on, kid, let's go" he called out to his younger traveling companion.
The crew also recalls a in 1983 when the dinghy carried a well-oiled bikini clad 400-lb. man to the beach. When the boat prepared to up-anchor after lunch, the gentleman proved so difficult to maneuver back aboard that the crew seriously considered leaving him in the dinghy and towing him all the way back to Puntarenas!
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
The crew keeps a sharp watch over the snorkelers and swimmers but occasionally one eludes them. "Once in 1982, when we were about to leave Tortuga, we discovered that one of our passengers - the Soviet Ambassador, no less - was missing," says David. "We found him swimming two kilometers from the beach to... who knows where?" Maybe back from Russia?
Sometimes it's the crew that lightens up the tour. Although neatly dressed in their crisp white uniforms, the crew members always wear swimsuits under their tropical shorts. During one trip, the vessels captain, Misael Mejias, doffed his shorts at the beach as usual, only to discover he had forgotten to put on his swim trunks that morning. He quickly slipped his shorts back on hoping the passengers hadn't noticed. They had.
It was in 1980 that Calypso Cruises first began actually landing on the beach at Tortuga Island for lunch. At that time, lunch was served on a blanket in the sand picnic-style. Today it's served on tables under large umbrellas. The cuisine - designed by Cecelia (a prize winning cook and former head chef at a Greek restaurant in California) has been praised as a "traveling feast" in many publications. David is also a gourmet who graduated from San Francisco City College's Hotel and Restaurant Management program.
Calypso Cruises has been through a several phases of "modernization". The first was in 1976 and included a new deck and new lower cabin as well as the cocobolo railing built by the now-deceased artisan widely known as "Don Octavio." The next year, another cabin and a second deck were added, along with a mast which started life as the boom from the three-masted schooner, Miliset.Calypso Cruises 91-year-old marimba player (affectionately known as "Abuelo") was also "modernized." He was plagued by cataracts and the company footed the bill for his eye surgery. The feisty old musician says he's always smiling now because he can see the pretty young passengers in their bikinis. "Abuelo" spent 40 years playing street music on Puntarenas Calle de Turistas. Performing for Calypso Cruises is his first steady job.
The Miliset sank in the Puntarenas Estuary in 1971 at the age of 110 but the boom (a solid piece of northern white spruce) was salvaged. In 1981 the red cedar hull was rebuilt to incorporate a more "slippery" design for efficiency.
The Reids are always trying to keep their Tortuga Island tour "fresh". In 1986, to celebrate the return of Halley's Comet, Calypso Cruises offered a champagne night cruise. It included a lecture by an University of Costa Rica Astronomer and a dawn breakfast of eggs benedict on the beach at Tortuga Island. The head chef of Chicago's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, M. Malaiseau sent his chef's hat to the Reids in tribute to the excellence of the food on that cruise.
In 1987 Calypso Cruises made non-tourist trips to carry supplies to the Cousteau Society's research vessel, which was filming on location in Coco island. The Reids cherish memories of long wrangles with the Cousteau Society's Staff over who stole the name "Calypso" (which is also the name of the Society's world famous flag-ship).