“Floating offshore in a dead boat for an hour was not the worst part of this experience”
I have never written a company a bad review but have to write something after the experience we had with Quepos Fish Adventure Private Day Charters on our recent trip to Costa Rica. It was the one dark spot of a great trip. This is long because the details of this experience were surreal, not in a good way unfortunately, so here is the short version summary for those without the time to follow our experience. Not fishing with the captain who said he was sick but turned out to be in San Jose, floating 15 miles offshore on a dead engine and poor communication about the problem were issues made worse by the owner’s handling of the problem by blatantly reneging on his promise to refund $200 of the price when he coaxed us to stay out and keep fishing after the boat was “fixed.”
I had seen some recent negative reviews about John Schuchert and his boat the Stress Reliever after we had reserved and placed a downpayment. I checked with him that the boat was OK shortly before we left and he assured me it was working great. We were excited to take the Costa Rica Pacific outing we had always wanted to take. When we arrived at the dock, we found John’s wife there. She said John was sick and that we would be going out on John’s boat with the mate, Miguel/Mike, and Jesse, a guy from another boat there to help out. We would find out later in the day from the crew that John went to San Jose that day instead of being home sick in bed. He never explained any of that oddity to us. The crew told us we would be going out an hour and 20 minutes to start. We didn’t make it that far. At under an hour out the boat stopped. Steam was coming out of the hissing engine and the heat from it could be felt in the front of the boat. Without a word, the crew took the cover off and started working on it. We were lucky in that after awhile we were able to flag down another boat. They gave us oil and water (neither of which we had on the boat) and drove off. Our crew didn’t tell us what was going on. When asked, they said that they were “working on it.” When the engine started again 55 minutes after dying, I asked if we were going in or if the boat was OK. Jesse, who was between a rock and a hard place on this trip as Mike clearly wanted to abort the trip it appeared at any cost, told us after conferring with Mike, that we would troll around here where the boat died, and watch the engine to see if it got hot again. Trolling “around here” on a questionable engine did not sound safe or effective to us. We talked about it and said it would probably be best to head in. We didn’t think it would be best for anyone if we just passed the valuable vacation day trolling in close with a motor that had already had problems. Jesse agreed. On our way back in John called and asked to talk with me. He wanted us to stay out and finish the day. He assured us that the boat would be ok (which the crew didn’t appear to be able to say with certainty) and that he would meet us at the dock and refund us $200 at the end of the day for the two hours now lost (25 minutes in and back out, and the other 10 stopped on the phone with John). The group talked about it and agreed to go back out. After motoring out 45 minutes, we were happy to come onto a boat working a school of tuna. We landed two tuna in the next hour and a half and had three others on. After that, we trolled around for the remaining hours without seeing any more fish until 4 PM when we headed in. We were sad to have lost the morning but happy to have gotten a couple of fish. And the agreement to offset the morning was fair enough.
On our way in, I asked if John would be at the dock. The crew called him then said he wouldn’t and that I would need to call him later. I asked why, and was told he was in San Jose! I asked to talk to him on the phone but was told that I would need to call him later. I did twice over the next days, and never got a call back. Finally, I got an email from John saying that he wasn’t going to give us a refund. He said that we caught fish. I couldn’t believe that he would so blatantly lie about that, I can only guess it was just to get us to stay out so we couldn’t. If we had fished just two hours and caught fish, by that rationale, we would have to pay for the full day. He said in the email that the reason he lied about his intention to give us a partial refund was: “I was kind of in a delima (sic), and I knew that if you came back in and didn't get a refund (because you already burned 90 percent of the days expenses) you would be mad, and if you stayed out and caught fish… you'd still be mad at me, but hopefully less mad.” Just as disturbing was that he then went on to accuse us by email of several outlandish things that were a huge shock to the group. He never talked to us, just stated in email that we yelled at the crew and made them leave schools of fish (which was COMPLETELY false), that we stayed out an extra hour until 5 (again, completely false as I know Jesse would attest to, Mike went in the MOMENT the clock hit 4), saying that we weren’t dead in the water a full hour (two of our group timed all of our stop and start times—one a banker in the group—this was another “sick but driving to San Jose” fiction), and that the additional time lost was our fault for coming in after the boat died. He even tried to say that since Jesse gave one of our guys the bait he was throwing out that it could contribute to his rationale to renege. He told us how expensive equipment is in a laundry list-- “I had more than 50 dollars in just the leader you guys were using for Tuna. Not the line on the reel, just the leader.” As a past guide, this laundry listing of known trip expenses as rationale to back out of a promised refund for lost time was just nonsense to me. We didn’t even break off any fish or lose any equipment, not that it would be relevant if we had. Jesse said he would never work on John’s boat again. John even tried to turn that on us by saying that we were the reason Jesse wouldn’t fish on his boat again— crazy, Jesse was a good guy and did the best he could to help us without being in charge—he thought we should call it a day and was reversed by John over the phone. I wouldn’t want to work on a faulty boat with a crew that works things the way John and Mike did either, which is obviously the reason he won’t work with him again). There were a host of other strange accusations such as saying we were just out to get him, that we didn’t want to fish in the first place (which makes a lot of sense esp. as we decided to go out even though John was “sick” which would have allowed us to back out if we wanted to), and an attempt to paint me as tied to some fictitious mileage for fish (asserting that we ended up fishing not too many miles past where we died—in reality we went out to 22 miles as the crew read to us when asked although that wasn’t the crux of the issue anyway), as well as several other almost surreal statements in a long email—never on the phone or in person. My reply to him, which fell on deaf ears, was: “You can't have a boat die on clients, float dead in the water, sit for 55 minutes for repair that was never even communicated was full repair, and expect the group to stay out after that, and certainly not without making it right by price. This isn't about a magical mileage or confidence in fishing chances because of mileage for its own sake. It is about time lost from a "full day" of fishing, which is a contractual breach, then lying about a remedy to that, and lost mechanical confidence. The fishing confidence is only relevant in that the crew told us as we started out that we were running an hour and twenty minutes, we had motor problems at just under 1 hour, and then just started trolling where we were (where the motor happened to stop).”
Crazy, unfortunate experience for this group of fishermen (a dentist, banker, pharmaceutical rep and government employee who have fished with charters across Mexico, several Caribbean islands, Belize, California, Florida and others) and never had the need to write a negative review. It was ironic that our only dishonest experience in Costa Rica was with an American. I fully expect to see more of the same in a retort below this review judging from his previous communication.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.