Monday, November 13, 2006

I'll Take The United States For $800 Alex

Panama is the place pirate ships come to get new crew. This place is like the bar scene from the first Star Wars. They’ve been cross pollinating for over 500 years and since it’s the meeting place of 2 continents and 2 oceans, this town has every type of everything. I’m going to miss it.

I’ve lubed and stored my bicycle. I’ve written up all the instructions for Ricardo. I’ve color coordinated the procedures for starting and stopping both the generator and the Perkins. I’ve locked the last remaining kayak 4 different ways, I’ve deflated the dink and lashed it forward of the companionway. I’ve run a cable through all the fuel jugs. All the lines are coiled and secured, I’ve checked and rechecked my lists, I’m packed.

June 30th 2005: I knew it was the last evening I would be sleeping in my bedroom at 802 Dover Court. I was wondering what the next year would hold. This time I’m only wondering what the next 2 months will hold, but the anxiety of leaving my known surroundings is still a rat in my belly.

I’ve picked a good buoy. I know the depth at spring tides (which means extreme lows) is manageable for my 6.5 foot draft. If I would have left it at anchor in La Playita, the thieves would have picked my bones clean. I think I’ve bought myself some peace of mind here at the Balboa Yacht Club for the sum of $500 per month.

Random Observations:

Everything is a haggle, but when I haggle with the taxi drivers the negotiation takes a turn. This is where I have the upper hand. All they want is money. I want air conditioning. “Esta bien. Una y media, pero con aire condicion.”

I just ate the last tin from the States. It was Del Monte Fresh Cut Whole Kernel Corn. That means it’s been sitting beneath the sink for a year. I find it interesting that the water that comes out of that spigot smells like old broccoli. I guess there’s a vegetable theme happening here.

If you’re a street vendor and you put on a Michael Jackson video, crowds will gather. The guy has such a pull on the world it baffles me to no end, but they love him in Latin America and I don’t think he knows a single word of Spanish.

Since it’s near the 1 year anniversary of the flooding in New Orleans they showed some old footage and on it there was a lady who had been soaked out of her home and they were offering her a sailboat to stay in and she said, “I know my rights. You can’t make me live like that!”

I live in a sailor park and I own a snailboat, but tomorrow I will be eating lean pastrami and sleeping in clean sheets with air conditioning. Miami here I come!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It’s Tuesday and that means left over pizza. On Monday nights everyone gathers at Flamenco for their 2 for 1 deal and to discuss where to buy chain, get canvass stitched, and who’s the best electrical guy to hire, as well as all the other repair topics we chatter about constantly. It seems to me we wage a weekly battle to keep our boats between 60 - 80% of their health. 100% just isn’t practical in these conditions. 80 is the new 100.

This place is really filling up. Everyday 2 or 3 more boats come down the Pacific coast and 2 or 3 more cross the Canal from the Caribbean side to prep here in Panama City for their Pacific crossing.

I’ll be leaving in 2 weeks, but not to sail anywhere. I’m parking Barraveigh on a mooring ball at the Balboa Yacht Club and flying home. Can’t wait! After a couple days in Miami with Terry and Kelly I’ll be in Sandy Eggo on Nov 17th. It’ll be nice to wear a jacket and shoes again. I’ll be away from Panama for 2 months and in that time I’m taking a side trip to London to visit Suzi. I’ll be back in Panama Jan 15th and she’ll be joining me along with Geoff Nelson for the passage on Feb 5th to Ecuador. On April fools day I’m going to shave my head (easier for hygiene on long passages plus I’m sick of this straw), and with Suzi, leave for the Galapagos, and then the big hop over the Pacific to the Marquesas chain in French Polynesia.

And now for the randoms:

Panamanians point with their lips. It’s true, they tilt their heads back, and pucker in the direction of what they want you to look at.

When I ran aground on a sandbar in the company of at least 20 other sailboats not one of them came to my aid. Only Clyde on a 100 foot mega power yacht helped me. He later said, “Your mistake was in yelling for help. If you wanted sailing cruisers to come to your service you should have yelled ‘free beer’ or ‘half price’ or ‘2 for 1’”. He has a point.

His other illuminating quote was this, “Maybe the lifestyle of the cruising sailor isn’t one dedicated to self sufficiency so much as it is a commitment to total inconvenience.” I like that one but have to temper it with the fact that he is viewing us from the fly bridge of a 100 foot catamaran (40 feet wide) with 2 elevators, 4 freezers, a formal dining room and Direct TV. He sailed from San Diego to Cabo with his Geo Tracker lashed to his bow. He and his Swedish wife are my all time favs and I’ll be transiting the Canal with them on the 8th. I’ve spent at lot of hours on that boat with Clyde fixing my broken everything in his full size machine shop.

There is a little van that arrives every morning at 08:00 and the man sells empanadas and chichas for 25 cents a piece. He wears a yarmulke and I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he was Jewish. “No senor, I only wear because of this.” And then he took off his yarmulke to reveal a bald spot that was perfectly hidden. I now refer to it as his Hebrew Toupe.

When eating a meat dish in Panama, it’s important to have a lot of napkins because the food goes into ones mouth and then right into the napkin which is then hidden so as not to embarrass the cook. I guess they are too poor to throw away fat and gristle. Freakin awful.

I buy 6 green bananas cuz that’s the smallest bunch you can buy. The next day they are ripe and I eat 3 of them. The day after, the remaining 3 get thrown away cuz they are rotten and full of fruit flies. Total cost, 30 cents.

I don’t like those black nights when the squalls pass through. I appreciate the moon. If I have some visibility it’s not nearly as spooky.

I’ve been out of US waters for 11 months.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The wind is howling here and I've been bouncing around at anchor like a pinball. Last night a can of unopened soda that I had left in the cup holder in the cockpit bounced out, struck the floor, and then fell through my open hatch at 02:20 and landed on my chest. I thought someone had fired a tear gas canister into my bunk. It scared the shit out of me. Fizzy soda water squirted everywhere. Took me a couple minutes to figure out what happened. I had to laugh at that one but you should have seen the mess. So - I spent an hour cleaning it all up and then couldn't get back to sleep.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Cold Drinks & Clean Sheets

"I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down." - Tubthumping / Chumbawamba

I asked for a 3 month extension on my visa. They gave me 2. Everyone gets 3. Why do I get 2? O how I hate the bureaucracy. Now I have to go through this whole process again. I had my exit timed to miss it. Damnit!

"Children I wanna warn ya, Cuz I've been to California." - Do You Wanna Hold Me / Bow Wow Wow

When asked where I'm from, if I respond with "Estados Unidos", I get a radically different response then when I answer, "California". USA is seen as political. CA is only “fun fun fun”. The Red Hots were so correct when they coined the phrase, "Californication". I think the world views it as a separate entity from the USA. It's been the flavor of the month for 50 years. Let it ride, and please buy the hype.

"I eat more chicken than any man ever seen" - Back Door Man / John Lee Hooker

Sam Shepard wrote in his play, "True West", "I come in through the window, but I go out through the front door." Well, I am a back door man. I can't blend. I just can't. I can't assimilate, and my old credo of, "Look straight and infiltrate", doesn't serve me here. I am the ultimate outsider. I went from the Mayor of Mission Beach with my custom long bike and quiver of boards to the Freak of the Causeway with my folding bike and my quiver of boards (None of the locals or my fellow cruisers surf). You can only be a local in exactly one place. Everywhere else you are an outsider.

"Somehow I stayed thin, while the other guys got fat." - Rush / Big Audio Dynamite

My uncle Bill is a physician and he helped me repeatedly when I severed a tendon sheath in my finger while shucking oysters (it still doesn't work right. I think this is as good as it's going to get). I must now ask how in the world anyone can eat this much fried food and live past 55? This is worse than Glasgow. I might have a slight genetic head start but I've got to believe I'm going to lose if I don't get out of here. I'll be a fat corpse right? Fat and starch. Starch and fat. Pass the salt.

"Everybody hates a tourist. Especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh." - Common People / Pulp

I like the tourists. They speak good English and laugh at sarcasm, which is something I think only English speaking cultures understand. Can you disprove this?

"I wish that I was both young and stupid." - You Could Make a Killing / Aimee Mann

It's impossible to be friends with the natives. Here's why: Relative to us, they have nothing. Ultimately it always ends with them hitting you up for money. That wrecks everything. You can be friendly, but real friends, nah - not when we hold what looks to them as a massive pile of acorns in the middle of their winter. I wish this hadn't been proved to me over and over. Idealistic ignorance is bliss.

"There's a port on a western bay, and it serves a hundred ships a day. Lonely sailors pass the time away, talking about their homes." Brandy / Looking Glass

Cruisers. What a concept. Here's what I've learned: These are some of the best people I've ever met in my life. As good, and in some ways better, than bike shop owners. However, once you dig a little deeper, you find alcoholism, drug abuse, broken romances, violence, bankrupt companies, and hatred towards the countries they served. Every time I spot it in someone else I have to ask myself what others must find in me. I'm a cruiser. Am I the only normal one? Not likely. As Blintz would point out - I'm Peter Pan. I'm Captain-Run-Away. I have to ask myself, "why did my brother and I essentially choose the most isolated lives we could find?" And I'm a very gregarious man! It doesn't make sense, even to me. I constantly scratch my head on that one.

"Johnny, we worry. Won't you come on home." Johnny Come Home / Fine Young Cannibals

My friends on Blue Dolphin finally emailed me. They made it to the Galapagos. Just a slow boat with mechanical issues. It took them 31 days and they averaged 1.25 nautical miles per hour. That's extremely slow. Greg defected and he's not going to continue to the Marquesas. Now they are a slow boat with mechanical issues AND shorthanded. Fun.

It isn't all bad. After rereading this, things sound bleak, and they aren't. Bottom line: I got a new dinghy, I got the little outboard to run (Colin - completely removed the leaking valve. Bypassed it with a new fuel line), the rainy season is ending, I have friends and know how much the non-gouge price is. I can't be beat, cuz I won't quit. That's the bottom line. That, and don't forget, I have cold drinks and clean sheets.

"Thank you disillusionment. Thank you frailty. Thank you consequence. Thank you silence. Thank you clarity." Thank U / Alanis Morissette

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Panama Part 2

I spent a few weeks at The Balboa Yacht Club. It was nice, in a “marina” sort of way that I usually make fun of. No need to have a dinghy, they provided 24 hour water taxi service. Sometimes I could even pull in a wireless connection for the internet while on the boat, mostly I had to take my laptop to the outdoor café, but it’s nice to be at an outdoor café too. They even had live music twice a week. Sweet Home Alabama and Hotel California just don’t sound right with a Spanish accent, and the Hispanics don’t dig my Morrissey collection. We all agree on Manu Chao however. I think he is the great unifying force in all Hispanic & Latin countries. Check out his music if you haven’t already.

I was on a mooring ball about ¼ mile south of the Bridge of the Americas. This is the bridge that would link North and South America if the US would allow Panama to complete the roads through the Darien to Columbia. Never gonna happen when Columbia’s largest export is cocaine. This is also the same bridge that will serve as my finish line when I complete my circumnavigation. I spent many hours staring at that bridge in all different times of day noticing how the lighting changed it’s form and trying to image what it will be like all those years from now. Transiting the canal will be a climatic finish to a slow race.

On the 23rd I motored Barraveigh unto a railway that was then cranked up the shore embankment and for 3 days she stood on her keel while Ricardo and I fiber glassed her rudder and painted the underside. I’m still scratching from all the glass fibers. She went back in the water yesterday and after bringing her to the dock for water I went to the anchorage at La Playita. It’s great to have her gently swaying at anchor again after being on the hard at a less then even angle. Plus I love peeing off the side and throwing banana peels out the hatches. Nobody appreciates that at the marina yard.

I spent today trying to get my 3 month extension. My first 3 months expired yesterday. I’m now an illegal alien. I’ll finish the process tomorrow. They refused to process me wearing flops, shorts and a tank top. I have to return with pants, shoes and a real shirt. I haven’t worn shoes since . . . when? California?

3 months in Panama. The weirdest part of that is that new arrivals now ask me all those questions that I used to quiz my fellow cruisers about. The last time that happened was when I was in the Dirty P. Remember those days?

Randoms:
Colin – I still haven’t burnt the handle on the espresso maker.
Eric – That roast was delicious. My pal Eric was just down here and the guy paid for everything. We had a blast. Farber for Panamanian Ambassador!
Davey Dave – Remember Alex, the “immune to emotion” single hander? He now professes to be in love with Cassy.
Blue Dolphin is a 36 foot Columbia that left for the Galapagos 3 weeks ago. No one has heard from them since. 3 on board and 2 of them were my drinking buddies. I’ll keep you posted.

I ended up turning down the delivery after closer inspection of the vessel and more time spent dealing with the owner. Not safe, and I didn’t want to work with him after all. I do think that I’ll fly home sometime in Nov though. See most of you then.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Been A Long Time

Sorry it took me so long to make an entry. I'm alive and well and actually have some news to report. I’ve been hired to deliver a 47 foot sailboat from here to Seattle. Wow – that’s 5000 miles, uphill, and in bad weather. It pays well, she’s a fast boat and as captain I’ll get the best berth. The plan is to dash from here back to El Salvador, then Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego (I’ll anchor in Mariner’s Basin and all you locals will have to come party on the big boat. San Francisco, and leave her at her rich owners private mooring in his backyard in Seattle.

I’ll then fly back south and visit family and friends before flying back to Panama to move back onto Barraveigh. I haven’t told her about the other boat. She’s not going to like that.

I think I’ll be in SD around Halloween the first time, and then back again about 20 days later. I’m going to need some Beachcomber time with all my friends, a seared ahi tuna sandwich from The Liar’s Club, and no Spanish for the entire stay on that side of the border. Momma I’m coming home and we’re going to eat Reuben sandwiches for every meal.

Dave McGinn was just down here for a fun trip and Eric Farber will be here tomorrow.

Todo es tranquillo amigos

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Boat Woes

Here's what happened:

I moved the boat over to the BYC (Balboa Yacht Club), got gas and water at their dock, and had small talk with the workers there. They then gave me a mooring assignment. I went down one line of boats to come around the backside of the one they had assigned, which was the only way to do it given the way the wind was blowing and as soon as I rounded the end of the line I got stuck in the mud. I couldn't power off on my own and the bozos that came to my "rescue" were the most hapless wastes of skin I've ever met. Effing idiots. The Keystone Cops. It would have been hilarious if it had been someone else.

It was a sickening feeling. All I could think was, "Today's the day I lose my boat. It's all about to end in a few hours and there is nothing I can do about it." My fear was that as she lay over on her side the rudder would break and the keel would leak from the pounding.

I closed up all the hatches, brought everything inside, and the only one who came to my assistance; Clyde, on a 100 foot mega yacht helped me all day. He took my primary anchor out forward so I wouldn't drift further onto the sandbar and we also set another anchor off the halyard from the top of the mast in hopes of dampening the rock and roll when a big freighter went by (I'm literally in the canal zone almost under the Bridge of the Americas). The hatches on the port side of the boat soon turned into aquariums. It was like a glass bottomed boat. 4 inches of water and then the sand and mud of the bottom is what I saw looking out of them. The heel of the boat was so severe, as she was soon drying on her side, that it made movement aboard almost impossible.

Nothing to be done now except eat and wait it out. Clyde took me aboard his palace boat and his Swedish wife made us hamburgers. After lunch they even came over and helped me clean the bottom. Well, one side of it anyway.

As the water began to rise she took a few bad rollers from the big ships that went by. I was concerned about the strain on the rigging but decided the anchor would pop before anything could really get tweaked. I gradually let the halyard out as the water came in and she slowly came to her feet. Weary like a drugged elephant trying to shake off the dart, she stumbled on her keel for another 20 minutes and then I was free.

Clyde once again came to my assistance in retrieving the anchors and picking up the mooring. It’s been 15 hours since I got loose and it doesn’t look like she is taking on water. I’m going to have her hauled and check the underside, but I think everything is fine. It was just a lot of work and struggle and stress but I guess I chose that life so I have to deal with the bad parts too.

All my fault but they are supposed to guide you to the mooring ball and pick it up for you, especially if you are a single hander. Today I’ll be speaking with the manager, and in the future I’ll ask more questions.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

This One Hurts

First, let me tell you what happened yesterday. Yoshi is a cruiser from Japan. He was on land when we got hit with a squall that clocked 60 knots on the wind meter. That’s utterly ferocious and when it comes out of the east the waves build to 8 feet in no time. He was racing in his dinghy to get back to his yacht when he capsized. He’s fine. He was saved by Preben my 70 year old neighbor on “Anna Lisa”. Amazing that the old Danish salt went out to save him in those conditions. He ought to be given a medal. The Japanese boat ended up the rocks. It was sickening for me to watch. I am anchored furthest to the north and the fleet had me relay the info as I was the only one who could see what was happening. She dragged and then laid on her starboard beam and took pounding wave after pounding wave until a power boat motored out in that horrible weather to pull her off the causeway and into the protected waters of the marina. We were all exhausted by the time the drama was over. I closed the hatches and dropped in my bunk.

I awoke this morning to find that not only had they stolen my outboard (again) but this time my dinghy with it. When Preben heard my radio transmission to the fleet he found his was gone too. They cut thru the heaviest cable I could make and made off with it in the worst conditions knowing that I wouldn’t hear a thing.

Another cruiser loaned us his. Everyone else has been very supportive. We filled out police forms, but nothing will come of it.

I’ve made a decision. I anchored here to save money. This is going to be over a $2000 expense to replace what was stolen. As my friend Eric says, “Penny wise and a pound foolish.” It would have been cheaper to pay for 5 months on a mooring ball at the Balboa Yacht Club then to have my stuff ripped off. Hindsight is always 20/20, but now I know. I’m moving the boat over there. I’ve paid for one night at a dock and never a night on a mooring since I left 8.5 months ago, but the streak is about to end. It just isn’t worth saving the money.

On the bright side – I no longer have to worry about the leak, the temperamental Mercury, and how to protect it in a storm. It’s only money and I’m alive and can still smile.

How was your day?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Panama - "Just the Facts Juan"

It’s fitting to begin this tale with the history of the Panama Canal. It is, after all, the reason this country exists in the first place.

The French started the canal in 1880, and in typical French fashion they surrendered to disease (note the paltry figure of 22,000 dead workers), the jungle, mud slides and the enormity of the project (they make good coffee presses though), and the US took over in 1904. Why 1904? Good question. Let’s look at the birth of a nation.

Panama got their independence from Spain in 1821. That's a little deceiving because they weren't really a country until 1903. That’s the year they succeeded from Columbia when Teddy Roosevelt propped them up with a human puppet because he wanted that canal to happen. That’s who his quote, “He might be a bastard, but he’s our bastard” refers to.

The canal took the US 10 years to complete, so in 1914 the first ship passed through. The locks raise the vessels 86 feet above sea level, and then lower them 86 feet back to sea level once on the other side.

* More bird species live in Panama then in all of North America *

They call their currency the "Balboa" but it's the US greenback dollar. Not a facsimile - the exact bill. They've been using it since 1904. They have, for some confusing reason, created their own coins though. They are exactly the same size, weight and value as ours but with a picture of Balboa on them. However, our coins are used too, so both are in circulation. It’s a little silly.

Now, who is this Balboa guy and why is he on a coin?

Vasco Nunez de Balboa – In 1501 he “discovered” the Pacific Ocean (I’m not even going to comment on that). I do think building statues to him and putting his image on coins is tantamount to the American Indians praising Columbus though. He sailed for Spain, and he slaughtered lots of locals. Pizarro, who came after Balboa and actually beheaded him, killed all the locals, I mean ALL the locals. Then he slapped himself on the forehead and sheepishly said, “That was stupid. Now I have to get slaves from Africa. Damnit!” Before we were the global bad guys, it was the Spanish and they stole tons of gold and silver from Peru and it all passed through here. It’s cool though, cuz I’m pretty sure those Peruvians had WMD.

Moving right along – we now have gold, silver, a thin isthmus and lots of mariners ready to take a chance. Yep, that means PIRATES (and no, that’s not the Japanese pronunciation of Pilates).

Pirate History – In July of 1668 the English Pirate Henry Morgan (technically he was a Buccaneer but who’s counting) took all of Portobello which was the Spanish stronghold on the Caribbean side of the Isthmus. He held it ransom and threatened to burn it to the ground unless the Spanish in Panama paid up. They paid up. Then in 1671 he marched with his Pirate army across the jungle from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side (Is this geography lesson starting to make sense? You can always look at map) and defeated a Spanish army of 1600 soldiers. Then, through torture and every other means conceivable he extracted enough silver and gold to load 175 mules as well as capturing 600 prisoners. He marched it all back to the Caribbean side and sailed home to Jamaica & a hero’s welcome.

As for Panama; he super sacked it. Biggy fries, and all the rest. Torched it to the ground. Gone. In fact - Panama Vieja is where the city used to be (Cool archeological site). When they rebuilt it, they did so miles to the west where I’m anchored today.

Side bar – Actually, in 1573, after a couple huge failures, Sir Francis Drake (he wasn’t a “sir” yet) hit Nombre De Dios, which was near Portobello, and took a booty of over 15 tons of silver and gold.

* Like the US, they have a president but unlike the US they have 2 vice presidents * - (Heart attack insurance)

Casco Viejo is one of the most interesting neighborhoods here (where they rebuilt Panama City a couple years after Morgan paid his visit). It thrusts it’s bull neck out into the Pacific with the ancient Presidio walls. It’s dangerous and half deserted, but the reward for walking it’s streets are glimpses into the far and recent past. It’s some of the oldest that the new world has to offer (You should see this before it’s all turned into condos and coffee shops).

* Nearly a 3rd of the country is protected habitat *

Let’s talk about Noriega – that pockmarked faced narco non rocker. The US came in here (Misnomer cuz we were already here. It was 1989. We controlled the Canal remember, but they love to call it an invasion so who am I to spoil their history) under the catchy slogan “Operation Just Cause”, with guns blazing and smart bombs exploding. We cornered him in the Vatican embassy and then played Van Halen and Metallica for 40 days and 40 nights and it broke his will to traffic cocaine and commit murder. In fact, he surrendered after 10 days and is likely to be paroled next year.

*Panama is the 2nd largest banking center in the world *

Party like it’s 1999! – In that year the US handed the Canal over to the Panamanians. Carter signed off on it back in ’77. With the US exit went lots of dollars and jobs and the economy is still reeling from it. “Yankee go home” is fun to say, but costly.

* Hookers cost $10 *

List of famous Panamanians: Roberto Duran (manos de piedra) - the boxer who ate a steak after weighing in, and lost the championship to a tummy ache is Panamanian. So is Reuben Blades. He’s the minister of tourism, an actor and a Grammy award winning musician.

I’m a guy at anchor who has his evenings free, and I live in Panama. Did you learn anything?

Saturday, August 5, 2006

A Story For Terry Allen

I originally wrote this for my friend Terry but after I typed it I thought the rest of you might enjoy it.

Terry -

You're on a quest for the weird ones. This one might suffice. It has Germans and I know how we are both a little fixated on the Teutonics.

About 10 days ago I was in Benoa which is the great surf spot where I thought the sharks were going to eat me. On our second day there a big catamaran pulled in and anchored next to us. I met the lady as I walked down the beach. Her name is Star and she looks like an aging sorority sweetheart. Nice enough. Her husband Bruce I met moments later in the lineup. He's 46 and really ruggedly good looking. Total hunky dude. Great surfer from Santa Cruz. It’s impossible to speak in his presence as he interrupts constantly. He'll ask a question and then as you begin to speak he'll answer it. So, a little annoying but very likeable.

He tells me they are leaving for Ecuador the next day and that they have 2 German 20 somethings on board who are hippy street musicians. The Germans are hitchhiking to Ecuador and he needs the extra hands. Once on land I meet his blind long hair dachsund. His name is Mr. Rocky Balboa and Bruce talks to him all the time, and kisses him even more. It's the most ridiculous thing you've ever watched. "Oh Mr. Rocky Balboa, you want some of that hot surfer chick huh? Yes you do! Your not THAT blind." Then his wife gives him a dirty look and he says, "What? It's not me. It's Mr. Rocky Balboa. He wants that girl. Not me!"

And you think I'm immature.

We had the Germans over to Barraveigh for a bottle of wine and they groused about how insane Bruce is. "Ya, und he talks to zat hund all zee time. He can't be wiz a human. He operates on a dog level. He is not man. I tell you. He is not."

We left to come to Balboa and they left to go to Ecuador. Most boats check into a cruisers net on the SSB at 9am. They give the weather report and boats in distress can get advice and help. Sure enough, Bruce comes on. He sounds composed but you could hear the stress and the howling wind. He'd been fighting a bitch of a storm for 24 hours and everyone was exhausted, cold, hungry and sick. One of the cruisers is a meteorologist and he advised Bruce to head out to 82 and half degrees which was another 200 miles west, not really the direction he wanted to go.

The next day he comes back on the radio and sounds wiped out. He told me later that he called the Coast Guard back in LA on his sat phone and they had a ship within 100 miles ready to pull them off when he asked them to stand down. Star told me she was praying for her life with every breath. He tells the weather man he can't make any progress and is thinking about heading to Columbia. Everyone listening advises against it. One veteran cruiser advises him to turn around and come back to Panama. Colin and I realize we were probably the last to see them, so, who better to improvise a play than us. I take the role of the Germans and Colin performs Bruce.

Colin: "It looks terrible ahead. I can't decide. I don't know how much pounding we can take. The mainsail is . . . Oh Mr. Rocky Balboa, look at you. You're majestic. You little heartbreaker! I love you!"

Me: "Bruce, vat are you doing? You must stop licking zee dog's face and concentrate on zee matters at hand. Vee are in a crisis here."

Colin: "Ok. Ok. Here's what we're going to do. I've thought this through. We're going to go into Columbia for kibbles. Oh Mr. Rocky Balboa, you’re my little buddy. Yes you are! The Coast Guard has a child's harness that will fit you."

Me: "Bruce! I varn you - zis must stop! You are insane wiz zee dog love. Mr. Balboa is not human. He can't even see. Star vat can be done?"

You get the idea. This entertained us for 20 minutes and we broke into it at random throughout the day.

They fought that storm for 5 days and finally made it back here. The Germans flew out the same day.

Am I still the same insensitive bastard I've always been, or am I maybe just learning to see humor in the midst of danger?

Thursday, August 3, 2006

2 Near Misses - Same Day

Poco Loco is a 30 foot Catalina from LA skippered by the 74 year old Jerry and his lamb looking dog Sparky. Yesterday, in 25 knots of wind he started dragging towards the breakwater. Colin and I jumped in the dinghy and raced over to help. Colin went aboard and helped raise and then lower the anchor and Jerry got his umbilical cord replanted in terra firma. Safe, and only 200 yards from the rocks! We were heroes for helping. Little did I know what would happen the next day.

Colin got off the boat yesterday morning to go back to the States. He is an earth dwelling mammal once again. Come back anytime “Chef Evin”.

After we hugged goodbye and his cab pulled away I felt the first drops. I dinghied back to Barraveigh just in time to shut the hatches and roll down the dodger. The winds came up real fast out of the south. The boat was pointing east. The currents and the tides often don't allow the boats to point into the wind. She was heeled over almost to the point of having her port hatches in the water. She straightened herself out soon but not before the main sail had been completely deployed from the wind catching it sideways (I will from now on always make sure the clutch break is engaged. Live and learn). I was dragging anchor in 60 knot winds. Only one boat didn't - "Anna Lisa" from Santa Barbara. I started the engine and powered forward to stay off of her. Her skipper and I shouted at each other over the winds. 60 knots - he told me later that that's what his wind indicator clocked. That's my new record. I was in 40 for days off Nicaragua with the boys but never 60 and alone. I stood at the wheel for an hour turning Barraveigh away from Anna Lisa until I was sure the anchor had reset. I was freezing cold. I’d forgotten what that was like. I guess I’ll quit complaining about the heat. It took a pot of coffee and 2 bowls of soup to get back to normal. That was exciting! Glad it's over. Sun and goodness after, with the radio chattering away about who ended up where and what just happened. And then the winds turned 180 degrees and came right back at us. Only 25 knots the second time.

I'm glad the bimini held. I wasn’t sure it would. It looks like a patch quilt with all the pieces of fabric I’ve glued over rips. Some things are no longer pretty but it’s still in one piece after that attack. You should have seen the dinghy jump around. A couple times the bow shot up, the wind blew it higher and I was expecting it to flip upside down. Fortunately that never happened. I locked the cable around the engine handle so I could retrieve it if it did.

It was a beautiful afternoon though, and I got a lot of work done. By 10:30 I was exhausted and climbing into bed when I saw lights off my starboard side.

"Huh, didn't notice that boat before. Wait, those are nav lights. That guys coming right at me!"

I ran up on deck with a flashlight. He saw my frantic waves and altered course immediately. Another 12 – 15 seconds and he would have cut me in half. I’m looking at the vessel now and it’s about 150 feet with full fishing nets - one of my beloved shrimp boats. There's no way I would have lived through that collision. How did he not see my lights?

Today the sky is blue and I'm heading off to shop with my new friend Ricardo. Glad I made it out of Wednesday.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Casualties

1.) My waterproof camera is not so waterproof. It quit working, but I think it could resurrect if I could just dry it out. It's hard to dry it out when you live on a boat in the tropics during the rainy season. Colin dunked his digital camera and it's dead too. Fortunately we both have back up digitals.

2.) The red kayak wondered off in Benao. I'm sure the new owners are treating her well. She was a good vessel and served us stupendously through many landings and launchings. She hauled provisions and trash, shot the rapids with ease and once I even set the stern anchor off her rounded big bottom. She was my "go to gal" for the 2 months when I didn't have an outboard (remember those Philistine days?) She'll be missed. Maybe the $100 reward will generate an email but I doubt it.

3.) Colin lost another year. Today is his birthday. The real loss here is that I have only a few more days with my friend. I've raved about him for years and I'm fortunate I was able to have his company for the months that I did. Hopefully, when his bank account is refilled and his adventure flame is rekindled he'll jump back on board, until then, he'll be missed.

We are in transit between the Perlas islands and Balboa (Panama City), however we are going to make landfall in about 2 hours at one final island close to the mainland called Tobago because we heard there was a good Chinese restaurant there and Colin deserves to be given a break from the galley on his special day (besides, the provisions have been reduced to mangoes, potatoes, and a final bottle of bad red wine). We can already see the skyscrapers of the mainland in the distance. After so long in the islands hopping from crystal clear anchorage to pristine jungle settings I imagine it might be a wee shocker to enter a major population center again, so we have postponed it for one more day. I have to admit, I am looking forward to ice cream and a movie theater.

I’ve been dreaming of new batteries since my heady days back in the Dirty P. Seems so long ago and now they are only 15 miles away. I started this trip with 380 amp hours. For the last 4 months I’ve lived on 40. The lesson might be as simple as this; what we think we’ve lost, we may have never needed.

Casualties? I wonder.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Radar - AKA: The Palindrome Log Entry '06

Radar (1st Palindrome) - My new favorite gadget. Once we rounded Punta Mala & entered the gulf of Panama we were never out of sight of at least 9 ships. Ship? It seems there should be another word for vessels this large. This is the canal zone. They stand in line for 2 weeks to get through the locks. Once they do, they waste no time. They're moving at speeds that approach 25 knots. Trust me - that's fast! The word "freighter" still sounds too small. The bow and stern lights were so far apart I was sure that I was looking at 2 different boats. Nope. Thank you radar for telling me how far away those behemoths were and what direction they were bearing down upon. It got a little scary at 3 in the morning and I now love radar.

Madam, I'm Adam (2nd Palindrome) - Once we dropped the hook at Isla San Jose it was as if we'd found Eden and we were the only people on the planet again. We watched the electrical storm light up the sky for at least 2 hours. At 1am I had to pull the sun shade because the flashes were so bright and often. Not a full 2 seconds went by without the sky lighting up. I've never seen anything like that. No thunder though. Really strange. The coming of the apocalypse?

A man, a plan, a canal, Panama (3rd Palindrome. Courtesy of Mike Ryder: The King of Irvine) - I love this country. We sailed with a whale escort for about a half hour. He was never more than 30 feet away. Ask me for the pictures when you come to visit. The exhale sounds like a trumpet miss, and makes you kink your neck to see the massive thing slide by right next to you. Tiny dorsal fin though. I wonder if he got hazed for that little thing.

I could stay here a long time,

Bob (Final Palindrome)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Surf & Mozzies

Benao Bay will be on surf maps some day, but fortunately for me it isn't yet. I have been pruned the last 2 days cuz I just can't get out of the water long enough to dry out. There's a little cantina that serves, what else - rice and fried fish, right on the beach with nothing else but perfect "A frames" up and down this beach break. It works best at middle tide, which is fast approaching so this isn't going to be a long email.

Last night I stayed too long and the sun dropped on me. Colin was already back on the boat and I wasn't looking forward to the very long paddle with exhausted arms. As we stood on the beach reliving our victories in the water the local surfers all thought I was crazy for paddling back after dark with all the sharks in the water. "Sharks? That's a joke right?"

They assured me it wasn't. The mozzies made up my mind for me as I stood at the waterline just knowing that "death by eaten alive" was out there awaiting me. Barraveigh was about 1/4 mile away. That's a long time in the water. I'm being eaten alive standing here anyway so to hell with it, I'm going.

I made it past the breakers to the calm water, every stroke a giant splash of green bio luminescence that must have been the aquatic equivalent of clapping cymbals together. Every shark must now be snickering. God I hope it takes me fast. Will it be an arm or a leg? Maybe he'll clamp on to my side and they'll be able to tell the size of the beast from the teeth marks in the board. There! - those are my stern lights, I'm close. Oh man, don't bite me now. Don't bite me now. Feet on ladder and I'm in!

Colin counted 40 mosquito bites, zero shark bites.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

07 11.202 by 080 46.339

This is the extent of my southern reach. I've just made the gradual turn northward as Colin and I motorsail around the Peninsula De Azuero, enroute to Panama City (Balboa is the port). We'll be there in less than 2 weeks. First we need to stop at a few more surf spots and then hit the Perlas islands in the Gulf of Panama.

We spent a night at Isla Cebaco after dropping Suzi off in Santa Catalina (miss you heaps snoozie). Then 2 nights anchored off Punta Naranjo which the cruiser guide guaranteed was a "swell less anchorage". Horse pucky. Very rolly but the kayaking around the rocks was the best we've had. We went through a waterfall into a cave were we beached the kayaks and giggled about how cool this was, and how maybe no one else in the history of the world had ever stood inside this cave behind this waterfall (I play that headgame on myself all the time). Then we giggled harder when we thought about our escape and how one large errant wave would fill this cavern and kill us quickly. Next was "shooting the rapids". I was in the long blue kayak, which is usually a disaster in tight corners, but I got lucky with the timing, and the speed of it's longer waterline pulled me through where Colin ate it, and then ate it again. No injuries except a bruised pride and a lost pair of sunglasses.

We hacked open a couple coconuts and paddled back to the boat to eat the hockey puck muffins Colin baked. At least he tried.

Everything about Panama is better than Costa Rica except the beer. The prices and the rain are about half of what they are in CR. The coastline is much more interesting with less people. The water is clearer and the sea life more abundant (saw my first whale since Mx yesterday). And, get this - all my clothes are suddenly clean and no longer need ironing! Isn't this place great! Nah, my clothes are filthy but you can't blame Panama for that. I'm a messy eater and I play hard.

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup in Pixvae

To watch the World Cup in a Latin country is something special. To watch it in a third world Latin country in REALLY something special. We watched the first half yesterday in a school and the second half under a tin roof while the generator rattled in the shed next door. The kids sat on coconuts and the rest of us on plank benches. Everyone took turns walking to the bar and buying the big whale beers to share. This was some family’s backyard. It's against the law to drink in the school building so backyard TV's with generators allowed imbibing while watching. It was a rich experience.

Here's how the Hispanics pick a team to support:
1.) Their own country
2.) The next closest country
3.) Any country that speaks Spanish
4.) Any country that speaks Portuguese.

After that they don't much care.

Pixvae is a great example of unspoiled Central America and how poor yet happy a people can be. Tourism doesn't exist here. The islands get all the top billing so the crowds skip this little pueblo. There are no restaurants. You just mention that you're hungry and soon someone finds someone who is willing to cook for you for a couple bucks. You get a couple starches and there is always fish but rarely carne, and of course it's all fried. The real treat is being invited into their house to eat at their table. There aren't any real shops to buy provisions from but someone always knows someone who sells canned goods and maybe drinks out of their house.

The beach and bay are gorgeous from a distance but once upon it the plastic pollution is overwhelming. They just can't stop littering or showing cruelty towards animals. It's really hard to muster sympathy when you see that on a daily basis, and from people who have otherwise proved themselves to be proud and loving.

These island chains just keep getting better. Parida was amazing. The Secas are an underwater dream (we touched bottom and had a bit of excitement at 3 in the morning as we ditched the anchor to head for deep water. We returned later in the light of day and retrieved it). Isla Brincanco in the Contreras group had the clearest water I've yet seen on this trip and 7 waterfalls. Colin paddled through one into a cave that was behind it. I chickened out. We are now underway for Bahia Honda which has an island smack in the middle with 3 cantinas, should be another fun night. After that it's Coiba. Look it up. So far, Panama is shaping up to be my fav.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Happy 4th

I spent the day on a sailboat with an English citizen. We got along quite well until I tossed her tea into the bay (Great idea Mom!).

2 nights ago twin shrimp boats anchored in this bay and commenced to having a fiesta like only hard working third world fishermen can. The sounds of rejoicing and the hope for shrimp were overpowering. We tumbled into the dinghy with a bottle of white wine and dinghied over. Within minutes we had 3 gallons of shrimp and were headed back to Barraveigh. Fortunately we saved a cold bottle for ourselves and gobbled buttery garlic shrimp until our stomachs were about to pop.

At around 2pm on consecutive days we've watched the squall line march towards us at astounding speeds. Once spotted you have about 10 minutes to prep the ship for the 25 knot winds that threaten to take your wardrobe to sea. The rain comes down in sheets and visibility drops to about 20 feet. The lightning crackles so close and seems to last so long that all becomes perfectly visible again, if only for flashes. We got some good video of this. Glad to be at anchor with a 45 lb CQR and plenty of chain on the bottom. Not so glad to have a 60+ foot mast that seems to me to be the areas best lightning rod.

We are leaving today for the Secas. These are a group of islands that are supposed to be a surfer's dream. I'll let you know. After that it's Isla Coiba - more of the same.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Panama!

We crossed the border as we rounded Burica point at 1:30 in the morning. Colin was asleep in the vee berth and the engine was running, so he never knew that I cranked Van Halen's Panama as loud as I could. First new country in 3 months. I've been here now for 5 days and I have a few impressions:

1.) The Ticos are flat out thieves and the Panamaniacs are first rate swindlers. They feel entitled to your money. They will never give change unless you demand it, not ask, demand. Entering their country was nothing short of a con. 5 offices, endless back and forth paperwork designed to break you down so they can slap you with another erroneous charge. I paid for a quarantine inspection that never happened, a buoy that doesn't exist, an after hour charge (it was 9 in the morning), 2 zarpes, a cruising permit and the privilege of anchoring (anchoring has always been free) in their filthy water. Then an additional $10 for land access. Such a sham.

The people are great though.

2.) They use American money. Fun to handle the old green bills.

3.) They are 1 hour off Costa Rica so that makes them the same as East Coast time. It's like going on daylight savings when you cross the border. The sun now sets at 7. That's a plus.

4.) Everything is much cheaper. Breakfast for 2 is $2.50, beers and cocktails in a bar are 50 cents, diesel is 60 cents a gallon less than CR.

I met Suzi 2 days ago in David and we set sail this morning for Isla Parida. Check it out on Google Earth. Looks amazing. We just landed a big eye tuna with enough meat to feed 6 hungry people, watched the dolphins swim off the bow and am now enjoying the new music she brought.

Today is another mile marker. It's July 1st and it was 1 year ago that I moved out of 802 Dover Court and into Barraveigh. I've officially been a liveaboard for 1 year now.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Here's the Plan

It's 2 in the morning as we lay at anchor off the beach that is known world wide as Pavones. I never sleep well when it's a lee shore and the swell slapping against the stern doesn't help a bit. The saving grace is the starry sky ablaze and the unique crackling of the briny shrimp that I can hear through the hull.

We left Golfito yesterday morning with 2 working outboards, full fuel and water tanks and food to last a week. We'll spend the 25th surfing this incredible break and cleaning the bottom. Then we’ll do a night run around the point into Puerto Armuellas, Panama. I'll spend the 26th and 27th wasting my time trying to buy the correct batteries (see how the 3rd world has beaten the optimism out of me when it comes to batteries?), and the 28th putting them in. Then on the 29th I plan to take a series of buses to David to meet my London Detective Suzi for 2 weeks of cruising the Panamanian islands and Pacific coast. I've been told that the water there is the clearest on the whole Pacific side of the Americas. Can't wait!

Who among you has surfed Pavones? It's my all time new favorite. I've heard people talk of it for years and the closer I got, the more vivid the stories about dropping in and surfing this left until your legs burn, then getting out of the water and walking back down the beach to paddle back out to the drop in point. It's all true. I got more ride time in 2+ hours yesterday then I did the rest of the month combined. And the best part - no one else in the water. Pavones is billed as the longest left in the world and last week the swell was at a 5 year high with big wave surfers from Hawaii flying in for it. Yesterday it was 4 foot and clean and I had it all to myself. Perfection. This place is so remote that it's virtually deserted but it won't last. Get here soon before the hotels go in.

Colin has been a huge help in prepping this boat for the next leg; his final leg. He has a house in Bellingham, WA and some tenant issues. That, and a travel kitty that is thinner than he expected are cutting short his trip on Barraveigh. We still have the journey to Panama City together and the path is clear for him to rejoin in the future. He'll be missed but the ride isn't over yet.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Golfito

The Osa Peninsula is nearly devoid of humans. Frogs and jungle still rule this badlands of Costa Rica, that, and this unremitting rain.

After a couple nights in Drake Bay we motored the 12 miles to Isla Cano since the wind was right on our nose. Very clear water but the surge was too much to consider diving. We departed just before sunset with strong winds at our back. This was to be my first night passage in over 2 months. It all comes back, just like riding a bike. I wrote up the watch shifts (Claudia took a seasickness pill and slept for 15 hours) and posted them on the bulkhead. 2 hours on, 2 hours off. The wind built through the night, at 20 knots we began to reef. Every 7th wave or so a big one would role in and I'd smile at my preventers, keeping us safe from the accidental jibe. It poured rain on and off and I changed from wet to dry (dry is a relative term now) every 2 hours as I went from bunk to helm.

It's interesting, to me, the conditions that I live under. An alien with a light on their forehead pulling me from sleep with a tug on my foot and the words, "You're up", don't seem as strange as they did 6 months ago. We exchange info quickly so that we can get back to our bunks; "I've got one boat right there, the depth is getting more shallow which confirms our position on the chart, the wind seems to be trending down a bit after hitting 25. I reefed the headsail a bit more while you were asleep so you might want to let it out if the wind continues to drop. There's some soup on the stove if you’re interested. See ya in 2 hours".

- In the middle of that last sentence I had to stop and batten down all the hatches. The wind kicked up and the solar panels went from 9.5 to 1.5 when a squall blanketed me at anchor. It's blowing sideways so I can't even keep the vertical hatches open. This is when I become a total shut in. No ventilation, and muggy as hell. At least the bugs go home. But what about the monkeys? I've seen them sitting in the rain, defeated. I empathize. -

We dropped the hook in Golfito at 07:51 on the 7th. Flattest anchorage I've had since the penal colony back in the Golf of Nicoya. God I love flat anchorages. We spent the day reconnoitering the town. Charming, with loads of personality. I'm going to like it here. The next day after taking a paddle, Colin and Claudia left to explore the country. He’ll return in 10 days to help me with the projects we need to complete before the next leg into Panama.

The immediate lurch I found myself in was that there was air in the fuel line of the generator after we changed the fuel filters. I have no manual for this diesel and needed time and another head to help me trace and then figure out how to bleed the air. Ok - I'm resourceful. I went to the internet place. No joy. I went to the most expensive yacht club with a hunch and a bit of knowledge from past yacht clubs.

There sat my targets. I may not be a diesel mechanic but I can be pretty charming when I have to be, and everyone loves the moxy of a man alone, on a sailboat asking for help. Yep - a couple of Brits, one Scottish and the other from Brighton (Yea Suzi!) who knew everything about anything nautical took up my cause, launched the dinghy from the 2 million dollar yacht they were delivering. They buzzed me over to Barraveigh and had those lines bled and the generator purring in no time.

Later that night I bought the drinks. Fortunately I paced myself and had a very productive day today. Changed the oil in the generator, cleaned up the spilled diesel from yesterday, wrote up notes on how to do it on my own the next time, and watched a good movie entitled Cinderella Man. I feel a little like the comeback kid myself right now. It gets hard sometimes. Sometimes I'm lonely, homesick and overwhelmed with all the projects. Sometimes I want to quit. Then I win a little victory, or notice the way the clouds sit on the hillside jungle after a rain, or think about a fighter like James Braddock, and I know I can do this. I will do this.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Not all Paradise

I gotta tell you, sometimes I: want to quit, want to drink it all away, want to sail across all the oceans at once and get this over with.

Now, on the other hand - I understand that this goal is larger than climbing Everest and there is nothing easy about that. So, can I suffer? Am I willing to suspend my immediate wants and desires? Will holding the end goal in my mind get me thru? Dunno.

This goddamn rain is incessant and it depletes my frontier spirit to the point of nearly screaming. I have no previous experience with this. It beats back my jovial mood and undermines any ambitious aspirations I might have had.

I'll get thru this. This is the test. I signed up for this. Just know that it ain't all hibiscus blossoms, charming monkeys and gorgeous sunsets.

I'm growing tired of this. Sometimes I feel worked out. The beauty is still there but it's in punctuation marks. Not full time. I have to turn this around. I gotta go the distance. I'm committed but I want it to be enjoyable.

I cut a tendon in my left hand while shucking oysters. It’s swollen and achy and barely functional.

I drink too much. Am I rising above or am I sinking beneath? Am I becoming actualized or a shadow of myself? Where is the grand awakening reward of POW! - Wisdom, Serenity, Zen? Have I missed something? How do I do this for 5 years?

Here is the mantra that helps me pull out of the funk.
This is the trip of a lifetime.
I have learned more in 6 months than I ever thought I could. You thought your freshman year at the University was an eye opener? Ha! You didn't have any idea. Nor did I.
I will suffer indignities and I will forge ahead.
I will experience beauty and knowledge beyond any that I had ever expected and I will share it the best I can.
I will continue.

I miss everything at this point, but this point will end.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Shuck & Jive

As I write this we are underway for Drake Bay. The "me", became "we" on May 29th when I reunited with Colin in Quepos. He had just met up with his Italian girlfriend Claudia in San Jose and after provisioning the boat with all needed components for great Italian fare we dinghy'd over to Playa Biesanz. I'd found this idyllic anchorage a few days before and have been honing my skills at harvesting oysters, calle margaritas (warm water abalone) and even conch. I introduced Colin to the rock piles I knew about at low tide and we filled bags full of fresh shellfish. Back on the boat the Italian cooked (Next time you make a pasta sauce with pesto add some peeled potatoes to the boiling noodles. It dissolves and thickens around the pasta. Neat trick courtesy of our Italian chef.) and we shucked oysters. A great existence and a great homecoming for Colin after being gone for 2 months (missed ya guy).

Yesterday while underway to Bahia Uvita and cleaning the conch, a large mahi mahi set off our handline alarm (a gatorade bottle with rocks in it), and the fight was on. We landed the 3 footer and we went to work taking the meat off and preparing shashimi (we still have wasabi and soy), ceviche, and for dinner baked dorado. A great day on the open ocean.

Friday, May 26, 2006

New list!

I call this one:

Highlights and Lowlifes

Highlights

1.) Trading with the shrimpers
2.) Surfing with only 1 other person in the water
3.) Cold cocktails with jungle sunsets
4.) Sailing really fast (huge bonus if it's in the right direction)
5.) Help to and from fellow cruisers
6.) Ice cream whenever I'm in a town that has it
7.) Those little Nemo fish that stay in your face the whole time you are diving
8.) Ice cubes
9.) The sentence, "No, I sailed here."
10.) The follow-up sentence, "Uh huh, from San Diego."

Lowlifes

1.) All Costa Rican battery sales agents (except Alder Acosta)
2.) Thieves
3.) Century 21 agents and their signs
I think, the longer I do this, the harder it will be for me to ever be with people again.

I feel apart from them. My personal apartheid. Detached. I think Joseph Conrad might have nailed it:

"Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids, I ain't never coming home."
- Colonel Kurtz -
Apocalypse Now
Adapted from Heart of Darkness by
Joseph Conrad

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hardware, Hookers, Drugs & Surf

A town called Jaco.

There's a cantina in Jaco called the Beatle Bar. The ratio of girls to guys is about 5 to 1. The percentage of girls who are hookers is 100%. They come with fully accessorized breasts and deluxe Latin Luxury Butts (trademark pending). This town also has not 1 but 3 of the best hardware stores I've seen since Sports Arena's Home Depot. I theorize that the hardware stores give the men of Costa Rica a reason to go to Jaco and the Beatle Bar gives them reason to be late.

Here are the 2 weird bits:

1.) There must be 100+ hookers in this town with bodies that stand out in a crowd. But, you never see them during the day. I've been here a week. They don't eat in restaurants, they aren't on the beach.
2.) There is a Christian surf group here. They come from all over to introduce kids to surfing to keep them off drugs, and, you guessed it, introduce hookers to surfing to stop them from hooking. Just typing that makes me laugh.

The "kids off drugs through surfing" bit wasn't that hard to swallow even though these kids are already great surfers who all deal drugs on the side so I have no idea how the Christian group could possible make a dent but I couldn't believe the hooker surfing connection so I went in search of one of these amazing golden heart Christians to hear the real scoop. Her name was "Joey" and she came from the suburbs of Melbourne. She is here because she knows God. I bought her a cup of coffee at a panaderia and we sat down. First I wanted to know how they were going to "introduce" these kids to surfing when they are some of the best I've seen and they live on a beach. No good answer. What about "introducing" them to skate boarding, or ping pong? "Skate boarding - no pavement". She got me there. "Ping pong - that's a good idea".

Oh is it.

Then without laughing I asked about the hooker/surf connection. "So is it true that your organization is trying to introduce Jaco's prostitutes to surfing so as to get them out of the Beatle Bar and save them from a life of whoring?"

"Absolutely. We know that if we can connect with them through the waves, and they can feel the beauty of surf and get to know God then they'll see that they don't need to sell their bodies."

I wanted to go into the economics behind the issue and ask how surfing was going to pay for their families medical bills and I wanted to use the example of a stripper going back to KFC after making $400 a night and I wanted to tear into her on a few other points but her sweet dopey eyes changed my mind. Innocence is precious. Who am I to wrench it from some 19 year old. Maybe, for me, growing up is more than just realizing I can't dance.

"Final question Joey, I gotta run to catch the 5pm bus. Do you surf?"

"I'm learning."

Monday, May 8, 2006

No more Dirty P

I made it out of Punteranas.

I now have 2 fully functioning outboards, full water and fuel tanks, and complete provisions. The future looks bright.

My first stop was Paquera where I met my taxi driver Lecho and his family to take them sailing (remember the previous 12 hour trip to Tamarindo to pick up the outboard and his kids and I scooped melons off the road?). Only thing that was strange about this sail outing is that it was a different family. Different wife, different kid. When they went to the head I asked him what was up. "Shh, I have 3 families." I guess a taxi driver can pull that off.

The next day I sailed to Bahia Herradura (horseshoe) in some fast winds. That's where I am now. I was doing knots in the low 8's for hours and that's with a dirty bottom and towing a dinghy. Barraveigh can be fast when the winds are right. There are a few other cruisers anchored near me. This is the first I've seen of other cruisers since El Salvador, and that was a month and a half ago.

It's much greener here. I'm quite a bit further south and the rainy season is upon us. The new game involves constantly opening and closing hatches trying to guess the rain. And of course everything is a bit more damp in the cabin. I dry my sheets during the day and remake the bed at night. Strange adjustments.

There are a lot of Germans here. I was thinking about starting a self help group for them. I could bolster their confidence by assuring them that they shouldn't be ashamed of their ugly language while trying to get them not to wear speedos. If you are not a competitive swimmer you have no reason to wear one of those banana hammocks.

While sitting on the beach talking with some other gringos I discovered the hierarchy of travelers:

"So when do you fly out?"
"Actually we drove here."
"Oh, that's so cool. What a great trip!. Did you drive here with these guys?"
"No. Actually I sailed here. That's my sailboat right there."

I will never get tired of that line.

There are 2 amazing surf spots in this bay and the one north of it. The bad news is that my leash snapped on a big one and washed my board unto the rocks. Completely ruined. I'm going to give it to my friend Hubert who owns a bar. He's anxious to put it on the wall. Free drinks for me. Now I'm down to 3 boards and 2 of those are injured.

Estas son cosas de la vida,

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Power Packin

I'm anchored off an island in the Gulf of Nicoya, just an hour from Puntarenas, my nemesis. I'm sitting in the dark, wearing safety glasses, eating a tuna fish sandwich and typing this out to you. I, of course, have a headlamp on (Do you? And why the hell not?) so should I need light I can make it, but the glow from the computer is all I need right now. The reason for the darkness is that I am equalizing my batteries. That essentially means I am packing as many volts into them as I can with my charger set to "equalize mode" - Sounds cool huh. I've read the manual 3 times now and don't forget I'm wearing safety glasses nonstop so, I'm not in danger. That's how you have to do it cuz otherwise you could get sloppy and forget and go look at those battery cells just when one burped and there goes your eye forever. Not me, No sir.

Well, in order to get the big charge that I need to knock those sulfur build-ups off the plates I can't run any appliances or systems cuz that would reduce my volts in. I planned ahead and bought a big bag of ice (can you picture me on the kayak with a block of ice strapped onto the back as I paddle the 1/4 mile back to Barraveigh) before I left the Dirty P so my food and beer will stay cold. This equalization thing could take up to 8 hours. Gonna be a long night. I have a chefs timer so I can sleep for 90 minutes, check the batteries and then get another 90 minutes. Don't worry. If you get this email then I'm fine cuz I can't send it until after the charging is all over anyway. I do have unlimited 110 power though. So that means I can run the A/C later. It sure is sweet.

I ran into a pack of American students that live and study in the Dirty P (Puntarenas). I criticized it with gusto and then they sheepishly said they loved it, and loved the fact that there are never any other gringos there (Was that a hint?). "Oh yea, well . . . " I quickly came up with some more sharp and cutting remarks about their Dirty P and well, we probably won't be making out later.

I ran into them again as I walked what must have been my 9th lap of the DP. I had 4 items on my list and had to visit 11 hardware stores just to get 3 of them. A lint brush is impossible. The Tica behind the counter told me I'd have to go to San Jose to get one. The insanity of it all. I probably walk 8-10 miles a day. It's as if I'm the DP foot patrol officer. Today this random guy on the street stopped me and asked me, "Hey did you find your alternator belt?" I found that alternator belt a week ago. I gotta get out of this place.

Yea - I'm an ugly American sometimes. If appreciating convenience makes you ugly - I'm the Elephant Man. Give me Home Depot everyday and let all the mom and pops collect food stamps (Sorry independent retailors). I want my convenience. Man do I miss it.

Whenever I pull into a new anchorage I have a little procedure. Once the anchor is down, and I'm sure I'm not dragging, then I shut off the engine, put on The Police's De Doo Doo Doo, De Daa Daa Daa on the outside speakers and then I do a naked back flip off the stern rail. That's my thing. Mine. Don't copy it. This time there was a human watching from the pier. I couldn't tell if it was male or female. Pretty far away. I did hear them call their friends over though. This island was a prison colony. Not much for entertainment and they must have been hoping for an encore. One's all ya get.

Have you ever sounded out the word "Puntarenas"? It means "sandy point" but that's not what it sounds like in English. That's why I just refer to it as the Dirty P.

Gonna be a long night,

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Crocs

I am about to tie up to the actual dock. The water depths in this estuary fluctuate about 11 feet. I figure I have at least 6 hours to tie up to the dock (Actually the 3rd boat of 3 abreast. Deeper water on the outside) before my keel touches the stinkiest 3rd world mud ever. I'm doing this so I can borrow shore power from Chico. You remember him right? The idea is to zap the batteries using a process called equalizing which hopefully will knock the sulfides off the plates. The other plus to being on the dock is that I can then fill my water tanks and do all the other heavy lifting with more ease. . . Yea right. . .

Related topic: When I was paddling back to Barraveigh last night in the red kayak something splashed in the water. Chico put his flashlite on it. 9 foot crocodile. No shit. Crocodiles live in these estuaries. He was more afraid of me but just barely. You're safe as long as you don't fall out of the kayak.

The Big 4 National Past Times of Costa Rica:
1. Loitering. It might be illegal in our country but not in Latin America. Here it’s an art form.
2. Littering. They love to toss plastic.
3. Theft. There is no penalty. If you ever catch a thief it is your duty to society to torture them.
4. Futbol!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Introducion por mi nuevo lo mejor amig, Lecho

Let me introduce to you my new best friend, Alexis.

I spent 12 hours with this guy and his two kids today. The whole day was conducted in Spanish. I'm getting better but after 8 hours of it I was exhausted. My head is approaching melt down.

Highlights:

1.) My bank changed from Visa to Mastercard so my debit card was worthless. Couldn't get the money for the motor.
2.) Jeff and his wife decided to trust me to deposit the $825 into their account when I get back to Puntarenas.
3.) We got a flat tire. Out of 10 hours on the road only 1 hour was on pavement. They're even worse then dirt roads. More like trails.
4.) A melon truck was spilling it's load all over the road and we kept slowing to scoop them up. The kids giggled constantly, but not as loud as I.
5.) Getting that big pig of a 4 stroke back on the boat only to realize it's way too big for the mounting bracket. The laughs just keep on coming.

A thought that occurred to me today:

Is the goal as simple as this: "Earning serenity through adventure"? I think it might be.

Estas son cosas de la vida,

Friday, April 21, 2006

What I'll do for horsepower & clear ear canals

This is a very strange life.

As you may remember, thieves stole my outboard almost a month ago. I still haven't been able to replace it. I am getting off the boat in the dark tomorrow morning to meet a taxi driver at 06:00. For $100 and lunch, he has agreed to drive me from Tambor to Tamarindo and back so that I can pick up a 9.9 hp mercury outboard that my new friend Jeff has agreed to sell me for $825 (it was $850 but I gave him an electric air pump I never used and he agreed to take off $25). I can't believe I'm going backwards. I never go north.

While paddling the long long distance to the beach in Tambor for the second time today I heard myself laugh out loud at the epiphany I had just had. The problems I encounter, become the next adventure. Man, that attitude adjustment has helped all day.

Here's what I got to experience that I wouldn't have, had they never stole it:

1.) Chico. He's my new friend in Puntarenas that sells really crummy outboards. You should see his house. Not one wall is structurally sound. His dock is far worse. Eric almost cried when he was forced to traverse it one afternoon with heavy luggage. Chico and I drink coffee at noon break & beer together at sunset while we take turns butchering each others languages. He's proud of the fact that he can say "no" in English.
2.) A 5 hour stint in the cockpit back in Tamarindo taking a 3.5 hp Johnson apart and trying to fix it. Jeff gave it to me. It doesn't work, yet. I gave him my TV/VCR
3.) Countless hours kayaking and all the muscle building that goes with that.
4.) This crazy trip tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

A couple days ago I spent 2.5 hours in the water cleaning the hull. There is a lot of surface area down there and it's exhausting to hold your breath, fight to stay under and scrub away. I wear leather gloves and around each wrist is a tethered tool; a plastic scrapper and a metal putty knife. After an hour my ears filled with water and it was really uncomfortable for the remaining time in the water. After I got out and the water drained, the discomfort didn't go away. I found my swimmer's ear drops and as soon as that cold isopropyl alcohol got into my canal a mini crab about the size of a bb came right out and ran onto my lobe. I squashed him. Other ear, another crab. This is a very strange life.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I woke up early this morning and video taped the sun rise then turned over the diesel and motored around the west hook of the peninsula and am now at anchor in the protected estuary. Nice and flat except for the occasional panga racing by. Really pretty here. There are two big houses that at one time were stately but now look like civil war era plantations that haven't been repaired since Lincoln got shot. Boats galore.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

My Cockist Writing Yet

John Cougar said, "if you really wanna taste some cool success then you better learn to play guitar. Play guitar!"

If you've missed your chance at being a rock star then I'd recommend learning how to sail.

I'm coming off one of the best weeks I've ever lived. Suzi was hot, awesome crew, super fun, and thought I was a god. It's real easy to look like an amazing surfer when the only other person in the water is an English bird. I know knots, I speak "sailing", I catch and clean fish, I can see weather up ahead that she doesn't recognize, and sometimes I adjust sails even when I don't need to just to make her swoon. I was a rock star with a captive audience of one. And it all went to my head.

She got off Barraveigh today and as I write this she's on a plane back to London. She'll be missed, but I found a note she hid on my nav station that says, "C U in Panama." We talked about that possibility. I'll look forward to Panama even more.

Highlights of the last 10 days.

1.) The condemned and closed penal colony on Isla San Lucas. Think: Evil Club Med.
2.) Catching the outside set at Bahia Carrillo. Really far to paddle to from the beach but no problem for us liveaboards.
3.) The waterfalls & the pools beneath them in Montezuma.
4.) Running on Tambor beach in the middle of a tropical rain.
5.) Kayaking and then snorkeling through the arch on the back side of Isla Alcatraz (did you know alcatraz means pelican?)
6.) Being invited to dinner with the owner of the next island (Isla Tolinga) after he pulled me on the surfboard behind his 225 hp Mercruiser.
7.) Collecting 4 pockets full of sea snails and then eating them with garlic, butter, and picante sauce.
8.) Visiting Curu refuge which looks like Jurassic Park with monkeys, macaws and boa constrictors.
9.) Watching Suzi shave her legs on the stern ladder as the big tangerine sun slipped from view behind a volcano.
10.) Kayaking 2 hammocks and a cooler to shore and setting them up between palms on the beach.
11.) I promised I wouldn't tell ya ;-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I Ride A Wave Of Mutilation

- Captain's log 4/11/06 13:38 en route to Bahia Ballena -

Just hit my last shot of SoCo 100 proof. Brought it from SD. Last of the US stash. Last of the Captain's Private Reserve.

I'm more tan than you can even imagine. You thought my hair was white before?

I sit on the bow and count manta rays. Their beam is the same as mine: 13 feet. When they dive you can see their white underbelly.

Boobies try to land on my headsail. They must have flunked math cuz the numbers just can't possibly work. That thing is nearly vertical. Stupid birds. Stupid stupid birds.

I love this life of mine.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I love Inanimate Objects

Maybe "love" is a bit strong but I've found myself deeply enamored with my chain snubber and stern anchor.

Met a girl. She's a 29 year old police officer from London. Completely "fit" with a posh accent. She was sunbathing on the beach reading Ellen MacArthur's book about sailing around the world. I decided the sailboat angle would be my best bet. (Let's face it, the sailboat angle is always my best bet) We ran into each other a few more times over the course of 3 days and I asked her to join me for dinner on the boat. (Colin - the coconut rice cream with bananas worked perfectly as dessert.) Great night and a brand new plan. She has another 2 weeks left of vacation and the moxy to get on a near strangers yacht and sail off. She even helped with provisioning, scrubbing the bottom and refueling this fiberglass home.

We're anchored in Bahia Carrillo which is 46 nautical miles south of Tamarindo. Last night was our 3rd night here and the first noiseless night we've had. We came in after dark, which I don't like to do but landing and cleaning the 3 foot dorado slowed us up. I'm not the steadiest hand with a filet knife especially on a rolling boat but Ryan would have been proud of all the meat I got off that fish. When I was done, you could see light through it.

2 safe anchorages in this bay. We anchored at the northern option. According to my cruisers guide it would be a bit rolly but we wouldn't have any underwater obstacles to worry about. Rolly? It was absolutely untenable when the tide went out and the breakers were pounding just off my starboard beam. At 2:20 in the morning we got up, pulled the anchor and moved the ship. Pretty girls who drive my boat without hitting rocks will always hold a place in my heart.

The next day after kayaking ashore and having a great lunch ("casado" - in CR this word means married and a "combo lunch") in a small "soda" (restaurant) we moved Barraveigh to the southern option. At night the wind shift puts your stern to the ocean and the swell slaps the underside and water explodes through the scuppers. Very loud. One more less than perfect night. Midway through it we relocated to the forward cabin (nice cabin Colin!) and then the friction of the anchor chain rubbing on the guide undermined our dream time.

That's why yesterday I got smart. I set the stern anchor from the red kayak. Great exercise and easier than I thought. I also took the snubber and put it on the outside of the bowroller. Last night was perfect! The "stretch" of the chain now takes place just above the waterline whilst (who do you think I got that word from!) touching nothing and the stern anchor keeps our bow into the rollers and the slap is gone.

Now if I could only get Suzi to keep her clothes on, the fisherman would stop whistling.

I'm dropping her off in Puntarenas on the 15th (her flight is on the 16th) and my good buddy Eric Farber is getting on the next day.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Tamarindo

Costa Rica - Translation: "Nation of Thieves"

I thought I'd erase that after I wrote it. I just needed to get it out there and off my chest but it seems so fitting I'm not deleting it after all.

Connected with my Mom and Brother and aunt Audry in Playa Flamingo on the 21st. "They" cut through 2 locks and stole my outboard engine on the 24th. Mom & Audry left on the 25th. Ryan got off the boat for the last time on the 26th. I went to San Jose to see my brother off on the 30th and now it's a new month with a brand new budget to destroy.

I'm in Tamarindo. It's a lot like Puerto Escondido. Just a surf town with lots of dread locks, tattoos, white people and yoga. Adventure tours are offered everywhere and so are drugs. If I don't get offered something at least 3 times from the beach to the market I feel old.

The time with my mom was really great. Lots of fresh water and a high butter diet of giant shrimp and tasty lobster. She and Audry spoiled my brother and I rotten and we wallowed in it. I went from 4 months of the saltiest existence I've ever had right into the resort's pool. Sumptuous.

Colin left today to travel inland and back to Mexico to see an old friend and then work his way back to the boat after visiting ruins and creating great travel stories. That guy really is the ultimate traveler. It was sad to see him go as he paddled away in the kayak with his backpack across his lap. Be safe my friend!

If you've done the math then you've deduced that I am all alone on the boat. That hasn't been the equation for quite some time. It's a little lonely but I think I'm going to enjoy the sequestering. I'll surf daily, improve my Spanish (my mom and brother think I'm fluent.) I have a long list of boat issues that I want to address before pulling anchor. That, and the fact that this place has a paid guard who sleeps on a boat and will watch Barraveigh means that I'll be here awhile. I've also made a friend on shore named "Columbiano" who speaks only 4 words of English; "Let's go. I'm sorry". He watches the kayaks (After the outboard theft my new thinking is that you have to always have someone watch your stuff) and stores my surfboard for me so I don't have to bring it back and forth everyday. He's been sick lately so I gave him a bag of cough drops today. I don't think he knew what the hell they were, the bag came from SD and hence was in English, but he sure was appreciative. He gave me his hat one night when he was loaded and I know he wants it back but he won't take it. I didn't want it in the first place but due to the manner games we play I now try to wear it around him as a thank you, but I wonder if maybe I'm really just rubbing it in.

Not having an outboard engine anywhere else would mean good healthy exercise rowing the dinghy in, but here, where we are 1/2 mile offshore (cuz of the shoal water) and the wind blowing 25 - 30 knots all the time, it means paddling your guts out in the kayaks. The inflatable is simply a joke in these conditions. We have 2 kayaks. The blue one is faster due to the longer waterline but surfing it into the beach with these breakers almost always means a complete soaking. The red kayak can reach the beach with a dry passenger but count on doubling the strokes it takes to get there. It's a watery life.

Notes on Costa Rica:

1.) Cell phones everywhere. I haven't seen that in awhile.
2.) Beers are twice the price of Mx and meals are tripled. Not cheap.
3.) Not as much Indian blood here and no ruins.
4.) They don't have an army. Interesting huh?
5.) Made my first joke in Spanish: Tampoco means neither, Tampico is a juice brand. It made the breakfast crew laugh out loud.
6.) Lots of exotic birds and the first country that looks like it might turn to jungle in the rainy season.
7.) I saw a monkey

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What a Difference a Day Makes

We fought the good fight and dropped the anchor this morning in Bahia Santa Elena in northern Costa Rica around midnight. Ryan just turned 27. We made it.

We wished him a happy b-day and collapsed in our bunks.

It's still blowing 30 knots but after going ashore and having a burger & beer we are now racing at 8 knots completely dry with the wind on our stern. We still have the Papagayo to cross, 50 miles more to go, and customs to clear, but Mom/Bro - I will be on time and refreshed.

Here's the new plan: I'm tired of moving so fast. I'm slowing it way down. No Pacific crossing this year. I'm going to cruise Central Am, maybe even down to Ecuador until Jan and do the crossing then. That's about 10 months. Who's coming to see me?

Reflections on a tough passage and Lessons Learned:

You wanna feel infinitesimal? Go to sea and stare at the galaxy while the winds sweep you out to the great abyss. Yea - I'll admit to it - I was afraid. Not panic. Not irrational neurosis, but good healthy fear. The kind that keeps you alive. I was afraid to lose my ship, my dream, my crew, my life. I hate to admit it but it's one of the situations I yearned for when I put my name on this roster. I asked for this. That's part of the deal.

All in all, I made some good decisions and the conditions weren't that extreme. I probably only stood to drain my bank account. Maybe we were never in physical threat. Nah - that's not true.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Watercannon to the Crotch

09:45 - When working on the foredeck in 40 knot winds it truly is like a fire hose blast. There isn't a dry spot on the outside of this boat and it hasn't rained in months. I can remember just yesterday when wind speeds in the high 20's were exciting. Now we are fighting 38-42 knot winds in 22 feet of water. That's force 8 on the Beaufort Scale except the waves aren't as high due to our short fetch (look it up). The dodger patches are ripping off, and we just drank the last of the coffee. It's amazing how your tolerance for stress can increase. We actually have a positive attitude after 72 hours of slugging it out against the elements. We've made 138 miles in 72 hours. That's under 2 knots per hour. That's essentially crawling to Costa Rica. We can see horses on the beach walking faster than us as they pull fishing boats. Come on - you gotta laugh at this with me.

It's bad but not that bad. Ryan still managed to make us French toast and the inside of the boat is dry. Nothing major is broken. We jury rigged the furling line, scrubbed the bottom 100 miles ago and stripped the last of the fishing line off the shaft. It's good to be chilled again.

13:31 - We might have to stop in San Juan Del Sur for fuel and a respite. This is amazing. When the sea wants to deny you, It's pretty hard to overcome.

Just passed some friends who left El Sal a week before us. Think about the morale on that boat.

Captain Salty

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In Motion

It was a great 10 days at anchor in Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador. We crossed that hairy bar (with escort by Murray and Jim from Tarazed and Sparta, and are now making our way south once more. This passage will be the completion of my self-imposed speedy deadline. My Momma is flying down from the States and my brother from Tokyo. I can't be late.

Apparently, we hit every other country. We did Mexico, skipped Guatemala, hit El Sal, and now we are skipping Nicaragua, and heading to Costa Rica. We left 24 hours ago and have only made 45 miles as of this writing. It's been a little trying. The winds have been dead on our nose, the headsail furling line chafed through, and the bottom is a science experiment with enough life forms that we have been slowed by at least a knot. We got a fishing line wrapped around the prop and I had to dive it to free it. Many cuts on my hands from the line and the barnacles. It takes weeks for the simplest injuries to heal when in saltwater all the time. Talk about rubbing salt in your wounds. We are headed to Amapala to anchor and clean the bottom. Some fishermen in a panga raced over about 1/2 an hour ago and want to trade beer for shrimp. That makes me happy. They'll be back soon.

El Sal:

1.) More Guns
2.) More exotic fruit (The cashew nut comes from a fruit called a maranon. The meat is like chewing chalk but the juice is awesome! Strange.)
3.) Pretty girls who stare back
4.) Lots of machetes
5.) Almost no Gringos
6.) You'll never go hungry on a bus due to the frequent and varied vendors who get on and off at every stop

We were there for their big election and it's against the law to drink on election day or one day on either side so my liver is in it's best shape since I was 16. Make that 14. The FMLN won. Get this - they were the guerrillas in the war! It's as if the IRA or the ETA or The Shining Path took the presidency. Things change.

My bro wanted to know if he should bring his fleece jacket. That's so cute. Wait till he gets here. This is wrestling practice hot.

Captain Bob

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

All mine

I'm sitting at the nav station after a very dynamic surf session. The current was really strong and I had to paddle almost nonstop. Estoy muy casado. That either means I'm tired or I'm married. Which brings me to the crux of this message (no momma, I'm not married).

The guys have left for a week to travel overland around El Salvador and have taken the dictionary. Bummer that the dictionary is gone but o thank god I am finally alone. Great guys but let me ask you this: what's the smallest apartment you have ever lived in? How about 200 sq feet? My brother lives in Tokyo and his place isn't even that small. Now imagine sharing it with 2 other guys. It's a daily psychology experiment. I've lived through some tough situations: I was just down the street when the Mount Poddinger barracks in Belfast was attacked, I was stoned by Palestinian youth in Jerusalem during the Intifada of '91, and I even survived the pizza wars of South Mission Beach, but these living conditions have truly been a grand challenge. I'm holding up well. Not as well as I had hoped though. The point is - I am really going to enjoy my 8 day reprieve from our fraternal order of Barraveigh.

Still can't talk about the lost surfboards. Too painful.

El Sal: I wish I could tell you anything about it. I can't. Not yet. First I have to find the leak, patch the sail and then do whatever I want to do for the next 8 days!!! Can you tell how that excites me? Oh man! Compromise sucks. Momma, you raised an intolerant selfish bastard. Let's blame dad.

After the boat projects I'm going to travel around the country a bit. I'll sleep in hostels and I'll make new friends. I cut my teeth backpacking so it will be a nostalgic return. Communal kitchens, a cacophony of languages, bedbugs and athletes foot. I'll tell them I have a yacht in Bahia Del Sol and they won't believe me. Cute, it'll be cute.