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.

Monday, March 6, 2006

At Anchor

At anchor in El Salvador's Bahia Del Sol. Lost 3 lures, ripped my headsail and worst of all, a big wave ripped two of my surfboards off the boat. I lost the cheater and the board Nash gave me, a 6'4 thruster. So bummed.

Going ashore now to swim in the pool, eat food and take fresh showers.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

I'm Safe

We ripped a headsail and had to switch to the spare. Bounced around all night in 25-30 knot winds with building seas. Nobody got much sleep. Then we noticed the forward bilge pump light clicking on and off. Seems we are taking on water. Slowly, but enough that we have to use the manual pump for 5 minutes every 60.

Completely exhausted. Haven't seen land in over 3 days and I have another 24 hours to go. We have to cross a sandbar into the bay at high tide so timing is everything since the bar has surfers on it at low tide. Can you imagine that? I'm going to take my boat over a surf break. Crazy. Best of times. Worst of times.

We did manage to land a massive Mahi Mahi. Sashimi immediately, then ceviche once it cooled, then steak fillets and finally grilled bits for fish tacos. Wait till you see these pics.

We just passed from Guatemalan waters to El Salvadoran waters.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Gotta Love the Diesel Engine

It just runs and runs. We've had it turning at 2000 RPMs for the last 26 hours and we're making 5 knots. Even more than the Baja, this is the most dangerous crossing, but tonight it looks just like a lake without enough wind to propel us at all. I was hoping to send some hairy dispatches describing our level of heel, how the waves were crashing over the bow, the wind was howling in the rigging and everyone was sick (but me). Truth is - this is a lame pony ride. I guess I'll count my lucky stars (literally, gorgeous Milkyway tonight), and cross my fingers that the Papagayo crossing just before I meet my family In Costa Rica goes as smoothly.

Against The Momma's advice we got into the hootch (jugo de durazno y tequila) and are setting up for a couple episodes of South Park in the cockpit. It's just too hot in the cabin and the night air is delicious this far from land. What? You don't think I should be drinking? I got a little too lit in Puerto Escondido and when I tried to apologize the next day my new friend Corey said, "For what? You're a sailor." I like that a lot.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

The Flowers of Guatemala

My pesos are officially useless to me now. We got our work done and went to town to spend the last of them. I thought of you Jimmy all day as I prepared to leave one country and head to another (we spent a year hopping around Europe together).

This is my 2-4 am watch and I'm sitting in the cockpit watching the depth sounder lie to me. I know I'm in at least 100 fathoms but this silly sonar can't comprehend anything that deep so it makes up numbers like a kid who didn't do his calculus homework. I've got a cargo ship bearing 110 degrees and passing 6 miles away. The hand held compass is pretty accurate but don't kid yourself into thinking that's how I know. I've been playing with the radar. It's science.

Right Gala and Yemonja are two of the boats that we are sailing with. Everyone wants to have an original name, and with Barraveigh I'm that idiot as well. The price we pay for this uniqueness is that no one can pronounce them. Every radio transmission begins with the name of the boat and it is nearly always followed by, "Come again?" I've never heard of a boat named "Butch", or "Spike" but if I had it to do over again I think I might take one of those.

There are 3 ways to cross the Tehuanapec. Take the rumbline straight across which puts you far offshore which is fine unless a gale pops up. Then you could be in serious trouble. This place gets 160 days a year in which it blows 40 - 60 knots. That's bad. The second option is to hug the shore in 30 feet of water. That has it's merits but there are shoals and fishing boats and nets. The 3rd option is to go to Chipehua (which is nearly where I am now) and if the weather window still looks good for 48 hours then we take the rumbline from here. I like the 3rd option.

It'll take us 5 days and 4 nights.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Leaving MX

As of today we have spent 3 months in Mexico. It's been beyond fantastic. Today is our last day on land in this amazing country. We've filled our fuel and water tanks, we've provisioned the fridge and pantry, and we've given the old girl a good scrubbing. Everything is tied and double tied down. Our paperwork is all in order. We're ready for the wind but we probably won't get any. The weather reports all say we have a 72 hour window to cross the Tehuanapec. Perfect! We are leaving in a few hours with 2 other boats. We have our communication channels and check in times written and posted. We'll be checking constantly for changes in the weather. Next stop: El Salvador.
I'm sure I'll be bored and will send ample emails. I'm rereading my college philosophy books.

Random Clearing House (France, Albania, USA, Colombia)

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