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


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.


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


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

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

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