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


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.

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

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