We ended our last posting from Quepos, Costa Rica, losing hope that we would be able to haul Lungta out for a long-overdue repaint, because we couldn’t find an insurance company that would write us a short-term liability only policy. As it turned out, a proactive woman at the marina was able to find an agent at the national insurance company who could do it. Although we had already talked with an agent at that company who told us it wouldn’t be possible if we only had a temporary permit for using the boat in the country, somehow that hurdle was not a problem for the new agent. Unfortunately it was quite an expensive policy; we were quoted $550 for one month. After gritting our teeth, we accepted – and then they raised the rate to $850. Ouch! But we did a little research into other options further south and coudn’t find anything significantly cheaper (and would run into the same issue with finding insurance if the boatyard required coverage). So once again we gritted our teeth and agreed.
The Marina Pez Vela in Quepos is a real class act! Their boatyard is only a couple of years old and all of their equipment is virtually new. All of the employees we met were conscientious and knew what they were doing. It was a real pleasure to haul out there. Although it was roughly twice the cost that we had previously paid for a haulout, it was a pleasant surprise to find that they did not under-quote and then pile on additional charges at the end. Our bill was just slightly LESS than we expected.
We spent 10 days with five of us (including our crew Justin, Leigh Anna & Eduardo) working diligently on the boat. The marina would not allow us to spend the night on the boat, so we stayed in the Wide Mouth Frog Hostel in town, a ten minute walk away. Although it added expense to the overall project, it also gave us a clear ending time each day, time for a dip in their swimming pool and a warm shower before dinner out. This was the first time since leaving Portland 6 years ago that Dan and Kathy had help with a haulout, and we could certainly get used to it! The boatyard pressure–washed most of the sea life that had accumulated on the hull, but there was still a lot of sanding required before it was ready to be painted. The first four days were mostly spent sanding. The remainder of our time there was spent on applying two coats of primer and three coats of paint, after which we had the marina reposition the boat on the supports so that we could sand and paint the sections that were initially covered up by the stands. In between coats of paint we squeezed in a few other projects. We installed a new transducer for our depth sounder, using the same hole in the hull as the previous one – although we did have to enlarge it, which is not a trivial task in a boat made of cement! We also put in a new hole (and installed a thru-hull fitting and ball-valve to close it off) for future use by a foot-pump that will provide seawater to the kitchen sink for washing dishes. It may reduce our total water consumption by as much as 25-30% once we complete that project! As we always seem to say after a haulout, it was a lot of work but we’re very glad we’ve done it! Many thanks to our three hard-working crew!
We went back into the water on a Friday evening, topped off our fuel tanks and drove around the corner to a guest dock where we could leave the boat for an hour while we visited the weekend produce market. We dawdled a little longer than we should have, and it was nearly dark when we motored out of the marina and back to the anchorage a couple of miles away. By the time we got there we had to anchor in the dark. Although we had spent plenty of time in this anchorage before, none of us could remember exactly where the clusters of rocks were and they weren’t all shown on our charts. Can you tell where this is going? We all were happy to be sleeping back on the water again, and to be heading back out to play in and on the water! In the early morning some of us were sitting in the pilothouse before breakfast when we heard a disturbing sound – our newly painted keel bumped against some submerged rocks, crunching a few times as we spun around on the anchor chain. Ouch! We quickly started the engine and relocated 100 yards away. Later we dove to inspect the hull and found three or four small patches with the paint and a bit of cement chipped away. Our anguish was similar to someone driving a new car off the lot and getting a ding in the door during a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home! Of course, it would have been a much more serious event if Lungta was made of fiberglass.
We spent a day putting the boat back in order and relaxing, and the next day we headed south again. Since none of our crew had done an overnight passage before, they were anxious to see what it was like. It was a relatively uneventful passage, but the two of us split the night’s shifts pretty much like usual, while our crew faded away late in the night.
We stopped at an anchorage about 50 miles away, on the northern corner of the Osa Peninsula. Drake Bay is one of the places that caters to tourists interested in hiking in the Corcovado National Park or diving at nearby Isla del Caño. But when we asked around the town, we learned that the entrance fees were significant; the parks are not really set up for self-guided access. We didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for a guide, so we settled on a hike along the coastline towards the park entrance but not that far. We enjoyed several close sightings of small monkey troops and spent a bit of time snorkeling at a pretty beach (along with a few tourists that came in on tour boats). We also spent a couple of hours exploring a river estuary by dinghy. We’ve done this sort of thing several times in Mexico and El Salvador, but this is the first one we’ve done in a jungle rather than a mangrove forest. The jungle of this region is lush and nearly pristine! We turned around when we got to a section of rapids that a small group of tourists had just tubed down.
Justin and Leigh Anna had plane tickets back to Texas in two weeks, though, so they were interested in moving further south and seeing a few more places. We did another overnight passage to Pavones, a surfing spot on the mainland just beyond the peninsula. This time all of our crew took a turn at doing a night shift. It’s not unusual for the wind to die down at night on a coastal passage like this, and when it does the sails often “flog” back and forth when the boat rolls in the swell. It can be hard on the rigging, and we had some damage on both Leigh Anna and Justin’s shifts. The first was “just” a line that chafed through and was fairly easily replaced. (The attachment point for the blocks holding the sheet to the end of the boom for one of the staysails had broken earlier and we had temporarily rigged it with a line, but it needed tweaking.) However the second failure was much more significant; as Justin summarized it when he came to our room to get some help, “the mizzen sail is in the water, but the mast is still up”. Yikes! It took a few moments to figure out what had happened, but the roller furling system had parted and the top of the sail fell into the water while the bottom stayed attached in place. The four of us spent somewhere around 30 minutes tugging the assembly back onto the boat and securing it for more attention in the morning. We spent the rest of the passage without our aft-most sail, causing steering to be a bit more difficult. Eduardo slept in the fore-most cabin, and heard none of the excitement. He was quite surprised when he came up for his shift later in the night to learn of the problems. Fortunately his shift was uneventful!
We stopped in Pavones because there’s a world-class wave there that Eduardo and Justin were both enthusiastic about spending some time surfing on – and a larger than usual swell was coming through for a couple of days. We anchored in the rolly anchorage near town and took the dinghy ashore to find some surfboards to rent. We explored the small town and managed to find a couple of longboards that suited us. Eduardo already had his own shortboard with him. The next morning Eduardo hopped out of bed just as the sun rose and paddled out to the waves for a surf session that made him dance. After he rested for a couple of hours, he went out again with Justin, Kathy & Dan to give us pointers (Justin) and instruction (Kathy & Dan). It was a fun session – but we have a lot to learn. Kathy managed to stand up on a moving surfboard for perhaps more than a second – perhaps. We’ll give it another try soon! Eduardo and Justin went back out the next morning, but the peak of the big swell had passed and left somewhat unsettled seas behind. We turned in our rental boards and moved on to Golfito, where Leigh Anna and Justin could catch a bus to the capital city and its airport for their trip back to the States. It’s been fun having them with us as we learn how to live in a larger community. They brought aboard a different set of interests and perspectives, knowledge and abilities. They made the place lively with their enthusiastic love of the water, from playing in Ziji the sailing dinghy, to jumping off of the big boat, movies and TV programs on demand from Justin’s hard drive, Leigh Anna’s cooking and her new ukelele (which was enjoyed by more than just her). The place will feel a bit empty for a while without them around.
Golfito is a bay within a gulf, offering super-flat water that is really useful for getting boat projects done. The town is strung out for perhaps three miles along the shore with jungle-clad hills just behind. We took a short hike with Leigh Anna & Justin before they took off, and another longer one after we finished our major projects. The jungle is beautiful and full of birds and butterflies. This area seems to have lots of scarlet macaws, which are frequently heard screeching as they fly in pairs overhead. We saw a pair of toucans on the second hike, sitting high in a tree and repeatedly making a clear-toned high-pitched call. Although monkeys are not unusual to find once you get slightly away from the town, they are still a novelty for us.
In addition to the shoreline (dotted with 4 small marinas and a fancy new one) and the jungle, the town’s main attraction seems to be a duty-free mall – which we spent the better part of a day in. It’s a little confusing navigating this place because of the complicated rules established in order to retain the duty-free status. Each individual has a certain limit that they can purchase per day (or per week?). You have to register before purchasing anything, but the day we went we didn’t happen to have our passports with us. However it turns out there are plenty of people willing to “sell” their quota just waiting for the opportunity. So the process was to “pre-pay” for the item and then come back later with the person whose quota it was to be applied towards. After all the purchases are picked up, there’s one final check-out station where they make sure that the quota hasn’t been overspent. We were hoping to find an inverter to replace the one that we use for our daily household devices (as opposed to the “big” one that also can handle cooking, vacuuming, and power tools); this “small” inverter was damaged by a lightning strike one night while we were in the boatyard in Quepos. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a 24V inverter, only 12V ones. We didn’t come away empty-handed, though; we found a 4-slice toaster and a big 14″ pan with a cover, both of which will prove very useful in our larger household.
We managed to repair our mizzen sail and rebuild the furling system, replace an injector which had been leaking exhaust whenever we ran our main engine and replace a damaged battery in our main bank: three major projects that were seriously impacting our capabiliity. Our power situation had been pretty challenged for the last couple of weeks, because we had temporarily taken one of the three battery banks out of service when the one battery died. We had been running the generator 2 or 3 times each day for several hours to compensate and to make sure that the fridge and freezer had enough juice to keep running. In addition to the bad battery our power system has been struggling under an as-yet not understood issue with the solar panels not producing as much power as expected and a small component in the charging system that was damaged in the same lightning strike that took out our inverter (this component measures the current going in and out, helping us manage the power, but doesn’t affect the actual charging of the batteries). We’ll get it straightened out, but don’t know when; it’s part of the fabric of our lives. And of course there’s the old saw, “cruising is doing boat repairs in exotic places”!
A couple of days after we arrived in Golfito, we heard a familiar voice paging us on the radio. Our friends on Georgia B had ended up in Golfito rather than Panama. Elizabeth had to go back to Chile quickly and John had stayed back to secure the boat so it could be left unattended for six months. We got together a couple of times before moving on again. We also met a wonderful couple on a boat called Freya. Marta and Rafa first stopped by to see if we could help them with programming their new auto-pilot. We were not able to be of much help there, but we did have a nice conversation and enjoyed several enjoyable hours together over the next few days. (In fact, we’re having dinner with them again tonight!)
This is the wet season for Central America, and they say that the Osa Peninsula’s two seasons are “wet” and “wetter”. Well apparently this “wetter” season is even wetter than most! We have had strong rain most days in the last month, and some of them have been real torrents. Every day is different, and we can’t tell in the morning what the afternoon will be like; the clouds roll in quickly and a clear morning can turn into a downpour with just a few minutes warning. We’ve rigged a water-collection setup on the awning over our back deck and have been putting some of it in our tanks, relieving some of the pressure on our watermaker. We’re scheming up an even better setup for our mid-ship deck. It should provide almost twice the water and also be less troubled by wind. Our to-do list will never run short!
So life has been full of friends, exploration and repairs; just another month in our lives.