Back to the Boat Work

Just what you were looking forward to: another post about boat projects.  I’ll try to keep this one short, and the next one will not be about boat work, I promise.  After my New Years eve adventure it was time to get to work, the reason I had sailed motored to Chiapas.  The haul out went very smooth, the guys at Chiapas are real pros with the travel lift.  The main reason for the haul out was to replace the missing centerboard.  The new one, made by Tartan and shipped with no small amount of arranging and angst was waiting for me when I arrived at Marina Chiapas.  Thanks to the marina staff for giving me a more reliable address to ship the parts to and bringing them to the marina for me.  No small effort for a 6’ long 120 lb centerboard, 100’ of anchor chain, and oh, a 10’ long rigid bottom dinghy.

I think Memo is telling me all is well with the haul out.

I think Memo is telling me all is well with the haul out.

Once hauled out it was the moment of truth, how complicated was the centerboard installation going to be?  I wasn’t quite sure exactly why I had lost the original one.  Once I was able to get a good look under the boat the reason became quite obvious.  Six stubs of bolts that held the bracket capturing the centerboard were protruding out of the bottom of the boat.  Minus the very important bolt heads.  On the plus side, if there was one to this situation, was that there were stubs of the bolts that could be gripped with vice grips and after a year of fearing the extraction of these bolts, it took about five minutes.  As to the corrosion… I’ve come to the conclusion stainless steel isn’t the magic metal I once thought it was.  In the future, haul outs will include replacing these six bolts.  $10 in bolts every couple years or so is a bargain compared to the price of a new centerboard.  I’ll just say that if I keep Ventured for the rest of my life and spend $5 a year on bolts I will not come close to paying for a new centerboard.  Unless there are some miracles in medicine and I live about 500 more years.  Between you and me I’m not holding my breath.

That's a pretty clean bottom.  And a new dinghy on the bow.

That’s a pretty clean bottom. And a new dinghy on the bow.

Not that I mind doing my own boat work, but after painting the bottom myself at my last haul out here and realizing my 3 days of work in some pretty grueling heat, handling one of the nastier substances known to man (bottom paint) and realizing I had saved about $350, I had the yard paint the boat this time.  I’m only about a year into my last bottom paint but I use ablative paint which is designed to wear off so more paint just means a thicker layer to wear off.  I also had the centerboard coated with an extra layer of barrier coat before it was painted.  Might as well take good care of this one since I plan to keep it.

A lot of effort to install this.

A lot of effort to install this.

This piece was actually left from the old centerboard - it tried to hang on!

This piece was actually left from the old centerboard – it tried to hang on!

 Better him than I.

Better him than I.

Working with a smile.

Working with a smile.

Once the bottom was painted and centerboard were prepped and painted it was time for my work.  Lifting up a 120 lb centerboard, and holding it in place while fastening the bracket with six bolts.  Piece of cake!  Almost.  Pretty amazing that a boat built in 1977 and a bracket built in 2015 came as close to matching up as they did, but one bolt hole was just a shade out of place.  I’m actually surprised how little effort it took to widen a hole in ¼” steel using a hand file, but it was pretty easy to get things lined up.  Another cruiser gave me hand with the installation as he owed me some help after I tried to assist him with his paperwork after he arrived in a foreign country with expired boat documentation. Don’t get me started.  We lifted and blocked, lifted and blocked, and finally bolted things together with a little struggle, attached the lift pendant and presto – I can point again! Well – I will be able to after I launch again.

Getting ready for the new centerboard - a little new resin around the opening.

Getting ready for the new centerboard – a little new resin around the opening.

Rounding out one hole that wouldn't line up.

Rounding out one hole that wouldn’t line up.

It didn't take much.

It didn’t take much.

Success!

Success!

My share of the work done (I’m glossing over a bit of other stuff, I redid the pack shaft hose and put in new stuffing, did a little fiberglass filling around the centerboard trunk and a few other odds and ends), there was only one thing left to do.  Let the boat sit on the hard at a very reasonable rate while I took a few days to travel inland to see some of the sights in the state of Chiapas.  But that is a story for the next post.

I don't know what all the other stuff is but they had the hose I needed.

I don’t know what all the other stuff is but they had the hose I needed.

Foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing.

Swing and a miss and a curve

Swing and a miss and a curve.  These words, uttered with the dulcet tones by the immortal Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus over the radio in my youth echoed in my head as I walked back to my hotel about half an hour after midnight on what was now New Years Day.  I was in Tapachula after finally finishing up what seemed like a month of working on the engine (probably because it just about was a month) and for the first time in nine months actually sailed my boat somewhere, moving from El Salvador to Chiapas Mexico for wait for it, more boat work.  And I might be using the term sailing a bit loosely, as I did something I’m loath to do.  Diesel was cheap in El Salvador and I was eager to get to Chiapas to start repairs so for once just loaded up on fuel and pretty much motored the two day trip.  I did get in a bit of sailing but not as much as I was hoping for, but then it seems that is often the case.  At least it was an uneventful trip, the repairs to the motor seem to be holding up and I didn’t have any close calls with unlit pangas.

Leaving El Salvador for the second, but not final time.

Leaving El Salvador for the second, but not final time.

That jib sheet shouldn't be touching the stored halyard.

That jib sheet shouldn’t be touching the stored halyard.

I better review.

I better review.

Of course, after rushing to Chiapas they wanted to wait till after the holiday weekend to haul me out and I decided to just roll with Manana time.  I mean, it was New Years so why not wait till next year to tackle the projects?  I really was in no hurry to see just I was going to be dealing with when it came time to put in the new centerboard.  On the plus side my new centerboard, anchor chain, dinghy and dinghy wheels were waiting for me at the marina.  Lining all that up had been a major exercise in logistics and frustration, but in the end it worked out and overall at a pretty reasonable price.

 

So with a little free time, and for the first time in my memory being alone on New Years Eve I decided to have an adventure.  I tossed some clothes in my pack and caught a colectivo into town and just stayed on it till I guessed I was somewhere near the center of town.  One of the marina managers owns a hospital in town and he said there were some hotels near it so I walked around looking for the hospital.  Not having much luck I asked a couple police officers if they knew where it was.  Which led to a ride in the back of a police truck, as they kindly drove me to a hotel once I had explained that is what I was actually looking for.  A night in an air conditioned room was a whopping $16.  Did I mention the exchange rate in Mexico is way in my favor right now?

Chiapas has some pretty sunsets.

Chiapas has some pretty sunsets.

First step, pesos for the night.

First step, pesos for the night.

Perhaps the $20 hotel had toilet seats.

Perhaps the $20 hotel had toilet seats.

Once checked into the hotel, which seemed to have an oddly large amount or North African looking guests, mostly hanging out in the open area in the center staring at their cell phones, I went on a little scouting run. (I later found out this is kind of a collection point for people working their way to the US and since they don’t stay the Mexican authorities don’t worry about them) Sure enough a few blocks away was a large plaza which looked like an ideal spot for locals to gather.  I wasn’t expecting a lot of tourists as Tapachula, despite being about 500,000 people is not much of a tourist town.  I’m not even sure there is a nice part of town.   But it can more fun to see the locals anyway, you can see tourists all over the world.

They don't look like locals.

They don’t look like locals.

I think Tapachula is powered by rotisserie chicken.

I think Tapachula is powered by rotisserie chicken.

Once the scouting was done I headed back to rest up – when you are used to cruiser midnight staying up to actual midnight can be a challenge.  After an uneventful nap I headed out and enjoyed a plate of tacos while soaking in the scenery.  For those of you cruising in Mexico – enjoy the food.  You’ll miss it when you leave.  Not much seemed to be happening but it was still a little early.  I wondered around, there were some tables set up selling fireworks so I figured things would fill in.  Then not much seemed to be happening and it was midnight.  Fireworks started going off all over the city but not from any place I could actually see the launch site.  There were a few people out but it wasn’t the crowded square carrying on I was hoping for.  I wandered around while the fireworks went off then decided to call it a night.  And that brings us full circle to the thought I started this post with.  Can you remember it without looking back?

I like to eat tacos and burritios.

I like to eat tacos and burritios.

Fireworks are being sold, there is going to be a party.

Fireworks are being sold, there is going to be a party.

A good omen for my new year?

A good omen for my new year?

Or not.

Or not.

No, that isn't the transformer blowing up.

No, that isn’t the transformer blowing up.

But – it wasn’t a total miss.  As I was walking back to my hotel I stopped to take some pictures of guys lighting fireworks in the street, mostly long strings of firecrackers.  The photos led to chatting, and chatting led to drinking whiskey and smoking a hookah with a group of friendly guys from India.  What exactly they were doing in Tapachula I never quite figured out but we had a great conversation about world politics, religion our respective countries.  It wasn’t quite the adventure I set out to have, but it was the one I found and I had a great time.  And a nice break from all the boat work I had been doing, and was going to dive into in the coming days.

They are just firecrackers, nothing to worry about.  Right?

They are just firecrackers, nothing to worry about. Right?

Lighting off fireworks.

Lighting off fireworks.

My New Years Eve buddies.

My New Years Eve buddies.

 

Next post, believe it or not, will be about boat work.

Oh, and I stopped in Puerto Madero on my ride home the next day which was having a little holiday street fair and there was this –

On the way home on New Years day I renewed my love affair with Michiladas.

On the way home on New Years day I renewed my love affair with Michiladas.

Yet More Boat Work

And now, the completion of the great engine timing cover saga.  I only had to wait a couple days to get word that the cover was repaired and ready for pickup.  Armed with some directions to the shop, and more important, a phone number I caught a bus up to San Salvador.  Once at the bus terminal the directions didn’t seem to mean much to a cabbie, but the phone number and a quick call had me on my way.  Picking up the part was as painless as parting with $250 can be, and having the part and some time I decided to spend a bit of time looking for some random items on my shopping list.  I’m having a very difficult time finding an external DVD player for the new laptop.  I have quite a few movies on data DVDs and can’t access them.  Probably for the best, I should watch less TV anyway.  And I did manage to get some new content downloaded while having wi-fi access here at the marina.

Notice the stereo equipment, critical for buses here.

Notice the stereo equipment, critical for buses here.

Time can go a little quick when you are shopping and I realized it was time get on a bus back to the Costa Del Sol region where I’m keeping the boat.  It is at the end of a long peninsula that does not have a lot going on, and there is not all night bus service.  I try to take buses as much as I can but I’ve ended up with some communication issues in San Salvador and my trips haven’t always quite gone as I had them mapped out in my mind.  Knowing I was running late I punted and grabbed a cab  back to the bus station.  Within 5 minutes I was hurtling towards Arcos where I would transfer buses.  And I do mean hurtling, this driver must have been on his last run of the day and had some extra special papusas waiting for him.  He was also cranking the music and I had somehow managed to sit over the subwoofer near the back of the bus.  I thought about moving but the amp must have been turned up to 11 and actually creating a breeze on my calves which felt pleasant in a warm bus.

It was a bit nerve racking watching for my stop in the dark but I managed get off the bus at the right place.  A quick walk took me to another waiting bus and within a couple minutes of boarding it I was once again underway. I know the landmarks a bit better on the road out to the end of the peninsula (plus once you tell the bus hustler where you are going they do a pretty good job of remembering) so I had not problems getting back to the marina.  I’m not sure if I fully understood the answer the guard at the gate gave to my question as to whether that was the last bus of the evening but I think he said yes.  But he might not have fully understood my question either.  I was just happy to be back and not trying to find a ride after dark.

As good as new and about $1000 cheaper then the price for this part I saw on the internet.

As good as new and about $1000 cheaper then the price for this part I saw on the internet.

Since I got home so late I waited till the next morning to tackle reassembly. Small miracle, the gasket I thought I had on the boat since San Diego was indeed on the boat, and in the first place I looked for it.  And it was the right gasket.  So on with putting everything back together.  It took a bit but wasn’t too bad.  Once all the bolts were tightened down I was ready to test it.  Except pushing the starter button hadn’t been doing anything after using it to loosen a bolt. However suddenly it decided to work, but weakly.  I switched over the start battery and it fired up.  Hmm – well my house bank is coming up on 5 years old but I would hope for a bit more out of it.  It has since started the engine but yet one more thing to keep my eye on.  At least it’s running the fridge all night to the beer is staying cold.

So now it was time to check my work.  All seemed to be okay but then… a very slow drip out of the raw water pump and a slight drip of oil.  I cannot actually tell if the oil is coming from under the cover I just put on or from another gasket where the crankshaft sits in the oil pan.  It’s a pretty slow drip now also on the list but it is going to have to do for now.  The raw water pump I wasn’t happy about though as it was leaking salt water, the substance is what got me into this mess.  It’s pretty easy to pop off and Bill offered to help take it apart.  Since I’ve been here is El Salvador longer than planned my friends on OHana have caught up (and as of a few hours ago, headed out to continue south).  We were all going to run up estuary to La Herradura so we stooped and Bills and quickly pulled apart the pump.  It needs a couple bearing pressed onto it and a seal.  And the shaft looked a little rough and probably needed a little clean up.

On approach to La Herradura in OHana's dinghy.

On approach to La Herradura in OHana’s dinghy.

No, I'm not in Tijuana. And I had chicken soup for lunch.

No, I’m not in Tijuana. And I had chicken soup for lunch.

Since the OHana crew hadn’t been to San Salvador yet, or ridden on a bus in El Salvador we all headed up the next day and once more I was at the machine shop.  Jose didn’t like the looks of the shaft and wanted to make a new one.  He said he could have it ready by 4 in the afternoon.  Remembering my rather late last trip home I asked if 3 was feasible and he agreed to it.  So on to the most important task of the day – heading to Taco Bell for lunch.  We then proceeded to take in the shopping high lights of San Salvador (I swear, someday I’m going to a museum here) before heading back to pick up the part.  This time the damage to the wallet wasn’t so bad, $35 for the new shaft and $20 for bearings and a new seal with some extras for the next leak.  Of course you never move as fast as you want to so we caught a bus a little later then intended but still got home earlier then last trip.

A very critical part of our El Salvador trip.

A very critical part of our El Salvador trip.

If you need metal fabrication in El Salvador this is the place to go.

If you need metal fabrication in El Salvador this is the place to go.

This isn't a garage operation.

This isn’t a garage operation.

Since Jake and I need to run back to La Herradura to pick up some oil we had ordered when we shockingly found Delo 400 in rather small town I was able to once again swing by Bill’s and drop off the pump.  He graciously reassembled it and had it ready when we stopped by on our return.  It want back on with no major complications other than breaking two hose clamps.  I guess I’m stronger then I look.  Luckily I still have some spares on board so it was a non issue.   And low and behold, no leaks.  But it looks like the fresh water pump might be leaking just a little bit.  Sigh…

Nothing like a new shaft.

Nothing like a new shaft.

Since both oil and freshwater seem to slowly disappear when I motor I think I’m at least about back where I started.  On the plus side oil isn’t pouring out of the engine and salt water isn’t leaking onto it.  I’m going to have to live with that for now as my new centerboard, anchor chain and dinghy are as best I can tell currently on a truck between Tijuana and Chiapas.  So tomorrow I’m finally breaking free of El Salvador once more to hopefully sail back to Chiapas.  But just in case the sailing isn’t working out I added 20 gallons of diesel to the tank today.  I’m just hoping I remember how to sail, it has been awhile.   And without Minion, this will be my first passage completely alone on the boat. There is still a tad bit more stowing and prepping tomorrow but the high tide isn’t till about 5 pm so I’ll finish up the tasks tomorrow, and I did have time to head up the Lynn and Lou’s for one last pool party and couple day late Christmas dinner.  Perhaps luckily the Seahawks game wasn’t on down here as it looks like they did not give us all a win for Christmas.  I’ll just have to wait till I get to Chiapas and if everything arrives as planned that will be a very exciting gift.  Next stop, a haul out and the boat yard.  Hooray.

 

Despite all the work and bus trips, there has been time for a couple pool parties at Lynn and Lou’s, and a Christmas dinner at Jan’s.  She is an expat that lives on an island in the estuary and teaches English to the local children. With two kid boats here during the dinner there were plenty of local and cruiser kids, and there was even an impromptu soccer game after dinner.

Obviously not my birthday.

Obviously not my birthday.

There is a birthday smile.

There is a birthday smile.

Chilling at a Christmas dinner pool party as Uncle Erlin to the kids from The Vortex.

Chilling at a Christmas dinner pool party as Uncle Erlin to the kids from The Vortex.

Christmas Dinner number one, this one on Christmas day.

Christmas Dinner number one, this one on Christmas day.

Once again a sailboat – but not a motorboat.

It seems as if there is some irony in working all summer on a boat with 4 large diesel engines (two for propulsion and two generators) that ran all season without much in the way of issues.  I will, for sake of my point, ignore the generator issues we had early in the season, one of the generators was just having some issues coming out of winter hibernation.  Once it was properly woken up (worked on by mechanics) everything worked as well as could be expected for rest of the season.  So on to my irony – I barely used my engine last season because I’m just that kind of sailor.  Well, and because the price of diesel and my budget, and at the end of the season the engine had gone from burning oil to hemorrhaging oil.   It got me across the bar into the estuary, and after a few days at the dock taking off sails and such, out to the mooring ball.  So solving the problem was near the top of my list of projects when I got back.

 

Despite the priority of the task it took me some time after returning to the boat to get to it.  First I had to install the new fans.  Then there was unpacking and stowing, putting the repaired sails back on (I’m so happy to have a protective jib cover that isn’t tattered), a provisioning trip and getting a new hose for the bilge pump purchased and installed.  In that process I thought I found the oil leak – something as easy and stupid as a loose oil filter.  With a new oil filter installed the next step was to test the fix.  Of course that involved a weekend trip to San Salvador to get oil and some other needed provisions, catch the Holi Festival of Colors (sorry no pictures, camera battery and stupidity) and more of Sunday then I had planned enjoying the beach with new local friends.

Finally back on the boat with the oil I filled the engine up, started it up and took a look to see if the leak was fixed.  Good news, no oil running out of the oil filter.  Bad news, oil running out of the engine from the cover at the front.   Good news, I happen to have the gasket for this cover on the boat.  Bad news, on closer inspection the cover has a hole in it.  Sigh… On an even closer inspection I believe that a leak from the old bilge hose I just replaced leaked salt water onto the cover and caused corrosion.  That is my working theory.  It also looked like it had done some damage to the bolt heads that hold on the cover.  I had a bit of panic I wouldn’t be able to get the cover and sent a message to my new friends from Sunday that had some contacts in the area asking if they knew a mechanic.  While I waited I decided to see how much of the work I could get done.  Amazingly all the bolts come out and the ones with the worse corrosion turned out to be bolts with nuts, not just bolts going into the block.  I was able to work the nuts on the back off and presto, I had all the bolts off.  I loosened the alternator and removed the belt and started on the pulley on the end of the crankshaft that needed to be removed for the cover to come off.

That hole is a problem

That hole is a problem

In a stroke of luck the largest socket I have on the boat fit the bolt that I needed to remove (thank you again to my sister for a socket set gift she probably doesn’t even remember giving me).  Once the socket was worked onto the bolt I applied some pressure and… turned the engine over.   Okay, engage the transmission and try again.  Same result.  Stand back and scratch head.  Wipe oil from my hands off my head.  Put alternator belt back on.  It slipped under this kind of load.  Wipe hand off and scratch head again.  Put a bolt in one of the pulley holes and search boat for something brace it against.  A pry bar didn’t work out.  Keep trying various bracing techniques while trying not feel like I was in a Laurel and Hardy routine.  I finally got a good brace point and discovered I was not strong enough to loosen the bolt.  OK Google how do I loosen a crankshaft pulley bolt?

This yielded an interesting idea.  Brace the socket and bump the starter.  And the socket was able to reach the engine pan which seemed like a pretty solid place to brace it.  Still, this struck me as one of those things that if it didn’t work could fail rather spectacularly.  I have a remote start switch at the engine which seemed like the better place to try this from so I could see what was going on, and potentially take a fragment to the face.  I pulled the kill switch so hopefully the engine wouldn’t start, took a deep breath and hit the starter.  And it worked.  That simple.  Apparently my starter can generate more torque then I can.

Hmm, the pulley was connected to a collar that was going to need a gear puller to remover, and item I don’t have on the boat.  Luckily Bill, who watched boat for the summer had one he could loan me (and in full disclosure Bill did help with the first attempts to remove the pulley bolt but had his assistance left out for comedic effect).

If you've worked on boats you can look at this picture and skip the next paragraph.  You know.

If you’ve worked on boats you can look at this picture and skip the next paragraph. You know.

Faced with a wait for Bill to bring the puller over, having all my tools out and already be drenched with sweat I decided it was a good time to rebuild a leaky head pump.  Having learned the corrosive power of salt water, and the other possibility of fluid coming out of the head pump not being all that great either,  it seemed like a priority project.  I have a spare pump for my Raritan PhII head on board, so I cleaned it up and installed all the rebuild parts.  Now for the truly joyous part of the job; removing the old pump from the head and installing the new one.  Let’s not go into details and just skip ahead to part where I have it installed give it a test flush.  Water gushed from the connection of the pump body and the base that connects the bowl to the pump.  Well on the plus side I was only test flushing water.  So off with the pump and check all the rebuild bits for a blockage or installation error.  With everything seeming to be correct back on goes the pump.  Same issue.  Enough for one day, and since I’m at marina and can use the bathroom on shore I decide to live without a head on the boat for a night.

 

Warning – this is going to be a long post.  But if you’ve made it this far, what’s another 5 minutes of your time?  What are you going to do that is more productive than reading my blog?

 

The next morning the gear puller arrived.  Removal of the pulley was a slow process, filled with a few turns on the bolt pushing the pulley off, then squaring the puller back on.  Once the removal was started, every turn of the bolt was nerve racking as there was a lot of pressure on it and I’ve broken more than one bolt with leverage in my life.  But it worked, and the pulley eventually slid off the crankshaft.  Of course I’d wedged the bolt into the pulley by cranking on it too much.  To quote a wise women’s recent text, “Why is nothing ever easy?”  Actually once the pulley was out of the way the cover came off with a minimum of drama.  But, now that I could get a good look at it there was more damage than I had originally thought.

Finally the cover is off.

Finally the cover is off.

 

Re-enter Bill who drove me, my leaky cover, stuck bolt and pulley and a sample baggie of bolts with a list of needed quantities to San Salvador.  We went to Talleres Moldtrok where Jose Ramon (as Bill calls him because “I know a lot of Joses”) evaluated the cover.  He felt there was too much damage for braising the holes but suggested a composite with a mesh for structure.  He also had one of his employees pop the bolt out of the pulley, clean up the pulley and recut the start of the bolt threads I had bunged up a bit.  The shop was full of large industrial metal working equipment, clean for such an enterprise with several women working the front.  This wasn’t someone with a couple tools in their backyard and piles of scrap projects piled in the corners, which yes, you do see in the countries I’ve been visiting.  Although some of the places can do some amazing things to.  Jose also spoke great English and had a near constant smile and twinkle to his eye, just a very friendly happy guy.  I had to leave the cover as the job would take a couple days.  A few other stops yielded new bolts for reassembly, and a pretty healthy load of provisions since I had a ride back in a vehicle.

 

Back on the boat it was time to figure out the leaky head pump.  After another disassembly I realized that the flapper valve that sits between the pump and the base wasn’t thick enough to form a seal due to some raised flanges that held the valve in place using the holes the bolts go through.  Well that explains the gasket that was same size as the flapper valve but not shown on any of the diagrams of the head pump assembly I had looked at.  Once more all back together, and things seemed finally watertight.  Of course, I did notice a bit of leak from the top of the pump a few days later.  What was that about easy?

Since you’ve by not probably thought of an answer to the question about what is more important than reading my blog, and since I had to wait for the part I’ll make you wait for conclusion of this saga.  One other note, in case anyone noticed that I often ended posts with a picture of Minion and are looking for one here at the end there is a reason you aren’t finding it.  Minion found a new home this summer.  He went to live in an office in Seattle and at the end of the summer the staff had enjoyed him so much they told me they planned to get a cat when I took him back to Ventured.  It was a very difficult decision but I offered to let them keep Minion since he was already there and they were enjoying him so much.  It isn’t that I didn’t love having him on the boat with me but as I get farther from Seattle the flights home and back are much longer, and this is the first summer out of three that he has be able to remain in a foster home for the whole summer.  And as I’m pursuing a new seasonal career working on other boats, I won’t be able to have him with me.  Life on the boat isn’t the same without him, but it was the best choice for all.  If I was sailing full time it would be different but at this point I’m not, and pet ownership was proving difficult for my lifestyle.  I’m happy that he’s found a great place to live where I can still visit him and other then my missing having him on the boat with me this will all work out for everyone.

 

How I spent my summer vacation

Normal people take a vacation in the summer.  I spent it working.  However… I worked as a licensed deckhand in Alaska for Un-Cruise, not wasting any time putting my recently acquired captains license to work.  Gotta get a return on my investment!  Granted it wasn’t cruising my sailboat in the tropics, but it will let me spend another winter on the sailboat.  And really, even though it was work it felt a bit like a long summer vacation. At least until we were back in the Pacific Northwest for the last few weeks of the season which spilled into October.

The Wilderness Adventurer in Glacier Bay

The Wilderness Adventurer in Glacier Bay

As a deckhand my responsibilities included helping with dock lines when approaching and leaving docks, and when going through the locks.  I also helped deploy and haul the anchor, as our boat spent the majority of our nights anchored out or underway.  I’m still working on a plan to upgrade ventured to a large hydraulic windlass but I’m sensing an engineering challenge. On nights we were underway the deckhands would help keep watch in the bridge for other ships, navigation lights and debris in the water.  The deckhands also did the engine rounds at night, monitoring the engines, generators, bilges and Marine Sanitation Device.  As fun as that all sounds there was also emptying trash in the galley and other parts of the boat, moping and cleaning up in the galley.  I miss the old days when I was blissfully ignorant of commercial grease traps.  And on a working ship, there is always cleaning, maintenance, painting and other such tasks.  Being a crew of 25 we also helped out other departments when needed – I spent some time helping with dishes in the galley, served drinks one night when a steward was sick and anything else to keep the ship running smoothly.

The ship at sunset.

The ship at sunset.

The first make show how to handle multiple kayaks.

The first make show how to handle multiple kayaks.

A brave crow.

A brave crow.

Being Un-Cruise our ships are the typical cruise experience of a floating city cruise ship.  I was on the Wilderness Adventurer (WAV) which carried 60 passengers at full capacity.  The difference in the Un-Cruise experience is we put people on shore for hikes, out on kayaks and paddle boards and took them on skiff tours.  This is where the captains license came into play, and where the job became a vacation.  The WAV carried 4 17’ skiffs with 70 HP outboards which carried up to 13 passengers (or usually 12 passengers and a guide).  I got to drive the skiffs.  Overall that was the highlight of the job, although occasionally there were some down moments.  Hitting a rock the first time I took a skiff out with passengers (just about everyone who drove the skiffs destroyed a prop over the course of the summer, I just got mine out of the way early), the occasional cold rainy day where we were still out driving, skiff tours without a guide in some of the bays that weren’t as scenic as others, and trying to come up with a non smart ass answer to the question “What is our elevation?” were the low points.  But really, those were really things to laugh at and pale in comparison to have a gray whale surface in 20 feet in front of my skiff, being told my trip through a strong current was the high point of a passengers week and just being paid to be outside and drive boats.

Kayak cleaning.

Kayak cleaning.

Polar Plunge!  See the glacier in the background?

Polar Plunge! See the glacier in the background?

Alpine flowers.

Alpine flowers.

For scale.

For scale.

The crew were great too and I made some long term friends.  The WAV ended up with a crew that got along quite well overall – of course spending that much time in that small a space, while working, will lead to some challenging moments but we jelled as a crew and always kept the passengers happy.  I can’t base this on experience on other boats, but it really did feel like we had something special as a crew with everyone willing to help each other out and actually be friends.  We had a weekly Un-Award, a cheap plastic trophy, that was awarded to a crew member each week by the previous weeks winner that gave us a chance to recognize our co-workers and make them give a speech.  And yes, I did win it, for keeping everyone up to date with Game of Thrones downloads.  Everyone has to have a talent.

Orcas!

Orcas!

Does Alaska have a Gold Coast?

Does Alaska have a Gold Coast?

I took this right before I tipped my kayak.  Lets hear it for dry bags and their proper use.

I took this right before I tipped my kayak. Lets hear it for dry bags and their proper use.

Passengers watching a glacier.

Passengers watching a glacier.

Even with all the fun, it was a slog.  We worked 6+ weeks at a time with typically a 2 or 3 week break.  While working it was 7 days week, with 12 hours days.  In my position I worked from 1 am to 1 pm (or vice versa, it rotated).  The advantage of that schedule was it gave me time to go on the hikes or kayak trips during my morning or afternoon off.  I took full advantage and I’m pretty sure I went on more activities than any other crew (except the guides, but that kind of doesn’t count since it is their job) .  Of course there were some adventures such as kipping a kayak in Glacier Bay when I reached for Go-Pro that fell in the water (got it!) and having to move to a different pick up spot after a hike because of a mother grizzly and three cubs on the beach we were dropped off on.

Mountain in the clouds.

Mountain in the clouds.

From a kayak I didn't tip over.

From a kayak I didn’t tip over.

Oh the fun the guides have.

Oh the fun the guides have.

As you guess, there are a lot of pictures.  But for the sake of simplicity I’m going to post the ones I selected to enter in the company photo contest (plus maybe a few more).  While I didn’t win I did get three honorable mentions.  I’ll just have to try to do better next year!  I have reapplied for another summer so hopefully I’ll be back for more.  And the company is adding a boat that will be doing a Panama – Costa Rica trip which I’m hoping to work on – I do like my warmer weather!  And Un-Cruise really is a good company, they treat their people well and are passionate about what they do, from the top down.

Crew selfie in front of the WAV.

Crew selfie in front of the WAV.

More flowers.

More flowers.

 

I’m currently back in El Salvador on Ventured and will write about that soon – spoiler alert cruising really is working on your boat in the tropics, or why I miss working on a ship with an engineer.

And back to El Salvador

Why would the last leg of the season be any different than the rest of the season?  Faced with a need to get north to El Salvador to put the boat away, I began watching the weather after arriving back in northern Costa Rica.  While waiting I finally managed to catch up with Meridian after meeting them in Ensenada in late 2013.  After answering many questions about what to expect about various stops, they will soon be exploring further south than I have been and I’ll be turning the tables.  I was also able to catch up with Gratitioue before they headed to the South Pacific.  Maybe someday I’ll cross paths with other boats I know as we criss cross the globe, and maybe we end up staying in touch via the new world of the internet.

 

It didn’t take long to spot a potential break in the Papagayos wind, which seemed to rarely let up this year.  The problem was one forecast showed the wind dying to the point of worrying there wouldn’t be any wind and the other showed a couple days of reduced wind, reduced being in the 20-30 knot range before piping back up to into the 30s.  For once I couldn’t complain about a lack of wind, because as you can guess the forecast for 20-30 knots was more accurate.  It takes a pretty good breeze to tear your double reefed main, but I managed to do it a few hours into the trip.  Of course as soon as I noticed it was torn and pulled it down and hoisted the storm jib I realized we should have been sailing under the jib as it was a more comfortable ride.  But kudos to Emilie for being able to put in not one, but two reefs in the main, then drop it and hoist the storm jib, all in some challenging conditions.  And it was her first time doing all of those things, while I was giving her verbal instructions with a significant amount of wind noise.

Opps.

Opps.

The right sail for the job

The right sail for the job

To shorten the story, in part because I didn’t write this right away and am probably trying not to remember it all, it was a pretty tough slog back north.  The autopilot was out again, the winds were around 20 knots with gusts of 30 plus knots and 6’ or so wind waves every three seconds (I counted more then once).  After rounding Key Point which juts out quite a ways into the Pacific at the north end of Costa Rica it took 45 miles of northerly progress before I was able to angle the boat close enough to shore to reduce the waves.  And hugging the shore required attention as there are several reefs in this stretch.  I had designs on sneaking into San Juan Del Sur and visiting a town in Honduras but when I tried to tack towards San Juan Del Sur all I could manage was to head straight back south when I was trying to go east.  I miss my centerboard, and its obvious storm jibs are not made for pointing.  By the time I reached the Gulf of Fonseca and thought about heading up to Honduras the wind angle was still bad and we were pretty beat up and tired from hand steering in heavy weather.  So with 80 miles to the entrance to Bahia Del Sol we decided to push on.

Finally anchored outside the bar crossing into El Salvador we were able to relax while we waited for the high tide to enter on.  Once again the crossing was a non event, the hardest part being pulling the anchor in some large waves that had been building during our increasingly less restful wait for the bar crossing.

Two dollars for fresh OJ on the beach at a Palapa we could see while crossing the bar.

Two dollars for fresh OJ on the beach at a Palapa we could see while crossing the bar.

After the embarrassingly easy check in process into El Salvador it was time to assess the damage.  Torn main sail, bent kayak rack, out of commission autopilot, missing centerboard, dinghy and outboard that were in such poor condition I traded them for a summer of bottom cleaning, torn protective cover on my jib and the diesel leaking oil at an alarming rate come to mind off the top of my head.  Luckily labor is inexpensive in El Salvador and Bill and Jean who are watching the boat are enthusiastic about getting work in the hands of the locals.

Yet more carnage.

Yet more carnage.

Good to see Lokia, sad it she is no longer carrying Brad and Joann.

Good to see Lokia, sad it she is no longer carrying Brad and Joann.

Another familiar face - Jack!

Another familiar face – Jack!

 

Emilie and I took a few days to recover and visit San Salvador then set to cleaning up the boat and doing the work we could.  She was excited about going aloft so I hoisted her up to tape on new spreader boots, and we took all the sails down, most of which went to Bill for sail repair.  After a galley clean and fridge shut off the last dinner was an interesting hodge podge of ingredients that tasted better then expected.

Lizards in the sail are not a PNW sail folding challenge.

Lizards in the sail are not a PNW sail folding challenge.

Getting dinner after a hard day of boat work.

Getting dinner after a hard day of boat work.

Emilie goes aloft!

Emilie goes aloft!

Beating the heat while on a grocery run.

Beating the heat while on a grocery run.

We also took time to participate in events of the El Salvador Rally which our return to El Salvador coincided with.  I caught up some old friends and made some new ones while attending various organized events like pool parties and a day boat excursion with a fried fish lunch at a restaurant on stilts in the middle of the estuary.   We had a lot of fun and experienced a bit more of El Salvador, and enjoyed the samples provided by Ron Mata, the newly introduced El Salvadorian rum.  With an 8 and 12 year old rum, I imagine this must be a pretty long term business plan.  I do have a bottle in Seattle so if you are around let me know and I’ll give you a sample.

Our local tour guide, and a bird.

Our local tour guide, and a bird.

Seafood cooking over an open flame during our lunch stop on an estuary tour.

Seafood cooking over an open flame during our lunch stop on an estuary tour.

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An El Salvadorian version of a Great Blue Heron.

Debbie and Libby enjoy the pool.

Debbie and Libby enjoy the pool.

Why not one more woman and puppy picture?

Why not one more woman and puppy picture?

Papusas by the stack.

Papusas by the stack.

 

Finally it was time to wrap things up.  One last trip to San Salvador to get Minion a health certificate for the trip home (which of course no one asked to see).  One of our new cruiser friends had a rental car and drove us to the airport for my flight home, and Emilie continued on by bus back to Costa Rica to help an ex-pat recover from a knee surgery.  We had a lot of fun sailing together but she won’t be returning next season as she finished the job in Costa Rica and flew to Alaska to meet a man she met online and married him three weeks later.  So I’m searching for crew for next season if anyone wants to do some Central American sailing this winter.

I just can't lay off the children and animal photos.

I just can’t lay off the children and animal photos.

How our bus was fueled at the side of the road.

How our bus was fueled at the side of the road.

Bus snacks.

Bus snacks.

These two seemed a good place to bjy bread.

These two seemed a good place to bjy bread.

 

How the locals carry things.

How the locals carry things.

More kid pictures.

More kid pictures.

Lets not leave out the older people.  Or the cats.

Lets not leave out the older people. Or the cats.

The horse whisperer.

The horse whisperer.

Next post – how I’m spending my summer vacation.

Minion gets his greens.

Minion gets his greens.

 

 

Isla San Lucas

I’m hunkered down in the Hermosa anchorage just north or Playa Del Coco in Northern Costa Rica.  The winds have been screaming the last couple days, I’ve heard reports of 40 knot gusts.  So far the anchorage has stayed flat even though the bow has provided an excellent place to teach Emilie how to spot gusts as they come blasting towards us.  We had set out from Playa Del Coco to try and reach the anchorage next to Marina Papayos last night in hopes of saying some goodbyes before setting out north. However after getting around the corner from the anchorage the wind angle was not favorable, and a combination of a missing centerboard, winds on the nose (yeah, we are back on that again), adverse tide and only sailing with the storm jib proved too much and we gave up and ducked into this anchorage.

The forecast is showing the Papagayos letting up a bit in the next  couple days (so the forecast is only 21-29 knots, its a good thing we tested the storm jib) and that looks like the best window to get north to El Salvador.  If the trip past Nicaragua goes well and the wind is not making a trip into the Gulf of Fonseca impossible I’m hoping to spend a couple days there before the last 60 miles back to Bahia Del Sol in El Salvador.  Once there the plan is a week of relaxing then putting the boat into storage mode for my annual summer pilgrimage to Seattle.  Only this year it will be a brief stay in Seattle before embarking on a small 60 passenger cruise ship for a summer job in SE Alaska working for Un-Cruise.  I’m slightly concerned about my ability to stay warm but I do have some long johns tucked away in storage.  Why I did not get rid of them I do not know, but I’m glad I still have them. I will have some several breaks in Seattle so if you want to catch up with never fear, there should be some time for friends.

The path to the pier from the prison.

The path to the pier from the prison.

Emelie touring the anchorage.

Emelie touring the anchorage.

The prison pier.

The prison pier.

No monkeys.  I'll bet if I didn't have the camera it trees would be full of them.

No monkeys. I’ll bet if I didn’t have the camera it trees would be full of them.

Two paragraphs in, I’ll get to the point of this post.  One of the stops in the Gulf of Nicoya is Isla San Lucas, and I highly recommend it.  It is a very protected anchorage and has an abandoned prison on the island.  Much of it is in disrepair as the jungle encroaches on the ruins, but the chapel has been beautifully restored.  I was only able to peek in the windows as the caretaker who met us at the dock let us slide on the $10 fee after I swam in from Ventured so I didn’t feel like I could ask him to open the door of the chapel when I discovered it was locked.  The main building is also in a semi restored state and, but I found the ruins more interesting.  The caretaker mentioned monkeys on the island but we did not spot them (I had my camera with me).  I did however wonder how they arrived on the island.  Besides the prison there are some hiking trails, and one led us out to a beach called Playa Coco (popular beach name, apparently).  It was gorgeous, deserted and if we had known and planned for it would be an amazing place for a picnic.  While not in the guide book of anchorages I think it could be anchored at if the wind was favorable.  We swam and relaxed on one of the prettiest beaches I’ve seen in Costa Rica.

Bears are for boys. I couldn't find a girls sign.

Bears are for boys. I couldn’t find a girls sign.

One of the most scenic beaches I visited in CR.

One of the most scenic beaches I visited in CR.

Cactus flower.

Cactus flower.

Still no monkeys.

Still no monkeys.

Prison outhouse?

Prison outhouse?

The next beach was rocky and strewn with litter despite being named Beautiful View.  Emelie decided to hike the coast line while I returned on the trail and explored the ruins of the prison.  She made it quite a ways before seeing something large move in the water, and recalling the caretakers affirmative answer to our earlier question about crocodiles in the anchorage decided to cut through the jungle to return to prison.  She then shared this story with me, despite the fact that I still had to swim back to Ventured while she paddled the kayak.  The Swedes are a practical and forward people… But as you can tell by reading this, I did survive the swim back to the boat.  We even dove off the pier a few times and spotted some spotted rays before the swim back to the boat.  Erlin 1 – Crocodiles 0.

Prison wall art porn?

Prison wall art porn?

The trees are taking over.

The trees are taking over.

I'm not sure when the bar went missing.

I’m not sure when the bar went missing.

No roof might be better then sheet metal roofs.

No roof might be better then sheet metal roofs.

Nature is taking over.

Nature is taking over.

At least this is not in my belfry.

At least this is not in my belfry.

I did not know bats were cuddlers.

I did not know bats were cuddlers.

The pristine chapel.

The pristine chapel.

This was in the phone booth - It might be the best use of Crocs I've seen yet.

This was in the phone booth – It might be the best use of Crocs I’ve seen yet.

There is litter in Costa Rica.

There is litter in Costa Rica.

At least some some of the litter is put to interesting use.

At least some some of the litter is put to interesting use.

 

Prison wall art.

Prison wall art.

I'm not sure if this was actually prison windows because up close some of the bar was just re-bar.

I’m not sure if this was actually prison windows because up close some of the bar was just re-bar.

Seems like kinda of poor quality soil.

Seems like kinda of poor quality soil.

Any guesses (I did not guess correctly).

Any guesses (I did not guess correctly).

Some relics from the days when the prison was occupied.

Some relics from the days when the prison was occupied.

Another Squirrel!

Another Squirrel!

I have to question the quality of the prison food.

I have to question the quality of the prison food.

Whoo! (in my best Archer voice)

Whoo! (in my best Archer voice)

Hard to see spotted ray.

Hard to see spotted ray.

Yeah, I know we aren't original.

Yeah, I know we aren’t original.

Self Portrait.

Self Portrait.

Hopefully the wind will ease up a bit tomorrow and give me a chance to sail up to exchanges those goodbyes with some fellow cruisers I may not see again, or won’t see for awhile.  You never know in this lifestyle and that is both part of the fun, and very sad.  I had a quick visit with the crew of Meridian, whom I met in Ensenada in October of 2013 and just now caught back up with.  I’m hoping for more then a brief shouted conversation with Darren and Jodie on Gratitouille (I anchored a little closer then I meant to, we didn’t need the radio) before they head to the South Pacific.  And while Sven and Nancy from Senta came out to visit when I first anchored back in this area, it would be nice to catch up one more time and discuss the possibility of sailing south in the same time frame next year.  But with the way the wind has been blowing  this year, we’ll see if my desires become a reality or the cruising Gods have other plans for me.

A Whale of a Time in Bahia Ballena

I’m back in Bahia Ballena for the second time.  Our first stop here was supposed to be brief and turned into five days.  Our second stop here was supposed to be brief and is three days and counting.  Is it the relative calm compared to some of the other anchorages we’ve recently visited?  Is it the chill vibe with a large relatively empty beach?  Or maybe the scenic little resort that opens up their bar to the public and has tasty and reasonably priced drinks?  Or just maybe that the resorts Wi-Fi can be picked up in the anchorage.  I’ll let those of you that are fellow cruisers guess.  Even if you haven’t gone cruising you may be able to guess.

Actually all of these things play into the equation.  There is a northern and a southern anchorage a little over a mile apart and one or the other is usually quite calm.  While the beaches require a surf landing so far it hasn’t been bad for us.  I might know of a another boat that might tell a slightly different story about one landing…  In our first hike in the area we saw birds so colorful it is hard to believe they are real, and not escaped from an animated Disney movie as well as a howler monkey.  There is a nature trail we have yet to walk that may provide even more wildlife.  And there was the large group of monkeys that I wasn’t able to photograph (see my previous post).

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American Gothic, with cows. And in Costa Rica.

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No more tongue tacos for me, now that I know where that tongue has been. Plus – hay no tacos in Costa Rica.

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Seriously, that is a real bird.

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The sign at the resort says open to the public, so I guess the cows feel welcome too.

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Squirrel!

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Yellow bellied something.

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Haven’t you always wanted a monkey (and I hope that line gets stuck in your head too, if you know the song).

Once landed on the beach, the Tambor Tropical resort provided a great place to chill out and enjoy a beverage and internet.  But even better is the stream of  entertaining ex pat characters at the bar. Some are rather eccentric such as two old ladies that kvetched about being told to move their car which was not really parked in a parking spot and ended our encounter with hugs all around.  Others are just interesting to talk to like the chap I sat next to and discovered a mutual fondness for the Prairie Home Companion.  He was from Minnesota and claimed to have been in establishments that Garrison Keilor’s stories are based on. And some are ugly Americans that send your nose into your laptop in a hope no one associates you with them.

I want to hire their varnish guy.

I want to hire their varnish guy.

A bargain in Costa Rica at $3.

A bargain in Costa Rica at $3.

The beaches are large and fairly empty of people although evenings seem to  bring out  both ex Pats and locals for walks and fishing.  There is a small town which is more modern, and close by a pier used by the fishermen and more of a local village, easily explored in a morning or afternoon.  When we visited with the dinghy one of the locals helped us secure it and shrugged off my offer of a tip.  Another warned us to careful of the tides and not leave it too long.

Fishing pangas off the pier.

Fishing pangas off the pier.

Costa Rican recycling program.

Costa Rican recycling program.

Frigate bird, I believe.

Frigate bird, I believe.

This is Americas cultural contribution to graffiti?

This is Americas cultural contribution to graffiti?

Use what you have.

Use what you have.

It is easy to not just while away the hours here, but the days.  There is a small airport and during our first visit we watched multiple skydivers, drifting in a lazy manner to the beach much as we felt watching them. Alas, the north beckons, hopefully to cross paths with some old friends as Ventured returns north to El Salvador.  But I suspect there might just be one or two more days here before we break the spell and start the next leg of the journey.

Its a good thing there are a lot of birds in Costa Rica.

Its a good thing there are a lot of birds in Costa Rica. Mal Gato!

Wind, I love and hate you at the same time

I love the wind, I really do.  It has carried me thousands of miles for free (minus the cost of a sailboat, of course).  It helps cool me down in the tropical heat, even if some of the wind is artificial from the fans on the boat.  At least the fans that are still working but that is a different rant.

But lately… lets see if I can have a quick recap (spoiler alert, it won’t be quick).  I sailed into Bahia Ballena at night and chose the northern anchorage because my guide book said this could be a very calm spot.  But I didn’t read the swell right in the dark, the wind died so I didn’t sit bow into the wind and had one of the most rolly nights at and anchor I’ve ever had.  Emilie even abandoned sleeping in a berth to move 18 inches to the floor in attempt to reduce the motion, but she claimed it didn’t help much.  After enjoying a few days in Ballena the provisions were starting to push into creative meal territory, and with one propane tank empty and the other nearing one month of service I was facing a serious situation.  No propane and interesting food combinations that couldn’t be cooked.  So time to sail back to Puntarenas where I knew I could fill the propane tanks and groceries weren’t as expensive as some of the other stops.  (A quick note for those searching for propane in Puntarenas since I saw that as a search term for my blog – The propane guy is Ivan Shedden, 8824-5675 mobile, 2661-1500 house.  He is on the south side of the soccer field near the point of the peninsula and filling two 3lb tanks was about $14.)

Back to the wind – of course there was a northerly blowing when we needed to head north.  We spent a night at the Curu anchorage anticipating visiting the nature preserve there the next morning, but the wind was blowing right into the anchorage when dawn arrived and I wasn’t comfortable leaving the boat so the decision was made to stop on the way back to Ballena.  Another hard fought day of sailing north placed us in the Isla San Lucas anchorage, which provides great protection from all but west winds.  Tired from the sailing (have I mentioned the autopilot is acting up again and I’m hand steering again?) and the focus required from going through two narrow passes I crashed out with a strong northerly but no fetch.  And I woke up in the morning to, you guessed it, a westerly blowing right into the anchorage.  Thankfully it wasn’t strong and we were able to explore the island.  The next morning I was hoping for the westerly for a nice downwind sail to Puntarenas, or even the northerly for a broad reach.  Nope, no wind except what the forward progress created by the engine generated.  Sigh… well at least there was no wind stressing me when I left the boat anchored for a quick trip into Puntarenas.  Just the worry of the boat being visited by unsavory characters, have I mentioned Puntarenas is sketchy?  I believe I have.  A fellow sailor dubbed it Puntaranus.  But for some reason I do enjoy this town!

We returned to the boat with groceries, and two full propane tanks.  I motored back around the point, I actually had the wind to sail but its REALLY shallow and there are a lot of fishing boats and several large barges moving around or anchored between the anchorage and the tip of the penisula.  Point rounded and boat pointed south we were met with, wait for it, a southerly wind.  After days of beating north I just wanted a day of downwind sailing!  But nope… We were able to just make the lee of Isla Muertos where the wind was so effectively blocked it was dead calm.  (Snicker)  Another fun day checking out the ruins of the resort on the island before heading on to the Tortuga Islands, again beating to weather.  But the anchorage was perfectly in the lee of the wind for the night – at least when we anchored.  By the time I wanted to go to bed we weren’t in the lee, we were on a lee shore. Again.  I slept in the cockpit with the anchor alarm set but the anchor held even if by morning the wind angle put the shore a stones throw away.  Again plans for a shore day had to be abandoned, as did the snorkeling.  Too bad  because the beach was white  sand with palm trees and the rocks had the potential for decent snorkeling.  We hauled anchor and rounded the island hoping to visit Curu which was right there, but the anchorage was, as I expected, filled with whitecaps.  On the plus side, it was a great downwind sail back to Ballena, except I really didn’t want to return just yet.    This time the northern anchorage was the right choice and as we pulled into the bay the other two sailboats were heading from the south end (closer to town and in reach of wi-fi if you have an antenna) to the northern end.  We took a shore excursion and managed to see about 10 howler monkeys- only because I left my camera on the boat.

With my recent luck with the wind, and knowing I’m sailing back into the Papagayos I’m having some mixed emotions about sailing north.  Sadly reality is calling in the form of needing to return home for a much needed cruising kitty recharge and I’m not sure I’ll get another shot at the preserve at Curu, but there will be next year.  I want to get an early start north in case the Papagayos don’t cooperate, some friends were pinned in one of the anchorages for 10 days on there way south recently.

So I don’t sound completely whiny I want to share one more quick story.  When we anchored in Puntarenas I originally thought I could go ashore at the Coast Guard dock and hopefully our friend from my lost dinghy report would be there and let us leave the dinghy.  However inspecting their building from the water didn’t reveal any docks so I aimed for one nearby that appeared attached to a restaurant or business hoping to find someone to watch the dinghy there.  As we motored past a powerboat on the next dock east a guy standing on the back deck waved to us.  He spoke English, and agreed to let us tie up in front of his boat.  We had to make a precarious journey to shore as he explained an earthquake had wiped out his dock.  There were boards spanning gaps over the water held in place with string.  Not rope, string.  He propped a ladder up for the last leg, up from the collections of floats to the last remnants of his dock.  He led us though a house and introduced us to the residents.

We did an express shop and returned laden with our supplies and made the even more interesting trip back to dinghy loaded down with our bags of groceries.  I jumped in dinghy and grabbed on of the water jugs I had brought ashore but decided to live without filling based on feeling as if I had already asked a big favor in leaving the dinghy on the dock, and having serious doubts about carrying them back and forth to shore.  All four of them were full.  I hadn’t said a word about filling them to anyone, but they guy on the dock told us he could see we needed the water.  Along with verbal thank yous we passed along our apple cinnamon bread as a show of our appreciation.  Again, Puntarenas isn’t a wealthy town, and while the people lived on the water and had a boat things were run down and needing repairs,  But our host just did what he thought needing doing for us, complete strangers to him.  This is why I love what I do, for experiences like this.

Next post – more info and pictures on the stops mentioned in this post.

A quick (for me) update on four stops

I’ll try to catch up on things without writing too much. It has been awhile and a few stops since my last post.

After spending New Years (that is how long ago its been since I posted) in Quepos, I turned back north to go check out a dinghy for sale on Craigslist in Puntarenas. After motoring up the estuary side of the peninsula that forms Puntarenas through some puckering depths (or lack thereof) the real fun began. Docking to a float about 20′ long anchored at both ends in a 4 knot current coming from the stern. To make it extra fun they gave me a starboard tie, but my prop walk is to port. So trying to stop with the 4 knot current current pushing me past the dock moved my stern away from the float. And there was only one guy on the float to catch lines, and it was Emilie’s first time on a boat being docked. So as the saying goes, the third times a charm. I would say that was the most difficult docking I’ve ever done

Another float like the one we tied to.

Another float like the one we tied to.

Many of these barges went by the float Ventured was secured to, and I'm not sure how maneuverable they are.

Many of these barges went by the float Ventured was secured to, and I’m not sure how maneuverable they are.

.Once secured and checked in the main job was looking at the dinghy and outboard. To cut the story short, I now have a dinghy. It leaks more then I was led to believe but pumping air into it is free. And I purchased it for less then half the asking price. And I have an outboard, that promptly had an issue with the pull starter retracting and doesn’t like to start when its cold. I mean really doesn’t like to start. And I had to stay about 5 days instead of my planned two. But… they beat swimming to shore, especially in light of frequent crocodile sightings in several of the anchorages we’ve been in.

We did use some of the time waiting for an outboard to be found to explore the town. One of days involved walking from the marina to the the tip of the peninsula in search of propane, after a bus ride to another town failed to result in filling the tank. I can actually fit both tanks in my backpack which allows me to sneak them on the buses. However if I ever suddenly stop posting maybe that turned out not to be a great idea. Either that or crocodiles. Our walk took as to a place called Tropigas, or at least a place where we found a sign for Tropigas. Apparently the business is no longer there, and the next day gong by on the bus I noticed the sign had been removed. We heard rumors of another place, and the first effort failed to find it. But while stopping in a place to get an application for a job back in Seattle scanned I happened to mention our search to one of the guys at the print shop, who turned out to be friend of the guy running the propane place. Armed with new directions we resumed our walk and did find the place. In typical third world fashion there was some broken communication, I handed my tank to someone through a gate in a fence, then sat out front for about 20 minutes and was handed a full tank and a bill for way less then I was fearing I would pay, in this case about $6 for my 8 lb tank.

There was a Tropigas sign there, gone the next day when we went by.

There was a Tropigas sign there, gone the next day when we went by.

Down and out in Puntarenas.

Down and out in Puntarenas.

And then a woman with a dog in a pink skirt walked by and handed Emilie the dog.

And then a woman with a dog in a pink skirt walked by and handed Emilie the dog.

Other time in Puntarenas was spent reporting the lost dinghy to the Guarda Costa, who directed to fill out a report with (phonetically) Oya-hoat-uh which as near as I could figure is the criminal investigation unit of the police here. They even came out to the boat a day later to ask a couple more questions. But so far, not word on my dinghy being found. It does have my Washington state vessel ID number on it so I wonder if some day I’ll get word of it being found washed up on some faraway beach. But I’m not holding my breath. We also got a few provisions, and a multiple fruit smoothies made with fresh fruits like Papaya and Guayabana. Overall I would call Puntarenas the armpit of of Costa Rica, but we enjoyed it. It wasn’t a tourist trap like most of the places I’ve seen here, and the people we interacted with were friendly and helpful. I think we paid Gringo prices at one Tienda, but that isn’t the first time that has happened to me.

Once I finally secured a dingy and motor it was time to go, and that time was 5:30 am to catch the tide to have deep enough water to get back out of the estuary. The outbound trip didn’t involve any brushes with the bottom either, and once out we headed to Punta Leonas.

We weren't the only ones getting underway early in Puntarenas.

We weren’t the only ones getting underway early in Puntarenas.

Sights leaving Puntarenas estuary.

Sights leaving Puntarenas estuary.

More pelicans and boats.

More pelicans and boats.

Emilie wants a fixer up sailboat, I'll bet she could get this one cheap.

Emilie wants a fixer up sailboat, I’ll bet she could get this one cheap.

Typical view of the down and out side of Puntarenas.

Typical view of the down and out side of Puntarenas.

For once, I sunrise not a sunset.

For once, I sunrise not a sunset.

After being in an estuary with crocodiles, we were pretty happy to be in a pretty anchorage with a sandy beach, and a rocky point to hike around which we did twice. Since I had purchased the outboard late in the day before our departure I hadn’t bought gas yet so we just swam back and forth to the beach. We relaxed there there for a few days enjoying not being on a float and being able to swim. The one downside is all that time in the water gave me an ear infection, diagnosed on the internet as Swimmers ear. And the downside of the ear infection was not being anywhere near a town. Some home remedies like garlic in the ear weren’t solving the problem so it was time to move on.

The point we hiked around a couple times.

The point we hiked around a couple times.

We hit the beach at the right moment to find a blow hole.

We hit the beach at the right moment to find a blow hole.

More fun with the blowhole.

More fun with the blowhole.

Cruiser shower.

Cruiser shower.

I don't think birds count as day shapes for actively engaged in fishing.

I don’t think birds count as day shapes for actively engaged in fishing.

Emilie driving a sailboat for the first time.

Emilie driving a sailboat for the first time.

Our first stop was Domincalito where we took a day to rest. With no outboard and me not wanting to go in the water we did little more then rest, and accept a couple oranges a passing panga tossed us. Then it was off to Bahia Drake which my guide book assured me was easy to enter after dark. Which was good because of course we arrived after dark. After dropping the sails I turned on the radar to help spot boats anchored in the anchorage and was greeted by the sight of a 2 mile wide squall right behind the boat. Suddenly I was trying to find a spot to anchor in pouring rain, and pouring in the tropics has a whole different meaning then it does in Seattle. I was soaked before I even had a chance to think about foulies. And then there was the wind, probably 30 knots or so which even in the tropics will cool you down when you are soaked. The radar wasn’t a whole lot of help in spotting boats when all I could see was squall. I managed to see a bit with it by dialing the rain filter all the way on but that made me leery it might not pick up a small boat. Finally after a couple laps through the anchorage to determine an open spot we got the anchor down, let out about 150′ of rode in 20′ of water and started drying off. I managed to put a couple of inches in the water tank by putting a towel behind the thru deck water fill. Some hot soup sounded like just the ticket, which is when we discovered the stove wasn’t going. Well that long walk to fill the tank in Puntarenas suddenly seemed quite worthwhile. Except… after swapping tanks the stove was still having issues. We managed to coax enough flame out of it to warm a pot of soup but that was it. The next morning, nothing. I traced the issue to a solenoid that is held open via 12 volt power while cooking. This way if there is a leak in the system the gas won’t fill the boat. But when the solenoid won’t open when power is applied, well lets just say the meals get a bit more creative. But still tasty. Flash ahead to the next stop, Golfito where I was able to find a fitting for just under $2 that allowed me to bypass the solenoid. Now I just have to remember to turn the tank off and on when I’m cooking.

Bahia Drake from a scenic overlook (okay, a bar).

Bahia Drake from a scenic overlook (okay, a bar).

I can't resist puppies.

I can’t resist puppies.

Another one for the bird nerds to identify.

Another one for the bird nerds to identify.

I can just reach the coconuts!

I can just reach the coconuts!

Success!

Success!

Or taking pictures of flowers.

Or taking pictures of flowers.

So Golfito is the current location. I found western medicine which is clearing up the ear infection. I went to a pharmacy first in hopes of avoiding a doctors visit, and the pharmacist came out with the tool for looking in your ear (I’m writing this offline and can’t google the proper name) and took a peek in my ear and sold me ear drops and two pills, one for now and one for 4 days later. $20 bucks and I’m on the mend. I’ve spent a lot of the time here at Land and Sea where they have a cruisers lounge with good internet and showers. I’ve had several job interviews via the phone and Skype, hoping to put my recently acquired captains license to use for profit. The downside is most of the jobs start up a little earlier then I had expected so I may have to start back to El Salvador sooner then later. We’ve discussed taking a trip into Panama to check out a couple stops but we’ll have to see if it times out or not. And mix in the need to be somewhere to watch the SuperBowl which the first few stops in Panama don’t seem to provide. If the Seahawks weren’t in it I wouldn’t care but its hard not to watch your team play in the SuperBowl.

Just a tad tender.

Just a tad tender.

You  can pick fruit in the jungle, or just visit a shop full of fruits and veggies.

You can pick fruit in the jungle, or just visit a shop full of fruits and veggies.

Quaint street in Golfito.

Quaint street in Golfito.

Golfito isn’t a bad little town, not as down and out, or as big as Puntarenas, but not a tourist trap either. We took a long walk out to a duty free zone a couple days ago, and yesterday Gaston and Val from Tumbleweed invited us hiking so we made a quick decision to join them. They are a young couple from Argentina also sailing south that we met in Quepos and have shared a couple other anchorages with. We had a good jungle hike up a stream to a waterfall. An attempt to climb the rocks beside the waterfall came to an abrupt end when I nearly put my hand on a snake curled up in a crevice in the rocks. Costa Rica is the Australia of Central America. Emilie and I both took pretty good jellyfish shots at Punta Leonas (and no, we didn’t pee on each other), there are the crocodiles, Emilie was stung by a scorpion inland and there are venomous snakes on land and in the sea. We also had a swarm of flying ants visit the boat, and they had nasty bites. After the hike to the waterfall we resumed walking on the road and climbed to scenic overlook of the bay before descending back to sea level and returning to boats to pretty much pass out after a dinner happily cooked over a working stove.

An insect that didn't try to bite or sting me.

An insect that didn’t try to bite or sting me.

A waterfall worth hiking to.

A waterfall worth hiking to.

Leaf,  big leaf!

Leaf, big leaf!

Fern tip growing out of a patch of ferns.

Fern tip growing out of a patch of ferns.

Natures water bottle.

Natures water bottle.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Pointing out something that wasn't a monkey since we didn't see any.

Pointing out something that wasn’t a monkey since we didn’t see any.

Flora and fauna.

Flora and fauna.

Plant or jellyfish?

Plant or jellyfish?

Leaf cutter ants.

Leaf cutter ants.

After all the work to reach these, they aren't bananas or plantains, but we are still going to try to cook them when they ripen.

After all the work to reach these, they aren’t bananas or plantains, but we are still going to try to cook them when they ripen.

Panorama from the high point of our hike.

Panorama from the high point of our hike.

There are few more job search bits to finish up, then the decision whether to try to zip to Panama and back or turn back north and save Panama for next season. I’ll let you now what I decide!

Sunset at Golfito

Sunset at Golfito