Wednesday the surveyor from our insurance company came to Escape Velocity to assess our loss. Mike McCook thoroughly checked over the boat in all the out of the way places that might have been damaged by a rig failure like ours, crawling into lockers, looking under headliners, inspecting the chain plates, and so on. Following him around and looking through his eyes helped us see things we’d missed before, like the nearly chafed through lacings on our soft-top from when the mainsheet was still attached to the turning block and the boom was slamming back and forth on the side deck; and the chewed up section of rub rail where the entire rig was hanging by the headstay until Jack got the pin pulled out. We’d been looking at the forest — we have no mast! — and Mike helped us see all the individual trees. It was an educational experience, and comforting to know that he cares that our boat will be safe and returned to original condition.
Yesterday we spent a few more hours with Mike asking him a gazillion questions about how we proceed and working out logistics. We’re so lucky to have him as a resource and he’s incredibly generous with his time and patient with us.
We discovered that Mike was scheduled to fly out of Golfito on the same flight as my cousin Arturo.
Arturo wanted to come see us that day but we asked if he could wait a week because we had the surveyor coming and had too much to do. I showed Mike a photo of Arturo and yep, Mike met my cousin before we did. We live a strange life.
Now the big work for Jack and me begins as we work through every tiny detail of our new rig order. Think about it, it’s tough to write down everything that was on the rig without the rig to look at. Once we have everything on order we’ll kick back and start enjoying where we are, but for now, it’s nose to the grindstone while we get this thing in the bag.
Phase three of our slow motion rescue is compete. We made good time crossing from the Galapagos to Central America and while it took a lot of nursing, the Volvos reluctantly got us here, albeit with Belladonna, the evil twin starboard engine, spitting out white smoke and steam while the port side, Ms Jolie, normally purring, was leaking diesel at the air bleed screw but still turning over. Here, is Golfito, Costa Rica and while it’s not Fatu Hiva it is jaw-dropping, awesomely beautiful.
The entrance into Golfito is broad but corkscrews around into itself. So it’s a series of right hand turns and with each turn its beauty is slowly revealed. This is one protected anchorage. The first thing Marce said was, “did you hear that?” She says this a lot. It would’ve been hard to miss the cacophony of exotic jungle sounds echoing off the steep verdant cliffs surrounding the bay, sounding for all the world like we were in a Johnny Weissmuller film.
We slept well, but early the following morning the ear piercing screeching returned and as I searched for the source, something caught my eye fluttering scarlet against the deep greens of the misty jungle. Dozens of scarlet macaws were climbing up out of the jungle and making a racket while doing it. What they lack as aerialists they more than make up for in volume and brilliance. Stunning.
I love the usual cast of characters that fetch up in places like this and Golfito is no exception. We’ve got your basic special ops/Navy Seal guy who would only use knives, an ex-navy diver who says asking him to scrape your boat’s bottom is like asking a surgeon to squeeze a zit, and there’s almost always a young Aussie or Kiwi or South African couple vagabonding by boat. Tim and Kate’s Marina is our kind of place so a special thanks to Beth Leonard for the tip.
So, as I was saying, the scuttlebutt that we’re hearing is that getting things shipped into Costa Rica shouldn’t present too much of a problem. It only took two days to check-in so what could go wrong? We’ll just have to see…the proof is, after all, in the pudding.
It’s hot here. Jack and I are amazed that we left a relatively comfortable anchorage just below the equator and sailed well north, only to find ourselves in the most hot and humid place we’ve ever been. Working out on deck to clean Escape Velocity of the salt and grime that accumulates at sea leaves me pouring sweat within minutes. The idea of plugging in at a marina, usually repugnant to us, is starting to sound pretty good, especially if we can run our air conditioner. That bears looking into.
But first, the formalities. We spent a large part of the day clearing in to the country. It’s our fault it took so long because in our delirium from the heat we missed the Immigration office and walked nearly a mile further down the road and had to double back. Then after immigration we needed to take our papers to the Port Captain back the other way again. We greeted the shopkeepers standing in their doorways each time we passed and they must have wondered why these crazy gringos were doing laps through town.
Eventually we were stamped and welcomed, but the customs office isn’t open on Monday so we have to do the bureaucracy dance again on Tuesday to get the boat entered and legal.
On the way back from the Port Captain we stopped in a little shop for a local SIM card. The proprietor was very friendly and spoke some English. He was halfway through cutting down the standard size SIM for my iPhone when his mobile rang and he answered. At first he held the phone on his shoulder and continued working on my phone, but then he put my phone down and just talked and talked and talked. I have a minimal understanding of Spanish (I’m working on it) but I could tell this was a personal call. We waited patiently. And we waited. Several customers entered the shop and waited and listened and waited. Eventually they left in frustration. Finally, after a good 20 minutes, I reached over the counter and picked up my phone and my passport and said we were leaving. It was clear by his shocked look that he’d forgotten we were even there! He put down his phone without even hanging up and clipped the SIM card and reached again for my phone.
“This is incredibly rude,” I said. He was completely flustered. “You have customers,” I said. “You’ve lost customers because of this.”
“Sorry. Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry,” he kept saying, genuinely embarrassed and, I think, sorry.
“Sorry,” he said again and he waited, his own phone poised in his hand while we gathered ourselves and left.
By now it was raining, a light tropical, cooling rain. We were glad for the waterproof backpack to protect our things but we didn’t even bother with the umbrella we’d brought. The rain felt so good after the simmering morning heat. We ducked into a large supermarket and walked up and down the aisles in wonder. There were items we hadn’t seen since Puerto Rico, Lizano sauce and fresh corn tortillas! I picked up a warm package and inhaled the lovely corn aroma. We’ve been so long without tortillas. Now we can have tacos and quesadillas and breakfast burritos and chilaquiles and all the other things I make when tortillas are fresh and abundant. Maybe I can even find a tortilla press to make our own because the one I thought I brought aboard has gone walkabout.
After the supermarket we dashed through the raindrops to the bakery next door. There was no coffee in evidence but after choosing our pastries we asked and of course they had coffee and would make a fresh pot.
Any place that has a coffee shop and good pastries is ok with us. We finally made it back to the marina around 2pm and nearly collapsed from the heat and from legs not used to so much walking.
In honor of our arrival in Costa Rica, and because it’s Monday and we always eat beans on Monday, and because I bought some Lizano Sauce, I made gallo pinto for dinner, the traditional Costa Rican beans and rice dish, following the directions my cousin Arturo sent me a few years ago. Good stuff.
We have arrived in Golfito, Costa Rica, after 5 days, 21 hours. We made great time, a full day less than our reasonable estimate thanks to the favorable currents we followed. Except for our last-day worries about the engines, which we have to address before we venture out again, it was largely uneventful. We celebrated our arrival with homemade fudgesicles, a happy accident when my chocolate pudding demulsified (is that a word?) and we poured it into the popsicle molds.
So. Here we are. Our next step is to decide whether to stay here or move to another Costa Rican port, but that depends on how and where best to ship in our new rig. For the coming week we’ll be researching and calling and deciding so many things and hoping to get the ball rolling on making Escape Velocity whole again. Once we have things ordered we can sit back and relax while we wait for things to arrive but for now, there is work to be done.
Yesterday, as we sunk into a mild depression over our poor overworked engines, we got a surprise call from Mark and Sue on Macushla in the Caribbean and they perked us right up. It was so good to hear their cheerful and encouraging voices and it gave us the energy we needed to do one more night of motoring.
We had a tense night watch knowing we would start to encounter boats going to and from the Panama Canal from the west coast. As we altered course to head more directly to the bay we gave up our great speed but that was ok since we never want to make landfall in an unfamiliar port in the dark. Jack took over at midnight and only saw one ship — I had seen three — so the shipping lane was a nonevent, thank goodness.
Just after 5 am Jack woke me with an excited nod out the porthole, “Costa Rica!” He was misty, and when I looked at the beautiful coastline I was misty too. We had done it. We had brought our home, our magic carpet, back from the brink and there’s no doubt now that she will be good as new before long.
Ever since our dismasting there’s been an unspoken fear in the back of our minds: if we can’t get EV back to a safe harbor where she can be repaired, we will have to abandon her. When you call for rescue on the high seas they rescue you, not your boat, and generally an abandoned boat is a hazard to navigation and has to be scuttled. We know of two recent instances where that happened and we didn’t want it to happen to us. From the very beginning we never even considered calling for help, knowing that calling for help, setting off our emergency beacon, meant saying goodbye to our boat, our home, our dream.
We feel lucky. We’re lucky the falling rig didn’t put a hole in the boat and we’ve never questioned our decision to let the rig go, knowing we had no way to get it back on deck and couldn’t possibly tow it 400+ miles against wind and current. We’re lucky we had enough fuel — if barely — to get back to the Galapagos so we could rest and prepare for the longer passage. Had we lost the rig a day later, we wouldn’t have made it. We’re lucky we had friends in Isabela and Santa Cruz who encouraged us and helped soothe our frustrations at the bureaucratic labyrinth we had to negotiate to get the fuel we needed to proceed. We’re lucky for the warmth and concern our insurance company team have shown during our slow-motion self-rescue. Most of all, we’re lucky to have each other. Together we can do this next step, together we’ll make a new plan, and together we’ll enjoy every day of this journey.
Tonight we celebrate our landfall. It’s not the one we planned for, Fatu Hiva, but it’s beautiful all the same. The rain that’s falling is filling our water tank and washing away the salt from a tense passage.
We were feeling pretty good about things last night, even though the port engine lost RPMs and couldn’t be coaxed to rev up beyond 1800. No worries. Jack changed the fuel filter. Again. (Curse you, Isla Isabela fuel people). We switched over to the starboard engine for the night watches, meaning we could sleep in our own cabin during offwatch. So far so good.
At 6am we cranked up the port engine and within minutes the RPMs once again dropped to 1800, then 1600. This will not get us to Costa Rica. Meanwhile Jack checked the fluids in the starboard engine knowing we’d have to rely on it if the port engine was a problem and wouldn’t you know, the battery was low. Again. Seems the starboard battery is getting cooked and we need to address that ASAP, but not now, for Pete’s sake! So top up the battery, start the engine, shut down the port one.
Since the fuel in the tank was getting low we thought this might be a good time to transfer more of the cleaner Santa Cruz fuel and dilute whatever is clogging the fuel lines. So Jack schleps the tanks in their two-part emptying sequence, half at seat height, the rest at bin height. With that done, Jack went down to see what’s up with the port engine. Fuel filter’s clogged again and our supply of filters is dwindling. What’s more there’s a leak around the vent screw on the fuel pump. Seriously?? No matter what Jack tries he can’t get it to stop leaking. The screw appears to be broken off inside. We’re sure we have replacement screws and the little copper washers but do you think we can find them? Of course not.
With the anger only a non-mechanic can feel for a balky diesel engine, Jack jammed the screw in as well as he could and seems to have stemmed the leak, but it’s definitely not right and we’re reluctant to use that engine. Meanwhile, the starboard engine is putting out white exhaust. Please. We have only 111 miles to go to a safe harbor where we can baby the poor abused engines. But we have to get there.
As Jack was cleaning up the mess in the port engine room, I thought we should at least have a great breakfast so I started to make Eggs Benedict. I could do this because yesterday when we ran out of bread I made English muffins, a first for me, and they turned out great. (Thank you Mark Bittman.) I was in the middle of making Hollandaise when the propane ran out. Since Jack was still writing the Big Book of Swear Words in the basement, I thought it wise to sit tight and wait for that storm to pass before I broke the news.
Outside we ran through a rain squall and when Jack came up sweaty and frustrated from the port engine room I told him about the propane. He started toward the deck for a new tank but I said wait ’til the rain stops. No hurry. We both finished cleaning up the port engine room, checked that the engine ran ok, even with a slight seeping from the cursed fuel pump vent screw.
When the rain passed Jack swapped out the propane tank and I proceeded to make the Hollandaise and toast the English muffins. Jack fried up some ham for his (no Canadian bacon on board) and I cooked some broccoli for mine. Finally four poached eggs and we were done, a fantastic breakfast that took the edge off the morning. It was only 10 o’clock.
We were enjoying our second cup of coffee when we entered a serious squall, with high wind, sheeting rain and lumpy seas. Without sails we just throttled back so we wouldn’t bounce around so much and watched on the radar screen to see how long we’d have to put up with it. We hooked up the water collector filter and filled our water tank.
When the rain let up Jack checked the dinghy and said we needed to get some of the water out. The plug was pulled, so you’d think the dinghy wouldn’t hold so much water but it’s deeper in the bow than the stern and water collects there; the drain is in the stern. This is a two person job. I crawled over the storage bins behind the cockpit underneath the stadium seat. From there I could hang over the edge of the dinghy and fill the bailer but couldn’t reach to empty it. So Jack climbed up on the stadium seat directly above me and I passed the filled bailer to him and he emptied it overboard. We repeated this umpteen times until we got most of the water out of the bow.
It’s now 1pm. The sky has lightened a little but we see on radar another squall ahead of us. If it drops that much rain again we’ll have to repeat the bailing routine. For now, we’re putting our feet up and hoping for an uneventful afternoon.
I bought every R-24-T fuel filter that they had in the Galapagos. Yep, all six and at $38.00 per, I’m glad that’s all they had because I’d have gotten more if they’d had them. It’s a long hot dusty walk to the General Mechanico, who had just lifted $120.00 cash from my frayed, sad-looking wallet to repair Escape Velocity’s never-used-by-us, but apparently much abused fuel transfer pump which is used to move fuel from the fifty-gallon front auxiliary tank up to our 100 gallon main tank. We’d just paid $1,600.00 cash up front, for another one of those surreptitious fuel deliveries plus six of the ubiquitous seventeen gallon blue plastic jugs that you see all over the third world. I wonder what originally comes in them?
As I was saying, cash was getting kind of thin and we still hadn’t had our “last supper” so we found a restaurant that actually took credit cards and gathered the usual suspects for our traditional happy trails event. Looking out over the harbor there were all manner of boats but they all had one thing in common. They were all stuck waiting for parts. Waiting for deliveries is a full time hobby here in the Galapagos. Packages have to go through mainland Ecuador before being transfered to the Galapagos and well, you know…what could go wrong there? Conversation typically revolves around tracking numbers, empty promises like maybe Monday, or rumors of workarounds that somebody heard somebody had tried once. Patience, a fatalistic attitude, a thorough understanding of the Spanish word manana, and a healthy dose of humor are the requirements.
All those thoughts were on my mind as we putted out past the dwindling number of boats in Puerto Ayora or maybe Losers Bay is a better way to put it. We had lost a few things too. All those skippers are facing a tough decision on whether at this late date they can continue on to the Marquesas or not.
It didn’t take long before the now familiar engine stumbling started and my stash of fuel filters didn’t look so phat. EV’s starboard engine, known as the evil twin in Manta circles because for some reason they tend to run hotter than the port engine, suddenly dropped dead. The skipper may have grumbled something under his breath on the way down to the basement. Marce says I’m channeling Ralphie’s dad in A Christmas Story. I don’t know about that but I do like that leg lamp.
We siphoned three blue jugs into the main tank and I had to change another fuel filter, this time the offender was the port engine. I confess the stress level is getting to me. If I can’t keep those Volvos running we’ll become just so much driftwood. It’s hard to believe that thirty gallons of dirty fuel, courtesy of our friends at Isla Isabela can cause so much stress.
Once again our ocean current source has shown us where to tiptoe around counter currents and where to find a free ride. It’s amazing how fast these currents can change. For two days we’ve been running at 5.5 – 7 kts. when we would expect to be at 4.5 kts. at this RPM.
Fingers crossed, touch wood, turn around three times and spit.
Yesterday we reached the halfway point, a cause for minor celebration. We’re now deep into the favorable current eddy we plotted before we left. It leads to the coast south of where we’re headed so it may look for a while as if we’ve diverted to Panama but we haven’t. We’re making excellent speed and hate to give it up so we’ll turn back north at the last moment and motor up the coast where the current is less.
We transferred 50 gallons of fuel into the main tank and with our new and improved speed that should be good until Saturday and we’ll hope for another couple of hours of flat seas again to make it easy. In case you’re wondering Jack hefted each big tank up to the cockpit seat where the bottom of the container is still below the level of the fuel fill but high enough to siphon the top half of the fuel out, then the tank was light enough to lift the rest of the way to bins above the fuel fill where we have a proper siphon height for the rest of it. We did three this way, although for the last one Jack disappeared below to change a fuel filter and even with half the fuel out of the tank I couldn’t lift it so I just pumped the whole 17 gallons up into the main tank using the squeeze bulb on Jack’s siphon rig. By the time we were done the seas were up and neither of us wanted to crawl out on deck to lash the empties to the lifelines so we just dropped them into the dinghy for the time being.
The seas have been up and down every day. We’ll have hours of near-flat calm, then hours of swell and wind-driven chop. After a squally night Wednesday we haven’t had any more rain but I think we will as we get closer to the coast.
We’ve been eating well, thanks to the freezer full of homemade MREs I cooked in preparation for the passage to the Marquesas. We have plenty of apples and passionfruit but we’re almost out of potato chips so we do hope we get in soon.
I spent a lot of time in planning for this passage looking at the ocean currents. Wind and waves and weather are always the primary factors but our experience motoring back to the Galapagos against the current was so demoralizing we didn’t want to repeat it any time soon. We knew the first two days we’d get no help from the current, and only a little hindrance as we were pushed slightly westward. Then earlier today we reached a waypoint we’d entered and suddenly — and it did seem sudden — our speed jumped a full knot. We’re going the same speed through the water as before but our speed over the ground is one knot faster. The system works! We won’t have this big a boost the rest of the way because the currents swirl and turn but if our waypoints are correct at the very least we’ll avoid the slog we had a couple of weeks ago.
Last night just before change of watch the starboard engine sputtered and died. I started the port engine and when Jack came up we decided he could wait to change the fuel filter until daylight. This morning the starboard engine got a new filter and a fluid check and at noon we did the regular engine change and she’s purring along as usual.
We’ve had rain off and on all night, and a considerable shower at the moment. There’s wind too, but without a wind instrument we’re relying on the Beaufort Wind Scale and we think it’s just 18 kts or so.
We’re in that part of the ocean where there’s nothing to look at. Really nothing. No ships, no whales, not even any flying fish, although we did have a few squid on deck this morning. We keep watching, and we expect as we get closer we’ll see ships heading towards the Panama Canal. In the meantime it’s read, sleep, eat. The Zen of passagemaking.
Thanks everyone for the siphoning tips. Just to clarify, we have an easy peazy siphon pump and have no trouble doing it. Our challenge right now is that the auxiliary tanks are too big and heavy to lift up out of the cockpit well to an adequate height. That means we have to first siphon to a smaller can, then lift that to the usual place. This sounds like a pain to us, so we’re trying to figure how we can get the big cans to a better height without injuring ourselves. We’ll probably just end up taking some prophylactic Advil and heaving away.