It’s fascinating to stumble upon places where blue water cruisers hole up or pause to catch their breath, or use as a harbor of refuge like us. We’re at one right now tucked away here in Golfito, Costa Rica. Tim and Katie call it TierraMar and while I’ve already described some of the local color to you, if you take the time to climb up the ramp past Tim’s floating house to the open air deck which surrounds their open air kitchen, making sure to pet all five dogs and the speckled cat, past the reasonably messy cruisers work shop, up the blue metal stairs to the second floor, you’ll find yourself in their cruisers clubhouse featuring large screen TV, $1.50 beer and $1.00 not beer, on the honor system of course.
But that’s not what’s cool. What’s really cool is that hundreds of cruisers have painted their boat names or graphics or just their names all over the walls, some of whom we know or at least know of. Soon Escape Velocity’s name will join them on the walls.
It’s slow season right now in Golfito so we’re virtually floating out here alone, which exacerbates the feeling that nothing is moving forward, even though we know we’re in the queue. The only thing that breaks up the heat is our daily thunderstorm, some of which are quite feisty with wind…well our wind instrument is gone so I have no clue how much but lets just say lots. So we take up projects that we’d never seemed to have time to do before, dodge the down-pours, scrounge for parts in little shops with seemingly no theme to their proffered wares, and wait.
I’m not good at this. I think I’ll go in and pet the dogs.
I guess we must have needed a long break after what seems looking back like a long period of frantic activity. From the time we left Grenada for Trinidad last October until we reached Costa Rica we’ve barely had much down time. A month in Trinidad working on the boat, back to Grenada, to Carriacou, Tobago Cays, Bequia, St. Lucia, Martinique, St. Croix, Culebra; a month in Puerto Rico where we rerigged and fixed the autopilot and did a lot of other boat work and upgrades; then a long sail to Panama, setting up the canal transit and our visit to the Galapagos; my sister and brother-in-law onboard for the canal, then a couple of days in the Pearl Islands before another week-long passage to the Galapagos. During all of that we were provisioning for the Pacific crossing, researching routes and weather systems and getting our satellite phone working and all the other thousand and one things you do when you’re planning a long voyage. When we left the Galapagos for the Marquesas we were actually looking forward to the three week passage because we wouldn’t be able to do much except read, mind the boat and keep on course.
Of course that didn’t happen and May became as stressful a time as we’ve had in years. Now that we’ve been in Costa Rica for a month I look back and wonder what have we done all this time?
That’s not entirely true, of course. We’ve tackled some of those odious tasks we keep putting off. I’ve been spring cleaning, working my way through all the lockers, emptying, cleaning, sorting, organizing. Jack refinished the louvered teak door on the wet locker that took a beating when seawater came up the drain during our slamming four-day motor back to the Galapagos after the dismasting.
He also cleaned out the forward starboard sail locker and discovered a missing drain plug that might account for some seawater in the forward crash compartment. At least we hope that’s the cause.
Today he made a quick-disconnect for the cooling hose on the generator, which has bedeviled him since we bought the boat, because the hose has to be disconnected every time you open the sound blimp to do anything on the generator, and in the predictable logic of all boats the hose connects in the furthest corner of the locker, about as inaccessible as it gets. The new fitting should make it easier to service the generator.
And speaking of the generator, it’s rewound and working again. You’ll remember it stopped suddenly during our time in the Galapagos. We really didn’t worry about it then and assumed we could wait until Tahiti to address it. With so much solar power we never need it to charge batteries anyway, and the only thing we use it regularly for is the washer.
We engaged Robert the Hungarian mechanic to fix the problems that developed in our two diesel engines during the 1200 miles to Costa Rica and while he was here we asked him to take a look at the generator. He took it out, he schlepped it away, he brought it back rewound and repainted and now I’m happily doing our own laundry again. And with all the rain we’ve been having it’s good to have a way to charge batteries without running an engine if need be.
The engines, by the way, are ok we think. The port side is still leaking diesel out of the bleed screw, but we have new bleed screws winging their way here and that should fix that. The starboard engine needs a new alternator but after much searching, and a new one that didn’t fit, Robert the Hungarian mechanic took the old one apart, did a little laying on of hands, put it back and swears it’s working now. We are withholding judgement until we see if the new battery gets cooked like the old one did.
In between boat projects we’re enjoying watching the F1 races on the big TV at the marina next door, and the football matches in the cruisers’ lounge at our marina. We’ve spent a couple of long lunches getting to know my cousin Arturo. We shop for boat parts and groceries. We bail the dinghy after the daily thunderstorms. We collect rainwater. In short, we’re firmly in the Golfito groove.
I guess my feelings about Soccer or Futbol…well first of all let’s stick to one name and spell it correctly, or have I missed something? As I was saying, let’s just give the teams one point each and have a five minute shoot out and then go home, perfect no? I’ve been trying, really I have, what with all the brouhaha here in Costa Rica. We’re a good 300 feet from shore but every time they think something might happen (not likely) the entire town erupts into screams, car horn honking, and much vuvuzela droning which I have to say were already at a constant feverish pitch. I thought they only did that for cricket but don’t get me started, really, they gotta go.
Please don’t misunderstand, their skills are undeniable but so much of their effort is unrewarded with a scooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrreeeee.
Now… what is it with all the high drama diving? These guys couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag and I don’t even know what that means. I mean it’s unmanly. You simply can’t take a sport seriously when your guys are diving for the grass rolling around in pain seemingly waiting to be strapped into an ambulance just because an opponent got close to him. Seriously?
I’m obviously missing something.
Yesterday I had to go to the gas station for five gallons of dinghy gas but I wasn’t sure which pier to use so I hoofed it. Sleepy Gofito normally looks like this on the “high road.”
Sadly your humble reporter forgot to take his camera but people were gathered around every bar and TV in town spilling out into the streets. It reminded me of the Fourth of July in the states. Come to think of it CR’s flag is red white and blue too, and from the noise I can only surmise that the home team was doing well. Every car, motorcycle, bicycle, and kid had a red white and blue flag. The joy was contagious and when I climbed out of the dink with a smile on my face Marce raised an eyebrow but I couldn’t have gotten near a bar even if I tried…honest.
We got a preliminary settlement from our insurance company — preliminary in that it doesn’t included ALL the repairs we need because we aren’t in the right place to have them estimated and done — but our replacement rig is covered and taken care of. We’re delighted to have cleared this hurdle and called our rigger, Colin Mack of Mack Sails and he got us “in the queue” for our new mast and boom. These are the things that will take the longest so we wanted to get the process started as soon as possible.
I say “step three” because it’s been helpful to our sanity since the dismasting to think of the daunting task of getting back out there as a series of smaller, more manageable steps. Step one was getting to a place where we could get the rig shipped in and the work done. That in itself was a mighty accomplishment, and perhaps the toughest. We took a beating, mentally, physically and financially, and Escape Velocity also suffered from the 1200 miles of motoring. But ever since we arrived in Costa Rica we’ve known that no matter what, everything is possible. Not because it’s so easy here to get things done — it isn’t — but because we don’t feel as isolated as we did in the Galapagos. Having reliable Internet and cell phone service helps, too.
Step two was starting the process of the insurance claim, and while we would have preferred a quick payoff from the manufacturer of the part that failed on us, our surveyor and insurance company and everyone involved in our claim have been nothing short of kind, helpful and supportive. Once we had the survey and the estimate done the claims people got to work and very quickly finished the process.
Now we can busy ourselves getting things ordered, take a break from worrying and start to enjoy this beautiful country. We’re hampered somewhat by the fact that Escape Velocity is not able to go anywhere until we have the engines fixed. Neither problem is serious but getting the parts we need is challenging here in Golfito. What’s more of a problem even than not being able to go anywhere is that we can’t even run an engine to top up our batteries. We never used to think about power because we usually run completely off solar energy but here in Golfito, in the “green” season, we get less than half a day of sunshine, not enough to keep us fully charged. The situation is not dire — yet — but we sure hope Robert, the only diesel mechanic around these parts, can come up with a regulator for the starboard engine so we can charge up the battery bank. The port engine is leaking diesel from the bleed screw despite an attempted fix with a locally sourced screw. We have the correct screws coming from the States next week, but in the meantime, we can’t use that engine either, unless it’s an emergency.
All in good time.
Meanwhile we’re enjoying being able to watch the World Cup and Formula 1 races and the French Open either streaming online or at the bar ashore. We’re getting lots of little projects done and I’ve even dug out my jewelry-making supplies for some blissful crafting hours. Guitar pick earrings!
Out of the gentle pitter-patter of our nightly rain on Escape Velocity’s decks right above my head, a subtle change must have registered subconsciously while I read. Yes… as I recall the breeze began to freshen and the rain was more of an insistent tattoo. The next thing I remember is an impossibly loud bang or rather an awesomely loud boom or maybe it was more of an incredibly close crack…no, maybe more of a crack simultaneously morphing into a boom. Yes, let’s agree to call it a Cracoom. As we both headed out to the cockpit, banging into each other like the three stooges at the companionway door, the Escape Velocity mantra rang out, “What was that?!” EV seemed to be bobbing straight up and down as though she’d been briefly lifted up like a rubber ducky and let go. A deluge of biblical proportions was already in progress. The sky was lit up with so many overlapping lightning strikes forking all around us that it looked like a “strobie” kind of daylight. This must be how it feels to be Brangelina at the Oscars.
We began to pour our five-gallon trugs of rain water into the main tank filter but as soon as we had one empty the other was overflowing. The rain went on for hours but in minutes we had no more storage left and had to watch it run off the side decks.
So the answer to the question of “when is it good to have no mast?” is when you find yourself in a particularly nasty electrical storm.
On the admin side of things progress is being made, orders are being ordered or at least firmed-up and we’re still very happy with our insurance company. On the other hand Robert, our crusty but benign Hungarian mechanic has found a way to come up with an alternator that won’t fit in the space that Volvo has allotted for said alternator. It was hard to tell but I think he was even more morose than when we first met him but at least the generator has been rebuilt however the electrical end is sitting on the saloon floor awaiting…I don’t know, a better mood or something. The generating end is sporting, at Roberts suggestion, a new pristine white paint job @ 25,279.98 colons (fifty USD) but I still feel it would look better installed in the generator up in the forward locker.
Mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow, it just means not today.
We spent our first week here busy busy busy getting together the definitive list of what we lost in the dismasting, a daunting task because we didn’t have the rig to refer to. We finally got that done, ran it past the surveyor who told us to send it out to our preferred vendor for an estimate. We did that, and the surveyor also sent it out to other vendors to be sure ours was in line. That done, our vendor’s estimate was deemed reasonable, and the whole thing was forwarded to the adjuster. This is where we get nervous. This is our very first ever insurance claim except for a car break-in about 20 years ago so we aren’t experienced at all in the process, but we understand they will go line by line and decide exactly what will be covered and by how much. Luckily all of our rigging was brand new and shouldn’t be an issue. Our jib was nearly new. The main wasn’t new but had been recently reconditioned by the original sailmaker. And on it goes. So we wait.
We know from the vendor that we’re probably facing at least three months from the time we order the rig to getting it here in Costa Rica ready for installation. But we can’t order it until the insurance company tells us how much they will pay.
We’re having some low moments these days because we did everything we could to ensure our boat was in perfect condition for crossing the Pacific only to be undone by a brand new fitting that broke, taking everything we’d worked for to the bottom of the ocean.
Meanwhile we’re getting sympathetic emails from all the boats we’d befriended from Panama and the Galapagos, as each one arrives in the Marquesas and learns our fate. We’re so happy for all of them and proud of their accomplishment, and at the same time, sad for us that we couldn’t achieve the same thing. At least not this year.
When we got here to Golfito there were two other sailboats and another part-time liveaboarder. The two sailboats have left, one to the South Pacific and one to Mexico to haul out for the summer. The part-time liveaboarder is gone for a month on business leaving us the only occupied boat in all of Golfito, as far as we can tell. We’re trying to keep busy with minor boat chores and other projects but frankly, we’re bored. We don’t feel comfortable making any travel plans until we hear from the insurance company so we spend our days waiting.
Last Thursday we finally met my cousin Arturo in person. We first met online a few years ago and have been Facebook friends for years, too. He’s been making weekly trips to Golfito for work and took off early to pick us up at the marina and take us to the airfield cantina for lunch and to get acquainted.
Arturo is passionate — for family, for his work, for photography, painting and poetry — and lives every moment to its fullest. We bonded immediately and I feel as if I’ve always known him. I can’t wait to meet the rest of my Costa Rican cousins.
I often wondered, growing up and looking at all my extended family why some of us are cocooners and some are travelers. I think now, having met so many fellow descendants of various ancestors, that the travel bug is part of our Liggett genetic makeup. From as early as I can trace them, the Caribbean Liggetts didn’t seem to stay in one place too long. My father’s family, on the other hand, got off the ship at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia in 1780, went two blocks west, and pretty much stayed there for 150 years before venturing another 20 miles west to the suburbs. I did not get those genes.
Another Liggett cousin, Douglas from Colorado, whom we met several years ago when he passed through Pittsburgh, is coming to Costa Rica in a few weeks and offered up space in his luggage for anything we need. As any cruiser knows that’s the best gift in the world and Jack and I have been happily ordering small bits and parts that are impossible to find here and sending them to Douglas. Arturo says when Douglas arrives there’ll be a big get together with the whole family and we’re really looking forward to it.
So…as I was saying before being so rudely interrupted, Costa Rica is beautiful and it’s enticing us to explore but Marce and I were overwhelmed with the work of spec’ing out a new rig and finding expert vendors and riggers. I mean what do I know about mast sections and moments of inertia? To me it’s like art…I’ll know it when I see it. By the time I see it, the mast will have been cut into two sections so that it fits into a 40-foot container with the splicing kit installed, the Schaefer in-boom furler fitted to the mast, and the boom vang fitted as well as a hundred other things I don’t know enough to even start worrying about.
I’m not much for waiting about and with so much to do the thought that both engines are questionable was driving me crazy so when the same name kept surfacing as a good mechanic I called him up and in an hour and a half Robert, who I was warned never smiles, isn’t interested in where you’ve been or where you’re going or even how long he’s been in Costa Rica, had one engine fixed and Beladonna’s alternator pulled and, as expected, found the regulator to be shot. He sadly looked up at me while motioning toward the poor, cooked, year-old starting battery and said you’ll need a new battery. Taciturn doesn’t even come close to describing this Hungarian who just wants to fix what’s broken. I’d had to fill up that smoking battery six times while on our nonstop motor from the Galapagos. It got so hot I moved a fire extinguisher so it would be handy, just in case. The good news is that I’d gotten Robert to say more than six words which I was told I would not be able to do.
After a flurry of emails to our insurance company we felt sufficiently on top of things that we decided we could take a day off and…what else? Climb the hill next to our anchorage and grab a photo with some altitude.
Dear Escapees I’m sad to say, we couldn’t take the unrelenting heat and grade of the trail up to the national rain forest.
This place is hot, steep and even though it was paved, it was paved in this strange Costa Rican stuff that features rather large rocks and stones that are rough on the feet and legs. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. After our Escape Velocity capitulation, on the way down we stopped by a mountain stream running down the mountainside and soaked our overheated heads in the cool clear water.
I could’ve stayed there for quite a while but in true Costa Rican form we could see rain clouds stacking up over the ridge to windward of EV.
Back onboard we found that we were too tired to make it to the Banana Bay Bar for happy hour, but not too tired to miss this photograph of a flight of macaws noisily climbing, two by two, up out of the jungle.
Too tired to even make dinner so it’s leftover night aboard Escape Velocity.