Time to punt

This morning got a whole lot worse. We made our daily trip to the battery store and found out for sure what I long suspected. There are no batteries coming to Golfito for us. The official story was “the truck went to Guanacaste” but the upshot is there are no batteries in Costa Rica for us. I woke up in the middle of the night with this very thought on my mind and when the clerk told us I wasn’t surprised. Angry, sure, but not surprised.

We left there and walked to the port captain with our official papers hoping he could give us some suggestions on how to proceed with our customs issue. I handed him Jack’s declaration, the story of the dismasting and our subsequent journey to Costa Rica, and how we are not able to go to sea until we are repaired which will take longer than the 90 days allotted to us. He read the letter, and the one from the rigger explaining what’s involved in getting a new rig to us and installed. He seemed sympathetic, then shrugged and said it’s not his problem, it’s a Customs problem. We know, we said, we were just hoping he had some suggestions for us, and we smiled.


He smiled, too, and picked up his phone. He called the Customs office and talked to the dragon lady who told him what she already told us, that at the end of our 90 days we must either leave the country or go into bond at Banana Bay Marina, both of which we know not to be true. We thanked him for trying and went to the Immigration office. We figured if we could get an extension on our visas, maybe we could get an extension on our temporary vehicle importation as well.

I handed the officer Jack’s letter, and the letter from the rigger. He read them through, then took them along with Jack’s passport to what we learned was the bossman, who shrugged and said it’s not his problem, it’s a Customs problem. We know, we said, but we thought if you would extend us an additional 90 days then Customs could also extend us. No, not possible. At least not here.

He called over another officer who has good English and had him relay to us that we have two options: go to San Jose and apply for a visa extension at the Immigration Office there, or leave Costa Rica for three days and re-enter the country to get a brand new 90-day visa. He added that we could do either one and it would be fine with them, but if we went to San Jose then after we got a visa extension we could go to the United States embassy and tell them our problem with customs. You are allowed to stay according to International Maritime Law, he said — this we know — but the local Customs officer will need to be told that by the someone at the embassy. “Because the United States rules the world,” he said. At times like this I almost wish that were true.

I stood there in tears of frustration because I haven’t been told no so many times in one day for as long as I can remember. And I’m up to here with this bureaucratic maze. “You must be happy,” the officer told me.

On the walk back home I got an email from Fabio, Roberto’s lawyer friend. He confirmed that Costa Rican law provides for our situation and told me he needs a couple of specific letters to submit with our request for an extension. One we already have, from the rigger. The other must be from a local repairman explaining that we are waiting for parts and how long it will take to effect the repairs.

Tim called Robert the Hungarian mechanic and asked him to stop by and do a letter for us, something he’s done before for others, and Tim even had a couple of them on file for reference.

While we’re working on that issue we need to solve our immediate battery problem. Our friend Don, who’s working in Medellin for a few months, emailed that we’re welcome to use his batteries until we can source a new bank for ourselves. Tim and Jack pulled the batteries out of Don’s boat and we took them back to Escape Velocity.


An hour later Jack had our four dead ones out, our two still-good ones set aside for emergency use later and Don’s two perfectly new ones hooked up and charging. We changed the settings on the battery monitor and blessed the whole thing, then went ashore to meet with Robert the Hungarian mechanic and cobble together a letter to customs about our plight.

When that was done we asked Robert if he could adapt our anchor windlass so that we’d have both a down as well as an up button. We already have parts on board but three mechanics told us we have the wrong parts and that we need either a new solenoid or a new motor in order to go both directions. We showed Robert the parts and he devised a plan, then said he wanted Jack to take him out to the boat for a look at the motor to be sure. They both came back beaming. Apparently all those other mechanics were wrong and we do have a three-wire motor and next week if all goes well we will be able to let the anchor chain out gracefully instead of the uneven gravity feed we now have that often threatens to take off Jack’s fingers. Our friend Kris will be pleased. She scolded Jack many times about our potentially de-digitizing windlass.

So with the letters send to Fabio the lawyer, the late afternoon sun throwing some charge into our substitute batteries, a plan to improve anchoring safety in the works, and happy hour fast approaching, we’re determined to end this emotional roller coaster of a day on a high note.


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3 Responses to Time to punt

  1. Brendan Foley

    Hey Marce, not sure if you got my reply. Eaton has a large presence in CR. We have a lot of suppliers and customers. I may be able to help. Email me @ BrendanAFoley@eaton.com. Or call my cell. 423-544-8578

  2. I have not mailed your box yet. Make sure you have everything for the windlass project. If it turns out to be the two wire motor after all I have the reversing solenoid I can send along to you. Anything else you need? I have tons of stuff so email me because who knows… I might have one.

  3. Hi Marce,
    Have been following your travels and so sorry for all the problems that have followed you. If your stuff hasn’t shipped, have you considered going to Panama? I have no first hand knowledge, but have heard boat work is far easier there. Best of luck,

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