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"America is the only country in the world where you can burn the flag but can't tear the tag off the mattress." -- Jackie Mason
|90--Costa Rica: Sailing is a Life of Extremes|
Oct 15 2002 - 12:55 PST
cherie writes: Scirocco left San Francisco on October 10, 2001 heading for the Panama Canal. In one year we went from latitude 38 to latitude 9. In that year I’ve learned that having a boat is a lot like having a kid. You clean them up and they just get dirty again. Things mysteriously wind up broken every morning. They always need money for something. They wake you up in the middle of the night with their constant moving around. And although they exhaust you, frustrate you, and take every dime you have, you love them all the same.
Greg with the sunset and a smile on his face, we're finally heading south again!
It's the simple things that are charming to me. A gas pump in the middle of nowhere.
Martin waving to us from the gas dock at Marina Flamingo. He's smiling because we just gave him $150 bucks for gas!
A cloud colorfully blooming in the distance.
The American flag forever waving on Scirocco.
If there is ever a reason to live on a boat, it is this: sunsets.
Two beautiful things to wake up to--the pastel colors of a tropical morning, and a cup of warm Costa Rican coffee.
The clouds start lurking closer. They seem like they are up to something.
After a long difficult sail, Cherie is finally dry and warm, taking in the spectacular views of a beach near Quepos.
Greg looking out at the ocean. We got a $12 a night charming hotel in Quepos and took a brief rest from the torments of the sea.
Exhausted, Greg sits at the base of a palm tree and rests.
It’s amazing that I still love Scirocco after our last sail from Flamingo Bay to Quepos, Costa Rica. Our 24 hour estimated “sail time” turned into 40 hours with the intrusion of a magnificent lightning storm.
Before the torrential downpour struck, there was a period of immense peace. Deftly named, it was the calm before the storm. The air was empty and the wind was silent. Scirocco gently rocked on the water like an infant safe in her crib. Greg and I looked at each other and then we both leapt off the boat. In every direction all we could see was the undulating swells of the ocean. We frolicked and splashed in the water like toddlers. Had we known, that in a few hours, we would be hit with the most awesome storm we had ever seen, we might not have been so silly. We would have been worried and anxious; we would have headed for shore. But we didn’t know; there were no storms predicted. So, for that hour, we were content. Everything was simply perfect. We played in the tranquil water that would later turn into a force of destruction.
Later, safe on the boat, we watched the storm approach us, sneaking up on us like a stealth monster. Then it hit. “I could enjoy this storm a lot more if we weren’t in it,” Greg shouted. I don’t mind being wet and being banged around, but this one gnawing thought kept scratching my brain: “We are in the middle of the ocean with a lightning rod (called a mast) attached to us.”
I really wish there was some product that I could buy that would protect us. The item would be called “The Lightning Protector” and you could purchase my hypothetical product by Infomercial or at a local West Marine. It would cost $29.95 and have lots of testimonials on the back of the box of people who were stuck by lightning on their boats, but escaped unscathed. Because this hasn’t been invented (to my knowledge), so we used the next best thing--jumper cables. We attached one end of each cable to the stay and let the other two ends drag in the water. According to Greg, if the lightning hit us, it would run down the cable and into the water and leave all of our electronics unharmed.
“But am I going to get a little jolt in the process?” I asked. I’m not “sold” on this jumper cable idea. Meaning, I’ve got the cables in the water, but they don’t give me any peace of mind. Now if the jumper cables came in a “Lightning Protector” box, I might have a different attitude towards them.
“I don’t think anything will happen to us if we get struck by lightning,” Greg tried to reassure me.
“Then why did you turn all of our electronics off?” I asked.
“Just in case,” he said.
In addition to being pummeled by water, and in complete darkness (no stars, clouds or GPS to light the sky) I couldn’t get my sister’s shark dream out of my head. When we were kids, my sister Julie had a nightmare about a shark circling her. But instead of just the fin breaking the water, the entire head of the shark was above the surface, jaws agape. Since she described this image to me in such detail, it’s now in my head to. The dream is always ready and eager to resurface at life’s scariest sailing moments.
It was then that I heard a gasp of breath. Through the rain, I heard it. And it wasn’t a dolphin racing the hull, it was Julie’s shark. (Now that I think about it, I know sharks can’t breathe. I also know they don’t swim with their heads above water.) But at 3:00 am, when I’m lulled into a Pringles carbohydrate-coma, that gasping breath is never a cute dolphin. It’s a spike-toothed hungry shark ready to chomp a hole in the boat and gulp me down for dessert.
I read once that the emotions of sailing range from sheer boredom to sheer terror. You can guess which side of the spectrum I was on simply because I was not twiddling my thumbs. In fact, I don’t have to sign up for any spa treatments soon because I had plenty of “sea-water facials” on our most recent sail. Surprise, another wave crashed into my face! The storm was nature in the raw, completely uncontained and uncontrolled. The clouds weren’t puffy, they were violent. The rain drops were massive, like coins pounding noisily on the bow. The wind slapped us around like we deserved it. And the sea…well, I’ve never seen her so pissed off.
Many men of the sea will tell you that there are two types of sailors: true sailors, and motor sailors. True sailors (judgmental little buggars they are) will always harbor ill will against the motor sailor. There is a very real choice today’s sailor is faced with. You can choose to keep the sails up, when there is barely a breath of wind in the sky and be a true sailor—or you can use the motor Ford gave you and get to wherever the hell you are going. Now I’m a simple girl, but if I can walk to my destination faster than the boat is moving then I’m all about cranking the motor on. That makes me one of those gas-consuming yucky motor sailors. And I eat meat, too!
Sure, I like sailing for the novelty of it. I like the peaceful sound of the wind filling the sails and the breath of dolphins (or sharks) alongside the boat. But unfortunately I’m one of those women who likes math. That means if I know we can “motor” at 6 knots to the next tropical paradise in 24 hours or “sail” creeping along at 1.2 knots in a cooped-up sail boat and arrive 6 days later, I turn the engine on. At that speed, we even bore the dolphins. The teen-age dolphins poke their heads out of the water as if to say: “You guys suck! Can’t you go any faster?”
But there I go again. I’m always trying to get somewhere instead of just appreciating sailing. I should take pleasure in “being” somewhere, instead of focusing on “getting” somewhere else. (I’ve found it’s harder to appreciate the gift of sailing when I’m in a little boat in a big storm.) The journey is a process, and sometimes that process is miserable. But a wanderer must wander. And I’ve figured out that I wander at a minimum of 3 knots per hour!
It’s hard for me to be on a boat for long stretches of time. I feel contained. The boat is free to go where it will, but I’m not. That’s why there is my friend the engine comes in; it gets me to where I’m going when a giant lightning storm is freaking me out.
So we finally arrived in Quepos and were greeted by a mooring ball (less than $3 a night) and a water taxi (50 cents) for a ride into town where warm burgers and cold beers awaited. I was thankful to be on land until I saw an insect that looked like a kumquat with wings. If it was a ten times smaller, I would guess it was a bee. I closed my eyes and silently wished for the killer Costa Rican bee to go out to our boat and sting the shark that was waiting for us to return to the boat. Someone’s on my side because I haven’t seen either since.
Click on each picture to see it full size.
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