Sailing Out of Willits (Part 3)

by Jim Gibbons, November 16, 2016

Monday, Feb. 15 Had lunch with a few other yate owners and Liliana, Madame of the Port. She is a real character, plus very attractive and engaging. She arrived here in Playa del Cocos with her parents when she was 5-years old and learned English by just talking to the tourists and yate owners.

She said the best way to learn the native language is to get a girlfriend, and laughed, adding that she never had a formal lesson, but as someone pointed out, has a house full of children. (Donna found out she’s 38-years old and has eleven kids.)

She is quite willing to help everybody out, whether it’s to file papers to enter port, exchange money, or help get your laundry done. If you want to go fishing, her boyfriend just happens to be a fisherman. Oh, and she also has an office, where her official job is the local immigration official.

Right now we’re all waiting for Madden, a very experienced sailor (“I’ve been through the Canal fifteen times”) to bring Liliana, the Port Capitan, and the Customs Official to visit all the boats (about ten) this afternoon to pass customs and get their papers, thereby avoiding each yate owner having to take the 5-hour trip to San Jose.

Madden got into a little macho drinking trip that started with 3 or 4 beers before they left El Casino, where we all had lunch, and then a beer or two at each boat (the Port Capitan was drinking wine out of the bottle), and by the time they got to the CONSTANCE they were stewed, yet the customs guy had four beers, peed three times off the deck, and seemed pretty together.

Madden, however, was not only fucked-up drunk, but posturing and throwing sexual innuendos at Liliana, who was handling him quite well, even fending off his rude and unnecessary comments toward the Port Capitan.

Then he claimed the DEA “suspected us of carrying drugs,” and accused the Port Captain of “having no cajones.” At that point Donna called him a “shit disturber,” which seemed to bruise his ego, and he sulked for the remainder of their visit.

Not sure what that was all about, or where he gets his information, but they soon made their exit and Chris, Donna, and I ended up at the Papagayo Restaurante—excellent food and service, but typically, tropically slow, especially to get our first drinks. The pina colades were worth the wait, but while dining a few rogue waves did some damage to some of the dinghies. One flipped over, and an Avon inflatable was punctured, but we were spared.

Tuesday, Feb.16 We heard Madden was sick this morning—what a surprise. So Liliana went out to his boat and cooked him something—she’s probably an herbalist, shaman, and witch doctor, too.

Ran on the roads just before dark, the first time with shoes on since Puerto Madero. Felt great, didn’t want to stop, did 45 minutes, the longest in a while. If I did this every day I’d stay in shape.

Wed, Feb.17 9:00 am Chris is over at the Annie Lyon seeing if he can get any charts of points south that he doesn’t have, plus any other items. Their boat is not going anywhere anytime soon, after hitting something large and floating (a log?) out there the other night.

They greeted us (I use the term loosely) with a horror story of hitting whatever it was that tore up their bow and started taking on water. They offered us all kinds of items, food, you name it…but the catch was could we take them all to Panama?

We backed off and told them we had to discuss it among ourselves. Chris says they have a “dark cloud hanging over their boat” and it’s depressing to even be around them. We agreed, so Chris went back over there this morning to tell them, and got to pick through some of their stuff.

Wed. 3:00 pm Chris and I just got back from a somewhat frustrating afternoon in town. Trying to get out of Playa del Cocos has been a trip. We figured all we needed was our papers and we could go get fuel and water and be gone, but for some reason not even Liliana could explain, the Port Capitan never showed up. She said maybe the assistant could sign us out, but he was nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, a Coast Guard cutter came in and sent a Zodiak around taking down all the yate names. Then we were told we had to all meet with the Coast Guard Captain on his boat at 1 pm tomorrow where we will take a 2-hour ride somewhere up the coast.

Well, this was unheard of, and we all rose a stink and called the American Embassy in San Jose. Turned out this was a “misunderstanding,” and thanks to Liliana it was smoothed over, but we feel it was some sort of harassment for whatever reason we weren’t sure.

Then when I went to see Liliana to get our laundry, she said, “Jim, come here, sit down, I want to tell you something. A man from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) will be here this afternoon looking for a boat carrying contraband. They tracked it and lost it and think it is in the harbor here. So if you have any drugs you better get rid of them.”

“We are clean,” I assured her, but thanks anyhow. She said she was going to tell all the yate owners, but to my knowledge I’m the only one she told.

Why me, why us I wondered? Maybe Madden was right? Hell, I shaved my beard for this trip so I wouldn’t look like a hippie pirate, and Chris and Donna look like a normal couple.

Madame Liliana is a hard one to figure out. She certainly has her finger in a lot of pies, owns a lot of the town (with her parents), and swings a lot of weight, but we heard she’s not that popular with the locals.

Thursday..12 noon Things are getting thick here in Playa del Cocos. No boat is allowed to enter or leave because the DEA official is on his way to search “all the boats,” according to Liliana.

While waiting for the DEA to show up and search the boats, Donna, Chris, and I were sitting around trying to figure out who we could get to come down and help crew?

Donna knows she has to leave soon, being six months pregnant, she says her equilibrium is a little off and doesn’t want to hurt herself or the baby, nor does she want to take anymore long or rough passages.

Chris wishes she would have the baby here in Costa Rica, as we have heard that other women come here just for that purpose, but she is determined to have her baby in upstate New York and be “pampered” by her family.

The main problem is tropical time, which is so much slower than regular time. We thought we’d be to Panama by now, but we have many more miles of lumpy seas and beautiful beaches to go.

My problem, besides my love/hate relationship with cruising, and the beautiful woman I became infatuated with just a few weeks before I had to depart, is a carpentry job I lined up for mid-March that I really need. In the old days I would just go with the flow, but that was before I had kids and a monthly mortgage payment.

Speaking of my kids, 10-year-old Riley was so funny when I called yesterday. At one point in our conversation I asked him, “How’s the weather up there?”

Then I hear him ask the others in the room, “How’s the weather up here?” He comes back on the line and says, “Warm in the afternoon and cold at night.”

“Great. Thanks…”

3:30 pm…Chris showed up and said, “Gibbons, start hauling up the anchor, we got our zarpes!” 

We never left an anchorage so quick. As nice as Playo del Cocos was, it was even nicer getting the hell out of there! We got to Flamingo’s for fuel and water just as the sun went down, and now we’re heading ESE on our way to the next anchorage.

Friday, Feb. 19 We were heading from Flamingo to Pt. Giones and giving some rocks a wide berth, when Donna shouted, “Look, a seal!”

Then we saw this huge shell, and Chris said, “That’s a sea turtle!”

He turned the boat around and came along side to get a better look at this giant sea turtle that was bigger than our 8-foot dinghy, and must have weighed an easy ton.

Then Chris shouts, “Gibbons, you got a fish!”

As usual, everything happens at once, and I hurried aft to reel in a small bonita just as we motored into a little bay recommended by the Costa Rican Coast Guard.

After we set anchor a panga pulled up with three fisherman (pescadores) that had some bottom fish (groupers) for sale. Chris asked how much and the guy shrugged, so Chris went down below and returned with three running t-shirts that seemed to satisfy them.

Chris cleaned my bonita, and while Donna laid back “zapped of energy,” I chopped up some onions and carrots, poached the grouper, heated some cream of mushroom soup and poured it over some leftover rice—delicious!

This may be the nicest little beach we’ve seen yet, but of course we’re heading out again tomorrow, our next stop will be Bahia Ballena (Bay of Whales).

2-20 Saturday Pulled into Bahia Ballena about 3:30 this afternoon. This may be the best place yet, and I hope I keep saying that.

Saw a guy on a sailboard who was trying to sail up into the breeze and talk to us, but kept falling off, then finally got close enough to tell us there was a good anchorage over by his trimaran.

After we dropped the hook he came paddling over and introduced himself as Hart. He had long blond hair and beard, wearing just shorts and a large knife strapped to his lower right leg.

We asked how long he’d been here, and he smiled, “Seven years.”

Chris laughed, thinking he’d say something like three weeks, and added, “This must be a hard place to break suction?”

Hart smiled and told us his wife’s name is Honey and they have six kids.

Donna asked who was the mid-wife (maybe thinking she could have her baby here?), and Hart replied with his mellow smile, “Me and Honey. I was her mid-wife, with her help, but we only had one kid here.”

Turns out he goes back to Seattle part of the year for “some business,” and is going to buy land “over there,” and he pointed across the Bay

Which prompted Chris to ask, “What do you need to buy land here?”

Hart grinned, “Just money.”

* * *

Postscript: It was only after returning to California that I found out that he owns a company based in Kent, Washington that makes Hart Inverters, which coincidentally is the inverter I just purchased last year for my off-the-grid home north of Willits!

It’s a Freedom 10 (1000 watts) that I installed in my kitchen with wires going through the wall to two 6-volt batteries on the back deck, together powering a 12-volt system. Besides my back-up generator, I have two solar panels that are enough to power a couple of lights in the evening and, if the coastal fog burns off by early afternoon, to watch movies on my 12-volt TV/VCR.

(To be continued…)

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