Sailing Out of Willits (Part 4)

by Jim Gibbons, November 23, 2016

2-22 Monday — Sailed into Bahia Leona yesterday afternoon and were met by water skiers, jet skiers, and motor boaters all in this very small bay going around and around in circles as if in a fishbowl.

Went to shore for our continuing quest for ice and beer. The place is like a little DisneyLand. A swimming pool with water slide, fountain, playground, RV Park, condos, and movies all day long.

First we went for a run through the Leona Resort exit to a path that led up a hill into a lush jungle, and soon heard swishing sounds and crashing tree limbs. Chris saw it first and cried, “A Monkey!”

We stopped and gazed at this rather large black, white-faced monkey, somewhat obscured by the vegetation, and decided that made our day. Then we go to get ice and beer and find out they’re out of ice! How can a resort like this run out of ice?

No ice, no beer, so after lunch and a movie we haul up the anchor and head out for our next port which is 45 miles ESE.

The movie we watched was Jaws. I had trouble following the dialogue because my right ear was plugged up, but it had subtitles which I read while trying to focus on the screen action. Chris and I agreed it was funnier than it was scary, though the best part was the theme song that stayed with me after the movie was over.

So we head out again and I’m at the helm when I see this fin slicing through the water about 20 yards off our port bow--”SHARK!” I yell, a tad overly dramatic, but this is the first shark I’ve seen not caught on a hook or dead in some fisherman’s panga. I start humming the Jaws theme song.

Chris says, that’s a big one, and I ask, “What do you think, 10 to 15 feet?”

He replies, “Let’s put it this way, big enough to fit a large adult human in his stomach.”

I couldn’t help but laugh and shudder at the coincidence of seeing that shark just after seeing the movie Jaws. Then Chris goes to haul up the foresail and I say, “Don’t fall in.”

He says, “I think you took that movie too seriously.”

“No,” I tell him, “I take our lives too seriously!”

2-23 Tuesday — Pulled into Quepos about 5 p.m. Before Chris and I took the dinghy to the beach and hail a taxi to Centro for ice, beer and veggies, we got a last-minute Spanish lesson from Donna. Going to the store without our interpreter is always a challenge.

As we get ready to board the dinghy I say, “Where can I buy?”

She repeats, “Donde puedo comprar.”

We both know donde , so I tell Chris to remember puedo, and I’ll remember comprar.

He reminds himself, “It’s like a little kid saying Play Dough.”

We each repeat our word while Donna rolls her eyes, trying to show (but not succeeding) that she has the patience of a grade school teacher. A couple of 40-year-old kids going on another shopping adventure without her.

Donna, the 28-year-old adult who’s been around the block more times than she can count, is amazed when we can cross the street by ourselves. She slowly shakes her head as she watches us row away.

The 40-year-old kid she’s in love with, the father of her swelling fetus somehow got her and their floating home all the way down here to Costa Rica, yet can’t go to the store without her help. How will he get along without her?

The hours he spent shaping wood, welding steel, getting greasy in the engine room, and working to pay for this perpetual vacation, she has spent learning Spanish, storing provisions, organizing, labeling, shopping and so much more.

Sometimes it’s like I’m trapped on board and he’s the maniacal Captain Quid (Jaws) or Captain Ahab (Moby Dick) with only one purpose—get to Florida!

A few days ago I suggested that they forget about Florida and leave the boat in Costa Rica. It’s cheap and safe, people do it all the time. Then we wouldn’t have to be so pressed. We could hang out on the beach like real vacationers.

He agreed it should be a democracy, and asked each of us, “What do you want to do?”

“I wouldn’t mind spending the afternoon under that palm tree,” I replied. Donna wants to hang out on the beach, too. But soon he gets antsy and she knows he wants to leave, so she agrees, which makes it a majority, and we’re off again.

We had the taxi wait while we shopped and got back to the boat in about an hour. This town is owned by United Fruit Company, and my guess is, after seeing that monkey, their main fruit is the banana. Pretty much untouched by tourists, though our taxi driver told us there are, “Mucho gringos “at Manuel Antonio State Park, our next stop this afternoon.

Tide really went out fast, but the Constance is still floating so we decide to haul up the anchor and putt over to the state park, about 5 miles away. We dropped anchor about 50 yards from the beach, and while Chris and Donna got in the dinghy to go snorkeling over by some nearby rocks, I stood on the deck admiring the long, beautiful sandy beach, wondering why it was so devoid of people. Where are all the tourists?

After another 5 minutes or so I decided to swim to shore. I really wanted to run barefoot on the beach, and didn’t know how long Chris and Donna would be, but since we were all planning to go to shore when they got back, I figured I’d meet them there.

I got my little fanny pack with some colones and left them a note. Before easing myself into the warm salty water, I sighted a clump of greenery on a hill above the beach to aim at.

It felt really good at first, but the more I swam toward shore the further away it looked, and the clump of greenery I was focused on was moving north. That’s when I realized I was in a pretty strong current, and soon would be swept past the southern point of land and out to sea.

I changed my direction slightly to go with the current while swimming at an angle in hopes of reaching the southernmost point of land before it disappeared. I was going with the flow—literally!

Slowly I was making progress, but my arms were getting tired and my right foot wanted to cramp up from kicking. I tried to just relax my legs and rolled over to the backstroke, the side stroke, the dog paddle, but realized I needed to keep doing the crawl stroke, which made my arms heavy and numb, but my brain forced them to keep moving.

Finally, as exhausted as I’ve ever been (and I’ve run 13 marathons!) I made it to the south end of the point and crawled up on the beach before collapsing.

Then I heard a voice, and looked up to see a guy smiling and shaking his head. Said he was watching me the whole time and congratulated me for making it. He said the current here is so strong they lose a few tourists every month, and pointed to a warning sign. I suddenly realized why the beach was so empty.

A few years later I read in the San Francisco Chronicle the following article.

“U.S. body recovered: A Costa Rican Red Cross official says the body of James Smith, a second U.S. high school student who drowned off the Pacific Coast, has been recovered. Red Cross spokesman Freddy Roman says authorities are searching for student Kai Lamar. The first body recovered was that of Caity Jones. A group of five students from Ohio were pulled out to sea Wednesday by an undertow. Roman said 47 people drowned in the first four months of this year in Costa Rica and added that many people are unaware of the sometimes fierce ocean currents.”

(To be continued…)

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