Cost Rica – Part 3…..

Dear F&F,

April 7-9, 2009

April 7
We were a bit frustrated to be waiting & waiting for the radio call that the
boat occupying our slip had departed. Finally the happy news came & we
didn’t waste a minute of our pre-paid month sitting & sweating at anchor a
minute longer. We made a quick stop at the fuel dock, tanked up on diesel,
then spun around & tied port side to our slip. Sorry Megan. We know the side
of the boat against the dock is noisier. Our cabin is on starboard, so we
tie up port toward the dock whenever feasible.

It is not that bad being across from the fuel dock. I just close my eyes if
a boat comes zooming in too fast & too close. We are the only cruising boat
in the entire marina, which is a first for us. The docks are filled with
lovely sport fishing boats. It seems like only 10% of them are out fishing
on any given day. Tournaments are the big thing, which happen several times
a year. We can\’t help but feel sorry for the poor bill fish that must get
pretty stressed out by fighting the line & being caught, even though they
use circle hooks to minimize damage & the fish are released after photos.
The boats sitting in the slips are washed & maintained by teams of
industrious locals.

We ran into Ron who is a Canadian refrigeration & air conditioning mechanic..
We asked him to stop by to discuss a quirky problem we have with our air
conditioning system when we run it on the generator. Little did we know at
that time that we also needed his refrigeration skills….

Ben from Georgia came down & Scott showed him the broken bolt problem on
each engine. Scott was happy to have his help with the dirtier aspects of
the broken bolt job. They worked as a team, Scott taking over my usual role
as Vanna White. When it came to drilling out the bolt at an awkward angle
while looking in a mirror the dentist jumped in. Together they removed the
first of the offending items. That only took 4 hours in the nice 95 degree

I walked through the assorted shops onshore: an internet café, bakery/gelato
shop, resort wear clothing store, bank with ATM, sunglasses store, Italian &
Asian cuisine restaurants, condo sales & tour office, marine supply store,
International Yacht Services (who would become important to us soon), but
most exciting for me was Jimmy T’s Provisions. Jimmy used to be a cook on a
large yacht & was frustrated by the limited variety & availability of
ingredients that make meals more interesting. So when he settled in Costa
Rica he opened this shop which has almost everything; for a price. I had fun
just gazing at items I have not seen outside of the U.S. I bought broccoli,
a very nice pineapple (which is available everywhere, but I was out of fresh
produce). I don’t necessarily love tofu, but there it was in a small
shelf-life box, why not? Pickle relish was a happy find. I could not resist
a can each of baby corn, red & yellow curry paste. And somehow a bag of
chocolate covered coffee beans & a bottle of Chilean sauvignon blanc also
leapt into my basket!

Scott heard from the marina guards that the recommended, but difficult to
pin down, auto pilot mechanic had been seen around the marina yesterday &
today. Scott walked the docks asking every non local guy that looked like a
mechanic if he was our man. If not, he would ask what they did. Thus Scott
met Joey, the owner of International Yacht Services. Joey is a diesel
mechanic. He was gracious despite the fact that we already had Ben, who
works for a different company, onboard. Joey referred us to his partner
Kerry Kurry who is a marine electrician, quite capable of diagnosing our
auto pilot.

April 8
Kerry from Connecticut arrived promptly. Scott explained the auto pilot
quirks and within 2 hours it was fixed. It turned out we had a loose wire to
our switching system. We are always happy when the problems have simple
solutions. We have two completely redundant systems. All components can be
switched while under way. We must prove the repair with a sea trial which
must wait until the engines/alternators are back online.

A canvas repair guy Scott found with sewing machine set up on a nearby boat
came by to alter the back part of our Sunbrella & mesh dinghy cover. Juan
of “Rainbow Canvass” used our old one as a template, but alas, the last 18”
didn’t quite translate over. Our local guy fixed it perfectly and Scott had
him make a few more covers to help protect the dinghy from the VERY intense
tropical sun.

Ben & Scott had an easier time removing the starboard broken bolt and so
began designing a better installation of our alternators. Kerry recommended
a nearby German welder, Dieter (pronounced like Deeter, not like someone on
a diet). Dieter was very easy to work with and did a terrific job.

I tore myself away from the excitement of 3 workers onboard & took a taxi by
to the grocery store. I spent 2 hours & filled 2 carts. They have just about
everything at Auto Mercado. The prices are similar to Los Angeles, some
imported items are much higher. I have asked Megan to bring me pecans,
although I did find them there. I was so excited to find solid albacore tuna
packed in water. The tuna I\’ve tried from Mexico to El Salvador looks like
cat food. We\’ve been eating it regardless, but I was happy to stock up on
cans of the good stuff.

A nice guy on the dock had pity upon me trying to pull the heavy cart load.
Scott was onboard so helped get the bags inside. I spent the rest of the day
updating my inventory, dating & rotating my stock & stowing all.

Since I bought quite a bit of meat & chicken, I put my main freezer online.
We are not sure if the freon level is right since it does not seem to be
getting cold enough. Darn. We had already met the very nice refrigeration
repairman, Ron around here, so if it doesn\’t chill down by the end of today,
we\’ll get him over to look.

April 9
The main freezer is not chilling enough. We tracked down Ron who topped off
the Freon. We will have to wait overnight to make sure it gets cold enough.
All my meat is stuffed into the little freezer. I hope my other items will
survive until the big unit can be trusted.

Scott & Ben reviewed the re-design job with Deiter the welder with sketches..
He apologized about his poor English, but Scott reassured him it was much
better than Scott & Ben’s Spanish or German. He will make two new steel
power take-offs for the 24 volt house battery alternators. This re-design
will prevent broken bolt recurrence as no part of the engines will be used
to support the alternator bracket as was the case in the previous design. He
says he can get the 10 mm thick material on April 13 & would have the job
done in a day.

Scott got an email from another Switch owner that the company that made our
catamaran is back in business as “Swiss Catamarans”. We have made so many
upgrades of the French manufacturer’s installations that I think they would
be smart to hire Scott as a consultant to redesign many systems. We love our
boat & have not seen another we would prefer, but she has been a labor of
love to get (& keep) in cruising condition.

It looks like we have a breather from work tomorrow, so I contacted the
guide that our friends Rob & Tami (met in Ixtapa) had used when they were
here touring Costa Rica. We will meet Alvaro at 6:30 am at the marina
entrance & head off to Manuel Antonio State Park. It is over an hour drive,
then hiking & exploring. Lunch included. I am excited to finally get to see
some of the country\’s treasures. Certainly birds & trees, maybe monkeys &
frogs if we are lucky. We have been told by many people that if you don\’t
have a local guide to point out the wildlife you can miss seeing a lot of
things that are right there.

It is such a relief to be inside with the air conditioner on. Scott is
outside in the heat working a lot, so likes it colder when he does get to be
indoors. Sometimes I actually put on a sweater! He is such a happy camper
with all the helpers coming & going, getting us in ship shape. The old joke
amongst boaters is \”The definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic
locations.\” Well, here we are \”living the dream\”! I am looking forward to
Megan to keep me company while Scott does more work next week. Besides
tomorrow’s visit to Manuel Antonio, I hope to also get Scott to Carerra
National Park.

Scott & Cindy