Passage to Coco Island…..

Dear F&F,
April 22-24

We bid farewell to mainland Costa Rica at 6:30 a.m. & have been motoring all day. It is hot & sticky. The main event of the day time was dodging unattended fishing gear. It is heart stopping to suddenly come upon a black flag with a string of white buoys & another black flag. The lines/nets can be over a mile long. It happened on both our daytime watches, even when we were over 90 miles offshore. Around sunset we saw a commercial fishing boat stacked with these black flags, so assume they are the ones setting & retrieving. We have to dodge them, make sure that we are really at the end of the line before we pass & resume our course. Fortunately we are far enough away from land now that we don\’t expect to (or rather hope & pray not to) run into any in the dark. They are not lit. At least offshore of Mexico, Guatemala & El Salvador the fishing gear seemed more closely attended by pangas who would (sometimes) try to alert us of their lines. Just seeing a little fishing boat was a clue to look for the flags.

The other annoying fishing incident was coming upon several sport fishing boats. This was just after dodging some black flagged lines. There are \”rules of the road\” that apparently drunken &/or distracted fishermen do not adhere to. One boat that should have simply held his course & let us cross his bow starts zig-zagging all over the place. Scott tried to hail him on the radio, but either they did not have it on or were too busy trying to hook up some poor fish to notice us. Very dangerous & annoying. We have to steer way behind them to be sure we don\’t run over the lines they drag in the water. When we passed them, the helmsman was guzzling what appeared to be a large quantity of beer!… Grrr…

When I was on watch 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I prepared dinner so I wouldn\’t have to get up early from my 2-6 p.m. nap to do it. I was already hot & sweaty, so why not boil some pasta & see what else jumps in the pot? At the market I had found some already grilled & marinated eggplant which went nicely with canned tomatoes, a can of butter beans, garlic sauted in olive oil, cubed feta-type cheese & some tomato paste to thicken the sauce. At the switch of shifts, I gave Scott the option to heat it up in the microwave or eat it at room temperature. When I got up at 5:30 p.m. (too hot to nap) I enjoyed my pasta at room temp. He didn\’t say a word about it although there was evidence of a good portion eaten so I was content he didn\’t starve. He is not fussy & I am not a gourmet, so mostly we do fine. No point in asking if he liked it or not since there are leftovers for another meal. He\’s going to get it again regardless of his preference, so best not to ask for comments. (Scott later said he loved it!).

I was searching my treat area for a spot of chocolate to go with a glass of milk. I had been saving the truffles Linda sent me home with (in February?). Sadly they were a molten mess. So I scooped out a spoonful of chocolate goo & put the rest in a ziploc bag in my extra fridge. It gave me a clue to take all such melty items & stick them in the fridge. It still satisfied the yearning, although I think they are not as fresh tasting as they would have been. I am still learning about what keeps for how long.

We are motoring because the wind & sea are in our face & it is lumpy. Last night\’s scopalamine patch that I\’d tried putting on the inside of my forearm came off on the sheets. This morning I put the other half behind my neck. We\’ll see if the skin there gets itchy. The recommended spot is behind the ear. But it\’s doing the trick. I did take 2 partial sturgeron pills spread over the first 6 hrs just for insurance. Not seasick, knock wood.

I spotted another ships light as I did my 15 minute scan. Scott decided to take our ship tracker thingy offline in order to have the auto pilot steer the best course. Apparently we can\’t have both now, although we used to always have both. Still a glitch in the way our electronics talk to each other. Scott says Mike is bringing us (to the Galapagos) a new gizmo to solve the problem. But we have 5 days at sea (2 now & 3 later) where I will be missing this safety feature. He reminded me how to see a ship with our radar, which is perfectly fine & many boats don\’t even have that. So I put on the radar to track the ship & discovered I was smack dab in the middle of a 12 mile diameter squall. Sure enough the rain soon started, the wind whipped up & phrases like \”tossed about at sea\” start streaming through my brain. I put 1/4 of our \”windshield\” down to give me a little protection from the rain & sea spray. On top of all this there has been non-stop lightning since sundown. No thunder so it is not that close, but quite relentless mostly behind us towards the mainland. But I have seen it from just about every direction. It is not the jagged kind. There are a lot of clouds, so what we see is called \”sheet lightning\”. Like a big white sheet flapping in the sky momentarily. Stars are good, the moon is wonderful, bioluminescence lighting up patches & streaks of the ocean fantastic. Lightning can be fun to watch when we are tied up to the dock, but not so welcome when we are out to sea.

I am trying to make peace with the lightning. It can bring things to mind like: all our electronics can get fried, start a fire, etc. Instead of giving air time to these fears, I have decided that the heavens are just showing off tonight & I am learning to admire the powers that be. To bolster my courage, I drank a tall glass of water with drops of Bach flower mustard & oak remedies which are my No. Cal roots. And swallowed a St. John\’s Wort for good measure. I am not very susceptible to placebo effects, but when lightning strikes I get religion real quick.

So my friends, just another hour before the Captain takes over. I enjoy another cool shower & try to nap from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am. I have motored out of the stormy area & although the seas are lumpy & the boat motion still \”lively\”, the rain has stopped & the wind is down to only 15 knots (was up to 28). Thus the lightning does not have the added drama of wind & rain so it feels less chaotic. In the thick of it I imagine myself at a nice high rise condo in San Diego I really laugh to myself sometimes at what the heck am I doing out here…? But then thoughts of petting a manta ray quickly come to mind & the dolphins jumping all around us. It is not always comfortable. I am expanding my tolerance for the discomforts of boat life with each challenging passage. It is worth it. The 5 weeks with the manta rays in Mexico were worth all of it. And now the diving to \”boating\” ratio should drastically improve. We are really going places now, stay tuned…

April 23
So, on my 2nd night watch last night I decided to make banana pancakes as the bananas were at that point that I had to do something with them. It wasn\’t too hot to be in the galley over the griddle at 3:00 a.m. with my headlamp on. Ducking out to make sure we were on course & no ship traffic every 10 minutes or so. Scott had 3 ships during his 10:00 p.m – 2:00 a.m. watch. Blessedly I did not have any & the lightning lessened a bit. The best part was that dawn started about 4:45 a.m. so I got to enjoy that lovely part of the day. We\’d been getting up between 5:30 & 6:00 a.m. at the dock, but that little bit earlier is just magical.

When I was \”off\” I slept pretty well 10:00 p.m. to midnight, got up to potty, then was disrupted by Scott\’s watch beeping every 15 minutes. He was lying down outside & was not always quick on the trigger to shut off the beep. It was like Chinese water torture. I couldn\’t say anything because we must use all means to make sure the awake person is actually awake & does their routine checks like they are supposed to. Anyway, you can imagine I was rather cranky about that, but said nothing until daytime when we were both up & alert for a while. When it was time for my 6:00 a.m. nap, I took no chances: 1 valium, closed all doors, hatches & blackout shades, put in my ear plugs & got a solid 4 hours. Yippee! I felt soooo much better that I ended up staying up pretty much all day.

We tried to sail for a bit & still have the main up although we are now motoring again. The wind is too much in front of us to get a good sailing angle & still make headway to Coco Island. During my day watch we had 1 ship we ducked (we altered our course to go behind them). We also had glorious rain, which gave the boat a good wash down & cooled us off too. I made hamburger patties from the ground beef I bought Monday, vacuum bagged & froze some & kept 3 out for tonight\’s dinner. Yum! We did a load of laundry & some damp items are still draped around the boat since we don\’t like to have it flapping in the breeze outside at night. We desalinated 70 gallons of water & unfortunately due to all this motoring are going through our diesel. Scott arranged to buy diesel from the dive boat. We still have 40 gallons in jugs in the cockpit, but each tank is down that much already.

So it is once again my 1st night shift, 2nd night. We are on pace to arrive near the island at about 2:00 a.m. It is an open bay without obstruction so we may actually go ahead in & anchor. Versus slowing way down to time our arrival with dawn. So I may not have to do a 2nd night shift tonight. That would be lovely. I am chomping at the bit to have our 3rd crew for the long passage. Scott & I will have 3 days & nights on our own to get to the Galapagos, then a luxurious 4 hours on 8 hours off all the way to the Marquesas! I am feeling well after a coffee mocha. My scopalamine patch behind my neck was really itching so I moved it to the front of my neck. We\’ll see how long that stays. The good news is that I am not seasick! Hallelujah!!!

Our personal divemaster/panga week begins Monday so we will only have 1 day to recover, get our gear organized & in we go. Diving is always a lot to deal with the first day. But once we get into the routine & the gear is all set up it is great.

April 24

With our handy dandy night scope, GPS, chart plotter & every other modern boaters\’ convenience, we were able to safely navigate the entry to Chatham Bay where we anchored at 1:40 a.m. I was so tired I had no trouble sleeping in until 7:00 a.m. Scott was up with the sun about 5:00 a.m. to check our position in relation to the land, that our anchor was secure etc. He spoke with the park rangers at 6:00 a.m. who asked us to move to a mooring. They said they would come by later for the official check in.

The island is 4 1/2 miles long & 1 1/2 miles wide. The highest peak is about 2000 feet. There is lush green foliage completely covering the island. A waterfall is in view from this bay. Now THIS is the Costa Rica we\’ve been looking for!!! The water is clear blue and 83 degrees. We see lots of fish swimming below & will shortly be jumping in for an exploratory snorkel.

A Swedish couple on a monohull sailboat pulled in around dawn from Panama. We assume they have traveled from Europe to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal to here, but have not yet swapped stories.

One of the 2 commercial dive charter boats is here, just anchored near us. The company providing our divemaster & dive tender we have not yet seen, but we have been in email contact with their office, so they know we are here & expecting us. Our diving begins Monday, so we have a couple of days to do some hiking.

Two rangers showed up midday & they were so happy we already had our permit since it is less paperwork for them. We got a \”souvenir\” stamp in our passport. It is not necessary since we were already stamped into Costa Rica, but it was a pretty stamp, so why not? They explained the rules here, which we had already read up on – no problem. We will save our trash, should be able to give it to one of the dive charter boats as they head back to the mainland. Very nice guys. Tito is very fluent in English so we could ask all our questions. They told us a boat would be arriving Tuesday with 70 guests but that only 3 would be diving, the rest just hiking. So we will do our land exploring before they arrive & hopefully we can mostly avoid the crowd once we begin diving. The park fees for our boat & 2 divers is $905 (US) for the week. If we stay extra days we will pay more.

It is 91 degrees & humid so it will be best to spend a lot of time in the water. Finally we are where it is clean & clear enough to want to jump overboard. There are a lot of clouds & it can rain off & on anytime, so we will have to close all the hatches to avoid interior flooding when we are off the boat. It makes Beach House a sauna to be closed up, but it\’s a worse mess if the rain comes inside. There are quite a few bees, wasps & other critters so we are keeping the screens on the windows. They cut down the air flow, so we use our fans to keep a bit of breeze going. Scott has already emailed our air conditioning guy in L.A. if there is a small unit we could use just in our cabin on the inverter. It may be worth springing for since we plan to spend most of our time in the tropics away from marinas.

\”Shark Week\” starts Monday, April 27 stay tuned!

Scott & Cindy