Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Good Day for Bad Cruiser Poetry

Wetted footprints on teak decks
Trace her paths of past steps,

As she scurries, collects, attempts to gather,

Odd items needing dryness, like laundry just lathered.

Polished winches beading with water,
Look good now- like crap latter,
Drops exploding off nearby varnish,
Further aid in their liquid tarnish.

A former breeze now winds and gusty
Carry scents of trees all wet and musty
Blowing drops in odd angled falling,
Better close the skylights on this calling.

Drops to dribbles, streaming off covers,
Collecting in pools, then exit deck scuppers,
Falling now in sheets, it won't be long I think,
To time the next lull, then run out- bail the dink.

Listening to drops in waves of tapping,
Like a million tiny hands of random clapping
Something suddenly catches me in wonder,
Hmmm- How close was that thunder?

All are signs of little wonder,
Of one fine day to stay tucked down under
Hatches slid closed, safe down below
A glass of wine, a good book, and watching for mold.


Ok- so it might need a little work.
I'm also trying my hand at a song.
It's titled: "Hey, You, Get Offa My Rail! "
(sung to the little kid leaning against the boat and wildly swinging around a big ugly stick) (Ooo- That could have been bad)

Deck Games - Paula

The morning chores are done and I'm lounging in my deck chair ready for some leisure time. I pick up my book to begin another chapter. I pause... maybe I'll just take a nap. Indecision. I put my book down and opt to do something subtle that doesn't require a whole lot of physical effort.

I've got my sunglasses on and to anyone passing by I could be looking right at them or conducting surveillance, by looking at them out of the corner of my eye. But instead, I'm faking them out and my eyes are closed behind my sunglasses. I'm planning my strategy for the next opportunity that presents itself. I hear a motor of an approaching boat. My turn, my move. I decide to try another plan and take my sunglasses off. If I look like I'm awake and I don't wave they'll think I'm a snob. Astor is proving to be a very popular attraction. This way maybe they'll think I'm asleep and then I wont have to wave. My arm, the one thats been doing the princess wave the past several weeks is getting carpal tunnel. I'm now playing possum and lying perfectly still. I expend as little energy as possible either way. Ah, the game is proving most suitable for my needs at the moment.

On the other hand, you never know what interesting people you could meet if you just say "Hello." Oh the pressures! The approaching motor sounds like one of many fishing boat constantly going by. I think I'll just ignore it this one time.

Busted! I hear a familiar voice calling out and abruptly my game stops short like a boat beached on a sand bar. It's Tim from Land and Sea Marina motoring up in his tender. He's yelling something that I can't quite make out. As he pulls in closer he repeats, "Anyone need a rat catcher?" As I look to the bow, I see his old faithful kitty sitting there facing forward, wind blowing between her ears. The bow scene of "Titanic" suddenly comes to mind. To think I almost missed this too-cute-for-words moment. The boat draws closer and kitty looks as if she is ready to abandon ship and board us as a one cat raiding party. She has her own game she wants to play. Kitty is certain there's a stowaway somewhere on board that needs to walk the plank. But alas, I decline. We are fresh out of stowaways.

I ease back into my deck chair and settle in for the next move to present itself. Just as I'm plotting my new course, Byron calls me over. I hoist myself up out of my chair. I wander over to see what's up and find him in the middle of his own game. He's looking down at two fuel jugs on deck. He picks up one and I see something scurry out from under it over to the jug still on deck. Byron put the first jug down, picks up the other one and it runs back to the jug he just sat down. It's a small crab! Apparently I was mistaken in thinking that we had no stowaways on board. Then Byron picks up both jugs at the same time. The player is revealed and this shell game comes abruptly to an end. The little crab sits tensely awaiting judgment.

The captain says no stowaways are allowed on board, so the little guy gets scooped up and tossed over the side of the boat. It's undecided whether the crab walked the plank or got a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Making an entrance

We heard the boats haling the marina via radio but no one in the office responded. Not unusual, that happened to us as well. After a few unanswered hails, Byron took the call as acting ambassador of the facility and told the incoming boats that he would advise the office that they were on approach. He grabbed the handheld radio and strolled up the dock to go find the dock boys. I follow him out and greet the first one of the boats as they tied up in the slip right next to ours. Their lines were quickly secured and Byron continued down the dock to help the other boat. I learn our new neighbors are Dan and Lorraine on Zephyrus. they have been cruising Mexico for three and a half years. In our chat I asked them what their plans were. Dan says they are staying here for a couple of days and then plan to head for Ecuador. Another transient cruiser lost to the Ecuadorian climate. It seems to be a popular destination from here.

The other boat that pulled in with them are their friends Ralph & Cheryl on Fortuitous. As they were coming in close to the dock, Cheryl was obviously having troubles trying to untangle her dock lines. She tossed the bow line off to dock manger Julio in a tangled mess, but it made it- barely. Then she tossed the tangled stern line to Byron and it fell short. She must have known it wasn't going to work and tossed the line with such conviction that she followed it right off the boat and splashed into the water next to the dock. The humorous nature aside, this was in reality a dangerous situation. The boat is not secure and drifting oddly with a the current and breeze, the motor is on and the propeller is turning, and there is only one other guy aboard the boat and he can't leave the helm. In this case, docking was finished up nicely and without further trauma. We were in luck the boat was drifting away from the dock and not towards.

After Cheryl was hauled out of the water onto the dock (in a effort to minimize her humiliation) Byron said, "How refreshing, I think I'll try that! Welcome to Fish Hook Marina!"

It's good for us to see that even seasoned cruisers trip up every now and then.
(clockwise from bottom L: Cheryl, Ralph, Dan, Lorraine)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Wayward Dinghy

It’s early morning and Byron is on deck wiping down varnished areas from the previous nights rain. He waves a good morning to cruisers Jen & George in their dinghy as they leave the shore and head back to their boat anchored out several boat lengths away. He watches as they disembark. Byron continues his wipe down process.

Moments later he glances up and notices the dinghy drifting back. He thinks to himself, “Wow, they must have a really long painter (line that attaches dinghy to boat).” As he watches, the distance continues to grow and it become clear that someone forgot to tie the dinghy off. Oops!

George is right there but looking down appearing to be working on something else and has not yet noticed the wayward dinghy yet. Byron yells at him to get his attention, but he doesn’t hear. He must have music on or something. He calls several more times and when George finally looks up, Byron points. In the stillness of early morning, “Oh god!” comes floating over the water. In the next few seconds a third voice says with some feeling, “Not me!!”. This was most likely their new guest and deckhand Matt.

There is a splash, and George is in the water making like an olympic swimmer after the dinghy. He eventually catches up, climbs aboard, starts the outboard motor and putters back to the boat. When he arrives he ties off the tender(hopefully with a better knot this time). Silence follows and a stern tone of voice that easily carries across the water to our boat, “Bad dinghy.... Baaaad dinghy!”

There is an unwritten rule that the captain is never wrong. That might be the case but we hear later it does not prevent the crew from awarding him the nickname, “No Tie.” I don't think they are describing his lack of business attire.

We have fine quality entertainment always happening out here(and it’s on our big screen in Hi-def).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ah- That's good Wifi!

Most of the big Uber Fishers that pull in here for a few days are loaded with all sorts of toys. They are usually networked, sat-linked, flat screened, and wired for 12 channel surround. The Nordhaven 68 sitting next to me is a fine example of trying to take it all with you. The owners came in about the same time as we did and flew home. There is so much stuff in there they left the air conditioning running until the transport crew comes to pick it up and take it home. It has a digital server that holds thousands of hours of music as well as countless movies that can be individually directed to any of the 3 staterooms, main salon, or up to the bridgedeck for the night watch. That is only if there isn't anything to watch coming in on the SkyNet Sat dish. Hopefully the guy on watch is also watching the feeds from at least a few of the 6 joystick operated cameras placed around the boat or the gyro stabilized nightvision(IR or Starlight selectable) eyeball up front. The Nordie is so smart, that when the AC quit the other day, somehow it phoned home to Seattle and told the service company. The local boys here didn't EVEN want to touch it, so a couple of days later our new neighbor Tyson shows up to get things back online.

So in previous posts I mentioned the terrible internet connection down here. Some days it works ok, then on others, simple tasks like checking mail just can't be done. Being around here so long, I noted some interesting observations and ran some diagnostics. The flaky internet problem seemed to come and go with certain boats. Give me a Duh!

I don't claim to be an sort of a network guru, so I throw it out to you guys to see if I was going in the right direction. Taking a look at my wifi sniffer shows a bit of the problem. This screenshot was taken just after a couple of big boats left, and after a couple of changes were made here, but it gives you an idea. It was worse a couple of days ago.

Basically all of these boats are screaming a wifi signal on the default channel 6. That USED to be the same as our marina link but I finally got them to change it as an experiment. There are two other access points that show up from time to time also on 6 that are not on today. Egads! No wonder I keep dropping packets.

When I went up to mention this to the manager, she said the internet guys were due in a couple of days to install some new equipment. It's going to make things much better she says.

Sure enough there were a couple of guys poking around a few days later. I saw them wandering down the dock with a laptop and measuring the signal. They came over to me and asked a few Q's. In a combination of broken english and even more broken spani I told them of my findings and must have impressed them enough to gain some credi.

The good news is that the new network is up and running great. The bad news is that I became the new local tech. The installers kept running into problems and asking me to help out. I spend the good part of a couple of days working out some bugs with them. They kept handing me the phone and chatting with some expert. He was constantly steering me in the wrong direction and once I figured that out (and ignoring him), we got things clicked in.

There are still a few bugs, but everyone seems happy. I am finally done running around getting all of the other computers logged in. The new speeds support Skype at crystal clear quality, I can get youtube vids faster than I can view them, and rarely have to reload an incomplete page.

Sometimes you just can't get away. Not sure where to send the bill.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Right through my back yard

Had I known about this, I would have been there for the first few boats and taken notes. We were feasting at Banana Bay last night and watched two of the first boats come through. Alas I was without camera at that time.

Clipper Round The World Yacht Race 08

Apparently these boats are midway through their race of yet another lap around the world and they had miserable sailing these last few days and had to cancel this leg from Santa Cruz to Panama. They have been burning way too much of their fuel and are making an unscheduled stop here in Gulfito.

Team Nova Scotia came in at first light this morning and took on their load of fuel and provisions. Hull & Humber came in right after that. The well worked crews were in great spirits, but were really disappointed they could not step off the boat even to walk up for a visit to the bar at Banana Bay Marina, let alone have a good look at Gulfito.

From what I understand that there are about 4 pros aboard for the whole race, but the rest are strictly amateurs. Some are going all the way, but others are called "leggers". They hop on and off at planned stops along the way. Crew compliments ranged from a minimum of ten to a full boat of seventeen. They all were quite friendly and it was neat hearing of their adventures which are quite different than ours.

Some official paperwork process is completed faster than the time it takes to fuel. Bags of fresh mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and apples are handed over to the crew as well as a fresh brewed pot of Costa Rican coffee, cases of cold beer, and the bonus surprise of ice cream cones are dished out as long as the supply holds. Marina Manager- Bruce hosted them right. A quick check of internet was appreciated by a few then in an all too short of visit time, lines were cast off again to get back under way.

As the morning boats head out I hear Western Australia on the radio. They arrive early afternoon with another team Durban 2010. Again the marina crew goes to work with the same routine. As the work was finishing up the last boat Liverpool came in but had to circle around until the two boats did final checks and untied off the fuel dock.

I had the grandest time socializing with all of the boats and teams as they came in. They all had different, but somewhat the same stories of how they came to be aboard.

I wished them all fair winds for the rest of the trip. I handed out some of my freshly minted boat cards, so maybe some will even write.

They looked like they were having way too much fun.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Names and Personaltites- Paula

Another day, another boat pulls in to dock. Boats and their name are very interesting. They seem to express their owners philosophy on life. Names like Dreamweaver, Blew Moon, San Souci (without care), So Bella (so beautiful). Uplifting names that often reflect the more romantic side of life . . . happy thoughts!

Then there is the occasional boat name that comes along for shock value. Something unsophisticated yet completely relatable deep down. Sometimes satisfying to lips while simultaneously scandalous to the ears. They tried to dress it up with romanticized words but its meaning is quite clear. "La Ratta Bastarda." Yes, The Rat Bastard docked next to us a few days ago and resembled every bit of its name. We stood dumbfounded on deck as it backed into the slip. We had every intention of stealthily sneaking up for a picture after lunch. However, when we next popped our head above deck the boat was gone. Apparently it came in for a quick wash behind the ears and was off reeking havoc on polite society's sensibilities.

Today the new kid on the block is Calpurnia with a crew of three, Mark, Amy and Three year old Robert. At first I wasn't too sure of our neighbors. They kept to themselves all right, but one of the crew turned out to be a real exhibitionist. I don't know if his britches kept falling down or he just like to wear them that low, but it was a little embarrassing when he would bend over, showing a view that would make most people shudder. It's just not every day you see a guy walk around on deck in hat, shades and pull ups!

Later he wandered over to us as we were sitting on deck. I was willing to give him another chance and overlook his wanton disregard for modesty. We kept the conversation light and discussed such things as the weather. He was quoted as saying "The rain is good because it washes off all our poop (bird)." How sweet, such a charming child. Then we digressed to the aesthetics of life. Robert admired the round portholes of our boat and I said I liked his boats square widows. He proceeded to informed me that, "They're rectangular, NOT square." Then he noticed our light box up in the rigging for the running lights, so Byron turned the lights on for him. A red light came on. Byron asked him what side of the boat the red light was on, and he said "The port side." Byron then said what color is the light on the other side, and he said "Green." What's that side called? Robert said "Starboard." He had me fooled, but now a suspicion was starting to creep in. The clincher was when he prefaced a sentence with "I didn't realize . . . and "It make me crazy . . ." and then I knew! I knew that Stewie from the TV show "Family Guy" was docked in the slip next to mine!

His dad (hearing the conversation from his own boat across the dock) says that he is going for his captains license here shortly.

That kid is scary smart!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Busy Days

Still here. These last couple of weeks have been busy. I figured I could skip a few posts. Paula has been having such a good time writing so I just let her fill in. I have direct-mailed to many of you instead of posting here (reasons below). She gets more feedback than me anyway and I figured nobody would miss me. (sniff)

As expected, the dynamics of the days here have changed a bit. The PBO (poor bloody owner) has seen fit to leave the boat in my care (I know... what was he thinking) and we are now on our own till June. We got busy with some final orientation, systems to cycle and keep an eye on, and instructions on some projects that I will do in case I get bored(ya right). He doesn't leave his baby very often, and I wanted him to feel like he left it in good hands. #1 rule- NO Daycharters! Bummer, I might have been able to make some serious cash. I do have rights to the dink, so we can go adventuring when we feel like a Robinson Crusoe picnic.

Thunderstorms are a hit or miss every day(hopefully they all miss - yuk yuk). I wake up, look around and see what the day brings me. We have had a few days of some fantastic varnishing weather again and I hated to let them pass. I rapidly prepped all of the newly installed (lightly coated) blocks, the 4 deck blocks (which are getting beat up and needed to be done) and found another raw block(no coats) hidden under the mainsail cover that I missed on the last varnishing round . I also pulled out 2 new raw blocks stashed in the anchor locker and thought they would survive better down there if they were coated a few times. All 10 of these took me 3 hours just to varnish.(not counting sanding). I got some sun credits that day even tho I tried to keep under the covers as much as possible.

There are many more to do but these are more important to get coats built up on them because they are new. On good days, I can get two coats on them. Today I could see rain was coming so I just covered them as the first coat was just skinned over and they should be ok. If weather looks like it will hold(being good) I'll go for the bowsprit next. I do have some detailing below for when it rains, but that can be done anytime.

Paula also has her chores. One of them is keeping up on the
winch drums. If you do one a day and it's not all that tough of a gig.

Then there's the binnacle (compass, pedestal & cover assy). THAT's a whole different game! Pics of that later.

I'm also have to train P in spare time. She's got the rum&coke down pretty good, and we are working on some other fruity/tropical things. Being on such an icon we have to be prepared for the drop-ins. While we don't let just anybody aboard, there comes a time we must be social. We need to always have stuff ready on hand for instant snackies and nibbles for social hour. Having more than two beers in the cooler is important for criminy sakes!

This internet connection has been less than bueno. We are talking back to worse than 28k dial-up days(when it does work). We ummm... 'borrowed" better wifi than this on our way down the coast. Most of the time a page loads halfway and just stops. If I get lucky eventually all of the parts might get loaded in the next 3 reloads. Trying to save a page through the blog editor has been an equally fun time. I've lost many a few updates, links to pics and just time retyping alot of them. Sometimes (like right now) speeds are great, and I can get things done. It's not my wifi, its a server side or a load issue. I can be up in the bar just feet from the access point and it would be the same. Sometimes the DNS doesn't even resolve(page not found). There is only one provider here in CR, and talking to others up and down the road says they all have the same issues and the provider just doesn't care. It's as good as it gets. If it doesn't work now, I just try again later.

Thanks for looking in on us.
Byron & Paula
Boatsitters Especiale

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A full day in Golfito - P's views

It's the wee hours of the morning (5:00 am to be exact) and life begins to stir in one of the berths. Pocket change has slipped out of shorts casually tossed into the corner of the bunk. During the night the coins begin their migration throughout the sheets. By morning Byron emerges with several colones (local currency) adhered to various parts of his body. He peels them off and the depressions left behind make him look as if he has engaged in a wrestling match with an octopus.

He makes his way to the deck, lap top in hand for a little internet action. Getting internet is always a challenge. Sometimes it requires moving around the boat and perching in strange places for the clearest access point. Byron sets up his antenna on the back of a deck chair. He then props the lap top on a sky light and sits across from it plucking away at the keys. It's a reoccurring event every morning, noon, and night.

An hour later I join Byron on deck. My notebook and pen is poised ready to scribble out my email notes until I am able to break in and get some computer time. As I try to concoct the next email ramblings, I am distracted by the local traffic. It seems I've become the designated greeter by default. I execute the princess wave with precision as a constant flow of boats cruise by. On the rare occasion that someone responds verbally a rather questionable game of charades begins. I'm always left with serious doubts as to whether my meaning was interpreted correctly. However, the other party usually leaves smiling, even if not with any comprehension (Loco Gringa!)

From here on the day can take many directions. We could work on the boat . . . but lets not dwell on the negative. Thankfully, another alternative has presented itself; A bay tour in the dingy! The sun is just starting to heat things up. We climb into our ride. As we sit on the side of the baking pontoon, our searing backsides become one with the dingy. We patiently wait until the engine turns over. Then we are off, ripping through the waves with the wind streaming across our faces... relief at last!

The view of homes and buildings from the water side is much more exposed and you get a clearer view of their construction. For a change it makes one REALLY appreciate some of the building codes of the US. We make our way between fishing boats and find they are not much better. On closer inspection, we wonder how some of them can still be afloat, while others list seriously to one side.

While the dinghy putters along shore I see small streams of bubbles rise from the depths all around us and wonder what critters are hiding just out of view. As I ponder this point, I look up in the nick of time to avoid having a butterfly plastered to my sunglasses. I ducked right, it went left and catastrophe was averted. If you're not careful it can be a place fraught with danger . . . no-see-um bug bites, falling bird poo, gnats up your nose while snoozing on deck, butterflies like bug splat across your person. One has to be on the alert at all times!

We make it to the other side of the bay without further mishap. This side is nothing but jungle with a few homes interspersed hear and there. Decidedly, we liked the lush, unspoiled look of this part of the bay. The mountains are thick with amazingly tall trees and flowering vines, covering like a canopy. My favorite spot is the small island in the bay where a family has beached their panga and is having an afternoon picnic. By the end of the tour we realize it's a place of visual contrast, man vs nature. Nature has our vote!

Upon our return the rest of the day is filled with even more possibilities. Lunch. Will the cook perform wonders in the galley or will she mutiny and send all ashore to dine at the marina? Should a person attempt a siesta below deck (stuffy), or on deck with gnat repellent? At happy hour the question is whether to have rum, or how much rum? Sunset appreciation, no contest, all are in attendance. The BBQ dinner choices, fish . . . fish . . . or more fish! Oh and what movie are we watching tonight, Master and Commander or Captain Ron. No Perfect Storm on this ship. Finally, to internet or sleep.

Gentle Zzzzzzzz's drift through the open skylight from below. A lone figure sporting a headlight again sits alone on deck late night plucking away at his laptop. The night time bay sounds echo in the background. The A/C coolant water constantly dumping from the 68 ft Nordhaven next slip over is like our very own expensive babbling zen fountain. Another day has come full circle.

It's just another day in Golfito.