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Infamous Cabo San Lucas, Sin City South saved by the awesome beauty of Land’s End

Leaving Los Muertos the next morning we were sure to enjoy some northerly winds to push us all the way to Cabo San Lucas, but, the wind has a way of finding us and blowing head on no matter which way were going sometimes. So motor we did all day and all night and the wind just kept getting stronger as we approached Cabo San Lucas in the dark. Our normal cruising speed of 5+ knots was reduced to 2 -3 knots with 25 – 30 knots of wind and pounding seas spraying salty mist all over pummeled us for hours doubling the time to go the last 30 miles. We made it midday even though we could see our destination at first light and dropped our anchor for a much needed rest.

But rest would have to wait, we needed to find motor oil and gear oil, filters and a special tool to evacuate the oils from the engines and sail drives. That was Saturday walking miles around the town until we accumulated the things we needed and back at the boat we flopped into bed. Sunday in Sin City South aka Cabo turned out perfect with the wind dying and the seas lying flat, the sun rose and soon the beaches were full of sun worshipers and load booming music interrupted constantly by obnoxious DJs. While that was happening on the beach, we lay at anchor a hundred yards off-shore and begin the process of changing our oils in each engine and each sail drive. A tourist on a kayak paddled over, Dan from New Mexico, a career Army officer, who said he just had to admire our Cat. Dan was about to buy a Cat, a Gemini 105, himself up in Massachusetts and sail it down to Norfolk where he’ll be stationed this summer. When complete later that afternoon we (Dan joined us after returning his kayak and swimming out to the INNcredible from the beach – folks looked on in disbelief as he swam way beyond anywhere reasonable) took the dinghy out to a special rock known for its schools of fish to do some snorkeling. The water was downright chilly, even the locals complained; it was 69 degrees in May! Those rocks at Land’s End are spectacular and I must have taken 30 shots each sun-up, sundown and in between.

Cabo is known for its nightlife of which I have zero interest no matter how old I am; but, Andrew’s interested and so we took the dinghy in. Getting beyond the ‘strip’ I walked quite a few blocks not remembering exactly where it was to the old Plaza where we found a band playing in the gazebo and locals enjoying Sunday evening. 15 years or so before Diana, Katie and Molly and I found a fun old restaurant called Mi Casa right off the Plaza. That was my mission this time as a treat for our success in changing oils. Homemade tortillas, bright colorful old Mexican décor, Margaritas of course and a good menu, the trick to getting in without a reservation is to show up before 6pm. By the time we enjoyed our meal the place was packed with a line. Just inside the front door is a maze of rooms showcasing all over its walls handicrafts, each room is themed with a different collection like those funny Dias de Los Muertos characters, crosses, hearts, stuff animals, etc, wonderful stuff but a bit pricey. And nobody uses Peso only Dollars on their price tags probably because of sticker shock – 10,000 pesos for a figurine for example instead of $806 but that’s shocking too.

Crossing the street into the old Plaza the band had stopped but a mime was performing. I tried to stand to the side inconspicuously but sure enough within a minute that mime’s eyes looked my way, eyes widened, big smile grew wider, hands go up and he points my way so everyone can see that Santa is in town. I just can’t hide not even in May.

Dan had joined us for dinner and now he wanted to show us the town as he knows it from being here for the week before. We obliged and that’s the end of this story.

 
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La Paz to Los Muertos

From the City of Peace to Ensenada de Los Muertos there’s treasure in between. La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, is tucked back in the shallow waters of a very large bay. We know how large this bay is because after leaving the Bahia Caldera we sailed up to the very top where rocky Isla Islotes sits loaded with lovable but noisy sea lions. This is a sea lion colony not to be missed. At least a hundred probably twice that lazily lounge over all the rocks, some packed together I want to say like sardines and then a lone bull sits atop the highest rock roaring like he’s the lion king. The cacophony of sea lion sounds has a full range from that of baby goats crying all the way to a thundering roar with lots of different pitched belches, groans and barks filling in the middle. The symphony of Seal Rock is the chaos of those hundred sea lions all proudly singing their song but with the conductor long gone. We motored round this isla several times to fully appreciate their talents.

Then with the wind forcefully blowing from the south the INNcredible Sea Lodge close-hauled one very long tack as south of west as we could pinch. Our destination La Paz was to our SW and near 20 miles away. When it was time to turn into the wind heading south the wind began to back down thankfully. And we were thoroughly entertained along the way with the endless high-flying flip-flopping of those brown rays. La Paz has grown up since I last visited 15 years ago. When we radioed marina La Paz announcing our arrival they said Sorry Senor we have no space for you but we lucked out with a brand new Marina Cortez with plenty of space. While in La Paz and right in front of the marina along the Malecon was the finish line for the Mexican 1000 – a motor car race of all kinds from Mexicali to La Paz. The next day May 1st the road was blocked again hosting the big Labor Day parade.

Cities are fine to check in once in a while especially to get supplies but the real beauty lies outside and beyond. And when we left I planned a short sail out to SE tip of land where Bahia Ballandra cuts in forming a fantastic bay with beautiful shallow water. We thought we’d find this to ourselves but the place was alive with locals during the day because it was their May 1st holiday. The most unique feature here is Mushroom Rock, a massive rock made of volcanic conglomerate whose overall shape has the curve of a mushroom complete with the undercutting forming the base holding up the much wider top. You could walk around, well almost at low tide, the rock and be under the overhang of the mushroom. Upon closer inspection there are miniature mushroom rocks and hanging dangerously rocks within the overhang because even though it took nature a long time to erode this mushroom into shape, that process continues and sightseer may get a first-hand experience someday of erosion in progress which could be their last. Extremely unique formation and lovely bay – we anchored for the night. In the morning we had the place almost to ourselves.

Next stop Ensenada de Los Muertos and although it gave us the refuge we needed from the strong wind and waves after a long full day a sailing/motoring, the place was dead, not a living soul around.

 
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Anchored in a Volcano

We made it. Crossing the Sea of Cortez in relative calm we motor/sailed over 300 nautical miles in 46 hours with the last 16 pounding straight into building swells developing from 20+ knot winds. But when we approached our destination, Ensenada de Los Muertos, the conditions did not look good. There will be no protection from wind or waves at the inlet of the Dead today. So we had to press on. But the next suitable anchorage to shelter us from this weather was another 35 miles which could be another 8 hours if conditions didn’t improve.

But during our crossing before that we were treated to a little entertainment from our visitors. Large pods of dolphins passed by, one group was the high flying Delfino Brothers who reached heights of 15 feet with their aerial acrobatics. I was scrambling for the camera but you just can’t capture those moments. Whales passed mostly in the distance but with breaches high enough and splashes big enough to notice nonetheless. One surface right next to us out about a hundred feet but only once, showed its tail then gone – deep. Two leaps from what had to be a large sail fish caught my eye in an otherwise vast endless ocean landscape. I did capture great pictures of rays and some videos of dolphins too.

Fishing was good and the bounty made us many a meal but the most memorable were my Barracuda/Mahi Mahi pineapple coconut curry and Andrew’s Bonita tacos. We stocked up on fruits, veggies and fresh tortillas in San Blas before leaving and the payoff for good planning can’t be overstated.

But now on the eastern shores of Baja California del Sur we have begun our re-entry into our long forgotten world we came from – Northern California, Fair Play to be exact. The water now has trouble reaching 80 degrees which gives Andrew trouble staying in too long. The air is warm, even hot in the day, but dry – 50% humidity instead of 70%+. The landscape has no coconut palms, no bananas, and no papayas but looks more like Arizona desert. But there is a beauty, a stark but majestic beauty, in the truncated weathered remains of massive volcanic activity. Cross-sections expose the layers of eruptions from the more violent explosive events with their mixture of everything that blew sky high and then settled back down overlain by the deeper more sustained showering of ash welding together where they lay into tufts in shades of tans. These layers repeat themselves, evidence to each catastrophic volcanic in geologic time. We sail in through a breach in what is a huge caldera (the inside whole of a volcano) that through erosion was exposed to the sea and let the ocean rush in. This was all part of the island named Isla Espiritu Santo but now the one side has technically severed itself and is called Isla Partida.

There is a wonderful feeling of shelter and peace within these high walls of this caldera. We’re protected from the swells and most directions of the strong winds. But this is a volcano and if, not likely but if, it blew its top once again we would, well, go for the ride of our lives to put it poetically. Nonetheless I look forward to an overdue full night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we sail just 5 miles up to Isla Islotes to visit the Sea Lion colony. Years ago I dove there with a dive shop out of La Paz. The experience was all about the close encounters with the sea lion pups that would swim by you one way, then another, bump into you when you least expect it, take a nip at your gear just playing around. When mother slid into the water off the rocks you watched in awe but kept your distance because like all mothers she can get a little possessive. If however the bull, the big daddy, decided to get off his fat ass and come for a swim we were instructed to swim back to the boat as fast you can.

Then from there we sail to La Paz – the peace.

 
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Bahia Banderas and beyond

Bahia Banderas

The Bay of Banners, home to famous Puerto Vallarta, is a playground for the rich, the famous and the rest of us too. As we sailed up the coast from Barre Navidad on an overnight sail, I timed our rounding of Cabo Corrientes for 4-6 am so we would experience the least amount of wind and waves. The sail all that day was in light wind and mellow seas but within 5 miles of the Cabo the wind increased to over 20 knots and stayed there until we completely rounded and were almost to Yelapa. Corientes means currents and there was not only the high winds, wind waves but current all in our face slowing us down to under 4 knots with both engines running hard. Once around the winds backed down and the dawn tried hard to reveal itself but hid behind a massive buildup of clouds. I needed the light to navigate in and around the little bay of Yelapa.

Yelapa is that remote coastal village accessible only by water which most tourists and absolutely every hippie that ever visited Puerto Vallarta has to visit.  Diana and I made our first visit back in the late 80s and again with our girls 10 years later and now over 30 years later in the INNcredible Sea Lodge. And it was still everything I dreamed it should be at anchor. We were the only boat overnight yet the little resorts and the village were bustling. Friendly local people, quaint village chipped into the steep hillside with winding walkways throughout. Only thing that has changed for the worst is the price of things.

Sailing the next day all along the Bahia’s inner coastline right in front of the old downtown and all the way out to the northern coast into Marina La Cruz, Andrew and I bused back into PV to do a walking tour of the town. We found the best street vendor tacos anywhere on the corner of Honduras and Peru. They serve only seafood tacos and tostados and we tried a bunch of them. They were to die for fantastic and made right in front of you sitting on benches looking in over the edges of the trailer. If you ever go to PV that will make your day.

Couldn’t walk more than 100 feet on the Mallecon without Andrew fondness of Tequila luring him into one the many over-priced tequila shops. This one was very informative and generous with its samples as Andrew had about 6 shots before saying whoa and I 8. I knew what I liked but $45 seems a little stiff and this was on the low end of their inventory.

The Malecon, the beautiful walkway along the beachfront is adorned with sculptures, sand castles, twirling Huichol Indians, vendors and other entertainment. As a matter of fact in the pit where a couple hundred people sit in the evening and watch this mime do his show, I told Andrew you watch when I walk up (and we were intentionally trying to come from behind on the side so as to not be seen) within a couple minutes this mime will see me and and point to me, pull his Santa hat out of his chest, hold it up and introduce me to the whole audience. So we walked up somewhat hiding and it wasn’t 30 seconds before he saw me and did exactly that. And He did that two years ago when I was last there too. We walked and walked and walked all over. Andrew got a three day tour in one evening. And then I had to get the tuckered out Andrew back on a bus for the long ride back to La Cruz.

La Cruz is a great little town of its own and our Sunday started with their farmers market with live music and lots of vendors. A walkabout as we picked up our laundry ending back on the boat with a barbeque of the fish, veggies and great bread purchased at the farmers market.

Monday morning we’re off sailing, actually sailing, leaving Bahia Banderas heading for points north like San Blas. But before we rounded Punta Mita we spotted whales. This couple must have had a whale of a time just a little out of sequence with the others in the neighborhood and are left with the bay to themselves waiting for late comer little Junior Humpback to grow up enough to head north to the motherland. But lucky for us we got to enjoy the frolicks right off the starboard side. Out rounding Punta Mita, the final point at the northern end of Bahia Banderas, we marveled at the incredible numbers of rays swimming in large groups for a couple miles as we sail through and over them. A few turtles and an occasional Giant Manta amongst them made for great pictures.

We’re headed up the mainland to San Blas and then diagonally across the Sea of Cortez to Baja. We give you an update after the crossing

 

 
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So Very Dark, Yet So Much To Sea

Published on April 15, 2013 by in Misc.

The night is dark, so dark. The sea has laid down and the surface is smooth and soft but the water is thick and rich. Each bob of the bow sends off a wake of light, the phosphoressence of nightlife. The passing jellyfish float by like a lantern without a plug free to roam about. The approaching dolphins as ghosts in the night, sillohuetted by the life they pass through as they glide so effortlessly through the sea. Their very movement turns on the light. A train of light just now stretched out a few hundred yards and passed.

Eyes upward, the sky is black with the stars so bright.More stars fill the sky than one rarely if ever sees. Layers upon layers upon layers of stars that one could fall through if you stared long enough. A band of clouds paint a wispy streak across the sky in a perfect curve but never move except as we rotate away and they fade away into the dawn. This rich milky mass is clouds of billions of stars in our galaxy, the one in which we live – the Milky Way.

The impressions of tonight are reserved only for those who are adventurous enough to leave their solid shore behind and venture out far away from the light of man into the complete darkness of the earth at night. I sail across the dark into the dark toward the faint curve of the horizon falling into the dark but starry sky, yet I am at peace. blind to worry. I trust that Mother Earth won’t let me fall off her beautiful sphere, like a baby from her mother’s breast.

 
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Good Olde Mexico can be found if you’re looking in the right places

Published on April 10, 2013 by in The Pacific

Chiapis Marina is quite the facility although the wifi sucks. From my perspective as a cruiser, the only thing I’m starving for when out sailing for days or at anchor each day in a new place is a connection to the internet; and for me that means wifi that I can pick up with my fancy antenna in the comfort of my boat. Not really interested in lugging my oversize laptop up to a stoop somewhere and actually trying to balance this HP Pavillion on my lap while I’m trying to two-finger type and see the screen at the same time. So when the marina advertises wifi but doesn’t deliver I feel betrayed and I’d much rather be at anchor where the air is better, the water clean enough to swim in and make water and beautiful non-sanitized nature is all around and its FREE.

That word FREE has attracted cruisers for years and years. Here we are with boats worth hundreds of thousands and some in the millions (but that is a class not to be discussed here) and yet we’re always concerned with how much things cost. I believe the reason is one of two things or both: One is most cruisers either sold everything to get their boat and finance a hopeful longtime on their journey with no significant outside income coming in; or, it’s just in there blood, making ends meet, being thrifty and frugal with spending money regardless of how easy or hard they earned each dollar. So the conversation most often shared among cruisers is where the best place to eat is, the best place to shop, the price of fuel, dockage fees, etc. and part of the definition of best always includes value not just quality. Some people call cruisers cheap.

Well one father and son cruiser duo took us to their favorite newly found taco place in Puerto Modero where tacos are 7 pesos each. This is a street vendor but they have a cute set of picnic tables to sit and watch them hand make fresh tortillas over their wood fire. They don’t sell beer but OXXO next door does for 10 pesos. So after four of us ate our fill, father David said I’ll pay and got a big smile on his face because the bill was 130 or so pesos which is about $11. David is 69 and has been coming to Mexico for decades and says this is the way old Mexico was and I remember too. There is no better aid to digestion than a fair price for a simple meal.

Well we finally pushed off from Chiapis after waiting for a big Pecker to blow through the feared Golfo Tehuantepec and sailed across what resembled more a lake than the mean and nasty Gulf waiting to blow so hard it can push you a hundred miles out to sea. Thank God and good timing for that.

On the other end is Huatulco, a Bahia of several anchorages and marinas. We chose what most other cruisers said Chahue Marina which hides behind their narrow slot of an entrance and since we showed up at dawn was a bit elusive as the light was not the best. We were the first of about four boats that left Chiapis two days before at the same time but we had a great reception here with folks helping take our lines as we docked. The boat across the way Misty Michael and its captain Chris was such a breath of fresh air. He drove us to get our propane tanks filled (a task that has been eluding us for two months), giving us a guided tour of Hautulco as we stopped to buy produce too. I marveled and remarked over and over again at how clean and tidy this little city is compared to all the basura you see everywhere else. I’ve decided that in all our travels Huatulco gets the INNcredible’s Tidy Town award.

And we had fun going back into town to walk the streets and shop a bit more, finding a juice bar that made to order fresh fruit and vegetable juices anyway you like them. So I ordered a couple carrot/apple and beet juices and guess what Andrew really liked it too. Served in big Margarita bowls those two fresh juices cost 50 pesos about $4.20.

Does everything have to be cheap for my seal of approval? First, it has to be good and then if its inexpensive, its a winner.

You probably think I’m cheap. Well Euclid wrote about many mathematical truths and the one that says if two things each are equal to a third thing then they are equal to each other. So if we already established above that cruisers are cheap too, it goes to prove that I am a cruiser too. So don’t think of me as cheap, think of me as a cruiser.

 

 
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El Salvador Cruisers’ Rally – Bahia del Sol

Published on April 5, 2013 by in The Pacific

After getting the hell out of Nicaragua which we entered with a wonderful welcome and left under mandate of Navy decree, we sailed and sailed to A more friendly land of El Salvador and more particularly Bahia del Sol. Little did we know there is a cruiser rally going on to El Salvador and we arrived right in the middle of it. But to get in and out of this highly recommended port of call, one had to find their way through the shifting sands and breaking surf. The recommended entry is to arrive at high tide, radio in approaching the entrance and wait for a pilot boat to come out and escort you through the ever changing shoals that make this entrance so potentially dangerous.

After two days and nights of sailing we arrive at near high tide and radio in. No response. Radio in several times and get a response from another boat relaying the message to the marina that we’re requesting a pilot boat to escort us in. The message gets relayed back and forth and we’re told to hold tight for several hours until they get a pilot boat. it was broad daylight, we’re tired and the tide is perfect incoming and nearing high. Waves are breaking all over the mouth of this estuary and the entrance recommended on the chart plotter is totally out of date to the current shifting shoals of sand. So i motor slowly around the outside of the breaking waves observing the shoals looking for the best way in. A local boat is coming out. I watch and continue to jockey the INNcredible into position to see the route from all angles. Another boat this time coming in proceeds as I observe from just outside.I decide to make a run broadside within the breaking waves to a midpoint then turn left for the whitewater ride straight in. The depth is already only 14 feet, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8.5, 9, 8, 7.5, 8, 7.0, 7.5 waves breaking but luckily not too big, turn in the middle. The water ahead ripples like a rivers rapid and looks downhill and the INNcredible Sea Lodge gets picked up by the incoming rush of tide – 6.8, 7 knots. We’re flying. And we make it no problem. Motored into the left up the estuary to a wonderful welcome dockside by Rally leaders Bill and Jane. Word spread through the cruiser group that the cowboys just arrived coming through on their own in the biggest boat of all.

Bahia del Sol  is what every cruiser hopes for in a marina with the most friendly group of sailors yet.

Being Semana Santos (holy week) the estuary was hopping with families vacationing all about. On Holy Saturday we took a dinghy excursion 5 miles up the estuary to a backwater town of the most authentic kind. Through the maze of backwater one arrives at the site of a giant palapa bustling with people coming and going and enjoying the river front eateries all under this one big roof. Everything local and fresh from types of clams, shrimp, fish and yard birds. Vendors come round to sell you locally grown and roasted cashews, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a roped collection of mud crabs. We bought it all and ate some great fish dinners too. But the walk through the long road into town was an eye opener to their reality that is only appreciated in person. Not being able to hide my Santa Claus appearance I came prepared and handed out loolipops to all the children along the way (probably 50 or more). Always on the lookout for the central market, walking through a funeral procession, we find this dungeon of a dark concrete chasm with vendors all lined up with everything including wood fires roasting hand made thick tortillas. We bought all that was good. Loaded with stuff we rode a three wheeled Asian-like open air covered cart back to the water’s edge. Back in the dinghy to motor our way back through the maze of mangrove-lined waterways to the boat before dark.

It was time to go out with the tide Easter evening back through the shifting sands and surf and head for Mexico, bypassing Guatemala because the fees and red tape to visit are not worth the little time we would have. Chiapis Mejico is our next stop 230 miles ahead

 
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Sleeping Giants and Smokin’ Pistols

Published on March 30, 2013 by in The Pacific

In the moonlight, and more as dawn approached, the silhouette of El Salvador came into focus. Mountains, but not just any mountains, come right down to the sea. With the wind on my beam and a starboard tack, I had an unobstructed view all to myself, not a soul was awake aboard the INNcredible Sea Lodge but the captain, meself, on watch since 0400.

There was smoke in the air, trails of it, and upon closer inspection a wee bit of it was coming from some mountain tops (most of it from the ground is burning sugar cane fields). These geologic pistols were smokin’ as if they just fired a round not long ago. Not long ago may be a few lifetimes to us humans but in the vastness of geologic time it’s so recent that the pistol’s chamber still has shells in it, the striker is cocked and the trigger could go off at any time. At any time as it did, like I said just a few lifetimes ago and fired a round that buried whole towns and made new mountains – volcanoes. Fascinating and we’ve seen these Hot Spots before in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean and now all along the Pacific Coast of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and now El Salvador; but no more dramatic than here sailing the coast of El Salvador.

Geologists say our earth’s crust is made of plates, moving plates. And in the middle of our oceans new material is being added to these plates pushing them outward toward the continental plates which stand their ground but buckle and fold sending the oceanic plates down. The seduction of the oceanic plates eventually go so deep that it melts and builds up pressure far below the earth’s surface. And just like me, and maybe you too,every once in a whilewhen we least expect it , we blow our tops.

But in the case of these sleeping giants, it’s not all hot air and sound effects. It’s not always cataclysmic either. When it is, the might and fury can make its mark in a BIG way.

So as I enjoy a peaceful sail in this 88 degree water absorbing the dramatic landscape of El Salvador, I can only imagine the real drama that created this now peaceful landscape. As much as I’d like to see one go off, I may not be here afterwards to blog about the experience, so I’ll pass (as if I have anything to say about its timing any how).

 
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Costa Rica – the Formalities of In and Out

Published on March 25, 2013 by in The Pacific

Costa Rica is beautiful and its west coast has too very distinct parts: the lower half gets 260+ inches of rainfall annually and supports the healthiest forests I have seen coastside; where the upper half has six long months of drought each year and I am passing through in its fifth dry month and if I didn’t know better I’d think the hillside forests were dead. But Pedro, the taxi driver, assures me that in Mayo the trees become alive and the hills are rich and green. Where it actually changed I didn’t notice a line but the change came quick and dramatic with even cactus growing among the sleeping deciduous forest. I see the coastline as we slowly sail by but I have taken no time to venture into its famous cloud-forest interior. Time even on a long INNcredible journey is  a factor to which I make haste. I’ve lived my life on an eight day per week schedule farming and making wine and running Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge with my family so I see possibilities sailing that most sailors never even contemplate. But here it is 10 months into the INNcredible journey and we are right on schedule. Would I like to slow it down? You bet.

The water is our landscape almost always on three sides and its not desolate. Yesterday the sea showed us how alive it is with surface entertainment almost non-stop. Those flying flip-flopping rays started the early morning with circus like flying_ray_blogperformances, the occasional giant turtle floated by, dolphins came in groups rushing over to the moving Sea Lodge checking us out fore – aft – amidship and under before moving on. But that moment that a Giant Manta Ray (12+ feet) flew out of the water to make its flip then crashing flop was luckily seen by all of us (but no one had camera ready although mine was in hand). A pod of dolphins so large i first thought I’d seen an Orca powered by. And the sea was boiling with feeding frenzies happening all over – little fish being chased and eaten by larger fish who were then attracting even larger fish interested in those medium fish and so on.

Our fishing  kept pulling in those bonita who seem to love anything with squiggly frills hanging off. But shortly after sunrise I was on my watch and let out a line to start fishing for the day and BANG. Before i could even finish letting the line out and set the drag, line was spinning out so fast I was sure the spool would soon empty before I could slow the outward action. I struggled with this while al aboard were still sleeping but started to make unexpected progress. When I felt I had a grip I hopped up to the bridgedeck to slow the engine down a bit. Then surprisingly I found myself reeling in this big one faster than I expected. When i first saw the fish at the surface but still way out there I knew I would need help to gaff it on board. So what do you do when you can’t leave your pole as your fighting the biggest fish-to-date? You yell like hell for your first mate to rise and shine and get that gaff ready. By the time Andrew showed he was still in his sleepy daze and stared out to see the fish. I yelled, Its right here, gaff it! I already had the fish at our stern trying not to loose it. Andrew got it on board and what a specimen it was – maybe 20 pounds and of a new kind. We looked it up to find it was a Jack Crevale, a fighter anglers enjoy but seldom eat. Here on the INNcredible we eat what we catch or we stop fishing because I don’t feel good about killing life just for my entertainment. So I performed the surgery on this fellow and look forward to savoring its dark red meat. This Jack feeds on sardines, anchovies and shrimp so its no wonder this fish will taste ‘fishy’ (for those Jersey shore folks like bluefish supposedly).

Now let me tell you about Friday afternoon’s Mission Impossible. Arriving in Costa Rica’s last Port of Entry (for us port of Exit) at about 1330 on a Friday, I knew it would be most likely impossible to get clearance and that all important ‘Zarpe’ so we could sail on to our next country. But the alternative was we would have to hang around until Monday morning to start the process. So I pressed on anyhow determined to do the impossible. In Playas Coco (yes, you got it – Coco Beach in English) there are no docks, no pier just beach with waves breaking and a tide that goes in and out to a depth of 12 feet. So that was the first obstacle, gathering all the important boat papers plus all the passports, ID, money and a VHF radio and cell phone and prepare to make a beach landing and not get anything wet besides myself. Then to the Posrt Captain’s office in hopes they are open. Inside the friendly gal laid out in Espanol all i would have to do and in what order ending up back at her office before 1600. It was now 1400. Next i found Pedro, the taxi driver, and told him the mission I had to accomplish. Pedro said $40 and lets go. 28 hard miles away into the interior is where Costa Rica thought was a good location for their Aduana (Customs Office) on the side of the road in Liberia. Inside the tiny office nobody was there but one old gal (I guess I shouldn’t say that because she’s probably younger than I) who was very helpful and although the phone kept ringing and she kept answering it, she got the paperwork done and I was back in the cab with Pedro racing down the country highway back to Playas del Coco. Road construction in town had the main entrance all chewed up and traffic at its knees.  I had to stop first at the National Bank to deposit $30 in the Port captain account and bring the receipt. Upon entering the bank (Friday afternoon) it was packed with locals in line for service. I was doomed already pushing the 1500 hour. I saw a well dressed young man so i asked if he worked there. He did. And in my best Espanol I told him my mission and asked for his help. He agreed and escorted me to a special window and put one of the tellers on my needs. pateintly I sat as she did all that formal shit that she needed to do and about 20 minutes later I was outside and climbing back over the road construction to the other side of the road where pedro was waiting. Off to the immigration Office which again was on the other side where only climbing back over the windrow of road base four feet high was the way into the Immigration Office. Nice thing about the obstacle course was no other customers were inside. The Immigration lady started chatting in Espanol as I was getting out all my paperwork that I was proud was all ready and in order. She perused each page and then started rattling off – and my Spanish mind just went blank. Just like you forget someone’s name and yet you know them – it happens and i was left claiming no comprende and asking for mercy and a fool’s pardon. She looked at me with caring eyes seeing I was sinking in my chair almost giving in to defeat. But she perked up and started going about her business and continued trying to communicate with me and suddenly there was a breakthrough and i was back on her page again. But she needed copies of some papers for which I only had the originals and she wanted to see the other two passport holders for which I carried their passports. nI told her the waves at the beach were too dangerous for my passengers to safely get in so just I, the captain, made the attempt. She bought that story but still wanted those copies. She had a copy machine right behind her but I didn’t want to remind her because I learned from other clearing that they want us sailors to jump and jump high through all their hoops. I put my hands to cover my downturned head showing quietly my depression. She perked up again and made those copies and carried on with handing me papers to fill out and tried to wrap it up. We were almost there when she realized that it was 1600 and the Port Captain would be closing. She took the initiative to call over there and ask if someone could wait for me. They agreed and said for me to knock when I arrive at the locked door. 15 minutes later I got to the Port Captain’s office with Pedro’s help. This is the place where all this running around and collection of paperwork is checked and double-checked so that all important ‘Zarpe’ can be written so we can officially leave Costa Rica and carry on to the next country. I didn’t even have to knock, the door opened upon my arrival. Sweet young senorita put all the papers together for her files and printed up the ‘International Zarpe’. My glee was rising, my inner self was about to collapse from the whole ordeal. I gave here many thanks and $10 bucks which she appreciated. Outside I congratulated Pedro for Mission Impossible accomplished and paid him his $40 plus a $10 tip. Walking out to the shoreline I radioed the boys on board the INNcredible to lower the dinghy and come on in so we could celebrate.

Now, Saturday, the very next day we are back out sailing and just about to arrive at our next inncredible anchorage way out at the point and archipelago called Islas Murcielagos, a stunning collection of structures rising out of the sea. Had I not accomplished Mission impossible my crew and I would have been doomed to wallow away two days sweating under and hiding from the intense sun drinking cold beer and staggering back to the dinghy in the dark to find our bunks on board. I like the alternative of adventure much better.

 
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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from Costa Rica

Published on March 17, 2013 by in Paradise

March 17th is so very special for us Fitzpatricks as well as all other fellow Irish clans. For us, twas my Da’s birthday. But for all of us a time to reflect a bit on that Irish blood that courses through our veins. Ah, today I won’t be anywhere near a bottle of Fitzpatrick wine or that keg of Guinness behind the tasting room bar but I caught a fish, I did, on my 0400 watch in the wee hours of dawn, a bonita which gave me an honorable struggle and  swallowed the hook so deep I had to do an autopsy.

The water a wee bit warm at 90 degrees, a few poisonous yellow-bellied sea snakes, a croc if you linger near the shore, dolphins playing round the INNcredible while we make way to Costa Rica’s first port of entry – Golfito.

But yesterday – the Islas Secas ( the northern extent of the Galapagos hot spot chain) is idyllic and only one other boat amidst  the whole chain of islands except for the folks who pay $1000 per night to stay in these fancy white tents perched on the hill. Seeking to find this underwater wall where Mantas swim circles around you we set out in the dinghy with our new neighbor, Laud ( a drop-out Med student from UNM) and motored around to the outside of the island and two of us dove with tanks in search. The 89 degree surface water quickly drops 20 degrees below 35 feet and at 65 feet we were sliding along a sloping sandy bottom searching for a drop off wall. Not to be found we swam toward the volcanic steep sides of the island and rode the powerful surge along its bouldered-reef. Tons of fish, giant snappers (Pargo), Groupers, Puffers, etc. At times the surge sucked us backwards then shot us forward like a circus act out of a cannon. This was an athletic dive and could be very dangerous to anyone unfamiliar with the power of waves.

Topping the dive off with a walk along the edge of the jungle collecting coconuts, we got some much needed maintenance done on the INNcredible. Laud had the special vacuum oil changer so we change the oil and filters in all three of our diesels on board. And don’t get alarmed we collected every drop in sealed containers to be properly disposed of at the next port.

St. Patrick’s Day catches me reflecting about all sorts of life’s memories and wanting to make more with old friends and new. So as Herb Oscar Anderson (radio voice from NYC in the 1950s/60s) used to sing coming on the air each morning, “Hello again, Here’s my Best to you, Are your skies all gray, I hope they’re blue”.

All the best to all my Irish family and Irish friends and wanna-bes, Happy St. Patrick’s Day,

Captain Fitzwine

 
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