Thursday, September 29, 2016

Puntarenas: The R Is On Her Way

Renee (aka "The R") is on her way to rejoin Intermezzo after a long six-month hiatus. She left the boat in El Salvador  in the beginning of April to take care of her mom. Things are stable enough that she can resume her sailing adventure, but will need to stay in closer touch while she's on the boat and we'll be breaking The Voyage in to chunks so that she can return home periodically to check on things. I'm looking forward to having her back on the boat, sailing together again, and the culinary benefits of her fish-catching prowess.

I'm renting a car to pick her up from the airport in San Jose around noon. Our first order of business is to go food shopping. We'll be sailing in some fairly remote waters, so will need to stock up for about three weeks worth of meals. I'm sure we'll be able to find the basics along the way, so we'll be mostly loading up on harder to find goods like cheese, frozen fruits and veggies (for smoothies), quality canned goods and cereals, soy milk and other healthy foods, wine (and other "healthy" beverages), chocolate and other "delicacies". 

I have been doing some passage planning, but Renee and I need to review options to finalize our itinerary. For sure, we will be clearing out of Costa Rica on Friday and leaving the marina and then anchor in Bahia Ballena for the first night, a short 20 mile sail to get our sea legs back. Then my preference would be to head directly to Isla Partida in northern Panama, a two day sail of approximately 200 nm. Renee's not sure she's ready to a multi-day passage right away, so we may break the journey up with a couple of (technically illegal) stops along the Cost Rica coast.

The boat is ready for Renee's arrival, mold free, squeaky clean and smelling good. There are still quite a few things on my boat to-do list, as always, but these can be handled while underway.

I'm definitely more than ready to get out of the marina and back to sailing in open coastal waters. Intermezzo and I have been in marinas or estuaries since March, save for the several day passages along the coast between El Salvador and here. I don't expect that we will tied up to land again until we get to Balboa at the Pacific entry of the Panama Canal to re-provision in three weeks or so. I'm looking forward to life back "on the hook" in some remote and pretty anchorages.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Puntarenas: On Top of Mold, Joker Valves, Rain But No Mosquitos

I made significant progress on mold remediation today.

The forward port cabin has always been inexplicably more damp than any other space inside the boat. We shipped a good amount of water into that cabin through an open hatch once at sea due to miscommunication between captain and crew. Maybe the cabin just never dried out completely and formed its own microclimate, like a terrarium. In any case, more dampness means more mold and there was a big patch around the portlight, the pleated fabric blind was thoroughly speckled, and one of our vinyl bean bag chairs had large patches of the nasty black spots.

I wiped down the interior with a 10% bleach solution and did the same to the bean bag chair and saturated the fabric blind. I got all the spots off the cabin's interior surfaces, most of the spots off the chair and the blind looks almost spot free. Better yet, the boat no longer smells moldy. I still need to clean the aft port cabin which still doesn't smell good when I go in there, but overall the boat smells much, much better. Boats often take on a distinctive "boat smell" as they get older, a phenomenon I really wanted to prevent, or at least delay, happening to Intermezzo. I was worried that the mold might have meant the end of having a fresh smelling boat. I don't think that's going to happen though; I feel I'm on top of the mold situation now.

I also repaired the electric head (toilet) in the starboard hull. The joker valves (there are two on this head) failed and wastewater would slowly flow back into the bowl under gravity from the hose leading up to the holding tank. Fortunately I had cleaned the toilet and hose thoroughly before I left in June and hadn't used the head since arriving. So it wasn't a messy job, but it did take a little while as I had to completely disconnect all the hoses and remove the toilet from its mounting to get to the valves. Last time I did this operation was almost a year ago in Bahia de Tortugas due to an errant olive pit, which was a bit more messy.  Once I got access to them, changing the valves took only a few minutes. I put everything back together again and the head now works great. Considering the condition of the old joker valves, I figure I'm going to have to do this every year from now on.

It's rainy season in Central America. Here in Puntarenas, the day starts off sunny and warms quickly, evaporating the moisture from the previous day's rain. About midday thunderclouds start building above the surrounding hills. By 2:00 p.m., the sky gets increasingly cloudy, a breeze starts to blow and you hear thunder in the distance. Over the next hour or so, the sky gets darker, lightning starts to flash, sometimes with big bolts and cracking thunder, and then down comes the rain. It rains for a few hours and then stops, leaving the air feeling cool and refreshing. There hasn't been any rain at night, which I believe is typical. 

Interestingly, I have hardly seen any mosquitos. I had thought that they would be worse during rainy season, but there were a lot more when I was here in May. I'm not sure why that's the case, but I'm grateful that it's so. I really don't need any screens on the boat, but I use them at night as a precaution against Zika, dengue, and chinungunya, all of which occur in Costa Rica.

Tomorrow I should finish the bulk of the mold remediation and can start preparing the boat for departure.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Puntarenas: Celebrity Boat Mold Remediation

My red-eye flight to Costa Rica went smoothly and I, somewhat amazingly, got through immigration and customs, caught a cab to the bus terminal and was on a bus to Puntarenas in less than an hour after I got off the plane.  I was a bit thirsty, hungry and tired by the time I got to Puerto Azul, but no complaints.

Three marina guys were busy finishing washing Intermezzo when I arrived. The exterior looked great. The real question though was, what was it like inside? I had “pickled” the interior before I left in June by wiping it down with vinegar and leaving open containers of vinegar to acidify the atmosphere in an attempt to prevent mold from growing. I had left the boat pretty much sealed up to try and keep mold spores out. I was pretty apprehensive about this approach and had nightmares of the inside of the boat being coated with mold, like a cheese that’s been in the fridge for too long.

Well, the pickling seemed to have worked pretty well. When I opened the sliding door to the salon, I was greeted by a moist, stuffy odor that didn’t seem too bad after four months. The salon looks pretty much mold-free. Down below, I saw a few spots of mold on the inside of the hull and the pleated fabric blinds are badly mottled with mold spots. Thankfully, almost all of our clothes are free of mold. The worst of the mold is on some shoes, our vinyl bean bag chairs, some life jackets and a couple of pillows, in addition to the aforementioned blinds. It is all quite manageable, far from the nightmare situation I was worried about.

I decided to stay in a hotel room for the first night rather than sleep in a slightly moldy boat. I’m glad I did because as I’ve spent more time on board today, the mold odor is worse than I originally noticed. I’m not having any allergic or toxic reactions, so it must not be the nasty, unhealthy type of mold. It’s just normal boat mold, the type that strengthens one’s constitution and immune system.

I was feeling a bit down and lonely last night and this morning. I think I was having flashbacks to when I was here in May, spending long days by myself in sweltering heat getting the boat ready so I could leave. Now I’m spending long days by myself in (slightly less) sweltering heat getting the boat ready so that we can sail again. There have been a couple of times when it has felt like I never left! After wallowing in self pity for a while, I realized that I was paying too much attention to my negative thoughts rather than just being in the present and doing what needs to be done. So, I adjusted my attitude accordingly, made a list, got off my ass, started getting things done and consequently felt a lot better.

I took the bus into town to pick up some groceries and cleaning supplies. I don’t really like the town of Puntarenas. It’s unattractive and sort of gritty. The town runs along a narrow peninsula. The north shore is a muddy estuary. The south shore is a brown sand beach with the Golfo Nicoya’s water breaking on the shore, most often cloudy. It is definitely a working town with a lot of small stores and restaurants, a busy commercial fishing wharf and a central market. Along the south shore there is a well-worn malecon and some nicer tourist restaurants. A cruise ship was in port today so there were quite a few gringo tourists wandering about and a bunch of temporary souvenir stands set up near the pier. Normally, the tourists are all Ticos (Costa Ricans).  While I don’t like the town, I give it credit for being real and authentic rather than gussied up and too touristy like many seafront towns.

When I returned to the boat, I set to wiping down interior of the starboard hull to get rid of mold and try to improve the odor so that I can sleep there tonight. I removed the fabric blinds and wiped them down with a mild bleach solution which killed the mold and did a fairly good job in getting rid of the mold spots.  I cleaned the moldy shoes with vinegar, which worked really well. The starboard hull is now fit for human habitation, but there is still a pretty earthy smell coming from the port hull. I’ll attack that tomorrow.

I spoke with a couple of the marina guys this afternoon. My Spanish seems to actually be a bit better than when I left. I think I’m more relaxed speaking it for some reason; maybe my summer meditation/yoga “therapy” has something to do with that. I was told that Intermezzo is the favorite boat in the marina and that many visitors from the adjacent hotel come onto the dock to have their picture taken in front of the boat. Apparently Intermezzo has been featured in dozens of peoples’ vacation pictures, in addition to being filmed for a Costa Rican television travel show.

I’m living on a celebrity boat. Good thing Intermezzo’s fans don’t know about the smelly mold in the port hull. I’ll make sure it’s all gone by tomorrow to avoid a tabloid scandal.

Moldy shoes

Church in Puntarenas, one of the few attractive buildings

Cruise ship visiting Puntarenas

Friday, September 23, 2016

Heading Back to Costa Rica

After a summer back in the USA, I'm heading back to Costa Rica to rejoin Intermezzo in Puntarenas and prepare to resume The Voyage.

This summer was a memorable one. Renee's mom and aunt worked through their respective health issues and are in pretty good, stable shape, thank goodness. They are now excitedly planning their move to a very nice senior community this winter. Sadly, my two beloved goats, Lola and Daphne, both passed away. At least I was home to say goodbye and lay them to rest in a pretty spot on the ranch. My relationships with loved ones morphed and shifted as relationships do when people undergo changes in their lives as I and they have.  I put time into my meditation and yoga practices and benefited mightily from both. I’m grateful to have ended the summer feeling pretty good about my life and in great physical shape. I owe many thanks to those who helped me through this eventful summer.

I’ll briefly recap last season’s sailing adventure new readers of this blog and to refresh the memories of my loyal followers. Renee and I departed Petaluma, California on October 5 last year and sailed down the California coast to join the Baja Ha-Ha. We sailed the Ha-Ha to Cabo with Jeanne as crew and then enjoyed cruising the Sea of Cortez until the beginning of December. We then crossed over to mainland Mexico and made our way to Puerto Vallarta where Renee left the boat to attend the birth of the first grandchild. Renee returned in January and we resumed our journey south with crew Marc and Marci joining us as far as Manzanillo. We continued double-handed to Puerto Chiapas where we cleared out of Mexico after enjoying some land adventures in Colima, Michoacan and Chiapas and conquering the notorious Golfo de Tehuantepec without incident. We sailed south to El Salvador had done a bit of exploring when on April 3 we received news that Renee’s mom had suffered a fall and was in the hospital. Renee hurried home to take care of her mom and I stayed behind to get some work done on the engines, saildrives and props while I waited to see if Renee would be coming back. She didn’t and I ended up sailing single-handed to Nicaragua where I spent most of the month touring the country by car.  Hannah joined me in May to bring Intermezzo to Costa Rica where I got the boat ready to rest for the summer in Puntarenas and then flew back to the US on June 1.

So now we’re resuming The Voyage, but our plans have changed. I think. Our original plan was to transit the Panama canal and make our way to New York by spring via the Cayman Islands, Cuba, the Bahamas and the Intercostal Waterway. That trip would involve quite a lot of sailing and put us a long way from home. That would pose a problem as Renee needs to be in closer touch with her mom and aunt and reasonably accessible should they need assistance. On top of that, after cruising the Sea of Cortez, I am pretty sure I would like to base Intermezzo there. It would be a long sail back from New York! So we’ve changed our plans so that we can break the sailing into chunks and make it easier to return to California when we want or need to. We’ll continue south to cruise the Pacific coast of Panama in October, then turn the boat around and start making our way back to Baja. We plan on getting to Puerto Chiapas and clearing into Mexico by mid-November, where we’ll haul Intermezzo out for bottom painting and leave her “on the hard” until January. We’ll come home for the holidays and then figure out when, how and with whom the journey north will continue with the goal of reaching the Sea of Cortez by the end of February or beginning of March.

Or, who knows, the sailing adventure bug might bite and we (or maybe just I) will go through the canal and into the Caribbean?