Friday, October 7, 2016

Golfito: Birds, Death, Stealth, Leak, and Up the Mast Again

I'm continuing to bring blog posts up to date with this one, chronicling our passage from Bahia Ballena to Golfito and the day and half spent there.

Golfito is about 150 nm southeast of Bahia Ballena. We raised anchor at 0530 so that we would arrive in Golfito before noon to give us time to purchase fuel and some chain and a padlock to serve as a temporary solution to our broken sliding door lock.

It was raining when we departed but started to clear up around 0700 and didn't rain the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, there was very little wind and when there was any, it was at too tight an angle ahead of us, so we had to run the engines the whole way. There were a couple of hours when we were able to grab a bit of the wind with the jib to take a little load of the motor to save fuel.

I rarely get seasick and hadn't since sailing down the Baja coast almost a year ago, but I guess four months of living on land had its effects. I felt pretty green around the gills until early afternoon, but then rapidly improved. Hopefully that's it for another year. Renee also got seasick, a bit worse and for longer than I. Hopefully she's "cured" now, too.

In the afternoon, two pretty little land birds landed on the boat, holding tight to the mainsheet with their little feet. I don't know why they were so far from land, as we were a good ten miles or more offshore. What became apparent, however, was that they were not able to fly back. Every time they tried, a flock of vicious sea birds would chase them mercilessly until they returned to take refuge on the boat. They finally gave up, exhausted, and decided to sail with us. They tried to find places to get out of the cool, damp air, including flying into the salon and roosting on the nav station and setee. I was fine with having birds inside the boat, but Renee was less enthused. The birds weren't really comfortable with being in a small enclosed space with humans coming in and out anyway, so potential conflict among the crew regarding animal accommodations was avoided. Eventually, one bird huddled in a narrow gap between the battery locker and cabin bulkhead, the other just hun
kered down on the sole of the cockpit, looking quite cold and miserable. I felt sorry for it, so made it a little nest in a cardboard box. I felt better, but the bird didn't like the box at first, but eventually exhaustion got the better of it and it settled down.

Renee, the two birds and I sailed through the night uneventfully. The stars shown bright and beautiful between the clouds in the sky. It was peaceful and Renee and I eased into the rhythm of our night watch schedule, 3 hours on, 3 hours off, from dusk to dawn.

The rising of the sun got the birds energized. The one in the box decided to take off and try to fly to land. Give the distance we were from land and the bird's physical condition, I doubt it made it. But who knows? The other bird left its gap and sat morosely on the stern seat, not moving much, tired, cold and hungry. We later found it dead in another narrow gap. Sad, but nature's way.

We arrived at the fuel dock in Golfito at 1100 and filled the tanks with diesel. It was an somewhat inauspicious and unsettling arrival as the police were examining the body of a murder victim in the mangroves next to the fuel dock. We didn't stay long.

We anchored in front of a place called Land & Sea, a small "clubhouse" run by Tim (Sea) and Katie (Land) that caters to cruisers and land travelers visiting Golfito. They have a dinghy dock, cold $2 beer, WIFI and lots of local knowledge. All for $8/day. Katie gave us the scoop on the grocery stores (we realized we skimped on provisions and needed to supplement) and the hardware store. Renee took off shopping while I took care of "business" over the Internet, paying bills and other necessary administrative tasks.

We had to keep a very low profile while in Golfito, as we had officially checked out of Costa Rica and the boat isn't officially allowed to re-enter for 90 days. We figured if anyone asked we would say we made an unplanned stop due to mechanical problems. We were illegal aliens with a unpermitted boat.

Before launching the dinghy to get to shore, I drove a wooden bung into the drain hole to replace the stolen plug. It fit really tightly and seemed like it would keep water out. It didn't. When we returned to Intermezzo after a lousy dinner, the winch strained again to hoist the dinghy. I pulled out the bung and a good quantity of water streamed out. So much for the bung idea. We needed to fix this problem and Golfito has the last well-stocked hardware store we might see for a couple weeks or more. So, rather than leave that evening as we had planned, so as to avoid potential problems with the authorities, we decided to stay the night and go back to the hardware store in the morning to buy parts to make a new plug.

We bought our parts the next morning and headed back to the boat. Our next destination, Isla Parida in Panama, is a 75 nm sail from Golfito, about 15 hours. So as to not arrive in the dark, we couldn't leave Golfito any earlier than about 2 pm.

We had a few hours to kill and the anchorage was calm so I decided to try climbing the mast again. Oh, what a difference no swell makes! I made it to the top of the mast with no problem. I tackled the wind sensor first. Sealant had failed and was letting moisture get to the plug connector, so I took it apart, cleaned it and put it together again with new sealant. Next, replacing the anchor light bulb with an LED. No luck; the fixture housing was frozen and I couldn't budge it to open it up, even using a strap wrench. Not sure what I'm going to do about that; maybe an oil filter wrench of the right size will do the trick. Next time. Finally, I set to changing out the main halyard. Unfortunately, I screwed up with the line Renee and I were using to haul things up and down from my perch at the top of the mast and got it all tangled up in the rigging. The sky was clouding up rapidly and I could hear thunder in the distance. I didn't have time to untangle the haul line and replace
the halyard without risking getting zapped, giving the police another dead body to examine and becoming an entry into that "Darwin" book of stories about people doing stupid things that kill them. So down I climbed; one hit, two outs. The mast repair saga will continue.

We departed Golfito at 1400 as the thunderstorm was building above us and rain was beginning to fall. I'm writing this from Isla Parida, so obviously we made it. But not without sighting a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object) and another more startling surprise in the night. Stay tuned for the next installment...