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The Two Captains


12 December 2001
Bahia Potrero, Costa Rica
10*26.32N; 085*47.07W

The best thing about having visitors is you get up off your butt and do things you might otherwise pass on. As much as Don and I had looked forward to doing the Canopy Tour and the Sky Walk, seeing Monteverde, Vulcan Arenal, and all the wonderful delights of inland Costa Rica, the two captains really were so happy just to be back aboard and out at anchor, that we might have blown off all the touring if it hadnt been for Tiffany and Derek. Sharing it with them made it doubly enjoyable.

Still, as sad as it was to have them leave (and for many reasons this was a particularly good visit), the two captains were definitely ready to pick up the anchor and move on. Along with our buddy boat Sandi Lee (whod also had family visit), we left Punta Leona December 3, and on December 5, after a night each back to the Tortugas and Bahia Ballena, we raised sail hopefully and motored on our way out of the Gulf of Nicoya at the crack of dawn.

Just at Cabo Blanco, a white rock where we turned out of the Gulf to head north, the fishing reel sang. As Don worked the reel, I went to pull in our other line, a rod-less line cleated off with a bungee, and lo and behold I got a strike there, too. Now this was a first for us, two fish at once! We each boated our fish, and by golly they were both real tuna! Yum, sashimi for lunch and sushi for dinner!

It was a real harbinger for the day. At noon, the wind came up and we could set sail, although through the course of the day we caught four more fish, which had us stopping and starting, reducing and furling sails, running back and forth on the boat likes yo-yos. Three of the fish were skipjacks, which for the first time we got released with plenty of life in them, and the fourth was another tuna. By golly, we are getting better at this.

Our run that day was about 46 miles, and with all our sail trim and fishing activity we were ready to take a break at our stopover anchorage at Bahia Carillo. In retrospect we might have done better to continue on overnight, for, although a lovely spot, the anchorage was rough and rolly all night. No one got much sleep, which left us a bit under-energized for the next day which proved to be a bit of a doozy.

As usual we motored to start, but as the wind came up the Tackless twosome made an effort to sail. The winds were fluky, though, gusting and then dropping off, so again we were busy putting reefs an and shaking them out. Around noon we were approaching the Bahia Tamarindo with a headland named Cabo Velas ahead. Watch out for these windy capes! Our wind increased to 20 to 25, occasionally gusting higher, while it became clear we had an opposing current to boot. Sandi Lee opted to motor farther offshore, while we looked for more shelter closer in. Neither was a clear solution, although gradually we pulled ahead, crashing and bashing and tacking (can we say Tack-more?) what felt like inch by inch our way around this headland. With rails in the water and green water breaking over the bow, it was the first salt water on deck since we sailed from Salinas to the Galapagos six months ago! Although it looked like we might not make it in to Bahia Potrero before dark, we did in fact scooch in just before dusk.

With such a dramatic (in our minds) arrival, Bahia Potrero itself was calm and tranquil, making it a huge relief to get the anchor down and set. To the west the bay is protected by a skinny peninsula that projects north and west on which is built a startlingly dense agglomeration of hotels, condos, upscale houses, dive shops, bars and restaurants, like some micro-city plopped into nowhere. A big neon sign advertising Marina Flamingo and its hotel flashes incongruously in the dark!

In the daylight, of course, the little city is not exactly in the middle of nowhere. The hillsides, which are low and dry-looking reminiscent of the Virgins, are dotted with pricey gringo real-estate, and the white beaches of Playa Flamingo and Playa Brasilito are just over the rise. We went ashore to check things out and discovered that wed stumbled into a big fiesta weekend! All sorts of events were scheduled, from concerts and fireworks, horse parades, and beauty pageants, to jet ski races and a sailboat regatta. Before we knew just how it happened we were recruited to participate!

Now neither Don nor I have much experience racing, especially when other boats actually know theyre involved. Racing for CSY owners is when you are experiencing the miracle of actually increasing your lead on another boat however achieved. Fortunately for us, another cruising boat pulled into the anchorage that morning. Second Life, a venerable 70-foot Ocean from San Francisco, was in fact a former Whitbread boat, and its owner Tony Clarke was a knowledgeable Bay area racer. I say fortunately for us because they did not sign up to compete, but instead Tony and his mate Tyler got recruited over a couple of beers at the bar to join the TII cruiser crew (including Mac and Sam.)

Now, this was no Heineken Regatta. The whole fleet a whopping eight boats --was pretty motley, mostly Americans who make their living here doing sunset cruises for the tourists. Don told stories about participation in the VIs Venerable Pigs in the Water Race, in which they have such classes as the Cheaters Class and the class for Boats who feel they must run their refrigeration while racing. They were none of them too sure if Don was kidding when he asked if we could make water and do a load of laundry while racing. Just to make things really interesting the committee boat had two watches going about thirty seconds different and then it drove away after the start gun taking the starting line with it! Oh, well its all in fun, right?

At whatever level, racing is a whole different kettle of fish than cruising, and the merest whiff of competition brings about complete personality changes in formerly calm sane people. Real cruising sailors, for example, trim the sails once in the morning and hope theyre set for the day while they go read a book or catch a fish. Racing sailors trim a dozen times in a half mile leg; as soon as you crank the sail tight, ease it out! As soon as you ease out, crank it back in.Put to pole up for fifteen minutes, you must be joking! Cruising sailors never let the boat heel more than 10 degrees. Racers forget there are books, TVs and other condo-like apparatus below as they bury the salon windows in the water. Cruising sailors wave cheerfully at passing boats. Racers hoot, holler and emit any rude noise they can come up with, the tone only varying slightly depending on whether you are passing or being passed. Real cruisers never let their beloved boat come anywhere near anything hard, except, possibly, a fuel dock. Racing sailors scream with glee at the prospect of three hulls about to make a fiberglass sandwich.

We survived two days of this, and came in fourth on the first day and third on the second. Then, in one of the inexplicable mysteries of racing, this placed us fifth overall!?! Finally, at the awards ceremony we got a plaque saying Second in Elapsed Time. This could mean we were the second longest out on the course, or it could mean they were just being nice and giving us something to show for our effort! Who knows, its Greek to me! But we all had a very good time, the boat and crew suffered no damage, a lot of beer was consumed, and the only mishaps were a winch handle overboard and one of our fellow racers ran over the rope tying our dinghy to the back of Sandi Lee --(what, he thought the dinghy was anchored back there?)! The Guarda Costa boat on hand for the event saved it from drifting ashore.

Its a weekday now, and we are back to the round of chores, laundry, correspondence etc. But weve gotten a taste for excitement. Who knows what will come next?


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