Saturday, February 9, 2008

More adventures in Costa Rica

As I write this, I’m sitting in the cockpit at dawn (6:30 this far east and south in Central Standard Time) watching coconuts drift past on the outgoing tide. That’s a quiet adventure.

As some of you know, we have had problems with our auto-pilot off and on, actually since it was installed. It wasn’t working on the delivery to San Francisco, but it worked again on the way north, and quit again for most of last summer, but started behaving between Westport and San Francisco. Since then, it had been mostly OK until the passage between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The source of the problem is the fluxgate compass. John had been able to get it to behave before, but not this time. In the past, the auto-pilot would at least maintain a heading, even when the compass malfunctioned, but now it just gives error messages. When there’s wind, we can use the windvane steering, but mostly there isn’t enough wind for that to work either, and we were hand-steering most of the last three days and nights. It’s tiring anytime, but these were dark and moonless nights, and I found it especially stressful. We’ve added this to the list of things to fix in Panama, and meanwhile, we’ll anchor a couple of times on our way to Panama City from here in order to give me a break. The moon won’t be out much for at least of couple of weeks.

Our trusty dinghy also decided to be unreliable after we got here. It isn’t really the dinghy, but the connection of the hose between the motor and the fuel tank at the fuel tank end. This had me drifting up the channel on my way back to shore from a trip to pick up the laptop as the motor died and wouldn’t restart. In an effort to rescue me, John jumped into another cruiser’s dinghy just before the cruiser warned him that it was “a little tippy” and went for an unexpected dip. It is hot here, and the water is pretty clean, but normally we try to look our best for the officials when we clear in. John was still a little damp when he went to town. Unlike the auto-pilot, John says he can fix this.

While we were waiting for the officials to show up (the ones who never did), John was checking the Internet for election news as I watched another cruiser get her hair cut. I’d promised myself that I would have my hair cut in Panama, but I figured I’d take advantage of the time and opportunity, so I did it here. That wouldn’t normally be an adventure, but in this case, my instructions were to make sure that none of my hair could reach my eyes or mouth. Despite ponytails and hats, there are always strands blowing in the wind and bugging me. No more. After more than 20 years, I have short hair again. It turns out that it’s a little curly, and I think that’s a good thing. I’m sure John will get a picture of it one of these days.

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