MIGRATIONS #6, Part II
New! New! New! (or, How to Use Parenthetical Subtitles)
NEW EXPERIENCE (or, We Dived with Sharks!!!!)
Cocos (as it is called) is a small island 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. It’s a national park and no one lives there except a few rangers (who work hard trying to keep fishermen from illegally fishing inside the 12-mile exclusion zone). You can only arrive and depart by boat. There are no hotels, no restaurants, no airports, no stores, no supplies, no cars, no roads.
So what do you find there?
Sharks. Hammerhead sharks. Lots of them.
And white-tip sharks and silky sharks and manta rays and turtles and a gazillion fish.
All swimming so close that you can touch them.
And when you are diving 70 feet below the surface, and those hammerhead sharks cruise by, and you can see them looking right at you, even though you know that you aren’t on their list of good things to eat, your eyes get big and your heart beats fast and it is very, very exciting. And yes, scary, too. But in a good way.
We don't have an underwater camera. These photos were taken by Mark on s/v Chasse Spleen
Above the water the island is just gorgeous. Verdant green cliffs with waterfalls dropping right into the sea. We hiked to several waterfalls and swam in the pools beneath them. Not another person within miles. The water so fresh it tasted like dessert.
We could have stayed for weeks.
Unfortunately, the park fees are quite expensive and it cost us nearly $100/day. So after five amazing scuba dives over three days, we raised the anchor and turned the bow toward Ecuador.
Sometimes when we are sailing and the sun is shining, and the wind is a perfect 12 knots from just aft of the beam, and the swells are long and low and you can’t help laughing and dancing because it is just so perfect, Alene and I remind ourselves how lucky we are.
It’s those other times when it is raining and too windy and the wind is on the nose and the seas are short and steep and it’s hard to sleep and the boat is creeping along and there are hundreds of miles to go and the next day there are still hundreds of miles to go and the waves are slapping the hull and it’s noisy and uncomfortable and not fun at all – those are the times when we say to each other, this is how we earn those wonderful lucky times. This is how we pay our dues.
Our passage to Ecuador was paying some dues.
It really wasn’t that bad. The wind was rarely over 15 knots but the sky was grey and the seas were uncomfortable. We slowed the boat down to keep from pounding too much and that added another 24 hours to our passage.
NEW HEMISPHERE (or, Why Would You Jump Off a Perfectly Sound Boat in the Middle of the Ocean?)
And, just to get a little thrill (and prove how foolish we are), even though it was still windy and not very warm, we hove-to and jumped in the water at the equator. 79° water temp, 75° air temp not including wind chill… We jumped out quickly and took a hot shower. We’ve become tropical temperature wimps.
At equator: Poseidon's Tribute.
NEW RULES (or, Fun With Bureaucracy In Ecuador)
We didn’t go to the Bahía (as it is known) because during our passage, we had received word over the HF radio that the regulations in Ecuador had changed and the Port Captain of Bahía de Caráquez was not allowing any boat to enter unless they used a maritime agent to handle the appropriate paperwork. The problem was, there’s no agent in the Bahía. For several weeks no boats were allowed to enter or leave the area.
We actually asked to enter but were denied permission. So we sailed 30 miles further south and anchored off the small town of San Mateo with 2 other boats who were in the same predicament. We had a very nice couple of days before we all headed to the large port city of Manta. The harbor there was crowded and smelly (it’s home to the largest tuna fleet on the Pacific) but the city was surprisingly clean and interesting.
In Manta we hired an agent and jumped through the appropriate hoops for a few days. Finally, over a week after arriving in the country (and $200 in fees), the Navy computers reflected the fact that we were actually in Ecuador, our passports were stamped and we headed back to Bahía with a stack of papers to hand to the port captain there.
That was on July 3rd. We dropped the hook in the Rio Chone just off the town of Bahía de Caráquez and across the river from San Vicente. The Rio Chone is about ¾ of a mile wide just inside the bar blocking the river entrance (you need a pilot to cross the bar). There are hills surrounding the river which is crisscrossed by ferries, passenger and fishing pangas and fishermen in canoes. Bahía de Caráquez is an Ecuadorian tourist town – muy tranquilo with friendly locals, inexpensive restaurants, a good hardware store and a public market with nice fresh veggies. All important points in the cruiser’s checklist!
Our lives are ruled by four other checklists these days:
1. Boat projects needed before crossing the Pacific
But we have plenty of time (famous last words!). We’ve got six months before we head to the Galapagos and then westward. We’re excited about our travels through this remarkable country and continent. And, of course, we look forward to visiting family and friends back in the US sometime in the fall.
In the midst of our projects, I often think about what it felt like to be underwater with those hammerheads out at Isla del Coco and next to that lava on the volcano in Guatemala. Eleanor Roosevelt said "Do one thing every day that scares you." You don’t have to go all the way to Cocos or Guatemala to do it. Stand three feet from the track as a locomotive goes by. Or park at the end of a runway when a 747 takes off. Climb a trail to a cliff top and creep near the edge. Bungee jump. Go for a tandem paragliding flight. Jump off the high dive. Ski a tougher run than usual. Go really fast on your bike. Be honest. Take a risk.
It all makes you remember what it’s like to have your heart beat fast. To feel your eyes grow big and the tingle of blood as it carries excitement to the tips of your toes. It makes you talk quickly – almost out of breath – as you relate your experience to a friend. It makes you smile. And laugh. And sometimes dance a little jig. You can lie in bed at night not just yearning for what you might someday do … but glad for what you did.
It’s good that we have the opportunity to do these things.
It’s great when we remember to do them.
Be well. Be good. (And a bit scared).
This site was last updated 01/31/12