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Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29, 2014-Up the Mast and a Party in Paradise

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Fred at the Mast Head

I made a new windex, sort of primitive, works a little bit, and went up the mast to install it. Got some shots, click here. Maybe it will serve until we get a new one; we can order one as soon as we get to some place where we'll stay long enough to receive a shipment, probably Chiapas, Mexico. We'll also order a new mainsail from Hong Kong and have it delivered to the same port.

We have been watching the soccer world cup in the town of Playas De Cocos, where we are anchored. Today Costa Rica won the their third game and they move up to the quarter finals. The bar, the town, the whole country probably, went ballistic with this win. We enjoyed it too, but the party looked to last all night, might have been fun, but when they started to turn over cars we went home.

Ticos Celebrate

Tomorrow we will check out of Costa Rica and prepare to depart for Nicaragua.

Click here to see some more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Costa Rica

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 24, 2014-How We Blew Up the mainsail

By 8:00 PM we were hauling. The wind was 24 in a squall and still building and the boat was broad reaching at 7.5 knots. We had the full main up, maybe more than we needed but the wind came up quickly and at the moment we seemed OK and we were happy for the speed. Except that the autopilot alarm kept going off as the computer complained that it could not keep the boat from rounding up. I went back and took the helm. One good hard pull on the tiller and the boat swerved down and we came back onto the course.

Then the boat jibed; a sudden, unplanned, un-wanted, accidental jibe. Not my first but surely my most disastrous. The preventer kept the boom from coming across and that probably saved the rig, but the main tore right up the middle. It was a hole big enough to fly a drone through.

Judy came up, “What’s going on?”

“We jibed. Stay clear of stuff, I’m going to jibe back. The main is torn.”

But I couldn’t jibe back. The back-winded main, that part of it which remained whole, held the boat pinned down. I looked at the swirls of water in the glare of our stern light and saw that we were not making any forward motion. We were on our side and just sliding off to leeward, the rudder useless.

I tied off the tiller and together we eased the preventer and centered the main and got some way on, then tacked around, but it was slow, and took two tries, the main flogging constantly and that first tear was just the start; suddenly the mainsail simply ripped to shreds. It was an awesome sight.

“Look at the main.” I said.

Judy didn’t want to. Anyhow, she knew it was gone.

Somewhere in this mess the windex departed, so that was gone too.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Torn Dacron

We got the sail down, pieces of it all over the rig and over the side and tangled up in the runners and reefing lines. It took a couple of hours to get them untangled and cleaned up and it was difficult work with the boat rolling mercilessly in the pouring rain and darkness. We kept our harnesses clipped on and worked with hand tools and flashlights; the engine running slowly ahead and the autopilot steering again.

Now the shreds of the main are rolled into a ball and stacked on the quarter deck, a reminder to the skipper of his errors, and we have motored on to Playa del Cocos without having any further incident, but the emotional scars will not heal as quickly. This incident has left us shaken. We’ve heard stories of disasters like this happening to other boats but we’ve avoided them for all these years. Maybe we thought we were invincible. But it happens quickly and when it does there is no going back to the time before; you can’t unwind it, you just have to deal with it. Some of the memories of that squall will stick to us for a while, like looking aloft and seeing the entire mainsail flying in the wind like so many white streamers and like me hanging on to the boom for dear life while trying to undo the shackles on the clew, Judy holding a flashlight and urging me to hold tight as I swung from one side of the boat to the other like a rag doll.

And the total disorientation I felt when trying to figure out which way to safely turn the boat on that black night in that gusting and shifting wind. I kept looking up where the windex should be to see the wind direction but it wasn’t there and all the numbers on the B&G basically meant nothing. I remember one moment when I finally got a mental image of it: “OK, the wind is 165, we are heading 30, so I’ve got it; I have to turn right to tack.” Sounds easy now but then, when our course up till then had been 290 and the wind 110, it took time to make that new mental image. I was glad the shoreline was miles away; at least we had sea room.

So now we have to buy a new main. It’s no surprise; the cloth was old and getting brittle and just earlier that day I saw that some stitches on a previous patch were opening up new holes. I just hoped it would make it to Mexico but it didn’t. We put on the racing main so we can sail again, and we’re looking for a windex or some sort of substitute for wind direction aloft, and we have to start thinking about where and how we’ll get another Dacron main. But that can wait for Mexico. Right now we are going to get ready for another leg:

wingssail images-judy jensen

We’ll leave for Nicaragua in a few days.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Costa Rica

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 21, 2014-Back to Bahia Ballena

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Gulf of Nicoya

It’s twenty seven miles from Puntarenas to Bahia Ballena, less if you could go in a straight line but you can’t, Isla Negritos is in the way, and besides, on most days this time of year it’s a beat, and it was for us today, so you have to tack; you wind up going twenty seven miles.

That’s a long day if the wind is light, which it was. Longer if the bottom is foul, which it also was, and the boat is heavy with fuel and water, and which definitely we were.

But we made it. Even after waiting to leave until the wind filled in at 11:00 we got to Bahia Ballena by 5:30, well before dark.

There was a long starboard tack, a lift as the wind clocked to the west in the afternoon. We sailed easy, letting the wind vane steer, and we drowsed in the cockpit, taking turns watching for ships, never touching the sheets or the helm.

When we tacked to port for the leg into Ballena, Judy spotted the other sailboat.

“There is a sailboat,” she said, “behind us.”

I put the binoculars on it. A sloop, close hauled on starboard, with a tall mast and flat sails, looking good. They had been behind us all right, on a course to weather of ours, inside on the long lifted tack I thought, with some irony. I wondered how long they’d been tracking us, if they were, probably for a while. They could have been back there with an eye on us for a long time. We hadn’t seen them. Asleep at the switch. Lulled by the lazy day. We hadn’t seen a sailboat out here sailing in a couple of months so we’d become complacent. We let them sneak up on us.

We crossed ahead; there was that, at least.

The other boat tacked soon after we did and fell into an easy course to leeward. For an hour we sailed on parallel courses. I expected to leave them in our wake but it didn’t happen; they hung in there, neither gaining nor losing.

After a while I got irritated by their presence. I started to trim more aggressively. I cracked off a little and eased the sheets. I got on the helm. The speed went up, and we did not fall down on them. So it helped; we started to move, even starting to work up to weather of them. We were sailing better. I guess it takes some competition to make you sail better.

The wind continued to shift to the west. On this tack it was a knock. The other boat was benefiting by being on the outside of a knock, but by now it didn’t matter; the wind was lightening and they had sagged down quite a bit.

When it came time to tack they rolled up their headsail and turned on the motor. We sailed on to Bahia Ballena. They peeled off to the Tortugas.

I got out a beer.


Puntarenas is a province, not just a town. We took buses and traveled around a bit, to Jaco and Quepos. We saw some of the sights of Puntarenas, the province. We visited Manuel Antonio Park and saw sloths and howler monkeys, and a few hundred college kids from the US down here on break. We also saw a crocodile cruising just off the popular swimming beach in the park and a few dozen would be bathers gathered on the shore. The people and the croc eyed each other; a stand off. Once we took a long dingy ride up the estuary behind the marina and there were hundreds of fishing boats tied to small wharves and piers, and there were crocodiles.

In fact crocs are common in Costa Rica; we saw them often, besides when we were driving around in the dingy, but that part was the un-nerving bit since they are as big as our zodiac and have been known to be aggressive towards boats. After that we put the dingy away and stuck to tours we could take by bus.

wingssail images-judy jensen
Fred watching the game

And we joined with a lot of enthusiastic Ticos to watch Costa Rica win its first two matches in the Soccer World Cup. That was fun.

Now, however, we have departed Puntarenas.

Next stop, Plays Cocos, Coco beach

Click here for images of Puntarenas

Click here for photos in town.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Bahia Ballena

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

June 5, 2014-San Jose, Costa Rica, and Poas Volcano

We parked the car and walked up the trail towards Costa Rica's Poas Volcano. We realized right away that we didn't need the extra clothing we wore; the path was easy and the exertion didn't make us sweat but the sun did; it was warm even at 8000 feet of altitude.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Poas Volcano

We reached the viewpoint at rim of the volcano and the stunning view of the caldera with the green sulphuric lake and the rising columns of steam made us forget the sun and the sweat and the climbing up there. We didn't say much, just looked at the lava field 900 feet below us and stared. We were spellbound.

The wind blew one of the columns of steam our way and the sulphur made us cough and brought us back to reality. We could hardly breathe. We'd been warned that sometimes the park is closed due to the sulphuric gas, but then the wind instantly blew it away again.

The wind also dried the sweat on our bodies and we were cool.

A burst of steam came up to the surface of the lake and threw a black cloud into the air. A boulder splashed back into the green lake. This was what we came for; to be close to an active volcano, our first since Tanna Island in Vanuatu in the year 2002, and it was fantastic to be here. We continued to stare silently at awesome beauty of the volcano and felt its power and we knew we were lucky to see it; often Poas is obscured by clouds and fog. They warned us of that too, when we came in through the park gates, but like I said, we were lucky.

We watched the constantly changing scene for an hour.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
In the Cloud Forest

Then we returned to the trail and hiked another mile, still higher, through the cloud forest. There was another crater, the beautiful, cold, green Botos Lake, in the park, and we wanted to see it. The air was thin and we breathed deeply and we trudged up the trail with measured steps towards the 9000 foot level but the air was also cold and clean smelling and again the sweat dried on our skin leaving the welcome coolness and there was a tingle from our muscles and that metallic taste in our mouths from hard breathing. It all felt good and we enjoyed the climb.

Botos Lake was attractive but the crater's vents are not active and while pretty and surrounded by a forest of ferns and pine trees, we spent little time there. We were ready to go down, first to the car and then down the mountain road to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, where we'd come for a three day visit, leaving Wings in the marina at Puntarenas.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
San Jose, Costa Rica

This was our trip: three days in San Jose and its surrounds, including one day going up to the volcano and back. It was a good trip. We liked San Jose; though it was far below the summit of the Poas volcano it's elevation is still nearly 4000ft and San Jose, too, is cool compared to Puntarenas. The city is pleasant and filled with walking streets, museums, and small shops. In the suburbs we found malls and fast food restaurants but the city center is older and historic and we enjoyed strolling around with our cameras. We stayed in a small hotel and had a great meal at an Argentine Steak house nearby where the waiter kept our glasses filled with excellent Malbec and then walked us home in the rain when we didn't have our own umbrellas.

On the bus back to Puntarenas, as we came down from the central valley, we felt the growing heaviness of the atmosphere and the heat and humidity at sea level, but even though we enjoyed the coolness of San Jose, it was good to get back to Wings. After all, it's home.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puntarenas

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