I waded out from the cove’s rocky shore to the dinghy. Crawled aboard, and Mike motored us to his 40-foot beauty, Hartley, waiting outside the surf zone, in deeper water. Once settled on her, we pulled anchor; and after some time of rigging and pulling all sorts of ropes, the sails unfurled and the wind carried us south-eastward, across the Golfo Dulce. It’s a wonderful feeling to be moved, quickly, by nothing more than the power of the wind. Silent power.
The crossing only took a couple hours, but to pass the time, we dropped a hand-line fishing rig and trolled. We ate some mango pieces. We cleaned our foot-cuts — the tell-tale marks of many surfers, who tiptoe over reefs and volcanic rocks to get to the waves. We talked about the ocean, surfing, women, and we talked about our lives back “home,” even though right now this was our home. I no longer have a home back in the states, and he spends about nine months of the year on the sea, sailing and surfing. We were heading to one of the world’s finest surf breaks, Pavones, a remote spot where it’s said one can ride a wave for a kilometer.
After nearing the other side of the gulf, I looked back and noticed we had been dragging something on the line. A small bonita tuna. Just big enough for sushi for two. I reeled it in, and it was obvious it had been hooked for a while, just dragging stiff, its mouth frozen open and seawater flushing through its gills. We would leave it hanging in the water while we surfed, and hopefully we wouldn’t return having lured a massive shark onto the line in its place.
We dropped anchor near enough to the Pavones break to judge the swell, the crowd, and currents. The waves were peeling at least 8-feet high. Big and fun, but not the best the place can hold. Regardless, we promptly slathered zinc on our faces, grabbed the boards, sped off on the dinghy and anchored it not far from the lineup. We caught several waves, not a lot, but at this place you don’t need to catch a lot…one wave is longer than anything you can catch at most places in the world, and it can wear you out.
We surfed a couple days there, then sailed to another spot, to remain unnamed here. We prepared to anchor, but the anchor’s chain had gotten tangled into one big, 200-pound shit ball. Mike went down below and worked on it alone for a while, cussing that fucking chain for all it wasn’t worth, sweated like a Russian sauna patron, and came up a few times for air and a swim, his hands and forearms blackened with chain sludge. After an hour of him getting it to a more workable state, I was able to join in and help pull out the kinks, me working up on deck and him below. Getting all greasy and sweaty was an oddly nice feeling, made me feel like a tough sailor, but I was ready for a surf. We finally dropped anchor effectively, drove the dinghy in closer to the break, and I caught the longest wave of my life. Absolutely amazing, at almost a minute long. Damn near perfect surf.
We surfed a few sessions at the Other Spot, spent the night, then sailed to the port town of Golfito. Here, Mike would make some long-needed repairs, try to pawn some old refrigerator parts, fill up the freshwater tanks, stock up on groceries…and try not to get robbed — Just the night before we left our point of origin, the Osa Peninsula, Mike had a bit of an incident with some would-be pirates, who tried to board Hartley and steal the dinghy during the night. His machete was ready.
Golfito can be a rough little town. As we pulled into port, I felt the fly-paper air settle on my skin, smelled the tidal mud, and saw bits of fleshy trash floating around us. We met up with Old Salt Tim, who owns a dock catering to cruisers (independent, noncommercial sailors), and then some fellow cruisers we knew from back at the Osa. We spent the next couple days working on our boats, chatting, drinking, complaining about how expensive Costa Rica is compared to the rest of Central America, and eating overpriced, shitty pizza. And discussing ways to deal with pirates. One particularly effective-sounding idea came from Tim after a few beers, and he presented it matter-of-factly, like he’d tried it before. I’ll refrain from the gruesome details, and just say that it involved Molotov cocktails, a gaff hook, and an outboard motor’s swiftly rotating propeller. …By that evening’s end, I felt like an accidental participant in a binge with Hunter S. Thompson and Hemmingway.
Our last morning had us giving Hartley a nice wash, paying Tim for our use of his dock and shower, and pulling anchor. Because we were heading into the wind, we had to motor across the gulf this time. Not as elegant as under sail, but still nice. We brought out the guitar, ate some more mangoes, cleaned more wounds, and talked more about the homes we no longer have, and the lives we hope we are headed toward.