We’ve had a Papagayo for Breakfast – 11 05 North 87 12 West

It’s light again this morning and the worst of the powerful Papagayo winds have passed through. After the lightening reduced last night, the wind set in from the East and we had up to 45 knots of wind with it consistently being 30 plus knots for some 6 hours. Our sail plan was only 3 reefs in the main and no genoa. That was all we needed to be cranking along at 9 knots. The sea state built quickly and the swell has been throwing us around like a fairground ride.

This morning, we’re now also flying a hanky of genoa in a more moderate 25 – 30 knots of breeze. One casualty of the winds has been part of our wind instruments – the part that gives us wind direction and apparent wind angles has gone awry so we are flying slightly blind – well its just like sailing a dinghy – you have to judge the wind angles yourself.

On watch last night I was standing in the cockpit with David looking out over the sprayhood. There was terrific bang and I instantly ducked my head. As I did a large dark shape came flying past me and into the cockpit. Adrenaline flying, the torch went on to find an unexpected hitchhiker. A small black bird – no more than 8 inches long looking rather battered and nursing what looked like a broken wing. I’m not sure who was more surprised – the bird or us.

Seems the Papagayo wind isn’t appreciated by the wildlife either. Overnight, we estimate we gathered some 20- 30 birds – mostly sheltering to leeward behind the coach house roof. In the night with a torch, we could see them all taking refuge although the occasional wave sweeping over the decks of Aretha would pick one up and wash it over the side. They don’t have the luxury of being clipped on.

By daylight, Columbus immediately identified them as petrels and has adopted the one sitting on the floor of the cockpit. It now has a name, Snowy, and is being fed bread and has a bowl of water, whilst Columbus chats away to Snowy and is examining it in detail. Homework today will be a project on Petrels finding as many facts as we can and studying Snowy and learning more about him. Fingers crossed we get a good project fired by enthusiasm. I’m less certain about the conversation Columbus is having around how we clear Snowy in when we get to Mexican customs!

We need to put the boat back together today – our large casserole dish went flying and is in many pieces and our aft cabin, once neatly stacked is now carnage with everything thrown everywhere. The crew seemed to have survived rather better – no seasickness and Frank and David are sleeping soundly while Mindy takes the watch on deck.

[I’ve just been told we need catch fish as soon as it calms down to feed the 15 petrels we are currently giving a lift to! Columbus is in element with his own private zoo.]

What a contrast to arriving in Costa Rica. No wind and flat seas. We arrived at 1630 the day before yesterday and after anchoring raced ashore to find the Port Captain to begin the clearing in process. Our plan was to only stop to diesel up. Unfortunately that means we need to clear in, get a local Zarpe to get fuel, then motor the 7 miles to the fuel dock. Refuel. Motor back. Then clear out to get an international Zarpe so we can leave. A Zarpe is a piece of paper, a clearance document saying your vessel has cleared out of the country. There are 3 places you need to visit to clear in – the Port Captain, then Immigration half a mile away. Then back to the Port Captain. Then a 30 minute taxi ride to the airport for Aduana (Customs). Clearing out involves the same process with the additional element of going to the bank to pay in $50 US to their account – they won’t take cash or cards. Involved. Yes. Frustrating. Yes.

The silver lining was finding a local tourist guide Johnny D who cam everywhere with us and organised taxi’s and translated. Virtually no English spoken in any of the official places. It would have been a lot harder without Johnny.

The irony. When we got to the marina, we offered them our paperwork and they didn’t want to see it. Really!! We could have just come straight here. Well, they wanted verbal confirmation we had it but didn’t check it.

The first evening, Frank the fish swam the 1/2 mile ashore whilst we dinghied and found a quality restaurant on the beach where we had a great meal with the restaurant to ourselves. This is a popular place with Americans but its low season right now. We walked the streets the next day and bought local Costa Rican coffee beans whilst the guys re-provisioned at a very well stocked supermarket with oodles of Western brands ….Hard Rock Cafe, Papa Johns and various other brands dot the main drag amongst local curio shops and the street vendors selling food cooked on make shift grills. Its a curious mixture and the friendliness reminded me of Indonesia.

After the briefest of stops last night, we weighed anchor (Frank and I cranking it in by hand) and headed out as the wind and rain started setting in. The lightening was fearsome and spectacular at the same time – you felt small, alone and humbled on the sea in a tiny boat as nature flexed her muscles and reminded us who is boss out here. Respect and care needed.

So, we are all well and making way – 100 miles overnight and some 800 miles to Acapulco in Mexico. Fingers crossed that the Tehuantepec winds further North are kinder to us,

The Team Aretha Petrel Zoo, Out.

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