WEATHER »

Ears to Good Friends


After replacing the bad belt on the engine that had squeaked its last squeak on the way across Golfo Dulce, I dropped anchor at the sweet point’s second bay. Shortly after, I saw someone paddling a longboard down from the upper point. I jumped in the dinghy and met Jeff Johnson midway across the bay. Our prior encounter had been eight months earlier, when I’d climbed out over the rocks at our mid-Baja rendezvous. liz%2520clark.jpg We laughed at our strange meeting places, went ashore, and found the girls. We spent the evening catching up over dinner at the jungle hut they’d rented. Although their boards were lost in transit, the swell had just passed, and the rain seemed non-stop. We agreed to make the most of the 10 days we had together.

That night Mary and Maureen drove me out the pocked and muddy road as close as possible to where the Ripple was anchored off the beach. The swell was small, so I decided to swim in so as not to have to carry a board out the long road to their house. The night was tar black — no moon and thick cloud cover. The girls and I squished through the mud and ducked under the trees out to the beach. I thought I remembered exactly where I’d anchored, but despite Maureen’s Herculean headlamp, we couldn’t spot the dinghy. Golfito1.gif Although I never liked going back to the boat in the dark, I had done it the last few nights across the bay and figured this would be no different. But there was no town here to light up the shoreline and I had no board. But what could I do? Leave Swell out their alone on my first night in a poorly protected anchorage? I just couldn’t. Her little anchor light swayed in the distance and I knew I’d find her if I could find the dinghy. So I strapped the dry-bag over my shoulder and waded into the water.

I don’t usually fear ocean creatures, but something about the blackness bloated me with fright. I stroked in the direction of Swell, hoping for the silhouette of the dinghy to appear. It didn’t. I swam further and still saw nothing. I started to wonder if it had been washed ashore by a wave. I kept swimming. I paddled in circles squinting my eyes, begging for the inflatable to materialize. In the next instant my right hand bumped something squishy and I screamed. The jellyfish’s long tentacles wrapped around my bare upper thighs delivering a blow of hot poison. I shoved the firm round bulk of its body away frantically. I screamed again but the girls couldn’t hear me. The tentacles brushed painfully across my ankles. I panicked and turned back to shore. Just then Maureen’s headlamp threw light for an instant across the Ripple‘s bobbing pontoons. The way I swam those hundred yards would have qualified me for the next Olympics. I heaved myself in, short of breath, terrified, and burning with the pain from the stings. As I lay aboard Swell that night, cloaked in hot washcloths and aloe vera, I swore that was the end of my night-swimming career.

Tossing us into the unfamiliar jungle of the Osa peninsula was a great way to quickly get to know : Mary Osborne, Belinda Baggs, and Maureen Drummy. I was thoroughly impressed by their hardiness on our three-day trip aboard Swell, too. Belinda eagerly learned how to raise the sails despite battling seasickness and Maureen slept without complaint in a sweaty crevice after she and Mary were rained out of their sleeping area abovedecks one night. The rain and small surf only slightly hindered our spirits, as the beauty of the area was overpowering. The week went on, though, and my ear infection returned. I grew desperate to rid myself of the inhibiting problem. I had to stay out of the water. While the girls hung ten, I learned how to make “ear candles” from Thomas, who managed the house where the girls were staying. He showed me how to wrap cotton around a pencil, drizzle wax over it, and then use it to extract whatever was inside my ear. I was willing to try anything. The antibiotics had failed, so I changed my course to homeopathic remedies and went around for the next few days with garlic and vinegar dribbling from my ears. By the time we all said goodbye, I had grown to thoroughly enjoy the girls. I was sad to see them go and wondered what remote locale we’d meet in next. But as their plane flew overhead on the morning of their departure, I realized I wasn’t actually alone — I was now in the sole, but unwelcome company of my earache.

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