Ears and Waves Swell near Puerto Jimenez

Liz Clark Returns to Central America after a Holiday Break

After a holiday/ear plague-induced hiatus, Captain Liz is back in the saddle again, talking story from the surf-stuffed shores of Central America. This week, called into action by a braggadocious internet café patron, Liz ignores the soul sucking evil that has been living in her ears in recent weeks and scores waves, runs into some old friends, and gets coconut hunting lessons.

I heard a knock on the hull followed by a soft whistle. I poked my head out, sweaty and reeking of gasoline from cleaning the carburetor in Genny, my portable gas generator. clark%20fishing%20buds.jpg Four boys in their early teens peered up at me with round brown eyes. “Podemos atar a su velero para pescar?”

“Si, por su puesto,” I replied. I took their line and wrapped it around the mid-ship cleat. I really wanted to fix the carburetor, but I could tell my new neighbors were less interested in the fishing than talking to the strange gringa alone on the sailboat. I fielded questions and passed out cookies and crackers in exchange for fresh coconuts.

“I want to learn how to climb the coconut trees,” I told them. The three pointed to the smallest boy at once. clark%20cocnut.jpg Apparently he was the best at it. “Manana, quiero aprender,” I told him. They were thrilled at this and we agreed to meet the next day in the afternoon by the medium-sized palm tree by the pier.

Later that week…

“It was like, like 15 feet…it was huge,” the sun-burnt guy in the internet café bragged to Diego, who ran the place. He was facing Diego but I could feel his words aimed at the back of my head. He spoke with loud inflections and dramatic hand jives towards the ceiling about the size the waves had been that day.

I stared at the computer screen doing my best not to make the slightest visible reaction to his commotion. I listened carefully to each word for signs that he couldn’t surf and was probably exaggerating. The words stung. I knew the swell was pumping. I was trying to let my ears heal by resting alone in Puerto Jimenez, where the waveless waters had less of a magnetic pull on me.

This lobster-faced, hotdogger had to tell his story loud enough for the entire galaxy to hear. I tried not to let it get to me, but he jabbed my most tender point of weakness and finally pushed me over the edge. I silently devised a plan to sail across the bay at first light. Long drive to the left, huh buddy? I paid and thanked Diego and walked out into the cool, wet night. Sure enough, despite the constant pulse in my ears, I stubbornly hoisted the sails at dawn and two short hours later found myself smack in the middle of the glassy green lines as I dropped anchor and paddled in.

“I know you,” said a man paddling up the point. “I’ve read some of your stories…I’m Clay.”

Clay caught me up on what the swell was doing — that “today was better than yesterday, there was a better anchorage around the corner, but the guys at the fishing camp would surely keep and eye on me,” and so on. It was nice to be welcomed to the line-up. Already the place felt a little like home.

Jaime and her husband and their son were out ripping. The younger kids recognized me and smiled. Adam and Jackie had driven down from Dominical. I shoved the earplugs deep in both ears and ran up the point all day for the next two days. Clay even swam 200 yards out to Swell to deliver the latest copies of Latitude 38. But my next guest was soon to arrive, so when an onshore wind came up on the third day, I let it blow me back across the bay to Puerto Jimenez. The exhaustion hit me that night as I anchored the dinghy off the side of the pier and made my way up the rusty, barnacle-caked stairway to the pier at Jimenez. clark%20swell%20evening.jpg I had promised to call home before Jack arrived the next morning. I lobbed a bag of trash up on the pier from the boat and in my zombie state I walked right by it. “Su bolsa,” said a man propped casually with his back against a piling. “Oh, gracias,” I replied, realizing I still had cotton in my ears.

I picked up the bag and looked over to see what the man was staring at: a golden, lopsided ¾ moon was climbing over the eastern horizon. I hadn’t even noticed. Herrardo explained that the trashcan was down the road and to the left, and that some people just throw their trash in the ocean or on the road and he spent all day picking up after them. He lived close to nature, he explained, and all that we need comes from it. All the complicated stuff was unnecessary, he explained.

I nodded but didn’t have quite enough energy to explain that I couldn’t have agreed more fully. “Buena manifestacion!” he called as I stumbled towards town. I didn’t really understand, but waved and pondered on this form of environmentalist as I hopped puddles in the dark.

Tune in next week for more south-of-the-border fun with Liz Clark.

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