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. 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.
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
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.