Quepos, Domincalito, y Pavones

Still plagued by bad ears and the mystery illness living in
them, Captain Liz recounts a classic crossing from Costa Rica in
early November complete with wicked seas, wild winds, heaps of
vomit, and perfect waves at the end of the road. With antibiotics
currently working their magic, Liz hopes to be back underway within
a week or so — she just needs her ears to dry out first. So until
then, here is a vintage vignette about life on the high

I jumped out of bed the instant that night’s blackness faded
into gray to assess the sky. It didn’t look good, but I swallowed
my fear, weighed anchor, and pointed Swell‘s bow to sea.
For the first time in our 3,500 miles together, Swell and
I were underway alone. Although I knew I could do everything by
myself, the solitude rattled my nerves.


So to add purpose to the passage, I decided to verbally dedicate
it to my mother, who’d overcome her own fears of the sea on our
many family voyages. “This one’s for you mom!” I yelled out into
the crisp morning wind and gray skies. liz%20clark.jpg I felt her love and encouragement
smooth my anxiety. As the day went on, I grew more and more content
to be alone. I did whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to explain
anything to anyone or fret over his or her contentment.

The weather grew progressively worse throughout the day, but I
stayed positive and went about scrubbing both the decks and myself
in the relentless rainfall. I sailed into Quepos that afternoon under double reefs and clean
decks and paddled over to the left that broke off the rivermouth
for a solo celebration, thanking my mom for helping me through that

After another half-day alone in the rain, I made my way around
the reef at Dominicalito. I had stayed in touch with Seth
via email and he and a friend were on their way to meet me. An hour
after dropping anchor, I heard the rev of an outboard and popped up
to see a panga full of guys staring up at me. He’d brought an extra
friend, which wasn’t a big deal, but I didn’t know either of them
and thought it could be risky to bring them aboard without even a
short personality assessment.


“I figured they could help with the watches and we’d all get
more rest,” Seth assured me. I had my doubts, but I was never one
to shy from adventure; plus, we were in a race to be at Costa
Rica’s longest left for the approaching swell. So we piled boards
and bodies aboard for the 17-hour run south.

Twenty minutes later I was back at sea. The horizon ahead looked
threatening but with three strong surfers aboard, I figured I’d
have plenty of help if the weather posed any problems. It had been
deceptively calm in Dominicalito’s protected bay, though, and it
wasn’t long before the serenity deteriorated into another upwind

Rain dumped from above as we munched on Seth’s gourmet tuna
sandwiches. Soon after, my crew started to fall apart. There was
room for one or two to stay relatively dry below my poorly designed
awning, but with four aboard someone was going to get wet.
clark%20belinda%20lefty.JPG Seth snuck below and burrowed into the
dry settee. Mono Gato, one of Costa Rica’s top surfers, found
comfort standing with a firm grip on the binnacle’s u-rail. Thus,
Ken Mucha, another great surfer and rat race dodger, was too
debilitated by seasickness to move and stayed prone in an exposed
area of the cockpit.

As night fell, the seas and rain persisted. On every roll to
port a pocket of cold rainwater that collected atop the awning
cascaded down upon Mucha. He never once moved or complained, but I
winced for him with each dousing. Gato stood wide-eyed at the wheel
for hours. Suddenly Seth bolted out the cabin and hung himself over
the rail, freeing his tuna sandwich back to the sea. Mucha uttered
a sound of delight seeing that Seth had joined the ranks of the

After his expulsion, Seth let out a
“yeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!’” He always managed to lighten a
heavy situation. As for me, I tried but couldn’t stop smirking. I
was wet and uncomfortable too, but it was unexpectedly comical to
watch totally capable men crumble around me at the hands of the

I knew I wouldn’t be getting any sleep if we continued on
through the night, so I went below to assess the options for
anchoring somewhere nearby.clark%20stormy%20sunset.JPG Despite the moonless night, Bahia Drake
was only seven miles away with a wide, sandy entrance. Although I
didn’t like to enter a foreign anchorage in the dark, I decided
that continuing on through the night with a miserable crew and a
tired captain could be just as dangerous.

Once we made it into the bay and found relief from the heavy
seas and rain, we sipped ginger tea and laughed about the events of
the afternoon. I literally giggled myself to sleep at the images of
the humility-ridden, seasick boys with Mucha’s description ringing
along with them. After hardly a word for six hours, he had risen,
soaking wet from the cockpit and declared, “I’m blown up. It felt
like I was lying in the bottom of a cold shower.” Despite the
amusement, I forced myself to rest knowing that I’d have to get us
going before dawn in order to make our next anchorage in

I crawled quietly out of bed just after 4 a.m. and tip-toed over
the bodies sprawled about the cabin. I poked my head into the fresh
darkness-light rain, but no wind. The morning stillness lasted a
few hours but it wasn’t long before Gato was back at the

Frustrated with mother nature, I pulled on my foul weather gear
for another rough day. I was feeling pretty guilty; I had known the
weather was going to be bad but had decided to force the mission
anyway-for the swell and for my schedule. Whenever I tried to rush,
the ocean reminded me that it doesn’t like its travelers to be in a

While Seth and Mucha wisely remained asleep, Gato kept me
company topside. He eased his grip on the binnacle only to heave
once over the rail. Just after losing what little was in his
stomach, a pod of dolphins surfaced around us. With a gleam in his
eye he looked up and said with excitement, “Dolphins!” Seeing his
smile slightly eased my guilt. Just as I had conceded to the idea
of an all-day rollercoaster ride, the wind died and switched. I
watched life trickle back into my crew as we spotted four- to
six-foot perfect lefts peeling down the point. We anchored and
instantly entered the line-up.

The memory of those wretched 24 hours faded with each long left
we rode over the next few days. We’d pressed the trip, but made it
for the best day of the swell. As I leapt between the round black
rocks and dark sand on a lap up the point, I decided it was much
more satisfying to experience waves in the latter part of their
existence—just before they reach the shore and not during their
time of creation out at sea. But such is the life of a surfer using
sea transportation-you can’t have one without the other.

We’re not entirely sure when the next installment will come
from Captain Liz, because she’s currently getting her ears worked
on. They’ve got some funky fungus growing inside, and she needs to
dry them out. Until then, make sure to catch up on Captain Liz’s
adventures by clicking here.


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