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
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. Four boys in their early teens peered
up at me with round brown eyes. “Podemos atar a su velero para
“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. 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
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. 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
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