golfito1.jpgDays after crossing into Panamanian
waters, poor surf, worse weather and an ear plague that just won’t
quit forced Captain Liz to turn the Swell around and beat a hasty
retreat back to Costa Rica. Along the way, paradise is discovered
and curious circumstances lead to the death of Bruce—the boats’
stowaway gecko. The next morning we wove through the island
paradise of Islas Secas, still in a shaken haze. We found a perfect
anchorage outside the fringe of the coral reef and rested most of
the day. The islands appeared deserted, despite a few yurts spread
out through the hills that belonged to a private resort. We spent
the next days exploring this island paradise, with its clear coral
reefs, footprint-free beaches, hermit crab armies, coconut groves,
and trickling streams. It was like heaven on earth. The catch
was—despite the pristine beauty, it rained nearly the entire time
we were there. At one point we tallied 36 straight hours of strong
rain. The dinghy had more than a foot of rainwater in it that
morning. We cooked and read and made the most of the rainy,
waveless paradise. But as I swallowed the second-to-last
antibiotic, I knew my health was going to be a problem. My ears
weren’t getting better. I had to get back to a doctor and take care
of the problem correctly. I blamed myself for the lack of swell and
that we had to end our Panamanian adventure early, but I was sick
and getting sicker. Jack got to surf a few sessions at a left and
then we headed back up to Costa Rica where I knew there was a safe
place to leave Swell and find a doctor. On the trip north we caught
a lovely female dorado just before we stopping at Isla Parida. Jack
made Mahi sandwiches and we swam in and spent the day roaming this
deserted beach. The day was glorious and the water golfito2.jpgin the bay shimmered like a field of
green emeralds. When I heaved myself back up the side of Swell, I
found that a tragedy had occurred. It was Bruce, my stowaway gecko
that had been aboard since Mexico. His shriveled body lay directly
where I’d climbed up. I just couldn’t understand what had happened.
It surely couldn’t have been a lack of water or food—not with all
the rain and my bustling colony of red ants. I had hoped he would
continue on with me for many miles. I’d named him after the
Bostonian spider that had accompanied Joshua Slocum nearly all the
way around the world aboard Spray in the early 1900s. He could have
easily disembarked in the Puntarenas boatyard, but when I had
returned he was happily nestled under the spare inflatable. When we
sailed for open water that night I thanked him for his company and
freed his little body into the dark sea. I guess I’ll have to wait
for another brave little creature to climb aboard somewhere. I just
hope it isn’t a cockroach. Golfito was almost a southern version of
Puntarenas. Both towns were deep in a gulf, and both served as the
main centers of commerce for their areas. golfito3.jpgGolfito was smaller, though, and the
landscape more beautiful, as the jungle cascaded down steep
hillsides to the water all around the bay. It had been a major
banana exporting port from 1934 to 1985. The houses built by the
United Fruit Company make up a majority of the community. It seems
to be filling up with ‘For Sale’ and realty signs directed at
gringos looking to retire as is the case in most of Costa Rica. We
anchored off of Land and Sea Services, which is owned and run by
Tim and Katy, an amazing couple from Santa Barbara. They had sailed
down 13 years earlier, found their piece of paradise and never
left. They now provide an amazing facility for other boaters to
land their dinghies, hang out, shower, do laundry and get
information on just about anything. Their place was oozing with
love and care. Not a plant went unwatered, nor was there a single
corner void of something fun to look at. And if that wasn’t enough
to make you feel at home, the rowdy herd of dogs and cats would
melt you with their incessant purrs and licks and paws. They
graciously invited us to their Thanksgiving smorgasbord, which we
instantly accepted. I explained what had happened with my ears over
the last two months to the pharmacist behind the counter. He opened
the half-door and guided me into the back room. He peered into each
ear with a grimace on his face. It was apparent that he didn’t like
what he saw. He explained that the infections were very bad and
that because the antibiotics had failed to kill it, the infection
had likely developed a resistance to them. All of this I had
suspected, but when he pulled out a syringe I winced and
reluctantly pulled up my shirt sleeve. This was the only stronger
antibiotic, he explained. But it could only be administered with an
injection. He pointed down. I knew it. I rolled over on the padded
bench and pulled down my pants to expose my left cheek. I gripped
the cushion as the thick serum entered my muscle slowly. I thanked
my new doctor—Elvis, as he called himself—and limped back out into
the steamy Golfito heat.


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