I climbed out of the little propeller
plane and back into the thick tropical heat. The air was heavy and
instantly I was a half-sipped cocktail with the ice melted—weak and
watered down with sweat. I wasn’t feeling like myself yet. The ear
infections had taken me out of the game, forced me to sit on the
sidelines for a weeks. Despite needing more time to recover,
customs required that after six months in Costa Rica my boat either
exit the country or be put in “bond”—which just meant some
paperwork and that Swell be tied to a particular dock—so I had
returned in spite of my condition. I found myself aboard Swell that
afternoon staring at the piles and problems amassed in her belly
and on her deck, not knowing quite where to start.
“Hey Liz, could you give me a hand?” Tim called down into Swell
the next morning.
I gladly helped him handle the lines on a sailboat that needed
to be moved off a mooring. During the process, my tasks for the day
came up and I mentioned the prop zinc I needed to replace.
“I’ll replace the zinc,” he insisted. “No problem. I have a
compressor and it will only take me a few minutes. Plus I just love
being down there.”
Thanks to Tim my ears were spared the extra trauma and I was
left to troubleshoot why the solar panels wouldn’t charge and
neither my main engine nor the generator would start. Robert, the
local wonder-mechanic, appeared that afternoon, so I sequestered
his expert opinion on my problems. He had my little
gas generator apart in less than five minutes. I peered over his
shoulder asking questions and repositioning for a better view.
Robert was a motor surgeon. His fingers moved nimbly around the
little metal parts. He was soft spoken but when he did say
something, it was usually important. He appeared slightly irritated
by my fly-like presence at first, but when he recognized my genuine
interest in learning he warmed right up. When Carburetor 101 was
over, Genny was humming out a happy 120 volts again. In less than
two hours, Robert had solved all my mysteries. He was brilliant! I
decided later that it wasn’t fair for him to charge by the hour,
considering it would have taken any ordinary mechanic much longer
to diagnose and fix the same problems.
I showed up at Samoa del Sur, “Centro Turistico de Golfito,” to
make arrangements to have Swell “bonded” before my time expired. It
was owned and run by a French family that had sailed to Golfito
twenty years prior and never left. While I sat at the big,
boat-shaped bar waiting for the lady in the office, two men at my
left were sharing a cheese pizza and talking loudly back and forth
with the man serving drinks.
“You play foosball?” The one with glasses asked me in a low,
serious tone after introducing himself and his friend as the
“Yeah, sure,” I lied.
“Okay!” all the men exclaimed at once. Moments later I was
gripping two of the handles of the foosball table next to my new
teammate, Claudio, the bartender and son of the
French owners. By the intensity on their faces I knew this was no
game to them. I’m one of those people less skilled at video games
and quick hand-eye coordination sports. I can’t connect my hands to
my brain fast enough, so in frustration I screamed and hopped up
and down, jamming the rods back and forth when the ball came near
my little plastic men. I was a disgrace to the sport. Team Lebanon
beat the French-American duo in three out of five games to
Claudio’s severe disappointment. I on the other hand came away
quite pleased despite my poor showing. I knew I was going to like
I moved Swell to the Samoa dock the next day, sad to leave Tim
and Katy’s, but excited for the basketball court, pool tables, dart
boards, and wireless internet that Samoa offered. It was apparent
that foosball was way more important than maintaining the docks
there, as there was no power and the rusty metal pilings screeched
and hollered in protest of their neglect. They appeared as if they
might break off with the next rush of the tide, so I set out a
stern anchor just in case.
As the life trickled back into me over the next few days, I
appreciated little things like the birds that landed to rest on the
lifelines and the afternoon breeze and the energy to lift things,
clean mildew off the ceiling, sing along to my music, and shoot
hoops with the local kids at sundown.