Saturday, April 7, 2018

Fly Season

It's fly season and if there is one creature I hate above almost all else, it is the common fly.  And they are coming in by the droves, and since no one in Costa Rica seems to believe in screens, we fight flys all day long if the door is open.   And the door is always open.  That means lots and lots of flys in the house.

Now I am grateful that we don't seem to have the "circling flys" that we had in San Diego. That is when about 10 of them decide to simply fly around and around in circles.  Not too fast, not too slow, no apparent agenda but to simply circle in the air.  I hate them especially because they are very hard to kill.  They never land on anything.  I would get so frustrated that I would wildly start swinging the fly swatter through the air which is a waste of time and energy because everyone knows it is almost impossible to kill a fly on the wing.

Lately Mike and I have taken turns going on these fly kill sprees.  I've killed 11 during one session, and I have killed two at  a time, no small feat.  Diego the dog does not care for the swinging fly swatter, but since he isn't making any moves to kill the flys himself, he will just have to learn to deal with it.

Flys - a scourge of  life
Destroy the serenity
Of a quiet day

There!  That's my fly hate haiku.  I am too lazy to write a sonnet.  I suppose the answer is to find someone who can make screen doors.  It can't be that hard.  I bet Mike could do it if he wanted to.  But he has enough projects.

Things have been going fine around here, though construction of our pizza oven and patio are at a standstill - we were told there is stuff being held up in customs - I say go deal with it and get my crap so we can get  on with it.  Customs can be very hard to deal with, I know from personal experience.  So while I am sympathetic, I do think something needs to be done, like a personal visit to the office.  That sort of thing often works.

It is still dry season here, and one of the interesting things about the dry season is the explosion of flowering trees.  There are all colors and it is amazing, especially since the landscape is otherwise a bit dry looking.  We have several in the yard.  And we have another tree - lengua de gato - that is covered with little white flowers.  These little white flowers are going to turn into these blue berries that every animal and bird love to eat.  Hopefully Diego will not chase them away yapping infernally.  One can only hope, anyway.

Today is a quiet day, and all I can hear are the birds and the bugs.  Mike and Diego are taking midday naps.  Life is still good.

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."  (Mahatma Gandhi)       

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday: Just Another Day to A Happy Retiree

I think I am going to fret about something here.  But its private, so maybe not.  I guess I'll have to think about it.  Sorry for that.

We have been steadily at the house since we got back from the states and I am glad about it.  I feel pretty well settled in for now at least.  We have some things we have to take care of here - like getting on the list  to have high speed internet and to get one of our cars registered.

The internet thing will involve visiting the ICE (ee-say) office and getting on some list.  ICE is the electricity entity for Costa Rica.  I have no idea if it is going to be difficult or not. We already went once but were turned away because we didn't have our corporation papers with us.  (Side note:  in Costa Rica,, foreigners set up corporations to do business.  Our bank account is in our corporation's name, for example.  Some people put all their cars and real estate in the corporation, but we haven't done that.) So now we have to go back, this time with our papers.  We'll see.  I want this internet if for no other reason than I can have Netflix.

The car registration is more intense than it is in the US.  You have to have your car inspected, and if it does not pass inspection, you can't get it registered and can't drive it.  It is called "reteve" (reh TEH vay).  They check your brakes, and a bunch of other things that I can't remember.  They check the tires.  So we plan to take our car t our mechanic and make sure it will pass, and fix anything that needs fixing. Then we'll make an appointment with the reteve people and get that done.  We have two cars and we already did it for our other (newer, nicer) car.  It seems like a hassle, but it runs quite smoothly and it helps keep crappy cars off the road.  It is always nice to get that sort of thing out of the way.  The only thing hanging over my head at this point is taxes!!!

Now that I have bored everyone including myself silly, there is not  lot going on around here.  The weather has been awesome, with beautiful clear skies, lots of wind, and temperatures barely exceeding 80 degrees F.  Mike and I have taken to having our coffee on the back porch and just gazing to the mountains in the far distance.  This is the season to burn the sugar cane fields, so we can see little fires dotting the horizon.  In the daytime we can only see the smoke, but at night we can see the flames.  We are above that fray so we don't have to breathe in all the smoke, but because it is at pretty much the same level as the fires, the wind blows ashes all over it.  They are sort of sticky and we definitely have to use the power washer rather than just hosing off the deck.     

Also right now we are having our outside remodeled, sort of. We are adding a large covered patio that will house an outdoor kitchen.  The pizza oven is going to be the first thing built, and we have to search for just the right grill to be added.  We want a smoker and a cook top as well as the grill and the pizza oven.  I already make really good pizza if I do say so myself, and the new oven will make it better.  This is all Phase One - Phase Two will include a pool.  And I still want desperately to buy the lot next to us.  Plus I want to buy this farm I have had my eye on - the price keeps dropping.  The sellers are apparently heirs who really need to sell it.

(I certainly do not need a farm.  I know this. I would never be willing to do the hard work - in fact, I'd be looking for someone to sharecrop it.  But I don't think I'll be buying that farm soon, no matter how much I want it.  It's completely irrational.  I still want to go look at it, but I won't because it would not be fair to the seller.)

Anyway, there is a lot of construction noise going on, which is not always fun, but they are making great progress.  I don't know how long it will be before we move into Phase Two after the completion of Phase One.  It is completely overwhelming for me, thank goodness for Mike.  Plus I am NOT comfortable with the amount of money we are spending.  Mike says we are fine, and I trust him because he is sensible about money and handles it all.  I could handle it of course, but he wouldn't be able to not constantly kibbutz, which would bug the crap out of me, so I let him do it.  I have certain things that have to be met or I get too nervous, and he has shown me that those fears are groundless.  Nevertheless, I have PTSD about money things, and as long as he says things are okay, I am going to believe it.  That is how much faith I have in Mike.  While I may get furious with him at times, I do trust him with stuff like money (and whether or not an outfit "works").  There, that is what I was alluding to in my first paragraph.  Yes, I am nervous about money.  It is hard for me to spend money.  It is hard for me to talk about money.  I don't even like to think about it, really.  I want the taxes done and not hanging over my head.  I hate this time of year because it is time to think about money.  You can't get away from it.   And you know what makes it all so totally stupid?  Our taxes are easy.  No problems.  But I still hate it.  Not good for my mental health, always precarious under the best of situations, ha ha ha.

Next week I think we are going to go down to the boat so Mike can get to work on all the things we bought for it in San Diego.  And he plans to pretty much rewire the whole boat so he will finally have the electrical system of his dreams.   I will have to stand there and hand him tools and stuff. Maybe he won't need help and Diego and I can go to the swimming pool.  But one good thing is that we decided to get a portable air conditioner so when he has to spend a lot of time working inside.  We had one of these a few years back and it makes things a lot better.  We only used the old one (and will use the new one) when we are at the dock.  And I don't want to let it make us go soft.  I am proud of the fact that we can be happy and comfortable even when the cabin is like 90 degrees F.  As long as I have a fan on me, I can handle it.

Well, I think I should wind this up as I am really beginning to babble.  Life is pretty good.

"Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones."  (Benjamin Franklin)       

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Home is Where the Bed Is

We just got back from a trip to the US.  We usually do it once a year, and try to make it correspond to a visa run.   We got to see my son and his fiance (my future daughter-in-law) but of course there was not enough time - we made the trip without much advance planning (well to be honest pretty much no advance planning) - but we did get some really good visits in and I am so delighted Danielle will be part of my family.  I also spent time with my aunt and my cousins.  It was also a great visit, and something that does not happen very often.  We have not always been real close, but I love my extended family very much.

Going back to San Diego is getting strange.  It does not feel like home anymore, which is okay since it's not.  It is somewhere I used to live, albeit somewhere I lived for a long time.  I really loved San Diego, and i still do.  it just isn't home.  The US isn't home.  It is just a really easy place to get stuff it is hard to get down here.  And the food is really really good and you get a lot of it.  Too good and too much.  This time I made an effort to limit my intake and did not gain any weight, at least not that I noticed.  Nothing that fit me when I left did not fit when I got back, and such has not always been the case.  Once when we went to San Diego, Wisconsin, and Arkansas and came back fat as hogs.  It was horrible, but fun while it lasted.

I am always glad to get back HOME - what ever I am calling home at the time.  HOME is an interesting concept to me.  I call every place I am sleeping "home" while I am sleeping there.  My hotel room is home, my tent is home, and my boat is home.

My boat, of course, was the only real HOME for seven years.  Where ever it was, that was where home was.  My stuff was there.  my bed was there.  I knew all about everything there.  Even when I knew nothing about the area we were anchored/moored/docked in, it was still home.  It still is - especially if I am going straight to the boat instead of the house after a trip.  Nothing felt/feels better than unpacking and stashing the suitcases away, then surveying my tiny domain and feeling like an empress.  The fish around the boat - those are MY fish.  The birds that most people consider to be pests because they hang around the boats and make messes - MY birds.  I don't even really mind cleaning up their messes and dealing with their nest building.  They are part of my little empire.

Then we got this house.  Now I am like Eleanor of Aquitaine - I have to travel between my domains.  I never thought I would own a house again.  And I never thought I'd do it in Costa Rica.  But I did and here I am, sitting at the table in my kitchen writing this post.  I have a cup of coffee and I can see my orchid tree with its gorgeous pink and magenta flowers.  (Side note:  In Costa Rica, some of the most beautiful flowering trees flame out brightest in the dry season.   I didn't expect that, but then I have a lot to learn about the tropics.  So the flowering trees stand out even more in the dry season because there are fewer leaves on the trees.  Just branches of flowers.  The leaves start to appear when the flowers fall off.  While the temperature doesn't change much, you can still tell a real change in seasons just by watching the flora change.

My dad used to bitch about California, saying that there was no "weather", and his tone left no doubt in my mind that "no weather" was in some way indicative of a place less character-building, less challenging.  Something like that.  I have no idea what he'd say about this place.  I think he'd like the boat, and if he were alive he might like to have a sailing vacation with us.  My mom would like it here at the house, because it is up in the mountains and nice and cool.  If she were alive, she could live with us (we might build her a little house of her own on the property) and take care of the chickens we (c)(w)ould get.  I don't know if she would be much help with the garden.  I don't see enjoying the boat - too hot even with the fans.  And frankly, i just never thought she was that much of a water person when it came to boats.  She liked water-related activities, like fishing and beach-walking and water-watching, but that seemed to be it.

I am losing my mind sometimes over being so lucky.  Almost every day I think to myself "How did this happen?"  "How did I manage this?"  It seems like some huge mistake might have been made and I was accidentally given someone else's future and the mistake will eventually need to be rectified.  Not really, but that thought is ever present.  I have had that feeling  in some form about some thing pretty much my whole life.  Even though it has never come true.

So enough for today.  I am trying to figure out what this blog will be now that Life Aboard the Magda Jean is only part time.  Hell, let's be honest - I am trying to figure out what my life is going to be now.
Signed, Always at the Crossroads     

"Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another."  (Juvenal)


Sunday, March 11, 2018

To Date

We have been living here in Costa Rica ever since, then.  It will be three years in July.
We haven't just been sitting around the house though.

We spent two weeks last summer in Newfoundland, with our good friend Wayne.  We met Wayne in Bolivia, and we've been visiting back and forth and meeting in different places for about four years now.  He lives in St. John's, and as a restaurateur (among his many other talents) took us to all the best places there.  And the food was awesome.  I also learned to eat some local delicacies.  Cod cheeks are delicious other than one little part that is sort of slimy.  Then I had this fish and potato dish that was wonderful food in thee "comfort food" genre.  I just wish I could remember the name - it was kind of a funny name that sounded like it should have something to do with beer, but it doesn't.   I also had these little salted fish that were a snacky sort of thing - a bit too salty for me.  I also had cloudberry jam (called bakeapple but it has no apples.)  We had other berries as well - crowberries are the ones that I can remember now.  It was all wonderful.

It is also breath-takingly gorgeous up there.  It is all rocks and ocean and these strange little pools that pop up everywhere.  We took a boat ride and saw whales and puffins.  I have never seen a puffin before, and though I have seen a lot of  whales at different times while sailing, these were pretty spectacular as there were lots of them all around us.  It was a very rugged, rough seeming place nature-wise, and the people are wonderfully friendly.  When we told people we were really enjoying ourselves and wanted to return, they all said "Don't come in the winter!"  No problem there - Mike absolutely won't go anywhere cold.  I would be kind of curious.  After all, I am from Wisconsin.

Then at Christmas, we met up with Wayne and two other friends and spent the New Year in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.  We rented a nice house with a pool and a great view - it was a good time.  We spent New Year's Eve literally drinking and dancing on the beach along with a ton of other people.  Mike and I not only stayed up past midnight, but we stayed up until like 3 am.  We even (or at least I did) took a swim in the pool after we got back from the beach celebrations.

Besides all of that, we have been enjoying the boat.  Like we planned, when we start craving hot weather and the beach, we make the 2 hour drive to the marina.  We've been going out for day sails, or spending the night at a nearby anchorage.   And believe me, the boat adventures have not been over.

I know that some of you (those who don't sail) wonder why we are always making repairs to the boat or having things broken down.  I do not blame you for thinking that.  As I know I have said before, it's the constant breakdowns that would drive me away from sailing.  But the marine environment is hard on everything.  So everything breaks eventually, and when you own a boat like Magda Jean, you must resign yourself to this reality.  It doesn't matter if the boat is 30 years old or brand new.  We all have these problems.

Anyway, we decided that this year we would get the cosmetic work done on the boat we have never ever done - painting the hull.  It was always in need of a new paint job, and it was further messed up when we were in a marina in Mexico - the name and most of the paint rubbed off one side because of the way they tied us up.  Further, when we changed the name of the boat when we got her, the style and color of the lettering we chose at that time turned out to be one of those things that looked way better in our heads than in actuality.  So we decided to renew the name as well.

The marina where the work is to be done is south of us, in the Gulf of Nicoya.  We figured it would be a two day sail, more or less, depending on circumstances, of course.  We were really excited about getting underway - it had been awhile since we undertook a multi-day sail.  So we headed off with optimism and high hopes (I know that is probably redundant but I don't care).

We sailed down the coast at a wonderful speed - way faster than usual and a comfortable ride as well.  Everything went well until we hit the mouth of the gulf.  Because of water pouring out of the gulf into the ocean, our speed dropped.  And we also lost our wind.  So we decided to turn on the engine and motor sail.

That was going very well - until it wasn't.  Of course the engine crapped out on us.  Right where it is most needed, too.  Mike worked and worked on it, and although he pretty well guessed what was wrong and that it would not be a hard fix.  Well that is all well and good - but we still had to get to the marina.  It was only 50 miles away, across the mouth of the gulf.  I swear we could almost see it.  But with what wind there was being unfavorable, it took us two solid days to sail that 50 miles.  You have no idea how tedious that gets.  You know it is going to be like that, but speaking only for myself, it is torture going back and forth, back and forth, feeling hopeful that you have finally passed some landmark you've been staring at all night, only to have it appear again, making it look as though you have made no progress at all.  And sometimes it's true - you have made no progress at all.  Hence 48 hours to go 50 miles.

But just as we started to approach the harbor entrance, the wind picked up and we were able to sail proudly to the breakwater, where we did need assistance to get into our slip.

The boat was hauled, and the work done was fabulous.  We took everything down to the gel coat, and redid it all.  The bottom not only got new paint, it got a new barrier coat.  The stripes are now bright and jaunty.  The name is on the stern instead of the sides, and is now easier to read and much better looking.  It took a month and a half, but it was worth it.  The shipyard is no south-of-the-border-bargain, but the prices were fair and they came in under estimate, which trust me never ever happens.

After the boat was splashed, the engine guys came to visit.  They agreed with Mike the problem was with the fuel system, and we did all kinds of things to the system, sine I am not a mechanic that is the best explanation you are going to get.  After they finished, the engine was working beautifully, better than it had in years.

While the boat was being painted, we stayed in a rented condo in Manuel Antonio, nearby the marina.  Again, this is an area we had not explored too much.  We loved it - lots of animals and birds (macaws right outside the windows) and the beaches there are really nice.  I liked renting an umbrella and chair, since I need to be out of the sun as much as possible and I liked the part that the guys handling the rentals would also go get you a beer.   The surf was gentle, an the next time I go I am going to make a complete fool of myself by taking a surfing lesson. 

We left the marina with some regret, as it was really fun there and no more expensive than where we are.  But it is further from the house, has more lightning, and the sailing is not as good due to the way the winds are.  Now understand they treat us really really good at our current marina.   But the new place was really hopping and we'd have more company, and you can walk to town for dinner and beer, or choose from the myriad of places right there at the marina.  Food for thought, any way.

One important thing to know is that part of our engine problems are due to under use.  Mike always wants to sail, no matter how slowly, so the engine never really gets to operate under what they call a full load.   We decided we should actually motor for much of the trip so as to give the engine a work out.

We motored along nicely, enjoying the beautiful day, watching seabirds, spotting turtles, all that sort of thing.  It was my birthday, and my only wish was to be underway.  So that night I went to lay down for awhile, while Mike was at the helm.  I was sleeping peacefully until I awoke when the engine stopped and Mike called me.  "I need you to put up the sails!  The engine crapped out!"  I got up and I do not mind telling you I was seriously pissed.  Mike kept apologizing, and I kept telling him it was not his fault.  He screwed around with engine, and again determined that this was not a big deal, he could fix it himself, but not until we got to the marina.

So again we found ourselves trying to sail out of the Gulf of Nicoya, with its strange, arbitrary currents (at least as far as I m concerned) and, of course, pretty much no wind.  When you have no wind and no engine, you have no steerage and just have to drift around, using the sails as best as you can to keep the boat moving forward.  It is hell, truthfully.  The winds flick around to all directions,  requiring tack after tack.  You have to go up on deck and pull the headsails round manually because the wind is not strong enough to push the sail around.  I get panicky and anxious because I can't control the boat, and that is no fun, I hate feeling like that.  Plus that means Mike doesn't get much if any sleep, since I can't always make the tacks by myself.

There are volumes and volumes written about storm handling tactics.  But there is literally nothing telling you how to handle no wind, no current, and no engine.  All you find are instructions to use a spinnaker,  but you can only do that with the wind on your stern.  We had the wind on either side of the nose.             

One we worked our way out of the gulf, we finally hit the Papagayo winds.  These are the same winds that pinned our ears back when we sailed up from Panama.  This time, we welcomed them.  We reefed  back the headsail and put three reefs in the main and sailed beautifully along the coast and again right to the breakwater for the marina.  Of course we then had to be helped to our slip.

So that pretty much brings this blog up to date.  The boat is in the marina looking gorgeous, although Mike has not fixed the engine yet.  We are planning a trip to the US starting Tuesday (it's Sunday today) and going to the 26th.  We will see Steve and get boat parts, and are going to spend two days in my most favorite city anywhere, Ensenada, Mexico.  I am almost more excited for that than anything else.  We are also going to go to Temecula with Steve and Danielle (my future daughter-in-law) to look at wedding sites.  They go to wineries up there all the time.  I am really excited about that, too.  Finally I am going to have a daughter!  Girl things!  Shopping!  Lunches!  Life could hardly be better!

"I detest all men; some because they are wicked and do evil, others because they tolerate the wicked." (Moliere)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Ch-ch-ch changes . . .

March 3, 2018

I am writing this from my house in Costa Rica.  When I retired, we (Mike) swore we would never own real estate again.  But as I noted in my last post, Mike started making noises about staying here.  We both liked it and were getting more and more comfortable.  We started to make friends.  We found favorite beaches and rivers and jungle trails and birds and flowers and spent lots of time visiting them.  We remained living onboard Magda Jean at Marina Papagayo, pretty much by ourselves but for the occaisional transient cruiser. 

One day, while indulging my hobby of reading real estate ads, I found one of those too-good-to-be-true ads and showed it to Mike.  Because it was so cheap and because it was in an area of Costa Rica we had yet to explore AND we needed to go to San Jose anyway and it was on the route . . .  we made an appointment to see the place.

We did not buy the house.  It was a wreck.  Only one area was even close to being finished, which was the kitchen, half bath and a party area.  It looked like a bachelor pad in the 70's - hideous red painted wood paneling, smoked glass cabinet covers and red cabinets, weird lighting, a huge pool table, and a very nice piano, wrapped in shrink wrap.  The pool table's claim to fame was that it had been purchased from one of the members of Three Dog Night who needed the money for heroin.  The seller assured me he had papers proving the pool table's "provenance."  Regarding the piano, the seller told me proudly the "keys had never been unlocked."  It looked like a really nice piano, but I pondered the: (1 availability of a piano tuner in Costa Rica, even San Jose; and 2) whether said piano tuner would be willing to drive several hours (a good part of it on dirt roads) to the house to tune said piano.  I decided that even considering the pool-table -with-awesome-provenance and the never-unwrapped-piano, I would have to pass on the deal.  Plus - the seller was really sketchy and I wouldn't buy a coconut from him.

After we got back to the boat, we decided that if we wanted to buy a house, we really needed to contact Mike's cousin.  We didn't want to give up Magda Jean, but the idea of having a home base was appealing.  We were still not sure what we wanted to do as far as cruising was concerned, and although living in the marina was fun, it was very hot and a little bit lonely.  We were no longer a part of the cruising community - as much as we ever were really a part of it - yet we had no community on land.  I don't think this was Mike's motivation - but I was feeling it.  I did know he was the first to suggest taking this seriously, this idea of getting a place in land here in Costa Rica.

Rene, Mike's cousin, has been selling real estate in Costa Rica for 25 years.  We decided we didn't need a beach home because we had the boat.  Plus, it is very hot at the beach and we'd have to use AC all the time.  We like the area around Lake Arenal.  (Side note:  I really preferred the Volcan Turrialba area, but that volcano is erupting so that turned out to be a bad idea.)  Arenal is cool, the countryside is gorgeous, and although it is pretty rural, Costa Rica is not a big country and it doesn't take too terribly long to get to stores and things like that.

Rene emailed be a bunch of places in the area that matched what we said we wanted.  I sorted through them, and was ble to eliminate two thirds of them, for various reasons.  We then got together and discussed he ones left, and finally arrived at seven that we wanted to look at.  I was pretty excited about it - I never thought I'd be buying  house in a foreign country.  Very very cool.

We looked at the most expensive place first - it was really out of our reach, we would have had to scramble a lot to raise the money.  We next saw the cheapest place - too much work.  When we got to the place we ended up buying, Mike jumped out of Rene's car and said "This is it!"

You would think things would end there, but things got really crazy.  I almost don't believe it myself and I was there.

As the process to buy the house went on, emails flew quickly and furiously between us, Rene, the escrow agent, the sellers, and a couple of lawyers.  Mike and I were happy how smoothly things were going.  We transferred our down payment to the escrow with no trouble.  Everything was pura vida, as it should be.

Eventually, it was time to make the transfer of the balance of the payment for the house to the escrow agent.  A few days before we planned to transfer the money, the escrow agent sent new wiring instructions.  We thought that was strange, since the new bank was in Eastern Europe.  We aren't stupid, so we emailed Rene and the escrow agent.  Rene thought it sounded weird, but then emailed us that it was the seller's choice.  Since everyone had assured us that this was the way to go, we initiated the transfer.

A couple of weeks later, the escrow agent started sending me emails asking when the transfer would go through.  I called our bank and was informed the transfer was complete, and gave me some confirmation numbers, which I provided to the escrow agent.  He kept insisting there was something wrong with the transfer.  I was getting irritated, so I gave up emails and called him.  I told him, "look, it was your idea to send the money to Slovakia or where ever it was."  He pauses a second and then said "I never did that."  "Yes you did" I said, and I'll prove it.  I'll send you the email."  So I hung up the phone, called up the email and forwarded it, and then called him.  I almost threw up when he said "I never sent that email."

You guessed it.  It was a huge scam.  The scammers infiltrated the email of either the agent or the escrow or the attorneys and as soon as the word "closing" came up, they sprang into action, and re-routed the money.  The money was gone.

I called the bank - they were horrified and immediately put their security on it.  I couldn't blame them - they only did what we told them too.  After a few days, the bank told me there was no more they could do.

I called the FBI.  After being told they could neither affirm or disaffirm whether the matter would be referred to an agent, I actually got a call back.  The agent was awesome, and even though she told me I wsa pretty much SOL, I felt better.  She told me they get calls about this sort of scam every day, in her office alone.  She said the scammers were very good, and none of us involved were moronic rubes, which is what I was thinking about  myself.

The sellers still wanted to sell us the house, and we had money in the bank from the first transfer for the down payment.  We upped the down payment, and came up with an agreement that suited us all.  The sellers still get to use the house six weeks each year, for the wind surfing season.  We also got to know each other during this process, and are still good friends.

A day or so after signing all the related paperwork, we were eating lunch at a restaurant when my cell phone rang.  That itself is rare, no one ever calls us.  It was the bank in San Diego.  The guy there told me "you are not going to believe this, and we didn't either, but your money came back. All of it."  After I finished crying and thanking him for the good news, he told me the bank had no idea why it came back after all the time it was gone.  It showed as though the account number was wrong or some bounce back like that.  I called the sellers and the agent with the good news, but they wanted to keep our new deal in place, wihch was fine with us.   

After this was all over, we all got together and compared the emails sent to and fro during the process.  Each one of us had been hacked, with fake messages taking the place of real ones.  They didn't make spelling or grammatical errors in the fake emails, and it was sort of beautiful how it all went down.  I still have no idea how or why the money was returned.  The escrow agent called the bank in Eastern Europe and complained bitterly because his name was on the fake account.  My FBI agent told me they did reach out to contacts in the banking world there.

So in March 2016, we moved into our house.  It was sold fully furnished, down to the last napkin and pillow case.  (Luckily for us, the sellers had great taste.)  We have an acre of land, with a front view of the lake and a back view overlooking the countryside, looking towards two volcanos.  These views are incredible, and they change every day depending on the weather.  Our backyard abuts a private 80 acre game preserve, of which we own a share.  We are woken up every morning by howler monkeys, and toucans and arikaris are daily visitors.  We also have coatis and agoutis, and beautifully colored squirrels.  It is very windy up here (hence it is a wond surfer's paradise) and there is plenty of excitement during the rainy season.

So - that brings us up to one year ago.  I am going to stop here, and will catch up to the present the next time I sit down to write this.  Once that happens, my blog may take a new turn, since I am no longer a full time live aboard.  We'll see.

"There is nothing so stable as change."  (Bob Dylan


Monday, October 10, 2016

Vivienda La Pura Vida

Well, I am back.  And I know it has been awhile since I wrote anything.  And the only excuse is the usual - I am just plain lazy.
 I just can't seem to get my act together to do this.  Why?  I have no idea.  But I am super lazy, and I can think of no other explanation.

Anyway, we are back from another trip to the states.  That makes three this year!  This time we went to Wisconsin.  The ostensible reason was to go to my nephew's wedding.  And it was beautiful and I would not have misssed it for the world.  It was outside, at the bride's farm.  The weather was beautiful, and since the wedding was held over Labor Day, I am here to tell you that the weather in Wisconsin at that time can be nice like it was, or rainy, or cold.  The fortunes smiled upon the bride and groom, and all went well.  My sister Buffie and I used the occaision to go all out - we got our hair done, and I learned how to wear false eyelashes.  Now I have wanted to do that for years.  However, every time I tried in the past, I could not get them on properly.  This time, with the aid of a magnifying mirror, I had no problem.  But one has to have a magnifying mirror.  I think I looked fantastic if I do say so myself.  My other sister also knocked it out of the park with this polka-dotted skirt made out of some chiffon-like material, and a simple back top.  Also a pair of the cutest ballet flats I have ever seen.  So the Riley girls made their presence known!
 Ok, enough of my vanity.  But I rarely ever have the chance to get dressed up anymore. It is too hot here for one thing.  Anything nice will be ruined the first time I wear it.  If I don't spill on it (which Ican't blame on the weather), I will sweat it to death.  So when given the chance, I am going to do it up for all it is worth.

We have been wating for a very long tme now to get back out to sea.  If only for a couple of days!  But Mike is concerned about our anchor chain.  We spent months at anchor, both in Ecuador and Panama, and that takes a toll on the chain.  I personally thought it should last longer than two  years, but Mike says no.  There is a lot of rust on it, and he is afraid that if something exciting happens while we are at anchor with the wind or water or both, the chain could part.  That would of course be disastrous.  Not to mention we would lose our expensive anchor.  So here we sit, while the chain is on order.  We are supposed to get it at the end of the month, but since everything comes out of Miami, and Hurricane Matthew has just passed through, there may be a delay.  I hope not.  I am not, however, holdng my breath.

Since returning from the states, we have travelled some more around Costa Rica.  As I have said before, this is an amazingly beautiul country.  I don't even have words for it, and for me not to have words should show you all something.  I am never at a loss for words.  I have seen  an anteater, which are much bigger than I though they woud be.  They have gorgeous golden and brown fur.  But they are mean.  They have very long claws, and they can lash out quickly.  Farmers don't like them because they can kill inquisitive dogs.  The claws did look very long and curved, and they gleamed in the reflected light.  We also saw a jaguarundi, which is simply a small panther.  It was running across the road we were driving on.  Unfortunately, it went by us too fast to get the camera out.  So you will have to take my word for it.  We have also seen more and more different kinds of birds.  I could watch them for hours.  My favorite are the motmots, which have strange tails and a lot of attitude.  They are also very colorful.  I just can't get enough of it.

I spend a lot of time just thinking about things.  I also think that someday I may just crawl inside my head and not come out.  I'm not sure what that would look like, but it has an appeal to me.    It is part of the reason why I like my night watches.  I break each hour up into 15 minute segments.  I can easily keep myself amused for 15 minutes.  If I do that four times, it will be time to make my log entries.  I can drag that out for at least 10 or even 15 minutes, so you can see how it goes.  I like to think about things without anyone interrupting me.  It can get embarassing, because sometimes I get so deep ito it that I start talking out loud.  Lots of the time I am not even aware that I am doing it.  My mom used to tell me it was the first sign of insanity.  But I only  "answer" myself if I am playing two parts in my head.  So I guess as long as I am aware of the cast of characters, I can keep on doing it as much as I want to.

Good news - I went to the dermatologist for a check up and she found absolutely no sogn of any cancer.  She did use this little tube of something really cold to have at a couple spots, but they weren't cancer and the scars it left have already gone, so all is well on the health scene.  I was getting sort of nervous for about a month before the exam, in spite of the fact I have followed all the instructions given to me after the first melanoma.  I stay out of the sun, utilizing long sleeves, long pants, a hat, and sun screen.  So I no longer have a beautiful tropical tan (at least by my standards) but I guess I will live longer.  I have a cousin that died from melanoma, and I don't want that to happen to me.

That brings up another topic - health.  I now spend quite a bit of time thinking about it.  Despite all my mother's fussing, I have yet to contract either pneunomia or tuberculosis.  When I was in college in Wisconsin, she was constantly telling me to be careful, not to catch a cold or it would turn into pneumonia and then to TB.    Now she had to know it doesn't work that way, but it didn't stop her.  In fact, I have enjoyed pretty robust good health.  But sometimes I feel as though I am falling apart, piece by piece.  Things just aren't as easy as they once were.  When I had my shoulder fixed, the surgeon told me that he found osteoporosis and that I should be careful not to go breaking anything.  Now I am very clumsy by nature, and I have always fallen, tripped, and otherwise knocked myself around a lot.  I never had any ill effects from it - no sprains or broken bones.  Just scrapes and bruises.  But now I can't be so cavalier.   I guess this is just part of the aging process.  I still get surprized when I realize that I am 60 years old.  I thought I'd be smarter by now.

But no one wants to read about someone whining about their health.  Heck I knew I was getting old when I talked to one of my sisters and we spent at least 20 minutes discussing what medications we have to take and why.

Right now it is cloudy and hot and we are expecting rain.  It is the rainy season here.  We have only two seasons in the tropics - hot and rainy and hot and dry.  Summer is the wet season and winter is the dry season.  The dry season is the top time for tourists here.  Here in the marina, in the northern part of the country, we are in the driest part of Costa Rica, where the tropical dry forests are found.  I lived in San Diego long enough that it is still a big thrill when it rains.  And I love the thnder and lightning as long as it isn't close to us.   A couple of weeks ago we went up to the mountains and while we were there, they had a huge thunder and lightning storm.  I laid on the bed in our awesome hotel room and watched the storm.  It thundered and lightning-ed and the view over the mountains was incredible.  It went on for several hours and buckets of rain fell.  The dirt roads we had to take to get there were pretty messy the next day, but Mike is a superb four wheel driver, and we had no problems.

I am really happy we are not in the US for this election cycle.  If only we get our absentee ballots in time!

Other than the chain issue, Magda Jean is in fine shape.  I am getting eager to take her out and see what all our new sails can do.  One of the ones we ordered did not come back as we wanted it to - we aren't sure what happened.   Instead of the genoa we wanted replaced ( a genoa is a big foresail) we got a big Yankee.  (A Yankee is a sail that is cut higher than a genoa.)  But I have a feeling that we are going to like this new sail  better. e will be using our staysail a lot more, and between the three sails (the main, the staysail and the yankee) we have a lot of different sail arrangements we can make.  The yankee will also be easier and neater to furl up partway when we need to reef our our sails and decrease the sail area. I think we will do better in light air, and will find it easier and smoother to deal with the smaller sails when we need to tack.  The genny could be hard to handle if the wind came up and caught us unawares.  And I think we can sail with the yankee alone in higher winds.  I like the look of it, especially in conjunction with the stay sail.  Another thing - when we looked at the plans for the rig drawn up when the boat was first built, it appears to have had a yankee rather than a genoa.  With the genoa, we could only use the staysail under very limited conditions. With the yankee, we will use it a lot more often.  I think this new sail combination will cause the boat to be in better balance.   The better the balance the better and smoother the sailing.  Come on, chain!!!   I am waiting for you!!  But I have pointed out to Mike that there is no reason at all why we can't just take her out for the day, returning to the marina rather than anchoring out.  He agrees, but it hasn't happened yet.

Anyway, I think it is time for me to wind this up.  We won't be leaving Costa Rica any time soon, other than  for visa renewals and a Christmas trip to Nicaragua with a frined from Newfoundland we met in Bolivia.     Our current permit for the boat ends in July, but we can probably renew it if we want to.  Or we can sail somewhere else for three months and then come back and start the whole thing over again.  Who knows?

"It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."  (My Dad)        

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Long Time Coming

I know I have been totally remiss in not updating this blog more often.  I am just lazy, no more, no less.  We are in Costa Rica, basically living at the marina.

What have we been up to since the last post God-knows-how-many-months ago?  A lot.

First, I had to have rotator cuff surgery.  Everyone told me how painful it was ging to be, how hard and miserable the physical therapy would be, and so on.  But guess what?  Except for the first few days after surgery, there were no serious pain issues.  I did have to keep my arm strapped tight to my torso for about a month.  Then I just had a sling.  I did have physical therapy, but I liked it.  It felt great.  There were times when it was uncomfortable, but otherwise it was not that big a deal.  I now have a full range of motion on that side, and before the surgery I couldn't raise my arm to even make a pony tail.  Mike had to do my hair!! Not good!!  But I am pleased with the results.

It even caused us to make some new friends.  One of my nurses was exceediingly kind to me, and we got to talking.  About a week after the surgery, she and her husband came to visit us on the boat.  We have since visited  back and forth.  We spent Christmas Eve at their house.  They have been over here for swimming.  And they are both heavily involved with horses.  Antonio runs a stable, and Mike has been riding with him in some horse parades, called "topes." (toe-pays.)  It is total immersion into Spanish as neither of them speak English.

Another fun thing was that my son, Steve, came to see us in September.  It was a great time.  (I hope he thought so too.)  We spent several days at anchor and got some sailing in.  He got to jump from the boat into clear water at an anchorage otherwise deserted except for us.  He met some of our friends, and all in all we had a perfectly marvelous visit.  I miss him terribly, and am glad to see he is doing very well and is happy.

My shoulder sidelined us from doing any sailing or much else for a couple of months.  We decided to take a trip back to San Diego, to see Steve of course, but also to get some new stuff for the boat.  We got new sails, and a bunch of other things.  The bags coming home were really heavy, and we were worried about all the baggage overweight charges we'd have to pay.  But then a small miracle happened.  I discovered that we could fly first class for $100.00 more per person.  And, we each got two free bags.  Problem solved!  The oeverweight charges would have been a lot more.

But there was more to this trip.  We left Costa Rica with a good friend on his boat.  He needed crew to go to Mexico with him, so we happily volunteered.  He was in a hurry to get there, so we did motor most of the way.  I will tell you this:  watches are a lot easier with three people instead of just two.

We went with him as far as Puerto Chiapas (aka Puerto Maderas) and then caught a bus to San Cristobal de Colon, which is located in the mountains in the state of Chiapas.  It is one of my favorite spots in Mexico.  Mike bought me some beautiful amber jewelry.  I love amber, and now have a nice collection.  Most of my pieces have bugs in them that you can see.

After that, we took another bus to Oaxaca City, another favorite of mine.  The food is to die for - I love mole (moe lay) and they have four different kinds at least.  This is also where they regularly eat grasshoppers, known as chapalines.  (chop a leen ays.)  Mike of course ate a bunch of them, and even had a bag he snacked on.  I have already tried them and felt no real need to chow down.  They don't really taste like anything except what they are cooked in, which is usually a combination of chiles and lime.  The crunchy ones are fine - sort of like croutons, but some of them are sort of squishy and I don't like that.  So I left the bug eating to Mike this time.  While we were there, we returned to a small town where they specialize in rug weaving, using wool they spin themselves, then using natural plant based dyes and hand looms.  It is amazing to watch and Mike bought two gorgeous rugs for the floor in the cabin.

When we got back from San Diego, we were dying to go sailing and stretch out our new sails.  We spent about a week getting ready, with plans to be out and about in the boat for a month or so.  On the day before wwe planned to leave, Mike was going around the boat, checking to see that everything wasin sailing order.  To our absolute horror, we (Mike) discovered there was a broken turnbuckle on our backstay.

For those who ae not familiar with sailboats, the back stay is one of the wires around the boat that connects from the mast to the boat itself.  The job of these wires (cables, really) is to hold the mast up.  The fact that this was broken meant that there was no way we were going sailing.  No way, no how.  Mike immediately rigged up some rope (lines - when a piece of rope  is placed on a boat, it becomes a line.  There is no such thing on a boat as a rope.) bypassing the broken turnbuckle to hold things in place.  Theoretically, if a strong enough wind hit the boat from the wrong angle, it could result in the mast falling down.  This is not very likely, but if we tried to sail her, it would be disasterous if it did happen.  So we are marina bound again, at least until we go to Arkansas (for my mother in law's birthday) where we ordered our new one sent.  As usual, we start our trip with almost empty bags and return with them bursting.

So right now we are just living in Costa Rica, and Mike has been making noises about wanting to stay here.  I have always leaned towards Mexico, but I have to admit it is really nice here.  Almost the whole country is like a preserve, or a national park, or something on that order.  We have been to hotels in the mountains (we go up there sometimes to get out of the heat), and each time we go we seen new birds and animals.  I have seen three different kinds of monkeys, agoutis, coatimundis, deer, and even a kinkajou.  The squirrels are beautfully colored with stripes down their backs.  Even here at the marina we can take a walk and see monkeys and all kinds of birds.  I can't get enough of it.

We have no idea what we want to do next, or where we want to go.  Mike is making noises about maybe staying here.  Who knows?  We have 15 months before we need to get the boat out of here, and we might be able to obtain another two years.  One never knows.  Mike and I have to leave for at least 72 hours as we can only get 90 day visas.  We have usually taken the trip to Grenada, Nicaaragua, when the need to leave arises.  Nicaragua is wonderful.  It is a lot less expensive than it is here, which is always a nice change.  We have plans to take a land trip to Panama, as there are parts we were unable to visit as we couldn't safely leave the boat unattended.  There is a town called Bosquete (boes ket tay) up in the mountains that is supposed to be very nice.  There are a lot of  expats living there, or so we have heard.

Mary Ellen, I am sorry we didn't make it up to see you - we weren't there long enough and had to make the rounds of all the marine stores to get the stuff we needed.  And for you if no one else, I will try and overcome my incredible laziness and work on keeping this blog up.

So for now, we are happily living in Costa Rica and loving every minute of it.  Who knows what the future holds for Magda Jean and her intrepid crew of two?  The present is just fine, thank you.

(Sorry, no quote this time.)