Posted by: powellpjc | September 9, 2009

The Years Thunder By. Make no mistake.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t 
afford it.”


What these men can’t afford is not to go.

They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security.

The Cancerous Discipline of Security.

In the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine,

and the years thunder by.”

“Thunder by”,

 he said.

Sterling Hayden (1916-1986)

It’s hard to find a better quote.

Guatemala to Costa Rica. ‘Pura Vida‘, baby.

Got whipsawed making the passage. No wind one minute, then honking as another thunderstorm set out to find me. Up and down raising and lowering sail, reefing, furling and swearing. A couple of perfect days, though and one forgets the shit.

Have a lot of things figured out now.

Have a lot of things figured out now.

Still was in the main shipping corridor so kept a sharp eye and the wondrous electronic gizmos on full time.

Ever wondered how you evacuate a freighter? It’s not for the faint of heart. Here is a picture of the system on a ship that was parked in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.

Not for the faint of heart.

Not for the faint of heart.

When the abandon ship order is given one is herded along a catwalk into this reverse rocket. The first mate would need a cattle prod to get me into this contraption. All are strapped in and some lucky guy gets to hit the ‘release’ button. Damned if I know what happens then and don’t want to find out.

Some comments on the airborne life. There are flyers of various sorts out there in the chuck–I don’t count the shorebirds because when I finally see them I don’t care about them. So, in the chuck we have, from largest to smallest,

1. The brown boobie.


A floating tree 100 miles out provides a roost for the booby and a place to shit.

A floating tree 100 miles out provides a roost for the booby and a place to shit.

2. The shearwater.

3. The storm petrel.

4. The diving petrel.

5. Last, but not least, the flying fish.

I did see a couple of albatrosses off the California coast but haven’t seen any since so I leave them out of this comparison.

1. The boobie is a great flyer but occasionally stupid. He flaps his wings to gain altitude (10 metres) and then swoops down to glide over the waves seemingly not moving a muscle for minutes at a time. He is stupid because of two reasons; he tries to catch flying fish on the wing and that is just impossible. He does not give up though and he should. Second, while skimming the wave tops he gets caught out and plows into a slapping breaker. I’m sure he’s embarrassed as hell about it but it causes no harm and he keeps right on gliding. The boobie catches his fish by climbing to his 10 metre ceiling and waiting until the moment critique, whereupon he folds his wings into a tight wrap and augers in at full speed in a vertical dive. He doesn’t swim underwater, just crashes into some poor fish. It works and he seems to feed often enough.

2. The shearwater is very much like an anorexic penguin. Same colouring and body shape, just thinner and he’s a bullet flyer. He doesn’t bother rising above 2 metres and he never gets caught out plowing headfirst into a wave. His wingtips seem to be millimetres above the sea and he is fast. I’d call him a better flyer, but I’ve never seen him eat anything so he loses points there.

3. The storm petrel makes me dizzy watching him fly. He can turn on a dime and give you a nickel change. I think he eats insects just above the sea. He never dives, he never crashes and he occasionally alights on the sea where he pokes his head in the water. Drinking or eating I don’t know.

4. I mention the diving petrel because there is such a bird and I guess I’ve seen it, but couldn’t tell you much about him.

5. The flying fish is a pure delight to watch and also a pure idiot. I know my boat scares them because they fly away from the bow wave. In other cases they shoot clear of the water to escape their predators. To say they fly is a bit of a misnomer. They flap their fins like a hummingbird and scoot along a foot off the water with no control whatsoever. They take off downwind; they crash regularly–no, they crash every time. I suppose they call it a landing.

Can’t wait to see the big albatrosses and I will as I get further south. Now there is a flyer extraordinare. Drawback with him is he has the ugliest head of any known bird. Well, seabird. The Andean Condor is hands down the ugliest of all. Buzzards are like that and they can’t help it.

They are all pretty to look at.

They are all pretty to look at.

I am parked in a marina in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, these days and let go for Ecuador on Saturday 12th. The marina is in a mangrove tidal estuary and when the tide goes out my boat rests on the loon shit bottom. No harm done and it makes for a rock solid sleep. Can’t leave at just anytime though–must head out at high tide and follow a small ‘panga’ or outboard motorboat guide so as to avoid grounding.

The panga delivers one to shore and back, assuming he's listening on his radio or sees you waving.

The panga delivers one to shore and back, assuming he's listening on his radio or sees you waving.

Spent a few days in San Jose buying things for the boat. Needed a new shower head; couple of hats; a sun shade for the setting western sun; assorted plumbing gear and a GAFF HOOK for the marlin. This means, of course, that I will never see another marlin in my life.

Notes on Costa Rica:

Nicest country in Central America that I’ve seen. People, food, music, culture and in my narrow-minded opinion, the best coffee in the world. Not a great coast for sailboats though. A lot of the anchorages are not completely protected from the Pacific swells, making for a rolly time of it. The Nicoyan Gulf where I am (Puntarenas) is protected but it is filthy with floating garbage and all manner of tree detritus.

Looking forward to the next passage. I think I’ve got the sails figured out, have replenished the propane, fixed the water bladder tank (I hope). What could go wrong?

When you find your baby, hang on.

When you find your baby, hang on.

An American P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft buzzed my ass for a half hour in Costa Rican waters–only two of his 4 engines pulling. They can go for 12 hours.  War on drugs and Costa Rica has no military. Big brother steps in.

I'm taking pictures of them taking picture of me.

I'm taking pictures of them taking picture of me.



  1. Hey Peter
    Great to see you at Safeway when you flew in for Charlie’s wedding.

    As a fellow Mariner just letting you know I like your website and will keep watching your journey.
    Andy says he’s coming to cruise awhile with ya

    Can’t wait to hear more stories.


  2. Hey Pete: Nice work on the seabird behaviour. Checked out any sites in CR?
    shows a few near the coast. The girls at loch say hi.

  3. Hi, on sept 15th, I received the following from Peter – now Peter , if you are reading this, please do not get angry with me for posting this – just know it is because – well you know.

    ….the mother of all fucking electrical storms. It is raining so hard I have all hatches and windows closed so I am sweating like a canal horse. It is dark now (7pm) and the lightning…

    now I know Peter is extremely resourceful and strong and excessively lucky and I am not prone to worry about him (not that I want him to know about as he does not like worry so it is not worry but VERY interested) but I sure would like to hear how it went. He is a very special fellow.

    Please , if any one has heard anything about that storm, I sure would appreciate hearing

    Georgia in Vancouver

  4. heard from Peter so please disregard last email -promise not to worry again

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