Photo: Five minutes from landing the dinghy through the wet surf...
We both sat outside the beachside bar, absolutely dripping wet and once more disconsolate. We were outside because we'd look ridiculous inside, especially in the state we were in. The waiter told us we were making the whole patio sodden wet, he seemed reluctant to serve us but I guess his trade wasn't that good. We ordered two marguerites anyway, I added a cold beer to get the bitter taste of salt out of my mouth. I told Marie that she looked particularly sexy in her wet tee-shirt, but she didn't say much, nor did she look amused - I told her this same ridiculous half-compliment every time we made another memorable dinghy landing through the surf - it was beginning to wear a bit thin.
We'd still not really mastered the technique. Having tried all the different ways suggested by other sailors we were now on our third set of dinghy wheels, having discarded the previous ones as useless, not fit for purpose and not able to keep us dry. Our current technique, soon to be discarded, was to charge at high speed through the surf having timed the relevant sequence of waves, I would then strategically lift the outboard at exactly the right moment whilst Marie leaped out - sometimes deep up to her chest - to grab the painter line to guide us up on to the beach. This latest one had been a particularly disaster, with Marie completely submerged under the dinghy with the next breaking wave then swamping the boat with me inside. Of course, we were both dressed up to the eyeballs for the night out I'd promised having been anchored off in Bahía Ballena for four days in thirty knot winds. Through the binoculars, I'd confidently informed Marie that the surf this time looked easy, we could get ashore dry and safe without being soaked to the skin.
There are maybe a half-dozen techniques for landing through the surf, even less so for launching back off the beach although, at this point, getting wet isn't so much of a problem because your next destination is the sanctuary of your boat - unless you have two large-sized takeaway pizzas with you like we had in Tamarindo. Launching your dinghy off the beach through the surf is no mean feat and not for the faint hearted. Our soggy pizzas had been recommended as particularly good too. But when you are landing ashore to shop for supplies or to checkin with the harbourmaster or, even worse, when you have promised your wife a good night out with fine wine and food, then it's rather more problematic. Marie's preferred technique right now, if she can find a big enough tree, is to take her fancy going-out clothes and makeup in a black waste bin liner, then change behind the tree or something like that once we've managed to get ashore - but sometimes that's not so easy on a crowded beach. These days I steer the dinghy for a good wet-clothes changing tree or maybe a place with not so many people around so that Marie might get dressed, she then relies on me to tell her that her makeup looks ok - which has gotten me into trouble once or twice when she's finally found a mirror in some bar. Sometimes, we just accept our 'ragged appearance' and brazen it out.
It's worse when I sit drying in a bar or restaurant then watch some suntanned dude ride his inflatable dinghy ashore like he's breaking in a wild stallion, standing with his one arm raised high with sunglasses perfectly in place. You know the sort I mean, the one whose fashionable dressed female companion steps elegantly straight onto the beach bone dry, to casually realign her lipstick whilst he effortlessly pulls their dinghy up the beach beyond the surf line. I myself sit there dripping wet, I would gladly smash his glasses off his head. Costa Rica is particularly bad because there are few safe anchorages, even fewer with any decent landing facilities and the marinas are so repulsively expensive. To check into the country involves a hairy surf landing before sitting in various public offices for customs and immigration whilst absolutely sodden to the core. Take Playa del Coco for example, we trampled from the harbourmaster to immigration having been previously submerged under the breaking waves of the Pacific Ocean only fifteen minutes previously.
Marie's main gripe is that all her friends think we have a so-called life of Riley, that they have no idea of what she has to go through for a simple margarita. But she still smiles, when I say to her that her hair looks nice, even though it's dripping wet in knots. But after a few margaritas, and one or two gin & tonics, then everything is straightaway fine and dandy - until it's that dreaded time to drag the dinghy down the beach to launch back out through the breaking surf. Usually it's dark by then, because we've had more to drink than we said we would, we've forgotten the flashlight torch and we can never be bothered to change into something less fashionable in the darkness of the beach. Our latest launching method means that I sit in the dinghy ready to lower the outboard whilst Marie strips down to her underwear, then she launches us out into the surf until she's in the water up to her chest and I haul her into the dinghy like a sodden wet whale with the outboard hopefully by this time running. If I time it wrong, or the outboard doesn't start, then we get washed ashore and have to start the whole process again.
Most safety conscious sailors tell us how dangerous it is to launch from the beach under the influence of alcohol, especially in the dark, but we've found it helps enormously if we giggle our way offshore trying to remember exactly where we've anchored Sänna
. So raise a glass and think how much we suffer when you next drink your G&T's or cool beers.
Wheels up or wheels down? The bastards...
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Read more about the mishaps and mayhem of Nellie, The Ship's Cat