Kids, Don't Try This At Home!

Hi, and welcome to the adventures of "Triton", a 45' Robertson & Caine Leopard catamaran we purchased in July of 2007, in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. We sailed her back to Emeryville, California, located in the lovely San Francisco East Bay area, worked a few more years, then set off cruising in the fall of 2014. This journal is the story of our ongoing adventure, the folks we've met along the way, and the hardships and joys of that journey. Please read along and let us know what you think!

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here to start from the very beginning of the entire adventure. You can navigate from post to post simply by clicking the NEXT or PREVIOUS phrases at the top or bottom of each page. To find out what we've been fixing, changing, upgrading, click on the Triton Boat Work link under Related Websites. If you want to subscribe to this blog (and get emails letting you know whenever we update it) just click on the icon that says "subscribe to: posts (atom)" at the bottom of each page.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Please allow me to help you...that will be ten dollars.



You just gotta love Nicaragua. Friendly people, beautiful scenery, unmarked speed bumps that can rip the suspension off your vehicle (I'm not joking, you'll be driving along at sixty and not see one of these things and suddenly be airborn!) and cops that supplement their income by shaking down tourists. I know, that sounds like another exaggeration. It's not. Let me explain why...

A few months back I had left the boat in Marina Puesta Del Sol, Nicaragua and flown back to the states for a few weeks. When I left I had taken a taxi from the marina to the airport. It turned out to be a bit of a harrowing experience, the driver was your typical machismo nut job with a death wish (I think this is an actual requirement when applying for the job), who chain smoked filter-less cigarettes while passing long lines of cars as speeding oncoming trucks blared their horns at us. The cab's interior had no door knobs or window handles in the back, and the driver was acting a bit spooky...he would sporadically pull off to the shoulder, jump out of the car and pee on the side of the road, then sort of stand their looking down the road, as if he were waiting for someone. Usually, I regret not being able to speak Spanish. This was one time when I really didn't want to know what he was doing. BTW, this kind of taxi driver is found everywhere in Central America, Nicaragua has nothing special going here.

At one point we stopped at a gas station and he demanded I give him money for gas. I didn't quite understand what he wanted at first, and was trying to figure it out by asking him to speak slower, and write down some words. He became very angry and agitated, yelling at me in Spanish. Not knowing what the fuck he wanted I gave him thirty dollars and that seemed to appease him, but left me completely bewildered as to why he was behaving so aggressively. By the time we reached the capital, I was a bit non-plussed, and then even more anxious when I saw the kind of slums we were driving through to get there. That was the first time I'd been through Managua, which is one of the worst cities I have ever seen. It isn't as bad a Colone, Panama, but it is close. It's basically a large slum replete with burned out buildings, tenements, roving gangs, and the occasional small pockets of moderately impoverished homes that pass for middle class here. Short of war, the only thing I know that will destroy a country as completely is fifty years of dictatorship followed by socialist rule. Everything we would take for granted (street signs, traffic signals, sanitation, law enforcement, etc.), is either broken, dirty or just not there. I sat in the back of the cab and wondered if I'd actually get to the airport, or be rolled by the taxi driver on some side street. Not a pretty place.

When I returned to Nicaragua this last time, I tried to get a taxi to drive me from the airport to the marina, but he claimed he would only go as far as Chinadega (which is as far as the paved road goes), and he wanted over a hundred dollars to do so. I decided to rent a car instead. As I drove from the airport to the marina, I passed a large factory building with scores of people getting off work. Just beyond it were two police officers standing on the side of the road, one of which flagged me down. "Oh, this is gonna be great" I thought, given my inability with the language. I wondered if perhaps they were going to give me a ticket for speeding, or not signaling properly, or driving while American, or something like that. The first officer walked up to my side and through a few gestures and a minimum of words managed to convey that they wanted to ride in my car. Okay, they have guns and uniforms, what am I gonna say? So they got in, one in the passenger seat, the other directly behind me.

We drove along. They didn't say much. I started wondering if maybe this wasn't such a great fact, I was a bit embarrassed at finding myself unable to assess the situation. It could have been perfectly safe, or I might have just fucked up royally. Where I grew up, this would count as the latter; to be in: in a car with two armed men you've never met before, one sitting directly behind you, the other sitting outside the first's field of fire, while driving through sparsely populated countryside. This is exactly how people get whacked in Jersey. But my fears were for naught. Within a few minutes they told me to let them off near a roadside cafe. They got out, politely thanked me, smiled and walked away. Hmmm, I thought, maybe the fuzz down here aren't all that bad. When I got back to the marina I mentioned this to a couple of the cruisers. They all assured me that picking up cops was cool, and that Nicaraguan police are often so poor they don't have cars; if you should see one asking for a ride, you should pick them up. Great. I'm learning the customs, going native. Pretty soon I'll be opening up my on factory and start raping the ecology.

A few days go by, and I exchange the rental car for a pickup truck, as I've described in previous posts. Then yesterday, AnnMarie was flying into Managua Airport, arriving at 2pm, which meant I needed to leave the marina by about 9am in order to be there on time. I had the truck, which meant that even though the roads were still barely passably I would probably be able to get through. I bounced and slid my way down the several mile long private road leaving the marina, four wheeling through enormous mud puddles, boulder strew roads and avoiding (and often driving straight through) small herds of cows in the process. Eventually I came to the main road, and was happy to be on fresh pavement, but pretty exhausted from the trek. It takes a lot of concentration to avoid breaking an axle on roads so bad. Plus I was a bit worried because it took about two hours longer than I had anticipated, which meant I might not be there on time for AnnMarie's flight.

I drove along for maybe a half hour when I came to T intersection, where I needed to turn left. Standing on the side of the road was another police officer, looking for a ride. I pulled over and he hoped in. I explained that I was going to Managua, and that I spoke almost no Spanish, and asked if this was, in fact, the road to the capitol of Nicaragua. He smiled then began speaking in rapid fire Spanish, which I didn't understand at all. We tried to converse, but it was pretty difficult to understand anything he was saying. I managed to explain that I needed to go to the airport, and asked him again if I was on the right road. I wasn't really positive if I was, because I'd only been to the airport once before (via the under medicated taxi driver I mentioned above) and had driven from the airport to the marina (going in the opposite direction) only once as well. In both cases I was a bit stressed, and as you know, memory is state dependent. If you study for a test while stoned, you should also be stoned when you take the test. If you experience something while agitated, your recall of it will be better when also agitated. At least, that's how the theory goes. Since the last two times I'd driven this road I was pretty stressed, and now I wasn't, nothing seemed to look that familiar.

Fortunately for me, I now had someone in my car to remedy that problem. As we drove along, he kept speaking very quickly in Spanish, and saying something about money. Each time he would finish his sentences with "intienda?", which is Spanish for "do you understand?". Each time I would say no, I didn't, could he please speak more slowly. Each time he would give me this weird look, then say something else very quickly. This went on for about an hour. It started to get really weird, I got the feeling something wasn't right, but couldn't figure out what. Perhaps I was just being paranoid but I got the impression he was saying pretty insulting things, just to see if I understood him at all. I also started to get nervous because each time I would ask him if we were going the right way, he wouldn't say anything. As we reached the capitol and started driving into the slums, he starting telling me to pull off the main road and down one of the side streets. At this point my (fear-state-based) memory was crystal clear, and I knew exactly where I was and needed to go, and it damn sure wasn't down some alley. I pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. We looked at each other for a minute and then he smiled this creepy smile. Not the kind of smile you want on someone with a badge and gun.

He started demanding money. I didn't understand much at all of what he was saying, but at first he said he wanted $100.00US. "Why? For what?" I asked, using up three of the ten words I know in Spanish. He said something to the effect that he needed a taxi. I explained that I didn't have that much money. In fact, I had only fifteen dollars in cash. He insisted I give it all to him. I refused and started to get pissed off, which is not a good situation because when I get really pissed off I stop being afraid of things like guns or badges, and become pretty sarcastic and antagonistic. He kept demanding money. As I recall, I then asked him, politely, to get out of the vehicle, although I think I used a couple of extra English words that he might have known. He started yelling at me and pointing to his badge. I took out five dollars, and yelled "Get the fuck out of this truck or you'll eat that fucking badge!" I think he sensed that I was really pissed because he took the money and got out quickly. I drove away feeling really stupid for not realizing what was going on much sooner.

From that point on I've not been willing to pick up anyone else unless they were on the road between the paved highway and the marina. Even then, they ride in the bed of the one gets inside the cab I don't already know. What makes me mad is that I just don't have a good sense of the culture, or the street sense to know what is cool. I hate having to err on the side of chicken shit, but I'm just not willing to take those kinds of risks right now. It would be different if I were backpacking through the country, perhaps, but right now I need to get a boat back to California, and I don't have the luxury of learning Nicaragua street sense the hard way.

Anyway, I arrived at the airport almost an hour late, pretty shaken up, and very tired. AnnMarie wasn't there. I drove over to the hotel across the street, where we had arranged to meet should there be any problems. She hadn't shown up. I checked my mail on line to see if she had sent a message. There was nothing there. I used the VHF hand held radio and tried calling her. No answer. I went back into the hotel and she was standing there, looking very, very unhappy. "Where have you been?" she asked, clearly upset that I wasn't at the airport to pick her up, she then explained that "I've just had the worst time getting through customs! They wanted to charge me for the boat gear. And then I had to carry all this luggage across the street, and I haven't eaten, and I'm exhausted."

There was a long pause, I smiled and said "Were there any firearms involved in any of this?" She looked back, noticing the look on my face, and said "No, what happened?" I just smiled and said "Then I think I've had a worse day." I gave her a big hug, then an even bigger kiss, and we held each other for a minute, just glad to be together. We jumped into the truck, and I plied her with various foods I'd brought along for the trip, plus lots of cold drinks. After a minute or two we were both happy to be together and headed to the marina. We rode back without incident, even getting through the roads without much trouble. The ten hours of direct sunlight and heat had gone a long way towards drying up a lot of the mud. We pulled into the marina, threw our gear on the boat and jumped into the pool. We then ate some gray hamburgers and went back to the boat to snuggle. It was a delightful way to end a miserable day.

So, I guess all's well that ends well. AnnMarie is here for the weekend, and it seems that there might be other crew members coming down after all. I just found out that the stainless steel dingy davit, which broke on the way up here, can be repaired, and that the weather looks good for sailing north. Things are looking up. In the meantime, I intend to spend as much time as possible fondling a beautiful woman, relaxing at the pool, and enjoying the short time I have to spend with her. If only we could get decent take out service!

I hope everyone else is doing well and am looking forward to getting back to the bay area before Christmas. Of this year. Well, at least by the fourth of July. Sorry there aren't any photos for this entry. AnnMarie has brought down the new camera but we hadn't had a chance to unpack it yet. Expect lots more snapshots as the trip progresses.

Cheers for now,



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