Friday, March 20, 2009

El Salvador heading to Costa Rica

After waiting 3 days for a bar crossing window we were given the ok for 7am Monday morning. The bar had been close because the waves were too large for safe crossing. We had no problem waiting til the right time after what we went through coming in over the bar. Our pilot arrived at 7 sharp and Lea Scotia went first again. It looked a lot worse than it was. We tipped the bar pilot $10( a whole days wage) to try to insure a dry crossing. It worked but not until sitting in the middle of 6 ft breaking waves waiting for that right moment to climb over the top of 3 no breaking waves and escape into the open sea where we were at home again.
We were on our way to Golfo Fonseca 72 miles away. The trip was uneventful and we arrived just before dark. The amazing thing about the Golfo is that every island is a volcano and two very large ones guard the entrance. The Golfo is territory of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. While sitting at anchor getting ready for an early bed time, I heard the strangest noise coming from our boat, or at least I thought it was our boat. I can only describe it as the sound a thousand frogs would make if kept in a small room. I could not figure out what in the boat would be making that sound. I finally called Lea Scotia and they were hearing the same sound. No idea what it was but it quit about midnight. The next two nights were spent off of quaint little villages all painted in brilliant colors. Cows, pigs, horses, and dogs roamed the only beach in front of the homes. We were serenaded by really bad sing along music coming from the church on the beach. The next night we again anchored off an area of homes and one very small resort. At midnight firecrackers and bottle rockets were set off for some unknown reason. It lasted about 20 minutes and it started all over again at 4 in the morning. We took the hint and left at five for our trip down the Nicaraguan coast to Costa Rica.
(Thursday night)The coastal view of Nicaragua is amazing. No matter what direction you look on shore you see multiple volcanos. At one point I could see 8, all incredible sights. Very few beach front resorts or properties were visible from the water. Just before Costa Rica we did see some amazing European style villas. Huge water front estates. I could guess where the money comes from! We are now about 70 mile from Costa Rica. I have the Big Dipper on one side of the boat and the Southern Cross on the other, pretty cool. Orion's Belt is always our center of attention as the night sky flows overhead. The wind is just picking up and it is expected to blow about 25knt by morning. These are the Papagallos which we have been trying to avoid. I hope they are only 25 for a short period of time. Tomorrow we will be in Bahia Santa Elena Costa Rica. It is suppose to be a wonderful place. Monkeys, big cats, and many kinds of birds await us. Coooool!
(Friday)The wind blew us in to Costa Rica, or was it a gale? We saw and felt 45 mph gust for over 5 hours. It started at midnight and its now 3 PM and still blowing. It pays to notice the barometer swings--3 down equals windy conditions. If the grib files shows it might blow a Papagallo believe it! If it shows 25knts it will probably blew 40 to 50 in some locations. If it doesn't show anything it will probably blow anyway. I am glad it is over. We had a reefed main and no jib all the way down since morning in 35mph constant and one peak gust of 49. The boat did well, I was only afraid of my 4 scuba tanks breaking loose in the middle of everything. One strap may not be enough. Nothing happened to them but I will be resewing my jib's sun edge which ripped out for the second time.

It is evening, and we are anchored in Bahia Santa Elena; it feels visually like the northwest and it looks to be a fun place to explore. One parrot sighted,no monkeys yet!! But tomorrow we will walk in the jungle, and up to a waterfall. More later, Dave and Helen

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Exploring Around Bahia del Sol

The blog now has some new pictures to support this story and some of the previous experiences. Our first exploration was a dinghy ride to the end of the estuary to a town called Herradura. We landed at the pier, a working fishing village and walked through the water front food court. Then we entered the town, its streets, and traffic. As we walked we passed store fronts that use garage doors at night to close their store fronts. With national elections in full swing, the liberal communistic party headquarters were full of supporters and flag wavers--Americans are not their favorite people right now which explained the stares and suspicious looks the males in our party received. Our goal was the weekly market for fruit and vegetables. There the stalls and stands were so tightly packed that one had to walk sideways to get through the narrow path. Everything from toilet paper to strange looking vegetables was available for a price. The people were friendly and helped us with our Spanish. With fresh produce in hand we walked out and down to the local bakery. Using huge ovens fueled by burning wood they bake incredibly delicious bread. The batter is stirred by hand in stainless tables that are 4 feet by six feet and 5 inches deep. The lady dipped her hand into the batter and slopped it into the cooking pans and then handed them to the baker. No utensils to wash and few pans this way. Some of the party bought bread and cookies shaped into butterflies. Now being hungry we took a 3 wheel taxi back to the pier for a delicious lunch. Dave and I shared a sausage plate and a shrimp dinner--garlic and butter grilled.
The next morning we woke and completed a few projects before setting out to the structures that sit on piers in the entrance of this bay. The structures are restaurants where ladies grill fish or serve freshly made clam cocktails. While you wait you can lay in hammocks and toss back a few cold beers. The scenery is stunning and the atmosphere is definitely, "No worries, no problems." If they run out of something they yell over to the next structure and borrow whatever they need.
Another day we walked down the main road to a local store and bought coca light and ate pupulas. Earlier that day we explored the island across the way, visited their store, school, and the local goat farm. Animals are plentiful and roam from shore to shore. We caught a ride with Jan, from Canada, one day and saw the carts delivering goods, the cattle free roaming to find food, and the volcanoes in the distance.
The buddy boat we are traveling with had a birthday. Kiera turned three. Jan invited children to her house and bought a pinata. We played games and everyone swung at the Tweedy bird. The chocolate cupcakes were so good.
Having now decided it time to hit the tide and pull out for points south, we provisioned one last time in a town further in called Zacatecoluca. This town has banks and more stores, but the market place is the same as anywhere--stalls crowded together, small passages, and such a variety of goods. They did have a super market and there we bought enough meat and hard goods to take care of our needs for another 3-4 weeks. As we left the town there were roadside stalls selling coconuts, honey, melons, and road stops where trucks were being inspected and people unloaded...why wasn't clear.
Many nights were spent with mago salsa and rum cocktails on Jan's porch. One night she brought out her home brew cashew concoction. Blaze, a musician from San Francisco joined us and we philosophized into the wee hours.
So, now here we sit by the pool(plugged into the wi-fi), music and tropical birds in the background, kicking back some cool ones,just waiting for the surf to lay down and let the boat cross the sand bar that stands between us and the next adventure. This morning Dave completed the checkout paperwork and a bit later our sand bar guide came by and said, "Not today, maybe not for two or three more days." What an ideal place to wait out a weather window!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We are in El Salvador

We arrived on a wave to Bahia Del Sol Resort, El Salvador on March 2 at 6 PM. The photos taken of the boat ahead of us altered our optimistic outlook of our own ride in; so when it was our turn we were ready to roll and get wet. However Neptune took mercy on us and we barely caught spray over the side. Thankful for the smooth entrance we had a drink, compared notes with our friends, and went to sleep—10 hours of uninterrupted sleep! When dawn arrived, the sounds of tropical birds, crowing roosters and a blaring horn like on a locomotive roused us from our sleep. Looking around we saw low lying land trimmed in palm trees and one story round huts on the beaches and red roof piers filled our view. We took a walk on the resort grounds and 3 wild parrots perched in the trees cawed, Guinea hens in a pen with geese and a lone sheep and deer ate away at their breakfast. Out on the main road we heard the locomotive horn again and around the corner sped a bright green bus, front tires lifted higher than the rear, and graphics painted up and down its sides—our guide book explains it is the local commuter bus with huge speakers and a blaring stereo that will require ear plugs for the one hour ride to the capital city. That adventure we will leave for another day.

Our voyage to El Salvador started last Thursday night when we left the shelter of Huatulco, Mexico to cross the dreaded Tehuantepec, leaving Mexican waters for Central American shores. The crossing can be calm or 8 to 25 feet of confused seas, more like chop, with gusts in the 40-60 mph range. We were fortunate and the first two days were great sailing (10-20 mph) and fairly calm waters. During Dave’s watch the dolphins performed for over 45 minutes darting, diving and doing acrobatics. My watch was the parading of turtles so thick it felt like a land mind field. They were very skillful in diving and avoiding being run over by our boat. It was when we left the Tehuantepec and were approaching the border of Guatemala that the seas built, the wind howled, and we were tossed and dropped for over 36 hours by the winds on our nose known as the papagallo. Taking turns of about 3 hours each we made it and arrived at the mouth of Bahia Del Sol around 10 AM. There is a sand bar, current, and breaking surf to avoid and the hour to enter that day was 5:30 PM(high slack). Being 7 hours ahead, we took well needed naps as the wind blew 20-25 all afternoon. At 5:30 the launch (panga style boat) met our buddy boat and showed him the way in. The attached pictures show his ride which was wet and wild, not unlike the log ride at Knotts Berry Farm. They did get wet. We thought you might appreciate the view we were given. But as stated above we lucked out. This country is friendly, and behind the low lands are numerous volcanoes with a layer of smoke filling the space between the two areas. It is harvest time for sugar cane and they burn the canes down all day and night long resulting in shards of ash floating on the winds and covering your boats, covers, and steps. One cannot escape the sweet odor it creates nor the desire to sweep up the mess.