Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Central Costa Rica passage

No Interweb for awhile now, so this is an SSB radio post- sans pics.

We held up an extra day in Plays del Coco so I could pickup some aluminum brackets I had made there. It was raining, so we hung out at a local restaurant, Woody's, with ok food, cool parrots and great wi-fi, till the brackets were supposed to be ready. I walked across the street and found a car masquerading as a taxi. 'How much to take me to the Metal Shop?' He says 1,000 colona, about two bucks. I say sure and jump in out of the rain. He starts to drive off and turn in the wrong direction. He had no clue where I wanted to go. We got that straightened out. He then starts to till me how dangerous it is to drive in the rain here. We showed up at the metal shop in one piece where they quickly said to come back in an hour. Back to town. After an hour I find the same taxi driver. This time he drives me straight to Metal shop. I head in, grab the parts, pay for them, and BS some with the owner about how hard it is to do business in CR. I walk out to grab the taxi and he has taken off. I never paid him for the second trip. The workers at the shop looked dumbfounded when I just said 'Costa Rica???' It was a long hike back into Coco.

One more crotch soaking and we were through the surf and back onto the boat. Next morning we took off for Playa Potrero, aka Playa Flamingo, aka Marina Flamingo. This place used to have a large marina and fuel dock. Today it is just an abandoned break water that you aren't allowed to land at. We headed here to see Kelvin on Le Bateau. He was busily trying to get his boat back together enough, after it's lightening strike in Coco, to move it south to Punta Arenas for a haul out. 'Busily' means it takes forever to get a simple job done. We went in on the bus with Kelvin so he could buy a fan belt to finish mounting his replacement alternator, the other having been fried. Two bus rides and six hours later we had acquired two fan belts.

The lightening strike did a couple odd things to Le Bateau. It blew the floor boards off onto the settees and sprayed water out of the bilge all over everything- presumably boiling at the time, thankfully they weren't on board at the time. He has a polished stainless steel Bruce style anchor; on one fluke and one side of the shank you can see the rainbow colors of steel having been heated way hot. The lightening must have exited down the chain.

Our plan was to buddy boat/escort Le Bateau to Punta Arenas, just in case anymore troubles showed up on the passage. Kelvin couldn't get the OK to move the boat from his insurance company. They wanted an inspection prior. Also, Ginny was not getting back in town for 10-days. We entertained Kelvin for two days and then abandoned him. Next we took off for an overnight sail to Bahia Balleena. Sail is a bit too strong. We motored all but 2 hours of it. Finally started seeing some commercial, panga, fishing again. There's been nothing since El Salvador. More little black flags with long lines attached just waiting to catch your keel.

Not much to be said for Bahia Ballena. It has a concrete pier that takes gymnastics and multiple tie off lines to off pier points to land at. There's a large bar/restaurant known as Bahia Ballena Yacht Club next to the pier. It wasn't open over the 2 days we were there. It did, however, nicely beam wi-fi into the bay. The town is a couple of mile hike in from there with a decent store. Our refrigeration is down till we can get some replacement washers in Golfito, so we picked up a couple of bags of ice. They were a lot lighter by the time we'd hiked them back to the boat.

A big south swell picked up, so our second night was rolly in the anchorage. We left early in the morning to cross the Golfo Nicoya on our way to Quepos. Just outside the bay at around 6am we managed to pickup a long line on our keel. This one put up a fight. We finally cut it loose, carefully re-tied it and took off, only to get retangled in the same long line. We cut that one loose, re-tied, and headed way, way clear of the black flag. Then as we got back on our course a couple fishermen in a panga came up beside us making the international hand waving signals for 'stop, stop'. I stuck the engine in neutral. He came close and I figured he was going to negotiate the damage to his long line. Instead he reached down and grabbed the long line that had gotten fouled, for the third time, on our keel. He opened his ice chest, pulled out a 2 foot machete and sliced the line. No attempt to re-tie it to save it. Just cut and throw it back in. Then it was Adios and we were off. The crossing of the Nicoya gulf was a little like sailing in British Columbia. Non-stop floating logs. After about 3 hours of dodging logs the waters cleaned up.

We made Quepos around 5pm,just before the afternoon rain storm hit. The swell had gotten larger and more cleanly formed over the day. It was clear that the anchorage in Quepos would suck. There's a new marina in Quepos, Marina Pez Vela. It charges something like $80-90 a night for transients-- ridiculous. Of course it is 3/4 empty. We took one look at the anchorage, as it sits right in front of the surf break, and headed straight back out. There's another small anchorage off Punta Quepos that was supposed to be more protected- because it's surrounded by reefs and rocks. As it got dark we dropped the hook in 35 feet of water with the swell cut down to a few feet. This made for another sleepless, rolly night.

Today we got fuel in Quepos and are heading south to Dominicalito anchorage. It is supposed to be a little less rolly than the next. But, until this swell lies down there aren't any decent anchorages for the next 100 miles. Makes it hard to enjoy the jungle and parks of central CR. We should be in Golfito in 4 or 5 days -laying in a flat calm anchorage.

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OK, we made it to Bahia Dominicalito. You anchor behind a rock reef that extends from the point. After some trials and tribulations we got bow and stern anchors down. This place is not going to go down as one of our good night sleeps. Even tucked behind the reef, there's still a 4ft plus swell shaking us around. Lucky we got a cold 6 pack of Imperial Silver, the local cerveza, when we got fuel and ice at the marina. Too bad we don't have any of our cruising buddies from Mexico or El Salvador to share them with. I think we'll be up at dawn and off to Bahia Drake in the morning, in search of a better anchorage.

Paul

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Zipping along through life

Dennis & Virginia on Libertad have their brother (in-law), Greg, down for a 10 day visit. So they rented  a car yesterday ($55 a day from National, delivered to Marina Papagayo) to head up to the nearby mountains in Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja (the Old Lady’s Corner) to do a zip line canopy tour. Chris & I tagged along. Dennis did the driving and Greg the navigating. There are a group of lodges all located in the same mountain area that do zip lining. The thing they all have in common is the driving directions. They all say go to Liberia (the ‘big’ city closest to us here in Bahia Culebra/Playas Coco), go to the traffic light and turn left at the major landmark, the Burger King. After that you travel out into ranch and farm country on a decent road. One thing that stands out here in Costa Rica is that the roadsides are clean – practically no trash. What a contrast to El Salvador, where it all goes out the bus window. Mexico is somewhere between Costa Rica and El Salvador, closer to El Salvador, for road trash.

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No trash!

The road then goes to dirt and you start climbing into the mountains more. Looking at the brochures, you seem to have two choices in getting to the start of the zip line, either horseback or tractor pulling a hay wagon type cart. We debated this, with the consensus leaning toward no horses.

We paid our $40 for zip line tickets – backing off from the $80 for the big package do-everything ticket. They took us to a building that looked like a paddock and we suited up.

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Chris with here double head protection on.

After we suited up we followed the guide up the trail and started the hike to the top of the zip lines. This answered the question of how we would get to the top. Apparently our ticket was for the budget run. At Buena Vista there are 11 zip lines that run along the top of the canopy from tree platform to platform. The first one is the short, mellow training one. They show you how not to get your fingers removed by the slide and how to brake (by hand- pull down on the wire). I was pretty convinced that the diaper harness I was wearing was going to emasculate me.

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Chris Zoom!! Coming in for the landing.

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Paul Zoom!! Take off.

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Suspension bridge above the canopy along the way- that’s the canopy bridge tour.

 

After we all got out our bucket-lists and crossed off Jungle canopy zip line, Costa Rica, we headed back down the mountain back to Liberia (and the Burger King landmark) to do some provisioning. We decided to pass on the Home of the Whopper and went to a Tipica local place.

zipIMG_8121 OK, I finally had to give in and start showing on the blog pictures of our food. Lunch for 2,500 colona (5 bucks US)

We were going to leave Playa Panama to head to Bahia Protrero today. This is where our friends Kelvin and Ginny on Le Bateau is holed up trying to get his boat back together after a lightening strike. While we had the car we stopped by a metal working shop in Coco. They are going to make up a set of aluminum brackets so I can mount a tiller pilot to drive the wind vane. It should be ready tomorrow, so we’ll hang out today and then on to Protrero in the morning to catch up with Le Bateau.


In search of the Internet

We really wanted to setup a 3G USB Modem like the Banda Ancha we’d used in Mexico. Cell towers are everywhere here, so it seemed like a request that was within human reason to get accomplished. Two trips to the electronics and cell stores in Playas Del Coco struck out. They both had the USB modems (dongles) for sale for reasonable prices. However, neither one could sell you the SIM card that started the service. For that you had to travel into the big city, Liberia, and go to the cell company, ICE (ee-say), main office. The office is like any big telephone company office– meet the receptionist,explain your issues, take a number. When your number is called, go to the correct desk. The receptionist set us up so our number would match the desk where the assistant spoke pretty good English. She first spent time looking up the part number of the Bana Ancha modem we already owned to see if it was supported on their system. No, but it might work. Then we talked about the various plans (sounds like $27 a month for unlimited data download/access). Then she let out that if you aren’t a resident of Costa Rica you can’t get a data plan. The issue is that the data plans are not pre-pay. They are month to month contract that you can cancel at anytime without a fee. The problem is that the tourists don’t cancel the plans when they leave and the phone company can’t collect from them.  Bottom line – no data card for non-residents. Too bad because we had a bunch of pictures of each meal we ate to show our blog reader.

Paul

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Costa Rican Treasure Hunt

When you arrive at any country by sailboat from a foreign port you have to check-into the country, i.e do the customs and immigration two-step. In Costa Rica the first stop is the Port Captain. As our friend Pam on Precious Metal describes it, you go into the Port Captains office, he looks over your exit Zarpe from the previous country and then hands you the list of all the things you’ll need to find on your multi-day treasure hunt. When you’ve gotten everything on the list you return to the port captain and he blesses you with your entry Zarpe, or it’s equivalent.

We anchored outside the mooring balls in Playas del Coco, a small town which is the northern most port of entry in CR. This is a nice tropical bay, but with two major draw backs. The surf rolls in through the anchorage which makes it really rocky and uncomfortable on the boat. Then, the resulting shore break makes each and every dinghy landing and re-launch an exciting, if not life-threatening, experience. At the very least you just have to plan on getting your crotch wet in the 86-degree water each time you go ashore. A new fashion statement for in town wear.

There’s the remains of the old pier that is on the beach near the center bay reef. This makes for the best dinghy landing spot. Here, if you dump the dink you can be sure someone, locals and tourists, will be there to see the spectacle.  We dragged our dink up the beach on the deflated dinghy wheels and locked it to a post near the pier. We haven’t been able to find a bicycle pump that has a nozzle that is small enough to fit on the tubes on the Danard dinghy wheels. We shake off like a dog that just had a bath and head up the beach and onto the main road – where the Port Captain’s office is conveniently located.  He looked through our papers, told us which ones we didn’t have enough copies of, gave us carbon copy forms to fill out – all with a friendly attitude. Checking into Costa Rica is supposed to be free, however due to a few minor expenses and  fees, it actually ends up costing about $100USD.

First stop was the bank to pay the agriculture inspection fee of approx $50. You pay it in colonas—which are 500c to 1USD—so it feels overwhelmingly expensive: 28,700 colonas. The Port Captain called Immigracion for us to make sure she’d be there – she said come by at 3pm. The bank is next door to the immigration office, 300 yards up the main road from Port Captain’s. Both the Port Captain and Immigration made us fill out forms that list the last 5 ports and dates of exit from them. The dates we kind of made up, as no one really cares and we really couldn’t remember. The lady at Immigration gave us a 90-day visa – that’s the max from the local office.

It was late and we had to wait for our 8:30am appointment with the Agriculture inspector before we could hunt for anymore treasures. So it was back in the dingy, back through the surf and a wet crouch again. We spent a rolly uncomfortable night – this means that it took Chris over 5 minutes to fall a sleep, I , on the other hand, truly slept like crap.

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Eduardo inspecting the fruits and veggies of Jeorgia

Next morning we took the dinghy in through the surf. It was a little smaller this time – crotch still got wet. We hung outside the Port Captains office waiting for the Agricultural Inspector. The weird thing about this inspection is that there doesn’t seem to be any list of prohibited foods. He pulled up on a motorcycle with long pants and street shoes. I just couldn’t see how we were going to get him out through the surf in our dinghy without getting him at least partially soaked. Eduardo, the inspector, headed into the Port Captains office. He came out with his bathing suit on and his official name tag on around his neck, nothing else. This guy had obviously been abused by cruisers before. He was a good guy, spoke no English. The net of his visit was that he wanted us to make sure we ate all our fruits and vegies before we left Costa Rica – a valuable tip for $50.

The next part of the hunt was to go to the Customs office (Aduana) for our temporary import permit.  Somehow we were making too good a progress on the hunt, so they threw in one extra bonus stop back at Immigration to drop off another copy of the crew list. Customs would be easy except for the fact that it is located next to the airport in Liberia which is 45 minutes away. You can take a bus from Coco for about a dollar. They leave once an hour, more or less. The problem is that you can’t seem to take a bus back from Aduana, which means you need to find a taxi to get back from the airport, at $50. Fortunately Walter and his teal green pickup truck found us. He hangs out across the street from the Port Captains office. He’ll run you out to customs and back for $50. Along the way he’ll tell you what a beautiful country Costa Rica is, in very clear slow Spanish. Costa Rica has a reputation for petty theft, but Walter assured us that that is all carried out by the Nicaraguans who have invaded his country.

Costa Rica has no military. As they say, it is a peaceful place. When we drove by the airport on the way to customs there were two military planes there, a P-8 AWACS and a C-130 Coast Guard plane, both US military drug interdiction planes – your tax dollars at work.

Customs gave us a 90-day Temporary Import Permit, to bring the boat and all of our belongings onboard into the country, to match our 90-day visa. And that completed the treasure hunt and we were declared a winner.

As Treasure Hunt winner and a duly checked-in boat we were finally given the right to go over to Marina Papagayo and buy diesel from them-- at $5.16 a gallon. Ouch.

Tonight we are anchored at Playa Panama-– a smooth and protected anchorage within the beautiful Bahia Culebra with a nice, high-end hotel ashore that lets us go to the open air bar to drink beer and use their WiFi… with much less exciting dinghy landings.

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Jeorgia resting in Playa Panama, Costa Rica

The Treasure Hunters

Paul & Chris

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Northern Costa Rica

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This blogging stuff is hard work. Here I am sweating away trying to get some pictures into these posts just so I won’t bore our blog reader.

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We took the boat over to La Union and anchored just past the Naval base. There’s a restaurant with a blue roof here that has a nice dinghy landing pier. We arranged with the port officials to meet us there to do our exit paperwork. Nice guys, easy process – another $40 worth of paper so we can officially leave El Salvador and legally enter Costa Rica (Golfito, CR, is the destination port identified on the Zarpe).

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Sorry for the out of focus shot. This is our boats track during the 3am storm while off the Nicaraguan coast. The red blotch center top is the boats current position. The red trail is the track we took to try to avoid the storm. You can see that as it approached we kept heading further out to try to flank it. Eventually, we gave up and turned hard back toward shore to punch through it. The yellow/red blotch at the bottom of the screen is the Radar image of the trailing edge of the storm cell.

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Suicidal squids inking our decks

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Our first stop in Costa Rica was Bahia Santa Elena, on the northern coast, part of the Parque Nacional Santa Rosa. It was fairly overcast and pleasantly cool and quiet for the three nights we anchored there. Chris even had to put on a blanket at night to sleep- it probably got down to the low 80’s. The overcast and light rain made it look a bit like the Pacific Northwest Only with green parrots flying overhead, sea turtles grazing near the boat, and jungle-like plants and bugs. Great jungle noises at night, too. We were one of three boats in the bay, one of which were our friends Virginia and Dennis on Libertad who we met up with in Golfo de Fonseca. Bienvenidos a Costa Rica- country of the Pura Vida!

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Don’t feel too bad for us, the lower number on the screen is the water temperature

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Bird homes along the shores of the bay

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Jungle hike plants

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Johnny Weissmuller grabbing a vine

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Kayak adventure up the estuary

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In the estuary

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Hermit, the beach critter, cruising- maybe looking for another shell?

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‘Mom, I’m hungry’. One of the big sea turtles in the bay sticking his head up for a breath and a peek.

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We snorkeled off the inside island at the entrance Bahia Santa Elena. I came across this turtle just grazing on the growth on the side of the rocks. He wasn’t pleased that I showed up and took off like a bolt.

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Bahia Santa Elena is a beautiful, but isolated place. Except for the other two cruising boats, we only saw a few small fishing boats come and go. Nothing on shore except a little used access road and the remnants of a wooden hull buried in the rocks.


After three days, we headed off south, around Punta Santa Elena and Key Point, to the Bat Islands (aka Islas Murcielagos). There’s supposed to be a park ranger here who collects something like $20 a head to anchor there (part of the Parque Nacional Santa Rosa). No one has shown up yet, although we can see the rangers boat from where we are anchored.

sanatelenaIMG_8036 We are anchored off this beach in the cut between two islands in the Isla Murcielagos chain, the ranger’s station is on the island across the cut on the other side. Got in some good snorkeling on the north east side of this island and then Chris went in to the beach to compete with the hermit crabs for cool shells.

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We were met by the spotted dolphin welcoming committee on the way in

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Something that looks like it should be dinner

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A 4 foot shark hanging on the reef. After Chris found him she decided to snorkel a lot closer to me. I think that was just a increase the odds thing, as she thinks she can swim faster than me.

 

Paul

Gulfo de Fonseca - Photo catching up

Time to fill in some pics of the 10 days we spent around Gulfo de Fonseca at the southern end of El Salvador. We went down to meet up with Pam and Henry who were traveling down on Rapscullion, Henry’s trick catamaran ride.

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El Salvador requires that a boat receive a Zarpe (exit paperwork) even to travel to another port within the country. They make the paperwork very easy and convenient, but it is still an unneeded $40 expense. Next time, I think we’d just get a Zarpe for leaving the country and then go into the Golfo, but not go all the way into La Union, or any of the nearby commercial ports, to check out of the country.

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To leave Bahia del Sol we had to head back out across the bar again. Rojelio, the bar pilot, had Tuesday off but he graciously agreed to come meet us 8:30am to guide us out at high tide. The surf wasn’t too bad, but you definitely do want a pilot here. You can see the bar, with breaking waves, in the distance.

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The bar breaking on our way out

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One of the panga (called lancha here) fisherman tied up to his little black flag 10 miles offshore. These are the flags that are supposed to warn you that their nets are out. If there’s a swell running they can be completely hidden behind the swells, as are the pangas themselves. And guess what, the black flag does not stand out at night. This guy is giving us the international hand signal for it appears if you stay on your present course you are not going to run over my net and foul it in your prop– but watch out for the next one.

Pam needed to check out the boat lift at the Naval yard in La Union to determine how well it would handle hauling her 46ft steel hull boat, Precious Metal. The first few nights in the Gulf, we anchored in Tamarindo Bay just in front of where Giovanni- a real go-getter local who we first met at the lunch we had with the brass in San Salvador- plans to develop a new marina, the first in the Golfo de Fonseca. Giovanni picked us up one day and we visited his development site and then headed over to La Union.

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The first pier and beach area for the new marina. This is going to be an ecologically sound development. They finally received their government approvals after two years of work. Interested in investing?

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Giovanna on the left, John off Sea Quest in the middle, and yours truly looking at where the dredging spoils will go. John has developed and run major boat yards in California and Mexico and is interested in being involved in the development of a potential dry storage yard in La Union.

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Giovanni drove us all up to the town of Chonchaguara(sp) in the hills just above La Union. The church above was originally built on one of the offshore islands. It was moved here in 1700’s (or so) brick by brick to make it more defensible– damn pirates. Gofo de Fonseca was long a haven for forays on the Spanish gold plunder from S. America.

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When you head out with Giovanni (right), there always seems to be a good meal involved.

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Here’s a couple of pictures of the unfortunate white elephant at La Union, a project not yet complete. This brand new container port was built by the Japanese a couple years ago, with promised French involvement.  Those yellow container lifts are reportedly $10 million a piece. The plan was to build a new container port in La Union and connect it with an existing container port on the Caribbean side of Honduras by taking the old United Fruit Company narrow gauge railroad and rebuilding it into a double rail cross Central America track. This would then give an alternative to some of the container traffic that passes through the Panama Canal- a money maker to be sure.  The Japanese built the port and dredged the entrance. The world market went to hell and the French pulled out before staring the rail line. Not a single container ship has landed here.  This is just not the kind of infrastructure investment that El Salvador needs at this time. It’s too bad, because it seems like the government is really trying to fortify the country’s economy to create jobs for the locals and grow the middle class (and get re-elected). Unfortunately, many Salvadorans invested in businesses that would support the port and they are now hurting- badly.

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We also got a good guided tour of the Naval Base. Here’s one of the ships having work done on the Naval boat yard lift. In order to lift Lovely Lady out of the water (for inspection and repairs after her grounding), this boat needed to be moved. The Commander at the base said that they could finish up work on this boat fairly quickly. But before they could put it back in the water- and haul the civilian sailboats- they would need to do some maintenance on the lift itself, which would take a little more time. Pam was glad to hear they were going to do the maintenance before Precious Metal would be hauled.

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However, the maintenance didn’t go so well and the boat, and part of the pier, fell over during the attempted launching a few days later. Not sure when this will get fixed. Does not give you a warm and fuzzy about hauling your boat here at this time.


Isla Meanguera, Golfo de Fonseca

About 10 miles off La Union or Tamarindo is Isla Meanguera. We spent all total about 4 or 5 nights in the peaceful anchorage in the little bay where the La Joya de Golfo hotel is located. This is a four room hotel run by an ex-pat from LA and his El Salvadorian wife (also from LA). The Lonely Planet guide describes it: as a very nice place to stay, and that’s a good thing as it is the only place to stay on the island. The anchorage was nice, but the evening thunderstorms left a little to be desired in the ‘peaceful category’

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La Joya de Golfo Hotel

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Me and the hotel dog Gordo putting in some deck time

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Chris and Rachel, the very talkative and fun hotel kid making sure George the hotel cat is comfortable.

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Having a good-bye dinner on the deck at the hotel.

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The island has some nice stone paved roads, but no cars. Here’s some of the goods transporters hanging by the docks.

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There’s one pupuseria (pupusa – the Salvadoran stuffed thick tortilla) in the village on the island. Check the local green parrots (pets) up in the right side of the roof frame. These guys were just bored looking at us on a hot day until the proprietess came out to talk with them. Then they started singing, dancing and vying for her attention.

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Then the boss parrot started tongue kissing with the proprietor

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Pam saw a chance for some bird affection and gave it a try while Henry watched and wondered about why not me.

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These guys are way cool.

 

End of photo update Uno.

Paul

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Passage to Costa Rica

Our last evening in El Salvador, we enjoyed another good dinner on the over-the water patio at the Hotel La Joya de Golfo with Henry and Pam off 'Rapscullion' and Dennis and Virginia off 'Libertad'. Having 3 cruising boats in the anchorage in front of the hotel on Meanguera Island is probably a record. We've been traveling with Henry since Zihuatenejo and traveled to Guatemala with Pam while in El Salvador. We said our goodbyes and hope to catch up with both of them again in Panama. 'Libertad' is off to Costa Rica along with us.
We got up early on Friday and had the anchor up by about 5:15am. Motored out the Gulfo de Fonseca. The gulf is bordered by 3 countries, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, so when you see a Naval vessel, most likely a Vietnam era hand-me-down, you can't tell which country it's from in the distance. Either way, they seem pretty friendly and more interested in the cruisers security than anything else.
Once we got out into the Pacific we had a few false starts of sailing, then got in a good days sail till early evening when the motor had to go back on as the wind died out. There must have been some kind of a no-fishing holiday in Nicaragua as we did not see a single panga or shrimper all day or night. That was a good thing. The night looked clear and the sliver of moon was setting as the Southern Cross rose. There was a lot of phosphorescence in the water, the usual green glow with additional dancing green dots that looked like small galaxies, spun up in the boat's wake. Every once in awhile a porpoise or two would zoom up to play with the boat and leave trails of glowing water in their wake. You could see the trail dart under the boat and then the depth sounder would suddenly register 13 feet depth, instead of infinity.
By night fall we were around 17 or 18 miles offshore. We went this far out to avoid pangas -- apparently the non-existent ones -- and to hopefully reduce the number of storm cells we ran into, as they seem to develop on shore. It looked like a brilliant strategy until about 2am. Instead of just seeing all the lightening flashes on the coast you could start to see some more ahead of us. The storm built and you could clearly see it as a 2 mile by 12 mile long set of cells on the Radar. We spent the next 4 hours trying to out dodge the storm, making little progress toward our destination and moving even further offshore. Eventually it caught up to us and started dumping rain. The wind and the rain are not the real issue -- its the lightening flashes all around that make it a less than enjoyable experience. There looked like a couple of small light rain paths through the storm so we changed direction and punched through it toward shore. An hour later the sun was coming up ad looking over our shoulder to the storm there was a full rainbow.
Today was a boring motor boat ride-- no wind and a need to get to the anchorage before dark. We made it into Bahia Santa Elena in northern end of Costa Rica this evening just after dark. Hope to get in some snorkeling in the morning and hunt down some of the local parrots and monkeys for dinner.

Paul

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Not a good year to be in the inusrance business in CA

This not apparently a good year to be in the boat insurance business in Central America. I checked in with our friends on 'Le Bateau' to see how their passage from El Salvador to Costa Rica went. Kelvin and Jinny made it all the way to Las Cocos, Playa del Cocos in Bahia Culebra. They went in to spend the day with their local friends. The boat got hit by lightening while they were away and fried all the electrical and electronics. Alternator, regulator, windlass, radar, radios, etc. No fun. They are trying to get the boat together enough to sail her to Punta Arenas, Costa Rica, for a haul-out for complete inspection and repair. Second lightning strike on a boat we know and it's just the beginning of the season. we've had big storms, with plenty of lightening and rain, every night since arriving in Gulf of Fonseca.

We left the anchorage on Meanguera Is. and returned to Tamarindo Bay accompanied by Pam and Henry on 'Rapscullion'. With a very large Pacific swell running, it turned out to be one uncomfortable night there- actually two uncomfortable nights. In Tamarindo, We got Jervis on a local panga to take us through the bar entrance into the estuary. We grabbed Oscar the taxi driver to take us into and around La Union, the big town here. We wanted to do our official check in in La Union and check out at the same time, but it turned out that the port captain in town doesn't do this. It is the officials at nearby Puerto Caraison. So we decided it would be easier to bring he boat in the next day, anchor near the Navy base we'd visited last week, and dinghy in with the folks on 'Libertad' to do the paperwork shuffle. We did -- the port guys are friendly and cooperative. That said, next time I'd just check out at Bahia del Sol and not go into La Union with the boat. There are enough anchorages around here that you can skip La Union and just be 'in transit'- we're learning.

We met up with 'Libertad' and 'Lovely Lady' crew in town at the fast food chicken spot, Pollo Campero. After the Navy lift fell over, Rose decided to take the boat back to Barillas where they had now agreed to haul her for the inspection after her grounding there a couple weeks ago week. On the way up it was stormy and there was this large swell running. The fishing pangas here get hidden behind the swells and are very difficult to see, sometimes even in broad daylight as we can attest. It was 4am when they heard a smash on the bow. They'd center-punched a panga splitting it in two. The pangero ended up with a compound fracture of the femur. Fortunately there were other pangas around to take him in to port immediately- they move mush faster than the sailboats can, even under power- and off to San Miguel for surgery. Another insurance claim. 'Lovely Lady' is really due for some no-more-drama time.

We're back in the little anchorage off Isla Meanguera now. If it works out OK, we will leave early in the morning for a 2 day, 1 night passage to the north end of Cost Rica, making for Bahia Santa Elena. We were going to leave today, but it looks like the rain storms, and hence the lightening, might be a little less tomorrow. We plan to keep an eye out for the fishermen and are making sacrifices to Thor that he will take pity on us poor sailors here in the throes of the Central America rainy season.

Pictures and intelligent commentary when we get to Internet access again.

Paul and Chris

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