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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