Monday, May 30, 2011

Gulf of Fonseca

We made it out of Bahia de Sol across the bar without a lot of drama on Tuesday morning at high tide. It was Rojelio's (the bar pilot) day off, but he came down at 8:30am and jumped on his jetski to guide us out. We had to stop near the outside to let a large set break and then reform so we could ride over it. Then we were free to roam the Pacific. It was a motor boat ride for the first 20 miles down to Barrillas, then the wind picked up and we had good sail for 30 miles or so down the coast. Motor went back on a few hours before dark and we rounded Punta Amapala in the dark. The charts show one good 12 mile light on the point. Of course it was not working, but there were about a dozen other navigation lights that were visible and not on the chart. We turned into Tamarindo Bay and talked to Henry & Pam who had come in the day before on Henry's cat, Rapsculion. They guided us in and we dropped the hook at about 8:45pm. A pretty good run for the day.
Next day we got picked by a panga(called a lancha down here) with Giovani on board. He is putting together a marina inside the estuary here. It is in the planning stages and he has finally received environmental approvals from the government. It is a ways off yet, but when done should be a pretty cool, ecologically sound destination for cruisers. John and Veronica from the old Coast Guard cutter, Sea Quest,also came down from Bahia del Sol by van with Giovani. The plan was to look around his property and the nearby town of La Union, and then in the afternoon to tour the boat lift capabilities at the Salvadoran Naval base in La Union. Pam still needs to haul her boat, Precious Metal, for repairs after her lightening encounter. We'd also heard that Rose and Jani, on Lovely Lady, were also headed down here to haul for an inspection after hitting bottom while crossing the bar in Barrillas (while being guided in by the Barrillas bar pilot!!). The officers at the Naval base were very friendly and toured us all around. Hauling boats brings in some extra money for the base that can be used for maintenance, etc. They are interested in setting up a dry storage area for boats. This John's area of expertise and he wanted to see what was planned.
There's a large brand new container ship base here that is currently a white elephant. It was supposed to be connected to the Caribbean side via a new railway. This would have been a land route for containers across Central America instead of the canal. The port was built by the Japanese. The story has it that the railway was to use the old right-of-way from the existing but decrepit United Fruit narrow gauge railway and be built and funded by the French. The down turn in the world economy and perhaps a few other nefarious factors conspired to have the French pull out. Now the completed container port, with its dredged channel and markers are still awaiting their first ship. This has put a lot of stress on the town, as locals have invested their life savings into businesses to support this as yet unopened port.
When we looked at the naval lift it was in use by a large navy vessel. This boat looked like it had been there for awhile and still had a ton of work to to be done on it. The commander mentioned that he planned to drop the boat in the water and make room for the two private vessels to haul out (Lovely Lady and Precious Metal)to haul, as soon as they could. He said he needed to do some maintenance work on the lift first. When we went into the officers club to get more details on hauling Precious Metal, it became clear that no one had setup an appointment to haul Lovely Lady. Setting up an appointment includes getting a formal quote from the Navy, then going to San Salvador with a certified check to pay for 50% up front... none had been done.
The next day Lovely Lady showed up in front of the Navy base. The following morning they tried to lower the navy ship back into the water, but part of the lift gave in. Pictures to follow when we get an Internet connection I'm not sure what Love Lady's plans are now. Precious Metal will still probably haul here, just not real soon.
We headed over to Meanguera Island for a 3 night stay. Nice little anchorage in a bay on the backside near the La Joya de Golfo hotel. This is a beautiful 4 room boutique place ($79 per night) run by a Los Angelino (as in California)and his Salvadoran wife. They are cruiser friendly, offer delicious fancy meals, along with the use of their deck built out over the water for enjoying afternoon cocktails. Their 10 year old daughter, Rachel, seemed to really enjoy the English speaking company.
We are back in Tamarindo Bay now. This time there's a big ground swell running from south of the equator that is rolling in here and making the anchorage pretty rolly and uncomfortable today. We plan to get a lancha ride into shore tomorrow and taxi to La Union. We need to get some R-134a refrigerant to try to get our refrigerator running again. We also need to go to see the port captain and immigration to check out of the country. Then, if we can get a few jerry jugs of fuel, we'll head back out, southeast, with probable plans to make Costa Rica in a day or 3.
No pictures til we get internet again.
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