Saturday, April 30, 2011

COSTA RICA

As we left San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua) yesterday, we were hoping for an overnight sail to Costa Rica. Be careful what you ask for! We started out that evening with one reef in the main and a small head sail (staysail). Soon after midnight, the wind really started to howl and seas became confused and we struggled to put another reef in the main and reduce the headsail, and we were still clipping along on a broad reach at 6 knots. But we did sail all the way!

We arrived at Bahias del Coco today at 09:45, setting the anchor in the windy bay (N10°33.606' W085°41.733'). We couldn't check in as the Port Captain's office was closed till Monday.

Once again, we found the beach to be such a fine silty black, like a muddy mixture. It left your feet feeling very dusty and dirty, even worse than at San Juan del Sur. And even though the anchorage is so very windy, our dinghy landings and exits have been dry. It seems that early each morning, there is no wind but it pipes up soon afterward for the rest of the day and evening.

We stopped at a local establishment for refreshments as it was so very hot out. All of a sudden, a fine mist was falling upon us! Overhead were pipes that had been turned on and were secreting a fine mist - what a great way to cool down!

After a golden orange sunset, we showered, made a light dinner, and with a glass of wine played some Polynesian music that SV AKA had given us to end our day.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Goodbye Nicaragua

The military that does local check-ins showed up at our anchored boat yesterday just as we were getting ready to go ashore to check-in at San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua). He handled it very quickly and there was no charge. Then we had to go ashore to visit the Port Captain to hand over our national Zarpe. And before we left today for Costa Rica, we had to visit the Port Captain once more to get our international Zarpe (permit to exit to another country).


Hello San Juan del Sur

We spent yesterday catching up on the internet and wandering around this cute town. There is no garbage evident on the streets and bright colours were everywhere. For the first time cruising down the coast, Jordan noticed a hint of Caribbean architecture with features like large verandas, the main floor stilted off the ground, big shuttered windows, wood siding, and tin roofs.

We hired a very amiable taxi driver to take us to Rivas, about 20 km away, as we needed to refill our propane tank. Here, they don't call it propane - they call it gas. And we also wanted to see the huge mercado and buy some more fruits and veggies (I know, we go through a lot - but they are so fresh and so good!) The mercado was indeed huge and very colourful and busy...

Take your pick, whatever you want

and the heterogeneous tiles inlaid in the sidewalks were very striking...


Horse-drawn carts were everywhere to move around the products and people. And cars and buses were always honking their horns to warn pedestrians that they were behind them. The currency in Nicaragua is Córdobas (today, approximately 22 Córdobas equals 1 US dollar). On our way back to San Juan del Sur, Jordan asked our taxi driver if he would take us up the steep hill to see the statue of Jesus (and great view from the top of the hill). It's a fairly new statue, only a couple of years old, and VERY tall at 250 meters. Quite impressive.

Can you see a very tiny Jordan between the upper & lower levels?

At San Juan del Sur, the beach sand is so very fine, almost like dust! And it is very windy, making it cooler but also a rolly anchorage and wet dinghy rides. The wind also carries the fine beach sand into the boat.

We picked up our international Zarpe at 17:00 today and are off to Costa Rica!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

San Juan del Sur

After starting out with a good sail from Puesta del Sol yesterday, we continued to motor till 06:30 the next morning when once again we raised the sails - mainsail, headsail, and the Genoa.

For breakfast, we had crepes stuffed with mangoes, of course, after collecting so many, and with Jordan's coconut rum sauce they were delicious!

Around midday, Jordan simply announced "Sea Turtle, Sea Turtle" over the hailing channel #16 on the VHF radio and responding was Pam on SV Precious Metal out of Victoria BC. We had met her in ports north. She had just been down to Costa Rica and was heading back to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. She was somewhere out there out of sight but we had a friendly chat.

We had an excellent sail until our destination when suddenly Jordan landed a Mahi Mahi. As soon as he landed it, he had a strike on the other trailing line! But this one managed to get away.

As I drew alongside an anchored cruise ship to veil the wind, Jordan lowered the still-standing mainsail. We dropped our anchor at San Juan del Sur (N11°15.386' W085°52.625') at 15:30, still in Nicaragua. This port is 22 miles north of Costa Rica and we had sailed more than half way from our last port of Puesta del Sol which was a great feeling.

After the sun set, we had a candlelit dinner in the cockpit with a bit of cool breeze blowing. The cabin temperature was 30°C (86°F). We reflected on a splendid day as we admired the surrounding lights.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To market...to market

This morning, we were once again up bright and early to catch the 07:30 bus to the Chinandega market for more fresh fruits and veggies. And we thought the chicken buses in El Salvador and Guatemala were full. This one was even fuller. And a woman embarked with...yes...a chicken! Each seat was over capacity - I had 3 adults and 2 children on my seat. Jordan stood and watched as the fee collector instructed people to squish together even tighter so even more people could fit. And then he squirmed his way through the masses to collect all the fares. Unbelievable!

Watching the bus load before it was real full

We got everything we needed at the market and small supermarket after. A taxi ride back to the Marina was only $15 for a 45-minute ride, so we did that instead of the $1 and 2-hour over-crowded bus ride.

With groceries put away, we collected bags of more mangoes that had fallen from the trees on the Marina property and then had a quick swim to cool off in the pool. Then at 14:30, we untied our lines and sailed with SE winds ranging between 5 to 15 knots for the next 2 hours, then motored when they died.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sleepy check-in

With a 06:30 knock on the boat, Nicaraguan customs and immigration officials visited for the officialdom paperwork. And they had travelled 2 hours by bus from Corinto to get to Marina Puesta del Sol! After making coffee for everyone, the paperwork was completed in short order. They were kind enough to give us an "in-country" (national) Zarpe for Nicaragua to include our next stopover tomorrow at 1 more Nicaraguan port called San Juan del Sur, making our next check-out easier.

That done, and after a quick breakfast, out came the Hooka gear (compressor dive equipment) for the bottom cleaning of Sea Turtle. As suspected, it needed it. Actually the bottom wasn't really bad but the prop was covered in barnacles. This was because the boat sat at anchor in the estuary of Bahia del Sol for almost a month. A prop has to be completely smooth and any buildup drastically affects the aqua dynamic efficiency of it. This will make a noticeable difference in speed. Wow another 2 knots! Don't laugh, 2 extra knots means 48 extra nautical miles in a full day. The zincs also needed to be changed which Jordan did.

Wandering around the hotel tropical grounds, we saw a mango tree with thousands of ripe mangoes lying all over. So we will be getting our fill for the next week! We were competing with a 5-foot iguana while collecting them.

We walked the short distance to the beach area where the Marina/Hotel has another infinity pool to watch the sun set. This great pool had only 1 person in the water (taking shots of the setting sun) and not a soul anywhere else except 1 staff member.

Setting sun with a bit of cloud cover

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Unplanned stop - NICARAGUA

As we continued towards Costa Rica, our visiting sparrow flew off around 05:00 after a 10-hour rest on our lifeline. We motored for another 7 hours under the hot sun. Incidentally, this day Sea Turtle passed under the sun which will now be to the north of us for the next few years.

With the frustratingly slow progress, we decided to make an unscheduled stop to clean the bottom so we turned left into Puesta del Sol, the first port of entry for Nicaragua. It was another bar crossing but, hey, we are pros now and it was straight forward. Just before coming in, Jordan stopped the boat and turned on the GPS to see if there was movement "over ground" and sure enough, there was a 1 knot counter-current that we had been fighting. But that was only part of the problem.

Around 13:00, we docked at the nice but mostly vacant Marina Puesta del Sol Resort (N12°37.506' W87°20.521'), which is Spanish for "setting of the sun". We then had an easy marina check-in with English-speaking Dorian, and then went to the quiet infinity swimming pool where there were only 2 other people and relaxed in our water chairs!

Cool pool - cool dude

This marina is more expensive than Bahia del Sol's and is smaller. But they have different amenities and are very tropical with friendly staff. There were only 3 other boats registered here!

We spent the evening with SV Destiny to give them waypoints and share our favourite stops in Mexico for their quick trip up the northern coast when they leave tomorrow.

Now that we have checked into Nicaragua, we will stop next at Nicaragua's San Juan del Sur, a clearance port that is 105 miles south and only 22 miles from the Costa Rican border.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Overdue departure

With Zarpe (exit permit) in hand, we were ready to cross the bar this morning. As the 3rd of 3 boats, we watched from about 800 m back as 57' SV Perfect Wave was going up and over the crashing breaking waves of the surf with instructions from the pilot boat (a sea-doo) over the VHF radio.

The sea-doo was next going to take out the 2nd larger boat, SV Lisa Kay, and hailed us saying that the waves were too big for little Sea Turtle and asked us to go back to the Marina. Jordan responded saying it looked like a gap in the breakers more to the east that he had been watching and suggested we take that exit. The pilot sea-doo agreed and diverted SV Lisa Kay to the east exit and then ushered us there as well.

It was a significantly more benign crossing than Perfect Wave had. The pilot boat expressed thanks for visiting El Salvador and we raised the sails under a stiff breeze and were off with mixed feelings of sadness to leave and happiness to be on our way. Check out the El Salvador Rally link on the right and be sure not to bypass this great port!!

Exciting bar ride

We were able to sail for a bit, but as the winds grew to over 20 knots building confused seas and the clouds got darker, we lowered the sails. The wind was "on the nose" and it then rained a bit and after awhile, everything calmed down - too calm - no wind and smooth seas. Motoring again. But it was a great day to be out as with the cloud cover it wasn't stifling hot and we did not have to hide from burning rays of the sun.

Measuring the strength of the wind

With 2 fishing lines trailing, Jordan caught a nice sized spotted Sierra that will give us 3 good meals.


Once again at sunset, we got a visitor, a tiny beautiful sparrow. After circling the boat and several indecisive landings, he finally took up roost on our thin metal lifeline just below a sheet (a rope to a sail) once it became dark. Throughout our night-watch checks, we would take a non-disturbing peek at him.

During the night, again the winds really picked up and again, right "on the nose". We were, at times, only making 1.5 knots headway. Jordan suspected dirty bottom and prop, a counter current, and of course with each bash into a deep wave the boat comes to almost a halt. Frustrating! At least the clouds cleared during the evening as we could later see all the dazzling stars.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Two weeks of fun

It was nice to return to Bahia del Sol in El Salvador on April 8th after our 6-day land exploration of Guatemala and Honduras. We of course headed straight to the pool after a long hot ride back!

The next morning, we joined several other cruisers for a panga ride to Isla Montecristo. This place is inhabited by the panga operator's family members and is quite remote. As everyone else took a tour and walked around the island, Jordan (what a sweetie!) stayed behind with me as I suddenly wasn't feeling well. We had both picked up a "bug" during our land travels and Jordan had already been sick during our bus ride back to El Salvador! (A day later, we were both back to normal.)

Jordan looking at freshly carved dugouts

Back in the panga, we pulled over to a small open-air restaurant on stilts where everyone ordered freshly caught, whole, barbecued fish (except sickly me). Jordan said it was the best fish he has ever tasted. After thanking our gracious hosts, we continued back to Bahia del Sol.

As we were leaving restaurant

For a change, we dinghied a short distance on Tuesday to Restaurant Acajulta which has a swimming pool. This is where everyone met for the 16:00 Cruisers Net and happy hour with dinner ordered afterward. Of course everything was outdoors and convivial.

Thursday kept us entertained with a blind wine tasting at Bahia del Sol Marina. Several cruisers brought a bottle of wine, its label was covered then designated with a number, and then we would all sample and grade each of the 15 bottles. The owner of the bottle with the highest score received a free bottle of wine. By the end of the evening, I don't think there was any leftover wine and a few were feeling headaches the next morning.

15 bottles is a lot of sampling...

On Saturday the 16th, we caught the chicken bus to go to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, so we could do some provisioning. We stayed overnight at a great inexpensive hotel, Villa Serena, for $30 which included a $10 discount as part of the El Salvador Rally group. The room provided purified water and apple juice in the refrigerator, cable TV, and also included a continental breakfast the next morning of eggs, French toast, cereal, or pupusas with coffee or tea.

We had an interesting cab ride around the city to see the huge mercado, the central cathedral, etc., and then walked to the Centro Mall where we were able to find everything we needed. Supper ordered in later back at the hotel was only $6 total for 4 pupusas and a Coca Cola.

The week of April 17th through the 24th, hundreds of locals and vacationers were celebrating "Semana Santa" (Easter) at the Hotel/Marina Bahia del Sol, so needless to say, it was very busy there and most cruisers stayed away from the swimming pool. They aren't used to not having the pool all to themselves. But 1 night, we partook of the buffet which was delicious, as usual. And on another night, we attended Italian night which was served indoors and consisted of delicious Italian appies and main meal accompanied by canned Italian songs and/or singers.

To keep occupied during this busy Semana Santa time, we've both been busy sewing. Jordan created a pattern for dinghy chaps which he then sewed by the pool...


What an excellent job - and a novice too!!!

I made our next flag - Costa Rica - and then I copied a pattern and made each of us a "water noodle chair" - a mesh chair that floats in the water with the aid of the noodle so we can comfortably relax in the ocean (or pool) and cool off. Haven't yet had the opportunity to try them out.

We decided we would leave tomorrow for Costa Rica. This meant we would miss the last upcoming events sponsored by the El Salvador Rally group (i.e. blind dinghy race, beach bonfire, dinghy raft-up with free beer, and the final windup party and prize giveaways which include $750, a free night's stay at the hotel, plus many others that I can't remember right now). But we've been here 28 days now and we are both feeling the desire to be at sea where we are at one with nature again and see new and different surroundings...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Guatemala & Honduras

On April 3rd on a bright early 08:00 Sunday morning, we left El Salvador to explore the surrounding countryside via land travel. After riding on the traditional crowded chicken bus, a short taxi ride, a fancier comfortable "Tica" bus, and a longer 1-hour taxi ride, we finally arrived at our destination of Antigua in the northern neighbouring country of Guatemala.

Antigua is a beautiful 1500s colonial town of all cobblestone streets and a population of 40,000 where all new additions or development must conform to the colonial atmosphere.  (The large international Tica buses travel to/from Tapachula Mexico and throughout Central America.)

We stayed at Posada San Pedro, a former hacienda that had been converted to a fabulous boutique hotel with a tranquil inner courtyard and a kitchen that we could use if we wished.

Impressive courtyard of Posada San Pedro

After checking in, we went outside to see a procession of people dressed in vibrant purple robes coming down the cobblestone road. Easter is a highly important celebration in Mexico and Central America and the Sunday evening processions are part of the celebration events. This cobblestone road had been lined with "alfombras", very large decorative rectangles of hand-laid reeds, grains, flower petals, coloured sawdust, etc. to create religious pictures. I wanted to take a photo or two of them as they were so beautifully made but the procession was almost upon us. Then we watched as the entire procession trampled over top of the street carpets (carrying their heavy floats with statues of Jesus and the Holy Virgin of Sorrow) and totally destroying them all!

The next morning we strolled around Antigua and visited the Museo (museum) which housed fabulous weavings from all around Guatemala, including several types that were hand-stitched.

Weavings that are so very intricate

The indigenous dress of the locals was very evident in Antigua. If you are familiar with the types of weaving and patterns from the surrounding areas, you can tell by observing the women's colourful and exotic skirts which area of country they are from.

Taking a break from selling the wares in their woven bags and on their heads!

Next we wandered through the artisan mercado where we saw more outstanding weavings, jade and volcanic rock jewellery, traditional Mayan blouses and handbags, and so much more. Through one of the many travel agencies that dot the streets we booked a tour to the famous Copán ruins, just over the border in Honduras. The ruins in Tikal are more well-known but farther away so we will visit them when we are sailing the eastern coast of Honduras in the later years of our travels. As it is, it's a 6-hour ride from Antigua in Guatemala to Copán in Honduras.

The van picked us up at our hotel at 04:00 (yes, that's 4:00 in the morning) so we would arrive at Copán by 10:00 and not waste away half the day travelling. After a 15-minute walk from our hotel, we spent the day wandering around the vast ruins with a guide well-versed in English and all of the archaeological history of the ruins which was fascinating.

Detailed original statue that's still standing

More original features

The next morning, we walked back to the ruins and toured the museum where on display were several original intact sculptures and partial reconstructions using excavated facades. One displayed structure was a replica of an intact yet buried structure that was not accessible to the public (but will be in the future).

Réplica de "Rosalila"

Our 2 days in Copan and the ride back to Antigua was in the enjoyable company of a young couple we met from France. We then took in more sights around Antigua for another couple of days before the long journey back to El Salvador.

Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are obviously not yet environmentally conscious where garbage litters many streets and highways. Perhaps an effort is starting to be made as we noticed garbage cans in Antigua that have a statement on them about protecting the environment, so hopefully in the future, clean-ups will be evident.

The large cities of San Salvador and especially Guatemala City are foreboding places. While travelling through, scenes of barbed wire topped walls, barred windows and entrances everywhere, and the ever present armed security guards speak clearly that you wouldn't venture out alone especially at night in most areas.

Tuk tuks (3-wheeled motorized rickshaws) are everywhere in Guatemala and Honduras but we were close enough to everything to walk. So far, we've only used them once when in Herradura, El Salvador.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

So much to do

On Wednesday, March 30th, we dinghied with Bill of SV Mita Kuuluu (Bill is one of the El Salvador Rally organizers) up the estuary to a very tiny village, San Luis la Herradura (N13°20.660' W88°56.795') where the women also wear fancy aprons...

Very proud fish vendor showing off her apron at the market

We wanted to buy a bit more fresh produce from the market. Unfortunately, what we purchased wasn't very fresh but it was well worth the dinghy ride to experience the village and the dockside restaurant where we had their "pupusas", a delicious treat similar to a tortilla but thicker and stickier and sometimes stuffed with cheese, beans, and/or meat. They served ours with a pickled cabbage topping and it was yummy.

Tuk tuks and other vehicles outside of bustling market 

The same evening, we dinghied across the bay to Jan's home, a volunteer school teacher, who was having a BBQ where all the proceeds raised would go towards the school where she teaches English. While there, we saw her newborn puppies that were just opening their eyes and were sooo cute and giant lemons from her garden!

Jan with 1 of her home-grown lemons

The next morning, we walked across to the open ocean beach with its crashing waves, then along the beach towards another tiny village called La Puntilla. From the hotel grounds to the ocean, the sand was SO hot you couldn't walk in bare feet and we even felt it with flip-flops on. The sand would find its way under your toes and burn. We walked very fast to get closer to the water where the wet sand was not hot. We eventually reached La Puntilla and the restaurant on stilts where we had a succulent meal of huge garlic prawns, rice, and veggies for $5.

1 of many ocean restaurants...

Later in the evening, there were appies by the pool for all of us for a pittance of a price. There is something happening, it seems, almost every day and/or evening. No chance of getting bored around here!

On April 1st, we left the docks and anchored a very short distance away. Unlike some of our previous anchorages, here there are no rough dinghy rides from Sea Turtle to the dock as the water is always so calm. Once again, later in the evening, there was a special meal provided called "paella", a rice dish originating in Spain that has become very popular. There are so many variations but this was loaded with seafood and was very delicious.