Thursday, May 12, 2005

Current Location:  Underway

14 dg. 10.131 N, 92 dg. 08.577 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3093

Just a quick note to say that we crossed the border this morning and are now cruising along about 14 miles off the Guatamalan coast.  As I said before we don’t plan to stop in Guatamala as the costs involved are a bit much for our budget, but hope to explore inland Guatamala some when we stop at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Current Location:  Underway 12 miles off of the El Salvador coast

13 dg. 17.325 N, 89 dg. 20.936 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3267

Nothing much happened Thursday, we just sailed and times motored along the Guatamalan coast, trying to catch up with Windsong (Frank & Shirley) who had had some engine problem and also ran out of fuel (as I write this, I’m not sure what the problem was or if it contributed to their running out of fuel – I’ll find out later).  The antenna for their SSB (long distance radio) also broke.  The fact that they were having some troubles was relayed to us by Ocean Rider who was close enough to them to be in contact with the VHF radio.  Friday morning, we were finally able to contact them on the VHF and get an updated position.  They had taken gotten their engine started and taken on 10 gal. of fuel from Ocean Rider, but were relying on sail power since 10 gal. isn’t all that much.  Fortunately (for us), there wasn’t much wind so they weren’t moving very fast and we were able to intercept them about noon.  We managed to give them enough fuel so they could motor the rest of the way if necessary, but about that time the wind picked up and we both had a wonderful sail averaging 5 – 5.5 kts all the rest of the day.  I even caught a small dorado for our dinner.  As usual, the wind died about the same it got dark and the squalls started forming.

One of the great things about radar is that you can see the squalls on it.  This is an aspect of it that we had never really had occasion to use until we got down here in the tropics, but is invaluable to us now.  I am also glad that our radar has a 24 mile range rather than the 16 mile range that some other units have as it makes dodging the squalls all that much easier.  It is not, however, always possible to avoid them as they can develop and envelope you much faster than you can maneuver to avoid them. 

As usual, I went down to bed as soon as it got dark while Kathryn drove the boat and, talking with Windsong on the VHF, worked to make progress toward our goal while keeping out of the squalls.  When Kathryn woke me shortly after midnight and I took over, we working to get around the right hand edge of a large line squall that was about 4 miles thick and 12 miles long.  Then, just as we were turning the corner, an even larger line squall formed right in our path about 6 miles ahead of us and extending 6 miles to the left and about 8 to the right.  After discussing it with Frank on Windsong, we decided that the original line squall looked like it was weakening and dissipating, so we would turn around and run along the bottom of it until we could turn right and cut across around the left edge of the new one.

This plan didn’t work too well.

Remember how I said that they could develop faster than you can maneuver to avoid them?  Well, can they ever.  About 45 minutes later, as we watched it on the radar, the original one we were skirting solidified, then joined with the new one to form a line squall about 6 miles thick and almost 50 miles wide, then within the span of just a few more minutes, the whole line structure of the squall just sort of wrapped around us and we were right in the middle of a circular structure about 12 miles in diameter. At this point, the weather we were experiencing got “interesting.”  The winds picked up into the low 30’s and the gusts in the high 30’s (Windsong has a wind meter on board, so they could see exactly how strong it was) we started heeling way over, the rain started pouring down and the sea surface got a little bumpy.  This all woke Kathryn up so she joined me in the cockpit.  We stayed like this for a couple of hours.  We would get to within a couple of miles of the edge of this thing, then its shape would morph and we’d be back in the center again. This happened a few times until for some reason, instead of its shape morphing, a small pocket of clear weather formed around us and we rode this little pocket out to the edge of the squall and finally clear of it.

Rethinking what happened last night as I wrote the above paragraph, I am now wondering if it did indeed form a circular structure with us in the middle of it or if 6 miles was just the limit that my radar could penetrate the rain and it was actually much larger and retained its linear shape.  In any case, it was a fun ride. I really loved Shirley’s remark when we were finally out of the storm.  “And to think, people actually pay money for rides like this at Disneyland.”

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 17.981 N, 88 dg. 53.148 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3325

We have cheated death one more time!  (not really) 

As I have pointed out before, the entrance to Bahia del Sol can be treacherous to the point of being impassable.  The river bar causes the Pacific swells to build and break in a really daunting way and can only be crossed at one small spot at slack high tide.  Some cruisers who have been here for years, Collette and Murry from Terazed and Bill and Doreen from Loniki come out in a couple of pangas and act as traffic directors.  One panga (actually, a power catamaran) with Collette and Murry positions itself just inside the breaking waves where they can see your boat and also act as a target for you to steer to.  The other panga is further back in the river.  Collette then guides you over the radio to the exact starting position you need to be in while at the same time watching the waves, waiting for a lull period of smaller swells. When everything is right, she then tells you to turn and aim for their catamaran and go to full power.  She continues coaching you for the 2 or 3 minutes it takes you to get through the break.  “Your looking good …. A little right now ….. A little more to the right …. OK, right there, now come straight at us and aim to pass us on the starboard side.”  Then as soon as you are abreast of them, she tells you to switch radio channels and hands you off to Bill in the other panga and starts talking to the next boat to come in, guiding them into the starting position and starting the whole process over again.  When you switch radio channels, Bill is already calling you.  As soon as you answer, he then guides you to their panga (the river mouth is filled with pangas and dinghys that have come out to watch the show) then directs you to the anchorage (which can be seen from their position) and makes sure you know not to stray to the right of the line between them and the anchorage as it gets too shallow.

After motoring though yet another windless day in the company of Frank and Shirley on Windsong, we arrived at the entrance to Bahia del Sol around 4:00pm, quite a bit earlier than we had thought we would.  There were already boats 4 there anchored and waiting:  R Dreams, Wanderer, Mita Kuluu and Panacea.  Windsong arrived about 45 minutes after we did and Dream Weaver a 51’ Beneteau with a dead engine being towed by another boat, Gypsy Rose also arrived at about the same time.

As soon as we got the anchor down (in 45’ of water), we started preparing the boat for the crossing.  This consisted basically of making sure everything was secured so that it wouldn’t be thrown around if we got tossed around by the surf and removing everything from the back rail (the outboard, the stern anchor, etc) so that if a breaking wave comes aboard from behind us, it doesn’t have anything to push against.  More than one boat has had their stern rail damaged crossing this bar.

The pangas came out about 4:50pm and started checking out the bar conditions, letting everyone know every few minutes what they were seeing.  The also got a list of the boats waiting to come in, their max speed under power and their draft.  At first, they were telling us that the lull periods weren’t quite long enough, “so just hang tight for awhile and we’ll see how it develops.”  Then suddenly, the said that they thought we could get one of the shallower draft boats through “Tricia Jean, are you willing to try it?” 

This came as a bit of a surprise as I had just assumed that we would be doing the crossing in the order that we arrived, but told them “Sure thing!” and ran forward to get the anchor up.  This took a few minutes of some pretty good effort since I wanted to get it up as fast as I can and I had a total of about 300 pounds of anchor and chain on the ocean floor in addition to a bunch of rope out.  When I finished and ran back to the cockpit and took control of the boat and started talking on the radio, calling out my depth to Collette, she started reassuring me and telling me that I had nothing to worry about and to just stay calm.  I realized that she had mistaken my heavy breathing as a sign of fear and nervousness.  When I let her know that I was OK and just had a manual windless and was a little winded from hauling the anchor up, we both had a laugh over it.  Later, one of the other boats told me that everyone was cheering me on as I was pumping away on the windlass lever that hauls the anchor up.

Collette guided us into position as described above and got us started through.  I slammed the throttle down as far as it would go and we slowly accelerated up to our 6.5 knot maximum speed under power.  When we got into the bar, the boat would surf at up to 9 knots on the waves.  I concentrated on just keeping the bow pointed properly (the waves were causing it to slew left and right some) while Kathryn handled the radio.  We made it through without incident although Kathryn tells me that we had one wave break about 10 feet behind us. Keeping all my attention focused forward, I didn’t see it.  Wanderer was the next boat to come in and R Dreams came in behind them before conditions deteriorated to the point where they recommended no one else come through.  Some of the people in the dinghys watching took some photos and even soe video of us crossing and will be bringing them by later.  When we get a chance to put up another web page, I’ll make sure they are on it.

The strain on our engine was apparently enough to cause another coolant leak and we overheated again, but made it through OK then slowed things down and added some more water to it.  While we are here, I think we are going to remove that tank so we can inspect it and either affect a permanent repair or order another one from the states.

After motoring over to the anchorage and dropping the hook, within just a few moments, as I was hooking the “Q” flag to the flag halyard (the international signal to the local authorities that we have arrived and need to clear in with customs and immigration) a dinghy pulled up with an official aboard.  I got the ladder over the side and invited him aboard and down below.  He asked for our passports, exit paper from Mexico and a copy of our documentation (the boat registration), let us know that we could pick up our passports at the hotel.  After a total of no more than 2 or 3 minutes onboard, he was gone.  After all the hassels with the constant checking in and out in Mexico, this was amazingly easy.  We didn’t even have to fill out any forms.

Andy, Marianne and Andrew arrived on Soy Libre at the waiting area a little later in the evening, so that makes 6 boats still out there trying to get in.  There was another high tide at about 7:00am this morning, but the surf was too rough and nobody made it in.  Hopefully, they will make it in this afternoon.  We are really grateful that we were called upon to be the first and can now relax and enjoy this wonderful ancorage.

We haven’t made it to shore yet, but so far, this is a beautiful anchorage.  The land is covered by lush jungle and there are tropical birds in the trees, a huge change from the arid dryness of Mexico.  The fact that even southern Mexico was dry and brown this time of year, though it was covered with trees and other vegetation was quite a surprise to us.  We had expected the lush, green vegetation we remembered from our honeymoon in Zihuatanejo but all the trees and bushes are apparently deciduous and loose all of their leaves during the dry winter.  It seemed strange to be in 90 degree heat and be surrounded by vegetation, but see nothing green except the occasional cactus growing up though the trees.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 17.981 N, 88 dg. 53.148 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3325

Tuesday evening, we found out that there was tropical storm forming out in the Tehuantepec with the potential for turning into a hurricane.  Normally, this would have been of little or no concern to us here in El Salvador, since they normally track north and west from there.  However, this one not only formed much further south than they usually do (in fact, it was so far south that technically speaking, it was not even in the Gulf of Tehuantepec), but it was tracking east and aiming right for us.  My first thought on hearing this was that this is what we boogied across the Tehuantepec to get away from!  However, it does seem to be the year for unusual weather.  We are told that there have only been 4 storms that have behaved this way since 1966 and that since 1936, only one storm of hurricane force that formed out there has actually made landfall in El Salvador.  Well, after last night, make that two!

We spent Wednesday morning getting our boat ready for the worst.  This involved getting the spare chain out of deep storage and linking it in to the existing chain on our anchors, removing the fore sails and storing them below, lashing the mainsail REALLY tightly to the boom and clearing the decks of everything that can be removed (solar panels, jerry jugs, etc.) and stashing it below.  When we were finished, I had our main anchor, a 45 lb. Delta, out with 200’ of 3/8” chain and secured with two 3/4” x 50’ nylon snubbers.  Our secondary anchor, a 44 lb. Bruce was ready to be dropped at a moments notice with it’s 90’ of 3/8” chain and 200’ of nylon rode and our stern anchor, a 20 lb. Danforth, was secured to one of the forward mooring cleats and also ready to be just dropped into the water if needed.

Once our boat was as secure we could make it, we then went and helped prepare some of the 13 unattended boats here in the anchorage whose owners are either traveling inland or have returned to their home countries for the off-season.  By 4:00 pm, pretty much everything was done so most of the cruisers here met at the hotel pool area to share the latest weather info and discuss preparations and concerns.  About the time it got dark, a little after 6:00pm, we all returned to our boats for a good night of sleep since we were all likely to get very little sleep the following night.

Thursday morning, we flooded the dinghy with water so that the wind couldn’t get any grip on it.  We, like just about everyone else, were therefore confined to the boat with very little to do other than to monitor the progress of the storm on the radios and discuss it endlessly among the fleet on the VHF radio.  It seemed that with every report, the storm got a little stronger and was expected to come a little closer to us.  The weather we experienced during the day could only be describes as moderately strong winds and rain though, so there was a lot of anticipation as to what it was going to be like.

Despite the fact that it developed hurricane force winds a little earlier than expected and hit the shore with 70 MPH winds, the strongest sustained winds we saw here in the anchorage were in the high 30’s to very low 40’s and the gusts were just a little stronger than that.  The rain did get heavy, but never what I would call torrential.  It was some pretty strong weather, but nothing even approaching the level we were all prepared for.  During the morning radio net, none of the boats reported any damage or injuries.  We even stayed almost perfectly dry down below, with just one of the ports developing a very minor drip.

All in all, I’d have to say that it was a bit of an anti-climax, which when you consider it, is probably a good thing.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 17.981 N, 88 dg. 53.148 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3325

Where we are in El Salvador, time has no meaning and one day seems to just flow lazily into the next.  The setting is beautiful, lush and green.  The boats here are anchored up and down the half mile wide estuary.  We are the farthest boat to the west, closest to the ocean and right in the middle of the estuary, a quarter mile from either shore.  As such, here at the boat, the mosquitoes and other bugs can’t really be called rare, but they are nowhere near as bothersome as they are closer to shore.  To the east, as the estuary extends inland, boats are anchored as far as a mile and a half away from us.  There is nothing much in the immediate area except the Bahia del Sol hotel, to which we all pay $5 a week for the privilege of using the hotel’s dinghy dock, pool, showers and having access to their bar and such.  Most stuff at the hotel is pretty expensive, even when you take into account the 30% discount cruiser’s get (a large plate of onion rings or french fries is $2, beer is $1, a hot dog with trimmings is $4.50).  The only other restaurant nearby, Marisol’s is much cheaper, but is only open Fri, Sat & Sun.  A complete breakfast consisting of eggs, beans, fried bananas with cream and cheese costs us only $4.95 for the both of us and includes coffee for Kathryn and pear juice for me.

Most of the cruisers gather at the hotel swimming pool for happy hour (4pm – 6pm) when all drinks (including soft drinks, but not beer) are half off.  During this time, the pool is full of lounging cruisers and noisy kids.  Most days, there are 8 or 10 kids, ranging in age from 3 to about 13years old with most of them  between  about 6 and 10 and they are all “good” kids.  It’s a pleasure to have them around.  The adults lounge either in the pool or at the nearby tables in ever changing groups and conversation topics.  A big one yesterday was that a great need was recently brought to our attention to help out a school on the island across from the hotel.  It consists of 3 rooms, the smallest of which has a dirt floor that turns to mud whenever it rains (which is every few days) and is used by 15 kindergarten kids this year and 20 are expected next year.  We are going to try to raise enough money to pay for the materials to tear down its current 3 walls, pour a larger, raised cement floor and surround it with cinder block to waist high or so with some kind of screen above that to let in the light and air but keep out the water and bugs.  Both cruiser and community volunteers will do the labor.  Most of yesterdays conversations revolved around how to get this project organized and off the ground.  No doubt, it will remain a frequent topic until we’ve gotten those kids their new schoolroom.

We’ve been here for almost two weeks now and I feel somewhat guilty about just how lazy we’ve been.  The only really big thing was preparing for the hurricane that almost hit us.  Other than that, we dinghy’d a few miles down to a small village called La Harradura (perhaps a thousand people and accessable to the outside world via paved road) to purchase some vegetables, took a panga to an even smaller one called La Colorada on one of the islands where a bunch of cruiser’s joined in with the locals Mother’s Day celebration and donated materials to be used for school uniforms for the kids.  We also took the bus into the nearest city (about an hour and a half away) called Zacatecoluca (I think I spelled it right) where we wandered around, bought a few groceries and just sort of got a feel for the city culture here abouts.

I think that Monday, we will be leaving for our big inland adventure, taking about 3 weeks to visit a variety of places in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras before returning to the boat.  Travel will be by bus, which is quite inexpensive and varies from really nice comfortable seats to the opposite extreme.  We won’t be taking the computer with us, so it is unlikely we will be posting any journal entries while we are away, so don’t worry about us if you don’t get any for awhile.\

Monday, June 13, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 17.981 N, 88 dg. 53.148 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3325

We haven’t yet managed to get away and do the inland travel we want to do as both Kathryn and I have been playing tag with a mild flu-like bug for the last couple of weeks.  First Kathryn came down with it, then I got it just as she was getting over it, then she had a relapse.   We did manage to get in a one day shopping trip to San Salvador, the capitol of El Salvador, but that’s been about it.  We are finally both healthy now so have made arrangements to leave tomorrow to visit some Mayan ruins in Honduras.  A group of us cruisers are hiring a van complete with tour guide for the 2-day trip to Copan, Honduras.  When the group leaves Copan to return here however we will leave them and start taking busses and do some major traveling around Guatemala.  I’ll regale you when we get back with my account of those experiences.

So, starting tomorrow, we will not be checking this email account, for about 3 weeks.  If you’d like to get hold of us, please use our other account,  This is the one we have to find an internet café to access and hope to be able to check it every few days.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 17.981 N, 88 dg. 53.148 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3325

The big news is that we just bought the airline tickets to go back up to the U.S. for a visit.  We will arrive at the Oakland airport on Wednesday night at 9:45, spend the night at my brothers, head up to Healdsburg to spend some time with the kids, then down to Fresno on Monday to spend some time with my family before heading back up to the bay area again before we fly back to El Salvador on August 8.  That’s the rough plan anyway and like all plans is subject to change at a moments notice, but that will give you all some idea of when and where we will be.

At various points along the way, we are going to have to do allocate some serious time to running around and shopping as we’ve got a long list of stuff we want to bring back. I wonder if West Marine has a “Cruiser returning for a visit” discount?  We’ll be traveling fairly light on the way up in order to have plenty of baggage space for the stuff on the way back.

We are really looking forward to seeing everyone.

Sunday, August 13, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 17.981 N, 88 dg. 53.148 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3325

We had an absolutely great time on out trip back to the US.  The only thing wrong with it was that it was too short.  When we bought the tickets, we thought that the almost 4 weeks we would be back there would be plenty of time, maybe even a little longer than optimal, but we felt that we would rather spend some time just sitting around with nothing to do than rush things.  How wrong we were!  Next time, we will be sure to allot even more time as we just didn’t have enough time to see everyone we wanted to, let alone spend as much time with those we did see as we wanted.  I want to be sure to thank everyone for their wonderful hospitality.  If I’ve counted right, we spent at least one night (and usually several) at the homes of 8 different friends and family.  A special thanks goes to my brother, Dave, too.  He loaned us the use of one of his cars for the entire time we were there and while I’m sure that it inconvenienced him and his family, it sure made things easy for us.

When we returned to El Salvador, we came back to a couple of pieces of bad news though.  While we were gone, there was a rash of outboard thefts here in the estuary.  Three different boats had their dinghy outboards stolen and the thieves tried to steal them from 2 more, but found them too well secured.  I’m sorry to say that our outboard was one of those stolen.  It had been sitting on our stern rail and secured with a cable.  The thieves managed to cut the cable and make off with our 4 month old 6-HP, 4 stroke Mercury.  We’ve posted notices offering a reward for information leading to it’s return and there is some hope that it will be found, but I kind of doubt if we’ll ever see it again.  Fortunately, we still have our little 3-HP Nissan that we kept as a spare.  It still has all of the problems associated with it that caused us to buy the Mercury (unreliable, slow and noisy), but at least we can get to and from shore with it.

The other piece of bad news we came back to was that our batteries which had been damaged during our Guatemala trip when a float switch on the bilge pump stuck on had given up the ghost.  I’m pretty sure that two of the cells in one of them had shorted and the other two batteries were really weak.  As a result, we didn’t have enough power to do any email, which is why you haven’t heard from us since we got back.  I finally got a chance to get into San Salvador the other day to buy some new batteries and so we are back to normal powerwise.

While in San Salvador getting new batteries, I went by the only place that sells outboards to see what they had.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have any small 4-strokes in stock and no 2-strokes that would be appropriate for our dinghy.  He can order pretty much anything we want, but he says it will take 6-8 weeks to get here.  So it looks like we will have to wait until Panama to replace it. 

Having the outboard stolen really angers me.  I am trying hard not to let it interfere with my fondness for the Salvadorans and my sympathy for their problems, but every time I speak with one now, it’s difficult not to wonder if he/she knows where my outboard is but isn’t saying anything.

The good news is that the new school room that the cruisers were building is finished and already in use.  We haven’t been over to see it yet, but we are told it came out really nice and the teachers, kids and parents all really love it and appreciate the time, money and effort that so many people donated to make it happen.  The project was even finished within budget and in fact there was about $200 left over which will go towards purchasing some supplies for the school.

Since we got back, we have been busy working on a variety of boat projects.  Among other things this morning, I installed the new wind meter I bought while up in the US so I’ll be able to report on just exactly how strong the winds are when those squalls hit (one friend of mine down here calls it a “fear meter”).

In talking to everyone while up in the US, it became obvious that these journal entries are being forwarded to a large number of people which makes us curious as to how many people are actually getting and reading them.  If you are reading this, I’d appreciate it if you would do me a quick favor and send a short email to telling me how many people routinely read your copy of it (just yourself, you and your spouse, ???).


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 17.981 N, 88 dg. 53.148 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3325

Hi All!

I’ve had it pointed out to me that I haven’t sent a journal entry out in two weeks, and people were starting to wonder if everything is OK. 

The short answer is that everything is just fine. 

We’ve been busy working on a variety of boat projects, exploring the city of San Salvador by bus (something we never got around to before), playing dominoes with other cruisers at the pool and other important stuff.  I haven’t been doing any journal entries because while finding new deep cycle batteries in San Salvador and getting them installed or any of the other boat projects are important things to me, when I sit down to write about them, it is difficult to make it sound interesting to an audience.

I’ve spent a large part of the intervening time learning how to get around San Salvador.  This is a large city (850,000 people) and just to get there is a 1 ½ to 2 hour bus ride, so every time I go there takes a full day.  The alternative is for a group of us to hire a taxi for the day.  This costs about $60, so when split 3-4 ways, it means $15-$20 each.  This has the advantage of both having the taxi to haul a lot of stuff back and also Jose, the driver, speaks pretty good English and usually knows where to get whatever it is you need, so you can get a lot of errands done in a day.  On the other hand, the bus is cheap, about $1.30 each way.

We’ve upped the reward for the return of our stolen outboard to $400.  Since this represents 4 months of pre-tax income for most of the people here, this is a sizable amount and we hope that if the outboard is still in the area, someone will come forward with it.  We are keeping our fingers crossed.

So far, the only boat project that hasn’t gone perfectly has been the new accumulator.  This is a little pressurized plastic thing about the size of a quart jar that works with the pressure pump to maintain a constant water pressure at the faucets.  The old one had developed a leak, very slowly empting the contents of our water tank into the bilge so while we were up in the U.S., we bought a new one.  Unfortunately, I misremembered the size of the hose, so bought the wrong size connectors to go with it.  I tried jerry-rigging it with the smaller connectors, but one of them popped off in the middle of the night, completely emptying the water tank into the bilge.  The search for the proper connectors was really what instigated all the roaming around San Salvador, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there just are no 5/8” barbed hose connectors of any kind in this country.  Fortunately, I was able to find what I needed in another cruiser’s spare parts box, so that project is finally behind me.  Eventually, I want to replace some of the hoses, but will not tackle that project until I’m somewhere that I can easily get those little indispensable bits and pieces that are so hard to find here. – Note to those getting ready to go cruising:  Make sure that you have a supply of misc. connectors and spare hose for every kind of hose used on your boat.  These things are cheap to buy and are always unavailable whenever you need one.  Don’t forget the adapters that convert from one hose size to another.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 18.125 N, 88 dg. 53.389 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3326

Good morning all!  The bright sunshine is streaming in through the forward hatch as I write this and the main cabin of the boat is once again filled with unstowed provisions.  Kathryn spent yesterday running around in San Salvador in Jose’s taxi along with two other cruisers.  When they finally got back to the hotel at about 8:30 last night, that poor taxi was packed literally to the roof with all the stuff they brought back.  We are trying to get everything ready for a Monday morning departure.  That’s right, after having the boat here in the estuary for almost 4 months, we are finally continuing on. 

After diving to clean the prop of all the accumulated barnacle growth the other day, we moved the boat about a mile back closer to the hotel and estuary entrance.  It was the first time in a long time that we had moved the boat and it felt really good to be standing up there on the foredeck as we motored along and feeling the boat coming under my feet again.

On Wednesday, we all got Dennis and Michele from Aquastrian safely married.  It was a festive occaision and we had a large crowd of both cruisers and locals turn out for the event.  The wedding and pot-luck reception was held on the island.  The music was provided by Frank (Windsong), Joe (Panacea), Bill (Mita Kulu) and Chris (Comfort Zone) and they all did a really great job of it.  The procession of dinghys from the island over to the hotel (where Marcos had donated a room for the night as a surprise to the couple) was a bit disorganized as we had a wide mixture of different speeds the various were capable of, but that didn’t detract from the afternoon and evening event at all.

Today’s big event is the dedication of the new schoolroom.  The locals are hosting it and another big turnout is expected.

Whether we leave Monday or Thursday (when another group is going out), our plan is to head directly to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua where we hope and expect to be able to replace our outboard that was stolen while we were in the U.S., then after that, it’s on to Costa Rica where we expect to spend at least a month or so traveling around the various islands and anchorages available there.  We are both really excited about getting back to areas where we can go snorkeling again.  Unfortunately, the water here is just way too murky.  The visibility ranges from just 2”-3” on an outgoing tide to as much as a foot or so on an incoming tide.  I’ve been in it several times when necessary, but really do not enjoy swimming in water that is for all intents and purposes, opaque.  I will be in it at least one more time tomorrow or Sunday, when I borrow a hookah rig from another boat so I can clean the bottom (this is a compressor, a long hose and a regulator that lets you breath underwater).  In the past, I’ve cleaned the bottom using a snorkel, but with water this murky, it’s impossible to find where you stopped cleaning during your last breath before running out of air and having to return to the surface to breath again.

As always, when entering or leaving the estuary here, it has to be done during a high tide and even then, being able to make it depends upon whether or not there is a large swell running.  Going out is quite a bit easier though since you are motoring into the waves.  When coming in and going with the waves, the boat wants to surf and the waves really throw you around.  Going out can be a rough ride, but unless there are large breaking waves, you can just power over them without the control problems caused by taking the waves on the stern.  After getting out, it is likely to be a slow trip down the coast as the winds are quite light, so even though it’s only about 220 miles from here to San Juan del Sur, it will probably take us about three days to get there.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

13 dg. 18.125 N, 88 dg. 53.389 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3326

Delays, Delays, Delays

We had hoped to get out of here on Monday morning, but late last week, Kathryn came down with a mild stomach flu for a few days and we thought it would be better to wait a bit, so rescheduled to leave at midday today (Thursday) along with another boat, Fifth Element who was part of the flotilla we crossed the Tehuanapec with last May.  But unfortunately, the swell coming out of the Pacific is up and the entrance to the estuary is unpassable and is expected to remain so for a few days.  We’ll try again Sunday or Monday.

The first delay also allowed me to make one last trip into San Salvador to get some new fuel jugs.  We have 3 5–gallon jugs we keep emergency diesel in, another 5-gal. one for gasoline (for the dinghy) and a small 2-gal. gasoline one that stays in the dinghy.  All but one of the diesel ones are fairly old, our having purchased them for our first trip to Baja in 1999, and the plastic in them has become brittle after the long exposure to the sun.  So brittle that we have two of them have cracked (and been repaired with Sho-Goo).  We are going to make sun covers for the jugs while waiting for the swells to subside.  I also tried to obtain a replacement for the propane hose for the BBQ as when I changed out the propane tank the other day, one of the fittings on it leaked when it was flexed, but had no luck finding one.

It’s probably a good thing we didn’t get out on Monday since we have had two very strong squalls come through in the last couple of days.  The one Wednesday evening had winds that were clocked at 60 kt.s and last night’s had winds in the 50’s.  Phillip & Leslie on Carina, who did leave on Monday have reported that they just got hammered by these squalls while at anchor in the Gulf of Fonseca, about a days sail down the coast.  Bruce and Katie on Bay Fill were at sea when they came through, but since he doesn’t have email or HF radio (they were lost when he suffered a lightening strike earlier this year), we don’t have any reports on how it was for them.  I’ll bet it was exciting!

Fortunately, you almost always get a few minutes warning before these squalls hit, even at night when you can’t see them coming.  Not only are they visible on the radar, but the wind picks up noticeably and the temperature suddenly drops several degrees.  When this happens, the drill is to assume it is going to be a severe one, quickly reduce sail accordingly and close up the hatches since they usually include some extremely heavy rains.  While at anchor, we can catch huge amounts of rainwater when this happens.  For instance, last night, we collected about 20 gallons in just a few minutes and our water tanks and all water jugs are once again full.  We also have a couple of large buckets out in the cockpit that are full and use them for bathing with.

Bye the way, I hope everyone has a good day today.  It’s Independence Day for El Salvador, something these folks down here take very seriously.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Current Location:  Underway

12 dg. 44.734 N, 88 dg. 21.867 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3341


We raised the anchor yesterday abut 3pm and after milling around evaluating the surf over the bar for awhile, Aqua Marine (Chris, Beth & 6 year old Yvette) pointed their bow out and crossed over the bar.  A few minutes later, we did the same.  Unfortunately, while we were able to get out, another boat that had been waiting to get in since the day before could not make the crossing.  The waves were just too big to safely come in with.  As it was, we didn’t have any break on us, but did meet several just before they broke, presenting us with a vertical wall of water.  Tricia Jean’s bow would first point at the sky, then a moment later, it would plunge seemingly straight down into the water.  No damage was done though and we made it safely through.

We motored for the first half of the night when the only wind came from squalls, but about 3:30 this morning, I was able to turn off the motor and sail.  What wind we had though has disappeared an as soon as I finish with this journal entry, I’m going to have to turn the engine back on.

The seas out here are not large, but they are kind of confused and lumpy.  I’ve had more comfortable rides, but that may be partially due to the fact that we haven’t left the anchorage for over 4 months and I’m just no longer used to it.  We also had light to moderate rain all night (except for when in the squalls when the rain was heavy), but it stopped when he sun came up.  Fortunately, it was a warm night and all I wore for most of it was a pair of shorts and my life jacket/safety harness.

We plan to pull into San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in the hopes that we can replace our stolen outboard there, then it’s on to Costa Rica and some nice diving.

It sure is good to be on the move again.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia Santa Elena, Costa Rica

10 dg. 54.871 N, 85 dg. 48.118 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3528

During most of the three nights and two days it took us to get down here, the seas were quite confused, with the swells coming from at least 2 directions and wind waves from a third.  They varied in height, but much of the time, when they reinforced each other, the big waves were 12 or even 13 feet from trough to crest.  As a result, it was a rocky and uncomfortable ride and sleep was hard to come by. The wind was often quite variable.  Not so much in the direction it came from, but in strength.  Last night, for instance, for several hours it would vary from nothing to over 20 kts and back  over and over again.  This makes it very difficult to keep the self-steering working unattended.  Add to the fact that it was raining fairly hard (3 inches fell during the night) and fatigue from not sleeping well and it was a pretty miserable midnight-morning watch.  But as they say, as long as no one is hurt, it’s called an “adventure”.    For the first 2 days, the wind was coming from right where we wanted to go, “on the nose” as the saying goes so we alternated between tacking into it when it was strong and motoring when it was weak or died altogether.  Since we had a current going against us, it was pretty slow going.

Yesterday afternoon, we decided that San Juan del Sur, which has a reputation as a very rolly and uncomfortable anchorage, would be just too profoundly horrible with the swells we were seeing coming into it, so chose to continue on to Costa Rica rather than turn into there.  We would also have had to hove-to for about 8 hours to wait for daylight to come into the anchorage too.  As it was, about 2:00 am last night, I decided that we were going too fast (the wind had shifted around so we were reaching with the wind coming from our side) and were going to arrive here in the dark, so I put a third reef into the main to slow us down.  As it was, when the wind was up, we were still going over 3 kts with just the tightly reefed main and no headsails up.  About 3:00 am, the wind came up and stayed strong on our beam all the rest of the way here.

As dawn broke, I could see the rain enshrouded, mountainous coast of Costa Rica in front of us and also to our left.  The low level clouds were skidding by and the dark, ominous looking rain clouds filled the sky above them.  I went forward to raise the staysail and power up the boat now that we had light to see by and we were instantly doing 6 kts with just the triple reefed main and staysail.  This lasted for a couple of hours until we had the anchor down at 8:15 this morning.  We were the only boat in this beautiful, completely protected bay, quite a change from where we have been for the last 4 months.  We both puttered about a little, putting things away, etc. and then Kathryn crawled into the V-berth and I collapsed onto a settee with a book. I awoke about an hour later and joined Kathryn in the V-berth, waking up about an hour ago at 4:30 pm.  When we looked out, to our surprise, Aqua Marine was anchored across the bay from us.  Chris, Beth and Yvette left Bahia del Sol at the same time we did.  Since they didn’t answer a hail over the radio, I suspect they are still asleep.  As I recall, they were planning on going to a different anchorage called Bahia de Salina, just north of here, but since Santa Elena is much more protected (it’s as calm as a lake in here), it’s no surprised that they chose to come here instead after being out in that washing machine for 3 nights.  We’ll put the dinghy in the water and go over and say “Hi” in the morning.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the water appears real clear here.  I can see the anchor rode disappearing into the depths as I look down from the deck.  I just didn’t have the energy to jump in and play in it though.  That will have to wait until tomorrow too.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia Santa Elena, Costa Rica

10 dg. 55.856 N, 85 dg. 48.909 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3530

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, we untied the dock lines from slip C-38 at Bodega Bay’s Spud Point Marina and headed south.  What an adventure it has been.  On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like we’ve been living on the boat all that long, while on the other hand, out pre–cruising life seems so very far away that at times, it’s hard to connect the two.  The pace of our lives has sure altered dramatically.  We’ve been here at Bahia Santa Elena for over a week now and while we’ve done some exploring and swimming, not a lot exciting has happened.  Certainly none of the frenetic rushing from one thing to another that typified our lives before we left.

-          Re-anchored on the west side of the bay.

-          Installed a new prop zinc.

-          Removed, cleaned and remounted the raw water strainer.

-          Fixed the leak in the remounted raw water strainer.

-          Installed some LEDs to illuminate the electrical panel.

-          Let the smoke out of one of the LEDs (must remember to get some more when I get a chance) when I connected the power to the wrong side of the resister.

-          Met some new friends (Jeff & Molly on Kauila).

-          Took the dinghy 1.5 miles through the rain to say “Hi” to some old friends when they showed up (Chris, Beth and Evette on Aquamarine).

-          Hiked along a muddy 4WD trail though the jungle.

-          Took the dinghy out of the bay and did some diving.

-          Cleaned the bottom of Tricia Jean.

-          Enjoyed watching and listening to the parrots that live in the jungle along the edge of the bay.

-          Dragged a lure through the water for awhile.

-          Watched some dolphins swim around the boat while at anchor, then swim of towards the other side of the bay.

-          Enjoyed several sunsets and sunrises from our cockpit.

-          Read some books and magazines.

-          Did a little programming.

-          Helped Kathryn with some laundry.

-          Enjoyed a get-together of all three boats on Kauila (another dinghy ride in the rain while the laundry got rained on).

-          Experimented with stick-on reading glass lenses in my dive mask to improve my vision underwater (hopefully, the third try will work – the glue’s drying now).

-          Made popcorn and watched a movie.

-          Enjoyed some afternoon naps.


All in all, a pretty typical week aboard Tricia Jean.  Some may think it sounds boring, but to me, it’s more like heaven.

Thurday, October 6, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Islas Murcielagos (The Bat Islands), Costa Rica

10 dg. 51.462 N, 85 dg. 54.620 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3550

It seems amazing that we spent almost 2 weeks at Bahia Santa Elena (13 days).  It was such a beautiful place that the time just flew by.  We really didn’t do all that much, dove a few times, did a little exploring, enjoyed the birds (everything from parrots to turkeys), listened to the monkeys (though never got close enough to see any).  Mostly, we just enjoyed being there, enjoyed hanging out in a remote anchorage and enjoyed spending a little time with our cruising friends that were there.

But, all good things must come to an end eventually.  We’ve been out over two weeks now and have almost exhausted our supplies of fresh fruits and veggies (just 2 onions and a few slices or bread left).  The fresh produce is nice, but peanut butter sandwiches are a major comfort food item for me and when the bread runs out, it’s a crisis.  Besides, we’ve been in Costa Rica for 2 weeks and still haven’t checked into the country legally.  The nearest place to do so (and do some grocery shopping) is a small town called El Coco, about 40 miles down the coast from Santa Elena.

Now, we could have gotten up early and made it there before dark, but we are lazy.  We therefore, left Santa Elena about 9:00 this morning and sailed about half the distance and dropped anchor in this pretty little cove nestled between two of the Murcielagos islands at about 2:00 pm.  We’ll leave about the same time tomorrow and get to El Coco about 1:00 pm, early enough that we will have plenty of time to check into the country, do a little grocery shopping and maybe even have a restaurant meal tomorrow night.

Leaving Santa Elena, we had 8+’ seas (dropping to about 6’ seas by 1:00) and 15 kt.s of wind right on the nose for the first 3 hours, so it was a little bumpy, but nothing bad.  We started out motor sailing with a dbl reefed main and the jib.  The wind gradually increased until we heeling at about 30 degrees.  This starts to get a little uncomfortable when you combine it with the rocking caused by pounding into the waves, so about 11:00, I went forward to drop the jib and raise the staysail.  This was definitely an E-ticket ride as the bow was just plunging itself into the water as we came down the backs of some of the larger waves and met the steep front of the next one.  At one point, I was kneeling out on the bowsprit (that thing that sticks out about 5’ from the front of the boat) pulling down the jib when I was suddenly waist deep in water.  Fortunately, the water is warm down here.  Eventually, the sail change was done and we settled down into a much more comfortable 20 degree heel.  Two hours later, we rounded Punta Santa Elena and were able to turn the corner for a fast and comfortable downwind run to the anchorage.  Tomorrow’s sail should be a fast downwind run all the way to El Coco.

Sunday, October 6, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Bahia Panama (in Bahia Culebra), Costa Rica

10 dg. 35.45 N, 85 dg. 39.329 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3576

Friday Morning, we left Murcielagos fairly early, about 07:30 and had a fast 25 mile reach down to El Coco, most of the time flying along at about 6 ½ knots.  When we arrived there, the swell was just too big to comfortably anchor.  We didn’t even want to think about trying to put the dinghy together, launching it and then retrieving it later in that swell, so we headed around the corner to this relatively protected bay just a couple of sea miles (and 7 land miles) from El Coco.  It’s a little rolly here, but nothing bad. Gary, our friend on Bay Fill is here as well as Farewell, another of the boats from Bahia del Sol.  A short time later, while putting the dinghy into the water, Tristan, a 7-year old from Unity paddled his kayak by and introduced himself.  We later met his parents, Claudia and ???, at the restaurant.

We went into shore to the restaurant here that evening with Gary for dinner and had some really nice grilled chicken ceasar salads.  A minor mudslide had recently caused a leak in the line from their propane tank into the restaurant, so their menu was kind of limited (just cold stuff and anything that could be prepared on the BBQ), but we really enjoyed ourselves.  The restaurant is run by an American named Paul who wants to go cruising himself in a few years, but his significant other (I forget her name just now) says she is terrified of deep water and very prone to seasickness.

On the way in, the outboard was acting like the float valve was sticking (something it has a history of doing), so after we got to the beach, I investigated it, but it seemed OK.  Unfortunately, on the way back out, the outboard just flat refused to start.  We had taken a couple of breaking waves both coming in through the surf and again when exiting, so I figured the ignition had just gotten a little wet and would be OK in the morning, so we rowed out to the boat.

Yesterday (Saturday), the sky was overcast and a light rain was falling on and off.  Again, I could not get the outboard to start, so I started removing the case while bobbing up and down in the dinghy to check things out.  As I was doing so, Gary paddled up in his Kayak to say good morning and chat awhile.  He told me that Katey, the crew he picked up in Bahia del Sol (Gary normally sails his boat alone) was not working out and they had gone their separate ways that morning. 

I had continued to work while talking and everything seemed dry, the spark plug was in good shape, so I started removing the float valve cover and promptly dropped one of the screws into the water. “Grrrrrrrrr!”  About this time, it started raining again. “Double Grrrrrrr!”  I quickly closed the outboard back up and lifted it onboard Tricia Jean where I could work out of the rain and without risking dropping any more critical pieces into the drink.  Fortunately, Kathryn was able to find a replacement screw in our supply of spares and together we eventually got the outboard running again.

About noon, we decided to head into town and do some grocery shopping.  It was low tide and the landing had a very shallow gradient to it with a small bar (just a few inches) where the small waves were breaking about 25 yards out from the actual shore.  As we crossed this point, it was even shallower than I had thought and the prop hit the bottom, breaking the shear pin.  We dragged the dinghy up on the beach, replaced the shear pin (we always keep some basic tools and stuff with us in the dinghy) and headed through the restaurant up to the road.

The rain was holding off and it was a nice day, so instead of waiting at the bus stop near the restaurant, we walked about 2 miles down the road to the next one.  It was nice to stretch our legs and get a little exercise for a change.  Arriving at the bus stop, we sat down and waited…. And waited…. And waited.  For about an hour and a half we waited, but a bus finally came by.  It took us to a crossroads about half way to El Coco when we were told we had get off and take one road while the bus took the other.  Two other Costa Ricans also got off and we started down the road to El Coco.  Almost immediately, it started raining fairly hard.  Just as it did, they flagged down a pickup and the 4 of us all climbed into the back (along with a bunch of bananas the guy was taking somewhere) and tried to hunker down behind the cab and hide from the rain as much as possible.  A few minutes later, we were in El Coco.

El Coco is small.  A bunch of tourist shops, a few restaurants, the grocery store, one internet café and not much more.  We walked all the way through it twice in just a few minutes.  At one point a fairly grizzled character came up to us, smiled hugely, introduced himself, asked us where we were from and shook our hands.  We seen this kind of thing fairly often before, and normally, the person then asks for a handout.  This time though, he just pointed up into a tree behind us at a bunch of monkeys hanging out up there and went on his way.  In general, our first impression of Costa Rica was that it was not quite as friendly as El Salvador.  In El Salvador, just about everybody you walk by on a street, makes eye contact, smiles and says “Hola” (hello), Buenos Dias, or some such.  Here, it seems as though people avoid eye contact in such situations.  However, in just our short foray into Costa Rican culture yesterday, we spoke with a number of locals, all of who were approachable, friendly and helpful.

There is also a shop in El Coco that sells outboards, but it was closed.  We’ll check it out again Monday when we return to do our clearing in paperwork.

After doing our grocery shopping, we found a taxi at the market, but he wanted the equivalent of $10 to take us back to our boat, so we started walking down the road to a bus stop.  About half way there, the sky opened up and a deluge started pouring down.  Just then, another taxi came by and offered to take us for $8.  We accepted.

Arriving back at the restaurant, we decided to have some dinner.  It was late afternoon, and we were both famished, having had nothing since breakfast.  The propane was still out, so we ordered something to drink and some cheeseburgers.  These were great cheeseburgers.  First of all, they were huge; the patty was at least an inch thick after cooking.  They were served on a French roll with all of the trimmings and we also had cole slaw and a baked (actually BBQ’d) potato to go with it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a cheeseburger meal that I enjoyed as much.

By the time we finished dinner, it was getting dark (which happens rapidly down here in the tropics), so we hauled out groceries down to the dinghy.  While Kathryn put the food into dry bags and plastic garbage bags, I got the oars out and readied them.  As we did so, some kind of sand flea or something was coming out of the bushes and they really had a sumptuous feast on our lower legs and feet.  As rapidly as we could, we got everything ready, turned the dinghy around and dragged it into the water. 

We launch the dinghy through the surf by Kathryn getting in as soon as the dinghy starts floating while I hold onto the stern.  As soon as she is in, she sits down and starts rowing while I put one foot in over the stern and start pumping away with my other as though I was riding a scooter (we call this the scooter start method).  When the water gets too deep to touch bottom, I bring my other leg in, lower the outboard and start it up.  This usually gets us past the breaking surf rapidly enough that if we time it right, no waves break on the dinghy.  This time it worked and we and the groceries stayed dry.  But when I went to start the outboard, I pulled and pulled and pulled, but it refused to even begin to start.  I must have pulled on it a hundred times as we were sitting there in the dark with Kathryn rowing us further from shore when I remembered that Kathryn had removed the “key” earlier that day when we had landed the dinghy. 

The key is a little plastic piece that fits on the kill button.  Without it, the motor doesn’t run.  In theory, you secure it to yourself with a lanyard so if you were to fall overboard, the motor stops.  In practice, we never do this and the key just lives in it’s place on the kill button.  We had been warned of a rash of thefts, including one in which the thief had removed the key from the outboard as it sat on the beach (to prevent them from returning quickly to the boat), then swam out to the boat and stolen a number of items.  It was for this reason that Kathryn had removed the key and in the dark, neither of us had noticed it missing.  Upon replacing the key, the outboard started right up and we were on our way.

However, the day was not over.  We were almost to the boat when suddenly, the outboard dies, jerks up and the boat suddenly stops in place.  Some fisherman had placed a long net between our boat and the shore.  This net would have been very hard to spot in the daytime and was invisible in the dark as it floated just beneath the surface.  It was also very well wrapped up in our prop.  I eventually had to take the outboard off the transom of the dinghy and bring it aboard in order to disentangle it from the net.  It seemed to take forever, but eventually it was free and we were able to return to Tricia Jean without further incident.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Islas Murcielagos (The Bat Islands), Costa Rica

10 dg. 51.521 N, 85 dg. 54.655 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3600 nm

Last Monday, we finally located a replacement for the outboard that was stolen last August.  It was at a dealer in San Jose, Costa Rica and after some mad scrambling to get the cash to pay for it (no VISA, please), it was put on a bus to El Coco.  Tuesday, we hitchhiked into town (faster than waiting for a bus) with Gary from Bay Fill to Papagallo Marine where the owner, Roy (who located it for us), was to receive it.  When we got there, there was no outboard, but Roy got on the phone and found that it was indeed at the bus station.  So, he sent someone down to pick it up for us while we went off to do some other errands (try to find a phone we could call the US on, internet, food shopping, etc.). 

Poor Gary didn’t bring an umbrella and got soaked.  Ever since we left Bahia del Sol a few weeks ago, there has been a LOT of rain.  I mean a WHOLE LOT of rain.   Other than an occasional brief interlude with some sunshine, it has either been threatening to rain, or raining.  Often just a light rain, but also some really torrential rain at times.  It's kind of funny the way it does it too.  Rather than just rain constantly for days on end, it will usually rain for 30 min. to a couple of hours, then stop for about the same period then do it all over again.  We've had periods of several hours of rain or non-rain, but these are less common.  When it decides to rain hard though, it's amazing how much water falls out of the sky in a short period of time.  They tell us that the rainy season ends very abruptly in about 2 weeks.  I'm looking forward to it though it will mean we will have to be careful about how much fresh water we use again.  It's been a real luxury to not have to worry about it.  On the other hand, since we try hard not to run the engine just to charge the batteries, we have had to be kind of careful about how much electrical power we use.  Once the rain stops, we'll be able to make plenty of power with the solar panels again. 

After grocery shopping, a local man approached us as we stepped out of the store and handed me a note from Roy identifying the guy as a friend who would give us a ride back to Papagallo Marine to pick up our outboard, then out to Bahia Panama where our boat was for a negotiated price of $8.  We also bought a couple more jerry jugs from Roy and diverted to the nearest gas station too, so we now have plenty of fuel for the new outboard.

Wednesday, it was just too rainy and dreary to even think about doing anything, so we just laid around on the boat and hoped the next day would be drier.  Thursday dawned with sun and broken clouds welcoming us, so we pulled the anchor up and headed back to Islas Murcielagos, arriving at about 1:30 with only minimal rain enroute.  We dropped the dinghy into the water and the new outboard started right up.  There was a pretty good current running through the anchorage, so we decided that Kathryn would go snorkeling and after a bit, I would take the dinghy downstream to fetch her.  Everything was going according to plan, but when she got into the dinghy after her dive and I went to shift it into reverse, the plastic shift handle broke (major bummer).  We’ve patched it back together so that it’s usable, but we’re going to have t get a replacement for it whenever we get near a dealer.

This is a marine reserve and the diving here is really nice.  The water could be clearer, but the fish population is diverse and unafraid of us.  Kathryn saw a 4’ nurse shark and I saw my first sea snake while snorkeling.  We’ve also seen some huge moray eels (their bodies are almost as big around as my calf) and some stone fish (don’t touch as the spines in their dorsal fins have poison in them!).  There is also a small (1”) bright yellow fish with black vertical stripes that seeks us out and hang out right us against the faceplate of our masks.  It’s a beautiful little fish, but it stays so close to our masks that it is hard to focus on it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Bahia Brasalito, Costa Rica

10 dg. 24.113 N, 85 dg. 48.878 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3628 nm

We had a great stay at Islas Murcielagos (5 days and 6 nights).  The diving was great and while the water could never have been described as crystal clear, it got a little bit clearer every day we were there until on the final morning, I could easily make out the details of stuff on the bottom while I was standing up on the bow pulling up the anchor.  We met a nice group of students from the various campuses of Univ. Calif. who were participating in their EAP (Education Abroad Program).  They were all biologists in training and were led by Frank who has been bringing students there for a number of years.  We attended the presentations they gave as they reported the results of their individual observations and experiments the afternoon before we left.  It was everything from fish diversity with depth to how long the scent trails that ants laid down lasted.  This morning, while we were getting ready to leave, Frank kayaked out to the boat with his two sons and we talked mostly about cruising.  He has been thinking about getting a boat and cruising with his family, but is still at the initial thinking and dreaming about it stage.

We had a fast beam reach run to this open roadstead anchorage about 30 miles down the coast and will be getting up early tomorrow morning to try to make the 54 mile trip to Bahia Carillo, the next stop along the way. If tomorrow’s wind is anything like today, we should make it thee before dark.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Islas Tortugas in Gulfo de Nicoya, Costa Rica

9 dg. 46.760 N, 84 dg. 53.560 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3732 nm

Well, the wind was not nearly as strong, nor in as advantageous a direction as Wed.’s.  Enough wind to sail, but not the near perfect conditions of the other day.  Instead, we were close reaching in about 8-10 kts of wind.  As a result, it would have been after dark when we pulled into Carillo.  We therefore decided to push on through the night to our next stop, here at the Islas Tortugas.  As luck would have it, the wind died completely during the night so we wound up motoring the rest of the way.  We really don’t like to motor, but we like it more than lying dead in the water, wallowing in the swell.  It did have the singular advantage though hat we could adjust our speed so that we arrived here just after first light.  I had the anchor on the bottom at about 06:20 this morning.

I’m afraid that I woke Kathryn up out of a sound sleep though.  As the anchor is let loose and the chain comes up out of the chain locker, it makes a real racket.   After putting on the sail covers and a few other minor chores, we both went right to bed since neither of us managed to get much sleep last night (this is normal for us the first night out).  When we woke up an hour or so ago, it had started raining again.  We’ve really had some nice weather for the last 3 or 4 days, with about 50% cloud cover and the only real rain being during the first half of last night.  I had hoped the sunny weather indicated that the rainy season had finally ended, but I guess there still wet stuff coming our way after all.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Islas Tortugas in Gulfo de Nicoya, Costa Rica

9 dg. 46.760 N, 84 dg. 53.560 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3732 nm

More Rain!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Islas Cedros in Gulfo de Nicoya, Costa Rica

9 dg. 50.995 N, 84 dg. 52.761 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3739 nm

We got a little tired of the rain at Islas Tortugas, so we relocated about 7 miles further into the Gulf of Nicoya and have dropped the anchor in a little cove on the north side of Isla Cedros and are now enjoying the rain from a new vantage point.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Islas Cedros in Gulfo de Nicoya, Costa Rica

9 dg. 50.995 N, 84 dg. 52.761 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3739 nm


There are a number of images I’ve seen recently that are beautiful and compelling.  Many of them are like something right out of the pages of an issue of National Geographic.  A few of them, I’ve already mentioned in other journal entries.  All of them have struck a chord somewhere deep inside of me.

In no particular order, here are some of them:

Being part of 27 people crammed into a regular sized van.  These vans are run by a company called Los Arcos and pick us up from where the road divides, one way going to San Salvador and the other going to Zacateluca and take us into downtown San Salvador.  If you are real lucky, you can sometimes get a seat up in front with the driver.  Most of the time though you wind up somewhere in back.  The rule seems to be that if the drivers’ helper can still get the sliding door to close, they keep packing in more people.  Bear in mind, that I am about twice the physical size of the typical Salvadoran and by all rights, they should have therefore charged me double the normal rate.  I remember on one trip, there was a woman seated across from me that couldn’t get over a sense of amusement over how someone as big as I am was crammed in along with the (by American standards) diminutive Salvadorans.  Every time our eyes would meet (a difficult task since I couldn’t raise my head all the way as it was pressed against the roof), she would smile and giggle.

Tikal, the Mayan archeological site in Guatemala.   The shear size and complexity of this city is just beyond my ability to adequately describe it.  The amount of effort and labor that went into creating that place, all without the aid of any metal tools, block and tackles or other of the most basic things just boggles the imagination.

The boat ride across lake Atitlan where we went through an area covered with chunks of pumice from fist size down to gravel size floating on the water and hearing the machinegun-like rat-a-tat-tat as it hit the hull when the driver just plowed right through it..

Boris with his head thrown back, mouth wide open in the biggest grin imaginable and enjoying a quick, hearty laugh about something or other that happened to tickle his fancy.

Joe in his swimsuit, shirtless, eyes closed with his violin tucked under his chin and his massive fingers somehow bringing forth sweet music.

Frank, his toothpick skinny legs protruding out of his shorts as he sings ‘60s songs at Michele and Dennis’s wedding.

Waves forming vertical walls of water as we were leaving Bahia del Sol and lifting our bow up until it seemed to point high in the sky, then the next moment, rocking down as we passed by the wave and having the bowsprit point down at the bottom of the ocean just a few feet away.

Dark, forbidding, jungle covered mountains rising up from the sea at dawn with rain filled and almost as dark clouds towering over them as we made out approach to Bahia Santa Elena.

Parrots flying along the edge of the jungle.

Sailing along and seeing numerous waterfalls and cascades erupt from the jungle and pour over a cliff’s edge before tumbling into the sea.

Peering under a rock while snorkeling and seeing a huge moray eel staring back at me with it’s mouth agape.


These have been just a few of the images I have seen recently that I seem to have a difficult time getting out of my mind.  I hope I never do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at Islas Muertos in Gulfo de Nicoya, Costa Rica

9 dg. 53.012 N, 84 dg. 55.618 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3742 nm

We had nice weather yesterday, so rode the ferry into the town of Puntarenas.  The trip consisted of a 20-minute dinghy ride to the ferry landing and another 90 minutes on the ferry and then the reverse to get back to the boat.  Puntarenas is a small tourist town and since this is not the tourist season, things were real quiet.  We did manage to get some provisioning done, restocking on fruits, vegetables, bread and drink mix among other things.  At one point, we stopped at a small restaurant and ordered a couple of banana splits (sometimes, you just gotta splurge).  What we wound up with was nothing like any banana split I’ve ever had, but it was delicious and satisfying.  It basically consisted of a fruit salad with a couple of scoops of ice cream in it.  No chocolate, no nuts, not even a maraschino cherry, but it was a great treat none-the-less.

We were disappointed in one aspect of the trip though.  While there, we bought a phone card and had hoped to call some family and a friend or two up in the states, but couldn’t get any of the pay phones to put a call through.  I’m not sure whether the international lines were down or if we just couldn’t figure out how to do it, but we spent at least and hour and tried 6 different phones, all to no avail.

While waiting for the return ferry, I go into a conversation with a local named Alvaro.  He had spent some years in the states back in the ‘70s (even spent a hitch in the Marine Corps) and spoke excellent English. Earlier, he had been very helpful in directing us to the right ferry, making sure we knew the departure time, etc., all without asking for anything in return.  He said that he was trying to learn enough that he could hire himself out as a tourist guide.  He will have to clean himself up a bit if he wants to be successful at it, but his attitude was good and I had a good time conversing with him.  Alvaro told me that what he is currently doing for a living is to watch cars, an occupation he takes very seriously.  Basically, he makes sure that no one steals anything from them or messes with them.  As people pull into the parking lot, he offers his services, which apparently includes directing them into and out of their parking place as though they were driving a large semi or something (an interesting if humorous process to watch).  We had a long discussion about the profession of car watching and he had quite a bit of disdain for another man doing the same thing in the same parking lot, letting me know that this guy would go off into the nearby market area for coffee, or just to hang out and there’s no way you can be responsible for what happens to cars while you are off somewhere else.  He also let me know that this guy would watch numerous cars at the same time whereas Alvaro felt that the most that could be responsibly watched simultaneously was 4 or 5.  Any more than that and you just could not do a good job.  He finished this discourse by telling me that someday, something was bound to happen to one of the cars this other guy was supposed to be watching and “I’m just not going to be responsible for it.” 

We made it back to the boat just in time for the mosquitoes to start chowing down on us.  That spot was really pretty, but because of the steepness of the bottom, we were very close to the rocky shore.  This in itself made me a little nervous since if the wind came up and the anchor started dragging, we would have no time in which to react, but the worst of part of being so close to the jungle was that the mosquitoes have been using me as a feeding trough for the last 3 nights. We’ve been using mosquito coils and I’ve tried 2 different kinds of repellant, but nothing seems to keep them away.  This afternoon, we therefore moved to another anchorage about 4 or 5 miles further up into the Gulf of Nicoya.  This one is quite shallow (11’ at low tide), ½ a mile across and protected from any waves coming from any direction.  It’s so flat that there is no discernable motion to the boat at all.  I might as well be sitting at my desk at home.

Yesterday’s weather was mostly overcast, but virtually no rain all day.  Today, we’ve got blue sky with only about 30% cloud cover, the sun is shining, the humidity is down to 59% in the cabin and things are drying out for the first time in a long time.  After all the rain we’ve had in the last month, this is really welcome.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Current Location:  Enoute from Punta Leones to Miguel Antonio Park, Costa Rica

9 dg. 27.832 N, 84 dg. 26.490 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3787

Since my last journal entry, we crossed over to the other side of the Gulf of Nicoya and spent a couple of days anchored off of a beach called Playa Mantas, near Punta Leones.  The weather has been very pleasant, if a little humid.  We’ve had almost no rain and usually get some sun during the day. 

We really haven’t been doing much for the last several days, just hanging out, reading and doing a few boat projects.  Kathryn has kept busy making covers for stuff stored on deck, like our fuel jugs to protect them from the sun (we had to replace the ones we started with before leaving El Salvador as they had become brittle and started cracking).  I’ve been experimenting with various ways to mount our dinghy wheels.  We bought them during our trip up to the US and they are kind of like landing gear for the dinghy.  They mount to the transom and normally stick up into the air, but as you approach a beach, you can lower them into the water where they serve two purposes.  First, they extend down below the prop and contact the bottom before the prop does, preventing the prop from ever hitting the bottom and damaging itself.  Second, they support the weight of the back of the dinghy and outboard as you pull it out of the water and up the beach.  This is far easier than just dragging the dinghy across the sand.  Before we got the larger outboard, the effort required to drag the dinghy was just barely what one person could manage unassisted. With the larger outboard, it became impossible for Kathryn to drag it without help and very difficult for me to do so.  Now, with the wheels, it’s a snap.  Because of the way our dinghy is made, these wheels need to be mounted with a 4” stand off.  I first tried using a couple of 2x4’s glued together as the stand off, but they split along the line of the mounting bolts.  We’ve acquired some 4x4 hardwood lumber and I’ve tried again.  It looks like it will work OK this time.

We really enjoyed the Gulf of Nicoya.  We found several very nice anchorages, most of which had little or no rolling.  It was almost like being tied up in a slip.  The water was too murky to go diving in, probably because of all the rain and runoff, but we have high hopes for this marine park we are going to.  It’s about 35 miles down the coast from the gulf and about 45 miles from where we were anchored.  We left at 6:20 this morning and expect to be dropping the anchor about 5:00 this evening.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Current Location:  Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

9 dg. 22.919 N, 84 dg. 08.881 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3804

We had the anchor down yesterday at 4:30pm, right on schedule and with about 45 minutes of light left.  The anchorage is a little rolly, but we put a stern anchor out this morning so we can keep the bow pointed right into the swell and this way, it’s not bad at all.

Today, we took a walk through the jungle of about 2 or 3 miles and saw an incredible plethora of wildlife.  There were numerous white-faced monkeys, one troop of which was feeding just a few feet off the trail and seemed completely oblivious to us (they are obviously quite used to us humans gawking at them since this is a very popular park).  At one point, while Kathryn was trying to get a picture of one up in a tree, another one of them scampered from one side of the trail to the other and ran no more than a foot or two away from her.  We also saw some howler monkeys (the little monkey with the big voice), a sloth, some cotamundies (about the size of a large, but skinny raccoon, but with a more pointed nose and a very long tail), 3 kinds of skink-like lizards and an absolutely gorgeous boa constrictor up in a tree.  It’s difficult to say just how long he was since he was never stretched out, but he wasn’t small and his body was about as thick as my forearm.  We also saw a large land iguana hanging out about 6’ off the ground on the inclined trunk of a tree.  Then, just as we got back to the kayak that we had tied to a tree on the beach, there was another big iguana right next to it with beautiful sky blue coloring. You know, it’s one thing to see these guys in a zoo, but to encounter them out in the wild is just incredibly exciting.  We got some great pictures of most of these critters and as soon as we get a chance, we will post them on the web so everyone can enjoy them.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Current Location:  Bahia Uvita, Costa Rica

9 dg. 8.986 N, 83 dg. 45.158 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3838

Without wind, we motored in the morning, but about 11:30, the wind filled in and we were able to sail about half of the way to this visually spectacular, but quite rolly anchorage.  There are numerous rocks awash stretching from the point on the mainland to about 2 miles away to the west and a mile and a half to the south with the Pacific swells crashing impressively as we sail past them before turning back north up to the anchorage.  Additionally, there are several jungle capped islands from a half acre to a few acres in size scattered around the periphery of the bay.  As a result, we took great care to pay close attention to everything as we were coming into the bay.  Out in the middle of the ocean with nothing around for as far as you can see, I feel very secure and comfortable, but when we get close to unfamiliar shores like this with waves crashing against rocks far from land, I get just a teensy bit nervous for the safety of the boat.  I really, really don’t want to be surprised but hitting a rock that rises up out of the depths, but not quite far enough to break the surface so it can easily be seen.  As a result, as we pick our way into these new anchorages, we are going slow and keep a close watch on the fish finder, which tells us not only the depth, but also the shape of the bottom as we pass over it.  As we were coming in this afternoon (about 4:00pm), at one point in the span of about one boat length, the bottom went from 120’ down, up to about 40’ before it just as suddenly dropped back down to 70’.  I guess that was one rock that just didn’t quite make it up to the surface.  It sure got my attention though.  Fortunately, we have a cruising guide that gives us a pretty good description of the various anchorages as well as directions to safely enter them.  Even so, when we see the bottom come up as quickly as it did this afternoon, my heart starts beating a little harder than normal.

This is what is referred to as an open roadstead anchorage.  That is one that is not well enclosed by the arms of a bay or cove and is thus exposed to the ocean swell.  In this case, it is exposed to anything coming in from the south or west.  The rocks attenuate them a little, but for the most part, the SW swell that is currently present comes right into the anchorage and the boat was really rolling.  Because of this, in addition to the normal anchor we set from the bow, we also set the stern anchor.  Normally, when at anchor the boat swings to the wind or current but with a stern anchor out the boat is tethered between the two anchors and is held pointing a fixed direction.  Whenever we are in a rolly anchorage, we set the stern anchor such that we are pointing as directly into the waves as we can manage.  This pretty much eliminates the left and right rolling and leaves what is usually just a tolerable rocking. 

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Current Location:  Bahia Drake, Costa Rica

8 dg. 41.430 N, 83 dg. 40.000 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3866

It was rocking so much last night that Kathryn slept on the settee in the center of the boat where the rocking motion is minimized, but I stayed in the V-berth.  Surprisingly, I actually slept quite well, waking up only once about 3am, about the time of high tide when the offshore rocks weren’t doing much to defeat the swells.  Between the uncomfortable anchorage and not wanting to even think about landing the dinghy through the surf breaking on the beach, we decided not to stay there for the day and were underway by 6:45am.  As I was raising the stern anchor, there were about a zillion little tiny crabs, no more than 3/16” across clinging to the anchor line who then dropped to the deck, so as I was securing things, they were all over the side deck scrambling for cover underneath various lines and stuff.  We did have a couple of other interesting wildlife encounters on the way to Bahia Drake.  The first was a close encounter with a finback whale.  He swam fairly close alongside us for awhile and at about the same speed we were going.  The other interesting encounter actually happened on three separate occasions.  A long skinny fish, about 20” long and 2” in diameter would leap out of the water away from the boat.  He would only jump about 10” high, but the leap would carry him 5’ or 6’ away.  Then, just as he landed, even before he was fully submerged, he would leap another 5’ away from us, then again, and again, and again for a total of 10 or 12 leaps.  We looked it up in a book, and the California Needlefish fits both the description and is known to exhibit this behavior.  This is a common fish that we’ve seen many, many times while diving, but this is the first time we’ve seen the behavior.  I wonder why?

We are now at Bahia Drake, another open roadstead anchorage.  This time, it is open to the north and west so we are protected form the SW swell and it is a very comfortable anchorage and we will probably stay her for a few days.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Current Location:  Golfito, Costa Rica

8 dg. 37.184 N, 83 dg. 09.128 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3944

We spent several days at Bahia Drake (pronounced (dra-kay down here).  One night, a local , ex-pat American entomologist and her husband took us on a tour down various paths through the jungle as they pointed out various spiders, insects and frogs to us.  This is a tour that they give to tourists and was really interesting.  She had lots of stories about how this spider captured its prey or about a fungus that attacked crickets, altering their brain chemistry and behavior in order to effectively spread the fungus spores.  We saw lots of stuff, but I think that she was a little disappointed with how much we found, as every now and then, she would reach into her pack and bring out another Tupperware container with some interesting critter in it and tell us how “I found this little guy in the house the other day” then proceed to tell us all about it.  She also pulled out a black light at one point, had us turn off all our flash lights and shone the black light on a 4” scorpion that had been in one of the containers to show us how it fluoresced a bright green color. 

It was about 10:30 pm when we finally got back into the dinghy, several hours after dark and overcast with no moon, it was very dark indeed.  When we got to where we thought the boat was, there was no sign of it despite the fact that we had left the anchor light on.  Actually, we first went to where Kathryn thought the boat was supposed to be, and then when we couldn’t find it, I went to where I thought it was.  With no moon or stars, it was so dark that it was impossible to even tell how far away from shore we were.  We were at low tide and I didn’t want to get too close as the bottom has a very shallow slope to it and if we got too close, we could hit the a rock with the prop.  Eventually, we decided to return to the little lagoon we had left from and try again.  There are a couple of small resort hotels there and we were pretty sure which of the very few lights on shore were them.  We therefore had decent chance of finding our way back there.   As we were doing so, I noticed that one of the lights which I had thought to be ashore was moving in relation to the others, meaning that it was in fact closer to us than the shore lights and therefore on an anchored boat.  As we continued toward the lagoon, I kept staring at it and finally saw one of shore lights wink off then immediately back on.  “Bingo!  There it is!”  I shouted to Kathryn (all of 2’ feet from me in the dinghy).  The mast of Tricia Jean momentarily occluding it had caused the winking light.  Since we were the only sailboat in the bay, it had to be ours.  All told, we probably spent close to an hour trying to find our way back to the boat.  I’ve learned my lesson, the next time there is any chance we are going to be coming back after dark, I’ll bring a GPS with us to guide us home.

The next day, while I stayed on the boat and did some programming, Kathryn took a hike along the path out to the point where she saw a toucan, some macaws, and various other cool stuff.  On her way back, she stumbled and fell, scrapping her knee up pretty good.  Fortunately, she was almost back to the dinghy so she didn’t have to hobble for miles on it.

Friday morning, we pulled the anchor up and moved the boat to Isla del Cano, a marine park about 12 miles off the coast.  We had to pay $20 for the day ($4 for the boat and $8 for each of us), but it was worth it.  The water clarity was far better than anything we’ve seen since Baja and we found lots of new fish to watch that we’ve never seen before.  We also saw our first sharks of the trip.  Kathryn saw a small 2’ one and at one point, while about 20’ down, I was slowly creeping around a VW sized boulder, looking at the fish that hung around it’s base and in the cave underneath it when as I pulled myself around a corner, a 4’ shark swam about 3’ from my mask.  Both of the sharks we saw were a medium gray in color with the very ends of their fins colored white.  According to our identification book, they were silver tipped sharks, which are supposed to hang out at oceanic islands, so that was probably it.

 Some friends of ours from El Salvador, Colette and Jon-Pierre on Safina were at Isal del Cano and it was nice to see them again too.

About midnight, we left and headed for our next stop, Golfito in the Gulfo Dulce of southern Costa Rica.  Another friend from El Salvador was here when we arrived yesterday afternoon, David on Borracha III, but he left this morning.  Unfortunately, he told us that his sailing partner Karin had given up and returned to states.  This life is certainly not for everyone, in a lot of ways it’s kind of like living out of a small RV but without the convenience of being able to drive places when you need to go shopping or something.  Fortunately, we are both still enjoying it immensely. 

We will be able to refuel and reprovision here before leaving for Panama.  The border is only 15 miles away as the macaw flies (I haven’t seen any crows down here), but about 44 as the boat sails.  Today we’ll take the dinghy in and reconnoiter, trying to figure out where the shopping is, where we can do some laundry, etc..