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El Salvador -- Surf that boat!

What a fantastic trip down the coast of Guatemala! We had over 2 knots of positive current and many hours of great sailing at 7 knots! I was thinking it would take us probably 3 days to arrive in El Salvador, but we did it in less than 48 hours! The harbor we were thinking of entering called Bahia del Sol has a famous entrance that is only passable at high tide and small surf. We we arrived we found two boats who had been waiting for 5 days for the swell to calm down enough to get inside. One of those boats was Sonrisa with our friend Ryan on board. He'd been stuck out there waiting and waiting.

And so we did what we swore we would never do: enter Bahia del Sol. The last couple of years we heard some scary stories from about 5 other boats about getting broached or knocked down in the entrance, several sustained damage. We watched the surf roll in and pound the shore and we figured there was no way we could get in. Ryan said the surf was a lot smaller and we would probably get in with the help of Murray (the local gringo business owner) piloting us in a panga.

So we prepped the boat and waited for high tide while watching the waves thunder. We got a call on the radio to prepare to enter and for all boats to up anchor. Two boats were coming out, but the four of us on the outside were coming in first. A catamaran, who was anxious to get in, was the first to head in towards the pilot (Murray and our friend Chad from the "Panga to Panama" fame). Not following or hearing the pilot's instructions they quickly ended up inside the breaking surf. Three waves pounded their boat sending spray about 15-20 feet in the air -- above their spreaders. Their pontoon came way up out of wave and I thought they were going to loose the boat. However the set of waves stopped and they were able to turn back out and then managed to get into the entrance and follow the pilot in.

After that, we thought ok, we can make it. Just stay in the channel. So we headed into what looked like an area of all breaking waves but turned into a narrow channel. We rolled heavily in some of the swells but they weren't breaking. Chad's calm voice on the radio was great as he talked us along. With waves breaking on both sides (but not near us) we managed to enter safely. Sherrell actually said is was fun "let's do it again."

Amazingly we are in El Salvador and happily anchored in Bahia del Sol's lagoon. It's beautiful, calm and well worth surfing the boat through the bar. We can even use the pool for free at the nearby hotel. Our next adventure involves an inland trip to Guatemala with our zoo!

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Out of the T-Pec

Posted on Thursday Mar 15, 2007

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This post contains a GPS location. Click here to see it on the map.

We rested for the night in Puerto Madero, which involved an entrance inspection and exit inspection by the Navy (including the drug dog), three visits to the port captain office, $75 pesos ($7.5) to API for anchoring a day, two runs to the fuel dock and a trip around town for blocks of ice. By the time we were finished with all that, I wished we hadn't stopped. But we used a lot of fuel fighting the current and to be safe we decided to pick up some more. And we did get a great night's sleep. I was glad we used Ocean Lady's dinghy with the 15hp engine because all those errands took us all day, and required many trips to all corners of the port.

Anyway, a pat on the back to us for having successfully crossed the Tehuantapec. The forecast for the T-pec has changed again and it's going to start blowing hard soon, so we're quite happy to have that nasty one behind us. In fact we are approaching the boarder to Guatemala and we'll retire our Mexican Courtesy flag. We're both feeling melancholy about departing Mexico, but it's on to new things!

In the meantime we're busy dodging shrimpers, long-lines, lobster traps, and pengas all while wishing for a bit more wind for sailing.

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So far so good.

The almost total lack of wind in the Tehuantapec was a bit of a surprise, but it wasn't exactly unwelcome considering the alternative. What really did suck was the 1.5 to 2 knot adverse current that dogged us for almost 80 miles, forcing us to abandon ideas of sailing and chewing through our precious Liquid Wind by using the engine.

We've had some brief moments with wind. 12-15 Knots NE for about 3 hours and SW at 10-15 for a few hours, but other than that -- nada, just some light on-shore and off-shore thermals.

Jordan tried to attack a bird that had been using our boat as a rest stop. In the dark of the night her black body went bolting out of the cockpit and up to the bow and she froze. Suddenly it dawned on her she was on a moving boat in the water and fear took over. Fortunately this drove her back to the cockpit...stupid cat.

We're about 20 hours from Puerto Madero where we'll get some fuel and continue on south. We're currently further south and east than we've ever been (we're due south of Louisiana)!

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Crossing the Tehuantapec

One of the windy parts of the world, the Tehuantapec can pipe up to hurricane force winds that can blow container ships 300 miles off course. We have been watching the weather carefully for this crossing and as I write this we are entering the edge of the dangerous part and we have NE winds of about 12 knots and for the next 72 hours there shouldn't be anything over 15 knots. If all goes well, in about 30 hours we'll be out of the nasty region and a lot closer to Central America.

We might stop on the other side of the Gulf in Puerto Madero, Mexico for some fuel. If we can get in about 100 miles of sailing we will be able to make El Salvador safely without stopping.

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Our own dock

Posted on Monday Mar 5, 2007

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In preparation for a weather window for crossing the Tehuantapec (which is currently blowing about 50-60 knots), we decided to try the cheap seats in Marina Chauhue. They have an undeveloped canal with some small docks without power or water for about $0.25 /ft/day (which is about $8 per day for us). It took us about three hours of sounding the canal and the area around the docks in our dinghy to make sure it was deep enough. But now we have our own 60' dock in a quite location. It's a great spot to work on projects and we don't have to worry about noise or leaving stuff out on the docks while we work on it.

We might be here a while as the Tehuantapec is almost at hurricane force winds today. The harbor master here thinks that when the next weather window opens up it will be a long one, so it will be worth the wait. The Tehuantapec is nothing to mess around with this time of year.

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Nowhere to go but up.

Posted on Wednesday Feb 28, 2007

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Sometimes when you're at your lowest it's easier to reach your highest. Our friend Ryan on Godspeed was suffering. Everything was going wrong for him. He was trapped in a lonely dirty port a ruthless victim of Murphy's Law and at the mercy of a conniving worthless mechanic. Even the little town conspired against him by refusing to accept his dollars just to buy a little beer. You see when Ryan left us almost three weeks ago he was bound for El Salvador so he unloaded all his pesos prior to his departure. But the world conspiring against him as it was drove him back into a tiny Mexican port devoid of pesos and hope.

Two weeks and about $700 dollars later, very little of that was spent on beer mind you, Ryan was beginning to think things couldn't get worse. We talked with him on the SSB to try to cheer him up a little and reassure him we would be there to help out soon. But it wasn't until a 37 foot boat called Sonrisa (means smile) shared the anchorage with him that his luck changed and an incredible story unfolded.

The owners on Sonrisa from Kansas wanted to go home. Mexico is a long ways from Kansas and I doubt Dorothy ever went that far. So Ryan being of a similar melancholy mindset invited them to dinner on Godspeed. So after shopping for food at the one place he found that would take US dollars, he returned to the anchorage where the guys on Sonrisa waved him over to see if he'd prefer to cook on their boat. Ryan was impressed with the space on their 37 foot Endeavour sloop. The owners again mentioned their desire to just go home and how they've been discussing what to do with the boat. After a pregnant pause Sonrisa's captain smiled at Ryan and said, "With your permission I'd like to give you this boat."

I think we're going to have to change Ryan's name to Sonrisa, because he can't stop smiling.

Isn't that the best story you've heard all year? (See the photo of beautiful Sonrisa below)



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Back on the Boat

Posted on Friday Feb 23, 2007

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We just got back to the boat a couple of days ago and busted butt on boat chores (changing oil, climbing the mast, etc.) so we could return to the quiet anchorage. But we?¢â??¬â??¢ve just got to tell you more about Oaxaca (?¢â??¬???wah-HA-kah?¢â??¬). We stayed at this place called ?¢â??¬???Casa Raab?¢â??¬ where they had 40 acres of land, 5 dogs, 4 cats, 4 burros, a horse and 3 parrots. When we unpacked our beasts from our 2 cars and added a dog and 4 cats to the mix, they blended right in. Even Jordan and Jezebel reluctantly made some new friends. The Casa Raab folks also rescue strays and find them homes after some much needed TLC. Needless to say Scott and Liz found an adorable new crew member, ?¢â??¬???Lilly Mae?¢â??¬.



We had a great time at Casa Raab. We learned first hand how Mezcal is made by helping to dig up the cooked ?¢â??¬???pinas?¢â??¬ and prep them for fermentation. We enjoyed lounging by the pool and taking walks around the property and playing with all the animals. And I also got to try my hand at playing the ?¢â??¬???Washtub Base?¢â??¬ while Scott and Tony played guitar.



As I mentioned earlier we went to the Monte Alban ruins which date back about 500 BC to 1600 AD and we also went to see some other ruins, ?¢â??¬???Dainzu?¢â??¬, which date back even earlier. You can see Liz and Sherrell checking out the Dainzu sports arena where they played a game which seemed a little similar to soccer.



There are TONS of unexplored ruins dotting the hills and valleys. I suppose if you were an archeologist with some spare funding you could probably make some fantastic discoveries. And the city has some great architecture like the European-style cathedrals.



Now that we are back at anchor and have the boat in good to go condition, we?¢â??¬â??¢re going to explore some of the bays a little more and let Lilly Mae get used to life on Ocean Lady before we cross the Tehuantepec in a week or so. When we find some time we?¢â??¬â??¢ll post a story about Southern Mexico on the homepage. I?¢â??¬â??¢ve got some beautiful panoramic photos and some good underwater shots that just need to be seen.

In Oaxaca

Posted on Saturday Feb 17, 2007

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We packed up the cats and together with Ocean Lady we took two rental cars and drove to Oaxaca. Perhaps you might have heard of this place on the news due to their riots and the Canadian reporter that was killed. Well, that scared off the regular tourists, leaving the place to hardy travelers.
Oaxaca has a very rich and old culture with lots of ruins and amazing artwork. When we find some time, we'll post some photos and tell you about our time here. It's been really fantastic and the place we are staying in allows us to bring all 4 of our cats and a dog. In fact there's a even bigger surprise as Ocean Lady has a new crew member! More on all that later!

Bahia Jicaral

After saying good by to Willow and Tara who headed out for their long trek to Costa Rica, we sucked it up and headed out on a grueling passage to Isla Cacaluta about 4 miles from the town. There's a massive beach that obviously gets pummeled in the summer by hurricane waves because the beach is practically a 30 foot wall of sand. We found some nice coral there, and walked the beach and the park checking out all the animals. But the wind switched and the second night was too rough to sleep.

So another tough 4 miles and we joined up with Godspeed, Get Lost and Ocean Lady in Jicaral. The coral here is really good and there's quite a few small types of tropical fish. Luck for you, Ocean Lady had an underwater little camera, so we'll soon be able to post some photos of 50% of the world we've never been able to show you before.

The water here in the Hualtulco area is amazingly clear. I can easily see the anchor at 25 feet down and the snorkeling has been some of the best we've had in Mexico -- on par with our secret spots in Isla Angel de la Guardia in the northern Sea of Cortez.

Last night we had a beach barbecue under the full moon. It was a nice mellow night and we wondered how our friends were doing sailing their boats along the lonely stretch of Guatamala heading south as we sipped cold beer and listened to music.

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Bahia Santa Cruz

We really liked La India, but our friends on Willow and Tara are departing to Costa Rica and are taking the weather window to get across the Tehuantapec in the next couple of days. So we braved the 10 miles needed to catch up with them and anchored in Santa Cruz next to Godspeed. We're pretty close to the small stores and downtown from here and we caught a 16 peso ($1.60) taxi ride to Marina Chahue to see Willow and Tara. We also met up with Con Te Partio, Homers' Odyssey and a few new people who are hanging out in the Marina.

Our plan is to be in this area for about 3 weeks, surfing, snorkeling and diving while the weather in the Tehuantapec slowly improves as we get closer to fall. During the fall the high pressure systems in the Gulf of Mexico become less frequent so less wind pours over the low lands of southern Mexico and the windows for crossing get larger.

Anyway we probably won't be posting much until we get ready to cross unless we happen across something spectacular.

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