“Where did the dinghy go?”

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Thinking the unthinkable

Posted on Thursday Jun 7, 2007

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The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for two big cranes, Sherrell and Eric's sanity would be lost.

There's a little yard here in San Juan del Sur and when we went through all the issues we've been facing: kidney stone, boat work, unseasonably bad weather, etc. We decided that hauling the boat out of the water was not a bad idea. In fact two days after hauling it out I had another pain attack from my stupid kidney. I don't know why kidneys can totally disable you with pain, but it's impressive.

Anyway, this yard is unlike any place we've been. We had to make our own stands, there's no power or water and we pay Juan to sleep on it to keep an eye on everything during the night.

Not to be outdone, Ocean Lady decided to set a new record for the yard and have them haul their 50 foot boat, the biggest they've hauled. The swell prevented us from hauling them for a few days, and the basin filled in with sand. So to get their boat to the crane we had to use their dinghy and a large panga to push them through the sand to the wall. Once at the wall, we led the straps around the boat, pulled the rigging out of the way, cleared the rails, and tied the bands together so they wouldn't slip. We had to really hustle to get things ready before the tide dropped too much and tilted the boat too far to be picked up.


Naturally the cranes had a tough time rotating Ocean Lady because of the two masts. As the boat was rotated it also heeled over about 20 degrees to starboard. After about an hour of struggling with the cranes, lines and even a forklift we got Ocean Lady righted and into position.

We've really settled in quickly, as we've rented a little house with Ocean Lady and we're getting ready to get to work on the boat while the bad weather rains down.

We cheated death again

Posted on Tuesday May 29, 2007

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As you can see by the photo (if I'm able to post it) the anchorage here has been extremely rough. We've had southwest winds for days and about a 6-9 foot swell. The photo is 50' Ocean Lady, at anchor next to us. There is a large swell event predicted to occur in a few days so this morning we decided to move to deeper water. That's when everything went wrong.

First I took the pressure off the snubber line (a 20 foot piece of line that takes the shock loads off of the anchor chain) and tried to untie it. But the rope had slightly unraveled and was impossible to undo, so I had to cut off about a foot of my line. Then I raised the anchor to find a large chunk of discarded fishing net entangled in the chain near the anchor. While I'm struggling to get this off, Sherrell is trying to drive away from the pounding surf and into the deeper part of the bay. I noticed she was having some difficultly in maneuvering the boat when she screamed for help, because the boat isn't responding.

I dumped the anchor and chain back out along with the mess of net and raced back. I grabbed the gear shift and felt the transmission engage, but when I floored it there was little response. Looking over the side I could see the prop spinning and pushing water, but we had no steerage. While messing with it, the transmission cable came loose, which I quickly fixed, and when we tried flooring the engine again there was some black carbon in the exhaust water (which Sherrell thought was oil) that caused more panic.

Luckily our anchor caught and held us from getting swept into the breaking waves about 500 feet behind us. I grabbed my mask and fins and dove into the water to see what was happening with the prop. There was a solid covering of barnacles that had grown in the past 10 days that was destroying the hydrodynamics of the prop. While I frantically scrapped the prop (in heavy waves this is difficult and I cut up my hands on the sharp barnacles), Ocean Lady was getting ready to come over to assist us. In record time I scraped it clean, and soon we discovered we could steer the boat.

While Sherrell motored us away from the beach to deeper water I hung upside-down off the bow sprit (getting dunked underwater occasionally) and tried to hack my way through the net that was on the anchor. It took a huge effort with my bloody hands and I was covered in nasty goo that was in the net. Finally I got the net off the anchor and on deck. Exhausted, I rested for a few minutes while Sherrell motored back into the bay so we could anchor again.

Now we are safely anchored in deeper water in case the large swells show up in the next couple of days. But we're both shaken.

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CAT OVERBOARD!

Posted on Saturday May 19, 2007

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It's not your average 6am alarm clock that meows desperately and sends you flying out of bed trying to stuff both feet into one pant leg while running up on deck. But that is what happened this morning. Except that alarm clock was Jordan clinging to our bobstay at the bow of the boat. I leapt into the water and grabbed her exhausted and terrified body and swam to the side of the boat. She was so scared she went limp as I swam with her and I tried to get her to climb the "cat ladder" but she was too beat to do anything. Sherrell reached down and grabbed her by the scruff and pulled her to safety.

We've never heard that cat purr so loudly. Our only guess is she slipped on the deck after last nights rain left everything wet. She normally doesn't chase anything on deck and she's very scared of the water. Now that she's all dried off and rested she has no desire to go up on deck -- wonder how long that will last. Good thing we were here to help her!

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SJdS

Posted on Friday May 18, 2007

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San Juan del Sur has been a blast. We've been surfing and swimming in some great waves. Batwing and Ocean Lady showed up a couple days after my Birthday and we had another party, followed by a day of surfing. Everything seemed right with the world. But then 5 days after my birthday I woke up with a strange pain.

That's when it all changed. The pain was a familiar one; this type of pain you never forget. I knew right away it was a kidney stone because I had one 6 years ago. So after convincing Sherrell that I was about to suffer an incredible bout of pain and that I needed to get to Rivas or Managua for an x-ray and some pain meds, we packed up and hired a taxi. Rivas is only 40 minutes away, but the road is rough and bumpy. I writhed in agony the entire way to Rivas. The pain was so intense that I almost passed out walking into the clinic. I could barely write my name and they rushed me to one of the beds as I stumbled through the explanation in Spanish of my problem. They shot me up with some good stuff and in about 15 minutes I was passed out. When I woke up the pain was gone and I felt like a new person. They did an ultrasound and found the 7.2mm stone lodged in my kidney.

So it seems we're on a mission to survey medical facilities around the world. We went to Managua with the test results to consult with a specialist and now we get to go back in a week. The typical treatment is to monitor the stone and see if it leaves the kidney without complications for about 30 days, but if trouble persists they might have to look at other options. Fortunately they have all the same modern equipment in Managua as in Seattle where I had the first stone.

What a pain in the kidney.

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San Juan del Sur

We had hoped to day-hop down the coast to San Juan del Sur in the southern end of Nicaragua. All of the anchorages are poorly charted and there are no guide books for suggestions or help. We had heard El Transito would be a good spot to stop and it was within reach before sunset. However the swell was exploding in El Transito like some scene in a movie. The waves were pounding so hard they refracted back into the bay making it a washing machine. Anchoring and sleeping in that mess would have been impossible.

There a few other poorly charted spots to stop, but we ran out of daylight and there's no way you want to approach these shores in the dark. That left us with only one option, keep trucking to San Juan del Sur. It's only about 100 miles, but it is also in an area with strong Easterlies (oh, and thunderstorms at night). We encountered strong winds about 50 miles out and we were getting pasted. The boat was covered with salt spray and only going about 3 knots. A little voice from other sailors' warnings reminded me to stick close to the shore. So we moved from 6 miles out to 3. The wind shifted magically to be less of a headwind and turned to be more off the shore providing us some relief from the pounding waves. After that we hugged the coast as close as we dared in the dark and kept an eye out for thunder squalls.

As luck had it, we trucked along with some brisk winds and no storms! We are anchored happily in the bay with the typical brisk Easterly wind blowing a nice breeze through the boat.

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Nicaragua

Posted on Wednesday Apr 25, 2007

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After another boisterous lightening show we sucked it up and headed out. There was a constant boom of thunder and gloomy clouds all around as we departed Gulfo de Fonseca. The weather forecasts was all messed up. Four different models all told us different stories. Typically as the rainy season approaches there are more southerly winds and that would suck. With the forecasts so divergent, yet showing light winds, we decided to just give it a try and see what was out there.

And unlike previous forecasts showing only light winds, this one proved true. In fact we had to motor the entire 50 miles to Puesta del Sol because there was no wind over 4-5 knots. A little frustrating, but better than a nasty headwind.

So we worked our way through the entrance, which was missing several key buoys due to maintenance and grabbed one of four buoys. Once again we took the cheap seats, or maybe I should say cheaper seats as they aren't exactly free.

The facility here is first class. Two pools, amazingly beautiful beaches and mangroves are breath-taking. Of course there's a bill to pay for staying in a paradise like Puesta del Sol, but for now we're trying to remain in denial.

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On the edge

We're anchored on the edge of El Salvador after returning from El Tigre in Honduras. Early this morning we were getting ready to depart (4:30am) when we found ourselves surrounded by lightening and it was raining. Rather than face that dreary start, we decided to leave tomorrow.

Naturally we spent a little time exploring the town. There were several loud and rude drunk guys, lots of curious kids and lots of people gave us the cold shoulder. Some barely managed a grunted "buenas" to our friendly greetings. Oh well, the good thing about a boat is you can always leave.

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Francis Drake's Headquarters

Posted on Thursday Apr 19, 2007

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El Tigre, Honduras.
Report to the King of England. April 18, 1578. Two small strange craft not of wood sailed into the harbor. They traveled against the wind as if moved by magic. There is much idle talk about the origin of these little ships as they claim to be from the United States of America and fly no flag I've seen before. One Portuguese captain claims to know the northern country all the way to the ice has no idea of this country or craft. We have dispatched two of our fasted ships to sail north to sight for this advanced technology. They travel forth with great haste. While not armed or hostile they do keep cats and dogs on board (possibly as livestock).

Were even a small fleet of armed craft such as these with strange sails, rigging and some magic way of moving without wind to arrive in Golfo de Fonseca, we would clearly be out maneuvered and defeated. I respectfully request military assistance to this region.

Your Humble Servant,
Sir Francis Drake

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Bahia de Fonseca

A nice breeze from the E allowed us to sail upwind for about 6 hours yesterday, making the 58 mile run much more pleasant. We rounded Punta Amapala where we met some nasty current waves that slammed into the hull and rolled and pushed us around. It was a naughty little stretch of water but we made it around into this nice bay that few people know about called, surprise, Amapala. We have a bit of a NE wind, but according to all the weather predictions I've managed to find it should just be a thermal effect and not a papagayo (strong gap winds that would make this anchorage dangerous).

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One bar we're glad to leave

Posted on Saturday Apr 14, 2007

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Well we watched the swell go down over the past few days and we were hopeful that a high tide around noon conditions would be good enough for us to escape. Murray and Collette our helpful guides over the bar gave us the go ahead to raise our anchors and proceed to the entrance.

So I started cranking the windless, careful not to loose the handle again. When we had about 25 feet left to pull up it tightened and pulled the bow down towards the water. The anchor was stuck on something! Damn! Sherrell drove the boat around like mad. We did circles, we backed up, we rammed the thing. About the only thing that seemed to happen was our bow dipped towards the water with all the tension of us pulling on that anchor. About 10 minutes into this struggle I decided I'd better dive down and see what's going on and get it free. We're not going to miss our exit window!

Sherrell told Murray and Collette we were having trouble while I put on the snorkel gear. The other boats were already underway, so we felt the panic set in. I dove down into the murky black water and once I got my face up to where the anchor was supposed to be (visibility was about 1 foot), I saw the anchor was really buried deep. After some digging I found the shackle, so I new I was getting closer. A few more dives on it and I had dug a small pit. Now the only thing we could do is use the boat engine to really try to crank it out.

I climbed back in the boat and Sherrell gunned it again. We dipped the bow down and puuuullled, but no joy. So we tried again at a little different angle. Suddenly we were free! I cranked the sucker up, tied everything down, closed all the hatches, and we floored it to catch up to the group.

Fortunately the swell was small and we climbed a few 3 footers on our way out, but no waves broke on us. Man were we glad to have made it out! Bahia del Sol was a great place and we had a lot fun there, but we were ready to go.

We had a great sail for about 14 miles to some unknown beach. The next major anchorage is too far to arrive in daylight. So we are at this VERY rough roadstead and in the morning we'll bolt out of here for somewhere nice.

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