Thursday, April 29, 2010


April 29, 2010 1:00AM CST
Day 1701
Position: 18°36'N 103°51'W
Underway and about 24 hours north of Zihuatanejo heading towards Bara Navidad with about 11 hours to go.
Miles YTD: 3495
Miles since day 1: 29719

We spent a few low key days in Zihuatanejo taking care of the basics. You know, forty pounds of laundry to be washed and huge bags of fresh fruits and vegetables to be purchased. Fishing has been so poor we even bought a big hunk of meat from a butcher at the local market. One of those local affairs where meat is hanging on a hook just before we made our purchase and the butcher hacks off what ever piece you want. The local market was bustling with shoppers pouring over colorful and eclectic goods of every description. To give you an idea of what's possible; we picked up fresh mangoes, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, papaya, popcorn, a huge slab of beef, a knife sharpening stones, yogurt, hot sauce and a great lunch in one trip. What a great opportunity to buy local and support the local farmers in this world of blurring globalization that's creating a numbing sameness nearly everywhere. Buy local!

Zihuatanejo is a neat little town that, despite tourism, "Zhua" holds onto its' Mexican identity well and remains a charming city. Zihuatanejo is an easy place to spend awhile and we were a bit hesitant to rush off. The downside to this town is the water quality in the bay on an outgoing tide. The local sewer plant seems to dumps effluent into the lagoon and then it drains into the bay where we anchored LightSpeed. Yuck!

We met some nice cruisers in Zihuatanejo. One couple Jim & Kent on s/v Sea Level had recently completed construction of a beautiful Schonning Winderness 14.8 meter (48') sailing catamaran and are now headed to the South Pacific later this week. We hosted happy hour one night for s/v Take me away and s/v Sea Level and then spent the next few evenings on s/v Sea Level being entertained and fed while helping sort out some computer questions related to GRIB files, Sailmail, WIFI internet access, and navigation software. They spent one of their first summers cruising their new cat in British Colombia and reinforced just how 'worth it' cruising BC will be. I always have a fun time working on computers, perhaps some day I can figure how to make a few $$ along the way.

We made an early morning departure form Zihuatanejo, early morning being a nice way to say five minutes after midnight. Why so early? Well the wind has been uncooperative in direction lately plus in the afternoons the Sea breeze has been enhancing the strength of the wind. Lately, we try to avoid sailing in the afternoon as the winds get strong on the nose. So we waited until the evening land breeze kicks OUT to counteract the wind blowing IN from offshore. Land breeze equals breeze blowing from land. Sea breeze equals breeze blowing from sea toward land. These are diurnal winds related to the heating of air by the sun in the day and the lack of heating of air by the sun at night and the relative warm temperature of the sea compared to colder air inland at higher elevations. Google 'diurnal winds' for a visual.

About an hour before first light I spotted a small light ahead of us. Checking it out with the Binoculars I was jolted by clearly seeing the dark outline of a pretty big navy ship contrasting in the strong moonlight. Shocking to see such a big ship so so dark with only one light. I guessed they were on some sort of maneuvers or mission to intercept drug runners. At any moment I expected a high speed all back RIB to race along side and have M-16's and blinding flashlights aimed in my direction. It would be pretty normal to be boarded and inspected by the Mexican Navy or USCG in this situation. Apparently, everyone was asleep on the warship as nothing came of our close passing in the night. I altered course 20 degrees and took the warships stern having us pass less than 1 nautical mile apart.

Sailing near the coast, about 3 miles off, we've had the luxury of a favorable current for a change. It's nice to get a little boost of up to 1 knot instead of the adverse current thats been hampering forward progress since El Salvador.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Acapulco to Papnoa

April 25, 2010 @ 8AM
Day 1698
Position: 17°18'N 101°06'W
Underway towards Zihuatanejo
Miles YTD: 3306
Miles since day 1: 29530

We planned a quick refuel stop in Acapulco. We arrived around 11:30 PM and tied up to a mooring. We didn't want to tie to a mooring, but anchoring is tough with depths in the 18-23 meter range and a very soft slimy bottom full of junk that offers poor holding. We tried to get the anchor set to our satisfaction in a couple of spots, but since it was so late we decided just to tied up to a mooring. I hate to use moorings as you don't know if the system has been maintained properly or has been ignored and is ready to fail.

In the morning I got up early to beat the heat and changed the oil and filters on both engines. By the time I was done it was pretty darn hot. Then we went into the Acapulco Yacht Club fuel dock. The station attendant was surly and not helpful at all, not even at securing the boat to the dock. Before fueling we had to go to the marina office with our boat papers, a process that took at least 20+ minutes. Then back at the pump the attendant told us the fuel would cost 9.50 pesos per liter not the standard 8.48 pesos per liter shown on the pump. What the heck? Pemex is the nationalized fuel provider and prices are controlled by the government. So why the extra 12%? Back to the marina office, the management said it was a 'Service Fee' since the fuel dock was at the Marina. Humm. What service did we get anyway besides bad service?

Back to the anchorage area we had to use two anchors to get the boat to be reasonably secured in the poor holding bottom. About this time the port engine shifter stoped responding so back to the engine room to investigate. It turns out the threaded end of the Morse cable had broken off. We took at trip into the city and got the part repaired for cheap by cutting new threads onto the end of the cable. Back to the engine room for the fourth time and we were operational again.

We planned to go back in and see the famous Cliff Divers, but just too exhausted to make the trek. The city was very busy, loud and with some major water main construction going on, so it wasn't all that tempting to go back in anyways.

Around 2:30AM we headed out toward Zihuatanejo, but stopped short at a very quaint fishing village at Papanoa. Anchorage position: 17°16.5742 N 101°03.5298 W just inside the outer breakwater. With several hours of daylight remaining we went to shore to explore the sleepy fishing village. We tied up to a local panga at the small pier inside the inner breakwater and checked out the local fish buyer. Lots of small sharks around 24" without the heads on. We also noticed a local home/hut with lots of tiny shark fins drying on the tin roof. Not sure if this is a sustainable fishery or not, but I hope so. Walking around the town we headed for the adjacent beach and found it refreshingly underdeveloped. Kathy and I are always looking for a perfect spot to build a beach front home and this area definitely has some potential. Not sure what the catch 22 is, but there must be one to have such a nice beach with proximity to a boat haven and freeway and airport and no external investment. Seems strange.

Today we are headed toward Zihuatanejo and we plan to stop for maybe 2 nights to get some laundry done and fill our propane bottle. Other than that we need to keep moving along as hurricane season is approaching quickly and we still have 580nm to Cabo San Lucas and 1365nm to San Diego and 2606nm to Roche Harbor....

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Quick repair

We had a engine shifter cable break today while anchoring the boat after fueling up at the Acapulco yacht club. It's a pretty common cable made by Morse, however mine is a ultra short 3' so, although we found replacements the shortest I could find was 24'. Wandering around town I found a machine shop and he repaired my old cable on the spot and for less than US $7 dollars.

I spent way too much time in the engine rooms today as I started out with changing the oil and filters. Then the cable broke in the early afternoon by which time it was nice and hot outside and the engine had just been running so it was crazy hot in the engine room. Nothing like having sweat drip down your arms and off your tools in copious amounts. Even my 'Croc' slip on shoes were pretty full of sweat and the shorts I had on were soaked and dripping in short order as well.

After our trip to town to get the cable repaired I was not too stoked to go back into the sweat box. But, you gotta do what you gotta do so back in for my fourth sweat lodge treatment for the day after which I was exhausted. Too bad as tonight we wanted to go watch the famous Acapulco cliff divers leap off the cliffs with flaming torches in hand. I guess well have to watch it on youtube as we plan to sail tonight or in the wee hours once the strong winds drop off.

Acapulco, Mexico

La Marina, Acuapulco, Mexico. Work has begun on rebuilding the marina which we hope will be more cruiser friendly. They allow dinghy tie ups to their derilict docks for only $80 pesos a day or about US $7 which seems like a good thing since the Alcapulco Yacht Club next door charges US $30 to dock your DINGHY for the day. To dock our boat would be US $105 plus tax or US $2.50 per foot per day... if they had space which they don't. Better to make friends with one of the sport fishermen who med moor to the seawall and try to tie up there as it's a better location to shopping and lots cheaper.
Sea wall where you could tie up a dink if you had permission from some fishermen. Anchoring a yacht in the harbor is rough with depths in excess of 18-22 meters and super poor holding in a very soft bottom.
Kathy at a overlook of the harbor.
Still a popular car and many can be seen working as taxi cabs.
Mixed use beach. Fishing boats and sunbathers.
Taco vender along the waterfront.
Acapulco from sea at night. I guess you had to be there as it was really cool, unlike this photo which is really blurry.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Puerto Excondito, Mexico

April 22, 2010 @ Midnight
Position: 15°58'N 097°58'W
Underway toward Acapulco 1 day out or Zihuatanejo 2 days out
Day 1695
Miles YTD: 3094
Miles since day 1: 29318

A big thank you to Brant Milligan for joining us on our voyage through the Panama canal and the thousand plus miles sailing north. Brant was awesome to have onboard and one of those people who are always looking for ways to contribute. A huge thank you again to Brant for all the cooking lessons, cleaning of fish and of course standing an equal share of night watches. Safe travels Bro.

We hit the Port Captains office at Puerto Escondido to get our paperwork straight as Brant needed to be officially taken off our crew list. This was quick, free, and conveniently the Port Captains office is located on the beach at the dinghy landing. Brant, unfortunatly has to get back to reality! After the paperwork we were looking for a beer when we met Martin Mora a friendly local who having spent many years working in LA spoke fluent English. He suggested we head up to the corner market to hang with the local fishermen and have a beer. So we did just that and hung out on the sidewalk and drank a few beers. The local guys were pretty cool and most had stories of working in the USA at some point in their lives. All agreed that the US economy was in the dumps as there was no work and they choose to head home to wait for the recovery. Martin offered to help us run some errands so we jumped in his vintage and nearly stock 1980 Dodge Valiant 2 door with a slant 6 auto transmission and bumping stereo wailing some sweet reggae tunes. Driving up the winding streets of Puerto Escondido Martin seemed to know everyone along the way. We hit a few stores looking for a fuel jug then the gas station then back down the hill to the corner grocery store for a few more beers. Good times. If you want to go sport fishing in Puerto Escondido be sure to look up Martin Mora for a great experience. Martin has a nice boat and is one of the few locals whom offers offshore sport fishing trips.

This morning we got a bit of a slow start, but finally made it off the boat and down the beach to Cafecito for breakfast. Brant had been to Escondido about 12 years ago and wanted to check out the goings on of one of his favorite restaurants from back in the day. It turns out Escondido is not the surfing secret it once was and everything seems to have grown, Cafecito included, which has doubled in size and based on the crowd was still serving great food. We all had various tasty traditional Mexican dishes for breakfast as we watched the 'Mexican Pipeline', the reputed 3rd best pipe break in the world. We then wished Brant safe travels as we headed our separate ways. Kathy and I ran a few errands looking for oil filters and engine oil and then set sail, but not until nearly 2PM.

Contrary wind and current are making it a slow bash and we've really been racking up the engine hours with little sailing with exception of the diurnal land and sea breeze which usually give us a sailable angle. We knew this would be a tough trip in terms of lots of motoring, but so far the motoring aspect has exceeded my expectations. Of all the thousands of miles we sailed our motor to sail ratio has been lousy these last weeks. The bad part is the boat is much slower under power than sail so it seems we are just barely creeping along. Especially of late with adverse current taking a bite out of our speed over ground.

It seems our goal of 4th of July in Roche Harbor of Washington States San Juan Islands is definitely possible if we keep pushing everyday. The significant reduction in lazy days is definitely the downside of setting such an ambitions goal to travel many thousands of miles against wind and sea. A Pacific Northwest summer is unbeatable and very scarce so we push onward.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oaxaca Cheese

April 20, 2010 9AM
Position 15°38'N 096°36'W
Day 1693
Miles 3002 YTD
Miles 29226

Lots of little stops the last few nights. After crossing the Tehuantepec we stopped briefly overnight in Salina Cruz as head winds were making the prospect of motoring into the wind not so enticing.

Next stop Puerto Huatulco and the town of Santa Cruz where we caught up with several other cruising boats whom are also headed north. It was just a quick overnight stop, but we headed into town for some authentic tacos at a street vendors' stand with our friends off s/v Celestial. We also took advantage of the fuel dock and filled the tanks via dinghy as the fuel dock is more suited to small pangas. A cruise ship arrived in the bay so we were asked to move our boats as it could be dangerous to be in close vicinity to the monstrous ship. With the town crawling with cruise ship passengers we set out for the next good bay, Puerto Angel. Turns out it's pretty small, crowded with local pangas and had lots of south swell entering the bay making for a not so peaceful anchorage. We took the dinghy to an old commercial concrete pier which was pretty treacherous with the swell and surge of the waves. On shore we found some Oaxacan cheese that is sort of similar to mozzarella string cheese and a regional speciality of the state of Oaxaca. Many street vendors were serving all sorts of delicious tacos, etc, etc so we sampled a few stalls for dinner then hung out at the pier where a volleyball court was set up and the local kids played on a concrete court.

The anchorage proved to be very unsettled and we didn't get a good nights sleep so we are off for points north today.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sport fishing in Puerto Escondito Mexico

Anchored in Puerto Escondito.
Sport fishing in Puerto Escondito, Mexico. Martin Mora has the nicest boat in the fleet and competitive pricing. If you want to catch fish and hang our with a very cool captain then be sure to give Martin Mora a call. 954-103-22 73
Brand new outboard.

Martin scored second in a fishing tournament in 2009 winning a new car!

Puerto Escondito, Mexico

Alley near the Port Captain.
Anchorage at Puerto Escondito, MX is very deep and very croweded. Local fishermen claim that the San Andres Fault runs through the anchorage and one should be careful not to anchor too tight as the boat might get pulled when the fault is active. Seems like BS to me, but who knows before they consult Google, right?
Nut crusted Mahi Mahi with a side of cactus salad. Yum!
Kathy shows off here wind proof hat that has a chin stap buckle. Looks funny, but effective.
Puerto Angel, MX. Very crowded with pangas so finding a protected spot is impossible. Holding is good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In no particular order

Fresh Chicken anyone? Why are these chickens yellow? And why was this chicken merchant so keen to have us take some pictures?
Ohh, if Kathy knew this picture was on the internet! Lets call this Spa day.... liberally applied fresh invigorating and mostly alive mangrove mud with fresh cool cucumber slices topped off with a chilled glass of champagne.

Mahi Mahi

A nice little Mahi Mahi.

Puerto Madero

Eking out some additional waterfront. This entrepreneurial beach front Palapa owner is putting up a losing battle with mother nature as he tries to extend his waterfront business.
Another Jack! Too bad these are bad eating as they put up a spectacular fight.
Tlayuadas al Brant. Beautiful quesadillass with Oaxacon cheese, beans chicken grilled in flour tortillas. Delicious.
Mango cabbage slaw. Ohh so tasty.
The full meal deal.
Street Market

Michelada with lunch.
Water Chopper
Fresh Churizo anyone. Why yes, and we carried it around all day in a backpack in 90 degree heat. And guess what we're still alive.
Kathy puts on the negotiation pressure. This vendor surrenders and we get the lady finger bananas for cheap.
Decisions. Decisions.
More choices
One of many vendors we visited in a neighborhood market
Fish Vendor

Shopping for chilies in Tapacula, Mexico
Resteraunt at Marina Puesta Del Sol
Marina Puesta Del Sol pool. There was a much nicer pool on the ocean side. Amazing!

Fish dinner at a local restaurant. This feed cost only US $7.
Gas dock at Marina Puesta Del Sol
LightSpeed at the dock in Puesta Del Sol
Brant Milligan on a horseback adventure around Puesta Del Sol
Fresh produce on the shelves of LightSpeed

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tehuantepec and Puerto Madero

April 17, 201- 1:30PM local
Position: 15°59' N 094°04' W
Underway from Puerto Madero, Mexico toward Huatulco, Mexico
Miles YTD: 2845
Day: 1691
Mile: 29,069

Arriving at the breakwater of Puerto Madero, Mexico on April 14th around 8:45PM we decided to take the conservative approach and just anchor out for the night. The wind and waves were pretty mild so we got a good nights rest. The next morning we motored into the North Basin and dropped anchor in the company of several other yachts. Holding in 7-8 meters was terrible and it took two anchors and about seven tries to get the anchors satisfactorily set. Undoubtedly, the neighboring boats derived some entertainment from our struggles as they enjoyed their morning coffee. Next stop was the palapa lined sand beach just inside the breakwater where we landed the dinghy for the short walk to the Port Captains office. Checking into with the Port Captain was pretty easy and made easier in that we could pay for the Port Captains fees with a credit card on the spot in lieu of having to go to a bank to pay the fee and return with a receipt.

Next stop Immigration at the Tapachula airport some 18 miles inland. We jumped on a collectivo, a 5 peso ride on a mini-truck with a covered bed, for the ride into Puerto Madero proper, from there we hopped on another collectivo, this time a 15 peso mini-van for the ride toward the airport. We got dropped off at the airport entrance road and walked maybe 1/4 mile to the terminal. It turns out the immigration office is not in the terminal building, but in the administrative buildings on your right as you approach the main terminal. Fees for the three of us amounted to the equivalent of US $72. We actually paid in dollars as we had yet to make it to an ATM or bank thus far.

Heading out of the airport we decided on a day trip adventure to Tapachula population about 135,000. Approaching the city we saw some familiar mega chain stores such as Sams, Walmart, Office Depot and Home Depot. Luckily, the more closely we approached the 'Centro' the more authentic the experience. First stop was about 5 minutes from 'Centro' and we explored the stalls of a pretty large market. Super friendly people and big smiles at every turn. It seems Tapachula gets very little tourism so we were quite the spectacle. One little boy even reached out to touch my hand... apparently, to see if my white skin was real or if I was a ghost. We purchased lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and some freshly made chorizo. Next we wanted to have lunch at the central square and take in the sights of the adjoining side streets. What a treat to browse the vibrant and colorful shops and street vendor wares. Since it was pretty hot we stopped for a beer at a very sketchy local bar. Loud music and many drunk, but friendly patrons. Back to the beach palapas and our dingy where we enjoyed a waterfront dinner with the restaurant all to ourselves. The proprietor was glad to have us and even convinced us to return for breakfast by setting a firm time of 7AM and taking our orders that very evening for the next morning.

Wishing for a little more sleep we pulled ourselves out of bed to make the appointed breakfast reservation... worried that our eggs would be ready and waiting. Ahh to be disappointed. Not only were our eggs not ready, I think the owner had to go collect the eggs as it seemed we had waited long enough for the eggs to be laid. In the interim we sipped on Nescafe instant coffee which is pretty much worse than bad. Where was the famous Chiapas coffee? When the food arrived it was disgusting. I think my eggs were poached in a luke warm deep fat fryer. The side of refried beans slid across the plate and was accompanied with several imbedded hairs. Where the heck was the cook? Anyway, I decided to further postpone my breakfast and eat something later on the boat. Kathy and Brant took tentative bites, but did not eat too much.

Next stop the fuel dock to jerry can some diesel for the next leg of our voyage north across the infamous Tehuantepec the most dangerous area on the Mexican coast for high winds. It took several trips to the fuel dock which is NOT designed for yachts let alone dinghys. The second to last administrative stop was the API office to pay the US $7.50 per day port fee to anchor in the bay. Then back to the Port Captain to produce all the paperwork for his approval.

Since it was now afternoon we enjoyed lunch and a swim at a different beach front palapa restaurant. We were not disappointed and the food was great.

Todays challenge is crossing the Tehuantepec and we are lucky as the winds are light, but the forecast is for 20 knots later. Given the vicious reputation of the Tehuantepec we are following the coastal route as to be ready to duck in toward the shore if the winds start to howl. So far so good so we are running 5-7 miles off the beach to make navigation less stressful than a closer track. About 127nm to go.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sailing across the Guatemala / Mexico border

April 14, 201- 6:30 local
Position: 14°30.6235 N 092°16.2993 W
Underway toward Puerto Madero, Mexico
Miles YTD: 2695
Day: 1688
Miles: 28919

Sailing across the northern Guatemala border into Mexican waters. Just hoisted the "Q" flag and Mexican flag on the port flag halyard. Glad to be in Mexican waters. We have about 15 nautical miles to go to Puerto Madero, Mexico the southern most port of entry into Mexico.

We decided to pass by both El Salvador and Guatemala due to time constraints. We already spent a few months in Caribbean Guatemala and since customs and immigration fees would be in excess of US $200 for a simple check in / check out we are giving it a pass. Sailing has been good on the diurnal winds (sea and land breezes), but pretty poor otherwise. All of El Salvador offered adverse current to the tune of 2 knots which really hurt as we had to motor a lot and at our motoring speed of 6.5 knots the 2 knot adverse current cut deeply into our daily run.

Hooked into another Marlin today and he gave us a bit of a show thrashing his head out of the water and throwing the hook. We also hooked into a few 20-30 pound Jack Crevalies which are great fighting fish, but apparently poor eating so we released both.

Last night we had a few thunder storms nearby that kicked up tons of dirt. It was strange to smell the strong sent of dirt, cow dung and have ones nostrils burn with the stong scent of acrid chicken shit so far our to sea. Luckily the lightning kept its distance and proved to be a non issue.

Several close passes with fishing pangas had us a little nervous at times in the night as the fishermen in the pangas wouldn't keep an anchor light so we had to deal with intermittent flashes from their flashlights. Pretty nerve racking at times as you never know where their boats are when their lights are out and or if they are really pirates. The tired mind of a night watch keeper tends to wander and imagine all sorts of perils. We also had lots of big ship traffic and Brant was well initiated on the use of the AIS and identification of ships lights at night.

It looks like we will be anchoring outside of Puerto Madero tonight as we are arriving after dark and our rule is: Entering a new port at night is not allowed.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Water Spout (Tornado on the water) and Black Marlin

April 13, 2010
Position: 13°18 N 089°25 W 10:45AM local
Sailing along the Northern coast of El Salvador
Miles Sailed year to date: 2529
Day: 1687
Mile: 28,773

Just before 6AM Kathy woke me up and said 'look out the hatch there is a huge water spout!' As I rubbed my eyes and poked my head out the hatch, I uttered something along the lines of 'Holy Smokes' get the sails down quick. This was no ordinary little water spout, this was a super mucho grande! Although, we were over 10 miles offshore you could see and smell dust in the wind, this was a big storm cell. The sails were quickly dropped and secured, hatches were dogged shut as we altered course on our best guess to avoid the beast. The very well formed funnel was sucking up water and delivering it high into the clouds. This thing was so big I was expecting it would soon start to rain out fish that it was vacuuming out of the sea. Luckily, our course change had us avoid the funnel and all we got was high winds and a solid downpour. Mind you we haven't even seen a thunder cloud in weeks so this was a bit of surprise.

The other major excitement of the morning was hooking into a big Black Marlin. He wasn't on the line too long, but I did get a good look to identify the species. I'm glad the fish threw the hook early as aside from a fun battle trying to reel one of these large game fish we just don't have the facilities to store the massive amount of meat should the fish be mortally wounded during the battle.

A little later we hooked a Little Tunny (Aku or Skip Jack) and decided to keep despite it's inferior quality for a tuna. We carefully brained, pithed, bled and cooled the fish prior to filleting so the flesh will be of the highest possible quality, at least for what it is.

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Coasting along El Salvador

April 12, 2010 6PM local
Position: 12°57 N 088°05 We
Underway towards Mexico
Miles sailed year to date: 2421
Days since I've had a real job: 1686

We spent the last few days relaxing at Marina Puesto del Sol in Northern Nicaragua, it was time to take a breather. Since last November we've been under pressure to be somewhere and had a schedule nagging at us to keep moving. In these last winter months we've planned a wedding, got married, sold our old boat collected 14 passport stamps, sailed nearly 3000 nautical miles and changed oceans by crossing the Panama canal. So a few days in the marina seem justified to enjoy nothing to do and no where to be. Aside from the 3500 miles we want to sail to be in the Pacific Northwest for summer. I still managed to keep busy with the install of a new Autopilot, hand waxing the hull and spending quite a few hours in the pool to escape the heat. Kathy fit in a few runs on the beach and plenty of body boarding on some pretty big waves at the beach. Brant went horse back riding with a local cowboy and caught a few decent surfing waves at the point break. We all enjoyed some great food at a locals restaurant with huge entree servings of chicken, beef or fish for about $3.40 US each.

Not too many boats headed North along the coast of Central America so we feel pretty fortunate to have met up with a few. Lucky for us the crew of s/v Celestial happened to be taking a break at Marina Puesto del Sol as well. It turns out Scott, Donna and Celest are sailing their Tripp 47 named s/v Celestial toward Seattle on about the same time line as us. Back in the early 1990's their family of four circumnavigated aboard their J-36 named Blue Jay (sp?). Celeste was born en route in Austraila... these are real sailors! Today we both pulled out of the Marina within about an hour of each other and had a bit of a race for a few hours. The Tripp 47 is fast, but we held our own pretty well. Sailing was really great with sunny skies and 7.5 - 10 knots in 14 to 15 knots true with pretty flat seas. Unfortunately, we've sailed out of VHF range with Celestial so we hope to cross tacks with them somewhere North of here.

After sunset the wind has started to clock more and more and go lighter so we are now down to 6.3 knots which is not bad, but sure feels slow after so many hours going 8+ knots. We are keeping about 10 nautical miles off El Salvador as we coast North toward Mexico and our next challenge the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sailing North along Nicaragua Coast

April 8, 2010 9:30AM
Position: 12°05N 086°50W
Nautical Miles Sailed Year to Date: 2320 nm

The last few days we been day sailing between anchorages as we make our way North along the Central American Coast. We checked out of Costa Rica at Playa del Coco. The check out process went smooth and only took from 9:30AM to about 2:30PM. First stop Port Captain then Immigration then the bank then back to immigration then a 35 minute bus ride to Customs then back to the Port Captain. Total cost $20 in fees to Port Captain plus $2 for the bus rides. Northern Costa Rica this time of year is a desert. Our guide book describes lush jungle, perhaps it the EL NINO weather or global climate change, but the forests appear dead and wild life has been scarce. On the bright side we did see one monkey in Bahia Santa Elana from the dinghy and too many turtles to count.

Weather in the Gulf of Papagayo was vigorous at times. The Papagayo winds definitely flexed some muscle a few times and the short period wind waves they create can be fierce. Fortunately, the Papagayo winds were mostly in the low twenties range as per predictions by NOAA. Weather GRIB files we download via our SSB seem not so useful for meaningful near shore weather prediction. This is no surprise as the GRIB files are best for macro weather analysis. As we coast along Nicaragua the last few days the GRIB files show less than 5 knots, yet we had twenties almost all day, likewise today. No complaints on the wind as the direction has been very desirable since leaving Costa Rica. Yesterday we had a sailing average in excess of 8 knots with stronger puffs pushing us to the low teens.

Fishing has involved lots of catching, but the fish we are catching are Jack Crevallies which are poor eating. So the fish have literally been getting off the hook. Lucky for them, but lots of rice and beans for us.

Last night we anchored off Masachapa in about 20 feet of water just outside the surf break... a little rough, but we are pretty used to the boat moving at all times. Plus on the catamaran you don't have the major rolling action like a mono-hull. Anyway, I dropped Kathy and Brant off at the Surf line and Brant rode some decent waves on the beach break with waves shoulder high. Kathy wisely bowed out of body boarding as the waves were hard to gauge from the ocean side and seemed too big. Later Brant said they would have been fine and now a set of hand signals has been worked out for future expeditions. After surfing we took the dinghy a few miles south where the local fishermen land their boats. The beach is sand and very flat with some protection for swell. We decided to go for it and landed the dinghy without too much of a soaking. The locals were very interested in our arrival as this is not a tourist spot. We were immediately surround by a large group of men, women and children all a bit shy, but very curious. The crowd helped us drag the dinghy up the very long beach to the high tide mark since it was low tide and rising. One man in particular seemed to stand out so we asked about a local restaurant and about the safety of leaving the dinghy on the beach with the sun ready to set in 30 minutes. Mario pointed us toward a restaurant down the beach that would just allow us to keep an eye on the dinghy while the light remained. So off went while a crowd of twenty or so locals continued to inspect our dinghy, perhaps they'd never seen an inflatable boat before?

Dinner was excellent, but expensive costing $55 USD in the end, but a nice treat. Brant and I had garlic shrimp and Kathy had a steak and we shared an order of calamari. Of course lots of local beers, called Tona.

We don't have a passport stamp for Nicaragua yet, but we can now say we've been there.

The dinghy launching after dinner was very wet as getting the wave timing right in the dark is impossible. Fortunately, we made it out of the surf line without incident aside from soaking clothes and a little adrenaline rush.

Anchor was up today at 5:40AM just as it was yesterday. At the moment we are enjoying a very nice sail and should knock off another 60 - 70 miles toward the 3470nm or so that remain between here and the San Juan Islands in Washington State and our goal of Fourth of July.... this year!

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Kathy's Birthday treats

Cream cheese stuffed french toast topped with fresh mango and shreded coconut.

Fruit tart birthday cake.
Kathy with her brithday cake at Playa Coco Costa Rica.
Rice and Beans topped with crumbled queso tipico and fresh cucumber and tomato salad.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Costa Rica

Date: April 3, 2010
Position: 09°39.0449 N 085°13.7240 W
Country: Costa Rica (Pacific side)
Miles sailed year to date: 2084nm

Slowly making our way north. Winds since Panama have been nearly non-existent. At the moment we have 2 knots of wind and calm sea reflecting a slightly rippled variation of the sky. Wishing for wind as it's HOT already at 9AM. Jumping into the 86F water offers little relief from the still humid heat that has us feeling sticky at best and dripping sweat into our eyes at the worst. Inside the boat daytime temperatures reach about 100 degrees which makes it almost impossible to nap, let alone cook or work on projects. Out on deck we are fighting for shade and the very slight breeze the boat is creating as we motor along at 6.7 knots and gently rocking in a slight ocean swell. Fishing has been ok, but the catching has been real slow. Our current working theory is that it's just too damn hot for the fish to bite.

Over the last six hundred or so miles we covered since the Panama Canal we've mostly run the engines non-stop. The engines are purring along almost perfectly, the only exceptions being four broken engine belts. I chock up the breakage to the extreme heat and lack of engine room blowers. Yet another item for the to do list. As a stop gap measure we're running with the engine hatches open to try to keep things cooler in there.

Having Brant onboard as crew sure is a treat. Brant is a professional trained chef and words cannot describe the joy of the superb meals upon which we feast. Not sure how long he'll stay aboard, but the longer the better as it sure is nice having a third hand for night watches. Brant grew up in California, but now lives in Hawaii so his experience with tropical ingredients is very applicable to Central America. Kathy has been taking copious notes on some of the new dishes and has been learning some of the tricks of the trade. Life is good.

Most days we average around 50nm of travel. Today is a short day as we are approaching the Golfo de Papagayo and today a Papagayos is blowing, blocking further progress North. A Papagayos is a 'Gap Wind' basically there is a gap in the mountains near the Costa Rica and Nicaragua border that winds funnel through and accelerate to up to double the speed of surrounding areas. So if there is 20 knots of wind it could be 40 knots in certain areas around the Golfo de Papagayo. The winds are caused by a high pressure system entering the Caribbean and enhancing the NE trade winds which spill though the gap. Luckily, this time of year the Papagayos are not so frequent. It's so calm where we are at this particular moment that it's hard to believe the wind is blowing things sideways just 70 nautical miles to the North.

Tomorrow, April 4 is Kathy's birthday.


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Thursday, April 01, 2010

A deserted island on the Panama / Costa Rica border near Punta Burica. We explored the island finding some interesting land crabs with bright orange and purple bodies, cut a small palm for a heart of palm salad and enjoyed a nice walk around the island. We anchored here for the night despite little protection for ocean swell. Luckily the weather is so calm here there is nearly no swell. Ancorage position in 8 meters at low tide: 8 degrees 01.175 minutes North by 82 degrees 52.342 minutes West. Only tenable in VERY settled conditions.
Horses take to the water to find respite from the stiffling heat.
LightSpeed at anchor at Boca Chica, Panama
Brant in his Panama hat somewhere in the Las Perlas Islands of Panama.