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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