Costa Rica at last!

Well its been an exciting month sailing from Chiapas Mexico to Bahia Del Coco in Costa Rica. 5 countries in four weeks and we even were detained at gunpoint by the Nicaraguan Navy as we made an illegal landing in the Bay of Fonseca. A long and hotly disputed body of water where El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all come together.

Below are excerpts from the Log of the Maiatla and emails that I sent home to Jan in an effort to keep her posted as to our whereabouts. Maiatla is equipped with A Ham radio Station capable of sending and receiving emails as well as giving me voice communications with anyone around the world who would care to talk to us.

We had a mix bag of weather, calms and full blown gales were the norm. We actual sailed approximately 60% of our 700 mile voyage. The remainder of the time we spent either motoring through a calm or motor sailing into stiff headwinds.

All in all it was a great trip that was filled with exhilarating sails, erupting volcanos. Catching and landing massive dorados a 50 knot gale that did its best to drive us onto the rocks- (it came uncomfortably close) and a crotch grabbing Nicaraguan Petty Officer- ( his rank) and men with big guns that were upset that we had landed on their beach.  Never a dull moment aboard Maiatla.

So if you have a few minutes, check out the excerpts and see some of the pictures below and enjoy. Andrew Gunson.      Mexico to Costa Rica-map

December 4 2014.

Al and I have spent the better part of two weeks cleaning the boat and for me, the big project was the installation of the central air conditioning unit. A big project but one that ultimately came together and we would enjoy the cool air while tied to the docks in Costa Rica and El Salvador. The boat fared well being after left for almost 8 months in Chiapas.  Had some mold, actually patches of fuzz inside the boat but not as bad as it could have been. I had planned to hit the high seas as soon as Marina arrived on the 5th of December.

December 6. 2014.

We departed Chiaps Mexico bound for Costa Rica. We will bypass Guatemala as the ports are not too cruiser friendly and checking in and out of the country is relatively expensive.  Our first stop will be Bahia Del Sol in El Salvador, approx. 250 miles away with its notorious river bar crossing.

We had a good sail for the first 15 hours with the wind building to 15 knots out of the ESE, putting us on a tight reach. There was a deep low swell out of the south but widely spaced making for a very comfortable ride.

The sea life was sparse, not turtles, dolphins or whales but we were hopeful that as we moved down the coast our sightings would increase. The nights were presently warm and the days not too hot.

Thursday, December-11-14

Well departed Bahia Del Sol right at sunbreak, High tide and slack over the bar. The customs lady met me at her office at 5 am then after stamping our passports for our exit zarpes, she walked me back to the boat and stood on the dock to watch us cast off and head down the estuary. She even used her cell phone to record our departure. The pilot met us on the inside of the bar and escorted us out. The bar crossing was even less anti-climactic than our arrival. It was like glass and I could have just followed our GPS course in and gotten ourselves out without any trouble.

Shortly after exiting the bar an off breeze filled in and we were quickly sailing, at 7 knots on a tight reach. By 10 am the wind built until we had to drop the main and furl up half the headsail. We were still running with a full mizzen. With only a ¼ of our sail plan up, we clipped along at 6 to 7 knots. It was actually cool, marina went below to put on a hoody.

The coast for the first 40 miles was low laying with mangroves and estuaries inland but we could see the mountains inland, several of them were active volcanos with fresh ash covering the tops and we actual saw another one spewing steam.  We fished all the way but didn’t catch anything. By 1 am the wind died and we had to revert to motor sailing, close hauled driving into a low, gentle swell.  It warmed up but it didn’t get unpleasantly hot. There was a nice breeze that made it quite nice.  With the calm conditions we moved closer into shore- 1 to 3 miles and admired the scenery.

Nearing the bay of Fonseca we ran into dozens of El Salvadorian panga fishermen. Hand to weave around fishing nets. Got lots of friendly waves.  The last 5 miles we BBQed chicken and Al made mashed potatoes  & salads. The only real excitement was just a couple of miles from the point where we wanted to anchor for the night, the boat lost power and we slowed to less than one knot. The problem was the transmission.

Anyway when I check the fluid, I discovered that it was low. Seems I remembered to check everything on the engine when I got back, except the tranny fluid. Ugh! I topped it up and we were off again.

We dropped anchor at Punta Amapala in 20 feet of water just as the last of the light faded.  As we dropped the hook the wind shifted from bellowing off of the sea to coming off the land at 10 knots which filled the wind sock I put into the forward hatch filling the boat with a nice breeze.

Well we made the bay of Fonseca after covering 60 miles in 12 hours, some of t sailing. We had a really fun day and it was like being on the Strait of Georgia on a nice August day.  Will spend the next 3 days sailing around the bay Exploring the island of Honduras and El Salvador. Really beautiful here and little ocean swell.

Anyway its 730 now and I’m about ready for a shower and bed as I have been up since 4:30 am. May try and find a rocky point to see if I can find some lobsters while snorkeling.

So that’s it for now, love you guys. Will try and email tomorrow night.

Bye.

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Snorkeling at Playa Del Cocos, Costa Rica

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My beach in CR

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Our anchorage and beach at Bahia Papagayos, CR

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Sunset at Papagayos

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Someone is getting footie prints on my beach!!!!! oh wait! its me!

December-12-14 Good morning Babe. I thought I try the radio and its turns out that the propagation at 6:30 am is better than it was last night.

Slept well but it was really windy. A popagoyo started blowing just after sunset and is still howling. A steady 20-25 knotts with gusts up in the 40s.We are hobby horsing a bit but not rolling. If I knew I would have anchored closer to the shore. As the wind is coming off of the land the waves don’t build up till about a half mile offshore which is about where we are. Next time I will tuck in close. Looks like a beautiful day, don’t know if the wind will die as the weather reports don’t mention these isolated gap winds. The office reports says we should be getting 5-10 from the SW, not 30 + from the east. Oh well. Should make for a good sailing day. Will sail into the lee of some of the islands and see if we can re-anchor and swim a bit. Anyway I’ll be intouch when I can.

Friday, December-12-14

Hi Babe. We had a great day here in Fonseca. The wind stayed up for most of the day so we pulled anchor and motored along the shore deeper into the Gulf then we popped the headsail and had a screamer of a reach across the golf to the El Salvador Island, Isla Conchaguita. 13’13”4N  87’45”3W

There is a small bay on the south side where we anchored for the day. We went ashore (got a little wet in the dinghy landing)onto our privet beach and lounged about and the three of us practiced nude body surfing. We decided to spend the night here so we got the Barracuda that Al caught a couple of days ago and BBQed it.

But as we were about to put the fish on 6 pangas with 10 or so fishermen came along side. One of them spoke decent English so we talked about where we came from and where we were going. As they were leaving he offered us some fish. I asked how much he said Nada. Free. I thanked him then gave him $5 anyway. Had to talk him into taking it.

The sun is now setting and I’m having a glass of wine while writing you and doing my log. There are dozens of small bat Rays circling the boat right on the surface and Al saw what he thinks was a more Ell , 5’ long swimming on the surface. Lots of Pelicans hanging about begging. No Bugs so far, just lots of butterflies and weird looking dragon flies buzzing about. The Island looks a lot the Channel Islands in California, dry with some cactus with black volcanic boulders lining the shores and a fine black sand beach like we saw in Hawaii.

The day was pleasantly warm with a nice breeze in the lee of the island. Blowing stink around the corner. Will leave in the morning to sail the rest of the way through the island and will probably stop for the night in Nicaragua behind Punta San Jose. It’s only 15 miles from here but should be a nice sail down wind, so I don’t care if it’s blowing.

Another pangas just came by with three teen boys in it. They asked if we had any chocolate. I thought of your Hidden stash of bars but I gave then a sleeve of Oreo Cookies. They were very happy.

Anyway that’s about it for now. Love you. Bye for now.

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Bahia Payagayos, CR

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Crew unwinding in Cocos, CR after a 700 mile voyage.

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Me at our first restaurant after leaving El Salvador- Cocos, CR

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Cocos street vender selling meat on a stick. awesome- $2

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Marina tidying up the foredeck after anchoring in Playa Del Cocos CR.

Saturday, December-13-14-morning

Morning Babe. We had a good night at anchor, flat calm but the wind was whipping overtop of the island at 20-25 knots. With the hatches open it was very pleasant below for sleeping. Had to put a blanket on early this morning as it was quite chilly. I was in Bed by 8 pm last night but Al and Marina stayed up a while in the cockpit talking. Not sure what time they turned in but they are rather slow to get moving this morning.

Having tea and cereal for breakfast. Its 7 am sunny and about 78 degrees in the cabin. I can see whitecaps racing past the mouth of the bay. Looks to be blowing a steady 25-30 knots out there. We will be leaving shortly and putting the boat on a run to head to Nicaragua and the Point where there is an anchorage, about 15 miles from here.

If conditions permit we may anchors for a bit and go ashore for a couple of hours, but I’m now thinking that we may just leave again and use this wind to make a run down the coast of Nicaragua. Make some miles. Anyway. All is good.

Love you bunches and miss you. Will try and email tonight if conditions permit.

Saturday, December-13-14- evening.

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Crewman Al hoisting the anchor, Playa Del Cocos. Costa Rica



12’ 50”.32 N  87’ 39”W

PS- Shooting stars- ½ moon waning- smoke from burning crops on shore- wind on the nose from the SSE.- no dolphins- passed through a group of poorly lite pangas that didn’t show up on radar.

Cool this night needed to wrap pareo around my arms to keep warm- no big shipping. Seeing more turtles and dolphins.

Steve, yes the locals are all pretty friendly but very shy. We need to initiate contact but once we wave first, they break out into big smiles.  The AC, is working great but haven’t been able to use it since leaving the dock at Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador. But really we really haven’t had the need for it the past 4 days as it has been quiet pleasant most of the timer. Noon to say 3 gets a bit warm but there has always been a breeze and in the shade of the dodger it’s nice.

The bay of Fonseca reminds me of the Channel Islands off of California but the water is a bit murky as there is several rivers dumping into the bay.

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30 to 50 knot winds off of Bat Island CR

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More wind off of Bat island . CR

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Sunset on the river with bats and the crocs, Bahia Santa Elena. CR

Well we had a great leisurely sail over Punta San Jose in Nicaragua. Wind was light- 7-10 knots

on the beam for most of the day. We past a dozen fishing pangas with long strings of nets out that we had to sail around.


     Held hostage at gun point. 

We had a bit of excitement this afternoon. The wind died as we anchored in the lee of the point. We were officially in Nicaragua but for the most part illegally. As there didn’t seem to be anyone around other than a few fisherman we decided to go to the beach for a swim. We took the cameras ashore to take some pics. The beach was beautiful, long with a fine dark sand. There were only two sets of foot prints, a bare footed man and dog.

We walked through the bush to the far side which was just a couple of hundred feet or so where there was a small lagoon. There was a fishing panga working its nets in the lagoon and dozens of seabirds diving after the small fish that were teeming in the shallows. Quite cool.

Anyway we walked back to our side, stripped off and went for a swim. The water was bathtub warm and clear. Al and I were standing waist deep as Marina was taking picture of the surroundings when I suddenly noticed 4 people dressed in military fatigues carrying assault rifles walking towards us. I said to Al, “Oh shit I think we are in trouble!”

There were about 100 yards away but they were coming straight for us. I slowly walked out of the water and headed back to the beached dink. In an effort to try and keep the mood light I said to Marina and Al, there is only 4 of them, “I think we can take them but no prisoners as we don’t have the room!”

Anyway I think heading back to the dink upset them because as all of a sudden they started running at us clutching their weapons.

Marina, not wanting them to think that she had a gun dropped her camera down and held out her hands. I grabbed my shorts, quickly slipped them on and stared to walk towards the waving and saying “Ola”

Over and over again. Well I guess they realized that we weren’t going to make a run for it or had weapons.

When they got to us, the leader of the croup approached me and as he did so he crabbed his crotch and gave it a hefty tug, a gesture design to intimidate and let me know that he was in charge, the big “heffey” or chief of this beach. In Spanish they demanded to see our papers. I told them that they were back on the boat and that I would have to get them.  We offered them cold bottled water which we had in the cooler, along with a couple of beer.  The water they accepted. So I left Al and Marina as hostages and while being accompanied by two of the young sailors, I went back to the boat to get out documents and passports.

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Costarican Octopus fisherman

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Pulling the dink up river-CR

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Maiatla at anchor Bahia Santa Elena CR

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Lobster hunting CR

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Marina with 39 million Clones. Approx $35 US. While on boat one of the sailors asked if I had beer. I pulled a couple of cans out of the fridge and gave them to them, and they appeared very happy and drank. For the most part they all seemed quite friendly.

While I was gone apparently Marina and Al

tried to be as friendly as possible asking their names and if they were married and if they had any kids.

Anyway I grabbed my papers and took them ashore to the leader of their group who was a young petty officer of about 25 or so.

After examine our papers and a lot of hand gestures and using my smart phone translator, they seemed satisfied that were weren’t any threat to national security. Just when it seemed that they were going to let us go, a Nicaraguan gun boat pulled around the corner. What got my attention was the big 50 calibre machine gun on deck and the sailor who went up to the foredeck to clear it for action by pulling the tarp off of it.

All of a sudden, our 4 sailors sudden got excited and it became very apparent that things had change. We all watched as the gunboat stopped 50 meters off of Maiatla’s stern. Then 12 more marines loaded into a pair of pangas that they were towing and approached Maiatla. After circling the boat for a few minutes the boats came to the beach.

Our young petty officer took all my papers and passports over to a middle age officer who turned out to be the gun boats commander. We waited several minutes while went over our papers. I joked with Al again saying that I think we can still take them!”

While standing there I noticed Al holding his little go pro video camera and he looked like he wanted to secretly turn it on. I casually said while smiling, I wouldn’t do that Al, not now bud! There was a lot of talking going on that I couldn’t understand but I did catch one phrase, “San Ropa” Apparently the young Petty Officer was talking about he found us naked.

After several minutes they called me over. I tried to explain in my broken Spanish that we had some engine trouble and came in to let the engine cool down, while waiting we just wanted to go for a swim. Well I guess he bought it. He gave my documents back and asked how long did I need to be anchored here. I said 1 more hour. He said ok but this was not a good spot to be later today as a “big wind was coming”

I thanked him and said we will leave as soon as possible. Well the gun boat departed leaving us with our 4 young sailors on the beach. Once the captain was gone, one of the sailors asked for $20 for cigarettes. I was so happy to be leaving that I gave them $40 and told them to buy some beer to go with the cigarettes. They stayed on the beach until we hauled anchor and motored around the point.  Al announced that it was time for a stiff drink!

I concurred so it was a couple of rum before dinner. Marina said something about almost crapping her pants.

The wind filled in from the NW so we set up the main and Headsail on a wing and wing and had a glorious sail close to shore as the sun set. The coast here is quite striking with tall read cliffs that drop for a couple of hundred meters into the breaking surfer below.

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Our Costa Rica Arrival pic.

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An offshore island with beach. CR

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30 offshore of Nicaragua. Dinner just arrived. 20 minutes after this pic was taken we were getting hammered by gale force winds as a unexpected Papagayo wind showed up. Made for a long and rough night.

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Our arrival pic in Nicaraguan. 15 minutes after this pic was taken I had my hands in the air and staring down the barrel of automatic weapons as Nicaraguan marines slipped out of the bush.

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Maiatla at anchor in the bay of Fonseca, El Salvador

We had the rest of the left over Barracuda with rice for dinner. The wind is now dropping, boats speed down to 2-3 knots as we are skirting around a fishing fleet of 16-18 big boats, all within 5 miles of us. Need to keep a good watch. Al and Marina are on deck while I’m doing the log-net while having a cup of tea.

We plan on sailing all night and should be in Coata Rica in a couple of days. May stop off in a couple of nice bays in the lower part of Nicaragua, just to swim and check them out for later, if we happen to come back this way.

So how was your day Babe? Did the guy come to fix the fence? Concert tomorrow? Last one right?

Anyway, I’m going to send this email and position report, have a show and go to bed. My watch at midnight. Oh, the Bio-illuminences is really strong tonight. The high thin clouds that began to fill in about sunset are now gone and a billion stars are now out. Think we will have a ¾ moon coming up in a few hours.

Love you, talk to you tomorrow. Good night. Andy

Sunday, December-14-14

Position as of 1830hrs  11’38”.6N  86’ 26”.2W

We had a great sail from 3 am on till about 10 this morning. We were cruising between 3 and 6 knots hard on the wind most of the night on a heading that took us well offshore. 35-40 miles. Nice to see the deep blue once you are off the shelf and shallow water. We had the headsail, staysail and main and mizzen up the whole time. Wish we could have got some pics of the boat from a distance.

Had dolphins on the bow last night for a bit, 5 am just as Marina came topside to take her watch. But they dint stay long bout its all ways funny how Marina will whistle, chip and bark at them in an effort to get them to hang around.

Now at 3pm we are motor sailing into 5 knots of wind and a 1 meter sea headed back in towards shore. We are in the height of Papaygyo country and I don’t want to get caught to far from shore if it suddenly starts to blow. Its nice out on deck in the shade but its 90 down in the cabin as I type this. Seat is pooling under my elbows as I sit at the table.  Should start cooling down. It was a lot cooler outside yesterday. As our present speed we won’t get close into land again till well after dark so I plan to parallel the shore till morning then tuck into an isolated bay I have pick out and rest and swim a bit. We are only 90 miles from Costa Rica but will be in Nicaraguan waters for about 85 of those miles.

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Bay of Fonseca, El Salvador

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Al preparing diner on Maiatla

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The site of our hostage taking in Nicaragua.

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El Salvador and the island that our frined Jannie lives on at Bahia Del Sol.

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Jannie and Marina showing off their big lemons that grow on Jannie’s property.

Anyway will update this later tonight before I send.

OK, its just after 6pm, as we were heading in towards shore we caught a huge Dorado, got it on video and stills. Had to use the speargun to kill it and get it aboard. Can you say sushi? Just as I finished cleaning it on deck, the sun dropped below the horizon and the wind roared up to 30 knots. We dropped the full main but left the mizzen and staysail up and tacked to close on the shore.

We got within 3 -4 miles of shore where the seas calmed down so we are now motor sailing into 10 knots of headwind but the waves have dropped to a couple of feet. Will stay in close all night out of the big wind and waves. It’s cooling off quite a bit. Had to put a shirt on as my nipples were getting hard. It will be a dark night till the moon makes an appearance I think around midnight. Anyway all is well. Boat and motor doing great. No problems. Miss you guys.

Love ya. Will report again tomorrow.

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Jannie’s Beach, El Salvador

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Marina in El Salvador

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Crossing the bar in El Salvador

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Breakfast on Maiatla off the coast of Honduras

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Beach bar, Chiapas Mexico

Monday, December-15-14 position  11’02”.6N  85’40’.6W at anchor at Bahia De Salinas , Costa Rica.

Well we finally made it to CR

Ok we pulled in and dropped the hook in 35 feet of water just after 430 am when it was still dark. Had a half of a moon straight overhead but it didn’t help much. Thankfully it’s a big bay with no obstructions. The wind was on the nose at 30+ knots on our approach and we had a lighting storm several miles off to our port despite have a totally clear sky above us. Still could see the od meteor streaking by. Its 8 40 am now as I write and waiting for my tea to steep as the rest of the crew is still in bed out of it. Been a busy few days at sea.

The anchorage is beautiful and we are the only boat here at the moment. Not surprising as its bellowing stink. 30with gusts in the 40-45 knot range. We are spinning about a bit but Maiatla is rock solid. We are ¾ mile from shore so the wind doesn’t have a chance to build any waves. Quite comfortable and I slept well from 5am till 8 this morning.

Not sure what to do today. The crew wants to go ashore to see if we can find a store as they are out of coffee but looks a bit too rough to launch the dink and battle up wind to try and land on the beach.  There is an island right near us, Isla Boland which is a wild life refuge. May move the boat over there and tuck in close and go for a swim and snorkel.

We will have to start eating fish as the freezer is now full. I bought too much chicken and pork in Chiapas. Got 15 lbs of flesh of the Dorado we caught last night.

There is a smaller bay a few miles away that is in the national park and is protected from the winds. May head over there later this afternoon to check it out.

Well is now up. It’s funny how when he tries to speak Spanish, he just butchers the language. He often just takes the English word and adds an “O” on the end while usually adopting what sounds like a French accent. The really funny part is the he is really sincere but it doesn’t go over well with the locals.

Marina is going to make Pancakes with sausages this morning. Despite the howling wind, it’s a beautiful morning. Its 27C inside the boat and a little cooler outside. I had to put a blanket on the bed this morning. Well the new sump pump seems to have packed it in. It turns on but barely moves any water. Not sure if it’s the pump or an electrical feed problem. Do you still have the recite? Or did you send it with Marina? I can bring it home with me if I have too.

Will have to get it sorted out before anyone has a shower. Just what I need, more Boat chores. Nothing new on a boat I guess.

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My dink!

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Think I found my new favorite beach bar- Playa Del Cocos. CR

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Evening landfall in Costa Rica.

We are only 50 miles to Playa Del Coco where we must clear into CR, then we need to backtrack 15 miles or so to the marina where I plan to leave the boat for xmas and we have 7 days to get there. That will leave us 2 days to clean the boat and sample the 5 star 4 seasons marina Resort before flying home.

So we will spend the next few days Gunkholing to Cocos. Should be fun as the pressure is now off. Its cruise mode and sleep through the whole night while at anchor.

Anyway, that’s it for now, will keep you posted.

Love you Babe. See ya soon. Andy.

Monday, December-15-14- Late afternoon-

Position 10’55’59 N 85’47”.47W

Wow! What a place.

Hi babe. It’s incredible here.  But I will get to that in a minute.

We stayed anchored in Bahia De Salina for most of the morning as I worked on the Sump pump and pressure domestic water pump.  Thought I Fixed the sump as I thought the problem was a hair ball that I attributed to Al and his shedding. But once the clog was cleared the pump bogged down again— the sump box is nice—the pump is crap- they can have it back! Sometimes it works… sometimes it doesn’t.

At least half the time I end up bailing out the bilge because it stopped working when someone had a shower. I will be very happy to tell them that I am sure glad that I wasn’t using one of their pumps as a bilge pump counting on keeping my boat afloat!

We also lost pressure water, the new par pump you bought died. Apparently it overheated as it wasn’t shutting off after reaching pressure.  Actually it would shut off, then it would “Pop” then run on and on and there were no taps turned on. We have an accumulator in the water line, don’t know if that has anything to do with it? I will have to ask.

We now turn the pump on when we want water then turn the power off when done. Can you call them and ask what do they recommend me doing? Should I bring it back when I come home? Also we had a bad smell coming from the pantry on the port side next to the vee berth. Turned out that we had one rotten egg. Mystery stink solved. Liberal use of Fabrezz and Pursue to kill the odor.

Ok enough boat crap! Bahia De Salina is big and beautiful bay with a couple of resort hotels a few miles apart and an island off to one side. I wanted to hang out there today but it was just too windy so we popped the headsail and a great sail around the corner to a little bay called Playa Zacata. Nice calm bay but there is a bran new “DREAMS” all inclusive hotel that just opened up last month here. There is a nice beach so we went ashore and went to the lobby to get a tour of the place. We played the writer/ journalist cards to see if we could at least get a cheap beer but no luck. We got a tour but shown the door. Weren’t even allowed to by a beer at the bar but for $80 each, we could buy a day pass. So we left and a good thing we did.

We pulled the anchor after having a swim off the beach the popped the headsail and a screaming reach around the corner to another bay just 5 miles away. The sail was incredible as there was a big inlet with a couple of island to our port. Awesome looking place which reminded me of being up the coast in BC where the wooded hills run down to the sea.

We anchored in Bahia Santa Elena. It’s indescribable. At the mouth of the bay there are a few small rocky islands, a couple of reefs and a beautiful sand beach. The snorkeling should be awesome as the water id so clear here. Inside the bay it’s flat as a lake. We are surrounded by jungle covered mountains and there isn’t a bug in site. There is a constant breeze coming over the hill top making life down below very nice. Marina was complaining that she was cold and she put on long pants and a hoodie today.

I went for a night swim off the boat after dinner. The water was warm and glowed when I stroked. Like up in Huatuco, remember? The water around the boat is just teeming with fish and leap when I turn the spot lite on.

And the best part there isn’t a building, light or another boat in sight. It’s all ours.

I could see us, just you and me just hanging here for weeks just exploring a few miles in either direction around this bay. There are many more deserted beaches and bays in the area, including some very nice bays 10 miles away in Nicaragua.

Anyway, I think you are going to love it here. Can’t wait for us to come back. So we had the Dorado and rice for diner with a bottle of red wine. And now we are going to sit in the cockpit and look at the stars for a while.  After I send this message of course. Think we will spend most of the day here tomorrow, hit the beach and try snorkeling. Then move 5 miles down the cast to another anchorage for tomorrow night. So I will go for now. You should look this bay up on google Earth and see how sweet it is.

Lat and Long up top. Have a good night, love you.

Tuesday, December-16-14-

Had a great night anchored at Bahia Santa Elena- wind would gust up to 20 or so, then die for a while then roar back, causing Maiatla to spin about at times and tug on her anchor. The water was flat, no swell at all but when the wind picked up small wind ripples would tickle the bow.

For a while last night it went dead calm for a couple of hours and being surrounded by the dark jungle and a moonless, but star filled sky it all seemed surreal. We could hear that the jungle was alive with chirping and croaking critters.  I did see two very slow mosquitoes last night. There were so slow in fact that while reading in bed I just reached up and with one hand crushed them. That was it for bugs on the boat last night. I would guess that the near constant winds keep them at bay.

We had planned on a peaceful evening sitting in the cockpit but at about 8 o’clock last night Marina said. “Hey Andy it would sure be nice if that florescent light over the fridge worked” Well the light hadn’t work since I got back to the boat. I swapped the light bulbs out but it still didn’t work. It was on my “to do list”. Well I decided to get my volt meter out and check it out. So two hours later I had run new wiring and had to have another shower as I was sweaty and grimy from crawling through the cupboards.  So light is fixed.

We had a visitor last night. Al and I had retired to our respective bunks and marina was still on deck writing on her tablet when we all heard a couple of great slaps and splashes right next to the stern of the boat. I went on deck to see if Marina had fallen overboard but I found her safe staring off into the night. Apparently a dolphin, probably a spinner Dolphin was playing in our bay. We used to big light in an effort to get a look at him but he was too fast but we could hear him blowing and splashing about not far from the boat.

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El Salvador

Marina and I saw the most incredible shooting star last night. We were just looking up and the cockpit suddenly lite up as the shooting star left a long burning tail then the head exploded. It looked like a Roman candle but a thousand times bigger.

I went for a swim off the boat late last night as well. The water felt cool and when I got out, then wind was downright cold. I think that we are becoming accustom to the heat as everyone agreed that it was quite nice yesterday afternoon in the cabin as quite pleasant. When I check the thermometer it said it was 88F.

Well its 830 am and Marina is cooking breakfast now, I’m writing and Al is sitting on deck looking at a turtle next to the boat that is looking at us.

After breakfast we will move the boat over to the beach and have a swim and a snorkel.

The ham radio has been working remarkable well as you can tell by the number of emails coming out. I’ve been routing the emails through Sarasota Florida or Kileen Texas.

Will look for another anchorage farther down the line tonight.

So all’s well on board, just missing you Babe.

Talk to you soon. Love you.

Afternoon- Bats-Monkeys and Crocs.

We took the boat out of the bay and anchored near a tiny island and went snorkeling- nice spot but not spectacular- A bit of coral but pretty broken up. Lots of little fish, rasps and angle fish and the like. Lots of those square puffer fish that follow you around like puppy dogs. Some more than a foot long. There was a couple of Pangas anchored nearby and they were snorkeling also, but they were catching Octopus.

I swam up to one of the divers who showed me his catch. Thing the fishing boats are responsible for a lot of the damaged coral as they didn’t seem to mind anchoring right in it. Lots of wind again today with some cloud cover. It felt really nice. When we got back from our swim I moved the boat back into the bay and re-anchor where it was flat calm. It was about 2 pm so I laid down in the cockpit and fell asleep. It was almost 4 when I woke and when I did I saw Al sleeping on the far side of the cockpit and Marina was out like a light on the foredeck. After waking every one we took the dink for a sunset cruise up a small river at the head of the bay. Saw lots of egrets, herons and baby puffer fish in the shallows. A bit further into the mangroves there were birds just screaming, parrots squawking and other unidentified critters making all kinds of noise- real Tarzan jungle sounds.

We turned one little bend and we saw our first wild Monkey, Cappuccino monkey with its white face. We didn’t see any but we could clearly hear Howler Monkeys that were not far off. Really creepy sound, especially as it was getting dark. The bugs started to come out so we turned around and headed back to the boat, on the way out we passed a small crock, sitting on the surface.

Maybe a meter long.  As we motored along, big bats started swooping down to skim just above the water. They had long pointed wings maybe 2 feet wide. We tried to get video but it was getting to dark.  Back on the boat we had diner of Dorado again with Mashed potatoes.

Doesn’t seem to be as windy tonight. Some clouds but still now bugs on the boat.  Tomorrow I think we will be up early and make the 45 mile to Playa Del Coco to do our check in. sounds like it could be an ordeal and like it used to be in Mexico, port captain- immigration-bank- immigration and then port captain. May have to take the bus to Liberia to see immigration if they ask us too. Rather not cut it too close so the sooner we get it done the better I think.

Anyway babe that’s it for now, Love you and see you soon.

Thursday December 17. 2014.

Hi Babe, Well we made it to Bahia Del Coco after quiet and exciting day. We covered over 45 miles along the coast, we departed in 25 knots of winds but about half way along we had 45 to 50 knots on the nose and it couldn’t have happened at the worst point, just as we were passing between a set of islands. Saw spinner dolphins leaping out of the water. They were actually playing with the big waves. Sailed most of the day with just the headsail and mizzen. When it picked up we had a ¼ of the headsail out and a single reef in the mizzen. We averaged 6 to 7 knots. Tried not to stress the boat so kept to minimal sail plan.

The wind shook the dodger so hard that the poles in the aft part collapsed. We even lost on of the pillows for my chair as a big gust whipped through the cockpit and took the pillow away. But that was the only casualty.

We are anchored in the bay next to a small resort town. Had a dry dinghy landing getting ashore for diner- beers and a New York stake. The town is just hopping wit restaurants and bars. Lots of action as the locals come down to the waterfront at night for the breeze and to just hang out. Bit of a Disneyland atmosphere but still pretty cool.

Anchorage nice but a bit rolley, would be better with a stern hook. We have large schools of tuna and other fish schooling around the boat. I cast a lure and nailed one in a few minutes. Fun to catch on the light rods as they are only a couple of pounds.

Up early in the morning to do the port captain and immigration thing. Should be interesting.

So that’s it for now, love you.

Note: That the small scale charts are Bahia Santa Elena were out by ¾ miles.

Friday, December-19-14 position 10’38”.1 N    85’38″6 W

Had a good day of snorkeling. Not spectacular but nice. Nice quiet bay with lots isolated place to anchor out of the swell. We moved to the end of the bay near the marina where we will be leaving the boat. There is another resort called ALLEGRO PAPAGAYO. And all inclusive resort. We landed the dink on the long black sand beach and I walked to the resort while keeping top the coconut palms for cover. I walked into the resort and went over to their “Activities Counter and asked about snorkeling tours.

They told me about all the good spots to swim but the best was around the corner at Bahia Huevos. The bay looks like a great anchorage so we will motor over there in the morning, claim a spot, just in case a tour wants to share our bay. Will spend the night there then head to the marina early in the morning to get our dock assignment and start cleaning the boat to leave here for xmas.

I also asked the dive master about where the best spots were. On the way out I grabbed a Pinacolada from the bar for the long walk back to the dink.

It’s a huge bay but as always happens, another sail boat came in and anchored close enough to toss a bottle too. The miles of identical looking shore and he needs to be close to us. Oh well.

Its dark now and Al and Marina are BBQing pork chops with rice. In the distance we can hear Howler Monkeys in the jungle, way cool.

Then it’s off to bed early for me because I’m bagged. Oh and I forgot to tell you that the other day as we were sailing along in that gale, we passed a yellow and black sea snake, and it was so close to the boat that it almost got washed onto the deck by a breaking wave. Marina was freaking out. Well that’s it for now, Miss you but will see you in 4 more days. Love you.

Just finished checking out of Playa Del Coco.

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Cruising Friends in El Salvador. Bahia Del Sol.

Beautiful morning, water flat with a low westerly swell. No wind yet but it will start building shortly. Its warm already but will feel better once the morning wind sets in. We are going to pull anchor and head out to the nearby islands to do some snorkeling. Then find a little bay to anchor in tonight. All is well. By for now.

Saturday, December-20-14. Anchored at Bahia Huevos, 10’38”.1N 85’40”.7W

Never a dull moment, we moved over this morning to try snorkeling at the bay the dive master recommended. Beautiful bay and calm. Should be nice but as we were getting ready to put the boarding ladder down, Al leaned on the BBQ and burned his hand.

Apparently he forgot to turn it off last night. Not a bad burn but it sure smarts, I applied burn free to relieve some of the pain. Jan I think we need to bring back some more burn free.

So once Al is ready we will hit the water. Its warn, in the mid 80s with a 5-10 knot breeze. With a few clouds. Our last full day of freedom before heading into the marina. Will email tonight.

Love you.

Monday, December-22-14

We are safely tied to a dock at Marina Papagayos in Bahia Papaygayos, Costa Rica. We brought Maiatla into this very expensive, 5 star resort hotel and marina so we could clean the boat in preparation for leaving her. My plan is to return to Canada for Christmas, to see the kids and grandkids then return with Janet on January 8th, and continue to cruise Costa Rica and perhaps go as far as Panama.

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Sunset in El Salvador

The marina caters to mega yachts with starched and pressed crews that seem to be made up of 20 something year old kids. On yacht with a helicopter on the aft deck seems to be manned, so to speak with very fit blonde ladies. The boat crews all gather around the bar for happy hour for cheap drinks and a chance to socialize.  Despite the “stuffed Shirt” appearances of the place everyone seems quite friendly

From the boat at night we can hear howler monkeys in the nearby jungle and the ruckus of tropical birds in the trees. It’s our last day and our chores are about done so we will spend the time just relaxing and hanging around the pool during the heat of the day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then its home for a while.

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Drug dog inspects Maiatla as we are leaving Mexico

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Volcano in El Salvador

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Departing Chiapas Mexico for El Salvador.

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After having Maiatla laid up in Chiapas Mexico for almost 8 month, we are finally ready to get back underway and sail. I hauled to boat out for a hull cleaning and to change some through hull fittings.  Marina, the owner and editor of TAKE 5 has once again joined us as crew for a few weeks to sail for El Salvador then on to Honduras, Nicaragua with a Christmas in Costa Rica.  She was thankfully loaded down with boat parts when she arrived a couple of days ago. The weather is hot, Africa kinda hot with lots of humidity but we are excited about getting back to sea. I will post an update and pictures asap. Take care all and wish us luck. Andrew.

The article below appears in Decembers/January issue of TAKE 5- check it outTake 5 DEcember issue

The Gulf of Storms?

Most landlubbers have heard of Cape Horn at the bottom end of South America with its fearsome reputation of extreme weather. And likewise, the Pacific Graveyard along the BC coast needs no introduction, yet few people have ever heard of this storm ravaged sea down in Mexico near the Guatemalan border. This turbulent body of water is both feared and respected by the sailors who must venture across the 250 mile wide gapping maw that is gulf of Storms!  This is the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

But cross it was what my wife Janet and I had come down here to do. We departed Ladysmith harbour on Vancouver Island in the fall of 2012 bound for the Panama Canal. Our sailing vessel, Maiatla, our Hardin Voyager 44, would safely carry us some 4500 miles down the Pacific, North and Central American coasts but before reaching the canal, we would have to challenge the great Gulf with its frequent storm force winds, wicked contrary currents and steep seas.

On our way down we stopped off in Ixtapa Mexico to pick up a friend and crewmember who would help us cross the dreaded Gulf. Marina Sacht of Take 5 fame arrived by plane without a hitch, that is if you don’t count my tipping the dinghy over in the surf on her very first day aboard. The incident was witnessed and applauded by many on shore and the resultant soaking forced us to find an outdoor restaurant that didn’t mind that we all left puddles beneath our chairs.

Marina has voyaged with Jan and I before. First from Ladysmith to San Francisco, then again from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. She is obviously a glutton for punishment as she was back to crew again, but not on a leisurely sail in the sun drenched tropics, no she signed on to tackle the Gulf! Foolish girl!

The three of us had a mostly uneventful sail for almost 500 miles while making frequent stops to swim, explore and wander on trackless beaches and to gawk at the famous cliff divers of Acapulco. A highlight was sailing through hundreds of sea turtles lounging on the surface, waiting for nightfall to broach the beachheads to lay their eggs. There were also a few moments of undesired excitements as the engine console on Maiatla caught fire just as we were motoring into Puerto Escondido to anchor for the night. With a Mexican navel patrol boat and indifferent looking crew watching smoke billow out of us, we franticly dropped anchor, shut down the engine and killed the batteries that were feeding the electrical fire. While Jan cooked dinner and wafted smoke from the cabin, Marina sat on the foredeck with a glass of red wind watching another spectacular sunset. I on the other hand was busy swapped new wire for burnt ones in the cockpit console.

As we rounded a headland ominously named Puerto Scrificos, we were smacked on the nose by strong winds and white breaking seas. The was engine started in order to help drive us up into the building maelstrom. With a tight grip on the helm I turned to Jan and Marina, “Well we made it! This is the start of the Gulf of Tehuantepec.” I said as Maiatla took another dive into a deep trough between breaking waves.  It had been a long day so I decided to enter Puerto Scrificos so we could anchor and rest, but lacking the proper chart made matters worse as there were several rocky reefs breaking the surface near what I assumed to be the entrances. Foolishly perhaps, I slowed Maiatla down and while Janet and Marina scanned the water ahead for rocks, and with my eyes glued to the depth sounder, I slowly began to feel our way into the lee of the land.  The further inshore we ventured the calmer the water, but without a proper chart the bay was like a minefield and the now calmer water hid the barley submerged reefs. We were almost in when Jan suddenly bolted from the cockpit to head down below, “where are you going I asked” sounding rather surprised that she would choose to leave the cockpit at such a critical time.

“I feel like I want to throw up!” she shot back before disappearing into the salon. Ok, since Janet has been sailing with me for 30 years and has seen everything from a gale up to a full blown hurricane, and not complained (not much really) I took the subtle hint that perhaps she didn’t want to be here. So with some regret I turned Maiatla about and headed back to sea.

7 miles and 4 hours later we had Maiatla neatly anchored in a tiny and nearly perfect tranquil bay which included our own private sand beach and clear blue water overshadowed by canting coconut palms. The sea around us was alive with colorful fish and ashore, the jungle was filled by the calls of exotic birds and night, aglow with flickering fireflies. I said to the ladies, “This may not be paradise but I think I can see it from here”.

Hidden from our view but just a short dingy ride around the rocky point was a series of thatched roof beach cantinas on a crescent shaped beach full of nearly naked Mexican tourist, down from the highlands for the Christmas holidays. After making a successful dinghy landing that didn’t include dunking everyone into the surf, we searched for a place for dinner. With a hot wind blowing in our faces and the waves nearly lapping at our feet, we dined on prawns and chicken while sampling mysterious cocktails of tequila and rum in pineapples shells. This was our Christmas Eve in Hualtuco.

After a couple of days relaxation we regretfully moved on to the marina in town as it was time to re-provision the boat and to start looking for a weather window, a clam stretch of at least 4 days to which to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Happily, we weren’t the only sailors waiting here as there were half a dozen more just like us, along with two other Canadians wanting to head south, but like us, they were pinned down by the  70 knots of wind just down the coast.

The ferocity of the Gulf is due to a natural geographic feature in the form of a 100 mile stretch of low-lying land that nearly connects the pacific ocean to the Gulf of Mexico which is a mere 120 miles to the east. The winds from the Caribbean side funnel between the hills to pick up speed until finally spilling out into the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

While we waited, we didn’t waste our time as we explored the town, wandered through ancient Mayan ruins and chased bat rays between coral heads as we snorkeled every reef for miles. All the while keeping a close eye on the Gulf, looking, waiting for our chance but after two weeks of being dock bound, Marina ran out of time and had to fly back home, leaving Jan and I to wait on our own.

Almost two full months after our arrival in Hualtuco, the winds finally subsided enough for us to case off and venture back to sea and attempt to make the crossing, and sorely we would be doing all on our own without Marina’s to help.

Without fanfare we departed Hualtuco marina in the morning, nosing our way into what was now a gentle swell. The air was hot and humid in the harbour but the sea breeze offshore felt good. Jan laid a course to parallel the shore while I set all of Maiatla sail’s including our great red cruising spinnaker. We were sailing fast and in style straight into the belly of the beast. Our plan was to stay within 1 to 3 miles of the shore; normally this would be a dangerous tactic especially at on an unlit shore at night. But if the winds were to suddenly build, being close to the beach would not give the offshore wind time to build the waves to a dangerous height.  For the first part of the day we had great sailing conditions but by nightfall the winds had shifted and we were now beating to windward into a gale with white water breaking over the foredeck which sluiced down Maiatla’s canting decks before spilling back into the sea.

Fortunately the blow only lasted 6 hours and by dawn the sea was again calm as we continued to cruise just beyond a tropical shore as desolate as it was beautiful.  Our second night at sea found us weaving our way through a commercial fishing fleet also taking advantage of the calm weather and later on, just before dawn, a series of thunder storms blew through with little wind but rain so dense our radar could no longer display the nearby land to our left. I headed further offshore just to give us a bit more room.

Just after daybreak and under cloudy and humid skies, the breakwater of Puerto Chiapas came into view. A full 16 months after departing Canada were safely secured to a dock, but more importantly we were on the far side of the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec. For us, the crossing was anticlimactic, But we were grateful that it was so. Our next leg will take us deep into El Salvador and Costa Rica, but that will have to wait a few months

There is special name for people who sail across the Gulf, a title that we could now claim for ourselves as we were now Tehuantepecers.