Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Costa Rica

We are here in Costa Rica with our buddy boats WaySheGoes 2 and Seahorse V. We have had so much fun with these folks. We spent several days at Bahia Santa Elena exploring, snorkling, swimming., and sharing meals. We even had our own morning net.
Now we are in Playa del Cocos where there is a nice little beach town. Touristy, but there are grocery stores, banks, laundry service, and souvenir stands. Here is the gang.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Memories of Central America

With no previous experience in Central America, I found plenty of things to surprise me here. One delightful thing was the rickshaws we saw in Chinandega. They provide an inexpensive alternative to taxis and can easily maneuver through the crowded streets. Most days there is a regular rickshaw traffic jam at the municipal market.
The amount of chicken that we (and the natives) consume here is staggering. It is cheap, plentiful, and good. This pile was heaped up over plastic-covered ice at the grocery store. I'm not too keen on how it's displayed, but "when in Rome..." In the municipal marketplace, you can even buy your chicken whole; as in head and feet still attached. Notice all the eggs in the background? Chickens provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner here in Central America.

Another surprising thing about Central America is that livestock frequently walk in the road. Cattle, pigs, horses, goats, and donkeys. Cars simply slow to a crawl and the animals plod by with no fanfare. Sometimes the cattle aren't even being herded; they just know when it's time to head home, I guess.
One very unpleasant aspect of Central America is the constant burning. We saw it in El Salvador and we are seeing it here in Nicaragua too. If it's not sugar cane fields in preparation for harvest, it's trash and leaves, or stubble in preparation for planting. My throat is usually sore and my voice is raspy in the mornings. This can't be good for us! And our boat gets filthy inside and out when the ash rains down.
Here is a map of our most recent passage from Bahia del Sol in El Salvador to Puesta del Sol in Nicaragua. We will be leaving this morning and heading to San Juan del Sur, our last Nicaraguan port. We will be away from Internet until at least Monday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Different Kind of Life

Some of you may think this sailing life we are living right now is glamorous and carefree. Some of you may think it is scary. Some of you may think it is just plain crazy. And all of you may be right (from your perspective), but we have found that it's none of those things at all.
It certainly isn't glamorous or carefree. We sometimes go days without a proper night's sleep or a hot shower. We frequently wear worn and grubby, salt-stained clothes. We often eat strange foods and shop in drab little tiendas. Everything we do is affected by the tides and the weather. We do all our own maintenance and repairs which frequently requires hours spent in places like this. Glamorous? Carefree? Not so much.

It's not that scary. The scariest times have been running across unlit fishing boats on night watches. (Oh, and hitting a whale. I guess I neglected to tell you about that, but it was a gentle nudge and we apologized profusely.) We haven't seen any storms, pirates, or sea monsters, and sailing through Mexico and Central America has been relatively easy and stress-free.
If it's crazy, then there are a lot of other crazy folks out here too, but they sure seem normal to us. They are helpful and kind and willing to lend a hand, a tool, food, supplies, or a shoulder to cry on. They are thoughtful, cautious folks too. They research the weather, harbors, and maintenance issues and are willing to share that knowledge with you. After all, their boat represents a large investment and is frequently their only home, so they aren't going to take chances with it. They may be adventurous, but they aren't crazy.
We have found the sailing life to be busy yet peaceful, challenging yet rewarding, wacky yet satisfying. We tackle each passage and each day not knowing what it will bring, but open to change and new adventures, often finding at the end of the day that we have had wonderful experiences along the way. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

That Rally in That Country

One of the goals of The Rally in That Country is to increase tourism there, and in some respects it's working because they got at least twenty new boats to visit during the four weeks of the rally. However, once one has experienced the conditions within the country, I don't know why anyone would ever go back.
The biggest problem (in our eyes) was the pollution. Not only are the roads filthy, but the air and water are filthy too. The natives throw everything and anything onto the roadside or into the estuary. Trash flies out of the bus windows as they race down the road. The daily burning of sugar cane fields drops black embers onto the boats and causes everyone to have sore throats and raspy voices. Nearly every cruiser in the marina had nagging cold-like symptoms during their time there.
Crime is a serious problem in That Country and you see security guards everywhere: at the market, at the gas station, at the bank, on the soda delivery truck, and in towers at the mall parking lot. And these guards don't just have nice uniforms and walkie talkies; they are wearing body armor and have AR-15s slung across their chests! The guns are not just for looks either; in March 2015, 481 murders were committed in That Country.
Although the marina is nice enough, we can't spend all our time on the boat. We need groceries and we want to see the sights so we have to get out now and then, but every excursion is like mounting a major expedition because the marina is so isolated. One can either walk a half mile along a narrow road with no sidewalk to a tiny tienda, drive a dinghy a half hour to the village of La Herradura where there is a "grocery store", or take a 45 minute bus ride to Zacatecoluca. The first option requires good shoes, sunscreen, umbrella, shopping bag, and 30 minutes. The second option requires sunscreen, hats, fuel in the outboard motor, shopping bags, and at least two hours. The third option requires good shoes, toilet paper, shopping bags, a good sense of humor, and at least four hours, during which your produce is wilting, and your meat is growing bacteria. And then you still have to schlep it all down to the boat from the road which is 2000 feet away. So forget reprovisioning here; it's just too difficult.
We had an easy crossing in both directions, but that is not always the case. One boat broached coming in and got knocked down almost 90 degrees. Water came in, things were thrown about, and the crew received minor injuries. You will notice they don't post those photos on the website.
And once you get in over the bar you are trapped there. You can't go out for a day sail or run out to a quiet island for a couple of days because getting back over the bar is a once-a-day thing, and there simply are no islands or bays to anchor at anyway.
The organizers of That Rally are doing their best I'm sure, but I think from their land based lives they have lost sight of what cruisers really need. We received our information packet with maps and courtesy flag a week AFTER we had arrived. That was after we had already gotten our own map and purchased our own flag. We were told 5 minutes before the wine tasting event that WE had to bring the wine for the tasting. We often attended events with no idea what it would cost.
We don't really regret attending That Rally, but we do regret staying so long in such a difficult place. We can only hope that the money we spent there will somehow help the local economy and school.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Goodbye to El Salvador

It's time to say Goodbye to El Salvador and move south again.
We will go across the bar at 7:00am tomorrow morning. Hopefully we will be sailing like this in a clean ocean with a dolphin at the bow and fresh air again. We can hardly wait. Thanks to Seahorse V for the photo.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter from El Salvador

Yesterday two boats went out over the bar and five boats came in from Mexico. The Beach Soccer tournament continues, creating traffic jams on the little road just outside the hotel. The river swarms with every kind of boat traffic imaginable: jetskis, fishing boats, runabouts, pangas, dugouts, and dinghys, but as the sun goes down and the wakes subside, it becomes simply breathtaking.

Later today we will attend an Easter Party with a whole roasted pig and fun and games for the kids. Happy Easter from El Salvador.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Playing The Slots

Here in El Salvador we feel like we are playing the slot machines when we go to an ATM. We must have "played" five of them yesterday before we got any money. The problem seems to be in the amount we request. Apparently you can only get $100.00 at a time here. The funny thing is, we know there is enough money in the machines, because at one machine we were able to get $300.00, but it required three separate transactions.
Back in Mexico we routinely got 7000 pesos (about $450.00) at a time. We got as much as we could because they charge a fee of about $4.00 every time. If you get $100.00 five times, you are charged $20.00. If you get $500.00 only once you are charged $4.00, so that's why we try to get as much as possible in a single transaction. Well, that and the fact that ATMs are so few and far between; the closest one to the marina is 25 miles away.