Passage to El Salvador…..

Dear F&F,
February 26-27, 2009

Scott is wide awake by 6:15 am. There is no point in trying to sleep after he gets up. He goes straight outside for the hose & starts to wash the pounds of black soot & ash off our boat. There are some big chunks of burned stuff. Very, very dirty mess. I go for the interior cleaning. Wiping down all the surfaces that are near windows. Pretty much everything I can reach to wipe down I do.

Carmina gets up about 7:30 am & goes out to help Scott detail the windows with a chamois. I continue the interior cleaning, drink my tea & eat a yogurt. I know as soon as Scott is satisfied that he has cleaned the boat as well as he can for now he wants to shove off. The fish boats have already gone out for the day, so not many guys are around the docks. There isn\’t any significant wind so we have a shot to sneak off the dock without a lot of difficulty despite being one engine short.

Poor Carmina looks somewhat stunned as we escort her & her suitcases off the boat & up the dock. She waves & blows kisses as Scott unties our dock lines & gives us a big shove. He then jumps onboard, grabs the wheel, gives our 1 engine a bit of speed & is able to make the right turn without hitting the big dock in front of us. It is just after 8:00 am & we are on our way.

The kindest thing I can say about our experience in Puerto Quetzal is that we were extremely disappointed. We don\’t understand why people would deliberately mislead us. We need to get where we can get our repair done. Next�

We have a lovely sail for about 4 hours. It is an odd distance: too far to make it in 1 day. And too close so that at the speed we are going we will arrive at our El Salvador destination in the dark. Now that the wind stopped we just motor very slowly. There have been several visible fires along the coast. Perhaps more sugar cane fields burning? At least we are far enough away not to smell the smoke or get the ashes on us.

High tide tomorrow, Friday, is not until 4:45 pm. That is when we can call for the Bahia del Sol \”panga\” to guide us across their sandbar. We are staying well off the coast & just plugging along. As a treat during my 6-10:00 pm watch, I attempted to bake brownies. It was a mix. It called for 2/3 cup oil. I had some extra butter to use up so substituted. I used the biggest size pan so they would be thin. The oven temperature was correct. But even 5 minutes over the recommended time they are more like a gooey candy than brownies. Oh well, they taste good. I ate some with a spoon followed by a glass of milk.

While I took my 6-10:00 am nap, Scott motored us to the area we were told to wait until high tide in the afternoon. I felt pretty groggy waking up. We find these 24 hour jaunts harder in some ways than a 3 day passage. You just can\’t get into a rhythm.

As I was pouring my tea, I saw why my brownie mix turned out like candy: the 2 eggs that should have been mixed in were sitting on a plate with my apples & mangoes! It was dark, I had only my headlight on. I had taken the 2 eggs out of the refrigerator but they did not quite make it into the bowl. So only butter & water was added! Tastes really good, just not the consistency of brownies at all!

This is not any normal kind of anchorage. Just a shallow piece of coastline. There are several panga fishermen around, but we can stay far enough away from them so no worries. We put the anchor down in about 42 feet of water. We radioed the marina that we were here outside & would wait for the call of the panga that was to lead us across the sandbar & waves. We spoke to a sailboat on the inside that said they were going to be led out first, so we would be able to see their mast as they exited. While we passed the time, Scott helped me change our sheets, very much due.

I kept anchor watch as the afternoon wind kicked up. I wanted Scott to be as fresh as possible for steering the boat across the bar. By 2:30 pm we were both up & just hanging out in the cockpit. The wind had subsided from 15 knots to about 8. The breeze really helps keep it comfortable despite being 88 degrees. They hailed us on the radio that it was showtime: 3:15 pm – still rising high tide. Alex, the Canadian mechanic, was in the panga with the 2 El Salvadorian guys, Rohellio and his assistant, guiding the sailboat out. It was comforting that he had Alex along so we could speak English & answer some of Scott\’s questions. We could see the top of the 2 masts (ketch rig) & then slowly more of the boat & then the panga. The way they were coming out is not a way we would have known to enter, at all. Thank God these guys know the safe route & are willing to provide this guiding service. Scott put me on video duty which was a good diversion from being too nervous & staring at the breaking waves beside us & behind us. It is hard to explain the crossing of the bar, other than it took only about 10 minutes & we did fine. It was about 4:10 pm. Many thanks to all of you for your good wishes to help see us safely across.

What we entered is an estuary. It looks like a wide river. Mangroves line the banks. 8 guys were standing on the dock ready to catch our lines. Lovely! Scott tipped the panga driver who led us across the bar, and we thanked him profusely.

Bahia del Sol is a very small marina, with just 1 main dock. We are 1 of only 4 sailboats at a dock. We are on an end tie, as usual due to the width of our catamaran. Our boat gets rocked when a panga or fishing boat zooms by too fast & too close which they seem to do intentionally. The other boats are medium sized sport fishing boats. There are many other sailboats on moorings, scattered far apart. The moorings are very cheap, and the dock price is quite reasonable. We want the luxury of shore power so that we can use the air conditioning.

Part of our welcome committee was the Navy & Customs agents to check us in. They heard we were coming & wanted to do the paperwork right away since I think they go home at 5 pm. Learning my lesson from Carmina in Guatemala, I offered them to come in, sit down & served them Gatorade. They were friendly & polite, complimented our boat. Since we have a copy machine onboard it saved some time. There was a $10 fee each for our tourist visas, which is good for 90 days. Surprisingly, the currency here is the US dollar.

Then we walked up to the marina office, which is also the lobby for the associated hotel. Ronney & Elizabeth spoke English well enough for us to manage checking in with them. We signed up for a month since we will leave the boat here while touring more in Guatemala with Carmina as well as while we return to Los Angeles for a 10 day boat shopping trip.

We asked to meet the manager, Mario, who was very responsive to us by email. He lives here at the hotel & said not to hesitate to call him if we need anything at all. Very nice. There is the usual palapa restaurant/bar. And a swimming pool! Kind of a funny shape, but I will definitely take advantage of it. The WiFi does not reach the docks, but we can take our laptops to the palapa or hotel lobby. So far it seems quiet, safe & generally lovely; even the wifi up there is good.

We are so tired we are getting in bed now, just after 7:30 pm. The all night passage, the anticipation of the bar crossing and all day waiting for it, on top of our headaches at Puerto Quetzal has left us pretty wrung out.

Alex the mechanic will come at 9:00 am tomorrow to review our transmission situation. We will show him an underwater sketch of our boat & review the high to low tide careening process. If necessary we will call his boss Murray who, unfortunately for us, is currently in Canada. Murray told Scott that he did not think hauling us on their careening docks would be a problem. Scott specifically asked if any extreme high tide was needed & he said no. Just an average high tide would be fine. So that is our next hurdle. To find out more about this careening business & when we can do it.

Scott & Cindy