Isla Conchagüita, El Salvador

Thursday May 1, 2008

The wind died around 9pm last night, the usual lull setting in along the coast. We made alternate progress of 2knots, 1.5knots, 2knots etc. Midnight saw us just past the entrance to Bahia Jiquilisco. We weren´t making much progress. Michelle´s shift ended at midnight and she got Robin up with the now famous words, on this boat anyway, see if you can get her to sail any better.

Robin was on watch 15 minutes when a squall developed on his head and he took off doing 7 knots. He was yelling like a madman, yes baby you go girl. He tacked back towards the shore where he managed to actually dodge the storm and as the rest of the storm moved away so did his wind. By the time Michelle got up at 3am he was back to doing .5 knot. Michelle decided to set the sails wing on wing and managed to get the boat moving at 1.5 knots for the next hour or so. She was quite chuffed to have trebled Robin´s effort. Then suddenly all wind died and we ended up floating backwards with the .4 knot current. All chuffiness went out the window and on went the motor. We motored the rest of the way to Bahia Fonseca.

We decided to drop the hook at Isla Conchagüita which is still under the jurisdiction of El Salvador. On the way to the island we passed an enormous dredge named the James Cook. Robin says, hey guys we have dibs on that name don´tchyaknow. Well he likes to think so. Maybe it was an old research vessel from Australia. We have no idea.

Wind and current were swirling around the island but we found a spot to hole up in. Two canoes full of kids came to welcome us and hung around until we gave them all a lollypop and a fancy pen each. We searched the beach and establishments through the binoculars and decided to take a rest before attempting to go ashore. By the time we´d had a nap though the conditions were even more choppy and we couldn´t be bothered trying to land the dinghy. Maybe in the morning. Michelle cooked a chicken curry, we opened one of our precious bottles of red which are in serious short supply and went to bed.

Isla el Tigre, Honduras

Friday May 2, 2008

We officially entered Honduras today and collected another stamp in our passports. We upanchored early and under jib alone, navigated the semi-shoal waters over to Honduras. Jurisdiction of the Bay of Fonseca is shared by the three countries facing onto it: El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. There was quite a lot of wind and current in the anchorage, the wind raising a medium fetch across the open waters. Michelle went ashore and did the easiest checkin of any country so far. Both immigration and the Port Captain are right there on the pier. They operate out of one office and it is very streamlined if a little ancient. All paper work is done on an old non-electric typewriter using carbon copy paper in triplicate.

We were also met by a friendly local who acts as tour guide and he explained that we´d arrived just in time for a fiesta. As try as we did, we couldn´t make sense of what the festival was all about. So we went ashore around 7pm to take part in this party. The fireworks were insane and were being let off in the middle of all the people. These were serious fireworks, the kind you see let off for New Year´s Eve around the world. They were bursting over head and fire and ash were raining down on everyone. It culminated with what was sposed to represent a fire breathing bull. One guy had a large cardboard hood covering his head, shoulders and most of his back as he bent over. It was completely covered with fireworks and as they went off he went running through the crowd and the crowd went running and screaming. It was bedlam, chaos and quite scary in a way. After that the street party got started and young people were set to dance in the streets. Robin was hungry by this time so we went in search of food and sat outside a house on the street in a couple of chairs with no table while a lady cooked our dinner on a camp stove. Try and get that passed through the council bylaws in Aus!

Isla Meanguera, El Salvador

Saturday May 3, 2008

Robin went ashore early this morning to try and dodge our ever faithful friend, Roberto the tour guide, but he was there and glued himself to his side all the while he was trying to shop. He had given us a tour of Amapala yesterday telling us the history of all the buildings and the people. But enough is enough and although we were thinking of staying another day here we decided to head over to Isla Meanguera. We found ourselves a gorgeous little spot more or less sheltered out of the wind and relaxed and caught up on a couple of chores. Then we headed into shore around Punta El Panteón and found the most delightful restaurant perched on the side of a cliff. We enjoyed ourselves immensely in a very picturesque setting. The tiny islet of Meanguerita just off shore was shimmering in the dusk light.

San Lorenzo, Honduras

Sunday May 4, 2008

Dayle Parrot Baycalled us on the radio late yesterday afternoon and asked if we were coming up the estuary to San Lorenzo, and we assured him indeed we were. He´d actully come across to Isla del Tigre yesterday in time to see us sail out of the bay so he missed us. We haven´t seen or heard from him for a year so it was wonderful to hear his voice on the radio.

We got going early this morning to take advantage of the flood tide. It´s 17km up a winding estuary to Puerto Henecan, and then another couple to the anchorage at San Lorenzo. What looks like a tiny squiggle on the map turns out to be quite a wide estuary, lined with mangroves, soaring mountain ranges peering at you in the distance. We needed to have at least 5 feet of water above high tide to pass through a shallow spot just before the anchorage and we saw 11 feet as we went over it. The San Lorenzo estuary is a lovely spot. Dotted in amongst the mangroves on a bit of reclaimed land are a number of restaurants. The mangroves dot here and there in front of them and both the ecosystem and mankind seem to be coexisting quite happily together. We caught up with Dayle and his girlfriend (yes he has one) Olga who spoke very little English. We had a lovely evening catching up on Dayle´s happenings over the last year and getting to know Olga who is lovely. We are still trying to work out what she sees in Dayle (only kidding Dayle :D).

Monday May 5, 2008

Today we went through the process of checking out of Honduras as our next anchorage will be in Nicaragua. It wasn´t anywhere near as easy over here as it was at Isla el Tigre. Almondo who owns the Porlomar Restaurant drove us to Immigration and then we caught a taxi over to the Port Captain´s office which was situated back at Puerto Henecan. This was truly a skit straight out of Monty Python. The guy looking after the office was new, replacing the guy who was on vacation and he couldn´t write an entry in a book without checking it 5 times and that´s no exaggeration. Robin came with Michelle today, an event he usually doesn´t participate in and at one point he had to walk outside or risk bursting out laughing in front of the poor guy. He was truly a nice guy. He just had zero office skills. By the time it came to type up the Zarpe, the guy who is on vacation had dropped in to grab something from his room and ended up typing it up. You had to be there and experience the dislexia to believe it. It took over an hour to get one small piece of paper from that office. We finally got back in the taxi, the driver having waited all that time for us and got dropped off at the town market. It was searingly hot in town, and we were fast melting. We walked slowly with our groceries back towards the estuary and decided to stop at a Chinese restaurant along the way to order some lunch and some extra as take away for snack meals while we are sailing. It was a good choice, the restuarant being run by Chinese people who dished up some gianormous helpings of terrific food.

We were going to leave this afternoon on the ebb tide but there was a pretty stiff breeze blowing and we decided not to fight our way down river. So we went ashore to Porlomar and met with José, a Guatemalan working here in Honduras. We spoke with him for a few hours and gleaned some great insights into Guatemala and Honduras from a locals point of view. It helped that he spoke immaculate English. A great way to spend our last evening in Honduras.

Moneypenny Anchorage, Nicaragua

Tuesday May 6, 2008

Robin sounded the rise and shine gong at 4am this morning. It was so early not even the birds were chirping. Michelle definitely wasn´t chirping. We coasted gently downstream, eyes glued to the GPS tracking that we´d recorded coming in and trying to make sense out of the murky gloom of the river estuary and it´s myriad branchings. Thankfully it was daylight at 5am so we really only had 30mins of navigating in the dark. That was enough of a challenge. The current ended up taking us downstream at 7knots. It was a very fast trip out to the approach buoy. From there we turned off the engine as there was just enough wind to sail and it took us till lunch time to tack back and forth into the Moneypenny Anchorage on the sourthern tip of Fonseca Bay.

Robin tossed the dinghy in the water while Michelle made lunch then he went off to scout the small lagoon area and climbed the sand dune to check out the waves crashing ashore from the Pacific. We decided, as it was quite rough here with the current and winds opposing each other, that we would have a rest until the next ebb tide and then run with it around Punta El Rosario and do an overnight sail down to Puesta del Sol, our next stop in Nicaragua. We will check into the country formerly when we get there.

We left around 4ish in the afternoon and it was unbelievably rough. There was quite a swell entering the bay and it was a wee bit of a challenge to be able to tack out of the bay missing the mile-long string of rocks known as the Farrallones on the way. We had staysail and reefed mainsail up and finally we just unfurled the jib to make headway. We eventually cleared Punta Consiguina and headed 5 miles offshore then hooked a left and parallelled the coast. The waves were as erratic as ever. We thought it was just the wind vs tide entering the bay but obviously something else was going on. It was 50 miles to Estero Asseradores, the home of Puesta del Sol and it was going to be a long night by the looks of it.

Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua

Wednesday May 7, 2008

We arrived outside Puesta del Sol around 10am and were planning on anchoring outside at the approach buoy to await hightide at 4pm. The rough swell though prompted Michelle to call on the radio and ask out of curiosity how deep the entrance channel was and the depth at the docks. We told them we had a 9foot draft and asked if we´d be able to navigate the entrance channel. There was silence then they came back and said no problem, should be 12feet in the channel at the moment. We said we´re coming in. So in we went. It was another 1.5miles to the first set of channel markers which were not clearly marked until you were almost on top of them. The green buoy was just a ball in the water. We were watching the breaking waves and thinking oh god here we go again. But the entrance turned out to be surprisingly calm, the waves breaking on either side of us and we then went in on a perfect wave set of no breaking waves. We´d just entered the channel and were ducking behind the small island when we looked behind to see one enormous wave breaking way back behind us. Great timing.

We motored up the channel and saw a minimum depth of 10feet which gave us a foot of water under the keel. Plenty! There were extreme rock shoals on both sides of us and we couldn´t believe there was actually enough water for us to slip through. The dock master told us to hug the green buoys until the last hairpin turn then hug the red buoys, thus we would have the deepest water up the channel. The shallowest water turned out to be right outside the end of our dock which registered under 10feet. But as we turned into the dock it immediately got deeper and we sit in 25 feet at low tide. The tidal range is enormous at the moment. We have seen tide shifts over 10feet for the last week. It makes it challenging when anchoring.

Immigration and the Navy arrived a couple of hours later. Whenever boats arrive they make a 2hr drive up from Corinto. It´s a tiring business for sure. After getting officially checked in (which required 4 copies of every piece of paperwork, including passports, boat papers, previous checkout papers from Honduras) we relaxed at the bar catching up with the guys off Rogla and another couple from New Zealand but sadly we´ve forgotten their names. We will spend the next few days here doing a few boat chores and relaxing, and catching up on the website logs.

Monday May 12, 2008

We´ve had a semi-relaxing week alternating boat chores with reading books, swimming in the pool, hiking up the beach to hang out at the surfers hostel up there, yapped with other cruisers that have come and gone, and sat out in the rain and watched a few terrific lightening storms, fortunately not right on top of us. We´ve cleaned the bottom of the boat, polished the rails, worked on sorting out our inventory of ropes, Robin climbed the mast and fixed our deck light which had broken from a rope thrashing in the wind, and installed a lightening rod on the top. The website has been updated as well. We´ve been eating a little at the resort´s restaurant but the prices here are exhorbitant compared to Central American prices so we have been doing more cooking than eating out. Sadly our ship´s supplies are getting low and we´re having to make do with risottos and pasta dishes now as the fresh food has almost run out and there´s no shopping to be had around here.

We will be heading on out tomorrow, our next stops will be a couple of tiny anchorages on the way to San Juan del Sur, 119nm southeast of here, and where we hope to hole up for 5 days or so. It will depend on the anchorage and the swell when we get there. We hope to also find Claire, our old barmaid from the Seabright Brewery who apparently is living there now.

The weather has been sultry the last few days, the humidity very high. Every afternoon huge cumulus clouds form and head out to sea, somehow just skirting us, although we´d be happy with a good rain storm right about now. Well maybe we´d better watch what we ask for. We´ve been told it rains buckets in Costa Rica and Panama during the summer months.

Tuesday May 13, 2008

We had a nice run down the coast today. We left the dock at 7am and made our way out of the river estuary and over the bar with zero difficulty. There was a light SE wind at 5knots to begin with which eventually increased over the course of the day. We averaged 7knots but often sailing at 8.5 to 9knots. We tacked 20nm offshore then one tack back to shore, dropping the hook in a sand and rock patch offshore just south of Puerto Sandino. It was an open roadstead but doable as the wind was offshore and thus no big waves. We caught two black skipjack on the way and thus it was sushi for dinner.

Wednesday May 14, 2008

It was a beautiful morning this morning. We watched the sun rise over the tiered mountains with waves crashing onshore, as we sailed a mile offshore. By 7am we were averaging 5knots with short bursts of 7knots. The wind would alternately gust and die, gust and die for the rest of the day. The seas were choppy and sailing was a lot more work than yesterday. We finally gave up on trying to reach the sheltered cove of El Astillero. It would be dark before we arrived at Astillero and not an anchorage to enter in the dark on account of the numerous rocky reefs to be skirted. Michelle checked the chart and located a spot of sand off the shore 9miles south of Machapa where we could dig the anchor in and rest while the wind continued to gust around us. It was quite a dreary sail on account of the smog and even though we didn´t head too far offshore today because of the rough conditions, we still had very limited visibility of about 7miles which limited how much of the coast you could see. Apparently they do a lot of burning off this time of year and it is really noticeable.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Thursday May 15, 2008

We spent quite an uncomfortable night last night, the boat turned side-on to the swell making us rock, at times quite violently. Michelle never sleeps well in these conditions although Robin does ok. She finally curled up out the back where laying across the boat she got some relief. We lifted the hook at daybreak and by 8am were finally west of El Astillero where we wanted to be last night. Conditions were rough again, gusting 25knots which increased in the afternoon to 35knots. We sailed under reefed main and staysail for the rest of the day, finally arriving at the lovely bay of San Juan del Sur in the early afternoon.

We just got the boat organized and the paperwork together when the Navy arrived to check us in. They had hitched a ride on the local water taxi which was quite something to behold. It was old, every inch surrounding it was covered with either old tires or old fenders. The guy squeezed into the cabin via the window and nearly decapitated himself in the process. It reminded one of the size of an old panga with a cabin on top. The navy guys perched on the roof, and as people walked on the boat it tipped wildly from one side to the other. Welcome to the water taxi of San Juan del Sur. We regret not snapping a photo as this time a picture would have told a thousand words!

Entertainment was the theme for the afternoon. Once the Navy and Immigration had arrived two guys settled down to do the paperwork with Michelle, the rest went with Robin to inspect the boat. This began 20 minutes of pure comedy. One guy starts up in the forepeak and picks up a plastic bag of Michelle´s tampons and looking seriously confused asks Robin what they were. Robin could see his mind ticking over wondering what sort of illegal contraband this was when finally Robin puts him out of his misery and tries explaining they were, you know, for mujeres.. women. After another 15 seconds the guy finally gets it and shoves them back in the pidgeon hole and quickly escapes into the next room. Robin opens his clothes locker and the guy goes over and opens the one on the other side of the boat and stares straight at a pile of Michelle´s bras. He goes ooooh and slams the locker door closed. Robin was having too much fun! The pantry was of course a massive hit and by the time they´d worked their way back to the saloon they were too exhausted to check out our wine stores. They finally called it quits, whistled for the water taxi to come collect them and we were officially checked into port.

Friday May 16, 2008

We managed to find Claire today. Well actually she found us. We probably would have walked around the little town another couple of hours searching for her as we´d already walked right past her restaurant. We went back and caught up with her and her boyfriend Chris and the rest of the staff, in addition to a parade of friends who kept dropping in. We later went back to their restaurant for dinner where Claire in her usual flamboyant style gave us a special wine tasting and then served us the most delightful dinner we´d had in eons. Robin finally got a thick piece of mooing cow which he had the audacity to call cooked. Then on top of everything they refused to allow us to pay for anything. We felt very special and very spoilt. Thanks guys.

Sunday May 18, 2008

Yesterday we spent the entire day on the boat, kinda vegging but really planning our itinerary for the next 6 months. We have been slightly worried about getting down the coast to Ecuador and working out whether or not to return to Panama, or go further down to Peru, Chile etc etc. The itinerary and time constraints, along with keeping the weather cooperating just wasn´t working out so we´ve come up with a slightly different plan. We will stay in the Costa Rica/Panama area for the summer, even though it will rain buckets and there will be lightning and everyone says we´re nuts to put up with that much humidity. Hopefully we will be able to do a much needed haulout in Panama and redo the bottom paint and generally take our time instead of rushing to get to Ecuador by the end of June/beginning of July. This is a far better plan for us and it means we can now slow down and enjoy the stops instead of having to keep rushing. So now we are thinking of either heading to Ecuador in November and jumping to the Galapagos then Easter Island, Pitcairn, the Gambiers etc starting February. We´ll see how this plan works out as time gets closer. Only bad part about this plan is not being able to cover South America like we´d hoped to do. We´ll just have to save it up for when we come back around the World!

Today we went into Big Wave Dave´s for breakfast and took the computers in with us to catch up on news, emails etc. It has been eons since we actually sat down and read the online newspapers. We were there so long we ordered lunch as well which made Big Dave laugh. He knew we were off a yacht and was more than happy for us to sit for hours using his precious internet service. There is still a transport strike in Nicaragua which is preventing us from travelling around the country. All public transport is being stopped and harrassed on account of the incredible cost of fuel in Nicaragua. So we are stuck in San Juan del Sur and probably won´t get to do any inland travel. We spent a quiet evening back on the boat watching rain squalls build around us.

Wednesday May 21, 2008

It has been raining the last couple of days, mainly overnight. Michelle managed to clean the bottom of the hull and robin did the keel. The waterline was absolutely filthy. We´ll be glad to get the haulout done and raise the waterline which will stop a lot of the seagrass growth. Yesterday the wind blew about 20 knots into the anchorage. Today of course there is no wind. We say of course because we took Claire, Chris, and two of their friends sailing down to a beach 15nm south of here. It was so calm the sea was glassy. Then it began to rain on the way back. Still they had a lovely time out on the water, the girls sat downstairs, Chris curled up at the bow like a merman and didn´t care a hoot about getting wet. They had brought poke with them, an Hawaiin dish of raw fish done in sesame seed oil and a few other ingredients which was truly yummy and definitely a recipe to add to the repertoire. After we got back to the anchorage at San Juan del Sur we all headed ashore and we were driven up to their house in the hills. It was about a 15minute drive and had the most incredible view out over the bay. Chris found some lamb for Robin and cooked a truly impressive dinner. No wonder this guy is in the restaurant business. Thanks again for a truly memorable day. We hope you guys can drop in on us somewhere around the planet.

Thursday May 22, 2008

We have decided to head on out tomorrow so today was busy reprovisioning the boat, trying to fill a propane tank which proved impossible, and checking out of the country. There was a girl living in San Juan del Sur who works for Immigration at the border and she has somehow set up a deal with the Port Captain to be able to clear us out of the country without us having to catch a taxi 30miles round trip. The Port Captain charged $25 for the International Zarpe, Immigration another $29. Not too bad. We had just managed to get the stores back to the boat when the rain really started to pelt down. It rained so hard we could just see the closest boats anchored offshore.

The Approaching Rain Storm

We escaped into a palapa along the beach and waited out the worst of it, and finally ran through still quite heavy rain to Chris and Claire´s restaurant. Michelle was saturated by the time she got there. We dined with Chris, Claire having the day off today and said our final farewells. Oh we did manage to squeeze a few hours in this afternoon before our appointment with the Port Captain to climb up over 300 stairs to Pelican Eyes, a resort cascading down a hill side. The swimming pool and bar/restaurant at the top of the hill had impressive views and was wonderfully cool. As we descended the heat at the bottom back in town was engulfing us and we wished we´d had more time to enjoy it up there.

View from Pelican Eyes and the infinity pool

Playa Mazanillo, Nicaragua

Friday May 23, 2008

We upanchored around 8:30 this morning and motored the 15nm southeast to Manzanillo Bay. We spent the afternoon vegging, watching weather systems. We had a 35knot squall very early this morning before we left which lasted about 20mins or so. This afternoon the weather although dark and threatening is quite mild. By early evening we had 2 foot seas into the anchorage, 5knots of wind and it was spitting with rain. The Nicaraguan Army patrolled the beach and we hoped they wouldn´t come out and inspect us as having checked out of the country already they´d probably move us on. But they weren´t concerned with us being there and we saw them again doing a patrol during the night, their flashlights doing a dance along the beach.

Bahia Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Saturday May 24, 2008

The swell was coming into the anchorage this morning and for once Robin had had enough and pulled anchor at 6am. We had originally planned to head on down into Salinas Bay but the wind and swell were heading straight down there. We noticed three boats anchored down in there behind Isla Balaños but they´d pulled the hook and were heading on out and we figured it probably couln´t be too comfortable in there. Maybe we were wrong but we altered our plans and headed straight for a very sheltered bay on the southern edge of Golfo de Santa Elena. Our aim: to find a comfortable anchorage to relax in for a while.

We entered the almost landlocked bay to one of the most beautiful settings we´d seen in ages. The scenery was stunning, with dry, tropical forest lining the waters edge, mountains and valleys leading away into the distance, a small beach on the east end, mangroves lining the southern edge. It was untouched solitude, not a house in sight, the only visitors us, motor vessel Jenny, and a few fisherman each day who would come in out of the wind and swell for siesta and do a wee bit of fishing or snorkling. We are going to hole up here for at least a week.

We anchored in the north western most part of the bay just off the sandy beach, named the two prominant rocks, the one in the water Lion Rock and the cliff onshore, Monkeyface Cliff, and promptly felt right at home. Actually the terrain reminded one a little of Australia except there weren´t enough Eucalypts.

Lion Rock/Monkeyface Cliff and the long stretch of sandy beach

Tuesday May 26 2008

We have had a kind of relaxing last few days. Robin scouted out a walking track and saw enormous cat´s paws in the sand. He went hmmm and decided to head back to the boat. We then read in Charlie´s Charts that this dry tropical region is home to jaguars, margay, ocelots, pumas and jaguarundi. Ooookay. We´ll take a walking stick when we go next time. We worked on a few chores, including trying to get rid of a boat full of gnat type things, at least that´s the best way we can describe them having never seen them before. They had swarmed into the boat in San Juan del Sur and Manzanillo Beach and subsequently set up home in the pantry and were dying by the 100s in there so Michelle began work cleaning it all out and spraying so that nothing else would take up residence in there. Since that needed to be done she also did a massive stocktake and we now know what we have on board. All the food storage areas were cleaned out and everything listed. All items out of date were put on the must use very soon list and we suddenly feel like we´re back in control. We also dragged out the sandfly netting that had been made up back in Puerto Vallarta, and they work wonderfully. Still need a bit of work as they´re not totally finished but it´s amazing what a peg or two will do in the meantime. Then Michelle also worked on the bottom of the boat and waterline again and Robin did the keel. I think we keep saying this - the boat is really due for a new bottom job and keeping up with the bottom cleaning is becoming a pain. We had invited Motor Vessel Jenny, as they call themselves, over for coctail hour one evening and they left the following day and since then we´ve had the entire bay virtually to ourselves other than a few fishing pangas a few times a day. There has been no sign of the Costa Rican Navy or Coast Guard thankfully so we will continue to push our luck and stay a while longer, especially since there is a low pressure system off the coast that is creating rough sea conditions. We are very sheltered in here. We haven´t officially checked into the country and sometimes the officials get a bit narky about anchoring at the top of Costa Rica without clearing in.

Wednesday May 27, 2008

We Downloaded the weather from NOAA this morning and saw that the nasty little low pressure system had gotten itself a little more organized and would be heading up the coast and past us during the next 24hours or so. We weren´t too worried about it so went about our usual day, thinking that the wind would be coming over the land behind us and so we´d sit comfortably offshore. We´d not really thought it through properly as the bay is deceptively sheltered and extremely calm. Of course the wind was being sucked into this low pressure system from the east north east and thus put us on a lee shore. We´d completely forgotten the circular rotation of the storm and the resultant airflow. It was dark by the time we actually paid any attention to the thing and thus even though we were probably safe enough we figured it was more prudent to reanchor down the bottom of the bay where we would be more sheltered and not on a lee shore. By this time we were experiencing around 30knots of wind and it was gusting wildly. So Michelle went up front in the pouring rain which was bone-chillingly cold, and shivering, managed to raise the anchor. She got back downstairs and set the radar to show the contours of the bay as we could see absolutely nothing in the pitch black night. Suddenly Robin comes flying downstairs, rips the cover off the engine, turns on a tap and flings himself backwards into the saloon. He then says very calmly, Michelle go re-anchor I´ve overheated the engine, and I think I burst a water pipe. By now we´re in 68 feet of water, with wind gusting around us and a rocky outcrop just off to our right. She races back up the front, drops the anchor, it grabs slightly and she pays out 300 feet of chain and hopes for the best. We dragged about 100 feet backwards then she held tight and we were good for now. So then she goes back downstairs to see what´s wrong and Robin is sitting there still as calm as can be with a frozen packet of meat on his leg. She looks at him and says, "What´s wrong?". Oh nothing, I just burnt myself a little. Then he says I think I´ve burnt my arm too can you grab me another frozen packet out of the freezer as he´s pulling off his shirt. She grabs a packet of frozen fish and comes back, takes one look at his shoulder and nearly faints. He has a massive burn on his arm and shoulder. Then inspecting his leg there is massive amounts of skin missing. "Geezes Robin what did you do?" Something burst, he says. So here we are now without an engine, with 35 knots of wind gusting around us, and Robin is badly burnt. Sheesh. Never a dull moment and too stupid for words since we had all day to contemplate this and were completely blaze as to what was happening. Robin had worked on the fridge again earlier in the day, shutting off the water intake and he forgot to turn it back on. Something so simple. Also the lights on the engine instrument panel had stopped working ages ago and we´d not gotten around to fixing them. Hence it was only when he shone the torch and saw the engine temperature that he knew there was a problem. Definitely a job which has been moved up the priority list.

We sat for 20 minutes keeping the icepacks on his burns, rotating the frozen packets as they started to thaw. Then we got out the medical kit, found some burn ointment which alleviates the pain, and he then checked the engine. The cap off the expansion tank for the fresh water coolant had exploded off and hot water had gone everywhere. Otherwise there was nothing wrong by the looks of it. Michelle got the expansion tank refilled with water and the lid back on then prayed, and went and restarted the engine. Nothing wrong. No cracked head. No broken hoses. We were very lucky. So, raising the anchor we motored down the bottom of the bay, negotiated the shallow sand shoal and tucked ourselves into a well-sheltered nook, the wind now coming offshore and presenting no further problem as regards fetch. Too much excitement for one night for sure and a few lessons never to be forgotten!

Poor darling!

Thursday May 29, 2008

At 8am every day Michelle checks into the Pan Pacific Net on 8143 USB on the SSB Radio. It´s like a roll call for boats who are between Ecuador and Mexico and West to the Marquesas. The first thing we hear this morning as the net started is a Mayday call. For the next 4 hours we would all be involved in helping Stravaigh, a boat caught in what was what we thought Tropical Storm Alma, 60 miles off the coast of the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The boat was a 42 foot trimaran with 2 people on board, Jeff an Englishman and his Dutch wife Josie. They were experiencing 80+ knots of wind and mountainous seas, with a swamped engine, almost no fuel left and the boat was taking on a lot of water. They really thought this was it, that they wouldn´t survive this storm so they mayday´d to let people know where they were. At this point in time NOAA the weather bureau was only calling for a tropical storm of maxium 60knots so we couldn´t figure what was happening. NOAA had seriously underestimated the strength of this storm, it turned out to be a fully fledged hurricane. The morning net organized very quickly to contact the American Coast Guard who have boats stationed in Panama and they immediately sent a plane out to them which stayed with them almost the entire day. Also on it´s way was a US Coast Guard Cutter, which would eventually rendezvous with them and some very big burly guys would jump in a zodiac with fuel and manage to refuel that little trimaran in 50knot winds. Amazing task in very difficult conditions. It turns out that this was the first hurricane in 120 years that had ever been this far south. We didn´t really feel much of these effects. We saw only 35 knots of sustained wind with a few higher gusts and were so sheltered that it wasn´t really a big deal. There was the normal torrential downpour associated with cyclones otherwise we were safe and sound. We will feel a lot better when we know Stravaigh has made it safe to shore.

Saturday May 31, 2008

You will all be happy to know that Stravaigh made it safely to Bahia Salinas where they anchored overnight and got some much needed sleep before heading on to Playa del Coco in Costa Rica today. That will be some story to add to their repertoire, and one we hopefully will never have to experience on Warrior. We moved the boat back to our first anchorage this morning and noticed how murky the water was. The rivers were tossing a rich mixture of debris into the bay. Our crystal clear anchorage has disappeared for now. There are massive chunks of wood, leaves, and whole trees all floating past the boat. Robin´s burn is still looking nasty but Michelle put him on a pretty heft dose of antibiotics in case of infection and we bathe it twice a day in a salt water solution which seems to be the only thing helping. We really need to add a couple more items to our medical kit which we will do as soon as we get to civilization. The rain has finally abated a bit today, and the sun is shining straight over the boat, although there are enormous black clouds all around us. Michelle actually got the washing done today and the clothes dried which was a bonus. Robin calls this place moody, as there is always a changing perspective. The clouds are constantly moving, enormous convection building over the mountains and moving in one direction or another, the valleys filling with what looks like misty rain as it approaches you but which turns out to be a couple of buckets of water, then it moves on and you are left with a patch of blue sky or stars. It´s a lot of fun sitting on deck watching it.

Everchanging Landscape

We have seen some amazing birdlife, or heard it and we finally got a glimpse of the bittern that has been making its very peculiar territorial call each evening. It was like a loud pumping sound, oong-KA-chunk! repeated over and over. Every so often it would stop, stretch out its neck, point its bill skyward and sway slowly side to side as if imitating waving grass. There were also numerous green parrots, all chattering away at the top of their voices.