Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

Crossing the Bar!

Crossing the bar into Bahia del Sol proved to be a somewhat hair-raising experience, as we watched the massive surf break over the bar. The surge is such that a pilot must come out in a sea doo to guide you through the shallow channel . Chantey was second of the four boats waiting in trepedation to go through after the long double overnighter from Chiapas, Mexico.  We got the signal and turned our bow to face the wall of water coming at us. Taking a deep breath,  Daragh went full power and plunged into the surf, white knuckles gripping the wheel! In a matter of minutes we were through and had crossed into the tranquility of lovely Bahia del Sol. We anchored off the marina and headed ashore to a warm welcome from the 27 sailboats here for the Rally to El Salvador.
Tom and Lori of SV Camelot

El Salvador

After 12 years of civil war, life in El Salvador appears peaceful and the people are hopeful for a bright future. The new local government sponsored a dinner/dance for the cruisers in anticipation of more tourism from North America in years to come. We enjoyed 'pupus', the native munchies (tortillas filled with bits of meat and pickled veggies), hamburgers, and, of course,the Rally tote bag, filled with useful sailor paraphernalia. Then we danced in to the night to the rhythm of the Salvadoran version of The Macarena.

San Salvador and Antigua, Guatemala

After a couple of days lolling by the pool and catching up with cruisers, we planned a trip inland. Our first day trip took us into the the urban sprawl of San Salvador, the capital. Once there we deposited our Mac computer  at the Apple Store for repairs, after a wave splooshed through an open hatch during a crossing and doused the electronics. Dang!
Antigua jazz
      Bouncing along country roads on a Chicken Bus, one would never suspect that El Salvador had recently suffered through a civil war. There is still much work to be done, but it is obvious that these bright, hard-working people are eager to move on. Gazing out the window at the interplay of rural and urban life, one sees a herd of cows meander aimlessly down the center of the road, a peasant woman with a massive bale of sticks perched precariously on her head, a family making totillas on a wood stove at a stand outside KFC off a modern freeway.   Just another day in the life of Central America.

      A seemingly endless five and a half hour bus ride through La Libertad and Guatemala City, brought us to the quiet, refined streets of the old colonial capital of Antigua. The name conjures up ancient times....
crumbling edifices, narrow cobbled streets, quaint store fronts and casas with cool, green interior courtyards, coffee houses selling demi-tasse and delicacies, and all the amenities you would expect from a small European city transposed to Central America. Delightful!

    We spent 3 days visiting our Irish friend Turlough, at his exquisite home in the old quarter of the city. With Turlough as guide we wandered the ornate corridors of the city peering into tiendas and shops, checking out the wares and the colourful Guatemalan arts and crafts scene. We sat under a shady canopy of trees by a fountain  in the palaza , and enjoyed an evening jazz concert amid 15th century ruins, backlit with a stunning array of coloured lights.

 Next day we were off south for an overnight stay at the popular resort town of Panajacuel on Lake Atitlan. Guatemala is a country of vast mountain ranges, jungle foliage and volcanoes. We traveled to a summit of 6500 feet before descending to the picture postcard , azure blue lake below , set amongst 3 volcanoes. Simply breathtaking! Five small villages ring the lake. The Mayan villagers are very petite and gentle folk with ready smiles. All the women wear traditional dress; decorative, hand-woven, long skirts with bright , multicolored, adorned blouses and head scarves. Beautiful to behold! The homes are basic cinderblock and corrugated steel, with one simple woodstove, but as the weather is warm and balmy the construction needs are quite simple. We left Marios' Rooms, an inexpensive mini-hotel (basic breaky and dinner included for $32), for our return trip and last day with Turlough in Antigua. He introduced us to Jeremy and Sonia, an interesting sailing couple from England and Africa, living in Canada and traveling down the East Coast, who happen to own a Moody 376, the same boat as us! Daragh's eyes lit up and the boat banter was on! We hope to meet up again one day, perhaps at the Rio Dulce, on the Caribbean side.

    Early Saturday morning we reluctantly packed our bags and said farewell to our dear friend. Turlough had a picnic lunch tucked away for us and perfect for a long day on hot Chicken Buses.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mexican Riviera - > Hualtulco update

The idylic setting of Zihuatanejo lived up to its’ exotic name with a mound of soft green hills encircling a protected harbour. At night it simply sparkles with the lamps from the houses that reach right to the top all around. Although it has grown rapidly into a large city, it still has that small town feeling on the cobblestone streets and markets of the old town. We arrived on a boisterous overnighter from Maruata, nursing a jury rigged throttle which had broken inside the binnacle along the way. It was the last day of Sailfest, a mostly cruiser-run education fundraiser for the children of Zihuatanejo,and met up with cruiser friends on the boardwalk, Bob (Kuan Yin 1), Ian and Ellen (Kasasa), as well as Debbie and Mark (Younger Girl). We spent a couple weeks waiting for now 3 boat parts (a familiar theme it seems), swimming and strolling the beaches, and nibbling tacos. A great discovery was the lovely Playa de Ropa beach, a dinghy ride across from the Z-Town anchorage - pure white sand and clear warm waters, so salty even Georgie floats! While walking the dog we met a friendly Vancouver couple, Madelaine and Nils, down for a week of sun and escape from the gloom, with whom we enjoyed chatting and sharing travel stories.
Apart from the charms of this lively and unpretentious city by the sea, the highlight has been playing our music and jammin’ with Liz and Chris on Espiritu. With Chris and Daragh on violin and mandolins and Liz and I on guitars, as well as flute, we make quite a musical quartet. It brought to mind the duets of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr.Maturin of the Patrick OBrien maritime novel series (ie. Master and Commander), Jack on cello and Stephen on violin, playing classical duets well into the night.

Fun in Acapulco!
At last our parts arrived and we heaved-ho and set `Otto``(the autopilot) on track for Acapulco. We med-tied to the slip at the very toni, Acapulco Yacht Club, compliments of Royal Vic, for a couple of days reciprocals, and a well-needed scrub down (boat and crew)! Lounging poolside, Daragh recalled his early memory of Acapulco, as a wee lad growing up in Ireland, and reading the dreamy Hollywood movie posters at the local cinema....`Èlvis Presley in Fun in Acapulco``. Wow! Intrigued, we looked it up on YouTube, and watched with glee as a very buff Elvis strutted his stuff to a Hollywood set of Mexican senoritas, breaking into song at every opportunity.  Later we followed the movie trail to El Mirador Hotel, Cliffside to observe the famous Divers of La Quebrada plunging hundreds of feet down sheer, narrow canyons to the surging waters below. Stupendo!
Puerto Angel

An angel actually did appear to us at the cove of Puerto Angel, by the name of Antonio, as we were attempting to raise anchor. The anchor was firmly wedged to the bottom, and was not budging no matter what. While we were tugging and scratching our heads, out of the water appeared a snorkeler, Antonio, swimming across the bay home. We waved him down and he cheerfully agreed to dive down 35ft. and check out the problem. He surfaced momentarily with a large mass of old mooring line and kelp, and quickly cut it away with a hacksaw. With their amazing prowess in the water, and incredible lung capacity, these Mexican pescadores make it look so easy. As soon as we were cut loose the wind carried us off, waving gratefully to our very own Mexican angel!
Once again we are ever thankful to Charlie and Margo, authors of Charlie’s Charts, for their excellent guidebook. Puerto Angel was not only a beautiful and serene haven, but also a most hospitable anchorage with kindly ‘mermen’ to help out in times of need

Ever wonder how the Pescadores get the Pangas parked so high up the beach? Check this out and you may be able to retire your dinghy wheels!

Huatulco, La Cruceita

 The cruisers are hunkering down here at Marina Chaue, Huatulco, awaiting a weather window to cross the Gulf. We passed the hot, langourous days visiting the darling town/village of LaCruceita, and the lush greenery of the town square. The town caters to the cruise ships which dock at Santa Cruz Bahia nearby, so there is a sense of understated affluence, not often seen in these difficult economic times. The next leg of the trip could be a bit rocky. The formidable reputation of the Gulf of Tehuantepec leaves us with a slight trepidation, since the winds sweeping over the Isthmus maintain a yearly average of force 6 on the Beaufort Scale, and can actually blow you out to sea! The crossing means two days overnight and possibly, a long, bumpy ride. The map below probably expresses the situation best.....


I am sailing, I am sailing,  home again, across the sea.
I am sailing, stormy waters, to be near you, to be free.

Can you hear me, can you hear me, through the dark night, far away,
I am dying, forever trying, to be with you, to be free.
Rod Stewart