Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Grenada to El Salvador

Chantey V Caribbean track on DeLorme InReach

Grenada to El Salvador
High five from Ethan & Nana
Prickely Bay, Grenada

Spring Break went by quickly back in Victoria. Cathy and I prepared her Westall house for sale the 1st week and it sold the same day it was listed! We had lots of good times with Grandson Ethan, my how he is growing so quickly.
Saltspring Island sailor Ole Andersen returned to Grenada with me on March 29th. The bottom paint job by Spice Island Marina looked terrific and the topsides have never looked better with the now matching dodger sewn by Turbulence Sails.
Nice bottom job
Wow - matching canvass finally!
Our insurance required us to get a new survey and this was passed easily by Bob Goodchild (phew) and we were ready to go. We made the usual provisioning run and were on our way for a double over nighter to Los Roques in Venezuela.
All dead downwind with Main and Genoa but this sail setup was not ideal and it was hard to balance the rig with the big seas in the 7 to 9 ft range. Los Roques turned out to be a lovely spot with white sand beaches ...and streets! It was a Saturday and the officials were very friendly and efficient.
Beached  at Los Roques, Venuzela
The exchange rate of 200 Bolivars to the $1 made the change from $50 look an impressive stash! The beer at 60 cents a can in the restaurants has to be the lowest of anywhere we have been, but no surprise most were sold out by Sunday night.
We toured the nearby Francis Island by dinghy which was bustling with locals having swimming and dancing events.
$20 in Bolivars

We got our Zarpe on Monday and moved on to Bonaire. More dead down wind sailing but this time we twinned our storm jib with a poled out genoa and what a difference. Completely stable and steered easily by our trusty Helga the Hydrovane. (Otto is sulking) We reached Bonaire without incident and found the check in reasonably quick and efficient.
I knew we bought the storm jib for something!
A little bit of Holland in the middle of the Caribbean and still quite unspoilt, with a population of around 12,000.
Next on to Curacao and the twin headsail rig was just great again, with very little slapping in the persistent big sea. Of course up to 2 knots current assist would make any boat put up impressive VMG!
Floating swing bridge, Curacao
We anchored in Spannse Water but there was still no relief from the 25 G30 Knot winds. We awoke next day to find we had dragged a couple of boat lengths and went for a reset only to pick up an abandoned mooring chain. One hour of back breaking labour to hoist and recover our anchor, (and Ole) convinced me I had to get myself an electric windlass.
Within a few hours I had located one at Trotac in Victoria and Linda Ellen agreed (God bless her) to bring it down when she came to join us in Aruba. We managed to pick up some related parts at the local chandlers and began the installation process expertly directed by Ole.
Power windlass -its a thing of beauty
The strong Trade winds still would not abate but with Linda flying in Saturday we really had to get going to Aruba. It's all down wind we reasoned which was true but its not often you can make 8 kts with just the dodger and bimini. We had to drop the Bimini to try and slow down for our arrival at dawn into Oranjestad.
After checking in we docked at the Renaissance Marina which was a bit of luxury after being on the hook for a week. Linda joined us and and we took advantage of the wait for a  weather window to rest and relax at the pool in between boat projects. We had a great meal at the Driftwood restaurant where the owner catches all the fish he serves daily.
Driftwood restaurant fishing machine
Finally the winds and seas eased a little and we decided to go for it to Panama. Our carefully timed departure was spoiled by a local immigration official missing a stamp in one passport and then disappearing to lunch for 2 1/2 hours before we could get him back. We went as fast as possible to make up but  we ended up passing the Barranquilla river effluent late but fortunately all logs and debris disappear after dark....right?
The current now turned against us and the wind gradually eased so that it was 5 days later when we set foot on the docks of Shelter Bay Marina in Colon.
There was some smooth sailing
A very welcome sight and we relished the pool, showers bar and restaurant at this excellent and well run marina. John the manager remembered us from the last visit and is still his super helpful self brimming with useful local knowledge.
We made a re-provisioning run into Colon and had a quick look around. Ole and I went to work on completing the windlass installation which now looks terrific! Our Canal agent Roy Bravo got us a transit slot in an unheard of 2 days and Wednesday afternoon we were off to the Flats to pick up our Canal Advisor. This was the first use of the new windlass and it worked perfectly. Muchos gratias Ole for the inspiration and Linda for bringing it down!
Panama canal passage at night
It was near 6:30pm by the time our adviser showed up so we had to do the Gatun Lock transit in the dark. Not nearly the smooth operation we had with SV Tension Reliever 3 years ago and it took 3 attempts before we could raft with our buddy catamaran. Our local Panamanian linesman Daniel along with his son Alan were excellent and good company too. Our adviser Francisco was also excellent -no surprise his other job is tug-boat skipper and the reason he was late was that he was filling in for another no-show adviser.
It was after 10pm when we finally tied up at the Gatun Lake mooring doughnut and relaxed with some well earned rums and cervezas, and even got a singalong going with the guitar and mando!
Linda line handles the head end
Next morning we were all set for the scheduled arrival of canal adviser at 6:30am. Two showed up for the others boats a little after 7 but nobody for us. After numerous calls to canal control and our agent we finally got Francisco back at 11am. Apparently another no-show adviser that day as well! We made all possible speed and even got permission to fly our head sail all the way which had going at 8 knots at times! Nevertheless we missed our down locking slot and got to do a center locking on our own which was quite an experience.
Panhandler turns linehandler
We were paired with a huge canal tug for the last 2 locks at Mirflores and this was easily the most difficult of all, try to tread water in a huge current in the dark. Finally we got out and made our way to drop off the adviser and try to find a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club. We were so happy to get ashore for a beer and supper only to they were sold out of food! Ole got a taxi to his hotel and we returned to the boat for sandwiches. Next day we all met for lunch at the Flamenco penninsula before saying adios to Ole. Thanks for all the help Ole, Chantey V will never be the same again!
A couple of Panamanian swells
Next morning Linda and I prepared to get under way for Golfito, Costa Rica, at first light. We took advantage of the light wind conditions to hoist the main at the mooring and we given clearance to depart on a track just outside the reds on the main channel. We were almost clear when a canal official boat ordered us to drop the sails. Darn - "no sailing in the canal zone".  Kinda silly considering we had sailed completely across the canal itself!
Still, we began to notice positive currents again and we really moving as we passed Punta Malo on the SW tip of Panama. Our route was planned to go outside all the small islands and we enjoyed positive currents at various strengths all the way. No so much with the wind and we had to motor sail most of the way.
Golfito to Vancouver the easy way
Still, we arrived in Golfito at noon 2 days later and were 6 hours ahead of schedule. It was great to be welcomed by Tim & Kathie (and the doggies) at Land Sea Marina, the cruiser friendliest place in Costa Rica! We later combined a trip to the Aduana with a visit to the Latitude 8 bar for happy hour and got caught up with the resident Gringos.
Next day we got a national zarpe and went for an over nighter to Manuel Antonio National Park. Once again favorable currents had us slowing down for a daylight arrival and we tucked right into the Park anchorage at first light. A surf landing onto the beach was a reminder of even worse conditions here 3 years ago.
Linda dries out after surfing in to Park
We had a good walk around the park and saw lots of monkeys, sloths, snakes and lizards and well as amazing jungle. Later we took a trip by bus to Quepos and had an excellent lunch at the Marina there.
Cute Capuchin monkey
We just barely got back to the Park before it closed and had to hustle to get back to the dinghy. Another wet launch but by now we are content to to make any getaway at all!
We decided once was enough and planned to set out for Playa del CoCo next day. The sky darkened considerably over coffee and sure enough we were awash in rain for the next hour such that you could hardly see the beach. I guess rainy season is arriving! The new dodger is great and kept us pretty comfy and dry inside. We got under way soon afterwards and one over nighter later we were dropping the hook in the North of the bay at Playa del CoCo. Not too rolly and a little later we tried a beach landing - a little more coordinated this time and not quite as wet! We checked out the town and had a nice lunch. I booked snorkel tour for next day with Rich Coast Diving. They picked me up right off our boat and I got a personal guide for the morning.
An excellent outfit that I would recommend but be aware that water clarity can vary a lot from day to day in this area.
Costa Rica diving
Next day back to the paperwork cha cha to get an International zarpe. It took all day including over an hour wait at the banks to pay a $20 port captain fee and 2 trips by bus to Liberia airport to track down a  customs agent to surrender our Temporary Boat Import permit. Finally, at 4 pm we we back on the boat hoisting the anchor to set out for El Salvador. We had a good weather forecast from Chris Parker and he was spot on. As a result we sailed all the way at great speed under triple reef and reefed genoa, easily the best sail of the trip. Once again we really had to slow down at the end as the bar crossing was not possible until 4:20pm. We met John on Polaris standing by to go in as well. The surf looked ...well quite intimidating and it did not help when the pilot said he was delayed getting out to us "because of the big surf"
Wave surfing into Bahia
We motored back and forth at the meeting place and finally the pilot showed up. We went over first and actually had a pretty smooth if exciting ride in. Not so much for Polaris as a wave broke over his stern and some went down his companionway soaking his computer.
Chantey V returns!
We docked at the Bahia del Sol Hotel Marina and got the traditional Rum welcome (with a Guinness on the side for me) from Bill and Jean -the El Salvador Rally organizers. We had the same quick and efficient check in formalities from the local officials on site.
El Salvador Rally welcome from Bill
Next up was boat preparation for the long summer layup at Santos Moorings. It took a full day in San Jose and at the airport to retrieve 2 cylinder head studs I had sent down for Canada via UPS!  What a contrast to the check in!
Next day John from Polaris helped me extract the old stud and install the new one. Thanks John!
After that it was time to socialize in including visits to Lou and Lynns up the estuary as well as Bill and Jeans now place on Isla Cordoncillo. Finally boat prep was complete and we moved onto the new mooring prepared for us by Santos.
Santos and family
Chantey V is riding nicely and we have our fingers crossed for a mild summer until we resume our cruise north next winter.

Chantey V covered for summer

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