Captains Corner

Saturday, March 24, 2012

El Salvador!!

We are here!

 We did a lot in El Salvador so the blog is long.

We fueled up in Chiapas and began our 27 hour trip to El Salvador at  about 9 a.m. 

 Several of the sail boats left port before us and we, of course, caught up immediately, passed them all, and arrived in El Salvador, at the “bar”, around 2 p.m.   To cross the bar you must enter during high tide.  Our time was between 2 and 3 p.m.   We were right on time.  A jet ski (pilot) met us at the beginning of the bar and guided us through, shouting directions the entire time.  The “bar” is very, very dangerous.  If you do not cross it properly you can be capsized.  It is especially dangerous for sail boats.  Much more so than motor yachts.  The water swirls in all different directions and there is a lot of surge and waves, sometimes 12 to 15 feet high.  Our crossing, however, was uneventful.


We are now in a beautiful Estuary.  The ocean is on one side and the Estuary is about 9 miles long and a ½ mile wide.  On one side of the Estuary are some of the most beautiful homes and docks.  It reminds me of the Hamptons.  They belong to the very wealthy Salvadorians (of which there are very few).  On the other side are palapa huts, made out of palm fronds, with no electricity, no running water (they collect water during rainy season in cauldrons).  No cars (as it is an island).  They hollow out tree trunks and make canoes they call Cayukas.  The dichotomy from one side of the Estuary to the other is like the difference between night and day.  It is amazing.  The average Salvadorian makes $4.00 per day.  Their monetary system is U.S. dollars.  

Poor Side

Wealthy side

Poor side again.


We are currently situated in a Marina outside of what is considered a four star hotel.  They have accommodations on the ocean side and the Estuary side.  Two swimming pools (neither Jewell nor I ventured in….you wouldn’t have either).  We have parties almost every night during cocktail hour and there are several musicians in the Marina and music is in abundance.  I even got out my washboard a couple of times.  We had friends over for dinner several times and had a few parties on the boat.  It’s all such fun and such nice people.

We are the big boat!


I'm the one with the washboard!

The Tres amigos, from the sailboat Finisterre, they were so much fun.

The big excitement during the day is when a boat comes in over the bar.  People get in their skiffs to go and watch hoping there are no incidents (wink, wink).  One sail boat did go over on its side, but righted itself almost immediately.  Unfortunately all their hatches weren’t closed and it was a bit of a disaster.

Different boats crossing the bar.


The tide goes in and out 4 times a day.  You can only go in the water at high tide for a multitude of reasons.  I’ll let you use your imagination.  If you want more info, call me!!!   Also, if you skiff ride during low tide you will get caught on a sand bar.  Without fail.  The tide rises and falls at a rate of 7 to 9 feet every day.  When the tide comes in and goes out it moves very swiftly, probably at 4 or 5 knots.

We took a skiff ride about 7 miles down the Estuary to a small village called Herradurra.  Being the bright people we are, we figured we wouldn’t get caught on the sand so we went during low tide.  Guess what!!??  We got stuck.  I had three guys in the skiff and they got out in ankle deep water and lifted the skiff off the sand.  We proceeded without another incident.  Herradurra was full of stores and shops.  Meat hangs in the hot summer sun as does fish and chicken.  It didn’t smell too good.  It was an experience.

The entrance to Herradura.  You pick a kid to watch your skiff .

The mode of transportation, a tuk-tuk,

The central market with the hanging meat.

Have you ever seen how cashews grow?  It is amazing.  Take a look at the photo.  The fruit grows and on the end is the cashew nut.  You break the nut off from the fruit and then you are supposed to roast the nut to crack the outer casing.  However, there are toxic fumes that are emitted from the nut during this process.  How they do this commercially I can’t imagine.  Here they wear masks and do the “dastardly” de-shelling outside of their “homes”.  This is why cashews are so, so expensive.  The nut is one fifth the size of the fruit.  They tell us the fruit is edible and to freeze and then eat it.  We put the fruit in the freezer.   It is still there, considering the toxic nature of the nut we have not been brave enough to try it out.

Wild, right?

We have taken several trips into San Salvador to buy food and supplies.  It is about an hour and a half from the Marina and we hired a driver for $80 a day.  Jewell single handily is supporting the economy of El Salvador.  

Buying on the street is crazy and exciting.

This was the cheapest meat I have ever seen.  And it was good.

San Salvador's way of making the city look better.  Planted trash cans.

Jewell got into the street buying frenzy with Lucio.

Patrick and his friend Hunter came to visit and they ate and drank every bit of food available on the boat.  We shopped again after they left.  I’d forgotten how much two college boys can consume.  LOTS.   I took the boys wake boarding and they had a ball.  When it was time to leave, due to mass confusion, the boys left in true El Salvadorian style, in the back of a pick-up truck.  OY!

Hunter, Grandma and Patrick!  We had fun with them.

In front of marine customs.

They thought it was cool to ride in the back of the truck.  We were very nervous.  Oh well we figured it was El Salvador after all.
The most common food in El Salvador is Pupusas.  They are as prevalent as are tacos in Mexico.  It’s like a big fat stuffed tortilla filled with beans or cheese or meat or any combination thereof.  Jewell went to a cooking class to find out how to make them.  I’m still waiting! She decided to just make tortillas instead.

I am sure I can make these.

But I need more filling.

Jewell's home made tortillas.  They were pretty good.

Jewell's new $3.95 tortilla maker!!

We took our scooter out for a 25 mile ride down the only road that leads to and from the Marina.  It also is the road to San Salvador.  During our ride we needed to stop several times for pigs, cows, horses, goats and a variety of other animals as they walked freely in the road.  It was just unbelievable.  I never thought I would hear "watch out for the cattle" as we rode along.

Made us laugh every time we saw this.  And we saw it every time we went out.
An American called “Island Jan” built a home on the Estuary.  She teaches the natives how to speak English.  We went to her home for a chicken dinner and picked loads of mango off of her tree.  The mango are so sweet and there are literally thousands of trees surrounding us. There are also banana trees and other fruits.
A few years ago we met up with a couple, Collette and Murray, boaters also came in for the rally one year and decided to build a home here.  They invited Patrick and his friend to come and pick mango.  The color of my skin is now orange.  But boy are they good.  Jewell is freezing some for future use.

Hunter and Patrick in search of horticulture and mangos on the Island

 The Rally coordinators try and keep it interesting around here.  We went for a volcano tour, had a ketchup tasting and a catamaran tour around the Estuary.  One day we even went to one of the restaurants up on stilts.  You can only get there when the tide is high.  I can’t believe I went there.  They have no refrigeration but have fresh fish they just caught plus rice and beer.   I did not eat the fish.  But Jewell did.  And she lived to tell the tale.

Types of ketchup lined up for tasting.

What better tasting item than french fries.  Hunts won.

Stilt restaurant.


Some of our group inside of the restaurant on stilts.

Lucio celebrated his 29th birthday and his 5th year of working for us.  We took him to the only decent restaurant on the Estuary.  Oddly enough someone else was celebrating her birthday and offered to share her cake with him.  He had fun, as did we.  He’s a treasure.

Feliz Complianos Lucio.
Aggie met a new friend, Zoe, who belongs to our new friends Penny and John from the sailboat Contento.  In Penny Aggie found a substitute mother.  She doesn’t ever look back when Penny and Zoe come around to take her for a walk.  

Aggie going with Zoe, and her mom Penny, on her first play date.  They even had a sleep over.

Aggie on Zoe's boat.  They are best buds.
Aggie exhausted after a day with Zoe.
We met lots of people here we will be friends with for a long time.  Here are some of their photos.

Gary, Kenny and Tom

Jean and Bill who ran the rally and Penny in the middle.

Zoe's parents, John and Penny.

Scott and Joyce.
We leave tomorrow for Costa Rica.  A bunch of boats left today and we are all going to the same locations.  The trip will take us 27 to 30 hours and the sailboats 24 hours longer.  We can’t leave to cross the bar until high tide, around 2 p.m. UGH,  and hopefully will arrive at  Bahia Salinas in Costa Rica around 5 p.m.  That’s it for now.  Keep reading and we will keep writing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chiapas, Mexico

We made the crossing without a hitch.  The weather was beautiful the whole trip.  The only slight kink was when we saw lights behind us, about 5 miles.   The bleep on the radar kept getting closer to us.  We were on a straight path and wanted to keep to our course and not divert.  We hailed the boat, and then hailed him again.  We finally had Lucio try in Spanish and nothing.  Meanwhile he is getting closer and closer.  Finally Lucio tries one more time and the guy answers by saying Que Pasa?  Lucio says “why are you directly behind us?”  He yells – OH I move now, I move now.  Apparently he was ASLEEP!   OY.  

The radar is all we watch during an all night passing.

Aggie is such a good traveler.

 F        We made it into Chiapas, Mexico about 10 am.  Finding our way into the port entrance was a chore in itself, between the dredging and all of the fishing boats.  But it was picturesque.  The marina is still somewhat under construction, hence the dredging at the entrance and no power or water on the marina dock.  Everything is there and ready to be used, they are just waiting for “the signature” so they can turn it on.  They’ve been waiting for a year.   That’s Mexico!!

The Dredger  
 There were about 7 boats that entered the marina the same day as we and would also be making the crossing to El Salvador.  As the last boat came in, they announced that we cannot leave until Sunday because they are closing the marina for the dredging to continue.  After we all finished sighing and cursing we decided it was cocktail time.  But wait!

Military and immigration had to check us into port.  They boarded our boat with their drug sniffing dog (the dog wore boots on the front paws he wouldn’t scratch the boats???).  They asked us odd questions about the boat and then filled out enough paperwork to sink a ship!!!  At one point we thought we might be selling the boat to them. 

We were finally checked into our last port of call in Mexico.  We are only 12 miles from the Guatemala border. 
Now we need to find out where to provision.  We also need to find out how to check out of Mexico.  Checking out is a must when leaving the country.  You need to receive your Zarppe so you can present it to the next country of entry. 

The marina manager, Enrique, an extremely handsome man, and just as nice as can be,  came to our boat to tell us where to provision and that he and his assistant, Memo,  would take us the next day to check out.  They called for a 9:00am gathering time for all eight boats.  One person from each vessel came to the meeting .  By the time we got every paper we needed it was already 10:30. 

 So 8 of us went out on this adventure.  First to the Port Authority, paying $7.00 for the use of the water we were floating in.  That took about 2 hours.  Then to customs to have our passports stamped and pay $35.  This process only took about 1 ½ hours   Next,  the port captain,  to check our paper work and to receive the actual Zarppe.  To add insult to injury,  they could not give us the paperwork because their computers were down.  Note, however, there was no problem paying them the $134 fee after traveling 45 minutes to the bank and 45 minutes back!!!   This portion took 2 hours. 

When we arrived back at the port captain’s office to collect our Zarppe no one was there.  They were out for their siesta!!  We raised a stink so Enrique called the Port Captain.  He came back about 45 minutes later.  The entire process took  7 + hours.  And this, my friends, is what boaters call the Mexican “paper cha-cha-cha”.

Alright so now to our food shopping expedition and a little Mayan Ruin touring – not difficult right.  Well guess again.   Deborah, being the kind soul she is,  hired a car for us to get into the town.  They said they would send their large SUV so Deb invited 2 others to go with us Scott and Joyce from sv Life is Good.  (Has she not seen what I bring back to the boat when I shop????)  The SUV was the size of a sardine can. 

Joyce, Scott and Deb

More Ruins

 But first to the Ruins.  The Ruins we saw were the first ones that the Mayans built.  They are referred to as the classic period.  There were not really many and they were very basic.  We learned about the local trees and a bit about the CaƧcoa (prounced cah cow) tree that produce the pods of cocoa beans.  We tasted all kinds of stuff and even went to a coffee place to buy this special coffee.


Turtle Ruin?

Inside the Cacao

The Cacao pods on the trees.

Now for the shopping.  Our friends bought 2 to 3 bags at each stop I, however, had 6-8.  We had so much stuff we could not fit it all into the SUV and I had to take a taxi back to the boat.  We were exhausted when we returned.  We unloaded and got to know the other boaters on in the Rally and waited to make our final crossing into El Salvador.