|The Adventures of Lynn and Les on "Cottonwood"|
The second leg of our cruise took us below Mexico. But, alas, without Sandy. Her mother became ill and she had to cut her cruising plans short. She flew home from Acapulco. We will miss her. So Lynn and I and Howard continued our quest as a threesome.
Actually, we didnt expect Mexico to be so large, and so we ended up spending quite a lot of our time traversing that country. Although, two months to most boaters we met was really screaming along. Many cruisers we met when asked responded with, oh, weve been around here for six months, or weve been in Mexico 3 years now. Now, thats not what we had set out to do, but they sure seemed to be enjoying themselves.
We arrived in Huatulco, MX to await a crossing weather pattern for the infamous Tejuantepec. This Bahia de Tejuantepec has very high winds that develop every few days all year round. These are winds that blow through a low land area across the Central American land mass when a high pressure area develops over the Gulf of Mexico. The winds in the tunnel can easily reach 50-70 knots, or more. We got our weather report from the HAM net and Weatherbouy.com and scheduled our passage for a narrow 24 hour window of winds down around 25 knots. We kept our foot on the shore as recommended, meaning stay close to shore so the waves do not have time to develop, and made it through with no problem. However, two of our companion cruisers did not fare so well. One sail boat strayed away from shore too far after crossing through the tunnel and was hit with 60-80 knot winds which blew out their main sail. The smaller single handed sailor lost speed and was caught in the tunnel and was blown 100 miles out to sea and knocked down twice. This is when a sail boat is blown over until the mast actually hits the water! He also lost his auto pilot and sailed the remainder of the way to Panama without it! Just like the olden days. This same boat, by the way, did make it ok sailing straight through while we enjoyed Costa Rica. And, it coincidently was the boat tied to us when we went through the Canal. Great job Texan, Roy, aboard Star of the Sea.
We expected to spend Christmas in a port, but we ended up in Puerto Madero on the 24th,which turned out to be our last stop in Mexico. It was a very dirty, unappealing anchorage, so after an 11 mile ride into the city, in the back of a pickup truck, to make a bank payment for checking out of Mexico, we decided to leave. After fueling up we high-tailed it out of there and decided we would rather spend Christmas at sea than stay in that port. Now that was interesting, Christmas at sea!
As we left Mexico at Puerto Madero, we skipped over Guatamala and landed at Marina Barrillas, in El Salvador. Howards friend, whom he worked with in the Coast Guard Auxilary in California, has a brother, Ismael Rodriguez, who had invited us to spend time with him and his family and was to meet us at the marina. Barrillas is three miles up river, but the run up river route begins behind a wall of ocean breakers. It was tricky getting through these. Thank goodness for cruising guides which gave us the way points and directions to get in. A Panga came to greet us and show us the rest of the way up river, which took over an hour and a half. Barrillas is a very modern and hospitable club. All cruisers are automatically a member of the club when you dock there. It has a restaurant, pool, small store, showers, and beautifully landscaped. The President of El Salvador was to be there while we were there, but we missed him. And unlike all the paperwork run around you get in Mexico, the Port Captain, Immigration, and all paperwork was done right there, and cost us a total of $10 each.
The countryside continued to be green compared to Baja, Mexico, which was arid and desert like. We saw many mangroves along rivers and inlets, however, El Salvador is mostly flat near the coastline, whereas southern Mexico was hilly and mountainous, with many more trees. We have yet to see the jungle as we expected to see by now. And, we have yet to run into mosquitoes we heard so much about even around the mangroves. Wrong time of year perhaps?
Mr. Rodriguez met us the next day and we all got in his car and he drove us to his home, about 2 hours away, in the capital, San Salvador. He didnt speak English, and we didnt speak much Spanish, but were able to get enough understood to get by. His son, Ismael Jr., did speak English and the other son Oscar was learning. They were a great help to us all. The Rodriguezs were the nicest, most hospitable people. They took us to town shopping then to dinner and Salsa dancing! By way of prices, oil filters for the boat were half the cost as in the US, and El Salvador used the US dollar as their currency, which made it very convenient for us. The next day we were treated to a trip up to the mountains to the highest point in El Salvador, 8500ft El Pital, and stayed in a mountain cabin, went hiking, and nearly froze as we had not packed any cool weather clothes and the cabins were not insulated or heated. It was another great adventure. We did worry a little about our boat, but the marina was guarded by soldiers and well fenced. When we returned all was well. We learned later that security was even tighter because of the pending visit of their President.
Leaving El Salvador, we stopped at a little Island in Golfo de Fonseca, called Chenchaquita. We got a weather forecast that said high winds from the north, and we were anchored in a north anchorage, so we quickly weighed anchor and headed around the next island called Meangueros which was touted as a safe harbor for North winds. It was a beautiful and quiet little anchorage. Howard, always getting antsy, had to go ashore. We could see nothing but a couple of little houses and a few people walking along the sand. The next thing we know Howard is going by in the dinghy with 4 young girls riding along with him!
We then skipped Honduras and Nicaragua, going on to Costa Rica. Costa Rica turned out to be one of our favorite countries. And finally, jungle. Real jungle, with vines and monkeys and Toucans and all the rest. Very beautiful. The people, as always, were very friendly. They all say Hola and will help you as best they can and expect nothing in return. We often gave gifts to these wonderful people. The tradition response in all of Costa Rica to ?Como esta?, How are you?, is, Pura Vida! Life is Good! All of us got to where we were responding in like. We went horse back riding at a wonderful little bay called Carrillo. We wound up at the top of the local mountains with a spectacular view. We then cruised on to the next anchorage at Quepos and went on a white water rafting adventure. On a scale of 1-5, 5 being very difficult and only for pros, this was 3.5. We started out a little wary, but by the end, we were asking them to bring on the 4s. All of us say we definitely want to do that again. Besides the fun of the rafting, the jungle views and lush jungle scenery were truly breathtaking. All three of us said that we would definitely like to return to Puerto Vallarta and Ziuatenejo in Mexico, but the number one must would be Costa Rica in a heart beat.
Next time, The Panama Canal!
~ Trip Pics ~
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