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Quetzal Port Captain

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Quetzal Base Naval

Net Result at Barillas

Barillas at last

B Dock Alumni News - Volume V

        Welcome! 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 France 2001 Net Result 1999-2000 Net Result Ventura to San Diego San Diego to Cabo San Lucas Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad Barra de Navidad to Acapulco Acapulco to Barillas, E.S. El Salvador E.S. to Playa Panama, C.R. Playa de Coco to Golfito Golfito, C.R. Misc. Items

Acapulco - Barillas Marina Club, El Salvador

May 4 - 22, 2000

My gosh I can hardly believe it's been about 6 - 7 weeks since I've posted everyone on what's been happening with us!

When last you heard from us we were getting ready to make the "big hop" -- crossing the Gulf of Tehuanepec. It's the

large gulf at the bottom of Mexico that has a range of mountains that historically funnel the wind through to the pacific

coast from the Caribbean coast creating gusty treacherous conditions for sailors. We had studied and studied the

strategies of making the crossing--the need to "keep one foot on the shore" (staying as close to the shore as possible)

in 50 feet of water as you pass it and never, ever cut straight across as the winds only increase and create perilous

conditions. I wanted to pass the most difficult portion of the 285 mile crossing during the daylight as well as take

advantage of the full moon. This would be a 3 night two day passage for us. To make the daytime passage of that area

would require we leave out of Huatulco in the late afternoon to arrive just past Salina Cruz at first light. It's very odd

that there is still only about 12 hours of daylight as we travel closer to the equator. At home in the Channel Islands as

summer nears you have daylight for 14-15 hours. The night time passage to Salina Cruz had wind right on our nose and

a great deal of wind chop making it uncomfortable. Tehuanepec found us pretty much becalmed with flat seas so we

motored the whole way still staying close to shore. We had calculated that we would not be able to get to the last

Mexican port (Puerto Madero) on the other side of Tehuanepec by sunset, and so we'd checked out of the country and

planned on continuing to Guatemala. We actually sailed most of the day to Puerto Madero (what a treat!) and as evening

came the wind died and we started the engine. We were boarded by the Mexican Navy for an inspection as we'd been

told happened quite frequently as we were very close to the Guatemalan border. That night was our first encounter with

"convection". This isn't something that Betty Crocker deals with! It's intense lightning which is pretty scary when you're

this tiny little boat out in the middle of the dark ocean with bolts coming down to the ground. We were disconnecting our

antennas and electronic gear fearing that we'd lose them all by being fried should we be hit with a bolt. We kept a close

watch on our radar and that really helped.

After an exhausting night of lightning storms and the wind still on our nose, dawn brought more wind on the nose and

very choppy seas and a large swell from another direction. We spent the better part of the next day pounding into

waves making no headway. We tried tacking one way and then the other to no benefit. We were exhausted and it

seemed we weren't making any progress towards our destination of Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. At one point we were

so exhausted we turned backwards just to get some rest and regroup. We had calculated that we'd be arriving at night

(about 10p) but knew that the port was a commercial port and was well marked. As night fell, ominous clouds covered

the full moon and the winds increased to 35kts just off our bow, and the wind chop was slowing our forward progress in

half.

We had the jib and main out pounding into the waves close hauled and the engine going to keep us going forward when

we pounded into a wave and came to a complete stop if it weren't. It was very wet as we pounded our way into the

harbor finally at 1:30am. As soon as we came in to the channel we were greeted with the first calm we'd had in over 24

hours. Ahhh. Anchored in the black of night and crashed into a dead sleep in minutes. Another boat was in the

anchorage for the past two days and hadn't made any attempt to check in as they spoke no spanish and didn't even

make an attempt to contact the port captain as instructed in all the cruising guides. They latched on to us and we ended

up being their guides and translators y mas. I have no idea why they were out cruising as the wife gets deadly seasick

every time they went out. Chuck & Jeanette on "La Vagabunda" left Huatulco after us and stopped in Puerto Madero as

they had a little more control of their arrival time than we did. They came in a couple of days later and it was fun to

catch up with them.

Our next hop was to El Salvador to a new marina that had just opened that was the buzz of the cruisers grape vine. It

should have been a little more than a 24 hour sail. We left at the crack of dawn (4:30a) to get the maximum of daylight

travel and the minimum of nighttime lightning storms. Our "hangers on-ers" (who will remain nameless), advised us

that they would depart at the same time but then slept in. The wind picked up by 10am right on our nose (where else)

and made for a miserable day. We needed to keep up our speed as arrival time in El Salvador was crutial because we

needed to go through a pass and up a river for 2 hours prior to arriving at the marina.

By 3pm, we were exhausted and I suggested we pull into Acajutla, El Salvador our marked alternate-- a big smelly port

for a nights sleep and rest. It was getting close to sunset (6pm) when we pulled in. I hollered over to a police boat in

my best of spanish and asked if it would be OK to anchor for the night. He said sure but that we had to call "La Torre"

on 16 and ask permission. Gulp. The anchorage was filled with either big container ships or decrepit fishing boats, we

definitely stood out. Do you know how hard it is to talk and understand what people are saying in another language on

the radio? But it had to be done. Sure the guy said on the radio, you can anchor for the night. It's $10/24 hr period and

the east side of the anchorage is where you should anchor. I thanked him and took the helm, as Joe went forward to

work the windlass. We made a couple of circles and were just about to put the anchor down when the voice came across

the radio: "No, not there a little more towards shore". I look from side to side, hum, how could this guy on the radio

possibly know where were were. Then again "Yes, that's a good place". Finally I realized he was in this huge tower like

at airports watching us and duh, that's what "la torre" means in spanish -- the tower. The hanger on-ers radioed us "to

make arrangements for their arrival" also, and being good cruisers we talked them into the anchorage as it was dark

when they came in because of their late start. We coordinated the check-in/check-out and rides ashore to pay the fees

for ourselves and them also. Are you starting to get the picture here? Chuck & Jeanette opted to continue on and not

stop so they were now ahead of us. That would work perfectly as they would make arrangements for our arrival in

Barillias the next day.

As we needed to arrive at Bahia Jiquilisco, El Salvador early in the day to make it up the river we HAD to leave Acajutla

in the afternoon forcing us into a sail at night when "convective activity" is at it's finest. We lead out of the anchorage

and set our course and the hanger on-ers informed us that they would like to stay very close to us through the passage.

Did we have a choice? :-) We had spoken with Chuck on the radio who had now arrived at the marina and he was

coordinating the panga guide for us at the bocana to lead both boats through.

Like a horse in sight of the barn, after a pretty horrendous night filled with some incredible lightning storms when dawn

came "the hanger on-ers" were ahead of us as they're a bigger boat (who isn't out here), and were on the radio with the

marina making arrangements for themselves to be lead through the pass with no mention what-so-ever of us! We had

previously told them that it was a two hour trip up the river and it would be important for us to go through together so

one doesn't get stuck waiting outside of the boca for the guide. Well, you guessed it. Off they went without a single

consideration of us! We had to sit outside the boca in 8-10 foot swells that were breaking all around us for 45 minutes

because the marina had to find someone else who could guide us through the boca as their only guide was bringing

them through! When our guide came roaring out through the boca (mostly in the air due to the surf he was cutting

through) and turned to us and said "vamanos" we knew we were in trouble! He went roaring off at an angle and we had

no idea what we were supposed to do. Just at that time Joe turned around to see a massive wave the height of our

radar unit on our pole at the stern just preparing to break on us.

It scared the crap out of us! Joe did great at the helm. We kept trying to call the guy over and talk to him to tell him to

slow down as we couldn't go as fast as him and ask him for instructions. Finally I radioed the marina pretty pissed and

the guy in the panga realized he had screwed up. It was going high tide and the pass was pretty hairy and even once

through it was pretty tough for about another 30 minutes. Needless to say once we were clicked into our mooring at the

marina, I didn't even want to see, let alone speak to the hanger on-ers EVER again! I think they got my non-verbal

message pretty clearly as they steered clear. You know this was a real shocker for us as this was the first encounter

since we'd been out cruising of truly selfish, inconsiderate people. We're all out here together and need to think of each

other, and help others out whenever you can. But this was an experience I hope to never repeat!

On to better things -- 23 days in El Salvador in Part VI

 

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