Thursday, May 8, 2014


April 28, 2014

Monday was just another day in El Salvador.  I spent a good part of the day working on my blog with very slow internet and laboriously picking out songs on my new guitar.  Deni delivered another 100 gallons of water and we chatted in Spanish while he pumped it into our tanks.  Scott cleaned the spilled battery acid out of the battery box and installed the new starting battery.  It was hot.  Neither of us felt like doing much.

April 29, 2014

Me Sailing Off a Water Slide
I got up at 5:30 on Tuesday to go running by six.  Instead of being greeted by the usual herd of milk cows outside the gate, I encountered four pretty little Arab horses grazing unattended along the side of the road. 

Later, as I was eating breakfast, Janet stopped by to bring me a thumb drive with pictures from our trip to the water park.  She was going grocery shopping, so I tagged along.  Janet had a truck.  We didn’t get out of the neighborhood before we ran across a pickup truck selling vegetables by the side of the road.  I bought carrots, tomatoes, a plantain, and a cantaloupe for $1.50. We continued down the road and then stopped at one of the primitive looking stalls made of sticks, palm fronds and corrugated tin to buy more vegetables.  There, I got lettuce, radishes (Salvadoran radishes are immense!), cilantro, two kinds of peppers, a cucumber and some limes for $3.00. 

Our next stop was at the hardware store.  Janet needed a rake and some hose to pump water from her cistern up to the solar water heating system on the roof.  People living on the island have to provide their own electricity and water.  Ten kilometers down the road, we stopped at a small supermarket.  They even had an ATM.  The only unprocessed meat offered there was chicken, so I bought several packages of different cuts and some sausage.  Since Janet had a truck, I got beer, juice and a few cans of diet coke to keep me awake on late night watches if I started to pass out.  I also bought some meat tenderizer, since the only beef I had been able to find seemed to have come from former dairy cows that had outlived their usefulness.  We turned around at the grocery store, stopped at a couple of tiendas to look unsuccessfully for soy sauce, and then finished our errands at a store across the street from the marine store where Janet bought ice and I picked up a couple of pounds of beef that I hoped would be more tender than the last batch I had purchased.  At $3.50/pound, the beef was kind of expensive, so I hoped it wouldn’t be shoe leather.  It was useful to shop with a local because I never would have realized that half of the businesses were open.

When we got back, we unloaded our booty at the boat launch ramp and I stayed and chatted with David, the security guard, while Janet went to park her truck and fetch her launch.  He was very curious about the meaning of all the boat names.  Some of them I could translate for him, but some of the ones that were puns just didn’t make sense in Spanish.  Janet dropped me and my groceries off at Fool’s Castle, where we met Scott preparing to go across the estuary with Venus to take his outboard to the mechanic.  I had been supposed to go, but Venus had decided to go a bit early.  I left Scott with the groceries so he could work on the boat and jumped into Venus’ launch with Venus and Patrick.  We buzzed across the water and left the motor with Juan Jesus.  Scott’s motor was still working, but tended to stall at full power.  No doubt, it needed to have its carburetor cleaned, also.

Venus wanted to go for lunch at Thomas’ beer and seafood garden.  We stopped there, checked the place out, and chatted with Thomas, but they were closed on Tuesday.  Thomas’ father was from Virginia.  He had a very nice place with a bar, pool, shady palapas with hammocks and tables on the dock.  It would have been a nice place to hang out.  Venus told me that they made fabulous coconut smoothies.  Disappointed, we backtracked to old, dependable Mar y Sol and had pupusas for lunch.  We ran into half the cruisers in the bay while we were there and shared a table with Bill and Barbara from the boat next to us.  People stop at Mar y Sol to get their laundry done and buy ice and water, as well as to eat.  It’s a popular place.

After lunch, we headed over to the island to visit Isabel, an acquaintance of Bill and Jean’s who lived on the island, taking care of her 96 year old father, and enjoying the company of visiting cruisers.  Isabel is a seamstress and Venus had left some clothes to be mended.  Patrick wanted to get some mangoes from her trees.  I just went along to meet her because I had heard a lot about her.  She lived in a simple house on the bank of the estuary.  The kitchen was outside on a dirt floored porch.  She cooked over a wood fire burning atop a sheet of metal covering a wooden table.  There was a hen laying an egg on the counter and another nearly bald hen and a couple of dogs underfoot.  In the middle of this scene, sat a shirtless American man reading a Kindle.  He sat there like a king on his throne while Isabel waited on him.  He seemed to be her boyfriend, although she was somewhat vague about their exact relationship.  It looked to me like he had a pretty good situation, although he didn’t appear to speak Spanish and I don’t know how they communicated.  Isabel seemed glad to see us and chatted away gaily.  She gave us a big bag of mangoes and hugged me when I left.  I was sorry that I didn’t have the chance to get to know her better.

I got back about 4:00 to find Scott deep in thought in the cockpit.  He had installed the starter and, though the engine was turning over, it still wasn’t starting.  He decided to move the ground wire from the bolt securing the starter to the engine block to a stud protruding from the side of the starter and, after trying it a few times, that appeared to work.  The boat started.  It started more than once.  Nothing jammed, caught fire, or melted.  We were finally in business.

April 30, 2014

Fish Restaurant on Stilts
I had a leisurely morning on Wednesday and then went with Patrick and Venus at 12:30 to try eating lunch at Thomas’ place once more.  When we got there, we discovered that they were still closed.  Thomas had gone fishing.  We went back to the marina to drop off Venus’s dog, Teja, and tell Scott where to meet us.  He had had to stay behind to check out with the port captain at 1:00 and was going to come in the dinghy and meet us.  We didn’t know what would be open, so we took the handheld radio so that we could call him.  We started to go to La Puntilla, which was close by and offered lots of restaurant choices, but then Venus decided to go to one of the restaurants on stilts across the estuary off Tasajera Island.  We had to cross the entrance to the estuary to get there, which gave us a good view of the bar.  I was pleased to see that it looked pretty calm out there, but it was fairly wet in Venus’ handy little launch and I didn’t think Scott would want to go over there in our dinghy.  I was relieved, therefore, when Patrick decided he didn’t want to eat fish and we headed back across to La Puntilla.
Patrick and Venus at La Puntilla

We beached the boat in front of the first restaurant that looked open and they brought a table over close to where we landed so we could watch the boat.  The waiter recognized Venus from Thomas', where he also worked, and flirted with her.  I tried to call Scott, but couldn’t reach him.  Since it had been awhile, I assumed that he had already left in search of us and I knew he was going to be angry.  It turns out that he had just got in the dinghy and heard me calling, but I couldn’t hear him when he answered.  He was pretty mad that I didn’t try to hail again.  I probably should have, but wouldn’t have heard his answer, anyway.  Scott ended up eating lunch at Mar y Sol, since that was the only place he knew.  We had carne asada and French fries.  It was pretty tasty, but they only had two knives in the restaurant and had to rustle up a plastic one for me.  Fortunately, the meat wasn’t tough.

Soon after we returned, it was high tide and time to take the Castle over to the fuel dock.  This was a tricky maneuver.  Scott had to back in and get the boat stopped and secured in a very small space.  For some reason, the security guys who take lines in Mexico and El Salvador never know how to stop a boat.  I had to jump off, push them out of the way and get a midships line around a cleat quickly, before we smashed into something.  Fortunately, the cleat held.  The tide was extremely high.  So high, in fact, that the fuel pier was slightly under water.  This was actually good, since it made it easier to stretch the fuel hose over to the far side of our boat.  We took on nearly 100 gallons of fuel.  Unfortunately, diesel costs as much in El Salvador as it does in the USA.  Returning to our slip was much less exciting.

Jean at the Rum Tasting
Mike and Holly, from a boat with the unpronounceable name Wanuskewin that ends up just being called Wanna Go Sailing, were also planning to leave the next day and had organized a rum tasting for that evening.  They had seven different kinds of rum, ranging from $2 Honduran rum, through several different ages of Nicaraguan Flor de Cana, to $50 Zacapa.  Other people brought a bottle of Panamanian 151 and a couple of kinds of local hooch.  Mike set it up as a blind taste test.  Not surprisingly, the majority of us liked the Zacapa best.  What was surprising was that the second favorite was the $2 Honduran rum.  Of the Flor de Canas, I like the 7 year old best.  For some reason, it was smoother than the much more expensive older rums.  No one favored the 151.  The local hooch actually wasn’t bad.  It was a good value for the money and would have been fine for mixing.  We had also ordered several pizzas and were having a fine time when a squall hit and put an end to the party by blowing all our drink glasses away.  I got soaked to the skin just scurrying back to the boat and wetter still by the time I had run around removing all the hatch covers so that we could close the hatches tightly enough to keep out driven rain.  For the first time in weeks, I was actually chilled.

May 1, 2014

Bahia del Sol Marina
I got up at 5:30 AM to go for one last 8K run in El Salvador.  I ran into the waiter from La Puntilla who had been flirting with my friend, Venus, and he greeted me with surprise.  I spent the rest of the morning stowing the dinghy, motors, extra water, etc.  Scott picked up our zarpe (clearance out of the country) at 11:00. After lunch, I paid the hotel bill and tipped the helpful desk clerk and bar staff.  I said goodbye to my friends, Venus and Ramona.

We left the dock about 3:30 and motored around in the estuary for an hour, waiting for the pilot and making sure the engine was operating properly.  Everything seemed fine.  We set off across the bar at 4:30.  The bar was fairly calm, but seemed to go on forever.  Finally, Bill came on the radio and thanked us for visiting El Salvador and the pilot turned around.  All my friends had called to wish us safe travels.  There was so much radio traffic that it was hard to hear the directions from the pilot.

Bill and the Bar Pilot
Wind was light, so we motored off toward the next waypoint at 5.5 knots.  It was Scott’s watch, so I went below to nap.  Just as I dropped off, Scott ran below to turn off the engine.  Steam was billowing out of the engine room. Scott said the exhaust water had been dark colored just before it overheated.  The engine was too hot to touch, but it didn’t look good.  Scott looked lost and angry at the same time.  We put up sails and then he looked to me for our next move.  Without an engine, we couldn’t go back over the bar. I briefly weighed the idea of sailing on to Costa Rica or Panama, but it looked likely we would be stuck wherever we stopped next and I didn’t want that place to be somewhere without good support that cost $2/foot/day.  I made the call to return to Chiapas.  Scott jumped on the idea immediately.  We said goodbye to Wanuskewin and turned our bow to the northwest.

We made 4 knots at first, but glided along at 2.5 to 3 knots most of the night.  We turned on the generator, but it overheated and stopped 30 minutes later.  Scott had closed the thru-hull to the cooling water.  The impeller in the water pump was toast.  Now, solar was our only power source.  We went about with flashlights and turned off the refrigerators.  At one point, we were visited by fireflies of all things.  They looked like little LED lights zigzagging through the moonless night.  The freaked me out at first, since I had never seen one in person before.

May 2, 2014

The wind picked up for a couple of hours at dawn, but died down as the sun rose higher.  We did 1.5 knots all morning.  We gybed just before I came back on at noon and were making about 2.5 knots during the afternoon.  While it was frustrating to be moving so slowly, it was much pleasanter sailing than motoring.  It was quiet and there was no stinky exhaust to give me a headache.  I slept well.

Scott at the Helm
Having turned around, I now needed to consider my options.  Clearly, we weren’t going to Sweden in 2014, if ever.  Having been stranded without an engine for the second time, and just 30 minutes after crossing the bar where an engine failure could have been fatal, I started to doubt the advisability of continuing on a boat so plagued with mechanical issues.  Ingemar had turned out to be inexperienced at sailing or cruising, instead of the competent licensed skipper I had been led to expect when we conceived of this journey, and he had not remained with the boat.  Scott had been unable to keep the boat running reliably.  He was perpetually surly, never seemed to enjoy anything about cruising, and offended the other cruisers to the point where I had to leave him behind if I didn’t want to be isolated.  As much as I wanted to keep cruising, it was looking like I needed to find another boat.  I was tired of doing most of the work, all the planning, paying for the majority of expenses, being treated badly, and missing out on all the fun.  I had sorely regretted our having done no land exploration whatsoever.  Scott had no desire to see or do anything.  He was too wrapped up in being despondent and I had reached the end of my patience with enabling his bad behavior.

We bobbed along at 2 knots most of the day.  At 2:30, Scott decided to work on the generator.  He had to take apart the water pump and replace the impeller, which required tearing up the floor and disassembling the generator sound shield.  It was hot steering under the blazing sun.  Of course, he couldn’t finish fixing the generator by 4:00 when his watch started, so I had to steer until 5:15, by which time I was hot, tired, thirsty, hungry, and generally aggravated.  He did, however, manage to get the generator working again after an additional hose blowout, so we at least had some power generating capacity.

I cancelled dinner and went to sleep.  I came back on at 8:00 PM.  At 11:00 PM, I woke Scott to close the hatches because it was raining steadily.  We had seen lightning all evening.  The rain let up about the time Scott came on again at midnight.

May 3, 2014

Cloudy Dawn
It was pleasant when I first came on at 4 AM, but soon started to rain again.  There was very little wind and it was hard to steer.  I could make almost no forward progress and could only sail slowly south and then slowly north through the raindrops.  Visibility was poor.  The wind came up briefly and 5 AM, but died again at sunrise.  I saw a panga at dawn.  They came very close, but didn’t seem to be trailing a line.  At 7 AM, when I was about at my wits end, I was visited by a huge pod of small dolphins who played about the boat for some time.  They cheered me up and by the time they left, I was able to get the boat going wing on wing in the desired direction at almost 3 knots, which seemed quite speedy after doing 1.5 to 2 all night.

Scott came back on at 8 AM and I went to bed, only to be awakened half an hour later when the same panga I had seen at dawn approached the boat.  They mainly just seemed to be curious.  They told us the boat was pretty and tried to sell us mahi mahi or dorado.  I found Guatemalan fishermen very friendly both coming and going.  I got the feeling they didn’t see a lot of yachts.  I went back to sleep and slept very soundly until nearly noon.  At noon, it was time to re-open all the hatches and raise the Guatemalan courtesy flag before taking the helm again.  At first, there was a good breeze and we proceeded at over 5 knots for an hour and a half before it began to die down.  Still, we were making 3-4 knots, which seemed rapid.  The wind got lighter and lighter.  It didn’t seem to matter what I did with the sails.  Our forward motion was mostly due to a couple of knots of current, which was fortunately heading west.

I cooked a hunk of someone’s old milk cow for dinner, which took half the evening to chop and tenderize.  I took the helm again at 8:00.  The sky was filled with lightning.  We seemed to be skirting a storm and were making 5-6 knots.  At 9:00 or so, really strong wind hit.  For half an hour, I struggled to control the boat while we reached speeds of up to 8.2 knots.  It calmed down by 10:00, but then it started to rain.  I did my best to steer around the lightning, which lit up the sky every few seconds.  By midnight, we were sailing along through light rain at 3.5 knots.  I went below and slept well.

May 4, 2014

Dawn Over Guatemala
When I came back on at 4 AM, the sky was clear and stars were out.  The boat was practically sailing itself at 3 knots.  We had made good tome over the past 24 hours and were now just a day away from Chiapas, we thought.

Scott took the helm at 8 AM.  A yellow warbler visited with him for an hour or so.  It had always amazed me when I met them 20 or 30 miles from shore and I wondered what happened to them after they leave my boat.  There was no wind from 10 to 11 AM, but we rocked along on the current at 1.5 knots.  Just before noon, the generator quit again.

I came back up at noon, after having passed a restless morning.  It was clear and hot, a good day for a sunburn.  I had been sailing in my bikini bottoms since we left El Salvador, attempting to tan the tops of my thighs.  Getting dressed for my afternoon watches mainly consisted of slathering on SPF 50 sunscreen.  The boat was sailing itself.

About 2:00, it clouded over.  I could hear thunder.  The wind went forward.  It became difficult to hold a course.  After sailing dead downwind for three days where we could sail a half-assed wing on wing and still get somewhere, now the wind was dead on the nose and it was hard to make progress.  We bobbed.  All afternoon.  All night.  Sometimes we went backwards.  We could have walked faster.  I made chicken breasts in Guajillo chile sauce for dinner and then took the helm at 8:00.  The night was clear and moonlit until 11:00 or so.  I couldn’t help but think that it might be my last night at sea on Fool’s Castle.  Between 8 PM and midnight, we made two miles.  Between midnight and 4 AM when I came back on, we made another two miles.

May 5, 2014

Dawn brought a light breeze for an hour or so and we made a mile, but then started slipping backwards.  I tacked.  It didn’t help.  The instruments quit due to lack of power about 4:30.  I felt like I had slipped back to a time where I had only wind to propel me and only a compass to guide me.

Sailing with no wind was incredibly loud.  The sails snapped continually, blocks squealed, and halyards banged against masts.  Metal objects clanged in the lazarettes and doors banged in the cabin.  The constant bobbing addled my wits until I just wanted to scream.  It was not a good situation to be in when our relationship was already strained.  When Scott took the helm at 8 AM, we had gone forward 1.5 mils and then backwards for 0.75.  There was no point in trying to steer.

Spinnaker Hanging Limp
I slept until 10 AM while Scott worked on the generator.  He added oil and replaced the solenoid, but maybe it had only been overheated.  We couldn’t tell.  It didn’t matter why.  It was working again.  At 10, Scott woke me to help him raise the spinnaker, which we hoped would allow us to move forward.  When I came up at noon, we had lost another mile and there was still no wind.

Usually, flying a spinnaker is a somewhat stressful experience requiring constant attention.  It was so calm that Scott had stayed in the cabin, ignoring the sails and hiding from the merciless sun.  Even the swell was dying and the water looked glassy.

The wind filled in about 1:30 and we started to move in the right direction at 2.5 to 3 knots.  First, we made up our lost ground and then we finally moved forward.  We passed into Mexican waters at about 2:00 PM.  We tore along at 3.5 to 5.5 knots.  The wind was puffy and required concentration.  I sighted land for the first time in four days at 3:30 PM.  We proceeded at a good pace until 6:00 PM, when we dropped the kite so that we could head further upwind towards Puerto Madero.  The wind held and we covered the remaining 10 miles to the port in a couple of hours.  We had intended to sail into the port and drop anchor to wait for morning when we could push the boat into the marina with the dinghy or call for a tow.  Unfortunately, clouds obscured the moon and it was very dark.  The red light at the harbor entrance was out of service and we could not see the jetty.  As we got closer, it became apparent that we could not sail in the direction necessary to enter the harbor.  We decided to continue past the entrance and anchor in the open roadstead to the north.  Even this proved to be difficult, as the lack of wind and adverse current made this a long, drawn out process.  It took us and hour and a half just to clear the main entrance channel and drop the hook.

May 6, 2014

At Anchor Outside Puerto Madero
We spent a rocky night at anchor, but the holding was good.  We were a bit bleary in the morning, but otherwise fine.  At nine, we called Marina Chiapas on the radio and were relieved when Enrique, the harbormaster, greeted us cheerfully and immediately offered to come and tow us to the marina.  It took them until nearly noon to arrive, which was fine.  It was a relief to know they were coming.  Eventually, Memo (the assistant harbormaster) and a couple of marina employees arrived in the marina’s launch and they towed us into the marina.  I had to admit it was nice to have Memo to talk to the port captain for me.  I had not been looking forward to having to explain, for the second time, why we were being towed into his port.
Being Towed into Puerto Madero

It took a large part of the afternoon for the customs and navy to arrive to inspect our boat.  They were the same two gentlemen who had come the month before.  They were so polite and friendly that it was difficult to believe they were officials.  It did, however, take quite a while to do all the paperwork.  Once they had left, we finally got to use the showers before heading to the office to complete the check-in process there.  By that time, it was 3:30 and very hot.  A large power boat was arriving.  Memo decided he would take all of us to immigration in the morning.  We were free to enjoy cold beers, eat our dinner and get a good night’s sleep.

May 7, 2014

Memo had told us to be at the office by 8:30 so that we could get to immigration by the time they opened at 9:00.  We arrived promptly, but the power boat had gone to the fuel dock and we waited until nearly 10:30 for them to arrive.  We all piled into a crew cab truck, with a couple of guys in the back, and drove around to the port offices where immigration was located.  They had opened a satellite office there since we left in April, so we didn’t have to go to the airport.  Unfortunately, there was no one there when we arrived.  Memo went looking for the woman while we waited.  It was hot in the lee of the building.  Eventually, we discovered a snack bar around the corner where there was a cool breeze and we could get cold drinks.  We waited for nearly an hour.

Eventually, the immigration officer, who was actually very sweet, arrived.  She had been out shopping for office supplies.  She stamped our passports and took the payment for our visas.  Having spent a lot of time being an illegal alien in El Salvador, it was a relief to get that out of the way and even more of a relief that no one noticed that our passports said we had left 2.5 weeks before we actually sailed from El Salvador.

It was lunchtime by the time we got back from immigration.  We were hungry, but decided to go into Tapachula and get lunch there.  Taco Toro was calling our names.  We took a collectivo into town and went straight to the food court, stopping only to get money out of the ATM so we could pay for lunch.  After we had eaten, we went to the AutoZone and bought some new hoses for the generator.  Scott believed that it was overheating because the replacement hose he had installed was the wrong shape and was pinching off the water flow.  From the AutoZone, we crossed the road and went to the Home Depot to buy a new tarp.  The one we had been using was on its last legs and the rainy season was upon us.  Any tarp we left covering the boat would have to last until we returned in the fall.

Our other errands complete, we returned to the Walmart to do our grocery shopping.  It was nice to see a proper grocery store again.  Not knowing how long we were going to remain in Mexico, we didn’t buy a lot.  We picked up some salad fixings, a few bananas, a six-pack of beer and some bread for Scott.  Then we stopped to enjoy some frozen yogurt before taking another collectivo back to the marina.  It was getting dark by the time we returned.  We rested for a while and then had a late dinner.  We were confined to the boat after dusk because the mosquitoes were very bad.  I was glad for our mosquito screens, even if they did block the air flow.

May 8, 2014

A mechanic came to look at the engine first thing in the morning.  I was in the shower when he came.  He didn’t speak English, so left for a while until I returned.  When I arrived at the boat, not realizing the floor was out in the main salon, I came down the companionway and fell into the engine compartment.  I hurt in so many places that, at first, I couldn’t really tell what was wrong.  My foot was turning black and blue and swelling fast, so I concentrated on icing that.  My left shin and right upper arm were also very bruised.  As the day wore on, the pain in my back where I had landed on the generator housing and buttocks where I landed on the engine became more pronounced.  I could do nothing but lie around and grimace.

Unfortunately, I still needed to translate for Scott and the mechanic.  I propped myself up on the settee with an ice pack on my foot while the mechanic took the engine apart.  It seemed that the hose running from the oil pan to the oil pump had broken.  The engine had run out of oil and overheated.  The head gasket had blown and at least one of the pistons was scored.  We were looking at having to haul the boat and remove the engine, which meant disassembling the cabin top again.  That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it leaked like a sieve from the last time we had done so and needed redoing, anyway.  Still, this meant at least a couple of weeks and a fair amount of money.  I was planning to travel in Central America while the engine was being repaired, but now wasn’t sure I would feel well enough to do so.  I spent the rest of the day sleeping in the steamy aft cabin, since it hurt too much to try to do anything.  Scott had to make dinner.

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