Wednesday, February 15, 2017


January 29, 2017

When I came up to the main house for coffee in the morning, I met a sleepy Jan who informed me
Mama Shadow With Her Babies
that one male and two female puppies had been born in the early morning hours.  All three of them were black and marked like their mother, making it impossible to tell who the father had been.  Like her earlier litters, two were born with no tails.  They were tiny, whimpering black lumps with miniature, embryonic looking limbs.  Shadow seemed very happy to be finished with her pregnancy.  Every time she went outside, Ember, the young female Labrador, tried to get at the puppies.  She was very curious.  Jan had to keep her outside so that she didn’t bother Shadow and the puppies.

The new toilet valve that we had installed had ceased to work and my project for the morning was to repair it.  I thought it might be clogged with algae, but cleaning it did no good.  Eventually, I determined that the water pressure was not strong enough to reopen the valve once the float closed it.  I took it apart and removed the “o” ring from the plunger and that allowed it to move freely enough to operate with the pressure at hand.  I also bent the arm on the float so that the tank didn’t fill as full.  Water was a scarce commodity on the island.

Then it was time to wash some laundry.  I didn’t want to use any more of Jan’s water than necessary, so I only washed a week’s worth of underwear and a nightgown.  I had plenty of clean clothes.  The rest of the morning was spent reading “Treasure Island” in the hammock.

Lin and Lou's Gorgeous Pool
At 1:00, Eduardo came to put the motor on the dinghy so that we could take it across to the hotel where Jan parked her truck.  Then we drove to Lin and Lou’s, five miles up the estuary.  Lin and Lou hosted a potluck barbecue at their lovely home every Sunday.  I had met them on my last trip to El Salvador and wanted to see them again and meet some of the other cruisers.  Jan was tired and didn’t stay long.  Bill and Jean offered me a ride home, so I stayed and enjoyed the beautiful pool and the company.

The Lovely Dinghy Ride Home
Perhaps the best part of the day was the dinghy ride back down the estuary as evening fell.  From there, the volcano was clearly visible.  We passed mangroves and islands until we finally arrived at Bill and Jean’s.  We were met on the dock by some local children who wanted to give us hugs.  Jean sometimes gave them treats, so they always met her at the dock.  This time, they also wanted to retrieve their father’s cell phone which had been charging at Bill and Jean’s.  Bill and Jean invited me in for a drink and I accepted so as to give Jan more time to nap if she was sleeping.

It was dark by the time I got home and it was a good thing Jan was awake because she had locked the gate and the dogs made a big ruckus until I managed to get it open.  I ran in to charge my phone and Kindle before the generator shut off.  Jan didn’t make it long.  She went to bed before 9:00.  I retired to the casita to write so that I wouldn’t disturb her.  She had only napped for an hour before the crew of Longta arrived to see the puppies.

January 30, 2017

The water tank in the casita ran dry on Monday morning.  This was a bit of a mystery, as I had used very little water.  I hauled a bucket of water from the barrels for plant watering to fill the toilet tank and flushed sparingly.  I knew Jan was planning to haul water that week, so resolved to make do until that time.

The kids came for their English lessons that afternoon.  The little ones were introduced to colors while I worked on the numbers one to twenty with the two older boys.  They got them down before the end of the hour and picked up twenty-one to thirty-nine almost instantly.  We had a very good time and they applied themselves.  The youngest child in the group was the daughter of Jan’s caretaker.  He was determined that she get a good education and not end up like himself, doing grunt work at the age of thirty.  She was a smart child and did learn, but didn’t have the attention span, at four, to concentrate for the full hour.  It was interesting to observe the difference in maturity between four and six.

The second group began to arrive almost as soon as the younger ones left.  As much as we would have appreciated a break between the two classes, it was heartening to see that the kids were so eager to come to class.  The older kids were introduced to the vocabulary for describing people.  Most of the class was spent introducing them to a wide array of new words.  In the last few minutes, they were each given a card with a picture of someone on it and asked to describe that person.  Unfortunately, they were a little overwhelmed and mostly acted silly.  Even so, they did try to use some of the new vocabulary.  I had faith that they would do much better at the beginning of the hour on Thursday.
Stoves Staged in the Yard

By the end of the hour, we could see pangas full of stoves heading for Bill and Jean’s dock.  I had offered to help unload, so I headed over there as soon as the class was over.  Half the stoves had already been moved to Bill and Jean’s yard by the time I got there.  Jamie, from Allare, and four of the islanders were moving the heavy, concrete stoves in pairs of two.  I jumped in and helped to move the remainder.  Soon there were 55 stoves littering Bill and Jean’s front yard.  It was very exciting.  I couldn’t wait to see them distributed the following morning.

January 31, 2017

Genesis Carrying a Comal
Joint Canadian and Salvadoran Rotary groups financed the sale of $75, high efficiency wood stoves to the islanders for five dollars.  Not all of the islanders could come up with five dollars, but Bill and Jean offered to lend five dollars to anyone who needed one.  Jan gave five dollars to two young women that she felt were hard working, but living under difficult circumstances, so that they didn’t need to borrow.

When I arrived at the meeting on Tuesday morning, a Salvadoran businessman was addressing the group of islanders on the danger of wood smoke.  Young children breathing wood smoke damaged their lungs, resulting in asthma and susceptibility to respiratory infections.  Jan had complained that certain children were always sick, but her theory was that they were the children who went from hammock to arms without being allowed to crawl around in the dirt.  Both factors made sense to me.  The gentleman behind the stoves also lectured them on air pollution and global warming contributing to sea level rise, an issue that was quite relevant to an island that had already been submerged by an extreme high tide in 2015.
The Islanders Being Informed About the Stoves
After the lecture, two of the island women fired up a stove and cooked some pupusas.  The stove smoked like a regular one until it got hot, but within a few minutes it was nearly smokeless.  Each stove had a “comal,” a steel plate that rested atop the concrete portion of the stove and formed the cooking surface.  I later received a report that a family of five had been fed dinner using only three pieces of wood.

Island Ladies Cooking Pupusas
The Rotarians from both Canada and El Salvador attended the distribution and gave out stuffed toys to the small children.  There was a huge group of people standing around in Bill and Jean’s front yard, chatting and trying to find shelter from the sun.

Jeff and Judy and a young couple from Washington were walking down to where Jeff and Judy’s new dinghy was being constructed and I decided to tag along so as to see more of the island.  I had met Deni, the man building dinghies, on our previous trip to El Salvador when he had provided us with potable water on a number of occasions.  He was an enterprising sort and had started building fiberglass dinghies after everyone had been impressed with my friend Venus’ hard dinghy.

Deni had started with the body of a dead RIB (rigid inflatable boat) and was building up the sides with fiberglass and adding flotation that also would provide seating.  The sides were coming along, but the bow was still rather unformed.  It was fascinating to see the construction process.

Jeff and Judy's Dinghy in Process
By the time we got back, the rest of the young couple’s family was visiting with Jan on the front porch.  We all had a cold drink and chatted for some time.  After everyone left, I decided I had better break the news to Jan about the water tank in the casita being empty.  At that point, she asked me to leave and suggested that I rent a room from Lin and Lou.  She didn’t have their number, so I headed over to Bill and Jean’s dock where a group of people were having cocktails.

It turned out that Lin and Lou were about to return to the United States and I didn’t really want to be five miles up the estuary without a dinghy, anyway, as lovely as their home was.  I was in El Salvador to help the community, not lounge at a resort.  One of the skippers offered up the possibility of my helping to sail his boat to Panama and we agreed to pursue that further on Thursday, as he had to spend the following day in San Salvador looking for glue to repair his dinghy. 

Bill and Jean offered to let me stay with them for a few days until I could solidify a plan.  I was able to go back and tell Jan that I would be leaving in the morning.  She was in a much better mood when I got back and we actually passed a pleasant evening.  She offered me a drink.  I had already had a shot of tequila at Bill and Jean’s, so I mixed myself an orange juice and soda just to be companionable.  It was apparent to me that Jan’s water situation really couldn’t support the two of us.  I was still puzzled as to what had happened to the 300 gallons of water that should have been in the tank.  While I later heard an unconfirmed rumor that there had been another guest before me, it occurred to me that the shower had leaked quite copiously between the time we fixed the toilet and the time I went to bed that night, discovered water everywhere, and turned off the main.  I had fixed the shower before turning the water back on, but the leak was no doubt at least in part responsible for draining the tank.

February 1, 2017

Interior of the Casita
I got up at dawn and swept out both sides of the casita and the porch before I went up to the house for coffee.  Jan apologized for asking me to leave, but said she just had too much on her plate.  I had come to help her with projects, but she already had two guys working on the cistern all day and, with a shortage of water, really couldn’t handle any more demands on her resources.  She left for San Salvador and we parted on good terms.  I finished cleaning out the casita and started moving my things to Bill and Jean’s.  They leant me a wheelbarrow so that I didn’t need to drag the big duffel bag through the deep sand on parts of the path.  As Isla El Cordoncillo (the Ribbon) is long and narrow and there are no vehicles on the island, the main road was just a sandy path along the beach.  The rear of the island was swathed in mangroves, so there was no thoroughfare on that side.  With the exception of a few families who owned their land and the ones who were acting as caretakers for absentee owners, most of the islanders were squatting in a ramshackle village just past Bill and Jean’s.  There were a school (built on squatted land), Evangelical church, Catholic church, and a couple of small tiendas selling groceries, beer, and snack items.  The beach in front of the village was deep with plastic garbage, which unfortunately discouraged cruisers from landing there to patronize the tiendas.

Isabel and Jean Making Cushions
Bill and Jean’s was a hive of activity in the morning.  Isabel and Jean were busy replacing the foam in the cushions from the catamaran Rapscullion.  They were not replacing the covers, but some of them required substantial rework and I helped where an extra pair of hands was useful.  Jean was teaching Isabel, who was an excellent seamstress and could design and sew anything in the way of clothes, to make boat cushions.  The cushions from Rapscullion were complicated with ridges that fit into depressions in the fiberglass to keep them in place.  The original covers had a burlap like fabric on the bottom that had raveled in some places to the point where it could no longer serve as a pattern.  Jean was patiently explaining pattern making to Isabel, who never used patterns.  There was a fine line between helping and taking away work for which Isabel would earn money, so I mostly just watched until six hands were needed.  Still, it was fun to get to know Isabel better.  She was an intelligent woman who spoke decent English.

We took a break for lunch and I made quesadillas out of cranberry covered goat cheese, candied jalapenos, and diced pork ribs.  They were very fancy and tasty, too.  After lunch, work resumed on the cushions.  Bill and I spent a large portion of the afternoon playing the guitar and I finally found the motivation to change the strings on my guitar which had been there for almost three years.

The social event for the evening was cocktails at Colette and Ralph’s.  Their place was a three-story A-frame over on the other side of the village.  Bill mixed up some kumquat margaritas and we hopped in the panga and zipped over there, landing on the beach.  We arrived at the same time that Deni delivered Richard and Elizabeth (whom I had met in Chiapas) and Judy who had somehow gotten separated from Jeff who had gone to San Salvador with Jan, but went his own way once there.  Another few couples joined us there and we had a nice group outside on the terrace.  I chatted quite a bit with Judy and Elizabeth and Judy floated the idea of my crewing for them on the passage to Panama, as they had crew coming to join them there.  Jeff wasn’t there to discuss it, but it was a very tempting idea because I knew them and their boat, Just Passing Wind, was large and beautiful.

We all stayed until the tide threatened to go out and strand the boats on the beach and then the party broke up.  Bill took the group home that had arrived in Deni’s taxi and Jean and I walked down the beach.  As we were passing the village, one of the women cornered Jean because one of the older men had a bad case of flu and was vomiting.  Jean, who was a nurse, agreed to come back and give him a shot.  She administered Benadryl in this sort of situation that really only made them sleep, but at least allowed them to rest and recuperate.

Bill made some very tasty pork ribs with potatoes and onions, which were ready in about 20 minutes in the pressure cooker.  It was nearly nine by the time we ate, but the food was worth the wait.  We relaxed in hammock chairs for a bit after dinner and then turned in.

February 2, 2017

After having had perfectly good internet through my phone over my entire trip, the morning that I needed to do my banking and try to firm up my plans, I had no connection.  My mission for the day was to talk to Jamie from Allare about crewing for him but, though he arrived early, he was on another mission.  He had gone to San Salvador the day before to see about purchasing glue to repair his PVC dinghy.  He found some, only to be told that it cost $500 for a pint.  By the time he arrived at Bill and Jean’s, he was ready to consider having Deni build him a fiberglass one.  He left with a promise to return later in the afternoon and I let the matter slide at that point.

Isabel returned and she and Jean resumed work on the cushions.  There wasn’t much for me to do and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open, despite a cup of leaded coffee.  I finally lay down for an hour, although I never did go to sleep.  Eventually, I gave up, rose, and drank one of the diet cokes leftover from the Rotarians.  That revived me enough to sit in the hammock chair and write.

We had sundowners on the dock and, by that point, Jamie had decided to stay long enough to have Deni build him a fiberglass dinghy.  Clearly, our timelines were not going to align.  Since arrangements to visit my cousin in Mexico City, La Cruz, and Comet in the Sea of Cortez were coming together nicely, I decided to confirm those plans as soon as I got a connection.

We had gringo tacos for dinner.  Gringo tacos are corn tortillas lightly fried (but not crisp) and stuffed with lettuce, tomato, hamburger, onions, and whatever else was in your fridge, tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, cumin, and paprika.  They were very tasty.

February 3, 2017

My phone still wasn’t picking up internet when I got up on Friday morning.  Jean and I were heading to Zacatecoluca to go to the bank and pick up a few things, so I decided to see if my signal improved when we got there.  We took the panga across to the hotel, dropped off our laundry, and then took a bus to Zacate.  It cost $1.  The bus took the scenic route, but we were assured of having a seat all the way.  We stopped in Santiago Nonualco where the vendors were selling small pupusas made with rice flour for 10 to the dollar.  We got a couple and snacked on them as we rode to Zacate.
The Interior of a Salvadoran Bus

We got off at the strip mall near the entrance to town and went to the Dispensa de Don Juan (a supermarket) where there were several ATMs.  We looked around the store, but didn’t buy anything because we didn’t want to carry things around town.  We stopped at a fast food restaurant called Biggest for brunch.  I still wasn’t getting internet, but my text messages went through and I got a few Facebook messages.  We ordered a variety of Salvadoran items to eat.  I had a slice of fried cheese, what they called an empanada which looked like a corn fritter filled with sweet cheese and a piece of bacon.  Jean had a fried sweet corn tamale.

After our meal, we walked up the hill to the square where there was a pretty white church and another supermarket called Super Selecto.  We bought rum, juice, cabbage, onions, and cat food.  I picked up batteries for my LED lamp and radio.  Then we walked back down the hill to the bus station and waited for a bus back to La Puntilla.  I didn’t take many pictures because I was leery of taking my phone out in the city, but I did snap a few from the bus before it filled with passengers.

It was a long, hot ride back to Bahia del Sol.  We were very happy to get into the panga and feel the wind on our faces.  We returned to the house by 2:30.  I had to borrow Jean’s wireless stick when we got back so that I could finally make my travel arrangements and do my banking.  I had planned to take the bus back to Tapachula and then fly to Mexico City.  However, I found a flight for only $383 instead of $650 that would save me two nights in hotels and an entire day of travel time.  It would still be more expensive, but the convenience seemed worth it.  My cousin agreed to pick me up at the airport.  I also accepted Ulla’s offer to rent me the palapa at Agave Azul in La Cruz for three weeks beginning February 10th  and booked a cheap flight from Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta.   Arrangements for hooking up with Comet in March would have to wait until later when Don had some idea of where he might be.

Ralph Grilling Sausages
Dinner at Ralph and Colette's
Making all the arrangements took a couple of hours and I barely had time for a drink before we were ready to walk over to Colette and Ralph’s for dinner.  Ralph had barbecued some pork ribs and then cooked some nice sausages.  We brought wine and some bean dip and fresh chips that Bill made.  Ralph and Collette were perfect hosts and we all stuffed ourselves.  Their deck was a perfect venue for dining al fresco because, being on the second floor, we were not plagued by the jejenes (no seeums) that had been biting me for two weeks.  They were not as awful as the ones in Mexico because they didn’t leave the same huge welts, but the bites did itch fiercely at times.  Bug spray discouraged mosquitoes, but did little to stop the jejenes.  It was especially frustrating to be so annoyed by something you couldn’t even see.

It was after 9:00 when we got back.  Bill wanted to stay up for a couple of hours to run the generator, but I didn’t make it past 10:00.

February 4, 2017

I awoke at 3:20 and stayed awake, reading for a couple of hours.  Finally, I was able to go back to sleep for another couple of hours.  I got up, drank coffee, did the dishes, and ate a banana.  I managed to study Italian for a few minutes before Jean invited me to go with her to La Colorada, a village on the island of Tasajera where there is a woman artesan’s coop.  Jean helped them to market their products in San Salvador and through the National Geographic’s online store.  She also brought some to Lin and Lou’s every Sunday where she often sold things to cruisers.  She needed to refresh her supply.

Clearing a Plastic Bag from the Outboard
We stopped at the marina and picked up Elizabeth from Georgia B.  We had trouble backing out of the marina and didn’t get very far before the motor conked out.  A large, black plastic trash bag was fouled in the propeller.  Elizabeth and Jean were attempting to clear it, but couldn’t easily reach that far.  A panguero from La Puntilla stopped to help us.  He managed to remove the bag and then threw it back into the estuary.  Elizabeth, who is Chilean, rounded on him in Spanish and plucked the bag back out of the water before it could inconvenience anyone else.

Restaurant Built on a Sand Bar
The Way to Tasajera
We headed towards the mouth of the estuary and then turned to the left to follow the shore of Isla Tasajera.  Isla Tasajera is much bigger than Isla Cordoncillo.  It has electricity and some functional wells.  It sits higher above sea level, also.  Twelve hundred people live on the island.  Some of the residents operated restaurants built on a sand bar in the middle of the estuary.  They were built on stilts and sometimes appeared to be in the middle of the water.   We followed the shore of Tasajera and passed the town of Tasajera then we turned to the right and followed a channel through the mangroves to a public dock at the village of La Colorada.  La Colorada was a fishing village and many pangas and cayucos were tied to the long pier that extended up a muddy slough.

Public Dock at La Colorada
We walked along the dock and then down the main road through the town.  The residents of Tasajera owned their property and kept it neatly fenced.  There was an actual sandy road through town and we saw homes of various construction, concrete wells, and even some brick outhouses.

The women’s coop was a spacious cement block building.  They made tote bags and purses out of hand woven fabric and beaded jewelry.  They had four or five industrial sewing machines in the interior of the building and displayed their wares on the covered porch, although few people even came to buy anything except Jean.  Most of their orders were effected via the internet, which was often difficult because their coverage was no better than mine and they often had to depend on people who went back and forth to the city.
Sewing Room at the Women's Co-op

Bags for Sale at the Co-op
We spent an hour or so looking at their operation and admiring their wares.  I bought a couple of pairs of beaded earrings for my cousin and her daughter in Mexico.  Elizabeth bought a bracelet and a couple of pairs of earrings.  Jean stocked up for the Superbowl party at Lin and Lou’s the next day.  Then we hopped back in the panga and zipped back to the marina where Jean and I collected our laundry and then stopped for an icy cold beer on Georgia B before heading back to the island.
We had leftover gringo taco salad for lunch and then spent a relaxing afternoon working on our separate projects..

Saturday night, most of the gringos on the island and in the boats went to Bill and Jean’s caretaker Jairo’s house for dinner.  On Saturday nights, his wife made pupusas.  This week, she was eager to show off her new stove.  Her specialty was queso quemado (burnt cheese.)  They were fabulous.  They had even gone out to buy beer so that they could sell it to us.  Her kitchen was basically in an outdoor shed.  They set up a large table outside and we all crowded around it in resin chairs.  My dinner cost $1 and we all had a great time.  We stayed until well after dark and I was ready for bed by the time we got back.
Pupusas Being Cooked on One of the New Stoves

Pupusa Night on El Cordoncillo

February 5, 2017

My Quarters at Bill and Jean's
Our mission for the day was to go to Lin and Lou’s to watch the Superbowl.  Bill got up very early to start roasting the pork to make pulled pork sandwiches.  Maura, the president of the island’s non-profit organization sold bread in the mornings.  Bill and Jean had ordered a whole lot of buns from her for the sandwiches.  I got to say goodbye to her when she came to deliver them.  I spent the morning packing and getting ready to leave.  Isabel came to work on Henry’s cushions some more before we left.

About noon, we loaded all the food into Bill and Jean’s panga and headed up the estuary to Lin and Lou’s.  Once we got there, I used the internet while Bill took Lou’s truck back to the hotel to pick up the majority of the cruisers.  By the time he returned, I was ready to be social.  It was Superbowl Sunday, so nearly every foreigner in Bahia del Sol was there.  We drank cocktails and lounged in the swimming pool until it was time to devour the pulled pork sandwiches.  Then we returned to the pool until it was time for the kickoff.

Huge Hibiscus Flower
The first half of the game was rather dull.  Atlanta got a couple of touchdowns and the Patriots barely managed a field goal.  It looked like a lost cause.  We stayed to watch Lady Gaga’s halftime show and then Bill took the cruisers back to the hotel and we headed down the estuary in the dark, stopping at the Paradise Marina to borrow a spotlight from Sine Timore.  When we turned on the radio back at Bill and Jean’s, we were shocked to discover the game was tied.  Apparently, it was the first time that the Superbowl had ever gone into overtime.  That was exciting for a few minutes.  Bill needed to run the generator for a couple of hours, so we sat up and talked and then it was time to go to sleep.  It had been a long day.

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