San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Posted 23 February 2011

This time of year the papagayos blow constantly. Very seldom we see winds less than 20 knots. We wanted to get going so we decided that we will leave as soon as the winds drop in a 20 to 25 knot range. This will still be a fast and into the wind sail, but much better than dealing with a 30 knot wind range.

On Saturday morning 19 February the winds were more favourable and we left El Astillero for San Juan Del Sur. We kept close to shore to sail in calmer seas. Dinis had a blast, he enjoys more heavy weather sailing than I do. I went inside and left him to do the sailing. We had 2 reefs in the main sail and the staysail up. At one stage the wind dropped a little and Dinis unfurled the genoa to about 3 reefs and then he dropped and tied the staysail down. We were doing a fast passage, doing about 5 to 6 knots over ground. At least the heeling was not as bad this time around.

We could have done a faster passage if the bottom of the boat was clean. It is amazing how fast marine life accumulates. As soon as we get into calmer waters we have to do a cleanup and also change the zincs. The last time we cleaned the bottom was in Hualtulco, Mexico. We found that it needs cleaning about every 10 days. We use an ablative bottom paint and it works basically as the boat moves through the water it removes the paint slowing, thus preventing marine growth.

We drop anchor in San Juan Del Sur around 6 pm local time. San Juan Del Sur is a bigger town that caters more for the tourist. There is a surfing feeling to the town. We went ashore using the water taxi, much easier than doing a dinghy landing in the surf. We explore the town and find out where there is a laundry as I had some laundry to do.

We went to the market the next day after we dropped the laundry off. Very little at the market as far as fresh provisioning. We bought some tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges and a huge papaya. We were told there is a little grocery store about 2 miles up the road. We will visit the grocery store the next day. We had fun getting a bit of fresh produce and getting the laundry done.

On our way back to the boat we stopped at the Port Captain's office for our check-in. Everything went well, except that we were missing our port-to-port Zarpe that the officials in Corinto were suppose to give us. In Nicaragua things are slightly different as far as these Zarpes are concern. Usually when you leave one country for the next, the officials will give you a international Zarpe when you check-out of the country. This international Zarpe is needed at check-in in the next country. Then you can sail within that country and just check-in via VHF from port to port. At the last port before the next country you will be issued with an international Zarpe for the next country. In Nicaragua they suppose to issue you a port-to-port zarpe, which cost $10 each time. So what can we do, we were missing this piece of paper. The Port Captain tried to contact Corinto but was unsuccessful. In the end he let it go, so we will go to the Port Captain's office again this coming Friday to check-out. Hopefully it will be smoother and less stressful this time around. We are planning to set sail on Saturday morning 26 February for Costa Rica.

Corinto, El Astillero - Nicaragua

Posted 20 February 2011

We left Barillas Marina on Wednesday morning 9 February with S/V Maja following the pilot boat. We had one of our best sailing days when we left. Our initial plan was to anchor off the bay in Golf of Fonseca, but with the good winds we decided to continue on towards Corinto in Nicaragua. We arrived at 4 am the next morning and drop anchor in the bay next to the harbour waiting for daylight.

Mid-morning we made our way into Corinto harbour and anchor off the Diesel Gas Power Plant. After Dinis contacted the Port Captain for us to clear into the country, he put the dinghy into the water so that he could go ashore with all the paper work. Dinis was ashore for about 3 hours running over town getting everything sorted out. Corinto town is very small and very poor, but the people is very friendly and helpful, except for one official that wanted a bribe from Dinis. Fortunately he did not give in as this will not help.

We spend a few days anchored up the estuary between mangroves. We were the only boat in the anchorage. We did some exploring, had a drink at one of the local restaurants. We were looking into leaving the boat and made an inland trip to Managua, but did not feel comfortable leaving the boat there.

We checked the weather to make our way to San Juan Del Sur, which will be a overnight trip. On Monday mid-morning 14 February we left Corinto for San Juan Del Sur. We had great winds, but it was on the nose. We decided to head into the sea going in a south western direction for about 2 hours and then tack back so that we can go in a more eastern direction. We were doing well for the rest of the day and night, was about 8 nm offshore the coastline. On Tuesday morning Dinis had his QSO's with the net and with Steve from Guatemala. He was feeling a bit queasy from talking on the radio and laid down for a rest.

It is Murphy's law, as soon as he laid down, the wind started to pipe up. We put 3 reefs in the main and furled the genoa to just a small sail. The seas had build as well and pushed us more offshore. The sea swells were close together and steep. We were on a close hull beating into weather with a 30 degree angle, at times 35 degrees. This was very uncomfortable. The winds was blowing about 27 knots gusting 30 to 32 knots. Although it was uncomfortable and were we tired, the boat was balance and we continued, hoping that the wind will slow down a bit closer to San Juan Del Sur. Our hopes were crushed as the winds did not calm down and we had to make a decision as to tack so that we can get closer to land and head for El Astillero (25 nm north of San Juan Del Sur) or continue on and arrive in the dark under strong wind conditions in San Juan Del Sur. We decided that under these conditions it is better to arrive during day time, so we tack and head backwards 12 nm towards El Astillero.

We drop anchor at 16:30 local time on Tuesday 15 February. Both of us very tired. We did not eat much during the day and made some food and jump in bed. This was our worst sailing conditions since our trip started. We got the front end of the famous Papagayo winds. We were anchored until Saturday February 19 waiting for the winds to calm down a bit. We did see 36 knots at anchor. With the winds blowing in a NE direction at least it keeps the boat into the swell and we were quite comfortable at anchor.

On Thursday 17 February Dinis spoke to one of the fishing pangas and they took us to shore. With the big surf we did not want to attempt the ride with the dinghy. We had a pleasant day at the fishing village exploring. Dinis bought some fish from the local fishermen as well. Later in the afternoon the fishing panga took us back. This was a good outing breaking the waiting spell.

Every single evening we had red skies, the saying 'Red sky at night is a sailor's delight' came to mind but we only had near gale conditions during the days.

Papagayo Winds

Posted 20 February 2011

Apologies to all our friends and family as the blog is not up to date as yet, I do keep 'Our Current Position' up to date by doing a position report as soon as we drop the anchor or every 24 hours if on a longer sail. We are currently in San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua, arrived yesterday afternoon 19 February. That trip will be another posting.

I would just like to explain the terminology 'Papagayo' Winds. The Spanish word papagayo means parrot. Sailors adopted this term from the strong winds that blow in the Gulf of Papagayo in Costa Rica, but since these gap winds are not limited to the Gulf itself, papagayos have come to represent the gap winds in southern Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica. The driving force for these winds is the Caribbean Trade Wind pouring over the narrow and low land and into the Pacific. The Papagayo winds can be felt as far north as Guatemala and as far south as Panama.

Antigua, Guatemala

Posted 17 February 2010

We arrived late in the evening in Antigua and the first 2 hotels that we wanted to check in, were fully booked. We did find a spot at Hotel Casa Rustica. This Hotel turned out to be pretty good for a very reasonable price. It is 1 block from the centre of town and have great facilities. It caters more for the budget conscience traveler which were great with us. The hotel also have kitchen facilities where you can prepare your own meals if so prefer.

Antigua is a beautiful city, very clean and the volcanic mountains very closed by. The architecture is Spanish colonial and the roads are pebbled. The roads are sloping down towards the middle of the road, which was constructed that way to help the flow of water when it rain.

The first day we spend at the coffee plantation. This was very interesting as both Dinis and myself love coffee. Genuine Antigua, Cafe Azotea, are planted at an altitude of 5000 feet, under a canopy of shade tees. The coffee are Arabica coffee beans that are ripen slowly to bring out their rich and complex flavor. Also the coffee is roasted on the plantation and sealed, still hot, in bags with a one way valve to preserve the freshness. The tour included coffee tasting and we ended up buying 2 bags of coffee.

At the coffee plantation they also had a museum of Mayan culture involving music, music instruments, religion, clothing and gastronomy. This was very informative and the Mayan lady that gave the tour did a fantastic job. It is amazing that the Mayan people still speak the language of their ancestors on a daily basis.

The next day we went exploring the city, ruins and parks. Just a feeling of peace about the city. We took lots of pictures. In the afternoons they have some events in the centre of town. We listen to a local orchestra which kept their audience attention. What lovely music, a person just got rooted to a spot until they finished. After all the walking we spend the evening in the hotel after a lovely dinner at a restaurant.

The next day we were on our way to see another historic building when Dinis was bitten by a 'Rattlesnake'. Now, no need for alarm it was the very talented music group 'Sol Latino' and the famous song 'Cascavel', which translate to rattlesnake. Again a person just could not help but be riveted to a spot and listen. We enjoyed it so much that we followed the group for their live music at 'La Pena de Sol Latino Restaurant'. We had a fabulous night of dining and listening to the Andean music.

We bought a CD and asked the leader of the group 'Paco' if we are allowed to post the videos we took of them performing at the park during the day on our blog. With his consent we posted the famous 'Cascavel' video and also another video that unfortunately I do not know the song's title. Anybody interested in 'Sol Latino' music can contact Paco at

The next morning is was time for us to head back to Guatemala City for our bus ride back to El Salvador. We had an uneventful trip back and again was lucky enough to occupy the front seats of the double deck bus. We were picked up in the evening in San Salvador by a taxi that was arranged by the Hotel Myers House B & B. Again we were spoiled at the B & B with a great supper and lovely company of Donna Patricia.

The next morning we said our good byes and did a big shopping in San Salvador and took a taxi back to Barillas Marina. We were the only boat in Barillas Marina when we left, but on our arrival back there were 4 more boats. Most of us were checking the weather for the next leg of our travels and it was decided to have a cruisers farewell at the restaurant that evening. We had a great time and the next morning (9 February 2011) S/V Maja and ourselves left following the pilot boat out to the ocean.

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Posted 15 February 2011

We took a double deck bus to Guatemala city and it proved to be a good choice of transport, as it was very comfortable and because we occupied the front seats on top, it was very scenic as well. As we traveled, it was shocking to see the amount of garbage disposed on both sides of the road on both sides of the border.

Arriving in Guatemala City from the mountains, the view convey an impression of a large, cosmopolitan and rich capital. On arrival at the Holiday Inn we were greeted by Steve Wheelock, TG9AWS, a ham radio that I was introduced on the air by Phil, HK3SA, from Bogota, Columbia, the Net Controller for the Spider Web Net, that runs every morning on the frequency 14347 Mhz between 12:30 and 13:30 UTC. This is a fun net to participate and I will try to be regular as possible. The other important radio schedule that I have is on the same frequency at 00:30 UTC with Peter W6DEI from San Francisco, which follow boats from Canada all the way to South Pacific.

After picking up our baggage, Steve took us to his house, where we met his family, Rosanna his wife and Stephnie his daughter. Also precent was Stephnie's friend and Juan Munoz, TG9AJR, that came to meet us. After having a glass of wine, lunch was announced to our surprise and delight. Steve and Rosanna really made us welcome into their beautiful home. Class and good taste were words that came into my mind. Steve and Rosanna, Thank You very much for being such gracious hosts. After lunch we drove around the city and visited downtown which was very neat.

The next morning we took a mini van to Chichicastenango to see the market, the biggest open market in the world, so it is claimed. The mountain driving was fast albeit safe. It was a interesting experience, but a bit tiring, as stall after stall sell basically the same products and everyone press selling. We only bought a small mask as a souvenir. On a interesting note, we learned that the Catholic Church allowed up to this day that services and worships to be conducted in both European and Mayan languages.

We left the market around 1 pm for Panajachel. It was a beautiful drive to the lake. When we arrived at Panajachel we went to explore the town, but again the main street was stall after stall with the same products as in the market. We had a great lunch at a local restaurant. Unfortunately Veronica forgot to plug in the camera battery the previous night and we could not take more pictures, although we did get some nice pictures of the lake. We were debating to overnight in Panajachel, or just continue on with the rest of the group going back to Guatemala City and then Antigua. So Antigua won the battle and we left around 5:30 pm.

We know that we missed the best part Panajachel, which was visiting the small villages around the lake, maybe next time.

San Salvador, El Salvador

Posted 7 February 2011

We decided against renting a car. It was recommended by ham friends from the Spider Web Net that we take public transport. There are some pretty good luxury bus services from San Salvador to Guatemala and in Guatemala there are lots of mini vans transporting people between cities at very good prices. We also discovered that a rental car needs a permit outside the country.

Mr. Heriberto Pineda from the marina recommended that we stay at Hotel Myers' House B&B in San Salvador. It is not recommended to stay in San Salvador downtown area, especially during night time. Our bus to Guatemala was only leaving the following morning, so we decided this a good idea. The B&B arranged for us to be picked at the bus depot, where we were warmly greeted by Nelson Lucero the Assistant Manager of Hotel Myers' House.

We really enjoyed our stay, met Donna Patricia, the owner of the hotel. The B&B is on the west side of San Salvador with the Presidential Residence 1 block away. The B&B has beautiful furniture, comfortable rooms, lounge areas and a lovely back garden.

We enjoyed a lovely meal after we arrived for a very good price. We went for a walk in the neighbor hood and it reminded us very much of South Africa, most houses are fenced with barbwire, electric gate and armed guards.

Our bus left at 7 am the next morning, but we had to be there at 6 am. We were woken up 5 am so that we can get packed and had a lovely breakfast. We said our good byes to Donna Patricia and her lovely staff and Nelson took us to the Sheraton Hotel where the bus departs from.