Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Birthday Papa Craig!!!!

View of Gratitouille from Hotel La Joya del Golfo

Jodi and I wish you a very Happy Birthday and hope all is well in your tropical paradise. We have left Honduras and arrived in Nicaragua. We made one quick stop at another beautiful little island called Meanguera, in the Golfo  de Fonseca as we had heard a rumor that they had internet. After a month of unexpectedly not having internet we wanted to send some birthday greetings (several by that time belated) and check in with family. 

Growling at the bank website's antics
 However, even in paradise aggravations have a way of finding you, especially with the modern world of computers. So the relaxing afternoon of catching up with friends and family we planned turned into a day of challenges on the computer. The good news is - even though it seems every one we use a password with thought we were compromised, it all looked good once we passed the hours of tests to get in. I guess not everyone changes their country of residence every couple of months.

Hotel La Joya del Golfo from Gratitouille
 All is well and to ease the day’s pain we celebrated with the splurge of splitting a nice lobster dinner at the wonderful La Joya del Golfo (Jewel of the Gulf). Ahhh, life is not too bad. (Though no pics, as we were still on Skype fighting to get into our bank account at the time!) We really enjoyed our day on Meanguera, websites not withstanding, which was made special by the welcome we received from Isaias, the manager (and great chef!) of the hotel and his mother. Although they were busy remodeling the hotel, they went out of their way to make us feel welcome and be sure we enjoyed our stay. 

The island was much cleaner than the mainland partially due (as Isaias explained while he personally led us to the two tiendas in the village to look for the vegetables we asked about!) to the fact that the local village has a young mayor who is into solar power, recycling and other progressive ideas. It would have been nice to stay longer, explore the island further and visit with these wonderful, generous people more.

The next day we were up early (really early!) and off we went with the tide. After almost a year of fighting currents it was so nice to be going out with the tide. As we rounded the corner of the Gulfs southernmost cape we said goodbye Fonseca and hello to Nicaragua (and back into the opposing current!). 

Time to change the courtesy flag again!  
 Hola Nicaragua y adios Bahia de Fonseca.


The northern Nica coast was beautiful and dramatic. Lots of red and orange cliffs covered in lush green growth and large sandy beaches with forest and mangroves growing right down to the high tide mark. Or as you see in the photos above, growth down to the top of the bufadero (Spanish for blowhole - those fountains of water that climb the cliffs - some 100 feet tall!) splash! 
Not much wind though, so sailing was slow, at one point we spent over 2 days to get around a reef. In the day we would gain 6 - 10 miles then drift backwards 3 - 5 miles in the currant at night. Finally, we broke down and motored for the last 4 miles to get to where we could anchor and rest for the night. Other than that we usually averaged 10 -17 miles a day and then just pulled up to a beach and anchored in 25-35 feet of water when the wind died in the afternoon. Not too bad, but a little rock and roll sometimes. 

            With the ending of the hurricane season the cruise ships are starting to return and workers on the ocean are getting back to their need to keep the port channels free of sand. The dredge workers were very friendly, as we passed them we traded waves and they gave us a warm welcome to Nicaragua over the radio. Among other things, they asked us where we were from and when we told them, they replied in the one English phrase of the conversation with a hearty "God Bless America!".
We, of course, responded with "Y Nicaragua tambien!".

As always there were the numerous amazing sunsets that are seem to be everywhere we go.

Once past the pueblo of El Transito things begin to change as we are entering the area where the Caribbean trades blow over Lake Nicaragua and accelerate over this part of the ocean. So of course as soon as the wind hit 25 knots we caught dinner.  No complaints here, but it has been a long time since we have even had 10 knots of wind and now we had a fish on too. Well, the fish was great and that afternoon we cruised along at 4-5 knots!  WOW you can really cover some distance when you make more than 2 knots and there is no current in your face.  What a great day that was.

Darren surfing Playgrounds!

That night we pulled into one of the famous surf spots here called Playgrounds. We anchored in 23 feet of water just off the beach and could jump off the boat and swim over to the surf break. Throughout the day pangas would come with pasty white surfers from the surf schools and provide us with a free show. Then, once they left, we had it all to ourselves. So much fun!

 We needed to get on down the road to San Juan del Sur (SJdS) and check in to the country, so the next day we were off again, and again we had wind. It increased as we got closer to SJdS and by mid-day we were making 5-6 knots! We made the 27 miles to SJdS and still had time to check in with the officials, it was the most mileage we've made in months! The coast here was a mix of unspoiled rolling hills and crazy big hotels.

Thirteen days after checking out of Honduras, we approached the nice little harbor of San Juan del Sur with Jesus de Cristo looking down over us and hoisted our crisp new American flag so we would look sharp. It’s a small town full of surfers and expats and, well, a bit of a culture shock. We are not used to seeing other gringos - or hearing English for that matter.

So Jodi got the ships log caught up and I set the boat up for our week or two stay here before we are off to Costa Rica. There seemed to be still a little rainy season left here so I set up the rain catcher on the side deck to stave off the inevitable back and forth with the dinghy to get water out to the boat. No marinas in this part of the world and showers are so nice here in the tropics.

What a 40 cent pineapple looks like.

Part of our stop here is to get some of the last few projects done and get the boat provisioned before we head south to Costa Rica where it is very expensive. We will see how much we can stuff into the boat as we get closer to the big Pacific crossing we have planned for mid-February.

SJdS - Ice cream shop is lower right red roof!

Happy birthday Dad, we miss you much! We are enjoying the sights here and thinking of you.

Darren and Jodi

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Sally!

Given our difficulty finding internet last month we have posted this in advance, so it was written in Honduras and posted from an island on our way out of the bay! We are somewhere off the coast of Nicaragua as you read this and on our way to San Juan del Sur where we hope to find internet again!

Happy Birthday Sally from a couple of feathered friends! We all hope you have a great birthday! 

We have left Honduras and are en route to San Juan del Sur Nicaragua, hoping to do some surfing along the way, should be there in a couple of weeks or so. What a wonderful part of the world we are in -  it’s full of good food, volcanoes and some of the friendliest people in the world. Our one week stay in Honduras turned into a 3+ weeks. We just couldn’t pull ourselves away.

Jodi with Diselma and her daughter Clodia

We are anchored off a cute little island with many very cool old buildings. It’s very colorful and feels like we are in the Caribbean…maybe Cuba?  

As we walk around the Calle de Marina we never know what we will see. Colorful pangas,  shell covered sidewalks or maybe even an old canoe (carved from trees on the island and still used daily).

There is great architecture, festive colors and even an old Casino (now a home) from 1933.

There is a tiny little pharmacy... 

The delicious street food is even colorful like the town! 

Commandante Meza of the Naval Base here came by the boat for a visit and invited us to visit the officer’s club at the base. We took him up on his offer and while we were there he said if we stayed another 3 weeks or so we could use the internet that he is getting installed at the officer’s club! He’s a really great man who speaks excellent English and has a passion for trying to help the locals. 

They are fighting to keep their cute little island a haven and create income through tourism rather than the foreign owned (and run) factory that the government wants to put in here. There was a peaceful protest about it while we were here.  It reminds us of our community back in Hood River - working to keep it local!
Halloween came and went and even though they don’t celebrate it here the way we do in the states, a few spooky (and biodegradable!) ghosts came by our boat. 

We celebrated by going out for supper at the restaurant of our new friend Carlos. We got to meet his wife and one of his sons and had a wonderful evening visiting with them and our friend Denis.

They do celebrate All Saints Day and so the weekend saw many boats from the mainland carrying people back to tend to the gravesites of their ancestors and spend time with family members who are still living on the island. 

Jodi got to take cooking lessons with our friend Julia and her family. She is the local baliada expert. A baliada is one of Jodi’s favorite street foods and is a homemade flour tortilla stuffed with beans, cheese and other yummy ingredients. 

All is not just fun fun fun here in our tropical paradise. Life and its many chores continue on, however we lucked out and found out that there is a public laundry mat complete with a well of mountain spring  water to wash with. It may not seem like much but, when you are normally washing your clothes in a bucket on deck when it rains, you really learn to appreciate the little things even more. 

Darren started working on the mosquito screens for the hatches that he had a brilliant design idea for and a repair for the dinghy transom. He started by getting some wood milled at one of the carpenterias in town. Here he is with another one of our new friends, Carlos the carpenter.

Not to worry though, we always remember to stop and smell the hibiscus flowers!   

Amapala has made itself a special place in our hearts. Yes, the scenery is beautiful and the old colonial style architecture is cute but what really stole our hearts were the people. Everyone was sooo friendly and though many of them did not speak English they were always patient and helpful as we continue to expand our Spanish skills!
It reminded us very much of home in Hood River as it too, is the kind of place where you allow at least an hour to go to the market even if you only need a couple of things because you know you will run into friends and stop and chat. We will miss our little home away from home.

Happy Birthday Sally!
Darren and Jodi

Friday, November 7, 2014

Happy Belated Birthday Lori and Early Birthday to Seaton!!!

(Note - This post was written in October and changed several times as we chased the ghosts of internet. We never did find internet service at Amapala so we had to wait to post it til now.) 


We are missing you muchas and thinking of you often. We hope you had a great birthday! Wish we could see you to give you birthday hugs!

Having left El Salvador and the land of the heart shaped “LOVE” clam we are headed South East again.

We had to cross the bar to get out of our estuary home of nearly six months. It was way more exciting leaving than coming in, partly because we had a little swell running. We were obviously the first boat of the season over the bar as our GPS showed that the pilot took us on the exact same path as we took going in last May. The only problem with that plan was that the bar had clearly changed over the winter season and was now breaking there. We went for it as directed and were rewarded with about 5 waves that came up over the deck, dodger and even over the bimini! So much for our freshly washed boat! Too bad we didn’t have a GoPro for that one.  Once we cleared the breakers, we cleaned up the mess and checked for damage. Fortunately, other than the whole exterior having a saltwater bath up to about 12’ above the water line and some water making it beneath the closed and locked companionway doors and down below, no real damage was done. Next time we’ll put in the actual hatchboards to keep the water from sneaking below. Just another day of Gratitouille taking care of us.   
Just got this photo from Bill as we were posting! Thanks Bill!

It felt good to be mobile again. The wind was light and even though we were chased (and hit) by many thunderstorms, we had a great 4 day sail to the Bay of Fonseca. 

One of our last nights off El Salvador we stopped and anchored in the open ocean for a day near a town called Espino. 

 The next morning I awoke to a strange sound. I sprung from bed like a crazy man thinking someone was stealing gear off the boat or worse we had drug anchor and were head for shore. As I looked to the bow there was a panga with 2 young fishermen in it stealing our anchor, or so I thought at the time. As it turns out their net had dragged into our boat in the night and tangled around our anchor chain. I think I scared them a bit because they quickly removed the net and sped off! Oops! Luckily they understood my shock and came back later, bringing us some delicious (giant!)shrimp and fish as an apology for the abrupt early morning wakeup. We made amends and said goodbye to our last friends to be made in El Salvador. They are a wonderful people. 

Another days sail and we would be ready to head into Honduran waters. 

It’s time to change the courtesy flags, it is a show of respect to the host country. The yellow flag “Q” states that we have not cleared customs and goes back to the days of quarantining a boat until it was cleared by the ports doctor as having no communicable disease. Thus the ‘Q’ or quarantine flag is flown until we are cleared into the country. 

At one point Jodi saw another sailboat just on the horizon. 

And when we arrived in Honduras, who was there to greet us but our good friends from Palarran.  A new country and old friends, what a great way to start this chapter of our journey. 

Our first week here was great. We landed right at the beginning of Amapala Days. It is the annual festival celebrating the town of Amapala here on the Island of El Tigre, Honduras.  Complete with street food (my favorite!), rides and games for the kids, and the Senora Amapala Pagent celebrating the mothers and grandmothers of the 6 villages around the island. What fun! 

These guys live the dream here, well maybe Brian’s, they live in a beautiful country and get to fish every day. The dugout canoes many of them fish from and use to get around the island are amazing. 

Another country and more wonderful people, everybody here has been great and very proud of how safe and tranquil it is here. We even had the Commander of the local navy base come by the boat to welcome us to the country and invite us to the officer’s club!

If we get another chance to use internet we will try to send more updates. Otherwise, we plan to leave in about a week (give or take) and it will probably take a few weeks to get to our next port. Until then we leave you with the current view of our front and back yard here in Honduras.

Happy Birthday Lori and Seaton!
Darren and Jodi
(Ed. Note – we have left Honduras and are now at an island across the bay that we stopped at on our way out as there was rumor of internet service at the hotel here! We just stopped long enough to post and if weather cooperates we will leave here tonight and be without internet for a few more weeks til we get to San Juan Del Sur!)