We left our Portland slip Tuesday, July 10, 2012.  We’ll be updating this journal with descriptions of our adventures aboard Cetacean, our Tayana 37 cutter, as we make our way south and then east.  The sailcetacean blogsite includes other pages (ships track page, writings and gallery) for you to explore. Hopefully you will find the writing and images amusing, informative, maybe thoughtful. Stay tuned.  We welcome your feedback and comments. 

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Some notes on El Salvador

Taking Bahia del Sol's main road in search of El Salvador.
Taking Bahia del Sol’s main road in search of El Salvador.


We’ve been in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador just over a week. Time has flown since last Friday when, guided by Bill and his expert crew, we surfed into the estuary. After all the check-in paperwork and getting settled, we plugged in and tuned out. Our two-day voyage from Marina Chiapas, Mexico had been exhausting.

But, we were soon hungry and it was too hot to cook. So, the night of our arrival in El Salvador, we dragged our weary bodies out of the boat, found the main road, staggered along until we found a little Papusa place for dinner.  El Salvador’s traditional dish was quite good, the proprietress made us feel welcome, the beer was ice cold.  We had made it safely to a new country. All was good.

But, some things, though we are still in a Spanish-speaking country, are different.

Obviously, El Salvador and Mexico are different countries. Mexico is enormous; El Salvador, roughly the size of Massachusetts, is tiny. While the mangrove fecundity is overwhelming everything else feels small except for the numerous, still-active volcanos playing chicken with El Salvador’s

Fishermen in dugout we passed dingying to tiny La Herradura.
We passed Fishermen while dinghying to tiny La Herradura.


The El Salvadoran pace of life that seemingly slows to a near standstill midday; our arrival- dropkick into a fishing competition featuring boats from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica; no brain-smokin’ salsas accompanying restaurant meals: the topes are called “tumolos” – clearly, we are really not in Mexico anymore.

Our second day was spent fixing things aboard until dinner time.  We were enchanted by the idea of eating Papusas again.  A restaurant called Mar y Sol had been recommended.  We headed out again on foot on the main road, but could not find it. And then, a family of about 10, the matriarch stating, “Adelante!,”  invited us to walk with them. When we came to the dark intersection, we looked at our hosts – doubtfully – but followed their directions to turn “izquierda.”  Dinner was served on a deck leading out to the estuary with a view of the stars.  Quite nice.

Because pictures do tell a thousand words (thanks to Ron O.), this blog entry is a photo journal of what we’ve seen so far. We are also grateful to Bill and Jean of Annual Salvador Rally, who answered all our questions, are involved with efforts to improve conditions for all El Salvadorans and welcomed us to this beautiful place.

La Herradura   Our third day in Bahia del Sol, it was time to get some groceries, so we headed to La Herradura, a tiny settlement about four miles (by water) from our slip.  Threading our way through the mangrove-lined arteries of the estuary while fighting a foul current, we worried a bit about getting lost … but not too much.  We passed fishermen in simple dugouts, tossing homemade nets overboard to catch fish we told was “similar to Red Snapper.”

Leaving La Herradura on a fair current.
Leaving La Herradura on a fair current.

La Herradura was quaint and rustic. The main street was lined with small restaurants, street vendors plying papaya, coconuts and pineapple. There was also a small grocery store there where we were able to get a few items, including fresh chicken, cheese and eggs.

Going to La Herradura was an opportunity to connect with the locals, practice Spanish, get a feel for the place.  “Buen,” someone said. In El Salvador folks don’t often say, “Buenos dias,” or “Hola!”  The ending “s” is often dropped. Sometimes whole words are dropped.

It’s different in El Salvador.



Bolsos de Cati seamstress assembles a beautiful yet functional bag.
Bolsos de Cati seamstress assembles a beautiful yet functional bag.

The island community of La Colorada  We joined our host Jean and the crews of Flyin’ Sideways and Sweet Charity aboard a large, covered panga headed for La Colorada. The community of 400 people has been assisted in developing two women-led micro businesses along with its fishing and subsistence farming activities.  We visited the “Bolsos de Cati” studio, examined the seamstresses’ beautifully crafted handbags, change purses and their new endeavor – backpacks; and, all of us contributed to the cause. The fabric is actually hand woven in San Sebastian, a mountain town a few hours away that we hope to visit.

The community has another “start-up” micro business, this time focussing on teenaged girls.  Intricate bracelets and barrettes are fashioned using beads sewn to suede strips and mounted on metal frames or clasps.  The young women we met were very proud of their work. All the money charged for the bracelets and barrettes goes to the individual bead artist. It was quite moving to spend time with these young girls and the woman who opens her home to them to do their work each day.

We continued walking around La Colorada and witnessed some fascinating scenes of every day activities.  Here are just a few of the goings-on we were privileged to see:


La Colorada beading artists proudly display their work.
Little boy shows off his home which hosts the beading workshop.
Little boy shows off his home which hosts the beading workshop.

















It was fascinating to watch this guy at work.









Fishnet Repairman2
La Colorada fisherman artfully repairs his nets.


San Salvador  Jean rented a van and invited us, Flyin’ Sideways and Erlin of Ventured to THE CITY the day after we had gone to lovely, graceful, uncomplicated La Colorada.  While going to San Salvador was a great opportunity to provision and find needed repair equipment and parts, the trip was a bit of culture shock for us too.

San Salvador cityscape.
San Salvador cityscape.

San Salvador is the biggest city in El Salvador. It is the capital of El Salvador.  The American Embassy sits in the center of San Salvador. U.S. influence is pervasive and (at least to me) disturbing.

About two million people live in San Salvador and while in reading this you might think, “two million people – big deal,” it really is shocking to see this place.  Ignoring all the U.S. chain stores (MacDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and of course Starbucks), the stark difference between rural El Salvador and this city with its wealth, access to modern services and products, it’s political power, is overwhelming.

The day was devoted to shopping. We started with Price Club, which is really Costco.  Jean explained that there were two brothers who owned the Costco dynasty. When they decided to grow their business in Latin America, they divided things regionally.  Costco went to Mexico; Price Club went to Central America.

Shopping at Super Select, a very Whole Foods-like grocery store.
San Salvador Mall
San Salvador Mall













ReturningFrSanSalvOn our way home, we came across this truck. It was so refreshing to see the truck, even though it was a bit top heavy. Dangerous too – that guy at the top was probably worried about losing body parts as the truck passed under numerous heavy tree branches while making its way down the main road.

I am so glad Ron took this picture. That truck, the passengers, the driver and its contents struggle along in such stark contrast to what lays behind. It is packed with hopes and dreams and a few old bicycles and plastic chairs.

We’ve been in El Salvador such a short time. We’ve been traveling by water, foot and car. But, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We hope to see a bit more of this complicated little country next week before heading further south.



Nuestro regreso a Marina Chiapas (our return to Marina Chiapas)

Our October 15th flight from Portland back to Marina Chiapas featured a lot of check-in mayhem involving 120 pounds-plus of stuff packed into two oversized duffle bags; one disintegrating “rolly-bag;” and, two taped-together cardboard boxes containing a new linear motor for Cetacean’s auto helm (aka “Otto”) and a replacement main membrane filter for the watermaker.…

Cruising Season Preperations

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Denver and some other stuff

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Playing Catchup

Ron and I are in the U.S.  We flew out of Mexico on Saturday, June 21st for Portland, Oregon. The Marina Chiapis Manager assured us it was “only a little shake,” when we inquired about the July 7th 6.9 magnitude earthquake epicentering uncomfortably close to Cetacean’s dry dock at Marina Chiapis, Puerto Madero, Chiapis, Mexico.  We had left for Portland…

Lacondon Jungle Trip, Part 3: Yaxchilan and José

We drove from Palenque town to explore Yaxchilan, our third and final Lacondon Jungle Mayan ruin. To get to the Yaxchilan site, it’s necessary to take a boat.  The boat ride traverses the Usumacinta River, a waterway between southeastern Mexico and northwestern Guatemala. We entered the Yaxchilan park site, found a river transit service, paid the boat fee, and…

Lacondon Jungle Road Trip, Pt 2 – The Palenque Ruins & the Truth According to Victor Damas

The journey from Comítan de Domínguez to Palenque’s modern-day town was exhausting. Of course there were lots of topes (see Ron’s discussion of topes in his last post). Add the numerous and steep “Curvas Peligrosas” (dangerous curves); the drivers who pass on blind curves, the slow trucks, unusual and startling sales attempts involving road blocks, and it’s a…

Road Trip to Chiapas’ Lacondon Jungle, Part 1

  Marina Chiapas will be Cetacean’s home for the June-to-October hurricane season. We’ll be heading back to the states to visit family and friends from July through September. Leaving Cetacean for an extended period is always lot of (sweaty, detailed, sometimes frustrating) work: packing up – deciding what to leave behind, what to close down…

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