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. 

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


El Salvador to Nicaragua

We left Bahia Del Sol in El Savador with regrets. The warmth of the community and the  natural beauty were both unanticipated and magnetic  making it  harder to to leave than expected. A lot of cruisers get “stuck” for a season, some for a year, and for a few people, a lifetime. We felt the need to go based on a cruising plan to explore Panama and the Caribbean. We have to move south, past some of the more difficult geographies and weather patterns before they grow in intensity during the winter. It’s very possible to get stuck  north of Costa Rica for months by procrastinating for just  a few weeks.

The day before leaving El Salvador, we headed for a restaurant lunch. Bill and Jean pick us up in their panga for the five mile journey up the estuary to the restaurant. The other boat has already left. We traveled for miles along  mangrove lined waterways, raccoon, egret and heron fish from the mangrove roots where they dip into the  salt water.

Our lunch place
Our lunch place

Up ahead in the middle of the waterway sits the restaurant,  with no walls and  a grass roof it sits on stilts in the middle of the water, nothing else human is visible except a fisherman’s shack on a beach a mile away. We tie up at the mangrove log stairway careful to insure that the boats stay in deep water as the tide drops.  There are 10 of us, an interesting mix of cruisers and expats.  Three volcanoes are visible in the distance from the our table .

Volcano as luch background
Volcano as background for lunch

After what seemed like just a few minutes the tide has receded  reveling we are on an island of sand.

The specialty of this restaurant is whole fried  fish and shrimp. We pick our fish from a large platter of about eight  fresh fish and huge shrimp. They range from Snapper size to Salmon size and all freshly caught.

pick your fish or prawn
pick your fish or prawn

The shrimp are about six inches long so look especially good.  Judy and I each pick a snapper size fish and I add a couple of the shrimp-scampi-prawns for an additional two dollars each. While the fish are being prepared,  Lou brings out a boccie ball set, the sand island surrounding the restaurant makes an ideal playing field.  By the time the game is over the fish are ready. The beer was cold, the fish and prawns delicious and all for $22 for the two of us.  We head back to the boat trying to forget that we leave El Salvador the next morning.

At 9:30 AM the next day we find ourselves bucking small waves as we  roll over the bar. Leaving Bahia Del Sol Bill captures us on his camera as we cross into the ocean.

Bill snaps our picture as we leave Bahia Del Sol
Bill snaps our picture as we leave Bahia Del Sol

Flying Sideways has been the only other boat  to leave recently, but that was three days ago. We heard they encountered some strong winds just offshore from Bahia Del Sol as they started their journey to  Nicaragua. Here is to hoping we have better luck.

There is little wind when we get two miles out so we raise the sails to catch a little boost and  turn on the motor. It’s mid morning  and the ocean is smooth as a bocce ball. We skirt the occasional fish net stretched out on the ocean but it’s not always easy to see the net ends. Sometimes a panga is loitering around one end and a small black flag  50-300 yards marks the other. But most of the time flags mark both ends with no panga in sight. Once we saw Clorox bottles instead of flags.  I’m told the nets are weighted in the middle so it wouldn’t entangle us, but I don’t want to find out. The worst case would wrap the net around the propeller stalling the engine  and essentially anchoring us in place until someone dives and cuts it away.  If we were to tangle, it’s miserable but it puts the fisherman out of work. It takes many hours to hand fix the nets that cost hundreds of dollars. The fishermen don’t want us to snarl  them either.

Repairing nets during a quieter time
Repairing nets during a quieter time

A few hours into the trip the wind  starts  to rise, the engine is shut off. Our destination is a marina and estuary in Nicaragua about 30 hours, an overnight sail plus a little.

About when it was getting dark the wind had increased to 20-28K   (23-32mph) we had to reduce sail area to the smallest possible sail area, two reefs in the main and the stay-sail, no jib.

_MG_5819The number of fishing nets is increasing too. We are in close to shore, about two miles, to reduce fetch but it may be where most of the nets are. The moon was big enough to see pretty well, but it’s going to set about 2AM. But damn there are a lot of nets.  About midnight we are coming to the windiest part of the trip. It’s the opening to the Gulf of Fonseca, a very large bay. The wind here originates in the Caribbean and funnels  through breaks in the mountains, picking up speed across the open water of the Gulf.  Three countries have shoreline on the Gulf, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua; each country owns some of the islands dotting the bay.  About this time the wind is howling, the waves growing, the moon was to set in about an hour. The pangeros are waving flashlights at us to follow them through the maze of nets. We’d also hear something about Yankee Vallero on the VHF with instruction how to avoid the nets. I could never follow the Spanish, it was just too fast and unfamiliar. Damn this is getting old. Then the speaker on the VHF comes alive…Cetacean…Cetacean…Cetacean…Flying Sideways.

It’s Karen and Joe on Flying Sideways.  How?

Karen and Joe had been safely anchored behind an island in the Gulf of Fonseca for three days, recovering from even higher winds and similar  nets.  They knew there was only one other boat  to leave Del Sol, so hearing “Yankee,” they took a chance it was us. Boy did they sound good! Hearing how comfortable they were, but still many hours away we decided change plans and anchor in a small but somewhat exposed cove in the Gulf. We don’t make it a rule to anchor or enter unfamiliar waters at night but they had anchored there one night and assured us it was an easy entrance and safe. We made arrangements to meet them the next day. Safely anchored and exhausted we each have two cold beers and fall asleep in spite of the bumpy waves  and the wind.

The island where Karen and Joe are anchored looks more like a San Juan Island  in Washington State than Nicaragua.


Isla Meanguera in the Gulfo de Fonseca belong to El Salvador

It’s out of the wind and the waves don’t reach in there, a fisherman’s hut is on the beach. I can see only one other house on the island, otherwise it’s trees.  Somewhere a dog is barking.

For another 24 hours we rested enjoying a very quiet and very pretty cove. It would have been nice to explore but the dinghy was deflated and I didn’t feel like pumping it up.

Isla Meanguera at sunset with Flying Sideways laying quietly at anchor

We completed the remaining 40 miles to Nicaragua’s Puesta Del Sol the next day, leaving at 5:30 AM so we would make the marina during daylight.

The marina is pretty isolated but well kept with friendly staff. Officials made the 2 hour drive the next day to check us into the country. It all goes smoothly. There is a small pueblo  about half a mile away and an easy walk. We can buy the basics there, bread,  some canned goods, cold cola and cell time.  The 14 year old son of the store’s owner sells us SIM chips for the local cell company and even has a cutter to make the full sized chips into micro for me and nano for Judy’s iPhone.

We’ll leave here soon but need to wait for a weather window and the officials to check us out.

My computer has broken so I’m using an XP based backup machine until we get to a port to get it fixed or get a new one. Death to Asus.


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

Portland, Or. Our preparations are under way to get back to Mexico. We’d started a bring-back-to-boat list way back in October of last year, so you can imagine how long that list had grown over the ensuing 8 months. Lately the UPS guy and us have been best friends — the total weight delivered is…

Denver and some other stuff

We’ve rented an apartment near Denver’s LoSo section (lower downtown), and  it’s pretty centrally located for getting around downtown Denver and near our granddaughter and her family. The miles long 16th Street walking mall is one block from the door of the apartment building.  Like the PNW, good beer, coffee, sidewalk cafes and restaurants  are  everywhere;…

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…