Travels with Miss Cindy

Chapter 13

Welding, Mister Taxi, Ladder Work, Stuck in Acajutla, Pilot to Barillis, Timeless Lagoon, Crossing Bars, Norte in Fonseca, Windy Windy Windy, An Anchor is Lost, Puesta del Sol - Offical Entry into Nicaragua, Explosive Puerto Sandino, Mobbed by Pangas, An Omen, 'Miss Cindy' goes SuperSonic, The End of Our Pacific Voyage.

I have just finished my tea in the cabin. I started drinking it in the cockpit but 1/3 of it blew away. We are anchored about 1/2 mile offshore in the middle of a Norte. Currently blowing in the 30's down a bit from it's peak near 40 this afternoon. We shifted out into 30' of water from 18' and re anchored on advice from a panga who warned us of 'tubos' (surf break) where we were. They also said the Norte would last three more days. It is not very comfortable out here, but probably nicer than tumbling onto the beach.

Monday Feb 16 2009

While I wait for Nelson another taxi drivers offers me a lift and I mention I am waiting. He says, too bad I am first you have to go with me. I take a walk to the head of the pier and wait for Nelson. About 20 minutes later the first guys shows up and says he has talked to Nelson on the phone and he won't be coming to get me. I get in. This driver is a expat from Chile and has Chile and El Salvador flags stuck to the passenger side of the windshield blocking his view and mine.

Manage to find a welding place, nothing like TIG in town but Salvador will stick weld Stainless. I explain what I want and Salvador goes to it on the broken one. If that looks good I will give him the spare to weld as well. The shop is primitive. All the tack welds are without eye protection, but he does find a piece of dark glass for the big welds. He chips the weld with a old screw driver. They look pretty good and I ask him to grind the welds where the bolt heads will go and also to drill the mounting holes out to 1/4". All of this takes about 1/2 an hour. I ask him how much. US$1.

My taxi driver wants to get gas now but I want to start the port checkout process. We go to the Capitan de la Puerto. I walk with a smile up to the three guys in camo with automatic weapons and explain I want a zarpe. They pass me on to the guy in the brown uniform, who passes me on to the guy in the blue uniform. They all agree I don't need to see the Capitan to go elsewhere in El Salvador. Off I go. Before I make the taxi one of the guys with the guns waves me back. Seems the woman in the back overheard and she knows what to do. I do need a zarpe. The Capitan is out but if I come back in an hour it will be ready.

Next I ask my friendly taxi driver for an internet place. The first one he picks is closed. He does not know where the one Nelson took me is. He drops me off and points up the stairs and says he will be back at 10. I say 945...! ok. Turns out the place upstairs does computer training and no internet is available. My friendly taxi driver is nowhere to be seen. I walk about town and mosey back. When my friendly taxi driver gets back I mention the no internet place and suggest he call Nelson to see where the other one was. We go to another and he waits at the door while I check my mail.

Off for gas, pickup papers at the port capitans. No crew list??? that seems odd. They say not needed for single handed. Off to Immigration who takes their copy and tells us where customs is. We go there, wrong place, we need to go to the port authority. We get there at 1100 and the nice guy says go across the hall and get a payment of fees receipt. There is some confusion. This guy and that guy talk a lot. Some sort of minor infighting going on here. Seems we can't get there from here because they have no record of my arrival and cannot make a bill till they get that. No bill, no can pay, no clearance, no way! My friendly taxi driver who has been looking at his watch for the past two hours sticks his nose in. I move it back out of the way. We wait a bit together and he gives me a long whine about how bad officials are in Central America. I feel like telling him to go back to Chile if he doesn't like it here.

I talk some more with the officials and it looks like I can pay the bill at 1pm and clear out at 2pm. I say I will see them then. I have my friendly taxi driver drop me off.

With a rope I drop my 3 gallons of water and 5 gallons of gas into the water beside the kayak and clamber on down. ( Unauthorized port photo )

After I load up the boat I install the repaired pad eyes and head back to shore. My bill isn't ready but I can come into the air conditioned office and wait. Have a nice chat with the guy and give him my latin language cheat to help his English. My bill is for 3 days. 2 hours on Sunday all of Monday, and 13 hours on Tuesday. $34 . I have stayed at cheaper marinas. Did not have to climb a ladder or go thru 2 levels of security to go to town either.

No big deal. I go to the other guy and he issues me a whole new zarpe, keeping the Port Capitans and all my other papers in a tidy orange file. I ask about the crew list, no nescisito. Ok. He offers to drop me off at the pier, it was only a three minute walk on the path but I say sure. We talk a bit about the port on the way ( it is a 5 minute drive thru security ). I thank him shake hands and down the ladder I go. Everybody ( except taxi driver #2 ) was friendly, courteous and helpful ( within some limits ).

Our get out of town card.

I go to pull up the anchor and it is stuck on something. This was reported to be a problem in the anchorage and I have buoyed the anchor with a trip line. It trips out fine but only comes to about 3' feet below the surface. The chain is caught on something. I motor in reverse one circle one way then two back the other. It does not come free. I toodle along at a knot and snub the chain. I try again at 3 kt. It breaks. I get the chain and the anchor with a short length of chain back.

We clear the port around 1430 and motor sail around Remedios Point. It is an ugly point with lots of rocks and surf. I give it a wide berth and we finally head south. ( Unauthorized port photo )

Wednesday Feb 18 2009

On the way to the Barillis pilot meeting point there seemed to be a weird nav light on the bank to the West. It flashed regular yellow but when we approached it the light went to a xenon bright blue. I thought at first it was a panga but with my light on it it just looked like a buoy. It seemed to be able to sense our approach. We have anchored overnight at the meeting point for the pilot who will guide us over the bar and up the estuary to Barillis. The tide is going in and the bar should be friendly but I have packed my papers and journal in a water proof bag and tied it on my waist. As well I have the hatch boards ready to put in when we get to the bar. The pilot shows up at 0715 and I explain our limited speed and the need to refuel every hour and off we go. There is a panga driver and a pilot in a uniform complete with army boots.

The pilot relaxes with his boots up on the rail in the panga.

After about an hour we are about a third of the way in and the panga driver wants to give me his cell phone. I wave him off as we are still in big swells and chop and I don't want him to come along side. I take out my ear plugs and the marina wants to talk to me. I call them on VHF. There is another boat coming in and they want me to anchor for '20 minutes' while the panga goes back to get them. I say sure and chuck out the anchor. The panga driver says I should go around the next point as it is 'mas tranquilo'. I thank him and pull up the anchor and head around alone. The water is smooth. The shallowest part is supposed to be 9 feet so I figure I will motor along till I see the breakers on the bar and wait for them there.

We motor by this postcard fishing village on the way and I follow some GPS waypoints I have for the route in while conning thru the mangroves. An hour and a half later the pilot has not caught up and I am about 15 minutes from the marina. I stop the motor and am going to call the marina on the radio when I hear them talking to the other boat saying that the pilot is looking for 'Miss Cindy' and will be back with them shortly. I call up the marina and let them know I am fine and they say No No No you made a wrong turn. I tell them I think I am fine and that the marina is around the next point and I will be there in about 15 minutes. They say No No No I am in the wrong channel. I tell them it is lovely here in any case and I will mosey around and not to worry about me. I sail on the light breeze and fifteen minutes later the marina buoys come into sight as does the tender from 'Misty Michael' which has come out to greet me.

While hanging out in Barillis I go to the local town of 75,000 or so for some shopping and a look see. Lots of hard working people as I remember from before but there does not appear to be the abject poverty I remember so well from 30 years ago. Nice to see.

The marina is a buoy only marina with a dingy dock and some nice shore facilities plus a fair number of hungry bugs around sunrise and sunset. I ask if I can tie 'Miss Cindy' to the dock when I am ashore and they kindly give me an exception to do so. We nose tie with fenders.

Special lady.

With a nice view of the local shrimper fleet.

Sunday Feb 22 2009

0645 A panga takes me in to the dock and I get stamped out of country by Immigration. By 0715 the sails are up and I wave goodbye to friends old and new.

Our exit Zarpe for El Salvador, we are the 'Catamaran Miss Cindy'.

We have declined the offer of a pilot and putter out of the moorings area then get up to cruising speed. The current is against us but that is what we want as it will be softening the breakers over the bar when we get there.

We pass the local dugout fleet hand lining in the channel.

I had planned to anchor for a hour or so off the neat fishing village but the wind has something in it I don't like and I push on to get over the bar. The waypoints I have say head south now to cross the bar, but I go another 1/4 mile east as it looks nicer over there.

We cross with just smooth rollers and head past the shrimpers who are trawling in 25 to 40 feet. There is enough breeze to sail so we do for an hour or so. While the engine is off I get a VHF call from 'Misty Michael' at the marina and say one more goodbye.

We mostly motor for the rest of the day and a bit into the night and anchor at 2000.

Monday Feb 23 2009

0600 There was a panga moored about 1/2 way to the beach in front of us that came to light a dawn. We sail off with just the windward sail up, it is mostly 15 kt but gusting hard to 25 sometimes. We track along the coast to Puenta Ampala. This looks a bit like the place the tank landing ship operated out of. As this feels like just a strong morning land breeze we head across the Golfo de Fonseca. I steer towards Volcan Cosiguina in Nicaragua. It is about 20 miles across the gulf. This is one of the areas on this coast where we are exposed to risk from Nortes. About 8 miles in the wind has steadied out around 15 kt so we get both sails in action on a nice reach. With 8 miles to go we are down to a single reefed windward sail. It is blowing a hard 30 kt with some stronger gusting. We are now headed towards Puenta Cosiguina. We are making a steady 6 kt. This is looking like a Norte. We anchor about 2 miles North of the point in 20 feet of water around 1100 and settle in to see what happens.

Another flag ceremony. About 1/2 hour later I take it off to stitch up the fraying at one corner. I put it back on but roll it up so it doesn't flog to an early death.

Around 1300 a panga comes by and wants to sell some lobster. I decline but give them some oranges and an apple. They say it is a Norte and I would find it smoother around the point. Off we go. The chart says there is a wreck there. A fully submerged wreck. I go wide around the point to avoid the point break and see the stacks of the wreck come in and out with the swells. I give that about a 100yds clearance keeping a close eye for more bits. It is pretty smooth around the point and we anchor with big South West surf on the beach. About an hour later I figure I can sail up the coast on this wind angle. I start with a full sail on the windward side but quickly reef to two panels. The gusts are very hard coming down off the cliffs. I furl that up and we motor a little and anchor again.

About 1500 I notice we are dragging anchor, a first for this little voyage. I haul it in and there is no anchor. The chain has broken. I rig the bower anchor on the other less used hunk of chain and tie on a as a safety an additional length of line directly to the anchor as well. I let this all out and confirm its set.

It is pretty comfy here with waves about 1 ft and hard wind gusts. About 1700 a panga comes by with the bad news about 'tubos' and we re-anchor out in 2' waves and harder wind gusts. I will set the alarm for 2 hours shifts and check the anchor. I am thinking maybe Puesta del Sol marina 23 miles South is looking pretty good right now for a couple of days. That would also let me get a couple of 4.5 lb bruce type anchors and some chain and line on the way for pickup in Managua.

Sunday Feb 24 2009.

0300 It is nice and calm so I motor till daylight at 0600 then sail on a gusty breeze. We go between East and West Speck reefs. The West reef does not show any breakers so I go close in to the East reef which has big breakers showing its location nicely, that way I am a couple of miles inside the West one and don't have to worry about it. Around 0830 the wind is starting to pickup so we motor up to the sea buoy marking the channel to Puesta del Sol and chug on in. It gets very windy in the channel on the way in.

40kt at times. We are only doing 3.5kt and that includes a half knot from the current. A bit of radio chat and we head in to our slip.

It was so windy it was hard to pull 'Miss Cindy' upwind in her slip. I have to wait for customs et all and they are due at 1400, but I am free to use the pool, showers, bar etc. I meet the manager ( name lost in antiquity ) and he asks me if I am on 'Gigi'. This catches me off guard as my sisters name is Gigi ( now your mentioned too Gigi :). He says the little catamaran, 'Miss Cindy' yes. He was on the phone when we blew on in and he told his friend that a 12' catamaran just came in! I will later meet the person on the other end of the phone in Granada. Turns out there is a sailboat in named 'Gigi'. The couple on board are a little bit outside the cruisers mainstream too, see: SV Gigi

We check in around 1600 with left to right, Port Capitan ( I briefly entertain a fantasy of good looking women in uniform), Immigration, Harbour Master, Customs. The Port Capitan compliments me on bringing such a small boat here in these winds. I check out with a national Zarpe for San Juan del Sur at the same time. All of this comes to US$37. I pay and the Immigration guy is a bit taken aback by the US $2 bill I throw in for fun, I give him a big smile and two 1's instead. He notes one is torn and I replace it. I ask the Port Capitan about ports in Lago Nicaragua and she phones someone and advises that I will need to get permission from the minister of aquatics ( or some such ) and that I can do that thru the Port Capitan in San Juan del Sur.

And our clearance to leave 'first thing' the next morning. This is apparently flexible. The officials provide clearance to the yacht 'Gigi' also where they enjoy a couple of beers, and pickup their complimentary meals from the marina bar before heading back on the two hour trip to Corrinto.

This interesting tree looked like it had grapefruit growing out of the bark.

Another tree all beans and flowers.

The next morning one of the local dugouts goes by. It has a forward rowing station and the person at the stern paddles as well.

Along the way, one of Nicaragua's 14 volcanoes.

Somewhere along this coast on a windy day my second shear pin on the outboard failed. I had one more spare left and went to work putting it in over the stern in a fair bit of chop. At one point I had inserted the shear pin but it was not centered. I thought to give it a light tap with my finger to center it and at the same time in my mind's eye I saw it falling all the way out into the sea.... which it did. I made a pin up from a spare cotter key and stuck it in. Eventually we were using that at full power, but without any prop impact protection.

We are getting into surfing country. Here a lone jogger warms up.

And it is windy windy windy. We pass Puerto Sandino, formerly Puerto Somoza and anchor just past the port in the lee close to shore. Those are not flying saucers but oil storage tanks.

About an hour after we anchor there is something going on. There is a port authority boat anchoring and re-anchoring along with two other pangas. There are a bunch of locals and some navy guys on shore mucking about. There is an explosion on the beach. All the boats start anchoring and re-anchoring again. One of the pangas puts out a line of pop bottle floats as does another on the other side of 'Miss Cindy'. They appear to be doing an explosives exercise on the beach and the boats are setting restricted areas in the bay.

The port authority drops his hook near our chain and swings about 15 feet off our starboard bow. All very exciting. I chat a bit with the guy on the port authority boat, nothing to worry about, their just practicing. It is blowing 30-40kt. Another explosion and they all buzz off. We mush out of the bay a little bit later in about 25-30kt of wind.

We make it to El Transito and anchor mid afternoon for the night as the wind continues to blow. I chat with a panga headed to the beach around 1600 and give them a PangaPak, and decline their offer of fish. This is the first PangaPak I have given out at anchor. That was a mistake. Around 1800 all of those boats on the beach head out to go fishing for the evening and most of them come by to say Hi. A couple ask for stuff and I explain 'little boat, many pangas' and they are good with it. I am surrounded by about 10 at one point. Lots of ordinary chat as well, how far out do they go, where am I from, will I be here tomorrow.

This and other experiences on the coast has me wondering if there are large carvings of 'Miss Cindy' being built in villages along our route. Perhaps a cargo cult of sorts.

I am particularly fussy anchoring now. I don't trust the Stainless Steel chain I have. I have woven a rope thru the chain in case it breaks. As well I use a trip line from the crown of the anchor in case it gets stuck in a rock I can pull it out. And rather than one line from the chain/rope to the boat bridle I have two now in case one breaks. The whole mess has to be put over carefully to keep it all from snargeling up. I don't have a spare however so that's life.

Next day is windy windy windy. I get a little bit past this anchorage and am bashing into 35kt with a scrap of sail and the motor. I work about a mile past the point bar but it is really ugly. I turn back and anchor here. We have made 18 miles today. There is a 12' boat in the bay with 3 guys in it fishing around 1000. They stay till 1500 in the hot sun then slowly paddle in. I watch the touristos on the beach and read.

February 28 2009

I leave in the middle of the night. It is only windy windy. We have about 42 miles to San Juan del Sur. I am tired of the Nortes.

There is a conjunction of the Moon and Venus, surely a good omen. There are lots of pangas off shore and they are all well lit. Sometimes 50 or 60 about 4 miles out. They look like a coastline. Several times in the night the lights on the real coast go out for a while. There are still lots of power outages in Nicaragua.

By 0730 it is windy windy windy windy windy. We anchor in this pretty bay about 12 miles from SJdS. It has a windmill.

At 1430 the wind is down a bit with some strong gusts. We head out staying very close to shore when we can.

1730 San Juan del Sur. The green buoy was missing from the big reef at the west of the entrance but we had no trouble seeing the reef with it's big swells bursting and their spray blowing back to sea. There is sand flying everywhere and I can feel the grit in my teeth. We have reached our Southern Pacific terminus. I can taste it.

As I write this from Lago Nicaragua my eyes water up. There must still be some sand in them.

It was so windy along the coast of Nicaragua we set a new top speed record for 'Miss Cindy' and for my Garmin GPS. 1016 knots. The first supersonic cruising catamaran.

Distance Summary:

This Leg: 300 Nautical Miles

Hours Underway: 132

Hours on Motor: 42 Yuck!

Total To Date: 2330 Nautical Miles

Total Hours Underway: 1002

Total Hours on Motor: 144

Copyright © 2009 Tony Bigras.