Cruising with Playpen
2/12/03 Lay Day in Acapulco, Mexico
It was HOT! We squeezed into a slip at the broken down marina, took an air-conditioned bus to Wal-Mart, walked a few blocks on the beach, went back to Playpen for dinner, took a taxi to the cliff divers, and went home and prepared for a dawn departure. Enough of hot, dirty, crowded, noisy Acapulco!
2/13/03-2/14/03 Acapulco to Huatulco 277nm
We had a picture perfect overnighter to Huatulco arriving in time to call Weatherman Walt and see when we’d have a Tehuantepec open window. He said, "Go right now or wait 6 days."
2/14/03-2/15/03 Huatulco to Puerto Madero, Mexico
We took deep breaths and joined 8 other boats for the crossing. We opted for the safer shore side route as opposed to the rhumb line, but the wind and seas were so benign, we cut some corners and saved a few miles. We pulled into the anchorage in Madero at 1800 having completed 505nm in 59 ¼ hours! The small Madero harbor housed Playpen, 2 34’ American tugs, 2 300’ commercial fishing boats (tied to a pier), 5 confiscated fish-type boats that had been filled with Ecuadorians and cocaine, and at least 200 pangas. We had a simple dinner on board and hit the sack.
2/16/03 Lay Day, Madero
Andy, an English-speaking native, took us ashore to complete our check out of Mexico. The Port Capitan’s office was on the beach, but Immigration was at the airport. For that Andy’s brother, the taxi driver, was called in. It turned out that the taxi was a pick up truck, and we were invited to sit on a 2x10 in the back. What a ride—60mph on dusty roads dodging cars, trucks, buses, and bikes. We quickly completed the Paperwork Cha Cha, and somehow safely made it back to the beach. At the beach some of the pangas were unloading their catches of…sharks—lots of them!
Having cleared out of Mexico, we completed the navigation to bypass Guatemala and head for Barillas Marina Club in El Salvador—another overnighter. Our overnighters so far had been wonderful with a full moon, slight breeze, and calm seas.
2/17/02-2/18/03 Madero, Mexico to Barillas, El Salvador
We left at dawn and had a beautiful ride passing a glowing volcano just at sunset. The boat was too hot for a nap; so I flaked out on the bow seat under a very bright full moon with a slight breeze. Suddenly the breeze turned to a 20-30kn wind. We were in a Papagallo! Then it was too rough for a nap! Fred wouldn’t leave the helm, except to be sick (We’d had shoe-leather Mexican steak with rice and bar-b-que sauce for dinner.), throughout the night. We both kept watch for fish traps, pangas, and shrimpers in the mounting seas. Swells were 6-8’ with wind waves on top. So much for calm seas at night. At sun-up the winds calmed, but the swells remained. We reached the Marina-appointed waypoint about 1430 and followed a sailboat following a panga sent by the marina. The panga escorted us through the breakers and the channel about 8 miles to a lagoon full of moorings. The panga driver helped us hook up to a mooring and Roberto, the English-speaking marina manager, brought the Port Captain aboard for paperwork. Then we went into the office for immigration. All very easy and only $10 a piece for visas. Roberto showed us around the grounds. He’s very proud of the facility. The moorings sit in a quiet, clean lagoon. On shore is a lovely pool wit hot tub surrounded by 20 mini-palapas—each with internet access. There’s a small store, gym, showers, restaurant with cable TV, and an ecological preserve. There are also several cute little bungalows; and the President of the country spends R&R here. (El Salvador is the size of Maryland, and Barillas Marina Club is its Camp David). Throughout the grounds many colorful hammocks hang between trees.
2/19/03 Maintenance Day at Barillas
Changed oil and fuel filters, did laundry, washed at least a ton of salt back into the sea, fueled up at $2.00/gal, bought shrimp at $8.00/lb for jumbo (9 to a lb). We joined 5 other couples for dinner and a movie at the palapa restaurant. Then early to bed—we still had sleep to catch up on.
2/20/03 Fun Day at Barillas
Four of us took the marina air-conditioned van into the nearest town for provisioning. Usulutan was between a village and a city in size with a very nice supermarket and huge, interesting native market. The market wares included: light weight pans for carrying loads on your head, machetes for cutting sugar cane, cooking pots designed for open wood fires, plastic chairs, hammocks, woven blankets, skeins of polypropylene line, salted fish, beautiful produce, store-made clothing and shoes, handmade fancy "French-maid" style aprons (all the women wear them), mosquito nets, grinding stones, sharpening stones, wrought iron hooks and implements, primitive saddles (donkeys?), and enough street garbage to keep many, many rodents happy! We were the only Gringos in town. This was a native working town—not a tourist item in sight! We bought a machete with scabbard ($10) and a bean-cooking pot ($1), and lots of Canada Dry ginger ale—the old formula (much better than the brand new one). On the way back the driver took us to a small hut with Mom, Dad, Grandpa, 2 shy, scruffy kids, and Poncho, the Spider Monkey, with his 6 pregnant wives and 1 girl baby. Poncho won’t accept competition and kills any male babies. Somewhere in the canopy a mom and her newborn are hiding. Grandpa thinks it must be a boy baby. We fed the brood bananas and applauded Poncho’s high wire walking (apparently he came from a circus). We then returned to the marina for clear-out paperwork, but the Aduana wouldn’t sign us out until we were leaving (0500, Friday). We went back to the palapa for dinner and another movie before turning in with the alarm set of 0415.
The official El Salvador currency is the U.S. dollar. When it was the Colonie the loan rate was 28%; now it's linked to U.S. prime. Roberto said it’s somewhere around 1 over prime. El Salvador is trying hard to enter the tourist trade. It’s safe to put your food in the marina’s frig, leave your boat on a mooring, and take tours inland. The marina even supplies a travel agent. Most of the significant sights, though, seem to be in Guatemala.
2/21/03 Barillas, El Salvador to Puesta del Sol
The alarm rang at 0415, but we’d been awake most of the night. It was too hot even with the fan. The Aduana appeared at 0445, signed our papers, and we slipped our mooring at 0500. A panga led "Annie", "Alyssa", and Playpen down the 8 mile river through the breakers, and to the Pacific where we turned left into some substantial swells (3-5’) and winds (10-15kn). The ride was uneventful, though, and we navigated through a very strong current into a brand new marina. We were the 1st patrons to hook up to electric. Bob & Gene are developing a new marina/hotel complex, and they have grandiose dreams. They showed us around about 200 acres they’ve bought and put together. They’re building a marina, restaurant, hotel, swimming pools, palapas, bungalows, workers’ dorms, and a school for 500 kids! Bob & Gene have both lived in the U.S. and are very hard, enthusiastic workers. The setting is truly beautiful with the wide open Pacific, a pretty little harbor, an island with a "hanging beach", a volcano, hundreds of trees, tiny wandering deer, and not a tourist trap in sight! They’re providing construction and service employment as well as individual housing for the natives nearby, and the local fishermen will provide fish for the resort. Nicaragua is now the 2nd poorest country in the hemisphere, but these 2 guys are working hard to change that.
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