Monday, January 16. Puntarenas.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 16th, 2017

My previous blog was on Monday the 9th. When I went back in to Chinandega on the early morning bus on Tuesday to get money on my Bank of America debit card it turned out that against the previous Sunday telephone call, followed up by an e-mail confirmation from the BofA, they had not released the blockage on my account after all. I was really angry. But I did manage to get US Dollars on my credit card at the one bank that has a correspondent relation ship with the BofA. But of course at extra charges. Now I am going ahead on this story to last night when I figured I could pull my Costa Rican cash requirements out of the ATM here. Well, guess what? The bozos at the BofA still or anew put another block on my bank account. I was ready to kill them. Poor David at the call center of the BofA received an earful of it in my Skype phone call to them. But miracles do happen, two hours later I managed to pull Costa Rican colones from the ATM.

My next battle is with another faceless entity of robots, Microsoft. I have spent endless hours already in Nicaragua and now here trying to figure out how to upload my videos from the Go-Pro camera to either of my two Windows 10 laptops. MS decided that they now do not like any of my USB devices. The card reader and even my external hard drive or the USB connection between the two lap tops. Whereas two weeks ago they still did. Either nothing happens or it will tell me that MS does not recognize the USB device, or error 45. I am sick and tired in having to earn another PHD degree in MS software applications, after MS makes another upgrade.  So, for the time being, until I can afford a Mac, I have no way to do anything with some good footage I have of the last 2 weeks.

Moon set on January 12th

Moon set on January 12th

The customs/immigration/port captain delegation showed up late Wednesday morning, to clear me out. I left Puesta del Sol at 13.30. By evening, near the main Nicaraguan port of Corinto, the winds started picking up. Out of the south east. The forecast was for easterlies. I tried to work my way back to the shore where the water is calmer but the angle was too close to the wind and became more and more uncomfortable. Instead of hugging the shore I had no choice but to cut right across the windiest part of the Golfo de Papagayao. It were the frequent gusts that were 5 to 10 knots above the average that tested my endurance. I have been in some nasty stuff but this had to be in the 40 knots plus. Similar to the storm in the Med that cost me my first “Fleetwood”. Waves would frequently slam across the port beam and any time I had to do a sail change or retie the dacron genova, slammed from its tie downs, I got hosed with salt water. At times there were short respites when I got a chance to lay down or get some food. But it was not until I got close to Ballena Bay in the Gulf of Nicoya that the seas calmed down.

forecast for early Thursday the 12th

forecast for early Thursday the 12th

My track from DeLorme

My track from DeLorme

track into the YC at Puntarenas

track into the YC at Puntarenas

Four days is a long time to get just a few short naps. My plan had been to get into Bahia Santa Elena for Thursday night or later into Potrero, but I could not take the storm above the beam with just the storm jib. Easing the sheets and going more with the wind aft of the beam was my only option. For a short period, I thought I might not even be able to make the left turn into the Gulf of Nicoya and be left to become the contemporary Flying Dutchman, if I missed the Panama Canal. I dropped the anchor in Ballena Bay at noon on Saturday and my energy returned to clean up the boat, cook a decent linguine a la vongole dinner with a can of chopped baby clams I found in the food locker. There was a lot of water in the cabin bilges. Usually this happens when I run the engine for a long period. I had cleaned the starboard side on Saturday but on Sunday morning there was another five gallons there. This worried me. Had the heavy pounding loosened the keel bolts? I pumped and blotted both sides and I came to the conclusion that most likely the water is coming in from the following seas through the hand bilge pump through hull, which gets under water in heavy seas and significant heel. I will keep an eye on it and do a test with colored water pouring it down the through hull. This gave me a late start on Sunday morning, which turned out to be a terrific sail to Puntarenas. This used to be the main sea port for Costa Rica. I remember working as a clerk at the agency for the joint service of Holland America Line, Royal Mail Lines and Furness Lines on 6th and Spring Street in Los Angeles in the late fifties. These ships loaded bananas, coffee etc. in Puntarenas on their way from Europe to Vancouver, B.C. But the port has become too shallow for the newer ships and a new container port is now at Caldera, just to the south. I moored off on a float just off the shore in the Yacht Club de Costa Rica. To get there, on the back side of the very narrow long peninsula of Puntarenas, is a challenge. It has to be done at high tide to avoid the shallows. But it was worth it. I really like this spot. I am the only foreign visitor. A panga will pick me up 24 hours with a call on Channel 06 on the VHF. There is water and electricity (electricity I do not need) to the float. The ebb runs ferociously fast. I had to sleep on a slant for the worst of it. The club is a very laid back community, part of a hotel/motel with a nice restaurant/bar, swimming pool and showers and bath rooms. Everyone of the personnel is very kind and courteous. The moorage is very reasonable, about 75 cents/ft per day.

"Fleetwood" far right

“Fleetwood” far right

 

Now here is another good reason for being a Roman Catholic as a travelling Christian. The cathedral still had a 6 p.m. service. The O.L. of Mount Carmel. This is one of the most attractive, spiritual churches I have worshipped in. A change from the gaudy and the primitive churches in the last months. The cantor had a great voice. You will hear him on the video when I get my Mac..or someone among you can tell me how I fix this MS usb rejection problem. The recessional was my very favorite Spanish/English hymn, because it is so very appropriate in my life style. http://”Pescador de Hombres” or “Lord you have come to the sea shore”

I get goose bumps at:

Señor, me has mirado a las ojos
sonriendo, has dicho mi nombre
en la rena, he dejado mi barca
junto a ti, buscaré otro mar

O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, Kindly smiling, my name you were saying;  All I treasured, I have left on the sand there; Close to you, I will find other seas.

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Idali, the secretary here at the YC, took me to church. She told me her worries for her 14 year old son Fabrizio who has a drug addiction. I am so familiar with this affliction and my heart goes out to her and her son. I offered to meet him and just show an interest. I love young people and remember well my struggles at age 14. We went together on the bus to immigration to make my entry clearance. It turned out that immigration, port captain, customs and health all wish to come to the boat here. It is evening by now and none have showed up yet. Quien sabe, mañana? We had lunch together. He spoke very little English and I had a difficult time understanding his Spanish. But we did bond. Wonderful, kind, polite, handsome young man. He runs around with the wrong friends but has a real hard time finding healthier relationships. Costa Rican kids have a tough environment. A group of about eight southerners were eating at the table across from us. I noticed that they joined in a blessing for the food. My curiosity took over again. I cornered pastor Robert Walker of the The Prayer Room church in Conroe, Tx. His very attractive wife Jennifer prayed a beautiful blessing over my friend and all of us laid hands on Fabrizio. One of the Costa Rican members of their group translated for Fabrizio. I was next and Jennifer knew exactly what to pray for, as if she has known me for years. Robert’s parents are working as missionaries near the capital of San Jose. Fabrizio is a believer and he might have been a little startled but I am sure this was the help he and his mother need. Keep him and his friends in your prayers. I plan to stay here a couple of days and possibly take a day trip excursion. I was in C.R. the last 10 days of 1993 on my last honey moon. In San Jose and at a beach resort on the N.W. coast.

This week it is exactly 60 years ago that I started a new life in the United States of America. I do not have the exact date here when I arrived at New York, I believe it was the 12th. Then I got on the train at Penn Central Station and on the Sante Fe in Chicago to Los Angeles. The train stopped in Santa Fe, N.M., I was so excited to see real Indians on the Santa Fe platform. I had fifty minutes to take a quick look around, when I came back the train was gone. I had misunderstood, it were 15 minutes. My bags aboard. The next train a day later. I have slept on a few more waiting room benches in airports and rail road stations since.

Fabrizio

Fabrizio

 

Monday January 9. Frustrated with my banker and the access here.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 9th, 2017

The 6.15 am bus for Chinandega showed up a half hour late. But in all stillness of this place there was plenty to keep me entertained. The baker making his rounds on a motor cycle. The song birds, roosters crowing, children pulling hand carts with oil drum size water barrels up the hill.  There is no running water here. The resort has its own generator and wells, propane is used for fuel. The people of the two fishing villages here live very primitively. I am being eaten alive by mosquitoes this evening. The strong wind has let up for the night and that brings the mosquitoes out. They bite right through my shirt. I managed to find a mosquito net for my bunk in Crucecita.

The countryside from the bus is fairly flat, mostly in sugar cane production and dairy pasture. One small Teak plantation. The first town was El Viego, I got off by accident, thinking I was already in Chinandega, but was able to catch another bus right away. There are no buses back from there to the Marina. Chinandega is not a very attractive town, squalor, trash. The 19th century church of Santa Ana is, as you will see from the pictures another quite over decorated/gaudy edifice. The priest had a long sermon and afterward his commentary was the length of a regular sermon. But it was a privilege to be there with my brothers and sisters. Marvin, the Houston-Nicaraguan, hunting guide and translator in the folkloric dance video, has a home here and he attended the same 10.30 mass.  A video can be seen of the Sunday trip at: Chinandega  the bus ride and a short part of the Sunday mass. The pictures below show the contradiction on this bus ride. These loud and annoying videos are a common way to entertain the riders in Central America. They show a lot of female flesh dancing to dumb songs. Macho men, gun violence scenes, etc.

I had spent most of my leftover American cash for the $215 clearing fees in Guatemala and Chinandego has the only ATM machines 40 KM away. The Marina advanced me the $72 for the entry here. And I was to repay this out of the ATM machine on Sunday. But somehow I got confused by the system here, because I wanted both US dollars and Cordobas. and then BofA automatically blocked my account. There was immediately an e-mail from the BofA and they were to un-block it when I answered that it was me doing the transactions. But two hours later there was no way yet for me to use my debit card. I did manage to get $20 worth of Cordobas for the bus ride before it was blocked. I needed to grocery shop because there is nothing nearer than Chinandego. So, when I asked the owner here for help, like me transferring dollars to his account he told me that I could catch a ride to Chinandega today with one of the men working here. But that never came about. And I was told that it may not happen for days. So, no I have to catch that same 6.15 bus tomorrow and spend most of the day riding in that piece of junk and listening to the porno videos. Then, when I get lucky and get some money I have to wait for the four clearing services to show up out of Corinto to clear out. So, instead of two days I’ll have been here for about a week. It looks like my slogan will have to change from Before 80 Years to “in 80 Years”.

Today I heard this strange, like a hacksaw, sound up in a coconut tree. Turned out to be a sloth.

 

The (soft) Porno Queen

The (soft) Porno Queen on the bus

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Santa Ana, Chinandega

Santa Ana, Chinandega

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You can just see the tail of the Sloth

 

 

Saturday, January 7th. Marina Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua. A hidden secret piece/peace of Paradise.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 7th, 2017

Nicaragua, the 55th country visited with “Fleetwood”. I did not set foot on El Salvador but sailed its territorial waters, nbr 54.

I left Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, at 12.45 after the agent, Miguel, had brought my passport back and my “Zarpe”. Instead of the $ 160 I mentioned in my previous blog, I ended up paying $180 on Monday and then another $35 on Tuesday. A good racket. The little I spent on my very interesting side trip to Antigua was eaten up by the clearance expenses and the marina restaurant was extremely expensive. More than state side and twice and more than Mexico. The wind forecast was for very light air, between two and six knots. I decided to bring out the old worn 150% Mylar Genoa sail. Because it is about 20% larger than the second hand dacron genoa I have used so far. But I got some stronger winds and did also a fair amount of motor sailing. A mylar sail is much more delicate than Dacron, it tears easily. But it turned out that it is not as difficult to refold as I had anticipated. I shall be using it until it is totally used up. I still have a much newer Mylar replacement aboard. Late on Tuesday afternoon the wind strengthened and was about 20 degrees from hard to the wind. When I checked my speed over the ground I could not believe my eyes I was doing 7 plus and hitting close to 8 ½ knots at times, fairly consistent for a couple of hours until dark when the wind usually diminishes. I had to record this. It is the fastest I can remember ever going on “Fleetwood” without a spinnaker or a strong favorable current. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTh3NOBoxUg&t=174s

The Puesta del Sol Marina is about 12 ½ miles north-west of the Nicaragua port of Corinto. It is the first and so far only marina in this country. It was developed by Robert Membreno who came at 7 years old to California from Nicaragua with his parents. He is from 1932 but you would not guess it. He has sailed in many parts of the world and discovered these vast mangrove sloughs in 2002 while sailing this coast. The marina and resort he built are exceptional, first class. He owns vast stretches of the estuary and is not planning to develop it. The small fishing settlement next to the resort goes on just like before Robert showed up but benefits by the employment opportunities and better access. He also built a school for the local youths.

When I turned the corner at the unexpected opening in the shore line, after going through mild tidal rapids, I felt like entering into a new world. The water was flat and there was no sign of any human interference with the original environment. Still and peaceful, a little further down the marina and resort showed up in a bend of the slough. It is the end of a very little traveled road. There are no street noises and at night the sky is as bright with stars as on the ocean or in the desert. The nearest habitation is 20 miles away. There is a swimming pool, excellent restaurant and bar and the personnel is very professional and helpful. The showers and bathrooms are so much better than to what I have become used to since leaving the Saint Francis Yacht Club. Only the one at Grand Harbour Marina in Valetta, Malta beats this one.

Thursday afternoon I met the people at the table next to me in the open air bar. I just had my first cold beer since Guatemala. I was curious and wondered for whom they spoke English since most of them were apparently Spanish speakers. It turned out that the one non Spanish speaker was a Hungarian, Victor Pentek ww.elanhunting.hu/, visiting his friends whom he has taken on hunting expeditions in Hungary and Slovakia. His local host, Alfredo, is here with his son and daughter, who are both studying in Boston, and his longtime friends Rafael and a Houston-Nicaraguan, Marvin, who is guiding the men on a water fowl hunt here in the mangrove banks. The kitchen had broiled some of their fowl catch of the day, wrapped in bacon. They invited me to share their food. They were all very curious and interested in my travels and came to see “Fleetwood”. Alfredo had arranged a “Fiesta” that evening for his guests at the resort and invited a folkloric dance group “Los Maribios” to perform. (Los Maribios are the string of volcanoes that run the length of Nicaragua, one of the main volcanoes, San Cristobal, can be seen right across from here, a lower one, Casita, can be seen to the S.W., both are active.)

The dancers and their costumes were very impressive. I made a short video of it. snapshot-5-1-6-2017-5-47-pm

I included the introductions from the director in Spanish which were translated by Marvin. I did this with the expectation that these may be appreciated by the Spanish class of my friend Adam Von Zimmerman at the Gig Harbor High School for whom I am trying to give some visuals of the Central American countries I visit. I have discovered that there are some distinct differences in language and customs between the different countries and also a strong national pride. Just to give an example: the Nicaraguans tend to swallow the “s”. Lune instead of Lunes, etc.

Now I have to, delicately, tell you a little more about this encounter of these new friends. It had not escaped me that they are people of means. But I was almost a little disappointed when I indirectly learned that the host belongs to the wealthiest family in this country. I would have never guessed. But it raised my respect for who they are. Rafael heads their philanthropic organization ANF which is the most important private source of assistance for the underprivileged in this country. They are committed Christians. Alfredo said the blessing over the dinner. “Noblesse oblige”, they take their privilege and their Christian obligation seriously.

And I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity with a seemingly very different social crowd.

On Monday I was the only “white” man on the cheap bus ride to Esquintla. Luis, also a Nicaraguan, with his 2 year old son Marco, in front of me. But he and Alfredo junior have that same interest and curiosity and happiness in their broad smile and spark in their eyes. They are the kind of people I am drawn to, who are happy with themselves.

There is a very strong wind forecast along my next stretch. I may try to sit this out here. I plan to take the 6.15 am bus from here to Chinodega to go to mass and return here in the early afternoon. I have plenty of chores. One other good thing here is that I have excellent wi-fi on the boat. A luxury I have not had for a long time. It saves on coffee and beer in the nearby bar and no need to drag all my gear along.

This morning was picture time. I can go crazy here….

San Cristobal, active volcano, 5,725 ft.

San Cristobal, active volcano, 5,725 ft.

dug outs, marina in background

Dug outs, marina in background

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January 2nd. A day-trip to Antigua

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 3rd, 2017

The three different authorities came to “Fleetwood” at 8 am, as promised by the agent Miguel de Jesus Ovalle Escobar. I caught a mini bus to Esquintla and connected to a regular bus climbing up to Antigua. I had not been able to see the volcanoes from the ocean, like the clear view I had of the Mexican active volcano on my way from Barra de Navidad. I could see large smoke clouds near the coast. Most likely burning of the sugar cane stalks. In the slide show you can see some decent pictures of the steam plume on Pacaya, taken in the morning, later in the day it was too hazy. I was the only tourist on the four different bus rides. My Spanish is improving and I had some decent conversations with the curious local passengers. I changed a $20 bill at the restaurant here into Quetzals and I came home with $5 worth left, the rest spent for the bus fares, a ceviche lunch and a cold beer in the afternoon, plus admission to the “La Merced” convent. No, it was nothing like Volendam or Universal Studios. Every turn of the corner had something spectacular to show and learn. A photographer’s paradise. The slide show will tell all: www.ComeToSea.us/albums/albums/Antigua-Guatemala.mp4 I took a video, mostly in and from the bus rides, that I shall work on while under sail.

I plan take off by mid day for Nicaragua/El Salvador.

this morning at my dock, a brown pelican

this morning at my dock, a brown pelican 

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at the Antigua bus terminal, active volcano on horizon

at the Antigua bus terminal, active volcano on horizon

 

January 1, 2017. Guatemala. Country # 53. (Revised Jan 3)

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 1st, 2017

Jan 3: I have added more detail to the cruisers in Pto. Chiapas. And a plug for a very good downloadable cruising guide:

Happy New Year!

Reading up in my cruising manuals, once I was under sail yesterday, I changed my plan to skip Guatemala.

At 11 am I entered Puerto Quetzal in the southern part of Guatemala, near the city of San Jose. The cruising guide mentions the possibility to make day trips to the “altiplano” the highlands with active volcanoes, Mayan market villages and coffee plantations. The pictures have always fascinated me. I need a short vacation from my permanent vacation. And a short respite in the cooler highlands. But I nearly turned around and skipped Guatemala. The manual mentions $150 for the clearances. But that has gone to $165 and it is double on the weekend. The morage is also about 20% higher than in Mexico, $1 per foot per day. But this marina is recommended for security to leave the boat while making a side trip. I managed to let me stay here in the marina and be cleared in and out at the $165 fee, at 8 am tomorrow. I hope I find an interesting way to explore and that this does not end up like a trip to Volendam or Universal Studios.

I downloaded for $13 an excellent “Sarana” cruising guide. The advantage is that updates are digitally made available for your $13 and I find that the printed guides just are quickly out of date. If I had inserted the, right on, waypoints for Chiapas Marina, and had my small tablet/laptop changed to not go to sleep after 5 minutes, I could have saved my self the grounding. I highly recommend this to any one visiting Central America.

The administrative paper crap and officialdom here in Latin America reminds me of Greece.

Yesterday afternoon the marina office manager, Memo (Guillermo) took the skippers of three boats to check out of the country to the Harbor Master (Capitania), Customs and Border Control. The Capitania had requested a signed statement from the marina describing my grounding incident. Then the whole group had to sit for an extra hour and a half in the Capitania office while they rewrote a three page statement that they had started about this non-incident. Then five copies had to be signed by me and everyone in the capitania above the title of the clerk. There was a line-up at the fuel dock of fishing boats because the fuel prices went up on the first of the year. We had to hand carry our fuel from the pumps in jerry cans. Fortunately the marina provided the extra empty jugs and accompanied us with the p.u. truck. I had originally intended to leave Friday but since the clearance and fuel took so long I left early this morning. My boat was inspected again with the sniffer dog, just like on arrival. Now this became an issue that I changed the departure time. I was ready to shove off before 7, one of the marina men was on the VHF radio and after a few backs and forths with the capitania, with the mooring lines undone, he gave me the go ahead. But one minute later he yells me back: there is a revision….. I told him to tell them to go to hell. So, just like in Fiji, I kept looking over my shoulder for the patrol boat in hot pursuit.

Though the forecasts were for very light winds I managed to sail nearly the whole way. Some fast and some at just over three knots, but I had plenty of daylight to arrive in Puerto Quetzal. I am the only sail boat here…. The majority are 20 to 30 foot typical sport fishing boats from the southern US that are probably trucked across from the Caribbean side. There are a lot more black and mixed racial Guatemalans here in contrast to Mexico.

A little more about my short layover in Chiapas Marina: I took the local mini bus into Tapachula, about a half hour ride, on Wednesday.  Interesting ride through Mango orchards, cane fields and Teak plantations. The town has a huge mall with an enormous Wall Mart. There was an interesting bunch of cruising boats and crews here. A fifty plus foot Turkish built gulet, flying the Italian ensign owned by Adolf a Swiss from the Bern area, with his Swiss friend Hans and his Hamburg wife Andrea. They sailed the boat from Europe through the Canal and are on their way North. A Hans Christian 38ft “Wakhuna” purchased in the Sea of Cortez by Robert and Irish American and his French partner Delphine. I had to do a double take. She speaks American English with a Dutch accent. She grew up in New Caledonia and learned English from a Dutch couple…. Crew-member Marshall is from Seattle and owns a Rough Water 33, just like my former Arabella’s Landing Marina dock neighbors Ira and Elisa Spector.  They are also on their way south to the canal and then on to Europe.

Right after midnight the whole coastline came alive with fire crackers. I am excited about what this year will bring for me. Last year had many highlights, the publication of “SoloMan”, my participation in the memorial concert in Amsterdam on May 4th, the departure for this new adventure, etc. I am very blessed and grateful.

 

 

Wednesday, December 28. In Chiapas, by way of an obstacle course.

Written by Jack van Ommen on December 28th, 2016

I have arrived at my last Mexican port, just a few miles north of the Guatemalan border. I will be checking out here. This means that I have spent just about two months near or in Mexico. My 52nd country since I started my circumnavigation in 2005. I have been coming to Mexico for winter vacations since the late seventies. This was a very different way to experience the country and the people. Sailing down its entire Pacific coast line, it amazes me how beautiful it is and that there are still many wild and undisturbed shore lines. Something I did not see in the usual tourist vacation spots. So very close to the United States and yet so very different. At home on the boat I usually have the FM radio going and every country reveals some of their peculiarities. What I found in particular unusual is the many public service instructions. To the point that I wonder if these many government and social agencies feel that their radio audience needs to learn how to boil water. To the point of condescension. Maybe a left over from the colonial times when the savages needed redemption. A good part of the radio stations’ income comes from their state agencies, in particular the governor himself who constantly has to boast of his achievements. My frustration is my lack of knowledge of the Spanish grammar. I have a decent vocabulary. I plan to spend more time on the irregular verb conjugations. But when I try the Mexicans are kind enough to understand and to help me along.

I left Hualtulco at 6.45 am on Christmas Day. The very short video of the Christmas Eve service in La Cruz can be seen at: https://youtu.be/7_oRRMkugb4.

Another boat “Allora”, the couple from Bozeman Mt., left right after I did. It was another gorgeous day and I partially motor sailed and sailed towards Salina Cruz, following the coast line of the Gulf of Tehuantepec. I wanted to make good time to try and get ahead of the next hard blow scheduled for Tuesday but already packing strong winds on Monday. The trick is to stay within 2 miles of the beach to avoid the increasingly meaner sea state, away from land.

Christmas Turtle near the boat in Bahia de Rosario,Ox.,Mx.

Christmas Turtle near the boat in Bahia de Rosario,Ox.,Mx.

Just after I had photographed and filmed the amazing number of Sea Turtles, I started the engine up to keep the sailing speed up. But the prop was just spinning. I first figured that I had picked up something on the prop and tried to dislodge it by going in reverse. No luck. Then I concluded that I might have lost one of the folding prop blades. By hand turning the shaft I could hear one blade opening up.

What to do? I was going to need the engine to go against the wind in the hardest part of where the Tehuantepec gathers its first strength, just beyond Salina Cruz. “Allora” was already approaching Salina Cruz and they reported 20 plus knots on the nose. They were calling the port’s traffic controller to advise that they were crossing the designated shipping lanes to and from the port.

I explained my problem to Diana and then got the controller involved. There was a lot of back and forth because he was confused as to who had the problem Fleetwood or Allora. In the end he arranged for an assistance boat the “Marlin” to come to my aid. It was getting decision time. I still has some maneuverability under sail. Once the wind stopped or the 20 plus knot came my way, I’d be in serious trouble. It was around 4 pm. I decided to sail to the nearest beach and dropped my heavy plow anchor, under sail, in about 35 feet depth. It was hot and I had already spent time in the engine compartment. I concluded that most likely it was in the transmission control cables. I crawled in the quarter berth and made some adjustment on the control lever end. That did not help. I also had to constantly grab the VHF to report on my position and problem. No “Marlin” to be seen. Finally I discovered that it turned out to be transmission end where the outer cable housing was slipping out of the clamp and this caused the forward gear to never to be pushed into its forward position. It was a lot of fussing in the heat and my body cramps up in the narrow hole so that I have to constantly stretch out for a few seconds. But that was the trick. And I cleaned up my mess and hauled the anchor, which turned out to be a chore. I have been using the much lighter Danforth anchor. But I just wanted to be sure that I was secure to the bottom in case I had to spend the night or the Tehuantepec promised for the next 24 hours was going to reach me there. After I got on my way I did see a boat with search lights. There was a net set in his direction and I figured it was a fishing boat, but it turned out to be the “Marlin”. A big work boat. I had a heck of a time communicating with them. I told them I was o.k. and that I would cover their costs. I will try get a hold of them from here. And only within minutes of being on my way the wind came hard from the nose and the seas were nasty. I forgot to close the forward hatch and have a lot of salt to clean off in there. When I did get closer to the shore beyond Salina Cruz, the seas got flatter and I motor sailed with just my little storm jib in about 20 plus knots of wind from the port quarter. Once I had passed the most treacherous part of the Tehuantapec winds, somewhere at longitude 94, I cut the corner and headed straight for Porto Madero, instead of hugging the beach. On Monday the winds were light and I had to make several jibes for a better wind angle. I ended up paying my dues. Since I had not made progress away from the upcoming danger zone and take one jibe too far north I got hit with a chunk of the Tehuantepec at around 8 pm Monday evening. All of a sudden all hell broke loose. I had to wrestle the full main and Genova down and hoist the storm jib in a hurry. Fortunately it came out of the east and I was able to take it on the port beam in the safer direction of the shore. It had to be a good forty plus wind strength. The wind was howling through the rigging and a couple of my halyards were clanging like crazy on the mast.  But by 1 a.m. I had sailed out of it and I had made decent distance with just the storm jib. The waves slapped me around but never slammed over the boat. It was scary. On Tuesday there was very little wind and the motor ran most of the day. I left Hualtulco with about 11 gallons in my 13 gallon tank. So far I have never ever on these maximum four day overnighters had to refill the tank from my spare 5 gallon jerry can. When I checked on Tuesday afternoon I was down to 2 gallons and still 65 miles to go. I filled up from the 5 gallon jug. I had run the engine on Sunday and Monday morning at higher speed than I usually do, because I wanted to cross the Tehuantepec howler as quickly as possible. After that I slowed it back down again. But I would not be able to make it in before dark into Puerto Madero. But I have an excellent Google Earth overlay of the entrance and harbor on my new small P.V. WallMart $120 laptop/tablet. Not on the Toshiba. It all worked slick. I could take the detachable tablet part into the cockpit instead of having to constantly check the Toshiba in the cabin. But the new toy kept closing down and while approaching the marina I could no longer check the boat’s position on the chart. It was 3 a.m. Wednesday. I went by memory. When I guessed where the right turn was the green buoy light was not lit. And from there on it was guess work which fork to take. The cruising guide I have for this port told me that the route to the Chiapas Marina is clearly buoyed and lit. So very wrong. I grounded in soft mud. I figured, since I was going at minimum speed that I could back right off. But since I was now not going anywhere I attempted once more to bring the electronic chart up on the tablet. When I tried backing off I was not going anywhere. So I put the anchor down and figured that I might just as well get some sleep until daylight. Little did I realize that this became a 12 hour ordeal. I hit it at maximum high and the boat came to lay at a 40 degree on its starboard side. Low is at 10 am and the high at 4 pm. Trying to move through the boat, take a leak, is like rock climbing. Even sitting here right now writing this I have stomach cramps propped up with pillows. This is a swampy bog and I have a front row seat of all the water fowl. Egrets, bittern, black and white herons, sand pipers, turkey vultures, etc. Two boats managed to pull me off at around 2 pm. The Chiapas Marina is an impressive operation.

How the well heeled never miss their cafe au lait, Ca-Phe Sua with a good gimballed stove.

How the well heeled never miss their cafe au lait, Ca-Phe Sua with a good gimballed stove.

taken by the local Marines sent via Enrique and Memo to me

taken by the local Marines sent via Enrique and Memo of the Chiapas Marina to me

Egret

Egret

Egret

Egret

Tri colorod heron

Tri colorod heron

 

Christmas Day 2017.

Written by Jack van Ommen on December 25th, 2016

Merry Christmas to all. I am waiting for a little more daylight to depart. I should be in Porto Madero by late Tuesday, possibly Wednesday.

I went to the 6 p.m. Christmas Eve mass in the neighboring beach/fishing town of Santa Cruz. The same priest as in Crucecita but a totally different church. No gaudy decorations, though I did find out that the Crucecita church has world’s largest painting of the Virgin of Guadeloupe in the ceiling fresco and that the Mexican painter has claim to fame.  This church is built on a knoll right at the harbor’s edge. It is totally open and I was wondering when the priest would be able to silence the mariachi bands. The priest won. I made a short go pro video of the service, I shall have it in a week or so. I finally was able to upload the video I took earlier on how I set, fly and douse my spinaker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ1_32Ky93A&t=999s

Right after midnight hell broke loose with fire works, here in the harbor.

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at the foot of the altar are the Christ child dolls to be blessed for the home manger scenes.

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Friday December 23rd. Almost Christmas.

Written by Jack van Ommen on December 23rd, 2016

I am sitting here in Juanita’s restaurant, my evening routine. Doing my internet with a cold beer and her “to kill for” dessert, frozen yogurt with cactus pear. I am normally not a dessert person.  I have a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit here in the heat. But I am grateful for being spared the commercial rush and pressure.

Juanita's Cafe in the Christmas Spirit

Juanita’s Cafe in the Christmas Spirit

I plan to go to 6 p.m. mass tomorrow at the church in Santa Cruz, which is just to the west of Chahué. The mass in Crucecita is a t 8 p.m. and I want to leave as early as possible on Christmas Day. There will be just three sail boats crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec. A family from Bozeman Mt., Marcus and Diana and their two daughters Haley and Madison. Not sure of the boat name, a gorgeous boat, a Carl Schumacher “Outbound 44/46”. And  my friends Pat and Dave on the 53 foot Ferro Cement ketch. Marcus gave me the phone number of Enrique, the marina manager in Pto. Madero who knows the routine for crossing the Gulf. He talked sense into me, to follow the shore within two miles. I was tempted to make a direct shot for it because on Tuesday all hell breaks loose again. The biggest problem is the sea state, which you can avoid by staying closer to shore.

I have uploaded one more video on you-tube: https://youtu.be/YxthA5A9WrQ This is  taken in Chahué at a traditional manual weaving loom. This old craft has always fascinated me. On Bali, in 2006, I saw the very intricate double weaving technique; and at  a Muslim enclave in  Vietnam in 2010.

Cham muslim weaving

Cham muslim weaving

Wrapping thread with plastic tape, prior to dying,Teganan, Bali

Wrapping thread with plastic tape, prior to dying,Teganan, Bali

 

4th Sunday of Advent December 18. Digging in for a hot winter’s night.

Written by Jack van Ommen on December 19th, 2016

Since I am here for Christmas, I dug out the canvas boat cover from underneath my sail storage, to give me some protection from the hot blazing sun. Today it got up to nearly 100 degree Fahrenheit, 35 Centigrade. In a mail from a stateside friend I learned that people paid to sit through a football game played today in Chicago at 30 minus F. The evenings and mornings are very pleasant with a refreshing ocean breeze. I rode my shiny stainless steel folding bike into the town of Crucecita, about two miles from the marina to the town center where I attended 10 a.m. mass at the church of Santa Maria Virgen de Guadeloupe y Santa Cruz. I first rode through a very attractive suburban bungalow sub division. The town, in contrast to what I have seen so far in Mexico, does not have any run down squalor, no unfinished skeleton buildings. Very clean and prosperous, wide boulevards, tree lines, parks. The town center, overlooked by the church, is a park with big shade trees. Lots of small attractive hotels. I checked the rate where I had lunch and it was 800 pesos for a one bedroom double. About $42. The Canadians have discovered this years ago and they will kill me if they read this. The other contrast here is that you see few obese women here. Hard to explain. My guess is that they are happier. On the way back I stopped in at this huge Wall Mart like super market, Selecto. The Canadians were doing their Christmas shopping. For a town/area, not even a tenth of the size of Puerto Vallarta it seems to have equivalent conveniences. Maybe I’ll retire here when you buy enough Soloman and The Mastmakers’ Daughters, so that I can afford air conditioning in my boat. Remember, these books will be much appreciated Christmas gifts….But it will take some time getting used to the interior of the church. A combination of Hieronymus Bosch and the murals in the Engelen Bewaarders church in Badhoevedorp.

I finally managed to upload the You Tube video of my fast sail from La Cruz to Melaque on December 5th. https://youtu.be/XTN4FS-0yvo 

You can find any additional successful uploads of all my videos of this trip on youtu.be by just searching under Jack van Ommen. I am hoping to get my video of how I set, fly and take the spinaker down singlehanded in the next days.

 

Saturday, December 17. In a weather holding pattern in the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

Written by Jack van Ommen on December 17th, 2016

This was one my longest overnight sails, from Gig Harbor, Ixtapa to Hualtulco. I left Monday afternoon when the dredging of the Ixtapa marina entrance was opened from 1 to 2 p.m. As the crow flies about 350 nautical miles. I would have arrived here early Friday, but on Thursday afternoon I noticed that my barometer had fallen on “Storm” and thunder clouds were forming over the coast. I decided to play it safe. My biggest fear is lightning strikes when my mast is the tallest object around. I diverted into a small fishing village bay at Puerto Escondido. I had already seen from the Google Earth aerial photo that a good part of the bay is taken up by mooring buoys for the pangas. Not much was noticed of a storm until I was ready to leave at 3 a.m. The sky was exploding with lightning, just to the west off shore. But it appeared to dissipate and I pulled the anchor at 5 a.m. It was over 70 miles, (as the crow flies) and I was concerned that I’d have trouble finding the marina in Hualtulco in the dark. That meant that I needed to maintain a 5 knot average speed in the 14 hours from 5 a.m. I had wind but needed to add the motor to it for long stretches to stay at that average. This is not a pleasant way to travel. I had telephoned the marina from Pto. Escondido, when I was in cellphone reach, but I was unable to get good answers on just which bay to enter. The GPS coordinate did not help much. Fortunately I arrived just at dusk and Dave another sailor in the marina heard my call to the marina on Channel 16 and guided me in.

I was dying for a cold beer after that five day sail. I could not get off the boat in the Pto. Escondido bay because of the sorry state of my inflatable dinghy and up the creek with just one paddle. I may have found a replacement here. Enjoyed very much meeting Dave and his buddy Pat. They both re-enlisted after 9-11 and spent time in Iraq and Kuwait and both retired with the rank of Captain. Pat bought “Makoa Kai Hele” the 53 foot ferro-cement ketch in the Channel Islands marina. You can follow their adventure  at: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Makoa%20Kai%20Hele

I got the disappointing news that it may be a while before the window opens again to cross the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec. On Sunday evening the blow starts again. I will be watching www.Windytv.com. The crossing is about 240 miles, so, I need at least three calm days to make it to Chiapas, the last checkout port in Mexico, on the Guatemala border. I have a number of chores to do. It turned out that the Google Earth pictures installed from a software copy in La Cruz are for the most part worthless. I need to re-install and clean up the next part to the Panama Canal. Then if I get a chance I may take some short road trips. There is lots to see here in the state of Oaxaca.

I had some of the best sailing ever on this five day trip. A couple of times I could use the spinnaker again. Lots of Dolphin shows. Spectacular full moon rises and sets. There are not many boats here. Several must have just left before this Sundays new storm, with 60 knots of wind….I had hoped to be in the Panama Canal for Christmas. I promise I will tell you what the reason for this delay turns out to be.

I have taken a couple more videos but it takes for ever to upload them on You Tube, with the public internet here. There is one short new one of the Moonlight Sail at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlRApdLtmB4

 

Moonrise on the 12th

Moonrise on the 12th

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moon set on the 14th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

moon set on the 14th

moon set on the 14th

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A friggen Frigate Bird trying to land on my windex