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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Satanic Winds Part 2

We heard from our friend on PAPAGAYO in San Juan del Sur and it sounds like we missed all the fun. With wind gusts clocking to 80 knots, boats broke moorings and drug anchor. The wind pushed these boats out to sea where the waves were tremendous!

One boat had the roller furling sail open and shred, then the mooring broke and this 68 foot boat tried to power its way back against the wind and waves but could not even get their bow pointed into the wind. The navy offered to take them off the boat, but they refused to abandon the boat. A large fishing boat came to the rescue, but it took them almost all day to tow them against the weather back into the anchorage.

The following photo was taken two days AFTER the worst winds had calmed down enough that our friend could get his camera on deck. These two boats are fighting to stay tied to the large white sea buoy (in front of the Ketch with shreded sails). This buoy is about 3/4 mile from the beach but look at how the waves have built up! It is also a buoy normally used by ships, but both of these boats drug and were desperately tieing to anything that wasn´t moving.

Looks like we made it out just in time, eventhough our passage was rough we got north fast enough to avoid the brunt of the hurricane force winds!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Satanic Wind

The gap winds toyed with us. The computer models showed 20 to 25 knots for leaving southern Nicaragua and heading north. However the NOAA forecasters kept making references to a cold front up in Mexico that would make "fresh breezes" and "strong breezes" in the gap wind areas. While I trust the forecasters over the computer models, I wasn't sure if fresh and strong were 20-25. Turns out the models lied.

We departed San Juan del Sur with about 20 knots and started sailing north along the coast. The gap winds blow NE to ENE allowing for a nice sail if you're heading NW like us. They also come right off the shore so the waves don't build up if you stay close to land. The key is you have to STAY close to land in marginally charted waters. The problem was the wind built to about 35 knots and stayed there. Dust was blowing onto us off the shore and we were getting sprayed with salt water. All still good on board as we were doing about 6 knots with only about 1/2 of one sail up. Then it started to get gusty...really gusty! Winds were hitting the 40's and starting to really heal us onto our rail (which is hard on our fat boat). We reduced sail down to about 1/8 of its size to stay in control, but we were still hitting over 7 knots!

The fine line here is we had to stay in control enough to keep close to the shore. If something happed and we got pushed away from the protective land, we would end up in open water in terrible seas with no real way to fight our way back to land against those winds.

Then to top it off we started getting even stronger gusts in the 50's! With almost no sail out we were putting the rail in the water during those gusts! Fortunately we have a good guidebook (haha) and sought refuge in a nearby anchorage which had good protection and great holding. We spent the night there, but we only managed 25 miles that day and we were pretty nervous about getting pasted the next day because we still had 80 miles to Corinto.

Fortunately for us the wind was more normal running 20-25 and we trucked north the next day without seeing anything over 30 knots. We eventually sailed out of the gap wind funnel zone and the wind even died for while forcing us to motor some.

We arrived at the entrance to Corinto at 2:30 am and since it is a well marked commercial port with good charts, we decided to attempt the entrance. The channel was pretty easy and only one buoy was missing and one was lit the wrong color, but it was all good. We anchored, checked in and then met Ivan who took us up the estuary to his hidden spot. It is super calm here and we have some work to do on the boat before heading out again. More about this place with smoking volcanoes later....

{GMST}12|31.579|N|87|11.970|W|Calm and quiet estuary|Paso Caballos Corinto{GEND}

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Happy New Year from Nicaragua!

We've been enjoying San Juan del Sur as usual! The resturants are still great and a few new ones have sprung up! There are more surf shops here now and it seems like there are a lot more tourists, but this is the first time we've been here during the xmas/new years season.

As usual most cruising boats skip Nicaragua and that's their loss because this rough and tumble little town is still a hidden diamond.

We were overjoyed to have xmas and new years (a day early) celibrations with our sailing friends Scott and Liz who now run Rancho Cecilia (rated 4.5/5 on trip advisor!) They have built a jungle paradise from scratch and are only 10 minutes from the surf. It's amazing! Here we are at xmas:

And the night before New Years we sort of outdid oursleves. We had a great meal at Colbri and drinks just about everywhere. Here's a nice New Years Prelude photo:

Of course it wouldn't be a complete new year if we didn't have something break on the boat at a bad time. You see the winds here blow often and hard. It isn't a big deal because they come off the shore so the waves are pretty flat. However sometimes your anchor won't hold and you have to be prepared to move the boat and re-anchor to avoid dragging out to sea or onto the rocks.

So one windy day we went to start our engine because we decided we wanted to anchor closer to the beach. No go. Not even a click. Now this is a problem I've had occur randomly for the past year or more. But on this evening unlike in the past, trying again didn't solve it.

That night was a bit unerving because the wind blew into the 40's and if we drug it would be a very bad bad bad bad scene.

The next day I ripped everything apart, climbed in there ready to test for the electrical failure, told Sherrell to crank it...and it worked first try. Damn. Tried again and again. Only once did it fail and thing I was measuring worked during that test. At least I knew it was something else.

So we stripped everthing apart, starter, solenoid, relays, and switches. Cleaned tested and put it back together. I still can't find the problem or get it to repeat now. So I'm going to wire in a completely redunant starting system (assuming the starter is still good because during the failure the solenoid didn't click) until we can buy some replacement Yanmar parts.

We can't have the engine not start, that would suck in these strong winds where it is impossible to sail upwind against it if we needed to.

Needless to say we're going to spend a little more time here getting that sorted out and looking for a weather window before departing lovely San Juan del Sur.