Passage from El Salvador to Nicaragua

Thursday, January 30, 2014

013-10.147 N
087-42.644 W
Marine forecast for this location

Ahoy from the crew of the BlueJacket!

Heading down riverWe are now located in Nicaragua after leaving El Salvador. We had a very nice stay at marina Barillas in El Salvador, but as they say, all good things must come to an end. I must admit that I simply enjoyed being a bum for a few days and not doing any projects, as we had been working our tails off getting the boat ready to leave Mexico.

We decided that we needed to leave as soon as there was light, so we cleared out with the port captain the prior day, but we had to clear out with immigrations just before departure. Amazingly the immigrations was waiting in his office at 5 AM and was smiling and jovial and we didn't even get charged extra for clearing out at that hour! At 6 AM we dropped the lines to the mooring balls and started down river. Once again we had a panga guiding us down the river, but we could easily have made it ourselves using GPS tracks.

Fishing boat and pelicansDawn is my favorite time of day and the trip down the river didn't disappoint me as the river was full of wildlife and people fishing. The early morning light was just beautiful as it lit up the surrounding mountains and volcanos. I got a lot of nice photos, which you can find here.

Endorfin and mountainsOur destination was a bay called Punta Amapapa which was 45 miles from the marina, which which is an easy day hop for BlueJacket, who can easily motor at 6.5+ kts, but s/v Eternal Bliss moves slower, so we used 5 kts as their speed. Add having to fight an incoming tide for 10 miles and it can take quite some time to get there, so we errored on the side of caution and left at first light.

As it turned our, Eternal Bliss made much better speed than predicted due to freshly cleaned prop and by 8 AM we had cleared the mouth of the estuary and were on our way to Amapapa. The winds around here are highly diurnal, being very light first thing in the morning, then as the sun rises you get an off-shore easterly breeze, dies for a short period while the off-shore/on-shore winds fight one another, picks up from the SE (on the nose), then clocks around to the west during the rest of day and then dies off as the sun goes down.

Gulf of FonsecaWe pulled into Punta Ampala mid-afternoon, dropped anchor in about 20' and deployed our flopper-stopper to keep us from rolling from the SE swell that was rolling into bay. There wasn't much swell, but it was just at the right frequency to roll the boats big time. Punta Ampala is an interesting place as the shore is lined with high end homes and there's a panga fishing fleet parked on the shore in between the homes. After drinks aboard Endorfin, we all retired to our boats and headed to bed relatively early, as it had been a long day. During the night we began to roll a lot, which I thought was very strange, but I just slept through it.

Early the next morning I got up and went to adjust the flopper-stopper and it was gone! The heavy duty carabineer was still attached to the end of the line, but the flopper stopper itself was gone. I filled up a scuba tank to go look for it, but upon entering the water I realized that I would never find it as I couldn't even see my hand 3 feet in front of my face. Also, when I looked the attachment, I realized that there was no way that it had come undone on it's own. According to the other boats, there were fishermen in the area overnight, so we suspect that they saw something hanging off of our boom, pulled it up and decided to take it.

Iguana HunterThe satellite image above shows the Gulf of Fonseca, which is owned by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Wow, think about all that happened there during the war in the 80s! It was quite a wild feeling to be there!!! But it's also quite a beautiful area, but prone to high Papagayo winds, which thankfully weren't blowing.

ExploringFrom Ampala we made a quick 14 mile jump to Isla Meanguera where we anchored in a bay named Guerro. It was a beautiful bay surrounded by high green hills with a very nice looking beach and a small fishing village. As we were dropping the anchor, we heard quite a few shots right out, which sounded line .22 caliber rounds. Since no one on the beach even looked towards the sound, I figured it was someone hunting. Sue was glad that we had other boats showing up soon!

After we got ourselves settled in and waited for the heat of the day to disappear, we headed ashore to explore the island and stretch our legs. Ashore we found a wonderful beach, a small fishing village which even had a Yamaha dealer in a run down metal shack and some houses up on the hills. We met some kids who had been out hunting iguanas for dinner.

s/v Eternal Bliss8.5 ktsThe next day we headed out of Meanguera at daybreak so that we could make it to marina Puesta del Sol (which means sunset) in Nicaragua and enter the channel at high slack tide. We had a great day of sailing interspersed with motor-sailing and motoring as the winds were all over the place. We actually got there well before slack tide because we were sailing much faster than our planned 6.5 kts. I hate it when that happens! :-)

The channel into Puesta del Sol wanders all over the place and is generally well marked, but the current rips through it, so you need to be careful about getting pushed out of the channel. The tidal range is about 8 feet, so you can imagine how much water flows in and out of it.

But we made it without any issues and by mid-afternoon we were docked at the marina, had the boats washed down, cleared in to Nicaragua and were relaxing by the pool. More on Nicaragua later.

-- Geoff & Sue

P.S. Don't forget to check out the photos from here

For the cruiser:

At Ampala we anchored at 13-10.800N 87-54.450W in about 17' of water over silt. We dragged for a minute or 2 before setting, but the next day I had to use the engine to pull the anchor out. Have your wash down pump ready.

At Isla Meanguera we anchored at 13-10.147N 87-42.644 in about 15' of water.

Log ID: 2226

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Photos/Video: Photo Album Passage from El Salvador to Nicaragua 

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