Ahoy from the crew of the BlueJacket who is in El Salvador!
I'm happy to report that we made it to marina Barillas in El Salvador without any major issues. That's not to say that we didn't have a lot of issues, but thankfully there weren't any that we couldn't handle. After our final round of clearing out with officials, we departed from Marina Chiapas at around 1 PM and headed out.
We completed some last minute rigging and then turned towards Guatemala and had a spectacular sail with 10 kts on the beam and we were making 6-7 kts. Unfortunately at sunset the winds died, so we doused the sail and fired up the engine. As usual I checked to see how it was running an noted that the alternator wasn't charging. After some debugging I determined that the alternator's charge controller wasn't powering up, despite having power to it. Not good, but we have a generator which powers a charger, so we were OK.
The overnight passage was bumpy and rolly, but nothing terrible. Sue & I take 3 hour shifts, with Sue on from 6-9 PM and 12-3 AM and me taking the 9-12 and 3-6 AM shifts. After my 3-6 shift, I fired up the generator, ran the refrigeration and went to bed. At about 7:30 I got up and Sue told me that she had been seeing whales and that the volcanos along the Guatemalan coast were sending up smoke plumes. I then noted that the refrigeration was still running and the generator was off, so I went down to fire up the generator. It fired up, but the charger would not come on-line. Not good. I then went to run the program that you use to configured the charger only to realize that it was on my old laptop & I couldn't find a copy of the software installation. So then I tried multiple ways to debug/reset it and none worked. I thought about what might be causing this and came up with the frequency being too high, so I grabbed a meter that measures frequency and saw that it was at 66 Hz instead of the desired 60 Hz.
I started pulling the generator's electrical panel apart to get to the adjustment when Sue yelled that the engine was overheating! I ran up and looked at the gauges and shut down the engine. We had the jib up, but when I looked forward I saw that the topping lift (the line which keeps the rigid boom in our jib from hitting the deck when the jib is dropped) had wrapped itself completely around the mast and was caught on the masts's foredeck light. So I ran forward and was able to get it unwrapped. We were then able to fall off the wind and sail via the jib,
I went below and and opened up the engine compartment and saw that the water pump's belt had frayed. I grabbed 1 of the 2 spare belts (that the ex-owned had put on) and realized that they were too small. We had an adjustable belt, so I grabbed that, shortened it to fit and got it on and fired the engine back up so that we could keep motoring into the wind.
I finally got back to the working on the generator, adjusted the frequency, engaged the charger and watched as it started charging again. Yeah! What a morning!!! After eating some breakfast I checked my SailMail and had a suggestion from Dave Balfour to check a sense wire to the alternator charge controller, and sure enough, there was no voltage on it, so I jumped it to +12 and the charge controller came alive and we were charging from the alternator! Wow, everything was up and running!!!
I will state that is trip went against everything that I know about cruising. You never start off with a major passage without making several small passages to figure out what doesn't work correctly. Unfortunately from Puerto Madero there are no short passages. You either get to the the Tehuantepec or you make the journey that we just made. Neither is a good option adn none of these issues would have been found on a quick shakedown cruise. I'll also state that all of those science fiction writers who show people walking onto the space ship that was abandoned ages ago and they press a button which causes everything to fire up correctly have never been on a boat!
We still had a day+ of travel, which alternated between no wind, great sailing and wind on the nose as the winds did a 360 clockwise rotation every day. We had current with us the entire trip, but the seas were very bumpy most of the time. We were treated to beautiful sunrises, sunsets and a volcanic coastline.
At 8 AM we arrived at the "meeting place" just as a panga from the marina arrived to guide us in through the shoals. We had a 10 mile trip up the mangrove lined river and finally arrived at Marina Barillas where a boatload of officials checked us in. Then it was off to check into the marina and explore the area. The marina has beautiful grounds and a great pool and we had a couple of boats of friends waiting for us there, so life is good!
We'll be here for a few days and then continue S. The Internet is down, so I may or may not be able to send this report with photos. If it didn't arrive with photos, please accept my apologies.
-- Geoff & Sue
For the cruiser:
The passage from Puerto Madero to Marina Barillas is about 270nm. We chose to stay well off-shore to avoid fishermen and their floating lines which are marked with *black* flags, which do a great job of standing out against the ocean... Based upon what we were told, it's much smoother close in to shore. s/v Endorfin reported lots of floating lines on the Guatemala/El Salvador boarder.
Our highest winds were at Punta Remedois just after sunset. This area has high Papagayo winds, but we had picked a period with low predicted Papagayo winds. It would be very interesting to see what it would be like with high winds predicted!
The marina only has mooring balls and charges $45 for the first day (to cover the guide) and then $16.95 for the days 2-15 and then $11.30. You are charged $1/day in 30 day increments to be in the country and it's $10/pp for immigration. There's a $40 fee for the exit zarpa. Diesel is available and was $4.74/gallon. Gasoline was also available. I was able to get my US propane tank filled for $5/5lb.
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