January, 2017

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Sunday January 29. Panama

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

I left Golfito at 13.45 on Monday the 23rd, after being sent “van het kastje naar de muur” to check out. I first went to immigration, they told me to go first to the harbor master who told me to go first to immigration. Since customs was a long back track I decided to clear out with them they sent me back to the harbor master. I also had to spend waiting in the local bank to pay a $20 fee for the coast guard. All agencies were very kind and understanding but the whole process took 2 1/2 hours and lots of bicycle exercise. Thank God for my nifty stainless mount.

Winds were light. On Tuesday I caught a 12 inch blue fin tuna. It is all recorded on video. The sea and wind conditions were absolutely perfect. You will see it whenever I can win my battle with MS Windows 10 versus my USB connections. But on Wednesday the weather changed after rounding Punta Mariato. The winds increased and the seas got meaner. Much is written about rounding Cape Malo. The only place to hide before this cape is Bahia Benao. But this would be an anchoring in the dark and I decided to push on and figured that the winds would be less during the night. Not this time, the wind increased and was on the nose and the waves were steep and close together. There was no way to motor through it. I set the storm jib and took the main down and used the engine to maintain speed. But when I got closer to Cape Malo the electronic charts showed that I was going west instead of north. But when I looked ahead the bow was pointing north. The strong current here, around for knots, was pushing me side ways. I decided to try get away further west from the cape by easing the jib sheets to pick up more boat speed and get into less current. But the cape was disappearing to the east fast and before I knew it I was right on the edge of the commercial traffic lanes going to and from the canal. A steady stream of freighters. I turned back and I ended up closer to the Cape but miles below where I was before. You can see this weird exercise of going in circles on https://share.garmin.com/JackvanOmmen.

One would never expect these kind of current and tide conditions in the tropics. The maximum tidal difference here is 20 feet, if I am not mistaken that is 2 feet more than the Puget Sound. I must have hit it at the worst time. When the morning dawned I realized that I could raise the main with one reef in it. The boat came alive and sliced through the nasty steep waves like a knife through butter, assisted by the engine. I was fixed on the laptop screen and slowly started seeing me gaining some ground. But the waves got nastier, steeper. I would fall of the crests with a slam that felt like hitting concrete. The boat was at a steep heel, tacking up wind. Waves were slamming the bow, when I stuck my face over the dodger I got a snoot full and when I had to go to the fore deck to refasten the genoa I was totally soaked in salt water. The port red navigation light went out, probably because it was more under than above water, I tried to hook up an emergency battery powered light. Did not work but I was totally soaked. Until I found a spot on the stern pulpit.  Always dragging my safety harness tether and headlamp. I slept some on the alarm but was regularly awakened by some unfamiliar sound. Yesterday morning, while trying to grind coffee, a sudden nasty smacker threw me backwards from the galley into the chart table. I jack (punt intended) knifed my body. The back of my head hit hard and my left bun is blue and my left shoulder blade is hurting. But my lower back sustained some injury. The pain is just like when I had a pinched nerve in my lower back, in the sixties. I have Ibuproveno on board and that helps. I became very tired of this continuous sailing on the edge. And I have an additional problem. When I run the engine, cooling water is running into the bilge. I have to continually pump and sponge the bilges. Just the oil is cooled and the oil cooler needs to be replaced. Not that easy to find for an engine that was taken out of marine application, 50 years ago.

David on “Falcon”, guided me in to the Balboa YC when there was no response on thier VHF channel six. We had a drink together. Very interesting sailor, from San Diego. He left yesterday morning for a cruise in the nearby islands. I checked in with the canal administration on Flamenco Island and cleared in with immigration. Ken and Gail who I befriended in Gulfito gave me lots of good information since they spent time here at this YC. I met with the agent they had recommended Eric Galvez. He gave me all the required info for the canal transit. Tomorrow afternoon the boat shall be measured at an anchorage 4 miles back toward the canal entrance, then I get put in line. It might not happen until 10 days from now. I am anxious to get to the Caribbean but have plenty of chores. Most of the sailors here meet in the club bar/restaurant. Food is awful, drinks, internet and company are good. I  require to have 4 line handlers at a $100 each plus food and drink for two days and the latter also for the canal pilot. Lots of cruisers exchange this service on each others’ boats. My problem is that it will be tough to have six bodies on my small boat and to sleep the line handlers for the one night I’ll spend at anchor on the Gatun Lake. A very nice British couple met me afterward who are actually looking to check out the canal while being line handlers  on someone else’s boat. But I discouraged it because of what I just described.  With the canal fees, agent and line handlers I am looking at about $1,750. If my engine would act up and not make the minimum 5 knots and fall behind their schedule I could end up with another $ 800 penalty. That engine has never seen so much use as in the last two weeks. But it just keeps humming. Just for extra security, say a prayer for us.

I took a taxi into the old part of Panama City and went to 9 am mass at the church of O.L. of Merced. This was rebuilt after Henry Morgan the British pirate destroyed and pillaged the church and much of the old city in 1571. Ladies were cooking up a traditional Panamanian soup “Sancocho” with chicken on wood fires in huge cauldrons. I missed the priest’s blessing at 10.30. I wanted to partake in the noon serving of the Sancocho but decided I’d better try to find a fourth replacement charger for the Toshiba laptop, at the Albrook mall. I will go back there tomorrow morning when I really good repair man will bring me one from a store that opens on Monday. He also determined that my USB problems with the mini card readers is that they are no longer working, and not my suspicion of Windows 10. I figure it is the salt air everywhere on the boat. I bought another reader for the GoPro videos and it is (still…) working.


contrast: old casco viejo and the new skyline

contrast: old casco viejo and the new skyline

O.L. of Merced

O.L. of Merced







Just wanted to brag again and name drop: I met the fastest man on terra firma Jim Neilson, here in the marina.

Sunday, January 22nd. Golfito, Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

After waiting in vain on Monday and Tuesday for the delegation of port officials to show up for my clearing into C.R., I gave up and departed early Wednesday morning on slack high tide from the C.R.Y.C. in Puntarenas. I decided to try my luck at the Marina Pez Vela in Quepos. That turned out to be a mistake. I was unable to cover the little over 100 miles before sun down. I arrived at 7 p.m. It was very difficult to distinguish the puny red and green entrance lights to the marina against the city lights. There was a fleet of unlit parked crafts to work through. Then when I entered the marina the guard told me to back out and anchor until the next morning. I told him that I was not going to try and find a spot between the unlit boats because I would not be able to determine my swing space to the other boats in the dark. I tied up at the fuel dock. A second guard undid my mooring lines. A crowd gathered. In the end a lady with some authority allowed me to stay, but I was not to step off the boat before I was cleared in. Then in the morning I discovered that I had lost my wallet in Puntarenas.  I had last used it on Tuesday evening, just before getting back on board. Sunday evening, after my four dry days from Nicaragua, I was dying for a couple cold Pilsners. The bar agreed to have me run a tab. But the bar was only open on the weekend. And the office was already closed for the day. I left the smallest  banknote I had 10,000 colonnes ($18) with my boat card in the bar. I searched for my wallet through all the possible and improbable places on the boat. Andrea at the marina in Quepos called the Puntarenas YC. They found nothing. It turned out that for me to clear in at Quepos the officials delegation had to be taxied in from Puntarenas at somewhere around $500……I decided to head for Golfito. The Pez Vela marina management, let me top off my fuel with 7 gallons at their expense and not charge me for the night at the dock. Now, how will I be able to pay for the expenses in Golfito? I arrived at 1.30 p.m.on Friday. I found a berth at the Fish Hook Lodge and Marina. Then had to work fast to get cleared in before the weekend. Thank God for my nifty $100 Pt.Townsend purchased stainless steel folding bike. I rushed to the Capitania, had photo copies done of my zarpe, registration, passport, down the road and my pocket C.R. coins, just covered it. The off to Immigration in the nick of time. Quarantine officer Ramon came to the boat on Saturday morning. Then I had to deposit about $65 into one of the banks at the airport to cover the Quarantine inspection. Customs at the airport took another half hour. There were no expenses other than the quarantine. This was not charged until Ramon was recently posted to Golfito. Just another hidden tax. My $ 100 folding bike paid for itself in just this operation, I would have needed to use an agent otherwise to visit these four offices. So besides wondering why there is no church picture on this Sunday blog, how did I come up with the $65? I found my bank pass for my Dutch Euro account at the ABN-Amro bank. I seldom use this account. It is where my tiny slice of Dutch social security is deposited. But when I tried it at the ATM on Friday it did not work. I telephoned the Dutch bank on Skype and they explained that all I needed to do was change my settings to “world” from “europe”. And, alleluia, that worked on Saturday morning. There is just enough in the Euro account to last until I get to Panama and I expect to receive my new bank/credit cards from the BofA there. I plan clear out of here on Monday and sail directly to the Panama canal, weather permitting. There are several good anchorages along the way.

I was told that mass here was at 7 a.m. Not a soul, then was told 8 a.m., after I came back from breakfast, again not a soul. Back to the marina it was determined that it should be at 6 p.m. So, you’ll have to wait for the standard photographic proof of my salvation. My dock neighbor is Ken from Olympia on “Sangreal” a Tratan 36. Ken sailed solo through the South Pacific and via Australia to South Africa where he met Gail in Knysna. They married a year later and sailed the same route as I did: St.Helena, N.E. Brazil and then crossed to Europe from Trinidad and came back through the Panama Canal and are now contemplating sailing to the N.W., via Hawaii and Alaska. We came across quite a few familiar places and some other cruisers.

just before a welcome rain shower fom the Fish Hook Marina.

just before a welcome rain shower fom the Fish Hook Marina.



Monday, January 16. Puntarenas.

Monday, 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.


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.



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

Monday, 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


Santa Ana, Chinandega

Santa Ana, Chinandega


You can just see the tail of the Sloth


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

Saturday, 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







034     005


January 2nd. A day-trip to Antigua

Tuesday, 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 


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)

Sunday, 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.