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Sailing Ketch 22 from El Salvador to Golfito, Costa Rica.
Walter Kaelin's Observations on a Voyage

December 2008

American Airlines Flight 797 carried Tom and me from LAX to San Salvador on December 28, 2008.   After an all night flight, we arrived in San Salvador groggy at 0615 and went through immigration and customs.   The marine head replacement that Tom carried (all the way from San Jose CA) evoked smiles at Customs.   Barillas Marina had sent a driver and van to pick us up, which was really great and gave us a good start.   We arrived at the Marina shortly after 8 AM and after breakfast were ferried out to Ketch 22, who was swinging on a can in a tidal estuary that drains into Bahia de Jiquilisco.   We had some challenges at hand, as birds and bats had taken Ketch 22 to conduct massive target practices.   All of Ketch 22's five marine grade deep cell batteries were dead for a couple of reasons including a stuck bilge pump and solar panels ineffective on account of dirt.   Pretty soon we had the dinghy going and things went up from their.

Ketch 22 was moored at the Barillas Marina for about 9 months and the hull had been take care of by the marina diver.   The marina at Lat 13 7.018 N and Longitude 88 25.165 W is in a great location, well taken care of and Sr. Heriberto Pineda and his staff pay attention to details.   A restaurant, a small tienda, a swimming pool adorne the lovely grounds.   Fuel and Water is available as is Wi-Fi, with a great reach!   Immigration on site and an airstrip complement the facility.   The boatyard next door takes care of about 20 shrimp boats and if your boat needs special attention, it probably can be secured there by Heriberto.   Every Tuesday and Friday, a courtesy van runs into the town of Usulutan about 20 km away for the marina occupants to procure provisions.   The farmers market is right there and fruits etc are fresh and inexpensive.   A Super Mercado parking lot is the meeting point after provisioning.   We needed to procure batteries and had to settle for car batteries, which we adapted with terminals for marine use.   Some chore!   But they worked for us until Golfito Costa Rica with careful management techniques!   The Barillas marina is located well inland, surrounded by a huge sugar cane field.   After a week, we were ready to head south and checked the buoy weather website for the Papagayo forecasts et all.

Our guide (another service of the marina) showed up promptly at 0630, the last immigration papers were filled out and we were on our way.   After about 90 minutes we waved goodbye to the guide and we were really heading south.   Our first anchorage was in the lee of Conchag├╝ita, an island in the Golfo De Fonseca, bounded by the three country zone of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.   It was a bit rolly and we left at 0400 the next morning.   Now begins the fun as we knew we had a long day ahead to reach the Puesta Del Sol marina in Nicaragua.   The next 36 hours we lived topside off breakfast bars and the Pagagayos were really blowing.   But all things come to an end and we navigated into the channel leading to the Puesta Del Sol Marina, well marked during daytime.   At night, they will send out a pilot boat to lead you in.   Immigration arrived the next day and without grand fanfare we were cleared into Nicaragua.   The Marina is located at Latitude 12 36.55 N and Longitude 87 22.41 W and is owned by Ing. Roberto Membreno, a longtime resident of Santa Clara, CA.   He is a most charming host and we enjoyed our stay very much.   A swimming pool, Wi-Fi, dock-power, fuel dock as well as a restaurant and laundering facilities are all available.   Oh a hotel too, should you decide to stay on shore.   We took the local bus to visit Chinandega, a town of about 400,000 people 2 hours away.   We toured the town in a pedi-cycle, powered by a local Nicaraguan, and did some provisioning, as the small tienda near the marina had only limited supplies of fruits.   We ran across the California Hotel, but could no longer find the bus terminal and took a taxi back to the marina, a 20 dollar ride per person!

Some of the diesel fuel on board contained water and Tom tried to resolve the issue.   Alas, the engine sucked up some air and we had challenges at hand as we discovered on Saturday,as we planned to leave for Costa Rica.   Roberto, the owner made his diesel mechanic available on Sunday Morning at 0630!   This fellow was great and found the problem in no time, the manual fuel pump and we luckily had a spare!   At 1030 Sunday Morning we were on our way to Costa Rica and made our landfall around 2100.   Another California boat, Cursail, with Frank and Denise aboard was leaving around the same time and we stayed in touch.   Again, the Papagayo winds were delivering!

We arrived near El Coco and Cursail told us that Playa Panama made a great anchorage.   It was a bit tricky to find in the dark, but with the help of radar and Charlie's Charts of Costa Rica ,we made it!   Indeed, it was right out of a picture book, with palm trees and tranquil waters.   We tried to clear into Costa Rica the next day, but alas it was not to be.   We had a great lunch in the town of El Coco, enjoyed the local Panaderia across from the immigration office and provisioned at the Auto Super Mercado which is on a par with a Whole Foods Market.   There a lot of tourists in this town as well as a lot of condos looking for new owners!   Our anchorage at Playa Panama proved to be great; there was a restaurant and a hotel on shore!   Wi-Fi at the hotel was readily available.   We cleared into Costa Rica the next day and celebrated with a dinner ashore.   After one more day of relaxing, we were ready to head south.

Our next anchorage was Playa Brasilito, a pleasant day sail from Playa Panama.   Not much wind, the Papagayos were gone and nearly forgotten!   We picked up a free Wi-Fi spot, courtesy of the Happy Snapper quite a ways out at our anchorage.   From there we headed to Bahia Ballena.   Not much there, we anchored right off the Ballena Bay YC, not much in common with Ballena Bay YC of Alameda, CA where the writer was a happy member for nearly 20 years.   Tom did some provisioning at the local Super Mercado and we met a Dutch couple aboard their sailboat 'Saudade' from Harlem, in the Netherlands.   We had dinner ashore at the Beachcomber in the town of Tambor with Yan and Yolanda, who were cruising from San Diego through the canal onto the Caribbean.

The next day we left for Playa Herradura and arrived in time to see the fuel dock at the Los Suenos Marina empty.   We refueled and got some provisions at the deli and headed for an anchorage in the bay.   It was lovely, great snorkeling per Yan of Saudade and great swimming.   Yan and Yolanda treated us to dinner on the boat, a dinner we really enjoyed greatly.   Los Suenos is a very upscale marina and full of Sports Fisherman.   200 slips and hardly one available.

The port town of Quepos was our next anchorage.   A lot of sports fisherman for hire are in the Harbor on their private buoys.   The marina is being worked on day and night and does not make for a quiet anchorage.   On we went early in the morning further south.   Our next stop was Bahia Drake, a lovely anchorage, but a bit on the shallow side.   We had our fist rain and their is a huge rain forest there.   What a concert all those howler monkeys and birds can make, until the sun sets which results in instant quietness.   After a couple of days exploring we headed further south.

The arrival in Golfito was uneventful and we were hanging of a buoy at the Banana Bay Marina.   There are three marinas next to each other with various creature comforts, Banana Marina, Landsea and Fishhook Marina.

-- To Be Continued --