Voyage of Traveler / Blog

May 9, 2010

Traveler Postcard From Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvado

Traveler Postcard From Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador
April 28 to May 4, 2010

Hola y buenos dia,

Brian and I traveled fairly quickly through these three countries, spending just two nights in each, so I’ll cover them together in one Postcard.

In Nicaragua, we arrived on April 28 at the Puesta del Sol Marina and Hotel after a terrifying overnight passage at sea.  We had lightning strikes all around us, many within a half mile of our boat, for hours.  And rain.  Lots of rain.  So many boats are hit by lightning down here, especially this time of year.  If hit, the lightning takes out all the electronics and electrical appliances, including your radar, GPS, stereo, running lights, laptop computer–everything.  But somehow we skated through harm’s way, untouched.  I spent much time with Robert, who owns the marina and the surrounding 500 acres, about his plans to develop the rest of his property.  He wants to put in a cashew orchard, a runway for connecting flights to Managua, a nine hole golf course and a second hotel.  I suggested a surf camp because he owns a mile of beachfront property, including the point, Aserradores, which is one of the top five surf spots in Nicaragua (according to Lonely Planet.)  I drove into Chinandega, the nearest city (about 45 minutes away), with Robert to do some banking and buy provisions for the boat.  The check in and check out procedures here were the most pleasant of any country I have visited.  The Immigration officer, Customs officer and Port Captain came together to the marina and the paper work was done at the bar, taking only about ten minutes, while having una cerveza frio, and the total fees are a very reasonable $20.  Why can’t it be this easy in other countries?

Our next stop, after a 50 mile daysail, was the normally sleepy fishing village of Amapala on the Isla El Tigre (pop. 2400) in Honduras.  I say normally because it is that way 362 days out of the year.  The other three, the place goes wild with the Fiesta del Santa Cruz, and by coincidence that’s when we were there.  We did not get much sleep here because the street dance with amplified music played on until 0400, followed by fireworks until dawn.  We met a local guide who spoke English (the only person on the entire island who was bilingual) and he led us on an exhausting hike up to the top of El Tigre, an extinct volcano a half mile high.  A light rain kept things cooler than normal, which was welcomed, but limited our view at the top.  Then after our descent we had a fish lunch with the locals at their favorite beach, Playa Grande, in the rain.  Here, we went exploring in La Cueva del Pirata, a deep sea cave where, legend has it, Sir Frances Drake buried treasure.  We looked, but found nothing, except we woke up about 100 bats which swooped over our heads in the darkness.  Drake careened his Golden Hind here on Playa Grande to make repairs while he was on his circumnavigation.  The island is named after him.  The Spanish called him El Tigre del Mar because of his piracy on the Spanish galleons.  Good timing because I just finished reading his interesting biography, “Sir Frances Drake, The Queen’s Pirate.”  We were not just the only Americans, we were the only tourists here, and they rarely get cruising sailboats of any flag to stop here.  Not sure why.  We thought it was a charming place.

After a couple of sleepless nights in Amapala, we motor-sailed another 50 miles up the coast to Barillas Marina, the only marina on El Salvador’s Pacific coast.  We did little here except swim in their pool, watch ESPN and CNN, eat some nice meals in their restaurant and drink several beers in the bar.  We also read several old sailing magazines left by other yachties and had a load of laundry done for us by the staff.  I never left the marina.  For a couple of hours one day, Brian went for a mountain bike ride with a local guide on a trail through the jungle to see some howler monkeys, which he said was cool.  It felt good just to relax.  No boat repairs to worry about.  The nearest town or sights to see are several hours away, and we just didn’t feel up to it.  So we just chilled at the luxurious (by Central American standards) marina for a couple of days.  The marina is located in the Bahia Jiquilisco, and getting in the entrance was tricky with migrating shoals and waves breaking on the bars all around us.  But the marina sent out a guide in a ponga for us to follow, which I would say was essential, given the conditions.  On the way out, after the guide left us to return to the marina and when we were about two miles off shore, the water shallowed to 27 feet deep, which is normally too deep for waves to form, let alone break.  But a large set of waves came in from a distant storm and one of them broke just off our bow.  It was scary.  The wave crashed over Traveler’s bow and washed back over the deck to the dodger, but did no damage.  Fortunately, all of our hatches were dogged tight.

Obviously, there is so much more to see and do in these three countries, but we have to keep moving to stay on schedule.  We have a weather window and must be north of Cabo San Lucas by mid-June because of the hurricane season, and I’d like to finish on July 3.  If you look at the miles we have to go (2,100) and divide by the number of days we have to do it (60), we must move the boat up the coast an average of 35 miles a day.  If we decide to take a lay over and see a place for day, then we have to do 70 miles the next day to stay on our schedule.  Every day for the next two months.  That’s moving.

Viviendo el Sueno,
y Brian


  1. Hola — Michael and Brian
    Thank You,
    Michael for all your post cards and your pictures over the many months.
    Just a note to thank you for sharing your exciting and most of all couragious adventures on Traveler. We read all your post cards with there historical and descriptive comments and enjoy your many creative photo gallery pictures.
    Looking forward to greeting you and Barbara and all of your crew at the finish line on July 3rd.

    Warm regards,

    Les Jones

    Comment by Les Jones — May 21, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  2. Zuza - Travis, I could not agree more with you. Too often people think that ptunitg themselves into someone else’s shoes means to apply their personal values and priorities to the situation and circumstances of others. Our knowledge and upbringing comes with biases. In order to understand others we need to listen deeply, with an open heart, leaving personal biases (judgments) behind.Also, I think that in impoverished communities like El Bosque it is difficult for people to prioritize because there are so many needs. Priorities tend to shift according to what seems most urgent and pressing at the time (weather, health, shelter, water, income, food, transportation, etc.).

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