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Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador to Puesta Del Sol, Nicaragua

If was difficult departing Bahia del Sol, both figuratively and literally. Figuratively in that it was a very wonderful, comfortable place. We spent almost 5 weeks there, settling into a routine of sorts with many new found friends, many of whom will summer over in El Salvador before continuing south and thus will not likely catch us further down the road. Previous goodbye's did not have the air of permanence that saying goodbye this time in Bahia del Sol had as we may not meet up with many of these folks again. The kids in particular had a hard time saying goodbye to their many close friends on the other "kid boats" in the anchorage.

It was literally difficult to depart in that crossing the bar once again proved to be an adventure. We managed to find a new sand bar or two on our way out as we attempted to leave through a channel recently changed by the passing of Hurricane Adrian. But we finally made it out in one piece and turned our bow southeast towards Nicaragua via the Gulf of Fonseca.  We had a pleasant day sail down the coast with calm seas and dolphins as usual and even and a small plane even buzzed us (video) a few times.

 We spent two nights anchored at Punta Amplala, the northwest point marking the entrance to the Gulf (anchored in about 12 feet in sand and mud at 13 10.56N, 87 54.34W).  The anchorage is very shallow.  We were about 1/2 mile or so off the beach and that is as close as we wanted to get (we draw 7.5 feet).  The only other boats there were two semi-resident power boats on buoys a little further in that must almost touch bottom at low tide.  In fact, when I dove to check our bottom after our little sand bar incident departing Bahia del Sol (no issues, just a little missing bottom paint) we had less than 4 feet under the keel at low tide at the position above.
The SW swell was barely noticeable and we slept very well.  The rocks off the point seemed to break most of it and what does wrap around is very subdued although the anchorage is completely exposed from the east so if things go south or southeast or during a Papagallo blow, it would get uncomfortable.
The beach was nice, very wide, hard packed sand with some nice homes and groups of pangas here and there (we saw one giant panga that could fit 100 people easily and had to be 60 feet long!).  The beach is flat and 2 miles long, perfect for running, with a restaurant supposedly at the north end that we did not visit.  You can land just about anywhere (the beach is wide enough that the homes and such are pretty far back from the water) and the surf was less than 1 foot and broke at an angle to the beach, the curl zooming along the beach with a Doppler effect(video).
Although the mosquitoes didn't come out to the boat, we were visited on the first day by a leaky canoe full of kids looking for candy (which they got) and on the second day by a leaky canoe full of hung-over fishermen who brought us coconuts and papayas, but who were actually looking for alcohol or money for alcohol (which they didn't get).  Even though one of them spoke some English and our Spanish is improving, we choose not to understand exactly what they wanted and they finally left with a few snacks and coca colas in hand.  It was all pretty harmless, but it still left a bad aftertaste for us in what was otherwise a fine and friendly place to overnight on the way to Puesta del Sol in Nicaragua.

While our first night was calm and uneventful, the second night brought us a huge electrical storm which sat right on us for a few hours, the remains of a "tropical wave" that had torn off from the ITCZ and made it's way north and west.  These lines of convection don;t bring any real wind or weather with them, but they contain a lot of thunderhead clouds and lightning, somethign we will be avoiding for the rest of the trip.  We felt very exposed anchored so far out, being the tallest thing around for a mile or more and were sure we were going to get hit.  We put all the electronics that could fit in the stove, wrapped the rest in tinfoil and disconnected the masthead antennas at the partners.  Luckily, we didn't get struck though the flashes were right on us and the thunder was deafening.

We next moved on to Isla Meanguera.   The cove on the south end of Isla Meanguera is very pretty, a perfect little semi-circle, but also completely open to the prevailing SW swell.  We cruised through it and although it's probably wonderful in a big Papagallo blow from the north, we decided against anchoring there in our calm conditions as it looked rolly and uncomfortable, so we choose to round little Isla Meanguerita and anchor in the shelter between the two islands.  The next morning, as we departed for Nicaragua, we saw one of two El Salvadorian navy ships we had spotted earlier anchored in the south cove.  They never gave us a second look, seemingly focused on the shipping traffic entering and leaving the Gulf, and while rumor has it that it's not a problem for boats that have completely checked out of El Salvador to hang out in the outer El Salvadorian islands in the Gulf, we were glad that we never had to put this theory to the test.

Little Isla Meanguerita is beautiful, with thousands of Boobies and Frigates soaring in the updrafts above the island.  Though smaller, it reminded us of Isla Isabella in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and had we more time, we would have hiked it for sure.  The anchorage between Isla Meanguera and Isla Meanguerita is very secure (20-30 feet with a very muddy bottom) and we spent 20 minutes or so washing the mud off the chain in the morning.  There is a small village with a restaurant or two ashore just to the north which we did not visit but looked welcoming.   A gringo resident in a panga told us that this is a popular anchorage for cruising boats and even asked if we needed anything from San Salvador as he was going in the next day.  We had more lightning and local squalls with gusts above 30 knots while we were here, but there is little fetch except from the NE and the two islands are quite steep-to and high all around, providing us good all around protection and the illusion at least of some protection from lightning strikes.
We thought this area was really wonderful and at least as viewed from afar, the protected waters of the inner Gulf reminded us of our home cruising grounds in the Pacific Northwest.  It we weren't on a schedule, we would have liked to spend more time here and explore the inner Gulf.  But we needed to move on and so after only three nights in the Gulf, we departed for the new marina in Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua.

As always, click on the images to see a larger view.


Collette and Murry from s/v Terazed. These guys are the best, helping fellow crusiers across the Bahia Del Sol bar. Truly fantastic couple!

Carl and Jemma from s/v Indogo Moth zoom along on the way to visit a local school for their Mother's Day celebration.

RJ catching some sun in the dink.

Entrance to the local school on a nearby island deck out for the Mother's Day celebration.

We didn't see too many blond El Salvadorians, but I guess Hallmark's influence is world wide!

Kelsey handing out temporary tattoos to the local school girls during the Mother's Day celebraton.

RJ pumping water from the school's well.

Awards ceremony and other entertainment on Mother's Day. The crusiers presented enough raw material to make uniforms for all the kids!

Gabby and her mom from s/v Enconto, making Mother's Day gifts on an assembly line for all the local moms.

Eric and RJ playing chess by the Hotel del Sol pool.

Shika from s/v Comfort Zone, a Phyisian's Assistant, givng RJ some stitches after a little pool-side accident resulted in a small hand cut.

RJ and his gal Dana from s/v Desiderada at the local Paposa joint. Saying goodbye was very sad...

Finially time to leave. RJ and Dad pulling up the anchor and washing 5 weeks worth of mud off the chain in Bahia del Sol.

Collette and Murry in their panga on the way to check out the bar conditions for our departure.

Sula underway at last!

Shika and Chris from s/v Comfort Zone come to say goodbye and give us an excort out.

Mike and Nancy from s/v Desderata join the parade!

Looking out the entrance at the surf and bar conditions. Not too bad.

Waves breaking on a shoal alongside the channel.

Hmmmm. That one looks a little large.

Accross the bar, Kelsey reading "Island of the Blue Dolphins" for fun. It's not even a school assignment! (for her - it was for RJ)

Low fly by approaching the Gulf of Fonseca. A local pilot out having fun, buzzing the boat.

Islands in the Gulf of Fonseca. The gulf reminded us of cruising in the Pacific Northwest, except that it was near 100 degrees!

Swimming in the Punta Ampala anchorage with Sula in the background.

Kelsey being towed behind the dingy on the way back to the boat.

Our first Bottle Nose Dolphin. We have seen other species, but this was our first Bottle Nose, and boy are they big!!!!

Kids in a local dug-out canoe paddle by the marina in Puesta Del Sol in Nicaragua.

Ah, Paradise. The marina at Puesta Del Sol. What a nice place. We really enjoyed our time here.


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