[050912; 1516 UTC,
Isla Meanguera, Golfo de Fonseca, El Salvador
N 13 degrees 10.08/W 087 degrees 42.7]
We anchored in the south anchorage (Guerrero) of Isla Meanguera in the Golfo de Fonseca Tuesday morning September 12, 2005 at about seven a.m. We passed three miles off Punta Ampala at the NW end of the Golfo at 4 am during our overnight run. Dodging fishing boats was a dream compared to dodging a 150'+ Navy boat that kept starting and stopping and crossing our path.
The anchorage here is rolly as expected since it is open to the south/southwest but the bottom is good. A steep dark tan sandy beach forms a perfect crescent between two prominent headlands. Mountainous jungle overlooks the bay. In the trees near the beach are about four modest dwellings, one of which appears very, very old, and another very tumbled and poor.
Tuesday was very hot and sunny and we reached an all-time record for temperature inside Carina's cabin - 98. We had expected to relax and nap and read and recuperate from our overnighter, but quickly emerging critical projects (ah, hem - the head) prevented it.
Taking the lead from kids on the beach who were frolicking in the turquoise water, at about 2 pm we checked for current, put the ladder over the side and jumped in the bay ourselves for a quick swim. The clear water was refreshing, though warm and very salty.
Refreshed, we began to tidy up and put our mainsail cover on. Slowly it dawned on us that the skies to the east were darkening and we should expedite our chores and get the boat closed up. The skies quickly degenerated to an ominous grey color that reminded us of what a Navy hull looks like at dusk. Perhaps we were complacent from months at Estero Jaltepeque where afternoon thunderheads stick close to the distant volcanoes and rarely are threatening. Unsure though, Philip continued with the sail while Leslie went below to close the hatch and port lights. About 2 minutes later (or seconds but who's counting) a SERIOUS wall of water driven by a gust of wind of Lord-knows how strong knocked Carina nearly over. We're not kidding. We had only bare poles and they almost took a bath. There were NO warning gusts. It was just like the movie white squall. Our breakfast dishes flew across the cabin. Jake disappeared into the V berth and hid in Leslie's clothes.
The visibility went to zero with water flying through the air and we donned our pfds, turned on the engine and just hung on. The connecting piece between our dodger and bimini held by five snaps flew off like it was held with nothing...the zipper held though and we retrieved the piece. Amazing.
Luckily we'd selected this anchorage for this eventuality (that is no fetch for big waves to form from storms coming out of the mountains) and set our anchor well. Wow, for "no fetch" it was amazing. Waves did wrap around our protecting reef and come in but nothing like what we could see outside. About mid-storm Leslie saw a mooring buoy float by that looked just like the one near shore (and the cliff) and despite our instruments telling us differently, we thought we were dragging. You could not see ANYTHING but white water in the air. Eventually we got our anemometer on and gusts MUCH LESS violent than the first read between 50 and 64. We were blasted with winds in the 50 knot range for a half an hour or more (though it felt like hours). The whole storm lasted for about an hour and a half as the winds shifted from east to northeast to north before dying all together. As for lightning, the closest strike was about a mile away and we saw some spectacular orange "vein" type lightning over the sea to the south. So much for a relaxing first day at anchor....
After the storm was over we tried calling Bay Fill, a boat that had crossed the bar with us the day before that had planned to be in the area. Unfortunately, having been struck by lightning a couple of months back and still without many systems, they did not have their portable VHF radio operational and we could not make contact, forcing us to worry for their safety. (They did call us this morning, Wednesday, as they motored by our anchorage enroute to Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua).
The storm brought us one thing, cool damp air that felt wonderful, so we settled in to make dinner and to try to absorb all of the extra adrenaline flowing through our bodies that was making us hyper. Jakie continued to huddle in Leslie's clothes and give us dirty looks when we tried to comfort him, though wiping him with a damp cloth and Mozart on the stereo seemed to help a bit.
After a lovely, cool, long sleep in the cockpit we are all recovered and looking forward to a better day. We're not moving today, but considering the violence and direction of the storm, we are wondering whether ANY of the other anchorages in the Golfo should be explored this time of the year. All would be exposed to dangerous fetch and would offer only lee shores during one of these chubascos. We do have the option to go "up estuary" to San Lorenzo, Honduras where we've been told a friendly, clean prosperous town awaits us, but we'll see....
Love to all,
Leslie & Philip
Isla Meanguera, El Salvador