[050714; 1804 UTC,
Estero de Jaltepeque y Rio Lempa, El Salvador
N 13 degrees 18.2/W 088 degrees 53.9]
Earlier this week we survived another small right-of-passage when we experienced the direct hit from a chubasco on Monday evening about 10:20 pm local time. A chubasco is a rapidly moving violent thunderstorm, common in the summer months in this area of the world. The day had been quite hot and humid, though this was not unusual. Also usual were the thunderclouds and lightning that passed from the southeast, north and then west of us in the late afternoon obliterating the view of the nearby volcanoes, leaving our anchorage dry. This night we had just barely fallen asleep in the cockpit when we were awoken by the beginnings of cool wind and spitting rain. A bit groggy, we immediately began to stow cockpit cushions and move to the bow to take down the sunshade. In less than a minute, we were engulfed in a driving and cold torrential rain and gusting winds that topped fifty knots! Carina was driven back and forth as she sailed with the sun cover and then came up short on our trusty Bruce anchor. Whitecaps filled the bay. When we finally got the sun cover down, we scurried around and secured other items such as Encanto’s propane tank that we were taking to San Salvador on Tuesday for a refill. Suffused by a fair-weather complacency, we had carelessly left the tank on deck.
Moving quickly to stow the computer, camera, cell phone and memory stick in the oven (the oven being pressed into service as a makeshift Faraday Box) in anticipation of a possible lightning strike, we launched our GPS and radar to monitor our position and the positions of other boats in the anchorage as winds gusted in the high thirties to low forty knot range. With our GPS we can tell exactly how far we are from where we placed our anchor, so knowing how much anchor rode we’d put out, we could tell if we were dragging it along the bottom of the bay. We both sat attentive to our instruments and the passing storm, sitting in soaked clothing and so chilled that our teeth were chattering. Jake seemed unfazed though a little put out that he couldn’t be outdoors. There was little chatter on the VHF radio until roughly a half an hour later when winds moderated and everyone began to breathe again. A quick check of boats confirmed that all anchors had thankfully held fast and everyone was safe. One unoccupied boat (there are quite a lot of these right now as people are traveling inland to Honduras or Guatemala or back to the US or Canada) held fast though, when the tide changed in the morning, it began to sail down through the anchored boats until a team of cruisers got aboard and inched it to a new anchorage.
We often get asked what we do with all of our time since we are not working. It’s amazing to us too though every day it’s a lot of time and work just to keep the boat functioning properly and keep ourselves in water and provisions, particularly vegetables that do not keep well The nearest big city is San Salvador about an hour and a half taxi drive away. Chicken buses are available to the city, though from our area, buses arrive in Terminal Sur in the far south end of town, necessitating taxis to provision. As the result most cruisers share the services of Jose Orsorio, a sweet, smart, accountant turned taxi-driver who runs an independent taxi service. On Tuesday, we coordinated with another cruiser, Paul of Wanderer, to use Jose and then gathered propane tanks from seven other boats. Leslie also needed to pick up her replacement passport that we’d ordered through the US Embassy a week and a half ago.
Jose is busy nearly constantly now using a vintage 1984 Toyota Tercel that he rents each day from a “friend”, also named Jose. Unfortunately, the car is not maintained by its owner and the effect of the 345,000 miles that it had on its odometer BEFORE the odometer broke are becoming obvious. On Tuesday Jose called about fifteen minutes before his expected arrival and said he had a problem and would be ten minutes late. An hour later, we called him back and got a very stressed and breathless Jose. Apparently his tires were failing and he was trying to get replacements at his expense. Finally at around 9:30 am we were off to San Salvador, though we stopped twice to attend to tires despite our fear we’d miss the embassy which closed at 11:30 am and often had a long waiting line. We made the embassy in time, dropped Paul off in the Zona Rosa and began our errands while Jose traveled one hour further into the hills to fill the propane tanks. Finally getting back together by mid-afternoon, we visited a grocery store for provisions and packed everything into our over-burdened, over-used little car for the trip back to “the Bahia”. Before leaving San Salvador, we stopped for gas and discovered one of the remaining older tires had a split in it! Leslie protested but we all piled back in for the trip back to the Bahia with eight propane tanks, four adults and dozens of bags of groceries. Conversation was limited as we all listened carefully for the tire to blow out. Well we made it, though before we arrived back, Jose resolved to buy a complete set of tires and to begin to deduct his expenses from what he pays the owner! So, one errand to the embassy with a stop at a hardware store, an internet café and a grocery store took us roughly seven hours. This is typical of how our time just disappears.
To update you on our Isla Cordoncillo school project, things are going very well. Contributions continue to arrive from friends and family, though we have had little luck obtaining contributions from Rotary International, despite an endorsement from World Kids Voyage, an organization that has built schools all over Central America using Rotary funding. We remain confident though that with the funds we have committed to date that we can build a kindergarten that is better than what the Isla Cordoncillo children have now, though we may have to forego some of the finishing. As the result, we’ve begun construction and should pour the concrete pad today. Photos of cruisers and islanders working together to raze the rat and cockroach infested kindergarten and pour the footings for the new structure are now up on our website, www.sv-carina.org. There’s a direct link from this homepage if you are interested in keeping up with the project as it moves towards fruition.
Oh, and Jake it doing quite well after his “adventure” and the subsequent vet visits. He’s fit and feisty and working to gain some of his paunch back by going through our tuna supplies.
Sus amigos del velero Carina,
Philip, Leslie & el gato milagro, Jake
lying at anchor outside Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador