BOTH PHOTOS COURTESY HARMONY
Spread; Olivia Gleser and her parents, inset, enjoy a beautiful sunset on their way from the Sea of Cortez to Ecuador.
For starters, the facilities and services for cruisers start to become few and far between once you get south of Puerto Vallarta/Banderas Bay. The possibilities for haul-outs are practically non-existent, and parts, when you can find them, are geared for home use. That's not to say that much sailing gear is available in Baja, but at least you can bus it to San Diego to find whatever you need. Once we headed south from Zihua, there were far fewer cruisers, but the ones that were there were a hardy and serious group. We never appreciated how long the Pacific Coast of Mexico is until we made it all the way down to Huatulco. It's as far as between Juneau and San Diego! By the way, Hualtulco is a delightful place, with nine enchanting bays in the area, each one of which reminded us of some of our favorite spots in the Sea of Cortez and on the Mexican Riviera. It also
has Enrique, a gem of a harbormaster. Heading south — actually east — from Huatulco, you are faced with the dreaded Gulf of Tehauntepec. Thanks to weather reports provided by Enrique and Don Anderson of Summer Passage in California, we ended up having ans easy crossing in relatively calm seas. After the fiveday passage across Tehuantepec to El Salvador, we headed in over the bar at Bahia del Sol for a much-needed rest and some inland touring of Guatemala. We found both El Salvador and Guatemala to be wonderful, and at some time in the future will do more extensive land travel there. The only reason we didn't do it this time is because it was getting to be a little late in the season. The dry season in Central America usually ends sometime in March or April, although it varies depending on the year. This year's El Niño brought squalls and rain earlier than some years, so by mid-April
we were having to dodge the thunderstorms. We'd heard too many stories of lightning hitting friends' boats for us to want to stick around. The reason so many cruisers are heading to Ecuador? To escape the wet season lightning and storm belt that extends as far south as Panama. Leaving Bahia del Sol, however, proved to be no easy matter. You have to cross a bar to get back out to the ocean, and large and often dangerous waves close the entrance for days at a time. After five days of waiting, we were ushered out through the largest breaking waves we've ever been through! Several times Harmony plunged into what seemed like bottomless pits, only to come up for more. And then suddenly we were out on the open ocean — where we immediately ran into a Papagayo. But we hugged the shore, so everything was fine — at least until we reached the entrance to the Gulf of Fonseca. The Papagayo winds come blasting through the notches in Central America and funnel down wherever they can, with one of those places being the Gulf of Fonseca. It wasn't too bad, as it's only 20 miles across the gulf, and the winds were never more than 40 knots. Amazingly enough, there were fishermen out working in that stuff. We figured if they could handle it, so could we. Nonetheless, we ended up with a small tear in our main, and the boat got covered in salt. Once across Fonseca, we again hugged the coast, and the next morning pulled into Puesto del Sol Marina, Nicaragua. Puesto del Sol, which was developed by well-known and well-liked San Diego cruiser Roberto Membrano, is a first-class operation, but Nicaragua is a dreadfully poor country, so as soon as you leave the guarded gates of the resort, you know you're in the Third World. Daniel Ortega was again elected President of Nicaragua, and has pledged solidarity with Iran and Venezuela, so you can't help but be concerned about the future of Puesto del Sol.
The July 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.