Nancy and Sam welcome you aboard Windfall, our 1977 Maple Leaf sailboat. Windfall is a center cockpit design, 42' length, 13.5' wide, and 40,000 lbs of cruising fun!

On August 7th, 2010 we set sail on our "No Itinerary" world cruise and enjoying the "Cruising Life" very much! It's a wonderful adventure!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

GUATEMALA

"Tuk-Tuk"




Lake Atitlan sunset
Hand made detailed fabrics

Lake Atitlan with two volcanoes



 GUATEMALA
         We’ve left the boats moored in El Salvador and rented a car with our friends Rick and Sue (New Yorkers) from the sailboat Moonshine. The rental car costs $35/day if you stay in El Salvador and $50 per day as we’re taking it to Guatemala.

ANTUGUA - Our trip began with taking the coastal route to Guatemala, and then to Antigua, a famous old European style city with many varieties of local artisan works.  We enjoyed the couple days in Antigua, the Central Market area, town square, the delicious foods, and the wonderful friendly people. Antigua is located high in the mountains where it was nice and cool – which felt very refreshing from the warm 85-90 degree days aboard Windfall.Our hotel was an old Colonial Spanish design, beautiful with it’s manicured gardens, and located within an easy 5 minute walk down a cobble stone street to the town square. Our room was simple, clean, and overlooked the beautiful gardens area below.
          We went to the Central market and bought beautifully detailed hand woven cloths made by the local women, of course the prices depend how well you barter – which these women selling their goods are masters at! The items are made at the nearby villages and brought to the market to sell, and just getting the items to market is quite a chore from the remote villages.We hired a guide for an afternoon to tour the city. He gave us the story of Antigua, the churches, Jade artisans, the major earthquakes and volcanoes, and it’s friendly people. We asked about where a good Spanish immersion school is located, Antigua is famous for it’s Spanish immersion classes with one-on-one teaching which we hope will improve our (my) Spanish skills.  Nancy and I signed up for a two week immersion class, beginning April 4th, where we will live with a Guatemalan family (who only speak Spanish) and go to the school 4 hours a day for the two weeks. We already met our new “Madre” who will cook our meals.

 LAKE ATITLAN…oh, and along the way we were stopped by the “Policia” and politely asked for “Propina” (a tip)…which cost us $100 Quetzals ($13). It’s not looked upon kindly by the locals for tourists to pay this, but….what are you going to do but pay-even though they are not supposed to do any longer.
         We arrived at Lake Atitlan and begin our search for hotel rooms. We were directed by a great kid on a bicycle and his uncle (self appointed tour guides) of where to go, what the prices were, and that they can arrange a tour of the lake. We looked at two hotels, one completely booked, one with $20 rooms, and the last very near the lake which we got for $25/night. It was a great place, nice lawns with covered patio, views, and only a two minute walk to the lake shore.As the sun dipped behind the distant volcano mountains, people quietly lined the waterfront to admire the spectacular red-umber hues transform to complete darkness before our eyes making “postcard perfect” photos.
         The next morning we met at the nearby dock with our “self appointed tour guide” for the lake tour of two local villages, and we were not disappointed. Local fishermen in tiny wooden carved boats tossed baited lines as our panga driver took us close to the shore to view many beautiful waterfront homes, with terraced gardens to the shoreline, and shaded by palm trees perched on the waters edge. Colorfully dressed artisan women lined the streets weaving their beautiful cloths and inviting us into their shops and view their wonderful handmade goods. We learned some of their colorful, and highly detailed,  woven shirts take as long as 6 months to complete and each village has specific “colors” woven to distinguish their Mayan villages. The tiny details woven in the cloths are amazing to say the least.  You can’t imagine the time and patience it takes to produce such handmade works of art, but you quickly realize how spoiled we, as Americans, have become when viewing life from the other side of the world.
          Later that afternoon we went with Rick and Sue on a “Tuk-Tuk” tour. A Tuk-Tuk is a three wheeled vehicle, fun (and cheap) to ride, and we learned they have 165 Tuk-Tuks for the area! Our drivers charged $6 for an hour tour of the city, pointing out internet cafés, points of interest, great places to eat, then took us to a high overlook of the lake and volcanoes….on a scale of 1-10….this is a definite TEN
          Leaving Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City, we took a different route leading us to cross a river (ok, small stream) with the rental car! The bridge was washed out, and had been for quite some time, but Sue did a great job driving the car and fording the ravaging white water …ok, so it was 6” deep, but she still did a great job of getting us across without getting our feet wet.

         ATACO - Time to cross the border back into El Salvador with our next location Ataco, about 30 minutes out of our way, but highly recommended to visit.
          We stayed in a small posada (Inn), newly remodeled, and welcomed with friendly staff ($30/night). Soon, it was time to search for a restaurant for dinner. As many of you travelers know, this can be a scale of delicious foods…to well, not so great.I must say, we found a little café with great live music, tastefully decorated, and with a Filet Minion that was delicious as any we’ve ever had, served with rice, veggies, bread, and a wonderful pastry desert. Oh, and the price…an easy $9.00.
San Andres Ruins- The next morning we toured the ancient ruins of San Andres where we happened to arrive during a Mayan ceremony of Springtime and offerings of wisdom, forgiveness, and healing to the circled fire. Drums beat as conch shells were blow to welcome the Gods and bring those to the circle. Even a newscaster was on hand for the occasion as I heard mention of “President Obama”….What??? Yes, Mr. “Presidente de Americana” Barack Obama is to visit this very ruin in two days and they were excited with the news.We moved on to the next site.
Joya de Ceren Ruins - Also called the “Pampae of the Americas” and designated a World Heritage Site. What makes this area so special is this is the only area known to show where the common people lived who built the great temples and ruins. A volcano, 1/2 mile away, gave ample warning for the people to escape before it began erupting and completely covering the area with steam and ash.  This event happened 14 times and has buried the city with 4-6 meters of ash. The new site was found in 1976 when a backhoe was working and found a wall preserved deep in the layers. They have only dug 3% of what is believed to be buried as they have no way to preserve the artifacts (homes and personal items) once exposed to the weather and elements. So, for now, the city remains protected and well preserved buried deep within the layers of ash.

It was nice to get back aboard Windfall and back to “busy schedule”…..We’ve been invited to a nighttime beach bon fire, a chicken barbeque to benefit the local school, and of course make our presence at the pool for the afternoon “Cruisers Net” . Nancy has signed up for a drawing and painting class offered by one of the cruisers, and volunteers working with the English class at the local school. I have been working on a picture CD, our Blog, practicing my guitar and strangely enough keeping any “critters” away from the boat….Hmm, …..Nahhh….Couldn’t be…..It must be some strange coincidence.
 More Windfall Adventures when we get back from our Antigua Spanish classes….I feel sorry for my teacher already……

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Surfin' Windfall at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador !!

video


February 26th – Bah'ia del Sol, El Salvador!!
                Arriving on schedule for the 7am high tide, we were six boats sitting at the entrance starring at the big breakers crossing the entire entrance to Bah'ia del Sol. Soon, our bar guide shot across the breakers on a jet ski and began giving instructions to the first boat of how to cross. We sat anxiously watching with binoculars as Mita Kuuluu closely followed the guide to the entrance. Nowhere did we see a place safe enough to cross…then, suddenly the guide gave the signal and Mita Kuuluu began to enter the breakers. Gulp! Just as they started to cross the breakers suddenly flattened…smooth as a lake! Jean, from Mita Kuuluu came on the VHF radio and said, “Hello, El Salvadorl”, and the bar guide turned back for the next boat.
                Windfall was number four in line and soon it was our “chance” to cross. With Captain Nancy at the helm, we listened carefully to the instructions of the bar guide about hand signals and to stay CLOSE to him as we begin to enter...and once we begin do NOT turn around. Gulp! All we could see were solid 6’-8’ breakers where we were to enter. 
Suddenly, our guide gave the “Go” signal.... Nancy pushed the throttle FULL SPEED FORWARD and in an instant we were committed to crossing.  I turned and looked behind as a 6’ wave started to pick up the back of Windfall…in my head I could hear the “Hawaii 5-0” theme music ….Windfall was SURFING down the wave at full throttle!! Nancy held Windfall straight to the wave and the wave passed under the boat. ”Welcome to Bah'ia del Sol, El Salvador,” Well done Captain Nancy! !
                We motored up the bay and took a spot at the Bah'ia del Sol Hotel dock. With much appreciated help from the dock hands Windfall was quickly secured and soon Customs was aboard filling out necessary paperwork.  We walked up the dock, admiring the beautiful Hotel and it’s new swimming pool, to check in with the Port Captain, Immigration, and with the Marina. Within a few minutes we were sharing a dockside coldie with our English friends, Henry and Janis from Cloudy Bay, a very beautiful Nordhavn power yacht.
                With mention of it being near 102° today, Nancy and I returned to the boat and put the new shade over Windfall….Whew! It lowered the temp in the cockpit by 20°, and within a few minutes we were stretched taking a long nap.  The local “cruisers net” is held at the pool at 4:30, early attendance is acceptable and coldies are required.  I can tell you that after 48 hours sailing that pool felt wonderful!
                The next day (Friday) we went to dinner with Rick and Sue (upstate New Yorkers) from Moonshine. They carry Mr. Boogaloo, a poodle, onboard who has a lot of sea miles under his…uhh, collar.  
After the 4:30 “Cruisers Net” at the pool, we decided to go out to dinner with Rick and Sue for “Paposas”. These are an El Salvadorian dish that looks like a Gyro, but made with a heavier bread of corn or rice, and about as thick as a pancake. Inside the bread is a variety of meats, cheeses, veggies, etc…   Very delicious, tasty, and cheap at only 60 cents each! We ordered 3 per person, with beers, and our total bill for the four of us…$10.80 (The US Dollar is the currency used in El Salvador).
It’s 7:30 am, 80°, and another beautiful El Salvadorian day! We have a couple boats waiting to cross the bar this morning with the 9am high tide. I’ll listen on the VHF radio as the bar guide instructs them safely across the bearkers. It’s quite daunting as you wait outside the breakers and watch without unseeingly any opening to bring your boat across….but have no fear, they haven’t lost a boat yet in the 10 years of doing this. It’s certainly not a crossing for the faint of heart!
I went on a bike ride with Anton from Royal Albatross today, we rode about 12 miles and stopped for beers along the way…..Well, you know it’s hot here!
Nancy and I went with the group by dinghies 4 miles up the bay to a small town where we purchased fresh fruits and veggies. I’ve got to say the fruits are some of the tastiest we’ve had, the cantaloupes , pineapples, and melons are so sweet and juicy, plus  it’s fun to shop at these open markets. We parked the dinghies at a palapa (beachside café) and enjoyed cool beers before loading our groceries and heading back to the marina…and to relax in the cool swimming pool.
Yesterday, we talked with Rick and Sue aboard Moonshine about renting a car and doing a sightseeing trip to Guatemala. We can save a lot of money doing our own tour vs paying for a guide and van.
Today we are taking our dinghy,”Blondie,” on an adventure /sightseeing trip around the mangroves and estuary.  This is a beautiful area with palm lined beaches, coconut trees, mangroves, and NO Mosquitoes! I thought we’d have to have all our bug screens covering the windows each night, but we have not seen or heard one mosquito yet! The days get up to about 90°, but in the evenings there is a nice cool breeze and it cools off nicely. We still have two 12 volt fans running in the bedroom at night, but it’s very comfortable without having air-conditioning. We’ve noticed those cruisers who do have air-conditioning usually stay inside their boats till the afternoon “cruisers net” which begins at promptly at 4:30 in the swimming pool. It’s actually for “Beers and BS’n” and some cruisers like to get there early to start the cruisers net “warm up session”! 
We stay busy, doing what I’m still uncertain, but before we know it’s time to head to the pool for a coldie. Oh, but it’s not all about relaxing in paradise. Today I have an “opportunity” to challenge and sharpen my sanitation engineering skills, and to become much closer with the Zen of our boat….Ok, I have to fix one of the toilets. But, on a positive note, I see its 40 degrees and raining in Portland, so I’m going to smile in the sunshine as I take the toilet repair challenge.  If you want to see what true cruising is like, just spread your toilet out on the dock and soon you’ll other cruisers stopping by with advice….no help, but LOTS of advice and stories of…”There we were, 200 miles offshore with six crew members and  our head went out….”
Nancy is below making …and get this… Biscuits for breakfast! WOW! This must be some kind of wife-bribe to get the toilet working sooner! Well friends, it’s time to get some tools out and look like I’m going to do something important…I’ve got to make it look like her “Biscuit Bribe” is working…