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Sunday, March 30, 2008

San Lorenzo, Honduras to Bahia Santa Elena, Costa Rica

As it turned out our stay in San Lorenzo was too short. I think our initial impression was unduly influenced by being with three other gringos - never a good recipe for mixing with the locals. It just doesn't pay to walk the streets in a pack when you're the only out-of-towners. We spent Wednesday back in town by ourselves going through the checkout process, and had a much more enjoyable visit. We really should have stayed at least one more day to take the local bus to a bigger city 30 minutes away. It would have been interesting to see something a bit more inland. One of the drawbacks to traveling by boat is that we only see the beach "resort" cities and towns. As small as it was, that seemed to be San Lorenzo's claim to fame. In fact Semana Santa (Easter week) had been so successful for the local restaurants and bars that Porlamar, our "host," remained closed Mon-Wed to give its workers a break.
We can't thank Porlamar's owner, Armando, enough for his generous hospitality. Porlamar is the fist restaurant as you approach the city from the ship channel (making it the last one on the beach from town), and our three boat flotilla anchored off this quiet end of town. We landed our dinghies at Porlamar's launch ramp where they were watched over by Armando and his staff. Armando invited us to fill our jerry jugs from his outdoor water faucet, and he was happy to let us in and out of the property's locked gate when the restaurant was closed.
The Immigration, Port Captain, and Customs officials were all professional and patient with us, and everywhere we went people wanted to know if we were enjoying our stay in Honduras. The only fee we were charged was 36 Lempiras to Customs on exiting the country (hardly worth the effort when the exchange rate is roughly 19 Lempiras to the dollar). Compared to the $80 and $160 it cost friends of ours to check in/out of Nicaragua and Guatemala respectively, Honduras was a bargain.
We had the taxing job of spending our last Lempiras before leaving the country early on Thursday. So we splurged on cheap bottles of Flor de Cana rum from Nicaragua, Salva Vida beer, and two visits to the air-conditioned Sarita ice cream shop for waffle cones (three scoops of ice cream on two waffle cones for the equivalent of $4!). We also ate a delicious Chinese dinner at Casita Chou where the three dishes we ordered were so huge that we got two more meals out of them as take away. Both the ice cream and the Chinese place are just a couple of blocks down from the church towards the water.
Thursday morning we motored back out the channel against the last of the flood tide and it seemed to take us most of the day to clear the Gulf of Fonseca where it was mostly calm and flat. We hadn't really planned on leaving the Gulf of Fonseca so soon, but once we got out of the San Lorenzo channel the conditions were benign and we thought "well, let's just keep on going." That all changed and by 10 PM we were hove to in 30-35 knots of wind and 8' seas. The entire coast of Nicaragua was gusting 25-30 knots with brief "calms" of 10-15 and lumpy 4-6' seas. All of it was on our nose. Nakia doesn't make any headway in those conditions and we actually hove to twice because it wasn't worth the effort and fuel to keep slogging into it. It was never scary or dangerous, just tedious, uncomfortable, and so very frustrating not to be making better progress. Things finally improved the second night when we got back in closer to shore and stayed two miles off the beach. The wind was still blasting, but the seas were better and we could motor into it with a double reefed main up to give us an extra boost. We had to dodge fishing pangas but we didn't care. Frankly, the trip sucked! Compared to the Nicaraguan coast the Tehuantepec was a piece of cake.
After it seemed like the trip would never end we finally dropped anchor in Bahia Santa Elena (north of Playa del Coco), Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon. The wind is still gusty, but the water is flat and 72 degrees, and we woke to 75 degrees in the cabin this morning. Oh, and two more words - parrots and monkeys. We aren't in Mexico anymore!
Linda and John
{GMST}10|55.104|N|85|47.418|W|Bahia Santa Elena|Bahia Santa Elena{GEND}