Passage to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

The moon rose shortly after midnight, but it was a tiny sliver that gave off virtually no light, so it was essentially pitch black all night. In the wee hours of the morning, something odd happened. Two boats passed us at the same time. One of the boats pulled out a spot light and was looking us over with it, but then turned it off and kept going. We are guessing they were trying to see if we had nets out to make sure it was safe to pass us.

By morning, the ocean was still as calm as a lake. Here is the sunrise.

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There were tons and tons of sportfishers out, and the wakes of their boats was about the only movement on the water. It was wonderful. Mike is prone to seasickness, but he was feeling great. Although, he never tried to read, not wanting to push his luck. Instead, he watched the horizon intently.

Not too long after sunrise, Mike saw a school of dolphins in the distance. Then he saw a sailfish. A little while later, he saw another pod of dolphins. This pod swam up to the boat and rode the bow wake for a few minutes. Since the water was so flat and calm, we could see them especially clearly. It was really exciting for all of us, but especially Mike.

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At 1030, the seas picked up some, but it was just small swells and the ride was still nice.
Mike saw dolphins again around lunch time, but they just passed by and didn’t stop and play. And at 1400, he spotted a 4th pod. This time two of the pod came and played on the bow for just a minute or two, then swam off. Once again, we could see them incredibly well. At 1430, Mike spotted a turtle. A little while later, he noticed a bird hovering around the boat that hung around for at least a half hour. The bird must have thought we were a fishing boat.

As the day wore on, the seas picked up a touch more, but it was still a good ride. At around 1630 we saw not one, but two pods of dolphins. The first set stayed quite a while and played on the bow, but the second set just quickly passed by. At 1530, we saw yet another pod of dolphins that also passed by quickly. Mike wins the “best sea life spotter” to ever have been on Kosmos. It makes us wonder about how much sea life we have missed out on seeing since we generally don’t watch the horizon consistently, just scan around us every few minutes to make sure there is nothing to hit.

We paralleled the shore all day, close enough to clearly see land. The mountains are pretty. The landscape seems to be getting dryer the farther north we go. After sunset, it was another pitch black night. The seas picked up a touch more.

At around 2100, the wind suddenly jumped from 0 2 knots real to 9 knots real, hitting us on the starboard nose (front right quarter of the boat). By 2130, we could feel the waves also seriously increasing. By 2230, the wind was about 11 15 knots real, with gusts in the 20’s. It was suddenly a very bumpy ride. Since it was so dark, we couldn’t see the waves, but they felt like they were small, sharp and frequent. The motion is similar to what we experienced in the Med, and actually, the drastic change in waves in such a short timeframe is also similar to the Med.

At 2320 we made a slight turn, which changed the angle the waves were hitting us by just a little. The waves were still coming from the right corner, but now they were closer to the nose than the side. That definitely made the ride more painful. Our speed slowed by a full knot. We had been cruising in the high 6 knot range at 1700 RPM and we were down to the high 5’s at the same RPM. We started taking a lot of water over the bow, with the windshield consistently hit with sea spray.

The wind continued to steadily increase. By around midnight it was up to 16 17 real, still with gusts in the 20’s. When Mike came upstairs to do his watch, he reported that he woke up with a sore hand from holding on to the edge of the bed so tightly in his sleep. He had a dream that we told him the sea sickness pills we gave him were really placebos and he was avoiding seasickness all on his own power.

At around 0600, we turned again, this time enough so that the waves were now right on the nose. The waves instantly felt bigger and we were definitely bouncing up and down more violently. Eric doesn’t do well in head seas and immediately started to feel bad. Mike astutely commented that when the waves were coming from the corner, there was a little bit of a side to side motion in addition to the bouncing up and down. When we turned into the seas head on, the side to side motion vanished altogether. Mike didn’t like the stronger up and down motion, but seemed to be glad there wasn’t motion from multiple directions anymore. Mike wasn’t sick at all, which surprised us all, most especially him. It must have been the dream, proving to him his own power of personal strength. Or it could have been the real seasickness drugs that he was taking like clockwork.

By 1000, the winds were up to 20 – 27 knots real, with gusts in the high 30’s. The sea spray was coming over the bow like crazy.

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Eric was sitting in the helm chair when an especially large wave came over the top of the pilot house and in through the hatch, leaving Eric pretty darn wet. Of course, we closed the hatch. By then, our speed was down to the high 4’s. Mike stared intently at the clock, willing time to go by faster. Eric and Christi have learned the hard way not to do that it just makes you more miserable to see time drag on so slowly.

At around 1100, we neared the entrance to the bay and the winds picked up to a consistent 38 knots real. Unbelievable! Hmmm”¦. This is not good. When Eric had made his list of potential places to stop along the west coast of the Americas, San Juan del Sur had not been on the list. The cruising guide made it sound pretty bad, mostly because at this time of year there are consistently strong winds and the anchorage didn’t sound like it was protected enough. Ralph, the crew member on the Nordhavn 57 we mentioned in the marina in Colon, had told us that the cruising guide was totally wrong about San Juan del Sur. Ralph is an American who currently lives in San Juan del Sur. He has a sailboat that he keeps in the bay and assured us that the bay is sufficiently protected and that the town is great. He strongly encouraged us to go to San Juan del Sur to visit him and we added it to our itinerary.

The entrance of the bay is surrounded by big dry, brown hills covered with trees that look dead. A few houses dot the hills on the left side of the entrance, and other than that, there is pretty much no development at all. At about 1130, we turned into the bay. Even with the protection of the hills, the wind was still screaming at 34 knots. We hope to God Ralph is right about sufficient protection, because right now it was looking pretty dicey to us.

We had emailed Ralph and told him our ETA, so he was watching for us. When he saw us come in, he hailed us on the radio and instructed us on where to anchor, telling us to pull uncomfortably close to the shoreline and put out as much chain as we could. We did as instructed. We dropped anchor at a place that looked to be pretty darn far from any of the other boats in the anchorage, but when Kosmos settled in, it was too close to another boat. Christi went back out into the wind and pulled up the anchor. Pulling up anchor turned out to be a delicate process. We were so close to shore that Eric couldn’t gun the engine too much, but the wind was pushing us back so hard that Eric absolutely had to consistently drive forward to keep slack in the chain. Once the chain was up, we picked a new spot, just as close to the shoreline, and again dropped anchor. This time Kosmos settled into a better place.

To be continued…

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