September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico

Feel Free Sails to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico
By Liz Tosoni

Sailing along the coast of Nicaragua close to shore was fast, exhilarating. Our log book indicates that from Bahia Santa Elena in Costa Rica, and all the way to Corinto, Nicaragua, said to be the northern end of the Papagayo wind area, a distance of about 150 miles, we got nothing less than 15 knots, often 20- 25 knots, gusting to 30 and 35, occasionally 40.

A constantly changing, moving picture show of sand dunes, jutting cliffs, hills the color of rust, small rural settlements and bold volcanoes was always on view to starboard. It was not possible to just gaze and daydream at this scenic world though, as if watching a movie screen; a careful watch had to be maintained for fishing boats along with their attached nets and floats, not to mention the wildlife features that popped up unexpectedly.

  • Birds, birds and more birds: pelicans, cormorants, boobies, gulls, terns, tropic birds, even swallows. Fine feathered friends became our constant companions. They don’t seem to care about strong winds or rough seas. They just go with the flow. We could learn from them.
  • Dozens of manta rays rising clear out of the water in unison, then flopping with smacking THUDS right back down, again and again, and then, nothing. Short but exciting displays of mysterious behaviour. Did some submarine conductor give them a command “Let the show begin!” just for our benefit? Were they avoiding predators? Just having some fun? Getting their daily exercise? Getting rid of a parasite?

Turtles, hundreds of them, all migrating the same way, swimming slowly but surely, determinedly, as turtles do through sometimes rough seas. We were in the midst of a turtle highway. Where were they going? Back home to their native beach? To lay their eggs? To the same place where they were hatched? How far did they have to travel?

-Tiny fish, flying fish, leaping clear out of the water, resembling small birds, staying aloft for up to a minute, covering perhaps 300 feet! They get to the surface, then fan out their “wings” (pectoral and pelvic fins) as they leave the water. Then they accelerate in the air by frenetically beating the tips of their tails back and forth on the surface of the water with a sculling motion. I read that they glide a few inches above the waves at speeds of five to eight knots and that flying helps them to escape their predators.

The plan was to sail right on past the Gulf of Fonseca which shares borders with El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, making landfall in Bahia del Sol or Barillas in El Salvador. Approaching the Gulf of Fonseca though, we got a message on the morning Net from Shannon on Sweety, and then Deb on Lion’s Paw: “Why don’t you stop at Isla el Tigre only a short distance up the Gulf, in Honduras? It’s a sweet spot — friendly people, no tourists, easy and free entry, good hiking and don’t forget your camera.” That did it. We had to go.

  • El Tigre itself was the central command post for Sir Francis Drake’s Pacific fleet which sailed the coast from Peru to Baja Mexico.
  • In 1849 the US proposed a canal through Honduras from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific which then prompted the British to occupy El Tigre Island.
  • The CIA maintained a small outpost on El Tigre to observe El Salvador and Honduras.
  • A lengthy dispute over the gulf and the islands between El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua was finally resolved in 1992 by the International Court of Justice who drew up the new boundaries. The dispute was primarily between Honduras and El Salvador who have been at cultural odds for a long time. El Salvador was awarded Isla Meanguera and Meanguerita, and Honduras received Isla El Tigre.

So, this little island we were heading to has an interesting little history.

Into the Gulf of Fonseca we steered, and soon the seas became completely calm. As it turned out, our one and only stop in El Salvador was the tiny island of Meanguera where we didn’t even go ashore, just relaxed at anchor, enjoying the peace of the curved shore, observing the quiet village life, where dogs barked, children swam, their little heads dotting the sea, and people went about their daily business.

Next morning it was a short and easy eight nautical mile motor sail to the cone shaped jungle island of Isla El Tigre. Absorbing the scene after anchoring, surrounded by this picture postcard setting off the small town of Amapala, almost encircled by several other volcanic islands, made us think “how many people get the chance to visit this faraway, magical looking corner of the globe?” I wanted to etch the scene in my brain so as never to forget it, drink it and swallow it whole.

The Port Captain and Immigration officers treated us like old friends “Welcome to Honduras. How long you like to stay? Have a good time.” The check-in was probably the easiest in the history of check-ins.

Wandering through the sleepy fishing village is like being in the old west. Quaint, one-story, wood buildings painted in every colour of the rainbow line the clean, cobbled avenues. Tiny mototaxis from India and bicycles are about the only vehicles to be seen, and nobody is in a rush.

Ingenuous children thrill to have their pictures taken. There are plenty of elderly people, and old thin, women, beautiful with long grey braids, come face to face, staring brazenly, inquisitively, as if you are from another planet. Well, I guess we were.

Of course, the defining physical element of the island, the (inactive) volcano itself, had to be climbed. Scaling the dizzying peak of 783 meters (2,544 feet) in the hot and sultry climate proved to be tough, sweaty, but immensely satisfying. What a view with a 360 degree panorama of Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

All good things must come to an end, though, so after our short but sweet encounter with our one and only Honduran landfall, the anchor was up again and Feel Free was on the go for Mexico.

 

I almost always want to stay longer in places we love. The dialogue usually goes like this:

Tom: I think it’s time to move on Liz. How about getting ready for departure at the crack of dawn?

Liz: But I just love this place. Why don’t we stay just one more day? There’s lots more to see and do here.

Sometimes we stay one more day but usually, the next day, we head out. Practicality prevails. After all, we have many miles to go in the season and we have to make tracks. I know, but yet.........

Guatemala was the next country along the coast. We’d made the decision to bypass it altogether as the grapevine informed us that harbours there were not “cruiser friendly”. Next landfall- Puerto Chiapas, Mexico, about 300 nautical miles away.

As is often the case on passages, this three day/two night one was characterized by a very mixed bag of conditions, some light winds, some strong winds as high as 25 knots, some motoring, some sailing, some lumpy seas, some seas as smooth as satin, some contrary current, some favourable current, some fish boats to avoid, some freighters in the distance.

One shrimper aimed directly for Feel Free at fast speed, appearing to wish to sell us some shrimp, gesticulating loudly. We would have liked to buy some but what was he thinking? How did he think he could possibly make the transfer without destroying our boat was beyond us. His 70 foot lumbering steel behemoth with spreader bars extending 25 feet off either beam and huge metal otter boards swinging off the spreader bars looked like a giant floating wrecking ball. “No, gracias!” was our reply.

Our pals the dolphins joined us off and on, of course, to keep us from getting lonely. At one point, six of them gave us a private showing for our evening entertainment, leaping repeatedly, right out of the water, ten feet in the air. There were more turtles too, parading along, ever tenacious in their long, slow journey, like a troop of marching soldiers, to who knows where. Oh, and we caught a nice fish.

In short, the trip was eventful but uneventful. We sailed out of Honduras and El Salvador, through Guatemalan waters and then we were in Mexico. The southernmost port of Mexico is Puerto Chiapas, up a short but wide and straightforward estuary. We were totally tickled to drop the hook in the lovely anchorage, a ring of gulls screeching in welcome overhead as we arrived just after sunset, in the country we had visited and departed from aboard Feel Free some 13 years earlier. It would be some miles before reaching Manzanillo where the circumnavigation would be complete but that didn’t matter. It was definitely something to toast about and so we did.