Passage to Nicaragua

Feb 16th was the first time we’ve raised sail since May of last year. After paying the port $300 and something for our stay in El Salvador we fired up the freshly rebuilt engine and prepared to head to sea. That project cost us $1400. Thank you remote jobs or we would be headed home. So, Andrew was feeling a little flu-y (he had been for the last couple of days) and the forecast had increased winds coming out of the East, but we were itching like crazy to get on to a new destination and to remember the sensation of sailing at sea. We motored over the river bar with no white water in smooth seas with very light wind and clear blue skies at 9:30am/high tide.

Our pro sailing pals Mandi and Bill of Firefly followed us out in their dinghy and snapped some shots of us getting underway. It was fun to have them out there wishing us off.

Sailing out of Bahia del Sol, ESE towards Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua – 120 miles

There were headwinds the whole passage which enhanced the already present short-period seas. Andrew spent the day pretty sick, which left me on watch all day and into the night. Once the pitch black of 8pm had settled in and I was fully aware of charging into the night I started to develop the fear. The fear of the things that are scary in a small boat in a big ocean. I tried to talk to it and make go away. I felt like crap.

Rusty ol’ fishing boat at sea

It was basically like, ba-baam! ba-baam! ba-baam! non stop for the whole trip. Speed bumps every few meters on a 24 hour road trip. Pitch black, no moon, the winds continually switching around, but the steep 4 second period wind-waves continued from the SE. The boat seemed to be having a lot more fun than us, falling off the back of waves and burying the bow into the next. While the sails were filling with a bang then emptying and slapping around I began to remember just how exciting it was to be out in the ocean at night. Birds diving in around the boat were scaring the crap out of me, suddenly appearing in the glow of the running lights at high speed. I was briefly joined by dolphins, who I couldn’t really see, just their glowing bodies zooming under the boat leaving a trail of phosphorescence.

I finally woke up Andrew who was in much better shape after resting. His watch was more of the same. As soon as he woke me up for the next round, the dry East winds started to blow pretty good, we weren’t turning back so it was more slamming. There were hundreds of fishing boats to dodge once we crossed into Nicaraguan waters. We passed pretty close to one and it looked like a panga (or two) with two big work lights and a bunch of guys hangin’ on with all of their fishing stuff piled about. Watching for and dodging the boats took up most of my attention for the night. Andrew took watch and I passed out. Woke up to a good ba-boom and ran half asleep on deck to violently start puking. I got seasick in my sleep… apparently.

Sunrise… looking towards Nicaragua

By sunrise we were closing down on our destination and winds and seas started to mellow. Speck Reef extends miles offshore right before the entrance…  it was certainly breaking way out to sea when we strolled by. Once clear of it we headed towards the glowing purple volcanic land-mass and discussed the glory of making land fall, which this morning, and many I recall before, are one of the greatest joys.

Greeted by a beautiful left hand point break as we rounded the little volcanic island we motored through the calm estuary to the marina.

Entering the estuary at 7am

We waited for 9 hours for the migration/port authority to show up. Since we had no cigarettes to provide, the paperwork was filled out quickly so they could get to the gas station before it closed. It is $13/night to stay on a mooring buoy, which is owned by Marina Puesta del Sol. Rumor has it they have bribed local authorities to deny the opportunity to anchor (and apparently many other things), so it is forbidden, unless you do a bunch of paperwork farther south. We have seen only three other cruising boats here, it is very quiet. The marina itself is very nice, although the food is out of our price range. The pools however, one by the harbor and one by the ocean, are pretty sweet…

Ocean side pool looking out towards the island with wave

Estuary pool

There is a very small local community here and a couple of surf hostels nearby (and of course the Marina, who takes the development cake)… but the majority of the landscape is untouched and unlike El Salvador, there is very little trash here and the tranquility and stars are a nice change. We took the dinghy out to the island located outside of the estuary to explore…

Nice little cove on the back side to pull up the ding

The only guy around was this very nice park ranger/security dude. He helped ply apart the barbed wire fence to let me through to the ocean side. He cruised around the beach with me and found this bird who was sick/injured on the beach and he carefully inspected it and posed for this photo. He took it back with him to the small camp set-up where the bird hung out with him and the dog.

Shell paradise… no sea glass here, no people

This horse was hangin’ in the ocean out on the island, no idea where it came from. Some island flora.

Island reef

He grabbed them special for the photo

Playa Asseradores

A view looking West around the point and a barnacle impersonating a volcano

View of the waves from the sunset pool. Did I mention that no one else is here?

These are coconut, cashew, almond cereal bars. Huge galley success. Made with local cashews (this is from El Salv)!
These pepper-like tree fruits (whose seeds are the cashews growing below) apparently make a very strong liquor.

All to ourselves…

And one last photo from El Salvador!

22 Responses to “Passage to Nicaragua”
  1. Bill Wicks says:

    Real nice phots. Engoyed the story also.

    Bill from d dock

  2. Patty Layton says:

    Julie…so wonderful to once again “Follow the Arc”…photos and prose just sensational. Stay safe and keep writing! Love, Patty

  3. Jeremy says:

    Hey Julie and Andrew,

    It’s Jeremy (and Jessica), Lisa’s friends from El Salvador…I saw this and thought you could win quite easily…your combination of great photos, sense of adventure and lots of surf makes you a shoe-in! I’m sure of it!!

    Feel free to email ( and then we’ll have your emails…keep on keeping on and enjoy!! If the boat comes up the CA coast please stop into Santa Cruz to say hi 🙂

    • followthearc says:

      Hey guys! We were just talking about you two. How you guys doin’ in SC? I checked out the contest and guess what the grand prize winner gets?! An all expenses paid surf trip to El Salvador, boat rides included! We were cracking up. Still might enter and send some of our friends though…. 🙂 If we are nearby Santa Cruz or in CA in general… we’ll come hunt you two down!

  4. James says:

    Glad to see the motors running good, Looks like a great place. Never seen cashews growing before, very cool.

  5. Lani says:

    Wow Jules, Looks and sounds amazing! Looking forward to more updates of your amazing journey! Love ya!

  6. kate says:

    Kate and I just read your story and Kate has some questions…what was wrong with the bird? did the dog like the bird? is the island full of wild horses? can we come join you and pretend we don’t have jobs, or a mortgage, or school?

    Love, Aunt Suz and Kate

    • followthearc says:

      Kate and Suz, you guys can come visit whenever you can, it sounds like life is tough. I think Kate would fit nicely into the fruit hammock in the cabin for a bunk 🙂 I don’t know what was wrong with the bird. I didn’t see it before he picked it up but he couldn’t fly and was very close to the breaking waves. It seemed that the dog did like the bird. The dog was laying down about 10 yards from the bird… who was perched on a low rock. Both animals seemed uninterested in harming the other. The island may or may not be full of wild horses, I have seen one and I think it was under the care of humans, just out for a morning dip and then headed back to work.

  7. Joaquin Corssen says:

    Hey Andrew and Jules!!, so stoked to see the Arc in good shape and cruising wild into openwaters. Reading this posts make me want to set off a sailing trip everytime!, loved the photos and story. Hope the big bro got better and is surfing his nuts off.
    Much love to both 🙂

  8. Mandi Markee says:

    Glad to see you guys are having a great time! I look forward to reading more about your journeys! We will miss you in El Salvador! Xoxo

  9. Allison Shephard says:

    Is that really how cashews grow? No wonder I love them so much.

  10. Lori Singmaster says:

    Wonderful stuff…you guys are self taught at sailing right? Sure wish you were gonna be in Honduras when I’m there…The folks in Costa Rica are awesome….really kind. Loved reading this.

  11. Jay says:

    Hey Julie!

    This is Jay from Capital/Red Bull. Just stumbled onto your adventure through facebook. Gorgeous photos and great stories. Looks amazing, safe travels!

  12. Lisa K says:

    Jules – you give such vivid and beautiful commentary of this passage. I can just picture you out there under the stars, braving the darkness and wind like a pro…our own modern day Patti Ratterree! Please keep the stories and photos coming; I love following this journey! xo

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