Saturday 25th February 2012
Distance run: 104 nmiles
As we approached Las Salinas the wind and sea state gradually eased to the point where we were able to unfurl some of the yankee, turn off the engine and sail comfortably. The wind gradually freed us up and before long we were sailing comfortably on a close reach at 5 knots straight towards our destination.
The vista as we approached Las Salinas was breathtaking, with layers of hills leading up to the mountains in the background as far as the eye could see.
Oh how I wish I could take a photo that would really capture what we see...
The real excitement, however, was the sight of a pod of maybe 3 or 4 whales – the first we have seen since we began our travels. I didn’t even bother to get the camera, just enjoyed watching them until they disappeared from view. We couldn’t make out any distinguishing features, so don’t know what type they were, but were so happy to have at last had sight of some!
As we entered the bay at Las Salinas the wind began to pick up again and we found ourselves anchoring in 15+ knots of wind. We couldn’t see the bottom so were unable to pick out a sandy spot, and it took four attempts to get the anchor to bite. With the anchor finally set, we did a quick tidy up on deck and went below for some sleep. Just as we were dropping off there was a thump on the side of the boat and voices calling, so we got up and there was the local Marina de Guerra in a fishing boat speaking to us in very fast Spanish, helped along by his fisherman friend who seemed to think if he used a louder voice than the Coastguard we would understand what he was saying! We tried to explain that we needed them to speak slowly, to no avail, and in the end the CG decided to climb on board and the fisherman headed off.
My Spanish is somewhat limited, I will admit, as I depend mainly on my memory from ‘O’ levels, goodness knows how many years ago, backed by the use of a dictionary. However, thus far we have managed very well, as long as the Spanish speaker has the intelligence to slow down and simplify what they say. What can I say? This chap was not the sharpest knife in the drawer and simply continued to babble on in a way that prevented me from making out a single word – except maybe ‘Despacho’. So we showed him our ‘Despacho’ and almost immediately he said ‘Problem, Boca Chica’. Eventually he realised that he needed some help getting through to us, and he phoned his boss who, thankfully, spoke very good English. He suggested we meet up with him at the hotel pier not far from where we were anchored so that he could sort things out.
So we abandoned the idea of sleep and set about putting the rib down and getting ashore in what was by now 20knots of wind. It was a wet trip to the pier and I have to admit to being just a little amused at our CG’s dismay at getting his uniform wet! Once ashore, we met his superior, Danilo, who was charming, understanding and very helpful. He reassured us that there was, in fact, no problem with us stopping here instead of Boca Chica, but that the CG chap needed to know if we were planning to leave after a few hours or stay overnight, in which case we would need a new Despacho. Having clarified that we would be staying at least one night, we then explained that we had not yet been properly cleared into the country and he arranged to meet us again later, with a colleague from immigration to sort it all out. He would also drive us to an ATM to get cash and a petrol station to get diesel.
So it was then back to the boat with the CG for a search which turned out to be fairly cursory, but his interest in our drinks locker lasted a full hour as he sampled beer, rum, gin and an apple liqueur which we donated to him in an effort to end the visit and get to bed! Finally Steve took him ashore and we were able to take a catnap before heading back to meet Danilo and get cleared in.
The paperwork was sorted out very quickly and easily with the payment of $10 each for visas for us and $43 for entry for the boat, which we had expected to pay. Then Danilo took us to the ATM which was out of service, and then to the petrol station where our cards would not work. At this point Danilo got out his wallet and paid for the diesel himself. We then drove through two more towns to reach another ATM, this one working and willing to give us cash so that we were able to repay him for the diesel at least, if not for his kindness.
Back at the pier, he helped us get the jerry cans into the rib, and made sure we had phone and email contact details for him in case we should need his help at any time, before heading back to his base along the coast. With the wind still blowing a hooley, we managed to get the jerry cans back on the boat, hauled up the rib and hunkered down to sit out the blow.