Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

The day started out innocently enough. Tawn decided she wanted to take the bus to town and get some fresh veggies. We called our buddy Josh on the radio and made plans to head out around 10am…ish.

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Blah, blah, blah bus ride to town.

The joke around here is:
Q: How many people can you fit on a bus in El Salvador?
A: One more!

Me and Josh head to the Claro (Central American Phone/internet company) store and get him setup with an internet chip. I’d gotten one a few days before so I knew the process.

Tawn went next door to a grocery store to get some veggies. Apparently, “veggies” is Tawn slang for wine. Cause that is all she bought….wine.

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Walking back to the bus station I suddenly(luckily) remembered that I needed to pick up a machete and scabbard. We ask the guy at the hardware store where we find such a thing. Being in El Salvador, this is really not that odd of a request.

We find the machete place and as I’m looking around for the perfect machete and scabbard, Josh and Tawn are asking the guy at the shop were the closest bar is.

He seemed to be slightly befuddled by this question. He kept telling us to go the the tienda (store) to get beer. Josh kept saying, “No we want to go to a bar and have a beer” (in spanish).

He says “There are no bars in town”.

We are like…..”whuuut??”

After a few more seconds of thought he kinda crinkles up his brow and says “Uh…there is the “billiards” place around the corner”.

He did not have the type of machete I wanted, so we headed for the bar.

Josh and Tawn walk up to a door that looks like it might be the right place. I went next door since I spotted another machete shop with an even better selection than the previous place. They really do love their machetes down here.

I find my machete and bad ass leather scabbard and head next door to the bar.

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Tawn chilling around town with my new machete

I would not have been the least bit surprised if I saw a sweaty Jean-Claude Von Damme or Sylvester Stallion circa 1987 sitting at a table in this place, sharpening a knife or some other cheesy ’80s action movie cliche. Dirt floor. Ramshackle, cobbled together everything. Sagging corrugated tin roof….perfect actually.

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Click that pic to get the full panoramic effect.
I see Tawn and Josh sitting a shitty, dirty table, on some rickety chairs next to another table with four or five guys sitting around watching two guys play some sort of card game for cash.

Randomly walking about the place are six or seven chickens, two roosters and a few dirty pigeons. A couple of the chickens are noisily pecking the shit out of a couple crushed Styrofoam cups in the middle of the floor right next to our table.

There is a odd scrawny fellow whistling at a small green bird in a cage. It was almost as if they finished filming the movie “Blood Sport”, but didn’t take down the bar set and the extras just sorta hung around for the next decade or two.

The “bartender” brought us a plate of some sort of very sour fruit with salt on it. At first I was not sure what it was and asked him “Que es esta?”. He points to a rather large tree that is growing out of a pile of rubble near the back of the place through a huge hole in the roof and says….”Mango”.

Of course. Locally sourced, organic….how nice.

By the way, if you think salted pretzels make you wanna drink more beer. Try unripe mangoes and salt….sheesh.

We tuck in to the mangoes and order another round of beer, but our attention keeps being pulled to the other side of the bar. There is a “wall” slapped together with some old 2x4s, sticks and metal roofing. The wall hides that part of the room from the front door and the rest of the bar. There are eight or so guys all gathered around behind the wall. We cannot tell what they are up to, but we can hear coins clinking about and it has that feel that there is some sort of wagering going on.

We toss a few ideas back and forth of what we think is happening, but between the three of us we never felt like we really figured it out. We ruled out cock fighting…..way to mellow. No tell tell chicken sounds. I’ve never seen a cockfight, but I’m pretty sure I’d know one if I heard it.

Curiosity gets the better of me. I get up and wander over.

In my head I had a mental picture of some dude wearing a grimy tank top and a bandanna with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth doing that rapid fire knife between the fingers thing and the rest of the guys betting on the outcome. I was picturing maybe Steven Segal.

Walking around the wall I see they are all standing around a beatup, waist high table with a 6 inch boarder around it. There is of course the requisite old shitty flickering florescent light hanging precariously above. On the table top there is some money scattered about and one of the guys has a very small plastic cup in his hand. The cup was just like one of those little cups you get at a doctors office when you have to take pills.

Just as I get to the table, “little cup guy” gives the cup a shake and tosses the contents on the table. Bouncing across the table are two of the absolute smallest pair of dice I have ever seen in my life. I am not exaggerating when I say they were at most 1/8 of an inch in size. It was smaller than a pea, like maybe two lentels stuck together.

I was not prepared for this. Honestly, I was taken slightly aback. A guy with a knife trying to not stab his hand….Yep. Cockfighting…sure. Some sort of midget fight….or something….OK. But tiny, tiny dice….how do you prepare for something like that?

The guy with the cup ask if I want to play. I tell him I don’t know the rules and he gives me a quick run down. It was basically a simplified version of craps. I passed, but stayed and watched for a bit.

After a few minutes I wander back to our table, we pay our tab, and head out past the guys working at the door and out to the street.

Walking back to the bus stop, we start talking about the bar. The conversation went something along the lines of:

“What the fuck?”
“That was really weird”
“What the fuck?”
“Why were those dice so tiny”
“What was wrong with that one chicken’s head and was that a laminated poster of Patrick Swayze on the wall?”
“Did that just happen?”
“Seriously, what the fuck?”

We decided that the dice game was some sort of illegal gambling. The guys at the front door were there to keep a look out.

I kept thinking to myself. “I should go to the store and buy those guys a proper set of dice”. I pictured my self some sort of hero, swooping in and dropping some regulation size dice on them. They’d be like, “Damn, thank you strange Gringo”….then it hit us.

The dice were so god damn tiny (seriously 1/8 inch) so that if the police decided to bust them, they only had to drop them on the floor and the chickens and roosters would peck them up and the evidence would be gone. “Nothing illegal happening here officer”.

It was all very surreal. But the beer was super cold.

We just found out last night while have a few beer with a local guy that sometimes the dice are made out of teeth (the story just keeps getting better) and are in fact that small so they can be tossed and lost easily.

Huatulco, Mexico was a complete and total surprise to us. In my mind it was gonna be a dusty end of the road town at the bottom of Mexico.

Not at all.

I mean, sure it was dusty. And it was at the bottom (almost) of Mexico, but end of the road dead-end town it was not. We had a great time there. From what I gather, the town is one of the very few planned towns in Mexico. Very cool town all told.

There is a crap load of great diving, snorkling, fishing…etc. to do there. There is also a cruise ship terminal but the town has not seemed to succumb to the usual bullshit that is normally tacked on with such a thing. There is the normal touristy stuff, but it has not completely taken over the place.

We spent about a week in a couple anchorages around the area and a few days in the Marina so we could get a few parts shipped to us. (i’m not even gonna go in the that story with the BS DHL put us through).

As with most of cruising, a lot of time is involved in the checking of weather to make sure you have enough or not too much wind for your crossing to your next destination. And honestly, since we left Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta), I really did not give weather much of a thought. We would just go. The weather down in this area this time of year is pretty benign.

However, to go south from Huatulco you have to cross the Bahia Tuantecpec which is notorious for biblically hellish winds that can crank up from 0 to 50 knots of wind in a matter of minutes. So we had to make sure we had a nice mellow weather window before heading out.

Local knowledge dictates you keep “one foot on the beach”. And they mean this almost literally. Some boats will follow the coast line in 30 feet of water only a few hundred yards off the shore. We did not go to this extreme, we stayed between 5 and 15 miles off the coast. Because we had very nice weather.

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And because sometimes you get bored, I took a video of the windvane doing what it does so well, steer the boat so we don’t have to.

Our destination was Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. Which is 440 nautical miles away from Huatulco as the crow flies, but since we hugged the coast, we actually traveled 475 miles. Took 4 days.

After we got our parts and got them installed. Checked out the weather and had a good window to take off. We did just that.

The crossing was very mellow. We actually could have used a little more wind than we had. We motored half of that distance due to no wind at all some days.

We caught a number of fish. Unfortunately they were not the delicious kind, so they got thrown back.

One got thrown back dead, due to a case of mistaken identity and a serious run in with my filet knife before we realized the mistake. He was a Jack Cravalle, which put up one HELL of a fight (you were right Dan Freeman), unfortunately for him, I completely suck at identifying fish and thought he was some sort of tuna.

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P.S they taste like shit.

We also snagged and drug a fishing net and floats on our rudder for we do not honestly know how long. But somewhere out there off the coast of northern El Salvador there is what is possibly a Guatemalan fishing net floating about. If anyone sees anything on the news about a border war starting up between these two country’s local fishermen, lets keep this little bit of info on the down low….cool?

The big finale of this trip is the bit where we have to cross a bar in order to get into the estuary where we could anchor and clear into the country.

You can only cross this bar at high slack tide with the help of a pilot to guide you across. This is no joke. Shit is fo’ real!

The next two pictures were taken by us, from shore the next day of another boat doing the same thing we just did.

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Yeah….whut!!??

Due to light winds and our stubbornness/desire to sail as much as we can. We missed the tide on Sunday morning. We got to the location Sunday evening about an hour or two before sunset. So we scooted up as close to the shore as we dared and dropped anchor in about 40 feet of water just outside the surf zone where the waves were breaking on shore. This makes for a very, very, very rolly anchorage. Luckily we were both very tired from the crossing and have a lot of faith in our anchor gear.

About an hour or so before high tide the next am we get a call on the radio from the guide and we meet him at the spot agreed upon.

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That picture does not look like much. But trust me when I say there is a bite mark in my helm seat that may not sand out.

The plan. He watches the waves and waits for a lull, then he tells us to give it full power and follow him in.

All the while we are sitting there in the Pacific Ocean about a 1/4 mile off the beach, a very short 50 yards from breaking waves that we are about to drive our boat across. For you non-boaters reading this. That last sentence describes almost EXACTLY the spot where you never want to have your boat. And yet there we were.

Over the radio he says, GO GO GO!

And we………go.

We have a fat slow sailboat, with a small engine. GO GO GO is not an option we actually have, but we gave it hell anyway.

As we approach the waves, they sorta die down a small bit. The pilot’s timing was spot on. We are crossing over the bar in 12 feet of water, which means there is only 6 feet under the keel.

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This picture was taken from the pilot’s boat.

The next waves is rushing up behind us. It picks up the stern of the boat and we start surfing down the face of the wave. It’s a small wave. But when you are driving your home, everything you own in the world (with the exception of a beat up Jeep at a friends place in Montana and a small box of pictures and books in Tawn’s parents basement in Chicago) small is a very relative term. In addition there are other larger waves breaking on either side of the boat, but the pilot has us in the sweet spot and we surf 2 more waves and then…..poof….we are in calm water.

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We enter the estuary and motor up to the docks of the marina about a half mile away. Are greeted by the guide, and the people that run the El Salvador Rally, some other fellow cruisers and immigration officials. Someone hands us a drink and we are in El Salvador!

I never thought I’d be writing a survival story….especially while motoring in no wind or seas with a boat full of food and a fridge full of cold bebidas….but I am, and it all started with a bee.

CB and I do 3 hour shifts, I had just started my afternoon shift just of the coast of Guatemala when a bee landed on a Nalgene bottle in our cup holder. The bottle contained aqua fresca (a drink CB makes containing fresh limes, water and sugar) and I couldn’t fault the little dude…that’s one refreshing drink, and he was probably blown off shore and thirsty…this was a failure on my part. Next thing I know the little bastard sends an all wings on deck call out to his homies and I see this swarm coming at our boat. I hate bugs…so this upsets me greatly. They started coming in waves and I had just finished taking a shower on deck. So I was drenched, nekkid and batting bees off me who wanted water! I grabbed a can of Off from the dodger pocket and started spraying away. This did not have the desired affect as the bees started swarming everything covered in the Off. CB who was asleep in the aft cabin smelled the Off and wondered where the orange smell was coming from and why there was a crazy lady spinning and swatting in the cockpit. I got down below and was trying to put in screens as they were headed down below. I was screaming at CB about bee attack and he looked confused until three landed in the window. I was batting them out of the companion way hatch and trying to get the screen in when CB pushed me out into the cockpit and sealed the screen…with him down below of course…with the food and cold bebidas. I was swarmed again and ran to the front of the boat where fewer bees were….still nekkid, but armed with a sarong and a towel. All thoughts in my mind are to the X-files movie Fight the Future…look what happened to Scully when she was stung! So while batting away bees and covering up in the sarong…I attempted to seek shelter from the sweltering sun…oh, I also had my cup of coffee. CB handed me a bottle of fizzy water…worried about my survival situation…but in reality for me to drink it so he could make a bee trap out of the bottle. As I waved my towel above my head to shoo away the bees and drank my fizzy water and coffee, I felt the searing sun on my back and shoulders…the bees had now taken over mid ships and I was forced to the bow sprit. I sat down and clipped the towel to the sides of the pulpit to create a shelter from the sun.

Meanwhile, CB was below making bee traps an killing bees with the swatter. With two traps deployed in the cockpit, the bees abandoned their front lines and moved back to the traps. My situation improved and I was able to grab my clothing. Then CB, who was busily swatting bees from under the screen (still down below) suggested that I go back to the cockpit and remove the Nalgene because it was distracting some bees from the trap. WHAAAT! You do it I say…he said he was guarding the inside of the boat:-\ So I take down my shelter and wrap myself in a towel and made my way back to the swarm…I tied a bowline around the loop in the Nalgene and flung the thing overboard and ran back to my shelter. This was the turning point in the war…now all the bees were focused on the traps and plunged to their death. Their stupid bee brothers looked down into the trap and thought nothing of the death and mayhem below and just plunged on in…take that bees! Whoever said bees are endangered are dead wrong…they just all retired to Guatemala.

I survived my ordeal and am living to tell the story. If ever you find yourself off the coast of Guatemala and are attacked by bees, build one of these handy devices, it may just save your life!

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Take a drinks bottle, cut off the top, invert it inside the bottom and add sugar water. The bee can get in, but something to do with the way their eyes work prohibits them from flying out…good stuff!