July 6, 2014-Papagayo Winds
wingssail images-fredrick roswold
In the winter time, wherever there are gaps in the mountainous spine of Central America, east winds blow through from the Caribbean Sea across Central America and into the Pacific. Around here they are called "Papagayos" and they can be fierce, as can the "Tehuantepeckers" in the Gulf of Tehuantepec and northerlies in the Bay of Panama. They are all known, collectively, as the "Gap Winds".
We're finding they can happen in the summertime too.
A combination of high pressure in Texas and some low pressure systems on the Pacific side have got the Papagayos pumping. We are hunkered down in a small bay in Nicaragua off a town called San Juan del Sur, where there exists some protection but not much, happy to be here and waiting for the gap winds to subside so we can move north.
We had been in the northern part of Costa Rica, a rugged, remote, and unpopulated area that was stunningly beautiful with blue water sailing, wide open bays surrounded by forested mountains, and no signs of other boats, civilization, or even humanity itself. It was fantastic, but tense at times. The Papagayos were often gusty and wild and the water was white capped and dark. Squalls came up suddenly. We often found ourselves looking at the horizon ahead, and beating into it for all we were worth to make it to shelter just before it got really bad, hoping the sails would hold together and the anchorage we’d picked was a good one, which luckily they all were.
That was when the weather was nice.
But the forecasts we were receiving told us the weather wasn’t going to stay nice; the Papagayo was going to howl. So we dashed across the Golfo Santa Elena and into Nicaragua, and just got anchored before the blast of wind hit.
So here we are: Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur. We been here a few days and have enjoyed the funky town, the restaurants, the stores, and the bar where we have been watching the soccer matches, but we're looking at our weather windows, trying to find a shot at crossing the Gulf of Papagayo, (which gives those winds their name) on our next leg north. We have to say we are a bit nervous about it, mainly due to not having a good cruising mainsail; the racing main is huge and only has one reef point. Even reefed it is huge. If we get caught out with that sail we will have a tough time reducing sail area. We might have to take it down completely, not much fun in high winds. Well, whatever happens, we'll deal with it.
Meanwhile, as long as we're here, we'll enjoy Nicaragua and we'll just let the Papagayo winds blow.
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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Nicaragua