Posted by: Sailing Camelot | March 25, 2012

Mar 16th – Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

For the duration of the trip to El Salvador we have one single concern: we need to slow down the boat!

Since we left Mexican waters we had strong and steady winds and a favorable current pushing us even faster. In Guatemala we manage to reach and even surpass Camelot’s hull speed (hull speed is the maximum speed a boat is designed for). Tom is grinning like the Cheshire Cat while I’m holding on for dear life as Camelot leans 20 degrees. Uh, Tom, may I remind you this is NOT a race boat? But I let him have his fun for a while.

These are the ideal conditions we would have paid good money to have during other more daunting crossings…

Ironically, this time we have to carefully calculate our arrival to destination to coincide with high tide. And that means… Slow down!

Damn, we were having so much fun…

The long trip from Puerto Madero MX to Bahia del Sol in El Salvador is mostly uneventful and even a little boring, the only distraction provided by a bunch of small but fearless birds who hitched a ride on Camelot for a while, making themselves at home in the shade under the life raft.

Winged Guests approaching Camelot

Birds cozying up in the shade

We are traveling in a loose group of four boats and periodically check in with each other to monitor progress, sea and weather conditions. I have been warned about little fishing boats with no lights scattered just along the stretch of water we are traveling on, so I’m keeping a keen eye during my night watch. In fact I see a few, weak lights (household flashlights, I assume) every now and then and dutifully avoid them.

 It’s the darkest hour before sunrise and the wind is still quite strong, we’re going too fast. As I’m handling the main sail trying to slow the boat down, my brain registers a dark mass on the water before my eyes even realize it…  Right in front of my bow, maybe 20 feet away, there’s a panga bobbing in the water!

I leap like a bobcat and probably even sound like one as I literally dive the length of the cockpit, reach the wheel, turn off the autopilot and swerve the boat violently to the right, missing the panga by maybe 2 feet.

 It’s so close I can see three men huddled up in the little boat, sleeping peacefully and blissfully unaware that this crazed, foul-mouthed, Italian-swearing woman almost run them over!

Man, that was close, the longest 5 seconds of my life! I resume our course, trying to calm down, still spitting profanities in at least three different languages… I can’t believe Tom didn’t even wake up with all the commotion!  The soundtrack alone should have done the trick, I think.

A soothing sight : our first El Salvadorian Sunrise!

 Thankfully it’s getting lighter as the sun comes up; at least now I can see what’s ahead of me. And the best news, Tom is up! He can take over for the rest of the trip, which is the hardest part. We are nearing our destination, and that’s going to be a whole new adventure…

The entrance to Bahia Jaltepeque is marked by breakers and migrating shoals and is notoriously challenging. It is strongly advised to hire a local pilot to guide you in. Entrance should be attempted only during good sea conditions, with a slack or mild incoming tide and plenty of daylight.

This view made my stomach tie up in knots...

We have to do WHAT??? Let me grab some spare underwear...

This is why we had to time ourselves during the whole trip, trying to arrive at high tide. But we are a little early, so we hover around what’s called the “Waiting Room” – a safe spot close to the entrance but not too close to the breaking waves. Tom is a little antsy and impatient; he wants it over and done with. He decides to raise Camelot’s Battle Flag for the occasion, it only seems fit.

There are three other sailboats with us, all in a holding pattern, patiently waiting their turn to be called in.

We’re all part of the El Salvador Rally, a group of roughly 80 boats all converging to Bahia del Sol. One of the many perks of belonging to this group is the assistance provided to enter the bay: a pilot comes out on a Jet Ski to guide us in.

Pilot coming to meet us

They make it look easy on a Jet Ski!

A sand bar with a 12-foot deep channel guards the outer entrance into Bahia del Sol and the waves there build up dangerously. Basically, Camelot will have to ride the waves and surf smoothly into the bay. Easy, right? I don’t think so!

 We are the first boat to be called via radio and directed to a certain spot.

Camelot leaving the "Waiting Room" and getting into position

Rogelio the pilot is maneuvering the Jet Ski while Bill (the Rally’s organizer) perched on the back, radio in hand, provides instructions to correct our position.

Listening to the Pilot's directions

When we’re perfectly aligned and the timing is right, we’re given the “green light” and the order to run at maximum speed. Somehow it makes me think of an airplane on the runway…

Ok, guys... You better get out of the way, now!

We usually don't reach these kind of speeds...

In any case, it is over before I even realize it. I barely have time to yell “Banzaii!” and “Geronimo!” as we ride the waves. We rise and surf two big waves and that’s it, we’re in! No drama, no sweat.

First wave! Going up...

... And coming down.

Second wave!

Less dramatic than the first, but I'm still holding my breath.

I’m almost disappointed, I was braced for disaster… But I offer my silent Thank You to the powers that be for the safe crossing; to Rogelio and Bill for their expert help and to Tom, a better sailor than I could ever even hope to be…

This cool cat never even broke a sweat!

A mile down the estuary we find the Bahia del Sol Marina; we are directed to a dock where half a dozen people are there to welcome us and help tie off Camelot.   

I’m not sure how it happened, but the welcoming party shoves a glass of something cool in our hands to celebrate our arrival. Cool, I think, iced tea! And take a hefty sip. Nope, it’s not tea: it’s definitely a strong alcoholic beverage!

It is 9:30, we’ve been traveling for 46.5 hours;  alcohol is definitely not what I need right now, but I try to keep a straight face as I swallow the mysterious concoction…

The final destination, well worth the effort: Marina Bahia del Sol

We’re urged to go to the nearby Immigration office to complete formalities and officially check into El Salvador, all done in less than 30 minutes. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, I’m sure we’ll feel right at home here.

A quick visit to the AMP to get legal

Bahia del Sol is a Hotel complex spread out on an extensive stretch of land with many individual colorful “casitas”, each with their own Jacuzzi. 

Colorful Bahia del Sol Casitas

See the orange Jacuzzi on the right side?

Since the Marina is part of the hotel, we’ll enjoy the same privileges as the hotel’s guests. There’s a nice pool, a bar-restaurant overlooking the marina, and the staff is very attentive and always smiling.

This is also a perfect and safe place where to leave your boat while taking some inland tour to explore the neighboring Countries.

We’ll make ourselves at home, get the lay of the land and relax by the pool for a few days before venturing out.

In case you're looking for us, we'll be right here at the Pool...


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: