- Anna Welscott
Crossing the Bar to El Salvador
Arriving to Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador is a bit different from arriving at most other ports, as there is a shallow sand bar that has to be navigated to enter into the Bay. These shifting sandbanks form at the entrance of coastal estuaries from the ocean. These areas can have strong currents and large breaking waves, making the timing of the entrance crucial along with local knowledge.
Before leaving Chiapas, Mexico we contacted Bill and Jean with the Annual Salvador Rally. Bill begins checking the bar conditions and advises when the best time to arrive for a safe bar crossing. Bill then coordinates a pilot boat who takes him out to the entrance to guide each boat safely over the bar and into the Bay.
We arrived with two other boats and we were scheduled for a noon bar crossing. It took us two and a half days to get from Chiapas, Mexico to El Salvador. We hit a couple squalls and our autopilot broke leaving us to hand steer for the last 24 hours. We sure take the autopilot for granted and we were quickly reminded why we are so lucky to have it. We arrived a few hours early and decided to anchor near the entrance and got some much needed rest.
At noon, Bill's voice came over the radio letting us know he would be taking us one by one over the bar. Our friend Dan on Quest went first, followed by Bob and Marisol on Mar y Sol. Next up was Karuna and after surfing a few waves we safely had made it into the bahia. Bill has a very calm demeanor over the radio guiding you across the bar, taking the stress out of the situation and making it a fun and easy adventure. As we arrived at the marina, we were greeted by Jean with a celebratory margarita, before heading to customs and immigration. The check-in process was quick and painless and we just had to be conscious not to block the TV, sitting on a bucket, which was airing the current World Cup match.
After a day of rest, we were ready to explore and decided to go on a bike ride in hopes of finding an ATM. Interestingly enough, El Salvador uses the US dollar as their national currency and we were fresh out of dollar bills. We rode for about a half hour and we were not successful in finding an ATM. We stopped and spoke to a local woman and she explained we would need to ride another 30 minutes up the road, but in the heat it would be best to wait and do it another day early in the morning. So, we turned around and started back towards the marina. On the way we saw a sign for a restaurant on the water named La Pampa. This is a beautiful restaurant that almost made us feel like we were back in the United States. Although we biked there, come to find out, they have a dinghy dock. Going to La Pampa by dinghy became our Sunday tradition, enjoying the free soup, views, and good vibes.
For the next three months we settled into life in El Salvador. Even though we spent most of our time on a mooring ball and not in the marina, we were still able to enjoy the resort pool and $1.00 beers. We had some boat projects to tend to, including the need to find new batteries. This was quite the ordeal, but in the end we were able to find some lead acid batteries in San Salvador for a relatively cheap price.
Grocery shopping is pretty painless, but takes some planning. You can either take a 45 minute chicken bus ride, which means you place your life into the hands of the bus driver, close your eyes, and hope for the best. I think on many occasions, people's lives flash before their eyes while going mach 20 down a narrow, two-lane road. The other option for groceries is taking a 30 minute dinghy ride up the estuary to a town called Herradura. On Wednesday and Saturday there is a big market which you are able to find just about everything you need. The best kept secret we found, after a month of being there is a fruit and vegetable truck that goes by the marina at 8:00am on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. This made shopping for fresh veggies so much easier.
When not working on Karuna, we enjoyed going to the evening happy hours at Bill and Jean's house, eating the famous pupusas every Saturday, taking beach walks, taking the dinghy to the sandbar, and visiting the silt restaurants which can only be accessed by boat and are built above the water.
We celebrated my birthday on a floating tiki bar and spent some quality time with our good friends Bob and Marisol and Roz and Don. They will be missed as they continue on their journey.
Anna made a quick trip back to the US to visit her mom and picked up some necessary boat parts to fix our autopilot.
Next up, we do some inland travel, hike a volcano, and go on a quest to find unroasted coffee beans.