48 Hour Passage Into El Salvador


On Thursday, April 18, we were scheduled to leave Chiapas, Mexico. The day before we had been driven by the Harbor Master to the various agencies (Customs, Port Captain and Immigration ) to check out of Mexico. This was a long process, but necessary before any other countries will accept you. On the day of departure, we would again be boarded by the various agencies along with their drug sniffing dog (apparently they don’t want anyone taking drugs out of their country?!) At that time we have 10 minutes to leave the dock and head out. Don’t let the door hit you…..! 4 of the 5 original officials plus their dog boarded and gave us the all clear. It was getting windy and we were anxious to get out of the marina before it got worse. As a dock worker untied our lines and was walking us back, his radio clicked on to stop us. Huh? We retied and waited. Apparently the 5th official, Aduana (Customs) had not inspected. So we waited and waited until the dock guy told us we could leave…..apparently Aduana was not coming. What does that mean? We asked and were told that it was fine. Weird! OK….back out of the windy marina, which took a little doing, out the long shallow estuary, across the busy harbor and across the bar. The seas were up and crashing into us as we exited. We were kept on our toes by a piece of net and buoys that had apparently fallen off of a fishing boat, creating an obstacle in our path.

Finally we were out into the Pacific surfing the sea. We sailed along throughout the day, crossing into Guatemala. We were a little nervous about Guatemala due to the unrest and poverty of it’s people and were staying about 10 miles off shore. Just as it was getting dark a panga (small fishing boat) came speeding toward us. Oh no….what do they want?! As we were beginning to get concerned, it swerved in front of us and the passenger whipped out his phone and took a picture. Huh? Then they sped off. We were left with our mouths open, but no scary consequences that we had been imagining!

We noticed some lightning on shore as night came. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t move out to sea. There are cases each year of cruisers losing all of their instruments to lightning. This would be devastating to lose our navigation, wind, speed and depth instruments. Not to mention the fact that you can’t find parts in this part of the world. Our secondary navigation system is loaded onto an iPad. Into the microwave with that for protection.

At midnight, as Ken’s shift ended, he noticed that our engine exhaust fan was not blowing.

This takes the hot air and any exhaust out of the engine compartment. So down under the deck he went contorting his body to reach the fan. Yep….it was toast. Fortunately we had a spare that we had happened upon in Acapulco. It took most of Ken’s 3 hour rest period to replace it, but it was done and working.

Just as Dale’s 12-3 a.m. shift was ending and after Ken was finally asleep, a huge black “thing” came screaming into the side of the cockpit! Dale screamed, Ken jumped up….what the heck?! It was huge, 7-8 feet tall and stopped us cold! Dale slammed the engine into neutral to avoid any damage and Ken went to investigate. It was a huge flag attached to a heavy buoy, attached to a thick fishing line that ran over a mile to another buoy. We had snagged the line causing the closest end to come slamming into us. These “land mines” are quite common, but usually closer to shore and not quite so long. During the daylight the flags are visible, but on a cloudy, dark night, seeing a black flag a distance away is impossible. How do we get out of this one? We shut the engine down, which left us at the mercy of the 5 foot seas. We needed to get moving again before we got turned sideways and rolled. We could see the line connecting the makeshift buoy to the flag. Ken cut this and the buoy shot away. The wooden post and flag were lodged under our windvane, tightly. Ken had to break this to remove it. Then the question….is there something else that has wrapped our prop? Only one way to find out…..look. Ken went down the ladder and into the dark swelly Pacific Ocean with Dale on the swim step holding the spotlight. Whew! Nothing there. Please do not try this at home! Not a safe maneuver! Back on the boat and forward again. Night one was down!

Day 2 was great. The same ocean that had 5 and 6 foot swells the day before was like a lake. We motored through an area that was a sea turtle sanctuary. We saw hundreds of the huge creatures that were not afraid of us and only moved if they were right in front of us. As night came we realized that we would arrive near Bahia del Sol before daylight. We slowed down to avoid this. We were now in El Salvador.

As we were slowly motoring closer to shore (we had been 15 miles out), the clouds increased, rain began and we saw several flashes of lightning. So this is the beginning of the “rainy season”?? The closer to shore we got the more lightning. When we saw it hitting the land, then the sea, we turned to go back out. Well….here we are out in the sea, at least 3 hours before daylight with nothing to do. The rain had stopped and the lightning was on the shore. A little breeze had kicked up, so we cut the engine and pulled out the sails. We were just getting our rhythm down with the seas on our side, giving us an odd angle to the wind when a huge gust came up from a different direction and heeled us on our side. We heard crashing from inside our cabin as all of our belongings hit the floor and we had our toe rail at water level. OK…..it’s too dark and early in the morning to deal with this. We struggled, but eventually righted the boat and got the sails in. Ugh….are we there yet?

When it was finally daylight, we found a beach to anchor near and wait until our bar crossing at 3:30 p.m., high tide. We had a guide meeting us to help us navigate the tricky channel.

Bill, our guide, met us and the crossing that so many have posted as a very scary, dangerous place was really benign on our day. Thank goodness….we did not need any more “events”!

As we got closer we could see the rickety docks of Bahia del Sol. Wow…..they want us to go where?! The only available space was in a shared slip with a huge sailboat. It definitely did not look like there was space and we did not need a collision! With Dale on the bow to throw lines to the many friends and dock workers on the dock and Ken driving, we inched in. Whew!!!

We were greeted by many friends including our good friends from Nilaya that we adventured with last summer. We were handed our welcome drinks and congratulated on our crossing. Little did they all know that the crossing was the least of it! Now on to explore El Salvador.

Leaving the harbor in Chiapas

A Birdle, a bird atop a turtle

Sunrise off the coast of El Salvadore

The active volcano, San Vicente

Ken concentrates during our bar crossing

Slow Dancer crossing the bar

Inside the bar

A tight slip


We are truly in the jungle now


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