El Salvador…Here We Come! Or Adrift at Sea?
01 March 2011 | Bahia del Sol, El Salvador
March 1, 2011
S/V Precious Metal punches thru a wave crossing the bar at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador
El Salvador...Here We Come! Or Adrift at Sea?
Yeah! We finally feel like we're getting somewhere in our journey! We feel this way only because Mexico was so easy...well, most of the time anyway! And nothing brings that point more to the forefront than "crossing the bar" into Bahia del Sol, our home for the next eight weeks.
It was a forty two hour trip from Puerto Chiapas, Mexico to our first stop in El Salvador. We should have known it was an ominous sign when leaving, when our supposed re-built windlass (remember the saga in December?) decided not to work AGAIN when we needed to raise the anchor. THIS time Larry and I did it together, protecting his STILL injured arm from the December windlass debacle. Poor Ben lay downstairs in our cabin with a 103* fever. We wrestled with whether or not we should be traveling, but we thought we would have a better chance of medical care for him in San Salvador than Puerto Chiapas. Although we will never forget the ladies in the kitchen of the beach palapa restaurant who had taken a particular fondness of Ben, and when they heard he was ill, brewed a special concoction of an anti-parasitic drink from herbs that they insisted I give him every few hours. Needless to say, he took one sip and spit it out. It is the thought that counts though. What sweet, sweet women, who live in severe poverty, yet they gave us this medicine out of the kindness of their hearts.
So, after being tied up to a big, oily, shrimp boat (or as Larry says, "It was covered with permanent strength liquid goo!") for three hours (because the fuel dock decided to take their siesta, for two hours, after we had been waiting for our turn for thirty minutes!) priorities ya know, we finally officially pull out of the stinkiest, most foul port. Ben is still feverish, but resting comfortably, we are having a nice smooth ride out of Mexico, no wind, passing through Guatemala, nightfall comes, and...the engine dies.
Well, at this point I kind of need to back up here and catch you up on a little incident we had back in December when we pulled into Barra de Navidad, Mexico, in December. We stopped at the fuel dock to fill up, and at the same time filled our water tanks. So, we had all of our caps on deck off our various tanks to be filled, and no sooner had Larry just reminded Ben and I to be really careful about what we put in the tanks, and...Larry accidentally puts water in one of our fuel tanks! Only about eighteen gallons but still...this is a problem. Luckily Santosha, our buddy boat at that time, had a small fuel polisher on their vessel and were kind enough to loan it to us. Poor Larry worked for the next three days straight, sucking fuel out, running it through the little filter machine thingy to remove the water (supposedly). He thought he got it all. As we traveled further south, he had switched us on to our other fuel tank and life was good. In January, as we headed out of Ixtapa towards Acapulco, Larry had switched us back to the fuel tank we had put the water in and...lo and behold the engine dies after two hours. He had to change out the two fuel filters, clean out the water separator, and switch back to the tank that we knew was still good. No problem, other than being depressed because he had spent all of that time trying to get the water out and obviously that didn't work. And, it was still daylight, so as we sat out in the water drifting, we weren't concerned. Now, you're probably wondering why, since we have a sailboat, we aren't sailing everywhere. Well, we only travel when the weather looks good, meaning calm seas and not too much wind. But, if there isn't at least twelve knots of wind, we don't typically put our sails up because our boat is so heavy they just sort of flop around and it's just really annoying and it's hard on the sails. Also, the direction in which the wind is coming from is a factor, and if it is straight on the nose, that doesn't work either. So, there are many factors in sailing and if you want to get somewhere, within a certain amount of time, staying on course, you just go.
So, when we pulled into Acapulco we hired a professional to come out and "polish" both of our fuel tanks for a mere $500. We felt really good about this and really thought we had put this problem behind us. However, we were still switched over to the original, good fuel tank. Now let me explain where the inspection plate is for the water fouled fuel tank (that is the cut out piece, about the size of a large dinner plate, that is bolted on so you can remove it and have access to the inside of your tank as well as a visual). Well, this is under our kitchen sink, need I say more. Now I had cleaned out everything under the kitchen sink with the exception of the items on this very handy shelf that is set deep inside to the right, because God forbid you don't let any space go unused on a boat. We usually keep extra drinks under here including my emergency stash of wine! (If you are wondering why I am telling you this, just remember it and it will all make sense soon!) Being on a mooring ball in Acapulco can be very exciting, because there are a lot of boats that race through the mooring field with no care, "waking" all the other boats (meaning; their wake they create from their prop makes all the other boats roll from side to side). Really meaning they are thoughtless, careless jerks.
So, now we can catch up to where I left off when the engine dies at night in Guatemalan waters. Larry had now switched back to our original "problem" tank, so when the engine died he pretty much knew the problem. Again, he put new fuel filters in because they were all contaminated with guck, switched us back to our other tank, and after several tries, got the engine started. It was scary though because it is pitch black out and we're just drifting, again no wind to sail with. I stay up on deck keeping a very serious watch , making sure no other vessel gets close to us. Larry works down in the boiling engine room feverishly. I don't have any steerage on the boat and we just roll with the waves, which is not a very comfortable thing to do. Forty five minutes can seem like an eternity in this situation, and your mind wanders into many different scenarios. With a ten year old on board it is very important we all maintain our composure as not to freak him out! But, I was worried, because our next port of call, Bahia del Sol in El Salvador, was going to be the trickiest entry as of yet into the estuary where the marina is. This is the dreaded sand bar that you can only cross at high tide with the aid of a jet ski that the marina sends out to guide you in, one boat at a time. If the conditions are too extreme they simply won't bring you in, meaning you have to wait outside the entrance for up to 24 hours. Bahia del Sol is where the El Salvador Rally (an organized flotilla of vessels that we had signed up to participate in) is taking place. So, needless to say, we needed our engine to be working the best it could to make it across this bar.