Boat surfing 101; Crossing the bar at Bahia del Sol El Salvador March 15
23 March 2012 | Bahia del Sol, El Salvador
Our trip from Chiapas to Bahia del Sol in El Salvador was great. We were able to sail quite a bit and the night passage was under star filled skies. The moon rose about 11:00pm with what looked like a red light of a vessel and morphed into a beautiful red sky resembling a sunset then into a brilliant full moon.
Our next challenge was to cross the bar into our destination, Bahia del Sol. In the early morning hours us and five other boats gathered at a meeting point just outside the bar waiting for slack flood tide. When we look towards shore all we see is 8-12' rollers which then develop into breaking waves. It looks quite daunting ashore but it is what we have to do or carry on to Costa Rica. We all are reading the literature about crossing the bar: keep the boat perpendicular to the surf, use FULL power once you start crossing the bar and don't hold back unless instructed, have a crew member looking backwards at the wave telling you to steer port or starboard to ensure you are perpendicular to the wave, don't worry about the jet ski ahead of you as he will get out of your way as you charge down the wave, etc. We all prepped our boats by ensuring everything is secure on deck, all windows and hatches are closed including the companionway, engine will maintain FULL power for 5 minutes without overheating, etc. We then tethered ourselves to the boat so if we broached or a wave hit us we would not be swept overboard. This is all precautionary but we believe in being prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.
Everyone is escorted across the bar one at a time by two people on a jet ski. We all line up to wait our turn; we are to be the fourth boat to cross. The first boats are Warren Peace, Gosling and Kwan yin 1. Everyone keeps it perpendicular to the waves and surf down 3 - 4 large waves. Only Kwan yin 1 had a wave break into the cockpit but other than a wet crew, no harm was done. We see the jet ski jump over the surf to guide us in; it's our turn. We advance to the edge of the surf and hold. Then our guides say full power and we surge forward going as fast as we can. About an eight foot wave picked us up and we bulleted down at about 12 knots. Then the next one came then the third and the same thing, but the wave height was way less for us than the other boats had experienced. The next thing our guides said was "welcome to El Salvador, they really opened the gates for you", follow the boat ahead into the estuary. We ended up having the easy ride that day but no-one had any issues. Later at the bar we all said how easy and thrilling it was.
We are now moored in the estuary along with 30-40 other cruisers. It is beautiful and calm and you hear the surf breaking just the other side of the peninsula.