04/04/2011, El Salvador
Inspiration at Sea, s/v Hans Christian 38 El Salvador 2011
Departing Vancouver/ Point Roberts Sept 8th 2005, my cruising areas has been cruising Mexico, Sea of Cortez, south to Zihuatanejo and back again. My writings on cruising Mexico, Central America is a year late in sending out. So much has changed since last March, both land and sea.
I departed the Sea of Cortez last February 2010, sailed to Zihuatanejo. My usual base for February and March. Last February I was on a new passage. At Christmas time I Joined the El Salvador Rally, the first official run from Mexico to El Salvador. I liked the casual format of it all. The Start date March 12th or there about and end date May. You enter your boat name, sail down enjoy the festivities, discounts and just meeting other cruisers, from all continents heading in all directions. You can buddy up with others if you want. Some do for the feared Tehuantepec crossing! As yes it is one of the big challenges in cruising the Pacific East coast waters. One to be Respected as they say. I always keep in mind the saying "Mother Nature Always Bats Last"
I am usually solo, with Dishes my Lab, Chika my Siamese, on my annual return to the Sea of Cortez for the summer. My favorite place for gunkholing, fishing and just playing in the water to stay cool.
Heading to El Salvador I have crew, as well as faithful Chika, Dishes back in BC as it is little harder to have a dog here. With new waters ahead the feared Tehuantepec crossing, Rudy came aboard in Zihuatanejo. We are headed for Huatulco, the choice last check out of Mexico.
Along out passage the engine oil level is not reading right.. and if I push it we start to overheat. Knowing the huge passage ahead I want to be comfortable with my engine. We chose to go into Acapulco, 110miles from Zihuatanejo. Truly not a chosen port, busy, unfriendly at the fuel docks and they insisted I check in, even for the short time of getting some fuel. After an hour they seemed convinced I was just there for fuel and let me proceed without any paperwork. I so wanted to get on our way. While fueling and at the dock decided the oil should be changed even though had just changed. a I had lots on board and filters so did another complete oil change and filters. If problem appears again, will have to look further for problem. Really not wanting to spend a night here we depart. Nice back out on the sea again and relaxing. Light easterly winds heading into the night. Always on the lookout for Shrimpers at night and the Cruise ships whom seem to have their own route. We are now sailing off the shores of some of the best surfing areas on the coast of Mexico. Noting the shoals and keeping a close eye on the weather, I always choose to shorten sail and have sea room for the night. Puerto Escondido comes up on the charts, our daughter Melanie told us surfing is big there. It does have an anchorage if you want a challenge, we were not in need of one. Most cruisers tend to avoid big Surf. I did entertain one surf spot with my daughter and her friend just north of Tenacatita. I dropped anchor in 50' of water off this favorite surf spot at a mouth of a river. Told him that's as close as I get. He dove off the bow surf board and all, disappeared over the back of the waves. Melanie and Maureen swam and suntanned, I kept a good watch on the anchor and position till we saw a person on a board swimming back to us 2 hours later. Up anchor he was thrilled even more, as the other surfers wondered where he came from and gee where was he going. He just pointed to that stick above the waves, his waiting yacht. I am sworn to secrecy the spot, as surfers are protective of their waves.
Some 40miles south of Escondido we chose to take a break and anchor in Puerto Angel. It's now dark and what an entrance. Ghostly, we see walls of rock, white water from swells, now is the time to trust GPS and radar. Trust is huge the entrance is narrow curving. The comment in the chart book, an intimate anchorage. You are right about that, we almost nailed a panga straight on as we entered and others everywhere. We noticed lights from two boats , cruisers obviously as others were dark. In this intimate anchorage we move close to the rocks as we dare, just off the entrance tucked in out of the swell deep water 46'. Pan a light out over the bay, seems we are not in anyone's way, mainly the Navy as they move from their base. Up a few times during the night to check position as the sound of the waves on the rocks were unnerving. Morning light opens up a whole new view of what was imagined in the night. And yes we were tucked into a little corner and near the rocks. Yet we have plenty of water below and the swing was in our favor. Busy little place wish we would have stayed to explore. The other cruisers must have left at dawn. We meet up in Huatulco as they saw us on their departure. Our departure and viewing the entrance in daylight, I so So Love Radar.
From there we head to Marina Chahue, Huatulco. Passing several wonderful bays, again more for the surfing crowd. Arrive at Marina Chahue, it's an easy check in at the marina, then into town for formal papers to check out of the Country. Very casual Mexican pace. You get a cervesa and chill, paperwork is being done. Good food, nice place to walk shop or sit. Many cruisers to meet, heading north or like us south.
Time to rest, check over the boat, provisions, fuel, water and gather weather info. We plan to make a straight shot to Bahia de Sol, El Salvador. Four days should be there. A five day window is given the day we arrived, four boats leave on day 2 . We still needed some items and wanted to check over a few systems, before setting out. We chose to leave on day 3 of the window as we should be across the Tehuantepec in 2 days then two more to Bahia de Sol.
11am we depart. Around 1400hr winds are 18 - 20 S seas building to 8'. The weather report was not like this. 1650hr seas lay down a bit, winds now 12 ESE overnight with squalls . They continue to die down to 6-8 ESE for the day. Then gee N NW they clock, seas now slop we are motor sailing and being pushed to the shore. We throw out the book saying, hug the shore, as it will put us in the breakers, gee maybe on the shore.. its shallow . Tack out to 18 plus mile range, with this crazy sea and winds more sea room. As night falls we continue to keep making westerly to keep the comfort of the sea between us and the shore. We encounter ships and entrance of Salina Cruz. Note! One to avoid big shipping port and if you go in, paperwork will swallow you up as well as cost are just what ever. Main thing it's a real busy port with big ships anchored all over the place near entrance . One of the cruises I met here heading north just this month 2011 went in and well they were stuck over a week in paperwork, weather etc..and not happy with costs.
Guatemala to is to be avoided at time of this writing. I have met a few cruisers here that have made that mistake. They are a very poor county and problems with authority both land(my drive down border) and water, so better to make the short distance to El Salvador where they are welcoming cruisers.
As we arrived it was nightfall like 2300hr. Hailed marina got the Rally net and was given co ordinates for anchoring for the night. It was a little unnerving like when I did the surfing spot. At least that was daylight and no fisherman in pangas or shrimp boats to deal with on the back of the surf.
No moon it was black. Lights everywhere on the shore. What was land what was a boat? What was a panga and what was that! We creep forward, Rudy with spot light on bow the surf so loud.
I call again check the co ordinates for the night anchor. Pangas scoot past ... with only a candle onboard. Then boom an explosion from shore the lights go out. Gee wow we can see boats, pangas, shrimpers. We keep onward to the anchorage, lights go on.. hmm where was that and what was it. Slow mode again, then boom lights go out from another transformer out. Lets get there .. we can see the boats. The generators start up on shore, lights start up, we are there! Drop anchor! Boats move around us, the candles float by. Time for a bottle of wine, sit, enjoy this sky full of stars. Taking it all in, seeing the white froth on the backs of the surf. Pangas with candles pass by. What a night what a passage.. we give thanks for our safe arrival. Opps we still have the Bar in the morning!
Daylight we see the surf, the beaches, wow. We are given a time for the rendezvous with the jet ski our guide Rahilio and Bill. They will escort us over the surf. Making our way to the entrance we are told to run the engine hard, to see if it will over heat. We meet up just before the surf, now we instructed to keep facing the surf and hold position. This means reverse facing into the surf...
You remember I am a double ender HC 38 33,000 lbs hmm, hold our position in reverse the waves breaking nicely on our canoe stern staring at the surf in front, heart beating double time. We are given the GO. Full throttle called over the VHF! Yes, well you know I have to take her from reverse to forward her little self.. Bill keeps saying forward. Hmmm Yes well we have been in forward, it just takes a minute or 3, forward yes, pick up as the waves pick us up.. Bill yells you are going to feel little push, just keep her heading straight for us, as they run just ahead of our bow like a dolphin. I call I am afraid we will run you down.. they laugh, no way just keep after us.. as we run down another wave.... They are amazing.. it becomes a real thrill .. and gee here we are, El Salvador over the Bar! I'll do it again.. Huge! Opp yes as the only way OUT!
A short distance later we arrive at the marina with a wonderful welcome from the owner Marcos, our guide Rahilio, our host of the Rally, Bill and Jean and Claudia the hostess for the Hotel/Marina. The port authorities are there and with a nice welcome. Within less of an hour we are settled, all paperwork done, sitting enjoying the wonderful hospitality of El Salvador .
I am so thankful for that night just before Christmas 2009 in a whim I put my name in the Rally. It continues to be a wonderful experience. As in writing I have been here a year with many land travels . El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. I moved my boat to secure mooring and care with Santos Marina. His family and crew make me smile laugh, huge sunshine in my life here. The local knowledge side trips into the mangroves, other islands. Tortugas arriving at the beaches.. just ask.. I never stop learning seeing doing.. its going to be hard to depart. For more trips into the Islands and Jungle as Santos and his family, they the local knowledge you can Trust... I know in my heart I will be back..
From Santos Marina Moorage you are a short hop to the dock and hotel. Mar y Sol right across has great fish dishes, ice, water and laundry and if you time it right the Veggie truck. The sea food is delivered that day.. talk about fresh. If you walk towards the road you will run into the local Marine store outlet, if they do not have you can order and will get to you someday, do not expect overnight delivery, relax enjoy the country things will happen in due time.
Gee then I had to go back to BC. I decided to drive back with my van from Canada to El Salvador, 20 days, as took time to visit family and cruisers along the way. Another whole story driving alone across 4 countries. You could do it in 11days yet you will miss so much.
I have driven the Baja Mexico from Canada 14 times and as well as 6 time the Baja alone. An incredible drive.. the geology the towns the season. Yes the seasons, cacti and vegetation change quite dramatically . When I have taken cruisers with me on the drive I tell them you will see Who Ville from Dr Suess and Fragle Rock, it's funny .. I do not say anything and they know when we are there.
Central America is not to be missed. So plan a few weeks, months to take it all in.. your boat is safe here, you too are safe here. You are in Central America, slow mode.. not flashy, relax take a breath thing will happen ..when they happen. Easy to travel these four countries on your visa. Then Costa Rica as many cruisers are doing, leave their boats here. For $100 a month you boat can be on a mooring. Set up a schedule with Santos of what care you require. From monitoring batteries, starting engines, cleaning bottom, interior airing cleaning.. you choose. Then go, explore! Then pic up where you left off and Panama a short sail away.
As I mentioned I delayed my writings as things here with the boats and our visas were under review of new Government rules. All sorted. Currently $10 per person entrance This give you a 4 country 90 day visa. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It can be renewed on time in the country. $1 a day for your boat, you can pay for 30,60,90 days in advance. So far no limit how long the boat can stay If you go to Costa Rica or back to Mexico or home it starts all over again, not the boat. I have been here a year plus with "Inspiration at Sea". Santos Marina on a mooring, wonderful services and yacht care. Back to Canada and with land travel, my visa keeps up to date. Just relax enjoy get some work done, me new teak decks and go exploring. I have splashed in waterfalls of volcanoes, walked through coffee plantations to get to the falls. Ruins are incredible, Mayans, Copan Antigua, all short distances away. Central America is worth slow mode travel. I could go on for pages. It's easy just get here, moor your casa afloat , the rest is easy. Explore, rent a car, hire a guide, the People of Central America are so gentle and eager to help. Smiles are Real!
This year, I sailing back to the Sea of Cortez, for the summer. Plans are for the South Pacific. Depart from La Paz. I know I will be back as so much more to see and do. The big Blue calling! I need another ocean passage under my keel. Another adventure awaits.. "Inspiration at Sea and Me... "
To accomplish great things, we not only act, but also dream
Not only plan but also believe
If you have a dream follow it, it you catch a dream nurture it
The perfect boat is not the one you dream about
It's the boat that takes you cruising
We can always live on0 less when we have more to live for
The Thoreau Approach
Vicky Plett S/V "Inspiration at Sea' El Salvador
El Salvador info
Rally info: http://www.elsalvadorrally.blogspot.com/ Bill and Jean Host
Marina : Bahia del Sol
Current rates: for Rally guest 50 cents a ft water and min electricity, Air conditioners or high draw vessels 75 cents a ft
If not Rally join the club for $2 a day and enjoy endless discount from moorage food, beverages, pool and more.
Moorings and Marine Repair: contact Santos firstname.lastname@example.org
Or VHF 16
Current rates: 3.50 a day or $100 a month
Monthly you get some extra services and from there you can work on a plan that suits your vessels needs. A safe place during hurricane and tropical storm season.
Extras bottom cleaning, painting, carpentry, outboard motor repairs, canvas list goes on.
Talk to them about local tours, panga into the mangroves not to be missed.