Photo: A four mile, thirty minute fast dinghy ride to buy bread & milk
It's an interesting place, the Bahiá Del Sol. El Salvador is not the 'go to' destination for sailors, not like Mexico for the Americans or the northern Mediterranean for Europeans, nor is it the culture draw of Southeast Asia. El Salvador does not posses the enchanting beauty of the South Pacific or the Caribbean, nor do you get hand-hold living where your life is made easy for you. We ourselves crossed the sand bar into the Bahiá Del Sol for rest, fuel and a passing interest, we planned to stay only a few days.
The media and the more sensationalistic news reports paint El Salvador as a crime-ridden murderous hole, which in many respects it is but that is not an indictment that applies solely to El Salvador. Many other countries lay claim to that title, take Mexico or even America, the US has a much higher death rate by murder by head of capita than just about anywhere - just take a look at the obscene number of mass shootings there. So there are risks in mooring your boat in El Salvador, but not that much more than taking your boat anywhere else. At no point have we ourselves felt threatened or intimidated, we have come across no crime and can speak highly of the friendliness of these nice people. We have travelled the country freely and easily. Never have we locked our boat.
So, we've stayed far longer than just a few days in El Salvador. Bill & Jean, the awe-inspiring American couple who have made the Bahiá Del Sol their home, run their El Salvador Rally to entice curious sailors like us into their domain. And it's good that they do - because without this sometimes Rally and the invaluable assistance advice they provide, most sailors would sail by the entrance bar without much thought.
The El Salvador Rally is not a rally as such, the rally is difficult to explain. There are no glorious send-offs with boozy fanfares and all that kind of stuff, there are no fleets of sailboats nor any convoys of cautious sailors or anything even remotely like that... most of those convoy fleets have been left behind way up north in more moderate first-world Mexico. The sailboats that Bill & Jean attract are the adventurous types, the ones that have come around to the fact that you can only do so much in an unwieldy rally fleet - or those many long-distance sailboats that have no time for rallies at all. So Bill & Jean have come up with the curious concept of the fleet-less rally, you can turn up anytime by yourself, in your own boat with no other boat, heading either south or north and join this wonderful rally that goes precisely nowhere. But you are
cleverly lured into the Bahiá Del Sol, you are drawn into this supposedly most dangerous country but then you have a really nice time. Does this bizarre El Salvador Rally concept work...? It works big time.
So what do you get in the sheltered estuary of the Bahiá Del Sol? What you get is basic sailboat live-aboard living in a delightfully adventurous setting. We've come across these nice laid-back sailing communities before, in remote parts of southeast Asia, in the Red Sea, Sri Lanka, the South Pacific especially - but then Bill & Jean are intrepid adventure sailors in their own right so they know full well what the lone adventurous sailboat is looking for. This whole thing comes together in the whispered secret that is the spectacular Bahiá Del Sol... that's why we have stayed much longer than the few days we planned.
Our more pressing problem is that, at some point, we need to get away. Or do we? What we're really looking for is a long break... and Bill & Jean offer the best mooring deal anywhere between Alaska and Panama.
It's a hard call here in paradise...
The El Salvador Rally: www.elsalvadorrally.com
Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.
Read more about the mishaps and mayhem of Nellie, The Ship's Cat