S/V Adventure

Follow the O'Neil family, sailing in their Catalina 42, on their 2-year sabbatical to see the Pacific coast of the US, Mexico, and Central America, Galapagos, the South Pacific, and New Zealand.

08 June 2012 | Home
05 June 2012 | 100 miles to the Farallons!
02 June 2012 | 475 miles off the coast
31 May 2012 | 579 miles to go
30 May 2012 | 694 miles to go
30 May 2012 | 800 miles to go
29 May 2012 | 915 miles off California
28 May 2012 | Past halfway between Hawaii and SF
27 May 2012 | Past halfway between Hawaii and SF
26 May 2012 | Halfway between Hawaii and SF
24 May 2012 | Middle of the Pacific Ocean
23 May 2012 | Middle of the Pacific Ocean
22 May 2012 | Middle of the Pacific Ocean
21 May 2012 | Middle of the Pacific Ocean
20 May 2012 | Pacific Gyre
16 May 2012 | Pacific Gyre
16 May 2012 | Pacific
18 September 2011 | Home
07 September 2011 | Crossing the southern tip of the big island
05 September 2011 | Pacific

Barillas Pilot

30 January 2008 | El Salvador
It was noon. We were motor-sailing 2 miles off shore in 30-foot-deep, rough El Salvadorian waters and were approaching the rendezvous point. We could see waves breaking on various sand bars all around the boat toward shore.

We'd been at sea for 5 days. Our guide book said to hail a pilot from the Barillas Marina to take us through the dangerous sandbars that guard the estuary we needed to pass into. We'd been hailing the Barillas pilot for more than one hour. It was Sunday, so we weren't sure if they'd even be available. The thought of anchoring in the ocean, completely open to the rising Pacific swell was unbearable. I prayed for God to have mercy on us.

The day before, our electrical system went haywire when Sean was transmitting an email via SSB. Both of our ship VHFs and our SSB radio didn't seem to work. Desperate, we got out our last resort - the hand-held VHF. With a short transmission range, it surely wouldn't reach the marina, more than 9 miles up the estuary.

Just as I was preparing to hail the pilot, I heard a call, "off-shore sailboat. Off-shore sailboat. This is Barillas Marina." I replied that we needed a pilot to guide us into the marina. He said the pilot would be here in a half of an hour. Someone had seen us from shore and called the marina to tell them a boat was wandering off shore. I thanked God as I turned into the wind and we let the main sail down.

Boats run aground here even with a pilot, so I wanted to know how shallow I should expect the water to get. I scanned the horizon, looking for a high-tech pilot boat with a driver and a crew of several lookouts, multiple forward-scanning depth sounders, and a good English-based communication system.

A solo, young, thin man in a panga approached us and Sean quickly found that he didn't speak English. To my dismay, there were no high-tech gadgets on the boat. My heart raced as we began to follow the panga toward the breakers. Sean, assuming the lookout position, grabbed the binoculars and a pocket camera and braced himself against the shrouds to keep from falling overboard. Our adrenalin was pumping.

As we progressed, the pangero pointed toward one of the breakers to our starboard side and made a hand motion. I asked Sean, who was looking with the binoculars, what he meant. As he pointed toward the breakers, Sean yelled, "I think he wants us to go that way!" I looked at the breakers and then back at the panga, which was heading in the opposite direction. I decided to go with my instincts and followed the panga.

I tried using the autopilot, but it wasn't precise enough with the panga making numerous turns and the swell pushing us sideways. I yelled to Sean that I didn't know how long I could hand-steer the boat in the swell. He ignored my plea and kept his watch position, frequently lifting the binoculars or the camera to his eyes.

A half hour later, my adrenalin began to wear down even though we were in the thick of it. It's amazing how quickly you get use to danger. I began to notice how messy our cockpit had become on our 5-day trip. All four of our tethers were lying on the floor. I tried to concentrate on the breakers all around us...but the tethers would get wet if a wave splashed into our cockpit. I quickly looked at Sean to make sure he wasn't looking my direction, activated the autopilot, and bent down to unclamp each tether. When I looked back up, I had to correct a bit to get back on course. Sean hadn't noticed. I reset the autopilot and, taking the remote control with me, quickly moved to clean the rest of the cockpit up.

Still not clear of the sand bars, Sean's adrenalin started to wear down too. He came back to the cockpit and sat down. "Looks like we're coming into shallower water ahead," he said as he pointed to a darker-brown colored water. We had gotten down to 18 feet, so shallower didn't sound good to me. If I diverted, we'd surely hit one of the sandbars, so trusting our pilot was our only choice. The darker water turned out to be the mouth of the estuary, where the depth actually increased.

It took almost 2 hours to get to the marina, where we hooked up to a mooring buoy. Within a few minutes, Heriberto, the dock master, brought port-clearance officials to our boat to handle our paperwork to enter the country. 2 armed men searched our boat (ie., they looked in a couple of drawers and a closet). They then took us ashore and walked us to the customs official located in the complex. It was by far the easiest country/port checkin so far.

For $11.25 per day, we get our mooring ball and membership to the Barillas Marina Club, which is a walled, heavily-guarded compound that has swimming pools, palapas with electric and internet hookups, a restaurant, small store, great showers, internet café, lots of hammocks, a 1-mile long airstrip, and boat yard. With only a few other guests here, we feel like we own the place. Sean says it's like being in Disneyland when it's closed.
We went to town yesterday with an armed guard and saw the spider monkeys today (look for a blog later on these). Tomorrow we'll have our boat pulled out of the water to get our bottom sanded and re-painted. Diesel fuel prices have gone up now that we're out of Mexico, where it was $2.50 per gallon. The price at Marina Barillas is $4.05 per gallon.
Vessel Name: Adventure
Vessel Make/Model: Catalina 42
Hailing Port: Marina Bay, Richmond CA
Crew: The O'Neil Family
About: Sean (Captain and Line Man) Kathy (Helmswoman and Cook) Tara - 12 years old at trip start, Casey - 11 years old at trip start (Crew and Students)
Extra: We're on a three-year sabbatical from the daily grind to see the Pacific coast of the US, Mexico, Central America and the South Pacific and stopping at New Zealand.
Adventure's Photos - S/V Adventure (Main)
1 Photo | 1 Sub-Album
Created 10 November 2008
27 Photos
Created 10 November 2008
1 Photo | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 9 November 2008
1 Photo | 7 Sub-Albums
Created 2 July 2008
34 Photos
Created 26 April 2008
1 Photo | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 2 April 2008
1 Photo | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 19 February 2008
10 Photos
Created 19 February 2008
1 Photo | 17 Sub-Albums
Created 30 November 2007
1 Photo | 8 Sub-Albums
Created 31 August 2007

S/V Adventure

Who: The O'Neil Family
Port: Marina Bay, Richmond CA