Log #63e Puerto Chiapas to El Salvador

November 3, 2019 in Log Series 60-69, Logs by Series, Series 63, The Logs

Log #63e Puerto Chiapas to El Salvador

Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

Jan. 3, 2019

We were alongside in Marina Chiapas (14° 41.924′ W, 092° 23.497′ N) for four nights (Dec. 2 to 6). It is a good, modern, economical marina. We could even drink the water from the taps on the dock! Internet was available around the office. The office staff spoke English and were quite helpful, arranging for all the entry and departure officials, including armed soldiers. No problem. They didn’t even come aboard, but just accepted the documents completed by the customs official.

One afternoon we got a ride into the nearby city of Tapachula to the large mall which included a Walmart. A mall is a mall. We ate in the food court, used an ATM to get cash, and shopped at Walmart for groceries. The taxi ride back cost the equivalent of $20.00, but we didn’t feel like waiting around for a local bus which would have taken much longer. However, I was quite nervous because of the erratic driving of the cabbie, talking on his cell phone, swerving to avoid many potholes, weaving across the centre line to pass even when oncoming traffic was in the other lane. I normally am fatalistic, but this guy had me quite tense.

Judy went off bird watching for an early morning’s activity (starting at 5:00 am). There was another American boat we had met earlier in our travels, as it was going the same direction as we were. Another large Canadian schooner alongside was interesting in that it did not have an engine. We have only come across a couple of other purist sailors who did not have an engine.

We were asked to start our out routine the day before our departure. The manager took a few of us around to the three different offices in other communities to complete the documentation to leave Mexico and get our Zarpe to enter El Salvador. The morning we were to leave other officials including an armed delegation that came down by dinghy came to complete the documentation. OK, I wanted to get a shower and pick up a few things at the local kiosk before departure, however I was then informed that we had to depart immediately, and if we were more than 20 minutes from completion of the paperwork that we may have to wait for the armed soldiers to return for another inspection. So, off we went at 1105, waving a friendly goodbye to the office staff as we motored out, off for a 236-mile passage to El Salvador. This early departure threw our timing for arrival off, as we had to arrive at slack high water to be escorted in to Bahia del Sol.

It was a 48-hour passage. We were able to sail for a few hours twice, otherwise we motor sailed most of the way. The first night was complicated by the many pangas that were out fishing. They maybe had flashlights that they would shine periodically, then nothing. Our radar is not working, and it would probably not have picked up these low fibreglass open boats. They were also moving towing nets on variable courses. Judging distances was difficult, and so we tended to head outside of the many lights we encountered. Sometimes there were as many as ten to fifteen lights scattered all over the place.

There was an amazing display of phosphorescence that first night as well. Wavelets shimmered in our wake, and undulating ghostly yellow shadows flashing around us betrayed the presence of dolphins checking us out. In the morning we were favoured with an energetic cast of boobies, petrels and sea gulls wafting around the boat. We saw a few sea turtles, dark humps on the surface, including a couple of them with a sea gull nonchalantly standing on the shell watching us sail by.

We saw the volcanoes of Guatemala, one of which had a smoke plume arising from the crest. We were at one of those volcanoes a few years ago when we left Veleda in the Rio Dulce on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala for a summer. We spent a week travelling to Guatemala City and Antigua. However the west coast is not very small boat friendly, expensive, and with only one commercial port available, and so we continued on to El Salvador. We arrived off the Bahia Jaltepeque, just off Bahia del Sol by 1130 the second day, but slack water was not until 1530. There is a strong Pacific swell that extends along this stretch of coast, and boaters are strongly advised not to try entering the Bahia del Sol without a pilot boat to lead us in, usually at high slack water. The combination of shallow waters, currents out of or into the estuary, and ten to fifteen foot swells and surf make the entry quite hazardous.

On the map Bahia Jaltepeque is actually the first anchor outside, where we anchored for a few hours, and the second inner anchor is the hotel.

We had to anchor off for four hours in a very uncomfortable swell just outside of the surf line. The winds were at an oblique angle to the wave action causing an uncomfortable rolling motion which also put considerable strain on our dinghy-tow system and the stern pulpit stanchions. We were in VHF contact with Bill, an American expat who has lived there for many years and provides pilot service for entry into the bay.

He was guiding two boats coming out, then was able to escort us through the swells and surf into the estuary. We had to have the engine at full revolutions in order to keep ahead of the developing surf. It was quite interesting to gauge the swells as they developed, increased from a small wave into a larger swell, growing into a fifteen-foot swell that then would start a crashing surf. The picture shows Veleda surging just ahead of a swell about to break into a cresting surf. Veleda rode the waves quite well, and she did not get pooped or bury her bow. If for any reason I lost control and swerve sideways in a trough, we would have been capsized. It was quite a dramatic entry.

Once inside the entrance, the pilot panga went ahead to the marina at the Hotel Bahia del Sol. We rounded the entrance past several colourful beach palapa restaurants, the pangas tethered outside in the water. Upon arriving at the marina another mile down the beach, we were greeted by Bill the pilot who guided us in and his partner Jean, who unfortunately had her jaw wired shut due to a recent fall, breaking her jaw. In addition, there were two customs and port officials, plus two waiters from the hotel with cold fruit spiced rum drinks to welcome us in. In addition to a few sailors at the marina, in a small world situation, here were Rick and Mary, sailors from our North Channel Yacht Club in Spragge, near our apartment in Elliot Lake! They have a boat, Que Sera, that they use as a home base here in Bahia del Sol. So it was quite a reception with so many people milling around welcoming us and trying to be helpful.

More about El Salvador and Bahia del Sol in my next log.


The flag of El Salvador