Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Over the bar into San Salvador

2000, Tuesday, 20 Mar, 2012 At anchor, estuary Jaltepeque, El Salvador
Another blistering hot day is over and we are relaxing in the cockpit. Fran is reading and J-G is writing the blog, trying to catch up on the past week’s events. It is absolutely quiet save for the distant roar of the surf on the other side of the peninsula. There is a cool breeze blowing and it is really quite pleasant after another scorching day. Every once in a while a dinghy or a panga goes by and Rosie gives them a few warning yaps. Early this morning we had quite a downpour, a rare event here at this time of year. We both had to hustle to close the hatches before getting everything soaked. It was nice to take a shower under nature’s own for a change. We are hearing that Eastern Canada is getting a very early hot spell, in the mid-20’s.
The highlight of the passage from Chiapas was the entry into the estuary over the bar, or Boca Conrdoncillo, as it is called locally. We all arrived at the waiting area well ahead of time and waited for the tide to run its course. Just before the end of the flood our escort jet-ski, driven by Rogelio, one of the marina staff, and Mita Kuulu’s Bill riding shot gun, arrived through the surf line. Last minute instructions were given, engines were run at full throttle for a few minutes to ensure we had lots of power and all hatches were shut and sealed. In Gosling, J-G took the precaution of tying Fran to the wheel (she was driving) and Rosie to her bed below. We all watched as Warren Peace passed through and then it was our turn. With Rogelio expertly driving the jet-ski beside us and Bill giving us directions by radio, Fran floored it and we entered the maelstrom. J-Gs running commentary to Fran as to the state of the rollers following us in and which way to adjust the helm to stay perpendicular to them can be heard in the video that he was taking (unable to copy here). Fran compared it with coaching through childbirth.... The actual crossing was much easier than we expected. We were picked up 3-4 times by huge rollers and surfed one in for 15-20 seconds, then it was over and we motored into a much calmer estuary over to the marina and tied up, changed our shorts and, no, it wasn’t that bad.... Fran did have a small bottle of Champagne to celebrate the crossing and our arrival at our final destination for this season.
Surf's Up

Kuan Yin 1 had a better ride.

Good drive Fran!!

We heard later that the conditions at the bar were about as bad as it gets and that the previous day was worse. One boat, Serendipity, was nearly rolled as they caught a bad wave the wrong way. They also had left their main cockpit hatch open and had a mess to clean up. They also lost an outboard. Bill takes photos of all boats entering and leaving so we all have photo souvenirs of our exploits.
Once we were settled in and everyone was tied up safely we headed up the dock to do the entry paperwork at the port office and immigration. This marina/hotel complex has both services integral to its organisation and it was a fast and efficient procedure, and cheap as well, compared to the Mexican entry/exit routine. The first document we signed was one warning us not to bribe the officials... How refreshing!!
The marina at the Bahia Del Sol Resort (RCI affiliated) is the host for the Rally and is the centre for all the activities from the opening day (17 March) to the closing event (29 April). They work on a resort system where all is charged to your boat name. Bills are paid weekly and they welcome credit cards, another refreshing change from Mexico. Another important feature of El Salvador is that they use the US dollar as their currency.
The local area is quite “desolate”. Apart from the hotel and its grounds there isn’t much to see locally. The big city is San Salvador and it is 90 minutes away. At the opening ceremony we were welcomed by numerous officials that want us to encourage others to visit this country. We will get a chance to see more of it soon. We are going on a 3-day tour beginning Friday. We also met up with Colette, our friend from the Maple Bay marina who, with her husband Murray, own the mooring facility where we will be leaving Gosling for the summer. She delayed her trip home to be able to see us after we arrived. They have a lovely little place on the estuary with an A-frame that Murray built, surrounded by fruit trees, mangoes, olives, cashews and others. They have a dedicated staff that will be looking after our boats during the wet summer season to ensure we do not get a mold problem below decks.
Beach walk

We took advantage of being at the dock for 3 days to get most of our preps done for storing the boat. All the sails have been washed and bagged. Most of the running rigging has been removed, washed and replaced with chase lines for the summer.
We have all been amazed at some of the new plant life we have been seeing including cashew nut trees, new varieties of mangoes, kapok trees and others we haven’t been able to identify yet. Cashews are an interesting crop. As you can see from the photo, the nut is an appendage to the fruit. The fruit is edible but an acquired taste. The cashew is harvested when the fruit is ripe and must be roasted twice to remove the outer toxic shells. No wonder they are so expensive!
Cashew below the parent fruit

Kapok pods. Similar to a milkweed.

More when we get back from our trip.

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