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Safe arrival at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

What follows is the mail we sent out to our friends and family after arriving at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.

Date: 24 Apr 2005 17:55:45 -0000

Hey there all. We are safely anchored in Bahia Del Sol, El Salvador.

As expected, we had good conditions crossing of the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Winds were light, but we still managed to sail about half the way. When we had wind, it was a comfortable 10-15 knots out of the west or southwest, providing several days of really nice spinnaker runs. The seas were very comfortable, with a high, but very long period SW swell that you almost didn't notice. We did have to dodge a few squalls with lightning (seen hitting the water!) on the night watch off the coast of Guatemala, but they show up on radar quite well, so this isn't that difficult. Still, one we could not avoid as it pinned us against the shoreline and we spent an hour or so in a downpour with lightning flashing all around. Exciting to be sure and the decks got a good washing! We found out later that another vessel spotted two water spouts in the same area that night!

We arrived outside of Baia del Sol Friday afternoon, too late to catch the afternoon high tide to cross the entrance bar, and so anchored outside the breakers for the evening. From our vantage spot, we watched the swells that we had barely noticed in the deeper water heap up and turn into big, square, ugly, 12-14 foot monsters as they broke on the shallow entrance bar, working against the opposing tide rushing out of the bay. We had to re-anchor farther offshore in deeper water twice as the tide dropped and the breakers moved out towards us.

For those still headed south behind us, the way point being passed around for anchoring outside Bahia del Sol (13 16.6N 88 53.6W) IS INCORRECT. The shoal area has moved south and this position is now too close to the breakers. As the tide drops, you will find yourself with breaking seas almost on top of you if you stay there. You want to be another 0.3 miles south in at least 40 feet of water. We ended up anchoring at 13 16.3N 88 53.7W and spent the night quite comfortably.

Five other boats arrived over the next 20 hours or so, most of the 9 other vessels we had departed with on Tuesday from Hautulco, and on Saturday afternoon the six of us crossed the bar into Bahia Del Sol. Crossing this bar is an exercise in probability. There is no channel. The waves break across the entire breath of the entrance. You basically just keep your stern to the seas and hope a big wave doesn't catch you in the wrong spot. It's a long story, which we will relate in full on the web site, but in short we got unlucky and got smacked on the stern by an extra large wave which bent the stern pulpits and filled the cockpit with water. No one was hurt, but we took some water below through the vents in the hatch boards before the cockpit had drained. Nothing too serious and the kids took it in stride, but we will be cleaning up for several days. Of the other boats, 4 made it through without incident, but the fifth had a wave fill their dingy (hanging on davits) and essentially rip their davits off their stern. Suffice it to say that we will be sure to pick the calmest of days for our departure!

Anyway, besides being a little wet and salty, all is well. There are a lot of vessels here, lots to explore and the bay (really more of a long, narrow estuary) is calm and protected. Check in to the country was about as easy as one could imagine - the officials come out to the boat in a launch, take your passports and you pick them up at the hotel here later in the day, stamped with a 90 day visa. No fees, no hassle. Mexico this is not! It is a bit hot and humid here however. We've seen temperatures above 100F in the cockpit over the last few days and the humidity here is quite high. At night, squalls with rain and lightning pass overhead, washing the boat down at night and adding to the humidity. Everything is dripping, even without all the saltwater in the boat!

We will likely be here for most of a month with trips planned inland to Guatemala and to San Salvador. Look for a web site update in a week or so, once we get the lay of the land and find an internet cafe. As always, we would love to hear from you!

Fair winds and following seas! (though may they be small following seas when crossing bars!)

S/V Sula

Hallberg-Rassy 53 - 45