Saturday, March 1st we prepared Mermaid to go to sea. This wasn’t difficult because we really hadn’t changed much since arriving Chiapas. We said our good-byes, ate lunch in the restaurant and went to the little store to spend the rest of our pesos. We waved adios to our fellow rally boats and watched them depart. We had decided to depart late in the day in hopes that we would leave the harbor in daylight and arrive El Salvador in daylight as well.
Pegasus came by the boat to see us off and around 3:45 we started Henry (our Ford engine), tossed the dock lines and left the slip. We tried to hail the Port Captain to ask permission to depart the port but got no answer. We did get a call from our friends on Maluhia who were on their way to Chiapas… We keep missing them! Oh well, one day we will anchor and see them again. Such is the cruising life.
We sailed some and motored some. By night fall we had caught up to Neko who would call us on the radio and alert us to long lines they were finding. Whew, that is sure nice! We were heading to El Salvador in the company of four other boats who had all left a good while in front of us so we were bringing up the rear. We would check in with each other on the radio and it was comforting to know we were in good company. We ended up passing the other boats and it became us alerting the other boats of the long lines. Most of the long lines in Guatemala and El Salvador had strobes on them which makes it so much easier to spot.
But… On one of my watches I found myself in the middle of lots and lots of pangas and long lines with a very dangerous point off our port side. I finally got Mike up to help me watch for the lines and navigate just in time to see a black flat with a float very close to one dark one and passed it by just a few feet. That got my adrenaline going! In fact when it was my turn to sleep there was no way! I think I had enough adrenaline to get me to Tuesday…
We kept trying to slow down in hopes of not arriving in the dark but Mermaid seemed to be in a hurry. I think we have done too good of a job cleaning her bottom… We found that we were able to sail and Mermaid liked the wind and current because she was sailing fast. It seems we sailed more in El Salvador than in the last two years in Mexico. We saw lots of sea turtles, dolphins, rays (Mike saw a ray that was 15 feet across!), birds, fish and even a marlin jumping.
Eventually the wind was light and the seas confused so we were not comfortable. We dropped the main, rolled up the jib and motored the rest of the way arriving just before the sun came up. We dropped the hook off the beach and waited for high tide to cross the bar. We went for a swim and got Mermaid ready closing everything up (yes that made it hot) just incase we took a wave crossing.
The bar in El Salvador has a reputation for being quite nasty to boats. They require a pilot to cross and only allow crossings at high, slack tide. The high tide Monday was after 4:30pm so we waited. Finally, we got the call to up anchor (which all the other boats had already done) and headed to the coordinates to wait for the pilot. Our turn came and before we knew it we were across. We didn’t even realize we had crossed when they said “Welcome to El Salvador”! We were lucky I guess. We watched the waves around us and knew that we would have never come in this place without a pilot.
After crossing the bar we got a call from Jean of the El Salvador who gave us good instructions on how to enter the estuary and what our slip assignment was. At our assigned slip we found several people waiting to take our lines and even more waiting to greet us. We have never had a greeting quite like this was! Ex-pats were on the dock to welcome us. Other cruisers were all there to welcome us as well as Jean from the rally, the Port Captain and the hotel staff (with cocktails) to greet us! Wow we like this place.
We tied up, drank our welcome drink, gathered our paperwork and went ashore to check in. PeeWee didn’t even bother to wake up. Check in was easy as Customs and Immigration are in the same room and the Port Captain was right across the hall. We paid for one night in the marina, ate a good dinner and went right to bed for a good night of sleep.