Arriving in El Salvador

Crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec and facing its challenges also marked a point in our journey where Patience and her crew prepared to depart Mexico. After spending nearly three months in this country, we simultaneously dreaded and anticipated leaving. All three of us deeply admire Mexico, for its deep and colorful culture, simple yet varied cuisine and the beauty of its Pacific coastline. Many areas we explored, such as the coastline between Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo, or southern Oaxaca, just to name a few, demanded more time to satisfy our search for surf, culture and adventure. This will have to wait until next time though, for many other treasures lie ahead.

Pantropical spotted dolphins joining us for a ride as we entered El Salvadorian waters.

As we pulled anchor from our last Mexican port, Patience and Blue Goose, along with their crews were ready. The vessels were stocked, tanked and cleaned and despite our found love for Mexico, we humans looked forward to the stimulating thrill of a new country. One country (Guatamala) and some 200 nautical miles separated us from our next port; La Libertad, El Salvador. It was not an easy passage, containing strong head winds, blustery tropical low pressures and mind numbing heat. Compared to the consistent winds of California and Baja, it took us a full day longer to cover our distance. Finally we approached our port after four rough days of sailing. We made it to El Salvador.

El Salvador has a beautiful landscape. I found this perfect volcano particularly striking.

As we hailed the port captain on our radio, he very politely told us that we are not allowed to land and had to move on. La Libertad, unbeknown to us, was not a port of entry. That is, there are no immigration services here. Thankfully our food provision and diesel storage was adequate to move on. Not being able to surf the best point break in El Salvador as well as drink our anticipated cold beer, left us slightly reluctant to move on.

Our GPS showing our anticipated landing, and our turn to continue reluctantly.

We decided we would stop in Barillas, a port nestled seven miles up a saltwater estuary. We knew that entering the estuary requires careful navigation, considering the shallow sand bars containing breaking waves just outside the entrance. “We’re surfers and no idiots, let’s try it”, we thought. Going as slowly as possible, Blue Goose and Patience made for the fickle entrance. We had a few waypoints for guidance, but in 12 feet of water, staring at a wall of breakers off our bow, they proved meaningless. We tucked tail and turned around, slightly defeated. It was our sixth day at sea, the sun was setting and anchoring would be thoroughly uncomfortable on this exposed coastline. In a last resort we attempted to call the port we were attempting to reach for some advice. To our pleasant surprise, the friendly port captain sent a panga to guide us into the estuary while we were still talking on the radio. Twenty minutes later, he arrived and began leading us in.

Being lead into the tricky river mouth that brought us to Barillas. A special moment after many days at sea.

There was something truly special about entering into this estuary mouth. It was a combination of knowing we will finally have a full nights rest in a calm and safe anchorage, the beautiful sunset, navigating through breaking waves on either side of the boat and blasting the heart piercing soul music of Otis Redding. Exceptional moments like these become branded in our memory as emotional places only achieved through the self-afflicted suffering that comes with true adventure.

Our comfortable mooring in Barillas. Patience in the background and Blue Goose in front.

The current was strong and against us and we didn’t get into the eerie calm site of the port of Barillas until late that night. In fact, it doesn’t look like a port at all. Rather a remote mangrove river containing fauna such as ibises and crocodiles. It was after 11pm when we finally tied into our mooring, but despite the late hour, the port captain, along with his employees, walked us through the immigration process. What took us most of the day in Mexico, took 20 minutes here. Relieved and exhausted, we slept deep and long that night.

Mark and Amelie of the Blue Goose rowing in their dinghy, the Tea Goose.

Mark and Amelie, like us, happy to have a place to land for a few days.

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