Cruisers Rally to El Salvador
 March 13 - April 7, 2017
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El Salvador


The Country
El Salvador is situated between 13 degrees north and 13 degrees 43 minutes north and lies 1,100 miles almost directly south of New Orleans and is in the Central Time Zone. It is home to 5.7million people. At the time of the Spanish conquest, El Salvador was known as Cuzcatlan, which means “land of precious things” in the Pipil language. The Spaniards mistakenly thought that the meaning referred to gold but the real meaning was about the fertile land and lush jungles.

The country converted to the American dollar in 2001. Unlike other countries that converted to the dollar El Salvador uses American coins. Many Salvadorians have relatives working in the United States who send money back to Salvador. In 2004 over 2.5 billion dollars was sent into the country. Some foreigners think that it is still dangerous in Salvador but forget that the civil war has been over for 20 years.


Tourist Police in San Salvador

Crime should not prevent people from traveling Central America any more than it does from traveling San Diego or San Francisco. Crimes involving tourists are rare but, as most cruisers know, you need to take common sense precautions wherever you travel.

Travel in El Salvador and throughout Central America is inexpensive and easy. El Salvador has many things to offer such as national parks, twenty-three volcanoes to explore, colonial towns, lakes, and artesian villages. Of course, the best things about El Salvador are the warm and friendly people.



Building rain clouds

Weather

El Salvador has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons. The Pacific lowlands are uniformly hot; the central plateau and mountain areas are more moderate.

The winter rainy season extends from May to October. Almost all the annual rainfall occurs during this time, and yearly totals, particularly on Southern-facing Mountain slopes, can be as high as 78 inches. Although hurricanes occasionally form in the Pacific or migrate over from the Atlantic, none have hit El Salvador as a hurricane. Essentially, EL Salvador is hurricane free making it the perfect place to leave your boat for the summer, Keep in mind, however, that the area is not immune to tropical depressions, which can deposit large amounts of rain causing localized flooding and mudslides.


Late afternoon squall
From November through April, the Central American summer, the northeast trade winds control weather patterns. During these months, air flowing from the Caribbean has had most of the precipitation wrung out of it passing over the mountains in Honduras. By the time this air reaches El Salvador, it is dry, hot, and hazy.

150 year hurricane distribution (noaa)

Temperatures vary little with season; elevation is the primary determinant. The Pacific lowlands are the hottest region, with annual averages ranging from 77°F to 85°F. Mountain areas are the coolest, with annual averages from 54°f to 74°F and minimum temperatures sometimes approaching freezing.

The rally begins two - three months before the rainy season starts when almost every night, usually after sunset, it rains for about an hour or so giving you an opportunity to replenish your water tanks. If you do not have a water catching system now is the time to think about it. Clean water from local taps is available but until the rainy season starts it is safe but not good to drink because it is slightly brackish so for drinking and cooking you have to catch or make it, or buy purified water. If you make water it is best to do it on the incoming tide because the ebb tide contains a lot of sediment.  A few cruisers have plumbed the marina dock water into their water makers with success.

Hotel and Marina looking West

The rally destination: Puerto Bahia del Sol

Bahia del Sol is the local name of the rally destination but the formal name is Estero Jaltepeque. The estuary is accessed from the Pacific by entering through Boca Cordoncillo. The rally host, Hotel Bahia del Sol is located less than ½ mile from the entrance. Built in 1997 the large, upscale hotel spans the Costa del Sol peninsula and has restaurants, swimming pools, and bars on the ocean and estuary sides. The hotel also has a totally equipped marina with a capacity of 48 yachts, and sports fishing concession. The hotel also sponsors an annual international sports fishing competion every November. The hotel offers special discounts for rally members with their "Cruisers Club" membership.


Here in the hotel you will have a chance to meet middle class Salvadorians who come for all-inclusive day use. Nearby, the Vice President of the country has a beach home and sometimes the country's president visits the hotel.

Locals traveling by dugout canoe

Restaurant Mar y Sol

About the estuary

You can anchor in good holding almost anywhere along the estuary but most boats anchor near the hotel. You can also take an inexpensive mooring with a nighttime security guard. The tidal estuary is made up of over a dozen islands and has many miles of twisting, turning waterways ready for exploring. Flood and ebb currents average two-plus knots at maximum ebb and ranges from 5 to 8 feet. To the east the estuary joins the Rio Lempa, El Salvador’s longest river. To the northwest a quick four-mile dinghy ride takes you to the quaint and unspoiled El Salvadorian town of La Herradura. It has an open market, restaurants, and many small tiendas. Along the main part of the estuary you will find numerous boat-up restaurants featuring seafood specialties like delicious deep fried fish. A 10-minute walk from Bahia takes you to the small beach village of La Puntilla where there is a spectacular view of the entrance. You can observe boats transiting the bar while you enjoy a meal or refreshments in one of the two-story restaurants.

Right across the estuary is Isla Cordoncillo where many local fishermen and their families live. The island is completely without any services, electricity, water, sewage etc. The people are quite poor but happy to interact with the cruisers. During the summer months they will come by your boat to sell shrimp. There is a small school where they teach English to the local children and they invite the cruisers to help teach. They say one of the best ways to learn Spanish is to teach English.
Services

There are three fuel docks located in the estuary and a few small stores nearby. Along the main road there are a number of small family style restaurants. There are a number of mooring concessions in the estuary starting at $100/month.  Services such as carpentry, bottom cleaning, stainless and boat polishing are also available locally. The local marine supply store, Marinsa, has an outlet on the estuary.   Each year more and more specialized marine services are becoming available and at a reasonable price.  The captial city of San Salvador offers a larger variety of services such as hardware stores, machine and welding shops, engine rebuild, and many large grocery stores.


Bahia fuel dock

Travel and transportation
Local buses to San Salvador and Zacatecoluca can be boarded at the front of the hotel. All the buses go to a location named “Arcos” where you get off, walk up the hill to the right and catch the next bus to your destination. Salvadorians are very protective of tourists and someone will make sure you get off at the right spot. After reaching the top of the hill and if you are going to San Salvador walk across the highway and catch that bus. If you are going to Zacatecoluca catch the “near side” bus. On all the local buses you do not pay upon boarding. A helper will come around and collect your money. The local joke about buses:
Q: “How many people can you get on a Salvadorian bus?”
A: “One more!”

 
Rental Cars, etc

There are many auto rental agencies in San Salvador. You can easily book a car through the hotel. For a fee some agencies will deliver and pick up at Bahia. A note of caution, even if you purchase “full” coverage insurance it may not protect you from incidental “parking lot” damage. It is expected that you will park in a safe location. There are additional charges if you are taking the car out of the country and those permissions are inspected at each border crossing. On certain days you can share a 10-passenger van from Bahia for a day of shopping in the city. For more personal service you can also hire a taxi or private driver for part or all of the day for a reasonable price.

Airport
The international airport, named Comalapa (airline code SAL) is 40 minutes away by taxi so it is very easy to have family and friends join you here. The airport has one of the highest security ratings in Latin America. It has the normal red light-green light process for arriving travelers. Each person is allowed to bring $500 worth of “personal” items not counting clothing, a camera, computer, and other such normal tourist items plus 2 liters of alcohol. You can catch any taxi at the airport for around $35 and tell them you want to go to Bahia del Sol


Cruisers touring with TourIn travels

It is safe and inexpensive to leave your boat in Bahia while you travel around Central America. Most people take the comfortable long distance buses. Traveling from San Salvador to Guatemala takes only five hours and almost all destinations within El Salvador are just a couple of hours. You can plan your own itinerary and make travel arrangements through a number of travel agents or you can employ the services of a tour guide. A lot of cruisers use a tour guide at least for their first tour and those that do report a fulfilling experience.

Galerias mall in San Salvador
San Salvador

The capital city has 1.6 million inhabitants and is home to one-half of El Salvador’s wealth. It is a 45 minute automobile ride to the capital city or an hour-and-a-half by local bus. The city has five European style malls, many hotels and restaurants (in all price ranges), museums, numerous well-stocked large-size grocery stores, doctors and dentists, and at least ten well-equipped hospitals.

Spending a weekend in the city is easy, enjoyable, and inexpensive. There are restaurants and hotels in all price ranges and a lot of things to do. A normal taxi ride anywhere in the city is around $5 - $6.

One final thing

The objective of the rally is to help cruisers get together to discover the less traveled but spectacular destination of El Salvador and have a lot of fun at the same time. The country and the Salvadorian people are waiting for you with open arms and genuine smiles. Check out what others say about El Salvador by going to the Crossing the Bar Page and clicking on a boat photo.
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