Yachting World



We dropped anchor in the middle of the night and waited until daybreak for our rendezvous. We were at the agreed point to meet our pilot who would safely see us into Bahia Jaltepeque, El Salvador.

The long sand spit that protects the lagoon at Bahia Jaltepeque also creates a zone of dangerous shoals and breakers at the entrance, and it is strongly advised not to try and cross the bar without a local guide. The surf breaks continuous­ly across the sandbar and the safest time to cross is at high tide. Before leaving Huatulco in Mexico we had emailed Bill Yeargan, who lives in the bay and helps coordinate between visiting cruisers and the local pilot. Arrangemen­ts were made, and early that morning the pilot arrived in their highly mobile panga, to guide us through the channel while Bill’s reassuring voice on the radio directed our course.

We stuck to the pilot boat like glue as it disappeare­d below the swell and rose up on the next wave. Surf was crashing in front of us, and we were surrounded by white froth. Distant Drummer, our Liberty 458 cutter-rigged sloop, topped 14 knots as we surfed down the front of a roller. It felt like a sleigh ride: fast and exhilarati­ng but nerve-wracking as we concentrat­ed on the helm.

When we had originally planned our cruising season in Central America we were in two minds about visiting El Salvador. El Salvador’s Pacific shoreline is famous for its surf breaks, and the two most popular cruising destinatio­ns in the country are estuaries protected by sand bars. The thought of crossing shoals and breakers was a little off-putting. However, as we waited in Mexico for a weather window to cross the Tehuantepe­c Gulf we met several north-bound cruisers who waxed lyrically about the wonderful time they’d spent in El Salvador.

Assured that the sandbars were not a problem as long as you used the services of a local pilot, we let serendipit­y (and the pilot) guide us and enjoyed three fantastic weeks anchored in Bahia Jaltepeque.

There was no shortage of interestin­g destinatio­ns to visit; colonial cities and Mayan ruins, volcanic craters and black sand beaches, coffee plantation­s and local

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