Motoring over a glass calm sea towards the coast of El Salvador, the excitement of getting to a new country is palpable. To the east, the sun has just come up and is throwing golden light on conical volcanos and then spreading out across the water. Behind us some 200-plus miles and over 30 hours of sailing is Guatemala and the southern border of Mexico. We’re in Central America now, and I can feel it.
I throttle the engine back while Jill and the boys get ready to set the anchor. We’re early. Getting Yahtzee into our destination of Bahia del Sol requires timing. We need to cross a shallow sandbar through breaking waves and are set to meet a pilot boat at high tide who will guide us and our buddy boats SUR and Arrow through the tumultuous, ever-shifting channel.
With over an hour to burn until our high tide meet-up, we stand on deck in the now blazing sun and look at what’s in front of us. Lines of frothing wave sets are hitting the beach and washing over what we can see is the entrance to the bay. Surfing daydreams ensue. Green coconut palms sit motionless in the still morning air and a V of pelicans swoops low, seemingly touching the water with their wingtips — but not quite. Taking in the scene, I know our family is in for a whole different cruising and traveling experience than we’re used to and love the sense of newness that comes with the anticipation.
El Salvador is roughly the size of Massachusetts and represents a departure from what we’re accustomed to in our typical cruising lives. While sailing through Mexico, California, Alaska, British Columbia and Washington, we mostly hopped from anchorage to anchorage and harbor to harbor. Oftentimes we’d only stay a single night in one place before moving on and rarely spent more than a few. Travel over land was typically relegated to several miles inland and we almost never rented cars or splurged on niceties such as hotels.
The thing about world traveling, especially on a sailboat, is that circumstances, situations and plans always change. We know this. Our surroundings are always going to evolve as we move and we must adapt to the new situations in which we find ourselves. To be sure, there are times when uncertainty can be uncomfortable, which is ok. That’s part of the allure of nomadic living, and it’s certainly one of the things that we’ve always embraced about this lifestyle. After all, if we live in constant comfort and don’t take the leap and go, we won’t experience new places, people, customs, and cultures. The movement is what makes it all possible.
With few harbors and anchorages along the coastline of El Salvador, our typical cruising routines changed here. Once over the bar and settled inside, Bahia de Sol became our base of operations for inland travel. Fortunately for us, it didn’t take much time to get used to this new style of cruising. While not as inexpensive as Mexico, we are still within our means to rent a car to tour the country and are having a blast doing so.
Driving up the coast for a few days, we strapped our surfboards to the roof of the rental, caught waves, ate great food, and found getaways that seemed well off the beaten path. We headed north into the mountains and discovered waterfalls to cool ourselves in and hiked the tallest volcano in the country. We experienced small towns that seemed like we’d been transplanted into the European countryside and even wove our way through the hustle-and-bustle of El Salvador’s capital city of San Salvador.
Along the way, even when one stop didn’t work out the way we’d planned or hoped, we rolled with it and enjoyed the experience of figuring out something new on a mere whim. For us, if one thing is certain, it’s that we’ll never know what the next adventure is going to be if we don’t go for it. And go for it we did. That, my friends, is El Salvador.