Monday, May 23, 2011

Hanging with the elite in San Salvador


We got invited to go to a meeting in San Salvador with various government officials to discuss nautical tourism in El Salvador.  There were representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, a number of development agencies, and even the Navy. That’s Commander Sanchez on the right enjoying a great lunch at a French restaurant that they took us all to. El Salvador is going after more grass roots tourism rather than chasing mega-projects. The governments main focus is small projects that create jobs for locals. Believe it or not, surfing has brought in jobs for the country. Surfers are cheap, like sailors, but the infrastructure to support their lifestyle requires minimum cash up-front and the jobs this small industry creates makes a difference here. Some graying surfer shows up, sees a cheap house near the break. He buys it, hires locals to remodel it into a surfer lodge. Hires caretakers, a guard, maids, etc. Taxi stand shows up out front, the local pupuseria grows and a surf shop opens.  All pretty low-key, but still job creating.

Cruising sailors are a relatively new market opportunity in El Salvador. The whole cruising scene here is currently centered around the place we’re hanging out at, Bahia del Sol. This is a medium sized hotel. The place does a good business on holiday weeks and on weekends. During the week it is just dead of guests. The cruisers spending their $1 on a beer and eating at the restaurant with a 30% discount keeps the staff working and earning tips. So the meeting in San Salvador was to discuss what needs to be done to encourage more ‘nautical tourism’. Some of the suggestions we discussed were: supplying low-cost dry storage for boats,  making it easier to visit multi-ports without excessive official paperwork, making import of boat parts easier, and creating multiple boating destinations. All in all the officials were very supportive.  This is a young country just getting its act together after years of civil war. A democracy with lots of opportunity.

There’s been an unusual string of boat incidents around here recently. Three boats, each with an experienced woman skipper, got into trouble in the last few weeks.  First Pam on Precious Metal got hit by lightening 35 miles off of Nicaragua and ten miles from the closest storm cell, starting a fire in the engine room. She was pretty shaken by the experience. She’s in Bahia del Sol now working out what sounds like a sweet deal with her insure company to put the boat back right. That’s good for us as we have the same insurance.

Next up was Vicki, on Inspiration at Sea. Her boat was in El Salvador for the last 18 month or so. She got it fixed up and ready to head back north. Somewhere between Huatulco and Acapulco her EPIRB went off. This sends a satellite signal to a rescue center that gets forwarded to US authorities. They called her contact person who is down here in El Salvador and then contacted the Mexican Navy. She’d lost her engine, got caught up in a storm, and the rest of the story isn’t quite clear yet. The Navy ended up towing her 60 miles into Acapulco.

Yesterday, Rose and Jani left on their Halberg Rassey 46, Lovely Lady, heading just a few miles south. They crossed the Jaultepec bar at the early morning high tide. They were headed to Barrillas to put the boat up for 3 months while they headed back to the Pacific NW. They traveled the 20 miles or so down the coast and arrived at the entry waypoint. They waited for a pilot to come out guide them in. The bar at Barrillas is longer but not as dangerous as in Bahia del Sol. Well, the pilot lead them smack into a 4 foot sand bar. The boat went up sideways, heeled over 45 degrees and got pounded by the high surf. Ugly. A Mayday went out and a second pilot came out and helped get them off the bar and back into the channel. They are now in Barrillas deciding if they need to haul to the boat for inspection.


Just so you know it isn’t all women skippers getting in trouble, see the photo above- what’s wrong with this picture? The boats above all had experienced skippers. In this story, there’s a couple with 2 kids on their Newport 30, Gypsy. They haven’t been sailing long, came up from Nicaragua and have been here in the estuary for a few weeks and apparently haven’t noticed the tides. The pic above was taken after they attempted a slip landing during a max ebb current. Pushed the boat down onto the dock at high speed, they backed out and then proceeded to put up the boat up sideways on the boat next door, Sunnyside UpGypsy would’ve been pinned onto the transom except for the dinghy in the davits which which held her off by her shrouds. A few bent stanchions and mashed dinghy, but not near as bad as it could have been. Ouch.

We’re working on a few typical boat problems. Right now it is getting the refrigeration to refrigerate. Cold is good. When we get this straightened out we are ready to get back on the road, or the seas as the case may be. Looks like the plan is taking us South and East to Costa Rica and then on to Panama. Chris is trying to setup some work sometime in July, but the dates are pretty soft.


1 comment:

  1. Good stories, now can we have an update from the gulf?
    Hint: Do not go north, it is freezing in SF and our tropical blood is thin. Judy and T