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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Continuation from Yesterday’s Tale…

A view from behind the surf
photo by Swift Current

Bill and Rogelio waiting for the perfect moment
photo by Swift Current
As I said yesterday, were scheduled to go second in line through the crashing surf and into the entrance of Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. Did I mention that this was the strongest surf they have seen all year???? All week we read it was predicted to be “mild” action. All week they had mild action. This morning was different. In fact, s/v Bag End was scheduled to depart and couldn’t because the surf was too strong for them to get out. S\v Swift Current went in first and it was as if the sea parted for them. It was Howard's 64th birthday, so perhaps it was his gift. Their photos barely have any white on the water.

Second boat coming through with jet-ski leading
photo by Swift Current
Another boat in our group radioed last minute that they wanted go second instead and the same boat gave the directive that we were now scheduled last. This was a bit upsetting since the group had already agreed upon line placement and the slack tide was un-slacking rapidly. It was possible that we would not get in, which meant waiting another 24 hours. But there was no time to argue about it. We quickly discussed as a family that if we didn’t make it in to Bahia del Sol, we would head south and go elsewhere.

Third boat entering as waves grow
photo by Mita Kuulu
Here is a personal note regarding my viewpoint about traveling with other boats. Buddy boating with one or two boats can be enjoyable. Typically, however, we don’t like to travel in a cluster. One or more individuals try to take charge, decisions are made, and we find that it’s easier, there are fewer politics and life is less complicated altogether when we travel on our own or with people we know well. Had it not been that there were 6 or more boats scheduled to leave Marina Chiapas on Tuesday, we would have waited another day to leave to avoid the traffic. But as it stood, traveling with 3 other boats seemed less messy than traveling with 5, or 6, or 7.

Second boat getting lifted... or swallowed
photo by Mita Kuulu
The second boat was instructed to move in behind the first boat and its first massive wave crashed behind it. The helmsman immediately lost control of the helm at the first rush of enormous wave and the boat skidded sideways, now parallel to the next set. When the second set came, the boat broached, rail and mast in the water… and the sight was terrifying to watch. We were positive they would turtle. But, someone aboard got control at the helm, spun the vessel quickly around so that the third wave didn’t swallow them whole. Luckily, the couple was okay and there were no injuries. But, their boat was full of water (apparently the companion-way had been left open), their personal items topsy-turvy and wet, and they lost some of their personal effects, the biggest loss being their outboard engine that had been secured on the starboard rail.

3rd boat surfing strong and fast - recorded 19 knots!
photo by Mita Kuulu
By the time the 3rd boat went through, the tide was changing and the waves even larger and crashing more often. Five enormous waves carried them in. Thankfully, the 3rd boat made it in no problem.

We were last to arrive and the tides had completely changed –
The waves were monstrous by this time-
We were waiting for the call from the pilot to lead us in, but it didn’t come.
We waited some more as the waves continued to build.
Jim and I discussed the possibility that we might be turned away.
“Jet-ski Pilot. – Jet-ski Pilot,” I called on the radio. “This is Hotspur.”
No answer.
Had they forgotten us?
“Jet-Ski Pilot. This is Hotspur.”
“Hotspur, just a minute. We’re trying not to get killed out here.”
Here we are waiting... waiting... waiting...
photo by Swift Current

We harnessed ourselves to the boat.
Everything was lashed down tight and the hatches and portholes tightly sealed.
Bad Kitty was thrown forward in the workroom and the door sealed as she howled.
Jim was at the helm.
I sat in the cockpit with the radio in my right hand and the throttle in my left.
Tim was secured on deck to warn Jim of the killer waves on our aft and which direction to point the bow.
Carolyne shut her eyes.

The Pilot finally met us outside the surf and talked us towards the surfline.
“Get ready…” the Pilot said.
My hands were shaking like a leaf.
“Go!” a voice came over the radio and I layed heavy on the throttle.
“No, no! Turn around Hotspur! We’re going to have to wait!”
Jim steered around and got the bow pointed forward again.
The anxiety was killing us.
Hotspur - last but not least
photo by Mita Kuulu

When the moment came to throttle hard, I gassed it full force and Jim held tight on the wheel with both hands. Tim would call to Jim to head a little starboard or port, depending on the direction the wave was pushing us from behind.
One monster wave crashed over the stern and pushed us hard forward. I kept the peddle to the metal and Jim braced his legs in the cockpit to keep the rudder steady.
Up we go!
photo by Mita Kuulu

Second monster wave…
The bow wanted to slide, but Jim maintained course by using the weight of his body to keep the bow perpendicular to the wave rolling past us and steering to keep the aft perpendicular to the wave approaching us from behind.
Three… the third wave kept us moving ahead.
“Five seconds before the next one,” called Tim.
Crash! And Wave #4 hit us from behind…
“Ten seconds,” Tim called.
Number Five then gave us its best.
#6 not so big…
The next a little smaller…
Hotspur shredding!
photo by Mita Kuulu

photo by Mita Kuulu
We were in! We made it!

The usual two wave entrance was multiple waves for us and took 5-6 minutes to cross versus the usual 2 minute entrance time.

Hotspur making it in!
photo by Mita Kuulu

 So, we’re exhausted, without a water maker and without our shortwave radio… but we’re dry and we’re here – in El Salvador!!


  1. Well written. Sounds terrifying but at least you get a good story with awesome pictures to back you up. Well done--and enjoy El Salvador. It's a wonderful country.

    1. Really loving it here! Was a terrifying entrance, but we held our own!

  2. I would have let you go first. But you guys alway beat me to the port, so I guess it doesn't realy matter.Ha.;)

    1. We really do miss you down here, Jess.

  3. Wow, looks like quite a ride!!!

    1. We logged 15.6 knots coming in - Yikes!

  4. Glad you made it! I get nauseous just looking at the waves!

    1. Bring me a bucket!
      Didn't we see Monty Python together in Dallas years ago?

  5. Oh Meri!
    Yikes. Hope the exit is less thrilling. I think I would have kept going.

    1. We really considered keeping on-keeping on, but after all that anticipation... we just couldn't pass it by.

  6. All I can say! Cool photos, too!


    1. I had a Bloody Mary after all that to celebrate we were all still in one piece!

  7. Meri, you guys do know that our boats were designed to sail, not surf, right?

    Great job to the Hotspur crew from the crew of sv Gypsy Wind!

    1. Mike - we've had 'Hotspur' called all kinds of names:
      (Nice one, huh?)
      But Jesse, our fellow cruiser and friend, said now we have to be called Hotsurf. I like that one!

  8. Not one to normally freak out, but *)&^%$#@! I didn't like it...but Ethan reminds me that "well, we should be good as we won't have a keel to tip over" I'll have to put that back in my mind somewhere when our turn comes......Anyhow, glad it's all said and done and oh, Ethan thinks Tim should have been being towed behind on a long board as he's all about MORE adventure!

    1. Freak out, Baby! The flat bottomed boat in front of us hit over 19 knots!! Oh, freak out! Just kidding, it will be fine. But really - over 19 knots!!!

  9. Whoa! I never would have quite pictured the depth of the situation without the photos - scary!