Underway for Mazatlan…

February 21, 2012

Chahue dockside goobye committee

Chahue dockside goobye committee

After almost exactly 22 months, we finally threw off the lines and left Huatulco yesterday. We’re sitting in the pilothouse enjoying the second day of a pleasant 235 miles of our first leg to Mazatlan – hoping to either anchor in Acapulco if we need rest, or complete another 110 miles and drop the hook in Zihuatenejo for a few days. [Read more…]

Huatulco Highlights

February 20,2012

As we prepare to leave, I thought I’d better jot down our impressions of this great little spot, for those that are following our journey and hope to call in here one day.

Marina Chahue? Meh. Serviceable. That’s about the size of it. The showers and bathroom, in the words of a couple of ladies just finishing up a circumnavigation, are the third worst in the world.

The dust blows everywhere, 9 months a year. The surge at the dock eats lines. No pool. No restaurant. No shop. No amenities. Just a place to tie up, unmetered electricity and good potable water, and friendly security guards and staff who speak little to no English.

But as a place to park me and the boat, it’s by far the safest we’ve felt since we left Florida 5 years ago. [Read more…]

Getting to Know Huatulco

Marina Chahue
Huatulco, Mexico

It’s been an interesting week getting to know the marina, the neighbors, the town of La Crucecita, and the reasons for Mexico’s reputation as the “land of mañana,”

Marina Chahue has limited cruiser amenities, lots of surge, and a staff who, though friendly, have limited facility with English. Patricia in the office has been most helpful, understanding my poor Spanish and responding with her equivalent English. I think we’ll get along fine. Our challenge is in securing Emma Jo in the slip, fendering her against the almost constant surge, and making sure we have enough lines out. Many of the boats here seem to stretch their lines across adjacent slips to dampen the movement, and when our delightful neighbors have gone, we’ll do the same. We’re about a mile or so from town, so weather permitting we can walk to grocery stores, restaurants, and beaches.

Companera Leaving Huatulco

The next door neighbors left this morning. Doug and Jill, aboard Compañera from Cordova, Alaska, are some of the kindest, most interesting folks we’ve met so far. They are rowers, with a Capital R, having rowed the Inside Passage from Seattle to Skagway, Alaska’s North Slope, the coast of Labrador, from Gothenburg, Sweden to Kirkeness in Norway, and completely around Spitsbergen. Jill’s book, Rowing to Latitudes, we will wholeheartedly plug for the ripping good stories it contains and the demonstration of will and skill the two of them embody. Both of them are also world-renowned avalanche experts, and ran their own consulting firm out of Anchorage for many years. Jill has also written about their avalanche adventures in Snowstruck (also a ripping good read). Their boat, Compañera, is a one-of-a-kind Halifax trawler built for heavy weather, and they’re on a journey to Chile. We spent a few evenings together this week, exploring La Crucecita for dinner and sitting on the fly bridge in the cool of the evening. After just a few days, we felt like we’ve known them all our lives. We’ll miss them!

We Welcome Our Dear Tourists

La Crucecita, the main town of the Bays of Huatulco, is lovely, well-organized, and secure. There is a lot of development and investment ongoing here, with hotels, resorts, condominiums and the like sprouting up almost monthly. The town is laid back, and contains the best grocery store we’ve had since we left Florida…as well as ice cream shops, espresso bars, and shops. They even have a sign on the main square: (Click to enlarge)

There are several beaches in the neighborhood, with opportunities to dive and snorkel as well as just sit around in the shade with a Pacifico or a Corona. I think I’ll be fine here on my own, the challenge being NOT to put on weight while Ole’s gone!

And as for the “land of mañana” reputation: I’ve spent the better part of the week trying to hunt down a wireless modem for the computer. While there is free wi-fi at the marina, the signal doesn’t reach our slip and seems to disappear at night when the staff turns out the lights.

All cruiser advice is for us to purchase a “stick” from TelCel that enables us to have internet wherever we can get cell signals – much of the Mexican coast. Sounded great, so on Tuesday, I asked Patricia at the marina office where I might find one. She directed me to the TelCel office in Plaza Madero, the mall in town, where I was told they’d have a modem available “mañana en la tarde” (tomorrow, in the afternoon). Fine. Ole and I went grocery shopping, stopping at a TelCel kiosk in the grocery store to try to buy a local cell phone. “She’s on break,” they said – “back at 4:30 or 5:00 this afternoon.” Wednesday afternoon, I went back to TelCel at Plaza Madero – “sorry,” she said, “should be in tomorrow.” Thursday, on an evening in town, I stopped back in only to find that she expected to have them Saturday morning. Okay – there are other TelCel vendors in town. I stopped at a promising office, with a smiling woman inside, who cheerfully told me to come back “tomorrow at 6-ish.”

Friday morning, I had Patricia in the office call yet another TelCel office, who told her yes, they had the modems in stock and I could purchase one today. I walked 20 minutes to the office, confirmed that yes, they had modems in stock, only to find they did not take credit cards,  So it was off to the ATM and back. When I returned, the young man asked me if I’d brought my computer with me; explained to me how the monthly plan worked; and when I pulled out my wallet to buy the modem he assured me he had in stock, he told me it would be available “tomorrow.” So today, Saturday, I went back to the smiling woman, and was able to actually purchase and walk away with the modem and instructions. “But,” she said, “there’s nobody working at TelCel over the weekend, so although you have the modem, you won’t be able to get a signal confirmed until Monday at the latest.”

“Great. At least I’m a step further down the road,” I thought. So I unpacked the modem and put the SIM card in my phone to register it, as instructed, only to find that I can’t do that. So it’s going to be Monday, maybe. Meaning this little adventure in technology has taken a week – might take me ten minutes at Costco in Silverdale.

Ah, Mexico.

Crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec and Arriving in Huatulco

Marina Chahue, Huatulco, Mexico

Well, we made it, voyaging 522 miles over 76 hours across the dreaded and respected Gulf of Tehuantepec. It was the longest passage Ole and I have made together, requiring three overnight runs and constant monitoring of weather, and I must say, we picked a superb window.

We left Barillas Marina at 6:50 in the morning, and were guided out to the ocean waypoint by their panguero. The sea state was fairly calm, consisting of loooonnnnnggg 12-15 second Pacific swells of 4-6 feet, with the wind picking up each afternoon, peaking just before sunset, and subsiding throughout the night. We never had wind over 15 knots (actual), and it was mostly from the west or southwest. Occasionally the wind and swells competed with the current, resulting in a chop that reached 3 or 4 feet on top of the swells, but none of it was overly unpleasant – we just spent a few uncomfortable hours bucking like a bronco from time to time. We had three scheduled “bailout” ports along the way in case the weather turned, and as we approached Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, Puerto Madero and Salina Cruz in Mexico, conditions looked great to just keep going. The challenge was to make sure we each got enough rest – sleeping 6 or 8 hours through the night is impossible on this kind of passage – so we just took turns standing watch, spelling each other with naps as needed.

We were joined by a couple of hitchhikers who jumped aboard somewhere around Puerto Madero and stayed with us for two days – we christened them Gertrude and Heathcliff…and in spite of arm-waving, horn blasts, and fierce yelling, they sat and shat all over the fly bridge, making themselves quite at home. I had to remind myself of “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” though, and not get too tough with them lest we anger the Tehuantepec weather gods.

Conditions were so favorable, we arrived at Marina Chahue in Huatulco and were alongside at 12:45 (our time) in the afternoon, in good enough shape to meet the neighbors, have a beer or two, and stay up until 10 pm. It’s now just past noon on Monday, April 19, and we’re still waiting for the officials to clear us in. They were going to come yesterday (but it was Sunday) at 3:00 pm, they were going to start coming at 11:00 this morning, but we haven’t seen a soul yet. Aah, Mexico!