December 11, 2014
We are tied to a dock in Marina Chahue, Huatulco, State of Oaxaca, Mexico. It took three days to get here from Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo, with all kinds of weather, faithfully reported by our weather correspondent Anita. We sailed a lot, motored when necessary, and enjoyed the full moon over the water. We were all sweat-soaked during the day, and sometimes faintly (very faintly) chilly in our t-shirts and shorts at night. Occasionally a point of land would reduce our distance from the shore down to two or three miles, and the scent of charcoal cooking fires would surprise our sea-soaked senses. It is possible to become so comfortable with the sea that one begins to doubt the reliability of the land.
The big deal with the weather in the area is the strong outbreaks of wind across the narrow isthmus of southern Mexico, resulting in a phenomena known as “Tehuantepeckers” by the cruising gringos, and “nortenos” by the locals. They can include winds of 40 to 60 knots and waves to 30 feet. Gladly, we missed the experience so far, and will continue to avoid it as we cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec on the next leg of the trip. But “nortenos” are a feature of winter in the Caribbean and the parts of the Pacific where high pressure from the cold US Midwest can burst across low areas – like Tehuantepec and the Gulf of Papagallo in Costa Rica.
But what a leg this last one was! Our friends Luis and Janice from Seattle joined us in Ixtapa, and the day after their flight arrived we headed out for an anchorage just a few miles south of Zihuatenejo. We swam, Luis and Janice adjusted to being warm, and – best of all – we barbecued a wonderful tuna that Luis caught on the way into the first anchorage, plenty for the five of us.
It was the introduction to a sea life cruise that included as many as twenty sea turtles in a day, birds of all kinds, a jumping marlin, flying rays, lots of dolphins cavorting around the boat, and finally a dorado (mahi-mahi) that was kind enough to take Syd’s hook and provide us with three wonderful meals – barbecued first, then ceviche, then simmered in Hannah’s salsa verde. Delicious!
Dorado are incredibly fast, beautiful predators of the sea. Their colors are amazing – hard to capture in photo – they are streamlined and muscular, and they kill for a living. We found a whole fish inside ours, which helped alleviate any lurking concerns about our own predatory nature. One of the arresting things about dorado, though, is that their colors are a product of their vitality, and fade dramatically within minutes of their death.
Something – quite probably concern about violence – seems to have dramatically affected the level of tourism in Mexico, outside of enclaves like Cabo San Lucas. We saw few non-Mexicans in Ixtapa and Zihuantenejo, and few cruising sail or power boats anywhere. It’s bound to be tough on some local economies. But it was a pleasure to see some truly beautiful beaches without expensive tourist stuff, being enjoyed by locals, eating in the palapas and playing in the warm, blue water.
The boat continues to inspire confidence, taking wind and seas without generating the slightest alarm. Our only serious equipment failure this leg was the latch on the refrigerator door, easily and permanently repaired with a spot of epoxy, but nevertheless serving as a reminder of the perils of mechanical complexity!
The marina here is small, with an interesting collection of shark fishermen and a handful of cruising boats, Canadian, American and Mexican. The showers are outdoors, surrounded by a rather low wall (fine for guys), and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. We are feeling secure enough to leave the boat for an unprecedented few days to take a bus to the city of Oaxaca. Staying there for a couple nights will be the first time we will be sleeping off the boat since one night in Napa, CA back in September.
Luis and Janice will travel on from Oaxaca, and we will come back to the boat to spend a couple days on provisioning, an oil change and other preparations for the long haul to Panama. Lots of events coming up, though: Hannah’s birthday in only three days, Christmas, then the New Year – all to be celebrated in new places, with perhaps a new perspective.