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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More on Chiapas, Mexico

Before I elaborate on what we have experienced in El Salvador, I want to step back a tad and discuss traveling inland from Chiapas.
Palenque Mayan Ruin with Howler Monkeys In Background

On our inland trip in Chiapas, Mexico we heard our first howler monkeys in the thick, green jungle at the Palenque Mayan ruins. The ruins were impressive (640AD) and we saw tourists from all over the world visiting this ancient site, tour guides speaking a variety of different languages. If you can afford it I think it is probably worth hiring a tour guide to explain all the details. But, we passed on a guided tour because for 4 people it was pretty costly. And we enjoyed the freedom of hiking at our own pace - I also think we probably saw more of the site itself than the rest of our party who moved much slower with the guide. The only disappointment is that we didn’t have time for the museum.


Misol-Ha just happened to be on our route and we stopped for an hour. This cascading waterfall is gorgeous and the first waterfall I have ever seen like this. No, I have never been to Niagara. The kids and Jim wandered back inside the waterfall cave and found bats sleeping atop. You can swim at the falls, but we all opted to stay dry until the next stop.

Agua Azul, Mexico

The next stop was Agua Azul, a natural waterfall that boasts the bluest water. You can swim there, numerous restaurants offer interesting dishes, and there are plenty of things to buy from the vendors there. Carolyne and I refreshed ourselves with icy cold coconut milk and then ate the succulent sweet white meat afterwards. The kids swam and Jim and I enjoyed the family atmosphere of the local tourists and tranquil natural surroundings.

We were very tired – VERY tired after returning to the boat after this trip. It was exhausting the way we chose to do it.

IF I had it to do all over again, I would change some things and do it exactly this way:

Way cute hat I crocheted because I was SO cold in San Cristobal.
  1. I would leave by bus or rent a car early morning and head straight to Palenque. The scenery during the trip is awesome. Once in the town of Palenque, I would hire a van to take me to the entrance of the ruins, 30 or so minutes away from town.
  2. I would spend 2 or more nights there at a place called Ed and Margaurite’s , a darling bungalow cottage type abode that sits right in the jungle. There is a restaurant, Don Mucho's, that adjoins it that friends tell us had delicious food. I would give myself plenty of time to hike, explore, visit the museum and talk to the locals.
  3. When I had my fill of the Palenque ruin site and hiking the lush jungle, I would hire transportation to see the waterfalls, Misol-Ha and Agua Azul on the same day, and then arrive in San Cristobal to spend the night at any old hotel. We stayed at one around the corner from the bus station for $40US per night. And, I would bring warmer clothing this time of year. I crocheted myself a hat in 2 hours because it was so chilly in San Cristobal.
  4. I would store my luggage in the hotel for the day and wander in the town of San Cristobal in my crocheted hat, warm fuzzy sweater and jacket, fleecy socks, etc… (We really should have known better - if a Canadian tells you to wear a coat, then you know it’s got to be cold!): Amber museum, Jade museum, chocolate museum, Madre Tierra’s for dinner, shopping, etc…
  5. I would catch a bus back to Chiapas that same evening so I could sleep on the bus and arrive in the morning.
I think we stayed too long in San Cristobal and though it is an interesting town, especially at night, I would have much preferred to have spent more time at the ruins in Palenque. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


I’m having trouble loading a really cool, short video of something I am determined to load. So in the meantime, I’ll share with you something that happened to us while cruising that will never happen again. Those sayers say “never say never”... but this will NEVER happen again! I’m not joking.

Long voyages or anchoring out for long periods of time mean separating your trash. It is very important to do this- not just from an environmental standpoint.
And I will tell you why.

We have two white plastic bins on board. One bin is lined with a plastic trash bag and we put only plastics and non-biodegradable stuff in it, like Styrofoam, aluminum foil, the outer plastic that protects paper towels when you buy them, plastic coke bottles, etc… . We call that can the burn bin because if you don’t get to town to dispose of it properly, the only other way to get rid of it is to burn it in a deep sandy pit on the beach and bury the ashes. You never throw it overboard. Never. You know those photos of the cute marine animals with the 6-pack plastic rings around their necks squeezing the life right out of them?

The other bin is the overboard bin. It contains things like banana peels, tin cans (which sink in deep water), biodegradable paper products, chicken bones, cucumber peelings, etc… those items we can throw overboard when far enough off land, so that the refuse doesn’t wash up on the beach. The overboard bin gets a little yucky, but it can be cleaned out easily with saltwater and a brush.

One time early on in our cruising we didn’t separate the trash because we were only going to be out for a few days. We had actually forgotten and the trash was a nice soggy mix and no one felt like separating it out at that point. I told Jim I didn’t want to hassle with it and that we could throw everything away once we arrived into town, 3 more days down the road. When our first bag of garbage became full, we tied it up tightly and secured it on the deck so that it wouldn’t blow overboard.

Two nights after securing the bag and adding another full one on deck, I had these awful dreams. Slithery snakes were  squirming at my ankles then wriggling up my legs and I was screaming and trying to get away. The bad snake dream was so realistic and it replayed itself throughout the night. I jolted awake twice in the pitch black to shake off the nightmare.

The following morning we were rudely awakened and very early; Bad Kitty was rambunctiously playing in the middle of our berth. She was jumping up and down on top of us, swatting at something overhead in the open hatch above us. I looked up, but saw nothing.
“Stop it, Bad Kitty!” and I pushed her off our mattress. But she was back at it immediately, her busy paws in batting action, eyes wild round.
“What the heck is she doing?” Jim mumbled angrily. (translated from Tony Soprano verbiage to Mister Rogers)
“I have no idea,” I said in a rather groggy voice as I sat up.
Then, something small and white dropped from the hatch above me and onto the covers.
“What was that?” asked Jim.
Before I could answer my husband, I felt the same tickly wriggling under my legs that I had dreamt about. I quickly peeled back the covers and was revolted awake!

Underneath my body was a colony of maggots. Not one… not two… it was an entire fiesta of filth under the sheet… wriggling white bodies in smiley face, frowny face, smiley face, frowny face dancing motions. They were falling from the hatch above us – from underneath the trash bags we had stowed on deck. I was hysterical. I screamed, “It’s raining maggots!” Jim flew out of bed, too, but he thought it was funny. I was not amused at all. It was horrifying and spectacularly grotesque. To know that I was intimate – in bed with - …
It was a hideous moment in time.

It’s been several years since it rained maggots. But, before we set off from Huatulco to Chiapas, Jim asked where the overboard bin was so that he could separate the trash.
“You know, we’re only going to be out for a couple days, “ I replied.
“Meri, don’t you remember when it rained maggots? Do you really want that to happen again?”
I didn’t hear his last sentence because I was up on deck retrieving the overboard bin.
Never again.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Learning to Make Papusas

Carol s/v NautiMoments, Gizelle s/v Dancing Dolphin and Sandy s/v I Yam What I Yam
taking pastelillo making lessons
The food here in El Salvador is an adjustment for us. We are used to the spicy Mexican chilies, the moles, the salsas… But, El Salvadorans don’t eat spicy food. And they eat a lot of fried food… food that may be okay for my skinny family, but I am getting fluffy and don’t need to be eating fried anything! With that being said…

Ingredients provided by the staff of Bahia del Sol
The staff at Bahia del Sol offered a free cooking class, which I very much enjoyed. We learned the art of making papusas, empanadas (different than in Mexico), and pastelillos. And then we ate them! And don’t you agree that it would have been totally rude of me not to sample all of the foods, fried or not – but mostly fried?

Captain of s/v Lorelei helping himself to homemade El Salvadoran treats
Papusas are a traditional El Salvadoran food. As you will find taco stands everywhere in Mexico, you will find papuserias everywhere in El Salvador. They are a grilled flat corn bread. Some are filled: beans, cheese and/or chicharones (shredded pork, not pork rind). The filled ones cost around 75 cents each.

Dora watching our individually made papusas cook
We also learned how to make pastelillos. The pastelillos are comparable to Mexico’s empenada – a little corn pie filled with ground meat and veggies (potatoes, green beans, carrots, onion, garlic) and then fried.

El Salvadoran empanadas are made with plantains, similar to a banana. The plantains are mashed and mixed with a little hot water. They are then hand patted flat and filled with homemade vanilla pudding. The plantain mixture is then wrapped around the pudding into an egg shape. The mixture is then deep friend and rolled in sugar. I don’t know how mine got a little bigger than everyone else’s.

Ken s/v NautiMoments and Fran s/v Gosling enjoying a delicious
pudding filled empanada
The food we made was tasty, but what was going through my mind as I was sampling all of it was how I was going to have to buy the next size up in britches!

Jim and I discovered a little restaurant on the water down the street from Bahia del Sol that serves 2 eggs, a chunk of cheese, beans, fried plantains, French bread and coffee for $2.50. We love to leave the kids sleeping and sneak off for our secret breakfast. The food is cooked on wood burning stove and chickens are running in and out of the kitchen, but the food is wonderful! We’ll have to share our secret breakfast hide-away spot with the kids at some point only because it is what the locals do.

I bought a bouquet of crabs, too. 12 little live crabs bound together with palm fronds cost only $2. They were a little hard to clean up, but I went at them with a toothbrush and then steamed them. They were delicious!

But I think my favorite so far is the fish served whole – again, fried. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

San Salvador

El Salvador is an adjustment.
The food is different.
The Spanish is different.
The poverty is different.

San Salvador

In the small pueblos, water that runs from the piping many times contains bacteria and disease. Cholera outbreaks have occurred in past years. But, the tap water costs only 25 cents every 5 gallons. To buy 5 gallons of purified water, the cost is $2.50 – a substantial difference to a person who works for the piddly pay here in El Salvador. Many people drink the tap water even though it’s risky.

And yet in the capital city of San Salvador, Gallerias and super malls are filled with young business people and expensive housewives eager to inhale the latest perfumes and walk on the highest heels. McDonald’s, Quiznos, Papa John’s… all American names we know and love – and hate. Nine West, Northface, Steve Madden… yes, I do remember when those labels used to be important to me. I will admit I inhaled sharply and felt a pang of regret when I walked past the Clinique and Lancome counters, but it passed.

Vidris Hardware

9 of us cruisers rented a van for $90 – yes, $10 per person round trip and the driver stays with you all day! That morning before we set off, Jim’s Teva sandals finally blew out. And I do mean! He looked behind him in time to see his hole riddled sole lying sadly on the ground. We bit the budget bullet (yet again!) and bought a pair of Northface non-leather hiking sandals on sale for $53.

Jim using hand palm and needle to repair his Tevas - again!
Vidris is the hardware store and it was amazing! Many products have the Ace Hardware labels. Everyone was in awe. Jim and I got most of what was on our list from Vidris.

There is a small marine store called Marinsa, but it didn’t have much and it was very expensive.

One cruiser needed the Mac computer repair shop. Jim needed cables for the Pactor modem. 

Sunbrella shopping
The fabric shops here are worth a stop. Sunbrella can be purchased at $9 a yard. We discovered fabric for our cockpit cushions at $5.15 a yard. Beautiful interior fabrics are on $4 a yard, so we are speculating the cost of having all our cushions re-upholstered. The biggest hurdle is figuring out how to get the cushions from Bahia del Sol to San Salvador without the transportation costing us a fortune. I’m still working on it.

Speaking even a wee bit of Spanish will really help you get along. I translated for the rest of our group and was ecstatic to speak to an El Salvadorian whom I understood! Martin, our driver, spoke very little English and told me he found learning English to be very difficult. And there are, indeed, translation problems.

"Por ejemplo," Martin said. "Como se dice flor?
"That's flower in English," I replied.
"Entonces, que es arena?" Martin queried.
"That is sand."
Martin looked at me with a puzzled expression.
"Sand?" he asked.
"Yes, sand - like on the beach," I said helpfully.
Martin laughed.
"No, no arena. La palabra es harina," he repeated.
"Oh - harina means flour." 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bahia del Sol

Volcano in front of Bahia del Sol

Feathered friend at Bahia del Sol
We decided after our wild and crazy ride over the bar to cozy up to a marina slip for a few days. Signed up with the El Salvador Rally you get a .50 per foot rate, mooring balls for $100US per month, or you can anchor out securely for free. Our plan was to hang in the marina until after the St. Patrick’s Day party and then anchor out.  So, as of today, we are now anchored out at no cost, except for the $14 per boat, per week membership fee to use the club facilities.

On the way we saw lots of dolphins

Wrestling a 45lb Jack Crevalle
The marina is nice. There is a swimming pool and palapa bar/restaurant. Prices aren’t cheap: a burger runs around $8 and the mixed drinks are $6 & $7. However, there are $1 Pilsener beers and daily specials. Bathrooms and showers are available and the internet is surprisingly decent.

The other very convenient feature is that immigration and boat importation is right here at the resort. After you arrive, they will meet you at your boat and escort you to their office. The price to import the boat was $30 and it was $10 per person for 90-day Visas.

Bahia del Sol is remote, but there are buses that will take you to nearby Herradura and Zacatecoluca.  Jim and I ventured out to Zacatecoluca and for $1 each we got a ride directly to the little pueblo. Carolyne ran off to the beach with my camera so I don’t have any photos. It was really like being in the Third World country. Really. It was the way I remember Mexico 30 years ago when I traveled with my parents.

We're renting a van and heading to San Salvador tomorrow.

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!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Goodbye Beautiful Mexico and Crossing the Bar

San Cristobal

Agua Azul

Freezing in San Cristobal with Kara from Taking Flight

San Cristobal woman

I thought I would be sadder leaving Mexico behind us. Living here since June 2008 has made my heart grow fonder of this exquisite country and its beautiful people. But after four hours of checking out of the country Friday and four hours waiting for the Navy to do their final inspection Monday (scheduled for 6am but commencing at 10am),  I was just ready to get a move on. But the officials were nice and once we completed the paper trail of tears, we cast off for Bahia del Sol, El Salvador to join other cruisers at the El Salavdor Rally, a 2-night passage. And, we were desperate to use the watermaker since our tanks were almost empty.
A piece of amber in San Cristobal
Misol-Ha Waterfall

Behind Misol-Ha

We sailed most of the afternoon in light southwest wind until it fizzled out around 4pm, then turned on the motor. The fishing line zinged out at rapid speed and we pulled up a 45lb. Jack Crevalle – fun to catch but only worth eating if you’re starving - and even then… so our Jack got a second chance at life. I was so hoping for a tuna. The watermaker worked for exactly 3 hours before it quit making water – no pressure. Goodie. By the light of a ¾ full moon on the first night, we steered between fishing pangas as we passed through Guatemala – some well lit, some not.  We didn't see even 1 knot of wind after 4pm that afternoon.
Agua Azul


By 4am the second day, however, things looked bright as we had 11 knots off the land all morning and by afternoon, it switched to 18 knots from the SE - so we made great time sailing on a beam reach. But as the wind died at sunset, the main became stuck and we had to pull Jim up the mast at dusk. The sea state was ‘confused’ and keeping the bow in the waves to calm the boat was easier said than done. Jim got bruised and bumped around up top, but he found that the problem was our short wave antenna had wrapped itself around the mainsail head. He took wire cutters and proceeded to chop the cable in pieces to free the main, so now we are again without a working SSB/HAM radio. 
San Cristobal

San Cristobal 

We arrived at the mouth of Bahia del Sol around 4am – much faster than anticipated with the great sailing wind we had! We opted to pull the jib out hankie size, set the timer for every 10 minutes and sleep in the cockpit until slack tide at 6:30am.
 There were 4 boats waiting at the entrance this morning – we were scheduled to be 2nd in line to cross the crashing waves and over the bar. It was shocking to see the power of the breaking waves and daunting to know that we would be going over and through them. The first boat was instructed by the jet-ski pilot to throttle hard… he did and made it over three waves very easily. For him, it was a non-event.

Not for us - and certainly not for the boat in front of us. It was total drama. Stay tuned tomorrow!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Many Gringos Does It Take to Check Out of Mexico??

We took steps to check out of Chiapas, Mexico just this past Friday. Enrique was not here to hold our hand, so 4 boats opted to try and do it alone because the Harbor Master's office closes at 2pm on Friday, is also closed over the weekend, and we hoped to head south Monday morning. We thought we would have enough time - until we learned that the credit card machine is broken in the Harbor Master's office - which means a trip all the way into Tapachula to the bank and payment in cash. Here is our story.

Three boat captains and I negotiated a cab – in the end, it cost us 500 pesos and it took 4 hours. Maybe it was too much, maybe not. We were happy to split the cost 4 ways.

STEP #1:
Our cabbie drove us from Marina Chiapas to Puerto Madero to visit the Harbor Master. We filled out specific crew lists forms (AVISO DE SALIDA YATE VELERO) and gave him copies of our boat documents, a copy of our check in/out from the last port of call, and copies of our passports. We were given one paper to take to the Banamex bank in Tapachula and we were given 4 copies of our new official crew lists.

STEP #2 (which can be skipped if you use a credit card AND the machine isn’t broken)
From the Harbor Master's office, we took our cab to the Banamex bank in Tapachula - to pay 227 pesos. We were given a receipt for payment.

STEP #3:
We stopped at the airport between Tapachula and Puerto Madero to visit the Immigration office. He wanted to see our Tourist Visas, our passports, the copy of the official crew list from the Harbor Master and he asked many questions in Spanish. One boat had his Tourist Visas, but he didn't have the bank receipts showing he paid the bank for his Tourist Visa and so he had to pay again - in full - 588 pesos for both he and his wife. Remember to bring the bank receipt with your Tourist Visa! Folks with FM3's need not have a receipt. The immigration officer stamped all four copies of the crew list and kept one for himself, as well as the Tourist Visas and copies of our passports.

STEP #4:
Our cab then flew (and I mean flew!) to the API office. We showed him copies of our officially stamped crew list and told him how many days we had been in the marina. Each boat was given a bill for 10 days - 765 pesos. That is to be paid in cash. We were then given an official paid, stamped receipt. We asked the API guy if he would make some copies for us: our Banamex bank receipts and the stamped official copy of the API doc, all which go to the Harbor Master. We offered to pay. He made copies of the documents we would give back to the Harbor Master for free. That saved us one trip to a copy shop.

STEP #5:
From there, our cab driver zoomed back to the Harbor Master. Since the office closed at 2pm on Friday, we had been given instructions to give our documents to the guard. We brought a large envelope with us, organized the documents for the 4 boats and stuffed them in the envelope with the date and time of our planned departure written on the front of the envelope... because the Navy has to officially check you out of the country on the day that you are to leave.

Yesterday, an official from the Harbor Master's office visited each of the four boats and presented each with a beautiful certificate permitting us exit privileges: SECRETARIA DE COMMUNICACIONES Y TRANSPORTES. We were told that the Navy will be here in the morning to do their final inspection with us.

This process was long, but it was a piece of cake. It was fun to do it with the other boats and the officials, though very official, were gracious and accommodating. I’m especially thankful to the Harbor Master for being flexible.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Thermally enhanced Tehuantepec winds…
Steep waves…
Wind funnel blowing hard for hundreds of miles offshore…
No refuge…

Anxiety about crossing the “T-Pecker” haunted me several months ago and I tried not to think about it. Heather and Shawn’s glorious Pacific Mexico cruising book is sketchy south of Zihuatanejo and completely useless south of Huatulco. We have used their cruising guide religiously for a couple years now on the Baja and the Mainland. Venturing out in uncharted Heather and Shawn territory meant finding another security blanket.

And to tweak the anx… Weather Guru, Don Anderson, took a 2-month sabbatical from forecasting the weather on the Amigo and Southbound SSB Nets (yes, right during the time we planned to cross the T-Pecker!). I breathed heavily in a brown paper bag.

But, power cruising down from Guaymas to Huatulco in 20 days changed everything I felt about the T-Pec. I was completely confident in our decision making.

With Buoy Weather, Passage Weather, Santiago Solemate Stan’s Weather…
With Eric and Sheryl’s s/v Sarana Explore Central America Guides…
With the Rains Mexican Boating Guide and Charlie’s Charts
We were armed with knowledge and ready!

We were paid up in Marina Chaue in Huatulco until Wednesday, February 29. The forecast looked good for crossing and Saturday looked nasty.  So, we had a 3-day weather window and it would only be a 2-night crossing. We anchored out in a rolly bay just long enough to check the prop and to take a nice warm dip. Then, off we went!

Some people we know prefer to rhumb line down. Some people stay one foot on the beach. In hindsight, we should have taken the rhumb line. However, we stayed 10-12 miles off shore until we reached Salina Cruz. We saw gusts up to 20 knots from the north, but nothing to worry about. The first night was a piece of cake and we managed to sail some.

The second night, however, we had no wind and it was flat calm… which brought every panga fisherman out. I personally know one smart sailing family who hit a panga fisherman close to Guaymas. I say smart because they really are intelligent and sea savvy. The panga fisherman had no light and was sleeping in his boat! I didn’t want to experience the same thing, but what can you do…
pitch black, little boat doesn’t show up on radar, sleeping fisherman with death wish has no light?

Jim and I did night watches together for the most part the second night. We hailed the two boats behind us to warn them when we saw sight of pangas, some with bright propane lanterns. We’re thinking since this is also a problem south of here (friends of ours hit a panga fisherman in Guatemala, panga sunk, fisherman suffered broken his leg), that we will occasionally sound our fog horn. Perhaps we will wake a sleeper and save his boat and his life.

We made it to Marina Chiapas where manager and developer, Enrique, welcomed us with open arms. At this writing, the marina is free. However, there are API fees to pay. For 10 days in Chiapas, the API cost was 765 pesos… or $61US.

In between, we made a 5 day trip up to San Cristobal, Palenque, Misol-Ha waterfall and Agua Azul waterfall. WOW! More on that later with pics.

San Cristobal was not as exciting for us as Oaxaca. Perhaps it is because it was cold – 50* F at night and mid-60’s during the day. It would have been one thing if we had nice wool sweaters and heavy jackets – but we didn’t. Luckily, we were warned by some Canadians to take fleecy sweaters, so we had at least some insulation.

The native peoples (Tzotzil and Tzeltal indians) are more aggressive selling their wares in San Cristobal than in Oaxaca. They are also less gracious about having their photos taken, believing that you are stealing their souls. However, the Amber Museum was fascinating to me. And a delicious restaurant called Madre Tierra was very reasonable price-wise and had delicious entrees: lasgana, lentil soup, crepes filled with mushrooms, pizza… something other than traditional Mexican food was a welcome feast. The streets are heavy with people traffic at night and loads of folk art is available for buying. My biggest score was an amber necklace on a leather throng for 50 pesos – and yes, it is real, not acrylic. I had him put it under a black light to test if it glowed or not. It glowed a bright blue! There isn’t an insect in it (those cost bunches more), but I am happy enough ot take a little piece of Mother Mexican Earth with me.

Most interesting is that we went with 3 other boats: Serendipity, Swift Current & Taking Flight. Eleven of us managed to explore together and we are still talking to one another!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

February 2012 Cruising Costs

Since we are officially "cruising" again, I thought I would offer up our monthly expenses for anyone who wants to know what it costs for a family of four to travel via sailboat. Actually, we have been mostly motorboat since leaving Zihuatanejo, and you can tell by our fuel costs. But, we also traveled a lot of ground - a lot. Splashing from the boat yard in Guaymas, Mexico on February 1 all the way to Chiapas by March 1st.

I broke out the trip to Oaxaca, which includes transportation, lodging, food and entertainment for four people. I listed the marina separately, but we pulled in so that we could travel inland. Boat parts include a new radar reflector, compass cables and a new fan blade - most bought for coconuts from other cruisers.

FUEL: $717
GIFTS: $31
TOTAL: $2,149

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Oaxaca - The End (Part III)

I love this photo Jim took of a man reading a Mexican newspaper and drinking a coke.

Dancing boy with red balloon
I didn't get any woven rugs like I wanted. The store I stopped in was way too expensive. I found out later that we should have taken a tour to Mitla and seen the weavers. One cruiser I heard bought a beautiful Tree of Life tapestry for a mere 200 pesos! However, you just can't do it all. You  just can't.
Woman in Oaxacan dress

Two university students pose for Jim

Meri posing with fired pottery collection by Alejandro Santiago.
TITLE: The Route of 2501 Migrants
These really cool pottery people stood outside and around the Santa Domingo cathedral;
A ceramic crowd

Man in wrestling mask leans on cool car and ogles the walking ladies

I also didn't get to take a cooking class. Bummer, since Oaxaca is known for it's exquisite food. But, I got to try different mole sauces and chocolates. I also was introduced to the 'chupilines'... crunchy grasshoppers. They are sold on the streets and in the markets. Carolyne and I were very brave. The boys were babies. We didn't get to try the chocolate covered ones, but that is probably best - I really don't want to develop an addiction to these.
Street vendor offers up her crunchy, munchy insects

A pile of chili and garlic flavored grasshoppers

I look like I might puke after trying one, but I didn't.
Tourist from Monterrey tried his first
I could go one and on... post more photos of interesting art, people pics, musicians, ladies with baskets on their heads, beautiful architecture -
but really, you should go see it for yourself! And as I remove one item from my bucket list I have also added another...
A return trip with a girlfriend to take a cooking class and buy a hand dyed/woven rug!