NAVEGAR É PRECISO
Our 5 day trip from Huatulco, Mexico to Barillas, El Salvador was good. It is very difficult to predict the weather and you always second guessing yourself. We want to say a very big THANK YOU to Peter (W6DEI) from San Fransico as he sent us the buoy weather reports each day as we moved along the coastline. We also had ham stations from the Maritime net checking on the weather for us. With this information, the grib files and NOAA weather discussion we were able to make relatively good weather predictions. This was also a comfort for me, as I am more worried about the weather than Dinis. We have a daily radio schedule with Peter since we left Vancouver. Peter and Ron (VE7BGK) are following all BCA (Bluewater Cruising Association) boats from British Columbia.
Dinis became quite a fisherman on this trip, he caught 9 fish altogether, but unfortunately none of them were keepers. The first day he had quite a struggle with the 17 lb Jack Cravalli, but the Skipjack was no problem. Both these fish have very dark meat and not nice for eating. The next day only brought another Skipjack. On Thursday was Dinis best fishing, caught and release 3 Jack Cravalli fishes and 3 Skipjacks. We were hoping for another Mahi-mahi, but no such luck.
We were very impressed with the fast response times and professionalism of Barillas Marina. We sent an email just before leaving Huatulco in Mexico to get information on how to proceed when arrived. We received all the details and also the way point where to wait for the pilot boat. The 10 mile long channel into the lagoon is safe but can be tricky and requires a pilot. We arrived at the pickup point later than we expected 12 midnight on Thursday 27 January and drop anchor. The holding ground is mud which is good, but it was rolly. The pilot boat arrived first daylight on Friday and we made our way into the lagoon following him. It was quite an experience through the channel. The seas was on the beam for quite some time and we had quite a swell which caused it to be very rolly (gunhale to gunhale).
After the pilot boat tide us to the buoy, the marina person, immigration and customs came over. We filled in the required forms and the boat was inspected. This was the easiest, friendliest and most hassle free check in we had experience so far. We were transported to shore and then to the marina office to do the rest of the paper work, paid the entry fees and visited the restaurant/bar for our complimentary drink and also to try the famous pupusa. It was great. Mr Heriberto Pineda is determined that everything runs on time, he is familiar with Vancouver and his staff is very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately the marina is quite islolated, but the marina offers a shuttle bus for shopping in Usulutan.
One interesting point is, that checking into El Salvador, your visitor visa includes Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua if travel by land. By boat you will have to check into each country separately. This is great especially for us that want to do some traveling in Guatemala and Honduras. We are busy planning our strategy for visiting volcanos, ruins, coffee plantation and sightseeing. We will leave the boat in the marina and rent a car. The distances between these countries are very small.
For anyone interested in Barillas Marina below are the contact details
Mr. Heriberto Pineda
Barillas Marina Manager
Office 503 2632 1802, 503 2675 1131
Cellular 503 7871 1738
We cleared customs on Sunday 23 January at around midday and was ready to go. We had a weather window for 2 to 3 days to cross the Golf of Tehuantepec. Although the weather called for light winds we decided that we will keep close to the shoreline around 10 to 20 nm offshore. We had very little wind and only manage to sail for 3 hours on Sunday. Monday was another motoring day with about 2 hours of sailing, we had incredible bad luck with the fishermen during the night. They rig up around 5 km of line with buoys attached about every 300 meters, which is impossible to see at night. These buoys are not marked and some are marked at the beginning and the end with a black flag. During the day these black flags are quite visible but not at night. After the first running into the lines we decided to head further offshore (we were around 24 nm offshore) and still running into these lines. We decided that maybe we should head closer to land and this was great at about 4 nm offshore, but not before 5 times having to stop the boat and try to untangle the lines from the rudder. We were very lucky that no lines got stuck in the propeller. We switched the deck lights on to have a little more light on the water, so that we could spot these buoys and lines. We were watching the speed like a hawk and any drop in speed we immediately put the engine in neutral. We did not like cutting the lines as this is someone's livelihood, but we had to cut 1 line and also 1 fish hook on another line. We were totally exhausted with the lack of sleep, but Tuesday morning was a beautiful day and Dinis caught 2 fish, 1 17 lbs and another about 7 lbs.
We cross the Mexican/Guatemala border around 4 pm Tuesday afternoon 25 January. We had another motoring night, but kept about 4 nm offshore, had no problems with lines in the water and had a peaceful night catching up on sleep. Wednesday morning and afternoon we had another couple of hours of sailing. Most of the trip so far was motoring, but I rather have a safe trip across than having to deal with gale force winds.
Our ETA is Thursday afternoon. To reach the marina, one have to go through sandbars following a pilot boat. Due to daytime limit the pilot boats can only take you before 3 pm otherwise you have to anchor and wait for the next morning. This is most probably what we will have to do.
Oaxaca city is the capital of Oaxaca state. We arrived at 06:30 am on Wednesday morning 19 January after a very exhausting trip. The bus was very comfortable, but the roads had so many curves upon curves and speed bumps that it made sleeping impossible. We booked ourselves into a very nice hotel across the street from the bus station, had a shower, a hour or two sleep, breakfast and then off to explore.
The city architecture is Spanish colonial and very well maintained. The city is big, with lots of people, lots of plazas with flowers, trees and grass. Very beautiful.
The ruins of Monte Alban is one of the archaeological wonders of the world. The most beautiful Mesoamerican site where the Zapotecan culture flourished and remnants of their elaborate gold jewels made using the wax technique have been found. The archaeological zone has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
We have been very lucky to meet Mario Rodrigues (tour guide) on the bus to Monte Alban. Mario agreed to give us a private tour and his knowledge of history and the ruins are great. Without him we would have missed out on a great history lesson. Around 2 pm. we finished the tour, paid for Mario's tour said our good byes.
Back in Oaxaca city we went to the museum and the culture centre. Again the buildings were just breathtaking, with lots to see. By this time we were limping from all the walking.
On our way back to the Hotel we walked pass a seafood restaurant, Marco Polo. This was the best seafood we had so far. They cook the seafood in an outside wood oven, similar to a pizza oven. We arrived back at the Hotel just before sunset.
Thursday morning 20 January, after breakfast we went on another tour with a minivan to visit Tule (Millenial tree, widest tree in the world), Teotitlan (Town of woolen tapestries), Mezcal Factory (Oaxacan liquor distillery) and Mitla (City of the dead, fine arhitecture and incredible stone designs on its walls).
We enjoyed this trip tremendously and walked away with a small tapestry for the boat and a bottle of Orange Mezcal for special occasions.
We arrived back in Oaxaca city around 4 pm and decided that the Marco Polo restaurant is calling us back. After a early supper we walked around the city sightseeing and also killing time for our overnight trip back to Huatulco.
This whole trip including the 8 hours bus trips, the food, tours and hotel cost us about 280 US $, well worth it.
Huatulco town is the most beautiful coastal town that we visited, with buildings and roads very well maintained, and lots of gardens and grass. Prices for taxis anywhere in town is 20 pesos. The grocery store is nearby and trouble free. Restaurants are also reasonably priced. We walked around town away from the touristy spots and all very clean, no garbage and no smell.
We had great service from the Marina Chahue, especially Eduardo Acevedo Salinas. He came in on Sunday morning to help us re-arrange for customs to clear us out. Customs were busy and did not show up at the appointed time Saturday. Everything was arrange and all went smoothly.
We arrived in Huatulco this afternoon. We are currently moored at Marina Chahue, the first time we are back in a marina since Ensenada. We gave the boat a good wash, actually we washed the boat twice. Lots of salt and sand had accumulated.
We are planning a trip to Oaxaca to see the Monte Alban Ruins. We are taking the overnight bus tomorrow and will return on Thursday 20 January.
We will do another small provisioning on Friday and then clear customs and immigration in Mexico from here. We will then make our way to El Salvador (about 5 days sailing) depending when we get the weather window for the Gulf of Tehuantepec.
This little bay is by far the most beautiful bay we saw. We anchored for 2 days waiting for the winds to drop a little. The anchorage is expose to the south and the west, which cause it to be a bit rolly. It is protected from the north and the east where most of the bad weather comes from. During the nights the winds shift offshore so that the rolling is more of a up and down motion and not the side to side rolling.
The town is very clean, the buildings are maintained and no garbage. It is mostly a fishing town with a surfer feeling to it. There are lots of little shops, restaurants and a big super market.
We walked past a weaving shop where they make the most beautiful fabric. The gentleman operating one of the machines allowed us to video tape while he was working. This was very interesting. Make you appreciate the effort they put into their fabric, especially when they use different colour threats and patterns like on the video (will post the video at the next port). The weaving machines are made of wood.
During our sailing we saw lots of flying fish. They dart out of the water and skim the surface of the water for a considerable distance. I presume they are being chase by other fish.
We added 1 more stop (Puerto Angel) to our route to Huatulco, it was recommended by our friends Sylvie and David on S/V Puddytat. A small little bay and just as picturesque as Escondido Bay. It is just 24 nm east of Huatulco.
It is hot, hot !! We have all the fans going and only moderate relieve. We have an extra fan that Dinis wants to put in our V-berth. That will definitely be great. Our sail from Acapulco was great, beam reach half of the way before the wind dropped. Bahia Dulce is a bay just north of Acamama Point. This bay reminded us of Isabela Island, lots of birds and fish. There is a small fishing village onshore. We dropped anchor around 5 pm local time on Wednesday 12 January. The anchorage was protected from the north, west and east winds, but we still had a small swell from the ocean with us, which caused a rolly night's sleep. We left on Thursday morning for our overnight trip to Escondido and was amaze, the bay had hundreds of turtles. What beautiful animals, you notice them by the sun that shines off their shell. We manage to video record a turtle which gave a seagull a ride on his shell. The bird flew away when we came closer.
Acapulco was the least favorite city so far. We went ashore once to do provisioning and the rest of the time we spend getting the boat ready for the Golf of Tehuantepec.
The Golf of Tehuantepec can be very treacherous and you have to get a good weather window for crossing, especially this time of the year. If there is a high pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico then this causes the wind to funnel through a 30 mile wide gap and spreading out as it moves offshore on the pacific side. Another way is to hug the shoreline where the seas will be calmer.
Currently there is a gale blowing in the Tehuantepec (35 to 45 knots) and not clearing before Sunday/Monday. Our strategy is to make small trips until we get to Huatulco. We will anchor at Bahia Dulce (65 nm from Acapulco) then do a overnight trip to Escondido (117 nm from Bahia Dulce and then do the last day sail to Huatulco (57 nm from Escondido). We will stay there until the weather clear up.
We had a good rest and the weather forecast predicted good winds only for one day and then a couple of days with no wind. So we left around 11:00 am on a beam reach with 10 to 14 knots of wind. The seas were calm and we had an enjoyable sail. As predicted the wind dropped and we motored the rest of the way (20 hours). It was hot and all the fans were going to keep the boat breezy.
We arrived in Acapulco on Friday 7 January 2011 in the afternoon. This is a very busy place with lots and lots of high-rise hotels and tourists.
We did another top up of diesel and enquired about where we can leave the dinghy when going ashore. We were informed that we can leave the dinghy at one of the marinas for $35.00 US per day. This is just outrageously expensive.
Dinis did a cleanup of the windlass and the wind vane today, as salt gets stuck to everything and we want to prevent corrosion. Now all are nicely cleaned, lubricated and ready for the next leg of the journey.
We didn’t do any exploration of the town as yet. Will do that tomorrow.
We left Barra de Navidad around 9:00 am on Tuesday 4 January 2011 for Acapulco which is 320 nm south east. We had a beautiful downwind sailing day until 1:00 am on Wednesday morning when the wind dropped. From this time until we dropped anchor at Puerto Lazaro Cardenas, we had just about everything against us. Dinis says that a bad day sailing is still better than a good day in the office, but I can debate that. We had no wind, too much wind, wind on the nose, wind against the current which create steep swells and variable winds. For example, with the wind on the nose we tacked back and forth in good winds (15 to 17 knots) but could not make headway. Did 18 nm only in 6 hours. We decided to motor as then we can point higher into the wind, but still we only made about 4.5 nm per hour. We were tired from hoisting and dropping the sails and also from the not so comfortable motion of the boat, so we decided to change course to be more comfortable and head towards Puerto Lazaro Cardenas. We can rest and fill up with diesel and continue tomorrow morning for the second half of the trip if there is favourable winds.
Not all was bad though, dolphins gave us a spectacular florescent light show at night riding the bow waves. This was the first time I saw this and it was very special, wish I had a night video recorder. We also feel the weather changing, much warmer, 32 degrees Celsius in the boat. Had to put the fans running to move the air around.
Hopefully the second part of our trip will be more enjoyable.