Friday, January 2, 2015

Bahias de Huatulco and Acapulco

After we returned from our trip to Oaxaca City we provisioned and prepared to leave the marina. We had heard a lot of positive things about the national park system of bays which line the north and south coast of this region. Ramona and Jan agreed with Linda and Jim that La India was a must visit. 

We headed out to La India planning to spend a night or two. We spent three nights of complete bliss. The water was warm; snorkeling was great with coral beds and some of the best fish sightings we have seen in Mexico. The bay was well protected from swell and the beach was pristine. We swam daily from the boat to shore, walked the beach and swam back to the boat via the reefs and coral. Paul spotted some tracks in the sand. He followed them into the dunes and came upon a turtle nest. The bay is visited daily by tour boats with tourist interested in the beach and snorkel opportunities. This can sometimes be problematic with lots of music and motorized water toys disrupting the solitude. At La India the crowds were minimal, and the crowds were only there between 11am until 2pm. We generally camped out on the boat until all the pangas departed.

We pulled anchor the next day and headed to Bahia Jicaral for some diversity. We anchored, jumped into the water and swam about 50 yards off the boat into the reef area. Suddenly we were surrounded by jelly fish which proceeded to sting all exposed skin. We hurried to shore where we saw lots of jellies on the beach. There was no option but to return to the boat. The winds came up while we were nursing our welt covered bodies. The swell was so bad we could not get comfortable even with a stern anchor holding our position. We overheard our friends on the VHF that sv Liebling and sv Miss Gale were now anchored in La India. They reported that waters were flat and no significant jellies seen. We pulled anchor and returned to La India for a fourth night. Miss Gale hosted a gathering for the “fleet”. The six of us played cards in the spacious cockpit. It was a great evening before we departed for Acapulco the following afternoon.

The passage to Acapulco was calculated at 40 hours.  It took close to 48 as the seas were up and we hit a nasty counter current around Punta Maldonado. We arrived in Acapulco mid day and refueled before heading to the La Marina. The marina was full of large cruisers and their Mexican crew doing cleaning and maintenance. It felt like a “working dock” with hoses, cleaning supplies and boat stuff scattered around the walkways. Everyone was friendly and in general there were no complaints. We had a fun time exploring Acapulco. We went to the Caleta district for dinner the first night and checked out the super market across from the marina. The following day we explored the downtown by bus and later taxied to the coast to see the Cliff Divers. What an awesome experience. These guys are nuts! The third day we checked out the marine supply stores and provisioned for our departure the following day.

It was interesting to note that after our arrival a boat on fire was towed to our dock for assistance in extinguishing the fire. The morning of our departure we awoke to find a sporty runabout vessel which was tied in front of us on the dock sank during the night.

Bahia La India.  We had the bay and the beach all to ourselves
except for a few hours mid-day when the pangas brought
the tourists over.
Talos IV at the dock in La Marina Acapulco.
The Las Quebradas cliff divers.  They had to climb down the cliffs
to the water, swim across and then climb up the other side.
Once on top they did individual dives from the cliff.  Some did
straight swan dives, others did somersaults, and the grand finale
was a trio of divers all at the same time.  Fabulous!
We awoke our last morning to this boat tied up to the docks
in front of us completely submerged.  The only thing that
kept him from sinking to the bottom were the lines that
secured him to the docks.
Within about an hour a salvage team came, re-floated the boat
and towed it off.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Huatulco and our inland trip to Oaxaca

The first stop after catching up on our sleep was to walk into the town of Las Crucecitas. We love this town for the coffee, food and walk ability. It was good to be back and seeing lots of fresh vegetables, good meat markets and cheap street meat (taco stands). The last time thru we missed the opportunity to travel to Oaxaca. We contacted Joel Hoyt, a cruiser who lives here permanently now, to baby sit the furry crew. He was happy to help out and enabled us to book a bus ride and hotel for 4 nights.

The bus was premier class and had an estimated 6 hour run to Oaxaca. There are two roads to this colonial town. The main road (six hours) and the mountain road (8+ Hours). The mountain road is much shorter, but reportedly 100% likely to induce motion sickness and most probably a need to rid oneself of the last meal. I felt good about our decision to take the “good bus”. It was good up until we entered the hills about 90 minutes outside of Huatulco. We encountered standstill traffic and not a lot of information. After about 30 minutes Paul got off the bus to stretch. A Mexican man got off and asked Paul if he wanted to walk with him to see what the problem was. I saw the two of them going off on a mini adventure. They returned to report a student demonstration and road blockade with no chance of passage. The bus was stuck as there was no way for it to turn around on the narrow road with no shoulders. People started bailing off the bus and walking. We joined a group of 3 Mexicans and the five of us plus luggage shared a cab ride back to Huatulco. The taxi was very small; the driver was heavy on the pedal and slow on the brakes. When he did brake hard the wheels locked up and it felt like we were going to be ejected onto the road. While we were holding on for dear life the driver kept telling us he could take us all the way to Oaxaca for $1200 mxp. Can you imagine….8 more hours in an ongoing near death experience? We respectfully declined his offer and requested that he just take us to the bus station so we could get out money back.

The bus company asked us to contact the manager in Oaxaca for a refund. The Mexican group returned to the taxi and headed to Oaxaca without us. We went to the option B bus which takes the mountain road to Oaxaca. We were able to book two seats in the vomit comet over the rear axle and grabbed some Mexican tortas before we departed. I was wishing I had brought large zip lock bags……..but, as luck would have it we both survived without incident.

We stopped for a breather when we were past the jungle and almost out of the mountains. It was really cold and totally beautiful. I’m not sure of the elevation, but probably in the 5-6,000 range. There were lots of pine trees and the bus stop / diner was log cabin style with great vistas. We finally loaded back up and within a few more hours arrived in Oaxaca.

The hotel, which was recommended by Ramona was fantastic. It was colonial construction with lots of exposed rock walls, domed ceilings and beautiful patios and views. It reminded me a lot of Italy as the outlook was of church domes, red tile roof tops and small narrow streets. We had some tapas in the hotel bar and collapsed.

Our time in Oaxaca was spent walking the historical section, doing the museum, touring Monte Alban, the outlying historical/artesian communities and going to Hierve de Aqua. It was a full 4 days. The food was great, coffee plentiful and Monte Alban was a top pick for the both of us. One piece of unfinished business was the bus ticket refund and a bus ticket back to Huatulco. The bus company would not refund the ticket but did offer to sell us a return ticket for half price. We most certainly did not want to take the vomit comet back to Huatulco! We bought our discounted return tickets on the premier bus and got really choice seats right in the front. The ride home was definitely more comfortable.

We are now back in Huatulco and starting to do some brightwork on the aft portion of the toe rail and the starboard rub rail. We do our work first thing in the morning while it is cool. By mid morning we are done and head into town. Paul found a swim club a short walk from the marina. It is private and has a really lovely lap pool with 5 lanes at 25 meters. The coach allows us to use it for a small fee. We have been going a few days a week and the other two days we go to the hotel across the street for pool volleyball. Otherwise our days are spent about town by walking and doing our shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, taking lunch at the taco stands and hanging out.  

Janet enjoying breakfast from the rooftop cafe at the
Hotel Sotano.
The Oaxaca church.
The Oaxaca pedestrian mall.
Hotel Sotano.  It was a great place to stay for only $65 per night.
Our room at the Hotel Sotano.
Part of the museum in Oaxaca.
We popped into this alley to take a few pics.

Touring the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban was a highlight
of our trip to Oaxaca.
Like the Mayans, these guys were really into pyramids.
We also visited the Arbol de Tule.  They
claim it is the largest tree in the world, but being from California
where the giant Sequoias are, I was quite skeptical.  It is also
known as the tree of life as you can see various animal
figures in the wood if you look really close.
Just up the road was Teotitlan del Valle.  Everyone
in town is trained from their early childhood
to weave rugs the way the Zapotec's did.  This
is the yarn they make from sheep's wool and
color with natural dyes from local plants.
Janet of course had to buy one.  This is the brother of
the weaver who made the rug.  He is finishing it
off under her careful and watchful eye.
Paul looking a bit rugged at Hierve de Aqua.  The minerals
in the water create amazing travertine pools and flows.
Heirve de Aqua.
To not stop at the Mezcaleria would have been some kind of
crime.  They make the mezcal the same way the
Zapotec's did.
The last stop of the day was the Zapotec ruins in Mitla.
Janet was quite taken by the site.
Back in Huatulco, we made a one day trip with
Jan and Ramona from sv Jatimo to
Hagia Sophia, an amazing botanical garden.
The tour started with breakfast made from
the various tropical plants grown in the gardens.
Sharing a moment together at Hagia Sophia.
Half way through the tour we took a little break.  Paul
seems to be enjoying himself.
What would paradise be without its own private swimming
There was a secret cave back behind the waterfall.
Janet got some cooking tips from the cocinera while she
prepared our lunch.


It was really great the see Enrique and Memo, the marina operators up at the Marina Chiapas office. They work really hard to keep the facility running smoothly. There were about 8 other sailboats here, some had arrived from the north and some were re-commissioning after the summer. As the days went by more and more boats were leaving to head south.

Our departure to Huatulco was dependent on two things.  First, the winds and weather in the Tehuantepec and secondly our radar was not working and, as we had access to a marine electronics technician who did all of the electronics maintenance for the local Naval fleet, it made sense to make those repairs before continuing on.

A weather window was opening on Monday and we thought we had our opportunity to depart, but unfortunately the repair for the radar was going to take a bit longer than anticipated. So here we are in Chiapas waiting for the radar and the next weather window.

The delay gave us the opportunity to explore Tapachula, the closest city to the marina (about 20 minutes by a collective van) in a bit more detail than last spring. I am glad it worked out that way because my impression of the town last year was not favorable. Last spring the city streets were ripped apart and it just felt as if the whole place was in decline.  It was not a very pleasant place, or so we thought.  This time the repair projects had been mostly completed on the roads, the main city square was a place you might choose to hang out, and we discovered several good restaurants and an organic coffee café.

The radar repair set our departure back by at least 2 weeks. The extended stay allowed us the opportunity to travel with Linda and Jim from sv Liebling up to the coffee plantations. We went with a tour guide we met last spring and had a wonderful time seeing the mountains after the rainy season. The workers were gathering at the fincas with their families for the harvest. The fincas took on a whole different look with the children, couples and single men milling about. The mobile medical clinic was having a Sunday clinic at one of the fincas. The military police were there helping to transport supplies and provide security. It was an impressive turnout of patients and medical staff. Afterwards the police went up to the restaurant for coffee…unfortunately we advised them there were no donuts…..they let us take their picture anyway.

The weather window opened for passage a day after the radar was fixed. We ended up getting a used unit from Guatemala with the help of the naval technician and his Guatemalan friend. We didn’t ask questions about customs, importation or how it arrived across the frontier. The tech did not volunteer much explanation on logistics except that it should be a good unit. He installed it and it did indeed work!

We departed Chiapas on the second day of a 4 day weather window. Conditions were unsettling with confused seas at 2 meters but very short period swells which we went up against like a brick wall. We worked our way closer to the shore to get into more settled water at about the 40 – 50 foot depth. The accepted practice for transiting this section of the coast is to either stay “on the beach” or go direct. The conditions were too unsettled for the direct route. The passage took about 40 hours. We arrived a bit before dawn at the Marina Chahue entrance. There are a couple of really nasty reefs just off shore so we waited until we had daylight to enter. When we tied up it was good to see Ramona and Jan from sv Jatimo greet us.

A day or two later Jim and Linda arrived on sv Liebling. As luck would have it they reported their passage was absolutely flat water the whole way…..

Even though we had gone to see the coffee fincas last spring,
we enjoyed it so much, we made another run up with
Jim and Linda from sv Liebling.
It was great to escape the heat of the marina and get up into the
We ran into these Federales at the Hamburgo Finca.  They were
offering free medical services to some of the locals.
We posed for a picture with some of our new friends.
Talos IV the morning of our departure looking like she
is ready to be underway.
The Chiapas fuel dock.  We elected to fill our jerry cans and
haul them back by car rather than pull up to the barnacle
encrusted pier.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bahia del Sol to Chiapas

After crossing the bar coming out of Bahia del Sol we set our course almost due west for Chiapas.  It was about 8 AM when we crossed the bar, so we had a full day of mostly motoring until nightfall.  It was quite pleasant with calm seas and just a light breeze.  All of that came to a halt when at about midnight the rain and lightning started with a vengeance.  The rain was literally hammering down at a rate I would estimate at several inches or more per hour.  There was lightning all around.  The wind came up to about 20 knots or so, but we continued motoring as the wind was the result of the squalls and was up and down and coming from various directions as the system moved over us.  It continued like that until about 6 AM when the rain suddenly came to a stop.

Day 2 was much different.  It was a wonderful day with cooler temperatures and a 10 – 12 knot breeze off the beam.  We sailed most of the day making 5 knots or more.  About mid afternoon we calculated the remaining distance and our current speed and realized that unless we changed it up, we would arrive in Chiapas in the middle of the night.  We had to slow it up.  The solution was to fall off and tack out to sea for several hours and then back toward shore for several hours.  Our forward progress toward Chiapas was reduced to about 2 knots, but we were sailing at about 6 knots and having a great time.  Later that night when the wind died, we simply killed the motor and drifted for an hour or so until we had daylight and enough visibility to enter the harbor.

We made our way into the harbor and secured Talos IV to the docks.  Almost immediately the Navy and the Port Captain arrived to check us in and inspect the boat.  They had a dog with them, but we told them that they couldn’t bring the dog on board because of the furry crew.  They had no issues with that.  We offered coffee and cokes to them and their staff and all was good.  With the inspection and check in process completed we had officially arrived back in Mexico.

The bar crossing leaving Bahia del Sol was a bit more
exciting than when we came in.

Talos IV rode up and over each wave and then
surfed back down on the back side.

Return to El Salvador

First, I realize there is a big gap from our previous post and this post, but not to worry, we will do our best to fill in the blanks without getting too bogged down in the details.

In brief, we did leave Chiapas back in late February and made the 48 hour passage to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.  We had light winds, but managed to sail about half of the passage.  The most exciting part of the journey was crossing the bar into Estero Jaltpeque.  In the end, the bar crossing was pretty much a non-event.  We participated in the El Salvador Rally, which was a great way to connect with other cruisers and experience El Salvador.

Crossing the bar into Bahia del Sol was not for the faint of heart.
We were greeted at the marina by the staff and other cruisers
and of course a beverage on the house to welcome us
to El Salvador.  We cheated death once again.
We managed to make several inland trips.  One of the trips took us up into the mountains and coffee growing region of El Salvador to the towns of Juayua and Apaneca.  That trip included a thrilling zip line tour (check out the photos).  Another trip brought us across the border into Guatemala, through Guatemala City and into Antiqua and Lake Atitlan.  We were able to stay at a 7 bedroom mansion with several of our cruising friends, which turned out to be a most memorable event.  And, as part of the rally, we went with all of the other cruisers to Suchitoto, just outside San Salvador.  It was an absolutely wonderful trip.

We hung out at the hotel pool just about every afternoon.

We went on several dinghy adventures up and down the
We bought shrimp from the ladies at the fish market
on the dock in La Libertad.
We had a wonderful fresh fish lunch at a
restaurant along the estuary.
We toured El Boqueron, the volcano that sits on the
outskirts of San Salvador.
The guard at El Boqueron.  He looks menacing,
but he was really quite friendly and young.
We passed this guy on our way to Juayua.  He was bringing
firewood down the mountain on a sled that he steered
with his feet.  The wheels were nothing more than
skate wheels bolted on to a 2x4 and a brake that was
a stick that he drug on the ground to stop or slow down.
Janet enjoying a near death experience on the zip line
outside of Apaneca.
We stayed at a wonderful B&B in Joyua with Ken and Julie
from Kia Ora and Peter and Mary from Neko.
We stopped at Fernando Llorts gallery in San Salvador
on our way to Suchitoto.
We enjoyed dinner and beers at an absolutely wonderful
hacienda hotel in Suchitoto.  Notice Janet's newly hand made
indigo scarf.
The ladies went to the women's cooperative, where they
received instruction on traditional indigo dye techniques.
Janet is proudly displaying the scarf she made.
Janet strolling the streets of Antiqua, Guatemala.
Crossing the boarder from El Salvador into Guatemala took us
over this bridge spanning the river that marks the border.
A bit of bridge repair was underway, but in this part of the
world it's not a problem.
In mid-April we decided it was time to put the boat away for the summer and head back to Seattle.  We left the boat on a mooring in the care of Bill and Jean, the organizers of the El Salvador Rally and flew home for the summer.

In mid-October we headed back down to the boat.  It was quite the journey with both cats and four large duffel bags packed with boat stuff and our personal things.  We arrived back in Bahia del Sol to find Talos IV in excellent condition.  Bill and Denny had done an excellent job keeping her safe and sound while we were gone.

Talos IV was right where we left her, on the mooring in front
of Bill and Jeans house on La Isla.
Louie hanging out under our new rain tarps.
Tia claimed the companion way hatch cover.  Both of the
furry crew adapted well to our return to the boat.
We stayed on the mooring ball for the next two weeks getting Talos IV re-commissioned and all the “stuff” stored below decks. Having a rental car for the many trips into San Salvador made the re-commissioning and provisioning much easier than last season. Finally we were ready to depart and made arrangements with Bill and the Bahia pilot to guide us over the bar.

I thought we were going to get really wet. The bar was scary rough but the pilot set us up on the best course for the conditions. Paul was able to hold Talos IV in just the right position until we had a lapse in the sets of waves. Off we went….over the bar and on our way to Chiapas, Mexico!

Bill and Ezequel, the bar pilot took us out over the bar.
The bar crossing going out was a bit more intense than when
we came in, but Talos IV took it all in stride.
Talos IV surfing down the back side of the swell.  We were
on our way to Mexico.