Southern Mexico

April 14,2015

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After spending a week in Barra, waiting out the larger swell that was pounding the coast, we set out! Once again making our way south as slow and yet as fast as we can. The threat of possible early season storms is pushing us to bypass some of the anchorages we would have liked to stop at if we had started earlier. Most people who are making the trip down to Central America are already in El Salvador, or further. We and the few boats that are with us are bringing up the rear. It’s almost border line of how late we are traveling this far south. While we were in Banderas Bay, we learned that because it is/ was an El Niño year, and now it’s trending to turn into a La Niña, we might see storms developing earlier in the season, around May. So there is that. The plus side is we should have good weather windows to cross the Tehuantepec as the higher winds blow October through April.

Once we were out of Bahia Navidad, we turned south and fought a light head wind and a counter current. We could just barely make 3 knots with 15knts of wind in full sails and motoring. It was slow going but we made it to Bahia Santiago before dark.  When we were turning into the bay, Sv Orion was leaving, they were heading out to the next little bay just to the north. We were excited when they told us the water was clear enough to enjoy a dive or snorkel on the wreck that is located in the anchorage.  We were pretty pooped, and the sun was going to set within an hour, so we decided we would wait till the morning to check out the wreck.

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You think that we would have learned by now that if the visibility is good…. Get in the water!  It might take a few more missed opportunities before that lesson really kicks in. When Jon and I woke the next morning we were once again met with brown murky water. This algae bloom is following us! Grrrrr, what I would give right now for some clear f#$@ing water. Pardon my french, it’s just annoying.

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So seeing that the bay had nothing to really offer us and rather than going to the beach to spend money on food and beer, we weighed anchor and motored around the little point over to Las Hadas… Took us over 30 minutes to make that voyage…. One for the record books.

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Las Hadas is on the front cover of Sean and Heather’s Pacific Mexico cruising guide, and it has been calling to us all year. The waters were blue-er, and the white homes and resorts perched on the hill sides made us feel like we were in Greece. Plus we got to anchor next to Sv Enchanter! We didn’t think we were going to see those guys again when the left La Cruz.  Next thing you know the anchorage is full, mostly with boats heading for Panama.

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We did a town run, using the bus system was very easy with the help from Sv Gaia, who had done it before. After we were stocked up on all the good stuff, we took a cab back. I really enjoyed the town of Manzanillo, it as small but big and everyone was very polite. It had everything we needed and then some. We did not spend much time ashore in Las Hadas, we did however spend a lot of time on boats, everyone was inviting everyone over for food and drinks. It even turned into a Boat crawl one night,  starting at one boat then dinghying to the next, then the next! I feel like we partied every night… Once again breaking our no drinking during the week rule. But with good friends who you might never seen again, it’s always worth having a good time and cheering to safe passages!

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Before you know it, you have been in once place for over a week, and the hurricane season is only getting closer, so we said our goodbyes to friends going in different directions, and said see ya soon to the others heading south liked us. Jon wanted the next passage to be non stop to Zihuatanejo, I however said that I really wanted to stop at Caleta de Campos. We have passed so many of the other small anchorages, and I did not want to miss this one! The pictures looked amazing, and welcoming. So we starting making the 127nm trip to the little bay in the middle of no where, 26 hours later after motoring on the Pacific Lake, we were anchored in the bay. It was so dead flat calm out there, so we were shocked about the amount of swell and surf inside the bay. The idea of going ashore to explore was out of the question, unless we were willing to sacrifice Falkor in the large surf beach landing, which we were not.

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We set a bow and stern anchor to keep up into the swell, which helped a lot, and launched Falkor to explore the bay by water. I had read that there was a great blow-hole to check out, so we got in and set off to check it out.  However, because of the swell we found it not really “safe” to be out there so close to the rocks that were getting pummeled by the seas, at least not without the attached tubes ( we took them off at the last anchorage to make chaps and have not put them back on). So before we could make it out to the little island, we turned around before we got swamped. Oh well.

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With about 70nm between us an Isla Grande, we decided to leave that night.  Our passage was a smooth one, we in fact got to sail most of the way! It was so nice to not listen to the motor all night. We got to Isla Grande by mid morning and anchored next to SV Gaia, and a large power boat. The view was beautiful, the water was clearer and we could not wait to get in and explore. But like after most night passages, exhaustion got the best of us, and we found our selves having a lazy day aboard, enjoying the sun and the view, we said we will explore manana. Well after a full nights sleep, Jon decided he wanted to get to Zihuatanejo, and he wanted to leave asap. I had a SUP session in mind, a nice walk on the beach and island, plus we needed to get some footage for the videos. So I went for a paddle around the anchorage, while Jon got some drone footage of the island. About 15 min later I was making my way back to a frantic Jon, he was yelling at me to hurry and help him. He lost sight of the drone.

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Yep you read correctly, he lost the drone. He said the IPad went black with zero warning that it was losing connection. Yes these new drones have a “come home” feature, but for some reason it did not work this time. And because the iPad would not reconnect with the drone, we had no way to hit the “come home” button. LAME FEATURE! Of corse the “pro” version has a “come home” button on the actual controller, so no matter what you can hit it! But nope not ours. So we set out on a search and rescue mission. Right before it lost connection, Jon new he had over 60% of battery left, so there was a chance it could be hovering somewhere, as he did have it set up to hover 5 feet above ground level till it runs out of battery. Oddly enough when we got in the dinghy we could see a bleep on the map of where the drone might be. We rowed as fast as we could to the area, it was in the water. We could see down to the bottom, but there was no drone there. Ok we thought the drone is gone forever, but let’s ask any of the beach goers if they saw anything.

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Sure enough as we started making our way on the beach, the little bleep on the map moved. HOLY COW! We are going to find it!!!  We wacked our way though trees till we were on the other side of the island ( it was only about a 3-5 min walk, so don’t let me fool you into thinking we were bush walking for hours) The first person we came across, saw the controller around Jon’s next, and the iPad in my hand and the weary looks on our faces, and he told us ” the helicopter is over there” He pointed to the beached filled with people and palapa restaurants. We thought “Just great, we probably hit some billionaires son or daughter in the head while they were enjoying their lovely vacation on the beach.” We walked and waited to be bombarded with angry parents, but instead we  saw our drone sitting at a table with 5 people guarding it. We rushed up with joy, till we saw it was drenched. We asked in broken Spanish if it hit anyone, when they answered no we were truly relieved. The woman sitting at the table let us know that her husband, who was a diver and takes people out snorkeling saw it hovering above the water for a while, then when it went in, he dove down and got it. He even said the blades were still spinning when he brought it back up. He told us where he had found it, which was the area Jon and I searched in the dinghy. He must have gotten there just before us. The locals tried to tell us that we needed to pay him for his services, a total of $1000.00 Pesos, which comes out to over $60 USD. We  told them no way, that because it went into the water it was not even worth that much. Once the diver came back, he, whose name was Jesus, said he didn’t want our money. Not to mention we didn’t bring anything with us, as we left the boat in a hurry.  Once we were back at the boat, we gave Jesus $200 pesos as a thank you, he was beyond happy, and we were left to sulk and bitch about our very water-logged drone.

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We left Isla Grande about 2 hours later, and had a great hop over sail into Bahia de Zihuatanejo. We were very excited to pull in and anchor next to SV SUMMER. We met Jen and Johnny back in 2014, and we brought in the year 2015 together in Cabo San Lucas. But after Cabo we went our separate ways, and had not seen them since. Keeping in touch we had been hoping to run into them somewhere along the way, and this was the place!  However, they were on their way out, so we only got to hang with them for 2 days. We hope to run into them again someday.

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Jon and I fell in love with this little town very fast. Everything about it was just adorable and inviting. SV Oleada sailed in the next day and anchored next to us. We loved the fact we could jump in and enjoy the clear blue water for the first time since Chacala. Josh would hit the surf, while Jess and I would take the paddle boards out for a trip around the bay, and Jon got some serious editing done.

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In town, right off the beach, along with all the restaurants and shops, there is a Humane Society for local cats and dogs. They have kittens out front that are up for adoption, which I would visit everyday, and plead Jon into adopting one. I have wanted a boat cat for I don’t even know how long. But we decided a while ago, that we would adopt a kitten that truly needed our help. Theses kittens were well fed, and it is a non-kill shelter. Little did we know, the next day we would come across our newest crew member.

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We went to shore with Jess and Josh, in search of a grocery stores and needed a few other supplies in town. About an hour into our search, Josh HAD to stop and eat. We followed our noses and found a very small pace filled to the brim with locals eating the only thing they served, pork tacos. Josh ordered a few, while the rest of us didn’t think we were hungry yet. We set off to find a place in the shade to sit, which brought us to a little street around the corner, and once Josh opened up his lunch and started eating, the rest of us found our mouths watering, so  Jess and I headed back to the taco shop to get tacos for all of us. After we were all done eating, I spotted a cat run across the street, then shortly after, I see this little tiny blob of white, orange and grey fur, jet out and run to the street almost getting hit by a car. I run over, and this little dirty kitten had both its eyes glued shut by an infection, but it then walked right towards me. Oh my was I a goner.

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Needless to say the day turned into finding a vet. Thank goodness for Jess and her Spanish, because the vet did not speak a lick of English, and because I know zero Spanish when it comes to talking about animals and what not, she was able to translate what the vet told us to do. We found the kitten on Calle (street)  Benito Juares, so we decided to call her Benita, which the vet found funny as there is a cartoon in Mexico Called Top Cat about a cat named Benito. Any ways the vet told us, that she was about 4 weeks old, and seemed to be in good health considering. He told us what we need to feed her, and get her hydrated again, then in a few days we would wash her eyes with cold water, and the infection would go away on its own.

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She was covered in fleas, so we found a box, and a towel. I carried her around all day as we shopped for this little kitten. Once we were back at the boat, we did what the vest said, and I woke every hour to make she was still breathing. Jon made fun of me because I was like a worried first time parent.  I spent the next to days picking and coming fleas off her tiny body, as we watched her come to life. Just like the vet said, her eyes cleared up, and she started acting like any other adorable kitten. But now she is just so darn adorable, I don’t get anything done during the day because all I want to do is play with her!

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Anyways, back to the lovely town of Zihuatanejo. We stayed for about a week and we truly enjoyed every person we ran into and talked with. But like always with this season, we needed to keep heading south.

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The next passage was the 2nd longest passage we have ever done. Most people who leave Zihuatanejo head for Acapulco. That is where we were heading as well, until however we heard that just 2 days prior, some people were murdered on the beach and the area in general is not that safe. The town apparently is a night club hot spot for wild young locals. As we are not really into being murdered, or partaking in night clubs we decided to bypass the bay. We stocked up, and prepared our selves for 4 days at sea. Our next stop would be the many bays of Huatulco.

The passage it’s self was a doozie besides all the heavy traffic,  it took us 75 hours to get to our next stop. We pretty much motored the whole way other wise we might have been out there for God knows how long and most likely drifting back north.

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There are about 9 different bays that you can anchor in and hang out till it is safe to cross the dreaded Tehuantepec, and we were looking forward to exploring them all. With our fantastic luck of being able to stop at every anchorage in all of mainland Mexico and the beautiful clear water we had all season ( can you feel my sarcasm?) We would have perfect weather and water for all  of these open and exposed anchorages.

Yea no, just like everywhere else, we were forced to keep moving. An annoying southern swell and wind and picked up the day we got to the first set of bays. Jon and I started to head into the first one, Puerto Angel but the swell was turning the entrance of the bay into a white wash foaming death obstacle that I simply did not want to bother with. So we said let’s check out any of the other 8 bays to see of any of them look inviting. Luckily with the wind we were able to sail for a while, but as we bypassed each bay seeing that none of them would be a safe or comfortable for the night we decided we would have to head for Bahia Santa Cruz. The largest and apparently the most protected, but we would not make it by night fall at the slow sailing speed we were going. We only had about 7 miles to go, and about 2 hours of light left, so we motorsailed the rest of the way there, and found the guide books to be a little more than confusing about where we could or could not anchor.

There are 3 “lobes” if you want to all them that, in this bay with a huge cruise ship dock smack damn in the middle, making anchoring a little tight. With the help and advise from the other boat, we were able to anchor and tuck in behind a little point. We set a stern hook to keep us from swinging into the rocks and or the main channel.  The anchorage on this side is pretty much ALL coral! We couldn’t believe it, we luckily though somehow found the sandy spot and set our anchors there to avoid damaging any of the coral.

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THIS BAY IS AMAZING!! We finally had clear warm waters, fish and coral right under our boats, white beaches and, AND an adorable town to explore! Jon and I were in pure bliss, with the sun out, kitten healthy and playing and the boat happy as could be with new oil and filters, we were getting geared and rested up for the great Tehuantepec crossing.

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We had been watching for months the different scales of T-peckers that would blow. For those who do not know, the Gulf of the Tehuantepec, it is notorious for having gale force or stronger winds that build enormous seas that can be felt as far as 500 miles off shore. These T-Pecker blows can build within 7 hours, and last for a week. The bay is over 200 miles,  so the crossing takes 2-5 days making the possibility of getting caught in one dangerous. Many boats have had no problem crossing this massive bay, and others have not been so fortunate.

Hearing stories from others who had crossed and all of a sudden had 50 plus knots blowing everything off their decks and knocking their boats I was on edge about this crossing. There is nothing that scares me more than big seas! The only thing that kept my fear from telling Jon to have a safe crossing and I would see him on the other side ( as I would take a bus or something) was the fact that the months of April and May are the calmest months, and that we were going to take the shoreline route. The shore line route adds about 50 miles to the passage, but it gives you the safety margin to be close to shore and not out at see with the large fetching waves, just in case a t-pecker does start to blow.

We set off with a few other boats, I think 5 of us of us were out there, 3 boats went straight across, while SV Oleada and us took the inshore route. Better safe than sorry.  During our passage a t-pecker did not develop, and those to went straight across got to the other side safe and a day ahead of us, they did have to motor the whole way though. We however only had to motor about half the way. We got some great shots or Oleada under way with the setting sun and the gulf behind them.

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Benita, our newest crew member, was born for the sea.  It’s almost as if she doesn’t even realize we are sailing, or moving. She stays in pure bliss the whole time, playing, sleeping, eating down below or sun bathing and exploring in the cockpit while we are on watch. Luckily she is too small to climb up or over the combing. She is growing so fast thought, it will only be a matter if time before she will want and can explore the rest of the boat.

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Once we make it to Puerto Madero, which is now called Puerto Chiapas, we were planning on anchoring in one of the basins, but first we needed to check in, and get our inspection. No matter where you are coming from, you have to get an inspection from the military when you come into the port. They asked us to head to the fuel dock as were were not going to go to the marina. It was low tide and the fuel dock is made for large tugs or fishing boats, we looked at the option and decided that there was no way we were going to tie up to that without causing damage to our boat. They said our only other option was to go to the marina.  Okay…… To the Marina we went.

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What a nice marina it was, the staff was there to catch our lines, and they put us across from Oleada (they got there a few hours before us). We first met with customs, who showed little interest into our new kitten, he didn’t even ask for her paperwork ( not that we had any yet and she is to young to even get shots or anything), he simply checked us in and went about his day. Next was the military and k-9 inspection. They were very friendly, and the dog seemed more interested in having water and finding shade than inspecting our boat. Once we were all check in, Jon and I were going to head back to the anchorage, but the ease of being tied to a dock, and the amount of projects we needed to do, that would be easier with 110v power made us  ponder about just staying for 3 days, after all we heard that it is a “cheaper” marina.

Oh dock life, how easy you are. Next thing you know, we had been invited by Jess and Josh to spend 3 days up at a Finca Resort. Oh man, I felt like we were living the high life. So the next day we piled into their rental car and made our way up, out of the blistering heat and into the rain drenched mountains. Shawna from SV Serina was nice enough to watch and feed Benita for us while we were gone, THANK YOU SO MUCH SHAWNA!  As we pulled into Argovia, Jon and I couldn’t help but feel the ease of life on land. Having a bed, shower, real toilet, unlimited amount of power, a porch and so on, it was so nice. We were looking forward to being pampered for the next few days and enjoying the resort. Jess has known the owner Bruno for a while, and he was nice enough to to come up and give us a personal tour of the coffee plantation, that has been in his family for 5 generations.

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I had NO idea the amount of time and work whet into making coffee. It honestly blew my mind! The way Bruno and his family have been growing beans and processing them goes beyond just producing a product that is good, but a way of life that is just beautiful. He described it as being immersed into nature, slowing down and listening to the world and what it has to offer. It was pretty amazing, and I would recommend everyone to take a trip there.

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While we were there, Jon took the ” immerse into nature” a step further.  Jess, Josh, Uly (their dog), Jon and I took a short walk down to one of the rivers and the pool it makes just off the path. Uly wasted no time to jump into the cooler spring water, while Jon was the only one wearing a bathing suit, he got in to check it out as well. We were just about to head back, when we hear Jon say ” Ouch!” As he is swatting at his feet. Apparently some red ants were not to happy with where he decided to stand. Not thinking anything about it, as he has been bit by ants before while working on the TV show Motion, we continued our way back up to the resort. Along the way, Jon said he was feeling a little light headed. We all blamed it on the fact it was warm, we had not have a lot to eat, nor did any of us bring water ( it was a very short hike), plus he had had some real coffee and quite a lot of it. ( Jon gave up drinking real coffee a few months ago and switch to drinking decaf). Once we were back at our bungalow, Jon stated he was feeling worse, and he was going to take a shower. Once he took of his shirt, I told him it HAD to be a cold shower and I was going to go search for some Benadryl. Jon was blotchy red and his lips and cheeks had swollen. EEEK! I rushed down to Jess and Josh to ask if she had any benadryl, Yes she did. When I got back to our room, I found Jon in the shower, with steaming hot water cascading down his hive covered body. Oh man did I Yell at him. ” I SAID COLD!!!!!!!!!!” Jon did not know that a hot shower would send his allergic reaction into high gear.  Oh my, his body was flush and with red blotches everywhere and his face we getting bigger. Lucky he said he had no problem breathing, but his mouth felt funny. I could only imagine why. With a good dose of the antihistamine, we set off to the front desk to ask if any other guest have had this type of reaction to the ants. They said they had never seen it before, called a doctor and gave Jon a different type of antihistamine. We then went to dinner and some of the local wait staff had some home remedies to help. They told him to drink pure lime juice, and to rub pure garlic on the bite marks. Once we were eating dinner, we could see the swelling go down, an the hives disappeared.  All of the staff were very nice, even giving us their direct number in case something were to happen during the night. Once the antihistamine was in full effect, Jon was asleep before I could even say goodnight, it was pretty amazing that he made it through dinner. The next morning all was right in the world, his foot still hurt but it was manageable. That was till later in the day, till the pain made it so he found it hard to walk. He was then pampered. More garlic, a glass of Milk ( which also helps in some way said the locals), he was ordered to lay back in the hammock with his foot up. As you can imagine Jon was not one to argue with all these women waiting on him hand and foot. Haha see what I did there! His foot, because they were really waiting on his foot! Ok ok.. Well after a while he felt better and we continued with our tour, ending at Bruno’s house which has an amazing garden!  As Bruno is describing each plant and the different use each one has ( which is also amazing!), wouldn’t you know it, Jon gets bit again! He looks down and red ants are all over his feet. This guy cannot catch a break. He immediately puts his foot into cold water, and we give him the antihistamine right away. He is going to live. We head to dinner after thanking Bruno for everything, and call it an early night as the sleepiness hits Jon full force this time.

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The next morning we wake, Jon is fine, we head to breakfast, and start to say our goodbyes to everyone at the resort. We pack up and hit the road. Because we had the car, we all decided that a stop at the store would be wise. But once we got there, we realized that the car was filled with camera gear and bags from our mini 3 day vacation. So we opted for some lunch, and waited out a huge rain and lightning storm. We even witnessed a bolt hit the building causing all the electronics to shut off and causing the lights to flicker. Whoa. We drove back to the Marina, expecting the rain to follow us.  Nope no rain at the marina, dry as a bone.

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The next day, Jon and I started on the never ending list of projects and boat maintenance. Working nonstop for the next 2 days. When Friday came around, we realized that there was a good weather window, and we cannot check out on the weekend ( unless you are willing to pay double), but we wanted to leave either Saturday or Sunday. So we joined the group of 5 other boats who were also checking out. I will say that Marina Chiapas makes the checking out process very easy, VERY easy. It is a 4 Step process, first you go to customs, then you go to immigration, then the port Captain, then the military comes back out to do the final inspection.

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We did all the paper work on that Friday, and scheduled for the inspection to take place at noon the following day. Once your inspection has been completed, you have 2 hours to leave the country. We pushed that boundary by at least an hour :/ Oops.

Okay, so checking out cost:

Customs- $0

Immigration- $118.00 pesos

Port captain- $261 pesos ( this amount depends on the tonnage of your vessel)

Marina Chiapas-  $255.00 USD (that one hurt) it was $.80/ft, plus $10.00 for power, plus tax. But they did make check out easy, so I guess that it’s worth it. Plus the marina is one of the cleanest I have ever seen!

Holy cow, and just like that we are done with Mexico!

Benita is turning into the perfect boat kitty!

Benita is turning into the perfect boat kitty!

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