Well, THAT was fun.

Marina Riviera Nayarit,
La Cruz, Mexico

When we left Chamela last Monday morning, we saw the only “hole” in the weather around Cabo Corientes would occur between 6:00 and 10:00 pm, when the winds would theoretically die down to less than 15 knots.  The forecast for the rest of the week was 20-25 knots for days. [Read more…]

Hola, Mexico!

Marina Chahue,
Huatulco, Mexico

Well, we made it, voyaging 522 miles over 76 hours across the dreaded and respected Gulf of Tehuantepec. It was the longest passage Ole and I have made together, requiring three overnight runs and constant monitoring of weather, and I must say, we picked a superb window.

Crossing Tehuantepec with Hitchhikers

We left Barillas Marina at 6:50 in the morning, and were guided out to the ocean waypoint by their panguero. The sea state was fairly calm, consisting of loooonnnnnggg 12-15 second Pacific swells of 4-6 feet, with the wind picking up each afternoon, peaking just before sunset, and subsiding throughout the night. We never had wind over 15 knots (actual), and it was mostly from the west or southwest. Occasionally the wind and swells competed with the current, resulting in a chop that reached 3 or 4 feet on top of the swells, but none of it was overly unpleasant – we just spent a few uncomfortable hours bucking like a bronco from time to time.

We had three scheduled “bailout” ports along the way in case the weather turned, and as we approached Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, Puerto Madero and Salina Cruz in Mexico, conditions looked great to just keep going. The challenge was to make sure we each got enough rest – sleeping 6 or 8 hours through the night is impossible on this kind of passage – so we just took turns standing watch, spelling each other with naps as needed.

Gertrude and Heathcliff, the Hitchhiking Boobies

We were joined by a couple of hitchhikers who jumped aboard somewhere around Puerto Madero and stayed with us for two days – we christened them Gertrude and Heathcliff…and in spite of arm-waving, horn blasts, and fierce yelling, they sat and shat all over the fly bridge, making themselves quite at home. I had to remind myself of “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” though, and not get too tough with them lest we anger the Tehuantepec weather gods.

Conditions were so favorable, we arrived at Marina Chahue in Huatulco and were alongside at 12:45 (our time) in the afternoon, in good enough shape to meet the neighbors, have a beer or two, and stay up until 10 pm. It’s now just past noon on Monday, April 19, and we’re still waiting for the officials to clear us in. They were going to come yesterday (but it was Sunday) at 3:00 pm, they were going to start coming at 11:00 this morning, but we haven’t seen a soul yet. Aah, Mexico!

Golfo de Fonseca — A Disappointment

Underway From Nicaragua to El Salvador

After an early morning visit by the Nicaraguan authorities, we took off at about 9:00 for a six-hour run to the Golfo de Fonseca, a large sound shared by El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. This was a must-visit place, as Ole ordered and had hand-delivered a chart for the area. The chart made it look interesting, as there were many islands and bays, and we envisioned gunkholing, swimming off the back, and poking around the beach. We arrived at an anchorage on the northeast corner of Isla Manguera, recommended by Roberto as a good anchorage, and not 15 minutes after we dropped the hook, the winds came howling off the island from the west, gusting up to 25 knots, and making it impossible to contemplate dropping the dinghy. The winds lasted until about 9:00 p.m., when it mysteriously calmed down.

Trying to Escape from Bahia Santa Elena

Bahia Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Two weeks later, and we’re still in Costa Rica. We’re in just about the northernmost protected anchorage, just an hour and a half run to Nicaraguan waters, nailed down by the winds.

Our Lonely Little Dinghy (Center) at the Fishing Pier in Ballena Bay

From Islas Tortugas two weeks ago, we did a short run to Bahia Ballena for a couple of nights. There isn’t much there, just a small village with a wicked (for us) surf landing, and a community pier where the fishing boats tie up. The tide range is a pretty wide 9 feet (from our Florida and Caribbean experience of inches), and tying up the dinghy required setting a stern anchor to prevent being sucked under the concrete pier during the incoming tide. [Read more…]

Our Canal Transit Partners Arrive, and We Avoid Disaster

Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama

In spite of the fact that Dale and Linda Bixler, of El Capitan in Brownsville, Washington, arrived on the 12th of November, we’re still here, watching the notorious Panama rainy season in process. It reminds me of the Ray Bradbury story about the astronauts stranded on a planet where it rains all the time – and they die, one by one, being smothered by rapidly growing plants, while they’re trying to find a sun dome to dry out. We could sure use a sun dome about now. It’s 10:17 in the morning, and it’s been raining hard for two and a half hours. [Read more…]

All Quiet on Emma Jo

Bocas Marina
Bocas del Toro, Panama

Life on Emma Jo is kind of quiet these days, with Ole gone and Jan reverting to her normal night-owl schedule, staying up ’til verrrryyy late (or early, depending on your perspective) and rising in mid-to-late morning.  The month of March, Bocas del Toro received something on the order of 30 inches of rain, most of it from the first to the 12th.  As the boat dried out, Jan turned her thoughts to varnish – the cap rail has for some reason blistered (gee, do you think it might have to do with something like 13 FEET of rain since November????) and the table on the back deck needs some attention.  But we’ll need more than just a day or two of dry weather to get anything done. [Read more…]

A Boat in Distress…and What to Do About It

Placencia
Belize

So after another wonderful day, we heard on the radio that there was a norther coming on Saturday morning, with expected winds from the northwest at 10-15.  As we sat Friday night over the rum and oj, we remarked to ourselves that heck, 10-15 was nothing, we were on the south side of the cay, and we could handle it.  We snorkeled the anchorage, and found we were set in sand on top of a hill in about 30 feet of water. The anchor chain lay across the top of the hill and gently circled down to the bottom at 50 feet before tracking back up to the boat.  We thought we’d be fine, as we had out 175 feet of chain.

About two miles away, in an area the chart calls Bread and Butter Cays (but the cruising guide calls Stewart Cay), we spotted another trawler, tried to hail them on the radio, but they must have been otherwise occupied.

At 11:00 p.m. on Friday night, Jan was up on the computer and Ole had just gone to bed, when, out of nowhere, the wind started blowing 25 with gusts to 30, out of the northwest.  So much for weather forecasting.

Ole shot out of bed, looked at the plotter, and found we had slipped anchor and our adrenaline kicked in.  [Read more…]

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Radisson Fort George Marina
Belize City, Belize

It is good to be sitting here at a dock where the only movement is from the unprotected passage of the trade winds and dive boat traffic with its resulting 2-foot chop and occasional bonk into the dock.

Why?

Because getting here was such a challenge, both physically and emotionally. And after the conditions we endured getting here, there is now no such thing as a bad anchorage or sloppy dock.

We left Bahia del Espiritu Santo at about 9:00 pm as planned, looking forward (?) to a 90-mile trip south toward a little hole-in-the-reef called Xcalac (pronounced shkah-LAK) to clear out of Mexico.

Ignorance is bliss.

Unfortunately, due to a loose nut on the chartplotter dial, our entry track from the previous day had somehow vanished, so we had to negotiate our way out of a very shallow lagoon in the dark. Not recommended, though Ole did a fabulous job. Once we got out into the briny blue, the wind picked up and the sea conditions deteriorated over the night, starting at 10 to 15 knots with 4-to-6 foot seas, and escalating to the point where the autopilot again went on strike. [Read more…]