Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Huatulco, Mexico to Nicaragua.

Huatulco...pronounced 'Whatulko', The Marina Chahua is a very pleasant place to stay. The people who work here are friendly and helpful. Clearing out took a little while but was far better than clearing out of Mexico from La Paz. For example in La Paz, it costs about 1500 pesos according to rumour, (divide by 12 to get US$), and takes two days. The Customs, Immigration and the Health department visit your boat. Now what we don't understand is why the Health department visit you when you are leaving...they aren't interested in you when you arrive!? :-)
The little marina in front of the Port Captain's office.
Anyway, in Huatulco you go to the Port Captain and fill in some forms, they'll take photocopies of your boat import papers, boat registration, the crew list and info including engine serial numbers. Then you go to immigration and you fill out immigration forms, they want to see your passports and FM3's or visas...they'll take photocopies of  the passport and visa, and they tell you when they'll be down to visit your boat..........then, David went off to the bank to pay 205 pesos and get a receipt, walked back to the Port Captain who stamped various papers and and gave him a Zarpa. Then it's back to the Marina office to tell them when Immigration will be down to see the boat...they will then phone customs to let them know so that they can time their visit a little later. Just after 6pm Immigration arrived....not too bad. They gave us more forms to fill out..like the kind you get on a plane...They are friendly and efficient. It really helps to have a printer/copier on board as copies of the Zarpa, the temporary importation, and maybe your passport and visa's will be expected again...Shortly after they left the Customs people arrived and did an inspection tour of the boat. Personally I think they just like to see
what the boats look like inside, because the one guy kept on saying.." Wow so much space down here :-)". This visit costs 300 Pesos, paid to them on the boat....no receipt...They take a copy of the Zarpa and note what approximate time you are expecting to leave and that's it...off they go.
A street in Huatulco.
These trees are one big orange light
A hotel at the square by the Port Captain.
It was now close to 8 pm and we were hungry so We walked into town, found a little pavement restaurant and had a great supper..the total cost for David's and my food and 4 beers was 105 pesos..whoo hoo how's that for economic, plus, the food was great...After that we went to the Super Che and bought some groceries, taking a cab (20 pesos) back to the Marina.

Puddytat in Huatulco Marina.
20:01:2011   This morning at 09:30 we left the marina after our laundry was returned..oh yes that's another story. if you want your laundry done it costs 15 pesos a kilogram..kewl you think, that'll save me from messing about doing it by hand on the boat, (even though it's 13 pesos in towns further north), The 15 pesos is for clothing  and small mats, sheets and towels..however, if you want pillows washed, they cost 30 pesos each, a blanket or duvet will cost 80 pesos each. We checked in the local Super Che (supermarket) two new soft pillows cost 85 pesos...we couldn't find any firm ones to price...ha ha..but hey, why wash them if you can just buy new ones, for almost the same price? Though I must admit our pillows are of a much better quality than those....To continue; if you drop your washing off at the Marina office it costs 15 pesos a kilogram...BUT if you ask them to collect and deliver from your boat they will charge you 20 pesos a kilogram, a 25% increase in the price!...so be advised.
We started the engines at about 25 past 9 released the lines from the dock and left...for Nicaragua....It's about flipping time! :-D
Bye bye Mexico.
Fish feeding frenzy..

The distance to travel to our next way point, a point across the other side of the Gulf  of Tehuantepec, (not Nicaragua), is 268 Nautical Miles and at this speed of 6 knots should take us 40 hours...but the distance to the centre line...marked in blue flags...is about 65 miles...so at 6 knots it will take us about 11 hours to get to that centre line where the wind would be strongest ...that's midnight tonight as it's 12:50 as I write this....then we'll have another six hours left before the wind hits us...we'll only be about 36 NM over that center line but at least the wind will be coming from our port quarter...(kinda on the side and a bit behind us) which is perfect as it will push us along ...so that's the theory...now we have to wait and see if it works out.. :-D...The 'NOAA weather' forecast is as of 06:00 tomorrow we are expecting 20 to 30 knots of wind, 8 ft seas, that's the 36 and 48 hour forecast...the 'Passage Weather' forecast says..mainly 20 to 30 knots starting at 09:00, but there is a small area of wind of 35knots lasting for about 3 hours starting at 09:00....David says that by then we should be beyond the 35 knot area...It will be interesting to see what winds and waves we get and compare them to the forecast...we're lucky this time because it will happen during daylight hours...although we do have a full moon at the moment.......

We are ready for any wind. David has lifted the dinghy a little higher in the davits and tied the stern steady to Puddytat, this stops the dinghy from rocking back and forth and side to side.
Dinghy..The Limo..lifted in the Davits.
The Kayak is tied at each end and across the middle..the other dinghy on the tramps is well tied down to the tramp.
Kayak is tied down.
The surf board has a new home on the bimini top in the forward position so it can't catch any wind and it's tied down in three places.
The surf boards new home.
The hatches are battened down, the hank-on lines have been laid out from the cockpit to the centre of the teak walkway on the bow, the EPIRB is in position and David checked that it's working, the diesel tanks are full, but we only have two jerry jugs left as the ergonomics of filling up with fuel in Huatulco was complicated..we would have had to use a taxi...so we are definitely ready.
The dinghy, Flea, is well tied and the yellow safety line is in place.
When we were in the marina people told us that we should double the forecast winds to get a good idea of what to expect. David says NOAA gives a good significant wind speed, but we can expect gusts of around 36 knots. As for the wave heights with NOAA forecasting 8 feet we could find up to double that, but they're going to be rare occurrences...ALSO everyone is advised to sail along the coast hugging it to the extent of almost having one foot on the beach...this is to limit the amount of fetch ( waves being built up by wind). The waves can make the sailing experience very uncomfortable. By hugging the coast and going into and along the Gulf's shore you are putting the wind onto your bow for a much longer period of time, and adding about 85 miles onto the trip that is already 268 NM long. Catamarans do not go into wind as well as mono hulls, and it's an uncomfortable way to sail.
Our course across the Gulf  of Tehuantepec..Blue flags show winds course.
Anyway we have decided to go against the scaremongers and cut straight across the Gulf...time will tell....We've also decided to stay between 30 and 70 miles off the coast as we've been told that the navy will visit and board any boats within 10 miles of the coast near Puerto Madero, ( the last 'clearing out' of Mexico town if you're going south...and the first 'clearing in' town if you're coming north), and they have done serious damage to various boats during this process...we don't want our boat damaged...we are legally cleared out and not stopping in Guatemala anyway......At the moment we have no wind and are motoring...still doing about 6 knots. Earlier we were fighting a 1 knot current but that seems to have turned and is now aiding us...
Another turtle, sans hitch hiker.. :-)
We are again going through lots of turtles...they seem to be just hanging out traveling with the current..kinda like in "finding Nemo" but not so fast... ;-D
I'm going to be cooking steak for lunch today...I have some great veg already prepared in the fridge..I think I'll do french fries to go with them......while I'm preparing that I'll bake a Chocolate Brownie cake for night watch...El Capitan just lurves chocolate brownie.. ;-) Whoo-hoo David thinks there are whales outside.....he's checking with the binocs...nah he says...dolphin jumping high out of the water..pooh and they are too far away to see well.
After our very tasty lunch I stood watch whilst David did the dishes, and the chocolate fudge brownie cooled. Then he had a nap in the sun..he looked so comfy and relaxed. I sat in the helm seat keeping an eye on everything till he woke up and then I went for a nap. I always try and nap for at least an hour in the late afternoon when we are sailing long distances.
Afternoon nap time :-)
My watch is from 20:00 to 02:00 and if you're tired you make stupid mistakes. So I follow the adage...look after yourself and you will be able to look after others. I came upstairs just before sundown and we just had to indulge in a slice of cake and a drinkies...this is the life I say.
They're always different..
At about seven, 19:00, I said to David why don't you go to sleep, catch an extra hour..you never know you may need it...Good idea he thought so soon I was alone in the cockpit.
We'd been doing really well speed wise. The winds sat at between 8 and 10 knots, we had that 3 knot current running our way and so had been doing speeds of 7 to almost 9 knots.
15:46 on the 20th Jan.
We would be across this Gulf in no time at this rate. As the night wore on the wind slowly dropped. We'd had one engine on for a while to augment the speed. Our course takes us  about 70 miles offshore, we cross over the centre forecast line of these winds between 20:00 and 21:00. I give a whole hour because the line is not exact, it's just a guide and is, in all probability a few miles wide. This is 3 hours ahead of when we thought we'd cross, thanks to that current. When I hand over my watch to David the wind has died to nothing, the seas are mirror smooth, we're only doing 5 knots but we are 30 NM from that projected line. So these 35 knot winds that everyone said you have to double to get an accurate idea of what will happen in actuality, are supposed to start anytime between 06;00 and 09;00, by that time even at 5 knots we'll be at least 60 NM from the line and still about 70 Nautical miles offshore...so if a wind was to rise up at 35 knots it would still take some extra time to get out to us and in the process most likely diminish in strength.

Sunrise 21st Jan 2011.
I'm up from my nights sleep and it sure was a good rest. David switched off the engine at about 07:00, I didn't hear that :-), and we have been sailing at between 3.5 and 5.5knots. At 04:00 this morning David started our second Log book on Puddytat.

10:30 David just put the spinny up, we were going really slow. So now we are back up to 5.5 knots with a 7knot true wind off our Port aft quarter...basically from the gap in the mountains from where we were expecting that 35knots.

Our position on 21st Jan at 14:44.
I can hear you saying, "These guys are crazy, everyone knows you should hug the coast and....yes they've got lucky with the lack of wind so far, but what if......" I think at this point of the narrative I should make a few things clear....In thirty five knots of wind we would have two reefs in the main and two reefs in the genoa, provided of course we are not doing much more than 15 knots S.O.G (speed over ground)...if we go faster we'd drop the main and sail on Genoa alone set at the third reef. Puddytat is well able to handle these conditions, we know this because we experienced winds of up to 40 knots when we were crossing the Northern Pacific, where we actually saw speeds of 18.5 to 19 knots S.O.G. In the Hawai'ian Islands we often sailed in 45 knot winds and We also experienced 30 knots in the Sea Of Cortez sailing down from San Fransiscito to Santa Rosalia. ....and that's just on this boat. In the Atlantic on our previous boat, a 36ft mono hull, we experienced 45 knots, driving icy rain and short 12 to 15 ft seas off the Spanish coast at night. I've sailed in 30 to 55 knots winds off the East coast of Africa, in high seas, twice in mono hulls and once in a 38ft Catamaran. Together David and I have also have dealt with high winds on the South Coast of England and also even though we were anchored at the time we experienced Hurricane Delta as it tore it's way through the Canary Islands in 2005. We always make sure that our boat is in excellent sailing condition, we do long watches to enable the other to get a good sleep and then we also nap whenever we can so that we stay rested and we eat and drink well to keep up our strength. If you look after your boat she will usually look after you just fine. Quite a few people give up on their boats far too soon.

I also don't like scaremongers, they put such unnecessary fear into people. I agree that one should be cautious and work out the pros and cons of a certain decision, but if everyone believed the scaremongers no-one would venture out to see and experience things for themselves....for example, there would be no 'North America' as we know it today if people hadn't decided to go exploring. And lastly The wind would be strongest at the shore, and in a sausage shape that reaches out to sea...but it only reaches out so far and then it weakens...It's worse close to the shore because it's closest to it's 'squeeze' area (through the gap of the mountains)..so theoretically the further out you are, the weaker the wind, though you may experience some highish rollers.

11:30 So here we are far out off the coastline of the Gulf of Tehuantepec crawling along at 4.6 knots S.O.G. It's a little chilly, but I'm nice and comfy sitting in the saloon. David's just told me that this morning the sea temperature dropped to 21deg C that's 69deg F but that it's up to 25deg C now. No wonder the air is cooler.

Sunset 21st Jan.
I am about to take over the watch for the night..there is no wind and we are back on the donk....drat....It's a pity really, we wanted to be able to compare the winds we got with the forecast...and we got nothing....I'll carry on in the morning. So I've been up a while sorting out photo's for this blog and doing some editing :-)..but we STILL have no wind...I tried, during my watch last night, to do some sailing. The wind was 5.5 knots on the beam. The best I could get out of Puddytat was 3.8 knots...so I sailed for as long as I could hoping that the wind would come up..I even whistled for it...nothing..When I went to bed at 02:00 we were still on the donk.
Sunrise 23rd Jan.
Strange light...everything blue..
How's this for calm water...
At 08:00 this morning David switched it off and decided to try sailing.. He even tried the spinny but there wasn't enough wind to hold the spinny out. This is ridiculous :-( So on went the donk again and as I sit here at the helm at 11:40 the seas are mirror smooth. We've been visited by dolphin that are entirely grey. We couldn't see any markings on them and of course I hadn't taken my camera forward so I didn't get a photo...sorry. I know, I'm a bad girl :-p.

12:23 the wind is tentatively having a look around...will it stay. I hope so. It stuck around for a while then died...so we just hung out..put some music on really loud, chilled out on the trampoline and decided that we didn't care....so up came the wind and soon we were traveling along at about 5 knots again...ha ha...thing is that then sunset arrives the wind usually dies... We're spending an awful lot of time motoring on this trip...this is not something we like to do. SO we have decided to just hang out again and wait for the wind. David had put the spinny up and we were trickling along at about 3.5 knots. Just for an hour and a half before moon rise a pod of dolphin came to visit and they played around the boat. Dolphin don't usually stick around for so long, but then we were playing music..lovely Feng shui stuff...and maybe they liked it. Well as the night wore on the wind died completely, the water was mirror smooth, the spinny just hung like a limp rag and a tern had come to rest on the trampoline spending the night with us. At about 22:00 David came up and decided to snuff the spinny and dump it on the trampoline, ready to be lifted if the opportunity ever arose. We continued under engine. At 01:00 I went inside and prepared  Chocolate fudge brownie mix, putting it into the oven to bake. my plan was for David to wake up to the delicious aroma of baking brownies...ha ha It worked..he was licking his chops when he came up and saw it cooling on the coach roof...ha ha.

Morning...We were under sail from about 08:00, then back on the donk again and at 12;00 David decided to take a nap. Now at 12:50 the wind has come up so I've put the genoa out and reset the main and we're doing 4.5 knots. We're slightly off course but that's OK, we still have 194 NM to Nicaragua so a mile or so off course doesn't make much difference.:-D

So today is our 4th day at sea, it's the 23rd Jan 20011 and tomorrow is David's birthday..And the third Anniversary of the day he bought Puddytat. I'll have to think of a special meal to prepare....This morning I was woken up by sounds similar to a squeaky toy being vigorously squished...weird :-) I stagger up stairs and David says...ha ha you were woken up by squeaky noises...yes I say...it's a couple of Shearwaters he tells me....well I took the camera and belly crawled up to them and took some cool video

footage. There were three of them and some sort of discussion was going on, they are Townsend Shearwaters...so cute..
Townsend Shearwaters..so cute, soft and cuddly.
14:00..Whoo-hoo the wind is creeping up...instead of doing 4.5 knots we're now doing 7.0 knots...the wind started to change it's angle so we were able to lay off a bit (let the sails out) and she sped up nicely...shhhh Sylvie, don't say anything..yeah I know, the wind will die....yeah...so I sit in the helm seat thinking of what to cook for lunch and playing hearts on my laptop.....it's a hard life but someone's gotta do it. We're listening to the VHF and there is another yacht 'Lions Paw' out there who is boasting about having caught two Mahi Mahi's, (dorado), lucky bloke..that fish tastes wonderful when it's straight out of the ocean and onto the Braai. I've just been speaking to Greg and Deb on 'Lions Paw', they're on their way to the Panamanian islands as well, so that means we'll be meeting up with them sometime. Nosh time..I must go and heat up some rice for David to eat with his fish....He's cooking some fish on the Braai..it's bound to taste great. Our Sheerwaters are still flying around us and occasionally stopping on board for a dry ride..ha ha. whoo-hoo 7.6 knots...this is GREAT!

Day 5 ....Happy Birthday David! Yeah so today will be special for him...first his gifts...yes I bought a few...He got some new swim shorts, a roll of 6mm fishing line...to make sure he never loses a fish..and a hand tooled leather scabbard for his Machetti. I think he was quite chuffed with that. Then I made him and egg and bacon breakkies. The wind was kind and gave us a great day's sail. In the afternoon We had a braai. David cooked Arracherra Steak...mega yum!!!, we had it with chips and egg....and a good wine.

Then later we had sundowners and watched the sun disappear below the horizon. A good day.

Sunrise on David's Birthday....
We have 65 miles to go till we get to Nicaragua. Today inbetween everything I made a Nicaraguan flag, so that Puddytat is properly dressed when we arrive tomorrow, As usual at night here the wind has died to next to nothing so we have dropped the main and are traveling under genoa only..it's quieter and the genoa is not blanketed by the main, so it fills easily and is pulling us at about 2 knots.
We have been complaining a lot about the lack of wind on this trip but you know it could have been that we had rough seas, lots of spray and water coming over the bows, it could have been colder and we could have been quite miserable...so today we decided that it's been a wonderful trip so far...so what if it took us a little longer than we thought..we've had a great relaxing time.
I almost forgot..yesterday when I was taking my nap a shearwater decided to investigate the inside of Puddytat and it landed in our cabin. Of course it got a fright and left little watery reminders all over the place....then, a few minutes later it regurgitated a fish on the floor...poor thing was walking back and forth the like a worried Dad at the birth of his first child....I was worried that if I tried to pick it up it would get flustered and try to fly and then beat itself up as it crashed into things...so I was going to use a cloth and drape it over the bird, then pick it up..I called David down to see this and he just walked up to it and picked it up. Man those birds are so soft and warm and gentle..it didn't try and peck him. He released it through one of the portholes...and it's friends called and squeaked in happiness...so cute...
Our first Rainbow in ...ummmmm I can't remember when we saw one last..
Last night when I was handing over the watch to David he went forward and called me to join him with the camera. We had a hitchhiker sitting on our bow, a Boobie...these are another species of bird that have little fear of humans...he/she let us come really close and take photo's ...amazing. David took another photo of the bird in the morning light.
David and the Boobie having a chat...
This is Fred the Boobie bird.
This is one of the things I love about cruising. We get so close to wild life. It's intriging and awe inspiring all at the same time. We have an escort of dolphin again tonight. I can hear them exhaling and taking breaths and see the phosphorescence streaming past their bodies. They also disturb the jellies so you see orbs of bright light flashing on and off again. We've arrived at the Puesto Del sol in Nicaragua and this is the email I sent out to all the other cruisers I know:

The Puesto del Sol in Nicaragua is WAY expensive!!!
It costs 1.50 US per foot per day for the first two days on the dock OR on a mooring ball.
After two days the mooring falls to US$0.50cents a day and the dock to US$1.00 a day....
The WIFI internet costs US$2.00 a day..per computer! PLUS Electricity costs US$0.45 cents per KW/h
To get to town costs US$10 per person and the bus only leaves once a week, and you need a minimum of 5 people...a special round trip will cost you US$75 with a max 3 hour stay in town...By the way...this marina is empty... so you can't get 5 people together :-p
The guide book says that the pilot to guide you into here is free..it's not it costs US$20.00..and you really don't need one...
The diesel costs between 4 and 5 dollars a gallon...more expensive than in Costa Rica we're told. We just want to buy some fuel and leave.

Well as it turns out we can't buy fuel till we've cleared in...so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Grin and bear it is what we'll have to do..Maybe it will turn out to be a nice place after all...
The Dock master came around and told us that there is a chicken bus that goes to town and costs US$1 ...so maybe we'll try that..I'm not sure. The Customs and Immigration bods will be here tomorrow to clear us in and out...at 7am.., so that we can leave tomorrow with no problems. I'll let you know what happens in the next update.

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