Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gulf of Tehuatepec to Puerto Madero

Ruins, originally uploaded by seaparents.

HOLY $#%@ !!!

So, I am checking wind/weather by weather fax (Shortwave radio connected through the computer via NOAA) and a few other sources. The few other sources as previously mentioned are less than accurate, but the weather fax has been spot on. So we were waiting in Huatulco for a weather window to cross the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec. Apparently, winds funnel across the narrow section of southern Mexico from the caribbean and accelerate up to 60+ knots on our route. We have been doing nothing but motoring, so I was actually looking forward to SOME wind. The other boats waiting to cross the gulf were planning on leaving this past Thursday with nothing but motoring in mind. The weather fax showed a gale warning through Wednesday, diminishing on Thursday. The weather bulletin from the port captain showed 25 knots both days, so I figured since we had 60 miles to cover before the bad section of the gulf (Salina Cruz), we would arrive at the tail end of the wind and sail through the gulf pretty quickly. Let’s just say that forecasts are basically wild ass guesses and I will wait until there no signs of a gale warning before leaving in the future. We had 20 knots of wind all the way to Salina Cruz and covered the 60 miles before dark. The wind started to build and we reefed the sails (reduced sail area) at around 26 knots and then further at 33 knots (both times were more difficult than I thought it would be, but it went pretty smooth). The waves were steadily building as well, but nothing to worry about. I took the first watch and Brady and the kids went to bed around 8. The wind was dead on the nose at this point, so I took the main all the way down. I learned that in 35 knots of wind, the boat will not go straight ahead very well. We did not have enough forward velocity for the rudders to work properly, so the wind actually pushed the nose of the boat to leeward. With the helm all the way over, the boat headed off course 30 degrees. During the lulls, the boat would come back on course and then push the other direction if the auto pilot corrected too far. At this point, the wind was gusting to 40 knots and backing to 20. I was wearing my life jacket and attached myself by harness to the boat just in case. Other than the occasional salt spray we were making progress toward the beach past Salina Cruz. I had to steer by hand through 4 container ships anchored directly in my path, but made it through despite the steering issue. As we reached the beach, the waves disappeared. This happens because the wind comes from the land to the ocean and the waves do not have a chance to build up yet. What I didn’t mention is that I had to steer a course in 35 feet of water, 1/4 mile from shore, in the dark....GREAT! 3 GPS’s side by side and maybe I could get some sleep since it was 3 AM by this time. I woke Brady and gave her the rundown. She had some obvious reservations about taking over, especially since we were coming up on a lagoon entrance that we would have to pass 2 miles off shore (think bigger waves and a more uncomfortable ride). She agreed to stay up with me at the GPS’s while I steered our course from outside (in winds that gusted to 49 knots!). Despite the wind and waves (6-8 feet), the boat remained incredibly stable, which I am thrilled about. Brady is a little less aware of the actual stability and is convinced that we were mere minutes from reliving the movie Titanic. I can tell you that not only were the kids sleeping soundly this whole time, but she fell asleep on a stool at the navigation station (clearly uncomfortable huh?) We passed the lagoon entrance and returned to the relative calm of the beach. At 5 AM, I finally got to bed and the winds calmed down to the forecast 25 knots. Woo hoo!, we made it...maybe. The following afternoon, after making great time with the sails, the wind slowed and the mainsail started to flog. Just as we were getting ready to take it down, I hear a rrrrriiiiiiippppp. Not good, but we could use the headsail and motor the 280 miles to El Salvador. I turned on the port side engine and nothing, nada....HMMM. One engine and one sail. Maybe we better stop in Puerto Madero, Mexico, about two hours away. This after spending several hours clearing out of Mexico in Huatulco. I contacted the port captain and let him know that we would be making an unscheduled emergency stop for repairs, in the middle of the night of course. We entered in the dark again, but found an anchorage and went to bed. Ten minutes later, there was a commotion outside and we were visited by the navy for a standard entry inspection with drug sniffing dog Cassiopeia in tow. We have heard nothing but bad things about Puerto Madero, but the people have been very nice. The mainsail did not actually tear, but a seam blew out and left a ten foot hole. Brady and I spent three mornings working with our non existent sewing skills and I think I tracked the problem with the engine down to a bad starter. I had a new starter sent from Mazatlan and as soon as it arrives, we should be back to both engines and both sails. I cleared out of Mexico again and we are leaving as soon as the starter arrives, hopefully tomorrow. As a sidebar, we were able to take the kids on a great field trip today to the Olmec ruins (pyramids and carved stones) in Izapa. We are pleasantly surprised by everything we have found on our accidental side trip. P.S. Don’t worry Todd, we will make it in plenty of time...or not :)

A SHORTER AND MORE DRAMATIC VERSION. HOLY CRAP!!!! Troy definitely has more tolerance for gales than I do. Picture yourself in a little boat, because at this point I felt like I was in the dinghy, being blown so hard that the ocean was drenching el capitano Troyo and the waves felt like they were going to flip the boat. Troy has ensured me that I am being a drama queen and that we were not in as bad of weather as we are going to be in the future. So, I am not sure about crossing the Pacific yet, maybe the Bahamas will be our next destination. OK, maybe a little over reaction, but next time lets skip the wind and motor. Sailboat or not, 49 knots is a little too much adrenaline for my blood. Peaceful cruising with a corona in hand is the picture I had in mind. So, please pray for future safe calm passages for us in the future. I am just so happy that we are in safe harbor in an unexpectedly beautiful place. ( Warning: I have added some of my creative expression to make a better blog entry. Don’t worry.)

P.S My night watch didn’t go so well.

P.S.S This is why Troy was the firemen and I just played with stones. Mas cajunes!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Since last time I wrote on the blog we have done several overnights...... I know, you are thinking I crashed or slept or did a 360, but I made it through the night with no mishaps. Not as good of a story as my previous overnights, but Troy actually gets to sleep now and I have figured out how to stay awake. At present we are at a marina waiting for a weather window to cross a notoriously dangerous bay. I think that we could possibly be sailing for 5-8 days straight. This will be our longest overnight trek yet and I hope my new skills for staying awake will work for this long of a journey. I guess you never know until you try. I will let you know how it goes. Hopefully my next blog entry does not include any sleeping at the helm or crazy stunt tricks. Until next time, " See you on the flip side" - Brady

Sunday, February 7, 2010

News from the drifters

Hello Again!

We finally left Acapulco, but I have to tell all of you that this is no vacation. When I pulled up the anchor chain a bit, I realized that our second anchor rope had twisted itself around the chain several times. After untangling the mess, we were able to bring up the primary anchor only to realize that our extended time in Acapulco furthered the corrosion on our chain. The chain will have to be replaced ASAP as we are down to 50% of the original 3/8 in spots. The good news was we were leaving. I spent three hours cleaning the barnacles off of our anchor bridle (the rope used to take the tension off of the anchor windlass while at anchor). The barnacles on the chain went into the locker and has started to produce a nice rotten fish smell...sweet! After several hours of motoring, we were able to sail awhile. The guide book showed an anchorage about 80 miles down the coast, but after checking the chart, they missed the mileage by 60 miles! The trip to the anchorage was now going to require two overnights to cover the 140 miles. Brady and I opted to shorten the shifts to three hours and start them at 8 PM. This seemed to help with the drowsiness and we opted to skip the anchorage and head straight to Puerto Escondido (approx. 40 more miles). We caught two fish en route (little tunny according to the fish ID book), which Brady beer battered and pan seared for some awesome fish tacos. The trip took 52 hours and we motored for 44 of them (not exactly the sailing adventure we planned), but we saw lots of dolphins, sea snakes, sea turtles, and a humpback whale w/ baby 50 feet from the boat and every bit as big. As we arrived in Puerto Escondido, the famed guide book showed two possible anchorages. The first was completely crowded with local pangas and the second was an anchorable shelf in the middle of the bay. There was another sailboat there, so we moved in along side in 35 feet of water. As the anchor hit bottom we heard the telltale sound of a rocky bottom, but the anchor caught and we settled in for some much needed rest. I sat down for all of 5 minutes when I heard the anchor slip on the rocks, so time to move. This proved easier said than done. As we raised the (dwindling) chain, the anchor was clearly stuck...@#$% After 20-30 minutes of maneuvering and breaking and attachment point on the crossbeam (bridle pulled on the bowsprit cables-oops my fault...@#$%) we were loose. Good news except the freshly clean bridle rope was knotted beyond removability from the stuck anchor. I had to cut it loose...#%&$ I checked the depth over the whole shelf but lost faith in the bottom, so time to move closer to the beach. Unfortunately, we were in 60 feet of water which means all of the crappy anchor chain plus some additional rope had to go into the water. Too tired to really care at this point, we were finally anchored and Brady and I slept like teenagers. Yesterday, we had A.M. homeschool and then finally off to the beach for some R & R. The kids tore up the waves with a boogie board and later we headed off to the town proper for some street tacos and groceries. The store was very well appointed and we headed back to the boat before dark. I wish we could have spent more time in Puerto Escondido. The town was a perfect size with many services, friendly locals, lots of expats, and an awesome beach. I did not get a chance to check the property values, but there is an airport and we could definitely live here. Unfortunately, after spending three long weeks in Acapulco, we need to continue South at a quicker pace. So, as I write this, we are motorsailing to Puerto Angel (someone please tell bloater about this and give him our email as this was a recommendation of his several years ago) which is about 40 miles down the coast. With any luck we can shut off the engines and still get there before dark. Hasta luego for now


Monday, February 1, 2010


Finally, the next update in the world travels of the Medina clan. Our last entry found us in the sunny climes of Acapulco. A haven for the rich and famous of the 30‘s, John Wayne owned a hotel here back in the day. This entry finds us...still here three weeks later. I assure you that this is not for lack of trying to leave. The care package from my mom that I spoke of in the last entry, is still not here. Brady had to order some supplies and my mom threw in some books, candy, tea, and such for our travels south. After shipping delays to my mom of more than a week, the stuff was on its way. Then, customs grabbed our box in Mexico City and after throwing away the candy and tea (sorry mom), charging us $125 dollars in duties and being just a normal Mexico pain in the rear, the package should arrive tomorrow (Tuesday Ferbruary something) after another week of delay. I will have to take a very loud, colorful and kidney damaging bus with a crazy bus driver (which incidentally, kind of reminds me of riding with Andy on the rig :) across town to pick it up. Acapulco has actually grown on us. The people are friendly, the food good and cheap and the weather balmy. The warm water has required me to clean the bottom every week and our anchor chain is officially growing barnacles. I was able to snorkel near the boat with a giant school? of manta rays, which was very cool. Yesterday, we took the dinghy over to watch the famed cliff divers. With any luck, we will be on the move tomorrow. We will have to hurry a bit now, since we need to be in Costa Rica in early April, for storm season and guests. I hope to be in El Salvador by the third week in February. We still have all of the same intermediate stops planned and I will let you know how each pans out.

Hasta Luego,

El Capitan