Puerto Chiapas

February 23, 2014

 

Our arrival in Puerto Chiapas after crossing the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec was rather anti-climactic. After navigating around a couple of dense rain squalls I went to bed when Jan came topside around 7 am to relieve me from my all night watch. By 10 am I was again up as we approached the harbor. The channel was partially blocked off by a large ship that was dreading the channel on one side and a large tug boat was repositioning a green channel marker on the other. Jan guided Maiatla through the maze that was the channel as I ran dock lines and set the fenders in preparation for docking.  

 

Fortunately the channel was wide and well-marked as we had no trouble finding the small waterway that would lead deeper into what could best be  best described as a muddy marsh.

After passing several shrimp boats that stunk so bad that we had to hold our breaths, we turned the corner to enter what would prove to be a new and modern marina.  

 

The facility is less than two years old and has three sets of beautiful concrete docks with water and hydro. As we approached we could see three marina employees running down to the docks to tale our lines. The marina manager called the harbor master and the navy for us to report our arrival. Within an hour were filling out papers with the pair of officers that eagerly accept the cold coke that I offered. Jan was complaining that it was hot here. I had already decided that it was warm but when I saw these two Mexican locals sweating profusely, I decided that Jan had every right to complain. It was damned hot.

 

It looked like a nice place to stay for a while but there would be no swimming in the harbor as we did in Hualtuco. The nearby fish processing plant left a scum on the surface of the water and if that wasn’t enough to deter us, there were crocs. But neither of these things seemed to deter the locals from wading in, swimming or fishing. Oh well, guess we are just spoiled. We planned to stay here for a week or so with an eye for leaving Maiatla here for the summer as we were looking at returning to Canada in 3 or 4 weeks’ time. We would check out the town that was 30 kilometers away, do some shopping and perhaps make a few trips across the border into Guatemala. There were already some cruising friends here and we were looking forward to meeting new people that were like us , headings south…..or staying here for the summer.

commercial docks next to the shrippers

commercial docks next to the shrippers

The stinky shrippers

The stinky shrippers

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The harbour fuel dock

The harbour fuel dock

Jan at our dock in Chiapas

Jan at our dock in Chiapas

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The marina office and restaurant

The marina office and restaurant

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The final waterway into the marina

The final waterway into the marina

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The marina tennis courts

The marina tennis courts

The marina docks

The marina docks

The office and marina travel lift for hauling out boats

The office and marina travel lift for hauling out boats

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Well it is official, we are Pecers!—–or Peckers?

Well we made it ok across the Gulf of Tehuanapec with only a soggy bunk and printer to show for it. Had a good spinnaker run up to Salinas Cruz for a few hours before the wind built to 20-30 knots just forward of the beam sometime around 10 pm. Under mizzen and reefed main we motor-sailed through the choppy seas making 6 knots while taking a lot of spray over the bow. Wind began to die after 6 hours so it was a nice sail in 10-15 knots again forward of the beam for the next 18 hours.

Then just before nightfall of our second day the wind died again so we were back to motoring while staying within a couple of miles of the beach just in case the wind roared back to life. Some time around 2 am a couple of heavy rain squalls crossed our paths, lots of rain but not much wind. Not a problem but there were a lot of shrippers and pangas out fishing and the rain was so thick at times that it blacked out much of our radar making it hard to  see the other boats.

We raised Chiapas near the Guatemalan border by day break and were at the dock of the marina by 10 a.m. 48 hours after leaving Hualtuco. Actually the trip- the 250 mile crossing went very well except for the ports we forgot to seal properly before leaving harbor. So its official we are now Tehuanapecers. Not the same as being Cape Horners but and honor all the same.

So I think we are going to hang out here for a while and do some touring into the interior of Guatemala to see some ruins and volcanoes. should be cool. well by for now Andy and Jan on Maiatla.

Melissa arrives

Well Melissa, our daughter arrived on the 31st of February so we are back on tourist mode for two weeks. We spent the previous two weeks just gunkholing up and down a 7 mile stretch of coast, exploring bays and diving on coral reefs. Been grand and we loved the alone time with only ourselves to worry about but having Melissa here would be fun. We spent the first three days after her arrival shopping for provisions and the ladies went dress shopping in the local markets. Once we managed to get playing tourist done in town we left the marina and sailed over to the harbor of Santa Cruz where we anchored next to the cruise ship dock by a nice little reef on the east side of the harbor. The reef here is nice with lots of coral but not many fish and there was a bit of a plankton bloom happening so the visibility was a little poor. 

We took the dink to another nearby bay called Playa en Trenga where there is another nice and more extensive reef with a lot more fish. In the north east corner of the bay a spring enters the sea creating a pocket of almost perfectly clear water. This is where we managed to get some of the best of our underwater pics. There were some very aggressive little Blue damsel fish that, if you swan too close, would attack and bite after sneaking up on your blind side. Melissa had one bite the back of her arm just above the elbow. The little beggar actually drew blood. Almost two weeks later you could still see the teeth marks. 

After a couple of days in the harbor, we up anchored and hoisted sail for a little site seeing trip to the west, and back up the coast. There are 7 beautiful bays with spectacular beaches along here but unfortunately, they can be a bit rolly for sleeping so we carried on to our favorite, Bahia Chachcual. I gave a description Chachcual in a previous post entitled “ Tranquility base” so no need to repeat it here except that the little corner that we staked out for ourselves was the calmest spot along this whole coast no matter what the wind or sea direction. 

We spent several days here with Melissa just swimming, sunning and exploring the coast by dinghy. I had rented some additional diving gear from a local dive charter operator so I could get Jan and Melissa a chance to become reacquainted with scuba. Both are excellent snorkelers and certified divers but both needed a little refresher course that I gave to them in the shallows off a beach in Chachcual. 

Again the visibility was poor but I had fun taking Melissa by hand and diving the perimeter of the reef with her. I had booked a dive charter boat for later in the week for the three of us so I was hoping that the operator would be able to show us some dive sites that were better that we could see by just snorkeling. Jan would later op-out of going diving so Melissa and I went on our own. The two dives we made were fun and we saw some great rock and coral formations down around 60 feet but in truth, I thought we saw more coral and fish just snorkeling on our own. San Augustine proved to one of the best sites with the reef just off the beach where many palapas crowd the shore. Good place to have lunch afterwards. 

Melissa decided that she wanted to make a land trip to see some of the interior and perhaps some wild life so we hired a taxi for the day ($120 US) for a tour up the coast on a very dubious road through rural Mexico. So after moving the boat back to the harbor at Santa Cruz we made a road trip. 

On the morning of our road trip we awoke to find that we had a new neighbor, a cruise ship had arrived. After I cooked breakfast, we took the dink ashore, waved at the new arrivals and met our driver for the day. As we were about to see, most of the locals live very modestly in crudely constructed brick and block homes with thatched or corrugated tin roofs. And of course, most with outdoor plumbing. (translation,  out houses).  Chickens and bare footed kids abound and scratch and play in dirt yards that they often rake or broom. Our first stop was at a coastal town called Ventanilla (“Little Window”) where a two by four kilometer island sits in a mangrove lagoon. Here we would hire a guide to paddle us around the lagoon then take us to walk on the island. It is here where we saw hundreds of iguanas, some up to a meter long, perched in trees or wandering along the ground. We also saw many crocodiles along the shore, some up to 4 meters long. The little community itself is quite pretty and have done a lot to attract tourist and their beach is spectacular as it stretches unbroken for over thirty miles and due to the nature of the shore, the sea pounds the beach with great curling waves. 

Then it was off to the little coastal town of Manzunte and a makeup factory where Jan and Melissa bought some goop. The it was to a government sponsored turtle sanctuary . Then after a brief stop at Zipolite, the hippie community and the only recognized nude beach in Mexico, we were off to Puerto Angle for a late lunch then it was back to the boat. We got home just intime to see the great ship depart. But not without some concern. The ship was so huge and the engines so powerful, even when they were barley moving, they created such a suction the Maiatla was pulled towards the great propellers and if we had not had two good anchors down and holding well, I’m sure we would have collided with the stern of the ship. Once the ship had left the harbor, I was forced to rest our stern anchor as it had been dragged for some distance. After which we all had a nice moonlight swim next to the boat.

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our cooks for lunch

our cooks for lunch

our lunch shack on the island of the lagoon

our lunch shack on the island of the lagoon

Holding a crock skull

Holding a crock skull

thios is not a zoo, these are wild crocks that we got within 10 feet of.

this is not a zoo, these are wild crocks that we got within 10 feet of.

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The rock the village of Ventanilla was n

The rock the village of Ventanilla was named after

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Headed into the lagoon

Headed into the lagoon

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Beach of Ventanilla

Beach of Ventanilla

our lagoon guide with Jan and Melissa

our lagoon guide with Jan and Melissa

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village of Ventanilla

village of Ventanilla

village of Ventanilla

village of Ventanilla

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Tranquility Base.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014. 

     Just a couple of miles east of Hautulco, Bahia Chachacual is perhaps a mile and a half wide crescent shaped beach with rocky promontories at each end that thrust sharply out to sea. Several tiny rock islets within the bay mark the locations of coral reefs teeming with fish. Great sea turtles can be seen lounging on the surface waiting for nightfall to come ashore to lay their eggs. 

Still further inside and at the extreme end of the bay there is a second, tiny cove of a couple hundred yards in width that is protected from the constant ocean swells by its parent cove and a coral reef that breaks the surface at low tide. If Chachacual is the mother then it is inside her womb, the seconded tiny cove that we now have Maiatla safely anchored. I had dropped our bow anchor in 20 feet of water onto a hard sand bottom, good holding for our 65 lbs CQR anchor. Then I loaded our stern anchor into the dinghy and motored it ashore to plant it in the fine beach sand just above the high tide mark near a twisted old cactus growing at the edge of the jungle.

     Back aboard Maiatla I tensioned the boat up between the pair of anchors drawing our stern in towards the shore until the bow anchor saved us from beaching ourselves.  With Maiatla’s stern only three boat length from the beach and with 10 feet of clear water beneath our keel, we would call this home for the better part of a week as we wait for Melissa, our daughter to arrive. 

Our tiny bay is an almost  perfect base from which to dive and explore the coast using our rigid inflatable dinghy. Our tiny piece of paradise owns a jungle fringed beach that is flanked by coral reefs alive with fish sporting colors that could challenge any rainbow or impressionist painter’s pallet. The inner sanctum is protected from high winds and the deep ground swell by reefs, towering cliffs and jungle canopy so the water was calm as the proverbially mill pond so sleep would come easy here. As I stare down into the waters beside the boat I can see several tiny Porcupine Puffer fish had already taken up residence in the shadow that Maiatla was casting on the rippled sand bottom. We quickly set up the great sun awnings that protect the deck from the heat of the late afternoon sun. With our shade in place we stripped off and dove in to play with the tiny yellow and black fish that seemed to be fascinated with the boats rudder and bronze propeller. 

Ah perfect right? Well not quite. As I said in the beginning, it’s almost perfect. But not perfect. So what could be wrong with the little paradise that I have just described you may well ask? It wasn’t until after watching the sun set behind the distant cliffs as I barbecued chicken on the stern that we realized the first flaw in our little piece of utopia. Mosquitoes! Ok there weren’t many and they were not like the ones we get back at home that can be detected on the airport radar like an approaching 737, but there were just enough of the little beggars to be aggravating. 

Now I’m not one to be deterred from a course of action and run and hide from a few tiny mosquitos but these are not just your run of the mill, blood sucking vampire type bugs. These little hypodermic needles with wings can carry malaria or worse, dengue fever so with all bravado aside, out came the bug spray, anti-mosquito netting, smoldering coils and citronella candles. Our first night we dinned indoors on “almost” cooked chicken. 

The second great flaw would not make itself known until late in the morning the following day. We arose about 8 a.m. and since we were entirely alone neither of us felt compelled to dress. While Jan sat in bed reading from her tablet, I prepared our ritual morning cup of tea and cooked eggs and bacon. (Frying bacon in the nude requires certain precautions). Jan dinned in bed as I retreated to the cockpit to eat and take in the spectacular view. With breakfast over, Jan did the dishes as I remained sitting in the shade of the cockpit awning and began to read my book as the first wisps of the building onshore breeze began to carry away the morning heat. 

A chapter later I dove in for a cooling swim then returned to my book and a second cup of tea that Jan had brought topside as she joined me to admire the view. Ok so far so good, right? Well it was just after 10 a.m. when I heard what I thought was distant thunder. I glanced up at a cloudless sky then towards the very distant inland mountains that were shrouded in the usual tropical blue haze, but there was no sign of a thunder storm anywhere. 

As I continued to listen the booming got louder and rhythmic in nature. It only took a few minutes for us to realized that we were about to be joined by others, not drum beating headhunting cannibals hurling spears at us from the jungle fringes, but something much worse. Jan and I were both stunned to see a great catamaran with gigantic speakers blaring a Mexican version of rap music round the distant point. The music boat’s cargo was a hundred or so holiday revelers who, apparently had already decided that it was cervasa time. Oh but wait, the cat was not alone as leading the way were three more panga fishing boats  loaded to the gunnels with all the chattels to support a first rate beach party, complete with coolers stocked with cold beers and margarita mix. 

 The Mexican pangas shot past Maiatla  to assault the beach with practiced precision.  By the time the catamaran with all its revelers had anchored just a beer bottle toss from our bow, the beach crews had all the tables and chairs planted in the sand and all in the shade of gaudy, multi-colored  beach umbrellas. 

I turned to Jan who was still sitting next to me. “So I guess I should get some shorts huh?”

Within an hour, another great cat arrived along with an assortment of sports fisherman and jet skis to share our now very tiny bay. At the peak of the day there must have been well over a couple of hundred very white bodies lying about our beach or bobbing in the water next to Maiatla with snorkeling gear on. All the action seemed to have been well choreographed to an odd assortment of Mexican and American music emanating from the cat’s great speakers. (I hate the Mexican accordion and tuba music which sounds striking like polka music with gastronomic troubles). 

It was an interesting day as we watched the antics of all the frolicking tourists, but not a day that I had left home for to come and see. The spectacle, I must admit was not entirely unexpected as a local couple, who had first told us of this place, warned us that “Some of the tour boats bring snorkelers there, but don’t worry, they won’t stay long.” 

Well true to their word, by 2 p.m. the boats began to load up and move out. Surprisingly the Mexican beach crews broke camp just as fast as they had made it, picking up garbage and raking the sand just before leaving. By 3 p.m. our bay was again blissfully deserted leaving us to wonder if we had truly seen what we had seen. It was time to strip back off and have a beer, swim and a snorkel on our private reef lying next to the boat. 

Peace and paradise had returned.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

 Hi Guys, Just cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast for Jan and I while I write this message and will try and send it via the ham radio this morning. We have been held up for the past two nights in a pretty bay called Bahia Cacaluta. Just a few miles west of Haultulco.  We are tucked in behind a big rocky island next to a sandbar that breaks the swells that wrap around the island. There was a bit of a blow out in the Gulf the past couple of days so we had big waves crashing on the beach just on the other side of the sand spit. Way cool. But despite my best effort to get out of the waves it was still a bit rolley and Jan did not sleep well. Will try and move the boat closer to shore today. Last night we had a giant sea turtle crawl out of the ocean, up the beach and dig a nest where it deposited its eggs. Unfortunately we didn’t see it but its tracks up the beach tell the tale and from the size of them she was a big one. Her tracks looked a small bulldozer plowed out of the surf and up the beach. 

Jan and I spent the evenings playing dominoes but between hands I would go outside with the spotlight to scan the beach to see if had been stormed by a heard of egg laying turtles but no such luck, I saw nothing so eventually we went to bed and I guess that is when this Tortuga made its move. Out-witted by a ninja turtle.

 

Well I shouldn’t say that my visits outside the boat were a waste of time as we did see something rather spectacular. As I shown the million candle power spotlight at the beach, where the light struck the water, thousands of finger size flying fish would burst out of the water and take to the air.   The dart-like fish would flap their pectoral fins and “fly a foot or two above the water for fifty feet or more. It was as if they were trained to perform as directed by my light around the boat. As fast as I could pan the light they burst from the sea in what looked to be a frenzied panic. 

Will try tonight to get some video of the fish as well as I may make a trip ashore after the moon raises after midnight to see if I can catch a turtle doing its thing on the beach. There are some nice coral formations within this bay but the water is very green and cloudy, a result of an underground river that enters the sea here, so the snorkeling is not very good.

 While diving Jan and I found where some of the fresh water enters the bay, the location given away by streams of air bubbles gurgling out from the sea bed and through fissures in the rocks.  We found what looks like a good diving spot with clear water on the other side of our island so we will try it out later when the sun is high. Well that’s about it for now, will post this on Facebook with Pics when we get back to civilization.