We cant believe we have already sailed the length of Mexico; where did the last two and a half months go?!? Here are some stats on our trip so far:
Number of Days: 82
Number of Nights spent under way: 16
Nautical miles traveled: 2613
Number of cervezas and margaritas it took to do it all… Quien sabe!
Number of diesel engines blown in the process… keep reading.
We spent three days in Acapulco laying pretty low. After the dinghy incedent in Zihuat, we were feeling a little gun-shy so we dished out the cash to stay in a marina. Acapulco is not the safest city these days, and its pretty run down. However, next to our marina there was some sort of members-only club with a gorgeous pool. Naturally, we invited ourselves in and made ourselves at home. We made friends with the bartenders and spent a good chunk of our time in Acapulco at the pool since it almost too hot to do much of anything else.
We visited the pre-colonial fort, Fuerte de San Diego, which had a nice museum.
We went to see the Clavadistas at La Quebrada; incredible divers who first climb up a sheer cliff wall (in their speedos- no harness or safety gear) and then dive off. The dives got progressively more technical, the grand finale involved flaming torches on the way down. We watched from a restaurant across the divide.
We also picked up our new dinghy tubes and spent most of our last day at the dock reassembling the silly thing… it was harder than it should have been. By the time we finished assembling our dinghy, it was well after dark, so we quickly took a cold hose dock “shower” and shoved off for Huatulco.
What should have been a two night trip from Acapulco to Huatulco ended up being three nights. In our rush to leave Acapulco, we made a catastropic mistake… we didnt check our oil level. You know that part in the movie “Captain Ron” where he describes the motor of the boat something like: “these ol’ diesels are indestructible, as long as you add a quart of oil every day before you fire it up”. Yeah. Thats us. During the middle of the second night I heard the engine making a funny noise so we turned it off. Our “normal-for-a-4108” oil leak seemed to have accelerated and nearly ran dry. We topped off the oil and decided to sail the rest of the night to give the engine a break until we could re-evaluate during daylight hours. We fired it up the next morning and all seemed to be going well. Unfortunately our slow progress under sail that night meant that we passed our destination after sunset the next night. The accuracy of GPS isnt perfect; its never safe to enter an unfamiliar harbor at night (we have been anchoring on land according to our GPS quite a bit lately) so we decided to push on to Huatulco instead. Huatulco was only 40 miles past our original destination so we had to go as slow as possible to make sure we didnt arrive before sunrise. Wouldn’t you know that the one time we try to go SLOW on a sailboat that we have a favorable current rushing us right along at 3 knots. We dilly dallied best as we could and pulled into Huatulco just after day break.
Took this video of our dolphin friends: Dolphins en route to Huatulco.
The extra day at sea meant we arrived on a Friday, which didnt give us enough time to do our official check-out-of-Mexico rigamarole with the port captian, immigration, and customs before the weekend, so we spent the whole weekend there. Huatulco, or more specifically, Las Crucecitas, is a sweet town with very friendly people. We tried a Oaxacan specialty of dried grasshoppers and black mole.
Elan and I also worked on several projects at the dock: we finished installing the dinghy wheels, we hacked up our old dinghy for patches, Elan mounted our second jerry can rack (yep- its officially a “cruising boat” with junk hanging all over 🙂 ), I sewed canvas covers for all of the jerry cans and I also modified our canvas dinghy cover to fit a little better. Its been in the high nineties, so its all hot work in the blazing sun.
We left on Monday night just after dark to set out across the Tehuanepec to El Salvador. The Tejuanepec is notorious for extremely high wind conditions, but we had a good 5 day weather window for a trip that should have only taken us three. Because we are in the skinniest part of Mexico, anytime the Gulf of Mexico winds blow, they funnel across Mexico to our side with such force that it actually lowers the level of the ocean. Conventional wisdom says that in bad weather its better to head out to sea, but in this area the winds can blow out 200-300 miles out to sea, so most folks do the opposite- ride as close to shore as possible. Our plan was to hug the coast about 1 mile offshore so that if it got too rough we could quickly dip into calmer waters near the coast. We didn’t plan to stop in Guatemala because the fees to import the boat are crazy high.
And now some very bad news…
We left Huatulco around sunset and early the next day we started having engine problems again. We babied it, we sailed, we tinkered… everything seemed to be going wrong at once. Our starter jammed, so Elan unjammed it, we had air in the fuel lines (we changed our fuel filters in Huatulco, so sometimes that happens) so Elan bled the fuel system, and finally based on sheer willpower, got it to fire back up again. It ran beautifully for about an hour and then out of the blue, just petered out slowly. We opened the engine compartment to find it plastered in oil and discovered a baseball sized hole in our engine block. Dang it. This engine is toast.
So there we were, in the middle of the Tehuanepec, about 120miles from the nearest port in either direction… and remember that we chose this time to cross the Tehuanepec because the wind was NOT blowing… which makes sailing a little difficult. We spent the next three nights and four days sailing when we could, drifting when we couldn’t, and praying that we could make it safely to a port. Its a little frustrating seeing 0.0 knots on the GPS when you know that you have a lot of work ahead of you that is going to slow down your trip, but what else could we do?? Our amazing, wonderful friends on Solent drifted along side us the entire time ready to bail us out of trouble if we needed it. We made it to the nearest port with a marina, Chiapas MX, 16 miles from the Guatemala boarder. Solent planned to launch their dinghy with their more powerful motor right near the channel entrance to tow us in, but at the last second they had a problem with their outboard and couldnt get to us. We quickly launched our own dinghy with our poor lil 6 horsepower motor to do the job. I rode in the dinghy and controlled speed while Elan steered Silver Lining over the bar and through the breaking waves at the channel entrance. We slowly made our way through the long channel, around the dredgers, and to the marina. The marina is brand new, more empty than full, so we chose the easiest slip to get in to. I threw the dinghy in neutral, hopped on Silver, tossed the bow and stern lines to the dock hands waiting for us, then hopped back in the dinghy to kill the engine as we glided into our new home for the next month or so.
We are totally bummed. When we set out on this adventure, we knew that part of an “adventure” meant accepting the rough times along with the amazing times. We knew that it wasnt going to be all margaritas and sunsets; we figured that issues like a blown engine or a ruined dinghy were possible, but we didn’t expect them both to happen within a 10 day period. Oh, and did I mention Elan broke his finger too? Yeah. During our drifting, we happened through a big patch of floating nets which required more maneuverability to dodge around than we could handle with the sail, so we rigged up the dinghy to steers us around that too. As Elan set it up, he squashed his hand between the two boats. Ouch. We had it X-Ray’d today and the bones look ok, though his finger is certainly hanging at a funny angle. The docs said that regardless, the remedy would be to splint it, take anti-inflamatories, and not use it for two weeks. Hmmm… replace a 700lb engine without his right hand… we’ll see.
Moments after Elan squished his hand, a fishing panga came up along side us, as we were towing our boat, to ask us for food. We gave them what we could, figuring that if they had to ask, they must really need it. When a few minutes later another panga up along side, we wondered what we had started. To our surprise, they offered us 6 gigantic shrimp and wanted nothing in return. We passed them a few beers and then had fresh shrimp for lunch.
As for the engine prospects, we wont know for sure until businesses open on Monday, but it looks like we may need to ship a new one down from the US. Shipping will be tricky… Anyone up for a cross-Mexico roadtrip?! Haha. The manager at our marina here suggested that, if we can get the engine to Texas, we slip the engine on one of the many banana trucks that transit from there to here. Oh, the conveniences of modern life!
In any case, this will be an expensive and time-costly incident. I think we’ll be lucky to get out of here in less than a month. But, what other option do we have? We aren’t ready to come home yet, we worked hard building the boat and scraping pennies together. It’s too soon to quit! It just may mean that our plan will look a little different than we originally thought. Maybe shorter. Maybe we stop and work somewhere along the way. Time will tell.
We are truly sad to have said goodbye to our friends on Solent so abruptly, but seeing as how we’d all already officially checked out of Mexico, the paperwork would have been too complicated and expensive for them to “re-enter” Mexico just to say goodbye. We will really miss you guys- you are the best! Thanks for the moral support, trouble shooting advice, shared ‘margititas’ and of course the ‘human krills’ along the way. Hopefully we’ll see you again in Panama!!!
So for now… Chiapas is home, sweet, home.
In my last post I mentioned that we planning to shave Apollo, here are the results – not bad considering! We left a little mowhawk to match his tough-guy attitude.
Thats it for now. We’ll keep you posted on how the engine project is coming along!