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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Tehuantepec? What Tehuantepec?

March 4, 2014

Sunday - We woke up at 7:45am for an 8:00am departure for the three day trek to Chiapas.  Must have hit snooze one too many times on that alarm clock.  Good thing Dave got the boat ready to roll yesterday.  We untied the lines and off we went.  Melissa fretting about the Tehuantepec ahead of us.  This is the most dreaded spot we've ever had to cross.  With winds routinely at 50 knots... yeah, Dave swears the weather forecast is good.  And by midnight we had made it across.  And we saw a top wind speed of maybe 10 knots.  Dave actually put up the spinnaker and turned off the engine for several hours.  We've never been able to actually sail (as opposed to motor sail) with the spinnaker before!  Note how flat the seas are.  It was like this the whole way across.

Monday - Melissa awakens to calm seas and Dave heads down to catch some sleep after a relatively calm night at sea.  The entire day - nothing happened.  Zip.  Zilch.  But it was hotter than blazes.  So much so that Melissa started to get a heat rash.  So Dave cranked up the generator and the air conditioning for her - taking it from 95 to 89 degrees in the cabin - which was at least enough to make the rash go away if she sat in front of the air vent blowing cold air.  Later that evening, Melissa took a second 4 hour shift into the dark of night.  Two 4 hour shifts in one day - a new record for her!  The night shift turned out to require a bit more work as Saltydog had about 13 fishing boats along their route - every one dragging a fishing net that would disable either one of us when it wrapped in the prop.  Apsaras was a mile further offshore and hence they weren't in our way - but Melissa had to coordinate course changes with Saltydog so we would maintain proper separation.  Ok, yeah, its still not much.  But hey, every little bit that helps Dave get some rest, right?  At 10pm Dave came up and took over the helm.  At 2am Melissa woke up and stuck her head up in the cockpit.  She just knew something wasn't right.  Sure enough we were skirting around squalls and more boat traffic.  Dave asked her to move everything off the counters as it might get bumpy as we pass by the squalls.  Uh oh.  Thank goodness this trip turned out to be all about more worrying about weather than actual weather - as we didn't slosh around any more than we already had been all along. 

Here is Saltydog underway with sails up:

 

Tuesday - Melissa wakes up at 5:30am to find that we've arrived at Chiapas.  Dave has slowed down to 3 knots to give it a bit more time for it to get lighter before navigating the channel into the marina.  Fortunately the channel was well marked, well lit, and even had range markers.  We've not seen a range marker since Canada.  A range marker is two towers - each with a light.  You line up the two lights and then you know you are in the middle of the channel.  So turned out to be no sweat.  We arrived at the marina at 7am, and we figured on having to dock ourselves.  But when we arrived 5 marina guys showed up to help us with the lines.  Wow.  What great service!

A hour after we arrived, we hear "knock knock" and behold, its the Mexican Navy and Chiapas Port Captain here to inspect the boat and fill out our paperwork.  All the guidebooks say that here in Chiapas you always get boarded by the Navy.  Presumably because this is the southernmost port in Mexico and is hence a logical point for smuggling to come in from Guatemala and other points south.  But we didn't realize the Port Captain would also come along.  Everywhere else we've been we've had to make a trip to the Port Captain's office to have our paperwork stamped.  This whole "inspection" turned out to be nothing more than a paperwork exercise.  They wanted to know what type of engine we have (Yanmar 67 HP), what types of radios we have aboard (VHF and SSB), etc.  Then once the paperwork was complete they went on their way.  And ok, seriously, why the heck does the Mexican navy care whether our engine is Yanmar or Perkins?  Melissa suspects this is largely a way to employ people as opposed to any real value proposition.  None the less, she showed the proper deference as they were carrying guns after all.

The port here in Chiapas is mostly a commercial port.  We found ourselves wondering if these fishing vessels were still sea worthy as we made our way in this morning:

When Melissa went to check in at the marina she was told all our Mexican paperwork was all wrong.  We didn't do our port captain paperwork right all along the way.  The right way (according to this particular marina manager) is that we should have told the port captain in Cabo that we would be going all the way to Chiapas and then had each port captain along the way stamp that paperwork rather than having each port captain generate a new "leaving port A for destination port B" paperwork.  Though he assures Melissa he can fix everything for their paperwork going to El Salvador.  Hmm.  Ok, interesting, particularly since no other port captain or marina has mentioned this.  Ah they do love their bureaucracy down here.

Melissa also asked where we could get our propane tanks filled.  She was informed there is no way in Chiapas for this to happen.  Not because they don't have propane.  Of course they have propane in a city this big.  Problem is that the one propane filler company that had the one gas fitting for filling US boat bottles has gone missing.  Apparently it went missing when one of the workers at that particular location quit in a huff and the fitting has not been seen since.    This is by no means a problem because we've plenty of propane to make it - probably all the way to Panama in the spare tank.  But its kinda funny really.  They can't fill boats in the marina here with propane all for what is no doubt a $10 fitting.

Dave was worried that the generator seemed to be getting super hot yesterday.  So he takes a look.  We always worry about things like the generator and engine because any big repairs here - its super hard to get the parts imported without paying 30% duty on them.  Its possible - just a major pain and huge time sink as it can take weeks.  But he finds that the sea strainer was full.  He cleans it up, and voila - the generator starts running at normal temperatures.  Then the fridge quits.  The heat exchanger tends to get contaminated.  So he does the vinegar trick again to clean it out and, voila, the fridge and freezer are working again too.  Now for a nap!

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