This is the continuing saga of the great Leopard 40 catamaran delivery – part IV. We are traveling up the Pacific Coast, from Panama to Washington. It’s just me and the boat owners – aka ‘the kids’. As I left it, we had departed Costa Rica, sailed north off Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatermellon, er, Guatemala. After four days we pulled into Puerto Madero, the southernmost port of Mexico and the last stop before the sprint across the deadly Bahia Tehuanapec.
We motored in behind the big seawall designed for the monster swells that the Tehuanapec often produces. We drifted deep into the s0uth fork, past legions of hard worked fishing boats and anchored off the fuel dock. I launched the dinghy and ripped over to the Capitania del Puerto, identifiable in all Mex ports as a white building with a blue and green stripe along the top. I pulled the dink onto the tourist beach amongst huge black vultures. They were eyeballing me and my bag of trash. The beach was lined with palapa restaurants, most had a cement pool installed. I bet this place was hopping with locals on the weekends.
The port captain was friendly and helpful. He handed me a sheet of paper that described the check in process, in English. A trip to port control and the airport immigration was necessary. And if you didn’t read the paper carefully, and make sure you got the correct number of stamps, you would have to go to the airport twice ;). I cruised back to the boat to pick up the kids for our land adventure.
Most Mex ports are on rivers so they flush to the sea. Not Madero; anything the people, the fishing boats and the fish plant dumped in the harbor, mostly stayed in the harbor. And the sludge it produced was impressive. It was a thick brown waxy grease consistency and it coated everything in the south fork. It made it difficult to land the dinghy at the fuel dock stairs without getting slimed.
But land we did and we caught a city cab to the port office to pay a fee to the gracious people there. Then our cab dropped us on the road outside of town to catch a rural cab to the airport. Again, the airport immigration staff was great, but also asked for a few pesos. We made one more trip to the Port Captain for our check out papers. That’s right, we intended to get out of there asap. He walked me out to a building around the corner and sat me down at their computer so I could check the weather. It agreed with the wx we were collecting onboard. We had a window that would allow us to get across the bay before the next T-pecker delivered it’s 100kt winds and untenable seas.
When we returned to the fuel dock there were two giant fishing boats parked there. As it got later, it looked like they might be spending the night. We loaded the dink with empty fuel jugs to fill ashore and top up the boat tanks by hand. Though the boat only held 90 gallons in two tanks, we had 16 fuel jugs that fit nicely in the bottom of the huge lockers forward. They gave us about another 70 gallons.
Weather looked good and the boat was ready as she was going to get. It was, as they say at doggy baptisms, “Time to cross the bitch.” We raised and rinsed the sludge covered rode. As the sun set, we motored on out. Straight across, it was 225nm, which made it about a day and a half in good weather. But we were going to take the longer route. I had never hugged the shore of the bay before, it’s supposed to be safer. But I had never tried to cross her in a catamaran either.
We got out to deep water and set a course parallel to shore. We made great time all night averaging 6-7 knots. We checked the wx often and it continued to look good. The wind came around onto the nose and I decided to start the cut across. As we got into the middle, the swell built to a size we had yet to see on the cat. She bumped, banged and creaked.
I eventually get the question when owners are aboard and it took these two longer than usual but the question did come, “Is the boat safe in these conditions?” I don’t build ’em I just drive ’em but I explained that the boat was ocean rated and that this was bay chop and that we were likely to encounter worse seas banging up Baja. She better be able to handle this. It’s not my job to sugar coat it. On a delivery, I make sure my crew understands the worst case scenario before we leave port and I encourage them to head ashore if they feel overly concerned.
Heading into the wind on the cat, we had a reefed main and one motor on. We crack off the wind just enough to fill the main. The main gives that extra push to power through the chop. The wind and swell got bad enough that we had to fall off the wind a little more to keep our speed up. We were no longer heading directly for our next port but I figured we’d make it up later … or change ports. Let up it did as we got past the center of the bay and closed on land.
As I came off watch at 0300 she was still a hoppin’ and a bangin’. When I awoke with the sun I felt the motion easing. By the time I came up to bring her into port it we were skimming along a flat calm. And you know the feeling of completing a hard fought, peril strewn leg. For me it was quiet elation. Another plus was that we were pulling into one of my favorite Mex ports – Huatulco. Icing? Dena was flying in to do some Mexican Riviera sailing with us.
Huatulco: “The place where the wood is adored”. I’m not making that up. A big tree in the shape of a cross washed up on shore. They set it upright and worshiped it for hundreds of years. We rolled into Marina Chahue and got parked. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm and the boat and crew were safe and happy.
Dena had been there since the day before. I tracked her down at her villa. We spent the day between there and the beach – big shower, nap, palapa lunch, swim, nap and dinner at a place on another beach. We then headed over to a Disco Mango with its boom boom machina music which we enjoyed through a mescal haze. After a great day we caught some cable TV and even some news. Looked like the folks back home were still hating each other. We switched over to a good movie.
The next day we moved Dena onboard and lunched with the kids. We hooked up with a crew delivering a catamaran from France to CA. Ralph and his wife deliver catamarans all over. They had Bobbi onboard for entertainment. We all got together and headed into a gem of a pueblo, La Crucecita, for a big Mex dinner. It was fun to compare notes with people that had the same odd life that I did. Ralph and I also had a similar ethic – get the boat there in better shape than she left. Finally, someone I could recommend for the trips I can’t do.
And soon it was time to depart. Next stop, Acapulco.
-Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake-