We’ve stopped in Marina Chauhue in what we thought was the town of Huatulco in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico to wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Upon arrival we were welcomed by the other cruisers here in the “waiting room” who are also heading south into El Salvador. Today it’s blowing 40 knots in the Gulf, making it a very dangerous place to be, so we wait.
The Gulf of Tehuantepec is the body of water adjacent to the lowlands of southern Mexico where the winds from the Gulf of Mexico cross out into the Pacific. The winds blow extremely hard when there’s a high pressure system on the Atlantic side and funnel out for three hundred miles. The seas are on your beam and quickly become very steep (easily 15′) and close together, making it a dangerous crossing. We’re told by the Enrique, the marina manager here, that about 20 people die every year in the Tehuantepec. The Tehuantepec is also the only place that weather systems from Africa can cross into the eastern Pacific and all of Mexico’s hurricanes begin here.
Fortunately with the advancements in weather forecasting it’s easier now to predict when the winds will blow and when they’ll be calm. And we’re traveling between seasons when the occurrence of high winds is lessened significantly. According to all forecasts, the current gale will finish up tomorrow and by Thursday we should have a weather window long enough to scoot across before another system develops. It’s 450 miles to El Salvador, so we’ll be 3 nights and 4 days out. Unfortunately it’s feast or famine with the winds in the Tehuantepec, so we’ll likley have to motor the entire crossing.
Tomorrow we’ll check out of Mexico and get our Zarpe for El Salvador. The Zarpe is our official exit documentation from this country that says we left in good standing, and is required by the next country we enter. It takes about 5 hours tomorrow to get all the clearances and checkouts done.
I mentioned that we thought this was the town of Huatulco because Rob found out from Enrique yesterday that it’s the area of Huatulco and the town of La Crucecita, and before 1984 there was nothing here. This is a tourist area developed by the Mexican government at the same time they built Ixtapa near Zihuatanejo, Cancun on the Yucatan peninsula, and Loreto in the Sea of Cortez. There are four areas of lovely beaches here and a small town with lots of restaurants and tourist shopping. It’s by far the cleanest city we’ve seen in Mexico, and somewhere I’d definitely recommend for folks wanting a lovely getaway to warm weather and warm water.
And if you happen to be an investor with $30 million US dollars to spare you might want to know that they’re trying to sell off the marina which is currently government owned. They’re hoping to find someone who can develop the area around it with more facilities for the boaters and make it more of a destination for the yachties and not just an in transit stopover.
When we arrive in El Salvador we’re going into Bahia Jaltepeque where the Hotel del Sol resort welcoms cruisers. It’s the worst bar crossing in Central America, so we have to time our arrival with a high incoming tide and wait until it’s calm enough to get safely inside. The hotel sends a panga out to guide you through the channel. If the waves are breaking too hard to get in there is an area we can anchor and wait a day or two for a safe crossing. But it’s a great place to leave Rob and the boat while I come back to the states to take care of my sister after some surgery. He’ll have full use of the resort including the pool and facilities for a very reasonable fee.
Today on Yohelah we’re preparing the boat for what hopefully is a very calm and boring crossing of the Tehuantepec. Then I can quit worrying about this one and enjoy the year in Central America……