Monday, January 31, 2011

Tehuantepec & El Salvador

A day later we got to the charming town of Huatulco. It was a small town with friendly people, stunning beaches, and a charming town center. Best of all, it’s in the state of Oaxaca, which means mole sauce and lots of it. Yum.

Again we rented a car and this time drove north to Puerto Escondido, a surfing town Andrew and I had visited in the summer almost four years earlier. It was largely the same, except the waves were smaller this time of year, and more of the main road along the beach had been paved. I went for a long walk on the beach and came across a crowd of people staring at the sand – baby sea turtles had just hatched and were trying to make their way to the ocean!

Huatulco was the last stop before we had to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec on our way south. The Tehuantepec is famous for it's windy weather pattern, where the narrow land isthmus, the Sierra Madre mountains, and the differences in air temperature all combine to create gale and storm force winds on the Pacific side. For most of the year the weather pattern looks like this:

The advice given to boats crossing this gulf is to stay as close to shore as possible to avoid getting caught in the massive windstorm. “Keep one foot on the beach” or “drag a hand in the sand” are the familiar expressions. So we waited for a weather window and sailed to the 16thparallel, then followed the coast south past Guatemala. After all the discussion and planning, the crossing was largely uneventful. The wind was minimal and we motored almost the whole way. We even got a little bored and Andrew attempted to wakeboard with the paddle board.

But we are a sailboat, after all, without a speedboat engine so even the wakeboarding got a little boring.

We were motoring along the coast of El Salvador when John mentioned that we were near a surf break with delicious pizza that he had visited before. Craving some brick-oven-baked thin crust, we anchored off a little town called Tunco. After setting the hook, we threw some clothes in a dry bag backpack, got on our boards and paddled to shore. As this was a surf spot and not an anchorage, we were the only boat out there. Consequently, the beachgoers seemed quite interested in our arrival (and probably also because we came ashore with a dog in a neon orange life vest). We walked a short ways up the beach to stash our stuff at John’s friend’s hotel, then moseyed over to the open-air palapa cafĂ© where surfers lounged around in their board shorts, waiting for the next surf session.

How nice it was to go ashore without the hassle of having to check in with immigration and customs! We were minor celebrities for the evening, as everyone we met had seen our boat anchored off the break and wanted to know all about it. Some great Australians befriended us and we followed them to a local beachside bar where it was ladies’ night. Kitty came along too and of course, she was the most popular lady there. A few free rum and cokes later we paddled back to the boat around midnight, in 85 degree water and under a full moon. After rinsing off in the cockpit we weighed anchor and set sail for Nicaragua.

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