The Big Catch
07 February 2011 | Off Shore from Huatulco
A Sea Turtle, lets just say "Ben found it"
The Engine Saga Continues...
We made it to Huatulco in 35 hours. The passage was uneventful (meaning no major boat problems!) but seemed to take forever and the seas were confused which makes for confused tummies! We of course saw the usual joyful dolphins, surfacing whales, and turtles, turtles galore! There are turtles EVERYWHERE! And they just like space out or sleep on the surface of the water and you don't see them until you are pretty close, and we start screaming at them to move or Ben shoots at them with his water gun. They will usually lazily lift their head up to look at you and then suddenly realize they had better skid daddle and for some unknown reason they almost always turn directly into the path of the boat! Thank goodness they have hard shells! So, our fishing possessed child had out his usual paraphernalia and lo and behold what did he hook? Nope, not a fish...but a turtle! It took us 45 minutes to pull in this poor, fighting, heavy turtle so we could either pull the hook out or at least cut the line so the hook could just rust out. We even put the boat in reverse because it had pulled so much of Ben's fishing line out and it was really hard trying to reel it in. In the end, we cut the line and the turtle swam off, relieved I'm sure. Ben has fished very little while we are under way since then, still recovering from PTST (post traumatic swimming turtle!).
All of these great little anchorages we had heard about that we had hoped to stop at along the way and snorkel in crystal clear water did not happen. Confused seas also make for confused anchorages unless they are well protected and the beautiful blue Pacific turns into a sort of brown/green color. Plus, we are very prudent in our choice of places to anchor and if it looks like if the winds or waves might pick up and we might drag, we just simply don't do it. That can be a real good way to lose your boat fast if you're not careful.
It was great to be in the Huatulco Marina though because not only were our old friends there, but we made lots of new friends too! Huatulco is the place where cruiser's heading south often stage at, waiting for a weather window before crossing the Tehuanepec. The Tehuanepec can be a very dangerous stretch of water due to the potential of strong winds and waves whipping up quickly so that is why you wait...patiently. Fortunately our wait was only a week but unfortunately we really could have stayed in this neat little town a little longer. Who knew? I was shocked to see this cute town with resorts and restaurants, and many snowbirds from the States and Canada that have been coming here for years. Renting a car gave us the opportunity to not only have a few nights off the boat (which always feels so great) but also to see the beautiful countryside of southern Mexico. On our way to the world famous surfing town of Puerto Escondido we stopped at a turtle sanctuary and breeding facility which gave us the opportunity to see all the different sea turtles and learn of their plight. Over the past summer we had participated in several baby turtle releases, holding the less than one day old babies with our sandy hands so as to supposedly imprint the beach on these babies so they knew where to return to years later to lay their eggs. We would walk them near the water at dusk, and then release them, letting them go through their necessary struggle to the water. Like pretty much everything else in the ocean, man has not been kind to these critters. The more Larry and I live on the ocean, the more we respect the life that struggles in it, and the more difficult we find to eat it. Not that we would ever eat turtle, but to eat some other fish or shrimp and not really know for sure if it was sustainably caught or what else was carelessly killed in the catching/netting/long line process, or if it is fish farmed, is it full of hormones and antibiotics? And so the dilemma goes...and if Ben catches a fish and we see it swimming so beautifully in the ocean you just hate to kill it. We're not that hungry...yet.
Puerto Escondido was adorable. It has several very nice hotels to stay at, little boutiques, and restaurants and bars that line the famous yet treacherous surfing beach. We arranged for a surfing lesson for Ben and ended up hooking up with a super cool instructor, Raul, who took us around for two days allowing Ben to safely surf with the "big" boys. He also took us for the best lunch we've ever had in Mexico at a local place, and then to their amazing market where these little, old Mexican women sit, selling everything from herbs that cure a case of intestinal parasites to small limbs off trees that if you steep in boiling water and then drink and you will be cured of many things, including arthritis etc...Very cool!
So, back on the boat, nine of us all pull out together to begin our big Tehuanepec crossing. Everyone had studied the upcoming weather extensively. We also took it one step further and hired a very handy weather routing company named Commanders Weather (see "Favorites" right side of this page). For a small price, in terms of your life (!), they will study all of the weather patterns, taking into consideration your boat speed, and calculate the weather along your route based on your boat speed. This is the second time we have used them. (As a side note, when the tsunami warning was released after the Japan earthquake, they immediately e-mailed us remembering that we may be in an area of danger, providing us with estimated arrival times of the expectant tsunami. I thought that was pretty nice.) At 6:45 AM and 43 hours later we all patiently waited outside Puerto Chiapas harbor, our last port in Mexico before crossing into Guatemala, radioing the port captain, asking permission to enter. Once again the camaraderie felt great. The crossing had been uneventful, actually quite calm and relaxing with the exception of the last night for us. Out of the blue, just as the sun was setting we were suddenly swarmed with fishing vessels, actually forming a horseshoe around our boat on the radar. Now some of the boats we were traveling with were 3 miles off shore, two were 60, we were about 10 miles off, and the rest fell somewhere in between. The concern with the fishing vessels is the long lines they put out, and of course wrapping it around our prop. The shrimp boats are large and well lit up. The pangas are small, unlit, and they don't always show on our radar. Dad steered, Ben and I stood up on the bow with a flashlight and weaved Larry and the Lisa Kay through the maze of flags that the pangas put out marking either the beginning or the end of a long line. Scary. Can I just say...I don't like to use the word "hate" ...but I HATE LONGLINES! (I implore you to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website and pull up their list of sustainable seafood to eat.)