The Adventure Begins

22 May 2011 | Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
20 May 2011 | Chacala Bay, Mexico
19 May 2011 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
14 May 2011 | Ipala Bay, Mexico
13 May 2011 | Chamela Bay, Mexico
12 May 2011 | Tenacatita Bay, Mexico
11 May 2011 | Manzanillo, Mexico
06 May 2011 | Caleta de Campos, Mexico
05 May 2011 | Zihuatanejo, Mexico
25 April 2011 | Mexico
20 April 2011 | Mexico
16 April 2011 | Guatemala
13 April 2011 | Nicaragua
09 April 2011 | Nicaragua
02 April 2011 | Costa Rica
01 April 2011 | Costa Rica
30 March 2011 | Costa Rica
29 March 2011 | Costa Rica
28 March 2011 | Costa Rica
23 March 2011 | Costa Rica

Crossing the Gulf of Tehauntepec

27 January 2009 | Mexico
Nancy
Four Points vs. Gulf of Tehauntepec

After hearing/reading all possible weather forecasts, including Commander's weather service, it was decided that we would start our arduous journey across the Gulf of Tehauntepec. Since we were still 60 miles from the opening of the gulf, we decided to leave Thursday night, mainly to give us the full 4 days of the low winds to get through the worst of the crossing (latitude 93 to 96), to make this crossing during the day light hours, and so we would not leave on a Friday! As some of you may know this is a long time sailor's superstition...to not ever start a passage on a Friday. Not that we are all that superstitious but why test it on the most challenging crossing that we should have during our sailing trip! It was like a mass exit from Marina Chahue, 6 boats leaving (Arctic Vixen, Anna, Mahboula, Andante, Four Points, and a m/v that I can not remember the name) just before dark, within 30 minutes from each other to start their journey towards the T-peck. We calculated that the entire passage to El Salvador would be approximately 520 nm and hopefully we would arrive within 4 days.
As the weather forecast predicted, right out of the Marina, we were faced with fairly strong winds (25 knots) right on our nose and steep seas (5-8ft)! We knew it was going to be a long night! We were able to motor sail with the main sail to help balance the boat a bit but still had the motion of steep seas to ride out. Four Points was amazing and was able to cut through the waves without problems and we were able to stay dry for the most part. We stayed close to the beach (approximately 3 miles) our first night of cruising so we could stay out of the range of the last bit of the T-peck winds as they were dying. Early Friday morning as we reached the opening of the gulf we had one last blast of strong winds (35-40 knots) but shortly died just after sunrise to 20-25 knots. This wind allowed us to sail across the Gulf of Tehauntepec most of the way until the wind died completely. The seas were also calm, almost like a lake! We then noticed that we had a current (~ 1.5 nm) that was against us too. By the end of our second full day of sailing we were out of the worst of the Tehauntepec region. Another T-peck winds were not scheduled to blow until Monday sometime. We still had approximately another 280 nm to go until we came to the meeting place for entrance to Barillas Marina. Unfortunately, just as we past the Tehauntepec area and before we got to the Guatemela border, s/v Anna was having engine problems and needed to go into Pto. Madero, MX. It was also about this time that the motor vessel that was cruising with us went ahead (they could travel much faster then us) towards Costa Rico.
Then there were 4 of the original sailors left to sail the remaining distance to Barillas Marina, El Salvador. As we continued on with our passage, we recalculated that we would not arrive at the meeting place (way point) as planned on Monday AM and that it would not be until Tuesday morning. At this point we have already been at sea for 4 days and 4 nights, what's one more night? Brian and I actually were getting into the routine of 4-5 hour watches around the clock and of course I am still doing the 12 midnight to 4-5am shift! Our challenge at this point of our passage was to stay away from the fishing pangas and their drift nets and long lines, especially at night. The fishermen rarely have navigational lights on their boats or if they do the lights are barely seeable or they flick them on at the last possible moment. What we could tell is that the fishing nets would have very dim lights or sometimes a flashing light to mark the ends of the net or lines. Well, we had been doing very well at staying away from the fishermen and their gear, until one night, shortly after I got on watch, I noticed pangas and lights marking the nets/lines (?) 10-12 miles offshore. Reluctantly I decided to wake Brian to get a second pair of eyes to confirm what I was seeing. We decided to move inside to the coast a bit because the line of very dim lights that went in both directions and it appeared that there were less lights inside than there were moving out. We were still off the Guatemala coast. Just as we moved inside about 2-3 miles we got hung up on a very long drift net. We were able to cut the motor just about the time we noticed that we were hung up and the net was dragging along with us, we knew at this point we were doomed! We radioed to the other boats to let them know we were dead in the water and Brain needed to dive on the prop to free up the tangled line. Scary! Brian was able to access the prop with his dive light and mask and was able to cut away the majority of the net. However, in order to get the remaining pieces of the net out of the prop he came back up and donned his diving gear and went back under the water under the boat to cut away the tangled line. Yikes! While Brian was doing all this, my job was to keep the boat straight and away from floating back over the net, oh yeah, stay calm and not freak out by all the possible things that could go wrong in this scenario! The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is altitude!
Once everything was freed and Brian back on the boat, we were able to get back on course. We headed about 12-15 miles offshore to continue our sailing and to be clear of any other fishing nets and Brian went back to sleep. Just about the same time the wind kicked up to about 25-30 knots. I discovered that we had too much sail up; I attempted to pull them in myself. But quickly realizing that I could not do it myself at the same time noticing that the wind was building. Poor Brian, I had to wake him up again to help me pull in the sails. Needless to say neither of us got much sleep that night!
The next two days and nights of sailing were pretty much uneventful and we were happy to be able to relax. We arrived at the meeting waypoint early Tues morning with the other boats. We were able to heave to while we waited for the pilot to escort us to Barillas Marina. Barillas Marina is pretty much in an isolated area. Bahia de Jiquilisco is a well-protected lagoon and the entrance to the Barillas Marina is through a 10-mile channel over a barra of surf with fairly large swell that runs beam to for several miles. We took several pictures of the area as our flotilla of 4 boats follow the pilot back to the marina. (Pictures should be in the photo gallery) We were all glad to be heading to the marina so we could celebrate our successful crossing of the Gulf of Tehauntepec and catch up on sleep!
The final score was Four Points et al. 1: Tehauntepec 0!
Comments
Vessel Name: Four Points
Vessel Make/Model: C&C Landfall 43
Hailing Port: San Diego
Crew: Brian & Nancy McCluskey
About:
Nancy & I have been planning to go sailing for years. We are not ready to retire but decided to take this trip before we get to old. Sailing takes a lot of energy and commitment so we didnít want to wait until we canít physically handle the trip. [...]

Who: Brian & Nancy McCluskey
Port: San Diego