This is a reprint of a story I wrote for Lattitude 38, which is a West Coast sailing magazine. If you haven’t seen it here it is! It details our 2018 travels in Mexico and Central America.
Happy Together, our Leoaprd 48, is currently in Los Suenos Marina, Costa Rica. After we finished the 2017 Baja Ha-Ha, which was arguably the BEST TIME OF OUR LIVES, we headed up to La Paz as many Ha-Ha participants did and spent some time cruising the Sea of Cortez. The area reminds us of a Jeep commercial filled with salt water! We really enjoyed Baja and then headed to mainland Mexico in early March. After a stop at Isla Isabella (the Galapagos of Mexico) we headed to Puerto Vallarta and did the requisite family trips. After that it was time to keep moving south as hurricane season starts in May (which we were unaware of being Atlantic sailors) and suddenly we found ourselves alone in the Costa Alegre. I mean alone. Not one other boat for a thousand miles. We cruised to all the regular winter cruiser haunts like Chamela, Careyes, Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad and there wasn’t a soul. It was like the “Walking Dead” for cruisers. That is when I studied some more and found that everyone leaves Pacific Mexico by May 15th. We were here on June 1st. The marinas were empty, the southern swell was closing the entire coast and we had few opportunities to anchor. We barely made it to Las Hadas for Lennie to run on the beach for her Bo Derek imitation before we realized we had to keep pushing south. After a few more overnight crossings we made it to Zihuatenejo, a sailor’s bucket list stop. We entered the bay and once again…Not a single cruising boat in sight. We better keep going. From there we dodged the first three named storms of the season. We are no strangers to dodging storms after living and cruising in Florida and the Bahamas for 20 years so we pushed on. Next, we went to Acapulco. No space to tie up and no cruisers in sight so we braved the massive swell 10’ – 12 seconds apart and headed south for two more days until we reached the fantastic twelve bays of Hualtuco.
Now we relaxed a bit. We were getting pretty far south and the water was warm and we felt relatively safe from storms except…..we still had to cross the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec! We waited for three days and got the green light from our weather router Chris Parker. When he and the Port Captain agreed, Lennie and I headed across the Gulf. The crossing brought five different wind shifts and seas from every direction. Although we have sailed 10,000 nautical miles, this one earned us some new stripes. We made it to our final stop in Chiapas Mexico for our last Mexican meal and the final checkout before we entered Central America. We headed out under good conditions and sailed southwest for four days. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua all slid by our port side as we pressed on to Costa Rica. We motored when we had to and sailed when we could. About 50/50 I would guess. The conditions went from benign to extreme. We even had a swell from two directions that bashed the boat with each wave for four hours. The bail out spots are few and far between on these desolate coast lines with a strong southern swell landed everywhere. Almost there…..we passed the Gulf of Fonseca and dealt with wind and current but then had a six-hour motor until we reached the Bay of Papagallo where the Papagallo winds cross Nicaragua from the Caribbean and scream into the Pacific. We had all hands on deck as we dodged local fishing boats and fishing nets and long lines. We made it to Costa Rican waters by 5 AM and had a wonderful beam reach with our code zero sailing flying us along at 9 knots. Almost there! One more turn around the Gulf of Nicoyo and then a straight 28-mile run to Los Suenos Marina. Not so fast…Neptune had one last six-foot cross swell that hit us hard. Catamarans don’t like a short steep sea as it creates the washing machine effect and we were well spun by the time we reached the bay at Los Suenos at 3 AM local time. We used our lights and found a spot and dropped the hook.
We all settles in for a five-hour sleep which was the first in five days until at 8 AM the port captain called us on the radio and said that the military, immigration and customs were standing on the dock waiting for us. Oh well. We entered the marina and cleared in. What an incredible eight months it has been. Viva la Mexico!
Right Coast Wrong Time
Please enjoy our second to last video from the wonderful country of Mexico.