Friday, December 12, 2008


Passage to Puerto Angel

From Zihuatanejo, we set out for a 3-day, 2-night passage southeast along the coast of Mexico. Because we hadn't heard anything to change our minds about skipping Alcapulco, we motored on by this mega-tourist city at 3am. We could see the bright lights for many hours as we first approached, then left them behind. Remember...we are moving at about 5.5 to 6 knots or about 6 to 7 miles per hour.

We were always within sight of the coast which was almost all natural, uninhabited mountains and white sand beaches. Along the way we were visited by many Brown Booby birds who would fly around the boat checking us out before they headed back out to sea. Many sea turtles floated by, both Green Turtles and the hump-backed Olive Ridley Turtle. Often, we would see little white birds riding along on the backs of the Olive Ridley turtles. But, they would always fly away before we could get close enough to get a photo.

Several times we traveled along with schools of dolphins. We were twice treated to dolphins leaping up into the air, spinning as they surfaced. One of the days we kept scaring off large flocks of small white tern-like birds. They would be wildy diving and fishing and at the same time trying to keep their distance from us. We saw small flying fish, and large leaping bill fish - were they Blue Marlins?

At first we had calm seas and no wind so our passage was quite pleasant and the knitting was easy. At one point we had a strong (3-knot) current running WITH us so we were making 9 knots! Whoo hoooo! Speeding right along!

But, 50 miles or so past Alcapulco, thankfully in daylight now, it happened. Niki Wiki rose up out of the sea and dropped back down again - HARD - as if we had hit a speed bump in the road! Not the usual tossing from mean waves - but a hard bump. What the heck was THAT? I jumped out of my berth and flew up the ladder to the cockpit where Jonesy was dumbstruck. A giant log had suddenly surfaced behind our boat. We had hit a log! What is the damage? Are we going to sink?

Jonesy practically threw himself down the companionway ladder to pull up the floor hatches and look into the bilge. No water coming in there. Next, we tossed the mattress off of our berth to look at the rudder mounting, sure we would see water gushing in. Nope. Dry. No water was coming in anywhere. We had surely dodged the bullet this time. There was really nothing we could do at the time except motorsail on towards our destination and watch for leaks.

As we got closer to Puerto Angel, the seas started getting rough. The swells increased in size to what looked to be about 8 feet high. They were pushed by the opposing current which made them stand up in steep walls. The ride got pretty rough. Unfortunately, we had to change course eventually to make the turn into Puerto Angel. This would put us abeam of the seas and make the boat rock from side to side.

What happens when we rock that way? Well, the bananas peeled themselves. The books and baskets of sailing magazines and knitting gear got tosssed behind the settee. Nope, the refrigerator stayed closed this time because I had made a new bungee strap to tie across the door so I didn't have to chase jars of mayonaise and jelly around the galley floor and mop up milk like last time. Also, the onions, jicamas, and avocados were fine because I had them stored in the red hanging basket in the galley.

PUERTO ANGEL soon as we got behind the shelter of a point of land, the seas instantly calmed and we slipped into tiny Puerto Angel in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. This place is a little slice of heaven.

Two other sailboats were anchored in the tiny bay the day we arrived and we knew both of them! Friends! We choose a spot among the pangas (open fishing boats), and immediately I donned the snorkel gear to take a look at the hull, rudder, and prop for any damage from our encounter with the log.

All I could see was a white line running down one side of the hull/keel. No bent prop, no big gashes or holes, no twisted hardware on the rudder. We were so lucky! No, not lucky to have hit the log in the first place, but lucky to have no real damage. (A check later by a diver to clean the bottom of the boat confirmed that the bottom paint has been scraped off on the keel and maybe a "bump" in the front of the keel).

Above is a picture of Niki Wiki in the center of the photo at anchor in Puerto Angel with Playa Panteon in the background. We met the folks from the sailing vessels StarShine and Camelot for adult beverages and dinner in one of the beach palapas (open-air restaurants). Time to relax and enjoy the best part about cruising - - - the friends and lifestyles of the places we visit.
Puerto Angel is first a fishing village, and now is also a retreat for folks looking for a quiet place. Pangas line the beach and zoom in and out all day long and at odd times throughout the night. Take a close look at the photos - do you see that the beach is very steep? How do the fishermen get their boats up on that hill you may ask.

The answer is this: They wait out in the bay just off the the shore and watch the sea behind them. Just when they think a swell is coming in, they will gun their engine and zoom at full speed through the water, through the wave, and up onto the sand embankment. Yep, they use the forward motion of the boat to run up the steep sand dune. This takes some real guts for sure!

When the fishermen aren't fishing, they still have chores. Their nets will occasionally need repair. Here in Puerto Angel, they spread the nets out across the sand and use nylon/plastic shuttles to make the loops and knots in the line.

Meeting up with fellow cruisers in various places is a big part of this lifestyle. Making new friends is important too because as vagabonds, many of our friends take off to explore other parts of the world, just as we are moving south and east out of Mexico. Also, making local friends has been a real joy. We enjoy having leisurely conversations with the people we meet who run the little restaurants, drive the taxis or sell us produce out of the back of their pickup trucks.
The children are so curious and friendly too. Here is a photo of Jonesy talking about our dinghy engine with a group of boys. They were facinated by our small engine as their fathers all have big engines on their fishing pangas.
This group of young men/boys came paddling by in a canoe one afternoon. They were laughing and swimming and having a great time. As they approached our boat one of them asked if we had some water to share (a common request). I didn't have any bottled water, but I did hand them a plastic bag with boxed juice drinks and a peanut candy for each of them. They were thrilled! Immediately, they settled down with their goodies and just drifted along as they ate. Soon they were off hand-paddleing their canoe to other adventures.
Keeping in touch with friends and family back in the USA is quite difficult for us.

Finding a wi-fi signal for internet email is always a challenge and sometimes impossible. But internet "cafes" are usually available even in very small towns. Here's a picture of Jonesy using the computer in Puerto Angel. See the colors of paint on the walls? Each wall, and the ceiling, is painted in a different shade of blue. You are seeing just about the whole place in this photo - just a concrete cell, painted blue with some computers. But it worked.
Just behind the beach front restaurants is an old cemetery. We took a hike up the hill to look at the gravesites. Some were elaborate (painted blue, white, or green) handbuilt concrete tombs. But farther up the hill, the graves only had a wooden cross (or crosses). As the "Day of the Dead" holiday was a couple of weeks prior, the graves were littered with dead flowers and spent candles.
As we are folks who have moved around a lot, and are now such vagabonds we are awed by the fact that there are families around to decorate all of the graves. We can only assume that people spent their whole lives here in Puerto Angel and eventually were buried here on the hill. Now, their offspring and their families honor them with visits.

Hey - I met your "friend" Behan on "Totem", along with her daughters.
We talked about your awesome knitting!
You are going to get really tired of me oooohing and awwwwing at your wonderful voyage. Please bear with me, my life is so dull. I want to live vicariously through you. I look forward to your post.
I just love your blog, and following your adventures. Your photos are awesome. I relive our Baja Ha-Ha trip whenever I read your posts!
Hi Guys- SV BLISS will be leaving San Carlos a little later this month... not much hope in catching up with you, but I can at least follow your blog. Watch out for logs!
Thank God the damage was so minor!
Love catching up with your adventures. Happy sailing.
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