One of the advantages that we have over mariners of the past is the accessibility of modern technology. The crossing of the Tehuantepec is a prime example. In years past many a sailor got slammed by the strong winds that can develop over this region. It has a well-deserved reputation and everyone who crosses it has some apprehension. However, we are fortunate enough to have Starlink satellite internet. We use this to check Windy.com, Predictwind.com and NOAA weather forecasts as part of our pre departure planning. Between the three of these we have a reasonably good idea of what to expect when and where during a passage. The Tehuantepec, with all the hype ended up being a great sail for first 24 hours and a leisurely motor for the balance. Just the way we like it!. Below is a screen shot of what our weather forecasting looks like.
The marina in Chiapas is a nice facility but it is located about a 30-minute taxi ride from the city. We made arrangements to share a cab ride into town with the Stella Blue crew. We had the taxi driver wait for us at Walmart while we shopped for provisions, then take us over to Home Depot and a quick stop at Auto Zone too. All told I think we had the cab for almost 4 hours.
Chiapas is the entry (from the South) and exit (from the north) point for Mexico. As such the marina has a constant turn over of boats heading in either direction. Afternoons at the pool are usually full of information trades as we share our favorite and sometimes least favorite spots. It was here that we met the crew from the sailboat La Vida Gypsea. They had planned a day trip inland to the Argovia coffee plantation and resort. The tour had room in the van, so we tagged along.
It’s about a 2 hour ride up into the mountains to this beautiful 300-acre plantation. Its been in the same family for 4 generations. When the coffee market was depressed, some years ago, they diversified by growing exotic flowers and building a resort with cabins interspersed amongst the coffee plants, flowers and jungle. They even have a pool barely visible from the trails and a gazebo where they host weddings.
Checking out of Mexico in Chiapas is more of an adventure than a process. As I noted the marina is not in the town but the marina does provide a driver to take you to the necessary locations. There were 5 boats checking out and one boat checking in, so 6 Captains all together. Here’s how the day went:
08:00 – All Captains meet at the marina office to complete necessary documents. Paperwork done one Captain at a time.
11:00 – Driver shows up to take us to the locations to file paperwork. Driver has crew cab pickup truck that normally fits 6. Cram 7 adult males into pick up cab and leave for Port Authority office. Line up and one at a time complete Port paperwork and pay fee. $15.50 CDN
12:30 – Cram same 7 males into pick up cab. This would be a good time to mention the air conditioning did not work in the truck. Drive to the airport so we could clear customs.
13:00 – Cram 7 hot sweaty guys into pickup and head for the Port Captain. Line up and one at a time file paperwork with Port Captain to clear the boats into or out of the country and pay the fee $ 26.92 CDN.
13:30 – Stop at road side Taco stand for some tasty tacos and cokes for lunch.
14:00 – Arrive back at Marina and pay final bill before the official paperwork (Zarpe) is handed over. Make arrangements for the Navy and Immigration to do the final inspection (the same inspection and search that they did a week ago) the next morning at 09:30 before we leave at 10:00. Nothing to it.
Easy peesy lemon squeezy 😊
Next Stop El Salvador and the Bahia del Sol bar crossing. After a relatively easy 240 mile, 48 hour (and one sailfish) crossing we arrived at the anchorage area (waiting room) outside of Bahia del Sol.
To get into Bahia del Sol you need to go through a narrow opening between two sandbars. The problem is that the sand carried out of the bay is always shifting in the channel. You need to have a pilot boat meet you outside to guide you through the channel. In the worst case scenario there are standing waves up to 15 feet high and currents strong enough to throw your boat off course and onto the shore.
We were in contact with the local experts and were advised to be at the Pilot meeting area (green dot) for 5pm with a planned crossing at 5:30. The pilot boat comes out and gives you instructions on the VHF radio. There were 3 boats waiting Stella Blue, Pilialoha and us. We got to go first. The pilot boat lines us up with the entrance, times the swell sets and when he says go, you GO! Full throttle and keep the boat perpendicular to the waves. We were picked up by 2 large waves and surfed across the bar at 13 knots. Woo Hoo that was exciting.
After you slide across the bar there is a greeting party at the dock. This includes the Customs and Immigration, the Port Authority and a group of cruisers with your first drink in El Salvador.