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Hautulco and inland to Oaxaca City Part 1

The first 150 miles of our passage from Acapulco to Hautulco was a beautiful, trade wind sail with 15 kts of wind just aft of the beam and calm seas with little or no swell.  On the afternoon of our second day at sea, the wind died completely and the seas went glassy calm - so calm in fact, that we could see dozens of sea turtles in the water around us, their heads and humped-back shells easy to spot as they jutted up out of the flat surface.  There were so many turtles in fact that we had to steer to avoid them and actually struck one or two (they seldom actually contacted the hull, the boat's wake pushing them harmlessly out of the way with no damage to either boat or turtle).  It soon became obvious that the turtles were in the area feeding on jelly fish and as we motored along in the still air, we spied many different species of jellies both at the surface and below.  We could see perhaps 20 or 30 feet down into the clear water from the bow and Kelsey and Eric spent well over an hour simply watching the wildlife go by.  Of particular note were the long, belt-like 'String of Pearl' jelly fish, some lengths of which we spotted were over 10 feet long.  We also saw dozens of small, black-and-yellow sea snakes, around two feet in length, swimming along the surface in the calm seas as well as many schools of fish, with dorsal fins jutting out into the air at the surface.  Several times, schools of dolphins joined us in our passage for 10 or 15 minutes, but soon lost interest in surfing our wake.  After dark, the phosphorescence glow from our wake and propeller wash shone brilliantly in the moonless dark and gave the hull and deck an eerie glow.   Occasionally, our dark-adjusted eyes would catch a very bright flash just in our peripheral vision.  At first, we thought it might be lightning over the horizon, but we identified it at last as brilliant underwater flashes from phosphorescent micro-organisms, disturbed by our passing.  Long after the kids were asleep, we sat in the cockpit, comfortable in the warm night in our shorts and t-shirts and the mild breeze created by our own movement across the still ocean and thought to ourselves that this is how passages should be!

Near midnight on our second night at sea, as we neared Puerto Escondido and then Port Angel, the seas began to build from the east although there was no wind.  A Tehuantepecer was blowing.  Less than 50 miles to the east of us, winds in excess of 50 miles per hour were creating steep, breaking seas over 20 feet high.  This focused wind, driven by high pressure in the Bay of Campeche on the east coast of Mexico, pushes up against the mountains of southern Mexico, becomes focused and concentrated, crosses Central America at the low, narrow isthmus near Salina Cruz  and comes shooting out of the gap due south  into the Gulf of Tehuantepec, straight down 095 degrees West Longitude like a shot gun blast.  The wind blows due south, ofen at hurricane force for 400 miles offshore before finally letting up.  The waves build to huge heights and like a shot gun blast, fan out around the edges of the Gulf.  We were feeling the western edge as we approached Hautulco.

The seas were very confused, with lots of shore reflection.  Being forced to follow the curvature of the land along the western edge of the Gulf, they had lost whatever regular rhythm and shape they once might have had.  Here, still outside the 'Tehuantepec zone', they built to perhaps 8 feet as we motored east along the coast and were very close together, making even motoring into them uncomfortable with occasional larger waves breaking over the bow and sending water striking against the cockpit windshield.  But we arrived safely at Marina Chahue (pronounced "Chow Way") in Santa Cruz Bay in Hautulco around 9:00 am on our third day out of Acapulco, still without feeling a breath of wind.  S/V Trinity on the other hand, who had departed Acapulco with us (but had waited longer to motor when the wind died) was perhaps 25 miles behind us.  As the day went by, the wind did finally arrive, re-enforced by diurnal effects and the seas built considerably.  Trinity finally arrived in the marina near dusk, having taken on gallons of water through an only partially closed dorade vent.  They spent the next week drying out everything in their forepeak, including all the kid's stuffed animals and several large sails!

Marina Chahue with its several surrounding small towns is a lovely little spot.  Considerably less expensive than Acapulco, it is still under construction (though the first stage with perhaps 50 slips is complete) and a dredge is working near the marina entrance and often has a steel anchor cable stretched across the entry way.  One is supposed to call them on the radio before transiting the marina entrance and they will lower the cable to the bottom, allowing you to pass over it.   The day after we arrived, a large 100ft+ power yacht neglected to do this and managed to wrap the cable around one of their propellers.  They blocked the marina entrance for several hours as divers worked and finally succeeded in freeing the cable.  We don't know whether the power boat sustained more damage then the cosmetic hull scratches they received from being blown up against the rusty side of the dredge - we hope not as they are a long way away from any facility equipped to haul a boat of that size.

A gentlemen by the name of Enrique is the harbor master here, a very welcoming and friendly guy who speaks English well and being a cruiser himself, understands and goes out of his way to help other boaters.  There is no fuel dock here, so once a week he drives cruisers in his pickup to the nearby Pemex station to get diesel and propane, providing large 100 liter fuel containers for those who might need to borrow them.  Really large boats can tie alongside a concrete sea wall and order fuel delivered to the marina by tanker truck, but that is overkill for most sailboats, who generally need tens, not thousands of gallons.

La Crucecita (Little Cross) is the nearest town, an easy 1.5 mile bike ride or 16 peso taxi ride from the marina and has most of the things cruisers might need including groceries, a bakery, hardware stores and several internet cafes.  Cruise ships stop occasionally at Huatulco, in the next bay over, and many passengers bus into La Crucecita, so the town has that planned sort of look about it and indeed, it was built primarily by Fontnar, the tourist branch of Mexican government, to house and supply the folks who work in the many nearby beachfront hotels.  But it is tastefully done, has a quaint air about it and and has grown organically in recent years.  It feels very much like a friendly, welcoming little town.  We met several locals at a nearby pool (the marina has no pool, but there is a 25 peso per person beach club of sorts within walking distance) all of whom moved to Hautulco from elsewhere in Mexico for the quality of life that it offers.  Think of a small, tourist oriented Oregon coast town with tropical weather and you have the right idea.

Towards the end of out first week here, we took a 9 hour bus ride to Oaxaca City, 150 miles inland, for several days of exploration.  Our adventures there are chronicled on the next page.

As always, click on the images to see a larger view.


The brand new marina in Santa Cruz bay in Hautulco. They are still working on it, dredging out the second half and constructing hotels and such.

A 100ft power boat which neglected to call the dredge before leaving. They wrapped the dredge's 2" steel anchor cable around a prop!

Kelsey and her friend Yvette from s/v Aquamarine, making pencil drawings to sell to the other crusiers in the marina.

The Sula and Trinity kids saddle up to the bar at the Cactus Resturant in the nearby town of La Crucecita.

Out celebrating her birthday, Roma from s/v Trinity shows off her riding style!

Mel samples one of the many local brands of Mezcal, a tequilla like drink made from the Agave cactus.

Crusing kids mugging for the camera.

Roma gets the full cactus treatment on her birthday.

Streat performers in the Zocalo in Oxaca City. Kelsey and RJ are in the crowd of onlookers.

Woman with a live turkey at the Friday market in Ocotlan, south of Oaxaca City.

Ocotlan market scene. The market literally covers acres and acres of space, with each area specializing in specific goods such as meats or vegitables

One of the many meat sellers at the Ocotlan market.

So many women were carrying packages and other burdens on their heads that Kelsey decided to give it a try!

Burrows are often used to bring goods to the market through the narrow and crowded steets.

This is a hardware store selling Oxen Yokes. Really. There is sufficient demand that this store carries over 20 yokes in stock in different sizes!

One of the very many catholic churches in the area. This one is in Occotlan.

Melissa shopping for black clay items in San Bartolo, which is widly known for this particular style of pottery.

Dona Rosa was a famous potter in San Bartolo who pioneered the smooth black clay style and was one of the first to invite tourists into her shop.

More retail therapy for Melissa. Look at that smile!

This is the kiln they use to fire the pottery items. It's six feet deep and stoked via a fireplace at the bottom reached via an adjacent pit.

Monte Alban is one of the most spectacular of all of Mesoamerica's ruined cities and it lies just a short bus ride outside of Oaxaca City.

Sula and Trinity kids along the east edge of the 'Sunken Patio' at the Monte Alban.

Eric and Mel standing on the top of 'building E', one of the highest buildings at Monte Alban. Photo is taken looking south across the main plaza.

Trinity family on building E, Monte Alban.

Looking north from Building E at Building D. If you look closely, you will see our kids on the top of the building.

Eric and Steve along the east wall of the Sunken Patio, Monte Alban.

Lookign down at the 'Main Ball Court', Monte Alban. Many sites have ball courts although all the ones near Oaxaca lack stone rings for some reason.

Kelsey and RJ on the Main Plaza, Monte Alban. Photo taken looking southwest.

Roma and Steve near the south end of the Main Plaza, Monte Alban. Photo taken looking west.

Kelsey and RJ at the top of the 'South Platform'. Photo taken looking northwest. You can see the 'Building of the Dancers' in the background.

Building Q, as seen from the top of the South Platform. This photo shows how high Monte Alban is. Parts of Oaxaca City can be seen in the distance.

Examples of Zapotec tablets preserved in the visitor center at Mount Alban.

Although Monte Alban was mostly a city and place of governemnt, parts were used as burial sites. Many tombs are located at the site.


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