I see some of the pictures I thought I had uploaded last time did not appear.
Oh what a pleasant place I am in now!
I sailed out of the rivermouth at Chiltepec with my gear dried, my hatches sealed tight and a meal made for me by Sonia, she and husband Maurelio had been guarding my valuables for me during my stay at their little enterprise “Coktels Arley”, selling shrimp cocktails to tourists. Arley is their daughter. Many small businesses in Mexico are named after a family member – I eat beans and rice at “Restaurante Lucy”, buy groceries at “Abarottes Kevin”, and so on. Anyway, out to sea with a strong wind which soon moderated to another becalming, then later increased to a nasty howler from the northeast, directly in my teeth because northeast along the coast to the river entrance at Frontera was where I was heading. I made long tacks and advanced slowly with the nose under every fourth wave or so and the decks always awash, then found the sea calmer nearer the shore and beat back and forth within three miles of the coast, but as the wind grew worse and the waves sapped my momentum I found I was not gaining much with each tack, and near sunset headed in about 5km short of the rivermouth where I had hoped to enter and anchor. Anchoring saves all the huge hassle of emptying the boat and dragging it up the beach, and then doing the same in reverse in the morning. I thought of anchoring in the shallows near the beach as the wind was now coming off the land so there were only tiny waves there, but a particularly mean thunderstorm was looming so I changed my mind and rammed the sand just as the sun touched the horizon. I was looking forward to that meal, not having eaten that day. I uncleated (released) the sail and let it hang free whilst I started to unload. I discovered immediately that all three cargo hatches, which open three separate compartments under the deck (each known as “Cargo Bay Three” to save confusion), had leaked horribly. How could this be? I had sealed the tops of the buckets to the deck perfectly, and the lids seemed to fit well and had good seals but now all my gear was wet again, and I would have to dry it and the holds too. Now the thunderstorm hit, no rain but hellish wind, stinging sand sheeted across the beach, huge moths rammed their antennae into my bare chest at top speed, and as I ran up the beach with another load of stuff I looked back and OH SHIT! The boat had capsized! Though the sail was completely free the drag from the wind and the wind pressure on the mast had turned Desesperado on his side in the shallows! I pulled him back upright, just dodging the ama as it came down on me and whammed into the water. Oh no! Lying on his side in the water he had filled up with water! Cargo Bay Three and Cargo Bay Three were totally full to the top; Cargo Bay Three only had a few inches because it was in the end nearest the beach. And OH NO! the violin was in Cargo Bay Three! Totally submerged. But I pulled it out and found it had been saved by extensive bagging.
My meal meal was ruined. I tried to cook rice later but it was also ruined, rotten from an earlier soaking. It was now dark and I was pretty annoyed. The wind eased, mosquitos swarmed me as did the sandflies, annoying me further. I smothered myself with repellent. “How do you like me now? ” I screamed at the hated pests.
I finished unloading my soaked gear, hauled the boat up the beach, restowed everything, constructed the bubble. My bedding was only wet at the corners, bearable.
This was the first night in which I had no visitors at all. The beach wasn’t bad but something gave me the creeps; I broke out the mace, big knife, machete and the flare pistol, and felt better. The mace might work well on mosquitos too.
I slept wonderfully and before dawn was up and packing. I did not try to dry anything, I wanted to get in the water whilst a usable east wind was blowing and use it to push me around the point a few miles north. I’ be damnned if I’d screw around with the safe little canvas sail all day again – the daily pattern lately had been light winds in the morning followed by a long becalming then a bad blow, so I hung the big poly sail and stowed the wet little one on deck intending to change down at sea during the becalming. I had to get around that point!
Pow! Out to sea with that big sail! The boat flies with it. Up the coast hugging the shore through the first flat water of the voyage towards a fleet of thirty lanchas fishing a rivermouth for a long silvery fish whose tail just tapers away to a point, whose name I forget. I asked the nearest lancha for the usual bad advice on the weather, then unable to resist showing what Deseperado can do I shot right through the fleet on a beam reach with the ama flying, at a full twelve knots. Cheers arose from the fishermen and two boats peeled off to pace me and ask questions. Both confirmed the earlier weather forecast – moderate winds today, hooray.
The lanchas left me at the Frontera rivermouth, a brown torrent a half-kilometer across – I doubt I could have entered that river on the previous night’s wind had I made it that far. The current dragged me leftwards as I crossed the flow, aiming for open ocean beyond. As I negotiated an area of nasty one-meter breakers where the current met the ocean a military gunboat appeared and paced me a hundred meters off, but they did not interfere – I don’t think anyone has instructions on what to do with interloping sailboats, there are no sailboats at all. (The people of Colonia Emilio Zapata where I am now have never seen one in their whole lives).
Passed the bad stuff, out into cleaner greener waters, then blue, towards another series of humming oil platforms. I had passed a bunch of these recently, all PEMEX of course (PEtroleum-MEXico), the national and publicly-owned oil conglomerate. What a strange idea, that the natural resources of a country should belong to the people of that country instead of inherited within unbelievably wealthy families whom the rest of us must pay and support in luxury for all of their lives, for all of ours. Republicans, keep voting)
A long tack through the many platforms, calculating intercept courses to dodge around the numerous big PEMEX workboats thundering about sometimes towing barges. The only time I am ever seasick now is when in the diesel fumes of these beasts, which I can smell for miles off.
Moderate winds my ass. It got worse and worse but I could not turn to my next tack without risking a collision with a rig – I had to get clear. Finally out of sight of land a grim sail-flapping shunt and a start to serious easting. I still had the big sail up, there had been no becalming, but I loaded a few things out of Cargo Bay Three and tied them over the ama to help stop me capsizing and continued. I found I could handle it., though the bow plunged under continually and the boat was being thrown upwards so violently that the anchor chain would clank at apogee.
From the SPOT track it looks like I make fewer tacks than I do. I do not send a message every time I shunt.
I stopped to investigate an enormous dark spot right under the boat. It looked like a manatee, but how could it be a manatee? Then it rolled horizontal – a sea turtle ! A HUGE sea turtle! It must have weighed 600lbs. So far they had always been much smaller and shy of the boat but this one showed no concern when it surfaced to breathe right beside me, then leisurely dived into the gloom.
Man, bad wind. The boat leapt, bucked, dived, pounded, bashed and plunged its way forward. A wave comes, rarely steep-sided enough to wash my deck, but as it passes underneath it lifts the rear of the boat and the nose dives down into the next wave. The swell here is not what it was 50km back but I preferred that to these shorter, steeper bruisers. I got a bit frightened but Desesperado ploughed onwards unfazed. A man can only blow so much adrenaline in a day. We were forced nearer and nearer the coast by the east wind but after the next tack out the wind suddenly backed around to the northeast enabling me to parallel the coast at a good speed. Things looked rosier as I was making miles though I was in pain from the long hours twisted and tense at the helm, my neck and shoulders are really a mess from all this. It takes absolute concentration to control the boat in a blow so that I stay upright and make progress.
An hour to sunset, I saw way off on my right a bunch of white specks which could only be lanchas pulled up on the beach. I am gravitating towards landing at inhabited spots because the people are interesting and they help me haul out. I turned in and really hammered towards the coast. I landed, the people helped, they were lovely.
There are three groups of lanchas, each guarded at night by a member of the fishermen’s co-operative. The nearest watchman was Joselito – “Little Jose” – a small, wiry, energetic, helpful and extremely likeable man. He invited me to his post, a concrete shack with a palapa (horizontal-roofed palm-thatched shade structure) in front, to wash by his well. His wife Josefeta had already prepared me food, fried chicken and beef stew. I was not about to say “No, I’m not going to eat your food” to these people, so I ate it and enjoyed it too. I had not eaten in thirty hours, this is the most animal to pass my lips in 26 years. But the cows are grazing under the palms, the chickens free. They roost atop the palapa with the turkeys, whilst the ducks huddle in groups on the ground and the dogs lie where they may. I let sleeping dogs lie.
I eat witht the family, Joselito, Josefeta, son Hugo, Daughter Marisa. At night Joselito and I lie in hammocks and look out at the bright stars from under the palapa as the fireflies twinkle in patches beneath the palms, we drink aguardiente (cane liquor) and smoke mota rolled in newspaper. A fresh breeze blows away the bugs – I am not bitten at all here – delightfully cool, all is well with the world. Every ten mintutes Joselito gets up and shines around a headlight he has mounted in a box. The battery is charged daily by the motor of a lancha. He is a great believer in electricity. “No electricity, no security” he says.
In the day I make modest modifications to the boat, collect firewood, sit here in this damned internet cafe. I run back and forth over the hot sand and sparse vegetaion between the boat and the shade of Joselito’s palapa.
I am enormously comfortable with these people.. I do not want to leave.
Yesterday I went back to my boat in the dark. On the way I stopped. What was this? I was in a patch of flowers. There had been no flowers earlier, I was sure. Oh yes, says Joselito, they open at sunset and close at dawn.
WTF? What is the point of a flower that nothing can see? I mean, in evolutionary terms. But somehow it is beautiful. Joselito calls them “beach flowers”.
Damn. There is SO much to write but I must go.