– Aqui estoy mis amigos.
I will never get all this down. Such a wondrous adventure as I never hoped for.
Leaving Joselito´s family and Colonia Emilio Zapata with some reluctance after three days I beat out to sea and eastwards close-hauled against a northeast wind, then turned right at the a headland and raced at silly speed for the entrance to the Laguna de Terminos by Ciudad Carmen. I went so fast I overtook shipping in the busy lanes heading in and out of Ciudad Carmen and could see crew gazing down at me from bridges at this weird boat leaping from wave to wave and forging ahead of each thousand tonnes of motorized steel. I passed under a huge bridge miles long and was out of the waves and in the lagoon, a lagoon so vast I could not see the other side, an inland sea. The water was green and clearish and an island many miles long was now on my left, sheltering me from the waves but not from a fitful wind that blew me along in jumps and threatened to capsize me at intervals. As opposed to the shoreline of the sea which ever since Coatzacoalcos two or three hundred kiloneters back had been low, palm-lined and of sandy beach unbroken except for rivermouths and lagoon entrances, this shore was wooded but palmless, the trees all the way down to the water except for spots of bright sandy beaches every few hundred yards, some with children playing in the water, with villages hidden beyond the vegetation. The kids thinned out after a few miles, the shore became indented with green-lined passages working off to who knows where (perhaps this is the source of the name “Laguna de Terminos – Lagoon of (dead) Ends) and I was left with a real feeling of Southern US swamp country. The sun lowered, I worked my way across shoals of dark seagrass weed into a large bay and dropped the hook; here I swung in water not two feet deep (my keel draws about 16 inches) and watched my personal aquarium whilst eating a can of refried beans until sunset. Lanchas plied the water raising crab traps but nobody approached me, here they seemed to have no curiosity, they had left me alone since entering the lagoon. The mosquitos however were most interested in me. The place was beautiful but between the monkey-like noises in the mangroves around me and the dark and fearsome weedy shoals below, rather creepy. I spent a good deal of the night peering out of my tiny vinyl portholes looking out for banditos.
But morning came. After working out of the bay over some scary shoals – scary because I did not want to spend the day stuck in the mud trying to pull my vessel thorough impossible terrain up to my hips in slime and weed – and into the lagoon proper I spent much of the day becalmed, anchored to prevent any rearward drift, watching distant lanchas pounding their sides and slapping the water with flappers on sticks trying either to herd fish into nets or drive away the numerous dolphins which were clearly eating the catch. Many lanchas passed but only one approached and asked my destination. “Respect!” shouted and old fisherman in rain dungarees far too large for him “I give you my respect!” I thought this was rather sweet.
The airlessness of this baking day had a calm-before-the-storm feel to it. Oh was I right on this one. When wind appeared it came strong, with a massive black thunderstorm approaching. Oh shit. I raced towards a great bay which would shelter me on three sides, extremely anxious that I should arrive there before this montrous thing which was coming fast from the opposite direction.
I didn´t make it.
Back in some previous post I said I went through a thunderstorm and it “was no big deal”. Let me tell you, this was a big deal. It was enormous, charcoal black all over, looking like something from a tornado video. I was in awe of it, and wished I were elsewhere.
Three lanchas running similarly reached the bay before me. I was two hundred yards short when the serious howling began and was forced to drop the sail whilst it could still be controlled enough to lash it down. I threw the anchor over too, then the wind hammered at me like mad, buffeting the boat, turning the whole surface of the bay matt, then whipping the wavelets into whitecaps. I was out there, terrified by this craziness, trying to hold the anchor line such that the boat did not careen off to left or right. I quickly improvised a bridle to help with that and hoped like hell the anchor would hold, which it did, and soaking wet from the cold rain huddled there low and away from the mast because of all the lightning until the thing passed. The three lanchas did not come to my assistance, nor did they visit in the calm that followed though I am sure they had never seen a sailboat here before, not least one in peril. When it was all over I worked my way further into the bay and re-anchored, a can of beans and a well-earned beer were my reward for getting through this.
In the night I awoke to find the boat firmly grounded, no worries, the tide would return in the morning. Very windy all night, mucho rain. Windy still in the morning. I changed to a smaller sail and weighed anchor (about 8 kilos I reckon) though it took some nerve to do so in such a wind but what is a man to do, sit there all day afraid to move like some kinda pussy? The shoals were horrible, all that grim slimy darkness below, those weeds which nothing on earth could make me swim amongst, except a capsize. Don´t capsize Chris, don´t…
Well I made it another six miles to the lagoon exit, which is crossed by a long road bridge. On the way I asked some fishermen their advice on shoals, and collided with their lancha rather clumsily but no harm done; they were amused. The bridge did not look as high as the one at the entrance, but still looked plenty high, but as I raced towards it on a broad reach at about ten knots I began to fear I could not pass below. Abutments were spaced about 25 meters apart, no problem missing those. But oh no. I was coming in very fast but it looked too low and there was no way to slow down without changing direction and colliding with the concrete… shit shit shit… TOO LOW!. Higher than my mast but not higher than my yard… 50 meters to go…
How cruel of me, but I must go. I will try hard to make another installment tomorrow, but it will be Sunday and that might not happen.
At least you know I didn’t die.