About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Gimme the half caf decaf..."

Still here at Marina Chiapas, enjoying our stay here as we explore the region.  A bit about the marina...as we last posted, the marina is brand new.  Still testing out systems (there was an electrical outage a couple of days ago, which was fixed with a new insulator at the substation).  The hospitality is fantastic, as these folks understand that the best P.R. is word of mouth, and everyone, led by Enrique and Guillermo, is working very hard to make us feel right at home.  And they're succeeding!!!  When anything, be it parts, services, supplies, fuel....you name it, is needed, they make it happen.  A great spot, in a unique part of Mexico not visited by many cruisers.  These investors had a dream, and they seem to be delivering the goods.

View toward the production area of the finca
Yesterday 4 boat crews took a trip up to a coffee plantation ("finca") in the mountains above Tapachoula in Chiapas.  We were picked up at 7am by Ullyses, the general manager of Finca Hamburgo, and driven up a steep, rutted road to the spectacular plantation at 4100' elevation.  Deep in the rainforest, (annual rainfall averages 4 meters/year), the vegetation was amazing.  As they said, if you spit out a tangerine seed, it will be growing within hours!!!  We passed mango, banana, coconut, teak, papaya, and orange trees, and of course coffee growing all around at Hamburgo or other of the several fincas in the area.

This particular finca has a boutique hotel w/ 9 rooms in 3 cabins, as well as an excellent restaurant on site.  We had a great breakfast before heading out on our all day tour of the finca with Ullyses.  (and oh, yeah, it included a bottomless cup o' fine Joe.)







We packed into a 4 wheel drive truck to tour the finca. 

Ullyses gave us a fantastic tour, following the coffee process from seedlings to harvest to processing, with the final product being green coffee beans.  The roasting is left up to their customers around the world.






Coffee flowers

Coffee "cherries".  Each contains two coffee "beans"



While in the world of coffee plantations this may not be huge, the amounts of coffee produced are still pretty impressive.  During the harvest season (October to February), over 1000 pickers, mostly from Guatemala, pick and process over 25,000 lbs per day.  That's a lot of espresso's!!!






Founded by German Arthur Edelmann 125 years ago, much of the equipment and processes have been in place for many years.  Electric motors driving large belts have been in continuous operation since 1926, and craftsman still fabricate furniture and machinery in the shops on site.  Adam especially enjoyed looking at the beautiful industrial "big iron" of these early years still in use today.





You don't see many marble switch panels anymore (not to mention those monster knife switches!!!  OSHA, turn your head!!!


Repairing furniture the way it's always been done.

If work benches could talk, this one had stories to tell....

Ullyses explained about the various species and qualities of the different coffees that Finca Hamburgo produces.










For their highest quality boutique coffee, the quality control is amazing.  These women cull out any misshapen or wrong color beans, after machines have taken the first shot.  And the beans just keep on coming.....  wonder what they dream about at night???








Finally we headed back up to the restaurant for a huge lunch before the 2 hour ride back to the boat.  All in all, a great excursion to a really beautiful place.  Thanks, Ullyses, for sharing your knowledge and hospitality.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Successful T-peck Crossing.....(almost!)

We left the Huatulco anchorage per plan, leaving at around 7am.  Seven other boats left that morning as well, having waited for the winds to ease in the Tehuantepec.  Winds were light, and we motor sailed most of the morning.  But the fishing was good for a change, likely due to the water temperature which has been rising as we've headed south, now at a balmy 84 degrees.

Ahi on the hoof!
So, the fishing report was excellent, for the first time in a few months.  Total for the passage:  1 30" dorado, one small skipjack tuna (thrown back), and one fiesty 20+ lb. yellowfin tuna.  All on the same lure!  Dorado sushi for lunch, and ahi poke for dinner was hard to beat.  A couple of the other boats had good luck as well.  Tonight we'll have a bbq with our neighbors on the dock, w/ seared ahi featured on the menu for the gang !!! 

Otherwise the passage was calm, mostly TOO calm.  Our weather window was accurately forecast, and we found ourselves motor sailing much of the 40 hour passage, save for a couple of 6-8 hour stretches of fine spinnaker reaching.  But better this than the common option in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, where many boats have had difficult crossings in the frequent gales.

We arrived at the town of Puerto Madero (Chiapas) at around 11 last night.  The marina in this gritty working port is brand new, and our charts don't show it at all.  In fact, it's so new that it has not officially opened.  As they're still checking out their systems, there's no charge to stay here...the price is right for the 'Bravo' crew!  At any rate, we had detailed waypoint spot locations from a couple of other boats who have come into the marina, a circuitous 1/2 mile or so of dredged channels from the ocean breakwater, past the large fishing and shrimping fleets.  Oh, did I mention the word "dredged"???  Well, that proved to be an important word, as about 1/2 way down the channel, as we prepared for our first turn, we felt the unmistakable feeling as our keel augured into the ooze of the mud bottom below us.  The shifting sands had come up quickly, and we were stuck fast.  Quick efforts with the throttle would not free us.  It was now around 11:30 pm, and the tide was running out.  We called the Capitania del Puerto (Port Captain) on the radio and said in our rather tense Spanish, that we were "on the beach".  I communicated that "we needed more water".  Bad attempt.  He kept thinking we were on a beach somewhere, and dying of thirst.....  Finally found the Spanish word for "aground" in a Spanish boating dictionary (note to self, it's "encallado"), and he sounded like he might be able to help.  Radio went silent.

After a few moments a panga with 3 guys in military uniforms and their drug dog showed up.  Perfect.....They weren't at all helpful, and clearly had no plan to get us off the sand bar.  The whole event seemed like it was pretty funny, as they kept joking that we were going to be spending a lot of time here in Mexico before exiting their country.  They finally said they would go get a bigger boat, rather than trying with their (very big) fishing boat with (very big) outboard motor, and disappeared into the darkness.

We realized that we needed to act fast if we had any chance of freeing ourselves.  We launched the dinghy and attached the outboard.  Cindi lowered our 90 lb anchor off the bow into the dinghy, and Adam motored it out into the deeper part of the channel, after first sounding the depths with a hand held depth sounder (it earned its keep last night!!!).  By this time the swells had pushed us broadside to the channel, and we were luckily facing the deeper point.  So the anchor was dropped in that direction.

Adam got back aboard 'Bravo'.  With Cindi using the electric anchor windlass on the bow to pull the chain, and Adam applying full throttle with the engine, we broke free.  What a great feeling to see rising numbers on the speedo, not to mention the depth sounder!!!

At this point Rob from another sailboat 'China Doll' had heard us on the radio, and showed up in his dinghy to lead us the rest of the way through the rabbit warren into the new marina.  THANKS, Rob!!!  We happily tied up after midnight, tired, but happy to have this crossing behind us.

So now we're here in the new Chiapas Marina.  We were just boarded by the Mexican navy with their drug dog (naval boarding number eight in our 1-1/2 years in Mexico, for those of you keeping track).  After clearing in, we're free to explore the area, about 10 miles away from the border with Guatemala.  The region (state of Chiapas) is famous for it's Mayan culture, and we may spend a few days traveling inland to check out Palenque and other sites before heading to El Salvador.  More to come!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hurry up and wait...

The last several days have been a push....pushing hard to get down to Huatulco to wait for our window in the continual gales to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec.  It's been snorting pretty hard in the Gulf for several days according to all of our weather sources, so we've been timing our transit to reach Huatulco just before the winds subside.

Unfortunately, it's been mostly very light and variable winds heading to Huatulco from Zihuat.  We've squirted a lot of diesel into our engine, with just a few stretches of 5-8 hours at a time of excellent sailing for the 56 hour passage to Puerto Angel, about 25 miles west of Huatulco.

But first, let's get caught up on our time in Zihuatenejo.  This is a great town, and we really lucked out on our timing, as we arrived at the start of their carnival celebration.  Great music, dancing, costumes, and the usual politicians speeches opened the week long hooplah.  We were there for opening night, but sadly had to leave the next day.  Next time, we'll definitely try for the whole week!!! 


Easels set up in the street for kids to paint their own carnival artwork
Kids at the market enjoying another kind of "art".  This was a video arcade, Mexico style, for guys to play video games in the huge Zihuat market!!!
We didn't always understand the skits, but the Brazilian dance troupe spoke a universal language!!!

"Burning Man", Zihuat style!
Not just a tourist town, Zihuatenejo supports a huge fleet of panga fishing boats.
Anchored in a sea of pangas
From Zihuatenejo we headed SE to Puerto Angel, a very pretty little fishing village approximately 320 miles distant.  Although a slow passage wind wise, we did get in some great sailing when the wind would pick up in the afternoons.  Happily we arrived in the tight harbor just before dark, as there weren't a lot of anchoring options due to the panga fleet on moorings all around the bay.  We spent a very rolly night on the anchor, as our anchorage was wide open to the swells rolling in from the Pacific.



 We've been seeing more and more sea turtles as we've worked our way south.  Even heard a "clunk" or two during the night as we bumped a couple of sleepers.  Sorry, guys!!!  Lots of turtles serve as rafts for tired seabirds! 

We're now anchored in Huatulco, the last good anchorage and marina to hang out waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, on the Mexico/Guatemala border.   This is a roughly 275 mile stretch of water just south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the narrow (120 mile wide) land bridge separating the Gulf of Mexico on the Atlantic side from the Pacific Ocean.  (Before the building of the Panama Canal, this bridge was seriously considered for the site of the canal).  Winds can build on the Atlantic side, and roar through the low lying valley of the isthmus, creating gales that can last for several days.  One guidebook, Charlies Charts, describes them: "Violent gales, known as Tehuante-peckers can happen at any time.....Their Force 8 or 9 winds raise treacherous, short, high seas which can be experienced as much as 100 miles offshore...." 

There are around 10 boats heading south waiting to cross the Gulf now.  As you can imagine, there's no end to the strategizing and weather guessing going on.  Conventional wisdom is to "keep one foot on the beach", traveling along the shore in around 30 feet of depth.  The idea is that if the winds come up, you're close enough to keep any waves from developing, as the winds come off the beach.  While this adds around 30 miles to the passage, it's considered a better way to go than straight across.

There are many excellent sources of weather info for the T-peckers, both on-line and via radio.  Obviously we're following closely, along with our neighbors in the anchorage.  Right now it looks like tomorrow morning or possibly Monday will give us the window we need to make the 2 day passage as pleasant as possible.

Today we filled our fuel tanks (via 7 jerry jugs in the dinghy), and we're looking forward to continuing our journey south.  Our next stop will be in Chiapas, (also known as Puerto Madero), still in Mexico, but adjoining the Guatemala border.  We will clear out of Mexico at that point.

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!  We just checked online, and Cindi's ham radio callsign was just issued.  Next time you see her, you can call her KF7UPI  !!!




Monday, March 12, 2012

"On the Road Again..."

With Willie Nelson playing in my head, we finally eased 'Bravo' away from the fuel dock in La Cruz, and turned our sights southward.  Although a few weeks later than expected, we're finally heading out for new adventures, pointing our bow toward Central and South America for this next year.  It's been a terrific 1-1/2 years for us in Mexico.  The wildlife and people we've met, and friendships we've made, have surpassed all expectations.  It's this "friendships thing" that's tough to get used to in this cruising lifestyle.  Many of the boats we've come to know over the past months have become good buddies.  Our paths cross in unexpected places, creating a sort of tapestry of interweaving journeys and adventures.  Many of the boats we've become close to are heading out now for the South Pacific...the Pacific Puddle Jump, as it's affectionately known.  On the one hand, it's very tempting to join in the mass exodus from Mexico with the gang, heading off to the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia together.  But we've decided to head south first, taking this opportunity to explore central and south America and the Galapagos, something we've always wanted to do.  We look forward to the tapestry growing, as our paths continue to cross with the various boats we've come to enjoy here in Mexico.

La Cruz has been a real whirlwind of activity.  First, Mexican President Calderon is expected next week to speak to a "cocktail party" of 3500 or so, hosted in the parking lot of the marina.  The town has gone through a total transformation in anticipation of his visit...paving nearly the entire town, new streetlights and infrastructure, and general cleanup.  The amount of $$$ that went into the town over the past 3 weeks has been phenomenal...I wish this guy was planning a sail on 'Bravo'!!!!!

The second big event in La Cruz coincides with the visit of the grand poo-bah.....it's called Sailboat Racing!!!  Numerous venues all centered in La Cruz over a 2 week period.  J24 international regatta, with over 60 boats from 9 countries, kite boards, wind surfing, and grand prix ocean race boats, it's really exciting for us racers to see, even those of us on cruising boats.  Mex-Orc, a major race from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta was finishing the day we left.  Very cool to see these beautiful race boats coming in.  Here are a few shots of Loe Real, a 60 foot tri from Texas.  She had a sustained 2 hour run at over 28 knots, and a 400 mile day on the trip down the coast!!!  That's FAST!!!  Here's a bit of boat porn for you multi hull enthusiasts...

Customs came aboard to clear the crew into Mexico.  Ya think they just wanted to check out the cool hardware???

I think Bravo needs a new helm seat!!!



After a last minute flurry of our own projects and chores before heading out (and a fair bit of socializing in the music rich town), we left La Cruz for the passage to Zihuatanejo, around 335 miles.  After a couple of days out, we decided to duck into Barra de Navidad to visit one of our favorite towns, and visit with friends.  Nice to visit the town, and see how well it's recovering after suffering a pretty severe hit from hurricane Jova last summer.  And the street tacos shared with S/V 'Third Day' and S/V 'Just a Minute' were hard to beat!!!!!

Sunrise just before coming off watch.

Blue footed booby rides along for a while.  Do you think our sail bag looks like patio furniture to him???  Yup, thought so!!!
The next morning we headed south to Zihuat.  Most exciting event was breaking a belt on the engine immediately AFTER transiting the channel out of the lagoon.  No worries, as the spare was quickly installed, but if it had happened less than one minute earlier, we would have certainly run aground into the muck on either side of the narrow passage.   Sometimes timing really is everything.  We arrived at Isla Grande, outside Ixtapa last night, arriving after dark after a slow, light air leg.

But it felt really good to be on our way, as we've not yet been this far south aboard 'Bravo'.  Burned a fair amount of diesel, unfortunately!  Refueled this morning, and came into Zihuatenejo Bay.  Pretty little fishing town, surrounded by some serious villas and resorts.

But as architect Robert Stern says, money doesn't buy taste!!!

Leads us to an architectural style quiz:  Which building in the following photo doesn't exactly fit with it's neighbors???  Prize for correct answer!!!  Operators are standing by for your responses!


We'll stay here in Z-town for a couple of days, before continuing on to Huatulco,  about 350 miles south.  There we'll wait for our weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, known for it's gale force gap winds coming across from the Gulf of Mexico in the Atlantic.