|Ahi on the hoof!|
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!