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How NOT to cross the Tehuantepec or the LOG of ISHI from Panama City to Costa Rica to Zihuatanajo, Mexico ...
or Adding 1600 miles under the keel (It is beyond me how the barnacles can still be collecting on the bottom!)

Terry and cruising friendsJanuary 2009

On our way out of Panama we stopped for a day at Taboga Island to visit with cruiser friends Susan and Chuy from Ventura who bought a two story house on the island last year. They have put in eight moorings for rent in front of their house and are remodeling, designating part of their house for a cruiser's club.

We were lucky with the weather and had a speedy three-day passage to Costa Rica, anxious to get to a TV in time for Obama's inauguration, arriving in Golfito on Monday, Jan 19. We picked up a mooring behind Tierra-Mar, Tim and Katie's cruiser hangout with shower, laundry, patio bar and a TV room, all those things near and dear to a soul who has been at sea. This being our fourth time in Golfito it felt like home - a slice of Santa Barbara since Tim and Katie are ex-Santa Barbarians too. On the 20th We watched Obama's inauguration, Terry on New Golfito zip line canopy tourwith cheers from the crowd of cruisers that filled the TV room. Everyone was excited about it - the Costa Rican officials we checked-in with the day before saying they were going to watch Obama's speech. The quarantine inspector said "your new president is not just the president of the US, he is the president of the world".

Spent a month in Golfito, hiking the rain forested hill behind Tierra-Mar every other morning with a cruiser group and boxer dog Riley, (many toucan sightings), playing music every Friday on the patio, fixing the refrigerator, and visiting old friends of Golfito (ex-pats who have staked out homes in paradise). WINTERTREK Jean and I went zip lining one day by ourselves, the guys unconvinced it was a safe activity. They missed out on a breath taking bird's eye view of the rain forest. It seemed all too soon to leave lovely Costa Rica, but after spending several days diving on the bottom of the boat to scrape off the barnacles, we headed out of the Golfo Dulce and made a right hand turn to sail north. With light wind and a current against us some of the time, it took 9 days to reach the southern end of Mexico and the Tehuatepec Bay. We did have one day of 25 knot Papagayo winds, 50 miles offshore from Costa Rica and our poor old mainsail started it's first rip.

March 2009
The mainsail then met its final demise in the Tehuantepec. Our fault, we didn't really pay enough attention to the weather forecast and we got our butt kicked.

sailing bare pole in Tehuantapec 40-50 knot winds and big wavesThe weather was charlie charlie when we started across the big T, 170 miles offshore. The first night we were approached and boarded by the Mexican Navy (at 3 o'clock in the morning thank you very much) for a routine inspection. They told us a gale was coming tomorrow. We have crossed the T before in a gale with no problema, so we thought, bring it on. Well, we had hardly any wind as we made it 3/4 the way across, staying 170 miles offshore. Then the shit hit the fan - at 4 in the morning. Within four hours it became apparent "this ain't no gale - this be storm conditions". It was just like the Beaufort Scale pictures of 40-50 knots with the white streaks on the water and the tops of the waves breaking. I can't even guess how big the waves were - just very very big. I tried to take pictures but of course they don't do it justice.

The chain of events:
Gary took down the jib and steered with the double reefed main for a few hours in the morning (after having been up all night on his regular watch) but then hove-to with the mainsail and came below to get some rest. I sat on the companionway steps and watched the main totally shred within an hour. Mind you the sail was old and we knew we would have to get a new one anyway but hoped not until San Diego.
So now Gary went back out and steered under bare pole, sailing 6-7 knots (top speed for ISHI) for four hours. He was able to take us is a westerly course, the way out of the Tehuantapec, but we were being driven southwest by the waves. At one point the jib came untied and before Gary could retrieve it, several of the hanks ripped out.

Gary finally locked the helm and came below and beloved ISHI sailed herself in a nice westerly direction. We think we might have gotten knocked down to the spreaders a couple of times judging by the way things flew around the cabin and the next day things were missing off the deck - like our last two jibs. We almost lost the kayak but Gary made a heroic effort to heave it back over the lifelines. I was yelling at him to let it go, I would have rather lost it than him, but he did it anyway.

dolphins everywhere!The next morning we felt the conditions were downgrading to a gale, sailing at 4 knots under bare pole, 180 miles south of Puerto Angel. By noon we were able to use the engine and drive NW, definitely out of the Tehuantapec. Relief!

Took another 6 days to sail (with only a storm jib) and motor to Zihuatanejo, stopping in Acapulco for fuel. We got quite a welcome when we pulled into Zihuat, SAUCY LADY Roy and Winona kayaked out to meet us, horns went off from the 20 boats at anchor and OH BABY shot off a firework. That is the cruising community for you.

Lest you think that passage was all bad, we had two special other sightings besides big seas. One night the phosphorescence in the water was so intense it looked like big spotlights were flashing under our boat. That was eeery. And one sunny day for hours the water was boiling all around our boat with a dolphin frenzy.


Next installment - Zihuat to Banderas Bay La Cruz
Salud,
Teri y Gary y s/v ISHI


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