Our weather window has arrived and we left Marina Chahue this afternoon to cross the notorious Gulf of Tehuantepec to Puerto Chiapas.
We have been watching the weather models for the past two weeks and very closely over the last two days. We have been conferring on the weather with John and Bill on Swagman, who are heading in the same direction as us. Both are experienced sailors and we've been hanging out with them off and on since Acapulco.
Getting down to the details, the decision to be made was either to leave this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Leaving this afternoon would mean a relatively calm passage until early tomorrow morning (before sunrise), when we expect to experience some 25 knot winds as we cross the "gap" where the winds from the Gulf of Mexico cross the isthmus and blow hard, funneled through a break in the mountains. Once we cross the gap, the forecast is for light to very light winds the rest of the way to Puerto Chiapas. So a bunch of motoring.
If we left tomorrow morning, we would cross the gap with high winds during daylight. Another big blow is forecast for Thursday, so we would likely pick up some decent winds for sailing later in the passage, so less motoring. The problem is that if the big blow comes early and/or shifts in our direction, we might get caught in it. Unlikely and not that big a deal, but something to consider.
Aesthetically, I would have left tomorrow morning so that we could sail more and run the motors less. But since this is my first Tehuantepec crossing, I opted for the more conservative option. So did John and Bill on Swagman, who left a couple hours before us. We'll be chasing them.
We are taking the recommended "one foot on the beach" route, following the coastline very close to land. By doing this, you don't escape any high winds if they blow, but you are protected from their big seas, as there is no fetch to build waves. Ten miles offshore there can be 20 foot seas, but just little wind waves along the shore.
Right now we are motorsailing at a nice 6.5 knot clip on a close reach in light winds, with a favorable current boosting our speed by a knot or so. The swells are noticeable and Intermezzo is pitching and rolling a bit, but nothing like the bashing they caused on our way to Huatulco.
Puerto Chiapas is about 250 nm away and our current ETA is 1500 on Wednesday. I'll be posting updates as we go, satellite willing.