Saturday, February 27, 2016

Puerto Angel to Huatulco: Port Captain, Sea Life, Bashing, Crucecita

I ended my last blog post with Intermezzo anchored in Puerto Angel and us leaving the boat to get some lunch.  The story continues...

We took the dinghy to the nice little Playa Panteon beach at the northwest end of the harbor and were greeted by Vincente, who helped pull the dinghy up on the beach and assured us he would keep an eye on it for us. He then hustled us up to his recommended palapa restaurant, an offer we couldn't refuse; it seems Vincente is the godfather of Playa Panteon, thankfully a friendly and helpful one. The restaurant turned out great and we enjoyed a nicely prepared fresh fish lunch.

Then it was off to check in with the Capitanía de Puerto (Port Captain), something one is supposed to do at every official Mexican port, an official port being one with a Capitanía. We try to avoid such ports when we can, so that we don't have to deal with the paperwork. Some ports let you check in and out by radio. In some ports, the marinas take care of the check in for their guests. In a few ports we visited, the Capitanía was so far away or kept such irregular hours that we didn't bother to check in and nobody seemed to care. However, if there is a Capitanía with regular hours and within a reasonable distance , we make an effort to comply with the rules out of respect.

The Capitanía in Puerto Angel is on the opposite side of the harbor from where we had lunch, so we followed a nice stone pedestrian walkway around the harbor and through the middle of the pleasant little town. The Capitanía's office is in well kept little building, the entry courtyard of which serves as the home for a family of semi-feral cats who watched us suspiciously as we walked past them. Inside the building is a window through which you transact your business, which involves providing copies of your boat's documentation, its Temporary Import Permit, evidence of Mexican liability insurance and the official paperwork from the port from which you last departed. If you didn't bother to check in at your last port and don't have this paperwork, you just need to put on a really stupid expression and suddenly lose the ability to speak Spanish or any other modern language and mumble unintelligently. Nobody seems to care unless you get uppity and eventually some piece of paper you have brought with you will suffice.

In Puerto Angel, the Capitanía's office is staffed by two uniformed women in addition to his highness, the Capitán. One woman takes your documents, slowly looks them over, asks a few questions and hands you a form to fill out. The form is essentially the same at every port, including the one at your last port of call. But perhaps your boat got longer or wider, or grew a new engine since then, who would know without filling in a new form at every port? The first woman and hands the papers over to the second woman and then returns to scrolling through Facebook on her computer while the second woman s-l-o-w-l-y, one character at a time, fills in an official form on her computer. Thankfully the office is air conditioned while you wait and endure watching this painful process, otherwise after 15 minutes it would be hard to resist climbing through the window and insisting on employing your superior typing skills rather than die of heatstroke from her not being able to find the "x" key to finish entering your last name after taking a minute to enter each of the first two characters.  When this form is finally completed, the second woman prints it out and hands it to the first woman. The first woman then carefully studies the printed form and compares it to your handwritten one and against information on other documents. You pray to God that the second woman didn't make any mistakes that need to be corrected. After carefully putting all the documents in order, then adjusting their order a couple of times, the first woman carries the whole package into the Capitán's private office.  The Capitán, barely taking his eyes off his computer screen (Facebooking too?), reaches for a stamp and you hear the sweet sound of success as it thumps down on your form, which you can now carry with you to your next port of call, so that you can get another form with a stamp on it.

The Capitán and the two women staff are very professional, friendly and doing their job the way it's supposed to be done. As the only visiting boat in their harbor, I feel good that I provided a good half-hour's productive activity for their office that day and that Puerto Angel now also, like a dozen other Mexican ports, has a written record of Intermezzo's length, beam, draft, gross and net tonnage and engine horsepower.

We walked back through town to the dinghy, paid Vincente his 20 peso tribute and returned to Intermezzo to study weather forecasts for our upcoming Gulf of Tehuantepec crossing. We enjoyed a light, late dinner of fresh sashimi from the tuna Renee caught that morning.

We left Puerto Angel early in the morning as it looked like the wind would pipe up in the afternoon as we approached Huatulco, situated on the fringe of Tehuantepec where a gale is blowing.  Along the way we saw hundreds, yes, hundreds, of dolphins doing spinning jumps way out of the water as they hunted schools of fish in packs. I have never seen so many and it was very impressive to watch. Sea turtles appeared about every quarter mile, like floating stone markers.

The seas grew larger and steepened as we drew closer to the Gulf, propelled by the strong winds and huge seas farther away and further offshore. We had a 10 knot wind right on the nose, so were motoring. It turned out to be quite the uphill bash that let us know what gear we hadn't stowed properly and gave us four hours of practice keeping our balance. I'm very grateful that both of us only rarely get seasick.

We arrived at Marina Chahue here in Huatulco around 12:30 this afternoon. The multiple little bays of Huatulco that we passed along the way looked very pretty, with beautiful yellow sand beaches with scenic cliffs and offshore rocks. I would have liked to have visited a couple of them, but our weather window for crossing the Gulf looks to open up on Monday and they only last for a few days at most this time of year. We need to refuel and get a big load of laundry done before we leave.

We walked to the nearby town of Crucecita, about a mile away, this afternoon. We were amazed by how nice the town is, very clean with broad boulevards, nice landscaping, thoughtful architecture and solid infrastructure. We had a really nice lunch at an Italian restaurant and walked around the main square afterwards. We wondered why the town is so well organized and apparently quite affluent. Our question was answered during a conversation with a very articulate gentlemen who worked at a shop selling hand woven local textiles. He explained that about 30 years ago, the Mexican government wanted to repeat the economic development success of Cancun on the Pacific Coast. Huatulco was chosen as the location and its town center, Crucecita, was literally hacked out of the jungle. Unlike Cancun, which was allowed to develop with few restraints, Crucecita has regulations for architectural style, set backs, height limitations, etc. The result is an attractive, clean, pedestrian-friendly small town with lots of small hotels and nice restaurants. I'm surprised I never heard of it before or know anyone who's ever been here.  The town, together with the nearby beautiful little bays would be very nice place for a vacation.

Puerto Angel's harbor with Intermezzo anchored in the distance
A small taqueria in Crucetita

Part of a sign for a small restaurant in Crucecita...the other half makes it arguably obscene

Video: How they beach pangas in Puerto Angel

Video: Bashing to Huatulco