Thursday, January 17, 2019

Ixtapa: Leg 1 Completed, Goodbye to Pete

Leg 1 of The Voyage was completed yesterday afternoon upon our arrival at Marina Ixtapa.  It was a great trip with great crew.

We set sail from Barra de Navidad to Caleta de Campos on Tuesday morning and arrived at Campos on Wednesday around noon. Unfortunately, we had to motor almost the whole way, despite valiant efforts by the captain to catch the fickle winds with the Code 0. I made six furling-unfurling sail entries into the log during my watches, all within an hour of each other. The last furling entry ends with "BAH!", in all caps. In the end I meditated and calmly accepted that I cannot control the wind. And then I opened a beer and drank it to the hum of Intermezzo's economical little Yanmar diesel.

Caleta de Campos turned out to be quite a nice little anchorage. It is somewhat exposed to the ocean swells, so you hear the surf breaking on the beach all the time, sometimes pretty good sized waves, big enough to surf on. Despite the swell, Intermezzo hardly rolled at all at anchor, making for a comfortable stay and night's sleep. There is an attractive little town along and on the hillside on the east side of the cove and steep, burnt orange colored rock cliffs from the center to the west end. A nice sandy beach runs along most the shoreline, the sand also orange-tinted with black highlights. We did a great job landing and launching the dinghy through the light surf for our shore excursions, earning mild respect from the many panga fisherman watching us. We enjoyed a nice meal at one of the rustic beachfront mariscos restaurants; crab, huachinango (Pacific red snapper) and ceviche, washed down with cold beers.

To reach Ixtapa before sunset, we had to leave Caleta de Campos at 04:00 in the dark. We roused ourselves out of bed at 03:30, had a cup of coffee, prepared the boat and weighed anchor, departing right on time.

There was virtually no wind the whole way to Ixtapa and, when there was a little, it was right on the nose. From here to Panama, except for the Golfo de Tehuantepec and the Golfo de Papagayo, the winds are generally light. Intermezzo motored a lot on the previous trips up and down this portion of the coast.

The day spent motoring to Ixtapa was not without excitement, however. We encountered quite a few panga fishermen, open boats about 20 feet long with 60 to 90 hp outboards, manned by two guys. They string out a thin rope to which dozens and dozens of baited hooks are tied, wait around, and then proceed slowly along their line, lifting it out of the water to unhook whatever they catch.

On previous passages, it was pretty easy to avoid these long lines, which can be half a mile long or more. At one end of the line would be a buoy with a black flag. At the other end would be the panga. You just needed to go around the buoy or the panga. This time is was more difficult.

The fishermen were using lines with plastic bottle as floats, the bottles spaced about 50 yards apart. These bottles were often hard to see in the water and the lines were either placed or drifted into confusing curves - crescents, semicircles, spirals. To avoid running over the line and fouling the rudder or propeller was sometimes like trying to figure our way out of a labyrinth.

Some of the fishermen would try to direct us with hand signals. Unfortunately none of us understand Mexican fisherman hand language, which involves hands held in different positions, wagging one way while waving another, which means either go ahead, turn left or turn right. We couldn't tell the difference, so we'd try what seemed right to us. The fisherman either looked at us with a friendly smile, in which case we continued on and they waved goodbye (hand language we did understand), or they got agitated, looked distressed and waved their hands like windmills, in which case we turned different directions until they settled down.  Pete was on watch for most of these encounters and he said it was the most stressful part of the trip for him.  We only caught one line, for which I jumped into the water to free from the prop. An easy job, no blue spots on my head like Roy's.

We were pretty tired by the time we got the boat tied in its slip, completed our check-in at the marina office and ate dinner. We didn't have keys to the marina showers because they are issued by a different marina office that was closed for the day, so marina residents, neighbors and passersby were treated to the view of nude sailors showering on Intermezzo's stern step. One sailor at a time, not all together. We didn't want to overdo it.

This morning Roy and Pete washed Intermezzo's decks while I straightened up inside. Then it was time for us to say goodbye to Pete who had to fly back to his job as a police officer near Montreal. Snow, cold, brrrrrrrr.....

Pete was great crew, very attentive, practiced good seamanship, always in good humor, even during his short bout of seasickness. He said the best parts of the trip for him were the dolphins, the Code 0 sail and Roy's Frozen Grapes.  I enjoyed speaking my bad French with Pete, confounding Roy, who is struggling to learn Spanish. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the leftover gaily colored Fruit Loops cereal Pete eats for breakfast. But I do know what I'll do with the half-bottle of Appleton rum he left in the locker. We'll miss him. I hope he sails on Intermezzo again.

Pete ordering bread and pastries (in French) from French Bakery boat in Barra de Navidad.
Roy observes.

A Blue-Spotted Roy emerges from below Intermezzo after freeing fishing line from prop.

The beautiful rugged coastline on the way to Caleta de Campos

The small town of Caleta de Campos
Caleta de Campos