Crossing the Tehuantepec – Analysis Paralysis
Upon returning from a great trip to Oaxaca de Juarez, adopting a kitty, and doing our usual marina R3 (rest, restore and resupply), we began looking at weather windows to cross the volatile Gulf of Tehauntepec to Chiapas, our final port in Mexico. The Gulf takes about 2 days for us, but when the window opens it only remains open for a brief period before it closes, sometimes pushing 40-50 knot winds for days or sometimes weeks at a time. We spent the next few days indoctrinating our feline family member to her new home while constantly downloading updated weather models, hoping for lots of green and blue (5-10kts of wind which will often be an underestimate of true wind strength). We were itching to go and entertained a few decent weather windows, but for various reasons, did not take them. Waiting it out in Marina Chahue was a test of patience for us, where we set aside our perceived schedule in favor of safe passage – this is cruising 101. We found ourselves spending so much time and energy obsessing about this next leg of our trip. We scrupulously analyzed each weather model -looking closely at all elements, discussed passage with other cruisers, read blog posts on the notorious run, second guessed our decisions and eventually decided to go on our own on a day that made sense to us.
Further complicating our departure was the fact that we sat on the bottom at low tide most days in the marina. Leaving on the first potential window without risking running aground meant navigating the narrow channel and fishermen outside the marina in the dark hours before sunrise or getting off the dock in the high afternoon winds that were presently blowing us into the rocky coast of the marina – neither of which appealed to us. We bid adieu to 5 other friends’ boats as they left to cross the gulf, knowing that this meant we would transit the legendary T-Peck solo. Our hope was that by waiting a day, we could leave at first light with enough water under our keel in calm conditions suitable for getting off the dock. Oh, and did I mention our depth sounder was broken?! So, at first light on a beautiful morning, we finally embarked on our crossing.
On arrival to Chiapas, we realized how entrenched we had been in “analysis paralysis”, glued to weather prediction models with fear and uncertainty about the unknown. There comes a time out here when you realize that all the high-speed technical equipment in the world is a mere aide, perhaps a prediction, but not a guarantee for safe passage – there are no guarantees. Of course, you can’t just wing it, but sometimes you have all the information you’re going to get and it’s time to poke your nose around the corner and go. Patience is a virtue – yes, and abundance of caution is necessary, but sometimes these need to be balanced with initiative and risk that is incumbent in this lifestyle. We’ve headed out on passage a few times now only to be utterly humbled by Mother Ocean, and turned around to return to our point of origin. This time, we ended up having an uneventful transit which we were thankful for and were reunited with friends on the dock at Marina Chiapas.
Chiapas – Chocolate, Coffee and Inland Travel
I’ll fully admit, I was not excited about visiting Mexico’s most southern state, Chiapas. I fell victim to what I read in the news about the danger and corruption in the area and problems with border crossings from the south. I only saw this as our port to checkout of Mexico and rest up before hitting new countries in Central America. WOW, how wrong I was!!! Not only did we enjoy the surrounding area of Tapachula and Tuxtla Chico, but also took side trips to San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque.
We took a day trip with Miguel of Tours Discover Chiapas where we learned all about the lush surrounding foliage (pretty much everything grows here) and the history of the local coffee fincas (farms) heavily influenced by German immigration dating back to the mid 19th century.
Then off to Tuxtla Chico (also known as Chocolate town – this was not a hard sell). After enjoying an incredible home cooked meal served with Mexican hot chocolate in her backyard, Doña José along with Lucita, and Carmen walked us through the traditional steps of making chocolate. The girls took part roasting, shelling, and grinding the cacao beans and of course loved sampling the finished product. The raw cacao beans were slimy but edible with a floral taste – who knew?!Izapa. There are no tickets or maps, just a family of caretakers who greet us and a chicken that reminded me of Hei Hei from Moana wandering around. Despite its overgrowth of vegetation in present times, the archaeological site is considered an important bridge between the Olmecs and Mayas, thriving from 200 BC to AD 200. From Izapa, the sun rises directly over Volcán Tajumulco ,the highest volcano in Central America on the summer solstice, making it an important lasting remembrance of the origins of the Mayan calendar.
San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cristóbal is a charming colonial city nestled in the highlands appealing to us as much in history and decor as in climate (we finally got to drag out pants, jackets, and scarves again!). It was founded in the early 16thcentury and evolved to establish itself as the capital of Chiapas in the mid 19th century. Today, it represents a mix of indigenous cultures and history with a charming modern flair nestled amongst narrow cobblestone streets and pastel-colored buildings. We loved it!
We ended up visiting the Museo del Jade which had a recreation of King Pakal’s tomb that you could view closeup. Knowing we were going to Palenque in a few days and that his tomb was not open for public viewing, we were intrigued to have some insight into some of the Mayan history and value that jade held within the ancient civilization. The views of the city from Iglesia del Cerrito (San Cristobalito) were about as spectacular as was the people watching and shopping along Real de Guadalupe. This city holds something for everyone! While there are countless great restaurants, we couldn’t get enough of dining within the Plaza San Augustin which offered shelter from the rain and a vast selection of diverse restaurants in a chic, relaxing environment. The girls won us over and we ate Japanese 2 nights in a row! I can’t emphasize enough how much we enjoyed our visit to this great historic city.
The HelmsMistress didn’t go into details about our route or reasons for the route through the Tehuantepec because we are working on a separate post with strategies for the Tehuantepec and Papagayo. She also didn’t mention that Señora Dona Jose is an award winning chocolate maker who has made chocolate for Presidents and dignitaries and has the awards and photos in her small home to prove it. This was a rad tour and we loved working with Miguel of Tours Discover Chiapas and recommend his company if you ever find yourself in Chiapas. Make sure to check out next Wednesday as it will have LOTS of photos of our trip through Chiapas and back.
May The 4th Be With You!
Not by the HelmsMistress, cause she’s not a geek like me!