Kids, Don't Try This At Home!

Hi, and welcome to the adventures of "Triton", a 45' Robertson & Caine Leopard catamaran we purchased in July of 2007, in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. We sailed her back to Emeryville, California, located in the lovely San Francisco East Bay area, worked a few more years, then set off cruising in the fall of 2014. This journal is the story of our ongoing adventure, the folks we've met along the way, and the hardships and joys of that journey. Please read along and let us know what you think!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Huatulco, Mexico


Dear Readers,

We finally arrived in Huatulco, Mexico on Friday, November 16th, 2007 and were greeted by Enrique Loustalot Laclette, the harbor master for Marina Chahue, who has turned out to be by far the best harbor master we have ever met anywhere in the world. In fact, our stay here has been incredibly easy, simply because of his efforts. He is always cheerful, helpful and willing to go the extra mile. Marina Chahue is a private marina, located just before the main harbor if you are headed south. There is a large reef/rock outcropping on sea side entrance but if you follow the deep water channel between the rocks and the northern side in you'll have no problems at all.

The main harbor, just a bit further south, is small, studded with tourist shops, fishing pangas and boat tour facilities. It also has a free anchorage just outside it, but we hadn't realized this until after we arrived, which actually worked out to our advantage. The port captain's office, Coast Guard station, and many other facilities are located there.

It is a busy little place with constant boat traffic. Aside from the fuel dock (more on that later) there isn't any real reason to go inside. The outer harbor has a decent anchorage, and you can dinghy in to the docks inside, but I would lock everything down and not leave it overnight.

The marina Chahue harbor itself quite new, with obvious plans for significant expansion. To get in you need to go through a quite narrow channel, which dramatically reduces the wave action from the ocean once inside.

The marina itself is very well protected (it would certainly be a great place to hide during bad weather) but has limited facilities (no fuel dock, hot showers, repair shops, boat chandler, etc.) but Enrique more than makes up for that with his comprehensive knowledge of the area and his willingness to help you with whatever goes wrong. While we were there he arranged for our check in, explained where everything was, drove several of us cruisers to town for fuel (a process that took repeated trips), and personally intervened on our behalf when we ran into problems with the Huatulco Port Captain's office.

There isn't a fuel dock, but there are two alternative options: you can have a fuel truck brought to the docks (provided you are purchasing several hundred gallons) or you can ferry jerry jugs from the Pemex station. Ask Enrique about this. The local fuel dock is located right at the main harbor entrance, but it isn't for the feint of heart. The dock is situated such that the tides wash in, creating very large waves. I wouldn't attempt using it except at high tide, and even then I'd make sure I had every fender I owned in between my boat and the dock. To make matters worse, there is a constant stream of pangas, tugs, jet skies (may they all sink to the bottom) and any number of other fishing boats rumbling past with no regard for wake. Expect to be bounced against the wall continually. Mexican boaters are still new to the idea of a "no wake" courtesy. We filled Jerry Jugs from the fuel pumps and drove back and forth in Enrique's pickup truck. It took three trips, but was better than scraping the sides of our boat.

The check in process was simple. Various officials came to our boat, we signed a few documents and paid a set fee. The only incident that surprised us took place in Spanish, and we didn't learn about it until after they'd left. Since my language abilities are limited to grunts and clicks, Robinson did all the translation. We explained that we had arrived from Nicaragua, showed them our papers and the ever important crew list. There was some involved conversation between Robinson and the officials, a few quick smiles, some papers stamped and they left. Robinson was grinning that mischievous smirk of his. "So, I have to tell you something funny" he said afterwards. "They looked at the crew list and said (assuming Robinson was the only one who spoke Spanish) 'Okay, he's the captain...fine...your the first mate...fine...Robert is the crew...fine...who does she do?', I didn't know if I understood them correctly, or what to say, so I just smiled. I'm not sure what they thought that meant, but they smiled back and chuckled." It may have just been a language problem, or a very improper assumption. In Mexico, both are possible.

The only snag was that the Port Captain's office didn't come by. We misunderstood exactly what we were supposed to do, and didn't actually realize this until we were ready to leave. When we did check out, the Port Captain's assistant, who spoke no English (at least to us) wanted to charge us double for showing up at his office after 1pm, plus some other fees I just couldn't understand. I spent a good hour trying to figure out what he wanted me to do, which included using their computer to fill out the paperwork, but in the end I couldn't work out what he was saying.

When it came to figuring out the charges, the amount he demanded seemed completely wrong, and I couldn't understand his rapid fire Spanish at all. I gave up and had Robinson ride over to the office and translate. Even that didn't help, and we decided to delay our departure and come back the next day. We returned the next morning. Enrique drove us over, spoke with them for about two minutes and then waited while they processed our paperwork. If I were just cruising, with no time constraints and a limited budget, I'd have tried to figure this all out for myself, but having Enrique there made everything go smoothly and quickly.

The town itself is quite nice with many high end restaurants, tourist shops and bars, and some beautiful churches. Apparently this area is a favorite attraction for Mexicans, and they come here by the thousands. It is quite amusing to see the Mexican equivalent of the typical ugly American: extremely overweight, loaded down with expensive cameras, wearing brightly colored shirts, white shorts and an embarrassing hat. Oh, wait, that was the captain! They aren't as offensive or obtrusive as us, but you can see that Mexico's middle class is acquiring some of the less desirable traits of its northern cousins.

There are a fair number of gringos around as well, mostly from Canada, but you can't miss the Americans either. I cringe every time they walk by...especially since I know Robinson will begin imitating them just as soon as they are out of earshot. As they waddle past snippets of their conversation make me want to retch. "Oh, look at this hat, its got all colors on it." says the lumpy wife. "Well, that's because its Mexican, they like that kind of thing" replies the cigar chewing wide body husband. "Oh, I could never wear that, what would the glee club think" her response. I just don't understand why God can't tailor his plagues, catastrophic floods and earthquakes a bit more towards this section of the population.

Huatulco itself is sleepy little seaside town well on its way to becoming the next big thing. Sort of like Cabo San Lucas before the American college students discovered it. I'm not sure if that is a good thing, but it has a beautiful town square, several very nice restaurants and a the vibe is very laid back. I was surprised at how friendly everyone was, how easy it was to get around town. There are taxis everywhere and the central part of town is only minutes away.

We stumbled onto an amazingly good restaurant called "Agave", which is owned and operated entirely by women. Well, mostly all the staff were women, there were a few waiters running about, but the cooking staff was clearly an all girl band. It is situated right along the town center, and the food was incredible! I had the best mole sauce I've ever tasted in my life. Plus it has the added advantage that you can watch all the really bad tourists amble by, while eating an incredible meal and being entertained by Robinson's impression of them. We ate there several times during our stay. If for any reason you are in the area, you should definitely try dinner there.

Oh, another specialty of that region are fried bugs. They are called Chapalinas, and are crickets seasoned with chillies and red pepper. They are sort of salty, and crunchy, with no taste except the seasoning they use. Naturally, Robinson bought some and insisted we all eat them. We refused until he had one himself. I don't mind tentacles, or wiggly bits with eyes, but anything that resembles a roach is kind of hard for me to choke down. We tried them and were surprised that they weren't half bad. I mean, I wouldn't want to snack on them regularly, but it didn't taste disgusting. I instantly thought of all my friends back home and the number of parties that would be spiced up by adding this to the table.

We went back and bought a bag of ten thousand, which weighted about three ounces. I'm not sure exactly how you harvest ten thousand crickets (it must be a very loud process) but the sales woman was very surprised when we bought them. She kept showing them to use to make sure we understood we were actually buying insects. We brought them back to the boat in the hopes of returning with them to the states, but by about the fifth day they had become quite soggy, which really sucked because I wanted to make AnnMarie eat one. Now, maybe they aren't the next taste sensation to rock the country, but they might have great utility as a substitute for those dry silicate sacks you get whenever you buy electronics. Plus they have the added advantage of being edible. Well, almost edible.

So, we hope you all are enjoying your local cuisine as as much as we are!

Cheers for now.



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