The passage from Hualtuco to Chiapas was really interesting. If done poorly it could also be uncomfortable or even hazardous.
Here’s the deal.
There are mountain ranges that run along the coastline from Canada, through the US and Mexico all the way down to South America. These mountains are tall, but every once in a while there is a gap between these tall mountains. Such a gap occurs at the Tihuantepec Bay in the southern part Mexico. When a norther comes down through Texas and into the Gulf, it pushes some serious wind and when that pressure hits the gap in the mountain range, then watch out as it comes roaring through there at great speed.
This particular gap is not far from the water on both the Atlantic and Pacific side as this is the skinny part of Southern Mexico. The funnel effect is narrow at the beginning point where land meets sea and fans out over a wide area as it moves away from the mountains. The waves build from the constant wind blowing and pretty soon, a few miles (less than 5) out in the middle of the Gulf of Tihuantepec ,you have not only big waves but serious wind. Not a good scene. Container ships have been capsized by these little “peckers.”
The solution to getting past this geological/ meterological blast is to creep down the coast not more than one mile from land. The catch is to keep “one foot on land and one foot in the water.” To avoid running aground every chance you get you must pay attention to navigating. Although using this method of getting through the Bay is dicey, the wind can blow like crazy but there are no waves to speak of and it just helps a sailboat make better time.
This is what we did and it all worked out, all the way to the port of Chiapas, where we finally checked out of Mexico.
Chiapas is only 8 miles or so from Guatemala so it’s a pretty good spot to say goodbye to Mexico. We utilized a new marina, still under construction to dock. The docks are all in but there isn’t any power or water so they don’t charge for the use of the marina. The marina manager had been recommended to us by numerous other cruisers so we were comfortable with the setup.
We thought checking out of the country was going to be equivalent to having Homeland Security descend upon us. We read that the Mexican Navy would come with drug dogs, money dogs, immigration, and the health department would show up along with the agricultural department. Well, they did show up but it was really funny. First, the port captain was a little on the large side and had trouble even getting on the boat. He had to literally grab his stomach and push his way into the cockpit. I averted my eyes and Gayle went down below to check on something. The Navy boys shows up with their drug dog. She was very young and very sweet. The dog’s guide went down the companionway stairs first holding the dog’s leash. He gave the dog numerous commands to come down the steps but she was having none of it. He finally (a little red faced) carried the dog down. The dog (a german shepherd) jumped on the bed, the furniture, stuck its nose in trash, and the handler opened a few drawers. It mostly left dog hair everywhere. That was the sum total of the boat inspection. After questions and lots of paperwork and signatures, we thought, ‘Wow. Cool.’ But that was just for checking into the port. They came back the next day to do the same thing again for a check out of the country. Who knew there were so many formalities. It was the same group and the same dog. This time the dog was even more uncooperative. All she wanted to do was lay on the nice cool cushions in the cockpit. She was coaxed down the stairs again but this time she jumped by herself and then jumped right back up to her comfy cushion. Gayle thought the dog was cute and I suspect she thought the dog’s handler was even cuter. She seemed to think he had nice buns and offered bottled water to the guy. She wanted to pet the dog and give her some water, but reconsidered since the dog was a sworn officer of the Navy and I figured the sooner they were off the boat, the better. After more paperwork and more signatures, we said good-by in our ‘pico’ Spanish and their ‘pico’ English. It was actually kind of fun to attempt conversations. I think they were impressed that we try hard to learn and use their language. A lot of communication goes on between hand signals and facial expressions. We parted company and were good to go.