|Helpful Marina Chiapas|
The next day, Thursday 4th May, was spent checking in with all the officials. Memo drove us round in his car, even stopping at an ATM so that we could withdraw pesos. The first office was Aduana (Customs). More forms to fill in but no charges. Then Immigration, but the officer was not there so we walked across the road to API (Port Authority), filled in another form and paid 18 pesos. Then back to Immigration where we paid 500 pesos each and had our passports stamped for entry. Finally, we drove to Puerto Madera probably to the Port Captain’s Office and filled in another form – no charges.
Memo had to go to a meeting so we either waited for an hour or got a taxi. We had met four other yachties at the Port Captain’s Office and decided to share a taxi. Somehow, six of us squeezed into and onto an illegal motorbike taxi, 4 on a U-shaped seat in front of the front wheel and 2 behind the driver on the motorbike. Thankfully, the journey was short to the centre of town where 3 of us shared a proper taxi back to the marina.
|Hitching a ride|
The afternoon saw Jeremy and me in another form of transport, a private ban or minibus. Daniel, the driver, took us 40 kilometres to an Immigration Office at a border town, where we paid 60USD for a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) valid for 10 years. The ban fare was 1500 pesos. There are about 18 pesos to the US dollar. We had now legally entered Mexico and were free to cruise Mexican waters as long as we checked in with the Port Captain at each port or anchorage.
Jeremy worked on NECO, changing transistors, checking grub screws, reading the manual and finally, cleaning the relay switches with acetone. The last action sorted out the problem, but I can tell you, Jeremy now has less hair than he had before!
|These "rocks" barely showed on the chart!|
Over the weekend, we explored Puerta Madera, hitching a lift in an open truck. We tried our first tacos – very tasty but beware of the sauces unless you like hot, hot, hot food! We took a collectivo (public minibus) to Tapachula, a city about 40 minutes’ drive away and wandered round Gallerias Mall, shopping at the massive Walmart store.
|Apartments at Zihuatanejo|
The day after we arrived at Marina Chiapas, a yacht was towed in by the Navy and tied on the pontoon next to Sal Darago. Armed Marinas were placed to guard it. The three guys on board had made to mistake of anchoring in the port and going ashore without telling the authorities. They were probably suspected of drug smuggling, but nothing was found in spite of a thorough search by the marines and by the sniffer dog. The situation had still not been resolved when it was time for us to leave, so the armed guards stayed next to us all the time.
Jeremy spent the morning of Monday 8th May with Memo, visiting all the officials he’d seen previously and was given permission to leave once the Navy had checked SD again. One final form was filled in, the sniffer dog checked the cabins and we were free to leave in the next 10 minutes. We motored out of the port and into a headwind. We were anxious because one weather website, Windyty, showed a tropical storm heading our way across the Tehuantepec. Two other websites showed the storm fading away before it reached Chiapas. It took us two days to cross the Tehuantepec, a notorious stretch of dangerous water in the wrong weather conditions. Generally, we had light westerlies, but also short periods when the wind came from the SE.
|Tranquilo Jeremy with SD at anchor|
As we passed Puerto Angel, we cheered because we had crossed the Tehuantepec safely. We were close enough to land to receive mobile data and a quick check on the weather assured us that the tropical storm had blown itself out just south of Chiapas, about 200 miles behind us.
Sometimes we tacked to fill the sails, often only the mainsail was flying and always the engine was driving us onwards with NECO steering without a blip. Sometimes there were ships; often there were no other vessels. The air became increasingly smoky and we saw whole hillsides ashore on fire. The day before we reached Zihuatanejo the weather became noticeably cooler.
|Beach at Zihuatanejo|
We anchored in Bahia Zihuatanejo at 1700 on Saturday 13th May having avoided the large Rocas Potosi, which Jeremy and I had missed on the chart. We had been at sea for 6 days and found ourselves almost surrounded by apartments, hotels and beaches. Banana boats zipped past, the tourists screaming with delight, while jet skis and water taxis criss-crossed the bay. The beat of loud music could be heard ashore as holidaymakers enjoyed Saturday night.
|The defunct Diesel PEMEX dock at Zihuatanejo|
The next day, I celebrated my 65th birthday with a Mexican meal for lunch. We spent the next three days buying provisions, diesel and repairing a grab rail, the fixing of which had broken. We ate at various “restaurants” including a stall in the Mercado Central, where lunch with a drink each cost 72 pesos or £3. Tomorrow, we motor into the winds once more to try to reduce the 1749 nautical miles we have left before we arrive in SF.
|Tacos all round please|