Thursday, February 6, 2014


Marina Chahue Shoreside Complex
Showers at Marina Chahue
We arrived at Marina Chahue on Saturday afternoon, after having left Puerto Escondido at first light.  We had tried to call ahead, but the office closes at 1:00 on Saturdays.  This was not a problem.  We pulled into one of the megayacht docks and were met by friendly security guards who guided us to an appropriate slip.  Marina Chahue has 160 slips, including several for megayachts, but it feels like a very small place.  We were met at the dock and welcomed by the owners of Misty Michael, a big aluminum trawler.  They have been here for six years.  The office, a dive shop and a couple of restaurants are housed in the onshore facilities.  The restrooms are small and basic.  They have palm thatched roofs, only one stall per sex and not even a mirror over the sink.  The showers are outside, behind a privacy wall and don’t even pretend to have hot water.  In fact, they are private enough, although it doesn’t feel very private when there are three or four security guys lounging around just outside.  We warm water in our sun shower and then take it up there so that we can have hot showers.  That works pretty well. 

Commercial Marina in Santa Cruz
Our first evening in Huatulco, we first had a beer and then came back for dinner at the upstairs restaurant in the marina.  The restaurant has been lovingly decorated by the two gay men who operate it and features a full bar, good classic rock (although there was a preponderance of Queen), and surprisingly good food.  The owners speak good English.  After dinner, we took a long walk over to the commercial marina in Bahia Santa Cruz.  There is a big plaza next to the marina and lots of shops and restaurants for tourists.  The marina is full of fishing, dive and tour boats.  There are hotels and condos all along the road and a scattering of restaurants and services, all full of Canadians.  Most of the patrons in the marina restaurants are actually vacationing Canadians, not yachties. 
Sunday, we checked into the marina when the office opened at 9:00.  The harbormaster is a friendly guy who will let you stumble along in Spanish, but actually speaks good English himself.  The internet in the marina is kind of slow, but it operates 24 hours and will reach out to the boats if your device has a strong antenna.  It works fine from shore and there are plenty of benches and not too many mosquitoes if you want to hang out up there in the evening.  We walked into La Crucecita on Sunday afternoon.  It’s a bit of a hike, but we have seen no evidence of bus service except around La Crucecita itself.  La Crucecita is the real town in the Huatulco area.  It is inland a mile or so.  There is a central plaza with the usual church, surrounded by shops and restaurants.  There are several blocks worth of businesses surrounding the plaza which we were too tired from hiking over there to explore fully.  There is also a movie theater complex with four screens.
Tostado's Grill in La Crucecita

We had an early dinner at the Tostada Grill, which was reasonable and tasty.  Scott had a combination of Oaxacan dishes and I had tamales and a Caesar salad.  The tamales were only 49 pesos, so I made the incorrect assumption that they would be small.  Actually, they were the large kind wrapped in banana leaves, rather than corn husks.  I had to bring the second one home to eat for lunch the next day.  We walked back as it began to get dark and stopped at the Chedraui to buy a few groceries.  The grocery store is on the end of town closest to the marina, but it still felt like a long way to lug heavy bags.

We didn’t do much of anything on Monday or Tuesday.  Scott thought about removing the broken coils from the generator, but didn’t do much besides reinstalling the lifting rings that he had taken off when the head got rebuilt.  Tuesday, I bought tickets for us to return home on Sunday.  I was once again bored out of my mind.  I was happy to see Pegasus, our friends from Ixtapa, arrive on Monday.  I was less happy to learn that we had just missed Jan and Ramona from Jatimo and that they had left to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec without a long enough weather window to make it to Puerto Chiapas in their little 30 foot boat.  I worried about them until I heard they had made it across safely.  They called when they got there to encourage everyone to come on down there where there were hot showers.

Bahia Chahue
I just couldn’t go to sleep on Tuesday night, probably because I had done little besides read and sleep all day.  I was up until 3:30 AM.  When I awoke at 7:30, I really wanted to go back to sleep, but it just wasn’t happening.  I got up, put on my exercise clothes, and set out on a long walk to explore the bays to the east of Chahue.  First, I walked around the east side of Bahia Chahue to where I could get a good view of the entire bay and the reef that had scared us on our arrival.  I read somewhere that Fonatur spent a billion dollars developing the infrastructure in the Huatulco area.  I believe it.  There are miles of beautifully landscaped residential streets, with wide sidewalks made of pavers or stamped concrete and street lights.  Almost all the streets are empty.  There are some lovely homes on Bahia Chahue, but the place is still 95% empty.  The other bays were even emptier.

Plaza in Bahia Santa Cruz
The bays of Huatulco are the Mexican version of Italy’s Cinque Terre, although they unfortunately lack good public transporation linking them.  Taxis are absolutely everywhere and seem to be the only way to get around besides walking and private vehicles.  There are nine small bays in a row, enclosing 36 beaches.  The first two, Bahia de San Agustin and Bahia de Chacacual, are part of the Huatulco National Park. The Bahia de Cacaluta borders the park.  Next come the Bahias of Organo and Maguey.  These first five bays are relatively undeveloped.  Bahia de Santa Cruz has hotels, shops, restaurants and holds the commercial marina and related businesses.  Bahia de Chahue has more hotels and the Marina Chahue for pleasure vessels.  There is a small dry storage yard, but hauling out must be done with trailers, so larger boats are out of luck.  There are no repair facilities.

Path to the Public Beach in Tagolunda
After walking around Chahue, I walked over a big hill to Tagolunda.  There is a golf course in Tagolunda and lots of hotels lining the beach.  Just before the hotels, there is a trailer park and public beach access down a dirt road.  I walked down through the trailer park and then followed a trail through a muddy swamp to get to the beach.  Boards and bags of concrete had been placed over and in the mud to make an expedient, if not very attractive, pathway.  The beach, however, was clean and gorgeous.  I didn’t want to get sand in my running shoes, so I returned to the road and followed it into Tagolunda.  I was hoping for coffee and breakfast, but the coffee shop had gone out of business and no one was serving food of any kind at 10:30 when I got there.  I got the feeling that the hotels were all inclusive and that restaurants didn’t have a lot of customers.  There was one sickly strip mall at the entrance to the hotel zone with car rental, a travel agency and a couple of shops and restaurants.  I wouldn’t have even bothered to look at the shops if I hadn’t spied exactly the short little sarong I had been searching for ever since I got to Mexico on a rack outside one of them.  Finally, I found a purple one that matches my bathing suits.  I got it for just 80 pesos.

Beach in Tagolunda
I walked through Tagolunda and over another big hill to Bahia de Conejos.  Actually, I walked pretty much all the way around Bahia de Conejos before I realized I was there because there isn’t much to it.  There are only two hotels; one on each arm of the bay.  Secrets, on the far side of the bay, is probably the nicest resort I have ever seen.  It is very modern.  Perched on the top of the cliff, it features lawns and pavilions stretching down the cliff to a precious private beach of golden sand, bordering turquoise water.  The view was spectacular.  Right in the middle of that pristine cove, just a few yards from that private beach, a cruising boat was sitting at anchor.  Oh, how I wished I could get Scott to sail out of the marina and drop the hook down there for a day or two.  It wasn’t more than an hour away.
Bahia de Conejos
At that point, it was after noon and starting to get hot.  I had neglected to eat breakfast and was getting hungry.  I hurried back to Tagolunda, hoping to get some lunch there, but the restaurants were just too deserted to entice me.  After walking for four hours, my hips were starting to bother me, but I managed to hold it together long enough to make it back to the marina where, for once, I was glad to have nothing better to do than to lounge away the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday, it was time to deal with the generator.  I got up around 7:30 and went up to the office to use the bathroom and the internet.  When I came back, Scott was up and had already taken down the shade structure and started to rig the hoist so we could pick up the generator.  We swung the boom over to a position about the starboard hatch in the main salon and then dropped a block and tackle from the boom, down through the hatch, and into the engine compartment.  While Scott stayed below to guide the generator as it rose, I winched it up.  Of course we kept having problems with bolts we hadn’t seen or couldn’t reach, so I had to do it several times.  Finally, we got it free.  We put a second block and tackle on it from the compression post for the mizzen and moved it back a foot or so before letting it back down.  At that point, Scott could finally get to the front end of it to remove the housing containing the coils.  The housing, itself, was heavy and I eventually had to winch that out of the boat, as well.

While Scott was busy trying to free the generator from its rusty bolts, I talked to Jim and Linda on Liebling and they told me of an automotive electrics shop on Calle Artesania in La Crucecita that might be able to repair the coils.  It was worth a try because the prospect of trying to ship that heavy chunk of metal back to the USA or rent a car and rush it to Zihuatanejo seemed stressful and expensive.  We put the housing on a cart and trundled it to the parking lot.  I called a cab and we set off for the recommended shop.  The first shop appeared to be closed, but I managed to track down the guys who worked there.  Then the magic of Mexico took over.  They couldn’t fix it, but they sent us two blocks down the street to a guy who could.  His shop looked like an old stable and the yard was filled with broken appliances, but we could see that he had other coils he was repairing and he seemed to have the materials.  He said it would take a week or two, which was fine with us, since we wouldn’t be back for a few weeks, anyway.

Marina Chahue
One of the reasons it was so hard to remove the generator was that the rail supporting the motor mounts was rusted beyond recognition.  We needed to get that rebuilt, also.  The generator coil guy directed us to Nacho’s machine shop around the corner, where they agreed to build us a new rail and clean up the motor mounts for 550 pesos (about $42.)  I love Mexican machine shops.  Truly.  I wish I could take one home with me.  After the machine shop, our friendly taxi driver, who would talk to the repairmen and then turn to me as if he were going to translate, but then repeat the same thing in Spanish, took us to the grocery store.  We did our shopping and then walked the mile or so back to the marina with our groceries.  After that exertion, we were ready to take our solar shower full of hot water up to the shower enclosure for a shower.  Sharing one bag of hot water doesn’t allow one to luxuriate under the hot water, but it sure beats cold showers.  We may have started a trend.

Now that we are going home, I have allowed myself to think about what I miss.  I miss my cat a lot.  I miss thick cuts of beef and pork.  I miss hot showers, king sized beds and temperatures cool enough for sleeping, although I know that I will curse those cool temperatures during the day.  I miss squash and fresh lettuce.  Mexicans just don’t eat squash other than zucchini.  I miss Italian sausage.  I am sure, however, that I will miss just as many things about Mexico when I get home.  (Reasonable machine shops, incredible popsicles, $1.50 beer in bars, warm oceans full of whales, dolphins and leaping rays, shorts weather in January.)  It is a good thing that we will only be home for three or four weeks.    I can get my fill of the things I miss, see some friends, buy some decent shoes and shorts that fit, and come back here when I get sick of the weather in Benicia.

We spent all day Friday waiting for the generator repair man to call us with a price.  He never did.  Saturday, we called a cab and went back to the machine shop to pick up our new rail and drop off our leaky generator heat exchanger to be repaired.  They closed at 1:00, so we got there around 11:00.  They hadn’t started working on the rail yet.  We showed them the heat exchanger.  My attempts to explain the problem and what needed to be done to fix it were hindered by the fact that the foreman almost refused to talk to me, probably because I was a woman.  Fortunately, some of the younger men were more eager to please.  Eventually, we agreed that they would look at it next week and have it ready for us before we return in March.  We had no reason to rush them on the rail and the taxi driver was waiting, so we told them we would pick that up at the same time.  They were happy not to have to hurry.  They did seem to have a lot of work to do.
Yellow Jacaranda Blossoms

Next, we proceeded down the road to the generator repair shop.  The boss wasn’t there and the guys in the shop had no idea what the price would be, but I managed to get them to call him for me and I talked to him on the phone.  He said it would be about 9,000 pesos.  That is about half what it would cost in the states, not including shipping and duty, so we were glad to agree.  He had diagnosed the problem and agreed with the mechanic in Ixtapa.  From his comments, he seemed to know what he was talking about and the guys in the shop were rewinding someone else’s coils, so we felt fairly confident in leaving our parts there to be repaired.  He was also glad that we could give him several weeks to complete the job.  We took the taxi back to the marina.

I cleaned the refrigerator under the counter so that it wouldn’t get up and walk away while we were gone.  Then I was ready to explore the area some more.  Scott was still sore from pulling the generator and didn’t want to go for a walk.  I was still sore from my trek to Bahia de Conejos, but set off for Bahia Santa Cruz, anyway, figuring I could rest on the plane.  Our neighbors on Liebling had told us about a beach club around the corner, so I headed over that way to check it out.  At the end of the street behind the Elektra store is a hotel that sells day passes for 35 pesos.  You can use their pool and beach and the 35 pesos (about $3) will be deducted from your bar or restaurant bill if you purchase anything.  I would be there instantly if we had another day here.  From there, I walked over the hill to Bahia Santa Cruz.
Beach Bars in Santa Cruz

I wandered around Santa Cruz and took a few photos.  I walked along the marina and then along the beach to the end of the malecon where there is public beach access past all the restaurants.  The beach at Santa Cruz is very lovely.  All the beaches in this area are wide, golden sand beaches made of decomposed granite, much like the beaches in California.  I took a few photos and then headed back into town.  I stopped to buy a popsicle and then walked further into Santa Cruz and wandered up a wide residential street with a flood control channel running down the center of the parkway.  The homes on the main drag were about twenty years old and well maintained.  Off the main drag were numerous dead end streets.  The houses at the back were not nearly as nice or well maintained.  One block makes all the difference in that neighborhood.

Beach in Santa Cruz
After checking out the far side of Santa Cruz, I decided to walk to La Crucecita to take a few pictures.  The map showed a direct route from Santa Cruz to La Crucecita, the road has not been completed and was fenced off.  It looked like quite a massive undertaking.  Not only was there a road cut, but they were also moving earth to make level pads for residential construction on both sides of the road.  Fonatur thinks big.  I learned that “Fonatur” is a sort of acronym for Fondacion Nacional de Fomento de Turismo or National Foundation for the Promotion of Tourism.  They seem to be developing the entire west coast of Mexico and were also responsible for the development of Cancun.
Construction Between Santa Cruz and La Crucecita
I had to walk down to the next crossroads before I could head inland to La Crucecita.  I walked a mile or so up the road and then took a left into La Crucecita.  I stopped at the plaza to take a few photos and then walked all the way through town.  I hadn’t realized it at the time, but the main road curves around to the left and I ended up very close to the neighborhood (Sector V) where the repair shops were.  It was a couple of miles back to the marina from there.  I tried to walk on side streets as much as possible, as I had already walked up and down the main road several times.  It must rain heavily in Huatulco at times because I encountered many large drainage channels through town.  Winter is the dry season in Mexico, so they were all empty.  I made it back to the marina without limping, spent a few minutes using the internet at the office and then headed back to the boat to pick up a bag of hot water so that I could have a hot shower.  I wished we had thought of using the sun showers back in Ixtapa, where I endured three weeks of cold showers.

We had a feast of leftovers, since we will need to give away or throw away all our perishable food before we leave.  I made pork chops in a sauce made from mango chutney, caramelized onions and Dr. Pepper.  Usually, I use white wine, but I didn’t want to open a bottle.  The Dr. Pepper worked quite well, actually.  We cut the moldy rinds off our remaining cheese and ate what was left of the cheese we brought from home three months ago.  We also had salad, bacon slaw, mashed yams and curried cauliflower.  We were stuffed.  I did my best to use up the frozen strawberries by making strawberry margaritas and we ate the last morsel of chocolate that we brought from home.  We will need to bring  supply of luxury food items when we return.

Scott at the Huatulco Airport
We got up early on Sunday to stow all the items that we had been keeping on deck down in the cabin.  I took down all the sun shades so they wouldn't blow away if it got windy and then scrubbed down the decks so that the boat wouldn't appear to be abandoned for a little while, at least.  We said goodbye to all our friends on the dock, exchanged cards and gave away our perishable food.  On our way up the dock, we ran into the local boat maintenance guy and contracted with him to wash the boat once a week and check on it while we are gone.  

We called a taxi and for 200 pesos he whisked us off to the airport, which is quite a ways outside of town.  The airport is all palm thatched roofs.  It reminded me of the Kona airport.  We had lunch in a restaurant there and then boarded the plane for Mexico City.  We had a long layover in Mexico City and Scott used it to drink beer and watch the first half of the Superbowl.  The Superbowl commercials in Mexico are not nearly as interesting as the ones in the USA.  I must have seen the same Ruffles commercial ten times.  Ingemar picked us up at the airport in San Francisco.  It was cold and wet.  Brrr!

I will be taking a break from this blog while we are in the USA, but will be back in early March when we return to Mexico to continue our journey.

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