Happy vacationers break into a chant for us as they pass Groovy.
The "Barrido Marino" sea sweepers take used
motor oil and household trash too!
Acapulco is Nahuatl for "Place of Reeds"
Sea horse on our anchor chain.
Eerie silhouette on the rising sun.
Mark checks our position on the
The sun sets into a moonless night at sea.
Dolphins greet us with great
Puerto Angel is cute but too crowded.
Puerto Angel lighthouse.
Our two boats in Jicaral Cove, Bahías
We share Jicaral cove with Osprey and Turkey Vultures.
This place is teeming with coral.
Neighboring Playa de San Agustín
Clear water and fun palapas at San
Snorkelers at San Agustín
Bahía de San Agustín has unusual rock
Life's a Beach.
Cruise ship "Statendam" takes up most of Santa Cruz Harbor.
View of Santa Cruz from the water.
Low buildings hug the shore against a mountainous backdrop.
Tangolunda Bay in Huatulco.
Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco.
This resort goes for $1,000 USD per night. Yikes!
Catamarans take advantage of the
afternoon breezes in Tangolunda.
We watch the "I Do's" of a young couple on shore.
Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Late January, 2012 - Our pretty little spot in Puerto
Marques on the outskirts of Acapulco Bay came to life
one evening when a boatload of young Mexicans
zoomed past in a boat labeled "Corona La #1". We
waved, as usual, becoming one of the sights for their
tour, and suddenly they started waving and chanting
what sounded like a team cheer.
Languid sunny days made us lazy and we kept putting off our departure
for our next 215 mile jaunt to Huatulco. Mark changed the oil in the
engine and transmission one day and at just the right moment the Sea
Sweeper boat ("Barrido Marino") showed up and asked if we had any
trash for them. What luck! They took the used oil off our hands along
with our trash, and then hit up the megayacht parked nearby to take
their trash too. How cool is that: a beautiful free anchorage with free at-
your-boat trash service. No wonder it was hard to leave.
The word Acapulco comes from the indigenous Nahuatl language and means "Place
of Reeds" or "Place where reeds were destroyed." to this day, floating beds of
reeds drift throughout the bay and coastline for miles. Judging by the pile on their
foredeck, the Sea Sweepers picked up more reeds than trash, it seemed.
One day when Mark hauled up the anchor before we went on a daysail he saw the
strangest thing on the chain. It kept swaying and moving around and suddenly he
realized it was a sea horse. "Look at this!" he yelled back to me. I ran up with the
camera just as the little guy unhooked his tail and fell off. But a few chain links
further on, up came another one. He had his tail tightly wrapped around one link of
the chain and he kept moving his body around, looking us over, until he finally
unhitched and fell back into the depths.
One night we were woken by loud, mysterious sounds resounding on the
hull. Going on deck we heard nothing. Back down below we realized it
was the haunting tones of whales singing in the bay. Mornings and
evenings we heard the creaking and scraping noises of equipment being
moved onshore or of a boat's engine or something. Finally on our last
morning we discovered it was the noisy calls of wild green parrots in the
trees next to us. They were flying and climbing all over the branches,
cackling at each other with grating noises. We were amazed there was so
much nature this close to a major city.
When we were finally ready to
leave Acapulco, we left in the pitch
dark before dawn to ensure a daytime arrival in Huatulco some 30+ hours later. The
sun rose as a pink ball in the lightening sky. A few minutes later it became an intense
bright orange orb which made the camera pick up the surrounding sky as black. Some
clouds obscured the ball of fire, and from a distance it looked a bit like a witch on a
broomstick flying across the sun.
This slightly ominous sunrise brought us a day that ultimately held one of the most
disturbing events of our lives. Around two in the afternoon, while motoring along about
10 miles off the coast, some 60 miles south of Acapulco, we were enjoying being
pushed by a two knot current that pegged the speedometer at a thrilling high-8 to 9+
knots. Suddenly Mark spotted something unusual in the water. We stared hard through the binoculars to get a better look.
With gut wrenching knots in our stomachs, we realized we were looking at a dead body.
We turned the boat to approach the body, feeling totally alarmed and freaked out. We were
both shaking as we neared the body. It was a heavyset middle aged or older balding white
man, lying face down in the water. He was wearing a mask and snorkel, fins and booties,
and a shorty type of wetsuit with swim trunks over it. He had on diving gloves and had
clearly been in the water for at least a few days, and probably a week or more. He looked
for all the world like he was peacefully snorkeling along in the middle of the ocean, except
his skin was decomposing and one arm lay limp and twisted at an odd angle by his side.
This is the last thing either of us ever expected to see while cruising. We were edgy,
terrified, and flummoxed about what was the right thing to do. The stench was significant.
We noted the GPS coordinates of the body and instantly began hailing the Mexican Navy.
We tried in English and we tried in Spanish, but there was no response. This is a remote section of the coast and we realized
we hadn't seen a boat or heard a peep on the VHF radio in 8 hours since we first pulled away from Acapulco Bay. There was
no safe anchorage that we could reach before nightfall; the next was 140 miles (21 hours) away.
We continued on our way, hailing the Mexican Navy periodically, to no avail. The sun set into the moonless void of a new moon,
and we moved along in pitch darkness, unable to discern the horizon. All was black in every direction. The canopy of bright
stars overhead faded into a misty, funereal veil all around us. For the first time it really hit us just how alone all cruisers are on
the ocean. If you can't take care of yourself, help will be a long time coming. I kept thinking about the man's family, his loved
ones who knew he was missing but had no idea exactly where he was or perhaps even how he had disappeared. He might
have been on a snorkeling tour, or snorkeling on his own, or perhaps he was in a boat that was sinking and he donned his
snorkeling gear as it went down, knowing he would be spending time in the water once it sank. It was impossible for us to know
those things, but the burden of knowing we were the only ones in the world who knew his whereabouts was enormous.
It was a long long overnight sail. Every time I tried to sleep, images of this
unfortunate man facedown in the water filled my mind. "Don't think about it," we
told each other. But how can you not? We talked about how unutterably tragic it
would be if either of us lost the other. Of course, we have friends who have died
riding their bikes, friends stricken with terminal diseases, and friends who have
died in car wrecks. But somehow being alone out on the ocean suddenly
seemed so much more fraught with peril than house-based everyday living.
We had heard a news report before leaving
Acapulco that the world was going to be
bombarded by extraneous solar radiation from a
large solar storm, and that it could potentially
affect GPS satellites. That got us busy with the
paper charts, parallel rulers and dividers, making
sure we knew exactly where we were at all times
throughout the night, just in case the satellite
giving us our GPS position quit working. Another
day dawned and we were very relieved to see the sky lighten around us.
Suddenly a pod of several hundred dolphins came leaping and bounding towards us. They
were truly exuberant, thrilled to be alive, and seemed to be jumping for joy. That was more like
it!! We snapped a gazillion photos of them as they cavorted around Groovy. They must have
come to cheer us up.
Near 11:00 in the morning we spotted a Mexican
Navy ship on the horizon. We leapt back on the
radio and hailed them in English and Spanish again.
No sooner had we reported what we had seen, than
the ship was at our side. Those Navy boats can
They tied alongside us and their young captain came
aboard Groovy. Stepping between the boats was not
easy: both boats were pitching wildly in the swell and all hands on the Navy
ship were attending fenders and lines to keep the two boats from mashing
each other. He had a look at our photos of the corpse, took down our coordinates for its position, and relayed the information
back to the Navy base in Acapulco. The encounter was quick, efficient, polite, and the captain seemed very grateful for the
report. He noted our names and our boat's name. When he was back aboard his ship and described the photos to his crew,
they all winced and shuddered. It was not a comfortable image for those tough young men either.
We pulled into Puerto Angel, the first good anchorage south of
Acapulco and found it pretty but overcrowded with moored pangas.
We anchored twice but couldn't find a spot where we had enough
swing room without being in the ocean swell, so we left and carried
on to the Bays of Huatulco 15 miles further south. Here we were
rewarded with stunning natural beauty and peace. Gradually the
disturbing emotions from our overnight sail began to fade away.
Last year while researching Huatulco I had come across an
earlier cruiser's online description of a bay here that he fell
in love with and nicknamed "Osprey Cove" because he
couldn't find an official name for it on the nautical charts.
After a few emails back and forth with him, I realized it was
now known and charted as Jicaral Cove, and we spent our
first night there.
This tiny cove, just big enough for a single cruising boat or maybe two at a pinch, is one
of several bays that make up the National Park of Huatulco. A line of buoys protects the
vibrant coral reef in the cove and small boats filled with tourists come in to snorkel the
reef every few hours.
The Bays of Huatulco sit
next to the infamous Golfo
de Tehuantepec, a vicious
200 mile stretch of water
whose mood swings make
the Sea of Cortez look
Every week or so in the
winter north winds from the
Gulf of Mexico between
Texas and Mexico
accelerate south across the
narrowest portion of the
Mexican mainland, and
race off into the ocean at
60+ mph, often creating 20' seas. In between these multi-day temper
tantrums the Gulf of the Tehuantepec lies down to take a breather, during
which time all the coastal cruising boats make a run for it.
When the gales are blowing in the Tehuantepec, the Bays of Huatulco can
get a little frisky too. But we arrived during a quiet spell and had several
glorious, peaceful days exploring Jicaral cove.
The ospreys for whom the
earlier cruisers named this
place "Osprey Cove" were still
here, along with a group of
Coral litters the sand all along the beach, a sight we
had seen only once before in Los Muertos on the
southeastern tip of the Baja peninsula.
We kayaked around the corner into Bahía de San
Agustín (also known as Puerto Sacrificios) and
discovered a long curving beach backed by unusual
boulders at one end and a cluster of lively beach
palapa bars and boutique shops at the other.
We wandered along the beach and
marveled at the calm beauty. This is a
Friends of ours were anchored in the main bay by the town of
Santa Cruz, so we sailed over to meet up with them.
We got so caught up in our breathtaking downwind sail in the
strong afternoon winds that we nearly missed the entrance to
Huatulco's main bay. It was the sight of the enormous cruise
ship Statendam parked there that got us back on course.
Like all cruise ships this far south, they were on a several month
trip between the east and west coasts of the US with a Panama
Canal transit as the centerfold stop.
Continuing our Reader's Digest quickie tour of some of the
Huatulco bays, we stopped in at Tangolunda, a large bay with
several anchoring options.
Huatulco is an official tourist
development created in 1986
by Fonatur, Mexico's
government tourism agency
that brought the world Cancun
and Ixtapa in 1974 and Los Cabos in 1976 and more recently Loreto/Puerto Escondido in the
Sea of Cortez and Nayarit near Puerto Vallarta.
Learning from their prior beach tourism projects, Fonatur is developing Huatulco with an eye
towards maintaining the area's natural beauty. In the bays where building development is
allowed, like Tangolunda, the buildings are low. Other bays are set aside as part of a national
park with boat-in access only.
hosts the requisite
tourist banana boats
and jet-skis, but
breezy bay most
One afternoon we
watched a wedding
in progress just off
the end of our boat.
What a spot to get
This first week in
Huatulco was just
the briefest overview of some of the lovely bays. This area is so
pretty, so relaxed, and so charming that we won't be running off
and leaving Huatulco any time soon, especially since the
intimidating Gulf of the Tehuantepec lies just around the corner.
Find Huatulco on Mexico Maps.
to see more cruising posts from this area!