Subj: Nanjo Chronicals 2001 - Relaxin' in Huatulco
Date: 3/21/01 10:28:20 AM Mountain Standard Time
Travels from March 2 to March 15, 2001:
The alarm shocked us awake. It was still dark. We had to get going, though. We still had a little over 50 miles to go before dark. We wanted to be anchored in one of the first coves in the Huatulco area by that evening, giving us a relaxing Sunday for pancakes and other treats.
The sky wasn't star-filled. It appeared to be 85 - 90% cloudy. Occasionally a flash of lightening was evident. We knew we didn't want to stay in Escondido; could always turn around if the weather turned out to be nasty. The barometer had not changed and the Amigo Net weather wouldn't be on for hours.
It was still dark as I hoisted the anchor chain aboard. Ever since the protein in my diet was increased, raising the anchor by hand became easier. I wore a support belt, but still had slight muscle cramps and strains after raising 100 - 130' of chain in San Carlos, Mazatlan and Zihuatanejo. Here I took my time, resting about every 75'. Finally I got to the point where I had to hoist the anchor straight up, 60' plus a 45# anchor, over 100 lbs. Before I knew it, Max cleared the bow roller and was on deck. My back felt fine. I was a little tired, but didn't feel strained. Nancy's higher-protein diet sure was working.
Nancy motored out of the harbor as the eastern sky began to lighten. I kept busy on the foredeck, locking down Max, rigging the jack line (what we clip our safety belts to) and assuring things were secure.
As the day progressed, we saw numerous lines of clouds but none with rain, none with lightening. The wind would increase as a line of clouds passed over Nanjo, but it never approached 20 knots. Steve kept us averaging 6 knots, just as soon as we were out of the harbor and had the sails raised. By midmorning Nanjo slowed to 5 knots, but still she were making excellent time. By noon she was back at 6 knots. We passed Puerto Angel just after lunch, with only 18 more miles to go to Punta Sacrificios.
Just after passing outside the cove at Sacrificios (Pub. 153 and Charlie's left us with the feeling that more dangers were there than we wanted to deal with that day), we saw a beautiful little cove with a white-sand beach. Nancy turned in. As we proceeded, I stayed on the foredeck to watch for submerged rocks or reefs. We made note of a reef just to the east, where we would have tended to pass when we continued on to Huatulco next week, the tide was low and the wind-driven waves broke on it. As Nanjo slowly entered the cove, its beauty and seclusion were like a gift. Our smiles grew and we knew we would stay here for a while. After setting Max in 25' of sand, I dove to find he was perfectly set. We thought we were at Chachacual but a postcard picture eventually corrected our error. We relaxed and unwound. At least on Sunday we did, if you call washing clothes and checking the packing gland relaxing.
One day we rowed into the beach and cut each other's hair. Otherwise we stayed aboard Nanjo. After the first day, the water became cloudy and then it was filled with jellyfish eggs. On the last day, we rowed out to some rocks to snorkel. Still the water was filled with particulate. We quit after a little while.
On Thursday, we raised anchor and headed for the main harbor of Huatulco in Bahia Santa Cruz. Check-in was easy because you just have to get to the Port Captain and the Banamex, a few blocks away. However, we had been forewarned and went to API immediately. The Port Captain doesn't tell you to do it and several cruisers had been charged $1.50 per person, per trip, for using the dinghy dock, plus harbor fees. We paid 28 pesos at the API building across the channel from the Port Captain's office. We said that we would be landing on the beach instead of the dock. The marina area is really a very nice panga and small powerboat docking area. It has a covered "waiting room" for tourists to use before getting on pangas or party boats. Power and water is available around the perimeter, on the paved sidewalk.
The beach has no surf. We landed right in front of the church. There are palapa restaurants on either side of the church and usually a few dozen people enjoying the beach. Just back of the beach, beside the church, trees and sidewalks make for a picturesque setting (see photo, with Nanjo visible through the trees). Less than a block away, you can catch a taxi for 13 pesos to where the shopping and services are located, or you can walk. We took the taxi the first time and walked afterwards.
The port area, Santa Cruz, has paved streets and sidewalks. There isn't much to the port, but it was improved in advance of the development of major tourist facilities. Still that is where Banamex is. The town of La Crucecita has everything else. It too is very improved. While there are no large grocery stores, there are two significant tiendas for canned goods (we even found canned, whole tomatoes). There are several Internet cafés (30 pesos per hour), a central Mercado where produce and meat can be purchased from vendors. They display signs with their prices, so it is very easy to shop there. There are many other places selling meat and produce but we, as well as most of the cruisers, used the Mercado. We bought our pollo at another shop, though. About the only items that were missing were bananas on the green side. All we found were ripe, being easily bruised and fast to spoil.
The town has a pretty square, shady and green, with the main cathedral facing it. The rest of the square is surrounded by jewelry and souvenir shops. The town is well organized and zoned. In one area you can find all the parts, hardware, steel, aluminum, electrical and repair shops. We found both of the marine stores on another street. We bought a new dive mask for me, a new tip for my spear and some sturdier fish hooks for those big Dorado. We found a fabric shop with exactly what we were looking for, a wide variety of nylon so that we can make courtesy flags for the countries we are about to visit. We located a bakery that makes what might be the best bread and rolls we've tasted yet.
Not knowing what medical options were going to be available in El Salvador, we found the local lab to have our regular testing for amoebas and parasites done. We have been very satisfied with the availability and quality of the labs throughout Mexico. And when we have one of the biological problems, they have been mild and the farmacias sell us the necessary pills to cure our problem. The last test was in San Carlos and we had no "bugs". The lab was a little hard to find in La Crucecita, and then it wasn't open when it was supposed to be. However, finally, on the day before we were going try out some of the other anchorages in Bahias de Huatulco, we found the lab open. Confirming that they could test for the biological pests, we brought back a stool sample the next morning. We just do a single sample because if one of us has bugs, we both do. The test was just 30 pesos. Although the results would be ready the next day, we said we would be back in a few days.
A few days later, moving from one anchorage to another, we planned on a quick stop in Santa Cruz to get the results, any medicine if we needed it and a few food items. The results indicated that we had bacteria. We went to a farmacia to get the necessary medication. They didn't know what we needed, so we went back to the lab. There we were told that we had to see a doctor to get a prescription for the necessary medicine. We decided to see a doctor at the hospital, however we stopped at another farmacia, hoping the doctor associated to it might be in. He wasn't, but the lady suggested we go across the street to the clinic. Hey. Why not? We crossed the street and entered the Oaxaca (O-wah-ka), the Mexican state we're in, health services clinic.
So far, here in Huatulco, we had been experiencing a greater requirement to communicate in Spanish only. The clinic was no different. It slowly became clear that if we wanted to see a doctor, we had to pay 63 pesos and wait for an hour and a half. Nancy kept trying to cut through the procedure by pressing the point that we had the lab results, couldn't the doctor just write a prescription? The admin person finally went and talked to someone, possibly the doctor, and when she came back, she began writing out something. We thought it was the prescription. Then she asked for 63 pesos. Nancy wanted to know what the money was for. I figured that we still had to pay the doctor if we were going to get a prescription. No medicine was given to us. The lady told us to go to the nurse in the front of the clinic.
It took a little while before it became clear that we weren't waiting for anything other than to see a doctor. Nancy had her weight taken by a nurse, then her blood pressure and then a thermometer was pulled out of a little cup on the nurses desk. Nancy was very worried and hesitant. But then the nurse pointed at her armpit, where the temperature was to be taken. It was interesting to be doing all this in Spanish, hearing the description and then the measurement. Soon Nancy's age and vital statistics had been recorded.
As we waited, Nancy struck up a relationship with a lady next to her. Actually, the Spanish translator computer Nancy was using to understand the medical advice and instructions posted on the walls, captivated the lady. Soon Nancy's friend was explaining some of the warnings and acting out the symptoms. Nancy's Spanish was growing by the minute; occasionally the lady would use the computer to aid them. They talked about cancer, the tendency of Mexican youth to get involved in drugs and have sexual contact, about medical expenses and so on. Nancy's friend advised us that the lab had found two problems. Before that, we had the opinion that there was just one. I joked with the lady that, (in Spanish) "a gram of prevention was equal to a kilogram of sickness."
The waiting room would fill and empty. Once a group of mothers and their children went into an office for some infant care and preventative medicine training. The most interesting part being that the moms with infants were nursing, whether they were sitting, standing or walking around, and the babies were contented. We only heard one baby cry, and that was back where the doctors were.
Finally, after an hour and a half, we were taken into an office by a young female doctora. In Spanish only, she confirmed that there were two problems, bacteria and amoeba, but only the amoeba requiring medication. It was a mild case. She agreed that we both probably had the problem and gave us two sets of pills to be taken with breakfast each morning for the next three days. Like everyone, she wanted to know where we were from. I mentioned that I have a sister who is a doctora who first worked in Mexico after medical school. You know, just regular ol' small talk in Southern Mexico. Never did we have the feeling that she was in a hurry or needed to rush us. She answered all Nancy's questions and even wrote in Spanish the instructions for taking the medication. We were the ones who finally said goodbye. Then after saying goodbye to Nancy's friend (the girls exchanged hugs), we walked back to the port.
The wind was blowing around 20 knots in the anchorage. After getting back to Nanjo, we began a late lunch. Out the window, it appeared that we were very close to another boat. Going topside, we were convinced that we were dragging anchor. With some quick work, we had the outboard off and the dink tied to Nanjo's stern cleat. Nancy used the engine to reduce the strain on the anchor and soon I had it on deck.
She weaved through the anchored boats and, once clear, I furled out the jib for a quick escape over to the shelter in front of Club Med in Bahia Tangola Tangola.
Just another day of going with what Paradise dishes out . . .
Crew of Nanjo