We went out about a mile to skirt the sandbars and found ourselves bouncing in square 4- to 5-foot seas, which utterly discombobulated the autopilot, so I hand-steered until we were able to crab toward shore and renew our half-mile interval. I let Chef Charles play the video game for a couple of hours while I took a nap.
At 4 a.m. I took over again, wearing a sweatshirt against the cold. By the radar, I thought, we were skirting the shore a little too closely, but I had a heck of a time getting it to the correct interval and steering by waypoint at the same time. After a two-hour nap, I was out of practice.
At 6 o'clock, Chef Charles took over for the dawn watch and never thought to wake me for a most marvelous sight. I later read that the Tehuano's jet winds bring cold water to the surface and, with it, the dissolved nutrients that form the base of the marine food chain. The sea surface temperature can drop more than 20 degrees in a single day of Tehuano winds and, when that happens, the fish are biting.
Through the spray and salt-encrusted glass - the boat was covered in salt - Chef Charles saw native people in groups of two or three on the beach with great big kites. They launched the kites off the beach with fishing gear attached, flying them far out over the gulf, then dropped the whole rig into the water. Muy Discovery Channel.
Later, as we skirted the petroleum port of Salinas Cruz at the head of the gulf, our course became more westerly to follow the coast. Wind and seas were now from astern, and Ho'Okele adopted the easy motion that characterizes a Great Harbour trawler's down-wave ride. With a comfortable platform and great view of the Sierra Madre to starboard, it was a good time to rest and reflect.
As was becoming our trademark, Ho'Okele pulled into Santa Cruz, also known as Huatulco, at around 1:30 a.m. Good for the local economy, but disappointing to us, was a new 1,000-foot concrete cruise ship dock dominating the once quaint harbor at the expense of the anchorage. Ashore in this modest resort town, we officially entered Mexico for the second time. The nearby village of Crucero, where the local population lives, was neat, clean and open for business. We enjoyed an Oaxacan meal and got haircuts.
We left the next day. The next 36 hours made for a routine passage along the rugged coast, and once again we arrived after midnight, slipping between the craggy bluffs that open up to the vast, frolicking city of Acapulco.
A few weeks later, we pulled into Ensenada just in time to watch the Super Bowl. In March, the next crew took Ho'Okele to her destination, carrying an additional 500 gallons of diesel in auxiliary tankage. The passage was without incident and took two weeks, nearly down to the minute. The crew caught a few fish for the stove; otherwise the ride was monotonous.
The Pacific crossing was supposed to be the glory ride, though not to my way of thinking. Routine passages quickly fade from our minds. Edgy, challenging voyages stay with us and make better stories and richer memories.
Author's Note: This story originally appeared in PassageMaker magazine and is reprinted with permission. Below is an interview I did about my experiences with the editor of Ocean Navigator magazine.