[050409; 1723 UTC; La India, Bahia Chachacual, Oaxaca, Mexico;
15º 42.62' N/096º 11.88' W]
We are now anchored in a little cove near Huatulco (Who-ahh-TOOL-COH) called La India, having arrived on April 4, 2005 after a slow 340 mile trip. The passage south of Zihuatanejo was excellent despite fluky winds. We stayed roughly ten miles offshore and most deep draft shipping traffic passed outside of us. There were only a couple of shrimpers and their bright lights and slow movements made them easy to maneuver around. Most shrimpers seem to be on the edges of shoal areas, so by staying in deep water we were easily able to avoid them. We did encounter significant counter-current east of Acapulco that was at times directly from the east and others setting us more northerly. (There had been a whopping gale in the Gulf of Tehuantapec at the time so this may have been the genesis of the fluky currents.) When we rounded the corner at Puerto Angel (“ANNE-hell”, where if you look at a map of Mexico you see an “elbow” and the coast begins to curve northeast) this north setting current became additive and our speed increased by more than two knots despite large choppy seas.
When we arrived here at La India we were thrilled with what we found (AND happy to be at anchor again) so we decided we would stay a little while. The cove is rumored to have been named for an indigenous crone who lived alone here for many years and the cove is really a tiny bight off Bahia Chachacual (Chaa-chaa-KWAL). To enter, we passed east of a coastal reef while going almost 7 knots with the current but into steep choppy seas kicked up by the recent Tehuantapec gale. Once inside the reef, things settled down considerably and we motored toward an isolated and deserted broad steep beach with a smattering of rock piles jutting up around the bay. Heading north, then east around a second reef, we slowly circled the unknown cove and tried to read the color of the water to avoid rocks and coral before finding a patch of bright sand in which to drop our anchor.
Behind us is another smaller steep pristine beach and low hills covered with jungle vegetation devoid of greenery as it is the dry season here. Osprey and turkey vultures fill the sky and a lone deer, a skunk and a dramatic magpie jay have been seen crossing the sand. We’ve even heard cicadas here that we haven't heard since New England. Underwater we have observed King Angelfish, Hogfish, Triggerfish, a few Sergeant Majors, some Guineafowl Puffers and bunches of Wrasses that seem to be unafraid, though the fish are far from abundant. (Jake, the cat, enjoyed the small fillets from a small Green Jackfish caught off the boat – and then he wanted more!) We’ve suffered a bit from bees (including one nasty little black and yellow striped variety that stung Leslie and made her hand swell up to roughly twice its normal size), though we think we’ve finally rid ourselves of a small, flying, biting pest we were calling Zee-Wahs that we picked up in Zihuatanejo. The anchorage here inside of the reef at La India is tranquil primarily because there are two reefs to windward. So even when afternoon westerly winds at 20 + knots whistle through, and surf breaks heavily on the rocks to our west, the water in the bay is flat with only slight swell. A few times we’ve been visited by big catamaran tour boats that disgorge hoards of polite tourists to the beach and into the water and stay for about 1 1/2 hours, but otherwise it's been a quiet spot.
For just a moment we’d like to digress to tell you of meeting Noel Morales Meza, a smart and entertaining young man who works in the Gallery Maya on Cuauhtémoc Street in Zihuatanejo. We were drawn into this gallery by the extraordinary collection of intricately carved wooden statues of voluptuous goddesses and kept coming back to purchase small hand-painted (carved avocado pit) masks for unique gifts, and to visit with Noel. Noel is a short but husky thirty-ish man whose dark ponytail hangs down his ramrod straight back and who exudes enthusiasm and curiosity. One day we arrived and he was reading a book on the cultures of Mexico and another, a copy of Scientific American. We quickly learned that Noel (Noh-Elle) comes from a family with a tradition of distilling mezcal and he was quick to tell us of the traditions for ceremony and offerings to the gods before the harvested maguey cactus is cooked. He was so anxious for us to appreciate fine mezcal (as opposed to what is sold to tourists) that he disappeared in the back of the gallery and came out carrying an amber jug of aged mezcal distilled by his family. Leslie nearly made a faux pas by being hesitant to try a sample but Philip’s enthusiastic response overshadowed Leslie’s reserve and Noel truly beamed. He even teased Philip about the glow showing in his face from the effects of the mezcal. It was only after about six (very educational) visits and saying our goodbyes that Noel agreed to sell Philip a small bottle. While working hard to get out the door this day, we got Noel to pose for a photo and also received a gift of a small gourd rattle used by native dancers as a reminder of our friend Noel.
We’ll come back to La India now and tell you of a couple of astronomical observations. As you may remember, in Zihuatanejo we picked up our celestial navigation again and have been practicing noonsites for determination of latitude (essentially measuring with a sextant the height of the sun at local noon when the sun reaches its peak elevation). While perusing the Nautical Almanac reducing our noonsite observation to a calculated latitude, Philip discovered that there would be a solar eclipse visible in this part of Mexico on April 8. We’d actually forgotten about the eclipse when we began to notice an odd color to the daylight and quickly came to our senses and pulled out the sextant to safely view the mostly shadowed sun. The second observation has been the sighting of our namesake constellation CARINA containing the navigational star, Canopus that is visible due south of us just above the horizon.
The Bahias de Huatulco (named originally Cuauhtolco by the Aztecs) are actually twelve small bays that run about seven miles further NE of where we are now. One of these bays, Bahia Santa Cruz, carries the legend of the visiting Thomas Cavendish who, in 1587, tried to stop the natives from worshipping a cross that was set in sand on the beach. He first tried to chop down, then burn the cross but was unsuccessful. Finally he tried to pull the cross out of the ground using a rope tied to his sailing ship but was again unsuccessful. Later, the base of the cross was found to be buried only one meter deep in the sand and the Catholic church reasoned that there was some spiritual reason why Cavendish was unable to remove it. The cross was eventually removed and cut up to make smaller crosses that were distributed to various churches.
Our current plan is to leave La India Monday and move into the recently completed Marina Chahue (CHOW-way) in Bahia Santa Cruz. Our purpose is to efficiently affect final preparations for crossing the Gulf of Tehuantapec and departing Mexico. To depart, we’ll need an international zarpe and this requires surrendering our visas at Migracion at the airport in Huatulco and getting clearance from the port captain.
Sus amigos del velero, Carina
Philip, Leslie y el gato supremo, Jake
lying La India, Bahia Chachacual, Oaxaca, Mexico