The key to crossing the Tehuantepec, we learned, is to wait for a two to three day weather window, based on low winds in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting calming of the T-Pecers. Variations on the crossing strategy, include “one foot on the beach” (hugging the shore) to the “rhumb line” (straight shot across). Our original plan was to arrive in Huatulco and wait for our crew to arrive from the States in early February and to wait again until a weather window opened. As we approached Hualtulco, our single side ban weather reports and advance news from our friends on Meridian (already in Huatulco) suggested a window would open as we arrived in Huatulco. Although tired from our three nights at sea, we took stock of ourselves, our provisions, and vessel preparations. We reviewed our safety equipment. Our conclusion, begin the crossing with Meridian and three other vessels if the weather window opened. Two days later we arrived at Puerto Chiapas. Twenty knot winds made for a delightful sail our first night out, but we otherwise motor sailed most of the way with calm seas. We had an informal radio check with Meridian, Confidence, Sea Swift, and Marova every three hours through the night watches. Arriving an hour before sunset, we savored our crossing. The physical and psychological barrier lay behind us and Central America, with its different cultures, climates, and anchorages waits less than 20 miles down the coast. As a footnote, a one hundred foot vessel, professionally crewed, had not waited for the window. The T-pecers tore a winch off its decks, shredded sails and snapped its boom. A day after our arrival, the window closed. The crossing remains lit up.
Our safety gear is all together and ready if needed.
Google earth shows tracks from a six vessel crossing in 2011. The bottom most track is the rhumb line strategy. The top most track is the more conservative one foot on the beach. Most of the vessels in our group followed the straightest route across. We opted for a route that stayed closer to the shore, just in case winds kicked up.
Calm seas bring broad smiles as we cross.
The crews of Confidence, Elizabeth Jean, Marova, Sea Swift, and Meridian celebrate the crossing.
This frame from Saturday January 24’s Passage Weather report shows 30 to 40 knots of wind lighting up the Tehuantepec.