Posted by: powellpjc | August 13, 2009

Acapulco to Guatemala. Thunder Alley.

A Mexican family on holiday visits just before departure in Acapulco.

A Mexican family on holiday visits just before departure in Acapulco.

This time of the year is the time of the hurricane in the eastern Pacific. There are twenty or so each year but they are not as destructive as their colleagues in the Caribbean because these hercs are spawned offshore and usually head further offshore. If they don’t hit land, hurricanes are a non-news item. To a sailor on the grey and perilous sea they are a never-ending source of bowel-loosening anxiety. For this reason I chose to hug the shore of the Mexican coast whilst heading south. The hurricanes should be west of me and they should stay there. I didn’t reckon on the thunderstorms.

In summertime it’s hot in Mexico. Cherry-red, crack-pipe hot. This heat leads to overdevelopment over the highlands of Mexico and round about 5 pm one can see the massive thunderheads billowing to 40,000 feet. One trembles.

These storms are formed over land but they do their hunting at night.

As I sailed, or motored down the Mexican coast, about 100 miles offshore I could see the battleship row of monsters lining up. I knew I was in for it. About 11 each night these bastards would cut loose from the shore and head out to sea, hunting for nervous sailors. Not every storm was lucky, but always one was. The sailor was never lucky.

I can run but I cannot hide.

I can run but I cannot hide.

The flashes would start about 10 pm. For 100 miles the coastal reach was lit by continuous sparking. I took the usual precautions. All cushions below; all sails down except for a triple-reefed main; foul weather gear handy and a good scan of the horizon for other ships. Then it was wait.

The gust front hits with 50 mph winds and knocks us sideways. Things start flapping, the things I have neglected to tie down properly. The rain is horizontal and the lightning splits my nerve endings. Three hours later it is over and I am back to sleep. Four nights in a row. Enough of the meteo.

There were thousands of turtles floating around. Some got lucky.

A couple of turtles getting lucky.

A couple of turtles getting lucky.

I was in the main shipping corridor from Panama to Japan and the US west coast.

A shipping corridor looks like this on the screen.

A shipping corridor looks like this on the screen.

And like this in the flesh.

And like this in the flesh.

The sailing was either very good or non-existent and I used the motor a lot.

A cold bevvie needs a lot of ice and a lot of insulation. The power hour at 5 pm.

A cold bevvie needs a lot of ice and a lot of insulation. The power hour at 5 pm.

This guy visited for the day.

This guy visited for the day.

I wanted to get to Costa Rica, south of the hurricane belt but my son’s wedding was creeping up too fast so I made for Guatemala. Know nothing about the place. Saw a nice-looking port on Google Earth, Puerto Quetzal and I decided to park there and fly home from Guatemala City.

When I arrived it was just after a large USCoast Guard ship had pulled in. It was liberty for the sailors that night and we all sat in the oceanside bar, me haggard and nervous and the young Yanks in their tank tops and tattoos, ball caps on backwards and calling me ‘sir’.

My son gets married on August 22nd and that will be a happy day. After that it is on to Costa Rica, la ‘Pura Vida’, baby. More happy days.

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