Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy Huatulco Birthday J.P.!!!

Current location: Huatulco, Mexico

Forgive me I am very much behind in my blog entries and someday will catch up with stories from Las Hadas, Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. Or you will all have to buy the book I plan on writing of the Doolittle’s adventures at sea. Just for fun, you can submit ideas for the book’s title below. For now, here’s a present time blog post….

So here we sit and sweat in Huatulco, Mexico awaiting a weather window to sail across the dreaded Tehuanapecs. This is an isthmus of land where the gale force winds blow regularly (50-70 knot winds) so it’s time to stop and wait for the right time to jump across. Here’s an interesting quote via Wikipedia:

“Most of the hurricanes that form in the Eastern Pacific organize in or near this body of water. A strong, gale force wind called the Tehuano periodically blows out over the waters of the Gulf of Tehuantepec, inducing strong upwelling of nutrient-rich waters which support abundant sea life.”

Before you stop and gasp and “ooooh” and “aaahhh” about how we are adrenaline junkies or putting ourselves in danger, let it be noted that most sailors wait patiently for a wide open weather window. This usually results in puttering across the 240 miles using the engine to reach Puerto Madero. This is the benefit of modern technology and high tech weather forecasting. However, just to keep it exciting here are few stories I’ve heard personally (I’ve condensed them down to a few sentences):

“We left early in the weather window so we’d have some wind to sail. We faced 50 knot gusts on the nose, but after 24 hours it just died and we motored the rest of the way. By the way have you tried the steak sandwich here?”

Molly’s thoughts: Um, yeah. If I am sailing into 50 knot winds on the bow of our Catalina 38, we’ll be back in San Diego in no time. No thanks! Find me a 7 day weather window of dead calm and I’m ready! Besides have you ever seen an 8 and 10 year old puke cheeseburgers in the cockpit….I have and it ain’t pretty! My goal is to avoid repeating this event at all costs.

“We were halfway across and the winds picked up. I noticed the larger shrimp boats and commercial fishing vessels flying past us to reach Salina Cruz (a commercial port located halfway across). My crew member wanted to keep going so we could get across because we were out of ice. I explained that if these bigger, more experienced boats were running for cover so was I in my 29’ sailboat. We waited 3 longs days for the winds to die down.”

Molly’s thoughts: So there’s a place to stop in case you encounter crappy weather? Yes! And who’s this motivated, driven sailor whose main goal is ice for his cocktail…I love that guy!! Ok, this true story is from Ben on his last cruising trip 15 years ago. He and his dad got caught in the T-pec winds and ducked for cover. It always conjures up images in my head of Gilligan and Mr. Howell stranded on a small boat together.

Take heart there are quite a few sailboats “stacked up” here awaiting a good time to go. We won’t be alone and will have plenty of company as we make our way across to the border of Mexico and Guatamala.

With another long passage under our belts, it has been nice to hang out, clean up and rest for a while. We chose to sail straight through to Hautulco which was an approximate 230 mile sail (2 nights/3 days) from Zihuatanejo. Finally, we were very fortunate to get some great wind and were under sail most of the way. It had also been a while since we ‘buddy boated’ and the boys enjoyed being able to hail our friends who were within radio range most of the time. The dolphin videos I posted earlier show our continuing magical encounters with dolphins who at one point began a game of pseudo “tag” between our boat and Panache about ¼ mile away.

Again, we observed several sea turtles floating five to six miles offshore and they continue to make me giggle with their delayed and slow reaction to our approaching boat. At one point, I turned to Ben and said, “Isn’t it amazing that these guys are 80 to 100 years old?” To which he responded, “Of course, they live that long! They live in out in the middle of the ocean ALL by themselves!”

The boys and I have learned to not take offense to such envious observations from the Captain…although come to think of it he is telling the story of being offshore all by himself for 10 days more and more often these days…hmmmmmm!

We are enjoying our time here in Huatulco which is a town with some charm, albeit quite “touristy”, and I was relieved that we were able to celebrate JP’s 8th birthday on dry land. After arriving, we walked into the marina office and upon hearing the name of our boat, the manager got up and walked over to his desk. Soon we realized he had retrieved a package my sister, Kathy sent with all of J.P.’s birthday presents. Imagine our excitement to receive our first delivery in over 3 months!

A treasure chest of items awaited us! At the top of the list was J.P.’s IPod touch which he had saved for and purchased himself. Phew! The boys were also excited to finally receive belated Christmas presents, custom made baseball jerseys. We gave Mickey, the devoted Giant’s fan, Lincecum #55 and for the contrary J.P., a Phillies Roy Halliday jersey with “Doolittle” written across the back. The latter runs for cover as Mickey and I bust out the 2010 World Champion DVD’s which replay the playoffs and all 5 World Series games….we purposely play the NLCS defeat of the Phillies over the sound system really loudly so he can hear it! Hey if you’re going to wear a Phillies jersey on my boat, you better be prepared for some taunting!

J.P. celebrated his 8th birthday here in on dry land in HOT Huatulco. So instead of granting his wish of, “hanging on the boat and playing with his IPod Touch”, we convinced him to swim at the hotel pool across the street for the day. Nicole and Aaron form Bella Star and Zach from Panache (his new BFFs) helped us celebrate while playing in the pool, eating “Panditas” (Gummy Bears in Spanish) and wearing funny “Felicidades” glasses/hats. We had dinner at J.P.’s new favorite restaurant, Senor Puck’s and ended the day with a cake I made with the boys’ help. With Doolittle Cakes on sabbatical I looked forward to this task, but soon found it frustrating as the interior temperature of the boat reached 90 degrees and was limited by the minimal decorating tools onboard.

As we delved into the cake, we listened to newly downloaded Star Wars music from J.P.’s IPod and drank ice cold Fresca. Hopefully, a birthday he will not soon forget!


Note: If anyone knows the limits to MLB-At Bat internationally on an IPhone, please let us know. Mickey and I are trying to plan how to feed our Giant’s addiction and watch some games this season. We are currently keeping up by reading the San Jose Mercury News blog, Extra Baggs.

This is how cruisers celebrate b-days! Bring your own plate and fork, cram yourself into the cockpit of the boat while Star Wars music plays on the stereo and consume cake and Fresca (no ice)!!!!

Doolittle Parties may be on sabbatical, but give me a can of frosting and some action figures and I'll try to make a go of it! The chocolate 'Ratones' are from the local supermarket. Note to self....baking cakes on a boats is a pain in the booooty!

You can take take the kid out of America, but you can't take the America out of the kid!! JP's new favorite restaurant! Why? We had just gotten done with a 3 day ocean passage and this was the first eating establishment we found....air conditioning (it's frigin' hot here), t.v.'s, free WiFi and chicken nuggets.


  1. I'll share our Tehuantepecer story from when we were cruising back in the '80's. A whole group of us waited patiently as you are doing now for the good weather window. We thought that we had a good one, and 7 boats all left at the same time, and promptly spread out across the ocean. The first boat that got up to the point was a 50' ex-IOR race boat called Geronimo. They reported 40-50 knot winds, and decided that wisdom was the better part of valor, and turned around for Huatulco. The next boat to get there was an Alden 36 or 38 aptly named Stormy Weather. They radioed back that it was quite windy, but "you gotta eat it some time!". They pressed on. Shortly after that tranmission they fell off of a wave and broke a frame in the boat. The rest of us decided that we didn't need to discover what that sort of wind was like, and all turned tail, with the exception of our friends on a 28' ketch named Dancer. Dancer would always report in 5's, for some reason, so we called Dancer, who responded that they were in 5 knots of wind, doing 5 knots, 5 miles offshore, 5 miles from Huatulco. This was back before anyone had GPS, and so this was a convenient way of estimating pretty much anything. Anyway, we all headed back into Huatulco, which was a town of about 30 people. The port captain came out to greet each of us, and would ask everyone if they had any ammunition - which of course we all denied. Turned out he had 2 bullets for his pistol (which he kept in his shirt pocket!), and wanted more. We had a great few days in Huatulco, but I bet they hadn't seen 7 sailboats there in years, and the Mexican Navy came in to inspect us all. We finally had a good weather window, and as all 7 of us pulled anchors together, they were frantically pumping up their dinghy, so that they could board. Realizing that they couldn't get the dinghy pumped up in time, they made each of us come alongside the ship (it was probably 110' long), and came aboard for an inspection. No one had anything of note, and we then all proceeded to Puerto Madero rather uneventfully.

    Keep up the blogging Molly, I look every morning for your posts! Brings back memories!

    1. I don't know how I misse your comment Jason, but I just read it! That is hilarious! Ah, the adventures of cruising! Hope all is well with you.