December, 2016 browsing by month


Wednesday, December 28. In Chiapas, by way of an obstacle course.

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

I have arrived at my last Mexican port, just a few miles north of the Guatemalan border. I will be checking out here. This means that I have spent just about two months near or in Mexico. My 52nd country since I started my circumnavigation in 2005. I have been coming to Mexico for winter vacations since the late seventies. This was a very different way to experience the country and the people. Sailing down its entire Pacific coast line, it amazes me how beautiful it is and that there are still many wild and undisturbed shore lines. Something I did not see in the usual tourist vacation spots. So very close to the United States and yet so very different. At home on the boat I usually have the FM radio going and every country reveals some of their peculiarities. What I found in particular unusual is the many public service instructions. To the point that I wonder if these many government and social agencies feel that their radio audience needs to learn how to boil water. To the point of condescension. Maybe a left over from the colonial times when the savages needed redemption. A good part of the radio stations’ income comes from their state agencies, in particular the governor himself who constantly has to boast of his achievements. My frustration is my lack of knowledge of the Spanish grammar. I have a decent vocabulary. I plan to spend more time on the irregular verb conjugations. But when I try the Mexicans are kind enough to understand and to help me along.

I left Hualtulco at 6.45 am on Christmas Day. The very short video of the Christmas Eve service in La Cruz can be seen at:

Another boat “Allora”, the couple from Bozeman Mt., left right after I did. It was another gorgeous day and I partially motor sailed and sailed towards Salina Cruz, following the coast line of the Gulf of Tehuantepec. I wanted to make good time to try and get ahead of the next hard blow scheduled for Tuesday but already packing strong winds on Monday. The trick is to stay within 2 miles of the beach to avoid the increasingly meaner sea state, away from land.

Christmas Turtle near the boat in Bahia de Rosario,Ox.,Mx.

Christmas Turtle near the boat in Bahia de Rosario,Ox.,Mx.

Just after I had photographed and filmed the amazing number of Sea Turtles, I started the engine up to keep the sailing speed up. But the prop was just spinning. I first figured that I had picked up something on the prop and tried to dislodge it by going in reverse. No luck. Then I concluded that I might have lost one of the folding prop blades. By hand turning the shaft I could hear one blade opening up.

What to do? I was going to need the engine to go against the wind in the hardest part of where the Tehuantepec gathers its first strength, just beyond Salina Cruz. “Allora” was already approaching Salina Cruz and they reported 20 plus knots on the nose. They were calling the port’s traffic controller to advise that they were crossing the designated shipping lanes to and from the port.

I explained my problem to Diana and then got the controller involved. There was a lot of back and forth because he was confused as to who had the problem Fleetwood or Allora. In the end he arranged for an assistance boat the “Marlin” to come to my aid. It was getting decision time. I still has some maneuverability under sail. Once the wind stopped or the 20 plus knot came my way, I’d be in serious trouble. It was around 4 pm. I decided to sail to the nearest beach and dropped my heavy plow anchor, under sail, in about 35 feet depth. It was hot and I had already spent time in the engine compartment. I concluded that most likely it was in the transmission control cables. I crawled in the quarter berth and made some adjustment on the control lever end. That did not help. I also had to constantly grab the VHF to report on my position and problem. No “Marlin” to be seen. Finally I discovered that it turned out to be transmission end where the outer cable housing was slipping out of the clamp and this caused the forward gear to never to be pushed into its forward position. It was a lot of fussing in the heat and my body cramps up in the narrow hole so that I have to constantly stretch out for a few seconds. But that was the trick. And I cleaned up my mess and hauled the anchor, which turned out to be a chore. I have been using the much lighter Danforth anchor. But I just wanted to be sure that I was secure to the bottom in case I had to spend the night or the Tehuantepec promised for the next 24 hours was going to reach me there. After I got on my way I did see a boat with search lights. There was a net set in his direction and I figured it was a fishing boat, but it turned out to be the “Marlin”. A big work boat. I had a heck of a time communicating with them. I told them I was o.k. and that I would cover their costs. I will try get a hold of them from here. And only within minutes of being on my way the wind came hard from the nose and the seas were nasty. I forgot to close the forward hatch and have a lot of salt to clean off in there. When I did get closer to the shore beyond Salina Cruz, the seas got flatter and I motor sailed with just my little storm jib in about 20 plus knots of wind from the port quarter. Once I had passed the most treacherous part of the Tehuantapec winds, somewhere at longitude 94, I cut the corner and headed straight for Porto Madero, instead of hugging the beach. On Monday the winds were light and I had to make several jibes for a better wind angle. I ended up paying my dues. Since I had not made progress away from the upcoming danger zone and take one jibe too far north I got hit with a chunk of the Tehuantepec at around 8 pm Monday evening. All of a sudden all hell broke loose. I had to wrestle the full main and Genova down and hoist the storm jib in a hurry. Fortunately it came out of the east and I was able to take it on the port beam in the safer direction of the shore. It had to be a good forty plus wind strength. The wind was howling through the rigging and a couple of my halyards were clanging like crazy on the mast.  But by 1 a.m. I had sailed out of it and I had made decent distance with just the storm jib. The waves slapped me around but never slammed over the boat. It was scary. On Tuesday there was very little wind and the motor ran most of the day. I left Hualtulco with about 11 gallons in my 13 gallon tank. So far I have never ever on these maximum four day overnighters had to refill the tank from my spare 5 gallon jerry can. When I checked on Tuesday afternoon I was down to 2 gallons and still 65 miles to go. I filled up from the 5 gallon jug. I had run the engine on Sunday and Monday morning at higher speed than I usually do, because I wanted to cross the Tehuantepec howler as quickly as possible. After that I slowed it back down again. But I would not be able to make it in before dark into Puerto Madero. But I have an excellent Google Earth overlay of the entrance and harbor on my new small P.V. WallMart $120 laptop/tablet. Not on the Toshiba. It all worked slick. I could take the detachable tablet part into the cockpit instead of having to constantly check the Toshiba in the cabin. But the new toy kept closing down and while approaching the marina I could no longer check the boat’s position on the chart. It was 3 a.m. Wednesday. I went by memory. When I guessed where the right turn was the green buoy light was not lit. And from there on it was guess work which fork to take. The cruising guide I have for this port told me that the route to the Chiapas Marina is clearly buoyed and lit. So very wrong. I grounded in soft mud. I figured, since I was going at minimum speed that I could back right off. But since I was now not going anywhere I attempted once more to bring the electronic chart up on the tablet. When I tried backing off I was not going anywhere. So I put the anchor down and figured that I might just as well get some sleep until daylight. Little did I realize that this became a 12 hour ordeal. I hit it at maximum high and the boat came to lay at a 40 degree on its starboard side. Low is at 10 am and the high at 4 pm. Trying to move through the boat, take a leak, is like rock climbing. Even sitting here right now writing this I have stomach cramps propped up with pillows. This is a swampy bog and I have a front row seat of all the water fowl. Egrets, bittern, black and white herons, sand pipers, turkey vultures, etc. Two boats managed to pull me off at around 2 pm. The Chiapas Marina is an impressive operation.

How the well heeled never miss their cafe au lait, Ca-Phe Sua with a good gimballed stove.

How the well heeled never miss their cafe au lait, Ca-Phe Sua with a good gimballed stove.

taken by the local Marines sent via Enrique and Memo to me

taken by the local Marines sent via Enrique and Memo of the Chiapas Marina to me





Tri colorod heron

Tri colorod heron

Christmas Day 2017.

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Merry Christmas to all. I am waiting for a little more daylight to depart. I should be in Porto Madero by late Tuesday, possibly Wednesday.

I went to the 6 p.m. Christmas Eve mass in the neighboring beach/fishing town of Santa Cruz. The same priest as in Crucecita but a totally different church. No gaudy decorations, though I did find out that the Crucecita church has world’s largest painting of the Virgin of Guadeloupe in the ceiling fresco and that the Mexican painter has claim to fame.  This church is built on a knoll right at the harbor’s edge. It is totally open and I was wondering when the priest would be able to silence the mariachi bands. The priest won. I made a short go pro video of the service, I shall have it in a week or so. I finally was able to upload the video I took earlier on how I set, fly and douse my spinaker.

Right after midnight hell broke loose with fire works, here in the harbor.


at the foot of the altar are the Christ child dolls to be blessed for the home manger scenes.



Friday December 23rd. Almost Christmas.

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

I am sitting here in Juanita’s restaurant, my evening routine. Doing my internet with a cold beer and her “to kill for” dessert, frozen yogurt with cactus pear. I am normally not a dessert person.  I have a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit here in the heat. But I am grateful for being spared the commercial rush and pressure.

Juanita's Cafe in the Christmas Spirit

Juanita’s Cafe in the Christmas Spirit

I plan to go to 6 p.m. mass tomorrow at the church in Santa Cruz, which is just to the west of Chahué. The mass in Crucecita is a t 8 p.m. and I want to leave as early as possible on Christmas Day. There will be just three sail boats crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec. A family from Bozeman Mt., Marcus and Diana and their two daughters Haley and Madison. Not sure of the boat name, a gorgeous boat, a Carl Schumacher “Outbound 44/46”. And  my friends Pat and Dave on the 53 foot Ferro Cement ketch. Marcus gave me the phone number of Enrique, the marina manager in Pto. Madero who knows the routine for crossing the Gulf. He talked sense into me, to follow the shore within two miles. I was tempted to make a direct shot for it because on Tuesday all hell breaks loose again. The biggest problem is the sea state, which you can avoid by staying closer to shore.

I have uploaded one more video on you-tube: This is  taken in Chahué at a traditional manual weaving loom. This old craft has always fascinated me. On Bali, in 2006, I saw the very intricate double weaving technique; and at  a Muslim enclave in  Vietnam in 2010.

Cham muslim weaving

Cham muslim weaving

Wrapping thread with plastic tape, prior to dying,Teganan, Bali

Wrapping thread with plastic tape, prior to dying,Teganan, Bali

4th Sunday of Advent December 18. Digging in for a hot winter’s night.

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Since I am here for Christmas, I dug out the canvas boat cover from underneath my sail storage, to give me some protection from the hot blazing sun. Today it got up to nearly 100 degree Fahrenheit, 35 Centigrade. In a mail from a stateside friend I learned that people paid to sit through a football game played today in Chicago at 30 minus F. The evenings and mornings are very pleasant with a refreshing ocean breeze. I rode my shiny stainless steel folding bike into the town of Crucecita, about two miles from the marina to the town center where I attended 10 a.m. mass at the church of Santa Maria Virgen de Guadeloupe y Santa Cruz. I first rode through a very attractive suburban bungalow sub division. The town, in contrast to what I have seen so far in Mexico, does not have any run down squalor, no unfinished skeleton buildings. Very clean and prosperous, wide boulevards, tree lines, parks. The town center, overlooked by the church, is a park with big shade trees. Lots of small attractive hotels. I checked the rate where I had lunch and it was 800 pesos for a one bedroom double. About $42. The Canadians have discovered this years ago and they will kill me if they read this. The other contrast here is that you see few obese women here. Hard to explain. My guess is that they are happier. On the way back I stopped in at this huge Wall Mart like super market, Selecto. The Canadians were doing their Christmas shopping. For a town/area, not even a tenth of the size of Puerto Vallarta it seems to have equivalent conveniences. Maybe I’ll retire here when you buy enough Soloman and The Mastmakers’ Daughters, so that I can afford air conditioning in my boat. Remember, these books will be much appreciated Christmas gifts….But it will take some time getting used to the interior of the church. A combination of Hieronymus Bosch and the murals in the Engelen Bewaarders church in Badhoevedorp.

I finally managed to upload the You Tube video of my fast sail from La Cruz to Melaque on December 5th. 

You can find any additional successful uploads of all my videos of this trip on by just searching under Jack van Ommen. I am hoping to get my video of how I set, fly and take the spinaker down singlehanded in the next days.

Saturday, December 17. In a weather holding pattern in the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

This was one my longest overnight sails, from Gig Harbor, Ixtapa to Hualtulco. I left Monday afternoon when the dredging of the Ixtapa marina entrance was opened from 1 to 2 p.m. As the crow flies about 350 nautical miles. I would have arrived here early Friday, but on Thursday afternoon I noticed that my barometer had fallen on “Storm” and thunder clouds were forming over the coast. I decided to play it safe. My biggest fear is lightning strikes when my mast is the tallest object around. I diverted into a small fishing village bay at Puerto Escondido. I had already seen from the Google Earth aerial photo that a good part of the bay is taken up by mooring buoys for the pangas. Not much was noticed of a storm until I was ready to leave at 3 a.m. The sky was exploding with lightning, just to the west off shore. But it appeared to dissipate and I pulled the anchor at 5 a.m. It was over 70 miles, (as the crow flies) and I was concerned that I’d have trouble finding the marina in Hualtulco in the dark. That meant that I needed to maintain a 5 knot average speed in the 14 hours from 5 a.m. I had wind but needed to add the motor to it for long stretches to stay at that average. This is not a pleasant way to travel. I had telephoned the marina from Pto. Escondido, when I was in cellphone reach, but I was unable to get good answers on just which bay to enter. The GPS coordinate did not help much. Fortunately I arrived just at dusk and Dave another sailor in the marina heard my call to the marina on Channel 16 and guided me in.

I was dying for a cold beer after that five day sail. I could not get off the boat in the Pto. Escondido bay because of the sorry state of my inflatable dinghy and up the creek with just one paddle. I may have found a replacement here. Enjoyed very much meeting Dave and his buddy Pat. They both re-enlisted after 9-11 and spent time in Iraq and Kuwait and both retired with the rank of Captain. Pat bought “Makoa Kai Hele” the 53 foot ferro-cement ketch in the Channel Islands marina. You can follow their adventure  at:

I got the disappointing news that it may be a while before the window opens again to cross the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec. On Sunday evening the blow starts again. I will be watching The crossing is about 240 miles, so, I need at least three calm days to make it to Chiapas, the last checkout port in Mexico, on the Guatemala border. I have a number of chores to do. It turned out that the Google Earth pictures installed from a software copy in La Cruz are for the most part worthless. I need to re-install and clean up the next part to the Panama Canal. Then if I get a chance I may take some short road trips. There is lots to see here in the state of Oaxaca.

I had some of the best sailing ever on this five day trip. A couple of times I could use the spinnaker again. Lots of Dolphin shows. Spectacular full moon rises and sets. There are not many boats here. Several must have just left before this Sundays new storm, with 60 knots of wind….I had hoped to be in the Panama Canal for Christmas. I promise I will tell you what the reason for this delay turns out to be.

I have taken a couple more videos but it takes for ever to upload them on You Tube, with the public internet here. There is one short new one of the Moonlight Sail at:


Moonrise on the 12th

Moonrise on the 12th


moon set on the 14th








moon set on the 14th

moon set on the 14th


A friggen Frigate Bird trying to land on my windex


Third Advent Sunday, December 11, 2016 in Zhiuatanejo, Guerrero, Mx.

Sunday, December 11th, 2016
The Ixtapa Marina

The Ixtapa Marina

I added one more You Tube link to yesterday’s blog. But the other two are uploading very slowly. I will do an update on the next blog.

“Fleetwood” far left front in the Ixtapa Marina. The boat on my starboard is the boat with which Galia Moss became the first Latin American female to cross the Atlantic Ocean single-handed, this year. I guess this means that every one else has done it as well, Mañana has come and gone. In 1980 I met the first woman to solo circumnavigate in 1978, Naomi Power. What stays with me, that she was very feminine but had a strong calloused handshake. If and when I complete my solo circumnavigation there will be several Americans who have done it at an older age. But if I can’t make it into the Guinness record I might have caught the eye of the keeper at the Pearly Gate with my Sunday blogs. 002For this size city their main church is small but half the attendance stands and sits on plastic stools outside, with speakers above the entrance door. No, I did not photo-shop the lantern into the rosary of our Lady of Guadeloupe and I do not use flash.  Just another fixation of your imagination. Now how about this one I took yesterday morning of the sunrise at my arrival? I see the footprints of my guardian angel.

Sunrise above Ixtapa/Z-town on Dec 10

Sunrise above Ixtapa/Z-town on Dec 10

There is a sharp contrast between the two Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. The latter is an old fishing village with a few old, most run down, hotels on the beach. Streets with two story homes/shops all with galleries topped with red clay tiles as protection from the summer rain storms. Both places are built on a narrow strip of sandy beach front with what used to be a lagoon or swamp behind it. In Ixtapa this lagoon has been used to make the marina and the low lands into golf courses. In Z-town the lagoon is the home for hundreds of small fishing pangas and lined with the small shacks of the fishermen’s homes. Riding the bus into Ixtapa from Z-town is like driving from Watts into Beverly Hills/Santa Monica. Mass was at 8 a.m. and the passengers boarding the bus from Ixtapa were the night shift from the luxury hotels. Last night I rode my folding bike to where the Ixtapa tourists eat and had a terrific filet of sea bass with mango dressing and a drink for $10. After church I ate near the Z-town beach in a small shop for $2, a (real) quesedilla with a home pressed Maraquila. After I made the detour back from Z-bay to Ixtapa I thought for a minute that I might have to sail back out and find another place for the night. The depth in the Marina channel went from 3 feet under the keel to zero and I could only see power boats. I crawled my way further and then the depth started to increase and when  turned a corner I did see sailboats. But dredging of the channel commenced today and I can only leave between 6 and 7 a.m. and p.m. and 1 to 2 p.m. I plan on leaving on Monday between 1 and 2 pm. I will plan my next stop under way. There is not much between here and Acapulco and the place to stop to await the proper window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, which can be a treacherous passage, is Huatulco, a four day sail from here.  I filled my fuel tank back up since last Sunday in La Cruz and it came to a whopping 5 gallons, for the 350 miles plus distance where I occasionally had to motor.


Saturday, December 10, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

I arrived near the coast at sunrise. First I sailed into the bay of Z-town. But turned around and arrived in the marina of X-town before noon. This is part of a very nice condo/hotel resort. My charts and cruising books on Mexico are outdated, the marina that was to be built in “Z” never happened. “Z” is much bigger and established than the newer resort town of Ixtapa. I would have considered anchoring in “Z” bay but I am up the beach with just the one oar and a leaky dinghy. and I need to refill my tiny propane tank, which was last done in Alameda. This is much more tropical again, lush green, hot. It reminds me of S.E. Asia in smells, foliage, colors, etc. I shall take a local bus tomorrow to the major church in Z-town. Another Holy Mary of Guadeloupe.

Below is what I started writing aboard from Melaque:

I am about 10 miles from entering the bay of Z-town. It is just before 8 a.m. The haze over the hills made for a spectacular sun rise, an hour ago. The wind died around midnight. I had been sailing dead down wind with a poled out genoa and the main. I slept a good part of the night, in contrast to last night there is zero commercial traffic. Just after sunrise the wind from shore picked up enough and just the right angle to sail hard to the wind. The seas are flat and it is another great sail. I can smell the soil again and the haze is probably the result of left over forest fires, a familiar smell from my sail through South East Asia. Yesterday morning was also a great sail with full main and genoa hard on the wind making two tacks. This is so different from my trade wind sailing, which is all down wind and broad reach sailing. Sitting high above the ocean surface on the windward side of the boat, at a good heal, is a real treat.

I left Melaque at day break on Thursday the eighth. Melaque was a very pleasant stop. In particular to see Richard and Karen, my Canadian cruising friends and the town has a very relaxed, quiet atmosphere. The majority of the tourists are Canadian. The Volcan de Fuego near Colima is  spewing steam at regular intervals. I took these pictures at different angles from the water. The one shows the entry to the harbor of Manzanillo, a busy seaport.


I experimented some more with the GoPro video camera. I suction cupped it to the solar panel for the video on how I handle my spinnaker. I have uploaded the following to You-Tube: A cockpit bath off the Mexican coast, and Dolphin Spectacle

I do not have a good wi-fi connection and will add the other videos later.

001 006


Wednesday, December 7th Melaque, Bahia de Navidad, Jalisco, Mx.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

I left La Cruz Marina on Monday at 7.30 a.m. This time the wind was from a better direction. After I crossed the Banderas Bay into the Pacific the wind picked up. The water was still reasonably flat with an about 25 knot following wind. This was some of the fastest sails ever. I was steadily hitting sevens, and not dropping below five knots. I ended up reducing sail to a triple reefed main. I made a short video of it that I will post on the next blog. I just discovered it did not upload right and the file is on the boat. I am anchored out and lost one of my oars this morning. It slipped away from me and I was in no hurry to recover the floating oar, it filled with water and sunk. My dinghy problems need fixing.

I was very tired yesterday afternoon, lack of sleep on Monday night and the constant sail changes and course corrections. Friendships I had made  when I was in the Dominican Republic in March 2009 with a group of sailors, of which Richard and Karen Van Appelen are here. They came through here in 2013 on their way from the Caribbean to Vancouver. They are crewing with Steve on his Catamaran to French Polynesia this Spring. Steve was also part of the cruisers I met with them.

I heard a very familiar voice and boat name on the local cruiser net this morning. Jeff Hartjoy on “Sailors Run”. Jeff is from my area, near Gig Harbor. I met him and his wife Debbie on Western Samoa in 2005. His son Richard works in Gig Harbor for the computer shop where I took my problems in the last two years. Jeff has solo sailed the three Capes and we had a lot to talk about on the VHF radio. He is anchored across the bay from me in the lagoon.

Catching bait fish with throw net

Catching bait fish with throw net


The frigate birds circling for the undersized bait fish








I shall be on my way to Z-town or Ixtapa, this late afternoon.

Sunday evening. December 4th., 2016. Second Sunday of Advent.

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

The wind turned out to be right on the nose for the next 20 miles. At about 20 knots. I don’t need this. I went back to the marina and will try again early in the morning.

In order to get an early start I went to the 8 pm Saturday evening service. Padre Roberto Moreno did not seem at all to be bothered by the small attendance, compared to the jammed 10.30 a.m. service on the first Advent Sunday. This picture of this evening’s sunset looks like a tree, a Christmas tree? And there is purple in the sky, the color of the second advent candle or the Bethlehem candle. And the sliver of the first quarter moon could be interpreted as the star over Bethlehem.


Sunday, December 4, 2016. On the road again

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

I finally have a decent chart system. Richard on “Adios” helped me install the GE2kap software to use Google Earth pictures to overlay in the charts where more details of anchorages/harbors are needed. The majority of sailors use CM93 rough chart outlines under these pictures. And for some unexplained reason I now also have some very detailed charts for commercial deep sea ports in CM-93.

It rained again hard tonight and I collected a half gallon of good drinking water. It is slowly starting to clear now.

Next story from Bahia de Navidad. See what St. Nicholas has in store for me.