RoRC Report from Mexico and the South Pacific

RoRC Report from Mexico and the South Pacific

s/v Spruce reports from Gambiers in French Polynesia

By - 26/05/2020

Our late December “El Chepe” train ride into the mountains of Chihuahua State, the Barracos del Cobre or Copper Canyon, was spectacular. Warm coastal plains gave way to steep mountain passes, stupendous scenery and eventually patches of snow, pine trees and an intense dry cold at Creel. Many Mexican visitors had never seen snow before, they gleefully touched it, squealed, then did it again.

We enjoyed a taste of the real Mexico. Mountain hikes, an amazing road trip across three canyons to the small town of Batopilas. Although, it was a little unnerving to see heavily armed police and army... and armed drug cartel people riding around openly in pick-up trucks. New Year's Eve fireworks were absent, but the sound of celebratory gunfire reached a cacophony when the old year was finished. Our favourite excursion was a 6-hour trek in the mountains on horseback: tough on unaccustomed bottoms, a chance to truly experience the countryside.

Back onto the coast and we moved south in long hops, few anchorages available, to Mazatlan, San Blas and on to Banderas Bay. Here many boats gathered in the marinas. The anchorage off La Cruz de Huanacaxtle was busy. A significant number of crews conducting preparations to embark on the colloquially named “Puddle Jump” into the South Pacific. The available services and marine shops are spread along 30 miles of coastline. Local buses run regularly, taxis and Uber services enable large bundles of stores to be transported home to boats.

Further south lies the cruising anchorages of Chamela, Tenacatita (with its river dinghy ride) and Barra Navidad. Several boats annually reach these regions during the winter and stay for several months in one place. Space is limited, the most protected from swell are Tenacatita and Barra. Although the latter is shallow.

The emerging big story affecting cruisers, and most of the world, is Coronavirus. Speculation of restrictions was rife as we prepared to depart Mexico for French Polynesia. Between us clearing out from Mexico and arriving in French Polynesia, 25-days and 3,200 miles later, the situation had changed dramatically. Two weeks after our departure the French authorities changed their rules. Running south-west in the trade winds, we were not turning back into the wind. Information was limited and confusing. We hear that many vessels remained in Mexico. One friend is stranded aboard in Panama, her partner flew to Canada for a business commitment and cannot return.

Spruce is presently located in the Gambiers. We have a number of defects to repair before we can put to sea again. There are no cases of Covid19 here. We hear there are increasing numbers in Tahiti. Pacific Islands farther west all seem to be closed to new arrivals. New Zealand, the main place of refuge for the next cyclone season, due in November, is presently closed and their Prime Minister is talking of remaining closed for several months, perhaps more than a year. Any thought of moving west, with no clear exit from the cyclone zone, is not appealing. Astern of us in Mexico, we are told their navy is restricting the movement of recreational boaters, but yachts with live aboard crews, now heading north into the Sea of Cortez, the normal refuge for the summer hurricane season that begins in June, are being allowed to transit. We have been told of frightened locals threatening yachts; one vessel was stoned by people in a Panga, a window was broken.

Mariners who usually leave cyclone risk zones may not have any route so to do, due to closed borders. Insurance clauses referring to “named wind-storms” will surely become a huge issue if these restrictions continue for many months. We are assessing our unpalatable options to go elsewhere in a hurry before the next cyclone season, however, unlike air travel we take weeks to arrive in new locations and rules clearly change faster than we can travel. We attempt to cruise in difficult times.

s/v Spruce – Gambiers, French Polynesia Blog:

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