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Mahahual

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

It was a blustery and bouncy four days from Colon, Panama to Mahahual, Mexico. Based on our previous wind experience, we estmated the trip would take ten days. Distance-wise, it’s been the longest leg. We never slowed past 7 knots and we were upwards of 12 at times. We never once tacked or gybed either. The wind was coming from the Northeast and our initial bearing was Northwest by North, leaving us on a close reach until, after two days, we rounded Honduras and fell off to a beam reach, then a broad reach. We arrived in Mahahual while the sun was rising Friday morning.

With only three people for crew, it meant we each had an average of eight hours at the helm. Eight hours, I thought, it seemed kind of like a JOB. The time went by pleasantly, however, almost better than if we had four people. The more people there are, the more idle time there is and more room for animosity over who does what and for how long. After sleeping and steering, there wasn’t much time left to oneself. Heavier wind conditions works on your nerves too, making everything from walking, using the head, and cooking a trifle more difficult than when you’re just drifting.

Christmas day passed with no idication. No tree, no lights, no carols, no fruitcake, not even a “Merry Christmas,” as the other crew mates are Jehovah’s Witnesses and don’t celebrate any holiday. I still find it difficult to obtain the full Christmas effect in the tropics anyways. I got a few text messages and calls when I checked my phone on shore.

Mahahual is the final destination for Crystal Blue Persuasion. I realize that I haven’t much talked about the purpose of this voyage, because for me, it serves no purpose other than adventure, but, while that may be true for Gary and Larry, it is much, much more to them. It is their final financial hope in these times of economic despair. I didn’t much pry into their past (but I listened when Lynne did) and the story of Crystal Blue Persuasion slowly developed over the two months I spent aboard her.

Crystal Blue Persuasion was built eight years ago in Coos Bay, Oregon by Larry from a custom design of John Marples. When all was said and done, she cost roughly a million dollars, although, much like the homes in California, I don’t think she could be sold for that. So her only value lies not in her resale value, but in her usage. She was intended to be chartered for day trips as one of the daytime activities that those behemoth cruise ships offer when they unleash three thousand tourists on a particular shore in the Yuctan for the day. Larry originally intended on working her in Playa del Carmen, but the market is so controlled by the locals that the businessmen required 50% of the ticket price (not the profit) from each person on the boat. Later, they found out about Mahahaul and fell in love.

After she was built, Crystal Blue was “in mothballs” for eight years, as Larry likes to say. She just sat. Gary said he went up to Oregon and sailed her once or twice but that was it. Due to some tragic circumstances, Larry fell into depression and both his and Gary’s contracting businesses were not equipped to compete with the industry’s transition to cheap and/or illegal immigrant labor. Finally, it was decided that they finish what they started and put Crystal Blue Persuasion to work and start making some money. They also took me on, not only as help, but in an effort to subsidize the journey. This voyage has done wonders for Larry’s depression, too; he’s lost a lot of weight and every day I see him do something more physical and I can’t believe this is the same Larry that I started on the voyage with.

If you look at the route, you will see that Mahahaul is just north of Belize. When there is not a cruise ship in port, which is usually for one or two days a week, the town is a little sleepy but with sure signs of growth and economic prosperity. The water is crystal blue, the wind always blows, and there is an offshore reef that calms the waves before they reach the beach. It was probably what Cancun or Playa del Carmen once were before they were developed. It’s the next “off the beaten path” locale waiting to beaten, with investors, foreign and local, standing by, betting on it. Perhaps it is too late; the begining of the end of its tranquility is nigh: they’re building a Hard Rock Cafe.

From here I need to make a plan. I have several ideas and one definite one. I’m going to meet my friend, Ali, in Cancun on January 11th and meander around Mexico for ten or so days with him. After that? Before that? I’ve been thinking about visiting Havana. Maybe go up to Florida to visit my friend Adam. I’ve always wanted to go to Carnival in Rio and that’s approaching soon. That would require a flight. Ultimately, I need to find another boat. Preferably one to cruise around the Caribbean durring the winter and one that leaves for Southeast Asia come spring. I have a Hawaiian Airlines ticket I need to use by November, which could be my ticket home.

There’s no real physical networking between skippers and crew here, being as we’re the only foreign boat in Mahahual. Maybe I’ll find some in Cancun. Otherwise, I’ll have to scour the Internet in seach of a new skipper. The process is tedious with a low success ratio. It’s quite similar to searching for a job. But, as with everything on the Internet, the advantage is in numbers. I’ll be reaching out to as many boats as I can.

Comments

  1. anne Says:

    Thank you for this log – blog, and all the photos.
    Sorry about the toothbrush – You do need to add that photo to that page (Recreate it!)
    Boat designer was John Marples.

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