Mexico to Costa Rica Passage

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Let me start by thanking the three crew who voluntarily joined me for this passage; Lance Johnson, Kevin Kimmey and Kevin Coomer. They were amazing. Matilda provides a rather small space for four men to live for five days, but there wasn’t even a hint of disgruntle. Everybody was gruntled (this line was borrowed from Michael Scott).

We departed Huatulco, Mexico with a pleasant 15kt wind on our starboard beam. Seas were flat and Matilda was making over 8kts through the water. The perfect conditions persisted for about twelve hours before slowly subsiding. Around three in the morning we started the engine.

The next 48 hours were nearly windless with calm seas. We were forced to endure the monotonous drone of the engine and relentless tropical sun for two full days. Early on the first day of this drudgery boredom was getting the better of Kevin Coomey and he was desperate for something to occupy his time. I can contemplate a small project aboard Matilda for weeks or months before finally deciding to tackle it. Kevin Coomer isn’t that way. I mentioned that a floorboard needed some additional support and his eyes lit up. “I can fix that. Where are your tools?”. Soon Kevin Kimmey was joining in as I pointed out one project after the next. I felt like Tom Sawyer getting the fence painted. Lance is cut from the same cloth and wanted to join the fun, but the Kevins were on a roll. Lance looked like the poor kid on the bench dreaming of getting into the game. He did manage to provide some expert advice to the Kevins as his boat Shamaya, a Hylas 49, is very similar to Matilda. More projects were completed aboard Matilda during that 48 hours underway than were done in the previous year by yours truly, Captain Procrastination. Amazingly, they continued doing projects even when we were under sail.

On Friday the 26th of February, late in the morning, we received weather forecasts via satellite text from Kevin’s wife, Lance’s wife, Fiona’s brother in Australia and Fiona. All had the same thing to report: “Wind is coming your way.” Hallelujah! We cracked beers and toasted the sailing gods, but the wind stubbornly withheld throughout the day. By three in the afternoon it started to build and build and build. By five o’clock we had about 13kts on our starboard quarter and were running along at 7+kts. We went through some sort of strange vortex where the current was so strong that we were losing rudder control as if we were standing still. That lasted about 20 minutes. Then the real wind arrived.

By the time the sun set the wind had shifted to the port side ahead of the beam and we were beating into a building wind. I decided it was time to reduce sail. We hove-to, set the running backstay, and reefed the genoa and main to about 25% leaving the staysail full. Twenty minutes later the wind was gusting to 30kts so we hove-to again and furled the genoa all the way in. By this time the wind was a steady 28kts with gusts to 35. It was a cloudless, moonless night. All we could see on the water was the white foam from the combers (long, breaking waves) coming from all different directions. It was getting very sporty.

This was the first time I had encountered conditions like this aboard Matilda. She was doing everything expected of her beautifully. Her captain, on the other hand, had not prepared the cabin adequately. As a consequence, in sailor’s parlance, shit was flying in the cabin. One of the hatches wasn’t securely fastened and a wave washing over the deck forced it open and dumped a couple of buckets worth of water on the forward bunk. Thankfully, the captain’s berth is aft. The crew on the other hand were down one sleeping berth. This really wasn’t a problem as nobody slept much that night.

By sunrise, the wind was down to the low 20s and the seas had subsided significantly. We spent the next day-and-a-half beating comfortably (if there is such a thing) due east towards Costa Rica.

The winds we encountered are are called the Papagayo Winds. They are notoriously fierce and are generally avoided by most sailboats and all power boats. Matilda and her crew took them on with relish.

We arrived at Marina Papagayo in Costa Rica on Sunday afternoon February 27. The passage took 4 days 23 hours and 35 minutes to complete. The marina manager was enjoying his day off walking his Dauschunds along the dock a little while after we arrived. “How was the sail?” he asked with a hint of irony (or sarcasm?). He knew the Papagayos had been blowing. “It was great once we caught the Papagayos”, I replied. His comportment shifted from ironic to incredulous. This wasn’t the answer he was accustomed to hearing.

Kevin and Kevin caught a flight the next day to Phoenix. From there they took a shuttle to Puerto Penasco Mexico where Kevin Kimmey’s Amel sailboat Flying Free is on-the-hard. They will drive from there back to the California Central Coast to their wives Stacey and Jill whom they miss very much.

Lance stayed aboard Matilda for a couple of days while he sorted his travel plans. He flew to LAX this morning and will take the Pacific Surfliner to San Diego where he is purchasing new electronics for Shamaya, his Hylas 49 which is also on-the-hard in Puerto Penasco. From there he will cross the border into Tijuana and catch a flight to Mazatlan where his mother, sister, and nephew are escaping the Canadian winter. After that he will return home to his wife Pam, the love of his life, in British Columbia.

Fiona and Pippa arrive in Costa Rica in a couple of hours. Matilda and I have cleaned up as best we can for their arrival. I have rented a car and will be picking them up at the airport. We will provision the boat then take off for points south on Friday or Saturday. My sisters and their husbands and Fiona’s sister and her husband are meeting us in the southern part of Costa Rica the second week in April for a one week vacation. When they depart we will head to Panama. That’s the plan at this point. Standby for updates.

8 thoughts on “Mexico to Costa Rica Passage

  1. Kevin Kimmey

    Thanks for the great time, a passage to remember for sure! We hope to raft up next to Matilda in the South Pacific next year. Until then, fair winds, my friends.


  2. Kathy Hatfield

    You guys look pretty smug! Had to have been a blast! Fortunately Fiona and Pippa arrive
    to take control and add some sanity………hahaha


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