After motoring out of Tangolunda Bay at 7:00 a.m., we continued motoring until
about 11:00 am, when a nice wind came up from the south. This was doubly nice
as (a) we could sail, and (b) being from the south meant that the feared Tehuantepeckers,
which blow from the north, were just that much less likely to happen. We put up
the sails and were soon making 5-6 knots on a perfect beam reach, enjoying the
day as RHAPSODY cut thru the water. There were almost no seas, so it was truly
In fact, as the day progressed, we incrementally decided that we would
probably be safe "cutting across" the Gulf of Tehauntepec. If these winds held,
we could save 40-50 nm on the trip by abandoning the "one foot on the shore" strategy.
So, as you can see from our track, we began to turn further and further from shore
as the day went on.
We also decided to try a new watch schedule for this part of the journey. Previously,
we had been using a "3 on 3 off" schedule, starting at 9:00 pm at night, consisting
of three hours per watch per person. However, these three hour watches did not
allow us to get any really meaningful sleep. Therefore, we decided to try 5 hour
watches on this leg. I, who was already used to going to bed late, would take the
9:00 pm to 2:00 am watch.
Therefore, still sailing away, at about 8:00 p.m. I started my watch.
unwinding for her watch. However, just as we were saying goodnight, something caught
the corner of my eye and drew immediate concern. I saw a flash of lightning.
Unfortunately, they were directly ahead of us on the course we were presently on.
At this point we were about 25 miles off shore, cutting across the gulf. A quick
re-perusal of the weather forecasts for the region, showed that in fact, there was
a call for "probable" thunderstorms in the middle of the gulf. Therefore, we decided
to abandon the "cut across the gulf" strategy, and made a 30 degree or so turn towards
the shore, thus putting the lightning a bit off to the right of the boat instead of
dead ahead. I pulled in the sails and began motoring.
As the night progressed, the lightening in the distance increased in frequency and
intensity. Maybe it was just me getting more paranoid, eh? Nonetheless, as we
pulled to within 10 miles of shore, a second thunderstorm started becoming visible,
once again, directly ahead on our new course. Rats! Having no other decent strategy,
I decided to head between the two thunderstorms, which put us, once again, on a more
direct course across the gulf to our next waypoint, just off of Madero, Mexico, the
southernmost city and port in Mexico. As a fallback, we could, if necessary, pull
into Madero if things got really messy.
When 2:00 am rolled around, I went down and woke the mate up for her watch. I explained
the situation, and noted that the thunderstorm which was now to the left of us had
seemingly receded, indicating that we were sort of "past" it. The one in front
and slightly to the right of us continued to flash high above the low lying local
clouds, but, as there was still no thunder, only flashes, and nothing showed on the
radar (thunderstorm clouds show up on our radar which has a 24 nm range), we decided
that it would be ok to continue on our present course. In fact, we felt that the
lightning was off somewhere over Guatemala, which we would not reach until the
following night, so we continued plugging on our way.