By Guest Crew: Angelica Almazan
(Voyage Leg: From Huatulco, Oaxaca to Marina Chiapas.)
Since the first time I saw the Aldebaran, I knew that I had to travel on it; no matter how, no matter where, but I felt first sight love for that little sailboat.
The crew were four of the most beautiful and interesting people I’ve ever met. Captain Kristian Beadle arrived in Mazunte with his girlfriend and first mate Sabrina Littee and their friends and skippers Ryan Smith and Michael Chiacos, after traveling for two months from California to Oaxaca, as part of The Green Coconut Run, a journey through the Pacific Ocean to visit protected marine areas, dive, surf and do environmental research.
They anchored off Playa Rinconcito. “How do you get to shore in the morning?” I asked them. Ryan explained laughing, “we swim with our fins and hide them under a palapa on the beach. Kristian and Sabrina paddle the big blue board in together.” After visiting the town and the people, at night they swam back to sleep in their 42 ft trimaran with everything necessary to sleep in it: dormitories, a kitchen with propane stove, bathroom, water desalinization system and solar panels to provide electric energy.
I met this group of modern pirates thanks to my neighbor and good Brazilian friend Samara, Kristian’s sister. “My birthday party will be on the boat!” she told me. I was very excited, since I was looking forward to a chance to go aboard. That birthday trip from Mazunte to Puerto Ángel intrigued me as I learned how life is on the boat, seeing the variety of surf boards on deck, along with the pictures of diving and fishing sessions, all convinced me that I wanted to be part of that fascinating adventure.
“Where is your next destination?” I asked them. I was disappointed to hear it was El Salvador, because unfortunately I didn’t have a passport. “But you don’t need a passport to go to Puerto Chiapas” said Kristian “we need to stop there before leaving Mexico. Would you like to join us?”
That was the invitation I was hoping for. It would be a relatively short trip, from Huatulco in Oaxaca to the border with Guatemala, 250 miles, but they would take a week to get there. They needed to wait for a good weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and would spend those few days exploring the beaches of the National Park Bahias de Huatulco, and working on the boat. The crew agreed that I could travel with them if I paid for my meals and helped with the work.
Michael jokingly warned me, “Doing a crossing isn’t as easy and fun as parties on the boat – this is supposed to be one of the roughest passages in Mexico. But it’ll probably be amazing as well.” I assumed I’d get seasick at some point going through turbulence along the Gulf of Tehuantepec, but I didn’t hesitate for one second on my intention to go on that trip.
A few days later, I met the boat and crew at Marina Chahue, joining one of the most amazing experiences of my whole life.
Our first mission was to catch fish for dinner before we went into the natural protected area. We anchored a few miles away from Chahue Beach and while Ryan and Michael dived armed with their harpoons (spearguns), I did some snorkeling, watching in awe schools of surgeon fish and other species of all sizes and colors. The guys came back with yummy ones, and explained patiently which species was each one and how they caught them, and they showed me how to scale and fillet them.
We went to Tangolunda Bay, next to the Club Med and other luxury resorts. It wasn’t the greatest since the lights from the hotels didn’t let us see too many stars, and we could hear the music from the clubs until late night, with an entertainer shouting “Tequila! Tequila! Margarita!” to tell the guests which dance step they had to follow.
But, the crew needed to use their phone internet and work on the boat, so that is why we went there. “This is cruising, Angelica!” smiled Sabrina. “Working on your boat in exotic places.”
Before we jumped into action, they had a meeting to distribute the chores, and I was surprised by the capacity of organization of these people. Every decision is taken democratically, the obligations are taken equitably and each one is responsible to finish their mission on schedule. Some of my chores were to grease the wood on deck, to take out some nets and – my favorite one- to get underwater to clean the bottom of the boat to take away the mud and seashells. I felt like a real pirate working hard while watching the beautiful sunset.
Another thing that caught my attention was the order needed to live on a boat. Since there is not too much space, everything needs to have its place, and everyone needs to know where to put things at all time. They pointed out that I was new and wasn’t familiar with the strict order, but Sabrina explained that every time someone leaves stuff out of their place, they had to pay a fine of pushups or sit-ups, and I testified that not even the captain was excused to escape that rule.
“That’s why the crew is so fit,” said Michael. And the truth is that life on the boat is very physically challenging: the water pumping system is made out of pedals and levers, so you have to exercise even when flushing the toilet or washing the dishes!
The Aldebaran has salt water and fresh water faucets, same as a complex desalination and purification system to get drinking water, which Sabrina was kind enough to show and explain to me. All the crew was always happy to answer every question that I had, and explain all the details I needed to know about the life on the boat.
Done with internet for now, we decided to go to a more quiet and lonely place, so we anchored at Playa El Organo in the national park. It was a lonely and gorgeous beach, and when we arrived we saw a fox resting on the shore. The reef is beautiful there, and I loved to snorkel there and watch a spotted ray, along with several species of fish and coral.
That night I slept on the net. I can’t describe the incredible feeling of sleeping under the stars, with the water underneath me, and waking up with the sunrise on my face. Absolute happiness is to wake up and jump right from your bed to the sea for a morning swim, and be called for breakfast with the call of the conch.
Food was absolutely fabulous every time. From the fancy dinners consisting of fish in a ginger and garlic sauce, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables, to the Baja style fish tacos, going through the eggs on toasts for breakfast, the kimchi salad, and every one of the healthy and delicious snacks I tried that week.
The next days we lived an ecstasy of virgin bays in the middle of forest and cliffs that can only be reached on a boat. In Chachacual I saw a lot of butterflies, as I’ve never seen before in a beach, and Riscalillo had hermit crabs with shells of all sizes and designs. For the first time in my life I did some Stand Up Paddling and we made a concert on the boat, when the guys took out all their music instruments and we sang along Gracias a la vida with a guitar, maracas and a ukulele.
After going to Huatulco city to buy final groceries for the next months, on June 28th we launched at 3 am and started the 48 hour sail trip to Puerto Madero in Chiapas. The first stop we did was in Punta San Diego for Michael and Ryan to do some surfing, and I had the chance to behold the amazing spectacle of seeing them “flying” on the waves.
When underway again, the fishing pole caught something. “I hope it is a Mahi mahi!” exclaimed Michael, as he jumped to deck. Indeed, they captured a big beautiful dorado, which amazed me with its colors and big head. That day was very prolific for fishing: aside from the Mahi mahi, we caught an Agujon (needlefish) more than 4 feet long and even I had the chance to reel in a fish for the first time — I ended up taking out of the ocean a giant almost 5 ft barracuda!
After dinner they distributed the shifts for steering through the night. I offered to keep Sabrina company during her shift, and it was a magical night, watching the sails glowing with the moon light and chatting with a beautiful mermaid, and she told me a little about her life and travels, her career as a nurse and how she met her great love, captain Kristian.
Next day we saw beaches with huge sand dunes, and we stopped near Chipehua to surf. This time I had the chance to go with the guys using a body board and feel the adrenaline of catching some waves. I also had the honor of learning to drive the boat and to follow the compass to keep the course. Even when I made the boat spin 360 degrees, no one got upset and kindly taught me the right way to steer. Before I noticed I was driving, happy and relaxed, as if I had been doing that for years.
That evening we saw several turtles mating in the sea, and the sunset gave me the spectacle that I was longing the most to see: a group of dolphins followed our boat for miles, while I watched them from the bow.
At twilight, we started to see a lot of dark clouds coming our way: lightning shone on the ocean and a strong wind started to blow, splashing the inside of the cabin with a powerful breeze. Even though the boat started to shake violently, the crew remained calm. Kristian put the sails away, Michael grilled barracuda steaks, Sabrina made mashed potatoes and Ryan washed the dishes. We had dinner warm in our rain coats and tried not to touch the metal parts from the cabin. After a while the storm stopped and the sea calmed, even the full moon peeked through the clouds for moments.
I woke up early next morning to take my shift to steer, and I drove by myself for more than two hours while the crew slept. These were sublime moments, listening to music, observing the seagulls fly with only seas all around.
Couple hours later we arrived in Puerto Chiapas and anchored at the Marina, where the crew registered with the guards and asked for information about the papers needed to get out of Mexico. Watching small rays swimming next to the boat, I had my last fish tacos on the Aldebaran, and then I had to say goodbye to my dear friends and take my bus to Tapachula.
I can say that my week on the Aldebaran was one of the happiest times of my life; I learned a lot about the ocean, life and about myself. Living on a sailboat is a dream that many people have and I am glad that I had the opportunity to live it, and to see that it takes a lot of organization, work and optimism.
I can testify that when chasing a common dream, a group of people can live together 24/7 and get along. It isn’t easy to have a functional and organized society, even when it’s a very small one and this trip gave me a lot of clues of what is needed to reach that goal. Everybody was always positive and kind to each other, acting like brothers, putting the welfare of the group first, never letting the fun aside.
Those moments will be saved in my memory forever. I hope someday I will have the chance to sail on new seas with these amazing people again. I was a pirate for a week, but I will be a mermaid for the rest of my life.