My last cruise post covered our day in Guatemala. That evening, when we returned to our cabin, the Princess Patter (the daily guide to cruise activities) was waiting for us as always. In the navigation section they talked about a phenomenon known as Tehauntepecanos or Tehauntepecer. Cold air moves down into the Gulf Mexico and cross the isthmus from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side through a gap in the mountains between Mexico and Guatemala. As a result you can experience force 10-12 winds (48 – 65 knots, up to 75 mph or more) when passing through the Gulf of Tehauntepec. They occur about five times a month. Well, we were “lucky” enough to experience this on our cruise.
We woke up Sunday morning to find our window covered with spray. At first I thought it was raining but then realized it was from the wind blowing water from the surface up to our window. A short while later we heard an announcement from the captain advising us that due to the winds as well as our late departure the night before we were going to be late getting into Huatulco and that people should stay off deck due to the wind conditions. They expected the winds to subside once we exited the gulf, and they’d know better how our day in Huatulco would be affected.
By midday they had reopened the decks put the deck chairs back that had been lashed together to keep them from blowing around. (Someone at our dinner table had been walking on deck early that morning and saw deck chairs being picked up and thrown around at the pool area before they had been tied down.) Unfortunately, the winds were still higher than expected, although not gale force, so they would not be able to arrive on time. As a result they had to cancel all shore excursions for Huatulco. Even worse, depending on conditions when we arrived, there was a chance we might miss our stop entirely. We were scheduled for a sail and swim trip that was going to take us out on a sailboat to see a few of the bays around Huatulco before stopping at one to go swimming. Needless to say we were disappointed, but that’s how things go when you’re on a cruise.
By the time we arrived at Huatulco, conditions were safe to enter the harbor. They delayed our scheduled departure time by an hour so we had a few hours to go onshore. There was a nice beach right onshore next to our pier, so rather than waste time trying to go to one of the other beaches, we found a couple chairs and made ourselves comfortable. This was the first stop on the cruise where we had a chance to visit a beach, so we made the most of it. The water was quite warm although there was a steady succession of fairly large waves, even inside the breakwater.
After swimming and getting some sun, we did a quick walk through the shopping area by the beach. Kristin bought a bracelet, and we had a bit of a shock when the credit card slip said we were charging $935! That is when we learned that the symbol for the Peso is the same as we use for the dollar. The exchange rate was around 11 pesos to the dollar, so for the rest of the trip I had to keep reminding myself to divide by ten otherwise I’d have a stroke when I saw the prices.
We returned to the ship and returned to our cabin to shower and get ready for dinner while the ship departed. In this port, the ship has to push away from the pier, then back out of the harbor in reverse. Once she clears the breakwater, the ship will pivot and then head out to sea. At one point his process, the ship listed much more than what would be normal. I looked out the window and could see that we were very close to the rocks that line the entrance of the bay. And when I say we were very close, I mean close enough to wonder if we might be getting too close! But we didn’t get any closer and we headed off on our way and everything seemed normal.
What we didn’t realize was that while backing out, the ship actually touched bottom. Whether it was the high winds (that had picked up while we were in port) pushing us out of the navigation channel or the local pilot making a mistake, or some combination of the two, we don’t know. As it was we didn’t find out any details until after we arrived back in the US, but I’m getting ahead of myself.