Fleming 65 Cruises to Jurassic Park - 06/10/2009

Park rangers on the World Heritage island of Isla del Coco make sure everyone is off the island before night fall. Fleming was only too happy to get back aboard. We don’t know whether T-Rex still roams there or not, but it was a great place for 17th century pirates and ill-gotten loot has been found there. On the way south, the Fleming 65 braved the infamous Gulf of Tehuantepec winds that old salts call Tehuantepekers. Fleming is a man on a shakedown mission racing through paradise.

Fleming 65
Tony Fleming takes Fleming 65 down the Mexican coast and ends up on the island that inspired the movie Jurassic Park.


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Tony Fleming Writes—

We left the La Paz area on April 12, 2008, and our first stop was at Puerto Vallarta on the Mexican mainland. Here we had a rendezvous with another Fleming 65 for a photo shoot from a helicopter.

La Paz
From La Paz it is about 400 nautical miles to Puerto Vallarta, a sleepy town made famous when The Night of the Iguana was made there decades ago.
 
After enjoying the restaurants and amenities of the town we continued south [180 miles] to Tenacatita where we anchored in a small bay just off a small resort. The whole of this coast is exposed to the full force of the Pacific Ocean which makes landing a tender a real challenge on any beach. The normal hard-bottomed rib with control console and large engine is quite unsuitable for this purpose and a small, flat-bottomed tender with a small engine and fold-up wheels is a must. It can be deflated when not in use and carried in addition to the main tender.

The main feature at Tenacatita is a ride in the tender through the mangroves to a lagoon backing onto a beach which would be hard to access from the ocean. There is a bar at the entrance to the estuary which can only be crossed when the tide is high. Thereafter the river narrows down until you find yourself in a green tunnel ducking your head beneath overhanging branches which could decapitate you. To add to the fun, you are likely to meet local pangas speeding the other way around blind corners. Truly a memorable experience.

tenacatita
The isolated coastal village of Tenacatita, Mexico. Note lagoon behind the village. Look closely and you will see a boat anchored on the right side of the peninsula. Across the bay is Manzanillo and just south of that is Las Hadas where the movie “10” with Bo Derrick was filmed.

Our next stop was at Huatulco [about 600 miles south] where we tied up at the modern marina with helpful staff. We visited the charming nearby town and its restaurants. Everyone we met was exceptionally friendly and nice and in fact this was true of all the places we stopped at along the Mexican coast. Huatulco is at the northern end of the infamous Gulf of Tuantapec.

Gulf of Tuantapec

The landmass of Central America is very narrow at this point and north-easterly winds from the Gulf of Mexico are funneled across this narrow neck of land through a gap in the mountains and turn the Gulf of Tuantapec into a maelstrom for as far as 200 miles out to sea. Some cruising boats stay as close as ¼ mile off the beach to escape its fury. We were lucky and a check of the weather showed that it was safe for us to make the gulf crossing.

gulf of tehuantepec
Mexico narrows to just 130 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. “A” marks the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The shape of the land mass creates a Venturi effect causing strong winds in the gulf on the Pacific side that veteran sailors often call Tehuantepekers.

Unfortunately our schedule did not allow us to dally and we headed directly for Los Suenos in Costa Rica which meant traveling non-stop for 96 hours. Along the way, when we were 70 miles offshore, we met fierce Papagayo winds which churned up the sea.

Costa Rica – Non-Stop

Los Suenos has a Marriott resort overlooking a modern marina which is packed with sports fishing boats all in immaculate condition as they are washed and their needs attended to on a daily basis by an army of industrious boat hands. We stayed here for a few days awaiting a change of crew and preparing ourselves and Venture for the long excursion out into the Pacific Ocean.

 

Isla Del Coco
Isla del Coco as seen from a eye in the sky. This island was the inspiration for the novel Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, and the Spielberg movie.
 
Our first stop was Isla del Coco - just a miniscule dot in the immensity of the ocean. Coco lies almost 300 miles offshore and is administered by Costa Rica. With the help of GPS and a modern charting program Coco loomed right ahead at just the time it should. The steep, forested flanks of this tropical island were shrouded in mist as we arrived in Chatham Bay giving it a lost world appearance. There were a couple of dive boats anchored in the bay. We were called on the radio by someone from a barely visible hut on shore and instructed to pick up one of the moorings with yellow floats.

Misty Island
This often misty island is a lush jungle and a national park. It is located 350 miles south, south west of Costa Rica almost exactly half way to Galapagos Islands. The only way to view this island is by boat and all tourists must be back aboard by night fall.

The following morning a park ranger came on board and examined our paperwork. He also had a DVD for us to watch on the spot describing the rules of the national park. Only the rangers sleep ashore; all visitors have to stay aboard the boats which bring them to the island. The ranger was very friendly and we arranged later that morning to take a guide and walk through the forest to a waterfall.

To start the trek we took the tender around to another bay and over a shallow bar into the mouth of a small river. I have to say that I found the trek extremely arduous as the rough track wound its way uphill through the heat and humidity of the tropical jungle. The last few yards involved forging through knee deep water and scrambling over slippery boulders.

Coco Island
The waters off the island are world famous for having the largest schools of hammerhead sharks and PADI has designated it a “must” for world-class scuba divers.

[Cocos Island was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. In 2002, the World Heritage Site designation was extended to include an expanded marine zone of 1,997 km². In addition, it is included in the list of "Wetlands of International Importance". Cocos Island was short-listed as a candidate to be one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature by the New Seven Wonders of the World Foundation. Thanks to the breathtaking marine life in its waters (see Fauna section below), Cocos Island was named one of the best 10 scuba diving spots in the world by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and a "must do" according to diving experts.The only persons allowed to live on Cocos Island are Costa Rican Park Rangers, who have established two encampments, including one at English Bay. Tourists and ship crew members are allowed ashore only with permission of island rangers, and are not permitted to camp, stay overnight or collect any flora, fauna or minerals from the island.—Ed.]

The following morning we got underway once again for the Galapagos which lay another 440 miles out in the Pacific. We crossed the Equator at 3 AM on the morning of May 6th and we were all in the pilothouse to record the event.

In the next Offshore Motoryacht Edition: The Galapagos Islands

 

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