Touring the Cuauhtémoc

Our mermaid and the Cuauhtémoc

Our mermaid and the Cuauhtémoc

Earlier I shared with you our photos of the Cuauhtémoc’s arrival in Mazatlán, as the cadets and staff stood on the spars of the three-masted barque, singing the anthem. It was a once in a lifetime experience, for sure! Many of you seemed to think they were just standing up there, but we could tell they were fastened on in some way. As we toured the ship yesterday, some of the staff members demonstrated the harnesses they use to climb up into the rigging. They also told us some of the favorite ports of call they’ve had, and whether we’ll be able to see the Cuauhtémoc with its sails up. See the video below.

The captain of the Cuauhtémoc is Juan Carlos Vera Minjares. The ship is traveling with 254 people on board, including 69 fifth-year cadets who will receive degrees in Naval Science Engineering. 19 of the cadets are women!!! Woot woot! I most unfortunately did not meet any female cadets, or you’d be hearing from her. 😉 We were also told that on Sunday 4300 people toured the vessel.

Upon boarding the Cuauhtémoc, the first thing that struck us is just how many thousands of kilograms of rope this Class A tall ship uses! Rope, rope, everywhere rope! Officially called cordage, we saw everything from thick halyards (used to raise heavy yards) to thin, smooth, flexible sheets (used to control the orientation of a sail). We even saw rope tied around steel cable. The rigging looked incredibly complicated and intricately woven. And, of course, we saw impressive knots as well. Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

Second to the quantity of rope everywhere, we were impressed with the beauty of the wood on the Cuauhtémoc. The deck itself was gorgeous, most of the pulleys we saw to help hoist that rope were made of wood, but also the stairways of the ship, the lifeboats, seating areas and doors were all wooden. After leaving Mazatlán the ship is headed to an astillero in Acapulco for repairs and refinishing, but it looked in fine shape to us.

What would a historic replica barque like this be without brass? Lights, portholes, binnacles, telegraphs, cleats, bells, propellers… all shined to a brilliance. There were even brass plates on the deck where heavy equipment is serviced, so that it doesn’t scratch the wood decking.

One very interesting bit of trivia that we learned is that the Cuauhtémoc sports a unique innovation: tercudos, or handwoven yellow “fluffy things” that cushion the rigging to protect the sails from damage. A cadet told us that when they are punished for misbehavior, they are often ordered to make tercudos.

As with any community, part of what makes the Cuauhtémoc so special is its crew. Everyone we talked with during our tour of the vessel was outgoing and friendly, ready to tell us stories and answer our questions. We learned that the staff (tripulación) wear blue and white striped shirts, and the cadets, the day we visited at least, were in white uniforms. They all seem to enjoy purchasing gifts for family and friends as they travel, but the huge challenge is where to store the gifts, as they only have very skinny tall lockers into which to cram their loot. The cadets sail on the Cuauhtémoc in their final, fifth year at the Naval Academy. Most of the staff are older and have family at home, and have made multiple journeys: Istanbul, Barcelona, Tokyo, Shanghai, Alexandria, Ukraine, Venezuela…

Because this ship is so special, even the signage and trademarks are very cool. See below.

Because it is such an old-fashioned ship, I converted a few of our pictures to black and white. I like how they turned out; I hope you’ll enjoy them.

I guess the photographic opportunities of this gorgeous vessel have seduced me, because we drove over to the port again today at sunset, just to see if we could get some shots with the colored sky and, closer up of the lights at night. The sky, unfortunately, didn’t cooperate so well—not one of those over-the-top sunsets that we are so frequently blessed with.

Thank you for reading and watching along with me! I sure have enjoyed the Cuauhtémoc’s visit. Thank you to all the staff and cadets who helped us learn and kindly showed us how things worked!

The Cuauhtemoc Tall Ship in Mazatlán

DSC_0266Quick! Do you know who Cuauhtémoc was? If you are an expat in Mexico, you should. Check your answer at the end of this post. The gorgeous tall ship that anchored in our bay this afternoon is named the Cuauhtémoc. She is scheduled to put into port in an official ceremony at the docks at 10:00 am on Sunday.

The Cuauhtémoc is a training vessel of the Mexican Navy with two main purposes: to train officer cadets in seamanship, navigation, leadership, and teamwork, and to spread the message of peace and goodwill from Mexico around the world. It sails with 55 officers, 74 cadets/midshipmen, and 120 enlisted crew members. The Cuauhtémoc was built in Bilbao, Spain in 1982, in a style similar to a 1930s German design. She has sailed around the world for the past 32 years, logging over one million kilometers. She is 90 meters long by 12 meters wide, with a sail area of 25, 500 square feet.

The ship and her crew have won many awards, including the prestigious Cutty Sark Trophy, which it received twice—during the Races for Great Tall Ships in both 1998 and 2000. In 2002, the ship won the Boston Tea Pot, a trophy awarded by the International Sailing Training Association ISTA for its nonstop sail of 1,342.7 nautical miles in 124 hours, at an average speed of 10.83 knots, setting the second-best record in the history of this competition. This record is better than all other ships in Europe and America that have received the trophy in the 12 years since then. It’s tough to get clear shots of a gorgeously lit ship floating and bouncing at night in the bay! My respects to those who do, and please teach me! Here you’ll see photos of the afternoon of its arrival (Saturday), sunset that evening, Saturday night, and Sunday’s sunrise. Click on any photo to see it larger or view a slideshow.

It arrived in Mazatlán this afternoon, Saturday November 8th, and anchored itself out in the middle of the bay. Oh is it gorgeous! It is supposed to put into port tomorrow, Sunday, though I’m unsure of the time. There will be tours while it’s docked here in town, so don’t miss out! Tours are Sunday and Monday from 11 am to 10 pm, and Tuesday and Wednesday 11 am to 5 pm. The Cuauhtémoc will remain docked here until its departure on Thursday, November 13th at 10 am. It last visited Mazatlán in 2005.

Track the Cuauhtémoc’s current position

History of the Cuauhtémoc by the Secretaría de Marina


We had the BEST time this morning! We followed the ship as it made its way to the port. It was accompanied by loads of smaller boats. As it rounded the lighthouse hill heading into the port, there were still no midshipmen up on the masts. But as they headed for the breakwater, the masts were gradually filled, and by the time the ship approached us on the outer edge of the breakwater, the masts were filled with cadets! It was a sight to behold. We were accompanied by ten or so other people looking to get good photos. I hooted and hollered and welcome them to Mazatlán, and quite a few of the cadets waved back at me. Oh so cool! As they got into the dock, we heard them singing the Marina anthem. So awesome! Because we climbed out on the breakwater, and I didn’t have the right shoes, we missed most of the opening ceremony back at the dock, but it was so worth it! Just to have them wave and know we were some of the first to welcome them in! So cool!

Cuauhtemoc-03Cuauhtémoc was the last Aztec emperor, who was executed by Hernán Cortés, Spanish conquistador, in 1525. Quite a few Mexican boys, streets and plazas are named in his honor.