Weather and Flight Plan
Whales surfacing near Tampico
On the takeoff roll, I held the Arrow on the ground until we reached a higher airspeed than normal and then pulled it up into the churning airmass. When safely away from the ground, I put the Arrow into a cruise climb. Matamoros tower asked me to report 15 miles south. When the 15-mile point was reached, I did so and he released me from the frequency. I was not assigned a frequency to monitor for the trip. Apparently that is only for IFR flights.
We continued to encounter strong headwinds along this route. I reviewed my flight plan and discovered an error in my calculation of the distance to Veracruz. That error, coupled with the strong headwind, was going to put us in Veracruz after dark with low fuel reserves. We decided to ammend our flight plan and land in Tampico instead. At 70NM north of Tampico, I called Tampico Approach with my request. Approach immediately granted my request and we proceeded to Tampico.
As we descended I noticed some whitecaps on the waves in the Gulf below. I assumed this was due to the strong winds but it seemed peculiar that they were so widely scattered. On closer inspection, there were puffs of vapor appearing with each splash. It was not whitecaps; it appeared to be whales surfacing. Hundreds of them, extending for miles.
General aviation parking at Tampico
On the other side of the coin, when speaking to a Mexican controller, it is best to speak slowly and use standard terminology. On the initial callup, I found that the controller would often not understand the tail number. If I would say the number very slowly and clearly there was seldom a problem. I also think it is best to give the tail number without the aircraft type--just start with "November". [When speaking in Spanish, the controllers use a different "alphabet". Instead of "November", they say "Nectar".] The controller will then ask for the aircraft type and you can give that separately. Communicating one thing at a time just makes it easier for everybody. There was very little traffic on the radio frequencies on the route we took. But I'm sure it is a completely different story around Mexico City.
The controllers do tend to acknowledge routine readbacks, not just IFR clearances, using the term "correct". I found that comforting. I found the controllers to be patient, polite, and not very busy. But then I haven't flown around Mexico City nor do I intend to.
On the Ground in Tampico
As soon as I arrived at the tie-down location I was approached by a soldier (who spoke no English) who asked for some basic information, i.e. name, aircraft type, tail number, and where I had come from. He was polite and wrote down the information on a plain sheet of paper. We collected our overnight bags and found a taxi and a hotel for the night. We stayed at a Hampton Inn that was very close by but pricey. The taxi ride to the hotel, which was right across the highway from the airport was $15, typical for the airport Taxi Bandidos.
The next leg of the flight will be from Tampico to Huatulco