03/10/2011, Nuevo Vallarta
20° 44.858'N, 105° 22.373'W
Greetings from Nuevo Vallarta, but more on that later. I'm way late on posting anything and this one will be on the trip up from Barra to PV. We had very little wifi in La Cruz and the Sail Blog system crashed for a few days, all of which put me way out of sinc on reporting in!
On this leg, we, primarily Mike on So Inclined and I, poured over daily weather forecasts for the 150 NM run up from Barra to and around Cabo Corrientes into Bandaras Bay for several days. We had some pretty dire weather predictions and were waiting for our best opportunity to make it north to participate in the Bandaras Bay Race week with Sirocco. Mike is single handing and we were going to "buddy boat" with him and wanted to make it in three short legs rather than one or two long ones.
We picked the morning of Thursday, 2/24 to make the 40 NM hop up to Chamela. We left at about 0700 hrs and were safely tucked up behind the point and anchored by 1450 hrs. A pretty easy run and we were off the open water before we saw anymore than 15 knots apparent wind speed. It was an easy night with dinner together on Pacifico and no shore trips this time in a quiet anchorage. We were off again before dawn following our electronic track back out to be sure to avoid any issues in the darkness and headed up the coast to Ipala about 50 NM distant. The wind started in a little earlier and before we were in we were seeing steady 20-25 knots apparent along with confused seas. The swell was running from the SW with the wind from the NW and a counter current running up the coast in a NNW direction. It got a bit bouncy and we had some decent sized swells that we pounded into the last couple of hours. Practice for the Baja Bash! I took some video of Mike that he has posted on his March 1 Blog. If you'd like to see it go to Mike's Sail Blog at http://www.sailblogs.com/member/soinclined/ or click on the link at the bottom of our blog page and click on the You Tube video Mike posted for that date.
We arrived at Ipala and were anchored by 1600 hrs in the hook behind the point. This anchorage is small and there were already several boats there seeking shelter when we got in. It took some time to get a spot that I was comfortable with squeeze in between our neighbors, the fish pens and submerged rocks. It's pretty rolly in here too, but we put up with it for the evening and settled in. I went over to So Inclined since it was my turn to put the dinghy down and we checked weather together one last time before the final leg up to Cabo Corrientes the next day.
While I was aboard So Inclined we heard a steady heavy diesel engine approaching and looked out to find a Mexican Navy patrol boat dropping anchor nearby. I borrowed Mike's camera and got a few photos of their boat. In short order they were launching their large RIB (ridged inflatable boat) and started making the rounds among the boats at anchor. I scooted back to Pacifico and got ready for our turn.
In short order we were hailed and advised that we were going to be boarded and inspected. Two young officers and two well armed sailors came aboard while their RIB stood off. We were asked a series of standard questions by the officer who completed his form while one sailor took a position on the bow and the second remained in the cockpit with us. At the conclusion of the questions I was asked to come below with the officer while he checked a few lockers and looked at our ships papers. Finding everything in order they departed after assuring us that in an emergency we could call upon the Mexican Navy for assistance. They were very polite and business like and asked if we were in anyway offended by their conduct, which we were not. That was it, but I thought it prudent not to take any more pictures!
The next morning we got another early start and headed up to Cabo Corrientes. It was a pretty pleasant sail up and the rounding was easy. We stayed inside, about a mile off the beach all the way to the point and slipped into Bandaras Bay where we got a nice shift and pretty soon we were sailing on a direct line to the anchorage at La Cruz. By the time we got in we were broad reaching, seeing 20-25 knots again and it was rolly in the anchorage, but we are always happy to be back at La Cruz, one of our favorite places!
It's a strange feeling knowing that we are retracing our route and headed eventually towards home in Oceanside. We have been out almost four months now and have had a great time down south. Who knows; maybe someday we will see it again?
We are back in the Barra Lagoon waiting on a weather window to continue our voyage north to and around Cabo Corrientes into Bandaras Bay. We have been here before and spoken much about this place as well as Santiago where we spent two nights after the run up from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo so I'll talk about something else. We stopped overnight at Melaque's anchorage (just down the beach from Barra) before coming into the lagoon in the morning on the high tide. I have not dwelt on the sailing part of this voyage very much, mostly the land side so I'll try to fill in the gaps for some of the non-sailors out there with some of my thoughts and observations.
The passage up from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo was mostly sailing with decent sailing breezes most of the time from the various points of the compass we could use, E, S/E, S, S/W and later some W. We used the motor about 17 hours on a 39 hour passage of 195 N.M. That time included from starting at the dock in Ixtapa, getting fuel and motoring out of the marina and the bay to get out to the wind, motoring through the light spots and lastly motoring while getting into the anchorage at Santiago then dropping and setting the hook (anchor). The leg from Santiago up to Barra was about 25 N.M. We left at sundown and after the wind died so that was pretty much motor sailing and motoring straight through.
The winds are not consistent out there and we saw sailing speeds from 3.2 knots to over 6.7, which perhaps made for a longer passage than motor sailing the rhumb line between points on the passage from Ixtapa to Santiago, but it's worth it to turn off the engine and hear the 'quiet' for a while. We averaged 5 knots of speed for this leg, which isn't bad for this boat. I like to stay closer to 6 for these longer passages, but that requires either more favorable wind speed and direction or motoring when we drop below or close to 4 knots boat speed over ground. Also while sailing you don't necessarily stay on the rhumb line, but have to sail off at whatever angel gives us the best boat speed, unless it's going backwards, that I refuse to do, which is why there is a motor on this boat! That said, we used the sail inventory we have aboard as best we could; we carry a main, gennoa and an asymmetrical spinnaker. At various times we sailed DDW (dead downwind) with the gennoa polled out "wing and wing", ran with spinnaker up and at times we were close hauled sailing up wind. Anyway it all worked and we saved a lot of fuel in the process. One additional advantage of motor sailing (that is sailing with main and or gennoa while running the engine) which is usually when heading into or close to the wind, is that you still get some lift from the sails and can reduce engine RPM. Our little Beta has a burn rate of about ½ GPH at 2700 RPM, which we never reached on this leg. Our fuel consumption for this leg was about 7 gallons. Not bad considering we have to run for charging and water making anyway.
What do we do on these 24 hour day passages? First of all on this entire trip we have only left sight of land a few times so there is almost always the shore over there to keep your interest and maintaining watch for that, other boats, ships, off shore fishing apparatus in the water or other possible navigation hazards. Preparing meals, eating and sleeping are big ones along with reading or working on "stuff." A big attraction is observing the sea life around us. We were entertained by whales jumping out of the water, not quite as close as they did in Zihuatanejo (See photo album from Sailfest), none the less they were breaching out of the water and it is always a front row ticket. We had dolphin swim with us, we passed by a migration of sea turtles (darn things, think you can ever get a picture of one of them?) and rays flying out of the water. There were things out of the water too, flying fish and birds. Yes birds. In one instance this "boobie" kept flying around us and I knew he wanted to land on the boat, which I passively try to discourage; where they land they often also poop! Anyway, he was determined and came in for a one pointer on the solar panel above our bimini on the aft end of the boat. I guess he figured that was safe because he could not see us, but didn't count on the glass surface. Anyway, because the panels are slanted aft he slid down to the bottom edge before getting a grip and his tail feathers and one wing tip were hanging over the panel and below the bimini, right by my head. We tried yelling, clapping, and pulling his feather (gently of course) all to no avail, he was not ready to leave. Finally Marisa took one of the whistles on a life jacket and blew it, which did the trick and off he went.
For those of you who boat and are familiar with "Bird Rock" off Catalina Island's Two Harbors area or for that matter there are "Bird Rocks" all over the worlds water ways. Close to shore these human uninhabited "rocks" seem to be a haven for various sea birds and are white in color having collected years and years and tons and tons of bird excretion or "poop" which in my experience always makes them white. Anyway, there is this big rock of an island called "Piedra Blanca" or (White Rock). It's above Punta Carrizal on the way up from Santiago to Barra. This rock lies about a mile off shore and we were treated with seeing large flights of boobies and other sea birds rounding the point at sunset making for this rock. Flying close to the water they were quite a sight in the sunset against the rugged cliffs of the point. We have posted a few photos to try to share this with you as well as a few of their destination, Piedra Blanca. This rock is so large it makes "Bird Rock" look miniscule by comparison. I have a few photos of that as well and if you look closely you can see what is a large sport fishing boat, probably 50' just to the left of this island for comparison. All that white stuff is not snow.
At Melaque we were anchored off an abandoned hotel. We had seen it before on our land trip to Melaque (See Cuastecomate) and in doing a little reading I learned that this hotel was damaged in an earthquake in 1995 and finished off by the resulting tidal waves! Yikes! Too close for comfort. The local net fishermen were out in the morning and close enough for us to get a few photos of them in action. I have not been able to get a good photo of the fellows out in the lagoon here in Barra. A couple of them are real traditionalists, working alone in a small boat that they row all around the lagoon. I'll keep trying.
We have reconnected with Mike from So Inclined here in Barra and all went into town for dinner and a little of the night life Barra has to offer last night. This morning Mike came over to Pacifico where we had breakfast together, huevos con machaca complete with mimosas! We will be heading into the Sands Hotel this evening for a cruisers "pot luck." Marisa has been putting together a pasta salad and Mike will be bringing a key lime pie. It all sounds good.
We will get back to you as we continue our trek north to meet with Cathy and Lee on Sirocco in Puerta Vallarta for the annual Bandaras Bay Regatta. They have entered Sirocco and the three of us along with several friends from Oceanside will be racing Sirocco just like we do at home! More on that as it unfolds, sounds like fun!
Do you like my bouquet?
Before we take you there we will catch you up on the final days at Zihuatanejo. On Super Bowl Sunday we went to the awards party for Sailfest on the beach then watched the game at a palapa bar on the beach, feet in the sand type with a "big screen TV". There were plenty of other places to watch the game with real TVs but this was the best setting. They had a projection set and played it on an old movie screen. The sun was setting behind the screen and back-lightening it for the first quarter so it was difficult to see, however, they had a smaller set on the side that filled in just fine until the lighting was better. Hey, it worked and this is Mexico you know! After the game we hit the street fair here in Centro and I had the corn with mayonnaise, cheese and roja sauce as described in our last blog. I wasn't going to do it, but hey, this is Mexico you know! After that it was burgers on the street at this famous cart that everyone raves about parked across from the plaza here in Centro. These two guys make hamburgers and hot dogs by the gross and it's fantastic. I can only refer you to the photos that Marisa has posted and assure you that were are as good as they look. I'm not a big fan of cart food, but this stuff is fresh, the cart is spotlessly clean and these fellows work like a well oiled machine. For $35 pesos it's a great deal. The next day we did some shopping, found the parts to modify our shower situation thanks to a great idea from Mike and Julie on Slacker. For our last meal in Zihuatanejo we pondered the question: should we try something new or go back to one of our favorites? Tamale Any's it was for the plantain wrapped tamales, one chicken and one pork. We got back to the dinghy and Alfonso helped us off for the last time. We said adios to Zihuatanejo for the time being anyway. Great place!
The next day was boat chores day and before leaving we said good-by to Henry and Janice (a great couple from England) on Cloudy Bay, a Nordhavn 55 that we had been shadowing since before Ensenada, but did not meet until La Cruz. They are heading south to the canal then on to the East Coast of the US before going home. Henry is responsible for the great photos of the whales that we also saw on race day as well as a couple of photos of Pacifico flying her asymmetrical spinnaker wing and wing trying to cut the corner to catch up. He was out in his dinghy and took these fantastic photos, which were exactly what we were watching, but didn't get any photos of, so kudos to Henry and we hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as we enjoyed seeing the whales.
We moved the six n.m. over to the Ixtapa marina on Tuesday, 2/8 and onto F dock, or muelle. I hate to say it but it's nice to be on a dock again: power, water and it does not rock n' roll! We spent 43 days on the hook this time, our most yet and while it was all good, it is nice to have a real shower close by. This is a nice marina and it's priced that way too so we won't be staying long. This is our southern most destination on this voyage and it is a strange feeling. When we leave here we will be backtracking up the coast, visiting some of the places we bypassed and revisiting a few favorites, but our goal is to be in Puerta Vallarta by about March 4, for the Bandaras Bay Race Week.
That said, the Ixtapa Marina is noted for crocodiles. Swimming or diving your boat are not allowed. We hired a diver at our last anchorage off La Ropa Beach there in Bahia Zihuatanejo to clean the boat and change out our zincs, or sacrificial anodes that are designed to dissolve instead of your engine and other metal parts in this salt water environment. Anyway, I don't have a hooka or other dive gear so having done this before the $400 pesos was worth it. I did work in the water with the diver because he didn't know how to change the zincs and I like to be down there to see that it's going right so I got my workout as well. We were in the water a couple of hours or longer and he did a great job. This young man is a fisherman, not a diver, but with all the boats here this week they are doing anything and everything they can to make money while it is here. The old rope pull start motor that drove his compressor for his huka rig was ancient, but it got the job done. Once that was done I changed my oil and did my engine checks and the next day we departed for the marina at Ixtapa, about six miles north.
The entrance to this marina is a narrow cut or really a widening of the channel into an estuary that was dredged to create this marina. It is shallow and like most we have found I had one foot under the keel at the low point on entry. Once inside it is nice, modern and clean; they also have crocodiles in these former swamps as you will see from the photos Marisa posted. When we hit the dock we were swarmed by the young fellows that clean boats here. They take your lines for you and you can't get off the boat before they are offering to clean it for you. OK, I'm not lazy, but it was hot and these kids need the work. I liken it to contributing to the local economy. Anyway, we left the boat to have lunch and four of them descended upon Pacifico for a couple of hours and she was al shiny and desalted when we got back.
We have walked the beach here and explored the marina area, but have not ventured further than that. Other than a small shopping area, there is not much here except the big hotels along the beach and a couple of golf courses. All major shopping and stores that serve this area are located in Zihuatanejo. Most of our time has been here on the boat working on a few repairs, major laundry and visiting with some of our dock neighbors, most of whom were anchored in the bay with us, but for the most part we didn't meet. I had only heard the boat names and had not actually met the people involved so that has been nice.
Tonight during cocktail hour we were treated with a marauding crocodile wandering in and out of the slips. Actually he looked pretty old and while still dangerous I think he was looking for a hand-out, or maybe a hand that was out? He swam down the fairway behind out boat then came up to the transom where I took a photo of him over the stern's port quarter. You can see me in the reflection looking down at the guy as well as the "Ericson" logo decal on the boat. He swam forward alongside then dove under the boat and resurfaced two boats down. Everyone came out to watch and take photos and Barrit from Serendipity (San Diego-there are two of them here) measured the guy with a tape along the dock beside him and pronounced him a 10 footer! A second croc surfaced briefly then disappeared. There is a legitimate reason they don't dive your boat in this place!
That's about it from Ixtapa. Tomorrow morning while it is still cool we are going to take the bus to Zihuatanejo for some last item shopping and for parts to be able to depart on Saturday and start our northward journey. That's the plan anyway!
Lots to talk about here, not necessarily in the order in which they occurred, but Zihuatanejo, or Zihua as they say has continued to be a great destination. Marisa has been busily adding more photos to our Zihuatanejo folder, I won't bore you with all of the details and hope you enjoy the pictures.
Mike arrived by bus here on Tuesday morning, Lee and Cathy had to scrub their plans to join us because of her chronic back issues and not wanting to exacerbate them with an eleven hour bus ride. Kudos to Mike for making the trek! That said I think Mike had a great time here taking in the sights and sounds of Zihuatanejo and Sailfest, but I'll let him talk about it on his blog.
Thank you to those of you who attempted to make a donation on our behalf to the orphanage through the Sailfest site, it seems there was a missing link, sorry about that and thank you for trying. We did sail in the race with 17 other boats. We didn't get the modified handicap that some boats did, but it wouldn't have made much difference anyway. We were doing well almost to the windward mark, but I missed the wind shift and over stood the mark and we never caught up. That said, it was perhaps to our favor because we had the best whale show ever after the mark rounding, which was a large rock just off the entrance to the bay. Anyway, after that we had no chance to catch up, but we gave it our best effort. Thanks guys! With our crew, (Mike from So Inclined and Russ from Liberty) we had two passengers. Tammy and Jackie, who are visiting from the San Diego area here on vacation. We asked them to join us on the race. I know none of our photos actually caught the beasts in the act, but hopefully we will get one from one of the ladies that came along with us. It was spectacular watching two humpback whales breaching, turning and twisting before splashing back into the water. This went on for about 10-15 minutes and we actually had to sail off course to avoid their path; fascinating to watch, but scary too.
The Sailfest events have continued to be engaging and a lot of fun with good music, dinners, auctions, a chili cook off (sorry Mark, we didn't enter), a street fair and the race and sail parade events. Today we are actually taking a day off and staying onboard to get some things done (like catching up on the blog). Yesterday, Friday, we went with Russ and Kaersten aboard Liberty for the Sail Parade, and then moved out of the main anchorage that afternoon. We are now anchored off La Ropa Beach, still inside the bay but away from the main area. It was pretty congested over there and a rocky and rolly place. This has not turned out to be much better in that regard, but we are anchored bow and stern to keep us into the swell and the water is better, we can swim here! It has been warm, close to 90 during the day and we are using our white sunshade over our dark blue boat canvas to cut the heat retention, but that said we look like a circus with all the stuff we have up top, sun shades, wind scoops, solar panels and jerry jugs on deck!
I finally got a haircut! I found a local barber and for $50 pesos received a very good hair cut and he even shaved my neck and around the ears. It's been a long time since I have had that service at home. The man was an artist. No trip to town is complete without visiting the Centro Mercado. This is a good one, possibly the best one we've seen, not the fanciest, but the most thriving, energy filled place full of people mingling through the small isles and mounds of colorful good the merchants had to offer. We also paid a visit to the Commercial, a large US style grocery chain store. As it turned out we could have done without the Commercial; the walk was a long one and we lugged stuff back that we could have gotten at the Mercado. The Mercado had the best prices on fruits, vegetables meats and fish, its closer and is surrounded by an entire district of retail stores from ladies fashion to auto parts. What were we thinking?
The down town area or Centro is laid out with the tourist oriented shops and restaurants right next to it and it is all accessible just off the beach and pier or 'muelle' so it's close at hand to us boaters. The Port Captain's office is at the foot of the pier and he has a fellow named Alfonso there to assist the boaters with their dinghies. Alfonso meets us to assist with landing and launching through the surf for $10 pesos each way, and watches the dinghies while we are in town, and he's a character.
This city has a street fair on Sunday night were we found churros, corn on the cob slathered for you with mayonnaise, shredded cheese and a spicy red sauce (no we didn't eat one), tamales, BBQ, and what have you. They have entertainment almost nightly in the plaza, one night it was Aztec dancers in costume, another night a magic act, then music or just a local basketball game. The restaurants are plentiful and varied, top end to get this, 5 tacos de pastor for $20 pesos, that's about $.17 US each and they were great. We had the best tamales ever, prepared in plantain leaves at "Tamale Any's", and great wood fired pizza at Pizza Loco. Of course we took Mike to Fajita Queen for their tacos pastor and so that he could put his name on the wall too!
One afternoon, we went up to Las Brisas Hotel with the crews from Swift Current, Tivoli, Blue Rodeo, Panta Rhei and Cloudy Bay for a sunset cocktail. This is a locally owned boutique hotel (which seems to be the theme here), no large chain hotels or destination resorts here in Zihua. I believe those are all over in Ixtapa, which will be our next destination. We will head over to their marina on Monday to take a couple of days to clean-up, desalt the boat, do laundry and get ready to start the trek back north to catch up with Sirocco and So Inclined, before we head back up to Bandaras Bay.
01/31/2011, Bahia Zihuatanejo
Zihuatanejo Sailfest starts tomorrow, Tuesday Feb.1. Please look at their website: http://www.zihuasailfest.com/. Pacifico is here and we have entered the charity's cruiser race, which is on Wednesday, Feb. 2. Lee, Cathy and Mike are bussing down 12 hours from Barra to sail with us. Please make a donation of $5, 10 or one of their recommended amounts in the name of "Pacifico" as a sponsor asap if you can! They have a cool rating system that uses PHRF rules, but gives us additional time based on the amount of donations each boat can raise; kinda like OYC's Cruisers races. So, support YOUR local cruisers and make a small donation for us!
To make your donation please go to the Sailfest site and click on "Donations" at the bottom. It's easy and they accept major credit cards and Paypal too. Thanks for any support you can give us. This is a legitimate and worthwhile charity created and run by cruisers.
It's Thursday, January 27, 2011 and we are at anchor in about 16 feet of water off Playa Madera in Bahia de Zihuatanejo having bypassed Isla Grande. On our approach to Isla Grande yesterday morning we observed that it was pretty windswept and rolly and made the decision to keep going to this, our southern most destination of this voyage. The bay here is a little rolly and we have the 'flopper-stopper' out to minimize its affect. It is warm here, clear and sunny. Marisa says, "muy caliente." This portion of bay is fed by an estuary on the north side behind the pier and the water here is a bit murky, although people do swim in here, the swim beaches we will dinghy to are in the southern part of the bay off Playa de Ropa. This is a very pretty bay, large enough for the occasional cruise ship to stop in and tender their passengers to the cement pier but there is no marina or commercial service except for the pangas and sports fishing boats anchored near the pier. There are quaint, small to mid size hotels here, but no large ones, they are all up in Ixtapa.
We got some sleep yesterday then hooked up with the crews from Cloudy Bay and Blue Rodeo to walk a little of the town last evening and found a nice little restaurant for tacos; three for $58 pesos including a beer, not bad. They had a tray out front advertising their offerings; octopus, lobster and local fish on ice. At the conclusion of our meal we were invited to write our names on the wall inside, which is the photo posted with this blog. The owner said he opened up about four months ago, I wish them well. It seems busier here than some of the other little towns we have visited, but still slow. The immediate area at the pier is nice, but touristy with lots of shops selling the usual stuff and little cantinas. They have modernized their streets with interlocking brick paving, decent curbs and sidewalks and the architecture is by design and with a color scheme. We found the 'real town' adjacent to and inland a bit from this area and it's pretty nice too, actually from what we saw of it, it's a typical Mexican city, but cleaner and lots of stores and services. We will be spending several days to two weeks here and in this area with the Sail Fest activities running 2/1-6. We will meet with the event organizers today to see what's up and how to get involved, and we want to see more of this area, including Ixtapa. It all sounds like fun.
On our recent posts we had a couple of comments. Mike, Marisa's brother, answered my question on the AIS system. Thanks Mike. I also have a program downloaded that tracks commercial ships worldwide by GPS, but we don't use it. Is it any wonder the pirates' in the world can find their targets? (FYI our AIS is a receive only) Also, Ted asked about laundry. We have a hand washer device that we use in a 5 gallon bucket, but it's a lot of work and uses a lot of water so only when we are at a marina with dock water. The preferred method here on Pacifico is to take it to a local service were for about $100 pesos you can get a couple of weeks worth done. Here in Zihuatanejo Ismael and his wife Hilda offer a pick-up service. They were actually just here in a panga and took four bags from us, everything since the first trip to Barra, which they will return tomorrow, washed, dried, folded and in plastic bags. They charge by the weight, usually about S12-13 pesos a kilo ($.50 US a pound). They also deliver bottled water, beer, propane and about anything else that you'd want that comes in bulk; enterprising folks down here. This is a land of small business people since there is no government support or welfare, if you can't find a job, make one.
We will be going ashore today to check in with the Captaina del Puerto, whose office is at the foot of the pier and to register with Sail Fest. The Mexican Navy also has a post here and a cutter stationed at the north side of the pier. We were not intercepted by them on our way down, probably too small a fish to bother to catch? Anyway, it's not a problem. I was boarded once when doing a deliver north with Terry several years ago. All they wanted to do was check our papers, all was in order and they left.
A little on the history of this place: FYI this area was used by the Spanish to build their famous Manila Galleons for trade with the Far East in the 1500-1600s. The area was apparently heavily forested with oak, walnut and cedar. After that it was just a quite fishing village until the Mexican Government began to develop the tourist destination of Ixtapa just a few miles to the north in the 1970s. Zihuatanejo has a population of about 70,000 today, although you can't tell that from the bay and anchorage. It looks like a small sleepy little beach village with a few hotels and beaches with the majority of the community lies nestled in the valley inland from the coast.
That's it from Zihuatanejo for now. We will post more on this area as it happens, and I'm all caught up on my blogs! Yeah, there is free wifi here!!
Under way at 17° 59.832'N, 103° 06.623'W Course 097°M, speed 5.8 kts
We are underway, having rounded Pta. Tejupan we made the course change to take us more easterly in our voyage down Mexico's Pacific Coast. We left Las Hadas last night at 2230 hrs, dodged three freighters or oil tankers getting out of the bay and haven't seen another vessel since, although there are several identified on our chart plotter by our AIS system. AIS is a very cool thing. The big ships now all have to have a VHF transponder that constantly sends their course and position information. Our system receives it, coordinates it with our GPS and tells us who they are and where they are going. More importantly their speed, course and how close (CPA) they will come to us and how long until that occurs (TCPA). VHF radios are only supposed to be line of sight, maybe 25 miles, but we are picking up signals from vessels almost 50 nm away. If anyone can comment please do. Tonight around midnight we will pass by the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, a big and important port city, busier than Manzanillo. We can already see the ships traffic outside of us and at the port, literally dozens of them, looks like Long Beach on a busy day.
The Mexican Navy's reconnaissance aircraft made a fly by this morning, I waived and he dipped his wing tips. This was a single engine, prop driven performance type aircraft and at a low altitude and slower than a jet. I'm assuming we may be boarded by their navy along this coast before we get to Ixtapa. The word is that this is common place in this area and not a big deal, very professional and all they look for are your papers to be sure it's you, your boat and that you've checked into their country. Speaking of that, we just got buzzed again, it's 1730 hrs now. I guess they are keeping track of us.
We are motor sailing under a prevented main, dead down wind or DDW and making decent time. I don't want to hurry, our ETA to Isla Grande is 0700 hrs, tomorrow, half an hour before sunrise down here so we will have day light to get into the new and unfamiliar anchorage. The wind is light, 6-7 knots true so we could sail, but I've found that being out of marinas for a month now our batteries are not keeping up. We use the Honda generator to top off the batteries in addition to the solar, but I need a long slow charging cycle to get the batteries back up. Hopefully this will do it, we don't plan any marina stays soon. We have a long period following sea of 4-6 foot, so it's easy on the boat and an easy ride; the waves are like gentle hills and they just pass under us without too much rolling, not sure Marisa would agree with that?
We have been a safe distance off the coast to avoid fish nets and long lines and are now about 14 miles off. I can see that the coast here is pretty sparsely populated and that steep hills come up from the sea cliffs. This reminds me of the Big Sur area, green coastal mountains coming out of the sea and no one is there.
Our goal is to get to Isla Grande, also called Isla Ixtapa, which lies just off the coast from Ixtapa and about 10 nm above Zihuatanejo, our destination. There is a 'cruiser event' called Zihuatanejo Sail Fest 2011, if you care to Google it. It starts about the first of February and all proceeds benefit a local orphanage charity. We are going to see what's what and enjoy the festivities, maybe jump in; we'll see what's going on when we get there.
We made the arduous 5 nm trek across Bahia Santiago, around Punta Santiago and into Bahia de Manzanillo to anchor behind the point in the anchorage area adjacent to and sheltered by the Las Hadas Marina breakwater in about 25' of water on a sand bottom. The anchorage was pretty crowded, it's small to begin with and when you add a dozen boats swing room gets pretty tight. We put out 140' of anchor rode, because we were backed up to the beach area on the east side of this little hidie-hole with nothing between us and the swim beach, but the rope buoys that designate the Dolphin Hotel's swim area. On the other hand, it was convenient because the hotel management there was "cruiser friendly" and allowed us to row our dinghies into the swim area to use their beach and "Paradise Restaurant" for food and refreshments, and what a great view of the anchorage and bay from up there. One would think the cruisers would be favoring the fabled old Las Hadas resort because they have a marina and dinghy dock. Unfortunately not, the management there sees us as a revenue stream and is now charging $200 pesos a day to land your dinghy for the privilege of using their hotel pool and purchase beverages from their over-priced bar. I mean come on, $45 pesos a beer? This area is also fairly isolated in that it is out on a peninsula of some length and is quite hilly, which requires either a cab or one of the infrequent busses, the R-8, that services this area. Being the frugal soles that we are pretty soon we figured out the marina staff's schedule and found that we could land at their dock in the evenings and on Sundays without being dinged. Marisa, myself and Mike from So Inclined took advantage of the opportunity to walk some of the area, good views of this bay and back towards Santiago from atop the hills behind the hotel. Also, the Las Hadas Hotel was where the movie "10" with Bo Derik and Dudley Moore was filmed back in the 1970's. It still has a lot of charm, but was pretty empty. We did enjoy the pool on Sunday with some of the other cruisers from the bay. The marina is odd for this part of the world, more European with a single floating dock around the inner break water and quay perimeter and all boats are Med moored, that is tied stern to the dock and individually anchored bow out, there are no finger piers between boats.
We stayed one day longer than planned to allow us to go back into Manzanillo Centro with our group to visit the "Social Club" as it is called in the cruising guide. We caught the R-8 bus to get off the peninsula to the R-1 route into town. I'm starting to sound like a local! The Social Club is actually a bar dating back to 1950 when it was founded. The founder's son, "Mike" still runs the place and it maintained in the same style as when dad opened it and serves the same menu. They don't serve meals, but serve all you can eat free appetizer plates as long as you are there. We ate our fill of cevieche, refried bean dip, hickama and cucumber slices seasoned with paprika, chips, salsa, guacamole and a really good potato salad. They take your empty beverage bottles and place them on a ledge or chair rail to keep track of your tab. When you're done you just count up the empties and pay. Pretty simple system. We will be posting some photos from there and of the group; the crews from So Inclined, Sirocco, ourselves and Russ from Liberty out the San Francisco area. His girlfriend, Kaersten, opted to use the resort pool and skip the excursion.
At the conclusion of 'lunch' we made a second visit to the market area in Centro, then caught the R-1 bus back to the Mega for final provisioning and another whole rotisserie chicken. A trip to the mall would not be complete of course without stopping at Thrifty Ice Cream, "made in the USA" and one of Lee's favorite things to do! Then finally the R-8 back to Las Hadas to carry everything to our dinghies, load all our stuff up and get back to the boats before dark. Another fun filled cruiser day.
Marisa and I dined on fresh rotisserie chicken then got Pacifico ready to go and weighed anchor at 2230 for Zihuatanejo, some 200 nm south of Manzanillo. That will be an underway post to our blog and a short one!
A final observation: Bahias Santiago and Manzanillo were great places to visit. Las Hadas is limiting because of the isolation and transportation issues, yet you're in the middle of a vast upscale resort complex. I think we will hit Santiago on the way back up, time allowing and take the bus back into Centro. I enjoyed Centro much more this second trip. Gee, I wonder if that was because of the Social Club?
After leaving Ensenada Carrizal we slowly motored the few miles to Bahia Santiago on January 16, 2011, charging and making water before anchoring in the west end of the bay off of Playa de Boquita in about 20' of water. This is a large bay with anchorages at both ends of its beautiful three plus miles of white sand beach with the town of Santiago at the west end. Our anchorage was well sheltered from the north, west and east, but wide open to the south with clear open water we were able to continue making water in the anchorage to fill our tanks. This bay, like so many of the others we have visited, is alive with fish, all kinds of fish. It's like everywhere you look there's fish down there! It's no wonder the big game fishing down here is so good, they have plenty to eat!
On our first afternoon in the bay we went ashore with the crew from Blue Rodeo to explore afoot the east end of the bay. There is an estuary and its entrance at that end with a foot bridge leading across the outlet to a nice hotel or condo style development on the hillside above the lagoon. Interesting parking covers, check out the pictures. That end of the beach is also developed as a day use area for local Mexican families with palapa restaurants, umbrellas for rent and signs advertising the availability of "banos" for $4 or 5 pesos. There are also the remains of a 330' freighter that went aground and broke up during a hurricane in the 1960's. Some of the remains are above water, the rest below in about 20-25' and create a great dive and snorkeling area. There is a residential development off the central beach area on this end occupied by, yep, mostly Canadians as best as we could figure out, any way it's a nice area and afforded us a place to leave our dinghies and walk through the development to the highway to catch the bus to town or all the way into Manzanillo for $6 pesos or about $.50 US. We also found that they had a nice beach shower which we could use to not only shower after swimming, but to fill our deck jugs that we use to fill our solar shower bags with; that means less water making. You learn to appreciate the simple things in life, not to mention that there was a great little beach bar called the Oasis there that had a happy hour with $12 peso beers!
The water in the bay was not only clear and full of fish, but was so flat and calm in the bay that we were again getting about in our dingy by "oar" power and we left the motor on its ship board mount. Despite the calmness we managed to get wet the first couple of dinghy beach landings and take-offs. We decided that we should not use the dinghy wheels in the down position for landings or take-offs without the engine. We tended to get in trouble with them because they hold the transom of the dinghy up, which puts the bow down and susceptible to submersion, especially when one of us gets nervous and jumps in too soon! Once we got the hang of it and started taking our time to watch the wave sets we were home free. Knock on wood ..
Both Sirocco and So Inclined arrived in the anchorage the following morning and we all caught the bus into the outskirts of Manzanillo for some grocery shopping at the "big" stores, Mega, Wal-Mart and Soriana. We found the chicken rotisserie shop by the Mega we had been told about by Herb (Synchrony) and it smelled and looked so good we decided to give it a try. This is a takeout place and we had to take it into the shopping mall to find a spot to sit and eat it. There at the Mega store, we found a food court. There was a small restaurant here and we bought drinks and asked if we could sit in their seating area. Not only did they let us sit there, but brought us plates and utensils to eat the food that we had brought in with us, not something you would see at home. Anyway, it was a successful shopping trip and we lugged everything back that we had purchased in our tote bags and back packs on the bus then through the complex to the beach were we loaded it into our dinghies then rowed it out to our boats. Who said this cruising life is easy?
We made another bus run all the way into Manzanillo to see the old port and Centro area, and to do a little more shopping. Marisa found a great tortilla press to use in her new found skill of tortilla making. Manzanillo is an old port, discovered in 1522 by Cortez and soon there after becoming a port in Spain's Manila trade route. The port has been modernized and today is an important container cargo port with rail links across Mexico and into the US.
That was about it for us and this area except that we did get in some good off the boat walks on the beach and through the town of Santiago. We will make one last stop in the Manzanillo area at Las Hadas anchorage and marina just a few miles away before continuing south to Zihuatanejo.