The Bandaras Bay Race week is a yearly event sponsored by the Vallarta Yacht Club at Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. Paradise Village is also referred to as the Marina del Rey of the south, which is why we prefer to be in La Cruz, but for this event we will make an exception. We got a slip at neighboring Nuevo Vallarta Marina because Paradise was full. Both marinas share the same entrance channel into this dredged estuary/mangrove swamp that has little channels running for miles back into the river bottom and yes, it's posted for crocodiles too!
Oceanside crew regulars Mike Cobas, Patty Mangles and James Connor flew down for the event. Lee and Cathy provided Siroccos's own race HQ by renting one of the condos adjacent to the Vallarta YC where our extra crew stayed and we could store some of the excess gear removed from Sirocco to lighten her load for the race as well as some of our own equipment. We had nightly 'debriefings' there, fixed crew dinner and we had access to the washer and dryer at the condo, which was a bonus! Our marina is close enough for us use our dinghies for transportation between the two locations, no taxis involved. Thanks to Lee and Cathy for going above and beyond to do all that, it really made it nice.
Race Week events started on Wednesday with a practice race primarily geared towards the cruising boats in the fleet that don't do much if any racing. To be sure there were quite a few die hard racers with race oriented boats in the fleet and the fleet was divided into different classes mostly determined by ratings. We were in a tough class with some serious competition. The practice day gave us a chance to re-orient ourselves to racing and to being on Sirocco again. Thursday, March 10 was the first race. Sirocco got off to a clean start and held the lead almost to the first windward mark over some faster competitors. We sailed a clean race with good execution of all our maneuvers, error free to take a second behind Cirque, a Beneteau 42s7 out of the San Francisco area and ahead of Blue, a J160 from Puerta Vallarta. For the race results you can check their site at: http://www.vallartayachtclub.org/race/bbr2011.html. Regardless, with about 60 boats in the race it was pretty exciting and quite a site to see.
That night I was working late on the internet trying to catch up on Blog Posts since we have wifi in this marina. As a side note life without instant access to the internet is different. It's something we didn't grow up with, yet it is now like cell phones it's something that we (some of us anyway) can't seem to live without. I kind of find it refreshing. When I know I can't get on the internet anyway I tend to not even open the computer, which gives me time for other things and there's lots to do here just to keep up. Before shutting down the computer I checked email one last time and had received a note from old Riverside friend Steve Evans. He sent me a notice on the terrible earthquake that had just struck Japan and the resulting tsunami warning. There was not much else on that until I woke up in the morning and the VHF and SSB nets were swarming with it as well as the internet.
Within a few hours it was determined that there would be a tsunami effect on the Bandaras Bay region and the race was cancelled for Friday. With the possibility of damaging surges and currents affecting the marinas just about everyone got on their boats and went out to sea to deep water, the safest place to be in such an event. As it turned out it was a great day on the bay for a day sail and I doubt there has never been that many boats on the bay at one time, literally hundreds, but it is a big bay and congestion was not an issue. It turned out that there was substantial surge and while no boats were damaged the La Cruz marina did suffer some dock damage. They reported up to 14 knots running into and then out the channel here at Nuevo Vallarta. The entrances to all the marinas were closed after it hit and the entire fleet was forced to anchor out overnight. We spent the night anchored in the La Cruz/Busarias area where we noticed varying tidal flows, but had no issues.
All the boats returned to our marinas Saturday and while there was still some weird periodic tidal flooding it was minor and the race went on as scheduled. It was windier Saturday and there was more chop, but still a good day for racing. Today was not our best and we made a few minor errors, nothing serious, but with tough competition enough to take a sixth. We were happy to have had the opportunity to get to participate in this event; a fine regatta with a lot of participation and great team efforts. Because race two was cancelled the final results were an average of the two races. We were happy to learn that Sirocco took a very respectable 3rd overall. Kudos to Lee and Cathy for their efforts!
Today is Sunday, March 13 and there is an after race event sponsored by a local retreat inland from Bucarias called "Arroyo Verde." They are also sailors and own a big catamaran named "Moon and Stars" and were also in the regatta. We are not sure what the protocol is for the party, but they have a pool, food and beverages will be served. I hope we get to see most of the crews from our competition; it would be fun to get their take on the race.
We will be flying home Wednesday from Puerto Vallarta for two weeks for personal business. Pacifico will remain here in Nuevo Vallarta Marina as opposed to our intention to take her to La Cruz. We are thinking should there be any further major earthquake events in Japan and resulting tidal waves this looks like a safer place to keep the boat. That's the plan for now anyway, but things are always subject to change!
03/13/2011, Marina Nuevo Vallarta
Back in Bandaras Bay we anchored out at La Cruz for a week, until March 5, when we moved into the marina at Nuevo Vallarta to be close to "race central" that is the Vallarta Yacht Club and more importantly Sirocco and the condo that Lee and Cathy rented in the condos next door to the yacht club. But, before we go there we have to take you back to the week at La Cruz.
The La Cruz anchorage is just outside the marina and has good access by dinghy to all the amenities of marina life. At the top of that list would be long and sometimes hot showers, laundry service, markets (abarrotes) and restaurants, but without the cost of the slip. It's especially nice when you have friends inside! We enjoy life in the anchorage or "on the hook" even though it can get a little rolly. This week was one of the "rollier" ones, but we spent so much time off the boat that we only had to deal with it at night. Fortunately the wind we were getting was the typical diurnal's, that is land and sea breezes, which typically die at sundown so that by bed time most of the rolly chop is gone. We treated ourselves to a couple of nights at "Tacos on the Street" which we have previously reported on as well as a few other local spots. Sunday is Street Fair in La Cruz and we did some shopping and purchased fresh fruits and vegetables, candied nuts, Mexican coffee, fresh baked goods and a few trinkets to bring home. We found a young lady selling tamales in plantain leaves. Yummy! That's her picture above. It was time to move to the marina in Nuevo Vallarta and a good thing too, the winds were projected to be 20 knots on the 5th.
Marisa, Cathy and Anne (Blue Rodeo) took a cooking class taught by Amanda and held at the La Cruz Marina. There they learned to make "sopes" and Marisa has posted a few photos of that event in our album. On Thursday we joined up with Mike, Lee and Cathy and caught a bus to Sayulita, a small artist retreat and surfing community about 25 miles north of here that is not accessible by boat because there is no suitable anchorage. The bus ride there was interesting in that it took us through some of the areas damaged by last summer's disastrous rains. These hills received about 19 feet, that's right feet, of rain in a month resulting in serious run off that took out most of the highway bridges and seriously damaged many of these communities infrastructure. Sayulita is picturesque, has a beautiful beach with a good surf break and plenty of places to rent a board, take surf lessons or ride a horse on the beach, but without the big hotel scene. Of course we found a great place for lunch, SFT or Sayulita Fish Tacos.
The bus ride to Sayulita in itself was an 'adventure'. Perhaps by our standards this will seem strange, but they have a way to make things work. An example is their bus system. We have been taking buses everywhere down here for these past four months. The bus that goes to Sayulita can't be caught from La Cruz directly, but by catching the bus from La Cruz to Busarias, the next town several miles south of here. You get off the bus there and cross the street to catch the Sayulita bus which passes by the exit to La Cruz, La Cruz being on a spur road. We told the driver in Sayulita we were going to La Cruz and he said sure, get in. We were on the main highway when we got to the spur that exited to La Cruz. The driver stopped on the 'freeway', opened the door and said this is your exit! We found ourselves walking off the highway and down the off ramp onto the La Cruz road where we could flag down the La Cruz bus! Simple, but can you imagine a bus stopping on a freeway in the States and dropping you off to walk off the roadway? Even funnier was when we were walking down the off ramp we saw a Federal Transit Police car coming with his red and blue lights on. He crossed the road and drove the wrong way up the off ramp we had just walked down. It seems the police office is located under the highway overpass up that off ramp and there is no exit for it from this side. To get there they simply drive up the off ramp and cross over the curb to get into their yard. Amazing how that well it works and far cheaper than building another off ramp!
I'm working on getting caught up now that we have wifi again; Bandaras Bay Race Week next time.
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.