Acapulco to Huatulco – A Disturbing Passage

Acapulco - kids chanting on a Corona boat in Puerto Marques

Happy vacationers break into a chant for us as they pass Groovy.

The Sea Sweepers, Barrido Marino, pick up used motor oil and household trash from boats.

The "Barrido Marino" sea sweepers take used

motor oil and household trash too!

Acapulco is Nahuatl for

Acapulco is Nahuatl for "Place of Reeds"

Sea horse on Groovy's anchor chain.

Sea horse on our anchor chain.

We leave Acapulco before sunrise.


The ominous sunrise at sea heralds the most disturbing day of our lives.

Eerie silhouette on the rising sun.

We check our position on the paper nautical charts.

Mark checks our position on the

paper charts.

Overnight sailing on Groovy between Acapulco and Huatulco

The sun sets into a moonless night at sea.

Leaping dolphins say hello

Dolphins greet us with great


Dolphins greet us outside Puerto Angel Dolphins welcome us to Puerto Angel Puerto Angel, Oaxaca, Mexico

Puerto Angel is cute but too crowded.

Puerto Angel, Oaxaca, Mexico

Puerto Angel lighthouse.

Jicaral Cove, Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Our two boats in Jicaral Cove, Bahías

de Huatulco.

Jicaral Cove, Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Jicaral Cove.

Jicaral Cove, Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico Jicaral Cove, Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

We share Jicaral cove with Osprey and Turkey Vultures.

Jicaral Cove, Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

This place is teeming with coral.

Curving beach at San Agustin (Puerto Sacrificios), Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Neighboring Playa de San Agustín

Clear water and palapas at San Agustin (Puerto Sacrificios), Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Clear water and fun palapas at San


Snorkeling at San Agustin (Puerto Sacrificios), Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Snorkelers at San Agustín

Exotic rock formations at San Agustin (Puerto Sacrificios), Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Bahía de San Agustín has unusual rock


Emily & Mark at Playa San Agustin (Puerto Sacrificios), Bays of Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Life's a Beach.

Cruise Ship Statandem at Huatulco harbor, Mexico

Cruise ship "Statendam" takes up most of Santa Cruz Harbor.

Palapa beach bar in Santa Cruz near the Cruise Ship dock in Huatulco

View of Santa Cruz from the water.

Views looking towards Huatulco.

Low buildings hug the shore against a mountainous backdrop.

Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco, Mexico

Tangolunda Bay in Huatulco.

Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco, Mexico Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco, Mexico

Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco.

Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco, Mexico

This resort goes for $1,000 USD per night.  Yikes!

Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco, Mexico

Catamarans take advantage of the

afternoon breezes in Tangolunda.

Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco, Mexico

We watch the "I Do's" of a young couple on shore.

Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Late January, 2012 - Our pretty little spot in Puerto

Marques on the outskirts of Acapulco Bay came to life

one evening when a boatload of young Mexicans

zoomed past in a boat labeled "Corona La #1".  We

waved, as usual, becoming one of the sights for their

tour, and suddenly they started waving and chanting

what sounded like a team cheer.

Languid sunny days made us lazy and we kept putting off our departure

for our next 215 mile jaunt to Huatulco.  Mark changed the oil in the

engine and transmission one day and at just the right moment the Sea

Sweeper boat ("Barrido Marino") showed up and asked if we had any

trash for them.  What luck!  They took the used oil off our hands along

with our trash, and then hit up the megayacht parked nearby to take

their trash too.  How cool is that: a beautiful free anchorage with free at-

your-boat trash service.  No wonder it was hard to leave.

The word Acapulco comes from the indigenous Nahuatl language and means "Place

of Reeds" or "Place where reeds were destroyed."  to this day, floating beds of

reeds drift throughout the bay and coastline for miles.  Judging by the pile on their

foredeck, the Sea Sweepers picked up more reeds than trash, it seemed.

One day when Mark hauled up the anchor before we went on a daysail he saw the

strangest thing on the chain.  It kept swaying and moving around and suddenly he

realized it was a sea horse.  "Look at this!" he yelled back to me.  I ran up with the

camera just as the little guy unhooked his tail and fell off.  But a few chain links

further on, up came another one.  He had his tail tightly wrapped around one link of

the chain and he kept moving his body around, looking us over, until he finally

unhitched and fell back into the depths.

One night we were woken by loud, mysterious sounds resounding on the

hull.  Going on deck we heard nothing.  Back down below we realized it

was the haunting tones of whales singing in the bay.  Mornings and

evenings we heard the creaking and scraping noises of equipment being

moved onshore or of a boat's engine or something.  Finally on our last

morning we discovered it was the noisy calls of wild green parrots in the

trees next to us.  They were flying and climbing all over the branches,

cackling at each other with grating noises.  We were amazed there was so

much nature this close to a major city.

When we were finally ready to

leave Acapulco, we left in the pitch

dark before dawn to ensure a daytime arrival in Huatulco some 30+ hours later.  The

sun rose as a pink ball in the lightening sky.  A few minutes later it became an intense

bright orange orb which made the camera pick up the surrounding sky as black.  Some

clouds obscured the ball of fire, and from a distance it looked a bit like a witch on a

broomstick flying across the sun.

This slightly ominous sunrise brought us a day that ultimately held one of the most

disturbing events of our lives.  Around two in the afternoon, while motoring along about

10 miles off the coast, some 60 miles south of Acapulco, we were enjoying being

pushed by a two knot current that pegged the speedometer at a thrilling high-8 to 9+

knots.  Suddenly Mark spotted something unusual in the water.  We stared hard through the binoculars to get a better look.

With gut wrenching knots in our stomachs, we realized we were looking at a dead body.

We turned the boat to approach the body, feeling totally alarmed and freaked out.  We were

both shaking as we neared the body.  It was a heavyset middle aged or older balding white

man, lying face down in the water.  He was wearing a mask and snorkel, fins and booties,

and a shorty type of wetsuit with swim trunks over it.  He had on diving gloves and had

clearly been in the water for at least a few days, and probably a week or more.  He looked

for all the world like he was peacefully snorkeling along in the middle of the ocean, except

his skin was decomposing and one arm lay limp and twisted at an odd angle by his side.

This is the last thing either of us ever expected to see while cruising.  We were edgy,

terrified, and flummoxed about what was the right thing to do.  The stench was significant.

We noted the GPS coordinates of the body and instantly began hailing the Mexican Navy.

We tried in English and we tried in Spanish, but there was no response.  This is a remote section of the coast and we realized

we hadn't seen a boat or heard a peep on the VHF radio in 8 hours since we first pulled away from Acapulco Bay.  There was

no safe anchorage that we could reach before nightfall; the next was 140 miles (21 hours) away.

We continued on our way, hailing the Mexican Navy periodically, to no avail.  The sun set into the moonless void of a new moon,

and we moved along in pitch darkness, unable to discern the horizon.  All was black in every direction.  The canopy of bright

stars overhead faded into a misty, funereal veil all around us.  For the first time it really hit us just how alone all cruisers are on

the ocean.  If you can't take care of yourself, help will be a long time coming.  I kept thinking about the man's family, his loved

ones who knew he was missing but had no idea exactly where he was or perhaps even how he had disappeared.  He might

have been on a snorkeling tour, or snorkeling on his own, or perhaps he was in a boat that was sinking and he donned his

snorkeling gear as it went down, knowing he would be spending time in the water once it sank.  It was impossible for us to know

those things, but the burden of knowing we were the only ones in the world who knew his whereabouts was enormous.

It was a long long overnight sail.  Every time I tried to sleep, images of this

unfortunate man facedown in the water filled my mind.  "Don't think about it," we

told each other.  But how can you not?  We talked about how unutterably tragic it

would be if either of us lost the other.  Of course, we have friends who have died

riding their bikes, friends stricken with terminal diseases, and friends who have

died in car wrecks.  But somehow being alone out on the ocean suddenly

seemed so much more fraught with peril than house-based everyday living.

We had heard a news report before leaving

Acapulco that the world was going to be

bombarded by extraneous solar radiation from a

large solar storm, and that it could potentially

affect GPS satellites.  That got us busy with the

paper charts, parallel rulers and dividers, making

sure we knew exactly where we were at all times

throughout the night, just in case the satellite

giving us our GPS position quit working.  Another

day dawned and we were very relieved to see the sky lighten around us.

Suddenly a pod of several hundred dolphins came leaping and bounding towards us.  They

were truly exuberant, thrilled to be alive, and seemed to be jumping for joy.  That was more like

it!!  We snapped a gazillion photos of them as they cavorted around Groovy.  They must have

come to cheer us up.

Near 11:00 in the morning we spotted a Mexican

Navy ship on the horizon.  We leapt back on the

radio and hailed them in English and Spanish again.

No sooner had we reported what we had seen, than

the ship was at our side.  Those Navy boats can

really move.

They tied alongside us and their young captain came

aboard Groovy.  Stepping between the boats was not

easy: both boats were pitching wildly in the swell and all hands on the Navy

ship were attending fenders and lines to keep the two boats from mashing

each other.  He had a look at our photos of the corpse, took down our coordinates for its position, and relayed the information

back to the Navy base in Acapulco.  The encounter was quick, efficient, polite, and the captain seemed very grateful for the

report.  He noted our names and our boat's name.  When he was back aboard his ship and described the photos to his crew,

they all winced and shuddered.  It was not a comfortable image for those tough young men either.

We pulled into Puerto Angel, the first good anchorage south of

Acapulco and found it pretty but overcrowded with moored pangas.

We anchored twice but couldn't find a spot where we had enough

swing room without being in the ocean swell, so we left and carried

on to the Bays of Huatulco 15 miles further south.  Here we were

rewarded with stunning natural beauty and peace.  Gradually the

disturbing emotions from our overnight sail began to fade away.

Last year while researching  Huatulco I had come across an

earlier cruiser's online description of a bay here that he fell

in love with and nicknamed "Osprey Cove" because he

couldn't find an official name for it on the nautical charts.

After a few emails back and forth with him, I realized it was

now known and charted as Jicaral Cove, and we spent our

first night there.

This tiny cove, just big enough for a single cruising boat or maybe two at a pinch, is one

of several bays that make up the National Park of Huatulco.  A line of buoys protects the

vibrant coral reef in the cove and small boats filled with tourists come in to snorkel the

reef every few hours.

The Bays of Huatulco sit

next to the infamous Golfo

de Tehuantepec, a vicious

200 mile stretch of water

whose mood swings make

the Sea of Cortez look

positively unflappable.

Every week or so in the

winter north winds from the

Gulf of Mexico between

Texas and Mexico

accelerate south across the

narrowest portion of the

Mexican mainland, and

race off into the ocean at

60+ mph, often creating 20' seas.  In between these multi-day temper

tantrums the Gulf of the Tehuantepec lies down to take a breather, during

which time all the coastal cruising boats make a run for it.

When the gales are blowing in the Tehuantepec, the Bays of Huatulco can

get a little frisky too.  But we arrived during a quiet spell and had several

glorious, peaceful days exploring Jicaral cove.

The ospreys for whom the

earlier cruisers named this

place "Osprey Cove" were still

here, along with a group of

turkey vultures.

Coral litters the sand all along the beach, a sight we

had seen only once before in Los Muertos on the

southeastern tip of the Baja peninsula.

We kayaked around the corner into Bahía de San

Agustín (also known as Puerto Sacrificios) and

discovered a long curving beach backed by unusual

boulders at one end and a cluster of lively beach

palapa bars and boutique shops at the other.

We wandered along the beach and

marveled at the calm beauty.  This is a

magical place.

Friends of ours were anchored in the main bay by the town of

Santa Cruz, so we sailed over to meet up with them.

We got so caught up in our breathtaking downwind sail in the

strong afternoon winds that we nearly missed the entrance to

Huatulco's main bay.  It was the sight of the enormous cruise

ship Statendam parked there that got us back on course.

Like all cruise ships this far south, they were on a several month

trip between the east and west coasts of the US with a Panama

Canal transit as the centerfold stop.

Continuing our Reader's Digest quickie tour of some of the

Huatulco bays, we stopped in at Tangolunda, a large bay with

several anchoring options.

Huatulco is an official tourist

development created in 1986

by Fonatur, Mexico's

government tourism agency

that brought the world Cancun

and Ixtapa in 1974 and Los Cabos in 1976 and more recently Loreto/Puerto Escondido in the

Sea of Cortez and Nayarit near Puerto Vallarta.

Learning from their prior beach tourism projects, Fonatur is developing Huatulco with an eye

towards maintaining the area's natural beauty.  In the bays where building development is

allowed, like Tangolunda, the buildings are low.  Other bays are set aside as part of a national

park with boat-in access only.

Bahía Tangolunda

hosts the requisite

tourist banana boats

and jet-skis, but

several catamarans

dominated the

breezy bay most


One afternoon we

watched a wedding

in progress just off

the end of our boat.

What a spot to get


This first week in

Huatulco was just

the briefest overview of some of the lovely bays.  This area is so

pretty, so relaxed, and so charming that we won't be running off

and leaving Huatulco any time soon, especially since the

intimidating Gulf of the Tehuantepec lies just around the corner.

Find Huatulco on Mexico Maps.

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast

to see more cruising posts from this area!






















































































































Acapulco – A Faded Lady

Sail blog post - Acapulco is a faded lady in many ways, but we found a delightful oasis at Puerto Marques and were thrilled by the cliff divers and yacht races.

Orcas play near Groovy.

A shrimper outside Papanoa, Mexico.

Shrimper or bird taxi?

Papanoa, a shrimping village in Mexico.


Sunrise over Groovy's bow.

Sunrise begins over our bow.

Sunrise over the water near Acapulco. Groovy arrives in Acapulco.

Acapulco's mountains in the distance.

Villas and hotels line Boca Chica Channel.

Villas perch atop cliffs on Boca Chica Channel.

Racing yachts barrel down Boca Chica Channel.

Sailboats race towards us.

Highrises on Acapulco's main beach.

Acapulco's main beach.

Two boats almost crash in a race in Acapulco.

Tight maneuvering.

Downwind spinnaker run towards Acapulco's highrises on the beach.

Downwind spinnaker run.


The "fake" lighthouse at La Marina.

The pretty grounds of Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

The Yacht Club grounds.

Insignia and knots on display at Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

Club de Yates de Acapulco.

Racing yachts at Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

Racing yachts waiting for the next race.

Waterfront near Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

Waterfront near the yacht club.

Looking across Acapulco's inner harbor.

Looking across Acapulco's inner harbor.

Puffer and angel fish at the Acapulco marina docks.

Puffer and angel fish at the docks.

Puffer and angel fish at the Acapulco marina docks.

I took these from above water.

Wonderful daysailing in Acapulco Bay.

Wonderful daysailing in Acapulco Bay.

Acapulco highrises on the beach.

A few of the many highrises on the beach.

Navy warships and a tall ship in Acapulco Bay.

Navy warships and a tall ship.

Acapulco has several picturesque anchorages.

Acapulco has several picturesque


Vacation homes overlooking Puerto Marques outside Acapulco Bay.

Vacation homes overlooking Puerto Marques.

A little bronze mermaid in Puerto Marques.

A little mermaid near our


Camino Real, Puerto Marques, Acapulco Mexico

The lightly visited resort where we anchored in Puerto Marques.

Barrido Marino - the Sea Sweepers - in Puerto Marques, Acapulco, Mexico

"Barrido Marino" - the "Sea Sweepers"

Blue and white VW bug taxis in Acapulco

These cheap little taxis are everywhere.

The rock cliffs of La Quebrada home of Los Clavadistas, the cliff divers.

The rock cliffs of La Quebrada.

Cliff Diver Alejandro scales the rocks in La Quebrada.

Cliff Diver Alejandro scales the rocks.

Cliff diver soars off the rocks at La Quebrada. Cliff diver plunges into the water at La Quebrada. Cliff diver soars off the rocks at La Quebrada. Los clavadistas, the cliff divers of La Quebrada.

Alejandro (left) and Aurelio (right)

Acapulco's cathedral.

Acapulco's cathedral.

Acapulco's cathedral.

A peek inside...

The Zócalo has amazing trees.

Acapulco's town beach.

Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

Mid-January, 2012 - We finally pulled ourselves away from Zihuatanejo/

Ixtapa and resumed our travels south.  Papanoa is a 35-mile daysail

away, and as we motor-sailed we were very surprised to see some

Shamu-shaped fins ahead of us.  It turned out to be several small orcas

playing in the water.

Papanoa is a small shrimping village, and we passed a few

shrimpers trolling the depths as we approached the harbor.

Countless birds were catching a ride on the booms of one boat.

The frigate birds took most of one boom and the seagulls

spread out on the others.

We arrived in mid-afternoon and watched the activities of this quiet port

town.  Several shoreside cantinas had the music going, and a group of

kids were laughing loudly and burning up energy as only kids can, diving

off a pier and cannonballing each other out of a small dinghy that was

tied to a piling.

Acapulco is another 75 miles

south of Papanoa, which

required us to get a pre-

dawn start.  We were now

traveling more east than

south and we watched the

sky lighten ahead of us until

the sun rose over our bow.

Acapulco has a mixed reputation these days,

and we weren't sure what to expect when we

arrived.  Our first glimpse of this legendary port

had us grinning excitedly, however, and set the

tone for a fantastic stay.  We decided to enter

Acapulco's expansive bay through its narrow

westerly channel "Boca Chica" ("Small Mouth")

rather than through the main entrance further

east called "Boca Grande."  We slowed way

down as the rock walls rose to wonderful

heights on either side of us in the channel.

"This is just like Cabo!" we said to each other.

The towering cliffs were

covered with fancy homes,

hotels and highrises.

As we emerged on the other side of the channel, Acapulco's

vast beach suddenly came into view.  Our eyes widened in

amazement.  The beach was backed by an endless stretch

of highrise buildings, and the hillsides were littered with

homes and communities that rose in waves towards the

horizon.  There was more humanity in front of us than we had seen in months.  Forget Cabo.  This was like Miami.  Or like

sailing into Las Vegas.  It was a huge, massive city built for tourism.  We puttered around the bay taking way too many photos

that all looked the same -- highrises on the water -- and then backtracked to a lovely little anchorage in Boca Chica next to a

small beach on Isla de la Roqueta.

Gazing across the bay at the mammoth city in the distance, we were

anchored in our own small paradise next to a busy little beach where

the Sunday crowd was swimming, snorkeling and imbibing at the

beach bar.  Suddenly on the horizon we saw some incredibly sleek

sailing yachts headed our way in a race.  Within moments Groovy

was perched in a front row seat of a spectacular sailing race.

The streamlined boats flew towards us at top speed.  Ladened with

both skilled crew at the helm and winches and "rail meat" crew that

sat on the high side facing out, feet dangling over the side, the boats

bore down on us until I was sure we'd be broadsided.  Just at the

last second each boat would tack, within arm's reach of our cockpit.

All hell would break loose as ten people scurried over the deck,

furiously turning winch

handles and wrestling the boat into submission on its new tack.  A few commands

would be yelled here and there, but the most prominent sound was the creaking of

lines and groaning of each boat as it was tensioned and tuned for max velocity on its

new tack.

These guys are really good at this stuff

and they do it all the time, so when

one boat looked like it was about to T-

bone another and Mark said, "They're

gonna hit!" I said, "Nahhh…"  Then we

both heard a loud CRUNCH and the

sound of very expensive boat parts

grating against each other.  Seconds

later the lead boat dropped its sails

and turned around to head home.  I'm

not sure if they were disqualified or

had sustained too much damage to

continue, but none of the other boats

paused for one second!

In no time the race began its downwind leg, and one yacht after

another breezed past Groovy in the opposite direction, their

colorful spinnakers flying.  As each boat slowly vanished

into the horizon of skyscrapers our hearts gradually

stopped pounding.  What excitement, and what a


By sunset our little anchorage had whittled down to just

us and the noisy birds in the trees.  Like Isla Ixtapa and

Las Gatas Beach in Zihuatanejo, this place is heavily

visited by water taxis, banana boats, jet-skis and

snorkelers during the afternoons, but by dusk it is

deserted and is an ideal, remote tropical anchorage with

no swell.  We slept like babies that night.

The heart of the Acapulco yachting scene is the "Club

de Yates de Acapulco," or the Acapulco Yacht Club.

This beautiful marina and yacht club would be ideal for visiting cruisers, but

it is so popular with local boaters that there is seldom room for anyone from

out of town.  Next door "La Marina" is being renovated and will soon

accommodate visitors, but it isn't yet finished.

We wandered into the Club de Yates and found all

the beautiful racing boats we had watched sailing

the day before already lifted out of the water and

put up in dry storage to wait for the next race.  We

found out that hauling our boat would cost nearly

$600 US.  Imagine having to fork that over every

time you wanted to race your yacht?!  But this is a

place where money is no object.  The captain of a

megayacht parked at an end-tie told us his owner

likes to zip from place to place burning a cool 180

gallons per hour at top speed.  He laughed out loud

when we told him we needed to top off our 66

gallon fuel tank sometime during our stay here.

Getting fuel is not as simple as you might think in Acapulco.  The fuel dock

is fairly short and has little turnaround room, and many megayachts come

calling, so you have to sign up to get fuel a day or two in advance.  This

requires a trip to the Harbor Master's office where, to our surprise, he made

a copy of our US Coast Guard documentation papers as part of our fuel

registration process.  The up-side of this minor inconvenience was that he

also issued us a temporary Yacht Club card which would allow us to come

and go from the pretty marina at will and use the dinghy dock and

swimming pool too.

The Acapulco Yacht Club exudes that noble air that wafts over

exclusive yacht clubs worldwide, and the whole place is dripping

with wonderfully elegant nautical decor.  Trophies fill the trophy

cases, portraits of past captains and commodores line the walls,

names of local champions and legendery yachts are engraved

on beautiful plaques, and ancient bronze binnacles and helms

stand like museum pieces in the corners.

The little chandlery has goodies for boats, but the prices for

ordinary items are truly extraordinary ($100 US for four plastic drinking glasses!), but

the souvenir shop sold high quality ball caps with the yacht club logo embroidered on

the front for less that $10 US.

Acapulco is not a clean city, and we had watched the Pacific ocean transform from a

rich inviting deep blue to a sickly grey-green as we had entered Acapulco Bay.  But

here at the dock the water was so clear that I could see angel fish and puffer fish

swimming just below the surface.

When we travel from place to place we always hope

to sail but usually end up motoring most of the way

because the winds are so light along Mexico's

mainland coast.  However, Acapulco Bay is a terrific

spot for day sailing, and after watching the races the

day before, we got inspired to go out for a joy ride

ourselves.  There were no other boats on the three-mile-wide bay, and we had just enough

wind, 10-13 knots, to put Groovy over on her side for a little romp in the breeze.

Exploring the outer reaches of the bay we saw more highrises (they are endless), and a Navy

dock that had two modern warships and a lovely old tall ship.

Other cruisers had found pretty anchorages

along the outskirts of this big bay, and as the

days of our stay wore on we

noticed that they weren't in a

hurry to leave Acapulco either,

obviously enjoying their time

here as well.

We left the inner harbor for

Puerto Marques, a small outer

bay, where we spent five

delightful nights.  Billed in the

cruising guide as being open to

ocean swell, we got lucky and

enjoyed peaceful quiet nights

ancchored alongside a row of

nearly empty resorts.  There couldn't have been more than ten

occupied rooms in the four resort hotels we were facing, but

new construction inexplicably seemed to be continuing.

Every day the bartender would arrive at the cute

dockside bar and serve perhaps one or two guests.

Every night the restaurant tables would be set and the

kitchen staff would get busy, all to serve just three or

four couples.

Acapulco has a reputation for being past its prime, but there are

clear signs that its citizens don't want to let that prime slip away

too fast.  Besides all the new construction, there is a fleet of

bright yellow boats bearing the words "Barrido Marino" ("Sea

Sweep") in large letters on their sides.  These boats scour

the entire bay every day with nets to retrieve floating trash

and debris.  At the far end of Puerto Marques a huge

project is underway with barges and cranes to install what

looks like a new pier or perhaps a marina.

Over in La Quebrada the famous dare-devil cliff divers began

flying headfirst off the cliffs into the sea back in 1934, and within a

decade or two were the superstars of Acapulco tourism.  Eager to

see these guys, we took one of the little blue-and-white VW bug taxis and

zipped off to the cove of jagged cliffs where the diving action takes place.  Both

Mark and I remember watching these divers on TV as kids, and we couldn't

wait to see them in action.

The cove is a spectacular craggy

coast of rugged peaks and

crashing surf, and the entire area

has been built up to show off the

divers.  Elvis Presley's 1963 movie

Fun in Acapulco was filmed here

(this is a fun link too).

Restaurants overlook the diving gorge and trinket shops offer free

coke or beer for shoppers.  El Mirador Hotel stands above it all,

having played host to many of the world's celebrities over the

years.  There's a ticket sales booth at the top of a long set of

winding stairs that go down towards the water.  Viewers can choose

any level for watching the divers.  Five or so divers take the plunge

once a day in daylight and they dive again three more times after

dark (with torches).  We opted for a daytime show and were thrilled.

To our surprise the divers start the show by walking through the crowd,

hopping over the fence to the rock face below, and then hot-footing it

down a ways and jumping into the water.  After a quick wave to the

crowd above, they then free

climb the enormous cliffs on

the far side all the way to the

top.  One young diver,

Alejandro, impressed us immensely

with his catlike agility as he zipped up

the cliff like Spiderman.

Once at the top, the divers each

offered a quick prayer to the Virgin of

Guadalupe, touched the shrine, or

even kissed the statue inside, and then

turned and waved to the crowd.  One

by one they then took a position

somewhere near the top of the cliff

and, when the waves were right 125

feet below, launched themselves into

spectacular dives.

Alejandro warmed up for quite some

time, stretching, doing mock flip turns, and obviously preparing for some fancy twists and somersaults in the air.  When

he finally soared off the rocks he rolled and turned and swiveled in the air like a shimmering fish, and gracefully slipped

into the frothing water below.

Another pair of divers leapt off the cliff together, one launching himself into a back

layout somersault before twisting and piking his way to the water.  The last diver

climbed to the highest peak and flew over the rocks in a glorious swan dive.

Afterwards the divers mingled

with the crowd, happily posing

for photos with fans.

We were on such a high after

this that we nearly skipped

down the hill towards the

cathedral in the old town

square, El Zócalo.  Acapulco is a grungy, busy,

crowded city, but there was something in the

earthy smells, the crush of people and the

sweat dripping down our temples and backs

that made it all very exciting.

A group of nuns emerged from the 1930's era

cathedral just as we approached, and the doors

were thrown wide for a peek inside.

Opposite the cathedral was a large, darkly

shaded city park filled with enormous trees

that have odd twisted trunks and roots.

Crabby old ladies sitting next to flowers

they were selling waved us off with nasty

frowns when we took photos of their

flowers.  People sat on park benches

eating snacks or reading the paper.

Tourists and shoppers mingled in between.

Vendors sold everything everywhere and music pumped so loudly

from some speakers on the ground that an old lady put her fingers

in her ears as she walked by.  Official tourism hosts wearing blue

shirts and numbered badges darted out from the crowd to help

bewildered tourists, and more than one suddenly turned up at our

sides asking if we needed assistance.  It is not a warm, friendly

place, nor is it a place I'd want to hang around for more than a

brief visit, but we were glad to have taken a walk through that part of town, and equally glad to emerge back on the waterfront

malecón, or boardwalk, where the fresh sea breeze hit our faces once again, and the beach and boats filled our view.

Such is the faded lady of Acapulco.  A previous cruiser's blog last

year described gunmen firing shots in a building near the marina at

night, and as we dropped our anchor in the city anchorage at ten in

the morning we heard a series of gun shots near the supermarket

where we had bought provisions the day before.  But I've heard

gunshots in every city I've called home, and I've even watched a

well armed SWAT team take positions outside a house in a tony

Scottsdale, Arizona neighborhood.  The anchorages on the fringes

of Acapulco Bay are all lovely, and we are glad to have experienced

the sweeter side of town.  After a little more relaxing at Puerto

Marques we headed down the coast to Huatulco.

Find Acapulco on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast to see more cruising posts from this area!