Monarch Butterfly Migration at El Rosario – A Fabulous Daytrip!!

Contepec street sign Morelia Mexico sail blog

Not so easy to say these names!

Mid-February, 2013 – After our whirlwind tour of beautiful Morelia, we piled into the car with our friends Joe and Nancy and headed even further into the mountains to see the phenomenal throngs of butterflies that migrate there each winter. We were getting off into the hinterlands now, and the road narrowed dramatically and began to climb even more steeply, easily reaching 15% to 20% grades at times, while the town names quickly became very hard to pronounce.

Topes speedbump sign Morelia Mexico sailing blog

“Topes”

The thing that sets Mexican roads apart from roads elsewhere is the plethora of speed bumps, or “topes” (pronounced “toe-pays”). This is a very effective way to slow drivers down without having to post patrol cars and radar everywhere, but it sure makes for some hair-raising driving. The speed bumps are very steep, usually they are unpainted, and they are only occasionally marked with a sign. So you don’t know if a speed bump is there until you hit it and go flying.

Tlalpujahua church Mexico sailing blog

We spot a centuries old church in the distance.

A two hour drive in the Mexican countryside can quickly become a torturous “all eyes on deck” pavement scan while you wait for the inevitable jolt accompanied by the sound of scraping metal as the underbody of the car loses yet another layer of skin to the road.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte statue Mexico cruising blog

Tlalpujahua was having a special festival.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico sailing blog

There was lots of music…

However, the little towns we passed through were intriguing. One boasted a beautiful church we saw from the distance, and when we got there we discovered a huge festival was in full swing.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico sail blog

Dancing…

A fellow told me the town was called “Tlalpujahua,” which is pronounced (“Tlal-poo-hah-wah”) and it was once a gold mining town and has churches dating to the 1500’s. Along with a huge outdoor market that lined the main street, they were celebrating the Day of Señor Jesús del Monte.

What luck!! Kids were dressed up in fantastic costumes, and they paraded in the streets and climbed the steep path to the church where they danced and sang and made music.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico cruising blog

All the kids in town helped celebrate.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta  Mexico sailing blog

Great costumes.

It was a colorful celebration, and every kid in town seemed to be a part of it.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico living aboard blog

These machetes were real!

My favorite was the line-up of youngsters that were reenacting a sword fight, clashing their (real and sharp) machetes together while doing some dance steps and singing.

We wandered around town, fascinated by what was going on but not understanding what it was really all about. There was so much music and noise and hand clapping going on that we couldn’t have heard an explanation even if someone had been willing to try and give us one.

Kansas City Southern Train Mexico sailing blog

Kansas City Southern.

We jumped back in the car and continued our journey higher into the mountains. A very long freight train labeled “Kansas City Southern” went past pulling an endless stream of cattle cars that bore the same name on the side. We couldn’t tell if the cars were empty or full, but if they held cattle coming from or going to Kansas, those animals had a lot of miles under their hooves.

 

Haystack Michoacan Mexico sail blog

This is farm country.

 

We passed old style haystacks and horses in pastures, and eventually we made it to El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary.

Horse grazing Michoacan Mexico living aboard blog

Horses were grazing in the fields.

We hadn’t had any idea what to expect, and we were surprised to be greeted with several stages of fees: parking fee first, entrance fee second, and then the mandatory hiring of a guide to take us into the woods.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Michoacan Mexico sailing blog

Joe opted to catch a ride.

We are experienced hikers, and we couldn’t imagine it would be all that hard to find the butterflies. But when we protested against taking a guide, we learned that viewing the butterflies is an eco-tourism tour that helps sustain the people in this area.

The sanctuary provides a job base for the locals and, on that note, a guide — who was paid only tips — seemed like a fine idea.

The hike is an uphill, hour-long jaunt through the forest, and the locals provide rides on “caballitos” (little horses) for those who don’t want to walk. These cute little horses are just about my height, and I thought it was neat to be able to look a horse right in the eye.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Michoacan Mexico sail blog

The guides hoped we’d catch a ride too.

Joe opted to go on horseback, and he and his guide set off into the woods. Mark ran behind them, getting quite a vigorous (and dusty) workout in the process.

Nancy and I were directed to the walking trail, which is a different trail than the horses follow. The horse guides are shrewd businessmen, and they know that lots of people will change their minds about the $150 peso ($12 USD) fee for a round trip horseback ride once they’ve hiked a little ways up on the steep trail.

an Mexico cruising blog

Wonderful woodsy trail into the forest.

So a collection of horses and guides accompanied us for quite a while, patiently waiting for us to ask for a ride. Eventually Nancy saw the wisdom of arriving at the butterfly site rested, so she selected a horse and vanished into the woods after Joe and Mark, and that left me and my guide alone on foot on the walking trail.

My guide, Berenice, was 14 years old and a sophomore in high school. She lived in a town nearby and she said she guided two tours a day when she wasn’t in school. Today was a weekday but it was a school holiday, so she was out on the trail. She didn’t speak any English and she was very shy.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Michoacan Mexico sailing blog 260

Butterflies filled the air like leaves.

The path wound higher and higher. We were now at 10,000′ elevation (3,000 meters), and although I didn’t need my jacket, I knew if I stopped hiking I’d get chilled. We had heard reports of people getting snowed on during these wintertime butterfly excursions.

The woods were very similar to the woods in northern Arizona: full of evergreens and with a fine, grey dust underfoot. We stopped to take in a few views of the valley below, and as I scanned the horizon I saw brief flash of orange go by. Then I saw another and another. They were here… the monarchs!

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

The pine trees seemed to have orange blossoms.

“There’s more up ahead,” Berenice told me. And sure enough, more and more of them floated by us until we turned a corner and saw literally thousands filling the air.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico sail blog

They loved these flowers…!

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

The monarchs let us in close.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico sailing blog

Joe holds one up.

 

 

 

 

 

They clung to the pine branches so thickly that the pine trees seemed to be in bloom. The air was so full of orange butterflies it was as though there were an autumn breeze blowing tiny leaves around.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico cruising blog

These hardy souls are incredibly frail.

Mark and Joe and Nancy had already arrived at the spot when we got there, and they were playing with some of the butterflies.

Joe held out a flower and coaxed a butterfly onto it, and then held it up so we all could see. What a miraculous little animal.

 

El Rasario Monarch butterfliies Morelia Mexico sailing blog

So delicate…

Looking at them closely, although many were in fine shape, we noticed that many of them had faded and tattered wings, and they looked tired. There’s little wonder, as their north-south migration route is 3,000 miles between southern Mexico and the US and Canada.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

All that orange mossy stuf is butterflies.

The butterflies have three different routes into the northern US states after they cross the border a little west of Brownsville, Texas.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

Usually we feel lucky to see one butterfly, but here they numbered in the millions…

Some head northwest, some due north, and some northeast. Unlike birds that migrate long distances, though, individual monarchs don’t live long enough to travel the full migration path.

Wildflowers Morelia Mexico cruising blog

A little different than the tropics!!

Busily courting and mating here in the mountains of Michoacán, these monarchs will fly north in the spring to produce the next generation in the southern parts of the US.

Lupine flower Morelia Mexico cruising blog

Familiar mountain flowers.

The butterfly lifecycle of pupa to caterpillar to butterfly will take place, and then somehow the young butterflies will all know to continue the flight north that their parents had started.

Then the cycle begins again in one of the most complex animal migrations on the planet.

How do these delicate little guys do it? Tiny butterfly corpses were scattered all over the ground, with pieces of wings and bodies strewn among the leaves and flower petals, ready to decompose at the blink of an eye. These creatures are frail! Yet they doggedly get their species across 3,000 miles of treacherous ground twice a year.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico cruising blog

Commuting on horseback is common here.

We wandered among the butterfly laden trees for quite a while, enjoying this miracle that science can’t yet fully explain.

As we hiked back down the mountain path, we passed familiar wildflowers we see in the summers up north: lupine, penstemon and others. This had been a beautiful day in the woods, and Mark, a man who comes alive among the mountain pines, was completely in his element.

We made our way back to Morelia through small mountain towns where riders commuting on horseback are a common sight. After collapsing into bed, the next day we topped off our excursion into Mexico’s interior with a brief stop at the colorful town of Pátzcuaro.

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Morelia Mexico’s Magnificent Cathedral & Aqueduct – Awe-inspiring!

Infiernillo Dam Michoacan Mexico sailing blog

The lakes and mountains reminded us of Arizona

Mid-February, 2013 – This was our third season of enjoying boating in Zihuatanejo, and we wanted to see something new in the area. Our friends Joe and Nancy, who have a condo in Ixtapa, kindly invited us join them on a whirlwind driving trip to the beautiful colonial city of Morelia, Mexico, about 4 hours inland.

We packed some bags, left Groovy quietly swinging on the anchor in Zihuatanejo Bay, and jumped into the back of their car for a fun four days of adventure.

Infiernillo Dam Michoacan Mexico sail blog

Six bright yellow and orange bridges cross the river.

The sights were stunning right from the get go. The drive began at sea level and then climbed up and over some mountains, scooted back down along the cactus-studded desert floor and then soared into the mountains and pines once again. Along the way we passed the Infiernillo Dam and its lake which spreads out between the brown mountain peaks like a rich blue carpet.

Rio Infiernillo Steel Bridge Michoacan Mexico cruising blog

A quick pic out the back window…

 

There are six wonderful steel bridges that criss-cross the river, each painted vivid yellow or orange. The bridges winked in the sun at us as we approached, and we played with trying to catch something of their essence with our cameras as we zipped under them at breakneck speed.

Hay stacks Michoacan Mexico sailing blog

Unusual looking small haystacks dot the countryside.

 

 

 

 

It was an odd feeling to be back in a car on the highway again after nearly four months of leisurely, barefoot ocean living. Our socks and shoes felt clunky on our feet and the world whipped past in a blur. Little haystacks and vast valleys filled with farms seemed to open their arms to welcome us, and the scenery looked achingly like our beloved home state of Arizona.

Mexican hero José María Morelos y Pavón on horseback.  Morelia was named after him.

Mexican hero José María Morelos y Pavón on horseback. Morelia was named after him.

Arriving in Morelia, we were now at 6,300′ (2,000 meters) elevation, and the air was crisp and dry. This historic city was built in 1541 (the same year that Michelangelo completed his fresco “The Last Judgment” on the wall of the Sistine Chapel). The city was originally named Vallodalid after a city in Spain. It was renamed Morelia in 1828 in honor of José Maria Morelos y Pavón who was a hero during Mexico’s push for independence from Spain. In 1991 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sanctuario de Guadelupe Morelia Mexico sailing blog

Sanctuario de Guadelupe is relatively plain on the outside…

Our first stop was at the Sanctuario de Guadelupe which looked like a plain old stone church on the outside but is a jewel box of colorful decorations and gold leaf inside. We walked through the mammoth front doors and stood in awe at the back end of the church. What a sparkling and glittering space!

Sanctuario de Guadelupe Morelia Mexico sail blog

But inside it is a masterpiece.

This church was under construction from 1708-16. (For reference, J.S. Bach was a young, budding composer on the other side of the Atlantic at that time). The intricate sculpted patterns all over the walls and ceiling of this church are a feast for the eyes.

Sanctuario de Guadelupe Morelia Mexico cruising blog

Stepping inside this church was like walking into a jewel box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanctuario de Guadelupe Morelia Mexico sailing blog

Looking up into the heavens…

We wandered around soaking up this wondrous place, marveling at the elaborate and brilliant designs that filled every inch of the interior walls and ceiling. We wanted to yell across to each other, “Wow, did you see THAT? Have you been over HERE yet??!!”

Sanctuario de Guadelupe Morelia Mexico cruising blog

For centuries the devout have worshipped at this altar, and during our visit quite a few knelt down to pray.

But this is a church, and devout worshippers came and went throughout our stay, sitting in pews and kneeling in front of the altar, crossing themselves and murmuring their prayers. We felt a little guilty intruding on their private moments, wondering if we should silently tip-toe out and respect their privacy.

Sanctuario de Guadelupe Morelia Mexico sail blog 260

Every inch of the interior is meticulously decorated.

Yet the beauty of the place enchanted us. Maintenance people wandered around sweeping and running wires for some event, and that made us feel a little more comfortable about clicking away with our cameras.

Morelia Mexico cobblestone street cruising blog

Outside the Sanctuario de Guadelupe is a charming tree-lined
and pedestrian-only cobblestone street.

Mexico quincenero sailing blog

A young girl poses for her quinceañera (15th birthday) photos.

Mexico quincenero sail blog

Beautiful gowns are part of this wonderful celebration.

Outside this amazing church there is a narrow tree-lined cobblestone walking street that passes by stout colonial walls of houses and buildings. The walls are a bit imposing, but have a decidedly grand air.

How perfect it was when we came across a young girl dressed up for her quinceañera (15th birthday). This is a very important celebration for girls in Mexico, kind of a coming out party, and a full ball gown and photo shoot and elaborate fiesta are all part of the fun.

Callejon del Romance Morelia Mexico cruising blog

We walk down Lover’s Lane
(Callejon del Romance)

We joined the professional photographers to get some pics of her too, and suddenly she nervously mouthed “Mama” at her mother as the paparazzi moment became a little too much. The party was going to be a few days later, and her parents were visibly proud of their lovely daughter.

columns Morelia Mexico sailing blog

Historic Morelia is all about elegance from a bygone era.

Romance is definitely in the air in this part of town, and at the end of this street there is a narrow “Lover’s Lane,” (“Callejon del Romance”). This is a spot for hand-in-hand strolling and even some smooching, and we did our best to keep up the tradition while we were there.

Water flowed from a pretty fountain further down this lane, and pink flowers spilled from bougainvilleas clinging to the walls.

Morelia Mexico hand sculpture sail blog

An artsy bistro with a musical bent looks intriguing…

A tiny bistro and bar at the far end of the lane beckoned us in, and we peeked in the doorway to see a grand piano adorned with a sculpture of a large hand holding a miniature violin. This place had an artsy air and seemed to be a charming place to stop for a bite in the evening.

Callejon del Romance Morelia Mexico sailing blog

A fountain decorates the far end of Lover’s Lane.

Morelia is loaded with captivating places like that. Sculptures, fountains, columns and flowers are the kinds of ingredients that make up this city, and it is a place to linger and enjoy the sights. We didn’t have time to stretch out our visit like that, but we’ll be back…

Tarascas fountain Morelia Mexico cruising blog

The Tarasca fountain

crazy cross-dressers sail blog

Any town with character is bound to have characters…

Of course, since this is a city with character, it has its fair share of characters. Mark spotted a cluster of hot gals strutting down the street and instantly made a beeline in their direction. But the joke was on him this time, as the gals turned out to be a group of cross-dressers. They simpered and posed for him with delight.

Morelia Mexico aqueduct living aboard blog

Morelia’s 18th century aqueduct brought water into the city

One of the engineering marvels that sets Morelia apart from other Mexican colonial cities is its 4+ mile long aqueduct. As Morelia rose in prominence, Spanish nobility were encouraged to settle there, and the city grew rapidly. The aqueduct was built in 1785-1788 (near the end of Mozart’s life, just prior to the French Revolution) to supply the growing city with fresh water.

Morelia Mexico aqueduct living aboard blog

The aqueduct is more than 4 miles long and has 253 arches.

Morelia Mexico aqueduct living aboard blog

The late afternoon sun lights up the aqueduct’s arches.

There are 253 arches, and we were delighted when they lit up for us in the afternoon sun.

We hopped back in the car and headed towards the historic city center, hoping to catch the sunset on the cathedral spires. Of course, Morelia is loaded with pretty churches, and on our way there we had to stop and peek at another one or two…

Morelia Mexico church steeple living aboard blog

Beautiful old churches everywhere.

Morelia Mexico church living aboard blog

The door-within-a-door entrance to once of Morelia’s pretty churches.

 

 

 

The cathedral dominates the city skyline, piercing the heavens with two towering spires. It took over a century to build, starting in 1640 with the style of architecture that was popular at that time and ending in 1744 with a “more modern” style of architecture popular 100 years later. For reference, while the cathedral was in its latter phases of construction, Vivaldi was born, lived 63 music-filled years, and died.

Morelia Mexico cathedral at night living aboard blog

The cathedral lights up the early evening sky.

 

The sunset didn’t develop for us, but a rising crescent moon floated in the night sky above the beautiful stone steeples. We wandered around the plaza in front of the cathedral, trying to figure out how to get the whole thing in one image. Not possible!

Morelia Mexico cathedral at night living aboard blog

At night the cathedral is the pretty centerpiece of
the main city plaza.

 

 

A very short Mexican university student named Geronimo suddenly approached us, speaking in an unusually accented English. It turned out he was an English language major with hopes to become a high school English teacher or to work in the tourist trade in Cancun. Part of his homework was to go out and practice his English with tourists.

Morelia Mexico cathedral spire at night living aboard blog

One of the cathedral’s spires.

Morelia Mexico cathedral entrance at night living aboard blog

A crescent moon rises behind the cathedral.

We were more than happy to oblige and were fascinated to find out that English was his third language. His mother tongue was Tzeltal, an indigenous language spoken by Mayans in Mexico’s state of Chiapas. He had learned Spanish in grade school. We had loved seeing the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque a year earlier, and we were charmed listening to his accent and talking about the wonders of his hometown.

He was equally intrigued to learn that Tzeltal is taught at the school where we took a week of immersion Spanish classes last spring, Instituto Jovel in San Cristóbal de las Casas. If teaching high school English or working in Cancun doesn’t pan out, he could always teach Tzeltal.

Morelia Mexico aqueduct arches at night living aboard blog

A night drive along the aqueduct is a memorable experience.

One of our favorite things about travel, besides spectacular sights like these in Morelia and learning a little of the history behind them, is meeting unusual people we wouldn’t be able to meet in our old neighborhood at home.

Geronimo disappeared into the night to find some more folks to speak English with, and we drove away in heavy commuter traffic along the impressive aqueduct. The arches stood in a row like soldiers, iconic and proud reminders that Morelia was an important city centuries ago when Mexico was “New Spain.” Even in the hustle and bustle of today’s crazy, traffic-filled modern world, this city brings home the depth of Mexico’s Spanish roots.

In addition to beautiful old architecture and history, Morelia is also known for its nearby mountains where millions of monarch butterflies migrate each winter.  The next day we drove higher up into the mountains to see these lovely creatures deep in the woods.

 

 

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Zihuatanejo – Nautical moments with Sail Fest and the pretty schooner Patricia Belle

Zihatanejo Bay fisherman canoe ketch living aboard Mexico

We woke up to a pretty scene in the bay.

Early February, 2013 – We woke up on our first morning in Zihuatanejo, after sailing up from Huatulco, to find the sun glinting off a neighboring ketch while a fisherman cast his net from a canoe next to us. It was a beautiful, serene sight.

Zihuatanejo catamaran Mexico cruising blog

Some catamarans double as launch boats!

Zihuatanejo is a busy bay once all the tourists wake up and get going. It is lined with beaches, villas, restaurants and resorts, but our little corner by boat-in-only Playa Las Gatas got only those visitors who came by in by watercraft. Lots of people rent catamarans to sail in the bay, and one catamaran owner was even using his as a launch boat to deliver people to the beach on the opposite shore. What a fun way to get across the bay!

Zihuatanejo fishermen canoe sailboat Mexico living aboard blog

Daniel visits us in his canoe.

One very enterprising fellow, Daniel, paddled his way around the bay in a canoe, visiting every cruising boat he could find to offer his services cleaning barnacles and seaweed off the bottoms of their boat and offering to wax the hulls too. He was disappointed to find that we had just cleaned Groovy’s bottom ourselves.

What a crazy cleaning that had been. We had done our usual routine with the paint scrapers and Scotch Brite pads, scraping off the thick grass skirt that Groovy had begun to wear. We had no idea that hidden in the fluffy green seaweed were hundreds of baby crabs, about the size of mosquitos, until we got out of the water and discovered we were both covered with them.

We jumped back in, screaming, and frantically swiped each other’s backs and arms and legs to get them off. But when I took my shower a few minutes later, I found a pile of them scampering around my feet. Yuck!! Crazier still, when we told Daniel about this, he topped our story completely: one had gotten into his ear and he was still waiting for it to crawl out.

Life on a boat in the tropics can be idyllic, but you live awfully close to nature!!

Zihuatanejo Playa Last Gatas Mexico sail blog

Hilda makes daily deliveries to supply the palapa bars on Playa Las Gatas

Another visitor to our boat was one we had looked forward to for a long time. Local vendors Hilda and Ismael sell water taxi tickets at a kiosk in town and they also supply the palapa bars on boat-in only Las Gatas beach with all their inventory. So they are perfectly set up to deliver anything and everything a cruiser could possibly want, right to the boat.

Zihuatanejo water taxi living aboard blog

It’s much easier to have heavy things delivered than to lug them around by dinghy and on foot!

We put in our order for cases of coke and beer (much easier than hauling all those heavy cans via taxi, a walk to the beach, and a long dinghy ride out to the boat, so we stocked up!). We also gave Hilda our dirty laundry and empty propane tank. The full propane tank and clean laundry were delivered to us the next day. What a great service!!

Zihuatanejo Playa Principal cruising Mexico blog

View of Zihuatanejo Bay

Arriving on shore at Zihuatanejo’s main beach, Playa Principal, we strolled the pretty, tree-lined, waterfront walking paths with a strong sense of nostalgia. This was our third season of visiting Z-town, and it was still as inviting, fun and funky as ever.

7 Zihuatanejo fish market Playa Principal Mexico sailing blog

The ZIhuatanejo fish market is a busy place on the main beach.

The walking path along the shore is lined with boutique shops on one side and a large open air fish market under palm trees on the beach on the other side. Fish at this market is about as fresh as it comes. The fishing pangas land right on the beach, and the catch immediately goes on sale on tarps in the sand.

Zihuatanejo fish market Playa Principal Mexico sail blog

Fishermen show off today’s catch: red snapper.

 

One day while strolling past the fish market we saw a very happy fisherman showing off the marlin he had caught. Now that’s a fish!!

09 Mexico cruising blog Zihuatanejo marlin fisherman fish market 405

What a catch!!

Zihuatanejo is a walking town, and the first few streets along the waterfront have been designated as pedestrian only. This makes for a very casual and comfortable feeling, as you don’t have to dodge the traffic and you can stop and chat with vendors and tourists at leisure, and check out all the shops along the way.

Mexico sailing blog Zihuatanejo girl in toy car

Zihuatanejo is a walking town for most, but this little princess drives around town in style!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, there are those among us who are little princesses, and they demand a sweet ride in a cool car regardless of which roads are pedestrian-only!!

Mexico living aboard blog Zihuatanejo mercado

Zihuatanejo’s colorful “mercado” sells everything under the sun.

Walking in from the waterfront about half a mile, there is a large “mercado,” or public market, where fresh veggies, fish and meat are sold alongside kitchenware, brooms, baskets and hats. It is a crazy jumble of little stalls housed inside a building that fills a whole city block. If one guy doesn’t have what you’re looking for, he’ll direct you to the next guy that might. In short order we had all the provisions we needed for the boat, including new Scotch Brite pads for the next boat bottom cleaning!

 

sail blog Zihuatanejo Mexico sunset

The sun melts into the sea off our bow.

Back on Groovy we were treated to a nightly dance of color off our bow. A huge ball of fire would sink into the waves, turning the sky brilliant orange. Even though our photos from one night to the next had a striking similarity, it was still a thrill to sit on the bow and watch the sun disappear.

living aboard blog Zihuatanejo sunset

One last wink, and then goodnight!

Every so often, when the earth’s atmosphere is just right, the sun bursts with a flare of green just before it vanishes. We’ve met sailors who have been around the world who swear there is no such thing as the “green flash,” but we have seen it several times. We never know when it will happen — most of the time the sun slips away without any fuss — but when the green flash comes, we are always elated.

cruising blog Zihuatanejo Mexico green flash

The “green flash” is real!!

One night, while sitting on the bow and lining up those same old sunset shots, we were both completely startled when it happened. “That was it!!” I cried. Amazingly, Mark managed to catch it on camera at almost the perfect moment. It’s a little like a blurry UFO shot, but it’s there — the green flash!

sailing blog Zihuatanejo Sail Fest Mexico

A boat dresses up for Sail Fest

Cruisers flock to Zihuatanejo in early February to take part in the Zihuatanejo Sail Fest, a five day fund raising event celebrating both sailing and Mexican culture that provides educational support for the children of the area. The most colorful aspects of this event on the water are the pursuit sailing race and the boat parade.

The boats filled their rigging with colorful flags (the nautical alphabet), and took off around the bay in a wonderful show.

The leader of the sailing event this year was our friend Pamela Bendall, the incredible single-hander from Canada who has sailed her 46′ steel boat, Precious Metal, as far as Peru.

living aboard blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Committee boat “Precious Metal” is surrounded by racing catamarans.

Her boat was the “committee boat” for the pursuit race, and when she was suddenly encircled with racing catamarans, her boat looked like a mother swan surrounded by little rainbow colored goslings.

 sailing blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Three different types of double-masted sailboats:
a schooner, a ketch and a wish-bone rigged catamaran

 

 

Another priceless moment came when three double masted boats all sailed together for a few seconds. There was a schooner (Patricia Belle), a ketch (Liebling) and a unique double masted catamaran that is wish-bone rigged like a wind surfer and that miraculously folds up (Cat-2-Fold).

sail blog Patricia Belle Zihuatanejo Sail Fest Mexico

Schooner Patricia Belle in full glory on the horizon.

Pamela proudly reported that Sail Fest raised $67,000 (USD) for the children of Zihuatanejo this year.

It is rare to see large boats out sailing in this bay, as most cruisers arrive or depart under engine power with their sails furled.

But on this special day the boats had all their sails up, making for some inspiring nautical images. The schooner, in particular, was very cool to watch, sailing with four sails raised.

cruising blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

We had a blast photographing all these beautiful boats.

 living aboard blog Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

The racers return to the bay.

sailing blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Schooner Patricia Belle and ketch Northern Passage ride the breezes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped by the schooner to learn more about it, and discovered she has a wonderful and unusual story. Patricia Belle is 65′ long (82′ on deck, including the very long bowsprit), and owners Pat and Jeann have lived and cruised aboard her for fifteen years.

Pat was a sea captain and shipwright for his entire adult life and had built seven boats, some as big as 30′, before designing and building this one.

sail blog Patricia Belle schooner Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

We were lucky to get a tour of Patricia Belle.

Patricia Belle was a special project, designed and built by Pat to match the lines of an old steel fishing vessel he admired. When he says he built this boat, he truly means that his hands did all the labor.

cruising blog Mexico schooner rigging Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Beautiful traditional rigging.

And what a labor of love she is. There is surely a tale behind every joint and piece of rigging, and we were lucky enough to hear a few.

There was a crowd on board when we stopped by, so adding two more was not a problem.

cruising blog Mexico schooner bow sprit Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

The bowsprit

living aboard blog Captain Patricia Belle Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Captain Pat shows us the steering mechanism that he took from an old dump truck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We leaped up on deck and were enchanted by what we saw: tall rigging with rope ladders to get up the mast, and a solid bowsprit bearing two furled jibs.

Built of wood between 1994 and 1997, Patricia Belle was launched in California in 1998 and promptly sailed to Nicaragua.

She weighs 100,000 lbs., which turns out to be the same weight as the old Ford dump truck whose steering mechanism Pat borrowed to install in his beloved schooner.

cruising blog schooner belowdecks Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Below decks has a wonderful old pirate ship feeling!

 

The keel is 21′ long, and it is 9′ deep for the entire length, making the boat track like it’s on rails. The rudder is also very over-sized, which makes her able to turn quite easily.

Down below, the crew’s bunks are stacked two high in one stateroom, and the crew get in and out by a wooden ladder. Some of Pat’s and Jeann’s friends had been cruising with them on Patricia Belle for a month or more, and some still had another month or so of cruising to go. What a fun way to spend the winter!

Pat and Jeann used to host guests for charters aboard Patricia Belle, but now they are enjoying pure retirement. All their cruising these days is just for their own pleasure.

sailing blog schooner Patricia Belle Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Pat and Jeann used to offer charters aboard Patricia Belle, but now they enjoy simply cruising with friends.

One morning when we woke up they were gone — south to Acapulco. But they will be returning north towards Puerto Vallarta later in the season. Hopefully we will see the pretty lines of this beautiful schooner out on the ocean once again.

We still had plenty of things on our agenda for our stay in Zihuatanejo, however.  We had friends to meet up with on shore and a boat project or two to take care of.

But most exciting of all was our upcoming trip inland to visit the beautiful colonial city of Morelia.

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Huatulco to Zihuatanejo – Nature and solitude on a peaceful coastal passage

Underway sailing from Huatulco to Zihuatanejo Sail blog

Once underway we got excited about the thrills that lay ahead.

Late January, 2013 – It was hard for us to leave Huatulco, but once we got underway we began thinking about the adventures that lay ahead of us. Suddenly we were excited to be on our way to the funky town of Zihuatanejo.

Life on a long passage has a different pace than life at anchor or on land, and it always takes us a while to settle in. We had a lovely sunny day to start our passage, but not quite enough wind to sail without having the engine running at the same time.  We hung out in the cockpit and watched the world inch by.

Whale tale puerto escondido cruising blog

Mark saw the breach… all I caught was the tail end.

We had 55 hours or so at sea ahead of us before we reached Zihuatanejo 350 miles away, so what was the rush to do anything? Then Mark suddenly jumped up, “Did you see THAT??!!” I followed where he was pointing and saw an enormous splash and spray of water about 100 yards from the boat.

A whale had breached and fallen back into the water. We scrambled for the cameras and got all set up for the next breach, but it never came. There were four whales traveling north, and they lobbed alongside us for a few minutes. Then, one by one, they dove deep into the water.

puerto escondido coastline sailing blog

Sailing closer to shore makes a more interesting voyage.

People often ask us how far out we travel, and usually we follow the coastline about two miles offshore. But on this passage we decided to stay within one mile so we could see the shoreline better. The little communities that dot this part of this coast slowly came and went, sometimes giving us internet access for a little while, and always offering us something to look at through the binoculars. Traveling at 6-8 mph, we would laugh now and then and say, “Are we there yet?”  We could jog faster!!

sunset at sea on groovy sailing blog

Sunset at sea…

The sun finally began to set and we watched it slip into the sea. We hadn’t seen any other boats all day, and we were still alone on the ocean. We had only each other to share this precious moment. There is something both primal and eerie about watching the sun fall out of the sky at sea. The brilliant colors of its last wave goodbye are comforting, but night steals over the sky all too fast.

We put on our harnesses, clipped ourselves onto the line that traverses the cockpit, and waited for darkness to fill our world. We hadn’t run our jacklines, those safety lines that go around the perimeter of the boat and make it possible to walk the full length of the deck on a moveable leash.  Huatulco had made us lazy! However, in 20 nights or so at sea we had never had to leave the cockpit of the boat, so the jacklines had been unnecessary to date. What were the chances we’d need to go out on deck to fix something on this very calm night?

underway night sailing passage cruising blog

We keep the cabin dimly lit at night to retain our night vision as much as possible.

We also spend most of our nights at sea down in the cabin, poking our heads into the cockpit every 15 minutes to look around, check the radar and check our progress. Groovy barrels along in the pitch dark under the guidance of the autopilot, and we just hope there’s nothing in our path.

 full on groovy sail blog

The full moon’s light plays on our ensign.

The moon rose like an old friend behind us and we played around trying to capture its essence with the cameras for a while.

The boat was gently riding up and down over the waves, so the combination of a moving platform and dim lighting conspired to make blurry photos. But I loved the effect Mark got with our flag and the moon.

The small waves in the early evening became large rollers by midnight, rushing towards us with lots of speed and enthusiasm. Groovy was doing a flying crash-dance, riding up a wave until half airborne and then falling into the trough behind it.

It was a magic carpet ride, especially on the innerspring mattress in the v-berth. The springs and the boat’s motion levitated me into the air on a spongy ride. Occasionally I bounced like I was on a trampoline. Lying there on my back, I was traveling feet first, and it seemed very much like being on a luge. The waves noisily slapped the hull on either side of me and the boat rolled and pitched while the mattress bounced and flexed. Sleep? Are you kidding?? Mark wisely took a spot on a settee in the middle of the boat (where the motion is less bouncy) when he was off-watch, and he got some really good shut-eye.

Dawn, after a night at sea, has a slightly raw feeling to it, and this morning was no different. A hot shower and some coffee and tea helped us shake the night away, and we puttered around looking for things to keep us occupied. The wind was still too light for sailing without the engine. Mark threw a hand-line off the transom to try and catch something. Suddenly it went taught with a fish jerking the other end.

skip jack tuna sailing blog

Is this one good eating??

He reeled in the silver beauty, hoping for a dorado (mahi-mahi), while I hoped it would be something inedible we could throw back. These things don’t come with signs on them saying, “I make a really great fillet – just toss me in the frying pan with butter and some veggies…” Instead, we studied the fish and studied the fish book. It appeared to be a Pacific Bonito, not the best tasting. So back he went, vanishing as soon as his fins hit the water.

Soon we had another fish on the line, and it was the same type of fish. Back it went, again to my relief, as butchering a large fish in the cockpit is quite bloody and rather barbaric. Yet the thrill of getting a fish on the hook is undeniable.  Ironically, studying the fish book and our photos a few hours later, we realized these fish were Mexican Bonito, which is said to be quite tasty. Oops!!

blue water of acapulco sailing blog

The ocean near Acapulco is the bluest we’ve seen in Mexico.

The water outside of Acapulco is about the bluest we’ve seen anywhere, and for miles we admired the beautiful shades that played between the waves.

acapulco shoreline sailing blog

Even outer Acapulco’s skyline has lots of highrises.

As we approached Acapulco in the late afternoon after 34 hours or so at sea, the shoreline began to fill in with high-rise buildings.

Many have an industrial sameness about them, but one was curved, making us wonder at first if something was up with the binocular lenses!!

We had been planning to do another night at sea, arriving in ZIhuatanejo the following afternoon. But we suddenly realized Acapulco would make a great stopover. Staying here we could reach Zihuatanejo in two day-sails rather than do another overnight at sea. Yay!

hillside resorts puerto marques sail blog

Pretty villas perch on the cliffs in Puerto Marques.

Rounding the bend into Puerto Marques, a pretty bay south of Acapulco’s main bay, the buildings became picturesque villas that clung to the edges of the cliffs on stilts and undoubtedly made for very swank living.

puerto marques sailing blog

Our private little corner in Puerto Marques on the outskirts of Acapulco’s main bay.

What a great little spot to spend a few days, get some quality sleep, and break up the trip! We dropped the hook to the sounds of parrots in the trees and watched the lights in the resort next to us come on one by one.

The next day vacationers circled us in small tour boats, and a luxury charter megayacht joined us in the anchorage. A little sailboat glinted in the sun and made orange reflections in the water as it went past.

 puerto marques sunfish sail blog

A little sailboat’s sail reflects orange in the water of Puerto Marques.

There is always something that needs a little TLC on a boat, and this time it was the engine’s packing gland, a sleeve that wraps around the drive shaft and seals out the salt water. It can be adjusted so just the right amount of salt water drips into the bilge, around one drip ten or fifteen seconds. Ours had been dribbling a little faster than that.

puerto marques sunfish sail blog

Riding a late afternoon breeze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

packing gland wrench cruising blog

Mark is ready to tackle the packing gland.

The small wrench in Mark’s right hand here is a specialty “packing gland wrench.” But the big wrench in his left hand is what he had to use the first time he cracked the frozen locking nut on our new-to-us boat after the specialty wrench broke. Now he uses both together (West Marine warrantied the broken one) and it spins freely. Where do we store an enormous wrench like that? Under the mattress, of course!!

sunrise over acapulco hills sail blog

The sun rises over Acapulco’s hills in our wake.

After a few days we got up one morning before dawn and sailed out of Puerto Marques.  Looking back over our transom, we watched the sun rise in rich shades of red and orange over the hills of Acapulco in our wake.

cruising passage making sailing blog

Gliding up the coast at 7 mph.

cruising passagemaking sailing blog

Passage-making is hard work (smile!).

Passagemaking is a pretty tranquil thing to do on hot sunny days. Between naps, Mark kept an eye on all the boat’s systems.

 

He monitored the new alternator’s performance and was happy to see it cranking out nearly 80 amps.  The new Smart Charger that had overheated on our last long tropical passage stayed nice and cool in its new home outside the engine compartment.

clamp-on volt meter alternator sail blog

The clamp-on volt meter shows the new alternator is working.

At the end of the day, we pulled into Papanoa, a little fishing village with a small breakwater to protect us from the ocean for the night. There isn’t much there other than seabirds, fishermen and a palapa bar that hosted happy local patrons until the wee hours of the morning.

Papanoa anchorage palapas cruising blog

The palapa bar at Papanoa, a small fishing harbor.

Papanoa anchorage pelicans sail blog

Papanoa anchorage weighing anchor cruising blog

Weighing anchor in Papanoa’s tiny harbor.

Papanoa anchorage lighthouse sailing blog

Morning light on Papanoa’s lighthouse and breakwater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We weighed anchor in beautiful and peaceful morning light, and we puttered out of the harbor shortly after the fishermen had gone out to sea for the day’s catch.

What a delight it was a little while later when a school of leaping manta rays started hurling themselves out of the flat calm water nearby.

These alien looking creatures seem to love leaping into the sky and doing somersaults.

Manta rays leaping Mexico sail blog

Leaping manta rays.

Manta rays leaping Mexico sailing blog

One going up and one going down.

manta rays leaping sailing blog

Sheer joy at being alive!

Perhaps scientists know of a survivalist reason they do this, but to us it looks like they are so happy to be alive they just want to jump for joy.  We should all feel that way!!

Before long the lighthouse that marks the entrance to Zihuatanejo came into view.
We rounded the bend and were greeted with the familiar and colorful sight of Zihuatanejo Bay.

zihuatanejo lighthouse sailing blog

A welcome sight – Zihuatanejo’s lighthouse.

zihuatanejo bay entrance cruising blog

Coming into the bay in Zihuatanejo.

The memories of our many past days in this anchorage came flooding over us, and we found a quiet spot in the corner off of Las Gatas Beach to set up housekeeping for a few weeks. It had been an enjoyable passage, full of natural wonders and solitude. Now it was time to meet up with some other cruisers and enjoy the sights of Z-town.

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Huatulco Farewell – Fabulous Memories of a great stay

Playa Entrega Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Playa Entrega is one of Huatulco’s best beaches.

Late January, 2013 – After all the fun we’d had with our new friends on the luxurious properties of Villa Escondida and Las Palmas, we wondered if we would ever have the heart to leave Huatulco, Mexico. This little seaside community had enchanted us for three months.

Huatulco Mexico Cruise Ship Dock sailing blog

View of the cruise ship dock from our boat.

Santa Cruz Bay Huatulco Mexico Cruise Ship Dock sail blog

Pier in the little Santa Cruz harbor.

Pelican Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

A pelican checks us out.

For two of those months we had been anchored in Santa Cruz Bay.

We had been there so long that the exposed part of our anchor had become encrusted with barnacles. I guess that’s the cruising equivalent of putting down roots!!

As we began thinking about leaving, we realized we would have to spend at least one night at sea. Although there are a few marginal places to stay overnight along this coast, none sounded all that inviting until Acapulco, which is 210 nautical miles away. Traveling at an average of 6-7 knots, that’s a minimum of 30 hours “on the road.” Zihuatanejo was 140 miles further.

Full Moon on ocean Sailing Mexico blog

Full moon at sea.

It is much easier to see at night on the ocean when there is a full (or nearly full) moon. Otherwise there is no horizon, and the ocean and the sky become indistinguishable. It’s very eerie.

Guitar singer Huatulco Mexico sail blog

This guitarist belted out “Alla en el rancho grande” to everyone’s delight.

Having a moon in the sky is also more comforting, as those inky black waves lapping the outside of the hull from the pitch dark bottomless depths can wreak havoc on your imagination.

So we had planned to leave when the moon was full, or as close to full as possible. That would be at the end of the month, which gave us plenty of time to prepare.

We slowly made the rounds to our favorite places to say “goodbye.” Over at Santa Cruz beach we enjoyed final beach-side beers served by two waiters we had befriended, Eugenio and Martín.

Waiter Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Eugenio brings joy to patrons.

Orange fronted Parrots Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The parrots smooched in the trees every night.

And after having watched the strolling guitarist-singers for months, we finally asked one to play us a song. We chose “Alla en el rancho grande,” after listening to an inspiring rendition of this song on a CD by our friend, cowboy poet Don Cadden.

The guitarist did a fabulous job and got a round of applause from everyone in the beach bar. I was so tickled to have captured it on video that I forgot to find out his name…

We walked the docks and got final pics of whatever we could think of — all those special things we’d seen day after day and wanted to take with us as images to reminisce with in the future.

One of our favorite hangouts had been in the middle of the charming town square in Santa Cruz where there was a little kiosk bistro calle Cafe Huatulco. It is a delightful place to while away an afternoon or evening, and during our time in Huatulco we had spent many an hour there.

Santa Cruz kiosk Cafe Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

The pretty town square in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz town square Huatulco Mexico sail blog

A great place to enjoy an ice cream coffee drink.

Santa Cruz town square Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

We loved the huge, exotic shade trees in the town square.

So back we went to find a shady spot under the truly exotic and enormous trees for one last frappé ice-cream-coffee drink. Yum!

One of the crazy things about writing a blog is that sometimes you realize after the fact that a past post is missing something important.

And so it was with our pictures from Villa Escondida. One of Mark’s favorites that he took while we were there was of a little statue decoration in the house that I’ve added here.

Fat lady statue Huatulco Mexico sail blog

She looks like we always felt after those yummy frappés.

This chubby lady must have just been to Cafe Huatulco and slurped down one of those tasty ice cream coffee frappés.

Coffee ice cream drinks Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Delicious!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fixing the boat alternator Mexico cruising blog

Installing the new alternator – fun fun fun!

When we first arrived in Huatulco, around Halloween, we discovered that our 35 hour dash across the Gulf of Tehuantepec had fried the “smart charger” on our alternator. This little gizmo controls how much current the engine alternator puts into the batteries.

We learned the hard way that these smart chargers are extremely heat sensitive. We had made the crossing motor-sailing at a slightly faster pace than our usual cruising speed, and the ambient temperature in the cabin had been well over 90 degrees F the whole time.

The cruising life aboard groovy Mexico sailing blog

This is more like it – real fun!

To top it off, the original installation of the smart charger was right next to the engine in an enclosed compartment. That is a recipe for disaster!

Marimba Santa Cruz Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Playing the marimba on the beach.

Since we had already had the alternator rebuilt once, we decided to buy a new alternator / smart charger kit.

Bringing things into Mexico is not easy, and we went down various avenues to try to figure out how to get our hands on one of these kits. After four weeks of hemming and hawing, West Marine had told us it would cost $953 to ship the 20 lb. kit to Marina Chahué in Huatulco.

Cruise ship Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Huatulco’s roots are fishing but it’s now a beautiful tourist destination.

That fee didn’t include the purchase price of the kit, the California sales tax, or the Mexican import duty! Geez. For that price, rather than shipping the part, one of us could fly to San Diego, pick one up, and bring it back!! So much for working with West Marine.

Kiskadee Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

This little kiskadee has a great big voice!

We explored other methods, but each had its issues and complications. Then our hero and friend Ron from Las Palmas offered to bring one down when he flew back to Huatulco after a trip home. Wow. What a godsend!! We couldn’t believe our good luck.

Tropical bird Huatulco Mexico sail blog

What is it?

Pelicans Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Pelicans flying overhead remind us there are many more distant horizons to explore.

 

Fortunately, Huatulco was an awesome place to hang around while we were sorting all these things out. However, after months of glorious fun visiting orchards, playing on the beach, making new friends and prancing around five star resorts like royalty, Mark finally got down to business and installed the new alternator and smart charger (he gave that little beastie a cool room of its own outside the engine compartment).  So, very sadly, it appeared it was at last time for us to move on.

Gulls on bouy Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Gulls line up on a buoy facing the sun.

San Agostin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Gorgeous San Agostín beach… discovered on our last day (sigh!)

We checked the calendar again and suddenly realized the full moon was coming much sooner than we’d expected. Oh no! Suddenly the gradual goodbyes and leave-taking I had imagined got compressed into a few very busy days.

Reef Fish Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Fish on the reef at San Agostín beach.

 

 

 

 

On our last day in Huatulco, we took some friends on a daysail out to the northernmost bay, San Agostín, where we discovered yet another snorkeling paradise on a sensational reef. What an amazing place these Bays of Huatulco are. We could easily stay for another month! But we had to go… Or did we??

Reef Fish Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Baby wrasses

Our friends caught a cab back to Santa Cruz while we prepared the boat for a double overnight 350 mile passage to Zihuatanejo, our emotions in turmoil.

“Well, now we’ve got to break down the dinghy and tie it on deck,” Mark said as the sun was setting. I made a face. He made a face back. Did we really have to go? There would be another full moon in a month. Why not stay four more weeks? We both sighed.

“All right, all right…” he suddenly said. “Let’s stick around another month.”

Sunset sailing Huatulco Mexico sail blog 450

Sunset on Groovy… goodbye Huatulco!!

We both grinned, happy to abandon the dinghy breakdown project. We toasted our sudden and brilliant decision to stay in Huatulco instead, and went to bed planning to sail back to Santa Cruz Bay the next day. However, overnight we both changed our minds yet again. We could easily have stayed in Huatulco forever, but more adventures surely awaited us up ahead.

Next morning we broke down the dinghy and packed up the boat and began our 350 mile sail to Zihuatanejo. But, as so often happens in this crazy traveling lifestyle, we didn’t stick to our plans for very long.  While underway we changed our itinerary one more time…

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Huatulco – Las Palmas Villas on picturesque Playa Violin – Gorgeous!

Late January, 2013 – After seeing the beautiful beach house, Villa Escondida at Playa La Bocana, we had the good fortune to spend more time at the dazzling resort of Las Palmas. The Gulf of Tehuantepec had gotten into a particularly unpleasant mood lately, and life aboard Groovy at anchor in Santa Cruz Bay had become a struggle to hang on for dear life as we lurched about in the rolling waves.  Bruises showed up on our arms and legs in the craziest places, coffee cups went flying periodically, and dishes in the microwave did drunken dances as the carousel spun them around.  Groovy was taking us for wild rides – at anchor!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas – Just Stunning!!!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

A romantic spot by one of the pools.

Our new friends at Las Palmas graciously invited us up for a little more time off the boat. What a magnificent place to regain our balance and get our shore legs back!  It was truly divine to kick back in a lounge chair poolside.  Of course those shore legs took a while to return.  Going into small spaces like a showers and bathrooms, everything seemed to spin like a whirligig.  Staggering around the resort, we grabbed doorways and walls so we wouldn’t fall over!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The outdoor breakfast nook…

But the world stopped spinning after a little while, and what utterly awesome beauty surrounded us at Las Palmas.  It is a place that is made up of one spectacular view after another. Mark and I nearly wore out our cameras, because we could barely take a step anywhere without seeing yet another image that knocked our socks off.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

President of Paradise

The owner, Ron, signs his emails, “The President of Paradise,” and it’s the perfect title. High up on a hill, surrounded by lovingly nurtured palm trees and tropical flowers, with majestic views all around, it really is paradise.

A “color sketch” image I created on my camera from a photo of one of the casita doorways had an almost Mediterranean look.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Nikon’s “color sketch” gives it a Mediterranean look.

But the climate here isn’t Mediterranean. It’s hot hot hot, and frequent dips in the pool are a must (oh, darn!).

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunset lights up some flowers on a roof deck.

As sunset fell one evening, Ron led us up onto one of the many rooftop terraces.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog pool 405

The climate keeps you jumping in the pool… what a shame!

We stood there with a group of other guests and watched the most dramatic sunset unfold before us.

Down in the bay aboard Groovy we had been missing the sunsets because a row of tall hills blocked much of the western horizon. Up here, however, nothing was blocking anything, and we stood in a row in our bare feet and wet bathing suits, gawking at nature’s incredible colors.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

This sunset was a jaw-dropper for everyone standing with us on the roof deck…

10 Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog mexican 210

Life at Las Palmas is pretty relaxed. Almost every room of every house opens onto a balcony or terrace or large deck, and you wander deliciously from indoors to outdoors, from living room to swimming pool, from kitchen to pool bar without taking more than a few steps.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Looking back towards Santa Cruz Bay where Groovy waited patiently

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

A rowboat on windswept Barra de la Cruz.

The views sweep both eastward towards town and westward towards Huatulco’s outer bays, depending on where you stand. And every part of the resort is easily accessed by short paths and a few stairs here and there, making you feel like the whole property is your own personal estate.

Barra Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Peace.

One afternoon Ron took us on a road trip out to Barra de la Cruz, a long, windswept beach that is a local favorite for surfing. We had thought the surf would be up, because a Tehuantepecker was still blowing ferociously, but the waves were actually small and confused that day.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Cactus are friends with the ocean all along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

However, the beach was lovely to stroll on, and we had fun posing and playing with a few props we found along the way.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Playa Violin – clear and inviting.

Back at Las Palmas, we took a morning walk one day down to Playa Violin, the beach that fills the majority of the views from the resort’s hilltop spot.  The path in the woods peaks out at the beach here and there.

 

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Craggy rocks line the shores of Playa Violin.

The surprising thing about all of Mexico’s Pacific coast is that cactus grows everywhere. Cactus and the ocean don’t seem like they’d be close companions, but very often they are.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A corner of the beach at Playa VIolin.

The water was particularly blue and clear that morning, so we rushed down to the beach with snorkeling gear to see who we could meet up with in the ocean.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Fish swim just below the surface.

 

 

Playa Violin is small beach tucked into the end of a narrow cove that is hugged on each side by steep cliffs. It would be an ideal anchorage, except these rock walls extend out into the water, crowding out the little bit of sand that is in the middle of the bay, and robbing boats of any possible swing room at anchor.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The fish were abundant.

 

The rocks form wonderful canyons underwater, however, and the fish are plentiful. We didn’t see any exotic big guys like rays or turtles, but the huge schools of small fish were abundant.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Some wildflowers lured Mark off the path.

Nearby we found some beautiful flowers in bloom. Of course, Mark loves taking wildflower photos, so he was delighted to discover a few exotic ones he didn’t recognize and then he saw the familiar Regina which we first learned about at the beautiful orchards of Hagia Sofia.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sailing blog Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog regina

When we first arrived in Huatulco the day after Halloween, we thought we might stay a few weeks. But this is a place that grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. We had heard a saying from some of our local friends that if you eat iguana in Huatulco you will never leave. Well, we hadn’t tried iguana yet, but it didn’t seem to matter. Leaving was something we just didn’t want to do!!

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

 

Huatulco’s Villa Escondida – A beach bonfire with new friends

Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing blog

Surf at Playa La Bocana

Late January, 2013 – Huatulco is a small community where people not only run around in crazy vehicles designed for short hops on small roads, but where visitors and residents easily become friends. Every time we landed at the dinghy dock, the guard Antonio would call out, “Groovy, Groovy!” and a chorus of friendly greetings from the tour boat operators and other people around the docks would follow as we emerged onto the streets.

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Playa La Bocana is a favorite surf beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Hang on!!

We ended up chatting with the many street vendors day after day, practicing our Spanish and learning a little about them. And whenever we went to “The Ché” (Huatulco’s sole supermarket), we invariably bumped into someone we had recently come to know.

It seems that everyone who visits Huatulco quickly agrees it is an unsung paradise worthy of frequent return visits. The winter residents are a tight knit group too, and suddenly we had a new circle of friends from the US and Canada who had vacation homes here.

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Oops!

 

 

 

We’ve found that most Huatulco tourists have vacationed for years in other more well-known parts of Mexico before discovering this quiet jewel. We spent many happy hours chatting with very well traveled folks from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico City and Europe.

Villa Escondida La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Entering Villa Escondida

 

 

I hadn’t realized it at first, but my various blog posts about our wonderful experiences in Huatulco had developed a little bit of a local following. Online sharing travels quickly, and without intending to, my pics and stories had garnered interest from many of the good people that have invested in Huatulco and want to see good vibes about it advertised in an understated, “word of mouth” way. Writing strictly from the heart — as I always have — about our many fun escapades here, I discovered I was inadvertently helping their cause.

Villa Escondida Playa La Bocana Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

There are huge views to the beach from every room.

 

Out of the blue, we received an email message from the people at MyHuatulcoVacation.com (which we later discovered is a local vacation property rental company). The email invited us to meet up with their team at one of the properties they represent to share a dinner and a beach bonfire together at Playa La Bocana.

Now, mind you, we’ve received our fair share of emails from lottery winning Nigerian chieftains that are dying to give us a portion of their winnings if we’ll just mail them a certified check for ten grand.

Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

Views from Villa Escondida hang like paintings on the wall.

But this was different. For one thing, the email message didn’t have any spelling mistakes or that wacky English grammar typical of those Nigerian internet pranksters. Better yet, all we had to do was show up at Villa Escondida on Playa La Bocana.

We love La Bocana’s stunning, windswept, rugged surf beach, where nature plays with a raw kind of wildness and abandon. So what a thrill it was to to be entertained at a gorgeous beach house we had admired from a distance on our previous visits.

Villa Escondida Huatulco La Bocana sailing Mexico bl

View from up top.

Stately and grand, with pillars, pools and views, this beautiful house sits right on the beach where the surf pounds with a mesmerizing roar, almost within arm’s reach. Mark and I rushed straight up to the roof deck to check out the views.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Awesome views from the roof deck.

Loads of surfers were riding the waves, as the Gulf of Tehuantepec had been blowing with enthusiasm for a while. As we watched the surfers, our cameras clicked in unison. We soon realized the hot bikini clad girls had it all over the boys when it came to skill and survival in the waves, and we laughed as we said to each other, “It’s her! She’s up! Get it, get it!!.” The surfers flirted tirelessly with the unruly waves.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Villa Escondida sits right on the beach.

Our hosts turned out to be a collection of fun-loving people that had arranged for a gourmet dinner to be served on fine linens and beautiful tableware overlooking the beach from the home’s breezy dining room. The occasion was a farewell feast for their Canadian contingent that had visited for ten days and was headed home the next day. With quiet grace, our chef announced and brought out course after course to the table, while the sun disappeared into the blackening sea just beyond the open windows.

View from Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Dinner in this dining room was exceptional

Exchanging wide-eyed glances, Mark and I kept secretly thinking about those microwaved bean burritos we would have otherwise  been having on the boat. Going from a sumptuous squash soup to an elaborately prepared quesadilla dish to a phenomenal main course that disappeared so quickly and went down so well I that have no idea what it was — except that it was awesome — all made us wonder if anyone at the table really knew just how down-and-dirty a cruiser’s lifestyle is…blogs be darned.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Villa Escondida

Vacationing in Huatulco can be glamorous: staying in a luxury property, dining on the finest foods, and taking a brief barefoot evening stroll in the sand while wearing an elegant dress and carrying a glass of expensive wine. Our companions for this evening were truly devoted to making those kinds of heavenly, tropical, dream vacations come true, and we were savoring a taste of what that is like.

Window View Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Pretty views…

But there is little of that kind of glamor living on a boat!! For us, most days bring the same old food from the same old chefs wearing rather tired clothes!! What a shock it was to be invited to stay in the honeymoon suite at this house, where the doors open onto a deck above the beach, the shower is as large as our stateroom, and plush, lily white robes awaited us after we bathed.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Beachside pool

Down on the beach, the bonfire went late into the night. Despite coming to Huatulco with two different perspectives — ours as two tourists on a boat loving the place and theirs as a group of business people seeking to give tourists the most pleasurable vacation experiences possible — we found we had a lot in common. For starters, like most people who have lived and traveled extensively in Mexico, we had all come to love Mexicans and being in Mexico.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Elegant and grand…

Our conversation ranged far and wide about how we’ve learned a new set of values by spending time here. The local people we have met value their family, friends and community in a way that many of us from more developed western nations have forgotten. The prize at the end of the rat race isn’t as eagerly sought after here, which gives everyone more time and energy to enjoy simply being themselves, rather than working so hard to be something else.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

As ex-pats living much of our lives in Mexico (and, for our hosts Judy and Valerie, running a business here), we have also each taken a big leap of faith to try a new lifestyle in a foreign country. Following your heart and pursuing your dreams is fulfilling in a way that nothing else can be.

Beach chairs Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A great place for relaxing…

Yet it requires a degree of fearlessness to take that plunge. And then there’s the big dose of life lessons waiting for you when you splash back to the surface and sputter with mixed terror and glee: “What the heck did I just do?” We had all experienced both the immense satisfaction of living our dreams as well as that occasional deer-in-the-headlights shock of trying to square the dream with reality.

Beach bonfire Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Our beach bonfire went long into the night.

 

 

 

The sun rose in spectacular shades of orange the next morning, lighting up the beach in a burst of color. Mark and I took reams of photos while the fishing boats and seabirds puttered across the blue and orange waves.

Sunrise Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunrise view from the deck of Villa Escondida

Judy and Valerie, the key MyHuatulcoVacation.com team members, had to run off early to tour yet another luxury vacation property (what a job they’ve created for themselves!), while Mark and I lingered at Playa La Bocana, soaking in the morning air as the beach slowly came to life.

It had been a night and morning to remember, and the beauty of the place and our lively late night conversation with new friends enveloped us in a warm feeling of contentment. In all our travels, truly our best adventures have been the ones that came looking for us.  How very cool and surprising it was to have this one seek us out online.

The Tropical Resort Vacation Gods kept watch over us a while longer, and suddenly we found ourselves back at Las Palmas Villas resort (which turned out to be another one of the gorgeous luxury vacation properties that MyHuatulcoVacation.com represents).  What incredibly good fortune… We were on quite a roll!!!

 

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Huatulco on Wheels – The fun and funny vehicles of Huatulco Mexico!

motorcycles in huatulco sail mexico blog

A group of motorcycles rides through town and ends up on the beach.

Mid-January, 2013 – Huatulco’s underwater world is truly glorious, with exotic aquatic creatures wriggling, swimming and soaring about.  But the above water world is full of land animals with equally unusual modes of transportation.  Ever since we arrived in Huatulco two months ago, we’ve been keeping tabs on all the crazy rolling contraptions we see around town.

The climate in Huatulco is sultry and hot (a winter “cold snap” dropped the mid-day highs down to 85 F for a few January days, but it didn’t last long!).  So most folks like to buzz around town in something breezy.

motor scooter family in huatulco sail mexico

A family zips through town

A group of motorcyclists showed up at the beach Playa Entrega one day in black leathers, bandanas and tattoos.  While we sat at the table next to them in the sand, we were impressed by the steady stream of ice-filled Corona buckets that arrived at their table all afternoon.  Other than speaking Spanish, this happy crowd was just like their Harley brothers up north!

motor scooters in huatulco cruising mexico blog

Two-up on a scooter with surf boards!

But big bikes are actually in a minority in Huatulco, as scooters and small motorized bikes are easier to maneuver on the narrow roads.  People often ride them two-up, and we saw one pair toting surf boards too.  Sometimes these scooters function as the family car, and it’s not uncommon to see Mom, Dad and a kid or two zooming past together.

bike with passenger seat huatulco sailing mexico blog

This bike has a custom wooden passenger seat

 

There are those who prefer traveling at slower speeds while getting some exercise, and they pedal around town on all types of bicycles.  One of the coolest bikes we saw had a special wooden passenger seat mounted on the top tube.  Very clever!

snack vendor on a trike huatulco cruising mexico blog

Snack vendors pedal (and peddle) all over town

 

 

 

 

Lots of snack vendors like to peddle their wares by pedaling a trike with all the goodies laid out in front of the driver.  You can either flag them down as they ride by, or catch up with them later when they set up shop under the shade of a tree.

pizza pollo delivery motorcycle huatulco sail mexico blog

Chicken dinners and pizza get delivered by scooter

 

 

Even “pollo asado” (grilled chicken) and pizza delivery are done on two wheels in these parts.  The pizzas or chicken dinners are loaded into a big box on the back of the scooter and then buzzed out for delivery to homes and hotels.

tuk-tuk huatulco sail mexico blog

Tuk-tuks are handy for any small hauling job

Drinking water is often delivered in big trucks, but there are a few guys around town who use little converted tricycle tuk-tuks instead.  This is just too cute!!

water delivery tuk-tuk huatulco sail mexico blog

A little tuk-tuk makes bottled water deliveries

 

 

 

 

A tuk-tuk can also make a good miniature pickup. Whatever’s getting hauled, if it’s not too huge, a tuk-tuk truck bed is low-slung and makes it easy to load things in and out.

tuk-tuk and snack vendors huatulco sailing mexico blog

A tuk-tuk parked in front of two snack vendors with their trikes.

coconuts in back of truck huatulco sail mexico blog

Coconuts for sale!

Some folks simply operate their food service business right out of the back of a regular pickup truck.  Coconut meat and coconut milk drinks are very popular, and turning a truckload of coconuts into a pocketful of cash is just a matter of sitting there among the fruit, machete in hand, and slicing away as customers stop by.

watermelons in pickup huatulco sailing mexico blog

A truckload of watermelons comes to the fruit store

 

 

 

 

 

One day while we were standing in front of the row of “fruterías” (fruit stores) in town, a pickup full of watermelons parked in front of us and was soon unloaded onto the store shelves.  Talk about fresh fruit!

motorcycle cart huatulco sail mexico blog

Some motorcycles get set up for hauling too

If you’ve gotta haul stuff around town and don’t have a truck, another great option is to convert a motorcycle into a truck of sorts by removing the back wheel and replacing it with a two-wheeled cart.  Lots of motorcycles here lose their back ends to practical upgrades like this.

volkswagon motorscooter huatulco sailing mexico blog

A VW bug is transformed…

 

 

Sometimes the motorcycles get to keep their back end in the conversion but lose their front end instead.

 

volkswagon motorscooter huatulco sailing mexico blog

…into a VW / motorcycle combo gig

We passed one fellow who had lopped off the back of a VW bug and replaced it with the back of a motorcycle.  Since the VW had originally had its engine in the back, he’d apparently worked out the drive-train issues and was able to drive this gig around.

Volkswagons are hugely popular, and they get chopped and cropped and rebuilt in all kinds of wonderful ways.

 

16 red volkswagon dune buggy huatulco sail mexico blog 500

A snappy red VW grows up to live a truly outdoor life

We saw a red one that had been reworked to be something of a dune buggy, or golf cart, or very cute convertible.

black volkswagon dune buggy huatulco sail mexico blog

A cool VW bug conversion (without opening doors!)

A black one got a similar remake.  When it emerged from its overhaul, it no longer had opening doors.  We got a kick out of seeing the driver leap over the side into his seat before driving off.

 

 

One of the most popular rental vehicles for tourists is little convertible buggies. Every so often one will drive by. And why drive it alone if you can fit four?!

red dune buggy Huatulco sail blog

Buggies of all kinds zoom around town.

But we did a triple-take one day when we looked up the road and saw a whole group of these buggies barreling down a curvy road towards us.  What fun!

unicycle huatulco sail mexico blog

Going it alone…!!

dune buggies huatulco sail mexico blog

A group of dune buggies races toewards us

pontiac roadster huatulco sailing mexico blog

Another class of ride…

A few lucky people in town have high end roadsters.  It sure would be nice to travel in style like that, though you’d want to be sure your bathing suit was dry and you’d brushed the beach sand off your feet before climbing in!!

 

In the end, if you need to get around Huatulco, having any kind of wheels is better than having no wheels at all.

And if you don’t have four wheels, and you can’t get your hands on two, just one will do!

We were getting such a kick out of cruising around the streets of Huatulco, that it came as quite a surprise when we received an invitation that swept us off the streets and back into the land of luxury for a night!!

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

 

Huatulco Underwater – Snorkeling with colorful creatures

snowy egrets huatulco sailing blog

Snowy egrets in Tangolunda Bay

Early January, 2013 – The holiday throngs in Huatulco’s towns and beaches disappeared abruptly on the Monday after New Year’s, and instantly the intimate and dreamy charm of the Bays of Huatulco returned.  We were back to our very quiet and peaceful days of milling around the bay under the tropical sun.

Enjoying snorkeling off Camino Real Zaashila in Huatuclo sail blog

This waterproof camera is cool!

Below the surface of the water, however, newcomers were showing up all the time — or at least they were newcomers to us.

 

 

We had been doing lots of snorkeling throughout our stay in Huatulco, and we’d checked out the underwater landscapes in several bays.  Our new waterproof Olympus Digital Camera TG-820 was a real joy, and we loved playing with it in the water.

Groovy's hull attracts fish in Huatulco sailing blog

Groovy’s hull supports a complete ecosystem.

 

 

Groovy always has a complete ecosystem living on the undersides of the hull, rudder and keel, including stuff that looks like lettuce, gelatinous creatures that look like a thin film of clear jello, tiny crabs and adorable minuscule striped fish.  Below them a crowd of larger fish circles eternally, and we hear strange crunching noises all night long.  Even when we go out sailing, our little fan club of fish regathers under the hull when we return, grateful for our shade and our smorgasbord of goodies growing on the bottom.

Snorkeling at Playa Entrega Huatulco cruising blog

Playa La Entrega is a snorkeler’s wonderland

Besides watching our own resident fish, the best place we’ve found for snorkeling in all of the Bays of Huatulco is Playa la Entrega.  This fabulous beach is in the main bay of Santa Cruz and seems an unlikely place for such phenomenal snorkeling, given how close it is to the village and harbor.

Trumpet fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A trumpet fish swims by.

Its huge coral reef is roped off to boat traffic and is filled with canyons and caverns and very tame fish.  Crowds of eager snorkelers arrive by tour boat everyday and more crowds come on foot, by taxi or by car from town.

Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

This puffer fish is deflated…

So these fish are quite accustomed to flailing fins and bright orange life jackets and kids paddling their arms frantically at the surface.  They just move out of the way and keep doing what they do.

Inflated Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A fully inflated puffer fish!

Polka dotted puffer fish are very common, but they are usually deflated to just their normal size.  What a surprise it was when another snorkeler held out an inflated puffer fish for everyone around to see.  It was like a little football in her hands.

Blue fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

These blue guys are everywhere.

We got a huge kick out of trying to learn to photograph fish underwater.  Problem is, they dart around so fast.  We have gazillions of photos of swishing fish tails disappearing into the distance.

King angel fish Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

A king angel fish. Slightly blurry,
but oh, those colors!!

 

 

 

 

 

But occasionally we’d get lucky.  The king angel fish are gloriously colored, with a dark body that is trimmed in an iridescent outline of blue that you can see only when the sun hits it just right.

Irridescent fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

These guys flash in the sunlight

Other fish are trimmed with glitter all over too.  Brilliant, flashing bits of blue, like blue sequins, seem to be a very popular fashion in this underwater world.

Blue & yellow fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

Irridescent blue is a favorite trim color for these reef fish

 

 

Many of the reef fish are just the size of a fingernail, and they move like lightning!

Irridescent fish with coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This one sports a blue sequin outfit.

 

Other very large creatures play in the depths in Huatulco too.  Every so often, while snorkeling along, we’d look up and see the fins and tanks of other people in the water — or we’d suddenly see each other after going in different directions.  But being with other people in this amazing pool of aquatic life never marred the experience.

Person snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A different kind of fish!

Sometimes it was more fun to have other people around to share a little in the excitement.  We definitely felt like Jacques Cousteau’s explorers from his boat Calypso!

Gang of fish Jicaral huatulco sailing blog

A gang cruises past.

One of the amazing things to me was that many fish seem to prefer to stick together in tight groups.  I’d be swimming along, and suddenly a fleet of identical fish would sail by — quietly making their presence known in the ‘hood — kind of like a street gang.

Fish gang playa violin huatulco sailing blog

They’re going somewhere in a hurry!

Sometimes I’d be staring at a few solitary fish swimming around a coral head, watching them pecking at whatever yummy morsels they could find, and then there they’d be: The Gang. They’d saunter by like they owned the place.

Schools of fish playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

Playa La Entrega is teeming with fish.

I noticed the gangs would never intermingle.  Each gang would go its own way around each other, and the individual fish never got confused or got caught up with the wrong group.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Spotting a spotted eagle ray totally made my day.

One day while snorkeling near the boat, a school of fish came zooming by us like their tails were on fire.  What the heck?!  Something was after them!  Not too many minutes later we saw an enormous spotted eagle ray soaring along the bottom.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This guy was unhurried and elegant

This unusual creature was like a bird flying low along the bottom of the sea, sweeping its wings in a gentle but powerful motion.  Then I saw a second one.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Soaring over the bottom

They flew along together for a while and then parted again.  I was so grateful to have the waterproof camera with me!

Star fish (sea star) Santa Cruz Bay huatulco cruising blog

A lone star fish hung out near our boat

 

So it was particularly frustrating a few days later when I jumped in the water and discovered the camera had locked up.  None of the buttons would work.  Mark couldn’t come snorkeling because he had cut his knee badly when he was re-routing some wires in the boat earlier and had inadvertently taken a step back and fallen into an open bilge compartment, skinning his knee terribly in the process.  Ouch.  I wince now ever thinking about it.

Fish lips Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Fish lips – wanna kiss?!

So he took the camera to see what he could do with it.  “This will be the day you see something really awesome!”  He chuckled at me as I swam off.  I was really bummed not to have him with me and not to have the camera, but the wonderful steep rocks at the end of the point beckoned me, and I hoped I’d have a story or two to share with him later.  There was lots of wave action out at that point that and tons of tour boats were circling as well.  I was excited but a little unnerved as I snorkeled beyond familiar territory.

Sea Turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Sea turtles came into our bay – what joy!

Then, rounding the last corner, I suddenly found myself nose to nose with a sea turtle.  Holy cow!  I spluttered and backed up as fast as I could.  And so did he!  He turned and started to swim out to sea. I couldn’t resist following him a ways.  The spray from the breakers made the water foamy white all around me, but every so often I could see his head peaking out of the spray as he swam off.

Sea turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog 405

What a cool underwater sighting.

Unfortunately he wanted to go into the middle of the bay, so I turned back, only to see another turtle, right at my side!  Holy mackerel!  I followed him for a while, thinking, “Isn’t this just the way.  Alone, no camera, and two turtle sightings!  Wait til I tell Mark!”  The turtle swam at leisure, turning his head to look up at me every so often.  Then he dove down — to join another turtle that was below him nibbling on the anchor chain of our friend’s boat!  This was too much!!

Baby Jack fish Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Imagine these guys swimming with the turtle and getting a snack from his back!

 

 

I watched them swim with each other for a while and then made a beeline back to our boat, only to bump into a fourth turtle which turned out to be my best turtle sighting yet.  This one soared over the coral studded bottom in very shallow water as the sun’s rays played all around him.  I could make out the beautiful pattern on his shell and could have easily reached out and touched him.  On his back a school of bright yellow fish with tiger stripes nibbled at his shell, catching a ride and a meal to go.  We swam together for a glorious five minutes or so, and he never showed any concern about me, the fish on his back or anything else.  Just happy to be alive.

When I got back to the boat I was beside myself telling Mark my story, wishing he had been there, wishing the camera hadn’t broken, and just talking and talking and bursting with my thrilling news.  When I finally quieted down for a minute he said, “Well, you’ll be glad to know I fixed the camera!!”  What??!!!!  “I got it working just a few minutes after you left.  I tried to call you back, but you were too far away….”  Ohhhh oh oh oh oh!!!

Coral Landscape Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Coral landscapes are everywhere

He handed the camera back to me and I rushed off again, wanting to know how he fixed it but wanting to find my turtles again too.  They were still out there — sightings 5 and 6 for the day — and I got a few photos to share with Mark that evening.  But the image that will forever stay in my mind is that one of the turtle floating along over the colorful coral heads with the vibrant yellow fish hovering above him and nibbling goodies from his shell…

Colorful coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

There’s lots of color underwater in Huatulco

I found out that night that even though we had rinsed the camera thoroughly after each underwater use, the zoom button had gotten gummed up from a buildup of salt.  The camera was stuck in “zoom” mode and was too busy zooming to respond to any other buttons.  Mark sprayed the zoom button with “Salt Terminator,” a product we use to flush the salt out of our outboard engine before storing it.  Experimenting over the next few days, we found that the zoom felt a little sticky if we only rinsed it with fresh water, but if we used the Salt Terminator or even a little dishwashing soap, it came out sparkling clean and the zoom button retracted smoothly, as it was supposed to.

The underwater world of Huatulco has been such a thrill for us this season.  Fortunately, Mark’s knee has healed up nicely now, so with any luck we’ll spot a turtle or two together next time…

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                      Next ->

Huatulco’s Playa La Bocana – A visit to Huatulco’s Wild Side

Rocks and crashing surf at Playa La Bocana Huatulco as seen while sailing Mexico

Rocks and surf at Playa La Bocana

Late December, 2012 – In the middle of our unbelievable 24-hour visit with Ron and Jackie and their friends at Las Palmas Resort, we took a quick, late afternoon drive out to La Bocana, a rugged and wild beach at the mouth of a river a few miles south of the Bays of Huatulco, Mexico.

from our sailing blog - a boat at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico

A panga on the beach at La Bocana

From our cruising blog - a palm tree shades Playa La Bocana

A palm tree frames La Bocana Beach

This beach is nothing like the beaches in the more northern bays where the ocean politely laps the sand with small, harmless waves while the palapa beach bars bring margaritas, chips and salsa right down to the water’s edge.  La Bocana is a primal place of craggy rocks and exploding surf.

Beach bar at La Bocana Beach Huatulco we visited while sailing Mexico

One of the beach bars

There is a beach bar or two, but they are placed safely away from the breakers that mercilessly pound this beach.  Their structures are built soundly to survive the crazy hammering the ocean delivers here whenever the Tehauntepec is blowing.

Beach palapa at La Bocana Beach Huatulco from our sailing blog

The sight of the huge white waves got us running across the beach, and the blazing hot sand kept us moving at a sprint until we reached the cool tidal sand on the edge of the water.  Back on the boat in our anchorage in Santa Cruz Bay, we hadn’t noticed much ocean swell or many ominous waves, but here the waves were rolling in relentlessly, erupting against the rocks with awe-inspiring force.

From our sail blog - surf at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico

Surf at Playa La Bocana

A cormorant in the spray at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, from our sail blog

A cormorant in the spray

Playa La Bocana shows off Huatulco’s wild side, and we got a full display both that afternoon and on another day a few weeks later when we returned.  There is something alluring about seeing Mother Nature unleashing her fury.  But here it happened in incongruously warm and friendly sunshine.

Rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco - from our sailing blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the tide went out, the water receded and left the most beautiful mirror images of the sawtooth rocks in the sand.

While sailing Mexico - mirrored rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico

Receding waves create a mirror in the sand

Mark and I dashed around trying to line up the rocks and their reflections while a group of snowy egrets on winter break from Canada walked along the edge of the water.  They snatched up whatever they could find to eat in the sand each time a wave drew back into the sea.

Snowy egret at Playa La Bocana Huatulco from our sailing blog

Looking for dinner – in yellow shoes!!

 

 

 

Glassy sand and rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico from our sail blog

Sand and rocks polished to a glassy finish

In places the water had an almost silky look, giving the rough rocks a smooth, glassy sheen.  We were mesmerized by the steady roll of the waves in and out, and the way they left a glistening luster on everything as they withdrew.

mirrored rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco

Watery reflections

 

We loved the contrast of the polished, shiny surfaces and the tranquility in this one part of the beach and the savage, chaotic froth and foam in the other.

Since we’ve started cruising we’ve learned that ocean swells come in sets of five to seven waves at a time.  Each wave grows larger than the last until you get a few real crashers, and then each one shrinks a little smaller until a few roll in that have no personality at all.

Surf boards at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico sailing Mexico

Surf boards ready to hit the waves

Mirrored rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico seen while sailing Mexico

The Aussie owner of one of the beach bars told us that even though he loved surfing in his homeland, he sure liked catching the waves here.  He had surfboards of all kinds and was raising his young son to love the wildness of the ocean too.

Summertime waves are the biggest and the best around here, he told us, but even now in December the waves seemed plenty big enough to us.

Snowy egret at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, from our sailing blog

Snowy egret in the waves

Besides jagged rocks and surf, the wildlife is abundant at Playa La Bocana as well.  Frigate birds, terns and herons all took their place along the water’s edge according to their particular tastes.

Frigate bird at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, while sailing Mexico

A frigate bird soars overhead

Frigate birds go fishing by swooping down and grabbing unsuspecting fish near the surface of the water in their beaks, while terns take death defying dives straight down into the water, beak first.

A heron walks Playa Playa La Bocana Huatulco from our sailing blog

 

A tern goes fishing in Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico, sailing Mexico

A tern scans the water

The herons and egrets walk daintily on their stilt-like legs, bravely stalking the sea as the waves fall back and then scurrying to the safety of high ground when the next wave strikes.  A few cormorants did long dives below the surface and then hung out on the rocks to dry off and ponder their next move.

At the far end of the beach a huge flock of gulls and terns stood just out of reach of the crashing waves, all facing the late afternoon sun.  Their reflections in the watery sand beneath them made them seem double in number.

Gulls at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico while sailing Mexico

Gulls face the setting sun

Floating down River Copalita at Playa La Bocana Huatulco from our sail blog

Our friend Craig catches a ride down the river

La Bocana (“The River Mouth” in Spanish) is the mouth of the Copalita River where it rushes down to meet the sea.  The current is very fast, and our friend Craig jumped in the chilly water upstream a bit and went for a very fast ride.

We learned that the river changes course every so often.  Some years it carves a path to the ocean one way, and other years it carves a path another way.  Ron remembered seeing the river flow at least 50 yards north of where it was flowing now.

A couple and their dog at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, seen while saiing Mexico

Watching the surf

No matter which way it decides to go, this is a fast moving body of water, and lots of folks take rafting trips down the river from points way upstream.

 

As we walked back along the beach, we came across a young couple enjoying the view and the beauty of the afternoon with their golden retriever.

Dog running on the beach at Playa La Bocana in Huatulco

They leaned in close and shared a quick kiss in the golden sunlight, and then their dog took off on a playful romp, running at full speed all around them. This dog was as happy as any dog can be, playing in the waves with his mistress and master.

Girl playing with her dog at Playa La Bocana Beach in Huatulco

Does life get any better than this?

 

They ran and threw a ball for him and splashed and ran some more.  We ran after them and got caught up in the fun of the moment, watching this young couple in love as they played and laughed with their dog on the beach.

Talking with them later, we discovered they were down here from Mexico City, enjoying some beach time away from the cold winter in the mountains.

Body surfing at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico from our sailing blog

A body surfer’s fin is all we see after he dives headfirst into a huge wave

 

 

A few other families showed up as the sun began to fall towards the sea.  This is a wonderful beach for strolling, communing with nature and letting your thoughts fly free.

Unlike some of the other beaches in Huatulco where the pleasures are a little slower paced and more peaceful — snorkeling, swimming and basking in the sun — this is a beach that begs for action and play.  Body surfers struggled to conquer the waves, getting 10 second thrill rides in return for many minutes of plowing headfirst into the breaking waves.  What a rush!

Toddler with a ball at Playa La Bocana Huatulco

A mom and her two daughters all dressed to match at Playa La Bocana Huatulco

A dad played soccer with his toddler son, gently kicking a ball across the sand until the little boy finally plopped down and hugged the ball, his short legs tuckered out from all that running.

We settled in for a cold drink at one of the beach bars.  Slowly, as the sun sank out of sight, all the beach-goers came came up to to get a snack or dinner.  The only drama left was Mother Nature at her finest.

The huge, incessant waves didn’t care that the sun was gone.  They just kept on coming and coming in a rhythmic show of force that faded from view as darkness fell.  How eerie it was to hear the breakers thundering so close, bombarding the beach in front of us in endless roars of invisible spray.

We returned to our little anchorage in Santa Cruz Bay to find that the whole village was quickly being caught up in the festive spirit of the holidays.

 

 

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->