PV: La Cruz & Sayulita – Cruisers, Surfers & Fun Loving Mexicans

Marina Nayarit at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

Marina Nayarit at La Cruz de

Huanacaxtle.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Cobbled streets of La Cruz.

Fish market at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

Mark buys some Sierra at the local fish market.

Sailing schools at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

The Vancouver Sailing Academy was in residence for a week of training.

Marina Nayarit at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

The March 11 tsunami destroyed a dock at Marina Narayit.

Whale attack

The whale attack resulted in a bent

strut and missing propellor.

Huichol Galeria La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Huichol Galeria at the Octopus's Garden.

Huichol bead art, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

Huichol yarn art. Yarn is pressed into a wax backing.

Huichol yarn art La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Like their yarn art, Huichol bead art involves

pressing beads into a wax backing, sometimes

on a sculpture as with this jaguar.

Alvaro Ortiz, Huichol artist

Alvaro Ortiz works on a sun and moon.

Huichol bead art

The finished product a few hours later.

Huichol bead art

Bead bracelets and necklaces come off

of small looms like this one.

Huanacaxtle pods or

Huanacaxtle pods, or "ears" in

Nahuatl.

God's cross leaves on the Cuastecomate tree

God one-upped the devil and

shaped the Cuastecomate tree's

leaves like crosses.

Sayulita campground

Sayulita's campground was teeming with surfer dudes and dudettes.

Sayulita surf beach

Sayulita's surf beach.

Sayulita surf beach tsunami damage, Sayulita

The tsunami nearly sent the public bathrooms into

the drink.

Sayulita Mexico

Hot bikini babes everywhere.

Surfing at Sayulita Mexico

Surf and surfing are the heart of Sayulita.

Surfing at Sayulita, Mexico

Like father like son.

Sayulita Mexico Huichol leaf art

Leaf art on exhibit at

Sayulita's Huichol

gallery.

Huichol leaf carving art

Leaf carving.

Panga launch at Sayulita

The pros show us how to get a big heavy

panga off the beach into the surf.

Panga launch at Sayulita Panga launch at Sayulita Iguana at Marina Vallarta

An iguana poses at Marina Vallarta.

Iguana at Marina Vallarta

...all done posing.

Tortilla machine in La Cruz

A pile of dough sits at the top of

a tortilla machine.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

We join a group of Mexicans in a dusty yard for beers and

"pollo asado."

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

Gilberto shares his beer with a bull.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

Marciela is the perfect young hostess.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

Baby Juliana is at the center of it all.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

Late March, 2011 - Cruisers gathered in Bahía Chamela for days, waiting for the

right weather to make the overnight passage north around Cabo Corrientes ("Cape

of Currents") to the Puerto Vallarta area.  This cape is known for being treacherous

at times, willfully dishing out strong currents, powerful winds and contrary wave

patterns and offering nowhere to hide.  We got lucky.  The wind was perfect, and we

had a delightful sail all afternoon and all night long.  It was the best sailing we've had

in Mexico yet.  We arrived in Banderas Bay ("Flag Bay") in utter pitch dark with no

moon and no horizon to be seen anywhere, flying along at 7.5 knots into black

oblivion, relying on our radar to show us all obstacles.

Suddenly the radar screen was filled with green dots.  Bogies everywhere!  Looking

around, a huge fleet of commercial fishing boats surrounded us, their lights filling the

inky night air like bright pin pricks.  One large boat was bearing down on us with

such speed we could clearly see the fishing booms lit up on either side.  We threw

on every light on our boat to make sure they saw us and tacked outta there in a

hurry.  Just then a cruise ship appeared, blazing across the radar screen at full

speed.  It loomed on the water as it passed us, a christmas tree of party lights and

good times steaming by.  Back on the radar screen, a line of fellow cruising sailboats

that had crept around the cape under power made a ragged line of dots.  They

hailed each other repeatedly on the radio, keeping tabs on who was where in line

and how things were going on each others' boats.  This bay was a busy place.

As the sun rose the wind

died and the boats disappeared, but a multitude of voices filled the

radio waves.  Banderas Bay is 20 miles wide with 60 miles of

shoreline, and as we motored across the glassy water we listened

to two different cruisers' nets on the radio, each originating in

separate marinas on the bay.  We heard well over 100 boat names

checking in, along with another 30 or so vendors pitching their

services.  Despite the suddenly still air and sunny waters around us,

I felt like we were arriving at JFK.

Puerto Vallarta was the original heart of the bay, but the area has

grown so much that there are now several hearts.  None of them

has an anchorage, however, just pricey marinas, so we stayed on

the outskirts of it all at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (pronounced

"wanna-cox-lay").

As we dropped the hook among 35 other boats and

dinghied ashore into the pin cushion of sailboat

masts at the new Marina Nayarit at La Cruz, my

impression changed from JFK airport to San Diego

South.  Swank amenities for boaters abound,

accompanied by equally swank prices.

The daily schedule of organized entertainment is long, and the pace

of life is fast, with yoga classes, art classes, sailing academies for kids

during the days, followed by marina hosted movie nights, restaurant

hosted meat loaf nights, and live music at many venues.  And this is

just one of the four major marinas in the area.

We finally found a tiny hint of Mexico across from the marina

at a small upscale fish market, and we enjoyed watching an

expert fillet three Sierras.  These are beautiful silver mackerel

covered with golden polka dots.

Over in the boatyard

we found the final

chapter of Luffin' It,

the boat that had been

struck by a whale back in Tenacatita (bottom of page). The propellor strut was bent,

the prop was gone, and the starboard side of the hull suffered huge cracks in the

fiberglass.  The boat was considered a total loss by the insurance company.  Watch out

for those whales!

The town of La Cruz

itself is just a

nondescript dusty

stretch of charmless

cobblestone streets.

However, the tight-knit

sailing community and plethora of gringo bars makes it a

favorite for many cruisers.  We enjoyed an afternoon at The

Octopus's Garden where a courtyard is shaded by an

enormous huanacaxtle tree and an ex-pat Frenchman roasts

and grinds his own French roast coffee while overseeing a

small gallery of Huichol art.

The Huichol (who call themselves the Wixaritari, or "the

people") are one of the few indigenous groups that

survived the Spanish conquests.  16,000 of them retain

their language, religion and culture to this day.

One of their beliefs is that their father, the sun, created all the creatures of

the earth, including people, from his saliva which is red sea foam.  We feel

like experts on sea foam now, since we have seen a lot of it over the past

few months, especially when the red tide blooms begin to wane.  Little

foamy blobs and all kinds of flotsam float around in the foam, and as it

ages it coagulates and gets stringy and sticky, like phlegm.  Red tides have

happened for eons, but it is refreshing to know that at least one culture has

been able to find not only a kind of beauty in it but a purpose for it too.

We stopped to chat with Alvaro Ortiz one morning, a Huichol artist who sits quietly

creating beautiful beaded works by a coffee shop many days.  Like so many indigenous

people who set up shop on folding tables to sell their wares to tourists, it was easy to

dismiss him, and most people brushed by him with hardly a glance in his direction.

As we chatted in simple Spanish, he

opened a notebook showing newspaper

clippings of his amazing work.  He was one

of eight Huichol artists who decorated a

VW bug with their bead art a few years

ago.  The photos featured him at the wheel,

and the car is now on a traveling exhibit

across Europe.

He has recently been commissioned by the

Mexican government to decorate a piano

with Huichol bead art too.  Besides

traditional craftwork, he is an accomplished

musician as well.  In April he will be giving a

concert of classical piano, traditional Huichol

flute and operatic songs, and he is currently

composing an opera.

This kind of renaissance skill is hard to find in these days of ultra-specialization, and we

talked a bit about that.  "In my culture, to be an artist and musician and composer is not

unusual," he explained.  "But in the modern world most people are very limited."  It is

also easy to shrug off street hawkers as one step above beggars.  We bumped into him

later at a market.  Dressed in conventional western clothes, he looked like any other well

dressed Mexican.

Back in the Octopus's Garden, the French owner of the Galería Huichol explained to us

that the huanacaxtle tree shading his courtyard is named for its ear-shaped pod:

"huanacaxtle" means "ear" in the indigenous language Nahuatl.  It is one of the few

specimens of this enormous tree remaining in this town that bears its name, La Cruz de

Huanacaxtle.  A cross ("La Cruz") made of its wood stands in the center of town.  He

went on to explain that the Cuastecomate tree, for which the Bahía Cuastecomate

between Barra de Navidad and Tenacatita is named, also has a unique story.

Apparently the devil and God both contributed to

the creation of the Cuastecomate tree.  The devil

created a spider's web of ugly criss-crossing

branches with weird hard tennis ball sized fruit

growing right out of the branches.  God threw his

blessing on the tree by gracing it with cross-shaped

leaves.

We found a bit

more of the

devil's and God's

work nearby at

Sayulita.  This is

a hippie surfing town that is the opposite of La Cruz.

Rather than grey haired retired cruisers enjoying

sedate organized activities, this place was humming

with the buzz of twenty-something surfers.  A

campground in the middle of town was home for a lot

of them, and a stroll through it revealed the gritty life

of young backpackers out on a surfing safari.  Tents

were jammed together cheek-by-jowel, and as noon

neared the kids were still walking around in sandy pj's

with slitted sleepy eyes.

The tsunami had left a set of public bathrooms in the lurch,

but brought in a surf break that still seemed to be pounding.

Hot babes in bikinis were all over town, and everyone had

wet hair and sandy feet from playing in the waves.

Non-surfers can learn the

moves from an array of surf

shops, surf instructors and

surf rental places all over

the beach, and one dad was giving his young

son a quickie lesson on a roller board.

In town we found another Huichol art gallery

that was featuring a new art form:  carved

leaves.  Leaves of all kinds had been

surgically cut along the veins to create

silhouettes of people and animals.

After struggling with dinghy launches and

landings on this crazy surf-pounded Pacific

coast, it was fun to watch the professionals

do it.  A couple had hired a panga for a

tour, and it took no less than a five people

to get the boat into the water after a pickup

truck pushed it down from the high water

mark.  Timing the waves carefully, they got

off with just one little hop over a wave.  The

panga before that -- and before I had my

camera in hand -- had gone completely

airborne three times as it flew over the

crashing surf to deeper water.

La Cruz is a 30

minute bus ride from

downtown Puerto

Vallarta, and we

took the wild city bus

one day.  There are

many different

buses, and being

new to the area we

did not realize that

some are express and others go through the back barrios.  What a

surprise to get into the outer parts of urban Puerto Vallarta and see

the dusty shacks that house many local residents.  A man herded

twenty pigs across the bus's path at one point, and there were

cows and chickens in many yards.  Once we got to Marina Vallarta,

however, the world of high end luxury engulfed us once again.

What fun to see an iguana perched along the rocks overlooking the

boats.  He posed for a while, looking like a sculpture planted there

for effect.  He drew a chuckle from everyone when he crawled

away across the sidewalk towards the row of shops.

Back in La Cruz we were missing

the simplicity of the little Mexican

towns that have hosted us for the

past few months.  Joining the

cruisers for tacos at a featureless

gringo hangout called "Tacos on

the Street" and bar-hopping at

cruiser bars where I found bathrooms labeled "Ladies" because no Mexican women ever uses

them, we had a good time but could have easily been in Austin, Texas where Americans enjoy

a nightly live music scene that is every bit as active as in La Cruz/Puerto Vallarta.

We finally found the homeyness we were looking for when we wandered into the streets at the

farther end of town.  We watched a man loading dough into a tortilla machine and sampled his

delicious "totopos."  These are deep fried corn tortilla chips that make a yummy snack.

A little further on we bought a

"pollo asado," which is chicken

grilled street-side.  These delicious

chickens are opened

up and cooked flat,

looking like roadkill

spread across the grill.

We were asked if we

wanted to take it with

us or eat it there in the

dusty yard behind the

grill.  We peered out

back and looked at the

group of Mexican men

drinking beer at a folding table.  Roosters and chickens squawked and scratched

at their feet while a large bull chewed its cud in the corner.  "We'll eat here!" we

both grinned.  A rip-roaring Spanglish conversation ensued as we sat down with

Hugo, Joel and Gilberto and shared a few beers at their table.  We toasted each other and

life, and watched in amusement as Gilberto wandered over to the bull and held out his

beer for it to drink.  Between the bull's slurps, Gilberto took a swig now and then, while a

toddler bounced and cooed in a swing between us all.  We knew enough of each other's

languages to talk in simple terms about the joys of grandkids, the perils of sailing, the heat

of living in Phoenix and the contentedness of their life in La Cruz.

This strange town, Banderas Bay, and the

Puerto Vallarta area in general hadn't really

appealed to us until that moment.

Suddenly, sitting in tottering plastic chairs

under the shade of a big tree at a rickety

table while our sandals scuffled the soft dirt

at our feet, we felt La Cruz had reached our hearts.  Listening to the hearty

laughter of these rugged, burly men as they teased each other and us in

whatever mixture of language we could share, we felt welcomed.  All the while

the mom worked her grill and sold chickens to passersby, and her sweet seven-

year-old daughter played perfect hostess to us all, giggling shyly as we asked

her basic questions with a poor Spanish accent and iffy grammar.

Before long it was time to move on, and we soon made our way north towards Mazatlan via San Blas and Isla Isabel.

Find La Cruz (Puerto Vallarta) on Mexico Maps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Chamela Bay Islands – Remote Getaway

Bocce ball in Tenacatita anchorage

Score!!

Bocce ball in Tenacatita anchorage

The rookies take the game!!

Dinghies at La Manzanilla

Dinghy group lands on the beach in La Manzanilla.

Street scene in La Manzanilla

A steaming cauldron keeps a

dog's attention.

Street scene in La Manzanilla

Concrete is mixed by hand.

Red tide scum in Tenacatita anchorage

Post-red tide scum creates patterns on the water.

Pelicans dive in Tenacatita (Blue Bay)

Pelicans dive for supper.

Pelicans dive in Tenacatita (Blue Bay) Mark catche a Toro off Bahia Chamela

Mark gets a good look at his catch.

Fog in Chamela Bay

Thick fog greets us in the morning.

Fog in Chamela Bay anchorage Fog in Bahia Chamela anchorage Chamela Bay birds on the beach in Chamela A river of water created by the March 11 tsunami

A river of water isolates a favorite cruiser restaurant.

Sunflowers in Bahia Chamela Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Chamela's three little islands are a great hideaway.

Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

There's nothing like an uninhabited tropical island.

Hermit crabs Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Hermit crabs dashed urgently

all over the sand.

s/v Groovy at Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Island paradise.

Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay sv Groovy at Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Lots of cactus lined the shore.

Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay Tidepools on Isla Colorado, Chamela Bay, Jalisco, Mexico

Craggy rocks and tidepools grabbed our attention.

Tidepools on Isla Colorado, Chamela Bay, Jalisco, Mexico Colorado Island, Chamela Bay anchorage, Jalisco, Mexico Cleaning Groovy's bottom, Bahia Chamela islands

The water seems clear enough to

clean the bottom of the hull.

Cleaning Groovy's bottom, Bahia Chamela islands

See you down under!

Chamela Bay & Islands, Jalisco, Mexico

Mid-March, 2011 - Despite the drawbacks of red tide, jelly fish blooms and land disputes,

the anchorage at Tenacatita held us in its grasp for ten happy days.  Old time cruisers

who had been coming to Tenacatita for years initiated games of Bocce ball on the beach,

they encouraged cruisers to gather for beers at the beachfront palapa restaurant La

Vena, and they organized group dinghy provisioning

trips across the bay to the village of La Manzanilla.

Beginners luck prevailed for us in Bocce ball, and we

nailed a few throws to win the first game.

Dinghy landings in this bay are quite a challenge,

because of the pounding waves and surf on the beach.

We hitched rides with friends several times to learn the

technique for landing the dink and launching it again

later without getting too wet.  We learned that waves

come in sets, often 6 or 7 at a time, and the trick is to

wait until a set has passed to make your move.  You get a total of about 15 seconds to ride

behind the last wave to shore or to jump in the dink and start the outboard during a launch

off the beach.  One false move by a passenger, or an unexpectedly stalled engine, or a

miscalculation of when the last wave has actually passed can spell the difference between

being wet up to your shorts or flipping the dinghy entirely and getting drenched head to toe.

We watched in amazement from the beach as one

seasoned pro accidentally flipped his dinghy during a

launch when his inexperienced passenger took too long to

climb into the boat. The dinghy hit a huge oncoming wave

and flew straight up in the air like a rocket, landing upside

down in the surf.  Workers from the restaurant dashed

down to the beach carrying a five gallon jug of fresh water

to flush the outboard engine while cruisers searched the

waves for lost cargo.  Fortunately the outboard responded

to the treatment, most items were found, and the dinghy

was soon re-launched without mishap.

La Manzanilla on the far side of the bay is a small

seaside village, and we enjoyed watching the locals

going about their daily activities.  Two men stirred a

cauldron filled with ham hocks (hooves included),

while a dog waited patiently.

There was plenty of construction going on, all done

by hand.  We watched one worker shovel gravel into

a bucket on the street and then hoist it to the roof of

a building using a rope and pulley system.  Water

was then hoisted in another bucket, and the worker

on the roof mixed and poured the concrete by hand.

In another area we watched a worker mix his

concrete in a little pile of gravel right on the street.

This may not produce the highest grade concrete,

but there is a quiet calm and pride in the way these

men go about their work.

Out in the bay the red tide began to go through its lifecycle phases.

First the water turned from beet red to murky brown to grey green.

Then a huge blanket of foam formed in the middle of the bay.

Several hundred feet across, the foam began as a solid sheet of tiny

white bubbles and then began to dissipate into elaborate patterns as

the current ebbed and flowed beneath it.

The pelicans had no qualms about

the water quality, and they dove for

fish each afternoon.  They looked like

flying knives being hurled into the

water.  I tried in desperation to get a

picture of one just at the moment of

impact when their wings are pressed

tightly against their bodies, but I

never quite caught it.

One morning we awoke to a pan-pan call on the

radio.  This is an emergency alert for anyone within

earshot, and as I laid in bed with my eyes closed

debating how we'd spend our day I heard, "Japan has had a massive earthquake

and a tsunami is headed this way.  It will arrive here in two hours."  That got me out

of bed in a hurry!  Pre-coffee and still half-dressed in pj's, we hauled the anchor and

dashed out of the anchorage.  A fishing panga was nearby and we waved them over

to pass on the warning.  I hated the thought that they might fish by the rocks all

morning and never know what hit them.

Out on the open water we were able to connect to the internet, sort of.  If I stood in

the cockpit holding the laptop over my head with the USB antenna pointed towards

shore, I could download a page in about 3 to 5 minutes.  This was just enough to get some Google News reports detailing the

unfolding disaster.  Meanwhile the radio was abuzz with cruiser chatter.  People were sharing information they were receiving

from single side band radio broadcasts, from cell phone calls to friends and family on the west coast and from the internet.

We soon realized the predicted time for the arrival of the wave was 1:45 pm, not 10:45 a.m. as we were first told, and the

effects could last up to nine hours after the intial wave hit.

This meant a long day of sailing.  We had planned to stay in Tenacatita for a few more days, but once we were out in the

ocean it made more sense to travel up the coast a bit to Chamela Bay.

Almost the entire cruising fleet joined us in the open water, and a huge game of musical chairs ensued.  Just about everyone

changed anchorages and moved north or south to the next spot on their itinerary along the coast.

Out on the water the regular ocean swell was running about five

feet, so the five foot tsunami waves were undetectable.  Our

biggest challenge was trying to determine whether the waves

had arrived on shore or not, and whether or not it was safe to go

in to anchor.  Once the initial waves had hit California and then

Cabo San Lucas, all new internet reporting ceased.  The

Mexican news stories were only about warnings, not about

actual wave arrivals in the various ports nor about damage, so

we had no idea what the status was along our coast.

However, the air was warm and the breeze too light to sail

much, so Mark lazily dropped a handline over the side of the

boat as we motored along.  Within an hour the line suddenly

went taut and then limp.  He brought it in to find that a huge fish

had struck and broken the clasp holding the leader line to the

handline.  Somewhere out there a fish was swimming around

with a six inch blue feather lure hanging out of its mouth while

fifty feet of nylon leader trailed behind him.  Darn!

He quickly found another lure with a stronger clasp and thicker leader line, and threw it over the side.  Wham!  Another fish

was on the hook.  Holy cow.  Mark has trailed handlines up and down this entire coast with only one catch so far.  And now

within minutes he had two, with the one that got away being (undoubtedly) one of the biggest fish in the ocean.  Was the

tsunami herding the fish somehow?  Whatever the cause, he hauled the fish in and we had a good look at it.  It was beautiful:

big and silver with bright yellow fins and tail.  Unfortunately, it was the inedible Jack Crevalle, or "toro" in Spanish, a fish that

has meat so red and bloody that it is considered inedible.  Toros have big puppy dog eyes, though, and this guy was staring

up at Mark in stark terror.  He quickly unhooked the lure from its mouth and we could feel his utter relief as he swam off into

the depths.

We pulled into Chamela Bay around 5:00 p.m., thinking the worst of the waves must have passed.  As we lowered the anchor

over the flat sand bottom, I watched the depth gauge read a steady 22 to 23 feet and then suddenly dip to 14 feet and then

rise again to 22 feet.  Within seconds I heard an enormous crash of a mammoth wave pounding the shore, and I turned to see

its foaming mass sweep well past the highest tide mark on the beach.

Our radio instantly crackled to life as a friend of ours used her hand-held radio to describe the utter pandemonium she was

seeing on the beach.  Mark had to calm me down a bit, as I started to rant, but no waves quite that big rolled through after

that.  However, all was not right in the water.  Every boat in the anchorage did steady 360 degree turns around its anchor,

completing a full turn every minute or two.  After a few clockwise turns the boats would all begin to turn counterclockwise as

their hulls followed the pull of the ocean surge washing in and out of the bay.

The next morning we woke to thick fog, the first we had

seen since we were in Chamela Bay four months earlier.

The scene around us had an eerie glow.

We walked along the shore later in the day.  The ghost town

feeling that Chamela Bay had had in November still

persisted, especially now that the fleet of fishing pangas had

been dragged high onto the beach out of reach of the

tsunami waves.

A little restaurant at one end of the beach was stranded

by the tsunami.  Usually a path through soft sand leads

to this building, but the tsunami swell was continuing to

disturb the peace a day or two after the first waves

arrived.  A steady river of water washed to and fro in an

estuary, making access to the restaurant a dicey affair

that included wading in water up to your shorts.

Elsewhere around Chamela Bay little had changed.  More flowers

seemed to be in bloom, but the pretty little waterfront RV park was

totally empty now.

We decided to take Groovy out into the bay for a few days where three

small uninhabited islands huddle together.  There are several

anchoring spots out there, and we found it to be a cozy, hidden

paradise.

As we dropped the hook we heard the loud and rather

urgent cries of hundreds of pelicans roosting in the trees

on the shore.  These islands are an ecological preserve

zone, and pelicans rule.

We took the dinghy ashore and stood in awe watching two different

species of pelicans engaging in what can only be described as a

springtime orgy.  Throaty groans, flapping wings, and awkward

physical postures gave the rugged shore an emotional vibe that

made us feel we were intruding on the most intimate of erotic

moments.

Averting our eyes from these

impassioned birds, we found

a host of hermit crabs

scurrying across the sand.

They crawled over each

other and tapped on each

other's shells.  These little

guys were inhabiting a huge

variety of shells, and one or

two were running around

naked looking for a new home.

The water was a

gorgeous shade of

blue, a welcome

change from the post-

red tide grey-green

that filled Chamela's

main anchorage.

Around the beach there were cactus and palm trees, and stubby little deciduous trees

too.  But it was the tide pools that really got our attention.  The waves sloshed in and out

with a vengeance, but a few were out of reach of the surf, and life in those pools was

calm and serene.

Back on the boat it

seemed we were in the

perfect place to have a look at the underside of our

hull.  We had been cleaning it every week or so

down in Zihuatanejo where the water was warm

and the barnacles grew quickly.  Since we had

been up north of Manzanillo, however, we hadn't

had a chance to give it a good look or a good scrub

because of the murky water.

Mark tackled the lowest parts of the hull and keel

with his scuba gear while I held my breath with a

snorkel and popped the offending barnacles off the

higher parts of the hull.  The water wasn't exactly

clear, and while we were in it a new wave of post-

red tide scum floated by.  Suddenly the water was

full of white puffy stringy stuff, and we quickly

wrapped up our work.  Unfortunately, the waves

were surging so vigorously that at one point each

of us accidentally gulped a huge mouthful of water.

Over the following days we both

went through a series of weird symptoms, starting with sore shoulders

followed by swollen glands in our necks and nasty head aches.  Mine

ended with a round of vomiting, while Mark was nauseous for two days.

After a week the symptoms passed.  My advice to anyone following in

our path:  don't drink water tainted by red tide.

Chamela Bay is the last good anchorage along the coast heading north

before the much feared Cabo Corrientes where high winds and

conflicting swell can make for a miserable passage.  The bright lights of

Puerto Vallarta lie beyond that point, but it is a 100 mile trip to get there,

so boats gather in Chamela Bay and watch the weather forecasts like

hawks, waiting for the best 24 hours to make the trip.  Before long we

got our chance, and we dashed out of the bay towards the Puerto

Vallarta suburb of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

Find Chamela on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on the "Mexican Riviera" (northern Pacific coast) to see more cruising posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Tenacatita – Not Heavenly for Cruisers Any More

Cuastecomate, the

Cuastecomate, the "Secret Anchorage."

A Mexican Navy ship approaches.

A tender of Mexican Navy men circles Groovy.

s/v Groovy gets boarded by the Mexican Navy in Tenacatita.

The Mexican Navy boards Groovy.

sv Groovy gets boarded by the Mexican Navy in Tenacatita.

It was a routine and courteous inspection.

Red tide in Tenacatita, Mexico

Red tide surrounds us as we motor into Tenacatita.

Red tide in Tenacatita, Mexico

Red tide fills the anchorage.

jellyfish in Tenacatita, Mexico

A carpet of jelly fish surrounds us.

The Blue Bay Resort is the only resort at this end of the bay.

Chippy the dolphin, Tenacatita, Mexico

Chippy the dolphin.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

Beginning of the "Jungle Tour."

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

The mangroves quickly close in.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

Thick jungle brush reflects in the

glassy water.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

Our friends are the only other river tourists.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

The old dinghy landing at the end of the jungle tour.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

"Luffin It" is pushed into the anchorage

after a whale strike.

Provisioning at La Manzanilla, Mexico

La Manzanilla is a cute small town.

Provisioning at La Manzanilla, Mexico

Lots of little grocery stores have all the

provisions you need.

Provisioning at La Manzanilla, Mexico

Loaded down with

provisions.

Ahh... so much easier to have a local panga run your errands for you.

Dinghy raft-up, Tenacatita, Mexico

A dinghy raft-up offers hints of Tenacatita's former glory.

Tenacatita Bay, Jalisco, Mexico

Early March, 2011 - After a week of laid back

decadence at Barra de Navidad, complete with

French baked goods, flat calm nights and civilized

water taxi rides to shore, we moved a few miles north

to Cuastecomate.  This small anchorage lies between

the two large and very popular anchorages of Barra de

Navidad and Tenacatita, and in the past was

apparently neither well documented nor well-known, so

it was nicknamed the "Secret Anchorage."   With the

publication this year of Pacific Mexico, a new cruising

guide for this area, the cat is out of the bag, as the

GPS coordinates for the anchorage are given along

with an enticing description..

There was just one other sailboat in the anchorage when we arrived, along with a

Mexican Navy ship sitting quietly in the middle of the bay.  As we began to anchor we

noticed the Navy ship drawing closer.  Once we got the anchor down and began to get

settled, the Navy ship launched five men in a tender that soon circled our boat.  They

asked permission to board Groovy.  Just a week earlier four Americans had been killed

on their sailboat off of Somalia.  This was geographically very far from Mexico but, as

fellow cruisers, the event felt close enough in spirit to make me suddenly feel quite

vulnerable as a camouflage suited soldier climbed up our swimstep carrying a machine

gun.

He walked forward to our bow and stood watch, while two other Navy men in bullet-

proof vests climbed aboard and settled into our cockpit.  Intimidating as it was for a few

moments, this visit was both friendly and routine.

With the taste of almond croissants still on our lips and the sun

sparkling on the water all around the boat, I thought we made an

odd assortment on board Groovy.  Mark was dressed for another

day of vacation in running shorts, bare feet and no shirt, while the

Navy men were dressed for an armed conflict, complete with heavy

boots.  The tender with the two remaining men moved away from

our boat and hovered nearby, one of the men resting his machine

gun across his lap.

They were extremely gracious, speaking to us in simple Spanish once I

revealed I was willing to practice my language skills with them.  They

merely wanted to see our boat papers and passports and to verify that

we didn't have any drugs on board or any extra passengers who were

not documented on our crew list.

I asked them a little about their work and learned we were the second

boat they had boarded that day, the first being the other sailboat in this

little anchorage.  The day before they had inspected four boats.  They

regularly patrol the 150 miles between Puerto Vallarta and Barra de

Navidad, rotating shifts of days or weeks spent aboard the ship followed

by time at home with their families.  "It's hard on family life and hard on

your marriage," we all agreed.  In the ensuing days we found many

other boats had been similarly boarded this year, although in prior years

it was not a common occurrance in this area.

Their inspection was more thorough and detailed than

any of the many US border patrol checkpoints we have

driven through towing our fifth wheel on the US

interstates.  There we have always been waved

through without even having to slow down below 10

mph, despite towing an enormous trailer.

We were given two forms to sign, one written in English

and one in Spanish.  The English language form was a

waiver absolving the Mexican Navy of any responsibility

if we ever asked them for a tow and they damaged our

boat.  Fair enough.  To my utter surprise, the Spanish

language form was an evaluation of the boarding process.  I looked at them with a lopsided grin:  "This form evaluates your

performance today?!"  They nodded, smiling.  "It is for your boss?!"  More nods and grins.  Polite young men all of them, they

deserved the highest rating in every category.

Before leaving, the Mexican Navy men reassured us that if we ever had any trouble or needed them in any way, we should call

them on the radio on VHF Channel 16.  What a contrast to the way I was so rudely dressed down by the San Diego Harbor

Police for screwing up the sign-in procedures at San Diego's transient cruiser's dock, or the way the US Coast Guard yelled at

us through a megaphone because we had not written "T/T Groovy" on the bow of our dinghy.

Cuastecomate is known for its beautiful snorkeling spots, but

remnants of a recent red tide removed any thoughts of swimming.

Two days later when we motored into Tenacatita Bay we saw the

most expansive red tide to date.  The entire bay, several miles

across, was filled with tea colored water.  The stunning shade was

toned down a bit from the ruby red wine color that fellow cruisers

reported seeing the day before.

How sad.  Blue Bay -- Tenacatita's other name -- often has water

that is gin clear and bright turquoise.  The snorkeling off of one

point is so stunning that the cove is nicknamed "The Aquarium."  In

the past cruisers have moved in here for a month or more at a time

for a spell of life in Paradise, going so far as to have weekly

scheduled events and an elected "mayor" of the anchorage.

Not so this year.  At no time during our stay did we have the least

desire to put even a toe in the water.  After red tide algae dies off,

thick rivers of brown foam begin to form.  Zig-zagging scum lines lie

along the boundaries between current flows, and in places the foam

gathers into potato sized balls that punctuate the scum lines with little

brown puffs.  Leaving the bay for a daysail one day, we returned to

the anchorage through line after line of brown scum.

Not only was the red tide a

shock, but a jellyfish bloom

stunned us as well.  We had

sailed through miles of baby

jellyfish a week or so earlier,

hanging over the rails in amazement as the boat parted waves that were thick with two

inch long baby jellies that lay in layers below the surface.  All babies grow up, and one

morning in Tenacatita we awoke to find the boat sitting in a carpet of adult jellyfish.

They surrounded the boat so densely that it seemed you could walk across them.

After the hundred foot diameter carpet of jellies floated through the anchorage,

engulfing each boat in its path, it finally landed on the beach in front of the Blue Bay

Resort.  Thousands of jelly fish blanketed the sand for an afternoon.  As the tide went

out, the jellies were left high and dry, and they died.

Tenacatita was suffering this year in other ways

besides the red tide and the jellyfish.  During a

land dispute along one of the bay's beaches last

August, 150 Jalisco State Police evicted 800

people who lived and worked there.  All their

homes, restaurants and a hotel were bulldozed in preparation for the construction of a huge beachfront resort.  During our

stay the construction had not yet begun, but the land was actively patrolled by armed security guards.  Cruisers who had

arrived earlier in the season had been shooed off the beach and out of that anchorage.

One Tenacatita resident rose above all these depressing changes, however,

putting up with the strange water and turning a blind eye to the land dispute

around the corner.  Famed resident Chippy the dolphin has been loved by

cruisers for years, and we found him lolling around the anchorage, showing his

notched dorsal fin every time he surfaced through the water.  He happily

scratched his back on the boats' anchor chains as he always has.

Tenacatita features a "Jungle River Dinghy

Tour" that meanders up a lush estuary, and this

self-guided tour has actually benefitted from the

land dispute, as it is rarely traveled now.  You

have to brave some crashing surf and shallows

to get the dink into the estuary, but once inside you are in

a world apart.

The estuary tour begins as a calm river between thick

mangrove sides that twists and turns as it takes you

upriver.  Snowy egrets and other leggy fowl peer out at

you as you pass, and they don't flinch, even at the sound

of the dinghy's outboard.

In places the water

was so calm that

the foliage formed

a perfect reflection

in its depths.

Before the land dispute,

this estuary led to the

backside of the community

of homes, restaurants and

stores that has since been

bulldozed out of existence.

In those days it was heavily

traveled, and apparently

the animals were not quite

as easy to see.

We passed an iguana sunning himself on

the branches of a mangrove and we saw

several raccoon-like coatimundi

scampering overhead.  One coatimundi

stopped and stared at us long enough to

get some photos, but darned if all the pics

of him didn't turn out completely blurry.

Only one other

boat shared the

estuary with us

that day, friends of

ours from another

cruising boat.

The estuary narrows

dramatically, to the

point where you can

pull yourself along

by grabbing the branches overhead.  In places the dink can barely

squeeze through, as the mangroves close in on either side and

you have to duck the overhead jungle canopy.

At the far end, the estuary opened to a very small and shallow

lagoon, and we found the dock where cruisers used to land their

dinghies.  The silhouette of an armed guard in the distance kept

us from attempting to land, and we returned through the thick

mangroves to the bay.

This all added up to plenty of excitement for a few days' stay in Tenacatita, but a Mayday call

on the radio late one afternoon pumped our adrenaline up another notch.  A whale had

attacked the 36' sailboat "Luffin' It" just outside the anchorage.  Mark and four other cruisers

responded to the call, zipping out to the terrified couple in three dinghies.  They had been sailing along quietly when a whale

appeared out of nowhere and bashed the port side of the boat, knocking it over 45 degrees.  He repeated this bashing on the

starboard side and then got beneath the boat and began thrashing his tail, damaging the rudder and bending the propellor

shaft in the process.  The boat began taking on water, which prompted their Mayday call.

The rescuers used the most powerful dinghy to push the boat into the

anchorage, as the sailboat's engine could barely run due to the bent

prop shaft.  After saying a round of "thank yous" to the rescuers before

settling in for the night to a humming bilge pump, the couple shocked

us all when they motored out of the anchorage the next morning,

putting up the sails as they rounded the point en route to Puerto

Vallarta for repairs 130 miles away.

The main anchorage at Tenacatita is near

a small beach palapa restaurant, but there

are no stores nearby.  All provisioning must

be done far across the bay in the town of

La Manzanilla.  One morning a group of

cruisers took their dinghies to the town

across the bay, and we walked around the

cute village.  Loading up on fruits and

veggies in several of the many small

markets, I soon looked like a pack mule.

How funny to return to the anchorage later in the day, covered with salt spray from the lively dinghy ride and happily worn out

from a day of shopping, to find the megayacht anchored behind us had called a panga to run their errands and bring them all

the provisions they needed.  We watched the uniformed crew serving the two couples aboard and marveled at the many ways

you can live a life.

Our low brow boating life is a pretty good one, though, and one

afternoon the cruisers all gathered for a dinghy raft up.

Everyone brought an appetizer to share and the dishes

circulated from boat to boat.  Our friend Bill was elected Mayor

of the Anchorage, and he gave a rousing speech in praise of

the folks who had helped with the rescue of the whale struck

boat a few days earlier.  In the odd way of Tenacatita this year,

however, the anchorage that had harbored 22 boats for one

busy night was down to just 6 by the next afternoon, as there is

little to hold people here this season.  However, because we

are rarely ones to move quickly, we stayed a full week before

venturing on to Bahía Chamela and its beautiful islands.

Find Tenacatita on Mexico Maps

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Barra de Navidad – Upstairs / Downstairs

Barra de Navidad Jalisco Mexico channel entrance.

Barra de Navidad has a narrow and shallow entrance channel.

Fishermen in Barra de Navidad Jalisco Mexico

Fishermen cast nets in the lagoon.

Barra de Navidad anchorage in Jalisco Mexico

The serenity in Barra's lagoon is a big contrast to most Pacific coast anchorages.

The French Baker in the Barra de Navidad lagoon anchorage, Jalisco, Mexico

The French Baker makes his rounds.

The French Baker in the Barra de Navidad lagoon anchorage, Jalisco, Mexico

Emeric delivers croissants, quiches and

baguettes right to your boat!

Barra de Navidad entrance channel pier, Jalisco, Mexico

Barra's pier.

Barra de Navidad entrance channel pier, Jalisco, Mexico with Grand Bay Resort behind.

The Grand Bay Resort overlooks the lagoon.

Sculpture of Las Sirenas in Barra de Navidad

"Las Sirenas" ("The Mermaids").

Water taxi pier, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

View across the water taxi piers.

Outdoor eateries, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Barra is loaded with cute little eateries.

Outdoor eateries, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Unlike other Mexican towns we've visited, almost all

tourists here during our stay were gringos.

Outdoor eateries, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

How about a meal looking through the branches of an

enomous piñata decorated tree?

Barra de Navidad lagoon anchorage Jalisco, Mexico

A 1921 sloop in the lagoon.

Macaw in Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

A restaurant's mascot macaw

blushes as I snap his photo.

Beatles grafitti in Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Mark finds the Beatles in Mexico once again.

Fancy wooden doorway, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Many of Barra's front

doors are very ornate.

Fancy wooden doorway, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico Barra de Navidad lagoon anchorage Jalisco, Mexico Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico Lagoon birds in Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

The lagoon has many

species of long legged

fishing birds.

Lagoon birds, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico Lagoon birds, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico Boat-in restaurants Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

One of many boat-in palapa restaurants on the lagoon.

Boat-in restaurants Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico Water taxi Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Water taxis ferry visitors all over the lagoon.

Fortina's Restaurant Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Happy Valentine's Day.

Grand Bay Resort Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

The Grand Bay Resort proudly overlooks the gritty,

quirky town of Barra.

Grand Bay Resort Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Approaching the Grand Bay you suddenly feel a little out

of place in a bathing suit and flip flops.

Hammocks in Grand Bay Resort Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Hammocks by the lagoon shore.

Deserted lagoon island in Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico Puerto de Navidad marina and lagoon anchorage, Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Overlooking the marina to the cruising boats in the

lagoon anchorage beyond.

Barra de Navidad lagoon channel Jalisco, Mexico

A yacht traverses the narrow channel.

Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

A McGregor 26 (without its mast) slides past us at a fast clip.

Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

Dinghies scramble to save a sailboat from an unattended Offshore

48' power yacht that's suddenly on the loose.

Barra de Navidad Jalisco, Mexico

A frustrated couple spends the day off-kilter on a

beached sailboat.

Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico

Mid-February, 2011 - After the gentility of the Las Hadas

Resort in Manzanillo and the sweeping waves and beach

scene of Playa La Boquita in Santiago Bay, we were

surprised to find yet another totally contrasting lifestyle just

25 miles up the coast in the eclectic hideaway of Barra de

Navidad.  Pulling into the anchorage, we felt like we were

landing on another planet.  For starters, the anchorage is

an almost fully enclosed lagoon, and to enter it requires

motoring down a very narrow and very shallow channel.

Fortunately the GPS waypoints given in the guidebook are

accurate, as the channel is marked with buoys for only half its

length, and the chartplotter is off by about a mile.  In these waters,

being off by 100 feet will put you hard aground.

But the real surprise lay inside the anchorage: 50 cruising boats

were crammed into the lagoon.  Until now, every anchorage we

had been in had hosted fewer than twenty boats.  What a crazy

zoo scene this was!  To top that off, being low tide, everywhere we looked for a spot to drop the anchor we had just inches of

water under the keel.  The lagoon's water is extremely silty, and you can barely see your toes when your legs are in water up

to your knees, so there was no way to tell the depth other than trust the boat's depth sounder.  In such a shallow and tightly

packed anchorage it made sense to let out just 50' or so of anchor chain.  A neighbor quickly set us straight however,

informing us that boats drag regularly through the soft mud and that everyone around us had 100' of chain out, despite being

in less than 10' of water.

Once the anchor was down, the sun began to drop low in the sky.  We kicked back in the cockpit and watched flocks of long

legged birds commuting home to roost while fishermen cast their nets behind the boat.  A chorus of lagoon bird songs filled

the air as they settled into the surrounding mangroves.

The next morning I poked my head out of the companionway to see a picture that for

all the world looked like one of the many beautiful anchorages in Maine where I grew

up cruising years ago.  Most Pacific coast anchorages are defined by mountains and

waves, making for dramatic scenery and often dramatic rolly nights.  In contrast, this

anchorage was as flat calm as could be and was rimmed by low lying trees.  The boats

were all well behaved, lined up with military precision, facing the gently rising tide with

dignity.  This is nothing like most Pacific coast anchorages where the boats tend to

pitch and roll, swinging in different directions, often quite wildly, challenging each other

to see which one can be the buckingest bronco of them all.

Suddenly the radio came alive with chatter; it was Barra's morning VHF cruiser's net.

For a full twenty minutes cruisers ran through the roll call of all the boats arriving,

departing or staying put in one of several anchorages in the area.  As soon as the net

ended, all fifty boats in Barra began hailing each other at once, making plans for

daytrips ashore, plans to meet in future harbors or plans for cocktails and dinners

together later in the day.  In the midst of all this conversation a heavily accented voice broke into the fray, announcing, "This is

ze French Baker and I am entering ze lagoon now."  A child's voice called out,

"French Baker, French Baker, we would like two chocolate pies."  The accented

voice answered, "I have only one."  "We'll take it!" came the happy reply.

Emeric Fiegen, a Frenchman who now hails from Canada, came to Barra years

ago and in 2003 created a unique niche for himself in this ex-pat community.

Opening "El Horno Frances" (The French Bakery), he sells French baked goods

out of a shop onshore and also out of a panga that he personally drives around

the lagoon each morning.  Offering quiches, croissants, baguettes and other

delicacies, he does a brisk business and is always sold out by the time he gets

to the far side of the anchorage.  This, unfortunately, was where we were

located, so we quickly learned we needed to email him our order the night

before.  After months of tacos, burritos and hot sauces it sure was a treat to sink

our teeth into chocolate croissants and miniature bacon and cheese quiches.

Barra de Navidad is a unique gringo hangout.  The town

hovers along one side of the lagoon, its small streets teeming

with cute tourist shops, charming outdoor restaurants, cheap

hotels and North American retirees escaping the cold winters

back home.  The mood is laid back and slightly gritty, with flip

flops and beachwear being the accepted attire.

A pretty pier extends along

one side of the lagoon's

entrance channel, leading

strollers out to views of the

bay and beach on the

ocean side of town.  On the

opposite side of the lagoon's channel the imposing Grand Bay Resort rises out of the

mangroves, offering high class and high dollar vacations to the younger still-employed (and

well-employed) set.

Cruisers stay in Barra for weeks

and even months each winter,

charmed by the convenient and

pleasing town, the picturesque

anchorage, and calm nights.  Some

sneak swims at the Grand Bay

Resort's beautiful pool (after a fine luncheon), and everyone winds up

at the Sands Hotel's pool or pool bar at some time, as that

establishment openly welcomes cruisers.

The social scene

in the lagoon is

intense.  It is an

easy dinghy ride

to visit your

neighbor for

happy hour,

and there are

a seemingly

infinite number

of places to

explore with

friends ashore.

All conversations

on the radio are

public, so

everyone's business is quickly well known.  The kids on two boats were the cutest to

listen to.  As they made plans to visit each other, the parents were consulted in the

background:  which boat, at what time, and with whose dinghy would they would get

together to play?

Sometimes this public forum

can get a little awkward.

Two women discussed the

dishes each would bring to a

dinner party and wondered

aloud whether or not to invite a third

boat that neither one was convinced

had arrived in Barra yet: "I think I

saw them in the lagoon but they

aren't due for another week..."  "I

have enough salad for all of us..."

"Okay, but I'm sure they would have

called us by now if they were here..."

Two men troubleshot a plumbing problem in detail: "You gotta turn that pipe 180 degrees."

"Yeah, but that sucker won't turn..."  They had forgotten to take their conversation to a

separate channel, away from the channel where boats hail each other, so they were soon

interrupted by a voice saying:  "Attention Fleet:  Which restaurant has the best burger in

town?"  "La Oficina" came the reply.  "La Casina?"  "No, La Oficina..."

Three boats were awaiting a mutual friend arriving from the airport.  A

comedy of errors ensued as the guest arrived with a hand-held VHF radio,

but because he was standing in the Grand Bay's lobby behind the massive

concrete structures of the resort, he was unable to hear any of the boats

responding to his calls from the lagoon.  For twenty minutes he hailed

three boats in the lagoon and they hailed back, to no avail.  Finally one

boat took a dinghy ashore and met the poor fellow in person in the lobby.

We took the kayak out on Valentine's Day for a quiet morning ride but found

so much to see that we didn't get back to the boat until almost dark.  First the

various long legged birds of the lagoon caught our eye.  The mangroves are

thick and the water is loaded with fish, making it an ideal location for birds to

quietly stalk their prey.

Along one edge of the lagoon there are a series of boat-in eateries

you can get to either by water taxi or with your own dinghy.  Several

restaurants seemed immensely popular and patrons filled every waterfront

seat.

Being our anniversary as well as Valentine's Day, we wanted to find

a quieter more romantic spot.  Fortina's fit the bill perfectly.  We

pulled the kayak onto their little beach and followed the sand right

to a table overlooking the water.  What an ideal spot to while away

the afternoon and reflect on the happy years we have spent in each

other's company.

On another day we took the kayak over to the dinghy dock at the

Grand Bay Resort and wandered through the beautiful grounds.

Manicured landscaping, even the jungle kind on the edges of the

golf course, define the fringes of this resort.  A row of hammocks

on a beach fronting the lagoon look out on a private island, and

everything about the resort oozes elegance.

We found a balcony overlooking the marina and the lagoon anchorage

in the distance beyond, and we watched a megayacht navigate the

skinny lagoon entrance channel past one of the resort's pretty outdoor

restaurants.  From simple beer and tacos on plastic chairs along the

lagoon's edge to haute cuisine in a stunning setting at the Grand Bay,

Barra de Navidad has everything a gringo escaping reality in Mexico

might want.

But living there in

the lagoon on a

boat can bring

reality back to you

in a heartbeat.

One morning,

while sampling

almond croissants

from the French Baker and pondering the unusual wind shift we were

seeing, panicky voices on the radio abruptly brought us to our senses.

"Attention Fleet: a McGregor 26 is dragging through the anchorage on the

north side of the lagoon."  We turned our heads and there it was, moving

at a fast clip right past us.

In an instant five dinghies rushed over to the wayward boat.

No one was on board, but the fast acting men in the dinks

quickly brought the boat to heel, deploying a second anchor

they found stored in one of the boat's lockers.  We hadn't yet

assembled our dink and put it in the water, so we watched all

the action feeling rather useless.

No sooner had the McGregor 26 settled down than another

call went out on the radio.  "Attention Barra Fleet:  I've gone

aground."  The wind shift had caught one sailor by surprise

and moved his boat onto a sandbar that had been a safe 50

feet away from him for the past few days.

Unfortunately, being a full moon, the tide was going to be the lowest of

the month that afternoon, and for six hours the boat laid further and

further over on its side while the owners crawled around on the high side

making the best of a bad situation.  Luckily, the soft mud bottom insured

that no damage was done to the boat.  At the tide's lowest point we

dropped a line over the side of our boat and measured 6' 8" of water --

and we draw 6' 6".

A friend stopped by in his dinghy, and we began discussing the morning's

crazy events when we noticed the 48' Offshore motor yacht anchored

behind us was suddenly much further away than it had been for the past

few days.  It was dragging too, with no one on board!  A large sailboat

was directly in its path, and the sailboat's crew were all on deck, madly

putting fenders out to save their boat from the impending collision.

Again the radio burst to life and dinghies zoomed to the scene from all corners of the lagoon.  In 15 quick minutes the dinghies

pushed the boat to a safe spot and redeployed the anchor.  There was a lesson in that escapade for everyone in the lagoon,

as the wheelhouse on the boat was locked, so there was no way to start the engine and move the boat under its own power.

Fortunately, the dinghies had strong enough outboards to keep the boat from crashing into the sailboat and to push it to a new

location despite the high wind.  A call soon went out to the fleet reminding us all to leave the keys in the ignition when we went

ashore so that others trying to save our boats could do so easily.  This, of course, was quite a contrast to the instructions we

had also all received to raise our dinghies and lock our

outboards each night since several outboard motors had

been stolen in this anchorage over the past two seasons.

Hmmm... lock the car but leave the house key in the front

door of your home...  Such are the funny contrasts of this

quirky town.

We could have easily stayed in Barra de Navidad for a

month, along with many other boats in the fleet who kept

delaying their departure day after day, but we felt an urge

to see some new things.  So after a week we made our

way a few miles north towards Tenacatita.

Find Barra de Navidad on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on the Mexican Riviera (northern Pacific coast) to see more posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Las Hadas Resort Anchorage – Beautiful!

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Las Hadas Resort.

Las Hadas (

"The Fairies" ("Las Hadas").

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Las Hadas Resort and the marina basin.

Manzanillo's main port is on the horizon.

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Las Hadas.

Barceló Resort and Playa Salahua, Manzanillo, Mexico

Barceló Resort and Playa Salahua.

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Las Hadas Resort.

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Playa La Audiencia.

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Las Hadas Resort (Las Hadas anchorage), Manzanillo, Mexico

Las Hadas Anchorage.

s/v Groovy anchored off Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo, Mexico

Groovy hangs out by the 18th hole.

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Iguana sunning on the rocks.

Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Monkeys at the back of a restaurant.

Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Whimsically pruned bushes line the waterfront.

Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

A tribute to a bygone era of

seafaring.

Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Corn tortilla "factory."

Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Street percussion.

Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Pineapples are tossed and loaded onto a handcart.

Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

A wheelbarrow load of body parts goes to market.

Las Hadas Marina, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Xilonen V, a 162' megayacht fills the marina.

Las Hadas Marina, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

The megayacht dwarfs the boats

on either side.

Hobie kayaks Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Fellow Hobie riders.

Hobie kayaks Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Hobie kayaks Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Ready for the brochure.

Hobie kayaks Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico

Hobies lined up on Playa La Escondida ("Hidden Beach")

A slot canyon in the ocean.

Las Hadas Anchorage, Manzanillo, Colima Mexico

 

Early February, 2011 - Las Hadas Resort at the northwest end of Manzanillo Bay is so

picture perfect that anyone with even the simplest camera in hand will find it easy to

take perfect pictures.  We enjoyed this spot so much we couldn't stay away.  For

several weeks we alternated between this breathtaking cove, embraced by the

enchanting Las Hadas resort, and the soaring openness of the expansive anchorage

over at Playa La Boquita a few miles away in Bahía Santiago.  Motoring from one

anchorage to the other, we would take advantage of having the engine running both to

make fresh water and to heat the water in our hot water tank.  On a few occasions we

had a blistering sail when the afternoon winds kicked up.  Groovy heeled nicely while

the knot meter park itself in the mid-8's.

Las Hadas begs to be explored on foot,

and with each foray onto the cobbled

paths that climb the steep hillsides, we

found more discoveries.  "Las Hadas"

means "The Fairies" (the origins of the

resort's name are explained here), and

we found two rather stern looking fairies

just beyond an underpass leading to the

resort's front door.  I'm not sure if these

two gals were knighting

some obedient resort

workers or granting

three wishes to

incoming guests.

Hiking further up the hill, the views grow ever larger, until you can

see clear across the resort, it's anchorage and the marina to the

smoke stacks of Manzanillo far across the bay.  The road twists

and turns in exhilarating switchbacks that leave walkers panting

and some bus riders wishing they had worn seasickness bracelets.

Next door to Las Hadas is the Barceló Karmina Palace resort.  It is

much more modern and swank, offering visitors a truly high end lap

of luxury.  But its mammoth marble and glass-filled foyers and grand

open spaces lack the otherworldly prettiness, coziness and charm of

Las Hadas.  As we trudged higher and higher over the hilly peaks we

paused to catch our breath and marvel at the beauty spread out

below us.

The Las Hadas

anchorage is rimmed with restaurants overlooking the

cove.  One has a huge sign offering discounts to

boaters (along with their wifi password), and we

treated ourselves to an afternoon of gazing out at the

anchorage and Manzanillo's busy port across the bay.

Banana boats, water skiers and jet skis zig-zagged

among the boats, throwing white wake patterns

everywhere.

We discovered the source of all this action on the water was

Mexico's Constitution Day weekend.  It seemed that half of the

huge inland city of Guadalajara had come to vacation on this bay.

This national holiday celebrates the signing and approval of

Mexico's constitution on February 5th, 1917 and, like the Fourth

of July, is clearly fully worthy of an afternoon of being towed at full

speed across the water followed by a raucous evening of happy

partying to loud music.

While walking the beach we

came across an iguana

sunning himself on the rocks.

Just a few weeks later we

discovered these guys can

swim, and we watched one

make its way across a

stretch of calm water, its

head bobbing up every so

often to get some air and

look around.

This is an easy climate for keeping

an exotic pet caged outdoors, and

we have seen loads of parrots,

parakeets, canaries and doves

caged outside all kinds of stores from flower shops to small groceries

to beachwear boutiques.  The squawk of a macaw drew us to the back

of a restaurant we were passing, and to our surprise, in addition to the

huge colorful birds, we found three large cages filled with monkeys.

They nimbly and silently climbed up and down the cage bars and

nibbled on fruits while staring us down.

The resorts and villas around Las

Hadas and Sanitago are the most

scenic parts of Manzanillo, but we took

the bus into the more gritty downtown area for a change of pace.  Manzanillo is a bustling port

with an urban heart, however whimsy and history can still be found.  The road leading into

town is lined with creatively pruned bushes, and we passed bushes shaped as hearts and

anchors and dogs.  A ficus tree pruned to look like a small boat caught my eye, as did the

bronze sculpture of a seaman at the helm of ship from another era.  Four hundred years ago

the Spanish used ports along this southern Pacific coast of Mexico as a link for trading goods

with the orient via Manila in the Phillipines.

I have gradually come to realize that

Mexico is a true blend of indigenous

Indian and foreign Spanish heritage,

beautifully expressed by the rich dark

complexions and lively Spanish

language of the people we encounter.

At one street corner in Manzanillo I said

something to a street vendor-beggar in

my passable American accented

Spanish, and she shook her head at me with that blank look of "No hablo

español" that is so familiar on gringo faces here.  There are pockets of

people throughout Mexico, especially in the southern areas, who speak

only their indigenous language, not Spanish.

Music is a universal language, however, and we found street musicians playing

wonderful tunes and rhythms on xylophone and drums.

Growing up and living in

the sanitized world of

saran wrapped

supermarket products

that have been delivered

by tractor trailers on the

interstates, it is always

surprising to encounter

other methods of food

distribution.  Here on the

streets of Manzanillo we

watched three people

unload a pickup truck full

of pineapples into crates on

a handcart to roll into the central

market.  They tossed the

pineapples to each other with

ease.  Does our food really get

thrown around like that?  A little

further on, another wheelbarrow

full of what appeared to be

lambs' heads, shanks and

backbones was ready to be

rolled into the market as well.

At the far opposite end of the reality scale, a megayacht pulled into the

Las Hadas marina, dwarfing all the boats around it.  Xilonen V is 162 feet

long, and when it was med-moored to its spot (tied to the docks at the

stern with a bow anchor thrown into the middle of the marina basin), the

bow of the ship was plunk in the center of the marina.

We had seen a couple float by the back of our boat on matching yellow

inflatable Hobie kayaks, just like ours, and we joined them to get a closer

look at this megayacht.  Xilonen V is staffed by a captain and crew of

11 people, and three of them were busy polishing the decks when we

floated by.  Of course all we could really see up close from our vantage

point was the waterline!

Lots of cruisers carry a hard-shell kayak or two on their

deck, but we haven't seen any other inflatable Hobies.

These new friends of ours have a condo in the area, and

when they bought their Hobies their neighbors all

thought they were so cool that they bought Hobies too.  Now the

building's kayak rack is filled with seven bright yellow inflatable

Hobie kayaks.  It looks like the final inspection and shipping

department at the Hobie factory.

We landed the kayaks on a private little beach, Playa La Escondida

("Hidden Beach") around the corner from the resort and took some

photos we thought worthy of a Hobie ad.

At one end of the little beach there is a kind of slot canyon that fills with

swishing waves as the tide rises and falls.  When the water swept back to

reveal the soft sand bottom, I walked in a little ways.  Suddenly a wave

roared in behind me and rushed around my legs and out the other side,

nearly knocking me off my feet.

It was finally time to venture to some new grounds, so at long last we left

Manzanillo Bay and putted 25 miles north to Barra de Navidad.  More and

more cruisers had started reaching this part of the coast during their winter's

cruising in Mexico, and on that brief trip we saw five other sailboats, a record.

Find Manzanillo on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on the "Mexican Riviera" (northern Pacific coast) to see more cruising posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Manzanillo Bay – Hot sauce & a great adventure

Tern flies over Santiago Bay Beach villas on Playa La Boquita, Santiago, Mexico

Beach villas on Playa La Boquita, Santiago.

Beach palapas on Playa La Boquita, Santiago, Mexico

Beach palapas on Playa La Boquita, Santiago.

Colorful beach umbrellas, Playa La Boquita, Santiago, Mexico Casa Los Pelicanos, Playa La Boquita, Santiago, Mexico

Casa Los Pelicanos.

Gold and black sand on Playa La Boquita, Santiago, Mexico

Gold and black sand swirl together.

The Oasis Restaurant, Playa La Boquita, Santiago, Mexico

View from the Oasis.

Humpback whale breaches in Santiago Bay Mexico

Humback whale breaching.

Breaching humpback whale in Santiago Bay Mexico Breaching humpback whale in Santiago Bay Mexico Breaching humpback whale in Santiago Bay Mexico Breaching humpback whale in Santiago Bay Mexico Breaching humpback whale in Santiago Bay Mexico

Whale headstand.

Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo Bay, Mexico

Las Hadas Resort comes into view.

Cobbled paths at Las Hadas Resort, Mexico

Cobbled waterfront paths, Las Hadas.

Curved archways at Las Hadas Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico Bougainvillea and palm trees on the paths of Las Hadas Resort, Mexico. Chivas soccer stars at Las Hadas Resort, Mexico

Soccer stars from Chivas.

Polka-dotted puffer fish at the dock of Las Hadas Marina

Polka-dotted puffer fish.

Evening on the Las Hadas marina docks Mexico

Evening on the Las Hadas marina docks.

Augutsín and son León of Frida's restaurant, Las Hadas, Manzanillo Mexico

Agutsín and son León of Frida's

restaurant.

León dressed for work.

La Tia hot sauce from Frida's Restaurant in Las Hadas, Manzanillo, Mexico

La Tía Hot

Sauce.

Inside Auto Zone in Manzanillo Mexico

Inside Auto Zone.

Cihuatlan Cathedral Costa Alegre (Gold Coast) Mexico

Cihuatlán's Cathedral.

Cihuatlan Christmas decorations Costa Alegre (Gold Coast) Mexico

Ready for Christmas.

Chebio's shop in Cihuatlan, Mexico

Chebio's shop.

Shop music.

Mark & Chebio check out the alternator, Cihuatlan, Mexico

Mark & Chebio check out the

alternator.

Ismael and Chebio chat about the alternator, Cihuatlan, Mexico

Ismael translates for us all.

A young boy in Johnny's Taco Shop sings for us, Cihuatlan, Mexico

Little crooner.

New copper stator and old burnt one.

Mark watches Chebio's quick, skilled hands.

Chebio has the worst looking but best

running car in town.

Mark and our helper/guide Ismael.

Manzanillo Bay - Santiago & Las Hadas

Mid-December, 2011 - We finally tore ourselves away from the beautiful gringo-filled

vacationland of Paradise Village in Puerto Vallarta and sailed and motored for 27 hours

around Cabo Corrientes to Manzanillo Bay on the famed Gold Coast or Costalegre.  We

pulled into Santiago Bay at dawn and were greeted with the familiar thick, moisture-filled air.

Hurricane Jova had

hit this coast very

hard two months

before our arrival and

it seemed that many of the umbrellas along the beach

were new with vibrant colors.

It was a neat feeling to return to a familiar place, and memories of

our time spent here last year came flooding back over the next few

days.  The tuba player that strolls this beach was still here, and my

favorite beach villa, Casa Pelicanos, was still decked out with

beautiful flowers.

The sand still had its lovely gold and back swirl patterns, and the Oasis

restaurant overlooking the beach where we celebrated my birthday last

February was still pumping out the tunes and burgers like something out of

a beach vacation magazine.

The only huge difference was that we were the only boat in

the entire bay.  Last year we were one of two dozen boats.

This year we could drop the hook anywhere we wanted.

We left Santiago for the quick jaunt across the bay to Las Hadas resort.

It was a quiet morning and we were puttering along under power making

water and kind of half day-dreaming when an enormous splash jolted us

both to our feet.  "Did you see that?" We said in unison, wide-eyed.  We

both grabbed binoculars and scanned the sea when a humpback whale

suddenly burst out of the water and fell back with a crash.

He was right between us

and the shore, and he was

having a whale of a time,

shooting up in the air like a

rocket and then falling onto

his back.

After a series of breaches he started doing

headstands, waving his tail and slapping it on the

water ferociously.  These guys are huge

creatures, and that tail has some power.  We

wondered if he was just having a little fun playing

in the morning hours or if he was communicating

something to a buddy or perhaps to us.

I have no idea, but after a

while he disappeared and the

gorgeous Las Hadas Resort came into view around the corner.  Again

the memories from last year came flooding back and we anchored and

took the kayak ashore feeling like we were coming home.

You can't go home again, though, and both the port captain

Adrien and the fuel dock operator Polo that we had

befriended last year had moved on to other jobs.  Las Hadas

Resort is in transition, searching for new management, and it

was very quiet.  Just six boats were in the beautiful little

anchorage, and two of those were unoccupied.

Wandering the brick paths up and down

and around Las Hadas is a joy, and we

spent a few hours strolling around the

grounds and enjoying the lovely pool.

We were treated to the presence of two major soccer teams in

residence during our stay.  The boys from the Guadalajara based

Atlas and Chivas teams jogged the paths, did exercises on the

beach, and performed soccer drills on a field at the edge of the

golf course.  Best of all was when they ambled around shirtless

after their workouts.  Fox Sports was hanging around too, setting

up their portable cameras to catch glimpses of these celebrities

during their pre-season training.

We never saw the boys swimming, but down by the dinghy dock

the water was so clear that we watched a polka-dotted puffer fish

swimming around.  It was amazing to get a clear photo of him

from above the water without even needing an underwater

camera.

The dock along the Las Hadas marina has several pretty outdoor eateries, ranging from a

simple table and chairs outside a convenience store where the locals enjoy a cheap beer

after work to the more elaborate fine dining offered by a high end Italian restaurant.  At

either end of the spectrum, this is a gorgeous place to while away the late afternoon and

early evening hours.

One of the highlights for us here

last year was meeting the new

owner of Frida's Restaurant whose

family makes the best hot sauce

we have ever tasted.  Frida Kahlo

was a surrealist Mexican artist of

German descent whose self-

imposted solitude spawned

endless self-portraits.  This

restaurant was named for her

before new owner Agustín took

over last year.  One of her famous

quotes is on the wall:  "I intended

to drown my sorrows but the

bastards learned to swim."

On lucky days patrons of Frida's are treated to the unmatched

service offered by Agustín's six-year-old son León.  This little boy

takes his work extremely seriously.  Although dad Agustín prefers

more casual attire, son León likes to come to work in a freshly

pressed white shirt, a jacket and tie.  Much to his dad's surprise,

he even sports a little cologne.  School was out for the holidays, so we were

fortunate to see this unique youngster once again.

Little León is extremely professional and takes his patrons' orders and delivers their

food with pride and care.  Last year one of the waiters started chatting with us in a

very familiar way while we were eating, and little León wasn't happy with this casual

closeness and even said so to his dad.  In his mind guests are guests and servers

are servers.  We all got a huge (muffled) laugh about this.  León is a rare, sweet

and special boy.

Agustín's aunt and uncle make La Tía hot sauce, a delicious hot sauce that is made

without vinegar, giving it a special flare.  It can be found at the mercado in neighboring

Santiago, but Agustín was kind enough to bring a few extra bottles with him one night so

we could buy them.

We spent a few more days at Las Hadas, soaking up its unusual and creative air.  Finally

we were ready to leave, and at 5:00 a.m. one morning we pulled out in the dark to head to Zihuatanejo Bay 185

miles to the southeast.  Four miles out the low battery light came on and we smelled a horrific smell of

something burning in the engine compartment.  We stopped dead in our tracks and began troubleshooting.

Flashlights, ammeter and noses on full alert, we realized this was a bigger problem than could be solved while

bobbing out in the bay between the freighters, and we turned around.

We have never had a boat problem that crippled our ability to travel, and we didn't dare think

about how this crisis would unfold.  Mark quickly removed the alternator and we took off with it in

the kayak to the dinghy dock and grabbed a cab to the nearest Auto Zone to have it tested.

Unfortunately the computers at Auto Zone were down and it took a long time for the store

manager to rifle through all the alternators on the shelf to find one with the same connections as

ours so he could enter the right codes on the testing machine to test it.

While we were waiting a fellow in line at the register introduced himself as Ismael and said he

knew an alternator guru in Cihuatlán, about an hour away by car.  Ismael told us he knew of this

guy because he owned a bus line with Mercedes diesel buses and he always had this guy fix his

alternators and work on his bus engines.  Once our alternator test was finally completed and the

screen showed large red letters saying "Falló" ("Failed") we hopped in Ismael's truck and drove

off to Cihuatlán with him.

On our way there we drove along a

five mile section of highway that had

been underwater when the rivers flooded during

Hurricane Jova.  Ismael had gone fishing the day

after the storm and the ocean was filled with cattle

and farm animals that had been swept away out of

the grazing fields.  Over 1,000 cattle were lost.  The

locals are working hard to recover.  The banana

trees were trimmed back right after the storm and

now were in full leaf and very healthy.  The vast

stands of palm trees were also fine.  But there were

marks on the buildings in downtown Cihuatlán of

where the water had risen to about 7'.

Now, however, Cihuatlán was getting ready for

Christmas, and the decorations gave it a festive air.

At last we arrived at the master's shop.  Chebio has been rebuilding alternators

and working on car electrical systems for his entire life, initially under the

tutelage of his very skilled father who opened the shop over fifty years ago.

The shop is largely outdoors and strewn with dusty parts like a junk yard.  Along

with the busy hum of machinery and hard working mechanics, a rooster

punctuated the air with his cock-a-doodle-doos from the roof

of a car and in a nearby tree.

As soon as we met Chebio we knew were in the presence of a

highly skilled mechanic.  He moved with the confidence and

ease of a master, despite near constant interruptions from

customers and mechanics looking for his expertise.

Throughout all this seeming chaos

his elderly father sat back and

watched the scene, collecting

money from clients and enjoying

the hubbub of his very successful

shop.  The young mechanics called

Chebio "Maestro" meaning

"Master" or "Teacher."

I did my best to explain our

problems to Chebio in Spanish, but

our guide Ismael jumped in to act

as official translator to make sure nothing was lost in the translation.

Chebio explained to us that he needed to take the alternator apart

and then see if he had or could acquire the replacement parts to

make it work.  "Give me 30 minutes," he said, so we took off for lunch

at nearby "Tacos Johny," a wonderful little restaurant.  Between bites of awesome 8 peso ($0.60)

carne asada tacos, we listened to the crooning of a young boy standing on a chair and then heard

our guide Ismael's amazing life story.

He became the man of his family at age 3 when his

father left.  Determined to make a better life, he

ventured to Nogales at age 14, knowing no English,

and worked in a restaurant without pay until the

owners saw what a great job he did and put him on

the payroll.  Continuing this method of making

himself invaluable before trying to reap any

rewards, he ultimately became the owner of a very

profitable framing company, opened three

successful Mexican restaurants and owned homes

in Montana and Colorado Springs.   A century ago

his tale would have been hailed as the ultimate

American immigrant success story, and he would

have been revered as a mentor by younger

generations.

Instead, after over 20 years in the US, rather than try to jump the high hurdles

blocking his path to remain there--where in all likelihood he would have continued

building companies and creating American jobs--he returned to Mexico with a fortune in cash with which he

bought a slew of rental properties in the towns around his family homestead and built a local bus line from

scratch.

His story was inspiring and sad at the same time.  Somewhere along the line America has decided it doesn't

need the immigrants that have always made up the very foundation, heart and soul of its society.  From north

of the border it is too easy to assume all Mexicans want to flee Mexico, but as we sat in this classic Mexican

semi-outdoor eatery that exudes the most wonderful homeyness, friendliness and familiarity, I asked him if he

had ever been homesick while living in the US.  "All my life," he said quietly.  Caught between two countries,

he still owns houses in the US, and his American wife, who was afraid of life in Mexico, lives in Montana.

We returned to Chebio's shop to find that by some miracle he had the stator we needed in stock.  It was a

perfect fit and was his only one.  However, the alternator needed a new regulator too, and that required a trip elsewhere.

Chebio took off in his trusty car that appears to be falling apart but has the best running engine in town.  He returned half an

hour later with the necessary regulator.  Another hour or two of work, during which time he had to explain to quite a few

customers that their projects would be delayed because of ours, and he got the alternator back together again and fully tested.

It was a great scene.  The rooster crowed, Chebio's dad sat back with a

satisfied smile watching his son at work, and a cluster of younger men gathered

around to soak up whatever bits of wisdom they could from the master.  The

outdoor shop and tools were rudimentary at best, but the job was very well

done.  Chebio used a kitchen knife and a light bulb, among other things, to

complete his alternator tests.

When all was said and done, he charged us 750

pesos ($53) for the project, of which 550 pesos

($42) was for parts.  We were stunned.  This

meant he valued four hours of his time on a Saturday at just $11 total.  We paid him a lot more

than he asked, and he was as thrilled with our payment as we were with his work.  It took two

cab rides and a bus ride to get back to Las Hadas.  Topping off our colorful day, the bus stalled

on a hill and, to cheers from its occupants, the driver finally got it started again by popping the

clutch while sliding backwards downhill.  Mark installed the alternator in no time, and it worked

perfectly.  Next morning at 5:00 a.m. we were off on our 27 hour motorboat ride to Zihuatanejo.

Often in this strange life of cruising and

full-time travel we place ourselves in the

hands of fate without any idea how

things will turn out.  We had woken up

this morning prepared for an overnight

sail to Z-town and instead were rewarded with one of the most amazing

experiences we have had to date.  The seeming disaster of a dead

alternator put us shoulder to shoulder with two of the finest and most

generous men we have met: our guide Ismael and guru-mechanic

Chebio of Cihuatlán.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Manzanillo’s Santiago & Playa La Boquita – Beach Fun!

Sunrise in Manzanillo

Sunrise.

Sunrise at Las Hadas resort A sea turtle along the Pacific Mexican Costa Alegre coast.

A sea turtle drifts by.

Sailing in Manzanillo Bay in Mexico

Mom enjoys a brilliant sail.

Villas on Playa La Boquito in Santiago Bay, Mexico

Villas on Playa La Boquita in Santiago Bay.

Villa on La Boquita Beach in Santiago, Mexico La Boquita Beach, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Mexico Playa La Boquita, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Playa La Boquita.

Playa La Boquita, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Black and brown patterned sand yields gold in bright sunlight.

Playa La Boquita, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico Playa La Boquita, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico Playa La Boquita, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico sv Groovy at Playa La Boquita Anchorage, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Looking out at the anchorage.

Tuba player on La Boquita Beach, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

A tuba player could be heard

every afternoon throughout

the anchorage.

Estuary on La Boquita Beach, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Umbrellas line the shores of the estuary.

Estuary on La Boquita Beach, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

A footbridge crossed to Las Palmas resort.

Las Palmas Resort on La Boquita Beach, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Manicured lawns bring a special kind of serenity.

Las Palmas Resort on La Boquita Beach, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

Canoes wait for passengers.

Panga in the mangroves Las Palmas Resort on La Boquita Beach, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

A panga in the mangroves.

Swimming off the back of Groovy, La Boquita Beach Anchorage, Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

81 is the new 18.

Bike shop in Santiago, Colima, Mexico

Mark talks "bike shop" with the locals.

Flea Market in Santiago, Colima, Mexico

The Santiago Flea Market offers tourist souvenirs.

Flea Market in Santiago, Colima, Mexico

Mexican sinks.

Horseback riding on Playa Miramar Bahia Santiago, Colima, Mexico

Horseback riding on the beach.

Frigate bird sits on San Luciano Shipwreck, La Boquita Beach, Santiago, Colima, Mexico

A frigate bird takes a close

look at us.

The Oasis Restaurant, Playa La Boquita, Bahia Santiago, Colima, Mexico

The Oasis gave me a perfect birthday moment.

La Boquita Anchorage in Santiago, Colima, Mexico

Late January, 2011 - We left Zihuatanejo and took our time returning north to Manzanillo.

This 200 mile stretch of coastline is very remote, and for four days of motoring and three

nights at anchor we saw only a handful of boats: tankers on the horizon by day and fellow

cruisers tucked in beside us by night.  As the guidebooks warn, the three anchorages along

here are very rolly, as they are open to the full brunt of the Pacific Ocean's waves coming to

shore from thousands of miles out.  Despite our best efforts to keep the bow of the boat into

the waves by setting a stern anchor in addition to our bow anchor, we found that the

crosswinds on the beam of the boat were so powerful overnight that our anchoring gear

strained and groaned in too much discomfort to make it worthwhile.

Heaving a big sigh, we let the boat swing freely each

night and, as expected, it chose to angle itself

beam-to against the swell, setting up a terrific side-

to-side roll that kept us rolling in our bunk all night.

One by one we found the various round and

cylindrical items throughout the boat that rolled back

and forth with a thud or clank on each side.  A

canister in a locker here, a beer can in the fridge

there, a broom handle over there.  Quieting

these relentless noises made for a lot of

detective work in the wee hours of the night.

The up-side of all this sleeplessness,

however, was that we were awake before

dawn each day, and we saw some stunning

sunrises.

Mexico's wind gods like to play with cruising

sailors, and they offer little but whispering

zephyrs each day along this coast.  At night

they howl ferociously, however.  Hour after hour

they shake the rigging like prisoners rattling their cell bars.  But at the first hint of sunlight

everything stops.  Just like that.  Acting like guilty children, as if nothing happened, they offer

the merest exhales once again, laughing silently as we curse yet another day of motoring.

Preferring to travel in daylight, we motored pretty much the entire way.  We were frustrated to

be cruising in a built-to-sail motorboat.  Again, however, there was a silver lining.  This coast

is loaded with turtles, and the calm seas gave us a chance to get a really good look at a few

as they drifted past our hull.

Ever the adventurer, my mom had been eagerly awaiting a chance escape the steady

procession of New England blizzards to try the cruising lifestyle on her daughter's boat.  We

swept her up in Manzanillo and took a sail to neighboring Santiago bay.  To our amazement,

the capricious winds blew perfectly that afternoon, and we had a glorious romp across the

wide bay.  Manzanillo's expansive bay is perfect for daysailing, and we took full advantage.

Once the anchor was down around the corner off Playa La Boquita in

Santiago Bay, we took the dinghy ashore to check out the beach.  The

beach is almost four miles long, and is quite wide, fairly flat and stroked

endlessly by large, fluffy waves.  About a third of the beach is lined by

beautiful villas that belong to the huge gated community Club Santiago.

Each home is more lovely than the last, and the cruisers gaze at

the large flower filled balconies and picture windows with as

much admiration (and possibly envy) as the vacationers do

looking out at the yachts swinging in the bay.

The beach is filled with a

mixture of brown and black

sand that makes fantastic

patterns as the waves wash

in and out.  From certain

angles the sand glittered

brilliant gold too, making it

seem as though a little bit of

panning might help out the

cruising kitty.  Our eyes

were cast down at the

patterns at our feet as

much as they scanned the

colorful views around us.

From the boat we had

heard the oom-pah of a

tuba, and once ashore

we had to go find the

source.  It didn't take

long.  A tuba player and

his little band were

walking up and down

the line of umbrellas at

the public access end of

the beach, offering

songs to anyone willing to part with

a few pesos.

At the furthest west end of the

beach we discovered a little estuary,

and we followed it slightly inland.  A

small bridge took us

over the water, where

a beautiful resort, Las

Palmas, was waiting

on the other side.

Perfectly manicured

lawns and shrubbery

offered a feeling of

utter peace and

tranquility.  We could

easily imagine

overworked executives

coming here to escape

the responsibilities of a

stressed life.  The only

sounds were birds

chirping in the trees;

the rustle of the palm

leaves were like a

chorus of librarians whispering "shhh."

Even the pound of the surf and

excitement of the rugged sandy beach

just over the little footbridge seemed a

world away.

Canoes were ready for guests by the

shore, and a panga that could host a

guided tour was hidden in the

mangroves.

Spirits sky high, we returned to the boat

where we found, to our utter shock, the

water was crystal clear.  Our

guidebooks have lauded the crystalline waters of many anchorages throughout our stay on

the Pacific coast of Mexico, but this year those waters have eluded us.  Wave after wave of

burgundy, yellow and forest green colored "red tide" has filled every bay, cove and even

the open ocean, making it impossible to see more than a few feet into the water.  Suddenly

being able to see clearly 20 feet below the boat had us all jumping into our swimsuits in

one motion.  Mark was over the side with a woosh, and mom was right behind.  What a role

model she is, announcing "81 is the new 18" and taking to the water like a 10-

year-old.  The aqua-cize classes have paid off in spades, and she demonstrated

her moves, making light of the very strong current that threatened to whisk us all

away from the boat if we weren't careful.

On another day we wandered into Santiago itself where a large enclosed public

market offers everything from fresh produce to sweet smelling straw baskets to

freshly filleted fish.  The streets around the market are filled with little shops, and

Mark found friends at the local bike shop, trying in his best Spanish to explain that

he used to have a bike shop in his garage too.

Every Saturday the town hosts a large flea market.  This turned out

to be more of a tourist-oriented enterprise than we expected, but it

was fun to wander among all the brightly painted ceramics and

beautifully carved wood pieces.  Pale sunburned gringos lined up on

one side of the flea market to find souvenirs for loved ones at home

while a few locals roamed on the other side, sifting through the

bargain clothing offerings to find more practical fare.

Taking the dinghy along La

Boquita beach, we saw groups

of horseback riders along the

water's edge.  Following their

tracks in the sand later it

seemed they paralleled the

weaving water line perfectly,

never getting their hooves wet.

At one end of the anchorage lies San Luciano a 300'

long steel cargo ship that sank in a 1959 hurricane.

What remains is just a skeleton, but the birds love the

remnants of the masts that stick up above the waves.

We have watched frigate birds soaring high over our

boat, masters of the sky, and at times of the smaller

birds nearby.  Now we had a chance to see the face of

one up close.

Back on the beach on my birthday, we asked both fellow

cruisers and land dwellers where a good spot would be to

celebrate turning 51.  Everyone pointed to The Oasis, and

we spent a lovely afternoon perched on their balcony looking

out over the pounding surf.

To one side of the view, the boats in the anchorage stood

out in brilliant white relief against the towering dark mountain

behind them.  On the other side we could see the little white

villas on the backside of Las Hadas resort.  It was a perfect

birthday moment, and I couldn't help myself as I said to

Mark, "It's like we're living in the pages of some glossy

magazine called Perfect Vacation Hideaways."  With that in

mind, we decided we would stay in the Manzanillo area a

little longer.

Find Santiago (Manzanillo) on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on the "Mexican Riviera" (northern Pacific coast) to see more cruising posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zihuatanejo – A Fun Town

Sail blog post - Pulling into the fabled anchorage in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, we fell in love with the lively, colorful, friendly and funky atmosphere.

Beautiful villas line Zihuatanejo's shore.

La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Pangas on Playa Principal (Principal Beach)

La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Dinghy valet service.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Z-town has a waterfront walking district.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

There are hundreds of outdoor eateries.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Playa Principal, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Palms sway in the sand on Playa Principal.

Town square, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

The waterfront park got a bandstand...

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

...and in no time it was finished.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Plants and brick pavers were ready to go....

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

...and suddenly a garden sprouted.

Beach fish market, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fishermen sell their fish from coolers.

Beach fish market, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fresh caught fish ready for the skillet.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Hundreds of waste bins are lined up to be assembled

and distributed around town.

Zihuatanejo Bay, Guerrero, Mexico

Looking down on Las Gatas from a beautiful

restaurant on the hilltop.

Playa La Ropa anchorage, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Toddlers love the beach.

Playa La Ropa anchorage, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Walking onto Playa La Ropa,

"Cothes Beach."

Playa La Ropa anchorage, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

The views are beautiful at every turn.

Parasailing, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Parasailing, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Each resort and villa is unique.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Looking down at the Zihuatanejo anchorage.

Playa Madera, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

New sculptures have been placed

all around town.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihua has its touristy side

on the waterfront...

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Local kids have a happy hour all their own.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

What a toilet!

Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fresh fruits and veggies at the large central market.

Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fresh chicken presented differently than we are used to.

Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Christmas piñatas were a hot selling item, and this

gal made them right there.

Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Ixtapa.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Rafa's Bar, before the rowdy cruisers showed up on

Christmas Eve.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Mike paddles his dinghy, a bright red canoe, past his

trimaran "Spirit of Adventure."

Zihuatanejo, Mexico (1)

Late December, 2010 - Finally saturated with playing on the beach

and in the water at Isla Ixtapa, we motored ten short miles to

Zihuatanejo.  This once sleepy fishing village is now a tourist town

with a charming waterfront walking district.  A hippy hangout some

years back, Zihua still retains its laid back pace.

Despite being right next door to the very sophisticated and built up

town of Ixtapa, and despite playing host to the occasional cruise

ship, Zihuatanejo is enchanting.

Arriving in the harbor during the late afternoon, we anchored in

front of a string of beautiful villas.  A fleet of pangas lined the

shore, and as we landed the dinghy a man came running towards

us shouting "I help you I help you!"  It turned out that a group of

enterprising young men have created an informal dinghy valet

service here in Z-town.  Working for tips, they help the cruisers

drag their dinks high enough onto the beach to avoid floating away

at high tide.  They keep an eye on the boats while the owners go

off into town and then help drag the dink back into the water when

the owners return, even if they don't return until well after dark.

This service is not entirely needed, as all the cruisers can

handle their dinghies on this short beach without assistance.

But it does make for a friendly welcome into town, and it is

nice to know that someone is keeping an eye on your dinghy

while you go about your business on shore.

What a surprise greeted us when we took our first walk in this

town.  We had read a lot about Zihuatanejo in years past, and

knew it was a favorite cruiser hangout.  But other than its

frequent descriptions as "friendly," "charming" and "a little

quirky," we didn't know what to expect.

What we discovered is that this town is an eclectic cross

between San Diego's upscale Seaport Village and a classic,

bustling, dusty Mexican town.  It has a wonderful air of cute

trendiness but has managed not to lose its authentic feeling of

Mexico.

The brick sidewalks, open store fronts and countless

sidewalk eateries stretched lazily before us while we strolled

along.

The town is currently undergoing an extensive renovation, and all the streets along the waterfront have been converted to a

walking area where cars are not allowed.  Meticulous attention to detail has been lavished on every storefront and building.

Posts and pillars supporting western style storefront walkways were wrapped with decorative rope, and all the walking areas

were covered with patterns of brick pavers.

A small park along the middle of the beach features a basketball court and bandstand, both of which came to life while we

were there.  The workers sweated steadily from before dawn until many hours after sundown, working under floodlights in the

dark, to make sure the park renovation was finished and ready for the holidays.  During our stay a garden of hibiscus flowers

and palms sprouted up, fully formed and blooming, at one end of the park.  The garden featured wonderful sculptures of

crocodiles, cormorants and iguanas, each standing in very realistic poses.

Along the beachfront there is an open air fish market where fresh

caught fish is sold out of coolers that have just been unloaded from

the fishing pangas.  Fish of all shapes and sizes are laid out on

display or kept on ice in the coolers.

One afternoon the park was suddenly filled with rows and rows

of not-yet-assembled trash cans.  To one side were three brand

new garbage trucks.  The money that the government had

given Zihuatanejo for their facelift was being well spent, and we

heard a rumor that on New Year's Day the governor of the state

of Guerrero was going to come to town to check it all out.

Tourism is the lifeblood of this little town, and in this neck of the

woods that means there are lots of timeshares and timeshare

presentations.  Walking up the very steep hill between Madera

Beach and La Ropa Beach, a van stopped next to us and a kid

hopped out and asked if we wanted a ride to the top.  Sure!  It

was a steep hill, and we and our friends were all sweating

bullets.  The air conditioned van ride to the top was great, but

we discovered what they were really after was for us to tour a

new condo timeshare development in exchange for breakfast at

a posh hilltop restaurant.  We took a few photos from this

breathtaking spot, but after much discussion with the

saleswoman and the sales manager, we decided against the tour.

Back down on Playa La Ropa ("Clothes Beach," so

named because a long ago shipwreck deposited lots of

clothes on the beach), we joined the vacationers playing

in the sun.

The beach was filled with parasailors, catamarans, kids making sand castles and couples

strolling hand-in-hand.  Everyone was enjoying Christmas vacation.

We wandered up and over the steep hill separating Playa

La Ropa from Playa Madera and got a glimpse of the

anchorage from high up.

Zihuatanejo has a large ex-

pat community, and one of

the favorite hangouts is

Zorro's, a bar run by a

Canadian couple.  The table

next to ours was filled with

local kids playing at being

grown-ups.

Mexico is known for

lovely painted

ceramics, but Mark

and I were both

very surprised when

we ducked into the restrooms

at one establishment.  We

passed the camera back and

forth between the mens room

and ladies room to get pictures

of the fancy toilets!

Behind all the bright and

colorful tourist come-ons in the

waterfront walking district,

Zihuatanejo reveals its true

Mexican soul in the central

public market just a few streets

back from the

beach.  Taking

up a full city block, this crowded and cramped series of indoor

walkways and shops offers everything imaginable for sale.

Fruit stalls, poultry stalls, meat sellers and spice sellers are all lined up

in impossibly tight spacing, along with straw hat sellers, dime store junk

sellers and bootleg DVD vendors.  Turning sideways to pass other

shoppers, we gaped as we passed a display of whole chickens splayed

on their backs, heads lolling off the edge of the table and feet sticking

up in the air.

It seemed we were in the "real" Mexico.  Women stood

patiently in line at each stall, waiting to fill their sacks with the

makings of a large family Christmas dinner.

Christmas piñatas were on display

too, and we passed a woman

making them from scratch.  Each

one was built around a ceramic

pot that would later be cracked

open by blindfolded kids wielding

baseball bats.

Besides the lively, touristy waterfront and the gritty, rich-smelling public market, what

made Zihuatanejo special for us was the spontaneous friendships we formed.  New

friends we met on the beach invited us to spend Christmas at their condo overlooking

Ixtapa's fabulous beach.  What a delight to spend such an intimate holiday with new-

found friends.

A whole community of friendships sprang up between the boats anchored in the bay

during the days leading up to Christmas.  We had heard that there was usually a

cruisers net on the VHF radio every morning in the wintertime.  After not hearing

anything on the radio for a few mornings, I jumped in and got it started.

This gave everyone a forum to meet each other, and in no time we had

organized a Christmas Eve gathering at Rafa's Bar, a restaurant

traditionally patronized by the cruisers back when it was owned by a

guy named Rick.  Rafa was thrilled when the entire cruising community

showed up in his bar in the early afternoon of Christmas Eve and

stayed until dark.  It was no surprise that they did, as Mark had talked

him into offering 10 peso beers (80 cents) to the cruisers all afternoon.

Most of the cruisers are folks like ourselves, graying a bit around the

edges and living a life they have dreamed of and planned on for years.

The boats have been carefully chosen and are well equipped, with an

emphasis on comfort -- at least as much comfort as can be had in a

small space wobbling around on the ocean.

Our cruising friend Mike, however, is different.  Just 25 years old, he

lives on an older trimaran that doesn't have a working engine.  "I'm

living on a loaf of bread and a huge hunk of cheese," he told me.  We

first met him when he was drifting down the coast about 50 miles north

of Manzanillo.  Arriving two days after us ("No wind, man!"), he was

triumphant to have broken away from the grind and gone sailing,

despite parents who wanted him to come home and get a real job.

Referring to his fellow cruisers (many of whom are older than his

parents) as "bro" and "dude," and wearing his baseball cap backwards

over his long locks, he is living a life many of us dreamed of at 25 but

didn't quite have the guts to try.

Zihuatanejo welcomed 2011 with fireworks on both beaches, and a

few days later the group of cruisers began to disperse.  About half

were headed south towards Central America, but our course would

keep us in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa for another few weeks.

Find Zihuatanejo on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast

to see more cruising posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa – Fun in the Sun!

Ixtapa Beach, Mexico.

Lovely resorts line Ixtapa Beach.

Resort at Ixtapa Beach.

Dawn.

Baby sea turtle on Playa Ixtapa, Mexico.

Baby sea turtle treks to the ocean.

Ocean waves at Playa Ixtapa, Mexico.

Baby sea turtle's new home.

Snowy egret in the mangroves at the Ixtapa estuary sanctuary.

Snowy egret.

Snowy egret in the mangroves at the Ixtapa estuary sanctuary.

Head on a telescoping arm.

Kittens play at the Ixtapa market, Mexico.

Kitten at the Playa Linda market.

Charter megayacht garage, anchored at La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Yacht so big it has a garage.

Catered food delivery at Isla de Ixtapa, Mexico.

Munchies on their way to the megayacht.

Catered food delivery at Ixtapa Island, Mexico.

Here you go!

Little girl sits in our kayak at Isla de Ixtapa, Mexico.

Little girl enjoys our kayak.

Workers take a water shuttle home from Ixtapa Island, Mexico.

Ixtapa Island workers commute home.

Madera Beach, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Madera Beach in Zihautanejo.

Playa La Ropa parasailors, Mexico.

Parasailors fill La Ropa Beach.

La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo, Mexioc.

A parrot says "hello" on La Ropa beach.

Vendors hike the rocks from La Ropa Beach to Las Gatas Beach, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Vendors hike to Playa Las Gatas.

Mariachi musicians walk Playa La Ropa, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Mariachi musicians walk towards Las Gatas Beach.

Shelled peanuts (cacahuates) vendor on Las Gatas Beach, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Shelled peanuts are a big seller on

Playa Las Gatas.

Pepe's music store in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Pepe's music store in

Zihua.

Mark finds the perfect Beatles guitar case in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.s

Mark finds the perfect guitar case.

Pepe makes music for us in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Pepe sings while Estéban looks on.

Bi-Zihuanas bike shop, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Bi-Zihuanas bike shop.

Bi-Zihuanas logo:  Alejandro Juarez of Bi-Zihuanas, Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Alejandro, owner of Bi-Zihuanas.

Awesome Dan Norton US National champions cycling jersey.

Signed US Nationals

champion's jersey.

Guests aboard Groovy

We share some Groovy fun with special new friends.

Carmen greets us warmly every time we pass.

Carmen, the jewelry store owner,

chats with us every morning.

Beautifully painted plates in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Beautifully decorated plates from a fine artist.

Lorenzo is a good talker at Lilly's Restaurant in Zihuatanejo.

Lorenzo checks me out.

Socorro has an awesome singing voice.

Socorro whistles and sings.

Dr. Soberanis is a superior dentist in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Dr. Soberanis takes great care of my teeth.

Cruisers' wall at Noemi's restaurant in Zihuatanejo.

Adding some touches to Groovy's signature on Noemi's wall.

Cruise ship M/V Albatros stops in Zihuatanejo before crossing the South Pacific.

German M/V Albatros stops for a day before heading across the south Pacific to the

Marquesas islands.

Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Early January, 2012 - The Ixtapa/

Zihuatanejo area is the ideal place to

relax, with lots to do, including

mysterious "Parthenon" tours.  And

relax we did, for several weeks.  It is a

place where people seem to be just a little

bit warmer and a little bit friendlier than in

other parts of world, a place where

everyone has the time to get to know

each other and let friendships grow.

From gringos escaping the cold north

winds for breezy beach houses to locals

living normal workaday lives, we have met

some very special people on shore here.

Ixtapa is the more sophisticated and glitzy big sister to small-town Zihuatanejo.  High rises line

the beautifully groomed beach, and each resort has inviting pools and views.  What a treat it was

to spend the night at a friend's condo, waking up to sunrise on shore.

While walking Ixtapa beach that morning we came

across a young couple staring intently at the sand.  We looked down and there was a

baby sea turtle making its way across the beach to the sea.  Soon a small crowd

gathered and we all rooted this little guy on as he took his first steps into the big world.

He knew exactly where he was going, and he was hell bent on getting there, trekking

down the beach with awkward paddle-steps.  In no time he was at the frothing water's

edge.

At first the only waves that reached him were the

gentle wave-ends away from the crashing surf.  The

water swept lazily across the sand, and as each

wave washed over him he would get jostled a little and dragged down the beach a few steps.

But when the wave receded he would right himself and continue his march down the beach.

Finally he got into the surf zone and in an instant a huge wave crashed on the shore and he

was sucked into its swirling depths.  We all searched for him when the wave pulled back, but

that was it.  He was gone.

One of the coolest things in Ixtapa is the miles long bike path

and extensive jungle sanctuary.  We walked a little ways back

into the jungle where crocodiles rest with mouths wide open and

long legged birds stand like statues in the estuary waiting to

strike passing fish.  I love the snaky necks on these guys.  It's as

if their heads are on a long retractable arm.  Imagine

being able to move your head so freely up and down

and round about without moving your body or feet.

A family of little kittens caught our eyes too as

they played around the beachside

marketplace.

For vacationers water play is the name of the game in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo.

Back out at Ixtapa Island we found ourselves surrounded by 75' to 100'

charter power yachts every afternoon.  These luxury yachts are so big that

they even have garages in the back.  The crew simply slides open the door

and roll out the jet-skis for a little fast-paced fun.

The restaurants on shore take good care of these visiting day-charters

without anyone on the charter boat having to go ashore.  We watched

platter after platter of food being shuttled out to them.  What a way to go:

pull in, drop the hook, and call room service for some munchies.

We live a little more simply than that and pedaled ourselves to

shore in the kayak for a toes-in-the-sand brewski some

afternoons.  One day we returned to find a little girl sitting on the

edge of our kayak with the biggest grin on her face.  Her dad

moved to get her off when he saw us coming, but she looked so

happy sitting there we encouraged her to stay.  She sat there for

a full hour, smiling away, while we wandered around the beach one more time.

At the end of the day the workers return home from this island.  Vacationers

visit the island in covered water taxis where they can escape the sun and

listen to Mexican music blaring on the water taxis' large speakers.  There are

so many water taxis that the boats are never overcrowded.  The workers' ride

is another story, however.  The boats were so loaded down with passengers

we wondered if they would make it all the way back to the mainland without

sinking.

Back on the mainland ourselves, we strolled all the

beaches around Zihua bay and soaked up the sun.

Mexicans enjoy the holidays to the fullest, continuing

to celebrate right through Epiphany on January 6th

when there is a final burst of fiestas to mark the

arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem.  This is the

day when Mexican children receive their holiday gifts,

not Christmas day.  I had been surprised when I

asked around on Christmas day to find out that the

kids weren't getting any gifts that morning.  I

wondered if they just skipped the gift-giving and

commercialism of the holidays all together.  But a

Mexican friend set me straight when he explained that

January 5th is the biggest shopping day in Mexico and

that the spirit of giving gifts to children coincides with the

gifts brought to Jesus by the Magi.  That made a lot of

sense to me, as I remember when I was little trying to

figure out how that jolly old elf in the bright red suit fit

into all the other Christmastime traditions.  He certainly

never seemed to show up in the nativity scenes around town…

Las Gatas Beach is separated from the other beaches

by a quarter mile trek across rocks and boulders.

Most tourists take the easier route and visit by water

taxi, but the vendors all save their pesos and do the

free hike over the rocks.  I was amazed to watch an

older woman deftly managing a basket of wares on her

head as she negotiated the tricky trail.

Mariachi musicians carry their large instruments, and

from our perch on Groovy just a few hundred yards

from the trail we watched groups of musicians traipsing

to and from Las Gatas beach all day, their large

instruments strapped to their backs.

One of the most popular items sold by these vendors

is shelled peanuts.  Generally about 20 pesos ($1.50)

a bag, the "cacahuate" ("peanut") vendors do a brisk

business on the beach.

One day while wandering around the back streets

of Zihuatanejo we came across a music shop.  Mark always

likes to check out the guitar selection in music stores, and

suddenly he turned to me with the hugest grin ever.  "Look at

this!" he said, holding up a Beatles decorated guitar bag.  He

didn't have a guitar bag for his guitar on the boat, and this

one was absolutely perfect for this 45-year-long Beatles fan.

The shop owner, Pepe, was happily strumming away behind

the counter.  He had an older friend and a young friend back

there with him, and they spontaneously jumped into a series

of lovely Mexican ballads on their guitars.  How I wish my

Spanish were good enough to understand the song lyrics as

they were sung.  Each song had a beautiful bittersweet tone

of love lost.  Weak Spanish was no problem, however, when

the young boy Estéban grabbed Pepe's guitar and launched

into a 12-song set of Beatles hits.  His spoken English was as

shaky as my Spanish, but he knew every word to every Beatles

song perfectly.  We sang what we could with him and hummed

the verses we didn't know by heart.  Just 22 years old, Estéban

sang with an affection for the songs that would make any grey-

haired Beatles lover from the sixties proud.

Another day we bumped into a bike

shop.  Never one to pass up an

opportunity to talk bikes with fellow

enthusiasts, Mark walked in and found

an instant friend in owner Alejandro.  It

turned out that Alejandro has had the

great fortune to ride the Alps and the

Pyrenees in France and is going to Italy

to ride this summer (but frustratingly

can't get a visa to ride the beautiful roads

of the western US).  What fun to discover that his ultimate cycling idol was the

same as Mark's: the great Italian climber nicknamed "Il Pirato" ("The Pirate"),

Marco Pantani.

The name of Alejandro's

shop is a wonderful play on

words.  The Spanish word for "bike" is "bici,"

pronounced "bee see."  The town's nickname is

"Zihua," pronounced "see wha."  And the common

local dinosaur-looking critter is an "iguana,"

pronounced "iwhana."  Combining all those words

together he came up with "Bi-Zihuanas" or "bee see

whanas."

Offering mountain biking tours in the hinterlands

around Zihua, Alejandro is so friendly and outgoing

that his shop is always abuzz with customers and

activity.  Another longtime gringo friend of his was

visiting at the time, and he had brought down a fantastic cycling jersey

signed by US National Master's men's cyclocross champ Dan Norton

to be displayed on the wall.  This is one cool bike shop.

But besides all the wonderful talk of favorite Tour de France moments,

towering French mountain climbs and shared lust for various cutting

edge racing bikes and components, the best part of this shop is

Alejandro and his family.  We enjoyed several visits with them, and

especially got a kick out of bringing the kids out to spend some time on

Groovy.

Zihuatanejo is a small community and everyone knows each

other.  Every day on our way into town we would pass all the

vendors and chit-chat with many of them.  Tourism is drastically

down these days, but these guys always have

smiles on their faces.

The two parrots Socorro and Lorenzo who live

at the restaurant Lilly's seem to smile a lot too.

Rarely confined to their cages, we discovered

they both talk very well, mostly in Spanish.

Socorro has lived with her owner for twenty

years, and she entertained us with her very dramatic singing

voice.  She would warble and whistle and sing with intense

vibrato from up near the ceiling every time we came by.

Somewhere along the line I discovered a large filling had fallen

out of a molar in the back of my mouth, and I was really glad to

have met so many locals to get a good recommendation for a

dentist.  Dr. Oliverio Soberanis came with several excellent

recommendations, and I was floored when he put a tiny

camera in my mouth to show me before and after photos of

my tooth.  Here in Mexico the dentists perform the cleanings

rather than the hygienists, and both Mark and I hit the chair for

a thorough cleaning.

After the dentist replaced my

filing with one that is truly invisible, I asked him how he managed

to give it such a smooth and slippery finish.  He explained that he

polished it, something, we learned later from a retired dentist

friend, that is too time consuming for many American dentists to

bother with.  He also fixed some careless work I'd had done in

the States years ago. So I left with a bright and happy smile!

The cleaning was 600 pesos ($46), the large filling replacement

was 1300 pesos ($100), and a medium sized filling was 800

pesos ($61), all a bargain considering he spent three hours

working on Mark and me and he took us right when we walked in

the door, no appointment necessary.  This was our third

experience with Mexican dentistry and we have been happy

customers every time.

Retracing our steps from last year, we stopped in at Noemi's

restaurant and added a few touches to our cruiser signature on

her wall.  The wall is becoming quite crowded with boat names,

logos and signatures, and hopefully when we return someday it

will be filled with even more.

On our last day in town a cruise ship pulled in.  Zihuatanejo

used to get dozens of cruise ships, but this one was one of only

five visiting in 2012.  Like all cruise ships that drop in on Zihua,

this one had an unusual itinerary.  Having left Hamburg,

Germany a week before Christmas, it was on its way to Aukland

New Zealand, a 50 day journey.  Wow, and we thought we had

sailed a long ways!!

On January 14th we finally stowed everything away and

waved our last goodbyes to wonderful Bahía Zihuatanejo,

and turned Groovy's bow south towards Acapulco.

Find Zihuatanejo on Mexico Maps and explore our visit

to this area last year here, here and here.

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast

to see more cruising posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zihuatanejo – Vacationland

Playa Las Gatas, Las Gatas Beach, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Playa Las Gatas

Zihuatanejo Bay lighthouse, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihuatanejo Bay's lighthouse,

now off-limits.

Playa Las Gatas, Las Gatas Beach, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Cruisers enjoy a pool party...

Picante catamaran charter, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

...charterboaters enjoy a pool party too.

Picante catamaran charter, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

"Picante" hosts spinnaker rides.

Banana boats, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Banana babes.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Suzanne and Tony share the cruising life as a happily married couple

sailing separate boats, both painted the same bright blue.

Parasailing Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

A parasailor enjoys the sunset,

towed by a boat that still has

plenty of gas.

Sunset Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Cheeseburger in paradise.

Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico

Beatlemania in Ixtapa.

Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico

Dance festival rehearsal, Ixtapa.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

View from our cockpit.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

"The Parthenon"

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Playa Madera, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Playa Principal, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Looking out to the anchorage from Playa Principal.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Playa Principal, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Playa Principal.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Table for two at La Palmera.

Cruise ship Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Cruise ship leaves for an overnight sail to Acapulco.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Mexican Navy ship stands guard just behind

the cruise ship.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Stunning sunsets were common.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Oops - look what's in the dinghy.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

When the water was clear, we can see hundreds

of fish by the side of the boat.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

A little school surfaces as one.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

A four toed candlestick

holder.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihua's first people

came over Alaska's

Bearing Strait from Asia.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Noemi's cruiser wall.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

We enjoy an afternoon of snacking while painting

on the wall.

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

Isla Ixtapa is all about fun in the sun. Babes get tans...

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

...while boys jump off...

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

...and do flips in the air.

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

Watertoys of all kinds are available for rent at Isla Ixtapa.

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihuatanejo, Mexico (2)

January, 2011 - Zihuatanejo enchanted us, and we stayed firmly

planted in the anchorage with no thoughts of going elsewhere.  The

bay is several miles across and is encircled by four beaches ("playas").

Playa Principal, the main beach, runs alongside the pretty little walking

streets of the town.  From there, a boardwalk wanders in and out along

the curvy shoreline to a small beach, Playa Madera.  Then you hike up

and over a steep hill to get to the long, wide, serious vacation beach,

Playa La Ropa.  The same long ago shipwreck that deposited clothes

("la ropa") on this long beach deposited wood from the ship ("madera")

on the smaller beach, giving them each their names.

Across the bay, accessible only

by boat, is Playa Las Gatas,

beach of the whiskered sharks.

We didn't see any sharks, but could definitely see the remains of the stone breakwater

believed to have been built by a Tarascan emperor to create a calm bathing area.  We

had heard you could walk to the lighthouse on the other side of the hill from the beach,

and we stopped in at Amado's beachside bar to ask where the path started.  Sadly,

Amado told us the land has been purchased for commercial development and he

advised us that it was dangerous to go there because it was heavily guarded.

Well, lighthouses are visible from the sea, by definition, so even if we couldn't see it up

close on land, we were able to take the dinghy to get a glimpse of it from the water.

Back on Las Gatas beach,

the cruisers had several

in-water happy hour

afternoons.  For these

events you pack your

dinghy with assorted

beverages and snacks and a swimming noodle or tube or other

toy that will help you float even as the world gets buzzy around

you.  A few dinghies throw out an anchor, and the rest raft up

alongside, and everyone jumps overboard, drink in hand, and

parties away the afternoon half-submerged.

It turned out that we weren't the only folks that enjoyed this kind of thing.

Every afternoon the huge charter catamaran Picante would boogie through

the anchorage, blasting a really fun Mexican Mariachi tune.  They would

drop the hook, and many of the folks -- beer in hand -- would leap over the

side.  We loved the tune so much we ended up singing it for a friend in town

and asking him what it was.  He made us a wonderful CD with that tune (El

Mariachi Loco - the Crazy Mariachi) and many other Mariachi tunes.

If the wind was up when Picante dropped their

anchor, they would hoist the spinnaker and give

people rides off the bow.

Hanging out in our cockpit watching all the happy and crazy

vacationers was great fun.  There were so many hot babes in bikinis,

Mark's head kept whipping around, and he always seemed to have the

camera with the long lens in hand.

One afternoon a para-sailor was making the rounds when we noticed

the girl in the air was dipping lower and lower.  As they passed our

boat, the line barely missed the top of our mast.  Suddenly, the tow

boat stopped dead in its tracks and the girl crashed down into the

water.  A neighboring cruiser roared over to her in his dinghy and

quickly untangled her from the para-sail and hauled her out of the

water.  It turned out that the para-sailing tow boat had run out of gas

The community of cruisers is tight-

knit and there was always chatter on the radio as pairs and trios of boats arranged

gatherings ashore and on each other's boats for happy hour.  Most are from the US western

coastal states and Canadian provinces, so there is a uniformity among us all.  One pair

stood out as being very special, however.  Tony from England and Suzanne from Germany

had each set out to sail solo around the world from their respective countries nearly two

decades ago.  They met each other for the first time halfway around the world in New

Zealand where they soon fell in love.  They were married in Samoa and they have sailed in

tandem for fifteen years since then.

For two years they sailed together aboard

her boat and for two years they sailed

together aboard his boat.  But two captains

on one boat will tend to run into conflicts.  So they settled on continuing their singlehanding lifestyle in tandem.  She sails "So

Long," a 1950's era wooden Rhodes 41, and he is aboard "Galaneia," a similarly aged 27' plywood boat.  Both are painted a

bright shade of blue.  Her boat is faster, so they don't really sail together.  She likes to leave port after him but is still able

to get to their destinations first.  She can check out the shoreside situation and give him tips on where to anchor when he

finally arrives.  "Port captains are used to seeing married couples with two last names on one boat, but they are always

surprised to see a married couple with one name on two boats," she laughed.  They are now mid-way through their second

circumnavigation together, headed towards the Mediterranean.

They are such seasoned sailors that they shrugged when I

commented that their plan to sail all the way from Z-town to Panama

non-stop seemed like quite long a passage, especially for his 27

footer.  What about the nasty weather in the Tehuantepec a few

hundred miles south of here, I asked, where the so-called

"Tehuantepecker" winds can howl at 60 knots or more and the

waves can reach 50 feet?  Wouldn't they want to stop and wait for a

weather window of light breezes and gentle waves to glide across

that treacherous area?  "Awww... the Tehuantepec is overrated,"

she said with a serene smile.  "We'll just go when we're ready and

deal with the weather as it comes, and we certainly won't sneak

along the coast half a mile offshore as all the guidebooks suggest."

I was amazed.  There was nothing about her quiet demeanor that

suggested she possessed such a fearless and brave heart.

A new friend of ours who has also sailed around the world with her children and now singlehands her 46' steel sloop had been

telling us how there are four types of cruising couples: the "A" group where both husband and wife are totally into the cruising

lifestyle and love it, the "B" group where one spouse is into it and the other is being dragged along against his or her will, the

"C" group of families with children aboard, and the "D" of the singlehanders.  I guess Tony and Suzanne fit into an "E" group of

married couples who sail on separate boats.

Back on shore, we got a cheeseburger in paradise at a little cart that sets up

shop every evening at 6 pm and serves burgers stacked with ham slices, two

types of cheese, onions, avocado, and tomato on grilled buns until the town

shuts down at two in the morning.  Run by an uncle and nephew team who do

a bang-up business for Gringos who are in need of a quickie American food

fix.

Over in Ixtapa, Mark got another

kind of fix.  Yet again we happened

upon a bar where the Beatles rein

supreme.  We had found

Beatlemania alive and well in Cabo

and here it was again in Ixtapa.

Before leaving Z-town we would

bump into it in one more time at a

tiny bar called "Fast Beer" that was

unfortunately closed each time we stopped by.

We were in Ixtapa to sort out our problems with our Telcel USB modem account for

our laptop.  Telcel's founder Carlos Slim was the richest man in the world in 2010,

beating out all the Saudi princes and middle eastern oil barrons.  Yet a simple

account that would take five minutes to set up in at a kiosk in an American mall had

taken us twelve hours of standing in lines in TelCel offices.  These offices resemble

the Department of Motor Vehicles, complete with numbered booths, numbered

tickets, long lines, challenging paperwork, hassles and frustration.  The difference is that (being Gringos) business is

conducted in broken English and even more broken Spanish.  Understanding the

plans available, the prices, the promotions, the hardware and software installations

and methods of payment are extremely difficult, especially since there are no

brochures or written documentation.  The employees are extremely well meaning,

and they try very hard, but you can feel the stress they are under.  If they make a

mistake and a customer is due a refund because of their negligence, the money

comes out directly of their salary.  What's worse, despite being a national company,

the nine regional divisions are totally independent and accounts established in one

region can barely be serviced in another.  Not only could the supervisor in Cabo not

reach the supervisor in Ensenada, but the General Manager in Ixtapa had been given

a list of phone numbers for the General Managers in other regions that was so

erroneous that we watched

in amazement as he dialed

first a kindergarten, then a

restaurant and finally a hotel

rather than the fellow TelCel

managers he was trying to

reach on our behalf.

So it was a delight to step outside (after slowly crumpling into a

shivering ball of misery in the overly air-conditioned TelCel office) to

see a group of young Mexican dancers rehearsing on a stage next

door.  An international dance festival was getting under way, and

these kids were a bundle of energy, gyrating to the pulsing music with

great enthusiasm.

In the anchorage, just off our stern, a cluster of lovely villas hung

out over the water, their thatched roofs giving them a decidedly

tropical air.  Set above them, looking very regal and totally out of

place, was a building Mark dubbed the Lincoln Memorial but is

locally known as The Parthenon.  Built years ago by Z-town's chief

of police, it became something of a monument to his corrupt ways.

Legend has it that he constructed the building with a secret

passageway that led down to the beach.  He must have known that

his ill-gotten prosperity wouldn't last and he might need an escape

route.  The getaway passage came in very handy when troops

arrived to arrest him for corruption, and he slipped away into the

nighttime waves never to be seen again.

Zihuatanejo is a scenic town, and we took many long walks

along the beaches and up and over the steep hillsides.

Banana trees grow in front yards, roosters strut about, and

dusty dogs sleep soundly in the middle of the back streets.

During our month-long stay three cruise ships

came to town.  Each had an unique itinerary.

One started in Los Angeles and was headed

along the Central American coast to pass

through the Panama Canal and then through the

Caribbean to Ft. Lauderdale.  Another had

started in the Bahamas and was en route to

Acapulco (their last night aboard was celebrated

in Z-town, complete with a huge party with a live

band on the back deck).  The third was doing a

loop through the major Mexican Pacific port

towns, originating and ending in California.

Each time a cruise ship came to town, there was

a Mexican Navy ship posted nearby.

They would come in and anchor just off the stern of the cruise ship,

and while one or two sailors stood watch the others whiled away the

hours fishing.  There was a Navy presence in town at these times too,

along with the usual State Police and Municipal Police presence.

Zihuatanejo is a precious tourist destination for Mexico that is an

important source of

revenue.  I suspect

all hell would break

loose if anything

untoward ever

happened to a

tourist.

Not as well protected,

a little fish almost met his demise in our

dinghy.  A series of large waves swept

under the dink, and this little guy must have jumped at

the wrong moment and wound up in the boat.  You

could almost feel his panic and relief as he scurried

away when Mark tossed him back in the water.

Late every afternoon we would watch huge boiling

schools of fish moving about the bay.  These guys

would dapple the surface of the water and then

suddenly jump as a group, creating a noisy woosh of white spray.

Sadly, the water was murky 90% of the

time, as one red tide (or "algal bloom")

swept through the bay after another.  We

had seen these blooms on the way into Isla

Ixtapa from Manzanillo, and we watched

them engulf the boat time and again while

en route between the island and Z-town,

and again once we anchored in Z-town's

bay.  Algal blooms have happened since

the dawn of recorded

human history, but it

is possible they are

more prevalent now,

caused by an over-

richness of nutrients in the water created by rainwater runoff from

land.  Nitrogen used to fertilize farmland winds up in the water and

the algae suddenly thrives.  We saw pale yellow-brown blooms, rich

burgundy blooms and one that was a dark forest green.  At these

times there would be foam on the water, and the tiny bubbles would

be encircled in the color of the bloom.  Visibility in the water would

diminish to the point where you could barely see the hull of the boat

through your mask when floating alongside and touching it with your

fingertips.

On the rare clear day, visibility in the water was easily 15 to 20 feet, and suddenly the huge school of fish that took up

residence under our boat was in plain view.  There were two different types of fish living there, and each morning two or three

pangas would motor alongside our boat and throw hand-lines over the side to try to catch these guys to use as bait for bigger

fish further out.  Our boat bottom grew barnacles at an alarming rate, and after just 10 days our propellor looked like it was

made of three pieces of concrete.  A little reef system of tiny one-inch striped fish and crabs had taken up residence on the top

of our rudder as well.  So we had something to keep us occupied as we dove over the side to cool off, as now we dove in

holding scrapers and scotch brite pads.

Back ashore we paid a visit to the Museo Arquaeologico de la Costa

Grande.  There is evidence that indigenous people were active around

Zihuatanejo at the same time the Ancient Greeks were putting Athens on

the map in the Mediterranean.  Charming tiny ceramic relics of all kinds

were on display at the museum, but the explanations of each artifact were

given only in Spanish.  The four toed candlestick holder caught my

attention, reminding me of the four fingered petroglyphs we had seen in

Utah.  Why did the ancients drop a digit when creating their artwork?

Surely anyone capable of such delicate handiwork could count.

For truly local Mexican food, we were told

to visit Noemi's, just one street in from the

beach.  Here we were served three

burritos and two cokes for 35 pesos, about

$3 US. No wonder the place is always

loaded with locals.  Not quite as yummy as

our favorite tacos in Ensenada at Las

Brisas, we were drawn to Noemi's not just

for her good cheap food but also because of her cruiser's wall.  She

makes available a set of paints for all cruisers that would like to

decorate her wall with the name of their boat.  We happily munched

away on our lunch and painted away on her wall, leaving a groovy

impression behind.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from Zihuatanejo, especially as all

departing boats were headed south towards Acapulco, and the recent chill

in the air and water made us want to go south too.  But we were meeting

my mom in Manzanillo, so we began the 200 mile trek back north.  A few

overnights in Isla Ixtapa gave us a last round of waterplay.

We snugged the

boat up to the rocks

on the western end

of the more popular

anchorage and

watched in delight as

the cove came alive

everyday at noon.

Ten or twelve 50' to 90' charter power yachts would

arrive from Ixtapa Marina, families and friends on board

sipping umbrella drinks and jumping over the sides.  The

captains and their crew would work hard all day, keeping

their guests as pampered as possible.  Meanwhile, as the

crew passed out drinks and took on specially ordered

meals from the restaurants ashore, the bikini clad girls

took in as much sun as possible and the energetic boys

dove into the water.

By 6 pm the boats would all be gone, and we would be left alone

in the anchorage.  The waves would explode on the rocks while

the pelicans materialized out of nowhere and spent the last hour

of twilight fishing.  The boiling schools of fish would move about

the water, swooshing this way and that, while the pelicans

coasted just above the water, lowering their beaks an inch for a

shallow dive, occasionally tipping their heads back with a big

gulp.  Meanwhile the trees would begin to sing a racous jungle

song, birds of every kind filling their branches in the gathering

dark, singing their hearts out -- or maybe bickering among

themselves about favored night perches and discussing who

could sleep next to whom for the night.

Tiptoeing out of the anchorage at oh-dark-thirty, we left

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo for a new destination, Bahía Santiago.

Find Zihuatanejo on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast

to see more cruising posts from this area!