Life on the Hook in Mexico – What do you do all day when you’re cruising in the tropics?

cruising, sailing, living aboard in Mexico

Mark makes music on Groovy

Sailing off into the sunset is a dream a lot of people share, and some even get the crazy idea to go ahead and actually do it.  What’s it like?  Here’s a glimpse of some of the things we do each day in our cruising lifestyle — kind of a behind-the-scenes look at our life of leisure aboard a sailboat in the tropics.

snorkeling huatulco mexico cruising and living aboard

We have fun above and below water.

When we decided to cruise Mexico, we planned to anchor out pretty much 100% of the time.  That way we could put more of our budget into a comfortable, newer boat, while keeping the day-to-day expenses to a minimum.  Marinas in Pacific Mexico typically cost anywhere from $30-$50 a night or $600-$900 a month for a boat our size, so living “on the hook” at anchor can mean big savings.

But living on the hook has its ups and downs.  Literally!!  The Pacific swell keeps the boat in constant motion, frequently lurching it from side to side for hours, or even days, on end.  Also, the beautiful ocean is often held hostage by red tide — or algae blooms — that cloak it in an unpleasant color and odor, and fill it with debris, making swimming impossible and dropping the water temps as much as 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.

87 degree water in Huatulco Mexico

Ahh… warm water!!!

For the past week, however, we have had one ideal day after another (November, 2012, in Huatulco).  The water has been turquoise and clear and in the high 80’s.  The air has been sunny and warm, and the swell has been modest, jolting us awake with a jerk only once or twice a night, if at all.  Our days have been spent swimming til our skin is wrinkled, kayaking in the bay, and walking the beach where the waves caress our feet with the warmest of sun-heated ripples.

Mexico cruising clear turquoise water

The water in Huatulco is gorgeous

Life on the hook, even during these heavenly days, is not exclusively about umbrella drinks in the cockpit, however.  Each day we have a few hours of work that needs to be done.  Mark keeps us on track with this stuff, making lists and making sure we stick to them.

I always find my interest in these things wandering quite a bit, though.  Left to my own devices, I’m afraid the list would soon be lost, and after a few weeks we’d be living in true squalor.

swimming in Huatulco Mexico (Tangolunda Bay) living aboard a sailboat

Who wants to quit swimming to do a bunch of boat chores??

Back when I lured Mark into this cruising lifestyle (well, let’s see, I think I dragged him into it by the ear!), we divvied up the responsibilities according to skill, inclination and interest, rather than going straight “pink” and “blue.”

Since I’ve worked with computers all my life and had cruised before, the chartplotter was easy for me to learn, and I became navigator and skipper while underway.

Cruising Mexico - living aboard a sailboat To Do List

Mark keeps us on track with our boat chores. Notice: “clean bilge” is not yet crossed off…

In our RVing life I never tow the trailer and rarely drive the truck.  Last time I tried parking the rig, I put us exactly perpendicular to the spot I was aiming for.  Mark’s last docking experience with the boat went just about as well.  So this division of labor has been a happy one.

I love technical things and understand the theory of many things on the boat, and I got a huge kick out of researching and specifying the boat’s major system upgrades.  But when it comes to holding a wrench I am still flustered by which end is which.  Mark was a professional service engineer for Xerox’s high speed (room sized) printers and grew up working on cars.  He is a master when it comes to electro-mechanical troubleshooting and installation.

Mexico cruising living aboard a sailboat and cleaning the bilge

I like using a kid’s bazooka water gun to clean the bilge!

So, in exchange for putting all the responsibility for all the boat’s systems squarely in his lap, I volunteered to keep the bilge clean.

Having a clean bilge makes it is easier to notice when something isn’t right.  Water in the bilge must be coming from somewhere.  Is it salt water or fresh water?  Guess who gets to find out!  Hopefully if a chemical is leaking into the bilge it isn’t lethal!!

In our earliest days in Huatulco, “clean bilge” went on the to-do list (our engine’s packing gland material is getting old, so it drips now).  Mark had the luxury of taking a snooze next to the open bilge compartment when he finished his items on the To Do list!  I dawdled as long as I could.

Cruising Mexico living aboard a sailboat

Boat work done? Take a snooze!

I’ve found the easiest way to get water out of the bilge is to use a kid’s bazooka water gun.  Ours has a pointy end that can get into the crevices, and it soaks up a good bit of water that can then be squirted in a pail.  Doing a final squeegee pull with fresh water before putting the toy away has kept it in good working order.

cruising mexico sailing mexico living aboard clean bilge

There, it’s done, and we have a clean bilge once again.

Living on the hook means that going ashore requires either a swim or a boat ride.  So taking out the trash requires loading it in the dinghy first, and then finding a trash barrel on shore somewhere to throw it away.

The kayak works for this task too.  The cool thing is that after the trash is gone you’re free to go exploring either on foot ashore or in the kayak.

cruising mexico living aboard a sailboat taking out the trash

Time to take out the trash!

Getting the laundry done also means loading it up in the dinghy and then lugging it to a laundromat — that is, if there is a laundromat somewhere nearby!  In most Mexican ports laundry service isn’t hard to find.

cruising life aboard a sailboat hand washing laundry

Everyday we wash yesterday’s clothes in the sink. We wear light clothing around here and it’s an easy task.

Here in Huatulco the laundromat is a cab ride away — in addition to the dinghy ride to shore.  Once you get there a woman washes and folds it for you (for 15 pesos per kilo, or about $4-$5 USD per load).  But you don’t get it back til the next day!!  (Ahem — that means another combo dinghy ride / cab ride to pick the laundry bags up…).  If you splurge and stay at the marina, you can have your laundry picked up and delivered back to the boat for 20 pesos a kilo…

liveaboard cruising mexico drying clothes in the rigging

Luckily there are lots of places to hang the laundry out to dry

So, to avoid the laundry hassle while living on the hook, we’ve found it’s easiest just to wash out yesterday’s clothes in the sink each morning and hang ’em out to dry.  Luckily our clothes down here consist of bathing suits, running shorts and light shirts. We haven’t worn shoes and socks since we got here.

I’ve learned that what gives our clothes that “clean” smell from a washer/dryer is the fact that they don’t get fully rinsed out.  So we always rinse our clothes to a point — but leave enough soap in them so they smell nice after hanging on the line.  Sheets and towels have to wait for real laundry service, however…

living aboard a sailboat cruising mexico changing zincs

Mark gets ready to install new zincs

cruising mexico living on a sailboat bottom cleaning

Tools for the bottom: scraper, new zincs, scotch brite pad…


We both keep the bottom of the hull as clean as possible.  In some places (like Zihuatanejo), the barnacles grow so fast you have to scrape the bottom with scrapers every few days.  In other places (like the Sea of Cortez and Huatulco), you can merely wipe the bottom with a towel to get the algae slime off.  It takes a lot of breath to get to the bottom of the keel, though, and Mark is much better at that than I am.  So I do the hull and he gets the keel and scrapes the prop.

Electrolysis in the water, especially at marinas, can eat a prop down to nothing in no time.  So we put sacrificial “zincs” on the prop and shaft that are made of that softer metal.

Living aboard cruising Mexico changing zincs

Screwdriver and zinc in hand, you gotta get down there and get it attached all in one breath.

Cruising on a sailboat in Mexico new zincs

A new zinc is installed on the prop shaft

Over time, these zincs get eaten away by the electrolysis instead, sparing the prop shaft and blades’ slightly harder metal.

However, the zincs are not that easy to install.  Mark makes it look like a piece of cake, completing the task in just a few free dives.  I would be spluttering and drowning and would probably drop the screw driver or the zinc in the sand deep below the boat, never to be found again…

Bountiful fresh water is critical to a comfortable life aboard, and we get our fresh water from a “watermaker” that converts ocean water into drinking water.

Cruising mexico making water with the watermaker underway

We go out to clean deep water to “make water”

This is a rather miraculous system, and our watermaker is enormous by cruising standards, converting 60 gallons of water an hour by pushing it through a strainer first (to remove the fish and sea creatures) then through two filters (to remove the algae) then through two 4′ long high pressure membranes (to remove the salt, bacteria and viruses).

Cruising mexico there is frequent red tide

Wow – clean water!! Such a special treat. Red tide is an unfortunate fact of life on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

The system is rated for 38 gallons an hour, but after the two membranes failed in our first season, the manufacturer (EchoTec) kindly replaced them with high capacity membranes, so now we fill a gallon jug in 63 seconds.  It’s quite thrilling to watch.  Shower water, toilet water and deck cleaning water all go into our holding tanks (140 gallons), but we keep our drinking water in gallon jugs as a habit held over from living in our trailer.

Mark hated the watermaker the first year.  It was a bear to install due to inaccurate manuals, incomplete parts shipped to us, and difficult positions for the various parts in the boat.  Plus, installation required fabricating a bracket to hang the high pressure pump from the engine.

To top it all off, the first membranes we received were dead on arrival.  Then the replacement set failed after four months!  Now, however, with great, working membranes, the watermaker is his pride and joy (“I want to keep it even if we sell the boat someday!” he joked recently).  It is his favorite part of the boat.

cruising mexico in a sailboat EchoTech watermaker

EchoTec’s main watermaker panel. At 800 psi the system pegs at 60 gph.

sailing mexico watermaker installation

Mark runs a hose to the deck to wash it down as we make water

The purity of the water is measured by a TDS meter (“total dissolved solids”), and we found the San Diego water supply at our son’s apartment got readings of 350, and the FDA limit is 500.  Our watermaker usually gives us readings between 75 and 95.

Most boats our size have systems that convert 6-13 gallons an hour.  However, we’ve found the 60-gallon-an-hour flow is fast enough to be able to wash the deck and cockpit with a hose run out a hatch.  This is a real boon at the end of a salty crossing or after sitting in a dusty area for a while.  So, making water and/or washing the cockpit/deck is often on our day’s to-do list.

sailing mexico watermaker 60 gph

60 gallons per hour gives a good flow

Then there’s food.  We are simple eaters, so our diet is pretty plain by most standards.  In Mexico we’ve discovered many familiar foods can be found on store shelves, even if the packaging is in Spanish.

The most common bread available in Mexico is “Bimbo Bread,” which is equivalent to our Wonder Bread.  But it turns out that Mexico’s Bimbo Bakeries actually owns the US brands Oroweat, Arnold, Thomas’s English Muffins and many others.

ex-pat living in mexico buying bread

Oroweat Bread is owned by Mexico’s Bimbo Bakeries

We’ve found Oroweat breads in most supermarkets in Mexico, and the price of around $3 to $3.50 USD is comparable to home.

Mexico cruising ex-pat living cereal

“Azucaradas” sounds & looks like kids’ sugar cereal

mexico cruising sailing blog living aboard quaker cereal


It helps to learn some of the basic food terms in Spanish: “avena” (oatmeal), “integral” (whole wheat), “grano entero” (whole grain), “pasas” (raisins) and “azucar” (sugar) are a few.  So when you see a cereal called “Azucaradas” with a crazy, wild zebra on it, you can tell it’s probably a sugar cereal for kids!

In this age of jet-setting food, we’re used to seeing tomatoes from Mexico in the supermarkets in the US, but what a surprise to find Washington apples here in Mexico as well as organically grown California spinach.


California organic Spinach is imported into Mexico

Did this spinach bring a passport?

This spinach was a bit wilted (it’s a long flight for a little leaf!), and the price was $6 USD a box. But it’s available.

Bean burritos are a common dinner aboard Groovy.  They’re yummy, easy to make and don’t take a lot of ingredients.  But I was amused when I asked our friend Andrés from southern Mexico if he’d like a bean burrito, and he responded, “Is that an American dish or a Mexican one?”  What we always thought of as being so very Mexican isn’t really…

cruising mexico sailing blog living aboard movies

Matt Damon & Scarlett Johansson – We’ll take it!

At night we often settle in with a movie.  TV reception is non-existent on the boat, but the bootleg DVD industry is alive and well in Mexico.  DVD’s are sold on the street for 20 to 30 pesos apiece ($1.60-$2.40 USD).  The titles often have no resemblance to the English titles, so you go by the actors’ names and hope for the best.  Who knows what this one is, but with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, it oughtta be okay!

Mexico cruising living aboard a sailboat in Huatulco Mexico

Groovy is happily anchored off a lovely resort in Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco





So we live rather simply, floating in a tub on the ocean and washing our clothes in the sink!  It’s a crazy life, but lately it has been fabulous.



Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Zihuatanejo – A place people keep coming back to… us included!

Zihuatanejo catamaran cruising boat sail blog

Zihuatanejo bay was busy when we got back.

Late February, 2013 – After our whirlwind inland trip to see Morelia, the migrating monarch butterflies and the magical town of Pátzcuaro, life aboard Groovy resumed very happily. Zihuatanejo is a vacation destination, and tourists were playing around us on the beach and in the water with gusto.

Zihuatanejo cruising yacht cruising blog

This power yacht has chairs & umbrellas!

One large motor yacht pulled in near us. They had a wonderful back deck with lounge chairs and umbrellas set out. Now that looked like the way to go cruising!

Zihuatanejo Playa La Ropa beach palapa sailing blog

One of our on-shore neighbors.





On our other side, along Playa La Ropa (the bay’s biggest beach), there was a series of palapa beach restaurants. They formed the backdrop to our view as the cruising boats came and went around us. Most boats were returning north, but a few were headed south.

Paddleboard kids and dog sail blog

These girls were having so much fun together…

Two boats with families aboard anchored nearby, and we got a huge kick out of watching the kids playing together. Before we left to go cruising, I had assumed that lots of families were “living the dream” aboard sailboats. The cruising magazines publish lots of stories about cruising families, and it led me to believe the ocean was teeming with young families afloat.

Zihuatanejo sunset cruising blog sailing blog

Another great sunset off our bow

Not so! In three years of cruising Mexico, we have met eleven boats with kids on board. So it was a real treat to see two boats cruising together with kids the same age. The girls were ten and eleven, and it was heartwarming to watch them jumping in and out of the water from the backs of their boats.  They paddle-boarded over to visit each other, and they played all day with the joy and abandon that I remember from my own ten-year-old beach days.

Zihuatanejo palm trees sailing blog

Classic Zihuatanejo scene.

Zihuatanejo statue Lillys sail blog

Pretty statue outside Lilly’s restaurant.


In the evenings the sun always set off Groovys bow, silently falling into the sea. Even though it happened every afternoon, we never got tired of it. As the light would turn golden around us, we’d both run for our cameras and get up on the bow to catch the last rays.

Zihuatanejo is a busy little town with an active waterfront. Just like the sunsets, we never got tired of roaming around and watching all the action.

Zihuatanejo fish market cruising blog

Everyone comes to the fish market…




Some serious fish selling goes on in the fish market, with folks of all kinds, from moms to businessmen, stopping by to pick up a little fish for dinner.

Double yellow head amazon Socorrito sailing blog

Socorrrrrrrrrito!! (she loves to roll her r’s)

Whenever we stepped on shore from the dinghy landing on the beach, we always heard funny whistling and singing and talking coming from the rafters of one particular building. The noise-maker was Socorrito (more formally, “Socorro”), an 18 year old double yellow headed amazon parrot who lives mostly outside her cage in the little store below Lilly’s restaurant.

painted plate Zihuatanejo sail blog

One of Francisco’s plates.

She just loves to sing, and her owner would cajole her into performing for us all the time. She was terrific at improv music making. Great long trilling sounds and operatic vibrato came out of her beak, along with lots of Spanish with perfectly rolled r’s. Mark quietly rolled his eyes at the store owner while I carried on lengthy conversations with her.

plate painter Francisco de Alba Castillo cruising blog

Francisco shows off a plate.

musical instrument crutch harmonica spring sail blog

“La Bamba” on a crutch, a harmonica, a ribbed pipe and a screwdriver!

It is nice to return to a place and find things more or less as you left them the year before, and so it was with our friend the plate painter, Francisco de Alba Castillo. Like last year, he had an array of painted plates and spoons on display, and we admired his new ones each time we walked past.

As with so many street artists, this is his commercial outlet, but he loves to do fine art too. His next project, he told us, is a very large canvas painting that will show the Hand of God, a mighty fist thrust up into a brooding, lightning-filled sky, with blood dripping from the palm. Yikes! I wouldn’t have expected that from a guy who paints pretty seaside images on plates. But Francisco loves drama, and we got a huge charge out of his animated and flamboyant persona whenever we stopped to chat with him.

One of the most engaging things about Mexican seaside towns is the many clever ways people find to entertain and make money from the tourists. We stopped in a beach palapa restaurant one afternoon for a drink, and along with the usual parade of vendors, a fellow came along making the most bizarre music.

tow behind water taxi sail blog

We get a tow from a water taxi!

He had rigged up a unique instrument built on a metal crutch. He mounted a harmonica to the top and tie-wrapped a piece of ribbed pipe or tubing to the side. To the bemused smiles of us all, he played a unique rendition of La Bamba. The ragged tune came out of his harmonica while he scraped a large screwdriver against the ribs of the tube for backup rhythm. His performance was worth a few pesos just for sheer inventiveness.

Getting to and from town was an easy mile-long dinghy ride — until the day the prop on our outboard pooped out. We had “spun” the prop back in Huatulco, and Mark had fixed it, but the bolts sheered on one trip across Z-town bay. Getting it fixed was a fun adventure, but when we got back from the repair shop Mark didn’t have the tools to remount the prop on the outboard.

up the mast sail blog

Up the mast on Halcyon

We figured we’d row back to Groovy — good evercise, right? — but it was painfully slow. So Mark hailed a water taxi and we got a tow. Now that was a cool ride!!!

Zihuatanejo Fiesta Bamba tour boat sail blog

“Fiesta Bamba” gets a face lift.

Boat problems are a normal part of boating, no matter what kind of boat you have. We had anchored next to the elegant ketch Halcyon that was used for daysailing charters. It came and went almost daily, but one afternoon when there was no tour activity, we saw a guy going up the mast to fix something at the top. Luckily the bay wasn’t too rolly that afternoon.

Fiesta Bamba launch party sailing blog

Alberto (left) hosts a fiesta aboard Fiesta Bamba.

The captain of Halcyon, Alberto, was busily getting another tour boat ready for charter. From before dawn until after sunset his crew was busy banging and scraping away on Fiesta Bamba, and we saw the boat slowly come to life. “One more week and we can do tours!” Alberto proudly told us.

He threw a party for all his workers on one of the last days of work, and he invited us to stop over. What a blast! There was enough ceviche and beer to keep a boatload of young, thirsty, hungry and hardworking guys happy, and we joined right in the fun.

Zihuatanejo fishermen mend nets sailing blog

Fishermen mend nets under the shade of palm trees.



As with all these seaside towns, the local boat owners are a mix of fishermen and tour operators. The foundation of the local economy comes from the sea. The fishermen mended their nets under the shade of the trees on the beach while the waiters at the restaurants facing the beach capitalized on offering customers the romantic ambiance of dining while overlooking all that authentic fishing activity.

Chatting with a water taxi driver one day, we learned that the pangas the fishermen and water taxis drive are all built in Mazatlán. The newer ones are wonderful, sturdy, 20-odd foot fiberglass boats that cost about 30,000 pesos ($2,400 USD) for the basic hull.

Zihuatanejo pangas under tree sailing blog

The popular “panga” has a long history.


Water taxis get additional fiberglass shade enclosures added on, and everyone goes for a Yamaha outboard, anywhere from 48 to 75 hp.

Zihuatanejo Playa Principal palm tree cruising blog

Palm tree on Playa Principal, the main beach in Zihuatanejo.

These boats have their origins in canoe shaped boats from eons ago. In his Log from the Sea of Cortez, John Steinbeck describes the 1940’s era boats that paddled out to greeted him in ports along the coast. The panga has come a long way.

Zihuatanejo boats in bay sailing blog

Some pangas get a fiberglass shade protection build on top.

Of course, the correctness of the word “panga” is debated. Many Mexicans have told us a real panga doesn’t have a motor, and that these boats are really “lanchas” because they are outboard driven. Some Sea of Cortez fishermen even say that “panga” is a gringo word.

And down in Central America we’ve been told the word “panga” disappears entirely, replaced by “lancha.” Whatever their real name, these boats are everywhere, even 20 miles out to sea.

Zihuatanejo Fisherman statue cruising blog

Fisherman statue in a tiny seaside park.

hibiscus flower cruising blog

Mark spots a pretty hibiscus…

Zihuatanejo bay resorts cruising blog

Pretty turrets look very inviting!



Zihuatanejo bay resorts cruising blog

Colorful resorts cascade down to the bay.

Zihuatanejo is a colorful place, and we enjoyed trying to capture the vibrance of all we saw with our cameras.

Zihuatanejo bay sunset cruising blog

Another lovely sunset off Groovy’s bow.










Some of the resorts that cascade down the hillsides have been painted in rich hues of burnt orange, red and yellow, with inviting shapes and pretty shade palapas.

Out in our anchorage we caught yet another pretty sunset off the bow. It’s no wonder people come to this town year after year.

And the funny thing was, with this being our third year in Z-town, we were now among those people too!

But eventually we felt the urge to move on, and we got ready to sail up the coast to Manzanillo’s incomparable Las Hadas Resort.

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->


Marina Chiapas – Waypoints, Cruising Guide & Inland Travel

Marina Chiapas is a new and attractive marina located next to the tiny seaside town of Puerto Madero and the new cruise ship terminal at Puerto Chiapas.  They are all situated around the same estuary about 18 miles (30 min.) from the city of Tapachula (pop 500,000).

This is a very handy marina for cruisers in many ways.  It is an excellent beginning or end point for crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec.  It is also 10 minutes from Tapachula’s modern international airport.  Supermarket provisioning is a short cab ride away, and the big city of Tapachula has luxury bus service that will take you anywhere in Mexico or Central America.

The concrete docks are in good condition, there is no surge whatsoever, it is below the hurricane belt, and the huge lightning rods on the nearby coffee factory likely protect the boats from lightning strikes during the rainy season (summer).  However, there is little tidal exchange of water in and out of the marina, so when cruising boats discharge their toilets or holding tanks overboard, the water can get pretty scummy.

Because this port sits next to Mexico’s border with Guatemala, it is a very tightly controlled port.  When arriving in the estuary you must hail the Port Captain to let him know you are coming in.  If you are staying at the marina and wish to go out for a daysail, you must hail the Port Captain both on the way out and again on the way in.  If you don’t hail him, he will likely hail you, calling, “Velero velero” (“sailboat sailboat”).

To see what the marina looks like, we have blog posts about our spring visit and our return fall visit, both in 2012.

Marina Chiapas Waypoints Chart for Puerto Chiapas and Puerto Madero Mexico

Chartplotter image of the entrance to Marina Chiapa


We have now been in and out of the marina a bunch of times, so I have noted some waypoints that may be of use to other cruisers.  These are from our Raymarine E80 chartplotter and are just offered as a guideline — we are not legally liable for their accuracy or inaccuracy.

I originally posted a set of four waypoints on this website when we first arrived at Marina Chiapas, and those have circulated among cruisers and turned up in the marina’s brochure literature (minus one waypoint that must have been overlooked).  However, there was a dredge blocking the marina channel at the time, so one waypoint was closer to shore than is necessary any more.

The five waypoints given here are more accurate and follow the contours of the channel better.  I don’t recommend entering anywhere new at night, but if you arrive in the dark and feel you just can’t wait outside the marina until dawn, I believe these waypoints will get you into the marina just fine.  As of June, 2013, there were still no buoys to mark the channel.  Those are likely in place by now, but just in case they aren’t yet, I hope these waypoints will help you out.

The marina was built by digging an enormous ditch and then allowing it to fill with water.  That is why the Marina waypoint is sitting on land in the image.  The dredged channel to the marina is fairly narrow.  There is plenty of depth, but stick to the middle of the channel.  The bottom is soft mud if you do happen to touch.


Entrance to Puerto Chiapas
First turn (RIGHT) towards Marina
Second turn (RIGHT) towards Marina
Third turn (RIGHT) towards Marina
Fourth turn (LEFT) into Marina Chiapas

Marina Slips

14° 41.819 N,  92° 24.685 W
14° 42.173 N,  92° 24.327 W
14° 42.240 N,  92° 24.170 W
14° 42.195 N,  92° 23.781 W
14° 41.990 N,  92° 23.665 W

14° 41.930 N,  92° 23.525 W


  • The initial entrance to the channel is straight forward and the red and green buoys are easily visible.
  • As you go down the channel you will see two large “Aztec” looking thatch roofed palapas.  These palapas are used by the cruise ships at the cruise ship dock.  You turn right before passing these palapas.
  • Next you will see lots of large shrimpers on your left.  After passing most of the shrimpers you turn right into the marina channel.
  • You will not see the marina ahead of you when you take that right turn.  Simply stay in the middle of the channel and keep moving towards the final waypoint where you make a slight left turn following the contour of the channel.
  • The slips are oriented east and west and are set up with two boats to a slip.


After tying up at the dock your boat will be visited by the Port Captain and the Navy and their drug sniffing dog.  If you arrive in the middle of the night they will probably not visit your boat until morning, but it might be right at dawn.  The visit takes only 10 minutes or so, and in some cases the pooch wears booties to avoid scuffing up your boat!


The cheapest way to get around is by “combi” van or by a shared taxi (the shared taxis are orange).  The cost to get to the city of Tapachula is 13 pesos per person (½ hour ride) in either the “combi” or orange taxi.  The cost to get to the small nearby village of Puerto Madero is 10 pesos in a shared taxi.  If you are in a hurry or have lots of bags, you can take an orange taxi to or from Puerto Madero by yourself (or with spouse/group) for 40 pesos.

To catch the “combis” and shared orange taxis, stand on the far side of the road right outside the marina’s entrance gate.

There is a Walmart and an air conditioned mall with a big cinema about halfway to Tapachula.  The “combi” or shared taxi is 13 pesos to go there.  The return trip is more complicated.  You can take a taxi directly to the marina for 150 pesos.  The taxis that go direct are the white and yellow radio-dispatched taxis.

Tell the driver you want to go to the “Marina Turistica” at the “Zona Naval.”  We found that simply saying “Marina Chiapas” was not specific enough because the marina was new and the locals referred to it as the Marina Turistica.

Unlike the radio-dispatched white and yellow taxis, the orange taxis are on a route like a bus system, so if you take an orange taxi from Walmart back towards the marina you will likely need to change taxis at a triangular intersection where a line of taxis waits.  Then the trip becomes 13 pesos per person per leg (52 pesos total for two legs for a couple).

You can also catch a “combi” van back to the marina from Walmart.  Stand on the opposite side of the road from Walmart and look for one labeled “Playa Linda” or “Zona Naval.”  They are not that frequent.

If you are going to the big “luxury” bus station in Tapachula to take a bus to Guatemala or San Cristóbal de las Casas, tell the driver you are going to “ADO” (the name of the bus line).  When you return from your trip, take a local cab from the ADO bus station to the “combi” station (a large terminal for “combi” vans going all over the place).  Find the van marked “Zona Naval.”

Marina managers Enrique and Guillermo also sometimes offer rides to cruisers when they return home for their lunch break (2:00 to 4:00 pm) or when they go into Tapachula for errands.  They will drop you off at Walmart, just make sure you are ready to be picked up on time when they are headed back to the marina.


There is a small market in Puerto Madero that sells canned and boxed goods and a limited selection of fresh food.  For a larger provisioning run, go to Walmart or continue another 2-3 miles towards Tapachula to Chedraui (which is also located in a large shopping mall area).  We found Walmart had a slightly better selection.

If this is your last stop before leaving Mexico, stock up!  From what we understand, it is much more complicated to provision in Bahía del Sol, El Salvador, than it is at Marina Chiapas.  If you are reading this before arriving in Marina Chiapas, do your biggest provisioning run at Chedraui in Huatulco where the cab ride is cheap and short.


When we were at Marina Chiapas there were no laundry facilities.  You can take your laundry to Puerto Madero (we saw a cruiser do this but did not find out exactly where the service was located) or to Tapachula.  You can also have your laundry picked up by marina worker Ronnie to be washed by his wife.  She has a washing machine but no dryer, so if the dust is flying when your clothes are on the line, they will come back dusty.


The bathrooms and shower facilities are very nice.  The three shower stalls in each bathroom are spacious and have wonderfully gushing hot water.  There were no hooks on the walls for hanging clothes or shower bags when we were there, but there was a large bench.


The wifi is improving.  In the fall of 2012 it was possible to get wifi from the boat but it was not always working.  You can take your laptop up to the air conditioned office and work there where the signal is often stronger.  TelCel Banda Ancha USB modems work fine.


The fuel dock is located in a corner of the estuary just east of waypoint CHS-04.  There is deep water right up to the shoreline, so there is room to turn your boat in front of the dock.  No need to wait for high tide.  There are grubby black rubber tires lining the dock, so get your fenders out to avoid marking up your boat.  We ended up helping other boats get fuel and then we received help when it was out turn.  Marina manager Guillermo may also take you and your jerry jugs in the back of his pickup over to the fuel dock.


Marina Chiapas Puerto Madero Pedicabs

Puerto Madero Pedicab

Playa Linda – Leaving the marina entrance gate on foot, go right and then at the intersection about ½ mile away turn left.  This takes you to a small tree-lined street of homes and a handful of small shop stands.  There are several narrow paths between the homes on the right that take you down to the beach.  The beach is blustery and blowy.  We enjoyed running this route every morning from the marina.

Puerto Madero – Catch an orange shared taxi into Puerto Madero.  This is a fun and funky little seaside tourist town that has always been enjoyed exclusively by Mexicans.  We were the only gringos in town every time we went.  We were such a curiosity that a little girl took Mark’s picture when she thought he wasn’t looking.  The streets are filled with pedal cabs.  Hop in one and ask for a ride around town.  It is a hoot.  Some are driven by pedals on half-bicycles and others by a small half-motorbike.

You can also walk to Puerto Madero by walking around the marina’s docks to the far side (north side) and following the dirt road.  It will deliver you to a paved road not far from the fuel dock.  Take a left on the paved road and keep walking until you come into town.  This is a fairly long walk.

Guadelupe Cathedral San Cristobal

Guadelupe Cathedral in San Cristobal

Tapachula – Tapachula is a big city but we never took the time to explore it in depth.  There is a large, colorful central market along the “combi” route into town that looks like it could be a fun place to spend a few hours.

Chiapas & San Cristóbal de las Casas – The state of Chiapas is considered by many to be Mexico’s most beautiful.  San Cristóbal de las Casas is a wonderful colonial city full of pretty architecture.  Catch the ADO luxury bus from Tapachula to Tuxtla Gutierrez (5-7 hours) and then from there to San Cristóbal (2-4 hours).  This route uses big highways and the bus can drive at highway speeds.  As an alternative, you can take a long and interesting bus trip through the mountains instead.  If you wish to do this, catch the bus from Tapachula directly to San Cristóbal.  This route is a grueling 10 hour ride that averages less than 30 mph because of the many speedbumps, but it is dramatic and scenic and goes through endless small towns.  Once in San Cristóbal you’ll see oodles of vendors selling tours to Palenque from San Cristóbal.  In our opinion they cram way too much into too short a time, and the distances are significant.  If you have time, a better option is to go to Palenque on your own on an ADO bus and then see the sights of that area using Palenque as your base rather than San Cristóbal.  Here are pics and stories from our experiences on our scenic bus adventure through Chiapas and in San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Palenque Mayan Ruins

Mayan ruins at Palenque – breathtaking!

Palenque – Some of Mexico’s finest Mayan ruins are in the neighborhood of Palenque, which is a 5 hour bus ride via ADO bus lines from San Cristóbal.  The town of Palenque is charming and vibrant.  The ruins are a 10 minute “combi” ride from town.  For more Mayan ruins, take an organized day tour from Palenque to Yaxchilán and Bonampak.  Yaxchilán was an ancient city located on the river that separates Guatemala and Mexico, and getting there involves an hour-long boat ride upriver in an open launch.  We felt like we had walked into the pages of National Geographic.  Bonampak features some incredible, colorful frescoes on the inside walls of a few of the ruined buildings.  These are astonishing sights to behold.  If you have the time, do it.  Another side trip you can do from Palenque is to visit the waterfalls of Misol-Ha and Agua Azul (most easily done with an organized tour van from Palenque — many vendors sell these tours on the streets of Palenque).  Here are our pics and stories from our trip to Palenque, our tour of Misol-Ha and Agua Azul and our tour of Yaxhilán and Bonampak.  This was among the most exotic and exciting travel we experienced in three years of cruising Mexico.

Agua Azul Waterfalls

Agua Azul – the cascades of water go on forever

Boat ride to Yaxchilan

The ruins at Yaxhilán include a cool riverboat ride along the Guatemala border.

Mayan wall frescos at Bonampak

Vivid Mayan wall frescoes at Bonampak

Mayan glyph carvings at Yaxchilan

Mayan glyph carvings at Yaxchilán












Lakes and Canyons – From San Cristóbal you can also visit Lagos Montebellos and Sumidero Canyon, two trips full of natural beauty that sound utterly delightful but that we did not have time to do.  Sumidero Canyon can be viewed from an open launch boat on a 2-3 hour tour.

Guatemala – Guatemala City is a 9 hour bus ride (on TICA bus which leaves from the ADO terminal in Tapachula).  From there catch a cab to Antigua (our cab fare was $45 for this 45 minute trip).  Many people love the colonial city of Antigua and many also visit Lake Atitlán which is said to be very beautiful.  For us Antigua was a disappointment, but everyone has different travel experiences.

Spanish Immersion School – We attended a one-week Spanish immersion school in San Cristóbal de las Casas: Instituto Jovel.  It was very professionally run, and it cost $100 per person for five days of tutorial instruction 3 hours a day.  A tiny bit of material may provided on xeroxed pages, but most is given on the white board while you take notes.  Bring a notebook and pen and/or use a camera to capture everything before your instructor erases it!!  Three hours a day was about all we could absorb — more than that and our brains would have been mush.  We also asked for homework, which is optional.  There is a Spanish school on every street corner in Antigua, Guatemala with similar prices.  You can also arrange to live with a local family while attending school in either location.  The living conditions will be spartan but you will be speaking Spanish all the time.  Our pics and stories of our Spanish Immersion experience are part of our page on San Cristóbal.

Coffee Plantation ToursFinca Hamburgo is a coffee plantation high in the mountains north of Tapachula where you can cool off after sweltering in the marina for a while.  We did not do go there but got lots of info about it.  They have pretty cabins, hiking trails and tours of the plantation and processing plant, tours of the exotic flower gardens and bird watching tours (extra fees of ~$100 pesos per person for each 2-3 hour tour).  The restaurant is said to prepare awesome meals.  We were offered a 3-day stay including shuttle pickup at the Tapachula bus station for $2800 pesos in spring of 2012.  In the fall of 2012 we were offered a 3-day stay including shuttle pickup at Marina Chiapas for $3400 pesos.  Finca Argovia is another very popular coffee plantation a little closer to Marina Chiapas and slightly lower in the mountains.  They also have rooms but do not offer shuttle service to and from the marina.

Macaw Tours Tapachula

Awesome personalized tours!!

Macaw Tours Tapachula – Arturo of Macaw Tours Tapachula arranges wonderful, informative and personalized tours of everything in the area.  He will take you to Palenque, into Guatemala, or to the coffee plantations and you won’t have to arrange anything other than the pickup and delivery time at the marina.  He is a charming man and everyone who takes his tours raves about what fun they are.  If you want to simply enjoy the ride and don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of buses and hotel reservations and figuring out where and what to eat, go see the sights with Arturo.  He’s the best.  He gets the finest guides, arranges yummy and authentic food, and handles all the hard stuff for you. Cruisers often team up in groups of up to 8 or 10 to take a tour with him.


Marina Chiapas (Puerto Chiapas) is a new tourist port that until two years ago was strictly a shrimping port.  The smelly fish processing discharge has been cleaned up, a fancy new cruise ship dock has been erected, and this marina will one day be a true delight to visit.

At the moment, however, the port is still in a growth phase.  There are virtually no yacht services.  This marina has close ties with Huatulco, and they have tried to persuade marine service experts to make the 260 mile 9 hour bus ride to Marina Chiapas to service the cruising boats there.  However, some people have waited months and never seen the service experts come.  If you have major problems with your boat, you will find better services in Huatulco.


In many ways Marina Chiapas is an ideal place to leave your boat for the summer.  We left Groovy for 7 months and found her in fine shape when we returned.  We asked local sport fishing captain Andres Reyes Prudente to oversee the cleaning and airing out of our boat and he did a great job.

During the marina’s first few summers (2012-2014), the marina offered a phenomenal introductory rate of $200 per month for the hurricane season (May-Nov).  I’m not sure if such a competitive rate will be offered again, but if it were, surely every boat within several hundred miles that needed a home for the hurricane season would stay there.


You can anchor in the estuary off the beach on the west side (opposite the cruise ship terminal), rather than staying in the marina.  The fee is 80 pesos per day, payable to API upon departure (this “port fee” is built into the slip rates at the marina).


Leaving Marina Chiapas is a chore, whether going north to Huatulco or south to El Salvador or beyond.  Boats headed north must get exit paperwork for leaving Puerto Chiapas, even though they are staying in Mexican waters.  You must visit the Port Captain’s office on the other side of town to get your exit paperwork ($76 peso fee for the documentation in fall of 2012).  Marina manager Guillermo may drive you there.  He will also check your documents and work up some preliminary paperwork before taking you there.  Allow 2-3 hours for this process.  There are two dates on the exit paperwork: the date the document is signed and your planned date of departure.  You have 48 hours to leave Puerto Chiapas from your planned date of departure listed on the document.  Otherwise you need to repeat the process and get new exit paperwork.

Misol-Ha Waterfall

Misol-Ha waterfall – you can creep in behind it!

For boats headed out of Mexico there is not just the visit to the Port Captain’s office but also a visit to Immigration.  Again, Guillermo may drive you there.  Allow 3-5 hours for the whole Port Captain / Immigration process, and more if there are several boats going through this process at once.  You have 48 hours from the departure date listed on your exit Zarpe to leave Puerto Chiapas.

Two hours prior to actual departure, both the Navy and Port Captain must visit your boat in person to do the final drug sniff with the dog and to fill out some final papers.  You can hail the Port Captain on VHF 16 to initiate this visit, or the marina managers may do it for you.  You need a copy of your Coast Guard documentation and passports for this visit.  Once the visit is completed you must leave within 2 hours.  If you are making a midnight or 3 a.m. departure, they will come at night and the same rules still apply for timing your departure.

The officials have been known to be as much as 3 hours late in making their visit to departing boats.  Most boats leaving Marina Chiapas are on a tight schedule due to either the blows in the Gulf of Tehuantepec or the timing of high tide at the entrance to Bahía del Sol in El Salvador (you can enter only during the daytime high tide each day).  Puerto Chiapas has never had many cruising boats visiting in the past, so all the paperwork processing for cruisers is relatively new to everyone involved.  Hopefully in the future the system will become easier, especially the timing of final inspections prior to departures.

Here’s our crazy story of our departure from Marina Chiapas…!!

The following is a summary of what we saw on our 3-week inland trip from Marina Chiapas:

To see more goodies about Mexico on this website, click here:

More Tips for Cruising Mexico

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

Zihatanejo Bay fisherman canoe ketch living aboard Mexico

We woke up to a pretty scene in the bay.

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

Zihuatanejo catamaran Mexico cruising blog

Some catamarans double as launch boats!

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

Zihuatanejo fishermen canoe sailboat Mexico living aboard blog

Daniel visits us in his canoe.

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

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

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

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

Zihuatanejo Playa Last Gatas Mexico sail blog

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

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

Zihuatanejo water taxi living aboard blog

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

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

Zihuatanejo Playa Principal cruising Mexico blog

View of Zihuatanejo Bay

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

7 Zihuatanejo fish market Playa Principal Mexico sailing blog

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

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

Zihuatanejo fish market Playa Principal Mexico sail blog

Fishermen show off today’s catch: red snapper.


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

09 Mexico cruising blog Zihuatanejo marlin fisherman fish market 405

What a catch!!

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

Mexico sailing blog Zihuatanejo girl in toy car

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











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

Mexico living aboard blog Zihuatanejo mercado

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

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


sail blog Zihuatanejo Mexico sunset

The sun melts into the sea off our bow.

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

living aboard blog Zihuatanejo sunset

One last wink, and then goodnight!

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

cruising blog Zihuatanejo Mexico green flash

The “green flash” is real!!

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

sailing blog Zihuatanejo Sail Fest Mexico

A boat dresses up for Sail Fest

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

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

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

living aboard blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

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

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

 sailing blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

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



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

sail blog Patricia Belle Zihuatanejo Sail Fest Mexico

Schooner Patricia Belle in full glory on the horizon.

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

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

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

cruising blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

We had a blast photographing all these beautiful boats.

 living aboard blog Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

The racers return to the bay.

sailing blog Mexico Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Schooner Patricia Belle and ketch Northern Passage ride the breezes








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

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

sail blog Patricia Belle schooner Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

We were lucky to get a tour of Patricia Belle.

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

cruising blog Mexico schooner rigging Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Beautiful traditional rigging.

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

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

cruising blog Mexico schooner bow sprit Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

The bowsprit

living aboard blog Captain Patricia Belle Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

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









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

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

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

cruising blog schooner belowdecks Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

Below decks has a wonderful old pirate ship feeling!


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

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

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

sailing blog schooner Patricia Belle Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

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

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

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

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

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

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

Underway sailing from Huatulco to Zihuatanejo Sail blog

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

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

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

Whale tale puerto escondido cruising blog

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

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

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

puerto escondido coastline sailing blog

Sailing closer to shore makes a more interesting voyage.

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

sunset at sea on groovy sailing blog

Sunset at sea…

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

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

underway night sailing passage cruising blog

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

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

 full on groovy sail blog

The full moon’s light plays on our ensign.

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

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

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

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

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

skip jack tuna sailing blog

Is this one good eating??

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

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

blue water of acapulco sailing blog

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

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

acapulco shoreline sailing blog

Even outer Acapulco’s skyline has lots of highrises.

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

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

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

hillside resorts puerto marques sail blog

Pretty villas perch on the cliffs in Puerto Marques.

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

puerto marques sailing blog

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

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

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

 puerto marques sunfish sail blog

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

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

puerto marques sunfish sail blog

Riding a late afternoon breeze.








packing gland wrench cruising blog

Mark is ready to tackle the packing gland.

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

sunrise over acapulco hills sail blog

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

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

cruising passage making sailing blog

Gliding up the coast at 7 mph.

cruising passagemaking sailing blog

Passage-making is hard work (smile!).

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


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

clamp-on volt meter alternator sail blog

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

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

Papanoa anchorage palapas cruising blog

The palapa bar at Papanoa, a small fishing harbor.

Papanoa anchorage pelicans sail blog

Papanoa anchorage weighing anchor cruising blog

Weighing anchor in Papanoa’s tiny harbor.

Papanoa anchorage lighthouse sailing blog

Morning light on Papanoa’s lighthouse and breakwater.









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

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

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

Manta rays leaping Mexico sail blog

Leaping manta rays.

Manta rays leaping Mexico sailing blog

One going up and one going down.

manta rays leaping sailing blog

Sheer joy at being alive!

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

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

zihuatanejo lighthouse sailing blog

A welcome sight – Zihuatanejo’s lighthouse.

zihuatanejo bay entrance cruising blog

Coming into the bay in Zihuatanejo.

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

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Huatulco Farewell – Fabulous Memories of a great stay

Playa Entrega Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Playa Entrega is one of Huatulco’s best beaches.

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

Huatulco Mexico Cruise Ship Dock sailing blog

View of the cruise ship dock from our boat.

Santa Cruz Bay Huatulco Mexico Cruise Ship Dock sail blog

Pier in the little Santa Cruz harbor.

Pelican Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

A pelican checks us out.

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

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

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

Full Moon on ocean Sailing Mexico blog

Full moon at sea.

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

Guitar singer Huatulco Mexico sail blog

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

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

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

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

Waiter Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Eugenio brings joy to patrons.

Orange fronted Parrots Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The parrots smooched in the trees every night.

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

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

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

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

Santa Cruz kiosk Cafe Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

The pretty town square in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz town square Huatulco Mexico sail blog

A great place to enjoy an ice cream coffee drink.

Santa Cruz town square Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

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

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

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

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

Fat lady statue Huatulco Mexico sail blog

She looks like we always felt after those yummy frappés.

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

Coffee ice cream drinks Huatulco Mexico sailing blog









Fixing the boat alternator Mexico cruising blog

Installing the new alternator – fun fun fun!

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

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

The cruising life aboard groovy Mexico sailing blog

This is more like it – real fun!

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

Marimba Santa Cruz Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Playing the marimba on the beach.

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

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

Cruise ship Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

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

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

Kiskadee Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

This little kiskadee has a great big voice!

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

Tropical bird Huatulco Mexico sail blog

What is it?

Pelicans Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

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


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

Gulls on bouy Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Gulls line up on a buoy facing the sun.

San Agostin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

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

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

Reef Fish Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Fish on the reef at San Agostín beach.





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

Reef Fish Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Baby wrasses

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

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

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

Sunset sailing Huatulco Mexico sail blog 450

Sunset on Groovy… goodbye Huatulco!!

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

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

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

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

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

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas – Just Stunning!!!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

A romantic spot by one of the pools.

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

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The outdoor breakfast nook…

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

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

President of Paradise

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

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

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

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

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

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunset lights up some flowers on a roof deck.

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

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog pool 405

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

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

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

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

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

10 Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog mexican 210

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

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Looking back towards Santa Cruz Bay where Groovy waited patiently








Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

A rowboat on windswept Barra de la Cruz.

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

Barra Huatulco Mexico sailing blog


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

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

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

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

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Playa Violin – clear and inviting.

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


Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Craggy rocks line the shores of Playa Violin.

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

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A corner of the beach at Playa VIolin.

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

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Fish swim just below the surface.



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

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The fish were abundant.


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

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Some wildflowers lured Mark off the path.

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

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

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

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->


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

Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing blog

Surf at Playa La Bocana

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

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Playa La Bocana is a favorite surf beach








Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Hang on!!

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

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

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog





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

Villa Escondida La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Entering Villa Escondida



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

Villa Escondida Playa La Bocana Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

There are huge views to the beach from every room.


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

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

Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

Views from Villa Escondida hang like paintings on the wall.

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

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

Villa Escondida Huatulco La Bocana sailing Mexico bl

View from up top.

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

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Awesome views from the roof deck.

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

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Villa Escondida sits right on the beach.

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

View from Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Dinner in this dining room was exceptional

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

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Villa Escondida

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

Window View Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Pretty views…

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

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Beachside pool

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

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Elegant and grand…

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

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

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

Beach chairs Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A great place for relaxing…

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

Beach bonfire Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Our beach bonfire went long into the night.




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

Sunrise Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunrise view from the deck of Villa Escondida

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

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

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


<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

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

motorcycles in huatulco sail mexico blog

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

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

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

motor scooter family in huatulco sail mexico

A family zips through town

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

motor scooters in huatulco cruising mexico blog

Two-up on a scooter with surf boards!

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

bike with passenger seat huatulco sailing mexico blog

This bike has a custom wooden passenger seat


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

snack vendor on a trike huatulco cruising mexico blog

Snack vendors pedal (and peddle) all over town





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

pizza pollo delivery motorcycle huatulco sail mexico blog

Chicken dinners and pizza get delivered by scooter



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

tuk-tuk huatulco sail mexico blog

Tuk-tuks are handy for any small hauling job

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

water delivery tuk-tuk huatulco sail mexico blog

A little tuk-tuk makes bottled water deliveries





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

tuk-tuk and snack vendors huatulco sailing mexico blog

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

coconuts in back of truck huatulco sail mexico blog

Coconuts for sale!

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

watermelons in pickup huatulco sailing mexico blog

A truckload of watermelons comes to the fruit store






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

motorcycle cart huatulco sail mexico blog

Some motorcycles get set up for hauling too

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

volkswagon motorscooter huatulco sailing mexico blog

A VW bug is transformed…



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


volkswagon motorscooter huatulco sailing mexico blog

…into a VW / motorcycle combo gig

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

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


16 red volkswagon dune buggy huatulco sail mexico blog 500

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

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

black volkswagon dune buggy huatulco sail mexico blog

A cool VW bug conversion (without opening doors!)

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



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

red dune buggy Huatulco sail blog

Buggies of all kinds zoom around town.

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

unicycle huatulco sail mexico blog

Going it alone…!!

dune buggies huatulco sail mexico blog

A group of dune buggies races toewards us

pontiac roadster huatulco sailing mexico blog

Another class of ride…

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


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

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

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

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->


Huatulco Underwater – Snorkeling with colorful creatures

snowy egrets huatulco sailing blog

Snowy egrets in Tangolunda Bay

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

Enjoying snorkeling off Camino Real Zaashila in Huatuclo sail blog

This waterproof camera is cool!

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



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

Groovy's hull attracts fish in Huatulco sailing blog

Groovy’s hull supports a complete ecosystem.



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

Snorkeling at Playa Entrega Huatulco cruising blog

Playa La Entrega is a snorkeler’s wonderland

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

Trumpet fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A trumpet fish swims by.

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

Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

This puffer fish is deflated…

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

Inflated Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A fully inflated puffer fish!

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

Blue fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

These blue guys are everywhere.

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

King angel fish Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

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






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

Irridescent fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

These guys flash in the sunlight

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

Blue & yellow fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

Irridescent blue is a favorite trim color for these reef fish



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

Irridescent fish with coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This one sports a blue sequin outfit.


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

Person snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A different kind of fish!

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

Gang of fish Jicaral huatulco sailing blog

A gang cruises past.

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

Fish gang playa violin huatulco sailing blog

They’re going somewhere in a hurry!

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

Schools of fish playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

Playa La Entrega is teeming with fish.

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

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Spotting a spotted eagle ray totally made my day.

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

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This guy was unhurried and elegant

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

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Soaring over the bottom

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

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

A lone star fish hung out near our boat


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

Fish lips Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Fish lips – wanna kiss?!

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

Sea Turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Sea turtles came into our bay – what joy!

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

Sea turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog 405

What a cool underwater sighting.

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

Baby Jack fish Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

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



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

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

Coral Landscape Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Coral landscapes are everywhere

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

Colorful coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

There’s lots of color underwater in Huatulco

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

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

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                      Next ->