Sunday, February 27, 2011

Isla Grande & Zihuatanejo

After leaving Manzanillo on Friday the 25th, we headed SE along the coast about 12 to 13 km off, and from observation, possibly running parallel to a freighter shipping route as we make our way towards Zihuatanejo. This night we were particularly vigilant during our watches, which include radar scanning, as the ships come up on you in about 20 minutes and were passing only about 5 km off our port. Close by ocean passage standards.

On Saturday, the cutest bird tried to land on our wind generator around 19:00 just as the sun was setting but couldn't get a grip so he chose our solar panels instead.

Where the heck am I?

Then at midnight a particularly large rolling swell hit us. Alas, it made the poor bird topple so he took flight. After a couple of failed attempts to re-land, he flew off. Here's hoping that after his 5-hour rest, he made it safely to his destination.

We saw a whale a half km off our port, heading NW, and later saw a group of turtles bouncing along. We could get real close, but probably hearing the boat, they would stick their head up, see us, then clumsily dive. Throughout the past days and nights, we motored, motor-sailed, and then finally had a great sail at 4 to 5 knots with the headsails flying wing-on-wing, both being poled.

It's been very warm - 32°C (90°F) in the cabin and 60% humidity. But we're not complaining after hearing reports of cold February weather back home!

Passing Zacatula, a major commercial shipping port, we noticed a few more freighters in the area.

For another short period, we had dolphins on the bow just before we pulled into Isla Grande (N17°40.817' W101°39.340'), (aka Ixtapa Island) at 09:00 today. This is a tiny island where at one point we walked from one side to the other in about a minute! It has several palapa restaurants for mostly Mexican tourists brought over by pangas a short distance from Ixtapa on the mainland. The south side has very clear water and a lot of protected coral. When we arrived this morning, the beach was almost deserted but when we left around 14:00, it was full of tourists having fun. The island is basically deserted by 18:00.

As soon as we returned back to the boat, we had a pleasant sail down to Zihuatanejo (N17°38.177' W101°33.228') in the state of Guerrero, arriving at 17:45.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Manzanillo

We left Barra de Navidad on February 23rd at 11:00 with a fishing rod out, running the coast in very light winds. At first, we motored while making water. While passing through the mayhem of diving birds, Jordan caught a 16-lb Pacific Crevalle Jack - unfortunately this fish has very dark red meat and does not taste good. It's been awhile since Jordan has provided tasty fish for meals!

We both had solar showers under the shining sun with nothing on except a warm breeze. How refreshing and daring it felt!

Then with enough wind, as we hoisted the main sail and the Genoa poled to go dead downwind, a school of dolphins swam around us - they are always a welcome thrill to see.

Arriving at the busy industrial port of Manzanillo, we anchored at the NW end of the crescent beach at Las Hadas at 18:30 on February 23rd (N19°06.050' W104°20.602'). Manzanillo is in the state of Colima. Dotting the hillsides were a multitude of bright white buildings interspersed with only 1 or 2 of another colour. One stood out with such an abundance of vivid pink bougainvillea and palm trees in front of it.

We find Manzanillo to be an expensive port. They even charge 100 pesos per day to tie up your dinghy (that's about $8 Cdn). But that payment then allows you to dispose of your garbage, use their showers and laundry facilities, and the resort's swimming pool. It just seems to be a bit of a rip-off if you are not using any of their facilities that day other than the dinghy dock.

We hiked up the paved hill and caught a bus for 1 to 2 km to nearby Santiago. Jordan desperately needed new spark plugs for the outboard engine (the spares he had for the Merc don't fit the Evinrude that we recently purchased in Puerto Escondido). We also did a bit of provisioning as we will be leaving today.

We finally took advantage of the swimming pool today. This is quite a spectacular pool. It's about 30 metres long and has several great features:
  • a bar along 1 edge that you can swim to and sit waist-high on the underwater stools
  • 2 rock formations covered with beautiful plants and trees that you can swim around
  • a suspension bridge that spans the width of the pool
  • tiled forms that fit the curve of your body to lie on as though on a lawn chair while in the middle of the pool
  • a ball and removable net for water games
  • plus a separate wading pool for children
Las Hadas Resort swimming pool

And to top it all off, the water was the perfect temperature for me, not too cold and not too warm!

Once we could pull ourselves away from this luxury, we hoisted the anchor at 16:15 to head for a 2-day sail to Zihuatanejo. When we looked back at Manzanillo, we noticed the smog layer and were very glad to be escaping.

A huge school of dolphins of at least 100 joined us just as we rounded Point Campos outside of Manzanillo. So sleek and streamlined, leaping high into the air, and quickly skirting around Sea Turtle, and 2 were together (belly to belly, 1 on top, 1 below) swimming in perfect mirror image harmony. What happy playful creatures they must be!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Barra de Navidad

After spending 1 night at Melaque, we started the motor early in the morning to head to Laguna de Navidad, leaving our friends on SV Hotspur behind. We had GSP waypoints to enter this tricky bay and didn't know that they were planning on following us in but thankfully they made it safely. There were 50 boats anchored when we arrived at 08:00 on February 20th and after circling around the small bay, we dropped our hook in the glassy calm waters (N19°11.403' W104°40.426').

There is a French baker that visits the marina and the anchored boats in his panga delivering fresh baked items - nothing like fresh baguettes or chocolate croissants with your morning hot coffee! He also has bread, pies, quiches - all of which you can pre-order for guaranteed delivery right to your boat.

What shall I choose?

The next morning, Jordan came down with a case of the 24 to 48 flu, running a fever. After sleeping all day, he seemed to be doing quite a bit better on Wednesday.

When taking your dinghy to the dinghy dock, you pass by a huge hotel resort that is meticulously landscaped and then by several hotels and restaurants right on the water's edge. When the tide rises, the beach chairs are almost in the water!


We attended a potluck on the patio areas of the Sands Hotel (which is also where everyone ties up their dinghies). In behind the hotel is someone's pet spider monkey that unfortunately spends his days locked up in a large pen. He loved to have his back scratched and would constantly reach out and wrap his arm around Jordan. (I think everyone else was jealous!)

Best buddies!

But as adorable as he is, he looks sad to me...


Construction in Mexico is definitely done different than from back home. Can you imagine anyone using tree limbs for support when building a large structure such as this one? It happens all the time here.


The waters at this anchorage are so calm in the evenings, no movement at all, which a lot of people love. But we both prefer a bit of movement, kind of like being rocked to sleep.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Melaque

We pulled anchor at 13:00 from Tenacatita, motoring out of the red tide enveloped bay for a short downwind run, dropping anchor 3.5 hours later at Melaque (N19°13.247' W104°42.551'). Finally out of the red tide!!

Melaque is in the Bahia de Navidad, about 3 km NW of the town of Barra de Navidad. We needed to access an ATM machine and this is where there is an ATM that is located IN a bank. The rumour is that some ATM machines have been compromised in Barra and there are no banks in Barra.

Melaque is a very quaint and clean town with lots of all your basics. We landed the dinghy in a bit of surf and easily found the bank only a couple of blocks off the beach. The beach was full of Mexican families enjoying the weekend swimming in the warm ocean water...


Later in the evening, SV Hotspur joined us aboard Sea Turtle for appies and wine.

Friday, February 18, 2011

La Manzanilla

We ate breakfast in the cockpit at Tenacatita as we watched the dolphins swimming and playing around all the anchored boats. We also noticed the abundance of red tide once again in the surrounding waters.

We hopped in the dinghy and went up the channel in the estuary to explore the mangroves. In 2 hours, we only saw a few birds and no crocodiles or iguanas. It was very pretty and peaceful as we drift-paddled about half way back, but we saw so much more when we explored the mangroves at San Blas 6 weeks ago.

Where are all the birds???

After hanging the weights on our "flopper stoppers" (boards to stabilize a boat in a rolly anchorage), we sailed across the bay to La Manzanilla (N19°16.924' W104°47.476'), about an hour away, where we dropped the pick on the 17th. Anticipating a night-time offshore wind we then also placed a stern anchor to keep us bow into the swells to avoid rolling side to side.

Do not confuse La Manzanilla with Manzanillo which is further south and has a population of over 100,000. La Manzanilla is a delightful small town with newly paved roads and most basics available. It has a lot of the typical palapa restaurants along the beach and quite a surf to master when landing your dinghy - timing is everything! The market at the town square had lots of colourful glassware, ceramics, clothing, a little produce, and even 1 iguana that wondered through the street!

Very tired or bored vendor at the Friday market

At the end of a road in La Manzanilla, we came to a high wire fence. Behind the fence were live wild crocodiles in the water which was quite a surprise. We heard the fence was constructed to keep the crocs away from the areas of general population.

You can only see about 1 m of this 4-m long croc

During our stay at La Manzanilla, we enjoyed spending a lot of time with old friends from Victoria who also have an Endurance sailboat, SV Kasasa. Hopefully, we will meet up with them once again if we all do the fabulous Pacific Puddle Jump next year to the South Pacific!

Kasasa and Sea Turtle anchored

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tenacatita

We pulled anchor from Chamela at 09:30 in calm seas and light winds. With the watermaker on, we kept a sharp eye out for red tide, arriving at Bahia Tenacatita (N19°17.921' W104°50.194') at 17:30 after giving a wide berth to the rocks and reefs along the shore.

As we pulled into Tenacatita, again we noticed the cloak of red tide. At the anchorage, we noticed a boat that we had been looking for this season, SV Kasasa, another version of our boat (an Endurance 35) and who we had met through our Bluewater Cruising group back home.

We were immediately hailed on the VHF radio by a hearty group of BCA members inviting us to join their BURP (Bluewater Unofficial Rendezvous Party) where we all shared our adventure stories ashore.

A dozen Bluewater Cruising members with their burgee flag

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chamela

Sunday evening, we motored all night through calm seas from the Yelapa and La Cruz area. The next morning, we saw several whales and FIVE sea turtles - capturing most of this one on the camera right next to our boat...


I have to give Jordan credit for getting most of this one in the frame as the boat was in forward motion and was also bobbing up and down, making it very difficult to catch as the turtle was so close to the boat. This was my first sighting of a wild sea turtle while on our boat.

(I'm not counting the ones we've seen in refuges or the exciting occasion when the panga guide caught one when we were on our motorcycle trip. To see that photo - beneath Blog Archive at right side of page click on 2009, click March, click Motorcycle holiday, then scroll down to view photo).

We dropped anchor at 12:30 on February 14th in the north end (N19°35.072' W105°07.922'), and as we were both tired, we just took it easy and caught up on sleep for the rest of the day.

Since we rounded the point at Cabo Corrientes a couple of days ago, we are experiencing even warmer weather just as everyone has said would happen. Even the evenings are getting warmer. This 185-km coast from Cabo to Manzanillo is called the Gold Coast, being full of golden sun and multiple anchorages.

We went ashore at Chamela today to walk the l o o o n g sandy beach which took us almost an hour to get to the other end. We discovered that there were almost no shells which was such a difference from the beach at Punto Chivato where the beach was totally covered in shells! (We were at Punto Chivato back in December 2010.) After a quiet walk, with almost no one else on the beach, Jordan timed the crashing waves and we made an excellent beach escape.

Long...

...lonely beach

Aboard Sea Turtle, we checked the charts to plan our future stops and length of stay for the next month as we need to exit Mexico by then.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yelapa

We turned on and tested the repaired auto-pilot as we headed to Yelapa yesterday (across the bay from La Cruz), but unfortunately it would not work. As Yelapa was only 3 hours away, we decided to continue, arriving around 18:00 (N20°29.448' W105°26.646'). This is a small exposed bay with a rolly anchorage so we bargained for a mooring ball from the pangas that approached us, settling on 100 pesos for the night.

In the morning we dinghied ashore and walked through the little village and up to the cascading waterfall. No roads are in this village and the only vehicles around were quads.

Small waterfall in Yelapa Village

Walking along the cobblestones

We then headed back to La Cruz at 13:00 so we could deal with getting the auto-pilot fixed once again. But when we were almost all the way back, Jordan started fiddling with the controls again and it suddenly decided to work. So we changed direction and headed south at 18:00 for Chamela, about 18 hours away. What a relief it was to finally be on our way and not waiting for repairs! Hopefully, no more failures.

We've seen a lot of breaching whales during our travels but today we spotted one about 200 m off our port quarter that leaped completely out of the water - what a sight it was!

On our travels to and from Yelapa, we had the watermaker running but had to continually turn it on and off as we kept running into ribbons of red tide. Lately, there has been a lot of red tide visible in the waters.

As we rounded the point at Cabo Corrientes, a typically windy area, the wind died. Sigh...looks like we will be motoring once again instead of sailing.

Beautiful sunset as we motored towards Chamela

Tonight, we saw a lot of glistening phosphorescence in the waves alongside Sea Turtle.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Killin' time

As we are waiting to get our auto-pilot fixed back in Seattle of the United States, we are exploring La Cruz Mexico and the surrounding areas. So far, we have taken the 45-minute bus ride to Puerto Vallarta a couple of times for boat parts and other exploring.

1 of many fantastic sculptures at Puerto Vallarta

We had supper at the Mariscos El Colequita with a group of about 20 friends. This is a quaint restaurant at the top of a hill along the beach where they serve all the following for 109 pesos each (less than $10 Cdn): a bottle of Tequila on the table, tacos and salsa, shrimp cup-of-soup, choice of delicious main-meal seafood dish, dessert of banana flambe, and finale of Kahlua and milk. Definitely a place to go to!

One night, Jordan decided to play poker with several other amateurs at a place called Brittania. He lasted till around 01:00 for an evening of fun and limited amount loss! (One other night he played with the Mexican pros who play from 22:00 till 08:00 (yes, 10:00 pm till 8:00 am) and they bluff ridiculously. He didn't do quite as well that evening, but he had fun till 03:00.

We heard a gentleman on the VHF (Ron on SV Encounter) talking about music, movies, and audio books. We connected with him and copied about 14,000 songs, over 15 audio books, and about 200 movies onto an external hard drive - ALL of which we can play on our stereo through our MP3 player or watch on our DVD player, which means no use of a high-power computer. (These movies can also play directly on TV from the external hard drive but we do not have a TV on Sea Turtle.) I think we are now set for a long time for music, movies, and audio books!!

Vegetation grows like crazy here and small trees grow to gigantic sizes in only a few years. Nice to see grass in many places too, something that is hardly ever seen on the Baja side.

Colourful planting at the marina

We watched a comedic acrobatic show in the marina that was spectacular. Two young adults performed tremendous feats of acrobatics aboard their boat that amazed the crowd; they will be performing in Vancouver (Canada) in the near future. They had two different acts - one at 17:30 and one at 19:30 - both of which we attended.

No, he did not end up in the water!

At 19:30, we attended their night show, but it was becoming quite windy so unfortunately they cut it a little short...


They have very fluid acrobatic movements that you can see in any circus, I suppose, but it seems more spectacular seeing it performed on a boat as the boat is always bobbing and not stationary like a stage, making it much more difficult.


The Sunday markets at La Cruz are pretty fantastic - full of bakery, produce, clothing, and craft items. We always fill up with bakery and produce - especially the quiche! And one vendor created a turtle outline into a round piece of coconut shell that Jordan then inset the pearl that we bought at the Guaymas Pearl Farm last year to make a beautiful necklace for me.

Coconut with pearl inlay

After several weeks, emails, and phone calls, the part for our auto-pilot was finally delivered on February 10th!! We sure learned a lot about how-to and how-not-to deal with Mexican customs when sending an item across the border to be repaired.

Firstly, get papers from the aduana building (Mexican Customs) stating that you are sending an item to be repaired so that you will not be charged exorbitant duties on a "new" item when it is returned.

Secondly, in the event you didn't do the outgoing paperwork, when your repairman is sending it back, have him mark a lower value on the paperwork than what the item would be worth (if you were buying), or you will be charged duty on the amount that is marked on the paperwork.

Thirdly, have the item sent to a common address that is EASILY found by the courier company. And lastly, be patient, it will take a long time.

One good thing about being here for this duration was that we were able to get some good boat chores and upgrades done (upgraded bilge pump plumbing with new through-hulls, upgraded our pactor modem, etc.)

We celebrated our good fortune by joining other cruisers at a bonfire on the beach. Then the next day we went to Puerto Vallarta to get last-minute supplies and fill up with groceries as we get ready to head south. Our first stop will be Yelapa, a short hop across the bay...