Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back to Las hadas and Santiago Bay.

Sunday, 22 Feb 2009: 1400
We are at anchor in Santiago Bay, an open anchorage in a wide bay, on the west side of Manzanillo Bay. We are protected from the predominant SW swell but some of it makes its way around the point to give a slight. The land and sea breezes are quite refreshing and the lull between the two, between 9 and noon is an ideal time to go snorkelling.
After arriving at the anchorage of Las Hadas we settled down to a few days of projects and relaxation. J-G had been wanting to use the gas powered hookah system that we got with the boat but had never had time to try out. After 3 months in this warm water is time to do a bottom cleaning and the hookah is be an ideal tool. We have no idea when it was last used and, naturally, it would not start. It took J-G 2 days of fiddling with but finally, after soaking and cleaning the carburetor, he managed to get it going and it now runs like a top. Another project that was accomplished was the soldering of the ground plane copper straps that he had run last week. Hopefully that will improve our SSB/HF capability.
We also had to get some fuel aboard. Las Hadas has a fuel dock but all boats are required to med-moor into the dock. That decided us to get our fuel by dinghy using portable jerry cans. Las Hadas doesn’t charge a docking fee like most other locations in Mexico but their fuel prices have been adjusted to make up the difference, therefore, everyone pays the premium price whether you go alongside or not. At 8.6 pesos / li it was the most expensive to date. Thankfully, they didn’t charge for the numerous dinghy landings or for fresh water that J-G picked by jerry up every chance he got to supplement our fresh water supply.
We also took the time to explore Manzanillo. It certainly has changed since J-G was there in 1984 with Oriole. We also did a major grocery run here at the Sorianna store, one of 3 major food outlets close by.
While there we met quite a few boats, including, Rio Nimkish (Tom and Shirley) who we had met at the Blue Water Cruising rendezvous in August 2008. We also met Bob and Gisele Coffey from Victoria in a boat called Relax. We have also heard Curare, another Blue water boat that we had met last year in Guaymas, on the net and are looking forward to meeting Geoff and Linda when we get to Santiago Bay.
We left Las Hadas and sailed across the bay to Santiago on the 20th. We have been here for the past 2 days enjoying the crystal clear water and the beautiful beach. The beach seems to be used mainly by the local holidaying population living in the many houses lining the beach. It is rare and refreshing to see a lack of resort development on such a choice location. There are only 2 small hotels that we can see.
The anchorage is a popular one for cruisers. Snorkelling locations are hard to find along the coast at this time of year due to the swell and poor visibility caused by turbulence and plankton and we have seen an increase in plankton in the bay since we arrived. There is a wreck of an old freighter in about 30-40 ft that provides a great snorkelling site and the shore has interesting reefs. J-G spent a few hours trying out the hooka today and did a thorough cleaning of the hull. It was time. The algae growth was getting thick but the barnacles were quite small and easy to remove. Scrubbing with the pad removed quite a bit of the finish that was put on in San Diego last January so a new coat of bottom paint will be required next fall.
We expect to leave tomorrow or Tuesday for Barra de Navidad.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Back to Las Hadas

Thursday, 12 Feb
We have just arrived at Maruata Bay, a remote anchorage about 90 miles south of Manzanillo after having done 36 miles against steadily increasing headwinds. By the time we arrived they were blowing 20-22 kts . Mannasea (Phil), a small catamaran with engine problems, is a few miles behind us and is beating against this wind, hoping to get into the bay by nightfall. It will be a hard slog for him.
After leaving Zihuatanejo, on Monday, we motored up the coast and anchored off Isla Grande, just offshore from the large resorts of Ixtapa. The island serves as a beach playground for the resorts with pangas delivering tourists in the morning and taking them back to the resorts in the late afternoon. By 5PM the place is deserted. The well renowned snorkelling coves on the south side of the island were inaccessible due to high surf conditions so we had to be content with a late afternoon stroll on the beach with Rosie. Tuesday night we decided to leave for Caleta de Campos with Kalalau , a boat from Port Townsend owned by one of the skippers of the Adventuress, the American tall ship in the pacific northwest. George and Kathleen will be heading off to the Marquesas in a few weeks so they are rushing back to PV to join this year’s group.
We departed at midnight, aiming to reach Caleta de Campos, a 67 mile run, before the afternoon winds developed. It was a very pleasant night with light winds and a full moon as we motor-sailed north. At 4 a.m. on Fran’s watch, as we approached the busy port of Lorenzo Cardenas, a darkened, very fast vessel passed down our starboard side and took station a mile away on our port quarter for 30 minutes. We had been advised by other boats that the Mexican navy was doing drug interdiction patrols in the area and we presume that was one of the patrols. Had we been a lone boat we might have been boarded but by maintaining a continuous dialogue between Kalalau and ourselves probably helped our lot.
We arrived in Caleta de Campos without further incident by early afternoon. As predicted, the wind had shifted from a land to sea breeze by noon so the last 2 hours were a slog into headwinds of 18-20 kts. Caleta de Campos has wonderful beaches but there was hardly anyone enjoying them. We were able to make a landing in the surf and had a nice afternoon walking Rosie and enjoying a cervesa in one of the many wall to wall palapa establishments covering a good portion of the beach adjacent to the village. The different table coverings are the only indication of where one starts and the other ends. If you like beer and fish dishes, this is for you. Much to Fran’s disappointment there were no Margaritas available but the guacamole was the best we have had so far. But in reality, these establishments are just an extension of a family’s home and they eke out a small living by feeding tourists when they can. Menus are basic and based on supplies that are easily available: seafood, beer and pop.
We left there the following morning after Rosie had done her business and after recovering the outboard off the dinghy. We have been towing the inflatable for the past few days instead of lifting it to the foredeck. Much of the morning was flat calm but by noon the sea breeze started to develop and it increased steadily until we arrived in here Maruata Bay. Phil arrived just after nightfall, very tired and thankful for our directions into the anchorage. Without radar and before moonrise it is very difficult to make out shore features after dark.
0530, 14 February, Happy St Valentines
Cruising north in light aires and calm seas. This can’t last...
We are on our way to Manzanillo after a 2200 departure. We were counting on the sea breeze to die down after sunset but it persisted until about 0200 with headwinds from 15-22 kts. It was not a pleasant ride for the first few hours but the wind has let up and the seas have calmed somewhat allowing us to make good headway. We hope to arrive in Manzanillo before the sea breeze re-establishes itself but that may be wishful thinking.
We spent the day relaxing and helping Phil sort out his engine problems. We were able to make some band-aid repairs to his engine, sufficient to get him to Manzanillo where he can get a permanent solution. Lucky for us he had an extra 15 gallons of diesel onboard. J-G miscalculated our fuel reserves for the return trip and we were contemplating hiking to the nearest Pemex station but thanks to Phil that won’t be necessary. Have to add spare diesel jerry cans to the shopping list for next season...
Maruata bay is very typical of the coves along this coast. It is a lovely sandy cove protected from Northerly winds but the SW swell refracts around the point giving us a gentle rocking motion. Landing on beaches like this can be an exhilarating experience. You start by choosing a landing spot and timing the swell pattern and then rushing in to the beach, jumping out and hauling the dinghy out of the surf line. We don’t want to repeat the dunking we experienced a few years ago in Tenecatita with Royal Exchange’s dinghy. This time we had Phil with us so the landing and departure were textbook. There is always that moment of apprehension when the outboard doesn’t start back up on the first pull but we had observed the swell pattern well and had a good calm period between sets of breakers. We had a pleasant few hours on the near deserted beach and had lunch in one of the few open palapa restaurants on the beach.
With another 80 miles to go to Manzanillo we decided to leave by 2200 to take advantage of the land breeze during the night and the calms that seem to develop from early morning to early afternoon. As luck (or bad luck) would have it we encountered 3-4 ft seas and 12-15 kt headwinds for the first 3 hours before it began to lighten up.
1800, 14 Feb 2009, anchored off Las Hadas
We arrived back at anchor off Las Hadas by 1400. The light winds didn’t last and by early afternoon the sea breeze developed again but by then we were entering Manzanillo Bay and we were finally able to have a good sail into the bay. By A few hours later Mannasea arrived. The engine repairs he had done lasted the trip but the rough seas were not kind to him.
We will be here for a few days before heading north towards Barra de Navidad and meeting friends in Maleque at the end of the month.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Zihuatanejo Sail Fest

The Sail Fest has been a blast and the event has raised more this year than ever before, close to $65,000. This is surprising when you note that there are fewer attendees, both ashore and afloat this year, undoubtedly because of the recession. The shore year round resident gringo community has done the lion’s share of the organising and this has been supplemented by the winter gringos and the visiting cruisers. The latter have waded in with as much support as possible, helping out wherever help is needed and in particular, all of the events centred around boats.
The first major event was a fun race organised by Pam on Precious Metal. With her experience in running the Vic-Maui Race for the past few years it was a cinch for her to set up a race for a bunch of cruising boats, nevertheless, we were divided in 2 groups; fast and slow..... Surprisingly, the favourite boat came in second overall, much to the chagrin of the skipper-owner but to the glee of the remainder of the fleet. It seemed to mute the arrogance he had been displaying up to that point. Gosling fared quite well and came in 2nd out of 4 boats; beat out by a small catamaran but edging out the closest boat by 2.3 seconds after a 4 hour Driftsure style race. With only the 2 of us on board it was a real challenge. This was also our first experience sailing Gosling upwind and we were quite amazed at getting 1.6 – 2 kts of speed in light airs of 3-6 kts. Thanks to the light conditions J-G was able to try every combination of sails onboard. Other boats got a kick out of watching him scurry fore and aft trying to coax the wind to fill the sails. All in all it was a fun day.
Later that evening we attended a concert of local talent ranging from Mariachi musicians to Blues and Rock performances. One was a Louisiana native called Mamou who was reputed to have played with Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry and others before retiring to Zihuatanejo where he is a regular on the bar circuit. We were really impressed by the quality of the performances. Each year musicians contribute to a CD that is professionally produced. As part of our registration package we received last year’s CD as part of our entrance package and it is very good.
The following day was the Sail Parade. This event was more of a “get the locals out on the boats” event, where anyone ashore bought tickets to go for a day’s sailing. We had signed up to take 3 but by 10 AM, start time, they hadn’t shown up.
Other events included a poker dinghy race where participants had to solve a riddle to determine which boats to go to collect a playing card. Once 5 were collected participants met ashore to play out their hands. SV Panchita arrived on Tuesday with a large bucket full of rubber duckies that they use for fundraising events. People “rent” a duck and all rented ducks are dropped beyond the surf line. The first duck to make it ashore wins half the pot for its sponsor. The final event tonight was a BBQ sponsored by one of the local bars.
We have met a lot of very interesting people here in Zihuat. There are 2 other Canadian boats, Precious Metal with Ivy and Pam and Optical Illusion with Janet and Bill. Pam and Ivy are from Port Hardy where they have just sold the local marina. Optical Illusion is another Bluewater boat. We met Bill and Janet at the Bluewater Rendezvous at Montague harbour last summer. We learnt that they also have a summer place on Saturna Island and have attended several 1st of July lamb BBQs when we were there helping out. It is a really small world when you meet a local Gringo who used to be a nurse at Stadacona when we were first posted to Halifax. Julia was blown away when J-G mentioned names of fellow Naval Officers who had gone through Stad in the 1970’s. She also worked for Alan Porter, one of our fellow club members from CFSA. She had also lived on Saturna Island for several years. Another astonishing fact is that she had also played basketball with Fran while J-G was on the CCO course in 1979.
J-G also met his clone. A remarkable resemblance between the two was noted the night of the concert. Pictures will follow. He is from Brentwood bay. Go figure!
One item we omitted to mention in our last blog entry was that we were at anchor when Zihuatanejo was the epicentre of a 5.2 earthquake last week.... We slept through but some boaters actually felt it.
Each morning we have the morning net where the local cruising community share information. Morning nets here have been a real treat with one of the 3 young girls on SV Don Quixote running the net each day. As Fran puts it, it is her early dose of sunshine every day.
We have also seen the dark side of Mexico while here. We found out after the sail parade that the people who had been designated to be on our boat had been mugged the night before and had decided to fly back home immediately. The following day we learnt the one of the boats in the anchorage was the victim of an extortion attempt. Their kayak had been “found” washed ashore and some locals wanted a ransom for it. This caused quite a stir among the boaters but, thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and it was diplomatically handled through the Port Captain.
We will depart tomorrow morning for our trip back north. We will try to stop into every noted anchorage along the way. Looks like we will meet many of the same boats on our way as most will be heading in the same direction. A few are headed south to Central America and beyond. One boat, Kalalau, from Port Townsend will be heading for the South Pacific.
Unfortunately the bandwidth on the WIFI service here is insufficient to send photos so we will add them to this issue when we arrive in Manzanillo, sometime in the next few weeks.
PS: If any of you subscribe to Sirius Radio and listen to the Cousin Brucie show, listen out for our e-mailed requests that we send occasionally.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Zihuatanejo for the Sailfest

20:00, Thursday, 29 January 2009
Another night at sea, our second since departing Santiago Bay,(Las Hadas). It is a warm, calm and windless night with a new crescent moon under a bright Jupiter, setting in the western sky. The water is considerably warmer here and the phosphorescence is superb. We have just observed a pod of dolphins playing in our bow wave, their wakes illuminated by the bright green trail they leave as they swim by. We have just dipped below 17 degrees N and only have 65 miles to go.
We departed Las Hadas yesterday afternoon and have been powering all the way because of the light headwinds we have encountered. In order to arrive at Zihuatanejo in daylight we dipped into a nice little anchorage at Caleto de Campos for the afternoon. We weren’t able to get ashore but this will be one of our stops on the way back. We departed again just before sunset in company with Acapella.
As we had expected it is getting warmer and warmer as we head further south. We thank our lucky stars that we chose a boat with a covered cockpit where we can take shelter from the sun. Even a light breeze is refreshing and we hope that there will be some breeze in the anchorage at Zihuat. We have been wearing less and less as we travel south and when modesty dictates we usually resort to Polynesian style wraps. J-G got used to them while serving in Kuwait. Our 2 sun-showers are serving us well but we don’t leave them out in the sun anymore. We prefer them cool. The sea water is nice and warm but still refreshing and we are taking dips off the boat regularly when at anchor. Rosie takes shelter in the aft cabin and is turning into quite the pit queen. We will have to get her ashore more often from now on, however, we have been warned not to take her to the boat docks in Ixtapa where crocodiles have been known to snatch the odd unsuspecting dog or cat right off the docks.
Sunday, 1 Feb 09
Day 3, in Zihuatanejo. It is 19:30 and we are rocking in a gentle swell amid a fleet of some 25 boats in the anchorage off the town. It is 85 F in the salon and relative humidity is 57%. It has actually cooled down a bit and we are waiting for the evening breeze to settle in. We are listening to a band playing on shore not too far from where we are. We seem to be one of a very few boats to have anyone aboard. Most of the cruisers are crowded into the Sunset Bar watching the Super bowl. We just came back from a walk ashore with Rosie and passed by the cheering (and booing) throngs. Fran is cooking up some fish that we bought at the fish market on the beach this morning. We have no idea what it is but we know it isn’t tuna, marlin or dorado. Rosie is tuckered out and sleeping in the cockpit after a long walk along the beach.
It has been a lazy few days. The heat during the day is oppressive but we are comfortable under the shade of the dodger and the sea breeze is wonderful. J-G started sanding the woodwork but had to wait till sundown to apply the finish coat of varnish. He has several other jobs to do over the next week or so. The wind-vane repairs will have to wait until we get the parts. We have managed to get friends in San Diego to get the parts and Gil and Lexie (SV Sunday) just so happen to be going back to San Diego next week from San Carlos. If all goes as planned we will get the parts in the next month or so when we meet up with Sunday as she sails south.
Tomorrow we have the first meeting about the Sail-Fest and we will find out how we can participate. Although we had signed up online it seems that the information was not passed on to the local organizers. There are many gringos, Canadian and American, in town are involved in this event. They are mainly shore-based residents and visitors who come here every year. The cruisers assist where they can but mainly the water-based events. The boat will be a lot lighter after we land all the clothes and school supplies Fran brought from Canada. The highlight of the week will be on Thursday when boats take guests onboard for a day sail to Isla Grande. With our small cockpit and the number of life vests, we have asked for just 2 persons. It should be a fun day on the water.
We are getting used to this lifestyle.....