Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Southwards and beyond...

1600, Saturday, 18 Feb 2012 At Sea between Acapulco and Huatulco
We have been sailing for the past 3-4 hours in a westerly wind of about 12-13 kts. We were able to do the same yesterday afternoon as we left Acapulco and only flashed up the engine after dark when the wind died. We are about 85 miles from Huatulco and we are trying to slow down our speed of advance so as to arrive off the harbour approaches after sunrise.
Days at sea are not as busy as when we are at anchor or alongside. Other than maintaining a watch for hazards and making sure the sails are trimmed we tend to read more and catch up on the sleep we miss during the night watches. Fran has read 3 books since we left Zihuatanejo and J-G is on his second. Fran’s Kindle is getting a workout now. She has hundreds of books downloaded so we won’t run out of reading material any time soon. If we could only get rid of the books we have on board first we could make room for other things like tools for J-G or shoes for Fran....
We departed Zihuatanejo with Von and Jacquie aboard and we have been sailing in company with Nauti Moments (Ken and Carol), another Blue Water Cruising boat from Vancouver. There are quite a few Canadian boats participating in the El Salvador Rally this year. Another boat, I Yam What I Yam is about 12 miles ahead of us.
Our sail down the coast was uneventful. We stopped and anchored at Papanoa, a small fishing village for a few hours, the same location where Optical Illusion found the snake on their bow. I am now more convinced than ever that some fisherman was playing a practical joke on them. When we arrived there was some kind of water festival on with lots of kids swimming and participating in a makeshift raft race close to where we were anchored. We spent Valentine’s Day watching the fun, relaxing and resting up for the night transit to Acapulco.
Kids having fun, Papanoa

We departed at sunset and motored in calm seas all the way to Acapulco. We arrived at the outer bay by 08:00 and by 09:00 we were anchored off the Acapulco Yacht Club. Checking in, we were able to get our paperwork done for the next leg of our trip and we obtained reciprocal privilege passes with our Blue-Water membership for the use of the facilities for the 2 days. The great showers, a wonderful pool and dinghy dock service made this stop worthwhile.
The following day we hired a driver/tour guide and spent a very enjoyable day touring some of the city’s attractions; the cliff divers, Fort San Diego, the Fairmont Princess that Fran and J-G had last seen in 1984 during Oriole’s stopover on her return from Quebec City, a few other local attractions and, lastly, a shopping stop at the Sam’s Club. The van was air-conditioned and easily accommodated the six of us and the driver spoke good English. The tourism industry is having a rough year this year with all the warnings of danger to tourists being spouted by the media. One result is the reduction of cruise ship visits from 125 last year to only 25 this year.
On Friday we bid farewell to Von and Jacquie. They bussed back to Zihuatanejo and we departed for Huatulco. We were sad to see them go but we were happy that they had an enjoyable few days onboard.
Touring Acapulco with Von, Jacquie, Carole and Ken

Fairmont Princess, Acapulco

Senor Frog humour. Note the "Barmacia".

Cliff Divers

Monday, 20 Feb 2012, Alongside marina Chahue, Huatulco
It is hot! But not as hot as it was earlier. At least darkness brings cooler temperatures. You drink lots of fluids (mostly cervesas) and take lots of showers, cold ones, which means that the water is close to 80F, but it does feel cooler.
We arrived here yesterday after an uneventful and very nice 2-day motor and sailboat ride from Acapulco. On our last day we sailed most of the time and even had the spinnaker up for a few hours. After sunset we had to slow the boat down to ensure that we arrived at our destination during daylight but we found that we had a 2 kt current pushing us so we kept the main up most of the night. We were making 3-4 kts through the water but 5-5.5 kts over the ground. I’d hate to have that against us going the other way. During that last night we had an awesome display of lightning from thunderstorms 20 miles inland. It lasted about 3 hours.
On our arrival we were thrilled to see that Optical Illusion and Warren Peace were tied up at the marina, however, they were not aboard. They arrived back from a 10-day trip inland early this morning. It was nice to finally meet up with them again and to make plans for the remainder of our trip in company. Paesano, another BC boat, with Margarita and Gojo (Nanaimo) aboard are also here. They are good friends of Bill and Janet’s and have been cat sitting for them.
Marina Chauhe dock party

Steve's (Warren Peace) Birthday party, Chauhe

There are many other El Salvador bound boats here too; Saucy lady, Swift Current, Liberty, I Yam what I Yam, Risk Taker and a few others all waiting for the next weather window to leave for Chiapas so that we all arrive in Puerto Del Sol by the target date of the 10th of March. . The Aussi boat, Amnesia 2 is also here waiting to leave directly to the Galapagos.
After hearing about Bill, Janet, Linda and Steve’s trip we (with Ken and Carole) have decided to take a 3-4 day trip from here to Oaxaca. Bill and Janet will care for Rosie. We have quite an advantage with directions and recommendations from Bill, Janet, Steve and Linda.
1700, 27 Feb 2012, Alongside, Marina Chahue
Our 3-day trip to Oaxaca was one of our best short holidays ever and our friends; Carol and Jim (Nauti Moments) were great company. Oaxaca is a very beautiful, clean and interesting place to visit. Our hotel (the Golondrillas) was a collection of apartments fashioned from what must have been a large walled hacienda at one time. The rooms were laid out on each side of courtyards and stairways with greenery everywhere. Outside our door there was a large fountain. Our rooms were ready when we arrived at 7AM so we were able to get started with our sight-seeing plans right away.
Garden outside our room, hotel Golondrillas

The first day we wandered about the down-town area and the Zocalo (town square). Our first impression was how clean the city was compared to where we have been to date in Mexico. The square is the hub of activity in most Mexican towns and this was no exception. We returned quite often to this location to experience and enjoy activity and energy. Street sellers were everywhere hawking everything from shirts to whistles, balloons to hot dogs. Added to this were demonstrators from many of the outlying towns protesting issues related to the upcoming elections. By the weekend they were gone but there seemed to be no diminishing in the number of people enjoying the ambiance. We felt safe everywhere we went and everyone we met was courteous and welcoming.
Buying another tablecloth.

Local "cheap" taxies, mostly outside of the city.
There were hordes of these Chinese built contaptions.

That afternoon we took a taxi to the ruins of Monte Alban, one of the oldest cities on the continent. It was the home of the Zapotec hierarchy from 500 BC until about 850AD. Situated on a hilltop, it ruled over a large agricultural based population until drought conditions forced them to abandon the area. (Climate change isn’t a new phenomenon). We had a very good guide who provided us a great deal of information on the site and explained the features of this formidable location and its inhabitants. Tomb #7, found in 1932, was a jackpot find with tons of artefacts and much of it gold and precious stones. Thankfully the finder was an honest archaeologist and the treasure was catalogued and made its way to the museums of Mexico with a large portion to the museum in Oaxaca, one of our later stops.

Monte Alban ruins.

Pelota court where players bounced a 2.5 kg raw rubber ball into a recess in the wall without using their hands. The guide told us that the winners were not sacrificed.

The goals are the upper recesses in the wall. The lower holes were rainwater drains to the huge cistern below the palace.

Part of Tomb 7 treasure: Jade head.

The next day we visited Tule where we saw a 2000 year old cypress,then on to a carpet-making area where we were given a demonstration of the art and a very good brief on the ways that they developed the natural colour dyes that are still in use today.
Tule tree.

Weaver with her Tree of life creation.

No tour of the area is complete without a Mescal distillery visit. They explained in detail the various stages of production and were actually producing on site while we were there. They were extremely generous with their samples of mescal and flavoured mescal liqueurs, probably greasing the customers so they would buy more. Their 8 yr old mescal, aged in a Canadian oak barrel was superb but we settled for a coffee flavoured variety instead.
Sampling the local hootch. Only in certain states have the right to call mescal "Tequila" everywhere else it is called by it's ordinary name.

The next stop was the ruins at Mitlan where the Mixtecs erected some outstanding temple structures with designs that are still used today in carpet weaving designs. The Mixtecs supplanted the Zapotecs after their disappearance and were the people who had to confront the invading Aztecs and later the Spaniards.

The last point of interest was the “petrified waterfall”. There are only 3 such sites in the world, two in Oaxaca and another in Turkey. A spring disgorges a supply of water that is very rich in minerals. We tested it and fount it had 1400 ppm of solids (vs 160 ppm from our watermaker). The solids precipitate out and form a base under the stream and waterfall giving it the appearance similar to inside surface of a limestone cave. It is hard to describe so see the photo.
Limestone "waterfall".

At about $12 for a full day tour, this was a bargain. Lunch was at a Oaxacan buffet restaurant and cost about $10. They had a wide variety of local dishes but what caught Fran’s eye was the fried grasshoppers. She was the only one that actually ate them (she had an upset stomach the next day). J-G tried one but the iodine type flavour was a definite turn-off.
The following day was reserved for seeing more of the town and to visit the Dominican church that was built between the 1500s and 1700s and the museum of culture. The Dominicans spared nothing in building this palatial church and attached seminary and convent (where the museum is located). In their efforts to praise God and impress the local people they must have spent millions. It is very impressive but definitely over the top. The history of the New World Dominicans and other religious orders is also very interesting but too long to get into here. Suffice it to say that they were the “approved” order (by Spain and the Vatican) and, at times, persecuted and later fought for the rights of the native people. But, like in all such conflicts between first nations and conquering hordes, the native people didn’t have a chance and they were quickly converted, subdued and assimilated. The museum was spectacular with rooms (former dormitories, chapels and offices of the Dominican brothers and sisters) dedicated the various periods of local history. The room exhibiting the treasures of Tomb # 7 was very special.
Just one of the Dominican chapels.

1639 Clock....

Since then we have been trying to survive in this baking heat and strong sun. We have till Thursday to get ready for the next window across the Tehuantepec. Looks like most of the boats here will be leaving at the same time. We have been told that we may not be able to get to the marina in Chiapas because of dredging work being done on its channel. The marina manager is doing all he can to find a way around this problem so we are all following these developments closely.

2100, Tuesday, 28 Feb 2012, Marina Chauhe
Looks like we will be leaving tomorrow afternoon now. We had our rigging cleaned and waxed today, we are fuelled and watered up and just have to wash the uppers tomorrow morning. We will go to an anchorage close by and clean the bottom and propeller before we head out. The Tehuantepec is calming down after 4 days of gale conditions. We expect a very calm crossing for the next few days.
Just a few last thoughts: The thieves in Zihuatanejo were caught when they tried to sell the stuff, great news.
Fonatur has declined to honour the golf pass we had for Huatulco stating that any and all such passes are invalid after 24 Feb. Bummer!!
Bill, Kirk’s friend who was aboard in Tenecatita is here in Huatulco staying with his brother. What a coincidence to see him on his brother’s boat coming in from a fishing trip the other day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Zihuatanejo and the Sailfest

Friday, 10 Feb 2012 At anchor: Zihuatanejo
RAIN! Yes it is actually raining, a very rare event during our travels in Mexico over the past 12 years. When we arrived here last weekend we could see heavy cumulus building over the mountains inland and gradually it became overcast. We had a few sprinkles last night and now it is a continuous light rain, and really, quite pleasant. It has cooled things down, cleaned the air and Gosling’s decks. Thankfully it held up until today’s Parade of Sail was over.
We had an uneventful powerboat ride from Manzanillo in company with Mangareva and Nauti Moments. The sea was calm and we had light winds all the way. As we passed through the bay off Lazaro Cardenas we saw hundreds of turtles on the surface, many with birds perched on their backs. We arrived at Isla Grande and anchored for 2 days and managed a few chores and a bit of overdue clean up. On Saturday we all left the anchorage and made our way to Zihuatanejo and joined the 23 other boats getting ready for the Sailfest. We heard on the morning net from Full and Bye that there had been a whale birth in Santiago Bay the previous day and a crocodile sighting in Zihuatanejo Bay. Fran was not impressed by the latter.
Booby on a Turtle

Phil (Manasea) left on Sunday morning heading back north to Barra after sailing down to Acapulco. He gave us some very good advice on where and where not to go while there. Kirk (Freedom Kirkland) is here with his friend Perry, who we had met last year. Both have been having too good a time so far, helping out with the Sailfest organization, taking advantage of the local nightclub scene and getting some great donations for the raffle.
friends at the Concert for the kids

After arriving we wasted no time joining the support team for the event and helping out where we could. Fran volunteered to sit at the event sign-up desk for an afternoon while J-G walked Rosie along the beach. It was a genuine treat to meet up again with our friend, Julia Sumner, who we had met 3 years ago. Julia is one of the principle photographers for the event so we will be in a lot of her shots.
Us and Julia

We also re-acquainted with Art, J-G's "almost a twin" who we had also met 3 years ago. Believe it or not he lives just a few miles away from us in Brentwood Bay, just outside of Victoria.
The almost twins, J-G and Art.

On Monday our friends, from Kelowna, Von and Jacquie arrived. They will be coming to Acapulco with us after we leave Zihuatanejo in a few days. They brought with them a bunch of parts we had ordered, including hinges for the toilet seat in the aft head, a few tools and a new impeller for the aft shower pump. They also brought a supply of dark chocolate for Fran. She is now in heaven. Her toilet seat takes a slight back seat to the chocolate but it is easy to make her happy.....
On Tuesday night we attended a concert of local musicians at a restaurant venue. The talent this year was outstanding. These same artists and more contribute to make a CD which will be sold at next year’s event. On Wednesday Gosling was the committee boat for the pursuit race. This is a nice variation on races with boat ratings where the time allowance is taken at the start of the race providing a staggered start and a closer and more exciting finish. Today we had the Parade of Sail where all the boats take on guests who pay for the privilege of boarding the boats and sailing with them around the harbour and over to Ixtapa and back, a 3-4 hour outing. There wasn’t much sailing done due to light winds and a few showers threatened to put a damper on the event but everyone enjoyed themselves. We had Von and Jacquie and a very nice couple, Joe and Nancy, from New York City. It must be noted that all proceeds for the event go to building and maintaining schools for local native children.
Jacquie and Von

Joe and Nancy from NYC

One of our main aims here was to use the golf certificate that we had obtained at the Loretofest last year. We had suspected that it would be difficult from the start and we were correct. It took many phone calls to the manager of the course, several calls from him to his superiors in Mexico City and a personal visit to the club to get the certificates redeemed. It seems that the certificates were issued by the manager on the Loreto, Fonatur Golf facility on 3 other golf clubs in their chain but without his informing Mexico City or the other facilities that he had done this, and to top it off, he no ;longer works for the company. Well, it took 3 days of negotiations but we were finally given the OK to play on Thursday. Thankfully it was a cloudy day otherwise the heat would have been oppressive. Fran, J-G and Kirk played 18 holes in 3 ½ hrs (good carts). The crocodiles in the water obstacles here pose an additional incentive to keep playing without looking for that lost ball...
Different kind of water hazard

One of the lesser acknowledged features of the Sailfest is the assistance of a couple of local men with dinghy landings and launches. They come right out in the water to steady up the dinghies and drag them to shore before you disembark and similarly on the way out. It sure makes things easy for the cruisers. We pay 10 pesos (approx 80 cents) each time so these guys are making their annual wage in the week of the event. It is a wonderful service so the cruisers have no problem with paying the fee.
We have heard that Fonatur has taken a special interest in this location. They have an office just beside the Port Captain’s office and have taken on the role of managing the port. This is not sitting well with the locals who see this as a threat to the status quo. There are rumours that the fishing fleet will be barred from their traditional landing places on the beach and that there are plans for a major re-organisation of the harbour, much to the detriment to the existing occupants who fear rising prices for basic services. It will be interesting to see what happens here in the next few years. It is also odd to see that Fonatur has expanded its mandate to include port operations and golf.
Saturday, 11 Jan 2012, Anchored at Zihuatanejo
It is still raining on and off. This weather has a few advantages; it is definitely a bit cooler and it cleans the salt off our uppers. Also it has given us the confirmation that we have found and plugged the leaks that we had in the aft cabin.
We have just returned from shopping at the municipal market, a large covered market where you can but all sorts of fresh veggies, fruit, meat and fish. The strawberries and blackberries are in season. It is strange to see the latter here but they must come from the higher elevations. We have discovered a new fruit. Mamae tastes close to papaya but looks more like a melon. We also visited the local museum and saw how rich in history this area is. Had we had more time here we would have made the trip to Petatlan a temple site that was discovered recently. They have uncovered a playing field where warriors played a sort of soccer come basketball. The object was to get a stone ball though a vertically mounted stone hoop without using hands. The winner got the privilege to be sacrificed ..... There is also a lot of history about the Spanish conquest here too. Expeditions departed here for the Far East and Cortez is said to have built a few ships in the bay.
Last night we ate at a very nice restaurant close to Julia’s place. Their menu included tuna, something we haven’t seen too much of in Mexico. Later in the evening there were strange sounds coming from the creek beside the restaurant. The owner explained it was crocodiles mating..... No, crocodile was not on the menu.
1200, Monday, 13 Feb 2012. Alongside Marina Ixtapa
We arrived at the marina about noon yesterday after leaving the bay and saying farewell to all those we met at the Sailfest. Our departure was well timed. There were several thefts on boats last night, including a break-in on one boat. Various electronics and cash seem to have been the targets.
We are here with Kirk, Impulse, Nauti Moments, Amnesia , Hoorah and waiting for us here was Chanty V who we had left at Las Hadas. We had a wonderful dinner at a marina restaurant last night and were entertained by a great group featuring a female lead singer from Vancouver.
Jacquie and von have arrived and are settled in to the V-berth. The plan is to leave early tomorrow morning and get into Papanoa by mid-day, then leave at dusk for Acapulco and reach there by mid-morning so that we can have 2 full days there.
0600, Tuesday, 14 Feb 2012 At Sea, heading for Papanoa
We have just departed the Ixtapa marina in company with Nauti-Moments. Departing in the dark was a different experience to what we are used to. All went well and kirk gave us a hand with lines on our departure. We were sad to bid him farewell and hope to see him again in the near future. He has his mom aboard for the next week.
Just before dusk last night on of the local inhabitants made an appearance. An 8 ft+ crocodile swam by the stern of the boat. Not a place to swim or clean boat bottoms....
Got to publish this blog so updates will be after Acapulco.