Aldabra arrived in Zihuatanejo on February 1, after a two-night, one-day passage from Ensenada Carrizal, near Manzanillo. We were very sad to leave good friends, but looking forward to learning more about Sailfest, which provides an opportunity for cruising sailboats to help raise money to build schools for Zihuatanejo students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to finish high school.
The cruising community in Zihuatanejo is very welcoming. Minutes after we anchored, Tim Melville from Northwest Passage motored over in his dinghy to invite us to participate in the local radio net and get involved with Sailfest. Tim, along with his wife Donna, and Ken and Nancy Hunting on Gitane were tireless organizers of this event, which was supposed to last a week but ended up starting early and extending throughout the month. And they weren’t the only ones who were instrumental in the success of the event, which ended up raising 1.6 million pesos this year. Ken and Margie on Peregrina, and Rick on Eyes of the World had huge roles. And then most of the cruising boats were the key to the whole thing, because they volunteered their time, their boats and their fuel to take paying customers out on sunset cruises, a one-day rally and a parade. Several boats hosted more than 5 cruises each. The guests loved their experiences and everyone was thrilled to be having fun for a worthy cause.
Aldabra stayed at anchor during Sailfest. After 3 months on the boat, my crew, Dax, was ready to spend some time on land. So I crewed on other boats who needed an extra pair of hands. And that was really fun for me. I sailed twice on Wainui with Mark Coleman and Stephanie York. And I sailed twice on Chez Nous with Al Garnier. I also got to sail as a guest on Catatude with Tom Wurfi and his wife Helen. And I joined as a guest on Kya, a 68-ft luxury powerboat with Michael and Katie, Stuart and Georgia.
Several of us made an extra donation to Sailfest in exchange for having a photo taken at the helm of this beautiful boat with its very gracious crew.
In addition to raising money by taking people out on the boats, Sailfest had a chili-cookoff, a silent auction, a rock and roll concert, and a zillion raffles. We also got to go on a tour of one of the schools, which was just built last summer, I think in eleven weeks. In addition to being part of such a worthy cause, I loved getting to know the other cruisers and getting to know the land-based community, some of whom are here year-round working on organizing this charity and the projects it funds. As a final wrap-up, we were also treated to an afternoon on the beach in a beautiful setting south of Zihuatanejo, which ended with the release of hundreds of little turtles into the sea.
Thanks to the volunteers, all the baby turtles made it into the ocean, but some of them really struggled. Hopefully things got easier once they made it through the surf.
So things are quieter now. Many of the boats that were here have taken off to either the south or the north. A few of us remain. I have new crew arriving in a few days so I will then look for a weather window to go north. Others will stay here for Guitarfest, which is in early March.
I shouldn’t close this post about Zihuatanejo, without talking about the town. Like most of the coastal enclaves I’ve visited in Mexico, there are many retired Americans and Canadians, along with some Europeans. So often the only culture one senses is an ex-pat culture, not a true Mexican culture. Zihuatanejo is a tourist economy and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the sea of gringos. But sometimes, like this morning, it feels like a Mexican town. As I walked through the market, I was there with lots of Mexican families, out for Saturday morning shopping and strolls through town. I had this same sense last night at the basketball court, which is the heart of town on weekend evenings, with Mexican families of all types, with kids of all ages, out enjoying what is essentially the town square. No wonder people are charmed when they come to visit and often end up returning each year, or staying permanently. One other thing to mention about Zihuatanejo is that there is an endless supply of good food and good music. I look forward to returning next year for Sailfest, and I expect Aldabra to be one of the boats taking guests out on cruises.