To Zihuatanejo and Back to La Paz

Yikes. Looks like it’s been a long time since I posted a blog entry. I finally have the magic combination of decent Internet access and a bit of quiet time. Since my last post in January, I’ve been to Zihuatanejo and then journeyed back north to La Paz, by way of Ensenada Carrizal near Manzanillo, Barre de Navidad, Tenacatita, Bahia Chamela, Nuevo Vallarta in Banderas Bay and then across the southern Sea of Cortez. It’s been busy and fun-filled.

With Tony and Diane as crew, we left Barra de Navidad on Tuesday, January 16 at about 10:30 a.m. and arrived at Ensenada Carrizal near Manzanillo at a little after 3 p.m. Big swells made it a rather uncomfortable night. Our friends Tom and Helen from Catatude were there. We all snorkeled along the north wall of the bay in the morning and then pulled up anchor and headed over to nearby Santiago Bay. There, we encountered even more friends, Jeff and Jules from El Gato, Steve and Shauna from Windrose, Walt and Shelly from Dune. The next day we all gathered on the beach for a late lunch at the Oasis restaurant after Jeff and Jules and I hiked up a steep hill to see an abandoned house that looked out over both the Pacific and the bay.

We stayed in Santiago Bay until 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 20, leaving our friends behind to head south to Zihuatanejo. We spent two nights at sea and were able to sail in brisk conditions for a few hours, although mostly we motor-sailed or motored. On Monday morning, January 22, we arrived at Isla Grande near Ixtapa and determined that the swells were too big for a comfortable anchorage, so we kept going to Zihuatanejo, and arrived around 9:30 a.m. We checked in with Tim and Donna Melville, the chief organizers of the cruisers for Sailfest and even joined them for Mexican music that night.

The next five and a half weeks in Zihuatanejo were a whirlwind. Lots of old and new friends arrived in the bay. We worked the booking desk to sign people up for cruises. We took people out on the boats, some sunset cruises, one race, one parade and one trip to Isla Grande. All of the cruises contributed to Sailfest raising more than 2 million pesos for the indigenous students of Zihuatanejo.

Aldabra dropping her spinnaker at the finish line of the race.

The assistant port captain was on Aldabra for the parade. All the boats came by to salute him

The assistant port captain loved driving the boat during the parade

We also found time to socialize a lot with our fellow cruisers, played pickleball, kayaked around the bay, took trips to Isla Grande and ate great food. It was very busy, hot and a bit exhausting. Four of us also rented a car for a girls’ trip and drove inland into the mountains to see the Monarch butterflies. It was so fun to get a break from the Zihuatanejo heat and spend a night in the colonial high-elevation village of Anganguero before going up even higher to see the butterflies. The air was crisp and cold and we had to wear jackets! And the butterflies were magical. We then drove to the city of Morelia and spent the night before taking a great walking tour (led by Jules) of this lovely city. Then we headed back to our boats in Zihuatanejo.

Jules and I admiring the view halfway up from the town of Anganguero to the butterfly reserve

Helen and I rode horseback to get to the butterflies. Jules and Sherri walked up the hill

Sheri and Helen marveling at the butterflies

Walking the last distance to the butterflies

The butterflies hang out in clumps until the sun warms them. Then they fly.

After most of the Sailfest activities were over, Tony and Diane sailed north with Jay and Terri on Cadenza. I stayed in the area on the boat by myself and singlehanded over to Isla Grande for a few days with other boats. El Gato and Catatude headed north from there and Mark and Stephanie on Wainui and Bryan and Sherri on Epic and I headed back to Zihuatanejo. It was my first time singlehanding and I was successful in anchoring and weighing anchor by myself. I also put the motor on the dinghy by myself, also a first.

A few days later, my crew Kip joined the boat. She had sailed from Banderas Bay to La Paz with me last year and was taking on an even longer journey this year. We headed over to Isla Grande for a couple of days and then left with Wainui, Epic and Striker at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28. Epic and Striker stopped along the way so we had minimal contact with them, but Wainui and Aldabra arrived, after one overnight, at Ensenda Carrizal at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 1st. The next day we left early and headed north to Barra de Navidad, arriving at 10:30 a.m. We stayed in the marina, docking right next to our old friends on Windrose.

We stayed a couple of days in Barra. Long enough to get some chores done. The boat hadn’t been washed in more than 6 weeks and it was in desperate need. In addition to refueling and doing laundry, I needed to repack the stuffing gland that connects the transmission and the shaft, and Tim on Shoofly helped me with that. In the evenings we gathered with Windrose, Appleseeds, Shoofly and Wainui for dinners in Barra.

It was sad to leave, but Aldabra headed north to Tenacatita on Monday, March 5 on our own. We spent one afternoon and evening there, visiting with friends on the beach: Catatude, Eileen May, Dolce, Doggone, Georgia and many more. The next day, shortly before 6 a.m. we headed north again to Bahia Chamela. Shortly after arriving at noon, we were joined by Catatude, Appleseeds, Dolce and others. Sean and Katie and Leo from Mele Kai stopped by and said that our friends Carlos and Debbie, who have a house on the beach, were there. So we gathered our cruiser friends and went to shore for dinner, stopping by to see Debbie and Carlos first.

The next day, I went to shore for a longer visit and some of the cruisers came later for bocce ball. The local ex-pats joined in. After napping a bit that evening, we pulled up anchor at 2 a.m. on Thursday, March 8 and headed north to round Cabo Corrientes, with Catatude. We rounded about noon in perfectly calm conditions and reached the La Cruz anchorage in Banderas Bay shortly before 5 p.m., tired. The next morning we headed over to the Paradise Village marina in Nuevo Vallarta and reunited with El Gato, Cool Change and Windrose. We took advantage of being in a marina to wash the boat, do laundry and run some errands. We also joined friends for dinners. On Sunday, we went over to the La Cruz market and the La Cruz marina to see old friends.

Jules took this while we were having dinner in Nuevo Vallarta

I’d been studying the weather intently for several days as weather windows changed. I finally concluded that Monday, March 12 was our one realistic window to cross the Sea of Cortez, a distance of 320 if we were able to head straight there, which in a sailboat is rare. We left shortly after 10 a.m. and mostly motor-sailed across the Sea, heading directly for Ensenada de Los Muertos. We arrived after about 53 hours, which was fast, although it meant very little pure sailing and the consumption of a lot of fuel. Conditions were not too bad, and got better on the last day. As we went along, our ETA would vary a lot, so we were pleased that we arrived in Muertos on Wednesday at 5 p.m., with plenty of time to anchor before dark.

We left before 8 a.m. the next day to head up through the Cerralvo and San Lorenzo channels toward La Paz. We anchored at Puerto Balandra for the night in a spot on the west side. It was lovely, and Kip had a chance to kayak around the lagoon.

The next day, Friday, we left before 9 a.m., stopped at Costa Baja for fuel and were docked at Marina de La Paz, on the outside of the dock next to Carlos Slim’s yacht Ostar by 11 a.m. (We saw him walk by later with his entourage as they boarded.)

Kip took me out to dinner on Friday night at my favorite La Paz restaurant Mesquite Grille. She left on Saturday morning to visit San Jose Del Cabo for a few days. With the help of another cruiser, I then moved the boat into an inside slip for the week before my sister, brother-in-law and niece arrive.

For the last few days, I’ve been doing typical chores, along with some my favorite workers. My chores have been to clean and reorganize the boat, do maintenance on some of the lines, get the laundry done, remake the beds, shop for groceries, make granola, go to the ATM, defrost the refrigerator, re-mark the anchor chain, fill the water tank, order spare parts online, and a host of other little things. Meanwhile, the guys here have inspected the rigging, tightened the steering cable, done some gelcoat repair and cleaned the boat bottom. I was planning to have some repairs made to my arch and davits but Sergio can’t get parts in time, so that will have to wait until I return from my week-long trip to some islands north of here with my family. We’re approaching Semana Santa and businesses aren’t all working normal schedules.

So that’s it. You’re caught up. So much time has passed that I’ve given you just the overview. I’ve left out little details and minor issues and catastrophes. The details omitted have been about the many wonderful moments with the Mexico cruising community. Each encounter fills my heart. And I haven’t mentioned the close encounters at sea with whales, turtles and dolphins, and the sunrises and sunsets. They never cease to be awesome.

And the catastrophes have mostly been about water. Too much water coming out of the stuffing gland was my reason for repacking it. Then, for several days afterward, I would have to stop the boat while underway to adjust the gland so enough water would be dripping out. At least once, a hose came off of the water heater and more than 50 gallons of water was pumped into the bilge. And another time, the water tanks were pumped dry because a faucet was left on. These frustrations are easily remedied by running the water maker to fill up the tanks. We also lost a few things overboard but were able to retrieve them.

So all in all, things have been going well and the boat is performing well. I say this with reluctance because other boats have had lots of issues, so my turn could be just a day or a week away. But I’m hoping for the best.

Finally, you’re probably wondering why so few pictures. For the most part, I’ve kept the big camera stowed away and I’ve hardly used the iPhone. At times I’ve been too busy running the boat, leaving it it to others to take the pictures. I’ll have to try harder.

I look forward to the arrival on Friday night of Wendy, Pat and Lizzie. We’ll spend about a week visiting Espiritu Santo, Isla San Francisco and maybe a spot on the Baja peninsula. And we’ll do some sailing because the first couple of days will be quite windy.








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