CHAPTER 15: December 13th , 2002 - January 16th, 2003: Hot Happy Holidays in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo
Getting in the holiday spirit while away from home and a family that I am so close with (and with no live Christmas tree with mounds of presents under it) for me is going to be difficult this year. It will be my first Christmas also away from my son. However, I’m trying real hard to keep busy and keep a “ho, ho, ho” attitude. Today I put up a few decorations on the boat that I bought in town... some gaudy green garland and a garland of red plastic bells and a big red bow, and Christmas stockings I had brought from our home... certainly not much but about all I could find around here. We also put up some lights outside around the bow of the boat, but again, nothing like the 13,000 lights we usually string outside. My sister did give me a gift of nautical decorations to open before Christmas, which I did today, and instead of a tree, I have them hanging down from my brass globe lantern over the "dining room" table.
And of course, the heat doesn’t help with getting into the holiday mood: It is 98 degrees out today... IN THE SHADE! Yesterday I went shopping for 6 hours in the hot blazing sun... so today I am staying in ALL DAY. NO pool here to soak in so it's best to hibernate inside in our air-conditioning on board. At least in Florida or other tropical places I’ve been in, when it got that hot and that humid, it would rain every afternoon. Here it doesn't ever rain this time of year. It appears most of the restaurants, bars, shops and other businesses that cater to tourists are closed most of the summer and then re-open in November... as I can imagine if it's this bad now, how much worse it would be in the summer! But it does seem to be cooling down some in the evenings. The radio this morning reported it was down to 68 degrees over night. We can at least pull up a sheet at night along with our cabin fans running... and it is pleasant. This town is one that really does close down for siesta during the hottest hours of the day -- from 2-5 PM... kinda like Spain... and then they re-open and stay open until around 8 PM. So that's how they survive the hottest part of the day. This is in the Mexican (not the tourist) part of town... as almost none of the shops or stores are air-conditioned
Today I along with about 10-12 other cruisers from various boats, went to visit a local Indian School. Cruisers in each area seem to pick various projects to help the communities that we visit — that is to give back something to the communities that give so much to the cruisers. In Zihuatanejo, for years the cruisers have been contributing and doing an annual fundraiser to help an indigenous Indian School. I learned that one of the reasons the Indian women and small children who walk the beaches trying to sell trinkets to tourists are doomed to that “profession” as their main means of supporting themselves, is that most of them do not speak Spanish. They still speak in their native tongues only, which makes it difficult for them to get jobs in the town communities. The reason for this is a criteria for attending Mexican public schools, is to be able to speak Spanish. The school that the cruiser’s support has over 300 Indian children and 12 teachers that speak 5 or 6 Indian dialects PLUS Spanish… to give these children a chance to learn Spanish, plus of course a regular curriculum. The land was donated by the Mexican government on top of a hill (although they do not donate any funds for the classrooms or teachers), and many of the children walk 5-6 miles each way to attend the classes. The day we went up to tour the school, was their last day before Christmas break… and they had a party as well as made a presentation of some framed artwork to the “cruisers” in appreciation of the donations given to them.
Tomorrow we are leaving the marina and heading around the corner to the bay at Zihuatanejo to be on the hook for a few days. No air-conditioning at all there but hopefully a breeze, plus we can jump in the water, should the desire hit us (can't do that here, lest the crocodiles that live here gobble us up!)
After a year of being in Mexico… plus living on or across the border of Mexico now for quite some time, I had pretty much grown tired of shopping in the Mexican craft stalls… as pretty much everything seemed like the “same ol’ junk” everywhere. But here there are some really great artesian crafts here unlike anything I've seen in the rest of Mexico, so I have been buying a few pieces here and there. Unfortunately, mostly I'm limited by space (not to mention money) or for sure I would load up on more of them, as we probably will not get back here again.
We are now peacefully anchored in Zihuatanejo bay, which for us was just a 90-minute motor from Ixtapa “around the corner” a bit south. Although no air-conditioning here, there is more of a breeze than we were getting at the marina and we have put up our shade cover that covers almost the whole length of the boat, so it deflects some of the intensity of the sun that usually beats down on our teak decks. Another advantage of the anchorage is it is bug-free. At the marina, millions of mosquitoes invade right at sunset, and even if we apply repellant they still buzz and dive bomb us.
One couple that we liked from Puerto Vallarta is here in the anchorage right next to us. Penny is an anesthesiologist, who works in Santa Monica. She goes back every 3-4 months, works several weeks to make enough money to go back to cruising for another few months... while her partner of 20 years, Gregg, stays on the boat in Mexico with their cat. Their boat is even bigger than ours but similar in that is Taiwanese built with great teak and workmanship. Yesterday morning Joe went to help Gregg to fix his auto pilot and in return he (Penny is still in LA now working) took Joe and I in his dinghy on a tour around the bay and then to another beach where we sat under a palapa in some lounge chairs for the afternoon and he treated us to cold Cuba Libras and a grilled chicken lunch. Tonight Gregg is coming over for drinks and dinner. I’m making sun dried tomato/kalamata pasta and bbq chicken and hopefully I have revived my sour dough starter successfully and we’ll have hot fresh bread.
There still are not very many boats out here at anchorage, although the rumors keep flying on the coconut telegraph that the hoards are rapidly approaching. It seems there are more boats here that are heading south to San Salvador and Costa Rico and for Panama... and so far we've met none that are going across the Pacific in our direction.
We just had our first experience with grocery shopping while anchored out. We took our dinghy to shore and caught a taxi to the big grocery store in town. (Double size of any stateside Vons/Ralphs... I guess sort of like super Walmarts as besides groceries, they also have clothing, electronics, house wares, etc.) Anyway, we didn't need much (at least we only had a few items such as fresh produce and bread on our list), however, we ended up with about 20+ bags of stuff by the time we left. Then we had to fit all of that in our little dinghy, which barely has room for both of us and a couple of life jackets! Oh well it was an adventure and at least we didn't drop anything overboard and it is now all put away. They had a great seafood market there -- but right where we pull our dinghy ashore is where all the panga fishermen come in w/ their fresh catches of the day... so I think one morning early (they get in from night fishing about 8:00 AM) we'll go to shore and see what we can get. Problem is I don't recognize most of these fish (i.e., unless it's dorado or tuna... they all just look like regular fish) -- so don't know what to get or how to prepare, but I’m sure I can figure out something, as since they are so fresh, they’ll be great cooked any way.
We will be heading back over to Ixtapa tomorrow (after 5 days here at anchor) to probably stay for another week... and then will come back here. Both places have their advantages and disadvantages so we are going to hop scotch back and forth until we leave here.
Our dinghy (small rubber boat we use to go back and forth from boat to shore) in the last day has developed a major hole so water seeps in every time we got in it... and the leak now seems to be increasing, like yesterday when we used it, it was like being in a saltwater bath! So tonight we went into town via Gregg’s dinghy versus our submarine for a Mexican’s version of Sunday night food and entertainment. On Sunday evenings at the town square (which is on the waterfront) local food vendors set up shop and sell different Mexican "fast food" goodies. The place was crowded with hundreds of Mexican families milling about and strolling up and down the walking (no cars) streets. They also had music and balloons for the children and the whole atmosphere was quite festive. The food was really great also. One stand make something like a deep fried quesadilla or huge empan~adas. You pointed to what ingredients you wanted in your dough (meat and potatoes, chorizo, spinach/cream cheese, mushrooms, chilies, etc.)... kinda like an omelet station, ... then the lady pressed out the dough into a large circle between 2 wooden planks, placed on the flattened dough your chosen ingredients, topped them with string cheese, folded them in half, pinched the edges, and then dropped them into a caldron of hot fat. Then when it is golden it is removed, cut open to let the steam out, and topped with a slaw-like cabbage and your choice of sauces (white, green, or hot sauce). All that for 1$. Then at another stand, we got fresh steamed hand made pork tamales (70 cents), and at another place corn OFF the cob (which they ladle steaming into a paper cup with a dollop of mayonnaise, a dollop of grated cheese, a dash of hot sauce, and salt/pepper... sounds weird w/ the mayonnaise and cheese but it is great!) Next on to the taco stand, where they were grilling carne asada, tripe, and pork. Again you pick what kind of meat you want, they pull it off the grill, chop/chop, and into soft tortillas and you add on the guacamole, lettuce, cilantro, lime, etc... and only 50 cents. Then onto the fried banana stand... etc. We ended up having a 5-course meal for less than $3.00! (No telling what all that fat did to our cholesterol!!) We found an outdoor cafe afterwards where we ordered drinks and digested all that food, and had fun watching all the Mexican families milling around the area. It was a nice evening.
We moved from the anchorage in Zihuatanejo to the marina in Ixtapa a couple of days ago… back to the heat. The anchorage was a lot cooler, but here we have air conditioning that we cannot run there. Joe likes the marina as when he has a project he needs to do (never-ending list!), we can leave on the air-conditioning all day to help with the heat and humidity. The outdoor projects are also easier to do at dock versus swinging and swaying at anchor: So the latest project has been repairing our leaking submarine-like dinghy.
Shortly after we landed here at the marina, a giant crocodile came right up next to our boat, while Joe was out there working. Joe leaned over the water to take a look at the crocodile after he went under the dock to try and see where he went. The crocodile’s head moments later reappeared a few feet in front of Joe and snapped his jaws in Joe's face... Joe's heart went into his throat as he jumped back. Unfortunately I missed that photo opportunity. We have since heard from the Marina office here that they have finally gotten permission to have the crocodiles removed and transported to somewhere else. It seems about 6 months ago, one of them jumped up on the dock and attacked a boater! So these are NOT nice guys. Needless to say, Joe is not leaning over the water anymore!
Yesterday, December 12th was a holiday in Mexico, Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe... who is the patron Saint of Mexico. [On this day in the 1500’s a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared to a Mexican Indian, Juan Diego…] We went into town (Zihuatanejo) with another couple to watch some of the parades and processions for their celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. There were hundreds of Mexican families out on the streets... many marching with candles going in a procession into their church. The little children were what was so precious as they were all dressed up: little girls in white blouses, and Mexican peasant patterned skirts with hair braided, and little boys in all white with red sashes, sombreros and mustaches painted on their faces (representing the Indian, Juan Diego)... even newborn infants were dressed the same way. We found a restaurant right across the street from the church and were able to sit and eat (and drink) and watch the people parading and walking by for several hours. Joe and I had our favorite molcajete (the dish of beef/chicken, cactus, onions, cheese, served in the lava stone–very hot--bowls) -- first time since Mazatlan, and it was great!
I too have come down with the flu... have no idea where from, as it's not cold season (by far), no one around me sick. I was in bed hardly moving for 2 days (first day with chills/fever... then it turned into a cold with me all plugged up) then yesterday I felt a little better, but still no energy. Today it has moved to my chest (coughing) and still I have a nose full of snot! But I think I'm going to live... and will try and get off the boat sometime today at least. Joe on the other hand, hurt his back 10 days ago (while we were in the anchorage) and this is the longest he's had something like this. He is mobile, but in discomfort when he walks or moves around much, so between the two of us, we have done little in the way of either fun or work. We are still in the marina (Ixtapa)... and IF we are both better in the next few days, we are planning on going back to the anchorage in Zihuatanejo and hope to stay there thru Christmas.
Joe and I finally moved the boat yesterday from the marina to the anchorage in Zihuatanejo, and are anchored by our "best" cruiser friends, Penny and Gregg aboard "Long Tall Sally." She (the anesthesiologist, I mentioned above) just returned from Santa Monica where she went home to work for about 2 1/2 weeks. Anyway she brought back our new digital camera that we had ordered on Ebay and had it sent to her US address... so we can now take pictures again digitally.
Joe's back is better, finally, but unfortunately, he caught the cold part of my flu/cold... at least no aching joints or fever, but he's in full force with the stuffy, runny nose and the cough. I usually get my cold once every couple of years but instead of it lasting usually 7-10 days, mine usually run the course in 3-4 days. Not so this time... as I am on day 11 now of the cold... getting old is hell! But we are both functioning well and going about our business and activities in a semi-normal routine now.
Christmas shopping has been a real challenge. Even though I didn't buy for family this year, and only had Joe to buy for... there was nothing I could think of to get him so I got Joe a bunch of real nothing type Mexican tourist "junk." Of course some Zihuatanejo t-shirts included, which will be the only thing he will like/want. I have no idea what he has or will find for me. He went out supposedly shopping the other day without me, and came back empty-handed. He is supposed to be leaving shortly to go out this afternoon... Christmas eve day-- to see if he can find anything for me. Unfortunately I don't wear silver and gold is hard to come by, so I don't know what he'll find.
We put on some Christmas music on the CD player in the last few days (some that I packed away for us)... but it just doesn't seem right... 90 degree weather and Frosty the Snowman songs. I thought it was hard to get into the spirit in sunny San Diego in December... but this is even worse! Today, hundreds of jet skis are out, along with the banana boats, the para-sailors, and pangas going back and forth from the shore to other beaches in the bay. Yesterday a para-sailor almost landed on our boat... fell in the water a few yards from us. The boat drivers don't even have another person in the speedboats with them ("spotters") so I'm surprised he even noticed the parachute fell in the water, barely missing our masts. This is the busiest week of the year for the town... so business is booming everywhere for the locals, and the beaches are full. There are also probably 30-35 sailboats here and more coming in every day.
I brought from home some of those "rope" lights (small Christmas-like lights encased in clear plastic tubing) and Joe has "installed" them with clips around our whole cockpit, so it is really pretty now when we sit out there in the evening. If we un-clip one end, we can even swing it over our cockpit table and it gives us enough light we can even see well enough to play cards by. Otherwise, along the sides, it gives enough to enjoy the night views and to have enough light to eat by. We also have a few Christmas lights along our bow and front half of the boat... but certainly nothing spectacular.
Last night we had over 2 couples on 2 different sail boats (Penny and Gregg, plus another couple from Colorado) for an hors d'ouvre party on board Mi Gitana. Everyone brought over several appetizers and what they wanted to drink and we sat out in the cockpit and watched a gorgeous sunset... and since there was limited table room, we ate everything in "courses" so the "meal" went on for several hours of finger food, with of course, a drink refill w/ each course. After several hours our boat really started rocking back and forth in 20+ degree rolls as the waves/swell were hitting us broadside. The last time we were out here at anchor, Joe put out a stern anchor to hold us so our bow would keep nose into the swells, but yesterday upon arrival, he didn't want to use his newly healed back any more than necessary. So after trying to hold onto our cocktails for dear life, one of the women volunteered her partner to go out in the dinghy with the other husband to drop our stern anchor. Sounded like a great idea at the time. But it turned out to be an hour affair, as Mi Gitana had turned 180 degrees from where she needed to be in order for them to drop the anchor. So the 2 men in the dinghy, one holding the rope/chain the anchor was attached to (with the anchor in the bottom of the rubber dinghy), and the other gunning the little out board, and Joe aboard the stern of Mi Gitana, holding onto the other end of the stern anchor line, with us 3 ladies holding onto flashlights... all trying to move our 50,000 pound boat around inch by inch... anyway they/we all did it with no injuries, except the guy holding the line/anchor in the dinghy swore his arms were stretched out 6 inches longer each! Then we celebrated on our now, non-rolly boat with more drinks and a game of Baja Rummy until almost midnight.
Tonight about 30 people from various boats are having Christmas Eve dinner in town, celebrating also 2 cruiser's birthdays. I think we may skip that and just have a quiet night aboard. Tomorrow we are having Christmas dinner at Long Tall Sally with Penny and Gregg on their boat, just the 4 of us, also, instead of joining the big cruiser dinner in town at the same place everyone had Thanksgiving. They wanted to cook a turkey and we wanted something more "intimate" versus a big loud buffet. It still won't be a real Christmas to me... friends are wonderful to be around, but they don't take the place of family on that special day. But we won't be alone, and Joe will get his turkey. I'm making my Pecan bread pudding with rum / hard sauce instead of pies, and bringing some smoked salmon appetizers. We have a couple of bottles of Champagne stashed away, so think I'll also bring along one of those along with some Chilean cabernet I found in the supermarket.
On Christmas Eve, Joe and I, after declining an invitation to go to town for a big group Birthday party at a restaurant, stayed on the boat for an evening together. I Barbequed some great steaks and attempted to make potato chips out of some thinly sliced potatoes and we opened a bottle of Hafner cabernet that I pulled out of my stash in the bilges. We turned on our Christmas CD's and ate outside in a starry night with a gentle breeze. It was a beautiful night... until I listened to the words of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” from our Christmas CD’s, and I burst into tears. For some reason I have been really homesick and missing my family. And being away from and worrying about my son and about a sick parent, I guess I just let go of all that I had been holding inside. I soon got over it and realized how much I had to be grateful for. And NEXT year we WILL be home for Christmas!
On Christmas morning, we got up and opened our stockings (Santa had filled overnight with goodies!) and then our Christmas presents. Joe had somehow amongst all the silver jewelry shops found a gold sailboat pendant for me with inlaid emerald sails… so I was surprised! Afterwards, we took our dinghy to town and found a phone booth so we could call home. I was able to reach my dad and stepmother at my sister’s house, so talking to all 3 of them did lift my spirits. Joe was also able to speak to his Dad and left a message at his daughter’s house.
We had a wonderful Christmas dinner with our friends on their boat. Cooking in our little tiny gallies aboard boats is a real challenge... small burners, even smaller oven, only a few square inches of free counter space... etc. So I was amazed that she made such a wonderful meal... whole turkey, potatoes, carrot soufflé, gravy, green beans... etc. I didn't envy them the mess though to clean up, as the galley has just as equally small sinks!!! We had the 2 appetizers I made with cocktails from about 5-7...(along with a beautiful Christmas night sunset ), then oppened our poppers and ate the meal... then played some cards (Baja Rummy) for another hour and a half... then had the desert I made... and then continued our card game until almost 2 AM! Then we got into our soggy dinghy (with water up to my ankles… Joe’s patch job did NOT work!), and sloshed our way back to our boat-- which thankfully is right next to theirs in the anchorage-- and quickly crashed into bed. We slept in until 10:30 this morning!
Today we are going over to one of the beaches on this bay along with our friends from last night (in THEIR dinghy since ours is out of commission) to celebrate Gregg’s 52nd birthday. We've been in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa now for over a month and have not had any time to just sit on a beach... so to me that sounds great.
Tomorrow we are leaving the anchorage for the last time and heading back to Ixtapa. In just a few more days... on Monday the 30th, ... Jake, our new unknown crewmember flies in. Joe and I will take a taxi to the airport to greet him and bring him to his new "home" for the next 6 months. It will be very different for us having someone around all the time, so adjustments will have to be made.
We spent New Years on board last night. Another couple, Eileen and Randy from Avalon, brought over the fixin's for Fajitas. They barbecued the marinated beef on the grill and sautéed the onions and peppers inside... and also brought over a huge pot of red beans... so hopefully that is a good enough substitute for the Good Luck in the New Year, "hoppin' John", that my Dad always insists that I eat. I made guacamole w/ chips and some tortilla soup to go along with the Mexican New Year’s theme. I also had the Mexican/Spanish tradition of 12 grapes for New Years Eve... one grape for good luck for each month of the year-- in the freezer for serving at midnight… but we forgot to have them... so will eat this morning (hopefully that won't jinx us!) From our boat we could see fireworks at midnight from 3 different areas so had a panorama view of them... We did have Champagne (one bottle of Mexican: Concho y Toro, and one bottle of California Piper Sonoma that I had saved) and played cards until about 1:30 AM.
Jake arrived on time on the 30th after 20 hours of travel (Bus from Iowa City to Chicago, plane from there to Mexico City, then a 5 hour layover, then a smaller plane into Zihuatanejo). He was a bit green when we picked him up, as he had gotten quite sick on the flight -- hopefully not motion sick! (If that's a problem, we'll find out real soon!) As soon as he got aboard, he just collapsed in his bed. But by the next morning, New Years Eve Day, he was feeling better so he went into town with me and I showed him how to take the busses, and gave him a walking orientation of where everything is. We ended up in the central market so I could buy my special New Years grapes, so he also got a tour of the fish market and all the vegetable and fruit stands. He was definitely in sensory overload! He's very quiet, introspective, and even more of an introvert than Joe. He doesn't drink or "party”. Today, Joe already has him helping outside today with a project. He seems nice, polite, and willing to help and learn.
Dorado (Mahi-Mahi) are really running here now for the last week. All the fishing boats here at the marina are coming back loaded. Yesterday while I was walking along the bay in Z-what, next to where the panga fishermen come in they were off loading boatfuls of dorados from several of the boats. I asked one of the fishermen if he would sell me one and he said, “yes”... for about 80 cents a pound!!! But he said he couldn't (? or perhaps was not allowed to) clean it for me there so I would have had to take the whole fish... head, tail, and all... Very tempting, but I was not done with my shopping, and didn't want to walk the 12 blocks to the bus stand, and then bus it 30-40 minutes back to Ixtapa, with a whole fish on my lap... So I went to the fish monger (who DOES clean the fish and sell them) right next to this guy and just bought the fillets... Still got them for about $2.25/pound! Anyway, I put on the grill last night after marinating them with some Greek seasoning and olive oil and made sure I didn't overcook them, and they were fantastic.
Now all excited about the prospect of catching fish again (as we are leaving here in a couple of days) I tried to revive my rod and reel that have been sitting in the pole holder now for a month. I tried to remove rust from my Penn fishing reel, lubricated the ball bearings, and changed the hooks (removed rusty ones) from my Rapala lure and am ready for us to catch our own Dorado now... As long as those stupid boobie birds leave my lures alone, I might have a chance.
Joe's already had Jake up the mast and doing dinghy repairs (for the 2nd time trying to fix that leak!), and other miscellaneous things to get ready to begin our voyage at sea again. Jake is really new/green to everything, but is a good sport and is really putting in an effort to learn as much as possible as fast as possible. I've given him a 2-page list of terms (boat language basics) to learn, and Joe has given him knots to practice... so he's been diving into the learning process. Otherwise, he's quiet, which works well with Joe. We've shown him how to take the bus now into town, and today he did some exploring on his own, which is good. He knows more Spanish than I do, but has never used it, so he will need to get out and try his language skills when the opportunity arises. He's on a very self-limited budget, so he probably won't eat out a lot with us, and he doesn't plan to do any shopping. He seems to have adjusted into the very small space we cleared out for him in the forward berth. The real test of course will be the time at sea, and how quickly he falls into the required routine, and having to work and maneuver in small spaces for days at a time without being on land. The beginning of that test will start as we pull out of here in a few days for a 48 hour- passage out to sea.... beating into the wind and waves.
January 7th: Second day of 2-day passage from Ixtapa to Manzanillo
We finally left Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo yesterday morning after 6 1/2 weeks there... and are now retracing our voyage we took previously to get here to go back North. On this “leg,” we have a 2-day/2-night passage north to Manzanillo. We have a planned 5-6 week trip back to Puerto Vallarta, with more time in the stops this time north... plus we are going to stop in a few places we missed while we were heading south. The heat while we were at port has continued to be almost unbearable... in the mid-high 90's every day with humidity in the mid-high 80's. Maybe (?) we will find a little bit cooler weather as we head a little more north, but I am not hopeful. Don't mean to complain, as really I think I liked Zihuatanejo almost as much as my previously favorite, Mazatlan. I met some nice people there (but now have had to say goodbye), and found some great shopping and eating places... but this morning I was ready to leave.
We are returning to Puerto Vallarta as that is our kick off spot to leave from for the South Pacific (good angle to the needed trade winds). It is kinda exciting to start to plan that route, reading about new destinations, choosing which of thousands of islands we want to visit, etc. Somewhere on the list of things to do is to study some French Language tapes, but languages do not come easy to me, so I'm having a hard time getting the initiative to start. (I'm just now starting to feel more comfortable with my Spanish, and that took formal courses, and 2 years of being in Mexico... plus of course the 2 years previously in Spain!) Oh well, at least I'll make an effort.
I think yesterday and today at sea have been our hottest day sailing since we have started this trip... the sun has been in the cockpit all day long so there was no escaping the intensity, and there was almost no wind. Down below in the cabin (where the sun WASN'T shining, but with all the portholes and hatches closed tight), our thermometer read 101 degrees, partially due to the engine running. Right now while I am on watch -- now 9PM-- it is down to a cool 91 degrees! Very uncomfortable.
Yesterday when we pulled away within 20 minutes before we even got out of the bay there at Ixtapa, Jake got seasick... and continued to be sick and/or sleeping now for a day and a half. I put a patch on him (scopolamine patch) right away after he said he wasn't feeling well. He got up mid afternoon today, and said he felt better, but he still is mostly sitting or sleeping on deck. Hopefully, this is a one-time problem, as it is pretty miserable for him not only physically, but emotionally a potential big disappointment… since he has put most of his savings into making this Mexico/South Pacific trip with us. Joe thinks he'll get over it, but we have NEVER in our entire year down here has seas as glassy and calm as we have these 2 days and nights. Time will tell. This is our last long and overnight "passage" before we get to PV as all the other trips are short "day sails." So we may not get another chance to evaluate him thoroughly, but he will still have more sea time and if it happens every time, well then we know.
Last night while underway, our autopilot broke so we had to hand steer (me while Joe was sleeping, and Joe while I was sleeping) for 17 hours until Joe was finally able to fix it this afternoon. That is NO FUN. When it is only one of us "on duty" while the other is sleeping, we cannot go to the bathroom, go down below to check charts or radar, make coffee or anything as we need both hands on the wheel and eyes on the compass to keep us on course. Joe found the problem with the autopilot finally, a bad circuit board, and miraculously, we had a spare, so now we are back to auto steering.
This evening we finally hooked a fish! Just as we were starting dinner, we heard the whirrrrr of the reel. With my mouth drooling at the thought of fresh Dorado, I grabbed the pole, locked the reel to stop the fish's progress with our line, and gave the rod and reel to Jake. When we got it in closer, I could see this flat square jaw of a fish, and said it looked like a shark, and sure enough that is what we caught. It was only about 3 1/2 feet, and so we wanted to release it (too small and none of us particularly like shark meat), but that was easier said than done. Jake's NEVER fished and Joe and I have done very little, so trying to hold onto that shark, stay out of the way of his teeth, and to get the hook out took all 3 of us. We couldn't get it out, so finally cut the sharks mouth's edge with a knife to release the shark... praying we don't meet up with him later in his life while we are diving (and he is much bigger!), and him remember us taking a knife to his mouth!!! So no fresh fish for the dinner table again!
Las Hadas Resort
We made our 2day/2 night trip to Manzanillo arriving yesterday morning at dawn, got checked in, showered (and we felt like burning our clothes and sterilizing our bodies after that hot humid trip!), and had our traditional welcome margarita next to the resort's pool. We are anchored right off the shore of a resort, Las Hadas, has the claim to fame of being the site where they filmed the movie, "10" with Bo Derrick (her premier movie, I believe) and Dudley Moore in the 70's. What most people remember about the movie is Bo Derrick with corn-roll braids and her gorgeous body dripping wet coming out of the water on the beach... they made a poster of that that teenage boys drooled over for some time... anyway that was her only claim to fame, but it also made the resort famous. The resort itself is gorgeous, bright white Mediterranean style with domes, and spires, climbing up the side of a steep hill. It is very expensive (rooms start at over $300/day), and is still THE place for the rich and famous who happen to make Manzanillo their vacation stop. We pay 11$ a day to use their dinghy dock, showers, and their pool and beach. The anchorage is quiet, not too rolly and has lots of jumping fish.
Yesterday we climbed the hill up the side of the resort to the main road and took a bus into the town of Manzanillo. It is the largest shipping port on the west coast of Mexico and there are always lots of container ships sitting in the bay waiting to off load. There is not much tourist traffic IN town as there are no beaches in town (with all the ships there), and no cruise ships stop here, so we found very few tourist shops, restaurants, bars, etc... like we have seen in all the other coastal town... there were also very few gringos in town. It DOES do a fairly good tourist business but they are quickly swept from the airports off to the beach areas out of the main part of town. For example for us, it was almost an hour from the hotel Las Hadas into central Manzanillo... so quite a ways out. Anyway, we had to walked around the waterfront almost an hour to find a real restaurant with a bar to sit down at. We did that and Jake, who came with us, and has a lot better stamina, continued to "explore" for another hour on his own, as Joe and I had a couple of drinks and chips and salsa. Joe also got his pizza fix sustained for a bit longer with a pizza for lunch, which was actually pretty good for Mexican Pizza, and we had our best-ever Mexican ice cream. So decent pizza and creamy ice cream will be our main memories of down town Manzanillo. Oh yes the other thing we’ll remember: they had a huge modern blue sculpture along the waterfront of a sailfish… as one of Manzanillo calls itself the “World Capital of Sailfish” as it set a world record in 1957 of the most (336) sailfish caught during a 3-day fishing tournament.
Today is lie by the pool day, as is probably tomorrow (Saturday) and then Sunday, we will make our way (about 6 hours away) back to the resort and marina at Barra de Navidad -- the other very fancy and expensive resort that we stayed on the way down. We will be there probably around 3 weeks, not only because we like it there, but also we have a list of projects to do on the boat to start getting it ready to go to the South Pacific... and decided to start tackling them there instead of letting them all pile up for us to do in Puerto Vallarta.
We are now back (arrived here 5 days ago) in Barra de Navidad, at the Grand Bay Resort and Marina where we stayed a week on our way down to Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. As we described before, the facility here is gorgeous, beautiful landscaped grounds, green with lots of flowers, a 27-hole golf course, a 3-tiered pool with slides and waterfalls, and 5 star restaurants. The marina itself is also nice (no surge, so no roly-poly), nice breezes (so cooler than Ixtapa), and no crocodiles! It is actually on an island, so to get to the town of Barra from the resort, we have to take about a 5-minute water taxi. The town is one of my favorites also as it is only about 10 blocks long and 3 blocks wide... so VERY small, but lots of scattered bars, restaurants, and small shops. No gas station, no bank, and not much commercial business except tourists (of which there are more here now than when we were here in November, but still not very many) and fishing.
The marina also is a lot busier than when we were here in November. There are about 220 slips and there were only around 25-35 boats here back then... now the marina is almost full and is expected to really be full up this weekend as they are having their annual bill fish (sail fish and marlin both, I believe) tournament then. When we were here before there was only one other sail boat, but at least this time there ARE about 15 other cruising sail boats... none of which we know, but hopefully we will get to know some of the people from their boats soon. Also though, one boat, AVALON with a husband/wife aboard that we hung out with and did a lot of shopping and eating out with in Ixtapa will hopefully be arriving next week here... so we're looking forward to seeing and doing things with them also. We may be buddy-boating back to Puerto Vallarta with them also as we have about the same itinerary as them... with them planning to arrive at Paradise Village resort in Puerto Vallarta about the same time as us. They are at the end of their 5 year cruising and are heading back to San Diego in a few months with plans to sell their boat and fix up their house in the mountains of San Diego east county town called Jamul.
UPDATE ON JAKE: Jake who, did well in the anchorage at Las Hadas, i.e., not feeling sick, once again got sick as soon as we took off again to sea on our trip here. This time, however, the seas instead of glassy, were more typical of what we were expecting while bashing north, i.e., 20-25 knots of wind ON THE NOSE and fairly moderate seas, 8-10'. We have all talked about this since arriving here, and he really doesn't want to give up -- which I guess is good, but we've told him we also can't carry him as dead weight -- he has to be a functioning crew member for us as well. If it doesn't work out with him, he will return home once we get to Puerto Vallarta. For us by then it will be too late for us to find anyone else... as we wouldn't want to take anyone else without a "sea trial" and once we get to Puerto Vallarta, we won't be going out again until we leave for the South Pacific. It really is not a big worry for us though as we were planning on going it alone up until a few months ago, so although it would have been a great help to have him along, I'm sure we'll be fine.
So that brings you up to date again on us, and our lives at sea and ashore. I feel this chapter has been pretty “ho-hum” lacking excitement, or tales of new places and adventures… so I hope I haven’t’ lost any readers. Unfortunately, in the next 6 weeks, we will also be re-tracing our voyage path that we took coming down to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo… so in the next “chapter” also I will probably not have much NEW. I most probably will not write more until we are back and settled in again at Paradise Village in Puerto (Nuevo) Vallarta.
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