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Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas in Mexico

December 24, 2004
Zihuatanejo, Guerrero Coast, Mexico (17o 38' N 101o 33' W)

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful
and as long as we've no place to go: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"

That's what the singers on the town stage are singing, if you can believe it. Of course they're singing in Spanish, but the tune is unmistakable and remarkably the 'let it snow' part is in English. Did I mention the low temperature today was 78 degrees? I'm not holding out much hope for snow...

We went to Pozole Thursday yesterday for lunch and had a great time. It was set up by Rick, of Rick's Bar, an American who runs a cruiser hangout in town. Linda and I and six other cruisers boarded a set of taxis which took us to the restaurant. Pozole is a traditional meal served on Thursday. We're not all that sure why it's served on that day, but the story is that pigs are traditionally slaughtered on Wednesday and in an effort to eat all the pork before Friday (meat not being allowed on Friday) soup was made on Thursday. Pozole is a light brothy soup with hominy and meat, either pork or chicken. The meal began with a plate of tapas (taquitos, small chili rellenos, chips, pork rinds, avocados and beans) and would have been very reasonably priced except for the tequila we began sipping. We all blame Roberto for starting it, but in the end we (Roberto, Joe and I) had consumed almost $60 USD in tequila. It was worth it though. This amount of drinking took the better part of the afternoon and as a result we were there long enough to see three excellent performances. The first was a solo singer who played the guitar, the second was two young men and two young women who did traditional dances on the tiny stage, and the third was a much larger guitar/percussion band who were still singing when we staggered out.

Unfortunately, we returned to the beach to find our dinghy less than fully inflated. The large repair patch from the panga propeller in Bahia Santa Maria must have gotten blown off by the increased pressure caused by the heat. Not the greatest Christmas present, but at least we're surrounded by friendly cruisers who will no doubt be very helpful in repairing it again.

Merry Christmas every one!

John and Linda

Sunday, December 19, 2004

More updates

December 19, 2004
Zihuatanejo, Guerrero Coast, Mexico (17o 38' N 101o 33' W)

We left Tenacatita bay on the 14th at 1000. It's 220 nm from Tenacatita to Zihuatanejo so we expected to take two nights. We planned on taking it slow, motoring at reduced RPM and sailing whenever the wind would drive us at 2.5 kt or more. The first day and night were mostly uneventful. We had a nice afternoon sail on the first day, close reaching in the sea breeze, and then motored most of the first night. Dawn on the second day revealed an overcast sky, part of the 'Pineapple Express' our weather man has been talking about for days. The sea breeze never really filled in until around 1300. Even at that it was pretty light but I decided to set the spinnaker anyway. There wasn't enough wind for the main, so I dropped it and we sailed quietly along with only the spinnaker to drive us. Linda was below sleeping and I was looking forward to my off watch so I could enjoy snoozing in the quiet calm too. I went off watch at 1500 and immediately laid down for a nap. Of course 10 minutes later the boat heeled over in a gust and I decided to take the spinnaker down. We dropped the spinnaker without incident, hoisted the main and rolled out the jib. The main had a reef in it from when we were motoring so I shook it out and we were sailing along at about 4 kts. That's when the real fun began. Looking ahead I could see a line of big black clouds which looked like they were dropping a lot of rain. I remarked to Linda that it looked like a squall, not that I really know what a squall looks like, but that's what I imagine they look like. Anyway within 10 minutes the wind went from 8 kts to 25 and it was time for more sail changes! Roll up the jib, reef the main, set the staysail and we were sailing at 6 kts on a close reach! The worst thing is we were on a lee shore, just 7 miles to leeward and the coast was waiting to swallow us whole. Fortunately we were able to make some distance off shore and sailed along happily enough, watching the waves grow and grow. Three hours later, the sun was going down, the waves were 6-7 feet and the boat was soaked. Thankfully the wind was starting to die down, however all it did was change direction on us. Right after the squall blew itself out we were saturated by the scent of wet earth in the air. This was pretty strange considering it had been blowing directly on-shore for the last 3 hours. Sure enough, within 30 minutes the wind was blowing directly offshore at 20-25, the bad part being that the waves still hadn't had a chance to die down from the squall so the new wind, blowing directly against the waves, made them even higher and steeper! Time to soak down the other side of the boat! We sailed almost all night and pulled into Zihuatanejo bay at around 10 am, just as planned, well almost.

We finally managed to leave the pack behind and arrived at Zihua by ourselves. That's not to say that there are no other boats here. There are 15 in the general area, but at least we didn't arrive within a few hours of them. Most of the boats from Tenacatita decided to spend Christmas and New Years at Barra de Navidad, an expensive ($1.50 USD per foot!) marina/resort so we may not be seeing them for awhile.

We spent our first day walking around town looking at things and found the two most important places - the tortillaria and the bakery (panaderia). Of course there are more than one of each, and in fact we don't really even need to go to the specific shop as we found out when we went to the greatest place in town - the public market! We spent our second day walking around this wonderful place with its close set stalls and narrow aisles. You can find whatever you need from pork to power tools, from cucumbers to Christmas lights, from freshly made cheese to freshly made shoes, all within a single building on one city block. We ate lunch at one of the 'Fondas' (small food stands in one section of the market) and then loaded our bag full of fresh provisions to take back to the boat.

If there's any down side to Zihuatanejo it's the anchorage. It's calm enough but, as usual, the city sewers empty into the bay and many of the cruisers said the anchorage is not safe to swim in. Oh well, a clean clear spot to anchor is only a mile or two away and with a gelato shop within 100 yds of where we park our dinghy I don't mind having to use a little outboard gas to go for a swim.

NAKIA Fun facts

We're in the Central time zone now.

Closest US city is probably Brownsville, Texas, 550 nm to the north east.

San Francisco is about 1700 nm from Zihuatanejo as the crow flies.

Since July 1, NAKIA has traveled almost 3600 nautical miles ranging from the high northern latitude of 51o N to our current tropical latitude of 17o N

Where we are here, in Zihuatanejo, we have about 11.5 hours of daylight per day (including twilight). In San Francisco there is about 10 hours of daylight per day. At our northern most point in Canada, there is about 8.5 hours of daylight per day.

You can buy the Mexican version of Crystal Light in flavors like Horchata, Tamarindo, Pineapple w/green tea, Pina Colada, Guava, Lime Mint, Watermelon, Mango, Grapefruit, Mandarin, Flor de Jamaica (haven't quite figured out what this one is yet, but it's red), and Orange Pineapple. We love the stuff so much that yesterday we stocked up with 52 packets!

As if to prove to you that they really are food, a popular brand of hot dogs here is "Fud" (the 'u' in Spanish is pronounced 'oo').

Saturday, December 18, 2004


December 18, 2004
Zihuatanejo, Guerrero Coast, Mexico (17o 38' N 101o 33' W)

Well it's been some time since I've updated the blog so I thought I'd write a few notes down to keep everyone informed of what's been going on. I guess the reason I haven't been writing is there's not much out of the ordinary happening, I guess I like to have something interesting to write about.

We spent 9 nights in this large bay on the Colima coast. There are a number of anchorages. Once again, we arrived 'in company' with several other boats. Same as before, we didn't announce our plans to leave Careyes but at soon as we were out of the anchorage we heard the other boats on the VHF talking about getting underway. I guess you could say we're trend-setters.

Our first big activity in Tenacatita was to take the Jungle River Trip. Several of the boats in the anchorage agreed to make the run together (perhaps thinking that ten dinghies would be less likely to get attacked by crocodiles). We got up early in the morning (1000) and headed in.

The Jungle River Trip is a 4 mile dinghy ride from the north east anchorage, inland through a mangrove swamp, to the outer anchorage in Tenacatita bay. It was pretty cool, kind of like cruising Georgiana Slough in the Delta, only shorter and much narrower. For about half a mile the water is completely over hung with mangrove trees and the channel is only 10-12 ft wide. At the end of the trip you can pull your dinghy up on the inside of the sand spit that separates the outer anchorage from the mangrove swamp. The 'town' of Tenacatita is on the sand spit and there are a number of palapa restaurants to relax at after worrying about the nasties in the swamp. We made the trip in company with about 7 dinghies which was fun. At one point we had three dinghies rafted together so only the center dinghy had to run its motor.

The next day we took a taxi to La Manzanilla, the closest town, to do some shopping. We got an unexpected treat, when we got out of the cab the driver said, "Don't miss the crocodiles!" We walked over to where he was pointing and there in the lagoon were about 15 crocs up to 15 ft! There was a chain link fence around the lagoon for protection, whether it was the crocs or us being protected is uncertain. We followed the road around the lagoon to the beach where we found a flaw in the protective barrier - the fence was laid flat, one of its posts having been toppled. There was a clear path all the way down to 'Crocodile Beach' although no one wanted to take me up on my offer of 20 pesos to the first person to touch a crock. I wonder why!

One of the other boats in the anchorage told us about a laundry service through the hotel. You drop your laundry off at a palapa on the beach and the hotel on-call doctor comes and picks it up (there aren't enough emergencies to keep him busy so he does laundry on the side). He takes it back to his home based facility and washes, dries, folds and packs in plastic all of your laundry for 10 pesos per kilo (40 cents per pound). He supplies the detergent, softener and big plastic bags. Linda wasn't 100% satisfied with the results, the clothes weren't quite dry and they used more softener then she normally does, but she's having a hard time justifying doing our own laundry. Our cost to do it ourselves is usually more then 60 cents per pound!

After a few days we moved over to the outer anchorage which I liked much better. There were no big hotels to blast disco music at night and all the palapa restaurants closed up at 7 pm so it was very quiet. It was here that we had out first experience getting water outside of a marina. We'd noticed several water delivery trucks drive through town and stop at the various palapas. One day we stopped one and inquired about the price. 13 pesos (about $1.15) buys you 5 gallons of purified water. There is a one time deposit on the bottles (they are water cooler style 5 gallon jugs) of 40 pesos, presumably we can turn the bottles in for a refund. We decided to get 5 jugs, for a total of 265 pesos, and loaded them into the dinghy. It was a little challenging rowing them out to the boat (we didn't have the outboard on because the landing was so close to where we anchored) but it was easy enough to put all 25 gallons on the boat and get them into the tank. The next day we repeated the experiment, however this time while we were waiting for our specific water truck to come by a 'local' told us he wasn't working that day. We decided not to wait any longer and bought our jugs from one of the palapas for a slightly inflated price of 15 pesos. Sure enough, as were loading our 'expensive' water into the dinghy we saw our water truck drive by out on the street. Sooner or later I'll learn who to trust when, I hope.

That's all for now, I'm writing more but want to get this posted before the end of the weekend.

Next up:
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride from Tenacatita to Zihuatanejo
How not to lose weight by shopping and eating at the public market
NAKIA fun facts, where the heck are we and how far have we been anyway?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Bahia Chamela and Bahia Careyes

December 4, 2004
Bahia Careyes, Jalisco Coast (19o 24' N 105o 01' W)

We left Bahia Chamela this morning after spending 4 nights in what turned out to be a very nice little place. Bahia Chamela is a mini cruising ground with an anchorage near a town and a couple of islands out in the bay. We stopped at the islands on our way into the bay and liked it so much we dropped the anchor for two nights.

It was a little exposed to wind and sea but the fact that the water was clear with great snorkeling made up for any downside (I could easily see the anchor drop into clean sand through 20 feet of water). Another great feature was a small bay where hotels sometimes brings guests. The beach at the head of the bay is clean white sand and there's a large palapa built above the beach. We spent two wonderful afternoons there snorkeling and laying in the hammock we strung on the rafters of the palapa.

After we had our fill of solitude and quiet we moved over to the town anchorage. Most of the other boats were there and if easy access to beach restaurants and small mercados is your idea of a great anchorage, this place is for you. Of course there wasn't any good snorkeling within swimming distance, the pangas roared off of the beach at 0630 and the smell of burning garbage hung thick in the air every night. But it was nice enough.

Bahia Careyes, according to the guide book, is "one of those picturesque hideaways you dreamed about before you started cruising." There are three small beaches tucked back behind two islands. You anchor off a beach, outside of the hotel's swimming area, and the islands 'protect' the anchorage. Nice in theory, but it's pretty rolly. Also, the hotels at the head of each beach are very high end. An ice cream at the hotel deli was 66 pesos ($6 USD) and if you want a day pass to use the pool, it will cost you 660 pesos ($60 USD) per person. I think we'll pass.

It didn't get any better at the restaurant at the head of another beach, 70 pesos for a coke and a beer (plus tip). The third beach has a Club Med (Playa Blanca) which, thankfully, is closed. So I guess you could say it's very inexpensive. You don't get anything, but you don't have to pay anything either.

On the bright side we caught a 3 ft dorado (mahi-mahi) on the way over. Of course it's too big to fit in the fridge so we gave a lot of it away but it was definitely the biggest fish we've caught to date.

John and Linda

Later that same day...

Well the Club Med turned out to be very interesting indeed. We took the dinghy over and pulled up on the beach (the nicest beach of the three little coves) and wandered around the deserted grounds. Everything was complete, if in a state of disrepair. Rooms, bars, pools, restaurants and the gym all seemed ready to accommodate hordes of singles ready to meet each other. All that was lacking was a big "Se Vende" sign out front. We saw no one, not even the gardener who'd been busy knocking ripe coconuts off the trees and piling them up. I liberated two for drinking later. We did get to see some of the locals: four cotamundi (three babies and a mother) who descended from a coconut tree as we approached. We hung out on the pretty white sand beach and bathed outside the surf (wishing the entire time that the water was turned on so we could use the beach shower to rinse off with fresh water).