Subj: Nanjo Chronicals 2001 - Southbound (Zihuatanejo)
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001 3:01:15 PM Eastern Standard Time
Travels from Jan. 29, 2001 to February 14, 2001:
The Amigo Net had forecast high winds for the waters from Mazatlan to Corrientes for the previous day, Sunday. A couple of boats hadn't got the word and experienced big, breaking seas with 35 knots of wind through the night. One of them, KnottyRV, became a "buddyboat" for us from Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo.
We had left Tenacatita Monday morning with a light wind but also with the residual, "lumpy" seas from the north. Steve wasn't receiving enough power from the wind to control Nanjo in these following swells, so we motor-sailed past Barra de Navidad, where we had spent our first Thanksgiving and Xmas in Mexico, as well as Año Nuevo (Dos Mil). We had wanted to visit there again, but pushed on to Manzanillo Bay and the remote anchorage in a cove behind Punta Carrizal. Overnighting there gave us the opportunity to motor over to the commercial fuel dock in Manzanillo in the morning before the winds came up. This is advisable, as we had heard of several boats having problems getting away from the fuel dock in the last few years. As a matter of fact, last year, our friends on Reliance blew out a fender as they were taking on fuel. The attraction is that diesel here is priced the lowest in Mexico, costing about half the price of anywhere else. The other mooring options in Manzanillo are Las Hadas, a resort, or in Manzanillo harbor itself. However, each would require checking in with the Port Captain in Manzanillo; rather expensive for just an overnight stay.
Although we left Carrizal in the dark, arriving at the fuel dock 0930, a large powerboat was along side the west side already. We attempted to tie up to the front, south side, which is the main dock. However, the workers waved us off, advising us to wait until the west side was clear. We lay off the pier and shut off the engine so that I could pick up the radio nets without interference from the engine. Around 1000 we were docked, filling our jerry cans on deck and topping off the diesel tank - just under 50 gallons for less than $45.
As we were setting sails outside Manzanillo in the freshening breeze (our timing at the dock was perfect, just avoiding the wind), KnottyRV was heading for the harbor to fill up. Several hours later, they renewed contact with us. Besides getting acquainted with him, I would pass back warnings of close, northbound freighters. Visibility was poor, a little over one mile in a heavy haze.
The trip to Zihuatanejo was measured as 190 nm from Manzanillo. This meant that we either had to make better speed with favorable winds or slow down from the 4 nm average speed we use to estimate our passages. Since we had no wind, we knew we were in for two full days and nights. I sailed at less than 4 kts. whenever the wind cooperated.
Knotty RV passed us during the first night and was out of radio range by the early evening of the next day. They were finally over the adrenalin rush of their high-winds passage around Corrientes and were ready for winds. They also were returning to their original plan to continue on to Panama. They had been anxious with the expectations of crossing Tehuantepec in high winds and seas similar to what they experienced a few days before. But they got over their anxiety quickly. They had already departed Zihuatanejo before we pulled in, just a day later. They halted in Acapulco for no more than two days, heading straight for Huatulco's main port at Santa Cruz. Without enjoying any of the many coves in the Huatulco area, they led a pack of cruisers across Tehuantepec at the first "window". The last we have heard from them was as they were ½ day ahead of the group, not stopping at Puerto Madero, but heading straight for Guatemala. We had just barely finished exhaling in Zihuatanejo.
Our first stop was at Isla Grande, just outside of Ixtapa. We were very lucky because, instead of the usual, an anchorage full of cruisers, Nanjo was the only sailboat there for most of the day. The north anchorage is lined with palapas and cabanas for hotel guests from Ixtapa. After being water-taxied out, they water ski, Jet Ski, snorkel and party. I cleaned the bottom of the boat for the first time since we had left San Carlos. I wasn't met with any surprises - no patches of missing antifouling. Nanjo had a green "skirt" growing at the top edge of the antifouling. Since I was warned not to clean the new paint with a scrub brush, I used one of my plastic, Belzona knives to scrape it off. To clean the TransOcean paint surface, I wiped it with a sponge. Only when I found a barnacle did I use the plastic knife. On the previous Trinidad paint, the white barnacle base wouldn't come off, but with the TransOcean I could scrape the entire barnacle off.
After short naps, Nancy and I were surprised to see Juandra, companions from the summer in The Sea, pull into the cove. We invited them and their guests over for coffee and dessert that evening. They brought a CD with all the wedding pictures from their daughter's wedding. We did a hi-tech brag book hour with their wedding pictures and our Geoffrey photos; Toshi (our laptop) gave us a new level of service.
The next morning we checked in to the local VHF net before moving to Zihuatanejo. We were pleased to hear so many familiar boats check in. We were to be surrounded by boats representing our year and a half in Mexico. We soon learned why; Z-town is probably the most popular mainland-Mexico destination for cruisers.
First off, there is practically unlimited anchorage space in the greater bay. If you want a settled anchorage and don't mind the dirty water, you can anchor close to the town. Otherwise you anchor where we did, off Playa La Ropa. There you must use a stern anchor as well as the primary, bow anchor. This keeps the boat pointed into the swells, which roll in from the west. Some days it got pretty bouncy, merely rocking us to sleep, although driving some boats into the quieter waters. The water was warm enough to just dive into and was clean, but we didn't make water there. The dinghy ride to town was long, but no longer than from the lagoon at Barra. An option that only a few boats used was to dink to the beach behind us, where they could catch a bus to town, but that required landing and returning through the surf. Most people just crossed the bay; most people have hard-bottomed dinks which made the trip short, with speed.
Rick's Bar is the hub for all cruisers in Z-town. Rick is a past cruiser who knows no limits to his willingness to help cruisers. Laundry and propane bottles are left at the bar. The stateside mail drop is there. The cruisers use the bar as the place to play games, jam with their instruments, conduct cruiser-meetings, leave or pick up messages. Rick has an Internet terminal with telephone-calling option. He has a copy machine, a shower for cruisers and a book-trading library. When I asked him where I could find a new Mexico courtesy flag, after we had asked countless papelerias, he gave me the one he used in his flag display hung throughout the bar. He said that I could replace it, give him a club burgie or pay him a few bucks (ultimately, I paid him West Marine's price). He made calls to Mexican officials to resolve Ham radio licensing and found other info for cruisers. If no boat would volunteer to coordinate a relief effort for El Salvador or some other project, Rick does it. The guy is a treasure!
Rick also has weekly, local entertainment, dancers and musicians. One night is a cruisers'-tales night in a musical format.
The beachfront at Zihuat is the best mix of "tourist" and "local" we've seen - as always pangas line the beach, next come mangrove and palm trees, shading the fishermen's storage area and fish market. This market is merely fish on the top of a box or on a cloth on the ground, fresh by a few hours. Locals and tourists view this from a cobblestone walkway, with restaurants bordering the other side, all under the shade of the trees.
We found all sorts of supplies in Zihuat. Sunbrella and other cloth for boats, sewing machine shops, electronics shops, a monster central mercado at which to buy fresh or prepared food, a super market and even a medical supply store with LifeScan One Touch. Internet cafes charge 25 pesos per hour and are everywhere. There is a fuel pier, but it ran out of diesel and didn't get a new supply for a week. The fleet found out after a boat was turned away and Rick confirmed the problem.
Dinks are beached beside the main pier, in front of the Navy headquarters. Dinks were left there safely till all hours of the day and night. The Port Captain's office is at the base of the pier. All check-ins and -outs begin here. After receiving a copy of Nanjo's documentation, they typed up the deposit slip for the new port fee and the API-equivalent, which we took to BanaMex. The Migracíon is across town, well past the bank (a map is in the Pto. C. office). We never had to show that we had begun at the Pto. C. office, but we heard a couple of single-handed skippers say they were sent back to the Port Captain's office before Migracíon would accept their papers (the Pto. C. does not stamp the papers until you return with all the deposit receipts). All the officials are very friendly and efficient. We checked in with a crowd and checked out by ourselves; it took the same amount of time. The Port Captain posts clear warnings that you must finish your paperwork before 3pm, otherwise you are charged overtime. If you anchor in Z-town in the afternoon, wait until the next weekday to check in.
We attended a cruisers' "raft up" with 80 other cruisers on our first Wednesday. A large 80' trawler, Scorpius, hosted it. I've attached a photo to provide a little perspective, although my camera doesn't have a lens wide enough to capture the 30 - 40 dinghies. Everyone brought a dish of nibbles. We toured Scorpius and visited with friends until quite late; some heading our way, some the other, some planning to "bash" back up to San Francisco to return to work, their kids to high school. So it was hello-agains for most and goodbyes to some.
Also attached is a photo of Nancy enjoying Playa Las Gatos the next morning. This was the first beach-day we have had in years (you aren't sad for us?). We just sunbathed, napped and cooled off in the water.
Finally it was time to head for Acapulco, 113 nm away. Mary and Karl-Heinz were arriving late on the 15th and we would see them the next day for lunch. We weighed anchor on the 14th, just after the net. As we rounded the southern point of Bahia de Zihuatanejo, I radioed Rick at his bar and, on the "hailing" channel, thanked him for making Z-town so hard to leave. Others can sing their praises for La Paz, I sing of Zihuatanejo.
Crew of Nanjo
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