sailing homepage : trip reports : 6: zihua to la paz : back to tenacatita
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Feb 5-9: Passage from Zihuatanejo to Bahia Tenacatita with stops at Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad, overnight trip with Ann and John, catching more fish, exploring quaint Barra, sailing hard into Tenacatita, exploring the jungle, and enjoying another mayor's raftup

[ written by John ]

We left Zihuatanejo bright & early in the morning on Monday the 5th of February, heading North for Manzanillo - that’s a big haul of 184 nautical miles, but the only decent anchorage in between is Lazaro Cardenas, a mondo container port not very comfortable for tiny crushables such as Wanderlust.

Ann enjoying brekkers


Sara hauls up the mainsail

As the fuel dock in Z is purely decorative, which we found out just too late to visit Ixtapa’s during the sailfest parade, our first hop was the short six miles to Ixtapa for diesel. We were surrounded by v.posh condos & huge cruisers (of the ocean-going persuasion) - they didn’t half make Wanderlust look modest. But modesty’s a virtue right?

Dunno ‘bout that, the buggers wouldn’t give us any water, and overfilled our subsidiary fuels tanks (plastic jerry cans in the cockpit) so they leaked as soon as the sun got on them & stunk the place out with diesel.

Taking on diesel


Filling the jerry cans

[ Will: It sucked, the Marina Ixtapa people wouldn't let us take on water from any of the empty slips or unattended taps. They wouldn't sell us water. They refused to hear our arguments, and said only that we had to rent a slip for the day to get any water. Totally crazy, these guys are going the way of Cabo, and I couldn't have been more angry with them. I'm going to write a letter to someone. We will never stay here, never refuel here again. ]

Now we’re really on our way, motor-sailing into a fitful north westerly. We ran out a couple of fishing lines, no bait, just lures, & to someone who’s only seen freshwater gear in crappy tire, bloody big hooks. Around lunchtime were rewarded by a tasty Skipjack.

John hauls in a fish


What a yummy dinner

We hauled it in, bopped on the bonce, tranquilised with tequila, bled out behind the boat, and filleted on our 21st century gutting tray & auxiliary power source - solar panels are custom-made for the purpose, adjustable for tilt, covered in scratch-proof tempered glass, and positioned just right for hosing down.

Will does the dirty work


John takes the helm

Sara keeping a sharp eye


John is ever vigilant

With the fish fillets marianading in the fridge, and the solar panel back to its day job, we resumed our ever vigilant watch, and after several unphotographable leaping bat rays and diving turtles we were joined by a school of dolphins that were close enough for long enough for Wills to get some excellent pics.



Crystal-clear water

Sara and Ann enjoy the shade


Beautiful sunset

Soon it was time to eat our pre-prepared food and get ready for the first overnight - ‘s funny how we wear swimsuits by day and full Monty foul weather gear at night - and we’re not all fetishists. We also wear life-vests and safety lines. Sara & I took the first watch from seven ‘til midnight and with the moon in its third quarter we got to see the stars, so many stars it’s hard to make out the familiar constellations and you realize the milky way’s not just a candy bar.

The phosphorescence was fantastic, blue specks in our bow wave and in the wave crests; and diffuse blue basketballs somewhat deeper in our wake. The rising of the moon really changed the view, half the stars vanished and we could see again, though the view was somewhat predictable - water and waves. We played word games to keep awake, and were grateful when Will and Ann came up to relieve us at midnight.

Will's trusty lookout


Beautiful morning

Ann came off watch at around five and Will stayed with me until the sky was beginning to lighten before going below. Motor-sailing involves watching the apparent wind (the vector difference between the true wind and the boat velocity) and fiddling with the sails to get the best speed for constant engine revs. At each change of wind you think; is this a trend, or just a gust? Luckily it’s pretty easy even for me to unfurl, furl and tack the big genoa (the main says up & just gets adjusted by sheet & traveller), and it’s fun to watch the speed change as the wind shifts.

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You’re rushing along feeling really proud of how cunningly you’ve set the sails, and got an extra knot-and-a-half, and then you think; shit, I can run at seven-and-a-half knots, then William adds perspective by updating our ETA based on our present speed. Everyone was up and about soon after eight, and we’re on holiday!

Ann enjoying the weather


Sailing hard into Manzanillo

Clear blue water, a pristine view in every direction but landward where there was a long brown plume extending from the north-eastern horizon. As the day wore on the culprits came into view, three chimneys. As we looked at them we saw a row of silver dots as well, which we couldn’t figure out - the boat moves about too much for a clear view through binoculars, or my image-stabilized camera, so we settled for the most likely solution, an alien landing aid.

The chimneys belong to the power-station across a small neck of land from the town of Manzanillo, which is at the south-west head of Manzanillo bay. Our anchorage was Las Hadas in the north-east, and finally, as we turned into the bay the wind became free enough for some real sailing, ann john; sailing hard which attracted kamikaze boobies who seemed to be playing at crossing as close as possible in front of our forestay.

Across the bay from our anchorage we saw a sad sight, a beached yacht. It seems the guys, a TV or film crew, were motoring, but the motor cut out so they tried to sail but didn’t know how. They didn’t know how to anchor either so ran in through the surf and onto the beach. Will went to offer to help the beached yacht, but there was nothing he could do. Eventually they did get towed off.

Ann swimming into shore


Sailboat on the beach

We anchored in front of the resort of Las Hadas, a fanciful ‘Moorish’ conception with condos and an hotel. Ann swam to shore while we dinghied in in the faithful Purpeat, failed to find the guy to whom to pay the mooring fee, though we looked real hard, had a nice swim in their pool (we were the only ones in it) a lounge in their tepid tub (if it was in the US, I’d say the water was cooled by lawsuit chill, but I’m sure it’s not the case here) a nice shower and a walk through the resort.

The spiral tower was out-of-bounds, so Ann and I went up above the resort to where you can look over into the next bay, and back down again. It’s a bit sad, such a big place, so few visitors, a bit like Mirabel airport for the canuck readers, but it does keep people employed. We went ashore looking like savages, and came back as ladies & gentlemen - I guess not all of the long-term sailors down here have indulged in waaaay too much self-prescribed medication, it’s just the sun & the wind & the salt that makes them look like gone-to-seed flower children. Back to the boat for dinner & bed.

Industrial mess


Rocky headlands

On Wednesday we pulled up our hook and set off for the 20 mile hop to Barra de Navidad. The smokestack plume gave us an encouraging sign - wind going our way, but even before we’d left the bay it had stalled and started going back.

Fisherman plying his trade


Calm seas

The sea was like glass as we motored, steering by hand rather than autopilot, which resulted in pictures of the only tropicbirds we saw, but also Ann getting sunburned during her spell at the wheel.



Ann at the helm

Sara enjoys the calm conditions


Will drops the mainsail

Barra de Navidad is a lovely little town in the Bahia Navidad and our anchorage was in Laguna Navidad, reached through a narrow channel between the town pier and a luxury hotel. It’s shallow, even for the dinghy, going across the lagoon to town, but what a nice little town. It caters to tourists and sport fishermen, but retains its Mexican charm.

Resort hotel


Waiting for laundry

We hauled our washing to the laundry, careful to specify ‘sin chloro’, otherwise they’ll bleach the bejasus out of everything, the laundry lady said it would be done by eight, and she’d be open ‘til nine, so we went and ate, shopped, hung out, and returned at eight to find it closed - oh well, manana, we thought, but not Will, who went to her home, roused her from her television and got her to finish our laundry, all very nice & friendly.

Great sailing


Sara the yogi

As we hauled up the anchor on Thursday morning, we scrubbed every link to remove the fine mud that would otherwise fill the chain locker - a lesson learnt on the way down, then ho for Tenacatita, a very short trip with some good sailing once we’d turned from heading up the coast to crossing the bay.

Rocky point entering Ten Bay


Ann and Sara as we heel over

Check that out! You can see the keel!


We were rocketing along

[ Will: entering Tenacatita Bay we had perfect wind, right in the 20-25 knot range that Wanderlust likes so much, and at a perfect angle for us to come into the anchorage. We killed the engine and roared across the bay, shooting plumes of spray whenever we crashed through the chop. ]

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We anchored in the beautiful sheltered bay, and had to be quick with the provender as the crew was getting famished.

Sara's hungry!


Ann's burn

It’s a very popular spot with about 3 dozen yachts at anchor when we arrived. We had some fun with the phosphorescent critters after dark. Sara stirred up a sparkle with the deck broom, the Will said; dive in. I dove and was surrounded by stars, waving my arms produced showers of sparkles at my fingertips, while vigorously treading water produced the difuse glow. Experiments pumping the head in the dark lead me to believe the bright flashes are caused by contact with the air - dunno ‘bout the diffuse.



Sunset in paradise

We decided to stay there all day Friday as there’s so much to do. Will, Ann & I set off in Purpeat for a day with nature up close. Over the sandbar and into the creek that leads through the mangrove swamp, full of fish, birds, butterflies and mangrove crabs to the tiny village.

River entrance


A Great Blue Heron

Milky water


Lots of nasty bugs

We parked Purpeat on the outer bay, where we strolled down the dirt road looking for a nice lunch place.

Disturbed pelican flees Purpeat


Dinghy parking lot

After lunch we went snorkeling, first Will and I, then Will and Ann. It’s a fantastic experience, with clear water full of fish, some in shoals, some in pairs & some loners, also coral, quite the Jaques Cousteau experience - if you ever get the chance, dear reader, go.



Time to snorkle

Our beach


The snorkling area

Ann & Will went shopping, while I took our gear back to Purpeat. As I waited, I chatted with a guy using my pathetic Spanish plus sign language, til he put me out of my misery by saying he used to live in Las Vegas. We jumped into the dinghy & headed back through the swamp to Wanderlust ready for the weekly raft-up.

The weekly raftup


The cruiser community

We ate the popcorn Sara made and instead took a bag of peanuts for the potluck, as well as books to swap. The book-swap and potluck were much as expected, with bags of books and platters of food circulating and people taking what they wanted. Then it got (to a Brit anyway) seriously weird with couples asked to share romantic cruising (ocean-going, this is a family blog) experiences and reasons what they appreciate about their partners - and some of the romantic disclosures certainly weren’t appreciated by the partners.

Appreciated or not, many gave what one of my former professors used to call a Rolls-Royce speech - so quiet you can hear the clock tick, and lasts for ever. Some levity resulted from one couple’s release of their Portugese water dogs, friendly food moochers hopping from ding to ding.

That's a funny-looking chicken


Compulsive card players

I didn’t realize what I was starting when I taught everyone the rudiments of bridge at Christmas, not having played since ’73 myself, but here we are ignoring the spectacular scenery, exotic wildlife & alien abductees because we’ve just got to finish that rubber.

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