Our friend Derek arrived in Zihuatenejo from California on Monday night to crew for Nancy on Aldabra. I am so proud of our friends and family who can get it together on short notice to just pick up and leave home for a month’s adventure. That’s what Derek did.
After a morning salsa class, one of our first adventures together was to go explore what we call the “Parthenon.” It is the ruins on the top of a hill, visible from the anchorage, of an opulent house built in the 70’s by a rich robber baron Chief of Police of Mexico City. The story goes that he kept lions in cages on his property and threw his enemies into the cages. If you weren’t on his good side and got invited to one of his parties, you couldn’t refuse to go because he was too powerful, but if you did go, you might not leave alive! He was hated so by the locals that they ransacked his home once he was thrown in prison, but with some imagination, you can still envision what it must have been like.
Also on our list before departing Zihuatenejo was to head over to the day-use beach of Las Gatas to take advantage of a coupon we had bought in the Sailfest silent auction for a lunch for two. We would have had a balance on our coupon to share with the others with us had it not been for the waiter talking me into this silly piña colada served in a pineapple with a funny face at twice the price.
We also managed to have a few nice dinners out. Here was one of them.
After a bit more exploring, and carefully examining the weather, the four of us departed Zihuatenejo on our two boats, Aldabra and Cool Change, heading north. The best we could hope for was a gentle breeze from the south with following seas. That was not to be, nor would it be likely. However, we got second best: a light breeze on a close reach in flat seas, allowing us to at least deploy the mainsail to provide stability while motoring. Friends of ours had left a week earlier under similar predicted conditions and faced heavy wind and weather the whole way, so we felt blessed. Fearing the worst, we anticipated slower going so we had to slow down to avoid a night arrival.
After 24 hours, we took a little detour into a fair-weather anchorage called Maruata, but decided not to stay. The beach was very steep, indicating quite the surf, and we didn’t want to chance a rolly, uncomfortable or worse, dangerous night.
The entire trip was easy on all of us, and quite lovely. We saw lots of dolphins. And Derek and Nancy said they stopped counting after seeing 75 turtles!
It had been a long time since we had motored so continuously for so long, with the autopilot steering. The autopilot didn’t like it. After about 24 hours straight, the motor/gear housing got really hot, and the autopilot wouldn’t keep its course. After that, we turned it off and mostly hand-steered the rest of the way. Boy had I gotten spoiled, using the autopilot! It was good to be reminded of the feeling of minor steering corrections by hand, but after 4 hours of continuous steering in the middle of the night, I really wished for the chance to stretch my legs, stare at the stars to find a new constellation, or even just settle down in the cockpit and rest my eyes for a moment!
And we weren’t the only ones having an issue with our autopilot. While Derek was on watch, all of his electronics conked out when he was trying to restart the radio. Cool Change had been following Aldabra’s stern light while hand steering at night instead of glueing our eyes to the compass, but when Derek’s autopilot went out, then he was forced to steer by the compass, and we got ahead of Aldabra to make that easier for him. That way he could let Nancy, the skipper, sleep through her off-shift. She could restart the electronics when she awoke.
This was the first time since leaving San Francisco that Cool Change deliberately buddy-boated with another boat. It was kinda fun! And reassuring. And easier, like when we could use their stern light to guide us when our autopilot went out instead of having to glue our eyes to the compass or affix on a set of stars (until they rotated!). It was very kind of Aldabra (true to form for Nancy, a very thoughtful person) to stay back with us; she could have powered on much faster than we could have. And another great thing was that there was someone there to take pictures of us! During a brief moment when we had enough wind to sail, Derek snapped a picture of Cool Change under sail.
In spite of the electronics hiccups, or maybe partially because of them, that last night at sea was magical. Hand-steering forces you to be constantly looking ahead and around you in a way that using the autopilot doesn’t. We were approaching Manzanillo so we had ship traffic passing out to sea of us in the opposite direction, but none came too close – just close enough to be in awe of how these huge ships had so few lights and were so darn quiet …. Meanwhile, the shoreline became dotted with more and more signs of civilization, including lighthouses as well as lit buildings, seen even six miles away. But the sea, the sea: that was the most mesmerizing part. It may have been because we had slowed way down to avoid a night arrival, but the sea looked to me like molasses: slow-moving and thick, with hardly a ripple. Rick said it looked to him like silk. Of course, being a moonless night, you couldn’t see much of the sea, but what we could see was enchanting. Phosphorescent algae would occasionally brighten our wake, and our navigation lights emitted a soft glow over the bow and stern. When I looked toward shore, the air looked clear, but when I looked west towards the vast open sea, it looked like there was an ever so slight mist gathering over the water. It was other-worldly.
We arrived at Las Hadas early morning the third day. After settling back to anchoring life and taking an afternoon rest, we decided to go explore. Using Nancy’s larger, rigid-bottomed dinghy and our motor, we drove into the marina at Las Hadas and got started on a walk, but were interrupted by the temptation of a cold beer, and ended up having dinner. We got some good pictures of us and Cool Change from the restaurant, with the marina associated with the luxury resort of Las Hadas in the background.
From Las Hadas, we motored 5 miles over the next day to Ensenada Carrizal, a protected little inlet with great snorkeling. What a treat!
Our next stop was the marina at Barra de Navidad, where we are now. Of course had to take Derek to the best margarita place in town, the Sunset Bar.
Barra has been fun as always, with the requisite boatwork in the morning (change oil, change both fuel filters and find a small fuel leak, clean autopilot connectors, refill water and fuel, replace steaming light bulb, clean shower drain filter, etc.) followed by an afternoon dip in the pool and maybe an early night out in town for dinner.
We managed to get ourselves over to Melaque, a short bus ride away, for food shopping at the ‘Hawaii” store, filled with all kinds of rare-in-Mexico-except-in-gourmet-store finds like sun-dried tomatoes, kosher dill pickles, 1/2 and 1/2, and goat cheese. It is always so fun to go there, which is a surprisingly small storefront with lots of stuff packed into its tight aisles. Melaque, in general, is the go-to place for most Barra shopping, especially for hardware, automotive and greater diversity in food and groceries. And it has banks, which Barra doesn’t, in case you need cash. Nevertheless, Barra does have a good meat store, a good fresh fish store, and some decent produce stores. And it has fun eateries, bars, and my favorite Mexican dress shop.
Anyway, we could hang here forever but there are more places to go and see, so tomorrow, Aldabra and Cool Change are heading up the coast again 14 miles to the anchorage of Tenacatita, where we hope to dive off the boat and play in the water for a while before heading up north again to the next anchorage, Chamela, another day trip. After that, we will plan our next overnight around Cabo Corrientes to La Cruz in Banderas Bay.
I am not certain of wifi availability for the next two anchorages, so adios for a week or so!