Zihuatenejo

Zihuatenejo.
1500 miles of driving.
1500 miles of sailing.
The southern most terminus of our cruising season.
3 months since leaving Idaho.
3 months to get back.
The journey IS the destination…

Deidre and I are heading back north. We spent a wonderful 3 weeks in and around the Zihuatenejo area. With pleasant sea breezes occurring every afternoon, we found ourselves pulling the hook nearly every single day solely for the pleasure of sailing. Maybe it’s because it’s still new to us, or maybe it’s because of our awesome Cat2Fold, but no matter where we are, or what’s on our schedule, we always find time to go sailing. Most other boats seem to hurry to their respective destinations, drop the hook, and become an immobile, floating apartment. Not Cat2Fold, we are never more than 15 minutes away from raising anchor and and sailing off to different horizons. Besides Bahia de Zihuatenejo, we anchored and spent time in Isla Grande, about 10 miles north, and Barre de Potosi, in Bahia Petatlan (near the Zihuat airport), about 10 miles south. We tried to use the chartplotter like an etch-a-sketch and did a pretty good job drawing a line all over the screen.
Zihuatenejo is a beautiful little fishing/tourist town. With clean and lively beaches lining the inner reaches of the bay, restaurants galore, amazing snorkeling at nearby Isla Grande, and good surfing at Playa Linda and Playa Las Gatas, we quickly became enchanted with Z-town. Deidre spent every opportunity she had available running and doing yoga on Playa La Ropa. Clearly our favorite beach in the bay. Besides an occasional, crocodile plying the local surf, Zihuatenejo seems as close to paradise as it gets. Did I mention the 80 degree water? Sometimes we’d anchor close to all the activity, other times we’d anchor out in one of the remote, tiny coves near the entrance to the bay.
Part of the reason to go to Zihuat was an event called Sailfest. Sailfest is a week long schedule of activities that’s main purpose is to raise money to build schools and help educate the local poor kids. Check out the website Por Los Ninos. Activities including a sailing Regatta and sailboat parade, where people pay money to be on board your boat, a chili cook off, an art auction, and a music concert, take place throughout the week, with all proceeds raised for the education of the kids. Cat2Fold carried two guests for the race (Bob and Judy), and six guests (Bob & Jane, Tim & Donna, Dawn, and Brent) came aboard for the sailboat parade. Even with a smaller number of boats participating than in past years, a record 667,000 pesos was raised!!!
For the actual regatta, Cat2Fold finished in second place behind the very formidable catamaran, Pantera. In the world of Catamarans, if one were to compare them with cars, most production cats would be like a large, comfortable Winnebago. With accommodations for 8-12 people on 40+ foot boats. Cat2Fold could be compared to a nicely performing VW pop up camper-van. Pantera is more like a Porsche. With comfortable accommodations for 1 or 2, ultra lightweight, aerodynamic construction, and 44 feet of water line, Pantera can sail upwind better than any other boat around.
She flies a hull in over 20 knots of wind and has been pushed to a top speed of 27 knots. She really is in a class of her own. Now Deidre and I are finding ourselves having the pleasure of buddy boating with Pantera and her owner Bob Smith as we make our way back north towards Banderas Bay. Lucky for us Pantera’s back up motor is dead, so Bob has to sail the entire way. We can motor through the calms’, which allows us to stay close to Pantera throughout the day. Sometimes a little ahead, sometimes a lot behind.
As we work our way north towards another fun sailing Regatta in Bahia Tenacatita, we are harshly reminded that not everything here in paradise is at it seems. Only three days after spending two nights in Caleta de Campos (we spent 5 days here a month previous) our friends Bill and Judy aboard a Lagoon 470 catamaran, Moontide, were boarded and robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the night. The thieves took cash, a computer and a cell phone. Luckily, no one was hurt. There were 4 other boats in the anchorage when it happened. Whether it’s our good Karma, or the fact that Cat2Fold is not quite as big and shiny as some of these other boats, I’m confident that we can continue to cruise here in the future with little worry.

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We’re not in Idaho anymore…

There are some things in life that just can’t be experienced sitting in the safety of an armchair, within the protected confines of a lovely living room in middle America…
With C2F anchored in 10 feet of water, about 100 yards off the beautiful Playa La Ropa, within Bahia Zihuatenejo, Deidre and I decided to paddle board to our usual spot on the beach, and go for a hike. With nice, little waves rolling onto the beach, I was excited about catching one and riding it in to the end. As we were approaching the beginning of the break (about 25 yards from shore), I started to notice the fairly large crowd, which appeared to include some cops/search and rescue types gathered on the beach directly in front of us. With a building set of waves coming that I wanted/needed to pay attention to, I somehow was able to notice that the crowd was trying to tell us not to come in. “What? Why?” We’re my first two thoughts. “Here comes a big wave”, says Deidre, at exactly the same time that I realize what is going on…
Letting the wave slip under my feet, I try and calmly paddle the board away from the shore and even more calmly explain to Deidre that the crowd is telling us there is a crocodile in the water and we need to paddle away from there. After a quick “shriek”, we gathered ourselves and paddled up the beach to a safer landing area. Once on the beach we heard all the various stories as to how dangerous and/or totally tame that particular Croc was. Well, tame or not, there is no need to try and surf over one.
We went for our hike over to Playa Principal (the main beach directly in front of Zihuatenejo). Beautiful town and area! When we returned to Playa La Ropa, the crowd had settled down some, but the search and rescue folks were still on the scene, tracking the croc. We watched for a while, then the time came to head back to the boat. With cocktails in hand, and the beach cloaked in darkness, we were lucky enough to be able to watch the large reptile become apprehended.
As you can maybe imagine, the men put in charge of trapping the croc weren’t armed with guns, tranquilizer’s, or cages. All they had was a 10′-12′ long piece of bamboo with a line on the end (to try and loop around the croc’s mouth), a flashlight, some mad skills, and some “grande cojones”. Watching from the safety of Cat2Fold, we heard a large splash, some yelling and a saw a bright flashlight light up the beach. 3-4 men were able to get the loop around the croc’s mouth and drag it up out of the water and onto the beach. With all the squirming and wrestling going on, the croc appeared to become free from the snare around its mouth. That’s when “super-bad-ass-croc-hunter-man” among men stepped onto the stage. With all the other croc-hunters wearing black uniforms and boots, this guy with shorts, tee shirt and no shoes calmly removed his tee shirt, placed it directly on the crocs head, waited about one second, then jumped on the crocs back. There didn’t appear to be much of a fight at that point. Maybe because the croc could feel the coconut sized cojones this guy obviously had, or maybe he was just done fighting. Our super hero just laid down on the croc, reached over his head and held the mouth closed while the other guys tied it securely.
There was a lot of camera flashes and posing going on for the next few minutes. Then the team dragged the huge beast up the beach and disappeared into the darkness. We’re still not sure if that croc was put into a refuge, or onto a dinner plate, but we both feel lucky to have witnessed such an event that you never really get to see up in the mountains of Idaho.

Manzanillo to Zihuatenejo

As the sun rises over the sleepy fishing village of Caleta de Campos, the sound of the huge crashing surf is a constant reminder of just how far south we have sailed. Our current anchorage lies just 75 miles NW of Zihuatenejo, a popular destination among surfers, sailors, and fellow northerners looking to escape the deep freeze of their respective homelands. Along with larger, more consistent surf comes longer sailing passages between safe anchorages, and much more challenging dinghy landings, or in our case, paddleboard landings.
Most folks speak about sailing the nearly 200 mile passage from Manzanillo to Zihuat in a single, long, overnight push. Some choose this because the handful of available stops are poorly protected anchorages with a lot of swell finding its way in, leaving one to restlessly debate throughout the night whether or not stopping was a good idea. Others bypass this section of the Michoacan coast for fear of banditos or somehow getting entangled in the ever present war on drugs. The state of Michoacan is infamous for growing large amounts of Marijuana. With Cat2Fold’s ability to handle swell better than most boats due to her wide beam, and my ever present ability to sniff out the good and the bad “mota” folk, we decided to try and day sail our way down the coast.
Our first anchorage, Cabeza Negra, 50 miles SE of Manzanillo was one of the former anchorages. Arriving just before sunset, we made the mistake of not taking the time to set up a stern anchor. The swell, which clearly had been building throughout our day sail, wrapped its way into our anchorage, hitting Cat2Fold directly abeam, turning our flat stable sleeping platform into a thrusting, gyrating, hop and pop sort of sleepless event. A middle of the night, half hearted attempt at setting a stern anchor did nothing to solve the dilemma (albeit for a measly 15 minutes), and in fact almost turned a bad situation worse by wrapping itself around our main ground tackle. Luckily, this was not noticed at all until morning, during the retrieval of our dual anchor setup.
Wasting no time hanging out in the not so peaceful anchorage, our next stop was a small village called Maruata, some 30 miles down the coast. We ventured ashore to stretch our legs and have a look around. We were also in search of an Internet connection so Deidre could continue working from the boat. I felt like the beach and the whole village was dead. With no internet connection to be found, and more empty palapa’s then people, we headed back to C2F. I couldn’t help but wonder why this cute little town seemed so empty. Oh well, with better protection afforded in this anchorage by the surrounding rocky islets jutting out from its’ northwestern side, and a swell subsiding by the hour, Deidre and I finally caught up on some much needed rest.
In the morning, our journey south continued. We had nearly 40 miles to sail to the next semi-protected anchorage, Caleta de Campos. Here we found an anchorage with pretty good protection from the ever present swell, and also, a thriving little beach community. Our first night here, we were (gladly) kept awake late into the night by a raucous, Mexican “Ooompah-pah” band. Having never seen this type of party music live, I was enthralled with the sound. In hindsight, we should have rallied, got up out of bed and gone to see the music. The next day, I learned that the music party should continue the next couple of nights, so Deidre and I made a plan to have dinner on the beach that evening, with hopes of catching the performance. Unfortunately, the info was incorrect, the music was done here at Caleta de Campos.
Nevertheless, 4 days have passed as we have become enchanted with this amazing spot. We are only one long day sail away from Zihuatenejo, and with “SailFest” being more than two weeks away, we are finding ourselves in no hurry to be anywhere…might as well be here…