Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The days flew past while we were in Ixtapa. We had not planned to go there but I'm really glad we did. While there we toured both Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, visited Isla Grande, Playa Linda and the Cocodrilario, and perhaps most fun of all, celebrated our friend, Judy's 50th birthday. We stayed at the Marina Ixtapa Nautica, a fairly luxurious marina in Ixtapa. We had been at anchor in more remote places for three weeks prior, so it was nice to get into a marina where we could give the Honcho a good freshwater scrub, sleep all night without an anchor watch, and take easy advantage of the great restaurants and stores nearby. I also wanted to get the hull bottom scrubbed, but laughed when I was told that no one is allowed to swim or perform underwater services in the marina because of the crocodile threat. We kept a sharp lookout but saw no crocs.
Hobie Cat

Judy's birthday was much more than a simple party, it was an Event, with guests flying in from various points in the States, and as far away as Denmark for five days of festivities. We arrived on Feb. 12th and participated in a day long outing to Isla Grande, then a day of Hobie Cat racing and the grand finale party on the 15th. We met a lot of great people and had a wonderful time at the party, the highlight of which was Torben, Judy's husband, shedding his conservative Danish demeanor to grab the mike and belt out an excellent rendition of Blue Suede Shoes. He truly rocked the place. After three days of partying, we spent the next day taking care of boat chores and relaxing. The following day we took some friends out to Isla Grande where we swam and relaxed and I had an opportunity to scrub the bottom of the boat myself. I'm glad to report that it was surprisingly clean, with only some serious growth on the speed and depth sensor thru-hulls. I checked the rudder, prop shaft, strut and prop as well as the zincs, all in good shape.
Pina Colada Isla Grande Style

On our last day in Ixtapa we decided to visit the Cocodrilario (Crocodile preserve) in Playa Linda, since we had yet to see any crocs in the wild, except for one poor little duffer in a flood control canal in Puerto Vallarta. Taking the bus, which is our usual mode of land transportation in Mexico, is always interesting. Local  buses charge between 5 and 12 Pesos and if they don't have a music system, a local musician often climbs aboard and serenades the riders with a guitar and song. The cocodrilario is located at the bus stop in Playa Linda so we got to see the crocs, iguanas, turtles and other wildlife up close. I like that there's nothing but a chain link fence between the spectators and the animals, you can get within a few feet of them, so we got lots of up close and personal photos. Playa Linda is a beautiful beach with dozens of vendor stalls selling everything from toy crocs to clothing, along with delicious food and Mexican beer. Isla Grande lies less than a mile off the coast and tourists arrive by the busload to take pangas out to the island for a day of snorkeling, sipping and sun. We wandered around the place for a while, but quickly tired of the tourist crowds and grabbed a bus back to the marina, where we began preparations to leave Ixtapa. Lisa went up to the office to check us out while I loaded the boat with diesel...a few minutes later she came running back, telling me that finally there was a crocodile swimming through the marina, which she got photos of. Frankly, I'm a bit croc'd out and didn't need to see it myself.

We cleared the breakwater around 1630, and set a course that would take us out around Punta Ixtapa and northwest, back toward Manzanillo.  I must say I felt a twinge of regret as we rounded the point. Ixtapa marks the furthest south we will go on this voyage, and every mile we travel from now on will be homeward bound. I'd rather be headed for the other horizon.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Barra de Navidad to Ixtapa

We spent three days anchored in the lagoon at beautiful Barra de Navidad, but the days were slipping by and soon it was time to move on, as the Honcho needed to be in Ixtapa no later than February 12th. So we upped the anchor and headed south once again toward Las Hadas, in Bahia Manzanillo, about 25 miles down the coast. The sailing was excellent, with bright sunshine, following seas and a pleasant 15 knot breeze. Alas, the fishing was not as good as the sailing. Trolling the trusty cedar plug, we caught nothing except a 10 pound cavally, which is not good eating, so we released it and sailed on, still hungry for some fresh dorado.

We anchored in a lovely spot at Las Hadas, across the bay from the city of Manzanillo. Manzanillo is an old city, having been a stopover for Spanish galleons en route from Manila to Panama in the 16th century. Today it is Mexico's busiest commercial port, handling over 22 million tons of cargo in 2008. Part of the reason for this commercial success is that it is a convenient alternative to the congested ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California. Manzanillo is  located in a beautiful bay with lots of beaches and excellent fishing so it's also a popular vacation destination and served about 30 cruise ships in 2008.

Aside from relaxing around the pool at the Las Hadas resort, we made a couple of sorties to the local supermarket and Walmart for some much needed provisons, then sailed for Ixtapa, about 180 miles south. Our course took the Honcho southwest across Bahia Manzanillo and out past Roca Vela (Sail Rock). From there we turned south, then southeast for the long run down the coast. Leaving at 1600, we had a fresh breeze and great sailing until dark when the wind fell light and we were obliged to start the motor. By 1000 the next morning the wind came up again and we hoisted the jib and doused the engine, sailing close inshore so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Mexican coast. By nightfall we were approaching the busy commercial port of Lazaro Cardenas. For several hours we dodged between fast moving freighters as we motored past the harbor. Hurrying to get past Lazaro Cardenas, we crossed Bahia de Peticalco then had to slow down as we approached Isla Grande, also called Isla Ixtapa, to wait for sunrise so we could pick our way through the many rocks around the entrance to Marina Ixtapa, where we planned to stay for a few days. By mid morning the Honcho was tied up in the marina and the crew was enjoying a meal at one of the nearby waterside restaurants.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Barra de Navidad

The Honcho sailed from Tenacatita on Thursday, February 3rd, bound for Barra de Navidad, about 14 miles down the coast. For this short hop we didn't hoist any sails. Instead we motored along the coast, looking in on a couple of coves where we might like to anchor in the future. As we approached the entrance to the lagoon at Barra, the wind piped up to about 20 knots and the sea grew lumpy and confused. The lagoon where we planned to anchor is up a narrow channel with shoals on both sides. Using waypoints taken from Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer's "Pacific Mexico, A Cruiser's Guidebook", I programmed the GPS with our route into the anchorage, and we got in around 1400 without mishap. We got the hook down in about 10 feet of murky water and sat back to enjoy the view while the wind whistled in the rigging.

The next day we joined some friends for a bus ride to Melaque, a seaside town on the northern side of Bahia de Navidad. Not a particularly picturesque place, Melaque does boast a bank and the excellent Hawaiian Market. We stocked up on food and beverages at the market, and pesos at the bank, then had lunch in a seaside restaurant before heading back to the boat.

A word on cruising guides. The Honcho left California with copies of "Charlies Charts" by Charles and Margo Wood, and "Mexico Boating Guide" by Pat Rains. In Puerto Vallarta we picked up a copy of the Pacific Mexico Guide. Charlies Charts, originally published in 1982 and periodically updated has been the most widely used guidebook for this area. The Rains guidebook was first published more recently and offers better maps and charts as well as some photographs. The Pacific Mexico book, published in 2010, is illustrated with accurate charts and maps using satellite photos and GPS technology. It is a significant improvement over the other guides in terms of providing accurate navigational information. Since acquiring this book, the others have, for the most part, stayed in the bookshelf. I highly recommend the Pacific Mexico Cruising Guide, as well as Shawn and Heather's other book, Sea of Cortez Cruising Guide.


Tenacatita Sunset

Bahia Tenacatita is the most beautiful place the Honcho has visited so far on this voyage. After we arrived here we just sat in the cockpit and enjoyed the magnificent views of the golden sand beaches to our north and east, the craggy rocks to our west and southwest, and the pretty little town of La Manzanilla across the bay to our south, then were treated to a beautiful sunset. We've been here three days, doing very little except enjoying the scenery and visiting with friends. Wednesday we took the dinghy up the small estuary where there are supposed to be crocodiles but we didn't see any. That was fine by me, as we did see lots of other wildlfe as we motored slowly through the mangroves. In spite of the beauty of the place, there has been trouble here recently. A developer showed up a few months ago with armed guards and bulldozers and chased everyone off the beach in one part of the bay where there had been some palapa restaurants that locals and yatistas liked to hang out, claiming that he owned the land that others thought they owned. Apparently the developer won this argument because we were met with some of the guards a mile or so up the estuary, and that's as far as we got to go.

We were also visited by the Mexican Navy here. Early on the first morning we were anchored in the bay, a boatload of sailors, all armed with automatic weapons approached and boarded the Honcho. They asked for our papers, took pictures of our communications gear and filled out some forms before bidding us a good day. They were friendly and didn't intentionally point their guns at us, but with five of them crowded into the cockpit, it was impossible not to find myself looking down the barrel of one or the other now and then.

Another Approach to Cruising
We've seen this Nordhavn 63 in various places along the Mexican coast.
The day before we left Tenacatita we took the dinghy across the bay to La Manzanilla, a quaint fishing and tourist village, where we stocked up on fresh vegetables. Located on the southeast side of the bay, it is exposed to the open ocean so going ashore means landing the dinghy through the surf. We stayed dry going in but got a bit damp going out, as the wind and waves had built during the afternoon. If you're looking for a quiet seaside vacation, far from the crowds, but still with a little spice, you might like La Manzanilla. To me, it appears to be Mexican with a Mediterranean twist.