Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cruising the Costa Alegre

Finisterra departed from La Cruz on Thursday, January 8th, bound for beautiful Barra de Navidad. Our course took us in a southwesterly direction from La Cruz toward Cabo Corrientes, or Cape of Currents. After rounding the cape, we turned southeast along what is known as the Costa Alegre, or Happy Coast, so named because of the many beautiful coves and beaches along this coast all the way to Manzanillo.

After we left La Cruz the wind filled in nicely, about 12 knots out of the northwest. I hoisted the mainsail with a single reef and unrolled the jib. I put the reef in the main with the expectation that we'd find plenty of wind around the Cape, as it often blows pretty hard there. We rounded the Cape around sunset with about 18 knots of wind on the beam, a bit lighter than expected, so it was a very pleasant sail. As night fell we bore off on a southeasterly course and the wind dropped to about 5 knots, still out of the northwest, so we started the engine and motored with the jib furled and main sheeted in tight. It's about 130 miles from La Cruz to Barra and we averaged about 6.5 knots over that distance and arrived early the next morning. We took a berth in the marina at the Grand Bay hotel and spent the next few days relaxing and exploring.

Grand Bay Hotel in Barra de Navidad

The marina is across a shallow channel from the town of Barra. To get there we took the dinghy and landed at a concrete sea wall adjacent to the old Sands Hotel.  To keep the wall from damaging the dinghy we put out a stern anchor.

It's not yet the tourist season in Barra so the town was pretty quiet, and this policeman was relaxing on a very pleasant morning. Notice his hat at lower right. 

Even in La Cruz, the marina was guarded by sub-machine gun toting policia. They are always friendly once they get to know you.

We had lunch at a waterfront restaurant. While their parents enjoyed lunch, local kids had a blast jumping off the railing.
We left Barra on January 13th and motored in no wind a few miles to Bahia Santiago and anchored in the northwest corner of the bay. The water temperature hovered around 83 degrees so it could have been very pleasant swimming, but it was too murky to see much. We spent a day walking along the beach and then took Finisterra around Punta Santiago and anchored off the Las Hadas resort for the next five days. It's a nice anchorage and we had a lot of fun hanging out with friends from S/V Unleashed. Unfortunately the cost to land a dinghy in the marina is now 200 Pesos per day (about $14 USD). There were half a dozen other boats in the anchorage and everyone grumbled about the cost of landing here. We have noticed a lot of price increases in everything, including food, fuel, slip rents, etc. everywhere we've been in Mexico compared to last year. While it is still possible to live more cheaply here than the US, things are changing quickly.

The beach in Bahia Santiago

Finisterra departed Las Hadas the morning of January 19th. This part of the Mexican coast, from Bahia Banderas all the way to Huatulco is known for its light air and for the next 185 miles we motored over a flat sea and no more than three or four knots of wind, with the exception of a few occasional puffs out of the northeast. The water temperature rose to 84 degrees and humidity hovered in the 80% range. With these conditions the air is always a bit hazy. We spent a good part of the day dodging long lines but eventually got far enough out to sea to avoid them. Of course that put is out in the shipping lane, where there is a lot of traffic. Fortunately we are able to spot ships with our AIS system and we had no trouble avoiding them.
Finding Internet access is always an interesting, or frustrating, experience in Mexico. At the Paradise restaurant overlooking the anchorage we found a well stocked bar, free wifi, and a big screen TV where we watched Seattle's improbable win over the Packers.
Finisterra anchored off Las Hadas

We anchored on the northeast side of Isla Grande, Ixtapa around 1700 on January 20th and immediately jumped overboard for a refreshing swim. While at anchor there we scrubbed Finisterra's bottom, which had developed a fair amount of growth since it was last cleaned in La Cruz. The next day we came into Marina Ixtapa, where we'll stay a few days before heading south to Acapulco.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Five Weeks in La Cruz

We've been enjoying our stay in La Cruz for the last five weeks, spending most of this time hanging out with friends and getting Finisterra reprovisioned and ready to head further south.  The boat is ready to go and the weather looks good for a Thursday afternoon departure so around noon we'll slip out of the marina and set a course for Cabo Corrientes. After rounding the cape Finisterra will head for Tenacatita where we'll spend a day or two before moving on to Barra de Navidad.

Scenes from La Cruz:

Philo's Bar used to be the local hangout for the cruising crowd but as more and more people from colder climes, especially Canadians, call La Cruz home in the winter, the music has evolved to accommodate their taste.  The place is open during the daytime, but is usually pretty empty until around six in the evening, so there plenty of room for Philo to park his motorcycle.
Philo's is basically a big palapa with a thatched roof. This is the view looking straight up from "our" table. 
Cruisers still inscribe boat names on the wall at Philo's
On another note, the cruising community is always in a state of flux with boats arriving and departing every day. Some stay on the hook in the anchorage, others stay in the marina, some spent a few days or weeks in both places.  Finisterra stayed in the marina because I had several projects I wanted to finish. A new arrival, the Swan 60, "Thor" also elected to stay in the marina.

Brand new Swan 60. There is a 2011 Swan 60 listed on Yachtworld for $3.1 million. My guess is that this one came off the showroom floor for something more than that.

Designed by German Frers, the 60 is a good example of Nautor's evolution from heavier to lighter boats, with perhaps some Italian influence since the firm was acquired by Leonardo Ferragamo in 1998. Drawing courtesy of Swan Yachts.

Over the last couple of weeks while I was busy varnishing the caprails on Finisterra, Thor was a few slips away with a crew of four or five guys getting her ready to sail. It was always interesting to wander over around sunset and have a look at their daily progress.

This boat has only four winches. All sail controls, including the vang and cunningham are managed by pushbutton.

Carbon fiber standing rigging. Each shroud is made up of multiple thin pultruded carbon/epoxy rods encased in a synthetic jacket such as Spectra fiber. Shroud terminations are usually machined titanium fittings. Here they are connected to under-deck chainplates.

I love it when excellent design crosses paths with superb craftsmanship.