January 31st – February 16th: Marina Puerto de la Navidad (Barra de Navidad)
After we completed our check-in and the short tour of Barra, we explored the resort property. It’s the Grand Bay Resort Hotel. It has four swimming pools – three are terraced near the entry channel, and a fourth one is on the tenth floor of the hotel – we didn’t know about that pool at first. There are tennis courts, a golf course, a beach club, and a spa. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous, and the hotel looks very unique in the hillside setting. There are several restaurants, although we never ate at any of them – they were rather pricey, and there were great restaurants in town, just a short water taxi ride away. You call a water taxi for the five minute trip into Barra – the cost was forty pesos, round trip. They serve the resort, the marina, and the lagoon.
The pools got crowded in the afternoon, and the water was a little chilly, but very refreshing. Most days we had wind coming off of the ocean, gathering speed as it swept down the hill, so it was very comfortable sleeping without air conditioning. As marina tenants, we got full resort privileges, including free wi-fi, which worked passably well. The marina was only about half-full, and we were told that it would be virtually empty during the summer. The water in the marina looked very clean, and we had a resident yellow puffer fish that was munching stuff off of the boat’s hull.
The first Saturday we were in the marina, Antipodes invited us for a tuna sushi party, along with friends of theirs from Sea Otter, Mike and Julie. We made the rice and brought our Vitamix blender. Rosé learned how to make sushi rolls, and a good time was had by all. Sunday was Superbowl day, and we decided that we would watch the game at a hotel in town called Cabo Blanco. Barra really gets hopping on Sundays, and the town was full of people, both locals and tourists. The vast majority of Americans planning to watch the Superbowl were Seahawks fans. We don’t really care one way or the other about the Seahawks, but I have a pathological hatred of the Broncos, more properly called the Donkeys. Of our small group, only Julie was pulling for The Forehead (Peyton Manning). The kids enjoyed swimming in the pool, and we enjoyed Superbowl beverages. The hotel had a sort of widescreen set up – a dull projector and a sheet. But it was good enough to witness the slaughter, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Given the amount of sailors from the Pacific Northwest in town, the mood was very festive.
Mike from Sea Otter had told us about a pool that was on the tenth floor of the hotel, and we finally found it. Well hidden, it required three different elevators and a couple of long walks. But it was well worth the effort – it was a beautiful, quiet, and usually deserted pool. Our opinion was that the rooms on the tenth floor were the best rooms in the house, and celebrities could rent out the entire floor and have a private pool. There was a bar at the pool, but it was never staffed during our visit. That was no problem with the Tropical Blend portable rolling bar!
When we arrived at the marina, there was a Nordhavn 43 in the marina, the Discovery, owned by Frank and Linda Osborne. They have been cruising Mexico for the past six years. We had drinks and went to Barra for dinner together. Their boat is the “plan B” version, which has the owner’s cabin in the bow section. We thought that this plan had a much more efficient use of space than the far more popular “plan A” boat. Had we seen one of these, we may have elected to purchase it. We thought that the “plan A” boat had very limited storage, what with the two separate passageways leading to the berths.
Driving to Puero Vallarta
Putting on the “way-back” machine, do you remember about the zincs that we had ordered way back when we were in Mazatlan, but had not arrived in Puerto Vallarta before we left? I called Paradise Village Marina and confirmed that they had finally arrived, but PVM wasn’t going to send them on to us. We didn’t know anybody planning a transit to Barra anytime soon, so we decided to rent a car and drive up to PV to get them. Plus, we could make a provisioning trip to Costco, as well as Home Depot. The drive is around three hours, so we could do it in one day. The only rental car company in Barra is Crazy Cactus, which also does construction, rents storage space, and sells real estate – one stop shopping, indeed! The fleet is rent-a-wreck. Since we needed to leave at 6:00AM, we decided to rent for two days. The only available cars were a Dodge Atos with a standard transmission, or a Chevy Comfort with an automatic. Having once rented the woefully underpowered Atos in St. Maarten, and desiring an automatic, we went with the Chevy.
We left the following morning at first light. We were amazed at the amount of traffic we encountered at Melaque, just a little north of Barra. The schools were already open at 6:30. I suppose that allows the kids to get home early in the afternoon to assist with chores and such. It was quite foggy in the hills, but the car was doing fine. Until it wasn’t. On one long straightaway, I suddenly felt the car lose power. The engine was still running, but we were rapidly slowing. After a few seconds, it returned to normal. However, a few minutes later, it happened again, and didn’t get better. I noticed that we only had high gear, making acceleration very poor. In addition, the “check engine” light was on, as was some kind of “sport shift” light. We looked at the Spanish manual as we were driving (not daring to stop the car), but couldn’t make sense of what was happening. The car wasn’t overheating, and it was capable of maintaining speed, unless acceleration was needed, which quickly became important when we climbed the hills around Cabo Corrientes. There was a lot of construction on the highway, with long stretches of dirt and gravel.
We crawled over the mountains and started the long descent into Puerto Vallarta. We decided that we would call Crazy Cactus once we arrived to figure out a plan. We proceeded to Nuevo Vallarta and Paradise Village. By now, the engine was roaring quite loudly, but other than the limited acceleration of fourth gear, it was managing. Once we pulled in to Paradise Village, we decided not to turn the engine off. We parked near the marina office, and I hustled in to pick up our zincs. When I put the car in reverse, it made a very loud “clunking” noise – clearly there were transmission issues. We left Nuevo Vallarta and drove to Home Depot to pick up a few items. We finally turned the car off, and it did restart – and the check engine light went off. I called Crazy Cactus to advise them of the problem, and they basically said that we could drive the car back to Barra, or leave it in PV. Of course, then we would have to take a bus back, with no Costco provisions. We decided to keep on driving until the car died.
Across the street, I pulled into a Pemex station, added some fuel, and checked every fluid level in the car. All was normal, and suddenly the transmission worked properly. It wouldn’t malfunction again – very strange. Anyway, we picked up a nice load of provisions at Costco and drove back to Barra, arriving at dusk without further incident. The next day we decided to drive over to Melaque before turning in the car. We were seeking the Hawaii grocery store, which supposedly had a lot of gringo products that were hard to find in Mexico. We found the store, and it did have unusual products, but at exorbitant prices. We did buy some nice-looking produce while we were there. Afterwards, we had lunch on the street, at a place where they made the tortillas and salsa right there, and grilled fresh meat. We had some delicious tacos, paying thirty pesos for the entire lunch. After this, we drove back to Barra and turned in the car, explaining about the problem that had gone away.
Friends, friends, and more friends
Just after we returned, Salacia arrived. Dianna was fully recovered by now, and we had a lot of fun in Barra with Dianna and Neil. A few days later, Mary and Gale from Worknot arrived, and they joined us at what we now refer to as the “Nordhavn pool”. While we were out at anchor, our batteries had started performing poorly, requiring about six hours per day on the generator. I knew they were nearing the end of their service life, but I was hoping to keep them going until the end of the year. We have a Xantrex 3kW inverter and charger, and five house batteries (at the time I thought we had three batteries, but that is another story). Neil had told me that while he was at Tenacatita, Tom Collins from Misty Sea (a FUBAR boat) had given an impromptu seminar on batteries over the VHF. Misty Sea was in the marina, so at the weekly cocktail party, we cornered Tom. I asked him about equalizing AGM’s, and he said that they can be equalized. In addition, Neil told me to make sure that our Xantex remote panel was set up correctly. Well, at some time after we had the boat in Alameda, all of the LED indicators on the panel had started to flash, in a staircase pattern. I thought that this was normal, but I was now unable to enter the panel into setup mode. Neil took a look, and then did some research. He told me that I could restart the panel by disconnecting the RJ-11 (telephone cable) that links the remote panel to the inverter in the lazaraette. Well, lo and behold, that did the trick, which was a real d’oh! moment. I remembered that we had lost shore power once week when we were at Alameda, losing all of the charge in the batteries – I’m pretty sure that’s when the flashing started. Anyway, I entered the correct values and decided not to run an equalization cycle.
On Valentine’s Day, we decided to get together with Neil and Dianna for happy hour and dinner. On the way to our favorite happy hour hotel, we looked at Bananas Restaurant, which was having a lobster and filet mignon special for $15 – dinner plan made! The day before, Dennis Fox and his wife came into the marina on Sea Fox, and Gale and Mary were planning to join them for dinner. However, they found out that the dinner menu at the place they had selected was limited and expensive (just like the USA), so they decided to join us at Banana’s. Dinner was very good, and we had a lot of fun. Dennis has
extensive experience cruising in the Caribbean, so he invited me to come over the next morning to get some tips.
The next morning, I woke up to find Sea Fox nowhere in sight. I went over to ask Gale what had happened, and he said that Dennis heard that in a few days’ time, there would be some weather around Cabo Corrientes. Dennis had big plans for a 50th wedding anniversary party at the Four Seasons in Punta de Mita, and he was taking no chances. Gale told me that as soon as Dennis heard that there was a weather system on its way to Corrientes, he loosed the dock lines and high-tailed it out of there, not giving his crew enough time to finish their coffee! Dennis was very keen on avoiding weather…
One of the benefits of being in Barra is El Horno Farancés, the French Baker. Emeric comes through the marina every morning around 9:00AM, ringing a bell to announce his presence. He has fresh-baked baguettes, jalapeño bread (to die for), croissants, rolls, and even pizza dough. When that bell rang, we re-created Pavlov’s Dog, salivating at the prospect. He made a stop every morning at our boat. Quincy also loved the French Baker – he likes white bread, so he loved the fresh baguettes. We used the jalapeño bread for sandwiches, and we froze a good deal of it. This is one of the many pleasures of Barra de Navidad.
In addition to his bakery, the French Baker has an Italian restaurant in town. One night we went to his restaurant, which has a very simple menu: pasta (fresh) with three different sauces, bread, and beer or wine for one-hundred pesos. It was absolutely delicious, but we were the only customers there. It’s not open a lot, but if you are in Barra, check it out! After dinner, we went to the town square where a small traveling carnival had set up. We figured there were no regulations or inspections of the rides, but Mary was brave enough to take a spin on The Himalaya. The creaks and groans as the ride spun around were terrible, but she had a great time.
Neil and Dianna weren’t planning to go any further south than Barra, but they wanted to see Manzanillo, so we joined them on a bus ride over to the city. It’s not far, but it takes about an hour and a half, what with stops, topes, and towns in the way. The bus was a highway bus – clean, quiet, new, and air-conditioned. Once we got into town, we took a taxi searching for a chandlery that Gale had asked us to go to in search of a part. The chandlery was on the south end of the city, in the middle of the commercial harbor. It was basically a fishing store, with very few boat parts. We decided to go back to the northern area by bus. We found the right bus, but it took a tortuous route up into the hills above the city, and at times was crawling along at about 5MPH. It had the most uncomfortable seats we had ever had on a Mexican bus, which is saying a lot. We finally exited the bus near the Soriana, and started to look for a restaurant. This section of town is full of big stores (Home Depot, Soriana, Walmart, Commercial Mexicana, etc.), but very few restaurants. We finally saw one that had a big grill under a ramada, so we decided to try it. We were the only customers, as it was already around 2:00PM. We ordered a mixed grill for four people, but it could have easily fed eight of us. All of the meats were fabulous, as were the bean tacos that came with it, and the price was just 400 pesos. We each took quite a bit of it back to our boats.
We did see a sailboat grounded on the shoal one day. There were three pangas trying to pull it off the shoal, and the skipper was gunning the engine. I remember thinking that was a bad idea, what with sand ingestion and all. Apparently they were able to break loose at high tide. A day later, we heard a VHF conversation from the grounded boat, complaining of engine overheating…
We spent sixteen days in Barra, more than a week more than we originally planned, because we enjoyed it so much. We watched some of the Winter Olympics while we were there – our DirecTV Caribbean had very good coverage. Unlike American TV, which shows the winner, the Americans, personal stories, and tons of commercials, the DirecTV coverage was end-to-end of an event. We got the boat washed, the superstructure waxed, and the bottom cleaned while we were there. We had fun with friends new and old. We enjoyed the food, but I don’t remember the restaurant names, other than Loco Loco, which has the best pizza in Mexico. All in all, we loved Barra, and we look forward to going back some day.
February 16th: Barra de Navidad to Ensenada Carrizal
We finally said adios to Barra de Navidad, and left in the morning for the short cruise to Ensenada Carrizal. The seas were pretty calm for the four-hour run, and we anchored on the western side of the bay. There were a handful of boats anchored, but the large bay offered plenty of room. There are fish pens on the eastern side of the bay. We had read that there was good snorkeling here, so I gave it a try. The visibility wasn’t goo, due to sand kicked up by the surge, but there were a lot of fish here. For some reason, we never took any pictures here, but it was really a very scenic place to spend time. The bay is open to a south swell, but we had an east swell at this time of year, so it was a pretty comfortable night.
Position at destination: 19°06’ N, 104°26’ W Air temp: 84, Water temp: 83 Nautical miles for this leg: 22.0 Total: 2274 Departed at 10:30am, arrived at 2:30pm February 17th: Ensenada Carrizal to Bahia Santiago
We made the short and leisurely cruise towards Manzanillo, stopping in Bahia Santiago. This is a very large bay that is fairly protected. We anchored not too far from a visible shipwreck, which provided some decent snorkeling.
We spent a couple of nights here. The beach is very long, and the western side is lined with lots of (what else?) shrimp restaurants. There are houses on the beach and just beyond it. We took a walk through the area, and it was very nice. Many of the houses had pools, and the entire are had beautiful landscaping. We were able to land Little Blend on the beach, although the surf was stronger than it looked from our anchor position, and the tide was getting bigger as well. But we employed the brick and Little Blend bobbed around just outside the surf line while we ventured about.
As I was coming back from snorkeling the wreck, a couple from one of the sailboats had dinghied over for a visit. They were getting up in years, and they wanted to switch from sail to a trawler, so they were asking trawler questions. Rose and I invited them to come on board for a look several times, but they felt that would be too intrusive. Strange, because most of us boaters enjoy showing off our floating homes. Anchored not too far from us was Worth Waiting 4. We hadn’t really spent any time with Becky and Bernard, so we stopped by to say hi to them. They invited us to some back for sundowners later that day. Worth Waiting 4 is an older Offshore boat, I believe from the 80’s. It was in very nice condition, and was a nice cruiser. They were having problems with their dinghy motor, a Johnson, but they said they would kayak over to visit with us the following evening. They are basically cruising the Mexican coast – they weren’t planning to go further south than Manzanillo.
We discussed out plans, and Bernard cautioned me against cruising eastward from Cartagena to Trinidad. The seas and winds are on your nose, and it can be a pretty uncomfortable passage. He loaned me a book called “Cruising the Big U”, written by owners of a Selene 43. The “Big U” runs from Alaska to Nova Scotia, and there is a cruising association dedicated to those making this passage. The Selene from the book made the eastward trip to Trinidad, and they got beat up pretty bad. I found the book on Amazon, and bought it as a reference guide. We had heard of this issue from sailors, but we thought it was just simply a difficult sail, going directly into the wind for over five hundred miles. We decided that we should alter our plans. Instead of cruising east past Cartagena, we decided to spend the entire summer in Cartagena before heading east – Plan B.
Position at destination: 19°07’ N, 104°24’ W Air temp: 82, Water temp: 83 Nautical miles for this leg: 4.9 Total: 2279 Departed at 10:00am, arrived at 10:45am February 19th: Bahia Santiago to Las Hadas (Manzanillo)
The next short hop was to the Las Hadas anchorage in Bahia Manzanillo. The resort was made famous in the Dudley Moore movie “10”. There is a marina there, but it is all Med mooring, so we figured that we would just anchor outside of the marina. The seas were calm and protected, and the holding was good. You can use the dinghy dock at the marina, which also gets you full resort privileges. The cost was two hundred pesos per day, about $15. We heard some blow-boaters complaining bitterly about having to pay a whole $15, and quite a few of them grouped together to spread the fee around. We saw one tender that looked about eight and a half feet long loaded down with eight people in it. It was just about to sink!
Position at destination: 19°06’ N, 109°21’ W Air temp: 86, Water temp: 83 Nautical miles for this leg: 4.5 Total: 2284 Departed at 9:45am, arrived at 10:30am
The resort is looking a little tired, and it was fairly deserted when we were there. We spent the afternoon at the pool.
The next day we went ashore to catch a bus to the Soriano grocery store for some provisioning. The road that the bus takes goes around the hills lining the bay. A sane driver might take this road at 15 to 25mph. Our insane bus driver decided to test out the ability of his brakes to make emergency stops. He was channeling Mexican F1 driver Sergio Pérez. It was in stark contrast to our previous bus ride in Manazanillo, which we thought was the slowest driver on earth. It was more frightening to be on that bus than it had been at any point in time on our boat. Feeling glad to be alive, we got off the bus near Soriano and enjoyed a very inexpensive lunch at a streetside cantina. The Manzanillo Soriano was quite large, and we had a very satisfactory provisioning trip. We decided to take a taxi back, which was much calmer than the bus ride.
A large Offshore yacht had anchored near us, and we recognized it from FUBAR – it was the Temptress, which we had also seen at the Barra de Navidad marina. The owners are Kim and Carolyne Megonigal. They stopped by on their tender, and we let them know about the dinghy dock procedure. We had a nice conversation, and we agreed to go to dinner with them the following night.
We picked a restaurant that we could see from the anchorage, just east of the Las Hadas resort. We started on their boat, which was absolutely gorgeous. Kim and Carolyne hail from Newport Beach, and they were doing commuter cruising, based in Barra de Navidad. They spent a couple of weeks in Mexico, and then would return to Newport, where they are building a new home. We got to talking, and found out what a small world we live in: Carolyne graduated from the same high school as I did in Tucson, Arizona – we were fellow Rincon Rangers! She was a couple of years ahead of me, so our paths hadn’t crossed, but the coincidence amazed me. We really enjoyed meeting them, and we swapped boat stories and shared solutions to problems. Part of cruising that we have really enjoyed is meeting so many nice and interesting people that share our passion for cruising.
February 21st – 22nd: Las Hadas to Caleto de Campos
There were several other boats in the anchorage that were heading to Zihuatanejo for Guitar Fest, and annual festival of guitar players. Nirvana had told us about this when we saw them in Tenacatita, and they were in the anchorage with us. Robert had recommended that we stop in Caleta de Campos, which is the only viable anchorage between Manzanillo and Ixtapa. An armed robbery had been committed on a boat there a few years ago, so many boaters are afraid to stop there. We figured that this was an extremely isolated event, as no other incidents had been reported after that. The passage to Caleta de Campos is 120 miles, so we figured it would take around twenty hours. We left late in the morning, figuring cruise at an easy six knots and arrive early in the morning.
The daylight portion of the cruise was uneventful, and we had a strong current pushing us along at six knots, requiring just 1500rpm’s to maintain speed. Manzanillo is a large commercial port, so there was some traffic in and out of the bay. After we cleared out of the bay, we did see quite a few shrimping trawlers. That night the current got stronger and stronger. I realized that if we cruised at more than six knots, we would arrive before daylight. I kept backing off of the throttle, eventually running the Lugger at just 1000rpm’s to maintain six knots – that was amazing. I stayed on watch all night long. Close to daylight, as we approached the anchorage, I throttled up the engine for a stack blowout, and I was amazed to see that we were making 9.6 knots! I took a picture for posterity’s sake.
Position at destination: 18°04’ N, 102°45’ W Air temp: 79, Water temp: 81 Nautical miles for this leg: 120.6 Total: 2404 Departed at 11:25am, arrived at 7:30am
We arrived a little after sunrise. There were two other boats in the anchorage, and one of them left shortly after we arrived. It was a little bit rolly, so we put out the flopper stopper. The village is tucked into the western side of the bay. There were some pretty big rollers crashing on the beach, so we decided not to even think about going on shore.
We decided to just rest for the day, especially since I had been on watch all night. We planned to leave late that same night for Ixtapa. I slept for a few hours, and then got up in the middle of the afternoon. Around 5:00, I turned on the generator, as we were planning to use the microwave to make dinner. The microwave takes a lot of power, so I usually ran the generator when using it. The inverter can be used to power the microwave, but given that our batteries were getting near the end of their service life, we tried not to use the microwave without the generator or shore power.
All of this being said, I noticed that the batteries weren’t being charged. They were sitting at 71%, not charging, but at least not discharging. Well, that’s not right, the batteries should be charging when the generator is on. I reset the charge button on the inverter remote control – no change. I looked at the status of the inverter, which is located in the bowels of the lazzarette. The inverter was showing an overheating condition. I decided to call my friend Neil – he was still at Barra, and he is very good at bird-dogging solutions. I explained to him what was happening, and he suggested checking out various breaker settings associated with the generator – everything looked good. He called me back a few minutes later, and said that people have reported that the cooling fan stops working. I verified that was indeed the problem. He said that some people report that they can bang the unit, and the fan starts working – kind of like how we used to bang the Hell out of tube tv’s to get them to work. But in this case, no success. I concluded that the fan had failed, and that I would need to replace it. Of course, I didn’t have that spare on-hand.
The generator was able to maintain the current level in the batteries, so we ran it until we left. We departed under pitch black conditions, which were very disorienting. The bay is large, and shaped like a half-circle with land jutting in on both sides. A catamaran had just anchored in the bay, directly behind us, and I was trying to locate it on radar. Maybe I was just frazzled by the charger issue, but I had a hard time getting out of the bay. Rosé was on the bow securing the anchor, and she had a better sense of where we were, so she helped me to find the right course. The swells inside the bay had picked upo considerably, and the waves crashing on the beach were very loud, contributing to my disorientation. In retrospect, all I really had to do was follow my track in reverse, which was right in front of me on the plotter.
February 22nd – 23rd: Caleta de Campos to Marina Ixtapa
We made it safely out of the bay, and turned east towards Ixtapa. The swells were very calm, and once again we had the monster current pushing us. I backed the engine down to 1100rpm’s, maintaining six knots. Since I was wired about the charger problem, I stayed on watch all night. We passed by the very busy commercial port of Lazaro Cardenas, and several harbor movements were taking place in the wee hours of the morning. We approached Ixtapa into a beautiful sunrise, and identified the various rocks and islands on the approach. If the swell is running hard, the inlet to the marina can be closed, as it is a mini-bar. This day the swell was manageable, and we entered the channel with no issues. The marina responded to our hail, and assigned us to a slip. It was the very last dock, closest to the office. As we prepared to turn in to the slip, another problem reared its ugly head – the bow thruster wasn’t working. The motor was spinning, but we had no thrust. We had experienced this same problem in Alameda, and the drive leg was replaced. Surprised by the lack of the thruster, I had a difficult time getting us bow-in to the slip, but with the help of a couple of strong dock workers, we made it.
Position at destination: 17°40’ N, 101°37’ W Air temp: 88, Water temp: 87 Nautical miles for this leg: 73.0 Total: 2477 Departed at 11:15pm, arrived at 9:30am February 23rd – March 7th: Ixtapa
We checked in at the office, where the manager is also the port captain, making for a simple check in. Despite being tired from my all-night watch, we went to one of the dockside restaurants for breakfast. While eating, we saw a crocodile ambling through the marina – it was about six feet long. This was the first marina croc that we had seen. The marina has a VERY
strict prohibition on entering the water. At one time, a croc had grabbed someone that was in the water, and did some serious damage to the fellow’s arm. I asked how boat bottoms are cleaned – you have to take your boat to Isla Grande, about three miles west of the marina.
We quickly noticed that we didn’t get much of a breeze, so we were going to need the air conditioning. We checked out the area – there were a number of restaurants, and some very small tiendas. There was one specialty liquor store that carried gourmet food as well. We bought some more rum at really good prices, and we also bought a few bottles of wine from Ensenada. Rose was happy to see a wide selection of chocolate, and she fell in love with the white chocolate coconut bars.
The immediate job to address was the charger. Plugged into shore power, the charger worked well enough to get the batteries back to 100%. It would run a while, then overheat, then cool off, then run again. I called technical support at Xantrex, and they confirmed it was the cooling fan, and at ten years of service, they would expect it to fail. They thought that I could find the fan locally. I inquired about a replacement model, but they don’t make a modified sine wave 3kW inverter / charger anymore. They make a pure sine wave inverter, which is a lot less efficient than the modified since wave inverter. So, I figured we needed to replace the fan. Based on my estimation, I thought we would need to take one of the batteries out to access the inverter, which is a tow-man job. There is supposedly a boatyard at the marina, but the marina manager, Elsa, suggested that I use a local electrician. She knew a young guy that could do the job. He came right out on his scooter, and with his broken English and my pathetic Spanish, we mostly understood what needed to be done. Elsa did a little more interpreting, and we agreed that he would come back at 10:00 the next morning to remove the fan from the inverter.
That night, we decided to walk into the main part of Ixtapa where the hotels and restaurants were located. It’s definitely touristy, although the food prices were reasonable. There were a ton of clothing stores, but the prices were definitely at the USA level – no bargains here. Same for the liquor store – tourist pricing. The specialty liquor store at the marina was much cheaper. The best thing we saw on our walk was Spiderman driving a horse carriage. There are several horse-drawn carriages for hire on the main street – tourists seem to enjoy it. Once of the drivers was very enterprising: he wore a full Spiderman costume (I can’t imagine how hot that was), had a lot of neon lights on his carriage, and he boomed classic rock music out of the back. We saw him every time we went to Ixtapa, but we never got a picture. We did give him a beer one time…
The marina is at the end of a bike path that runs for 10km, from the marina to a beach. The next morning, we decided to ride it before the electrician came over. The first part of the path runs next to the golf club, over a few small hills. Then it branches off into the swampy woods, before emerging on the beach, looking at Isla Grande. The path is fairly new, and is very smooth, making for a fast, fun ride. On the return there is a wooden bridge followed by an immediate small, steep hill. I was in the big chain ring before getting to the hill, and I had to dodge a kid on the bridge, so I hadn’t downshifted for the hill. I strained in the high gear, when suddenly the chain snapped. We have brand-new Specialized hybrid bikes. I was very surprised that this happened, and of course I didn’t have the chain tool with me. It was around 9:30, and we figured that we could make it back without riding. On the downhill and flat sections, I was using the bike like a scooter: I had my right foot on the left pedal, and used my left foot to propel the bike. Uphill, I had to walk. It started to get clear that we couldn’t make it back in time, plus the constant pushing was causing pain in the knee that I had injured just before our voyage started. Rose volunteered to give me her bike, so I rode the last couple of kilometers back to the marina.
The electrician, Luciano Felipe, showed up right on time. He had a helper with him. We again discussed what was required, but we weren’t able to communicate. Luciano called in another friend that had lived in the USA for some time, so he could translate. Luciano was able to remove the inverter without moving the battery, and he removed the fan. He said that he would try to find a replacement in town. He took off on his scooter, and came back about an hour later with the exact replacement! He also told me that he connected 12V to the old fan on the bench, and confirmed that it was bad. He put in the new fan, put the inverter back in, and we were in business! He charged 400 pesos for all of the work, which I thought was quite reasonable. So, if you need electromechanical repairs in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo, call Luciano, he’s your man.
Luciano Felipe Munoz Chavez (755) 102-9891
The next issue was the bow thruster, but it was now working as required. Could it be a gremlin?We originally planned to spend a little over a week in Ixtapa. Our good friends Tim and Catlin from San Jose were coming to visit us. They arrived on February 28th, planning to spend two nights on board with us, and then three nights in a luxury hotel in Zihuatanejo. Our original plan was to see the butterfly preserve before Tim and Cat arrived. We were going to take a bus to Morelia, spend the night, and arrange a tour to El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve. But with fixing the boat problems, we didn’t have the time, so we decided to extend our stay at the marina and see the butterflies after Tim and Cat left us. We decided not to anchor at Zihuatanejo – at this stage, we’re not comfortable leaving the boat at anchor. Back to the bike, I found the chain tool and got the chain repaired. That being said, it took me no less than four tries to get it threaded properly. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I was an engineer in my past life…
The day before they were due to arrive, we walked over to Ixtapa beach – it’s about five minutes from the marina. We took our beach chairs, umbrella, boogie board, and drinks to go. The surf was fairly big, and the waves were pounding the beach. It wasn’t easy to use the board, but I managed to catch a few good rides, and only got flipped and pounded once. The beach wasn’t very crowded, and it was very long, wrapping around the bay with lots of high rise hotels. We didn’t see any beach bars or restaurants like we had seen in so many places – I guess this is what happens with too much development. Ixtapa looks like an example of a failed dream. There are still hotels, restaurants, and shops, but there is a sense of failure is everywhere. February 28th: Isla Grande and Zihuatanejo.
Our friends Tim and Cat arrived, bearing boat gifts. We asked them to bring a few things down to us, including a new spare water pump and a wi-fi amplifier. They also brought along some ESPN magazines for me, and some recent People magazines for Rosé. We went to dinner in Ixtapa with them, and waved to Spidey and his rockin’ horse-drawn carriage. The next day we took them for a short cruise to Isla Grande. We have some history with that island. About fourteen years ago, we went on a vacation to Zihuatanejo for a friend’s birthday. We had a group of sixteen, including Tim and Cat. We stayed in a hotel over the beach – two-hundred stair steps over the beach! Towards the end of the trip, I suggested that we take a tour to Isla Grande, for some snorkeling, drinks, and lunch. At that time, the island turned out to be a trashy tourist place with lousy food and drinks that gave most of us Montezuma’s Revenge. To this day, they refer to it as “Lucky’s Island”.
Despite our dubious history with Lucky’s Island, we decided to go out there, as the cruising guides had favorable reviews. It turns out now to be a much nicer place. We enjoyed a beachside lunch, some drinks and some swimming.
We left in the afternoon to cruise over to Zihuatanejo. We had not seen turtles anywhere on our entire voyage, but this day we were graced by the presence of a few of them, along with some playful dolphins and more rays than we could count. Cat was impressed by their aqua-botics, something she had never seen. Zihuatanejo was much more developed than any of us had remembered. We’re not sure if it was that much more developed, or if the rum had erased too many brain cells from fourteen years ago.