Captain’s Log January 27, 2011

Captain’s Log   January 12 to January 25, 2011

The Great Mango Run

We stayed in Cabo San Lucas until Friday, awaiting better weather conditions on the Sea of Cortez.  We did some shopping and wandered around.  We walked to the beach and had lunch at a beach bar that seemed perfect for that time of day: 60’s music blared from a bar that was made from a speed boat, margaritas were flowing and the customary beach bunnies and interested parties were enjoying the ambiance.   We were planning a crossing to Barra De Navidad about 380 miles to the south (2 nights at sea), and situated down the coast from Puerto Vallarta.  Omni Bob (Omni Marine Navigation Service), our weather consultant, advised that we could expect 5 to 6 foot seas from the N-NE on Friday (our hoped for departure day), and he thought that by Saturday they should simmer down to a comfortable 4 feet.  We wanted to get going because we had already been delayed in California and we had to spend a couple of extra days in Cabo.  When we started out it was very smooth and we wondered if Bob had been too conservative.  Then we found out once again that he was spot-on.  The swells out in the ocean began to build and the N winds took over.  Soon we were taking 5 and 6 footers on our port quarter, and the boat experienced a slightly uncomfortable yaw.  As I sat on the aft deck I could look up at the rollers as they slid under our stern.  Thank God for stabilizers or it would have been very uncomfortable.  While cruising down the coast the evening before we made port, the moon rose over the Sierra Madras creating a spectacular display.  At first I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was perhaps the largest silver moon I have ever seen, almost as bright as the sun.  It was so clear that we could see the craters on its surface with only a weak set of binoculars.  

 On the third day we arrived at Barra and tied up at the Grand Hotel dock around 2 PM.  By this time the temperature was very warm, probably near 80 degrees, and the sun was brilliant.  This seemed a vast contrast to what our friends and family were experiencing up north.  After registering at the marina, we headed for the pool.  Rebecca and I enjoy this place very much.  We spent a week here last year.  At that time the hotel was nearly empty and this year was no different.  The hotel and its grounds are very beautiful, and the village across the bay is charming.   I would highly recommend it to you if you wanted a place to relax, play golf, swim and enjoy Mexican culture.  It is a beautiful, picturesque place and the prices are very reasonable. 

After a couple of days, we cast off for Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, about 180 miles south.   After we were out to sea, I put out our fishing gear in the hopes of landing dinner.  I have a wonderful assortment of lures and fishing poles that should be quite inviting to all types of eatable pescado.  In my experience, it takes a lot of time and patience to get even a small fish.  So far, I have only caught small fish in the range of 15 pounds.  I was dreaming of something like 50 or 75 pounds.   Today was different though; after hours of trolling and changing lures assiduously, I landed the biggest thing yet.  I am not sure that Darwin didn’t play a role in this, but I caught a bird.  That’s right, the crazy thing was flying by and saw my lure so expertly presented that it dove right in and got hooked.  We hauled it in, lifted the poor thing beside the boat and carefully and cautiously removed the hook from its bill.  We dropped it back in the water and it looked like it might die, but three or four of its friends came back, circled and encouraged it.  The last I saw it looked like it might recover from its ordeal.

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are about 10 miles apart and share a pair of bays that adjoin at a rocky prominence in the middle.  Ixtapa is the larger of the two towns, and has a marina and cruise ship dock as well as many high rise hotels on the beach.  Offshore a few hundred yards lay Grand Isle, which has a lovely beach dotted with palapas and swarms of pangas bringing visitors.  We anchored a few hundred yards off the beach, lowered the tender and went for a swim and snorkeling expedition.  The water was very warm but cloudy (note later observations):  as we headed south we noted that the water temperature had risen from 58 degrees in Dana Point, to 67 degrees in Cabo, to about 75 degrees in Barra, and now about 80 degrees here.  After a couple of hours we cruised over to the more intimate Zihuatanejo Bay and dropped anchor around 4 PM. There were at least 30 boats at anchor, along with two other Nordhavns.  It is a beautiful bay, with gorgeous, very interesting looking resorts clinging to the cliffs along the bay.  (After we are done with boating, I think we will come back here and stay in this one place that is truly spectacular for its architecture and the beauty of its setting.)  The little town lies in the northeast corner of the bay and spreads out up the side of the mountains that surround the bay.  There is a lagoon off to one side of the bay that is home to a rare species of salt water crocodile. The cruise books warn cruisers to keep small children and pets off the swim platform and beaches as these monsters occasionally make a grab for them.  The sun sets around 6:30 PM, and it is a sight to behold in Zihuatanejo: beautiful rose hues reflect different shades of color off the buildings, the water and the mountains.  There is clarity to the air that reminds of Northern Michigan, but it is totally unexpected here given the humidity.  Rebecca and I were a little tired: we decided to have a beer and a cigar on the fly bridge before the evening’s activities.   Of course we were anxious to get ashore, but a couple of issues had to be resolved.  First, it was difficult getting ashore; the town doesn’t have a dingy dock, only a huge cement pier where you can pick up and drop people off. You can’t tie your boat up here as is often the case in other ports. The alternative is to anchor the tender a little ways offshore, and wade in.  But this presents two other problems: security (someone would have to stay with the tender as we wouldn’t want it stolen) and sanitation.  No one mentioned that these two towns do not have a sewer system and dump the waste of over 100,000 people into the bay.  The water stunk and looked foul and we didn’t want anything to do with it.   So we took turns with Buddy and Kathleen driving each other ashore.  Rebecca and I had been here several years ago.  We stayed at a resort a few miles around the far side of the bay, and we did not notice any foul water at that time or place. We looked forward to seeing the town again and have a nice vegan lunch ashore.  Trying to explain veganism to many of the Mexican waiters is a real “Saturday Night Live” sort of experience.  They just don’t believe that some would not eat meat, much less cheese.

We looked around and came across “Coconuts”, a lovely restaurant that looked like an 18th century hacienda. It was beautiful, and the chef was delighted to accommodate us.  The food was terrific, and we later found out the chef was from Australia. Go figure!

At 4 AM the next morning we pulled anchor and headed for Acapulco, about 110 miles to our south.  Most of the Mexican Pacific coast above Zihuatanejo is rocky with few harbors for refuge; the Sierra Madras rise almost straight out of the ocean and the San Andres Fault lies nearby.  Below Zihuatanejo things are different: the 110 mile coastline to Acapulco is one long golden sand beach.  It is also virtually uninhabited.  The area in these parts is home to thousands of coconut plantations, and the groves stretch for thousands of square miles. It’s big business, and coconuts are very important to the production of many things we take for granted from lipstick to charcoal for cigarette filters.  As we have moved south we see more sea life.  Whales abound, as they feed and nurture their new born calves.  We also saw Porpoise, Bat Rays, Sea Turtles, and occasionally fish. We reached Acapulco at sunset, and just when I was about to pull in the fishing gear, a small tuna took our lure.  We landed it and put it into our new fish cooler for safe keeping.  We pulled into Boca Chica Channel, anchored off the small island of Isla Roqueta, lit the grill and started dinner.  Kathleen had the fish perfectly filleted in a flash. Standing out on the deck of Odyssey we had a spectacular panoramic view of the city.  It is impossible to describe how beautiful Acapulco is at night.  Unlike our previous port, the water is clear and clean.  The city occupies the bank of a harbor that is three miles in diameter and around it lay the Sierra Madres.   The homes of 2 million inhabitants’ climb up the mountains; at night millions of lights sparkle like jewels in a magnificent crown below the starlit sky.  Resort hotels ring the beach like a string of pearls. 

The next morning we proceeded to the fuel dock for a dose of reality.  The fuel dock is located within The Club De Yates De Acapulco.  Since leaving Dana Point we have traveled about 1,500 miles, and we took on 520 gallons in Cabo San Lucas, and here we took on 912 gallons.   Odyssey is treating us pretty well at about 1 gallon per mile.  A gallon of fuel costs about $3.35.  It took about 1 ½ hours to fuel the boat.  It is very hard to get a slip in this yacht club, but as luck would have it, they had one available for us.  It was a med-moor arrangement, meaning that we had to tie the bow to a buoy and then back into a dock and secure the stern.  One has to do this in the wind and without hitting the boat(s) next door.  This is the first time any of us had done this, but Buddy jumped into action on the bow, while Rebecca and Kathleen took the stern lines.  I was at the helm (accepting responsibility for damage), but we did it, perhaps without as much grace as we all would have liked, but without any damage to anything or anyone! That afternoon we went to the world famous La Quebrada Cliff Divers of Acapulco  exhibition.  They dive from a cliff almost 200 feet above and into a narrow grotto.  Six or seven divers climb from the grotto up the cliff to the apex, stand around and stretch and gain flexibility for a while, build audience anticipation, then go over and kneel at the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, say a prayer, kiss her feet, and jump.  It is very impressive.  I saw it twenty years ago with my brother, and it hasn’t lost a thing; it is still very impressive. After they jump, they swim across the grotto to the tourist area and make themselves available for a photo.  Rebecca loves diving and couldn’t wait to have her picture taken with young, lithe, muscular young athletes .  As the heat built up in the early afternoon, we found our way to the pool at the Club de Yates.  It was a relaxing afternoon. That evening we watched another episode of “Mad Men” on our TV.  Kathleen brought this particular series as a complement to our pretty good library of viewing options. 

Rebecca scheduled a tour of the city for the next day.  Our tour guide, Francisco, arrived around 9AM and we departed.  We started on the northwest side of the city, the original Acapulco, and progressed to the new resort section south of the city.  Much of our tour was a walk down memory lane and how the Hollywood stars of the 40’s and 50’s spent their off hours.  I bet they had a fabulous time.  We saw the Los Flamingos Hotel that started things off here.  It was originally owned by John Wayne and Johnnie Weissmuller through an intermediary who technically owns it and still runs it.  A room there now is about $60 per night.  John Wayne’s first wife was Mexican and her name was Pilar (sp?).  (They had three children.  They still live in Acapulco in the John and Pilar Wayne home near Los Flamingos.) I suppose that is why he became so involved with the early development of Acapulco and the connection it had to Hollywood celebrities. Before John Wayne’s involvement, Acapulco was a fishing village.  Through the 50’s and 60’s it was the site of many movies, home to big band extravaganzas for the rich and famous, and a place renowned for its glamorous, any-thing-goes night life. By 1970 the hotels along the strip were built, the glamour was replaced by greater access for the masses.  Acapulco wasn’t exclusive anymore.  By 1980, fancier, grander hotel complexes were built on the vast beach south of the city proper, but they had to compete with similar properties elsewhere.

 Our tour guide told us a few interesting things about life in Mexico:   

First of all, according to him there is very little crime and everything is peachy.  The violence that we hear about is between people who deal in drugs.

No one in Mexico (other than the police) may carry anything that could be used as a weapon that includes knives (even pen knives), nail clippers or even tools. For example, a carpenter carrying his tools has to conceal them in a bag.  Everyone is subject to inspection.

All young men are conscripted for military service at age 18.  They serve each Saturday for one year and are then released from duty, but they may apply for a permanent enlistment if they so desire.

All children must complete 12 years of school.  They all dress in uniforms. There are three types of schools: public, private (where English is taught), and Catholic (were prayer is taught).

Francisco said that 90 % of the country is Catholic; the other 10% are priests and nuns.

Last year Acapulco had about 200 cruise ship visits.  This year it will be about 120.  Next year it is expected to be 40!

Everyone who works is entitled to social insurance including medical and retirement benefits. There is no welfare or medical care if you do not work.  As a man, if you work, the insurance covers you, your wife and children, and your parents.   If you are a women and work, it covers the same people except your husband.  He doesn’t get insurance unless he works.

Prostitution is a licensed sport and legal all over Mexico, but it must be conducted specific locations.

It was a nice tour and a nice city, but it was time to head south again.  This time we are bound for Puerto Angel, a small, beautiful coastal town just north of Huatulco, gateway to the feared and unruly Bay of Tehuantepec.  

We cruised overnight toward Puerto Angel.  We arrived there at sunset the following day looking forward to the picturesque setting described in the cruise books.  When we got there we found a very small bay that was experiencing a huge surge from the incoming ocean waves.  We poked our bow into the harbor thinking there must be more, but there wasn’t.   Huge waves were washing on the rocks all around and pangas occupied most of the harbor, such as it was.  I was becoming concerned that we were running out of sea room and getting into a position that could become dangerous.  By this time the sun had set and night was falling.  We turned the boat, slowly as the current was against us, and made our way out of the bay and pointed Odyssey toward Huatulco 20 miles to the south.  Three hours later and in total darkness we found the bay we were looking for.  Our night vision equipment, chart plotter and radar kept us on the right course, as the area was littered with rocks and reefs.  Buddy took Odyssey into an anchorage, and we dropped the hook.  Odyssey rolled around all night, but our anchor held and we drifted off to sleep.  The next morning we awoke to the sight of a beautiful, picturesque harbor and a marina to tie up in for the next 5 days.   Then we will tackle The Gulf of Tehuantepec!

We will post new photos as soon as we have adequate internet service.

Thanks for looking in on us.  Call us anytime on 734-646-0095, we would love to hear from you.

R & R

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