It was a strange feeling leaving Banderas Bay, as we were now heading out to ‘territories unknown’, having been as far south as Puerto Vallarta the year before. Our intention had been to do this trip the year previous, but the pandemic seemed to have put that on an indefinite hiatus, and to finally be heading south with the season objective of transiting the Panama Canal, thousands of miles away, came with feelings of both excitement and some trepidation.
Paradise Village to Chamela
|DATE:||19 – 20 November, 2021|
|DEPARTURE:||Paradise Village Marina|
|DESTINATION:||Pérula, Bahía Chamela|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||19°35.049N 105°07.876W|
The trip to Chamela is an awkward 100 plus miles; too much to travel in daylight hours alone, and given the preference of arriving in the light, it requires leaving in the afternoon. Cabo Corrientes at the southern entrance to Banderas Bay also has a formidable reputation and some weather planning is required to ensure a comfortable passage.
We were anxious to get underway so made the decision to head from Paradise Village over to La Cruz, where we could fill up with fuel. That done, we set out across the Bay in fairly light conditions aiming to round Cabo Corrientes just before dark. The sailing was good and quite sporty, but comfortable for rounding the Cabo, and we were treated to a beautiful sunset and pleasant conditions for the night, arriving at anchor off the town of Pérula just after dawn.
Pérula is a pleasant stop. The town is fairly basic, but there is a reasonable amount of Mexican tourist activity and therefore a few restaurants and small tiendas. It appears as if someone had some great plans for Pérula as there had recently been alot of development along the riverbank to create a ‘malecon’, but clearly it has a way to go to fulfill the ultimate goal.
Bahía Chamela has a lovely long beach and in addition to walking the town we enjoyed time on the beach, and enjoyed watching the fishermentlaunch their pangas from the beach with a shove from an old SUV.
Chamela to Tenacatita
|DATE:||23 November, 2021|
|DEPARTURE:||Pérula, Bahía Chamela|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||19°18.053N 104°50.155W|
|ENGINE HOURS (at Destination):||664.5|
A nice day-sail from Chamela is Tenacatita, a well protected bay that is usually home to a large number of ‘resident’ boats during ‘the season’, and while we counted a dozen or so in the bay when we were there, the pandemic, and the early part of the season that we were in resulted in a fraction of the peak season non-pandemic population.
We spent a week in Tenacatita over American Thanksgiving and had a wonderful time here. One of the Tenacatita highlights is a dinghy trip through the narrow mangroves to a beach on the Pacific side of the land that protects the bay. We did this the first time with the family from KYRIE, and Cress and Irene from CONVERSATIONS, who we met for the first time on the beach prior to heading out in a small dinghy convey into the mangroves. We became fast friends with Cress and Irene and were to spend more time with them as we made our way through the remainder of Mexico. We have to admit to being slightly envious of the Kyrie group on this trip; with crocodiles reported to be in the mangroves, we thought their hard-sided Portaboat dinghy seemed highly preferably to our puncture-susceptible Avon Inflatable.
The trip through the mangrove was magical and felt like an all-too-real Disney ride for most of the way. The canopy totally covers the narrow channel in many parts and there are lots of crabs and beautiful sites to see along the way. Once at the beach at the end Joe advised we find the Raicerilla (a distillery where raicilla, a type of tequila is made), and a few inquiries later we found ourselves in the back of a pick-up truck heading for a tour.
We were shown the Racilleria by the wife of the usual guide, and she gave our a very detailed explanation of the different types of agave, and the unique nature of Raicilla as opposed to usual commercial tequila. We did this tour a second time when Leanne and Charlie from JULIET caught up with us and at that time the gentleman was there to present to us and gave us a completely different talk, so the both trips were super interesting. We were, of course, provided with a sampling on both occasions, and felt obliged (and very happy) to buy a couple of bottles each time, so left Tenacatita well stocked.
We spent Thanksgiving with a big group of cruisers at a pot luck and met some really memorable folks (MONSOON, HAPPY DAYS, etc.). We also arranged a game of Kuub, with JULIET and CONVERSATIONS. Much fun for all, except for Irene, who as a more than capable, strong and independent woman who has circumnavigated and more, apparently has just one flaw… she just cannot throw a stick!
Tenacatita to Barra
|DATE:||30 November, 2021|
|DESTINATION:||Barra de Navidad, Puerto de la Navidad|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||19°11.705N 104°40.898W|
|ENGINE HOURS (at Destination):||665.9|
A short and quite spectacular upwind sail to Barra, we arrived as planned to attend the annual meet-up for the Panama Posse – and attend some seminars that would help us as we planned the next five months of travel.The seminars were indeed useful, and we also got treated to a bunch of navigation files that would prove extremely valuable. It was also good to chat with others who were on a similar trajectory.
Barra is a pleasant place to hang out for a while. We had elected to stay at the marina as opposed to the lagoon as we were attending a number of events, and as the marina is attached to a resort it was a comfortable week. Barra is also home to the ‘French Baker’ who visits the marina and lagoon most days, by boat, and supplies authentic pastries , croissant and breads. A real treat!
The town of Barra, a short panga taxi across from the resort is also quite the destination and we had a couple of pleasant meals, and did a bit of touristy shopping in addition to the usual provisioning.
Barra to Carrizal
|DATE:||6 December, 2021|
|DEPARTURE:||Barra de Navidad, Puerto de la Navidad|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||19°5.849N 104°26.262W|
|ENGINE HOURS (at Destination):||669.44|
Not far from Barra is the dramatic Enseñada Carrizal. We spent a couple of nights here with JULIET and enjoyed a snorkeling trip and also a dinghy expedition exploring the various craggy coves in the deep bay, although the Pacific swell created quite the swirling activity that kept us from getting in close to some of the more interesting places.
With our new-found familiarity with boats in the Panama Posse, we recognized the boat ‘One-Life’ a nice Nordhavn 46 who also joined us in the Bay and I managed to capture a nice shot of the boat at sunset.
Carrizal to Las Hadas
|DATE:||8 December, 2021|
|DESTINATION:||Puerto Las Haddas|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||19°06.125N 104°20.624W|
|ENGINE HOURS (at Destination):||671.22|
Just a short motor away from Carrizal and we could see the quite populated area of Santiago and the prominent Los Hadas Peninsula. The approach is quite spectacular with lovely homes hanging onto the peninsular edge visible as we turned the corner to head into Las Hadas anchorage. Here the view of the white hillside buildings of the resort come into view, and it is clear why this particular area is coined the ‘Mexiterranean’.
We really enjoyed the few days we spent in Las Hadas. We went to the marina in the dinghy and ordered a taxi with Charlie and Leanne to go to a grocery store. The taxi however hit a large piece of metal on the cobbled road, and after smelling a strong whiff of gasoline, we quickly evacuated the small car only to discover there was both gas, and oil, leaking profusely from underneath the vehicle. A bad day for the taxi driver, but unperturbed he continued on, without us. We did of course pass him a few moments later in our new taxi and stopped to at least pay him some money for the fare. Small consolation, I am sure.
The grocery store turned out to be a very cosmopolitan ‘La Comer’ with a wealth of choice (including Waitrose products from the U.K.). Wanting to go back again, Colin and I just pulled the dinghy onto the beach another day and walked to the stores, through a golf course, and stopping to get some lunch on the way.
Despite the slight swell in the anchorage, the marina did not look that attractive, and given the med-moor arrangement was not an option for us, but we did go to the Marina one evening in the dinghy, and enjoyed a very pleasant and quite civilized evening meal at an Italian restaurant along the marina edge.
Las Hadas is on one side of the large Manzanillo Bay, and on the other side is the town and port of Manzanillo. We took a taxi to check it out, and while it was interesting and parts of it were picturesque we agreed it was definitely a working port town and not a tourist destination, but we did enjoy the trip to the market, a walk in the square, and a few beers and totopos at a waterside bar.
Las Haddas to Santiago
|DATE:||11 December, 2021|
|DEPARTURE:||Puerto Las Haddas|
|DESTINATION:||Bahía de Santiago|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||19°06.541N 104°23.767W|
|ENGINE HOURS (at Destination):||672.43|
Although we had heard the beach and anchorage of Santiago was very pleasant we had passed by it on our way into Las Hadas. Wanting to go explore, we headed back around the peninsula and anchored of the long and busy beach. It turned out to be a real gem. The beach was beautiful and great for taking a long walk and all the activity was super fun to watch. Definitely a very mexican vacation spot, we felt a bit out of place on the beach, reinforced by a brief interaction with a guy on a jet-ski who insisted on doing circles around the boat, who was then astonished when we explained it was our home … You stay there? You mean you cook on there!
Santiago to Campos
|DATE:||13 – 14 December, 2021|
|DEPARTURE:||Bahía de Santiago|
|DESTINATION:||Caleta de Campos|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||18°4.421N 102°44.958W|
|TRIP:||132.4 nm / 35 hours|
With not much on the coast from Manzanillo south, the next stop for us was an overnight sail. Despite leaving from Santiago with only JULIET as a buddy boat, we found ourselves in a small Panama Posse flotilla also with KYRIE, TULUM V and SAMADHI.
The trip went well with a good spinnaker run during the day, and we set up the jib on the pole and had the main prevented for the night, which all worked fine until we ended up on a collision course with a friendly Passport 40 ‘Wind Drift’ (we met in Barra) who had right of way. We pulled into Caleta de Campos in the morning, a super swelly anchorage, and set both bow and stern anchors, next to Wind Drift. Chatting with Blair and Jodi, and scanning the crashing surf on the shore, a beach landing was not going to be a great idea, but wanting to get off the boat, I took the paddle board to the beach which resulted in a hard and wet landing, but I did get a brief tour of the small village.
Campos to Isla Grande
|DATE:||15 December, 2021|
|DEPARTURE:||Caleta de Campos|
|DESTINATION:||Isla Grande, Ixtapa|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||17°40.669N 101°39.172W|
|ENGINE HOURS (at Destination):||691.5|
With a good day’s sail ahead, we left at dawn and had the strange experience of seeing the sun rise ahead of us; a reminder that this part of the trip is less a trip south, and more a trip east. This leg of our journey took us past the busy port of Lazaro Cardenas and had us pass a number of ships anchored out waiting to enter.
We entered the main anchorage at Isla Grande fairly late in the day and as it looked full (including Kyrie, Tulum and Samadhi who had opted not to stop at Campos), we were to be relegated to the rolly outer edge. We chose instead to go around to the more easterly Playa Veradero where we felt we had better protection from the swell, and a pretty view of the more attractive beach.
Isla Grande to Zihuatanejo
|DATE:||16 December, 2021|
|DEPARTURE:||Isla Grande, Ixtapa|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||17°38.174N 101°33.244W|
|ENGINE HOURS (at Destination):||693|
We only had a short hop to our next stop at Zihuatanejo, and wanting to check out the bustling restaurants and life ashore at Isla Grande, Charlie and Leanne picked us up in their dinghy and we headed for the beach. As we looked for an appropriate landing spot amidst the people in the water, an enterprising waiter called us over and, after we had stepped foot ashore, he had the dinghy valet parked on a dinghy just off the beach … a first!
We had a quick walk across the Island (we had reports that we would see parrots but did not), and had lunch at our new friend’s restaurant (besides, they now had Juliet’s dinghy as ransom). Once we were ready to leave the waiter called a guy from the back, who stripped off his shirt and swan our to retrieve the dinghy.
The motor around to Zihuatanejo was spectacular, passing a few dramatic islands on the way and then round the point into the Zihuatanejo Bay to see then a cruise ship, ‘One World’ anchored in the middle. Our anchoring was stressful however; not only did we get an overcharging alarm with the starter battery showing close to 16 volts, the anchor took a couple of tries to set. We were, however, in Zihuatanejo, a notable destination, and one where we planned to spend Christmas.
Christmas in Zihuatanejo
The town of Zihuatanejo is a very popular cruiser destination, and for good reason. It is extremely pretty, tourist friendly and at the same time, it is an authentic Mexican community. Due to the arrival of the cruise ship, the first since the pandemic began, the town had also gone ‘all-out’ on decorating the streets for Christmas. Seeing our friends on Red Rover with their Christmas lights, we went to the local market and then Boundless and Juliet, then Tulum V had lights up.
In Mexico the accepted practice is to check in, and out with the Port Captain at each stop, however, this proved to be a challenge in Zihuat’, the only place where a fee was charged, involving a trip to a bank, and a process that apparently could take two days. A source of much complaining by a number of folks and a reminder from some that the whole check-in, check-out process is something they avoid. We, however, are sticklers for such things and duly went through the process, which we feel is part of the cultural experience.
We had a fun Christmas Day, going to a Mexican restaurant with a bunch of other boats (MATILDA, JULIET, O’HANA, and the notorious ‘Wesley’, with his parents from a boat whose name escapes, but had something to do with ‘Captain Ron’. The night ended up with just a bit to much merriment, and we regretted it the next morning when going to pay for some gas bought to us by a panguero, we could not find our wallets … both gone, taken from our bag the night before. This was a sad end to our stay in Zihat’. We had a great time here, spending much time walking the malecon, enjoying concerts and the local basketball, as well as some pleasant dinners ashore.
This was also the end of our buddy-boating with JULIET. Our plans took us south and theirs had them moving back north from here, so it was ‘see you later’ to Charlie, Leanne and Bubba.
Zihuatanejo to Acapulco
|DATE:||27 – 28 December, 2021|
|DESTINATION LAT/LONG:||16°50.430N 99°54.276W|
Another overnight sail, and getting used to the switching land breeze, sea breeze phenomenon, we set out in calm wind, then a good stretch of spinnaker sailing, and ultimately made too much progress through the night so that we were stalling in the early morning trying to arrive in Acapulco at dawn. And the dawn arrival did not disappoint. The smaller westerly entrance ‘Boca Chica’ is a narrow channel bordered by spectacular homes, and just as we were approaching the narrow section we were aware of a whale in the straight ahead of us. Holding back to let the whale clear through, the sun was rising and the orange glow was quite magical.
There is also something special about arriving in a large city by sailboat and especially Acapulco with its colorful history. This sail was also significant for us in that we had now officially left the comfortable cruising ground of Pacific Mexico, of which Zihuatanejo is the limit. Even our trusty ‘Shawn and Heather’ cruising guide that had led us all through the Sea of Cortez and then down the Pacific coast basically make the statement along the lines of “we haven’t been here, we are listing these places, and you are on your own from here”. We did feel that we were now part of a much smaller group of folks, most of whom like us, were destined for the Panama Canal.
Entering the very large bay we made contact with ‘our guy’ Vicente who rents moorings outside of the very expensive yacht club, and he met us in his dinghy to show us to our mooring, amidst a motley bunch of boats, and he made it clear he was available for whatever we needed.