Remember the Dutch lady on So Long that we met in Isla Grande, Ixtapa who was cruising in company with her husband around the world….on his and her boats….here they are departing Zihuatanejo. His is the smaller of the two!
We were a little savvier on departing Ixtapa and checked the marina entrance so there were no surprises! We continue to be amazed at the dolphins we encounter; we had the escort of 5 very large, fat dolphins from the entrance to the marina out to the small nearby islands 1 mile away.
Zihuatanejo, a mere 5 miles around the corner from Ixtapa was a little disappointing; but perhaps that was because we expected great things from what we had heard. The water in the bay was dirty and it had the potential to be a very rolly anchorage. Money has been poured into the town’s infrastructure in order to cater for cruise ships and also the nearby town of Ixtapa to attract tourists, but such development has now outstripped their water quality monitoring. So much for the nice sandy beaches!!!!!
We have long wanted to visit a ‘’Z town’’, having missed Zanzibar (did not quite make the African Coast) and Zambawonga in Mindanao, Philippines (not so safe to go there!). We had explored Zihuatanejo from Ixtapa as it was very easy to get around by public bus and in hindsight we could have easily passed the anchorage…..which sounds even more interesting as now sitting in Haultulco, we hear of another yacht anchored there before us watching the crocodiles swim past! Hmmm….Peter dove on the boat there to clean the prop. The divers in Darwin Harbour did tell us that crocodiles don’t attack under boats as the hull provides a larger target for them. So far so good as Peter had to dive on the boat in Darwin Harbour as well to fix the centre board on the previous boat before we could get into the marina!
An overnight sail to Acapulco was done 2 days after a full moon (we have been out of sync with the full moon for most of the journey south)..calm seas, 3 miles off the coast, most of which was beach. A great night to have the iPod on, and dance in the cockpit as it makes for a fast watch! It is amazing how many others do this on their night watch as well!!!!
Acapulco was another place where cruisers last year had said not to go to….red rag to a bull for us. We were not put off by the news that a day before we arrived, 15 people had been beheaded...up in the ourskirts of the town. We have people in salubrious Perth suburbs that get chopped up and put into rubbish bins! Statistically, twice as many people are shot in the US per head of population than in Mexico and 10 times as many in the Caribbean. Sadly the drug violence appears to be escalating in Mexico, hurting the tourist industry, which is very unfortuantae for the majority of Mexican people who are polite, courteous and very friendly people.
I had always wanted to visit Acapulco from my younger days in the remote NW of West Australia watching Elvis in “Fun in Acapulco”. (Not a lot of entertainment in the bush!) There was one post on the internet I found from a cruiser who had stopped off at Acapulco early in 2010 and provided the low down of how it all works…..where to find moorings, where to anchor and where to get fuel.
Quirky Mexico jumps out at you in the least expected way...as we came into the bay, a casa grandes had this huge murial of a woman with other faces around her....
We wandered into town on Sunday, family day, where as always, the beach is to be enjoyed...and the local fixation of all things that one can inflate!!
We did think it a little strange that so many people were gathered around the town centre (our Spanish not good enough to interpret what the loud speakers were sharing with us).....and were a little slow to realise it was a political gathering. Not sure what these people represented! Makes our politics look very dreary!
Today we were all supporting Yellow Team for Governor! We did make a hasty exit as a common warning to tourists is not to get involved in political rallies.
As with all of Mexico, local bus travel is cheap and all places accessible. We found the local central market which was a little overwhelming but had everything there. Taxi cabs were all VW's that we remember from the 60's.
Supermarkets, Home Depot (aka small Bunnings), Cinema and the 5 star hotels, excellent anchorages with a clean harbour to boot!! What’s not to like? Strangely, on our approach, you do not see the loom of Acapulco, but from 37 miles out, you see the twinkling lights!
The Fort afforded some stunning vistas.............
whilst the courtyard might bring back some memories of those racing days to Rotto....
We chose to hook up to a mooring just off the yacht club at 300 pesos/night (around $25), which was a little up there in price. There were many strange boats around ......
and some that had been sunk during a hurricane in 2006. Looking at the current google image of the anchorage, you can see all the sunken boats from the hurricane. If Acapulco was a safe place to stay, we would have spent the summer there!
Australia Day had to be celebrated, so we dressed up the boat with bunting, gave her a new red ensign and wore our hats around town! All our fun stuff was bought out by Ann (Peter's sister) last year.
The main attraction in Acapulco is La Quebrada; cliff divers who need even bigger cojones!!! An extreme sport which is heart stopping as the divers dive off a 100m plus cliff into a very small ravine with pounding surf.
These lovely buffed boys start at the age of 10 and dive off a higher part of the cliff each year.
The dives are perfectly executed with some in tandem double summersault and then the grand finale of the most experienced diver doing a back summersault off the top of the cliff. They would all get a ‘10’ at the Olympics for their execution into the water! As if the dive is not enough, they have to launch themselves out from the cliff to clear the rocks.....and this is where they land!!!!!!!! The night dives were more impressive as the divers were floodlit.
Mexico is a little bit of an anathema with regards to checking in and out of every port. The latest information (from some officials and marinas) is that it is no longer necessary, however, it appears marinas are required to record yachts and pass on to the Harbour Master.
We found that Harbour Master’s were not interested in us at all, whether we were coming or going. Consequently, we have not checked in or out of any ports. Maybe an issue now we are in the south and things may be different. So, our plan was to clear in and out of Acapulco, giving us the necessary paper work for Hautulco and Chiapas. Acapulco seemed like a good place as the chances of an English speaking Harbour Master was better. All worked well to plan, (having recent invoice from Marina Ixtapa helped) even though the Harbour Master (Mistress) did not speak English!
Whilst in Acapulco, there was a regatta run over the weekend, which apparently happens once per month. Some interesting yachts which are just as colourful as the Mexican’s themselves………
Peter sat with the binoculars giving a running commentary on their sail trim. In the yacht club, Peter did offer some advice to one chap running the kite sheets inside the rail and back to front through the aft turning block……..response was this is how its done here and we will come first. (Which they were far from!)
Our last two nights in Acapulco were spent in the tranquil Bahia Marques; an outer bay. Clear water and goldern sandy beaches which typify Acapulco and waking up to the sounds of birds…almost back in Paradise!
Expecting a motor boat ride to Hautulco, we were happy to have sailed 50% of the way in flat water. This put our timing ahead so we did puddle along at 3.5 knots (yuk!) to slow down. We had our first two night passage on board which at times was busy with traffic but otherwise quiet. Dolphins again amazed us, staying with us for over 20 miles whilst rounding the cape at Puerto Angel at night. With the bioluminescence, they looked like lime green torpedoes racing from the stern wave to the bow wave (we had 15-18 knots behind us), twisting and turning away from and towards us!! During the day we had many humpback whales leaping about with gay abandon. We only had one close encounter and just happened to be inshore when they were offshore and reverse. Turtles lolled about in the swell providing a resting place for sea birds! We lost count at 50 turtles!!!
The coast around Haultulco is very rocky with pristine sandy coves, but not a lot of protection from the wind or surge. There is an anchorage by the cruise ship dock in the little town of Santa Cruz.
A beautiful nearby town, La Crucecita, is very clean and green, The state of Oaxaca (ah-haka) is largely undeveloped with regards to industry, so much of the traditional life prevails.
The marina in Haultulco (wah-tul-co) has the most interesting showers we have encountered…..very strange!
We are getting the weather sorted to cross the Tehuanatepec…..which has the potential to be very dangerous as gap winds frequent the area. This was the first choice for the Panama Canal as its only 125 miles across flat land to the Gulf of Mexico, however with the gap in the mountain range, the subsequent winds and seas, well..the rest is as they say, history.
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Our strategy will be to follow the advice of those who have done it frequently and go one foot on the beach, which translates to around 1 mile offshore from Hautulco to Salina Cruz, then puddle along in about 12m of water for most of the 190 miles down to Chiapas, where we will clear out of Mexico. Total miles is around 250 nm. We will depart from here around 1700 hours, as the night winds tend to be lighter and we will be motoring into any winds. By morning, we should have crossed Salina Cruz and be on our way south! In reality, if it is calm, we will stay 3 miles offshore after Salina Cruz to avoid the fishing boats. At least we will have the best part of a full moon, given we have a weather window at that time!! Our window needs to have calm conditions for the first 12 hours, then not more than 10 knots of wind for the rest. The sea state that develops in wind over 20 knots can be very dangerous.