Voyage of Traveler / Blog

May 26, 2010

Traveler Postcard From Zihuatanejo

Traveler Postcard From Zihautanejo, Ixtapa,
Barra de Navidad and Rounding Cabo Correntes
May 18 to 25


Zihautanejo and Ixtapa.  These two beach resort towns are next to each other, just five miles apart, but they’re as different as two Mexican towns can be.  Zihuatanejo has been around for hundreds of years.  Sir Frances Drake and other pirates used to lay in wait here and raid the Spanish galleons as they sailed down the coast to Acapulco.  It was then just an isolated, sleepy fishing village, and for centuries it stayed that way, until the road was built in the 1960s connecting it to Acapulco.  The Mexican government helped create neighboring Ixtapa through eminent domain by converting a large coconut plantation to beachfront hotel sites.  Government contractors drained swamps, built roads, installed utilities, and then added two golf courses and a marina, beginning in the early 1980s.  We anchored in Zihau (as the locals call it) for three nights, and loved it.  Fun, laid back, friendly, picturesque, good food, comfortable anchorage–everything us cruising yachties are looking for.  However, we enjoyed a little too much Happy Hour at a beachfront restaurant, with the table and our bare feet in the sand, watching the sunset.  With their two for the price of one drink special, we went for the margaritas. You know the saying: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!”  The next day, nursing our hangovers, we cabbed it over the hill to Ixtapa where we walked the beach looking at the high rise hotels on one side and the waves on the other, until we found a hotel that looked like a good place to hang out for the day.  As long as we were buying food and drinks, the staff allowed us to used the pool and enjoy other hotel guest privileges.  The waves were up, and we had a fun time body surfing.  Scott had to fly home from here to go back to Berkeley for summer school, but Brian and I had one more night in Zihau.  In the center of town, right on the waterfront, is an outdoor stage where a popular Mexican band was filming a music video.  There were a couple of hundred screaming teenaged girls (think the Beatles in their early days), especially when the lead singer ripped off his shirt.  It was quite a show.  After the video taping, the band was mobbed by their fans as they made their way offstage to a waiting van.  After the show, Brian met up with some locals, played with them in a drum circle for awhile, and then stayed ashore that night at their casa, located next to Cameron Diaz’s gorgeous waterfront home.

Barra de Navidad.  The next morning, Brian hitched a ride back out to Traveler in a fishing ponga, and we departed at 0900.  We motored all day and through the night 190 miles up the coast to Barra de Navidad, arriving the next day, May 22, at 1300 hours. After buying fuel and hosing the boat down at the fuel dock, I asked the rate if we were to stay in the new, upscale marina.  They wanted $140/night(!), so we elected to anchor in the lagoon for free and stayed here two nights.  It is just a couple of weeks after the start of the slow season here now.  But already the marina was only a third full, and all of them long-term, with no yachts in transit. The five star Grand Bay Hotel was nearly empty, with no one on their golf course ($250 green fees!), and we were the only boat anchored in the lagoon. The town is small, rustic and touristy.  It is located on a low-lying peninsula of sand, and the occasional storm has taken its toll, with all the buildings looking a tad weather-beaten and run down. We had an okay dinner at a beachfront restaurant (we were the only guests there all night).  But, while the food was marginal, they fixed a great drink called a Michelada.  It is like a Bloody Mary, but with more spices, lime juice, and mixed with beer instead of vodka. Historically, this is where the Spanish galleons first set sail from to cross the Pacific to trade with the Philippines.  But soon the pirates learned of this port and found it easy to raid.  So, after being New Spain’s main port on the Pacific coast for 40 years, the Spanish moved the fleet down the coast to Acapulco.  The wind blows hard here in Barra in the afternoons, so we left early, at 0300 hours, in calm conditions to make as much way up the coast as we could before the northwesterlies picked up. Our next port of call is Puerto Vallarta, but we must first get around the dreaded Cabo Correntes.

Cabo Correntes.  This is much like Point Conception is to California.  The wind blows hard out of the NW, and the seas are always rough, usually very rough.  As we were motoring into it, the apparent wind slowly increased from 15 to 20, then quickly to 25 knots.  Waves were breaking over the bow and rolling back to the dodger, hitting it with such force that we thought the old stitching on the forward-facing plastic windows would rip out, leaving us unprotected in the cockpit.  Then, as we approached the cape, the wind built to 30, with sustained gusts at 35 knots, and the seas grew with it.  Time to seek shelter.  Fortunately, there is a well-protected anchorage at Punta Ipala, just 14 miles south of the cape, and we ducked in there and dropped the hook for the night.  After watching the anchor for a half hour or so to make sure we were not dragging, Brian and I swam 150 yards to shore to a small cafe.  We bought a bucket of Coronas and kicked back with three local guys in their mid-20s, one of whom spoke some English.  He said the wind blows very strongly here all the time, even in the early morning hours.  Great.  At 0600 the next morning, still dark, we decided to go for it.  The apparent wind was 20 knots and right on the bow, with the occasional wave breaking over the bow, but not too bad.  This is as good as it gets, and we were just happy it wasn’t any worse.  Our normal cruising speed while motoring is 7 to 7.5 knots.  But there is an adverse current here at the cape setting down the coast.  So even though we were able to motor at 6 knots through the water in these conditions, our speed over the bottom, at 2000 rpm, was just 5 knots.  But I was not complaining.  I was just very pleased when we successfully made it around Cabo Correntes and into the much calmer waters of Bahia de Banderas, headed for Puerto Vallarta.

Hasta luego,

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