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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017-Stops on the Way North

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Barra de Navidad

We’ve finally turned around and are headed back towards La Cruz. For the last month we have been cruising alone on what is called the “Mexican Gold Coast”; all the other cruisers who were on this coast over the winter months, and there were many, have all departed northward. It has been a good cruise for us, the weather has been spectacular, and the anchorages and towns have been fantastic. We think the boats that have gone north already have missed out on a good thing but maybe they got their fill of cruising this coast during January and February while we were up in La Cruz racing.

Whatever the reasons, we haven’t seen a soul for weeks, so coming to Barra de Navidad on our way north was like arriving into a small frontier town after being in the wilderness; seeing people was pleasant for a change.

There is a lagoon in Barra de Navidad where we like to anchor. The lagoon is one of the few places on the Mexican coast which we’d consider a “bullet proof” anchorage. It can get windy in the afternoon but it is safe from storms. The very nice little town of Barra de Navidad sits on the sand spit which separates the lagoon from the Pacific Ocean. This is where we shop, get laundry done, and enjoy good food and drinks. We don’t put our dingy together when we are anchored in the lagoon; instead we call “taxi aquatica” on the radio and get a ride to town from one of the pangeros (the Mexican men who drive the panga water taxis). During the winter months we can also call “the French Baker” who comes around the lagoon in his boat every morning with fresh bread and goodies. Umm! Delicious! Too bad the French Baker is not here this time of year either.

There is also a marina, largely empty by the way, which is part of the Barra de Navidad Grand Hotel, where we occasionally get a berth for the night but we prefer to save our cash by anchoring in the lagoon. We did however come into the marina for one night to wash the boat, fill our water tanks and play in the hotel pool. The pool is awesome with different levels and waterfalls and water slides and, of course, a pool bar. We had a great time, loved the pool, and the next morning we even got up early and went back to swim laps for exercise. We really miss having a pool like this in La Cruz.

Water Sliding in the Grand Hotel Pool

Leaving Barra, and getting totally frustrated trying to sail to Tenacatita in light, light light winds and lumpy waves, and getting only half way of a 10 mile trip in 3 hours, the motor went on for the rest of the way. At least that way we did get there that afternoon and anchored near Nakamal.

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Wings at Chamela Islands

The sailing the next day, however, was fantastic. We sailed to Chemela Bay, and upwind sail of 25 miles, and we had moderate breezes, wind shifts to play, a lot of tacks to do, and we arrived at the islands of Pajarera and Cocinas tired and sunburned, but happy. These islands are home to thousands of Pelicans, Frigate Birds, Boobies, Sea Gulls, Vultures, Ibis, Ducks, and many more kinds of birds, and they are all flying overhead all day and making a racket 24 hours a day. We anchored right in front of Pajarera Island and it really feels like nature there.

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At least the Vultures were quiet

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Punta Perula

Now, after four days at Pajarera, we have moved to Perula. This is another nice anchorage with more wild scenery, a quiet little town with a few bars and restaurants, and a great beach where you can walk for miles and miles if you want to. At night, however, the anchorage is rolly.

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On the Beach at Perula(Chamela)

To be honest, except for the Barra Lagoon, all of our anchorages on this trip have been rough. We can take it, but sleeping is sometimes difficult when you are getting rolled around all night. It will be nice to get to La Cruz and back into our berth in the marina there.

Tomorrow we will set sail for La Cruz.

Click here for many more photos and even another video.

Fred & Judy, s/v Wings, Chemela

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 18, 2017-Manzanillo, Revisited

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We are back Manzanillo this week wandering around old town after being gone 19 years. It feels like we'd seen these streets before. We have.

We took a bus to “Centro” and got off the bus and headed into the neighborhoods. We looked in shop windows and went up and down streets turning corners left or right wherever we felt like it. For my part, I knew what I wanted to spot in old Manzanillo: the same stairs up the hillside that we saw and photographed in 1998. I was following my nose with nothing more but instinct to guide me and the memories were distant, fuzzy, but something led me on.

“Let’s go this way”, I said, pointing down a side street.

Judy answered, “That’s what I was thinking.”

We both realized at that moment we were on the same quest and we laughed.

But things quickly began to look familiar. We became surer of ourselves and we quickened our pace. Finally we found ourselves in the same neighborhoods looking at the same buildings as we had all those years ago, and we saw the same stairway and the same jumbled hillside.

Nothing much had changed.

The Last time we were here we stopped in this neighborhood for lunch and a drink and again this time we had the idea that a pina colada would be nice. There was only one place, then and now, for a drink around here: the Colonial Hotel. We went in. Yep, it’s been remodeled but it was the same establishment. We also realized that our previous visit had another similarity with this one. As we sat in the bar sipping our drinks we recalled that then, as now, there were no other cruisers with us on our exploration, it was just us, Judy and I, wandering alone in an interesting and different Mexican town.

But Manzanillo has changed. Suburbs have grown up in the valley behind the beaches between Santiago and old Manzanillo. Instead of a sleepy interurban road fronted with seedy old beach hotels, now the divided highways of the colonials of Savagua and Brizas are all strip mall modern with big box stores, franchise restaurants, and miles of housing developments. Old Manzanillo remains but the town has moved on.

The Port facility has also grown up and Manzanillo has become Mexico’s largest container port. Freeways and elevated bypass roads carry traffic around the port to and from the old town and the suburbs. We took the bus along Avenue de La Madrid and the bus was packed with city workers returning home. We stopped by Walmart and shopped, it’s the same as Walmarts everywhere.

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Las Hadas

Back on the boat we gaze at Las Hadas. Wings is anchored in the same spot as it was before on the far left side of Manzanillo Bay, 5 miles from old town, in front of Las Hadas resort.

We’ve always liked Las Hadas; it has the feeling of a Greek or Moorish hillside town gone a bit crazy. It’s sort of a Disneyland. In fact the whole Point Santiago peninsula where it is has a feeling of an ancient Mediterranean town overlooking the ocean, like it ought to be on the island of Corfu or something, just slightly carried away in its wild exuberance. We also realized after our revisit to the old town that the Las Hadas look and feel was actually a reflection of the old Manzanillo look and feel.

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Inside Las Hadas

The Las Hadas condominiums are actually bizarre. They are a jumble of white boxes and dark hallways and short connecting elevators climbing back up the rocky hillside. As I walked around I saw that the condos are mostly empty, with padlocked doors and broken light fixtures, the hallways were dark and the buildings quite run down although my photos don’t really show it (I was looking a different set of images and I did not try to capture the neglect). I felt like I was almost in a ghost town, and I wondered if I’d run into Bo Derek around the next corner, but I didn’t.

I wandered there for half an hour before a security guard started to follow me and finally asked me to respect the privacy of the owners and leave. However I didn’t see many owners. Looking out one balcony I did notice a couple lounging on a patio a few levels below me. When the woman saw me she waved excitedly and I wondered why she was so outwardly friendly. Then I decided that her excitement was just that there might be a neighbor in the building. At night only a handful of the 200+ units had lighted windows.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

The hotel, By Brisa, on the other hand, is gorgeous, busy, and alive. The paint is fresh and the staff alert and friendly. Too bad they changed the rules and no longer allow a marina customer like ourselves to utilize the pools or other facilities, although we didn’t know that and we used them anyhow until the security guards finally noticed we didn’t have the proper wrist band and kicked us out.
The marina is in a serious state of disrepair, but that apparently is normal for Mexican marinas, and they charge us $15 a day to park our dingy there, which seems too much. We could take more time to explore Manzanillo, but we don’t need to spend any more money and, besides, now it’s time for us to head north.

We wonder if it will be 19 years before we return again, and what we’ll see when we do.

Click Here for more images.

Click Here to read our original post, Feb 20, 1998.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Manzanillo

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Monday, May 15, 2017

May 12,2017-Wild Carrizal

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Ensenada Carrizal

We’ve been anchored in Ensenada Carrizal for a week. It is a wild place. I mean it has a wild feeling. Here the wind and rocks and the trees and the sea around us remind us more of some remote place on the West Coast of Vancouver Island than a small bay in Mexico.

One thing is the sound. The crash of the ocean as it rises against the rocky shore and then hisses as it runs back into the sea and the moan of the wind through our rigging are constant sounds. They are wild sounds, untamed.

Swell hits the Shorline

The sea here is a restless sea. It is like a living creature whose breast we watch rising and falling against the rocky points of land at the mouth of our bay, and whose breath we can hear, a long whooosh, from the blow holes. The water around Wings undulates with the swells, always in motion but seemingly with no direction, just moving, and on top of it the wind waves, sparkling silver in the sunshine against the indigo blue water, sweep past towards the ocean behind us.

The gusts roll down the bay, off the hillside, and come towards us like a dark shadow on the water and the moan increases as they hit the rigging of the yacht, which turns and rolls away from the wind then rights itself. The moan dies as the wind passes.

This sound and this motion: they are eternal and it is clear to us that we have no part in it. They would and will go on the same if we were not here, and they have done so for countless centuries. We have just arrived here to observe for a short time and Ensenada Carrizal ignores our presence. When we leave it will go on as it was before and never remember we were here.

High rocky cliffs surround the bay. They tower over us and cut off the sun in the mornings and evenings. At their bases the shale is broken and dark and the water reflects that darkness. A white bird wheels and turns and stands out in contrast against the cliff, and plunges into the sea, then rises flapping. Above there are steep hillsides covered in jungle growth, a mixed jungle of leafy brush and dense, stark, dry white trees and shrubs bereft of any greenery. But it is dry season and I think that when the rains come the hills will blossom out in green with a startling suddenness. But now the hillsides of dry tangles seem to add to the impression of wilderness.

And the air here is cool. We sit on deck, in the cold sunlight, the cool wind blowing and the sea constantly moving, looking at our surroundings, and we feel the wildness of it all.
The waves also hit the rocky beach at the head of the bay and wash up high, white, then slide back with astonishing quickness. That beach you can hardly walk on due to its large gravel and steep angle. It is a difficult beach on which to land a small boat; the waves carry a power, and there is no sand over which you can drag up a boat. We’ve landed our small boat here twice, and both times we were nearly upset. Once Judy was thrown out and swept under the boat, but that was on the other side of the bay, where there is sand, and she was only doused and not hurt. At the main beach we had a different strategy: I stayed at the controls of the motor and approached the beach, whereupon Judy jumped out with our duffel bag and scrambled up the steep shore while I backed out quickly before the next wave came. Then I anchored the dingy off shore and swam in.

To leave we reversed this: I swam out and got the dingy, then I came close enough for Judy to jump in between the waves, and we roared out before the next big wave came. Still it was a close thing, and that was a very calm day. Today the waves are much bigger, and the white wash from each of them extends 30 feet up the rocky beach before receding. I would not try to negotiate that surf with the dingy today.

There is wildlife here, mostly birds, but not many. I see some small white terns or gulls flying in circles near the cliffs, and diving into the water, and there is a red tailed hawk we see each day, patrolling the hill side. A few pelicans have flown by but I don’t see them diving, or in the numbers of, say, Bahia Tenacatia. Nor frigate birds; once in a while one soars overhead. Some other bird screes from the trees but I don’t see it. There are also some animals on the land. We saw tracks of a large cat or perhaps an otter and nearby there were scraps of crabs, legs pulled off, where some creature was eating. When we walked up the hillside and found the road, which we followed, there were beautiful magpie-jays and other birds.

But this is a remote place and there are no swarms of birds here or people. No houses or signs of humanity on the land around the bay other than the road which comes down the hillside and ends just above the beach at the head of the bay. We saw a man come in a pick-up truck and he parked and then raked the area at the end of the road, some landscaper perhaps, then he left. So maybe the remoteness of this place is an illusion. But it seems real.

Now the sun has dropped behind the hillside, it is late in the day, and we’re running our engine to charge batteries. We have retreated to the cabin where it is warmer. Once the sun goes down the air is even cooler. Again, it seems like Canada, not Mexico. Soon I will pull on some jeans and a long-sleeved sweatshirt to go outside and BBQ our evening meal.

We’ve come to like this place. There is peace in wildness.

We are at peace here.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Ensenada Carrizal

Note: We were last here on Feb 25, 1998. It was windy then also.

Next Up: Las Hadas

Arriving at Las Hadas

We'll update the blog soon with a report of our return to Las Hadas, in Manzanillo, after 19 years.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

May 9, 2017-Ensenada Carrizal

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Wings in Ensenada Carrizal

The gusts rip through Ensenada Carrizal; from ten knots to twenty, then over twenty. The boat swings and pulls on the cable and the awning flogs. We let out more chain and we listen to the awning flogging. Should we take it down? The shade is nice, and it looks solid. We leave it up for a while. Then, just as quickly, the gusts pass and it is momentarily calm.

Two days ago when we motored here from Barra de Navidad there was no wind to speak of, maybe four knots at best. We didn’t even set sail. The wind came up after we got here. Now the is wind frequently strong and coming from the head of the bay but it does keep the seas in here flatter and lessens the rolling, so we don’t object.

We think our anchor is well set but we left the anchor alarm on to alert us if we move at all.

We wanted to get out of Barra and Tenacatita where we’ve been for over a month. We came here because it looked interesting on the chart and we had heard good things about it. Well, the scenery is nice and the snorkeling here is good. After swimming along the rocky reefs yesterday when the wind was down we were amazed at the coral and fish and again we wished we had an underwater camera to capture the beautiful fish. Maybe next year.

Yet we wonder why people rave about this bay. Yes, it is sort of pretty, in a dry sort of way, and the crashing swells surging along the rugged shoreline are stunning to watch, but it is not a quiet place to anchor. In calm weather outside it is rolly in here due to the refracting swells bouncing off the rock walls. When the wind comes up from the north outside it is gusty in here, as it is today. In a south wind it will be untenable. We like calm anchorages better and Ensenada Carrizal is rarely calm.

We were the only boat here when we came in. Last night another boat arrived, Vicarious, from North Carolina. We talked on the radio and then I visited with them at the side of their boat, and asked if they had any coriander which we needed for our pasta sauce, but they didn’t. Vicarious has come up from Panama and are headed for Alaska, a long way north in all of the strong northerly winds which are present in this time of year. They came in for shelter, tired already of bashing against the northerlies. I think that 3000 miles more to the north is going to take them a long time.

At this time of year, when almost all the other boats have already turned north, we’ll be alone in most places down south here so we make friends quickly when we encounter another boat. This reminds us of our time in Vanauatu when all the other boats were headed back to Australia but we turned instead towards Papua New Guinea. That was a very lonely feeling for us then, and we felt it for weeks as we followed our own path going north among the isolated and rarely visited islands seeing no other boats. When we did encounter another cruising boat, and there were a couple, we stayed together in anchorages even though our schedules beckoned us onward and we clung together like lost strangers meeting unexpectedly in the wilderness.

This is not like that. Now it’s just part of doing our own thing. Whether or not this is a good anchorage it is a good season to be here, the weather is still cool and, obviously, crowds are down. We are not sure why everyone else heads north so soon; probably it is just a mob reflex, but we have never been followers. Anyhow, we are only two days away from La Cruz, one day in a pinch, so it’s not like we have ventured into a new hemisphere.

Finally we take down the awning. We will sleep better if it is not making a racket all night, and we’ll put it back up tomorrow if we need the shade. We have already put the dingy on deck after a gust nearly blew it upside down on the side of the boat where it was hanging. With these two preparations the gusts don’t seem so daunting.

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Wreck of Los Lanitros

On the passage here we passed the wreck of the Los Lanitros, a 700plus foot cargo carrier which was driven ashore off the headland at Barra de Navidad in Hurricane Patricia in October, 2015. There is little I could find about how they came to be driven ashore there, just some speculation that they were late to leave Manzanillo when the port was closed just before the hurricane, and that the vessel was unable to make headway to sea and instead ran north along the coast. Maybe the captain hoped he could weather the rugged point at Barra and find some shelter in the bay, which I doubt he could have done anyhow since the bay is not large enough or protected enough to shelter a large ship.

At any rate they did not clear the point; they missed it by about a quarter of a mile. It must have been terrifying for the crew to realize that, against all hope, they were converging with the shore, and then to strike the rocks at the base of a large mountain.

The 27 persons on board survived and were airlifted off after the hurricane and the ship remained largely intact.

One writer noted with astonishment that the Mexican authorities took no action after the wreck to protect the environment or remove the vessel. He noted that their official position seemed to be it was the affair of the owners and they were satisfied to watch from afar. This is pretty similar to how the local authorities in La Cruz deal with shipwrecks in their jurisdiction. For example in April when the sloop Atoz went adrift the Port Capitan appeared mildly concerned but simply stated that it was the owner’s problem.

Jody, from the yacht Pickles, and two of her teenage boys and attended by the cruisers from Katie G, streaked over the rough waters in their dingies with their own anchor and rode, and in the rough seas, somehow got onboard, secured the vessel, and set the new anchor close to the beach in Bucerias. I thought this was an act of amazing seamanship, the waves were big and even coming alongside must have been exceedingly difficult, but they got it done. Mike Danielson pleaded with the Port Capitan to be permitted to go to rescue the vessel before it went up in the beach in Bucerias, fearing the temporary anchor wouldn’t hold. Finally, after an hour, they gave Mike authority to do so. I went with Mike in a borrowed a launch from the sailing school (while the Port Captain’s panga remained idle at the dock), and along with Jody and Guy from Pickles we rescued the Atoz, towing it into the marina. The point of this is that the Mexican authorities, whether by culture or policy, seem shockingly reluctant to step in even when an environmental disaster threatens. I don’t know, maybe it is the same in other countries, but it seems odd.

Since we have been here in Ensenada Carrizal we had one interesting problem aboard Wings: We were awakened during the evening by the sound of water sloshing back and forth in the bilge. We are not currently equipped with an automatic bilge pump (that is another story) so the sloshing water was our first warning that we had a leak somewhere. Pulling up the floorboards we found about an inch of water in the bilge and were mystified about how it got there. Reluctantly (because bilge water is always foul stuff) I tasted it and found it to be salty. OK, it was not water leaking from our water tanks; it was coming from the sea. But where was it coming in? We checked all the through-hull fittings, and they all looked OK. We pumped the bilge and went to bed. In the middle of the night the sloshing was back. There was another inch of water, which I pumped at 03:30 AM. We were not panicked, but there was obviously a leak and it needed to be found and fixed. After breakfast we dug into it. I methodically checked every opening in the hull. All were secure and no water was seen running in from any of them. Then I noticed a drip under the sink in the head. Pulling some pipes out of the way I found the problem: a plastic pipe nipple in the sink drain was broken, and with each roll of the boat in the waves of Ensenada Carrizal, the water level in the drain system rose up enough to flow out of the broken pipe into the bilge. Well, no harm done and it was an easy fix since we had spare parts on board, but we don’t know how it became broken or how long it’s been that way. When we left the boat last week to go to Vallarta we closed all the through hulls, including the sink drain. Glad we did that since the automatic bilge pump is out of action. It’s fixed now.

That is cruising life. We don’t know how long we’ll be in Ensenada Carrizal, or what we’ll do next.

We’ll let you know.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Ensenada Carrizal

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