Sailing Vessel Warrior

Chamela, Mexico

Monday January 1, 2007

We arrived at Chamela at 9:30am, got the anchor down, tidied up and cooked ourselves a couple of steaks, chowed it down and promptly fell into bed. Then Michelle got sick and Robin got queasy. We think it was because we hadn't washed the pan on the barbecue grill and ate the steaks rather rare. To think we had been in a so-called 3rd world country for a couple of months and the first time we get sick (apart from some very rapid dashes to the head or equivalent) it is our own hygiene! How embarrassing. Actually our impressions of Mexico so far is that it is no more third world than the mid-west of the great US of A.

Tenacatita, Mexico

Tuesday January 2, 2007

The original plan today was to just cruise on down to Bahia Careyes, an easy 10NM hop SE of Chamela. Robin had gone ashore for a couple of hours to buy yoghurt, milk and scout around and came back to the boat saying there wasn't much to miss about Chamela. But he was still queasy (it looked a lot better 6 weeks later on our return). Part of the scouting was to stock up on beer. Its not a great idea to carry too many bottles on board (wine is of course an allowable exception) but we have learnt that the cheapest way to buy beer is in large bottles and return them for a deposit which is about 50% of the initial cost. That way it costs only $1.50 ($2 max in a touristy place) per litre. Beer scouting also provides a reason to walk throught the towns, get exercise, practice Spanish etc. (As if he needs a reason lol). We up anchored around noonish and headed on down to Careyes. However when we got there we immediately saw there was no where suitable to anchor our 50foot yacht. It was very crowded in the small anchorage with two enormous power yachts already taking up an enormous amount of room and the holding, we were told (by the guide books), was rather poor. The seaside village itself was as quaint as hell though with the entire village painted in carnival colors. In a way we were sorry not to be able to stop over here and scout it out. Anyway we waved goodbye to Careyes and continued on down to Tenacatita Bay, a further 18NM South.

entering Bahia Careyes Colorful buildings of Careyes Bay
Careyes Bay

We made it into the anchorage right on dusk, dropped the hook and settled in for the night. It was a lovely sail down to and into the large bay, the wind not strong but we did manage to sail the entire way. We approached one point which had this confusing momument on the point. At first we couldn't work out what it was and that's because it defied speech. It was this enormous (like a hundred metres in diameter) shallow bowl sitting on the very edge of and overhanging a high cliff. Too far from habitation to be a water reservoir. We still have no idea what it's for if indeed it has a purpose and are hesitant to offer suggestions for fear of insulting the natives. Maybe an artwork? Perhaps a receptacle in which God can discreetly urinate!?

An enormous bowl An enormous bowl
The mind boggles

Dotted all the way down the coast were these enormous mansions sitting right on the edge of cliffs, with nothing around them. Not a bad view but we can't help but wonder what happens during hurricane season, sitting exposed like they are. From what we have seen all the roofs are tiled and they are not tied down (as per the building codes of tropical Australia post-Tracy). Much of the coast line is remote with no public access. Apart from small fishing towns (normally located on or near tidal lagoons or protected bays because of the need for safe landing spots for the fishing pangas, and like where we anchor) there is nothing at all for 10s of miles except these odd mansions.

wed january 3, 2007

Went ashore, strolled up to the mega resort tucked into the corner of the bay, checked and answered urgent emails, wandered back to the palapa and had a snack and a couple of refreshing ales, and headed back to the boat. We thought we might invite the anchorage for a beach BBQ the following night and Robin went to scout out the beach area to see if a fire was feasable. On the way back he called into Raptor Dance, which has Bill and Mary onboard and they immediately invited us over to meet the Mayor of Tenacatita (each year the cruisers from the deep North of the Americas elect a mayor for the season - kind of bemusing but it does provide a central point for organizing activities of various kinds, entertainment, rubbish collection etc) and we all polished off a few very nice reds. Turns out the Mayor was holding a raftup Friday night, where all the boats head out on their dinghy's and tie themselves to each other and pass around finger food, books, dvd's etc. So the BBQ idea was postponed in favor of Friday night's activities.

thurs january 4, 2007

Bahia Tenacatita is really an interesting achorage in this part of the coast. We left early this morning in order to take advantage of the incoming tide, to do what the guidebooks call a "jungle" tour - a stream that runs through the mangroves towards the entrance to the bay. (Explanation for non-Yanks: "Jungle" means anything that is any sort of thicket that is not tamed, not European etc. It doesn't have to have monkeys and swinging vines beloved of Tarzan, ie a rainforest. It can even be what we would call "the bush". Of course its bound to have a myriad of insects known as bugs and pronounced "burrgs" with much eye-rolling by our North American associates). The current on the outcoming tide can run to 4 or 5 knots over the rocky entrance bar so going in on the incoming tide and out on the outflowing tide makes sense. But we learnt that the level inside the mangrove channel does not drop more than a couple of feet because the reservoir of water is too large to drain at each tide. The entire round trip takes about 3 hours working with the tides.

The mangroves definitely made us nostalgic for Australia but there were noticable differences. The leaves weren't as dark and glossy, and these mangroves had no air roots coming up out of the mud, only the long feeder roots going down from the main trunk area into the water. We were disappointed not to have seen hide nor hair of any crocodiles which are supposed to hunt iguanas throughout the river. Nevertheless the trip was a ton of fun, especially dodging the pangas who were ferrying guests from the hotel and powering around blind corners at about 10 knots. As usual the drivers were experts and there was no real danger (however read later about the collision with Soniadora).

We beached the dinghy at the end of the trip and walked over to Tenacatita Village, a beach front lined with palapa restaurants and stores. The snorkelling off the beach amongst Las Escolleras Reef was interesting, but like all these reefs they don't hold a candle to the Great Barrier Reef, and your hard pressed to keep your attention on the sparseness of the landscape. No real coral yet! However the rock formations were indeed spectacular if the reef was lacking in abundance of fish and coral. Had the usual palapa lunch at the usual reasonable prices - $5-10 a meal and $1.50 a beer. One common treat is a green coconut for $1. There are coconut palms everywhere down the coast sometimes planted in rows. The green coconut is especially good since once you have drunk the milk the helpful server will (if you know to ask) crack it open and you can spoon out the flesh which should have a consistency of blamange (before it hardens to the more well known coconut) - almost a meal in itself.

Mangoes on sticks and other fruit is very popular.

fri january 5, 2007

There were a dozen yachts anchored around us and the announcement that morning on the usual VHF net was Bocce Ball on the beach and Mexican Train Dominoes starting around noon and a Dinghy Raft up later. Was pretty good fun. Bocce Ball was the usual French rules (we have been allowed to mention the French since leaving Bushville) made more interesting by the slope of the beach, the water being out-of-bounds etc. So various initial tosses of the little white object ball made for very different conditions. The dominoes had the attraction of being played at the palapa restaurant with beer on hand and was a variant of dominoes (presumably local or maybe just local to crusiing yachties) where there were many more dominoes and each player could start his own train from a central point which swapped to anyone's train if that player could not put down a domino. Later the dinghy raft-up. Everyone brought a plate to pass around from dinghy to dinghy and as soon as the food had been eaten it was time to stand up in turn and describe one's origins and motivations etc. Had a bit of the feeling of a psychiatrist's group session. (We later heard that on Valentine's day everyone was expected to describe how they met!). We couldn't quite understand how it was possible to anchor in one spot long enough to be elected mayor etc, but diplomatically kept these doubts to ourselves. There's the rest of Mexico and then the rest of the world to SEA! There are of course many different cruisers and some are preparing to puddle jump (the Pacific) in the next few weeks. But for others the umbilical has already stretched a long way to Bahia Tenacatita.

barra navidad, mexico

sat january 6, 2007

Headed on over to Barra this morning. Our plan was to spend one night in the marina (which we found to be 120US dollars a night), get the boat cleaned, the washing done, the vacuuming done then head on out to the anchorage in Barra Lagoon. Amazingly this was all accomplished in addition to a swim on the morning before we left. It sure felt wonderful to be able to waste some water in a hot shower. The Grand Barra Hotel was truly an impressive establishment, surrounded in lush tropical gardens, with 5 restuarants, 6 swimming pools, swim up bar, etc and then we discovered it cost over 1k dollars (or was it $500) per night to stay there. We got a bargain being able to use the entire facilities and pay just 130 dollars at the Marina and no wonder there were not too many guests.

A funny thing was the resort was on the right hand side of the channel entrance to the lagoon, and was in the State of Colima, while the fishing village of Barra Navidad itself was on your left as you entered the breakwater and was in the State of Jalisco. We decided to give the port captain a miss as it was just too much bother dealing with the red tape of two conflicting States.

The fishing village of Barra Navidad is spread out along the beach front, with the lagoon forming behind the sand spit. This view is from the lagoon side.

sun january 7, 2007

Robin jumped in the dinghy first thing this morning as soon as the sun was up and headed on out with the handheld depth sounder to make sure we had enough water to get into the lagoon and anchor. Having worked out where the channel was and where we could anchor with our 9foot draft, he headed on back to the marina in time for a special treat. Monsieur the French Baker called on the VHF to announce he was selling croissants and baguettes. We can't tell you how good they tasted after a few months of non-stop Mexican food.

Thus having satiated ourselves and gained another 10 lbs in weight, we left the dock and crawled our way very slowly down the channel and into the spot Robin had scouted earlier. It was about the only really deep water hole available in the lagoon and we were very lucky to have it. Later in the day Nonni with their 6foot draft arrived, entered the channel and immediately ran aground as do about 40% of the boats who try to get in there so we felt kind of proud we were able to pull it off without a hitch.

The crew of Fantasia Geoff, Anne, Christa and Julie dropped over along with Melinda off Daydreams and we caught up with news from Moss Landing and what we'd been doing since we last saw them. It was so great to see them all again.

Palapa island in the middle of the lagoon.

mon january 8, 2007

First thing this morning Geoff and Anne from Fantasia invited us to breakfast, showing us on the way to a neat spot to park the dinghy which is unbelievably difficult at times to do. It never ceases to amaze us how inconvenient it is for cruisers to be able to tie up a dinghy somewhere. That night we decided we'd have all of them over for dinner since they'd missed out on the farewell dinner in Moss Landing and Michelle wanted to give Anne some spices. Anne's father was originally from Iraq and one of our favorite spice mixes, baharat, comes from the Middle East so we spent the afternoon cooking up a chicken dish which favors the use of these spices. It was a tremendous hit as always.

malaque, mexico

tues january 9, 2007

We were running a little low on water so decided we needed to head on over to Melaque, just to the north of Barra, but stll located in the same bay. It's a very quaint seaside village, mainly catering to the tourist crowd along the beaches with untold numbers of palapas lining the shore, but the main part of the town just a few blocks back off the beach is an awesome spot for provisioning. Thus we headed on over and decided we really needed to practice our stern anchoring technique. Robin decided to add the 18lb Danforth to the 33lb Bruce anchor we use for the stern and put a float on it so we could see where it was. He had all this ready for deployment from the dinghy so all we had to do when we got to the anchorage was drop the mainhook, jump in the dinghy and deploy the stern anchors. The extra weight worked like a charm and seemed to grab straight away. Only time and some stiff breeze will tell if we've been successful or not.

wed january 10, 2007

The anchor seems to be a great success. Maybe we've finally worked out a solution. Probably the use of chain as rode would ensure further security but at the moment we're loathe to deploy the extra weight when we have to haul it all in by hand.

OMG we cooked a meal on the boat tonight. Wonders will never cease. It's just that it's often so cheap to eat Mexican food we've all but given up cooking. Things will certainly change when we get back up into the Sea of Cortez where there's no ready palapas lining the remote beaches (as far as we know!).

carrizal cove, mexico

thurs january 11, 2007

Today we head for Manzanillo with a planned stop in a remote Cove. We left midmorning and coasted down the coast, crawling into the anchorage in the late afternoon. The anchorage is one of the most peaceful places we've been in. Surrounded totally by cliff faces and mountains, there's not a building in site and we were the only one's in the anchorage. Just as we were scouting out the anchorage however Robin realized we had forgotten to wind in the fishing lines and one ended up wound around the prop. A nice task for the morning will be diving down under the boat and untangling the mess.

las hadas, mexico

fri january 12, 2007

First order of the day was to sort out the tangle of fishing cord. We have been using a bungee set up which consists of 60 feet of thin cord, a rubber bungee at the end secured to the boat, and a length of fishing line with lure attached at the end. We had tangled about 30 feet of the cord and all the fishing line. Michelle dove in to check the mess and immediately saw a huge Huachinango (Red Snapper) cleaning some of the scum off the bottom of the keel. Damn where's the fishing line when you need it. When Robin finally dove under to cut it all away part of the cord had actually melted onto the prop shaft. Took a few good tries to get it all free.

We said a reluctant goodbye to the wonderful cove which had been our hotel room for the night and set a course for Las Hadas in Bahia Manzanillo a few miles across the Bay from the City. The entire Manzanillo area is high tourist area with hotels lining the various beaches and coves heading down to the main port. Las Hadas itself is a huge resort built on the side of a cliffy penisula, the buildings being of Moorish design above a circular marina pool.

A 100 degree panoramic view on 2 sides of our anchorage.

We dropped anchor just outside the Marina entrance in a small inlet, finding a spot amongst the 15 or so boats already anchored there. Went ashore to find the Harbor Master so as we could check in and he was gone until late afternoon. While pondering what to do next we met Jay, one of the Crew of the huge mega yacht, Crescendo who promptly dragged us down to the local Marina store for a beer (half the price of the resort beer) and entertained us with wild stories for a few hours. While there, the rest of Crescendo's crew strolled on in and we met Jehuda and Chris to while away the afternoon hours in delightful company. That evening, Jay talked us into jumping in a cab and heading down to a place on the main drag where if you buy a beer you get an appertizer compliments of the chef. Free food always tastes pretty damn good.

sat january 13, 2007

This morning we had a hair-raising bus trip into the City. You could hear the brakes on this bus coming from 1/2 a mile away. Extremely steep roads and hairpin bends leading down off the peninsula above where Warrior was anchored. Jumped off that bus for breakfast; still haven't found any good coffee since Mazatlan and were disappointed again. (We were to find that Robin can make better coffee on the boat than any place we tried south of Mazatlan). Then caught the bus into downtown area to scout out where the Immigration, Port Captains office was and to look around. Lunched at a very old original colonial hotel but otherwise the City did not do much to impress us. Caught bus back to Soriana's (a large supermarket chain) and grabbed a few groceries then headed back to the boat.

sun january 14, 2007

Spent the morning and the better part of the afternoon swimming in the resort pool and having a very laid back day. Caught the end of the football game (US finals) and then prepared to head on over to the mega yacht Crescendo for dinner. The owners had departed so the crew had us over for a rare treat. Jay cooked and regaled us with more stories. The crew are waiting to load the motor yacht onto a large ship for transport thru' Panama to Florida where the owners will rejoin the ship and do a tour of the East coast.

mon january 15, 2007

Went ashore early this morning and got our crew list stamped for exiting Las Hadas - decided it was too much hassle to try and get our visas renewed after travelling by bus to the City (little did we know how much hassle!). Exchanged email addresses and said our farewells to the crew of Crescendo who we will miss and left Hadas for Maruata. (Jay is not travelling on with the boat and lives in Arizona with frequent trips to the Sea of Cortez so maybe we can meet up again with him). Actually this was again one of those decisions which got changed halfway through the trip. Our initial aim was to stop at Cabeza Negra but ended up heading straight to Maruata, a 46NM jump. There was two reasons for this: there was very little wind which meant we'd have to do a night time entrance, something we avoid doing if at all possible and the swell was all wrong for the Cabeza Negra anchorage. It would have been an uncomfortable, roly poly spot to stop.

maruata, mexico

tues january 16, 2007

Arrived Maruata 3:30pm and we were the only boat there. The winds were as usual fickle but again managed to be strongest just when its time to down the main. It was a very pretty spot, with the tiny fishing village spread out along the beach front but the waves were far too strong to attempt a beach landing in the dinghy so we opted for a swim off the boat, then ate dinner, watched the sun go down and headed to bed. Life is rough isn't it?

caleta de campos, mexico

wed january 17, 2007

It's a conspiracy. Whenever we're enjoying ourselves in an anchorage there's bound to be terrific sailing conditions. As soon as we decide to up anchor and set sail, the wind becomes as fickle as can be and decides to play hide-and-seek. That apparently is normal coastal sailing in these parts.

We had a very slow trip down to Caleta de Campos. Left at 7:30am this morning and finally crawled into the anchorage around 4:30pm in the afternoon, 9 hours to travel just 40NM which is way slower than we like to travel. Tacked to keep a broad reach and the jib filled (still threatening to get the poles working!) but of course having tacked out a few miles on the penultimate try the wind died altogether and it was back to the iron lung (or stay out all night). Nevertheless it was a beautiful day on the water, we got to sunbathe and just enjoy being out on the big blue wobbly thing. As soon as we arrived, we jumped overboard for a swim, then tossed the dinghy into the water and went ashore to enjoy the local festivities.

isla ixtapa aka isla grande, mexico

thurs january 18, 2007

Went ashore mid-morning to explore the town up the hill. After a zig-zag follow-your-nose promenade in rather hot sunny conditions we found the main street. "Tossed a coin" to choose a lunch spot at one of the small eating places. The daughter of the owners came home for lunch and we were later impressed by the 7 items of clothing she wore when she went off back to school for the afternoon (seemingly cool despite the heat). Like all the local kids her clothes were spotless, ironed, no hair out of place etc. The towns might be dusty, the buildings half finished or finished and half falling down, but almost everyone is clean and tidy. Away from the tourist areas (and unlike the US) there are no beggars. Everyone seems well fed or actually greatly over fed (have since heard that Mexican men commonly prefer women with large corporations - just as well!).

There was not much wind again today and we figured tomorrow was going to be just as slow so we decided to up anchor around 7pm tonight and bob along at a few knots all the while heading South with no pressure to arrive anywhere before dark. We'd planned on stopping at Lazaro Cardenas 33 NM to the SE, and at 2knots we should make it in about 15hours or so. Hopefully the wind gods will shine upon us. All down the coast the winds had been fickle but we have managed to sail (unlike many cruisers when we say sail we mean we don't have the motor on) more than half the time - our usual rule has been to motor only if we fall below 3 knots for a substantial period or we need to go into an anchorage before dark. Tonight we decided we would sail no matter what low speed we got down to.

Around 9:30pm we had a surprise visit from the Mexican Navy. It's the first time we've been boarded in Mexico, and I think at first Robin nearly had a heart attack because they literally appeared on his bow with no warning, no lights, just an apparition in the dark. He'd seen a blip on the radar roughly 5 miles away but they travel so fast and within minutes they had closed a gap that would have taken us 2 hours at the pace we were going. It was pitch black with no moon and suddenly there they were in our face with a big white bow wave. Robin did a 90 degree turn just in case, yelling for all hands on deck, which added to the confusion since Michelle is the captain and he is the only hand. It was a relief to learn it was the Navy, tho' we did not know quite what to expect from them.

It was the lack of wind that had actually worked against us for since we were bobbing along at a couple of knots we'd drawn their attention. This part of the Michoacan coast is well known apparently for drug running and since we were going so slow and were so close into the coast still, they thought perhaps we were waiting for a pickup. To add to the confusion we'd had the VHF tuned to channel 22 which is the cruisers net and it keeps all the gringos off the Mexican channels. Of course channel 16 is the frequency the Navy was trying to hail us on and it took a while for Michelle to figure out why they were circling the boat. Finally we remembered to switch back to channel 16 and they let us know they were sending a boarding officer over to check our paperwork.

Getting him onboard provided a few hairy moments with one of our solar panels being in the direct line of collision and we were flopping about in a mixed sea but he managed to finally climb aboard whereby Michelle immediately charmed the socks off him by offering to photocopy all our documentation for him so he virtually had nothing to do other than stand there and chat. Turns out he was from Mazatlan so he was thrilled to talk about his beautiful city and the surrounds and with documents in hand, a few questions answered he was ready to depart in no time. He left us with one warning, please monitor channel 16 on the VHF along this part of the coast and don't hesitate to call the Mexican Navy if we have any problems. All in all not so bad a boarding but it sure served to remind us to make sure our paperwork is always in order.

The boarding officer's parting comment was don't bother going into Lazaro Cardenas as it's really only a commercial port with not much there to entice a cruiser to want to stop over so we decided if we can't get certain items fixed in Zihua we'd stop by on the way back up the coast. Thus having expunged the Mexican Navy from the boat, we continued bobbing our way down the coast until the wind finally began picking up towards Midnight, right at the end of Michelle's watch. She unfurled the jib and handed the watch over to Robin, who made pretty good time overall, with Warrior cruising up over 4knots by the time Michelle came back on watch at 4:30am. Robin was dragged from Slumber at 8:30am and after making coffee, he let the reefs out of the mainsail and set sail for Isla Ixtapa, which lay 64NM SE of Caleta de Campos. Warrior was now travelling at over 5 knots. At this pace we will be there in another 5hours.

fri january 19, 2007

Arrived at Isla Grande in the late afternoon, the wind having died of course during the morning which slowed us down considerably. We anchored at first in the Northern Bay but it was so crowded with powerboats running generators that we decided to up anchor and head around to the anchorage between the island and the mainland. It was much quieter on this side, the anchorage consisting of all sailing yachts and one single powerboat which wasn't running a engine which throbs through your head at 100 decibels. Having settled in for the night we sat out on deck and took in the magnificient view of islands, mountains on the mainland, tropical palms, truly a paradise.

sat january 20, 2007

Spent the day hiking the island, checking out the snorkelling, coral coves, beaches and heading back around to lunch and read books under the shade of an umbrella at one of the palapas. Unfortunately the fish (a huachinango or red snapper in English) we ordered for lunch was no where near as good as some of the previous samples and we were quite disappointed in it not to mention the price. We have had such good food in Mexico it comes as a shock to have a middling-bad meal.

zihuatanejo, mexico

sun january 21, 2007

Zihautanejo - 17o38.060N 101o33.290W. This is the furtherest South we are planning on going before heading back to spend the summer in the Sea of Cortez or as they say in Mexico, Golfo de California.

Up anchored early this morning and powered by jib alone (its always a treat not to have to bother raising the mainsail) we headed the last 8 miles to arrive in Bahia Zihuatanejo. After alot of fairly straight coastline (modest indentations with a couple of marginal anchorages) Zeewat is a substantial bay with a fairly narrow entrance and surrounded by steep hills. Arrived to a hearty welcome from Julia who we hadn't seen since Cabo. She had flown down to PV to crew on Edelwiess III with Pete and Jack and heard us call in on the VHF. After getting the boat anchored and making sure everything was set we all headed in to find some breakfast and coffee. Headed over to Rick's bar (the local cruiser's hangout) and set up access to the internet for the month that we'll be here (which cost an arm and a leg) and then went for a walk all the way to La Ropa beach and back, the other side of the bay. Was a fantastic relaxing day spent in delightful company.

mon january 22, 2007

Trekked to immigration this morning to renew our 90 day visas (gringos get 180 days so maybe Australian immigration has got round to pissing off the Mexican equivalent like they have in many other countries. Sigh! It does not help travelling Australians. Found out that we have to photocopy every page of our passports (including blank pages), and provide other stuff like a photocopy of credit cards etc, and pay a fee at a local bank. Dinghied across the bay in the afternoon for an informal gathering of cruisers at "Owen's place". He is an 80 something gringo who has been here for decades, long before it became touristy. Three of the cruisers provided pretty good jazz guitar music, and the rest played cards and Mexican train dominoes. We snorkelled on an adjacent small coral reef - lots of small fish but not much stuff that we would label coral.

tues january 23, 2007

Planning Meeting for sailfest

SailFest is a five-day festival, the first of which was held 5 years ago, and it has gained international recognition as a "major" event. It combines fun and games, heart-felt volunteerism and an outpouring of international friendship. Although the tone of the event is light-hearted, the cruisers goals are serious we raise funds for the education of Zihuatanejos poorest children. Cocktail parties, live auctions, sailboat and dinghy races, poker chases, kids day, beach parties, seminars, ham radio tests, chili cook-offs, street fairs, regattas and just some good old fashioned manual labor at the schools are just some of the crazy events that highlight the gathering of these goofy lot of free spirits wandering around the high seas.

In 2006 the "cruisers" raised almost $28,000.00 dollars, which funded improvements in various schools in Zihuatanejo and the surrounding area. Thanks to the generous matching funds of the Bellack Foundation, the Underwood Foundation, and Pete Boyce Jr. from the S.V. Edelweiss III this number was increased to almost $57,000.00 dollars! The funds are administered by Por Los Ninos of Zihuatanejo, a Mexican registered non-profit corporation that was established to administer the funds raised by Sail Fest related activities. A nine member advisory committee composed of year round international residents, local bilingual Mexican residents and representatives of the sailing community makes all funding decisions.

In the true spirit of a "rendezvous" vessels began arriving in early November from as far away as Alaska and the Caribbean and dropped anchor waiting for February to arrive in order to participate in what is becoming one of Mexico's premier sailing events, the Zihua Sail Fest. One couple Michelle spoke to said they had planned their holiday in Zihua just to attend this event even though they didn't even own a boat. Amazing. Michelle attended planning meetings, but Robin decided that a long career of committee meetings was all behind him and that others could experience the joys of public meetings better if he was reading a book on a park bench up the other end of a palm and fern lined mall.

wed january 24, 2007

However we both visited two of the poorest schools in Zihuatanejo today. One of the schools, Netzahualcoyotl, has been completed using the funds from previous sail fests. The second school, Nueva Creacion is a work in progress.

The original Netzahualcoyotl school.

The school today.

Located up a winding, dirt road, high in the hills above Zihuatanejo bay, the community of Colonia Vicente Guerrero is perched like an eagle on a nest. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Most of the residents are families lured here from poor rural villages, indigenous regions and worn-out farms to look for work. Most live in hand-built, one-room houses with dirt floors; many lack electricity, running water and sanitary facilities. Although they're not rich in any material sense, the families of Vicente Guerrero possess a wealth of dignity and pride, combined with a strong community spirit.

The kids are mostly descendents of the original "indian" people that were here before the Spanish came. They mostly don't speak Spanish and so there is not much incentive to go to the normal Mexican schools. Also all the normal schools are free, it still costs parents about $200 a year for uniforms and books and these people cannot afford that. Traditionally the kids thus get no education and the cycle repeats. So the community decided their kids needed their own special school and set to work. The parents held meetings, recruited volunteers and formed work teams. Using picks and shovels, they cut away and leveled two rocky patches of steep hillside land unofficially donated by a sympathetic government agency. One plot for the school; the other for a small childrens play area.

In the fall of 1999, with scavenged and donated materials, the parents worked evenings and weekends to realize their common dream. They improved the dirt road and built a lighted walkway to make it easier for the children to climb the steep hill. Within a few months, a makeshift, four-room schoolhouse, furnished with a few handmade and used desks and donated blackboards, was ready to receive their 87 bright-eyed, young scholars. The mayor of Zihuatanejo, impressed by their commitment, contributed partial salaries to hire three idealistic, young teachers. Three other teachers work as unpaid volunteers. The deservedly proud parents named the school Nueva Creacin, which means new creation. News of this new school spread like wildfire, and the enrolment quickly swelled from 87 to 102 and now, 152, eager children, all who cannot afford to attend regular school. The classes are growing by two or three new children every month.

The Nueva Creacion school perched on the side of the cliff.

The new school site, cleared and ready for construction.

Several organizations, the "Por Los Nios de Zihuatanejo" foundation, SailFest, the city of Zihuatanejo, Los Nios Incorporated and the Zihua Rotary Club International, have together established the Nueva Creacin Building Fund to help build a new, permanent primary school for the children on 5,000 sq. meters of safe, nearly-level land donated by the city. Last year Sailfest raised 57,000 dollars. This year they hope to at least match this amount. Hence we've made the trip all the way down the Mexican coast just to be in Zihua for this event.

thurs january 25, 2007

Ah don't you love bureaucracy. Armed with all our photocopies of every page of our passport, bankcards, FMTs, and other documents that amounted to over an inch thick of paperwork, we headed to the bank to pay the 90 day visa extension fees. Three banks later we finally admitted defeat and with our tails between our legs went back to immigration to see if they could help. It turns out the first little lass decided to give us the run around by telling us we were to go to the bank, give them a number which they could punch into their computer and we would pay the sum of 237 pesos each and voila all would be right with the world. In reality this was not possible without a formal piece of paper. When we went back we got a young gentleman this time who took all our documentation, duly gave us the said piece of paper and sent us off to pay the amount at the bank. Only problem with that was there was a line of about 150 people at the bank and it was 12:45. Immigration closes at 1:00pm and we needed in addition two photocopies each of the payment. So it will be back to immigration again tomorrow.

fri january 26, 2007

Back to immigration first thing this morning, proudly presented the payment details complete with photocopies and they produced yet another problem. Oh sir no no no, you need photocopies of the "backs" of the credit cards. Michelle had finally had enough and said you could have told us this YESTERDAY but you looked through everything and said it was fine. At that she promptly told Robin to deal with it and walked out the door. The guy seemed to get enough of a shock that he went to their own photocopier (yes by gosh they do actually have one sheesh) and copied the backs of the cards for us. That amounted to almost a days work for him - he broke out into a sweat. Anyway with everything finally submitted we were told to come back in a week. A WEEK! All this anxiety over a tourist visa. So we get to wait another week before we get that little stamp in our passport that will allow us to stay and spend money in their country (and help raise money for their schools). The mind boggles. But then we haven't been deported to the equivalent of Christmas Island or Nauru.

When the going gets tough the tough go shopping or in this case they decide to brave a mexican hairdresser. Michelle decided it was more than time to deal with the abundance of grey regrowth and finally got up the nerve to have her hair done. It's a harrowing experience trying to speak broken Spanish to people who speak absolutely zero English and come out with a hairdo that isn't a disaster. Amazingly it worked out well, although she's blonder than ever and Robin's wondering where the brunette got to.

Afer the hairdresser, Julia and Michelle, (read the girls) did lunch and then got to go shopping. Michelle bought a couple of light blouses which she badly needed since her wardrobe consisted of very few items which were cool. Robin met us later in the afternoon and we went to dinner and said our farewells to Julia who would be flying out tomorrow for rainy cold blustering San Francisco. We do not envy her one bit.

sat january 27, 2007

Cruisers and locals together built a storage shed for building materials at the new school site today. The local council wouldn't deliver the building supplies until there was somewhere safe they could be locked away. The entire shed went up in a day.

Working bee for the storage shed.

Anywhere else in the world you'd probably find the rich and famous on the high land with the poor on the flats. In Zihua it's reversed, and what a view these people have. Being poor here definitely has its perks.

sun january 28, 2007

Knowing what is in store for us in the coming week, we decided to hibernate on the boat today and take a much needed RnR.

mon january 29, 2007

Today Michelle spent the entire day and most of the night working the registration table for Sailfest. Robin, the wise lad that he is, knowing this most definitely wasn't the place for him, hid on the boat reading a book. At lunch break Michelle decided long hair and heat were becoming mutually exclusive. Instead of cutting it though (which would have meant instant divorce) she got this bright idea of having it braided. The results were amazingly cool. This is definitely the way to go in tropical humid conditions.

Rudolf the red nosed pixy!

tues january 30, 2007

A quick meeting this morning to run through the itinerary for Sailfest, Michelle again worked the registration desk, Robin again hid on the boat (fixed a broken rail stanchion) and thus another day disappeared in the preparations for the main part of the festivities.

Sometime around here we met up with Roger (NZ) and Sally (nee Padman, daughter of a once-upon-a-time optometrist in Brisbane St., Launceston, Tas.) off Kenna. They are presently living in New Mexico where Roger is doing a physics research project using SBIR funds (like Robin had in CA). They plan to retire soon and sail off forever like us. Visited their boat (steel hull) one late afternoon. On another day many cruisers dinghied across the Bay to spend the afternoon at a palapa resort begun many years ago by a ex-pat Yank, now octogenerian, of the name Owens. There was a small coral reef off shore which was OK for snorkelling.

wed january 31, 2007

Sailfest officially begins today and we already feel exhausted. There were two seminars today, one on servicing watermakers, an essential piece of equipment on a boat. Ours keeps our watertanks full, making 10 gallons an hour from seawater at a cost of 1 amp hour per gallon. I couldn't imagine living without it. The 2nd seminar was on SSB radios given by Bill off Raptor Dance who is always a card. Our SSB hasn't been working since just outside of Ensenada so we are not up to speed on much of what he spoke about but there were some good nuggets of information we have stowed away for future reference.

Wow just realized it's our anniversary. We've been officially living on the boat for exactly one year. How time flies!