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Mexico: Puerto Vallarta to Zihuatanejo 12.12.2004 - 8.1.2005

12.12.    17.12.   1.1.   8.1.  

12.12.2004 Melaque / Barra Navidad, Mexico
We left Puerto Vallarta gladly behind and sailed overnight to Chamela, a bay 97 miles south. We anchored behind a small cactus island, away from the main anchorage with several boats. Chamela may remain the only "private" anchorage for us in Mexico, so many cruisers there are here. The next bay, Tenacatita had 26 boats at busiest - all Americans. It's a bit weird: nowhere, not even in US, have we seen only one nation represented. Well, Mexico is the neighbour, that must be the reason. Among the sailboats were three motorvessels, which tells something about the conditions here.
Chamela was very nice, in addition to the privacy. The island with huge cactus plants was beautiful, although barren and dry. The only negative thing was the stink from the bird poop: the island was full of gannets, frigatebirds and vultures. The gannets were tame, they just stared us when we were walking by. Birds were sitting on the top of the cactus trees, obviously not bothered by the spines. Many plants were worn out and bald, coloured white from the bird excrement.

In Chamela we finally got into the water, swimming and snorkling. Sea temperature is approximately 27 C, no need for any kind of wetsuit. Last time we had such numbers in Hawaii one and half years ago. After Alaska we really appreciate the warmth again.
We found beautiful and healthy coral in the reefs close to the island, and lots of various, colourful reef fish. Auli saw even a sea snake.

We celebrated the Independence Day (Finland 87 years) this time not with Sibelius, but the following Finnish musicians: Edu Kettunen, J. Karjalainen, Topi Sorsakoski, Juha Vainio, Eppu Normaali, Hurriganes, Vesa-Matti Loiri, Samuli Edelman, Hector, Riki Sorsa, Kirka.

After three days and nights we motored (no wind) to Tenacatita 20 miles away. The thing in this bay is the "jungle river", a narrow route surrounded by mangroves. Our canoe was perfect for the trip. The river got narrower and narrower, and finally the mangroves were touching each other above our heads, forming a green cave. It was nice and cool. We paddled about two hours upstream and came out to a beach full of cafes and a few modest hotels. We ate a simple and inexpensive lunch and paddled back. Next morning we paddled to the beach via seaside, ate lunch, and took the river back to the boat. That evening we were in bed at seven.

From Tenacatita we motored 13 miles in flat calm to Bahia Navidad, Christmas Bay. It has two different anchorages: a partly open bay opposite the small village of Melaque, where we are at the moment; and a lagoon nearby the village of Barra Navidad. We bicycled today to Barra Navidad. The village is pittoresque and the anchorage shelterd, but there are more boats and hotter. We also heard that the water in the lagoon isn't clean. In our bay there are only three American sailboats, one from Alaska. Melaque has local tourists and RV's (motorhomes). No, not from US, from Quebec Canada.

Twenty-some American boaters in Tenacatita arranged 
a dinghy-party one evening. We shy Finns didn't join, so the whole
gang drifted next to Kristiina to chat.

17.12.2004 Zihuatanejo, Mexico
This difficult name derives from Aztec words cihuatl (woman) and tlan (place) i.e. the Place of Women. Spaniards added the diminutiv nejo because of the small size of the bay. Name is also referring to goddess cihuateteo. Z-town, as it's called among the cruisers, should be a nice place. We hope so, because we are spending almost a month here, including Christmas and the three- week holiday of Auli's brother and his family.

After three pleasant days in Melaque we left for the 200-mile passage to Zihuatanejo. Forecast promised fresh wind, but because we didn't have any wind during the day, we anchored for the night near Manzanillo. The first sailday was miserable: the wind rose to promised 15-20 knots, and further to 30 knots, which together with a strong current made the seas very confused. Especially when the wind died in the evening. The waves were like at Baltic Sea, coming from every direction, beating Kristiina and killing the speed. The next day we had normal sea breeze, which gave an average of 4 knots with main, genoa and mizzen staysail. However, the 180 mile passage took 48 hours, it might be a record of slowness.
The days were opposite also in terms of fish luck. First day we lost a good size mahi-mahi, the best tropical fish in my mind. It was already hooked, when the line broke and the fish fight itself lose. We felt bad, also for the mahi-mahi, because it had the lure and hook in its mouth and a bleeding hole in its body. Mahi-mahi is a fighter, it jumps and kicks. The excitement and joy was at top the next morning, when another mahi-mahi caught the line. And this was big! We were wiser from the previous time, and Hannu fight one and half hours with the fish, trying to tire it down. Finally we got it up! The fish was kicking in the cockipit so that we had blood everywhere and the fish hook was broken. It was almost five feet long and weighted about 35 pounds (according our rusty weight, hm). Lifting a heavy fish aboard over the aft pulpit and windvane is not easy. That's the critical moment, you think you have it, but while you are hoisting the catch, it gets free.

Mahi mahi or dolphinfish (coryphaena hippurus) 
has beautiful colour and is very tasty tropical fish.

A bit cleaning to do afterwards.

On Sunday, the 12th of December, is the day for Virgin of Guadalupe, the dark skinned Virgin Maria. We were by coincidence in Melaque and saw the village parade: dancers, players and town people singing and carrying flowers. The legend of the dark Virgin Maria dates back to 1531, when an Indian man, converted to catholic faith by the Spaniards, was walking to a mass. The Virgin revealed to him, telling that a temple should be built for Her. The man went to see the Spanish bishop, who didn't believe the story. On his way back, the Virgin revealed again, saying that if the man would take roses to the bishop, he would believe him. The man was wondering where to get roses in this barren land, but saw for his astonishment that the usually dry hill was full of flowers. He picked the roses, took them to bishop, who now believed him. A small temple was built in Tepeyac, same place where conquistadors had destroyed an Aztec temple. The Vatikan recognised the miracle in 1745, and in 2002 the Indian man, named Juan Diego when babtised, was declared as a saint. His mantle is kept in a basilica, which was built in 1976 to same place than the original temple. The Virgin of Guadalupe gathers about 15 million pilgrims to Mexico City each year, which makes it one of the most popular pilgrim destinations within the romancatholic church. (Source: The Colony Reporter.)

The Virgin of Guadalupe

Many villagers wore traditional costume

Different dance groups were...

...participating the parade.


1.1.2005 Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Happy new Year. Sorry about the delay in updating, the holiday streched. Also the Christmas Day news from Asia made our life look small and it felt idle to tell about every-day things. We have cruiser friends in Thailand. Opposite to so many, the sailors survived: about a hundred yachts were able to escape the tsunami waves from Phuket anchorage to the open sea. Among them our Swedish friends s/y Li and s/y Elenor.

On Christmas Eve we went out for dinner with Miss Sophie's Harald and Verena. The food was middling, margaritas watery, bill wrong and service slow. But the soft sand under the feet, rush of the waves, moon in the sky and good company made the evening superb.

Hannu saved a pelican that had a fish hook 
in it's bill and wing. 

First the bird struggled, but then it maybe realised 
that it is helped and was calm. Hannu had to 
cut the hook in three parts to get it out.

After Christmas we moved from Zihuatanejo five miles south to Marina Ixtapa. Ixtapa is only hotels and tourist services. On the late 1970's it was decided to improve and invest on tourism in Zihuatanejo. Local people opposed building hotels in town, so the construction plans were moved to Ixtapa. A good decision, Zihuatanejo maintained its charm. Marina is dull and hot, but we were able to use water as much as we liked (in Zihuatanejo you get only drinking water in 20 litre bottles), and we could leave Kristiina safely when we took an overnight trip to Acapulco to meet Auli's brother and the family.

In Ixtapa only crocodiles and fish are swimming. 
In the evening we saw a big croco close to the boat.

It was interesting to drive inland, through small villages. The 240 km (150 miles) trip took four hours, and an additional hour driving through Acapulco to the airport. We thought that an easiest way to find a hotel was at the airport. Wrong. Acapulco's airport is very small and the only information desk was national aviation board's, where the girl couldn't speak English. Back to the road to ask. Nada. Nothing. All the hotels near the airport were full. We were already desperate, when things arranged like they do only in Mexico: we rented a whole house! With less money than two double rooms in a hotel. Next we had to buy drinks to the fridge, because the house lacked room service. Our inquires about a crocery got a very peculiar answear, Auli was dubious on her Spanish. But it was a peculiar system. A wall around the neighbourhood had a hole and there was a rope. When you pulled the rope, a bell rang in the shop, and the shopkeeper came to the hole. By road it was a long way to the crocery. System a la Mexico!

We couldn't find hotel rooms, so we rented a house!
It had two big bedrooms with bath.

Line in the crocery window

Antti, Kristiina and Anni arrived according the timetable after 24 hour trip from Helsinki. Anni was very pleased to have a private swimming pool and a late night swim. Next day - after a morning swim - we drove to Ixtapa and on the New Year's Eve we anchored in front of the Isla Grande beach. It's a busy place in the afternoons but fortunately quiet other times.

A reading hour.

8.1.2005 Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Remarks of Mexico by Anni, 10 years:
In Mexico, there is so hot, that you don't need warm clothes. In Mexico, some food is so hot, that you should consider before tasting. In Mexico, musicians ask people in restaurants if they want to listen to music. Jewellery sellers stroll on the beaches. 

Life in Zihuatanejo

We have been living on beach, either on one of the many Zihuatanejo's beaches or at Isla Grande, 9 miles from the town.

Antti got a  7 kg (15 lb) jurel, yellowtail.
The meet was red and it was used for a wok with vegetables.

* * *

Story of the tsunami waves by Boris and Lisbeth on the Swedish sailing yacht Li.

At about 09.30 (local time) Boris had coffee in cockpit with some friends, Jerk from Vindela and Tord from Yana. Suddenly ha asked "what's going on among the boats"? All the boats in the bay were turning around in different directions. Jerk and Tord took their dinghies back to their own boats for watching them. A swell lift the boats and went to shore. We watched our little beach and it was absolutely full of water. Because of high tide and full moon we thought, that was the reason. But when it returned we understood, this was something special. Afterwards we saw two cars, moved by the swell, standing on the beach.
The second swell reached the small restaurant, where we had our Christmas-eve-party, and even filled the big beach in front of us. Boris guessed "this must be a Tsunami or something like that". The third swell was the biggest one and when it reached shallow water it raised to a wave and splashed over the wall on the biggest beach and took all the small restaurants and shops, the chairs and umbrellas, the massage-tents and trees into the sea. We were also watching the sad desolation of our small restaurant. It went to the sea including everything in it, and the two cars and another one was tumbling around like toys.
There came more swells, but for the bay of Nai Harn it was over. The fancy resorts are more protected and have only small damages.
One small resort and village, on a third beach not sighted from us, all the small bungalows were totally destroyed and even the road rails were damaged.
We have heard that seven people lost their lives in our bay, and compared to what has happened in other bays this is a low number.
What did happen with all, more than hundred, yachts during the swells? Nothing! We were anchored on 15 meters of water and just followed the water up and down. Our opinion is, that it is much safer to be at sea.

During our travel, the last days, along the coast up to Ao Chalong and Phuket Town, we have not seen big damages and the life seems to continue with selling and serving along streets and beaches, as usual. The Thai people are very kindly, very hard working and very many and we must remember, this is their only way of earning money.
Boris & Lisbeth, s/y Li, Nai Harn, Phuket  07 46N   98 18E



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