The Sherwins' voyage through Mexico continues…
Barra de Navidad-
On December 30 we left Tenacitita and went South 10 miles to Barra de Navidad, a small village on the Eastern shore of Bahia de Navidad with a large modern harbor and a 5-star hotel, Grand Bay. The Marina is operated in conjunction with the Hotel, so we get full guest privileges for the use of the pool, restaurants, golf course, watersports, etc. Of course we also get the privilege of paying full 5-star rates for those things too.
You can anchor out in the lagoon just past the Marina, and at any given time there will be 4 to 10 boats out there. You can also anchor outside in the Bahia to the Northwest, just off the beach of the little town of Malaque, about 5 miles from Barra. The Port Captain has gotten a reputation of going after boats that stop even briefly in any of the anchorages and making them check in, (this means pay fees) which has caused some of the cruising community to attempt to boycott the town. I don't think it's had much effect, though. Fees are not unreasonable, about 441 pesos including the 200 peso fee that the agent charges to do the paperwork. Of course, this is each way, so we'll get hit again when we leave.
The Marina is a little peculiar. There are almost 200 slips, but they are double slips, meaning that two boats occupy the same slip with no dock between. That's common, but here they have made the slips too narrow to accommodate two average size cruising boats. For example, our boat is 15.5 feet wide, and the berth is only 30. Can't get two boats in. Cruisers that have boats small enough to fit the berths are not going to pay the stiff daily rent; they will anchor out instead. So you have a marina with 200 slips and only 50 boats. Over half of the double slips have no boats in them. And yet, when you call the Marina office for reservations, they give the impression they will "squeeze you in" somehow.
The marina is very nice, very clean compared to most, and, for our size boat, costs $58.00 US per day for 1 to 30 days, and $915 per month if you stay over 30 days, plus electricity at a flat rate of $115 per month. So if you stay 16 days, you've paid for a month. We thought, OK, we'll stay a month since we will pay for it anyway. But the usual wanderlust sets in after two weeks and we're ready to move on down South to Ixtapa and Zihuateneo.
Donna flew home to attend to business for a week. Actually, "flew" is too simplistic a word. She originally had tickets to San Jose from Puerto Vallarta, but because of the aforementioned wanderlust setting in, we left Puerto Vallarta and ended up in Barra de Navidad when she was due to fly home. So that presented a dilemma:
(here Donna fills in her rendition of the flight involving taxis, busses, airplanes and burros) Yes, well no actual burros, but a lot of stress. The meeting I needed to attend was critical and this was a very busy travel day with no seats available. I was terrified that if I cancelled the PV to Guadalajara and back parts they would somehow also cancel the Guadalajara to San Jose and back part and I would be taking the bus to Tijuana!!!! So I fussed and worried, but Luis at the concierge desk at the hotel made it all work beautifully. He is wonderful!! (Part of the high fees that are built in to the hotel of course.)
The plan was to take the bus to Guadalajara. First, the concierge people got my tickets straightened out, keeping the main flights and canceling the others. Then Luis said I had to take the ETN bus-the best possible. He arranged for Eduardo to pick me up at 6:30AM for an hour's cab ride to Santiago where I tried to get the 8AM bus that stops at the airport, but had to settle for the 9AM that doesn't. Four and a half hours later, after driving through some beautiful country, I arrived at an IMMENSE bus station the size of San Jose airport. Taxi to the airport, a four-hour wait and then a flight on Mexicana with what seemed like thousands of kids on board. That is probably where I caught the cold!!
Coming back the same way would not do, since I would be arriving Santiago by bus around midnight and then would need a cab. No thanks! Once again, Luis to the rescue. He arranged for El More (his nickname) to meet me at the airport in his private car and I was home by 8:30 PM. El More is a tour guide that works out of the Manzanillo area. Wish we had known about him earlier and hired him for the day. The country inland is beautiful and I learned about-and saw-the 2 volcanoes. One is active and at the rest stop there is a 3-part sign-No Danger, Get Ready, and Get Out. Not those exact words, but this is the alert system for the volcano. The highway is great with a small store and clean restrooms at every toll booth.
I couldn't believe the tolls. It was about $24 US for 3 tolls and some of the road traveled was just 2 lanes, not a freeway! Now back to Russ' story…
The town of Barra de Navidad is a typical small Mexican village. Most of the streets are brick or cobblestone, and outside of the major shopping areas, tend to be dirt. There are lots of small Tiendas selling the usual beads, baskets, hats, belts, etc that you find everywhere. No large grocery stores like there are in PV and Cabo and La Paz, just small 10 x 10 stores with a few canned goods and some wilted vegetables. The vegetable truck comes and parks on the street at noon each day, and this is the best bet for the freshest veggies.
There are several really good restaurants. One in particular, El Olivo, is a French/Mediterranean restaurant where we got several really fine meals for a decent price. It's directly across from the Hotel Barra de Navidad. In particular, the Leek and Seafood salad was to die for. Now, you have to understand that you won't find Parisian ambience here; it's an open air restaurant, right on the street, next to tumble down buildings and dusty streets with taco carts and street vendors peddling beads and baskets. But it's fine eating!
I attempted to find the SEMARNAP office in order to renew the fishing licenses, and did, except it isn't called that. Here it's the Department of Agriculture, but they do issue fishing licenses, or at least I think they do. The woman in the office spoke no English, and as near as I could make out, I could not renew my fishing licenses until they have actually expired, which is January 14. So I will wait and try again in Ixtapa.
January 15-17, 2002
We left Barra de Navidad on Sunday, January 13 and went just around the corner to a little anchorage called Carzal on the Northwest side of Bahia Manzanillo. This proved to be a delightful spot, small but very sheltered in a canyon with a beach on the far end. We just stayed that afternoon and night, and pulled out the next morning at 6 AM with Donna still in bed nursing a cold.
We intended to go to Caleta de Campos, about halfway to Ixtapa and stay Monday night. After getting under way, we thought we could break the trip into three parts by stopping Monday night at the small fishing village of Maruata about 80 miles Southeast, then Caleta de Campos the next night, arriving in Ixtapa Wednesday. We timed it to get to Maruata with some remaining sun in the late afternoon, but just an hour before arriving we picked up a Southeasterly swell, steep confused seas that rolled right into the anchorage, making it untenable. It's also very small and rock-strewn. Not a good place. We reckoned that Lizard Bay and Caleta de Campos would be just as bad, and besides, we'd have to approach them in the dark. So we blew off Maruata and elected to go on through the night all the way to Ixtapa. We had unfavorable currents that retarded our speed to 5.5 knots, and the same unfavorable steep head seas which made it quite lumpy for the first 4 hours. After 10 PM, however, things improved, and though it was a really dark night with no moon, the bright starlight did much to improve our dispositions.
Ixtapa seems to be a delightful place. The Marina Office handled our check-in paperwork for no fee, and the Marina fees are half what they were in Barra de Navidad. The marina is inhabited by crocodiles, "cocodrilos", here when the place was an undeveloped lagoon and still sighted occasionally, snatching small dogs and children off the docks. (just kidding about the children) We need to head over to Z-town to meet up with friends on the QE II.
January 18, 2002 - current
Zihuateneo is just down the road from Ixtapa, easily reached by a 20 minute bus ride. It's a really nice clean place compared to the town of Barra de Navidad (not the resort and marina), and a much bigger city. It has a great waterfront along the Northeast edge of the Bahia where visiting boats anchor. It's also just around the corner from Ixtapa by water; about 5 miles. We left early in the morning and pulled into the anchorage just as the Queen Elizabeth II was arriving and anchoring. Our friends George and Susan were on board and watched us go by from their breakfast table. Later we picked them up at the dock and went on a walking tour of the town, the museum and the waterfront, then had lunch and took them out to our boat. We put the kayaks in the water and after George and Susan paddled around and dumped a couple of times, they were ready to sit and partake of wine and cheese on the top deck under the sunscreen. We took them back to the dock about 5.
One of the "traditions" that has sprung up in major anchorages is a Friday night raft-up where people tie their dinghies around a buoy or someone's anchor and pass hors d'ouevres around whilst telling lies about their adventures. We joined that, met some of the other cruisers, and got a great view of the QE II perfectly framed in the setting sun on their departure for Los Angeles.
So, here we sit and now we will send this off. FINALLY we have found a combination of all of the following in one place: a great anchorage clean enough to jump in the water (and hot enough to make you want to) and run water makers (if you stay a bit away from town) with beautiful beaches, alleged snorkeling that we have not tried yet, no little stinging jellyfish so far, lots of restaurants and plenty of stores and lots of cruisers. The only think that would be better would be an actual dinghy dock to tie up and leave the boats. All landing, if you need to leave the dinghy, is on the beach, which would not be fun if it were not so hot. There are lots of places on the municipal dock to drop off and pick up if someone stays in the boat.
Z-town is the closest we have seen to La Paz for a town with a sense of community, not just tourism. Although there is PLENTY of tourism because of all the cruise ships that stop. I expect more places would feel like La Paz if we spent more than a few weeks in them. It takes time to know and love a particular place.
Heidi has been getting to swim every few days here and she loves it! A few swims really tire her out and getting her back into the boat is no longer easy, but she is sooooooooooo happy.
On Tuesday the 22nd, we dinghied over to La Gatas beach. This is a beach that boats ferry people to and from Z-Town all day for about $3 (I think). It has restaurants, a beautiful beach, lots of beach chairs and umbrellas and waiters from the restaurants ready to get you drinks or whatever (it was not a weekend) and a small reef for snorkeling. We figured out how to get in past the snorkelers and the rocks and through the surf and then had lunch. We will return for snorkeling. On Wednesday the 23rd, we did a little kayaking and are about to head into town to try again to send the trip report and have some lunch!!
We will continue the tale of our adventures later. We plan go back to Ixtapa Marina for a few days before heading back up to Mazatlan and the Sea of Cortez. Russ kind of wanted to go on to Acapulco, but our friends on the QE II had stopped there and after seeing Z-town, they said the harbor at Acapulco was very dirty and the town was very dirty.