Sailing Vacations: Southern Belle

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Long Beach , California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Cabo San Lucas to La Paz
La Paz La Paz to Mazatlan
Mazatlan to Banderas Bay Banderas Bay to Manzanillo
Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo Family Visit and Mardi Gras
Zihuatanejo to Bahia de Navidad  
  Cruising Logs

Long Beach , California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We departed Long Beach, California on October 30 at 1900 hours, a full 8 hours after the Baja Haha Fleet departed San Diego (which is 12 hours south of Long Beach).  This year the Haha Fleet consists of over 180 entries, and we are looking forward to catching up and meeting some of these fine folks.  Southern Belle's crew consists of the regulars: George, Melinda, and Joshua; and our friends Brian Dair and Angela Goodwin.  Brian is a sail maker by trade and one of southern California's best racing sailors.  Angela works for West Marine and has many sea miles under her belt.

Our start was a bit auspicious.  We were stowing gear and finalizing equipment installations right up to the last minute.  We finally decided to just throw everything aboard and sort it out underway.  This, of course, is not the best way to proceed but all of the good friends helping us to get underway said that if we didn't leave they were going to cut our dock lines!  I think they had a going away party after we left.

We figured that in our attempt to catch the fleet we would have to motor most of the way.  We were wrong.  During our second day at sea the wind piped up to 18 to 20 knots and we flew the spinnaker for hours reaching top speeds of 11.5 knots.   That night under reefed main and full jib we were seeing as much as 27 knots of wind!  We carried sail throughout the night chewing up the sea miles at sustained speeds of 8 to 9 knots, occasionally surfing 6 foot waves at speeds of 11 to 12 knots!  I was tempted to go forward and hang ten!  We had lovely sunsets each day and a nice bright moon to keep us company each night.   So those are the things that went right.  Now let's get to the things that went wrong.  On November 1, 2006 we blew a high pressure hose fitting on our newly installed reverse osmosis water maker, forcing us to ration water until we could make a repair.  So much for daily showers.  Bummer!  We also blew out one of our batten cars on the main sail, but with Brian aboard this was a small problem that was easily overcome.

On the morning of November 2nd we were within sight of Isla Cedros approximately 29 miles north of Turtle Bay which is the HaHa fleets first destination.  We rigged a makeshift fishing line to tow behind the boat and immediately caught a mackerel, which we tossed back into the ocean.  But that still counts as having caught a fish!  We made Turtle Bay at 1500 hours and were surprised to learn that even starting 18 to 20 hours behind the fleet we were not the last boat to arrive.  Gotta love those multihulls!  Turtle Bay is described as being Coyote Ugly, but oh what a beautiful sight it was to us.  It held the promise of a good nights sleep, possibly a repair to the watermaker, and a much needed shower.  We anchored among the huge fleet of sailboats and hunkered down for the evening.

The first thing we did on November 3rd was deal with the broken watermaker.  We met a local gentleman named Reuben of Annabel's Fuel Service who was selling fuel via his panga.  He looked at the broken fitting and asked if he could take it.  He did not speak English and we have very limited Spanish so we hoped he didn't think it was a gift.  Later that afternoon Reuben showed up with the high pressure hose and a brand new fitting all ready to go!  He wasn't even going to charge us, so we gave him a generous tip.  Giant props to Reuben!!  That afternoon the HaHa fleet held a pot luck beach party and Joshua was finally able to go ashore and run with some of the other HaHa kids.  A great time was had by all!

At 0800 on the 4th the entire fleet got under way for Bahia Santa Maria, approximately 225 miles south.  The breeze was fresh at the start so just about every sailboat was flying a spinnaker.  What a sight!  We had a great sail with a full moon to keep us company at night.  On our second day at sea the fleet started reporting fish they had caught.  One guy landed an 80 pound Wahoo, another a 50 pound Yellowtail and so on and so forth.  We on Southern Belle had been diligently towing our makeshift meat hook with a purple squid jig given to us by Jamie and Alpha back in Long Beach.  We were becoming despondent at our lack of fishing prowess when BAM, we landed a 34 inch, 10 pound Dorado.  We all feasted on grilled Mahi Mahi that night.  Yeah you right!

We made Bahia Santa Maria at 0200 on the 6th, set our hook, and passed out cold.  We woke the next morning to a beautiful calm anchorage full of HaHa boats.  The water temperature was 79 degrees so we all jumped in for a swim.  Upon diving under the boat I came to the horrible realization that our port side rudder was gone!  Auggggghhhhh!  It had sheared off right at the hull.  You can see where corrosion had worked its way into the rudder shaft from two sides, leaving only a small bit of good metal in the middle.  We had noticed somewhat poorer steering characteristics, but had thought that it was due to overloading the boat with too much junk.  Oh well, I guess our cruising plans now include going into a boatyard for this much needed repair.   Bummer!  Melinda, Joshua , and I spent the day visiting other boats while Brian and Angela swam and lounged about.  That afternoon we braved the shore landing through the surf so that Joshua could do some boogie boarding.  There is no town in this anchorage.  Just a small fishing camp used by the locals, and this place is drop dead gorgeous.  I fear our pictures don't do it justice.

On the 7th the HaHa fleet hosted another beach party.  And what a party it was!  The locals provided the food and we all feasted on lobster, fresh fish, and shrimp.  There were ice cold beers for purchase at a very reasonable price, and they even hired a rock and roll band that travelled all the way from La Paz to play for us (heaven knows how they got there because there are no roads).  Joshua found three other boys in his age group and they played and ran until they virtually dropped from exhaustion!  The beach landing on our dinghy was exciting to say the least, but we made it safely ashore.  Brian and Angela paddled the two person kayak to the party and had a blast surfing the waves near the shoreline.

On the 8th the HaHa fleet got underway for the last leg of the journey to Cabo San Lucas.  At least a dozen boats opted to stay on in Bahia Santa Maria.  It was just too beautiful to leave.  We would have liked another day in this paradise, but since we are down to one rudder we decided to stay with the large group in case we ran into problems.  About two hours into our southerly sojourn, we spotted a pod of whales.  We think they were either Finback or Mink whales.

On the morning of the 9th we made lands end at Cabo San Lucas.  Yipppeeeeee!!  This is a major milestone because we are leaving the potentially treacherous west coast of the Baja Peninsula behind.  The rock formations at lands end are beautiful.   We will spend a few days here in Cabo refueling, re provisioning, and of course partying with the HaHa Fleet.  We will also get on the horn to research a new rudder, and maybe even a spare or two!  Be sure to check out the photos on the link above.

Finally, I would like to give a special thanks to those who helped us prepare for our departure from the rat race.  To Dave Katz for loaning us his truck after we sold our vehicles.  Dave also stocked us with boat bottom cleaning supplies to last at least a year.  Thanks Dave!  To Jim Wasti for helping us get our vehicles in perfect shape thereby facilitating a quick and easy sale.  Thanks for that Jim, and for all the pickled eggs and cervezas from Joe Josts!  To Tim Carlson for his ingenious fabrication ideas.  Thanks Tim, the anchor windlass works like a dream!  To the combined efforts of Carter Miller from Riley Marine and Dan Loggins from Harbor Custom Canvas for designing and building our awesome cockpit enclosure.  Thanks guys, you drastically expanded our usable living space aboard.  To Bill Scholz of Ham Radio Outlet for coming to the boat on his own time and programming our SSB radio.  Thanks Bill, we were able to participate in every one of the HaHa nets no matter how far in front of the fleet we were.  And last but certainly not least, to Tony Stuart of Pro Marine Systems for all of the fine work he did installing systems aboard Southern Belle.  Thanks Tony, there is absolutely no way we could have made this journey without your help and hard work!

 

Cabo San Lucas to La Paz

Our most excellent crew members, Brian and Angela, departed for the USA and their respective jobs on November 13th.  We will miss them because they were both fun and very helpful.  We departed Cabo San Lucas the very next day on Tuesday November 14th.  Our joy of seeing Cabo when we first arrived was eclipsed by our elation of seeing Cabo disappear off our stern.  The town is an expensive tourist trap and the anchorage is rough and noisy.  There are gasoline powered noise makers zipping around your anchored vessel all day long.  We made a heading toward our next anchorage at Los Frailes (pronounced FRY-layz).  We had 20 to 25 knots of wind on the nose and short steep seas making for a rough and uncomfortable ride. However, there was no way we were going to turn around and head back to Cabo!  Joshua did great.  These are the conditions that normally make him sea sick, but he didn't experience any problems.  He even sat below and did his home-school studies.  We made Frailes in the late afternoon and were pleased to see there was plenty of anchorage room and it was very calm in the lee of the headland.

On Wednesday all three of us loaded into the large kayak and started to paddle north toward Pulmo Reef.  The guide book says that Pulmo is the only living coral reef on the west coast of North America.  It was further than we thought, approximately three miles one way, but we persevered and man was it worth it.  We tucked up into a little cove with a sandy beach and snorkeled around the rocks.  We saw all types of fish, anemones, urchins and coral.  This was the first time Joshua successfully swam while breathing through a snorkel, although he still tends to try to talk while under water.  We only scratched the surface of this large reef.  It would have been nice to scuba dive, but I didn't have a dive partner.  After swimming we warmed up by laying out on some of the rocks where we were accompanied by a family of Iguanas.  That evening we joined some of the other boaters on shore for an impromptu beach bonfire.

We departed Thursday AM and headed for our next anchorage, Bahia De Los Muertos (Cove of the Dead....   Oooooooo, Scary!). Actually I learned this refers to the Dead-Man mooring system they used to use over 100 years ago when loading ships with silver.  On our way we towed a meat line but had no luck catching fish.  Although, at one point a very large sailfish (or maybe a marlin) jumped out of the water right next to the boat and startled both Melinda and I.  That was the first time either of us had seen one, and we decided we did NOT want to catch one.  Muertos is a lovely cove with a Cantina at one end of the beach and a bunch of fishing pangas and that's about it.  The amazing thing was that in this fairly deserted anchorage we were able to get a solid WI-FI connection without leaving the boat.  We ate dinner that night at the Cantina with our friends from the sailing vessel Calou and it was extra good!  Calou has two boys, Antoine age 8 and Francois age 12, so Joshua has a great time with them.  The next day we hung around Muertos and did the regular.... school work, boat work, snorkeling, etc.  That afternoon we had happy hour at the Cantina and made some Skype calls.  The boys hung out with some local kids who were cast netting to gather bait for the next days panga fishing.  They had fun rolling the puffer fish back into the water.

The crew of Southern Belle decided to depart very early the next morning to take advantage of a calmer sea state.  Remember we are still sans one rudder.  We stowed everything the night before so that we could raise anchor and get underway by 0300. Man was it dark!  We raised anchor and started slowly making our way through the anchored boats in what we thought was the correct direction.  WRONG!  Just before we ran Southern Belle up onto the beach we realized our mistake and backed her down.  That would have been embarrassing to have all of our sailing buddies wake up to see us parked on the beach.  We both agreed that the next time we'll wake up early enough to have coffee before we try a dark departure.  The passage to La Paz was  beautiful and peaceful.  We motor sailed the entire way.

At 1130 on the morning of November 18th we arrived in La Paz.  We stopped at Marina Costa Baja where our friend Gabriel Ley is the manager.  Gabriel was the manager of Cruiseport Village Marina in Ensenada where we kept Southern Belle when she first arrived on the west coast.  The marina offered us a slip for 8 days for the price of $190.  This is less than what the marina in Cabo wanted for one night!  We will probably be here for a stretch while we sort out the repair of our rudder.  We will give a more comprehensive description of our stay in La Paz at a later date.

I would like to give a shout out to all of my friends and co-workers at Environmental Resolutions, Inc., and a special thanks to Steve Zigan, Joe O'Connell, Bob Kroeger, and Mike Mednick.  Bob, you're going to have to come out to the sea and teach us how to fish man!  I mean, if you catch one of those giant fish with the deadly sword hanging off of its snout what the heck do you do with it!  Melinda says hi to all of her buds at Camp Dresser McKee!  Finally, Joshua says hi to all of his friends at Woodland Elementary School in Costa Mesa and a special hi to Nicholas Morlett, his "bestest" buddy in the whole world!

We will update this journal again sometime in the near future.  Until then, Hasta la Vista Amigos y Amigas!

La Paz

This journal entry finds Southern Belle and her crew still holed up in La Paz.  We are still working on boat repairs and are getting anxious to be mobile again.  However, we all agree there are much worse places to be stuck than La Paz.  We are still dealing with the major issue... rudder repair.  It turns out that we are having to replace both rudders.  The port side obviously because it broke off and hit Davey Jones on the head, and the starboard side because we took it off for inspection and found that it too was getting ready to go.  We don't want to make old Davey too mad.  Both rudders were failing due to electrolysis. In the meantime we are also dealing with a few other issues such as rigging, engine maintenance, refrigeration, and the ever popular holding tank macerator pump repair.  Ugh!  The local shipyard is fabricating the new rudders and appear to be doing a fine job at a fair price.  So hopefully we will be functional within a few days.

We are staying at Marina Costa Baja which is the newest marina in La Paz.  It is managed by Gabriel Ley who was the manager of Cruiseport Village Marina in Ensenada when Southern Belle was berthed there.  Gabriel is a great guy and remembered us from Ensenada.  He is giving us a very affordable slip rate while we are taking care of repairs.  The services here are fantastic!  They even have a swimming pool, which is great for Joshua.  We've got to get out of here before we get too spoiled. The other boaters who make up the cruising community in La Paz are super friendly and helpful.  We have even run into old friends from the Long Beach area who are down here exploring Mexico.  Joshua is still paling around with his buds from la Calou, Antoinne and Francois, and now has a new friend, Fiona from the sailing vessel Caravan.

In between boat work we have taken some time to explore La Paz and the surrounding area.  We experienced the Mexican national holiday on November 20 (Gabriel and Justin's birthday) celebrating the Mexican Revolution.  The locals had a big parade down Abaroja Street which runs along the waterfront.  We visited some local beaches, drove to the small artist community of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the peninsula, took part in the annual cruisers Thanksgiving Day dinner and celebration, etc., etc.  I have posted a few pictures that I hope will paint a nice picture of La Paz.

Another thing we have been experiencing in La Paz and the Sea of Cortez are the winter northerlies.  It's a weather pattern that occurs when a high pressure cell is situated over the four corners area in the US.  The high pressure pushes wind straight down through the Sea of Cortez.  The wind blows like stink for a number of days resulting in very unsafe sea conditions for passage making.  We have counted ourselves lucky for being safely tied up in a Marina during these windy conditions.  The bay in La Paz has a large shoal area that separates two channels which boaters use for anchoring.  During the calm conditions you can't see the sand bar that makes up the shoal area, and you must have local knowledge when navigating around the bay.  During a northerly the sand bar is easy to define because it is covered by breaking waves.  The first norther of the season was a real stinker with winds in excess of 30 knots.  When we are ready to depart La Paz, we'll be careful to pick a nice weather window between the northers.

I would like to give a shout out to all the members, both new and old, of the Krewe of Coleen!  We'll be celebrating in New Orleans this year for what I am told is the final ride for the self-proclaimed Queen of Mardi Gras.  Of course, the Queen has had more farewell performances than Kiss... but who's counting!  You can check out the Queen's blog at:

www.kreweofcoleen.blogspot.com

Mardi Gras is February 20, 2007 so put it on your calendar, get yourselves down to the Crescent City, and Gimme a Dollar! Yeah You Right!

We will update this journal again sometime in the near future.  Until then, Hasta la Vista Amigos y Amigas!

La Paz

We know what you're thinking.... "Man!  When are those guys going to get off their lazy butts and update their web site"! Oops, I forgot we don't say butt.  Anyway, here is the long awaited update to the Southern Belle Sailing Mexico web site. Yippeee!  We have done quite a bit since our last entry.  We have visited one of the islands near La Paz, we had our Christmas and New Years celebrations, we crossed the Seo of Cortez to Mazatlan, we visited Isla Isabella, and we competed a passage to Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta.  Here is the first installment of the update.  The next installment will follow in a few days.  We will provide details about each one of these important events below, and you can find corresponding pictures by clicking on the Photo Album button above.  Remember, you can always look at our previous entries by clicking on the archived Journal Entries above and the archived photos on the photo album page.

Isla Partida:

Shortly before Christmas we completed the rudder repair project on Southern Belle.  Finally!  A boat we can actually steer. Since we had been sitting in La Paz for so long we were anxious to go somewhere.  At this point, we were resolved to staying in La Paz through Christmas, so we decided to visit Isla Partida which is located approximately 15 miles out of La Paz.  The weather was calm and warm for our crossing to the island so we did not get to sail.  However, we had a great time motoring around and exploring all of the small coves on Isla Espiritu Santo which is a large island we passed enroute to Partida.  We identified a number of spots that we want to visit in the spring when we come back this way.  While motoring along the islands we saw a large manta ray jumping out of the water and doing flips.  It was quite amazing but impossible to photograph.

We chose the small cove of Cardoncito to hang our hats for the next couple of days.  We shared the cove with two other boats. Our friends Dave and Kelli on Sweet Lorraine, and our new friends Ray and Janey on Adios.  Dave and George snorkeled along the rock wall close to where we anchored and collected scallops (black lip scallops and pin scallops which were unfortunately not that great for eating).  We dinked over to the next cove, Partida, and explored the estuary that separates the two islands.  Another norther kicked up on the last night we were at the island so we had a nice sail back to La Paz the next day.

Christmas:

Christmas in La Paz was very nice.  We spent quite a bit of time with new friends who are also cruising with children.  Gene and Vicki with daughter Fiona aboard Caravan, and Scott and Moira with daughter Kate and son Chris aboard Arctic Willow. Joshua and Chris were as thick as thieves.  We organized an impromptu Christmas Caroling troupe on the docks of Marina Costa Baja one evening.  As usual, we found one song that we could sing pretty well and just stuck with it.  The marina hosted a Mexican Style Posada Party on the Saturday before Christmas replete with pinatas, a choral group, and a manger scene with live participants.  On Christmas eve Southern Belle hosted a kids party.  We started by making magic reindeer food for the kids to spread around the dock that night so Santa's reindeer could find them easier.  We also made cupcakes for Santa, played music, dress up, and pin the hat on Santa.  That evening the party sort of transformed into a kid/adult affair and the crew of Southern Belle served a full Christmas dinner that included a baked turkey prepared by the genius of the galley, Melinda.  Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've prepared a baked turkey in a propane oven.  It took over 6 hours, but was definitely worth the wait!

On Christmas morning we awoke to find that Santa had somehow located us in La Paz!  Amazing guy that Santa.  Joshua jumped into the act of present opening while Mom and Dad had coffee and questioned the wisdom of having a party on Christmas Eve. After a bit we fired up the engines and took off for the bay at downtown La Paz to anchor out and attend a potluck Christmas Day party on the beach.  It was a wonderful way for the kids to burn off some of that pent up Christmas energy.  Good food and a good time was had by all.  We decided to stay the night on the hook and return to the marina in the morning.  During the night the tide went out and the wind piped up consequently swinging our boat onto a shoal area.  The sun rose with us attached firmly to the bottom by our port keel.  A tad bit embarrassing.  We were able to free ourselves by setting a second anchor off to the side and kedging ourselves off the shoal with the rising tide.

La Paz to Mazatlan:

On December 30th we departed La Paz to cross the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan, finally continuing our journey south to Z-Town.  After being at the marina for so long in La Paz we had an amazingly long list of things to do before we could leave the dock. Thankfully not as long as the list we dealt with before we left Long Beach.  The first day out we sailed to Bahia de los Muertos in the company of Caravan and Arctic Willow who were also heading south.  We had a great downwind sail all the way to Muertos where we spent two nights waiting for a better weather window to cross over to Mazatlan.  Our stay in Muertos included New Years Eve which we celebrated at the small cantina on the beach.  It was the intention of our group to head out of Muertos very early in the morning on New Years Day, so our New Years Eve celebration started at 5:00 PM and ended sometime around 8:00 PM.  It was probably midnight somewhere.

We departed Muertos at 0-dark-thirty and started across the Sea of Cortez.  We had a great crossing complete with a full moon to keep us company at night.  We sailed, we motored, we laughed, we cried... you get the picture.  We even caught a Dorado that fed our crew.  Yummy!  It took approximately 30 hours to reach Mazatlan.

Mazatlan:

Mazatlan IS paradise!  This is the title of a tourist guide to Mazatlan we borrowed from our pals aboard Calou.  While paradise may be a bit strong, Mazatlan is certainly very nice.  We stayed at Marina Mazatlan so that we could be close to Joshua's friends, Antoine and Francois who were berthed at the swanky El Cid Marina aboard Calou.  El Cid doesn't allow crumb-bum multihullers like us to stay in their marina.  Of course, that didn't stop us from sneaking in and using their ultra-cool swimming pool complex.  They have a pool with slides, waterfalls, caves, a giant hot tub, a swim up bar.... great for the kids and also fun for the adults.  Did I mention they have a swim up bar?

We only spent a few days in Mazatlan, but had a great time.  We visited Mazatlan's historic district, shopped at the central market, hiked up to the lighthouse atop Isla Creston, and even saw a cliff diver in action.  The guidebook describes the lighthouse as being the second tallest atop a natural foundation in the world.  We could see the light from 30 miles out of Mazatlan when we were sailing in.  We are now in the land of many wild iguanas.  You didn't have to go far to find one.  All you had to do was look down while lounging at the pool.  Our friend John Thompson from the sailing vessel Calou joined us in Mazatlan for our passage down the coast to Manzanillo.  John is a welcome crew member as he is an able sailor from the Bay Area of California, and is quite clever with electronics and photography.  John survived the Indonesian Tsunami in 2004, and it was some of his photos that were printed world wide.  You can visit his web site at www.sonomacountylaw.com/tsunami.

Before signing off, the crew of Southern Belle would like to say congratulations to both the LSU Tigers and the New Orleans Saints for the awesome seasons they put together in 2006!!!  Hot Boudin, Cold Cous-Cous!  Come on Teams, PUSH PUSH PUSH!!!!  Yeah You Right!!!q

Mazatlan to Banderas Bay

We know what you're thinking.... "Man!  Those guys sure are good at updating their website"!  And I didn't even say butt. Anyway, here is the promised second installment to the Southern Belle Sailing Mexico web site.  This will come close to catching you up to where we are these days.  In this installment we cover the area between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay. Banderas Bay is where Puerto Vallarta is located.  Along this section of the gold coast we visited Isla Isabela, San Blas, Chacala, Rincon de Guayabitos, Punta de Mita, Isla Marieta West, and La Cruz/Puerto Vallarta.

Isla Isabela:

Isla Isabella was an awesome stop!  We departed Mazatlan in the late afternoon for the trip to Isla Isabella, an island about 20 miles off the coast of Mexico, north of Puerto Vallarta, and just west of the small town of San Blas.  It was approximately 12 hours to Isla Isabella, so we planned our sail so that we could arrive just after sunrise.  We arrived on schedule and spent the day exploring the island.  It is a National Wildlife Preserve that is home to rare frigate and booby bird nests.  And it is an amazing sight, the trees are full of birds and nests.  We hiked through the forest/jungle seeing frigate birds in all the trees, and the blue- and green-footed boobies guarding their nests on the ridge tops.  Whales also visited the island and we are able to observe some whale play, numerous spouts, jumps, and lots of tale slapping.  The island also has excellent snorkeling that we only enjoyed briefly as there was a pretty good swell running, making the water choppy.

San Blas:

We left Isla Isabella the following day, and sailed toward San Blas, a quaint fishing town on the mainland.  We fished the whole way, and were unsuccessful in catching fish, but did manage to snag a booby bird or two.  They apparently are the only animals attracted to our lures. We've decided that boobies aren't the brightest birds in the bird world.  Please know that no booby birds were killed in the making of this documentary.  We anchored in the San Blas estuary (a shallow river that runs through San Blas and empties into the nearby bay).  It was a very calm anchorage, although close to the mangroves so prone to mosquitoes and no-seeums.  San Blas is a very traditional Mexican village with a lovely square in the middle of town, one side of which houses the Cathedral.  We arrived on Sunday, which is the day that all the local families converge on the square for socializing and prayer in the cathedral.  We had a lovely dinner at a small sidewalk café and then let Joshua run with the local kids in the square.  We made the most of our time in San Blas, which included a hike to the old fort on Cerro San Basilio, a rocky hilltop overlooking the town.  The fort was  built in the 1700s to protect the town from marauding pirates and Hottentots.  We found a shortcut up to the fort pointed out to us by the locals kids that included hiking through a steep jungley path.  The fort was quite impressive with a great view, Joshua dug the canons.  Near the fort were the ruins of Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario and its bell tower, immortalized in Longfellow's poem, The Bells of San Blas.  The following day we hiked back past the fort to the San Cristobal estuary where we took a 3-hour jungle river cruise on a panga.  On advice of locals, we were the first to arrive at 7:00 a.m., so that we could see the estuary undisturbed by the turistas and pangas.  It was beautiful, we were able to see the mists rising off the estuary, a beautiful sunrise, and countless birds.  We also learned that it can be downright cold in the marsh.  We were all turning blue from cold until finally the sun rose high enough to warm us up.  Then finally, Joshua's wish came true and the crocodiles came out of hiding to take advantage of the warm sunshine.  In total we sighted 15 crocodiles, from babies to big papas.  After our jungle cruise we feasted on smoked tuna fish from one of the sidewalk cafés near the estuary.  To top off our visit to San Blas we visited the locally renowned Capitania of the area, Norm Goldy and his wife Jan.  We had a lovely visit with them the morning we left, learning much about fishing, local lore, and life along the coast here.  Joshua was most impressed with their parrot Morgie and the beautiful classic Walt Disney children's book the Goldy's gifted to Joshua.  Despite Norms' advice, Joshua has declared we wants a parrot for a pet when we move back on land.  This of course makes moving back ashore even less appealing.

Chacala Bay and Rincon de Guayabitos:

After 3 days we departed beautiful San Blas for Chacala Bay, 21 miles south.  We spent one night in Chacala. a small tourist town dominated by several hotels and numerous palapa restaurants on the beach.  The following day we departed and sailed another 7 miles to Rincon de Guayabitos, another tourist area dominated by many hotels and palapa restaurants.  Enroute we caught a Dorado that was big enough to feed the crew some delicious spicy sushi rolls.  This makes the fourth Dorado we have landed aboard Southern Belle.  Let's see.... at $400 worth of Mexican fishing licenses, so far that works out to be $100 per fish.  What a deal!  We hope to improve this ratio as the year wears on.  We only stayed one night in Guayabitos because this cove was very touristy and noisy.  In the future we will give this spot a pass.  We hoped to catch up with our friends on Arctic Willow while we were anchored in Guayabitos, as we knew they were visiting with family in a condo in town.  Alas, we missed them.  We later heard they were preparing to swim out to our boat to visit the next day when we upped anchor and left to sail to Banderas Bay.

Banderas Bay:

We made it around Punta de Mita and into Banderas Bay in the early afternoon.  The weather was calm and warm so we decided to visit the Marieta Islands which lie just inside the mouth of Banderas Bay.  We anchored off of Marieta West along with two other sailboats.  The island has many caves that are cool to explore by kayak or dinghy.  Most were too small, but a couple were large enough to drive the dink right into the mouth of the cave.  We found a small beach where we were able to land the dinghy.  The snorkeling off of this beach was phenomenal.  The guide book said that overnight anchoring is not recommended at these islands because wind shifts can put you on a lee shore.  So rather than take a chance we raise anchor in the late afternoon and headed for the more protected anchorage behind Punta de Mita.

We arrived at the anchorage behind Punta de Mita at sunset.  We used the Wi-Fi method for choosing a spot to drop our anchor.  This method entails firing up the laptop computer and motoring around until you find a good wi-fi connection.  We checked e-mails, spent the night, and in the morning raised anchor and headed for La Cruz.

La Cruz is a small town about a 45 minute ride by bus from Puerto Vallarta (PV).  La Cruz is the closest anchorage to PV.  To stay in PV proper you have to stay in one of the 3 marinas, which at this time were all completely full.  No matter, La Cruz is a very cool little town that had everything we needed.  We even know some folks who live in La Cruz.  Mike and Leah Danielson run the North Sails loft in PV, and Leah used to race with Melinda in Long Beach back in the 90's.  What is really cool is that they have a little boy, Merrick, who is close to Joshua's age and we were able to arrange some kid play time.  In addition to visiting with the Danielsons, we also spent a little quality time at Philo's Restaurant and Bar, the local cruisers hangout. Philo is an expatriate who has a neat spot in La Cruz.  They serve food and drink, provide showers, have free Internet access, and in the evenings play live music.  We watched the Saints destroy The Eagles at this friendly venue.

We never did make it into PV to explore the town, except to visit the fuel dock for gas and diesel.  While refueling, John and Melinda walked over to Wal Mart to pick up some provisions.  So in PV we saw the fuel dock and the Wal Mart.  Gee, PV looked alot like Long Beach.  The next day we headed out of Banderas Bay to continue our southerly journey to Zihuatanejo.  We will provide more details and photographs in our next journal entry.  Until then, Hasta La Vista!

Banderas Bay to Manzanillo

In this installment we cover the area between Banderas Bay and Manzanillo.  This section of the coast is touted as being the best cruising area along the entire Mexican Riviera.  Along this section of the gold coast we visited Chamela Bay, Carayes Bay, Tenacatita, Bahia de Navidad, and Manzanillo.

Chamela Bay:

We got the weather window we needed and departed La Cruz on January 17 in the afternoon.  Our friend Ken Hodge on Peaceful Warrior, a beautiful Peterson 44, decided to buddy boat south with us for a while.  We knew Ken from the Marina in Long Beach where he used to live aboard before heading south to Mexico.  On advice from Mike and Leah we made a course that skirted the Marietas, and held that course until we were well offshore before turning southward.  This gave us a wide berth from Cabo Corrientes, the large point that marks the south entrance to Banderas Bay.  Cabo Corrientes is notorious for bad currents and wind which make for very sloppy seas.  We ended up running before 6 to 10 foot seas with 25 to 30 knots of wind on a pitch black night as we passed even with Cabo Corrientes.  So much for the weather window!  Things eventually evened out and by dawn we were motor-sailing into Chamela Bay.  Total passage time was approximately 18 hours.

Chamela is a largish bay with a small village tucked up into the northern bight.  There are also several islands that provide decent anchorage in calm weather conditions.  Joshua was put in charge of choosing where we were to anchor for the night in Chamela Bay.  
He chose Isla Colorado which turned out to be a perfect spot.  Southern Belle and Peaceful Warrior anchored off of the small beach on the northeast side of the island and we had the anchorage all to ourselves.  The crew of Southern Belle launched the kayaks to explore around the island while Ken hunkered down for some much needed rest, as he is a solo sailor.  John kayaked around the entire island while Joshua took care of his school work.  After school, Melinda, Joshua and I boarded the 3 person kayak and followed John around to the south side of the island to a secluded little cove he had found.  We snorkeled off of the beach and played in the waves.  It was great fun.  That evening while Mom was preparing a meal, Joshua and I went to the little beach where we were anchored and did Joshua's favorite thing.  Ninja warrior wrestling!  I know I used to do this kind of thing with Justin and Gabriel 23 years ago, but I don't remember it hurting so much.

Being on somewhat of a schedule, we departed Chamela Bay the next morning and continued south.  We will definitely stop for an extended stay on our way back north to the Sea of Cortez.

Careyes:

From Chamela we headed south to Bahia Tenacatita.  Along the way we stopped in to look at the small anchorage of Carayes.  I always suspected there were rich folks living somewhere in Mexico.  Well, now I know where they hang out.  This anchorage is filled with some of the most beautiful and elaborate homes I have ever seen.  Take a look at the pictures on the Photo Album page.  The bay is separated by rocky headlands into three small coves.  The northernmost used to be the location of a Club Med facility.  It is now a private residence.  Someone bought the entire Club Med facility!  We continued on south, but we may stop in and spend the night here on the way back north.

Bahia Tenacatita:

We made Bahia Tenacatita in the early afternoon.  This large bay has several places where one can anchor out.  We spent two nights in Tenacatita.  The first was anchored inside Punta Hermanos, the northern entrance into the bay.  We had a meal at one of the beach front cantinas and then went snorkeling along the rocky reef that has been dubbed "the aquarium".  Great snorkeling, lots of fish!  George carried along the spear gun in case there were fish worth shooting for dinner.  Alas, no game fish.  However, Joshua got to shoot the spear gun a couple of times which was both fun for him, and scary for the rest of us.  Thankfully, no humans or innocent animals were injured in the shooting of the spear gun.

The next morning we moved to the anchorage behind Punta Chubasco.  This is the favored anchorage in Bahia Tenacatita and must have had 20+ boats in attendance.  On the ride over to the anchorage we listened in to the daily Tenacatita cruisers net on the VHF.  They are quite an active group.  That day they were having a group swim to the beach from their boats, followed by Boce Ball on the beach, and happy hour at the little beach cantina hangout.  We only had one more night before continuing south so we opted to take in the other activity that this anchorage is famous for.  The Jungle River Dinghy Trip!  You ford the sandbar at the entrance to Rio Iguana estuary and then follow the small river for approximately 3 miles.  It starts out nice and wide, but as you continue it becomes narrower and the mangroves form an overhead canopy.  It is very cool and reportedly has crocodiles living in the river.  We saw plenty of birds but no crocs like we saw in San Blas (check out Journal Entry #5).  At the end of the river there is a small settlement with Palapa Cantinas where you can get lunch and a drink.  All told, we spent 4 to 5 hours doing the jungle river dinghy trip.

Bahia Navidad:

We had a short motor-sail to Bahia Navidad on Sunday with only one objective in mind - Find a TV that was broadcasting the National Football League NFC Championship game with the mighty New Orleans Saints going up against the lowly Chicago Bears.  
Unfortunately we all know the outcome of that game.  I just have one thing to say.... Poor Officiating!   Just kidding.  Geaux Saints!  We chose to stay in the marina at the Grand Bay Hotel.  Talk about a swanky place!  The hotel was absolutely beautiful and the marina was first rate.  Of course, they had a pricing schedule to go along with all that opulence.  Joshua's favorite part was, of course, the swimming pool.  Swim up bars seem to be a very popular thing in Mexico because so far, every single pool we have visited has one.  While Melinda and I played with Joshua at the pool, John took a stroll through the hotel grounds and took pictures.  We visited the small town just across the bay from the hotel and marina.  They have nice little shops and cantinas lining the beach.  There is a local french baker in the bay who comes by the marina in his boat every morning selling his goods, and man are they good!  He would bring almond and chocolate croissants, pies, quiches, fresh french bread and other goodies.  Out of everything in Bahia Navidad we are going to miss the French Baker the most.

Manzanillo:

As we departed Bahia Navidad we were treated to some whale play.  A couple of whales were getting a kick out of slapping their tails on the surface of the water.  They let us get real close so it was cool to see.  We had a great sail to Manzanillo which was approximately 25 miles to the south-southeast.  The wind came up and we had a nice run into the bay.  Our top speed was 13.5 knots, and Ken topped 12 knots at one point.  There are three places to anchor in and near Manzanillo - Santiago Bay, Las Hadas, and Downtown Manzanillo.  We chose the latter so we could see the town and be close to the bus station as John was leaving us this day to travel back to Calou in Mazatlan.  It turns out the downtown anchorage is not very nice.  We were the only yatistas in attendance which should have been our first clue.  There was no safe place to leave a dinghy tied up so we did not get to go ashore to see the town.  After dinner we said goodbye to John and gave him a dinghy ride ashore.  It was great having him aboard to help move the boat, plus he is allot of fun to have around.  That night the weather turned windy and rainy and the anchorage was rough both from the wind and from the commercial fishing boats and pilot boats going back and forth.  The next morning Southern Belle and Peaceful Warrior left to find a more hospitable anchorage.

We chose Las Hadas which turned out to be very nice.  This little bay gets its name from the Las Hadas resort which takes up a good portion of the bay.  This was where the movie "10" was filmed.  The resort is friendly to cruisers and allows us to use their pool and other facilities for a small daily fee.  We met two other boats with kids aboard.  Daring, sailed by Craig and Julie with son Nate who is the exact same age as Joshua; and Magnum, sailed by Uwe and Anne with daughter Kara aboard.  Kara is 4 going on 12, and has no problem keeping up with the boys.  The next day Daring and Magnum took off to head for Zihuatanejo which made Joshua unhappy, but we will meet up with them again in the next few days.  That day I took Joshua over to the newer, more exclusive and private resort that shares the cove with Las Hadas.  I wanted to cheer Joshua up so I taught him how to sneak into a 5-star resort.  They had a great pool with a big water slide so in no time Joshua had made a new buddy and was going to town on the water slide.  Joshua's buddy was Sean and I sat and talked with Sean's dad, Tom.  I explained to Tom that we were sneaky yatistas and he thought that was so cool he supplied all the food and drink so we wouldn't get busted.  It is one of those all inclusive resorts so I didn't feel too guilty taking advantage of his hospitality.

The next day we raised anchor and took off for a 30 hour passage to Zihuatanejo.  And let me tell you, it was quite the passage.  
We'll tell you all about it in the next installment.  Until then we wish you all a nice breeze and following seas!

Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo

Sorry for the lapse in timely updates to this website.  Sometimes life just gets in the way of these tasks.  Since our last installment we travelled from Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo (Z-Town), took in Sailfest in Z-Town, travelled home to visit family, and took part in Queen Coleen's final Mardi Gras celebration (Final?!  Yeah... I'll believe that when I see it!).  In this installment we will provide details about our passage to Z-Town and Sailfest.  We will recount our trip back to el Estados Unidos in our next installment.  We've got some great pics from Mardi Gras!

Manzinillo to Zihuatanejo:

Since we needed to get on down the road to Zihuatanejo for Sailfest, we couldn't stay in the Manzanillo area very long.  When we head north again, we will have time to revisit and explore Santiago Bay.   Having decided to sail a straight shot to Zihuatanejo, we departed in tandem with solo-sailor Ken Hodge aboard Peaceful Warrior (a beautiful Peterson 44) on an overcast, calm morning... Friday January 26.  Approximately 2 hours into our passage, Melinda turned to George and said, "You know, it's considered bad luck to start a passage on a Friday".  Greaaaaaat!  But not being superstitious we forged ahead.  Approximately 2 hours later George looked back to see Ken do a 180-degree turn.  At first we thought he had lost his hat or something off the boat.  But alas, it turned out he had a change of heart and decided to blow off Sailfest and head north in search of great surf breaks.  Hmmm, there goes our buddy boat.  We can't blame him though.  If I were a single guy I wouldn't want to hang out with Ma and Pa, and the kids.  Well, no problem.  The weather was calm, the seas were flat, and we were motor-sailing.  It was so calm that we were able to spot and photograph many sea turtles.  South we went.

After sunset we noticed some thunderstorms over the mountains as we continued south.  It was quite spectacular!  Lightning strikes and thunder were pelting the mountains.  Spectacular..... as long as it stayed onshore.  At approximately 0000, George was standing watch and noticed a couple of large reflections on the radar screen.  They were approximately 6 miles behind Southern Belle and headed our way.  Being fairly new to the technology, it was the first time we had seen a storm front on a radar screen.  
The front was small and passed over us without much of a fuss.  However, at approximately 0200, Melinda woke George to tell him that another squall was headed our way.  No problem, thought George as he crawled out of the bunk.  Boy was he wrong!  Standing in the cockpit we looked back at a huge line squall headed our way.  Complete with knife-edged lightning bolts blasting the water approximately 9 miles behind us.  At that moment we solemnly vowed to never ever start a passage on a Friday ever again!  A quick glance at the radar showed it stretched at least 24 miles off-shore.  There was no way for us to escape it so we dropped our single-reefed main, placed all of our removable and spare electronics in our stove (which is rumored to provide some protection for electronic instruments), placed a post it note on the front of the stove reminding us not to light it up, and hunkered down.  It was really scary watching all of that lightning getting closer to us.  We decided to put on our tennis shoes.  The commotion woke Joshua, who insisted on staying in the cockpit with mommy and daddy.  He laid down and promptly went to sleep and slept through the whole thing.  When the squall hit us it brought following wind in excess of 35 knots, and driving rain.  After about 5 minutes the average wind speed dropped to 17 knots and we decided to pull a 180 and get through the storm quicker.  As we turned, the wind clocked around with us which was really disorienting.  Especially because the heavy rain brought the visibility to zero.  So we're 15 minutes into this storm and there hasn't been any lightning.  George was thinking, this is lucky but better not say anything out loud.  Melinda was thinking the same thing and Joshua was dreaming that he was a Ninja Warrior.  After a bit Melinda just couldn't stand it any longer and said, "The lightning seems to have stopped".  Dooooh!!  Within 30 seconds there was a huge blast of lightning and simultaneous thunder right overhead!  POW!  We both jumped out of our skins and Joshua let loose a snore.  Luckily the boat was not hit.  We are SO not starting anymore passages on a Friday! The whole thing took only 30 minutes and we were once again pointed south.  

We are happy to say that nothing else challenged us for the remainder of the passage, and on Saturday we made Zihuatanejo.  We were treated to the sight of well over 100 boats anchored all throughout the harbor, and still with plenty of room for Southern Belle!  We anchored near our friends aboard Magnum and Daring so Joshua could have easy access to his friends Nate and Kara.  
Looks like SailFest is going to be a hoot!  After a nap of course.

Zihuatanejo & Sailfest 2007

The town of Zihuatanejo is absolutely beautiful.  We found it to be pleasing both to the eye and to the mind.  Shady, tree-lined walkways lead you past shops and restaurants along the portion of town near the water front.  A large panga fishing fleet makes their home on a shady portion of the town beach.  The town square fronts the beach and incorporates a full basketball court and a large stage.  Every Sunday the square comes alive with people, music, and food.  And man is the food good!  For example, there is a fellow who sets up a portable hot dog/hamburger stand similar to those we have seen all over Mexico.  The big difference is that this guy is an absolute artist!  He makes the best cheeseburger you will ever eat.  He looks like, and has the same demeanor as the Soup-Nazi from the Seinfeld sitcom.  So we always stand quietly in line with strict posture and heads bowed just so, in hopes of not being denied our killer burgers!  The music in Zihuatanejo is phenomenal!  In addition to the ever present polka tunes, you can find blues, reggae, country, jazz, bluegrass.... you name it.  Put all of this together with the wonderfully friendly people who live here and Z-Town is the finest port we have yet to visit.  We can see why people come to visit and never leave.

One of the first things we did was to visit Rick's Bar to sign up for SailFest 2007.  Rick's Bar is owned and operated by a super nice fellow who is coincidentally named..... Rick.  Rick is a godsend for cruising sailors.  He has his finger on the pulse of Zihautanejo as much as any local, and he provides all manner of great services.  Laundry, showers, internet, mail service, food, and a fabulous margarita.  Additionally, you can always find top-notch music at Rick's Bar.  SailFest is an activity packed 5-day festival that was held from January 31, 2007 through February 4, 2007.  The festival is organized and run by cruising sailors (with alot of help from Rick).  The secondary purpose of SailFest is to share knowledge and promote camaraderie between sailors, locals, and tourists; but the primary purpose is to raise money for the local school children.  This year, with matching donations from a few generous philanthropists, SailFest raised over $80,000 for the local schools.  Dats alot of Coconuts!

The activities at SailFest included seminars, silent auctions, live auctions, live music, a kids day beach party, a cruisers sailing race, a flare shoot-out (which was an organized gathering at night where you could shoot off some of those old expired flares lying around the boat), a potluck appetizer party, a dinghy treasure hunt, a chili cook-off, a sail parade, and a final barbecue beach party.  
We took part in as many activities as possible.  Our favorites were the kids beach party and the dinghy treasure hunt.  For the beach party they bussed in all of the kids from the two schools which were going to benefit from the SailFest donations.  We had organized beach games with prizes, a raffle, and a hot dog cook out.  Joshua jumped right in and participated in all the activities.  
That day all the kids were speaking the same language... PLAY TIME!  We also competed in the chili cook-off as team name IKO IKO with our own version of Cajun Road-Kill Chili.  We had a great time  but, alas, did not receive any accolades for our chili cooking prowess.  I guess there is no accounting for some peoples taste (we would have killed with our gumbo)!  The sailboat parade was also a big hit.  For a nominal fee, locals and tourists were allowed to ride along on the boats during the parade.  We took 10 guests on Southern Belle and they all had a great time.  By the end of SailFest the crew of Southern Belle was worn down and tired.  But it was a good tired!

After SailFest we raised anchor and moved our boat over to Marina Ixtapa, approximately 6 miles away, in preparation for our planned visit to the Estados Unidos.  Marina Ixtapa was hot, buggy, crocodile-ridden (no joke, see the pictures), and had poor services... but at least it was really expensive!  Can you tell we were not overly pleased with Marina Ixtapa?  Oh well, it was a necessary evil because we couldn't envision leaving Southern Belle unattended on the hook for 3 weeks while we visited family and friends back home in Louisiana.  When we returned from Louisiana we cleaned up Southern Belle and got out of the Marina as fast as we could.  We took advantage of the relatively new haul-out facilities just around the corner from the Marina to replace the oil seals on our sail drives (the starboard side was letting in a little sea water).  The yard has a huge travel lift that can handle boats as wide as 27 feet.  While being rather expensive ($14 per foot to haul and $3/foot/day whether they do the work or not) it proved to be the smoothest haul-out we have ever experienced.  We were scheduled for 0900 and when we pulled up the travel lift was positioned in the water waiting for us to pull right in to it.  By 1000 we were working on the sail drives.  We had the yard guys do some touch up on the bottom paint, and the next morning we were back in the water and headed for the anchorage at Zihuatanejo to spend a few more days in paradise before starting our migration northward to the Sea of Cortez.  Sure we had to get some supplies, but more importantly we had to get one more fix from the Burger Nazi of Zihuatanejo!

We hope this installment finds you all healthy and happy!  Until next time we wish you all a fresh breeze and following seas!

Family Visit and Mardi Gras

For a change of pace, here is a brief overview of our trip back to the Estados Unidos to visit family and take in Mardi Gras.

We flew from Zihuatanejo to New Orleans on a flight that had a connector in Houston.  When we arrived in NO, the first thing we did was go to Drago's for some char-broiled oysters.  Yeah you right!  After a short visit with my Mom an 'em, we drove to Shreveport for some family visitation (Melinda's side).  We spent a wonderful weekend at Uncle Ken's cabin on the lake in southwestern Arkansas.  It was fun and relaxing.... well, relaxing for those who didn't have a 6 year old boy to chase around.  
Joshua had a blast!  He got to shoot the BB gun (and before you say anything Yia Yia, I made him wear safety glasses), chop wood, play on the rope swing, and jump into a pile of leaves.  After a lovely visit with family in friends in North Louisiana, we headed south to New Orleans.  Along the way we visited more family and friends.  You know how it is in the south..... we're all related.

Once in NO we jumped right into the Mardi Gras spirit.  Our sister-in-law was riding in the Muses Parade the night we arrived.  
The parade was great and the after party featured music by The Radiators and Dr. John.  It was a killer show!  I don't know if we mentioned, but the main reason we were in the Crescent City was to attend Coleen Salley's last ride as the self-proclaimed Queen of Mardi Gras.  So there was quite a bit of pomp and circumstance associated with "Last Ride" (I swear the woman has had more farewell performances than KISS).  The Krewe of Coleen hosted a Sunday brunch at Muriel's, a crawfish boil on Sunday night, and of course the Queen's parade on Mardi Gras day.  A great time was had by all!  

At the end of February we packed all of our many boat purchases and flew back to Zihuatanejo to start migrating north aboard Southern Belle.  Everything made it through Customs except the red beans,  I guess they don't want those inferior Louisiana red beans contaminating the pinto crop!  We loved seeing everyone, and those we missed we shall catch up with on the next journey home.  Remember, the invitation to visit us in Mexico is always open!

We hope this installment finds you all healthy and happy!  Until next time we wish you all a fresh breeze and following seas!

Getting Ready to Go
October 2005

Well we finally managed to make ourselves leave Zihuatanejo.  We now understand why they say folks come to visit but never leave. This being our furthest point south that we intend to explore this year, we turned Southern Belle north for the trek back into the Sea of Cortez.  We are a little bit behind in our updates to this website.  We hope to kick it in gear a little and catch the website up to where we actually are.  In this installment we will describe our journey north from Zihuatanejo to Bahia de Navidad.

On our way south we sailed a straight shot from Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo.  But on our journey north we harbor-hopped up the coast to Manzanillo.  We first stopped at Isla Grande, a mere nine miles from Zihuatanejo.  We didn't want to jump into this northbound thing to quickly you know.  Isla Grande is a big tourist destination, but only by day.  Droves of touristas come out via pangas, and by 1700 hours they have all been ferried back to their luxury hotels.  We kayaked ashore and scored a couple of lounge chairs so close to the water the waves were lapping up on our feet.  It was a great way to relax and watch Joshua play in the surf. Not to mention the fact that we had a waiter anxious to bring us food and drink, at reasonable rates I might add.  We left the anchorage before sunup the next morning and continued north.

Our next layover was at Caleta de Campos.  As we motor-sailed north a very large swell out of the southwest was rolling ashore.  
We were sailing at a distance of two to three miles offshore and the swells were in excess of 6 feet but very widely spaced.  Even from out where we were you could tell they were pounding the shoreline with some spectacular waves.  When we made Caleta de Campos we found our friend Evan aboard the 50-foot Crowther Catamaran Java.  He had been surfing all day and told us how great it was.  Thanks to the big swell we spent a rolly night at anchor with the huge waves crashing ashore right behind us.  It was beautiful yet a little stressful thinking about what would happen should our ground tackle fail.  Thankfully we held firm all night.  
The next morning we headed north again and within a couple of miles we came upon Java anchored off a lee-shore.  Evan and others were surfing what looked to be a great break.  The pictures don't do it justice.

That afternoon after a wonderful sail up the coast we made Maruata.  The wind blew out of the south-southwest so we had a nice long spinnaker run.  The big southwest swell was still running so there was no chance of going ashore and we spent another rolly night aboard Southern Belle.  We got underway again the next morning and were treated once again to a fresh breeze out of the south-southwest.  We thought we would be bashing our way up the coast into head winds and swells yet here we were getting long spinnaker runs.  Way Cool!  We made it to Cabeza Negra that day and spent another night much like the last two.  Not getting off of the boat for a few days is not such a big deal for two old codgers like Melinda and George (okay, just George), but for a 6 year old boy.... well let's just say he was getting a bit antsy.

The next day we had very calm conditions as we motor-sailed up to Manzanillo.  This time we did not mess around with the Downtown Harbor, and instead went straight to the anchorage at Las Hadas.  It was nice to be able to go for a walk on land, check e-mails, and let Joshua get some much needed exercise.  The next morning as we were having coffee and breakfast, we picked up the cruisers net in Bahia de Navidad about 20 miles to the north.  They announced that the town of San Patricio de Melaque was going to have their annual St. Patrick's Day Celebration.  We looked at our calendar and determined that today was St. Patrick's day.  
What a coincidence!  So we decided to leave Southern Belle in Las Hadas for the day and do a little land travel.  We packed some gear, dinghied ashore, and started making our way to Melaque.  We took a cab to the local bus station which was nothing more than a taco stand on the side of the road.  We purchased first class tickets for the bus ride.  That's right baby!  First Class!  OK, so it was only $3 per person and Joshua was free, it still counts as first class.  The bus was actually quite nice.  It was clean, air conditioned, and had a bathroom.  When Joshua needed to use the bathroom we found out that it was out of order, but the driver was nice enough to pull over and let Joshua use the restroom at a roadside taco restaurant.  I don't know if y'all knew this, but there are alot of places to get tacos in Mexico.

Once in Melaque we set off in search of all the St. Patrick's day festivities.  The information we heard over the VHF radio made it sound like there was going to be many activities to astound all of us touristas.  We had gotten an early start so as not to miss anything and after the 1.5 hour bus ride had arrived at approximately noon.  After walking around town for an hour the only celebration we found was a group of locals enjoying their day off with a bottle of tequila on the beach!  We finally found someone in the know who explained that the St Patrick's Day celebration did not start in earnest until about 6:00 PM.  Good thing we rushed over.  Since we were there we decided to tough it out.  We obtained a little beach palapa at an ocean front restaurant and cooled our heels for the afternoon which turned out to be quite nice.

At about 5:30 we walked up to the main drag and found the St. Patrick's Day parade had begun.  This parade is quite different from what we grew up with in Louisiana.  It consists of individual marching groups.  Each group is led by two columns of ornately dressed locals in what appeared to be Indian costumes.  As they marched they did a dance step in time to drums or a small marching band.  
The two columns of costumed people were followed by two columns of folks in regular street clothes.  There were maybe 6 to 8 marching groups and each one had a little something different to offer.  One group had a statue of St Patrick, one had members dressed as demons with whips, one had a group shooting bottle rockets into the air, and so forth.  It was very interesting but we wished we had a better understanding of some of the symbolism.  The parade marched all throughout the town and ended up at the town square which was where the cathedral was located.  The parade marched around the square and then each marching group marched into the cathedral as the Priest stood outside and sprinkled holy water on each person as they filed in.  After the cathedral was filled to capacity, and then some, they started a church service that lasted well over 1.5 hours.  After the service was concluded the festivities kicked off in earnest.  A carnival fair with rides and games opened up to the public and a large band began to play music on the Gazebo in the town square.

While the church service was taking place there were arts and craft tables setup for the children.  Joshua took part in this and made friends with an interesting boy named Teo.  Teo and his family are a travelling circus who call themselves The Sprockets.  
They are from Europe.  The Dad is English and the Mom is French, and besides Teo there are a couple of other young men with them. They all travel together in an old refurbished English-style double decker bus.  They have been travelling since 1997 and have visited places such as Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, etc.  For the past four years they have travelled north from the southernmost parts of South America into Central America and are continuing north through Mexico.  Teo who is now 10 is completely fluent in English, French, and Spanish.  We agreed to take the boys to the fair and Teo ended up being in charge of dealing with the Mexican Carnies.  It was fun to watch this street wise 10 year old.  By the time he was finished, the carnies didn't know what had hit them.  
For that matter neither did I as he successfully worked all the money out of my wallet!  He and Joshua went on the bumper cars where Joshua got smashed and promptly had his one remaining front baby tooth knocked out.  We don't think OSHA is paying attention to the Mexican travelling fairs, as the bumper cars looked like they were easily doing 20 MPH.  

After the kids wiped out our flash cash we went back over and hung out by the Circus Bus which was parked adjacent to the town square.  We chatted with Teo's Mom, Isabelle, while the kids ran in the square and the locals and touristas danced to the sounds of the rather large band.  The music was great!  Isabelle explained that there would eventually be a fireworks show that could get a little crazy and suggested that the boys watch it from the safety of the second level of the Circus Bus.  That sounded good to us, but we thought... how crazy can a fireworks show get?  At about 10:30 the locals setup a huge elaborate fireworks tower in front of the cathedral.  It must have been 30 feet tall.  It was constructed of bamboo and reeds and consisted of spinning wheels and all manner of dangerous looking firework gizmos.  As we watched them set it up we thought maybe this was the dangerous stuff that Isabelle had alluded to.  When the fireworks show started it was almost 11:00 PM.  It was very cool.  They would light a section of the tower and things would start spinning and different colors would sparkle all around.  After that portion of the tower burned out the band would break into a rousing song and all would dance and sing.  Then they would light another section of the tower and do it again.  Occasionally some sparks would fly off into the crowd and people would scurry about.  That must be the dangerous stuff that Isabella warned us about, but thankfully it wasn't that bad.  This went on for almost an hour.  At the very end of the show the top portion of the tower started spinning around and went shooting up into the sky and spelled the word FIN.  At this point everyone in the square started making a very quick mass exodus.  Why is everyone in such a hurry we thought.  Are they trying to be first in the bathroom or beer line?  Then all of a sudden from the area where the burned out tower was located, half a dozen guys started running into the crowds carrying large wooden contraptions over their heads which looked somewhat like bulls.  
The contraptions were laden with large bottle rockets which would shoot off into the crowds and spin around out of control.  They were powerful and definitely capable of doing some damage if one hit you in the face.  As soon as a wooden bull would run out of ammunition, the carrier would scurry back and get another fully loaded bull.  This caused the remaining people in the square to start stampeeding about as they ran for their lives.  George turned to Melinda to say, "OK this is definitely dangerous and I'm glad the boys are in the bus!".  But Melinda was nowhere to be found.  Looking up there she was, peering out of the second level of the circus bus along with Isabelle and the kids!  Smart girls!  Us guys were left to fend for ourselves in the once peaceful square now turned fireworks madhouse!  This craziness went on for at least 30 minutes.  Did we mention that OSHA is not paying much  
attention to what goes on in Mexico.  It was actually quite exciting and other than a few minor burns and a stubbed toe, none of us were seriously injured.  When it was all over we bid our new friends farewell and promised to keep up with them via their website www.thesprockets.com, and headed for the bus station.  By this time it was after 1:00 AM and we thankfully caught the last bus back to Las Hadas.  By the time we reached Southern Belle it was almost 3:00 AM.  We were dead tired, but it was a good tired.

The next afternoon, after some much needed sleep, we raised the anchor and motored around to Santiago Bay, approximately 7 miles to the north.  We spent the next couple of days visiting with our friends Stan and MJ from the sailing vessel Sol Mate.  After some provisioning we sailed north to Bahia de Navidad.  When we stopped in here on our way south we stayed at the Grand Bay Resort Marina.  This time we went into the anchorage in the lagoon.  It is mostly flat calm and very shallow as you anchor in a bottom consisting mostly of mud.  You have to be careful not to run aground as you enter this anchorage.  In the short time we were there 2 boats ran aground coming into the anchorage and had a dickens of a time getting off.  Our friends Gene and Vicki on Caravan were in the anchorage so we had fun catching up with them, and Joshua got to have some play time with their daughter Fiona.  The town of Barre Navidad is lovely and the lagoon is a fine place to anchor.  One day we snuck into the Grand Bay Hotel and took advantage of their ultra-cool swimming pool.  Gene and George entered in the Sand Bar darts tournament and took fourth place (out of four teams).  Bahia de Navidad was so nice we ended up staying a couple days longer than we had intended, but in the end finally said goodbye and started north toward Banderas Bay and the dreaded passage around Cabo Corrientes (the Point Conception of Mexico).  

My next update will probably be from somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean in January / February. Timmy will keep you posted on a monthly basis.

Zihuatanejo to Bahia de Navidad

Well we finally managed to make ourselves leave Zihuatanejo.  We now understand why they say folks come to visit but never leave. This being our furthest point south that we intend to explore this year, we turned Southern Belle north for the trek back into the Sea of Cortez.  We are a little bit behind in our updates to this website.  We hope to kick it in gear a little and catch the website up to where we actually are.  In this installment we will describe our journey north from Zihuatanejo to Bahia de Navidad.

On our way south we sailed a straight shot from Manzanillo to Zihuatanejo.  But on our journey north we harbor-hopped up the coast to Manzanillo.  We first stopped at Isla Grande, a mere nine miles from Zihuatanejo.  We didn't want to jump into this northbound thing to quickly you know.  Isla Grande is a big tourist destination, but only by day.  Droves of touristas come out via pangas, and by 1700 hours they have all been ferried back to their luxury hotels.  We kayaked ashore and scored a couple of lounge chairs so close to the water the waves were lapping up on our feet.  It was a great way to relax and watch Joshua play in the surf. Not to mention the fact that we had a waiter anxious to bring us food and drink, at reasonable rates I might add.  We left the anchorage before sunup the next morning and continued north.

Our next layover was at Caleta de Campos.  As we motor-sailed north a very large swell out of the southwest was rolling ashore.  
We were sailing at a distance of two to three miles offshore and the swells were in excess of 6 feet but very widely spaced.  Even from out where we were you could tell they were pounding the shoreline with some spectacular waves.  When we made Caleta de Campos we found our friend Evan aboard the 50-foot Crowther Catamaran Java.  He had been surfing all day and told us how great it was.  Thanks to the big swell we spent a rolly night at anchor with the huge waves crashing ashore right behind us.  It was beautiful yet a little stressful thinking about what would happen should our ground tackle fail.  Thankfully we held firm all night.  
The next morning we headed north again and within a couple of miles we came upon Java anchored off a lee-shore.  Evan and others were surfing what looked to be a great break.  The pictures don't do it justice.

That afternoon after a wonderful sail up the coast we made Maruata.  The wind blew out of the south-southwest so we had a nice long spinnaker run.  The big southwest swell was still running so there was no chance of going ashore and we spent another rolly night aboard Southern Belle.  We got underway again the next morning and were treated once again to a fresh breeze out of the south-southwest.  We thought we would be bashing our way up the coast into head winds and swells yet here we were getting long spinnaker runs.  Way Cool!  We made it to Cabeza Negra that day and spent another night much like the last two.  Not getting off of the boat for a few days is not such a big deal for two old codgers like Melinda and George (okay, just George), but for a 6 year old boy.... well let's just say he was getting a bit antsy.

The next day we had very calm conditions as we motor-sailed up to Manzanillo.  This time we did not mess around with the Downtown Harbor, and instead went straight to the anchorage at Las Hadas.  It was nice to be able to go for a walk on land, check e-mails, and let Joshua get some much needed exercise.  The next morning as we were having coffee and breakfast, we picked up the cruisers net in Bahia de Navidad about 20 miles to the north.  They announced that the town of San Patricio de Melaque was going to have their annual St. Patrick's Day Celebration.  We looked at our calendar and determined that today was St. Patrick's day.  
What a coincidence!  So we decided to leave Southern Belle in Las Hadas for the day and do a little land travel.  We packed some gear, dinghied ashore, and started making our way to Melaque.  We took a cab to the local bus station which was nothing more than a taco stand on the side of the road.  We purchased first class tickets for the bus ride.  That's right baby!  First Class!  OK, so it was only $3 per person and Joshua was free, it still counts as first class.  The bus was actually quite nice.  It was clean, air conditioned, and had a bathroom.  When Joshua needed to use the bathroom we found out that it was out of order, but the driver was nice enough to pull over and let Joshua use the restroom at a roadside taco restaurant.  I don't know if y'all knew this, but there are alot of places to get tacos in Mexico.

Once in Melaque we set off in search of all the St. Patrick's day festivities.  The information we heard over the VHF radio made it sound like there was going to be many activities to astound all of us touristas.  We had gotten an early start so as not to miss anything and after the 1.5 hour bus ride had arrived at approximately noon.  After walking around town for an hour the only celebration we found was a group of locals enjoying their day off with a bottle of tequila on the beach!  We finally found someone in the know who explained that the St Patrick's Day celebration did not start in earnest until about 6:00 PM.  Good thing we rushed over.  Since we were there we decided to tough it out.  We obtained a little beach palapa at an ocean front restaurant and cooled our heels for the afternoon which turned out to be quite nice.

At about 5:30 we walked up to the main drag and found the St. Patrick's Day parade had begun.  This parade is quite different from what we grew up with in Louisiana.  It consists of individual marching groups.  Each group is led by two columns of ornately dressed locals in what appeared to be Indian costumes.  As they marched they did a dance step in time to drums or a small marching band.  
The two columns of costumed people were followed by two columns of folks in regular street clothes.  There were maybe 6 to 8 marching groups and each one had a little something different to offer.  One group had a statue of St Patrick, one had members dressed as demons with whips, one had a group shooting bottle rockets into the air, and so forth.  It was very interesting but we wished we had a better understanding of some of the symbolism.  The parade marched all throughout the town and ended up at the town square which was where the cathedral was located.  The parade marched around the square and then each marching group marched into the cathedral as the Priest stood outside and sprinkled holy water on each person as they filed in.  After the cathedral was filled to capacity, and then some, they started a church service that lasted well over 1.5 hours.  After the service was concluded the festivities kicked off in earnest.  A carnival fair with rides and games opened up to the public and a large band began to play music on the Gazebo in the town square.

While the church service was taking place there were arts and craft tables setup for the children.  Joshua took part in this and made friends with an interesting boy named Teo.  Teo and his family are a travelling circus who call themselves The Sprockets.  
They are from Europe.  The Dad is English and the Mom is French, and besides Teo there are a couple of other young men with them. They all travel together in an old refurbished English-style double decker bus.  They have been travelling since 1997 and have visited places such as Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, etc.  For the past four years they have travelled north from the southernmost parts of South America into Central America and are continuing north through Mexico.  Teo who is now 10 is completely fluent in English, French, and Spanish.  We agreed to take the boys to the fair and Teo ended up being in charge of dealing with the Mexican Carnies.  It was fun to watch this street wise 10 year old.  By the time he was finished, the carnies didn't know what had hit them.  
For that matter neither did I as he successfully worked all the money out of my wallet!  He and Joshua went on the bumper cars where Joshua got smashed and promptly had his one remaining front baby tooth knocked out.  We don't think OSHA is paying attention to the Mexican travelling fairs, as the bumper cars looked like they were easily doing 20 MPH.  

After the kids wiped out our flash cash we went back over and hung out by the Circus Bus which was parked adjacent to the town square.  We chatted with Teo's Mom, Isabelle, while the kids ran in the square and the locals and touristas danced to the sounds of the rather large band.  The music was great!  Isabelle explained that there would eventually be a fireworks show that could get a little crazy and suggested that the boys watch it from the safety of the second level of the Circus Bus.  That sounded good to us, but we thought... how crazy can a fireworks show get?  At about 10:30 the locals setup a huge elaborate fireworks tower in front of the cathedral.  It must have been 30 feet tall.  It was constructed of bamboo and reeds and consisted of spinning wheels and all manner of dangerous looking firework gizmos.  As we watched them set it up we thought maybe this was the dangerous stuff that Isabelle had alluded to.  When the fireworks show started it was almost 11:00 PM.  It was very cool.  They would light a section of the tower and things would start spinning and different colors would sparkle all around.  After that portion of the tower burned out the band would break into a rousing song and all would dance and sing.  Then they would light another section of the tower and do it again.  Occasionally some sparks would fly off into the crowd and people would scurry about.  That must be the dangerous stuff that Isabella warned us about, but thankfully it wasn't that bad.  This went on for almost an hour.  At the very end of the show the top portion of the tower started spinning around and went shooting up into the sky and spelled the word FIN.  At this point everyone in the square started making a very quick mass exodus.  Why is everyone in such a hurry we thought.  Are they trying to be first in the bathroom or beer line?  Then all of a sudden from the area where the burned out tower was located, half a dozen guys started running into the crowds carrying large wooden contraptions over their heads which looked somewhat like bulls.  
The contraptions were laden with large bottle rockets which would shoot off into the crowds and spin around out of control.  They were powerful and definitely capable of doing some damage if one hit you in the face.  As soon as a wooden bull would run out of ammunition, the carrier would scurry back and get another fully loaded bull.  This caused the remaining people in the square to start stampeeding about as they ran for their lives.  George turned to Melinda to say, "OK this is definitely dangerous and I'm glad the boys are in the bus!".  But Melinda was nowhere to be found.  Looking up there she was, peering out of the second level of the circus bus along with Isabelle and the kids!  Smart girls!  Us guys were left to fend for ourselves in the once peaceful square now turned fireworks madhouse!  This craziness went on for at least 30 minutes.  Did we mention that OSHA is not paying much  
attention to what goes on in Mexico.  It was actually quite exciting and other than a few minor burns and a stubbed toe, none of us were seriously injured.  When it was all over we bid our new friends farewell and promised to keep up with them via their website www.thesprockets.com, and headed for the bus station.  By this time it was after 1:00 AM and we thankfully caught the last bus back to Las Hadas.  By the time we reached Southern Belle it was almost 3:00 AM.  We were dead tired, but it was a good tired.

The next afternoon, after some much needed sleep, we raised the anchor and motored around to Santiago Bay, approximately 7 miles to the north.  We spent the next couple of days visiting with our friends Stan and MJ from the sailing vessel Sol Mate.  After some provisioning we sailed north to Bahia de Navidad.  When we stopped in here on our way south we stayed at the Grand Bay Resort Marina.  This time we went into the anchorage in the lagoon.  It is mostly flat calm and very shallow as you anchor in a bottom consisting mostly of mud.  You have to be careful not to run aground as you enter this anchorage.  In the short time we were there 2 boats ran aground coming into the anchorage and had a dickens of a time getting off.  Our friends Gene and Vicki on Caravan were in the anchorage so we had fun catching up with them, and Joshua got to have some play time with their daughter Fiona.  The town of Barre Navidad is lovely and the lagoon is a fine place to anchor.  One day we snuck into the Grand Bay Hotel and took advantage of their ultra-cool swimming pool.  Gene and George entered in the Sand Bar darts tournament and took fourth place (out of four teams).  Bahia de Navidad was so nice we ended up staying a couple days longer than we had intended, but in the end finally said goodbye and started north toward Banderas Bay and the dreaded passage around Cabo Corrientes (the Point Conception of Mexico).