April 30, 2006 Letter

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April 30, 2006

We met Kimberly, Lance, Blake, Garrett and Paige at the Zihuatanejo airport on April 8 to spend a week with us on the boat.  We planned to begin their vacation with a local bus ride back to town.  The buses are little old minivans, air conditioned via open windows, and the ride from the airport to Z-town takes about 45 minutes.  The driver goes as fast as he can down these narrow, bumpy roads and you think you're going to die for sure.  He will stop at any corner with a person standing on it and packs the bus to standing room only.  The brakes squeal and the shock absorbers are non-existent.  The bus will slam to a stop to pick someone up and floor the gas pedal the instant they step in the bus.  It is quite an experience.  However, the kids were spared this experience, at least until their return trip to the airport the following week, because we were offered a shared ride with another group in a new air conditioned Suburban.  There were twelve of us all crammed together, and it cost $25 vs. $5, but the ride was shorter and cooler.

It took Mike two trips to dinghy everyone to the boat with all their luggage and all the supplies we asked them to bring us from the States.  Then we all set about getting settled in and getting ready to go back to shore for dinner.  Bob (s/v Kings Way) let Blake and Garrett ride in his dinghy which is much faster than ours, and they loved that.  We spent the next day on La Ropa Beach where Mike and Garrett went para-sailing.   This is where you are tethered to a ski-boat and pulled up and around in a parachute.  Next Lance and Paige went up.  The rest of us weren't too sure we wanted to do it, but the next day Blake and Mike, then Blake and Kimberly went up.  I was the only left who hadn't done it, and they all loved it so much that they talked me into it.  Garrett went with me.  It must be my fear of heights, but this is not something I would do again.  All I could think about was whether all my affairs were in order in case I crashed and died.  I was sure we would and I was hoping I could somehow save Garrett's life by making sure he landed on top of me when we plummet to the ground.  I wanted to hide my fear from Garrett, but I couldn't help myself from asking him if the wind had been this strong when he went up before, and if he had gone out so far over the hillside before, and if he had gone this high, and if he had gone this low.  My 5-year-old grandson assured me that we were just fine, as he kept pointing out all the beautiful things to see below us.

Next we took the dinghy over to Las Gatas Beach.  It's tricky getting into the lagoon because you have to go through the surf.  But it turned out to be easier than landing the dinghy on La Ropa Beach where we almost got swamped several times.  We lounged around Las Gatas Beach Club, while the kids played in the shallow water, chasing fish and collecting coral.  We had dinner in town and sailed to Isla Grande in the morning where we had planned to do some diving.  Unfortunately, the red tide was there, so we did not anchor.  Instead, we went into Ixtapa Marina for two days.  The beach is beautiful at Ixtapa and the tide was enormous, so we relaxed at the pool ordering snacks and drinks from the palapa pool bar.  We kept a look out for the crocodiles that live in the marina, but did not see one.  Mike and I had seen one in our earlier visit to this marina a couple of weeks ago.  We sailed back to Zihuatanejo for the kids' final three days with us.  Blake and Garrett made friends with Francis and Patrick on m/v Tesla.  They live aboard their 62 foot Nordhaven Yacht.  The boys are being home-schooled by their mom while they spend the next couple of years touring the South Pacific.  The kids played on the beach together, surfed on boogie boards, and peddled around in their kayaks while we got to know their parents Fran and Greta.  The kids and the adults exchanged email addresses.  We're quite certain our paths will cross as they, too, are headed for Costa Rica.  Our last few days with the kids were spent playing on the beach, and eating and shopping in town.  It was hard to say goodbye at the airport.  We missed them immediately and absolutely can't wait for their next visit.

Cynthia flew in to visit Bob on s/v Kings Way and the four of us spent the day on lounge chairs under a palm tree at one of the nice resorts on La Ropa Beach.  Mike got a one-hour deep tissue massage for $20.  If only he had known!  He would have enjoyed one every day!  We sailed back over to Ixtapa Marina to wash the boat, do laundry and prepare for our trip to Acapulco.  We departed at 1 p.m., sailed through the night, and arrived in Acapulco at 8 a.m.

Acapulco felt so big!  It is beautiful at night as millions of city lights twinkle around the entire bay and up the hillsides.  During the day, it has the hustle-bustle feeling of a typical large urban city, with tall buildings, malls and lots of traffic.  Yet the many tourists, tour boats, restaurants, resort hotels, and beaches lining the bay reminded us that we were still on our never-ending vacation.  We became fast friends with solo sailor Anton aboard s/v Sukha, a Lagoon 440 catamaran, and enjoyed shrimp and fresh grapefruit margaritas on his beautiful spacious cat.  Our purpose for visiting Acapulco was to provision, so after lunching at a little cafe on the pier, we took our empty backpacks on the local bus across town to Walmart and stocked up on bulk items.  That evening, Anton joined us for dinner at La Cabana Restaurant on the waterfront, and then to see the cliff divers of Acapulco.  It was amazing to see these guys diving more than 100 feet, carrying flaming torches, into the swirling churning water below which was only 12 feet deep!  For the grand finale, the water is set on fire and they dive into the flames.  It was quite a show. 

Anton invited us to join him as he took Mauricio, Felipe and their families sailing.  They are buying a Lagoon catamaran like his.  In return, Mauricio and Christina invited us to their weekend home, a hillside villa in Acapulco, for breakfast (served by the maid) prior to sailing, and then a swim in one of their two infinity pools overlooking Acapulco Bay and poolside drinks (served by the full-time poolside bartender) in the afternoon.  We were exposed to the very gracious and very wealthy people of Mexico.  That evening, Fran and Greta invited us and Anton to m/v Tesla for a delicious dinner on their big air conditioned yacht.  Young Patrick entertained us with his great impersonations and Fran gave us a tour of this magnificent vessel.  After dinner, we even got hot fudge sundaes for dessert!  What a fun and full day we had.

We stayed in Acapulco for a couple more days because we wanted to say hello to John and Amanda Neal aboard s/v Mahina Tiare.  This is the vessel on which we had taken our off-shore sailing expedition from New Caledonia to New Zealand in 2003.  At that time, we were still in the planning stages of our new lifestyle.  John and Amanda are the expedition leaders/trainers and their website schedule showed them arriving in Acapulco on April 25.  It was fun to be able to give them a tour of our boat, tell them about our past year and show them that we are really doing it!  They invited us for breakfast aboard s/v Mahina Tiare and to meet their current expedition crew.  It was fun to be the "old salts" and show them pictures and answer all their questions about live-aboard cruising.

We departed Acapulco at 10:20 a.m. on the 25th for the 33 hour trip to Puerto Angel.  During our overnight passage, there was no moon so it was quite dark.  The only light was from the dramatic lightning storm filling the sky in front of us.  We could see the energy mass from the storm on our radar screen.  It appeared to be heading offshore, so we altered our course slightly toward the shoreline to avoid getting hit by it.  We arrived in the small fishing village of Puerto Angel the following evening at 7:30 p.m. and anchored next to s/v Sukha.  This is a very small anchorage and required us to drop a stern anchor so we wouldn't swing into each other.  However, the dozens of fishing pangas lining the shore don't use stern lines, and we were awakened with a loud bump as one drifted into us when the tide shifted during the night.  We jumped up and tied our dinghy sideways across our stern to act as a bumper.  The next morning, we pulled up our anchors and moved over to a safer spot in the small bay. 

Puerto Angel has a Port Captain and for the first time since we've been in Mexico, we were boarded.  He was very polite and very formal, but spoke no English.  He wanted all of our paperwork and took my originals!  I interpreted that he said we would have to come to his office later to get our copies returned.  He also asked for drinks for him and his panga driver because it was very hot, so we gave him two orange sodas.   At his office, we had to wait over an hour while somebody typed a couple of blanks on a simple one-page form.  It was excruciating watching how long it took them, while we stood outside the walk-up window sweating in the sweltering heat.  He put stamps and signatures all over the form and finally returned our documents with a smile and a hand-shake.  It was kind of bazaar. We enjoyed the rest of the day with Anton at a palapa on the beach eating chips and guacamole, shrimp ceviche and drinking beers.  The guys took a swim, then we hiked up a very steep hill to an old hotel for a great view of the bay (pictured here).  After the sun set, we hiked back down and ate a late dinner on the beach.  All in all, it was a very good day (even with the Port Captain experience).  

In the morning we departed Puerto Angel and continued south.  Mike put out a fishing line and he actually caught a fish and reeled it in!  We were told that you can whack it on the head with a bat (yuk!), or pour alcohol on its gills and it will immediately stop flipping around.  It was fighting so hard as Mike took the hook out and blood was getting all over the deck.  So I rushed to get a bottle of vodka and poured some on it.  It jerked so hard that it flew out of Mike's grip and back into the water!  Mike was holding the fish by the tail and we later found out that he must hold it the other way and pour the alcohol in it's face so it runs down in its gills.  Anyway, we're getting closer and closer to actually catching and eating a fish.  I really want us to get skilled at fishing for the health benefits and money saving aspects.  However, all the gore and violence involved is a little tough for me to enjoy.

We and s/v Sukha stopped at Chachacual anchorage in the Bahias de Huatulco.  Now THIS was the place we've been waiting to visit!  It was so beautiful and pristine.  Crystal clear warm water, long white sand beach, a great snorkeling reef with lots of colorful fish, the waves crashing on the rocks.  And not a single soul in sight.  It was perfect!  We nestled in to the perfect spot, then a tourist boat came motoring into the anchorage with about 50 snorkelers and unloaded them on our beach!  They only stayed for an hour or two, so it wasn't too bad.  Then we had the entire anchorage all to ourselves again.  Blissful, peaceful, beautiful.  That is, until the bees showed up. Sigh.  We noticed one or two buzzing around the cockpit, then more came and pretty soon I had to jump overboard to escape them.  We remembered that we had stashed a bolt of mosquito netting purchased at the Army/Navy Surplus Store.  We draped it all around the bimini to enclose the cockpit, managed to get rid of all the bees trapped inside with us, and then enjoyed our afternoon snacks and drinks while the bees buzzed around outside the net.  After sundown the bees disappeared. We went over to Anton's boat for dinner (he had caught fish that day and managed to hold onto them) and watched "Captain Ron" on DVD.  The next day was perfect as the wind was blowing just hard enough to keep the bees away, so we enjoyed the snorkeling and walking on the beach and stayed another night before continuing south.

Now we are here in the Marina Chahue (pronounced Cha-way) in Huatulco (Wah-tool-koh).  Our first night here we had dinner with Fran and Greta (m/v Tesla), Damian and Debbie (s/v Ticket to Ride) and Tony and Sharon (s/v Hoofbeats) at a great little restaurant near the marina.  This is the final stop in Mexico for most cruisers heading south.  This is where we wait for the proper calm weather window to sail the 700 miles across the Tehuantepec passage and the Gulf of Fonseca to Costa Rica.  Winds of 50 miles per hour are not uncommon, and nobody wants that if they can avoid it.  We wait for the weather forecasters to predict several days of calm wind.  However, the best weather forecast can only give you a picture of what to expect for 36 hours, and we need 4 to 5 days to get across.  So you cross your fingers and you take off.   We met a number of cruisers that have been here for a couple of weeks that are planning to leave in the next couple of days.  Mike and I want to spend at least 10 days in this wonderful little town, so we won't be going with them.  We plan to take an overnight inland trip to see the ruins in Oaxaca (wah-ha-cah) before we look for our weather window.

My next update will probably be from Costa Rica.  Until next time, adios!  (Click here to see this month's photo album)

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