Logbook: November & December, 2004
On November 3, 2004, we left San Diego and headed south to Mexico. On December 21, 2004, we arrived in Zihuatanejo, Mexico (about 150 miles north of Acapulco). We traveled over 1,300 nautical miles, which at an average speed of 5 knots, was about 260 hours underway.
We visited the following ports/anchorages:
For most of our trip (Ensenada to Puerto Vallarta), we "buddy-boated" with our friends Bob and Kay (and their kitty Sophie) on Kay II. We first met Bob and Kay as our neighbors in Ensenada in early 2004. We couldn't have asked for better travel partners. We had similar desires in terms of where we wanted to stop and for how long. Our boats were very compatible speed-wise, so we were rarely out of sight of one another. We shared many meals, happy hours ("sundowners"), radio chats, hikes, provisioning runs and fishing adventures with them, and they've become very special friends. It was tough to say good-bye to them in Puerto Vallarta, but we had plans to meet other friends in Zihuatanejo for Christmas, and they had family coming to visit them in Puerto Vallarta, so they stayed there, and we moved on. Fortunately, we knew we would be cruising together again in the not-too-distant future.
Experiences Along the Way:
Ensenada (11/3-11/11): Going back to Ensenada was like going home again. We were welcomed very warmly. We spent 8 days visiting friends, eating at our favorite restaurants, provisioning (since groceries were cheaper there than in the States) and making other final preparations for our trip south.
San Quintin (11/12-11/14): We like to describe our trip from Ensenada to San Quintin (96 nautical miles [nm], 21 hours) as "lively." For much of the way, we had 20-25 knots of wind from astern, with some gusts up to 28. The seas got a little rough - mostly 4-6 feet, but a few 8-10 footers - and we found several items inside the boat that needed to be stowed more securely. Although we didn't get much sleep, we were happy to have had such a great sail on the first leg of our trip. We spent two nights in San Quintin but didn't get ashore. Rich and Bob fished from the dinghy here but didn't catch anything.
Islas San Benitos (11/15-11/18): The second leg of our trip, San Quintin to Islas San Benitos (126 nm, 27 hours) was much calmer than the previous one. We didn't have much wind, so we motored most of the way, but the seas were laid down, and it was a good passage. Islas San Benitos is a group of three offshore islands, and there were no other boats in the anchorage when we came in (although a couple others showed up on our last day there). There is a very small fishing village on one of the islands, and shortly after we arrived, a couple of the fishermen came out in their panga (a small Mexican fishing boat) and welcomed us. The guy who seemed to be in charge was named Ramon, and he spoke English fairly well. He directed us to the best place to anchor, and assured us that we were welcome to visit the island. We went ashore the next day and spoke to a couple other fishermen in the village. (There were only about 6-8 fishermen working in the village at the time.) These fishermen didn't speak English, but they were very friendly, and we muddled through a basic conversation. We hiked out to an old lighthouse, and when we came back to the village, Ramon was there. He invited us to come to dinner the next afternoon in the village and said they would cook lobster for us. How nice! The next morning, we dinghied over to another one of the islands, which has lots of sea lions and an elephant seal colony on it. We spent a couple hours just watching them entertain us. In the afternoon, we went ashore for dinner. We took drinks, an appetizer and chocolate cake for dessert, which they seemed to appreciate. Dinner was outstanding - first an appetizer with lobster and cream cheese, then stuffed lobster for our main course - and we enjoyed visiting with Ramon and two other fishermen. With Ramon translating, we had a great conversation and learned a lot about what their lives were like working as fishermen. At the end of the evening, they gave each of us another lobster tail "para llevar" ("to go"). This was a very special experience, and Islas San Benitos was our favorite stop along the Baja coast.
Turtle Bay (11/18-11/21): The trip from Islas San Benitos to Turtle Bay (55 nm, 10 1/2 hours) was very nice. We had light winds in the morning, but then they built to about 15 knots on our stern. As we approached the entrance to Turtle Bay, we were sailing wing-and-wing (jib & mizzen to starboard and main to port) and enjoying it so much, we considered continuing on. However, Turtle Bay is a good stop for fuel and provisions, so we turned in. Also, on our way, we caught a yellowtail (about 14 lbs.) so we were eager to get the fish cleaned and enjoy it for dinner. We stayed here a couple of nights, filled up on fuel and picked up a few provisions, but this wasn't our favorite spot, and we were happy to move on.
Asuncion (11/21-11/23): We motor-sailed from Turtle Bay to Asuncion (53 nm, 10 hours) because winds were light. We caught so many fish on this leg of our trip that we lost count. Most of the fish we caught were skipjack, and we threw them back. However, the last two were tuna (4-6 lbs. each), so we were happy campers! As we approached Asuncion Bay, an unfamiliar voice called "Slip Away" on the radio. The voice belonged to a Canadian woman named Shari who lives in Asuncion with her husband Juan, who is a fisherman. She had heard Kay II and us talking on the VHF radio as we were approaching, and she called and offered to show us around the next day. We took her up on her offer, and enjoyed our tour of the town with Shari, as well as her insights into the Mexican culture.
Bahia Santa Maria (11/24-11/28): Asuncion to Bahia Santa Maria (185 nm, 34 hours) was a mix of sailing and motoring, and a beautiful moon on the night passage. Since our freezers were full of fish, much to Rich's and Bob's disappointment, we kept the fishing gear inside the boat on this leg of our journey. We arrived in Bahia Santa Maria the day before Thanksgiving, and there were about 15-18 boats already in the anchorage. This is a big bay and a popular place to stop on the way down the Baja, so we weren't surprised to see so many boats here. Shortly after we arrived, one of the boats announced on the VHF radio that there would be a potluck on the beach the next day to celebrate Thanksgiving, and everyone was welcome. At least half of the boats in the anchorage were Canadian, but they were happy to celebrate with us. We spent a couple of days here, and did some great hiking and exploring on a beach where we found big sand dollars (4 1/2" in diameter). Also, the local fishermen here traded us for lobster. We gave them chicken, Kay II gave them Cokes, and they gave us lobster. The weather was starting to get warmer here. We could wear shorts and tank tops, but the water was still too cool to swim - except for some of those crazy Canadians!
Cabo San Lucas (11/29-12/2): We next traveled from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas (178 nm, 33 hours), which is at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. When we left Bahia Santa Maria, we were hoping that we would have a weather window to travel to Puerto Vallarta on the mainland without stopping in Cabo. Cabo is a nice enough town if you like loud music and timeshare salesmen, but it wasn't a place we felt compelled to stop. However, there were strong north winds blowing down the Sea of Cortez, with big seas, so we dropped our anchor in the bay at Cabo, which was very rolly for a couple of nights. When we got word that the weather was calming down, we were ready to leave. The evening before our departure, Bob & Kay invited us over to Kay II ostensibly to go over the charts and plan our voyage. The true reason for the invitation, however, was to celebrate Jan's birthday, and they surprised her with a cake. We celebrated a couple of days early since we would be at sea on the actual day (12/3).
Cabo San Lucas to Banderas Bay (12/2-12/4): From Cabo San Lucas, we crossed the southern end of the Sea of Cortez to Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) on the Mexican mainland (278 nm, 50 hours). Although we filled our fuel tanks before we left Cabo, we were hoping to sail a good portion of the way. We were not disappointed. We motored for the first few hours out of Cabo, but when we got away from the land, the wind picked up. The first night, we had between 15 and 20 knots of wind off our port quarter. The seas were a little rolly, but we were sailing and making great time. The next day, the wind abated slightly, and the seas laid down. It was a perfect sailing day, and it was Jan's birthday. Early the next morning, as we got closer to the mainland, the wind started to die, so we turned on our engines and motor-sailed in order to get into the Punta de Mita anchorage by sunset. We dragged a fishing line on this passage but caught no fish. We did, however, catch a bird - not a good thing! The aptly-named boobie bird saw our lure, thought it was a fish, dove on it and got the hook caught in his beak. Jan slept through all this excitement, but Rich managed to free the bird and keep his lure.
Puerto Vallarta (12/4-12/15): We arrived in Banderas Bay just before sunset on 12/4 and dropped our anchor at Punta de Mita, just inside the north end of the Bay. The next day, we motored two hours further into the bay to the anchorage at La Cruz. La Cruz is a small town about 15 miles outside of Puerto Vallarta. We have good friends who live in P.V. - Kathy and Allen who were our neighbors for six months in Ensenada. When they moved to P.V., Kathy was three months pregnant, and their son Morgan was born in April 2004. Jan spent some girlfriend time with Kathy, who took her sightseeing downtown and bought her a birthday present - some snowflake Christmas decorations for Slip Away. Also, Allen and Kathy brought their boat (Love Song) out to anchor by us in La Cruz for a few days, so we had a great opportunity to spend time together. Several other cruising friends whom we met either in Ensenada or on the way down the Baja were in the Puerto Vallarta area, so there was lots of socializing to do. When we got to Puerto Vallarta, the water was finally warm enough to swim, which made us very excited, until we got stung by jellyfish. Bummer! After 10 days in La Cruz, it was time for us to be on our way to meet our friends Bob & Janey in Zihuatanejo for Christmas.
Tenacatita Bay (12/16-12/19): Winds were predicted to be light and variable for our trip from Banderas Bay to Tenacatita (123 nm, 26 hours), but we got lucky and found some wind to sail for a few hours. When we arrived in Tenacatita, we felt like we finally made it to the tropics. The air and water were warm, and we swam and didn't get stung by jellyfish. We took our dinghy up a jungle river cruise here. It was like being at Disneyland, except this was the real thing. We also got out our snorkeling gear and enjoyed checking out the underwater life.
Tenacatita to Zihuatanejo (12/19-12/21): We had very little wind on our trip from Tenacatita to Zihuatanejo (218 nm, 48 hours), so it was a motor trip most of the way. We did set our spinnaker for about an hour, but the winds weren't consistent enough to keep it flying. Seas were glassy calm, though, so it was an easy passage. We also noticed the temperature getting warmer on this passage. When we arrived in Zihua four days before Christmas, the air temperature was about 90, and the sea temperature was 89. Anyone who wants a tropical Christmas - this is the place to go! We were dragging our fishing line and getting a little frustrated because we hadn't caught anything since that heyday on our way into Asuncion (a month ago!). However, a few hours before arriving in Zihua, our fishing prayers were answered. Jan was off watch and sleeping soundly when Rich woke her to ask for help in reeling in a big fish that was on the line. Bleary-eyed, Jan managed to get the gaff, and we got the dorado on board. It was about 4 feet long, and we estimated that he weighed about 30-35 lbs. When we arrived in Zihuatanejo, our friend Bob on Amiga (a fishing trawler), helped us clean and filet the fish. We enjoyed the dorado for about a month.
Zihuatanejo (12/21/04-2/16/05): When we arrived in Zihuatanejo, we settled in to stay for a while. There's lots to explore in this area, and the weather was ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving. "Rick's Bar" is a cruisers' hangout in town, and we enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner there and met a number of new people. We spent Christmas Day with our friends Bob and Janey, and Bob's daughter Chris, on their boat Amiga. We went out fishing in the morning and enjoyed a turkey dinner late in the afternoon. By the time New Year's rolled around, Rich was getting over a cold and Jan was starting with it, so we had a very quiet New Year's Eve - at least until the fireworks started at midnight. We enjoyed Zihua and will definitely go back. However, we found it to be too hectic during the holidays - too many jet skis, banana torpedo rides, and parasailers running around in the bay. We'll seek out a quieter location for Christmas and New Year's weeks next year.