Monday, January 6, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Though the weather in Chiapas Mexico, near the border with Guatemala, was warm and calm, the conditions out in the Gulf of Tehuantepec were fierce.  Created by weather conditions far away across the Central American Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico, northerly winds streaked through the gaps in the mountains resulting in 45-50 knot winds and 20 foot seas along our route. These notorious conditions are not necessarily associated with any typical weather features like rain or clouds, so in the old days Tehuantepeckkers could and did catch many mariners by surprise. 

Nowadays, though we're lucky.  We can consult modern and accurate forecasts that virtually eliminate getting caught by surprise.  So, after a week of waiting in Chiapas, we finally got a favorable weather forecast for a no-drama crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and off we went, along with eight other cruisers who had been waiting with us for a break in the weather.  We arranged morning and afternoon radio net check-ins with the other boats which gave us something to look forward to each day across the Gulf.

Along the way, we did see more interesting sea life including many large sea turtles chilling out on the surface, many so close we nearly hit them.  Fortunately all the turtles heard Moonshadow in time, woke up and paddled out of our way.

Realizing we weren't going to have any scary Tehuantepec sea stories to tell, and maybe feeling a little bored,  our Captain spiced thing up with a surprise man overboard drill.

Caught by our GPS chart plotter, Deb demonstrated the benefits of her excellent man overboard training.  She had recovered the pretend Captain (a floating cushion) in just four minutes and we were back underway and on course after just six minutes. Awesome job, Deb.   

565 miles and 71.8 hours later, we arrived in the beautiful bay surrounding the lovely town of Zihuatanejo.

The last few miles were flat and calm which was good as it allowed us to see several huge logs, some mostly submerged.  

Anything this big and heavy could definitely ruin an otherwise fine passage!

Soon Moonshadow was swinging peacefully on her anchor in beautiful Zihuatanejo...

...where we kept an eye on her from several vantage points...

... and toasted her for getting us here!

On the beach where we enjoyed refreshments precisely at "beer o'clock", fishermen were demonstrating their skills at fishing with nets.

Several blocks up from the beach, the roads in Zihua are closed to vehicular traffic.

This clean and visitor friendly town is definitely on our list for a re-visit.

But our mission was to arrive in Puerto Vallarta by Mid December so on we went.

Fuel was found at the marina in Ixtapa, just six miles around the corner.

The Marina was easily navigated using our primary tools that we always keep available for immediate use,  Eye Balls.  You can spend all the money you want on electronics, but they're not always the best source of navigational data! 

The Marina in Ixtapa was excavated from a swampy estuary.  Evidently, nobody gave the Crocodiles their eviction notice.

Next day, we left for Manzanillo and anchored where all the babes hang out:  the Las Hadas Resort, site of the movie "10".

A long time ago, some guy caught a sailfish off of Manzanillo. Word got out and more fishermen showed up.  Next thing you know, a huge steel sailfish showed up in the town square.  Now, this is the billfish capital of Mexico.  This is all blown way out of proportion... we didn't catch anything.

Sailing in the tropics, it's easy to forget Christmas is just around the corner... except around this corner in Manzanillo, where you can't miss it.  Nothing says "Christmas" like pink and black Christmas trees.

It was nice to see people sprucing up around town.  Evidently OSHA hasn't payed a visit here lately.

TIP: Always stand on the full paint can!
From Manzanillo, we continued on along the Mexican Riviera coastline visiting Barra Navidad and Tenacatita.

Tenacatita has an estuary among the mangroves that provides fun dinghy exploration.

Then it was on to our new temporary home Marina Riviera Navarit in La Cruz, Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta. This is where we left Moonshadow for a surprise trip home to San Diego for Christmas.

Good ole San Diego, always fun to return to.

We successfully kept our visit secret for months, even resorting to a couple of fibs.

It was all worth it when we walked in to the family gathering at Deb's sister Robyn's house.

We miss our friends and family and treasure these few, short chances to hang out with them.
At the next low tide, we'll write our new plans in the sand.  For now, it looks like we will be in Mexico throughout 2014, splitting our time between a minor refit at the boatyard, exploring more of the Mexican Riviera and the Sea of Cortez and possibly a sail home to San Diego for the summer before returning to Mexico with the "Baha HaHa" rally in the fall.

This will give us some time to reflect on our cruise to date, now approaching two years, over 10,500 miles, and 178 ports of call.  That's a lot of memories!

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