Friday, February 26, 2016


Manzanillo is as far south as we intend to go this cruising season.  Its coordinates are 19.0609 North and 104.2070 West, and Comox can be found at 49.6733 North and 124.9022 West.  This means we have travelled 30.6124 lines of latitude.  As each line of latitude is 60 nautical miles, we have travelled 1836.744 nautical miles south and 20.6974 degrees east - as the crow flies. (A nautical mile is 1.1508 longer than a statute mile.) We have crossed two time zones.  Of course we haven’t travelled in a straight line anywhere and we consider ourselves outrageously lucky if we make 6 knots an hour - which means we cover just under 7 miles an hour. We left Comox on June 26 so it has taken us 8 months to get this far with many stops along the way.  Fast going, eh?  But, oh!  What a way to travel!

Port of Manzanillo and Manzanillo Bay in foreground, Santiago Bay in background, Las Hadas on the point between them.
As I write, we are anchored off the Las Hadas resort.  It is a Moorish designed complex built on the slopes of a headland found between the two large bays of Manzanillo and gained fame as the setting for the 80’s movie “10” starring Bo Derek, Dudley Moore and Julie Andrews.  Yes, there is a beach in front of the resort, but we can hardly believe it is where the famous running scene took place, compared to some of the other beaches we have seen in Mexico. 

 Nevertheless, it is a gorgeous spot, the anchorage is calm, and the water clean and warm. 

Ka'sala is just under the tall palm - port of Manzanillo in the far background
At night we look over the bay at the lights of the city and the large container port in the distance – if the temperature didn’t give it away, we would think we were in Vancouver.  Of course, seeing it all under a full moon makes any place special.

Ka'sala in front of Las Hadas (Mary Alice photo)
On the other side of the headland is another great bay called Santiago.  When we arrived in the area on Friday, February 19, we went directly to the anchorage there at Playa La Boquita.

Playa La Boquita anchorage at sunset
 We had a good sail down the coast from the Aquarium at Tenacatita, managing to sail almost the entire 35 miles with the wind on our quarter. Just a few miles along we met with Tappen Zee - another Coast 34.  Doug had been corresponding with Annie and Tom, but this was the first we met.

Tappen Zee, another Coast 34,  off the coast of Tenacatita
As we rounded the point into La Boquita the wind picked up and we flew into the anchorage, dropping our hook in about 7 meters of water.  There were half a dozen other sailboats in this comfortable spot, surrounded by miles of sandy beach stretching off into the distance.

Downwind sailing - bliss!
The only fly in the ointment on this passage was we managed to snag one of the ubiquitous pop bottle fishing lines on our rudder, forcing us to heave-to in order to untangle ourselves with the boat hook.  Unfortunately, that did not work and we had to force poor Ka’sala into irons in order to back up on the line.  Luckily this manoeuvre did work, otherwise one of us would have had to go over the side.  Of course, all of this took place in 20 knots of wind with a nice sea running.

Uncharted "rock" off the coast - yet another Piedro Blanco
The anchorage at La Boquita is lovely.  The headland protects it from prevailing winds and swells so it is relatively calm.  Jungle climbs up its steep sides and in the evenings a fragrant bouquet, smelling like gardenia, wafts across the water, while the insects swell with song.

Jungly Cove off Playa La Boquita
The beach is lined by seafood palapas with lounge chairs and tables in front.

We could splash our toes in the ocean and enjoy shrimp ceviche and margaritas all day if we wanted to!

We certainly enjoyed watching dozens of Mexican families doing just that!

 A real bonus was the fact that we could easily land and launch our dinghy and kayaks on the beach in front of these establishments.

Ice Cream is wonderful!

On our first day we rowed ashore, leaving the dinghy high on the sand in front of a little park, then walked for a couple kilometres through a housing estate to the main road.

Cobblestones keep down speed!
There we picked up a Number 1 bus and took it into the town of Santiago to catch the weekly flea market.  There were lots of interesting things to see and do in the town and in the market.  When we were through browsing, we hopped back on the bus and continued on into the city of Manzanillo.

Viewed from the bus - a palapa roof being contructed
We travelled past the enormous inner harbour and the huge shipping container port.  We had to wait for a train with containers piled two high, taking its cargo, presumably, to Guadalajara.  

Anchorage at the Port of Manzanillo
At the end of the line we just stayed on the bus and it returned us back to our starting point.  What a great introductory tour of the town for just 7 pesos apiece (about a dollar)!

Aluminum Wares
On the next day we launched our kayaks for a thorough exploration of the anchorage, headland and lagoon, before beaching the little craft and partaking in the aforementioned wiggling of toes in the sand under the shade of a palapa.

Entrance to the lagoon at Playa La Boquita
Craggy cliffs line the side of the anchorage
In the anchorage is the wreck of a ship that sunk as the result of a hurricane that blew through here in 1959.  It is so close to the surface and has been in the water long enough to have formed a reef now crewed by colourful fish.

Wreck of the San Luciano at Playa La Boquita
 On another day, I took the inexpensive bus again, this time getting off at Walmart, to do a relatively large provisioning.  I took a cab back to La Boquita and the cab driver was very curious to know what kind of a party I was going to with all the food!  I’m not sure if he worked out we were off one of the sailboats in the bay.

We really enjoyed Playa La Boquita and could have spent longer than the three days we did.  But there was more to see in the area, so on Tuesday, the 23rd, we upped anchor and motored around the bay and over to the Las Hadas anchorage.

We checked out the anchorage at La Audiencia
 We were hoping to charge up our batteries along the way, but as we were putting along, the engine alarm went off and we saw we were overheating.  Luckily we were far enough out, and there was just enough wind, that we could unfurl our headsail while Doug tried to figure out what was wrong.  Fortunately it was only the fan belt which was relatively easy to replace, though the engine was very hot.  Good planning on Doug’s part meant we had a spare fan belt.  Ironically, he had just replaced it two weeks before to prevent the very thing that happened!  Our previous belt had lasted almost 2000 engine hours.  The new one less than two weeks!  Hopefully this one will last!

Marina at Las Hadas - Ka'sala in the anchorage out front
We spent two nights at Las Hadas.  What a surprise for us to see the Dutch sailboat Zwerver also anchored there!  We had first encountered Harry and Ellen in Neah Bay, just as we were about to begin our passage to San Francisco and sailed together for a couple of days.  After that, we leap-frogged down the coast, not catching up with each other until this moment.  We were able to share a meal together before going our separate ways – they to continue down to Panama and us to return back north.

Ellen, Lyneita, Doug and Harry - Cape Mendecino survivors!
While at Las Hadas we were able to get out in the kayaks to explore and swam several times around the boat in the 28 degree water.

In front of Playa del Sol

Hidden resort
Juvenile pelicans off the Las Hadas breakwater
On our final day in Manzanillo we sailed over to Ensenada Carrizal.  This bay, only five miles from the city is totally remote.  There is no development and the jungle meets the cliffs that cascade down into the aquamarine water.

Ensenada Carrazel
There is an extensive coral reef along the coastline and we spent some time snorkeling with a large variety of colourful reef fish in very good visibility.  A large surf surged into caves and indentations along the shoreline creating roaring and booming sounds making us think there was an enormous sea creature nearby.  The night was quite rolly, but we thought it was worth it for experiencing the bay’s unspoiled beauty.

Ah!  Life aboard a sailboat.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Aquarium at Tenacatita

Tenicatita is only 30 or so nautical miles from Chamela, so it is an easy day sail.  After we aborted our attempt to snorkel at Isla Cocina we packed everything up and headed out to sea.  It was another, unbelievably gorgeous day, glorious sunshine and 80+ degrees.  We expected we would have light winds from the stern, so Doug prepared the drifter and we kept the mainsail furled.  Of course, Murphy just had to intervene and, after an hour out, the wind piped up from the opposite direction.  We didn’t mind a bit as it did not get past 13 knots, the seas were relatively flat (except for that long southern swell) and Ka’sala is more than happy to ride along merrily, close hauled, under these conditions.  We rarely got above five knots but, oh, what fun to be at the helm and watch the lovely coastline disappear in our wake!

The Aquarium - main Tenacatita anchorage in the far distance
We arrived at “The Aquarium”, the outer anchorage at Tenacatita about 5:30 pm.  We dropped the hook 10 meters below in sand, sorted the boat out and jumped in the crystal clear water for a refreshing swim.  What a lovely evening to bob in the swells, enjoy a delicious steak barbeque and sit up on the foredeck to watch the moon and stars while a gentle breeze ruffled our hair and the waves rolled into the glowing sand beach.  Heaven!

The next day, however, we discovered that the natural beauty is marred by a couple of things.  First, we came to realize that there were no palapas or tiendas on the beach.  The few houses strung out behind the strand were actually abandoned and dilapidated, without roofs and windows.  Hydro poles were broken and twisted, wires hanging limp.  We thought maybe this was the result of Hurricane Patricia which blew through here last October.  We found out that there had been some damage, but the wreckage we were seeing was the result of an ongoing land dispute.  We don’t know all the details, but it seems that certain people want to claim this entire area for themselves and their own developments and forced everyone else to move on.  Palapas and homes were bulldozed,hotels were abandoned, hundreds of people were displaced, the road in barricaded and armed security guards hired to patrol the area for interlopers.  The dispute went to Mexican court and apparently it was decided that the actions taken were illegal, but the only outcome of which we are aware is that people are now allowed to return to the beach only, no businesses can open up and displaced people cannot return or rebuild.  It is kind of sad, really.

Abandoned hotel , falling down hydro poles and campsites

When we were here five years ago few, if any, cruising boats used this anchorage.  Everyone dropped their hooks in the bay 2 miles around the corner - as we did.  However, the Aquarium was sorely missed by all and we now know why.   Not only is the bay breathtakingly beautiful and the anchorage secure, there is a little bay nearby that is full of coral.  Brightly coloured fish of every size and colour imaginable make the reef their home.  Although it does not rate with some of our diving experiences in Asia, we were thrilled to don masks and snorkels to float on the warm surge and play with the fishes.  We even saw two rays! 

The darkness in the water is the coral reef - you can also see it clearly in the first photo above
We have had the place almost entirely to ourselves.  Only one or two sailing boats have spent the night with us in the bay.  During the day, a couple small buses and a few cars bring people to play on the beach, but they bring their own picnics and are gone by the end of the afternoon.  By night, the whole beach is dark except for a very gothic looking four story monstrosity at the top of the bay, fronted by several patrol cars.  Perhaps this is where the security guards hang out. 

The best dinghy landing is in front of this place
Although there is constant surf, getting to shore has not been as challenging  as it was in Chamela.  In one corner of the bay the water is flat and it was easy for us to land and store our kayaks while we walked the entire extent of the 3 mile beach and back. 

Doug kayaking to the outer reef on the point
Although we could have easily landed our dinghy as well, we chose to anchor it off to do our snorkelling.

Now this is more like it!!!  Ka'sala in the far distance
We have used our dinghy to visit other boats in the anchorage.  One night Notre Isle arrived from Chamela and we enjoyed catching up with Rick and Mary Alice while the sun set.  On another night we joined Dave and Betty-Ann aboard their Tayana 37, Confidence, for sundowners.  This Canadian couple from Victoria have had their boat in this area for the last couple years, “summering” Confidence in the marina at Barra de Navidad and surviving the hurricane that blew through in the fall.  Next month they are taking the Puddle Jump leap to French Polynesia and both are excited about the prospect.

Every morning at 9 there is a VHF radio net that begins in the Barra de Navidad anchorage and ends in the Tenecatita anchorage.  We have come to recognize that there are dozens and dozens of cruising sailboats in this area – many of whom stay here the entire season.  We have recognized many names and almost had the opportunity to catch up with Annie & Tom aboard sister Coast 34 sailboat Tappan Zee – hopefully we will catch up with them later down the line.

In the dawn, the aquarium beckons
Tomorrow we will continue down to the Manzanillo area, 35 nautical miles away, to see the famous Las Hadas resort and to frolic on the beaches of Santiago, before returning to the Barra de Navidad anchorage and making our way back to the Sea of Cortez.

Getting ready to snorkle in the Aquarium - life is good!
Oh, and I forgot - ask me about the crocodiles!


Our last day at La Cruz was a busy one.  We were up early as we wanted to get to the local weekly market and provision for the next stage of our journey.  Every Wednesday a few trucks arrive, loaded way above the gunnels with fresh fruit/veggies, dried nuts, granola and all sorts of other treats a person might find in a Mexican mercado.  

Add caption
All along the little side street, the venders had laid out their wares on folding tables – hardware, kitchenware, videos, make up, clothing for everyone and threaded throughout little stands selling coconut water, tacos and empanadas.  I was surrounded by the local Mexican women as we pawed through finding the perfect everything.  Doug stood by with the shopping bags helping me organize my purchases. 

We needed to be back to the boat by 9am when we were supposed to be receiving a water delivery as the water on the dock was considered “drinkable” but not “potable”.  Unfortunately the delivery man was not allowed onto the marina premises, although he had already made at least 2 deliveries in the past week.  We found out later that another company had the exclusive rights at almost twice the price.   We ended up filling our tanks with the marina water and adding chlorine.  Neither of us are particularly fond of the flavour of this chemical, but at least we knew it would be safe and palatable through our ceramic filter. 

Ka'sala buried in sailboats at the La Cruz marina
Later, I made two more trips into town.  One to complete my provisioning, and another to pick up the laundry.  I couldn’t resist buying a chicken slow grilled on a mesquite barbeque.  For 100 pesos we got a whole chicken, tortillas, rice, coleslaw and the most amazing mesquite grilled salsa!  I topped it off with some roast “pappas” (potatoes) from the rotisserie chicken place across the road.  We couldn’t complain about the great food available to us in La Cruz!

By 1pm we were off the dock and anchored outside the breakwater.  We were sorry to say goodbye to our friends who were staying behind, but hoped to see them again soon.  

Lyneita, Doug, Al and Lindy
We had a quiet afternoon and a lovely dinner.  We decided about 7pm that we would just head out for Chamela, 90 nautical miles away, so we could round Cabo Corrientes in the early morning hours – a time when the wind and waves would likely be at their most benign.  And we were right.  We drifted out of the bay, and as we got closer to the Cape, the wind picked up, but never exceeded 20 knots.  The seas were confused – Corrientes means “currents” and once around we knew why.  We had a southern current and swell against us, while the prevailing winds and wind chop were behind us.  Our point of sail was almost directly from the stern, not the best for filling the sails in rolly conditions, so we had everything prevented as well.  After we left the influence of the Cape, we motor-sailed for the rest of the night and morning, arriving in Chamela in the afternoon of February 11. 

Dawn on the coast to Chamela
We dropped anchor in front of the estuary entrance in about 8 meters of emerald green, clear-as-a-bell water.  No sooner did we have the anchor down when Jean-Guy, a Canadian friend of ours from our previous Mexican cruising adventure, was on the VHF arranging for us to get together.  He and his wife, Fran, had sold their sailboat Gosling after cruising Pacific Mexico for most of the last decade, including a year farther south and transiting the Panama Canal.  Although they have since bought another sailboat in BC (Comox of all places!), they will only sail it in the Pacific Northwest.  For the moment, they are travelling gypsies in their RV Casita Rosita.  We quickly made arrangements to meet them the following day.  That gave us a bit of time to eyeball the surf and try to figure out how we would get ashore.

Rocky point off main anchorage at Chamela
Our guidebook had told us that the best place to land was on the beach close to the palapa restaurants and the estuary.  All the local pangas seemed to land and take off from there as well.  What we hadn’t counted on was the prevailing southern swell, which sent roller sets to the beach every 5 waves or so.  We launched the kayaks and toured all along this rugged anchorage,  paddling up and down the beach trying to figure out the best place to land and time the waves.  Courageous Doug went first and it was looking good before a roller turned him sideways and flipped his kayak.  Not only did it fill with water, it also took on several pounds of sand.  He could hardly drag it out of the surf.  Reticent Lyneita, stood off and watched a whole lot longer before choosing a gap and paddling like mad.  Just as I made it to shore, a smaller break pushed me sideways and I carved into the sand.  The whole experience was totally safe and tremendously funny, though cleaning out the kayaks wasn’t so hilarious.  We also had to figure out how we would get back to Ka’sala!  We had dry clothes and stuff in sealed bags in the kayak compartments and were in our bathing suits, so there was no harm done, except, maybe, to our pride.

Ka'sala at the anchorage in Chamela
We asked one of the local palapa owners to watch our kayaks for us while we caught up with J-G and Fran.  A kayak had been stolen off the beach two days before and, although our kayaks are not expensive, they would be very difficult to replace if we lost them.  For the price of a margarita, toes in the sand, waves in the surf, we knew our kayaks would be looked after.

Anchorage at Chamela
We found the little 20 spot RV park but J-G and Fran were at the market.  We introduced ourselves to one of their neighbours and he allowed us to clean up in the park facilities.  Then we walked into the village of Perula to have a look around. 

Main Street Perula
This small place is a series of small houses and tiendas lined along the coastal highway.  A large number of Nord Americanos live in the neighbourhood, many of them French Canadians.  Along the beach were some amazing large homes.  We didn’t notice any damage from the hurricane that came close to the area a few months ago.

Veggie garden on the outskirts of town

Bougainvillea line the ditches on the way in to Perula
We had a lovely visit with J-G and Fran, catching up with their news and also consulting with them about their many experiences cruising on this coast and “summering” their sailboat in the Guaymas area.  We learned many things and are grateful to them for sharing and guiding us. (Jean-Guy has two great blogs: &  We were also surprised to discover that in the camper beside them belonged to Ellen and Ian, more cruising friends, who were now engaging in an RV experience.  Their sailboat, Kasasa, is for sale and currently on the hardstand in Guaymas.  We enjoyed catching up with them and appreciated the knowledge they shared with us as well.

Fran, Ellen, Lyneita, Doug and Jean-Guy
We indulged in a couple of delicious inexpensive meals with our friends - one at a French restaurant and another on the beach in an enormous palapa.  Both places were packed with gringos, most living the winter months in this area.  It’s not surprising as the bay is enormous and includes 3 different villages, as well as miles and miles of hard packed beautiful sand beaches.  The backdrop terrain is hilly and mountainous and covered in jungle.  It is hot and humid, but cooler at night with a heavy dew to cleanse the salt from our decks.  There are a number of islands in the bay and they are a destination for tourists looking for small remote beaches and the potential to swim, dive and snorkel.  I hope this does not seem judgemental, but the area does not feel “Mexican” to me – more like a less visited resort area servicing retired snowbirds who winter and vacation here.

Live local band at palapa dinner - note the unusual harp
For sailors there are a couple of problems – the anchorage suffers from total exposure to the south and, while we were there, the prevailing southerly swell rolled in making for rocky, rolly nights aboard and crashing surf to navigate beach landings.  Although we didn’t mind it, the panga traffic was fairly constant back and forth, either fishing or transporting holiday seekers.  Each afternoon the wind picked up, cooling things off and lining the boat up to the swell, decreasing the rocking.  We swam several times around the boat and in the surf.  Very refreshing and lots of fun!

Notre Isle at Chamela on a quiet morning  - beach palapas to the left
After three nights we decided to slip anchor, though we could have stayed a lot longer visiting with J-G, Fran, Ellen and Ian.  Instead of hurrying down the coast, we decided to explore two of the islands in the bay reputed to have good snorkeling.  We left late morning and anchored off Isla Cocina (the kitchen) and two tiny sand beaches.  The swell was significantly higher than the main anchorage and a good north wind blew through.  We decided to wait to go snorkelling in the morning when the conditions would be calmer.  Unfortunately, the swell and surf had churned the area so thoroughly there was very little visibility.  We returned to Ka’sala, drew the anchor and headed 30 miles further down the coast to “The Aquarium” at Tenacatita.

Isla Cocina
Addendum:  So – how did we get back to the boat through the pounding surf?  The first night, after dark, J-G and Fran walked with us back to the kayaks.  The surf was a little quieter and, in our bathing suits we walked them past the break, jumped aboard and paddled back to Ka’sala under the light of the moon.  The second day we took the dinghy instead of the kayaks.  Before the break we jumped out and waded it into shore and reversed the process going back out, again after dark, with the help of J-G and Fran.  We had to take a dry bag.  We didn’t want to risk flipping the boat with the motor attached.  Basically, we got wet. We need to practise.

Not us, but you get the idea