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.

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