Our friends Park and Carol arrived in Barra for a week of cruising with us in late February. We would be celebrating Gwen’s birthday and Park and Carol’s wedding anniversary. We spent a couple of easy days and nights in Barra getting ready to go, including a wonderful dinner at a place called Galería de Arte, a fantastic restaurant run out of the home of a local family. The maitre’d /owner is a photographer, and his works are all around the place, which is arranged in a courtyard garden for open air dining. Robert is a very gracious host, his kids are the waitstaff, and his wife Ruby runs the kitchen. The menu is limited to two traditional Mexican main courses, and there is always a surprise appetizer. Also, Robert is a bit of a Tequila aficionado, so there is a huge list available for tasting. It was a wonderful meal, and without doubt the best restaurant in Barra.
The next day we headed north to Tenacatita. We spent a couple of nights at anchor in a relatively uncrowded bay (many of the sailors were down in Barra for the sail festival). We did some beach landings with the micro tender, getting good practice in very mild conditions, walked the beach, and swam off the back of the boat in 80 degree water. We celebrated Gwen’s birthday with fish tacos, and Carol delivered Gwen’s number one birthday wish…. Not doing any dishes!
The forecast was calling for higher winds associated with a frontal system, so we left early the next morning to head down to Manzanillo, about 35 miles south of Tenacatita. The forecast was wrong in the best possible way… a beautiful sunny day with light winds and nearly flat calm… maybe the mildest conditions we have encountered to date. Entering Manzanillo bay we passed between the off lying rocks of Los Frailes and large cargo ships in the anchorage. Our destination was the marina at Las Hadas, well protected by rock breakwaters all around and adjacent to the Brisas Las Hadas resort. This area gained notoriety way back when by the movie “10”, starring a nubile, hair beaded Bo Derek. I am not sure if Bo has aged gracefully, but Las Hadas has not.
We had to med moor in the marina, which requires dropping the anchor in front of the dock and then backing in, tying stern lines and getting on and off via the back of the boat. They had us in a spot between two other boats with an odd angle between them, and tied to bow mooring lines that made it difficult for us to maneuver. And of course, the afternoon wind was starting to come up and push us to one side. It took two attempts –on the first one I didn’t drop the anchor far enough out, so it did not set well enough to hold the bow. The second time I went right out to the middle of the basin and dropped the anchor with plenty of room to set. All was good, save for the substantial surge, which caused us to put out all of the ball fenders we had on the back of the boat, and actually flattened one of the smaller ones.
One surprising thing in the marina was the crystal clear water – clearest we have seen on this coast. The shoreside of the marina actually had a very healthy ecosystem with various anemones, sea cucumbers and lots of different tropical fish. After spending quite a bit of time watching them, you could clearly see there are neighborhoods in there – with fish staking out their little bits of space, patrolling it and pushing out other fish and generally looking like little busy bodies.
The marina had adequate power, non-potable water, and very few transient boats. There were a couple of long term yachts and some sportfishing/charter boats. It took a while to find the restroom/shower facilities… and we wished that we hadn’t. They were borderline disgusting. I could see in a pinch, using the toilets, but there was no way I was going to take a shower in there. Why am I even talking about this? Two reasons. When we are in a place with no potable water, and can’t/won’t run the watermaker (i.e. in a marina without pumpout facilities) we tend to shower ashore. Second, the macerator pump in our master head chose this moment to go belly up. Yes, you read correctly. This was the second macerator pump failure in two months… with two couples on the boat! More on this later.
Having settled in at the Marina, we made an expedition into the town of Manzanillo. We took the bus in from the resort after climbing straight up an incredibly steep hill to the road. The first bus was ancient, bouncing perilously over the cobbled roads hugging the steep hills between the beautiful Cliffside residences in the area. The second bus was driven by a young driver who thought he was qualifying for the grand prix, running the old heap as fast as it would go and scaring the cab drivers that dared to get near us. Relieved to be alive, we got off at the main square and made our way to the municipal market, which was filled with produce stands, carnicerias, etc. We were sorely disappointed that we were unable to find a fresh pig head to show our pesca/vegetarian friends… had to settle for a beef shank on the hoof.
After the market we found the Iguana refuge which provides shelter for Iguanas and an odd assortment of other animals (including raccoons). Inside, it was feeding time and dozens of Iguanas came around to eat various vegetable leaves. Then they would climb over the fence. When we left the refuge, we realized that they were climbing into trees on the refuge property over a small stream/drainage ditch. There were well over 100 sunning themselves in the trees. We had a big lunch in a small restaurant, did a little shopping and then took a cab back to the marina.
The next day we decided to pony up the stiff fees ($60 US p/p) for a day pass to the resort, which entitled us to towel service, the pool, the restaurants, and open bar. I will note that they must control alcohol consumption by making some of the worst margaritas I’ve ever had. The food was good and plentiful, however, and the pool was great. Given the situation with our head on the boat, access to bathrooms alone may well have been worth the price of admission. We really had a great day, and towards the end of the day Park and Carol told us that they had decided to book a room at the resort, in deference to our head problem. This was really very thoughtful of them, but as fellow owners of a Nordhavn 50, they really knew the score. We had a last wonderful dinner outside at the high end restaurant, which was nearly empty. Again, this was a story of faded glory… a huge place festooned with AAA four diamond awards from times past, with maybe 4-6 parties dining that evening. Nevertheless, the food was good and the company outstanding.
The following day Park and Carol departed for the airport and their return to Washington, and we set off to visit the port captain to change our crew list and then to do some shopping at La Comer, a big Mexican supermarket chain. We got to the Port Captain thanks to our taxi driver, as we never would have found on our own, it was so tucked away from the street. We were met by a helpful official asking what we needed. Gwen explained (her Spanish is getting really good) that we needed to check out and change the crew list. The officer listened and, realizing that we were a pleasure yacht over at Las Hadas, told us there was no need to check out… just call on the radio. Manzanillo is a huge commercial port, and clearly seems to have no interest in making pleasure boats submit to the normal paperwork that other port captains thrive on. So, off we went to La Comer. On the way, Gwen struck up a conversation with the cab driver, talking about family, etc. We learned that he was from Guadalajara, so we (she) talked a bit about that. He also talked a bit about how much tourism was down in the area, referring to fear of Narcos. It certainly did seem that occupancy at the resort was even lower than we had seen at Barra and other towns down here, though there appeared to be plenty of Gringos at the marina-side restaurants.
It was finally time to bid the Coastalegre good bye and make the trip back to La Cruz in Banderas Bay. We decided to do the entire 150+NM in one shot, and set a departure time for noon, in order to arrive in La Cruz after sunrise the next day. The forecast was for light winds, but 5-7 foot seas. However, things were predicted to freshen up in subsequent days, so this window was as good as we would get. The winds were light for the entire passage, and the seas didn’t really pick up until about 20 miles South of Cabo Corrientes, where we started bashing into the NW swell. We rounded the cape in the wee hours of the morning with no drama and found ourselves in La Cruz with 20 minutes to wait before it was light enough to enter the marina. We were very glad to be back on the move, headed North for the Sea of Cortez, and thankful that my jury rigged fuel filter system worked without the slightest hiccup. I spent some worried hours thinking about what it would be like running on the wing engine around Cabo Corrientes, and glad that it didn’t happen!
Finally, the same day we arrived, Lance’s crew showed up, replaced the head pump, and started helping me rebuild the fuel lines and filter system. More on this later.