Bahia de Santiago

 
Manzanillo, Mexico
 Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico
This will be the last southerly leg of our trip this season. Although we had originally planned to go further south to Zihuateno and Ixtapa, we have had so many negative reports from other cruisers about the area that I think we will do it via a road trip at some other time.
 
It seems that unless you intend to continue on to Acapulco and Hualtoco to do the Panama etc, there isn't really much in the way of comfortable anchorages for the next 200 miles ... and it's a long way back, generally with wind on the nose.

So, our first stop in Bahia Santiago was a little bay called Carrazal. We arrived there early in the day, so while I was making lunch, Don jumped in the water to check the anchor. We had heard that holding wasn't good as it was too rocky, but we discovered, that so long a you stay in the center of the bay, it's good holding in sand.

Don reported that the water was very warm, and very clear, with coral all around the east side of the bay. So, after lunch, we all got in the water and checked out the underwater world of starfish, grunts, butterfly fish, sponges and so much more.

During the day, this anchorage seemed quite comfortable, but by night time, when the wind died completely, it was a little rolly, so off to La Bocaita. As we approached, we noticed lots of fish pens and no sailboats, found this a little strange as two years ago, this was a very popular anchorage. Our friends Hal & Kathy on Airborne would spend most of the season here, and even they weren't there.

I knew they were in the area, so I radioed them, but no answer at first. I was concerned that perhaps no one was anchoring there for some good reason. Sirens Call heard our call, they were over at the next anchorage at Las Hadas, and confirmed that there was room for a few more boats, so off we went.

Shortly thereafter, Airborne called, and it would appear that the popular anchorage this year is Las Hadas, because there is free internet there. We also discovered there is a very reasonable restaurant overlooking the bay with a nice clean pool. But first, there is business to attend to.

Miramar, Manzanillo
 Miramar (sea view), Manzanillo
We took the bus into Manzanillo to find the immigration office and the battery store. Merry & BJ needed to attend to some issues with their visas, and we have been having continual problems with the new batteries we got in Guaymas.

Don has narrowed down the problem to one bank of batteries, and since they are still under warranty, want to see if we can get one of them replaced. Found Centro de Servicio for the LTH batteries, but it was closed, and Merry & BJ didn't have much better luck at the immigration office.

Stopped for lunch at the Chinese restaurant and stopped at the TelCel office to ask about the G3 - a USB adaptor that provides portable internet. Back to the boat, and met up with Hal & Kathy at the pool for 2 for 1 Blackberry margaritas!

Back to the battery store the next day, and this time we spoke to Rosaria there, and in my very poor Spanish I explained to her that we had purchased these batteries only a few months ago, they will take a charge, but will not hold the charge. She very patiently listened to me, and told me that she would send someone to the boat to take the batteries out and bring them to the shop for testing. If in fact they were bad, she would give us a new one, which she did have in stock.

We figured it would be easier for us to bring them to her, so I told her we would be back in two hours. So, back to PSS, unhooked the batteries, got them into the dingy, hauled them out at the dingy dock and had the harbour master send a taxi down to the dock.

By time we got back, Rosaria must have been on her break, and I had to explain the whole problem again to the two technicians, who didn't seem to understand my Spanish as well as Rosaria did. Our taxi driver came to the rescue. Although he didn't speak English, he was more accustomed to hearing gringo Spanish, and he was able to translate for the technicians, then he spoke slow enough to me that I could understand him.

The technicians said the batteries were charged and were good, but they had no way of testing them under load. Then they tried to tell us we had the wrong batteries for a boat, so we had to explain that these batteries were used only for lights and refrigeration etc. Finally after they made several phone calls to someone, (possibly Rosaria) they agreed to replace not just the one, but both of them.

The taxi driver had stayed with us throughout the negotiations, and as soon as they brought out the new batteries he had them loaded into his trunk, and we were off. He got a very good tip! And we've got batteries that are many months newer ... let's hope we don't have any more problems.

By the time we lugged the batteries back onto the boat, we were more than ready for a swim. We jumped in and were very pleasantly surprised, the snorkeling was great right here in the anchorage. Most times you have to get into the dingy and motor over to over to the snorkeling spots, then jump out of the dingy.

And believe me, it's not all that easy to pull yourself back into the dingy, this is much easier, swim back to PSS and climb up the ladder. We spent several days snorkeling here, saw lots of trunk fish, some barracuda, a file fish and huge schools of surgeon fish again. This is turning out to be one of my favorite places.

Spent a few more days here, made spaghetti one night and BJ & Merry came over for movie night ... we watched "Capt'n Ron". Another night we visited on board with our new neighbours Dino & Anastasia on s/v Ithaki, and also met Hermy & Jack from s/v Iwa.

Another day found us in Santiago for the "tianga" (flea market) which covers about 4 square blocks, and yet another day, went back to Manzanillo for lunch at the Social Club, where you buy your drinks and the botanas (snacks) are all gratis ... ceviche, potato salad, guacamole, jicama etc.

Fruits and veggies
 Fruits and veggies
To work off our lunch, we hiked up to the lookout "Miramar" where we had a spectacular view of the entire bay. Then we stopped at the local mercado to pick up some fresh fruits and veggies to take back to PSS.

The visibility had been so good at Carrazal last week, we decided to go round there again for a night or two. This time, we set a stern anchor so it would be more comfortable, and we got out scuba tanks as well. On the first dive, I didn't wear my wet suit, just the lycra suit, so took off a few pounds of weights.

Bad idea, I didn't have enough weight to keep me down, Don had to keep a hand on by back to keep me down. Wasn't able to get many pictures, so went down again the next day with more weight. Got down to about 30ft and the visibility was still good, lots of coral heads, sponges and just generally great scenery. Always something different to see, this time, we saw a small green moray, almost all out of his den, and some kind of a fish I'll call a unicorn fish, for lack of a better name.

Beach bonfire
 Bonfire on the beach
We had neighbours in the anchorage this time s/v Sapphire, Megan & Luke, and they invited us to a bonfire on the beach in the evening. I brought the marshmallows, and BJ found the perfect roasting stick.

It is a very rocky and steep beach, and it was quite a struggle for Don & BJ to pull the dingy up on shore. Then, when it was time to go back to PSS, the tide was coming in bringing huge breaking waves. We did make it back out with only a minor casualty. I lost one of my $3.00 plastic sandals ... guess I should have thrown the other one over board, perhaps somebody might find a matched pair.

The next afternoon found us at the palapa on the beach with fellow cruisers from Southwind, Coastal Passage, Windward Bound etc, and Stan, an ex cruiser from s/v Solmate who now lives in Santiago and does weather reports for us. We played a dice game called Farkel ... and it's a good job we weren't playing for money ... think we would have lost big time!

We will slowly start making our way north again, heading back to Barra de Navidad to meet up with friends Fran & Jean-Guy and see their new boat s/v Gosling. The last two hours into Barra were really nasty, 8-10 ft seas and wind gusting around 35knots, but by time we were anchored in the lagoon again, it was perfectly calm. Fran invited us and Willow over for sundowners aboard Gosling. Most times when we go visiting, I always make sure I bring gluten free treats and drinks for Don. No problem today, we found out that Fran has recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease as well, so we swapped stories and she gave us some amaranth cereal to try.

Our stop here in Barra was mostly for provisioning for our trip back north. Took our laundry into the lavanderia and Don & BJ went to the fuel dock for diesel, then on to Fortino's where they ordered water and propane to be delivered to the boat.

There are a few folks who make a living catering to us cruisers out in the lagoon. In addition to Maria who delivers water, beer, pop & propane to the boats, and the French Baker who delivers via panga, an assortment of croissants, baguettes etc. When we don't want to make the 2 mile dingy ride to town, we simply call a water taxi!

We have had a good time in Barra de Navidad this year .. .it has had everything we need, shopping, restaurants, internet, close by snorkeling, scenery, entertainment and most importantly, a comfortable anchorage ... except for one night!

We had rain for most of the day, by evening the lightning show started. The sky went from black to white, then webs of lightning jumped from one cloud to another. No rain or wind, and only a little thunder way off in the distance, so it really was quite a scent to behold.

However, the weather got progressively worse, lightning turned into forks crashing into the ground, the wind and rain started increasing. I decided it was time to get Don up on deck, I was a little concerned we had started to drag.

My timing was a little off however, by the time he got on deck, the wind had clocked around 180 degrees, and we had white out conditions again. We were dragging down on a little boat, and our dingy trailing out behind us got snagged on his anchor line.

We cut the dingy loose (he secured it to his boat) and we let out more anchor chain to stop us. We thought we were clear of him, until we heard him hollering from up front. Now he was caught on our anchor chain.

We let our more scope and were finally able to free him. The wind was so strong for a little while, that we were all heading over at anchor and many boats were dragging.

In the morning we got reports from other boats that their anemometers hits gusts between 52 and 67 knots, with sustained winds of 35 knots. Are we having fun yet?

Once again, our Sea Angel must have been watching over us, there was no apparent damage --- except to my nerves! However, the weather forecast is for more of the same tonight ... not sure how much more of this I can take.

It did continue to rain all day, with only little patches of dry. We started up the engine early in the morning to re-anchor. We thought our anchor chain would be crossed with Phoenix, but it wasn't, so we had no problem anchoring a little further away.

Phoenix bailed out our dingy and returned it to us. We went over to Willow during one of the dry spells to check e-mail. The rain continued the rest of the day and all night, but thank the heavens, no more wind, thunder or lightning.

We continued to hear stories the following days of boats who had it much worse than us, one lost his anchor, another landed up on shore, one was hit by lightning, and our dock mate when we got to La Cruz had serious damage to his toe rail and fiberglass.

Finally the skies started to clear and the sun came out. Time to dry things out and bail the dingy again. This time, we decided to save the water as the dingy was nice and clean from it's previous two bailings. We filled our water tanks and our jugs - 60 gallons or about 240 litres, and we still had to pump a little overboard.

Next day, Optical Illusion left the lagoon and shortly afterwards radioed in that the seas were rather lumpy, and big swells. Think we'll wait another day for things to settle down.

Our week-end stop for provisioning turned into a week long delay, and that was only the beginning. We were planning an overnight passage to La Cruz, with a quick stop in Custecomates to check the prop zinc, and to give PSS a little haircut. (after a week in Barra lagoon, the sea weed on the bottom of the boat is several inches long).

However, by the time we got as far as Tenacatita, seas still had big swells, no wind, and Don thought we might be having a problem with the water pump. Looks like he might have to change the impeller, so we decided to pull into Tenacatita and stay the night.

Hopefully the swells will have laid down by tomorrow, and the good news was we saw three huge big spotted dolphins on the way in, they were right at the bow, but didn't stick around long enough for photos. Don checked the impeller, water pump, coolant and didn't really find any problem. We went for a swim over to Willow and checked e-mail with her TelCel G3.

We left Tenacatita after a very comfortable night. Had only been out about an hour and more problems. Now there wasn't enough cooling water out coming out of the exhaust.

Don disconnected the anti siphon and the water flow was better, but still too much exhaust smoke. Didn't seem to be overheating though, so we continued. He thinks it might be the heat exchanger and can't do anything about that till we are tied up to a dock.

By lunch time, we started to see the engine temperature climb, so we slowed down the rpm's and put a fan on the engine. Got into Chamela where we planned to nap for a while before we continued on our overnighter.

Did a few more tests and now it looks like the mixer elbow is plugged. Don thought he could drill out the crud, but the shaft is not straight, so that won't work. We tried a vinegar soak which seemed to loosen some of it, hopefully enough to keep the temperature down until we reach La Cruz.

We left Chamela around 8:00 pm which would get us around Cabo Corrientes in the light of morning. No moon leaving here, still rather lumpy, and experiencing gusts of 20knots. Debated if we should turn around and go into Chamela beach, but decided to carry on, and the winds did continue to die.

Moon came up crescent shaped and bright orange, but didn't stay long. Around 5:30 am clouds rolling in and started to see thunderclouds on the radar. Powered up to out run the big one, it headed out to sea, we headed closer to shore. Passed right under another one, only got a few drops of rain. We lucked out this time!

Passed Corrients without problems, saw some rays jumping. As we turned into Bahia Banderas, BJ called to say he had 25 knot winds ahead ... we better take down our big jib. We slowed down a little too much, wanted to get into the marina before dark, so reefed our main and put up our little jib.

We did over 7 knots the rest of the way across the bay. Had a spinner dolphin jumping beside us, coming right out of the water and spinning like a top, and then another encounter. Three times he breached really close - had me shouting at Don to stop --- as if that could happen at the speed we were going! The whales must have really good radar, we held our course and speed and he moved out of our way.

Finally got tied up around 5:30, BJ had already picked out a spot for us. We had showers, supper upstairs at the fancy Marina restaurant and were in bed by 8:30. Overnight passages really do take it out of us!

First thing on the agenda next morning was a call to Brent at Klassen Diesel in Vancouver. He gave Don some suggestions as to how to solve the mixer elbow problem, and by early afternoon he had it fixed and back in and spewing water as usual. What a relief!

Did a few more boat chores, then since we were all hungry, went into town for an early supper. However, when we got into town, we realized we were really early, as the time had now changed, and our favorite restaurant "la Cava" wasn't even open yet.

Next day, Merry and I went to the mercado, Don worked on the aft head which seemed to be leaking a bit, and he spent some time securing the boat to the dock with more robust lines (i.e. chains) because the forecast for tomorrow is for a repeat of the storm that we had a Barra.

At least this time we won't drag ... unless the whole dock comes with us. The storm did not materialize overnight, but the Port Captain has closed the port, they are still expecting 60knot winds by afternoon. We won't venture far from the boat today.

The forecast did not come true, and I'm certainly not complaining, so went into Puerto Vallarta the next day to check out anchor prices at Zaragosa Marine. Almost double of West Marine prices, so guess we will just keep trying to find one at a swap meet somewhere.

We had lunch at La Paz restaurant, then walked over to the dock in front of the Flamingo Hotel, where we had stayed two years ago when Donna visited us. We went to see s/v Guia to see if they wanted to sub lease their slip, but no one was home.

We did however bump into Gene & Gloria from s/v Pincoya who we had met in San Carlos. They gave us the name of the fellow who rents the slips for the Flamingo, so talked with him for a bit and got his phone number for future reference.

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