Zihuatanejo – Plot Twist

While we were hanging out at anchor in Playa La Ropa, looking forward to Prism’s arrival, discussions transpired that have now caused the more private parts of our life to force their way into this public blog space. A number of things simply weren’t working out for us. Our goals and ideas of how to spend the next six months were just not jiving and a variety of pre-sailing issues we never quite found the time to resolve were reaching their expiration date.   It was extremely difficult and I’m sure Zihua bay is a lot saltier after our talks, but after nearly nine years together, we decided to part ways. I would stay in Zihuatanejo and Jonny and Summer would head north for hurricane season. Perhaps they will return to Zihua in the winter. Perhaps not.

Land-based relationships are hard enough, but boat-based relationships have many added layers of difficulty. As John Kretschmer said in Sailing a Serious Ocean: “To thrive at sea, you must be responsible for who you are, not who you want to be” and I’d say it goes the other way, too – we must be responsible for seeing each other for who we are and not who we want the other person to be.   But living a cruising lifestyle was not the reason for this turn of events, but rather the catalyst. The decision to end a boat-based relationship is also many times more complicated- the logistics alone are mind-boggling.

We were able to have some very productive conversations about what we wanted and needed, and how to handle my departure from the boat. Me leaving the boat was kind of a given – I am not interested in or (probably) capable of single-handing. Jonny is extremely capable of handling Summer by himself, and as he began to think about it, became intrigued with the challenge of it all.   I was really liking Zihuatanejo and could see myself staying for a while – getting to know the place and its people (not to mention I was simply flat out done with GOING so frequently). The fact that we are still equal owners of Summer is something we’ve put off dealing with for the moment.

I spent a day looking into land-based living opportunities (otherwise known as “apartments”). I had a few places I’d found online that I wanted to look into. But of course I got hopelessly lost trying to find the first place and ended up in a really cute little neighborhood. I saw signs for furnished apartments on some very nice looking places. I figured it was way out of my league, but since I was there, I’d at least have a look and try to get a baseline of prices. The first place I looked at was called Villa Encantada and a nice woman answered the bell at the locked gate and let me in to have a look. There were six units – all quite similar, with furnishings and cookware and nice big, tiled showers with skylight, kitchen, bedroom, huge closet, fridge/freezer, table/chairs, hot water, air conditioning, wifi and cable TV all included –and someone comes and cleans every week. The second floor units open onto a large, lovely shaded patio with hammocks, table and plants.   She gave me the prices in pesos, which in my stupor I was not able to compute what that meant until I had left, although I assumed it was far too much. It was actually surprisingly affordable! I could hardly believe it. I felt like I’d hit a home run my first time at bat, like this was IT. But knowing better, I spent the rest of the day looking at around seven other places. Many of them cost far more and were simply windowless hotel rooms in far less desirable neighborhoods.

I told Jonny about my find, and he agreed I should nail it down the next day. Not that there is any competition – we’re going into the slow season, where it’s so hot here no one wants stay.  I went back for a look the next day and brought Jonny. He gave it the thumbs up and I liked it still, so I put down a deposit. Unlike places in the US, I didn’t have to show any identification, fill out any paperwork, state my income, give references…I just paid my deposit, gave a move in date and got a receipt. I happened to mention something about renting a car to move my things over, and Adriana, my new landlady, told me she knew a guy with a truck who helps people move. She gave me Carlos’ number and I managed to arrange for him to help me move (all in Spanish!).

In order to get all my stuff off the boat in any reasonable way, we needed to be in a marina. One of the reasons Zihua was an acceptable choice for this decision was the fact there is a mostly-affordable marina in nearby Ixtapa. I arranged for 3 nights in the marina, allowing 2 days for moving things off. Packing on a boat isn’t really something you can do ahead of time, as there’s no place to put anything. It was going to have to be a “move it onto the dock as it’s ready and take it away” kind of operation. I wanted not to have to go too fast – since once it was done, it wasn’t like either of us could just pop over to the other’s to bring something forgotten. I wanted to be able to think things through and make sure we both had what we needed. With our plan ready to set in motion, all we had to do was pull up anchor and leave Zihua bay for the marina. When that time came, we were both paralyzed a bit. We had to take a time-out for a reality check. My last time sailing Summer out of an anchorage. It felt pretty serious and sad. I was wiping away tears as we waved our goodbyes to Prism and Oleada and headed out of the bay.

Zihua anchr bye
Shannon and Jon with Josh and Jess aboard Oleada waved us off

Less than ten miles away, Ixtapa marina is a tricky place to get into. They only open the harbor for an hour per day (and before 7am and after 6pm) and the rest of the time it is blocked with dredging equipment. There were very nearly breaking waves at the entrance and it was one of the scariest experiences, surfing these waves into this narrow, shallow harbor. We made it through just fine and stopped at a sidedock in order to locate our slip. It was quite windy and as I pulled down the fairway towards our slip, we got blown a little to the left. I didn’t notice right away as I was looking for our slip on the right. I looked up just in time to see a mega yacht was sticking out too far beyond its slip – and there was a huge anchor hanging off the bow. I realized we were going to hit it if I didn’t do something immediately – I turned sharply to starboard and revved the motor. Jonny looked up just after that to see what was happening and started freaking out. The anchor just cleared our rigging and was bearing down on our solar arch. Jonny pushed on it with all his might and it cleared our stainless arch with mere millimeters and then scraped up the side of our dinghy motor that was mounted on the stern rail. Needless to say, aside from the emotional trauma I was already experiencing, this harrowing experience quite nearly pushed me over the edge. And of course Jonny was livid and ready to kill me. We barely had a second to catch our breath when we discovered that a huge powerboat was taking up more than half of the double slip we were supposed to go into (it wasn’t there when we first located the slip!). There was definitely not enough room for me to squeeze into that slip. Luckily the slip next to it was open, so we pulled in there. That’s when the real chaos ensued.

Ok try to bear with me on this one. When I went online to book the marina, I went to the Marina Ixtapa website. I made a reservation with “Marina Ixtapa” and received email confirmation from “Marina Ixtapa”. When we pulled into this other slip, we were informed that it was Marina Ixtapa’s slip, which sounded right, right? Not right, the slip I had a reservation for was for some other marina and that marina only had this one slip on the dock. It was very confusing. I went to the office of Marina Ixtapa and was informed that THEIR website was actually “Ixtapa Marina” not “Marina Ixtapa”, even though it’s called “Marina Ixtapa” and the Marina Ixtapa website actually belongs to a company called “Performance Yachts”, and even though neither their website, nor their emails say anything about Performance Yachts–that’s where I’d made the reservation. Marina Ixtapa would have been happy to rent me this other slip…for about 25% more money. No, I was not crying yet, but my head almost exploded.

I trudged back down the hot concrete to the far side of the marina where Performance Yachts office was located.  I sat down to patiently, grateful for the air conditioning, and awaited my turn while they were checking in another guy. As it turned out Performance Yachts had a number of slips on the opposite side of the harbor – not near a parking lot or road.  They had only 3 slips interspersed into Marina Ixtapa’s (the REAL Marina Ixtapa) side of the harbor – which is where the showers, restaurants, parking, and shops are. While I was still waiting, a couple came in very upset. They were loudly complaining about how they did not want the slip they were given, it was too far from everything (and he had bad knees!). They started making a big stink and were very angry, and speaking only English to the office woman. They were insisting they get into one of the slips closeby. I realized they had basically “cut” me in line, and I was really in no mood for that sort of thing…. So I stood up and said, as politely as I could muster, “I was waiting here first and I would appreciate being taken care of first”.  Thankfully the couple backed off and stepped aside apologetically.  I spoke to the office woman (Maria) in Spanish and explained there was a large powerboat in our slip and we couldn’t fit. She made it clear that the powerboat was not going to move (no explanation, just no –I realized later it was probably because it was Marina Ixtapa’s slip and they had no control) and my only option was to go to a farther out slip. We were all huddled over a giant blueprint of the marina – I asked if cars could get near to those slips out there and she said no. I explained to her that I was moving off my boat and needed to have access to the moving truck. She finally took me by the arm and brought me outside and pointed to a HUGE slip right by the front gate – it was one of theirs that she had just told the other people they could not have – before I stepped up to claim my turn.   I believe she did me a great kindness and I also believe it was my speaking Spanish (albeit poorly) that caused her to do so. Feeling somewhat relieved, I went back to the boat to try to explain everything to a hot, angry and unhappy captain. We needed to move the boat and he did not want to. The dock guards were giving us pressure to move the boat anyway since we were not in a slip we were going to pay for (and no, I was not willing to pay more – and we were not sharing this expense). We went and looked at the slip again and Jonny finally agreed to move there. He was completely certain I was going to do something horrible backing out of the slip, but I managed to keep my cool and do a perfect job backing out and then docking in the new slip (did I mention it was huge?).

LastLook Summer

It was a strange, hard, hot, unpleasant and just plain weird few days. My mover, Carlos showed up right on time – he even called when he was ten minutes away to say he was ten minutes away. He and his friend quickly took my pathetic load of stuff to the little Toyota with tall slatted sides. We crammed in the front with Carlos while his helper rode in back with my stuff and we arrived at my new place in no time flat. They quickly unloaded and we agreed when to meet the following day for the rest of it. Just 300 pesos each day ($17) was a great bargain for all their help – it saved me from renting a car, which would’ve cost a fortune – and I didn’t have to go to the airport to get it and drive in scary, unfamiliar traffic (I still can’t figure out how the lights work when cars get to turn left from the right lanes…)

Moving truck

After leaving my stuff, we headed to the Port Captain’s office to get me removed from the official crew list. It may or may not be a big deal, but if Jonny were to leave the country and officially check out, they would look at the crew list and possibly wonder where I was (and maybe suspect foul play?). It was a process, but eventually we came out with a signed and stamped official new crew list, sans me. We took the bus back to Ixtapa for my last night aboard Summer. We had a walk on the beautiful Ixtapa beach near the marina and returned to the boat for dinner. Sadly, my cooking skills are closely aligned with my emotional state. I made a terrible dinner and we had an otherwise usual night.

Shadows Ixtapa
“The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow. In that lies hope.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

The next day of packing – all my galley stuff – was overwhelming and extremely difficult. But I persevered and Jonny was helpful in finding some much needed boxes. Carlos and friend showed up right on time again and took the last load (which I’d promised would be less than the first, but I may have been wrong about that).

I got things a bit organized in the new place and we showered and went out for a nicer-than-usual dinner. It was sad and strange and we tried to keep conversation light. We stayed the night in my new place and went out for breakfast in my new neighborhood. My fridge was bare and I probably would’ve ruined anything I tried to cook anyway. Jonny needed to load up with provisions before taking off, which he figured would be quite soon. We did a little walkabout my neighborhood on the way to the big grocery story. I happened to find the immigration office right around the corner – I would need that later. I helped Jonny shop for provisions and then we took a taxi back to Ixtapa (originally I was going to rent a car and do this as part of the deal, but paying for a taxi was still cheaper even after having Carlos help me). I had a few last things to carry back with me and wanted to say my final goodbye to Summer.

Jonny mega friends
Where’s Jonny?  OH, making friends in the grocery store

Back aboard Summer, suddenly everything got very real. I had no idea I could cry so much. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Luckily, I had items in my bags needing refrigeration, otherwise who knows how long that scene would’ve gone on. Jonny walked me out and we had a final tearful goodbye as I got on the bus back to Zihua.


I only had a couple days before my planned departure to the U.S. I wanted to get a temporary resident visa – which would allow me to stay in Mexico for up to four years. Not that I necessarily plan to do that, but the six month tourist visa was getting really annoying- having to leave every six months was really inconvenient and expensive. To get the temporary resident visa, it was necessary to begin the process in the U.S. It also was a great opportunity to visit with my parents and get me a little much-needed family love. So – yeah -In the midst of all the moving/changes, I was also arranging the tickets to the US, making an appointment at the consulate in Boston and preparing the application and documents and getting photos taken that I needed for the consulate appointment. Just to keep things interesting…

The morning before my trip was overcast and cooler. A thought occurred to me that I haven’t been able to have for quite some time – it’s a perfect morning for a bike ride! I was out of bed uncharacteristically early and ready to ride. Unfortunately my bike was not. I spent about an hour or so unfolding it and trying to pump up the dead flat tires. But I finally got it and I was off to explore. I decided to try to find the road to Playa La Ropa and see the land-side of what we had been looking at from anchor for so long. I also knew that Summer would be out in the anchorage and I couldn’t resist seeing her again. It was quite hilly and I went down a lot of side roads that were not what I was looking for. My super out of shape body was seriously out of breath, but it felt good to be doing cardio exercise again. I finally found what I was looking for. I locked up my bike and wandered down along the roadway by the rocks and beach. There was Summer. How strange to be seeing her from this perspective.

Summer Ropa

I texted Jonny and he ended up paddling over in the dinghy to say hi, and throw me some rocks I had forgotten (or maybe he just wanted to throw rocks at me?). It was too rough for him to land, so I sat on the jetty and he paddled back and forth for a bit. It was good to talk again without so many emotions happening. He had clearly done a fine job leaving the marina and anchoring by himself.

I managed to arrange for a cab to pick me up the next day and take me to the airport. My driver – another punctual Carlos, showed up right on time and I was on my way. I was looking forward to an uneventful trip, but was stopped short at check in. They asked me to turn in my visa (which they always do) and they looked at it (which they never do) and noticed my visa was stamped with a little car because I got it when we came in via bus back in November.   I didn’t understand why, but they wouldn’t give me my boarding pass until I went to immigration.  Immigration wanted to see my receipt for the visa. I said I didn’t have the receipt, as it was nearly 6 months old…but I had the visa. That wasn’t good enough and they said I had to pay for it again.  I knew that was ridiculous, so I kept asking why.  They said to prove I paid for the visa.  But I HAVE the visa, how would I have this visa if I hadn’t paid for it???  We went round and round like that for a quite some time.  Finally some other guy came in and sat down and explained to me that coming in via car (or bus, in my case) it was possible to get a visa for free for just 7 days.  But my visa said 180 days on it.  We were simply getting nowhere and I had absolutely zero bargaining power. I was not going to get my boarding passes until these folks put a stamp with a little airplane on my visa and they were not going to do it without me paying them 390 p (nearly $25).  I was pissed, but I paid.  I got my little stamp. And a receipt. And finally, my boarding passes.

I was flying into Boston with just a short layover in Houston. I had to go through customs and almost missed my connection – sprinting about a mile through the Houston airport had not been on my agenda for that day. So much for getting something for dinner. When I finally got on the plane, out of breath and sweating, just at they were closing the doors, the flight attendant looked at me and said “Would you like a glass of water right now?” If I wasn’t so sweaty I would’ve hugged her. I arrived late at night and called the hotel to be sure a shuttle would come for me. When the hotel clerk asked my phone number I mentioned it was a Mexican number. He laughed like a moron and said “huh huh! I never heard that one! That sounds funny to me!”. Ummmmm. Okaaaay. The shuttle arrived and I finally got to the hotel after 1:00 am – and had to wait while aforementioned moron (who appeared to be cast perfectly for the role) completed whatever game he was playing on his cellphone before checking me in.

For the few short hours I had at the hotel, I probably should’ve just slept at the airport! When I saw the final bill, I realized I could stay at my new place for a whole week AND buy groceries for that week for the same amount of money. Welcome back to the US of A!

I had to take the 8:00am (felt like 7:00am) free hotel shuttle back to the airport (with all my stuff, and I had a very large bag of winter clothes I was bringing back to leave) to then take a free bus to South Station and then walk to the Mexican Consulate.  My alternative was a $50 cab ride from hotel, so I chose this free option.  The cold. The cranky white folk. The getting mildly lost and there being no one to ask (even though it would’ve been in English).  I may have been experiencing culture shock along with my sleep deprivation. Anyway, I ditched my heavy bag at a place in South Station (for $5.00- yikes) and was able to walk the half mile to the consulate.  More cold. More grumpy looking white folk. Oppressively tall buildings.BostonBuildings I guess I’m not much of a city girl anymore (was I ever?).  Miraculously, I managed not to get lost (thanks phone maps!).  I finally turned a corner and saw the Mexican flag and felt relief wash over me. Walking into the office, where all the signs were in Spanish and relaxed people were waiting their turns, somehow I felt I belonged there – as much as I surely didn’t look like I did…

I was twenty minutes early for my appointment, but one of the clerks took me right away.  He looked through all the paperwork  (I was told to bring 6 mos. worth of bank statements, a photocopy of my passport, a passport size photo and an application form filled out).  He had me sit back in the chair and took another photo of me. He took everything and said he had to show it to the Consulate General;  she may or may not have questions for me and I was to wait.  I waited probably ten minutes and another clerk called me over and handed me my passport, which now had a special green visa sticker with my photo on it, stuck to one of the pages.  They also gave me a tourist visa good for only 30 days from the time I entered Mexico – and I had six months time to enter Mexico.  I took everything and left.  I went back and got my stuff and lugged it all to the bus station (which was not exactly IN South Station as I’d thought) and went to New Hampshire to see my parents.

It all happened so fast – it wasn’t until I was gone that I realized I hadn’t paid the $36 fee.  The next day I got an email from the consulate about that (clearly they’d made a mistake and were very sheepish about it). I called on the phone and was able to pay via credit card.  I asked to be emailed a receipt – after the debacle with the exit/tourist visa at the airport, I wasn’t taking any chances. I explained that situation when he questioned why I wanted a receipt, since I had the visa.  He said that was very strange and should not have happened at the airport, because you can’t get a visa without paying for it.  Right, I know! BUT…not to be a jerk, didn’t I just get the visa from you without paying for it? ha ha ha (he didn’t really laugh along with me on that one).

I had a good week being spoiled by my parents, sleeping (or trying to), eating and taking care of business. It felt strange to be there – especially since it snowed on my first day. SnowNHThey had promised me that was all overwith! While it was nice to be away and in familiar surroundings, it also felt a little strange.  I had a lot of new-ness to adapt to and I was suddenly transported to a whole lot of old-ness. I was anxious and a bit restless to get on with things. And even though everything was so familiar to me, I felt like I was seeing it all as a stranger from out of town.


Definitely not in Mexico anymore!
NHliving room
Chillin’ in the living room
Many walks to Forest Pond
Many walks to Forest Pond
This little guy was in the middle of the road, so we moved him back pondside

Turtletiny M&D Pond

I had a very early fight from Boston, so rather than my parents getting up hours before the crack of dawn to drive me, we decided on another hotel near the airport (a cheaper one this time!).  Rather than go and spend an afternoon in Boston, we opted to take a trip to Portsmouth – a smaller, low-key town – and one where I lived my last year in college. It was a rainy, cold day, but we poked around, and had coffee and hot chocolate and a cozy bookstore café. PortsDadJenCafeThen we went out for the most amazing dinner at a restaurant overlooking the water. I had the best clam chowder of my life (bacon: always the secret ingredient) and an amazing lobster (lobstah) sushi roll.

A maki roll with huge chunks of buttered lobster on top. Oh My.

MomLobstersushi They dropped me at the hotel and we said our goodbyes. I don’t think I slept a wink the entire night – such a strange mix of things running through my head. At least I didn’t miss the 5:00 am shuttle.

I got back to Zihuatanejo with few problems and it felt like a relief when I was finally in a cab on my way ‘home’. Jonny still hadn’t left – no good weather windows opened up. The next afternoon he came over to pick up a few things I’d brought back for him. We spent the afternoon together, went out for lunch and had a final joint shopping trip. We shared a cab back and had a quick goodbye when the cab dropped me off first. It seemed really rushed, but probably for the best so we didn’t end up with another prolonged cry-fest.

The next day Summer disappeared from Zihuatanejo bay and I found myself completely alone in this charming town, south of the border, down Mexico way. I’m very sad not to be on the water and my boat / home.  But I’m sure this new land life will conjure up some adventures. Terrifyingly exciting.

So, I guess this concludes the “Summer Sails” portion of my blog. This started as a simple way to keep family and friends updated, and has grown to a surprisingly large number of subscribers. I’m sorry if I’ve let anyone down. There’s lots of great sailing blogs going on still (PrismOrion, Resolute and Wahkuna to name a few).  I am considering if I will continue to write about my new trials and tribulations in a “Mexi-Jenn” blog. We’ll see how the inspiration flows once the dust settles – I’ll keep you posted. Thanks to everyone for following along and all the great support – I’m so very appreciative and grateful for everything and all of you.


Ensenada Carrizal to Zihuatanejo

We narrowly escaped jetski collisions as we made our way out of Las Hadas. It was a beautiful day and we were looking forward to the tranquility of Carrizal. We passed close by a few tankers and container ships on the way. Each of the little rectangles on a container ship is what you see on an 18 wheeler semi truck…huge – and this one we estimated had over 2,200 containers. That’s a lotta stuff.

ManzFreighter Manzfreighterback

When we got to Carrizal, there were 3 other boats and 1 powerboat. Still plenty of room for us to tuck up in there and have some space.

Luckily we got the tortillas before we left Las Hadas so I could make my black bean chicken enchiladas.
I took advantage of some downtime to finally make a perfect loaf of bread.

A couple of boats sailed in the second evening and as luck would have it, one was our old pals on Linger Longer! We knew they were making their way north after being down in Zihuatanejo for GuitarFest – we didn’t know they were stopping in Carrizal. It was a happy reunion and we enjoyed hanging out with them as usual. The next morning they headed off to Barra. We hung out one more day before getting up at 4:00am for the daylong sail destination of Cabeza Negra. We were heading into territory not all that well documented in our guide books and many people just make a long passage from this area all the way to Zihuatanejo (around 180 miles). There were 3 spots we were hoping to stop on the way down – being potential surf breaks that Jonny wanted to check out. Cabeza Negra is not even really listed as an anchorage in some books, it offers little protection and had the potential to be un-anchorable.   When we were making our plans, I had said if it was too rolly to anchor there, I wanted to turn around and come back – because it would mean the next two spots would be just as rolly or worse. I was under the impression that was actually our plan.

We left in the moonlight and it was a beautiful sunrise as we sailed on past Manzanillo and an all around decent day. Aside from the huge swell. Even though we were around six miles off shore, we were able to clearly see the volcano in Colima, periodically spewing puffs of smoke. The Colima volcano is one of the most active, and most potentially dangerous in Central America. It was pretty cool to see – as I had no idea it was there at first and learned about it only after noticing it out there.



After a full day of sailing and motor sailing we approached Cabeza Negra.   There was a huge swell on. We slowly made our way toward what would be the safest spot to anchor. I’ve never sailed so close to such huge swell, that was turning into breaking waves far too close for comfort. We did a few loops and tried to figure out if we dared stay. On the one hand we were exhausted and wanted to just stop, so we contemplated just spending a night and moving on. The swell was so gigantic and the crashing waves so huge, that surfing was absolutely not going to be an option. Neither of us thought it would be comfortable to anchor and due to the worry and the rolling we likely would get no sleep. Having just spent 11 hours getting there, the idea of backtracking 11+ more hours back (and in the night) was not all that appealing. Going on to the next anchorage was not an option, as it was even less protected and the huge swell would be rocking there, too. Jonny pitched the idea of just pushing on and going all the way to Zihuatanejo.  We hadn’t actually discussed going all the way down there and I wasn’t really in the mindset to go that far south only to have to come all the way back north in a fairly short amount of time to make our way back up to the Sea for hurricane season. We did not have a lot of time to debate, the sun was sinking slowly in the west and if we were to push on for another 24 hours at least – twice as far as we’d just come – to arrive in Isla Ixtapa before dark the next night, we’d have to go NOW.   We analyzed the situation as quickly as possible and decided to go for it. We had no food prepared for an overnight and, as usual, it was absolutely the worst timing for me girl-wise. I’m not sure why, but I was really feeling like I did not want to go to Zihuatanejo. After a brief cry, I adjusted my expectations and we sailed off as the sun set.


Amazingly enough I did not feel seasick at all on this passage. Even though it was pretty rolly, I was able to put together a simple pasta dinner with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and Parmesan and prepare some snacks for the long night. I had to crash on the early shift, but unfortunately there wasn’t really much sleep to be had. The swell was big and the seas were rough. Jonny handled it all like a champ – sailing triple reefed at 6-9 knots most of his watch. At one point between the swell and wind direction, Summer had a bit of a mini-broach, but luckily Jonny was able to get her back on track and that was the worst that happened.

On my watch there was another beautiful sunrise and we watched the water temp rise and the color deepen to a gorgeous blue-green. We saw a number of sea turtles, and had a fishing line out in hopes of something tasty. We were struggling to sail and motor sail and keep up an average speed so that we could arrive before dark. If we didn’t have the darkness deadline, we could’ve sailed along at a more leisurely pace. Since the wind wasn’t cooperating with our schedule, we had to fire up the ol’ iron genny far more than we had wanted – but it ran like a champ.


We were getting close and it was looking like we might just drop the hook before dark. And this is of course when something HUGE hit the fishing lure. We had no idea what it was, but at first hit it nearly spooled the reel. Jonny fought hard for over an hour.   Reeling in when he could, getting it almost to the boat and it would spook and run again. I managed the wheel – turning us to keep the line from crossing behind the boat and to keep us from sailing too fast. We were flogging and going around 2-3 knots as the sun was eyeing the horizon. I was dying to see what it was on the hook, but then again, it was getting a little old and I was really dying for it to just be over already. Poor Jonny was sweating bullets and using one of our cockpit cushions to protect his leg from the pole end (he should’ve bought that fish fighting belt at the nautical flea market in CA). It was almost to the boat and at the last minute it swam across the stern to the other side. The line got caught over part of the windvane. I was able to pop it up and off in a slack moment and off ran the fish one more time.   Once again, it was almost near the boat – opposite the side Jonny was on. I caught a glimpse of something dark and huge, it was so close! What WAS it!?! Once again, the line was caught over the windvane. I tried the same trick to pop it off, but it was too taut this time and PING. It snapped. Just like that. Over an hour’s worth of fighting and anticipation and then…Nothing. We never even got to see what it was AND we lost yet another lure and a whole lot of line got ruined in the process. It was very likely something we didn’t actually want to catch – like a marlin or some other kind of billfish that would just stab us and bleed all over the place if we even tried to bring it on board. Tell me again why fishing is so much fun?

We shook off our disappointment and I revved up the motor and got us back on course. We were really pushing it now to get into the anchorage. The sun was halfway down the horizon when we were finally able to make out the details of Isla Ixtapa. We made our way around to the east side of the island and got the hook down just as it became too dark to see. After putting the boat together, I had to jump in and wash off the last 39 hours of grime and sweat. It felt great and there was SO much phosphorescent algae in the water – it was magical. And it wasn’t quite as rolly as it could have been – the huge swell was not wrapping around to that side of the island and I could hardly wait to go to eat and sleep.

Isla Ixtapa is a small and quite beautiful island just a short ways off shore from the vacation-haven of Ixtapa. Ixtapa was one of the first resort towns that was designed by the Mexican tourism board (Fonatur) specifically to be a tourist town. The beaches are lined with towering resort hotels and the point houses a Club Med. The island is a major destination for every single person visiting Ixtapa. Starting around 9 in the morning, the water taxis begin ferrying over tourists in droves. Being as it was also the tail end of Semana Santa, the tourists were thick. We spent the entire next day just hanging out in the cockpit, watching the tourist, jet skis and banana boats zip frantically all around us. We were safe on our little fiberglass island of tranquility, sipping lemonade and watching the chaos. We contemplated swimming ashore to check it out. We contemplated that for a few days. We did finally get the dinghy in the water and took off to see if we could make it all the way over to Ixtapa Marina – and see the surf break that is supposedly near there.

Ixtapa dream house
These people have a winding stairway AND a tram to get down to the water. Tough life.
I know it doesn’t look like much, but being that close to huge, crashing swell in the tiny dinghy is a little daunting.

We got out around the south side of Isla Ixtapa and headed around the point. We had been so protected behind the island, we didn’t realize the monumental swell was still pumping. It was some of the scariest dinghy-ing I’ve done – but luckily nothing broke over us. IxtapaClubMedWe realized it was just too far and too much swell to actually go all the way over there. We turned back and did a little tour along the shore – seeing the fancy homes and Club Med resort and hotels along the way. I convinced Jonny to land the dinghy on shore just past the main water taxi pier – just across from Isla Ixtapa. The beach was packed and we just wanted to do a little recon to see how Jonny might be able to get to surf breaks – buses? Taxis? We had no idea – but we realized taking the dinghy anywhere (with our puny motor) was not happening. We happened upon the crocodile sanctuary and got a whole lot of nature all at once.

There were huge crocodiles – and people feeding them bags of raw chicken – they clambered right up to the fences and chomped their giant jaws.


Then came the iguanas. IxtapaGiantIguana

We also saw a huge number of Roseate spoonbill birds in breeding plumage – striking pink birds with comical bills – snapping at twigs and leaves and building nests.

The Roseate Spoonbill


And there were the usual snowy white egrets. The fun never ended! But Jonny was worried about leaving the dinghy on the busy beach so we didn’t stay long. We escaped the beach craziness and made it back to our little quiet home.

Realizing there wasn’t really anything productive we could do from that anchorage, we decided to just go the last 10 miles around to Zihuatanejo bay. At this point I was actually looking forward to it. We were coming up on the second weekend of Semana Santa (which really lasts 2 weeks) so it seemed like the island was just going to get crazier, and it was a good time to go. We’d heard all kinds of great stories from Kirk and Kris about Zihua and were looking forward to experiencing it ourselves. They said there was a panga that would bring you water, fuel and even take your laundry in for you. It was hard to believe that kind of service would be affordable, but we were willing to try. We were approaching 2 months of not having done laundry.

We made a quick trip ashore to the Isla before leaving – figured we at least had to see it – and it was so early we were the only tourists there as a few locals were preparing for the coming onslaught.IslaIxtapa beachIslaIxtapa beach waves

One section of the island – in a freshly raked restaurant – had about 5 different bunnies hopping around! I ascertained that they were wild rabbits.  They were SO cute though! I chased them around for quite a while.

It was a lovely little trip around the point, past Ixtapa and up into Zihua. Jonny had a line in the water on the way to Zihua and said we would eat whatever he caught – as it’s been so long since we had fish.  Unfortunately he caught a big skipjack – and we don’t like them.  Very dark fish, almost like eating mushy meat.  The only way I can stand it is buried in a curry!  I was instantly enchanted with the anchorage at Playa La Ropa. Even though it was on the far side of the bay from the actual town center, it was much cleaner and prettier and quiet. So we had a bit of a long dinghy ride to go ashore, it was absolutely worth it.   We didn’t go ashore the next day, taking in the magic of the views and the lights of the town sprawling up the hillsides at night.

Ixtapa hotels Zihuaentry

Skipjack curry2
Sweet potato and skipjack Curry. It’s what’s for dinner.

We called the phone number of the people who provide the water/fuel/laundry services. Sure enough, Hilda was able to understand my Spanish and we made arrangements for them to come pick up our laundry and fuel jugs in the morning. Right on time, a panga showed up and took our 2 huge contractor trash bags full of laundry and our 2 jerry jugs for diesel, and promised to return same time next day with full fuel, clean laundry and 50 gallons of purified water for our tanks. It really seemed too good to be true. I thought for sure at least the message about using only the laundry detergent I provided would somehow get lost.

The final days of Semana Santa at Playa La Ropa

The next morning, right on time, our panga guys returned. The panga was loaded down with 10 water jugs, our clean laundry (every last bit of it made it back AND it smelled how I like it to) and our diesel. The cost was barely any more than if we’d gone to shore and slogged through all these errands ourselves. I was starting to think maybe Zihua was the best place EVER!

Z 2 mos laundry
Two months worth of sheets, towels and clothing…CLEAN!

We explored a bit of the town and discussed the best way to get Jonny surfing. When we were hiding behind Isla Ixtapa, we missed out on all the great surf in Zihua (by a day!) caused by the huge swell. So we had to set sites on other breaks.Zihuasign2

Jonny’s first Zihua surf break….at the airport when we went to scope out rental cars!
Zihua coffee
Jonny finally found some good coffee
Zihua chickens
How we buy chicken
Cacao first
I FINALLY found cacao beans! My first attempt at a treat came out more akin to fudge, but it was tasty. Working on improvements.
Signs of this nature are everywhere in Zihua. Kids really care about the environment down here. “Take care of the earth and she will take care of you”


There are really cool statutes of women sprinkled all over Zihua.  Even with birdshit on her face, she was still beautiful
There is a lovely biking/walking path from the main beach through the far end of town along the river by the bay

Zihuamadera Zihua park view Zihua houses

Zihua rest view
We rowed over to Playa La Ropa one day to have drinks at a couple of the restaurants near the anchorage to collect wifi passwords…found one we could use with our booster from the boat. Drink money well spent.

I was all for Jonny taking a solo trip and having some surfing fun while I got to hangout at anchor and in Zihua, but that just didn’t seem to be a possibility. We looked into taking buses up to Troncones – a good surf spot and small low key resorts on an unprotected bay. We looked into staying there but the costs, even for a hostel, were just too high. We decided maybe we’d rent a car for a week and just be able to drive places every day. Renting a car and driving up to other surf spots – even just 10 -20 miles away, would mean finding a place to park it on shore, getting up well before daylight and getting the boards and all gear loaded onto the dinghy, and going ashore and leaving the dinghy all day on the beach… yeah it was not sounding at all fun to me. The getting up BEFORE the crack of dawn every day for a week wasn’t sounding so great to Jonny either, and if I chose not to go it would mean being stuck on the boat with no dinghy motor (we were too far out for me to row Mini-P)….Ummmm. No. So we scrapped the car idea and just decided to sail up to Troncones and The Ranch (another 10 miles north of Troncones) and see if we could try to anchor safely.

We set off one afternoon back to Isla Ixtapa – just 10 miles, which is about a 2 hour trip for us, not including boat prep and anchoring and all that, so maybe 3-4 hours overall. We anchored and prepared to leave in the morning just before sunrise so that there would be time to get some early surf in. Troncones is just a beautiful little bay with not a lick of protection in any direction for a sailboat.

Too much surf to go ashore, this was my view of the beautiful Troncones

IMG_0766It was pretty rolly and we had our flopper stoppers out to kept us somewhat sane onboard. I guess the surf wasn’t all that and Jonny was hot to move on north to find some of these mysterious places described to us by a reliable source. We managed to locate “The Ranch” none too easily. It wasn’t even a bay of any sort, it was just wide open straight shore line.  If you look up “open roadstead anchorage” in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure you will see a picture of this place. It was quite shallow even very far off shore and incredibly rolly with a strong current. But… the surf…. Jonny came back after his first session just beaming.  Not only was it a really fun wave, but out of the dozen or so people surfing there that morning, nine of them were women in “cheeky bottoms” bikinis. He was pretty sure he’d died and gone to heaven (except for when he returned to the boat and there I was). He surfed at least twice a day – 4-6 hours per day total. We spent 2 nights rolling around in this crazy non-anchorage and finally Jonny couldn’t handle the rolling anymore so we decided to go back to Troncones. I wasn’t a fan of the rolliness for sure, but I wasn’t about to rain on the surf parade. Troncones was rollier than ever and we only spent one more night there before heading back to Zihua bay.

I had been keeping in contact with our friends on Prism (https://svprism.com/) and they were due to arrive in Zihua any day. We were pretty excited to see them again; it had been over a year since we last hung out. They were kind of our first (and two of our favorite) cruising friends.  We settled down in Playa La Ropa again to hang out and wait.

Jonny let me play on his new board while he was getting ready to check out the surf break near Playa La Ropa

Barra de Navidad to Las Hadas

Melaque beach
Ok this is Melaque, not Barra – but it’s just a quick bus ride away

As it happened, we spent a couple more weeks in Barra de Navidad. Boats were constantly coming and going from the harbor – and that meant many were also running aground, just like we did. It was so nice to have someone zip out to assist us when we ran aground – so every time we noticed someone stuck, Jonny zipped out in the dinghy to rescue them.

Typical street tacos for when we splurge and have lunch out.


The first couple insisted on taking us out to dinner, and it was very nice to take a water taxi ashore and eat someplace much fancier than we are accustomed to. Being ashore at night is such a novelty!

Giant tree in Barra

Jonny continued to surf nearly every day and I continued to try to avoid the French Baker nearly every day. Jonny realized he needed a different surfboard and was hoping the local surf shop would have one in trade for one of his. There was a potential board, and the shop owner said he should take it out for a test ride the next day. Before we even got that far, Jonny met a guy vacationing from the US who had brought a board with him that he didn’t want to bring back (apparently it’s pretty pricey to bring a board on the airplane these days!). It just so happened to be the perfect board and it just so happened to be a great price. It also just so happened that we hadn’t planned to spend any money on such a transaction…but Jonny was so excited about this board, and it was pretty likely he could sell his other board for the same price someday, somewhere…how could he NOT buy it? He was one happy camper. I mean, surfer.


The week after I returned from Spanish school, I got a call from Chayo – she was interested in coming for a visit on the weekend! I was very excited; since I thought it was a longshot they’d come out. But Chayo and the adorable Jenny, Chayo’s beautiful oldest daughter, Isis and her nephew Giovanni, along with the wonderful Canadians Murray and Beth, trekked out to Barra and took a water taxi out to find Summer. Yes, we had 8 people in our tiny cockpit, and it wasn’t nearly as cramped as I thought it would be. Chayo had told me not to worry about food – and she brought a veritable feast for everyone. There were fruits and veggies, snacks, an amazing caracol (like giant snail?) and shrimp ceviche salad, and sandwich makings. She just sat right there in the cockpit and whipped everything up for everyone. It was quite impressive. Such a fun afternoon and I was so grateful everyone came.

Chayo, Jenny, Murray, Beth, Isis, Giovanni and Jonny

  ChayoJennySummer GiovanniBow     JennJennyMurray

I had made some chocolate cupcakes, which everyone seemed to be enjoying, until I told them they were made with black beans – the adults were adult about it, but Jenny and Giovanni refused to finish theirs. We all had a good laugh.

Black bean chocolate muffins – no they aren’t moldy – I experimented with raspberry cream cheese in some of them.

We took one day to explore the canals and barrio at the far end of town. There are 3 fingers of water in parallel that go into Barra from the top of the lagoon.  Not sure how to describe them, canals kept seeming to be the word we used, but doesn’t seem accurate…

BarraCanal1 Barracanal3 Barracanalbird

One day we took a field trip to the town of Cihuatlan. Not a far bus ride – and we heard there was a propane plant there where we could get our propane tank filled. As luck would have it, another man got on the bus with a propane tank. We asked him where the plant was and he said just to get off when he did. That was convenient. As we made our way into the compound, I noticed one of those signs that says “It’s been X days since we had an accident on the job site”. The number space was blank and I raised an eyebrow. The man working the hoses had a badly burned and scarred face…I’m guessing they gave up on that sign after whatever happened to him.   As usual, they were not able to fill our tank as expected – but we realized that another area had the proper nozzle to fill our tank. Mission accomplished after a fashion.. We were still a ways from the town of Cihuatlan, so we decided to take another bus rather than walk in the heat with a full propane tank (yeah, I know, we should’ve gone to town first and gotten propane after, but we had no idea where stuff was and we got off the bus already—every time you get on or off a bus, it costs (ok, not much, but it adds up!) – there are no such things as transfers in Mexico.

Cihuatlan was a bustling little town with pretty much everything you could ever want – and NO tourists! It was fun to be in a ‘real’ town where no one was trying to hustle us or sell us something or take us on a boat ride, etc. etc.   We had a delicious lunch and got to try “tuba” finally. Tuba is a fermented drink make from coconut tree sap. It’s sort of tasty and refreshing, and very low alcohol content. Tuba is not something you can buy in a store – you can only buy it from guys walking around selling it out of large gourds they carry sometimes hanging from a bar across their shoulders. I learned about it in my Spanish class, and had been on the lookout for guys walking around saying “tuba tuba tuba” – I’d probably ignored it a hundred times before.

NOTE!!! I DIDN’T TAKE THIS PICTURE – STOLE IT FROM THE INTERNET so you could see…just so you know…this is a typical tuba seller
“We live in a world where we hide to make love but violence is practiced in broad daylight” – John Lennon

 CihuaChurchSQ CihuaDoor CihuaSq CihuaChurch


Cihua BZJ
Quite possibly the most frightening Jesus I’ve ever seen. We nicknamed this one “Black Zombie Jesus”. Not sure why they don’t at least brush his hair!
Yeah I don’t really know what was going on here. There was another (Jesus?) wrapped up in that coffin thing.
I know I never mentioned this before – but benches are kind of a thing here. This town had some pretty cool ones.

One day after saving a run-aground, Jonny was chatting with the people and spotted a sea horse in the water! He brought it back to show me and we released it shortly after admiring it and having a photo shoot. What amazing little creatures!


We finally decided to say Adios to Barra. Poor Summer had sat for so long in the murky lagoon, we wondered if she’d even be able to move for all the green muck growing on her. We made it to the fuel dock to fill all our fuel, water and hose down Summer a bit – and we were off. We made the huge 4 mile trek out to Melaque, where the water was (somewhat) clearer and we could spend the day cleaning Summer a bit for a longer run south.

Melaque floppers
We finally got to try out the new Flopper Stoppers in Melaque. Decided they should be renamed “Roller Slowers” since they don’t really STOP anything…but they do help make life in a rolly anchorage a bit more comfortable.


We had a beautiful day-long trip down to Ensenada Carrizal. Carrizal is a somewhat narrow and long bay surrounded by rocks and greenery. Tucked up in there, we could see nothing else, as if we were far, far away from civilization – yet just around the corner was the huge port of Manzanillo Bay, with huge tankers and container ships coming and going non stop.

This giant tanker got wedged between a rock and hard place during Hurricane Patricia. Some fellow cruisers were heading North as we headed South


The water was crystal clear, reminiscent of our days up in the Sea of Cortez. It was some of the top snorkeling we’ve done. The coral just went on and on, in amazing colors and all our usual friends were swimming around in abundance. While I was paddling around gawking, Jonny decided to give his new spear gun a try. After a while, I got a bit chilly (water was cooler there!) and hopped in the dinghy to warm up. Soon after, Jonny comes racing back and jumps in the dinghy rather quickly. He had shot a small triggerfish and was trying to get another, when all of a sudden he noticed a shark swimming out of a sea cave to investigate all the blood floating around. He considered shooting the shark in the head (and, then what?), but instead decided to go away as quickly as possible. It was likely not a dangerous shark (reef shark?), but you can never be too careful… And the triggerfish got left behind – an offering to Mr. Shark, I guess.

Carrizalshore Carrizalrocks2 Carrizalrocks CarrizalJonny

I have zero photography skills, but somehow I always manage to capture birds in flight.

After several days of exploring around Carrizal, we decided to check out Santiago. It was just around the corner, and we buzzed over there and didn’t have much interest in staying – so we decided to continue on the short way around the next corner into Manzanillo Bay and to Las Hadas anchorage.

The resorts and homes on the point were breathtaking and coming around into Las Hadas was even more so – it’s a wonder we didn’t pass out from losing all that breath.   Las Hadas reminded me of pictures of Greece – with the sprawling, bright white stone buildings, gorgeous bougainvillea and palm trees interspersed. Definitely not hard on the eyes. We anchored near a small beach under the Paradise Restaurant – as we’d heard it was a good place to land the dinghy (as opposed to the expensive dinghy dock in the ‘marina’) and that they had wifi. The marina there was mostly for powerboats – it is a “Med Mooring” style place – which means you have to back in and tie up from the stern – not super easy on a sailboat, especially one with a windvane and no steps off the stern. Not that we needed a marina anyway. The anchorage was lovely, even swimmable – but the added bonus was right on shore -there were beach showers under a palm tree and overlooking the beach. What luck and luxury!  Oh and a bit of trivia for you – apparently Las Hadas is where the movie “10” was filmed.

LasHadas whites LasHadasBouganSummer LasHadasPalapaSummer LasHadasWalkarch LasHadas walkway Hadasview LasHadas bougan LasHadas sunset

Hadas photobomb
Somebody photobombed this picture!

All the resorts were built up into the steep hills surrounding the bay. To get from the beach to the street above the resort, we had to wind our way up 220 stairs! Yes, I counted. Hadas stepsThere is nothing of use within walking distance, and it takes two buses to get anywhere really. Not a huge deal, buses are only 7 pesos. We explored the city of Manzanillo – and found it to be quite charming as big cities go.ManzsteepManzStatuecaptnManzstatueManzShrineManzMarlin

Jonny and the Giant Marlin
There was a great installation in the waterside park – artists were given blank statues of the Colima Dogs (Mexican hairess – similar to a chihuahuah – probably the first dogs in the Americas) – and each artist decorated how they chose.



Stacked silver dudes juggling fire welcomed us to the Santiago Saturday Market

We also spent some time exploring the smaller town of Santiago, which I quite liked as well. The Saturday market there is gigantic – vendors setting up tables and canopies that seem to go on forever. Everything from fruits and vegetables to fine silver jewelry can be found. We splurged on a small bag of candied pecans and had a fun chat with the “hombres de nueces” as I named them.

Our new nut buddies.


In between Santiago and Manzanillo is a long stretch with the big box stores and chain restaurants– Walmart, Home Depot, Mega grocery stores etc. We hit up a few of those as well. We did not, however, visit ChickyLandia.


I took a day by myself to go into Santiago and get provisions and find a haircut (I was way overdue!).   I much prefer wandering through a smaller town to stock up than the big cities – and there’s things I don’t like to buy at the chain stores (meat, chicken, certain veg, etc). I checked out a number of peluquerias (hair salons) and finally hit upon one that was just right to cut off my goldilocks.   Peluqueira “Chuy” had a comfy couch and cheery décor. As I waited my turn, Chuy offered me a treat from a jar of candy. Finally in the chair, Chuy had a look at my poor locks. He was quite distressed and could hardly wait to cut them down. He spoke no English, so we struggled a little – but, seeing as I’m not too particular about my hair, I just kept saying “Si! Perfecto!” to whatever it was he suggested. I tried to explain to him I live on a boat and my hair is in salt water all the time…he just kept shaking his head and saying “ooooh, muy muuuuy mal!!” When he’d had his way and I was overjoyed at how light my head felt, I offered him 70 pesos ($4) – which included a 20 peso tip over and above the 50 pesos he charges. I had an also ridiculously inexpensive and tasty lunch and then loaded up on chicken, meat and veg – and staggered toward the buses with my light head and heavy loot.

 SantChuySalon Sant Chuy2

Sant Part
Chuy couldn’t resist having some fun

On our final provisioning run to the mega store (for all the heavy dry goods), we decided to splurge and take a cab back – which could snake down to the beach side- rather than us having to lug everything down 220 stairs. It was not really that much more expensive, either! What a treat. Our cabbie spoke perfect English and turns out he had lived in Los Gatos/San Jose, CA for many years.  He’d been back in Mexico for 30 years now.  When asked which he liked better, he said “San Jose is much cleaner, but in Mexico you feel much freer”.  We heartily agreed.

As we got out of the cab and it turned around to leave, Jonny realized he’d left the hot tortillas under the rear window. He took off running to try to catch the cab before it got away. Just then one of the many resort golf carts came up and ushered Jonny to jump on the back – the last I saw of him he was hanging on for dear life as the golf cart sped off – faster than golf carts should go – around the corner. I sat down to wait. A while later, a dejected Jonny came tromping back…the cab had disappeared up the hill by the time the golf cart reached the real road. No tortillas for us.  Although –I did get the Paradise Restaurant to sell me some just before we weighed anchor!

It was a Friday when we left, and for days the craziness had been building up—Semana Santa –Holy Week and Easter are big beach holidays here. The jet skis zooming around and nearly hitting boats, was a little too nerve wracking. We had to escape before the weekend found us with a jetski through our hull (or, as they say “all hull broke loose”). We decided to make the short trip back to secluded Carrizal and peacefully wait out the holiday before heading evermore south.  Exactly where or how far was still being debated.