Thursday, January 2, 2014


Monday and Tuesday passed uneventfully in Barra.  Cole and I went kayaking around the lagoon on Monday morning and checked out the mangroves on the far side and all the boats anchored in the lagoon.  More and more boats keep arriving as Christmas approaches.  We spent the evenings watching pirated movies in the hotel auditorium.  We watched The Heat and Snow White and the Huntsman.  It was strange watching Sandra Bullock with a dubbed voice.  Fortunately for Scott, there were English subtitles.  Snow white was in English with Spanish subtitles.

Christmas Eve, Scott and I took the dinghy over to Barra in the morning and bought fruit and potatoes for Christmas.  Then we came back to await the arrival of the mechanic with our water maker pump.  All we wanted for Christmas was to get our pump back so that we could leave Barra de Navidad.  We we arrived in Barra, I had a strange feeling we would end up spending Christmas in “Christmas Bay.”  We have vowed not to stop anywhere with “Easter” in the name.  The mechanics showed up about 1:00, reinstalled the repaired pump and tested it.  It worked fine.  We had been told that we should get anything we needed done in Puerto Vallarta because we wouldn’t find any services beyond that.  This is just not true.  I firmly believe that you can get anything fixed anywhere in Mexico.  Those guys found the correct seals for our pump faster than we could have obtained them in the United States.  The trick to finding what you need is to just start asking around.  It helps if you can speak Spanish, but people will eventually direct you to the friend of someone’s brother in law who will go out of his way to do an amazing job for you at a very fair price.  I wouldn’t know where to start to get a water maker pump repaired in the U.S., but we found two options in Barra de Navidad – a town without even a bank.

I spent most of the day making tamales.  I made both chicken and pork ones.  I shared some with the Mexican family in the boat next door.  They couldn’t believe that I had made tamales in a boat, but they enjoyed them.  I guess I passed the tamale making test.  We had pozole and tamales for dinner and then took the water taxi over to Barra for the evening.  It was a subdued Christmas Eve compared to the holiday I spent in Oaxaca, but they did have rides for kids and food stalls set up in the plaza and everyone in town was out strolling around or eating dinner out.  We had a drink at Besame Mucho, where a young couple were playing live music and the beautiful hostess was tottering around in five inch heals on cobblestones.  We spent the whole time waiting for her to fall, but she had a real talent for walking in those shoes.

We then walked across town to check out was going on at the Sands Hotel, but got waylaid by a loud group of Canadians who had taken over a restaurant for someone’s birthday party and beckoned us to join them.  They were fun people.  One of the gentlemen bought me a rose, which was very sweet.  We finished our drinks there and then continued on to a newly opened blues bar with a talkative bar tender/manager.  People were setting off random fireworks here and there, but there didn’t seem to be anything organized going on.  There was none of the music or processions that my mom and I had experienced in Oaxaca.  We made a fairly early night of it.

We enjoyed a lazy morning on Christmas.  I made hot cakes.  (They are called “hot cakes,” not, “pancakes,” in Mexico.)  I spent an hour or so in the lobby calling my brother and checking email and then went back to the boat and made mashed potatoes to take to the potluck.  It took forever to get the water to boil in such a large pot on our little propane stove, but they were done just in time for us to stuff the pot in an insulated bag and drive the dinghy across the estuary to the Sands Hotel for the party.   I got drenched by a panga wake, just before we pulled up to the hotel and never did manage to dry out, since it was shady at the pool bar.

X-mas Party at the Sands Hotel Pool Bar
This year’s party was the largest ever, and we slightly exceeded the capacity of the Sand’s pool bar.  We had to steal chairs from the adjacent restaurant and there was hardly room to edge between the bar and the tables.  Someone had deep fried two turkeys and made a ham and the rest of us all brought something to share.  The turkey tasted strange.  I don’t know if it was because it had been deep fried or because Mexican turkeys eat strange feed.  There was plenty of food, though.

Sands Hotel Pool Bar
"Elf" from the Boat "Slacker"

After dinner, we had a gift exchange.  I brought a bottle of red wine.  It was one of those gift exchanges where you can steal gifts from those who had gone before.  Alcohol was the most coveted of the presents.  Each bottle changed hands the maximum number of times.  I had several good presents pass through my hands, but what I ended up with was a taxidermied toad made into a change purse.  Nobody wanted to steal him.  I figure he will make a good key safe because no one will ever want to touch him.

Scott and I went back to the hotel after the party, but Cole stayed in town and partied with the local gringos until the wee hours.  Scott and I watched the movie, Friends, at the hotel.  The movie was in French with Spanish subtitles, but it was good enough that Scott enjoyed it, even though my translation was only occasional (whenever there was a really good joke.)  It was a true story about a wealthy French quadriplegic and his Senegalese attendant who became good friends and influenced each other’s lives in positive ways.

We were all eager to get out of Barra the day after Christmas.  Scott went into town to check out with the port captain while I deconstructed the shade structure and stowed all the loose items.  We filled up at the fuel dock and pulled out into the bay at 2:30.  The weather was mild at first, but the winds were stronger than forecast and the seas grew large and confused as the afternoon wore on.  It looked like it was going to rain, so we closed all the hatches and it got swelteringly stuffy below.  By dinnertime, we were all fairly queasy.  For the first time on this trip, I was unable to prepare dinner.  Fortunately, no one else was really very hungry.

It was pretty rough until sometime after midnight, when the wind abated somewhat and the seas flattened out.  We saw lightning in the distance and tried to steer around it.  It never did rain on us until after daylight the next morning.  I had the 4 am to 8 am watch.  There was a beautiful sunrise through the thunderclouds in the distance.  We were about 10 miles offshore.  As we neared the port of Lazaro Cardenas, we started to see a lot of ship traffic, but they were well inshore of us.  We passed Lazaro Cardenas in the late afternoon and headed for Punta Ixtapa.  I called the marina in Ixtapa to make a reservation, since we would be arriving in the middle of the night.  They refused to make a reservation for us to arrive after dark because they said it would be too dangerous. 

Islands Off Ixtapa
There was supposed to be a light on Isla Grande, just before Punta Ixtapa, but we never did see it.  There are a lot of rocks and islands around Ixtapa and, without that light to confirm where I was, I elected to head for Zihuatanejo Bay, bypassing the whole Ixtapa area, because there was a highly visible light on the south side of the entrance to the bay.  We headed for that light and were joined by a couple of dolphins that escorted us all the way into the anchorage in Zihuat.  We could see their glowing forms as they rocketed past us and their brilliantly lighted splashes when they jumped out of the water.  We anchored just off the municipal pier in downtown Zihuatanejo.  There were a lot of boats already in the anchorage there.  It looked like a fun place to anchor with easy dinghy access to the beach.

Zihuatanejo Anchorage 
Marina Ixtapa
We were having trouble with our electrical system, once again.  Scott was eager to get to Ixtapa, so we hauled up the anchor before Cole was even awake and set off for Marina Ixtapa.  Finding the marina was much easier in the daylight.  We came around the point and headed between the islands and the mainland until we reached the jetties that mark the marina entrance.  The Ixtapa Marina is surrounded by condominiums, villas hotels and a golf course.  Our slip was all the way at the back, near where the estuary becomes a river and winds through the golf course.  Crocodiles live in that river and come out at night to eat fish scraps and hunt for unsuspecting small animals on the docks.  Cole and I have each seen a pretty large one around dusk, right near our boat.  Unlike most of the Fonatur marinas we have visited, Marina Ixtapa is a busy place.  There are bustling restaurants and businesses.  Most of the boats appear to be owned by Mexican citizens.  We did not see any other cruisers.

Ever since we left, we have had trouble with charging our batteries.  We have had to run the motor almost all the way to keep the refrigerators going.  At first, we thought the batteries themselves were bad, but the situation failed to improve after we replaced the batteries while we were in La Cruz.  Solar panels helped some, but didn’t provide enough amps for our needs.  We got the generator running, but it didn’t charge the batteries, either.  Finally, Scott reached the conclusion that both the alternator on the engine and the bridge rectifier on the generator were bad.

Arcades in Zihuatanejo
X-mas in Zihuat
While Scott was contemplating our power crisis, Cole and I hopped a bus and went back to explore Zihuatanejo.  We got off at the center of town and wandered around towards the naval base and then down to the beach, searching for a bar with wi-fi.  All of the sidewalks in Zihuat are covered by Spanish tiled arcades with coordinated signage.  It makes it very difficult to find your way around the town, since it all looks alike.  We finally found a suitable bar on Playa Principal, near the pier, and settled down to drink a bucket of beer and catch up on our email and my blog.  Marina Ixtapa has lousy internet.  The wi-fi only works at the office and they turn it off after business hours.

Playa Madera
We could only drink so much beer, so we left and walked from Playa Principal over to Playa Madera, which is reached by a concrete walkway along the rocks and cliffs between the two beaches.  The local school children had adopted the walkway and the whole area was plastered with signs exhorting us to keep the beach clean and crates in which to put trash.  Playa Madera was a happening place with palapa bars and lots of locals swimming.  We sat on a bench and enjoyed the view.  Further around the curve of the bay is Playa Ropa and Playa las Gatas is out by the mouth of the bay.  Parasailers were operating out of Playa Ropa.  The cruising fleet was anchored off Playa Principal and Playa Madera.  We had been anchored right in front of the bench where we sat.  When the sun started to dip, we hopped a bus back to Ixtapa to make dinner before Scott started to worry about us.

Walkway to Playa Madera
The plan for Sunday was to remove the alternator, but Scott wasn’t feeling motivated.  Cole and I took the opportunity to spend the afternoon at the beach.  It was hot when we left, but some clouds moved in and it was pretty pleasant at the beach.  We took turns swimming and then lying in the sun, reading.  Ixtapa is a nice, wide beach with a much more gradual slope than Barra, but it has rougher surf.  I had to dive through a number of waves before I got out beyond the break.  Scott hadn’t moved by the time we returned, but he pulled the alternator while I was making dinner.  It was covered in what looked like soot and there was a broken wire.
Ixtapa from the Water

Beach at Ixtapa
Monday, Scott and I set off to Zihuatanejo to find someone to rebuild the alternator.  I couple of people had referred us to Peregrino Auto Electronics, so we started there.  Scott thought that the alternator needed rebuilding, but they tested it and determined that the soot had come from a belt and the only problem was the little broken wire.  They replaced it for 50 pesos (about $3.50.)  We then asked them if they had a bridge rectifier.  They said they didn’t, but put us in a cab and sent us back downtown to another shop they thought might have one.  They didn’t, but sent us somewhere else.  We failed there, too, and also failed to find what we needed in two or three other places we looked.  Finally, we gave up and ate Chinese food for lunch.  After lunch, we took another bus out to Auto Zone (down the street from Peregrino.)  They didn’t have what we wanted, either.  We did manage to go to the grocery store and stock up on meat and produce, however.

After dinner, I got it into my head to pull the main air conditioner out of its cabinet so that we could recharge the refrigerant.  It was much less miserable to work on the boat at night, although it was still a sweaty job.  Scott and I took turns working on it, with me doing the parts that required reaching into small spaces and him doing the heavy lifting.  We finally got the thing out, after partially disassembling both it and the cabinet.  I’m not a fan of air conditioning under normal circumstances, but I have had it with sweating 24/7 and I know it will get worse before Panama.


  1. Hi Rene! Your trip sounds amazing! We stopped in Barra for a week last October on our way south (overland--we're now in Buenos Aires) and loved it. It's so fun to read about your trip by sea!

  2. Hi Rene, its Michelle your neighbor from Benicia. Happy New Year! You look like you are having a wonderful time. Keep those stories coming. All is well in Benicia we just need some rain.