This is Zee Place

Zihuantanejo, Zihua, Z town or just Z and its sister city Ixtapa are popular vacation areas. Ixtapa tends to have the larger, chain, “all inclusive” style hotels. Zihua, although a bigger town, has more of the boutique hotels. During our Sailfest events we met many people that have been coming down here for many years, even decades, and its easy to see why.

Ixtapa beach front

We have been in Zihuantanejo for 3 weeks now. While we were busy for the first 10 days with Sailfest, we have now had a chance to spend some time checking the area out. There are tons of small restaurants and bars that provide a great selection of food, beverage and live music. There is a beach-side square with an outdoor basketball court that doubles as a stage area for other events. So far, we’ve seen bits of a local school band, a magic show, local dancers, a couple of bands and bits of several different basketball games. There is also a Malecon that connects two of the four local beaches. In the evenings there are always buskers offering their brand entertainment along the walk.

Mariachi Band
Icecream cart on the Malecon
Walkers on the Malecon

If you take the approximately 15-mile distance between Isla Ixtapa at the upper end of the area and the small town of Barra de Potosi at the south, there is about 7 miles of different sandy beaches to choose from. If you like beaches with lots happening and a beachside palapa bar to watch it from or one that provides a spot with hardly anyone else around, you’ll likely find the right spot here.

Busy Isla Grande beach
Not so busy Playa Blanca
Prefer to hangout in a hammock?
Buy lunch enjoy the pool and view from La Escollera

Zihua is very cruiser friendly. The beach by the Port Captain’s office is a safe place to land your dinghy.  There are 3 guys that work the beach, will help you land, watch your dinghy while you are away and then help you launch when you come back. All for tips (about 20 pesos each way). Ismael runs the panga shuttle service to Los Gatos Beach and he also offers a concierge service for the boaters. He will arrange to have just about anything brought out to your boat for you, water, diesel, ice, beer, even laundry pick up and drop off. Amazon packages can be sent to his address for pickup too. He monitors channel 65 on the VHF or you can drop by his place of business to place your order.

Water delivery

We are currently working through the Mexican import system and its challenges. We have ordered items on Amazon, had them shipped to Ismael and received them 2 days later.. We tried to order parts for our water maker and have them shipped by DHL direct to us at the local DHL office, didn’t work. We watched the tracking go from Trinidad, Panama, Costa Rica, Ohio and then Mexico City where Customs decided that since we did not have a permanent address here, they would not ship to us. So, the parts are being sent back to the water maker manufacture in Trinidad.  We have reordered the parts and this time will ship by FedEx to Ismail. After two weeks, 25 or so emails and a dozen phone calls let’s see if plan B works. While we have been struggling with our water maker, we have used Ismael’s service to bring out purified water for us. 15 or 20 of the 5-gallon jugs at a time so we can fill our tanks with clean water. There are also a couple of guys that will dive the boat and clean the bottom for a reasonable fee.

Daniel cleaning the bottom of the boat

Cleaning below the waterline of the boat is something new to anybody from the colder northern waters. In Vancouver we could go a full year without scraping the growth of the bottom of the boat. Here with 80-degree ocean water, stuff grows like crazy. At least once a month we need to scrape the bottom and almost weekly we need to scrub the seaweed off the waterline or mowing the lawn as we all refer to it as.

This area is just so easy to be in. The people here are friendly and helpful. While better Spanish on my part would be beneficial, we certainly have been able to get across what we are after or where we want to go. Google translate is a real cool app. I needed to have an electric winch motor rebuilt and we were able to find a place to do it and communicate what needed to be done. The next morning the unit was fixed and ready at 10 AM as promised. The cost was 490 pesos or about $35, that would probably have been a $200 bill at home. We have shopped for supplies at the local markets and in the Mega, Sam’s Club and AutoZone. We have walked, taken public transit, and taxied and felt safe doing all of it.

Vegetables at the market
Fresh veggies on display
Look at the size of these radishes!
Local florist
Never know what you’ll see hangin out at the market
Or over at the chicken place
Limes by the truck load
Beachfront fish market
Freshness guaranteed
Sunset over the harbour
Just another sunset in paradise

We are here till the end of Guitarfest in mid March. If we don’t get out of here then, we may never get out.

Zihuantanejo Sailfest

Sailfest started 19 years ago when a group of cruisers decided they should do something to raise money to build a classroom for local children. It has grown into one of the major cruiser events in Mexico. The monies raised through the event now go to building new schools and classrooms, maintaining existing schools, providing meals at the schools and a scholarship program.  More information on the charity and its works can be found here

We came here with the intent of “helping out” where we could. We ended up doing 9 nights of sunset and music cruises, the “rally around the rock” and the boat parade. Taking a total of 55 guests out with us and raising 23,000 pesos or about 1700 Canadian dollars. Way more than we were expecting, a big thank you to all those that came out with us. Especially the repeat guests. We were only one of 23 boats that participated in this year’s event. Some of the larger yachts took almost 200 guests out over the course of the event.

The sailing events are just part of what’s happening. On shore there were concerts, chili cook off, silent auction and a gala dinner. With the help of almost 200 shore based and boat crew volunteers the organization raised more than 3,000,000.00 pesos or over $200,000 this year.

While it is mandatory for children to attend school and there are no tuition fees, the students must still provide their uniforms and school supplies. These costs alone are often out of the reach of many families and as such become barriers to the children’s education. We were part of a tour of one of the schools (grades 1-6) that had been built with Sailfest funds.   What started as a one room school is now about a dozen classrooms and a kitchen for 300 students. The uniform requirements at this school are relaxed.  If the children don’t have the right shoes, a clean uniform shirt, they are still permitted to attend school. The organization tries to help out with the cost of supplies and uniforms for as many children as they can. What ever can be done to remove the roadblocks and educate the children becomes a priority.

Beach concert
Boats in the bay ready for Sailfest
Rally around the rock
72 foot Patricia Belle under full sail
Boat Parade
Seasoned cruisers, their 2nd trip aboard Stray Cat
Beautiful sunset on a sunset cruise
And another night
Boats rafted for the music
Musicians on the water
Perfect viewing spot (thanks Karen)
Guests indulge in a pre-concert swim off the boat
Thanks Brian from Epic for crewing
The school we visited
The reason we do this
Sailfest 2020

We are very happy to have been a part of this and while we’re not sure of our plans for next year, we may be back.

New Territory for Stray Cat

We left La Cruz under cloudy skies; a favourable wind forecast and made our way to Cabo Corrientes.  This is the southern point of Banderas Bay and it can be a bit tricky to transit with the wind, waves and currents all coming together.  We timed it right and had an easy 122 nautical mile overnight passage to Tenacatita.

Tenacatita resort

Tenacatita is one of those anchorages that some cruisers come to and stay for weeks, there were 33 boats in the bay when we arrived.  We only had two days, definitely not long enough, we will be back.  One of the fun things to do there is an estuary tour in your dinghy.  We joined in on a group of five dinghies with seventeen people between them.  The first hurdle is crossing the bar, where the mouth of the estuary meets the bay. Watching the wave pattern and timing the entrance can be a challenge.  A wrong move can result in a flipped dinghy and all its occupants dumped into the water.  Everyone made it across the bar safely and we meandered the 2 ½ miles through the mangroves. The mangroves are home to lots of different wildlife, we saw pelicans, egrets and herons.  We were on the lookout for crocodiles too, a couple of small ones were spotted. 

Up the river without a paddle
They went that way

When we reached the lagoon, we pulled all the dinghies up on the beach and Poncho meet us with his van to transport us to his Raicilla operation, our lunch stop.  Raicilla is the local version of tequila. Tequila can only be called as such if it is made with 100% Agave Azul (from the blue agave plant). If  made with any other Agave plant and it must be named something else.  We had a nice lunch and a few tastings and back to the dinghies for our return trip.  The tide was now lower, a couple dinghies momentarily touched bottom but were able to maneuver back into deeper water.  We all made it safely across the bar again and a fun day was had by all.  Back to the boat for a swim, the water temperature was 28 C or 86 F, beautiful!

Safe at the end of the river
The real reason for the trip
Instruction on what is and is not Tequila

Twenty miles away was our next stop, Barra de Navidad.  We filled up at the fuel dock and Vancouverites you can’t complain about your fuel prices because it was $1.856/ Litre Cdn here. Barra has a very nice marina, but we chose to anchor in the lagoon. Now getting into the main channel is well marked but entering the lagoon can be interesting, try to enter at high tide if possible. There are no channel markers and a number of unmarked shoals.  Boats regularly go aground but it’s a soft, muddy bottom so usually no damage is incurred.  The Navionics charts and waypoints in the Sean and Heather Cruising Mexico guidebook we all have are good.  We anchored in nine feet of water (we draw four) and there is a two-foot tide swing, I think that’s a Stray Cat record for shallowest depth.  They have a great 24-hour water taxi service in Barra.  You call them on Channel 23 or wave one down if they’re nearby, and a panga will come and pick you up.  You pay 40 pesos/person ($2.85) when you get off, they give you a ticket and that’s what you need for your return ride.  We explored the town with some old friends and some new friends and really enjoyed our time there.  We had the best wood fired pizza at a place called Loco Loco.

Resort and Marina in Barra
From a different angle
Barra surf beach

The French Baker will come to your boat with his fresh baked treats for sale.  You can place your order the night before and he will deliver in the morning.  We got a couple of treats for our departure.  The baguettes were amazing!

Fresh and delivered to the boat. What more could you ask for?

We departed at high tide, after our bakery items were delivered, bound for Manzanillo, 25 nautical miles away.  Just a quick night in the bay there as we left for Zihuatanejo at 5 am, dodging a few freighters that were coming into the harbour.  Thank goodness for AIS and radar. 

Manzanillo condos
Sunrise at sea

190 nautical miles to Zihuatanejo, another overnighter. 32 uneventful hours later we arrived in Zihua. We are in the area for about a month with plans to participate in Sailfest (a fundraising event for local schools and children). More on how that goes later.