Posted by: Sailing Camelot | February 27, 2012

Feb 24th – Zihuatanejo to Acapulco

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed one more time, we’re ready to take on the day. We start -coffee in hand-, by listening to the local radio net; it’s the best way to learn who’s here, what’s going on, and any local information to make the best of our stay.

We announce our arrival and are soon greeted by a number of fellow sailors we haven’t heard or seen for a while. Sharing of plans and itineraries ensue, followed by best wishes for safe travels.  It’s really heartwarming. We won’t see most of these people ever again.

A sense of finality starts creeping over me: after sixteen months in Mexico, we’re now on our way to Central America. It’s finally dawning on me that we’re soon leaving behind a familiar environment populated by people we know and like. It’s not my nature to dwell on loss of any kind, I’m usually projected in the future. Still, I can’t help feeling a little… I don’t know… sad?

Tom must have guessed what’s on my mind: as soon as the radio communications are over, he whisks me off my feet. We only have a few hours before leaving for Acapulco later this afternoon and we’re both uninterested in going to visit the little town. 

View of Zihuatanejo Bay from Playa Las Gatas

We’re going to spend a few hours at Las Gatas Beach, a favorite spot we visited many times last year. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing!  Nothing better than lying on a beach, working on my suntan for a little while… 

From my vantage point (lounge chair) this is what I see... PRETTY!

Four hours go by pretty quickly when you’re being spoiled and pampered by the friendly waiters on Playa Las Gatas !

 

Our friendly waiter Luis showing us lunch options - Red Snapper or Lobster?

 It’s time to return to Camelot and get ready for departure. Sigh!

At 17:30 I find myself one more time at the helm, gently steering our valiant vessel towards the open ocean. As soon as we’re out of Zihuatanejo Bay a mild but persistent wind blowing from the perfect direction pleasantly surprises us. We can finally SAIL! No motor! It’s been so long since we enjoyed a good sail, I’m so happy I don’t even grumble about another overnight trip…

Tom is ecstatic as well, born sailor that he is. Camelot finds her groove and settles on her course at a constant, honorable speed of 7.8 knots. It always amazes me how this boat, loaded like a mobile home, still manages to sail with elegance and grace, smoothly and effortlessly. We love our boat!

Dinner is served while the sun goes down. It won’t be a spectacular sunset as it’s a little cloudy but hey, you can’t always have everything! In fact, most of the time you can’t have everything… We soon learn that lesson again, when the wind first changes direction, then disappears completely. Rats! It was so much fun while it lasted…

I’m resigned to tolerating the engine symphony for the rest of the night. One more time we settle into our routine of night watches. At least the air is pleasantly warm and dry, the sea is almost flat calm; should be like this all the way to Acapulco, or so I hope.

The nocturnal traffic is light with the occasional tanker passing by, no cruise ships. With no worries to keep me busy, my mind wanders. I’m musing over the lack of cruise ships.

After the violent wave of crime that swept over Acapulco last year, when fourteen beheaded bodies were found not too far from the touristic center, 90% of the cruise ship business has boycotted this once-popular destination. Pretty much all of Mexico is being avoided by U.S. tourists, while the Canadians don’t share the same concern and keep visiting.

Personally, I’m not in the least worried about crime and our safety. Most of the violence is directed at drug trafficking gangs; I’m well aware that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be dangerous if not fatal. But the same can be said of all places. Los Angeles or even my former neighboring town of Oakland comes to mind… Danger can be found anywhere. I firmly believe that when your time is up, well, it’s up. If it’s your time, you can be murdered in Mexico or be run over by a bus while crossing the street in front of your safe home in the United States. I refuse to live in fear and am willing to take my chances, retaining a modicum of common sense to help me along the way. After all, the art of living it’s a risk in itself, isn’t it…

So, that’s where my thoughts drift while Camelot plows through the dark sea in the middle of the night.

Tom and I alternate watches as usual, and before I know it it’s daybreak again. It’s very hazy and we’re far from land so I can’t see anything, but I notice a faint but distinctive smell. I swear I smell something like mulch! Tom confirms my “nose perceptions”: he thinks he smells the jungle!

We both laugh at our guesses, after all now we are traveling in uncharted territory (for us). From now on it’s all new to us, all to be explored and discovered. We have no idea of what to expect, everything will be a surprise.

 

Hazy Acapulco and its famous Cliffs.

The mysterious smell remains a mystery. As we approach Acapulco we see neither mulch nor jungle, just high cliffs the spreading city sits upon and a few small islands covered in vegetation. I only recognize palm trees but there’s a lot more. Maybe the fragrant scent comes from some of these plants? The intrigue continues…

 

The Prettiest House in the neighborhood... I couldn't afford it if I wanted to...

In any case, from the sea we can see the cliff famous for the traditional Cliff Divers of Acapulco. Young brave (or plain crazy) men jump these cliffs daily, carrying lit torches at night; it’s a form of entertainment unique to Acapulco.

Entering the Bay of Acapulco is a little disappointing for me. I knew this has been a worldly and famous touristic destination for decades, yet I wasn’t prepared for the multitude of high rises crowding the beaches. The surrounding hills are densely populated as well; every inch of developable real estate has been developed…

 

Well, here's entering Acapulco Bay... A Jungle of High Rises!

 

 

Then we find this "road obstruction" just around the corner...

 I guess Tom was right. There is a jungle after all, just not the kind I imagined. However, I reserve judgment for later on, after a thorough visit.

We’ve been trying for over an hour to contact the Marina of Acapulco, both by radio and by phone, unsuccessfully. We know there are only two options to find a berth at a Marina. The other is the Acapulco Yacht Club, infamous for its outrageous prices and therefore already discarded as a possibility. I guess they want to keep the place exclusive, so I’ll give them a hand by excluding them!

Tom, wise man that he is, suggests we stop at the fuel dock to replenish our tanks and try to contact the Marina in person. We want to stay four days here, a berth would be nice.

The fuel dock is crowded, there are two big power boats and a sailboat in line and no room for us to sit and wait our turn. Not willing to keep hovering in tight quarters with the wind blowing us this way and that, Tom decides to postpone refueling and heads out to… where? Where are we going? We try to locate the Marina and are just about to head that way, when we hear our boat’s name being hailed on the radio. Puzzled, we look at each other while Tom answers the call. It’s a Mexican gentleman speaking English, offering us a mooring ball in the anchorage close to the Marina! It takes just a glance and no words for Tom and me to agree wholeheartedly. The unknown helper supplies directions, telling us to look for his small boat to the left. And sure enough there he is, sitting with another man in the smallest nugget of a rowboat I’ve ever seen, beside a big blue mooring ball! He lifts two ends of a big rope, signaling that he’s ready to help us tie up. What a blessed sight! We’re more than happy to accept his help and his mooring ball; we’re tired and want nothing more than to be safely settled as soon as possible. Within minutes we’re tied up and formal introductions are made aboard Camelot. Over bottles of iced water we get to know Pedro and Hugo, our helpers. They welcome us to Acapulco and give us a little bit the lay of the land and some useful information. The mooring ball is privately owned and the price is 300 Pesos a day (about US$23), which suits us just fine. The Marina berth would have been US$60 per day, no water or electricity available… So all in all, I think we’re very lucky as we pay for four days.

Time of arrival is 11:30; the trip was 112 miles long and lasted 18 hours.

Luckily, this is our "backyard" view.

 

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