190 nm in 30 hours from Las Hadas to Zihuatanejo
We left Las Hadas at 6:00 am so that we would arrive in Zihuatanejo around noon on the
following day after our estimated 30 hour, 190nm trip. There were a couple of oil tankers
stationed at anchor in Manzanillo Bay and the water was quiet and the air still as
we made our way out to Punta Campos for the turn south. As the sun rose, we could not
help but comment on how naturally beautiful the bay was and what a shame it was to see
the plume of smoke and haze from the power plant as it stretched for miles thru the
otherwise clear skies.
As the day got warmer, around 10:30 am, we put up the sails and for a while made a somewhat tedious
4 knots in the light breeze, but after about an hour of trying to sail, we ended up motoring
the rest of the way to Z-town. We could just make out the mast of another boat
about 5 miles behind us, and a call on the radio revealed that MERIDIAN, with John and Nancy
and their two little girls, was doing the leg with us. John and I agreed to an informal
radio schedule to check in with each other from time to time to make sure everything was ok
on both boats. It had been almost two months since we had done an overnighter, going all the
way back to the leg to Banderas Bay and La Cruz, so we were a little rusty getting
into the rhythm of our watches as the afternoon waned and night fell.
Once again I had plotted our course using Google Earth and our chartplotter to keep
us between 3 and 5 miles offshore. All through the day and night there was a constant
stream of large ships showing on the AIS, passing north or south, a few miles
further out to sea from us, particularly as we passed Mx's busiest Pacific
port of Lazaro Cardenas.
Since we had AIS and MERIDIAN didn't, I volunteered to keep them informed of any
large ships that might be a concern on our courses. Sure enough, at about 8:00 pm,
just after the sun had set, an AIS contact showed up that appeared to be on a potential
collision course with us. These large ships make 20 knots or so, and with our speed
of 6 knots, that means that we were approaching each other at approximately 30 mph.
Thus a ship that was five miles away could be on top of you in 10 minutes or less.
Note that these ships are so large that their outlines can easily be discerned at
5 miles, and when they are a mile away, they appear huge, menacing, and scary.
The AIS gives us the name of the boat, along with it's position, speed and course, and
our chartplotter automatically calculates the CPA ... the Closest Point of Approach ...
between the two vessels. As the chartplotter was showing a CPA of less than a 10th of
a mile, I quickly grew concerned and began calling the cargo vessel LISA on the VHF.
After hailing them five or more times, a sleepy voice came on the radio
answering my hail. I asked the voice if he could see us on his radar
and would he make a course correction to take him further away from us. It was
very frustrating as I got no further answer from him and the radio went silent in my hands.
I continued hailing but all my calls went unanswered. The skippers and crews
of these large ships sometimes don't seem to care about the little
boats that seemingly get in their way.
So as the ship approached I nervously kept attempting to it on the radio.
Then finally I noticed on the AIS that he had made a nominal 5 degree course correction when
he was about 2 miles away from me. When he did pass us, about a quarter mile away,
port to port, although I was relieved, I was still a little pissed at his lack of
communications. Remember that these boats are nearly a quarter mile in length and
you can only imagine how close this seems when you're out on the ocean, in the dark, in a sailboat.
To top it off, I could see that his course correction had now
put him on a bee-line for MERIDIAN, cutting between the two sailboats, and soon
I could hear the concern in John's voice as he too attempted to contact the skipper
on the radio. Once again the sleepy disdainful voice came on the radio as the skipper
minimally imparted the information that he was aware of MERIDIAN and that
they would not collide before dismissing John from the radio.
It should be noted that usually we get a much better response from ships passing
in the night. It's just unfortunate that the one that happened to be passing
so close also happened to have had such a non-communicative and diffident skipper.
However, in the end there was no problem, so MERIDIAN and RHAPSODY just continued
on thru the night.
I gave over the watch at 9:00 pm, then took it back at midnight. At
about 2:00 am, Dave and I chatted on the radio, exchanging jokes and fishing
tips and finding out a little more about each other. There wasn't a lot of
wind, but there were 5-6 foot following seas, so the ride was a bit uncomfortable
for whoever was trying to sleep. Finally Isla Ixtapa came
into view and we could make out the sweep of the beach and the hotels,
and we rounded Punta San Estaben, seeing
all the boats at anchor in Bahia de Zihuatenejo. As we cruised around
the anchorage looking for a spot, we were able to make out
many boats we knew, including our good friends Louis and Laura on CIRQUE.
We dropped the anchor in about 25' of water,
about a half mile from Playa Principal. About an hour later, MERIDIAN came around
the point and anchored a few hundred yards away from us.
Once the hook was down we pretty much immediately did the dinghy drill
and decided to go into to town to check it out. Louis came on the radio
and explained the landing procedure to us, so we landed the dinghy on the
beach with the help of Nathaniel, the
person who watches over everyone's dinghies. From there we quickly found
Rick's Bar where we met Rick and talked to him about the music and local
scene over a beer. As it happened, one of the guitar players in town, Mike
from CUTTER LOOSE, was there and he and I quickly sparked up a conversation
about music and what songs we might be able to do together at the Friday
night open mic jam. Then Mike took us on a quick foot tour of the
central district, pointing out his favorite restaurants and bars, and
giving us more pointers about places we might find interesting.
After Mike split, we I spent the rest of the afternoon
wandering around Z and finally had ourselves a nice dinner at a little
place called Viva Mexico. Nothing too fancy, just good honest, inexpensive
yet delicious food, after which we brought Ditty back to Rhapsody for the
We ended up spending almost two weeks in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.
It's quite a haven for cruisers. There is a daily net on VHF 22
that quickly gets you up to speed on things and more than once we
asked questions and got answers about where to go for this or that
during our stay. And we had a great time partying with Louis and Laura
from Cirque while they were there. It was also Carnaval Week
(even into Lent) and there were street celebrations every night for the
first week we were there.