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 night.

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.

Images of Zihuatenejo