Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Update #7 - On to Zihuatanejo (Z-town)

Sam and I pulled out of Tenacatita around 1 pm. Zihuatanejo is about 220 nautical miles south of us and we figured it would require two overnights to get there. The weather on Thursday was absolutely beautiful with a wonderful breeze. We had smooth sailing for about six hours. It was so exhilarating. Then, contrary to the night before where there was a squall, the wind died and we had to turn on the engine. By 2 am I was relieved of my watch and Sam spent the rest of his watch steering by hand. We have this wonderful thing called a wind vane (we named him "Cappy"). The only problem is that you have to have wind for it to steer the boat. I tell ya…cruising is quite finicky. You don't want it too windy but you also don't want a dead calm. Sam managed to sail Moana from 5 to 10 am but after that, nothing. Hand steering continued for what turned into almost 36 hours. We were pointing directly into the "wind" and were moving with the same speed of a motor boat with its engine turned off. By Friday afternoon we knew there was no way we'd be in Z-town on Saturday and that was fine. That afternoon we saw a mahi mahi chasing Sam's lure. Friday was an amazing night sitting out under the stars. I heard dolphins come by the starboard of the boat. I saw the Southern Cross for the first time. By 2:30 am Sam had woken up and we spent some time in the cockpit talking about the stars. After I went to sleep Sam saw the outline of a dolphin at the bow created by phosphorescence.

After a leisurely day of baking homemade bread, doing some chores around the "house" and reading we set back in the cockpit to enjoy our dinner at sunset. All of a sudden I heard and saw a large splash. And then again. The next time I saw a dolphin doing a belly flop. We ran up to the bow of the boat not concerned with the precise navigation of our boat and enjoyed a show you may have seen before at Sea World. These dolphins were dancing in the water. Two jumped up and did back flips right next to each other and in synch. One guy stayed at the bow just watching us. Then another dolphin jumped high in the air right in front of me, leaving a huge splash in its wake. Then another swam up from the bow and tilted his head as if to say "Hello!". I asked if any of them would like to accompany us on the rest of our cruise. I have a feeling we'll be seeing them again.

It is now Saturday evening and Cappy is finally back on the job after a nice breather. Sam is asleep across from me as I sit here writing you and popping up and down frequently to check on traffic, location, sails and Cappy. It's not uncommon to see multiple cargo ships and cruise ships. Cruise ships truly look like a city on the water. With Zihuatanejo just less than 40 miles ahead we look forward to the new adventures awaiting us.

Sam and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. This will be a very different one for us as it is the first time we will not be with our family. Despite the warm weather and a different atmosphere I have been listening to Christmas music and baking Christmas cookies to bring a bit of home christmas to our boat. We have enjoyed having more time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas as we haven't been distracted by work, shopping, and wrapping gifts. Sitting out in the open cockpit with a multitude of stars above and the ocean surrounding you it is impossible to deny the beauty of God's creation and His presence. May you experience His presence this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Waiting in anticipation,
Sam and Sally
s/v Moana
Location: 17 degrees 43 North; 102 degrees 19 West

Update #8 - Christmas and New Years

It's December 29th and we're almost at the end of 2004. I can hardly believe that Sam and I stopped "working" three months ago and we've been cruising for the past two months. The time has flown by so quickly it's hard to believe we're already moving into 2005.

No doubt some of you have wondered what we do from day to day and what a typical day looks like for us. I was reflecting on just exactly how we spend our days and how they could be escaping us so quickly. A typical day may go something like this:

We wake up around 8 AM in time to listen to the Amigo Net. The Amigo Net can be heard over shortwave radio throughout Western Mexico. At 8:15 AM Don, a volunteer forcaster from Oxnard, CA, gives us a weather report for the various areas of Mexico. We usually also hear about the weather in California as well as other areas of the country where their weather will affect us. At 8:45 AM we turn on our VHF radio and listen to our local net. This covers Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Isla Grande and any other vessels who can pick us up. There are boat check-ins, info on who is arriving and departing the area, weather and tide reports, any emergent situations, services offered and needed among the cruisers, treasures of the bilge (things people want to unload for free or for coconuts) and events going on in the area. Different people host the net and I was volunteered to host it on Christmas Eve morning (but that's a whole other story!!!)

After the net we may follow up on calls from other boats and we begin to think about the day. Sam drinks his coffee, we may read for awhile, and then I habitually sweep our wood floor. If dishes weren't washed from the night before we are heating up water on our stove to rinse our dishes and then, yes, hand dry them or let them air dry. Putting things away is also a ritual in the mornings as there is only so much space in a boat and things always seem to wind up where we want to sit or sleep. Projects may keep us on the boat for a part of the day or even the entire day.

Before leaving the boat we need to make sure electronics are off, the solar panels are on, and the basura (trash) is gathered to bring ashore. We then go ashore via Nappy, our 30+ year old 2 hp outboard we purchased for a song and often times wants to nap rather than take us anywhere. When he is napping we row ashore. Coming ashore is usually tricky because of waves. As you may recall we got soaked on many occasions on our way down here. Thankfully Zihuatanejo has a very kind landing for dinghies and the only thing you have to run from are a hoard of children who want to touch your boat so they can justify asking for dinero because they "helped."

After throwing trash away we oftentimes head to the internet to check and send e-mails and look for various pieces of information. Shopping and laundry are all done by foot and everything must be transported by dinghy to and from the boat. This includes water, not just for drinking, but also for cooking, cleaning and bathing. While this all may seem to be easily accomplished within a few hours shopping may be completed in a reasonable amount of time or may require an entire day of searching to find a needed item. One of the most enjoyable yet time consuming daily activities is socializing. You run into people you know everywhere and always spend some time talking, sharing local knowledge or lending a hand. (We've had three dinghies stop by in the last hour as I've sat here writing my emails. The latest dinghy stopped by to inform us that we're doing the net Friday. Sam's exact words were, "Sally, we're doing the net on Friday." My response was, "No, you're doing the net on Friday!)

Showers are quite a different experience aboard Moana. We use a wonderful sunshower which is heated by the sun. In all actuality it is better for us to fill the shower right before we use it because otherwise the water is too hot to bathe in. We have two options: 1) we can wear our swimsuits and bathe outside or 2) we can do full bathing in our head. For the second option we merely thread the shower hose through our head window and bathe. There are slats on the floor that allow the water to drain into the bilge. I like this option due to privacy but with the heat it's actually more enjoyable to shower outside. We have the best of both worlds when we are on a passage and far from anyone else.

I have been getting adjusted to being on Mexican time. It's still difficult at times because I hate to be late, but the reality is, here in Mexico you have a lot less control of time. I've learned that it's better to give people an estimated time rather than an exact time. I've also learned to expect things to take much longer than you'd think. In the evenings I usually cook dinner, then we read, play cards, or spend time with our cruising friends. Last night we actually watched part of a movie with a near full moon shining through our hatch. We didn't watch the entire movie because we started it around 9:30 and we both fell asleep before it was over. (In my defense I had done a lot of walking yesterday!!!)

That's another thing about cruising… you go to bed earlier. I'd say you also get up much earlier but so far Sam and I haven't had a problem in that area! I must admit however that there have been many a night I've stayed up past 1 AM because I couldn't put down a book I was reading. On average we get about 8 or 9 hours of sleep which is much more than we got in San Diego. It's amazing how soothing the gentle rock of the water is. It truly rocks me to sleep every night.

I hope that you now have a better feel for what we do. Our days are not just about chores, make no mistake. We also go on hikes, snorkel, lounge while we watch sunsets, enjoy dinners with friends, explore, etc. Tonight in fact, we are going to have dinner with a couple we met at one of the local internet cafes. They speak very little English. We had them over last week for dinner. I think we all enjoyed practicing another language and it made for a very fun night. Ricardo told us (in Spanish) that his wife is going to make us a traditional mexican meal: homemade spaghetti with shrimp. Yum! Yum! To show the contrast in our cultures, we invited them over around 5 and had dinner at around 6:30. When they invited us over for dinner they said to come around 8 or 9 PM. I'm thinking now that Sam and I should have taken a siesta today! :)

All for now! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!!! Sam and I will be spending New Year's Eve aboard Megabyte, a 46 foot powerboat, along with our closest cruising friends. There is said to be fireworks shooting off at midnight to bring in the new year.

Prospero ano y felicidad!!!

Sam and Sally
s/v Moana
Location: Zihuatanejo

Update #9 - Life in Zihuatanejo

Buenos Dias! It's another beautiful day in Zihuatanejo! As I sit here at anchor I figured it was about time I update everyone on what we've been up to. It's hard to believe we've been here for almost eight weeks! We arrived just before Christmas, brought in the New Year here and have enjoyed spending time with new friends and old including family!!!

We've really loved Mexico. It's definitely a world away from home. We watched the Super Bowl on a local TV station. It was interesting watching the game in Spanish and having the sponsors AeroMexico, Modelo Cerveza and many other Mexican businesses. Unfortunately I missed my favorite part of the Super Bowl-all the new, funny commercials!

The two of us are enjoying the roots we've grown in Zihuatanejo. It's the longest place that either one of us has stayed outside the United States. Zihuatanejo is a charming little (population 60,000) Mexican town. We were told before arriving that it was a village. Depending on your exposure to various places I guess it could be considered a village or major city. It's located in southern Mexico approximately 80 miles north of Acapulco.

The temperatures here are in the high eighties, low nineties with humidity around 75-80%. It seems hottest in the mornings when the sun is shining down and there is no breeze. I remember getting up one morning to peel the tape off an area of the boat where I had been varnishing. I was literally dripping with sweat and it was only 8 o’clock in the morning!

They have a wonderful transportation system we use which includes buses, combis (small vans) and taxis. They also have pangas which take people via water to various destinations. Many people here use public transportation, less own cars. It seems there is a taxi for every privately owned car you see on the road.

Speaking of transportation, our main transportation is by dinghy. With a 30-year-old outboard we picked up in Puerto Vallarta that chooses to sleep more than work (hence the name Nappy) Sam and I have been rowing our dinghy. This activity gives us a good workout. Sam rows into shore and I row back to the boat. It usually works out in my favor because we tend to go in during the hot times and return to the boat after sunset. However, one of our boating friends pointed out that it seems that people most often stop by and insist on giving us a tow on the way in to shore. During these times Sam doesn't have to row. It's funny because all of the fishing pangas around here have very large outboard motors (many well over 100 horsepower on an 18-foot boat). When they see us rowing they laugh at us. When they see me rowing with Sam relaxing they have a peculiar look on their face as to say, “What is she doing rowing?” Sam often offers to row but I've told him that I need the exercise and want to participate with all aspects of sailing. Okay, maybe just most aspects.

As walking or cycling allows more opportunities to notice more things than merely driving in a car, the same is true for rowing. We often see what appears to be boiling water. As you get closer you realize there are many fish swimming around and jumping on the surface of the water. You also regularly see the pelicans within arm’s reach crashing into the water to nourish their bellies with fish or waterskiing across the water as they land to beg for fish bait from the local fishermen. The pelican dives head first for food with a splash resembling a belly flop. When he surfaces his mouth pouch is blown up like a balloon, he takes a moment to situate himself while pelicans around him wait to see if he will drop his catch, he throws his head back to swallow his food, and then shakes his little hiney back and forth several times. We have gotten sprayed by these pelicans on more than one occasion but by spray I mean water, no dumping going on here, at least for now!

One night while rowing back to the boat, I noticed what looked like a little head bobbing in the water. When I got closer I discovered it was a baby sea turtle. Within a minute I saw many more swimming in the bay. My best guess is that they had been released by locals that evening. You see, so many sea turtles die trying to make it into the water that locals rescue them when they hatch and keep them until they grow a little larger and have a better chance of survival.

Despite the unique perspective you get when rowing, we decided that for Lent we're giving up rowing!!! We actually decided to buy a new 2 horsepower outboard motor for our dinghy. This thought had been in the back of our minds for a while. What sealed the decision was one day when I was rowing back to the boat, the wind was blowing about 15 knots and I was having a heck of a time getting the dinghy to go where I wanted it to go with the choppy swell combined with the wind. Sam said that if we decided to spend time in the trade winds these would be regular rowing conditions. It was at that moment that I told Sam the decision was made, we're getting a new outboard. While rowing is good exercise, it can be exhausting and can limit where you anchor and what you do because of the lack of a motor. With the new outboard we can have the best of both worlds. We can row when we want but we can also anchor in more remote places or go scuba diving further away because we have an outboard to get us there easier and faster. We are very excited about this decision and await its arrival. It was supposed to be in today but when we went to pick it up we were told, “manana.”

I will soon be sending you an email about activities we have done while in this little area of paradise.

We pray that you are all well and look forward to hearing about your own adventures. Hey, life is an adventure no matter where you are!

Sally and Sam
s/v Moana
Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Moana’s Upcoming Plans

Greetings once again! I tell ya, it's either feast or famine with these e-mails. You don’t hear from us in over a month and then you get two! Well, we have some news that we figured warranted its own e-mail. And NO, I'm NOT pregnant!!! (the last sentence was for the family members who inevitably ask that whenever we “have news”)

You may have picked up on my comment in our last e-mail about rowing in the trade winds. Let me share a secret with you. On Christmas Eve Sam and I were talking about where we wanted to go from here. We both agreed that we wanted to stay out longer than the original six months. That gave us four options:

  • Go up into the Sea of Cortez for Spring and Summer as originally planned
  • Go through the Panama Canal and head into the Caribbean
  • Go South to Costa Rica and other Central American ports
  • Head southwest to Tahiti, Bora Bora and other islands in the South Pacific

We also agreed that we wanted to see other places besides Mexico and knew that our funds wouldn't last much longer than a year, so we ruled out the Sea of Cortez. We really liked the idea of seeing the Canal and the Caribbean, but weren’t sure what we’d do with the boat once our cruise was done. We like the idea of Costa Rica and we're thinking of that as a good option. In the end we talked about what we wanted most out of this cruise. Our top desires in cruising for the both of us were crystal clear water and a few long ocean passages.

That decision gave us a unanimous answer that we were going to sail to the South Pacific. We love Mexico, but haven’t had the coral sand beaches and 100ft visibility in the water that is sooooooo beautiful. Our longest passage to date has been four days. We have found that we really enjoy the passages and often don’t want them to end. Going to the South Pacific will entail 30 days at sea and going half way across the biggest ocean on Earth. It is definitely a big step from cruising Mexico.

Mexico has been a great training ground. We've gotten to know the boat and ourselves very well. It's given us a chance to “shakedown” the systems and find out what works and what doesn't work. We've also had a chance to learn that you don’t need much to enjoy an Ocean.

We plan to leave from Zihuatanejo in early to mid-March and sail across the Pacific to the Marquesas. The exact date will depend on when we have wind to carry us off shore and into the trade winds. Depending on tourist visas, we will spend time in French Polynesia and then move on to perhaps the Cook Islands, Tonga, or who knows where else. We are so excited because we have both always dreamed about sailing to Bora Bora. In fact, when we were considering honeymoon destinations Sam said that he didn't want to go to Bora Bora because he wanted our first trip there to be by boat! The fact that our boat, Moana, was based in Bora Bora years ago is another reason for returning her there for a visit.

Prior to the “Puddle Jump” we plan to explore various anchorages North and South of here and do a possible inland trip. Sam’s brother, Joe, is coming out for a visit at the beginning of March followed by a visit from my mom and hopefully at least one sister.

Feel free to write us with any questions you have about the trip. We’d love to hear from you.

All for now. Hasta luego.

Sally and Sam
s/v Moana
Zihuatanejo, Mexico

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