Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Back to the Present... Zihuatanejo

We were hoping to get as far south as Zihuatanejo this winter but at the pace we were moving it wasn’t going to happen so on the spur of the moment we decided to go to Zihuatanejo and take part in the annual Sail Fest festival.  Sail Fest is a fund-raising effort by an amazing group of local volunteers to raise money for the education of Zihuatanejo’s poorest children.  Some of the events are sailboat races, a silent auction, a benefit concert, chilli cook-off and boat parade.  You can check out their website at

We left Puerto Vallarta on Feb. 1st and went directly to Zihuatanejo, arriving on Feb. 5th.  The winds were favourable and we were able to sail about one third of the way.  On the morning of the fourth day, shortly after Mark had gone to bed, I found myself surrounded by probably the largest group of dolphins I have ever seen.  I could see pods of them in all directions; there had to be several hundred.  It seemed that they all came to swim along with the boat for a little while and we had an ever-changing escort for about 45 minutes.

We spent the Sunday of our arrival catching up on sleep and ventured into town on Monday.  We found Zihuatanejo to be a friendly, clean town.  A few streets have been closed off to vehicular traffic and they became our preferred routes.   

Pedestrian-only street

The town/city has a population of about 70,000 persons.  It is only a few miles from Ixtapa with which it shares an airport.  The bay is lined with small condos and hotels and the town is geared up to handle the vacationers that come to Zihua, Ixtapa and cruise ships on occasion.  It abounds with silver shops, restaurants, gift shops and a surprising number of pharmacies.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Zihuatanejo street          

Meat and sausage stall

The Mercado covers a whole block and is nothing short of a maze.  Narrow corridors are flanked by vendors selling produce, fruit beef, fish, chicken, clothing, baking etc. in a claustrophobic setting.   

Fruit and produce vendor

Nothing goes to waste

On the street that surrounds the market, more transient vendors sell flowering plants, song birds and fruit from a wheelbarrow. 

Like most places in Mexico, gentlemen come around offering to play traditional Spanish music, often on instruments they have made themselves.  


A healthy fleet of pangas line the shore of Playa Principal.  Late each afternoon the ice man delivers large blocks of ice which the fishermen put into coolers on the their pangas before going out to fish until morning when they bring their catch to the fish market under palm trees on the beach. 

Sail Fest started on the evening of Feb. 8th with an auction at the Barracuda Bar, Sail Fest’s headquarters. We managed not to buy anything.  On Wednesday morning we participated in a sailboat race around Roca Negra, a distance of 3.5 miles.  The Sail Fest organizers sell crew spots on the racing boats as one way to raise money.  Our first challenge was getting over the starting line in the almost windless conditions.  From there, all eight boats in the race crawled at a snail’s pace, tacking back and forth towards Roca Negra.  It was as exciting as watching grass grow.  The crew of one boat went swimming while underway and another boat light-heartedly cried foul, accusing them of pushing the boat.  Anyway, we suck at racing and came in second last.

That night there was a benefit concert featuring a variety of mostly local artists.  The music was recorded and will be sold as a CD at next year’s Sail Fest and we decided we had to come back for sure next year to get the CD.  Fabulous music!

Chili cook-off

Thursday was the chilli cook-off and Friday the sail parade.  In a zodiac, the port captain lead the boats on one lap of Zihuatanejo Bay and then over to Ixtapa for one lap of the bay there.  Again, seats on boats were sold to fund-raise. 
Sail Parade
The Sail Fest experience was very positive for us and we were proud to be part of an event that raised 430,000 pesos for education.

Neil was scheduled to fly down on Feb. 18th for reading week so we had a few days between the end of Sail Fest and his arrival.  We thought we might go down to Acapulco but in the end inertia set in and we just hung out at the anchorage in the interim.

Our plan was to leave Zihua the morning after Neil’s arrival, stop in Ixtapa for fuel and water and carry on north to see some of the nice anchorages that we missed on our hasty trip south from PV.   However, there was no water at the fuel dock at Marina Ixtapa and no slips available for a catamaran.  We decided to nip across from the fuel dock to one of the slips to get water but were quickly shooed away by a guy in an official-looking uniform.  We went back to the anchorage in Zihua, had some water delivered the next morning and left just after noon.

We arrived in Manzanillo this morning after travelling for two days and two nights and are anchored off some pretty fancy schmancy resorts.  Along the way the starboard cooling water pump began leaking quite badly so we’re going to have to do something about that.  Good thing we have two engines!  

Sea turtle seen just outside of Manzanillo


Manzanillo Resort

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