We weighed anchor at 2:30 am and when dawn came, we watched the sunrise together. And it was spectacular. The fusion of tropical oranges and juicy reds was breathtaking, leaving no question as to how the popular cocktail tequila sunrise had acquired its name.
Light-air sailing and long-line nailing
The day’s conditions were mild, perfect for enabling us to continue to practice launching and dousing our new spinnaker, Gypsy. Light winds, calm seas, and our enormous cobalt parachute made our sailboat feel like a basket that sways so effortlessly from the belly of a hot air balloon. We covered more than a quarter of the miles from Bahia Chamela to Manzanillo beneath the enormous sail.
We saw several long-lines during the passage, which are a real hazard for boaters. Long lines are used by local fishermen, referred to as pangueros, and are often miles [yes, miles] long and stretched far out to sea. The lines are often heavy enough to wrap around a boat’s propeller, which can yield major damage. So long as you are moving under sail alone, you may not even know you’ve crossed a long line, unless you have a vessel with a deep draft. Long lines are generally marked poorly, which makes them difficult to spot from a distance and especially hazardous at night. If you spy a 2-liter, lime green Sprite bottle floating in the ocean inside of 10 nautical miles, it is highly likely that what appears to be carelessly disposed debris is actually one of a series of long-line buoys. Yikes!We cruised over long lines on three instances during our brief passage from Bahia Chamela to Manzanillo, a testament to the good fishing along this stretch of coastline. During one, we were under sail, and I watched anxiously from the bow as the line, suspended in beautifully clear water, passed below The Red Thread. As we have on multiple occasions, we praised our 5.3 foot draft. On the other two occasions, we actually snagged the lines with our own fishing gear, once with our rod and once with our hand line! Thankfully when the hand line caught, we were motoring during a stretch of dead air and flat seas. We coasted over the line in neutral and noticed the snag some 30 feet later. We gently began to back up and our hook came loose. Whew! When our pole caught, we were under sail. We had no choice but to cut the line immediately, thereby adding plastic to the ocean, sacrificing a lure, and preserving the integrity of the long line. Fishing is a lifeline for the people here, and we don’t want to impede anyone’s ability to provide for their families. Many cruisers curse the long lines for the risk they entail, but this form of fishing is simply the way of life in Mexico. As far as we’re concerned, these obstacles are part of culture and just another component of the adventure!
Arrival in Manzanillo
Manzanillo is one of Mexico’s larger ports, and we had read that the town exudes a somewhat industrial feel as a result. We didn’t plan to venture into that sector of the port, however. Our excitement for the stop was not about Manzanillo proper, it was about the Las Hadas Resort and Marina, an architectural beauty above a small cove in the northern corner of the large bay.A colossal cargo ship was anchored near the mouth of the bay and another was departing for the open ocean as we arrived the evening of January 29th. Our AIS system showed its destination as Japan. We were already well-aware of the far-flung destinations of the big ships of Mexico; nonetheless, knowing its next port of call was so many thousands of miles away was humbling. Its goodbye was our hello, and we expressed hope that the vessel would have a safe journey.
Based on photos we’d seen in our cruising guide, we expected the cozy bay to be crowded with sailboats. Our luck, it was not to be! We joined a single sailboat that bobbed lonely in the cove, tethered to a mooring, and a ski boat. We dropped our anchor as the last vestiges of light were overtaken by nightfall. Lights glittered on the calm water as we enjoyed a glass of chilled white wine beneath the stars.
A Moorish marvel
As has become my custom, I clamored from our v-berth to the cockpit at dawn to absorb our new surroundings, while Neil continued to slumber. We’d heard conflicting reports from other cruisers about the actual beauty of the fabled destination, but I was awestruck by the striking panorama that stood before me and the spotted eagle ray that swam below.Manzanillo was explored by sixteenth century Spanish ships whose crews were captivated by what appeared to be glittering fairies dancing on the waters of the bay, likely the sparkle of thousands of phosphorescent sea creatures. More analogous to a Mediterranean Palace than a Mexican resort, Las Hadas’ allure is steeped in its architecture, so unlike anything else on this side of the world. The palatial resort, designed by Spanish architect José Luis Ezquerra, was built in the 1970s and named for the mythical creatures that tickled the curiosity of those early explorers. Las Hadas translates literally to “the fairies.” Curiosities of modern men were tickled in the early 1980s when the film “10” was released, and Bo Derek was immortalized running along Las Hadas’ beach, her braided hair bounding over her sun-kissed shoulders. Turrets swirl upward from the hillside like vanilla soft-serve cones on a summer afternoon. The blunt facades of ivory walls cascade one against the next, creating an eye-catching, almost-cluttered scene. Our view from the anchorage concealed the labyrinth of snowy halls and immaculately groomed shrubs and planter boxes within Las Hadas’ walls. The pristine view was breathtaking. Okay, okay, pristine is a stretch. Some of the facades were drab with the unavoidable mold that buds in the intense humidity that blankets this section of the coast. Its charm was not undone by the imperfections; rather, it was enhanced. A breakwater hugs a small marina at the base of the resort that employs a Med-mooring system and is lined by a few small restaurants and a delicious ice cream shop. Beyond the bounds of Las Hadas is the Paradise Café, a spacious poolside palapa that overlooks the lovely little cove.Second place at the Super Bowl
We were torn about whether to press onward to Zihuatenejo for the Super Bowl, but our anticipation of mild winds made us decide to stay put for a couple of nights. The ITPZ (intertropical patience zone), as some of our blogger buddies call this expanse of coastline, is characterized by frustratingly calm winds, which can make passages arduous and slow. We were not about to miss seeing our team play in the biggest game of the year. As in La Cruz, we found a contingent of Seattleites with whom we cheered on the Seahawks in the big game. We were torn up by their loss but thankful for a good game and the caress of a warm, tropical breeze to help dull the ache. Our friends back home were probably literally and figuratively feeling half frozen.Cruising commentary
The biggest drawback to spending time in Las Hadas is the pricey cost of using the dinghy dock. The marina charges 200 pesos per day, which equates to roughly $15 USD, an obscene price for tying up a 10-foot inflatable boat. The price includes the use of the resort’s pools and showers. We opted not to use the showers, however, because we were concerned we’d be dirtier coming out than going in; they were in a rather disturbing state of disrepair and squalor. We used the dock on our first day as we needed to check in with the Port Captain and didn’t realize just how brutal the fee would be. We also used it during our final day, as we had to fill a scuba tank, complete a major provisioning run, and watch the Super Bowl. On day 2, we burned a few hundred calories and saved a few bucks by swimming to shore with a dry bag to lounge by the pool for a couple hours. No one seemed to care that the schmucks who washed up on the beach and shook the salt water out of their hair headed straight up to mingle with the legitimate resort-goers. We were also able to connect to Paradise Café’s internet signal from the anchorage. A password is required, so enjoy some ceviche ashore before trying to get online.Passage perks
Point of departure: Isla Pajarero, Bahia Chamela, Mexico — 01/29/15
Point of arrival: Las Hadas, Manzanillo, Mexico — 01/29/15
Distance traveled: 63 nautical miles
Total time: 16 hours
Engine roaring: 6 hours
Sails soaring: 10 hours
Average speed: 3.9 knots
Jessie’s musings: Sailing under spinnaker during our most recent two passages was a marvelous experience for me! I’d never been aboard a boat flying a “chute”, as they say, until the day we purchased Gypsy. Above and beyond the sheer beauty of flying a spinnaker, we’d have burned substantially more fuel and put several more hours on the engine had we not decided to move forward with the almost-impossible to-resist deal. Shifting gears from day sailing to wandering Las Hadas maze, my feelings of relaxation continued. For only the second time in our tropical travels, we lounged by a pool, savoring a bit of off-the-boat time that did not involve chasing boat parts or provisioning. Now, if only the Seahawks would’ve won the Super Bowl, our time in Manzanillo would have truly been charmed.
Neil’s reflections: Manzanillo is a beautiful destination, and having visited, I would absolutely go back and stay at the resort as a “legitimate” customer. The sunrises are stunningly gorgeous and bathe the entire white washed resort in a halo of light that brings out all of the majesty of its architecture. Sailing under spinnaker has been very fun, and with the water almost glassy smooth for most of this trip, we’re both very happy that we opted to invest in the sail.