Zihuatanejo to Puerto Chiapas

We have completed our travels now for this season. 600 Miles over the last three weeks have brought us to Marina Chiapas in the state of Chiapas, right at the bottom of the Pacific Mexican coast, about 50km from the Guatemalan border. We are safely tied up in a very protected marina and Kathy will fly home in a few days. I am here for a few more months, and will use the time to do some boat upkeep, and also to travel inland and explore parts of Mexico I can’t get to by boat. In June I will haul the boat out and leave her as I fly home for the hurricane season. Returning either November or next year after Christmas to go North or maybe South.
We covered a lot of places, had some adventures and met a lot of new people, so there’s a lot to cover in this blog.

I have been playing computers during the latest trip and now have a new webpage where you can see our current location and our track over the last fourteen days. It’s at http://location.sistermidnight.co.uk/
I also have a dedicated page just showing the trip covered by this map shown below. It uses google maps and you can zoom in for more detail. It’s still a work in progress and I have restricted the resolution to allow for faster downloads, it’s still slow, but if you time out, just try again. We may be overloading the server this end by watching Masterchef through our server proxy.
The link is here

Leaving Zihuatanejo, 10th March 2024.
It was a little sad to be leaving Zi, it’s such a chilled place, it has everything you could need as a cruiser. I had parts delivered to us and repairs and upgrades were done. We enjoyed the sailfest and guitar festival and had some fine dining before we finally hauled anchor and continued south. Nemo the diver had cleaned the hull and fitted the new zinc on the propeller the day before we left so the boat was moving nicely. We had made friends with many boats in the bay at Zi while we were there. Onno our Canadian/Dutch friend from way back in Guaymas was running a very entertaining morning net, a chat for the local cruisers each morning on the VHF radio on channel 22a. Many of the boats there were going south to transit the Panama Canal and we joined their WhatsApp group, ‘South to El Salvador and Beyond’. They were mostly also members of a rally called ‘The Panama Posse’. We attended a meetup in one of the bars ashore to hear about various ports southbound, of course we would not be going that far south, but it was good to learn about the ports in southern Mexico we would be visiting.
At the talk Pam, who was a veteran of traveling this coast gave a good talk and we watched a video about getting into the lagoon in El Salvador; this has a bad bar (sandbank across the entrance) and you need a pilot to get you through, there’s always a good chance of a wave catching you out. It looked scary but exciting and I was seriously considering hauling out there. However just before we left Zi, we heard that Mark, one of the British cruisers, who had a Moody sailboat, a strong British built model, that I visited just a few days earlier, had been hit by a wave and grounded on the bar. His keel had snapped off and he had to abandon ship in the surf and be rescued by the pilot boat. By the time he was able to return to his beached boat, it had been stripped of everything. A very sad ending to his adventure and to his boat ‘Rum Truffle’.

So we headed south and did our first of many overnighters to Papanoa. This place was renamed to Vicente Guerrero (national hero, and founder of independent Mexico) and turned out to be a lovely spot where we were able to go ashore and wander, eventually having drinks at one of the many beach bars. It’s a popular holiday destination for Mexicans.

Puerto Vicente Guerrero (Papanoa)

Hammocks are available under the dining area, some in worse state than others

Isla Roqueta
From there we headed on another overnight passage to Acapulco, but we timed it to arrive the evening before and drop anchor at Isla Roqueta, just at the mouth of Acapulco bay.

In October last year, I was preparing to launch the boat a thousand miles north west of here, when hurricane Otis struck Acapulco. We were all hoping the hurricane season would be winding down, but a hurricane had just devastated La Paz and this one heading to Acapulco didn’t look good. However it was only a ‘light’ one, I think a cat 2 at worst and it wasn’t getting much press, as it was expected to weaken as it hit the coast. However the opposite happened! In the 24 hours before landfall it ramped up to a massive Cat 5. Wikipedia states:
Otis was the first Pacific hurricane to make landfall at Category 5 intensity and surpassed Hurricane Patricia as the strongest landfalling Pacific hurricane on record.
The destruction and loss of life was massive.



A place for old VWs to rest

There was once many marinas and moorings for a thriving tourist industry. All of that had been swept away. At the western end of the bay, boats of all types, from pangas to mega yachts were stacked up on top of each other.

Courtesy of El Pais

There was a lot of debris in the bay and rather than risk anchoring we took a mooring from Vicente, a man who had a mooring field there. He lived on his boat on one of the morings and rented out the rest. However on that fateful night, his wife went ashore as the storm started and he stayed on board with his son. I understand the waves reached 15 meters and his boat was ripped from its mooring. His son went overboard and died while Vicente was washed out to sea, where he drifted for a day clinging to a fender before the navy found him. Sadly his wife was killed ashore during the storm. It was remarkable to see him trying so hard to help us, and make our stay pleasant. The cruising community had been pushing for everyone to give him business and help him get back on his feet. I’m sure there are many other tragic stories arising from that storm.

We went ashore and checked in with the port captain, grabbed some groceries and went back to rest on the boat. Amazingly on our return, I noticed I had once again lost our passports. Just like I did in Los Cabos 5 years ago. Passports that had visas and residency permits in. Panic was about to set in. Since the first loss I have devised a system that can’t go wrong, the passports leave a certain plastic bag to pass to the authorities and when returned go straight into the plastic bag. The bag was in front of me ‘sin pasaportes’. Logically this could not happen. I checked the logic of my scheme and it was perfect, the passports had to be in the empty bag. I checked several times but the bag remained empty. Was I dreaming, losing my mind! Kathy pointed out that I must have left them at the port captains office, which I prayed to be the case. I jumped in the dinghy, sped ashore, grabbed a very pricey cab and headed to the now closed captains office.
After a restless night, and a few more checks of the empty plastic bag, morning came and I zoomed into town again and into the captains office where the kind ladies all looked at me, a somewhat distraught and frazzled Brit, then at each other with a giggle as one of them held up two passports. I wondered if they had run a sweepstake on how many minutes after opening time before I showed up.
The thought of going through the process of trips to Mexico City for emergency passports, new passport application when home, then visa appointments for USA and Mexico, overnight stays in London and queues for the USA embassy, this cock up could have meant the end of my cruising life. I couldn’t face all that hassle again. I’m now working on improvements to my plastic bag protocol.

After I had recovered the passports I headed off downtown to the market area. This was very vibrant, obviously it had suffered a lot of damage too, but sometimes it’s hard to know what is hurricane damage and what is just the usual busted up old Mexican buildings.

Sister Midnight on Vicente’s mooring ball

Special measures against a rough wall

The following day we decided to take in some culture and a beach walk.
We headed to the Naval museum. This place is run by Marcelo and I phoned him to check they would be open, however when we arrived it was closed, so instead we visited the mask museum next door, that was very interesting and has provided some nice pictures from which I might make some emojis.

On leaving the museum, the managers told us that the naval museum was now open so we had a good look inside. Marcelo runs the place and also builds the models on display.

Marcelo in front of one of his collections.

These ships all played a big part in Spain and Mexico’s history. It was from this area that the Spanish transported goods and troops between Mexico and the Philipines. British pirates (the forerunner of the Royal Navy) also were active here.

From the museum we walked the short distance to the castle built by the Spanish after pirate attacks in 1615.

Lunch overlooking the bay

From the castle we walked down the hill and had a small lunch in a very run down, but atmospheric restaurant overhanging the beach. The very attentive waiter was delighted to have English guests from Liverpool, and soon enough the DJ joined in by playing music for us.
From the restaurant we then walked a few miles along the beach were everyone seemed to have put the hurricane behind them and were enjoying the sea and sun.

The bay sparkles at night
Just after we left, forest fires broke out above the city.

Soon enough it was time to leave, we dropped our mooring lines and headed south to Punta Galera as a possible overnight stop, but when we arrived the swell and breaking waves made it feel quite unsafe. It probably would have been fine, but not very relaxing, we would have had to anchor very close to the breaking waves on the beach. So we headed off into the night to arrive the next day at Puerto Angel.

Puerto Angel
Here the swell was also big and we made it ashore once in the dinghy and picked up some fresh bread and some fruit. the town was lovely, a very relaxing atmosphere. There were a lot of fishing pangas on the beach and the way they get there was fun to watch, I have a video clip below.

Beaching your Panga

Before we left, I made a Kayak trip ashore for supplies. I hadn’t done this before. I’m ok on a kayak paddling around calm rivers and mangrove bays, but getting through the surf line with a full load of provisions is another thing. I was fortunate and got the timing right. So we hauled anchor and continued towards Chiapas.

Huatulco, 24th March 2024
Huatulco has a nature park that includes many beautiful bays and extends over 30,000 acres. We moved along through several of the bays finally settling in Bahia Maguey. This is a very popular holiday destination and the local towns of Santa Cruz and Crucecita are very pretty.

Fellow cruisers waiting to cross the gulf of Tehuantepec

Bouncy dinghy landing on Playa Maguey

La Crucecita

I’m at a loss
A delightful vegan restaurant in Crucecita

There were several other boats here and like us they were waiting for the right time to make the next leg southward. Here we are on the western side of the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and need to cross it to the last port in Mexico at Puerto Madero. The problem is that this crossing is fraught with danger. The land is narrow here between the Pacific and the Atlantic. There are also mountain ridges on either side of this gap, creating the perfect conditions for wind to build up and blow through the gap. A phenomena called the Venturi effect can cause extremely strong winds to flow whenever there is a strong weather condition on one side.

Below you can see the weather map for the time we were in Huatulco. The yellow line shows the shortest route, but you have to make sure you time that correctly. We opted for the slightly longer route that hugged the coast as we went around the bay. Partly for safety reasons but mainly for two other reasons; one, it wouldn’t be so boring and two, we could visit Costa Azul.

Before Costa Azul we anchored at Puerto Arista. This is what’s called an Open Roadstead anchorage, meaning that it’s open to bad weather from anywhere, and although the anchor should set well, in anything other than calm weather, it’s dangerous or at least uncomfortable. We anchored on our second night to get some sleep and to wonder at the huge waves crashing onto the beach in front of us. The following morning we upped anchor and headed for Marina Chiapas, our final stop and another overnighter.

Puerto Arista

Costa Azul
En route we did a Sail-by (Drive-by for boats?) to Costa Azul. The reason being that Kathy and I had both read a very amazing book called 438 Days, about an El Salvadorian fisherman called Alvarenga.

438 Days is the miraculous account of the man who survived alone and adrift at sea longer than anyone in recorded history—as told to journalist Jonathan Franklin in dozens of exclusive interviews.”

Costa Azul was the small fishing town where this adventure started, and along the lines of ‘standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona‘ we felt obliged to visit. Alvarenga himself had been caught out by an unexpectedly strong wind blowing through the Tuhuantepec gulf, known as a norteño. As we approached the shore, some fishermen in Pangas sped past and gave us a friendly wave. Having understood a lot about the fishing community from the book, we felt there was a good chance these guys may have been around at the time and even joined the search for the missing fishermen. There where two in the boat at the start of the journey.

Costa Azul

After another short overnight passage we arrived at our final destination at around ten in the morning. We made a slow passage up the winding estuary into the marina where our fenders and mooring line came out for the first time in many months. Being tied up, no anchor alarms running, no swell, and no need to worry about water or power we were finally able to really chill out.

Approach to Puerto Madero

Marina Chiapas

Officials came on board and did the immigration customs and port documents. They were quite serious about it all here, more so than any other port we have visited. I would never dream of taking a photo of these guys, but our neighbour did and posted it on whatsapp, so I have included it here. There was also a big dog that had a good sniff around the boat. He found nothing which confirmed my fears that the weed you get these days just doesn’t compare with that from the 80s. 😉

There are many Rays living here

The next day we headed into town, taking the local minibus Colectivo and filled our bags with all Chedraui had to offer. The pic below shows workers running a new overhead power cable outside the shopping mall.

Back at the pool we can relax, the heat is quite something here, mid 30’s and climbing, very tropical, very humid. Ok if a breeze is blowing, but not so nice when trying to get to sleep.

Below I have included a recent photo from facebook to remind myself about the entrance to the El Cid Marina where we have had a few close calls. The tourist boat below must have mistimed the waves, or lost power at the wrong time! Whatever happened the waves at the channel entrance finished off the boat.

Entrance to Mazatlan Marina and El Cid Marina

So this seasons sailing has ended and Kathy flies home in 2 days’ time. It’s been fun since launch, and the boat has performed very well. I have until November to decide where the next boating adventure will take us.

Paul Collister 6th April 2024.