Ixtapa to Huatulco

The first thing I do when we are feeling in the mood to get going is open up the guide books and the charts to figure out what sort of destination and passage we have in store. This starts with deciding how far we want to go and where… then we calculate mileage and time to figure what time of day is best to depart to make a day-light arrival. This is then weighed against the weather, wind and swell and the speed at which we can accomplish what we need to do before departing. Usually there is a project or two and provisioning, getting water, fuel, etc. At this point, let’s see it was mid-April something, we are feeling anxious to get south to Huatulco – the last stop before hurricane season, checking out of the country and crossing the infamously dangerous Gulf of Tehuantepec. So we left for Maruata from Manzanillo – about 100 miles or so for one night and then onto Ixtapa.

A single-prop plane buzzed low through the anchorage just as we dropped the hook in Maruata about 24 hours later and did a few fancy manuevuers into the valley before heading back out to sea. He certainly seemed to be checking us out. Andrew gave him a wave and he dipped his wing. We read that navy planes monitor boat activity along Michocan’s coast rather than ships. Although tired from the first night’s passage we decided to not stay over night and just rest a couple of hours before heading back out. We jumped in, cooked lunch, took a nap and took off again for Isla Ixtapa. Ixtapa was less than 100 miles ahead. We rigged up a mesh thing we had stored deep in the cockpit locker for shade that made a HUGE difference during daytime heat.

Maruata and underway with the new shade-maker

The stretch from Manzanillo to Maruata was filled with cargo ships and tankers. It seemed there was a regular highway around 8-10 miles off-shore where at least 10 ships passed in the night. We were expecting the same for the remainder of the passage so we hugged the coast closer than we normally do at 3 or 4 miles to avoid the monsters at sea. The AIS tells us the ships final destination and most of these ships were headed to or from Lazaro Cardenas – one of the largest, busiest ports in Mexico, about 30 miles ahead.

Although the weather reports had claimed to have some wind, there was little to none and we ended up motoring nearly the whole trip. We have had to convert our entire boat into the engine room to handle the madness. The engine has been running hot now since arriving in the hot climate and although we have removed, replaced, flushed and inspected every aspect of the cooling system it looks like it lies in our engine “room” ventilation. So we leave the cubby door open and it maintains normal temps. Although we are happy high temps can be resolved by opening the door it certainly takes the romance out of passage making. Motoring in general can do that. The engine is located under the campanionway so getting in and out of the cabin requires swinging like a monkey from the hatch to the nearest settee, it blocks the use of the galley, and worst of all it’s LOUD. I wear sound canceling headphones usually the whole time it’s running. Sleeping must be done wedged into the v-berth surrounded by pillows or in the cockpit… with headphones.

Passing Lazaora Cardenas, which Andrew now refers to as the infernos of hell, was quite the light show in the middle of the night.  Amongst the orange glow of industrialization, huge hot pink fires were bursting up from land lighting the night sky like a forest fire. What looked like lightening was flashing on the low overcast sky, while each new light on the horizon out to sea had us altering course to allow huge dark shadows (tankers) to pass by. Heebee-jeeebeez. Glad to have passed that beast of a port, the next morning we arrived to a cozy cove and dropped the hook into clear blue at Isla Grande off Ixtapa (along side about 8 mega-yachts). We slept. By nightfall we were the only boat in the small anchorage off the tiny palapa-lined beach.

Above is the island from the water and below is a postcard showing the aerial view

Isla Ixtapa is a small ecological reserve with three sandy coves featuring coral reefs with colorful snorkeling, protected anchorages and connecting foot trails winding through beautiful foliage. We spent our time swimming and snorkeling in the clear warm water… eating at the palapas and walking the beach.

The snorkle center on Isla Ixtapa

Isla Ixtapa

We headed into Ixtapa Marina to refuel and re-group and stayed in a slip for a couple of nights before we headed south again. We did a needed vinegar-flush through our cooling system here and Andrew enjoyed the fast short waves off the marina jetty. The marina was built in a lagoon where crocodiles patrol… we saw them daily swimming around the boat. Going in the water here is not possible. Boats that need a bottom clean must leave the harbor and anchor up somewhere to do any work underwater. A guy we met told us that early in the morning they climb up onto the docks!

Afternoon crocodile sighting at Marina Ixtapa

We bussed into Zihuatenejo, just to the south of Ixtapa, where a beautiful natural bay is surrounded by green tall mountains and colorful hotels. A very charming, vendor-filled beachfront is accompanied with a busy boating community. This is a favorite spot for cruisers and tourists alike and provided a great opportunity for us to find some needed parts, including two cheap 12-volt fans for the engine cubby and the sleeping quarters.

From there we headed to an Oaxacan surf spot about 250 miles south. The sailing was good and each night we watched lightening, which at first was really scary, but we heard no thunder and it always seemed far away or high in the sky. We didn’t stop in at Alcapulco – one of the big ports along the way, but as we sailed by we experienced some decent wind into the twenties and pretty steep seas into the evening. After a long three nights at sea we pulled up at dawn to a barreling point break. The perfect surf set-up was right off the boat and there were no other boats at anchor. I dinghied Andrew over at least twice a day so he could avoid the deep-water paddle to the lagoon mouth break.

A sketch of the wave and point

The sailing guide reported nothing was available onshore – although the surf word was a wee bit different:

Mainland Mexico power… taken from the boat at anchor

We were there during Semana Santa, the Mexican holiday of the year and loads of people were on the beach as well as lifeguards, coco helados, and a make-shift rave scene that blasted music until 10am. We decided a dinghy landing was out of the question (pounding shorey) so Andrew dropped me close to shore one day with the dry-bag and I swam in to the beach to walk around, take some photos, bought some cold beer and got a panga driver from the lagoon to give me a ride back to the boat for 50 pesos. The pangas – fishermen mostly – come in and out of the small break water that is the entrance to a huge lagoon. To go through it you have to time it – perfectly – between the huge barreling waves reeling down the point (as seen in above photos). We opted against it.

A ray that stayed under the boat all day, the Punta Galera light and my ride back out

Calms in the evening

We raised sail for Huatulco on a windy afternoon after a visit from some guys that Andrew met in the surf – who paddled out to say hello – and then made the 100 mile passage to Huatulco. The sets rolling in were not making it easy to relax…

6 Responses to “Ixtapa to Huatulco”
  1. Jenny Shade says:

    A new post. YAY! I was beginning to wonder where you were. Brian said he spoke with Andrew last week, but we hadn’t heard anything on this blog. Wow, Ixtapa. Wish I was there with you. I did get the “Bravo” award this quarter. YAY! Life here in Ventura is pretty good right now. Feliz a Cinco de Mayo! I’ll think of you while drinking a margarita. Thanks again for posting such neato pics. Keep safe!

  2. Terry Kluh says:

    Andrew and Julie, Great to get a good update and the pictures are beautiful. Love that wave action. Nice job on the artwork JM. You might want sign these pieces of art. May be worth big $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ someday. Great talking to you and thinking about you continuously. Big Hugs and Love to you both, Mama T

  3. Huirazo says:

    Queridos amigazos!, so happy to see a new post and check that your OK…. probably more than OK, looking at Arcturus anchored right in the perfect spot ( behind a perfect right hander )……………. Magical 🙂

    You two inspire a lot of good energy and I’m always learning on your stories and try to imagine me under sails and looking for pure BUENOS MOMENTOS!

    Be sure that one day you make it down to deep south coast of Chile! probably not in hurricane season hahahaha!
    Have a magical trip and I’ll be wondering of you in Portofino with Chico Christian and the dogs….

    Blessed winds!!!!!!

    • Lisa says:

      Barra de la Cruz is probably one of the most enjoyable places I surfed in Mex. Seemed like it just pumped out perfect rights all day, and it’s on a biological reserve so it felt pristine and gorgeous and clean. Some Puerto Escondido guys told me that when the waves were good they all would lie about where they were going to surf, only to paddle out at Barra and find their buddies already at the point. Anyway, enjoy Huatulco and hope to see you somewhere in El Salvador!


  4. Loved meeting you two at Chacahua and then again later in Barra! I told my friend Yasha and he was stoked we crossed paths.

    You got great swells down here…. blessed Oaxaca.

  5. Lela Childers says:

    It makes me so happy when I see a new post from you. You write about “it’ all so well, & your pictures are spectacular…water colors & photos..
    We were in Las Vegas last weekend to celebrate Kelli’s b-day..All the sisters & Larry & I. We had a great time.We went zip-lining on Mother’s Day. It doesn’t compare to your adventure, but it was fun.
    I ran into your Dad yesterday at McDonalds. I always love seeing Wally. He told me that he had talked to you on Mother’s Day, & brought me up to date on your travels.
    Again, I wish you safe travels & calm seas..I think of you often.. Love,Lela

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