Mercury rising in Zihuatanejo: our worst enemy yet

Things are different now.  In a blatant case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, the heat is here.  It appeared overnight.  Literally.  On our last night shift en route to Cabo, temps soared 20 degrees in a few hours.  But even then it was manageable.  These last few days the heat executed an insidious creep into the unbearable zone.  Highs pushing triple digits.  Humidity making it hard to breath.  And no air conditioning anywhere in our future.  We’re on our own as we continue to trade degrees of latitude for degrees Fahrenheit.


The heat makes us slow, every physical movement now a calculated trade off between what it accomplishes and the body heat it produces.  It makes us grumpy, singeing otherwise serene and enjoyable moments.  And finally, it makes us feel ridiculous for still having long underwear onboard.  And so it goes.  Gulping down water and sweating it out at approximately the same rate.

effects of the oppressive heat. It's turning us mad

Our week in Zihuatanejo quickly came to an end and we prepared for the next leg – a 300-mile push to Puerto Escondido.  The incredible experience our friends treated us to at the ranch inspired us, and we armed ourselves with a new tortillera, planning to thus have a never ending supply of fresh corn tortillas onboard at all times.  Before heading south for the three-day passage, we sailed north to Ixtapa to gas up, pump out and treat ourselves to a slip and shower for the night.  En route to this pit stop, we thought about some of the finer moments Zihuatanejo graced us with.  The town had treated us very well, sucking us in for an unplanned week’s stay.  The bustling panga scene on shore provided us with delicious, cheap, fresh fish, since we seem to have serious problems catching any ourselvbes.  Between us and the fishermen, it’s hard to say who thought they were getting a better since all it took for them to catch the fish was to cruise just past our anchorage and toss out a big ol cast net.  We found bargain prices on every type of fruit imaginable at a market just a few blocks off the beach front prominade, tucked back into a local barrio.  Lastly on the culinary front, and in better-late-than-never fashion, we discovered chilaquiles, an incredible breakfast dish of tortilla chips doused in salsa, sour cream, cheese and your choice of eggs meat or a combo.  Breakfast nachos.  It’s basically the Mexican equivalent of French toast – last night’s left overs cleverly disguised into a dish I’d happily eat daily.

Selena getting some fresh starfruit for us

Boat work before leaving Zihua. A wise man once told us, "you know what cruising is? It's doing maintenance in exotic places!"

In Zihua we said our goodbyes with Jade, sad to see him go.  Being able to teach him about our sailing world seemed a small payback for the general life lessons, mentorship and wisdom he generously and naturally imparted over his two weeks onboard.  For being new to life on the ocean, his ability to adapt was impressive.  He smoothly handled everything the sea dished out, a fact underlined on one of our adventure dinghy landings.  We mistimed the shorebreak and ended up sliding down the face of a wave as it heaved towards shore.  With our steering hopelessly overpowered, the dinghy rounded up and bucked hard.  Bodies were launched skyward as the dinghy stood on end.  In one of those dynamic moments that for some reason allow more thoughts than should fit in the amount of time that passes, I realized our dinghy would be flipped over and our engine swamped, but most importantly that the wreckage from our little mishap would contain a spinning, renegade outboard engine propeller.  Landing in the water with my stomach in my throat, I surfaced to see Jade was the only one of us with the reaction time to stay low, sprawling out on the floor on the dinghy and providing just enough leverage to keep it upright. Disaster averted.  Day saved.  Thank you Jade.

We neared Ixtapa at once nostalgic for the beautiful miles off our stern and excited for the unknown ones ahead.  As we aimed into the harbor mouth, another vessel hailed us on the radio.  They advised that Ixtapa was temporarily closed to dredge the channel, and then immediately invited us over for a drink.  Sometime well before 5:00 PM, we shared bottle of Chivas Regal 18 with three enthusiastic and outspoken Poles.  Over the good conversation and delicious whisky, it occurred to me that Niunia, our host vessel, had been anchored amongst some half dozen other vessels, but that they had reached out to us for company.  Reason being we were the only sailing vessels amongst power boaters.  If it weren’t for sailing, we may have had little in common with three middle-aged Polish guys.  But knowing that all of our lives are currently being spent before the mast, tackling the same challenges and reaping the same rewards, provided the common link for friendship and commanded a mutual respect and interest in each other.  These unlikely friendships, able to spring forth and flourish under these circumstances, are one of the most enjoyable aspects of sailing life.

The whisky went down easily and we pulled into Ixtapa marina at 19:00.  We had two unlikely and very noteworthy neighbors during our otherwise standard marina visit.  Roberto was the first.  He swam into the empty slip next to us with an obvious air of pride and disinterest.  With a stocky six-foot body and grin that badly needed a dentist, he casually sauntered up and…scared us straight back onto the boat.  Once we accustomed ourselves to the presence of a crocodile just a few feet away, we grew bolder and said our salutations.  Roberto was a well-known resident of the marina.  He didn’t have much to say, but sure commanded a presence.  Our next neighbor of interest was just as impressive, more benign, and much more talkative.  Don was living on the 35-foot ketch across the dock and had just days before completed a 17-year singlehanded circumnavigation.  And was he ever excited to tell us about it.  17 years on the boat alone seemed to have built up an enormous deficit of human interaction.  His tongue was a story machine gun, firing off unrelated tales with no pause and only slightly more transition.  To his credit they were all fascinating, like coming across a navy air practice squad in the middle of the Pacific.  After getting a private air show from the jets, a helicopter came by and dropped a trash bag full of peanut butter cookies for him.  Then there was the 80-knot storm he weathered at anchor, having to don mask and snorkel just to go on deck and check on things because the spray was so thick.  Roberto and Don, two more curious characters along our journey down the coast.

Hello Roberto

Jakob getting bold with the beast

The look of a man who has been alone on a boat. for 17 years.


1 comment for “Mercury rising in Zihuatanejo: our worst enemy yet

  1. wass
    May 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    dudes – get at me – i need to book this flight!!!!

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