Bahia de la Navidad and Manzanillo

When we were in Mazatlan, we were tied up next to a Swedish boat.  Maude and Tore told us that as we proceeded southward to make sure we made good time for staying in Bahia de la Navidad.  We have been looking forward to that.

We weighed anchor in Tenacatita Bay and sailed around the end of the peninsula into Bahia de Navidad.  As we have described earlier, Capri’s bottom looked like someone had glued a shag carpet onto it.  The “carpet” robbed us of at least 1 knot of speed – we can barely make 5 knots, even with the throttle wide open.  After leaving Tenacatita Bay and as we rounded the peninsula, we found out just how debilitating that carpet can be.  We ran into a foul current and now even with the engine running 2000 rpms, we can only make 3 knots.  That’s a strong current – unfortunately, we can’t say how much because our log isn’t working due to the heavy growth on our hull.

Despite that, we do manage to work our way slowly around the tip and into the Bay.  At the bottom of the bay is a narrow channel that marks the entrance to a protected lagoon where many anchor.  We cannot anchor there since our keel is seven feet and most of the lagoon is either less than seven feet at low tide or just over seven feet.  We have no interest in being aground twice a day, so we will go into the marina.

The marina is an excellent solution for a pair of long term cruisers like us.  We’ve been at anchor for so long that we’ve forgotten what a life of luxury is all about.  The marina is part of a resort/hotel complex and if you are a guest in the marina, then you are a guest of the resort, meaning that you can freely use all the resorts amenities, namely the enormous swimming pool, tennis courts, bars etc etc.  The swimming pool is typical resort with a bar in the middle of the water so you can swim out to it, sit in the water under the thatched roof and get sloshed.  So here we find our two cruisers, each dozing in a chaise-lounge.  Carsten, who gets tanned sitting indoors, is firmly ensconced in the shade under a tree, while Vinni is suffering in the sun in an effort to get a modicum of a suntan (admittedly difficult when you start with a factor 20 suntan oil).  Vinni, of course, never gets envious or comments Carsten’s sickening tan that gets deeper and deeper even as he hides in the shade (right – if you truly believe that Vinni is not envious of my tan – well, I have some nice swampland in Florida that I can sell you, or a bridge in Brooklyn that you might be interested in buying).  Instead, Vinni suffers, taking frequent dips in the pool to cool down while Carsten snores up under the tree (damn him).  Vinni is nothing less than a true sun-hungry Scandinavian woman.

As the afternoon wears onward, we need liquid refreshment.  Margaritas or cold beer?  Decisions, decisions, decisions.  On the other hand, why not both?  If we are going to have both, then we have to get something to eat.  Otherwise, we are just alcoholics.  We have chips and salsa with the margaritas.  Then a beef quesadilla with the beer.  Some days the one beer turns into two beers, resulting in another nap in the chaise lounge. 

Meanwhile, all these carbohydrates and calories are magically settling on our love handles, which seem to get bigger and bigger.  We’ve decided we will NOT have a guilty conscience about it, but it is something we will need to address when this little luxury sojourn ends.  Lying poolside is almost like being on a cruise ship.  The waitresses circle constantly and a crooner shows up each afternoon and does a show.  This crooner can actually sing, with a fine baritone voice – he reminds us a bit of Frank Sinatra.

Our guilty consciences re: calories get the better of us each morning, so we launch the paddleboards in a futile effort to burn off some of yesterday’s intake.  Up to now, we have only been able to paddle while we are on our knees.  Partially because of our own instability and partly due to the swells in the anchorages (any excuse will do so we don’t have to admit we have not yet learned how to do this).  Here in the marina, there are no swells so we don’t have that excuse (unless, of course a panga roars by the marina entrance sending a series of choppy waves in).  Paddle boarding looks so easy when someone who knows how to does it.  They seem to just stand there, effortlessly keeping their balance while they paddle across swells into winds etc.  The reality is that learning is the same as when (ages ago) I learned how to downhill ski.  I can still remember my first day on those two boards trying to keep my balance while trying to keep those two pesky boards, with a mind of their own, from crossing and sending me headlong into the snow.  My legs shook like tree leaves in the wind and there wasn’t a muscle in my body that wasn’t tight as a steel rod.  When I woke the next morning, I felt like I had been run over by a truck – one that had run over me, then backed up and run over me a few times more.  It took a week of intensive training and then we were able to control the skis (more or less).

We try to comfort ourselves with those memories, thinking that if we can learn to downhill ski, then we can surely learn to stand on one of these damned boards.  Of course, we ARE forty years older and both our balance and our courage are faltering as we age (speak for yourself Vinni, Carsten says).  Here you can see how we are faring (laughter is encouraged):

Towards the end of the video, things are looking up – but this is only in the marina with flat water.  We still are not capable of paddling out where there are swells.  More practice is need (applause allowed here).

The hotel and resort are located on one side of the lagoon and the small old town of Barra de Navidad is on the other.  Water taxis zoom back and forth and for a small sum will pick you up right at your boat and drop you in town.  The taxis run 24/7.  Simply call them on the VHF (channel 23) and few minutes later one will be at your dock.  These are pangas with outboard engines with at least 50 hp – they literally fly across the shallow waters of the lagoon.  Most of the time they stay in the channel, but when the tide is in, they cut right across.  We just close our eyes and assume they know what they are doing.

Late one afternoon we grabbed a taxi over to town to try to find the little tienda (shop) where the most basic food items are sold, some fruit, veggies, milk, yoghurt and of course, beer and tequila (necessities of life).  There are no street signs so we end up wandering around quite confused in the center of this village, but we do enjoy the old part of the town, which is a true old Mexican village.

As we wander, we come across a bar where 50 or 60 gringoes, mostly local Americans are gathered.  Many Americans move to Mexico for the climate and the much lower cost of living here.  Their pensions, down here, can provide a higher standard of living than they could get in the US.  Some came when they were young and have remained here since, carving out some type of existence, with jobs or founding their own businesses.  This bar obviously was the local watering hole for these ex-pats.  The reason they were gathered here today was an unbelievably good five man band that was playing.  They were all older gringoes and they were blowing the crowd away with their country rock music.  All five of the musicians could also really sing – just listen yourself.

We enjoyed several margaritas during the 4 hours they played.  An unexpected pleasure.  There was also a raffle, the prizes being bottles of tequila with all the proceeds going to poverty-stricken local residents.  The guitar player was the one pulling the winners from a hat when he suddenly pulled his own name.  Hell he said.  I can’t pull my own winning number so he negotiated with the bar and his expensive bottle of tequila because a shot of bar tequila for everyone in the audience.

A true gentleman.

Even the locals stopped to listen

On our way back to the watertaxi, we did manage to find the small tienda and bought some fruits and vegetables.

The next day, Carsten was rummaging through our papers when he suddenly realized our visas were expired.  Just how the hell did that happen?  Overstaying your visa can be a serious here with mega fines and getting tossed out (sans boat).

Here’s the sad tale.  When you clear in to Mexico the first time, you get a ten year visa for the boat while the crew gets a six month visa.  We checked into Mexico in Ensenada in the beginning of September, then flew to Denmark, returning December 1.  So?  What is the problem?  December 1 plus six months equals June 1 so we should be in the clear.  Ahhh, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.  When we reentered Mexico from San Diego coming back from Denmark, we came in by car.  The border guard never asked to see our visas and never stamped our passports so we did not renew our visas.  Meaning they expired March 22.

We plan to haul Capri out for the hurricane season and fly to Europe on June 18, so we would need to have our visa extended anyway, but overstaying is usually more than frowned on by immigration personnel.  So when Carsten checked the visa cards, he was stupefied when he discovered that not only did we need to extend, but we were already overstayed.

Internet to the rescue.  Reading on Mexico’s State Department webpage, Carsten discovers that we can extend our visas by visiting any immigration office, paying a service charge and a fine for overstaying.  The nearest immigration office is in Manzanillo, thirty nautical miles south.  No big problem, we wanted to visit Manzanillo anyway so off we go and drop our hook in the bay just off the famous hotel here.

The next day is the day before Easter, so we hurry and get a taxi out to the immigration office – on the other side of town naturally.  They are very nice and explain that we are in the wrong office, we need to go to another office.  We came by boat and we need to go to the office that clears boat people in.  Ok.  They also gave us the address and we get an Uber.  Street signs etc are not Mexico’s strong points so while the Uber driver can find the street, finding the building is a bit tougher.  Actually, all the buildings here are ramshackle and in a sorry state of repair.  This is behind the bus station.  No way a government office is going be located in one of these buildings.  Finally, off to the left, we spot a brand new building with the magic number 52 on it.  But the bottom floor is some type of financial office.  The doors are locked and they will barely answer us via the intercom.  Upstairs.  I run up and surprise, surprise – the immigration office is there, but it is closed for Easter.

Ha, ha – you thought we were going to tell a sunshine story.  No, this is Vinni and Carsten sailing.

Nothing to be done. We will have to stay here until after Easter.

Since this was Easter, we sent Easter greeting to our friends and family in Denmark and got replies that they were getting ready to sit down to the Big Danish Easter Smorgasbord table (eating and drinking for four or five hours).  Our mouths were watering just at the thought.  We decided to have our own smorgasbord table.  We had a can of mackerel in tomato sauce, pumpernickel, homemade chicken salad, homemade Danish Frikadeller (meatballs), hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes.  A feast fit for a king and queen.  Washed down with an ample amount of Norwegian Aquavit and ice cold beer and what more can you ask for?

Six days alter we get another taxi and this time the office is open.  The young officer at the front desk speaks virtually no English, but motions for us to wait while he gets his boss.  We’re sure he is in there telling his boss that here are two hopeless cruisers standing outside with an uncommonly lame excuse for overstaying.

The boss comes out and he speaks English fluently, albeit with a small accent.  On top of speaking faultless English, he is also patient, listening carefully while Carsten explains our sad trail of tears resulting in our overstaying.  We can document that we have been out of the country since we do have copies of our airplane tickets, but as we all know, it is entirely up to the immigration officer’s good graces if he wants or does not want to accept those.

He says, no problemo and there starts an hour of filling out papers, typing on the computer, more paper, more copies, more typing etc etc.  This is Mexico.  The woman types on the computer.  The young male officer runs the copy machine while Carsten fills out the forms.  The boss stands around like a symphony conductor ensuring that everyone plays the part they have been given.  After an hour of this, the boss gets out his stamp and stamps our passports – we now have an additional six months.  No service charge, no fine, just smiles all around.

Mexico is somewhat like the US.  Every time we sail from one district to another, we have to clear out/in with the Capitaine de Puerto.  The Capitaine de Puerto is not an ordinary marina boss – he is a Police officer.  Clearing in just that.  We have to show our passports, boat insurance, visas, boat temporary import permit, cruising permit etc.  Strange that the Capitaine de Puerto in both La Cruz and Barra de Navidad didn’t discover that our visas were expired.

The anchorage in Manzanillo is very popular according to our pilot books.  We’ve anchored up in front of the hotel/resort and its fine beach.  The houses and the hotel are built on the side of a cliff and all painted white.  It looks a bit like a Klondike since much of the hotel’s  individual rooms have been built helter skelter on the cliffs. 

The hotel fills the entire cliffside

When we need to provision, we walk the 2 miles or so to the nearest supermarket.  Most of the walk is along the beach and then across the golf course so it is quite relaxing.

What we don’t enjoy are all the jetskis.  Damned jetskis, pardon my language.  It is the Easter holiday and the hotel is full with guests and the jetski rental guy is making a fortune.  Despite the enormous size of the bay, all the jetskis seem to think that Capri is a racing buoy that they need to round.  Only a few of them give us a wide berth.  The rest try to see how close they can come to the boat.  Even when we try to wave them off, they just laugh and see if they can get closer on the next pass.  The noise is irritating as all get out and the skis run from 11 am to sundown at 6:30.

The morning after getting our visas renewed, we weigh anchor and head north, bound for Barra de la Navidad.  This we are disappointed.  The Easter holiday apparently lasts two weeks here in Mexico and hotel is full to the gills.  The swimming pool is mobbed and it is almost impossible to find a chaises lounge (who said we were roughing it?)  Even when we find a chaise lounge, we can’t find any shade to park it in. (yes friends, life as a cruising sailor is indeed a hardship beyond belief).  Every afternoon we go up to the pool for margaritas and cold beer (what can I say – it IS a hard life).  Unfortunately, our superb crooner has been replaced by a DJ who plays rap and some other ungodly “music”.  At least he calls it music – neither Vinni nor I do. 

Just to add insult to the injury, he has the volume turned up so high that it is impossible to ignore the so-called “music”.

However, on our nightly excursions over in town we did find a local restaurant that was not only cheap but also, served excellent Mexican food.  The senora made the tortillas fresh for every order- man you haven’t tasted tortillas until you get fresh off the grill.

Here are some street pictures form Barra de Navidad:

This restaurant is called The Tree House

Street musicians on their way home

We enjoyed the luxurious life for a week more then headed north.  We have a little over 800nm to San Carlos and we need to be there by June 10.  Everyone has said that the winds will change and begin to come from the south in April but we are already in May and the winds are still coming out of the north.  On top of that, it is real Vinni and Carsten weather.  Not only blowing from the north/northwest, but also blowing up to 25 knots and throwing up 1-2 meter high choppy seas (also coming from the north).  That kind of weather is just not worth sailing in – truly unpleasant tacking and making no headway.  On the very few days where the winds is coming from the south, it is so weak that we have to use the engine; the wind simply isn’t strong enough to move Capri.  So we are burning a lot of diesel.


We’ll write more about our trip northward in the next couple of weeks.

2 thoughts on “Bahia de la Navidad and Manzanillo

  1. U 2 are living the life! I laughed and applauded at your paddleboard attempts and successes. Keep going! God Bless. ~K~

  2. Had to share again when I got to read off of it. LOVE this. I’m sure you don’t want to see Erika running rapids on rivers in the US West with her dog at the bow of her paddleboard, right? Can send them, LOL. Blessings, ~K~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s