Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Leg 2-2000 San Diego to Acapulco

April 14, 2000 0400 26.51N, 114.45W
Log: 32,444 Baro: 1018 Winds WNW
25-31 Broadreaching @ 8-9kts

Racing Through the Night!

The nearly full moon just dropped below the horizon leaving a million stars overhead and Mahina Tiare surfing the swells under a full press of canvas. The sensation of speed is unmistakable and addictive. We never expected this much wind along the coast of Baja California, it's fantastic!

Upon request, our Leg 2 crew arrived early Monday morning instead of our normal 12 noon time, so that I could collect passports and taxi to the Mexican Consulate to apply for visas. The consulate is only open until 1:30pm and even though I arrived 10 minutes after opening it was filled with 200+ people snaking out the hall and down the stairs. I was able to get the visas in an hour and outbound customs clearance in another hour.

Meanwhile Amanda had been busy doing safety orientation with crew and we were able to fuel up and set sail by 1600 Monday. We chose Cedros Island, a 20x5 mile offshore island 320 miles south of San Diego as our Port of Entry over Ensenada, Mexico, just 60 miles south. We had an excellent forecast of 25 knot following winds and wanted to get some miles under the keel before stopping. Several friends in San Diego had also said that it is frequently easier and quicker by many hours to clear in at smaller ports in Mexico.

Our sail to Cedros turned was in mostly 12-15 knot winds except as we closed on the island the winds topped 32 knots, giving us a spectacular 9 knot surfing arrival.

Sam on bow lookout as we approach Cedros Island.

As it was near dark when we reached the settlement we decided not to go into the small man-made harbor between two breakwaters even though it is well-described in Charlie's Charts of Mexico cruising guide. Instead we anchored just north of the harbor in 37' with an excellent sandy bottom.

Everyone enjoyed a night without watches and first thing this morning Amanda dropped Mark and I on the fishboat wharf and off we went in search of the Capitan del Puerto to clear customs. Mark speaks much better Spanish than I.

Anchored off Cedros Island.

The village of Cedros was dry and dusty, with unpaved streets, abandoned rusting vehicles, but friendly people. The port captain initially said that we would have to sail to Cabo San Lucas, 400 miles away to clear immigration, to which I said, no problema. I think that was a test, because as soon as I said "no problema", he called the immigration officer who said she would meet us at 1:30. He asked that we keep one person aboard to watch the boat, but said it would be fine for our crew to come ashore. Our crew found a small bakery with tasty treats and pizza and took off exploring.

Checking into Mexico is a challenge, because unlike most countries, it appears that cruisers are expected to provide their own forms. Chris Frost, owner of Downwind Marine in San Diego gave us sample forms which Amanda typed into her computer, filling in the blanks. We got a couple of things mixed
up on the form, but got corrected with a little white-out and the port captain typing in the right sequence of port names. The young and attractive immigration officer arrived and stamped passports as she breast-fed her giggling daughter who tried to throw everything off the desk.

Before hoisting anchor, we had a quick swim, scrubbed the prop and checked the bottom. We passed the substantial salt works at the south end of Cedros and saw Baja California for the first time as we passed between Isla Nativida and Pta Eugenio.

The winds have steadily increased since clearing land, and so has the traffic. Just a few minutes ago we were tracking five fast-moving ships, all on the 12 mile range of the radar. Of the 20 or so ships and boats we've passed since San Diego, all but two have been displaying navigation lights. Mike Barnett from Blue Water Insurance told us that many Mexican fishing boats do not run nav lights at night.

Interestingly, we don't really know what our next stop will be, and that is a first! Usually we have an excellent idea of our stops, but sailing the coat of Mexico is a totally new experience for us. We have pretty much decided to skip Cabo San Lucas, a busy sportfishing harbor, even though we'll sail right by it. Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Ixtapa have been suggested as possible stops, but with 1100 miles to sail in 10 days, our stops will be few and brief.


April 23, 2000 0623 16.53N 100.12W Log: 33,588 Baro: 1014
Winds: WNW @ 3kts Motoring under a moonlit sky

Bound For Acapulco!
30 miles ahead lies Acapulco, described by friends as being similar to Honolulu, one of their favorite "big cities". The night is warm - 75 degrees and the humidity has doubled in the past two days to 89%, but it is still comfortable. We have changed time zones twice since San Diego, now it doesn't get light till 0720. Our passage from Cedros to Puerto Vallarta was smooth with some motoring and winds up to 25 knots. After Cabo San Lucas winds got lighter, the best sailing was at night. Each day become hotter and our crew said, "Make sure your Leg 3 crew bring very light long sleeved shirts and long pants for sun protection!" Keeping everyone hydrated in the heat is a challenge, especially for folks not used to drinking 2 liters of water on a daily basis.

Before arriving in Puerto Vallarta we received a telex from Jim & Sue Corenman who were also arriving. The last time we shared a harbor was Auckland, June 1994. Since then they've completed a world circumnavigation on Heart of Gold, their sexy custom Schumaker 50, winning races everywhere they stop. Jim, along with Stan Honey founded SailMail, the non-profit cruiser email system.

Jim Corenman - Co-inventor of sail mail.

We tied up in the first-class Marina Vallarta with 350 berths surrounded by restaurants, hotels and condos. What a contrast to Cedros! We saw a few dozen cruising boats but most of the owners weren't aboard. An exception was Destiny, a Centurion 47 with JoAnne & Michael Gray who had taken our Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminar while preparing to depart from Seattle. They have been out two years and are now getting ready to sail the South Pacific. They offered to show us PV, so eight of us, plus Jim & Sue hopped on a packed bus for downtown.

The Cathedral seen through the arches.

We had arrived at a great time! Easter week in Mexico is a major holiday and the waterfront boulevard was jammed with Mexicans. Everyone was dressed up, musicians and fireworks played on the beach and the waterfront restaurants were packed with happy folks. Mike & JoAnne took us to one of their favorites, an airy upstairs restaurant with a killer view of the harbor. Dinner was great and very reasonable, the live music was superb and our crew got the chance to ask tons of questions from our friends of what cruising as a couple is like. After dinner we explored the town, Amanda sidetracking us in to nearly every art gallery and handicraft store and Jim pointing out the stunning bronze public sculpture and avante garde architecture which this town is becoming famous for.

Easter time in Puerto Vallarta.

It was midnight by the time we made it back to the marina where people were still eating at the marina-side restaurants and strolling around looking at boats.

The next morning we sailed to Tenacatita Bay where we met Mark and Teri on Tauranga, a custom Laurie Davidson 52 who had taken our seminar in San Francisco. They told us to take the dinghy on a river ride up the mangroves. We did and saw lots of birds but missed seeing the saltwater crocodiles endemic to the region.

The campground along the beach was overflowing with hundreds of Mexican families having a blast. In the middle of the beach was a tiny palapa, or outdoor restaurant serving ceviche with octopus, fish and shrimp that was outrageous accompanied with coconut drinks.

Saying goodbye to Tenacatita Bay.

Our next destination was Ixtapa. We connected by radio with our old friends Dan & Debi Dinsmore on Andante, who were 100 miles ahead of us making plans to rendezvous at Isla Grande, just before Ixtapa at sunset.

Dan operated Seaworthy Marine for 17 years in Seattle, helping me with MTII and the commission and outfit MTIII. Debi, as a yacht broker sold a 68' motoryacht that Dan upgraded after which the owner asked them to run it for them, for the past couple years they have covered 17,000 miles on it. More recently they had a similar offer from Karl Buhl, whose HR 42 they are now running, with Karl joining the boat periodically.

This morning at dawn I made a rough 5 mile trip to check out and photograph Ixtapa Marina before we sailed to Zihuatanjo and anchored off the bustling seaside town.

Again we met happy Mexican's enjoying the holidays. After lunch at another great beach palapa, Dan & Deb took us on a tour of the local part of town. The tourist shops are only on the streets along the beach, behind that we found a bustling, thriving and friendly town. We now understand why Richard Spindler, publisher of Latitude 38 magazine says this is cruisers favorite town on this Mexican coast.

The public market was fascinating, all kinds of tiny stalls with every type of fruit, vegetable and meat imaginable and lots of people. It reminded us a little of the incredible markets in Papeete, Tahiti, and Suva, Fiji, except without the flowers and romance of the South Pacific.

In the afternoon we raised anchor and have since been sailing along the coast, in company with Andante towards Acapulco.

Sadly, there has been little wind, and everyone says there will be even less from here to Panama.


We will sail non-stop from Acapulco to Cocos Island, 300 miles off Costa Rica! The more we study the pilot charts and Cocos, the better this plan sounds. We should have a beam reach with winds of around 10-12 knots and the chance of higher winds when we pass (far out to sea) the infamous Gulf of Tehuantepc.

Cocos sounds like a cross between the Galapagos and Pitcairn Island; very isolated, lots of fascinating endemic species and rugged tropical terrain. The outline of the island is similar to Pitcairn Is and the only inhabitants are Park rangers from Costa Rica. Cocos is one of the top dive destinations in the
world, famous for hammerhead sharks and great visibility. We've seen ads for liveaboard dive boats that operate there, although no one is allowed to stay ashore. The island is also riddled with tunnels and holes from treasure hunters looking for the "Treasure of Lima"
From Cocos we will sail to Panama.

It's now 0730, the sun, a fiery red ball has just risen over the rugged coastal mountains and we have 11 miles to go to the harbor entrance. We have been diligent about working through our teaching plan this expedition, but the afternoon heat has meant that we often have class in the evening. All we have left to cover is going aloft for rig check and servicing winches. Following our Expedition Handbook that Amanda updated and expanded this year sure makes teaching easier and retention better.

Ooops! I forgot to tell you who our Leg 2 expedition members are!

Stacy Molitor, 35, is getting ready to exchange the corporate software life in Seattle for a cruise to Mexico and the South Pacific with here husband, Scott and their 4 & 6 yr olds aboard their Island Packet 37. She wants to learn everything!

Steve Woolley, 48, is a mental health professional for King County, lives near Seattle and is dreaming of cruising the South Pacific when he and his wife, Beth retire. They presently have an Ericson 32.

Porter (57) and Vicki (49) Howard sail their Catalina 30 out of Seattle and are considering ocean cruising when Porter retires from 38 years as a Boeing engineer and Vicki as a math teacher.

Sam Parker, 56 has owned a ton of boats, most recently an Island Packet 420 and sails out of Newport Beach, California. He is planning to cruise Mexico and wanted to check it out with us first. Sam recently retired as CEO of PETsmart, with 500 retail stores and it's been fun to learn about the behind-the-scenes of retail marketing.

Our arrival in Acapulco was during the busiest week of the year, Easter, when supposedly 80% of Mexico City's population heads to Acapulco's beaches and nightclubs. The city is jammed with traffic, the music never stops and the party is rocking!

The Club de Yates had a berth waiting for us and we ended up next to a 120' Jongert ketch and Chuck & Jeanette Stockton's very handsome new Nordhaven 50 long-range cruiser. It didn't take our Leg 3 crew long to find the pool with adjacent restaurant & bar.

With Dan & Debi from Andante leading the way, we found a neat waterfront restaurant with a fabulous view of the harbor and reasonable price. Our entire crew walked along the jumping waterfront until nearly midnight, then piled in taxis and headed back to the Club de Yates.

We had been warned that the next morning (Monday) was a holiday, as had been the entire previous week, but were delighted when the yacht club harbormaster, Sr. Marquez said that for $32US he would handle signing our Leg 2 crew off the boat with immigration and our check in with Port Captain.

Several of our crew stayed to explore Acapulco and Sam & Sandy invited us to join us for a swim and incredible dinner at their hotel, the Las Brisas, overlooking the spectacular natural harbor. On the way to their bungalow they pointed out Frank Sinatra & Sylvester Stallone's houses. What a contrast Las Brisas development, started in 1954 with it's private roads and lush landscaping was to the rest of the bustling city it overlooked! We all really enjoyed this wonderful quiet retreat.

Saying goodbye in Acapulco.

Sail on to Leg 3, 2000

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