Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Look out! Beach Palapas & Tourists?

We rely upon buoys, as little floating lighthouses, to mark dangerous underwater hazards such as reefs, rocks, sunken wrecks, pipes, etc. Last month, as we approached the beautiful tiny island of Isla Grande (Ixtapa) we were on the lookout for the buoy (17. 41’ 235N and 101. 39’ 892W) that usually marks a submerged rock off of the beach of Playa Linda. But we couldn’t see the buoy this time. Not to worry as we’ve sailed in these waters over the past two cruising seasons and knew that if we hugged the island we would have plenty of space to clear the rock.

Imagine our surprise when we were dropping the anchor to spot the buoy in the little bay! Yep, it was safely tucked away in front of the little beach restaurants (palapas). Well, it is a “special purpose buoy” according to our chart plotter software, but is its new “special purpose” to warn us about the noisy tourists drinking beer and chowing down fresh seafood in the palapas? We assumed that the light was out-of-order and was towed into the bay for repairs. Nope. Come nightfall the bright blinking light switched itself on and provided entertainment until dawn. Go figure.
Isla Grande is one of our favorite spots to anchor. It is just a couple of hours north of Zihuatanejo Bay and seems a world away. The island offers two bays – one to anchor in and one for snorkeling the coral reef. People are only allowed on the island during the day and all must leave by 6pm so at night we can enjoy the quiet in the anchorage. Open air fishing boats called pangas carry tourists from the cruise ships and the locals to the island for a day of swimming and eating.

These first couple of photos were taken of the same point of land in the bay - one at daybreak before the day-tripper boats show up, and the other of some of the boats surrounding Niki Wiki which is in the center of the above photo. And another photo of more boats as you look towards shore. Who looks towards shore? Jonesy, of course - that's him chillin' in the cockpit of our boat.

The snorkeling is usually excellent on the coral reef side of the island. With warm, clear water, little-to-no surf, and a sandy shore it is easy to get in the water and mosey about spying on the sea life. Small bits of broken white coral litter the sandy shore and can be a bit rough on the feet, but those spots are only a few feet in width and you are soon on smooth sand again.

We always eventually order a meal, so we can sit at one of the many plastic tables covered with brightly colored tablecloths and under umbrellas for the entire day without additional charge. The food is mostly seafood and we’ve never been disappointed with our meals or any of the snacks. We just kick back, grab a beer, enjoy the breeze and watch the local families have fun in the water.

This season we had TWO 100-foot mega-yachts show up one day and many other motor boats all days. Music blared from the vessels, dinghies towed screaming rich kids on inflatables, adults floated on noodles, and jet-skis blasted around the anchored boats. Yet, come 6pm it was mostly quiet. Several of the remaining mega-yachts stayed longer to enjoy cocktails during the sunsets, but left at dark. Ah…quiet again.
We are now in Huatulco, Oaxaca Mexico waiting for a "weather window". What we, and 4 other boats, want is at least 3 days of light-to-no wind across the notorious Gulf of Tehauntepec. Then, we will have a 4 to 5 day passage to El Salvador. Now I really must get back to my knitting...

Great post, I'm envious of your life.
Ahh, love that area of Mexico. I can't wait, though, to read your posts from El Salvador! You're such the adventurer!
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