Feeling Small Inside Manzanillo Bay

Our next stop on Mexico’s mainland coast was another day sail, 20 miles South to Manzanillo. As we neared the entrance to Santiago Bay we were greeted by a large momma and baby whale that breeched right in front of Maluhia. We were motor sailing at the time. (A term that means our mainsail was up to help with stabilize the boat with the swell, but our engine was on to help propel us forward because of the lack of wind to compensate.)

Sailing from Barra to Manzanillo Bay.
Sailing from Barra to Manzanillo Bay.

ZROooom. That’s the sound of Maluhia’s engine throttling way down. It’s the sound that scares the crap out of anyone who happens to be down below preparing lunch while underway. At the time, that was me. (Picture the equivalent of napping in the back seat of a car while the driver slams on the breaks.) Maluhia started to drift to a stop and we were left floating. 

“What happened?!”

As I poked my head up I turned to see the combined look of exasperation, shock, horror and awe on Grant’s face. 

“Whales!”

“I don’t know how we didn’t hit them? They breached less than a few feet right in front of our bow! They must have dove under the boat because now I don’t see them.”

This is where the whales breeched!
This is where the whales breeched!

Another reminder just how small one can feel in such a large ocean. After regaining some composure and triple checking for a whale free zone, we continued on our way into Manzanillo Bay.

This is now a whale free zone.
This is now a whale free zone.
Port of Manzanillo straight ahead.
Port of Manzanillo straight ahead.
Isn't this guy cute?
Isn’t this guy cute?

Manzanillo is an extensive port welcoming large tankers, and small pleasure crafts. The entire bay extends 16 miles from the Northwest to the Southeast. If the whales don’t remind you how small you are, then the tankers will. Many tankers enter this bay to drop off and pick up cargo. Mexico exports fish, corn, copra, lemons, bananas, canned foods, wine, lumber, and minerals from this bay.

For cruisers there are three popular choices for anchoring inside Manzanillo Bay, and also a marina. 

  1. Carizzal
  2. Santiago Bay
  3. Las Hadas
  4. Las Hadas Marina

The less popular choice here is the Las Hadas Marina due to the expense and small size, Mediterranean moorings, and a decrepit fuel dock. It is mainly over run with power boats. During our two week stay we made multiple trips back and forth anchoring between Santiago Bay and Las Hadas.

Santiago Bay to our left.
Santiago Bay to our left.

Santiago Bay – This was our favorite place to pass our time at anchor! This portion of Manzanillo Bay offers you 3 miles of beautiful sandy beach, and an assortment of family run palapas a.k.a. ramadas, sprinkling the shore. There is also a restaurant called Oasis that featured buy one get one happy hour drinks (popular among cruisers) and a Mexican Elvis impersonator.

The anchorage in front of Las Hadas resort.
The anchorage in front of Las Hadas resort.

Las Hadas – This was also a popular place for anchoring. Upon our arrival there was another large crowd of 15 boats anchored in front of the Marina, and the popular Las Hadas Resort. The movie “10” (or in Spanish “La Mujer Perfecta”) was filmed there in 1979. We are just one year shy of remembering anything about this movie.

Captain for a day!
Captain for a day!

While entering this anchorage I was at the helm driving Maluhia. It was my “turn” to be captain, take us in and choose an appropriate spot for anchoring. In fact we made the entire trip from Santiago Bay as if Grant didn’t exist, but only to help raise the heavy mainsail.

Getting organized with the auto pilot.
Getting organized with the auto pilot.

I charted the course, set the autopilot and made adjustments as I saw fit to get us into the new anchorage.

On our way to Las Hadas.
What’s around that corner?
My turn to avoid these.
My turn to avoid these.
This is what happens to my crew when I'm captain.
This is what happens to my crew when I’m captain.
Challenge: Can you do 100 push ups a day for a year?
Challenge: Can you do 100 push ups a day for a year?
This is what's around the corner.
This is what’s around the corner.
Really hard to see when it is your first time.
The anchorage at Las Hadas is really hard to see when it is your first time.
Do you know how to get to Las Hadas Anchorage - anyone out here . . . hello?
Do you know how to get to Las Hadas Anchorage – anyone out here . . . hello?
More shoreline - where's this anchorage. Is my course set right?
More shoreline – where’s this anchorage? Is my course set right?
Hillside villas grace the shoreline.
Hillside villas grace the shoreline.
I have this navigation thing figured out.
I have this navigation thing down.

For me it getting there wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was navigating in tight quarters and choosing a spot with enough room to allow us to swing freely without hitting another boat. In a large anchorage with plenty of room this task is easy. But here, not so much.

“Ok – I got us here – now switch me, Puh-LEASE!”  

Those were my exact words.

“No, you’re doing fine. You can do this.”

“It’s too busy!”

“Just drive around a bit, there’s no harm in driving around.”

So, that’s what I did. Maluhia and I drove around the new neighborhood doing a couple of laps between boats to get acquainted with the space.

“What about here?”

I nosed Maluhia into an empty gap mostly behind the herd that I thought was large enough to accommodate us.

“You are on your own. If you think this is a good spot then lets go with it.”

I realized I was getting no inside tips, better to just go with my first instinct. We dropped the anchor and backed it down just to make sure of our position after the anchor chain stretched out.

Here's where we ended up.
Here’s where we ended up.
Hello beach!
Hello beach!

It is always hard to tell just how close you are to someone else’s boat when you are onboard. After we were settled we hopped in our friends dinghy and had a look from afar.  We had plenty of room to swing in all directions.  I was relieved!

Friends welcome us to the anchorage!
Friends welcome us to the anchorage!
Going for a ride in the car.
Going for a ride in the car.

Anchoring in tight spots is tricky. You have to make conclusions based on what you see and know is factual about yourself, but what you don’t know about your neighbor. You have no idea which direction they were facing when they dropped their anchor just the direction they are currently facing now. You don’t know if their anchor is currently in front, behind, zig zagged in some magical decoration on the ocean floor, or directly underneath their vessel. You also don’t know how much scope they let out, because what might seem like enough for you might not be enough for someone else.

You have to rely on a little bit of faith to know your dropping in a hazard free zone. That is, unless you receive that call. The call from the other vessel welcoming you into the anchorage, yet casually mentioning you “might” be a little bit too close for their comfort.

This the pool at the Las Hadas resort.
This the pool at the Las Hadas resort.
View of the anchorage  from shore.
View of the anchorage from shore.

From the comfortable Las Hadas pool, we watched as a new neighbor spent all afternoon driving around the lot looking for a spot to call home. Later that evening, when they finally choose their lot a little too close to ours, and saw our heads secretly peering up from the cockpit, they gave us a call.

The gist of the call was they wanted to know if we were comfortable with their final decision. We told them we weren’t. Their response, sorry, but we have to tough it out like this, because we’ve been anchoring all afternoon, and this is the only spot we like.

(Frowny Face) Ok good citizen. Thank you for calling, I guess.

It was now our move. Do we pick up the anchor and show our emotion? Nope. We decided to tough it out. This was our spot for the last three days. Over the next several days there were a few “Woah Baby!” moments during some wind shifts, but we never once touched, or kissed each other in the night. (Whew!)

One comment

  • Really good navigating Denise! You got this thing down. It’s always so good to hear from you two, glad you are meeting up with John and friends. Will post your position in Beacon….

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