Beetle has been happily attached to one of Vicente’s moorings here in Acapulco, having arrived in Bahia Acapulco Monday mid-day. This is a fabulous place to visit.
Arrival was straightforward, the entry is wide, with an exterior cove off to the right and a set of larger islands to the left. I’d placed on the chart the final leg of the intended route straight up the center of the entrance to finish in the middle of the bay. What you don’t know when planning a route, particularly in Mexico, is how accurate (or not) the cartography may be relative to where the coastline actually is. There’s a “roca” marked on the chart at the entrance, the chart shows it as having a light and perhaps being awash, definitely don’t want to hit that rock – and then finding it or the light structure against the backdrop of all the buildings surrounding Bahia Acapulco was difficult. Turns out the rock is way off to the left as you go in but I didn’t realize that until well past it.
And now Beetle is inside! – so where to go? Acapulco looks to have at least two parts to it: the “old” section to the east with a cruise ship terminal, the marina belonging to Acapulco Yacht Club, another marina (Marina Acapulco, I found out later), and a set of moorings that I was hoping to use but no indication as to whom operates them other than someone named Vicente, and the “new” section at the other end of the bay – the new section is filled with huge resort hotels side-by-side lining the beach along the bay around to the Mexican Navy base at that end. The “old” section is nestled up in a cove that is super-well protected from all directions, that’s where the moorings are, so I headed that way.
A VHF call to Acapulco YC returned no response, but there was a Beneteau 44 on a mooring and they were flying a Mexican courtesy flag – they were likely visiting cruisers. I pulled alongside and shouted over to “Silkup! Anybody aboard?” Up popped Diane and Bepo, they are from Switzerland and here on their boat. A short conversation ensued and Bepo mentioned he had Vicente’s phone number and he’d call Vicente immediately – which he proceeded to do. I circled a couple of times, Bepo called over, “Go to the square mooring, two over, take that one, Vicente will be out eventually to sort you out.” I was wondering if the translation between a Swiss person talking in Spanish over a telephone then translating that into English had resulted in an interesting case of “telephone” – I’d never heard of a square mooring, but there was one that looked like a beer keg painted white, it *was* different than the other spherical moorings, so I picked up that using the Happy Hooker attached to the boat hook, worked great. About an hour later Silkup departed for points north (they are cruising north from Panama headed to Puerto Vallarta, then will leave the boat there to fly home to Europe to re-up their Visas). With Silkup gone and no Vicente to offer suggestions, I moved Beetle over to Silkup’s mooring on the assumption that if it worked for them it would work for Beetle – their boat is similar length but heavier and I wasn’t too keen about the beer keg mooring ball.
Next morning I met Vicente, he’s a super fellow! He is the captain/boat guy on the Hatteras 80o in the mooring field, he manages the moorings, charge is 300 pesos/night, and acts as sort of a local yacht agent. Need diesel? gas? laundry? water? (yes, yes, yes, and no), direction to a particular store? He knows everything and everyone needed to help on your boat. In short order I emptied my three jerry jugs into the fuel tanks and handed the jugs off to Vicente and his helper in their panga and they were off.
The boats here are all med-moored, even in the marina (well, most of the marina, the smaller boats share a slip with their neighbor). There’s a rough seawall that encircles the bay along the malecon walkway, lots of 25-40′ sport fishers set on moorings off the bow and a pair of stern lines run to bollards on the malecon, the mooring line keeps the boats perhaps 6′ off the sea wall. Boats are packed in side-by-side, with lots of fenders on each side to fend off the neighboring boats. To hop on/off the boats from the seawall you pull hard on the bollard line and when the stern draws into range you step (or hop broadly) across to the boat. Not conducive to moving lots of stores across, but it must work. I’m much happier on a mooring.
By way of comparison to Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco Bay is calm, without the crazy loud booming party boats blasting their music while aimlessly motoring around. Such activity may occur down at the hotel-end of Acapulco, but not up here at this end. Here, the pangas are considerate, keep their wake down, the chatter on VHF 16 is minimal in the bay (as it should be, hailing and distress only), people wave at each other, and there’s an afternoon breeze that fills in from along the coast – that breeze helps to cool down the boats on the moorings. There are two “party” boats here, one lives on its mooring just behind of Beetle and they go out for 2 or 3 two hours runs a day, the other (the one with the giant lighted heart) lives on it’s dock near the cruise ship terminal, they go out at least twice an evening
The cruise ship terminal doesn’t look much used, its long concrete side-tie pier occupies one side of the mooring area and the bay’s two-lane ring road parallels the pier. The terminal has a military guard at the entry gate, plus a half-dozen rather fancy looking motor yachts med-tied stern-to at the terminal pier – perhaps these are boats belonging to folks with access to military facilities?
Vicente appeared early the next day with three big blue fuel jugs, 50 liters eaches, plus my three 20 liter jugs filled. He takes them across in his panga to the Pemex station located on the malecon, he and his helper lift the cans up to the walkway, the Pemex is 20 feet away. Clearly this is the fueling mechanism of choice for small boats, the narrow grass lawn in front of the Pemex has quite a collection of dinghies stored there. On board Beetle we siphoned the fuel from the jugs into the tanks and I found he’d brought back 15 liters more than needed, so he left one blue jug with me and took off with the two trash bags that have accumulated on Beetle. I eventually gave the extra fuel to a 52′ catamaran carrying four French folks delivering the boat southbound to Panama, the pulled in for a quick two-night pause on their run south and ended up on the mooring next door.
Later on I stopped at the big Hatteras Vicente works on, and brought my laundry with me – he has a friend ashore that runs laundry through her machine, so it was guaranteed I wouldn’t have clothes go missing at the laundromat. Vicente pointed out the dinghy landing, “very safe, no one will bother you or your boat”, and off I went. The landing is beyond funky, you pull up in your dinghy, tie the painter around an abandoned panga strung between a mooring ball and two brand new huge stern lines run to bollards on shore, pull yourself along the panga until reaching an orange stern line, pull aft along that towards the rough sea wall (this means you’re also dragging the heavy panga along with you towards the sea wall), and at the correct moment you clamber out of the dinghy with one foot on a protruding sea wall rock while hanging onto the orange stern line so you don’t fall backwards into the water while pushing the dinghy away from the rocks with the other foot. Makes for an interesting landing. Climb up the seawall (about 4 feet vertically), avoid the rusty jagged old metal bits poking out from the sea wall, to stand on the sidewalk with your dinghy’s stern line in hand, and at that point feel quite good about making it all the way up in one piece without damaging yourself or the dinghy. This place is definitely made for heavy fiberglass boats that can take a beating against the rocks, not relatively delicate rubber dinghies that get holes poked in them from sea urchin spines or barnacles. To complete the landing you take a turn around the 10″ diameter steel bollard set in the malecon with the stern line, after first attempting to decide if the tide is going out or coming in; get it wrong and you may find your dinghy hanging down the sea wall from the stern line. According to Vicente this is the good, safe landing spot. I’m not keen to find the bad spot!
Ashore Acapulco is a lot of fun; this is definitely the cheap-seats end of town, and as Beetle is the only cruising boat here (most boats stop up the coast at Zihuatenejo) I’m something of a peculiarity to the folks on shore. Not too many blonde haired tie-dye-shirt-wearing people walking about in shorts, white socks, white sneakers along the malecon. There has been some drug cartel violence in Acapulco, as a direct result the cruise ships dropped Acapulco as a port of call, refusing to deposit 2-3,000 visitors onto the streets for a day. The immediate effect is most everyone I see is a local, with a couple of ex-pat Americans tossed in the mix, and the sidewalks are wide and empty making it quite comfortable to go for a walk-about.
Vicente had recommended an Italian restaurant (Mi Paci) situated four blocks away in the Plaza Alvarez public square filled with big green Banyan trees (I think they are Banyan trees). Food was very good, voluminous menu was printed in both Spanish and English, which lead to the funny discussion with the waiter. I wanted a pizza with mushrooms, olives, and sausage – the menu lists “Aceitunas negras – black olives”, so I tried to say “Aceitnuas negras”, most likely mangling the pronunciation. He said, “Yes, black olives. Got it.” I then pointed at the Spanish and asked, “How do you say that?” He said, “that’s black olives.” I looked at him and said, “I *know* that, that’s English! How does it sound in Spanish?” “Ahh..,” he said, then told me I had it about right. Pretty funny here where the locals want to practice their English on you and you want to practice your Spanish on them – leads to conversations where nobody is speaking their native language which means things can get very confused very quickly.
The next day I went for a walk over to the Puerto Capitania’s office to check-in, as I’m supposed to do upon arrival as Acapulco is written as my destination from the Ensenada departure paperwork, but they were closed. Come back between 8:30 and 14:30 the sign on their locked and chained door said. OK, something to do tomorrow morning. So I walked around the area a bit, the streets are busy with car traffic, apparently traffic lights do not mean much so you look both ways twice before hustling to the center boulevard lane divider and waiting for another grap in traffic. The buses are amazing, the little white Collectivo vans drive around with the sliding side-door open – if you’re inside the van be careful not to be tossed out when they make a swerving left turn. The Blue larger more normal buses Vicente told me are for locals, I would not like it – blasting loud music, no air conditioning, they have the places they visit written in large white letters on the front windshield (might say, “WalMart”, for example), they do whatever the driver feels like doing and have super loud horns to announce their presence when they stop along the road to take people on or off. The yellow buses are better, quieter, drivers not so crazy, more defined routes. But – the bus I would want is a green one – those are quiet, no music, air conditioned, and very safe drivers, and use the bus stops so you know where to catch one. I watched the buses go whizzing about and Vicente is most correct, the different colors display different behaviors. There are also tons of taxi cabs, including a whole line of VW Bug hard-top taxis – they go roaring around from place to place.
On board Beetle an issue to solve has been preventing the metal mooring ball I’m tied to from clonking against the hull when the wind goes non-existent, usually late at night, and then the bumping sound wakes me up. I seem to have solved the problem by tying the mooring lines (two dock lines, one each around the mooring eye and back to a cleat) quite short, then adding a third thin line that drops down from the anchor straight onto the mooring ball. Judicious adjustment of the thin line prevents the ball from floating back to bonk the hull, in no wind, and when the wind fills mid-morning the dock lines take the strain and the thin line hangs there doing not much. I slept better last night following several adjustsments.
I asked Vicente after grocery stores in the area, there are two at this end of town: the Chedruai (not a Super), and WalMart (not a Super, either). In his opinion the WalMart was not very good, so I visited both. WalMart has by far a wider selection of foods and goodies and is roughly a half-size Safeway store, at least for a gringo’s taste it was just perfect. The Chedraui not so much and a bit of a disappointment.
I’m back on Beetle by dark or a bit before, so I haven’t seen any night life of Acapulco, can’t comment on that. I dived the hull with the hookah unit and the Remora Solo bush tool, the bottom looks good except for one good size barnacle that had attached itself at the aft port end of the keel – little bugger got removed with the plastic putty knife I dive with. How he got that big that quickly I don’t know, but he’s gone now. And then a dinghy full of divers came over and asked if they could tie to Beetle’s mooring ball as they wanted to dive down and go spearfishing on the sunken Mexican Navy ship directly beneath. I had no idea I was moored over a sunken boat, there’s none mentioned on the chart, I said, “Of course!” and they were in the water with spear guns. They would pull themselves down the mooring line to the wreck, then look about for fishes – it’s deep here, 69′, and they were free-diving to there – pretty impresive. Later I asked Vicente about the wreck and he said, “Si! There’s a big navy ship down there. Lots of good spearfishing on it.” No wonder the cruising books suggest not anchoring close in to this area as there’s a lot of stuff down there to snag with the anchor, particularly after 400 years of people dropping things in the bay.
On the small world front, Vicente had received notice of a 60 foot trimaran with a dead engine 250 miles out and they were pulling in to Acapulco, could he help out? He’s been waiting for them and has a mooring set aside for them, they thought they might arrive that save day, but didn’t. For a boat to go that fast I figured it was probably a race boat and turns out they did arrive two days later, it’s name is Defiant (ne’e Mighty Merloe, Group Ama 2), a carbon-built ORMA 60 originally campaigned by Franck Cammas which won lots of races, then sold and renamed Might Merloe and set the TransPac record at 4 days 6 hours LA to Hawaii, now sold again to Donald – whom I met when he and his wife arrived looking exhausted, the boat banged up, two of the jibs shredded on their furlers, the mainsail in a big pile on the trampolines, and some of the port ama hull coring exposed where the carbon skin is missing. There’s got to be a story in there but Donald and his wife took off with Vicente to get some much-needed sleep. Perhaps I shall see them today, I told Vicente to let them know I’d be happy to help drop and fold sails if they want any assistance.
That brings things up to more-or-less what’s been going on here. The mornings are super-pleasant, the sun climbs up over the hill and the swallow tail birds start flitting about the boat, I’ve got the sun awning up and it is great to sit under (70% sunlight reduction fabric), the wind fills mid-morning and I open up the forward hatch to get airflow through the boat. Then I’ll dinghy ashore and go for a walk, being the old part of Acapulco is great, cobble-stone (through actually brick) roads, or go visit the Fort San Diego overlooking the bay with its cannons (built 1616, then rebuilt1778), it gets hot mid-day so back to Beetle to do some work on the boat (about finished with the Balmar alternator testing), sunset and it’s been a most pleasant day.
One thing I intend to do, simply because it’s the Thing To Do in Acapulco, is visit La Perla restaurant and watch the cliff divers plummet down to the water below. This happens at the next cove over, inside the bay, all I need to do is catch the correct Collectivo (or Taxi) to get to La Perla. Also I visited Acapulco Scuba, the dive shop in Marina Acapulco, and Fellipe listened to what I’m interested in, such as take Beetle around to anchor at a dive site use the dinghy for the dive. He used to his dive map to point out the two best places to do that, both at Isla Roqueta just around outside the bay – he said the coves were safe for anchoring, had good structure for critters, there were 6 great dives right in those two spots, current conditions were a bit of swell right now, probably be much better on Sunday. He pointed out the various wrecks and other spots they dive (perhaps 40+ in all), but most of those require live-boating the dive and wouldn’t work for anchoring; if I wanted to go out with them on their boat he’d could make that happen. Great person to talk with.
Acapulco has turned out to be a great place to visit, good people all around, a most pleasant time. Time to go see what today brings!