Hey, man, it’s the 60s all over again! Turquoise and pink and yellow, oh my! Many folks said don’t go to Acapulco, what with all the crime, plus it’s not cruiser friendly. Others disagreed with the nay-sayers, so with time to kill before Guitar Fest in Zihuatanejo what the heck, why not? Entering the bay felt like an instant time warp. Acapulco’s building boom must have been in the 60s and it hasn’t changed since!
Our 24 hour motor sail down was uneventful and included dolphin escorts, but thankfully no tankers or long-line fishermen. One dolphin even thought the hydrovane rudder was pretty cool. We were under sail at the time so it was engaged. I think he liked how Heidi tickled his nose as she made her little adjustments.
That relaxed feeling did a 180 when we reached Acapulco at sunrise. The cruising guide said we could anchor outside the main bay behind Isla de la Roqueta. We thought this would make sense since Google showed (mistakenly, as it turns out) the port captain, with whom we had to check in, located along the walk over the hill between the anchorage and the marinas inside the bay. We wanted to check in, get the lay of the land, and determine the feasibility of spending a few nights docked there. Wrong, wrong, and WRONG!
The sheltered areas of the island anchorages were so full of commercial moorings that there was no room to anchor. Maybe on the south side, but it felt cramped and rough. Fine, we’ll go anchor off the yacht club and marinas, and dinghy in from there. But THAT area was so twisted and jam-packed with mostly-occupied mooring balls and channel buoys that anchoring, or even picking our way through it, seemed impossible. We had no idea where we might tiptoe in to a dock since most everything was difficult med-moor style (anchor or mooring in front, stern tied to the dock), so switched to plan C. Which didn’t yet exist.
Our electronic charts showed no other anchorages and, because one chart was, I thought, an exact match to the page in the Heather and Shawn cruising guide, I didn’t actually go look in the book. Which did show one. There were NO other cruising boats anchored to give us a clue where to go. Luckily, info saved on my computer from a Southbound Yahoo net group discussion suggested a spot on the other side of the navy base from that missing anchorage. We beelined to it 3 miles distant on the far side of the bay – checking in be damned.
Naturally the choice area was occupied by day moorings in front of the tiny public beach, and we didn’t want to cozy up too close to the Mexican Navy base with the 600′ oil tanker med moored in front of it. Ha, imagine being able to anchor a few hundred feet from a US Navy base. Good luck with THAT! We dropped the hook in 40′ of water (usually we anchor in 10′ to 25′) just outside the moorings and breathed a sigh of relief. The oil tanker pulled out shortly after our arrival, leaving us very glad it had been there to be taken into consideration for anchoring.
Well darned if this didn’t turn out to be a wonderful anchorage and we stayed for 5 of our 6 nights. We couldn’t even see the ocean, so no swell from any direction. The nighttime disco music was subdued and only on Saturday night, and there were no mosquitos. Civilization with stores and beaches for dinghy landing started just the other side of the navy base.
There were the usual jet skis and banana boats buzzing about – anchored boats seem to be magnets, giving them objects to buzz around – but you just hold on and wave as you rock and roll. Boats came and went from the moorings bringing a variety of entertainment. Fishermen cast nets for bait fish on the shore. Presumably since it was Saturday night, several locations around the bay, including one right next to us, celebrated our arrival with brief fireworks displays.
The port captain was actually FAR more conveniently located than we thought. I found another anchor spot on the west side, again from the Southbound Group discussion, and on Tuesday we dutifully headed over to find the port captain for check-in. And what to our wondering eyes should appear, but the port captain’s office astoundingly near! An easy dinghy landing at what turned out to be a pretty good restaurant with excellent internet, a walk across the street and up a block, spend 10 minutes, bang, done.
Determined to solve the yacht club/marina/mooring ball puzzle, we headed over to explore by dinghy. The Yacht Club and Marinas were decidedly NOT cruiser friendly and quite expensive. A guard at the Acapulco Yacht Club flatly said NO, there’s no place you can leave your dinghy to go talk to the office. If there even is an office to talk to.
At La Marina we made it to the office, but their price was very high and there were no showers. And no, there is no dinghy day-use option available. Should have thought to ask if they owned any of the mooring balls. But if there are no showers, and we wouldn’t want to make water in a less clean harbor, so what’s the point?
New Marina Santa Lucia was virtually all motor boats med moored to a very high concrete dock. We couldn’t even figure out how to dock the dinghy, much less Vivacia. Finally, I still can’t imagine where we could possibly have anchored. This place must have really filled in since the cruising guides were written. That or we’re just dense or chicken or both.
After our quiet nights over by the navy base, the all-night traffic noise here was a little jarring. But the worst was the mosquitos. Not even sunset brought them out on the east side and we paid the price for our complacency here on the west. It’s not that I mind a few more red sores on my legs. It’s just the burning like fire that makes me gouge the bites in the first place that I object to.
One can’t visit Acapulco without making the pilgrimage to the famous Quebrada cliff divers, so next morning off we went by bus and foot. We paid 200 pesos ($15) each for the best seat, the smallest piña colada, and the worst lunch but hey, it’s all about the show. Thankfully we were there quite early and treated to the unofficial pre-show. As if those guys aren’t nuts enough diving off the cliff, they joy ride in the ravine’s thundering waves to get warmed up!
The walk back to the 100% Natural Restaurant and our dink was only 25 minutes, heck with the bus. Determined to avoid another noisy, buggy night we upped anchor and headed back to our eastern anchorage, this time taking the scenic route close to shore.
What is it with us and tankers, anyway? Timing is everything, and ours couldn’t have been worse as another behemoth bore down between us and our intended anchorage. It was fun to watch them “spin” the tanker on its anchor to swing the stern into the shore for its med mooring position. Next morning that one left, and shortly thereafter another one arrived! Though we were really in no danger, as the bow swung around it felt close enough that Alan turned on the motor to ooch us a little farther away. It’s one thing to know that things on the water are farther away than they appear (opposite from that little sign on your convex rear-view mirror), but quite another to really believe it!
Our great plan to go ashore one more time disintegrated into laziness – you know, we gotta rest up for the big voyage tomorrow back up to Zihuatanejo. And launching the dink is sooo much work!
We definitely want to come back down here as there’s lots we didn’t do. It’s not cruiser friendly – we’re pretty certain we were the only ones there other than Dual Dragons just passing through. It’s so different from anywhere else we’ve cruised in Mexico: huge and crowded and busy. Unlike every other beach we’ve seen, this one isn’t lined with relaxing palapa restaurants. But there’s something that makes us want to do it all again. At night it’s magical, ringed by millions of glittering lights. It feels good to say that now we’ve taken Vivacia from the Canadian border to Acapulco, a 2500 nautical mile (2900 statute miles) stretch of the Pacific coast.
The trip back up to Zihuatanejo was about the smoothest passage we’ve ever had for 22 of the 24 hours. The last two hours turned into 20+ knots on the nose, just to make us appreciate the preceding 22. We’ll be in rolly Zihuatanejo about a month through Guitar Fest in early March. We really got spoiled in Acapulco!