Sunday, February 15, 2009

27 days in Zihuatanejo

We arrived, set the anchor down and decided we would be in Zihuatanejo for awhile. That decision was easy because while the anchor left its cradle and settled down into the mud we heard metal parts being chewed up. We realized our anchor windlass was not going to raise the 82 pound anchor or the 100 foot of heavy chain and either were we, or I should be honest, Dave.

Our time here was well spent. We had planned to arrive in time for a sailing fest and here we were 2 weeks early. The fest was designed years ago to help build schools in the hills surrounding the area. One of the first things we did was sign up to sell items to raise some of the funds. Linde from Rosebud and I sat at the table often and what a great way to meet people. One day I took a tour of the school we wish to help this year and as you can see by the photos (part of they need much help to create a clean conducive to learning structure. It is amazing to see the children in these humble settings listening to the volunteer teachers and working on their lessons. The fest raises the funds to buy building materials and build stairs to get to the school, the parents volunteer the labor to construct the walls, floors, roof, and bathrooms. We also visited the school built by previous fests and there we found the same eagerness to learn in a solidly built school yard. Los Ninos is the non profit organization that distributes the funds and gets the materials into the hands of the grateful parents and students. If interested, please check out their site. The man in charge of U.S. donations is from Portland, OR and can give you more information.

With less than half of the normal boaters in port for this fest the land base "cruisers" who live here for months at a time, or permanently, went into full battle action getting raffle donations, working the sales booth, setting up a music festival, restaurants, and events. They did a tremendous amount of the work this year. We were lucky to have them on board. Two days before the fest started more boats arrived and volunteers lined up for various jobs. As in past years everyone was treated to the smiling face of Nathaniel, the local dinghy service master who helped us in, and stayed on duty till 10 PM every night. Some crew flew in to be of assistance and thanks to Dean's arrival from Don Quixote, we received our anchor windlass parts. His wife, Toast, had been here with the boat, three daughters and the cat. The three girls had become our morning net controllers and enriched all our lives with their zeal and zestful commentaries each and every morning for almost a month. As we talked often with Don Quixote family, I learned Aeron and I had something in common-we both were awarded the Baja Ha Ha Extreme Snorer Award (I in 2008 and she and her sister in 2009). Such a small world!

A major event early on in the week for the sailors was the Pursuit Race. Adirondack, Jim and Diane, were the official committee boat and did a wonderful job. Ed, from A Cappella, was the statistician with Rene and Annie picking up the other duties. Jammin's Dave joined the crew of Full Quiver and managed the spinnaker as a "grinder" (but this time the parts stayed in one piece) and the crew not only had a great time but won the race on adjusted time. Lou, and the crew on Cirque, crossed the finish line first and it was a great event for all.

Then there was the night of the auction and bids flew as fast and furious as possible. Social events included the meet and greet Parade Day captains and passengers party (organized by Pam on Precious Metal and Bill on Someday). It was followed by musical entertainment. Another money maker and great time was the annual music concert, on Wednesday, featuring at least 5 professional performing groups. We had to miss this as the next morning was our event. Other events during the week were the dinghy poker, organized by Don Quixote, a Chili feed, street fair, and individuals meeting for dinners, drinks, dates for foraging for food and parts, and exploration. Some of us squeezed in a dentist vist to Dr Oliverio Soberanis, Av.5 de Mayo. He speaks a bit of English and had us smiling with bright white teeth in 30 minutes. What a great town this was to be stranded in for 27 days. Every night the square's athletic court was in use and the local people filled in the spaces to view and enjoy each others company. There were so many wonderful restaurants, wine stores, and special finds. We cleared out every packet of Zuko Light watermelon and bought 400+ envelopes of other flavors and CLight products-no more carting boxes of high calorie fruit juice boxes for us!

My responsibility was helping with the Parade of Boats and getting 160 passengers aboard 27 boats in less than an hour using dinghies (small rubber boats that hold 3-4 people plus a driver). With the assistance of many volunteers (Cornelia and Ed, A Cappella; John and Cathy, Mystic Moon; Paul and Erin, Romany Star; Pam and IV, Precious Metal; Mike and Sylvia, Vamoose; Tom Collins and Doug McCloy, Phil, Dave and Sandy Weed, Rick from Cosummate, Annie, etc.) and patient guests we accomplished the task. This event was the biggest money raiser, I believe. What was the best part of this job was greeting the passengers as they returned from a day of sailing. Every face was aglow with sheer excitement and joy. They had the glow of love in their eyes and childish grins as they professed their day to be the best day ever and they will definitely be back next year, or they are in so much trouble as the wife now wants a boat and smiling about that prospect! A surprise outcome was many of the host boaters were invited to their passengers' hotels or condos and treated to dinner later in the week and a chance to swim in their pools.
Saturday was beach day for the school children. Many of them never come off the hill and down to the beach. Life guards were placed in chairs in about 16 inches of water to keep an eye on the overly brave and give confidence to the timid. Tug of War, water balloons, and other games and events gave them a great day of fun and play.
On the Zihu Fest's final day there was time for a few rounds of Mexican Train with Rosebud, A Cappella, and Sue and Bill from Sun Baby. Later there was the Rubber Ducky race organized by Joan and Ted of Panchita and the BBQ. There it was announced that even though there were fewer boats this year, we raised more pesos than last year's group! Yahoo! Great things can be done when the goal is understood and the focus is kept on a positive outcome. Over the following two days birthdays were celebrated, I received a special birthday song from Tom on Dream Seeker who was playing at a local club, and tearful goodbyes were said to all the folks heading north as our plans will be taking us south. With a rebuilt winless in place, Jammin' will lift anchor and be on our way to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama before hurricane season arrives in June.
P.S. We lifted anchor, moved from Municipal to Playa la Ropa (about ¼ of a mile), now known as the Litter Box (three cats are parked there), to clean the 27 day growth off the bottom of the boat and had another round of goodbyes …cruisers sometime have trouble letting go of friends.
If you are making plans to attend next year be sure to go on-line in November and get the calendar of events-some change due to cruise ship days and other considerations-just query Zihuatanejo SailFest. A new web master will be taking over the site later this year.

Helen's entry

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