Freighters, flu, and fabulous views

Every new area we get to, I say to Will: “This is my favorite place so far!”.  Zihautanejo is no different regardless of the fact that we’ve been here for four days already but have barely had the chance to explore…

We had a great couple of weeks hopping down the coast, spending time Tenancatita, Barra de Navidad, and Las Hadas.  The distance from Las Hadas, in Bahia Manzanillo, to Zihuat is only 190 nautical miles which calculates to one overnight trip.  Easy.

We dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30am on Sunday morning after a sweaty and sleepless night. We pulled up the anchor, motored out of the bay in the dark and had Hydroquest on a fairly direct course by sunrise.

I normally look forward to our overnight passages and am happy to be back out on the open water, but this time both Will and I were feeling awful.  Our heads were pounding and we could hardly keep our eyes open. By mid-morning when the symptons still hadn’t worn off, we realized we must both either have the flu or possibly some intense form of sunstroke.

Being sick at home in December is one thing – it can be nice to hole up in cozy bed with a cup of soup and a couple of movies to watch. Being sick on a boat in the ocean swell with minimal shade in 30 degree heat is considerably less pleasant.  We knew we needed to sleep it off – but, of course, had to keep our watches going all day and into the night.

At 3am I was asleep in the sea berth, momentarily relieved from my pounding head and aching body.

“Sarah, wake up! There’s another freighter. This one’s behind us.” My eyes shot open. He continued, “I need you on deck because I have to call him on the radio.”

There’s no faster way to get a sailor out of bed than to say the word ‘freighter’.

On the coast between Manzanillo and Zihautanejo is Mexico’s largest seaport: Lázaro Cárdenas.  All day and night we had watched huge container ships appear on the horizon and expand in view to finally pass us to starboard as they marched north and shrunk back in size.  We were trying to stay on a course equidistant to land and the busy shipping lane.

Will had been monitoring this specific freighter ever since it appeared on the radar screen as an orange blob about twenty minutes before.  This one was heading south, like us, and appeared to be running a direct course to Lázaro Cárdenas which meant it was veering closer to land – and therefore closer onto our course.

Will got on the radio and hailed ‘the container ship near 17° 54′ North and 102° 36′ West.  “We are Sailing Vessel Hydroquest – do you copy us? Do you see us?”.

Silence on the air.

We cursed ourselves for still not having set up our AIS (Automated Identification System, which shows details of commerical traffic incuding boat name and speed). We decided not to take any chances and made a 90 degree course adjustment that had us sailing straight for land. After ten minutes we could see on our screen that the big black ship was going to safely pass us to starboard half a nautical mile away. It sounds far away, but bear in mind that these freighters can travel at up to 20 knots, which means that they can cross that distance in a minute and a half.

That was our only close encounter.  Who knows if they saw or heard us, or even cared.

The sun finally came up. We took more advil, drank lots of water, and each got a few hours of sleep. On Monday afternoon John and Karen watched us sail into Zihautanejo Bay from a condo on the hill above La Ropa beach.

Four days of rest, sleep, air conditioning, and motherly attention have finally put us back in action and ready to explore this colorful  and active bay.  We have eight more family members arriving in the next week so are glad to be recovered and ready for what promises to be an amazing Christmas!

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