Adventure on Milagros – A Travel Report

A travel report by Hürzi, who visited Milagros with Chrigi for two weeks.

This time you’ll get to read a blog post from a different writer than usual, as I offered to take over this one. A brief introduction to myself: I am Hürzi, 34 years young, almost always in a good mood and an absolute novice when it comes to sailing. But I am highly motivated to experience new things. Fortunately, I did not embark on this journey alone, but with the professional support of Chrigi. He is also 34 years young, always good-looking and equipped with a sailing license for inland freshwater sailing. We were ready for an adventure at sea.

Where it all began

Years ago, when Pati and Dave told us that they had bought a sailing boat in Mexico and intended to live on it, we were initially amazed. When I asked Dave why, he replied, “There were about 100 reasons against it and about 3 in favor of it. So, the decision was an easy one.” After a brief reflection and, of course, 1-2 beers, we all agreed that it all made absolute sense! The idea to visit them arose relatively quickly. However, it was not until 2023 that it became a reality.

All aboard!

In preparation, we received a packing list from Pati and Dave with many useful but also bizarre items. Decathlon was an excellent point of contact for this. But what on earth were Crocs? After the obligatory Googling, it became clear that we really did need them… (I will explain why later.)

Hello Milagros

Once everything was packed (we did not buy Crocs), flights were booked, pet care was arranged, and our employers were reasonably satisfied with our plans, we were on our way to Mexico to visit Pati and Dave. We arrived at the airport in Puerto Vallarta without any complications, and the two of them greeted us. In no time, we were in La Cruz, a small suburb of Puerto Vallarta, and were able to load our luggage onto the dinghy.

We set off in calm waters in the darkness towards Milagros. Once we arrived on the boat and everything was stowed away, we could familiarize ourselves with the boat, including a crash course on the most important things. After all, a boat’s toilet must be operated correctly. The gentle swaying of the boat was also a bit unusual on the first night, but it became more familiar over the two weeks and gently rocked us to sleep.

Good morning Mexico

We couldn’t miss the first sunrise on the boat, so we unintentionally woke up a bit earlier and witnessed everything around us slowly gaining momentum. Fishermen were heading out to sea, the pelicans and seagulls gliding 3 inches above the water, and the smell of fresh coffee in the boat’s galley. On the first day, we visited a market at the local marina, where everything from the finest Mexican food and vegetables to art paintings and objects was offered. There were also two live bands on site, creating a cozy atmosphere.


On the way back to the boat, waves were already higher than usual, as thermal winds provided a stiff breeze every afternoon. However, Pati managed to maneuver us back to Milagros without getting too wet. But an unexpected wave hit us, and my sneakers were soaked with salty seawater. Pati gave me a sardonic smile and said, “See, that’s why you need Crocs.” (That was Crocs lesson number one.)

The first and only leg of the trip

Having satisfied our cravings for Mexican food and acquiring some souvenirs, we began planning our first leg of the journey. Our final destination, Zihuatanejo (I still can’t pronounce it correctly), was approximately 400 nautical miles away. We planned to reach it in several legs, including some overnight sailing. Our first trip was expected to last about 16 hours. So, we restocked our supplies the next day, and around 3 PM, we hoisted anchor. Prior to our departure, Pati and Dave warned us that we might get seasick. Fortunately, my nausea tablets were safely stored in the sleeping quarters. However, the wind was favorable, and we sailed towards our destination with a pleasant 13-knot breeze and relatively calm waves.

Do we have sea legs?

After about three hours, I had the brilliant idea of fetching my gloves and water bottle from the cabin (my initial preparation was dreadful). This decision caused me to feel unwell, and my complexion turned pale within 20 seconds. Dave quickly noticed and gave me one of his tablets, which took effect just in time. Chrigi remained relaxed throughout the journey and actively participated in sailing. As the temperature dropped after sunset, Pati, with her strong stomach, brought us some warmer clothes from below deck. Just as we were changing, a larger wave hit the boat, and Chrigi’s “nausea-free-since-03” record was ruined. Nevertheless, hats off to Chrigi for bouncing back and being 100% ready for action within minutes. I had never seen anything like it before.

An unpleasant surprise

Even after switching to motor power, the next few hours were peaceful, and the night sky became even more beautiful with stars illuminating it. The light pollution was zero. However, Pati surprised us with the news that the shaft seal was leaking pretty badly. Uh-oh… We had to choose between continuing on without knowing how well-equipped the nearby villages were for repairing the damage or turning around and heading back to La Cruz. We unanimously decided to return to familiar waters and deal with the significant problem. However, since there was no wind, it took about five hours of motoring to return. We were rewarded with rare and stunning green-blue bioluminescence in the water. Chrigi kept a vigilant eye out in the darkness and spotted another vessel to avoid. We returned to our old anchorage around 4 am and deserved some rest and sleep after the obligatory anchor beer.

Damage assessment and boat projects

The next day, we examined the damaged seal more closely and it was clear that it needed to be replaced. Since there were still 2 spare seals readily mounted on the shaft, this was theoretically feasible. However, could it be done with the boat in the water or did the boat need to be taken hauled out? Fortunately, we were not the first to ask this question. And with 2 quotes for hauling out for 15 minutes at $1,000 each, the decision was clear – it should be done in the water. But the preparation for it would take some time.

Small projects here and there

In the following days, we devoted ourselves to various boat projects. Chrigi and Pati decided to install a second bilge pump while they were at it. Dave and I worked on the boat’s electrical system. In case any readers ever have to do this: boat electrical systems do not follow rational physics and like to mislead you by principle. Since we were already so actively implementing several projects, we also changed the oil in the dinghy engine, repaired chipped drawers (fortunately for me with water-soluble glue), and laid a new hose for the bilge pumps through the interior of the boat.

The big moment

The replacement of the shaft seal also went smoothly. First, I sealed the shaft from the outside with toilet bowl wax. Then Pati and Chrigi changed the seal with almost no water ingress. Dave kept an eye on all of us, so that none of us deviated from the plan. After 15 minutes, that was done and we started the rest of the day in good spirits.

Meeting nice people

Our unexpected stay in the same place also had many beautiful sides. Chrigi and I were able to get to know other sailors as well. Hazel and Paul from SV Susimi were the first. The four of us explored the nightlife of La Cruz and found many delights while Paul shared some of his sailing adventures. Of course, a big topic was their upcoming Pacific crossing. Just imagine not having any land around you for about 30 days. Scary stuff. But the two of them were in good spirits.

Settler battles

On another lovely evening, Holly & Saxon from SV Sonrisa II and Brooke from SV Akhlut came over to Milagros for a delicious sushi dinner and stories from the Australian sailing community. After dinner, an intense game of Settlers of Catan ensued. This is never easy against Catan grandmaster Pati and can take several hours and nerves. At this point, cheers to everyone from cold and rainy Switzerland.

Pati’s 27th birthday (again)

During our time on board, we also celebrated Pati’s birthday. In secret, Dave, Chrigi, and I had thought about how we could make Pati happy on that day. Our choice fell on a homemade marble cake, a morning of surfing at the beach, lunchtime beers in the shade at the beach, and a fabulous dinner at a fancy restaurant. The day was a complete success, and Pati showed us boys how to behave as future surfing hopefuls from Aesch.

A wake-up call

Once again, the advantage of Crocs over sneakers became evident on the beach. While I tried not to get half of the beach into my shoes, Pati and Dave marched ahead carefree (Hello… Crocs wake-up call number 2).

Starboard, knots, and what the heck is luffing?

By now, it was clear that I should use the time on board to expand my non-existent knowledge of sailing and boats in general. Pati gave me “Sailing for Dummies” for this purpose. A book written as if it were written for me. With simple words and basics 😀 So I could finally participate a little in these conversations and over time, I understood what the three were talking about when they switched to sailor slang.

On to new, deep shores

With most of the pending projects completed, we wanted to test them out. So, we took some short trips in the huge bay of Puerto Vallarta and got to see some of the wildlife Mexico has to offer. Just 200 meters away from us, four humpback whales were leisurely swimming around. Even though we were only traveling at 4-5 knots, a school of dolphins (including a small baby dolphin) joined us and had fun swimming with our boat for about 20 minutes. Everything seemed to be working well after the repairs. The new seal wasn’t 100% tight, but it was much better and more reassuring than before.

It’s deep

We also decided to anchor in the bay of Yelapa for two nights. Well, in the loosest sense of the word “anchoring”… At our assigned spot in the bay, the depth was indicated as 44 meters (150 ft), about 50 meters away from the shore, which speaks to an extreme gradient. It was crazy compared to the 5–6-meter depth in La Cruz. Our anchor chain was nowhere near long enough for 44 meters. So, we had to grab onto a buoy. Now we really felt the waves from the Pacific, so we decided to set a stern anchor.

The stern anchor is no bueno

However, said stern anchor decided to drag in the middle of the night, triggering the anchor alarm. Pati and Dave put in a spontaneous hour of nightly work. They retrieved the anchor so professionally that Chrigi and I slept through it all. The sight of the stern anchor on board and our boat having turned 180 degrees did cause some surprise for us the next morning. But the next anchoring attempt worked perfectly.

Beautiful Nature

During the two days in Yelapa, we took great walks into nature and the village itself. The path to the waterfall was beautifully winding along the entire valley with a little river flowing in its center. Luckily, I had worn my sneakers…until the first spot where we had to cross the river without a bridge, it was definitely the right decision. While Pati and Dave leisurely strolled through the water in their Crocs, Chrigi and I tried our luck with the large stones in the riverbed.

We managed to cross to the other side with dry feet in a clean Frogger-style. “Harharhar!” Crocs are not a must. This time we won over the Croc-wearers…well, at least for the next 500 meters. Then we had to cross the river again, but without the help of big stones this time. We had to take our shoes off and put them back onto our wet feet. (Mhhh. Maybe Crocs would have been a good idea after all? Crocs wake-up call No.3)

A beautiful hike

We were rewarded with a delightful and refreshing freshwater bath at the waterfall. And on the way back, we even saw wild parrots heading towards the sea. We decided to walk back a little bit in the river. Our feet were already wet anyway. Same scenes as before. The two Croc-wearers walked ahead enjoying nature, while we barefoot people had to be careful not to step on sharp stones, giant spiders, or dead toads. (Heaven, I got it! Crocs would have been very useful for this vacation. It took four Crocs wake-up calls to figure it out).

The day ended with a delicious meal and beer at a restaurant. The sunset that evening left us speechless, and we began to understand why people are drawn here. We also enjoyed the second day exploring the village. We discovered some hidden hotels, small restaurants, and a construction site that was still supplied with donkeys and mules. What a sight in today’s time.

A close call

On our second to last day, we sailed comfortably with 11 knots of true wind back to La Cruz, so there was no rush on our return day for Chrigi and me. Even a humpback whale waved its tail fin cheerfully at us from a distance on the starboard side. Everything seemed to be working wonderfully. However, as we were about to switch to the motor after hauling in the mainsail and the jib just before La Cruz, the motor did not start as usual. When Pati shouted from below deck, “There’s a fire in the engine room,” a little bit of panic set in for each of us. The motor stop button also did not work as intended.

What now?

Since I knew the least about engines, I stayed at the helm and steered us in the direction where we had the most room to maneuver. Pati, Dave, and Chrigi tried various ideas to turn off the motor. With a diesel engine that runs and doesn’t want to shut down, it’s not an easy task. Suddenly, Pati jumped into the cockpit and pressed the motor’s shut-off button again, which luckily had an effect. Silence from below. But what now?

Report on the situation

First, a report on the situation. It quickly became clear that there was no fire, thankfully, but rather some oil had vaporized, causing the smoke. The problem was identified as the starter motor, which was likely stuck when starting and did not disengage after the engine started. This caused the starter motor to heat up and explain the smoke. Additionally, because the starter motor relay prevented simultaneous use of the stop button while it was engaged, we now understood why our first attempt to stop the motor was ineffective. So, we tried again. This time, everything worked smoothly without any smoke, and we headed back to our old anchorage. We definitely deserved a celebratory anchor beer this time.

Until next time

The day of departure had arrived, and it was time to say goodbye. The two weeks had passed by faster than expected. We loaded our practical duffel bags onto the dinghy and headed to the La Cruz marina to enjoy one last fresh seafood meal. We discussed the last few days and exchanged our impressions one more time. Chrigi and I would like to say thank you for allowing us to experience this adventure, even though it didn’t go as planned, it was simply perfect.

Lastly, the two of them ordered us a taxi, and after a proper goodbye hug, Chrigi and I headed back to Switzerland without any major issues. Well, almost problem-free, but that’s another exciting story.

Cheers, Hürzi

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