In the month of November leading up to Thanksgiving, we have a running family tradition aboard Yahtzee to go around the table during a meal each day and share one thing we’re thankful for. A couple days after dropping anchor in Manzanillo, Porter’s response at dinner was: “I’m grateful for freedom…” he started, with a pause to collect his thoughts, “…I mean, I’m glad we’re not cooped up in a box to do school and live. Yahtzee can sail anywhere and we can learn, meet new people, swim, play on the beach, snorkel, surf. I’m just thankful for all that.”

Jill and I shot each other a wide-eyed glance, grinned and responded with appreciation that he understood — even in a rudimentary way — what it means to live the fulfilling lifestyle we’re striving to provide for our family. And even though we live in a small space aboard a 40-foot boat that some would consider confining, he doesn’t see it as that. Quite the opposite. He sees it as much more.

Porter skurfing at Playa la Boquita.

In essence, Porter was sharing what all of us were feeling. We’d set sail from Yahtzee’s hurricane hidey-hole in Barra de Navidad earlier that week and, after some slight growing pains, we were all settling back into our cruising life balancing school, work, play, adventure and exploration of a place we’d never been to before. It’s that freedom of the unknown, of what’s new and yet to learn, that captures the spirit of what cruising means to us.

Bahia de Santiago from the top of a peak near Playa La Boquita.

For its part, Manzanillo was a perfect place to get back into our regular cruising routines. Shaped like a 3, there are two bays in the greater Manzanillo area with several anchorages to choose from: Bahia de Santiago to the northwest and Bahia de Manzanillo to the southeast. We started by posting up in the calm anchorage at Playa la Boquita in Bahia de Santiago for five nights with lush green mountains to hike, a long sand beach to walk, and a shipwreck to snorkel over. When not out and about, Jill and the boys started a new school curriculum, I wrote and edited, and we all basked in the water to cool off and get some exercise. At one point, just sitting and listening to them play in the water again brought a huge smile to my face.

From Playa la Boquita, we headed into Bahia de Manzanillo and based ourselves at the anchorage and marina at Las Hadas. A beautiful spot reminiscent of the Mediterranean, the small cove is lined with condos and a few small beaches. We spent several nights on anchor and then opted for three nights at the marina so we could easily run into town for errands and sightseeing, and for a tech to come work on our pesky watermaker. Las Hadas put us just a short taxi ride to the main part of the city and, once there, we weren’t used to the hustle and bustle of all the people and cars or the culture shock of places like Walmart and Home Depot. It didn’t take us long to settle in, but it was nice to retreat back home to the quiet of the boat when we were done.

Yahtzee Med-moored in the marina at Las Hadas.

Covid-19 Disclaimer: We were continually impressed as we ventured around Manzanillo at how many people wear masks and the safety procedures that have been put in place. At bigger stores like Home Depot, Walmart and Soriana (a huge grocery store) only one person per family is allowed in and kids under 12 are not allowed at all. In order to get in you have to do a temperature check, use hand sanitizer, and step on a sanitizing shoe mat. Also, being that the weather is so nice, most smaller markets are open-air and nearly all dining is as well. The bottom line for us is that we felt very safe and didn’t take any unnecessary risks. Also, good on ya Mexico for putting so many precautions in place … and following them.

One of the best parts of being in the city was getting away from the big box stores and exploring a couple of the more unique neighborhoods. To the west of Las Hadas, we spent two evenings walking around Santiago, which definitely had more of a locals feel to it. Lined with fruit and vegetable and meat and seafood stores, we enjoyed some delectable tacos and bought fresh produce to bring back to Yahtzee.

So many good tacos.

Another worthwhile side trip was a cab ride to Old Town Manzanillo. Sticking with the food theme, we were eager to check out the neighborhood’s famous Mercado Municipal Cico de Mayo and were not disappointed. As much a cultural experience as a stop for groceries, the huge market is lined with family owned stalls selling every type of fruit or vegetable you could imagine, fresh meat and seafood, and a whole lot more, all at reasonable prices. The second level of the market has numerous food truck style places to eat but they were all closed, likely due to Covid-19 restrictions. A trip to Old Town wouldn’t have been complete without a stop to see the huge sailfish statue in the main plaza on the waterfront, which serves as a tribute to Manzanillo’s prevalent sport fishing fleet.

The produce section of the Mercado Municipal Cico de Mayo.

After visiting Old Town and returning to Yahtzee, Jill and I relaxed in the cockpit with a cocktail while the boys played down below and Yahtzee swung at anchor in a gentle evening breeze. Reminiscing on our two weeks in Manzanillo, we came to a mutual decision that it was time to move on. Setting our departure date on a whim, we thought, “How about we leave tomorrow?” And with that, we checked the weather, prepared the boat for a hop down the coast and the next day at noon we were off bounding south. That’s the freedom Porter spoke of, and it’s something that we are all immensely thankful to live.

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