By Robert Hill from the March 2011 Edition
126 Expats had fun yesterday as guests of the Mexican Navy, aboard their ship Manuel Doblado PO 104. Each paid $500 Pesos (about US $ 42.) for the event which raised roughly US $5,000 for the Naval Hospital Auxilliary in Manzanillo. The crew had rigged a large canvas cover over the aft part of the main deck, normally used as a helicopter pad, to provide some shade for those who wished to enjoy the cruise on the few seats available. The Captain of the ship, Comandante Gerardo Almonacid Simancas, took us in a large circle north and south of Manzanillo harbor, not more than 10 miles out to sea, cruising at about 18 knots. Some whales provided entertainment at one point performing some jumps off the port side, during the 2 1/2 hour excursion.
The more adventuresome were allowed to climb all over the ship’s upper decks from stem to stern, including the bridge, where the captain and helmsman kept us on course. Having served on a similar ship (Destroyer) in the U.S. Navy some 55 years ago, I found that negotiating the ladders and hatches between decks was a good deal more difficult than I remember as a twenty year old sailor! Throughout the cruise we were “shadowed” by one of the Mexican Navy’s high speed assault boats with a doctor and paramedic aboard for both security and in case there was a medical emergency requiring someone to return to shore in a hurry.
The 200 ft. Doblado was built in the Alameda, CA shipyards where it was first launched in 1941, and served in the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet during WW II, including the invasion and occupation of Okinawa. In 1973 the ship was turned over to the Mexican Navy in Acapulco, after which it was renovated and modernized by the steelworks at Salina Cruz, in the state of Oaxaca. Since then it has been operating in Mexican waters with a crew of 61.
Manzanillo has become the headquarters of the Mexican Pacific Fleet, however the Navy also maintains bases in Acapulco, Lazaro Cardenas and Ensenada. On the Atlantic side, Vera Cruz is the main Mexican Navy port for it’s Caribbean operations. In total, the Mexican Navy has about 20 commissioned ships, plus many high speed small craft, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Its mission is more similar to that of the U.S. Coast guard, in that it is primarily assigned to protect Mexico’s extensive coastlines. In recent years they have had good success with drug interdiction operations, capturing and confiscating many tons of illegal drugs intended to be smuggled into Mexico by ships and boats.
The armament of the Doblado includes a 3.5 inch cannon, 20, 30 and 40 MM anti aircraft guns, and many automatic small arms weapons. The ships in the Mexican Navy are old, mostly surplus from the U.S. and a few other countries. However, they appear to be well maintained and capable of performing the tasks they are assigned.
After the ship returned and was tied up to the Manzanillo Navy dock, we all walked a short distance to the Officer’s Club where we enjoyed a very good buffet of botañas, carne asada, camarones and other Mexican delicacies. All were impressed with the professional and congenial crew of the Doblado, and had a most enjoyable day.