March 06, 2011
We’ve been in Mexico since late October and, as of today, not a drop of rain has fallen on us or Touch Rain. I understand this is normal – rainy time comes in May – but I don’t understand how all the palms can still be green.
It has been a relatively lazy time here in Banderas Bay, at least for Michael. He completed a few small projects on the boat, including adding a swivel to the anchor, upgrading the software on our chart plotter, adjusting the auto pilot, etc. At this rate, the boat will be ready for cruising when we return to Olympia in September.
The big items were a visit from Mark and Kathy Swartout – with a wonderful sail across the bay – and a trip south for the two of us and Jordy. We stopped at Chamela, Tenacatita, and Barra de Navidad. Down and back involved overnighters, but very different ones. Going south, the wind was light at our back or on the beam, making for some nice sailing and a fair bit of motoring. Back was a 150-mile slog upwind, bashing into six foot seas every seven seconds in about 15-22 knot winds.
There was some excitement during the return. Aside from the bashing to windward, we ran low on fuel about 80 miles south of PV and focused on sailing as the boats around us tried to motor through the waves. Sailing was better – faster and more comfortable, even if the route was a bit longer. Then again, we did not have a lot of choices.
It is a sailboat, afterall.
Despite spending eight straight hours at the helm watching the waves break over the bow, I (Michael) failed to connect the dots. Water on bow…chain runs through opening to anchor locker…water in anchor locker. Oops. Michael forgot to check the anchor lock bilge pump until Jan shouted – better look at the water in the (deeply heeled) head. So I spent the next hour unloading buckets of water. No harm, no foul. We needed to go through all the lockers, clean them, and see what we had before heading off to Hawaii, anyway.
Now, for the more pleasant side of cruising.
En route, we were overtaken by hundreds of porpoises. They would leap through the waves in groups of a dozen – ahead, behind and to the side of us. Literally as far as the eye could see, the top of every wave was another dolphin. We also saw several humpback whales, flapping their tails to the delight of those who stopped to watch.
Lots of wet landings. Thinking we had licked wet landings, we headed into shore. Jan grabbed Jordy and the backpack and Michael stepped off the stern of the dingy. An unseen wave snuck in and knocked both of us to our knees. Somehow between us we managed to hang on to four items—Jordy’s leash, Jan’s cane, Michael’s backpack and the dingy line. Scrambling to our feet soaked head to foot—we saw an entire group of fisherman looking at us. Much to their credit they managed not to laugh out loud—but you could tell it was close. Luckily the closest beachfront restaurant had no issue serving food to three drowned rats…..
Long before we arrived, we had read about the pampa restaurants along the shore. This area has one of the most well known snorkeling beaches in the area. (called the Aquarium). Unfortunately this area has been closed off to tourists due to a local property dispute—but there is still a fun jungle ride through the mangroves. After navigating the ocean waves to gain access to the inlet we rode our dingy through the mangroves for a good hour or so. We went too late in the day to see much wildlife, but Jan managed to catch a glimpse of a baby croc. The most dangerous sight seen?—a dingy coming around the corner on full plane—the woman on board was too busy lighting TWO cigarettes to even see us before we collided. Thanks goodness we were both in inflatables.
Also thank goodness for dingy wheels—we ended up hauling our dingy around a lot trying to find the best debarcation point. We have managed to master landings (fairly well)—but choosing your moment to push off in surf is still a bit uncertain. The reality is that the surf always looks smoother 200 yards further down the beach…The best story we heard was a couple where the wife got half way out to the boat before realizing that her husband had fallen off the dingy as they pushed off from shore.
Barra de Navidad is a really beautiful spot. Charming town, great lagoon to anchor in, and pangas (water taxis) at your beck and call. Now I know why a lot of people go for a day and stay a month. Initially we anchored at Melaque AKA Rocky Melaque, but when 25-knot winds were forecast moved over to the lagoon at Barra. The lagoon has a very narrow, curvy dredged route, a bit perilous to go in and out of.
Our friend Joel, from Forty Love graciously met us at the entrance and we followed his dingy into the anchorage. There were 62 vessels at anchorage our second day there. Highlights of Barra—The French Baker who comes out to the anchorage every morning selling baguettes and pastries, and the Sands Hotel which allows cruisers to use all of their facilities, including pool side facilities for no charge. Happy Hour daily noon to 7:00 p.m. Two pina coladas for 40 pesos (approximately $3.50)! We could have stayed another month….
After meeting up with Joel and Chris from Forty Love—they told us about a private tennis club which allowed guests to play on their clay courts for 100 pesos per player. This involved a 40-minute bus ride from Barra to Cituatlan. Michael, Chris and Joel played with a fellow from Montreal while Jordy and Jan hung out in the shade. Very civilized place to relax and toss Jordy’s ball for a couple of hours.
La Cruz is the cruiser’s hangout. It is 5-10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta on the bay. There are a lot of medium priced restaurants, taco and barbecue chicken stands and live music pretty much every night. A lot of the musicians definitely grew up in the sixties. There is a lot of white hair, but they still can play. This small town makes Olympia seem like a wasteland when it comes to live music.
Jordy’s Perilous Leap!
One might think that the most dangerous spots for a dog on a sailing adventure would be while underway off shore….not so for Jordy. Her most dangerous moment came when she was safely on land-in La Cruz. Jan was walking close to the dingy dock and tiring of having Jordy retrieve the ball on concrete—started rolling the ball along the ground beside an irrigation ditch. This worked quite well for a time. Jordy happily ran to retrieve the ball returning each time.
In the blink of an eye—the ball took a hard bounce off of a rock—and before either Jan or Jordy had a second to analyze the situation—Jordy FLEW across the (small) concrete wall eager to retrieve her ball.
Imagine both Jan’s and Jordy’s surprise to discover Jordy had jumped over an 8 foot wall into a concrete drainage ditch. Fearing severe spleen damage at the very least —Jan struggled to find a place to rescue Jordy. Some locals passing by showed her how to walk down the sea wall to obtain access to the ditch. Jordy, meantime, stayed (standing) exactly where she had landed—not quite sure what had happened…Happy ending, I am still not sure why—but no damage occurred to limbs or organs. Jan’s theory—that the padding of her life jacket saved her from more serious injury. Lesson #1—no throwing balls in dangerous places—obviously getting the ball back took precedent over staying alive….
Jan heads back to Olympia today for two weeks. We still plan to leave for Hawaii by the end of March.