Thursday, February 28, 2013

North around Cabo Corrientes

The weather reports were showing some improvements toward the end of the week. We had discussion and decided to make the run around Cabo Corrientes on Thursday night. It is approx 96 miles from Chamela and we estimated the time to La Cruz at around 16 hours.

Our departure was 9 PM from Chamela as we motor sailed around Punta Perula and turned north. The wind built to 20-25 kts and seas continued to build from 6 foot swells to possibly 8 foot with a 5-6 second spacing. Wind waves gathered on top of the swell to form steep sided walls of water which we took on the nose. The maximum winds were 30 kts with occasional gusts as we approached Corrientes. We had been motoring at 80% RPM with a reefed main making 4-4.5 kts. The 16 hour run was now looking like it would be around 20 hours into the late afternoon as we approached Cabo Corrientes. Once we rounded the point the winds dropped to 21 kts. We shook out the reef, unfurled the jib and made 7.5 kts across Banderas Bay under full canvas to the La Cruz anchorage. It felt wonderfully secure and absolutely exhausting when we dropped anchor and settled for the night.

The next morning we went into the marina at La Cruz to clean up the boat and take care of the typical boat chores. The biggest item was washing the boat and removing all the salt from surfaces, dropping laundry at the lavanderia and washing the rugs onboard. We met up with cruising friends and had some street meat and beers downtown La Cruz. We were able to discuss the passage with the crew from Distraction that sailed down with us from Chamela. We could see their navigation lights most of the passage about 1-2 miles off our beam. One of the crew members said she came up for her watch during the night. All she could see was a wall of water coming over the bow and her only thought was “Oh my god!” They arrived about an hour ahead of us in La Cruz. They have a very fast boat but I think over all we had a smoother ride and stayed a lot drier on Talos IV.

The balance of time in La Cruz has been spent going to the Sunday market, visiting Punta de Mita (a bus adventure) and visiting with others at the dock. As I write this entry we are relocated to a new marina in Puerta Vallarta at Paradise Village. Paul wanted to come over here to have easier access to some of the marine suppliers and Home Depot. Tomorrow we need to get some boat supplies in town. Afterward we can enjoy the classy resort pool which has a crocodile slide! Once again we are watching the weather for the north bound trek. The plan is to leave on the next window and head for Chacala.

Hanging out in Chamela before our departure north.
The crew from sv Distraction, Vallerie, Kyle and Don.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tenacatita Re-visited

We had flat seas with minimal wind as we motored from Cuastecomate to Tenacatita.  There were about 17 sailboats at anchor when we arrived. We recognized many from Barra and points north.

The first night we arrived was the “Mayors’ Raft-up”. The cruisers anchored at Tenacatita have an unofficial social networker that brings the bocce balls, volleyball stuff and dominoes for ‘Mexican Train” to shore daily for the enjoyment of all. The raft-up is a gathering of all cruisers in their dinghies sharing appetizers and stories for about two hours or until the hehenees start biting.

This stay has been physically grueling for both of us. The group has daily swims to shore, volleyball in the sand, bocce ball, Mexican Train in the bar and beach walking. We have participated in all things physical as well as the mental exercise of Mexican Train. We are feeling like we are finally getting a good physical workout. A dinghy escort normally goes with the swimmers so they don’t worry about getting run over by a panga . The swim is not competitive. Yesterday I shared a boogie board with Patricia from the PSC “Paloma”. It was a fun “girls time”. We floated and talked and laughed all the way to the beach while Paul did circles in the dinghy protecting us from harm.

On one day, we pulled anchor early and motored to the “Aquarium” which is a lovely protected cove just around the corner. We dropped anchor and snorkeled about ¼ mile to the reefs. We saw good sea urchin colonies, eels, blow fish and lots of pencil fish. The town on the shore had been abandoned, so when we got tired we swam to shore and walked the deserted beach. We then swam back to the boat. The town is like a modern day ghost town. It’s a little creepy. I’m not sure what happened here but there were some police or security guards sitting around in the shade watching. When we got ready to leave we did the lazy sailor sail back to the anchorage by flying jib alone. It was great!

We had some new arrivals on our return and the social scene was going strong on the beach. We set anchor and got back into the water to swim ashore. The palapa on the beach had some cold te helado which was our reward.

On another day, we made a run into La Manzanilla for supplies before heading north.  We met with Don, Valerie and Kyle from the s/v Distraction. They came over by dingy and attached a tow line to the stern of our dinghy. We motored to La Manzanilla in Talos IV towing both dinghies for our provisioning before the next leg north. The seas were settled when we arrived at our destination which was about 3 miles across the bay. After setting anchor we split up and dinghyed to shore. La Manzanilla has a reputation for being a challenge for dinghy landings. Paul and I had successfully landed dinghy before on our way south so we were not as nervous as the first time. We made a safe arrival and met up with our friends for breakfast before the provisioning. After breakfast we made quick work of getting supplies and were ready to head back to the boat just as the swell, wind and departure anxiety were increasing. All went well with our prep work except that we miss judged the last wave and unfortunately took some sea water over the bow when we didn’t lift her bow fast enough. This soaked some groceries and made a sandy mess of things but was not much more of a problem than that. Paul got the engine running, Val and I jumped in from hip deep surge and off we went to the boat. I was relieved that we made it. We had about $90.00 usd in groceries including 20 liters of purified drinking water, a case of beer, beef steaks, gourmet pot pies, imported cheese and a case of Fuze brand ice tea (Paul’s latest addiction). On the way back we hoisted the sail and had a great run across the bay with 20kt winds. Kyle, Don and Valerie all got a chance to take the helm and play around a bit. When we set anchor back at Tenacatita I swam ashore while Paul escorted me in the dinghy. We met up with the rest of the cruisers on shore gathering for bocce ball and conversation at the palapa. 

A wind weather window is expected to open up around the end of the week.  We’ll stage ourselves at Chamela for the run around Cabo Corrientes into Bahia Bandaras and La Cruz.

There were mostly deserted buildings along the beach
at the "Aquarium".
The "Aquarium" lived up to its name, with some
fantastic snorkeling along the rocks.
The Friday night raft up led by the self designated
mayor of Tentacatita.
Another incredible sunset as the fisherman head
out in their pangas.
Paul on deck enjoying the sunset.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Return to Barra and Cuastecomate

Anchoring in the Barra Lagoon was a bit tricky.  As we motored around the anchorage, the depth below our keel hovered between zero and two feet.  There was one stretch when the depth sounder held at a steady zero and we both thought for sure that we were going to ground out in the soft mud.  We found what we think was the deepest spot in the anchorage, a whopping 2.5 feet, and dropped the anchor.  Janet was at the bow and Paul was at the helm.  He held up two fingers in response to her question of how deep is it.  Normally that means 20 feet and it caused a moment of confusion.  As we were at or near low tide, we had a good feeling that we would not go aground.  To ensure that we didn’t drag in the soft mud, we put out 85 feet of chain.  Perhaps a bit of over kill, but everyone we talked to said that the lagoon was notorious for boats dragging anchor.  We spent three wonderful days in the lagoon with no issues.

Each morning we were greeted by the French Baker delivering his scrumptious baked goods to the boat.  Our typical day included a run into Barra for coffee and provisions via dinghy or water taxi and just to walk about the town.

A fellow yachtista from Seattle, Don Johnson, met up with us and we shared dinner one night and then ventured into Melaque the following night for a bit of Blue Grass at Tazza Negra, the local coffee roaster.  Don was to have sailed his boat down from Seattle, leaving in mid-June, but off the coast of Oregon encountered problems with high seas and winds, as well as a crew that was unable to tend to the boat due to sea sickness and after a call to the Coast Guard they came out and actually towed them back to Neah Bay.  Don had suffered a concussion during high seas, but the boat was largely undamaged.  He has since sold the boat and is now visiting Mexico by commercial airline, train and bus.  Our paths just happened to cross in Barra.

Before heading out again for our journey north, we went back into the marina for three days.  The stop allowed us to stock up on provisions, water and fuel for the trip.  Of course, we managed to find time to hang at the resort pool for an hour or so each day.  We also had several impromptu dock gatherings with the other boaters in the marina.  It is always a fun way to wrap up a day.

The city of Barra de Navida taken from the upper
levels of the Grand Bay Resort.
In the foreground, Isla Navidad Marina (Talos IV is tied
up on the opposite end of the long dock on the left).
Barra Lagoon in the background.


We finally decided it was time to go and motored out of the Barra Marina, setting our compass heading on Cuastecomate.  The anchorage is only about 4 miles across Bahia Navidad, so the run only took about an hour.  We dropped our hook in about 15 feet of water just off the beach and the small town of Cuastecomate.

Our original plan had been to do a little snorkeling, but the seas were up a bit from the winds that had been blowing the past few days and the water clarity seemed marginal.  That said, we spent the day relaxing on the boat and reading.

Tomorrow we will depart for Tenacatita.

The small village of Cuastecomate.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ensenada Carrizal

Since we had a few days to kill before our part for the satellite radio arrived we decided to make a quick run down to Ensenada Carrizal.  Carrizal is a small bay about 20 miles south of Bahia Navidad.  It is known for its relative seclusion and good snorkeling.

We were able to sail all the way from just outside the Barra marina to Carrizal in light to moderate winds of 9 – 15 knots.  Seas were light and we were making a good 6 plus knots.  Once we arrived, we found four other boats already anchored, but there was plenty of room for us.  We did our usual anchor scheme and motored past all of them up to the head of the bay and dropped our anchor in about 20 feet of water just off the beach.  For some reason, most boats don’t get in close, which is all right by us since it usually leaves a large area for us to sneak in.

After our arrival, we spent a quite night on the boat.  The following day we ventured out to do some snorkeling.  We were able to go right from the boat and swam over to the rocks about 100 feet or so off from us.  We saw lots of fish and hard corral and had then swam over to the beach for a break.  After that we headed back to the boat.  We decided to watch a movie and spent the evening relaxing.

The next morning we pulled anchor and headed back to Barra.  This marks the bottom of our trip for this year.  From this point, we will be heading back north.  Our journey further south will have to wait until fall.  Winds were too light to sail and besides what wind there was, was right on our nose, but motoring always makes for a quick trip back.  The highlight of the run in was a whale sighting just off our bow as we entered Bahia Navidad welcoming us back into the bay.  We are now anchored in the Barra Lagoon.  We plan to be here for 4 or 5 days before we head north.

Sorry, no pics.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Barra de Navidad

We hoisted the main sail before pulling anchor in La Manzanilla. It was a perfect departure with 10-15 kts of wind on a close reach to close haul all the way to Barra de Navidad. It was one of the better days of sailing.

We entered the Barra de Navidad channel with a  pretty good surf smashing up against the breakwater entrance. Once inside things were well protected and the marina was easy to navigate into. We would be at the marina for a week while we relaxed and visited Barra and Melaque.

The temps here have been unseasonably warm, at least 4-5 degrees warmer than normal per the locals. The key to enjoying ourselves was to do our exploring in the early day and hide out at the pool in the afternoon.

My cousin Laurie lives part time in Barra with her husband Chris. We went about town the first day or so meeting the locals and always the subject of having a cousin in town came up in conversation. It became clear that the places we were visiting were also places where my cousin was known. We would not link up with Laurie and Chris for a day or two since we had many chores to attend to. This left some time to hang out at the local espresso shop. The owner of the espresso shop is good friend with Laurie and Chris. We were asked to play a practical joke on Chris when we met up with them on Friday night. It was all in fun with Paul delivering the set-up flawlessly when we joined them at their home for dinner. It brought the house down in laughter. Chris and his friend Brit put together a huge feast of fresh ahi sushi and a variety of other sushi and sashimi delicacies. We enjoyed watching the sunset from their palapa on the beach and hearing their impressions on living in Mexico and the result of the many earthquakes and storms to have passed thru this region. While we were sitting enjoying our drinks an older gentleman smoking a big cigar rode by on a beautiful horse. He stopped when we said hello. He is the retired mayor of Bellingham, Washington, era 1985. Yep…this is a funky little place.

Pretty much anything you could want you can find in Barra. The secret is to ask the locals. We went by bus to Melaque to get some money and do some exploring. The bus ride was pretty quick but I felt that the town did not offer anything Barra couldn’t provide, except the bank. We don’t get pesos except from ATMs located within a bank.

We got together with the cousins and a group of their friends for the Super bowl at a local eatery “Ramon’s” It was a great time with lots of food and fun. By the time we had done all the socializing this week we are recognizing people as we walk thru town.

The one thing that I did not mention was the French Baker. This is one of the funky things about Barra. The artisan baker bakes fresh pastries early morning. He then delivers them to you boat by Panga. Early morning you will hear a gentle bell ringing and a French accent announcing his arrival. We have had chocolate croissants, Danish and special breads all delivered directly to the boat. Each choice was equally wonderful. I wish all marinas had a French baker.

Tomorrow we are going to leave for a few days and head to a small cove south of Barra. We will return to Barra and anchor off until the 9th or 10th. We need to pick up an antenna splitter for our XM radio from another boater who has gone to San Diego for a few days. Once we have that installed we will begin our trek north towards the Sea of Cortez. I’m hoping we can get XM radio again.

Talos IV at the Grand Bay Marina in Barra de Navidad.
Yep, the marina fee included the use of the facilities and
most importantly the pool.
Ding, ding ... the French Baker had arrived with our
morning croissants.
We couldn't decide which we liked best between the
chocolate croissants or these tasty little
danish, so we had them both on alternating days.
We found this Tostaderia or as we like to call it,
a Chiparia where we bought fresh chips almost
every day.
The La Bruja coffee shop was one of our favorite hangs.
We managed to score this table virtually each
time we stopped for our espresso fix.
This grand old tree marked one of the major intersections
in Barra.  It was simply known as the tree corner.


We left Chamela mid morning and motored out and around the islands that mark the entrance to the bay.  Winds were calm and our plan was to motor the relatively short distance of 8 miles to Paraiso for the night.  As we rounded the islands the winds picked up and continued to build until it was blowing a solid 25 knots from the SE, the direction we were heading.

We stayed the course and plowed into the building wind waves and worked our way into Paraiso for what we thought was going to be a great day of swimming and snorkeling off the reefs that line both sides of the small bay.  Once in, we dropped the anchor in about 12 feet of water.  The sides of the bay were only about 100 feet on either side of us with large waves breaking over the reefs. While we were firmly anchored in relatively calm water, we both felt uneasy about staying here.  It just didn't feel right.  Up came the anchor and we were off to Bahia Tenacatita, another 22 miles south.

The winds were still blowing hard right on our bow and Talos was only making about 3.5 knots as we plowed into the wind and waves.  We considered turning back, but after evaluating the distance and estimated time en-route, we determined that we could make it in before dark.  We try our best to not enter into a new anchorage after dark.  We hoisted the main sail to see if we could squeak out a bit of speed and were able to gain about a half a knot.  This proved to be the right strategy as the land fell off more and more to the east, the wind came around to our starboard side and we eventually unfurled the jib and were sailing on a close haul.  The motor was shut down and we were sailing.  We sailed the last 8 miles or so into Bahia Tenacatita.  We worked our way back into the far north corner of the bay, found the anchorage and dropped our anchor along with about 15 other boats.  Tucked back behind the headland the winds were calm.  As soon as we had the boat secured we were in the water cooling off in the 81 degree water.

The next morning we put the dinghy in the water for the much anticipated jungle tour up the estuary.  It was a grand outing.  The entrance to the estuary was just off from where we were anchored.  We had to negotiate the incoming waves to the beach that lay just to the north of the estuary entrance and then we were in.  The estuary, lined with mangroves was about 50 feet wide at the entrance, but soon narrowed to maybe 15 feet.  Birds were everywhere.  They would sit there very calm until just before you reached them and then away they would go.  Further in the mangroves continued to close down on us and at times we had to duck to get under the foliage.  Finally, we reached the end at a point where the mangroves just closed in so tight you couldn’t go any further.  We turned around and made our way back out to the beach where we stopped and had an amazing lunch at the palapa restaurant on the beach.

The following day we pulled anchor and sailed across the bay to La Manzanilla, a small town on the south east corner of the bay.  We anchored off the beach and spent two comfortable nights.  The town wasn’t much, but it did have several small abbarotes to help restock the cupboards and as luck would have it a great little espresso shop with wifi.  Mexico is a wonderful place.

While at La Manzanilla we had many opportunities to perfect our beach landings and re-launches in the swell and breaking waves.  Janet said she thought we were going to die, but it really wasn’t that bad.  A bit wet, but who cares when the outside air temp is 85 degrees and the water temp is 81 degrees.  Far from expert dinghy landers, we now feel a bit more confident and knowledgeable about the process.

Tomorrow we are off to Barra de Navidad.

Talos IV in the Tenacatita anchorage.  The estuary
entrance is to the right.
Lined with mangroves, the estuary was fairly wide,
but narrowed as you went further in.
There were a variety of birds along the estuary.
The mangroves lining the estuary began to close in
on us as we went further in.
Janet contemplating the menu at the palapa
restaurant on the beach.