Sunday, March 27, 2016


March 13, 2016

I dragged myself out of bed at 04:30 and got Don up by 04:45.  We had stowed the dinghy upon our return the previous night, so all we had to do was make coffee and pull up the anchor, which we managed to do smoothly despite pitch darkness making it hard to see hand signals.  We headed out of Zihua Bay by 05:15 and cleared the mouth of the bay by 05:30.

It was very dark, so we gave the islands off Ixtapa a wide berth.  We rounded Punta Ixtapa at dawn and headed for Lazaro Cárdenas.  A power plant was pouring a cloud of yellow smoke into the morning sky, but all was quiet.  It was Sunday and there wasn’t any ship traffic.
Dawn off Ixtapa

Don took the helm at 09:00 as we passed Lazaro Cárdenas.  It wasn’t windy and there was no swell to speak of, but we were only making 4.5 knots, instead of our usual 5.5.  We suspected this was due at least in part to a dirty bottom, since it had not been cleaned since La Cruz.  We started to worry that we would not make Caleta de Campos before dark.
Lazaro Cardenas

I came back on deck at 13:00 and the wind had picked up.  We were making good time, but heeling a lot, so we put in a reef.  We sailed for a couple of hours, enjoying the quiet, but had to turn the motor on when we dropped below four knots.

Don came on at 17:00 and I made hot wings and a mango jicama salad at 18:00.  By this point, it looked like we wouldn’t reach Caleta de Campos until midnight, so we decided to head straight for Las Hadas.  I took the helm while Don did dishes and then he was ready for a nap.  Our watch schedule had decayed.  I took a few minutes to put on warmer clothes and prepare for a night watch and then took over at 20:00.  My watch passed uneventfully.

March 14, 2016

I started the day with the 04:00 – 08:00 watch.  It was quiet and we were making better time, but the autopilot couldn’t seem to counteract the weather helm and I had to correct the course every few minutes.  Don had set the timer on his phone to go off every 16 minutes and the first time it went off I wondered how the cricket got on the boat until it dawned on me it was the alarm.
Sunrise off Punta Negra

It began to get light about 06:00 as we rounded Punta Negra.  The sunrise was spectacular.  Don took over at 08:00.  I made bacon and eggs and coffee and then napped for a couple of hours until I took the helm again at noon.  With just two people aboard, afternoons are often the only time we are both awake.  This is handy, since it is also usually the time with the most wind and the most active sailing.  Don stopped the motor and checked the oil while we proceeded slowly under sail.  Then we spent a very pleasant afternoon, companionable motoring up the coast, letting the balmy air caress our hides until we spotted the evil, pollution spewing power plant that marks the entrance to Manzanillo Bay.  We were racing the sun to Las Hadas.  It turned out to be a tie, as we dropped anchor right at twilight.

Awful Power Plant in Manzanillo
At Anchor in Manzanillo Bay

March 15, 2016

Our long passage behind us, we took our time getting up and drinking our coffee.  Most of the other boats in the anchorage left before us.  We finally headed out about 10:30.  I tried to practice the guitar during Don’s watch, but the motor was so loud, I couldn’t hear well enough to tune the guitar.  I did play for a while to toughen up my fingers, but I have no idea how it sounded.  I came back on deck when my watch officially started at noon.  The weather was slightly overcast and cooler than usual, so we passed another very pleasant afternoon motoring up the coast, about a mile and a quarter off the beach.  We passed the Manzanillo airport, halfway between Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad and then rounded Punta Graham and sailed into Bahia de Navidad.

We arrived at the marina about 15:30.  After checking in with the office, I headed straight for my first real hot shower in almost two weeks.  Shortly after I returned to the boat, I was visited by my friend, Karen, who had been living in Barra for almost four years.  Her daily photos of sunrises in Barra had sustained me during the time I was stuck at home and terribly away-from-homesick for Mexico.  We wandered back up the dock so that I could visit her cat, Bubba, a gorgeous Maine Coon who took his job as watch cat very seriously.

Comet in Barra de Navidad

After my visit with Karen, Don and I caught a water taxi over to the town of Barra de Navidad for dinner.  We ate at Loco Loco, fondly referred to by cruisers as, “Pizza in the Tree,” because of its second floor location adjacent to a large Huanacaxtle tree.  The ambiance of the place surpassed the quality of the food, but the pizza was decent, if a little bland.  We liked the Italian style thin crust.  The cabernet was thin, but it was nice to drink wine for a change.  After dinner, we walked around town for a while and had ice cream at the Thrifty ice cream store.  After picking up a few supplies at a convenience store, we took the water taxi back to the marina.
Barra de Navidad

March 16, 2016

I had lain awake until 3 AM the night before, so didn’t get up until after 08:30.  We passed a leisurely morning, drinking coffee and surfing the internet.  Karen stopped by for a visit.  Eventually, Don left to go check in with the port captain while I stayed behind to practice the guitar and work on my much neglected blog.

Karen fixed us up with Beto, one of the water taxi drivers who also cleans boat hulls.  He was due to come at 16:00, so I hung around the boat, writing and editing photographs, until Don came back and then headed up to the hotel lobby where the WiFi was fast enough to upload photographs.  Beto came and did a nice job of cleaning our very dirty bottom for $1/ foot.  Karen visited me in the lobby and we talked for quite a while.  Then I finished my blog entry and returned to the boat about 20:00.
Water Taxi in Barra de Navidad

Don and I decided to go to Barra and eat dinner at one of the Taco places we had seen the night before.  We took the water taxi across.  I had looked for my fleece before we left, but couldn’t find it.  The night was balmy, however, and I didn’t need it.  We ate at El Pastorcito, where we got a plate of five (small) tacos al pastor for 40 pesos.  It was your usual tacos on the street sort of place, but the food was tasty and plenty filling for under $4 per person including beer.

After dinner, we went for a walk around town.  As we were headed back to the water taxi dock about 22:00, a woman approached us on the street.  She asked us if we had eaten at Loco Loco the night before.  When we said yes, she reached into her bag and produced my missing fleece.  No wonder I couldn’t find it.  I had left it at the restaurant.  As that fleece was the only warm clothing I had with me, I was overjoyed to see it again and amazed that she had tracked me down.  Her kindness brought tears to my eyes.  Some people worry about my safety in Mexico but, actually, my experience is almost always that strangers go out of their way to help.

March 17, 2016

St. Patrick’s Day was supposed to be our last full day in Barra, so we used it to do boat chores.  Don   cleaned the paddle wheel on the knot meter, which had become fouled and hosed off the anchor chain which had developed stinky growth while we were anchored in Zihuatanejo.  I hosed off the boat and we filled the water tanks.  We kept a couple of collapsible water jugs and a sun shower on deck to use for shower water.  These had grown a lot of algae on our trip south, so I cleaned them as best I could and then covered the filled jugs to discourage further growth.  I spent part of the afternoon uploading photos to my blog until the WiFi quit on me.

In all of Mexico, only the little towns around Barra de Navidad have San Patricio (St. Patrick) as their patron saint.  Rumor has it that several hundred mostly Irish immigrants deserted from the American army during the Mexican American war of 1846 -1848, upon discovering that the Mexicans were fellow Catholics, and fought on the Mexican side, forming the San Patricio battalion.  The celebration of St. Patty’s also commemorates these heroes and lasts a week.  Barra had been quiet all week because everyone was in Melaque.  We decided to go over there and see what the fuss was all about.
We left about 18:00 and the water taxi was filled with green shirted cruisers.  In Barra, we met up with another panga load from the lagoon.  We all took the bus to Melaque and there was a party atmosphere on the bus.  When we got to Melaque, eight of us headed for the beach in search of beer.
Waterfront Restaurant in Melaque

 We had a beer and watched the sunset from a waterfront restaurant and got to know the crews of Nimue, Tango, and a catamaran from Hawaii.  Then we all trooped back up to the square, where we encountered the lagoon contingent eating dinner at a burrito restaurant.  The food looked good, so we decided to join them, setting up a second large table and completely overwhelming the friendly, but non-English speaking staff.  I was kept very busy translating until all our orders were placed, but everyone on both sides took the confusion with good humor.  The food was very good.
Sailors Eating Burritos in Melaque

The square was packed with revelers.  After dinner, we mingled with the crowd for a bit and then headed to Mamita’s, an upstairs bar overlooking the square.  Mamita’s seemed like it might have normally been a gay bar, but that night it was packed with Canadians and Americans in Irish regalia taking advantage of the view of the proceedings in the square.  Our group stayed for a drink, but we all started to flag around 23:00.  We took taxis back to Barra and missed the fireworks at midnight, although we heard them about the time we got back to the boat.
Tara Dancing with a Leprechaun

The St. Patrick's Day Crowd in the Square at Melaque

March 18, 2016

We had planned to leave on Friday morning but, when it came time to ready the boat to go, neither of us really felt like going, so we decided to remain another day.  I took the opportunity to use the WiFi in the hotel lobby to complete another blog post.  Then I visited with my friend, Karen, for a while.  Karen had finally succeeded in getting her engine to run, an agonizing project that had already been going on for some time when I first met her two years before.  We were in a celebratory mood.
Don and I then decided to go up to the pool bar for a margarita before dinner.  Fortunately, they were only open until 18:00 because two of their margaritas were enough to render me nearly useless for the rest of the evening.  I did manage to cook some nice tuna steaks in garlic and soy sauce and make us a salad before I fell asleep on the settee.

Pool Bar at Grand Bay Hotel in Barra de Navidad

March 19, 2016

Having goofed off the day before, we were well rested on Saturday morning.  It wasn’t very far to Tenacatita, so there was no rush, but we stowed the dinghy, topped up the water tank, and left by 11:00.  Our first stop was the fuel dock.  Since Hurricane Patricia carried off half the fuel dock, there was only one spot that could accommodate a deep draft boat.  That spot was occupied by a panga as we approached.  The deep water channel to the fuel dock was not wide, so we slowed to delay our arrival until after the panga had departed.  Just as they pulled away and we powered up, another panga swooped in and took our spot, requiring some rapid reverse on our part.  Fortunately, he didn’t take long and we managed to finally gain the fuel dock before running aground.

Yacht Anchored in Tenacatita
We had to wait for 15 minutes or so until the diesel pump was available.  The diesel pump had been on the now absent part of the fuel dock, so diesel was provided via a very long hose from the gas station above.  The fuel dock was a very busy place.  Apparently, the gas station was out of gas, so they were pumping gasoline into five gallon buckets, carrying them up the hill, and pouring them into the tank above.  In total, we spent about an hour getting fuel, but we were in no hurry.  We finally set off for Tenacatita just before noon.

It only took us a few hours to motor across Bahia Navidad and around Cabeza de Navidad to Tenacatita.  We dropped anchor next to a very large sailing yacht by mid-afternoon.  Dinner was chicken adobe over rice with salad a nice bottle of Chilean cabernet.  It was a pretty evening, if a bit cool, and the yacht with its four spreaders well lit made a beautiful sight.

March 20, 2016

Dawn in Tenacatita
Sunday started slowly.  We had coffee and I hard boiled some eggs and parboiled potatoes at the same time.  Then I made fried potatoes, bacon, and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  We spent the majority of the day listening to music on public radio streaming on Don’s phone.  It irked me no end that he could stream radio, while I got no signal at all.  Both of us should have been roaming on Telcel. 

About 17:00, we dropped the dinghy in the water and went ashore. The usually quiet beach and campground were crowded with families for Easter week.  We decided to eat an early dinner at the restaurant there.  Don had a stuffed fish fillet and I had lobster.  I couldn’t resist half a kilo of lobster for 180 pesos (about $10.). It wasn’t the best lobster I had ever had.  There were two lobsters and the tails were small, but they were still a nice dinner.
Restaurant and Campground in Tenacatita

The real problem with our choice of dinner location was that we were eaten alive by noseeums.  They didn’t bother us much at the time but, by the next day, I was covered with red welts and itching like mad.

March 21, 2016

La Manzanilla
We got up at 7:00 and, after drinking our coffee, set off across the bay to La Manzanilla, towing the
Crowd in La Manzanilla 
dinghy behind us.  We anchored off the beach in La Manzanilla by 9:00.  La Manzanilla was crowded with both Mexican and North American tourists.  We wondered how all these people found La Manzanilla, since we had never heard of it before sailing south.  There were snorkelers in the water and we had to be careful to avoid them when we took the dinghy ashore.

We landed the dinghy fairly successfully, although a wave did splash us from behind.  We pulled the dinghy up onto the beach in front of an attractive blue house and then walked up into the town.  We took a short walk around the town and eventually ate breakfast at Chuy’s Restaurant.  We were the only customers, but had tasty pancakes and French toast.  Two cute little cinnamon colored Chihuahuas gave us puppy dog eyes, but weren’t too rude about their begging.

Chuy's Restaurant and Gift Shop

After breakfast, we walked to the crocodile enclosure and then back to a grocery store near where we had parked the dinghy.  We purchased vegetables, beer, and soda and then returned to the dinghy.  We had waited slightly too long to return to the boat and the surf was bigger than we would have liked.  We had a hard time launching the dinghy and were both wet to the waist and splashed from head to toe by the time we got away.

Crocodile in La Manzanilla

Grocery Store in La Manzanilla

We motored across Tenacatita Bay and around Punta Hermana.  We passed Los Frailes and then rounded Punta Farallon to head into Bahia Careyes.  Punta Farallon is marked by a lighthouse and a giant concrete bowl on the point.  This bowl is called the Copa del Sol.  At certain times of the year, the sun appears to set into this bowl when viewed from the shore.
Copa del Sol

We wanted to check out the anchorages that we had skipped in the past.  Careyes is surrounded by

Villa in Careyes

Castle in Careyes
fabulous cliff top villas with fantastic turrets and palapas.  A resort cascades down the cliff to the beach.  The anchorage is tucked behind a rocky island.  The bay has three small lobes, the two best of which are blocked by panga moorings.  The remaining lobe had room for one boat.  It would have been possible to tuck behind the island, but the whole area was affected by surge.  We enjoyed looking at the architecture and then moved on, as it was only about 14:00.
Resort at Careyes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    From Careyes, we rounded the low, rocky Punta Etiopia and ducked into the Paraiso
Paraiso Anchorage
anchorage.  The beach was occupied by one small, seemingly abandoned resort.  It was a pretty spot with room for one or two boats and was quite calm.  It was tempting to stay but, as it was still only 15:00, we elected to put a few more miles behind us and continued on to Chamela, tucking ourselves under the bluff to the left of the palapas on the beach.
We had a celebratory beer and then I made tacos with guacamole for dinner.

March 22, 2016

Our plan was to leave for La Cruz in the mid-afternoon so as to round Cabo Corrientes in the early morning hours when it would be at its flattest.  We got up late and were just drinking our coffee when John and Julie from Myla arrived in their dinghy and offered us a ride to shore.  Don wasn’t awake enough yet, but I jumped on the chance to get some exercise.

Church in Chamela
Landing the dinghy was much easier with three people and we got ashore without even getting our shorts wet.  We went for a long walk along the beach to the church.  We must have walked at least five miles.  Having left in a hurry, I hadn’t had time to put on sunscreen and got rather burned on my chest and shoulders.  The church was Moorish in style, with freshly whitewashed stucco, red tile roofs, and lots of elaborate tile.

It was 13:00 by the time I got back to the boat.  We noshed on leftover guacamole and chips and then Don made oatmeal.  By the time we got that cleaned up, it was time to pull up the anchor and go.  Myla left at the same time.  We motored out of the bay and then started motorsailing north.  We had about 10 knots of breeze to start, but it built up to 14 by sunset and we had to tack back and forth to keep up our speed.  When my watch ended at 16:00, I went below to stay out of the sun.  We were too full for dinner.

We had a beautiful full moon for our trip north.  It was nearly as light as day.  We motored steadily north, the miles slipping easily into our wake.  There was enough wind to give us a little drive, so we tacked north to keep the sails full.  Myla was ahead of us.  Strider slightly behind and outside of us.  It was reassuring to see their running lights.

Full Moon on the Way to La Cruz
March 23, 2016

Don took the helm at midnight.  All was calm. A sailboat had passed us going south.  The moon was bright and puffy clouds made
Moon with Clouds 
interesting patterns in the sky.  I made myself a snack of warm tortillas wrapped around cold leftover steak and beans and was asleep by 00:30.  At 2:30, I was awakened by a screeching sound.  Don took off the engine cover and reviewed the situation while I tried to pretend everything was okay.  Eventually, he shut off the motor and we started to sail.  By 3:00, I had to get up to help tack the boat, as the jib sheets tended to foul on the dinghy riding on the foredeck.

I got myself organized and came back on deck for my watch at 4:00.  We were still a couple of miles short of rounding Cabo Corrientes and making about 3 knots in 8 knots of breeze.  I sailed successfully until 5:30 and had started rounding the cape when the wind died and I could make no headway and, indeed, had no steerage.  We were about a mile from shore and just bobbing in a total calm.  Don came back on deck to try to help, but we made no progress until 6:30 when it began to get light and the wind started to fill in.  Finally, we were moving at a knot or two, but we could not hold a course and had to tack back and forth.

The last 28 miles across Banderas Bay took us all day.  The wind continued to build and at one point we were doing 7 knots and feared charging into the La Cruz anchorage out of control.  We rolled up the jib and reefed the main, which got us under control just in time for the wind to die.  We ghosted into the anchorage, barely able to steer, and dropped the hook under sail about 15:00.

Lights of Vallarta
We believed that we had lost the propeller but, when Don dived under to look at it, it was still there.  It appeared that the transmission had failed.  We were tired from sailing for 24 hours with little sleep, so we decided to relax and worry about the transmission another day.  We were almost out of provisions, but had enough left to make spaghetti and salad which we paired with our last bottle of wine.  It was a beautiful night to be at anchor with a full moon, the lights of Vallarta, perfect temperature, and no bugs.  Under the circumstances, we were quite content.


No comments:

Post a Comment