Thursday, March 31, 2011

Barra de Navidad and Points North

Our return to Barra de Navidad was special in a number of ways. The tricky entrance to the lagoon there demands precise navigation and anchoring there without running aground always produces a sense of relief and accomplishment. Finding many familiar boats there was fun as was catching-up with the news from our sailing friends that are cruising this area. Also, the small town of Barra de Navidad remains one of our favorites for it’s mix of friendly people, quaint little restaurants and music venues. The waters of the protected lagoon are normally as tranquil as a swimming pool and convenient water taxi service to town is available for a modest fee. There is even a local French baker that delivers warm, chocolate croissants, fresh baguettes and other temptations to anchored boats every morning.

After a few days there, we were anxious to head a little further up the coast to beautiful Tenecatita, home of “Chippy” the anchor chain scratching dolphin. After leaving the lagoon we sailed the nine miles to Tenecatita but were very disappointed to find the waters there affected by a “red tide”. This phenomenon can occur along coastal waters when an unusual number of microscopic maine organisms “bloom” in such quantity that they turn the water the color of tomato soup. Aside from the rather disgusting appearance, the water’s dissolved oxygen balance is so disrupted that it becomes toxic to many fish. While generally not a problem in open ocean waters, this can be quite serious in small harbors where dead fish can be seen floating to the surface. In addition to the red tide, Tenecatita was experiencing an influx of small, stinging jellyfish that made the water even less appealing. Without even dropping our anchor, we turned the boat back toward Barra and pulled into the tiny cove of Cuastecomate where we found clear, clean water conditions. We were soon joined in the anchorage by our friends Steve and Pam of the catamaran “Barramundi” and before long, we were sharing stories over an evening meal at a shoreside palapa restaurant. The next day, we, along with Steve and Pam hiked the road from our little bay over the hill to the town of Melaque. We all enjoyed lunch at one on the many beachfront restaurants and sampled a well stocked market, featuring many US products, that is popular place for cruisers and shore-based vacationers to satisfy cravings for food that they haven’t seen since leaving the States. Later that day, we took the opportunity to clean “Blue Rodeo’s” bottom and propellor. We are amazed at how quickly hard barnacle grow will attach to unpainted areas like the prop and shaft and to a lesser degree to the areas painted with anti-fowling paint. Mark used a 50’ hose and regulator attached to a scuba tank on board the boat while Anne snorkeled along the waterline. After 1 1/2 hours, the bottom was smooth once again but we were both feeling a little sea sick from the combined motion of the water and the boat.

The next day, we were joined by friends Mark and Lorrie who arrived from points south aboard their boat “Thor”. Plans were made for yet another reunion back in the Barra lagoon. While away from Barra, a strong afternoon wind combined with a very low tide produced some excitement as several boats drug anchor and ended up aground. Fortunately, due to the lagoon’s soft mud bottom and the help of other cruisers, the boats we soon re-anchored or stabilized until the rising tide would float them free. When we returned the next day, we were entertained by many stories of the wild afternoon.

Before long, it was time for us to head toward Puerto Vallarta where we had been offered crew positions in the 19th annual Banderas Bay Regatta aboard “Sirocco”, a J130 owned by friends Lee and Cathy from Oceanside California. Our departure strategy involved timing our trip around Cabo Corrientes in the early morning hours when the winds and currents would be most comfortable. We left the Barra lagoon in the morning and motor sailed to the Chamela Bay where we anchored in the late afternoon for a few hours rest. After dinner and a nap, we readied ourselves in the darkness and again set out toward the open sea. Our plan worked well and, although we found head winds in the mid teens and short, steep seas approaching the cape, we made it safely back to La Cruz (in Banderas Bay) by early afternoon the next day. We would later learn that others that had departed a few days before us had met with miserably rough conditions and even suffered some damage to their boats.

Returning to La Cruz felt like another homecoming and, as we settled into a marina slip for the first time in months, we were pleased to see a beehive of activity in the harbor as a large number of cruisers preparing for their South Pacific crossings had congregated and were making final pre-departure preparations. Soon, we were sharing their excitement and looking ahead to our own crossing in March of 2012.

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