Thursday, March 15, 2012

Barra de Navidad and Northbound to Bandaras Bay

A day and a half after Anne’s parents left, our good friends, Mike and Beverly from our home town of McCall, Idaho, arrived in Barra de Navidad. We met them at the water taxi dock and took them to the boat to change clothes and stow their belongings before returning to Barra for an orientation walk-about and dinner at the new German restaurant. It was great to see them and get caught up with all of the news from McCall. Mike and Beverly are experienced boaters, having cruised the Pacific Northwest for years aboard both sail and power boats and we were eager to share the delights of our Mexico experience with them.

The next morning, after the French baker delivered a few treats, we departed for another of our favorite spots, the small bay of Cuastacomate, just 6 miles north of Barra. After carefully following our GPS waypoints out of the shallow channel from the Barra Lagoon, we motor-sailed to Cuastacomate and dropped the hook. We found the water there surprisingly clear compared to the last time we visited and quickly put our dinghy in the water and donned swim suits and snorkeling gear for an exploration of the nearby coral reef. During the outing, we were especially entertained by the diversity of the fish on the reef and the territorial behavior of some of them. After a quick lunch aboard “Blue Rodeo”, we dinghied ashore and did the two-mile walk over a hill to the town of Melaque. We spent the next several hours exploring the town, buying a few provisions and stopping for a beer in a beachside palapa restaurant before walking back to Cuastacomate. As we walked over the hill on the road leading back to the bay, we made plans to quench our growing thirsts with margaritas on the beach. We remembered that one of the palapas there served what were arguably the best ones in Mexico. When we reached the beach, we were so disappointed to see our favorite place closing for the day. Fortunately, another restaurant, just down the beach could accommodate us, and even had comfy beach chairs. As we slowly sipped our drinks, we enjoyed the amazing view of the bay with the sun setting over the water. Before long, it was time to return to “Blue Rodeo” for dinner and a movie before retiring for the night. It had been another great day along Mexico’s beautiful mainland coast made extra special by having shared it with our wonderful friends.

After a peaceful night at anchor, we left for Tenacatita where we planned to spend the next three nights. We arrived early that afternoon and, after a quick lunch, climbed into the dink and went snorkeling. We took Mike and Beverly to our favorite spot near the rocky point to the west of the anchorage. We had an enjoyable swim and saw some interesting critters but, unfortunately, turbulence in the water was kicking up quite a bit of sand causing somewhat limited visibility. Sadly, the Spotted Eagle Rays that we had often seen there failed to make an appearance. We also noticed the water was a bit cooler than at Cuastacomate, probably due to the churning action of the surge. Returning to the boat, the guys lay around like lizards warming themselves in the sun as the girls prepared dinner. Sunset cocktails followed by a cockpit dinner under artificial candle light was a great was to finish-off another splendid day with our friends.

Another fine day was spent at Tenecatita beginning with the classic, dinghy, “Jungle Tour” through the mangrove lined estuary. At high, slack tide, entrance into the small river can be made by navigating through the hopefully small surf into the calm and deeper water that meanders for several miles. On this occasion we managed the clip one on the submerged rocks in the surf zone with our outboard motor’s skeg. Fortunately, no damage was done. While searching for animal life, we worked our way up into the mangrove jungle until the overhanging branches and fallen tree limbs prevented any further progress. The afternoon was filled with more activities. A swim to shore, beach walk and Bocce ball were followed by beverages at the palapa with many of our new friends that we have met while cruising the area. Back aboard our boat and just about to begin dinner, we were treated to an invitation to join others on a nearby boat who were demonstrating their new margarita blender. Delicious drinks and lively conversation followed. What fun! We all enjoyed getting to know another friendly and interesting group of people.

Our original plan had been to return to Barra de Navidad with Mike and Beverly to spend a final night before they were to fly home from Manzanillo. We would then head north to La Cruz in the Puerto Vallarta area so as to be able to leave “Blue Rodeo” in a marina and fly to the States for family visits, doctors’ appointments and tax preparation (yuck!). After monitoring the weather forecasts on both VHF and HF radio, we realized that the trip back to Barra might cause us to miss a favorable weather window for the trip north around the often rough Cabo Corrientes. With Mike and Beverly’s agreement, a new plan was formulated to head north the following day and have them accompany us on the overnight passeage back to La Cruz and then fly home from Puerto Vallarta rather than Manzanillo. While cruising, weather often changes the best made plans so we are learning to stay flexible. Any guests that try to coordinate visits with us have to be equally flexible.

We got a leisurely start the next morning for the four hour trip to Chamela where we planned to make a pit stop before continuing through the night to Bandaras Bay. The water conditions were nice and smooth and the wind very light so we had to motor sail the entire way. The plan was, if conditions were favorable, to anchor between the small islands just south of Chamela for an afternoon of swimming and snorkeling followed by a leisurely dinner before continuing. This plan would allow us to round Cabo Corrientes at dawn the next morning in favorable ocean and wind conditions. Arriving at the islands, we found the conditions were good enough for the stop. We did have a northwest swell with light southwest winds, making it a bit bumpy and somewhat uncomfortable. Mark, Anne and Beverly decided to jump in and go snorkeling after dropping the anchor. Mike was busy reading and opted to stay aboard for a while. We had a wonderful time exploring the island’s small sandy beach, picking up shells and watching the baby pelicans in the nearby trees. The snorkeling was great! After exploring the island’s shore. Mark took off swimming around some offshore rock islands with Beverly and Anne not far behind. We had a wonderful time snorkeling and, as we climbed aboard the boat, Mike decided to go in for a quick dip himself. The girls felt it was too rolly to cook dinner at the current spot due to the swell wrapping around the point and they were both feeling a bit nauseous so once Mike was back aboard, we decided to move the boat to the main anchorage off the town of Chamela where we hoped to find even calmer water. Once re-anchored in the bight, we found the new spot to be a bit better and we all had a nice dinner before leaving for the overnight portion of our sail around Cabo Corrientes.

After dark, we motored slowly out of the anchorage keeping a watch for fish traps and nets. Dense clouds overhead prevented light from the nearly full moon from providing any help so we all strained our eyes looking for obstructions until we were safely offshore. Soon we settled into a watch schedule with Mark taking the first while the others napped. During his shift, lightning from thunderstorms over the coastal hills began to illuminate the sky and thunder claps could clearly be heard over the sound of “Blue Rodeo’s” purring diesel engine. The “show” became more worrisome when some of the lightning began striking the water in all quadrants around us. Fortunately, after a few sprinkles of rain, the storms subsided and the moonlight began to illuminate the surface of the sea. As he stood watch, Mark thought to himself that this was a good introduction to what we were likely to find while crossing the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone on our way to the South Pacific.

We ended up motor sailing all the way to La Cruz since, as too often happens along this leg, the winds were on our nose. Mark, and Mike stood the longest watches through the night and Anne did a couple of hours even though the previous afternoon’s sea conditions left her feeling a bit queasy. Beverly was out for the count and managed to even sleep though most of the crashes when “Blue Rodeo’s” hull came pounding down between the short period, choppy swells. At times, as we approached Cabo Corrientes the sea conditions made us feel as though we were sailing through the tub of an enormous Maytag washer on the heavy duty cycle. Entering Banderas Bay at sunrise, and in the lee of the Tres Mariettas Islands, we found the sea conditions settling down and soon our whole crew was topside enjoying the views. Re-entering the harbor and docking in our assigned marina slip was uneventful except that, as we began our turn into the narrow slip, we noticed that two small sailing trimarans were in our way and we had to back part way out while folks on the dock scrambled to clear the slip. Our final approach was less than elegant but soon our lines were secured and we all turned-in for a few hours of sleep before heading out into the community of La Cruz to show Mike and Beverly our favorite haunts.

Unseasonable rain showers moved into Bandaras Bay the next morning and we pulled-out rain coats for the first time in Mexico. After Mike and Beverly departed for the airport though, rays of sun began appearing through breaks in the clouds and everyone in the area was treated to the sight of the most intensely brilliant rainbow that we have ever seen. With our friends jetting toward the States, our focus turned to preparations for our South Pacific passage. We have been enjoying Mexico so much that, when our world travels are completed, we have vowed to return to this warm and friendly place.

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