Sunday, February 19, 2012

Costalegre 2012 Part II

Costalegre 2012 Part II

When Mark awoke just after sunrise on our second morning at Tenacatita he was delighted to see a familiar sight. The vessel “Swift Current” with dear friends Howard and Lynn aboard was anchoring just a few boat-lengths from us. They had made the overnight passage down from La Cruz and would soon be continuing south to Central and South America. Knowing they would be tired from their trip, Mark gave them a warm, welcoming wave and let them settle in for naps before arranging a mid-day reunion. After a few hours, we were sharing their company and getting caught-up on all that we’d been up to since parting company in La Cruz.

Tenacatita “Mayor” Robert and his wife Virginia organized their usual afternoon beach gathering later that day and we all took part in the swim to shore, long walk and bocce ball tournament followed by liquid refreshments at the beach-side, palm-shaded palapa restaurant. Our reunion concluded that evening with a delicious chicken curry dinner aboard “Blue Rodeo”.

Friday is market day at the quaint community of La Manzanilla about 3 miles across the bay from the Tenacatita. So, that morning we launched our dinghy, picked-up Howard and Lynn and sped across the bay’s calm waters to the beach there. As we approached the shore, we extended our dinghy’s “landing gear” (retractable wheels) and motored through the small surf until our wheels touched bottom. After the dinghy was pulled up the sandy beach above the high tide line, we took a stroll through the town passing the crocodile park (none seen) before having lunch at a simple, street-side cafe. After lunch, we toured the market and a few shops and galleries before returning to the anchorage. As often happens, the building afternoon winds from the northwest made the trip back a little rougher as our dinghy pounded and bounced over the wind-generated chop. We arrived back at our boats just slightly damp from spray and a little worse for wear.

The high point of that afternoon was the “Mayor’s” raft-up where all in the anchorage are invited to meet with their dinghies in a calm corner of the bay and tie them together to form the venue for a floating cocktail party, We all brought assorted snacks to share and a beverage of choice. Once the raft was assembled, Robert spoke a few warm, welcoming words and encouraged each participant to take turns sharing a bit about what they did in their previous lives that prepared them for cruising. The exchange turned out to be great fun, especially when it was Anne’s turn to speak. Since she is often reluctant to talk about her flying career, she decided to liven things up a bit by introducing herself as a former pole dancer from Las Vegas. She couldn’t keep a straight face for long however and soon, everyone was howling with laughter. As the sun set behind the nearby, jungle-covered hills, the raft-up disbanded and all of our cruising friends returned to their boats. As we turned in that night, we again felt so fortunate for being able to be sharing such good times in such a lovely place with such great friends.

The next morning we, along with the “Swift Current” crew, raised our anchors and motor-sailed about 6 miles south to another favorite spot, the small bay and anchorage at the village of Cuastacomate. Eager to share more of Howard and Lynn’s company before they continued south, we spent the day with them snorkeling the bay’s colorful, coral reef, walking about the town and enjoying the warm afternoon breezes under beach umbrellas while enjoying perfect Margaritas and guacamole provided by a small restaurant. The evening concluded with a taco feast and more lively conversation aboard “Blue Rodeo”. What could be better?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Coastalegre (Happy Coast) 2012 Part 1

Costalegre (Happy coast) 2012 Part 1

Our overnight passage from La Cruz to Chamela went quicker than expected and, before dawn, we found ourselves off the entrance to the bay there having to wait for enough daylight to safely enter the anchorage. With the sun still below the horizon and the first of the morning twilight beginning to appear, we eased into the bay and dropped “Blue Rodeo’s” anchor. Before long, Mark, Anne and guests Bevin and Carol settled back into our bunks for long naps before taking our dinghy ashore for exploration. While ashore, we returned to the site of Mark’s close encounter with a crocodile last season hoping we would again have the opportunity to see one up close and personal. Unfortunately, we found the small lagoon occupied only by vultures picking at fish carcasses discarded by local fisherman. After a walk through town and along the beautiful beach, we returned to our boat, raised anchor, and motored several miles to an anchorage between two picturesque islands inhabited only by iguanas and sea birds. Once our anchor was firmly set, Anne led Carol and Bevin on a snorkeling tour while Mark dived beneath the boat using a hookah hose from one of our scuba tanks while installing new sacrificial zinc anodes on our propeller shaft, strut, and propeller. Later that afternoon, as we relaxed aboard “Blue Rodeo” lying peacefully at anchor, we were joined by a beautiful 55’ motor yacht that came close enough to us to ask if we would mind sharing our otherwise deserted anchorage. Once their anchor was set, the owner Rick and his wife Liz and their daughter in-law and grandchildren dinghied over to say hello. Within minutes, we were treated to another example of how small a world this often seems when we established that they were from Boise, Idaho and knew our good friends Mike and Beverly who had owned a yacht of the same make.

The next morning with the winds calm and seas flat, we motor-sailed further down the coast to one of our favorite places, the bay at Tenacatita. The bay consists of two lobes. The northern most features an area called “The Aquarium” by cruisers because of its interesting underwater scenery and large variety of colorful fish. We stopped and anchored there long enough to do some snorkeling before moving to the other part of the bay where we joined several other cruising boats already at anchor. We spent several enjoyable days there swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, beach walking and touring a jungle estuary by dinghy. All too soon, it was time to continue another 14 miles south to the lagoon near the town of Barra de Navidad where we would spend a few days and help Carol and Bevin connect to their flight from Manzanillo to Seattle.
Before they returned home, we had an opportunity to show them around the cute little town, do some shopping and have a delicious, authentic, Mexican meal ashore. While exploring the town, we placed an order with the French baker who delivers fresh pastries to boats every morning. The next morning, we indulged ourselves with croissants and fruit pies for breakfast. When it came time for Carol and Bevin to head for the airport, we exchanged the warmest of hugs feeling so grateful that we had all been able to share the wonderful week together.

One more day was spent in the lagoon in Barra de Navidad catching up with boat chores before hurrying further down the coast to the small bay near the Las Hadas Resort where we would rendezvous with cruising friends that we had met last season. They had organized an excursion to a nature park with a zip-line that allowed riders to swiftly descend down a cable high in the air above a steep, jungle-covered mountain side. They had invited us to join them and we were eager to participate. Hugh and Anne from the vessel “Serendipity” were already anchored and waiting for us and we were soon joined by Dave, Anne and their daughter Cara from the vessel “Taking Flight”. It was Cara, age 8, with her friend Ruby from the vessel “Convivia” that had approached us during a casual cruiser get together in Barra two days earlier. The girls were trying to raise money for shopping at the local markets by painting toe nails for 12 pesos, about 95 cents. While Anne and Carol had their toes painted, Bevin and Mark couldn’t resist getting involved and they had theirs done as well. As we write this blog, Mark is still sporting multi-colored toenails that have raised eyebrows and gotten quite a few laughs from the people we meet.

Our zip-line tour turned out to be great fun made especially so by the fact that we were joined by families from several other cruising boats. While at the facility and gearing up for our zip-line ride, we were entertained by a number of unique creatures. Peacocks and Guinea fowl strolled through the park-like setting and several Coati Mundis put on quite a show heckling a pet dog owned by the tour operator and inquisitively rummaging through some of our belongings that were left in an equipment shed. These animals resemble a cross between a raccoon and an ant eater and showed little fear of humans as they scampered about. The five stage zip-line proved exhilarating and brought out screams and squeals of excitement from most of the group. The outing concluded with a delicious pizza lunch provided by the tour operator at a quaint open air restaurant featuring outdoor, clay pizza ovens. Knowing that friends from “Serendipity” and “Taking Flight” were heading south to the Panama Canal, we were pleased to hear that they could spend a few more days with us and our group moved to nearby Santiago Bay. While anchored there we took several trips into the town of Santiago and nearby Manzanillo for provisions and several meals. The bay of Santiago features the wreck of a large ship that is an amazing place to explore while snorkeling. Although we able to visit it on our first day there, our time in the water was soon reduced when the whole area became affected by a red tide. Red tides are not uncommon and can, in addition to greatly reducing water visibility, upset the oxygen balance in seawater to the extent that fish will die. Although the water is not unsafe to swim in, it is far from appealing and we soon set our plan in motion to continue back to the north in hopes of finding better conditions. We bid our friends “hasta luego” and wished them safe passages while we raised our anchor and headed back to Barra de Navidad.

Our primary reason for returning to Barra de Navidad was to meet up with friends Larry & Karen from the vessel “Panta Rhei” with whom we had also shared good times last season. We had been keeping in touch with them by e-mail and arranged to have dinner that evening before they continued south to El Salvador and eventually to the South Pacific.
Upon arriving in Barrra we noticed a number of small dead fish floating in the water along with the rather unpleasant smell of their rotting carcasses. Wondering if the red tide in the nearby areas was the cause, we asked the drivers of the water taxis that shuttle people from anchored boats to town if the knew what was up. No one knew for sure but it was speculated that gas, toxins or silt from the bottom of the lagoon may have been stirred up by a recent earthquake and that the fish were not getting enough oxygen. This was evidenced by the fact that they would surface and swim in circles appearing to gasp for breath. It was a sad sight to see and made the normally beautiful and peaceful anchorage a little less appealing.

As soon we set our anchor in the lagoon’s soft mud bottom, Larry raced over in his dinghy to pick us up for a drink on their boat. Once aboard, we were reacquainted with their friends Ed & Connie with whom we had dined with in La Paz last year. They would be accompanying Larry and karen as far as Ecuador before rejoining their own boat in Mazatlan for the rest of the sailing season. We quickly caught up with each other’s comings and goings and took a water taxi into town for dinner at a unique restaurant built into the limbs of an enormous tree. Dinner was quite special, made more so by the beautiful surroundings and warm friendships. We ended up spending the next day with these friends as well, watching one of the football playoff games at a small, open-air restaurant in town.

After two days of socializing, we needed to get back to our chores and laundry was at the top of the list. Fortunately, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that there is a very sweet and conscientious laundry lady who comes out by boat to pick up and drop off laundry in the mornings. The next morning, when our clean, folded laundry was delivered, we waisted no time sailing north back to Tenacatita to meet up with our other friends Howard and Lynn on “Swift Current” who were also starting their southbound migration for El Salvador. We anchored in Tenacatita’s clear, warm water by early afternoon just in time to participate in a group swim to shore, and bocci ball tournament followed by refreshments at a beachfront palapa restaurant. The activities were organized by the bay’s self appointed major Robert and his lovely wife Virginia. They are long-time cruisers who consider Tenacatita to be their favorite place in Mexico and spend many weeks there each year. By the time the afternoon was over, we were back aboard “Blue Rodeo” reveling in the simple pleasures the cruising life continues to offer us. Life is very, very good!