Cruising Mexico’s Sweet Costalegre (“Happy Coast”) – in Sailing Magazine!

The June 2016 issue of Sailing Magazine is featuring our article about cruising Mexico’s sweet Costalgre coast. This 50 mile long stretch of Pacific coast shoreline has 10 or so anchorages that vary in size from tiny to enormous and that vary in spirit from an immersion in nature to fancy and elegant resorts.

It is a favorite cruising ground for sailors heading to Mexico — they call it the “Gold Coast” — and some cruisers return year after year.

Sailboat anchored in Chamela Bay Gold Coast Mexico Costalegre

Mexico’s Costalegre has some beautiful anchorages

The seeds for publishing this article in Sailing Magazine were planted over two years ago, but the opportune moment didn’t strike until this month. We are very proud to be contributors to this outstanding magazine and to have our story and photos appear in its pages.

Porta-bote on the beach in Paraiso on the Costalegre Mexico

The tiny cove at Paraiso has a sweet beach and jade colored water.

Many of our readers know us only as RVers, so I thought this would be a nice time to reflect back a bit on the life altering years we spent on our sailboat Groovy in Mexico between 2010 and 2013 and to share some of our photos from Mexico’s Costalegre in a larger format than is available on our older blog pages that were written while we were there.

Boats at the Las Hadas Resort Marina Manzanillo Mexico Pacific Coast Costalegre (2)

The Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo looks like the Mediterranean!

The Costalegre (a concatenation of the words “Costa” (coast) and “Alegre” (cheerful or happy)) is situated south of and around the corner from Puerto Vallarta.

Map of Mexico Costalegre Pacific Coast

The Costalegre is a small bit of coast that is one of Mexico’s major cruising destinations.

Interactive Link: Location of the Costalegre and its anchorages on Google Maps

Most of western Mexico’s cruising grounds are very spread out between Ensenada, just below San Diego, and Puerto Chiapas down by the Guatemala border some 2,000 miles away. However, in the Costalegre region it is possible to daysail from one anchorage to the next, rather than sailing overnight as most destinations require, which is part of what makes it so popular.

Manzanillo Bay lies at the far southern end of the Costalegre, and it is home to several anchorages that are within an hour or two of each other by sailboat. Manzanillo Bay has incredible sunsets and sunrises — or it did when we were there — due in part to the power plant at the south end of the bay that spews soot particulates into the air!

Sailboat at Sunset Santiago Bay Manzanillo Mexico on the Costalegre

The sunrises and sunsets in Manzanillo Bay are stunning.

Construction was underway to convert the power plant to natural gas when we were there. Once it’s up and running, the sometimes polluted air will improve, but it may be the end of these reliably gorgeous skies!

Next door is the Las Hadas Resort where the movie 10 with Bo Derek was filmed. This is a charming resort full of crazy architecture decorated with funny gargoyles. It has a decidedly Mediterranean feeling to it.

Las Hadas Resort beach Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre Gold Coast (1)

Las Hadas Resort anchorage in Mexico – Beautiful!

The bay is big enough for about 15 or 20 boats and is a great place to stay a while.

Sailboat anchored at Las Hadas

Our boat Groovy anchored at Las Hadas

In our cruise we passed through the Costalegre four times all together on our way to and from the Sea of Cortez up north and Zihuatanejo and Huatulco in the far south of Mexico.

Las Hadas Resort sailing anchorage Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre

Las Hadas is great stop between Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo, and we spent a lot of happy weeks there.

One of the most unexpected pleasures of cruising Mexico’s Pacific coast was that so many of the anchorages are in front of resorts. We hopped in and out of lots of resort swimming pools — what a life!

Las Hadas Resort Beach with sailboats on the bay Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre (1)

Sometimes resorts will let cruisers use the amenities like this glorious swimming pool at Las Hadas.

Occasionally the resorts ask cruisers to pay a day use fee to enjoy their resort facilities. Other times, buying a beer and snacks at the pool bar will suffice.

Las Hadas Resort Manzanillo Mexico Pacific Coast Costalegre

Not a bad spot to spend a day!

Manzanillo Bay is anchored by the city of Manzanillo at its south end. We met an adventurous RVing couple from Cuba (he) and Mexico (she), and at one point we jumped in their truck together to go get propane for our sailboat and for their rig. This took us into downtown Manzanillo, which is quite colorful but very urban.

Manzanillo downtown Mexico Costalegre (1)

Downtown Manzanillo gives a more realistic picture of life in Mexico than the resorts.

One of the things that took some getting used to, but that we found very fun, was the open air markets. There is lots of street food available as well as fresh veggies and sometimes deliciously fresh orange juice that enterprising people sell from carts in the street. And there’s nothing like grabbing lunch from a taco stand — the trick is always to buy this kind of food where there is a long line of locals. That means it’s good!

Fresh produce was available at many small markets.

Fresh produce was available at many small markets.

Another thing that taught us a lot about Mexico, about our own ability to be resourceful, and about how to speak Spanish, was going to the hardware stores in search of parts to fix broken things on the boat. RVs often need repairs and maintenance, but boats need a whole lot more because they are more complex vehicles and the salt air and salt water is extremely corrosive.

Once we learned how to say the word for hardware store (“ferretería”), we were off and running.

Carrying the broken boat part with us, we’d hunt down a hardware shop and throw around some beginner Spanish and some slowly spoken English.

Invariably, we’d get a lot of sympathy as well as directions to another ferretería that might actually have what we were looking for!

Usually the directions were off by a few blocks one way or the other, so after a bunch more walking (and a bit of sightseeing, of course) we’d arrive at the next place and do it all over again!

It was a hoot and we met a lot of really wonderful people that way.

America is very efficient, but keeping a boat maintained and in tip-top working order in Mexico gave us endless heartwarming experiences and chances to get to know a little about our neighbors to the south.

Hardware store on Pacific Coast of Mexico

Does this place have the little gizmo we need for the boat?

And whether or not we got the part we needed to finish our repair, there was usually a fabulous sunset at the end of the day that would light the sky on fire.

Sunrise on Costalegre Mexico Pacific Coast Gold Coast

Ahhhh…

We found that in the wintertime much of Mexico’s Pacific coast has murky water that is often plagued by red tide. However, one spring we stopped in the tiny bay of Paraiso on the Costalegre and found ourselves surrounded by crystal clear jade colored water. What a delight! Let’s jump in!

Well, jumping off the boat to play in the water always included 15 or 20 minutes of scraping the barnacles off the bottom of the boat! That was a chore we did frequently, but how wonderful to be able to do it in such beautiful water!

Snorkeling at Paraiso Bay in Costalegre Mexico

Cleaning the hull of the boat was fun in this kind of water!

In the Las Hadas anchorage in Manzanillo, we needed to fuel up. There is diesel available at a boat dock, but it was very challenging to get a big boat up to that dock easily. We managed that tricky maneuver in our third year when we were seasoned sailors, but in our first year we hauled diesel in jerry jugs from the fuel dock out to our boat in the dinghy, and we used a Super Siphon to get the diesel from the can into the boat’s fuel tank.

Filling the diesel tank with jerry jugs cruising Mexico

There is diesel available in Las Hadas, but it’s not so easy to tie the boat up to the dock.
Using jerry jugs and a Super Siphon was a simple alternative!

Another jewel of an anchorage on the Costalegre is Careyes. This is a tiny cove tucked behind an island, and all the homes have been painted vibrant primary colors. What a backdrop!!

Sailboat at Costa Careyes Mexico

Groovy anchored at Careyes

It is rumored that Heidi Klum has a home here. Unfortunately, we didn’t see her!

Careyes is a very difficult place to anchor because there are contrary currents and tides and winds that all join forces to set every boat off on a wild dance. So, very few boats go there. We were the only cruising boat in the anchorage the whole time we were there.

A stern anchor is an absolute necessity to keep the boat pointing in the right direction. We chose a Manson because it had no moving parts to bite our shins and had a nice handle to hold onto!

Stern anchor is necessary for sailboat in Careyes Bay Mexico Costalegre Gold Coast

Careyes is a beautiful anchorage, but a stern anchor is necessary to counteract the enormous current and swell.

But it is worth the effort to get the boat anchored in Careyes. What a lovely view of the palm tree lined beach!

Beach and houses at Careyes Mexico Costalegre

Pretty view at Careyes

Swell is part of the everyday picture when cruising Mexico, and for boaters whose experience is cruising the protected anchorages of the Pacific Northwest or Maine (like me), it is a real surprise to discover just how much a boat can roll. I wrote a blog post about the joys of swell here and it shows the action of the swell on a huge tanker near the Las Hadas anchorage in Manzanillo— yikes!

The waves are wild because Mexico’s Pacific coast is wide open to the Pacific, and there is nothing stopping the waves or slowing them down as they come in from the open ocean!

Perula Beach Chamela Bay in Mexico Riviera

Swell is significant on Mexico’s Pacific coast. It can be a challenge to land the dink on the beach!

So, landing a dinghy can be a challenge. And getting the dinghy launched from the beach to go back to the big boat is an even greater challenge!! But the beaches themselves are wonderful. The beach at Pérula in Chamela Bay is filled with fishing “pangas” (the open boats the locals use…all made in Mazatlan).

Fishing pangas on the beach at Perula

Fishing pangas on the beach at Perula

We wandered into Pérula (known to cruisers as Chamela) a little ways, and found a delightful little restaurant with a tiny kitchen and two or three tables.

Restaurant at Punta Perula in Chamela Bay Mexico

This little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Pérula is typical of the fun and informal eateries on the coast.

Of course, almost every beach has plastic chairs and tables set out, and you can always plop down and dig your toes in the sand and enjoy the view with a Corona.

Perula Chamela Bay Beer on the Beach Costalegre Mexico Pacific Coast (1)

Now THIS is cruising!

Since Mexico’s Pacific coast is filled with high end resorts, there are plenty of places to find more elegant beachfront dining. In the tiny Costa Cuastecomates (once known as the “Secret Anchorage” because the entrance is hard to see from the open ocean — until the GPS coordinates were published in a guidebook (and a great book it is)), we found a beautiful resort at one end of the beach.

Cuastecomate bay resort Costalegre Mexico Gold Coast

We found an upscale waterfront dining option in the “secret anchorage” of Cuastecomate.

In front of Las Hadas Resort there are tables set up to enjoy the beach and a view of the sailboats anchored in the cove.

Las Hadas Resort beach dining

Beach dining at Las Hadas Resort

With its Mediterranean flair, Las Hadas (which means “the fairies”) also has very cute pairs of beach chairs lined up facing the bay.

Beach chairs Las Hadas Resort Manzanillo Costalegre Mexico

Fun little beach chairs at Las Hadas in Manzanillo

One of the all-time favorite destinations for cruiser’s on the Gold Coast is Barra de Navidad. Unlike all the other anchorages which are merely indentations in the land that are not protected from the open ocean, Barra de Navidad is in an estuary that is entirely enclosed.

Lots of cruisers settle in here for a few weeks or months, not only because the boat is unaffected by swell and sits flat on the water, but because the entire bay is lined with fun little eateries, beach bars and watering holes.

The only downside to anchoring here long term is that the water is too silty and dirty to make water with a watermaker and you can’t discharge the holding tanks unless you hoist the anchor and weave down the shallow and narrow channel to go out for a day sail on the open ocean.

There is a water taxi service in Barra de Navidad that can take you from your boat to anywhere on the shore for a few pesos. There is even a baker who hails from France and who sells his fresh croissants and quiches from boat to boat every morning!!

French Baker in Barra de Navidad anchorage in Mexico Costalegre

Every morning in Barra de Navidad, the French Baker delivers croissants and quiche to cruisers that are eagerly waiting in their cockpits, coffee cup in hand!

Gosh, will it be a chocolate croissant or an almond croissant this morning??

Barra de Navidad boat-in bar Costalegre Pacific Coast Mexico

Barra de Navidad has water taxis throughout the estuary to take you to waterfront dining of all kinds.

I just have to show another sunrise shot from Manzanillo Bay. It is so amazing to peek out the window and find yourself on a sea of pink!!

Sunrise Manzanillo Bay Mexico

Sunrise in Manzanillo Bay

Some spots on the Costalegre are busy and full of people, like the estuary of Barra de Navidad, the beach at Santiago Bay, and Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo.

Dinghies lined up on the beach Santiago Bay Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre

Dinghies lined up on the beach at Santiago Bay in Manzanillo

But others are supremely quiet, like the little islands off of Chamela bay. Here, we pulled our dinghy up on the beach and had the island to ourselves.

Sailboat anchored in Chamela Bay near Perula Mexico Costalgre Gold Coast

Our dink on its own at the offshore islands of Chamela Bay.

And in a lot of places we found there were RV parks that backed right up to the beach.

RV on the beach in Mexico

There are RV parks on many beaches. This is at Pérula on Chamela Bay.

In the years we were there, the biggest ongoing story in the media was about all the violence in Mexico. We never saw any violence in all the years we were in Mexico.

The rumor among the many travelers who love Mexico and the one million ex-pats who live there was that the media smear was a ploy to keep Americans in the US spending their vacation dollars on American soil rather than in Mexico. After all, we were at the height of the financial woes that followed on the heels of the the banking meltdown of 2008.

Full-time RV childhood in a Motorhome in the 1980's

Imagine growing up in an RV traveling the Americas!

The few RVers that we met were enjoying their RV parks all by themselves all winter long. Many had taken their RV to Mexico each winter for a decade or more, and they told us those same RV parks had been booked to overflowing by mid-November in prior years.

At the end of our cruise, the owner of a pretty villa in the Costalegre village of La Manzanilla invited us to stay at his place for a week.

It turned out that he was German and his parents had raised him living in a motorhome full-time as they traveled throughout North and South America from Alaska to Cape Horn.

His unique tales and photos of growing up in a motorhome and boondocking on the beach in the 1980’s are told in these two blog posts:

RVers in Mexico saw a lot more of the country than we did, since our travels were restricted to the coast. We did take some phenomenal trips inland on long distances buses, though, visiting the colonial cities of Oaxaca, Guanajuato and San Cristobal de las Casas and visiting the Mayan ruins of Palenque and Monte Alban.

Cuastecomate view of the beach Mexico Costalegre

Beach bars galore in the “secret anchorage” of Cuastecomate

However, there are sights to be seen in Mexico that RVers can’t easily reach because they require the use of a privately owned boat. One of these is Isla Isabel (Isabella Island). This tiny island is a bit north of the Costalegre but is a definite “must see” for any cruiser sailing Mexico’s west coast.

There’s nothing there but a few fishermen and lots of nature. And blue footed boobies!

Blue footed boobie Pacific Mexico Coast

Blue footed boobies! In Mexico!!!

We were there in the spring, and a mixed flock of brown boobies, masked boobies and blue footed boobies were all nesting on the island. The chicks were full sized but still covered with down. The parents let us get close, but they made a point to stand in front of their babies as we walked up.

Blue footed boogie guards its chick in Mexico (1)

A blue footed booby guards its baby.

There is lots of other unusual wildlife to be spotted along the Costalegre, and we watched a group of frigate birds hanging around a partially submerged shipwreck in Santiago Bay.

A frigate bird takes a close look at us.

A frigate bird takes a close look at us.

Around the bend in the Las Hadas Resort anchorage we were greeted by a flock of adorable little birds that perched on our lifelines. These guys know cruisers and boats quite well, and each time we went through that area we found them chirping and flying on and off our lifelines!!

Birds on the lifelines of our boat (1)

These little guys greeted us and landed on our lifelines every time we came into Manzanillo

Out in the open ocean along the Costalegre we also saw lots and lots of sea turtles. Mexico has done a great job of protecting these guys, making sure their nesting sites are not disturbed and that the little babies can get down to the ocean without human interference. Of course, after their dangerous scramble down the beach to the crashing waves, they are met with the eager beaks of waiting birds that circle and fly low over the water to snatch them up as yummy snacks.

A sea turtle on Mexico's Pacific Coast

The waters along the Costalegre are filled with sea turtles.

Birds like to land on the sea turtles, and the turtles don’t seem to mind. So we often saw “turtle-birds” when we went out sailing. On more than one occasion we saw a particular turtle-bird on our way out on a daysail, and the same turtle-bird was floating there when we came back three hours later!

Sea turtle and Boobie on Mexico Pacific Coast

Sometimes sea birds catch a ride on a turtle’s back – and stay there for hours!

Perhaps the most exotic animal we saw on the Costalegre (and in the Sea of Cortez) was the flying mobula rays. These guys fly out of the water and flap their wings like mad and then land on the water with a big smack. It was loud enough that if you were down below in the cabin, you’d come running up on deck to see what made the noise.

The funny thing was that these guys seem to do this jumping thing out of sheer joy. They don’t just jump up and down. They do somersaults and back flips!!

Flying mobula ray manta ray Mexico Pacific Coast

The mobula rays fly into the air and do all kinds of acrobatics!

One day while we were out day sailing in Manzanillo Bay, we saw a whale breaching. We saw whales in quite a few places in Mexico, and sometimes they breached near us, but this was really unusual because the heavily populated shoreline was right there!

On another occasion, while dinghying between the small town of La Manzanilla (a favorite ex-pat hangout for Canadians) and the anchorage that cruisers call Tenacatita (and is actually known to the locals as Blue Bay or Crazy Angels Bay), we saw a mother whale and her baby playing in the water. It was early morning and the water was as still and clear as glass. The mom flopped around on her back and waved her fins around, and the baby did the same thing right next to her. Sweet!

Breaching whale Santiago Bay Manzanillo Costalegre Mexico

A breaching whale in Manzanillo Bay

Mexico’s Pacific Coast is a tourist destination, and there are tourist oriented activities of all kinds. One afternoon we looked out from the cockpit of Groovy in Santiago Bay and saw horseback riders walking along the sand.

Horseback riding on Santiago Bay Manzanillo Mexico Pacific Coast

Riders on horseback on the beach at Santiago

But perhaps the best thing about cruising Mexico and taking it slow in the Costalegre was getting to know a little about the Mexican culture. Young girls celebrate their 15th birthday with a huge party called the Quniceañera, and we often saw beautiful 15 year olds in photo shoots dressed in very pretty and flouncy dresses.

The Belle of the Ball preps for her 15th birthday.

Sweet 15!

In the final weeks of our Mexico cruise when we were staying in a marina in Ensenada, a thousand miles north of the Costalegre, we ended up hosting a Quinceanera photo shoot aboard Groovy. What fun!

For more detailed info about each of the anchorages on the Costalegre as well as Puerto Vallarta and Ensenada, we have created a video that makes it easy to get the lay of the land with a bowl of popcorn!

This video (the first in a series of three videos) shows what there is to see and do in each anchorage and also gives insights into Mexico’s weather patterns and climate and suggests an overall itinerary for getting the most out of your Mexico sailing cruise.

For more stories from our Mexico cruise, we have loads of blog posts here.

We also have a two page series chock full of tips for cruisers heading to Mexico:

If you are an avid sailor or are curious about the cruising lifestyle, I highly recommend checking out Sailing Magazine. It has been inspiring sailors for decades and was on my family’s coffee table in the 1960’s as I was growing up, fueling my dad’s secret cruising dreams. Even if, like my dad, you never have a chance to fulfill those dreams, Sailing Magazine has endless stories from folks who have had the good fortune to sail off over the horizon, and it makes for fantastic escapist adventure reading.

The June issue is on newsstands now and has lots more of our photos and info from the Costalegre. You can buy a subscription here:

Sailing Magazine Subscription

More info for cruisers sailing to Mexico can be found on these pages:

  • Planning Your Cruise – Tips plus Cruising Guides, Field Guides and Travel Guides
  • What To Expect On Your Cruise – Living on a boat in Mexico is crazy and fun, but there’s an adjustment period!
  • Maps of Mexico – Lots of maps that show what’s where on Mexico’s Pacific Coast and in the Sea of Cortez
  • More links and info below…

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Map, geography and cruising info for the Costalegre and Isla Isabel:

Other blog posts, links and webpages from our Mexico sailing blog:

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More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Baja Bash (1) – Sailing on the Coattails of a Hurricane!

SailFlow Hurricane Cosme

Hurricane Cosme — YIKES!!! — Time to get back to the boat!

Early July, 2013 – Our wonderful week off the boat in the pretty beachside bungalows at Casa Maguey in La Manzanilla finally drew to a close.

Our gracious hosts invited us to stay longer, but we needed to begin getting ourselves and our boat Groovy ready for the long 1,100 mile voyage from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego.

Hurricane season had officially started, and the hurricanes had begun their steady march up Mexico’s southern coast.

A doozy storm was on its way towards Puerto Vallarta, and the skies were already darkening when we took the bus from La Manzanilla back to Puerto Vallarta. As our bus wound along the edge of Banderas Bay, the cliffs were filled with dramatic waterfalls from the recent rains.

 

Paradise Village Lush Vegetation

Lush vegetation at Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta.

This was Hurricane “Cosme” and it looked truly frightening on the weather prediction charts. Fortunately, Paradise Village Marina is tucked into an estuary, and we weren’t threatened.

Eventually, Cosme passed on, and the skies cleared to give us some spectacular days. The iguanas had been busy laying eggs, and suddenly a huge crop of vibrant green baby iguanas showed up everywhere.

The heat was intense, and the best way to beat the heat was to get in the water. We played in the waves, relishing our last days in the tropics.

Baby iguana

Baby iguanas sprouted everywhere!

Splashing around, it was impossible to imagine that once we started up the outside of Baja California, we would have to start wearing long sleeves, long pants and jackets.

Playing in the waves

Goofing off in the waves on the beach,
we were loving our last days in the tropics.

Mark in the waves

Watch out behind you!

The voyage from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego is known as the “Baja Bash,” and it is a passage most sailors dread. The wind howls out of the north non-stop, and the waves build to a frenzy, leaving the struggling sailor pounding relentlessly into fierce headwinds and steep seas for 800 miles. Traveling at four to seven mph, the suffering goes on for days!

We both read and re-read the bible on the subject, The The Baja Bash II, written by a captain who has made the trip dozens of times in all kinds of boats. It is a fabulous book that explains exactly how to tackle the trip.

Like many sailors, after reading it the first time three years ago, I vowed never to do The Bash! The vivid descriptions of misery and woe that sailors experience are enough to make any sensible person ditch the boat and fly home instead.

Buying warm clothes at Walmart

We found sweat pants and other warm clothes at Walmart.

Besides ferocious winds and nasty seas, the real kicker is that as soon as you begin the Baja Bash in Cabo, you leave the tropics in your wake.

Rather than easing through a transition from warmth to coolness as you sail north, you begin to shiver in the face of a cold, mean wind as soon as you turn the corner at the bottom of Baja.

Looking around Groovy, we realized that we had off-loaded almost every scrap of warm clothing we owned. So we dashed to Walmart to get some sweats and other goodies. What luck that they had some!

The Baja Bash II also advises doing The Bash in either July or November. Unfortunately, most people make the trip between March and June, because it gets them out of Mexico’s blistering summer heat and back to California in time for the summer sailing season.

Hurricanes on Mexico's Pacific coast

The hurricanes rolled off the coast like bowling balls

However, that is the very worst time to go. The horror stories we’d heard from friends doing these springtime voyages were truly hair-raising!

In July, on the other hand, the outside of Baja actually calms down once in a while, because the south winds blowing up from the frequent tropical storms temporarily negate the prevailing north winds.

Sailing with hurricanes brewing nearby doesn’t sound like a great idea, but in July the tropical storms tend not to make landfall on the Baja peninsula as they do later in the season. Instead, most move west, passing well south of Baja and dissipating out at sea.

We watched in amazement as the hurricanes rolled up the coast like bowling balls and then tumbled out to sea, all with precision regularity. For a few days after each storm, periods of tranquility swept up the Baja. It was like watching a train go by and the dust settle afterwards. Our trick was to find an opening, jump aboard, and ride the train.

What the forecast map looked like for our noontime sail out of Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta).  Ride that train!!

What the weather map looked like for our departure from
Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta). Ride that train!!

The hurricane we chose to ride was Dalila, and we wanted to time our departure for about 48 hours after it left our coast.

By then the seas would be back to their normal easy roll, and the winds would be quiet. All we would need to do is stay ahead of the next hurricane coming up behind Dalila.

Sounds easy. But hurricanes aren’t all that predictable! What’s worse, Cabo is an awkward place to hang around.

At $175 USD/night for a slip, most folks anchor in the bay that is wide open to the south instead — fine in November’s north wind but dicey when it sometimes turns south in July.

So our hope was to find an opening in the weather long enough to travel 290 miles across the Sea of Cortez to Cabo and then go another 180 miles up the Baja coast to Bahia Santa Maria, stopping in Cabo just long enough to get fuel. To do that we needed a 72 hour window. Good luck!! Weather windows were more like 24-36 hours, if they existed at all.

I had a nail-biting few days while I looked at Passage Weather and Sail Flow morning, noon and night. Each site offers about 30 weather charts covering a week’s worth of forecasts that are updated every three hours. That is a TON of constantly changing data!!

To make things really tricky, the two sites didn’t always agree on their predictions!

Adding to the confusion, Sail Flow’s charts are given in local time, but Passage Weather uses Greenwich Mean Time, which was six hours ahead of our local time. So on their charts, 00 hours Tuesday was really 18 hours (6pm) Monday. Good grief!

Paradise Village Marina Sunset

Paradise Village Marina treated us to some gorgeous sunsets.

While I got bleary eyed staring at the computer, my palms sweating and brain frying, Mark got the engine ready.

Due to the constant headwinds, this voyage is almost always done exclusively under power, and the engine needed to be in tip top shape.

Oil changes, filter changes, etc., were on his “to do” list, and he meticulously worked his way down his list.

Because the fuel in the tanks gets a really good sloshing underway on this trip, as the boat bashes through the waves, whatever debris may be lurking in the corners of the tanks gets mixed into the fuel.

Many boats end up replacing their fuel filters several times before they get to California. We know of one that went through 10 fuel filters before the engine died one final time outside Ensenada where they got a tow.

Changing fuel filters on a Yanmar engine

Mark changes the engine’s fuel filter.

We had only two spare fuel filters and wanted a third. But there were none to be found anywhere in Puerto Vallarta. The big “chandlery” Zaragoza had fuel filters for huge sport fishing boat engines, but none for smaller cruising boats.

The little boating goods store at our marina had some filters, but not our model. The chandlery in La Cruz was an expensive cab ride or long bus ride away, with no guarantee they had one either. Egads! We hoped two would do.

We also wanted more plastic jerry jugs for fuel. We carry 86 gallons: 66 gallons in the tank and another 20 in plastic jerry jugs. Under normal conditions, this is enough to travel about 600 miles. On this trip, our longest run without an easy fuel stop would be 400 miles between Cabo and Turtle Bay. However, it would not be under normal conditions!

We expected to travel much more slowly and to consume much more fuel as we fought the wind and waves. However, when we saw the $50 USD price tag for each 5 gallon plastic jerry jug, our jaws dropped. I gave Mark a shaky grimace, “We should to be able to go 400 miles with what we have, shouldn’t we????” He made a face. “Sure…” he drawled.

Emily on s/v Groovy

Life in Paradise!

These are the crazy decisions boaters face with difficult passages. In an ideal world we would tow a barge carrying all the spares and tools we could ever possibly need. We might even tow an identical boat as a “hanger queen” we could rob for parts. But this was reality.

As the tension about these technical aspects of our departure built, I wrote a blog post explaining our decision to end our cruise so we could pursue other tropical travel lifestyles.

To my utter astonishment, the post took off like wildfire, and we received the most unexpected outpouring of support and affection from our readers.

This rocked our little world. Sharing our pics and stories has become a passion for us, but suddenly feeling so much heartfelt warmth from our friends and followers made our decision to take a new path for our travel adventures that much more poignant.

Puerto Vallarta yachts in dark clouds

Every afternoon, Puerto Vallarta erupted in a blast of thunder and lightning.

Heightening our emotional roller coaster ride, every afternoon the skies became black, the lightning show started and the torrential summer rains fell.

Surrounded by rolling thunder, flashing lightning and pouring rain that pummeled our little boat in its slip, the Baja Bash loomed huge and intimidating before us. During those dockside storms the upcoming voyage felt truly life threatening.

As I examined the hurricane-filled weather charts and wrote about why we were leaving this lifestyle, Mark massaged the engine and lubed everything in sight, and we told each other with bug eyes and pounding hearts, “It’s going to be a great trip.”

Emily at the helm of Groovy

Our morning for departure finally came, and we snuck out of the marina before we were fully awake. The knot in the pit of my stomach only grew larger as we said goodbye to our dock mates and rounded the bend towards the open ocean.

By the time we reached the channel to the bay, I was beginning to choke up. Standing at the helm in a bathing suit, I suddenly realized just how much I loved this boat and this life, difficult as it was at times. Tears slid down my face.

Cruising is a beautiful way to live and travel, and it is worth every effort to pursue. But it is not easy.

This bittersweet moment as we were leaving Paradise Village Marina channel said it all: surrounded by tropical beauty, the warm, soft air brushing my tears dry, and the rolling blue waves soothing my soul, my stomach churned in sheer terror at the prospect of our upcoming voyage.

Three years earlier in Cabo, Katrina and husband Rob dived off their boat.

Three years earlier in Cabo, Katrina and her husband Rob
(the splash!) dived off their boat to celebrate their arrival.

This was it. We were leaving Mexico. We were leaving the sultry tropics and would soon be leaving our boat. Mark gave me a long, loving hug, and I realized that I was actually okay with it all, gut-wrenching as it was.

Before we could really get going, though, we needed to stop for fuel at La Cruz, 8 miles away. When we pulled in, we were greeted at the fuel dock by Katrina Liana, a phenomenal professional captain and friend to all cruisers. Three years earlier, her boat had been anchored next to ours for several weeks in San Diego Bay as we both prepared to sail south.

Katrina Liana Cabo

Katrina grins after arriving in Cabo 3 years ago.

We had sailed down the Baja coast at the same time that fall. The last time we had seen her, she and her husband Rob were diving off the bow of their boat in Cabo, happy to have completed the voyage.

As we caught up on three years of news with her now, she told us she had sailed up and down the outside of Baja at least 20 times over the years. She reassured us that we were making the trek at the very best time of year and that all would be okay.

Dolphins swim to Groovy

Dolphins swim over to say “hello”

Her cheery smile, warm spirit and calm confidence made us feel much better, and our fears began to subside.

We left La Cruz under blazing, hot sunny skies, and our hearts suddenly felt free and full of anticipation. We were going to have a beautiful sail to Cabo, and we settled in to enjoy it.

As if to confirm our good feelings, a pair of dolphins suddenly bounded over the waves towards the boat.

Mysterious clouds leaving Puerto Vallarta

A mysterious orange cloud floats overhead.

As the mainland slipped away in our wake, puffy clouds formed in the sky. Oddly, we suddenly noticed that one cloud was orange.

It was early afternoon, many hours before sunset. How could one cloud be orange? We decided it had to be a good omen.

Then the clouds got darker and darker, and the water began to take on fascinating patterns of ripples and mirrors, as if slicks of oil were spreading out in ribbons across a gravel surface.

 

Dark clouds over Groovy

Dark clouds loom over Groovy.

The clouds turned black above us. Growing heavy and thick, they spritzed us for a while and then moved off behind us.

Mysterious water leaving Puerto Vallarta

The water separates into wonderful inky patterns.

A lightning show started off our transom. It was far in the distance over the land behind us, and we knew it was the gods’ nightly high voltage power display we had been witnessing back in Puerto Vallarta.

Storm clouds overhead

The clouds turn black above us.

Groovy at Sunset

The sun sets around us.

In no time the sun began to set, and we got ourselves ready to swap watches overnight.

The wind stayed below 10 knots apparent, on the nose, and we continued to motor peacefully all night under the Milky Way.

Sunset first night

Sunset on our first night at sea.

In the morning — the 4th of July — the mist was thick and it obscured the sunrise, but as the day progressed the sun came out and the water became bluer than blue.

The sea was silky smooth all around us, undulating in a continuous, voluptuous motion. We were on our own magic carpet that stretched in a perfect circle all around us, clear to the horizon.

 

Calm sea from cockpit

In the morning all is still calm.

Blue blue water

The water all around is vivid blue.

Calm Sea of Cortez & Mark

Could this preliminary part of the Baja Bash be any more tranquil???

The ocean had been 89 degrees F when we left Puerto Vallarta, and when we looked now it had slipped to 85.

A big pod of dolphins approached us. They were headed somewhere in a bobbing, lumpy group.

They stopped for a few minutes by Groovy to leap out of the water and check out our deck layout and our choice of gear in the cockpit.

A group of them swam to the bow and played just in front of us. They zig-zagged back and forth for a while, seeming to love zooming along while the bow of a big sailboat plunged up and down in the waves just behind them. Then they were off.

Dolphin Leaping

Dolphins leap around Groovy.

Dolphin Nose In

It is so heartwarming when dolphins come to visit the boat
in the middle of the ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking photos of dolphins off the bow

I loved photographing these guys
at our bow.

The hours began to run into each other as we made our way across this widest part of the Sea of Cortez, and eventually we found ourselves 150 miles from shore.

Dolphins play off Groovy's bow

They played just in front of our bow, never touching each other
or getting hit by the huge boat behind them.

The conditions were so totally calm, it was impossible to imagine that a hurricane was raging a few hundred miles south of us. We traded napping for reading and playing on the computer, and we took turns keeping watch and sleeping.

Sitting on the Groovy Boat

The Baja Bash was off to a great start – knock on wood!

The thread connecting all our activities was simply, “Are we there yet?” With every passing hour we were another 6.5 nautical miles closer to our goal. It was a great vast nothingness out there and there was absolutely nothing going on in it.

Calm sea off the bow

Ahhh… the calm before the storm.

As the sun began to fall from the sky our second night, the wind picked up. Within an hour we went from a sleepy 8 knots of apparent headwind to 22 knots and spray. The seas kicked up and they frothed and foamed around us.

The sun set, but we were suddenly too busy trying to keep our balance to mess with taking photos. The boat flew off a few waves and landed with a resounding crash, shaking everything on board to its core.

Chartplotter Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas Mexico

Are we there yet?

Yikes! This wind had been predicted for the last 6-9 hours of this leg of our trip, but that didn’t make it any easier to accept its arrival. We battened everything down and got ready for a long night.

A few more flying leaps off the crests of waves persuaded us to slow the boat speed to 4-5 knots. Climbing up and over each wave, alternately pointing at the sky and then at Davy Jones’ Locker was far preferable to those brutal crash landings!

We each tried our best to sleep while off watch, but it’s hard to fall asleep when your body is being thrown around like a volleyball and the boat is creaking and complaining loudly about the circumstances.

Finally, around 5:00 a.m. Puerto Vallarta time, the boat stopped mimicking a bucking bronco. Two hours later, we dropped the hook in the pitch dark in Cabo San Lucas, feeling our way around the anchorage by memory and radar. Whew! Leg One of our trip was done. 291 miles in 44 hours, from Wednesday July 3rd to Friday July 5th, averaging 6.6 knots. Just 800 miles to go. Woo hoo!!!

Expected arrival in Cabo

The forecast for our arrival that we had gotten 2 days earlier.

Actual Arrival in Cabo

The way things stood when we actually arrived 48 hours later.

After two days of no weather forecasts, we quickly got online for a sleepy one-eyed look at what was going on. Things had changed! Hurricane Dalila had died down more than expected to the southwest, but another hurricane was forming behind her. It looked like we could ride this next hurricane up the coast of Baja if we waited around until Monday. We would have a nice strong southerly wind to push us north!

Hurricane Erick off Cabo San Lucas Mexico

How cool! We’ll wait 3 days and catch a southerly from this next hurricane!!
(but wait, isn’t that playing with fire??)

Fabulous!! How easy is this Baja Bash stuff?! We could catch a few winks, go to the fuel dock when it opened in the morning, and then enjoy three days of rest anchored in Cabo San Lucas. We’d be protected from the predicted north winds while we waited to hitch a ride on the next hurricane’s south wind. Very nice. Easy peasy.

I announced these plans to Mark and he raised an eyebrow. “Really?” He said, looking more astonished than seemed reasonable. “You want to stay here?”

“Absolutely!” I said yawning and closing my laptop with certainty. “We’ll relax here and then catch that next hurricane.”

He said nothing. But something about his doubtful expression lurked uneasily around the edges of my mind as I fell asleep…   Continued…

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Costalegre: La Manzanilla – Exotic animals & RVing Copper Canyon!

Casa Maguey La Manzanilla

Casa Maguey in La Manzanilla – Our beautiful home for a week!

Late June, 2013 – We were loving our stay at pretty Casa Maguey in La Manzanilla.

With a bird’s eye view of the bay from “El Mar,” our casita, we enjoyed the ocean’s ever-changing colors and moods.

This is a place where tranquility reins.

Mystery red flower

The flowers were truly unique

Yellow Flower

Love it when the building behind the flower is a vivid color!

After a few days of oceanfront living, we moved to the garden unit called “El Sol.” We thought we would miss the ocean views, but instead found ourselves enchanted by the bird songs that filled the air.

Casa Maguey - El Sol casita

“El Sol” Casita – surrounded by tropical birds and flowers.

Some of the calls were new to us, and sounded truly jungly.  One bird had a deeply melodious voice and he or she preferred to sing in the wee hours of the morning.

Casa Maguey gate La Manzanilla

The village of La Manzanilla was
just steps away from Casa Maguey.

Casa Maguey Garden La Manzanilla

Stairs through the garden.

The song was so haunting and mysterious that we didn’t mind being woken up to listen. We laid in bed entranced.

Just outside our bungalow door, flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors were in bloom.  A few were so fragile that they blossomed for just a day.

Venturing off the Casa Maguey property into the village of La Manzanilla, we discovered the town is so tiny and rustic that its main street was just paved in the last two years.

We enjoyed watching this very peaceful village wake up in the mornings, and quite a few townspeople joined us in the gourmet coffee shop Cafe del Mar every morning.

El Mar Coffee Shop La Manzanilla

Hector made great lattes, and we enjoyed them with
homemade muffins every morning!

Gourmet coffee shop?  Yes!  Cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, you name it, they were all there.  We became regulars.  If we got there early, the yummy muffins brought to the shop by a young gal from Arkansas were still warm.

Squirrel on my back

Hector, our latte man, brought in his pet squirrel one morning.

One morning, we noticed the owner Hector was playing with a baby squirrel.  He cupped his hands, and the squirrel ran round and round between his fingers like he was on an exercise wheel.

“He fell out of a tree when I was cutting down coconuts,” he explained as he put the bundle of fuzzy energy into my hands.  The little squirrel promptly zipped right up my arm onto my shoulder, tickling me and making me giggle.  He was a cute little guy, bright orange-red on the belly and speckled grey and black on his back.

Coatimundi

What a surprise to find exotic creatures were the norm around here!

It turned out that unusual animals were just part of the scene in La Manzanilla.

Later in the day when we stopped at Palapa Joe’s to get a slice of pizza, I caught sight of a long skinny tail out of the corner of my eye.  I turned and found myself staring right at a coatimundi, masked face, ringed tail and all.

“Look!” I gasped.  Mark grabbed his camera and we were both in shock as this unusual animal snuck up to a dog dish and started eating the kibble.  Our cameras couldn’t snap fast enough.

We’ve seen coatimundi in Arizona, but only fleetingly. This guy was as calm as could be. And he was really enjoying that dog food!

View in La Manzanilla

We climbed up the hill to take in the ocean view.

Just then the owner of the restaurant appeared.
“You wouldn’t believe…” I started to say, pointing.
“Oh yes!”  He laughed easily, “He’s my pet!”

A pet coatimundi?!  Geez, what other kind of tamed wild animals would we find at the NEXT eating establishment?!!

Pangas on the beach

Pangas ready for fishing and touring.

Mangos on sticks

My favorite way to eat mango — when it’s cut like a flower and served on a stick!

We left there in high spirits and wandered the dirt streets to the back side of town where we walked up the steep hills to see the view.

The blue bay stretched in front of us with palm trees framing the views over the tops of the homes.

It was a Sunday, and back down on the beach it seemed that everyone for miles around had come to play.  Crowds kicked back in the beach bars alongside us and vendors walked up and down the beach selling all kinds of things,.

One fellow came by selling mangos on a stick.  Cut like flowers, this is truly the most ingenious and clever way we’ve seen to eat a mango on the go, as you can enjoy all the juicy sweetness without getting all sticky!

Playing in the waves

A big wave takes everyone for a ride.

Sun in sand dollar

Mark finds a sand dollar on the shore.

Families played in the water, and occasionally a big wave would come in and send everyone flying, launching the boogie boarders onto the beach.

We strolled along the beach back towards Casa Maguey, splashing as we walked along the edge where the waves meet the sand and the sand-pipers dance in and out of the water.

Suddenly Mark reached down and picked up a sand dollar.  Although we have lived on a sailboat in Mexico for a few years, this was the first sand dollar we had seen on a beach.

 

 

Cabana on the beach

We bumped into a fascinating little cabana on the beach.

As we turned to head back onto the streets of town, we looked up and saw the most unusual structure.

It was a small thatch roofed hut tucked under a palm tree.  A man was standing out front and we soon struck up a conversation.

“I built this place,” he said.  “It’s kind of unique.  I’m an artist.”

Cabana on the beach La Manzanilla

A tiny cabana on the beach

Intrigued, we stepped up onto his tiny deck.  He had fashioned the deck and railing out of logs tied together with stringy vines.  “It’s very strong,” he said when he saw Mark testing whether the posts wiggled.  “Come on inside!”

We squeezed inside and found ourselves standing in the coziest and tiniest little two rooms.  Everything had been made by hand, even the wooden windows and shutters whose handles were made of stout twigs.

Most surprising was that he had installed electricity throughout.  Besides a blender and coffee maker, he had a big flat screen TV, and internet access on his computer!  What a great mix of Rustic and Modern!!

Cabana Windows

Everything was handmade, including these cool windows
with stout twigs for handles!

 

“I built it under this big palm tree so I’d always have shade.”  He explained.  He gestured towards a group of chairs in the sand.  “That’s my beach bar – in winter,” he went on. “It was destroyed in Hurricane Jova two years ago, so I built this cabana to be much stronger!!”

We looked around in wonder.  There are so many ways to live a life, and what a fun way he had found!

This is a friendly little town, and we found it easy to chat with anyone and everyone in the streets.  Two little girls were playing outside their house, and Mark entertained them (and himself!) for a while with the camera.

Girls check out pic on camera

Mark entertains a pair of sisters and himself with the camera.

Further on, we passed a young boy carrying a crate.  “Do you want some bread?” He asked.  I said “No” automatically, but when Mark saw the perfect loaves of homemade banana bread wrapped in plastic in the crate he instantly said, “Sure!!”

Boy sells banana bread

Banana bread!! Sweet!!!

At the far northwest end of town there is an estuary and crocodile sanctuary.  There were a few stuffed crocs near the entrance to entice people to spend a few pesos to check it out.

We wandered out onto the sanctuary trail, and soon caught sight of a roseate spoonbill, a very odd looking pink bird.

Taking photos of a crocodile mouth

Mark’s lucky this guy is stuffed!!

Roseate Spoonbill

A roseate spoonbill pauses to look at me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crocodile with mouth open

The crocodiles don’t move much, but when they do, watch out!

Not much further on we started to see the crocs. Not just one, but dozens!!

They lounged on the mud banks, half submerged in the water, lying totally motionless like logs, some with their mouths agape.

Once in a while, one would move, lumbering awkwardly, slowly crawling across all his buddies to slip beneath the murky water.

A few times a croc got startled and ran.  Yikes, those guys can move fast!!

 

Airstream camping on the beach

What a fantastic camping spot!!

Wandering just a bit further on to the very edge of town, we discovered a row of beach-side RV parks.  This was the off-season, so most of the parks were completely empty.

But we could imagine that this is a really fun place in the winter when snowbirds come down from the cold country to spend a few months living on the beach.

Rosie at water's edge

Our hostess Rocio at Playa Tenacatita

One morning our hostess Rocio took us on a drive to see some more of the Costalegre.  This coast is lined with beaches of all kinds, and the first one she took us to is Playa Tenacatita.

We had been hoping to do some swimming and snorkeling, but the weather gods had other plans.

Rosie walks on the beach Tenacatita

Rocio didn’t know why we we were taking photos of her — until afterwards!”

Instead, as we watched Rocio walking towards the waves, we both suddenly saw the same image.

Her pretty pink beach dress was flowing in the wind, and she looked beautiful against the overcast day and frothy white waves.

“Wait, stand right there!” We yelled in unison.

Anchored in Careyes

Anchored in Careyes

Rocio had no idea what we were up to until she saw the photos on our laptop later — and she loved them.  What fun!

Once we were done playing high fashion photographer, she drove us to the little bay of Careyes, a gorgeous spot where we had anchored a few months earlier. We wanted to get a glimpse of it from a shore-side perspective.

Careyes View

The only public shore-side view of stunning Careyes.

However, when we drove down the road leading to the public beach, we were stopped by two security guards at a gate.  The entire bay is now in private hands, and the public is not allowed on the beach.

What a shock! In the past, Mexico’s property laws allowed public access to all beaches, but this is changing under the new president.  A law is being passed that will allow both Mexicans and foreigners not only to own oceanfront property but to close public access to the shore if they so choose. Fortunately, Careyes will become accessible to restaurant-goers as soon as the old restaurant on the beach is renovated and is once again open for business.

Playa Los Angeles Locos

Playa Los Angeles Locos.

On our way back to Casa Maguey, we stopped at Playa Los Angeles Locos (“Crazy Angels Beach”) to take in the dramatic view of the bay. What a spot! It was incredible to think that our host John had grown up camping on many of these beaches in his family’s motorhome.

Champion motorhome towed away

The Lehmens’ Champion motorhome gets towed away for repair.

Back at Casa Maguey, John brought over his family’s photo albums from their RV travels in North and South America one morning.  As he began to flip through the pages, we were fascinated by the stories each photo provoked.

Any family that ventures off in an RV or a sailboat to see what lies over the horizon is eminently brave, but I can’t imagine the intrepid determination John’s parents Helga and Josef had when they took their 26′ motorhome all over the American continents in the 1980’s.

Their first motorhome, a Champion, gave them a bit of grief mechanically, and it got towed off to a garage on more than one occasion.  Having dealt with boat repair projects in Mexico, we can only imagine what it was like to have a motorhome break down in Central or South America in the 1980’s!!  But that was just part of the adventure.

Josef digs a well

Josef digs a well for fresh water
for dishes and showers.

Unlike the privatized beaches of today, the Mexican coast was completely open for boondocking back in those days.  After setting up camp, John’s dad would sometimes dig a well near the motorhome and use a motorized pump connected to a hose to get fresh water into the rig for dishes and showers.

RV on flatbed train car Copper Canyon

Young John checks out a train while the motorhome waits
on its flat bed rail car behind him.

Perhaps the most riveting story John told was of the family’s trip through Copper Canyon.  In Chihuahua, John’s dad Josef noticed that a lot of the trains had flat bed rail cars, and he got the idea that perhaps his motorhome could be loaded onto one.

 

Motorhome on flat bed train in Copper Canyon

The first RV to venture into Copper Canyon on a flat bed rail car.

He asked around, and was able to persuade a train operator to put the motorhome on the train to Los Mochis.

As they were rolling through the countryside, Josef was intrigued by the small town of Creel.  He asked the train operator if the flat bed car they were on could be unhooked and left in Creel until the next train came through three days later.

No problem!!  The car was unhooked in Creel, and the family suddenly found themselves swept up in the unbelievably welcoming embrace of the local Tarahumara Indians.

Many of the Indians had never seen white people before, and they were as fascinated by this traveling family as the family was by them.

Copper Canyon flat bed train for RV

Little did they know they would be forgotten —
only to be remembered at 3 a.m. !!!

Three days later, the train came by Creel — but it didn’t stop!

For most people, this would have been cause for alarm, but John and his family were enjoying the generous hospitality of the Indians so much that they thought nothing of it and patiently waited for the next train.

Then one night at 3 a.m. they were jolted out of bed by a huge crash just outside the motorhome.  The train company had suddenly remembered them and had sent a 30,000 horsepower locomotive to retrieve the flat bed rail car. Unannounced, it hooked them up!

 

Casa Maguey La Manzanilla

We will always treasure our memories of Casa Maguey in La Manzanilla
and its lovely — and fascinating — hosts, John and Rocio.

Flying down the tracks at warp speed, with diesel soot spewing everywhere, the huge locomotive pulled their little home aboard the flat bed car on the sleigh ride of its life.

Josef was a freelance writer, and many of the family’s stories graced the pages of AAA Magazine.  Surely, that tale of their flat bed rail car adventure was a huge hit. Not long after their escapade, tourism companies began leading RV tours aboard flat bed rail cars into Copper Canyon.

I could have listened to John’s stories and gone through his photo albums with him for hours.  What a fabulous and adventurous childhood he had.  But now he is enjoying a more tranquil life hosting lucky guests like us at his family’s villas in La Manzanilla at the beautiful Casa Maguey.

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Costalegre: Casa Maguey – Kindred spirits in a beachfront villa

Casa Maguey from beach

Casa Maguey overlooks the beach in La Manzanilla

Late June, 2013 – We returned from our exhilarating inland trip to Guanajuato to find Puerto Vallarta simmering away in the early summer heat.

The rains hadn’t started yet, but the skies threatened every afternoon, while the temperatures inched ever higher.

Our daily migration path went between the ocean, the swimming pools and the ice cream shop at the air conditioned mall!

When we had first arrived in Paradise Village two months earlier, I received an intriguing and unexpected email from a man named John Lehmen inviting us to stay for a week in a beachfront villa at his property, Casa Maguey.

Casa Maguey Oar

Wow!! Were the gods ever smiling on us now!! We emailed back and forth a few times, and Mark and I studied his website, www.casamaguey.com. It turned out that his beautiful trio of oceanfront casitas were situated in the little coastal town of La Manzanilla in the heart of Mexico’s Costalegre.

Casa Maguey in La Manzanilla

Casa Maguey

We had visited La Manzanilla two years prior when we had anchored our sailboat Groovy across the bay in a cove cruisers know as “Tenacatita.”

 

Stairs to the beach

Stairs leading from the house to the beach.

La Manzanilla is a tiny little village that is beloved by all who know it, but it is not a “hot spot” on the tourist trail. We had taken our dinghy ashore and walked around for a few hours in a very brief visit.

What great fortune to be invited to see the town once again, but this time from a lovely vacation home overlooking the beach!

We kept marveling that this special door had opened for us. We wondered who our host John was, and where this unique opportunity would lead.

Cat on the brick stairs

Clay pots and cactus at El Mar

Casa Maguey has wonderful decorations.

La Manzanilla is a favorite among retired ex-pat North Americans, so we knew John must be an older guy.

We were sure he’d created a nice little retirement business for himself renting out his beachfront villas. Scouring the Casa Maguey website, we read one glowing testimonial after another from people who spoke of the tranquility, peace, and beauty they found during their vacations there.

These quotes were taken from guest books left in each villa, and many were decorated with drawings that guests had lovingly made of flowers, hummingbirds, kayaks in the water and other special memories of their time at Casa Maguey.

Almost all of the comments were addressed to a woman named Helga, who was obviously John’s wife. We could tell she kept a lovely home and was a very gracious hostess.

Casa Maguey Entrance

The unique front entrance to Casa Maguey

So we were very surprised when John mentioned that he would be out of town when we arrived and that his wife Rocio would let us in. Rocio? What about Helga? Hmmm. Our curiosity was perked, but even without Helga, we knew we would have a wonderful time.

Rocio

Rocio

When we arrived, after we admired Casa Maguey’s unique flower covered front gate for a few minutes, the door swung open and we were greeted by a very beautiful young woman. “I’m Rocio.” She said.

Our eyebrows shot up and we exchanged a quick glance. Huh? We didn’t say a word to each other, but we were both thinking the same thing: whatever happened to Helga, this guy John sure scored well on his second marriage!!

El Mar Sitting Room

The sitting room in the casita “El Mar” is filled with
refreshing ocean breezes…

Rosie showed us our room, and we were absolutely charmed. Besides a pretty bedroom and kitchen, there was a sitting room with a terrace that overlooked the beach and bay.

El Mar Sitting Room View

…and it has a great view!

The windows and door were flung wide, and the ocean breezes felt delightfully refreshing after the oppressive heat and humidity that been smothering us day and night in Puerto Vallarta.

El Mar Bedroom

We had a full-sized apartment to spread out!

We quickly made ourselves at home and settled right in, spreading out in this full-sized apartment and luxuriating in having not just the airy sitting room and bedroom but a lovely patio too.

El Mar Bedroom

How had this good fortune come our way? I don’t know, but it seemed to be the miraculous modern mixture of internet socializing and sharing our travels online. Suddenly we were living in a beautifully decorated and spacious one-bedroom apartment on the beach.

El Mar Terrace

We loved this terrace and its exquisite view of the beach

We stood on the deck and admired the spectacular, flower-framed view.

The beach stretches out for miles, stopping first at some thatch-roofed palapa beach bars in town and then wrapping around past stands of palm trees and occasional oceanfront mansions.

The sun was falling low in the sky, casting everything in a beautiful, warm, late afternoon light.

El Mar Terrace View

It’s a busy beach with pangas going in and out for tours and fishing all the time.

What a thrill it was to have a chance to enjoy this beach and town at leisure from the comfort of our own beach bungalow! We snuggled on the couch and enjoyed the view, counting our blessings.

Casa Maguey Stairs

The essence of this pretty property is
peace and tranquility.

Fountain at Casa Maguey

The lush gardens are filled with exotic flowers and bird songs.

 

 

 

 

Suddenly we heard a knock on the door, and a handsome young man with blonde hair and bright blue eyes appeared. “I’m John,” he said., holding out his hand.

Our jaws dropped — was this John, our host? He was far from a retiree! We laughed as we shook hands and told him about our goof and how we’d assumed he was a spry old silver fox that robbed the cradle. He was actually the perfect match for his stunning bride!! He laughed too. “I can’t wait to tell Rosie, she’ll think that’s really funny!”

John and Rocio of Casa Maguey

Our wonderful hosts – and kindred spirits –  John and Rocio

So if this wasn’t a retirement gig, we wondered, how had John come to own such a pretty property on the coast?

“My parents built this place 20 years ago,” he explained. “It was one of the first guest houses on the bay. All the buildings you see around the bay have filled in since then. My mom ran things for a long time, but she retired recently and passed the responsibilities on to me.”

“Oh… so Helga is your mother!” I said, slowly piecing it all together.

El Mar Garden at Casa Maguey

“Yes!” he said. Then he went on to tell us the tale of the most intriguing childhood and upbringing I can imagine.

Born in Germany to German parents, John was raised traveling throughout the Americas full-time in a 26′ RV, first a Champion motorhome and then a Winnebago.

For 12 years, he and his mom and dad took their motorhome between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of South America.

They drove up and down the two American continents seven times, first going along the coasts and then zig-zagging through the middle.

Champion Motorhome

John traveled across the Americas in a motorhome with his parents

They traveled through El Salvador during the war — with a military escort — and they camped on the Caribbean and Pacific beaches in Mexico.

From Macchu Picchu to the Grand Canyon, they saw it all, speaking German among themselves and learning Spanish and English on the road. Whenever they stayed in a place for two weeks or more, John was enrolled in the local school.

John was a seasoned world traveler before he entered first grade!

John was a seasoned world traveler before he entered first grade!

Fitting in wasn’t so hard where blue eyed blondes were common, he said, but he had to learn to adapt quickly in schools where he stood out from the crowd.

Mark and I were blown away. What a fabulous family adventure!

“My family was 7th generation wine makers in Germany.” He went on. “The wine industry was changing in the eighties and small boutique wineries were facing a lot of competition from the industrial giants. So my dad sold the vineyard and decided to take the family on the road…”

John and the motorhome

What a great way to grow up!

Mark and I listened to his story in wonder. We feel like adventurers ourselves, but every so often we meet someone whose travels and experiences completely dwarf what we’ve done. We love that!

It turned out that John’s parents, Josef and Helga, had passed through this corner of Mexico several times in their travels, camping right on the beach. It was one of their favorite places to visit. One year, they noticed a small “Se Vende” (For Sale) sign hidden in the bushes on property at the end of the beach.

hummingbird

The hummingbirds happily buzzed all the red flowers.

At the time, after all those years of traveling, the family was at a crossroads: sell the motorhome and buy another one overseas to travel the African continent, or settle down for a while?

cat tail flower

There are lots of very unusual flowers

purple flower

 

In the end, the village of La Manzanilla and the beachfront property captured their hearts, and they decided to make Casa Maguey their permanent home.

 

Red bell flower

How beautiful!

“I’ve got some stories to tell!” John said. “I’ll show you some pictures later!” Then he was off.

Sun lashes

We watched many magnificent sunsets
from our terrace.

Running a guest home takes a lot of work, and over the next few days we watched him and his crew working hard on all kinds of projects around the property.

But we were on vacation! We got out our cameras and began exploring.

 

Just outside our door, between the three cottages at Casa Maguey, there is a lush tropical garden that is absolutely brimming with flowers and singing birds. Mark was in seventh heaven photographing all the exotic flowers, and I happily listened to the trilling bird songs.

Sunset on a silken sea

The colors were ever-changing at sunset.

 

In the late afternoons, we were treated to some magnificent sunsets right off our balcony. Each sunset was unique and special.

One night the rays of the setting sun played with the palms of the palapa roof over our deck. Mark caught them just right and called his image “sun lashes.”

Another night we looked out on a silken sea. The water was like an undulating blue scarf, and the halo of the setting sun made a peach backdrop for the rocky cliffs on the horizon.

 

 

Golden sunset with bougainvillea

The sky and sea are cast in gold

On yet another night the whole sky and sea were cast in gold.

A few nights we had overcast and dark skies, preventing any colors from showing.

Sometimes, however, just for a moment, the sun would suddenly peak through, turning the sky a vibrant orange and yellow, and reflecting these bright shades in the water.

This was an engaging place, and we felt blessed to have been welcomed in by such warm hosts.

Orange sunset from El Mar balcony

A vivid orange sunset takes our breath away.

Macaws in heart

Casa Maguey is a romantic spot!

 

 

The heart of a small guest house like Casa Maguey is in the spirit of its hosts, and John and Roscio were fun to be with and were quickly becoming good friends.

Rocio showed up at our door one night with a delicious desert made of bananas and honey for us to try, and she told us some of her favorite spots to go in town. Once we began exploring La Manzanilla and beyond, it was easy to see why John’s parents had decided to end their travels and make a life for themselves in this quiet village on the Costalegre.

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PV: Paradise Village Estuary – Birds, Iguanas, Crocs…and Dolphins?

Bougainvillea Pretty Litter

Pretty Litter

April, 2013 – Paradise Village is not only a beautiful resort with a beach, pools and hot tubs, but it is a lovely community with a fantastic row of sumptuous neighboring resorts. Mark went running every morning (I was lazy!), and he always came home talking about all the wonderful things he’d seen on his run.

Flowers on sidewalk

Flowers on the sidewalk in Paradise Village

One spot in particular was strewn with flower petals, and we went back with our cameras to take photos. He called it “pretty litter.” I like that!!

White Flower

These little flowers have thick petals and are very fragrant!

Cactus Flower

A lovely cactus flower bloomed for just a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirror reflections in water

Mirror reflections in the estuary

Spring was happening, and all sorts of lovely flowers were in bloom. For a few days, we watched a tiny red cactus flower open up for its brief dance on this earth. It bloomed for just two or three days and then it was done. Such fleeting beauty!

Paradise Village Marina at sunrise

Paradise Village Marina at sunrise.

The marina sits on the mouth of an estuary, and one morning we took the dinghy upriver. The sun cast a soft glow on everything.

Mirror reflections

The water was like glass.

We especially liked the mirrored reflections in the water.

Estuary palm reflections

Peace in the Estuary

This is a narrow estuary that parallels the main Paradise Village road for a ways. At first we were on the back side of all the little shops, and then the buildings thinned out and the creatures began to appear.

Lots of iguanas were sitting in the trees sunning themselves.

Yellow crowned night herons were in abundance. Like so many birds, they change their appearance completely as they mature. We thought we were seeing two different species of birds, but we were actually looking at teenagers and full grown adults.

 

Iguana in a tree

An iguana stares down at us.

Yellow crowned night heron juvenile

A young yellow-crowned night heron.

Yellow crowned high heron adult

This is what they look like when they grow up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we started cruising Mexico’s west coast, we had no idea there were crocodiles. But there are! The signs aren’t kidding.

Mark is good at spotting wildlife, and while I was busy staring up into the trees, he noticed a croc hiding among the roots. He pointed the dinghy’s bow into the dark undergrowth and we quietly slipped in.

Zona de Cocodrilos

The sign doesn’t lie…

Crocodile in Paradise Village estuary

And there he is, tucked away behind branches in the shadows…

Crocodile teeth

Crocodile smile!

Yikes. This guy was a big one!! Unfortunately some branches obscured his face a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-faced cormorant

A mystery bird gives us the once over.

 

 

 

 

There was no mistaking that this was a croc! I got a close-up of his teeth. I don’t think I’d want those things clamped around my leg!!

Fortunately, he wasn’t in the mood to swim. He just sat there watching us float by.

As we pulled away, Mark noticed another bird was checking us out from the trees. Again, we had no idea what it was, and later thought it was a red-faced cormorant, but it doesn’t have webbed feet. So this guy is a mystery bird for now.

6 Yellow crowned night heron adult

Some of these guys were making nests in the trees.

Iguana face

Just lazin’ around…

The estuary winds on and on through thick stands of trees. We took a right turn here and a left turn there and wandered all over the place.

Paradise Village Home on estuary

There are some beautiful homes back in the estuary.

Paradise Village Home with yacht

Some of the homes even have yachts out front.

 

 

Finally we turned around and headed back, emerging among some absolutely beautiful estates. Such gracious living. Lots of the homes here have a dock out front where the family yacht is parked. What a life!!

Palm and flowers

We passed little collections of boats, some very salty looking. It was one of those lazy mornings where we just drifted along on glassy water and let the pretty images on shore come into focus and then fade away behind us.

Bridge gatekeepers hom

This bridge had a little gate-keepers house underneath!

 

 

 

We came to a little bridge that crossed over the estuary and noticed there was a small room at its base with a door and window on either side. Tollbooth? Bridge keeper’s house? I have no idea, but it was a fun hobbit-hole kind of place.

Finally the estuary returned back towards the sea where the two big marinas are situated (Nuevo Vallarta Marina and Paradise Village Marina). Here we saw the boat Flying Dragon safely tied up and resting peacefully after its grounding escapade on the beach in front of Paradise Village Resort.

Paradise Village Marina entrance

Looking out towards the marina channel entrance.

Flying Dragon at the dock

After her mishap, Flying Dragon is safe at the dock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dolphin Adventures dolphin pose

A dolphin gets a little practice behind the scenes.

This corner of the estuary is home to Dolphin Adventures where tourists can swim with the dolphins. These guys are very well trained, and as we drifted by we could see them leaping and playing in their pool.

Suddenly, a group of trainers assisted a dolphin up onto the dock! What the heck! The dolphin posed for a moment, tail in the air!

 

 

Dolphin Adventures feeding dolphin

“Say ahhh” … “Yum!”

Then one of the trainers began tossing fish into the dolphin’s mouth. The dolphin seemed to love this game and a bunch of fish quickly disappeared as he gave us all a toothy grin.

We later found out that the trainers feed the dolphins this way to keep their skills up. It also prevents their pool from becoming a fishy mess that attracts seabirds. This way every fish finds a home in the dolphins’ stomachs!!

We wandered around for a bit behind our slip in the marina, admiring the homes and yachts. This is a very beautiful place to hang around in a boat, and we felt no urge to take Groovy anywhere else for a while.

Paradise Village estate on the estuary

This beautiful estate and its resident yachts are right behind our dock.

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PV: Paradise Village Marina – A Resort Vacation!

Early April, 2013 – After enjoying the wonderful outdoor market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, we took a brief, hour-long sail aboard Groovy to Paradise Village Marina, where we were suddenly surrounded by all the comforts of shore-based living.  And and then some!

paradise village resort

Paradise Village Resort – What a Place!

sunrise at paradise village marina

Sunrise surrounds Groovy in its slip.

After five months of rolling around in small coves and bays, the luxury of Paradise Village Resort was totally over the top for us.

overlooking paradise village resort pools

Paradise Village “Dragon Pool” with the beach and bay beyond.

The marina sits in an estuary, and at sunrise the water is often like glass.  One morning we were blessed with a spectacular sunrise that embraced Groovy.

It felt really strange to be able to walk right off the boat and into a resort.  No mad dash through the surf to land the dinghy, and no salty and sandy feet when climbing back aboard.

The dinghy even began to gather dust in its spot hanging off the transom.

We began to wonder if what we were doing still qualified as “cruising.”

paradise vaillage hot tub crowd

The hot tube is a popular place.

Paradise Village Resort just begged for exploration.  Looking down from a balcony near the top of one of the buildings, we could see the “dragon pool” that has two water slides where squealing kids shoot out of the mouths of dragons.

palm tree and chairs at paradise village beach resort

There are rows of palapa-chairs on the beach by the bar.

Beyond the poolside chairs and palms, we could see the pier that marks the entrance to the marina channel and the beach and bay.

The hot tub looked really inviting from this balcony too, and we discovered that quite a few cruisers spent their evenings there after the sun went down.

Palapa and chairs at Paradise Village

Hey – we’re on vacation (from our vacation)!!

Out on the beach there are rows and rows of lounge chairs sitting under thatched umbrellas.

For a few days we ran around so much,  taking it all in and rejoicing at being able to live at a resort (how did THAT happen?), that we didn’t stop to take advantage of any of it.  We just took a million pictures and said “wow” over and over.

waterfall pool in puerto vallarta

The “Waterfall Pool” at Paradise Village.

 

But then we got down to the business of vacationing, like everyone else around us, and we spent an afternoon hanging out in those wonderfully inviting chairs.  Pretty darn nice!

nuevo vallarta gulls and beach

Gulls on the beach.

snowy egret landing in nuevo vallarta

A snowy egret comes in for a landing.

The other big pool at the Paradise Village beach resort is the “waterfall pool.”  Playing in the spray in this pool was fun, but what really got me excited was the fabulous shower in the spa.  For five months I had been dancing around in a phone booth for my daily shower, but not any longer.

nuevo vallarta beach kid

We just loved watching the kids play on this beach in the mornings.

 

 

 

 

The “ladies room” in the spa isn’t just a row of toilets.  It is a haven for women where all your weariness and cares of the day just melt away.

Beyond all the massage rooms, where the masseuses wear crisp white uniforms and the vacationers kick back in plush robes, there is a candle-lit hot-tub.

puerto vallarta kids playing on beach

Treasure hunting on the beach.

This darkened tub is surrounded by cushioned lounge chairs and glass vases filled with water and floating flower petals.  The air is thick and moist and sooo relaxing.  Oh my.

When I walked in, gentle, soothing, new age flute music wafted softly through the warm mist, and no one was there.  I submerged myself in the luxurious hot water and basked in that bubbling tub for what seemed like hours.

Once I was sufficiently relaxed, I contorting myself into all kinds of crazy positions in front of the jets to massage all my sore spots and bruises from the boating life.  Pure heaven!  Then I moved on to the immense shower.  Sigh.

 

sea kayak in waves

The tour boat operators struggled to get their boats off the beach sometimes.

The shower was made of fancy stone tile and was very spacious.  Three big dispensers were filled with sweetly scented, high quality shampoo, conditioner and body wash.  None of that one-bottle-does-it-all stuff here.

And the hot water just ran and ran and ran.  I emerged a long time later, quite pink and very wrinkled.

I was so excited about all this that after gushing about it to Mark for a while (he rolled his eyes a bit), I started going on and on about it to a neighbor down on the docks.

shipwreck on the beach puerto vallarta

A unique wooden cruising boat was beached in front of the resort.

She laughed as she listened to me and then informed me rather bluntly that we cruisers weren’t supposed to use the spa.  It was only for the highest paying resort guests.  Oh, man!  Really?!  I had been ready to move right in and stay forever.

One day, “Flying Dragon,” a very unusual wooden cruising boat, ran into trouble and grounded hard on the beach. All the cruisers from the marina ran down to the beach to see what was going on and try to help out.

shipwreck on the beach shovels nuevo vallarta

Taking a break from shoveling.

We discovered that it had beached the night before while coming into the marina, and as the day progressed, the community efforts to assist the folks on this boat grew and grew.

All kinds of ingenious tricks were employed to try and dislodge this boat.  Men began shoveling around it, then they used a torch to remove the rudder, and finally they drove a backhoe onto the beach to dig a trench around the boat.

At high tide a huge tug-of-war line of men stretched far out into the water and pulled the bow towards the bay.  After sunset the boat finally floated off and was able to limp into Marina Nuevo Vallarta across from Paradise Village Marina.

Mayan temple sand castle

An ancient Mayan temple in the sand…!

 

 

 

 

Paradise Village is very grand, and the theme at the resort is ancient Mayan culture and history.  Even down on the beach someone had built a Mayan temple sand castle.  Up at the resort, the arched doorways and windows have the classic tapered edges and flat tops of the ancient Mayan style.

Mayan temple window patterns

Mayan history is reflected throughout Paradise Village Resort.

Every building is named for one of the famous landmarks of the ancient world: Palenque (Mayan ruins in Chiapas Mexico), Tikal (Mayan ruins in Guatemala), and more.

People go cruising for all kinds of reasons, and one of our biggest goals was to learn first-hand about a foreign culture and its history.  In this third year of floating along Mexico’s coast we began to feel that we’d accomplished that goal.

When we first stayed at the Paradise Village Resort before Christmas last year, we knew nothing about the ancient ruins or cultures that are sprinkled throughout Mexico.  Our cruising had been strictly focused on coastal destinations.

Zapotec style stonework

A huge lintel at one of the resort entrances reminds us of the stonework at the Mitla ruins in Oaxaca.

Mayan Statue at paradise village marina

Mayan warrior.

Now we felt really grateful to have gotten off the boat and seen some of the wonders of the ancient world. As we looked around the resort now, we recognized the historic references to antiquity.

Last spring, we had crawled all over — and loved — the ruins at Palenque, Monte Alban, Yaxchilan and Bonampak.

The lintel over the huge stone arch at one of the resort entrances looked very much like the stonework we had seen at the Zapotec ruins of Mitla outside of Oaxaca City, and the statuary around the resort was reminiscent of the stone statues we had seen at Yaxchilan.

Jaguar Statue paradise village resort

Roar!!!

Tiger face in the Paradise Village collection

Grrrr…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year we had been alarmed by the roaring sound of the howler monkeys in the trees at Palenque, because we had thought the sound came from jaguars. Here at Paradise Village, the jaguar statue looked very fierce — but not nearly as intimidating as Diego, the Tiger-in-Residence at the resort.

Tiger at Paradise Village Resort - Diego

The tigers were both very regal.

Diego and his companion Daisy are part of the Paradise Village Bengal tiger program that has produced over 76 cubs from 9 females and 3 males since 1996.  We learned it is the most successful tiger breeding program in Mexico, and the cubs have been relocated to zoos all over Mexico and Latin America.

Exotic flora and fauna abound at the resort, and a collection of macaws and a cockatoo give the place a really jungly sound each morning and evening as they squawk and holler at each other and their caretakers.

There is a fun parrot show twice a week, and these guys are really amusing to watch!

military macaw on bike

A native military macaw prepares for the Tour de France.

Moluccan Cockatoo drinking from a hose

The Moluccan cockatoo gets a drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

scarlet Macaw flapping his wings

The scarlet macaw went crazy during his shower every morning.

scarlet macaw shows off his colors

Joseph and his coat of many colors…

The olive green military macaws ride bikes, balance on balls, and do toddler-level exercises with jig-saw puzzle shapes and blocks. A blue and gold macaw roller skates, and the scarlet macaw and cockatoo pose with kids for photos afterwards.

Scarlet macaw takes a bath

He loved his bath as much as I loved that hot tub in the spa!

Their trainer has worked with them for many years, and it is one big happy family.  Every morning she brings out a hose to clean their cages, and they all take advantage of the water spray to get a bath and take a drink.

starbucks sign

Ahhh… a Venti Hazlenut Latte at last!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The military macaws are the only native parrots in this flock, and their breeding program at the resort must be very successful, as there were ten or so of them, including a few loving (and squabbling) pairs.

We were enjoying our new resort life so much that the days just flew past.  Every imaginable convenience was within a few footsteps of the boat

latte swirls

This fancy latte was even better…

Down at the mall (there’s a mall!!), we found not only Subway, Domino’s and McDonalds (believe me, these are very appealing when you’ve been at anchor for a long time), but there was a Starbucks.

Ooooh that first Venti Hazlenut Latte was yummy. Better yet, another little coffee bistro nearby had fluffy coffees with pretty designs on top.

At first, we had planned to stay at Paradise Village Marina for a month or so.  Little did we know that our stay would stretch out to be longer than that!

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PV: 2013 Kiteboard World Cup – Here on the beach!

Mini Cooper

It’s Your Lucky Day!

Mid-May, 2013 – One afternoon while strolling around the streets of Paradise Village (Puerto Vallarta Mexico), we noticed a Mini Cooper go by. Then another. And another. Heck, there were a whole bunch! What in the world? Mini Cooper sightings re not all that common here!

English phone booth on the beach

A British phone booth – by the beach!!

The next morning we went out on another walk, stretching our legs and lazily taking photos of flowers. Suddenly we noticed a group of Mini Coopers lined up in the parking lot at the Hard Rock Hotel resort. Aha! Mark ran over to get some photos, and then we went up to the resort entrance, hoping to find out a little more about what was going on.

Mini cooper test drive

Hop in and drive me!

 

 

 

 

Sure enough, more Mini Coopers were parked in front of the hotel lobby. And one little white one had these intriguing words painted on the door:
“Curious of being my pilot? Drive me!” The back window spelled it out a little more clearly: “It’s your lucky day – You can drive me!”

kiteboard world cup hunk

Hotties of both both sexes came to the races.

Lucky day, indeed!! Next thing I knew, Mark was signing some papers and I was jumping into the passenger seat of a chic little black Mini while a rep from a local dealership climbed into the back seat and told Mark to put the pedal to the metal. Wow!!

Mini Kiteboard world cup babe

Posing with a backdrop.

It turned out that Mini test drives were part of the 2013 Mini Kiteboard World Cup competition that was taking place down on the beach. So, after zipping around a few corners and thinking that gee, this was a really sweet little car, we ran down to the beach, grinning from ear to ear.

Minis were on display everywhere — in the grassy lawn and down on the beach. The theme was decidedly British. There was even a red English phone booth overlooking the water!

2013 mini kite board world cup interview

Interviewing the kiteboarders for the media

Our cameras went into overdrive and we we shared a quick “is this really happening?” glance as a gal put bracelets on our wrists and explained to us that these gave us access to the VIP hospitality suite where they were serving free drinks. Really?  Was it the cameras? Did they think we were with the press? Who cares! Let’s go!.

kiteboard world cup competitor

The kiteboarders pump up their kites.

 

 

 

It was early, but gradually a crowd of youthful hotties of both sexes began to pour in. Neither of us had any idea what a kiteboard was, but the athletes coming in all had huge backpacks and gear bags slung over their shoulders. They threw their gear bags in a pile while they carbo-loaded at a nearby food tent and then got ready to race.

2013 mini kiteboard world cup kites

The kites look like colorful dinosaur wings

 

After lunch, they began to spread their kites out on the grass. Rather than having rigid ribs and framing, the structural parts of these kites all got inflated by hand pumps.

Soon the kites filled the lawn, looking like vibrantly colored prehistoric wings. Then, one by one, the athletes carried their wings to the beach where they were laid out in the sand.

A big crowd had formed on the beach, and the announcer was getting everyone psyched up with an endless patter in English and Spanish, while music blasted a heavy, pulsing beat in the background.

kiteboard world cup puerto vallarta

Ready for take-off!

 

Looking at the angular wings on the beach, it was hard to imagine how they would be used to propel the kiteboarders.

But once they waded into the water and flipped their wings into crescent shapes, we suddenly saw the most beautiful display.

The kites rose up in the air and the athletes were pulled out into the water where they zoomed back and forth at break neck speeds.

mexico kiteboard world cup

The beach was loaded with people and kites.

mexico kiteboard world cup

Lots of color everywhere.

kiteboarding

The afternoon wind was perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a series of races that took place a ways out, and at first all the kiteboarders zoomed out there. The kites floated back and forth along the horizon, drifting, dipping, diving and soaring past each other, changing directions and floating freely in a kaleidoscope dance of colors.

2013 mini kiteboard world cup races

Kites fill the sky during the races.

kiteboarding races in mexico

A sailboat is framed by beautiful kites.

kiteboarding kite

Color in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few sailboats glided past on the distant horizon, adding to the beauty of the scene.

We ran up and down the beach, trying to get the best angles on the action, when we suddenly saw one of the kiteboarders fly into the air and flip around in a somersault. Holy cow!! We didn’t know they did THAT!!

kiteboard jump

These guys are GOOD!

kiteboard flying

Soaring.

kiteboard tumbling

Tumbling.

kiteboarder jumping in Puerto Vallarta world cup

Weeeeee!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kiteboarder tumbling

Wow – how’d he do that?!

And then the challenge was on — trying to catch these guys in the act!

We were far from the the crowd and the main tent, and we could no longer hear the announcer. So we had no idea what was going on.

jumping over the camper kiteboard races

A photographer gets a shot from below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All we knew was that every so often a kiteboarder would flip up in the air and do a mesmerizing series of twists and turns.

kiteboarder racing in Mexico

When is he going to jump?

world cup kiteboard competition mexico

Landing pattern.

But we never knew when that would happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These guys zipped past us, back and forth, and back and forth, at crazy speeds, weaving between each other and making us wonder if their lines would tangle or if they would crash into each other.

kiteboarding somersault

Look out below!!

These were the best of the best, however — it was the World Cup after all — and there were no crashes or even near misses. But there were no indications of when they wanted to jump either!

So we’d pan one guy as he streaked past us on the beach, waiting and hoping, but then he would sail out to sea and never jump.

kite board speed racer

What an exhilarating ride!

Then, just as we’d put the camera down with a discouraged, “Aw, he’s not gonna jump,” we would see a different guy falling out of the sky right in front of us. It seemed that all afternoon we were saying too each other, “Arrghh, I missed that one!!”

But we did catch a few. And we were so excited by the whole thing that we went back the next day to see more.

recue boat with kitebaord jumper

The Navy rescue boat was never far.

What a glorious sport. So wild and free. They made it look fantastically easy, and we both wondered wistfully where we could take lessons.

kiteboard racer concentrates 281

Concentration…

 

 

 

 

It seemed like an effortless and exhilarating ride. Sometimes they cruised along one-handed. And even when they crashed, it just seemed like a splashy soft landing.

In the distance, though, we could see the Navy had stationed a rescue boat, just in case! Luckily, no rescues were ever needed, and instead they enjoyed the best seat in the house, right in the middle of all the action.

mexico world cup kiteboarding races competition

Kites flying above the beach.

world cup kiteboarding races mexico

What a beautiful spot to watch.

kiteboard with boots

Ahhh…. rest at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also caught some of the action on video and put together a little clip.  It’s not quite Fox Sports, but it gives the essence of what it was like to stand there on the beach and take in this incredible spectacle:
2013 Kiteboard World Cup Racing in Mexico.

 

 

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PV: La Cruz – A Fun Artisan Market & Cruiser Hangout in Mexico

La Cruz Marina Riviera Nayarit

La Cruz has an active fishing jetty and docks for mega yachts too!

Early April, 2013 – After rounding Cabo Corrientes and sailing up from the pretty but lightly populated anchorages of the Costalegre, our arrival in La Cruz felt like coming into the big city. The Banderas Bay Regatta was in full-swing, and the Puerto Vallarta marinas were packed to the gills.

The La Cruz anchorage was also full to overflowing, and we suddenly felt the exhilarating rush of being part of a busy port.

La Cruz Mexico Artist's gallery

An art gallery in La Cruz.

 

 

La Cruz Mexico horse in yard

Despite being next to urban Puerto Vallarta,
La Cruz has a rural, small town feeling to it.

La Cruz is an interesting mix of high end yachts, fishing boats, and cruising boats.

It is one of the most popular hangouts for cruisers in Pacific Mexico, and is home to some wonderful characters too.

Cruiser at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

La Cruz has some great characters, many of whom happily traded in their suits and ties to go cruising.

The quiet town itself has an artsy side and a rustic side, and we saw a little of both as we strolled the familiar cobblestone streets, passing an art gallery, roosters in the streets and a horse tied to a tree.

New to us, however, was the fabulous La Cruz market that takes place every Sunday. Somehow we had missed this vibrant event in years past, and it was a real treat to take part in it now.

La Cruz Market and beach

The farmer’s market is spread out under umbrellas along the shore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Cruz Mexico Marina Nayarit Farmer's Market

Wonderful things for sale on the water’s edge.

The little jetty and walking path near the fish market transform completely every Sunday morning as food and art vendors set up shop under colorful umbrellas.

Kids play on the beach while parents buy and sell goodies just steps away.

Anything and everything is for sale in this market, but unlike some flea markets, this is all Really Good Stuff.

La Cruz market band

These guys kept the tempo of the market upbeat…

Bird of Paradise flowers

Exotic flowers for sale.

There was a band playing in the midst of it all, putting us in a festive mood as we shuffled from table to table, marveling at the crafts and sampling delicious things.

Huichol bead art La Cruz

A Huichol man makes ancestral bead art.

 

 

Beautiful flowers were brought in from the fertile valley nearby. Artisans made Huichol bead art and glass blown figures as we watched.

Glass blower

A glass blower shows how it’s done.

Coffee table with Wendy

Ahh… my favorite coffee!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found our favorite coffee vendor, a Frenchman name Wendy, and replenished our stash of his tasty roasted beans.

Out on the jetty, we found a vendor selling unusual, tiny, paper dolls. I’m not sure if they were papier-mâché or some other technique, but the wizened faces of the little old ladies and men carrying baskets of hot peppers were unique.

Papier mache doll heads

Dolls made of paper.

Papier mache doll head

Lots of detail on the wrinkled faces.

La Cruz Mexico Water Bottle Lady

This lady was selling butterflies made from used
water bottles.

Another lady was selling colorful “stained glass” style butterfly decorations made of discarded water bottles. Now that’s clever!!

Water bottle butterflies

What a creative idea!

We came across a vendor selling lovely carved picture frames. One in particular made a neat frame for the boats in the marina behind the market!

La Cruz Marina - Framing the boats in the marina

A pretty frame for the boats.

 

But I think the reason this market is so vastly popular is because of the awesome food for sale. Every delicacy you can imagine was on offer.

Juice Vendor

Orange-tangerine juice – yum!

stacked french bread

A mountain of baguettes.

Mark started with a glass of fresh squeezed orange and tangerine juice — what a great combo!

Other vendors were cooking things to order. Oh my. No wonder cruisers love La Cruz so much!

La Cruz Mexico Farmer's Market

Not sure what it was, but it was delicious!

 

One table had French bread loaves stacked high in the air. They looked intriguing, but the baker who made them looked even more-so!

mexican baker

The baker.

We enjoyed every minute of this market and took our time savoring all the yummy food and talking with the vendors.

Paradise Village Marina sunrise

Sunrise at Paradise Village Marina

Back on the boat, it was time to move down the bay to Paradise Village Marina. We had been living at anchor for five months now, and had promised ourselves a final month of sweet shore-based living in that deluxe marina. On our first morning, Paradise Village welcomed us with a lovely sunrise over the bow…

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PV: Chamela to La Cruz – Dances with Whales at Cabo Corrientes

Map of Cabo Corrientes Chamela Banderas Bay Puerto Vallarta

100 miles from Chamela to La Cruz…

Late March, 2013 – Cabo Corrientes (“Cape of Currents”) is a notorious point, known for dishing out excitement, thrills and sometimes terror to sailors that are voyaging between the Costalegre (Chamela to Manzanillo) to the south and Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) to the north.

However, much like the bad tempered Gulf of Tehuantepec down near Mexico’s border with Guatemala, this cape’s mood swings are predictable. It isn’t hard to find a window of opportunity when the cape will let your boat pass without demanding much of a toll.

We saw a weather window coming up on our favorite weather prediction website. To time it optimally, doing as little night sailing as possible, we needed to leave Bahia Chamela and its pretty islands around midnight to arrive in Banderas Bay 100 miles north the next afternoon.

So we hopped 10 miles from colorful Careyes to Chamela Bay where we anchored for an afternoon and evening, watching the immense waves crashing on the beach.

Chamela Bay Mexico surf XZQK3RSSYWQF

The surf was up when we got to Chamela.

Bahia Chamela Mexico surf XZQK3RSSYWQF

Cruisers were stuck on their boats in the anchorage watching these crazy waves.

Chamela Playa Perula Mexico surf XZQK3RSSYWQF

Yikes!

Wow. What a show!! The surf was so high that none of the cruisers were going ashore in their dinghies. Well, one pair of guys tried. In the end, though, they anchored their dink outside the surf zone and then swam in. That must have been quite a body surfing ride!!

Cabo Corrientes Mexico XZQK3RSSYWQF

The notorious Cabo Corrientes is calm as we pass.

 

We took note of the locations of all the fishing pens and other cruising boats around us in the anchorage while it was still light.

Then, at the appointed hour, we crept between them all, in total blackness, and snuck out of the anchorage in the dark.

Cabo Corrientes Mexico XZQK3RSSYWQF

Another boat joins us on the way into Banderas Bay.

 

 

 

We had an uneventful voyage north, and hours later, at dawn, the infamous Cabo Corrientes treated us to a hazy sunrise. All was calm and serene as we passed the point.

Whale breach XZQK3RSSYWQF

Welcome to Banderas Bay!!!

Humpback Whale breach

Over we go…

 

 

 

That is, all was tranquil until a huge humpback whale breached right by us.

Holy cow!! All heck broke loose aboard Groovy as we slowed the engine and jumped for the camera.

Humpback Whale breaching XZQK3RSSYWQF

Bam!!

 

Photographing breaching whales is a little tricky, though, because they don’t tell you when and where they are going to pop up.

Whale breach Puerto Vallarta

Let’s do it again!

 

 

 

Humpback Whale breaching Puerto Vallarta

Over we go…

Only after the show ended did I remember to think about important things like the camera’s shutter speed and orientation of the polarizing filter.

Oops!! Oh well, the drama was fantastic.

Whale watchers see humpback whale breach

Wham!! Right in front of a tour boat!!

One thing that intrigued us was that this guy always breached with his left fin up and then fell over on his left side. Another thing that amazed us was that the whale watching boats were always right there — and so close!!

Whale watchers see humpback whale breach

Left fin first! Kinda like springboard divers that lead their rotating dives with one arm.

Whale watchers humpback whale show

The whale watchers got such a great show — and so did we!!

Whale watchers get splashed

A little spray action for the tourists!

It really seemed to us that the whale was performing for the whale watching boat, because it breached so close to them every time. I’m not sure what kind of performance contracts these whales work out with the tour operators, but both the whale and the boat seemed to know exactly when showtime was over. The boat left, and the whale never appeared again.

Tuna catch La Cruz Marina Nayarit

Catch of the day.
Actually, they had lots more carts of fish!

We anchored outside of Marina Riviera Nayarit, the pretty new marina at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, and quickly went ashore.

La Cruz Mexico fish market

Little fish on display at the La Cruz fish market.

La Cruz Marina Riviera Nayarit Mexico

La Cruz is a mix of high end yachts, cruising boats
and fishing pangas.

There is a wonderful fish market next to the marina, and we watched the fishermen unloading their sizable catch from their pangas. Those fish were easily 4 to 5 feet long.

La Cruz Mexico fisherman

Those are some big fish!

Just as we were arriving, our friends Mel and Elaine were leaving Mexico on their sailboat Mazu to cross the Pacific Ocean to the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Yikes. That’s a three week long journey without ever seeing land, never mind stepping on it.

Mazu Before Crossing

Our friends Mel and Elaine get ready to cross the Pacific.

We tossed them their dock lines and waved them goodbye as they left on their adventure. For us, our eyes were turning towards shore, and we were looking forward to discovering some new things in and around La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

Mazu Before Crossing

Land-Ho will be on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas in 3 weeks. Buen viaje!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Costalegre: Careyes – The most colorful anchorage in Mexico!

Careyes castle Costalegre Mexico blue oceanfront estate

Bright blue elegeaance!

Late March, 2013 – When the swell got us rockin’ and rollin’ too much at pretty Paraiso, we decided to backtrack four miles to another little jewel on the Costalegre coast: the Bay of Careyes.

Snowy egret flying

A snowy egret flies overhead.

This anchorage is marked by a series of ornate and colorful estates on its outskirts, and they had caught our attention when we passed them on the way in.

Castles in Careyes Mexico Costalegre Red mansion

Perhaps their Ferrari is
fire engine red too?

Costa Careyes castle Mexico Costalegre blue mansion

Another royal blue estate!

As we approached Careyes this second time, the bright blue, fire engine red and brilliant orange of the houses lining the anchorage glinted in the morning sun. All of the oceanfront estates were sizable, and all were painted in vivid colors.

 

Turning into the bay, in front of us was a hillside covered with homes of every imaginable color.

It looked like the owners had all run to the paint store and bought the store out of every can of paint in every color and then had a field day creating a community of rainbow colors.

Bay of Careyes anchorage Mexico Costalegre

What a colorful hillside!

We quickly got Groovy settled near the beach and then spent a good hour in the cockpit gaping at our surroundings. This place is like no other on the Costalegre. I know I just said that about Paraiso, but it is true of Careyes as well. These are special and unique anchorages.

Sailboat at Bay of Careyes anchorage Mexico boats at anchor

Groovy looks good here!

Colorful Careyes houses Costalegre Mexico

Careyes sports homes of every imagineable color!

Where Paraiso had given us a feeling of the tropics, with turquoise water, a light sand beach and palm trees, Careyes was all about splashy, bright buildings spilling down a hillside in a playful spray of primary colors.

Pretty homes of Costa Careyes on the Costalegre

What a spot!

Careyes Mexico colorful houses on the hill

There are no colors left in the paint store!!

Playa Rosa Careyes Bay Mexico boats at anchor

Playa Rosa at Careyes.

Sailboat at Careyes Beach Costalegre Mexico boats at anchor

Groovy is tucked in around the corner.

Bright color was the theme here – even the beach we were anchored near was named “Playa Rosa” or “Pink Beach.”

Playa Rosa Costa Careyes Costalegre Mexico

What a fantastic staircase!

Palm trees on Playa Rosa Careyes

Looking out at the bay from Playa Rosa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We quickly jumped in the dink to explore this beach. It was deserted but had an alluring bright blue zig-zag staircase running up into the hills.

The beach was backed by palm trees and we got a good glimpse of Groovy around the corner.

It felt a little funny walking on this empty beach. There wasn’t a soul to be found, yet there were lots of homes in the hills.

Bay of Careyes Playa Rosa Palm trees

View from Playa Rosa

 

 

We came across a little restaurant and poked around, but there was no one there.

A driveway led to a narrow cobblestone road, and we walked up the road a ways. What a pretty little lane it was, filled with flowering trees.

We still didn’t see anyone anywhere. It felt a little like we’d landed on a beautifully landscaped and deserted island.

I know there is a town or main street or something back there, but we didn’t explore too far.

Costa Careyes cobblestone street

Pretty cobblestone lane and flowers.

Bougainvillea flowering tree

A beautiful flowering tree.

Homes in Costa Careyes

Vivid orange casitas away from the beach.

 

 

When we first dropped the hook in Careyes, we also put down a stern anchor to keep the boat pointed towards the waves in an effort to reduce the rocking motion. The tricky part was that during the day the predominant wind waves came in from one direction, and at night the swell came in from another direction.

Stern anchor

A requirement for boaters overnighting in Careyes: a stern anchor!

 

 

 

 

Sailboat anchored in Careyes

Groovy poses in front of a castle!

So once or twice a day during our stay, at the whim of the tides, the wind and the swell, which are all active forces on the boat, we needed to adjust the stern anchor line, letting it out or pulling it in.

Garden patio home

A pretty garden patio…

 

 

 

 

 

Blue heron

A blue heron on Playa Careyes.

This would realign the boat so it pointed directly into the waves, wherever they were coming from, rather than lying sideways to them and rolling like a pig on a spit.

Playa Careyes Costalegre Mexico

Playa Careyes

The easternmost beach, Playa Careyes, had a few signs of life in the late afternoon when a family came out to play volleyball. As the sun was setting the game broke up and a couple took a dip in the water together. A blue heron watched them from the shore.

Careyes Costalegre Mexico pretty homes

A rainbow of colors on the hillside…

Another day we took the dinghy to the westernmost beach, Playa Blanca, and it was utterly deserted. The few stark buildings that were there appeared to be totally unoccupied.

However, as we rounded the corner we saw the most unusual bridge strung between the bright blue estate on the mainland and a tiny island just in front of it. I guess if they wanted to go for a picnic on the island all they had to do was walk across the bridge!!

Palm tree on Playa Rosa Careyes

A palm tree on Playa Rosa.

Careyes Bridge to island Mexico

A very cool bridge next to Playa Blanca…

Costalegre Careyes Playa Rosa homes

Dinghying to Playa Rosa.

Crashing surf in front of Careyes mansion

Crashing surf and a lime green estate…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had noticed the water slowly turning darker during our first two days in this anchorage.

On the morning of our third day we found ourselves immersed in red tide.

 

Moonrise

Rats!! We had escaped the red tides that plague Mexico’s Pacific coast all season, but one had finally caught us here in Careyes. Oh well!

Sunset at Careyes

Sunset in Careyes.

We scrapped our plans for sticking around and snorkeling, as it would be a few weeks before the red tide completed its lifecycle.  Sigh!

Our next destination was Puerto Vallarta, and a weather window had opened up for us to slip around the notorious Cabo Corrientes in peace and quiet.  So we packed up the boat, and made our way towards Bahia Chamela to stage our passage.

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