Costalegre: Paraiso – An Unexpected Tropical Oasis!

Careyes oceanfront resort

Looks like some pretty good digs!!

Late March, 2013 – The wind and waves at Cuastecomate were making life a bit uncomfortable. That bay is known for good snorkeling, which we had wanted to try, but in the current conditions it just wasn’t possible.

Up the road 25 miles there was another anchorage, Paraiso, that we had heard was very beautiful. We had never stopped in because it, too, could get rolly. However, we decided to chance it this time and hope for the best.

We stuck close to the coast, and suddenly some out-of-this-world properties appeared on shore. We leaped for our binoculars.

One mega-million dollar vacation property was bright orange and featured not only the usual thatched palapa roofs covering its ramadas, but also a large rotunda at its center. Wow!

Carayes Mexico waterfront resort

Look – Another one, and this one’s blue!

Shortly after that sighting we came across a bright blue mansion with two large cylindrical towers. Wow again!

Who built these properties? Were they private homes or resorts? Whoever and whatever, we really liked the bright colors they used. No blending into the landscape here. If you’ve got it, flaunt it wildly!!

Each of these estates had unusual architectural novelties placed away from the main building — in matching colors.

 

The orange estate had a cascading series of walled enclosures.  We couldn’t tell what was inside the enclosures other than some trees, but it seemed this was some kind of elaborate staircase with arched doorways leading from one set of stairs to the next. The blue property had a wonderful little wall with a donut hole cut into it. A ladder led from the donut hole down to a path to the sea.

Careyes Mexico oceanfront mansion

Terraced and walled enclosures with arched doorways leading to the beach…??!!

Careyes waterfront villa donut hole

A donut hole in a wall (or bridge?).

Was that donut hole wall a bridge? Decoration? Who knows, but it sure was cool!

If those things weren’t enough, then we came across an enormous bowl perched on the edge of a cliff. What the heck??!!

Who built that and why?!

 

Carayes Mexico bowl on a cliff

Holy cow – a huge bowl on a cliff, with a staircase!

Paraiso anchorage in Mexico

“Paraiso” is the right word for this place!

It must have been someone very rich and very eccentric!

As we passed the bay of Careyes, we debated stopping there instead. We had heard it was exquisite too.

We had also heard that it is very difficult to anchor there. The swell turns the bay into a washing machine, sloshing the boats about mercilessly.

Despite being very tempted to turn in, for the moment, our sights were set on Paraiso just four miles further on.

 

Paraiso Mexico cover with boat

Tranquil, turquoise waters.

Tropical beach play in Paraiso Mexico cove with boat

A family enjoys a day on the beach in paradise.

Palm trees and white sand beach

Palm trees, almost-white sand and thatch roofed palapas…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning the last corner into the little cove of Paraiso, a gradual feeling of stunned amazement crept over us. The deep blue, churning water outside the cove miraculously smoothed out and became the most vivid turquoise.

Playa Paraiso Mexico

A tour boat swings through the bay.

Swaying palms trees, light colored sand, jade water and a small thatch roofed building filled our view. Adding pure charm to this scene, a family was having a picnic on the beach. The parents relaxed under a colorful umbrella while the kids frolicked on the sand and in the water.

Were we still in Pacific Mexico? This felt like the Sea of Cortez (way north) or Huatulco (way south). We had never seen an anchorage anything like this anywhere else on the mainland coast of Mexico!

Snorkeling at Paraiso anchorage

We couldn’t get in the water fast enough!

 

Groovy in the Paraiso anchorage

What fun!!

This coast is rugged. Huge splashy waves crash on brown beaches. And it is often plagued by algae blooms where dinghy beach landings become terror-inducing adventures. Boats at anchor look like bucking broncos.

 

Porta-bote floats on turquoise water

In suspension.

But this place was a gem. Paradise! Whoever named the cove “Paraiso” (“Paradise”) got it 100% right!

Our dinghy floated off the back of Groovy as if sitting on glass, as its shadow followed its gentle movements on the sand below.

Groovy anchored Paraiso cove

What’s that dark patch? Rocks? Sea grass? Guess again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish off the back of Groovy

Fish off the back of Groovy

We couldn’t wait to jump in that water. We hadn’t seen inviting water like this since we left Huatulco six weeks earlier.

When we anchored, we noticed a large brown patch of something, so we avoided that spot and put the anchor down in the sand. The anchor winked at us from its resting place, as if saying, “I like clear turquoise water too!” But what the heck was that brown patch? We thought it was probably sea grass of some kind.

Wrong! It was fish. Millions and millions of little fish. Looking off our swim step we could see them swirling about when the dark patch engulfed Groovy.

 

Fish school in formation

Organized fish on a mission.

We jumped in, and as we swam among them we were astonished that none of the fish ever touched us. We were surrounded by fish so thick that they nearly blotted out the sand below. Yet, even if we thrashed around or deliberately reached out to touch them, not one fish made a false move and bumped into us.

The patterns they made as they swam were beautiful. Sometimes they would stream by, all lined up in parallel like flying soldiers. Then suddenly they’d stop dead in their tracks and all turn 45 degrees, some facing one way and some the other. Then they’d reorganize and soar off in parallel again.

 

Fish school out of formation 405

Stopped dead in their tracks at funny angles…

Diving pelican

A flying knife!

I swam along the edge of one of these fish patches.  It was a true edge. On one side there were millions of fish in formation. On the other there were none. Just clear water. I swam back and forth across the edge several times, totally floored by this phenomenon of organized fish.

Playa Paraiso palm trees

Peace.

 

Who’s the leader our there? Who’s shouting the orders to swim or turn or stop? Do they do it by telepathy? I could believe that, because they seemed to have a kind of group consciousness.

I know that in cycling pace lines the conversation and chatter is non-stop (unless the guys in front pick up the pace, and then all conversation stops because no one can breathe!). Hand signals are used to pass information down the line like, “danger ahead.”

Playa Paraiso Mexico

What a place!

I suspect honking geese are doing somewhat the same thing, chatting about who did what last week while the guy in front chooses the altitude for the best air currents. But fish?

Whatever method the fish used to plan their movements, the birds didn’t miss a trick. The pelicans rained down on the fish patches like javelins falling from the sky.

Anchored in Paraiso Mexico

A dreamy place to drop the hook!

—–

We took the dinghy ashore the next day and strolled along the beach. Such serenity and beauty!!

Although there are a few buildings set back from the beach, nature rules here.

I had read the wonderful adventure that sailors Tom and Lori of the sailboat Camelot had had here two years prior to our visit.

They had met the owner of the property on shore and had shared some really good times with him and his family, both ashore and on their boat.

I was secretly hoping for a fun encounter like that.

But we weren’t so lucky this time. As we approached the inviting but seemingly vacant building, a man greeted us and informed us that this was private property.

Palm trees

Palms with branches swept back in the wind.

“You can stay on the beach, though,” he said, gesturing back towards the pretty crescent beach with a smile.

Palm trees and thatched palapa

Paraiso beach palapas.

Bahia Paraiso Mexico

The waves play with the sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anchored in Paraiso Mexico

Such a pretty place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, who could possibly complain about being told they had to stay on this beach?  The setting was true perfection. We lolled around on the sand and in the lapping waves, soaking in this delightful tropical oasis.

Sunset in Paraiso Mexico

Paraiso at sunset

Back on the boat, however, the anchorage became rougher and rougher. The tranquility we saw at our arrival was replaced with the more familiar rolling seas of this coast. Our stern hook kept us pointed into the swell, but Groovy began to lurch.

As we bounced around for another day, we kept thinking about those majestic properties we’d passed on the outskirts of Careyes on our way here. They were like a siren call begging us to backtrack a few miles.

We had heard Careyes was beautiful and that we shouldn’t miss it. Besides, we might get lucky and find a patch of calm water over there…!

Costalegre Map (partial)

The central portion of the Costalegre (“Cheerful Coast”). Barra and Tenacatita are the more popular anchorages in this region.
The distance between Paraiso and Barra is ~30 miles.

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Costalegre: Cuastecomate – Exploring a “Secret Anchorage”

Cuastecomate Anchorage  Costalegre Mexico

Groovy rests at anchor in “secret” Playa Cuastecomates

Mid-March, 2013 – We left Manzanillo’s Santiago Bay and its daily morning show of brilliant sunrises, and made the short 25 mile hop north to the tiny anchorage, Cuastecomate, between Barra de Navidad, Melaque and Tenacatita.

Cuastecomates beach Costalegre Mexico

The surf was up during our stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playa Cuastecomate Costalegre Mexico

Royal blue skies and jade seas at Cuastecomate.

Groovy had gotten quite dirty in Manzanillo, and our passage north was on a day with little wind, so we gave the boat a nice bath. It was a great way to pass the time, and splashing around in cool water on the hot deck was lots of fun!

Mexico’s coast between Manzanillo and the outer edge of Puerto Vallarta’s Banderas Bay is known to cruisers as the “Gold Coast.” I’m not sure how it got this name — perhaps from the popular Mexico Boating Guide by Pat Rains — but that term does not seem to be well known outside cruising circles.
Wondering where this is? See Mexico Maps!

Cuastecomates Costalegre Mexico

There are lots of beach palapa bars at Cuastecomate

To most Mexican vacation travelers this is the “Costa Alegre” (sometimes shortened to “Costalegre”), which literally means “the cheerful coast.”

The Costalegre is a 100-mile stretch that includes ten or so anchorages for boats. A few of these anchorages are very popular and frequently visited. A few, however, are quite small and not very well protected from the wind and swell coming in from the Pacific.

Cuastecomate pangas on the beach mexico 405

Pangas on the beach at Cuastecomate

Playa Cuastecomates Costalegre palm trees

The village is tiny with lots of palms.

Always happiest getting off the beaten path, we decided our trek north this year would hit each of these smaller spots.

Before we left San Diego for Mexico three years ago, a cruiser told us to be sure we visited the “Secret Anchorage” on this coast.

Cuastecomate Costalegre beach view

Looking down towards the beach.

 

 

 

He gave us the waypoints to find it. “When I was there, I kept emailing my friends in neighboring anchorages and they had no idea where I was,” he said. “They kept writing me back saying, “where the heck ARE you??…”

bougainvillea flowers cuastecomate mexico

Bougainvillea flowers.

Cuastecomate beach hotel costalegre mexico

We had gotten a good chuckle out of that, and we had looked forward to getting in on his secret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playa Cuastecomate beach surf costalegre mexico

View of the bay.

However, the publication of Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer’s” Pacific Mexico: A Cruiser’s Guidebook not only made the waypoints to this hideaway public, but revealed its true name: Cuastecomate.

Cuastecomates Costalegre Jalisco anchorage costalegre mexico

We stopped here two years ago, but hadn’t gone ashore because the big surf made it too difficult to land the dinghy.

Unfortunately, the surf was scary this time too.  After a dramatic splash dinghy landing on the beach, we wandered around the tiny community of dirt streets and were charmed with what we saw.

Cuastecomate shrine mexico

A little shrine was on a corner…

Shrine at Playa Cuastecomate beach costalegre mexico

Inside the shrine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We noticed a tiny shrine at a crossroads with a man working on a light fixture inside. We asked him if the shrine belonged to a family nearby, and he said it was for everyone in the community. What an intriguing idea.

Cuastecomate Jalisco beach hotel costalegre mexico 550

There’s a pretty hotel at one end of the beach

When we stopped in this bay two years ago, I posted some pics and notes about our stay, explaining the sudden emergence of this tiny anchorage in Mexico cruising circles because of the new cruising guide.

Cuastecomate Flowers

…great shot!!!

A few weeks later I received an email from a Cuastecomates resident who had read my post.  She said she now understood why there were suddenly so many sailboats decorating the view from her living room window.

Flower Photography

Mark gets pics of the flowers…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

flowers Cuastecomate Jalisco Costalegre

I remember growing up on Sandy Bay, north of Boston, and how the arrival of a sailboat in the bay was happy cause for me to dash out in a rowboat to say hello (and secretly hope to be invited aboard…which sometimes happened!).

Cuastecomate Jalisco anchorage costalgre mexico

A little frame around Groovy.

Fruits for sale Cuastecomate beach palapas costalgre mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

regina flower

Cuastecomate Jalisco hotel costalgre mexico

So I completely understood our Cuastecomate email pal’s eagerness to connect with the boats anchored just beyond her living room window. When we arrived in Cuastecomate this year, we wanted to hook up with her, but unfortunately she was in Guadalajara at the time.

Playa Cuastecomate beach palapas costalgre mexico

Cuastecomate Jalisco Costalegre Mexico

Oh well, at least we saw her village, including the very pretty hotel at the end of the beach. And all those colorful flowers – they were everywhere!

The wind was blowing pretty hard, and the seas were building steadily all afternoon. Suddenly the sun disappeared from the sky, and we hurried back to Groovy, as the sky began to turn black.

Just as we clambered into the cockpit, the heavens opened up in a torrential rainstorm.

fishing kayak

A fisherman gets caught in the downpour.

 

 

 

Now, doesn’t that figure? We had just washed the entire boat, and now it was pouring pitchforks. Lordy me. It doesn’t seem to matter if we wash our trailer or wash the boat, the mere act of filling a bucket with soapy water is the opening steps to a Rain Dance wherever we are!!

This was only the second time we had seen rain this season, and it came down so hard it bounced back up off the water around us. A fisherman in a kayak wasn’t quite as lucky as we were, and he got stuck in the worst of it, paddling as fast as he could to shore.

Cuastecomate Tree Devil Branches

The devil cursed the Cuastecomate tree with an ugly web of branches & hard fruit…

Once the rain cleared, we watched a gorgeous sunset.

 

 

Cuastecomate Leaf like a cross

…so God blessed the tree with cross-shaped leaves.

It is oddly fitting for God and the devil to bicker over this cove with conflicting weather patterns. Afterall, long ago, they had a big argument over its namesake, the Cuastecomate tree.

Legend says the devil designed this tree with a nasty tangle of branches and big hard ugly fruit. Unhappy with the devil’s creation, God gave the tree a divinely inspired flourish, and blessed it with leaves that are shaped like crosses!

Sunset at Cuastecomate Costalegre

After the downpour, we were given a glorious sunset at the mouth of the bay.

After several days in this pretty cove, we decided to move a few more miles up the coast where, to our complete surprise, we discovered a mini tropical paradise with gorgeous, calm, turquoise water in a cove that was aptly name “Paraiso.”

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Costalegre: Santiago – Brilliant sunrises every day!

Manzanillo Sunrise in Santiago Bay

Awe-inspiring colors at dawn.

Mid-March, 2013 – We left the little cove of Las Hadas in Manzanillo and went around the corner to lovely Santiago Bay where we anchored of Playa La Boquita. Almost every morning we stayed in this bay we were treated to a divine art exhibition in the sky as the gods painted the heavens in brilliant shades.

Sunrise in Santiago Bay Manzanillo

Every day the patterns were different.

Sunrise Manzanillo Bay (Santiago)

Some days we just got a hint of color…

Sunrise Santiago Bay Manzanillo

Other days the colors filled the sky.

 

 

 

Sometimes the morning mural covered the entire sky, and sometimes it was just a pinpoint of color with reflections in the water.

Eager to watch the celestial drama, we bounded out of bed each morning absolutely thrilled to see the sky awash with yellows and oranges and pinks and reds.

Sunrise Santiago Bay Mexico

Even with blurry, sleepy vision, sunrise was worth getting out of bed for…!

Sunrise Santiago Bay Manzanillo

These were heavenly moments.

 

 

Each day’s heavenly artwork was completely different than that of the previous day, and seeing the wildly varying patterns of color was a wonderful reminder that each day we live is utterly unique, starting with the texture and color of morning’s earliest moments.

 

 

In Santiago Bay, Playa La Boquita is at one end of a very long and wide beach, and there is always lots of activity on this beach.

kid flies a kite on Santiago Beach

Afternoons on Playa La Boquita are perfect for flying kites.

Playa La Boquita Santiago Bay Manzanillo

Playa La Boquita is a beautiful, big, wide beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little kids played by the water’s edge and a variety of vendors wandered past with carts full of all kinds of goodies.

Santiago Bay beach vendor cart

This girl sure was cute, but I don’t think she could get the cart to go anywhere!

Playa la Boquita beach vendor cart

What a cool thatched roof!

Mark liked the thatched roof on this one vendor’s cart, and I liked the little girl riding it in the back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

beach toy cart Santiago Bay

Skip shopping ahead of time and get your beach toys right at the beach!

Another vendor had every imaginable blow-up beach and water toy for sale, plus enough pails and shovels to dig to China and build lots of sand castles too. No need to go to the toy store before hitting this beach!

La Boquita Beach Santiago Manzanillo

Shifting sands…

La Boquita Beach Santiago Manzanillo

Between the waves…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark enjoyed getting some artsy images of the sand and the water while I was drawn to a little bird standing up to his knees in the water and fishing between the rocks.

Sandpiper Playa La Boquita

This little guy blended right into the rocks.

Bridge La Boquita Beach Santiago Manzanillo

There’s a wonderful foot bridge that leads to some pretty resorts at the far west end of the beach.

One of the hallmarks of this beach for cruising sailors is the tuba player. From late morning until late evening the deep tones of a tuba can be heard throughout the anchorage.

tuba player playa la boquita santiago

A tuba player waits his turn.

Groovy at anchor Santiago Bay

The swell at Santiago isn’t too bad…

 

When we walked the beach we found the tuba player – and then discovered there was more than one of them!

Several small bands with tubas wandered up and down the beach performing for the vacationers.

They would politely wait for each other so each tuba band got a chance to perform without intruding on the others.

 

 

Waves at La Boquita Manzanillo

…some of the waves are quite sizeable!!

This is a beach that gets some nice surf. The waves come in sets. Each wave grows slightly larger than the last until there are one or two really big crashers. Then they grow smaller until the beach actually seems quite calm.

Invariably, as we walked this beach, I would suddenly see a huge green wave out of the corner of my eye followed by a beautiful band of white frothy spray and the sound of thunder as it smashed on the beach. I’d grab my camera excitedly, but, of course, that would have been the big wave of the set.  I’d have to wait another five or ten minutes for the next photo-worthy one.

Club Santiago Homes La Boquita Beach Manzanillo

The beach villas in Club Santiago are lovely

Club Santiago Homes La Boquita Beach Manzanillo

I love the stone walls, the flowers and the palms.

But then I’d forget all about the waves and become intrigued by something else. The camera would be turned off and dangling on my hip. And then, suddenly, there it would be again: the bright green underbelly of a huge wave looming up and rolling over so beautifully. I’d grab my camera again, but it would be too late. I would have missed it once again!

Dinghy parking La Boquita Beach

Dinghy parking on the beach.

Club Santiago Walking Paths Manzanillo

The walking paths in Club Santiago inviting too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bottlebrush flower

Mark discovers a bottlebrush tree in bloom.

Getting a dinghy safely on the beach requires watching these wave sets too, but it’s not too bad a dinghy landing here.

tropical flower

Not sure what this flower is…

There’s a kind of designated parking area on the beach for the dinghies, complete with a rope you can tie your dinghy to so it doesn’t float off if the tide comes in while you’re away!!

Oasis bar club santiago mexico

The Oasis, a cruiser hangout.

The homes along this beach are beautiful. We wandered into the neighborhood of Club Santiago which fills this end of the beach.

The palm tree-lined paths and backs of all the homes were just as lovely as the fronts of them along the beach.

Life is Groovy

Life is groovy.

Some of the landscaping is very pretty, and Mark found some bottle-brush flowers and another exotic tropical flower that we weren’t sure what it was.

Back on the beach, we stopped at the Oasis Bar, a favorite cruiser hangout where you can enjoy a brewski in a lounge chair under an umbrella while watching your boat bobbing in the bay.

beach chairs club santiago manzanillo

Welcome to Santiago Bay!!

This was pretty good living here in the Manzanillo area. The days slipped by quickly, and before we knew it almost a week had passed.

We probably would have stayed even longer, but the crazy thing in Manzanillo is that the air quality suffers from the soot produced by the nearby coal-fired power plant.  After a few days, poor old Groovy was grey. Fortunately, the plant is in the process of being converted to natural gas, so the air in all of the Manzanillo area will be much cleaner in the future.

But we needed to give the decks a bath, so we hauled up the anchor and moved up the coast about 25 miles, setting our sights on the tiny cove at Cuastecomate.

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Costalegre: Manzanillo’s Las Hadas Resort – The Med in Mexico

sailing blog Zihuatanejo pangas on the beach

Pangas on the beach in Zihuatanejo.

Early March, 2013 – We were loving Zihuatanejo‘s wonderful, relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, and we took many leisurely strolls along the waterfront. It was impossible to walk anywhere without snapping a few pics.

One afternoon a couple on inflatable kayaks paddled out to Groovy and we discovered they were future cruisers who were outfitting their Catalina 34 Aussie Rules for a voyage from Vancouver Island through Mexico to Australia two years from now.

sailing blog Zihuatanejo palm trees and pangas

Palm trees lean out over the beach.

We remember being in their shoes in San Diego and the Caribbean a few years back, longing to meet active cruisers who could tell us what the lifestyle was like.  We welcomed Rose and Dave aboard, gave them a quick tour and had a lively conversation about cruising.

sail blog sailing groovy with friends

“Aussie Rules” captain Dave steers Groovy on a windy romp.

Dave is an Aussie who grew up sailing Down Under, and he and Rose fell in love when the two of them were fierce rivals in the sailboat racing circuit on Okanagan Lake in British Columbia. We could tell they were both itching to get out for a sail to cap off their Zihuatanejo vacation, so we invited them back to Groovy for a daysail with us a few days later.

sailing blog Crepuscular rays outside Zihuatanejo

Sunrays spray the sea from the clouds.

The wind gods showed up on cue and gave us a wonderful, brisk ride. Dave was completely in his element as Groovy leaned into the waves, and he was ear-to-ear smiles at the helm. We are looking forward to following their voyage in a few years!!

It was time for our own voyage to continue, however, so after seeing them off, we pointed the bow north from Isla Ixtapa and made our way to Manzanillo 29 hours (190 miles) away. On the morning of our departure we sailed under beautiful, brooding clouds and sun rays.

sailing blog Lazaro Cardenas see from the sea

Lazaro Cardenas is one big industrial port!

mexico cruising blog sunset at sea

The sun sets off the bow of Groovy on our way to Manzanillo.

The huge oil refinery at Lázaro Cardenas made quite an impressive sight as we slipped past a mile offshore.

Happy to put all that industry behind us, we watched a colorful sunset off our bow and settled in for one of our last overnight sails for the season.

A recent armed robbery aboard an anchored cruising catamaran in Caleta de Campos (halfway between Zihuatanejo and Manzanillo) made us cautious as we snuck past in the night.  We detoured slightly further out to sea and passed without mishap.

mexico sailing blog sunset at sea

The sun goes down in a burst of color.

This had been the first incident of its kind that we know of in Mexico, and it is being taken very seriously by the authorities. The catamaran’s owners were seasoned Mexico cruisers and were known for their fun Playboy antics at the Baja Ha-Ha cruisers rally in 2010 (near top of page). In contrast, armed attacks on cruisers are quite common in many Caribbean countries.

mexico cruising blog sunrise at sea

The sun sneaks above the horizon behind us and Mark pops up to say “hi”

Next morning we caught the sunrise at about the same position on the horizon as the previous night’s sunset, but this time at the other end of the boat! As you can see, along this stretch of coast the direction of travel is predominantly east-west.

When we finally pulled into the sweet anchorage in front of the Las Hadas resort, it was like being given a second sunrise for the day.

Las Hadas is unique and utterly charming. Filled with fairy-tale turrets and gargoyles, arches and palm trees, it was a pleasure to sit in the cockpit and take in the view while Groovy gently swung this way and that.

sailing blog Las Hadas Resort manzanillo mexico

Las Hadas (“The Fairies”) Resort – right out of a fairy tale.

 

The cove is very small, and condos and villas cover the hillsides, hugging the anchored boats in a close embrace.

The white-washed architecture, bright green palm trees and true blue sky combine to make a beautiful backdrop.  What’s best is that all the properties that flank one side of the anchorage are filled with vibrant magenta bougainvillea flowers.

sailing blog Las Hadas anchorage manzanillo mexico

Our boats seem to be anchored in a flower garden.

 

 

Standing out on the breakwater on the opposite side and looking back across the tiny cove, it seemed as though all our boats were anchored in a brilliant garden of palm trees and pink flowers.

Even though we have been here several times before, each time we arrive we are enchanted once again.  The colors are so vivid, the buildings are so fanciful and the whole area is so lovingly maintained.

sail blog las hadas resort anchorage manzanillo mexico

This tiny cove is such a picturesque spot to drop the hook for a while.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort manzanillo mexico

Curvy palms.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort rope bridge manzanillo mexico

A wonderful rope bridge crosses between the pools.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort pools manzanillo mexico

What a spot!

sail blog las hadas resort arches manzanillo mexico

Double arches and cobblestones – such fanciful architecture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wandered happily all over the resort, as excited to be walking its little cobbled paths today as we were the first time three years earlier.

sail blog las hadas arches manzanillo mexico

Arches everywhere…

Las Hadas palms manzanillo mexico

The pretty archways, royal blue swimming pools and soaring palm trees inspire the imagination.

sail blog sailboat wreck las hadas manzanillo

A fallen comarade – we never got the full story behind this odd sight.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort architecture manzanillo mexico

Private pools and cabanas and courtyards everywhere…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out on the pier we found a toppled over sailboat with broken rigging that was in dire need of a bottom job. It was unclear how it came to be lying there. It looked very forlorn, with tall grasses growing around it.

A mystical air envelops this whole resort, and there is an element of fantasy to it all. The architecture is truly whimsical, with towers, sculptures, curving stone paths, and rotundas at every turn.

We needed to get through the resort to the main road to do some errands, but it was hard not to get sidetracked and wander off down all the inviting little pathways.

sail blog Las Hadas anchorage

First light in Las Hadas…

 

One morning we hustled ashore before the sun had risen to try to capture the Mediterranean looking cascade of villas in the morning light. We climbed high on the hill on the opposite side and found a tiny peek-a-boo lookout through some chainlink construction fencing where we could catch the view.

cruising blog Stone stairway las hadas

An intriguing stone stairway.

While we were in Manzanillo we began experimenting with various post-processing photo techniques. Mark downloaded PhotoMatix which creates intriguing effects. First you take three identical photos at different exposure settings and then you feed them through this software which takes the most vivid colors from each image and creates a composite merged “painting.”

cruising blog las hadas docks HDR

Down on the docks – PhotoMatix software.

Another technique is Nikon’s “color sketch,” a menu option within the camera that takes a photo and creates a colored sketch from it.

cruising blog Las Hadas docks color sketch

Down on the docks
Nikon’s “color sketch” button.

cruising blog Colorful clay bowls mexico

Mark found a vendor selling colorful clay bowls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cruising blog Bronze sculpture Las Hadas

Las Hadas has some interesting art work and sculptures.

This was all great artsy fun, and we were loving our walks around this stunning little oasis. Every way we turned there was another beautiful image that begged for attention.

cruising blog sailboat at anchor las hadas manzanillo mexico

Groovy turns heads – ours at least!!

Unusual sculptures and accent pieces caught Mark’s eye, and then he was drawn to the colorful clay bowls sold by a pottery vendor on a folding table.

Meanwhile I wandered down to the beach and took portraits of the Groovy boat framed by palm fronds.

It was hard to call an end to all this, but we finally hauled up the anchor and made our way around the corner to Santiago Bay where every morning was kick-started with a spectacular sunrise.

Note: to see the location of Zihuatanejo and Manzanillo on a map, check the first image on Mexico Maps and another halfway down that page.

 

 

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PV: Paradise Village – The Lap of Luxury

Two of Carlos Slim's three megayachts, "Tulley" and "Ostar," at Marina de La Paz.

Mariachis cap a perfect evening.

Waiting out a Norther in Bahía Falsa.

Clipped in while crossing the Sea of Cortez.

Coconut palms!

Banana trees!

Wendy grinds his yummy

French Roast.

Welcome to Paradise.

One of the swimming pools.

Eggs Benedict or Huevos Rancheros?

Grady the Cockatoo says "¡Hola!"

Tiger mom.

The Welcome Event was a colorful spectacle.

Future Flamenco dancers.

Baja Ha-Ha mothership Profligate

Crocodile Zone!

Iguana sunning himself.

Wild coatimundi in the grass near a bus stop.

Beach chairs at Paradise Village.

Paradise Village.

Playing in the surf.

Cartwheels: the essence of

little girlhood on the beach.

A snowy egret high-steps it out of

the waves.

Vallarta Yacht Club.

Bougainvillea on the docks.

This place gets a grip on you.

Paradise Village

Late November/Early December, 2011 - We returned to La Paz from

the nearby anchorages to find ourselves suddenly caught up in the

lives of the rich and famous.  Two megayachts were parked at Marina

de La Paz: the 140' Tulley and the 182' Ostar. Both belong to the

world's richest man, Carlos Slim (his other 200+ foot megayacht is in

the Caribbean!).  Excitement filled the air the day Carlos arrived.

"Which one is he?" I asked as the entourage appeared.  "The one with

the sunglasses." "But they all have sunglasses!"

A friend of ours is the captain of a neighboring megayacht, and he

invited us to his birthday party along with his buddy, the captain of

Ostar and his wife (who is also a captain but is currently enjoying the

high life on Ostar instead).  Wow.  How often do you get to peak in the

door of the world of the ultra rich?  The stories these captains could

tell -- but can't due to contracts they've signed!  The wine flowed, the

food was divine and above it all the music of the mariachi singers soared.

Out in Bahía Falsa a few days later, Mark played mellower tunes on his

guitar as we waited out a series of Northers that were blasting down the

Sea of Cortez.  This was the ideal location to sit out these vicious storms.

We had tolerable winds and flat seas in our safe little nook, but the radio

crackled with chatter as one unattended boat dragged into another back in

the main La Paz anchorage.  Helpful cruisers around the anchorage

located the owner of one of the boats in the US and relayed messages

from him to get the combination to the padlock, the location of the ignition

key, and the location of the battery switch for the anchor windlass.

It pays to wait for

a good weather

window when

crossing the Sea

of Cortez, and

we got the perfect slot.  We romped along close-hauled for 15 hours

at a blistering 7.5 knots and we motor-sailed the rest of the way,

zipping from Los Frailes to La Cruz five hours faster than we'd

planned.  The seas were calm and the wind was warm on our faces,

and when we weren't on watch we each slept well.  What an

incredible contrast to last year's roller coaster ride from hell on these

same waters where the teapot took a nosedive right off the stove and

the waves bore down on us like frothing beasts hissing at us from

above.  Now we realize we crossed during a Norther last year.

The downside to our lickety-split speed was that it put us in port in the

wee hours of the morning in the pitch black.  Fortunately, we knew the

La Cruz anchorage from last spring, but the twelve mile approach was

littered with small fishing pangas.  Mark kept his eyes glued to what he

could see of the horizon through the binoculars while mine were glued to

the radar.  The pangas kept materializing out of nowhere.  They would

flash their flashlights at us frantically as we drew near and we'd flash

ours back to let them know we'd seen them.

We got the anchor down without a hitch,

43 hours after leaving Los Frailes, and

fell asleep almost before our heads hit

the pillow.  Next morning as we

wandered around La Cruz it slowly sank

in that we were no longer in desert of

Baja California any more.  We were in the lush, verdant, moist

tropics.  The palm trees sported coconuts and the bananas

were thick on the trees.

The most important stop for us in La Cruz was at Garleria

Huichol in Octopus's Garden where a Frenchman named

Wendy roasts the most delicious French Roast coffee.  We

stocked up and enjoyed a cup under the shade of a

cuastecomate tree.

The real reason we crossed the Sea to Banderas Bay (home of Puerto Vallarta) was to treat

ourselves to an early Christmas present with a stay at the incomparable Paradise Village

Marina.  It is just a few miles from La Cruz, and we waited until we were fully rested from our

crossing before we headed over so we could make the most of every minute of our stay.  As we

tied up at the dock a neighbor came over to greet us.  "Are you here for good?"  He asked.  I

hesitated, puzzled.  "Um, no, just five days… Are you here for good?"  "Oh yeah!"  Then we

discovered another neighbor had just signed up for his fifth year.  As soon as we started walking

around the resort we began to understand why these guys weren't leaving.  It's that nice.

Paradise Village is a huge complex of hotels, shops, villas, condos,

marina, golf course, beach, pools, spa and hot tubs located in Nuevo

Vallarta some 10 miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta.

The grounds are lavish, and lush, the dining areas are elegant, the

pools have a view of the expansive beach, and the spa can deliver

every possible body treatment you could dream of.

To keep the kids happy there is a building where vacationing

parents can drop them off for a day of supervised activities, and to

keep everyone happy there is a mall with all the favorite fast food

eateries from McDonalds to Starbucks.

After two months of living on the hook in a salty,

rolling home, I was dumbstruck when I went into the

women's showers in the spa and discovered a

candle-lit hot tub waiting for me.  And boy, was I

ever clean when I finally emerged!

In the mornings the eager joggers ran around the

extensive grounds and up and down the miles long

beach.  In the evenings couples strolled the paths hand in hand under the

stars.  A small flock of macaws and a cockatoo added a tropical note to the air

with their raucous cries, and a pair of tigers in the middle of it all nursed a pair

of month-old cubs, the latest two of 76 that have been raised at the resort.

When we checked into the marina we were told

there was a "Welcome Event" that night with free

food and drinks at the amphitheater.  What a

surprise to find rows of margaritas, piña coladas

and rum punches next to endless platters of finger

food and a huge crowd of vacationers taking seats

in front of an outdoor stage!

An emcee appeared and the colorful

show burst into action with all kinds

of dancing, audience participation

games and laughter.

We were treated to a special show

right in front of our seats as a little

girl and boy did their own dance

moves.

The marina has a cool layout

where all the boats are lined up

against the shoreline as it curves

along an estuary.

We took the kayak out one day

to explore the estuary a little

further, and were shocked to find

that our friends on Ostar had

followed us from La Paz and

parked at the end of the dock.

They must have liked our Groovy

travel plans.

Another boat in residence was

Profligate, the catamaran

mothership of the Baja Ha-Ha

cruising rally that takes boaters from

San Diego to Cabo San Lucas each fall.

Unfortunately its owners had returned

to the US and it was closed up tight.

Paddling down the estuary we passed many beautiful boats sitting out

in front of equally beautiful homes.  Eventually we passed under a

bridge and turned away from civilization into the crocodile zone.

We didn't see any crocodiles but there were lots of exotic birds in the

trees and quite a few iguanas sunning themselves.

Unusual animals seemed to be the theme at

Paradise Village.  Even when we took the city bus

to go provision at the supermarket we passed a

group of coatimundi scavenging in the grass.

So far we had explored only the

back side of the resort where the

boats and the estuary are.  Out

front is an enormous beach that

stretches to the horizon and

seems to go on forever.  Resorts

line the beach as far as the eye

can see, and each resort has a

collection of beach chairs and

thatch shade ramadas out front.

We took some wonderful, quiet

early morning walks along the sand.  Later each day the beach would

be hopping with vacationers catching rays and playing in the surf.

Canadians and

Americans weren't the

only snowbirds enjoying

the warm air and warm

water.  Several snowy

egrets were fishing along

the water's edge too.

The Vallarta Yacht Club

is an active social club

for all kinds of winter

residents, both boaters

and non-boaters alike.  Visitors to the marina can enjoy the

yacht club's amenities too, and one afternoon we strolled down

for a beer and some free wifi.  After an hour or so we noticed

the place was getting very busy.  A woman came over and

asked, "Are you new members?"

We explained we were

"temporary" members through the

marina.  She welcomed us warmly

and headed over to a large table

of delicious looking hors

d'oeuvres that had magically

appeared.  We followed her

example and loaded up a plate

full of delicious goodies.

The crowd kept getting bigger,

and then another woman

asked us if we were new

members.  "We must really

stand out!"  Mark chuckled.

Just then a fellow with a microphone stood up right next to our table and said to the crowd,

"I want to welcome all our new members to New Member Night!"  Suddenly we were in the

middle of a round of introductions and a microphone was thrust in my hand so I could

introduce Mark and myself to the group.  "Gosh,"  I said to all the grinning faces, "We just

came down here for a beer and to get our email -- and then the party showed up!"

Another day we ended up on a timeshare tour of the nearby

Villa del Palmar resort.  The freebies on offer were 1,300

pesos in cash ($100), a certificate for a week's stay at one

of their resorts for $249 when redeemed, and a one-week

pass to enjoy all the amenities of the resort here.   It's not

that we couldn't find enough to do at the resort we were

already staying at, but we'd seen the

sister resort of Villa del Palmar in

Ensenada Blanca in the Sea of Cortez and

we were intrigued.  A delicious gourmet

breakfast with a salesman, a resort tour

and an hour on the hot seat was all it took

to pocket our cool cash.  This cruising life

is paying off.

It was really hard to tear ourselves away from Paradise Village, and we

envied the cruisers who had tied their boats up there semi-permanently.

But the warm air that had blown us across the Sea of Cortez had turned

cool in the evenings and the water that had been 80 degrees at the

beginning of the week had suddenly dropped to 69.  It was time to go

south to Manzanillo Bay.

Find La Cruz, Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay on Mexico Maps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mazatlan Area: San Blas & Isla Isabel – Urban Agitation and Booby Joy

WestMarine.com

The ruined church on the hill that held

Longfellow's Bells of San Blas.

The "new" church that replaced the

church on the hill.

This newest church that replaced the "new" church

next door.

Every wife deserves a ride like this from

her hubby.

It was a crazy busy day in the

town square and we saw all

kinds of folks...

A mural depicts the town of San Blas.

The guys liked the cannons at the fort.

The Belle of the Ball preps for her

15th birthday.

A path over a ridge on Isla Isabel

led to a frigate bird rookery.

A frigate bird keeps an eye on me, his red pouch

deflated.

A frigate bird chick huddles on its nest.

Two frigate bird eggs resemble

chicken eggs.

A pale headed & dark faced

brown booby on a cliff.

A dark headed brown booby

Booby chicks.

A blue footed booby!

Yep, those are blue feet.

The blue footed booby blocks the path

and tells me to go home.

A colorful snake winds around a

tree trunk.

The flock waits for handouts from the fishermen.

How we look after an overnight passage.

San Blas & Isla Isabel, Mexico

Early April, 2011 - We left the crowd of cruisers in La Cruz and eagerly looked forward to more quiet anchorages on our way

north to Mazatlán.  The winds were in our favor and we had two glorious days of sailing, stopping for an overnight at Isla Peña.

The second morning was sunny and warm with a light breeze, and the boat danced easily on its course.  We were both

somewhere out there in daydream land when suddenly we heard an enormous splash.  Leaping to our feet we watched a

humpback whale shoot straight up out of the water, turn, and fall crashing back down on its side.

When a much smaller whale tail flapped nearby, we realized this was a mother

with a baby.  A few moments later the whale surged out of the sea again, this

time doing a full twist before falling back into the depths.  A little ways away the

smaller tail waved again.

Our second night we stopped at Ensenada

Mantachén, a large bay that looked at first like an

ideal spot to spend a few days.

It is a short

bus ride from

the little community of Mantachén into the town

of San Blas, which is famous for inspiring

Longfellow's poem The Bells of San Blas.

Reading that wistful poem made us curious

about the ruined church on the hill whose once

clanging bells are now muted and "green with

mould and rust."  At one time they symbolized a

dark era of conquest, when Spain ruled and "the

world with faith was filled."  But now the bells

stand silent, reminding us of "an age that is

fading fast" while "the world rolls into light."

We walked through the ruins of the church on

the hill, and then explored the ruins of the "new"

church down in the town.  The new church has

been replaced by another even newer church

next door.  This newest church is where today's

faithful go to worship.

San Blas was very busy on the day of our visit.

Citizens, government officials and armed

soldiers filled the town square.  I asked several

people what was going on but didn't fully understand the

explanations.  I think it was some kind of survey of the local people to

determine their standard of living.  As tourists, we simply enjoyed

watching the scene.

Up on the hill by the old church

stands an old fort that we explored

with friends.  The cannons were fun

for the guys.  More fun for us gals

was seeing a young girl getting

photos taken for her "quinceañera,"

or 15th birthday.  This is a very

important milestone birthday for

Mexican girls, a kind of "coming

out," and it is celebrated with a

huge party and a fantastic prom

dress.

Many small towns exude charm and make visitors feel welcome and

safe, but San Blas is not that way.  As one fellow cruiser put it, "I wouldn't go out after dark

here."  At the beach palapa restaurant in Mantachén the owner even wore a sidearm.  We

had been put on guard immediately upon arrival at the Matanchén anchorage when a group

of cruisers pulled alongside our boat in their dinghy and said, "Make sure you lock your

outboard at night.  There have been some outboard and dinghy thefts in the last few

weeks."  We put cable locks on everything on deck but slept fitfully.  Mark bolted out of bed

at 2:30 a.m. when he heard people on a panga nearby tapping on the panga's hull.  They

appeared to be fishing, so he went back to sleep.  Next morning our friends discovered their

Mercury 9.9 hp outboard had been stolen.  They had raised their dinghy in its davits so it

was 6 feet off the water, but they hadn't locked the outboard.  It seemed to us that this theft

had been carefully orchestrated and must have involved more than one person.

We had planned the next day to go on an estuary tour that many other visitors to the area

have raved about, but we had a sour taste in our mouths after that episode and we left right

away.

Isla Isabel waited peacefully on the horizon for us, just 50 or so miles away to the north.  No

sooner had we dropped the hook than the couple on the neighboring sailboat swung by and

invited us to go ashore with them.  Stepping out of the dink onto the beach we found

ourselves in the middle of a fish camp.  A row of pangas sat on the beach in front of a row

of shacks, and piles of fishing nets filled the space in between.

A friendly fisherman guided us to a

path that goes to the interior of the

island, and after climbing up and

over a ridge we found ourselves in

the heart of a frigate bird rookery.

A canopy of short trees formed a

roof above us, and on every

branch a frigate bird hunched over

an impossibly rickety little nest.

The chicks were nearly full-sized,

but their feathers weren't fully

grown in yet, and they had that

goofy look of pre-adolescents

everywhere.

The ground was thick with guano, and we danced around

looking up at the undersides of the birds while ducking in fear

that we might become targets for droppings.  I found the

remains of a few chicks that must have fallen out of their nests

a while ago, and we found two unhatched eggs.  They were

the size of chicken eggs, but they were heavy.  No doubt each

one held a well formed chick that didn't make it out in time.

We followed the path up another hill and emerged onto the

cliffs that line the edge of the island.  In front of us, blocking the

way, were legions of boobies.  They stared at us with quiet

curiosity, watching our every move, but showed no particular

signs of fear or of getting out of the way.

We had seen our first boobies several months earlier when

we sailed into Manzanillo Bay.  It had been late afternoon and

lines of them were commuting back home to roost.  We

weren't sure what kind of bird they were, but we started

calling them "tuxedo birds" because of the way they dressed.

Seeing them so close

now I realized there are

several variations.  Some

have light colored heads

with a dark face and

some have dark colored

heads with a light face.

But all the chicks were

fluffy and cute.

We pressed on through

the crowd along the edge

of the cliff, and each

parent/chick pair backed away a little as we went by.  Then

we turned a corner, and faced an unusually obstinate

booby.  This one had blue feet!

Apparently the

Galápagos islands are

not the only habitat in

the world where blue

footed boobies live, and this little mom was doing her

darndest to make sure her species thrived here on Isla

Isabel.

She stood her ground as we

approached, effectively blocking her

chick and the path with a very

impressive display.  She fluffed up her

feathers, made all kinds of noises and

generally told us to back off.

A few quick photos and we did as we were told, tromping back down the hill into the frigate

bird colony and back to the beach.

Mark is a woodsman at heart, and he spotted an unusual snake in a tree.  We tried to

remember the rhyme about the color patterns on coral colored snakes, "Red touch yellow,

kill a fellow," or something like that, but we couldn't quite remember how it went.  We later

found the coral snake rhyme online and discovered our little guy was a milk snake.

After all this exotica it

seemed rather pedestrian to

watch the congregation of

seagulls and pelicans lining

up for scraps from the

fishermen.  But I still love

these guys too.  These gulls

make a cry that sounds like,

"Ow ow ow," as if someone

is pinching them mercilessly.

While at San Blas we visited the cultural center which has a gallery with

a handful of paintings in it.  One in particular caught my eye because it

shows the exact expression we have on our faces whenever we do an

overnight passage on the boat.  The trip from Isla Isabel to Mazatlan is

90 miles, just long enough to require an overnight.  Fortunately we were

able to sail almost the entire way rather than run the engine.  However,

the wind was right on the nose, so we had to tack back and forth in a

zig-zag pattern for 20 hours.  The wind also changed strength every

hour, which required us to reef and unreef the sails repeatedly so the

boat could take advantage of the wind rather than the other way around.

By the end of the night we actually looked a bit worse than the guy in

this painting.

Find San Blas and Isla Isabel on Mexico Maps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mazatlan – A Little Strange

Rock formation at Isla Isabel.

Sunset at sea after leaving Isla Isabel.

A scum line of foam stretches

between Groovy and our neighbor.

Dinks line up on the beach as the owners stop for

shrimp & garlic pizza.

A perfect beach for toddlers and dinghy landings.

A water taxi arrives to take us to

downtown Mazatlan.

Mazatlan's malecon.

Unusual monuments along the

malecon.

Exotic modern architecture.

Stately antique architecture.

Mazatlan's town square has an odd excess of

shoe shiners.

Renovated buildings brighten some spots.

Elaborate antique wrought iron gates remind us that

Mazatlan has battled crime for eons.

Renovations on one side of the street distract your

gaze away from...

...unrenovated buildings across the street.

Groovy's window dips face down into the

turquoise Sea of Cortez.

The kayak begs to go for a ride...

...and what a great ride it is.

Bleached coral twigs lie in the sand.

Mansions sprout along this quiet and remote bay.

We've arrived.

Matazatlan, Mexico

Early April, 2011 - It is a 90 mile run from Isla Isabel to Mazatlan, but with the wind

directly on our nose the whole way, we knew we could easily cover as much as 140

miles tacking back and forth by the time we got there.  So we left shortly after dawn,

anticipating 24 hours in transit.  Sure enough, we sailed all but the last ten miles,

witnessing both a stunning sunset and a pretty sunrise before we arrived at the Stone

Island anchorage just outside of the entrance to Mazatlan harbor.

We had been warned about

fishing long-line nets ages

ago, but in our 2,200 miles of

sailing along the Mexican

coast for the past four

months we hadn't seen any

until we had approached Isla

Isabel a few days earlier.

They are poorly marked, usually with a small black buoy flying a black

triangular pennant a foot or two off the water.  Generally, about 100

feet from the pennant buoy there will be a soda pop bottle or other

small buoy that marks the end of the long-line net.  Somewhere out in

the distance, 1/4 mile or more away, there will be another pennant

buoy.  If there is a plastic bottle bobbing near that one, then that

marks the other end of the long-line, and you need to go around the whole thing or get caught in the net.  Sometimes the long-

lines can extend for several miles, with small black buoys placed every 200 feet or so along the entire length of the net.

As we approached Mazatlan we found ourselves in totally flat calm water in mid-

morning.  Rather drowsy from sailing all night, we were shocked awake when a

pennant buoy slipped right by the boat.  We barely missed the end of the long-line net.

Suddenly wide awake, we were astonished to find one long-line net after another

blocking our way for the entire 10 mile approach to the harbor.  We had been tacking

all night long as we sailed, and now we found ourselves zig-zagging all over the sea

while under power to avoid these crazy nets.

We settled into the scenic Stone Island anchorage just outside the mouth of Mazatlan

harbor but were discouraged to find ourselves in a scum line that connected Groovy to

the next boat in the anchorage with a ragged film of foam.  To keep our spirits up, we

reminded ourselves that the Huichol people believe all animal life springs from this

foam, as the foam is the Sun God's very fertile saliva.

There is a small beach

around the corner from the

anchorage where we

discovered the most delicious

shrimp and garlic pizza in a

casual beach palapa.  This

pretty beach has the

sweetest and gentlest waves and is ideal for toddlers and dinghy

landings.  Our kayak took its place on the shore alongside the other

dinghies from our neighboring cruisers.

The beach was serene and peaceful most days, seeming a

world apart from the very busy city that lay just beyond.

From Stone Island we

took a water taxi across

Mazatlan Harbor to the

edge of Old Town.  This

made getting to and from

the city of Mazatlan a kayak-walk-water taxi affair, but it also placed us in a pretty

setting far from the urban challenges that make up Mazatlan.

A walk along the city's

malecon, or boardwalk,

revealed a waterfront that

could be very attractive.

There is a long beach,

some unusual homes

perched on impossible

cliffs, and some unique statues

and monuments.

However, Mazatlan is not a

friendly place.  For the first

time in Mexico a bus driver

tried to cheat us when he made change,

giving us 25 pesos in change rather than the

40 he owed us.  It took three refusals of his

token offers of small coins to get the total we

were due, and he offered no apology.

Similarly, where other Mexicans in other

places happily smile and wave when they

pass, here we found downcast eyes and

solemn expressions.  It is not a happy city.

We had heard mixed reviews of Mazatlan

before we arrived, with most people saying

they hadn't liked it.  However a few were very

enthusiastic about the Old Town architecture.

The cathedral was impressive.

More impressive to us, however, was that the

town square was filled with shoe-shiners.  On

each of the four sidewalks surrounding

the square we found two or three shoe-

shine people, for a total of 10 or 12

around the square.  They laughed when

we pointed at our Keene sandals -- no

sales there -- but we had never seen

such a high density of people shining

shoes for a living.

At one time Mazatlan was prosperous,

and quite a few ornate buildings have

been renovated.  There is a tiny half-

block sized park that is surrounded by

brightly painted renovated buildings.  A

few three- and four-table restaurants

catering to gringo tourists spill out onto

the sidewalk.  Another

cobbled street sports a brief row of antique buildings whose imposing

wrought iron gates over the doors and windows are reminders that

even in wealthier times this city was gripped by crime.  Unfortunately,

renovation is only skin deep.  Across the street from one architectural

make-over was another building begging for repair.

We heard rumors that an American tourist in Mazatlan had

recently been caught in the cross-fire of drug-related gang

violence and killed, leading the cruise ships to reroute their

cruises away from this city.

The many busted up buildings, the endless graffiti all over town and the

truckload of soldiers patrolling the supermarket parking lot where we

went shopping all seemed to support the sad story that there is a very

dark side to this city.

It didn't help when a taxi driver told us to be sure never to walk through

the neighborhood next to where he dropped us off, as it was the worst of

the drug and gang infested neighborhoods.

Waking up to dense pea soup fog three days in a row did nothing to

lighten our mood, and on the fourth morning we left well before dawn to

make our trek across the Sea of Cortez to the southeastern tip of the

Baja peninsua.

Mazatlan to Bahia Los Muertos is a 190 mile journey, and for us it was

largely upwind.  We motored along overnight.  Just like four months

earlier, we listened to the nutty fishermen calling each other all night long on the VHF radio.  Paying no attention to the

international regulations regarding the strict use of Channel 16 as a hailing channel only, these guys held long conversations

with each other, broadcast favorite songs, whistled at each other, yelled, and teased each other all night long.  It makes for a

strange moonless night at sea when invisible waves noisily lick the hull while crazy Mexican fishermen cat-call each other on

the radio at the top of their lungs between playing snippets of Tina Turner and Mexican mariachi music.

All night long we impatiently watched the wind gauge, waiting for the wind to slide off our nose just enough so we could sail.

The moment finally came on our second morning as the sun was rising, and we got in 7 hours of sprightly sailing.

What a joy it was, as the boat heeled over in the brilliant sparkling

morning seas, suddenly to see bright turquoise water.  Due to all

the red tide and estuary run-off this year, the ocean along the

Mexican Pacific coast had ranged from grey-green to brown to

burgundy.  I was so thrilled by the color of the water streaming by

our hull as we approached the Los Muertos anchorage that I

quickly got some photos of our cabin window submerged in the

beautiful water, even though having the window face down in the

water meant it was well past the time to reef the sails and stop

heeling so much!

Not only was the water at Los Muertos a spectacular color, but the

anchorage was calm.  We jumped in the kayak as soon as the

anchor was down.  Calm, clear, pretty water surrounded us, and

we were like two happy kids paddling around.

There were lots of dark patches in the water, and we soon

discovered these were coral heads.  What a surprise.  On the

beach there were lots of little branches of bleached coral resting in

the sand.

Los Muertos is a large bay with little development, but the waterfront

mansions are on their way.  A growing development at one end has

beautiful condos and a few fantastic homes.  The guidebook's

mention of an RV park is long outdated, as not one of the people we

met on shore had ever known of RVs coming this way.

A little more research on our part and we discovered that at

one time this area was a boondocker's paradise.  RVs would

line up right along the shore where the golf course now

sprawls.

Times change, but after leaving Mazatlan and making our

second Sea of Cortez crossing, Mark had no doubt about

where we were standing: Paradise.

After a few days of resting in this relaxing bay, we sailed

around the corner of the Baja peninsula into the bustling

town of La Paz.

Find Mazatlan and Los Muertos on Mexico Maps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PV: La Cruz & Sayulita – Cruisers, Surfers & Fun Loving Mexicans

Marina Nayarit at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

Marina Nayarit at La Cruz de

Huanacaxtle.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Cobbled streets of La Cruz.

Fish market at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

Mark buys some Sierra at the local fish market.

Sailing schools at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

The Vancouver Sailing Academy was in residence for a week of training.

Marina Nayarit at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

The March 11 tsunami destroyed a dock at Marina Narayit.

Whale attack

The whale attack resulted in a bent

strut and missing propellor.

Huichol Galeria La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Huichol Galeria at the Octopus's Garden.

Huichol bead art, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

Huichol yarn art. Yarn is pressed into a wax backing.

Huichol yarn art La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Like their yarn art, Huichol bead art involves

pressing beads into a wax backing, sometimes

on a sculpture as with this jaguar.

Alvaro Ortiz, Huichol artist

Alvaro Ortiz works on a sun and moon.

Huichol bead art

The finished product a few hours later.

Huichol bead art

Bead bracelets and necklaces come off

of small looms like this one.

Huanacaxtle pods or

Huanacaxtle pods, or "ears" in

Nahuatl.

God's cross leaves on the Cuastecomate tree

God one-upped the devil and

shaped the Cuastecomate tree's

leaves like crosses.

Sayulita campground

Sayulita's campground was teeming with surfer dudes and dudettes.

Sayulita surf beach

Sayulita's surf beach.

Sayulita surf beach tsunami damage, Sayulita

The tsunami nearly sent the public bathrooms into

the drink.

Sayulita Mexico

Hot bikini babes everywhere.

Surfing at Sayulita Mexico

Surf and surfing are the heart of Sayulita.

Surfing at Sayulita, Mexico

Like father like son.

Sayulita Mexico Huichol leaf art

Leaf art on exhibit at

Sayulita's Huichol

gallery.

Huichol leaf carving art

Leaf carving.

Panga launch at Sayulita

The pros show us how to get a big heavy

panga off the beach into the surf.

Panga launch at Sayulita Panga launch at Sayulita Iguana at Marina Vallarta

An iguana poses at Marina Vallarta.

Iguana at Marina Vallarta

...all done posing.

Tortilla machine in La Cruz

A pile of dough sits at the top of

a tortilla machine.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

We join a group of Mexicans in a dusty yard for beers and

"pollo asado."

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

Gilberto shares his beer with a bull.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

Marciela is the perfect young hostess.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta

Baby Juliana is at the center of it all.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

Late March, 2011 - Cruisers gathered in Bahía Chamela for days, waiting for the

right weather to make the overnight passage north around Cabo Corrientes ("Cape

of Currents") to the Puerto Vallarta area.  This cape is known for being treacherous

at times, willfully dishing out strong currents, powerful winds and contrary wave

patterns and offering nowhere to hide.  We got lucky.  The wind was perfect, and we

had a delightful sail all afternoon and all night long.  It was the best sailing we've had

in Mexico yet.  We arrived in Banderas Bay ("Flag Bay") in utter pitch dark with no

moon and no horizon to be seen anywhere, flying along at 7.5 knots into black

oblivion, relying on our radar to show us all obstacles.

Suddenly the radar screen was filled with green dots.  Bogies everywhere!  Looking

around, a huge fleet of commercial fishing boats surrounded us, their lights filling the

inky night air like bright pin pricks.  One large boat was bearing down on us with

such speed we could clearly see the fishing booms lit up on either side.  We threw

on every light on our boat to make sure they saw us and tacked outta there in a

hurry.  Just then a cruise ship appeared, blazing across the radar screen at full

speed.  It loomed on the water as it passed us, a christmas tree of party lights and

good times steaming by.  Back on the radar screen, a line of fellow cruising sailboats

that had crept around the cape under power made a ragged line of dots.  They

hailed each other repeatedly on the radio, keeping tabs on who was where in line

and how things were going on each others' boats.  This bay was a busy place.

As the sun rose the wind

died and the boats disappeared, but a multitude of voices filled the

radio waves.  Banderas Bay is 20 miles wide with 60 miles of

shoreline, and as we motored across the glassy water we listened

to two different cruisers' nets on the radio, each originating in

separate marinas on the bay.  We heard well over 100 boat names

checking in, along with another 30 or so vendors pitching their

services.  Despite the suddenly still air and sunny waters around us,

I felt like we were arriving at JFK.

Puerto Vallarta was the original heart of the bay, but the area has

grown so much that there are now several hearts.  None of them

has an anchorage, however, just pricey marinas, so we stayed on

the outskirts of it all at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (pronounced

"wanna-cox-lay").

As we dropped the hook among 35 other boats and

dinghied ashore into the pin cushion of sailboat

masts at the new Marina Nayarit at La Cruz, my

impression changed from JFK airport to San Diego

South.  Swank amenities for boaters abound,

accompanied by equally swank prices.

The daily schedule of organized entertainment is long, and the pace

of life is fast, with yoga classes, art classes, sailing academies for kids

during the days, followed by marina hosted movie nights, restaurant

hosted meat loaf nights, and live music at many venues.  And this is

just one of the four major marinas in the area.

We finally found a tiny hint of Mexico across from the marina

at a small upscale fish market, and we enjoyed watching an

expert fillet three Sierras.  These are beautiful silver mackerel

covered with golden polka dots.

Over in the boatyard

we found the final

chapter of Luffin' It,

the boat that had been

struck by a whale back in Tenacatita (bottom of page). The propellor strut was bent,

the prop was gone, and the starboard side of the hull suffered huge cracks in the

fiberglass.  The boat was considered a total loss by the insurance company.  Watch out

for those whales!

The town of La Cruz

itself is just a

nondescript dusty

stretch of charmless

cobblestone streets.

However, the tight-knit

sailing community and plethora of gringo bars makes it a

favorite for many cruisers.  We enjoyed an afternoon at The

Octopus's Garden where a courtyard is shaded by an

enormous huanacaxtle tree and an ex-pat Frenchman roasts

and grinds his own French roast coffee while overseeing a

small gallery of Huichol art.

The Huichol (who call themselves the Wixaritari, or "the

people") are one of the few indigenous groups that

survived the Spanish conquests.  16,000 of them retain

their language, religion and culture to this day.

One of their beliefs is that their father, the sun, created all the creatures of

the earth, including people, from his saliva which is red sea foam.  We feel

like experts on sea foam now, since we have seen a lot of it over the past

few months, especially when the red tide blooms begin to wane.  Little

foamy blobs and all kinds of flotsam float around in the foam, and as it

ages it coagulates and gets stringy and sticky, like phlegm.  Red tides have

happened for eons, but it is refreshing to know that at least one culture has

been able to find not only a kind of beauty in it but a purpose for it too.

We stopped to chat with Alvaro Ortiz one morning, a Huichol artist who sits quietly

creating beautiful beaded works by a coffee shop many days.  Like so many indigenous

people who set up shop on folding tables to sell their wares to tourists, it was easy to

dismiss him, and most people brushed by him with hardly a glance in his direction.

As we chatted in simple Spanish, he

opened a notebook showing newspaper

clippings of his amazing work.  He was one

of eight Huichol artists who decorated a

VW bug with their bead art a few years

ago.  The photos featured him at the wheel,

and the car is now on a traveling exhibit

across Europe.

He has recently been commissioned by the

Mexican government to decorate a piano

with Huichol bead art too.  Besides

traditional craftwork, he is an accomplished

musician as well.  In April he will be giving a

concert of classical piano, traditional Huichol

flute and operatic songs, and he is currently

composing an opera.

This kind of renaissance skill is hard to find in these days of ultra-specialization, and we

talked a bit about that.  "In my culture, to be an artist and musician and composer is not

unusual," he explained.  "But in the modern world most people are very limited."  It is

also easy to shrug off street hawkers as one step above beggars.  We bumped into him

later at a market.  Dressed in conventional western clothes, he looked like any other well

dressed Mexican.

Back in the Octopus's Garden, the French owner of the Galería Huichol explained to us

that the huanacaxtle tree shading his courtyard is named for its ear-shaped pod:

"huanacaxtle" means "ear" in the indigenous language Nahuatl.  It is one of the few

specimens of this enormous tree remaining in this town that bears its name, La Cruz de

Huanacaxtle.  A cross ("La Cruz") made of its wood stands in the center of town.  He

went on to explain that the Cuastecomate tree, for which the Bahía Cuastecomate

between Barra de Navidad and Tenacatita is named, also has a unique story.

Apparently the devil and God both contributed to

the creation of the Cuastecomate tree.  The devil

created a spider's web of ugly criss-crossing

branches with weird hard tennis ball sized fruit

growing right out of the branches.  God threw his

blessing on the tree by gracing it with cross-shaped

leaves.

We found a bit

more of the

devil's and God's

work nearby at

Sayulita.  This is

a hippie surfing town that is the opposite of La Cruz.

Rather than grey haired retired cruisers enjoying

sedate organized activities, this place was humming

with the buzz of twenty-something surfers.  A

campground in the middle of town was home for a lot

of them, and a stroll through it revealed the gritty life

of young backpackers out on a surfing safari.  Tents

were jammed together cheek-by-jowel, and as noon

neared the kids were still walking around in sandy pj's

with slitted sleepy eyes.

The tsunami had left a set of public bathrooms in the lurch,

but brought in a surf break that still seemed to be pounding.

Hot babes in bikinis were all over town, and everyone had

wet hair and sandy feet from playing in the waves.

Non-surfers can learn the

moves from an array of surf

shops, surf instructors and

surf rental places all over

the beach, and one dad was giving his young

son a quickie lesson on a roller board.

In town we found another Huichol art gallery

that was featuring a new art form:  carved

leaves.  Leaves of all kinds had been

surgically cut along the veins to create

silhouettes of people and animals.

After struggling with dinghy launches and

landings on this crazy surf-pounded Pacific

coast, it was fun to watch the professionals

do it.  A couple had hired a panga for a

tour, and it took no less than a five people

to get the boat into the water after a pickup

truck pushed it down from the high water

mark.  Timing the waves carefully, they got

off with just one little hop over a wave.  The

panga before that -- and before I had my

camera in hand -- had gone completely

airborne three times as it flew over the

crashing surf to deeper water.

La Cruz is a 30

minute bus ride from

downtown Puerto

Vallarta, and we

took the wild city bus

one day.  There are

many different

buses, and being

new to the area we

did not realize that

some are express and others go through the back barrios.  What a

surprise to get into the outer parts of urban Puerto Vallarta and see

the dusty shacks that house many local residents.  A man herded

twenty pigs across the bus's path at one point, and there were

cows and chickens in many yards.  Once we got to Marina Vallarta,

however, the world of high end luxury engulfed us once again.

What fun to see an iguana perched along the rocks overlooking the

boats.  He posed for a while, looking like a sculpture planted there

for effect.  He drew a chuckle from everyone when he crawled

away across the sidewalk towards the row of shops.

Back in La Cruz we were missing

the simplicity of the little Mexican

towns that have hosted us for the

past few months.  Joining the

cruisers for tacos at a featureless

gringo hangout called "Tacos on

the Street" and bar-hopping at

cruiser bars where I found bathrooms labeled "Ladies" because no Mexican women ever uses

them, we had a good time but could have easily been in Austin, Texas where Americans enjoy

a nightly live music scene that is every bit as active as in La Cruz/Puerto Vallarta.

We finally found the homeyness we were looking for when we wandered into the streets at the

farther end of town.  We watched a man loading dough into a tortilla machine and sampled his

delicious "totopos."  These are deep fried corn tortilla chips that make a yummy snack.

A little further on we bought a

"pollo asado," which is chicken

grilled street-side.  These delicious

chickens are opened

up and cooked flat,

looking like roadkill

spread across the grill.

We were asked if we

wanted to take it with

us or eat it there in the

dusty yard behind the

grill.  We peered out

back and looked at the

group of Mexican men

drinking beer at a folding table.  Roosters and chickens squawked and scratched

at their feet while a large bull chewed its cud in the corner.  "We'll eat here!" we

both grinned.  A rip-roaring Spanglish conversation ensued as we sat down with

Hugo, Joel and Gilberto and shared a few beers at their table.  We toasted each other and

life, and watched in amusement as Gilberto wandered over to the bull and held out his

beer for it to drink.  Between the bull's slurps, Gilberto took a swig now and then, while a

toddler bounced and cooed in a swing between us all.  We knew enough of each other's

languages to talk in simple terms about the joys of grandkids, the perils of sailing, the heat

of living in Phoenix and the contentedness of their life in La Cruz.

This strange town, Banderas Bay, and the

Puerto Vallarta area in general hadn't really

appealed to us until that moment.

Suddenly, sitting in tottering plastic chairs

under the shade of a big tree at a rickety

table while our sandals scuffled the soft dirt

at our feet, we felt La Cruz had reached our hearts.  Listening to the hearty

laughter of these rugged, burly men as they teased each other and us in

whatever mixture of language we could share, we felt welcomed.  All the while

the mom worked her grill and sold chickens to passersby, and her sweet seven-

year-old daughter played perfect hostess to us all, giggling shyly as we asked

her basic questions with a poor Spanish accent and iffy grammar.

Before long it was time to move on, and we soon made our way north towards Mazatlan via San Blas and Isla Isabel.

Find La Cruz (Puerto Vallarta) on Mexico Maps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Chamela Bay Islands – Remote Getaway

Bocce ball in Tenacatita anchorage

Score!!

Bocce ball in Tenacatita anchorage

The rookies take the game!!

Dinghies at La Manzanilla

Dinghy group lands on the beach in La Manzanilla.

Street scene in La Manzanilla

A steaming cauldron keeps a

dog's attention.

Street scene in La Manzanilla

Concrete is mixed by hand.

Red tide scum in Tenacatita anchorage

Post-red tide scum creates patterns on the water.

Pelicans dive in Tenacatita (Blue Bay)

Pelicans dive for supper.

Pelicans dive in Tenacatita (Blue Bay) Mark catche a Toro off Bahia Chamela

Mark gets a good look at his catch.

Fog in Chamela Bay

Thick fog greets us in the morning.

Fog in Chamela Bay anchorage Fog in Bahia Chamela anchorage Chamela Bay birds on the beach in Chamela A river of water created by the March 11 tsunami

A river of water isolates a favorite cruiser restaurant.

Sunflowers in Bahia Chamela Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Chamela's three little islands are a great hideaway.

Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

There's nothing like an uninhabited tropical island.

Hermit crabs Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Hermit crabs dashed urgently

all over the sand.

s/v Groovy at Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Island paradise.

Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay sv Groovy at Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay

Lots of cactus lined the shore.

Isla Colorado anchorage, Chamela Bay Tidepools on Isla Colorado, Chamela Bay, Jalisco, Mexico

Craggy rocks and tidepools grabbed our attention.

Tidepools on Isla Colorado, Chamela Bay, Jalisco, Mexico Colorado Island, Chamela Bay anchorage, Jalisco, Mexico Cleaning Groovy's bottom, Bahia Chamela islands

The water seems clear enough to

clean the bottom of the hull.

Cleaning Groovy's bottom, Bahia Chamela islands

See you down under!

Chamela Bay & Islands, Jalisco, Mexico

Mid-March, 2011 - Despite the drawbacks of red tide, jelly fish blooms and land disputes,

the anchorage at Tenacatita held us in its grasp for ten happy days.  Old time cruisers

who had been coming to Tenacatita for years initiated games of Bocce ball on the beach,

they encouraged cruisers to gather for beers at the beachfront palapa restaurant La

Vena, and they organized group dinghy provisioning

trips across the bay to the village of La Manzanilla.

Beginners luck prevailed for us in Bocce ball, and we

nailed a few throws to win the first game.

Dinghy landings in this bay are quite a challenge,

because of the pounding waves and surf on the beach.

We hitched rides with friends several times to learn the

technique for landing the dink and launching it again

later without getting too wet.  We learned that waves

come in sets, often 6 or 7 at a time, and the trick is to

wait until a set has passed to make your move.  You get a total of about 15 seconds to ride

behind the last wave to shore or to jump in the dink and start the outboard during a launch

off the beach.  One false move by a passenger, or an unexpectedly stalled engine, or a

miscalculation of when the last wave has actually passed can spell the difference between

being wet up to your shorts or flipping the dinghy entirely and getting drenched head to toe.

We watched in amazement from the beach as one

seasoned pro accidentally flipped his dinghy during a

launch when his inexperienced passenger took too long to

climb into the boat. The dinghy hit a huge oncoming wave

and flew straight up in the air like a rocket, landing upside

down in the surf.  Workers from the restaurant dashed

down to the beach carrying a five gallon jug of fresh water

to flush the outboard engine while cruisers searched the

waves for lost cargo.  Fortunately the outboard responded

to the treatment, most items were found, and the dinghy

was soon re-launched without mishap.

La Manzanilla on the far side of the bay is a small

seaside village, and we enjoyed watching the locals

going about their daily activities.  Two men stirred a

cauldron filled with ham hocks (hooves included),

while a dog waited patiently.

There was plenty of construction going on, all done

by hand.  We watched one worker shovel gravel into

a bucket on the street and then hoist it to the roof of

a building using a rope and pulley system.  Water

was then hoisted in another bucket, and the worker

on the roof mixed and poured the concrete by hand.

In another area we watched a worker mix his

concrete in a little pile of gravel right on the street.

This may not produce the highest grade concrete,

but there is a quiet calm and pride in the way these

men go about their work.

Out in the bay the red tide began to go through its lifecycle phases.

First the water turned from beet red to murky brown to grey green.

Then a huge blanket of foam formed in the middle of the bay.

Several hundred feet across, the foam began as a solid sheet of tiny

white bubbles and then began to dissipate into elaborate patterns as

the current ebbed and flowed beneath it.

The pelicans had no qualms about

the water quality, and they dove for

fish each afternoon.  They looked like

flying knives being hurled into the

water.  I tried in desperation to get a

picture of one just at the moment of

impact when their wings are pressed

tightly against their bodies, but I

never quite caught it.

One morning we awoke to a pan-pan call on the

radio.  This is an emergency alert for anyone within

earshot, and as I laid in bed with my eyes closed

debating how we'd spend our day I heard, "Japan has had a massive earthquake

and a tsunami is headed this way.  It will arrive here in two hours."  That got me out

of bed in a hurry!  Pre-coffee and still half-dressed in pj's, we hauled the anchor and

dashed out of the anchorage.  A fishing panga was nearby and we waved them over

to pass on the warning.  I hated the thought that they might fish by the rocks all

morning and never know what hit them.

Out on the open water we were able to connect to the internet, sort of.  If I stood in

the cockpit holding the laptop over my head with the USB antenna pointed towards

shore, I could download a page in about 3 to 5 minutes.  This was just enough to get some Google News reports detailing the

unfolding disaster.  Meanwhile the radio was abuzz with cruiser chatter.  People were sharing information they were receiving

from single side band radio broadcasts, from cell phone calls to friends and family on the west coast and from the internet.

We soon realized the predicted time for the arrival of the wave was 1:45 pm, not 10:45 a.m. as we were first told, and the

effects could last up to nine hours after the intial wave hit.

This meant a long day of sailing.  We had planned to stay in Tenacatita for a few more days, but once we were out in the

ocean it made more sense to travel up the coast a bit to Chamela Bay.

Almost the entire cruising fleet joined us in the open water, and a huge game of musical chairs ensued.  Just about everyone

changed anchorages and moved north or south to the next spot on their itinerary along the coast.

Out on the water the regular ocean swell was running about five

feet, so the five foot tsunami waves were undetectable.  Our

biggest challenge was trying to determine whether the waves

had arrived on shore or not, and whether or not it was safe to go

in to anchor.  Once the initial waves had hit California and then

Cabo San Lucas, all new internet reporting ceased.  The

Mexican news stories were only about warnings, not about

actual wave arrivals in the various ports nor about damage, so

we had no idea what the status was along our coast.

However, the air was warm and the breeze too light to sail

much, so Mark lazily dropped a handline over the side of the

boat as we motored along.  Within an hour the line suddenly

went taut and then limp.  He brought it in to find that a huge fish

had struck and broken the clasp holding the leader line to the

handline.  Somewhere out there a fish was swimming around

with a six inch blue feather lure hanging out of its mouth while

fifty feet of nylon leader trailed behind him.  Darn!

He quickly found another lure with a stronger clasp and thicker leader line, and threw it over the side.  Wham!  Another fish

was on the hook.  Holy cow.  Mark has trailed handlines up and down this entire coast with only one catch so far.  And now

within minutes he had two, with the one that got away being (undoubtedly) one of the biggest fish in the ocean.  Was the

tsunami herding the fish somehow?  Whatever the cause, he hauled the fish in and we had a good look at it.  It was beautiful:

big and silver with bright yellow fins and tail.  Unfortunately, it was the inedible Jack Crevalle, or "toro" in Spanish, a fish that

has meat so red and bloody that it is considered inedible.  Toros have big puppy dog eyes, though, and this guy was staring

up at Mark in stark terror.  He quickly unhooked the lure from its mouth and we could feel his utter relief as he swam off into

the depths.

We pulled into Chamela Bay around 5:00 p.m., thinking the worst of the waves must have passed.  As we lowered the anchor

over the flat sand bottom, I watched the depth gauge read a steady 22 to 23 feet and then suddenly dip to 14 feet and then

rise again to 22 feet.  Within seconds I heard an enormous crash of a mammoth wave pounding the shore, and I turned to see

its foaming mass sweep well past the highest tide mark on the beach.

Our radio instantly crackled to life as a friend of ours used her hand-held radio to describe the utter pandemonium she was

seeing on the beach.  Mark had to calm me down a bit, as I started to rant, but no waves quite that big rolled through after

that.  However, all was not right in the water.  Every boat in the anchorage did steady 360 degree turns around its anchor,

completing a full turn every minute or two.  After a few clockwise turns the boats would all begin to turn counterclockwise as

their hulls followed the pull of the ocean surge washing in and out of the bay.

The next morning we woke to thick fog, the first we had

seen since we were in Chamela Bay four months earlier.

The scene around us had an eerie glow.

We walked along the shore later in the day.  The ghost town

feeling that Chamela Bay had had in November still

persisted, especially now that the fleet of fishing pangas had

been dragged high onto the beach out of reach of the

tsunami waves.

A little restaurant at one end of the beach was stranded

by the tsunami.  Usually a path through soft sand leads

to this building, but the tsunami swell was continuing to

disturb the peace a day or two after the first waves

arrived.  A steady river of water washed to and fro in an

estuary, making access to the restaurant a dicey affair

that included wading in water up to your shorts.

Elsewhere around Chamela Bay little had changed.  More flowers

seemed to be in bloom, but the pretty little waterfront RV park was

totally empty now.

We decided to take Groovy out into the bay for a few days where three

small uninhabited islands huddle together.  There are several

anchoring spots out there, and we found it to be a cozy, hidden

paradise.

As we dropped the hook we heard the loud and rather

urgent cries of hundreds of pelicans roosting in the trees

on the shore.  These islands are an ecological preserve

zone, and pelicans rule.

We took the dinghy ashore and stood in awe watching two different

species of pelicans engaging in what can only be described as a

springtime orgy.  Throaty groans, flapping wings, and awkward

physical postures gave the rugged shore an emotional vibe that

made us feel we were intruding on the most intimate of erotic

moments.

Averting our eyes from these

impassioned birds, we found

a host of hermit crabs

scurrying across the sand.

They crawled over each

other and tapped on each

other's shells.  These little

guys were inhabiting a huge

variety of shells, and one or

two were running around

naked looking for a new home.

The water was a

gorgeous shade of

blue, a welcome

change from the post-

red tide grey-green

that filled Chamela's

main anchorage.

Around the beach there were cactus and palm trees, and stubby little deciduous trees

too.  But it was the tide pools that really got our attention.  The waves sloshed in and out

with a vengeance, but a few were out of reach of the surf, and life in those pools was

calm and serene.

Back on the boat it

seemed we were in the

perfect place to have a look at the underside of our

hull.  We had been cleaning it every week or so

down in Zihuatanejo where the water was warm

and the barnacles grew quickly.  Since we had

been up north of Manzanillo, however, we hadn't

had a chance to give it a good look or a good scrub

because of the murky water.

Mark tackled the lowest parts of the hull and keel

with his scuba gear while I held my breath with a

snorkel and popped the offending barnacles off the

higher parts of the hull.  The water wasn't exactly

clear, and while we were in it a new wave of post-

red tide scum floated by.  Suddenly the water was

full of white puffy stringy stuff, and we quickly

wrapped up our work.  Unfortunately, the waves

were surging so vigorously that at one point each

of us accidentally gulped a huge mouthful of water.

Over the following days we both

went through a series of weird symptoms, starting with sore shoulders

followed by swollen glands in our necks and nasty head aches.  Mine

ended with a round of vomiting, while Mark was nauseous for two days.

After a week the symptoms passed.  My advice to anyone following in

our path:  don't drink water tainted by red tide.

Chamela Bay is the last good anchorage along the coast heading north

before the much feared Cabo Corrientes where high winds and

conflicting swell can make for a miserable passage.  The bright lights of

Puerto Vallarta lie beyond that point, but it is a 100 mile trip to get there,

so boats gather in Chamela Bay and watch the weather forecasts like

hawks, waiting for the best 24 hours to make the trip.  Before long we

got our chance, and we dashed out of the bay towards the Puerto

Vallarta suburb of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

Find Chamela on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on the "Mexican Riviera" (northern Pacific coast) to see more cruising posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costalegre: Tenacatita – Not Heavenly for Cruisers Any More

Cuastecomate, the

Cuastecomate, the "Secret Anchorage."

A Mexican Navy ship approaches.

A tender of Mexican Navy men circles Groovy.

s/v Groovy gets boarded by the Mexican Navy in Tenacatita.

The Mexican Navy boards Groovy.

sv Groovy gets boarded by the Mexican Navy in Tenacatita.

It was a routine and courteous inspection.

Red tide in Tenacatita, Mexico

Red tide surrounds us as we motor into Tenacatita.

Red tide in Tenacatita, Mexico

Red tide fills the anchorage.

jellyfish in Tenacatita, Mexico

A carpet of jelly fish surrounds us.

The Blue Bay Resort is the only resort at this end of the bay.

Chippy the dolphin, Tenacatita, Mexico

Chippy the dolphin.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

Beginning of the "Jungle Tour."

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

The mangroves quickly close in.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

Thick jungle brush reflects in the

glassy water.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

Our friends are the only other river tourists.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

The old dinghy landing at the end of the jungle tour.

Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico Jungle dinghy tour, Tenacatita, Mexico

"Luffin It" is pushed into the anchorage

after a whale strike.

Provisioning at La Manzanilla, Mexico

La Manzanilla is a cute small town.

Provisioning at La Manzanilla, Mexico

Lots of little grocery stores have all the

provisions you need.

Provisioning at La Manzanilla, Mexico

Loaded down with

provisions.

Ahh... so much easier to have a local panga run your errands for you.

Dinghy raft-up, Tenacatita, Mexico

A dinghy raft-up offers hints of Tenacatita's former glory.

Tenacatita Bay, Jalisco, Mexico

Early March, 2011 - After a week of laid back

decadence at Barra de Navidad, complete with

French baked goods, flat calm nights and civilized

water taxi rides to shore, we moved a few miles north

to Cuastecomate.  This small anchorage lies between

the two large and very popular anchorages of Barra de

Navidad and Tenacatita, and in the past was

apparently neither well documented nor well-known, so

it was nicknamed the "Secret Anchorage."   With the

publication this year of Pacific Mexico, a new cruising

guide for this area, the cat is out of the bag, as the

GPS coordinates for the anchorage are given along

with an enticing description..

There was just one other sailboat in the anchorage when we arrived, along with a

Mexican Navy ship sitting quietly in the middle of the bay.  As we began to anchor we

noticed the Navy ship drawing closer.  Once we got the anchor down and began to get

settled, the Navy ship launched five men in a tender that soon circled our boat.  They

asked permission to board Groovy.  Just a week earlier four Americans had been killed

on their sailboat off of Somalia.  This was geographically very far from Mexico but, as

fellow cruisers, the event felt close enough in spirit to make me suddenly feel quite

vulnerable as a camouflage suited soldier climbed up our swimstep carrying a machine

gun.

He walked forward to our bow and stood watch, while two other Navy men in bullet-

proof vests climbed aboard and settled into our cockpit.  Intimidating as it was for a few

moments, this visit was both friendly and routine.

With the taste of almond croissants still on our lips and the sun

sparkling on the water all around the boat, I thought we made an

odd assortment on board Groovy.  Mark was dressed for another

day of vacation in running shorts, bare feet and no shirt, while the

Navy men were dressed for an armed conflict, complete with heavy

boots.  The tender with the two remaining men moved away from

our boat and hovered nearby, one of the men resting his machine

gun across his lap.

They were extremely gracious, speaking to us in simple Spanish once I

revealed I was willing to practice my language skills with them.  They

merely wanted to see our boat papers and passports and to verify that

we didn't have any drugs on board or any extra passengers who were

not documented on our crew list.

I asked them a little about their work and learned we were the second

boat they had boarded that day, the first being the other sailboat in this

little anchorage.  The day before they had inspected four boats.  They

regularly patrol the 150 miles between Puerto Vallarta and Barra de

Navidad, rotating shifts of days or weeks spent aboard the ship followed

by time at home with their families.  "It's hard on family life and hard on

your marriage," we all agreed.  In the ensuing days we found many

other boats had been similarly boarded this year, although in prior years

it was not a common occurrance in this area.

Their inspection was more thorough and detailed than

any of the many US border patrol checkpoints we have

driven through towing our fifth wheel on the US

interstates.  There we have always been waved

through without even having to slow down below 10

mph, despite towing an enormous trailer.

We were given two forms to sign, one written in English

and one in Spanish.  The English language form was a

waiver absolving the Mexican Navy of any responsibility

if we ever asked them for a tow and they damaged our

boat.  Fair enough.  To my utter surprise, the Spanish

language form was an evaluation of the boarding process.  I looked at them with a lopsided grin:  "This form evaluates your

performance today?!"  They nodded, smiling.  "It is for your boss?!"  More nods and grins.  Polite young men all of them, they

deserved the highest rating in every category.

Before leaving, the Mexican Navy men reassured us that if we ever had any trouble or needed them in any way, we should call

them on the radio on VHF Channel 16.  What a contrast to the way I was so rudely dressed down by the San Diego Harbor

Police for screwing up the sign-in procedures at San Diego's transient cruiser's dock, or the way the US Coast Guard yelled at

us through a megaphone because we had not written "T/T Groovy" on the bow of our dinghy.

Cuastecomate is known for its beautiful snorkeling spots, but

remnants of a recent red tide removed any thoughts of swimming.

Two days later when we motored into Tenacatita Bay we saw the

most expansive red tide to date.  The entire bay, several miles

across, was filled with tea colored water.  The stunning shade was

toned down a bit from the ruby red wine color that fellow cruisers

reported seeing the day before.

How sad.  Blue Bay -- Tenacatita's other name -- often has water

that is gin clear and bright turquoise.  The snorkeling off of one

point is so stunning that the cove is nicknamed "The Aquarium."  In

the past cruisers have moved in here for a month or more at a time

for a spell of life in Paradise, going so far as to have weekly

scheduled events and an elected "mayor" of the anchorage.

Not so this year.  At no time during our stay did we have the least

desire to put even a toe in the water.  After red tide algae dies off,

thick rivers of brown foam begin to form.  Zig-zagging scum lines lie

along the boundaries between current flows, and in places the foam

gathers into potato sized balls that punctuate the scum lines with little

brown puffs.  Leaving the bay for a daysail one day, we returned to

the anchorage through line after line of brown scum.

Not only was the red tide a

shock, but a jellyfish bloom

stunned us as well.  We had

sailed through miles of baby

jellyfish a week or so earlier,

hanging over the rails in amazement as the boat parted waves that were thick with two

inch long baby jellies that lay in layers below the surface.  All babies grow up, and one

morning in Tenacatita we awoke to find the boat sitting in a carpet of adult jellyfish.

They surrounded the boat so densely that it seemed you could walk across them.

After the hundred foot diameter carpet of jellies floated through the anchorage,

engulfing each boat in its path, it finally landed on the beach in front of the Blue Bay

Resort.  Thousands of jelly fish blanketed the sand for an afternoon.  As the tide went

out, the jellies were left high and dry, and they died.

Tenacatita was suffering this year in other ways

besides the red tide and the jellyfish.  During a

land dispute along one of the bay's beaches last

August, 150 Jalisco State Police evicted 800

people who lived and worked there.  All their

homes, restaurants and a hotel were bulldozed in preparation for the construction of a huge beachfront resort.  During our

stay the construction had not yet begun, but the land was actively patrolled by armed security guards.  Cruisers who had

arrived earlier in the season had been shooed off the beach and out of that anchorage.

One Tenacatita resident rose above all these depressing changes, however,

putting up with the strange water and turning a blind eye to the land dispute

around the corner.  Famed resident Chippy the dolphin has been loved by

cruisers for years, and we found him lolling around the anchorage, showing his

notched dorsal fin every time he surfaced through the water.  He happily

scratched his back on the boats' anchor chains as he always has.

Tenacatita features a "Jungle River Dinghy

Tour" that meanders up a lush estuary, and this

self-guided tour has actually benefitted from the

land dispute, as it is rarely traveled now.  You

have to brave some crashing surf and shallows

to get the dink into the estuary, but once inside you are in

a world apart.

The estuary tour begins as a calm river between thick

mangrove sides that twists and turns as it takes you

upriver.  Snowy egrets and other leggy fowl peer out at

you as you pass, and they don't flinch, even at the sound

of the dinghy's outboard.

In places the water

was so calm that

the foliage formed

a perfect reflection

in its depths.

Before the land dispute,

this estuary led to the

backside of the community

of homes, restaurants and

stores that has since been

bulldozed out of existence.

In those days it was heavily

traveled, and apparently

the animals were not quite

as easy to see.

We passed an iguana sunning himself on

the branches of a mangrove and we saw

several raccoon-like coatimundi

scampering overhead.  One coatimundi

stopped and stared at us long enough to

get some photos, but darned if all the pics

of him didn't turn out completely blurry.

Only one other

boat shared the

estuary with us

that day, friends of

ours from another

cruising boat.

The estuary narrows

dramatically, to the

point where you can

pull yourself along

by grabbing the branches overhead.  In places the dink can barely

squeeze through, as the mangroves close in on either side and

you have to duck the overhead jungle canopy.

At the far end, the estuary opened to a very small and shallow

lagoon, and we found the dock where cruisers used to land their

dinghies.  The silhouette of an armed guard in the distance kept

us from attempting to land, and we returned through the thick

mangroves to the bay.

This all added up to plenty of excitement for a few days' stay in Tenacatita, but a Mayday call

on the radio late one afternoon pumped our adrenaline up another notch.  A whale had

attacked the 36' sailboat "Luffin' It" just outside the anchorage.  Mark and four other cruisers

responded to the call, zipping out to the terrified couple in three dinghies.  They had been sailing along quietly when a whale

appeared out of nowhere and bashed the port side of the boat, knocking it over 45 degrees.  He repeated this bashing on the

starboard side and then got beneath the boat and began thrashing his tail, damaging the rudder and bending the propellor

shaft in the process.  The boat began taking on water, which prompted their Mayday call.

The rescuers used the most powerful dinghy to push the boat into the

anchorage, as the sailboat's engine could barely run due to the bent

prop shaft.  After saying a round of "thank yous" to the rescuers before

settling in for the night to a humming bilge pump, the couple shocked

us all when they motored out of the anchorage the next morning,

putting up the sails as they rounded the point en route to Puerto

Vallarta for repairs 130 miles away.

The main anchorage at Tenacatita is near

a small beach palapa restaurant, but there

are no stores nearby.  All provisioning must

be done far across the bay in the town of

La Manzanilla.  One morning a group of

cruisers took their dinghies to the town

across the bay, and we walked around the

cute village.  Loading up on fruits and

veggies in several of the many small

markets, I soon looked like a pack mule.

How funny to return to the anchorage later in the day, covered with salt spray from the lively dinghy ride and happily worn out

from a day of shopping, to find the megayacht anchored behind us had called a panga to run their errands and bring them all

the provisions they needed.  We watched the uniformed crew serving the two couples aboard and marveled at the many ways

you can live a life.

Our low brow boating life is a pretty good one, though, and one

afternoon the cruisers all gathered for a dinghy raft up.

Everyone brought an appetizer to share and the dishes

circulated from boat to boat.  Our friend Bill was elected Mayor

of the Anchorage, and he gave a rousing speech in praise of

the folks who had helped with the rescue of the whale struck

boat a few days earlier.  In the odd way of Tenacatita this year,

however, the anchorage that had harbored 22 boats for one

busy night was down to just 6 by the next afternoon, as there is

little to hold people here this season.  However, because we

are rarely ones to move quickly, we stayed a full week before

venturing on to Bahía Chamela and its beautiful islands.

Find Tenacatita on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's North Pacific Coast to see more posts from this area!