Sunday, 29 January 2012

tenacatita: a study in contrasts

I swear, we were traveling down Whale Avenue on the way to Tenacatita. Whales kept popping up here and there, everywhere. There were 30 nautical miles between Isla Cocinas and Tenacatita, and not a heck of a lot of wind. 
Sea turtles, yes. Whales, yes. Wind? No.

What Rick calls the whale's "footprint"
Moments after she dove under and
we altered course
When it was my turn to be off the helm, I went up on deck. There, the breeze was cooler. From that vantage point, I pointed out whatever wildlife I could see to Rick. And then, there was that whale. I turned my head toward the bow and barely had the time to yell, “Whale! WHALE! Go to starboard! STARBOARD! We missed the whale by less than 20 feet. She swam right across our bow, heading toward our port side. She dove under just as Rick altered course, flashing us her tail as she went down. We both looked at each other round-eyed, hearts racing. That was close!

The Aquarium
And that was our excitement on this leg of the voyage. The Aquarium was the first anchorage we dropped the hook in once we arrived in Bahia Tenacatita. It didn’t appear to be anything like what our cruising guide was describing. Palapa restaurants, colourful parasols, tiendas… Nope. None of that. It looked abandoned, it was almost creepy. A ghost town. We later heard this was due to the land wars that started a few years ago. Someone said they owned the land, the business owners said they did and a big court battle ensued. Eventually, the business owners got ousted, and the Federal Police Guard has taken control of the area. You can read more about it here.  We did go snorkelling there, but soon, we felt the desire to go elsewhere.  The energy ashore just didn't feel right. 

How many sting rays do you see?
Guineafowl Puffer fish chilling out in the north anchorage
Can you tell me what fish this is?
I actually don't know. (We need a good
fish book.)
Captain Hook's nemesis
The main (north) anchorage had more boats, some pretty good reefs for snorkelling and when we arrived, we were warmly greeted by cruising friends from up north. It felt good to anchor here. We socialized with Lionel and Barb from Sea Whisper and headed to La Manzanilla with them the next day to check out the crocodile sanctuary and do some much needed provisioning in the little town. Since then, we’ve worked on the boat, hand-washed laundry, polished stainless steel (at long last), and scraped the hull (again). We also participated in afternoon group swims organized by SV Harmony. We'd finish off the day by drinking Pacificos under a palapa near the beach. (Yes, I now drink Pacifico. I’m no longer a beer snob… Shocking, I know.) This anchorage was a big change from our first stop in the bay.

A fish in another life. No wait, a dolphin - Yeah, that's it

The Sea Whisper crew
in La Manzanilla
We went up the lush mangrove-lined Estero Verde with Lionel. We expected to see more wildlife... Still, there were a variety of birds, a racoon and crabs on trees. Yes, tree-climbing crabs. Really.

He held still long enough
for me to snap a photo,
he was one of the few
Other wildlife we came across: Cruisers
 and travelers exploring the estuary. Among
them were SV Luna Azul and SV Nanna -
 a Dutch crew and a Swedish/French crew
who'd been voyaging for years. They
made us want to go all over the world
The estuary
See? Told you so...
Interestingly, I don't have many photos of the North Anchorage proper. We had an enjoyable stay there, Yet, after a few days, we were ready to move on. 

where pelicans rule and sailors meet couch surfers


I like pelicans, I do.

It turns out that their seemingly clumsy dives for fish, have an element of prowess if you really look. How do I know this? Well, Isla Cocinas is the cool pelican hangout, or so it seems. I had many opportunities to observe them. 

Next door to Isla Cocinas:
Isla Pajarera
La Cruz, January 17, 2012: We weighed anchor on a sunny afternoon and began our overnight passage for Bahia Chamela. The wind at first absent appeared out of nowhere; we practically flew out of Banderas Bay. As night progressed, the wind petered out. Yet again, we had to motor.  This was our first overnight passage since we sailed from Cabo to La Cruz at the end of November… I felt a bit rusty, and thrilled. We were going somewhere new! During my midnight to 04:00 shift, I got my “Q” fix while looking at stars and steering in the dark. (Q is a current affairs radio show on CBC – we’re fond of Gian Ghomeshi, the interviewer. The podcasts are a little taste from home that’s oddly comforting while on overnight passages…)

The clear waters in Bahia Chamela:
We could see the bottom in 30 foot depths
Our 96 nautical mile journey was pleasant, if uneventful. As we neared Chamela Bay, we noticed that the predicted southerlies were already piping up, so we decided to head to Isla Cocinas, as it offered better protection from southerly winds. We found our way among reefs, and anchored off a little beach. By night time, we were the only boat there.  The water was so clear, it was startling. We could see the bottom. I snorkelled over our anchor to see it was well ensconced in the sand. Cool. The water was warmer than in Banderas Bay. Looking up, we were surrounded by frigate birds, pelicans and seagulls. We ended up putting out a stern anchor to ease the rolling motion. It worked pretty well.

The next day we packed our bag with snacks, our large East-Indian cotton sheet, towels, and snorkel gear. After exploring on the south side a bit, we decided to go to the beach near our boat. As we neared the beach, we recognized our friend Jared from SV Resolution, and his crew for this leg – whom we’d met in La Cruz. We ended up hanging out with them for the day, snorkelling, and watching the multitudes of pelicans diving for fish nearby. 

Nyon, as seen from Isla Cocinas

Brad and Rick at the hermit crab races
Jared is a friendly young Vancouverite we originally met in Neah Bay before our first big passage. He takes on various crew as he goes south - We immediately liked the latest crew, Brad and Nabila, a Tennessean and a Moroccan traveler respectively. They are a part of the couchsurfing movement. Check it out, it's another interesting way to travel. We all chilled out on the sunny beach, snorkelling when it got too warm, and gabbing away in French and English. (Nabila and I indulged in speaking French, as French is commonly spoken in Morrocco. It was a nice treat for both of us.) Sun-kissed and hungry, we headed back to Nyon after a good day.

Hanging out on Nyon after a sunny day

The next morning we pointed our bow south. Tenacatita was our next stop.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

and then there were two

Provisioning means washing
and bagging all the produce too...
Last Saturday, we sadly said goodbye to our last bonus crew. Dana flew back to Canada and snow. Our sun-loving friend had to put on, not one, but two pairs of socks upon her return. Shaking our heads, we smiled in sympathy as we sipped a cerveza*, while sitting barefoot in the cockpit.

Nyon is now back to normal. If you can call Rick and I normal. At first, it felt quiet and roomy aboard our trusty old boat. That feeling went away rather quickly, especially after Rick pulled up the sole and started in on his boat projects. We had the excuse of visiting friends for turning a blind eye to many awaiting boat jobs. We are now playing catch up, at a mellow pace. It's nice to be back to a semblance of a routine, in spite of missing our peeps. Puttering is enjoyable, as is planning our journey to Costalegre (The "Happy Coast"). It refers to the stretch of Mexican coast between Banderas Bay and Manzanillo.

One of our many canine friends
We are getting ready to go south this afternoon. Our stay in Banderas Bay has been full to say the least. Beginning with our mast woes, the ensuing repairs, visiting friends, Christmas, exploring, a few more boat jobs, (after all, you can't ignore a malfunctioning head or fridge), and the unexpected visit with one of my younger brothers and his family in Bucerias; we can honestly say, it has not been boring!

Now, we're ready for boring. Or at least, a not-so-full schedule. On Nyon, that means: Working on projects, sailing,  exploring, swimming and snorkelling, getting some art work done, writing, more boat projects, and meeting other voyagers as well as locals. Boring sounds pretty good too.

Isla Larga


Banderas Bay Highlights:

  • Favourite Taco Stand: We love La Silla Roja for its quesadillas(La Cruz de Huanacaxtle)
  • Favourite hike: The waterfall outside of Yelapa. Not the one nearby, the one  you reach by going through ranchero lands.
  • Favourite beach: The "secret beach" between La Cruz and Punta de Mita. (We also loved the beach in Chacala, but it's not in Banderas Bay...)
  • Favourite town: Yelapa
  • Favourite uninhabited spot: Isla Larga (Las Tres Mariettas)
  • Favourite restaurant: Its a 3-way tie. Brisas in Yelapa. (And not just because we got a free panga ride to shore, Ali is still drooling for their ceviche!) Yolanda's, also in Yelapa. Amazing quesadillas! Dana dreams of them from snowy Victoria. Claudia's in La Cruz also serves delicious goodness. The adobada and the camarón  burros were our  favourites.*
  • Favourite food at the La Cruz Sunday Market: Sweet pecans, and cilantro hummus. Mmm...
  • Best moments: There are too many to choose from! I'd have to say skinny dipping at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. Bio-luminescents were trailing in the water behind us, while we watched fireworks on land. Jeff would add our leisurely (3 hour!) morning coffee routine, as we chatted about our plans for the day. I'd have to agree!
  • Best surprise: Unexpectedly meeting my newest nephew and getting a family fix with my brother in Bucerias.
  • Best pie at Pie in the Sky (Bucerias): Mango pie, hands down.
  • Favourite sighting: The breaching humpback whale 50 feet off our stern.
  • Favourite find at the local tienda*:  Coconut ice cream bars from the depths of the freezer, buried beneath the bags of frozen strawberries. I would add to that, the bags of hibiscus flowers - the main ingredient in aqua de jamaica.
* cerveza - beer
   adobada - marinated pork
   camarón - shrimp
    tienda - store

Thursday, 12 January 2012

on flocks and rocks

Approaching Isla Larga

Just wildlife
I'm a nature-lover. My childhood was spent romping through forests in gum boots. We didn't have a TV, we had trees. And forts.  And trails. To this day, be it at sea, in a forest, or on a mountain top, nature is where I feel whole. Complete. So it's not surprising that I fell in love with Isla Larga, one of the Las Tres Marietas islands. We all did. Clustered on the edge of Banderas Bay, these sparse islands are somewhat reminiscent of an Irish landscape. 

Kyra following the fishes

Birds were everywhere. There were no houses, no palapas and no jet skis. When we first arrived, one other boat was there. As the sun set, we were the only boat left. We checked the weather and decided it was safe (if a bit rolly) to spend the night there.We snorkeled with tropical fishes, and watched the myriad of birds flying about. They were a noisy bunch. Still, they were a welcome relief from towns and crowded anchorages. We relaxed into our evening, watching frigate birds, pelicans, seagulls and vultures stake their claim in the sky above.

Rick and Dana heading off to play with the fish


The view during our morning coffee

the little town that charmed

We liked Chacala at first sight. Here's what we saw our first evening:

It's a beach town

A town with Palm trees surrounded by orchards

With prime sunset views

Once we went ashore, Chacala did not disappoint.

It has that small-town feeling

And a fabulous beach
(Sorry, we can't help including this gratuitous shot)

Yep, we liked it here!

We went on a little hike up to an extinct volcano:

What Rick calls the money-shot

We were briefly reminded of arbutus trees up north

"La caldera" - An extinct volcano's green centre offered lovely views

We seemed to make a lot of canine and feline friends in our forays...

Mmm, post-hike coconut drinks were tasty

Our last meal in Chacala
Thank you Chacala, we'll be back!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

digging sayulita

Arriving in Sayulita
If La Cruz is the land of the middle-aged tourist, Sayulita is the land of the young and half-naked. With the help of a laughing policeman, we headed for this coastal town one sunny morning. Almost immediately, we were smitten.  In spite of being an unabashed tourist destination, Sayulita is a chill surf town. It’s all about the beach and the waves. Yes, vendors come by like clockwork, palapa restaurants try to entice you with 2 for 1 drinks, and surfer gear spills out onto the beach. While that would eventually get tiring, the energy is definitely young and our visiting crew was digging it. So were we.  Our senses were assaulted, but not in the frenetic rhythm of Puerto Vallarta. This is where you come to chill out. And boogie board, if you’re us.
Milkshakes and gab fest: Thumbs up
After mojitos and quesadillas the guys went straight for the beach and boogie boarding. The rest of us explored the town and sampled milkshakes until the sun and waves beckoned. We briefly watched Jeff and Rick catching waves, with goofy smiles on their faces. We were ready for action too. And action, we got. We got spun, dunked and blasted by waves. We gulped copious amounts of salt water, but we kept going back for more. If it weren’t for the blasted trough-of-no-return, it would have been too easy. Close to the beach, the bottom dropped off creating a trench about 25 feet wide and 8 feet deep  that you had to cross for more fun in the waves. The trough was where you ended up if you successfully rode a wave to shore – it was unavoidable. The whole point was to catch that wave! (And let me tell you, for these beginners, every wave counted.) Ready for more, we’d start swimming back out: 3 strokes forward and a wave would push us back, teasing us to try again. Over and over. None of us were deterred. Bathing suits filled with sand (when they managed to stay put), tired muscles and silly grins later – we called it quits in favour of fish tacos and beer. Topped up with greasy treats from the panderia, we hopped back on the bus and headed to La Cruz in the dark.  

Jeff's going for it!

Waiting for the right wave...


Is it fish taco time?

Sayulita as the sun sets


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