Monday, December 14, 2009

Punta Mita to Barra de Navidad

[GPS (Punta Ipala): N 20° 14' 13" W 105° 34' 21"]
[GPS (Chamela): N 19° 35' 00" W 105° 07' 42"]
[GPS (Tenacatita): N 19° 17' 47" W 104° 50' 10"]
[GPS (Melaque): N 19° 13' 08" W 104° 42' 41"]

Friday morning we started the long trek southeast towards Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. There were mixed reports about how much the winds would have calmed down around Cabo Corrientes, so we thought we would leave early. When we got up at 6am, it was still dark. A boat had pulled in and anchored next to us, and during the night the wind had shifted and the boats had swung to where we were concerned that he was close to sitting on top of our anchor. So we decided to wait until light, so that we could see better in case we had to get too close to him as we pulled our anchor up. Turned out to be no problemo. As we passed the cape, the winds were only about 15 kts and only 3-4 foot seas, and we sailed by the cape making a little over 8 knots SOG (speed over ground) over a 2 hour period. Cabo Corrientes = Cape of Currents! – this time in our favor.

We went about 15 miles further down the coast to the first decent anchorage – Punta Ipala. It’s a narrow little cove with rocks on the left and right and a submerged one to avoid near the middle, a beach in front, with a little village on the left end of the beach with about 10 pangas scattered just out into the cove, and some moored net thing in the middle of the cove that we had to dodge. We were the only sailboat there, and plunked down in the middle of the clearest ? spot, to the amusement of some old people sitting on a breezy balcony on the shore. Then another boat came in about an hour after us.

Saturday we motored (no wind!) from Punta Ipala to Bahia de Chamela. We put a hand line out with a bright “Mexico” lure, and within an hour caught a little 19” Mexican bonito. And a little later we caught these dolphins on video:

It was a short day Sunday from Chamela to Tenacatita, so on the way we took detours to check out possible anchorages for the way back up.

The first, Paraiso, was instructive about the use of charts and cruising guides. First of all, the only paper charts are of such large scale (approx. 1:700,000) that they are not very useful for navigating close to shore into these small anchorages. And the electronic charts (except in city/harbor areas) are of such low resolution – and usually are about a mile off (we look to be further north or east than we really are) so it looks like we are anchoring on well inland. So we mostly rely on cruising guides. These are written by cruisers - we have Charlie’s Charts, Pat & John Rains’ Mexico Boating Guide, and Sean & Heather's book that just covers the Sea of Cortez. These books are great for the sketches of anchorages, including the approaches and rocks to watch out for, but are all “not for navigation”. Sometimes Charlie’s and Rains’ don’t really agree. Paraiso was a case in point, where Charlie’s makes it look like a nice, >1/4 mile across anchorage. There’s a plantation estate home there, that one of the books says has armed guards so don’t go ashore – wonder what they are growing :-). What Charlie’s doesn’t have is the huge rock that Rains’ has drawn in the middle of the anchorage. The rock IS there – and is huge! Like 100' tall and 100' in diameter. So the anchorage is MUCH more cozy than imagined. Rains had the rock, but the rocks in the entrance were much better represented by Charlie. When we’ve thought of it, we have captured images from Google Earth to help us – think we will try to be more diligent about doing that. It’s generally not a good idea to go into these unknown anchorages at night!

Next place we scoped out was Careyes, small 3-lobed anchorage in a gorgeous setting with cliffs around, luxurious private homes on the cliffs, and on the 3 beaches condos, club med, hotels, and restaurants. As we rounded Punta Farallon, there was an odd hemispherical building on the point (see right). And then it was on to Tenacatita, a large bay with several anchoring locations, a couple snorkeling spots, and a jungle river that you can do by dinghy. We’ll definitely spend time at these on the way back up.

For the next legs, we originally expected to do 3 or 4 day hops to Caleta de Campos, but instead decided to do a very short day on Monday to go into Barra de Navidad for fuel, and then do an overnight to Campos. We went through the channel on the eastern end of Bahia de Navidad, past the marina, and pulled into the fuel dock. There was another sailboat on the other side of the dock – and then we noticed the fuel pump was taken apart – at least there were a couple guys there working on it. The other boat (which was a delivery from Miami to Newport via the canal), said they had been waiting a couple hours, and it wasn’t clear when it would be fixed. We only needed about 30 gallons, so we decided to use our two 5-gallon jerry jugs and carted diesel in from the Pemex station up on the road near the fuel dock. Of course, just as we got back with the last jug, they got the pump working again! At least we saved the 13% mark-up for fuel dock services – since Pemex is nationalized, the government sets the price of gas, but marina fuel docks can add a service charge.

Most cruisers anchor in a large, shallow lagoon further on east from the fuel dock, but we decided to go out to the NW corner of Bahia de Navidad and anchored off Melaque. The beach had many fairly rundown looking restaurants and hotels, and a huge cell tower – so we figured we would get good internet connection there – but the 3G service kept dropping our connection…

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