Tuesday, January 26, 2010

La Cruz

[GPS: N 20° 44’ 53” W 105° 22’ 13”]
We left Tenacatita Monday morning. The winds that had been off the coast were supposed to stop and actually turn to a little southerly. So we figured if the seas had calmed down enough we would just run through the night and go all the way to La Cruz in Banderas Bay. It was comfortable enough that we did just that, anchoring off La Cruz just after sunrise on Tuesday.

John and Jan aboard Jabiroo had sailed up from Tenacatita just behind us, and anchored about a hundred yards away from us. We enjoyed spending three nights at La Cruz (except that it was a little rolly) in the anchorage:

There is a new marina at La Cruz, which we used for the dinghy dock when we went into town. It was fairly empty:

It was actually sad what the marina has done to the view from Ana Bananas, a local restaurant with live music several evenings a week. It’s a popular spot for cruisers which was right on the bay, but now overlooks construction of condos near the marina. One day there was a sign up that they were closed because the water was off. Water was on in the rest of town – probably due to construction – perhaps the marina was just trying to push them out?

We spent some time just poking around the town of La Cruz – very authentic Mexican feeling still:

And the nearby town of Bucerias – much more touristy – a short bus ride away or a couple mile walk up the beach.

We enjoyed dinner, music, and dancing Thursday evening at Philos with John & Jan. It was open mic night. One of the musicians was a one-man band with a washboard etc – well known and popular in the community. After a while this 90-year old man, who had been dancing up a storm with his upper-80’s wife got up in a similar gig – but somewhat mocking the musician. Turns out it was the musician’s father.

Monday, January 25, 2010


[GPS: N 19° 17’ 56” W 104° 50’ 16”]
On Friday, we left for the 10 mile trip around the corner to Tenacatita Bay. As we entered the bay, we followed one rainstorm in, and just managed to miss the next one coming behind it. There were typically two dozen boats anchored in the main bay.

We stayed 10 nights in Tenacatita. It’s a beautiful spot. There’s a nice long beach with a relatively easy dinghy landing. The Blue Bay resort hotel is at the eastern end and a palapa restaurant at the western end where there is an entrance to a jungle river that goes to the backside of the next beach in Tenacatita Bay. There were a couple of overcast days, but mostly the sky was cloudless blue, and the temperatures typically ranged from lows in the upper 60’s to highs in the mid 80’s. The water was clear (we could see our anchor down through 25’ of water) and a perfect temperature – refreshing and not too cold. Snorkeling around the bay was good.

We ended up feeling like real cruising here - it’s hard to remember what happened one day vs. another. A typical day would start with breakfast while listening to the nets on the radio - Amigo net on SSB at 8am that essentially covers all of Pacific coast of Mexico and the local net for Tenacatita and Barra on VHF at 9am. Late morning we might take a trip up the jungle river and a walk around the beach there and a trip to the tienda for a few groceries – or we might stay on the boat for a few chores – or paddle our kayak over to the rocks near shore for some snorkeling. Most days at 1:30, Rita and Darrell on Overheated hosted a swim to shore. Swimmers would swim about ¼ mile to shore while Darrell would follow along in a dinghy to carry things for the beach and to fend off any pangas. After arriving at shore, we would take a walk along the beach up to the end where the resort hotel is, then walk back for a game of bocce ball on the beach or perhaps Mexican train (dominos). Then we would finish up with some drinks at the palapa restaurant, and get back out to the boats (sometimes swimming back) around 4 or 4:30. Then a couple hours of playing music or reading or internet (with cocktails), followed by dinner, and then a movie.

Robert on Harmony with his wife Virginia is the current “Mayor of Tenacatita”, and organizes/hosts a dinghy raft-up party every Friday afternoon. Each of the two Fridays there were 17 dinghies that came – everyone brought appetizers to share (enough for a meal!) and introduced themselves. The second Friday included a talent show, so Cathy and I played a tune on the button box and mandolin. We shared a couple delightful dinners with John & Jan on Jabiroo (another IP that we met on the Baja HaHa) and (re)learned how to play Rook.

The jungle river goes 2½ miles through some pretty dense mangroves overhanging the narrow river and comes out to a small lagoon, where you can leave your dinghy and take a short walk up to the road and the beach (Playa Tenacatita) which is around a point from our anchorage (still in Tenacatita Bay). There are several palapa restaurants on the beach, a couple hotels, and a small tienda where we stocked up on a few more essential groceries.

Just over a hill there is another beach on a small bay (still inside the main Tenacatita Bay) where there are a bunch of RVers who look like they’ve been there a while, and a short walk across to the Pacific side.

We kept our sunshades up most of the time – I promised a picture of them…

Friday, January 15, 2010

Barra de Navidad

[GPS (lagoon) N 19° 11' 30" W 104° 40' 21"]
On Saturday, with light winds on our nose, we motored the four hours from Manzanillo Bay to Bahia Navidad, taking advantage of the time to make water. We stopped at the fuel dock on the way to the lagoon and filled up – this time the pump was working, but we had to wait for one of the two megayachts at the diesel dock to finish pumping his 2000 liters. We then made our way on back to the lagoon, with the aid of gps waypoints we had gotten that outlined the 8’ depth line. We anchored near the north edge.

The lagoon is a shallow area about 1 mile in diameter, with an area deep enough for anchoring (> 8’) about 1/4 mile in diameter. You enter through a channel on the east side of Bahia Navidad. As you enter the channel, the town of Barra de Navidad is on the left (photo to right), followed by a smaller, shallower lagoon with Pig Island in the middle. On the right is a resort hotel, the marina (2nd most expensive we’ve seen in Mexico – would be about $100 a night for us – we chose to anchor out), the fuel dock, and then a little village of Colimilla. (Note: the picture is from the north side of the channel on the malecon at Barra de Navidad looking back towards the lagoon.) The water in the lagoon is muddy and dirty, so no watermaking in the lagoon. There were some mosquitos, but the winds that came up every afternoon helped keep them at bay. There would be panga fisherman in the lagoon every morning and evening and sometimes through out the night. Our plan was to stay a couple of nights.
We ended up staying 6 nights. There was no internet available in the lagoon – neither 3G data card nor wireless, so we would go into one of the restaurants in Colimilla or to the Sands Hotel in Barra for internet.

One of the amenities of being the lagoon (or the expensive marina) is that there is a local French baker who comes around every morning with fresh baguettes, croissants, tarts, etc. It’s almost like having the Berkeley Cheese Board deliver to the boat.

We got a few groceries to tide us over at a small tienda in Colimilla, and had a lady in Colimilla do our laundry for 12 pesos ($1) per kilogram. We spent some time just exploring around Barra de Navidad, including finding the port captain to do our check-in/check-out paperwork.

The best day was just hanging out at the Sands Hotel. If you buy food or beverage, they allow cruisers to use their pool. So we spent one lovely afternoon having lunch, internet, playing Mexican train (dominos), and taking dips in their pool.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Las Hadas (Manzanillo Bay)

[GPS (Las Hadas) N 19 06 04 W 104 20 42]
Las Hadas resort with its Moorish-influenced Spanish villas on the east slope of Punta Santiago, was inspired by a famous Moorish fairytale called “The Fairies” (Las Hadas). The resort is probably most famous for being the location of the film “10”. At the base of the hotel is the marina, the oldest pleasure marina on the Mexican Pacific coast, with all Med-mooring tie-ups (i.e. stern to the one long dock that goes around the perimeter of the marina basin). We were anchored just outside the marina and just off the Las Hadas beach. The cove is pretty well protected and very calm – except for the wakes from the jet skiers and ski-pangas that circle (and cut through) the anchorage.

Tuesday, we went into the marina to do laundry and scope it out. The marina looked a bit worn – and the bathrooms and showers were not inviting enough to use – but it was a nice place to be able to tie up the dinghy when we went ashore. We finished our laundry – each washer or dryer load was 60 pesos ($5)! Rather expensive – but it is a resort. We are running pretty low on fuel, and found that the fuel dock at the marina was out of diesel. So we decided to take our two jerry jugs to a Pemex station. Closest one was a ½ mile hike up the hill to the bus stop and then a bus ride over to the main highway. The sky looked a little threatening. As we were riding the bus back, the wind picked up. As the bus made its way out the west side of Punta Santiago (overlooking Bahia Santiago on the other side of the point), we could see whitecaps. We got our jugs off the bus, down the hill to the dinghy, and back out to the boat. Just as we finished getting onto the boat, it started pouring – and rained off and on the rest of the day and on through the night. People in the anchorage said they actually had gusts up to 30 knots just before the rain. And a boat that was underway coming around from Bahia Santiago, said they got hit with 35-40 knots. We were just glad that we weren’t there – and that our boat’s anchor held! (Have we said how pleased we are with the Manson Supreme anchor that we have as our primary?)

Thursday, Doug took a bus trip into Manzanillo – around the other side of the bay. It’s much larger than Zihuatanejo – and much more industrial – with numerous container cranes along the water just before getting to downtown.

There were generally about 10-12 boats in the anchorage at Las Hadas – and we met most of the other people there. Avalon (Phil & Katie) from the HaHa and LaPaz were there. And Gary & Cindy aboard Distant Shores taught us a new game – “Pegs and Jokers” – kind of like Sorry but with playing cards. One afternoon Cathy had 4 other women over to Galatea for a game of Mexican Train (dominos), while the men all gathered on Optical Illusion for beer and chatting. On Friday evening, a group of 11 of us went ashore to a restaurant for dinner together.

The water was very clear, so we would often take a swim off the boat – sometimes swimming over to another boat. One afternoon we cleaned our bottom by free-diving. One morning, we heard a bunch of splashing around the boat. When we went up to look, we saw some gulls around and a couple pelicans diving into the water – but not enough for all the splashing. Then we heard some thumping on the hull of the boat. We went to the deck and watched over the edge. There were probably 10-12 what looked like tuna – about 2 feet long on average, swimming around the boat. They would herd together a small school of these needle-nose fish and then go for them – splashing all around. The gulls were flying all around for the orts. The needle-nose fish would swim around the boat or under to the other side, and then the larger fish would find them and start herding them again. This went on for about an hour. We got some video – but Doug mistakenly erased them - sorry….

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ixtapa to Manzanillo (Las Hadas)

[GPS (Maruata): N 18° 16' 05" W 103° 20' 41"]
[GPS (Cabeza Negra): N 18° 36' 15" W 103° 42' 07"]
[GPS (Las Hadas): N 19° 06' 04" W 104° 20' 42"]

We had a quiet New Year’s Eve at Marina Ixtapa – including dinner at the pizza place. Magda and her friend Ricardo had come back to Ixtapa as well, so they came by the boat on New Years Day. Ricardo had brought a case of avocados for us from his avocado ranch. After showing him the boat, we had lunch at Fisher’s – the fish restaurant on the walk by the marina. After a relaxing Friday evening, we spent Saturday morning getting the boat ready to depart. After two weeks in Marina Ixtapa, we cast off at 1pm on Saturday for our last overnight trip before Puerto Vallarta.

There are not many good anchorages along the coast from Ixtapa to Manzanillo (180 NM), but then quite a few good ones on from Manzanillo to Chamela (60 NM). So we planned to get on up to Manzanillo fairly quickly, and then spend our time along the “Gold Coast” from Manzanillo to Chamela.

We targeted Maruata for our first stop – 105 NM away, so we planned to run overnight. After mostly motoring (we’re heading back uphill now – wind was either too light and/or right on the nose), we pulled into Maruata at 8am. It’s a very pretty beach – and it looked like the large restaurants along the beach had closed – and there were camper tents set up under that shade of the former restaurant seating areas. But it was quite rolly! And a panga was anchored with a long line in the one spot that looked ideal. So we dropped the hook for a few hours – had a nice breakfast and a couple hour nap – and then headed on.

We pulled around Cabeza Negra into the anchorage on the north side of the point late Sunday afternoon. It too was a little rolly, but we set the anchor just outside a power boat that was there (which left just after dark). We got up early and got underway for Manzanillo – it was a short trip but we wanted to avoid beating into the afternoon chop.

We passed the huge smokestacks of the power plant just south of Manzanillo (pollution!), rounded Roca Vela (Sail Rock) into Manzanillo Bay, dodged a container ship as we cut across to the NW corner of the bay where we anchored just off the Las Hadas hotel.