We know it's been a long time since our last blog but we have been busy!!
Our furthest destination south this year was a mere 4 hours away from Bahia Santiago. The short trip to Las Hadas anchorage wasn't much of an adventure, but the new scenery was definitely worth hoisting the anchor for.
Las Hadas anchorage is tucked up in the Northern part of Bahia de Manzanillo and the scenery is spectacular. Even before we rounded the Southern tip of Bahia Santiago we were impressed by the myriad of colorful vacation homes set into the lush tropical hillside. As soon as we rounded the point we were nearly blinded by the stark white Moorish-style architecture of the Las Hadas resort, which would be our backdrop for the next few days. We opted to anchor in the bay rather than tie up at the Marina due to reports of sea surge at the dock. Las Hadas Marina charges a nominal fee to tie up at the dinghy dock which provides cruisers at anchor with access to the resort pools and amenities. We spent a lazy day at the pool and under the shady umbrellas on the beach, we explored the resort, and stretched out our legs on long walks into Manzanillo where we went to the movies (Spanish subtitles) and stocked up on supplies.
Sailor's plans are 'written in sand' and are subject to change, and so it was fitting that our original plans to go as far south as Zihuatanejo changed, and Manzanillo became the furthest point south for us this year. Cruising guidebooks and earlier tales from other cruisers gave us high expectations for 'Zihuat'. But as we continued to sail south in March, we found that we were in the minority. All of our fellow cruisers were already on their way back up the coast, concerned about the weather getting unbearably hot and humid as far south as Zihuat. And unfortunately, we'd heard recent reports about dinghies and engines being stolen in the area. It seemed that there were a number of reasons to forego the overnight sail to Zihuat - and we wondered how it could be any better than what we'd already seen in Santiago, Barra de Navidad, Melaque, Tenacatita, La Cruz, and Nuevo Vallarta. Besides... now that we've delayed our voyage to the Marqueses until next year, we could visit Zihuat next spring!
So we headed north making a long 6 mile journey to Carrizal to have a second go at the great coral reefs on both sides of the bay. After a couple of hours of snorkelling we spent 'happy hour' with our neighbours in the bay from 'Barefoot', which is a 40 ft aluminum sloop headed to the Galapigos.
Next morning we were off to Tenacatita where we spent a day just lazing on the boat before moving on to Chamela. On the way to Chamela we dropped anchor for a couple of hours at picturesque 'Paraiso', had lunch and enjoyed the scenery before bucking a northerly swell and wind for the rest of the trip up to Chamela.
After a slightly challenging anchoring exercise in 20+ knots of wind we settled in for a couple of days to wait out the unfavorable northwest winds before heading around Cabo Corrientes, and on to Banderas Bay. Fortunately, the wind gods were on our side during our overnight passage, and our trip around the notorious cape was calm and uneventful. For the first time in quite a while the winds were not on our nose and we were able to get some sailing in.
The wind gods may have been good to us but the boat gods certainly were not! One hour out of Nuevo Vallarta - our final destination, we noticed the saline sensor on the water maker had failed. More importantly, the clutch unit on the autopilot quit working... one gets spoiled with technology and hand steering under power gets tiresome quickly. On the bright side we were only one hour from our destination. Next, as we called the Marina to get our slip assignment the VHF radio failed! (This continues to be an intermittent problem Tom needs to address). As if that wasn't enough, our depth sounder stopped registering - which was a little disconcerting as the channel into the Marina is very shallow)! But when all seemed lost, the depth sounder corrected itself, our backup hand held VHF radio worked well, and we hand steered successfully into Paradise Village Marina (with only a small amount of wandering off course) for our planned 10am (high tide) arrival.
Guess what we have been doing since?!!
(new photos from this blog in gallery)
03/18/2012, Bahia Santiago
OK- Mark warned me about it and Dave Robb warned me about it, and now we are stuck in it! It's what I call the Mexican glue. The water here seems to get sticky and slows you down. So much so that it isn't possible to see enough of Mexico in one season to feel you have done it justice. This is a spectacular cruising area. As a result we have decided to put off the puddle jump to the Marquises until March of 2013 and spend another season cruising the Sea of Cortez and the Mexican Riviera. We will be home for the summer as we are told that it gets too hot here... even for us!
Since our last blog we have continued to move south, spending a week in the Barra Navidad area and then heading on to the Manzanillo area. After leaving the boobies behind in Chamela we had a short 5 hour cruise to Barra Navidad, and as we had been roughing it for a few days we decided to tie up at the Grand Hotel Marina. This is a 5 star resort with multiple pools and great restaurants. Our only complaint was that you can fly from Victoria, enjoy luxurious accommodations, fabulous food, alcohol and free golf on a beautiful 27 hole course for about the same daily rate as our moorage without any of the above. However, we did get to use the pools, and were welcome to pay for meals at the restaurants. (If any of you are looking for a week away at a great resort, we can recommend it as a great deal for just over $1000 for one week.)
After getting the boat cleaned up and the salt washed off, as well as a couple of days cooling off in the pool and treating ourselves to some great meals, we moved to the lagoon. The entrance is a bit tricky and our friend went aground twice, serving as a great example of which areas to avoid... but we managed to stay in the channel and anchor in about 8-10 feet of water. It was a perfect location as there is absolutely no swell to rock the boat. Another great attraction on the lagoon (as well as the Marina) is the French Baker who arrives every morning about 9am to the side of your boat in his panga (small skiff) with a supply of fresh baking including my favorite: almond paste filled croissants. Did we mention that the cruising life was tough and you often have to make do with dry goods stored for months on board? Don't believe everything you read!! There is also a great 24hr water taxi service to the town of Barra, so going ashore for late dinner didn't require a dinghy ride back to the boat in the dark through the unmarked, shallow channel.
While anchored in the lagoon we took two trips to Melaque (just next to Barra) via a 2 ½ mile hike on a white sand beach (finally, some exercise!). On one of the hikes we watched a skim board competition with a group of very talented boarders showing their skills. Tom decided to keep his shirt on as he didn't want to show up the young guys' physiques! The next day we were sitting in a street vendor having lunch when these 5 very friendly and pleasant young Mexican men sat down and chatted with us. One of them turned out to be the winner of the competition(high fives all around!).
Both Barra and Melaque are great small towns with wonderful seaside restaurants, good provisions, and very friendly people.
After a few days in the lagoon (only problem being relentless 'no-see-ems' and mosquitoes) and, I know it's hard to believe, many games of dominoes ( but it is a more complicated Mexican version with lots of rules!), we said goodbye to our friends from Night Sky, and headed south towards Manzanillo. Our first stop was a small bay called Carrizal where we reconnected with Bill and Brenda on Tahnoo from Vancouver, and continued to buddy boat with our friend Joel on Companera. This is a beautiful small bay where the three of us anchored and spent a couple of days. The snorkeling there is fantastic with lots of bright colored coral. (First time I've seen light blue and dark green coral). Again we spent the evening playing dominoes. Getting worried about us yet??
After two days Tahnoo and Companera headed back to Barra for the St. Patricks day celebration and we continued south (a long cruise of about 5 miles) to Bahia Santiago. We have been here for 3 days and will probably move on to Las Hadas tomorrow (about 2 miles) just outside of Manzanillo. Santiago is another beautiful anchorage - one of our favorites so far (remember the Mexican glue?) and right in the middle is an old ship wreck that sank in 1959 in a hurricane. We snorkelled around it this morning and will probably dinghy in to the beachside restaurants this afternoon.
Our new wetsuits are coming in handy, as while the water is incredibly warm (32 - 35 degrees Celsius), there are quite a few stinging jellyfish in the area. Check out the photogallery. Until next time.
We're on our 6th day anchored at Tenacatita Bay. This place really grows on you. Since we've been here we've been on a number of adventures including two trips to town (La Manzanilla), an estuary tour, a raft-up potluck dinner with 15 - 20 other cruisers,, and a crocodile hunt (next below).
Our days usually begin with radio nets, where we listen to weather forecasts and catch up on local news and activities. Tom's been swimming, snorkeling, and using the 'snuba' gear the past few days (while Kim tries to keep him alive and out of trouble, following him along in the dinghy and monitoring his water activities from the cockpit. The water is quite murky today, so we took the dinghy to shore and walked along the beach (it's always a challenge landing the dingy through the surf, but today we looked like pros, timing our landing perfectly between wave sets.) Yesterday we pulled anchor and spent 3 hours out from shore making more fresh water (something you don't want to do in an anchorage with other boats). Tonight we plan to get together with our friends from Night Sky for a game of cards. Busy times!
Tomorrow we plan to hoist anchor and move on to Barra Navidad or Melaque, which is only 12 - 15 nautical miles down the coast. This is certainly one of the bays to revisit if time allows.
The Mexican Version of the African Queen
On our second day in Tenacatita we joined up with the fearless crews of Borboleta and Tahnoo to risk a trip down the estuary in search of the famous but elusive tree crab. With the mangroves reaching out and forming a canopy over our head, prehistoric looking birds flying overhead, and stories of crocodile sightings, we felt like we were on a river in the deep Congo when actually we were only a few hundred yards from the beach! We were thrilled when we located the elusive tree crabs (see pictures). Actually not that elusive, and in fact all over the place once you spot them. After such a harrowing adventure we were sure happy to stop for a cold cerveza before heading back to the boat for a nap.
In Hunt of the Crocodile
On one of our two trips into La Manzanilla, we were determined to seek out and come face to face with the feared crocodiles, having heard about their presence, and searching for them all down the coast. This required an unguided tour through crocodile country (10 pesos). In reality there is a small crocodile reserve on the edge of the town with about 20 crocodiles ranging in size from babies to El Gordo (not you Gord) who weighed 400 KGs (see photo gallery). The security and fencing of the reserve was probably not up to Canadian standards (one place had no fence at all) but the staff apparently keep the crocs well fed with chicken, and they seem to have little interest in ecotourists for lunch! After another hair raising and dangerous adventure we were ready for cold cervezas and the best fish tacos in town (we checked our guidebook) - luckily, served right next door at a street vendor!
Yesterday's Score: Flies: 2 Kim: 12
This large, picturesque, well protected anchorage would be absolutely perfect if weren't for the darned flies!!! Yesterday's plans for a relaxing afternoon of reading a good book on a hot, sunny afternoon under the shady protection of our bimini was completely foiled by hundreds of relentless flies. They're not only pesky, they bite!!
After receiving a couple of bites Kim waged a full out war with an old fashioned fly swatter and a battery operated tennis racquet-shaped zapper (compliments of our friends from Diamond Girl). An hour later Kim was the clear winner with 12 clean kills and only 2 bites from the epic battle.
Since our last entry we pulled anchor in Chamela and moved around to the south side of Isla Pajarera (2.5 miles away - see photo, showing the only other boat anchored by the Island). (see Chamela and Isla Pajerera photo galleries). The guidebooks indicated that the snorkeling was excellent in this location so Tom donned his mask and flippers and jumped in. Visibility was less than 8 feet and he got an immediate cold water headache, prompting a quick return to the boat. Not the best day for snorkeling!
We however, salvaged the day by taking the dinghy to shore and hiking the perimeter of the Island underneath a canopy of bird filled trees.
We left early the next morning and headed south for Bahia Tenacatita. Enroute, we swung into Bahia Paraiso with thoughts of staying there on the way back north. It is one of the most picturesque bays we've seen, with space for only one or two boats. We look forward to staying there on our way back up the coast this spring!
By mid-afternoon we dropped anchor in 20 feet, over a sand bottom in Bahia Tenacatita. We share the anchorage with approximately 10 other sailboats, including our friends from Borboletta, Tahnoo, and Companera. This is a well protected bay - a perfect destination to wait out the predicted 20 knot norther.
(Crocodile and tree crab hunting to come!)
Arrived this morning about 9:30 after an uneventful overnight sail from La Cruz. It seemed to be 'social night' on the VHF radio on the trip down. While we were talking to our buddy boat (Campenera) two other boats we know called in to chat.
Dropped anchor in about 30 feet on a sand bottom among 5 other boats. We spent a lazy day on the boat catching up on sleep, reading and relaxing. A 18-25 knot wind blew through the bay most of the day (thank God for a heavy anchor and all chain rode!). The wind made getting the dingy off the deck seem like too much work so we will delay going ashore until tomorrow.
Mark and James - we still have a few gremlins in the electronics but are learning to live with them. No other problems with the boat. Life is good.