We made an early start from La Cruz - weighing anchor at 5am. It was still quite dark and misty and within the first hour we had two sport fishers come bearing down on us with little regard for international colregs. We had to take evasive action both times to maintain what I considered to be a safe distance between our boats. Oh well...
No wind at all (a perfect "sailing" day for RB'ers), but fresh water was being squeezed out of the briny, so all was not lost. And then at about 11:15, WHIZZZZZZZZZ...FISH ON!!!
It was a good fight and what we thought was a decent sized yellowfin was lying on deck after a 15 minute battle.
Our delight diminished considerably when I began to fillet the beast of the deep and discovered a blood-red flesh. Alas it was no yellowfin, but rather a Torro. I had been deceived by the yellow of the fins and tail and hadn't looked at the snout which has a more bull-nose appearance. So gone were our dreams of cerviche and fried fillets...not to mention all the other delights a fish of that size provides. Sigh...
We dropped the hook in little Bahia Punta Ipala - 20 14.127'N:105 34.355'W, at 3pm on February 20th with full tanks of water and the aroma of Jeannie's delicious fish cakes wafting from down below. It's a very small bay with not much room for more than three or four boats, but by the next morning there were no less than seven boats anchored in the lee of Punta Ipala...some more comfortable than others.
It had been a comfortable enough night for us, and one with a wonderful and unexpected event: The total eclipse of the moon.
We were sitting down below as it was quite cool outside and I caught sight of the moon through the port. I knew it was a full moon, but it had a weird shape and, wondering if it was the cliffs creating the shape, I popped my head outside to discover the beginning of the eclipse! It was magnificent and we spent the rest of the evening warmly dressed in the cockpit, watching through binoculars as the moon was slowly eaten by the shadow from the earth.
We were keen to move on to Chamela and so early the following morning we took our leave of Ipala.
Another day-sail, but this time we actually managed to find some wind and as the tanks were already filled it was up with the spinnaker and off with the engine. We were doing over 6 knots in a 15 knot wind. Had some small help from the current, but all in all a wonderful sail at last.
We were fortunate on the sea-life side of things as well as we saw a number of turtles and whales galore! In fact one of the behemoths broached quite close to us - a magnificent and awe-inspiring sight. The wind picked up a bit and we exchanged the genoa for the spinnaker, still making 6 knots.
Dropped the hook in lovely Bahia de Chamela.
This was our first experience here in Mexico of substantial surf on the landing beach. We certainly had some interesting landings although none that flipped us over.
The village of Chamela is an interesting mix of little hotels, palapas and grocery stores. It has perhaps the distinction of having the quaintest grocery stores we've ever seen. It was just a hole in the wall...literally a hole in a wall! You would come up to it and peer inside, and through the darkness you could see a small counter and some shelves stacked with groceries. You then ask for what you want and they fetch it off the shelves for you. Unfortunately our Spanish was still so patchy that it would have taken us a week or two of sign language to do our shopping. Amazingly enough we were able to find some of the most varied cheeses and even some delicious salami in one of the grocery stores - goods we were unable to find even in San Blas! Internet was available at one of the hotels, but very cold beer at a very reasonable price. only a dial-up system of great expense, so that was a non starter. The beach was lovely, and a very long walk around (10 or 15 miles!) would bring you to a road that took you inland a ways and we were told that there was a Mexican village there that would take one back a hundred years or so, it was so isolated. My appreciation for long walks prevented us discovering this item of great historical value...so we got to know the beach better.
There were times it was so rough that we were confined to Jabula for the day...until we discovered a small, more protected bay with a tiny pebble beach. Here we were able to lift the dinghy above the high-water mark and take a short walk into the village. The "beachlet" was filled with beautiful coloured pebbles and we picked some of the best ones for our collection of "stuff". The "short" walk was up a hill, past a coconut grove, along a very dusty trail, past a couple of donkeys in a field, down a hill, over a bridge, through a hole in a barbed wire fence, accross a shallow little lagoon and onto the beach...whew! Fortunately the first palapa you come to after the walk supplies ice cold beer and coco locos!
Chamela held us captive for seven days, but then it was time to go.
Everything centres around the watermaker at this point. It's new, it's exciting and it works! It also (as I have mentioned in previous posts) takes some of the frustration of having to motor in light airs. Arriving in a new anchorage with full water tanks having already taken showers on the way in has a way of cheering the soul.
Our sail/motor from Chacala was uneventful until we decided that the anchorage we had planned for just south of Punta Mita was actually too roly and we should continue on to La Cruz de H'unpronounceable. Actually it was still uneventful, just a bit longer.
La Cruz had been given a bad rap by a number of cruisers we heard discussing it on the VHF radio, but we found it to be really fun. There was a relatively comfortable beach to land on (with little to no surf) and the town itself was very interesting with a number of different restaurants - German, French, Italian and "American". The French and American restaurants offered free internet access and even live music depending on the day of the week.
Mexican fare was naturally available and there was an excellent taco joint. The French restaurant, Le Reve also had a Huichol art gallery attached to it. The Huichol indians produce an art form of incredible designs and colours using thread and beads embedded in wax. These are done mainly by Shamans high on a plant extract. Their work is beautiful and very fine indeed.
So as you can see La Cruz became a favorite with us...But the dust! And sometimes the smell! I have to say that my most enduring memory of Mexico will be the smell of raw and treated sewage. Almost every populated place we have been provides us at one point or another with the not-so-delicate aroma of "eau-de-cesspit".
La Cruz also makes an excellent spot from which to access the larger supermarkets and stores of Puerto Vallarta without having to go to that awful RB'ers (Recreational Boaters) hangout. The other notorious RB'ers haunt is in Nuevo Vallarta - Paradise Village (Better know amongst actual sailors as Parasite Village!).
So let's give a moment's thought to the tragic rise of the "RB'er" (The Recreational Boater as opposed to the sailor):
This is an interesting phenomenon that has been created by the advent of GPS, Chart Plotters, cruising guides with way-points, marinas and the Ba-ha-ha. They are people who in earlier times were confined to criss-crossing the continent in RVs, because real navigation using charts, compass bearings, fixes and tide tables was way beyond their spirit of adventure...let alone comprehension. When I came this way some 20 years back, "Buddy-boating" and "Weather Windows" were unknown concepts and a "Cruiser's Net" on the radio would have been laughed at. We met people who were truly interested to experience new cultures and peoples with due respect for their customs and ways. Sailing was an adventure and a lifestyle, not a retirement package.
I'm not going to expand on this right now, but watch this space...if your interested.
So all in all La Cruz is a cool place and well worth a visit. Just don't be talked into taking your dinghy into the marina there as it will set you back $10 a day which does not include showers (another $10 each). If you happen to take your packet of garbage ashore at the same time, oops, that's another $10!
We were able to fill our propane tanks there as well - expensive, but easy as a local chap picks it up on the beach and brings it back the same day.
So after catching up on our e-mail and some of our blog, we fired up the iron spinnaker (and watermaker of course) and pointed Jabula back out to sea. Next stop: Punta Ipala.
In San Blas we had done some running repairs to Jabula (remember the tear in the genny?) and I had also installed the water maker. So it was with a feeling of purpose that on Wednesday, February 6th, we started our motor and made our way slowly out of the San Blas estuary. Slowly, because our prop was fouled and I hadn't wanted to dive on it in the dirty water of the estuary. With purpose, because this was going to be the first real test of the water maker.
It was a warm and calm morning and little wind was expected, but because it helps to run the motor when one is running the WM, I was uncharacteristically happy about the lack of wind. It would allow us to motor all of the way to Chacala (only about 7 hours away) and fill our tanks with the purest of water from the sea!! What a terrific invention, and we would recommend it to anyone planning on voyaging any serious distances from civilisation. Not that it is essential, but it's bloody wonderful!
Our quiet motor-sail was enlivened when, WHIZZZZZZZ.... FISH ON!! Always an exciting event especially when one is in the middle of a shower as was Jeannie! So up she rushes to help with the fish, wearing nothing but soap suds, complaining bitterly of the fish's lack of consideration!
It all ended successfully even though it only turned out to be a skipjack tuna. Though it was a good size, its flesh is dark red and one cannot use it for much other than fishcakes and (after boiling and flaking) a type of tuna mayonnaise. But Jeannie made her magic and we feasted later of King Neptune's bounteous treasure.
We arrived at Chacala at just after 1500 hrs and discovered it was a very attractive little bay with a lovely beach. We had to put out a stern anchor to keep us bow on to the swell, and having done that found it to be a very comfortable anchorage. The Port Captain was very helpful and spoke good English. And the coconuts...oh, the drinking coconuts! How delicious. We found a little palapa selling ice-cold drinking coconuts (coco frio), topped them up with a wee rum and... yum, yum!
The water was relatively clear and warm and I dived on the prop and gave it a good scrub. Also cleaned off the impellers for the logs so that we could again note our speed through the water. The three week stay in San Blas had given us substantial growth on everything not painted with antifouling paint.
Everywhere we've sailed to where there has been a small town, we have been able to stock up with fresh fruit, vegies and other basics. Of course beer is universally available, but Campari is a different story completely, so Jeannie has joined the ranks of sailors of old and developed a love for grog! (Keeps the scurvy at bay don'cha know! AAAAARGH!)
So on Monday, February 11th at 0740 hrs we motored quite quickly out of Chacala, bound for Punta Mita...making water!