22 January 2011
We made the approximately 5 NM run to Cuastecomate from Barra on Monday, January 10, 2011. Cuastecomate is also known as the "secret anchorage" among the cruising community because it was not published in the cruising guides and is not visible when transiting to or from the entrance to Barra Lagoon. I was told about it last year by Terry (Coastal Passage II) and we found it as described, beautiful, secluded and a great snorkeling spot. As a foot note, Cuastecomate has been discovered and was recently published in the new "Pacific Mexico" cruising guide by Breeding and Bansmeer. Oh well, so much for seclusion, but it is a small anchorage and will only accommodate five or six boats anyway. As much as we enjoyed Barra we were anxious to get out of the lagoon and into an anchorage that we could swim, kayak and standup paddle board in; this is the place! We dropped anchor in about 16 feet of clear water along with So Inclined and were among a group of five boats in the anchorage.
There is a small beachside community here with one hotel, half a dozen beach palapa restaurants and one abarrote. We found the community very small and currently much underutilized with only one or two of the beach restaurants open. The few northerners we encountered were mostly Canadians and the hotel looked to be open, but doing little if any business. This place is about 2-3 miles off Mexico Hwy 200 from the beachside town of Melaque, which kind of services the greater Barra area as the business community where you can get things done and do some shopping. After getting some snorkeling in along the south side of the cove among some pretty nice coral Marisa, Mike and I decided to walk to Melaque. We only got about 100 yards out of town when we were offered a ride by a local fellow in the back of his pick-up truck, that's kind of the way it is down here, friendly and helpful. After behind dropped off near Melaque we walked into town to locate a hardware store (a ferrerateria) and do some grocery shopping at "Super Hawaii" a great supersized abarrrote. There are several hotels along the beach and again we found most of the tourist cliental to be Canadians, most were down for the winter months, but then who can blame them? The weather here was great! After shopping in Melaque and finding a little off beach place that served a great "everything" pizza for about $8 US, we loaded our new found possessions into a taxi for a $50 peso ride back to the beach. Our dinghies were safe and we made a successful night time off the beach, through the surf run to the boats; that means we stayed dry! The next day was another snorkeling and paddle boarding day. This time we took the dinghies to the rock outcropping north of our anchorage location and what a find. Bill and Cindy eat your hearts out. This place was an aquarium. I personally have never seen so many reef fish or schooling fish in my life, it was great! It was fabulous! OK, enough said. As a sad, side note to the sea life we were alerted that there was a huge sea turtle in the anchorage one morning. Going topside to investigate we saw a huge old and dead sea turtle floating by So Inclined, then over to us. I actually had to use the boat hook to fend him off and took a picture of him as he went by. He was as big as our dinghy, 8'8" from head to end of his flippers. I can't say what killed him but would guess natural causes do to old age. He drifted onto the beach in front of the palapa restaurants. It didn't take long for one of the owners to send their kids out with a boogie board and a rope to tow the turtle to a more isolated corner of the bay where he was beached and nature took its course. I have been asked how we can sleep on the boat at night and not worry. Who says we don't worry? Anyway, we work at setting the anchor so we can sleep well. I learned to be patient in this skill from John & Gail (Rover) as well as Tim and Michelle (Shell-y-T) and have been pretty successful so far. We have a 33# Manson Supreme anchor, which for our boat is the largest anchor that would fit the bow roller with 100' of 5/16 chain and another 200' of 9/16 three strand rope rode. If I had room for more I'd like another 50' of chain, but we don't and so far so good. The other thing that we do is when I drop the anchor at the bow Marisa is at the helm and she hits the "mark" button on the GPS at the helm to set a waypoint. After we are all settled in I take that coordinate and put it into the GPS at the nav-station below and set an anchor alarm on the GPS. The anchor alarm will go off if we exceed the maximum distance set from the anchor waypoint. We leave the GPS below on all the time that we are anchored and can see our "track" as we swing on our anchor. We can see if we have drug and let out more rode, that is increase our scope as needed. Not flawless, but it sure helps, and yes, we have drug when anchored in windy conditions when anchored in really soft mud, but were able to reset and increase scope to accommodate the conditions. We were able to reach our friends on both Blue Rodeo and Sirocco by radio and both were able to join us at Cuastecomate for part of our stay there before we all moved back to Barra, and that's another story!