Wow, we haven't posted since we were in Ensenada Carrizal!(still the best fishin' so far) Since then, we've sailed as far south as Las Hadas, (where they filmed "10"... sure glad C isn't fond of corn rows!, but Bolero,well...) then back up north to Mazatlan. Here are some of our favorite places along the way. La Cruz - the marina had a real "cruisers" vibe to it with lots of free things going on such as seminars about Mexico and the Puddle Jump and sushi making classes, and don't forget the great food at "Tacos on the Street". Tenacatita - big anchorage with a nice beach, swimming and snorkeling, and a small palapa restaurant when we got tired of cooking on the boat or wanted a cold bottle of cervesa, (and don't forget the 25-35kt, 3-day New Years Eve storm!!). Barra de Navidad - a peaceful anchorage in the lagoon and a town only a quick water taxi ride away. Barra really comes alive at night like many of the small towns in Mexico. The locals eat late, so if you eat too early you'll miss all the amazing smells emanating from the street taco vendors and restaurants, and the sounds of families enjoying the coolness of the evening. Ensenada Carrizal - an anchorage without anything, (anything being PEOPLE, but lots of fish... dorado, sierra & bonito to catch)
After leaving Mazatlan we crossed over to La Paz where I visited the HeartBreak Hotel of the fishin world. Coming close to Isla Cerralvo there was a sea mount rising to 170'. So as I circled around to pass over it dragging a bonito colored skirt, the rod doubled over and the line started paying out faster than a bed of 4" just driving down Bonview. Anyway, the line slowed a bit so I could stand up, pull back, and start reeling in. Then we saw it, a marlin 6' to 8' breaking the surface to flip me off, snap the 80lb spectra, and jump two more times with the lure clearly visible in it's mouth. YISH!! (well, er, I said something like that).
In La Paz we stopped to do a few boat projects. SOLAR is the way to go. We added two more 140W panels to bring in a whoppin' 25A/hr. Sergio and Malcom did a great job on our stainless. We look a bit like a Hunter now from the side, but 25A's an hour! (this leaves the gasoline for more important activities like TROLLING at sunrise & sunset). We also tried to take in some culture mostly in the form of chocolate chip ice cream and strawberry sorbet which we purchased every time we we walked along the waterfront.
After leaving La Paz, we headed to the Espiritu Santo islands for about two weeks. We anchored in several areas, including Caleta Partida where we were able to cut through the spit in our dinghies and saw the most amazing blue water. The sea was like a lake and we cruised along exploring the coastline for several hours finding some caves along the way.
We're now anchored in Isla San Francisco catchin' Yellowtail, something called an Almaco Jack ("Transmission Jack" is easier), and some grouper. Can you say "fish tacos"! The water here is amazingly clear; we can see the anchor and chain at 20' down. We've been exploring in our kayaks and we hiked one of the trails on the island along the ridge line that gave us some amazing views from atop the mountain. We then climbed down to the salt ponds which were at least a foot thick with salt. We (Kia Ora and us) also took our dinghies to Isla Coyote, a big rock in the sea, which has a small community of fisherman living on it. There are about five buildings on the island of varying sizes, including a small schoolroom with murals of sea creatures painted on the outside of its walls. One house, supposedly owned by an american, has quite a collection of whale bones, strung together with cables, displayed around it.
We'll be off soon to another anchorage as we make our way further north into The Sea for the summer.
Since my last post, we've sailed to Barra Navidad, Ensenada Carrizal, and Bahia Santiago. I've finally got an internet connection here in Santiago to post our photos. Hope you enjoy them.
I've been very lax in updating our site, so here's a recap of what we've been doing. We decided to heed the local's advice and cruise the mainland for the winter, then head back up into the Sea this spring. We have definitely not regretted our decision. It's been warm, but not too warm. The water is the perfect temperature for snorkeling, swimming, and fishing. The towns are small, but you get a real since of Mexico, and everything is so very green.
Our first stop after Cabo was Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta. A lovely resort and marina surrounded by several other resorts. The marina is very well run by Dick and Gina who never seem to tire of the endless questions posed by cruisers new to the area. The "compound" (I call it this because it really is a resort of resorts with a large gate you must pass through when entering or leaving) seems to cater mostly to Canadians and Americans.
There is a small shopping center in the compound where you can purchase "resort wear", dine at several eateries, and buy groceries. The market in the mall is more expensive than the prices you'll find outside the resort compound, but they also have a few things you won't find anywhere else - like good gin, Triskets and maple syrup. You won't find much meat or chicken, but they do have quite a selection of packaged lunch meats and cheeses. I've finding that, for me at least, provisioning can take several days in Mexico. I never get lucky enough to find everything I want at one market, or two, or three. Also, items are often shelved together in an organization that I can't seem to follow, so I spend a lot of time going up and down each aisle making sure I don't miss anything. Last, I have a food allergy that requires me to read every label. This can be a real pain in the US where I actually have a shot at deciphering the list of ingredients, but quite a different challenge when the list is in a foreign language.
One thing I learned in Paradise is that it's just as important to ask the bus driver exactly where he will drop you off as it is to ask if his route includes your stop. I was taught this lesson when my girlfriend from S/V Valhalla and I caught a bus to the Mega (very large grocery store). A few moments after getting on the four-lane highway, the bus driver pulled off to the side, opened his door, and shouted "Mega" while pointing out his left window. We stepped off the bus, looked around at the barren field, at the four lanes of traffic whizzing by, then with what I'm sure were very blank stares, back at the driver who again shouted "Mega", then promptly collapsed the bus doors and pulled away. My girlfriend and I slowly turned toward each other while mouthing the words "oh shit", then started laughing. Luckily, we'd both been to the Mega once before and recognized a bridge and a small side street about a mile or so ahead and, albeit on the other side of the highway. We eventually made it to the Mega where we purchased a nice turkey along with stuffing and gravy for our Christmas dinner and provisions for the next few weeks. I always feel most self-conscious when checking out at the register especially in the smaller towns. While I know I'm buying the food we'll need to stay for several weeks or a month at those secluded anchorages we covet, I feel the stares from the cashier and from the others in line who are often only buying some rice or a few vegetables. I feel the need to explain to everyone that I'm on a boat and this is food for a long trip and not how I would shop everyday back home. After we finished our shopping at the Mega, we hailed a taxi, who delivered us and our bags right to the marina gate.
We spent most of our time in Paradise working down a list of boat projects, swimming in the lap pool (one of three), boogie boarding in the ocean (boards are free for the first hour for marina tenants), and dining at the Vallarta Yacht Club (where Nadia, a most patient woman, helped me with my Spanish while taking our orders) or at one of the other restaurants nearby. We also met some great new friends aboard S/V Valhalla, S/V Kia Ora, and S/V Rubber Duckies.
From Paradise, we took a day trip (short bus ride) to La Cruz to check out the town and the marina swap meet. The cruising season was just starting to gear up, so while there was trading and haggling going on, we were told it would triple in size in about a month. La Cruz gave us our first view of a Mexico not yet fully engulfed by tourism. I hope to stop back by in our own boat when we begin cruising north again.
Another day, we did an all-day-hike, just south of Puerto Vallarta, which snaked through some of the old growth jungle, around the coastline, and ended at a waterfall. The trail is maintained by a few in the local community; an amazing feat considering the terrain. We had a wonderful guide, April, who was very knowledgeable about the area and people.
Back in Paradise, after receiving some parts we'd ordered from the states, we decided it was time to shake out the sails and see more of Mexico. Our first stop was Tenacatita. A nice, big anchorage with great water for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing, as well as a beach for walking. There's a small palapa restaurant on shore where you can get cold beverages and a bite to eat. The guides mentioned a dinghy estuary tour through the mangroves that ends in Punta Hermanos where you can get a bite to eat at one of several beachside restaurants, but apparently a wealthy developer bought the land and bulldozed it all down. So no more tourism means no reason for the local panga drivers to keep the mangroves cut back. You can still dinghy up the estuary for about a mile and see some wildlife before the mangroves close in, but that's about it.
We took a panga to La Manzanilla, the town across the water, for a day. It was the week before New Years and there were Mexican tourists everywhere. Apparently it's a very popular spot for Guadalajarans. The town has a nice outdoor market and a crocodile preserve. The crocs are as big as a Volkswagens. A local told us that they are so well fed, when part of the enclosure fence collapsed after a storm last year, none of the them tried to escape.
While in Tenacatita, we met some great new friends aboard S/V Hiolani. Actually, our friends aboard S/V La Balena in Sitka had emailed us just a week before our arrival in Tenacatita and told us to keep an eye out for a yellow catamaran. Turns out they were in the same anchorage for the holidays. Small world this boating life.
New Years Eve brought the most excitement we'd had in awhile; a squall that whipped through the anchorage, leaving three days of rain in it's wake. Our friends aboard S/V Gia, whom we'd met in the San Juan Islands a few years ago, arrived in the anchorage the day before (small world) and watched from our boat as the clouds and wind built. I can't remember the last time I'd seen rain, and was in fact so mesmerized that I forgot to close the hatches. Needless to say, I checked off "wash the floor" from my todo list.
As our supplies were dwindling, we decided to once again shake the sails and head a bit further south, about 14 miles, to Barra de Navidad. Barra is a nice sized town built on Mexican tourism vs. American or Canadian. There are lots of shops selling everything from cheap souvenirs to very nice mexican rugs, a large selection of places to eat, a few small markets, an ice house where you can buy purified block-ice, a fish house, and a butcher. Of course my favorite place to shop was off the starboard side of my boat. That's where the French Baker would pull up almost every morning and offer me fresh baguettes, pastries, and quiches. Yes Please, Yes Please. Most of our time in Barra was spent provisioning and enjoying the company of new friends. We took a bus to Melaque where we'd heard the provisioning was better, but the town didn't have the ambiance or flavor of Barra, and all-in-all, I think we could have done just as well in Barra. The locals seemed to enjoy our shopping outings much more than us as when we did our beer and ice run. Two dock carts filled to the brim with five cases of beer and six blocks of ice and barely able to negotiate the cobble stone streets; it's no wonder they cheered and whistled as we waved and explained that this was only enough for three days at sea.
This morning we left Barra and tonight we are anchor-down in Ensenada Carrizal. It looks like a great spot for snorkeling, so I can't wait for tomorrow. The men are going fishing in the morning, so keep your fingers crossed they don't get skunked, and we'll have fresh fish for dinner.
I'll post some photos in our gallery when I get a better connection.
Happy Holidays from s/v The Beguine!
Easy sail from Cabo to Banderas Bay. Took about 52 hours. Beam reach most of the way with 12-14 knots wind. Wind went behind about 30 nm outside the bay, then died, but still a great crossing. Besides, we're sailing in shorts and bare feet, so can't complain too much.
Arrived in Cabo last Friday. Great sailing and fishing. See our photos under the "Photo Gallery" link.