09 March 2001
Well, yes, I know it's been awhile, but it seems I've become stuck in the "Tenacatita Trap," where life slows down to 1/4 speed and it seems there's never enough time in the day to accomplish even the simplest task. This was one of my favorite spots last year, so naturally I was drawn to return this year. I've been here now about 8 weeks and will finally pull myself away after a few more days. I have an appointment with a couple of Grandkids the 1st of April over on the East Cape of Baja, so I need to move on.
Bahia Tenacatita is a rather open bay, about 4 miles across and 5 miles deep, located about 100 miles south of Cabo Corrientes, the point that forms the South end of Banderas Bay near Puerto Vallarta. The wide opening of the bay faces the Southwest so that the prevailing NW swell doesn't enter directly and along the North shore, entering the bay, there is some decent protection and an anchorage that's normally tenable with a slight roll.
However, further into the bay is a prominent hook shaped point that protects a small cove as it wraps around from the North shore toward the South and then East - providing superb protection from both wind and swell for about 10 - 12 boats. Further away from this cove there is very adequate anchorage for another 40+ boats. After several visits here I've found that there's plenty of depth (8 - 10 feet @ LLW) within a hundred yards of shore and it's so quiet close in here most days that boats could probably raft up with little problem.
The water is typically clear to 15 feet at least, with temperatures varying from 75 to 80 degrees. A small river enters the bay at the North side of this cove and provides fairly easy dinghy access to the beach, where one will find a small palapa restaurant serving excellent fish and shrimp at reasonable prices as well as the French restaurant 'Paris Tropical,' serving hamburgers and steaks along with some French specialties. The over 1/2 LB hamburger along with cheese and home-style fries goes for 35 pesos, about $3.75, and is a full meal. Their steak arachara, a marinated tender beef steak served with a great Roquefort sauce and fries is 50 pesos. One of my favorites, however, is their small quiche along with a salad for 25 pesos. Happy hour drinks are 2 for 25 pesos and beer is always 7 pesos !! The owners, a French couple in their early thirties, will also transport laundry to town and back and pick up fuel and propane for the cruisers here.
From the river entrance a beautiful light sand beach runs east about a half mile to the Blue Bay Hotel, an all-inclusive resort that caters primarily to Canadians from both the West coast and Midwest provinces. At times the surf along this beach is surprisingly rideable and also makes for an interesting dinghy landing or departure from time to time.
Entering the river in a dinghy, one can follow it for several miles through a mangrove lagoon where Snowy Egrets mix with the odd crocodile, boa and coati to provide an interesting view. At the end of the lagoon you are only a couple hundred yards from the outer anchorage and beach where there are another ten palapa restaurants serving a variety of seafood and Mexican specialties. At the West end of this beach is a rocky outcropping known as 'The Aquarium' with some of the best snorkeling around.
In addition to all this, several trails lead around the shore and by hiking three miles to the coast hiway, one can catch a bus into Melaque and Barra de Navidad for a day of 'city shopping.' With all the variety here, it's easy to see how one can become trapped, especially considering that the daytime temperature rarely exceeds 85 and the nights cool comfortably to the high 60's.
While the weather last year was almost always perfect, and this year has been mostly fair, we have had a few storms move through. By monitoring the weather in So California, we can predict somewhat when we'll have a change. Last week, however, brought a mostly unpredicted storm of a magnitude that I've never experienced before. Thursday last brought heavy cloud cover and a falling barometer, with strong SE winds, normally rare here. Friday morning turned out still cloudy with a smell of rain and continuing strong SEasterlies. By noon we had had a few squally rains and the wind chop had built 2' in the normally quiet anchorage. At this time approximately 40 boats were here and no one was venturing outside.
Staying aboard and monitoring the local VHF hailing channel about 2:30 in the afternoon, we all heard someone transmit "Hold on everyone, here it comes," and you could see the next major squall moving in from the SE, but this one contained lightning as well as heavy rain. Strikes were coming straight down within only a couple miles of the anchorage and as the rain fell heavier, I was only able to see the few boats anchored close by.
At one point it cleared a little, and I saw a direct hit on 'Center Rock' only 1/3 mile from my boat along with several strikes close ashore. The hard rain continued for close to an hour and the lightning lasted at least 3/4 of that time. The wind had died considerably with the heavy rain and when the other boats could be observed they were laying in every which direction with no consistency. Around 4:30 the clouds began to dissipate and a brisk NW wind came up to set all the boats in the same direction.
It was at this point that several boats called to report they'd seen direct lightning hits on at least two masts and a couple of other boats relayed that their neighbor had lost all electronics. In the end, apparently two boats were struck directly and two others lost their radar. Fortunately, "Secret O' Life" sustained only a much needed fresh water rinse on every possible exposed surface. By Saturday and Sunday it once again looked like paradise with clear blue sky and the normal 10 to 15 kt afternoon breeze.
The locals say this hardly ever happens in winter here, but was somewhat typical of their summer storms. I can go awhile before I go through another, thanks.
The month of February also found me with a nice cold and bronchial infection - along with 4 days of laryngitis. The upper respiratory problem lingered and I'm just now free of the late evening cough. It seems like I was sick for a month and I recall one 4 day period of beautiful weather where I never left the interior of the boat - but at least finished a couple books.
Feeling improved the middle of the month, I decided to leave the boat on the hook in Tenacatita and take a bus trip to Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico. Located about 200 miles inland at an elevation of 5200', I expected a different climate than I'd been accustomed to. The bus trip is almost 6 hours as it climbs over successive ranges of mountains gaining another 1000' with each one. In between are long valleys with substantial agriculture, although where there's no irrigation there's only a few trees and a lot of cactus.
We passed through a number of villages and one larger city - Autlan, the birthplace of Carlos Santana, where they were planning a celebration and dedication of a monument to him in a few days - and at each stop a few vendors would board the bus selling tacos, tamales and cut fresh fruit. Since I was on a primera class bus, cold drinks were provided, along with two movies during the trip. A very comfortable ride at a total cost of $20.
I spent two and a half days in greater Guadalajara (4 - 5 million souls) and saw much of the old city - 400+ years - as well as the center of arts and handcrafts production from leather goods through metals, glass and ceramics. I believe anything of that sort made in Mexico is made here !! To get a varied feel, I spent each night in a different hotel (max $16 ) and ate some great food. I traveled throughout the city by local bus and was impressed with the general cleanliness of the area, although located in a partial valley at elevation, it was subject to the typical inversion and haziness.
After a full weekend, I hopped a bus 35 miles west to the town of Tequila, where I spent another day and night learning more about that wonderful drink than I ever thought I'd want to know. After a great tour of the production facilities at the Sauza distillery, I was treated by the wonderful hospitality of a Sauza bartender and . . . . . well, some other time.
Returning to Melaque and then Tenacatita, I was once again aboard the boat to find everything in good order. The last few days have been spent filling the water tank and checking boat gear in anticipation of the trip north to Mazatlan and then across the Sea of Cortez (again !!) to the Baja. Mid April will be in La Paz once again and then out to the islands north for a month before hauling the boat to do the necessary bottom work.
Please drop me a note and tell me how you're all doing and what plans you have for your upcoming summer !!! I miss you all and wish you the best !!
More later from Terry,
aboard "Secret O' Life"