09 March 2018 | Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
Punta de Mita anchorage.
It was late February and we were in Barra waiting for a weather window. It seemed like we had one norther after another after another. Finally, in three days' time, it looked like one might open up.
Meanwhile, Jay was checking the engine, checking the oil, checking the transmission, checking the coolant...wait! What? "There's no coolant in the reservoir." Jay told me. "It's empty."
"How can that be?" I asked. He checked the hoses. One of them had a leak. This was certainly a downer as there is no easy way to find boat parts in Barra.
We immediately called "our guy," Pancho. (Everyone needs a "guy" in every port. No! I know what you are thinking. Not like that. We need a guy who has local connections. A guy who can fix things and when he can't, he knows someone who can.) Pancho and his nephew went out on a search.
While they were looking, Jay made a few phone calls himself. He called some businesses in Manzanillo (a forty-minute taxi ride), and he called some friends who then gave us some numbers and names of friends. No luck. Our one big hope was Jonco. He is one of the few guys we know in Barra that works on boat engines. He gave a lazy laugh. "There are no 1 1/8" exhaust hoses in Mexico. They don't exist." He told us. I looked at Jay. "Seriously? Now what?"
Here was the problem. Our weather window was closing in, but there was no way we were leaving without replacing the hose. Getting a hose from the United States to Mexico would be no easy task and could take weeks, even months. My kids were flying into PV on the 14th of March so we needed to be back. I know two weeks sounds like a long time, but considering the dilemma we were facing, the odds of that happening were looking pretty slim. We were quietly panicking.
Leave it to "our guy" Pancho. He couldn't find a 1 1/8" exhaust hose, but he did come up with a 1 1/8" heater hose. At first, Jay was hesitant to use it, but after talking with a few people who all agreed it should work, he installed it. He tested it. And tested it again. Believe it or not, it worked!
On March 1st, we headed north with the open weather window, albeit a small one. With that in mind, we decided to skip Tenacatita and motor sail straight to Chamela. We arrived to find another twelve boats in our same situation, all wanting to head north around Cabo Corrientes. (Corrientes means "currents" in Spanish. The wind and seas can get rather fierce there if you don't time it right.)
We spent the evening listening in on Channel 22 on the VHF as the cruisers kept checking with each other. Everyone wanted advice to the timing of rounding Corrientes. Some were leaving at four in the morning. Others, five. Some at six. One was leaving at 11 am. We decided on six am.
We slept outside in the cockpit and at 4:30 am, I woke up. I sat up and watched a boat's stern lights head out of the bay. I was wide awake. I decided to wake Jay and suggested we go ahead and leave. At 5:50 (the sun rises at 7:15ish), we weighed anchor and were on our way. By that time, there were already five boats in front of us.
We left with the attitude that we could either motor sail the 50 nm to Ipala and anchor for the night, leaving at four the next morning to go around Cabo Corrientes or, if Ipala was crowded, we would keep going. Fortunately, the winds were down and the sea was relatively calm.
About 4pm, just outside Ipala, we saw there were only two boats anchored there. Even though it is a small cove, we could have fit in easily. But the conditions were such that we decided to keep going. If all went well, we would arrive at Punta de Mita around midnight. All went well. However, it was quite confusing between all the different lights. There were lights on the Marietta's Islands to our left and city lights all around the bay, in front of us and to our right. To add to the confusion, fireworks were going off sporadically throughout the evening. And we couldn't discern anchor lights from the town lights until we were right up on them. Eventually, it all became clear and we dropped anchor in 35 feet of water under our spreader lights and a full moon. We tucked in for a good night's sleep.
Later in the afternoon the next day, Jay looked at me and said, "I'm glad you suggested we stay here for another night. It gives us time to decompress." Not long after that, a whale came up, leisurely swimming alongside our boat! Literally, about twenty feet off the port side. It was a great way to end a successful voyage; lounging around on the boat at anchor, reading, eating, napping, even whale-watching.
I'll be honest, though. I was nervous about this latest trip. Before leaving, we heard from our friends who had to abandon their boat on their way from Cartagena to Jamaica in twenty-foot seas after three days of storms that took out their sails and engine. Then we heard of two other experienced sailors who lost their lives just outside Ensenada when they hit a storm while on their way home to San Diego after seven years of cruising. They never found the boat. Just two bodies washed up along the shore. I was spooked. So, this trip was good for us. Despite some of our hardships, we spent two months cruising, traveled 726-miles, and we were fine. Cadenza was fine. We were back in the saddle.