Friday, February 21, 2014

La Cruz to Bahia Chamela 2/1/14

La Cruz to Bahia Chamela ( 19.32 N x 105.07 W) 96 miles 14 hours planned
Chamela is the first real anchorage south of Banderas Bay.  There is one noted stopover just a few miles south of Cabo Corrientes, Inpala Cove.  Guide books say marginal protection and room for only a handful of boats.   Planning our trip around Cabo Corrientes (Known as the “Point Conception” of the Gold Coast) requires passage early in the morning to minimize the interaction of the wind and waves brought about by this abrupt change in the coastline.  Since we will pass Inpala early on our journey and mid morning we will not risk stopping since we don’t anticipate needing rest.

To shorten the early morning activity and as a courtesy to our marina neighbors we anchored out at La Cruz the night before our trip.  It takes about half the time to get underway from  anchor as compared to the dock with no shore cord, lines, fenders etc to store and we are a few hundred yards into our trip.   Also gives a chance to run the boat after time in the slip and check for any issues that might delay the trip. 

We are traveling with Salacia, a N40 Captained by Neil and Dianna who we met on the FUBAR trip south.  The N40 is about a ¾ to a full knot slower than us at cruise.  Does not sound like much but 6.5 kts vs. 7.5 kts over a 100 mile run is 12-15 miles separation on arrival if we start together.  For WORKNOT its easy to slow down to 7 kts and save about 20% in fuel burn.  In good seas we don’t mind the slower pace.  In heavy seas we likely would need to slow but then so would Salacia. 


Planned departure was 4 AM but Mary and I both were anxious to get to sea and we caught a glimpse of Salacia underway at 3 AM.  By 3:30 AM we were also underway. 

We do lots of sunset pictures but the sunrise can also be spectacular.  This is just south of Cabo Corrientes.

Cabo Corrientes lived up to its reputation, arriving just at sun up we were greeted by confused seas and winds in the low 20 knot range.  Lumpy but not uncomfortable and not dangerous.  Just a gentle reminder we are at sea and we really are ALL in small boats.  After clearing the point by 5 miles we turned south and the seas were quickly on our stern quarter.  4-6 miles further south things smoothed out, winds dropped to under 10 kts.  Clear and warm, we saw plenty of dolphins and a few birds working bait fish.  Dolphins like to play in the bow wave and we had more than a dozen from time to time splashing along and crisscrossing in front of our bow. 
I was off watch and sleeping in the pilot house watch berth at 2:15pm while Mary had the helm.  WORKNOT was following the course laid out on our plotter directly coupled to the autopilot.  We are gaining experience with this tool and still on the learning curve.  This system will take us waypoint by waypoint along a course, asking to turn at each waypoint and keeping the boat on track within 50 feet in settled conditions and rarely more than 200 feet of the ideal course in heavy weather.  If you want to modify the course while underway it’s a little complicated and not overly intuitive.  Mary needed to move a waypoint away from shore to improve our course and in the process reversed the course.  WORKNOT dutifully turned 180 degrees, directly into the wind and oncoming seas.  The change in motion along with spray on the windshield woke me from a deep sleep in a panic.  A quick scan on the radar confirmed we were not near land, in deep water but it took me few moments to figure out what was happening.  Salacia called to see if we were fishing or just lost our minds or at least sense of direction.  Mary fessed up to autopilot mis-management and we had something for the log book. 
We quickly returned to our steady course but sleeping for me was over. 
Fishing was slow, we caught a single Bonita but we remain hopeful for a repeat of our success on the FUBAR.  The freezer is getting low and we will keep fishing in hopes of tuna or Mahi Mahi. 
Arrived in Chamela at 5:20 PM.   Rocky point to the north and two rocky islands to the south. 

FUEL 60 gallons

We woke to find this Mexican Navy boat anchored near our stern. Comforting to know the are “out there” if needed. 

Our trip ashore with Neil and Dianna was short as a tour of the “town” took about an hour.  The town has a motel, beach hotel, trailer park (actuall called “The Trailer Park”).  Looks like a great place to hide out.  Several small tiendas, (small family run grocery stores) and a few clothing shops.  Not much else other than half a dozen palapa and beach side resturants.   The school is the largest building in the town.
Farther south there are several exclusive private resorts and some very large homes on the waterfront.  A real estate trailer is set up with lots available for building and development.  In the US this view would be priceless, here about $100k US asking price.  We took a dinghy ride around the bay, about 4 miles long with two major islands and many smaller rocky outcroppings.   A few additional anchorages are available but they are small and unprotected from swell wrapping around the point.


Neil, Dianna and Chewy, Keela’s new best friend.

Mary and I went to town early in search of some supplies and to take Keela for a walk.  Just as we returned to the beach a panga landed and they were off loading fish.  In very poor Spanglish, we convinced them to sell us one of the fish.  As usual, a teen ager came along who spoke English and saved us.  The kids seem to all have some English capability.  Maybe its U-Tube or the net.     $200 pesos /$15 US we bought a Red Snapper.  Not sure what we had until after the transaction but  we quickly decided the price was right for about 3.5 kilos / 7.5 lbs. of fish.  Mary pan seared it and made a great dinner for 4 of us. 


Next Stop is Bahia Tenacatita (19.15N x 105.51 W) 32 Miles south

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Beginning to get marina fever and need a change of scenery.   We backtracked to Punta de Mita 20.45.9 x 105.31W.   This fairly well protected anchorage is the first on the North end of Banderas Bay.  Four Seasons has resort on the point featuring an 18 hole golf course and St Regis also has a very upscale resort on the same point.  Surfing is popular on the point and within sight of the anchorage.  

We anchored in 27 feet of water over a sand bottom.  Could almost see the anchor early in the mornings when calm conditions prevailed.  Felt great to get back on the hook but the afternoon swell wrapped around the point and made for a rolly anchorage well into the night.  Deployed our “flopper stopper” on one side and then both to improve the conditions.  They helped but when the boat rolled aggressively something in the top of my mast was moving just enough to make me nervous. 
Flopper stoppers are hinged plates that hang off of fixed poles on the side of the boat.  When the boat rolls to the side with the flopper stopper the plate hinge folds from the water pressure and when the boat rolls back the plate opens to present the entire plate surface area to horizontal to the water.  A lot of forces is required to pull the plate upward and this reduces the roll on the boat.  Same for the opposite side.  The roll reduction is only available when anchored with our arrangement.

 These a connected to the end of the line going into the water. One on each side.

Sea Fox joined us for a few nights and we go some good pics of both boats on the hook.

Landing a dinghy on the beach at Punta de Mita gave us some time to practice our skills with our smaller dinghy.   The plan was to use it for shore landings since it is light and only has a 2 HP engine.  Many people us “dinghy wheels”  to give them some help in pulling the dinghy onshore.  We do not have them thinking we can just pickup the dinghy on shore.  This odd looking combination is common in Mexico and not many other places.   

On my first attempt getting ashore was OK but on exit discovered the 2 HP motor did not have the power to turn or run straight with me sitting on the side of the dinghy.  So, after timing the waves just right, pushing out and jumping on the side, starting the motor I turned in a circle and ran straight up on the shore again.  Only a few people watching as I got soaked, filled the boat with water but did not turn it over.   Next attempt I got fully into the boat and managed a somewhat graceful exit.  

We ate at several of the beach Palapas and the food was good and plentiful.  One slight negative was the constant attempts of the local peddlers to sell most anything to the diners.   From beautiful blouses and skirts to a bottle opener cleverly made to look like a seahorse.  We caved on one item and got this.  The guy’s approach was very original and he was persistent but not pushy.  I have a great deal of respect for a salesman who can master this skill.

Handmade while we ate dinner
Now if we just get Keela to wear it.......

Mantenchen Bay to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle 12/21/13

Mantenchen Bay to La Cruz:  12/21/13 

Our departure (7:00am) was uneventful and the trip was very pleasant.  We departed expecting to make it into the harbor as sunset but a longline encounter and strong currents near the entrance to Banderas Bay delayed us until dark. 
Lots of whales in Banderas Bay but we did not get good pictures.  Our camera with a good zoom is very slow and every time we saw a good whale shot it was gone by the time the camera focused and took the picture.   Not sure there is a way to improve it. 

Entering La Cruz at night, first time, after a day at sea is bad seamanship.  The winds were settled and both our charts and radar agreed on the channel and entrance.  All the background lights near most harbors make reading the markers a real challenge and this was no different.  Carefully we picked our way through the anchored boats and buoys to find the well lit harbor entrance.  
We had a slip assignment and talked to the harbor on the VHF radio to confirm.  Down the fairway we went to the slip we were assigned only to find we could not fit next to the sailboat sharing the double slip.   So, in the dark, with lots of boats sticking out of their slips into the fairway we backed up, got a new slip assignment and made the landing.  With little wind this worked out in our favor and our digital short range radar actually showed the fairway and slips in detail.  The older long range traditional pulse radar has a dead zone near the vessel that grows as the range grows.  It’s blind within 30-75 feet of the boat.  We have both and again, glad technology is making our journey safer and easier.  

Hi Definition Radar on 300' Range in harbor (Slips next to us are empty and large yacht in front of us) 

La Cruz de Haunacaxtle
One of the many things we are learning is there really is no “plan”.  One of our favorite boat names belongs to a N57 “NO PLANS”.  We expected to stay in La Cruz a few days then move to Paradise Village just east of Puerto Vallarta.  Most people we met felt Paradise Village was the best choice in Banderas Bay.  For us we felt more at home and comfortable in La Cruz.  The harbor is run by a professional team, two great gentlemen, both named Jose, were on the docks at all hours ready to get a taxi, recommend a restaurant or anything else to be helpful.  That was their job; they did not do maintenance work or have other obvious duties.  Just be there to support the cruising community. 
The marina provided wifi, a cruisers VIP lounge with much better wifi and a meeting room for seminars and movie night (First run movies on Thursday).  Laundry service was available that brought the clean clothes back to the boat the next day.  Multiple workers were all trying to get the washing, waxing and other work needed to maintain a boat in the tropics.  Prices were very competitive and a fraction of the San Diego costs.  Next to the marina there is a daily fish market and Sunday’s a very large open air market with plenty of local foods and unique items.

The lady in the red hat just out of the picture is a Mexican native who is in her 80’s.  Thought I got her in the picture but the food caught center camera.
La Cruz has a very active community of winter gringos and there are several restaurants that bill themselves as “cruisers havens”.   Pay a small fee and you get wifi, place to sit and “American” food.  Hamburgers, hotdogs and mashed potatoes are popular.  For us we want just the opposite.  Don’t think we have eaten a traditional sandwich for at least 2 months, tortillas, tacos and fish are the main staples.    Rice and beans are available with almost any meal.  The portions are huge and the cost is low.  We have yet to spend over $500 pesos for 2 dinners.  Less than $40US in some very nice restaurants.   Lunch is usually less than $300 pesos for two. $22US. 

This restaurant is built on a cliff side overlooking the marina.  The back wall is a “living wall” of ferns and plants.  The owner met us at the door and saw we were well served.  We celebrated a special birthday for Dennis of Sea Fox with his wife Julie.  They have been cruising for 17 years and the experience they have shared has accelerated our learning curve. 

We got very comfortable in La Cruz and found our way around the area by bus and occasionally taxi.  Bus ride to Mega (very large grocery store and more), WalMart, or the next town (Bucerias) is $8 pesos ($0.65).  Double if you catch the air conditioned bus.  Days consisted of getting up with the sun, mopping the dew off the boat, (keeps it very clean), breakfast and then some errand or task.  That takes us to lunch, walk into La Cruz for a 1 to 2 hour lunch, a nap and then time to make plans for dinner.   Not much excitement for a blog but nice to avoid a schedule or a weekly planner.
Have not worn my watch since November and knowing the day of the week is augmented by looking at my weekly pill case and noticing which slots are empty.  Young readers may not relate but bet my peers do. 

This is not the cruising we expected and with our upcoming trip to Barra Navidad and anchorages in between more cruising and less marina living should liven up the blog.   

Next Posting a trip to Punta Mita in Banderas Bay