Monday, January 25, 2010

Jungle Cruise

Today we took the dinghy into the estuary and along a 2-mile, mangrove-lined channel. It was odd to look up and see tall cactus plants growing on the hillsides above the lagoon. We saw lots of blue and green herons, but none of the locally famous crocodiles, which can apparently reach up to 10 feet in length.

At the end of the channel we parked the dinghy, and a short walk led us to the village of Tenacatita, on the outer part of the bay known as the "Aquarium." Even with the sea rougher than usual, the Aquarium is a great place for swimming and snorkeling. I talked to a local SCUBA diver who said the underwater visibility out among the rocks is close to 80 feet. We did some shopping and had a nice lunch before heading back down to the estuary. To cap off our "wilderness" experience, we got drenched by a wave crossing the bar into the bay. Groceries were safe inside river bags (thanks Erica for sending those down to us).

Saturday, January 23, 2010


We decided to move from Chamela after the increasing swells made the anchorage a bit bumpy. So after a 4-hour downwind sail 25 miles along the coast, we're now anchored in a huge deep bay called Tenacatita. This is regarded by many as the finest anchorage along this part of the Mexican Riviera. There are over 2 dozen other boats here, some of which have been here for weeks if not months. Snorkeling is good out at the edge of the bay, and we've already seen 3 eels and a few new species of fish. The beach is flat and hard, perfect for walking or running, and has a dozen or more clutches of sea turtle eggs waiting to hatch. Tenacatita's most unique attraction is the "Jungle Cruise" along a 3-mile long, mangrove-lined channel. We'll report back after we've done it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chamela Daze

The predicted high winds materialized today about noon. So we'll be here for at least a few more daze. Its a great place to be stuck! Today we had FIVE dolphins playing around the anchor and cruising back and forth behind our boat. We also had a lineup of swallows on the bow.
The water is not as clear today with higher winds and surf, so we concentrated our snorkeling on shallow rocks near the edge of the bay. We also chatted with a number of other cruisers that are here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chamela Bay

This morning over half of the boats anchored in Chamela raised anchor and headed out. Most of them are bound for Tenacatita, a larger and more protected bay to the south. There are high winds and large swells forecast for later in the week. We've decided we'll stay here for now.

Today's mission was to get some decent underwater pictures of what we've been seeing on our snorkeling outings for the past month and a half. And I think we succeeded!

The highlight was swimming with the pair of bottlenose dolphins that live in the bay and seem to enjoy rubbing themselves against our anchor chain. They are not shy and will let you swim right up to them, although they don't allow touching - so far!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cabo Corrientes

We arose at 4AM so that we would pass the cape in the morning hours. But before we had gone halfway across Banderas Bay, we had 20 knots of wind behind us, and we feared it would be too rough at the Cape - it had been described in one guidebook as a "washing machine" in high winds. So we turned tail and started tacking back into the bay, waiting for the morning radio weather report. Afterwards, we realized we had only experienced typical nighttime land breezes. So, with a favorable weather report, we again turned for the Cape, and were past it by noon. This is the last major "gate" of our first season in Mexico. Of course we have to pass through some of these "gates" on our way back north to Baja next month.

Once beyond Cabo Corrientes, we had an easy sail to a small cove where we overnighted with 2 other sailboats. The next morning, once again, we started off before sunrise in order to make our intended landfall before dark. We had land breezes in the morning, and a nice sea breeze in the afternoon, and were able to sail most of the day. The coast was sparsely inhabited and backed by lovely jungle-covered mountains.

At 4PM, we arrived at a most pleasant anchorage - Chamela Bay. At least 7 other sailboats accompanied us into the bay. Everyone was trying to stay ahead of some high winds and swells forecast for later in the week.

We dropped the hook in 20 feet of water near the head of the bay, and immediately donned masks and fins to scope out the bottom. And then..
Dolphin! A big one! Swimming right at our bow. By the time I got my mask and fins on, he (she? how do you tell?) was down on the bottom, rubbing his back against our anchor chain. I swam down to greet him and he eyed me curiously, then swam toward the surface, spiraling around me. Vicki came up and we had several more close encounters with the dolphin before he lost interest and glided away. Definitely the closest I have ever swum with a dolphin. Later, we learned from a fellow boater that this is a tame dolphin that lives in the bay and interacts with people. Probably a bottlenose dolphin. What a cool way to be welcomed to this beautiful spot!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weird weather

Right after Adam left, the weather took an unusual turn here in Banderas Bay: strong southerly winds in the evening (prevailing winds are ENE in the morning, NW in the afternoon/evening). The next morning, it started pouring rain, which is also unusual here in the middle of winter. Listening to the VHF net, we heard several calls of "waterspout", some with a bit of panic in their voices. Here's a photo we later obtained from Ron and Maryann, who were anchored out in the bay on their boat Whirlwind during this event. The locals have said they have never seen a waterspout here in the winter (they do occur during summer storms).

Later, walking on the beach, we came across a baby sea turtle washed up on the sand. A local lifeguard picked him up for safekeeping. He'll be released once the water is calmer and he has a better chance of making it out to sea.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fish on, jack!

It took the whole 8 days of his visit, but Adam finally landed a fish! Actually, he caught two fish today, but the first one was a fairly small sierra and he tossed it back. We were 15 minutes from heading into the marina for the night, when "zzzzzzzzzzzz..." the line started running out. By the time the fish had tired, it had run out nearly all of Adam's line, and he had quite a job reeling it back in. When he finally reeled in all of the line, he had a 25-pound crevalle jack on the end of it. We haven't boated anything more than 10 pounds before now, so this was a pretty impressive sight!
Tonight Adam and Vicki are busy cutting the fish into fillets and preparing some Hawaiian style poke. Yumm! Thank you Adam, for bringing your fishing expertise and gear. You are welcome aboard Southern Cross any time!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Full circle in Banderas Bay

After a couple of days in Marina Vallarta, we were ready to head out to sea again, but not too far. Just far enough for Adam to catch a fish! We tried, all day yesterday and all day today, but just a few strikes, and nothing boated.

Oh well, there's plenty of other things to do, like watching humpback whales. We re-anchored at Punta Mita, which seems to have great sunsets every night, and a good surfing wave close to the anchorage.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Puerto Vallarta

After leaving Yelapa, we wandered along the southern coast of Banderas Bay towards Puerto Vallarta. We stopped to snorkel at Los Arcos, a series of 3 rock outcrops with swimmable tunnels through them. Then we dinghied over to nearby Mismaloya for drinks. The sea was so calm we ended up anchoring near Mismaloya for the night.

The next day, we motored the last few miles to Puerto Vallarta. We picked up a slip in Marina Vallarta, which is surprisingly decrepit for being the closest marina to town. An old friend, Dan, lives here with his Mexican wife and year-old daughter, so we got together with them for a very fun evening in the downtown area.

Today, Adam, Dan, and I signed up for a half-day jungle canopy zip line adventure, while Vicki and Gaby relaxed at home for the day.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Wednesday, the sky was too overcast for snorkeling, so we decided to sail across the Bay. We saw a few humpback whales, but didn't catch any fish. We ended the day at Yelapa, an old hippie hangout accessible only by boat. I was here 33 years ago, and it seemed, if anything, better than what I remembered.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Islas Marietas

For our first voyage with Adam aboard, we decided to head out to the "Tres Marietas" islands at the mouth of Banderas Bay. They are a protected area, and mostly visited by day-tripper boats full of snorkelers. Cruisers don't usually anchor there except in unusually calm conditions. Fortunately, that's what we had!