Saturday, January 29, 2011


We reluctantly bid farewell to Chamela and traveled another 30 miles down the coast to one of our favorite anchorages from last year, Tenacatita. While we had no wind, we did see a lot of dolphins and whales along the way.

Tenacatita is one of the calmest anchorages along this coast, and has an excellent beach for walking and activities. There are nearby spots for snorkeling, surfing, and fishing, and you can also take your dinghy up the nearby estuary for a "jungle cruise". Many boats spend the majority of their season here. The "mayor" of Tenacatita and his wife are veterans of "The Farm", one of the most famous and successful American communal living experiments back in the 1970s. Here Robert (red hat), the "mayor", welcomes the rest of the cruisers ashore for the day's activities.

The usual menu might include volleyball, bocce, and beachwalks, but today Don and Deb from Buena Vista taught us to play cricket, in honor of Australia Day. Vicki made a nice line drive and scored a couple of runs.

Whales come right into the bay, and there is even a resident dolphin, named "Chip" for obvious reasons.

The only reason to leave the anchorage is to resupply with food, water, and beer. This week Slacker organized a panga ride across the bay to La Manzanilla. We actually had two very full pangas.

La Manzanilla is a small village with a growing population of gringos. Perhaps for that reason, it appears cleaner than some of the other villages.

One tourist attraction is a lagoon full of 12-foot long crocodiles. We couldn't spot any on this particular morning.

After a leisurely breakfast at Martin's, and a stroll through the tianguis (flea market) we tried to find our way up to the hillside for some views. We got lost on a dead-end road, but Lee and Laila kindly invited us inside their beautiful home for a view across the bay.

Finally, we did our shopping and boarded the panga for a return trip to the anchorage.

Every Friday, the "mayor" organizes a dinghy raft-up and potluck to meet and socialize with the other boaters. This week Vicki, Robert and Eric blew 3 conch horns in harmony to kick off the raft-up.

The end of another beautiful mid-winter day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


We have been in Chamela over a week now. A big reason for staying here so long has been hooking up with a new friend who is crewing on a boat with a dive compressor. Kris is here alone for a month while the owner-skipper attends to business elsewhere. He needed a dive buddy and someone to help him move the compressor in and out of the boat, so it has been a symbiotic relationship.

(photo copyright Kris Scanlon-Hill, 2011)
We've been diving the nearby point, and several of the islands across the bay from us. While we've only expanded our fish species list by one or two, we've learned to spot nudibranchs. We've only found two species so far. I have identified one species as Elysia diomedea, with the help of The cool thing about this species is that it eats algae, and retains living chloroplasts in its own tissue. So is it a plant or an animal, or both?

(photo copyright Kris Scanlon-Hill, 2011)
Kris identified the other species as Chromodoris marislae, also using

(photo copyright Kris Scanlon-Hill, 2011)
Beside nudibranchs, we've spotted a lot of eels: zebra and green morays, sharptails, and a few other species. We've also seen numerous octopi. A real treat yesterday was hearing a continual background conversation among a nearby pod of humpback whales.

Out of the water, we've enjoyed socializing with Kris, and our friends Adam and Cindi on Bravo, and their guests Carol and Glenn. We all had dinner on board Kris's boat the other night, as a beautiful full moon rose over the Jalisco coastal mountains.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Punta Mita to Chamela

After our thorough resupply in La Cruz, we headed out to Punta de Mita, at the northwestern tip of Banderas Bay. The anchorage here has the reputation of being more rolly than La Cruz, but in current conditions that's not the case. At least we can't feel any difference using our new "flopper stopper" (a folding stainless steel door that is hung over the side from our whisker pole and helps reduce roll motion). The attractions of Punta Mita are: less crowding, cleaner water, more undeveloped scenery, and surfing. Many of the boaters anchored here have surfboards, and spend much of the day at the point break a mile or so from the anchorage. I joined them in my surf kayak.

Vicki preferred the calmer waters along the coast in the other direction.

After 4 days here, we headed back to La Cruz. On our way in we passed Pacific Jade sailing out to Punta Mita.

We returned to La Cruz, hoping that a friend of a friend would be bringing a replacement part for us. The part didn't show up, but we had a fun evening watching the Oregon-Auburn game with Adam and Cindi and a group of fellow sailors at the La Cruz Yacht Club. We're not football fans, but when your home team goes to the national championships for the first time (ever?), it's something to see. It was a good game, even if our team lost.

The next evening, we pulled the anchor and headed across the bay toward Cabo Corrientes. This promontory, like all capes, deserves sailors' respect for its ability to funnel winds and churn up current, so we had chosen our weather window carefully. It was a relatively smooth passage, although we did manage to break the aging belt on our autopilot in the confused seas near the point. This meant we had to hand steer for the remaining 10 hours to Chamela. We got a few hours' break when an offshore breeze came up and we could steer using the windvane.

We encountered two pods of whales in the last 15 miles of our passage. The second pod surfaced right in front of us after a deep dive. Whoa! I was too scared to think about taking photos. One friend hit a whale in this area a few years ago, and I can see how it could happen.

Reaching Chamela, we finally felt that we had found what we had been looking for: clear water, warm water, and warm air (all relative terms of course). After a rest day to recuperate from our night passage, we spent all of yesterday enjoying what this area has to offer: a miles-long beach that is perfect for walking, palapa beer stands, and excellent snorkeling off the reef at the tip of the bay. Last year we got some of our best underwater photos here.

Vicki invited Whirlwind and new friends Katie Hill over for dinner. Bob and Janet are accomplished bluegrass musicians and kindly brought their guitar and banjo for some after-dinner music in the warm evening. Just beautiful!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On the hook in La Cruz

We've had a great couple of days anchored outside of the La Cruz marina. We've had generally light breezes to keep us cool, but not too much chop to make it uncomfortable. Fish, rays, and dolphins swim by every day, and the water glows with phosphorescence at night. Here are Adam and Cindi enjoying happy hour aboard Bravo.

A short dinghy ride and a few blocks' walk takes us to pretty much everything we need in the way of food, beverages, and entertainment. Yesterday we topped off our tanks with 2 5-gallon jugs of purified water (we used 9 gallons in 5 days, which includes sun showers). Today we went to the local fish market, just steps away from the dinghy dock, and bought a half-kilo of this beautiful yellowfin tuna for tonight's sushi.

We also sampled empanadas, atole, and tamales from local vendors. These delicious homemade tamales, which we had for lunch back on the boat, were less than $1 apiece.

What we couldn't find at the open market was readily available 3 blocks away at one of the small tiendas. We also picked up some hot tortillas from the local tortilleria. Tortillerias are easy to find down here, you just listen for the squeak and creak of the tortilla machine!

Finally, we successfully renewed our 3G Internet service for another month. This is a somewhat mysterious process which can be quite costly if not done properly. As tourists, we cannot sign up for recurring service, we have to buy it in monthly increments. We do this by first paying money into our account at the local OXXO convenience store, using our 10-digit telephone number. Then, on the day our service expires, we have to wait until we get a message telling us its OK to renew. Then we send a text message requesting renewal, and wait for a confirmation message that it has been renewed. Last month I didn't get the confirmation, and found that instead of a monthly rate, I was being billed by the megabyte. I burned through 500 pesos, the cost of my monthly contract, in a period of 2 hours! Here is Adam using our laptop to phone Seattle one Skype, while Vicki stands by to take notes if needed.

One of the cruisers, Katrina, has been organizing shoreside events and coming around to all of the boats with flyers so we know what is coming up. Two nights ago we went to an open mic session at a British pub. Tonight there's happy hour and a free showing of the ultimate sailing film, "Captain Ron." Tomorrow there's a potluck, etc. But we will probably raise the anchor in another day or so, as we have finished our chores and are eager to do some surfing at nearby Punta Mita.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Passage to La Cruz

Our New Year's resolution: to stay warm! And since the temperature was steadily decreasing in La Paz, that meant heading across the Sea of Cortez to mainland Mexico. And since I always find it hard to stay awake until midnight on New Year's Eve, we decided the best way to see in the New Year was on an overnight passage. The weather forecast looked favorable to us, so we headed out of the city just before noon on the 31st. Woo-hoo, what a sail! We made the nearly 300 nautical miles to Isla Isabela in about 52 hours, including a couple of hours just tacking out of Bahia La Paz.
Going through San Lorenzo Passage we were greeted by a school of manta rays leaping fully six feet out of the water. Then we turned downwind, the direction we will hopefully be in all the way south from here. This was our first time using the windvane steering system this season, so it took some time to dial that in. We had to shorten sail to double-reefed main and just a barely unrolled genoa, even though we were sailing 150 degrees off the wind. Luckily the seas never got too nasty, and by the evening of the 1st we were coming into the lee of the mainland. It was great to see our namesake constellation, the Southern Cross, for the first time since last season.
Because a rhumbline to La Cruz takes you too close to the forbidden Tres Marias prison islands, we set our waypoint for Isla Isabela, Mexico's answer to the Galapagos. This would be our 3rd visit to Isabela, but we weren't sure if it would be safe to stop because of the large swell running. However, when we arrived late on the afternoon of the 2nd, the southern anchorage was fine, and there were actually more boats here than during our previous two visits.

We decided to lay over a day here and enjoy some of the best wildlife viewing we have ever had. It was early in the nesting season, so there weren't too many chicks or even eggs, but nesting activity was in full swing for the frigatebirds and boobies.

We also enjoyed watching some stilts probing for food in the shallows of the island's crater lake.

The evening of the 3rd we decided to run the rest of the way to La Cruz. Unfortunately, our wind had run out on us and we motored almost the entire way. But it was an enjoyable passage and we had an excellent green flash over the Tres Marias (although this picture didn't quite capture it).

We arrived in La Cruz just in time for the morning net, and it was great to hear a number of familiar vessel names on the roll call, including our good friends Adam and Cindi on Bravo, who had made a pretty fast run down from San Diego for their first visit to Banderas Bay.
This was a pretty long passage, but the difference in temperature is worth it. Nothing to wash but swimsuits and T-shirts for the next couple of months!
This morning we paddled our inflatable kayaks with Adam and Cindi over to Bucerias, for a delicious breakfast on the beach. Life is good.