Sunday, February 27, 2011

Carnaval in Barra

After two weeks in the Manzanillo area, we turned the boat around for the season, and began the long trek north. But we only got as far as Barra, where we wanted to stay for Carnaval. We love Barra. Here's one of our favorite views - the giant tree outside of the Sambuco restaurant.

Barra is a very small town, but the town fathers have promised a great celebration this year: a fishing tournament, bike race, lots of music and entertainment. Here's Barra from the other side of the Lagoon, on the hill above the Grand Bay Hotel.

The festivities started on Thursday night with the burning of the effigy of "bad humor." A group of so-called "Cannibals" roamed the streets of the town, teasing anyone with a scowl on their face and bringing a few up to the stage as if they would be the ones to be burned (coincidentally many of these were gringos). We got there late, just as the fire was winding down. In this picture it looks like the Cannibals have set an amp on fire - its just an unfortunate camera angle.

Today there was a fishing tournament for kids. The officials repeatedly warned the adults to let the kids do the fishing, but everyone was having too much fun to pay attention to the rules.

We stopped for a mango on a stick at this colorful fruit stand.

After the fishing tournament, a number of amateur acts took the stage on the malecon. In this picture you can see that the wind has started to blow. In fact, it nearly blew some of the entertainers right off the stage!

One of the best groups was this dance troupe from Colima, who did everything from ballroom numbers to folklorico dances from various regions of Mexico.

There was much more entertainment, but the high winds got us worried about the boat. With good reason, as it turned out - at least five boats dragged their anchors today. But everyone pitched in to help. Here, a group of cruisers gather on the bow of one boat whose anchor had dragged, to help him get it securely re-set.

Another boat was unattended, and locked, so there was no way to start the engine or the windlass without breaking in. We did the best we could under the circumstances, but the boat eventually dragged into shallow water where its keel dug into the soft mud. Once aground, the boat stayed put until the owners got back!

When the wind's not blowing, the lagoon is alive with birds. It is always entertaining to watch the pelicans, cormorants, boobies, frigatebirds, terns, and gulls diving for their dinner!

Vicki and I have resumed our early morning walks on Isla Navidad, around the Grand Bay property. Its great for birdwatching and exercise. Here's a woodpecker we spotted this morning.

Here's the anchorage from Colimilla, the small village near the hotel.

And some architectural detail.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Diving in Manzanillo Bay

After a week or so in Barra, we made our way another 20 miles south to Manzanillo Bay. There are 3 anchorages in this area, all among our favorites: Carrizal, Santiago Bay, and Las Hadas. Each offers something different from the other. Carrizal is one of the few undeveloped bays along the coast with reasonable shelter for anchoring. It's refreshing to spend a night somewhere where there are no lights ashore. Santiago is a wide, open bay with a nice beach lined with palapas and fine homes. Las Hadas is a small cove next to the luxury hotel of the same name. For a 100 peso daily fee, you can park your dinghy on the dock, drop off your garbage, take on fresh water, and use all of the hotel's amenities, such as swimming pool and workout center. Although the hotel is a bit long in tooth, it's still a beautiful place to visit.

After a week in the bay, we've already anchored in all 3 spots, and are currently in Las Hadas for the 2nd time. Our bud Kris on s/v Rocket Science is here, and as at Chamela, we've enjoyed sharing a few dives with him. Our underwater camera doesn't seem to be very waterproof, so we are not taking it underwater any more. The pictures below were all taken by Kris with his Sony camera in an Ikelite housing.

Here's me at a dive site on the Julupan Peninsula, just outside of Santiago.

Although you can easily snorkel it, we enjoyed a dive on the wreck of the 300' San Luciano, at the SW end of Santiago Bay.

We found this odd couple, a balloonfish and a green moray, hanging out together near the stern of the wreck.

A reef stingray prowls the sand around the wreck.

This colorful nudibranch, about 2" long, is tentatively identified as Hypselodoris agassizii, one of about 100 species of nudibranchs found in Mexico. Between us, Chris and I have seen 5 different species so far.

The rest of these photos were taken either at the Julupan Peninsula site, or at Los Frailes, a set of rock pinnacles about a mile out in the center of the bay.

Another dorid nudibranch, tentatively identified as Glossodoris sedna.

This is a well-camouflaged scorpionfish.

A juvenile Cortez angelfish.

Some soft corals (or possibly anemones).

Finally, although we usually have to look hard to spot eels, this Jewel Moray was right out in the open next to our anchor at the end of one dive.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Birdwatching in Barra

One of our favorite activities while anchored here in the Barra lagoon has been early morning birdwatching on Isla Natividad. One day MJ from Grey Max led a number of cruisers on a bird walk; after that we came over on our own for several mornings. From the lagoon its a short dinghy ride to this dilapidated dock.

One of the first birds we saw was this ibis, on the beach near the dinghy dock.

Unfortunately we weren't able to photograph many of the birds we saw, and none of the more colorful ones: the black and yellow caciques, the orange-breasted buntings, the golden cheeked woodpeckers, and the orchard orioles all eluded our camera. We did manage to catch some of these turkey-sized caracaras improbably perched in the trees, but they always seemed to hide their heads. Maybe they thought that if they couldn't see us, we couldn't see them!

Here's one of the few small birds we managed to photograph, a scissor-tailed flycatcher.

Most of the walk is along roads and through a golf course, but eventually we worked our way across the peninsula to a wild and beautiful beach,

Among the birds we spotted there was this whimbrel.

We can't wait to get back to Barra in a couple of weeks for more birdwatching!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tenacatita to Barra

After 11 days, we finally managed to pull the anchor and head out of Tenacatita. Its such a perfect spot, its been hard to leave. Our last day here, the Mexican navy arrived,

and boarded most of the yachts anchored here.

They were very polite, even more so than the US Coast Guard. According to the commanding officer, my Spanish fluency helped the process go a little quicker than for some of the other boats. Basically they asked to see ship's papers, passports, and navigation equipment. They also snapped photos of the passports and our nav station. At the end, they asked us to fill out a "how did we do?" type of questionnaire. We gave them "muy buenos" across the board. The Mexican navy has a good reputation among the cruising community, and we're glad they're here.

The next morning, we decided to follow Slacker into the Barra Lagoon, 12 miles away.

On the way, we celebrated Vicki's birthday. That's a little groundhog sticking up out of the muffin alongside the candle.

Barra has ATMs and other "necessities", along with a laid-back ambience. For some reason we missed this stop last year. Mike and Julie from Slacker gave us a tour of he town. So far, the highlight for me is the French baker, who delivers croissants and other delightful pastries direct to the boats anchored in the lagoon. We couldn't decide what we wanted most, so we got a baguette, chocolate croissant, raisin danish, and an almond pastry!

We finished Vicki's birthday with a night on the town with the Slacker crew. We had drinks on the hotel rooftop, followed by pizza.