Monday, December 12, 2005

Snorkeling in the bay

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Las Hadas hotel pool

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Las Hadas marina. Manzinillo

The Las Hadas hotel marina. My first experience in "Med-mooring" where you drop an anchor and then back in perpendicular to the dock tie up the stern and then tension the bow anchor to keep the stern from hitting the dock. Posted by Picasa

Wing on wing to Tenacatita

We are now in Bahia Tenacatita about 35 miles North of Manzanillo this 55 mile section of the Mexican mainland is called the "Gold Coast" and is rightfully named. Swaying coconut palms line white sand beaches as crystalline water sparkles in the sun. In some anchorages you can enjoy the shade of one of the few beach front palapa restaurants and watch your boat swing at anchor. Or if you choose you can also anchor in secluded coves with no sight of civilization.

Two days ago we went on a 3 mile jungle river tour in the dingy. This one was much more jungle like than our previous experience in San Blas. The river is much smaller with a dense foliage canopy creating a low and narrow tunnel through the mangroves and flowering vines. Tendrils of aerial roots dangle like thick ropes from the canopy overhead making one wonder if snakes might drop out from above at any moment. Many small side channels are short loops or dead ends so there was no concern for getting lost as long as you don't linger until night fall. When I say narrow we are talking 8' wide in places with low headroom requiring one to duck down at times. We had some excitement on two occasions having met Mexican Pangas on blind corners and narrowly avoiding collisions as we squeezed by.

Yesterday we went snorkeling at "the Aquarium" thus named for its amazingly clear water. It was my first experience snorkeling on a live coral reef and quite fascinating with a collection of fish that made me wonder if I could install an aquarium onboard and collect my own fish.

We had one good adventure on the way to the reef as we required an anchor to secure the dingy while we snorkeled in open water over the reef. Having no suitably sized anchor for the dingy we stopped by an adjacent beach to pick up a good anchor rock. The surf was pretty big and a beach landing was not feasible. Never mind, as Casey spontaneously dove out of the boat to swim in to shore to find a “rock” anchor. I commended his intentions but, wondered how he was going to swim back through the surf with a suitable rock in hand. I killed the time riding some of the bigger waves in the dingy and when he started wading out with the anchor I positioned the boat as close as I dared in-between sets of waves successfully picking up the rock and crew. Unfortunately, it took a little longer than anticipated to pick up the crew and anchor and I could see we were “committed” as a big swell was looming and we were too close to shore. I heartily encouraged Casey to hurry up and get in but we were a few seconds too late. I gunned the engine and we raced toward the oncoming swell. Too late. I thought we might flip end for end as the curling breaker lifted the boat nearly vertical enveloping us with white water. Somehow we ended up upright albeit totally swamped with a stalled engine. As you may know, waves come in sets and we anxiously restarted the engine and plowed the swamped dingy safely outside the breaking waves. In mealy we of course lost the baling bucket but, luckily none of our snorkel gear. Improvising we bailing the 10’s of gallons of water with our snorkeling swim fins.

Having returned to La Vie we were hanging out on deck when a small pod of dolphins enter the bay and approached the anchorage. On Casey’s prompt we quickly grabbed our snorkel gear, jumped in the dingy and raced out to “swim with the dolphins”. Have carefully positioned the dingy in the anticipated path of the dolphins we quietly slipped into the water. I must admit I entered the water with much trepidation thinking back to the videos I’d seen of dolphins attacking and killing large sharks by ramming them at high speed. These particular dolphins were busy feeding and thus not interested in our distraction and did not willingly approach us. We did however manage to get within about 10' on one occasion and all things considered it was pretty amazing.

The bay we are in now is really nice and calm with just the slightest hint of a swell causing only a few degrees of roll and excellent wind protection. I mention this as most of the anchorages thus far on the trip from Seattle generally have refracted swell. This makes for lots of rocking and rolling and occasional waves slapping the hull quite loudly. Usually, the loudest slaps on the hull occur in the middle of the night rousting one from slumber with a jolt of adrenaline. I'm always keen to alleviate my concerns for the safety of the boat once awakened and make my way on deck to investigate the source of the sound. It's unusual if I don't get up at least once in the night to take a look around and frequently do so more than once. My concerns include wind shifts that could cause the "set" anchor to "unset" and drag and the position of neighboring yachts that could also be dragging anchor potentially putting us both on the beach.

Christmas is a huge deal in Mexico and the nationals are already starting to take their Christmas vacations from the many large inland cities such as Guadalajara (7 million) thus many of the normally desolate beach towns are starting to get a bit livelier with the influx of vacationers. Celebrations start in earnest on December 16th which is Guadalupe’s Virgin Day. Posted by Picasa

Tenacatita Palapa resturants

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Soccer on the beach

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Hermit Crab

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dismasted 120' Cat

We spotted this dismasted cat and changed course to investigate. Two crew were visible in the aft cockpit and they were powering along under no duress. Further research has shown it to be Steve Fosset’s entry in Oryx Quest 2005, Cheyenne, which was dismasted in heavy seas off the east coast of Argentina. Apparently, they we in the process of delivering the boat back to the US. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sea turtle 2

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Sea turtle

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Anchored off the beach of Chalapa

We were so close to the beach we swam ashore in lieu of using the dingy. Generally, anchoring this close to shore is highly undesirable in the event that the anchor drags but in this particular anchorage the water gets very deep very quickly. We dropped the anchor in 100' backed down the boat toward the beach and were in 12' by the time the anchor set. We also set a stern anchor on the beach to hold us into the swell as this anchorage has no protection from the prevailing NW winds and swell. We were lucky enough to visit during a period of settled weather and seas allowing two nights anchorage before the weather deteriorated. I did not sleep well hearing the waves crash on the beach all night long! Posted by Picasa


Puerto Vallarta has been a blast. I've been hanging out with a great group mostly comprised of Baja Ha Ha crew from other boats some local Americans working in Mexico and the staff of sailing instructors from J-World sailing school. A Thanksgiving dinner party was hosted by a now retired Yahoo Dot comer whom renter a really nice Condo on the Malacan (water front strip in the old part of PV). The food was great as was the company. In preparation for Thanksgiving the hostess asked Casey and I to find some Camarones (shrimp), sugar and coffee so we got on a bus and when it took an unfamiliar turn we decided to stay on the bus to see where it went. It turned out to be an all day adventure as the bus passed through several towns and then climbed into the mountains. Finally we were the only passengers left on the bus and the driver asked where we were going and we said to where ever the bus was going and then back. We bumped and crawled over roads that I was repeatedly amazed the bus could negotiate. Communication with the driver was a bit tough but we had plenty of time to talk as we were now in the middle of nowhere. We learned that he has two daughters 13 and 15 going to school in Minnesota so driving the bus must not be too bad of a job. Finally, we saw several other buses parked next to a shack and our bus parked as well and shut off the engine. We joined the bus driver for some refreshing mango lemonade and chatted with the other bus drivers telling them of our adventure of getting on the wrong bus. We figured that it was now approaching siesta hour and we would be stuck taking a nap with the bus drivers. However, one driver seeming took pity on our situation and guided us to his bus for the ride back to the city. On the way down we got off the bus at one of the intermediary cities when we say a market with camarones and quickly competed our shopping and then jumped a bus back to the condo to drop off the camarones for the hostess. The bus adventure was a great opportunity to see the "real" mexican county side and made for a memorable Thanksgiving day.

Casey and I decided we were ready to head out and do some exploring having seen the sights of the city. We headed out of Marina Vallarata and put up the sails for a cruise down the resort beach before tacking north to the anchorage of La Cruz de Haunacaxte pronounced "wan-nah-KAHSH-lay" which is the cruiser anchorage for those not wanting to stay in the expensive marinas of PV. The next morning we headed north sailing all day until we were at a point where we weren't going to make our next anchorage before dark so we motored sailed and still approached Jaltemba a little late. The charts as previously noted on the blog are not useful for making landfalls so we made a pure radar approach navigating around a point and then between a 30' tall rock and a small island and a few anchored shrimp boats before taking anchorage behind the island in complete darkness. We were happy to be safely anchored and enjoyed a fairly calm anchorage and slept well. I upgraded my anchor gear in San Diego and it is masivley oversized for my boat so I always sleep well with no concerns with dragging anchor in the night.
The next morning we continued north in light winds to San Blas and anchored in Matanchen Bay with three other cruising boats. Before long everyone had joined us aboard La Vie to share local knowledge of the area as well as much story telling of our adventures thus far. One of the boats "Kamakazi" from Bellingham later in the evening invited us over as we had met previously met in San Diego and as it turned out the crew was mutinying and looking for a new boat. This made for some drama and we steered clear of there problems by excusing ourselves and dingying back to La Vie.. The crew was seen being taken to the beach the beach the next morning and we heard they ended up hitching a ride with some trucker to the next port to try to find a new boat. There was no way these two were getting a ride on my boat!

The city of San Blas was founded in 1535 by the Spanish with an amazing fort "Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario" with its bell tower immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's final poem "The bells of San Blas" in 1882. It was here in San Blas that the Spaniards built vessels used for the exploration of the western coast of North America (including Puget sound??). The infamous pirate Cliperton was captured and hanged at Matanchen Bay adding to the mystique. The San Blas harbor is a river estuary and features 7 miles of Jungle river navigable by dingy. The Jungle dingy ride was undertaken with expediency and proved to be a great adventure however, we were disappointed to not have seen some of the more elusive creatures such as the Black Panther, wild boars or crocodiles. We did however see an amazing number of birds and made two stops on shore to see what else lurked in the jungle. Getting on to shore required wading in some amazingly deep and slimy mud followed by careful navigation of all sorts of fauna many of which were thorny resulting in numerous scratches and many interesting insect bites including several ticks that were immediately extracted upon getting back in the dingy. Casey also climbed a palm tree to retrieve a fresh coconut. After the dingy tour we enjoyed a fabulous dinner of Camarones ala mexicana.

Today we are heading back to PV to provision and then head south of PV. Heading further north from San Blas this time of year usually requires strong headwinds and much cooler waters so I probably won't be north of PV again until early March when the weather warms up again.  Posted by Picasa

PV beach

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Temporary tattoo

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Poorly charted islands

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More friends

Karen, Morgan and Lana. Posted by Picasa