Saturday, February 11, 2012

La Cruz to Bahia Chamela (via Yelapa) -- February 4 – February 10

Departing Marina Nayarit:  Our departure from Marina Riviera Nayarit at La Cruz was a low-key adventure -- basically we motored about a mile to the anchorage immediately outside of the marina and dropped the hook.  Our planned departure and trip to Yelapa was delayed for the best of reasons – we were hanging out with friends!  Saturday morning, we got up early (for us), joined our yoga group for a good stretch and to say goodbye, and showered (knowing that we were going to be on the hook for several days, and how much we would miss a good land shower!).  On our way out of the “La Cruz Yacht Club” (the place of land showers) we ran into a fellow boater that we hadn’t seen since Mazatlan – Ted from Tarry-A-Bit.  He and his mate Maureen had arrived the day before, and were traveling with other friends, Lynn and Debbie from Dolphin Tales and Tom and Pam from Kewao.  Kewao was at anchor, but Tarry-A-Bit and Dolphin Tales were in the marina. 

We joined the Tarry-A-Bit and Dolphin Tales crews for coffee and cookies and chatted the morning away.  But, rather than stay another night at the marina, we got our friend Tom from Camelot to help us slip off the dock and headed to the anchorage, where we anchored next to Kewao.  Saturday night was spent with Tom and Pam at Restaurant Huanacaxtle, listening to a very good group playing an eclectic mix of Latin American music (including from Southern California, which most musicians in Mexico think of as part of Latin America).

Yelapa:  Sunday morning, we forwent the pleasure of the La Cruz farmers’ market, and sailed to Yelapa, some 20 miles across Banderas Bay.  The winds were light and we were towing our dinghy, so it wasn’t until 17:30 that we tied up to a mooring ball.  Yelapa is in a very deep (very – 100 feet in some places!) cove that is known for being susceptible to swells, so most boats use the locally owned mooring balls rather than attempt to anchor.  Also, the locals have preempted anchoring in most places by setting out mooring balls!  We were directed to a mooring ball, and assisted in our tie-up by Romeo (yes, that is his name).

We had been warned that Yelapa cove was subject to swells due to its depth and sea aspect (a “rolly” anchorage), and that most boaters visit Yelapa as a day trip.  “Ha!” we thought.  We aren’t afraid of no stinking rolly anchorage.  This turned out to be not only a case of eating our words – but eating words we almost regurgitated!  Yelapa is beyond “rolly”.  It was so rolly that Molly couldn’t stay below long enough to make a real dinner.  Thank goodness we had a package of freeze-dried soup our friends Rick and Corinne had brought with them to add to our HaHa provisions.  Boiling water was as close as we could get to cooking. 

Then about 20:00 (shortly after dark – of course) we realized that not only were we swinging wildly, so was the water taxi tied up next to us.  So wildly, and so differently than our much larger boat, that we were bow to bow with the water taxi.  Afraid not only of what the water taxi would do to our bow, but what our anchor would do to the water taxi, we decided to move to another mooring ball.  Off we went, waddling through the swell, to another mooring ball (this time without Frank Chan to assist us – see prior posting re: the unauthorized mooring in Morro Bay, California).  Bryce’s long arms achieved mooring success, and we tied up next to a catamaran. We nervously slept/watched to make sure we were swinging in a way that wasn’t dangerous to ourselves or the catamaran until the cat departed around midnight.  It’s common for boats to want to round Cabo Corrientes at night – the theory is that the water is calmer around the cape at night. 

The next morning we discussed whether we could stay another night in order to see the town.  We wanted to visit Yelapa because it is a communally owned village, accessible only by foot, horses and sea, and the site of some reportedly beautiful waterfalls. 

We decided to tough out a second night, and take the water taxi to shore to spend the day exploring the town.  That’s when we learned that, though our first mooring ball had been rented to us by Romeo, we had moved to a mooring ball serviced by someone else.  After much drama, we paid the tender of the mooring ball for the night, and explained our plan to stay a second night.  We won’t go into the painful attempts to get reimbursement from Romeo.  In short, it appears that the concept of “warranty of fitness for the intended purpose” is not honored in Yelapa.  Caveat emptor is the overriding rule of law.    

Setting aside our grumpiness at Romeo, we went to the closest of the reportedly beautiful waterfalls.  Unfortunately, at this waterfall, we were not alone – we arrived shortly after a group of tourists on a day trip from Puerto Vallarta (they apparently were from “Boat Number One” according to the calls that rang out to heard them back to the departure pier).  We bought a refresco and set and watched them take pictures of each other and fight over who got which towel.  One of those moments when not having children seemed like a good thing.

Fortunately, however, we ran into a gringo artist who, after he realized we weren’t really interested in having a picture of ourselves drawn by him, told us about a couple of interesting restaurants in the area.  One was on the way to the much further away (and hopefully, less touristified) waterfall, so we set out along the river path.  This led us through a portion of the little town, on a cobblestone path passing tiendas offering the type of wares that are sold at tiendas in small towns (bananas, chiles, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc) as well as those unique to tourist Mexico (t-shirts, hats, beach toys). 

We also passed funky little “hotels” offering three walls, a roof and a hammock.  As we got further, the cobblestone path became a dirt path, which we shared with the local commercial traffic: horses and mules burdened with construction supplies. 

We spent the next 45 minutes looking at the little homes set back from the path – many of which were surrounded by gorgeous flower gardens – and picking our way around horse and mule scat.  Bryce’s theory is that mules are programmed to do what they need to do while working, and heading uphill.  Our unscientific survey of the hills around Yepala would suggest this theory has some merit. 

We stopped to dine at Christina’s Riverside Café.  Fortunately it is open Thursday through Monday.  We followed the neatly written instructions on the fence, and pulled a line that rang a bell further down the hill.  We were told to “come on in” and we took the path, again, through beautiful flower gardens, to the one room building that serves both as the kitchen for the café, and, apparently, the rest of Christina’s home.  We saw a bed tucked neatly behind some curtains, two pretty wooden chairs and a rug, a table with a radio on it, and a bookshelf with books wrapped in plastic against the elements and local bugs.  Christina has lived in Yelapa since 1979.  We don’t know the rest of her story – but we’re sure it’s an interesting one that has brought her to this tiny home by the Rio El Tuito. 

The dining room of the café is outside the kitchen door and down the hill, on a beach next to the river.  We spent the next hour or more watching birds and waiting for our lunch – with increasing foreboding.  But when lunch arrived (sometime around 15.00) it proved worth the wait – Christina served the best falafel and hummus we have ever had, some very good spiced lentils with rice, and a fabulous chocolate brownie dessert!  The meal was a true treat. 

The other “treat” at Christina’s Riverside Café is the restroom.  Other café patrons had suggested that we “not to miss the restroom”.  Bryce was the first to follow their interesting recommendation.  When he returned, he reported that everything functioned just fine – as long as one didn’t lose one’s grip.  Hmmm.  Molly took her trip, and found that the restroom was nestled into the side of a huge tree, and entry required a climb over the roots of the giant, old tree.  Upon arrival, one finds a fully functioning toilet and sink – plastic pipes heading off into the ground to the far side of the tree.  So – not only a delicious meal, but a unique restaurant experience.

Unfortunately, by the time we’d finished our meal, it was too late to hike to the waterfall and back to the water taxi before dark, so we returned to town, using a path on the other side of the river than we’d used on our way out of town.  This took us by a true Mexican cowboy bar – horses tied up outside, saddles hanging from the rafters of one three-sided building, and the riders drinking happily in the second open building.  Music blared from next door (apparently the bar itself had no electricity) – through speakers of a size not seen in California since the 1970’s. 

We took a water taxi back to the boat and spent another miserable night.  Thanks to the lateness of our meal at Christina’s we didn’t need much for dinner, so we popped some Jiffy Pop and drank a beer and went to bed (lying down is the only way to handle that kind of turbulence).  Worse yet, Molly was not able to follow her usual practice of making a meal for us to eat underway.  For those that are interested she has posted her recipe for “Double Reef Pasta” on the Cruisers’ Notes page. 

The next morning we took off relatively early – not wanting to spend any more time rolling around Yelapa cove.  We have decided that we like Yelapa very much – but next time we’ll come over via Boat Number One or some similar form of water taxi, and stay in one of the shacks on the beach.  We admit that we were defeated by Yelapa cove!

Chamela:  From Yelapa we sailed about 26 hours (about 91 miles) to reach Bahia Chamela.  Leaving Banderas Bay we sighted two whales about 500 feet off our port bow, and later saw the blows that represented two others, and the tail of a small whale about 30 feet off our stern; an excellent whale-watching day.  Our rounding of Cabo Corrientes was uneventful, but the winds began to build around 16.30 and by 18.00 the winds were averaging 23 knots with gusts as high as 36, and we had both sails double reefed.  The winds were high until about 21.00, and were brisk until 01.00.  The moon was full, so the night was beautiful once the seas flattened out around 01.00 when we sailed with about 11 knots of wind though a night that looked like an artsy black and white photograph.

When we arrived at Bahia Chamela on Wednesday morning, we were greeted by dolphins playing around our bow, light winds and sun.  It was an auspicious arrival. 

We anchored, and were promptly invited to join some boaters for sundowners that evening on the catamaran, Damiana. 

The crew of a beautiful Cal 43, Cricket, Pat and Lynn, joined us and the crew of Damiana, Roy and Marlene.  It was fun to get to know more people that have been cruising in Mexico (and in the case of Damiana, beyond) for a long time, and to gain from their experience. 

Yesterday, the skies opened up and we have begun to wonder where our beautiful sunny Mexico has gone!  It’s been pouring down rain for two days.  Yesterday we braved the weather and visited Damiana where Roy and Marlene taught us the basics of an important Mexico cruiser survival skill: Mexican Train Dominoes.  Fortunately no money was on the table.  Bryce was the overall low point score – but Molly’s score was high enough to more than offset his win.  Today we have been doing boat projects.  Bryce looked for and, thinks he has found the source of a small diesel leak.  Molly has been cooking cold weather food like oatmeal and macaroni and cheese.  We’ve both been blogging (using wifi from a local hotel that we can pick up when Abracadabra swings in just the right direction . . .). 
Tomorrow?  We’re just hoping for some sun as we’re beginning to be bored by our provisions.  While it’s true that people eat everywhere, and that one can provision from local stores even in very small towns in Mexico – sometimes getting to town is more work than it’s worth.  Landing a dinghy on a beach invariably means that we get wet (bum, pants legs for the shorter of us, etc.)  which is not a big deal if the next step is to buy a refresco at a beach palapa and dry off.  But without the prospect of being able to dry off – we’re now foraging through our canned food products for dinner.  Thanks again for the Costco canned chicken idea, Frank! 



  1. Hi there and Happy New Year! I had a chance to update the map today. I even found the places you stayed at during your Mountain Sojourn. On my home front, my 2 year old has taken to asking me if I'd like a glass of wine when I get home or pick him up in the evening from the grandparents (what am I teaching him!).

  2. So glad the dried soup was useful! And, after reading the double reef pasta recipe, I'm not certain I'll ever want to try it, but will definitely keep it in mind. Enjoying your posts....... loved reading about your vacation to Guanajuato! As if the rest of your trip is work;) But, I know what you meant.
    love, Corinne & Rick