Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bahia Tenacatita to Gringolandia – February 18 – 21

Our friends (and former crew members) Frank Chan and Irene deBruijn Chan married during a wonderful four-day wedding celebration extravaganza last September, but for a number of reasons delayed their honeymoon.  When they told us they were going to visit a resort in Nuevo Vallarta in February for their belated honeymoon, we were thrilled.  Of course, we realized they would want to spend part of their honeymoon with us -- really, who wouldn’t?  So, on Saturday the 18th, we departed Bahia Tenacatita for the three day, 124-mile trip north to Banderas Bay in order to join them. 

Tenacatita to Chamela
The first day we travelled 26 miles from Bahia Tenacatita to Bahia Chamela.  Our trip began with Bryce raising the anchor at 09.30.  As some of you may remember, we have a manual windlass, so the process of raising our anchor is quite an exercise in exercise.  It involves pulling 110 feet of anchor chain with a 33 pound anchor attached from 30-ish feet below the boat.  No weight loss program required for Bryce unless we pay for an electric windlass! 

This day was a bit of a slog.  First we motored because there was no wind, and once the winds came up around 11.00 we motored because we were heading into the wind and 6-foot swell.  That said, motoring does have its advantages.  For example, it gave us time to play with our camera and realize, after having owned it for several years, that it has a video feature!  Of course now that we have video on our camera, we don't have the bandwidth to download it to this blog.  One step at a time . . .  
We sailed a bit mid-day when the swells dropped to a manageable size.  Sea life sightings included (a) an “elevator whale” sighting: a whale raised up and then down again about 40 feet off our starboard side, and (b) a sea turtle that gave Bryce an extremely annoyed look as we passed (though perhaps sea turtles always look a bit annoyed - ?).  And the trip was not without its cultural highlights – we passed the Copa del Sol, a huge sculpture at the end of Punta Farallon – a point north of Bahia Tenacatita.  We have no idea who decided to build this huge thing at the end of this point – or why -- but it’s really amazing to see from the ocean.

Copa del Sol
We anchored in Bahia Chamela around 16.00, cleaned up a bit, threw together something for dinner and went to sleep. 

Chamela to Cabo Corrientes
The next morning, we lazed around, delaying our departure in order to time our rounding of Cabo Corrientes in the early morning when, theoretically, the winds would be lowest.  Calculating how long it should take to sail/motor a long distance such as the approximately 50 miles from the anchorage at Bahia Chamela to Cabo Corrientes is still an inexact science for us.  It involves trying to figure out where the winds and ocean swell are likely to come from and how strong they are likely to be (they are not the same and are frequently not coordinated), how far from shore we will have to tack to sail – if we sail – given those winds and ocean swell, and what sort of current boost, if any, we may get, depending on which direction we sail/motor.  And, of course there are always “unforeseen circumstances” – which we encountered on this trip (more to come).  When we left Bahia Chamela we slogged north-westward toward Corrientes into northwest winds and 7-foot swells. 

Dolphin Extravaganza
It wasn’t much fun until nature decided to give us the most spectacular dolphin show we have seen to date.  For an hour – from 16.05 to 17.05 -- we were passed by hundreds of dolphins.  At times we were surrounded by 50 or more dolphins leaping and diving, racing toward some goal we couldn’t identify at speeds that made our 5-knot speed look puny.  Just as we would think the show was slowing, one of us would point out another group of the beautiful creatures coming up behind.  There were big, mottled adults swimming gracefully, and small, shiny young dolphins throwing their entire bodies into the air.  Groups of up to seven dolphins leapt in synchronized aerial display.  And of course pictures of this fabulous event – which took place during an overcast part of the day – look a lot like grey specks on a grey ocean.  A few of the shots we took give you a very tiny idea of what we saw: 

Who Are Those Guys?
The next bit of excitement didn’t take place until we were rounding Cabo Corrientes at about 01.00 – in the pitch dark, to state the obvious.  To our port side, a very brightly lit boat, towing a very brightly lit object about 100 feet behind it, appeared to also be approaching the Cape with the intention of rounding.  Bryce was on watch, and decided to give the boat, which he first took to be a fishing boat towing some sort of net, a wide berth.  He maneuvered Abracadabra away from the shore to the outside of the “fishing boat”.  Abracadabra and the “fishing boat” paralleled each other for about 45 minutes.  When Molly came on watch at nearly 02.00 the “fishing boat” began to flash a search light that reached for miles - the largest search light we have seen on a boat – sweeping over us and at times almost blinding us in the otherwise dark night.  Bryce did not go off watch, as he was concerned about the “fishing boat’s” intentions. 

As we were watching the “fishing boat”, we saw another boat rushing up behind us from the dark.  It was relatively small – the size of a cabin cruiser – and very fast.  It had extremely bright navigation lights and a spot light that it was shining on our stern.  Despite being able to see our navigation lights and/or seeing us with its spotlight, it kept coming towards us until it was within a quarter mile of our stern -- way too close for our comfort.  Then it just stayed there, trailing us.  We watched it approach, asking each other:  What the @*^# do you think that is?  Why is it coming up so fast? Where did it come from?  The “fishing boat” locked its spotlight on the second boat’s position, and on Abracadabra.  After the spotlight stayed on both vessels for some time, the boat on our stern abruptly turned around, as though its job (identifying our position?) was done – and just left.  As quickly as the drama began, it ended about two hours later when the “fishing boat” flashed its spotlight on us, turned away from us, dragging whatever the brightly-lit object behind it was, and headed back south.  All of this was in complete radio silence. 
Because all of this was done in the dark, we never saw the boats themselves – only shapes of them.  But after dancing with them for some time, we became convinced they were not searching for fish, and they were working together.  Whether they were engaged in a military or police training or survey exercise or an actual drug interdiction action (unlikely, given the spotlights - ?) we will never know. 

We never truly considered ourselves in danger from these vessels once we realized they could see us and were not going to run into us.  We reasoned that smugglers would not likely use such bright lights or want to steal a slow, older sailboat for their use.  And, if these boats were military or police vessels, a search of Abracadabra would not produce any contraband (well, at one point we had illegally imported salami – but that got eaten some time ago; even the smell of it is long gone).  We even have fishing licenses!  But we were rattled by all of the bright lights and high speed tactics. 
We later talked to the crew of another boat that went around Cabo Corrientes that same night and they experienced the same thing, with the added excitement of a Miami-vice type speedboat that joined into the dance.  So, whatever was going on was larger than Abracadabra’s passage. 

Somewhat rattled after all of these bright lights and the speeding boat on our tail, we pressed on.  Around 05.00 we were passed by a brightly lit cruise ship – a Norwegian American Line ship if you follow cruise lines (Toby).  It was first a bright spot on the horizon, then a looming hotel-on-its-side passing us at 15 knots, then gone, on to Puerto Vallarta to dock before brunch.
Spring Tide

We do not travel as quickly as a cruise ship, so we weren’t within radio hailing distance of our intended destination, Paradise Village Marina, until about 14.00.  And, tired and a bit rattled, we were told that due to a spring tide (essentially the lowest of low tides), there wasn’t enough clearance for us to enter the marina!  We turned toward our former “home” at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, about six miles west.  The marina there gave us a spot for the night.  We tied up to Dock 4 (our prior home in La Cruz), showered, drank a beer, went out for dinner . . . and slept soundly.
To Gringolandia!

The next day we left La Cruz after yoga and sailed to Nuevo Vallarta, arriving at Paradise Village in the afternoon – stepping off our boat into what a wit at a Nuevo Vallarta chandelry called: Gringolandia.

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