Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Searching for Paradise On The Way to La Cruz – May 1 – 22

The direct route from Marina Ixtapa to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (which readers of this blog know as one of our favorite places) is about 331 miles.  Our bay-hopping itinerary made it a longer but a much more enjoyable voyage.  The entire trip was spent travelling through territory we had visited before, but as we have learned in every journey there is the possibility of new experiences.  This trip we learned that there is more than one way to experience paraíso (paradise).

Marina Ixtapa to Bahía Santiago – May 1 to 6
That said, our first leg, a three-day trip to Bahía Santiago, was not paradisiacal.  We managed to eke out only 20 hours of sailing during the 47-hour trip (40%) because low night winds (several hours at 2 to 4 knots) and the combined high swells and moderate winds during the day required us to use the motor to make headway. 

We set anchor at Bahía Santiago late morning on May 3rd after two nights underway and found that the bay was no longer in the grip of the tourist frenzy that is Semana Santa.  But as the weekend dawned on Saturday, it was clear that the bay is also a popular short-break destination and that we were destined to be entertained once again by jet skis, banana rides and tour boats.  Bryce’s favorite tour boat encounter during this stay:  As the boat approached, blasting 80’s rock-n-roll, the guide announced over the loud speaker that the bay often hosted sailboats from all around the world, and that this boat (Abracadabra) was occupied by gringos. 
Aside:  Life can be interesting when you fly the US flag as publically as one does when sailing a US-registered vessel.  When Bryce was deciding whether to become a US citizen, Molly warned him that traveling on a US passport was different than traveling as a Canadian; that he would no longer benefit from the international assumption that, as a Canadian, he was polite, friendly and peace-loving.  But he took the oath anyway.  Now that is real patriotism – taking the bad with the good. 

The use of the occasional derogatory descriptive term aside, most Mexicans are very kind and polite to US citizens; sometimes because they actually like the US, and sometimes because Mexicans are generally polite to visitors.  During one of our trips to shore in Bahía Santiago two Mexican couples spending the day on the beach with their teenagers invited us to join them.  They wanted to hear about our trip to Mexico and to tell us how much they enjoyed their travels in the US.  They shared their beer with us and would have been happy to let us have one of their beach cocktails (a vile sounding mixture of cognac, mineral water and Coca Cola) had we not declined their offers.  We explained that we couldn’t drink much because we had to launch our dinghy into fairly substantial surf. 
We managed to restrict our intake to only two Coronitos (cute little 6 ounce sized Coronas) each, and to politely extract ourselves from the party.  We were ready to launch.  However, our two male hosts insisted on “helping us”.  Lesson learned:  It’s not enough that the dinghy crew remain sober; the launch crew must also be sober!  Our hosts were not annoyingly drunk by any means – but they weren’t in top dinghy launching form.  Fortunately, the only damage resulting from the Keystone Cops maneuver that got us off the beach was a thorough soaking of all parties.  Bryce managed to row through the surf before starting the engine (our new favorite departure technique – whatever happens in the surf happens without the engine prop spinning into someone), so we got back to Abracadabra with our groceries still in the boat and our hats and sunglasses on!

Bahía Santiago to Bahía Tenacatita – May 6 - 8
Not the perfect journey: an eight and a half hour trip with seven hours on the motor.  We turned in at Barra de Navidad to buy some fuel, worried that if these low winds kept up we might not make it to La Cruz with the fuel on board.

We anchored and enjoyed a quiet evening aboard.  Sadly, the next morning we awoke to find that  Abracadabra was surrounded by scary-looking red water.  We seemed to be experiencing what is often referred to as “red tide” but (according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website) is more accurately referred to as a “harmful algal bloom”.  NOAA’s website explains that not all algal blooms are harmful, but since we’re not equipped to tell the difference, and we just thought the red water looked a bit icky (our own highly scientific term) we decided to forego a trip to shore and depart the next day. 

Our only neighbor was an Armada Mexicana vessel,
Nice, Quiet Neighbors

so when we woke to see clear water the next morning, we were tempted to stay an enjoy Bahia Tenacatita in the low season.  But we decided to push on to a little bay to the north that we had always wanted to visit – Paraíso.  Who wouldn’t want to visit a place called “Paradise”? 

Bahía Tenacatita to Paraíso – May 8 – 10

Making up for our prior low wind adventures, the universe granted us a day of perfect sailing.  We turned the engine off as we left Bahía Tenacatita and we didn’t listen to the beast again until we arrived in Paraíso five hours later.  We had south-east winds of from 10 to 16 knots all day (warm, clear, beautiful, yada yada yada). 
And yes, we found Paraíso to be aptly named.  Every other time we had passed this tiny little bay it had been fully occupied.  This time it was occupied by Abracadabra – period.  Well, we shared the bay with some day kayakers from a nearby hotel and a few fishermen, but no other boat was anchored at Paraíso while we were there. 

Abracadabra in Paradise

We swam in the clear, coolish water (it’s all about getting in quickly) and explored the bay’s tiny inlets by dinghy. 
Dinghy Tour of the Bay

We peered into sea caves that were too scary to take our dinghy into.  We watched foam erupt from blow holes and understood how early sailors could believe that dragons live there. . .  We walked on the beach.  We watched beautiful sunsets.

Caption Not Required
We concluded that this was Paraíso. 
We didn’t want to leave, but after a week with only one meal on shore we were beginning to be tired of Molly’s cooking (or rather, Molly was getting really tired of Molly’s cooking . . . ).  Plus, our last sail had been so spectacular that we were encouraged to try it again.

Paraíso to Bahía Chamela – May 10 to 12
And again we won the sailing lottery.  After raising anchor we had a short (2 hours) but perfect down-wind sail to Bahía Chamela.  Dolphins playfully swam beside and under Abracadabra.  Ah yes – this too was paraíso.

We anchored off Pérula, the little town at the north end of Bahía Chamela.  We walked into town and purchased some produce and a couple of beers, visiting every little tienda in town to find the few items we wanted.  Pérula is a sleepy little place.
We had lunch at one of the beachside enramadas.  By April of last year we had become somewhat jaded about the menus at these little enramadas.  Much like dinners at a British pub, the frequent enramada visitor can close his or her eyes, guess what the menu will offer – and almost always avoid surprise.  There will be:
  • whole huachinango (red snapper) fixed five ways (frito – fried; ajo – garlic; mantequilla – butter; ajillo – garlic and chilies; empanado – breaded);
  • fillets of dorado (mahi mahi) fixed (usually, the same) five ways; and
  • medium-sized camarones (shrimp) fixed (usually, the same) five ways. 
Sometimes the menu will include pulpo (octopus) fixed (yes) five ways or one of the five ways will include Veracruzana (in the style of Vera Cruz – garlic, onions, tomatoes, olives).  But after several months on the Mexican coast there will be few surprises for the enramada diner.  The only difference between enramadas is the care taken by the cook. 

But interestingly, after an even longer time traveling the coast this year, we found that we enjoyed our filete dorado ajillo very much.  Perhaps the trick is to eat Molly’s Chicken and Vegetables in Trader Joe’s Bottled Mystery Asian Sauce over Rice two nights in a row before trying something “à la five ways” . . .

Bahía Chamela to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle – May 12 to May 13
From Bahía Chamela we motored directly into low winds and two meter (6 foot) plus swells.  Our perfect sail run was clearly over.  For three hours, we held on and listened to the motor as Abracadabra bucked up and down in the swell.  We kept telling each other not to become disheartened – that it wasn’t necessarily the case that we would have to motor the entire 101 miles to La Cruz. 

And so it came to pass.  Three hours out of Chamela the wind picked up and we put up the spinnaker.  The wind was a little low for the spinnaker, but it was going to be okay. 
And then it wasn’t. 

The swells were making it difficult to keep Abracadabra’s stern from crossing the wind – and at the very moment we took our eyes off the sail to eat some lunch (All Available Vegetables Pasta Salad) the spinnaker wrapped in a most bizarre fashion.  And then it wrapped around the furled jib. 

Because we couldn’t even figure out how the wrap had started, we decided the best approach was to finish lunch. 

After scooping up our pasta salad, and staring a long time at the mysterious wrap, we decided that the worst case scenario was that we would have to motor to La Cruz and hope that the spinnaker didn’t rip - again.  The best case scenario was that we would somehow manage to unwrap the wrap without ripping the sail.  So - we turned on the motor and slowly turned one way . . . but the wrap didn’t come undone.  We then slowly motored the other way . . . and again it didn’t come undone.  Then Bryce went forward to see if pulling on something would have any positive effect . . . and still it remained wrapped.  To assist Bryce in his undirected tugging attempt, Molly eased the spinnaker sheet and let the spinnaker fly a bit and . . . it started to unwrap!  Bryce just stood there and watched it unwind itself – sort of like watching a tangled rope untangle without assistance.  We’ll never be able to replicate our “fix”– but it worked.  We didn’t even take time to do the “happy spinnaker unwrapping dance” – but hastily furled the spinnaker and decided enough was enough – we’d use the jib in these fluky seas. 
The wind seemed to agree that it was time to put the spinnaker to bed because at about 16.00 the seas flattened and the wind increased and shifted to Abracadabra’s bow.  So we tacked, and tacked again and again – every couple of hours throughout the afternoon, evening and night as we rounded Cabo Corrientes (Cape Currents).  We managed to sail all but 8 hours of the entire 28 hour trip! 

Other than Bryce having to wake up twice during Molly’s night watch to help her tack the big jib the trip was very calm and enjoyable.  All of our encounters with cruise ships and container ships were distant sightings.  The seas were relatively flat and the winds, though from an inconvenient direction, were consistent.  When put into the context of rounding one of Mexico’s most problematic capes – and our past hair-raising encounters with mystery ships in the night -- it was a type of paraíso.

Time-Share Paradise – May 15 - 18
We tied up at the La Cruz marina and called our friends Bob and Kathy Romano who were vacationing in Puerto Vallarta.  We were looking forward to joining them for dinner in the big city, and having them visit us in La Cruz.  However, they reported that they had just completed negotiating an upgrade to their time-share arrangement and had been given three days in a two-bedroom suite with an all-inclusive food and drink plan for four.  Now that’s friendship!

We decided this was a sign that the sea gods had sent us the Romanos and their negotiating skills as a reward for all our good sailing.  So we sent our clothes to the laundry, cleaned up Abracadabra, arranged for a diver to clean off the gunk that had accumulated on her hull in Bahía Zihuatanejo, and took a cab to PV to join our (really, really, really good) friends for three days of all-inclusive air-conditioned relaxation.  And because we’re just that kind of friends, we made sure that they got good value for their negotiations: we ate and drank and napped by the pool for three days.  Ah, yes – yet another way to experience paraíso. 
Bob and Kathy, Hard At Work

We also had two wonderful meals in old-town PV.  If you are visiting the area make sure you spend an afternoon enjoying the view, the tapas and the wine at Tapas Barcelona, and an evening enjoying the nuevo Mexicana cocina at No Way Jose! (don’t be put off by the name – the waiters don’t require you to drink tequila shooters and wear a sombrero – it’s a very good restaurant). 

To Date
Because we couldn’t figure out a way to stay at the time-share without Bob and Kathy’s sponsorship, when they left to go home to Spokane we returned to Abracadabra.  We’re doing boat jobs and planning and preparing for the last leg of our trip north – a 400-mile trip into and across the Gulfo de California (Sea of Cortez). 

But even a working-at-the-dock stay can be fun.  Last weekend a national kite-surfing race was held in Banderas Bay, filling the air with brightly colored kites that looked like a swarm of butterflies. 
Kite Surfers - Banderas Bay

But like sailors everywhere we were most entertained by studying one racer’s attempt to recover his downed kite – rooting for him to overcome the obstacles of current and waves, and cheering on another racer that gave up his race position to assist his compadre.  Neither kite-surfing nor sailing is a solitary activity.

We have looked at weather reports and prepared four days’ worth of underway meals.  We have told the Capitan de Puerto that we are leaving.  One more trip to a tienda to purchase bananas and tomatoes and we’re on our way tomorrow morning.  We’ll report in on that trip once we arrive!  Who knows – maybe we’ll find another bit of paraíso along the way?

1 comment:

  1. Much of it does sound like paradise! And it looks so warm! Is your Spanish must be improving? Enjoy the huachinango. I wonder if any chefs would be open to trying something different if you asked for it... coconut fish or fish with mango sauce or something? Have a great next leg of your journey!