Monday, February 20, 2012

A little rain in Tenacatita

By Nicole

I checked the log book.  For the first time since August 1, 2011, it rained on us while we were at anchor.  Sure we had plenty of fog going down the coast, and we got drenched on our overnight passage from Cabo to Playa Bonanza.  But up to that point, our time at anchor in Mexico had been amazingly dry.

And you know what? It made me a bit nostalgic for the months we spent cruising around Vancouver Island.  The solitude.  The lush beauty.  The smell of the cedar.  The sound of rain falling on the coachroof.

But then I got over it and went snorkeling in 77 degree water.

On our way to pick up Erlin for a little snorkeling in the rain.  Aaron, Steve and Jenn opted to read in cozy, dry comfort.

With all the fresh water coming down, Bella Star got a shower, and we managed to collect probably 15 gallons of water without really trying.  Score.

But it didn’t rain forever, and once the blue skies returned, we got a dinghy flotilla together and explored the mangrove-fringed estuary just off the main anchorage in Tenacatita.  Supposedly there are crocodiles here – and we did see some big guys at a preserve in a nearby town the previous day – but they were either hiding or were well camouflaged.  Which was a bummer for everyone except Erlin (who has a fear of healthy respect for crocodiles).

Dinghy flotilla

P2120436 Molly, Ben, Mickey and J.P. of Jace (Mickey and J.P. have their own [awesome] blog… check out 2 Little Doolittles Cruising)

Steve and Zack of Panache

Four scurvy sailors

While we didn’t see any crocodiles, we did see lots of Snowy Egrets and Yellow-Crowned Night Herons. And a load of red mangrove crabs.  Mickey saw a sea snake, and a couple large butterflies flitted overhead, but overall it was a fairly critterless trek. Meandering lazily through the mangroves was a relaxing way to kill a few hours, though.

Mangrove trees line the banks of the estuary

P2120461A Yellow-Crowned Night Heron sat ever-so-quietly

The channel narrowed and the trees closed in

Winding through a mangrove tunnel

Tenacatita was a lovely and quiet stop, full of snorkeling, beach walking and the estuary trek.  The small village of La Manzanilla, great for provisioning and enjoying a flame-grilled burger,was only a water taxi (or road taxi) ride away.  But after four days, we were ready to move on… next stop, Barra de Navidad!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beach bums and bonfires

By  Nicole

Our overnight stop at Isla Cocinas in Bahia Chamela was one of my favorites so far.  The anchorage was surrounded by rocky, cactus studded islands; a secluded, sandy beach; the vast Pacific Ocean and the tropical Mexican mainland.  Dozens of pelicans, boobies and Frigatebirds flocked overhead, and the water was a respectable 77 degrees.  It was a gorgeous spot, and we all jumped at the chance to spend the day being beach bums (very active beach bums).

We played Smashball.  We swam.  We snorkeled.  We saw a pelican rookery.  We had hermit crab races.  We ate a delicious potluck, picnic style.  We lit a raging bonfire.  We made S’mores.  We swam again under the full moon.  It was a good day.

The sublime little beach on Isla Cocinas



The ladies relaxing in the shade après-swim

Bahia Chamela is one of the primary  Brown Pelican rookeries on the Mexican coast.  Zack got some fantastic shots of the fuzzy pelican chicks by climbing a tree to see down into their nest; I just snapped a quick picture through the brambles…

Cactus, bushes and scrubby trees cover Isla Cocinas and make perfect nesting grounds for pelicans

One of those aforementioned Brown Pelicans

The rockstar photographer in his element (taking a [much better] picture of the very same pelican seen above)

We hadn’t really planned on having a bonfire, but when life gives you a beach full of driftwood and a full moon, it would be wrong not to, right?  So after zipping back out to the boats to whip up an impromptu picnic potluck dinner (which, for the record, was amazing and included Panache’s fresh I-just-killed-these-fish-with-my-spear-gun-like-10-minutes- ago ceviche), the fire building commenced.

P2080382 C’mon, Steve, light our fire

P2080390 Aaron is a master fire builder!  He and Steve even scrounged the bricks to make a fire pit.  Pro.

While waiting for the sun to go down, we watched as pelicans returned to their nests to feed hungry (and noisy!) chicks.  We also took turns shooting cans with Zack’s slingshot.  Apparently I use a slingshot like a lefty.  Maybe that explains my distinct lack of talent.

P2080384 Jenn showing off her best slingshot form

Frigatebirds circle high in the evening sky

Darkness finally arrived and bonfiring began…

P2080398 Coming back to a nice, hot fire after taking a midnight, moonlit swim was heavenly.  Until my towel somehow ended up in the fire.  Ahem.  (Don’t worry… it was rescued.)

P2080400 As boys like to do, they kept the fire raging all night long

P2080403We were en fuego, to be sure

Dinghying back to the boats with phosphorescent trails blazing put a cap on an awesome day.

P2080407My view of Ventured and Panache the next morning, as I sipped my coffee in the cockpit

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A day at the beach in Bahia Chamela

By Nicole

With our last overnight passage behind us for awhile, the crew decided it was time to have some fun.  And what better way to spend a day than playing on the miles-long golden sand beach at Bahia Chamela.

It was a perfect day of:

  • boogie boarding
  • body surfing
  • bocce playing
  • kite flying
  • book reading
  • sun lounging
  • dilapidated resort exploring and
  • beach hiking

The shores of beautiful Bahia Chamela

The crew taking a romantic stroll

A mile or so down the beach, we found a resort that had been dynamited twice (without much success).  Aaron poses by what’s left of the pool.

While Erlin, Zack and Steve climbed around the crumbling concrete building, Jenn and I took a little break in the shade.

Time for some beach bocce!

Aaron’s turn… what form!

Zack gets set for one of his power lobs

Hey, guys.  Go fly a kite.

Like Erlin said, I sure hope we can recover from our day at the beach enough to spend tomorrow snorkeling!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Escape to Yelapa

By Nicole

As we hauled the anchor and got underway for Yelapa, I actually felt a little sick inside watching the La Cruz de Huanacaxtle anchorage grow smaller and smaller in our wake.  Why were we leaving this laidback paradise and saying goodbye to our friends?  Couldn’t we just stay one more week?  We spent more than six weeks living here, and it really started to feel like home. 

But cruising isn’t about parking in one comfortable spot forever, no matter how great it is.  And so Bella Star is on the move again.

Approaching the village of Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico

Despite its close proximity to Puerto Vallarta, the village of Yelapa is still quite remote.  There are no roads into town, so everything must be brought in via horseback or on pangas (small boats).  And electricity was only run to the village in 2001. 

It is an incredibly beautiful place, surrounded by lush, tropical mountainsides that plunge into the ocean.  The town is quiet and charming, with houses nestled here and there along the steep mountainside – many perched on stilts as protection from the summer rains.  And the locals you pass along the winding cobblestone paths are always ready with a friendly greeting.

The only downside is the anchorage.  It’s quite deep (over 120’) with only a small shelf appropriate for setting an anchor, and (on most days) it’s extremely rolly.  The locals devised a solution to the first problem, though… they installed a number of mooring buoys.  The moorings are owned by different companies and before you even get into the bay, a panga driver is zooming out to escort you to his particular mooring.  For 200 pesos, you can tie up to the buoy and get a ride to shore (and back) from the panga driver. 

P2040187 Erlin and Jenn on Ventured tying up to the mooring with the help of the panga guys

It was one of those super rolly days, which made being on the boat uncomfortable.  I tried to make sandwiches for lunch but had to stop, since we were rolling rail to rail through 60 degrees, and plates and tuna fish were flying everywhere.  Yikes!  We can handle some bouncing around for sure, but this was just crazy.  So we got in touch with Ventured on the VHF, flagged down our panga dude and headed to a palapa restaurant on the beach to have a little lunch and wait for Zack and Steve on Panache to arrive.

The view from our palapa restaurant

Once the gang was all together, we set out on our next adventure… finding a waterfall.  There are two waterfalls near Yelapa – one requires a 1 1/2-hour hike, the other only a saunter through town.  It was getting late in the day and we were feeling a bit lazy (not to mention that in his hurry to get off the boat and into the bouncing panga, Zack forgot his shoes), so we opted for the leisurely stroll option.

We walked down the beach, across the mouth of the estuary, up a set of winding stairs and through the meandering paths of the village to the waterfall.

Boats in the estuary

A Snowy Egret takes a stroll on the beach

Pangas and cruising boats bob around

Gorgeous views out to the Pacific

Cobblestone paths led past brightly colored shops, houses with laundry drying in the sun and lovely brick buildings with elegant arched windows…P2050209



… And finally (I say “finally,” but it was really like a 20-minute walk) to the base of the town’s waterfall.

P2050242 Erlin, Zack and I couldn’t resist taking a dip

Erlin and I enjoying a little ginger time

P2050243 (2) The waterfall shower was a little chilly, but it felt great!  And no, I’m not interested in knowing what’s upstream.

We all made our way back down to the beach for some refreshing Pacificos and a couple plates of nachos.  Another tough day at the office.

We’d hoped to spend the night in Yelapa and see the other waterfall the next day, but the rolling was too intense (and we didn’t feel like paying another 200 pesos anyway).  Just after dark, we all pulled our anchors and set out for an overnight trip around Cabo Corrientes to Bahia Chamela.  Southward!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Still saying adios to La Cruz

By Aaron

Okay, we’re leaving.  We mean it this time!  The anchor is coming up at 0700 sharp tomorrow.  There’s just been too much fun stuff going on to get out of here!

Huanacaxtle Café had a going away party.  Then it was another party for Erlin’s birthday.  And of course some more karaoke.

P1260068Ben and Molly showed up for karaoke with their two kids, Mickey and JP.  To their kids’ horror I’m sure, the song choice was “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw”

It’s been nice being anchored out again.  Yesterday we had a Humpback and a young calf come through the anchorage.

At the end the whales cruise right by our boat. Last time one was this close it hit us, so it’s exciting and a little scary at the same time.

So we’ve said our goodbyes – several times now.  But tomorrow is the day.  Bella Star is heading to Yelapa to hunt down some waterfalls with Ventured and Panache.