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January 27, 2007

Jacaranda Passage Notes #12: Buenos Vientos


The last Passage Note left off with Jacaranda in Puerto Vallarta awaiting Lindas return from her quick trip to the east coast. I had completed numerous projects while Linda was gone like varnishing and installing an elaborate alarm system that included engine alarms  eng temp, oil pressure, water in the fuel, cooling water flow, fire and the bilge pump. If any of these are triggered then an alarm will sound and a light will appear next to the specific alarm.

Departing Puerto Vallarta we first sailed 12 miles out to Punta Mita hoping to spend a few days seeing the many humpback whales that were now hanging out in Banderas Bay. Plus we needed to clean Jacarandas bottom of the thousands of barnacles that had attached themselves in just 3 weeks. Fresh bottom paint or not  those barnacles are tenacious and grow amazingly fast. Guillermo, the Mexican diver, uses a 16 wide drywall knife when he cleans the boats in the marina!

Anchored at Punta Mita (where I cleaned the bottom), we began to listen to the radio networks to identify a good weather window to start heading south  to our first stop at Chamela 75 miles away. Don Anderson, the weather guru from Oxnard, Ca. who analyzes many meteorological sources to predict the weather in our cruising grounds of western Mexico, is an ex-cruiser himself and does an amazing job. Most cruisers rely on his predictions to plan safe and/or advantageous passages. The next mornings weather report called for 18-20+ knots of wind (NW) later in the day and increasing to 35 knots NW the following day. Oh boy! wind in the right direction!!! I say this with excitement because it is surprising how much of the time we sailboaters either have no wind or noserlies (wind on the nose) down here - which means we motor (instead of sailing) more than wed like.

So in the late afternoon as soon as the anchor was up we rolled out the jib and started sailing towards Cabo Corrientes. During the 20 miles it took to cross Banderas Bay, we must have seen about 25 humpback whales spouting, splashing and sometimes jumping almost completely out of the water! What a great show the whales put on! (By the way, the January issue of National Geographic has a great article on the latest humpback whale research with fantastic photos.)

Cabo Corrientes was as windy as forecasted and the seas were very lumpy with the NW swell meeting and bouncing off the point. Even though we cleared the cape by 5 miles, it was still quite rough (and it was going to get a lot nastier the next day with 35 knots). As we proceeded south and got further away from Cabo Corrientes and closer to Chamela, the wind continued to lighten and we ended up motoring only for about 3 hours out of the 20-hour trip (better than most). We arrived in Chamela Bay mid-day and anchored in the main anchorage in front of the village of Perula on the north side among 5-6 other boats. The next day it did indeed get even windier around Cabo Corrientes and a number of boats came into the anchorage with torn sails and damage.

Chamela Bay is a great place that most boats heading north or south use as a brief stop over sometimes just overnight. Thats a shame because the area  a huge Bay with two islands in the middle - has just been recently designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. We promised ourselves we would give it a longer look this year so we stayed a while instead of leaving after just catching up on sleep after our overnight from Punta Mita. We spent a few days exploring the small village (what a surprise to connect with Kavenga on their land trip from Puerto Vallarta!), snorkeling and fishing (no luck) with friends on Blue Pteron and Cuervo. We then headed down to the south end of the bay and anchored behind Isla Passavera. We had the place to ourselves! The water was crystal clear and we could see the anchor on the bottom. The snorkeling here was great - a good variety of fish and huge schools of small fry and bait fish kept the birds diving all day long. We hiked the island, stepping over bright red land crabs to get within feet of nesting blue footed boobies - again very much like our stop at Isla Isabella last Nov. on our way north to Mazatlan.

We left Chamela after 10 days, once again jumping south to take advantage of the strong wind predictions for Cabo Corrientes to the north of us with good wind extending down the coast (oh boy more wind). The 25 mile jaunt down to Tenacatita was made in building breeze and seas. The wind was a steady 25-30 knots gusting to 35 when we turned the corner into Tenacatita Bay with our tiny reefed jib and no main. What a great downwind sail! When we turned into the bay, the seas flattened out, the wind started to lighten and we were flying a full jib as we sailed right up to the anchorage!

Ah Tenacatita! We described Tenacatita briefly in one our earlier Passage Notes. Its a large beautiful bay with two anchorages on the north side. The first anchorage, called The Aquarium, is very picturesque with its rock formations that provide great snorkeling. It fronts on a beautiful wide palapa-lined beach called Playa Tenacatita and rarely has more than a few boats. (We snorkeled here with Paul from Cuervo one splendid morning- we saw tons of fish and a leopard ray). The main anchorage around the corner, Boca de Iguanas, is the destination for many cruisers departing from their summer hurricane stay in a marina or the Sea of Cortez; some boats hang here for months and it is often crowded. As a result of this relative stability as a community, quite a cruiser culture has developed here!! Its as programmed with daily activities as a cruise ship!! A mayor is appointed every year (usually one who has spent the most time here); Legacy was reelected this year and Chris hosts a Mayors Night Out every Friday night. This is a dinghy raft-up pot-luck where one dinghy anchors and 30 or more others tie up to them, each with a dish to share; there is also an exchange of books and boat cards. The mayor then chooses a question everyone answers as an introduction to themselves.

This nights topic was to describe an interesting time you have experienced - other than sailing. The answers were so varied - from leading hunters on caribou hunts in NW Canada to crazy travel experiences. (Last year the mayors raft up we attended was on Valentines Day and everyone had to describe how they met their partner). The afternoons are filled with organized swims to the beach and beach walks, Boccie ball tournaments, Mexican train (a dominoes game), beading for the women, a jungle trip up a river to Tenacatita village, special dinners at the palapa restaurant (next to the two small buildings that were constructed as the set for McHales Navy), and a Wed. night movie schedule on the mayors boat. So we immediately jumped into catching up with friends and the social scene continued.

We stayed a few extra days to attend the birthday celebration for Rita on Overheated (Jack and Hermy of IWA introduced us years ago when we visited them in the Sea Of Cortez). Every year Darrell and Rita spend 2-3 months in Tenacatita and Ritas birthday there is a tradition. Seven couples went on two boats, Legacy and Harmony, (dragging seven dingies) across the bay to the wonderful little village of La Manzanilla. Darrell had made special lunch reservations at Martins Restaurant and they even had a fresh carrot cake all prepared for her. After a great meal, we walked through the village and down to the edge of town to the estuary where we saw a number of large crocodiles floating around.

We then left the following day to head the 10 miles south to Barra de Navidad where we anchored in the back lagoon with about 30 other boats. Lots of folks stay here in Barra and travel back and forth between Tenacatita and Barra for weeks on end. We made it a rather quick stop for laundry, provisions, fuel and water and most importantly- the French Baker (who delivers his goods by panga each morning to your boat) and then we headed south to Manzanillo Bay - our last big stop before going on to Zihuatanejo.



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