WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2006
Jacaranda Passage Notes #4: Jumping with the Humpbacks!
Our last note left off 75 miles out of Banderas Bay. We had left Cabo with forecasts of winds easing, going moderate and then filling in again. Well thats not really the picture that we saw. The first 15 hours out of Cabo were great sailing with winds in the 18-20 knot range and we were close reaching at 7- 7 ½ knots in confused seas. The boat loved those conditions and we just let her romp along eating the miles up while we held on and tried not to get wet with the spray flying over the deck. By 3am the wind had dropped to less than 4 knots so we turned on the motor. For the next 30 hours we ambled along at 4 knots trying to conserve fuel and enjoying the flat seas and calm weather but hating the noise of the engine and the cost of the fuel being burned.
We tried our new fishing lures with no luck. But I did notice one of the lures we had been dragging had the large hook almost straightened out. I know it was the big one that got away! Now 75 miles away from Banderas Bay the wind filled in and we began to sail. The wind continued to build to 15-18 knots and we pushed hard thinking we just might make it in during daylight hours. About 20 miles out we saw a couple of humpback whales jumping out of the water and putting on a great show. We are always in awe of the majestic beasts that can propel their immense weight almost totally out of the water. Arriving before sundown did appear to be a long shot and as we got close enough to see the islands (Las Tres Mariettas) at the entrance to the bay the wind picked up and the sun went down.
The moon was not due for another 4 hours, we knew the charts for this area are off by more than a mile compared to the GPS so once again using radar we entered the bay and anchored in the north corner near the village of Punta Mita. My nervousness during night approaches to unfamiliar anchorages seems to flow over to Linda and we are usually both stuffed by the time we drop anchor. I am sure I will be more comfortable using the radar as time goes on but I dont think the intensity will ever completely disappear. Maybe thats not such a bad thing as it keeps us on our toes and off the rocks.
Banderas Bay is very large and is the mating center and marine nursery for several species. The giant Mantra Rays mate here in April and during that month fly out of the water. Humpbacks are the bays most numerous and oft sighted whales. They hang out here from Nov to March to mate and have babies. Numerous other whales are occasionally seen in the bay. From the cockpit yesterday evening we watched as two humpbacks tail smacked and generally caused a ruckus not more than ¼ mile from the boat. Yesterday morning Linda noticed a large group of small fins just breaking the surface close to the boat and it wasnt until one jumped out of the water and did a flip that we realized they were a group of baby rays. Dolphins also use the bay as breeding grounds.
The anchorage at Punta Mita appears to be a staging area with boats coming and going all the time. The anchorage is close to the entrance to the harbor and a safe place to come into at night. When we first arrived there were about 15 boats and now its just Jacaranda and Begone from Crescent City (friends we met in Turtle Bay in December).
After 3-4 days at anchor and a trip ashore to explore the village we moved further into the bay to La Cruz (within sight of Puerto Vallarta). Now we have lots of boats neighbors as there are between 20-30 vessels anchored around us. We also now realize that there are hundreds of boats in PV as we can now gain access to the VHF net in the morning and hear many folks checking in. There are many more stores close by, easy access to PV by bus, Internet cafes and numerous restaurants within walking distance of where we leave the dingy. Our long-time friends from San Diego aboard Iwa arrived a few days ago from Matzalan and we will start heading south early next week. Jack and Hermy have been cruising Mexico for the past 6 years onboard their Tayana 37 and are a wealth of information that we will continue to milk until they depart for El Salvador next month.
While we were having lunch in the cockpit we noticed a mother humpback and her baby swimming through the anchorage. It was a great show as the whales surfaced next to many boats and slowly zigged and zagged throughout the anchored boats. Then about 2 hours later the same mother and baby put a great show on for us not more than a few hundred yards away. Mom was teaching the baby how to tail slap. For the next 30 minutes Mom would tail slap and then baby would try it. Wow! Having whales not more than a few yards away sure made for an entertaining afternoon.