Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dispatch 10: Mexican Riviera—Too Brief a Stop

March 1-13, 2006
Our stay in La Cruz in Banderas Bay continued for two weeks or more. It was a delightful place full of many friends. We had internet access at times from the boat at anchor and our choice of on shore internet cafes for the price of a drink or breakfast. We socialized until we were exhausted, staying up late at night with friends playing dominoes, going out to dinner or just having drinks in the cockpit. It was, in short, heaven for cruisers. La Cruz is a rolly anchorage which keeps one’s cruising muscles toned and ready for a change of venue at a moments notice.

One day from La Cruz, we traveled by 2 buses for an hour or so to join friends in a marina/resort complex called Paradise Village. They had invited us to enjoy the pools (plural, fancy, water slides, poolside bars, etc) and be their guests in Paradise for a day. We happily accepted and enjoyed their company and a relaxing afternoon (which we needed due to all the hard work we had been doing?) While at poolside, I recognized the 17 yr old son of a friend who we had been warned would be in PV and at Paradise that very week. It wasn’t hard to spot the 6 ft 5 in. very white person at poolside who might as well have been wearing a sign that said, “I’m from the Northwest and it’s been raining every day for a month.” This, by the way, was toward the end of his week in Mexico, but he was following instructions and wearing sunscreen and hadn’t browned up exactly yet.

Well, I went over and said hello and suitably embarrassed him and his 18 yr old buddy. But, I mentioned that maybe the guys would want to take a sailboat excursion to round out their PV experience and their eyes lit up. They asked the host parents if that would be OK and we made plans for the next day for them to taxi out to La Cruz where we would take them by dinghy to the boat and go out sailing. Well, suddenly I realized that 18 yr old guys need a lot of food to keep them going and especially ones that are as big as these guys so, in a panic, I stocked up on lunch supplies.

The next AM, they showed up on time from the taxi and Richard brought them to the boat which I had ready to go. We pulled up the anchor and headed out on a flat calm late morning wishing for the usual wind to show up. Sadly, it turned out that neither of the guys had sea legs. One knew it and had already taken medicine, the other I had to treat quickly to something to keep the whole day from going bad. Richard had pointed out the great swells that were coming in so regularly and only succeeded in deepening their green cast. Eventually, the wind came up to a kind 10-12 knots and we put up the sails and got some wind in their faces and the medicine kicked in and we were doing much better. They got to see many turtles near the boat and finally some whale blows and soundings. We saved the downwind run for last as is the usual drill only to realize that, in this climate, downwind meant hot sun, no wind on the face and a return to not feeling well and wishing it was all over. When we got the boat anchored I don’t think I had ever seen 2 guys jump in the dinghy faster. We were chagrined that it had been so uncomfortable and Betsy was deeply sympathetic to say the least. Nonetheless, we heard later from our friend that the reports had been favorable on their day’s outing with us, so, a good time was had by us for sure and maybe by them. Oh yeah, and the extensive teenage provisions? Well, they came to gatherings to share in the next couple days. The guys had exactly one Cliff bar each!

In PV we made plans with some good friends to go to Mazatlan and, from there, travel inland to the Copper Canyon area. This is a highly rated trip and we really look forward to it. However, we were feeling like, if we just headed north, we would miss so much of the wonderful parts of the mainland coast and Betsy, for one, just didn’t think she could wait until next year to see at least a little of the so-called Mexican Riviera. We had heard about a place called Tenicatita for 5 years from various cruiser friends and, with great indecision due to limited time, finally decided to head south and visit it quickly before heading back north. This section of Mexico south of Cabo Corrientes turns eastward and features warmer water and very benign weather usually. It is analogous to Southern California where the coast turns eastward and the same thing happens. Also like Point Conception, Cabo Corrientes is a cape that sticks way out from the rest of the land and accelerates the wind and seas around it making it a place to take caution.

So one fine day (not a Friday of course), we headed south to Tenicatita, a 125 mile trip which we did in one jump. We passed by the feared Cabo Corrientes at late morning and went from motoring in 4 knots to 18 knots of breeze and, get this, on the nose, from the SW—probably the first even partial southerly we have seen in weeks. Perhaps we should have read the tea leaves right there and then. The winds calmed down and we had a very slow and patient sail overnight and pulled into Tenicatita mid-morning the next day. The entrance is stunning with outlying rocks that the ocean crashes into and the anchorage is calm and protected with warm water (79 degrees!). Dolphins swim through the anchorage daily and, when we arrived, there was a small group of boats (only 14 or so) anchored there which increased and decreased over the next days and included various of our friends for part or all of the time.

Tenicatita is cruiser summer camp or amusement park or something. We loved the visit and spent a bunch of time kayaking, snorkeling and beach walking. One could ride horses on the beach which we did not do. Starting from the anchorage, a river runs through lush mangroves, sometimes only as big an opening as the machetes have been able to cut open, and leads through the “jungle” to another bay and a small town. This path is taken by cruisers in dinghies but also by pangas taking tourists to the beach at the end. The panga drivers go full speed through the jungle, and, with room for only one boat, it makes for a very exciting trip. At the other end, one walks from the lagoon to the beach (a couple blocks) and finds a gorgeous beach with great snorkeling, a tienda (shop) for provisions, and palapas lining the beach. We did this trip with another couple and had a great time. Our last night in Tenicatita, someone organized (loosely, loosely) a dinghy potluck where everyone comes in their dinghy, a couple are anchored, and everyone ties up and brings food to pass. It was a great way to meet more people.

While we were there, friends from our Seattle yacht club came down to visit another friend on his boat. We were able to meet up in Tenicatita , do some snorkeling together, enjoy dinner together. It was a treat to see folks from home and to see them enjoy what we are experiencing here in Mexico.

Eventually, all good things must come to an end and we determined that it was time to leave and head back north to try to make it to Mazatlan at our planned rendezvous time. We left Tenicatita early one morning to make a hop north to an anchorage, Chamela, just 25 miles away. Well, around late morning the wind came up and built to 20 knots from the north, that’s right, on the nose. We sailed as best we could as the seas built and, what should have been a few hour trip became an all day ordeal. Sailing into 20 knots is much more difficult than sailing downwind in 20 knots. Ugh. The weather reports started telling us that the next few days held more of the same and worse: 20-30 knots from the North. Oh boy, bad luck for heading north. As we were sailing and not making much headway, we decided to start the engine to boost our speed. Well about an hour into motorsailing, the engine overheated, so much for that brilliant idea. Guess we are back to making whatever way we can with our sails.

Well, Chamela was lovely too and we made the most of the enforced stay due to weather. The water is only 70 degrees but we still went snorkeling. We found a very stunning place to stay between a couple islands and, if it weren’t for our deadline, we’d have been very happy campers to just stay right here. We hiked one of the islands and found it full of brown boobies
who barely moved as we walked by and stared at us with the vacant and charming look they have when they are not sure whether to be scared to death and flee or stay put. But we still had to get north, so we finally did an overnight trip back to La Cruz and were blessed with a southerly wind as we started out in the afternoon--hurray.

So, in summary, all is quite well in Qayaq land. We haven’t had internet through this whole Riviera chapter so we have been able to focus on other activities and the website has seen no changes.