Cruising ~ The Cat’s Meow Style ~ March and April, 2008
Cruising the Costa Dorada, Mexico
At the very beginning of March, The Cat’s Meow was anchored in Banderas Bay, the large bay where Puerto Vallarta is located. During February and March, this area is quite busy with lots of cruising and sailing events. Puerto Vallarta (PV) is a jumping-off spot for many cruising boats heading across the big Pacific Ocean for the South Seas. Most of those who are readying for such a voyage gather together for seminars and more informal meetings regarding topics like provisioning, routes, weather, radio contacts, etc. etc. March is also a time for regattas and long-distance sailing races that end in PV. Many activities are scheduled for captains and crews of the sailing vessels, both of the cruising class and of top-level racers. While Martin & Robin are not sailors or interested in these particular activities, the hubbub and excitement is felt throughout the boating community, and cannot be missed. Puerto Vallarta welcomes the racing set and all other boaters with many events. It is a fun place to be this time of the year!
While Puerto Vallarta is the big city on Banderas Bay, there are numerous smaller pueblos and villages all around the bay. One of our favorites is Bucerias. It is typical of most others in Mexico, with the central church on the square, more or less in the center of the village; a string of palapa-style restaurants along the beach which serve mainly fresh seafood; some tourist-oriented shops, restaurants, some hotels, and the “real” Mexican homes a few blocks away from all of the activity. While enjoying a cold beer and/or some seafood, you can also purchase a handmade bead necklace, silver earrings, or a hammock! A number of Canadians and Americans live in Bucerias during the winter months. There is a walking street called the Paseo de Besos = Walk of the Kisses. The walls along the rather narrow walkway are painted with depictions of different types of kisses: the kiss of the sun, kiss of the whale, etc. Quite unusual. One day while we were relaxing in Bucerias, the square was full of activity with a cevichy “cook-off”. Here are some views of this great little place called Bucerias.
Dining and shopping at a palapa restaurant The street, or walk, of kisses/Paseo del Besos Different types of kisses depicted
The Cat’s Meow was anchored off another village, La Cruz for the time we spent in Banderas Bay. It is a short dinghy ride to the beach, then a walk of about ½ mile to the main road to catch a bus that will take you to any of the near-by villages or to Puerto Vallarta, for about 80 centsUS. Some busses are quite nice and new and modern. Some of the others…well….they have been around the block a few times! Riding the public transit system in Mexico is always an experience, especially when the bus is full and there is only standing room — which happens often. Busses, and taxis, only have two speeds: fast or stop. Of course, some times when we would dinghy into La Cruz, we would spend the afternoon or evening there. An American ex-pat has operated Philo’s, one of the hang-outs for ex-pats and winter tourists in the village. Great hamburgers, wifi internet access, yummy margaritas, and rockin’ music by Philo’s band. What more could ya want?!
One afternoon, after spending most of the day on land, we returned to TCM to find two sailing vessels “playing” just past our boat. One vessel was reportedly an American Cup contender. They had completed a fund-raising race, and they were putting on a show and a “photo-op” when we saw them. A few days prior, the Governor’s Cup had been run, or sailed, in the bay, passing the La Cruz anchorage: another opportunity for watching some sailboats go by.
After about two weeks, and after watching the weather and sea predictions, it was time to move south with TCM, to the Costa Dorada and its anchorages, along the west coast of the Mexican mainland. It was a very rolly ride for about four hours to get out of Banderas Bay and up to Cabo Corrientes. It is important to pick the time for rounding this point carefully, as there are strong currents (corrientes) around the point for a number of miles. We did well, and had fine water and no problem winds once we reached the point. One night in a tiny anchorage called Ipala, another night at Chamela, and then we were in the lagoon anchorage of Barra de Navidad. The draw card for Barra is the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities that last for a week (!) in the nearby pueblo of Melaque — Melaque’s patron saint is St. Patrick, there-in lies the celebration. The lagoon is only 9-12 feet deep, but in order to stay-put in the mud, a vessel puts out about 120 feet of anchor line. During this season, there were about 50 boats in this anchorage — we were all “up close and personal”, but all did well. Just about each afternoon, the winds would clock up to between 20-25 knots, and almost every day at least one boat would go on a walk-about, dragging anchor, and it was almost always a boat whose crew were in town, not aboard. Every one watches their own boat + the other boats and calls for assistance if a boat is seen drifting. A bunch of the captains hop in their dinghies and go wrestle the dragging boat to anchor, once again, and this during high winds. It can get purrrty exciting!
Our good friends Susan & Dennis, and boat-cat Cap’t. Jack, were on Two Can Play in the anchorage, and some other friends we had not seen for a while were there too. It was fun meeting other folks on boats we had heard on the VHF and single side-band radios. Robin was happy to find some decent produce in a few of the small tiendas, a very good meat market, and of course fresh seafood of all types all over town. The French baker came around to each of the boats, each morning, with fresh croissants, breads, and other goodies.
...zee French baker brings goodies to the anchorage each morning. Yum!! (photo by Phyllis)
As said earlier, the big draw was the St. Pat’s celebrations in Melaque. One night, a group of boaters took the bus to Melaque and spent the evening enjoying the activities, the street-food, and especially the people-watching. Lots of colors, live music, noise, food, children, and fun! A few nights later we again went to Melaque for the big celebration on March 17th. We enjoyed a nice early dinner at a restaurant, then we wandered around the square, waiting for the tower of fireworks to be lit. The tower is made of slim pieces of wood, stands about 75-80 feet in the air, and has circular “wheels” decorated as specific images (such as the Madonna), which have individual fuses that set-off fireworks and spin the wheel. We have seen a few of these at previous festivities in different villages, so we were ready — staying a distance away, cameras ready. The sparks from these spinning wheels can spew into the crowd, and we didn’t want to be all that close! Unfortunately, this particular tower was not rigged very well….the fireworks were not very spectacular, and the whole thing was extremely slow, instead of the fast-paced, exciting displays we have seen. Aaaaahhhh well, we had fun anyway, and caught a cab back to Barra, the water taxi back to the boat, and fell into bed around 2 a.m. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Enough candy to satisfy any sweet tooth, on display
Robin’s good friend from her days working in Arizona, Phyllis Webb, came to visit us on TCM a few days later. She caught onto the water taxi thing right away, hopped in & out of our dinghy easily, and even learned a few “boat moves” while with us! We spent a few days in Barra de Navidad, exploring the village and enjoying the sights, before we headed to a nearby anchorage, Tenacatita. One of the strongest visions that Robin has kept in her mind for the past 3 ½ years was of The Cat’s Meow being anchored at Tenacatita, along with some other cruising boats. TCM had been in these waters once before, during the winter of 2002-03, five years ago. The Costa Dorada is the coastline south of Puerto Vallarta for around 150 miles, as the boat goes. There are anchorages along pristine beaches, a few small villages, and the large industrial city of Manzanillo at the southern end. Robin’s vision was of cruising with The Cat’s Meow along this part of Mexico, being anchored at Tenacatita, and “really being back in the cruising world”. Finally, her vision was a reality. The Cat’s Meow came into the anchorage and we were immediately invited to join some of the other boaters for an impromptu get-together aboard Doug & Kathy’s motor vessel Spirit Quest. Wow…we were really “back”!! Jim & Jan of the motor vessel Manana were there too, and it was great to spend some time with them (and their cats). At this anchorage, there is one long beach with an all-inclusive hotel at the “other end”, and one small palapa restaurant. The palm tree’d area near the palapa becomes a “tent city’ during the holidays and weekends when lots of local people come to enjoy the area.
Overlooking the pueblo of Barra de Navidad toward the lagoon,in the background, where TCM sits
This anchorage is known for its “jungle river trip”, which is a narrow-ing small river that winds from the beach to the village of Tenacatita, about a 40-minute ride in a dinghy. The beginning of the river ride is open water, perhaps some 40’ wide, which narrows down to a few precious feet in width and completely covered, like a tunnel, by the mangrove trees. Cayman, or crocodiles, live in the water and it is always fun to watch for them in the mangrove roots along the sides of the river. Egrets fly ahead, as if they are showing the way. Some cotamundis, as well as iguanas, have been spied in the trees. At the village end, a few provisions can be found and lots of fresh seafood eaten in the string of the many palapa restaurants. This is a fun, relaxing way to spend most of a day…..and then, one has to get the dinghy out through the surf on the beach end of the river, which can be an exciting part of the day!
Entering the mangroves for the "jungle ride" up the river Baby croc we found in the mangroves Phyllis, Martin, Jan & Jim (Manana) dining sea-side
One day, the three of us took a taxi to La Manzanilla, a near-by village. We paid about $35US for the two-way trip + a three-hour stay. We walked all over the village, had lunch, found some produce, walked the beach, and visited the BIG CROCS. There is a place in the village, where a number of large, and smaller, crocodiles lay in the mud of the river and swim around. One croc really likes to come and look at the tourists, who are looking at him, and wait for some fish to be thrown his way….. hmmmm….. The local people feed these crocs fish and chicken. Goooood idea.
Main street in La Manzanilla Soooo cute! (photo by Phyllis) Cook in Restaurant Martin's making Paella (Phyllis photo)
Those are not logs....they are large crocodiles The croc that likes to watch the people watching him....
The Cat’s Meow cruised on down the coastline, only about 20 miles, to a small cove called Carrizal for one night. Phyllis and Robin wanted to do some more kayaking, but the water was very green and we found literally millions of small, pink & clear jellyfish in the water!!! ICK.
Phyllis took this photo of the pink "jellies" that infiltrated the small bay of Carrizal
So, the next day we went into the large Manzanillo bay, and one end or lobe of that bay is where Santiago anchorage is located. It was very disappointing to find the water in this area still brown or dirty green. We don’t know what was happening, perhaps an algae bloom, but the water did not encourage water sports. The dinghy landings were quite interesting at this beach, due to the surf, which could be quite strong at times. Timing is everything! Phyllis, Martin and Robin all got wet, more than once. We met friends George & Joann on Kalinga there, and had the opportunity to meet some more new-to-us folks on other vessels, as well. Stan & MJ, formerly of the sailing vessel Sol Mate, are now a great cruiser resource in this area. They live in a house in the pueblo of Santiago, not far from the anchorage, and they know where one can find every thing that is in the greater Manzanillo area! They have also become fans of the local soccer team, Los Picudos. We attended one of the games, along with about 20 other cruisers, and while the Picudos lost during the “shoot out”, the fans in the stands (and the music!) were at least as much fun as the game itself! And, the tacos were just yum!! It was while in Santiago that Phyllis made her get-away and returned to the States. We are sorry the water didn’t allow us to enjoy the water sports more, but we hope she had a great time anyway. However…here is fair warning: if you visit us on TCM, we just might put you to work! Phyllis ended up “cleaning our clock”…the ship’s clock, that is, and did a great job! Thanks, PW!!
Phyllis really cleaned our clock! ...but then we let her relax.
One day while we were walking along the beach (to catch the bus to get into town), we came upon a group of fishermen who were hauling in their very large, very heavy net from the bay. These were most likely people who make up the cooperative fishing group for the local township (ejido). (These video clips may take a few minutes to load, you will need to have a video player of some type, and have your volume up a bit.)
One night, while Dennis (Two Can Play) was trying to get by, since his wife Susan was in Washington, he and Martin prepared a very tasty dinner of squid for Robin & Phyllis! The girls were entertained by watching the culinary goings-on, and they were not reeel certain about a dinner of squid, but it was actually very good. Of course, the girls had to do the clean-up....which was a bit daunting.....
TCM's galley taken over by two chefs
And….watch what happened when we raised the anchor in Santiago, getting ready to cruise up the coast!
By this time of the year, most of the cruising boats are heading north to PV, Mazatlan, or up into the Sea of Cortez for the summer. Since we have not been “out here’ doing much cruising for the last few years, we have wanted to do as much as possible before putting The Cat’s Meow in a marina for the hurricane season. We have been slowing down, relaxing more of the time, working less. Robin has learned how nice it is to relax in a hammock, swinging up on the top deck, while reading! Martin has spent a lot of time developing his software programs. We have not had a real schedule, the daytime and night-time temps have been just purrrrfect, and we have continued to practice our cruising-life skills. The end of April finds TCM anchored once again at Tenacatita, along with four or five sailboats, and the continued ugly water. Soon after arriving, we invited the other cruisers to TCM for an evening of eats, drinks, and chats. A few days later, we celebrated the 75th birthday for Ralph, on Ensueno, with a wonderful chocolate cake baked by his wife, Johanna. Any excuse to have a good time! Most of the time, there are not many people on the beach here, all is quiet. We are enjoying the heck out of this cruising thing, altho’ we have not had the chance to do the snorkeling, kayaking, and diving we would like to do this season. Aaaaahhhh well….. even a “bad” day out here is still a good day!!!
Soon, The Cat’s Meow will head northward to Puerto Vallarta. There will be family visiting; there will be old friends and new ones to spend time with; we will decide exactly which marina the boat will languish in while we do some much-anticipated land-travel in Mexico this summer. More adventures are to come! Please, come see what happens next, Cruising ~ The Cat’s Meow Style…….