Thursday, February 24, 2011

Matanchen Bay to La Cruz de Huanacuxtle

We motored out of Matanchen Bay after breakfast in flat seas and no wind. However, as the day progressed, the diurnal winds increased and by lunchtime we had already logged several hours under full sail and a close reach in a SSW wind, gradually increasing our speed from 4 knots to 6. We were heading for Chacala and enjoying the sunshine as we glided along. We arrived there at about 3pm and saw several boats rolling as a good sized north swell bent around the point.


We weren’t keen to stern anchor, so decided to bypass this lovely little beach community and try our luck, instead, at Jaltemba. We continued on for a couple more hours, playing hide and seek with a couple humpback whales, heading into this huge, built-up bay.

The built up bay of Jaltemba

We chose to anchor off Isla de Pena where we were able to tuck up behind and get out of the swell. We liked it there so much we stayed for three days anchored in 7 meters with 30 meters of chain.

View of Isla La Pina from the foredeck of Ka'sala - notice the birds

We were the only boat the whole time we were there. A little beach was off our bow and we watched as panga loads of mostly Mexican tourists, were brought to sunbathe in solitary splendor. Unfortunately the isolated, sandy beach, guarded by effigies of a couple saints, they undoubtedly saw in the advertisements, was tiny and 2 boatloads, let alone 10, overcrowded it.

One afternoon I was cutting Doug’s hair on the foredeck when a panga load of middle aged ladies stood off and watched for a while. It was a little uncomfortable, to say the least, but they were fascinated. As I was finishing up, they came alongside and gave thumbs up to the haircut and ask us all sorts of questions. In our broken Spanish and their little English we worked out they were retired school teachers from outside Mexico City on a beach vacation. They understood we had sailed all the way to Jaltemba from Canada and they were amazed. It was a little like the earthlings meet the aliens! All of us enjoyed a great deal of laughter together as we worked our stories out.

Other boatloads would come to circumnavigate the little isla to see the nesting frigates and pelicans. Several whales spouted and breached close by, so that between 10am and 3pm there was a lot of activity. Except for a couple of early morning kayakers, the rest of the time we were on our own to enjoy spectacular sunsets, watch the birds make their back to the island at the end of the day and the quiet fishermen drop their lobster traps for the night. We were only slightly affected by the diurnal winds and tides and, for the most part, were rocked gently to sleep each night.

Like Orcas, Humpback Whales are individually known by their dorsal fin

Early on the third day we lifted the anchor again and motored for a couple hours to charge our batteries. As before, the winds picked up as the day went on. This time, however, we chose to fly our drifter and for several hours we ran under this giant green, black and red sail. We noticed a boat behind us, who we later discovered was C’est Si Bon, had raised their red and white spinnaker and, between the two of us, we made a colourful passage down this hilly, beach covered coastline.

C'est Si Bon

The whales also seemed to follow us and we periodically saw them rising and falling close by.

As we approached Punta de Mita the wind began to pick up and the swell became very noticeable. We could see the surf crashing on the point and rolling into the reefs where it boomed in huge crescendos of waves. We wanted to give these rocks plenty of room, so continued on under our drifter until we were well clear before dousing it, running up the full Yankee and turning 90 degrees to head into Bandaras Bay on the north side of the Tres Marietas Islands.

Punta de Mita is another one of those surfing destinations.  Four Seasons resort, condos and golf course cover it.

The wind continued to increase and before too long we had a reef in the main and, eventually 2 in the Yankee. We flew on a beam reach at 6.5 knots on a comfortable, yet exhilarating, ride. We had enough wind, so took the opportunity to practice heaving to under full sail. It was the first time I had done it and I found it a strange sensation to be almost completely still in windy and wavy conditions. The sound of the sails and the rigging and Ka’sala’s movement seemed unnatural in these conditions, but we could both see how this configuration could give us relief in continuous rough weather.

We blasted along for an hour or so, then, as the wind died, shook out the reefs until there were none at all and the seas subsided to an elongated roll. We dropped the sails and powered up, arriving at the La Cruz anchorage in the late afternoon. We anchored in 7 meters with 30 meters of chain on an excellent holding sand bottom. We found about 20 cruising boats of every size and description on anchor outside the La Cruz Marina. Among them were Wendilyn and Keetya from Blue Water Cruising Association members from Victoria, as well as Blue Moon with the German shepherd, Luna, aboard. We were joined the next day by Picara and C’est Si Bon who had spent the night at Punta de Mita. Otherwise, everyone else was new to us.
Fleet at anchor at La Cruz

The anchorage, though protected from the worst of the wind and swells, is very rocky and rolly. The diurnal wind picks up during the day and goes from calm with a rolling swell in the morning, to choppy in the afternoon. The wind gets up to 15 – 20 knots and Ka’sala begins to dance on her hook, seeming to want to get away to frolic in the wind. By 7pm the wind has died again, yet the swell picks up. Usually there was a sea breeze to turn us around on our anchor in the night. We were secure, but it’s not a particularly comfortable place to be.
Calm morning at the anchorage

The La Cruz marina allows those of us on the hook to park our dinghies at one of their docks. We took full advantage of this to go into the village to explore and re-provision.
La Cruz marina - looking out to the anchorage

On the way to the dinghy dock - someone has a sense of humour!

Fishermen tend their nets at this clean and modern marina

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is a quaint little Mexican village with many little tiendas and restaurants. Doug was pleased to find a new kind of Mexican beer in one of the Depositos – Victoria – which we shared with friends later in the cockpit.

Jug size made for friends to share!

What we really noticed was how much more expensive everything was compared to San Blas and even Mazatlan. We had arrived on the outskirts of Gringo Land, where a meal in a restaurant cost the same as at home – something our budget could definitely not afford. Luckily we were able to find where the Mexicans shop to buy better quality and priced fruit and vegetables as well as beef and pork. ( It was quite an experience for me to ask for a cut of meat and have the butcher cut it off the carcass hanging beside her counter! This meat turned out to be the best we had yet.)

On Sunday there is a market in the town plaza and we went in expecting to see lots of fresh produce. Instead, we were surprised to find it was a gringo market. About fifty kiosks were set up selling all kinds of arts and crafts made by Mexicans, Indians and gringos alike. There were bakers, chefs, an organic farmer, candy makers and coffee producers. The hundreds of customers were almost exclusively gringos and the prices were what we would find at home in our own markets, though many of the goods were different. We bought a couple croissants, some honey coated almonds, some fresh basil and a bag of organic baby greens with edible flowers. I was totally taken with the colour, the movement of people, the artwork, pottery and Huichol crafts, but my money stayed firmly in my pocket.

Some of the goodies available at this exciting market

After a while I wandered down a side street and found a truck with bales of clothes in the back. A couple of these bales had been opened on tables and a cacophony of Tshirts, blouses, bras, shorts, and baby clothes were strewn about. Several Mexican ladies were pawing through the piles and picking out things they liked. I had burned through several of my Tshirts on board, and was in need of a couple new ones, but did not want to pay a fortune to replace them. This looked like my opportunity and soon I was really into digging through the clothes with the rest of them. After a while I found some items that would do, and even a pair of shorts for Doug. My purchases worked out to about $2.50 a piece – my kind of shopping – making me nostalgic for the Stanley Market in Hong Kong.

Not the clothes bales I went through, but you get the idea

We were happy to reconnect with Trudi and Norbert aboard C’est Si Bon.

Norbert and Trudi

We had first noticed their steel cutter in San Diego and later met them as we checked into Mexico at Ensenada, Islas de Bonitos and other spots along the way. They are very experienced Dutch /Australian cruisers having been aboard their yacht for the last 10 years cruising the Pacific from Australia, up through the South Pacific and the Philippines to Japan, Alaska, BC and finally down the North American coast. They are in Bandaras Bay to prepare for the crossing back to the South Pacific.

We were happy to meet up with them again to compare notes about our respective adventures, and also to learn about their off-shore cruising experiences. We enjoyed drinks and a meal together as well as spending a day exploring Puerto Vallarta.

An interesting museum which contains the history of the Mexican navy and other nautical information

Colourful mural depicting life in Bandaras Bay

Gringo Gulch off Cuile Island in Puerto Vallarta - Elizabeth Taylor had a house near here

Statue of John Huston - considered the founder of modern Puerto Vallarta for the fame and fortune he introduced as the result of his film "Day of the Iguana" with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner

Looking up the river surrounding Cuile Island and flowing past Gringo Gulch

Gorgeous statues such as these line the Puerto Vallarta waterfront malecon

This stained glass panel really caught my eye

Lunch with Trudi and Norbert in the Romantic District

Poor Trudi! I really peppered her with questions about provisioning and comfort on offshore passages, but she willingly and enthusiastically answered all my questions in a positive and no-nonsense fashion that I appreciated. Her situation is a bit different than mine, firstly because she lives aboard her boat full time – she and Norbert do not have a home base – and secondly, C’est Si Bon is a much larger craft – a centre cockpit over 40 feet. Nonetheless, I learned a great deal.

On Valentine’s Day we climbed in our dinghies and headed into the marina to watch a French cruising couple who were financing their sailing adventures by performing acrobatics in their rigging. Yes – you read that right! Delphine Lechifflart and Franck Rabilierto looked to be in their late 30s, with two small children aboard La Loupiote. Their two shows were amazing – the first an amusing look at all that can go wrong when a man and woman sail together – done mime style – and the second, a more romantic ballet performed under spotlights in the dark, meters above their decks.

I can understand how a cruising couple could end up like this!

Which line?

Giving climbing the mast a whole new meaning!

It was really brilliant and they are amazingly talented. We learned that they were heading to Hawaii next and hoped we may get a chance to compare notes with them, but it was not to be. They were departing a few days after the event and expected to be leaving Hawaii for BC before we even got there. We wish them well in their unique and imaginative pursuits. . (for more information check out Lectronic Latitude’s article on them at:

After four nights on the anchor we decided to treat ourselves by staying at Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta for a week. This destination resort has a marina attached and offers transient mariners the full use of their facilities when they have space available. For the equivalent of approximately $22.00 we can enjoy 4 swimming pools, (including a lap pool) the beach facilities, showers, hot tubs and entertainment. We can dine in the restaurants and drink in the bars (for gringo prices) and wander around the well manicured gardens. There is even a pair of Bengal tigers – part of a successful, in-captivity breeding program for zoos.

Daisy has a large collection of tennis balls!

The marina slips are very private as they run along the outside of the facility, there is unlimited potable water and power, the nights are quiet and warm and there is plenty to do. Cotton baton living for sure!

Leaving La Cruz

1 comment:

  1. Hello from Aleydabeth,

    We have been following your progress and decided to comment. Mostly just to make you feel better :)

    I use Dougs internet booster often - love it - thanks.

    How does Hawaii to Victoria look?

    Lyle and Lark,
    S/V Aleydabeth