Serendipity, with Hugh and Anne aboard came out of the lagoon behind us, heading for the “secret” anchorage of Cuastecomate, which isn’t quite so secret anymore. They wanted us to join them, and we would have liked to have spent some time with them, but we thought it might have too many boats in the small southern-exposed anchorage.
The lovely Serendipity off Barra de Navidad - a Gossard 37
We motorsailed against a slight swell with less than 10 knots of wind the three hours to Tenacatita, keeping a close look out for whales. We did see some, but they kept their distance, and by one o’clock we were anchored in 20 feet with 30 meters of chain. There were a handful of boats there including Canadians, Fran and Jean-Guy, aboard Gosling. However, over the five days we stayed there many boats came and went.
Ka'sala, centre, at anchor in Tenacatita - Gosling on the right
Tenacatita is a cruiser’s dream. The anchorage is tucked deep into a recess and to the side of a long sandy beach. At the far end is an all inclusive resort.
Resort at Tenacatita
Further along, around the bay, is the tiny village of La Manzanilla sprawled along a hill side. The craggy landscape makes for a great backdrop at sunrise and sunset.
Sunset at Tenacatita - looking toward La Manzanilla
By the anchorage is the entrance to an estuary where pangas and dinghies can penetrate the mangroves to view the birdlife and the dreaded crocodiles. Right on the beach is a little palapa which makes its money from a campsite nearby, as well as from cruisers stout enough to brave the surf, and all-inclusive escapees seeking a quiet cerveza.
Beach Palapa at Tenacatita
We found the swells reasonable and, although we rolled a bit during the night, we were very comfortable during our stay. The crashing of the swells on the surf in the darkness, however, kept us vigilant.
As soon as we arrived at the anchorage, Jean-Guy and Fran were over in their dinghy, inviting us to the beach to play bocce. We decided to stay close to the boat that day, but joined them, and other cruisers, several times over the next couple days, to toast our feet on the sand.
Fran concentrates on her shot
Those of us not playing bocce, could try their hand at Mexican train dominoes, or a rudely named card game (Presidents and ***holes) under the shade of the palapa cafe.
Relaxing under the palapa
Some of us enjoyed just sitting around, swapping stories and living the laidback lifestyle of the Mexican cruiser. The guacamole was great and the BBQ fish was wonderful, all served up by attentive (and patient) staff.
The real challenge was the surf.
I know, doesn't look like much from this perspective, but imagine a 9 foot RIB
We eyeballed it from Ka’sala and recognized immediately that our little 2.5 Yamaha, on the back of the dinghy, was just not going to cut it. We opted for the oars. We scanned the beach to see where the break might be the smallest, thinking we might be able to get around the little reef guarding the estuary entrance. (Nope, too many rocks).
I didn't fancy a face plant here
Finally, we realized that, if we wanted to go to the beach, we were just going to have to tough it out. So we packed dry clothes and gear in our dry bag, attached everything to the dinghy and headed out. All in all, we landed and took off about 10 times. I wish I could say we improved, but that was not the case. Each time we came and went we tried a different strategy. Each time we got wet.
Sorting out our kit after a moderately successful landing
We would sit just before the break on the way in, counting the swells, waiting for the gentle one. Doug would say: “When I say go – you jump out to starboard and I’ll jump out to port.” Made sense. Trouble was, when he yelled “Jump!”, I leaped out, only to discover the water was up to my shoulders, when I had one leg still in the dinghy! Oops, before I could disentangle myself we were caught in the surf. I emerged soaking wet with a couple colourful bruises on my legs. Later, I learned that my friends from the Baja were also prevalent on this beach!
On another time, we were returning to the boat at the end of a long, hard day playing games and socializing. We had the dinghy in the shallow water. Doug said: “This time, I will get in the dinghy, you steady the transom and when I say “get in”, jump over the transom and I will row like mad to get over the swell before it breaks”. Me, ever the optimist, thought that sounded good. Have you ever tried to “steady” a rigid inflatable dinghy in breaking surf? Okay, I tried my best, got soaking wet again and when Doug yelled “get in!”, I launched myself over the transom, only to have my teeth meet his fists as he leaned forward into the oars to get a good lift over the wave. We made it and, other than a small split lip, my teeth all remained in my head.
I have to say, I found the whole dinghy surf landings hilarious. I laughed so hard I couldn’t concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing half the time and it had nothing to do with the margueritas I consumed before returning to Ka’sala. The whole thing was an exhilarating experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t always work out that way for others. One dinghy, with a 9 hp engine, returning home, went straight up into the surf and flipped. Luckily no one was hurt and we were there to help. The palapa sent out some fresh water to douse the engine so all was okay in the end. We heard later that the surf isn’t always this way at Tenacatita . I think I would miss the drama!
Pizza is one of our favourite passage meals. I baked this delicious vegetarian version which Doug insisted I photograph for posterity. Yum!
For most of the time we were there a red tide stained the water making it very unpleasant to swim off the boat. Although the surface seems blue, when you look into it, it appears like the blood of many slaughtered whales. However, as the days went by, it started to clear and by our last day we were able to enjoy a dip. Apparently this phenomenon is very unusual. Locals attributed it to the heavy rains they had experienced over the last summer which had flushed more nutrient rich soil into the ocean. Tenacatita is known for its “clear, turquoise waters”. Unfortunately, we never saw it.
We were sorry to leave after 5 days, but thought we should make our way up to the other anchorages before returning to Puerto Vallarta to begin preparations for our Hawaii trip. We weighed anchor for what we expected would be a 5 hour sail to Chacala. Unfortunately, that was March 11, the day of the tsunami, and we had to give it a pass – thinking it better to remain at sea than to chance a tsunami at anchor.
Sunset at sea - March 11