Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Aquarium at Tenacatita

Tenicatita is only 30 or so nautical miles from Chamela, so it is an easy day sail.  After we aborted our attempt to snorkel at Isla Cocina we packed everything up and headed out to sea.  It was another, unbelievably gorgeous day, glorious sunshine and 80+ degrees.  We expected we would have light winds from the stern, so Doug prepared the drifter and we kept the mainsail furled.  Of course, Murphy just had to intervene and, after an hour out, the wind piped up from the opposite direction.  We didn’t mind a bit as it did not get past 13 knots, the seas were relatively flat (except for that long southern swell) and Ka’sala is more than happy to ride along merrily, close hauled, under these conditions.  We rarely got above five knots but, oh, what fun to be at the helm and watch the lovely coastline disappear in our wake!

The Aquarium - main Tenacatita anchorage in the far distance
We arrived at “The Aquarium”, the outer anchorage at Tenacatita about 5:30 pm.  We dropped the hook 10 meters below in sand, sorted the boat out and jumped in the crystal clear water for a refreshing swim.  What a lovely evening to bob in the swells, enjoy a delicious steak barbeque and sit up on the foredeck to watch the moon and stars while a gentle breeze ruffled our hair and the waves rolled into the glowing sand beach.  Heaven!

The next day, however, we discovered that the natural beauty is marred by a couple of things.  First, we came to realize that there were no palapas or tiendas on the beach.  The few houses strung out behind the strand were actually abandoned and dilapidated, without roofs and windows.  Hydro poles were broken and twisted, wires hanging limp.  We thought maybe this was the result of Hurricane Patricia which blew through here last October.  We found out that there had been some damage, but the wreckage we were seeing was the result of an ongoing land dispute.  We don’t know all the details, but it seems that certain people want to claim this entire area for themselves and their own developments and forced everyone else to move on.  Palapas and homes were bulldozed,hotels were abandoned, hundreds of people were displaced, the road in barricaded and armed security guards hired to patrol the area for interlopers.  The dispute went to Mexican court and apparently it was decided that the actions taken were illegal, but the only outcome of which we are aware is that people are now allowed to return to the beach only, no businesses can open up and displaced people cannot return or rebuild.  It is kind of sad, really.

Abandoned hotel , falling down hydro poles and campsites

When we were here five years ago few, if any, cruising boats used this anchorage.  Everyone dropped their hooks in the bay 2 miles around the corner - as we did.  However, the Aquarium was sorely missed by all and we now know why.   Not only is the bay breathtakingly beautiful and the anchorage secure, there is a little bay nearby that is full of coral.  Brightly coloured fish of every size and colour imaginable make the reef their home.  Although it does not rate with some of our diving experiences in Asia, we were thrilled to don masks and snorkels to float on the warm surge and play with the fishes.  We even saw two rays! 

The darkness in the water is the coral reef - you can also see it clearly in the first photo above
We have had the place almost entirely to ourselves.  Only one or two sailing boats have spent the night with us in the bay.  During the day, a couple small buses and a few cars bring people to play on the beach, but they bring their own picnics and are gone by the end of the afternoon.  By night, the whole beach is dark except for a very gothic looking four story monstrosity at the top of the bay, fronted by several patrol cars.  Perhaps this is where the security guards hang out. 

The best dinghy landing is in front of this place
Although there is constant surf, getting to shore has not been as challenging  as it was in Chamela.  In one corner of the bay the water is flat and it was easy for us to land and store our kayaks while we walked the entire extent of the 3 mile beach and back. 

Doug kayaking to the outer reef on the point
Although we could have easily landed our dinghy as well, we chose to anchor it off to do our snorkelling.

Now this is more like it!!!  Ka'sala in the far distance
We have used our dinghy to visit other boats in the anchorage.  One night Notre Isle arrived from Chamela and we enjoyed catching up with Rick and Mary Alice while the sun set.  On another night we joined Dave and Betty-Ann aboard their Tayana 37, Confidence, for sundowners.  This Canadian couple from Victoria have had their boat in this area for the last couple years, “summering” Confidence in the marina at Barra de Navidad and surviving the hurricane that blew through in the fall.  Next month they are taking the Puddle Jump leap to French Polynesia and both are excited about the prospect.

Every morning at 9 there is a VHF radio net that begins in the Barra de Navidad anchorage and ends in the Tenecatita anchorage.  We have come to recognize that there are dozens and dozens of cruising sailboats in this area – many of whom stay here the entire season.  We have recognized many names and almost had the opportunity to catch up with Annie & Tom aboard sister Coast 34 sailboat Tappan Zee – hopefully we will catch up with them later down the line.

In the dawn, the aquarium beckons
Tomorrow we will continue down to the Manzanillo area, 35 nautical miles away, to see the famous Las Hadas resort and to frolic on the beaches of Santiago, before returning to the Barra de Navidad anchorage and making our way back to the Sea of Cortez.

Getting ready to snorkle in the Aquarium - life is good!
Oh, and I forgot - ask me about the crocodiles!

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