Friday, March 4, 2016

Barra de Navidad

At this time of year on the Costalegre (the happy coast) the prevailing winds are light and, if we want to sai,l we need to take advantage of the diurnal winds.  Luckily the seas are not much of a problem – little wind chop - and the swell period wide enough - that it is hardly noticed when on a passage.  We motor-sailed to Barra de Navidad from Carrazel and charged our batteries, after being on the anchor for over a week.  We arrived in the Barra de Navidad lagoon in the late morning.  A slight current with us made the 20 mile trip even faster.

Tanker gone aground off Barra in last hurricane (Patricia, October 2015)
The next two days at anchor were intensely hot and humid.  There was hardly a breath of air and the local jejene and mosquito population had a field day.  We had all our screens up and burned citronella, but that didn’t stop the pesky things from making some serious headway on our bodies.  The lagoon is very murky so swimming was not an option for cooling off.  We sweated, itched and cooked.  Something had to be done!

Ka'sala at anchor in the Barra Lagoon (resort in the background right)
We had been told that the Marina Puerto de la Navidad, attached to the five star resort, Isla Navidad, was willing to negotiate their rates with cruisers.  When we had been here over five years ago, we couldn’t get in here for under $2.00 US a foot.  Now it is much more reasonable.  The marina has gone so far as to entice cruisers with special events such as live music, free appetizers and discounted room rates.  A real bonus for us has been by staying in the marina we are permitted to take advantage of all their facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, fabulously clean showers, several restaurants and bars.

Main pool

Romantic hot tub - Barra town in background
The place is gorgeous and it feels like an enormous mansion or castle within – spectacularly appointed and grand.    Despite all this, the humble sailor feels quite welcome.

Isla Navidad Resort at dawn
The resort by night looking across from Barra - water taxi in foreground
The marina is across the entrance bar from the town of Barra de Navidad.  An aquatic taxi service transports people back and forth for a very reasonable rate.  Within the town are many restaurants, bars, cafes, tiendas, shops and small budget hotels.  At our leisure we have been able to go in, explore, eat inexpensive meals, shop, and take a 7 peso local bus to visit the adjoining town of Malaque.  The French Baker is still here and, although he hasn’t come to our boat, we did visit his cafe to enjoy his famous almond croissants.

Birthday boy
The Sands Hotel, friend of the sailboat cruisers, also remains, though if possible, is even more funky and dilapidated that it was five years ago.

Looking to Barra from the resort
A real highlight for us has been the opportunity to dig out our bicycles again.  As I mentioned earlier, the resort includes an enormous golf course and at the other end is a back road leading to the coastal highway.

Open Road
By riding down this lovely, quiet blacktop through orchards and coco palm plantations, then along the highway for a few miles and, either through the back way or in the main road back to Barra, and finally the taxi aquatico (which transports bicycles for free) we can get in a 25 kilometer ride. Fantastic! We did it twice!

Coco palm plantation

Farm along the way
Additionally, we have used our kayaks to explore the large lagoon, and also took a hike to the enormous Playa de Cocos beach off the golf course to see gigantic waves carve the beach.   We even found a secret cove.
Where the carts are is the T off - the hole is over the lagoon to where the guys are

Kayaking in the lagoon near the golf course in the humidity
Secret beach is around the headland - notice the curving walkway to get to it
Sadly, our observation has been that there are hardly any tourists here.  The resort is practically empty – one day there were only 5 or 6 other people at the pool.  Hardly anyone is on the golf course.  Where five years ago the streets were packed with sun seekers, today they are almost deserted.  The shops look forlorn and the eateries are quiet.  There aren’t even the same number of cruisers.  When we were here five years ago at the exact same time of year there were close to 50 sailboats in the lagoon.  The most we have seen this time has been 12.  Yes, there are more sailors taking advantage of the marina, but not much more than a dozen.

Ka'sala is the third sailboat in the front line
 Luckily for Barra, there still seems to be a good number of Canadians and Americans who have their winter homes here.  Where is everybody?  Some say it is the weak Canadian economy and its embattled currency.  Some say it is because Pacific Mexico has the reputation of being dangerous.  Some say it is because the baby boomers are getting older and are no longer as adventuresome.  It’s kind of unfortunate as this whole coast is stunning and the people have been nothing but friendly and accommodating.  We have more than enjoyed our time here and will be sorry to leave.

Happy Hour at the Time Out Bar - looking down the Barra beach to Malaque in the distance
Sunset over Barra de Navidad
On Saturday we will leave this beautiful place and continue north.  We have a 2 – 3 day weather window where there is little northwest wind predicted.  We hope to get as far as Mazatlan, but there are many stops along the way where we can pop in if the going gets tough.  Our Dutch friends aboard Witte Raaf await us in La Paz and we are looking forward to exploring more of the Sea of Cortez in the coming months before preparing Ka’sala for “summering” in Guaymas.

My first "selfie"

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