February 5, 2006

Gold Coast - Mexico

Lets see... when we last updated our log we were in Tenacatita in what they call the Gold Coast area of Mexico and have remained in this area for the last month. Discovering why they call this area the Gold Coast has been a fun adventure. Up until now, most of the anchorages have been few and far between, traveling up to as much as 2 days between each. From Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo most anchorages are only a short morning or afternoon sail away from each other.

Although some of the anchorages/towns do begin to look alike, each has their own separate charm about them. In Puerto Vallarta you are in the hub of a highly populated area with everything a city could offer. Cruise ships coming and going and lots of tourists everywhere you turn. The city is rich with history but is primarily a tourist driven town. To stay on a boat in Puerto Vallarta you need to be in a marina as there is no real place to anchor out. Just 3 miles west, by boat, or about 20 miles by road, and you are in the great little town/village of LaCruz where we anchored out for most of December. LaCruz is primarily a fishing village about one square mile, that still has dirt/rock roads, small tiendas throughout the town, lots of local music, with small town charm unspoiled by development. A large marina is currently in the works and due to be completed within the next few years which will drastically change this small town, much too many locals dismay.

We spent a lot of time between Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad during January. Tenacatita is a large bay and usually has between 20 and 50 cruising boats anchored out at any given time which generally range between 28’ and 60’ with an occasional 100 footer in the mix from time to time. Palm trees line the beach with one small palapa at one end and a large exclusive hotel at the other. This particular anchorage is a favorite for cruisers who enjoy having the beach to themselves with little to no development around. One memorable night in Tenacatita we had our friends from Blew Moon and Audios over for the evening. This being a bay where there wasn’t any music around, we thought it was a good time to see how well we could do with the instruments we had on board ( guitar, drum, flute, tambourine, Manchaca’s, harmonica, etc.) Now understand that there was not much musical talent in this group and I do believe most of us are actually tone deaf – we all thought we were wonderful but in reality we were pretty bad! It didn’t dissuade though and it made for an eventful night. The music also brought out the crazy dancing man again - those of you who have seen Ken dance know what I’m talking about! This time he decided he would do his dance on the dinghy davits - the 10 foot long, 3 inch metal pipe that sits about 5 feet above our swim step. You know what’s coming next….. he fell during one of his fancy moves and hit his tailbone and cut his leg a bit. He is now sitting rather gingerly and has the blackest bruise on his butt that I’ve ever seen! Ray, from Audios, was the net controller a few days later and announced Ken as the “Dinghy Davit Dancer.” So, of course, for weeks when other cruisers asked Ken “why the nickname” he proudly showed them his trophy bruise on his hind end!? What’s that old saying about “you can take the boy out of the country...

The lagoon at Barra de Navidad was our next stop and was one of the more challenging places to anchor. There is a long narrow channel that is a little like maneuvering through a gauntlet in order to get into the lagoon where we anchor. The channel is so narrow that, almost daily, there is a boat that hits bottom trying to come in. The idea is to always enter Barra on a rising tide so that if one does hit bottom coming in, the tide will rise and lift your boat off the ground sooner rather than later. They say that most cruisers fall into one of two categories… those that have hit bottom – and those that will hit bottom! We have come in and out of the lagoon 3 times thus far and so far so good?

Barra is one of those small quaint Mexican towns that is supported by tourism and fishing. Palapas line the ocean front and make for some great sunsets while watching the surf and sipping on something cold to drink and eating something – anything – made with tortillas! It is also a town that offers internet cafes. I was checking my email and received an email from a friend (Sally Derevan) that I hadn’t heard from in several years. She proceeds to tell me the “new love of her life” lives in a small town in Mexico that we’ve probably never heard of ... you guessed it – he lives and works in Barra, a mile from where we were sitting. We met for breakfast a few days later.

One of the fun things about anchoring in Barra is the “French Baker” that comes around to your boat every morning and offers you fresh baguettes, stuffed croissants, small pies, etc. No kidding – this is for real! Barra also has a marina (one of the most expensive ones you will find anywhere) and a five-star++ hotel that is a treat to see. The facility has incredible pools that all link together via waterfalls and water slides. Our friends from Free Spirit and Paloma, who are both traveling with children, stayed in the marina so the kids could get off their boats and have a little “kid time” to burn off some energy and have some fun. Do any of you want us to reserve a room for you while we are in the area??? Come on, it’s a mere $450 per night!

Many of our cruising friends are football fans from Washington and rooting for the Seattle Seahawks. Trying to find a place that will play the playoff games is one thing, and trying to find one with a big screen is another, but finding one that will play it in English is another whole other story. Many of them have actually moved their boats to a new location just to be sure they will be able to see the playoff games, which are coming up next week.

When we do not have access to any tiendas, I have been working on my bread making skills – I think they are improving … Kens not complaining… but then again he is a smart man! We have spent many evenings recently sharing potluck dinners with Maestra, Savannah, Catn’ About, Sarabi, ChaletMer, Paloma who are a great group of people, some who have been cruising Mexico for a several years now. It makes it pretty nice when you only have to cook one thing but end up with a full meal? We have never had so many different people over for dinner or been to so many different peoples “homes” for dinner as we have since we have been cruising – we think we could get used to this! Some of the boats are much larger and hold more people than others and we don’t always get a chance to get to everyone’s boat so one day many of us decided it would be fun to have a “boat tour” – kinda like our home tour back in Big Bear. It is only natural that we love our boats the most – after all “home is where the heart is” right? Every boat has its own charm and personality but I do believe that Sarabi is the one that captures everyone’s interest the most. She is a 60’ catamaran with a beam of 33’ that Karen & Barry built themselves in Canada. Sarabi’s cockpit and living area reminds me of the spaceship Enterprise plus they have 4 cabins, a full size galley, and an 85’ carbon fiber mast and boom that turns 360 degrees that you can move easily with your hand. We easily sat 14 of us for dinner one night. They are leaving for the South Pacific soon and we hope to catch up with them again some time in the future.

We anchored and visited the little town of Melaque just outside of Barra. From November thru May the majority of the town are snowbirds from Canada. We met a couple who have been coming to Melaque since the early 1990’s who shared their palapa with us one afternoon. Melaque has an informal “almost free” beachfront RV park that several people make their home for six months of the year. They pay $80 a month and are walking distance to the town and 100 yards from the water. This is a place we will remember when we are looking for a cheep place to stay when we are through cruising!

From Melaque we went exploring and found an uncharted little bay a few miles around the point and anchored in our own private cove for the night. It is very special when you find a cove where you can have an anchorage all to yourself! We are told that when we travel further into the Sea of Cortez this spring, it will not be uncommon for us to find secluded anchorages? The next morning as we headed back towards Tenacatita we continued to explore more small coves along the way. We make it a habit to troll for fish as we travel. Ken hit the jackpot this particular morning and caught a 4 foot Dorado!! (Mahi Mahi) If you haven’t seen one before, they are beautiful yellow and blue fish with bulbous heads….. they are more delicious to eat than they are pretty to look at. Now - what to do with two 36” filets?? It wasn’t a hard decision to turn around and go back to Barra where we rafted up with Maestra and had Mahi Mahi dinner for 10 that night.

Next it was off to Carazzal, a small cove outside of Santiago, where we met up with Kalinga again. We had saved some Dorado to share with George & Joanne as George and Ken are fishing buddies now and we keep trying to get together for dinner. Snorkeling was interesting, with many fish we hadn’t seen before. On to Santiago, this is to the North of the downtown area of Manzanillo Bay. Manzanillo is a busy commercial port and has a population of over 100,000. Santiago is another of those beautiful anchorages, one that will hold around 100 boats. We were lucky in that there were only 10-15 boats anchored while we were there. We are always on the look out for whales in this area and had not seen one in weeks when one particular morning our friend Teal, asked us if we had seen the whales all around our boats early that morning. Thinking he was kidding, he proceeded to show us the most amazing photos of whales jumping clear out of the water and some great “fluke” pictures, some being just 50’ away from Dreamweaver. Oh, so cool… and we missed the whole show! You snooze... you lose.

Before we left we heard lots of stories and/or rumors about pirates and ways to protect oneself. We also know that one of the things you absolutely do not want to have in Mexico is a gun; therefore, the general means of protection varies from baseball bats, to cast iron skillets, to slingshots and flare guns. We have found Mexico to be very safe and have never once feared for our boat or personal safety. Many of the little towns we visit have flea markets which are fun to wander through from time to time. While in Santiago one day we meandered through one and found another treasure to add to our list of protective devices. We are now the proud owners of a machete! Seems that the only thing we have needed protection from so far are the fish we have caught that have large teeth and flop around the deck trying to bite us.

It is now February 5th and we are leaving Santiago/Manzanillo area and will begin heading south again. Dottie will be taking the bus to Puerto Vallarta to catch a plane to Colorado to see family and go wedding dress shopping with Kim & Keri. I’m sure there will be lots of stories to tell after Ken fends for himself for the next week, so until then...

Love and laughter to all,
Ken & Dottie

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