Travels from Jan. 16 to Jan. 25
The trip from Tenacatita to the main anchorage in Bahia Chamela was slow, since we didn't have much wind. It was hot too, because of the still air. We pulled into the northern most end of the bay, where the largest anchorage is, just off a town. There were about 15 boats already in and we could see several more heading in from the north. As soon as we set Max, Nancy and I jumped into the water for a refreshing cool-down. Not more than a minute later, Desenex (Itchy Feet's dink) pulled up and told us there was a potluck, beach party in 15 minutes.
We quickly showered, dressed, put our eating gear in a bag, grabbed a sack of Mexican-spiced peanuts and hitched a ride in Desenex to the party. Now this is cruisin'! After our hors d'oeuvers, everyone chowed down on the hot dishes thr others brought. As the evening darkened, we sat around a driftwood fire and told lies. One of the cruisers had some leftover sparklers from New Years Eve and handed them out. We acted like kids, waving the sparkeling wands around before tossing them into the sea. Finally we headed back to our boats, richer by several new boat cards from crews we had met.
The next morning, we woke up and had a great laugh. The first noise that separated itself from the ambient was, "Oww . . . Oww . . . Ha ha ha ha ha". It was a bird's call. It ended with such a great quasi-laugh, we both broke into a chuckle ourselves. It sounded like a person was walking on hot sand with an "Oww", then a short pause before another "Oww". The "laugh" was rapid and any human would be proud to laugh like this bird, a Boobie. We didn't remember hearing the Boobies in Melaque making this call. Maybe there was too much interference by other sounds. Maybe these are a different kind. In any case, Chamela has become the Bay of Laughter to us. Throughout the day, and each day there, we were constantly chuckling - it was contagious.
We went ashore to see what provisioning options existed. Remember: Food is #1 priority. We have become particularly fond of bananas, but only buy 8 or so at a time. We have them on cold cereal and sourdough hotcakes. When using them in the latter way, the resulting flavor reminds us of macadamia nut pancakes. Our supply of tortillas were almost gone, as were the cookies I can eat. But most importantly, our bolillo rolls were almost gone. We have developed a fondness for these. In Melaque, we had found a source of super tasting ones, usually still warm from the oven. Before finding this source, I had never been a big bread eater with meals. Now, though, Nancy and I have a oven-warmed roll at dinner and a sandwich using a sliced roll for lunch.
The beach landing at the north anchorage had bigger surf, requiring more planning and care on the approach. We did fine getting ashore and pulled the dink far up, away from the present water line, near the few palapa restaurants there. The street leading away from this area was more like of a pair of ruts than a road. The houses on either side varied greatly. First, a concrete block house, then an adobe brick fixer-upper with a thatched roof, followed by a "city block" or more of scrub brush. The "hotels" and bungalows were recognizable by fresh paint on the walls.
We walked away from the beach for 5 or 6 blocks before coming to the main, paved road. To the right, east, the houses continued. We headed that way although we couldn't see any signs or other evidence of tiendas. Soon though, we passed one - a few blocks later, another. Of course we stopped at each to see what was available. About a mile into town, we came to the zocalo or town square. Here several tiendas were found. About the same time a small, covered truck came by. As it had approached it would stop and honk its horn. It was the fresh produce source. Next we learned that the little grey Datsun pickup, honking and stopping, was the Tortilleria. We asked the driver for a media kilo. He grabbed a handful, without weighing, wrapped them in a piece of a corn flour sack and asked for 3 pesos. [These were the best we had had for some time.]
About an hour later, we had acquired some top quality apples, nice looking pears and produce, as well as a sack of rolls. [The rolls turned out to be the worst we have ever had.] We bought cookies at another place and ham slices at a little hole-in-the-wall. We couldn't find any chicken, although we were given directions by several people. When we got to the location they had directed us to, there was no tienda or meat store. The people we found gave us directions back the way we had just come. We forgot about the chicken.
That afternoon more boats came in from the north. One was Tundra Spirit, the Alaskan boat we had met in Chula Vista on the last day we were there, last October. They had helped me rebuild Kiwi's Windows95. We checked in with them and thanked them again for their help. They picked our brains, since they were going to all the places we had just been to.
Before dinner we went to a book swap party on Itchy Feet. We came back with new reading material and more boat cards.
The next day we relaxed. I worked on my Chronicals, Nancy made a batch of sourdough English muffins and then read some of the magazines Maggie had given her a year ago. Nancy's plan is to read the editions coinciding with the current month. Of course they are one to two years old! Nancy gets more out of a magazine than ANYONE. After reading it, she cuts out stuff to save, followed by tearing out pages containing pictures she later cuts and glues on boxes, creating a wrapped package with a graphic message for the recipient. They are most novel and have more interest than store-bought wrapping. These are the kinds of things you have time to do when you're retired. The magazines are shells when the Firstmate is through with them.
The following day we moved out to the small islands at the entrance to the northern anchorage, just a few miles away. We chose to anchor off Isla Colorado, although it is recommended for southerly conditions (the prevailing conditions are NWesterly). Our decision was based on the light swells currently existing, and this anchorage was right off a sandy beach and was beautiful. Shortly after we were anchored, a fresh, southerly wind grew to 25 kts., making our decision look insightful. The radio traffic, from the main anchorage we had just left, reported the waves and swells were 4' and greater. Many boats moved out to our area in the islands to hide from the weather. I put on my mask and flippers and dove to confirm the anchor was set well and saw an "electric" ray, a Torpedo. There was a considerable underwater current through our position.
Since I had good wind and solar power, I made water the rest of the afternoon. While monitoring this production, I listened to the two Alaskan boats' radio traffic as they attempted to find the entrance to Careyes, our first stop after crossing from Cabo in November. They were confused, so I radioed to them with info to help them locate the entrance.
One of the boats that anchored between the islands was a huge powerboat, The Hotel, as Nancy referred to it. During the next couple of days, the guests aboard it rode jet skis, water-skied, took speedboat trips around the islands and partied on the upper deck. The crew was constantly serving them in one way or another. At night, their lights spread over a wide area. It was impressive.
The next day we rowed the dink into the beach. From there we swam to the bordering rocks to snorkel. It was some of the best fish viewing we have had. Nancy had another great time. We checked out tide pools and looked for interesting shells. Then I rowed to the next cove where I saw a palm tree - I was out of coconut! The beach was all rock. There weren't any coconuts beneath the tree though. We explored some, then back to Nanjo.
During the afternoon, we had several bees come into the cabin. This might not seem like a big deal, but we had heard about a killer bee attack on a boat anchored in Melaque, while we were in Tenacatita. So we were interested in keeping bees from setting up a hive aboard Nanjo. The attack in Melaque came after the owner of a sailboat found a hive in a kayak on deck. He had tossed the kayak into the water and the bees stung him, several times on the face. The swelling was substantial and painful. The Net discussed bees and experiences other cruisers have had. One helpful hint was to use a cut onion on the sting to eliminate the poison and swelling. While I do have a childhood reputation with my cousins relative to onions, we didn't want to test that cure any time soon.
We heard about an eclipse of the moon expected this evening, the 20th. The radio conversation we were listening in on predicted it would start around 2000 hrs. It wasn't until after 2100 that it actually started. I stayed up until it was half eclipsed, before going to bed. Nancy stayed up to see it go all the way. But when the alarm woke me at 2300 for my evening insulin, Nancy was in bed and the moon was still eclipsed. It began to "uncover" before I went back to sleep.
On the 21st, we headed south to the other end of Bahia Chamela, to Paraiso. This is a small anchorage just off a private coconut plantation. It is open to NWesterly weather and has reportedly questionable holding for anchors. We had discussed this area with a cruiser in Melaque just after Thanksgiving and had received his notation in our cruise guide for this anchorage. There was one sailboat anchored right in the middle of the anchorage. When we started to drop our anchor, he went "ballistic". Apparently he had drug anchor several times before he got a good "set" and figured we would drag too. I finally asked him if he preferred me to just leave the anchorage entirely. Finally he indicated he wouldn't mind if we could anchor well behind him, close to the beach. Although that was where he drug his anchor, Max seemed to set OK. With Nanjo's motor still on, I donned my mask and snorkel and dove to inspect the situation. Max had stuck one of its edges through the inch of sand and hug between some hidden rocks. I didn't like this set, but couldn't do anything right then because a small moray eel was inspecting Max. I dove back down the 20' a few more times before the eel left. Then I pulled Max out of the rocks and placed him in the proper position. I got back on board and felt the snubber line to see if Max skipped or held, while Nancy reversed the engine. It felt like it was holding. I dove again to confirm the situation. Max was in the right position, but only sunk in about 2". I couldn't see any place better in the area and there was a huge flat rock 15 - 20' "downwind" that would catch Max if he drug.
That afternoon the wind freshened to 15 - 18 kts. and the swells grew to 4'. The anchorage became very rough and bouncy. We were experiencing what is referred to as a lee-shore condition. This means that land is in the direction we would go if the anchor didn't hold. Not recommended! We watched or referrence points on land, assuring ourselves that we were not dragging. As the sun set, the winds diminished. After dark, with the wind gone, the swells remained high and Nanjo rocked wildly. At least the wind had kept us pointed into the swells, but now we were a proverbial cork.
During the early afternoon, another sailboat attempted to anchor. After diving and deciding to move closer to the first boat, they changed position too close to the first boat and were yelled at. They left. Another boat, Secret of Life anchored close to us and held just fine all through the wind and swells, but left the next morning after breakfast.
All was calm and flat that morning. We decided to explore the rocks/islands just outside the anchorage, check a possible alternative anchorage in another cove and find the reefs reported but not drawn in our guides. We found an interesting place to dive at the islands, found that the reefs required more caution than we were led to believe and found a nice little beach to check out later.
That afternoon the winds freshened again. Only this time they were in the 25 kts. range and the swells were over 6'. The good news was that we weren't at the north end of the bay, where boats reported 35 kt. winds. I went forward to check the chafe protection on the anchor snubber and watched the bow almost become awash from the swells approaching. Our referrences continued to indicate we were exactly where we had been since first we had turned off the engine the day before. The wind died about the same time as the day before.
The last morning there, we dinked out to the islands for a quick dive before raising anchor before noon, heading back to the islands outside of the northern anchorage. The dive was in colder water and there wasn't much new to see, so it was short. We wanted to be gone before the winds and seas returned. Before we left, the first boat, Lionheart departed.
We anchored off the island providing protection for NW weather, Isla Passavera. I cleaned the bottom so that Nanjo could be as fast and efficient in the water as possible for the next couple of legs. As I finished, Sojourne, the only other boat anchored in the cove, came over to visit. They are from Felton (in the Santa Cruz hills, back in the Bay Area).
The next day we moved to the anchorage off the town again and went in to stock up again. The tortilla truck came up behind us within the first two blocks off the beach. Recognizing him, I flagged him down and bought a kilo. He offered to take us downtown. We jumped in the back and were whisked the mile to the zocalo and the tiendas. When I handed him a tip for the ride, he waved it off and just smiled. I thanked him profusely.
We bought what supplies that were available and what looked good and hiked back to the boat.
The morning of Feb. 25th, we got up and left at 0500. We had 50 miles or so to go to get to Ipala. The moon illuminated the islands, our first target to safely get by the reef just off the northerly, seaward point. Once in open water, I sent Nancy below to get a little more rest. The early land breeze gave a little assistance to our speed, with the jib out. After breakfast there was no wind until early afternoon. Then we set both sails and Steve held us at about 6 kts. boat speed, into 20 kts. of wind and 5' seas. It was a close hauled reach and we had to tack rather than point straight for Ipala. But the current and seas had us down to about 1 kt., motoring on a direct coarse.
We sailed right into the anchorage at Ipala, where there were about 10 other boats already. I furled in the jib. Then Nancy pointed Nanjo into the wind so I could drop the main. However, the sail slides jammed in the track and the sail wouldn't move. So Nancy had to maneuver to a good location between other boats to where we could anchor. Once that was done, I got out my web mast ladder, hoisted it on the spinnaker halyard and climbed up to the trouble spot. The screw holding the slide track to the mast had almost come all the way out. It was sticking into the track, blocking the slides path down. I had brought up some thread-locking glue for just that situation. A few minutes later, I was back down on deck. The main came down perfectly and I folded and tied it to the boom.
We talked to another boat, Pacific Adventure, which had passed us on the way up. Actually, under sail, we "reeled them back in" and passed them under sail. They had called us to see if we wanted to go into Ipala first. We told them to go ahead because we would have to tack one more time. We still almost beat them in though. It was a good, day-on-SF-Bay sail up to Ipala, within 15 miles of Punta Corrientes, a reported "Pt. Conception" like passage. Tomorrow we would make that passage and arrive in Banderas Bay, playground for sailors in Puerto Vallarta.
Crew of Nanjo