Sunday, January 22, 2012

La Cruz and Banderas Bay

On the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta
We are a bit behind in posting our blogs, we have been in La Cruz now for a month!  That's the longest we have stayed in one place since leaving Alameda on Sept 2nd.  La Cruz is our favorite port so far.  The weather is fabulous.  The northers don’t make it this far south and the temperature is consistently 75-80 degrees with a strong breeze most every afternoon.  The anchorage is huge with good holding.  Currently, there are fifty or more boats anchored all around us.  It is a short dinghy ride into the marina where there is a free dinghy dock providing easy access to town.  La Cruz is a quaint little village with cobblestone streets and several small grocery stores and restaurants.  We keep a mental list of the happy hours where two-for-one margaritas can be found.  A few blocks up the hill is the highway and a bus stop.  For large provisioning purchases, we take the bus to a supermarket like Mega or Chedraui.  For a big city experience, Puerto Vallarta is a half hour ride.  We also take the bus to explore popular beach and surfing villages such as Saylutia and Punta Mita.
With Chris and Liz from Espiritu in Sayulita
Maintaining an exercise routine is important for us but not so much for the locals.  There are no trails or established walking paths and the cobblestones streets make for challenging travel by foot.  So we walk the beach.  Our favorite trek is three to four miles along the water to a village called Bucerias.  Once in town, we check out the open air market, have some lunch, and hop on the bus back to La Cruz.  The first time we made this loop, we ran into a woman on the beach with a large galvanized tub balanced on her head.  She sold us a little pineapple pie that was still warm from the oven for twenty pesos ($1.50).  It was fabulous.  After telling the pie story and explaining the route to our cruising friends, several couples have followed in our footsteps.  All have raved about their experience.    
Derrick on the beach walk to Bucerias
A stand at the open air market in Bucerias
Dining and sharing restaurant experiences is a big part of the social scene for cruisers.  Based on our limited experience, we have found that most all restaurants fit into one of two categories: gringo or local.  The gringo places are about three times the price of the local joints and offer relatively plush dining rooms and/or Americana cuisine such as burgers and pizza.  The local places are much more rustic and are focused on the basics: tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas.  Street tacos stands, literally chairs and tables on the side of the road or in someone’s backyard, are very popular and we try them all.  Another favorite local place is a little shack that serves half of a rotisserie chicken with potatoes, peppers and tortillas for three bucks.  We try to limit our dining to places patronized by the locals.  Worthy of note, we have yet to encounter ‘Montezuma’s Revenge.’  We eat everything the locals enjoy and yet to experience any ill effects.  Knock on wood. 

Street tacos make us happy!
Sand sculpture on the beach in Puerto Vallarta

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Off to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

We raised anchor and left Chacala at 0800 with two boats following close behind.  The passage to La Cruz was less than fifty miles and we expected to arrive in the afternoon.  Daytime passages like this are a real treat.  The scenery is great and the navigation is easy.  About twelve miles out we spotted a black flag in the distance.  Now familiar with the drill, we made a sharp turn to the right and drove along the net.  This was an especially long net and we traveled about three miles out of our way to get clear.  Once around, we set a course for a point just outside the rocks off Punta Mita.  The breeze had freshened to fifteen knots and we were running to the point.  Once abeam the point we jibed to a port tack and made the turn into Banderas Bay and west to La Cruz.  The winds were now twenty to twenty-five knots and the waves were building to six feet.  We were happy to tuck behind the protection of the point and the mountains above.
Entering the anchorage at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
Within a couple of hours we had dropped the hook among thirty or more other boats in the La Cruz anchorage.  The memory of our night in Mantanchen Bay lingered in the form of tiny flying insects.  Jejenes (no-see-ums) had taken up residence in the boat.  Occasionally they could be seen gathering inside the windows apparently looking for a way out.  The pests could have been a minor problem, but Trisha was getting eaten alive.  Each morning she awoke to a fresh set of itchy red bite marks.  We learned from our friends on Convivia that the critters get into the sheets where they feast on the sleeping crew and reproduce.  The good news was that simply washing the sheets and towels should eliminate the problem.  Since it would be dark in a couple of hours, we launched the dinghy so we could drop off our laundry and pick up a few provisions at a little grocery store before heading back to the boat for dinner.  It was fish night.
Trisha enjoying a quiet evening in the cockpit
We prepared the skip jack fillets with all of the love and care we would have given a twenty dollar hunk of tuna from the fish market back home.  Once on the grille, I carefully monitored the cooking process.  When the dark meat finally achieved flaky, but not dry, perfection I took it off the grill and handed it over to Trisha.  We sat down for dinner and each took our first bite.  A little gamey but not bad, let’s try eating it with a little salad maybe that will tone it down a bit.  No luck.  At that point we agreed that the skip jack should be classified as a catch and release fish.  We chucked the remainder overboard.

One of the many amazing La Cruz sunsets
Native dancers at the market on Christmas Day
Christmas Brunch at Ana Bananas

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Matanchen Bay is huge.  With only a handful of boats spread across the water, we enjoyed the space and the isolation.  After a few chores, dinner, and a good nights sleep, we were heading to Chacala first thing in the morning.  There were high expectations for Chacala.  Several of our friends gushed about it being the type of destination they envisioned when dreaming of sailing in Mexico.

As the sun neared the horizon, an unexpected greeting party came aboard in large numbers.  These were some of the areas less desirable residents – jejenes (hey-hey-nays in Mexico or no-see-ums in the USA).  The tiny pairs of flying teeth were quite aggressive.  While Trisha stayed below preparing dinner, I was getting bites in the cockpit.  Seemed more annoying than anything, we didn’t think much of it.
Jejene AKA no-see-um
 The next morning we made the twenty-two mile hop south to Chacala.  Upon arrival, we experienced the first significant failure of our trusty GPS chart plotter.  It has a 5x7 inch screen that shows a little boat on a map of our current location.  The little boat stays fixed in the middle of the screen and the map moves to show the boat’s changes in position, just like a GPS in a car.   It was common knowledge that the electronic charts are not accurate in Mexico.  Chacala’s bay showed up as land on the GPS.  Trisha went below to get the cruising guide so I could have a look at its sketch of the bay.  Using the drawing and the other boats and anchor as a guide, we slowly picked our way in and were soon at anchor with about twelve other boats.
Interabang anchored in Chacala
 Chacala was a lovely little village with a great beach and one cobblestone street about three blocks long.  We explored both extensively.  The scenery was fabulous, but over a couple of days we had pretty much seen it all.  After a couple of rolly nights at anchor, we decided that it was time to make the passage to La Cruz.

The fishing education continues.  Soon after leaving Chacala we landed a good sized fish with the cedar plug.  Once pulled aboard it began thrashing violently.  I pinned it to the floor of the cockpit with both feet letting it bleed out without making a big mess.  Trisha went below to get the fish book.  It had the shape of a tuna with a black tail fin.  The spotted belly clearly identified it as a skipjack.  We remembered someone saying “don’t believe what they say, skip jack is OK to eat.”  “OK to eat,” not exactly a ringing endorsement.  The fish book described the edibility as ‘good.’  We put the fillets in the fridge and hoped for the best.
Derrick with his first Skipjack Tuna