Monday, March 25, 2013

Yelapa - A different world

Yelapa old town waterfront
We got a little sidetracked in Puerto Vallarta with that last post so now that we are anchored off the beach in La Cruz it’s time to catch up on some notes from our trip to Yelapa.  We had experienced some difficulties with anchoring and getting ashore in Yelapa that I addressed in a previous post.  This posting today gets away from that inconsequential bit of bother and concentrates instead on the wonderful little town and surrounding countryside in the Yelapa area.  

By the way, we are sitting in a place called Octopus Garden (El Jardin del Pulpo) in La Cruz, a place recommended to us by Steve on the sailboat Landfall with his wife Tamiko and son Eli.

In 1851 the king of Spain deeded the property rights to this and other nearby areas to the local people forming the Indigenous Community of Chacala.  All properties are owned communally by the families living here.  There is no road into this area, only footpaths.  Almost everything imported into the area comes in by boat.  While there is an active tourist trade happening, the locals preserve their way of life and continue to be as self-sustaining as possible.
On one side of the bay is a nice beach with palapa restaurants. The lagoon is behind the beach.

Pie lady headed to the beach.  Buy a slice or the whole pie.
We napped after our night ride around Cabo Corrientes to find ourselves in the late morning shoe-horned bow and stern just off the beach in calm seas.  Popping our heads up out of the companionway we saw a small boat roar by just off our stern trailing a long line attached to a parachute with a white limbed gringo dangling below.  “Watch out for the mast! Don’t skewer yourself.”  He flew right over the top of us.  Then there was the banana boat, a long yellow float with six people astride it being hauled around the bay by a fast panga.  Tourists plied the waters on paddle boards, losing their balance and falling in.  The beach umbrellas were collecting patrons and the beer had started to flow.  It was a Friday, a holiday and the masses were arriving by water taxi from Puerto Vallarta to spend the day at an exotic beach location.

A mural on the side of a house featuring another pie lady.
We brought the dinghy around and went off to explore town.  There are two piers in Yelapa, one on the beach near the palapa restaurants for unloading tourists and one at the old town harbor.  We tied our dinghy to a pier at the old town and found ourselves immediately in an aging, quaint village.  Cobblestone walkways led through the town as houses and places of business crowded each other for the limited space between water and cliffs.  There are no roads, just paved paths winding in and around and sometimes through buildings.  We were enchanted. 

Every structure is built of concrete and stone.  All the paths are paved with the same and there are street lights here and there with electrical meters in front of buildings.  You can easily see where in 2001the electricity had been installed and connected via underground piping running alongside the paths.  Where the path turns steep, the pavement is notched to give feet, hooves, and tires some traction to make it up the grade.  There are plenty of little hostels and B&B style places to stay and quite a mix of eclectic places to eat.  Unlike other parts of Mexico we saw none of the high walls around properties but each place melted into the next, sharing terraces and walkways.  Pipes run alongside trails carrying water collected from up high in the valley.

Tortuga patterned scarf for Connie.
We found our way up and up into a small valley with buildings on either side of the path. 

Flowers everywhere, tropical foliage, and a lively little stream led the way a short distance to the head of a canyon where the local waterfall cascades down.  Everyone we met was very friendly.  On the way up, Connie had looked at some fabric being sold out of a house.  On the way back down the owner had already packed up her wares but when she saw Connie she darted out with a purple shawl that had a pattern of turtles.  Some negotiation began and soon CB sported some new attire.  We visited the local tienda (store) then made our way back to the boat for dinner, cards, and sleep.

Typical path/walkway in town
Ford across the stream
The following day the weather remained calm, which is good, because the bay faces north and when the all-too-common northers come in the anchorage gets very rolly.  This day we decided to hike to the second set of waterfalls about three miles into the jungle.  We walked through town and found the cobblestone path paralleling the estuary and the river.  Eventually we left the houses behind and continued stream-side, fording it when necessary.  At times the path was unclear and we had to boulder hop and wade through the stream.  After a long hike we arrived at the pools just below a series of cascades. Time for a swim!  What a nice place.

By the time we got back to town we were out of water and footsore and the late afternoon was upon us.  At the pier our dinghy was no longer tied to the railing but was just in front of us out in the water being paddled by one of the locals who saw me and paddled it over to the little beach landing area.  The dinghy had found its way under the pier and as the tide came in, the engine cover was grinding on the concrete.  He saw this happening and took the initiative to rescue it and take it to the beach.  I thanked and tipped him and we made our way back to the boat.  As the sun was setting the water taxis were taking on their last loads of beach tourists headed back to PV and soon the bay became quiet.

Upper pools - refreshing swim
That evening we got all decked out for a night on the town returning to the pier and tied the dinghy in a more favorable position.  We had a pretty nice dinner at a local restaurant/resort and heard some music.  As we’ve found mostly here, the music caters to aging gringo baby boomers.  So the music was not exactly our cup of tea and we left after the first set.  Many of the local restaurants and palapa joints let you bring in your own wine or liquor if you purchase your food there.  We brought in our nice bottle of special wine but found they enforced a 150 peso corkage fee so we put away our 70 peso bottle of wine and made do with a single glass of wine.  They just want our money, now isn’t that the truth?  The place was run by expats. 
The town pier that ate our dinghy.

On the way back to the dinghy we passed the little local run restaurant and saw a few tables of folks there eating local foods and listening to the nearby river cascading downhill.  That’s where we should have gone for dinner.  Keep it local, keep it cheap, don’t go fancy and expect a treat.

Bringing supplies to the ferreteria (hardware store)
The following day the winds picked up and by supper time the boat was rocking about pretty violently.  After a rough night of it, on waking we got the boat stowed and prepared for departure. I’d noticed some water leaking down into the bilge and had been trying to figure out where it was coming from.  The flow was increasing day by day and now became a concern.  We figured it was coming from the starboard side scupper drain which empties out just below the waterline.  It was time to get into a marina and sort this out before it became a huge issue.  We decided to head for Marina Vallarta so if necessary we could use the Opequimar boat yard there if we had to haul it out right quick.  There is nothing like a hole in the hull to get you motivated to move quickly.

With a bow and stern anchor out we had to choose which one to bring up first.  As the stern anchor was just before the surf break and it was an offshore breeze, we chose to bring that one up first; that way if anything happened we could pull in on the bow anchor to pull ourselves away from the surf and undertow.  We had trouble backing up Traveler to the anchor because, as we all know, Traveler does not like to back up in a straight line but she prefers to back to starboard. 

Cooling pools.
With lots of grunting and pulling, using hand over hand and the cockpit winch we finally got the boat over the top of the anchor and then heaved it aboard.  The bow anchor had about 200 feet out by now so it took an eternity to bring that one in.  Having retrieved our anchoring tackle we motored the two hours to Puerto Vallarta, leaving an idyllic little haven and immersing ourselves in the terrors of the marina.

By the way, the scupper truly was breaking loose and once at the dock, we had to use a halyard to tilt the boat sideways, raising the hole above the water so I could patch the crack with 5200.  With the temporary fix in place we now must press on to Mazatlan where we had already planned to haul her out of the water for other repairs and maintenance.

As for Yelapa, we think it is a wonderful little town and we plan to visit again.  If the seas are calm, we’ll risk a couple of days anchored there.  Otherwise, a great way to see the place would be to take a water taxi from Puerto Vallarta and stay in a local posada and spend a week seeing the town, hiking the trails, and enjoying the beach.

Words to live by on the steps of the local school.  Note the first and most important step.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cheap Trick – Greatest Hits (We got greedy)

Banderas Bay Regatta
Connie and I are on the boat, at anchor, at La Cruz after sailing over this afternoon from Marina Vallarta where we had been for four days while we repaired a hole in the hull.  This afternoon we buttoned up everything that could move then motored out of the crowded harbor, dodging super yachts, party boats and run abouts.  On exit into the famous Banderas Bay we found strong winds and waves from the west and we found ourselves in the middle of the Banderas Bay Regatta with 27 (I counted) large sailboats beating about in the rollers, spray over the bow, hulls leaning way over, beers spilling everywhere.  Since our course from the harbor to the anchorage evidently went through the race course we just jumped in there with everyone else.

Connie took off the sail cover, removed the sail ties, centered the traveler, went below to close the hatches and port holes and open up the holding tank, loosened the mainsheet, raised the topping lift, rigged the jib sheets, freed the main halyard, attached it to the head of the mainsail and raised the huge mainsail.  She then came to the cockpit and finished off the main halyard, untied the roller reefing and pulled out the massive genoa and winched it tight on a port tack.  I steered.

Note that Connie is right here next to me while I write this, telling me what to say.

Then, once on course, I turned the helm over to Connie who steered us the two hours up the bay to our anchorage where she went forward, dropped the anchor, raised it back up when I didn’t like the set, then dropped it again in another place, secured the rode with the bridle, tidied up the deck then went below to open up all the hatches and port holes.  I steered. 

Then we made dinner and decided to write a little blog story about our morning where we were victims of a cheap trick, or perhaps we just got greedy.  

Just now picking out tunes on the IPOD we found an album named “Cheap Trick –Greatest Hits”.  It was mislabeled and was not the songs we were expecting to find.  And it reminded us of our morning’s adventure.

Two days previous we were finishing up a huge provisioning stop at the big grocery store, Soriana.  We had met this nice young man in the store and he helped us with our wine purchase.  We chatted. He spoke very good English as he had spent some time in the states.   We joked, we laughed, and we got along pretty well.  After the checkout we talked some more and he asked if he could see our big receipt so we showed it to him.  It was for about 2600 pesos, which is about 200 US Dollars. It took two shopping carts to carry it all.  Good prices in Mexico.

Villa de Palmar - Nice
When Ricardo saw the receipt he asked, “Would you like a refund for your shopping today?”  We stood still long enough for Ricardo to give us more info and it turned out that he was pushing something like a timeshare thing where they reimburse you for a large purchase if you spend a few hours looking at property.  He laid out the deal:  We go to a resort, get a nice breakfast, see the facility, talk to an agent then after 90 minutes we are free to go and take 2000 pesos with us in the free taxi back to the marina.  And, if it all went well, he would give us a bottle of rum the next time we saw him in the grocery store.
What the heck, let’s do it.  This will pay for our groceries or our two days dock fees!

 The next morning at 8:00 AM we met Ricardo at the marina and he took us to the Villa de Palmar in a taxi.  He explained in the car that we needed to meet certain qualifications which we mostly did.  The exception was that we were staying in a boat at the marina and not in a hotel.  Evidently they wanted their clients to be staying in a hotel.  So we agreed to pretend that we were staying at the Condominium Flamingo with friends. 

Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta
We had a nice breakfast with a nice young man named Guiermo and then toured the resort with him.  Then we got some facts and figures and met the boss, Thomas, who tried to sell us a fractional share in the resort.  Sort of like a timeshare but with some improvements.   We gracefully declined, sat through a few minutes of pressure sale techniques then we were done… and gathered up our 2000 peso “gift”.  We then found the resort gym and got some free showers before being delivered back to the marina by taxi; morning complete, 2000 pesos richer.
The next day we walked the malecon in old town PV, went to the Mercado municipal, saw the church, enjoyed the art and the people then returned to Soriana to pick up a few groceries and our promised bottle of rum.  Ricardo was his usual charming self and he got us a nice bottle of Bacardi Anejo; then came the second pitch. 

He explains that he receives only a small commission - $34 – on our visit to Villa de Palmar  but he knows a second place that will double his commission . “Want to do it again for 3000 pesos this time?  I’ve got a friend who has another development.”  This is when we got greedy.  We said yes... Well, Scott said yes, Connie said no, we have too much work to do on the boat.  But we agreed to meet Ricardo again in the morning and this time we’d meet his buddy Rudy.

Tempting isn't it?
The next morning Rudy showed up but not Ricardo.  We went with Rudy in the taxi and he started coaching us on what to say this time.  And again we were not to mention that we had a boat.  He told us what hotel to say we were in and even gave us a room number to use.  We are both thinking, “Don’t you think they will call the hotel to check if we are registered to that room?” Why is it so bad to be in the marina that we have to lie? Are marinas so ghetto that Mexicanos look down their noses at its inhabitants?  Why didn’t we ask him these questions? Why didn’t we say no and ask him to take us home now.  Well, we didn’t like it but we played along thinking that it worked the first time, and we will get 3000 pesos, free breakfast, and the rum!

On entry to the resort, Puerto Bahia, on a hill overlooking the town of La Cruz, a young lady checked our credentials and asked us where we were staying and we told them the LIE.  Yes, we lied, knowingly and with malice.  They insisted on knowing the exact hotel room number.  This should have signaled us that something was amiss. But again, our greed blinded us.

Again we had a nice waterfront breakfast at a beach club with the sales guy, Hugh, an ex-patriot from California.  He was working for ReMax in the states then transferred down here to work with ReMax in Mexico.  He showed us around town and we pretended that we had never been in La Cruz before.  We then toured the development and Hugh told us all about the financial aspects of their offerings.  This took a few hours and pretty soon we were getting tired and hungry. Hugh would write numbers on a pad and show them to us, then refer to pamphlets but each time he would put them aside. If I tried to grab the paperwork to look at the figures he would move them away. We had nothing on paper to take with us or to read over at our leisure.  I started pressuring Hugh to wrap it up as we were told this would only take 90 minutes.  Connie saw him nod to someone else then he grabbed up his papers and said he was checking out.

Puerto Bahia Resort and Spa- Translates as Port Bay which it is neither. It is inland.
Ivan enters, sales exec, young man evil smile.  Ivan dropped the price somewhat then tried another tactic to get us to buy the property, today, now, gotta do it right now to get this great deal.  That’s when I told Ivan there was no way I was going to make this kind of decision today.  Ivan was not happy hearing this. Connie tried to smooth things over and that’s how we played it, Scott getting upset, Connie smoothing things over.

After I turned down Ivan he took us downstairs to the intake/output (soon to be shot put) room where we met a nice looking older Mexican lady named Aula who checked our paperwork and made sure we knew what the offer was. We had surely been discovered by this time as faking our hotel room. 
Connie's nose grows longer.  Liar!

Hugh’s offer had been 35k.  Ivan had dropped it to 18k.  Then Aula changed that to 12.8k.  Wow, with all these numbers whirling in our heads and all these different deals on the table it was hard to keep up.  We just wanted our 3000 pesos and our taxi.  Aula asked us about the hotel we were staying in and asked us if we were staying in the front mezzanine area or the ocean view terrace as she used to work there; uh oh.  We lied again and told her the ocean view rooms.  Was this a trick question? She took our paperwork and left.  

Then this big guy came over and sat down and started up with us again, this time offering us another 2500 pesos to go with him tomorrow to see a different property.  We had to tell him firmly NO.  The big guy tried to talk more numbers but I got a look at his wrist watch, the only clock in the place, and saw that we’d been there four hours already, and told him quite strongly that it was time for us to go.
Big guy left and was replaced by the young lady who had first checked us in.  She had a wad of cash with her and our invitation paperwork.  Then she dropped the bomb. “I called your hotel and you are not staying there. You look familiar to me. Do you live here? You need to tell me the truth.”

So, there we were, 4.5 hours into this ordeal with nothing to show for it but a digested breakfast and we had to fess up and tell the woman that Rudy told us to say the hotel when really we were on a boat.  She said that Rudy should not have done that then she asked us to write out what happened on a piece of paper.  We did so, eying that pile of cash she had on the table.  Then she left, taking the wad of money with her.

A taxi driver was called into the room and then a different woman went with the taxi driver to the door and motioned us outside.  I didn’t budge.  Connie went out the door.  I went to the open door.  Other customers were watching.  I held the door open and she tried to shut it.  I’m asking here for our compensation and telling her that we think we were treated unfairly. She threatened to call security if we didn’t leave immediately; tough gal.  She called us liars. We told her that we were only doing what we were told to do by their agent.   It was getting ugly and we knew we’d lost out and we’d better just exit with what little grace was left us.

I guess we were lucky that we didn’t have to walk to the bus stop.  Our taxi ride was swift as we griped to the Spanish speaking driver who listened to our complaints empathetically. He’s heard the tone of voice before and just nodded.  We found ourselves standing on the pavement where we had taken the taxi five hours previously.  We were miffed, insulted, embarrassed, angry, foolish, and needed to vent; hence this blog, thank you readers.

 Monkey is not happy.
This whole episode is still puzzling.  Did we get scammed?  Did the development company knowingly have its agent in the field coerce us into a little lie so that in the end, if we didn’t buy something, they could accuse us of lying and deny us our promised “gift”?  

What about the first deal?  It went just fine and we got our “gift.”  Was this just a setup for the second deal? Did Ricardo know what would happen or was he just passing on a lead to a buddy?  

In the end we feel like we pulled a cheap trick on Villa de Palmar and got our groceries paid for. In the end we feel now that Puerto Bahia played a cheap trick on us, taking five hours of our time.  Cheap trick both ways.  And we took a hit to our conscience because after all, we did LIE.   Cheap Trick – Greatest Hits.  Greed will get you nothing in the end.  

Lessons learned:  Stick to something you know.  Sail the boat. Stay away from smooth talking sales reps and timeshare gimmicks. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

One picture says it all

You can read into this picture what it is like to live the cruising life here in Mexico.  Note the laundry man with his big shady hat.  It is hot here, and the sun is bright.

Our laundry facility is simple. The orange bucket is the wash cycle, the green bucket is the rinse. The blue bottle  is the soap appropriately named Foca.  Foca this!  Add soap to fresh water, add clothing, agitate, rearrange, agitate again.  Wring, rinse, wring, rinse.  Wring out, this time with force, and hang to dry.  Wait a couple of hours and everything is baked to perfection.

We have two sheets for the bed, one fitted, one not, and five pillow cases.  Yes, Connie and I share five pillows in our bed.  Two for Connie, two for Scott and one for Monkey.  Count three nylon shorts for Scott and three pairs of underwear  That's all I need. And four short sleeved button shirts to give my ensemble a tropical flair.  Notice there are no socks, none needed.

The perceptive eye will note the three little backpacks hanging off the bow. These I needed to rinse after our dinghy dunking a few days ago.

I guess we could title this picture, "How I spent my morning at the dock."

Lest you think that laundry day is a chore, it is not.  It is a pleasure splashing about with the fresh water hose, knowing that later, when the sun is high, I will lay in the shade and have a glass beside me with ice cubes.

Manzanillo Harbor where we went to visit the port captain.
After shopping at the mercado in Manzanillo we stopped for some Tacos de Cochinita at this little please.  They were delicious, somewhat spicy, with a nice broth and cost 18 pesos for a plate of two.  That's about $1.50 in gringo money.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Open letter to Yelapa

Yelapa Pier - It crunched our dinghy while we were not looking
Connie and I are in Yelapa and we just love the town.. and we will return.  However this place has a well deserved reputation as a tricky anchorage.  We had a hard time getting our two anchores placed and then later had a couple of dinghy incidents trying to keep it at the town pier while we went for a hike. On our return from the hike we found our dinghy damaged by the pier.  One of the locals had rescued it from beneath the structure and paddled it over to a beach for us.  Later we figured out who to tie it between two concrete bollard but clearly there is no good dinghy dock situation and the beaches are so steep that a beach landing would be complicated by our difficulty pulling the dinghy high enough up the slope to feel that it was safe.  So I wrote a letter and sent it to a couple of addresses I found for the town of Yelapa:

Anchoring in Yelapa


We certainly do like your town and have enjoyed our stay here.  We are boaters and stayed here three nights at anchor in our 42 ft sailboat. As you know, this bay has a reputation as a bad anchorage.  And there are plenty of cruisers blog sites that talk about their bad experiences anchoring here or using a mooring ball.  A bit of advice to you would be to provide a better experience for those of us on boats who wish to anchor or use a mooring buoy for the night.  Bandaras Bay has hundreds of cruising sail and power boats coming and going all season.  Look at the anchorage at LaCruz and you can see how many cruisers anchor there and spend their money in town.  You are not getting hardly any of this traffic... and dollars.

Here are a few points to consider:

There is no reserved anchoring area.  We had to squeeze into a slot near the beach pier putting out both bow and stern anchors. This can be difficult to do, especially in windy weather.   Other areas have mooring balls or floats and it is difficult to know if this is a ball in use or not so we must stay away from these if we are anchoring.

Having permanent mooring balls is a good idea but the ones we found here are not managed properly.  The rode is made of rope and us sailors in big sailboats do not trust rope moorings of unknown age.  If you had professional mooring buoys with chain and floats, properly spaced then you'd find that boats would want to moor their boats on these and would pay a nightly fee.  Also there is a lot of talk about the various people who come out in the pangas to collect the 100 to 200 pesos for the buoy.  Evidently some of the buoys are too close together and larger boats can bump into each other.  And the various owners of these buoys do not work together but instead compete with each other being rude to customers and each other.  Infighting like this does not draw tourists on boats.

Then there is the problem of getting ashore.  You can flag down a panga taxi to come take you to one of the two piers but if you are out on the town late there is no more panga taxi to take you back to the boat.  Panga taxi service should be available til midnight and some sort of signage should be on the piers to tell us how to call a taxi when needed.  Is there a VHF channel that is monitored? If so, then you need to get the word out.  In addition, many cruisers prefer to bring their own dinghy to land.  The two piers in the bay are not appropriate for dinghies.  If your town would invest in one floating dinghy dock then cruisers would be much more willing to come here, anchor or moor, then come into town to enjoy the shopping, hiking, restaurants, and night life.  We tried tying our dinghy to the side of the pier and came back to find it damaged by the rough seas.

One other thing that would be nice is to slow down the panga traffic.  These boats roar through the anchorage at full speed rocking the boats violently.  Yesterday, a good size fishing boat cut behind our anchored sailboat about 20 feet away and almost sunk my dinghy.  You could easily place "Slow - No Wake" buoys around the bay and encourage your boaters to slow it down a little.

To sum it up:
You could have a lot more boat traffic if you improved the anchoring and mooring situation.

1.  Mooring balls on chains and evenly spaced.
2.  An anchorage reserved for boats that want to anchor
3.  Water taxi service in the bay advertised with some signs at the piers
4.  A floating dinghy dock
5.  Slow down the boats, reduce the waves

And again, you have a lovely town and something very special here.  We will come back this way because we are willing to face the challenges of anchoring and getting ashore.

Scott Voltz

Notes from the Connie log

Connie writes her thoughts in a notebook that she keeps by the bed.  This is an excerpt.

Waking two or three times to pee in a cup if it is still on board, or in a bucket if all is taken by the elements. Salty sheets make friction supplemented by the eight gallon hot hot hot!water tank just below the mattress, supplied by the Perkins 4108 diesel while underway.  Dual dutying as a natural in-floor heater for the back quarter below deck including the captain's quarters.  Tropical temperatures sustain a mid eighties consistently with occasional breaks provided by early morning haze from Manzanillo's smoke stacks.  Rocking rollers rarely cease but we remain relatively resilient. We play the late night game of "In search of" those sounds of knocking, clicking and pinging.  When they have been discovered and dampened, peaceful sleep will come, eventually.  It's not always a bowl of cherries, or avocados, here in Paraiso, but that would be just dull and give me not a lot to say.  So,we take it as it comes and do the best we can with a positive attitude and humor. Above all, humor.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

North around Cabo Corrientes

Can you find two of the same things in this picture?

When last we spoke we were having some equipment failures while visiting the Manzanillo area.  Don’t let this bother you or keep you up at night because intermixed between these small inconveniences are some very very good times.  We've had shrimp so often that we are running out of ways to cook it.  I sleep in as long as I want most mornings and am traveling with the most charming companions on the planet.  

Connie’s son Ezrah had left the boat up in one of our favorite little towns on the Costalegre (Happy Coast), Barra de Navidad. He bussed inland to Guadalajara and spent a week there before heading south and west to find us on the beach at Bahia Santiago, near Manzanillo.  There we were, sitting on the beach at a Palapa bar drinking cold beer and eating ceviche when he walks right up to us, finding us there miles away from where we were last anchored.
Ezrah Guadalajara bound

Having successfully navigated this short trip, Ezrah started planning the next; this one much longer and involving Oaxaca and Mexico City.  By the time we got north to Barra from Manzanillo he had finalized his plans and he set off again, this time from the seaside town of Melaque, just a few miles from Barra. Ezrah headed south by bus and we then turned north to head back up the coast. 

We stopped at one of our favorite anchorages, Tenacatita, where we strung lines all around the boat down to the water so we could scrub the hull and have something to hold on to.  Exhausting work it is to swim and scrub.  With every stroke you push yourself away from the boat so you have to use the fins and ropes to pull yourself back in.  Then when you dive below the water to get at the lower part of the hull your shoulders and arms can scrape on the hull and the tiny barnacles can scrape up your skin.  It is best to wear a full wet suit and gloves.  We got about half the hull cleaned that day.

About this time of the year two things happen on this coast. Some of the local businesses close up or reduce their hours because the tourists stop coming.  Evidently the Canadians start to head for home in March.  And also, the strong northerly winds that scooted us down here start to peter out a little.  There are now occasional calm spells where it is possible to inch your way north without having twenty knots of wind with a four foot swell on the nose.  Many of the boaters sit in comfortable anchorages waiting for the good weather window to appear so they can start to migrate north.  We listen to the morning radio net and hope that Chris and Heather on the sailing vessel Legacy will fill us in on what the winds will be like for the next few days.  A bunch of boats will accumulate in a jumping off point and when the window opens they sprint north.

I got on the radio the evening before we left Tenacatita to do an informal boat count of who was leaving in the morning to head north and came up with eight replies from various boats in the anchorage with the same plan.  

Tracy Ann
Morning Star
Buena Vista

So we’d have a pack of them heading out in the morning.  Traveler went north after breakfast and headed for a small residential cove named Careyes where they have most amazing colors on the homes.   This is a marginal anchorage squeezed in there between the rocks so we made it a lunch stop only.  Out again into the Pacific we found some wind and did some sailing, arriving at our next stop, Bahia Chamela at dusk to find an assortment of boats there who we were familiar with, one of which is the Cal 42, Falcon. Most people travel from Tenacatita to Chamela, overnight there then make their bid for rounding the cape and into Banderas Bay all in one overnight voyage or split the trip in two legs by stopping over at Punta Ipala.

Ipala anchorage. Note the fish pens, reefs, rocks, and panga moorings.
Early the next morning, before sunrise, we up anchored and left.  On our way out of the harbor in the dock we almost hit some fish pens in the dark but we made it out safely with much of the fleet behind us.  Throughout the day we spied six other sailboats heading north with us, all on similar course settings, some further out than others.  The seas were running a little high that morning so the going was a little rough until noon as we motored directly into the waves. Instead of rounding the cape in the early evening we opted to stop in the tiny cove at Punta Ipala where we had anchored before on the way south.  

Falcon next to us at Ipala as the sun sets.
At Ipala we found our friends on Falcon already squeezed in there so we squeezed in there next to them, having to reset our bow anchor twice to get our angle and distance right.  We set a stern anchor to hold us pointing in the right direction and set out a row of fenders on the starboard side then went below to sleep.  Around midnight Connie woke to some banging sounds coming from our starboard quarter.  Sleepy Scott said, "Don't worry, it's just a panga bumping us."  She said, "Get your butt out here. This is a mess!" 

So I hauled my sorry self out of bed to join my love on deck in a dark scene of chaos.  The tide had dropped and the pangas had relocated everywhere as their anchor lines went slack.  One panga had worked its huge bow under our fenders, fouled our rear anchor line, and was ramming our stern. There was no moon and the waves crashing on the shore sounded loud, close, and ominous.  When earlier we had gone below to sleep Falcon was beside us, about 40 feet away.  Now she was 25 feet ahead of us and turned sideways towards the rocks.  Clearly the situation was not the best as our bow sprit approached their port side.

I hauled out our mega searchlight and plugged it into a twelve volt source.  The powerful beam swept the anchorage and revealed a picture unlike what we'd seen at sunset.  We tried to make sense of all the dark objects and get an idea of where we were in relation to all the hazards around us.  Connie's memory of the event is the boat bouncing, the panga crashing against us, Falcon just off our bow in danger herself, and the search light sweeping the chaotic anchorage.  Fear sparked action.

Connie in happier times
Connie and I were in immediate agreement that this anchorage was not working for us so we got the panga off of us and woke up the crew on Falcon who were not happy to see their boat so near the shore.  We pulled forward and brought up the bow anchor on the windless, then backed down on the rear anchor, pulling it up by hand and cockpit winch. I tried to avoid mooring buoys and when near one, switched to neutral so as not to get the prop caught up in one. Once the anchoring tackle was on deck we motored south on a compass heading in a completely dark of the moon night.  I used the GPS for the heading and the radar to make sure we were where we wanted to be in relation to the land.  It’s kind of a harrowing experience to wake up in the night, realize that you have to move the boat, then leap off into the dark night to round a cape notorious for its strong winds and rough seas.

Falcon, her crew in a similar state of mind, decided to leave also and she followed us out of the harbor then directly west as we got some distance between land and ourselves.  I rigged a second stern light for Falcon to steer by and off we went into the night, heading for the infamous Cabo Corrientes.  We did not have jack lines rigged, harnesses out, or everything properly stowed but out we went.

Cabo Corrientes, once you get around it, you are in Banderas Bay
We had a good weather window and the seas, while not calm, were not boisterously rough as is typical.  After putting in a couple of GPS waypoints to steer to we set the auto pilot and motored on.  About one hour out when we had gained our five mile offing (from shore) we were preparing to turn further north and saw the green bow light of an approaching boat on a converging course coming up from the south.  According to navigation rules, I had the right of way as did Falcon behind us.  But the oncoming boat didn’t slow or change course.  So when my radar showed them a quarter mile away I throttled back and went to an idle.  Falcon slowed down behind me.  The approaching boat then slowed down but made no move to give way.  So I veered hard to starboard and ran off in the other direction for a while then I cut the engine.  Falcon hailed me on the VHF radio so I went below to answer only to come back on deck to see Falcon cut across my bow.  What a mess at Two AM in the middle of the sea! 

Finally the other boat moved north, with no answer or hail on the VHF and we followed, eventually passing on her starboard.  That’s one bad thing about using the autopilot, you set your course and are loath to change it when prudence would have you keep your distance from any other boat at sea.

After a few hours Connie tried to get some sleep and I took the first watch.  Before sunrise she came on deck and I took my turn below to catch a couple of hours sleep.  Then Connie woke me after sunrise and I took the helm again.  We were still navigating by using waypoints from the cruiser's guidebook. We rounded the cape and made our approach into the beautiful little town of Yelapa at the south side of Banderas Bay.  The anchorage there is not very good but the seas were calm and we were able to get the hook down and our butts into bed for a couple of hours of sleep.

More to come on Yelapa in our next post.