Bahia Banderas and beyond--
Check in from the anchorage in La Cruz...
After our shakedown trip down the Sea of Cortez, we booked a marina slip for one month in Marina Riviera Nayarit, in La Cruz, just north of Puerto Vallarta. When headed down, I knew that La Cruz was a popular destination for Mexican seasonal cruisers, but had no idea how much of a community is based here. We came in to a beautiful marina and a small quiet village, only scattered with a few gringos (who were obviously boat-dwellers) and just the perfect amount of tacos stands, bars, laundry facilities and corner stores. The cobble-stone streets seems to be common in the area, and fill every road of La Cruz. Along with a bustling Sunday Farmers Market, many cruiser gathers, a chandlery and the best bus system in Mexico (I’m saying that with no other bus experience in Mexico beside La Paz and Guaymas… which were always a gamble… but it’s got to be up there among the best), it’s easy to see how cruisers get “stuck” here. Stuck isn’t even the right word. They just get drawn into a community and become active parts of the meetings, radio nets, swap meets, free classes, and can’t seem to decide why to leave.
One reason to leave… the water visibility is terrible, and that could be from the small amount of swell that rolls into the anchorage, or it could be from sewage holding tanks that magically leak into the anchorage and marina. Needless to say… we don’t swim here—- just like I wouldn’t swim in Aurora Harbor in Juneau (kudos to Jill, who did swim in Aurora to fetch a iPhone). The anchorage is busy, and the channel into the marina is even busier, with tourism day-cruises pumping Bruno Mars “Treasure.” Now, I love some Bruno Mars, but when it’s in combination with a Mexican DJ and a group of cheering young folk…. It makes me feel… well, old. When Clif and I were sailing out in the Bay the other day, we had one party boat bearing down on us… and we were only under sail, not motoring. We had to ease off to avoid them. I was extremely tempted to moon the crew of Jose-drinking youngsters…. But then I realized they would probably enjoy that too much, and I should save my mooning for better occasions, and more appreciative audiences (Like whale-watching day-boats out of Auke Bay).
But we’re here! Anchored off of La Cruz in Bahia Bandaras. And it’s very lovely, despite the occasion wake thrown by some major mega yachts.
Once we got back from our Christmas home visit, we had another week of family time with Cami, Tom, and Alden, in Sayulita. Sayulita is further north— around the corner and outside the greater bay. It’s exposed to north swell from the Sea of Cortez, but was a totally fine anchorage for us for the week. The cruising guide books avoid Sayulita and give no recommendations on anchoring, so we did a little Google internet research and found a couple GPS anchoring points off of Playa Los Muertos. The cove is a smooth sandy bottom, gently rising, and protected by Punta Sayulita. For cruisers interested, we dropped our anchor 20 feet at 20,52.448’ N and 105,26.833’ W. We did have to put out a stern anchor to keep our bow facing into the slight north swell, because of the light winds. Also, while the anchorage was great holding the dinghy landing on the beach, with surf, created very exciting and wet entries and exits. We chose to row, and would have to wait at the crests of the swells, just before they broke, to come in during a lull. Once, after a nice dinner on the beach with family… accompanied be several margaritas, we capsized our little Walker Bay dink in the dark (along with Clif) while was pushing from behind in my swim suit, trying to get us past the white water.
Sayulita seemed slightly busy to us when we first arrived, the surf spot right off the main downtown area was packed. But we realized after the weekend, that we had arrived on the last few days of winter break (also known as Dias de Fiesta en Mexico) so many of the visitors were Mexican. The town quieted down quite a bit after the weekend, and I grew to enjoy the diversity of food, restaurants, more cobble-stone streets, and small, funky bars and coffee shops— which are nice to indulge on yummies like cappuccinos and croissants— with as many tacos and hot churros as you can enjoy, right next door. Going to Sayulita feels like a vacation to us (even though were on perma-vacation right now) because we can lay out on a nice sandy beach with a beer, look at our boat from afar, and not think about the chores that need to be completed before we take off for the crossing. :)
Our favorite spot, thus far, has been Punta Mita. This small surf destination is more just a home for the locals who work at the very large Four Seasons resort and golf course out on the greater Punta Mita. But us cruisers get to benefit from some cheap drink prices on the beach, a very quiet place to leave a dinghy unlocked, and some good surf, both in and slightly out of town. The dinghy landing here aways requires a little “surf-timing” (I think this is going to become our norm for the year), but is slightly protected by a rock wall that the pangeros created to give shelter to the beach and pangas tied up there.
Biggest plus of Punta Mita anchorage— clear water… and baby humpback whales!! No joke. We sat out on our boat one night watching a tiny baby whale repetitively breach, right nest to it’s mother. In fact, all over the Bay right now, you can see humpback families with small infants, newly born. Being a Juneau girl, I have always felt spoiled by the whale sightings I get to experience, but BABIES! Baby humpbacks are up there on the scale of most precious wildlife you could ever witness. The whale songs have been audible through the boat hull, sometimes loud enough to wake me. One night I could press my ear to the floor of our wooden cabin sole and distinctly hear three voices— which sounded like a small baby, mother and male. For the past week, we have been anchored off of Punta Mita enjoying the benefits for a strong northerly swell. All the die-hard cruising surfers are here— you can tell by their speedy dinghies, surf board bags on deck and drying wetsuits in the afternoon. The anchorage is rolly with the surf coming in, but we were easily able to get used to the movement. Because of the large surf, the ability to dinghy ashore was virtually impossible for two days. We did paddle and swim ashore for an afternoon beer and margarita surf break, and that was about it. After two hard days of surfing, we were both very sore and tired— our bodies are definitely not in surfing shape, so we’re been taking baby steps since then, doing smaller surf sessions and longer SUP paddles. We’ve felt like glorified surf bums, paddling INTO shore for the surf, from our house out on the water :)
Casualties from our hard days of getting back into surfing: 2 pairs of sunglasses (on one simultaneous dump of paddle boards— my hat was retrieved), Clif’s surfing shorts (he literally ripped the entire butt panel off), a tiny piece of rock stuck in my foot from a bad surf landing and one bruised knee. That being said, we both caught and surfed waves on the inflatable paddle board and the longboard we rented, so a victory all around!
Besides listening to whale sounds and snuggling with my nephew, I have turned completely to gathering as much radio tape recordings as possible, trying to gather material for an all-female episode centered around the community of La Cruz. There’s a women’s gathering that takes place one a month called “Women Who Sail” and generally has three to four female speakers who give light to their sailing/cruising experiences. I was able to do some recording at the event last week, and then have been continuing my venture during other cruiser gatherings. The inspiration for the all-female-voices episode came from both the “Women Who Sail” presence in La Cruz, and the fact the La Cruz cruisers community is really supported and strengthened by one woman, Katrina, who is the PR for Marina Riviera Nayarit. She has built the most insane event schedule for herself… and does it all of the cruisers who come into port. Her story, among many other women, have contributed to making this community as vibrant and busy as it is today. The Sunday Market in La Cruz, I found out, while walking around recording, was founded, managed and run by two women. So, I’m VERY looking forward to starting work on that editing process.
I’m the mean time, I published my first “Single Thread” mini-episode, which will highlight individuals stories, and I’m mid-edit on Episode 2: The Shakedown, hoping to get that out later this week. My goal is to have the La Cruz episode finished by the next Women’s gathering in February. Also… in the podcast future… possibly an episode of provisioning and preparedness for the ocean crossing… we shall see. The process of creating the episodes has been extremely rewarding, it makes me feel like I’m bridging that gap between travel-writing, radio DJing and still producing a blog. My next purchase to add to my recording equipment— a recording hydrophone! How cool would it be to have whale noises or dolphin squeals on the podcast. I’m working on it…
What’s our schedule for the next little bit?
We have family coming throughout February and the beginning of March, so right now, we’re sticking around Bandaras Bay, attending free classes, cruiser gatherings, completing projects that are on our pre-puddle-jump list. Clif added a solar panel to the top of the dodger yesterday, which has been boosting our power supply. We’re planning on rebuilding our bilge pump with a rebuild kit— to make sure that’s ship shape, and cleaning up all the connections in our SSB/HAM radio. Varnishing has been ongoing. I planned at the beginning of the season that I would put two coats of varnish on each surface. It is a slow and steady process. And I’m realizing, down here where it is very humid at night, I can’t lay on any varnish in the late afternoon. It has to have several hours in the hot, mid-day sun to cure before weathering a night of humidity. Learned that the hard way when I varnished one of the long cap rails and it turned cloudy in the morning. But I’ll keep plugging away. Clif and I hand-sand when we’re bored.
It’s a labor of love.— love of Sedna.