Sunday, January 26, 2014

Christmas 2013 and the New Year in La Cruz

December 23 - 31: Christmas and the New Year 2014, La Cruz
The day began with True North anchored in Chacala. We were up shortly after sunrise and on the water at 0735, following Unleashed and Winterhawk out of the bay, surrounded by misty green forested hills. They followed a course about a mile west of us and encountered numerous fishing lines along the way, each time letting us know via VHF of the hazards. We only crossed one line and followed the advice of another boater - put the boat in neutral and let the line slip along the underside of the boat, using the boat hook if necessary (it wasn't) to help it through. A dozen or more whales could be seen close to shore. One whale gave us a stellar show of repeated lob-tailing for a minute or so! It was a very calm day so we were only able to motor. We made a feeble attempt to fly the jib but the little wind we had didn't last, arrived at Marina La Cruz at 1500, and moved into our slip, 9B22.
Fish market, Marina La Cruz
We had reserved a week at the marina in La Cruz, a very laid-back town. Two days before Christmas and the town of La Cruz was totally quiet! Few people were in the plaza or on the streets. We walked to the church to see the interior which had been decorated with colorful, red cloths draped from the ceiling and a large nativity scene. There were a few open tiendas selling basics.Surprisingly, there were no farjolitas or luminarios on Christmas Eve as we had expected to see throughout Mexico. Every city in New Mexico celebrates Christmas that way! In fact, there were few Christmas decorations of any sort in La Cruz.  We joined merry cruisers on the dock for a Christmas Eve dock party, and then again on Christmas Day for a potluck Christmas dinner complete with turkey, ham and always good camaraderie. At least some of the boats celebrated with colorful lights. Excelente!

For its small size, La Cruz manages to pull together a surprising amount of live music at a couple of bar/restaurants on many evenings. For some daytime entertainment, the two towns of Suyalita and Bucerias are a short bus ride away, and the larger Puerto Vallarta in another direction. We took a crowded bus to Suyalita, expecting more of a small fishing village and found instead a larger town than La Cruz with about 10 square blocks of tourist shops, a pleasantly crowded beach full of vacationing sunbathers, and the usual colorful restauarnts lining the beach. We stopped for a cold beverage and to watch everything and bought a small rug for True North's salon.

Buying our new boat rug in Suyalita
On the way back to La Cruz, a bus transfer in Bucerias gave us enough time for a quick walk along the beach and waterfront. Back in La Cruz, we finally went out to the much regaled Philo's for their open mic night to find pretty good music by local oldtimers! The following night was New Year's Eve and we couldn't decide how to spend it. One option was the big YC dinner and band; another was the cruiser's dock party. We opted to go to town with other boaters to search for live music, not so good this time, then back for a special treat of Patty's campechana and an ale aged in oak bourbon barrels on Winterhawk, and finally the tail end of the dock party.

We also visited downtown Puerto Vallarta, strolled the Malacon, visited the shops, and had a liesurely lunch at a palapa on the beach.
Strolling musicians in Puerto Vallarta
January 1 – 6: Out and About in Banderas Bay
Exploring some of the well-known anchorages around Banderas Bay brought us first to Punta de Mita, just a few miles from La Cruz.
Evening at Punta de Mita
There were a dozen other boats anchored, including French Curve, and lots of water activity in the anchorage as the beach has several hotels. Dozens of pangas sped by throughout the day on the way to the nearby National Park islands, Las Tres Marietas, our next destination.
Campechana at Punta de Mita
We left Punta de Mita early in the morning to try to get a mooring buoy (we did) at Tres Marietas and to snorkel in the morning while the water would be most calm. Lots of colorful reef fish. By mid-morning, the pangas and huge, loaded, 200 passenger tour-boat cats from Puerto Vallarta arrived and unloaded tens of dozens of swimmers and snorkelers into the anchorage.
Big cats awfully close at Tres Marietas
Later in the day, we took the dinghy around to the east side of the island and another snorkeling spot. The surge picked up suddenly while we were out and pushed us across the shallow rocky surf, in and out a few times before we got safely to shore. Just as quickly the surge died and we got our dinghy ready to head out, waited for a calm surf line, then easily took off. Back at our boat, a couple of small private party yachts had anchored nearby with some upbeat Mexican music. The evening light was highlighting everything in magnificent color. The moment was divine! One of the pangas passing by slowed down to tell us they were concerned about us when they saw us earlier trying to get in to the beach over the rough surf. So were we!

One night on that mooring buoy was enough! The rocky shore looms nearby, coupled with big swells, making sleep less than peaceful. We sailed on to Yelapa, a village of colorful cafes and beach umbrellas along a golden sand beach at the south end of Banderas Bay. It is surrounded by thickly forrested hills and only accessible by boat.
We were greeted by a panga on entering who rented us a mooring buoy as there is only a narrow shelf in which to anchor in the otherwise deep bay. We walked the trail to a waterfall and along the river and mostly watched the watersports from our boat or from the beach. Our mooring buoy was temporary (for a lighter boat) and we were moved to another one just after dark. The second night on that buoy, we returned from an evening in the village to find the neighboring boat's outboard prop just about 2 feet from our hull! We powered up and set a stern anchor for a peaceful night. In the morning, we left for La Cruz to pick up our mail and do some boat chores over several days and then begin the next leg of our passage south around Punta Corrientes to Manzanillo.

Pinata party in Yelapa

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