Tuesday, February 11, 2014

True North January 9 to January 27: Costalegre – Cabo Corrientes to Barra de Navidad

A few days back in La Cruz allowed us to pick up our mail, finally! We spent an enjoyable evening reading Christmas cards, then completing a few minor boat chores and anchoring out in the La Cruz anchorage before leaving for the overnight passage around Cabo Corrientes, which marks the beginning of the beautiful, more secluded coastline called Costalegre.

La Cruz anchorage
Along Costalegre, the water is noticeably warmer, the shores almost continuously lined with white sandy beaches and the next good anchorage a short distance from the previous one. Every time we are at sea we see whales and this first day out in Banderas Bay was no exception. Six humpbacks put on a long show!

We rounded Punta Corrientes in the afternoon under sail with almost 30 kts of wind and were far enough off the point to enjoy a grand sail around it. The wind died for an uneventful but beautiful night passage under a clear, starry sky.
Sunset sailing, past Cabo Corriente
We slowed down to delay our arrival into the bay until dawn to avoid fishing lines and found an ideal anchorage at Isla Passavera at 0815, just off the shore of the small town of Chamela. There were two other boats anchored there. We stayed two nights to snorkel, swim and fish in the clearest water. Three large jacks (we thought they were yellow-tailed tunas) circled the boat but we caught nothing - although we could see the fish dart away every time Gregg dropped a lure into the water!
Fishing unsuccessfully (as usual)!
Meanwhile, two sailboats dropped their anchors nearby at Isla Cocinas. We dinghied over to visit with the boaters and check out their beach.

True North from neighboring Isla Cocinas
Numerous rocky islands lie just off the shore from Chamela which do not offer safe anchorages. We passed them as we moved further SE along Coastalegre to Paraiso, a very small, picturesque anchorage fringed by two sandy beaches. We took the dinghy to the small, peaceful beachside hotel and found a few friendly amigos of the hotel owner who shared their cold cervezas with us. Back at the anchorage, two other sailboats passed through the small anchorage but there wasn't room for them to stay long...they missed a very rolly night, although we did deploy a stern anchor to keep the boat pointed into the swell.
Gregg readies the stern anchor in Paraiso
The next afternoon, we moved 20 nm further along the coast to Punta Hermanos and 'The Aquarium', a good snorkeling reef. We had expected to see some beachfront activity with colorful umbrellas, palapas, a few small hotels and other boaters, as described in our guidebook. Once ashore, we found instead nothing but a few vacant houses, some swimmers, and several armed guards! The guard we spoke with indicated that we were to stay on the beach side of the road because the opposite side was now private property. Signs posted along the road indicated the same thing. A local expat we talked with on the beach told us that in 2010, the local landowners were chased off their property by armed men, backed by a wealthy Mexican developer, with palapas burned or bulldozed. A google search supports this story. The locals from the nearby town of Revalsito are now allowed beach access again after three years of closure and the matter is waiting to be resolved in court. We were the only boat in the anchorage that night. The expat had assured us that cruisers in the anchorage had no problems being there. We stayed to snorkel in The Aquarium the next day and were joined by another Ha-Ha boat on the second night, French Curve, and three more boats. Nice to have their company nearby! The landscape in this little bay was striking with colorful blue-green hills as a backdrop and a long golden sand beach in the foreground. A pod of dolphins swam all around our boat and back and forth across the bay throughout the afternoon. Coming back from The Aquarium, one swam right between us!
One of "our" neighborhood dolphins.
On the second morning, another Ha-Ha boat sailed right up to us. It was Resolution. They had heard us check in on the morning roll call from Bahia Tenacatita just around the corner and came over to visit before heading on to their next stop. The cruisers' morning roll call operates from different locations all along the coast. A volunteer moderator asks for new arrivals, departures, then roll call, followed by medical emergencies, boat needs, and who has what to trade for “coconuts” (it's illegal for visiting cruisers to sell goods in Mexico). After that, cruisers can hail one another on VHF for further communication. So, that's how Resolution found us in the next bay. They had been at Bahia Tenacatita, our next stop and a very popular cruisers' destination.
Resolution rafted to True North
There were 23 boats anchored in Bahia Tenacatita when we arrived. We dinghied up to Harmony, belonging to “Mayor Rob”, self-elected, and long-term resident of Tenacatita, to introduce ourselves and to learn of the local activities. That evening there was a dinghy raft-up appetizer potluck, a first for us. Every dinghy tied up to another as we passed around our appetizers and introduced ourselves with a story to share with the group. These were almost all new boats and faces.
The Mayor's dinghy raft-up at Tenacatita
The morning cruisers' net announced the day's coming activities: group swim to shore at 1300, bocce ball on the beach, Mexican Train (that's dominoes) at the palapa. We opted to join French Curve on a buddy dinghy tour of the estuary. It's a long, narrow channel of a few miles which winds through mangroves with a few snowy egrets, blue herons, and some other birds unknown to us.
In the mangrove swamps with French Curve's dinghy ahead
Afterwards, we stopped at La Vena, the one palapa at Tenacatita to try it's specialty of the house, Rollo de Mar. This is not to be missed! It's a fish fillet wrapped around a mixture of shrimp or octopus and celery, rolled with bacon and topped with an almond sauce. Once tried, it's not easily forgotten.

The surf landings at Tenacatita are known to be rough. We survived a few wet landings and launchings until one afternoon launch, in which we thought we had timed the rollers well but instead crashed into a big one which lifted up the bow while Gregg, not quite inside yet, slid off the side and into the water. Quickly recovering, we tried to make it through the surf again, were tossed around some more but made it through. Unfortunately, Gregg's prescription sunglasses did not survive the unintentional dunking.

We moved across Tenacatita Bay along with French Curve to the anchorage in front of the colorful waterfont town of La Manzanilla. The setting is lush and tropical with a unique and charming mixture of small town quaintness and seaside tourism. During periods of light swell, the beach landing is similar or slightly more difficult than the landing at the main anchorage at Tenacatita back across the bay. The afternoon winds tend to build which can add to the surf so we were naturally on guard as we made our way to the beach, however it was quite tame compared to the dunking we received at Tenacatita! We found a good landing at the edge of the beachfront but among some smooth rocks, getting in and out safely. We toured the town together, first visiting the town's main attraction, a protected sanctuary at the edge of town filled with giant crocodiles!
Large cocodrilo in La Manzanilla
Lots of small tiendas selling fresh produce, dairy products and other food staples line the streets, plus many very inviting restaurants. The four of us came back for dinner at a popular local favorite, Restaurant Martin, under a palapa roof but high above the beach with an outstanding view of the ocean. Part of the fun of cruising is how easily friendships are made after sharing just a few activities together. That's how we came to know more of French Curve.
The anchorage at La Manzanilla in the distance
We buddied with French Curve to the “secret anchorage” of Cuastecomate for another gem of a small waterfront town with a snorkeling reef nearby. After a night there, we proceeded another 5 nm miles to Bahia de Navidad where we would spend the next week.
Surfing the Pacific waterfront at Barra
Barra de Navidad is quite the oasis in the middle of a relatively isolated coastline! There's a breakwater at the entrance to the marina and a long narrow sandbar beyond and next to the fuel dock at the entrance to the anchorage. The marina shares the beautiful grounds and amenities with the upscale Wyndham Grand Bay Resort.
Pool with water slides at the Wyndham
It was old home week for Ha-Ha'ers. Eight or so friend boats were there or would arrive a day later – Resolution, Unleashed, Sand Dollar, Appa, French Curve, L'Ange, R&R Kedger, Sea Otter. (Five of those are from Washington state!)

We had ample time to enjoy the pool and water slides together, take the pangas across the channel from the marina and resort to the town (“Barra”) to shop, eat or sit with a cold beverage. Every morniong, the French Bakery panga comes around to the marina, with truly delicious bread, croissants, quiche, and don't forget the jalapeno/cheese baguette!
Don't miss the jalapeno and cheese baguette!
While at the marina, we enjoyed watching a three day fishing tournament, with intense competition to catch the largest marlin, sailfish, and dorado.
The winning marlin  and dorado
The town of Barra is both lively and relaxing; a great cruisers' stop for rest, play, minor maintenance. There is a large selection of waterfront restaurants catering to the largely Canadian tourist trade, but intermixed with local "loncherias" and "cocina economicas" for the real local color.  Barra is also the last big stop before two bays a few hours away just outside of Manzanillo, and then the 200 nm stretch to “Z-town” (Zihautanejo).

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