After a month in Mazatlan, we headed south again with an overnight sail to Isla Isabella. Often compared to the Galapagos, Isla Isabella is a bird sanctuary and national park lying about 20 miles off the coast. We arrived at dawn, but unfortunately, the only viable anchorage was full (three boats – which is a crowd in the small, marginal anchorage) so we continued on to Mantanchen Bay on the mainland near the town of San Blas. Enjoyed a quiet night at anchor then headed out the next morning for Chacala. Given all the time we spent in Mazatlan, we are feeling some pressure to get south. We have decided to continue on to Panama and transit the canal, then make our way up to Cuba rather than crossing the Pacific again. Over 1,100 miles still lie between us and the Guatemalan border which we must cross before May 17 when our tourist visas expire.
We arrived in Chacala early in the afternoon to find its anchorage a bit crowded as well. There is only room for a handful of boats to anchor behind the point; additional anchorage is available to the south however it is fairly exposed to the swell. We went ahead and anchored in the exposed area, set a bow and stern anchor, and planned on moving farther into the bay the next day when several boats left. Chacala is a picture-perfect Mexican village only a few hours bus ride from the bustle of Puerto Vallarta. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat given the swell, so we enjoyed a few cocktails onboard as the sun set. But wait; what were they doing on the beach? A huge concert stage was in the final stages of preparation, and by 9 pm, the music had started – we were probably about 0.5 mile away, but it sounded much, much closer!
We fell asleep to strains of “La Bamba”, and were awoken around 12:30 am by a different motion of the boat. Living on the boat, you become attuned to the feel of the boats motion, and if it changes you feel it. The incoming swell had picked up, and our stern anchor had broken loose, causing us to swing around and face the beach. It was very dark, except on the beach where the concert was still in full swing. There was no way we were going to be able to re-anchor in the dark, and since one anchor was already loose, we pulled up the primary anchor and headed out into the night as the music played on.
Noon the next day found us anchored in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, also known simply as La Cruz. Located on the north side of Banderas Bay, about 10 miles from Puerto Vallarta, La Cruz is a small, laid back fishing village with shady, cobblestone streets, boutique restaurants, and a super-nice new marina. Sadly, the day before we arrived, a boat drifted up onto the rocks and was lost when its anchor came loose in the large swell. The crew was ashore when it happened – a good reminder about the importance of anchoring.
After a night in the anchorage, we took a slip at the marina in order to have our mail forwarded – too bad the mail forwarding service sent it USPS instead of UPS. While the USPS does an admirable job in the good ole’ USA, once it crosses the border it’s up to the Mexican postal system to get it to us. It may come tomorrow, in a month, or never. We are only here for a week so hopefully another boat can collect it and bring it to us down south. Part of the adventure right?
The marina here is beautiful, probably the nicest one we have stayed in. It’s only a few steps to the beach, and the marina gate opens out onto the main street and town square. The marina has an air-conditioned club house with wifi, showers, and daily free yoga classes. There is an outdoor amphitheater where they have weekly movies, farmers market, seafood market and live music. It is warmer and more humid here than in Mazatlan, and decidedly more tropical. It’s kinda like Disneyland for cruising sailors!
It’s a great life -we are like a band of gypsies headed south with the wind. We have met up with a lot of the crews we met in Mazatlan, and have really enjoyed spending time with our good friends John and Diane on Konami and Rob and Susan on Athanor. My birthday was a few days ago, and Susan whipped up a few pitchers of Mohitos for the crews of Anjuli, Konami, and Athanor, then we all went out to dinner. After dinner, we strolled through the town square which was alive with live music, street vendors, families, young people, and old people, all out enjoying the beautiful evening. Some people danced, some people enjoyed a beer, and some people just sat and took it all in. There was no special occasion, just Saturday night in a small Mexican town. It is all about family here – everyone is included, even gringos like us. I felt so fortunate to be able to share in the experience, and it made for a memorable birthday.
We finished the evening with a tasty birthday cake courtesy of Diane by the pool. We will so miss our friends on Konami and Athanor, but they are headed west to the South Pacific while we are headed south – such is cruising.