After getting our stem fitting welded in Barra we joined the northward exodus of cruisers. With the approach of the hurricane season which begins May 15, most cruisers in Mexico are making their way to a safe haven to spend the season. Many boats head north to the Sea of Cortez. Some boats are pulled out of the water and stored “on the hard” in the San Carlos area while their owners head home for the season. We call these folks “6×6”ers. Six months cruising Mexico and six months back home. We have met people who have been doing this for 20 years (this blows my mind – I like to see NEW things). The summer heat in the Sonoran desert, where daytime temps routinely enter the triple digits, can be punishing on a boat stored on land, particularly for boats with lots of exterior teak like ours.
Another option is to remain on the boat and spend the summer in the northern end of the sea. If you get far enough north (typically above 27 degrees north) you are out of the historical hurricane track. Again, you can expect several months of punishing temperatures.
Still others make their way to a marina in La Paz or on the mainland and hope for the best. La Paz has had at least two direct hits in the last 15 years, with devastating results. Of the mainland marinas, Puerto Vallarta in Banderas Bay is the only place that has never had a direct hit by a hurricane. The storms typically track NW up the Mexican coast, and are deflected from Banderas Bay by Cabo Corrientes, the large cape which forms the western-most point of the Mexican mainland.
During the winter and spring months, the prevailing wind blows from the NW to the SE, all the way from British Columbia to Guatemala. These winds and the swell are strengthened around capes, and Cabo Corrientes tends to form a barrier to northbound cruisers since we can’t sail into the wind. Consequently, boats stack up in anchorages where you can wait for a break in the wind before heading north again.
Before leaving Barra, we took the bus to Melaque, to get pesos and groceries. Unfortunately I forgot the debit card, bit we did get a great photo of a construction site and the rooftop dog pound. Makes perfect sense – no kennels needed!After leaving Barra, we headed back to Tenacatita Bay, just an easy 14-mile hop. The change in seasons is accompanied by a change in the water temperature as evidenced by the red tide that came into the bay with us. Two months ago when we were there, there were 25 boats in the anchorage – this time we were one of three, one of which was a Mexican Navy boat. We spent five days waiting for a break in the wind, most of which we were confined to the boat due to a big swell which made a surf landing in the dinghy put of the question. One day we managed to scramble to the beach for a little hiking.
After leaving Tenacatita, we did the 25-mile run up to Bahia Chamela. We had not previously stopped here. We just spent one night and did not go ashore, but we had a cool little visitor who came aboard on the anchor chain.
We left the next morning with six other boats for the overnight trip around the cape and into Banderas Bay. One boat was having engine troubles, so another boat towed them they whole way. That is one of the great things about cruising – you can always count on help from other cruisers if you are in need. We rounded the cape at 2 am in flat calm seas, and were treated to an other-worldy dawn.
We dropped the hook in La Cruz, one of the only relatively secure anchorages in Banderas Bay. It’s not a super comfortable anchorage, as it blows 20 knots every afternoon due to thermals induced by the rising heat of the land mass. Last time we were here we stayed in the marina, which is very nice, but hey, the anchorage is free and we will be spending May through October in a marina. Sadly, we woke the next morning to see a sailboat on the rocks. Apparently the owner had returned to the states and left the boat anchored in the care of a local fellow. The hired caretaker took the boat out for a sail and did not anchor her properly. The boat was a total loss.