sailing homepage : trip reports : 5: pv to zihuatanejo : tenacatita
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Jan 10-15: Passage from Bahia Careyes to Bahia Tenacatita, exploring manzanilla groves in the dinghy, playing cards and working on business plans, and visiting crocodiles at La Manzanilla

After our short stopover in Careyes, we were ready to hunker down and stay a little longer at our next stop. Bahia Tenacatita is one of the most popular anchorages south of Puerto Vallarta: it's protected by a pair of rocky points that virtually eliminate the rolling swell so prevalent elsewhere. By now we had fully regained our sea legs - three weeks on land in PV was just enough to need to re-learn how the boat moves - but it's always nicer to stay in a calm flat anchorage.

The colourful cliffs of Careyes


Sara covers up our sail

We headed out of Careyes - perfect timing, since another yacht had just arrived and was looking for a place to anchor. We raised the sails, cut the engine, and quickly dispached most of the 20 miles to Tenacatita. As we got closer the winds died and on came the motor again. We're not proud, we love our diesel.

The sail was nice and relaxing, but we're starting to feel the need for some shade. Our boat is one of the only we've seen without tons of canvas wrapped around the cockpit. To this point we've appreciated having less windage, and judging by comments others have made we're pretty quick sailors, but for day-long passages I think we would really like a dodger, bimini, whatever.

Instead we have SPF45 and we play the shade-seeking game. We trade off at the helm whenever the driver gets too hot, and the other sits on the side of the boat in the shade of the mainsail. It works. There's only a few hours a day when the sun is hot enough to be bothersome, the rest of the time there's some shade behind the solar panels or boom.

We anchored in the outer cove in Tenacatita so we would be closer to the "aquarium", a huge shallow patch of coral that is reknown for snorkeling and diving. We caught a movie before bed - the first we had watched in a while - and slept well.

We had a slow morning the next day. I made Sara breakfast in bed, but she messed up my plans and came out to see what smelled so yummy. We read a little, and finally had to talk ourselves out of the cabin and into the dinghy for a snorkeling trip. Sometimes we just get too comfortable laying around and reading.

Happy couple joking around


Oops, Sara doesn't think that's funny

We spent almost three hours swimming around the Aquarium, avoiding dive-bombing pelicans, trying not to get swarmed by the big silvery ball of bait-fish, and finally discovering an octopus! He was all curled up in a rocky crack, just ten feet below the surface. Sara spotted him first.

I wanted to see if he would come out, or at least shoot ink at us, so I moved closer and pushed water at him with my flipper. He slowly uncoiled and Sara pulled me away, yelling "EEL!" He was a big sucker, a huge spotted moray. We don't want to mess with killer eels, so we beat a quick retreat and escaped without a fight.

We saw several fish we haven't seen before, gobies, sculpins, and a school of gigantic halfbeaks, at least twice or three times their supposed maximum length of six inches. The coral was pretty amazing as well, huge beds of it covered by only a foot and a half of water. We swam carefully around and really enjoyed ourselves. If you haven't snorkeled yet, get somewhere warm and strap on a pair of flippers! It's an unbelievable underwater world.

Back on the boat we moved to the second more-protected cove at the northeast end of the bay. There were a lot more boats there - almost 20, compared to two or three others at our first spot. We found a nice spot tucked up against the inside of the headlands, and almost immediately realized why people get here and park their boats. No swell, good wind to keep cool, few people on shore, and a beautiful bay all around.

Looks pretty bleak from here


Vibrant and lush and green

The next morning we took Purpeat and went exploring up a brackish (half fresh-, half salt-water) river surrounded by mangroves. We didn't really know what mangroves are, and now I guess I can relate to you that they're a type of tree. The trunk grows upwards (duh, you're saying), and the branches have leaves (duuuuh), but the tree also grows these other leafless branches that grow down into the water, where they must collect nutrients or something. Yeah, who's the dummy now?

The river was first quite wide, and we chugged along enjoying the almost neon green foliage. The entirety of Baja and much of the mainland is a much duller brown/green colour, something like California grass before it turns golden. These bright vibrant colours are not common!



Beer, my only friend

We packed lightly for the trip, bringing only six beers. It worked out because Sara only drank one. Dinghy-ing is tough work! Plus we're also trying to get rid of the booze we have left over from the wedding. What are we supposed to do, pour it out? That's alcohol abuse, man, and you can get in trouble for that kind of shit.

The channel narrowed...



...seems to get tighter..

...and got tighter and tighter. Eventually it was overgrown, and we slowly motored under the canopy. It was pretty cool!

...and tighter..


...okay, lets go back.

The mangroves really do have branches that grow DOWN from the trees, dangling in the water. It's pretty cool. We traveled something like four miles, all the way back to the town beside the beach where we stayed the previous night!

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We deployed our dinghy wheels and had lunch in a palapa looking out over the now-empty anchorage.

They're growing down. How cool?


Stupid dinghy wheels

On the way back we had the tidal currents pulling us out, so we turned off the motor and paddled Purpeat through the jungle. With the motor off we were much more in touch with nature, getting freaked out a couple of times by huge rustlings in the underbrush beside us.

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We also noticed hundreds of evil-looking crabs on the mangrove branches. One even jumped at us, landing on my shoulder and falling into the dinghy! We fished him out and chucked him back. No hitchhikers!

"C'mere, I'll chomp you"


"Wanna piece of me?"

Coming out of the jungle, we were surprised to see everyone in their dinghies in a huge raft-up just off to the side of our boat! We went over to see what was up, and were invited to join the ongoing potluck. What a feast! We didn't have anything but a few beers left, and no one took us up on our offer to share. They forced food down our gullets, made us eat brownies and cookies and cake, and even passed around books others had finished.

I guess cruisers come here and just stay. They stay so long they elect a mayor for the season. They have a radio net in the morning, and get together every week for a potluck raftup. Cruisers are pretty cool folks, even if most are twice our age!

Wanderlust on the right


Yummy potluck

The next day, we did nothing. We played cards, worked on our computers, ate, read, played more cards, watched a movie, and went to bed. That's it.

Birds on the beach


Our Saturday

The next day, uh, Sunday the 14th, we went in search of a wifi signal so we could check our email. We motored slowly around the bay, chasing elusive signals that would appear only for an instant. We found ourselves next to the small town of La Manzanilla, so we anchored and dinghied ashore.

La Manzanilla


Wonderful streets

We both LOVE La Manzanilla. It's probably our favourite town so far. It's very small, just one main street, and everyone seemed to know each other. No paved roads, no American hotels, just palapa restaurants and houses in the hills above. Something about this place immediately put us both in a happy mood.

Safely back on land


Painting at an art gallery

We found an internet cafe and the mood further improved! I dinghied back to Wanderlust and packed our laptops in a drybag. On the way back into shore, I almost flipped the dinghy in the surf. I wasn't paying close enough attention, and I misjudged where the waves were breaking. I went too far, and thought I could reverse back behind the breaking wave before it reached me. Mistake!

Sara was watching from the beach as the wave broke over me and the dinghy, soaking the bag with the computers and turning the dinghy sideways and almost over. I threw my body to the higher side of the rollercoaster and hung on, and as soon as it happened it was over, everything was fine. I scrambled ashore and was met by a very wide-eyed Sara. Dry bag worked, nothing was wet. Whew.

We caught the second half of the Seahawks-Bears game, what a thriller, and did all that fun email stuff. On our way out of town, we walked around and discovered a fenced-off area at the north end of town.

Termite nest on the banks


Wonder if anyone was on the bridge

The bridge crosses a muddy brown river that hosts CROCODILES!

He looks hungry


Him too!

These guys were huge, and mean, and angry! I guess they were also pretty lazy, they didn't move much and seemed content to just glare at us. We didn't see many dogs in the streets.

Back to the boat!


Our home sweet home

Back to the boat after a great day exploring, where I had some help dragging the dinghy back down the beach. We had a bit of an audience watching us head back to Wanderlust, but Sara's a pro and we didn't have any issues.



Whew, taking a break

We had wind and enjoyed a perfect sail back to our anchorage at Tenacatita. We sailed through most of the fleet, and if it hadn't been for shifty winds we might have tried dropping the anchor under sail. What a great day.

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