After three weeks in Banderas Bay, we’re on the move again. And we’re back in a comfortable cruising rhythm, sailing south, watching the coast glide past our port beam. As we reach each destination, we turn left, and the thrill of arriving in a new place takes over. We study the bay with binoculars, looking at what’s on shore and which boats are waiting for us in the anchorage. If we’re lucky, we spot a friend or two, and usually several familiar faces. After a few minutes motoring through the fleet, we talk about where we want to nestle in, and we drop the anchor. And then, ahhh, time to relax. The engine is off. The boat is still.
Before leaving La Cruz, though, we had to cope with some sad news: a cruising couple we met in Mazatlan was reported missing. After several years on their boat in Central America, they were returning to the U.S. when they issued a distress call off the Baja peninsula. Eventually their family and the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed everyone’s worst fears: Patrick, Sandi, and their boat YachtCruz had been lost. Very little has been shared, and it seems like questions about what happened will remain unanswered. (Latitude 38 has a good summary of the known facts.)
Since we were headed in the opposite direction as Patrick and Sandi, we had lots of advice for each other when we met in Mazatlan. We spent some time chatting at the marina pool one evening, and John exchanged a few messages with them in the days that followed. We are shocked and saddened that they are no longer here. For me, the most heartbreaking part is that after sailing thousands of miles, they were almost home! Just a couple more days and they would have been safe with their friends and family.
I have total confidence about our safety preparedness on Pineapple, but such a terrible loss is, of course, scary and sobering for a fellow cruiser. In the days before our departure from La Cruz, I let my biggest cruising fear—hitting a whale—get the best of me. I know, you guys. I know. There are so many more likely and practical things to worry about! What can I say? I worry about random things that will never happen, but many of you already knew that.
It’s high season for whales, and our plan was to depart in the afternoon, sailing as night fell through a bay that’s famous as a Humpback Whale haven. I’d have to face my fears head-on. Well, as it turns out, I was too overcome with excitement (that we were finally underway again) to be scared of hitting a whale. And we’ve seen at least a dozen since. They are such beautiful, gentle creatures. Watching them dive into the ocean, slap their fins on the surface of the water, and even breach (jump out of the water) if we’re lucky… it’s almost as if they’re are showing us a playful side, and telling us they’re happy to share their ocean. Nothing to be afraid of, right?
Trying to photograph these beasts gave me a chance to practice using my fancy new camera. I put my best shots on Instagram (@particularharbor). I now have even more respect for people who photograph sea life—their level of patience must be remarkable.
But I digress…
We’re now cruising a 120-mile stretch of coastline known as Costalegre. This part of the Mexican Pacific coast is dotted with protected bays, white sand beaches, and charming beach towns. It’s easy sailing, and many cruisers spend months in these waters. Some spend months here every year. Compared to them, we are just passing through—and we are enjoying every minute.
Our first stop was Tenacatita, a large, protected bay with a perfect half-moon beach. People come to Tenacatita for calm and quiet, with 82-degree water for swimming and natural beauty all around. Ashore, there’s a small campground and a palapa restaurant, but those are the only businesses.
Next to the palapa is the mouth of an estuary, which leads 2.5 miles to a lagoon next to a beach on the Pacific side. This estuary is the site of a famous “jungle tour”, where dinghies and pangas drift, row, or motor along, surrounded by lush mangroves, birds, crabs, and the occasional crocodile. We took our own dinghy on the tour and saw a lot of this, which was certainly a change of scenery for us:
Tenacatita has a tightly knit cruising community, featuring a self-appointed “mayor” who hosts a dinghy raft-up every Friday night. We were instructed to arrive at 5:15pm and bring an appetizer to share, along with our own drinks and plates. We expected a giant blob of dinghies to form, with lots of socializing and a disorganized shuffling of appetizers through the group—sort of a floating potluck cocktail party. We could not have been more wrong.
As the dinghies gathered, we formed a neat circle. After his welcome, the mayor informed us that we should pass our appetizers around clockwise. (I made smoked marlin dip served with tortilla chips.) As the plates traveled around the circle, the mayor told us about the evening’s agenda. Starting with himself, one person from each dinghy was to introduce the boat and crew. But instead of rambling on with everyone’s life stories, a prompt was provided: Tell the group about a famous person you’ve met or someone who inspires you. Mid-way through the program, there would be some live music and a chance for early birds to leave. Two dinghies down from us (clockwise, as the snacks fly) a duo was prepared with guitars, a banjo, and a thick binder of music. Finally, the mayor reminded us of the rules: only one person per dinghy, and your talk had to be shorter than his.
(We have met a number of younger cruisers, but at this particular gathering, we brought down the average age by a decade or two. Still, I’d like to believe we weren’t the only ones laughing inside at this strangely structured social hour.)
The music was a big highlight! Patrick played original songs about cruising in Mexico that were clever and entertaining, and he was a great musician.
After a few closing songs, the group was dismissed. We motored back to Pineapple, having barely spoke to the neighboring dinghies. In this highly structured event, I’m sure side conversations were not allowed! We told the cats all about what happened, but Chase was too busy inspecting the rigging.
On our last day in Tenacatita, we took a taxi to La Manzanilla, the town across the bay.
After a long stroll through the colorful streets and along the beach, we headed for the main attraction: the crocodile sanctuary, or cocodrilario in Spanish. We didn’t really know what to expect, except that it was a bargain at 30 pesos each. (That’s about a dollar-fifty.)
After we paid, we started down the wooden bridge built above this lagoon-turned-sanctuary. We weren’t 20 feet into the park when… whoa! We looked down, and crocodiles were everywhere in the water below us. That’s when we realized we were trusting our lives to rickety wooden planks and flimsy wire fencing. Not to worry… I’m sure strict regulations and safety practices are in place. Do I look nervous? Because I’m definitely not.
The next day, we left Tenacatita for a short 15-mile sail south to Barra de Navidad and, spoiler alert, it’s our new favorite! We’ll be here another week or so enjoying this treasure, and I’ll tell you all about it in our next post.