Monday, March 30, 2015

Back in La Cruz!


Back in La Cruz!

About half way to Tenacatita, Mags checked the engine room, as we often do when running on the engine. For the second time she came back with a report of water filling the bilge. As a side note, we don’t leave the bilge pump on auto so that we will always know when we have issues – if we check the engine room! Also, if a diesel return line comes off we won’t be pumping raw diesel overboard by accident.

First question is always “can the pumps keep up?” Well they did and then it’s a quick search to find the source. Once again it was the raw water pump back seal. Only 460 hours on it since we replaced it in Walter’s Cove on the west coast of Vancouver Island last July. Mags found the bilge filling on that occasion as well.

We made the call to return to Banderas Bay area as Puerto Vallarta /La Cruz have a lot more marine supply opportunities. We were pumping every 10 minutes and made it back to the anchorage after dark but there was a good moon and it is an anchorage we know so all went well. No idea how long this may take but pictures and updates to follow.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Paradise Village Marina - Nuevo Vallarta


Paradise Village Marina, Nuevo Vallarta

This is an interesting harbour to enter. Winds were light so no swells at the breakwater which was good because it is fairly tight with mangrove shallows. The Port Captain and Nuevo Vallarta Marina are on the starboard side and Paradise Village Marina follows the estuary up the port side, north. The deepest water is close to the long dock that follows the estuary with an inviting looking, but very shallow, mangrove lined shore on the east side.

Back on shore power, got Mags going on some more hot weather preparation sewing projects. Hatch cover mosquito netting, deck awnings and a yellow quarantine entry flag for countries south, as well as some bimini repairs.

We have had two big shopping trips to Costco and Chedraui. The marina, in recognition of the huge provisioning that the boats headed to the Marquesas are doing, has provided a twice a week van to Costco that we managed to use and there is a bus stop in front of the Marina that a Collectivo uses that stops near the Chedraui grocery store, so provisioning has been relatively easy. Collectivos are vans that run almost defined routes that people just jump on and off paying for the distance travelled. They do require some level of Spanish but they are almost as cheap as the local buses and run constantly so are a great way to get around.

We managed a 5 km dinghy trip in the meandering channels of the estuary. Some beautiful big homes in secluded parts of the mangrove swamps. Lots of areas with no houses, just lots of different bird species, iguanas and signs warning of crocodilos. We had the camera with us so, of course, no logs with eyes were spotted.

No logs with eyes spotted!
The estuary does not have the sea breezes that we enjoyed at the La Cruz anchorage but creating shade on the boat is helping.  We are planning for a tomorrow departure for the 24 hour trip to Tenacatita with a possible stop at Paraiso.

A Road Trip - Puerto Vallarta


A Road Trip! Destination – Puerto Vallarta…

Okay, it’s only an 18 km journey but hey we were doing the whole road travelling thing – waving down buses, seeing the scenery whiz by, trying to decide when to get off. It was the whole road warrior package. I loved it.

The old cathedral
It may only be 10 Nautical miles but light-years separate La Cruz from the activity of PV. I am trying to be the only gringo in Mexico who has not been in a Senor Frogs. It is difficult with Mazatlán and PV having one on every 3rd corner but I will persevere.

Actually the old architecture and cobblestone streets in the old town are great. The bell tower’s lacy crown, a replica of Empress Carlota’s – well a little larger than hers, is really well done. Being waterfront people, we are becoming experts on Malecon sculptures and PV’s are excellent. Loved them all. The whimsical ones especially.

The Belltower Crown


There are lots of tourists but PV is clean and friendly and we got to go home to Kanilela in La Cruz at the end of the day. A fun time with lots of walking.

La Cruz - Banderas Bay


La Cruz, Banderas Bay

The weather was definitely changing as a trough moved over us on our trip down from Chacala. As the morning progressed, the winds diminished and clouds increased. By noon the wind had died and by 15:00 the rain started with squalls hitting us both north and south of Pta. Mita as we rounded into Banderas Bay.

These are huge birds in this maze

Pelicans, Boobies and Frigate birds
There was an amazing frenzy of birds and fish feeding as we passed the small resort village of Pta. Mita. Not certain what the big fish were that were driving the schools of bait fish but no whales were evident. With visibility clearing between squalls, views south to Cabo Corriente and east to Puerto Vallarta confirmed the chart plotter and radar. Then just as suddenly, visibility was reduced to 200 feet or less in more squalls. Lightning and thunder added to the concerns.

We pressed on to La Cruz as the anchorage there provides the best protection if you want to stay out at anchor. Through the night winds gusting into the 30’s buffeted the anchorage. There is always a silver lining; the torrential rainfall did a great job washing the salt from the decks. A big schooner had to re-anchor after dragging in the early hours of the morning. We held well and in the morning got to appreciate just how popular an anchorage La Cruz is. Forty-five boats were at anchor and 78 boats checked in on the morning cruiser’s net. Various reporting stations measured up to 4.5 inches of rain in 24 hours and we later learned that Music III had anchored at Pta. Mita and had experienced winds in the high forties with gusts into the fifties.

After a day just relaxing on the boat and doing a few boat projects, it was good to get out and see some friends and meet new ones. Namaste, with John, Cindy, Journey and Nanuk aboard, who we first met on Catalina Island, California, were in the marina and had lots of information on the boats we had lost touch with while we were in Thailand.

There is a little outdoor café beside the Plaza that has the best Mexican lunches and the trees that overhang and give great shade are the source of the entertainment. There are a bunch of iguanas climbing all over the trees. The biggest ones are 1.5 m, (5 ft.) from nose to tip of their tails and they are really active.


The music scene in La Cruz is amazing. Although it is a sleepy fishing village with cobble stone streets there are 5 or 6 open restaurant/bars who regularly have live music. Bryan and Sharen, Music III, got us reservations for a night at Philo’s to see/hear Oscar Fuentes play with Philo and the band. The next night we were at the Britannia Restaurant for another band, missed a good night at the Geco Rojo but did get to see another very tight group play at Ana Banana’s. Would have loved to see the Gypsy duet at the Black Forest and we never got to Charlie’s Place when a band was there but there are only so many hours in a day!!
The Music III and Kanilela Ladies

The Skippers

La Cruz/Nuevo Vallarta is a popular starting point for cruisers doing the “puddle jump”. The first leg is to the Marquesas Islands which takes about 35 days and the ideal time to depart is now. On one day, seven boats left with many others leaving the day before and the day after. There are several others waiting for the next ideal weather window. All of this activity has kept us focused on going south to Panama, the clock is ticking and weather windows are not to be squandered.
Leaving La Cruz

Thursday, March 26, 2015




Music III looking sweet!
We had a fabulous 27 mile sail from Mantanchen in the company of Music III. The winds held all the way out of the SSW. Kanilela was sailing as a true cutter with genny, stays’l and main. It was a fun sail.

Kanilela's Genoa, Stays'l and Main pointing nicely

Kanilela playing
We had been told by many people to stop at the small community of Chacala but when mother nature decides to intervene, even the best locations can lose their luster. Chacala is an open SW facing bay so the great wind for our sail down made for a rolly anchorage. It was a bit of a fight getting the dinghy into the water and getting the outboard on to set a stern anchor but we managed and had good dinner ashore with Bryan and Sharen. By then it was getting late so we didn’t do any sightseeing.

By morning the winds had clocked a bit more, so retrieving the stern anchor and flying the outboard and dinghy aboard had its own challenges as well. After a night of repeated anchor checks it was a good to head away early, even though the wind soon was dropping.
Chacala with the seas calmed down

San Blas - Ensenada Mantanchen


San Blas/Ensenada de Mantanchen

They say you can’t go back…. Well, San Blas has been a special place for me for many years and has been the setting of some of my most oft repeated stories from earlier travels. The sail from Isla Isabel had morning winds that moved us well but died by noon so we motored the final few hours.

Mags with Kanilela and Music III at anchor
Even in the late sixties San Blas had a reputation for the Jejenes (hayhaynays, smaller than a no-see-um and much more irritating), so I planned to anchor down the coast in Ensenada de Mantanchen, with enough sea room that the little vampires would be blown away by the sea breezes.
It worked and although reputed to be a rolly anchorage we spent two calm nights on the hook. The bay is so shallow we were about ½ mile out in only 11 feet. There were only three boats and one left during the very early hours of the morning, the other was Music III with Bryan and Sharen from Black Diamond, Alberta.

The next morning we took a taxi for the 5 km from Matanchen Bay into San Blas and enroute our driver stopped to show us the crocodiles in the lagoon, several well over 2 meters. Definitely not the old Deep Hole swimming hole on the Nanaimo River!
Although San Blas has grown, the people are still incredibly welcoming. We stopped at the tourist office to get a map and the lady there was amazingly helpful and friendly. We walked all over town. From the newly built Marina north east of town to the beaches on the west side and up and down most of the streets in between, the people were great. The marina looks very good but would be a bit of a walk from the Zocalo area in the town center in the evening and we left town before nightfall so the jejenes may also be an issue. We didn’t find the old Federale’s office where I had negotiated a friend’s release at 5:00 am to ensure the amount only had to cover the night shift and not the dayshift too.

The previously quiet beach is now lined with palapas as is the beach on Ensenada de Mantanchen. We drank at the beach and ate a fabulous meal at Ofro’s Restaurant in the town center near the old Zocalo. It turns out that the tiendas at the beach community at Mantanchen are famous for their banana bread so we had to get some for Kanilela’s galley. It was excellent and I did eat more than my share!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Isla Isabel


Isla Isabel

No, not one of the most famous Pacific Islands, but truly incredible. The Cruiser’s Guides all note that it is the worst place on the Mexican coast for ships losing their anchors in the rocky anchorages and advise strongly against approaching in anything but the calmest conditions. Well, after a trip that started from Mazatlán with a good WSW wind we were thinking we would pass it by. During the night the coastal thermal died and we were motoring on a flat calm sea. As dawn came Isla Isabela emerged from the darkness and was too tempting to ignore.

Kanilela tucked in behind Mona Menor
She has been coined the Galapagos of Mexico and was the site of 2 documentary series by National Geographic and Jacque Cousteau and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is of volcanic origin, about 1 km by .5 km, and is notable for the huge diversity of sea birds. We dropped anchor on the east side just south of the Las Monas pinnacles. After the dry cactus Islands of the Sea of Cortez the green canopy looked inviting, all be it a hat would be a necessity with the cloud of large birds circling. 

The fish camp

Proud Frigate bird mom
We dinghied to the south bay and landed where there is a fishing camp set up with several pangas unloading rays and various fish. There are no finished houses or electricity, just the shacks the fishermen sleep in. We found a trail up to the rim of the crater and down to the small crater lake. The canopy, though dense, was rarely more than 3 to 4 meters high and supported an almost continuous frigate bird nesting colony. Although we were within 1 meter of them as we walked under, they exhibited no fear. They are big birds with a 2+ meter wing span and a deep cut swallow tail. They live off fish but do not land on the water merely skimming the surface with their beak when they see a fish.
Even Dracula has to dry his wings.
Most of their time is spent in groups circling high overhead riding the thermals and yes, as I said in our Bahia San Gabriel post, the males are famous for their large scarlet throat pouch that clearly the ladies dig! If their wings do get wet they must land and dry them in a Count Dracula’s cape-like pose.

Lago Crater

After about a half mile, we had skirted the west and north sides of the lake and had climbed out of the crater, emerging on the shoreline close to Las Monas and an anchored Kanilela. We carefully threaded our way through nests of blue footed boobies to the beach. They too showed no fear of our presence and had a peculiar habit of lifting one blue foot as though for inspection.

Damn, My blue feet are pretty!!!
They are a big bird as well, about a 1 to 1.2 m wingspan that gracefully skim the ocean surface but up close, how can you take anything seriously that is called a boobie and is immensely proud of their blue feet?
The island is home to several other species of boobies as well and in flight their feet are not visible so you have to see them on the ground to know who you are being entertained by.

Lest you think there were only birds, and there were numerous other varieties, the Island is home to indigenous iguanas too. By the time I got to do some snorkelling the wind was picking up and the vis was reduced but there were a lot of big schooling Jacks and lots of good sized reef fish. Lots of variety and colour.

Mags, Mona Menor, Kanilela and Pelicanos
With the wind picking up we knew we would be tempting the anchor Gods by staying and will leave in the morning. South, always South. 

Mazatlan, Mexico


Back in Mazatlan:

The wedding on Ko Samui, Thailand was great. We met Emma’s new family and had a fantastic time with
Dean and all. We also spent 3 days in Bangkok with Bree and Matt on our return trip to Vancouver. It is an incredible city that just keeps growing. We had lots of fun revisiting the sites. If you haven’t been, go!

We also got to spend a week in North Vancouver with Cheryl, Dustin and Ojie. The little one that is due in June is growing fast and mom is looking great. My distinctive voice probably did some early imprinting. Trying to keep up to a 2 and a half year old is work! But tons of fun.

We had to pay overweight on our luggage back to Puerto Vallarta with all the dock line shock absorbers and chafe gear we returned with.

The bus ride back to Mazatlán was in daylight until about Tepic so some more sightseeing. The trip down from Mazatlán to Nuevo Vallarta was totally a day trip and the climate and terrain are so much lusher than the dry cactus country of the Baja and Sea of Cortez Islands. First class buses in Mexico are a large step up from riding “the ‘hound” across Canada and the US!

Other than nearly giving Lynn a target to practice her knife throwing skills at 2:00 am, when we returned to the boat, all was good on Kanilela. Having Lynn and Dean on Solastra docked beside Kanilela in our absence certainly gave a lot of peace of mind. Thanks guys….

We got to do some more exploring of old Mazatlán during the monthly Art Walk. We highly recommend it both for the art and the studios but also for the old Spanish architecture. Like everywhere, Mazatlán has grown incredibly since I first visited my parents there in 1969, but the old town has retained its charm and still is the place I remembered and enjoyed.

Chute in the sock with help from Dean, Mike and Vic, the "Dock 6 Regulars"

Looks good - on the dock......
We spent the rest of the week prep’ing the boat and visiting with the Mazatlán Marina Dock 6 “regulars”. They are a great group of people who have been a font of information both local and in Mike’s case right down to Panama. They are all packing up, leaving their boats for the summer and returning to the States and Canada so it is time for us to head south, probably tomorrow.

Isla Isabel is the destination if the weather Gods smile on Kanilela.