Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Archive for December, 2013

Costa Alegre, The Cheerful Coast

Finally I am posting a few pictures from our sail (actually from our mostly motorsail) down from Punta Mita to Barra de Navidad last month. That stretch of coastline is called Costa Alegre, which translates to The Cheerful Coast, or The Happy Coast. It’s a remote stretch of a beautiful junction of long, pristine beaches and rocky islands and outcrops. Some development has taken place, especially in Careyes, where a Club Med occupies one end of the little bay, and a stretch of very colorful mini-mansions and condos marches down to the former Bel-Air hotel at the other end.

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Little Tehuamixtle on Ipala Bay. We anchored here two nights and explored the town and hillside above. Nikk climbed the lighthouse and scared off the resident Black Vulture.

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We snorkeled in most of the bays we anchored in, and even found an old wreck right off the beach of Tehuamixtle. We have definitely decided that I am purchasing an underwater camera when I go to Portland in January. The kayaks also had a lot of use, taking us to shore for some landings in the waves that were way too exciting, or inland on the estuaries to look for birds, or around some of the islands.

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Those last two shots show the different kinds of kayaking in peaceful estuaries or rolling waves. I don’t get pictures of the exciting landings through the surf because the camera is safely stowed away in the waterproof case, but that’s another reason to invest in a Go Pro waterproof camera that I can strap to my head.

The islands are mostly protected for the nesting birds. I’m going to do another post to show some of the birds we communed with on the way down.

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This is Isla Passavera in Chamela Bay, home to frigatebirds, vultures, and Brown Boobies, who all roost at the tops of cacti, a strange sight.

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To Be Continued….our friends are waiting for us to paddle in to spend a day ashore.

. If you travel this section of the west coast of Mexico by boat, you must find a bay with shelter from the prevailing swell, or have a rocky and rolly night. If you travel by land, just take a road off Hwy 200 coming down from Puerto Vallarta that travels west to the beach. There are magical spots for camping on or near the beach, just have plenty of insect repellant. We have specially-made screens for the hatches and the companionway opening, the screens are extra-fine mesh that keeps out even the tiny, horrible biting gnats called Jejenes, and we are so grateful for them!

When we sailed into Carayes, we felt like we’d been transported from rural Mexico to the Riviera.

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Careyes refers to the Careyes Turtles which lay eggs on the beach just south of the little village of Careyes. These are very endangered turtles, and the area has been turned into a closed and protected preserve. If you have a car you can drive to the preserve and ask to help in December, when the turtles come ashore, or later when the eggs hatch, to shepherd the little hatchlings safely to the ocean. I’m sure they would welcome contributions of money, too.

There was only one restaurant in Careyes, Playa Rosa, with pink bungalows for rent. We paddled in and ordered lunch and drinks. The lunch of fish in a delicious garlic and wine sauce, with rice and vegetables was very tasty, but we gagged when we received the bill of 900 pesos (about $78US)! I had to use the favorite expression again, “Hijole!”. (Holy crap!)

Hope you enjoyed the pictures, I will try to post a blog for those birders out there soon, but if that doesn’t happen for a while, then I’ll say Feliz Navidad!

In Search of the Roseate Spoonbill

“Search and ye shall find”, that was our motto for Tuesday and Wednesday, December 3rd and 4th, as we set out by kayak on Tuesday, and by foot on Wednesday, to spot the Roseate Spoonbill, a large ibis-like bird with pink and white plumage and pink legs. Almost four years ago we were here in a car and somehow went down a dirt road to a hotel near a lagoon, and spotted this bird, and we wanted to find it and more.

Do you believe in omens and signs? If you do, then our sighting of the resident Great Egret that morning might have been a good omen.

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We paddled out of the Wyndham Grand Bay marina long past the crack of dawn, enjoying tea and coffee and breakfast on Balance, in the beautiful marina. Here is the view from the sixth floor terrace of the hotel bar, looking out across the marina to the far edge of the Laguna de Navidad, where we would paddle ourselves eventually.

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The marathon adventure started just after high tide, and since Monday was a New Moon, the tide was extremely high, the Royal Terns we found had a tiny finger of sand in the lagoon across the way in Barra de Navidad.

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Was the one on the right gargling? Swallowing a fish? Calling for help? You decide. We paddled over to one of the canals, dragged the kayaks up on a wall, and headed down a dirt road in search of the white hotel and the Roseate Spoonbill. We saw some black, Groove-Billed Anis, Streak-backed Orioles and even an unidentified hummingbird, but when we reached the end of the road there was nothing but mangrove trees and beach. A Mexican man and his son did catch two good-sized fish near us. Back in the kayaks, we cruised east along the edge of the mangroves looking for an estuary. We found a swift-flowing stream coming out of a tunnel of mangroves, so in we paddled. Part way in we began thinking about the tide going out, and what was now a foot of water might be a few inches in a little bit of time, stranding us in thick mud. Soon downed mangroves blocked our way, and we made it back to the lagoon, with no sight of the white hotel.

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By this time, we were getting a bit hungry, and across the lagoon Mary’s Restaurant in Colimilla called to us. Barra de Navidad is in the State of Jalisco (just like Puerto Vallarta), but the Wyndham Grand Hotel and Colimilla are in the State of Colima. It sounds so impressive to say we paddled from Jalisco to Colima, and so we did. After a wonderful lunch of shrimp cocktail, guacamole, and papas rellenos (baked potatoes filled with shrimp and slathered with cheese), and lots of soda water for me and beer for Nikk, we paddled our refreshed selves right into a headwind going around the little island, and across to where we saw a LOT of large white birds flying. And paddled, and paddled, and caught spray into the kayak and all over us, which was cooling, and paddled past the golf course, kind of weird to see a golf course in the middle of mangrove swamp and tropical deciduous forest. Finally we arrived at the far edge of the lagoon and saw hundreds of wading birds: Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, extremely long-necked Tri-colored Herons, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Whimbrels, Willets, White Ibis (which have a long pink curved bill and pink feet), but no Roseate Spoonbills. The water was getting extremely muddy and shallow, only about six inches of water under our kayaks, but there was one more group of birds to see, and there they were, Roseate Spoonbills!

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On the way back we were blown off course numerous times, but managed to avoid being run over by the speeding pangas (fishing boats acting as taxis), and I got this picture of the Wyndham Grand Bay Hotel. It’s Italianate style, with lots of marble and iron and tiles, a bit run down but it looks lovely from the lagoon.

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The next day dawned clear and hot, after a very humid night aboard Balance, trying to sleep with a fan blowing air into the V-berth where we sleep. Up at seven, and by eight we were hauling ourselves and our coffee and tea out to the end of the dock, where a panga picked us up and took us across to Barra de Navidad. We walked all the way through town, past the canals, found Calle Velero, a promising street we found on the internet, saw lots of birds, but no white hotel, no estuary, and no Roseate Spoonbills. So we headed east, but ran into fenced fields with horses, no stopping us now, we walked down a dusty main street going out of town, then down a dirt road past Mexican houses and fields, where we sighted a large bird. Here he is, he was displaying for a female of the species, watched over by a large brown bull.

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All along a muddy dirt track, past a papaya plantation carved out of the forest, then out in the hot, hot sun to find a herd of goats, and finally a huge house at the edge of the lagoon, that we’d seen the day before from the kayaks. We were WAY too far east, so back we went, the only exciting bird sighting was a Happy Wren. We don’t have a good picture, it was hiding in a tree, but here is a link: www.inaturalist.org/taxa/pheugopedius_felix The “felix” is probably Latin for happy? We were way too hot and sweaty for much happiness, so back we trudged.

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Suddenly we spotted the white hotel, and after making our way through some barrios, then enclaves of gringo homes, down a dirt path and a long, long street, and then another dirt road, we found the Hotel Escondido, and the lagoon, and another Roseate Spoonbill! Back through town, badly in need of lunch, since our only breakfast was one energy bar, we sat down at Popeye’s at the south end of Barra de Navidad, right on the beach, and were completely fed with nachos for Jan and BBQ chicken for Nikk. Since Nikk’s nickname is Popeye, of course we had to take a picture of Nikk with another Popeye, the owner of the restaurant.

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Hard to believe our week at the marina is almost done. Tomorrow we sail up to Melaque, only four miles away, to anchor for a few days. If I can find some good internet connection, I’ll post another tale of our ten days sailing and motoring down the Costa Allegre, the Happy Coast, from Punta de Mita to Barra de Navidad, with some wonderful times kayaking and snorkeling and exploring. Now I’m going to listen to this excellent guitarist playing and singing here in the hotel bar. His voice is like auditory velvet. Adios amigos y amigas.

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