Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Posts tagged ‘kayaking mexico’

Vagabonding Once Again: La Cruz to Barra de Navidad



Chamela Bay looking across to Balance anchored at the tip of Isla Pajarara.

The lure of warm emerald water and isolated anchorages pulled us out of La Cruz on December 14, 2015, and south to Chamela Bay.  Balance would have sailed out two days earlier but the remnants of a tropical storm pounded La Cruz with three days of rain.  It was a final example of the weird weather of November and December – unseasonably hot and humid with apparent temperatures of 100 degrees F many days, or unseasonably cloudy and rainy.  We splashed around the cobblestoned streets doing last-minute errands and saying goodbye to our many friends.  Six weeks in La Cruz seemed like a long time at the beginning of November, and not nearly enough when mid-December came too fast.  Three friends visited for a week in early November, and my brother and his wife came for a week at the end of the month.  The advent of visitors created good times eating and drinking in our favorite restaurants in the evening, and kayaking, hiking, sailing on the Bay, walking the beaches and birdwatching during the day.  I wound up leading some yoga classes again, taking Spanish classes twice a week, exploring  the world of science on Science Fridays with the marina kids, and taking part in a stimulating Writer’s Group at the marina on Saturdays.  Nikk kept at the boat projects so Balance would be ready to head south after almost a year in Marina Riviera Nayarit.  She weathered the six hot months from May to October tied to the dock and watched over by Gonzalo, Richard, and the wonderful guards.

Finally the day came to cast off our lines and motor sail at sunrise across the Bay of Banderas 24 miles to Cabo Corrientes, around the corner with only mild chop in the usually rough area outside the Bay, and then halleluia! we turned off the engine and sailed for four hours on to our first night in tiny Ipala Bay.  Small Spinner Dolphins accompanied us for about fifteen minutes, and they really do leap out of the water and spin like a drill in the air.  That first night in Ipala Bay we didn’t even want to get off the boat and go ashore.  Balance rocked her two tired sailors to sleep that night, with brilliant stars shining above, soon it was time to make coffee and sail south with the morning sun.

Hurricane Patricia in late October spared Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz, because the Sierra Madre mountains east and south deflected the 200 mph monster hurricane.  It came ashore about twenty miles south of Chamela Bay, and we expected to see massive damage all along the coast and in the bays.  Instead many trees, cacti, and buildings miraculously survived with only some damage.  We heard that the destruction inland was much more extensive, with many people losing all of their banana or papaya crops.

Isla Pajarara lies in the middle of Chamela Bay, and there Balance dropped anchor so we could spend four days snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxing aboard our boat.


Sunset as we paddled around Isla Pajarara


Balance with Zoe B


Immature Brown Booby with Heerman’s Gulls.

More fun and friends old and new awaited us in Tenecatita Bay.  Robert (the Mayor of Tenecatita anchorage)and his wife Virginia on Harmony kindly invited us to sail across the bay with them and two other couples to visit La Manzanilla (a small town in the SW corner of the bay).


The dinghy shortly before being swamped during the La Manzanilla landing.


Nikk with a little Crocodile buddy at the large Crocodile Refuge in La Manzanilla.


Gordo, the 70-80 year old crocodile at the refuge.


The Mexican who called Gordo to the bridge so we could get a good photo.

During Hurricane Patricia wave surge about ten feet high came ashore and flooded homes on the beach whose windows had been blasted out by the high winds.  We heard sad stories of homes losing their roof, or having foundations washed away.  Seven weeks later the damage was still being repaired, and one of the first places in town to be repaired was the Crocodile Refuge, because the fences had been washed away and large crocs were wandering the streets of La Manzanilla, wanting a tasty meal of cat, dog or chicken.  Luckily for us by the time we arrived they had all been rounded up and returned to the refuge (at least we didn’t see any in town!).

Tenecatita is a cruiser’s paradise.  Swimming, snorkeling, games of bocce ball on the beach, tasty meals at the beach palapa restaurant, and a two mile long estuary to paddle in our kayaks.  Robert and Virginia on Harmony organize much of the fun.  Virginia published Harmony on the High Seas:  When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey in 2011, tales and advice about the cruising life, and how to stay in harmony with your cruising partner despite the lack of space and the dire and dangerous moments.  I read the book two years ago (and read parts of it to Nikk) and I recommend it to all, even non-cruisers, for its sage advice, philosophies of love and living, and the fascinating details of how to build a harmonious cruising life.


The Tenecatita anchorage, seen from the beachside palapa restaurant.


Surprise! Moonshadow and Janna Banana arrive in the dinghy.


Nick wrestling mangroves trying to get us a way through to the lagoon we visited two years ago. Sadly, he was defeated.


Denizens of the estuary: White Ibis in a hurricane-denuded mangrove.


A Green Heron whose relatives we see when paddling the Tualatin River west of Portland.

After four days anchored in Tenecatita Balance carefully motorsailed through the rocks and reefs to spend a week tied to the dock in Marina Isla Navidad, next to the Grand Bay Hotel across the channel from Barra de Navidad.  It’s been our goal to spend Navidad in Barra de Navidad again after the wonderful time we had two years ago.  Unfortunately I must have been very bad this last year, because Santa brought me sciatica for Christmas and I hobbled for three days.   I did manage to take a few photos of this spectacular hotel and the view of the Xmas Eve almost-full-moon.  There will not be another full moon on Christmas Day until 2034, and I wonder if I will see that one too?


The almost Full Moon of Xmas Eve .


Moorish architecture at Hotel Grand Bay.


The spectacular Grand Bay Hotel from the marina.


50 cruisers attended the Christmas Day Potluck and the wild White Elephant Gift Exchange at the Time Out Bar overlooking the bay.  I was too busy being an elf for the gift exchange, trying to keep track of how many times a gift was stolen, and who received which gift.  Fun and hectic and no time for photos.  I can say our cruiser buddies know how to have a good time, and it was fun to see all the folks dressed up instead of in shorts and flip flops.  We did get one picture of us at the bar, so I will end with that, and with our wishes for a happy, healthy and more peaceful 2016 for all.

We are sailing south today to spend New Year’s Eve in some secluded anchorage, if all goes well, and then Manzanillo for my birthday in early January.


Happy New Year and Prospero Ano Nuevo to all!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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: The “felix” is probably Latin for happy? We were way too hot and sweaty for much happiness, so back we trudged.



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.


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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