We ended up spending about three weeks in Banderas Bay. We stayed mostly in the anchorage at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, with about forty other boats. This is high season for sailing in Mexico: yachts waiting to cross the Pacific to the Marquesas and those heading south to Costa Rica and Panama all gather in La Cruz to get ready for the passage. In addition the marina is full of boats owned by snow birds: Americans and Canadians who come down here for six months to enjoy the warm climate and cheap prices, and avoid the cold northern winter. So there’s always something going on.
La Cruz is a funky little town with a great vibe. Apart from the marina and waterfront, the centre of the town has been largely undeveloped; it has cobbled streets and brightly painted houses which seem to be the norm around here, but what sets it apart is the music scene. Every night live music is flowing from at least one of the three or four bars around town. Many of the musicians are Mexican, some are cruisers who live here or are just passing through. It’s a nice place to hang out.
Our old 8HP outboard, which had been carried off for some much needed TLC, was returned to us but with no marked improvement. As we now have the 15HP we decided to keep the old fella as a back-up and not spend any more time and money trying to make him go faster. We tied up loose ends and departed La Cruz bound for Tenacatita, we were looking forward to getting moving again.
Unfortunately two hours out our alternator stopped working. It’s been playing up for a while but seemed to have finally given up the ghost so we had no choice but to return to La Cruz. We took it into a shop in Puerto Vallarta which had been recommended to us, about an hour’s ride on the bus. It was the first time we’d been into the old part of PV and it felt like another Mexican village not a suburb of a large city with old women sitting gossiping on the stoop and flocks of raggedy kids running around and playing in the cobbled street. Joshua (who owns Alte-Mark with his uncle) was a maestro and not only repaired our non-working alternator but also fixed the back-up too which we’d bought at a swap meet for $25 – sweet!
We left La Cruz successfully the second time and had a comfortable overnight passage around Cabo Corrientes, a point known for its choppy seas and strong winds. We had a 20-25kt breeze and as we rounded the point the wind conveniently veered and we had a great sail until the wind dropped around dawn. We motor-sailed down to Bahia Tenacatita and anchored in a bay known as the Aquarium.
There are several anchorages along this stretch of coast and they are all similar and spectacular. The wide crescent-shaped bays are lined with miles of white sandy beaches and protected by rocky points which provide shelter from the northwest winds of the winter and the summer southeasterlies.
As the name suggests the snorkelling at the Aquarium is meant to be fantastic with warm water and lots of reef fish. However when we jumped in the water was only 22C and we couldn’t see more than 2m, we were lucky not to swim into a rock! Apparently sometimes the currents conspire to bring cold water up from the deep and this triggers an algal bloom – a shame for us. We moved around to the main anchorage and were a bit surprised how crowded it was – overflow from Banderas Bay, I guess.
The highlight of a visit to Tenacatita is taking the dinghy/kayak/ SUP up the river which winds a couple of miles through a mangrove swamp before opening up in to a lagoon. Having seen the size of the crocodiles on Mexico’s west coast we decided to take the dinghy, as even our old 8HP has a better chance of getting us out of trouble than an inflatable kayak. We paddled up on the flood tide and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the pelicans roosting in the trees and snowy egrets and green herons hunting on the sand banks. As the river became increasingly narrow we had to devise new paddling techniques to manoeuvre through the green tunnel of overhanging mangroves.
We stopped at Bahia Santiago, near Manzanillo and snorkelled on the wreck of an old coastal steamer which lies just off the beach. A lot of the steel plate on the deck has rusted away leaving the holds and the boiler room open to explore. The visibility was better and it was really interesting poking around amongst the pipes and boilers, soft coral and colourful reef fish.
The next day we moved to Bahia Manzanillo and anchored off the Las Hadas resort – what a disappointment! The cruising guide promised, for the price of a small dinghy dock fee boaters have access to the resorts luxurious pool and beach facilities, laundry, water fills and trash bins”. OK – the last three don’t sound so great but are important to us yachties! My expectations were shattered; for a whopping 250 pesos we had access to the bins and showers and that was it. The water was not potable, the laundry was closed and we weren’t allowed near the pool. Ah well . . . back to watching dolphins with a gin and tonics on the back deck.
Life is good!