January 2, 2014
We spent most of December in Portland, Oregon visiting our three kids and enjoying Christmas and New Years together. Craig “forgot” to bring shoes and spent the first week wearing socks with flip-flops and complaining how cold it was! Carol took a brief trip to Arizona to see her mom while Craig pounded nails on the new “guest room” at the boys house. A highlight of the trip was picking out and chopping down our Christmas tree (compliments of Alicia’s friend, Austin and family). We shivered and kept the fire place going while cranking up the heat to appease our cold blood! While it was great to see family, we were happy to return to the warm tropical climate of Puerto Vallarta!
A day after our return, daughter Alicia and Austin arrived! We spent a couple days shopping in La Cruz and Buccerios and hanging out at Paradise Village Marina, where we swam and explored the many shops and restaurants there. We set sail for Chacala (43 NM north of La Cruz) on a beautiful, picture perfect morning.
Light winds and calm seas made it easy for Alicia and Austin to adjust to living aboard a sailboat! We sailed all day at about 6 knotts while both learned how to hoist and trim sails while fishing along the way! They proclaimed sailing “a piece of cake” and enjoyed snagging a few bonita along the way! It was a fun, day long motor sail (with light winds) to Chacala!
Chacala is a crescent shaped, picture perfect anchorage! Clear blue waters, lush green vegetation and coconut palms frame a white, sandy beach that makes this an easy favorite for most people! This anchorage is reputed to be a rocky anchorage and dangerous when the southern or west winds blow! We set a bow and stern anchor in about 30 feet of water. Craig and I immediately dove the anchor to make sure it was secure. Secure it was, wrapped around two giant boulders! We couldn’t believe how fast that chain had tangled itself up (strong undercurrent) and debated if we we should stay! Just as we were discussing our options (dive on it again and unhook it, leave it, or wait until tomorrow), another boater arrived in his dinghy to assure us that the anchor would easily free itself as long as we lined up our bow correctly when leaving! We relaxed a bit and decided to stay and enjoy the anchorage a few days.
We dropped the dinghy and headed to shore just as the sun was setting. We got soaked by waves as we beached the ding and again when we left and laughed about it the next day when we spotted a dingy dock not far away. That night, we feasted on delicious shrimp tacos and listened to festive local music before heading back to the boat just after sunset.
The next day, Alicia and Austin took the kayaks and explored the coastline. They later hiked up to a ridge that wrapped around the crescent shaped beach and marveled at the view! Meanwhile, Craig and I explored the town, shopped (well, I shopped), and had a fabulous lunch. What a charming place! The people are awesome and the music is energetic. The music had the feel of a High School “battle of the bands” moment (maybe it was)! Handmade crafts and delicious (spicy) pineapple drinks are sold from little palapas on the beach! It truly is a magical place! The day ended with “dinghy driving lessons” for Austin and Alicia!
We spent two nights in Chacala and would definitely go back!
Early the next morning, we set sail for Isla Isabel. Isla Isabel is a volcanic island roughly 50 miles north west of Chacala. The seas quickly picked up to 3-5 feet, and after catching and releasing a few more bonitas (we were waiting for a tuna), Alicia and Austin began to feel a little queasy. Both were troopers, and after resting felt better later in the day.
We motor sailed most of the way and arrived at Isla Isabel by sunset. After catching our 4th Bonita, (two of them at the same time), we decided not to throw the 4th one back! It was Bonita or leftovers for dinner and Austin wanted to try out his surgery skills on his catch! Carol made a delicious marinade sauce and we feasted on mashed potatoes, veggies and Bonita!
We arrived at Isla Isabel as the sun was setting on an colorful sky and anchored in about 30 feet of rocky soil. This island is known as “the Galapagos of Mexico” and immediately we could see why! Hundreds of birds flocked the island! There are mostly frigates and blue footed boobies here but the island also hosts several other species and several hundred iguanas of all sizes! As we explored the island, birds dove over head and hundreds more littered the paths and trees, many nesting within arms reach! It reminded me of a scene from the Alfred Hitchcocks “The Birds” movie!
It was amazing and a little scary! We watched male frigates puff up their red chests and call out to attract females. Females swooped close to males making clicking noises and seemingly teasing their potential mates! Some of the male frigates were sitting alone, while others had several females sharing a branch! Twice, I almost stepped on camouflaged iguanas and nearly missed a nesting Boobie who had nested on the path I was following! Craig and I eventually left the trail and hiked to the other side of the island where we discovered a rocky coast and a beautiful view.
Austin and Alicia hiked to the south side where a crater rested amongst blue footed boobies. We all swam in isolated beaches along the way.
Once back on the boat, we jumped in the warm, clear, turquoise water and did some of the best snorkeling I have ever done in Mexico! Fish of all colors, shapes and varieties darted in and out of the rocks below while stingrays swam casually by. It reminded me of the Long Beach Acquarium only a window did not separate us from the beautiful fish! A funny side note of this snorkeling adventure is while Alicia, Austin and I eagerly chased after colorful fish, we didn’t realize how far we had drifted far away from our boat! We also didn’t notice the local fisherman dumping fish guts into the bay! Craig (who stayed behind on the boat) DID notice and tried to get our attention by yelling and waving his arms! We saw him, but figured he was telling us to get away from the huge boulders and crashing surf nearby! We swam away from the rocks and continued snorkeling! Now frantic, Craig jumped in a kayak and quickly rowed to us warning about the sharks he was sure were in the bay! Since we could not all fit in the Kayak, we decided to join hands and swim back “as one giant fish” hopeful we’d scare any predators away. The water suddenly became murky (a good sign that something was active down there) and I got a little nervous, but we never saw a shark! The swim back to the boat was nerve racking and although we laughed about it later, I think we all felt lucky that we didn’t become shark bait!
We stayed two days on Isla Isabel and left this galapagos twin at dusk to head back towards LaCruz where we hoped to grab a mooring ball at nearby Jalapa. We took turns with night shifts and marveled at the millions of stars in the sky! We love night sailing and enjoyed the warm breeze and stillness of the glassy ocean.
Sometime during the night, Craig noticed that our batteries were not charging properly and started the generator. When it shut off unexpectedly, we decided to skip Jalapa and return to LaCruz to have it checked out. A few days later we heard that a boat ran aground while anchored at Jalapa. Seems they grabbed a mooring ball (one of 3) that broke loose during the night! Their boat ended up on the rocks, damaging the boat! Knowing we would have been there at the same time made us thankful that the batteries acted up. It is easier to replace a bad alternator then it is to replace a hull. We are sorry for the couple who lost their boat!
As the week came to an end, we reflected on how fun it was to show off beautiful Bandaris Bay and the neighboring islands to Alicia and Austin! They were an awesome help and fun to be around! Alicia and Austin spent their last days here strolling empty beaches, shopping, hiking and relaxing at the beautiful Beach Club Resort nearby. We hope they will visit again soon.
Upcoming posts (March): Repairing, preparing, and heading for the South Pacific