Log #62p To Puerto Vallarta

March 19, 2018 in Logs by Series, Series 62, Series 62, The Logs

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Log #62p To Puerto Vallarta

Barra de Navidad, Colima, Mexico

March 19, 2018

Please see the chartlet at the end of this log for locations mentioned. After we managed to motor out of Mazatlan, this time with our mainsail hoisted, we pounded into the heavy seas for another half hour, until we were able to settle into a southerly course of 172° magnetic when we were able to unfurl the genoa and sail with the 15 knot (force 4) wind on our port quarter, and turn the engine off. It was still a lively sail. An hour later as we altered port to a heading of 150° M for our long 80 nautical mile leg, the wind was more directly behind us and we were able to gybe the genoa and wing it out with the whisker pole. I love sailing downwind wing on wing, even though now the wind was up to force 5 (17 to 21 knots). We were pounding along averaging 6.5 knots, surfing down three metre waves when our speed would climb up to 8.5 to 9.0 knots, then slow down to about 5.5 knots as we plunged into the trough. Not bad for a 32 foot boat with a hull speed of only 5.5 to 6.0 knots.

Veleda likes heavy weather, and our Raymarine 4500 self steering system does a good job of keeping us on course, and does not allow the boat to wallow too much so that the wind does not catch the sails on the wrong side. It actually does a better job than a human could do. It doesn’t get tired. It doesn’t oversteer. We are happy with its performance.


We have taken precautions against an accidental gybe, as the main is held out to port with a preventer, a block and tackle which holds the boom out, preventing the boom from swinging from one side violently across to the other side if the wind happens to catch it on the wrong side. Such an accidental gybe, especially in force 5 winds, could do serious damage to our rigging, and risk a capsize if the boat were to wallow into a trough sideways.I hate to even think about it!

We sailed all night wing on wing. Around midnight the wind eased to force 3 (7 to 10 knots). Sunrise was at 0630. Veleda had sailed 84 nautical miles since leaving Mazatlan. By 0740 the wind was down to a light force 2 (4 to 6 knots), so we furled the genoa and turned the engine on to motorsail to Isla Isabela (Isabel was my mother’s first name, abbreviated to Ike by my dad and his family.). This island had some craggy rock pinnacles that we had to give good clearance before entering the southern bay on the island at 0925 after a 99 nautical mile passage. We initially planned to stop at this location as it is a National Park with a noted frigate bird rookery.  In the picture of the pinnacle, frigate birds can be seen gliding in the updrafts of the island. 

However as we rounded the point to enter the shallow bay, we felt the swell coming into it would have made for an uncomfortable anchorage, and so we changed our minds and headed back out to sea to cross another 50 nautical miles over to Matachen Bay near San Blas, Nayarit. On the way we saw our first whales this year, a couple of humpback whales blowing on the surface. We continued to motorsail towards the mainland, and by 1600 we dropped the main and motored the last five miles, to anchor by 1700 in Matachen Bay (21° 31.030′ N, 105° 14.474′ W) after a 27 hour passage of 140 miles.

We did not go into the nearby town of San Blas as the anchorage off the town up the Rio Pozo was reported nonfunctional due to silting. Instead we went ashore next day looking forward to taking a panga tour through the tropical jungle up the Rio Tovara.

There are two major problems in landing a dinghy on a sandy beach. The first is to land it without being swamped by the surging waves washing ashore. More than once we have had the dinghy swamped by a crashing wave as we landed on the beach. The trick is to immediately rotate the dinghy, as soon as ashore or even in the shallows, so the bow faces the incoming waves, and has a better chance of riding over them. The next problem is hauling the dinghy above the high tide line. If this is not done, when the dinghy is left for any period of time the tide may come in and float or swamp the dinghy.

Many boaters have two bulbous wheels, one either side of the outboard, which can be raised when motoring or lowered when beaching, so that the heavy stern with the outboard on it can be wheeled up the beach by the bow. Our hard bottom dinghy and 15 horsepower motor are so heavy that such wheels still may not allow just the two of us to haul it up above the high water line. I’m still thinking about it. Note in this hard bottom RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) dinghy (ours is a bit bigger, but the same design) in addition to the wheels it has a tubular piece of PVC piping as an extension handle. This is a good idea as it allows a single operator to sit a bit more forward so the boat can get up on a plane easier. Ours has an even longer extension handle, a handy accessory. 

 As we were going to be leaving the dinghy for several hours and we were not sure of the state of the tide we tried to drag the dinghy up the beach. We could not do it! The dinghy was too heavy. A few locals from the palapas came over and helped us carry it up to a palapa. We were advised that having a local watch the dinghy ashore was a good idea, and so we paid these chaps 100 pesos (about $5.00) for their services. The whole beach was lined with palapas, each section would be a restaurant, often with hammocks swinging on the seaward side, and tables and plastic chairs in the sand for the dinners.

None were open when we landed. Unsure of where we would catch the panga tour we wandered up the dirt road behind the palapas, turning inland to a paved road, lined with shacks selling all kinds of souvenirs, tacos, beachwear, plastic beach toys, and banana bread for which the area is noted.

After a short walk we came across the town sign for La Tovara, behind which were the pangas that ventured up the river through the tropical jungle for bird watching, crocodile sighting, and a pleasant restaurant and swimming pond, netted off the river to prevent crocodiles from eating their customers. 

We were the only customers for the pangas when we arrived and could have waited for more people to show up, but instead paid a higher rate for the panga to take just the two of us. The guide was quite knowledgeable and helped Judy to spot and identify several birds she would have missed in the foliage. She saw 29 species, one of which was a Northern Potoo, a first sighting for her. We stopped at a crocodile zoo which had several other animals and birds including a beautiful jaguar and leopard.


                                               Cruising through the dense foliage


A crocodile on the river bank

On our way back I stopped at the local chapel on the side of the main road to enjoy the cool tranquility it provides. 

Judy was concerned about the weather, and so we spent three nights at anchor before setting off March 1st for a 63 mile passage to La Cruz in Banderas Bay.

We raised anchor at 0530 with the main up, but motorsailed most of the day in light force 2 to 3 winds. If we did not use the engine, we would arrive after dark, an undesirable situation if it can be avoided. On passage we had a couple of sightings of whales and a sea turtle. We were favoured with two sightings of dolphins, one was a group of about 30 pantropical spotted dolphins that came over and played in our bow wave for about 20 minutes. They are always a delight to have around.

Another less enjoyable phenomenon was the appearance of large globules of red tide (an excessive growth of red algae). Sometimes the water would just go wine red, at other times we could see clouds of red tide drifting below the surface.

We anchored off La Cruz at the northern end of Banderas Bay with about 15 other boats at 1600 (20° 44.906′ N, 105° 22.385′ W), but found it a rolly anchorage. Next day we went in to Marina Riviera Nayarit, which we enjoyed very much.

Banderas Bay (see the chartlet at the end of the log) is a large bay with over 100 km of coast line including the resort city of Puerto Vallarta (We liked La Cruz more!). Marina Riviera Nayarit is a large modern marina, economical at 75 cents a foot per night. In addition to electricity it had RO (reverse osmosis) water on the dock with which we filled our water tanks. Most marinas in Mexico, including Puerto Vallarta, use municipal water which is not advisable for drinking. It was a long walk around the marina to get to the Capitanerie as part of our check-in. However at the far side of the marina was a good fish market which we used a couple of times. A delightful and extensive farmers and craft market was held on Sunday, most enjoyable. The adjacent town is a pleasant small Mexican town with good restaurants, but questionable fresh produce or meats. I enjoyed an evening at one restaurant which featured Flamenco music, very moving!

Judy went bird watching with a local group one morning to see 31 species, two of which were first sightings for her. Happiness is the first sighting of a new bird (not seen by her before). Another morning she got up at 0500 to catch a 0530 bus down to Puerto Vallarta to join an Eco Tour group to go to the small village of La Desembocada, and then to the delta of the Rio Ameca. On this trip she saw 63 species, 10 of which were first sightings for her. I slept in.

There was a swap meet one day at which we picked up a couple of small blocks, a booney hat, and some courtesy flags for Central American countries. This was also where Judy learned of the local birding group. A lot of information can be shared at such meets. Often one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. There is a cruisers’ net on channel 22 at 0830 each morning, and one of the categories included is Treasures of the Bilge, in which cruisers can call in to indicate what equipment, parts, sails, anchors, etc. they have to give away or sell. In Mexico foreigners are not allowed to sell things and so we adopt the subterfuge of saying things will be exchanged for coconuts.

Another night we made reservations on line (We had free access to WiFi from the marina yacht club lounge) and attended a dinner theatre at the nearby Restaurant Langosta Diez, for an amateur theatre production of the comedy “Whose Wives Are They Anyway, the proceeds going to a local charity. The production was amateurish, and the Espanola Little Theatre group to which I belonged many years ago would have done a better job. But, it was for a charity and gave us the opportunity to meet some more resident expats.

Many Americans and Canadians live down here in rented condos, or own their own homes or condos, or live on their boats for six months a year or more. There is quite an expat community in La Cruz. One of the activities they have organized is a Pickle Ball league. They have nets, paddles and pickle balls stored behind the security gate, and a covered courtyard on which they erect their nets each morning.

I had heard of such, and there is talk of a pickle ball court to be established in our home town of Elliot Lake in a proposed new activity centre. I think it would be a good activity for Elliot Lake, which is a retirement community in northern Ontario.

Pickle ball is a modified racquet sport, not as strenuous as tennis or squash, and can be played as comfortably or as competitively as players want. The game uses solid plastic paddles halfway in size between a ping pong paddle and a tennis racquet. It uses a net similar to a tennis net, with court markings similar to tennis or badminton. The pickle ball itself is a semi-hollow light plastic perforated ball about the size of a tennis ball. There are rules, not disimilar to those of badminton or tennis, about serving to the opposite court, allowing the ball to bounce no more than once, etc. As it is a lighter ball, it does not have the speed of a tennis ball, and can be influenced by wind factors if played outdoors. This is new to Canada, but has been recently spreading across the U.S. I can see where it would be a more suitable racquet sport, especially for retirees.

 To save a night’s mooring fees, we anchored off the marina on March 8, then went 10 miles down to Puerto Vallarta Marina next day. They assigned us a slip, but when we arrived, there was a sailboat already there. We took an adjacent slip, but then were directed over to B dock to B-9, but then were directed once more to B-13 (20° 33.775′ N, 105° 15.750′ W) all of this in a crowded large marina complex. Lots of fun! We were not impressed with the marina. The fee was moderate at 78 cents a foot, but there was only one washroom for the whole marina and it was not in the cleanest shape. 

We took an expensive taxi ride ($50.00 US) to the Vallarta Botanical Garden at 0600 to be there for a bird watching expedition at 0730. We were in plenty of time. It was a bird watching weekend at the gardens, and Judy wanted to go both days. The first day we went up to Rancho Primavera seeing 64 species and 13 new birds. We had a lunch on the balcony overlooking a feeding station, entertained by the birds while eating. Interesting and delightful decorations on the sangria glasses were blossoms affixed to the rims, looking like hummingbirds feeding. 

In the afternoon we went for an adventure walk in the Botanical Gardens, through the tropical forest and along the mountain ridge and down to a lovely pool in the stream below.


Judy on the trail Aubrey by the stream

We caught local buses back to the marina. Next day Judy got up at 0500 to catch local buses to the gardens to visit the Macaw Sanctuary where she saw 27 species with 7 new to her.

Macaws at the Botanical Gardens

It was a good outing for her. I slept in.

Our next passage was 100 nautical miles to Bahia Chemala on which we had a fascinating display of whales broaching and irridescent green phosphoresence at night. More about this passage in my next log.