Log #62q Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad

March 22, 2018 in Logs by Series, Series 62, The Logs

Log #62q Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad

Barra de Navidad, Colima, Mexico

March 22, 2018

We slipped at noon March 12, but went up a wrong channel in this large Puerto Vallarta Marina and had to retrace our course to exit. We noted there was a Holland America Line cruise ship in port as we exited. This cruise line is our favourite and we have taken several cruises to Antarctica, the South Pacific, Alaska, and through the Panama Canal on their ships. Talk about a busman’s holiday!

We made a noon departure as we had a 100 mile passage to Bahia Chemala and wanted to arrive in daylight.The winds were light, but we hoisted the main in midafternoon and continued to motorsail the rest of the way to Bahia Chemala next morning.  During the afternoon from 1645 to about 1715 we were treated to a spectacular show of a humpback whale cavorting 500 metres abeam of us. It was making full body breaches out of the water. It would emerge from the sea and flip over on its back with a tremendous cascade of white water, waving one of its long flippers as it surged back into the sea. It would then resurface shortly for a blow, then would take a shallow dive, only to do another breach a minute or so later. We counted 31 breaches over a 30 minute period. Below is an illustration from our Smithsonian Handbook Whales Dophins and Porpoises of the breaching process. As breaching is common in breeding grounds, this guy must have been having a good time. 

Below are a couple of pictures I got of the breaches.


Needless to say trying to photograph it in its full breach was difficult, but these above are the best I got. You can see its long flipper waving in the picture on the left. It was quite a show!

It was a beautiful sunset with a red glow across the horizon, portending good weather. “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight”.

We motorsailed in glassy calm seas during the night in a black but star studded moonless sky. The stars at night at sea are spectacular. It is interesting to watch their positions change over time as the earth rotates to sink some constellations such as my favourite Pleiades, and reveal others such as the Southern Cross, as the Big Dipper revolves around the North Star. I am not overly religious, but on occasions of such beauty, I find myself thinking, “Thank you Lord for such a universe.”

The calm glassy sea revealed ripples of green phosphoresence undulating from the hull as Veleda made her way through ink black water. The ripples were narrow streams of phosphorescence created by our wake. It was intriguing watching the glowing illuminations as they snaked away in the blackness from Veleda to disappear, to be replaced by others dancing away from the hull. At the stern, the wash from the propellor created a ghostly green haze with green diamonds scattered in the wake.

Usually such bioluminescence is white, but apparently red tide causes the phosphoresence to change colours to green or even blue.

Sunrise was at 0711, and we dropped anchor in Bahia Chemala (19° 34.965′ N, 105° 07.907′ W) at 0720. After a rest, we dinghied into the entrance to the estuary to check out how difficult it would be to cross the bar and go up the estuary as we planned to next day. We found out that we had to stay to starboard for the entrance, and then to port to get around the first set of shallows. OK, we can do that. However as we exited we were faced with a few incoming waves that, as they reached the shallows, increased dramatically in size, and we were almost swamped as we bounced into a three foot crashing wave as we exited. Next morning, close to high tide, there was no problem entering and proceeding up the estuary in the dinghy. La Boca is a mangrove fringed estuary that we were able to explore for a mile or so. It is always interesting to explore up rivers or estuaries feeding into an open bay. On coming out over the bar, I was able to anticipate the big waves, and waited until they crested, then went out in relative calm between the wave crests.

 There were several other boats in the anchorage, a couple of which I found unusual. One was a modern junk rigged schooner with tanbark sails. We have seen only a couple of such rigs in our 20 years of cruising. A schooner rig involves a higher mainmast aft and a smaller foremast forward. The last one I saw was in the Strait of Canso, coming out of the Bras D’or Lakes in Nova Scotia.

Another different rig we noticed was a two masted catamaran, with a mast on each of its hulls. The only other time I have seen such a rig was on a British racing boat in a major around the world race. The boat did not do well, and broke up early in the race as I recall. It was considered a radical unproved design at that time, and this is the first boat I have seen with the same rig.

Next day we saw it under sail.

After returning from the estuary, we raised anchor and motored two miles down to re-anchor for the night off Isla Pajarera (19° 33.566′ N, 105° 06.603′ W) one of several islands that are part of a National Bio Reserve in Bahia Chamela. It was a bit rolly, but provided a good range of rocky island coastline to explore by dinghy, including one pinnacle with a couple of windows carved through it. The water was clear, but we didn’t go snorkelling as the shoals were rock, not coral reef.  

On our way across to Tenacatita next day we were treated to a large pod of dolphins that came and played around the boat for half an hour.


Bahia Tenacatita is a large bay with a couple of headlands behind which boats can anchor. We anchored behind the inner headland (19° 17.823′ N, 104° 50.211′ W), near the entrance to another river snaking through the jungle. Next day (March 16) we anchored off Aquarium Reef, behind the first headland, to go snorkelling. We lowered the dinghy, and anchored it in about four feet of water, put on our gear and hopped in the water. Unfortunately my mask did not have a good seal, probably due to my heavy beard. There was no coral reef, just rocky shoals, and no fish life to enjoy. We cut the dive short and returned to the dinghy. We now discovered that as we have gotten older, we are a bit weaker, and neither of us could climb into the dinghy from deep water. We towed it into shallow water and got in. Lesson learned, dive or snorkel only from the beach or from Veleda’s swim ladder.

The anchorage by Aquarium Reef was rolly, and so we returned to our original anchorage inside just off the river mouth. We explored the river that afternoon, going up two miles through dense jungle to the lagoon at the end. It started out reasonably wide and open, as the inner part of the entrance provided a safe easy dinghy landing without any waves or surf.  After the first couple of bends, the mangrove fringed jungle started to close in, to the extent we had to duck under some overhanging branches as shown in this narrow passage below.


We saw plenty of bird life, with Judy spotting 38 different species. We did not see any crocodiles this trip.


Above are a great egret and a little blue heron, and below is a white ibis seen on the passage.

Later that day we saw a few dolphins lazily feeding in the bay, and unfortunately could also see some red tide wafting through the anchorage.

On March 18 our final passage for this season was a short one of 14 miles from Bahia Tenacatita to Barra Navidad where we will leave Veleda for the summer and return to Canada. We were favoured en route by five pantropical spotted dolphins that played around our bow, then went across to be seen playing at the bow of another boat going the opposite direction. We arrived at the luxury resort of Marina de La Navidad (19° 11.715′ N, 104° 40.901′ W) for a night to check out the marina where we will leave Veleda starting April 1st.

More about our two weeks in this area in my next and final log for this season.