Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chamela to Tenacatita

The scene here is quite domestic. Rani is mending one of our back packs whose strap was parting from a recent grocery overload here in Manzanillo. She reminds me that we are well behind in our blog and that it is my turn, so here are so1me ramblings about our trip to and stay in Tenacatita.

From Chamela we sailed with light following winds toward Tenacatita. As the winds dropped I poled out the jib on the opposite side to the main to keep us ghosting along over smooth seas. Around noon we were joined by a pod of speckled dolphins and a few minutes later we drew level whith what looked like a huge metal collander – perhaps 80 feet across and 50 feet high. A ramp led up to the rim of this structure, which rested directly on the ground. It reminded Rani of an alien spaceship that had already disgorged its occupants but we still have no idea what it is. Other cruisers we asked later were equally puzzled. The wind built as the afternoon wore on and we were soon making a solid 5+ knots as we approached Bahia Tenacatita. The radio crackled to life on channel 22 and we heard boats hailing each other and announcements for a 'swim to shore', bacci ball, and beach volleyball. We both looked at each other, not sure whether we were keen on what sounded like a resort atmosphere after the peace and wildness of Chamela.

We dropped the pole and rounded into the bay with 10-15 knots behind us and then on our beam. At the entrance, surf was breaking on the offlying rocks and a long palapa-lined beach came into view just inside the point. This outer anchorage was empty and looked a bit rolly, so we continued past Punta Chubasco. We sailed into the crowded bay, tacking between boats, with Rani making nervous noises as we passed behind one boat and in front of another. We anchored in about 30 feet over a sand bottom off another beach.

View from the boat over the reef to the river mouth at Tenacatita.

After we dropped the hook, we noticed that our friends on Third Day and Blue Moon were already anchored in this busy anchorage. Blue Moon had left Banderas Bay well before us and had an uneventful passage but Third had passed us while we were in Chamela. There had been a huge rain squall with lightning and high winds while we were anchored in Chamela. The rain had been torrential and Rani said it reminded her of Monsoon rains in India. At sea, two boats nearby had been struck by lightning, one losing most of its electronics. Third Day had been caught with her sails up and the gusty winds tore out several seams in their main. Later we discovered that our friends on Castaway, whom we had last seen in Oregon in 2008, had also passed us going north while we were anchored in Chamela. They had also narrowly missed colliding with Third Day during the storm because the visibility was so poor.

Anchorage viewed from the river.

One of the highlights of our stay in Tenacatita was a trip up the river to the little town that lies along the outer beach (the so-called jungle cruise). The day after we arrived, we paddled up the river against a light outflowing current. The entrance to the river is blocked by a bar, but we were able to negotiate this by passing through a break in the offlying reef, carefully threading our way between lumps of volcanic rock. Near the mouth the river is wide with gentle sand banks and colourful trees blooming with pink and yellow blossoms. Pelicans, egrets, and herons sat in the trees and we saw some large fish in the murky waters. There are supposed to be crocodiles in the river but we saw none.

Ibis near the river mouth

Further up the river, the mangroves close in and form an arch over the water that blocks out much of the sky. The mangroves have been hacked back in these places so that pangas can negotiate the stream from the village at its headwaters. As we paddled along, our friends on Third Day motored past us returning from the other end and we had to pull to the side to make way for two pangas – one with tourists and one with fisherman bound upstream. In the roots of the mangroves, white and red crabs skuttled and occasionally we would hear the cry of some invisible bird deeper into the swamps that lie on each side of the river. We could also hear the surf on the outer beach long before we reached the headwaters because the river parallels this beach for over a miile.

Cruisers returning from the jungle cruise.

At the headwaters, the river widens into a small lake and we pulled our kayak up onto an embankment near a hotel. We walked into the town, stopping at one of the many palapas on the beach for ice cold cervezas and a complimentary plate of highly salted, chili and lime covered cucumber slices with orange slices on the side – delicious, but a definite inducement to more drinking! Slightly tipsy, we ambled along the lovely beach past Mexican children playing in the sand. At the end of the beach, we climbed carefully over the sharp volcanic rocks and scattered coral fragments rounding a headland to another beach. This one has a coral reef nicknamed 'the aquarium' and has good snorkeling. Trailers were parked on the hard packed sand above the beach and we saw several Canadian flags fying from what were clearly long term camp spots. Just past this beach and across the road, the ocean was pounding on an exposed outer beach. The wind was gusting to at least 20 knots and we were grateful for our protected anchorage at the river's mouth.

Mangroves closing in.

We walked back into town, pausing for a brief swim. On the main street, we bought some fresh vegetables and fruit at a well stocked and reasonably priced tienda – ripe delicious tomatoes for 30 cents a kilogram, tiny crisp cucumbers, and juicy, scented guavas. The paddle back down the river was also against a slight tidal current and we were ready for supper and a good sleep when we finally arrived back at Ladybug.

Panga landing at the headwaters.

Mangrove shrouded waters.

Beach at the entrance to Tenacatita Bay

We soon fell into the sociable and relaxed routines of Tenacatita, with its dailiy volleyball games, bacci ball, and beach walks. We met some new cruising families including several with young children. Rani enjoyed playing with the kids and I caught her more than once with a wistful look on her face. One evening we paddled over to 'Isis' with our ukelele and had a jam session with Jo and Rob and their friend, Birke, who sails the 35 foot Isis with his wife Casey and their four year old son Quinn. Birke is an accomplished mandolin player with a great blue grass voice and the combo of his mandolin, Jo's guitar, my uke, various noise makers and all our voices made for one of the best musical evenings I have ever experienced.

Many people stay in Tenacatita for weeks and we could now see why, but we felt restless and wanted to make some progress to Manzanillo where my friend Dave Wilkinson was expecting us, so a few days later we sailed out the anchor and pointed Ladybug's bow out through the fleet toward the open waters of the Pacific.

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