Mexico 2010

Chacala and Banderas Bay

December 24, 2010

When I last wrote, we had arrived at the little town of Chacala, after several delightful days spent at Isla Isabela. Chacala was a brief transition from the relative wildness of Isla Isabela to the tourist-centered environment of Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) which was to come. At Isla Isabela, we saw courtship dances by blue-footed boobies. In Banderas Bay, we saw a television crew filming telenovelas (Mexican soap operas) amid plush resort surroundings. What a contrast!

I forgot to mention that during the passage from Isla Isabela to Chacala, Craig caught a 22 pound dorado. It's always pretty sad for me to watch the death of such a beautiful fish. This time we used some of the rotgut Fiji vodka (we've been carrying it around since Fiji) to put the poor fish out of his misery. It's a lot of work to get the fish fileted, chunked into pieces, vacuum sealed and frozen, not to mention cleaning the cockpit of all the blood and bits of fish. Craig and I have a routine down, though, and each of us knows what to do to expedite the process. We vacuum sealed 14 separate packets of fish, each just right for one dinner for the two of us. Or two packets if we have guests... The night of our arrival in Chacala, we had the first delicious fish dinner. The rest went into the freezer.

We anchored in the bay at Chacala, and decided to go ashore to explore. We gave some thought to landing the dinghy at the concrete pier surrounded by wall-to-wall fishing pangas, but it wasn't practical for a lot of reasons. Instead, we beached the dinghy at an adjacent small beach, pulling up onto fine sand. Several other cruisers had done the same. We walked up the cobblestone street, past brightly painted houses (including some for rent). We passed one building under construction, a future lavanderia (laundry) on the ground floor. Two workers mixed concrete, poured it out onto the street and scooped it into buckets, which were raised by pulley to workers on the top floor. It looked like very hard work in the heat. We discovered in the main part of town that Chacala is a tourist resort for Mexican tourists. Several people told us that this time of year, all the tourists come on weekends. The palapa restaurants on the beach were mostly empty, it being only Friday. We entered one, and made immediate friends with Lupita, who ran a little restaurant service. They had a fire going for barbecuing fish and shrimp, and we tried the shrimp - very nice, although somewhat messy.

After we dinghied back to the boat, a banda arrived on the beach. Three trumpets, a trombone, a drummer and several singers. They were loud. Interestingly, they aimed the bells of their instruments out to sea, as though the concert were for us. The drummer was particularly impressive, beating out complicated rhythms. This must have been the event marking the beginning of the weekend arrival of the Mexican tourists. According to the locals we talked to, the bay would be full of "personal watercraft" and water skiers on Saturday and Sunday. A good time to leave! We pulled up anchor on Saturday morning, and headed for La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, just south, around Punta Mita, and into Banderas Bay. During that day, we saw several humpback whales, but also increasing signs of civilization. Rows of condominiums appeared onshore, particularly as we rounded Punta Mita.

The marina at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is relatively new, and we had no charts which showed it. Fortunately it's well marked, and the marina office assigned us a slip. There began the adventures in Mexican entrepreneurship and bureaucracy. The entrepreneurship began first. As Craig was washing the salt off the boat, Jose came around, and offered (for a price) to clean and wax the hull. Ernesto was not far behind, but we had already made a deal with Jose. We delivered our laundry to Sofia, and hired Luis to do some upholstery repair.

We took the local bus south to the "Mega" store in Bucerias, where we stocked up on groceries and purchased a Mexican cell phone. That cell phone launched us into the bureaucracy of Telcel, Mexico's number one phone company. The young woman assured us the phone was all set up and ready to go, but the first time we tried to make a call, there came a long message which - although I speak Spanish fairly well - was incomprehensible, and obviously blocking any attempt to use the phone. The young woman at the Mega store had told us we had to go into Puerto Vallarta to acquire the banda ancha modem for our computer to be able to use the cell phone network for access to the internet. So I decided to take the recalcitrant cell phone, and get it taken care of at the same time.

The Telcel "client assistance center" takes up a large space in the upper floor of a fancy shopping center. There were several lines. The first (which took 20 minutes) was for the purpose of evaluating which next line you should be in. The second took 90 minutes. When I finally reached the front of the line, I was assigned to Eduardo, who explained that I needed to have my passport in order to activate the cell phone. (I didn't have my passport). He finally said that he'd input the necessary information, using his own data. After several attempts, he finally found the correct banda ancha modem that would work with Windows 7, and a seven-day card for internet access. Then, he sent me to the cashier's line to pay for it. When I came back to Eduardo, it turned out he'd forgotten to write up the seven day card, so back to the cashier's line. When I finally finished all of that, I felt somewhat shell-shocked. The good news is, that now the computer had access to the internet.

Of course we theoretically had internet access in the marina at La Cruz, just as we theoretically had internet access in Mazatlan and San Jose del Cabo. But the fact is that these marinas have a puny internet connection, which they make available via wi-fi to hundreds of boats. When all the boats try to access it at once, the internet connection slows down to the extent that the most likely message you get is "server not found." The only decent time for internet access in those marinas is the middle of the night.

Well, that's about it for this trip report. We left Puerto Vallarta for a wedding in Queretaro, and then for Christmas with family in California. We'll return to the boat the first of the year, and resume our season of cruising.