Mexico 2011

Manzanillo North to Banderas Bay

Divebombing pelican07 March 2011 | La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico

We just completed a four-day journey from Manzanillo northward back to Banderas Bay, and what a wildlife expedition it was! We had constant sightings of creatures of sea and air, which made the trip a constant and interesting surprise.

DSC 3838 cropped-- Whales – we saw humpbacks breaching (jumping almost completely out of the water), tail slapping, flipper slapping, and spy-hopping. This occurred at least three times – that we were looking – and we saw plenty more, just cruising by, blowing up plumes as they made their way past us. We heard reports on the radio a few days ago about Luffin’ It which had too close an encounter with a whale – resulting in bent propeller, bent shaft, compromised through-hulls, interior damage from the impact. This happened one day ahead of us, in Tenacatita Bay, on the way north. So we did our best to stay at least ¼ mile away from the whales, although sometimes they appeared unexpectedly, very close by...

DSC 3854 cropped-- Turtles – Two days ago, we counted 82 turtles in a six hour period. They were widely spaced, usually solo and only rarely two or three at a time, all seemingly heading south. At first we thought they were floating chunks of wood – so common in the Pacific Northwest – but when we went to check out one of the chunks, it lifted a head, looked at us, and rotated itself around to watch us as we circled it. These guys are about 2 feet long – maybe 3 feet with heads and legs extended.

leaping ray-- Stingrays – I’ve mentioned before the strange behavior of these guys, leaping out of the water, doing flips in the air, and then belly-flopping down on the water. Usually, it’s a group of them, in a line – almost like a line dance. Why? I think for fun, but maybe to dislodge parasites. We also saw two flotillas of stingrays, just below the water, with wing tips just above the surface. They are close together, in a checkerboard pattern, making altogether a large, dark, fast-moving diamond in the water.

leaping dolphin-- Dolphins – Every anchorage seems to have two or three dolphins who cruise around among the boats, perhaps feeding on the trout-sized fish that seem to congregate in the shade under the boats. These are big dolphins – maybe 8 feet in length?  Sometimes they get frisky and leap out of the water, putting on a great show for us.

pelican landing-- Pelicans – We never tire of watching these guys, circling around the anchorage at sunrise and sunset, dive-bombing into the water, sometimes 7 or 8 at a time, scoring a small fish perhaps one time out of ten. They are amazing flyers, swooping down to a few inches above the water and gliding for 60 feet or more without a wing-stroke.  See one dive-bombing at the top of this page.

booby perching on cactus-- Boobies – These smaller birds, which seem to be everywhere, follow the pelicans closely, in case there are any dropped fish… Other times they circle around, saying, “Ow, ow, ow, hahahaha!” They follow us as we travel, circling the boat, hoping for a place to land, or a dropped fish (we’re not actually fishing most of the time, but these are seemingly not really smart birds…)

Red tide, with foam on top of the water-- Red tide – Groan – Not sure what this is, but most anchorages seem to be plagued with dirty, brownish-red water, sometimes with a sudsy soapy scum on top. This is maybe an algae bloom, but in one anchorage we saw millions of tiny swimming critters, when they passed over the top of our white flopper-stopper. Other folks have told us that the red tide is associated with this year’s colder-than-usual water, due apparently to a “La Niña” weather/ocean temperature phenomenon. The reason I say “groan” is that our watermaker really doesn’t want to work well (or even at all) in the presence of all those little red critters. The filters clog quickly and smell like the dickens when we take them out to replace them. We’re running quickly through our supply, and not getting enough water in the bargain.

On land, we spent time in La Manzanilla, Barra de Navidad and Manzanillo. I found an acupuncturist in Barra who resolved – in one hour – some shoulder and elbow pain that had been plaguing me for weeks. The acupuncturist – Doug – is a young Oregonian graduate of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, who lives in Barra during the winter, surfs four days a week and does acupuncture the other three.

In Manzanillo, we became familiar with the buses to the WalMart-Soriana-Comercial district (for groceries and other necessary supplies, such as watermaker filters, see above). We practiced our dinghy beach landings and launches some more, with mixed results. In Santiago (adjacent to Manzanillo) the waves aren’t really very big, but somehow we haven’t mastered the technique of getting out past the waves without at least one of them putting many gallons of seawater over the bow of the dinghy. We make new rules for ourselves each time, but somehow full success is rare. Here are some of our rules:
-- Always take a full set of dry clothes in a plastic bag.
-- Put everything possible into a watersports dry bag.
-- Bring along big garbage bags to wrap groceries and clean, dry laundry.
-- Wear a swimming suit.
-- Wear water shoes or sandals to avoid damage to tender feet from rocks, stingrays, whatever.
-- On landing, leap out quickly into the shallow water to control the dinghy, but not too close to the dinghy, or it’ll knock you down into the water.
-- On launching, walk the dinghy out beyond the breaking waves – but not so deep that you can’t heave yourself back into the dinghy.
-- Lift the bow of the dinghy up and over the breaking waves
-- Start the motor before climbing back into the dinghy, but not until the water is deep enough… (What’s deep enough?)
-- Always keep the dinghy perpendicular to the breaking wave.
You get the idea…

Las Hadas anchorage, as seen from the Las Hadas resortIn Manzanillo, we spent part of our stay in Santiago Bay (see beach landings above) and part at the Las Hadas anchorage. One of the many attractions of Las Hadas is the dinghy dock, meaning no beach landings. It’s an exotic resort, built in Moorish style, up the side of a steep hill. Our dinghy dock landing fee (about $9) entitled us to use of the pool, where we could mingle with the drunk gringos who were paying $300 plus per day to stay there. (Actually, half the people at the pool were cruisers from the anchorage…) Las Hadas was the location where “10” (Bo Derrick & Dudley Moore) was filmed. Around the namesake resort are many others in various – mostly Moorish – Mediterranean styles, and numerous plush private residences. It could all have been lifted out of the Spanish Riviera. The resorts have loud music going until very, very late.painter at work at Las Hadas resortOne night they went until at least 2 am. That’s one of the downsides. The other is the pollution in the air from the coal-fired power plants across the bay. It’s not difficult to figure out why the resort seems to employ full time painters with large buckets of white paint. Our boat is covered with a gray film, and we’re very much looking forward to getting onto the dock at La Cruz where we’ll have a hose with fresh water at our disposal.

We’re here in Banderas Bay, near Puerto Vallarta, awaiting the arrival of son David and his fiancée, the lovely and charming Tara Hernandez. They’ll only be with us for a few days, but we’re looking forward to having a great time together. Then, assuming we’ve resolved the watermaker and other assorted boat issues, we’ll head north to the Sea of Cortez. We’d like to spend at least a few weeks there, before our passage to Hawaii in mid-April, weather permitting.