Margaritas on the Mexico Mainland!

After leaving La Paz, we waited for our window to cross at Ensenada de los Muertos for five nights. We used those days to prepare for our longest passage yet. Knowing the trip across to Chacala would likely take about two and a half days, Lauren spent an entire day baking tasty treats and hardy meals to keep us going through the journey. With Echo underway bright and early on the morning of December 8th, we started the timer, leaving Los Muertos at 6:30am on a beeline for Chacala. At first the winds were light but there were some lingering bouncy waves from the blow that had kept us in place. Luckily the angles were comfortable enough, and with a pair of lures trailing, we were able to land two dorado early in the day. Since that stuffed the freezer to capacity, we reeled up and enjoyed getting into the rhythm of the passage in ever-calming seas. As the first sunset approached, we saw the Baja slipping away over the horizon, and we prepared for the night. Taking shifts of five hours each, Brian at the helm from 8pm to 1am, Lauren from 1 to 6am, Echo motor-sailed through the night at a consistent 6.5 knots. When the sun came up, we were greeted by clear blue skies, light winds, and a very calm sea-state. That evening we witnessed our first Pacific Ocean sunset aboard Echo with no land in sight. Calm conditions persisted through the night, but as sunrise grew nearer the land-breeze off of the mainland became evident, shifting from the NW to NE and sending small chop. Echo steadily made way, and we ended up having to slow her down to wait for the sunrise as we approached our anchorage. At 6:50am we shut off the engine after setting the hook, and enjoyed our first impressions of the jungle scenery, smells, and sounds of Chacala. After napping for a bit, we left Echo to relax on the beach and have a celebratory margarita and cheeseburger-in-paradise. While waiting for our burgers, we cooled ourselves in the crashing surf, and returned to our umbrella-shaded beach chairs.

Chacala is a picturesque small town nestled into the coastline jungle. Interestingly, the indigenous people of Chacala were “gifted” the land from the King of Spain in 1581, and the sense of collective community ownership and the pride they take in keeping the beach clean was evident when we saw multiple children picking up every bit of debris that had washed in from the ocean. The swells creating the surf were very persistent in the anchorage, and after the first night we were made aware of the need to deploy a stern anchor. With the daily shift from land breeze in the morning to sea breeze in the afternoon, Echo would be turned at sunset to take the ocean swell of the Pacific at varying angles to the stern, making the night very uncomfortable. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Chacala, and although it was a harsh adjustment to sleeping through the swells, we can’t wait to return.

From Chacala we sailed 36 nautical miles south, rounding Punta de Mita and entering Bahia de Banderas. During the trip down, we had our first humpback sighting. It was an amazing display of power with the whale seeming to hover vertically with its entire tail out of the water, slapping repeatedly for well over a minute before disappearing. Banderas Bay is a massive bay at over 20 miles wide between its northern and southern points, reaching almost 20 miles inland, and over 1500 feet deep in places, providing an amazing nursery for the pregnant humpback whales and their calves. Also, because of the surrounding geography, it’s a great place to learn to sail with ideal sea-states and consistent, predictable winds. Being out on a few daysails, we’ve really gotten more acquainted with how Echo sails, striving to learn how to move our home with the priority on comfort. Every time we’ve gone out, and sometimes from anchorage, we’ve seen whales, oftentimes gently floating for a couple of breaths, sometimes swimming at pace in courting packs. It’s been an incredible gift to be able to see them so often.

After Christmas we moved into the marina in Puerto Vallarta and prepared Echo for guests. Lauren’s childhood friend Allie and her partner Jake flew in from Portland to join us for a week in the cruising life. Once they arrived and received their crew briefing, we tossed the dock lines and left the marina to anchor at La Cruz. Hardly even fifteen minutes into their stay, we were shocked to witness a humpback apparently giving birth! The whale floated oddly for many minutes, obviously arching its body. Eventually another adult surfaced alongside, and then out popped a tiny whale, taking a few breaths with help from the two adults before all three disappeared together. We were all baffled at what we had witnessed. As we pressed on toward the anchorage, Allie spotted another whale floating gently at the surface, and after only a few minutes, we watched the process repeat itself. Two whale births in the same afternoon! We spent the next few days on the anchor, bussing to nearby Bucerias for beachside relaxation, and daysailing to search for wildlife activity. We were thankful to see more whales and dolphins while out, but the weather was changing and after seeing the many sources of forecasts, we decided to play it safe and pull into the marina in La Cruz on New Year’s Eve. As the evening got underway, we blasted mariachi music and Echo became a dance party. We carried that energy into town, met up with fellow boaters, and enjoyed the live music and dancing right up to ten minutes to midnight. We hustled down to the beach and rang in the New Year watching a typical Mexico-style fireworks display of massive proportions that stretched all the way around Banderas Bay. The next day we headed back to Puerto Vallarta and took a water taxi fifteen miles out on the southern side of the Bay to the small village of Yelapa. The remoteness of this jungle community means all of their supplies arrive by boat, and the locals expertly pilot their pangas right up the beach on the back of the breaking surf. As their visit drew to an end, we recalled the wonderful times together and discussed their next visit. We are truly grateful to have had them aboard and can’t  wait to see them again.

Another treat of being around Banderas Bay is the cruising community. The wealth of knowledge of the people that flock annually to the bay is tremendous. Since we are sponges to information and looking to gain as much as possible, we’ve had numerous opportunities to pick the brains of highly experienced sailors almost daily. We’ve attended numerous seminars given by folks who have circumnavigated the globe, some of them multiple times. Notables include Jeane Socrates, who, at the age of 77, became the oldest person to have completed a singlehanded circumnavigation unassisted, her third time around the world solo, finally completing the journey without using her motor, and the Gifford family of the sailing vessel Totem, who completed a nearly ten-year circumnavigation through 48 countries with their three children aboard. Another fun way we’ve been able to gain experience has been through weekly “beer can” races. Folks wanting to race may request crew, so we’ve been able to see what it’s like to be aboard while the boat heels heavily pushing for maximum speeds, working as a team to maneuver and trim sails, and practicing our understanding of the “rules of the road” while navigating the course.

Coincidentally, we’ve decided to stick around Banderas Bay until we’re ready to head back north in February. Prior to arrival we had loose plans to venture further south. Realizing the opportunities that we’re surrounded by here in the Bay and knowing we need to get back to San Carlos in late-March, the decision to stay and enjoy wasn’t difficult.

7 thoughts on “Margaritas on the Mexico Mainland!

  1. Wow, amazing stories and pictures! (whales giving birth!)
    When I look through the window at BC’s snowy landscape, it seems like another planet… not that far though!
    Happy new year, to many more exciting adventures.


  2. I can’t believe you saw TWO whales giving BIRTH!! That is absolutely amazing. I am in awe and I wasn’t even there. So glad to hear the crossing went well and see all the fun photos!! Beautiful times! Enjoy Banderas Bay, sounds like a blast!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s