2-10-2014 – Tenacatita, Jalisco, Mexico

As I write this, we’re gliding across Tenacatita Bay listening to Enya with all of Lungta’s sails up.  The winds are gentle, but we’re making good enough time to arrive at our destination before the sun sets.  We’re heading to Barra de Navidad for a few days, mostly for a change of scenery and to visit with a few friends who happen to be there at the moment.  (But, truth be told, we are also happily anticipating croissants from the floating French baker in the morning.)

It’s hard to believe that we arrived in Tenacatita almost exactly three weeks ago – how time flies!  We left Banderas Bay in mid-January after inviting some new friends to join us for the journey down.  We met Enrique and his 16-year-old daughter Pamela on New Years’ Eve.  He’s a wonderful yoga instructor – the best Kathy has seen since leaving Portland 3 years ago!  She enjoyed a couple of his classes while we were still in La Cruz, and a few more while they were with us.

They are both thoughtful and easy-going people, making for delightful guests.  They were new to boating, so it was fun to see their joy and excitement at many of the things that are part of our everyday life: the gentle rocking of the boat, the beauty of the full sails, swimming in a remote cove, and all the birds and sea life that surrounds us.  We had a particularly fruitful day of whale-watching as we crossed Banderas Bay on our way south, with pods of dolphins punctuating the stretches in between sightings of the larger animals.  We enjoyed talking about life – and Spanish grammar – with them for the better part of a week.  The end of their stay came all too soon, as we realized that their bus journey back to Banderas Bay would consume most of the last day of their vacation.  We dinghied about 5 miles across Tenacatita Bay to La Manzanilla, arriving less than 10 minutes before the local bus which was the first leg of their trip back.

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Tenacatita has been a familiar friend, living up to all of our memories from last year.  It’s a beautiful large bay with a long beach and a little palapa restaurant.  At one end of the beach is an entrance to an estuary which goes back a few miles and makes for an interesting day-trip through the mangroves.  We dinghied there with Enrique and Pamela, and were enthralled to see a small crocodile lazing at the surface and to catch a glimpse of a coatimundi climbing a tree.  The small town of La Manzanilla is convenient for provisioning runs and an occasional dinner out.  There was an “Art Walk” event shortly after we arrived, where more than a dozen local artists (most of them ex-pat Americans and Canadians) opened their homes to the public or displayed their works in a gallery.

One day when we went to La Manzanilla for our weekly produce, we had a more exciting than usual departure.  As with many of the Pacific towns, the beachfront faces the sea and has breaking waves to contend with.  Due to the changes in wind, some days have gentle waves and some days have steeper waves.  This particular day wasn’t terrible, but it did manage to catch us by surprise!  The waves coming ashore come in sets, a group of small waves followed by a set of larger ones.  The trick is to time your launches and landings when the small waves are happening, avoiding the larger ones that have the potential to flip your dinghy over.  An overturned dinghy can mean much more than getting wet and losing your dignity.  If the outboard is running it can be quite dangerous.  And we recently heard a story of someone whose hard dinghy flipped and lodged in the sand with him underneath it.  His very heavy dinghy made contact with the sand all around, producing a suction that was too strong for him to overcome alone, and he was fortunate that there were some bystanders on the beach who saw what happened and came to lift the dinghy up off the sand.  Our story was not nearly as dramatic as that.  We started to push off during a small wave, hopped into the dinghy and started the motor just as the first larger wave arose right in front of us.  The dinghy’s bow rose higher and higher, threatening to flip over backwards.  Kathy slipped out of the dinghy and held onto the pontoon on her side to try to keep it flat.  Dan didn’t have enough time to do this, though, because he’d been facing aft to start the motor.  He got thrown around a bit, and his knee got a deep gash from the motor’s clamp.  It was a scary moment, although all turned out OK.  His wound is healing quickly and we got a gentle reminder that choosing your window is critical to a safe dinghy launch.

There’s a nice cruising community that springs up in Tenacatita every winter.  This year there are 25-35 boats, with a daily turnover of anywhere from 0 to 6 boats.  Some people just use this as a stop on their way while others view this bay as the destination.  There’s a boat named Harmony that comes here every year and stays for several months.  Robert has adopted the title Mayor of Tenacatita, and Virginia is therefore the First Lady.  They provide some continuity and organization for events and activities.  Virginia swims from her boat to shore every day and invites anyone else who would like to join her to come to Harmony at 1:30.  Robert accompanies them in his dinghy, rowing nearby to help make sure that they are visible to any other boats that may be in the area.  This last week, the Tenacatita Swim Team broke 10 participants most days.  Once ashore the fun continues, while some folks strike up a game of dominoes in the palapa restaurant, some walk the beach, and others a game of bocce ball.  Sometimes someone pulls together a volleyball game, a yoga class, or conducts an art project under the palm trees.  It’s easy to fall into a delicious rhythm of recreational activity and socializing!

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One day we walked down the beach with one of the other swimmers, and learned that there was a small hatchery for sea turtles who lay their eggs on this beach.  Perhaps the government requires it, or perhaps they support it financially.  Whatever the case, these hatcheries are fairly common along the Pacific coast.  This one is run by a resort hotel, the only development on this section of beach.  The hatchery consists of a 10’x20’sandy plot completely enclosed in chicken wire with 20 or 30 little signs looking eerily like a cemetery.  Each sign identifies a batch of eggs that were collected nearby, and shows how many eggs were found, the date they were laid, and an estimated date for hatching.  Near this enclosure is a 3×15′ cement pool with gently sloping sand at one end and a thatched roof overhead keeping it cool and out of sight of predators.  The eggs typically hatch overnight, so early in the morning a caretaker checks to see if there are any new tortuguitas.  If so, they get relocated from the sandy enclosure to the pool for the day, and that evening they are released into the sea.  Any hotel guests or anyone else who cares to show up just before sunset can participate.  The baby turtles, who have spent the day swimming around and learning how to lift their heads up to breathe and how to flip themselves over if they somehow end up on their backs while scrambling around, are gently removed from the pond and put into a bucket for transport to the beach.  The caretaker draws a line in the sand about 25′ from the water, for the guests line up behind.  He hands each guest a tiny turtle to be placed in the sand.  Apparently they need to spend some time on the sand in order to get their bearings on where they will return years hence to lay their own eggs.  (Someone described this as getting their GPS bearing”.)  The day we went there were 20 babies in the pond, and 6 of us showed up to help with the release.  It was really cool to participate in this tiny act of stewardship of nature, although we know that it was just a drop in the bucket.  We learned that the survival rate of turtles like these is normally around one in 100, and that the ones we were releasing had roughly double that chance of surviving to adulthood and laying eggs for the next generation.  It’s quite a gauntlet that these babies must run, but we were there cheering them on for the first few steps along the way, until they each were swept away by a wave and on their own.  Just now, on our journey across the bay, we had a happy sighting of a pair of turtles at the surface together; they appeared to be working on the next generation.

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Every Friday evening, the Mayor organizes a social event for the whole Tenacatita fleet.  Everyone gathers together an hour or so before sunset on our dinghies, tieing off to one another to form a large circle (mas o menos!) and using Robert’s anchor to keep the whole group from drifting ashore or out to sea.  Everyone brings an appetizer to share, so we never go home hungry.  The Mayor gives a short speech, welcoming people to the festivities, and concludes with asking a leading question and we go around the circle introducing ourselves and including a personal response to the question.  Last week he asked us to “wax poetic” about our boat, explaining just what made our boat special to us.  He also offered an opportunity for anyone who wanted to show off their talents, especially musical, which made for a delightful and sociable evening.

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Probably of no surprise to most of our readers, we also include some boat-work in our mix.  We brought the dinghy on deck and disassembled the transom, where the leak we mentioned in our last posting was coming from.  The previous owner had done some work back there and tried to seal every joint with 3M 5200, a tenacious marine sealant.  Unfortunately, the gaskets intended by the dinghy’s design team were not installed correctly, so no amount of caulk would correct the problem.  Dan’s sharp eye noticed the uniquely cut shape did not match the way it was seated.  Resituating the gasket to the right sealing surface solved our problem, and for the first time in two years we’ve been traveling in a dry dinghy ever since!  Before we left Banderas Bay, a friend of ours agreed to do an art project for us: painting the cowling of our outboard.  We’ve been admiring Leann’s work ever since we first met True Blue V last summer up in Bahia de los Angeles, but hadn’t spent long in the same place since we both moved around pretty frequently.  Finally we anchored near each other in La Cruz for more than a week and had some leisurely time to spend together.  She has painted several outboards for cruisers, producing a unique masterpiece each time – we’re thrilled with ours!

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Although chaps for our dinghy, to complete the spiffy image, are still a gleam in our eye, the sewing machine has not gone unused.  We’ve spent some time reupholstering the pilothouse with the fabric we purchased over Thanksgiving.  The project is coming along nicely and should be complete in the next week or so.  We’re loving how the rich burgundy color complements the wood in the pilothouse!  We also spent a couple of days finishing the resurfacing of our decks.  As you may recall, we started this project about a month ago when Kathy’s college friend Suzanne was visiting.  We did about half of the deck area at that time, but the color turned out to be something that Kathy was unhappy with: too yellow.  So we added more white and a hint of red into the mix and ended up with a color that we both really like a lot – and then we painted it on the whole area.  It went a lot faster this time, since we’d already pioneered the process.

And it feels so good to check off the projects on our to-do list.  🙂  We’ve struck a pleasant balance between the various aspects of our life, and expect to be here for another month or so.  We keep hearing of cold weather back in the States, and have been enjoying the photos of snow posted to FaceBook – while we sit in our lovely anchorage watching golden sunsets. 🙂  This is what the cruising life is all about!

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