Monday, January 27, 2014


Originally there was not going to be a post about Chacala, as I thought of it as a pit stop on the way down the coastline but after being here since yesterday, I could not resist. Chacala is a pleasant surprise with a bay somewhat like Matachen. However, the bay is much smaller and holds about ten boats comfortably. The bad news compared to Matachen is there is more of a swell so that we have been rocking at anchorage, even with both a bow and stern anchor. The good news compared to Matachen is that Chacala seems to have escaped the jejenes (no-see-ums) that were so prevalent at Matachen.

The village itself is quaint and delightful with bright, colorful buildings, Huichol Indians selling their beautiful beaded and needlepoint crafts, and a few hotel restaurants that serve fresh seafood. Gail had pecan crusted mahi-mahi with warm, chunky mango salsa yesterday and red snapper today - delicious! Dave had the shrimp.

Yesterday, being Sunday, we saw many of the locals out for the day at the beach and it was quite crowded. Today was much more quiet, with mainly us "gringos" out and about. We had another lovely day exploring the town, buying some souvenirs (Gail could not resist the Huichol Indian artwork), and of course experiencing the local gastronomic delights. It's a tough life, but someone has to do it....

San Blas and Matachen Bay

We are now underway to Chacala Bay after spending a wonderful day anchored at Matachen Bay and visiting the nearby village of San Blas. The anchorage as noted in the guidebooks is delightful for the bay is wide open with a gradual sloping sandy bottom with very little swell. We anchored in 20 ft and upon arrival was the only boat in this large bay - amazing!

First thing we did on shore was take the jungle tour of La Tovara. This three hour tour (not quite Gilligan's Island) on a panga took us through the lush mangroves with abundant wildlife (including crocodiles) and ended at La Tovara springs where one could swim in these crystal clear cold waters, view the wildlife up close in a small zoo, or have lunch and a cervesa overlooking it all. We shared our panga with a lovely young couple who were both doctors from Guadalajara vacationing with their two young sons. It was fun to listen to them call out the names of the wildlife in both Spanish and English to their sons. Dave and I were able to add some more Spanish terms to our limited vocabulary.

After the tour, we took a taxi for about a four mile ride to the town of San Blas. This shrimping port has a population of about 8,500 and is not a tourist trap, but a fishing village. However, we were wondering if the locals were tired of fish as we could not figure out why there was a line out the door and around the block for Chinese food at a local stand. Dave and I though forgo the Chinese food and elected to eat at the neighboring "McDonald's" where Gail gave in to her love of Mole and had Enchilada Polle Mole. Delicious! The tourist sites included a very old cathedral, a mission of Father Junipero Serra before he left for San Diego, California and started the California missions, and a fort on top of the hill with a wonderful view of San Blas.

After the San Blas tour, we were back at Matachen Bay where we sampled the local treats from the road side vendors of pan de platano (banana bread), cocadas (very sweet coconut ball), empanadas, and cocos (coconut water sipped from the coconut). Check out the accompanying video which shows the preparation of these cocos. One can pretty easily guess that bananas and coconut trees are abundant here in this lush, humid, tropical area.

Even though the locals were burning the coconut husks at dusk, unfortunately the jejenes (no-see-ums) did attack us as feared along the walk back and we are scratching today. However, the boat screens appear to have worked as we were quite comfortable back on the boat although hot, sticky, and very tired. All in all, a spectacular day!

Whale Update - As I am updating this blog this morning on our departure from Matachen Bay, Dave sighted a whale on a collision course with us 50 ft from port side! He immediately throttled the boat to neutral and fortunately the whale decided to dive. Whew! And this was in about 50 ft of water.... The whales are definitely around but thankfully they try to avoid us almost as much as we try to avoid them!

Now on to Chacala Bay and then Banderas Bay which includes Punta Mita, La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta. Another update as I write this - Dave just caught a fish! Although it is a gorgeous Mahi Mahi, we decided to let him go since he is so small (about one and a half ft). Sigh... Oh well Dave, better luck next time!

Isla Isabela (The Birds!)

Yesterday, we stopped by Isla Isabela after an overnight motor sail (no winds to speak of). The anchorage is a bit tricky and we almost didn't stop there. In fact one cruising guide states that this anchorage has swallowed more anchors than anywhere in the South Pacific due to the rocks! But we are so glad we took the chance for what a treat it was!

Apparently, Jacques Cousteau filmed the rare frigate nests and underwater habitat on this island thirty years ago. Now Isla Isabela is a National Wildlife Preserve managed by the University of Guadalajara. Dave and I were captivated by the thousands and thousands of frigates circling this tiny island and the ability to walk among the many nests in the low hanging trees. A short but steep climb brought us to the nests of the blue-footed boobies. The brown boobies have the lime green "patos." It was unbelievable how close we were able to walk among the nests of the boobies on the ground. Most were sitting on eggs, and although we did not see any newly hatched boobies, we did see frigate chicks still in the nest and one sadly that had fallen out of the nest. Lots of pictures and video were taken of both the boobies and frigates to view if interested. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the pictures do not capture the unique smell of rotting fish and guano (bird poop) on this island.

The two very large rocks in some pictures where we anchored are called "Las Monas" (the Mannequins, meaning women's dress-making forms). Speaking of anchoring, Dave was able to find a sandy area with good holding. However, the anchor chain then ran between many large rocks. The issue is that during the night, if the boat spins around, the anchor chain wraps around the boulders so that you cannot pull it up easily and sometimes you have to dive below and try to loosen the chain. Fortunately, we did not spin around during the night and we were able to get out fairly easily. Kudos to Dave for making us wait an extra day in Mazatlan so that we had the ideal weather in Isla Isabela (no wind or swell)!

Many are asking us about whale sightings. Yes, we have definitely been sailing among pods of them (especially yesterday and today around Isla Isabela) for we can see many blowholes and even the flukes. Haven't actually seen any breaching as yet, but we are definitely keeping an eye out! Best time for sightings seems to be in the mornings.

As we make our way down towards Puerto Vallarta, our next stop today will be the Matanchen Bay right next to San Blas. This area supposedly has a delightful fishing village and we are really looking forward to it. My only concern is the area is well known for biting "jejenes" or no-see-ums. Hopefully we will anchor out far enough to escape the worst of them. Very hot and HUMID here.... In fact, so humid that we went snorkeling at Isla Isabela yesterday after viewing the birds to cool off in the 80 degrees water. Not exactly the Bahamas but we did see many colorful fish and did I mention the water temperature is 80 degrees? All in all, a very delightful day! As Dave noted, with days like yesterday, one could easily cruise forever.... Now if we could only catch that elusive Mahi-Mahi!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Dave and I managed to escape the La Paz bungee cord and made it to Mazatlan after a two night wonderful beam reach sail with winds averaging 20 knots. Mazatlan is a very large city and much more spread out than La Paz. Fortunately, the bus system is very good and available for 10 pesos (about $1) and we rode the bus to the center of town and experienced the gigantic "Mercado" or open air shopping plaza. Throngs of people visit this market with just about everything one can think of available. I have never seen so many skinned pigs' heads and feet available for sale! I passed on the pig parts, but Dave could not resist the raw oysters and clams which he ate three for $1 - what a bargain! We will stay here one more day and then head down towards Puerto Vallarta tomorrow, stopping at several anchorages along the way. First off is Isla Isabella where I hope to finally see the blue footed boobies which have eluded us so far, since this island is a major nesting area for the birds. Many fellow cruisers have also been spotting the whales breaching, so hopefully we will see this as well on our way (but not too close)! I did however, not only sight a whale shark, but actually swam with one (yes, I did brave the 70 degree waters without a wetsuit)! Had a wonderful two week vacation with the kids where we spent time in both La Paz and Cabo. Visits were too short and most of them are now back in school. Check out the pictures on the web site for some of our fun activities.