Saturday, April 24, 2010

Punta de Mita and La Cruz (written April 5, 2010)

Passage: Matanchen Bay to Punta de Mita

Total time: 14-hrs

Engine hours: 0

Total distance: 59.8-nm

Average speed: 4.3-knots

At 0330 March 20th, Chris was already slowly cranking in the chain on Tao’s manual windlass. He wanted to take advantage of the light NE breeze off the land and set sails as soon as the anchor was aboard. He made way under sail moving south steadily at 3-4 knots. He was hoping that winds would pick up by midday, as Don predicted, so Tao could run downwind at over 5-knots to her destination. As the morning wore on, the light offshore winds abated until Tao was once again rolling around in left over wind waves still far from her destination. The situation was reminiscent ofTao’s trip to San Blas from Isla Isabela, when Chris was forced to turn on his engine at midday to make his destination by nightfall. While waiting for wind to pick up, Chris saw a sea turtle pop his head up on Tao’s port side and wave his boomerang shaped fin in the air, as if to send Tao on her way. Sure enough, no more than 15 minutes passed before a brisk breeze picked up from the NW. Before two hours were up, Tao was again comfortably sailing downwind at 5-7 knots.

Another breaching whale sighting and 4-hrs of fun downwind sailing later, Tao was making her way into the Banderas Bay, giving Punta de Mita a wide berth as breaking reefs extend up to a half mile from shore. With plenty of daylight left, Chris decided to short tack his way up wind, into the anchorage from the south. The wind was sufficiently strong enough by this time to take down the main and sail by jib alone. Chris can more efficiently douse the sail and lower the anchor with this combination. Many sailors prefer to keep the main up instead of the jib in this situation. Onboard Tao, the jib is much easier to bring down and shove out of the way quickly than the main, whose reefing lines and large bulky battened panels always seem to clog the cockpit during the most critical moments. In addition, Tao seems to like to sail faster and more efficiently under headsail alone. Tao maneuvered inside of the other anchored boats and set the hook in 18-ft of water over hard-pack sand.

After a few moments to relax Chris was able to take in his new surroundings. A pleasant sandy beach with palms faced out towards the anchorage. Surfers were catching rides on what appeared to be a great right-hander just off to Tao’s port. But, the real surfers dream seemed to be outside along the outer point, where the rocky reef setup looked like the makings of a good point break, with small waves crumbling in. As he looked around in the golden light of the sunset, Chris breathed a sigh of satisfaction. He felt proud of his accomplishment. He had come as far south as he would venture alone on Tao this season. Special thanks go to Tao’s hard working crew members, his father Dave, and friend Monte, and to all the folks on the boats she has been traveling with. You know who you are.

Surf Therapy (March 21- April 4)

The anchorage at Punta de Mita would be Tao’s home until the day before Shawn’s arrival in Puerto Vallarta on Tuesday, April 6th. Although the a combination of wind, swell, tide, and boat traffic could sometimes create a significant roll in the anchorage, the price was worth paying for the access to the numerous nuggets of surf to be found within dinghy range. Chris finally found a place to realize his dream of surfing directly from Tao at anchor, in a sunny, warm water location; no wetsuit required. Waves broke over various rocks and shoals surrounding the point and into the bay, supporting swell from several directions. Wave character ranged from short and powerful to long and soft, perfectly suited for Chris’s shortboard and longboard, respectively. He was very glad to have brought his longboard out of retirement last summer, specifically for this trip south and these conditions.

His normal routine has revolved around 1 to 2 daily surf sessions, ranging from 1 to 4 hours in length. The exercise has rejuvenated his body and the hours spent frolicking in the sea rolling with the waves watching the birds, sea turtles, fish, and even the setting sun rekindled an indescribable intimacy with the living ocean. Some days the waves would be blown out in one location, but be offshore and well formed in another. Some days the water was cooler and murkier, while on others the water was so clear and warm that the rocks 5ft below appeared within arm’s reach while the water felt like a warm liquid blanket.

As luck would have it, two decent SW swells hit Punta de Mita while Chris was at anchor there, both bringing in head high enjoyment for all. Waves from the first swell were breaking so close to Tao at anchor that Chris could look directly into the line up while stand up and long board surfers scurried around in search of the best take off spot. Although it was exhilarating at first, he decided it would be prudent to pull up the anchor and drift a little farther out and drop the hook again for safety. Chris also put SeaHor to the test, making several 45-minute motor missions with his surfboard around the point to a place known as the Cove (also the Bahia). She seems to be holding up well, although a little extra cranky in the morning.

Apart from the solo trips, he has been very happy to share surf sessions with his friends from Estrella, Caramelo, and Nanu. Chris had finally intercepted Eric and Rachel on Nanu who are on a northbound journey back to the Seaof Cortez. Their last meeting was in early 2009 at Bahia Santa Maria while Tao was making her journey down the outside of the Baja peninsula, and Nanu making the bash back north to Half Moon Bay. On the subject of reunions, Chris was also excited to hear that his colleague and very good friend from McCall, ID, Lisa Whisnant, had booked her trip down to Punta de Mita for a two week surf adventure beginning April 9th. Lisa, or “Whizzy,” had come down to Punta de Mita for her own surf safari four years ago and is excited to return and soak up the healing, soothing energy of the ocean. Chris helped Whizzy research land based accommodation and is psyched to share some surf and talk story with her when she gets here.

Ventures into La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Twice Chris has left Tao at anchor in Punta de Mita to make the 8-mile trip to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, locally referred to as La Cruz. Many cruisers in Banderas Bay flock to La Cruz because it boasts good marina facilities, a free dinghy dock, a nearby anchorage, and a variety of good tourist amenities, including restaurants, internet cafes, mini markets, and most importantly, bars. Oddly enough, his first visit to La Cruz was by boat, but not on Tao. Ryan and Kristina from s/v Caramelo invited Chris for the short cruise the morning of March 26th, 3-days prior to their flight to the States for a short work related visit. After a great downwind sail with Caramelo, Chris visited with Lorenzo, Cecile, and Kenzo on Plume before their journey back north towards San Carlos, where they plan to haul their trailerable Nor’Sea 27 and take her back to the Bay Area. After assisting Caramelo to reset their anchor (which appeared to be dragging in the strong afternoon breeze) Chris was able to catch the last bus back to Punta de Mita as the sun went down.

Chris’s second trip into La Cruz was on Friday, April 2nd, during the crowded Easter weekend. Locally known as Semana Santa followed closely by Pascua, it is one of the busiest holidays acrossLatin America. In Mexico, beach towns are hardest hit as hordes of people from all across the country descend on the coast for fun in the sun and water. The buses were definitely moving more slowly as a result, allowing Eric and Rachel, of Nanu, and Chris to observe the throngs of colorful people filling each of the beaches along the highway between Punta de Mita and La Cruz. Once in La Cruz, Chris left Eric and Rachel at their favorite restaurant and made his way down to the marina docks for a long awaited reunion with Pisces. Julia and Jacob have been sorely missed by both Chris and Shawn this season, and meeting with them brought back good memories of their times together throughout last year’s sailing season. Tao’s most recent visit with Pisces was at the beginning of this year’s season in December 2009, when Pisces passed through Puerto Escondido on their way south to La Paz. Julia, Jacob, and Chris made their way into downtown La Cruz for a taco dinner, ice cream, and good discussions (as always). They then ambled their way to the bus stop so that Chris could again catch the last bus for the return trip to Punta de Mita and Tao.

On April 5th, 2010, Chris again prepared for a journey into La Cruz, this time on Tao in anticipation of Shawn’s arrival on into the Puerto Vallarta international airport the next morning. He had 3 crew members to enjoy the quick downwind run to La Cruz with; the crew of s/v Pisces Julia, Jacob, and their SF friend Alia. They didn't leave Punta de Mita until 1800 but as Chris' luck would have it, they made it to the La Cruz anchorage just as the sun was setting. Rocky set immediately, it was fun to have crew! The next morning Chris did a final cleaning of the boat for Shawn's first trip to Tao since June of 2009 and hopped on a bus to the airport for her 1130 arrival. He was looking forward to their reunion, sharing all of his experiences, and of course demonstrating all of the boat improvements!

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