Chamela, Paraiso, Barra de Navidad, and Santiago

We have been to Chamela, Paraiso, and Barra before, last year, same time. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that some of the childlike fascination and thrill of the unknown that comes with exploring somewhere new for the first time is gone, replaced with pre-conceived notions of what to look forward to and what to beware of. Like the surf being too high at Chamela to land our dinghy, or the anchorage at Paraiso being too crowded if just one other boat is there, or the no-see-ums at Barra making Cindy crawl with the need to scratch incessantly. Fortunately, all of our fears based on prior experience were overwritten with new, more positive memories: the surf at Chamela (Pérula) when we were there was quite mild; we arrived as the only boat in Paraiso, found the perfect anchoring spot, and tested our new stern anchor with great success; and for some reason, Cindy was not molested at all by no-see-ums in Barra.

Enjoying a tropical cocktail after arriving in Chamela from Puerto Vallarta. Chamela is where the true sense of cruising begins, because after leaving the huddle and bustle of big PV marinas, you are finally at a well-protected anchorage at a place where you could stay indefinitely, with a few small restaurants on the beach, a town with small but adequate grocery supplies within walking distance, and clear, clean water.

The beach at Chamela is flat and wide and goes on forever

The good thing about having been somewhere before is that you can count on what to look forward to, and you can dig a layer deeper in getting to know the area. The first time we went to Paraiso, for example, there was a family taking up the most attractive and closest beach; we had a miserable, rolly sleep; our stern anchor got stuck on an underwater tree stump; and we left the next morning without exploring any of the rocky outcroppings or beaches. We didn’t “dig deep” at all. This time, we were alone so we could set our anchors exactly where we wanted them, we snorkeled on both anchors to make sure they were set properly, we went to the closest beach and were all alone like Robinson Crusoe with our own little picnic, and we dinghied all around the rocky outcroppings in almost all of the multi-coved inlet. We saw multiple tunnels through the rocks, we saw sunlight sparkle over the water through crevices and rising tides, and even got a REALLY big bite on Rick’s fishing rod while casting from the dinghy. Unfortunately, he got away, but not before renewing our faith that there were, indeed, big fish out there for the catching.

Rick designing new, sexy, tasty lures for the big ones he is still to catch

The drive-through arch at Paraiso, not driveable this day due to turbulence on the other side

Islands near Paraiso we dinghied around

I think the biggest discovery this year that was different from last year, however, was the friendliness and generosity of the members of the cruising community we met. Somehow we didn’t feel quite as connected our first time south, but this year, we rekindled friendships that had only been acquaintences last year, and we made a slew of new friends as well. We are all on versions of the same route around Mexico, and so we run into each other at different anchorages if not travel together. We have gone out to dinner, been invited for potlucks, had friends over for drinks, and spent the day playing Mexican Train at poolside, more so in the last month than we had all last season.

Enjoying a potluck on the lovely Antares catamaran El Gato in Santiago Bay

Barra de Navidad held it’s annual fishing tournament again while we were at the marina. Oh dear. We braced for the loud music, drinking and early morning shouting so that we wouldn’t be surprised. It is quite the event: the entry fee for each rod is about $500 USD, and some boats had 25 to 30 rods! Big power boats from all around Mexico come to these tournaments; the prizes include several cars, SUV’s and big cash. One boat we saw had four, 900 HP outboards weighing down the stern. We were really happy to see this year that the “little guy” won – a small lancha with four very enthusiastic, local guys with just two 50 HP engines caught the largest marlin in the tournament; it was bigger than their boat so they had to drag it alongside from out at sea into the marina, like the Old Man in the Sea.

The biggest marlin in the tournament, caught by the smallest boat

The local guys who won the tournament

With all the politics going on in our own country, Rick and I were feeling pretty powerless to voice our dissent, being so far from the action. We even considered flying to D.C. for the Women’s March. So we were thrilled when we heard that the Women’s March had become global. We could actually sign up and be counted on the D.C. Women’s March website through a link to a march happening only 25 minutes from us, in a small town with a lot of x-pats called La Manzanita. One woman announced it on our local boater radio net, and the next thing we knew, we had a group of seven headed over to join the March. There were 350-400 people there; not bad for a small town. The day before the March, we went along toa bar that had organized a Trump piñata contest; a little crude, I admit, but it was fun, and more than a few women got up there with bats swinging like they meant it. The fury of women disrespected is a powerful thing.

The Trump piñata

Quite the crowd at the La Manzanilla Women’s March

Our own Barra sailing contingent at the La Manzanilla Women’s March, with Rick taking the pik

We are now in Santiago, a northern bay of the big city of Manzanillo. It was quite the milestone to arrive here because we had to turn back before we got this far last season, due to my failing hip. Armed with a new hip, I can now walk again and am so glad to be able to stroll on a brand new beach! I was surprised to see how relaxed Santiago is, for what is essentially, a city beach. Aside from the water being a bit murky, it is lovely and the place is pretty quiet at night. All of the Ramadas (palapa restaurants) close up at night and leave the bay mostly quiet except for some late night parties on the beach on the weekend. There are lots of nice beachfront homes, children playing in the water, plastic floating tubes salesmen, ice cream vendors, and a party atmosphere on the weekends, followed by peaceful, empty beaches on the weekdays.

The beach from a ramada on a Sunday

Hangin’ out in Santiago Bay

We have had some interesting experiences here too, not the happiest of which was dropping the outboard motor dipstick into 20 feet of murky water during a routine oil check. Shit happens. Nancy, a generous skipper of a neighboring boat named Aldabra, came over with her diving equipment and used the last 10 minutes of oxygen in her tank to search for our dipstick, but unfortunately to no avail; we had tried to mark where it fell but the water was just too cloudy. Thanks to a cork retained after finishing a lovely bottle of Grand Marnier a few years ago, we now have a temporary fix until we can get another dipstick shipped down to us here somewhere. It is too bad, too, because our nerves had recently been calmed after a near-calamity a few weeks ago of our outboard shift level freezing. Fortunately, we found an incredible outboard mechanic in Barra who could fix anything; $20 USD later and he had it working better than new. If only that had been the end of our outboard issues!

The Outboard Wizard in Barra, named Gusbar

Thanks to Grand Marnier, we have a new dipstick plug.

Within the next few days, we intend to head over to another anchorage behind a hotel called Las Hadas, about four miles away. Apparently, that is where the movie “10” with Bo Derek was filmed. In defiance of rating women by number, we will not be visiting the hotel! Besides, they charge some outrageous price just to tie your dinghy there. But we hear there is a nearby beach where we can leave our dinghy and go into town to provision for our next, double overnight passage down to Zihuatenejo for their Sailfest, an annual event that raises funds for local schools. Having never been there by boat before, we are really looking forward to it. We are told that Zihuatenejo has a lot to offer. We may stay for about a month or until we are ready to move on! At that point, our plan is to ease up the coast slowly, retracing our path, to Puerto Vallarta and then maybe Mazatlan. Next, we will cross back to the Sea of Cortez just as the warmer weather and prevailing wind shifts over there make the cruising more enjoyable. Stay tuned!

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One Response to Chamela, Paraiso, Barra de Navidad, and Santiago

  1. Vanessa Asay says:

    So fun to hear about your adventures, and get a little glimpse into the beauty you’re enjoying down there! It’s heartening to hear about the women’s march participation even in little towns. Made me smile reading all this.

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