Sorry for the blog silence – it was my Christmas gift, a break from reading my long winded posts.
Tucked in a little bay midway between San Blas and Banderas Bay is the village of Chacala. Having decided to skip Isla Isabella on our way south from Mazatlan (we’ll catch in when we head back north in the spring) we aimed for Chacala instead. Or course, our timing ended up a little off and we found ourselves approaching a strange anchorage in the dark.
The are numerous warnings about Mexican charts being off, so that your GPS will show you anchored on land. So far, our chart chip has been pretty accurate, other than our track showing our boat going across the entrance jetty at Cabo. Still – I don’t trust the GPS here the way I did on the trip down the coast with US charts. So we rely on the radar, peering at the shore with binoculars, and the chartplotter with a grain of salt. While Chacala is a fairly open bay, we found it a rather challenging approach. And after sharing every anchorage we’ve been in with numerous other boats, for once we couldn’t spot a boat on the hook, and several radio calls for assistance went unanswered. We crept in, adding the depth sounder to our navigation tools as we closed on the bay. Finally we felt we were in the anchorage area, although struggling to pinpoint our exact location and a bit unnerved by the sound of crashing surf on the beach. We did spot another boat at anchor, and they must have spotted us because their spreader lights came on as we approached them. If they would have just answered the VHF and turned them on as we approached, we would have significantly less frazzled nerves. We picked a spot, and anchored probably a bit closer to the boat then we should have, but if one boat was anchored in the area we hoped it was a decent spot. We debated if some odd looking water nearby was exposed sand, but decided it was just water flattening out a bit. After setting the anchor and watching our position for a bit, we were off to bed, Jenn electing for a spot in the cabin that didn’t feel as bouncy at the v-berth where I crashed.
After a good nights sleep I was awakened by roosters. Somehow I sleep through machine gun fire in Mazatlan, and can’t sleep through a rooster crowing. We watched the anchored boat leave at first light, then launched the dinghy and headed to shore, admiring Ventured sitting all by itself in an anchorage for the first time. Unbeknownst to us at the time we misread the guide book, so we landed the dinghy at the end of the beach in mild surf instead of in a protected little beach for boat landings. We drug the dinghy up the beach (I swear, I’m putting the wheels on before we leave PV) and set off to explore. About halfway down the beach a stranger walked up and told us the police had just ticketed our dinghy, and told us about the better dinghy landing everyone uses. I put out the opinion that we should just leave it since returning probably meant having to move it and pulling it up and down the beach is a bit of a workout, but this option was vetoed. We walked back and found the Port Captain had left his forms for us to fill out. Of course, four trips to the Port Captains office throughout the day yielded nothing but a locked gate so we finally just tossed the form on the stairs behind the gate. When we made our first couple visits we didn’t have the paper work since we had left it on the boat. We decided to go ahead and enjoy the beach a bit first. We wandered around the town, probably the most rustic town we’ve been in since Turtle Bay. Chickens roamed the streets, as did numerous dogs and even a cute kitten at one of the souvenir stands. We even spotted a sheep in the back of a pickup driving through town.
After the desert topography of the Baja Haha peninsula, and the city scape of Mazatlan, Chacala is a tropical paradise. Palm trees lined the beach, with a row of Palapas before the beach gave way to jungle stretching down to the golden sandy beach. We walked the beach, swam in the ocean and I even body surfed a few waves. It is a bit strange to be surfing in waves when our boat was anchored just a few hundred feet away. Sadly, between trips to the Port Captain’s office, and no other cruise boats being around to clue us in, we missed out on the hike that our friends on SV Bella Star went on a few days before. Lucky for us they posted lots of pictures so we were able to enjoy the trip later reading their blog. Despite our lack of duplicating their hike, we had a great time relaxing on the beach, grabbing some fresh ceviche at a Palapa, wandering through the town and enjoying a fresh pineapple filled with fresh fruits and veggies such as cucumber, jicama, and papaya. While we saw a few gringos in town, the vast majority of the tourists appeared to be from Mexico. There was no huge mega resort on the beach, giving us an authentic Mexican tourist experience. Even the little tourist stands Jenn drug me into had shopkeepers that did not speak English, so we weren’t berated with the typical sales pitch we receive in the more resort based towns we go into.
All in all Chacala was a great stop on our way to Puerto Vallarta. While it would have been fun to meet some other cruisers there that may have known a bit more about the area, we enjoyed admiring Ventured alone in the anchorage all day long (I’ll only post one or two of the pictures…). I highly recommended a stop over in Chacala for any boats transiting between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay. We have even considered sailing back up for another visit if we stay in the the Puerto Vallara area for an extended period of time since it is only a 45 mile trip, a day sail with good wind.
We departed Chacala the next morning after another rather rolley night at anchorage (note to self, rig up a stern anchor) and without the above mentioned good wind motored most of the way to Banderas Bay, where we are currently anchored near the quaint town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (don’t feel bad, I’m here and I can’t pronounce that last word either).
Happy New Year from Erlin, Jenn and Minion!