Bahia Chamela, located about 90 miles south of Bahia Banderas, is a bay used by many cruisers heading north or south, but rarely does any boat stay here for more than a couple of days. It is, more or less, the last well protected anchorage for northbound vessels before Banderas Bay, and the first one for southbound. Unfortunately (or fortunately), landing a dinghy on the swell exposed beach can be a daunting task, and more often than not, most cruisers don’t even bother trying. Besides, the Village of Perula is a very small town and does not have much to offer cruisers in the lines of re-stocking supplies, repairs, or entertainment. However, there is one shining star in this small, dusty town that offers amazing international cuisine, live music weekly and an ambiance not readily seen in these parts of Mexico. The Scuba Jazz Cafe!!!
Even though we have anchored many times over the past three seasons just outside of Perula, we only discovered this gem of a hang out towards the end of last season. Scuba Jazz Cafe is owned by a Frenchman named Gilles and his Mexican wife Sayra. It’s hard to even begin to explain just how good every morsel of food that comes out of the tiny kitchen run by Sayra and her family is. So, as soon as I awoke on the first morning of our stay in Perula, I paddled into town and devoured an “omelette con todo”. I swear these women can either whip some kharmic love energy directly into the fluffy eggs or they’re lacing the stuff with heroine, because as soon as I finish a dish…I want MORE!!! (…then again, I have been labeled a “more-monger”, with absolutely everything I like 😉
While sitting and enjoying my cafe latte (real espresso in a town where you can ONLY buy instant coffee), I got on the Internet and went though old emails looking for any contacts I had made the last year with the Norwegian reality TV show, “Paradise Hotel”, and all my friends that work as crew for the show. I got a response from Thailand, and one from Norway, but then, slowly but surely, I started getting responses from the nearby hotel they use as crew base for filming the show. The stage was set. Cat2Fold and I were once again going to be the entertainment hub for the crew of Norwegian workers. Before closing shop and heading back to the boat, a few more people came onto the patio for breakfast. It wasn’t long before we were recognized from the previous year, and before I knew it, we had a group of friends to go sailing with lined up for the very next day. 😀
With the open mesh trampoline of the minicat 420, and the need to launch the boat from the beach through the sometimes crashing surf, friends are informed to be prepared to get wet. I bring multiple dry bags to put stuff that needs to stay dry in, and people usually just where their bathing suits. Sometimes folks even enjoy swimming out to the boat to save a dinghy trip or two. Occasionally we can miraculously make it out with only wet feet, but it’s better to just plan on getting wet from the start. Over the course of the next month and a half, I had successfully ferried nearly 100 friends to and from Cat2Fold to go sailing without drama…that is, until the last trip of Norwegians…
With a group of 10 scheduled to come out just two days before most of them were flying home, an unusually large western swell rolled into the area. Waves eight feet and higher were rolling in one after another with no apparent break in any of the sets. With most of us gathered on the beach, we got the dinghy loaded with all the “stuff” (beer, ice, wine, champagne, water, dry bags of clothes and cameras, etc…), and two dudes, and me. We floated the heavily laden cat in the water and while waiting there, trying to keep the boat pointed in the correct direction, a strong rip current washed one of the handlers under the boat putting the scare in him right away. We got re-situated and waited. With my best guess on timing to get out between waves, I yelled to push and jump on which we all did perfectly. I lowered the electric trolling motor quickly and gunned it (which often leaves you wondering for a moment whether the battery is really hooked up). In the split second it took to do that and looked up, a HUGE F@CKING WAVE was towering above us. There was no time to turn around. The motor was not gonna get us out and over it in time. I had enough time and composure to tell my two buddies that ,”We’re Fucked!!!”… and, we were. The next thing I knew, we were in a washing machine. I heard elevator music playing in my head while tumbling with no known way up, down, in or out. Quite a surreal backflip into a rinse cycle really. When I came to, I was holding the handle to the electric motor which was still spinning on full rev detached from the boat but tangled up in some dry bag straps lying underneath the overturned dinghy. Luckily, no one was hurt. As I struggled with righting the dinghy, stopping the runaway motor and reattaching it to the boat, everyone was out trying to collect our floating yard sale. Items lost: 3 bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of wine, a bag and a half of ice, and my sunglasses. Items dinged: my confidence. Luckily, a pangalero (mexican fisherman) saw our fantastic wipe out and backed his panga in to our spot and shipped everyone and all their stuff out to Cat2Fold in one trip. I, but not without hesitation, was able to motor the MiniCat out to Cat2Fold through the sets of waves still rolling in HUGE! Ultimately it became a trip that no one will ever forget, with everyone arriving to shore safely after another amazing day on the water.
We had no plan on staying in Bahia Chamela for as long as we did, but of course the best plan while cruising is to have no plan. With the numerous islands to anchor in and around, a surf break that has the perfect paddleboard wave, and my new friends in Perula and Xametla (near the surf break), it became incredibly hard to raise anchor and finally leave Bahia Chamela. Luckily we’ll be stopping in again in just a few short weeks…😃