As I sit here on Cat2Fold watching yet another beautifully moist sunrise, at the surf spot in Bahia Chamela, I can’t help but feel like the luckiest person alive. I have lots of stories I need to catch up on since leaving Banderas Bay in early January…
Heading south with Alexa (whom needs a whole separate story of her own) we caught the tail of a sweet northerly that had us charging south, sailing directly downwind, surfing at speeds up to 12 knots. Unfortunately, the wind didn’t last all night, and by the wee hours of the morning, we found ourselves barely able to coast into Chamela. At sunrise, I did see another sail on the horizon. It was Bob on s/v Pantera. Bob left La Cruz several hours before us, but because of his lack of a motor (we motored about 20 minutes at one point to get into some fresh wind), and C2F’s unique ability to easily sail very deep downwind, we amazingly reached Chamela before him. Bob continued on towards Melaque (very slowly in nearly no wind) while Alexa and I sought the shelter of Isla San Pedro at the SE end of the bay. This is where one of my favorite surf break lies, Xametla. It is a pretty mellow, shallow sand bar break. Sometimes the way the swell wraps around the two tiny islands we are anchored behind, causes breaking waves to come toward the beach at two different angles. Where the waves come together, a large pyramidal, tongue like mound forms that can be quite exhilarating to try and ride! It really is the perfect paddle boarding spot to get ones groove on.
After spending the day surfing, and with Alexa’s time on board rapidly coming to an end, we hurried our way further south. Skipping the beautiful anchorage of Paraiso, and passing by the exclusive Careyes, we sailed another 25 miles south to Bahia Tenacatita.
There’s something about Bahia Tenacatita and the cute little town of La Manzanilla that just feels like home. There are three main anchorages within Tenacatita; the outer most is known as the Aquarium. It is well protected from the predominant winds, and very popular for its superb snorkeling. The beach, from what I understand, used to be a thriving little community of campers, homes, and beachside palapa restaurants. Unfortunately, 4 years ago (the year before I started coming down here), there was a land ownership dispute. Someone claimed older title to all of the peninsula that was the village of Tenacatita, and through the use of force (guns and bulldozers) reclaimed what was perceived to be old family land. Many, many Mexicans, Canadians, and Americans lost homes, businesses, and faith in the Mexican system. Now, the beach lay virtually barren, and even though I anchor quite regularly at the Aquarium, with armed thugs patrolling the area, my desire to step foot on their land is all but nil.
Further in the bay, in the most protected anchorage of them all, a gathering of boats resides through most of the winter months in a community setting unlike any other I’ve ever witnessed throughout all of western Mexico. In Tenacatita (which is what most cruisers now call this anchorage), there are many boats anchored that set there anchor in December, and don’t pull it up again until March/April. There are organized daily events, and once a week the Mayor (yes, there has been a “Mayor” here in the anchorage for over 20 years), hosts what is known as “The Mayor’s Raft-up”.
Every Friday at 5:15pm, the Mayor and his wife, Robert and Virginia, to of the cutest old hippies ever, go to an empty corner of the anchorage, anchor their dinghy, and all the other cruisers, usually couples, dinghy over and tie up to each other. Food to pass around, old books/movies to trade, and stories or music to share are all part of the evenings agenda. I finally made it to a few this year…
Being the “young”, single guy with dreadlocks and sailing a boat that is as non-conformist as it gets, showing up to a conservative, retiree potluck party has never been very high on my list. However, this year more than ever, I’ve started to realize that my story is interesting, and worth sharing. In fact some of these folks in there 60’s and 70’s really get a kick out of meeting young folks out on the water living the dream without a pension, retirement fund, or a plan for the future. Living life with passion, following ones bliss, and trusting that tomorrow will bring more health, happiness, and the necessary means to keep the dream alive, is a skillset in and of itself worthy of sharing with everyone I meet. So, amongst the myriad of retired engineers/pilots/teachers/lawyers/bearucrats/policemen/hippies/doctors/businessmen, I told my story, sang my songs, and otherwise earned my way into the hearts and minds of the more conservative end of the cruising fraternity. I think I left my biggest mark by showing up late to the Valentines day raft-up…only I showed up in Cat2Fold!
With the raft up anchored in about 9-10 feet of water, I did what not many other boats could even dream of doing (as if boats can dream…;)…
I tacked up through the fleet, working my way straight to the raft-up. As I got there, in virtually NO wind, I was able to sail a couple of circles around the group. Every dinghy there had a “couple” aboard and they were all telling the story of how they met. I told my story of meeting Cat2Fold online, falling in love instantly, yet taking over a year to finally commit to a life of adventure with her. I played a love song (Stand by Me) that most would recognize, while steering the boat with my feet. One couple untied there dinghy from the bunch and brought me over some of the food that had been passed around. I continued my evening sail into the sunset to go anchor alone next to a restaurant where I could bask in the sounds of a Cuban jazz band, playing a special Valentines day show.
The other anchorage within Bahia Tenacatita is at the cute little town of La Manzanilla. It is a bit exposed to the dominant weather and swell, but with C2F’s extra wide beam, the rolling is always kept to a minimum, so I stayed there a bunch. I was able to get a WiFi signal on board if I anchored close enough to the beach which was a very nice bonus. The town is filled with aging gringos, so luckily most of the Tiendas cater to the North American visitors. What that really means is one could find real half and half in stock, which can be a very hard to find commodity down in these parts.
Although C2F and I always seem to attract attention wherever we go, no where have I attracted more attention than in La Manzanilla. Every time I paddleboarded to the beach, I was surrounded by throngs of people all asking about the boat and myself. It didn’t stop there either, people were swimming out to C2F to get our story. Eventually, I befriended SO MANY folks, I started taking people out sailing. Something I had dreamed of doing ever since coupling up with C2F, and just as I had imagined, the boat is the PERFECT platform to take guests out on. Whether it was their first time sailing, or they were a ripe old salty dog, the magic carpet ride that C2F provides sailing around the warm, tropical waters of Bahia Tenacatita, had every person who came aboard smiling, claiming “best day EVER”, and going home dreaming of their own life on the high seas.
With or without guests, C2F and I sail nearly every single day. We sailed just about 1000 miles to get here, and then in the past month and a half, we commenced to sail another 800 miles in and around Bahia Tenacatita.
Although I’ll never be one of those types that drops the anchor and stays put for long periods of time, especially in a crowded, community organized anchorage, I have undeniably come to appreciate the warmth, the love, the beauty and the life found within the most unique cruising stopovers in all of Mexico…Viva Bahia Tenacatita!!!