Monday, January 28, 2013

Chacala and Punta de Mita, Mexico

Osprey at anchor in Chacala.
Yes, sometimes it is cloudy in Mexico.
We left Mazatlán and after a quick stop at the El Cid fuel dock, we were on our way to points further south down the Mexican coast.  We had wanted to anchor out at Isla Isabela, known as the Galapagos of Mexico, but the fear of fishing nets blocking us in overnight thwarted that idea. In hindsight, and after talking to other cruisers who did go, we found out that there were no issues with the fishing and learn.  Our first stop after our overnight passage was Chacala, a small fishing community with a quintessential beach full of coconut palms, a white sand beach, palapas and a quaint village.  The anchorage, however, was quite rolly and despite putting out a stern anchor in an attempt to steady the boat (hey, didn't we buy "flopper stoppers"?), we ended up spending two nights rockin' and a rollin' on the hook.

There's a little protected cove next to the port captain's office that we were able to use to land the dinghy; protected by a rock jetty, and providing a sandy beach, this proved to be a perfect place to go ashore. The walk from the dinghy landing to the beach was not very far and picturesque with bougainvillea and coconut palms lining the path. I actually swam to shore one day and Richard did the same on the second day as we were anchored quite close to shore.  The swim was invigorating and despite the somewhat murky water (the swell and waves churned up the bottom constantly) we never encountered anything that might bite, sting or otherwise harm us as we made our way to shore.  A big relief.

Hotels at Chacala
On our second night in town after dinner we entered a palapa with the promise of churros for dessert.  I was disappointed when the waiter told us that since hardly anyone ever ordered the churros they had been taken off of the menu.  Bummer...I will say that the extravagant dessert I ordered instead was quite delicious (even if it wasn't my much coveted churros).

Me and the Pacific Crevalle Jack.
We left the next day for Punta de Mita, only a couple of hours further south.  As we were getting close to Punt de Mita, I suddenly heard my fishing reel screaming as it peeled out line.  I jumped up and fought something for about 20-30 minutes.  Right as I thought it had to be close to the boat, the line went slack.  What the hell?!  I reeled the line in and thankfully I still had my end tackle attached, but the hook was seriously bent. Unphased, I straightened the hook out on the port winch and sent the line back in the water.  A minute or two later, "Fish on!" and the struggle continued with the same result! I was seriously getting mad at this fish. I straightened the hook a second time and sent the line back in the water.  "That fish is mine!" I said to myself.  A half hour passed with nothing and then all of a sudden something was on the business end of my line.  Again, this fish played me for about 20 or so minutes and when we finally brought this beast to the boat, I was definitely excited.

I initially thought that this was a yellowtail tuna, and a big one.  I weighed him, 27 or so pounds and 30-something inches.  Wow!  I quickly cleaned him.  We later found out, the hard way, that this was not a yellowtail tuna but was rather a Pacific Crevalle Jack. I say the "hard way:" because he wasn't very tasty.  Most recipes call for marinating in lemon juice overnight and cooking in a clay pot or on a cedar plank and then discarding the fish and eating the pot or plank.  Oh well, as you can see by the size, he was a fighter and I will unceremoniously use him as bait in hopes of catching something more edible.

The beach at Punta de Mita.
The anchorage at Punta de Mita was much calmer and we anchored out with a little more than twenty other boats. Punta de Mita is a surfer's nirvana; the waves break perfectly and there is a great beachside community of palapas, restaurants, hotels and surf shops, not to mention the cervezas (beer) are both cold and relatively cheap ($90 pesos or about $7 USD for a bucket of 5 Pacificos); add to that a thatched umbrella right on the beach where you have a perfect view of the boats at anchor and the paddleboarders and surfers and you couldn't want for much more.

The deceptively calm looking surf
at Punta de Mita.
The first day there, Richard dinghied me to shore and we walked around a bit.  After that, he left for the boat and I stayed ashore.  Watching Richard trying to anticipate the next wave so that he could gun the dinghy through a lull in the breakers was interesting.  I watched as he circled back and forth inside of the protected area formed by the stone jetty. Others on shore were also watching and there were plenty of "armchair sailors" wondering about his decision to venture out into the surf.  Just then, there was a break in the waves and Richard gunned the outboard and headed perpendicular to the swell only to notice, seconds later, that a swell was forming.  But he was committed and couldn't turn back; if he did, he might have been broadsided by the wave (especially if it broke on the dinghy) and capsized.  I watched in disbelief as Richard continued straight ahead, took the wave just as it was about to break and "caught some air" which made the dinghy look like it was launched into the sky. Everyone on the beach, myself included, let out a group "Ooh!" as Richard flew over the wave and came back down on the other side.  Without looking back, Richard continued on towards Osprey, no doubt proud, and relieved, that he had successfully managed to make it past the breakers.  And everyone that knows us thinks he's the cautious one!

Osprey through the palms at Punta de Mita.
But points further south were calling Osprey and we left after two glorious days of hanging out on the beach and swimming around the boat. On the night before we left, we witnessed an intense heat lightning storm somewhere south of the anchorage.  As the sun set we noticed a large, odd-shaped cloud that had formed south of us (how much south I couldn't say but we couldn't hear any thunder so it must have been pretty far south).  The cloud would light up from inside with each lightning strike which, rather than head towards the ground, would travel either up or across the cloud.  It was truly spectacular and was kind of like watching fireworks.  Amazing things provided by nature, and they're free.

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