Apr 22, 2013

Escaping La Cruz ~ At Last!

The traveler sees what he sees;
The tourist sees what he has come to see.
G.K. Chesterson 

More unfinished buildings with colorful cupola
The last time we were in the Banderas Bay La Cruz area, about a year ago, we stayed ten weeks to fix many things from our shakedown passage from Long Beach, deal with a parent passing on, and visit up in the Sierra Madres Mountains to experience some of inland Mexico. 

This time, we were here for a little over three months waiting for our radar to be fixed.  We have to say we have seen enough of La Cruz and its surroundings.  Although a great spot with lots to hear, see, taste, and experience, it is still a very touristic area and we are ready to move on.

One small boat related purchase before we head out.  Even though we were shopping at a North American owned store, the request from another shopper about whether or not they carried paint brushes was met with the following answer: “In order not to compete with the paint store up the road, we do not carry paint brushes”.  That seems to be the case with many of the small stores we’ve shopped at in Mexico whether locally owned or not.  At times it means going to many stores to meet all your needs but there seems to be some respect for each other’s businesses with everyone earning their fair share.  Not sure just how WalMart is going to change that over time, but it hasn’t seemed to yet.

The night before our departure we visited a friend for a ‘sundowner’ drink.  He was heading north, us south.  Nikki happened to be with us and she’s welcome aboard his beautiful sailboat.  Nikki quickly makes herself at home.  When she spots a screened port in the starboard side of the cockpit she thinks it has to be her doorway to go below deck as she would on Déjàlà!   But it is a port for ventilation, not a door.  The look of dismay on her face was quite funny to see “You mean this thing won’t open for me, how do I get in?”… 
Our track from La Cruz (right) to Punta Mita (left)
On the way out, we tacked many times against the wind.  With our new sail, it seems we can stay closer to the wind than before.  The above picture shows our track.  The nine miles between the two anchorages quickly became 16 miles due to the course we had to follow.  Most people would’ve motored this route and only tracked 9 miles…  Our first night away from La Cruz is spent back in the ‘surfing’ town of Punta de Mita.  This gets us closer to the ocean and on a more favorable angle to catch the late morning winds to leave this very large windy bay without having to tack back and forth all the way out.

The sailing is very smooth and beautiful.  We are sailing in nearly perfect conditions, finally trying out our brand new Island Planet Sail mainsail.  Our old sail was tied at the foot along the boom; the new one is loose footed as they call it, only tied at each end.  Our old sail had full battens; our new one has two full battens at the top and two partial battens at the bottom.  The theory being that this new (to us anyway) sail design gives us better control of the sail’s shape, hence better speed and sailing.  It comes with a brand new Fast-Track system for ease of pulling up or down this large 330 sq ft sail (Our new sail is 50 sq ft larger).  We took precise measurements that were sent to the sail-maker to maximize the sail dimensions to its fullest possible.  It is paying off!!  In this first 100 miles of sailing we averaged approximately 0.5 to 0.7 knots more than we would have under similar circumstances with our old mainsail.  It doesn’t sound like much until you add up days upon days of sailing = that’s 12-17 more miles per day!

We were a little intimidated to use such a beautiful new shiny and more powerful sail at first but this shall soon pass as we learn its intricacies and secrets.  So far it hasn’t been any harder to use, and not having slugs tying the foot of the sail down on the boom and partial battens at the bottom rather than full makes this new sail much quieter when the seas make you go from side to side in lighter winds.  The ‘slatting’ that occurs is much diminished in sound even though not in strength. 

We are happy to be underway again.  This is our first time in latitudes south of 20 degrees.  We had our first sighting of the Southern Cross showing us the way nearly all night.  It’s a little mesmerizing to learn new constellations or starry waypoints.  Glad to all be back together (Nikki, Mike and I) in our little home on the water, away from the commotions of the city.

While I was alone at anchor (see previous post) one small 28’ sailboat ran aground and was saved by the generosity of the fleet anchored or docked in the area.  While preparing for our southerly departure, we heard of another much larger vessel running aground near Puerto Vallarta (about 9 miles away from us).  It was a famous 1925 Chinese Junk Rig that passed through Spokane, WA at the 1974 World Fair, lying in Astoria later in life to become a brothel, then restored by a famous artist/sculptor and his son, whom upon a divorce sold it to the new owners, a young family of four.  The boat had been aground before but thanks to its double thickness teak planking, survived it.  This time it may not have fared quite as well but still floats and damages are being assessed. 
To pull this 41 ton boat back to sea, the 60 ton sailboat Lungta, accompanied by others as back-up came to the rescue (note: the Mexican navy only gets involved if there are lives at stake).  After emptying the beached vessel of every heavy item: water, diesel, ballast of granite, anchor, chains, personal belongings, etc and 26 hours of grueling work it finally, inch by slow inch, and thanks to nice swells enhancing the incoming high tide, broke free!

Unfortunately, as we sailed out of Banderas Bay we heard one last call of distress from another boat running aground and the many quick replies from the fleet coming to help.  It has been a busy two weeks for boats running aground.  This one however ended up in pieces - the owner camping on the beach for three days selling anything he had managed to save. 

It’s a good reminder to always be careful when anchoring and getting close to shore.  As the old saying goes: “It’s the hard bits at the edge that will get you!”  It’s possibly the only times I wished we had a strong motor to help folks in need.  With no motor and only kayaks, we are of little help in such situations.  It’s another token of the vast helpfulness of the sailing community.  With the seas being nearly the last frontier where one lives at the ‘mercy’ of the elements (although sometimes at the mercy of human foolishness), we all know and understand that things can change quickly.  We should be in awe of Mother Nature, its strength and capacity to prompt humility at any time.

Along with new constellations on the horizon, we see a new (to us) type of dolphin: dark gray with numerous lighter spots covering its back.  At night, when the seas are full of bioluminescence, it glows bright when moved.  Sometimes we make this happen with the movement of our boat, luminescence lighting our tracks and the top of waves we create.  At other times, the sea creatures moving below make the luminescence glow to life!  You may catch the tracks of squids quickly and abruptly darting around chasing prey, or the beautiful sinuous waves created by dolphins playing in our bow waves without ever really seeing them, just the luminescent designs left behind.  It’s magical.

As discussed in a prior post, the usual discomforts when sailing again after a long stint at anchor or in a marina is that you need to reclaim the necessary upper body muscles and hand calluses to do the hoisting, dousing, lifting, tying, etc more effortlessly .  This time however, with daily kayaking, both muscles were kept strong and calluses kept thick to easily handle the lines, anchor chain, etc.  If anything, we are stronger this time around than when we stopped three months ago.

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