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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

San Blas to Chacala

When we finally tore ourselves away from Isla Isabela last Tuesday it was with a good breeze to sail the 40 nm to Mantanchen Bay near San Blas. We even had the spinnaker flying for awhile. The next morning we backtracked five miles north to the San Blas estuary and crossed the river bar at a comfortable high tide. We spent four nights anchored in the estuary, going into town each day (it's still a 50 peso dinghy dock fee at the Fonatur marina and they now meter the dock water, but it's a reasonable cost to fill your tanks). In spite of having our no-see-um screens in we acquired more bugs with each passing night. It's a tiresome way to live on a boat with every opening closed up and the tight knit screens blocking any incoming breeze (of which there isn't much back in the estuary to begin with). One of the joys of this life is sitting out in the cockpit as the sun rises and sets, but in bug country we have to hunker down below, and everyone starts to get a little crabby. Bug spray helps, but add that to sunscreen and sweat and - ugh.

To our minds San Blas is a dusty, sleepy, poor town with not much to offer in exchange for being eaten by bugs. There are basic shopping and other services, including a good internet place. We did find a carnitas taco stand with succulent pork and perfect toppings. It's on the corner of the main road out of town and the road which passes between the plaza and the Social Club. It was only open during the day and we didn't find anything to equal it on the square at night. We gave the Social Club a try for internet and burgers but it was full of down-on-their-luck-looking Norte Americanos who were all smoking up a storm. We enjoyed drinks one night at Billy Bob's which was much nicer. But we found nothing to equal La Ya Ya in La Cruz which has to be our favorite hangout in Mexico so far.

After getting our fill of groceries, internet, tacos, and churros on the square, we left Sunday on an early high tide for Mantanchen Bay to spend the night and head to Chacala on Monday. We motor-sailed the whole way (and saw our first humpback whale of the season!) because there was another boat behind us and we were anxious to beat him to our favorite spot here. We were happy to arrive and find only one other sailboat anchored (we heard there were 12 just a few days ago), but were disappointed that a few private mooring buoys have been installed since last year. A large U.S. flagged power boat is on one buoy which looks very new and even has a Catalina Island style flag for picking up the mooring. The boats on moorings do not put out stern anchors as we do to keep us pointed bow into the swell.

We've already had our first swim to and walk on the beach; spotted a one-inch colorful nudibranch near the surface right on the stern (maybe a Spanish Dancer from the way it was swimming); and are looking forward to taking the dinghy in today for more adventures.

{GMST}21|09.815|N|105|13.628|W|San Blas to Chacala|Chacala{GEND}

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fish Camp anchorage

Friday, November 30

We love it here and we're staying until we run out of food! Which, given our state of provisioning, probably won't be for as long as we'd like. We've made a conscious decision not to carry more food than necessary for our immediate needs. (i.e., not to "stock up") because there's always a little tienda in every Mexican village - except for out here. We didn't expect to stay for more than a few nights, and thus didn't buy things like flour (for making bread), dried beans (for when we're out of fresh veggies and meat), and masses of onions (which keep forever and go with everything). But we've hit a perfect period of calm weather following a day or two of nice breeze for getting here, and it would be a crime to leave now.

Yesterday we moved over to the anchorage off the fish camp where four boats were already anchored. John found a patch of sand for our anchor but our chain was laid out over rock. After three boats left this morning we moved into a larger patch of sand to get our gear off the rocks. John snorkeled the anchorage yesterday and not one of the other boats had its anchor in sand.

Fish Camp anchorage

The fish camp anchorage is notorious for "eating" anchors because it's so rocky. We've always felt a little smug about tucking up into the sand at the rock spires (Las Monas) anchorage and didn't even bother looking at the fish camp last year. Boy were we surprised when we discovered how much calmer it is there. We prefer the spires because it has the best snorkeling and more privacy. At the fish camp you trade pristine natural beauty for corrugated tar paper shacks lining the beach and fishing panga traffic, but on the plus side there's a calm beach landing and less rolling. We'll take it!

Las Monas spires

We went ashore yesterday to do some hiking and were greeted by two friendly and very helpful young women who spoke perfect English. They are employees of the Park Service, and were happy to guide us to the recommended trail head. We enjoyed walking along wooded trails with frigate and booby birds roosting directly overhead. Walking in the gloom of the shade hearing the cries and bill clacking of hundreds of birds was a little eerie. Of course with life there is always death and I couldn't help be dismayed after running across three birds in distress over the course of our hike. It appears that a misjudged landing can spell a slow death for a frigate. Their wing span is so huge that if they fall to the ground underneath the low tree canopy (more like big bushes), they aren't able to fly back out. We found one struggling to free itself from tall grasses in which its feet we entangled (John tried but couldn't free it), and two others were vainly flapping on the ground amidst narrow tree trunks. The remains of long dead birds littered the forest.

We were happier to see both brown and blue-footed boobies sitting on eggs. We would have liked to have hiked more of the cliff trail, but as birds stood up from their "nests" when we passed, we quickly turned around and headed back to the beach where we explored tide pools in lava rock that reminded us of Hawaii.

Brown booby bird with egg

I cannot overstate how gorgeous it is here. From Nakia we can see down to the bottom in 24' of water. Birds are everywhere. Brown moths the size of hummingbirds come out at night to keep Ziggy entertained on deck. The big schools of tropical fish are beautiful. There's nothing like it anywhere on the Pacific side of Mexico, and it has us missing French Polynesia even more because we know we'll have to leave here eventually for the greener, muddier waters of the rest of the coast.

{GMST}21|50.571|N|105|52.941|W|Isla Isabela|Fish Camp{GEND}