It took four tries for Neil and I to set our anchor and to feel comfortable with our holding in the lee of Isla la Peña. After our first unsuccessful attempt, we hauled up the anchor and with it came a large, faded bed comforter. Initially, I was convinced we’d snagged a gargantuan undersea beast, but alas, it was someone’s rubbish! I’m thankful we didn’t accidentally hook a creature, but retrieving someone’s old bedding and extricating it from our anchor was…gross.
After a leisurely cruise from Chacala, we spent a tranquil afternoon at the beach on Isla la Peña. Neil snorkeled while Gail and I relaxed in the sand. The island is a fair-weather stop only and on that balmy January afternoon, it offered gorgeous views of the Jaltemba Bay coastline. Gail had joined us for the nearly 200-mile trek from Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta. We were in the final stretch of her 10-day foray into cruising and beginning to experience the somber feelings that creep in at the end of a visit from a loved one. Our perception of time had shifted, and the holiday excursion that seemed to move slowly at first, with so many days ahead to enjoy together, was coming suddenly to an end. Our final passage, the stretch to Banderas Bay, yielded a whale show even more magnificent than our cruise from Isla Isabela to Chacala. What we didn’t know until we arrived at our destination is that hundreds of humpback whales travel there to calve each winter. Imagine our joy in seeing a baby whale and his mama surfacing slowly near the shoreline! We anchored off Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a charming town 15 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, and the only anchorage in Banderas Bay. Lush green hills roll above colorful homes and sandy beach, a stunning backdrop above dozens of anchored vessels. That evening, we happened upon the Long Windids and happily accepted their invitation to join them for dinner at Philo’s, a popular eatery and music venue in town.During Gail’s last afternoon in Mexico, we immersed ourselves in the rich culture of Puerto Vallarta by exploring trinket shops, having lunch at Señor Frogs, and eating ice cream (sense the sarcasm?). It was the perfect way to round out Gail’s vacation, which had been otherwise crammed with truly authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences.Passage perks
Point of departure: Chamela, Mexico — 01/01/15
Point of arrival: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico (includes one-night stop at Isla la Peña) — 01/03/15
Distance traveled: 47 nautical miles
Total time: 10.25 hours
Engine roaring: 10.25 hours
Sails soaring: 0 hours (damn the light air!)
Average speed: 4.6 knots
Jessie’s musings: Enjoying the sunset in Isla La Peña, while playing Scattergories with Neil and Gail was the most memorable experience for me during this stretch. Neil had crafted a new cocktail, a delicious blend of mango and orange juices, rum, and a rim dusted with sweet ‘n spicy tajin. We dubbed the drink Peña Sunset as it so beautifully matched the color of the evening sky. As for the passage, the seemingly endless humpback sightings continued to leave me with a feeling of awe and reverence for the peaceful beasts. The fishing on the other hand was frustrating! After very good luck catching tuna coming down the coast of Baja, we’ve only since snagged a couple of bonito, which while decent to eat, do not compare to the marvelous flavor of tuna. We saw school after school of fish racing across the top of the water; however, despite traveling at the ideal speed and trolling the very same lures that yielded tuna bounty in passages past, we were skunked! Not even a bite from a bonito!
Neil’s reflections: Isla la Peña was a beautiful spot to take a short break at and enjoy the scenery for an evening. Only eight miles from Chacala, it felt much more remote from the hubbub and palapa lined beaches we’d just left. The small beach on Isla Peña is a stop that few gringos make, and we received some very curious looks from the Jaltemba locals who’d taken a panga ride to get there for some relaxation. The snorkeling was ok, though visibility was less than 15 feet. Coming around a rock and looking to my side you can imagine my moment of shock at being nearly face-to-face with a green eel! I’m still enthralled by the whales, though by now we’ve seen dozens and dozens. The wonderful spouts and breaches have continued all the way to Banderas Bay. Here’s hoping this is just the beginning and we get to see more!