Loving La Cruz
La Cruz has a large and well-established cruising community. The area is lush and beautiful, complete with many merits that sailors find enticing: beautiful scenery and consistent afternoon winds for sailing, islands nearby for snorkeling and diving, good food, and a kind local community. It also boasts a remarkable music scene, especially for its small size, with at least one live band (usually more) playing each evening within a half-mile stroll of the marina. Banderas Bay is also the premiere Mexican launching point for the Pacific Puddle Jump (i.e., springtime ocean crossing to French Polynesia). Needless to say, the area attracts a great number of enthusiastic mariners, many of whom are engaged in last-minute preparations to tackle the world’s largest ocean.Monday thru Saturday, some 60 or so boats participate in an 8 am VHF net (radio net where cruisers communicate about weather, services needed, things to trade, etc.). During our “let’s stay for seven days!” visit to La Cruz that lasted over three weeks, we participated actively in the net. Through the kindness of fellow boaters, we:
- Figured out how to complete Spanish forms required by Customs to import our repaired chartplotters with the help of Janet at Todo Vela Mexico, a local chandlery.
- Got a new SCOBY from Nicole on s/v Let It Be, so that I can once again homebrew kombucha! I had sadly managed to kill mine after I stored it in our temperamental refrigerator, where it froze to death, during our passage from Washington to California.
- Got assistance from a Jack, also on s/v Let It Be, who helped Neil troubleshoot our broken wind generator and traveled with him to a machine shop to have the contraption’s armature lathed.
- Located a roving technician for Spectra Watermakers, Guy, aboard s/v Elan. He assisted us in troubleshooting our watermaker, which enabled us to identify the replacement parts we need to fix the contraption.
- Got an impossible-to-refuse deal on a new-to-us asymmetrical spinnaker from Matt on s/v Gypsy, an investment that we expect will more than pay for itself in what it will save us in fuel and engine maintenance costs as we transit the light winds along the Central American coast. Our exuberance about having a chance to add this sail to our inventory cannot be understated!
Neil also responded to a Cruisers’ Net request from Bob on s/v Pantera, who lost his anchor when his nylon rode chafed through. He and Dawn from s/v Destiny suited up and offered their scuba diving skills, spending nearly an hour scouring the murky bottom of the bay. Conditions were poor, with visibility that rivaled the Pacific Northwest in the height of summer. Despite their best efforts, the only anchor they discovered had likely been lost to the Banderas Bay mud during the last century.Mexico does little to disincentivize drinking to excess among gringos or locals, and La Cruz was no exception. For the price of a single cup of coffee, you can generally purchase at least two Pacificos. For example, the inebriated gentleman who offered me a bite of the fried chicken leg he was gnawing on in the back of a truck had consumed at least half a dozen too many Pacificos.
At Gecko Rojo, JC smiles and chats as he serves up límonade con míneral, the most refreshing nonalcoholic drink in town and, of course, Pacificos, as cruisers spend afternoons capitalizing on the fastest internet in town. Our favorite tacos were at La Ballena Blanca, which has earned a write-up all of its own.
My favorite haunt in La Cruz was a charming coffee shop called the Jardin de Pulpo (Octopus Garden). Water gurgles from the mouth of a skyward-facing stone koi in the center of a tree-shaded atrium, which creates a tranquil atmosphere. Wooden tables rest on brick flooring, and shrubbery and mossy stones provide a habitat for small turtles and creepy crawlies. A gallery of Huichol art is displayed at the back of the serene space in tribute to the region’s Native culture. Salsa lessons and other activities are hosted during the evenings. Most importantly, they serve iced coffee, which without access to any of the innumerable one-off coffee shops in Seattle, I have declared a delicacy.Sunday funday
The downside of spending 24 days in La Cruz was that we knew we’d have to rush down the southern coast of Mexico more quickly than we’d hoped. The advantage was an opportunity to get to know enough about the weekly happenings of a seaside town that we could look forward to upcoming events. Each Sunday, La Cruz hosts a market along the marina waterfront. Local farmers, craftsmen, and musicians and dancers display their goods and skills. Stands teeming with honeys and cheeses, breads and baked goods, fruits and vegetables, seafood, and jewelry and apparel line the malecon. Smoked marlin, goat cheese, and farm fresh vegetables were the highlights for us. Imagine, a bushel of basil the size of a throw pillow for roughly $2.50 USD! I prepared homemade pesto and put basil in breakfast, lunch, and dinner until we agreed we couldn’t possibly bear to eat another leaf! The cobbled streets of La Cruz come alive after dark as heat of the day recedes and the air begins to feel lighter. Families open the doors of their homes to the street and conversations spill out to the sidewalk. Music swings through the tropical air, and the smells of fried fish and grilled chicken radiate from sidewalk carts and eateries. In most places we’d feel compelled to return to The Red Thread by dusk, but the anchorage in La Cruz is a safe one, which freed us up to spend a few evenings off the boat.
We enjoyed delicious dinners with fellow Umbrella Dumpers aboard s/v Tappan Zee and m/v Adagio, and our friendship with Steve and Kathy (m/v Adagio) grew richer as we discussed the potentials and uncertainties that have been revealed during our respective voyages from Washington. Among a contingent of sailors native to the PNW, we cheered the Seahawks to their final wins of the season at Charlie’s Place and devoured the most delicious fish and chips of our life. Knowing that our friends back home were bundled in beanies and raingear made us appreciate all the more our seats beneath a breezy second-story palapa in the tropics.Our most memorable evening was Richard’s 51st birthday celebration. After dinner, we wandered to a British Pub, The Brittania, for live music. We rounded out the celebration with a nightcap aboard s/v Sarita. Our chitchat and laughter echoed through their hull until we realized that dawn was nearly upon us, and we acknowledged we no longer have the stamina taken for granted by teenagers to function the day after such shenanigans. The Saritas have become the second family of three with whom we’ve grown close on this journey and hope will be lifelong friends.I’m convinced that the heart of cruising beats in the relationships that are formed among the communities that spring up in anchorages along coastlines. During our unexpectedly long stay in La Cruz, we were fortunate that new seeds of friendship were planted, and we had an opportunity to see others continue to sprout.