Bahia de Banderas

As Carsten described in our last blog, we fled from the anchorage at Chacala after only one night.  Not only due to the unpleasant swells, we could have simply set a stern anchor, but also the cacophony of brass band music played at incredibly loud levels, drove us away.  We did not want to incur hearing loss simply by lying at anchor.

Very early the next morning we weighed anchor and sailed, bound for the large bay, Bahia de Banderas.  Bahia de Banderas is huge, 20nm by 20nm.  The first anchorage, Punta de Mita, is just around the corner of the peninsula.  A long reef (10nm) of rocks stretches out from the end of the peninsula, sailing all the way around it means an extra 25nm or so, fortunately, there is a narrow channel through it, marked on the charts.  The marking is just a thin dotted line and the words “safe sailing”.  Ok – we’ll just have to take their word for it.

The swells here are just as bad as they were in Chacala.  On top of the swells, a 25-knot land breeze rips through and it really isn’t a comfortable anchorage.  La Cruz, reputed to be a marvelous little town only 10nm further in the bay, will certainly be better.  Troels Kløvedal, a well-known Danish sailor once said something like, “When a passage is over and we drop the hook, the boat should lie quietly, we’ve had enough rock and roll on the passage”.  The man certainly knew what he was talking about and we agree.  So far, lying quietly has not been the case in Mexico.

We’ve yet to find an anchorage where we are in lee of the winds, which here in the wintertime frequently blows at up to gale strength.  Every anchorage also seems to be victim to the Pacific swells that apparently can find their way around corners and into what appear to be sheltered bays.  Here on mainland Mexico, the water temperatures have been warmer than on Baja, but we still feel the water is too cool to bathe in (we have gotten spoiled by Polynesia).

The cool waters have kept us from snorkeling, since we are too lazy to dig out our wetsuits.  Additionally, the water here is cloudy, not gin clear as we have been used to from Polynesia.  We have also run into “Red Tide”, a form of algae that Google says you should not swim in.  It really is red, when you see it, it looks like the sea is bleeding.  The first time we saw a patch we thought that perhaps there was a wounded whale.  Now we are aware of it, we turn off our watermaker when we sail through a patch.

Our first bit of business at La Cruz was bunkering diesel – our tanks were getting low.  Fully fueled, we found an open spot amongst the anchored boats outside the marina and dropped our hook.  Our Mantus grabbed hold of the bottom as if it was nailed down there.  You must have a good anchor here, the swells are over a meter and the land breeze comes through at 25 knots or better – you have your very own gale every single day.  “In Mantus we trust”, so we sleep soundly like little babies every night.

Just as we finish anchoring, we get a text message from our friend Bob in San Francisco who got us our wonderful slip at the exclusive San Francisco Yacht Club.  He could see from Marine Traffic that we had arrived in La Cruz and told us we should be sure to visit one of his friends in the marina, a woman who had sailed single-handed, solo, unassisted around the world. 

It is not every day you meet one of these unique people so we searched around the marina and found her boat, Nereida (Nijad 38).  We knocked on the hull – I don’t know what I expected – perhaps I thought a woman in her 40’s or 50’s would come out.  A much older woman, Jeanne Socrates popped up. 

Jeanne Socrates and her boat – Nereida

Jeanne Socrates is not only a single-handed sailor – she is also a world celebrity.  Until recently, she was the oldest person to ever single-hand, solo unassisted circumnavigate – recently a Japanese man who is older did it and is now the record holder.  Jeanne is now “only” the oldest woman to have achieved that feat.

That evening we had dinner with Jeanne at a little restaurant in town.  Here is her story:  Jeanne is 80 years old and now beginning her 5th circumnavigation as a solo sailor.  Jeanne and her husband began a circumnavigation in 2001, but her husband died of cancer in 2003.  Jeanne decided to continue their trip from Bonaire – this time alone.  She soon learned that while there were many things she still had to learn about sailing, repairs and maintenance were a bigger issue.  The learning curve is steep, steep, steep.  Other sailors helped her along the way and she learned to repair most everything on a boat.

Readers who are interested in her entire story can visit her website:  Here are some of the highlights:

Trans-Pac Race – three times

NE-Pacific Loop, Hawaii, Alaska, San Francisco (hereafter she started her first single-hand, solo, circumnavigation).

First circumnavigation started in 2007, going eastward through the Panama Canal.  Returning to Mexico, she was 60nm from completing when she lost the boat.  It was night and she was sleeping (40 minutes at a time) when her autopilot stopped and her boat turned and sailed up on a deserted beach.  She woke when the boat hit.  Her website has an article about how she felt when she lost her boat, her home and everything she owned.

In 2009, she began her first attempt at a solo, unassisted circumnavigation.  She was forced to give up when she ran into serious rig and engine problems.

2010 she began again, this time her second attempt.  72 days later, she was 140nm west of Cape Horn when she hove-to in a deep low-pressure system.  Many old salts will tell you that when you heave to you are perfectly safe – just go below, put on the kettle and relax.  All of which is true, although sometimes it is not.  Jeanne told us she had a violent knockdown (boat thrown so far over her mast and rig touched the water).  Her boom broke, her stay sail furled parted, her sprayhood was simply ripped off the boat, several windows were burst in and water began filling the boat.  She managed to get a bit of her jib out and limped into Ushuaia in Argentina.  She gave up on this circumnavigation but was ready to try again.

2012 she slipped her dock lines in Victoria, Canada for her third attempt.  This time all went well and she passed all five of the great capes

Cape Horn

Cape of Good Hope

Cape Leeuwin

Cape Tasmania

South Cape of New Zealand (south of Steward Island)

She entered the Guiness Book of World Records with three records to her name:

Oldest person to single-hand, solo, unassisted circumnavigate

Oldest woman to single-hand, solo, unassisted circumnavigate

First woman to single-hand, solo, unassisted circumnavigate leaving from a port in North America

When we met her here in La Cruz she was starting her 6th attempt at a circumnavigation – “but this time, she said with a grin, I’m just cruising.  I want to really see all the places I just sailed past in my other circumnavigations”.

After talking with this amazing woman, I feel like a novice again, despite Carsten and I having sailed over 35,000nm.

Carsten, who has an unusual sense of humor, was quite upbeat.  “Darling, he said, when we get back to Denmark in a couple of years, you can borrow Capri and circumnavigate solo, single-handed, unassisted.  I’ll help you get Capri ready.  I’ll be standing on the pier waving the Danish flag when you arrive.  If Jeanne can do it as a 77 year old – you can easily do it as a 67 year old.  I mean – how hard can it be?” 

I wonder – is he tired of me?  I don’t carry a lot of life insurance so it can’t be that.  With great respect for Jeanne – I’m more than a little impressed – but she and the others who do that are seriously insane.

La Cruz is a popular anchorage amongst cruisers, despite the strong breezes that blow through here.  The marina allows the people at anchor to use their dinghy dock for $5 a day.  There is a guard there who supposedly keeps an eye on the boats, but despite his being there, someone stole one of our dinghy oars.  There were also reports of dinghies being stolen.

La Cruz also has magnificent sunsets

Just outside the marina, we walk into the old town of La Cruz.  The main square is here as are a number of excellent restaurants.  This town is truly charming – a real slice of old time Mexico.

Quiet street in town

Every Friday, the La Cruz Inn sponsors the Dancing Horses of La Cruz.  The tables are all filled, indeed they close off the street and put many more tables out.  The atmosphere is congenial and the margaritas flow freely. 

Vinni and I switched to beer – margaritas get you drunk

What a show!  Here is a video.  These horses are amazing.

We need to provision before we can sail further.  The major supermarkets are, naturally, located several miles from here.  The marina sponsors a taxi that takes us over to shop, waits outside for us and drives us back, all for $10.  What luxury.

Every Sunday the entire causeway and main pier are filled with small booths for an arts & crafts market.  This is NOT a flea market.  These goods are of really high quality and we’d love to buy some things but, space on Capri is very limited.  The causeway is filled with gringos.  Where are they all coming from?  We’re guessing they come from Puerto Vallarta the giant tourist town that lies only 20km further south.  Lots of good street food and a couple of bands to entertain.  Quite the festival.

Every Thursday, the marina has a free movie at the amphitheater in the middle of the marina.  Free admission for everyone.  Wonderful to sit under the stars drinking some chilled white wine and our snacks.  The movie was not going to win any awards but still a nice way to spend the evening.  We were reminded of sitting outside at Hawaii Yacht Club watching the movie Captain Ron on a big screen stretched across the lawn.

After a couple of restful weeks here in La Cruz we are ready to sail southward, but we will be rounding Cape Corrientes – which can be a challenge.  Many a sailor has had an unpleasant passage rounding that cape, a multitude of conflicting currents, wind made swells conflicting with the natural swells frequently create giant chop.  Our Pílot book advises that the Cape is best rounded in quiet weather and it is best to round before or after the sea breeze.  So the best time is at night.

Our next anchorage will be Chamela Bay, some 120nm south. Add an additional 20nm for us to get out of the bay we are in and we can look forward to a 140nm sail. Normally, the sea breeze disappears at around 6 pm, so we haul anchor at 7 pm.  Of course, when Vinni and Carsten sail, you can bet the farm that the weather will NOT be normal. The sea breeze stay incredibly strong until 10pm and we have it right on the nose the entire time we are working our way out of the bay.  Meter high chop and we have both the engine and our sails up to try to make decent headway.

As soon as we get ready to round the Cape, the wind dies and now there is no wind at all – so we are on the engine.  The lack of wind does not, unfortunately, mean a lack of chop and confused seas.  It is an uncomfortable passage, but we do get to Chamela in late afternoon.

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