Chamela and Tenacatita Bays


Our Pilot book told us that if we wanted to visit a truly authentic Mexican beach town – then Chamela Bay was the place to go.  It was not lying.  We weren’t very many boats at anchor and there were a number of beach restaurants.  Little Capri has training wheels now – so she is easy to roll up on the beach.  A welcome addition.

We wandered around the small town and could quickly decide that while they have built a formidable Malecon (promenade) by the river, very few use it.  The rest of the town has only one paved road.  The rest are dirt and gravel.  Not that dirt and gravel are a problem – it seldom rains here, so they do not get muddy.

There are many B&B’s here, some even have swimming pools.  Most of the town earns its money from the beach tourists, of which there are many.  The restaurants are all full, but where the guests come from is a bit of a mystery.  There is supposed to be a small tienda (store) here, but after wandering around for a couple of hours, Vinni and I were unable to find it.  Not that we need anything – we are well-provisioned.  But cruisers are always on the lookout for fresh baked bread or fresh vegetables. 

Fresh bread and vegetables are a genuine treat when you blue water cruise.

We found a mural advertising for Casa Frida which of course, made us think about our granddaughter Frida.  Frida is apparently a common name here in Mexico – we see it many places.

The beaches are perfect and the surf is mostly small.  If you’re looking for a beach holiday and aren’t the type that needs big hotels – this is an excellent choice.

Did someone say “perfect beach”?

The anchorage is a good anchorage, even though we did need to land our dinghy through the surf.  You get used to it – the only thing that can happen is you can get wet.  It is always warm here so getting wet is not a great issue.  Many of the locals fish in the bay.  They stretch out perhaps one hundred meters of net in the morning and the next morning they haul the net aboard their panga again.  They always seem to catch some fish, although not many.  Is this how they make their living?  It is hard work.  When they begin hauling the net, all the pelicans in the bay fly over and swim alongside the boat.  The pelicans know that the fishermen won’t keep the small fish – they throw them overboard.

Yummy!  Breakfast for a fast pelican – there are lots of them fighting over each fish.

When the fishermen are done hauling the nets, the pelicans start gliding in circles over the bay, looking for fish in the water.  When they spot one, they collapse their wings and dive straight down, slamming into the water and grabbing the fish below the surface.  Sometimes they go as far as a meter down to get the fish.  Many times, they dive very close to Capri.  Until you get used to it, it is a surprise to hear what sounds like a small bomb hitting the water right next to the boat.  Sometimes they are so close that they throw spray up and you can get wet in the cockpit. 

Yes, dear reader – life as a blue water cruiser is tough – damned tough.  Vinni and I just suffer through it.

A few days later, the weather gods decided to have pity and smiled on us.  We weighed anchor and sailed southbound for Tenacatita Bay, where our Pilotbook notes that there is a river that winds through a mangrove forest.  If you sail far enough up it, you cross the peninsula the bay shelters behind and reach the Pacific beaches.

Obviously, an adventure we need to try – especially since there are crocodiles in the mangroves.

There is almost nothing here in Tenacatita Bay.  Far over to one side there is a hotel, but it is so far away that it doesn’t disturb us.  Here at the mouth of the river there is a campground and a small restaurant.  There are quite a few boats here since the surfing is supposedly good.

Vinni and I try our paddleboards again, but the swells are a little high and we are not practiced enough yet to handle high swells (in other words – we fall in the water).

Enough!  We have to try the jungle river adventure.  Early one morning we set off in the dinghy.  The Pilotbooks says if you paddle instead of using an engine, then the crocs will be out as will a much varied birdlife.  So we start with our paddleboard paddles (remember one of our oars was stolen in La Cruz).  Wow – off we go – very slowly.  I offer to stay in the boat and paddle if Vinni wants to go for a morning swim in the river – but she declines, rather emphatically.  Something about some crocs in the water.


After almost an hour of paddling, we’ve gone nowhere and we turn on the engine.  Now we’re moving even though we have the engine running just about at idle.  The mangrove begins to close in about us and the river becomes narrow.  Then more narrow.  Then even more narrow and finally there is just enough room for the dinghy to negotiate the channel.  We’ve just finished commenting on how we hope we don’t meet anyone when we hear an engine coming up behind us.  Sure enough, here comes a panga filled with tourists.  We find a wide space in the mangrove and they creep past us.

Hmmm – let’s hope we don’t meet them coming the other way – there really aren’t many wide spaces in this mangrove.  The mangrove continues to close in and finally we are sailing through a tunnel as the mangrove has closed in and formed a roof over us.  We have to duck so our hats aren’t knocked off.

Suddenly the mangrove opens up and a wide river stretches out to starboard.  Ahead of us, there is a tiny hole in the mangrove.   Obviously, we are supposed to take the turn to starboard.  The landscape continues to open up and the mangrove finally disappears to be replaced by cactus and scrub brush.  The river gets shallower and finally we run aground.

Hmm – guess we made a wrong turn – could it really be that tiny hole we are supposed to go through?

We sail back and take a long look at the hole – well, maybe we can get through it.  The hole hasn’t gotten bigger while we were gone.

We duck our heads and cautiously maneuver the dinghy into the hole.  We are sailing through a dark tunnel.  Branches and roots reach out to grab the dinghy and puncture it.  We crouch down even deeper. 

Suddenly, as we round a sharp bend, the tunnel ceases and we are out on a lake.  At the other end, we can see the pangas dragged up on a beach and we make our way over there and do the same.  About 100 yards up a path and we come out to the beach on the Pacific side of the peninsula.  Lots of people, lots of small restaurants.

Vinni and I immediately repair to the nearest restaurant and order cold beer, salsa and chips.  Jungle safaris are hard work in case you didn’t know.  Even heroes need food and drink.  Two ice cold beers and a ton of salsa and chips later – the two intrepid safariers have recuperated and are ready for the taxing journey back (ok – maybe the language is a bit over the top – but none of you have made that trip J ).

Now that we know the route, the return trip is nowhere near as fearsome as it was coming in.  Vinni still doesn’t want to take a morning swim – she still mumbles something about crocodiles.


When we reach the mouth of the river, we are presented with a new challenge.  The tide has turned while we were gone and is now incoming.

So, surf’s up!

We really aren’t fans of making our way through the surf in the dinghy.  Not only because we are certain to get at least a little wet, but because there is a real danger of the dinghy overturning.  That means we’ll get very wet, but even that is only a small issue.  If the dinghy turns over, the engine will go underwater and be submerged in salt water which means we will have to immediately rinse it completely in fresh water and then it will need to be flushed etc so the salt water doesn’t damage it (too much).

We make our way out at a snail’s pace, judging and side slipping each wave as it approaches.  Hey, we’re doing all right.  How hard can it be?  Chests puffed with pride, we’re once again heroes who can do no wrong.

At least until we misjudge a wave and now we are caught in a washing machine.  The dinghy hops and dances the jitterbug, sloughing sideways out of control.  Just as we start to get it back under control, the next wave hits – even more and more violent jitterbug as the wave breaks in over us.

There is a short break and we get little Capri straighten out and give her full throttle blasting over top of the next wave before it can break.

Then we are out of the surf and we can idle our way out to Capri.

After a couple of more days, we need to get further south, to Bahia de la Navidad where we will lead a life of luxury.  We will be in a marina, owned by the Navidad Resort.  Staying in the marina gives access to all the amenities of the hotel, giant swimming pool, free towels, restaurants, cold margaritas poolside, etc etc.

We may never leave.

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