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Banderas Bay to Bahia Tenacatita

Paradise Village Marina in Neuvo Vallarta is a very comfortable spot, with lots to do and see and great surfing and boogy boarding beaches, pools and restaurants just a 2 minute walk away - a very difficult spot to leave actually.  Some cruisers find themselves spending months, even years there.  But we did finally manage to tear ourselves away before the marine growth had completely fouled the bottom on February 9th, bound for Yelapa, a cool little cove on the south side of Banderas Bay only a dozen miles away.

The saying here is that "a Palapa in Yelapa is better than a Condo in Redondo" and we have to agree.  This funky little cove with it's small fishing village and beach palapas serving the day-trippers from PV is accessible only by boat.  The steep, wooded hills lining the cove are dotted here and there with small homes peaking through the trees, many owned by ex-pats.  The main sport here is paragliding and the day we were there, literally dozens of paragliders could be seen soaring above the cove in the ridge thermals generated by the afternoon sea breeze getting pushed skywards as it meets the steep, almost cliff-like hills surrounding the cove, before gliding down to land on the beach for a beer at the "Paraglider Palapa".  Truly a magical spot but the steepness of the surrounding hills continues down into the little bay where it is 500 feet deep near the middle, making anchoring rather tricky and only really possible up close next to the hills in calm weather on two small shelves and with the help of a stern anchor set almost on the beach to keep you from swinging out into the deep water.  The weather did cooperate the night we were there and despite the roll from the swell, we managed to sleep well. 

The next day we rounded Cabo Corrientes, the prominent point of land known for nasty weather which defines the southern most portion of Banderas Bay.  The winds and waves here are almost always much stronger than anywhere else in the area, increasing as they wrap around the headland, but they were light for us as we rounded in the early morning, southbound for Ipala, another cool little cove and the first real anchorage south of the Cape.  We really liked Ipala.  It is reachable by car or bus from Puerto Vallarta, but the trip is hours long over poor roads and so the small fishing village there has a very isolated and authentic Mexican feel to it.  We did meet one visiting couple there (the only tourists to be found) from Seattle actually (they own an organic farm in Carnation believe it or not!) who had taken the bus out from PV assuming they could return that evening only to discover they were stranded as the bus only runs once per day and they would have to wait until 7am the following morning to return!  There are no banks here and no one takes credit cards.  They had enough cash for a room in the one room hotel, but not enough to have dinner so we bought them dinner at one of the two restaurants where we had the best (and probably freshest) lobster I think we have ever eaten!  Great couple and I'm sure one day when we return to Seattle we will wake up one day to find a big pile of wonderful organic produce on our doorstep!  We spent two nights in Ipala, playing soccer on the beach after school with the local Mexican kids (while their fathers were out making a living fishing from the small, open and incredibly sea-worthy boats known as "pangas" which are ubiquitous throughout the west coast of Mexico).  The people here are very friendly, the fishermen stopping by the boats in the afternoon with fresh coconuts and oysters, which they prepared and handed up to us gratis hoping we would come ashore and patronize one of the two small palapa restaurants, which of course we were happy to do.

February 12th found us southbound again for Bahia Chamela, a larger bay with several different anchorages both along the northwest shore and among the several small islands in the bay itself.  The village in the NW anchorage is larger than Ipala (but still without banks, ATMS or internet access).  Half a dozen different palapas line the beach as well as a few homes, an RV park and a couple of larger buildings abandoned after the 1996 earthquake.   You could catch a bus or a taxi from here and we were able to get some fresh produce at a local "Super Mini".  We spent 2 nights anchored off the beach in the NW anchorage, swimming, wake boarding and playing in the surf (after finishing school each day of course) and a 3rd night anchored out in the islands off a wonderful, isolated beach near Isla Colorado before heading out again in the company of dolphins (video) for the premiere destination of Gold Coast cruising, Bahia Tenicatita.  

Bahia Tenicatita is simply wonderful.  Extremely well protected, only the slightest hint of the 6 foot ocean swell wraps around and into the main anchorage, which is situated off an isolated beach with great surfing.  There is only a single palapa at the anchorage proper and it closes at 5pm before the no-see-ums come out, but there is a "Jungle Tour" dingy ride a few miles through the saltwater mangroves to the next cove where liquid refreshments and wonderful local "fish rolls" can be found and the water is so clear for snorkeling, the cruisers have nicknamed it "The Aquarium".   The small town of La Manzanillo is a 4 mile sail across the bay, where some provisions, gasoline for the dingy and (very slow) internet access can be had.   You can buy fish at the local fish market and then walk down the street and feed them to the crocodiles (video)!  The beach there is unprotected however, so people take their boat or dingy over only for day trips before heading back to the main anchorage.  S/V Stargazer was heading over the day after we arrived, so we hitched a ride to go exploring even before we had seen the local beach at the acnhorage!  

Some boats literally spend months in Tenacatita, with one long term cruiser staying so long that he proclaimed himself mayor!  There were upwards of 50 boats anchored there while we were there, with room for many more and with so many cruisers in one place, activities abound.  The morning 9am cruisers net on the VHF radio (channel 22) has announcements for the daily "swim to shore", the weekly "mayors raft up", beach bon fire parties with themes such as "Howl at the Moon", kids movie nights on different boats, even the teenagers in the fleet have formed a group called the "Rebel Alliance" and organize their own activities, often to the dismay of their parents!  Both Kelsey (video) and RJ (video) acted as net controller on different days while where there.  To help them, we put together a script of all the things to cover.

We spent over a week anchored in Tenacatita Bay, doing home school in the morning and then heading to the beach to play in the surf (video) or go snorkeling or scuba diving.  Melissa tried out her new dive gear (video) and underwater camera case she got from Santa here for the first time (see the next update for photos).  Often there was a beach party or other potluck get together happening on the beach in the evenings or we would get together with friends on ours or another boat.  The evening of playing "Jello Shot Ping Pong" on S/V Stargazer with the Trinities and Ayu's was particularly raucous - it's probably a good thing there is no photographic evidence of that amazing sporting marathon.  Dinghy Surfing (video) also became a particular favorite pastime for both kids and adults.  We used up all our dinghy gas surfing and so were forced to head to La Manzinillo again on Trinity this time to fuel up.   While there, we hitched a ride to the nearby town of Melaque (pronounced like Milwaukee) where the shopping was better and the internet access faster.  

We finally departed Tenacatita Bay for Barra De Navidad and ports further south on February 24th.   We really enjoyed our time in Tenacatita and it's reputation for being one of the best cruising destinations on the coast is well deserved. 

As always, click on the images to see a larger view.


The beach at Yelapa. A very cool, fun spot only reachable by boat. If you come to PV, getting out here, even just for the day is highly recommended.

Sula and Trinity anchored in Ipala Bay looking south. Most of the boats are pangas belonging to the local fishermen.

Playing tag with the local kids in Ipala.

Building sand castles on the beach in Chemala.

Trinitiy and Sula anchored off of Isla Colorado in Bahia Chemela.

Hitching a ride with Nick and Nicole from S/V Stargazer on our way to La Manzaillo. The Bahia Tenacatita anchorage is in the background.

Nicole and Kelsey looking south towards La Manzanillo.

We though these signs were hilarious. "Beware of the Crocodiles" right next to "Kayak Rentals".

RJ feeding the crocadiles. They were "American Crocadiles" and grow to over 15 feet long!

Look at those snappers! Be sure to check out the video for a much better view of these guys!

Nick from S/V Stargazer demonstrating the foolishness and impression of imortality pocessed by the those below age 30.

Stargazers, Sulas and Trinities on Mexican time in La Manzanillo.

Eric gets a guitar lesson on the way back to the Tenacatita anchorage. "Oh, Jiimy never sang about doing the brightwork..."

Kelsey being photogenic as always.

Mel doing laundry in the galley sink.

Towing the kids to the Mayor's raft up on the Aquaport. You can see Sula in the background with spiniker pole rigged for a rope swing.

Friday Mayor's dingy raft up.

Rj piloting us through the mangroves on the "Jungle Tour" in Bahia Tenacatita.

The passages through the mangroves often narrow to 10 feet wide or less and are kept open only by the efforts of local panga fishermen.

Mike and 'Bad Aunt Janus' from S/V Ayu on the Jungle Tour.

Pretty cool huh? This is the main passage!

Going just a little just a little fast through the mangroves!

Trinity's tender is named "Neo". Guess where they got the name of their boat from?

Eric and Roma hitching a ride in the back of a pickup from La Manzinillo to Malaque"

The girls playing coy while getting their shopping fix.

Howl at the Moon and 6 year old birthdaybeach party for Olivia on S/V Sunflower. Kelsey is up to bat. Note anchorage in background.

Babe on the beach.

Quite a turnout. This little spot is known as "Good Dog Beach" in Bahia Tenacatita.

Nic and Nick from S/V Stargazer on the beach. We are really going to miss these guys as they are heading back North soon.

Eric Dinghy Surfing.

Dinghy Surfing at sunset. Does it get any better than this?

Liar's Dice party on Sula. Not quite as out of control as the Jello Shot Ping Pong night on Stargazer, but a fun time none the less.

Nicole with a good role no doubt.


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