La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

After more than two weeks at Paradise Village in December, we were ready for a change of pace for Christmas week. We headed over to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a few miles across the bay and worlds apart from Nuevo Vallarta.  La Cruz has a well-deserved reputation as a cruiser’s haven and more authentic town in Banderas Bay, and after being there for a week, we could understand why. We are back there now in mid-January after two weeks in Puerto Vallarta at Marina Vallarta (a separate review forthcoming) as we wait for a part for the head (we know our visitors will appreciate that!) and continue to think it is a fabulous town.

Entering into the harbor for the marina on the left, town on the right.

Marina Riveria Nayarit is a large, relatively new marina located right in the center of town.  The approach is easy and they seemed to have plenty of space available for all sizes of boats.  The docks are in good shape, with good power, but non-potable water.  Wifi was available at no charge, but as usual, was pretty spotty.  There are shower facilities and an air conditioned clubhouse right at the top of the dock (with air conditioning and better wifi).  There are also a couple of restaurants, a small tienda and a tiny pool, which we did use a couple of times.  We have not eaten at the restaurants… too many good options in town.

Looking at the fish market (Mercado Del Mar) from our boat on the way out.

One of our favorite areas is the fish market right at the marina featuring the local catch, and shrimp brought in from Mazatlan.  It was impressive to see the large Tuna, Dorado, Snapper and other fish being brought up from the fishing fleet moored right in front of the market.  The market itself seems more frequented by Mexicans than gringos when we’ve shopped there. I learned from watching and asking what some of the more interesting appearing items were. Some very large egg sacs, and various fish parts. Didn’t want to buy them, but interesting.

We have gorged on both dorado and shrimp which are uniformly fresh and excellent and at a very low price. I even managed to communicate my request for them to fillet up and trim a large piece of dorado and saved Larry some work.

The landmark at the head of the main street in town.

Dining out is tasty and inexpensive here so we have not been doing much cooking other than the fish and shrimp. The street tacos near the head of the main street are fabulous, and you can buy beer to have with them at the shop on the opposite corner. Our favorite dessert guy is a few blocks up the main street, you just can’t beat a bag of fresh churros for 10 pesos!

Love this guy and his Churros!
We had a terrific lunch here in the interior courtyard for 140 pesos (about $7) for two full platters of food, a pitcher of guava water and a beer for Larry.

The town square houses the nativity scene. One thing I appreciated is the attention to the timeline of the story. Before December 25, there was no Jesus in the manger. He appeared appropriately on the day.

Jesus appeared on December 25. I was pleased.

The beach is steps away from the marina. Over the week of Christmas and on the day of there were many families who set up lots of sun cover, tables for snacks and chairs to relax in the shade. We were happy we have a beach umbrella ourselves, but it isn’t quite enough shade for all 3 of us, and the sun is hot! Recently it’s been in the high 80s up to 90, and the humidity is climbing too, so water relief is welcome.

We got in a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping and some excellent produce at the Sunday market. It is a huge farmers and craft market, wrapping around half of the marina, and is obviously the big happening of the week.  It was similar to, but much more extensive than, the markets at Nuevo and Puerto Vallarta.  Lots of good ethnic foods and drink (we got Indian and Thai food at various times) live music, and a huge variety of clothing, jewelry and crafts. 

There is an active live music scene here too. We’ve been to a few places with names like The Green Tomato and Ana’s Bananas (where we thoroughly embarrassed Miranda) – it was definitely an old gringo crowd and she studiously ignored our dancing. We hear there are more original Latin groups that come through than those playing covers of American bands, but they are probably playing past our bedtime!

One day we decided to anchor in the bay along with the dozens of sailboats that make the anchorage home. We joined former Seattle Shilshole marina neighbors Kevin and Alison (and their family) on Red Rover at anchor off La Cruz, at the east end of the anchorage.  The water was warm, but the anchorage, at least on this day, was incredibly rolly.  We wound up deploying both flopper stoppers for the first time, and were glad we did, as things got a bit choppy in the evening.  We had a big “surf and turf” dinner aboard Red Rover, featuring Mahi Mahi tacos from Miss Miranda, and Arracheta (marinated steak), potatoes and salad from Red Rover.  A fun evening.  It was sloppy and choppy overnight and started to drizzle a bit the next morning, so we pulled up the anchor and headed back to the marina. 

Looking into the spa from the street entrance. The shade tree is out of the photo to the left side.

Larry started complaining about his back from all the boat yoga he has been doing, so we found the Oasis spa on the main drag and had massages. The spa is in what might be the interior shell of a partly demolished building, has a gigantic tree growing that provides shade so that it was MUCH cooler than the street, and has a few selected structures for private areas. Extremely well done.

We’ve been in Banderas Bay now for over 6 weeks, quite a bit longer than planned, because of waiting for parts. But as they say, plans are only worth the paper they are written on, so we are finding other ways to explore. This weekend we are going to leave the boat and take an inland trip to the mountains to the town of Mascota. It will be a welcome cool break and a different look at Mexico!

Boat Stamp

One thing we’ve learned during our travels in Mexico is that officials love their paperwork. Entering the country, we needed to complete a Temporary Import Permit for the boat, obtain Tourist Visas for all crew and formally check in to the country. This was not too much of a problem, and one of the aspects of cruising to Mexico that the CUBAR Rally made easier.

Once in Mexico, you actually need to check into and out of each port with the Port Captain, reporting your boat information, crew list, where you are coming from and where you are going next. So you have two pieces of paper for every port you visit. Often the marina will complete the paperwork and you go over to the port to get your paperwork stamped.

Well, after going through this a couple of times we decided that we wanted our own stamp. If every port captain is gonna make us fill out paperwork and stamp it, then we are too!!

A picture of the boat stamp on a piece of paper

Here it is. We were able to make it online (of course) and the biggest issue was getting the line art for the boat. With a little bit of searching I was able to find a method for converting a photo to something resembling a drawing (https://smallbusiness.chron.com/convert-photographs-line-drawings-gimp-46192.html) . I outlined the shape of the boat to eliminate the background and using a combination of effects, filters and conversion to black and white, I was able to get the image you see above.

The original image.

If you ever come aboard Miss Miranda, make sure you have your paperwork, and we’ll be sure to stamp it!!

Paradise Village and Nuevo Vallarta

The first part of our visit to Puerto Vallarta was actually to Nuevo Vallarta and Paradise Village Resort and Marina.  Miranda joined us for three weeks, and Larry’s mom and sister came for the week before Christmas and stayed in the resort, so this was easy all the way around.

Downtown view from one of the hillside restaurants overlooking Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay.

The Puerto Vallarta area is a pretty huge metropolis, with developments
stretching a long way up Banderas Bay. Nuevo Vallarta itself is a fully self
contained tourist resort cocoon, which is fairly far removed from the city of
Puerto Vallarta to the south.  It is actually in a different state –
Nayarit – than Puerto Vallarta, which is in Jalisco. It is a two-bus ride or
expensive cab ride to the Central district and/or the Zona Romantica in Puerto
Vallarta. 

There is a shopping center just outside the resort with a pretty large
grocery store, pharmacy, bank, retail stores and restaurants.  There are
also plenty of other restaurants in Nuevo Vallarta.   The tradeoff is
that everything in NV is more expensive… but it is expensive or time-consuming to get in and out of NV. We did figure out taking the local buses into Puerto Vallarta and had some fun despite the long haul.

Miranda and Gwen headed downtown for some Christmas shopping, and didn’t realize it was December 12, the last day of the Virgin of Guadalupe Feast Days, so the place was mobbed! This is the street leading to the church.

Paradise Village Marina is huge and very well-run.  The entrance is well- marked, wide, and easy.  No problems with depths and a dredge operates regularly in the channel on the Paradise Village side.  There are a bunch of large (100 ft plus) yachts here.  The slips line the Estuary to the North of the channel entrance.  We were first placed in Slip E-20, which was well up almost to the bridge.  The water got pretty shallow as we worked our way to the slip but was never a problem.  One thing we learned that confirmed what we read in a guidebook was that these slips further away from the entrance were much less affected by surge than the ones closer to the entrance.  The tradeoff is that you are farther away from the resort and in an area where most of the boats are unoccupied, faithfully waiting for the return of their owners, so it could feel a bit eerie at night.

The marina had regularly scheduled dockside pumpout (and they would also come and pump out on call); good, potable water with good pressure, and would come to the slip to care of any oils, fluids or other waste products.  Moorage in the marina also got us access to the resort’s faculties, namely the beach, fabulous pools, fitness club and “VIP lounge”.  The only negative for the marina was that Wifi was more or less non-existent.  The marina doesn’t even claim to offer it.  Vallarta Yacht Club, which has a clubhouse restaurant and pool right next to the marina, claims to offer Wifi on the docks, but we never got it to work.  Later, when we moved to a slip closer to the resort, we were able to get on the resort Wifi, but speed was highly variable, from slow to nothing. 

Paradise Village, like many places in Mexico, was a good place to get boat cleaning done.  The sun and heavy salt is much tougher on the boat here than in the Pacific NW, so we needed it. We had the boat washed, had all of the stainless steel cleaned and polished, and had some wax touch up done.  There are no crocodiles in this marina area, so it’s not hard to get someone to dive the boat so we had the bottom cleaned, including the keel cooler, and replaced a zinc on the wing engine shaft.  All of this service was of high quality, at a fraction of PNW prices.

There were an enormous number of pelicans who roosted in the trees of the estuary across from us. We had a sad experience our first night with Miranda – as we were heading down the dock to dinner in the setting sun we came upon a pelican acting strangely, not flying away and flapping awkwardly right next to the dock. We soon realized he was entrapped in fishing line that someone had left actually attached to the dock.

 

At first the pelican drifted back and forth between the boats and the float, flapping one wing uselessly.

 

Larry worked hard to get at the line, which was all over the place while avoiding his fast moving beak.

While trying to stay away from his beak we managed to cut away a lot of the line, and thought we were successful in freeing him, but as he got away we saw there was still line around one wing preventing him from flying. Miranda reached someone at the resort and they said they would “send someone” but the bird swam over to the mangroves and disappeared in them in the dark. It was a terrible feeling that despite our best efforts he likely would not survive.

After a few days on E dock, the marina wanted to move us to C dock. We got ready to move the boat at high tide one morning, and as Larry wrote in another post, found that one of our ABT TRAC stabilizer actuator cylinders had failed, emptying the hydraulic reservoir into the bilge.   We moved the boat the next day, found an excellent service company to repair the stabilizers, but began a month long ongoing exchange with TRAC to try and get them to honor their warranty…. but that is a different story. (And no, we didn’t need the stabilizers to move within the marina, but having them have no fluid is a problem even if not used).

We did enjoy liberal use of the pools and happy hour 2 for 1 drinks with Helen and Heather, and now have great tans. We also ran into some fellow Cubar participants and other folks on the much more active C dock. But, after two weeks at the resort of our originally planned month, we made a decision to move to La Cruz for the week of Christmas. More to come on that great place!

CUBAR Videos

We had a videographer along on the CUBAR Rally this year, and he put together three really nice videos covering the cruise. His name is Justin Edelman and he is a great photographer, videographer, video editor, and all-around great guy. It’s his photo of Miss Miranda at anchor that graces the banner of our blog.

During CUBAR, we (OK, I) gave him the Mexican name of “El Hombre de Augua” after a very exciting water landing of his drone. We were on the dinghy expedition to the mangrove estuary at Man O’ War Cove, and Justin was in the tour leader’s panga taking shots of all the dinghys going back and forth. It was pretty crazy fun. Justin decided to launch the drone off the back of the panga, and almost instantly, it took a nose dive into the water in the panga’s wake. Immediately, Justin dove into the water… with who knows how many dinghys bearing down on him… and after a short time, emerges, with drone in hand! Of course the drone was dead. Hence the name.

Anyway, on to the videos…

This is a recap of the 2019 Rally, titled San Diego Yacht Club’s 2019 CUBAR Odyssey: Six Ports in Baja California, Mexico. If you look carefully you might see us and/or our boat somewhere in the mix.

The next one is about the medical donations collected for the Bahia de Tortugas Bomberos. Gwen played an instrumental role in selecting and sourcing the supplies as well as working with the Bomberos in Turtle Bay. She is featured in this video titled San Diego Yacht Club’s CUBAR Odyssey Powerboat Rally Supports Bahia de Tortugas Ambulance Services. This was the highlight of our Mexican adventure so far.

Finally, this is a kind of CUBAR promotional video for the San Diego Yacht Club, who are the event organizers. It’s intended to give people an idea of what participating in CUBAR is all about, and uses footage from this year’s rally. You can find it at Organized Powerboat Cruising Rally to Mexico: CUBAR Odyssey from San Diego Yacht Club

You can check out all of Justin’s videos at his YouTube Channel Nobleman Sailing Media

And, if you are interested in engaging Justin to document your boating adventure, feel free to reach out to him at his Nobleman Sailing Media website.