After 4 nights at Chamela, the weather looked good for our 30 NM run down to Bahía Tenacatita. It was another nice, easy passage. We talked to our friends from CUBAR on Mahalo, who were headed North from Tenacatita to Puerto Vallarta to watch the Super Bowl. Apparently, there was a mass exodus from the anchorage to places with TVs to watch the big game. Being Seahawks fans, we had no such need.
Tenacatita is a much larger bay than Chamela, and has better protection from the Northwest swell. The head of the bay is a long sand beach that extends to a resort in the NE corner and over to an estuary entrance at the NW corner. Of course, over the days that we were here, the swell was more from the SW. This time we went deep into the anchorage, almost closest to the beach. It was much less rolly than Chamela, but we still wound up putting out the second flopper stopper after the first night at anchor.
We learned that there is a free-for all on this coast of Mexico as far as developers go. Apparently in the last 10 years, this stretch of beach on either side of Tenacatita has been hotly contested in a land dispute that seems to have been resolved, but did result in the razing of all the palapas that were on the beach below about 10 years ago. Only one has returned.
One of the highlights of Tenacatita is a tour of the estuary, through mangroves that close into a bit of a natural tunnel in places, just wide enough for a dinghy to make it through. It is also quite shallow in places, meaning that we needed to use the small dinghy again. It was challenging to pick our way through the narrow estuary, but after about 2.5 NM, we eventually emerged into a lagoon that was behind the beach at the next bay to the west of the main anchorage.
Here a group of us had arranged for a tour of a Racilla distillery just up the road from the beach. We were picked up in a van, and had a very nice tasting and lunch, learning quite a bit about how this local, indigenous cooperative produces Mezcal. Their showcase offering is a 17 year old “Anejo” Racilla, which is the smoothest liquor of this type that I have tasted to date. It was outstanding.
Across the bay from the anchorage is the little town of La Manzanilla. On one of our days we headed into the beach and to town via a long and windy taxi ride to hit the weekly farmers market for some fresh produce. We stopped for lunch at one of the local lunch places that our cruiser compatriots liked. Great food, but Gwen had the disturbing experience of finding a huge 2 inch dead beetle in the bottom of her limonada glass after all the ice had melted. Definitely put a damper on her warm and fuzzy feelings for the place. The manager did the right thing and our lunch was free, so not naming the place.
Surf landings and dinghy wheels
Most of the anchorages in this part of Mexico are bays with at least some exposure to the Pacific Ocean and thus the beautiful sandy beaches have some amount of surf. That is why we bought the small dinghy, but up until now we had not actually attempted a surf landing. When we went into La Manzanilla we did our first surf landing, under the tutelage of some experienced cruisers that we were going into town with. The idea is to wait for a lull in the waves and then gun it at the beach before the next wave catches you, gracefully jumping out of the dinghy, keeping it from getting sideways, turning off the engine, and dragging it up onto the beach. That is the theory anyway. I’ll say that our first landing was not completely dry, but we didn’t tip the dinghy over… as we saw many others do. And on the way back we learned that the “surf takeoff” is the hard part. You drag the dinghy down to the water’s edge, push it into the surf deep enough so that it floats and the outboard can be tilted down into place, keep it straight, keep the waves from tipping it over, start the engine, and take off. Easy as that. Sometimes.
We quickly realized that we needed to install the fold up wheels that we had purchased to make surf landings and takeoffs a safer and drier affair. The wheels make it much easier both on landing and takeoff. Coming in to the beach with the wheels folded down keeps the outboard prop from digging into the sand, and when the wheels make contact, it’s time to hop out. They make it easy to guide the dinghy into the surf and start the motor before boarding. We didn’t have room to install them on the boat, so we packed up the necessary equipment and headed over to the beach to do the installation. Gwen got drenched and rolled in the sand again on arrival.
Installing the wheels was really easy to do, just a matter of mounting a couple of brackets on the transom. We took some measurements so the wheels would not interfere with the outboard or inflatable tubes, drilled four holes through the transom, slathered the brackets with silicone sealant and bolted them on. The wheels are on steel legs that attach to the brackets with removable pins, and they simply flip up or down and lock into place. It was one of those satisfying boat jobs that only took about twice as long as it should have. After letting the silicone dry for a bit, we had a stress-free surf takeoff!
After being in Tenacatita for several days, we decided to head further South to explore Manzanillo before heading back to Barra de Navidad, where we are meeting friends at the end of the month. As we started our departure preparations, we started the engine, as usual, only to have it stall out after running for a few minutes. This was not good… not good at all. I immediately suspected our fuel filter system which has given us trouble off and on for the entire journey, most recently in Puerto Vallarta. Anyway, we wound up spending the day making repairs, which will be the subject of another blog post.
The next morning I woke up early and saw the anchor alarm had gone off. A squall had come through in the night and it was still fairly windy, but we were so exhausted from dealing with the fuel system issue we slept right through it. Also, unlike the northwest where you hear every minor movement of the anchor against the bottom, there is no sound of an anchor dragging on sand. It was well before daylight, so I checked our position against other nearby boats. Sure enough, we were closer, but still a safe distance away. As soon as the sun came up we prepared to raise the anchor. All went smoothly, and this time the engine kept running (thank goodness). We started up the wing engine just in case. As we raised the anchor, we saw that it was completely wrapped up in it’s own chain… no wonder we dragged!
We carefully moved away from all the other boats in the anchorage and tried to figure out how we would get the anchor loose. At 137 lbs, we were not just going to pick it up and unwrap the chain. Eventually we managed to get a line through the bar across the back end of the anchor to take some strain off the chain. We then got another line through the chain near the shank of the anchor and were eventually able to get it all free. Thanks to Hugo from another Nordhavn for providing moral and physical support from his dingy!
What a couple of days! We had decided to head to Barra de Navidad and a marina 12 miles away to further evaluate the fuel delivery problem. We made it without difficulty, but not without anxiety.
Authored by Larry with editing and colorful additions from Gwen.