Posted by: Sailing Camelot | January 1, 2011

Mazatlan to Chacala

Sunday December 26th

Once again we leave a beautiful place, with no regrets as we thoroughly explored it to our satisfaction. Besides, we might  just come back to Mazatlan in the early Spring. 

Leaving Marina Mazatlan

Goodbye, Mazatlan!

 

Now on to other new,  exciting destinations. Today we sail to Chacala, a small bay and fishing village. The plan is to stop here to interrupt the long leg taking us eventually to la Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Banderas Bay, where we’ll reunite with friends to celebrate the New Year. The 167 miles trip requires an “overnighter”. We’re giddy with anticipation, the seas are very calm and sparkling, there’s precious little wind. We’ll be at sea for more or less 23 hours. We quickly set into our familiar routines and it’s a pleasant, uneventful trip. We even get to sail for over 50 miles when the wind gently rises for a few hours.  As usual, moments of worry and concern interrupt the peace. The route we’re following is notoriously frequented by whales and there’s the added preoccupation of the ever-present, pesky fishing nets invisible to the naked eye even in daylight.  

We don’t see another boat during the whole trip, excluding two Mexican Navy vessels far in the distance as we’re passing the Islas Tres Marias. They’re guarding the perimeter of Maria Madre, the largest of the three islands. It’s a prison colony and there’s a strictly enforced exclusion zone. I dubbed it the local Alcatraz…

At first daylight the world starts stirring, barely visible Pangas (small fishing boats) appear everywhere and we start worrying about the much-feared fishing nets and long lines. Of course our main fear is to wrap one of those lines around our propeller, which would cause untold amounts of grief and potentially serious damages. But, seeing how hard these people work for their livelihood, we also would be really sorry to wreck their precious working tools. So I squint my eyes hard, straining them to the limit –I can almost feel new lines and wrinkles creeping up on my face!-.

After a couple of close calls we start to relax, the fishing boats are fading away. Coffee in hand and grins on our faces, we peacefully take in the beauty surrounding us. All around the boat small manta rays are jumping a couple of feet out of the water, noisily landing on their white bellies. Ouch, that most hurt… I see a large black fin at water level not more than 40 feet from our side and point it out to Tom. “Jees, honey, that’s the biggest dolphin I’ve ever seen!”. Of course Tom immediately realizes that it’s not a dolphin we’re looking at, but a baby Humpback whale… And the frantic outlook begins, as I keep mumbling “where’s your Mama? WHERE IS YOUR MAMA???”. We reduce speed, just in case. Within a 200 feet radius we start seeing Mama Whales with their babies on their side, swimming slowly in front of us, behind us, to our sides… I count 5 sets of them. We’re surrounded! Tom gets all excited and runs to the bow, camera in hand, hoping to get a few good pictures of this incredible sight. I am more thinking of how I might need a diaper as I nervously grip the wheel… In any case, with some care we manage to proceed safely, escorted by whales.

I thought it was a giant dolphin...

As it turns out, this particular stretch of the coast is a renowned birthing place for whales. The Mamas come here to give birth and raise their babies. Basically, we’re sailing smack in the middle of the Whales’ Maternity Ward. All the anxiety is in the end rewarded by the most incredible sight: a baby Humpback whale is breeching right in front of us, at a safe distance but close enough for me to see its new, shiny slick black skin and gleaming white belly. It looks like a giant stuffed toy and it seems to be having a whale of a time!

Needless to say, none of the pictures we took came out, all you would see is a vast expanse of blue with small black blurs… So you’ll have to take our word for it! It was truly a memorable experience.

We finally pull into Chacala Bay, very picturesque village with an awesome, long, palm-fringed beach but a little crowded and noisy. After all it’s the Christmas vacation period and this is one of the touristic spots favored by the locals. I can certainly see why…

Our view entering Chacala Bay

Beach Houses

 

While we are setting the anchor I notice a very long, tangled and frayed yellow line hanging off the side of our boat. There’s a piece of plastic attached to it, looks like the top of a 2 liter Coca Cola bottle, neatly chopped in the typical shape a thorough “chewed-up-by-the-prop” experience would give it… I manage to grab one end of it and try to pull it out of the water but this thing is not budging, it’s firmly tied up to something underneath the boat. This needs investigating. But we’re both tired and decide to deal with it later, after a much needed nap.

The Fabulous Chacala Beach

Despite the noise we manage to sleep for a few hours and we spend the rest of the day just resting and being lazy. The exploration of this beautiful place will have to wait until tomorrow, as well as the yellow mess under the boat…

Camelot at rest, Chacala Beach in the background

Tuesday December 28th

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, we start this day determined to free Camelot from whatever is tied up under her.  I am full of energy, eager and ready to jump in the water to go take a good look. That is, until I dip my toe in the water… Hell, NO WAY I’m jumping in there without a wetsuit (which I don’t own –yet-)!  It’s 68 degrees!!! So as it often happens, Tom takes charge of the situation. He DOES have a nice, thick wetsuit. Within minutes he’s in the water, assessing the problem. Yes, we have a mess down there, but with some effort and a few choice words (I can read his air-bubbles coming to the surface), he emerges victoriously holding a good hundred feet of really thick nylon fishing line and the remains of the floater attached to it (the Coke bottle top). Apparently during our passage we ran over one of the feared long lines, it wedged itself just where our sonar attaches to the hull. In fact, Tom had to cut the line and there’s still a good 8” piece firmly embedded that will remain there until the next haul-out…  We know we were very lucky, it could have been so much worse.  As Tom dissects and examines the evidence, I offer a quick Thank-You prayer to the powers that be… With a lot of gratitude!

Camelot recovering from the tangled fishing line ordeal

Problem solved, Tom hops in the dinghy to go visit and introduce himself to the neighboring boats. There are 8 boats in this anchorage, only two of them are known to us. Of course my friendly husband needs to fix that! Upon his return I hear about our dinner plans: we’ll all converge to one of the restaurants on the beach for cocktails and food, to enjoy the spectacular sunset and celebrate new friendships.

Tom visiting our neighbors

This is a really small village. A steep dirt road peppered with rocks takes us to the main street. It’s quite a challenge to look where you put your feet while admiring the new village houses.

Chacala Homes

More Chacala Homes

 

There are quite a few souvenir tents, tourists lingering, children, dogs, cats roaming around. An overall joyful atmosphere permeates this place.

Main Street in Downtown Chacala

Souvenirs and Tourist "stores" on the main drag

 

We make our way to the crowded beach and take a long walk from one end to the other, all the way down to a simple but beautiful hotel with gorgeous gardens. The beach is surrounded by lush hills; there are quite a few mango groves on the hills, fighting for space with palm trees. The shades of brilliant green are incredible.

Just another Sunset in Paradise

After enjoying the sunset and a simple and tasty dinner in the company of our fellow cruisers we retire to our comfortable boat and enjoy the view of the bay at night. There are bonfires burning on the beach. Coconut husks are burned as protection from the mosquitoes. It’s a pungent smell, but not unpleasant. I love this place! We go to bed with a serene, peaceful heart.

The next day we venture out on our dinghy to explore another small bay North of us. What an incredible, spectacular site. Caves, rocks, small sandy beach.

The Neighborhood

Another Hidden Jewel

 

After our little tour we go out into the open sea to watch the whales. Soon enough we are treated to a couple of Mom & Baby shows, also some dancing dolphins cross our path a few times. Sadly, a couple other tourist boats were harassing the whales, getting way too close. Shameful really, it’s distressing to the animals and against the law. Not that anyone cares, here…

You'll never see us THAT close to a Whale!

Huge jellyfish are visible in the clear water.  I refuse to try to take pictures. I just want to enjoy what I see. Excuse me for being selfish.

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