Monday, February 13, 2017

My Travels on Mangata

I received an email just before we went on the Copper Canyon trip from John Karpenko who was staying on his sailboat in La Cruz De Huanacaxtle (La Cruz), up near Puerto Vallarta. He asked me to come up and help him sail the boat down along the coast to Barra de Navidad.  I immediately replied and said that if he could start the trip after we returned from our trip then I would be in and would make my way up to La Cruz and join his crew. He replied and said, of course, that would work and so I bought a bus ticket to PV, stuffed it into my wallet and headed for the Copper Canyon with Linda.

The day we returned from our one trip, I laundered my dirty clothes and packed my stuff for my sailing adventure.

On the 3rd of February, I kissed Linda goodbye and loaded on the bus heading north. Joining me were Daren and Marcy Upchurch. They were continuing their adventure in Mexico and planned to stay in Puerto Vallarta for a spell. Later they would continue on north where they planned to connect with a ferry and cross over to the Baja peninsula.
The bus ride was uneventful and the Upchurches and I parted ways in PV. They got off in old town PV and I rode on to the end of the line at the bus terminal by the airport.

As I got off the bus, I overheard a fellow say that he was heading to La Cruz. I stopped him and said that I was going that way and asked if he wanted to split a taxi. With a pack and small duffle, I did not want to "chicken bus" my way up to my final destination.  Richard, I think that was his name, was excited to be able to split the taxi costs and so we joined forces and flagged down our ride.

The ride to La Cruz was slow due to traffic, but Richard and I chatted, passing the time.
We reached our destination. Neither one of us knew where we were going so we had the driver stop a block from the marina and let us out. We settled up with him, shook hands, and each went different directions.

We saw many whales, but this was my best photo.
I walked to the Marina Riviera Nayarit and found the main office where I asked if they could contact Mangata, John’s boat, and let them know I had arrived.  The lady said sure and handed me the microphone. All I could think of saying was “Mangata, Idaho” so I punched the button and spoke. John replied immediately and said that they would be there to pick me up in 20 minutes.

I sat outside looking at the beautiful boats and smiling. I was thinking I was going to like this adventure!

John and his brother Mike arrived right on time. With introductions over, we headed into La Crux for a quick lunch and a drink. We talked about the trip and got ready to set sail on Saturday.

At 4:00 PM the next day, after a brief introduction to Mangata, we pulled up the anchor and headed out across Bahía de Banderas, starting our overnight crossing around Cabo Corrientes and down to Punta Pérula and our first anchorage at Pérula. (Google Map of Trip)

Sailing at night is very interesting and we took shifts at the wheel. We had to go about 96 miles to make our first moorage.  Just after sunset, the wind died and we had to drop sails and motor.  As the night went on and the ocean converged on Cabo Corrientes, the swell got bigger and a trailing wind picked up. It was a bit of a rough run, but I guess this area has been known to provide a much harsher passage.

We were having so much fun! The Bahía de Banderas had provided us with dolphins and it seemed like hundreds of whales. Everywhere we looked whales were breaching, finning or spouting. It was amazing. Once the sun set, the full moon lit up the ocean around us as we drove up and surfed down swell after swell. What a night!

Just as the sun was beginning to lighten up the eastern sky, we adjusted our heading for our approach to our first anchorage in Pérula. We looked ahead to see the three-masted sailing ship Eos gliding out of the bay and into the sunrise.

Mangata slid into the protection of the bay and we took the place of the huge schooner. Once on the hook, we settled in and made the boat right. Then we rested.
With a few hours of rest under our belts we loaded the dingy and motored into shore to attempt our first beach landing as a team of three.  We picked our spot, John timed the waves and we thought we had a smooth spot, committed to the landing.  It did not go as well as we planned.  All of us came up wet, and our boat had filled with water.  We hung our heads and bailed the boat.  We talked about our mistakes and made some mental notes.  Lessons learned are lessons earned. Future beach landings were perfect from that point forward. We can look back and laugh.

On shore, we assessed the damage to ourselves and our cargo. Everyone was wet but unharmed. The worst thing was that my camera got wet. Wet cameras don’t work and from that point on I had to use my GoPro for capturing photos. Mike and John used their phones to capture the moments, so hopefully, I can gather them all together for this post.

The beach was crowded! It was Sunday and it was a Mexican holiday (Constitution Day). We walked up into town and ate our dinner at one of the small restaurants across from the jardin. We all had the Sunday dinner special, carne asada. Then we made our way out to the boat, climbed aboard and crashed. We all slept hard that night.

We organized Mangata the next morning, loaded the dingy and then motored over to two islands, Isla Cocinas and Isla Pajarera. We spent the afternoon checking out the hidden beaches. We fished as we motored around but caught nothing. Another great afternoon in the sun.

Our evening took us back into town where we ate at El Pirata on the beach. This turned out to be my favorite meal - nine huge shrimp wrapped in bacon. It was a great meal and we ended it by taking cold water showers under their beach showers. We considered this a perfect ending to a busy day!

Life on the sailboat is laid back. You anchor up and explore, eat and search for provisions. On our final day in Pérula we gathered some food items, five gallons of water and then ate pizza at a great local spot that was very popular called the Scuba Jazz Café.

We hauled anchor and made the run south past Bahia Careyes to our next anchorage at Tenacatita. Once on the hook, we started to explore that very popular bay.  The first trip adventure was a dingy run from Boca el Garrioon up Estera Vende to Tenacatita Lake where we tied up to a small dock. The estuary was lined with mangrove trees and the entire time we motored we talked and laughed about crocodiles, boas, and black mambas. Once again it looked like the largest in the party would probably serve as bait if we were attacked, so my fate was set. Hopefully, we wouldn’t have to play the survival game.

After tying up at the dock, we walked a couple hundred yards, past some armed guards, to the beach where we talked to some folks inquiring about a place to eat.   They said that if we asked the lady in pink over on the playa, she would use her radio and call in any food and drink order we wanted.  We ordered pop, beer and the Royal Roll for each of us and found a table to wait. Within 20 minutes our order arrived and we had a wonderful meal. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

We dinghied back down through the mangroves. The sun was getting low and the colors of the plant life on the river’s edge were unbelievable. We beat the bugs out of the marsh and made our way out of the mouth of the river. Mike helped by walking the boat past the sand bar, but he had to watch his step because there were sting rays all over the sandy bottom.  We returned to Mangata and high-fived another great adventure under our belts.

The next couple days we hung around the anchorage at Tenacatita. One day was spent taking a panga into La Manzanilla. I got to spend the day with my lovely wife Linda and our friends from Melaque.  They all loaded up in the van and drove over to see us.  Linda and I have only been apart for this amount of time two other times in our marriage.

We spend most every minute of our lives together and this separation had been much harder than we had planned. I loved seeing her and being able to hug her.  It was very hard to say goodbye at the end of our day together.  The good thing was that our trip to Barra was about over and we would be together again soon.
Back at the boat, all the crews of the boats anchored in Tenacatita gathered food for a large dingy tie up. At 5:30 PM small boats came from all over the bay and met, bringing all who wanted to attend and a food item to share.  We circled up and introduced ourselves, each and every one. Some folks sang songs or played an instrument. It was a very nice finale to our stay in this beautiful bay.

The next morning we pulled anchor and headed into Barra de Navidad. As we passed Cuastecomate, we cruised into the bay for a quick look, but that was all of our sightseeing for this trip. We entered the waters of the anchorage at Barra and set the hook.  Our adventure was over.

I find it hard to explain how cool it was to be able to do this trip. The time on the water was amazing. The people we met were beyond friendly and the places we got to experience were wonderful.  I now have a small idea what the cruise life is like. I know why people love it and continue to seek solace in the adventures at sea.  Thank you, John, for allowing me to accompany you on this leg of your journey!

  Mike, you and I will always have a bond created by our adventures and I cannot express what that means to me.  Mangata is a seaworthy vessel and she will carry you far on your explorations.  Pat her on the shroud and tell her how much I appreciated her care. 

Even when the boat was a rocking, Mike was able to provide!
Mike was our cook for the entire trip.

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