We had just weathered the storm “Dolores” when the next low-pressure area formed and circled into the storm “Enrique”, which later reached hurricane status. This time, however, we wanted to get further north before the storm hit and left the Puerto de la Navidad Marina. What followed was 5 days of short distance sailing, that’s all the wind allowed. So we got to see a few bays. In the last one, where we wanted to anchor, it was not possible. The shore drops off very quickly to a great water depth (70m) and the suitable depths for anchoring were covered with moorings. The mooring operator had already greeted us by panga, because he knew that there was no other way. So we paid US$20 and spent the night at the buoy. With these buoys, you never know how well they are anchored. In Acapulco, a neighbouring boat that came too close to our boat once tried to move the buoy with engine power. That gave us something to think about. We much prefer a good anchoring ground, a well-buried anchor and a chain at least as long as recommended by the app.
The cape “Cabo Corrientes”, as the name suggests, was supposed to have quite nasty currents and not be so easy to round in a lot of wind. So we stopped again when the wind was supposed to blow against us. Then we rounded the cape on a windless day, when it is not dangerous, but unfortunately you need the engine. The good sailing days are indeed rare here. That’s probably why it’s low season.
After the Dolores storm, many larger tree trunks were floating around in the ocean, we had to be careful not to hit any of them with one of our three hulls. We must have missed to spot one, a branch got stuck quite high up on the starboard hull.
We had not pre-booked in Vallarta. We again relied on the method of just sailing in. Not always the best idea with a big boat like ours, but it has worked before. In the port of Vallarta, we moored in the first empty box and went ashore in search of the harbour master. It turned out, after some back and forth, that we were moored in a place belonging to an excursion catamaran that would return in the afternoon. We had also ended up in the local harbour, which had no guest berths. There was a marina further back up the harbour channel, we should ask there. O.k., how do we get there? We could walk to the marina. So we both trudged off. After a short while, Mathias was too uncomfortable to leave the SAN alone in an illegal parking space. He turned back and sent me further into the unknown. I bravely plodded on, even when the road suddenly became a 4-lane motorway, no matter, there is a trail. When I was about to give up and couldn’t see the water anymore, I came to a road that led back to the water. And lo and behold, at the end of it was Marina Vallarta. But where was the office? Fortunately, I dared to ask. I still had to walk around the entire harbour basin to the other side. There my odyssey was rewarded. The people at the marina were very nice and found a space where they could put us up. We got a place at a jetty where a fancy 100-foot yacht is moored. I did the formalities and then set off on the walk back to get Mathias and the SAN. Naturally we happened not to have our mobile phones in our pockets that day. But Mathias and the SAN were still at the original location and we were able to carefully begin the approach to the marina. It was Saturday and the channel was populated by quite a few holiday boats.
The Marina Vallarta is arranged around a large harbour basin, on the shore there are many restaurants, small shops and about 5 times the combination “pharmacy – massage parlour – nail salon” right next to each other, whereby the pharmacies inform in large advertising posters that steroids and Viagra can be bought from them. Hm, which kind of the US-American tourists is being addressed here?
The small grocery shops that abound here belong to a chain called “Oxxo”. This is comparable to a 7-11 in the USA. In Germany, you can compare them to petrol station shops. You can also charge your phone card at Oxxo. That is quite practical. Unfortunately, the nice Panama times with “data illimitada” for 5 dollars are over. Now we always have to buy packages for 6 GB, which last about 6 days. We have two SIM cards, so we can switch when one is empty and stretch the time before you have to reach a shop again.
As hurricane “Enrique” approached Vallarta, a boat passed through the harbour and announced a yellow alert in Spanish and English. You should pack your emergency backpack, gather all your papers and know the disaster assembly points. Hm. Except in the case of a tsunami wave close to land, one is best off on the boat. The harbour master came around and made sure all the boats were well moored. We felt we were in good hands. Especially when three military boats and the harbour pilot boat also sought refuge in our part of the harbour basin. They were not afraid of the wind, but reported that in the front part of the harbour, where they usually moor, two-metre-high waves had once penetrated during a storm due to a combination of high tide and wind, and of course that is not exactly pleasant on the jetty. In our harbour basin, the waves had been flattened to 30 cm at the time of the event. At the cape, Enrique was already happily storming along, we were still waiting. But once again, fortunately for us, the storm did not make it to the farthest corner of the bay, turned away and moved up the Sea of Cortez, slightly weakened. Only rain arrived in Marina Vallarta.
One reason for our stay in Marina Vallarta was receiving of parcels. If you have an address in Mexico, you can order from Amazon Mexico, where all the customs formalities are taken care of, and you shop like in a local shop. Vincente from Acapulco had put us in touch with his niece in Vallarta and we used her address for our orders. Mathias had got it into his head that he really needed additional cold storage for fruit and vegetables, so that melons and pineapples could be stored for longer. Therefore we ordered a cool box. Since it had to have 24V and 220V connections, it was a model imported from the USA. It takes about 3-4 weeks for delivery, as it has to go through customs. So we had already ordered it before we arrived. Ventilation grilles, mosquito repellent lamps and a new drone were quicker to get.
Because we had to wait here anyway, we also ordered another due engine maintenance service. That always takes time, too. First the appropriate maintenance parts have to be ordered, then someone wanted to come and first looked for us in the wrong marina, then the technician became ill (hopefully not Corona, but no one is joking here with signs of a cold and prefers to stay at home).
I noticed again computing skills. In Acapulco, where there is usually a cash register, a middle-aged lady sat and calculated the prices quite quickly, wrote them down and then quickly added them up to the final total without using a calculator. So after all: practice makes perfect. An example in the other direction was a young girl who couldn’t do maths and couldn’t use a calculator. I had to type in 200:20 for her so that she believed me that 200 pesos equals 10 dollars. She was very nice, otherwise I probably would have lost my patience.
One day we drove to the marina “Paradise Village” in Nuevo Vallarta, there was the Chinatsu we wanted to visit. The drive there showed us how big the city is. And in Nuevo Vallarta, one hotel follows the other. Paradise Village is a resort complex that is quite impressive. Hotel, flats, beach, marina, swimming pool area, even an extra pool for swimming lanes, a mini zoo and a small shopping mall in front of the resort entrance. The moorings for the boats are along the river for kilometres. You may have to walk a long way. If you want to be closer to bigger shops (spare parts and groceries), you are better off in Puerto Vallarta, Paradise Village offers more of a luxury holiday feeling.
Of course, we can’t only be interested in the boat and not in the surroundings, even though receiving parcels and checking out shops already took up a large part of our time. But we should do an excursion after all. There is a botanical garden nearby. We don’t need an organised tour, we manage on our own. On the website, the entrance fees were mentioned and also the prices for a taxi or a bus ride. We decided to take a taxi on the way there and a bus back, because the bus did not leave close to the marina and we wanted to arrive at the garden early rather than having to find different bus connections. For 500 pesos (= 20 euros or 6 GB internet) we took a 40-minute taxi ride. It led along the coast and then a bit up into the mountains. The coastal road was quite mountainous with many sharp bends. There were quite a few speed-bumps and we quickly realised why. The taxi driver was not deterred from cutting corners by a single or double solid line in the middle of the road, nor was he interested in curve warning signs or speed limits. He sped up the hill at full speed and overtook wherever he could. The bus on the way back behaved similarly. So the only way to get Mexican drivers to slow down is through speed bumps (sleeping policemen). I decided not to plan any major overland trips.
The botanical garden was very nice. Only one section is laid out with paved paths and beds, the rest is more like a jungle. We first went to a vanilla plantation where the vanilla plants are on poles standing in the middle of the surrounding forest. Then we walked down slippery paths to a river. There were signs saying that swimming was at your own risk. The river was brownish from mud and had powerful rapids, so who wanted to swim here? Later we read in the brochure that the river has clear water most of the year and does not flow so fast, only when it is brown it is not recommended to swim.
The climb from the river to the visitor centre was quite steep in places. I took my time, metres in altitude are not really my favourite and I also wanted to have time to film in between. When a couple overtook us, one of whose legs was in a splint, Mathias started to complain about my speed 😉 The garden was teeming with plants that we have trouble keeping indoors at home. Especially impressive was a ficus tree that was taller than an old oak tree. We visited the restaurant in the garden before taking the bus back to Puerto Vallarta. There we walked around a bit and finally took a taxi back to the marina.
Another small excursion took us once again to the small alleys and the beach promenade of Puerto Vallarta. We spent an afternoon strolling along there with the crew of the Chinatsu:
Pole dancing in Mexican: Voladores perform a rain dance.
Just before we were about to leave the harbour, I had a mishap with a tooth. A piece of a filling fell out. The subsequent visit to the dentist revealed an infection, we extended our stay and I got two root canals, a jaw surgery and two temporary crowns. On the way back, we can stop here again and have the permanent crowns done. Hooray. At least the experts came here to the surgery and I didn’t have to walk from one to the other, but was ordered via WhatsApp to the surgery I could walk to. So I was only tortured with everything over the course of 1.5 weeks.
In the meantime we are on the go again – the Sea of Cortez is calling.