Isla Isabel to Chacala and La Cruz (Mainland Mexico – Nayarit)

We left the amazing anchorage at Isla Isabel (85 nms from Mazatlan) on Saturday January 7 and headed on a short overnight passage to Chacala – a lovely little beach town about 40 nms on the mainland, basically a straight shot from Isla Isabel.  The passage was mostly quiet (little to no wind) and uneventful and we kept the pace slow so as to arrive in Chacala right around daybreak, about 6 am. We had heard it was advisable to set both a bow and stern anchor to keep the boat steady in the little bay, which offered some (but not tons) of protection from the swells. And after arriving and scoping out a good place to drop the hook, we found the advice was sage and decided to set a stern anchor once the morning winds died down. Chacala is a quiet little Mexican beach town with one “main” road running parallel to the beach and the beachfront sparsely populated (but pleasantly so) with palapa restaurants and a big beach for walking and play in the sand.  The spot to bring the dinghy to shore happens to be right in front of the port captain’s office but since we arrived on a Sunday, it was (as expected) closed so we were free to explore the beach and town and get little feet onshore to get out some wiggles.  

Our time in Chacala reminded us of a previous visit to nearby Sayulita for a friend’s wedding about 6 years ago…. and we loved having the opportunity to adopt the slow-paced town, mingle with locals and tourists alike and practice our Spanish. But, after 2 nights on the hook here, with the second night more noticeably (and uncomfortably) rolly in the anchorage, we decided to go ahead and make our way to La Cruz where we’ve long been dangling the kid-boat carrot to the boys.

La Cruz did not disappoint!  Arriving in La Cruz (January 10) was such a distinct change of scenery it is almost indescribable.  First, the marina itself is top-notch from the grounds to the staff to the amenities, the proximity to town, the abundance of social and educational activities and the cruiser-oriented nature of everything around us. While we were initially assigned a dock a little farther from the action (Dock 4), we ended up moving (after a nasty neighbor incident our first night in port) to the uber kid-friendly Dock 10.  And we’ve found a nice rhythym of life here in La Cruz.

The morning “nets” (which are community-led VHF sessions to discuss anything and everything, typically led by a cruiser and going through a series of subjects/topics) start at 830 each morning (except Sunday) and everyone is welcome to join in and listen to roll call of all the boats in Banderas Bay (Marina La Cruz as well as Marina Vallarta in PV), weather forecasts, arrivals and departures, information of boats able to take flat mail back to the States, lost & found, general announcements, history factoid of the day and planned upcoming activities, of which there are rarely less than 2-3 per day.  As soon as the grown-ups net is over, the kids net starts–which is awesome! The net is run for kids by kids and Elliott has loved it! Each morning the kids do their own roll call, arrivals and departures, “What’s up coconut?” (during which each kid has the chance to tell everyone what they’re doing that day and when they are free to play) and then “Jokes and Riddles” segment. It’s so cute! The kids are so into it and they love hearing what the others are doing, planning their day and telling jokes and we adults even get a kick out of listening to the kids on the net.  

The other bonus to life in La Cruz is that morning school has become completely normalized for Elliott, so we struggle less with getting him to sit down and DO his work – because he knows that all the other boat kids are doing their work too and they can make plans to play or participate in activity as soon as they are done with school. Often times post-school play time revolves around the pool at the marina clubhouse (which thankfully has an awesome little patio right next to it so we adults can supervise or hit the little deli/store there for drinks or food.) The pool patio also happens to be the hub of social events for the marina– so often time a happy hour will end up happening there (either planned or by natural course of evens) and we parents get some adult time (with adult beverages!) to chill, catch up, plan trips or activities, get ideas and trade intel on the best of everything our little area has to offer.  My favorite events, as one would expect, revolve around food and drink – and one of the first events we attended was a brick-oven pizza and pool night (a local pizzeria brought in their homemade brick oven and made pizzas on site-DELISH!) –see picture below.

The lovely Cat at La Cruz Marina is basically our cruise director.  She plans and coordinates all the activities ranging from yoga (5 days a week) to Spanish lessons (weekdays) to organic skin care seminars, circumnavigation seminars and Women in Sailing monthly events as well as weekly movie nights at the outdoor theatre and invitations for us to participate in the local 10k and other philanthropic activities in and around Banderas Bay. She’s amazing at her job and has made our introduction to cruisers here in La Cruz seamless and tons of fun! We have finally achieved a level of comfort that affords us a couple hours on some days not even knowing where our kids are, but knowing they are safe on the property playing with the other kids under the watchful eyes of many other cruising parents.  And Elliott finally has that social network he has been missing from home – such a blessing!  We have also (finally) met many of the other cruisers we have only previously known online and been able to get to know many others we missed when we bowed out of the Baja Haha last fall. All in all La Cruz Marina has been awesome!  
In addition, the town itself is wonderful.  It is still small enough to maintain that quaint and comfortable quietness – afternoon siesta is still very real here so we have come to plan around the afternoon hours such that we do like the locals–beat the heat by relaxing or doing something on the boat (or at the marina pool).  The food is superb and so insanely affordable, I often find myself opting to treat ourselves to dinner out rather than slave away in the boat cooking up something that will heat up the cabin during the peak heat of the day.  And although we haven’t been able to fully participate (because of bed times and morning school sessions) there is a very active music community in town and as such there is live music every single night at at least one of the local restaurants or watering holes.  And the laundry! OMG, love. The marina has set up a relationship with a local lavanderia who picks up laundry at the marina clubhouse in the afternoon and delivers it to your boat (all clean, folded and perfectly bagged up like little Christmas presents for cruising moms) the very next evening!  (and all at a very reasonable price).

I cannot say enough good things about La Cruz marina.  We have all gained so much by experiencing life here (hello, I get to run pretty regularly, cook less and don’t have to do my own laundry!) that it is hard to imagine leaving.  But, such is the life of a cruiser and there are many more places to explore before we leave Mexico later this Spring.  Further, there are lots of places to visit locally in Nayarit and Jalisco (the provinces/states we are in/near)…. so, we have decided to take a road trip for a few days to hit some of the local sights.

First up, Guadalajara!  Mexico’s second largest city and known as “Mexico’s Mexico City” we are currently cozied in for our first night in a BIG city.  We are going to explore the many cultural and architectural sights here in this gorgeous city and are already blown away by the city-ness of this city. (electric buses! uber EATS! air conditioning everywhere you go! department stores, fancy stuff everywhere!)  After living in Mexico for the last few months, reintroduction to a metropolis on this scale is almost blinding and at a minimum a taste for the senses (we think a good one!). And we are happy to have the opportunity to whet the appetites of our younger crew members for all the sorts of activities we will be partaking in during the last leg of our yearlong adventure – EUROPE!

And now, because it seems to be working so well, a heap of pictures from our time in La Cruz:


We get some special visitors from back home, Shawn & Miriam, celebrating a very special birthday in nearby Punta de Mita – an awesome surprise!
Brick-fired pizzas fresh at La Cruz Marina. Poolside no less! 

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