Dakota’s journey down the Mexican Gold Coast: Bahia Chamela (Playa Perula and Isla Pajarera)

Planning the passage out of Banderas Bay always involves careful consideration of Cabo Corrientes–the southern tip of the bay where the wind whips up and can be a bit hairy offshore. So our plan was to give Cabo Corrientes wide berth (probably much more than was necessary! But better to be safe than sorry) and then stay offshore (between 10-15 miles) to stay out of those damn long lines (commercial fishing lines) that have plagued us going down both the Baja and Pacific Mexican coasts. (Almost invisible to the naked eye, and impossible to see at night, wrapping themselves around the prop and/or shaft and causing tons of stress, worry and extra work to untangle, almost *always* in the middle of the night!)

We estimated the passage from La Cruz to Bahia Chamela (which was the next reasonable anchorage after rounding Cabo Corrientes) to be about 96 nautical miles, so definitely an overnight passage for us.  Timing the departure, we thought about what time we needed to arrive in Chamela (first light is always nice for dropping the anchor), the wind and currents around Cabo Corrientes and how much daylight we need to depart from La Cruz. While we typically don’t love overnight passages (we have to stay up all day with the kids doing normal stuff–passage and boat prep, school, meals, entertaining the chitlins and then stay up all night in shifts to sail, then stay up most of the day we arrive to be with the kids again)–so it’s pretty exhausting–but it’s what we were left with after factoring in all the variables.  So we departed our slip around 4pm on January 29, 2017 and made our way to the La Cruz fuel dock to top off the fuel and empty our waste tanks. Little did we know that our fun friends at the Port Captain’s office were actually working that Sunday–they typically are closed Sundays–and a particularly vigilant port captain officer greeted us at the fuel dock wondering why we hadn’t checked into the harbor yet. Woops. Yeah, a minor oversight . . . actually it was completely intentional.  See, most marinas we’ve encountered file your arrival paperwork with the PC’s office for you. But in La Cruz, you’ve gotta walk about a mile around to the other side of the marina to do it yourself. No big deal, for 2 adults. Without kids in tow.  But once you account for their irregular business hours (they are supposed to be open til 4, or 6, we’ve heard both….but have found they are often not in!) and the long, HOT walk over, while dragging the kids–let’s just say it was never “convenient.”  Throw on the fact that because my name is on the USCG registration docks, it has to be *me* that does it. And the fact that I was, at the time, managing almost all of Elliott’s educational subjects . . . well, as you can see I never made it over there.  Womp womp womp. Because *this* guy decided that we needed to be taught a lesson (or perhaps he needed some extra pocket money)… he decided, fine, it was going to be ok for us to depart if we paid a fine.  And what, pray tell, is the fine for such a criminal deviation as not checking into the Port Captain’s office? Well, he had to think about that one.  “Hm…. um are you paying in dollars or pesos?” he asks me.  “Pesos, I don’t have any dollars.” “Well, ummm, how about $500 pesos then?” W. T. F.  FINE.  There are all kinds of reasons I just let this go and paid the man, most of which it was *really* our fault for not checking in.  But seriously dude? You had to *think* about what the fine was and that analysis was based on whether I’d be giving you the preferable greenbacks or just pesos? UGH.  Morale of the story: Just check into La Cruz next time.

Anywho…. after those shenanigans, we were off!  The passage went smoothly, so the kids and I were able to bake some birthday brownies for Daddy and make a nice dinner to celebrate the first anniversary of his fortieth year.

A memorable 41st birthday celebration aboard Dakota under passage to Bahia Chamela! 1/30/2017

We arrived in Bahia Chamela on January 30th (Ryan’s birthday) around 2:30 pm.  After dropping the hook, we decided to forego a nap of any sort and just head to shore for a birthday celebrations with tacos and margaritas! So, we lowered the dinghy, attached the outboard, packed up a few things and made the short jaunt to shore at Playa Perula.

And the next day there’s me, still trying to maintain some fitness aboard Dakota, getting in a studio session on the foredeck while we were anchored in Chamela:


A couple of days after we arrived in Chamela, our friends from MangoMango and Empyrean arrived, although they anchored at another spot in Bahia Chamela on the backside of Isla Pajarera.  This little anchorage is a bit more remote and farther from amenities on shore (so it wasn’t ideal for us), but they were very close to the lovely snorkeling and spearfishing opportunities between Isla Pajarera and Isla Novilla.

Soon after they arrived, we decided to go check out a remote little white sand beach on the north shore of Isla Cocinas, which turned out to be about a 15-20 minute dinghy ride across the Bay from where we were anchored in Playa Perula.  Ryan and Elliott had previously scouted it out on one of their dinghy excursions (they like to ROCKET through the water while Finley and I prefer a slower, more comfortable and *dry* ride). And the ride out there was pretty pleasant under the navigation of Captain Elliott:

Elliott piloting our dinghy over to a snorkeling and beach spot in Bahia Chamela (2/1/2017)

On our way over there, we saw our friends S/v MangoMango and Empyrean ashore, so we decided to go say hello to them and with three other kids to play with, the afternoon anywhere else was a foregone conclusion–we stayed there on that little private beach all afternoon! A lovely day was spent chatting with the adults, snorkeling along the shore and getting spearfishing tips from our resident expert, Aaron, on MangoMango.  Elliott, as I’ve mentioned before, has become *obsessed* with ocean fishing–both trawling behind the boat and spearfishing–so anytime he has an opportunity to learn from someone who is actually catching fish you can EAT, he is down for the cause!

By the afternoon’s end, we decided it was time to get back to Dakota… and unfortunately the wind and waves had totally picked up so we had a VERY wet and wild ride back to Dakota. Thank goodness for waterproof bags because EVERYTHING we had on, had in the boat and had dry was completely soaked.  We looked like a pack of wet dogs! And on top of that, we ended up scrounging together anything we could (found a kids’ IKEA cup thankfully) to bail water out of the dinghy as we continued to take on more waves! The waves were slammed over our little dinghy and at some point we just started laughing hysterically. I mean, seriously. 🙂 The ride back obviously took longer, and definitely felt longer, with Finley oscillating between screams of terror and the rest of us howling in laughter at the insanity of the situation.  I wish I had a picture to share! But I tell ya what, it’s something none of us will forget. 🙂

After another day in Perula and some more time ashore, we decided that it was time to hit the “road.”  Plenty more gorgeous spots awaited us and the holy grail of the Mexican Gold Coast (for us at least)–Barre de Navidad!

Onto Tenacatita! But first, some more pics of our time in Perula (Bahia Chamela):

Panga in Perula
Playa Perula restaurants–typical of what we’ve seen along our travels! Love it. Will miss it!
Our “family wagon” ashore in Perula–we LOVE those beach wheels! So key. (Bahia Chamela)
Finley’s birthday suit aboard Dakota
Captain Elliott at the helm
View of Bahia Chamela from Playa Perula

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