Once…just once…it would be nice to get from point A to point B and not have something go wrong. Lots of other cruisers do it. They set out, get some good wind, have a nice sail, find a good anchorage, go ashore to have a cold beer at a local beachside joint, return to the boat for a relaxing night’s sleep, and, if it’s a good spot, hang out for a few days before heading to the next anchorage. Seriously, people do it all the time. So why can’t we?
We left on the 7th, as planned, and did the short jaunt to La Cruz just across the bay from Nuevo Vallarta. The plan was to stay at the marina there overnight, have dinner at a favorite restaurant one final time, finish the last of the stowing, and top off the fuel tanks prior to heading out the next morning. We delayed the departure by a day to take advantage of an optimal weather window and thus left for Barra de Navidad on the 9th. The plan was to do a series of day hops—no overnighters or incredibly long days—and take our time getting to Barra. There would be a night at the anchorage at Ipala, a couple of nights on the hook in Chamela, and maybe a week at anchor in Tenacatita. Seriously, people do it all the time. We thought we could too.
The trip to Ipala was somewhat uneventful—about 50 nm with wind on the nose so about a 7-hour motor. We found the anchorage despite our GPS being off about 15 degrees (so we did indeed anchor in water and not, as our GPS was indicating, right in the middle of the village) and set the hook on the first try. Before we did though, we tested the gears. Everything was copacetic. Unfortunately for Otter, the wind had whipped up and it was too dangerous for a beach landing, so going ashore was off the table. He would instead have to do his “bidness” on the foredeck (which he absolutely refused to do.)
The next morning, we raised the anchor and turned to head out…and lost the gears. Not a hint of trouble since Morro Bay and now here we go with the transmission again. The anchor was quickly dropped. After our previous transmission troubles, we had purchased a rebuilt spare—just in case—and stored it under the v-berth. But the anchorage had become too rolly to swap them out and we feared that Ipala was not the ideal place to do an operation of this magnitude given the lack of cell phone signal and/or lack of services of any kind. After refilling the transmission with ATF, we regained enough of the gears to make a break for Chamela—another 50 nm south. We talked about just making a beeline for Barra (about 90 miles) but we didn’t want to be coming in at night and underpowered. Plus, the dog was getting anxious.
We got to the anchorage around 3:00 pm and set to work getting the dinghy ready to take Otter to shore and possibly stake out a nice beachside bar for a well-earned beer. The dinghy was lowered, the outboard was attached and…it wouldn’t start. All the tension surrounding the transmission came to a head at that moment. Bitching, fussing, squabbling, barking, and finger pointing ensued but finally, after about an hour and a half, the Captain finally got the outboard to start and he, I, and Otter sped to shore. We had approximately 10 minutes—just enough time for Otter to pee 16 times, poop twice, and run around like a mad dog—before it was time to clamber back in the dinghy. The tide was coming in and already it was getting difficult to drag the dinghy into and over the waves. Otter, who was having flashbacks of being flipped out of the dinghy in Bahia Asuncion, jumped out and I’m chasing him around the beach while the Captain is trying to drag the dinghy past the breakwater till finally the three of us, soaking wet and extremely irritable, are speeding back to the boat at which point the Captain says loudly, “Isn’t this supposed to be fun? When the hell does this get fun?” And I have no answer for him.
But at least the Chamela experience wasn’t all sucky. Two girls from a neighboring catamaran were going from boat to boat selling rum punch. Extremely potent rum punch. So that was nice. Plus, we finally got to try out our hand-held searchlight—we used it to flag the girls down for a second round.
Unfortunately, copious amounts of rum punch can only provide a temporary respite from your woes and when we got ready to make way the next morning, the mood was still decidedly glum. I made the remark, “Let’s get going so we can see how long it takes for something to go horribly wrong today.” The answer was 15 minutes. As I’m bringing up the anchor, I notice that it’s fluke up—something which, of course, it had never done before. I stop, lean over the edge of the bowsprit, and try to swivel it around right side up. But it’s just out of reach. So I tap on the windlass button, trying to get it to come up in small increments, and it’s ooching up ever so slightly, and then the shank hits the collar and the whole thing whips up and crashes through the teak in the bowsprit like an angry rhinoceros. It was probably two hours before I could utter anything that wasn’t, “Son of a bitch!”
Thoroughly demoralized, we decided to blow off Tenacatita altogether and head straight to Barra, which was a huge bummer as it was probably the one anchorage I was most looking forward to since the third voyage was being mapped out. The way the cruising guides describe it, Tenacatita is the quintessential paradise anchorage. A five-mile long horseshoe bay with white sand, clear water, and lots of beachside bars. There’s a snorkeling area so abundant with sea life that it’s known as the aquarium. And you can take your dinghy up an estuary through the mangroves at the end of which is a small village nestled in the jungle. How cool would that be? I mean, seriously, people do it all the time. We could have as well, but the prudent course of action was to get to the security of Barra so we could deal with our new cadre of problems. We also figured that with the way things were going, we’d have dropped the anchor onto the head of a whale who in his anger would proceed to bash a hole in our boat. And the outboard would likely be eaten by a crocodile. So on we motored past Tenacatita, buffeted by strong headwinds and choppy seas, and because it couldn’t get any more pathetic, it rained a little too.
But finally, we got into Barra—where apparently, nobody in charge monitors the VHF on the weekends—and with the help of some cruisers got Raven tied up onto an end-tie dock in the Marina Puerto de Navidad. We’ll be here at least a month—licking our wounds, expediting some repairs, and making some big decisions.
To those who are critical of our lifestyle (and you know who you are), go ahead and gloat. But at some point, we will get from point A to point B and nothing will go wrong. We will get to sail without worrying if we’ll have gears when we turn the engine back on. And we will stop at an idyllic anchorage and have that beachside beer. We may even spend more than one night. I mean, seriously, people do it all the time.
Our 10 minutes in Chamela. At least someone had fun.