Breaking the Mold: Tenacatita and La Manzanilla

After three weeks of being tied up to a dock, we were ready to get back out on the water and anchor in some of the less populated bays. 90nm to the south and around from Cabo Corrientes was the next good anchorage of Chamela. We left Banderas Bay from La Cruz around 1pm so could arrive in Chamela well after sun up.

We luckily had a mellow sail around Cabo Corientes. After talking to some fellow
cruisers about how rough that point can be we were glad we only had light wind.

Arriving into Chamela after an almost windless night on a glassy sea, Rachel and I were very tired. Although it was an easy night passage, we hadn’t had night watches in weeks.

The anchorage here is protected to the N/NW by a large point and extending reef, but boats tend to huddle near the cliffs to hide from the wind and chop that can sometimes come up in the late afternoon.

The anchorage here doesn’t have much going on onshore, just a small neighborhood, a few palapa restaurants and the occasional fishing panga unloading their catch on the beach.

We loved it here and spent our days sailing down to the nearby island of Isla San Pedro or the Cocinas islands to swim and snorkel. It was a little nerve racking going over to these small islands as you have to cross a very shallow sand bar, but it was definitely worth it! At these islands we explored an awesome cave with thousands of bats, spent hours snorkeling and walking up and down the almost deserted beach, and just lounging in the cockpit.

A beautiful red moon rising.

Every evening the wind would pick back up pushing the swells in between the small islands and over their shallow reefs making our daytime anchorage a little less comfortable, so we would raise the anchor and sails and head back to the more protected anchorage of Chamela for sunset.

We spent a few days here before sailing the 30 miles down to Tenacatita, but in hindsight I wish we would have spent more time at those little islands. It was one of the only places we really felt like we were cruising. No big cities, no other boats, just beautiful islands and a small fishing village.

Playa Chamela

Again, it was light wind sailing and more motoring than we would’ve liked to make it into Tenecatita. Truth be told we could have sailed/drifted more but when the boat speed drops to 2/2.5 knots I tend to get a little antsy and click on the engine.

122nm south of La Cruz is the large and fairly well protected bay of Tenacatita. My parents had told me stories about their time cruising in here. The month they spent here had been filled with swimming and snorkeling in the clear water, bocce ball, beach games and bon fires. We were hopping to find the same clear water and cruiser filled beach that they had experienced.

Red tide in the anchorage.

Unfortunately for us the clear water evaded us, but the rest rang true.  We were a little late in the season and had arrived after the water had turned green. A phenomenon I had no idea about. Apparently this bay has clear water for the first few months of the cruising season, and then one day it turns and for the rest of the year it’s green and murky. Because the water had turned, most cruisers had left making the bay a little quiet, but over the next few days a few other boats trickled in along with a crazy red tide, and with it, tiny shrimp like creatures which made the visibility even worse.

When most people think of the average cruiser, a retired, slightly salty, bearded old man, most likely wearing cut off shorts and a funny hat comes to mind. Well, I’m proud to say that in Tenacatita we broke the mold! Out of the 8 cruising boats in the anchorage, I think the average age was 36 years old.

One afternoon our friends on the catamaran, She’s No Lady kindly offered to take all 15 cruisers out on their boat to La Manzanilla, two and a half miles across the bay to check out the crocodile sanctuary.

Carly and her new friend.
Check out the face on this old boy!

This was one definitely one of the highlights of our time in Mexico! In the States, a place like this would have large concrete walk ways with a 10ft high fence and… you know what? They wouldn’t have anything like this in the States, not even close! Here we walked just a foot or two above these massive crocodiles on creaky wooden bridges and walk ways, with gaps in the fence big enough to reach down and pet them if you were crazy enough to want to do so. It was amazing to see these guys so close up!

Eye spy with my little eye, one very large crocodile.
Taking the dingy up the mangroves in search of crocodiles!!! We never did see any here, but the mangroves had tons of birds and butterflies.

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