Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bahia de Banderas - Be Still My Heart

Punta Mita is a dramatic windswept landfall marking the entrance to Banderas Bay. A stunning visual arrival for sure, but also a bit intimidating with dangerous rocks and reefs lurking underwater waiting for one false move. There's a reason this point is a popular surf break. Careful navigation is essential to avoid unseen hazards which could result in disasterous outcomes. Using precise GPS waypoints we maneuvered our way through the narrow channel between the Islas Tres Marietas to starboard, and to port, the swank Four Seasons Resort with its well-manicured gardens dotted with tasteful villas perched above creamy yellow sand disappearing into deep blue.

Punta Mita
As El Tiburon edged her way forward into the Bay I was overcome with a familiar feeling of coming home. Maybe it was because we were greeted by scores of white sails, glistening mylar, and brightly colored spinnakers aided by a fresh breeze gliding sleek hulls over rippled water. Maybe it was the luxury yachts criss-crossing on the water reminiscent of our own San Francisco Bay. Or just maybe, I had found what I was searching for nearly 2,000 miles from home. Whatever the cause for the stir in my heart, it took my breath away.

Just one of the many beaches at Punta Mita
The beach adjacent to Marina La Cruz
Banderas Bay, or Bay of Flags, stretches nearly 23 miles from the most northern point of Punta Mita and La Cruz south to Cabo Corrientes (Cape of Currents) with Puerto Vallarta sitting as the Crown Jewel smack in the middle. To the south of the Bay lie the steep Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains reaching straight down to the ocean with the quaint tropical beach communites of Los Arcos at Mimismaloya, Las Animas, and Yelpa.

Tropical Lushness
 All kinds of steamy images came to my mind of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the 60's during the filming of  John Huston's "Night of the Iguana" starring Richard, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr. Little wonder that kind of chemistry put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map. 
Talk about steamy, one of the many interesting things about Banderas Bay is that the climate in the north of the Bay is more arid in comparison to the southern more tropical portion. Humid torrential downpours during the summer months produce not only lush vegatation, but provide a tropical habitat conducive to cocodrilos!  In fact, Paradise Village Marina on the estuary in PV is known to have cocodrilos swimming about the boats.
Bearing this in mind, we decided to settle into the smaller and more quiet village of La Cruz. As we made our way into Marina La Cruz we were hailed by our friends on Mystic and were told there was plenty of roomy 60 foot slips to chose from for our dockage. So far so good.

The entrance into the marina at La Cruz flanked by pangas and homes

Marina La Cruz Yacht Club

After reading about La Cruz Marina, also known as Marina Riveria Nayarit, for years on friends blogs and in SF Bay's Latitude 38 magazine my HIGH expectations were not disappointed. The crisp white stucco and palapa roofed yacht club, the swaying plams, the firey colored climbing bouganvillea, and the mass of familiar sailboats and faces with the anticipation of making new friends affirmed our nomadic lifestyle.

Scalawags with familiar faces gather at the Yacht Club for Happy Hour.
Before El Tib was safely secured in her slip Spark jumped ship to feel terra firma beneath his paws once again and rushed over to greet Betsy and David from Mystic. Sparky gave them his best wiggle-butt greeting, afterall, he hadn't seen them since Mazatlan.  Green grass and swimming for him, and lots of activities for us. Dominos, drinks, good food-including a lobster dinner- and loads of laughter were in order. The marina offers yoga classes taught by other cruisers, an outside amphitheater for Thursday night movies over-looking the Bay, a fresh fish market filled with the pangeros daily catch, laundry service, and plenty of Mexican boat workers to keep El Tiburon spiffy. We had our entire rigging buffed and polished! Whoaaaaaaaa.
Getting ready for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie
The Thursday night movie feature at the marina's outside amphitheater was Johnny Dep in the "Pirates of the Caribbean". Several of the cruiser kids made their own costumes to join in the fun. I cannot emphasize enough how delightful this talented, creative, educated, and social group of children are, interacting with them is really one of my favorite things about cruising. 

No shy pirates here
While the marina is filled with lots ambiance and comradery, it is the charming village of La Cruz that wins most cruisers hearts. La Cruz is a mixture of old and new, Gringo and Mexican, elegant dining and simple street vendors selling tacos. A German Chalet serves wienerschnitel, a British Pub, Coffee Houses, Hippy Joints with burgers and fries, Mexican Cantinas with lush courtyards serving freshly caught Dorado. Perhaps the best known hotspot for music and pizza is Philo's. The village is well known for live music in Banderas Bay; loud 60's rock & roll to blues and jazz to traditional Mexican ballads. The overall affect is a warm fuzzy feeling that keeps cruisers returning year after year. They even have a local vet for Spark who special orders his kibble. Darrell and I shared the instant recognition that this small village and the two of us are going to enjoy a long term relationship.

The hip-hop happening central Plaza
On Sunday mornings the plaza has a open air market with local enterprenuers selling organic produce including dill and mint, home baked French baguettes, hummus, jams, tomales, key lime and blueberry pies, spinach & mushroom quiches, banana breads, and big pots of steaming hot carnitas. Simply to die for gourmet treats. But, that's not all, there are scented candles and soaps, and all kinds of pottery, watercolor paintings, and of course, silver jewelry.

There's more. This country LOVES to celebrate anything. Nearly every week there is some holiday to commenerate a blessed saint or some political revolution or another, always with lots of loud music and fireworks late into the night - or really into the early morning hours. Our favorite one so far was the Blessing of the Fleet. Pangas and small fishing boats decorated with colorful streamers and ballons and then loaded up with families gathered at out marina and made they way to the town of Bucerias for the Blessing.

Getting ready for The Blessing of the Fleet
Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I found a darling casa that sent me over the moon. In almost every way perfect in size and color. Even Spark agreed. Too bad it wasn't for sale, and besides it was way to close to the beach if a hurricane decided to visit.

Me casa - nope, but we are getting closer

Sparky likes it!
OK, enough of all this wonderfulness! Take a break and get ready for the next Banderas Bay chapter, we took a road trip north to Sayulita, then south to Puerto Vallarta and the tropical paradise around its corner. For me, it just keeps getting better. Darrell agrees. So does the Sparkster.


1 comment:

  1. So happy to hear that you are enjoying cruising and all of the glory that it brings. Hope to catch up with you again one of these days!