About a month ago, after a ravenous week of surfing, Michael tore an intercostal muscle. Unable to lift, haul and hoist on a boat where every single one of his duties include lifting, hauling, hoisting, he grumpily settled down into a period of ‘rest,’ his undirected energy buzzing as he waited for his rib to heal.

Limited physically, all that potential spilled out into a sushi-making frenzy. Before leaving La Paz, our friend Scott traded us almost five pounds of sushi rice; when Michael discovered that we could buy kilos of sushi grade yellow tail tuna from the fish market in La Cruz for less than the cost of one Dragon roll at Hapa, then, naturally, Jenkins & Jenkins Juice & Sushi became open for business.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Michael began with Nagiri (a strip of raw tuna on a cloud cushion of sticky rice), which we delightfully forced upon our friends James and Dominga on Nomatia as a thank-you for taking care of our cats while we ran up to Guadalajara. Ten points to Dominga as she has only recently began eating meat and fish. I can only image what went through her head as she came on board Azul and was presented with about thirty pre-made Nagiris next to two giant red medallions of inescapably raw tuna, Michael happily cutting off small pieces for the two little carnivores – both making efforts to take the whole steak – and occasionally tossing pieces in his own mouth and mine. We love raw tuna.

We then began to learn how to really make sushi rice (the key, among other things, is toasted sesame seeds) and tracked down some seaweed paper, eel sauce, panko bread crumbs and tempura batter in the local Wal Mart. We started buying shrimp to flatten, deep-fry then put into rolls; we sliced mangoes, carrots, cucumbers, avocados, strawberries, and they all found their way either into or on top of a Jenkins & Jenkins sushi roll. Michael is operating under the principle that ‘every day that one does not eat sushi is a day wasted’, which means we are all eating well, cats included.

And there is nothing like being served restaurant-grade sushi out on a passage in the middle of the ocean.

Who was doing all the lifting, hauling and hoisting while Michael was recovering? My attempts at hoisting the anchor are certainly better than they were, but the whole process takes skill, patience and a lot of brute strength; the whole time I pulled in that back-breaking, hand-slicing, finger-bruising rode and chain I was reminded how often I take Michael for granted when it comes to weighing anchor.

Bahia Banderas is small and consequently there are few anchorages; by far the one that needs the most skill is Yelapa. The town of Yelapa is almost exclusively a boat-in community and is a spectacular reminder of how small towns would be structured without first prioritizing the automobile.  Small, cobblestone paths crisscross in between beautiful houses and restaurants, demanding that you explore and get lost; where once you could only go as fast as the fastest horse, you can now travel by ATV, but the sleepy, other-worldly nature of the place prevails and of course, brings lots and lots of tourists.

Image

Image

Anchoring is difficult. The walls of the bay come down to an underwater canyon; as you approach the beach you sound first an small, 80ft shelf, then a small, 30ft shelf and if you keep going any further you will have a broken boat on the beach, so be careful. Many moorings have been dropped, which limits the anchorage to a tourniquet-tight area off the south end of the beach where you can drop your hook if you indeed have the balls.

The first time we came to Yelapa was with the indefatigable Debbie and John and we picked up a mooring. It’s very civilized; a pilot boat comes to meet each sailboat at the mouth of the bay and you can pay $200 MXP to tie to a mooring. Fine, until the wind dies and the boats turn beam-on, tumbling from rail to rail in the NW swell that rolls, unchecked into the little bay. We survived that night – nobody even complained –all sleeping on beds that felt like they were attached to a child’s rollercoaster.

The next time we pulled into Yelapa was part of a birthday effort for the local La Cruz sail maker and distinguished fish-printer, Mike, organized by the sparkling Katrina Liana of Marina La Cruz. Mike, Katrina and Katrina’s girlfriend from the States planned to sail Mike’s open topped, 20ft-ish catamaran across to Yelapa, sleep on the stowed mattress that Mike built into the boat and sail back the following day. They put a call out on the radio for any other sailboats who were interested to come.

We arrived late afternoon, politely declined the usual offer of a mooring and made our way tentatively into the shallow water at the south end of the beach. We finally snuggled into a spot, dropping our main anchor in about 45ft and our stern hook in about 10ft. Satisfied with our position, we looked up just in time to see the a panga tow a little catamaran through the surf and onto the beach. Elated, we launched the dinghy and made our way to shore.

Evidently, the trip across had been slow, stifling and saturated with beer; Katrina’s friend, who was not used to the mental strength required for sailing speeds, was clearly never getting on another sailboat again, yet all this stress had momentarily been forgotten in coming ashore and subsequently getting some food. Excited to see familiar faces, we helped Mike winch the catamaran up the beach, out of the surf and out of harm’s way. Or so we thought.

Two other sailboats had made the trip across, yet after dinner neither wanted to stay out past sunset and they quickly said their goodbyes. Revived by a few beers and a whole fried snapper Michael and I were up for anything, and we joined the trio to explore the town. While making our way up to the main ‘street’ via a steep, winding stairway, Katrina cut her fingers when a bottle broke awkwardly in her hand. Only realizing it when reaching the lighted main walkway and seeing Katrina covered in blood, Mike put a pressure dressing (towel) on her hand and we proceeded on to the next bar.

At the end of the night we stumbled into a small performance by a local gringo group which always makes me want to get better at the guitar so I can bust on stage and maybe score some free beers. The leading lady was raging, and later the rest of the band made me smile with ‘Oo Oo Oo,’ the King Louis classic from the Jungle Book. After the show had finished, Michael and I were ready to call it a night and we made our escape as Katrina’s friend began talk of renting a hotel for the night. We picked our way happily back to the beach where Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride laid waiting for us, our trusted little burro.

“Where’s Mike’s cat?”

We could have sworn that Mike’s catamaran had been left almost next to our pangita, yet a quick walk down the beach revealed no catamaran, and a wide eyed young Mexican guy who was camping on the beach with his friend confirmed our fears:

“It was there earlier, and now it’s gone!”

Our hearts went out to Mike, still blissfully unaware that his boat had somehow drifted out to sea. We squinted to scan the horizon, but in the darkness we could see little past the anchorage. Either we needed to update him immediately of the situation or go and search for the catamaran ourselves; and so, even as this latter option felt like we were just delaying the inevitable, we pushed our dinghy into the water and set off into the bay.

It was a dark night, which made our recovery attempt seem even more impossible. Our spirits lifted briefly when we saw a mast – but it was only the small sailboat that belongs to John Tambor “John the Drum”, on a permanent mooring next to all the fishing pangas. Disheartened, but not done with our search, we took in the direction of wind and the small tidal current and predicted that any drifting vessel would get carried toward the western entrance of the bay. After we searched the point we would turn around and come back.

The bioluminescence that night was surreal; as we moved and disturbed the many schools of fish, their rapid escapes made it look like we were shooting lasers out of the dinghy. Feeling a bit like an X-wing, we scooted around the point and out into Banderas Bay proper, and there, against all odds, was Mike’s cat, floating almost bashfully, caught halfway out the window sneaking out into the night.

We tried once to tow the cat behind the dinghy and this did not work at all so we side-tied Mr. Toad to the cat and Michael jumped onto the engine-less boat to steer. Half an hour later, a bit giddy with our success, we sling-shot the cat back onto the beach to the continued amazement of the wider eyed young Mexican guy.

“You brought it back!”

As we tried to stabilize the cat in the surf the same panga that had earlier towed Mike and Katrina came and took the dinghy, taking it back onto a mooring. A bit of an anti-climax, so we set off to find Mike to update him of the situation. We followed the wolf whistles and shouts of success that pinpointed the new location of the dinghy and we found Mike on the beach looking bewildered. Ecstatic, we told him we had found his boat and he was so grateful but still scattered; later we would learn that upon finding out that the cat was missing Katrina’s friend became unmanageable and had stalked off looking for a hotel. While Mike tried to track down any hotel staff that was awake at 2AM, Katrina had wandered off and though we had brought him his boat, when we met Mike, Katrina was still M.I.A. We left Mike to deal and went back to Azul and to bed.

Yelapa: what to expect from a place with an established lack of law-enforcement and reputation for indulgence. We stayed for a few more days, burying our stern hook on the beach and using the anchor line to ferry the dinghy back and forth. We walked to the furthest waterfall on the main street next to the river and played in the novelty that is fresh water. When it came time to leave it took a Herculean effort to raise the forward anchor; it’s not enough that the boat kept bucking in the swell, the steep incline of sand kept catching the anchor while it is pulled up. However Michael, as usual, literally pulled through and we were on our way back to La Cruz.

After Michael’s injury and since I kept being so thoroughly destroyed by lifting the anchor solo, we developed a technique that saves both our backs and involves heaving the rode in together. Sunday, with a fresh NW wind we weighed anchor and left Punta Mita under sail. We were having some trouble raising the main beam-to the wind when all of a sudden, Ralph, the gasoline/diesel hating Punta Mita fixture who sails his dinghy with a wind surfing rig to and from his 30ft boat, Monkey, shouted:

“Release the traveler!”

And we were off. Never once turning the motor on, we made it to Chacala, 35 miles up the coast, about 9 hours later.

 

 

 

Advertisements