San Blas to Chacala

I last left you when we were at the marina in San Blas. We only intended to stay 3 nights. That turned into five, which then turned into seven.   We’re like those annoying people who stay way after it’s obvious the party is over, but they just WON’T LEAVE…

San Blas is a great little place and it had everything we needed. It was fun to bike around and check it all out. Although biking on cobblestone streets is pretty tough (note to self: remember to wear a bra next time) but we managed to scope out the routes on the smoother paved and dirt roads. I biked out to the bridge over the south estuary and had a look. Kind of the same as the estuary we were in – lots of green and lots of jejenes. The bridge was interesting – big gaps where you could look straight down into the water – tread carefully!

Don't fall through the crack or you'll break your own back.
Don’t fall through the crack or you’ll break your own back.

We ate a lot of banana bread! The chocolate chip was the best – just enough to distract me from the fact it had a discernible banana flavor (did I mention I‘m not a fan of bananas?). I got the markets figured out and knew where to get everything we needed. I love watching whole chickens hacked up and ready for several meals – you do not want to mess with a Mexican woman and her meat cleaver!

Juan Bananas famous banana bread! Since 1973
Juan Bananas famous banana bread! Since 1973

We got the jejenes under control – but it was too late I was already covered in bites! They weren’t quite as bad at the marina and we got the mosquito coils to burn outside in the cockpit. Mosquito coils smell like some nice incense but probably contain serious toxic chemicals (I tried not to inhale).

"Fumakilla" says it all...
“Fumakilla” says it all…

But the scent made me all dreamy and nostalgic for my time in Indonesia. Then I discovered the coils I’d bought were actually MADE in Indonesia. Go figure.

Another boat showed up at the marina – Serenity with Captain Dave. Turns out Dave was port captain in Oceanside and is the guy who gave me all the info for our overnight stopover there back in September. We’d had a long phone conversation but I’d never met him in person! So it was fun to get to know him and his well-kept and well-run Catalina 42. He had a lot of great advice and stories for us.   But alas, he also took off while we remained.

Bye Cap't Dave!
Bye Cap’t Dave!

When we are at a marina we feel obligated to make good use of the paid time and resources. Summer got REALLY clean, inside and out. I even washed our wool rug, which I thought all along was a huge mistake…of course the day I saturated it with water, the skies clouded up and even rained on and off for the next couple days. I thought it would NEVER dry (and it weighed 800 lbs).

This is the guy who told me I was an idiot for bringing a bike. He has since recanted his testimony.
This is the guy who told me I was an idiot for bringing a bike. He has since recanted his testimony.

We did lots of laundry, ran errands all over town. We were dangerously low on propane – having passed up the $20 cab ride to get propane in Cabo. There was NO propane in San Blas – the Global Gas company is located in a different town – Villa Hidalgo.   We pieced this together –and it finally all made sense when we flagged down a Global Gas truck and attempted to talk with the driver. These trucks go all over town with a loudspeaker – and for a long time we had NO idea what that noise was – but it was always the same singsong deep voice – which turned out to be saying “Gloooooballl Gaaaaaaas” and then there’s a recorded horn that goes “honk honk”. We discovered there was no way the truck could fill our small tank (they deliver large tanks only) and really good to finally know what that “Wahhhhhwah Wahhhh honk honk” was that we kept hearing off in the distance, many times a day.   We thought we might try to take a bus to Villa Hidalgo, but some people told us there wasn’t one. I finally asked the marina to call a taxi for us and find out what it would cost to take us there and back. Turns out it was 200 p round trip (about $13) – and they would pick us up and bring us back to the marina – which saved us a LOT of walking with 2 propane tanks. The taxi arrived almost before they had hung up the phone. We hustled out with our tanks. The cab was immaculate inside and the driver was very pleasant. We conversed at much as our rough Spanish allowed. It was a bit disorienting to be hurtling down the road at 40-50 mph. It had been a long time since we were in a car – instead we had gotten used to traveling at a top speed of about 7 mph on the water. It felt like we were going at warp speed – it was very exciting! Also the scenery was a treat – so much agriculture along the way – bananas, green beans, mangoes, tomato hot houses, etc. It was so lush and green and gorgeous. I took a lot of ridiculous photos while zooming past it all.

VH Fieldtrip

Once arrived at Global Gas, it became clear they might not be able to fill our tanks. We have trouble every time we try to get these tanks filled – but the manufacturer assured me they are ‘standard’ and there was no converter we could buy. They nearly gave up but then tried at another nozzle. Jonny had to go and explain to them how to use the bleeder valve. Apparently tanks down here don’t have those. Not sure how they keep from blowing things up? They were eventually both filled and our sweet taxi driver carried them back to the car for us and we were on our way. Back to the marina in an hour and a half round trip and done with a task that had been looming over us for so long. We had actually expected to devote the better part of a day to this errand.

VH field trip propane

Now that's service!
Now that’s service!

The Fonatur marina is a strange place – it mostly is like a ghost town – someone had big plans for it, but there is a large concrete building with many empty ‘cells’. They could be full of shops and the rooftop bar and restaurant area was also deserted and unfinished – as well the swimming pool was devoid of water. It was like someone had big plans and hit some sort of a road block. I used the wifi quite a bit – sitting in a plastic chair in one of the empty shop cells. Not the most comfortable place, but better than sitting outside with all the jejenes! The wifi was slow and inconsistent, but I managed to place orders for all the spares and things we are running out of. My sister made the mistake of offering to bring down anything we might need when she comes to visit in Feb. She’s going to have a mighty big suitcase of stuff just for us. It will be like Christmas for us – that is if you consider things like joker valves for the toilet and shear pins for the outboard fun presents… Very grateful to be able to get these things we either ran out of or forgot to stock!

This guy was walking his horse along the estuary, with dogs in his panga...
This guy was making his horse swim the estuary, with dogs in his panga…


While our estuary tour funds were spent on the GlobalGas tour, we did eventually take ourselves up the estuary.  It was pretty, peaceful and fairly monochrome.  We didn’t spot any crocodiles,  but if you listen carefully, you can hear the ghost of Steve Irwin…


When we finally decided to tear ourselves away from San Blas, another boat showed up in the anchorage area. The couple came over in their dinghy, curiously rubber necking at us as they pulled in. Turns out they had spotted us and thought, but weren’t sure, that we might be YOUNG! Alex and Naomi are in their mid 30s and have found – as we have – that most cruisers are much older than us. While many are lovely folks, we don’t feel like we quite fit in exactly. Many seem to want to ‘stick with their own kind’ and have potlucks and whatnot. These guys are from Monterey and have been cruising for 2 years – all in, just as we are. We were mutually excited to hang out with each other! Unfortunately we had our minds set on taking off–but we were sure we’d connect with them in Chacala and beyond.

We loaded up on food and banana bread. And unfortunately I found the Princessa Bakery on the last day. It doesn’t look like a store from the outside, just a place where they bake stuff- kind of factory like. But inside, there are racks of delicious treats!

La Princesa Bakery.  YUM!
La Princesa Bakery. YUM!

The marina is set off the side of the estuary and has this crazy sand bar right behind all the slips. At low tide it becomes an island and it’s pretty much impossible to leave. So we had to time our departure at the height of high tide. This was later in the day – which meant an early start was out of the question. We decided to just go back out to Mantachen anchorage around the corner, and then get an early start for Chacala the following morning. Since it was just around the corner (5 miles?) I think we just motored – didn’t bother taking the sail cover off. We may have pulled out the jib for a bit. It was nice to be back out in the open and at anchor again. We still had to fight off the jejenes a bit, but we were treated to the most gorgeous sunset of all!

Mant Sunset

The next morning we set off early for Chacala. It was a gorgeous day and we even had some good wind for a while.   Jonny fished a bit and got a couple big ones – but no keepers. The last big one made off with his lure and that was it for fishing that day. Lures are expensive! So it’s a bummer when the fish wins and makes off with one. I think it was around a 5 hour trip. Chacala looked like paradise! Gorgeous beach with palapas along one end and rows of palm trees along the other. Some interesting (and might I add, completely finished) homes in the hillsides. On our first look around Jonny asked me, “how long do you think we’ll stay HERE?”. I said, without hesitation – “Two weeks!”. He laughed heartily. We are on our 16th night with no clear departure date at this writing…

Chacala Beach
Chacala Beach
Chacala village
Chacala village

As we were anchoring (for the first time), a woman came paddling out on a SUP and chatted with us. Bonnie and her husband and friends were renting a house on the beach and she invited us to come by. Very nice to have a welcoming committee at our new home! We ended up anchoring 3 more times until we were in the spot we thought we liked best… Oh and we were the only boat in the whole bay, so we really had our pick.   We didn’t end up getting ashore until the next morning, to check in with the port Captain.   We ran into Bonnie and Jeff as we were leaving the dinghy landing by the port captain (we didn’t bother to check out town yet). They invited us to come for dinner that night at their beach house. It was a little scary to have a commitment, but it seemed like one we could handle! They were such nice folks, besides. They had cruised on several boats (including their own) before their daughter was born nearly 40 years ago and chartered boats with Jim – so they were keen to reminisce and we loved hearing their stories.

We spent the day lounging and taking in the view and swimming. Oh and we also moved the boat one more time…tucked up closer to shore and rock jetty, which seemed like it would be OK (?).

Chac Summer bayWe made it ashore in time to have dinner and found Bonnie and Jeff and their friends Mary and Jim, at the very awesome (and only) rental house right on the beach. Great spot! Also, Bonnie really pressured us into taking showers in their wonderful tiled bathroom, and by pressured, I mean, she said “Would you like to take a shower?”. I think I was stripping down before she finished the “wer”. It was WONDERFUL!!! Warm water coming down from above is the most amazing luxury on the planet.

Enjoying sunset from the beach house patio
Enjoying sunset from the beach house patio
Jim, Mary, Jonny, Bonnie and Jeff
Jim, Mary, Jonny, Bonnie and Jeff

The beach house was sandwiched in between 2 of the palapa restaurants, and somehow they worked it out that the waiters would serve food at the table on the patio of the beach house. What a treat!! We placed our orders and had a wonderful time eating good food with our new friends.


The next morning Bonnie and Jeff SWAM out to visit us on Summer. Very exciting to have swim up guests! We offered to dinghy them back when they were ready to go, but they are hard core and insisted on swimming all the way back again.

We were really slow in getting to check out Chacala. Days lounging on the boat and swimming were just wonderful, too. We found that a storm was coming – rains and all. We ended up moving the boat again, farther out away from the rocks and putting out all 250 of our chain. We wanted to be as stable as possible in this already rolly anchorage. It got horribly rolly and big black clouds were forming on the horizon. We could just watch it moving towards us. Raindrops started drumming and we started rocking. Finally we were full on in the midst of our first Chubasco. It was really coming down HARD!   It was kind of exciting. There was a slight break in it after a couple hours and in that time our friends Alex and Naomi on Lunasea arrived in the anchorage. They got secured just in time for the next barrage of rain, thunder and lightening. We talked on the radio and hoped to catch up with them the next day.

There was a bit of a break the next day and we went ashore, while our friends went off in search of fish. We planned to meet up with them in the evening. We took our trusty dinghy over in the evening to hang out and play what is now my new favorite game ever – “Cards Against Humanity”. We were having a grand ol’ time and lots of laughs. It started raining again. And thunder and lightening. We weren’t TOO concerned, but I know Jonny was getting a little nervous. But we knew Summer was OK, so we just kept having fun. At one point Alex went out to check on things and noticed that our dinghy was GONE!!! The painter line was still there, and still attached to the D-ring and a round pvc patch…but the rest of the dinghy beyond that was AWOL. Given the swell and wind, we knew it went ashore, and it’s a small shore, so we knew we’d find her. What we didn’t know what condition she’d be in. There’s a heavy shore break here and we were pretty certain at the very least she’s be rolled and the motor would be destroyed. At the worst, a total loss. For some reason I felt oddly calm as we sorted out ‘what to do now’.   Since their dinghy is fairly small and it was very rough out, it was decided that Alex would take me back to Summer and then he’d get Jonny and they would go ashore and hunt for Peugeot.   As we looked toward the shore, people were signaling out to the anchorage with flashlights. It seems she’s landed somewhere. I had to wait alone in the rain and rollies, wondering what the fate of our little dinghy was. After maybe less than an hour, I heard a hoot and holler and TWO dinghy motors. REALLY? Is it even possible that our motor survived AND still worked?!?! Sure enough! Jonny and Peugeot arrived in tact. Jonny and Alex had found her in the care of several locals who had pulled her up onto the beach (they even managed to get her wheels down, although backwards…). Jonny and Alex dragged and carried her along the (longish) path from the beach to the dinghy landing spot (the waves were too big to attempt launching from the beach). We were SO lucky on so many levels here. For instance, had this happened when we were on Summer and all alone?!?! We tied her up as best we could and gave up for the night. Lesson learned – have a back up line!

Early the next morning, Lunasea was pulling up anchor and heading out. They couldn’t stand the rolling for one more night and were seeking shelter in the next anchorage down, about 8 miles south. I’m sure we’ll run into them again one of these days!

The biggest obvious casualty was one of our oars was broken and the paddle missing. We bailed out gallons of water and went ashore in the morning to hunt for the paddle and take Peugeot apart and cleaned up. I found a piece of wood that belonged to our boat – part of a floorboard, but we never found the paddle. We stopped to tell our tale of woe to our beach house friends. They invited us to come for breakfast after we walked the beach looking for the paddle. It was awfully sweet to have a home-cooked breakfast after our rough and rolly night of little to no sleep.   Bonnie made delicious eggs with peppers and cheese and rice and they even had my favorite Piña juice. They had watched us bobbing around through the storm and decided we were now to be considered “Hard Rockers” 😉

We went back to the dinghy landing and proceeded to take Peugeot apart. It had also started down pouring again… There were about 20 lbs of sand in the bottom of the dinghy and it took us a while to dismantle, clean and reassemble. By the time we were finished we were soaked to the bone and I was shivering. The last thing I wanted to do was go back onto that ridiculously rolly boat!! For some reason Jonny wanted to hang out on the boat. So I had him drop me ashore with a bag full of dry clothes. Before I even got to the beach house I ran into Bonnie who immediately asked me “Would you like to take a hot shower?” (I love that woman!).     Is the Pope catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods? That hot shower was so good I almost cried.   The down pouring didn’t let up all afternoon. I spent the time hanging out at the beach house, sharing gluten free recipes with Bonnie, playing a little pigs game, watching the rain, and Skyping with my parents, and NOT rocking back and forth. It was wonderful. When the rain finally let up it was time for our friends to head off and watch the Superbowl, and time for me to call Jonny on the VHF radio and ask for a ride home.

It rained almost nonstop the whole next day and we just stayed on the boat, warm and dry. Luckily it wasn’t very rolly, it was downright pleasant! I baked brownies, which really cozied up the cabin and did a few past due cleaning projects. As we had dinner and watched a movie we noticed the town had gone dark – power outage! Too bad for them. It was a bummer that the storms and lost power happened over a long 4 day holiday weekend. I think the locals lost a lot of business. The vacationers seemed to be in high spirits and many people were enjoying the beach even in the rain.

Another resort view.  We were just passersby.
Another resort view. We were just passersby.
Chacala has many great looking places to stay
Chacala has many great looking places to stay
Chacala alley
Chacala alley

The next morning was when our beach friends were departing. I didn’t know what time, so we hurried ashore early to make sure to catch them. I brought them some brownies for their trip. They were still there and we ended up having breakfast at the next-door restaurant with Bonnie and Jeff. Jeff drew us a map to get to the top of the ‘mountain’ and see the volcanic caldera. We said our farewells and hope to run into them again someday. Maybe we will be heading back south from the Sea of Cortez next year when they are here?

Our hike up to the crater was lovely. Summer was again the only boat in the bay and we got some great shots from on high. There were a lot of neat butterflies I spotted along the way. I seem to be obsessed with trying to get pictures of them all.

Looking down into the crater
Looking down into the crater

Chac red butterfly

Looking South from the crater top
Looking South from the crater top

chac brownbutterflyChac greenbutterfly

Summer's all alone out there, for now.
Summer’s all alone out there, for now.

The town of Chacala doesn’t have much in the way of groceries (kind of on par with most of Baja!) but we learned the town of Las Varas was closeby and had everything we could want. The collectivo was just 15 pesos and it was a quick trip from town. We got out on a busy street not knowing where anything was. We just looked around and started walking where there seemed to be the most stuff. We stayed on what appeared to be a main street and sure enough, there was everything we needed! Groceries with fruits and veggies, carnicerias (butchers) on every corner, women hacking up chickens, hardware stores, shoe shops galore, you name it. Not another gringo in sight. We decided to walk a big loop to not get lost and see as much as we could to make sure we chose the best places before loading up with groceries. At the far end of town we came to the main town square. It was surrounded with carnival rides and shuttered concession stands. It wasn’t clear if it was temporary or if it’s always like that. Some of the concessions were pretty entertaining. My favorite was the upside down bottles stuck in boards that you throw rocks at to break. The floor inside was covered in broken glass. Very ‘home made’ and safety was clearly not a factor.

Bumper Cars...Yeah, this looks safe.
Bumper Cars…Yeah, this looks safe.
The bottle break game! Fun for the whole family!
The bottle break game! Fun for the whole family!
I'm know what I'm having!
I’m know what I’m having!
Las Varas Main Square
Las Varas Main Square

Everyone we encountered in Las Varas was super friendly and helpful. We got most of a chicken hacked up and the butcher cut me some steaks the thickness I wanted (it’s hard to find thick steaks like we are used to – I usually just get aracherra – which is thin like what you make fajitas with). There were lots of large cow parts hanging around – I didn’t get the sense these came from a factory feedlot (and maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I can hope). We did have a bit of a wild goose chase (after fully loaded down with stuff) searching for the one thing we didn’t come across…a Panaderia (bakery). Several people gave us various directions that we may or may not have understood correctly. We ended up in the far outskirts of town, which was very residential. Interesting to see, but I was hot and my shoulders and feet were hurting. I just wanted to get a lime popsicle and go home… Luckily I knew right where we were and how to get back to the collectivo stop, passing the ice cream shop on the way. Poor Jonny was completely turned around. He’s amazing in the country/wilderness/ocean, but put that boy in the city and all is lost. I’m much better in cities (although I’ve had my share of getting lost) and I’m far more hopeless out in the ‘wilds’.   We had a quick ride back and I was content to have a full fridge once again.

Days come and go. I have been trying not to become a boat potato. I decided I wanted to swim ashore (we are much farther out than when Bonnie and Jeff came to see us) – but I didn’t want to swim back into the swell. Jonny brought the dinghy and anchored it outside the break and we had a beach day, complete with lunch in a palapa restaurant. What a treat! I rowed the dinghy back, so it was a good day for exercise. I’m starting to row around just for fun – not as cushy as a real rowing machine, but works great and it’s fun to meet people on other boats and take in the views as I go.

It seemed we might have been making plans to take off, head to Jaltemba, but our plans to move on seem to wax and wane like the moon. We just haven’t gotten sick enough of this place I guess. Jonny finally went off for a surf again – around the corner to Caletta’s surf break. After that it seemed we might just stay here for ever….or at least a few more days of surfing. It’s a left break – which is good for goofy footers – which is what Jonny is. It’s also a cobblestone point, which means it never changes or shifts with sand – a good consistent break. So the days roll along, swimming, surfing, reading, eating through our food supply… It’s about time for another trip to Las Varas.

I think we decided to skip Jaltemba/Guayaba and stop off at Punta de Mita (if there’s time) before getting to La Cruz by the 18th when my sister, niece and nephew arrive for a three week visit. Right on there heels we will have a 1 week visit with my friend from a million years ago –Erika.

I finally decided I was ready to check out the surf break and watch Jonny surf for once. I was curious what was around the corner, and I’d had a few days of alone time on the boat while he was off surfing and/or fishing. It was beautiful around the point – lots of huge houses and plenty more green. The surf break was HUGE –the day I went was apparently the biggest yet and breaking farther out (which was good, because I don’t like the stories of Jonny hitting rocks and saying “It’s OK, I know how to fall on rocks”).

He gets SO excited! when he sees waves!
He gets SO excited when he sees waves!

You can only get to this break by boat or by an hour-long truck ride down a rocky path. It’s 600 for panga ride (about $45) – so we were pretty lucky to be able to take Peugeot and anchor just off to the side of the break. I was armed with my GoPro and iPhone. I suddenly felt that I was about to become an expert surf videographer. I got the idea to play some music on my iphone while filming Jonny surfing. It was going to be SO cool. I don’t have a lot of music on my phone, but there was some Soundgarden, Pixies and Sublime that were probably going to make me famous when I posted the supercool videos. There was some experimental stuff, as well. I got nearly every run Jonny had and wore out the battery on the GoPro. Couldn’t WAIT to see my footage!!! Weeellll…unfortunately it was way too far away and I still pretty much suck at aiming the GoPro. I didn’t have anything to wear to an awards ceremony anyway.   After about 20 waves my surfer boy finally swam back to the dingy. Somehow he never loses his hat – which we found many years ago on a beach up near Fort Bragg. It’s his surf hat – and he claims not one other surfer has ever commented on it. I guess they think he DOES heart Monster Trucks!

Who is this kook??
Who is this kook?? And why is my phone suddenly taking black and white photos?
Trust me, it's Jonny
Trust me, it’s Jonny

Boats come and go from Chacala. Some we meet, some we don’t. Nearly all of them say they are going to La Cruz. I’m starting to feel like La Cruz is some sort of heaven- type place where all cruising souls eventually end up. They say it’s a huge anchorage. I say it had better be.

Chac square



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