A wonderful time in Chacala !

From Mantanchen Bay, it is a relatively short 23 nm hop (about 4 hours, motor sailing) to the charming little village of Chacala. We pulled up anchor at about 8:00 a.m. for our departure, headed out of the bay in a light breeze under clear skies while noting to ourselves how nice it was to be day-sailing to our destinations now, especially as up to now we have been pulling mostly all nighters. Perhaps it was that, or the sunny day, but even tho we had a line out and caught no fish, it wasn't a big deal. We enjoyed seeing the coastline pass by through the morning.

For this leg I had plotted my course using Google Earth instead of my chart plotting software. This allowed us to stay much closer into shore and cut maybe 10 miles off the trip, while actually being much safer, in my opinion, than with the chartplotter, especially around a couple of rocks that were a few miles offshore. Several other boats behind us went miles further out, most likely because in needing to rely on their chartplotters, they had to accept that there was up to a several mile error, so had to skirt maybe 10 miles off to avoid rocks that were only 5 off. We went inside of them.

Anyway, as we rounded Punta Los Chivos, the protecting headland, around noon, we saw that there were already 10-12 boats at anchor in the relatively small bay (about 1/2 mile wide). As we drew closer, we were able to discern that all the boats were anchored to and fro - that is, they all had both bow and stern anchors out. We had not yet tried our stern anchor, so I pulled it out of the anchor locker to make it ready. I know it's not a big deal, but I was pretty proud as we did a nearly perfect job of anchoring snugly between two boats about 100 feet to either side of us. We dropped the main anchor about 160 feet ahead of where we wanted to be. I backed the boat up about 300 feet as she let out the chain from the front. Then I dropped the stern anchor and played out a bit of the rode, letting out the rear line as I brought the boat forward using the windlass on the front anchor. When we were halfway between, I cinched the rear anchor up tied it off on a cleat. Perfect!

Since we had left early and arrived with plenty of daylight left, we did the dinghy drill right away and went ashore for a short scout of the town. We saw that the Port Captains office was going to be closed until Monday (today was Thursday), so there would once again be no need to check in. We took a table at Las Brisas Restaurant overlooking the bay and had some really nice margaritas and snacks as the sun gentled and dusk fell, at which time we took the dinghy back to the boat. Since it was a little rolly, I deployed the flopper stopper, we had a nice dinner and slept peacefully thru the night.

The next morning we woke up and it was another beautiful clear sunny day. And to top it off, there were few, if any, bugs around. Even so, I used DEET as we once again took the dinghy into shore and explored some more of Chacala. It's hard to explain what was so nice about this place. It's a very small town ... just a dirt main street with maybe 2-3 square blocks of houses, one or two small hotels, and a strip of beachfront restaurants, but it was absolutely charming. The people were all friendly, kids playing in the street, and everyone seemed to be smiling. Most of the people in town were Mexican tourists enjoying the town with their families, and some 20 cruisers.

We did a little swimming and sunbathing, read a bit, had light cocktails on the boat, and in general passed another couple of pleasant days here.

That Friday night we heard the strains of a live band tuning up at the RV park. As we were eating dinner, we heard the hits of a trapset being setup. Then about 7:00 it was apparent that there was a band playing on the beach, only about 200 yards from the boat. Since I had a bunch of musical equipment on the boat, and it had been a while, I was hankering for a jam session, but being night time, we were afraid to take the dinghy in.

This was an unexpected side effect of being on a boat. We had missed the Feast of the Virgin of Guadelupe in San Blas, and now we were missing a chance to jam because, in general, we only go to shore during the days, and don't like to ride in the dinghy at night. We talked about it a bit and decided that if the opportunity arose again on Saturday night, we would break that pattern and try taking the dinghy into shore for an evening.

So the next day we went in search of the musicians. After asking around a little bit, we were directed to a palapa with a bunch of people hanging around and many, many, spent and fresh beers on the table. Since it was still morning, this had to be the musician's table, which it was! Just after I had established that it was in fact the musicians from the previous evening and done a brief introduction, in my broken English to the gathered players, identifying Pablo as the bass player and getting myself invited to the jam, a really friendly looking guy wearing a Grateful Dead hat walked up and introduced himself, in perfect English, as Silvio. He explained that he had grown up in San Francisco, these people were his family and in-laws, that they came every year to Chacala to recreate on the beach, and that they usually had an informal jam session.

He explained that they would set up around 6:00, and that I was more than welcome to join in, so we had a few beers with them. Pablo explained that they were informally called "The Chacala Blues Band", and that this was their 19th reunion at the beach, going back to when they had all been cub scouts. In fact, he got across, when they were kids, the specific name of their group had been the "Zorrillos" which translates to the "Skunks". After the pleasant chat, we said adios, had lunch at a restaurant, then went back to the boat to change clothes and gather equipment for the jam.

We arrived at 6:00 pm and helped set up the equipment. We were introduced to everyone in the family. Pablo's dad (Pablo) and mom were there, as was his grandmother. His son (also Pablo) was there too, so there were 4 generations on the beach. Silvio was there with his wife, and son, Ivan. There were like 25 people in this extended family. Each person we met was told the story of us and our boat and our plans to sail to Panama, and each person was lovely in their engagement and enjoyment of our prospective adventure. After a bit, while the equipment was still (slowly) being set up, I broke out the acoustic guitar and did a few tunes which were met with hearty applause and appreciation.

Then the jam started in earnest. There was at least one bottle of tequila and several beers for each person. Many combinations of musicians got up on stage and played tunes. And I was encouraged to sing and play songs, and could hardly give the bass to Pablo, the regular bass-man, as he wanted to make sure that I got to play as much as I wanted. Everyone had a great great time as we all sang songs, hooted and hollered, drank and toasted and then drank some more throughout the evening. Before it was over, we felt like a part of the family, and honorary members of the Zorrillos and the Chacala Blues Band. Special kudos were given to Geraldo, the guitar player, and Ivan, Silvio's 11 year old son who did a marvelous job on the drums.

Finally, it was time to return to the boat. We gathered the guitars and harmonicas and staggered back to the dinghy. It was a little messy and wet getting off from shore, but many shouts of happiness were given by both sides as we went back to Rhapsody in the wee hours.

When we woke up on Sunday, not a little hungover, I finally realized what it was about Chacala that I liked so much. By now most of the other boats had left, and there were only 3 of us on anchor. All around us was a most picturesque setting, palm trees swinging in the wind, warm but not too warm, families gather together for good times on the beach not far from the boat, and the sounds of happy people. I reminded me in no little way of being in momma's arms and long lost childhood. We spent the rest of Sunday on the boat just hanging out, thinking about the great time we had and the nice people we had met Saturday night.

On Monday morning, before the Port Captain's office could open and we might have to report in, we departed Chacala, bound for La Cruz.