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.