Yahtzee’s port jib sheet groans with a slight gust of wind and I set my book down to take in the moment. I check our boatspeed: 7.2 knots. Adjust our course: Slightly north of northwest. Look at the wind direction: East. Glance at the clock: 3:15 am. And then scan the horizon to see if any boats are in the area on this dark yet half moonlit night: One lone white light well ahead and to starboard.
With my checks done, I sit back and look out into the night sky, playing through the past few weeks and months in my mind. After so much southerly movement since leaving Alaska, it’s slightly odd to be going north again. Alas, here we are. And having covered this stretch of coast a month prior going south, it’s easy to reminisce about this rewarding slice of our journey—Pacific Mexico.
The mainland side of Mexico from Mazatlán in the north, Banderas Bay in the middle, and Manzanillo in the south is formally regarded as, “Costalegre”, which is a blend of the words “Costa” and “Alegre” meaning “Cheerful Coast”. To cruisers, Costalegre is more commonly referred to as the “Gold Coast” (not to be confused with the Gold Coast section of the Baja Penisula) and is made up of lush green mountains that give way to stunning beaches, rocky capes and palm tree-lined bays.
Since crossing over from Cabo San Lucas in early December, we’ve had an immensely fun and fascinating time cruising this section of Mexico, especially from Banderas Bay south. From the northern edge of the bay we hopped 40 miles south to Ipala, 50 down to Chemala and then short skips to Careyes, Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad before returning back north. Rather than give you a play-by-play of each stop, here are some of the highlights.
Clear Water, Tropical Beaches
In nearly every anchorage we stopped at in our month of cruising the Gold Coast, we found mostly clear water and tropical beaches that are the things post cards are made of. In Careyes we literally jumped off Yahtzee’s starboard side into a veritable aquarium of sea life including tropical fish, corals, and sea turtles. As a bonus, the sandy beach nearby was a perfect place to rest in the shade from the heat of the day with a delicious margarita. In Tenacatita and Chamela, we could literally watch our anchor touch the bottom and see our chain swirl in the sand when the boat moved with the wind and current. And an anchorage aptly named “The Aquarium” provided some of the best snorkeling we’ve done to date.
New Years, a Birthday and an Anniversary in Barra
As a Christmas present to the crew—and Yahtzee—we decided to take a break from anchoring for a week at the Grand Isla Navidad Resort and Marina in Barra. Having spent a total of 5 nights at marinas in all the time we’d been in Mexico, it was well deserved. With its swim up bar and multiple water slides, the resort’s swimming pool was a hit and we enjoyed many lazy hours basking in the fresh water over the long holiday week. Plus, Yahtzee got a much needed bath and deep clean. Another perk of the resort is its proximity to the charming beachside town of Barra, which is a short water-taxi ride away and has delicious food, excellent markets and welcoming locals. Our time in Barra also coincided with Magnus’ 5th birthday, a fun New Year’s Eve party with friends and an amazing fireworks show, and our 15th wedding anniversary, meaning we had plenty to celebrate. And celebrate we did!
Hanging with Friends
One of the things we cherish most about the cruising life is meeting new people and friends along the way, including locals and other sailors and travelers. Mexicans are gregarious and fun loving, and genuinely take a liking to our family in stores, restaurants, and markets, and always seem to enjoy sharing their culture and food, and helping us and the boys with our Spanish—which is a work in progress.
We continued to spend time with our buddies on the J/120 SUR and also met lots of other cruisers at Tenacatita and Barra; both havens for sailors transiting this section of coast or simply hanging out for the winter. Unexpectedly, we also had an immensely fun time with several families we met at the resort from Toronto and Tacoma/San Francisco. With similar aged kids, we hit it off at the resort pool right away and then met up with them at houses they were renting on the beach outside the resort property. It was great for the kids to play and for us to have some quality adult time with new friends.
On New Year’s Eve, a highlight was having dinner with our Toronto buddies and getting to release hundreds of baby sea turtles into the sea at the beach near their house. Watching those little turtles flail towards the open water of the might Pacific Ocean was a truly incredible experience that seemed to be a fitting end to 2019 and beginning to 2020. Cheerfully, our time along the Gold Coast left a lasting impression, one we won’t soon forget.
Our buddy Robbie tows Porter on a surfboard at Tenacatita.