May 17, 2001
Paradise Village Marina, Beach Resort and Spa -Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

By Lois Joy      


We arrived here yesterday. We are so happy to be here. This truly is Paradise to us.

But for the Grace of God, a lot of luck, (and some good navigational planning, I might add) we could be waiting in some bay waiting for a “weather window” that does not materialize and is only expected to worsen over the next few days.  This makes our being here already even more of a pleasure.  We expect to pamper ourselves here while awaiting the arrival of the Stuart Richardsons on Sunday, who will crew with us to Cabo San Lucas.

Pacific Bliss in Paradise

This is the place to pamper ourselves.  This marina is an excellent deal; we are paying about $25 per day (plus tax) for a slip, yet we can enjoy all the privileges of a resort vacation destination.   We met many cruisers who plan to spend the summer here, waiting out the hurricane season.  The hotel is massive, with a Mayan pyramid design theme, three swimming pools, two Jacuzzis, a full service spa, tennis courts, jogging trail, work-out room, mini-zoo, travel agency, special events (last night was western night featuring a mechanical bull rodeo contest).  It is a real tourist trap and we love it!

The new shopping plaza next door has two floors of every shop and convenience one could think of-plus two Internet cafes.  Our first action was to devour a maple nut ice cream cone, along with a cold cappuccino.  We are truly in civilization now-vacationland, and we do not mind one bit! We may manage to rouse ourselves from or lounge chairs on the beach to take a one-day cultural tour inland. But then, maybe not.

Today will be a rest day; we were running on adrenaline yesterday, with very little sleep, and fell to bed exhausted last night.  I was surprised that I woke up so early this morning, and am now writing this story, so a siesta is definitely in my plans for the day.

Of our buddy boats, Pacific Bliss is the only one to make it here so far. We hope to see some of the others pulling in today.  Yesterday, we couldn’t relax until we finally heard from Finally, (the “baby boat”). We are always concerned about Maureen and Jean Marie and little five-month Lauren, we worry about them as if they were our own kids; in fact, we call them “the kids.”  When they are “out there” we wait up for them.  Linda on Miss Lindy says that it’s like having teenagers again, waiting for them to come home at night. The kids don’t seem to mind; they treat us like surrogate parents. Miss Lindy is still in Barro Navidad, planning to move on to Tenacatita today (only about 15 miles).  They were waiting for their mail, an express package that was supposed to arrive in Barro last week.  They have now missed the weather window, so plan to move here slowly, bay by bay.  Finally left Tenacatita one day after us; yesterday afternoon they had to pull into Bahia Chamela after a voyage of less than 35 miles because of the high winds on the nose. We were so glad to hear that they did that. Maureen gets seasick going to weather, and she is still breast-feeding.  I think she likes having all these concerned “grandmothers” traveling with her

We did not hear from Quest yesterday, but assume that they made it to Ipala, the last anchorage before rounding Cabo Corriente, and will complete the voyage today. Judy and John, cruising while home-schooling their only son, LJ, who is about 10, own Quest. They are also on their way to San Diego, and then later, on to Vancouver.  Canada is their home country.

Another couple, Jimmy and Michelle, on Wayward, arrived here the day before we did, under much the same conditions. We first met them in Barro Navidad.  Michelle gets seasick also and was sick on the way. She plans to fly back from here, and jokes that the only vessel that goes well to weather is a 747!  Jimmy has crew coming in to help him get the boat back to San Diego. Another couple we met a little dockside party here last night has hired crew to take their boat back while they fly. But then, yet another couple, Nora and Merle, both in their seventies, and on the way here from Barro Navidad, are taking their monohull, Er Nibs, to San Diego themselves, along with one hired crew.  They plan to wait here until mid-June, when they hope the weather will soften somewhat.  So there are many options, we are finding. 

Gunter and I plan to take Pacific Bliss to San Diego ourselves, even through the “Baja Bash.” The “Bash” is just toughing it out against current and north winds from Cabo on. Not fun, but fortunately for us, we have never been seasick on Pacific Bliss, have never even taken the medication (which makes one drowsy). While we are not looking forward to that part of our voyage, but we are so homesick that we feel we can “endure” to get there!

Wednesday night was an example, we think, of the weather we can expect in that part of the voyage. If so, we know the boat can take it; kevlar hull and all, Pacific Bliss just plows on through, the spray over her bows, crashing into the waves, never sustaining a hint of stress or damage.  Her two motors (a huge advantage) just keep on grinding it out.

Here’s how we managed to be the first of our northbound group to arrive in Paradise:

First, when we arrived in Tenacatita on Monday afternoon, I had the foresight to immediately begin plotting our navigational options for Puerto Vallarta.  Within a few hours, and before sunset, my favorite time outside-in the cockpit or on the net-I had already plotted waypoints to Nuevo Vallarta, along with alternative anchorages along the way, selected carefully from our three piloting/guide books covering the local area.  We had planned to spend two nights in Tenacatita, to take the jungle river dinghy trip (see previous story) but we have learned to become very flexible and to keep our options open. So when we heard the weather forecast on the Amigo Net at 9:00 AM Tuesday morning, “no warnings, normal weather along the Mexican coast except for winds up to 35 knots around Cabo Corriente Wednesday and Thursday” we changed our plans immediately. Cabo is the cape that we needed to round to reach Nuevo Vallarta.  We preferred to be in Vallarta ahead of the weather, not stuck in a storm anchorage waiting for it to change. We had a small window.  We figured that if we left by 10:00 AM, we had the option of anchoring in Bahia Chamela, 35 miles away by 4:00 PM, or if the weather was still OK, continuing on to Vallarta.  Within the hour, we had finished our breakfast, stowed our gear, and pulled anchor, but not before Quest, who left within 15 minutes of Gunter saying (on the VHF after the SSB net) that Pacific Bliss had decided to go. But Finally was not ready to go. Jean Marie said, “We want to finish our breakfast, then I have 1 ½ hours of work to do on the boat, then we wanted to check out going onto shore here. It is so beautiful here.”  (Never mind the surf pounding onto the shore).  We had morning of motoring, a nice little sail in the afternoon, catching up to Quest, the wind 10 knots from the SW. It appeared as if we would have a charmed passage. By 2:00 PM, we congratulated ourselves on our decision.  If the wind were going to clock around to the North, as it usually does in these parts, it would have done so by now, we thought, sailing blissfully onward.  (Usually, the wind changes between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM.)  We reached our waypoint #4, Bahia Chamela, with perfect weather, so both vessels decided to continue on, knowing that from this bay there would be no storm anchorage for 55 miles, and that we would then reach the waypoint for that anchorage in the evening. Ipala, full of rocks, we had been told, was not an anchorage one wanted to pull into at night.  So the decision was really to continue on, rounding the Cape at a benign time, in the early morning hours, reaching Vallarta by noon or so the following day. 

By 5:00 PM, the wind had clocked to the NW, 20 knots right on our nose.  Quest called, notifying us of their decision to turn back to Chamela.  “We have only one motor, and only a twin-blade prop.  We’re making only 2 1/2 knots in this.  If it worsens, we’ll make no progress; we’ve been there, done that with our boat. Wish we had yours.”  Gunter and I looked at each other.  It was a difficult decision for us. Pacific Bliss could easily make 5 knots with its twin Volvo Pentas, even with 25 on the nose.  It would be uncomfortable, but then we would be at our destination before the weather worsened. Otherwise, our choice would be to overnight in a rolly anchorage, proceed before dawn to another poor anchorage, then proceed the next day before dawn to round Cabo Corriente in the only benign time of the day for this cape: the wee to late morning hours. We decided to push on.

It was a long, miserable night.  At the beginning, we were motoring along over the chop, the wind at 17 knots (Force 4) and I was even at the nav station at the computer, writing the Magic Cove story for the web.  But by 9:00 PM an anemic sun had set through a haze and cloud cover; it was pitch dark, overcast, with no moon.  The wind, which typically dies down after sunset, increased to 25 knots, and the wave height increased accordingly. Oops, this was not the forecast for today! We discussed the situation.  There was nothing we could do about it now.  We might as well hunker down and tough it out, we decided.  We couldn’t eat dinner, but found that crackers with peanut butter gave us the energy we needed. 

The wind varied between 25 and 30 knots all night, as Pacific Bliss churned through the sea mess like a bucking bronco.  She creaked and heaved and splashed.  But having spent half a year and over 8500 miles in her, we trusted her to carry us through.   We did one to two hour watches only, most of the time spent inside at the nav station, radar on.  Whoever was not on watch was lying on the salon settee. Neither one of us could sleep. By 2:00 PM, the winds subsided to 16 knots, which now seemed like glass!   We could establish a real watch schedule and get some much-needed sleep!  I continued on till 6:00 AM, when we had rounded the Cape and continued on into Bandera Bay.  Then Gunter took it to 10:00 AM.  By 11:30 we had turned off our faithful engines and tied up to Slip B15 in Paradise Village Marina.  It was Paradise at last! 

Hasta luego.






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