Dolphins for Breakfast and a Raft-Up Dinner

Departing Bahia Tenacatita

Calm Anchorage in Tenacatita

What a wonderful few days it’s been here at Bahia Tenacatita, just over 30 miles northwest of Manzanillo. As far as anchorages go, this is one of our top 5 so far.  We’re snug as a bug behind Punta Chubasco and nestled among about 15 other boats (most of them with sticks). Afternoon breezes have come up, nothing past 10-15 knots, and at night, the wind lays down nicely and leaves us with a gentle “wrap-around” swell – just enough to rock us to sleep.

Both mornings have featured company for breakfast – dolphins feeding among the anchored boats. Way too unpredictable to snap a photo, so you’ll just have to take our word for it.

Our first day here, we lowered the dinghy to explore the famous mangrove estuary that winds 2-3 miles across the peninsula. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way to the lagoon, as the last half mile or so has been blocked by storm damage and the locals haven’t quite finished clearing the path.

Once we had turned around and made for the estuary entrance, we realized something important about the Pacific side of this journey:  tides. See, in the Caribbean, all the way to Bocas del Toro, we only had to worry about 15-18 inches of tide. The dinghy pretty much stayed where we put it.

But on this side, we didn’t take into account that we started up the estuary as the tide was going out. That meant that what had been under water when we went UP the river was now open and exposed – and the current at the mouth of the estuary wanted to slam us sideways onto the entrance bar. So we hauled the dinghy, by hand, and waded up around the bend to leave it in the care of a friendly panga owner named Jimmy while we decided to have lunch and think through the mechanics of launching the dinghy in surf.

Lunch at La Vena – a simple palapa restaurant – was incredible. The local specialty is “rollo del mar,” a fish filet wrapped around a shrimp and celery filling, held fast with strips of bacon, then baked and covered with an almond cream sauce. That – and two ice cold beers – fortified us to figure out how to get out and over the surf where the water was deep enough to lower the engine.

We made it back to the boat with no casualties, pride intact, and a dinghy full of sand. Lesson learned.

Yesterday morning we puttered around the boat, catching up on laundry and chores so we could take the dinghy to the beach for a picnic and a swim, our first on this trip north. The water and air were both a balmy 80 degrees and it felt great to slide through the water and loosen the joints as we snorkeled around the rocks. Wildlife spotted: one small dead stingray on the bottom.

Dinghy Raft-Up in Tenacatita

For cocktail hour, we experienced a Pacific Mexico cruising phenomenon called the “dinghy raft-up” for the first time. One dinghy serves as “host,” picks a calm spot and drops his anchor. Then other dinghies arrive and tie up to the anchor boat, dropping their own anchors as needed.

What we didn’t realize, as newbies, is that the dinghy raft-up is also a potluck. As more and more boats arrived, and as soon as everyone had finished introducing themselves, food appeared from nowhere! Nachos, crab dip, homemade biscuits and brownies, even spaghetti and pasta salad all emerged from under cover and were passed boat to boat along with ziplock bags to exchange boat cards.

Ole counted 12 dinghies tied together on 3 anchors. We sat for a couple of hours, told sea stories, exchanged paperbacks and dvds, and generally enjoyed ourselves until sunset. Wonder why we’ve never experienced that before. Could it be the challenges of the dreaded “surf landing?”

Tomorrow morning after breakfast, we’re going to go another 30 miles up to Chamela, a good resting-up stop for a long, possibly rough stretch to get into Puerto Vallarta tomorrow.

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