A Pelapa in Yelapa

As we made our way across Banderas Bay to visit the small village of Yelapa, we referred to our guidebook which made the following comment; “A pelapa in Yelapa is better than a condo in Redondo” (referring to Redondo Beach, CA). When we made our final approach into the cove we instantly knew why. It felt like we were in the South Pacific as the cove was framed by large hills covered in lush vegetation and palm trees as far up as the eye could see. The shoreline consisted of a rocky shore to the left and right together with a beautiful, long beach in the center. Along the rocky shores and up into the hills were small houses (casas) covered with thatched roofs as well as some other, more modern homes. The beach was lined with palapas (they look like umbrellas with palm leaves) and open-air restaurants with tables and chairs in the sand.

Yelapa

Yelapa Approach

We were immediately approached by a local in a panga who showed us to our mooring for the next 2 nights. Once we were settled in, we took the dinghy ashore with our friends, Eric and Birgitta, from Ariel IV. We meandered around the small cobblestone streets and made our way to the trail that led us along the shore to our right. We were amazed at how secluded the casas were amongst the dense vegetation. Many required walking up small and winding steps. All of these casas had their own names, for example Casa Orquidea (Orchid house), and most were rented out to vacationers. If you wanted peace and seclusion with a beautiful view, this was the place to go. The town was small and densely covered with buildings which ranged from houses to businesses to restaurants. The streets were so narrow that cars would not be able to make it through them. Actually, there wasn’t even a road to get to the town that would allow for cars. The only way in was by boat, horse or donkey. So, it was the norm to see people making their way around town on foot, donkeys, horses or ATVs.

Yelapa Donkey

Yelapa Horses

It was amazing to see how deftly one man made his way around a steep and narrow road on horseback carrying a black bag of garbage while ducking under a hydro wire. We continued our exploration of the town and stumbled across a 150’ waterfall not far from the church. It was a picturesque setting, but we were told that there was a bigger waterfall to see and we looked forward to our trek the following day in search of it.

The next day we set out on our pursuit for the “big” waterfall. We were advised that it would be a 4 hour round trip, so we packed refreshments and lunch. At the beginning or our journey, we were walking along the “main road” out of town and within minutes we came across an entirely different Yelapa from what we had seen the prior day. The road turned to dirt, the vegetation grew denser and the houses became much simpler and less frequent. Many were built of brick but had no glass for windows and had bed sheets which served as doors. Some were fortunate to own horses, as this was one of the means of travel throughout Yelapa. And, interestingly enough, many had satellite dishes.

As we continued on, the humidity increased and the vegetation became denser. We saw many huge, old trees with vines attached and were reminded of the sets of the Tarzan movies. It really felt like a jungle. On occasion we would be passed by a man on a horse and we often searched for horse or donkey dung on the ground to ensure that we were still on the right trail to the waterfall. We were told that we would have to cross the river 3 times before reaching the waterfall and after doing so we were all anxious to finally view the “big” waterfall. However, the trail soon became difficult to manage and we were no longer seeing any horse/donkey dung when we came across a small waterfall with a nice “beach” and pool of fresh water. Eric trekked on further amongst the rocks to see if there was anything more to see ahead and we determined that this must be it. We were initially disappointed but decided to take advantage of the fact that we had the place to ourselves. We went for a fantastic and refreshing (topless) swim and enjoyed our own private Jacuzzi that the falls provided. Afterwards, we sunbathed on the sand and enjoyed lunch.

When we were ready to leave we bumped into another couple and asked them what they thought of the waterfall. They said it was beautiful! When we expressed our disappointment they advised us that what we had found was not the waterfall and that we had passed it. Upon our return to the boats we eventually found the true “big” waterfall which still wasn’t as high as the one in town. However, we considered it a serendipitous extended journey since we had found our own private haven that would not have been visited by the large organized tour that was travelling shortly behind us. Had we stopped at the proper tourist attraction we would not have had our own private Jacuzzi.

Yelapa Falls - Our Private Jacuzzi

Yelapa Falls

Yelapa Flowers

Yelapa Beach with Celebration in Background

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Audrey’s First Impressions

We’ve entered a number of new ports and we’re now to be able to compare first impressions. I loved La Paz the moment that I set foot on terra firma. I don’t exactly know why. Perhaps it was because it was so different from the tourist trap of Cabo San Lucas. Don’t get me wrong, Cabo was fun, but I was searching for something more “authentic”. La Paz felt like the Mexicans’ tourist town. It had a beautiful malecón (aka boardwalk) adorned with dozens of beautiful bronze statues, small streets with quaint shops, numerous restaurants (most of which served Mexican food) and extremely friendly people. No wonder it’s called La Paz (Spanish for peace). I was instantly hooked. Perhaps that is why we spent 7 weeks there. La Paz was also very close to beautiful islands to explore should one want to get away from the “city life”.
La Paz Jacques Cousteau

After La Paz we made our way to Mazatlan which had mixed reviews. Many said that it was an industrial city with not much to see for the cruiser. Well, we had to see for ourselves. We settled outside of the main town in a marina/resort called El Cid with 2 pools, golf course, restaurant etc. At first, I was enamored with the facilities. I felt spoiled and that I wasn’t truly “cruising”. No cruiser should swim in a fresh water pool for gosh sake. But it felt so good. When we left the marina for a walk, we made our way toward the “old town” and were accosted by time-share salespeople. Did we want to listen to a presentation? They would pay us 3000 pesos (about $280 USD). When we looked disinterested they offered us free tequila as well. Woo-hoo, that should seal the deal! My reply was “No tengo dinero” (I have no money). My first impression of Mazatlan was not overwhelming. We started exploring without a map and didn’t know where we were going. We made it to the amazing public market (where they were butchering sides of cattle) but after that couldn’t find our way to the “cool” historic district. That is, until we were staring at a public map and bumped into some fellow Canadians who showed us the way. Upon finding the Plaza Machada things started to look up. This was a square surrounded by restaurants that had outdoor seating on cobblestone streets. We had a quick look around and then made our way back to the boat. It wasn’t until some other Canadians on our dock invited us out for dinner at Plaza Machada in order to show us the town that I really discovered the Mazatlan that I now want to go back to. We went on a Friday evening when things were “happening”. The Plaza Machada was all lit up (the palm trees were adorned with beautiful white lights) and there was a band singing in the middle of the square.
Mazatlan Plaza Machada

We went into tiny alcoves that housed works from local artists. One place had the most amazing leather masks – I need to purchase one on our next visit.
Mazatlan Artist Shop

We ended up at a fabulous restaurant in an old exposed brick building with a beautiful courtyard and a jazz singer. Mazatlan is known for its historic district with old, restored and un-restored buildings. It’s very unassuming but as you wander about the small streets you come across numerous cafés, stores and restaurants tucked into these old buildings. It’s so easy to pass them by if you don’t take the time to look into each doorway. I think that was our problem the first time out…we were walking too fast trying to get somewhere when we were actually already there. It has a plethora of good restaurants with varied menus and is known for fresh shrimp and tuna. What’s not to love? We left Mazatlan after about a week but have plans to visit it again on our way to the Sea of Cortez.
Mazatlan Mermaid Statue

Our next town was La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (simply called “La Cruz”). It’s a very small town close to Puerto Vallarta on Banderas Bay. We had heard that this quaint town is hard to leave so I had high expectations upon our arrival. We set anchor after sailing 16 hours with a beautiful full moon to guide our way through the night. The following day, after some rest, we headed to town and were really surprised by how small it was. There are about 8 streets running north-south and 4 streets east-west. It certainly didn’t take long to walk the entire town. I thought to myself “what’s the big deal about La Cruz?” But then we listened to the morning net (the cruisers listen to the VHF radio in the mornings to hear about the weather, local assistance, and announcements about anything that might be going on that day) and discovered that this little town has a lot of soul. It has small restaurants that provide entertainment with musicians, dancers, and actors. When you wander about and peer into doorways, you never know whether you’ll be looking into someone’s private kitchen or a restaurant. However, I was very impressed by the Taste of La Cruz, a food and music festival held on the malecón at the marina. Hard to believe it but the marina actually has an amphitheater. It seemed like such a big production for such a tiny place. But they did a great job. Watching the musicians on stage with the mountains and sailboats in the backdrop was magical.
La Cruz Festival

A visit to La Cruz is not complete without a visit to the fishmarket (which is open daily) and the Sunday morning farmer’s market. The fishmarket has the freshest fish available. I have always been hesitant to buy fresh fish fillets because I’m never sure if I’m actually getting what I asked for. Not here….I asked for mahi-mahi and the fishmonger picked up a 4 foot dorado (mahi-mahi) and asked if that was okay? Wow! Now I know that I’m buying what I asked for – I couldn’t mistake that green fish and bulbous head for anything else. He deftly filleted one half of the dorado and I was set for my dinner party that evening.
La Cruz Fish Market

La Cruz Fish Market 1

La Cruz Farmer's Market 1

Tonight we are going to a restaurant to listen to a duo known as the Blond Gypsies (akin to the Gypsy Kings). It is one of at least 3 venues where we could listen to live music tonight. How can such a small place pack so much in? I think I’m going to love it here.

Home Sweet Home?

We suspect that some of you are wondering where and how we spend our time (indoors) when we’re not sailing or partying. Well, when it’s not rocking and rolling on the sea or at anchor, it’s not different from being in a very small condo — that’s always on the water. Here’s a few pics that will give you an idea of what Celebration is like down below and in the cockpit (which is like our patio when we’re not underway).

Salon/Living/Dining Room:

Main Salon

Salon 2

Salon 1

Galley/Kitchen:

Galley

Office/Chart Table:

Office/Chart Table

Master Cabin/Suite:

Master Suite

Master 2

Master 1

Guest Cabin/Bedroom:

Guest 1

Two (2) Heads/Bathrooms:

Guest Head

Head 1

Shower:

Shower 1

The Cockpit/Patio:

Cockpit 2

Cockpit 1

There’s a few other practical spaces like our storage lockers/lazarettes and the engine space as well as inside cupboards but they’re not that exciting. However, if you really want to see where we pack all of our clothing, groceries, tools, spare parts and all the “stuff of daily life”, let us know.

By the way, we did our first sabbatical to the Bahamas from Toronto on an older 36-foot boat so this is a mega yacht by comparison.

The Cruising Trifecta – Sunning, Sailing and Snorkeling

After what seems like weeks in La Paz, we finally got a good week to sail to the Islands of Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida with our Canadian friends Matt and Madalin and we’re happy to report that they didn’t disappoint. The local cruising community refers to the bungee cord that keeps sailors here and given the proximity of these gorgeous islands to La Paz we now know why.

We left relatively late and wanted to sail (instead of motor as many cruisers tend to do when the wind direction is not favorable) so our first destination was Ensenada de la Raza in Puerto Ballena, which is on Isla Espiritu Santos and approximately 21 nautical miles from La Paz. Not too far but since the wind was blowing 15-25 knots from the north, which is exactly where we were heading and you can’t sail directly into the wind, we probably sailed 30 miles and got settled just in time for sundowners (what a coincidence!) with our friends Peter and Mary (and their dog Lucy) from Neko who left earlier in the day.

Celebration-4

The anchorage was in a cove with towering cliffs that were more reminiscent of Arizona than the tropical anchorages we all tend to picture when sailing and, once we had the anchor set, the view from the stern included the tiny islands of Isla Gallo and Isla Gallina. The highlight was a beautiful sunset that occurred at virtually the same time as the full moon was rising through a valley just off the bow as you’ll see in this gorgeous shot that Audrey captured.

Ensenada de la Raza Moonrise Ensenada de la Raza Sunset Ispiritu Santo-2

After that it was just the normal Celebration imbibing, dining and partying so I won’t bore you with those details.

The next morning the bay was relatively flat so we jumped in the dinghy and went snorkeling off Isla Gallo. No whale sharks, wrecks or reefs but there were some fish and it was my first snorkel since we’d arrived in Mexico so it was great to finally get in water. With our first snorkel checked off the list, we grabbed lunch before heading to our next destination.

Once again the wind was up so we had a great sail to Ensenada el Cardonal, a long shallow bay on Isla Partida that extends almost 1.5 miles into the island, providing good protection from the strong north winds. El Cardonal was also a very dramatic setting with cliffs all around and a small beach but, given that it was almost sunset when we arrived (did someone say sundowner?), we stayed onboard and enjoyed an evening under the stars.

Ispiritu Santo-4 Ensenada Grande

The next day was one of the highlights of our entire trip so far as we headed for Los Islotes, which is famous for its sea lion rookery AND where you are allowed to swim with the sea lions. In fact, the sea lions – especially the small ones – seem to look forward to it as they were almost jumping in the dinghy when we tied off on one of the mooring balls. Needless to say, swimming with the sea lions was a thrill that none of us will forget – even me since unlike the whale-sharks, I did get in the water this time. We probably could have stayed at Los Islotes for hours but it was too deep to anchor the mother-ship so after an hour or so it was time to head for our next anchorage.

los-islotes-sea-lion sealion

Los Islotes was the most northern destination in this little trip so it was time to turn around and we headed for Ensenada Grande, another scenic anchorage on Isla Partida. This one however had a beach and a place to snorkel, and was calm enough for kayaking so we spent the entire afternoon and next morning just hanging out and enjoying island life.
Celebration-3

We could have stayed at Ensenada Grande for days but the forecast said we were going to get strong winds from the south west, from which there is no protection in the islands, and so we headed toward La Paz. But, as we got closer and closer to La Paz (and a marina) none of us liked the idea of being on a dock and after a “meeting of the minds” we decided to anchor in Bahia Pichilingue for the night. It wasn’t the most scenic anchorage as its backdrop includes the ferry terminal however it did have a nice beach and was somewhat protected from the SW wind. The next morning the SW wind really came up but fortunately we were close to La Paz and after a couple of hours of motoring we were at the dock but planning to leave again the next day – if the weather cooperated.

Finally, Mother Nature was on our side. The next morning was beautiful and we set sail for Bahia San Gabriel, a huge bay on Isla Ispiritu Santo with one on the nicest and longest white sandy beaches in the area. We spent two glorious days there relaxing onboard, walking the beach and kayaking. It was everything we hoped an excluded island anchorage would be and these pictures don’t do it justice but I think they give you a general idea of how we spent our day in the Islands and how lucky we were to hit The Cruising Trifecta.
Ispiritu Santo-3 Swimming-1 Kayak-1