Sunday, July 13, 2008

Shiriri Saga #32. Tenakatita Bay. A Manta Ray Tows A Boat Away.

We have arrived in a semi-tropical paradise.

Shiriri angles in toward a surf swept beach because the GPS is telling us that it is the direction for our next anchorage. The crew has a heated discussion about the merits of following the directions of a machine. Heather is quite sure that this is a wrong course and soon it is also obvious to the rest of us; there is no hidden entrance tucked just around the corner of this bay. The GPS is correct and so is Heather. The bay we seek is around the next headland and the GPS is pointing to the most direct route across the neck of the peninsula. We have rather sketchy charts of Mexico ( photo copies taped together) and this leads to some creative guessing at times. Thank goodness for Charlie`s Charts, the set of boating guide books that give us mini sketch maps and useful information of coasts and harbours. We have a lot of these books and we will use them until half way across the Pacific. We turn to the Mexico one now to navigate successfully around the headland and to anchor in Tenakatita Bay.

Enatai. One of the yachts in T. bay

There are a number of yachts at anchor in the most protected corner of this big bay, but we wiggle into a place not too far from the beach where a little river curves around a palm lined sandy point and empties into the gentle surf. It is like a set for a tropical adventure movie (and has been). We soak up our first feeling of having arrived in the south seas at last. Of course this is really only semi-tropical, and winter at that, so we have the benefit of both dry sunny days and moderate temperatures. Victoria is nearby, as are other yachts we will get to know better over the next couple of months. “What an interesting group of people!” we think, feeling at home among this individualistic fleet who started out in their home communities around the world as unusual square pegs but now find themselves fitting right in.

We stay here is this idyllic bay for a few days but are determined to return and explore it more fully when Gwyn flies down to visit us in a month`s time. We must move on to the little town of Melaque, just down the coast and get Heather settled and writing her book.

Melaque Bay with Bara in the distance.
The waves bend around Punta Bahia and keep us gently rocking at anchor, but getting ashore is more challenging: those same gentle swells break with a roar when they meet the sandy beaches of Melaque. Each day we practice the skills that we never had occasion to learn in our own protected home waters. As we row toward the beach we watch the wave pattern : some are bigger than others and we need to catch the back of a good-sized one and ride it well up the beach. “Steady,” we say, “Wait for it! Now! Pull!” and, as the latest wave slides under us, the oarsman digs in hard and we lift with the wave as it crests and get a ride on it`s back up the beach in a smother of foam. We are out in a second and pull Edith well up the beach. Timing is everything. Launching can be just as difficult.

We find a room for Heather to write, thanks to help from Astrolabe who will also be waiting here for the March departure date for the South Pacific. We row her ashore with her precious lap-top computer and walk up to the little writing room. Anne goes off to Spanish lessons and I begin to do some drawings as I wander the town. After the long trip down the coast, constantly on the move and adjusting to new conditions, this is heavenly. Imagine our surprise to discover Saltspring Islanders living here. This town is a winter retreat for some of those who follow the sun south each winter.

In the lagoon.

Bara de Navidad.

At the other end of the long bay is the entrance to a channel which leads onward to a wide lagoon. This is where we will settle for a while, away from those constant landings through the surf. I`ve already bashed my spine against a thwart once when Edith hit the beach too hard on one landing and I can not afford a second thump. Away from home and with our voyage dependant on our good health, we need to be extra careful. Edith, our dory, now has her outboard engine mounted on the stern for the long trips back and forth to the town of Bara. From there, Heather takes the bus to her room to write her book. Usually I go with her, we brainstorm what will happen in the next chapter, and then off I go to explore and draw until it is time to reverse our morning`s journey, fill our water jugs at the Sands hotel, and motor home to our lagoon which is liberally sprinkled with other cruising boats. For some, this is their destination for the winter and for others like us, this is a place to stock up on supplies and ready ourselves for the big crossing to the south seas. I paint and varnish Shiriri and check things over. By now we know how all can depend on everything working as it should!

Edith journeys into the heart of darkness.

The Ray in Tenakatita Bay.

When Gwyn arrives to visit, we decide to take her back up the coast to Tenakatita Bay for a last experience of this lovely place. We land at the river`s mouth and walk the long beach to a large hotel and view the pasty white North Americans here for a short cheap escape from winter cold; already, we belong to a different tribe. We take Edith up the river that branches and then narrows to a winding stream, deep among the overhanging jungle trees, which leads to an ocean beach. We discover it is the same surf beach landfall that we approached so simplemindedly five weeks before. It seems a lifetime ago already: a busy life, full of new experiences, slows time down and seems to stretch it out into infinity.

One day, we are away from Shiriri, visiting on another boat when we notice some frantic activity in the bay. A yacht near Shiriri is moving along with no one aboard! A family from a nearby inflatable dinghy puts a child aboard to steer this wayward boat and it dawns on the assembled yachts that SOMETHING is towing it by it`s anchor chain. A young American free dives thirty feet down to the bottom of the bay and untangles a giant ray from the chain! I hate diving, am a poor swimmer, so this act, which is so straightforward to him, is wildly impressive to me! Courageous! What we call courage has so much to do with being trained in advance for the event. An act which is courageous can be prepared for by habituation. Still, that must have been quite the experience; despite his having swum with the peaceable rays before.

Shiriri`s crew belong to an adaptable species and know that even the life we are successfully adjusted to now was difficult to imagine just a few months ago. The learning curve was mighty tight at times, but here we are, and we are preparing to step back into the classroom of hard knocks in another month`s time. We have developed some faith in the process and in ourselves.

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