Passage to Banderas Bay

After finding our way out of the sandbar at San Blas we set our course for La Cruz de Huanacaxtle 63 miles to the southwest in Banderas Bay. This would be the next port where we plan to settle in and stay a while, much like La Paz.

nautical chart showing Sonrisa's route from San Blas to La Cruz

Sonrisa was in open water again. We found ourselves motoring along once again under brilliant sunny skies over glassy calm seas but not even a whisper of wind to fill the sails.

Kristin was determined to try once again to catch a fish. She spent the better part of an hour searching the internet for tips on how to find dorado (mahi mahi).

“It says here they like area where there’s vegetation in the water,” she said as she scanned the glassy horizon. “I think this is a good place here, it looks like there’s some stuff in the water they might like,” she added pointing to the floating bits of mangrove trees dotting the surface.

“Maybe,” I said hopefully.

Kristin hurriedly let out both of our fishing lines and fastened the hand-spools to the stern rail where we could keep an eye on them.

I went below to start up the watermaker to take advantage of the calm conditions and fill up the tanks before our extended stay in La Cruz. We would be at the marina there, but it’s reported that the water at the dock is not potable and you have to have bottled water delivered to fill your tanks. I wanted to make sure our tanks were completely topped-up to try to stretch our water supply until we left the marina and avoid having to buy bottled water. It’s funny how we have to ‘stock up’ on fresh water while at sea so that we have enough to last us for our stay at the marina.

I had just taken a satisfactory water sample from the watermaker and switched the supply line over to the tank when Kristin called down from the cockpit.

“I’ve got a fish!” she exclaimed.

I ran up the companionway and pulled the throttle back to idle as Kristin started to reel in her catch. Sonrisa was on autopilot, so even at idle speed she would steer herself as we dealt with Kristin’s catch. Scanning the horizon for any hazards (other boats), I pulled in my line and watched as Kristin fought with hers.

“I’m not sure if it’s anything worth keeping. Might just be another bonito.” Kristin said as she pulled the line onto the hand spool.

The fish was pulling the line a bit off to the starboard side of the boat. Previously when we caught bonito there wasn’t much ‘action’ on the line when we were pulling them in, mostly just a straight-line pull up to the stern.

“Whoa!” Kristin growled as the line suddenly shot over to the port side of the boat. Following the line I saw a dark arc break the surface of the water as it raced from side to side behind the boat. Kristin struggled to take up more line on the spool.

“That’s no bonito!” I exclaimed as I put the transmission into neutral, remembering how coho salmon in Alaska would dart under the boat seemingly trying to catch the line on the prop to break it.

“Take your time. It will get tired. Just keep the line tight.”

As Kristin worked the fish closer to the boat I caught a clear glance through the water.

“You got a dorado!”

“Really!” Kristin exclaimed. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!”

“I’ll get the bucket.”

Kristin could hardly contain her excitement as she pulled in her catch. By the time she got it to the stern of the boat the fish had started to tire out.

“Ok, pull it up into the cockpit.” I called out as I hung over the stern steadying the line.

In an instant the Kristin had her beautiful dorado on deck as it flopped on the end of the line.

“Oh… I’m sorry guy…” Kristin said to the fish and thanked it for its sacrifice.

In a moment the pride returned to her voice as we dispatched and bled the fish to prepare it for cleaning.

Kristin holding a green and yellow dorado fish

Once filleted we saved two fresh portions for that evening’s dinner and put the rest into the freezer.

Although we had finally ‘found’ the dorado, we decided one was enough for the day and Kristin immediately turned to looking up recipes befitting her catch.

After our fishing success, we put Sonrisa back on course for Banderas Bay still under calm conditions.

A few hours later we were treated to a parade of sea turtles which were easy to spot in the glassy water.

sea turtle resting on the surface
closer view of sea turtle on the surface
close view of sea turtle on surface

Even though we didn’t have enough wind to sail, it was still turning out to be a memorable passage and it was only 10 am!

A half hour later…

“Orca!” I yelled, pointing off the starboard bow.

“Where? Where?” Kristin called as she ran up from the cabin to try to get a photo.

“2 o’clock!” I yelled as Kristin headed to the bow.

Just then an Orca surfaced off the starboard side of Sonrisa.

“Ooh! Look at that!” Kristin called out as she photographed the Orca surfacing maybe 100 feet off our starboard side.

Just then a spot flashed through the water not more than 15 feet off our starboard side and for a moment I saw the other Orca of the pair swimming by almost directly under Sonrisa.

“Did you see that?” Kristin asked as she returned the cockpit, referencing the Orca that surfaced in the distance.

“Yeah, but did you see the one that practically swam under the boat?” I replied, still a little dumbstruck by what I just saw.

A moment later the second Orca surfaced a few hundred feet behind Sonrisa as they made their way north.

“That one,” I stammered “swam by right here.” I said gesticulating the path the Orca took beside Sonrisa. “I wish I had a camera ready. It’s so hard to get those shots.”

Later that day we were flipping through Kristin’s Orca photos on her iPhone. “Wait. Go back one. There. Look. There it is.”

And there it was, while Kristin was taking photos of the Orca on the surface, she inadvertently also captured the one that swam so close.

Orca surfacing in the distance with another visible just below the water
Orca surfacing in the distance with another visible just below the water
Orca surfacing in the distance with another visible just below the water

We pressed on, now running a bit late for a daylight arrival in La Cruz.

By mid-afternoon the water tanks were completely full.

Once inside Banderas Bay the whale show continued, this time with humpbacks. We slowed to an idle several times to pause to watch the show as they played at the surface, slapping the water with their fins and tails.

Finally, about 30 minutes after dark we arrived at the entrance to Marina de La Cruz. We try not to arrive at an unfamiliar port after dark, but we were just having too much fun along the way to miss any of the sights!

I idled Sonrisa toward the flashing red and green lights leading into the marina when I noticed another large sailboat approaching the entrance. The boat was moving fairly fast with lots of decklights on so I presumed it to be a local charter boat. I throttled up Sonrisa and fell inline behind the charter boat which led us right into the marina. Once inside the breakwater I slowed to an idle and called to the marina on the VHF. They instantly replied and directed us to an empty slip where they had a staff member meet us at the dock to catch the lines and check us in.

Kristin sitting at the table with two plates of seasoned and garnished fish.
Special of the day: Kristin’s catch

That night we dined on the freshest, most delicious fish we have had in a very long time. We would explore La Cruz in the days ahead, but for now we reflected on the amazing day on the water we had just experienced.

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