Returning to La Cruz

Sailing to La Cruz at sunset

After our adventures on our southbound passage from La Paz we were very excited to be back in one of our favorite stops on the Pacific Mexico coast – La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Kristin had worked up an itinerary of all of our favorite restaurants to revisit from our visit last season and where to go on which days. We’ve found that most restaurants in the places we visit are open either 5 or 6 days a week, but every restaurant in town takes different days off which helps us choose when to go where.

We arrived at 7 PM on a Sunday, but I had made a reservation at Marina Rivieria Nayarit and already had our slip assignment so we knew where we were going. It was well after dark by the time we arrived at the channel entrance which is well lit with green and red buoys, but the approach can be confusing for the uninitiated. Approaching from the west you’re seeing the channel from the side, so it just looks like a random string of alternating red and green lights. With the chartplotter as confirmation, I steered toward the offshore end of the string and like magic as we approached the last green buoy the red and greens aligned themselves and revealed the narrow channel into the marina.

As we entered the channel I hailed the marina night staff on the VHF, “Esta es el velero Sonrisa. Tenemos una reserva y llegamos a muelle 3-B-4.” (This is the sailboat Sonrisa. We have a reservation and are arriving at dock 3-B-4).

“Cuando estás llegando?” (When are you arriving?) the voice on the radio replied.

“Quince minutos.” (Fifteen minutes.)

“Muelle 3-B-4?” (Dock 3-B-4?)

“Si. Tenemos una reserva para 3-B-4.” (Yes, we have a reservation for dock 3-B-4.)

“Adelante.” (Come ahead).

As Sonrisa slipped past the breakwater an into the marina I slowed her to idle-speed as she ghosted her way through the mirror-calm inky-dark water toward her slip. On the sidewalk surrounding the marina I saw the night staff hurrying toward the gate on a bicycle. I wanted to let him know not to rush, we can take our time finding the slip, but another radio conversation would probably just confuse things.

As we made the last turn into the fairway for dock 3 I saw the marina staff on the end of the finger waving us in. It’s so nice that they send staff down to the dock to help with lines of arriving vessels. We always appreciate a few extra hands especially when you’re uncertain of the dock configuration.

Once Sonrisa was securely tied and we were checked-in with the marina night staff, we wandered up to the town square to bid farewell to our crew mate Kellye and celebrate our arrival with some much anticipated ice cream from Vegan Paradice. We had just enough time to make it up the hill before they closed.

As we left the marina gate into town I was struck with how it felt both novel and strangely familiar to be here. Kristin and I took this same evening walk dozens of times last season, it had become part of our evening routine. I felt my brain struggle to reconcile the gaps in time between. Has it really been over a year since we were first here? It felt like picking up a book months after last putting it down and continuing on where you left off. Time seemed to compress around our departure and return as if we never really left, at least in that moment.

That feeling is one of the things I find so gratifying about cruising. Each place where we spend any significant time quickly feels like another home for us. Each place is different, but in each we develop our favorite pastimes and routines that feel so good to slip back into each time we return. Just the familiarity of the place itself brings a little spark of joy when we return.

As we approached the shop I was practicing my Spanish in my head in case Mar was working. Last season we had become regulars there and the owner Mar treated us like valued friends. The last time we saw her we were struggling to communicate in broken English and Spanish that she wanted a photo of us together to send to her mother before we said farewell for the season.

We turned the corner into the shop and saw Mar at the counter. I raised my arms and cheered out in my best Spanish, “Nosotros volvemos!” (We return!)

Mar recognized us in an instant and returned our cheer and warmly welcomed us back to La Cruz and her shop. We chatted a bit about our summer and said how glad we were to see her doing well before getting down to the very serious business of sundaes.

While in La Cruz I finally broke out my Swytch electric bike kit for our trusty Brompton folding bike. The bicycle was very useful last season here as it was our primary form of ground transportation. We refused to take cabs or buses while we were still waiting for a COVID vaccine, so the bicycle came in very handy to bridge that gap. This year I decided to up our game by adding Swytch electric kit to the bike to help conquer the hills between La Cruz and Bucerias.

The installation was fairly easy, although the directions could have been clearer as the kit came with at least 3 different options for mounting the pedal sensor and it wasn’t entirely clear which one was the right one to use.

Once on the road though, wow, what a difference. The moment I switched the battery on and started pedaling the little Brompton took off like an over-caffeinated chihuahua. Starting from a stop on a hill where I’d be doing well to get it out of second gear, I found myself only spending a moment in the low gears until the motor caught up and I’m easily pedaling uphill at full speed in top gear.

I had a blast powering up hills like they were nothing on my way to the Oxxo at the edge of town where there is often farm trucks selling the world’s best watermelon and pineapple. Another highlight we were looking forward to returning to.

We actually ended up having quite a bit of business to take care of in La Cruz. On the way south from Isla Isabel I noticed a crack forming in the windvane pivot arm. Once again I turned to the morning VHF net for advice and that same day another cruiser who was getting some stainless work done on his boat instructed me to bring the part over to the boat yard and we’ll throw it in with the parts he’s sending off to Bucerias to get welded. I was lucky he also spoke good Spanish and was able to explain to the welder that I wanted to add some gussets around the arm to reinforce it. The next day the welder returned with both of our parts finished.

Also while we were in La Cruz we opted to do another quick trip to San Diego to get our COVID boosters. We were not yet eligible when we departed and now that we’re experts with the Volaris flights to the Tijuana CBX border crossing we figured it was worth the time effort and modest expense for a little extra ‘insurance’ against severe illness. This would also give us an opportunity to do some Christmas shopping in La Cruz and carry it back to send via US Mail to our friends and family back home.

For most of the time we spent in the Marina we were on the lookout for a good sized crocodile that had taken up residency around the boats. American crocodiles are native to this area but usually stick to the fresh and brackish waters of the mangroves and deltas near the coast rather than in the ocean itself. Apparently storms and flooding often displace the crocodiles and they end up hanging out in protected waters around the coast until they find their way (or are relocated) back inland.

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