Tales of Retirement in Paradise
|Chapter 21 - Cruising The Coast Of Happiness|
Polly G. Vicars
We talked about it for months; we planned for every contingency and finally the time was here. Husband, El Capitán, El Chico (the kid) and I were ready to embark on a true-life adventure in our twenty-three-foot Mexican panga - an adventure that would take us over one hundred and twenty miles down the Pacific's Costa Alegre (Coast of Happiness.)
|El Capitán, El Chico and me with a fabulous tuna|
|El Chico and I did a little diving into the clear blue water|
|The guys as we arrived at Careyes|
|Happy Fisherpeople in the calm waters of the Bay|
Through the years we have gradually upgraded El Viejo (the boat, not the husband) with ship-to-shore radio, two forty-eight-horsepower motors, a depth finder, more storage, and various other refinements. However, you know we have retained our much-loved Capitán, the young, experienced sailor, the second generation of his family to choose a life on the sea who, like the boat itself, was born in Vallarta.
We had fished every inch of our bay, second in size to Canada's Hudson Bay. We had ventured straight out into the open sea as far as Corbateña, a small rock island about forty miles from Vallarta, where bill fishing is superb. We had motored north along the coast fifty miles to the fishing village of Rincon de Guyabitas where we spent Thanksgiving 1993, fishing and exploring new territory.
But we had never been past Cabo Corrientes (Cape of the Currents,) the point where the bay takes a sharp turn south, and you find yourself abruptly in the open sea. As you might imagine from the name, at that point the currents are strong, and by afternoon the winds are high. Not unlike those who wanted to reach the North Pole, we wanted to journey pass the rough water to see what was there!
We talked of finding a hotel on the beach near the pueblo Barra de Navidad. Friends had recently motored there and regaled us with stories of the various hotels along the way. They couldn't stop talking of a luxurious hotel on the Bahía de Careyes (Bay of the Sea Turtle.) We filed that away as a place we'd really like to visit but probably never would.
That is where fate intervened! As we were planning the trip south, we were also working to find a hotel in which to hold our AMF dinner-dance. One hotel we visited was the Bel-Air at Vallarta's Marina. While there we learned that the Careyes hotel that our friends had "oohed and aahed" over was also a Bel-Air. So during our negotiations for the dinner-dance, we asked about accommodations at Careyes and found that they had a safe anchorage for El Viejo and even had condominiums that would be perfect for us and the crew and would have a refrigerator for the fish we hoped to catch.
So not only did we contract for the dinner-dance at the Vallarta Hotel Bel-Air, we made reservations to spend Thanksgiving weekend in the Careyes Bel-Air, that renowned playground of the rich and famous.
Fate or as we prefer to think, our personal Fairy Godmother, was again offering help - this time in the person of John Youden (John is the one who helped me publish this book.) He is a talented and energetic transplanted Canadian who started the popular magazine "Vallarta Lifestyles," and had just issued the second edition of his successful bilingual magazine "Yates y Villas." The lead articles were "Costa Alegre, México's Pacific Coast of Joy" and "Costa Careyes, Profile: The Careyes Coast." How did he know this was exactly the information we had been seeking?
Not only did these articles by Elizabeth Vago and Heather Wilson include a reliable map charting the way with details of both safe berths and hazards to avoid, they waxed eloquently of the "the warmth and romance of México in the natural wonders of a luscious land ... deep aqua bays, inlets of translucent water teeming with marine life, golden beaches without a track mark, myriad of picturesque bays."
While Husband and I were eager to embark on this adventure, El Capitán was torn between intense excitement and grave apprehension! The responsibility of a safe journey was on his shoulders! He had never taken a boat south of Cabo Corrientes, but had weathered the swift currents and the winds at that point.
|El Chico displaying his sense of humor for us|
|El Capitán, a fabulous dorado and me|
His more adventurous side yearned to experience the waters south, reported to be teaming with bill and other sport fish. So he carefully made his plans; he gathered all of the extra motor parts he thought prudent to take along; he borrowed and filled garrafones (twenty gallon plastic gasoline jugs); he stocked line, lures, reel parts, batteries and everything necessary for a trip of undetermined length in unknown waters. He sought counsel from the old hands, which he carefully filed for later use. His natural optimism, coupled with his confidence in his own seamanship, overcame his fears and left him also anxious to begin.
We invited El Chico to accompany us. He is the sixteen-year old son of the water taxi man (Remember the thirty-year old canoe that ferries fishermen and sightseers to their boats?) who had been going on adventures with us and learning the art of "capitaning" from El Capitán since he was ten years old. Thus we had captain and crew, every necessary supply within reason, and excited anticipation to match that of any famous expedition.
We left at dawn on Thanksgiving Day 1994. El Viejo was low in the water as it was loaded to the gills; Husband, the crew and I were high on emotion and expectation. The sea was calm, and the weather, as always, was balmy and perfect.
We cruise at about twenty miles an hour with both motors running wide open. We breezed past Las Animas, Quimixto and Yelapa - all familiar day-trip destinations for tourists as well as locals. We passed Chimo and El Coral, isolated fishing villages not known to tourists or even to most locals. After about an hour and a half, we reached Cabo Corrientes, marked by El Faro, the beautiful, white stucco lighthouse built into the rocky mountainside high over the point that separates bay from sea.
Many Vallarta fishermen go to El Faro, the name they give to both the lighthouse and the area, when they are seriously looking to catch the big one. It is an area of uninhabited and unspoiled rocky shores dotted with white sandy beaches. The lighthouse, which also houses a Mexican family, stands majestically surveying the scene below and nightly sprays its light out to sea so that no ship will run aground.
It was here, in the swirling waters, that Husband caught the biggest sailfish he has ever caught; it weighed 136 pounds and two days later in Vallarta's International Sailfish Tournament, a 99 pounder won the brand new car. Fairy Godmother, where were you then?
El Capitán, having planned well, got us past the swift currents of Cabo Corrientes early that morning before the winds picked up. With that behind us, we all breathed a sigh of relief and settled in to view the heretofore unseen beaches of the Costa Alegre and, as fisherfolk are wont to do, talk about all of the fish we were going to catch. We weren't to be disappointed!
We cruised past more than fifty miles of incredibly beautiful, but barren shoreline, rhythmically beaten by great waves that dared a little boat such as ours to come ashore. This area has been likened to Baja California - arid and desert-like. The only inhabitants are the scurrying desert critters, the occasional deer and wild boar, and, of course, the sea birds.
Occasionally we saw a small boat with one or two fishermen trying to catch those scrumptious huachinango (red snapper) for which our area is so famous. Once or twice, far out to sea, we spotted large shrimpers, probably from the port of Manzanillo, stretching their great arms out to scoop up those delectable crustaceans most of us savor.
Essentially, we were four with the sea. All of us, the young lad of sixteen years, the family man with a wife and six children and we old gringos, were awed by the expanse, the grandeur, and the solitude that surrounded us. Large chunks of time passed with absolute quiet except the steady hum of the motors. Each of us was absorbed in the beauty of nature and the intimacy the four of us had established during these years of sharing the small space of a fishing boat hour after hour and day after day. It was magic and priceless!
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
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