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Rocky Melaque and Barra de Navidad

by Susan on March 20, 2010

We arrived in Bahia de Navidad within a few hours after leaving Tenacatita on March 15.  Rhumb Line was ahead of us and Trumpeter was limping along behind us. 

 We left Tenacatita so fast that we didn’t even have time to review the waypoints for entering the Barra lagoon where we would be anchoring.  This was important because there seem to be very few boats that make it to the anchorage without running aground first.   With my track record I was certain I’d be one of them. 

 Rhumb Line being about 20 minutes ahead of us promptly put themselves on top of a sandbar upon entering the lagoon.  Hearing this, Michael and I took one look at each other, made an abrupt turn toward Rocky Melaque which is at the northwest end of the bay and hightailed it out of there.  Trumpeter on the other hand, had no choice since they needed to be in Barra to get a new propeller shaft made, so they went in but managed to bypass the sandbars having received guidance from Rhumb Line. 

 All drama aside, landing on a sandbar, I’ve learned, really is not that big of a deal; as long as you back off quickly you will be fine, but Sandbar Susie just wasn’t in the mood.

 We had heard Melaque was a very rocky, rolly anchorage due to the swells that come in from the ocean, hence the name Rocky Melaque, but we were okay with that.  How bad could one night be.  

 We anchored, put our dinghy down, made it to shore without getting soaked during our beach landing and headed to town to explore. 

Beach at Melaque

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The town was a  typical small Mexican coastline village with restaurants, shops and small hotels though maybe a little louder and less charming than some we have seen.  

We found the “Hawaii” store that Gary and Lori on Endless Summer II had told us about, a small grocery store that seemed to have everything a gringo needed.  We bought some groceries, went back to the boat, showered, relaxed and prepared the fish that Trumpeter had caught and generously shared with us, watched a movie and slipped into a sound, restful sleep.  It wasn’t rocky at all.  In fact, it was very calm with a nice, cool breeze.  We were comfortable and had no complaints.

The only thing that disrupted our deep sleep were fireworks once around midnight and then again at about 5:00 a.m.  We arrived in Melaque in the middle of their week long celebration of their patron saint, St. Patricio, so the entire town was in non-stop party mode.  These Mexicans sure know how to celebrate and holidays seem to occur frequently in this country.

The following morning, we dinghied over to Barra (approximately a 10 minute ride across the bay) to meet up with Trumpeter and Rhumb Line and to check out the lagoon.

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While taking a little tour of the resort hotel’s marina, we ran into the French Baker that we had heard so much about.  He was just leaving from his rounds in the marina, and heading to the anchorage.

 The French Baker, Emeric, moved here several years ago from Canada and opened up a bakery called El Horno Francés.   He can be hailed on Channel 22 at approximately 8:30 in the morning when he makes his rounds through the marina and anchorage in a panga boat selling his fresh pastries.

When he saw us looking in his direction, he slowed down so we motioned for him to come to our dinghy.  While we picked from the variety of pastries, baguettes, pies, and quiches, we radioed Trumpeter and Rhumb Line who likewise ordered some pastries.  By the time we were finished we motored away with approximately 1,000 pesos worth of pastries (roughly $80 US).  Those were some expensive pastries. 

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When we finally got to Trumpeter, we joined them for breakfast, then we all headed to the Port Captain’s office to check in.  Our search took us down some canals to a residential area, where we tied up the dinghy and walked a short distance until we found the office.  The Port Captain’s office was located in the lower level of someone’s home.

 After checking in and returning to our dinghy, we went back to Melaque with every intention of bringing our boat back since not only did we now know where the sandbars were, but we were impressed with the extremely calm, quiet, lovely lagoon. 

 Upon returning to Melaque, we put our dinghy up as we prepared to weigh anchor and then felt the refreshing breeze which was non-existent in Barra during our morning visit.  It was so much cooler where we were and though the swells were more noticeable, it wasn’t that rocky so we decided to stay there one more night. 

 Big Mistake!!!  That night we got to truly experience Rocky Melaque.  It was like riding a bucking bronco all night.  We couldn’t wait until morning to head for Barra.   And, with Melaque’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in full force with loud music and fireworks, it was impossible to get any sleep.

 On Wednesday, March 17, we headed over to Barra, made it to the fuel dock, filled up, then backtracked to go around a buoy to head for the lagoon carefully avoiding sandbars.  Yesterday Mick (Rhumb Line) and Gary (Trumpeter) gave us good guidance on the path to follow to get around them and it worked great.

Google Image of Entrance to Lagoon

Barra de Navidad

We got anchored in about 9 feet of water, lowered the dinghy and joined Rhumb Line and Trumpeter for a ride into town where we browsed the shops, had breakfast and some internet time. 

As you can see from the above Google image, the town of Barra de Navidad is partly situated on a sandbar with the southern end being its Malecon.  It is a lovely, quaint village though a bit more touristy than Melaque.

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We got back to the boat about 4 p.m., rested for a short while and got dressed for a night on the town.  We went to a place called Piper Lover first but left after one drink when we realized we became part of the menu for the mosquitos.  The place was full of them.  It was awful.  We continued on to an upscale restaurant where we had a delicious meal then onto a bar/dance club where we danced the night away.   We had a BLAST!

The following morning (Thursday) Rhumb Line discovered a water leak and their dinghy lift was not working.

 Trumpeter’s part is ready but they are unable to drop the rudder in the water to replace the shaft so we are all planning on leaving Saturday morning  to continue heading south until we can find a haul out yard for them.

 Michael and I went back to the fuel dock this morning.  Something I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t want to temp fate twice, nor did I want us to lose the spot where we were anchored, but we were out of water and the fuel dock was the only place we could fill up. 

We managed to get there and back without hitting a sandbar and just in time to not lose our spot as other boats were starting to come in from Melaque and other places.  Some, if not all, hit sandbars.  This is a very tricky place.

 We went out that evening to celebrate Anna and Gary’s 18th wedding anniversary but made it a relatively early night.  We had a scrumptious meal at Sambuca’s, a Mexican restaurant with a Mediterranean flair.  Everything this chef made was a work of art.

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Friday, Michael and I were determined to get some good internet time and since the Grand Bay Hotel was beckoning us, we went to check it out.  Wow!!!  The lap of luxury at its finest.  We bought a couple of hours of internet time for 50 pesos and sat by the pool, ordered a couple of piña coladas and relaxed in the hammocks in the shade.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  A day of this now and then is an absolute necessity for me.

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We learned later that day that Rhumb Line would not be able to leave on Saturday.  The water leak was from their water heater which needed replacing.  Unfortunately, their dinghy davits also need to be repaired.

 Since Trumpeter is still in search of a haul-out, we will still leave with them tomorrow.  Next stop:   Santiago Bay/Manzanillo Bay/Las Hadas.

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