Crazy times we’re living in. How are things where you are? Things are changing by the day or by the hour in Mexico. The government is finally getting serious about this pandemic. The country is basically on “shelter-in-place” orders now, just in time to STOP the revelers of Semana Santa (Easter Week) from a mass ascension on the beaches of Mexico.
Photos of the military walking the beaches in Manzanillo (an hour south of us) with machine guns, keeping people off the beach are cropping up online. And we have heard of people being turned around at the border between the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, just north of the Puerto Vallarta Airport, presumably to keep the Semana Santa revelers away.
In our last blog post, we were planning to head out on the hook, to anchor out in a remote location and ride this pandemic out. However, the status of ports and port captain decisions are also changing by the hour. Here in Barra de Navidad, boats are allowed to leave if they have a reservation at another marina or for seasonal haulouts. But they are instructed to go straight there and not stop elsewhere other than anchoring en route. So we are not allowed to just leave and go anchor out somewhere at this point in time.
It’s basically left up to each individual Port Captain to interpret the rules as they see fit. One thing we’ve also heard is that the Mexican Navy has been called in to help maintain order in ports along the coast. Since the Mexican Navy acts much the same as our US Coast Guard, the government here doesn’t want them having to potentially be called out to help a cruising boat in distress. Remember we have the Mexican Navy to thank for pulling us off the rocks after Hurricane Newton. So as a guest in this country, we are more than happy to comply with their rules.
We’ve heard lots of different stories up and down the coast of Mexico as to what’s open or closed. We’ve read that all of Baja California has been shut down with strict sequestering, only one person allowed in a car at a time, no walking on the Malecon, only going from home to grocery store and back allowed. So if we had opted to sail up to the Sea of Cortez as we had originally hoped, there’s no way to know what the situation would be when we arrived. And they don't grow a lot of food in arid Baja, so we're glad to be "stuck" in a large agricultural area.
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Due to all of these new regulations changing daily, we are trying to do as much as we can outside, in anticipation of tighter lockdowns soon. We've heard from cruising friends in the South Pacific and in San Diego, no swimming, no paddleboarding, no kayaking, no leaving your boat. This is especially hard when you're living in 200 square feet of space. But we realize everyone is making sacrifices right now...
Last week we took several hikes exploring around the resort grounds, including checking out a shipwreck that we could see from Google Earth. In addition to the hotel and golf course, the resort has miles of roads and trails to future development sites. The terrain around here is somewhat arid with saguaro and prickly pear cactus on the hillsides, mixed with palm trees, and bougainvillea shrubs (likely not so native here.)
Our first “short” five-mile round-trip hike took us through the resort, past the golf course to Playa el Coco and Secret Beach. We liked it so much we went there again two days later.
Here are a few videos of the waves: Heidi at Secret Beach and Secret Beach White Water (This is right around the corner from the ship wreck, and you can see why the sign says swim at your own risk, these waves reminded us of rafting Lava Falls on the Grand Canyon!)
Yesterday we took a longer seven-mile round-trip hike to the lighthouse to look down on the shipwreck below. What would we do without Google maps to help determine the correct trail to get to the lighthouse?! What look like roads on this map are actually mostly trails of where they intend to eventually put roads if they ever continue this large master plan development... apparently it's being held up in a family dispute.
According to news sources: the 223-meter, Mexican-flagged bulk carrier (fuel tanker) Los Llanitos (“Yan-itos”) ran aground along the rocky Pacific coastline just south of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco on October 23rd, 2015 while attempting to ride out category 5 Hurricane Patricia, which packed 200mph winds and 30’ seas. After the storm, the crew was helicoptered off the ship, and a salvage effort removed of over 3,000 gallons of oil and over 132,000 gallons of diesel and other contaminants aboard the ship.
Los Llanitos has remained on the rocks, slowly breaking apart for the past 4.5 years. Reportedly PROFEPA, (the Mexican EPA) visits it twice a week to assess the situation while it is still trying to decide if it’s more environmentally friendly to disassemble it in place, piece by piece or sink it to form an artificial reef. As recently as last summer, there have been reports of oil still leaking out of it.
Interestingly, Los Llanitos was ordered out to sea (as many large ships are) into the face of a hurricane to ride it out there, which oftentimes is better than the ship being smashed against the dock in such a storm. However, the captain was 11 hours late in leaving the port and headed north instead of south as he’d been directed to do. Sobering to see this behemoth crashed onto the rocks from the lighthouse above.
Wildlife along our hikes have included many birds like "Boom" chachalacas, turkey vultures, pelicans, frigate birds, swallows, and great kiskadees, plus blue-bellied spiny lizards, large white morpho butterflies, and lots of termite nests too. Next hike we plan to explore other trails, wearing long pants and hiking boots as some of the roads or trails are pretty overgrown and thorny.
Video: A "blizzard of Swallows" catching bugs (hopefully mosquitos!)
So as of today the Hotel and Resort at Marina de Navidad is closed. What does this mean for us? The lovely long hikes we’ve been taking every-other morning will now be much longer over the top of the hill, unless we dinghy into Colomilla.
It’s all in the name of health-safety for everyone and we don’t mind a bit. But it is making us feel more secluded now that things are officially closed. Most of the cruisers are leaving their boats here and flying back to the US or Canada this week if their flights aren’t canceled. There is a small handful of us staying put, for now, maybe 15-20 people total. The marina staff and hotel security guards and grounds staff will remain working. But otherwise, it’s very quiet around here.
The hotel grounds, trails, and beaches here are still open for our use, but the swimming pools, restaurants and beaches are all closed. The water taxis are still running between the hotel and the town of Barra de Navidad for now. And of course, we have our inflatable kayaks that we’ll be making use of soon to kayak around the lagoon for more exercise until we hear otherwise.
Alex, the owner of our favorite Hawaii Super Store in Malaque has offered to make weekly deliveries of groceries to those of us who are still in the marina. And he has generously offered to pick up things for us on his weekly Costco runs to Guadalajara as well. So as far as food and toilet paper go, we are well stocked. And we are staying put where we are for the next several months. We are safe, comfortable and all is good for now.
Come June, we’ll re-assess the COVID-19 situation vs. the impending Hurricane season and see where things stand. We’d rather be in Marina Vallarta for Hurricane season as we feel it’s more protected there and the docks are stronger. But we know people who’ve ridden out hurricanes here in Barra and been ok. Of course, we really don’t want to experience another hurricane at all if we don’t have to! But we’ve selected a good slip here in Barra with three pilings we can tie to if need be. The main determination will be pandemic related first if it’s safe to return to PV by late June, we hope to do that.
In the meantime, we’ll shelter in place in paraíso (paradise!), keep hiking in nature as we can, keep eating healthy food, washing our hands and money, and getting lots of sleep, Tosh and Tikka included... Oh, and Zooming with friends and family, let us know if you'd like to Zoom!
LOVE and HUGS to all of you from Mexico. Stay safe and WELL.