Banana bread and crocodiles

We moved on from Boobie Island after only a few night of rest and relaxation. Originally we were going to do another overnight sail to go straight to La Cruz where we planned to do our final items on the list before heading across the puddle, but with no good weather window to make the 90+ miles, we chose to do it in smaller hops as I continue to fail at convincing myself that I am not in a rush… not on a schedule… we can hop.

Just 42 miles (8.5 hours) away was San Blas, or more accurately – the tiny town of Matanchen, next door to San Blas. There were two things that attracted us here, other than a safe anchorage, and that was banana bread and crocodiles. Sure, that sounds like an odd combination, but bare with me. The banana bread, which we picked up multiple loaves over multiple days visiting the town, came from Panadería Juan Bananas. An extremely well praised loaf of bread, it is so sought after that nearly every other street vendor in town offers banana bread as well, in hopes of making a sale on an unsuspecting tourist. We did not fall for the trick, sticking to the most delicious banana bread we have had in some time.

However, we did do a tourist-thing. The local “jungle cruise” which packed us in a well cared for panga, along with a nice tour guide, to boat through the local mangroves to see the sights of the “jungle”. It was very Disneyesque in a way, as we passed through tunnels of mangrove on our way out to La Tovara  – a snack shack and swimming hole in the jungle. La Tovara sounds fun and all, for the kids, but not really our thing so we hitched a ride back as soon as possible. We did enjoy the slow cruise out, seeing a few critters along the way, but not of any real quantity.

San Blas was charming, and it’s so strange to suddenly, after a week at sea or remote island, find ourselves no longer in the arid desert climate of Baja and Sonora. We enjoyed a “jungle tour” through the mangroves where we saw crocodiles, turtles, and new-to-us species of birds, explored town, and partook (multiple times) of Juan Banana’s legendary banana bread.
One thing I’ll never quite understand about Mexican business culture (especially in super touristy areas) is the homogeny of it all. Each beach is lined with restaurants ramadas, all serving nearly identical seafood menus, with near-identical decor and design. Some, are of course better than others in quality, service, etc., but there’s really no way to distinguish one from the next unless you really get to know a place.
50 years ago, Juan opened his now-legendary banana bread shop, bringing the first banana bread into San Blas. And it’s excellent. Now, the street his shop is on is lined with second-rate banana bread vendors. Pretty much every shop, all in a row, right next to each other now hawks banana bread of varying quality. But what made Juan’s such a success to begin with? Aside from it being delicious, surely it was also unique (in the beginning). In town, I noticed a single shop displaying “fresh handmade tortillas” as a selling point … except, what was right next to it? Another shop with the same claim to fame. The culture here seems to be, “do exactly what made the other guy successful, and do it right next to him,” not “find a niche and be known for it.” I wonder what Juan thinks about San Blas-Tepic being virtual banana bread row now, because of his success. He probably just thinks, “¡Naturalmente!” – Kerri

After a few nights we left San Blas, moving more 23 miles down the Mexico coastline, to the beach town of Chacala. This was a good day of sailing nearly the entire time in calm seas and the wind on our beam. But, as we approached the anchorage the sea state picked up, and the anchorage itself is completely exposed to the Pacific Ocean. By the time we dropped our anchors (we stern anchored to ensure we faced into the swell) we probably had 4 foot swell in the anchorage. This made for what we both agree to be the worst anchorage we have ever stayed. It is no fun trying to sleep when your bed is being lifted up 4 feet only to be dropped immediately after. Even if you can get past the sensation of being lifted into the air then squished into the mattress, the sound of water splitting under the bow of Meriwether was enough to keep a bear awake all winter. That said, I actually slept okay oddly enough. Can’t keep this bear from sleeping!

We couldn’t take the sea state any longer, so after one night we moved on to an unplanned anchorage on the lee of a tiny anchorage 8 miles further south. Little Isla la Pena did not offer a lot of protection from the swell, but what little it did helped a lot. Meriwether still pitched and rolled for the couple nights we stayed, but at least within reason, for a bear. The island was a beautiful paradise for all the frigate birds, which would spend each morning gliding above it in huge numbers. By late morning the people would arrive by ferry boats to enjoy the picturesque beach. And just before sunset everything would go quiet and we would have the place to ourselves again, slowly bobbing and rolling in the swell of the ocean. Curiously, what we may have considered un-bear-able (yeah, I just did that) in the recent past, didn’t feel so bad anymore. Chacala moved the bar for what we can tolerate… or at least we can agree that it isn’t as bad as Chacala, making it good enough.

The boat full of beach goers comes each day

Frigate birds in the mornings

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