Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Costa Alegre means “happy coast”. It’s a series of bays, beaches and anchorages that run from Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad. The small towns of Costalegre aren’t big tourist destinations but they’re very popular with cruisers.

We departed La Cruz at midnight to round Cabo Corrientes at night when the wind is lighter and currents have less effect. We had 15 knots of wind and typically lumpy seas where the bay and ocean currents and mountain winds all intersect … as we got further south, the seas smoothed out for a pleasant sail.


As soon as the sun came up I put out our fishing lines. It was a typical fishing day – hours when nothing happens followed by minutes of panic. After a couple hours the reel started screaming. I looked aft and yelled to Kathryn that we had hooked a large sailfish, which made about a dozen jumps trying to shake the lure. We didn’t think we’d get the sailfish close to the boat with light tackle, but wanted to try. Kathryn took the helm. It was comical as I asked Kathryn to “head up, head down, speed up, slow down, no head up again, etc. etc.”. We did get the sailfish next to the boat, wondering how we would separate it from the lure. The sailfish took care of the problem by diving under the boat and rubbing the line against the keel. As I tried to lift its head for a better photo, the line parted and he swam away. What an exciting morning!

Bahia Chamela – Our first stop along Costalegre was Bahia Chamela, about 100 miles from La Cruz. The town of Pérula is small with a nice anchorage, good snorkeling, a few restaurants and tiendas for provisions.

Bahia Chamela anchorage

Breakfast at Scuba Jazz cafe

The bay was home to a mother Humpback whale and calf we watched swimming together every morning.

Wavelength crew taking photos ... mother & calf on the right

Paraiso – From Chamela south all the anchorages are very short hops down the coast. Our next stop was Paraiso, which translates to “paradise” or “heaven”. With a stunning beach, one small family-owned resort and room for just a few boats, Paraiso lived up to its name. We spent a couple days snorkeling and touring the nearby coves and islands in our dinghy.

Anchorage & Playas Paraiso resort

Paraiso sunset

Bahia Tenacatita

We first heard about Tenacatita at the boat show at Jack London Square in Oakland. Two long-time cruisers, Robert and Virginia Gleser, (Robert is the unofficial “mayor” of the anchorage) spend most of the season in Tenacatita and give talks about cruising Costalegre. A lot of other cruisers echoed their praise, so Tenacatita was one of our must-stop anchorages.  We weren’t disappointed. 

Tenacatita beach & anchorage

Although there is a bar/restaurant on the beach  a thatched roof with some plastic tables and chairs – Tenacatita has no services, no stores and no marina. It is very laid back, but the anchorage is large and at any one time there may be 20 to 30 boats anchored. This makes for a lively social scene with group swims, bocce ball, dominoes at the palapa, the “mayor’s raft up” and having a drink or two with your fellow cruisers.

Enjoying a beer with the boys

Valentine’s Day dinner

After the Valentine’s dinner the mayor hosted a dinghy raft-up – just bring your dinghy, drinks, desserts and stories. The “theme” for this Valentine’s Day raft-up was “how did you meet?” The stories were great, some were funny and some were intimate. We even had a young single guy tell us how he and his boat got together … hilarious.

Mayor’s raft-up … Robert & Virginia

Tenacatita beach

Turtles come to the beach to bury their eggs in the sand. Volunteers improve the hatchling survival rate by digging up the eggs and reburying them in a caged area on the beach. After they hatch they release the baby turtles after dark and the volunteers protect them until they are safely in the water. The photo below shows the 95th nest of the season, with 74 eggs, sown on January 18th, with a probable hatch on March 3rd.

Hatchling nursery

La Manzanilla is the town on the southern end of the bay. It’s normally an exposed anchorage but the winds were light, so we anchored here for two nights.

La Manzanilla

As we go further south, the towns get smaller, there are fewer people, and there are more crocodiles. They even have crocs in the lagoon at Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta, but they are in their element this far south. We’d never seen a crocodile up close, so we visited the crocodile preserve in La Manzanilla. We’ll watch where we swim from now on.

Cocodrilario … the croc is in the middle

Our southernmost stop was Barra de Navidad, just a few miles south of Tenacatita.  It’s a nice marina attached to the Grand Bay Hotel, with restaurants, pools, a weekly cruiser’s welcome party and easy water taxi access to town.

Marina office

Barra de Navidad marina

Hotel pool

Barra has lots of tiendas for provisioning, restaurants, a fish cooperative for really fresh seafood (mahi-mahi for dinner tonight), shopping and cultural activities on the square … this week it’s Barra’s Carnival.

Barra has one other excellent attraction – the French Baker!  At the civilized hour of 9:00am, the French Baker, a transplant from Bordeaux, announces his arrival at the marina.  Call him on your VHF radio, tell him your slip number and voila … freshly baked croissant, baguettes, quiche, fruit pies plus whatever else he baked that morning.  This is one of the highlights of Barra de Navidad.

The French Baker

We're about to head back north in a few days … just waiting for a weather window to round Cabo Corrientes.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


The plant distilled to make tequila is called "Weber's Blue Agave", named by a German botanist, Franz Weber, who classified the plant in the early 1900's. Our name is Weber, so our boat, Agave Azul is Weber's Blue Agave! We know it's a stretch, but we enjoy tequila and coming up with a good boat name isn't easy.

Blue Agave plants - Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico

The town of Tequila is just a few hours from where we were anchored in Banderas Bay, so we rented a car, made a hotel reservation and drove to the mountains to learn about tequila.

We turned off the main road outside Tequila hoping to watch the harvesting process. Although we didn't see the jimadores harvesting the plant in the field, we did see the end result, a tractor bringing dozens of 10 - 12 year old harvested plants to a waiting truck. The harvested plants are called piñas for their resemblance to pineapple, piña in Spanish.

Delivering harvested piñas

Up close and personal with the Blue Agave - yes, the pointy ends are very sharp!

At the Herradura Hacienda we watched a traditionally dressed jimador removing the leaves using an ultra sharp flat blade called a coa de jima. The jimador's job involves a lot of hard work in the field, but it's a well paid, highly respected job.

Jimador at work - Herradura Hacienda

Below is a photo of the piñas being readied for the next step in the process, a 48-hour steam in a stone oven. Each oven holds 52 tons of piñas, enough to make about 7,500 liters of tequila.

Cutting the larger piñas down to size for the oven - La Cofradia distillery

Oven loaded with uncooked piñas

The piñas after steaming

The steaming process converts natural carbohydrates and starches into fermentable sugars making the fibrous piñas very sweet - a tequila lover's candy bar.

Sampling the steamed agave - Herradura

To extract the juice the fibrous plants are mechanically shredded and water is added.

The modern way to mill the piñas - La Cofradia

One distillery on our must-stop list was Los Abuelos ("the grandfathers"), also called La Fortaleza. It is the only remaining tequila distillery that mills the piñas the old way, using a heavy stone wheel called a tahona. The stone used to be moved by men, then animals and now a small tractor.

The old fashioned way to extract the juice

The distillery, Los Abuelos, was closed in 1968 because the traditional process was too inefficient. In 1999 the fifth-generation owner decided to restore the old distillery to produce artisan tequilas.  

"Where tequila is made as my great great grandfather did."

Fermentation is next, where the sugars are turned into alcohol. The liquid from the shredded piñas is called "mosto", which is the color of mud.  

Mosto liquid from the piña milling process

A 3-10 day fermentation turns the mosto into a 5% alcohol solution

The next step is distillation. The liquid is distilled two or three times to remove impurities and to increase alcohol level.

Stills at La Cofradia

The first distillation converts the mosto into "ordinario" which still contains undesirable toxins. The second distillation turns the ordinario into tequila with a 55 to 60% alcohol level. Distilled water is added to the tequila to bring it down to a 40% alcohol level.

At this point the "Blanco" tequila is ready for bottling. "Reposado" tequila will be rested for 2 months to a year in used American oak whisky barrels. "Añejo" is aged in oak barrels for 1 to 3 years.

Mosto   >   Ordinario   >   Tequila

One of our visits was to Herradura, the 3rd largest tequila producer. The stills in this ultra modern facility are capable of producing 60,000 liters of tequila per day.

Stills at Herradura

By contrast, the stills at Los Abuelos produce about the same amount of tequila in a year that Herradura produces in one day.

Stills at Los Abuelo

When we were at Herradura we asked our guide if there were any small distillers nearby that made good tequila. She said there was one, Miravalle, that made excellent tequila and charged very low prices. We told her we'd looked for Miravalle but didn't see the sign. She said there was no sign - we just had to keep taking right turns off the highway until we found it, which we finally did. 

The guard unlocked the gate and gave us a puzzled look. We asked if we could buy some tequila, so he let us in to the guard shack. Then we asked if we could taste their tequila. Out came the plastic beer cups, he pulled an open bottle off the shelf and we tasted some amazingly good tequila. We bought a few bottles and halfway home we realized we'd made a big mistake - we should have bought a case!

Herradura Gran Imperio Reposado / Fortaleza (Los Abuelos) Reposado & Añejo / Miravalle Reposado & Añejo

Los Abuelos Autentico Artesanal Elaborado en Tahona