The TOAD

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The following morning (at 4 am because that’s what time we do things) Maluhia pulled anchor and continued the journey 50 miles South towards Chamela. We were less than 5 miles off shore when the depth changed to an unexpected 50 feet!  That’s not what the chart says . . .

“Head due West captain!”

We traveled West for another hour to get out of the shallows into a more comfortable 500 feet. The sea was cooperative enough to sail as we kept our eyes peeled for our next landmark and hazard, roca negra.

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Later that afternoon we put the hook in the ground amongst 25 other boats that had claimed their patch of sand in Bahia Chamela. It wasn’t long before a man on a kayak came paddling over to chat while we waited for our anchor to set.

His story, . . . he had been sailing Mexico for five years with his wife, but this year they left their boat up in San Carlos to explore Mexico via land yacht. By land yacht, I mean something with wheels.

While traveling by boat along the Mexican coasts was fun, for them it was limited in the sense of what you could see ashore and inland. We could relate, and mentioned one of our ideas for summer was to find a safe place for Maluhia, and take time to explore Mexico’s interior.

The man on the kayak said, they visited Bahía Chamela many times by boat but never made it to shore. They arrived three weeks ago intending to stay one week.

Kayak: “Do you know the best thing about a land yacht?”
Us: “What?”
Kayak: “It can go to weather really well.”
Us: “We hear they never drag anchor.”

(Laughter)

Kayak: “How was rounding the cape?”
Us: “It was fine, I guess we timed it right.”
Kayak: “I’ve rounded it five times. Three of the five attempts I timed it right. Two our of five attempts I timed it wrong and had to turn around. Don’t be afraid to turn around.”

We thanked him for the tip and he paddled ashore.

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Bahía Chamela is a large bay outlined by miles of a golden sandy beach. The entrance to the bay is sprinkled with a few smaller uninhabited islands useful for exploring, and snorkeling. The caveat to your enjoyment in this bay is mastering the art of the dinghy landing.

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Depending on the conditions the swell rolling into the bay can create large wave action on the beach. If you don’t time your landing right, these waves are enough to flip you and your dingy head over heels! In extreme cases dinghy landings ashore are out of the question.

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During our stay in Chamela we spent time with with our friends on Cake, Valhalla, and Sequoyah. Colorado Dave (s/v Valhalla) brought us our “special requests” from the United States. These were U.S. postal stamps and two family sized bags of black licorice. Black licorice is nowhere to be found in Mexico. Sure, they sell something called Vines in red, but it’s just not the same as Twizzlers. The stamps were so we could send postcards and fun items back home through the alternative mail network established by the cruising community.

Mail to and from Mexico to the United States goes nowhere fast. One of the hot topics on the net each morning is finding volunteers able to take flat stamped mail across the border. Each Mexican costal town with an active VHF net dedicates time to finding mail carriers since many of us are flying in and out of Mexico regularly. Sure, you can send mail the normal way, through the Mexican post office. But, the only way to guarantee your mail will be delivered North of the border promptly is by a personal carrier headed to the U.S. with your very own U.S. stamped mail in tow.

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Alan and Carol (s/v Sequoyah) invited us to explore the islands with an afternoon of snorkeling and kayaking. We made the trek by dinghy towing the kayak behind us across the bay. The birds were out scouting for food. Typical for island birds. Snorkeling was challenging with the wrap around swell. Swim too close to the rocks and the swell might push you into them. Swim too far away and you can’t see the fish.

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In Pérula we made multiple trips ashore to get rid of trash, top off the fresh vegetables and sample breakfast at the Scuba Jazz Cafe. The town was tiny, its only source of life brought in from the main road. The road was lined with businesses on both sides and a small square in the middle. During the day store owners sat outside their store fronts on plastic chairs and chatted.

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Most afternoons spent in Chamela were at at Ken’s (s/v Cake) afternoon surf camp where Dave and Grant enrolled. Each afternoon surf camp would meet at the North Western part of the bay. Two SUP boards and one short board rotated around the class. Timing and location were crucial to a successful ride.

Let’s just say, surfing is not as easy as it looks. You must paddle outside the break zone and wait to observe the wave sets in order to select the perfect ride. Pop up on the wave too early or wait a little too late, and your chance is lost. Balance and position of your weight on the board is important. Stand too far forward and you’ll Perl (take a nose dive.) Too far back, and you prevent the board from moving fast enough until the wave passes under you. A delicate dance with all things considered “might” lead to your success?

Part of learning to surf is also learning the slang.

Mush – Slow or non powerful waves
Perl – Burying the nose of the surfboard into the wave and going “over the falls.”
Pop Up – A transitional move from lying on the surfboard to standing
Toad – Take off and Die – Also known as Perl
Pitted – Riding in the barrel of the wave and having the wave speed up and crash over your head, ending your ride.

Of all of these terms Toad is the one we find most humorous. Just watching the waves while attempting to exit a surf beach in a dinghy is one way to learn about Toads. Toads appear like normal waves at first. Then, at the last second they slam all the momentum they were carrying behind them straight into the sand like a huge sack of potatoes. The ride is OVER. It is easy to see how you could Take Off And Die after attempting to surf a Toad.

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Both Grant and Dave caught their first waves in Chamela.Thankfully nobody had a “Toad” event, nor did anyone get “Totally Pitted.” One pop up is all it took. These boys, hooked in an instant. At this point I was warned. We’d be anchoring Maluhia near the surf break from now on. Maluhia left Chemela with a new piece of gear on her foredeck.

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