Friday, January 8, 2016



The three "girls", Hannah, Maddie, Jacqueline, and I sailed to the south end of Banderas Bay on Wednesday to visit the small village of Yelapa. There is no road into Yelapa, so most people arrive by boat, a few by horseback or quadrunner.  I was looking forward to getting out of developed Nuevo Vallarta and back to a more remote, rural environment and exploring somewhere new with my young and enthusiastic crew.

We picked up a mooring in the Yelapa cove around noon with assistance from the Domingos restaurant pangueros. The bottom drops off very steeply from the shore, so anchoring would have been difficult. The cove is open to the prevailing winter northwesterly swell, which makes the anchorage quite challenging at times, causing boats to roll and pitch a bit and with swells that break on the steep sandy beach.

We got a ride on the Domingos panga to the beach with a run-the-boat-up-the-beach amphibious landing, like D-day on Normandy but with much better weather and no shooting. We decided to explore Yelapa's small town and hike to a waterfall a bit further beyond.

The Yelapa pueblo is really interesting and beautiful. Narrow cobble-in-concrete paths wind up and around a lush jungle hillside between small, colorful houses. The homes and lives of the local people are predominant, with some rustic tourist places blending into the background. It's a very friendly, pleasant village.

The village street gives way to a nicely maintained path through the jungle that leads to a beautiful waterfall that cascades vertically down a cliff of dark polished boulders. The cool falling water creates a nice cool breeze on the banks of the small pond at the base of the falls, nestled among lush jungle plants and trees.

We met a pretty little girl, Cassandra, at the falls. Hannah spoke with her in Spanish and learned that she was visiting the town on vacation. It was nice to see such a young girl out safely and comfortably on her own to take a dip at the falls, a whole village around to look out for her. She walked back with us into town, introducing the older girls to friendly dogs along the way.

Yelapa is also known for its pies and we were lucky enough to find a store that still had some to sell in the late afternoon, baked by the store's owner that day.  We picked up a slice each of banana and chocolate and two slices of coconut. They were all delicious, first as desert after dinner and then for breakfast.

Embarking on the panga for the ride back to Intermezzo was a bit more challenging than the landing as the swell had really built up during the afternoon. The four of us jumped-climbed-rolled onto the bouncing bow of the boat, suffering a few minor scrapes, nicks and bruises, enough to give something to talk about, but no serious damage. I poured medicinal tequila shots for all upon our safe arrival on Intermezzo. It was a significant moment for me, pouring a shot of liquor for my daughter for the first time, but it clearly wasn't the first one she's ever had, yet I took some comfort that she and her two friends clearly haven't developed a taste for the stuff.  Me, on the other hand, I sipped two shots. Because I'm the captain. And I was cooking dinner on a pitching, rolling boat.  The dinner turned out great- fresh jumbo shrimp in a garlic-butter sauce on saffron rice with pan-roasted cauliflower, followed by our Yelapa pie slices. The four of us had a nice evening of talking, laughing, kidding around.

The swell made for a dynamic night's sleep, but everyone was ready to go back to shore in the morning to hike to another waterfall, directly up from the beach along a small river that flows down from the surrounding mountains into the cove. The swell had continued into the morning which made our panga landing more dramatic than the day before, with Hannah taking a fall off the bow of the boat, but expertly fending off the panga and getting up out of the water in seconds, without even getting the contents of the backpack she was carrying wet.

We had a nice hike up the river through the jungle and heard the falls, but never found a trail that led to where we could actually see them. The jungle landscape, birds and beautiful weather provide more than enough consolation.

We were hungry when we returned to the beach from our hike, so we had a big lunch under the thatched roof of Domingos restaurant. The food was really good, especially the stuffed fish fillet with a cream sauce. It's amazing how good the cooking is at some of these beach restaurants.

The swell was still pounding the beach, but by now we were experts in panga bow boarding. We orchestrated a perfect sequential boarding pattern, with style and aplomb.  When we got to Intermezzo, we took a quick swim and then it was time to say goodbye to Yelapa and start heading back to the marina.

The wind was favorable for sailing back to Nuevo Vallarta, light at first but building to a nice 15+ knots as the sun was setting. Shortly after departing the Yelapa cove, I saw what I first thought to be a big dolphin. Then I realized it was a whale, then identified it as an orca ("killer whale"), heading on a course that would intercept Intermezzo's. I called out to the girls who made it to the side of the boat just as the orca was drawing alongside, parallel to and almost touching the boat and only a couple of feet below the surface.  It was the closest I have ever been to a whale and the black and white orca was magnificent. The girls seemed a bit unsure about having a killer whale so close to the boat, but it seemed like a curious and courteous orca to me and no threat. I was sorry when he/she decided to peel off and go back to eating with a friend behind us.  The excitement from the whale was capped off with a beautiful sunset as we sailed back to the marina, arriving in our slip after dark.

I really enjoyed having Hannah, Maddie and Jacqueline on the boat. They are clearly the best of friends and are each, in their own ways, intelligent, polite, funny, eager, enjoying life and beautiful. They embraced life on board Intermezzo and were great crew and companions. I was sorry to see them off to the airport this morning but will have great memories of their time here in Banderas Bay and hope that they will join Intermezzo again, somewhere along our voyage.

Yelapa anchorage and beach
The river that empties into the Yelapa cove

Hannah walking on a Yelapa pueblo street

Yelapa pueblo church

Walking though the Yelapa pueblo

Jacqueline, Hannah and Maddie on the way to the waterfall beyond the Yelapa pueblo

The Yelapa waterfall we were able to see

Yelapa Yoda dog

Mouth of Yelapa's river

Good friends, good times on Intermezzo 
Hiking to the waterfall we didn't see 
The orca that paid Intermezzo a brief visit to make our trip even better

Best friends on Intermezzo on Banderas Bay