Jimmy and I made the most of our environs despite some rain that had begun falling and even managed to wrangle a long afternoon nap. The next morning found us right back in the hot tub with the rain still falling consistently. Eventually the rain slowly tapered off and we checked out of the marina to head up the coast to the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. It was a nice relaxing sail and we dropped the anchor just as the sun was setting. The town of La Cruz, despite its proximity to the major tourist center of Puerto Vallarta, is quite a bit more down-to-earth and authentic feeling than the tourist towns surrounding it. Jimmy and I jumped into the Superhighway and motored into the panga dock to see what sort of trouble we could get into.
We were pretty dang hungry after such a strenuous day of hard work, so after ambling the cobblestone streets of La Cruz for a bit, we settled down into a seafood restaurant (which seemed like a good bet based on all the fishing pangas we passed on the motor into town). We decided on aguachiles, one of very first dishes I ordered when I arrived in Mexico 6 months before, and one of my favorites. Aguachiles are based on the same principle as ceviche, where the acidic juice of a lime "cooks" the protein instead of heat. In the case of aguachiles, the protein is shrimp and typically the sauce / juice is spicy. Its almost always accompanied by cucumber, onion, and avocado, which makes for a very refreshing treat.
Eventually we caught the scent of woodsmoke and we followed our noses down streets and alleyways until we came upon this scene.
In a grilled-chicken-induced fog, we waddled our way back out to the superhighway and headed back out towards the Rascal. The swell was light, so the launching from the beach was easy, but for whatever reason the Tohatsu was reluctant to kick over. 9 times out of 10 it starts on the first pull... but... sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I'll forget to replace the kill-switch-lanyard and pull it ten times before it occurs to me. Sometimes it doesn't like to be tipped on its side for too long. Sometimes there is too much pressure in the gas tank. Sometimes I'm not giving it enough gas. Sometimes I'm not giving it enough choke. This time, none of these things seemed to be the issue. So I pulled and pulled and pulled until I thought I might expire. Finally, on pull 25 or 30, it started up and purred like a kitten. That Tohatsu can be a fickle beast.
"Shit!" we both said and there was a moment of indecision. We were right in the zone where I would normally cut the engine and tilt it up to avoid hitting the beach with the propeller. But at the same time, this huge swell was building behind us, and in my mind the possibility still existed to try and whip the boat around and take the wave head-on, potentially before it started to break. The moment of indecision doomed us in the end, and we were in exactly the wrong spot as it broke basically right on top of us. I threw the engine in neutral and went over the side to try and pull us in towards the beach. Jimmy thought I had just fallen out, and figured the engine was still in gear, so he hit the shifter and it roared in reverse. Eventually we pulled the lanyard and dragged the superhighway - full of water - up onto the beach. We were both in shambles and feeling pretty fortunate that we packed everything in a waterproof bag before attempting the beach landing.
Next we headed in opposite directions down the beach and made a half-hearted attempt to fly fish beyond the surf, but make no mistake, we were both thinking about only one thing: the launch back through the surf to return to the Rascal. After a few casts, we both met up at the superhighway and gazed out at the swell to try and discern a pattern and plan our re-launch effort.
We waited for a mellow wave train and went at it with reckless abandon. I got five or six strong pulls in and it sounded like it wanted to start, but it never quite managed to catch. Another big one was looming beyond the surf, so we tilted the engine back up and retreated to the beach. We felt like we had really dodged a bullet and we were both patting ourselves on the back for devising such a good scheme to avoid the big breakers. Most of the waves were breaking in the 3-4 foot range at that point, and we waited for another lull. I launched myself back into the dinghy and Jimmy continued to push and wade out until he was up to his waist (where it was challenging to see out beyond the surf). Again, it sounded eager to start, but didn't start on the first four or five pulls. I was fully focused in on the engine and I was really pulling with all my gusto. I heard Jimmy begin to murmur something just as the Tohatsu roared to life. It was go time, and I revved her up, threw her into gear, and pointed her out into the open ocean. Jimmy dragged himself aboard over the oarlocks and as we looked out into the surf, our eyes got big.
Immediately in front of us was a wave just starting to break. It was perhaps a 3-4 footer and I remember thinking, "Yikes, this is a big one!" I managed to keep the Superhighway square to the wave and put the pedal to the metal. Jimmy grabbed the gear and the fly rods (luckily packed away in their cases) and we both shifted our weight towards the bow as we climbed up and over the tumbling white water.
What we saw beyond that wave scared the shit out of us. It was an absolute beast: easily 6 or 8 feet tall and looming way out beyond where the others were breaking. This wave was literally twice the size of all the waves we'd seen when we were watching from the jungle. After that morning's experience, I knew that indecision wasn't an option and once again opened up the Tohatsu to full throttle. Adrenaline was pumping and three or four seconds transpired when I thought that we might get past it before it broke. We had shipped a bunch of water on the last wave, however, and the Superhighway was driving like a barge with that much weight in her.
The wave kept building and building, the engine was laboring, the boat was inching further out into the surf, and Jimmy and I were swearing like pirates. We started to rise up on it just as the top edge of wave curled over. I yelled "HIGH SIDE!" and Jimmy dove forward into the bow like a goddamn 300lb linebacker. I let off on the throttle in an effort to keep the nose of the boat down as much as possible, and dove forward myself. The nose kept rising higher and higher, with the boat tipping to an impossible angle (about 80 degrees I'd estimate), when finally the bow punched through the top of the wave and began to flatten out. The wave had essentially broken right over the top of us, yet somehow we didn't get thrown over backward.
Jimmy looked back at me with wide eyes, and I responded with a wild-eyed stare of my own. We had made it.
The Superhighway was literally full of water. It had been filled to overflowing by the wave and we slowly barged our way back to the Rascal so that we could bail her out. We were both in disbelief at what had happened and that we had made it through. Jimmy started tying up to the Rascal when we got there, and let out a little grunt. "Are you ok?" I asked. We didn't realize it at the time, but he had managed to crack a couple of ribs in the effort. Type two fun, for sure.
If we had somehow rigged a go-pro in the front of the raft, the footage would've been priceless.
There were some cops (the island is a national park of some sort) and they told us that anchoring wasn't allowed, but that we could grab a mooring. The only mooring, of course, was occupied by a 100ft long tourist catamaran and there were dozens of honkies already bobbing around in the water. Eventually the big tour boat vacated and we muscled our way in to the mooring.
We peeled out pretty quickly and decided we should try and get to a town called Yelapa on the southern shore of Banderas Bay. Wind was fairly light, but we had plenty of daylight and we sailed along at a few knots for a while. Eventually we decided to start up the engine and I went down below to make another ribeye lunch. As we were sitting in the cockpit chowing down, we looked over at the reel that we had been trolling with and I let out a, "Whoa!"
The line had paid out entirely while I was down below (the drag is pretty quiet and we just hadn't heard it) but it was still attached to the reel. I started cranking it in and something was clearly on the other end. There was an obscene amount of line on the reel, but between Jimmy and I, we managed to get it back to the boat over the course of about 20 minutes. It wasn't particularly hard reeling, so we figured it was something fairly small. When it got close to the boat, however, we realized we were wrong. It was actually a good sized dorado.
Oddly enough, when we finally got it aboard is the moment when it realized it ought to start fighting, and it got to flapping all over the place. It was nearly impossible to restrain him long enough to get the hook out, but we eventually did and threw him back (we had just eaten a big steak lunch!). We managed to snap a picture before we tossed him back, and it looks kinda like I'm playing a fish-shaped fiddle.
We eventually made our way back towards the boat with our bellies full and a pink sunset lingering on the horizon.
I couldn't turn down a bargain like that, and Jorge even joined me on the second shot!