Crocodiles and how NOT to do a dinghy beach landing.

San Blas

After leaving the amazing Isla Isabela, we headed towards San Blas. Although we had to wait for a whale pod to move out of the way before we could get out of the anchorage. Whales gonna loiter

Eventually they moved aside enough and off we went, for the 40nm or so to San Blas. The sailing was nice and uneventful with some light wind but enough to get us there. On the way we caught a fish that turned out to be a Crevalle Jack (first one I’ve ever caught). I saw his yellow fins and got all excited for some Yellowfin Tuna but alas it was not to be.

We anchored in San Blas as evening fell.

Now, in all the books about San Blas they talk about the biting insects, making it sound somewhat like a death plague if you so much as even poke your head out outside. We didn’t find that for some reason – maybe we were far enough away from the shore? The next day we headed in to do the jungle tour that my friends on Boomarang had told us about (There is a pool in there you can swim in as well – Jo off Boomarang did it and got bit in the face/neck by an 6 foot crocodile underwater which she then FOUGHT OFF by herself, then held it’s mouth closed with her hands while help arrived. It is probably the most badarse thing I’ve ever heard but didn’t particularly persuade me to want to take a dip.)

It was really interesting and well worth the trip. The mangroves were CRAZY – the first bit is under this heavy mangrove cover and it’s like a weird alien world.

It then opens out into the river proper and we saw a ton of strange birds, lizards and of course CROCODILES!

Halfway through the tour it stops at a crocodile sanctuary, where they put crocodiles that have been picked up because they were sick or injured. Emma made a new friend.

The noises were absolutely crazy!

Giving the snorkelling pool a wide berth and a healthy dose of side-eye, we ended back at the entrance after a pretty great tour. That night we tried to go to one of the beach restaurants but they all seemed to have closed at 5. With all the large reptiles we had seen that day neither of us fancied going for a dip in the extremely murky, green water so we ate the crevalle jack (cubed, marinaded and BBQed on skewers) which was pretty good but looked and tasted EXACTLY like beef… but with a different texture, so there was some serious uncanny valley going on. It was good but wouldn’t be my first choice.

Chacala Bay

The next day we headed to Chacala Bay, a fairly easy 20nm cruise. I don’t remember anything about the trip down which means it was probably pretty uneventful although I hit the 3000nm mark from when I left in May!

and I made this video is which nothing happens (though it was super lovely sailing on a gentle close reach with a nice cooling breeze and bright sunshine)

I think we caught another Crevalle Jack which we put back and a spanish mackerel (which is neither spanish or a true mackerel) which we kept.

Chacala is a very nice little bay, with a big ol’ beach with restaurants on – very pretty.

Having missed our attempt to eat out the night before, we decided to dinghy into shore. There was a surf break on shore but it didn’t look that big (wrong) and I figured I could just row through it (wrong and dumb) as I couldn’t be bothered to put the engine on (lazy, wrong and dumb).

So the ‘not big surf break’ turned out to be probably 3/4 foot, with the odd 6′ break, which we only discovered as I tried to row through it and prompted got inverted along with the dinghy, Emma, the oars and all my dignity.

Luckily once I surfaced outside of the dinghy, the water was shallow enough to come up to my chest and I turned the dinghy the right way up and started walking it in – only for another breaking wave to hit and knock me off my feet and inverting the dinghy again – this time on top of me.,

Emma and I finally washed up ashore like so much detritus, followed by the dinghy, the oars and our sandals to the delight of several beachside restaurants full of happy Mexican tourists who were enjoying the dinnertime show.

While we stood there, completely soaked and wondering how to get the dinghy launched again, another cruiser zipped over on his inflatable with wheels and rolled straight up the beach. This saviour angel man was called Doug from a boat I cannot remember the name of (sorry Doug). Anyway he helped me wade out the portabote past the break and get in and towed me back to the boat before motoring round and picking up an equally drenched emma from the completely sheltered and calm beach that was a little off to one side. Oops.

Luckily I didn’t have my phone on me and all Emma’s stuff was in a waterproof bag, so the only thing lost was the dinghy anchor and any self-respect we might have had.

Not to be defeated, we changed into dry clothes and started to row out for the sheltered beach – and the bloody oar snapped in half. At this point I figured the universe was trying to tell us something and was ready to give up but Emma wasn’t having it – she wanted a beer by god! So I did a hasty oar repair involving sleeving the oar with some stainless tubing off the windvane tiller I had bodged on there a few weeks ago, and we were off again.

We finally got our dinner – and it was so-so. The two for one margaritas were really good though!



  1. Your use of parenthesis in the dinghy landing story was great, made me laugh, thanks!

    I think your mackerel was a Pacific Sierra It is one of the Atlantic mackerel species that actually occurs in the Pacific. The author of that website suggests not eating that species because of a slight parasite concern (or at least check the meat for signs of the parasite first).

    • Interestingly it appears to have several names – one ID book I have says it’s called a Spanish Mackerel (with a very similar looking fish called a Sierra Mackerel) while my other ID book calls them a Pacific Sierra and a Gulf Sierra respectively – which matches up with that link you sent. I’m inclined to think it’s a Pacific Sierra – Spanish mackerel may be a local name.

      Thanks for the link, I hadn’t seen that site before, it’s a good’un. It seems the parasite only infects around 5% of fish and its VERY obvious when they have it. I’ve only caught a couple and been lucky enough not to see it yet – I def will keep a very close eye on any further fish of this species I catch though!

  2. Just “binge read” through your posts and am looking to soon start a similar adventure on the east coast of Florida. Where are you planning to go next? Are you happy with the decision to get the Hunter 36 now that you have had the time to learn more? There is one near me for about 5k USD (1982 Cherubini 36) that I am considering. Seems crazy cheap, so I would be going into it with eyes open ūüėČ Found you while researching it BTW.

    It is great that you have so many friends to cruise with and meet you along the way. I’m sure that helps a great deal.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences; it is inspiring for many I am sure.

    • Hi Dan! Thanks for reading and commenting! Next big jump in the plan is across the Pacific to French Polynesia.

      As for the Hunter 36 – I often wish I had a different boat for certain things (the cockpit layout is maybe the worst I’ve seen on any boat, I wish I had end of boom sheeting, a cutter rig and a quarter berth would be great) but it has a TON of good points. She’s REALLY easy to sail and is incredibly forgiving, she moves well in light wind and has good engine access and a nice big strong rudder. An excellent beginners boat.

      5k is suspiciously cheap haha, so I am glad you are aware of that! If it’s half decent though, that’s a hell of a price.

  3. Ok fighting a croc and winning sounds badass. The mangroves look and sound awesome though! I’m sure my day will come when I dump the dogs and myself on the beach, not looking forward to it!

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