Saddle Up for a New Rally

Starting from Barra de Navidad, the Panama Posse will cruise from December till June.

  Feliz Navidad means Merry Christmas in Spanish, and Barra de Navidad, roughly 150 miles down the coast from Puerto Vallarta, is an ideal place for boaters to spend their holidays, including Christmas. Coconut palms fringe the marina’s sheltered 200-slip basin, fuel dock and private beach coves. The stunning architecture of the five-star Grand Isla Navidad hotel climbs the jungle-clad mountain overlooking the marina. It’s a very pretty place. Marina guests get to enjoy most of the hotel’s amenities, including three pools, four restaurants, the spa, boutique shops, golf, the concierge desk, an airport shuttle and more.

On Dec. 25, 1540, Mexico’s first viceroy named this sandy bar — a barra — which accessed two navigable lagoons. He planned to use it as a shipyard to build the Manila galleons that Legaspi later would sail on his Philippines expeditions.

Holidaymakers always enjoy the low-key tourist town of Barra de Navidad, which spreads along the narrow sand spit that forms Laguna Navidad, the front lagoon. Barra is a surfer’s haven during the summer, but by winter it’s all about cruising and sportfishing. Water taxis zoom between the marina and the back side of Barra, which offers dinghy-up restaurants and cruisers bars.

The French Bakery delivers fresh croissants, pastries and bread by panga from Barra over to the marina on a daily basis — treats not to be missed. Neither should one miss the aroma of freshly roasted coffee wafting through the palms from the marina’s beachfront coffee shop. Marina Cabo Blanco is a private yacht club with vacation homes lining three man-made channels off the north side of Laguna Navidad.

Laguna Colimilla is the larger back lagoon, which houses the fuel dock for Marina de la Navidad and a not-wellcharted free anchorage located just off the panguero village of Colimilla, complete with its own set of waterfront eateries and a handy outboard repair shop.

One of the most beautiful marinas in Mexico, Marina Puerto de la Navidad at Barra de Navidad, is hosting the first Panama Posse, a whole new group of recreational boaters that is cruising from Barra de Navidad down through Central America and ending at the Panama Canal. This inaugural Panama Posse Cruisers Rally is free to join, and so far it consists of about 30 cruising boats, most from the U.S. and Canada. Most entries are sailboats, but there are some powerboats too, ranging in length from 27 to 225 feet. Registered participants are enjoying slip discounts and cruiser events at the marina.

Many powerboats will have just completed CUBAR (Cruise Underway to Baja Rally), which ends before Thanksgiving either at La Paz or Puerto Vallarta, and many sailboats will have just fi nished the Baja Ha Ha at Cabo San Lucas. Others will have reached Barra de Navidad independently.

The Panama Posse’s launch party will be held at the marina Saturday, Nov. 25, and that kicks off a week of seminars that include “Provisioning,” “OpenCPN,” “Satellite Overlays on Electronic Charts,” “Weather” and “Safety.”

By Nov. 30 the group plans to depart Barra and slowly cruise farther down Pacific Mexico and Central America. They’ll be leap frogging and making many stops along the route, ending near the Pacific side of the Panama Canal in June 2018. That’s good timing, because they’ll be safely south of hurricane alley before hurricane season begins.

A “posse,” according to the group’s website, is “a group of people who have a common characteristic, occupation or purpose.” This self-organized group’s philosophical purpose is all about sailing Mexico and Central American waters “with likeminded cruisers, creating lifelong friendships, exploring and experiencing new countries and cultures, enjoying the sense of security that safety in numbers affords, not breaking the budget and, most of all, having fun.”

Anyone who wants to join the Panama Posse shoul d visit, where there’s information about the journey and how to register. Joining is free but the required burgee is $25. The burgee gives the group a head count and makes the boats recognizable when they show up at anchorages and participating marinas along the way.

So why join? I think it’s safer and less stressful for anyone voyaging into new foreign territory to go in the company of a small, loosely organized group that offers local knowledge and sort of knows where everyone’s going.

Benefits include, according to the Panama Posse, safety in numbers; a daily communications net; vessel tracking; details for country check-in procedures; a list of fuel stations, chandleries, provisions, haul-out facilities and dive shops; group excursions on land, special discounts and parties along the way.

A long way it is, too, about 1,850 nautical miles, depending on which of the approximately 120 ports and anchorages participants opt to stop in or skip past. Participants are free to linger longer where they wish and catch up with the group down the road.

Along this popular cruising route, Posse stops are planned in southern Mexico’s Puerto Chiapas during December, El Salvador’s Marina Bahia del Sol for New Year’s, Honduras and Nicaragua in February and March, Costa Rica in April and May, and Panama during June. Some of this group will then transit the Panama Canal into the Caribbean, while others will continue down the Pacific to the Galapagos Islands.

Anyone interested but too late to join this year’s cruise should visit the website, because the Posse is already taking registrations for the 2018-2019 event.

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