Yelapa – The Mooring Wars

“A palapa in Yelapa is better than a condo in Redondo.” – Anonymous traveler circa 1970s

A couple of weeks ago we visited Yelapa, a small anchorage and village,  in Banderas Bay.  The only way to get there is by water so it is a bit off the beaten track.  It’s a cool, funky little place but given our experience we’re not sure that we will be headed back there any time soon.

We left from La Cruz and sailed to Yelapa to meet our friends on Morningstar.  Since the anchorage is not protected against most swell and there is not a lot of ground to anchor on, we were told that it would be best to use a mooring ball and that there was a guy named Buly that could help us.  As we approached the anchorage and were roughly a 1/2 mile away, we saw a panga headed towards us.  As he approached, I could see the words “El Buly” on the side of the boat.  He was here about a mooring.

He told us that it would be 200 pesos per evening, which eventually went down to 100 pesos.  We thanked him for the info and told him that we were going to try to anchor first and if we were unsuccessful, we would let him know and use a mooring.  He left.  About 5 minutes later, a guy named Rafael in another panga came up to us and offered us a mooring for 100 pesos as well.  Hmmm…clearly this was Buly’s competition.  We told Rafael the same thing we told the first panga driver and he left as well.

We approached the anchorage about 10 minutes later.  I felt a bug bite on my arm and looked down – it was a pesky jejene (no see-um).  Within seconds there was a swarm of literally hundreds and we were reduced to slapping ourselves silly while trying to navigate into the anchorage.  I managed to grab the bug spray (which did nothing) and put the mosquito nets on the hatches before they invaded down below.  Crisis averted.

A minute later, both Rafael and Buly were at our boat and were working for our business hard.  I thought that it would be fair if we went with Buly and Morningstar went with Rafael, that way each one got business that day.  Buly didn’t like that idea but oh well.  Morningstar arrived 30 minutes later and attached to Rafael’s mooring ball which was right by ours – about 100 feet away.

A couple of hours passed by and we remained on the boat as we were wrapping things up and getting the dinghy ready.  All four of us were on Morningstar.   All of the sudden we realized we were close to Piko – too close – we were going to hit each other!  This is the worst case scenario of  what can happen on a mooring ball.  We frantically grabbed fenders so that we could fend off Piko and Lauren B. took the dinghy over to our boat to help push-off.  Of course at this point each of us were very anxious about these moorings and Rafael and Buly were nowhere to be found.  We were very lucky and the boats started settling away from each other after about 10 minutes.  We figured what happened, was that the tide changed but there was not enough wind to keep the boats pointed in the same direction, so they swung differently.

We watched them for another hour and reasoned that since the tide change wouldn’t be for at least another 4-6 hours, that we would have time to go ashore for dinner.  The town was fun to walk around and is built on a hill, so it is visually exciting with brilliant colors and winding cobblestone pathways.  We had great food and margaritas and were quite happy.  When we returned to our boats, we learned from our friends (who were moored next to Piko on the other side) that our boats had swung into each other again.  They had got in their dinghy and pushed them away for us. Fantastic neighbors! We were so grateful.  However, being on a mooring is not the time to play bumper boats so we all agreed that if they could not move one of us to a different mooring  the next day that we would have to leave.  Ugh!

The next day we almost hit each other again!  After we were safe, Lauren B. and I went ashore to try to track down Buly or Rafael so that we could fix this.  We found Buly in his restaurant.

“Buly, our boats hit each other two times last night and we almost ran into each other a couple minutes ago.  Something needs to happen.” I said.

“Yeah, I saw that”.  He said. “I told you not go with Rafael.  His moorings are a problem.  They are no good.”

So, you saw that we almost crashed into another boat and you are sitting here sipping on Cola?  Ridiculous.  I asked him if we could be moved to another mooring and he said that since we were here first, that Rafael would have to move his mooring.  Sigh.

“Well, where is Rafael?”, I asked.

“He had to go get supplies for his restaurant but he should be back soon.”

“What is soon?  An hour?  Five minutes?”

“20 minutes”, he said like he pulled it out of a hat. “I’ll watch you from here.”

It was hard to hide the frustration on my face, I’m sure.  I said, “Please send him out right away when he gets back. This is a big problem.”

He agreed.  Lauren B. and I went back to Piko.  I heard a panga go by us, headed for the bay.  It was Rafael.  He was there after all!  And now he was leaving.  Ok, if he wasn’t back within the hour, we were just going to leave.  Our nerves were shot at this point.  Rafael came back about 40 minutes later and we waved him over to explain the severity of the circumstance.

“It’s not my mooring ball that is the problem, it is Buly’s.  He needs to move you.  He never has enough scope out which is why you hit.” Rafael said.

“Well he told us that he will not move us because we were here first.  If you cannot move Morningstar, we will both need to leave because we do not feel safe.  Can’t you just move us?”

Just then, Buly’s panga sped up and a verbal quarrel between Buly and Rafael erupted in Spanish.  I couldn’t even begin to follow it but there were many words and screams – arms flailing and tempers rising.  This show went on for about 15 minutes and they took a break as Buly came over to us and told us that Rafael would not move Morningstar.   I told him that we would have no choice but to leave then.   That greatly upset him and he started yelling at Rafael.  Their argument lasted another 5 minutes until it was agreed that Rafael would move Morningstar.  Thank You.

Once Morningstar was moved to a different mooring ball we all went to shore and enjoyed a beautiful trek through town and then hiked a path along the side of the hillside up to visit some people we met who were renting a home up there.  After all we just went through, what a treat this was!  The hike was my favorite part of our stay and as we walked through the lush vegetation, I thought, this is one of the most lovely places we have been yet.  I was happy.

When we got back to Piko, we decided to go ahead and leave because some computer problems crept up that needed to be tended to promptly.  As we were leaving, Buly sped up to us and was very upset – downright angry that we were not staying another day.  I can say this:  Buly is a Bully.  Even though Yelapa was lovely, the stress of the moorings and the panga fighting really put a damper on our experience.  A lesson that we learned from this is this:  If you are buddy anchoring in Yelapa with friends, make sure you both stay on moorings from the same guy.  That way if you need to move, it’s not a huge issue like we had.

Every day is an adventure, and we love it.

Lauren Smith

Categories: Mexico | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Yelapa – The Mooring Wars

  1. Roger Cisl

    Hi L & L,
    Ahh a Mexican fiasco…. How much fun….
    Glad you are doing well otherwise and wish you a
    Happy New Year and good winds on your ongoing


    • Lauren Smith

      Happy New Year, Roger! Great to hear from you as always. Up for a visit anytime in the next year? 🙂

  2. Tavish

    Congrats on being famous!
    Piko looks beautiful on the cover, and thanks again for having me aboard.
    Hope you two are well.
    Take care,

  3. Roger Cisl

    Hey you two,
    just picked up the Jan. Latitude and there you are….
    I always knew you are front page material but in Latitude, that is awesome.
    Congrats on that achievement.
    Stay cool down in Mexico while I try to stay warm up here in Tahoe. Lots of snow and good skiing.



  4. I am glad that all is well. Christmas shoud be ho ho but was more like ho hum. i sure hope this gets thru. Nothing exciting happening on this end except for reading about your trip. God love and keep both pf you. what is latitude? is their a pic ? I am fine love you Dad.

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