The canals of Barra … or the other Barra!
One of the best kept secrets for the sailing community in Barra is the three ‘canals’ or fingers of the sea that branch off from the main channel entering the harbor. You never hear much about them, and will never find them unless you go seeking them out. I chose to do so after kayaking into them one morning. They are very interesting . Dredged and built into the sand of the Christmas Bar that forms Barra de Navidad, they are home to an ex-pat community that has some ties to life in both the laguna and the marina. They appear to be mostly Canadian and American snowbirds (meaning – part year residents).
The easiest way to locate the canals is to find Barra de Navidad on Google Earth and zoom in on the area north and east of the entrance to the Marina. Go past the little island (Isle de Puercos – island of the pigs) and look for the canals. Go in as close as you can to get the scale. On Google Earth, as in real life, Barra de Navidad is 40 miles north of Manzanillo, Mexico. Just follow the coast north.
This community within a community is the only place in Barra de Navidad where you will not encounter tiendas (street side shops and stores); it is the only place where no venders, push carts, or drive by peddlers; the only place where there are no churches, no butchers, no bus stops, no taxis, and little poverty. This is not a gated community, at least in the sense of a physical gate. It does include one very large 400 room or so Hotel that is mostly empty as far as I can tell.
It includes docks lining the canals and at least one ultra-small Marina.
From the laguna or marina it is a 10 minute paddle at a leisurely pace, five minutes if you are using your dingy.
The ‘canals’ are deep enough to accommodate this 40 footer to its owner’s canal side dock. I am not sure that they keep these dredged and you have to applaud the sailor who got it in here, since this finger has no turning basin at the back. I am guessing he backed it in or had pangas help move it. But, this had to be the ultimate definition of a ‘hurricane hole’.
One of the fingers takes you to near the center of town with a walk of only a few blocks back to the beach.
One of the tree fingers has a small marina located at its terminus.
Note the small Coast Guard type Marine Rescue boat. The Puerto Capitain’s Office is not far from here. But this is not where you normally land when going to Barra de Navidad. Tight little marina with maybe slips for 20 boats. Biggest I saw looked to be a 36 footer (on the right of the picture).
There is no office, no phone number, and no one here to talk with, so I do not know how you would arrange to get a boat in here. Maybe you have to live on the canal.
One of the things you will notice when you pass thru the canals is the lack of Spanish being spoken. Both days I spent in here, the language of the community from the water seemed to be English of either the Canadian or American variety.
Most of the boats (if they had an ensign up) appeared to be American. Take that back, all of the pangas were clearly Mexican and most of the smaller outboard driven boats were Mexican. I also noted that there were parts of the canals where local fishermen had land. My guess if that there is a sense of ‘if you sell the land you have, you also sell your ability to get to the water on which both your job and ultimately, your way of life depend. So you hang on to it at all costs.
Below is a picture that hints at what I think is going on.
The stark contrast is that only a few feet away are homes like this.
Where even the unused land is gated, watered, and protected from use.
Like much of our presence in Mexico, the stark contrasts in lifestyles of American and Canadian visitors to Mexico leaves uncomfortable questions about what we bring along on our travels. It is clear that becoming a part of the community, or fitting in, or enjoying the local lifestyle is not a goal to be pursued. Mostly, you see growth, as in all small towns of Mexico in locations on the coast, that hint at coming development. Cabo San Lucas seems the template and measure of developmental success.
Real estate signs here are in English. Phone numbers are not Telcel but rather US numbers for who to contact. The good thing about this community is that you only find them if you seek them out. And, so far, the community seems to be relatively untainted by the influx of foreign wealth.
Seems that enough wealthy Mexicans vacation here to keep the town from becoming too Americanized. Barra has been a traditional place to take your family in Mexico since vacationing became a pastime.
We are just finishing Semana Santa (Easter Week) here and the town was busier than it has been since we got here. Thousands of Mexican families vacationing, swimming, boating, being dragged around the laguna, taking tours of the three canals, touring the marina and the Isla Navidad Grand Bay Resort (where our boat is now in a slip for the summer).
Haven’t heard a word of English in two weeks. Nice!