on the Mexican Riviera
[Home] [About Us] [About Mañana] [Cruising Plans] [Where Are We Now] [Jan's Journal] [The Crew] [Contact Us]May 3, 2008: This was not a good day. It started off on a bad foot when Jim went up on deck and discovered the dinghy missing...as in stolen! We climbed up to the flybridge and spotted the dinghy against the shore; the dinghy wheels were still on it, but the motor wasn't. At 0900 we put a call in to the Port Captain's office, only to be told that he may or may not be in after 1230. We flagged down a gentleman in a panga and told him that our lancha had been robado. Jim pointed to where it was and the man took Jim to shore, about 1/3 mile away. Fidel confirmed that another cruiser's dinghy had been stolen last month (we'd heard that but didn't want to believe it). He was very apologetic on behalf of the community and urged Jim to make a report with the Port Captain. As they were approaching Mañana with the dinghy in tow, a panga loaded with men pulled up beside our boat. Fidel and one of the men talked; we only caught bits and pieces of what was said, but basically, the men in the panga felt awful that this had happened. We knew word would spread of the theft, but we had no hope of seeing our Mercury engine again. We had left the dinghy in the water and locked onto Mañana as we always do, when we went to bed the night before. It is Fidel's and Jim's supposition that the thieves swam out to the boat, slashed the dinghy where the cable was locked on, and then undid the line that tied the dinghy to the boat. From there they assume the thieves climbed into the dinghy and rowed ashore (the oars were askew). They must have lowered the dinghy wheels to bring the dinghy up to the car, where they cut through the lock that held the motor onto the dinghy -- people in the house behind where the dinghy was found said they heard a car next to their house in the middle of the night. The odd thing is that the thieves put the dinghy back in the water after they had removed the motor. They even put the dinghy wheels back up and tied the dinghy's anchor line to the dinghy before they tossed the anchor overboard! They did not take anything else in the dinghy, including the fuel tank with fuel in it (they cut the fuel hose). It was almost like they were thieves with a conscience! "Sorry, cruisers, we don't want to inconvenience you any more than necessary but we really want your motor." Jim had to jury rig a way to hang the dinghy from the davits, and once that was done, we hightailed it out of Altata. There was no guarantee that the Port Captain would be in, and we knew the office would be closed Sun & Mon (Cinco de Mayo). Jim did not feel comfortable enough hanging around the anchorage knowing thieves were in the area, and besides that, with no engine, it would have been a bear to get to shore as the dinghy does not row well. Also factoring in us leaving right then was the fact that we were already running late for the slack tide at the entrance AND the weather forecast for crossing the Sea was favorable for the next 24-36 hours. So we upped anchor, poured on the throttle with the hope of making up a little time and watched Altata disappear in our rear mirror (figuratively speaking). I REALLY wasn't looking forward to crossing the entrance, but once we were there, the sea swells seemed smaller than when we arrived, although the sea state was a bit sloppier. I chickened out and sat on the settee, not able to look out the window at the waves. Jim once again did a marvelous job in soothing me, although I think his knuckles were a bit white! Just when we thought the worst was over, 2 extra large waves headed our way coming from our beam. Jim poured on the engine power in order to turn the boat quickly into the oncoming wave. I'd never heard the engine revved that high and thought that the engine was malfunctioning. At that point I figured we were going to die! I remember looking out the windshield and seeing Mañana pointed straight up in the air with the wave above the bow pulpit. Then I KNEW we were going to die! Mañana went up and over that wave only to meet the 2nd wave head on. Oh! Not another one! Again, Mañana did just fine...definitely better than the Admiral (that would be me)! It wasn't until Jim returned the engine revs back to normal and put the boat on auto pilot that I figured it was safe to breath! I told him I'm going to make us a couple of T-shirts that say "I DID THE ALTATA!" Whew! Altata was definitely not worth the ride at the entrance! Given that we were in need of a dinghy engine, we figured LaPaz should be our next stop. Jim put the waypoints into the computer and we settled in for a 24-hour run. Sea conditions were lumpy for the first half of the trip; thankfully they smoothed out by the middle of the night, and thankfully, we didn't have to deal with any fishing boats, ferries or freighters.
More Photos of Altata
May 2, 2008: We woke after 11 hours of sleep to dense fog, which quickly burned off. Then we took the opportunity to reanchor the boat further away from the beach, not knowing what type of crowd today would bring. We hailed Bardan; they were sitting at anchor on the outside, waiting for the fog to burn off before they attempted to enter the bay. After a couple of hours, they hailed us saying that they had tried following a panga to come in, but the panga went so much faster than they did and they were intimidated by the breaking waves so decided to turn around. Hopefully we'll catch up with them in the future. After that conversation, we put on our "going to the port captain's" clothes and headed to shore. The tide was just beginning to go out. Ever the gentleman, Jim climbed out of the dinghy and pulled me in as close to shore as possible. We locked the dinghy onto a restaurant porch rail and walked several blocks to the Port Captain's office, where we played the officialdumb game. Actually, the check-in process is now very simple, but no longer standardized so we never know whether we are expected to show up in person (Zihuatanejo and Barra de Navidad) or hail the office on the VHF (Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan) or do nothing at all (Chacala). With that taken care of, we took a different route back to the beach. None of the streets are paved -- they are sandy. The street we were on was mostly residential with a couple businesses and the homes were a combination of new and well kept to wood shacks that you could see through. We decided to have lunch at La Perla restaurant, since that's where we had tied up the dinghy. There were two other groups eating when we arrived -- everyone acknowledged us with a smile. While we waited for our order, cars would drive by the restaurant and do a double take when they saw our dinghy "parked" behind cars! The food was delicious and obviously authentic Mexican; we went through many napkins because our noses were running from the spices! As we walked the dinghy back out to the water, we were approached by a lady and her daughter (who had been in the restaurant), who requested a ride in our lancha. They climbed in and Jim ran us past Mañana, telling them that this was where we lived with our dos gatos, and then brought them back. They thanked us, but offered no pesos for the ride! (There were a couple of pangas trolling for passengers, but for pesos, of course!). We spent the remainder of the day on board the boat reading. DC was happy to have a quiet day -- yesterday's noise and activities around the boat really had the poor guy spooked.
Low Tide / High Tide
May 1, 2008: We had to slow the boat down a couple times to keep us from arriving at Altata's entrance too early. At 0700 we caught site of the first buoy and headed towards it. The breakers were breaking big time; 6-8' high rollers came at us from our starboard side and were actually breaking about 100 yards on our port side. But by the time I shouted that I was seriously NOT having fun, we were through them and the worst was over. A couple minutes later, after we'd had a chance to let our heart rate settle back to normal, we were greeted by a panga who pointed us towards the opening (these breakers were a good mile or two away from the actual entrance into Bahia de Altata). Several dolphins also swam over in our direction and escorted us towards the opening. Altata is about 15 miles up the bahia from the entrance. We received huge waves as we passed by the numerous pangas; in fact, one panga did a complete 360 degree rotation around us, checking us out! At 0900 the boat was anchored in 10' of water and the engine turned off. By 0910 Jim and I were both in bed and asleep by 0915! We awoke a couple hours later with serious headaches which we attributed to no caffeine! By then, Altata was alive with people. Altata is a resort port for locals. Large, fancy homes line the water's edge on the town's south side. We had chosen to anchor off what we believe to be the town's center. Numerous palapas are along the waterfront. At low tide, the sandy front is used as a street. Music boomed out from the restaurants, families played in the shallow water, and the pangas continued to pass us by curiously. More and more people arrived at the beach as the morning turned into afternoon; it is Mexico's Labor Day holiday. And as the tide went out, it put Mañana smack dab in the middle of the swimming area! We sat on the flybridge, feeling both a part of the festivities because we were so close to shore, yet feeling like we were the caged animals on view at the zoo! Cruisers in Altata are extremely rare. Altata has been "discovered" as a cruising destination within the past 5 years, but because of the entrance, fewer than 2 dozen cruisers per season actually come here. So we sat, watched and smiled as families and friends played, and as banana boats, jet skis, etc. zoomed around us. The cars disappeared off the beach slowly as the tide came back in. By then a live banda (Mexican country) band was on site, so we got to listen to them. It will be interesting to see what the town is like tomorrow. We watched a couple episodes of Mr. Bean after dinner; then lights were out by 2000!
April 30, 2008: We said good-bye to new and old friends in the anchorage and departed old harbor Mazatlan at 0900. An hour later we reanchored behind Isla Venados, where Jim scrubbed the water line and I did dishes and readied the boat for a 1400 departure. At 1400 we weighed anchor and began our long trek north. Don was correct with the forecasted south winds, but we were plagued with those d*** sea swells. The ride was so rolly that we gave up on our course and began tacking, hoping to find a more comfortable ride. At 1900 I began our formal 3 hour watch schedule and Jim had me continue to tack as we were sort of comfortable. All was quiet on my watch. We switched at 2200, and Jim tacked us back towards our original course. By then, we were finally north enough to catch a break from the lee of the Baja peninsula and the sea swells had calmed considerably. However, by then, he was playing dodge 'em with the fishing boats. I came back on watch at 0100 and the Sea was lit up like a small city, with fishing boats and pangas everywhere. I did okay for my first hour but at 0200, I encountered a long line. Because it was pitch black out, I did not see it until the bottles reflected in our running lights. Thank goodness we'd had previous experience with long lines. My immediate reaction was to cut the throttle and put the boat in neutral...okay, honestly? My first reaction was to yell "shit!", which got Jim hopping out of bed. We obviously had a guardian angel with us, because we slid right over the top of the long line -- whew! Jim and I both ended up standing watch from 0200 - 0300 as there were so many fishing boats in the area. Additionally, we encountered a second long line, which we also passed over. By 0300 we were past the worst of it and Jim was able to finally lie down and catch some sleep.
April 29, 2008: We listened to the weather forecast and it sounds like we are in for southerly winds over the next 4-5 days...and that's a good thing! Next step was to figure out the high tide schedule for Altata. As of right now, it appears that we will depart Mazatlan tomorrow noon for a 20 hour run to Altata. We will spend the day shopping for perishables and preparing the boat for sea. Neither of us is looking forward to running overnight, but there's no getting around it! I picked up my laundry and discovered that almost all of our tops are stained with some sort of grease or something. Our shorts are colored so the grease is not as apparent. Grrr! Eileen and Adrian came over for dinner. After dinner Jim put a movie on for Adrian and the adults sat on the flybridge, chatting into the evening. We finally had to go in because the dew level was climbing up there and we were beginning to get damp.
April 28, 2008: We headed into town in search of another Telcel card. Buying the card this time was easy, now that we knew where to go! We stopped into the market and picked up a few more fresh veggies. Jim also purchased a couple large meat bones for the 2 yard dogs. We met Flying Cloud, Bardan and Festima Lente outside Club Nautico on our return and invited Flying Cloud to dinner tomorrow night. Bardan's plans are to leave here on Weds., weather permitting. That is our plan, too. Jim gave the bones to the dogs. One of the dogs abandoned its bone after a few tentative licks. The second dog had no qualms about chewing both bones! There are several cats running around the yard in addition to the 2 dogs. All of the animals have been neutered/fixed and are fed and cared for daily. It's a nice change from what we've seen in other ports. Jim contacted Telcel's customer support again (per his conversation with them yesterday) and confirmed that we have been set up on the Amigo plan. It seems that yesterday's customer service rep. went beyond his call of duty and set us up on a plan that was 6 pesos/20 min. call vs. the 11 pesos/20 min. call that the Amigo plan should be. Jim made a couple of calls and we were billed accordingly. Then I made a call, less than 20 min, and our pesos disappeared. Maybe it's me! Another call to customer service left us very disheartened. We have now decided that we will not buy another Telcel chip. We've dumped close to US $90 in new cards when our minutes disappeared and we've yet to see a reimbursement. It's no wonder that the Telcel owner is reported to be the wealthiest person in Mexico! We spent the evening debating whether we should just "hop over to Cabo" and go north now, or whether we should go up into the Sea. There are always pros and cons; the biggest con to going north now is that the winds are still blowing big time out of the north/northwest. In the end, we decided to keep our original plan and head into the Sea. We will let the sea/wind decide whether we make the crossing now or whether we stay on the mainland side and go north to Altata.
April 27, 2008: The evenings have been chilly (in the 50s) and very dewey. As a result, the boat's interior is feeling damp...yuk! Well, Telcel did it AGAIN! I made one phone call and all our minutes disappeared. Jim phoned customer service and per the norm, they want to help and will tell you all sorts of things to make you feel better, but in reality, our minutes are gone and we'll never see the credit. We've never seen the credit from the lost minutes in Barra despite several phone calls. So, we'll go into town tomorrow and buy more minutes. Unfortunately the wi-fi at Club Nautico is not fast enough to support phone calls on Skype. Bummer...We spent a quiet day on the boat reading and watching the comings and goings of the port. I made the machaca for dinner, but I really think I need to find a local and get a new recipe; my recipe was given to me by a LaPaz local back in 2004 and he said it's the way his mama made it. I'm thinking he's left out some major ingredient!
Mazatlan's Cathedral and Plaza Machado
April 26, 2008: We stopped by Club Nautico's office to get directions to the DHL office. Per the norm, the directions we were given weren't right, but they were only off by 3 or 4 blocks. We made it to DHL with 10 minutes to spare! Afterwards we had a huge lunch at a restaurant recommended by the DHL clerk and then caught a bus to El Centro; it was time for us to play tourist. I saw a building marked "Mercado" so we hopped off the bus, only to discover we were not where we thought we were (story of our lives). We walked along the malecon for a bit and checked out the mercado. It was early afternoon and many of the stalls were closed. So we caught another bus and walked around the historic district; the old market (where we bought fresh veggies and machaca) and then over to the cathedral. Personally, I think the cathedral in P.V. is much more spectacular than the one in Mazatlan. From there we walked to Plaza Machado, where the old historic buildings are being renovated. The facades are being left in place and the interiors gutted and rebuilt into stores, cafes and condominiums. There was no waiting for the correct bus today; it came within a few minutes of us arriving at the bus stop. Our dinner consisted of tostadas and home made guacamole!
April 25, 2008: Nancy had suggested I contact Dana on Wind Blown for a hair cut. Jim & I went to their boat at 1100; Jim and Jerry chatted while Dana gave me a wonderful hair cut (I'm back to short and spikey). They are headed back to OR so much of the talk was about "the bash". Afterwards Jim & I went to Club Nautico so Jim could finish his internet business while I swapped reading material. We stayed on board reading for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.
"A" Dock Reunion
April 24, 2008: I hung some laundry out to dry, only to have a fog bank come in. Jim said it could have been worse...we could have been half way up the mountain to the light house that is next to us! We took the dinghy to Club Nautico, paid for use of the dinghy dock and wi-fi for a week and then walked up the driveway to wait for a bus. Two buses passed us by, despite our waving them down. Jim turned stubborn and decided we would walk into El Centro, about a 30 min. walk. We were in search of a Telcel store so we could buy a new chip for our telephone. In all the other cities we've been in, Telcel stores have been a dime a dozen. Here in Mazatlan, they appeared to be a well-kept secret. We walked what felt like miles; I would say we took a walking tour of the city, but it was so foggy that we couldn't see anything! We went into a few stores that had Telcel signs on their doors, but they did not sell the chip we needed. It took us several hours before we found where we needed to be....at last! Of course I had left the city maps back on the table, so we had no clue exactly where in Mazatlan we were, and we had no clue which bus we should take back to Club Nautico. Instead, we hailed a pulmonia, an open sided vehicle that has a top and is a little larger than a golf cart. The driver charged us 50 pesos...well worth it, although we later learned that we had been ripped off! At 1800 we met Flying Cloud at the dinghy dock and headed back into El Centro. This time the bus DID stop (there were 5 of us)! We met Greg & Nancy and had an "A" dock reunion at Pedro & Lola's restaurant. What fun! The food was excellent but not overpriced (the sangria still not as good as what we had in P.V.) For the next few hours, we caught up with life over the past year as jazz musicians played in the background. When it was time to leave, we headed in different directions . The 5 of us headed back to the bus stop, only to have it not show up. Bus after bus went by, but not the one we wanted. Finally a red pick-up truck taxi slowed. Eileen negotiated a price and we hopped into the back. The pick-up truck taxi is exactly what it sounds like! It's a red pick-up truck that has 2 bench seats in the bed of the truck. No seat belts, no hand holds. Just say a prayer, hang on to your hat and hope the driver doesn't drive like a maniac!
Mazatlan's Gold Beach
April 23, 2008: We slept like the dead! Eileen and Adrien (Flying Cloud) stopped by for coffee. Unfortunately we missed Jamie by hours...he has taken a job in Portland, OR to put more $ in their cruising kitty. We chatted with Nancy and Greg (Festima Lente) via VHF and set a date for dinner with them tomorrow night. I've said it before...it is so nice to come to a foreign port and discover friends who you haven't seen in a long time! The Old Harbor anchorage is well protected with no swells other than those caused by the boats entering and leaving the harbor. The anchorage is just inside the harbor entrance so we have a great view of the shrimpers, cargo ships and cruise ships (3 today) as they come and go. Most boats leave at a respectful speed; the Navy does not, nor do the majority of pangas. Jim and I hosed the boat down, removing the salt crystals from yesterday's passage. I washed the windows and then we put the forward sun screen in place. It really helps to keep the cabin cool. Jim also nailed the last piece of molding above the tiles in the galley and grouted around it. That was another one of those 10 min. to do but 5 years to implement tasks! In mid-afternoon we followed Bobbie & Dan (Bardan) out of the harbor to Goat Island, where we were assured the best pizza in Mazatlan is made. Sure enough, there are goats on Goat Island, and sure enough, our pizza was delicious...and cheap! Our 3 beers, 2 sodas and a large shrimp, garlic and ham pizza came to less than US $15.00! It was fun catching up with Bardan; they left Ensenada in October and I've been on the lookout for them since we arrived. Bobbie gave me a city map and a restaurant guide, but the best restaurant guide is really word of mouth from fellow cruisers. Before returning to Mañana, we stopped by Wildflower to say hi. We have shared several anchorages with them but hadn't really introduced ourselves. We were invited aboard and chatted for over an hour before we returned home. No need for dinner tonight and it was another early-to-bed night as we are still recouping from yesterday's 13 hour sloppy passage.
April 22, 2008: The winds never died down and at 0600, Jim recommended that we bail; if we didn't, we were most likely in for a rolly day at anchor. We'd already done the math and knew that it would be a 12-14 hr. run to Mazatlan, depending on the current. We also knew that it would be dark by 2000. It took us 15 min. to hop out of bed, dress, stow items and secure the boat, do an engine room check, secure the flopper stoppers and get the anchor up. The ride was sloppy for most of the passage, necessitating that the windshield wipers be used and we were caught in a foul current, forcing us to use more RPMs than normal. I kept thinking that a protected harbor awaited us at the end of the ride! When the seas eased, we were able to see several sailfish that were feeding on top of the water. Then we passed a dorado. At that point Jim decided to put a line out to see if he could catch us some dinner, but the fish gods weren't with us. We pulled into the Mazatlan's old harbor 13 hours later and immediately spotted our Chula Vista friends on Flying Cloud. We pulled up beside them and hailed them on the radio without telling them who we were. Imagine their surprise when they looked up and saw us next to them! We dropped anchor, had a quick supper and climbed into bed...aaahhh!
Life on Isla Isabela
April 21, 2008: Unfortunately, one of the flopper-stoppers wasn't rigged correctly for the chop we had and it rattled non-stop. At 0330 Jim went on deck and diagnosed the problem...the line was too tight. He loosened the line, the rattling stopped and peace reigned! The water clarity is horrible compared to when we were here 4 years ago. Additionally, small jelly fish are everywhere. But the scenery is not disappointing. The island is covered with black "dots". The dots are frigate birds. This is a bird sanctuary, and there are literally hundreds of frigates, pelicans, terns, gulls and boobies flying around, crying out. DC is intimidated by the noise. After lunch we went to shore and pulled the dinghy up on the gravelly beach by the fishing shacks. The new dinghy davits worked wonderfully -- the old ones wouldn't have made it out of the water! We walked around, eyeball to eyeball with baby frigates in their nests who were calling out for their next meal. The babies are covered with a fine white plume of feathers and are rather ugly. Only a mother frigate could love them! And none of the birds have a fear of humans. We had to be careful where we walked because iguanas and lizards of all sizes were everywhere! We watched fishermen repair their nets as we walked past the shacks. We offered water to some fishermen but they never appeared at our boat to collect. The afternoon winds picked up giving us a rolly ride.
April 20, 2008: The bobos persisted so we were very happy to leave Mantenchen Bay. We timed our arrival to San Blas perfectly and crossed the bar without incident. We were underwhelmed with what greeted us, once across. Our cruising guide indicated that "San Blas was once a major center of Spanish domination of the west coast of the Americas. It was here that Spaniards built the vessels used for exploring the western coast of North America. The overgrown ruins of a large fort, Customs House and cathedral attest to its colorful and historical past. Henry Longfellow wrote his last poem, The Bells of San Blas, in 1882. In 2002 the devastating winds of Hurricane Kenna severely damaged many houses in the town, shredding the palms and toppling countless beautiful old trees that had graced these ancient streets." There were no other cruisers and any spot that looked like it could possibly be an anchoring spot was near mangroves, which houses no-see-ums. And we were will swatting bobos. So we made an executive decision not to spend the night, recrossed the bar and headed to Isla Isabela. We had an uneventful passage and arrived several hours later. We anchored in the east anchorage in an area known as "Islotes Las Monas" (the mannequins) with 3 other boats. It was quite rolly and we still had bobos but at least there were no sea swells or no-see-ums. Jim and I joke that you can have this OR that, but you can't have this AND that!! We rigged the flopper-stoppers and settled in. The wind died and the seas eventually calmed. We put on a movie and then hit the sack.
April 19, 2008: Another restless night...Mañana danced on her 2 anchors as large sea swells went underneath her, but at least the anchors held. We left Chacala at 0845 destined for San Blas. Seas were basically comfortable although Mother Nature threw in rollers every 10 min. or so. We saw several whales, one up close and personal (within 100 yards) and others from a distance, my preferred way to see them! The wind picked up to 20 kts. as we were approaching San Blas; white caps topped the waves. San Blas is a bar crossing and as we got closer to the entrance, we saw huge white foamy waves breaking across the entire bar opening. Jim and I looked at each other and said, "no way, Jose!" So on to Plan B, which was to backtrack to Mantanchen Bay, 2 miles south. We fell in behind 2 sailboats and figured we'd be polite and let them anchor first. However, they were talking on the VHF with another boat inside San Blas so we decided to anchor first. It was then that we noticed a panga filled with men waving their arms trying to get someone's attention. Jim motored Mañana over to them; their outboard engine appeared to be broken and they asked if we could get their friend's attention for help. Unfortunately their friend was in extremely shallow water. Jim maneuvered Mañana as closely as he dared while we yelled and pointed to the panga. With that taken care of, we went back to the task of anchoring. Jim turned Mañana around and into deeper water, only to discover that the panga had gotten its engine going and was headed towards us, waving their hands for us to stop. They pulled up next to us, thanked us profusely and offered us a freshly-caught corbina and 2 cervezas, which we accepted. We finally got the anchor down a few minutes later! I'm sure the sailboats were wondering what the heck we were doing, going back & forth and then in circles! :) Jim set a stern anchor and we deployed one of our flopper stoppers, but the boat still surged back and forth, twisting and moaning as she did so (the tension on the anchor bridle and stern line sounded like groans whenever a swell went under us). I baked the fish in aluminum foil and we had it for dinner. It was delicious! As the sun began setting, the no-see-ums and bobos (small nuisance flies) came out in full force. We swatted and slapped ourselves silly and finally gave up, climbed into bed and pulled the sheet over us. Neither of us was sure whether we were actually getting bitten or whether we just imagined that we were. Needless to say, it was another restless night.
April 18, 2008: We both slept in this morning, much to the cats' dismay! Two boats left, leaving only 4 of us at anchor. After an afternoon siesta, we dinghied to shore to check the village out. With the exception of a few new buildings, it didn't appear that much had changed in Chacala. The main street is still dirt and the people are still very friendly. We stopped in for a sangria at Las Brisas' palapa; figured it was only right as we are using their free wi-fi. The sangria wasn't nearly as good as the one we had at Joe Jack's Fish Shack in P.V., but then again, the price wasn't nearly as much, either! Still, it was refreshing. We sat under an umbrella made of palm fronds and watched the people play in the surf.
April 17, 2008: Happy Birthday, Colleen!! Received email from my beautiful daughter today. I always love hearing from her...I miss her so much and am looking forward to getting to know my step grandchildren soon! Jim and I had a mini Chinese fire drill last night. Chacala is an anchorage where you have to set both your bow and stern anchors to keep you pointed into the sea swells. At 0145 Jim woke up and realized that the boat's motion had changed. We went on deck to discover Mañana sitting bass-ackwards from the rest of the boats -- our stern anchor had dragged. We were far enough away from the boats next to us so there was no chance of us hitting anyone; we decided we would deal with it in the daylight and went back into bed. About 15 min. later the wind had died and Mañana was now sitting beam-to the sea swells, which were about 3' high. This was definitely not comfortable and we decided to tackle reanchoring the stern anchor now so we'd be able to sleep the rest of the night. Jim started the main engine and we went back on deck (noticing that another boat was now also facing backwards). It took us about 15 min. to reset the stern anchor. We finally climbed back into bed at 0230 and slept until DC threw up around 0530. We pulled our tired butts out of bed shortly after 0700, only to discover yet another boat sitting backwards! We're glad that it wasn't just us! We spent a quiet day on board. It doesn't feel as humid as it was in Puerto Vallarta, but the sun really bakes you! In mid-afternoon, a boat hailed anyone in the Chacala anchorage. Small world; it was another one of Starfish Marine's customers from Chula Vista! Jim is very proud of the fact that all of his customers who are currently cruising Mexico have experienced no problems with the work Starfish did. Jim helped Rick set his stern anchor and they chatted for a short while. The sea swells built all day and Mañana continued to face forward, so we are hopeful for a peaceful evening!
April 16, 2008: We got underway around 0830 and had a lovely passage, despite a foul current. There was no wind and virtually no swell. Unfortunately there were no dolphins, whales or turtles either, but we did watch as several rays (skates?) jumped out of the water. They look like they are flying as their wings flap up and down! Also saw several large black rays (over 4' across) and many light tan ones that were about 20" across. We arrived Chacala almost 6 hours later. It has grown quite a bit since we were here 4 years ago. Large fancy homes dot the water's edge and the hill sides; a 4 story hotel or condominium is visible from the anchorage. I also discovered free wi-fi...and that's a good thing! On the down side of progress, several jet skis used the boats at anchor as targets for most of the afternoon. One came close by us several times as they spotted DC on the flybridge. There are 6 boats in the anchorage. It's nice to be some place that isn't as crowded as Barra or Tenacatita were. We brought our drinks up to the flybridge and watched the sun set. We are still hoping to see another green flash, but it was not to be tonight.
April 15, 2008: Jim made a quick trip to the local DHL office to ship John & Liz's camera back to them (they forgot it on Saturday). As soon as he returned, we left the marina, took on fuel (211.3 gal. @ ~$2.52/gal) and then headed out to Punta de Mita. The wind was 15-20 kts. on our nose but it was a comfortable ride. We make the 7th boat in the anchorage; much fewer than when we were here 2 weeks ago. We all need to get our sea legs back under us. It's amazing how quickly we lose them! Nayarit is in Mountain Time Zone so we've gained an hour. Try explaining that to the cats whose stomachs are telling them that they are hungry although it's now only 1600! Life in the marina afforded us a chance to see some creative boat names. The ones we liked best were "Someday Isle" and "Carpe Mañana" (the owner said the name fit given that we are in Mexico and nothing happens on the same day!). DC was spending some quality time on the aft deck in the shade when a little sea bird of some type decided to flitter by. It was quickly apparent that DC hasn't lost his birding instincts! I really thought we were going to have to pluck him out of the water, but he stayed on board and the bird stayed in the air. That was the most fun he's had in a long time!
April 14, 2008: We received our tax information from our accountant over the weekend and the news wasn't good. So before we left the marina, while we still had internet and Skype access, Jim contacted our financial planner to ask that $$ be pulled out. Then Jim spoke to our accountant. She faxed Jim the tax return for his perusal and he discovered several items had not been accounted for. To make a long story short, we ended up having to spend at least another day here while the tax return is cleared up. We dropped by the marina office; Sergio told us we can have the slip as long as we want it. I brought our laundry to the laundromat hoping to get it squeezed in before tomorrow morning but no joy. I was told another boat had dropped off a mound of laundry and mine wouldn't be ready until late tomorrow afternoon. Oh well! Looks like I'll be doing it by hand once we return to an anchorage. I decided to make use of having a dock on either side of us and polished the flopper-stopper poles. They aren't perfect but look much nicer than before. We didn't get the taxes straightened out until well after 2000, but it was well worth the wait because we went from owing lots of money to getting some back...and that's a GOOD thing!
Beach Scenes in Puerto Vallarta
April 13, 2008: I would have loved to sleep in given the busy and/or late past 2 days but the charter fishing boat across from us had other ideas. I have no idea why he sits in the slip with his engine rumbling for a good 45 min. Jim and I each had chores that needed to be done. I took off to Comercial with the backpack, wanting to pick up last minutes fruits and veggies. It was hot and humid and I was wiped by the time I got back to the boat. Jim, meanwhile, was spending quality time in the engine room changing the oil and replacing the transducer that John delivered yesterday. I don't know what the problem is but the new transducer did not fix the problem. He, too, was wiped. After lunch I hauled everything out of the shower and scrubbed the floor, which was long overdue. I hate this chore because it means that the kitty litter (and everything else) has to sit in the bedroom overnight while the shower floor dries. We played tourist with Paul and Lynn as we toured around old Puerto Vallarta in the evening once the heat subsided. We walked along the malecon, admiring the various bronze sculptures that reminded us of figures from Star Wars. We also admired the sand sculptures that were on the beach. One was of the Last Supper; the detail in each figure was amazing. I find it hard to believe that the heat doesn't dry out the sand but Lynn told me that the sculptures are misted with water frequently during the day. As we continued along the malecon, we came across a young man who was balancing rocks. This doesn't sound like much, but he was using long rocks, balancing them vertically, and using absolutely no adhesive! We had a proper fish & chips dinner at Joe Jack's Fish Shack, which is located over the bridge in the romantic zone. This was, by far, the best fried fish any of us had had in a long time. Side dishes included mushy peas and cole slaw (Paul says the cole slaw is an American thing). We washed it down with glasses of deliciously refreshing sangria. We returned to the beach in time to watch the sun set. A new board walk was built since we were here in 2004 and the City of P.V. did a beautiful job with it. The art sculptures continue along it and there are shops and sidewalk cafes where one can poke or sit. We arrived back in the zocolo in time to watch the Papantla Flyers perform the "dance for the gods", which is a ritualistic dance performed by the Mexican Indians in a sunset ceremony (the Gods told man to "Dance so that we may watch you."). Five men climb a very tall pole. Four men each wrap one of their legs to a rope using a belt. The fifth man stands atop the pole and plays both the flute and drum, which means he is moving around because the drum is attached to his back side. The bracket that the 4 men are attached to begins to twirl in a circle. The men attached to it lean backwards and dangle upside down by one leg. The bracket makes 13 revolutions (13 revs. x 4 men = 52 weeks) and as it does so, the rope lengthens, eventually lowering the 4 men to the ground. The fifth man slides down one of the ropes at the end of the ceremony. Very interesting!! By this time it was 2100 and Jim & I were dragging, so we caught a very crowded bus back to the marina. We ended up sitting over the rear wheel axle and I swear it was "shocks? we don't need no steenkin' shocks!" The transmission didn't sound too great either. Paul joked that the bus's transmission was actually the meat grinder for the local Comercial carne dept! All in all, a fun evening with terrific tour guides!
April 12, 2008: We met John & Liz at the cruise ship terminal at 0930. It sure was good to see them! Once back at the marina, we unplugged the electrical cord, untied the lines and headed off to Las Animas, a small day anchorage about 1 1/2 hours from here. The guide books indicated that the anchorage is very deep and recommended that visitors take a mooring ball. As we approached the anchorage, a boy in a panga waved his hands to catch our attention. We negotiated for use of the mooring ball and round trip transportation to the beach via panga. We changed into bathing suits and grabbed towels, not sure what we might want to do once on shore. The surf break was up and getting out of the panga was tricky, but none of us fell in! We decided to have lunch in one of the many palapas and afterwards, we moved to sling back chairs under umbrellas and watched boats filled with tourists negotiate the surf -- very relaxing and sometimes very entertaining! We explored the beach before heading back. The surf break seemed larger than when we came in, but the boy did a good job holding on to the panga while the 4 of us dove into it. Jim set trolling lines with the thought that fresh fish would make a nice dinner, but we came up empty. Instead, we had dinner at Victor's Place and then mozied over to the lighthouse for an after dinner drink at sunset. They returned to the cruise ship at 2100. It was a wonderful day spent with wonderful friends and we can't thank them enough for carrying our mail, boat parts and 3 quilting magazines.
More Puerto Vallarta Pictures
(Cathedral and view from bridge)
April 11, 2008: We were thinking that we'd accomplished all that needed to be done while we were here in the marina and then one of our electronics failed. Murphy's law! Fortunately it's something we can live without. We met Paul & Lynn and caught the bus to WalMart. The area is crawling with police; we later discovered that Mexico's president is in the area. I think he's following us -- he was in Barra when we were! Jim & I loaded up our basket...you'd think there isn't any food in Mexico except in Puerto Vallarta! We took advantage of being in a gringo store and bought a couple packages of bologna, salami, blue cheese, cheddar cheese. Plus we bought a whole bunch of meat. Then, based on Paul's prior experience, we walked our WalMart carts next door to Sam's Club and had the card checker look after them! I'm sure the only reason we could pull that off is because WalMart and Sam's Club are related. We grabbed yet another (larger) cart and proceeded to fill that with kitty litter, cat food, and lots of booze (among other things). The original plan had been to share a taxi back to the marina, but when we looked at all we had purchased, we realized there was no way that our stuff and theirs was going to fit in the trunk of a little Nissan! So we went with 2 taxis back and we did share their taxi -- they had to take our backpacks into their taxi because our taxi was beginning to look like it had flat tires and the supervisor refused to allow the driver to put anything more on board! I spent over an hour with our vacuum sealer, dividing and bagging the meats that we'd purchased. I'm pretty sure that this shopping trip will last us until we get to LaPaz, with the exception of perishable items. And hopefully the cat food and kitty litter purchased today will hold us until we return to San Diego. Late in the afternoon Jim and I went in separate directions. He went in search of more engine oil and I went to retrieve our quilt and rugs. We had a delicious dinner on board Pincoya -- Lynn made several curried dishes from scratch -- such a treat!
DC Loves Boxes!
(Catnip was sprinkled inside the box!)
April 10, 2008: We were told that our dinghy struts would be delivered in the morning, so Jim stayed close to the boat. I, however, took our 4 area rugs and the winter quilt to the laundromat recommended by Lynn. I tried to convey to the clerk that the rugs were to be washed only and that I would dry them in the sun on my boat. Unfortunately I think most of what I was trying to say was missed because I was told that my items would be ready at 1600 tomorrow. So, we'll see. Perhaps they will air dry them for me. In any event, clean will be much appreciated because they haven't been washed since we left Ensenada back in November! After lunch I dug my sewing machine out and resized one of the exterior window screens. We've gone round and round about how to deal with the starboard windows and finally I decided that my solution would be better than nothing. It took me 10 min. to sew, but 5 years to implement! Once that was done, I removed the other screens and restitched the edging, so now we should be good to go for a while. The dinghy struts didn't arrive until 1530...ah, yes! We're in mañana land! The new struts are very sturdy but it appears that our request for an additional 2" got lost in translation. The afternoon sun was beating down so they will be installed when it is cooler. After the struts arrived, we went up to the used book store. We were given a 200 peso credit for the paperbacks that we brought in. We had fun going through the books looking for new reading material and afterwards, we enjoyed an iced coffee and relaxed in the air conditioned store.
April 9, 2008: The microwave couldn't handle defrosting our bagels for 15 seconds; it couldn't even handle 10 seconds. So the chore for the day became searching for a new one. We took the bus to WalMart and checked out the horno de microondas that both WalMart and Sam's Club sells. The challenge was trying to find one small enough for the space (our current one is 18" wide and 9" high). Everything was too big. We went to Elektra, where we found one that was the correct width but was 12" high; Jim figured he could make that work. We taxied back to the marina and began the task of installation. Because the unit was 3" longer, that meant that Jim had to relocate our propane sensor and that took a little while. He had to redrill the existing mounting block because the old holes for securing the microonda did not match up with the new unit. Then he realized that he was out of flat washers, so that necessitated a trip to the marine chandlery, which was a 15 min. walk (each way). They didn't have the washers and suggested we visit a hardware store, but the clerk wasn't sure the store would be open because it was siesta time. So we returned to the boat and Jim managed to dig up a couple of washers that would "make do". Then the power cord wasn't long enough to reach the outlet, so he spliced the tail of the old one onto the new one. Whew! That simple chore took us over 5 hours! And people wonder what we do all day! We will offer the old microwave to one of the guys on the dock. Mexicans are very resourceful when it comes to fixing things. We spent the evening with Paul & Lynn. Paul was really craving a beer so the first stop was a sports bar for a drink. Next stop was to the Gazebo restaurant for dinner (and more drinks). The (loose) plan had been to have drinks at the top of the lighthouse here in the marina (110' high) so we could watch the sunset. Unfortunately we were running late and the sun set before we left the restaurant. But no problema! We went to the top of the lighthouse anyway, had more drinks, and enjoyed the fireworks and view of the lights of the marina and surrounding area.
Puerto Vallarta Sculptures
April 8, 2008: There's no pleasing some people! Either we can't sleep because there's too much motion, or we can't sleep because there's no motion! Ah, such is life! The fishing charter boats headed out around 0700 -- unfortunately there are 3 or 4 on our dock alone so their engines woke us up. We had a very productive day. Jim talked with the folks at Lifeline, who suggested he try a few things before we bag the batteries. The laundry was dropped off as we headed out to catch the bus into Puerto Vallarta. The bus driver nodded his head when I said, "Calle Berlin?" so I assumed that he would let us know when we got there. However, the driver never said anything and Jim was beginning to feel like we'd gone way past Berlin Street. When he asked the driver about Berlin St., the driver shrugged his shoulders! So we hopped off the bus and headed in the direction we thought Berlin St. should be. After a couple of minutes we showed someone our map and asked where we were. Where we were was a long way away from where we should have been! Ugh! Of course this was right at noon time, in the heat. We walked about a mile to the stainless shop and presented our bent dinghy wheel struts to the guy at the front desk. We are not the first cruisers to present bent dinghy wheel struts to him! After a short conversation, he told us that he will deliver them to the marina on Thurs. morning. The price, however, is basically the price we paid for the original kit. Ouch! It really bugs me that manufacturers market a product that can not stand up to the rigors of daily use. Or perhaps they are not meant to be used daily. Or perhaps the purchaser is supposed to determine that the product will not hold up and buy something else. We stopped at a small restaurant that was recommended by the shop and had a delicious lunch large enough to be called dinner, plus sodas, for less than US $10. Next was more walking to the main drag to catch the bus to the Comercial grocery store near the marina. I haven't been in a supermarket since we left Santiago on March 6! We filled our 2 backpacks plus one additional bag; I held off buying more items since we plan to go to WalMart and Sam's Club on Friday with Paul & Lynn (and we'll split the cost of a taxi back to the marina). We ran across Lou & Laura (Cirque) in one of the restaurants here in the marina on our way back so stopped to chat for a while. It was 1530 by the time we dragged our tired bodies back to the boat. We were whipped!
April 7, 2008: Paul & Lynn (Pincoya), friends we met a couple years ago when they lived aboard their sailboat on A dock at the Chula Vista marina, checked in on the local morning net. After the net, Jim and Paul chatted via VHF. Jim and I had already decided that life would be easier for us if we were in a marina; originally we figured we'd go to Nuevo Vallarta, where it's cheap, but being in Puerto Vallarta would REALLY make life easier since all our errands will be in P.V. We gave Paul the boat's vital information and he was able to secure a slip for us. Once we knew we had a slip waiting, we upped anchor and got underway. I had heard horror stories about the channel into Puerto Vallarta being narrow and very crowded, especially around the fuel dock. I guess we were lucky in that there was no cruise ship in port but it was, indeed, crazy at the fuel dock, with boats waiting to fuel up while others tried to pass by as they entered and exited Marina Vallarta. We successfully made it into our slip. After registering with the office (and obtaining a key to the showers), we walked to F dock and met up with Pincoya. How great it is to receive warm hugs from friends when you're in a foreign country! Paul & Lynn filled us in on what is where, the internet, laundry, etc. Then we walked around the marina and they showed us a used book store before they introduced us to "Victor's Place", a restaurant. Paul & Lynn are regulars here. We all ordered lunch and a drink -- accompanying our drink was a shot of tequila. The guys ordered more beer and received another shot of tequila. When we were finished eating, 4 shot glasses filled with Kahlua were delivered! By now we were all a bit loopy and the corny jokes started flowing! While we were there, Victor walked around the tables greeting guests like old friends and stopped to enjoy a shot of tequila with folks. We finally returned to the boat around 1800. I know I'll be a nervous wreck for the next week, given DC's desire to jump ship and explore -- that and the fact that there are lots of birds teasing both cats. But it will be nice not having to worry about amps!
Mom & Baby Humpback Whale
April 6, 2008: Jim finished the battery diagnostics and right now it appears that all batteries are bad. This is not good! I keep asking him if there is something else happening on the boat to cause the batteries to fail, but he doesn't believe so. He will phone Lifeline to see if they are aware of batteries failing prematurely. And he'll put them on notice for a warranty claim, since the batteries are only 8 mos. old. Of course, Lifeline is in San Diego and we're here, so I'm not sure how a warranty claim can be handled. It's very unlikely that we'll be able to replace our AGM batteries here in Mexico. He also realized that our lost telephone minutes had never been credited, so a phone call was made to try to remedy that. After much discussion, he was told to call back on Friday...ah...the mañana syndrome! We were finally able to get underway for La Cruz in the early afternoon. As we were rounding the bend into La Cruz, we came across a mom and baby humpback whale, and what a show they put on for us!! The baby was extremely energetic and there was a whole bunch of whale slapping, a little spy hopping, a lot of pectoral fin from mama (perhaps nursing?) and at one point, mama jumped out of the water and made a splash that could have been seen miles away. This show took place less than 100 yards from us!! We arrived La Cruz 1.5 hours later. We were here 4 years ago and it has grown so much that we do not recognize it. Luxury homes, condos and hotels line the beach and a new marina opened last fall. I'll be curious to see what the town, itself, looks like. We remember dirt roads...I doubt it looks like that now. The wind blew 20 kts. but the strong current running through the anchorage kept us pointed into the wind and we had a comfortable evening. We were audience to another mom and baby show just outside the anchorage. Mother Nature is amazing!
April 5, 2008: I'm tired...tired of flopper-stoppers that go "click...click...click" every time the boat rolls, tired of cats throwing up at 0430, tired of having to shop in 4 stores for 5 items, tired of monitoring every amp, tired of spit baths and tired of ham sandwiches. I have not slept well for the past 3 nights and my normally lovely demeanor is gone; I am not a nice person when I am tired. At this moment I would give my eye teeth to climb out of a bed that didn't move all night long and into a shower that has plenty of hot water. Then I would like to sit down and turn every light and appliance on and not give a damn about amps! We decided to stay here another day; Jim has to do the net tonight and we think propagation will be better here than in La Cruz. Jim began running diagnostics on the batteries to see if he can tell whether we have 1 bad one or if they have all gone south on us. I sincerely hope that is not the case. For me, I took it easy and spent the majority of the day reading on the flybridge and got myself one heckuva sun burn. I honestly didn't think it was possible for me to burn since I'm very tanned. Oh well!
April 4, 2008: With the knowledge that we'll be in Banderas Bay for the next 2 weeks, we put the window sun screens back on, set the flybridge chairs back up and basically made ourselves at home. We are now in relatively protected waters and will be able to drive from the flybridge. Jim hosed the salt and dirt off the boat, something we had planned to do when we go into a marina, but it really couldn't wait after the last two days' passages! While he was doing that, I took inventory of all our unopened canned goods. We've got all sorts of good things on board so we won't starve. However, we are almost out of crackers, beer, wine...the essentials!! Later in the day we followed Tahoma to shore. Several breakwaters have been built in spots along the shore. One in particular is where the dinghy landing is. The trick is getting behind the breakwater before you get swamped by surf! We made it okay, but with no dinghy wheels (Jim has removed them for fear of them breaking) we couldn't lug the dinghy up the very rocky beach. So instead, he anchored the dinghy off the beach and we headed into town. It took us looking in 4 different tiendas before we could find items we need now, and most of those items were quite expensive. Jim discovered one specialty store, especially for gringos, that had all sorts of goodies -- we could easily have spent $100! We splurged and I bought one bottle of Starbuck's dark chocolate peppermint mocha (yum!) as well as 2 packages of bagels! When we returned to the beach, we discovered the dinghy out rather deep -- seems like the tide came in (the story of our lives)! So Jim waded out to his waist to retrieve it...what a guy! Punta de Mita has grown considerably since we passed by here 4 years ago. Then there was only one or two buildings. Now the beach front is lined with condo after condo, and several other developments are in various stages of build. Bus service between here and Puerto Vallarta runs every 5-10 min. should we decide to take a land tour.
April 3, 2008: We pulled ourselves out of bed at first light and started psyching ourselves for the passage. Sonnata left the anchorage 30 min. before us. Thankfully the seas had calmed considerably and we were optimistic that we would not have a repeat of yesterday's passage. Our course took us 2 miles off shore with the hope that the sea swells, etc. would be less. However, in talking with Klaus who was 1 mile off shore, there appeared to be no difference. Don was correct in that there was no wind, but we were still dealing with the 3-4' closely spaced swells. We rounded Cabo Corientes 3 hours later. We had originally thought that we would poke our nose into Yelapa, on the north side of Cabo Corientes, but that anchorage is affected by northwest swells -- we were needing a peaceful night so we bypassed Yelapa and continued the long trek into Banderas Bay, bound for La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (I have no idea how that word is pronounced). We were about 30 min. away from La Cruz when we heard our friends on Tahoma talking. They told us that the La Cruz anchorage had been very rolly for the past several days and they had relocated to Punta de Mita, where it was very pleasant. So we changed course and 30 min. later, we were anchored next to them. After a short nap, we hopped in the dinghy and enjoyed their company for several hours. Thankfully we had a very peaceful sleep and the crew of Mañana was happy!
April 2, 2008: CAUTION! Contents may have shifted! We were prepared to head off to Chemela for a couple of days. In fact, I was looking forward to the chance to go ashore and buy some goodies, but Don, the weatherman, indicated that Cabo Corientes was going to be "flat calm" for the next two days. So we decided to forego Chemela and head to Ipala, 62 miles north and tucked on the south side of Cabo Corientes. That would put us in a position to take advantage of the "flat calm" rounding on Thursday. Well, to start with, we had the 3-4' swells that weren't swell (they were spaced close together), but at least those pesky 1-2 footers that we had a few days ago were gone. We also had a favorable current that had us going 9.2 kts. But when you add the current coming up from the south and butt them against 3-4' swells that are coming down from the north, well, you don't have a swell ride. We dodged birtle after birtle (birds riding on turtles' backs), and do you know that the birds had the audacity to poop on the turtle's back? :-) We got a short break in the seas, winds and swells right around lunch time, when I commented to Jim that usually when you fly, the bumpiness appears at meal time! So I guess I jinxed us. As the day progressed, we lost our 9.0 kts, but still kept a favorable current (8.0 kts), but the closer we got to Ipala, the nastier the seas got. In fact, our last hour was horrible -- it rated right up there in my "snottiest passage" list! The wind was blowing 25 kts; waves were breaking over our bow and up onto the flybridge; sea water was coming in the gap of the port window and the port door (I was busily placing towels to mop up the water); and items in Jim's "garage" were toppling onto the floor. The cats moved themselves around to wear they were comfortable. For Jerry, that was practically buried under one of the settee pillows (the other was shoved inside the liquor locker). Finally, we came into the lee of Ipala at 1630, right behind a sailboat that we have shared several anchorages with (Sonnata), and dropped anchor. Whew! Talk about being out of practice!! We have definitely become complacent when it comes to securing the boat! Once we were anchored I washed the windows, we secured the flybridge and garage and decided that things will be secured firmer than they were today. If this was Don's idea of "flat calm", I hate to see what greets us tomorrow when we round the Cape. There are no words to describe how exhausted we were. We climbed into bed at 1945 after listenting to Don's forecast for tomorrow. Unfortunately the anchorage was affected by wrap-around swells coming around Punta Ipala causing us to roll uncomfortably all night long. Needless to say, there was virtually no rest for the weary. Ya gotta love this cruising life!
April 1, 2008: Jim is feeling back to his old self today...and that's a good thing! Well, today is April Fool's Day but apparently the trick our batteries are playing on us isn't an April Fool's joke. It appears that our house bank is barely holding a charge for 24 hours. We charged the batteries all morning, after which Jim tested them -- they tested fine. So we will monitor things; perhaps our refrigeration system or freezer is going haywire and using more amps than it should. I did a load of T-shirts and hung them out to dry. Today's wind and swell was from the south, making the anchorage rolly. When we arrived here, the swells were out of the north, so that is what our stern anchor is set for. But given that we're leaving tomorrow, we decided we could live with the roll.
Mar. 31, 2008: This anchorage is so quiet -- no loud disco music for a pleasant change! Unfortunately, though, Jim didn't sleep well during the night and woke up head achy and with limited appetite, so we spent a quiet day on board. I swept the sand out of the dinghy and rinsed the salt water out our shorts while Jim was napping. I think the microwave finally bit the big one. It's been acting up for the past month but tonight it decided to shut itself down as I was heating leftovers for dinner. It really doesn't owe us anything; it came with the boat and we have no idea how long Tom & Judy had it. Guess we'll be looking around Puerto Vallarta for a new one next week.
Copa del Sol
Mar. 30, 2008: We decided to forego snorkeling at The Aquarium and make passage to either Bahia Careyes or Chemela. The cruising guides indicated there is good snorkeling at Bahia Careyes so that was Plan A. We upped anchor at 0715 and headed north, into very lumpy seas. We had a long rolling sea swell from the south, as well as 1-2' swells from the west, with an occasional 3-4' west swell thrown in for good measure. These swells were NOT swell!! Needless to say, we have gotten out of practice by sitting at anchor for 2 - 3 weeks at a time! I had remembered to lock down all the cabinet doors, but given the bashing conditions, I had to put a pillow in the liquor locker, too! As we were underway, we passed a cup shaped structure high on a cliff. It was the strangest thing we had ever seen, but we couldn't figure out what it was. It was in the same vicinity as a lighthouse but it didn't look like anything the Mexican government would build. We arrived Careyes 3 hours later and there was only one other boat at anchor. This is a very small and picturesque anchorage; actually the anchorage is made of up 3 small lobes. We opted to bow/stern anchor in the middle cove because it afforded us better protection from the swell. Club Med used to have facilities here but it is closed now. There are a couple of hotels and a turtle sanctuary for the carey turtle, which is now endangered. After lunch we toured the area by dinghy. The water is beautifully clear, but there wasn't any sign of fish, colorful or otherwise, so don't know if the snorkeling is a seasonal thing. Our neighbors stopped by and invited us to their boat for happy hour. "Ozzy" is a 58' sport fisher with 3 couples on board; definitely not a cruising boat, so we were surprised by the invitation. We spent an hour or so talking about various anchorages, etc. The ladies were curious about how we provision. I think they had a new appreciation for cruisers when I told them we can buy only what we can carry in our backpack. One of the ladies told us that the structure is called "Copa del Sol" and that it was built by a rich elderly man who disliked tourists. That being said, Club Med's view of Careyes looks directly at Copa del Sol! I won't swear that this is a true story, but it sure sounds good! When we left their boat, they commented that they were going to watch us take the dinghy to the beach. No pressure here! Thankfully there was no surf break and we did just fine, with the exception of how far we pulled the dinghy up on the beach. We couldn't decide if the tide was going in or out, but we thought it was going out. We had dinner at the resort's restaurant, definitely over priced but the food was good and the atmosphere couldn't be beat. It was pitch black out when we headed back to the dinghy and, of course, we'd forgotten to bring a flashlight. All I could remember was that the dinghy's anchor had been placed up on the beach and I didn't want to trip over the line. This turned out not to be a problem because the tide was actually coming in and the anchor was in the water with the dinghy well out! Jim waded out and turned the dinghy around. He then discovered that the waves had been breaking over the transom and there were several inches of water in it! We both managed to climb in without getting wetter than we were. Jim spent quality time pumping out the dinghy once we returned to the boat. I'm so glad Ozzy didn't see that show!
Mar. 29, 2008: We brought a dive tank over to The Cat's Meow as Martin had volunteered to fill the tank for Jim. Once that was done, we pulled in the flopper stoppers and prepared the dinghy for towing. Our destination was a short one -- around to the outside of the anchorage, where we planned to drop anchor and go snorkeling at "The Aquarium". Imagine our surprise when we turned the corner out of the calm, inner anchorage and were greeted with 20 kts of wind and white caps! Despite the sea conditions, we checked out the outer anchorage and found it wasn't too uncomfortable; a bit rolly at times. However, we knew that the conditions would not be good for snorkeling. So we hunkered down and decided to see what tomorrow brings.
More Jungle Cruise Photos
Mar. 28, 2008: Jim hopped back in the water after breakfast and began scraping the bottom. When he came out, he was covered in little sea critters. Some looked like tiny shrimp, others looked like a thin strand of sea weed with hooks. Getting all the sea life off him was a challenge because he's so hairy! I made us a quick sandwich and then we headed to the river's entrance with The Cat's Meow following us...as if we knew what to do! We saw many more egrets today, as well as the croc we saw on Monday (or at least there was a croc in the same spot) plus a baby croc about 12-15 inches long further up the river. We wondered if crocs are on their own from the time of birth, or whether we should have been concerned as to where mama was. The jungle cruise is becoming quite popular with the tourists. Pangas loaded with paying customers (300 pesos) plough their way through the shallow water at the river entrance and zoom up and back. When a dinghy and panga meet, one or the other must give way by pulling over into the mangroves. Usually the dinghy gives way. We ended up in the mangroves a couple of times and I spent quality time afterwards killing spiders and little black bugs --- eeeccckk! Once in outer Tenacatita, we walked around trying to decide which palapa we wanted to eat at, finally settling on one along the beach. The service was slow, the margaritas were horrible, but the food, scenery and company were great! We stopped in the grocery store before heading back to the dinghies, and then returned to the anchorage at full speed. The Friday night raft-up was taking place but Mother Nature was calling so we stopped at Mañana briefly. I fed the cats and Jim made drinks to go. Then we sped on over and joined the raft up for an hour or so.
A Very Spoiled DC!
Mar. 27, 2008: Our friendly dolphin has been with us every day, although we've yet to name it! We had the last 2 blueberry bagels for breakfast -- such a treat! Thanks so much, StarPlath!! Jim hopped in the water and scrubbed the water line of green growth that had to be a foot long in places! The bottom sure does turn green fast in these warm waters! He scraped the water line last month when we were in Santiago. I had thought we'd be leaving tomorrow but The Cat's Meow, who is now anchored in front of us, hailed us and asked if we'd like to join them tomorrow for the jungle cruise. We agreed, surf permitting and we invited them to join us for dinner. Martin, Robin and their friend, Phyllis, arrived at 1700 bearing a pistachio lemon pie for dessert. I made spaghetti with meat sauce, salad and a loaf of olive bread. Per the norm, DC, our cat with the sweet tooth, was in my lap when it came time for dessert. He loves pistachios and avocados and I'm not sure whether he could smell the sugar or whether he could recognize the color green, but he sure made a pest of himself! And, per the norm, we indulged him with a little treat (note that he's holding on to the fork with both paws in the 2nd picture!). I sure hope his vet isn't reading this!
More Dogs and Dinghies
Mar. 26, 2008: Stephanie and Lance stopped by on their way to the jungle cruise and brought us 4 blueberry bagels -- Jim & I thought we'd died and gone to heaven!! Stephanie also gave me a large piece of freezer paper, used in quilting. We stayed on board the boat; I did a couple loads of laundry and flew our colors while Jim spent quality time making new dock lines (long overdue). It was another quiet day in paradise although the swell was up. It made dinghy landings fun to watch...from a distance!
Mar. 25, 2008: Jim's chore was to run ashore to drop off the trash. He made it thru the surf break okay but on his way back to the boat, the dinghy got some serious air as it was launched from the incoming surf. Luckily he didn't get swamped, although he had to change into dry clothes when he returned to the boat! We had the generator and water maker running, so I took advantage of the electricity, dug my sewing machine out and put my new wall hanging together. I'm very pleased with the way the colors worked out. My next task is to figure out how to attach the applique. Stephanie and Lance joined us for dinner and we had a great time -- we even introduced them to Alice! Stephanie brought a Caesar salad, complete with a can of anchovies. Lance had DC and Jerry's undivided attention when he opened the can! With permission, he offered a small piece of anchovie to DC, who took it like he hadn't eaten in a month. Then it donned on DC that this thing in his mouth was YUKKY! He ran around the galley and down into the aft cabin shaking his head and making sounds that sure sounded like "bleck!" to me!! That'll teach DC to be such a pig! The moon wasn't up yet and it was pitch black out when it came time for them to leave. They had forgotten to put their anchor light on before they headed out for the evening. So the 4 of us stood on deck trying to figure out which way our boat was headed (where is the hotel?) in order to figure out where StarPlath should be. Normally this wouldn't be so difficult, but we'd polished off a couple bottles of wine....Jim finally brought a flashlight out on deck and shined it around the anchorage, locating and illuminating their boat until we were sure that they were safely on board!
Mar. 24, 2008: We joined Tahoma and Triple Stars for the jungle cruise and all 3 of us earned triple stars for getting across the river mouth without getting wet! The river starts off wide (~30') and then narrows down to one dinghy width across and the mangroves form a ceiling above you, so you end up ducking in many places. We enjoyed seeing the egrets, night herons, fish AND 1 baby crocodile along the several mile river. The river ends in a lagoon, where we beached our dinghies and walked along the malecon, watching the vacationers play in the ocean's surf. Jim & I stopped at a new palapa and had ceviche while we waited for Tahoma and Triple Stars, who had decided to go snorkeling. On our way back to the dinghies we stopped at a small tienda where we were able to buy many items that were on our list. It was supposedly high tide when we got to the river mouth, but there wasn't a whole lot of water! Jim had to lift the dinghy engine up to keep the propellor from dragging in the sand. We made it across, though, without getting wet. Thankfully the surf break was benign! I noticed a new Nordhavn in the anchorage so we went out to it and recognized it as our friends, Stephanie and Lance on StarPlath. We'd met them in Ensenada; Stephanie is a quilter who gave me some lovely fabric. We sat with them for an hour, trading cruising stories and then it was time for us to head over to Tahoma for happy hour (we are such social butterflies!). I've never attended a happy hour that wasn't fun. Yummy finger foods were passed around and more cruising stories told. One thing that we learned is that the new marina in La Cruz is not as expensive as we first thought, so perhaps we'll be able to spend a night there so we can wash the boat. We returned to our boat at 2030.
Mar. 23, 2008: Happy Easter! We had 2 different dolphins swimming behind us this morning, plus several schools (?) of rays swam by. Occasionally a ray would jump out of the water. Someone nick-named these rays "popcorn" rays because they sound like popcorn popping when they hit the water. I sanded and put a second coat of varnish on the flybridge rails. They look nice and shiny and there's only one or two holidays, so I think I'll leave well enough alone! I started sanding the window and door moldings, getting them ready for a touch-up coat of trim paint, but I need to remove the forward and port sun screens so I can get to those windows. And for fun, I cut out fabric for a cute wall hanging. I'm using left over material that I made my quilt out of so when I'm done, the aft cabin will coordinate nicely. I pinned and labeled all the pieces -- I don't know when I'll get around to sewing them and wanted to make sure I know what I had in mind when I cut the pieces out! Jim and I are staring at the cabinets wondering what there is to snack on. I'm not sure where my head was at when it came to provisioning. I had intended to go into Melaque but then the winds hit and other things took priority. So...hopefully we'll be able to find a store someplace soon. The beach returned to normal by mid-afternoon.
Mar. 22, 2008: Our friendly dolphin was back visiting us again this morning. We can tell it's the same one because his dorsal fin is irregular, as if it was bitten off. I got the first coat of varnish on the flybridge rails right after breakfast, before the heat and winds came up. Meanwhile, Jim spent quality time in the engine room, performing maintenance on the oil change pump. Tahoma invited us to join them on the jungle cruise, but Jim and I were right in the middle of our projects. Besides that, we had already decided to hold off going to shore until Monday, when life in Tenacatita should be back to normal. I had all sorts of great intentions mentally, but physically I couldn't seem to get moving!
Mar. 21, 2008: We both slept fairly well, with the boat gently rocking and the surf crashing in the background. This morning, we watched a dolphin swimming back and forth between our boat and the boat behind us for hours. It would clear its blow hole next to the boat, causing DC to look over the bulwarks, but by the time DC would look, the dolphin would have gone back under water! I dug the sandpaper out and prepped the flybridge rails for varnish. While I was doing that, Jim was hard at work taking the dive compressor apart, assessing the damage. The diagnosis is catastrophic failure -- inside the crank case was a collection of broken bits and bobs with almost no parts salvageable. So now we have to figure out what to do. Finding a new one here in Mexico is highly unlikely and importing one from the States and paying the duty would be too expensive. Do we sell it the unit minus the compressor (it has a little Honda motor that runs fine)? Who knows! For now, it will be tucked out of the way. Afternoon winds kicked up suddenly, blowing a very hot wind at 20-25 kts. The temperature soared to almost 90 degrees. And in the middle of this, what did I decide to do? I turned on the oven and baked cookies (from scratch!) for the Friday night mayor's raft-up! Tenacatita's "mayor" went cruising for a while, but another cruiser decided the raft-ups are just too much fun to miss, and stepped in for the missing mayor. The mayor of Tenacatita is usually a self-appointed position by a cruiser who will be staying in the area for several months. There are no benefits to being mayor other than you get to meet lots of friendly cruisers (it has nothing to do with a governmental position). There were about 15 dinghies at tonight's raft-up. Introductions were made, everyone brought a dish to share, boat cards were exchanged and books and DVDs were swapped. All in all, a fun evening!
View of Condo from Bay
Mar. 20, 2008: Jim's business transactions took several hours this morning and then he had to make a run over to the marina, where someone was heading back to the States and could take mail. On his way back, he joined the flotilla of dinghies who were trying to get Rosebud off the sandbar. No joy in that area as the tide was rapidly falling; Rosebud was going to have to wait it out for over 8 hours until high tide returned. Our water tank is 40" deep and during our 2-week stay, we used 19" of water. To give you an idea of just how muddy the lagoon bottom is, Jim used 7" of water just hosing off the anchor chain and anchor!! As we passed through the lagoon entrance we wondered what it will be like to return in January, high cruising season, without a boat. Will we bring our VHF and check in to the morning net as land-based? Will we feel like a fish out of water being in cruising territory but not being cruisers? Will we care if the wind blows 30 kts? These questions, and probably many more, will be answered in 10 months! We had a lovely passage to Tenacatita. There was virtually no wind and although there were significant sea swells, they were spaced comfortably apart. The passage took 3 hours and we arrived with plenty of time to kick back and relax. We will all need to get our sea legs back under us as there is a swell running in the anchorage. The beach is lined with tents and sun shades. Many workers have the week before Easter off -- Semana Santa (Saints Week, aka Holy Week). As such, this normally quiet anchorage is teeming with Mexican families. Our 7 peso tamales were a real disappointment. There was virtually no beef in them. We'll have to remember not to buy from that lady again...since we can't remember what we did last week, I highly doubt that we'll remember the tamale lady 10 months from now! We received email from Colleen; she and Rachel leave for a 2 week vacation to Belize a week from tomorrow and they are psyched! We cannot seem to get away from loud music late at night. The nearby resort had their speakers turned up to high volume. We can only hope that the noise will end on Sunday.
Lagoon Beach in Barra
Mar. 19, 2008: Mass exodus out of the lagoon today -- the wind finally died last night. We had planned to leave for Tenacatita but had communication problems while dealing with taxes and financial issues. Our phone card ran out of pesos and Jim was trying to conduct business using Skype, which was dropping every other word. So he had to run out and buy another phone card (our lost minutes have yet to be credited...I think they are lost forever). By early afternoon all issues had been dealt with, but he will need to make one more phone call tomorrow morning, so here we sit! Fortunately it was a beautiful day and very quiet in the anchorage. At 1800 we took the water taxi into town for one last hurrah. The place was hopping! Families, both Mexican and gringo, strolled along the malecon and mariachi bands played. Vendors selling hand made jewelry and home cooked foods had tables set up on the sidewalk. We had a nice dinner at Los Arcos restaurant; a mix of Mexicans and English speaking patrons occupying the tables. Afterwards we joined the crowd in the party atmosphere. We bought 5 tamales from one vendor for 7 pesos each (tomorrow night's dinner) and one large slice of pineapple upside down cake from another. When we returned to the boat, we put About Schmidt into DVD player, climbed into bed and split the slice of cake (while fending off the cats) -- what decadence!
Release of the Herd - Zihuatanejo
Mar. 18, 2008: It is not only Holy Week in Barra, but also Spring Break. So what that means is that the streets of Barra are teeming with Mexicans on holiday and gringos. What it also means is that the music in the night clubs starts playing around 2200 and doesn't stop until 0400. Last night the music started at 2130 -- lucky us! So the music starts just as we're drifting off to sleep and we groan. When the band takes a break, we think "great!" and by the time we're falling to sleep, break time is over. Normally the music is only on Fri. and Sat. nights but I have a feeling that we'll have sleepless nights this week. We listened to Don on Summer Passage and he confirmed that we're in for another blow that isn't expected to let up until tomorrow afternoon. Don predicted that the winds may be stronger than yesterday. With that in mind, we headed to shore around 0930, and the wind was already picking up. First stop was to the Port Captain's office for our salida. We took the scenic route, up one of the canals to the small marina that is located 2 blocks away from the Port Captain's office. Big, new (expensive) houses line the banks of the canals and all houses had, if not a boat, then at least a dock in front. Afterwards we went downtown, tied the dinghy up at the Sand's Hotel and went our separate ways. I decided to buy a few more groceries and Jim was in search of someplace where he could get his dive tanks filled. Our last stop was to Fortino's restaurant for an internet card. Jim and Bill loaded 5 dive tanks into our dinghy and dropped them off at a shop just outside the Grand Bay Hotel. They returned soaking wet! The lagoon is extremely choppy from all the wind. And yippee skippee! I finished my turtle applique. I'm calling it "Release of the Herd - Zihuatanejo" because that's where I started the project and the military was releasing turtles while we were there. And yippee skippee to Jim! He put together a link for the website that has pictures of our home away from home. Click here to view our condo!
Mar. 17, 2008: Happy St. Patrick's Day! I had emailed our friend the Padre to put a good word in to the guy up above for no wind today but I think the man up above turned the dial the wrong way because the wind started blowing around 1000 and continued building to over 30 kts throughout the afternoon and into the evening. We lowered the bimini; it was rattling so bad that I was sure the struts were going to break and the weather forecast sounded like we might be in for another 24 hours of wind. One boat broke free, 2 or 3 went aground on the sand bar as they were entering the lagoon and a small power boat towing a water skiier ended up disabled in the middle of the fleet with the tow rope wrapped around its prop. Several dinghies aided the boat, which was ultimately tied off of Mañana so one of the people on board could safely dive on the prop. They were back underway within 10 minutes. We made a quick dinghy trip to Maria's tienda in Colimilla in the morning and happily discovered El Compadre tequila, firm avocados and a decent selection of wines. The price of the El Compadre was a lot more than we paid for it in Santiago, but we haven't found it in either Barra or Melaque. We also stopped into Fortino's restaurant to pick up a new internet card but they were out of stock until tomorrow. Jim tried filling his dive tanks only to discover the compressor was not putting any air in the tank. Later in the afternoon, Bill (Peregrine) stopped by and was helping Jim diagnose the problem. I don't know mechanical language, but it sounded pretty serious and didn't sound like the compressor will be filling any tanks any time soon. We added a few more DVDs to our collection, thanks to Tahoma. Needless to say, very few people dared to leave their boat and go to Melaque for festival. By 2000 the wind had died back down to about 20 kts. but by then, it was just too cold. So I guess that's the way the cruising life goes. :( The wind continued blowing in the teens all evening, with periodic gusts to 20 kts.
Mar. 16, 2008: We'd been invited back to the development for a free breakfast; but on our way into town, we had to detour to help push a sailboat off the sand bar in the lagoon. He was so stuck that a dinghy had to take one of the mast lines and pull it sideways in an effort to break the mud's suction under the boat. Once he was free, we continued on our way, had breakfast, asked a few more questions and took several pictures. Afterwards we walked around Barra in an effort to do some provisioning. I don't know how we did it but Jim ended up with 2 bottles of rum and I ended up with no wine. That will have to be rectified tomorrow -- otherwise the admiral will be one very unhappy person! We also picked up a pollo al carbon (BBQ chicken) for dinner. Muy sabroso!!! Jim tackled the generator in the afternoon. He replaced the fuel solenoid and got the generator running, but now it appears to be having difficulty starting so he's left scratching his head. I think we're good to move on Tuesday; we'll be in the Puerto Vallarta area in 3 weeks should we need to send for more parts. We added several new DVDs to our growing collection; mostly old Mel Brooks with Dom DeLuise movies. The wind blew 20 kts in the late afternoon but no one dragged, although an incoming boat got stuck on the sand bar so Jim helped act as a tug boat to it. The anchorage count is just below 50; many new boats arrived yesterday and today most likely for tomorrow's festival. Those of us who have been here a while (i.e., long enough to know that our anchors are well stuck in the mud) eye the new boats wearily.
Our Mexican Hideaway
Mar. 15, 2008: This is a test to see how many friends and family members actually read my journal. We spent the majority of the day in Barra attending a sales presentation for a new waterfront condominium. We were very impressed with what we saw and although very apprehensive about buying property in Mexico, we decided to buy a unit. What we purchased is 3 fixed weeks in unit #208 of the Bogavante Resort & Spa, which has a fully furnished living room (with balcony), kitchen/dining area, bedroom (with balcony), 2 baths and personal storage space. It is a corner unit that has a view of all of Bahia de Navidad. What made us decide to buy? We had been talking about buying property down here for the future; we liked the fact that we could have fixed dates in one specific unit; this is a small condominium (70 units) and Barra is on the gold coast (dependable weather). Barra is 4 hours south of Puerto Vallarta, 4 hours west of Guadalajara, 8 hrs. west of Mexico City and 8 hrs. north of Zihuatanejo. The building is currently under construction but there is a provision that if it is not 100% complete by 1/2/09, we get a 100% refund and the building trust is held with the bank so our money is guaranteed safe. Additionally, the developer threw in several nice enticements, one of them being an additional 3 floating weeks that can be used at a number of different resorts around the world (or could be used in our development should family wish to join us for a week). One of the key selling points to us was that our fixed weeks are actually considered "fractional ownership" and thus, an asset...we own 3/52nd's of Unit #208. The 3 floating weeks are more traditional timeshare weeks. This was absolutely a no-pressure sales presentation. We will return with the camera tomorrow. We can't believe we did this! So now we can say that we are legal residents of LaPaz (per our FM3 visa) and property owners in Barra de Navidad! Should anyone want to vacation in Barra, just let us know...such a deal we can make for you! Click here to view our condo! Once all the paperwork was completed, we finished running errands. We were very happy to have the desk clerk at the Sands Hotel hand us 2 packages. We returned to the boat at 1600 and opened the mail. It's almost like Christmas, except it was all tax documentation. B*O*R*I*N*G!!
Mar. 14, 2008: Jim checked DHL's website when we woke up, expecting it to say package delivered, but instead, it indicated that the "residence was closed". We spent a quiet day on the boat and went to shore at 1630. First stop, of course, was to the Sands Hotel, although the website still didn't show the package as being delivered. However, the desk clerk handed us a form left by DHL requesting 600 pesos be collected in duty. Someone, somewhere has put a price on this fuel solenoid. It is a warranty replacement and therefore the enclosed invoice should read $0. But without it the generator doesn't run, so it really is worth much more than 600 pesos to us! We left the money and was told that DHL will return some time tomorrow. Our fingers are crossed that the second package we are expecting may be delivered tomorrow as well and perhaps we'll be able to kill two birds with one stone. We had planned to have dinner at PK's but were an hour early so we headed back to the bar where we ran into Bob & Linda (Tahoma) and we had a couple of drinks with them. We arrived PK's to find the place packed. If we were going to pay money for dinner, we wanted to have a table in front of us (I don't think we were asking too much)! Instead we walked towards the malecon, where we ran into other cruisers who recommended Pipi's. We had 3 burritos, 2 beers and a soda for 96 pesos...not a bad price and definitely good food! We caught the water taxi back to our boat; Jim headed off to a going away party on Ariel and I stayed on board chasing mosquitos. Ah, life in the lagoon!
Mar. 13, 2008: We didn't drag our sorry butts out of bed until almost 0900! Geesh...it's tough to get old! DHL's website indicated that our package was with the courier so we held off going into town until after noon. We went to the Sands Hotel first, but the package had not been delivered and the desk clerk indicated that it probably wouldn't be until at least 1600. So we killed time by walking through the public market (forgot to buy strawberries), then to the waterfront and then poked into a few stores. Jim bought a small hand-painted wood platter -- very different from those purchased in Zihua. We returned to the hotel at 1500 and killed another 45 min. in the bar, but the package still had not arrived. So...mañana! When we got back to the boat, we contacted The Cat's Meow and were told that happy hour would start at 1800. We spent almost 3 hours talking and laughing with Robin, Martin, Susan and Dennis. Robin gave me a tour of the new and improved Cat's Meow. They are doing a beautiful job (the interior was trashed 4 years ago when the boat sank).
Mar. 12, 2008: We could hear the ocean waves pounding when we woke up -- the lagoon is separated from the ocean by a small piece of land. I sure was happy that we weren't out there "enjoying" those swells! Jim spent the majority of the day working on taxes. It's a huge pain in the neck trying to do this type of thing from Mexico. We are missing documentation; the problem is we don't know whether we need to make some phone calls or if the material is in the mail packet that is expected next week. Our internet card ran out so we made a quick trip to the restaurant where we bought another card. Jim purchased a spool of 600' of line from another cruiser. We expect we'll need it when we go to Alaska next summer. Stern anchoring is done a bit differently up there and the water is much deeper. As Jim tells me, you can never have too much line on board! Plans had been made earlier in the day to go into Melaque in the evening with several other cruisers, wind permitting. Per the norm, the winds started in mid-afternoon. The VHF was busy as we decided whether or not we felt comfortable leaving our boats to go in, but seeing as the wind was between 10-15 kts., we decided to go. At 1800 a very full water taxi picked us up, just as the winds were climbing to 20 kts. We climbed aboard and had a very wet ride into Barra, despite the driver going very slow. Six couples (Jammin', Mira, Just Us II, The Cat's Meow, Two Can Play & us) caught the bus to Melaque. We got off in the town square, which was alive with people and music. We walked around, taking in the scenery, and decided on a mom & pop taco stand for dinner. Talk about great food! As we were eating, the church bells started bonging and a few fireworks were shot off, startling the birds, dogs and us! This went on every 15 minutes for about an hour. After dinner we walked up and down a couple of streets and back to the town square, where we watched churros being made. Churros are the Mexican version of a plain donut rolled in a sugar/cinnamon mixture and are very good! We listened to a group play music -- their tour bus indicated that it was banda music (Mexican country music) but this sounded like the group belonged playing in New Orleans. We all had at least one body part moving as we listened to them! We made a quick trip to the table that was selling good-looking cakes and Jim bought a slice of tres leche to go. We poured ourselves into 3 taxis for our trip back to Barra because the buses stopped running at 1930. Rather than returning back to the boat, we went to The Sands Hotel for a nightcap. The bar was very crowded and stuffy, but we were able to take our drinks out on the patio, which was cool and quiet. We didn't leave there until almost midnight and by then, the water taxi stand was vacant. However, there was a sign taped to a pole that indicated that we should turn the light switch on and off 3 times if we needed a taxi. Our chariot arrived within a minute. I can't remember the last time we stayed up past midnight!
Mar. 11, 2008: We took the water taxi into town. Our first stop was the Telcel store. After much conversation in Spanglish, we were given a phone number where we could talk to an English-speaking Telcel representative. The rep. told Jim that the computer "lost" our minutes. Their computer showed the day we purchased the chip and minutes and it showed that they were gone the next day. The best he could do is credit the money back to our account, but not for 5 days. Jim told him that we need the minutes now, not in 5 days when we'll be leaving for Tenacatita where the plan is not valid. Too bad, so sad; welcome to Mexico! So we purchased more minutes. We made use of our time in town and did a little grocery shopping, I got a haircut and we split a delicious lunch of "rollo de mar", which was a fish filet stuffed with shrimp, rolled, wrapped with bacon and baked, and served with mixed veggies, rice and a cheese and garlic sauce w/walnuts over the fish. Yum! The wind started blowing between 25-30 kts. shortly after we returned to the boat. I could do without the excitement of wind...the wind is NOT my friend! Fortunately every one stayed put! The wind was still blowing 20 kts. at 2000, so we went below and put on our M*A*S*H DVD so we wouldn't have to listen to things rattling.
Mar. 10, 2008: An announcement was made over the VHF this morning that Jim on Legato was found dead on a ramp in the marina. Needless to say, this sobered everyone very quickly. We worked with Jim in Zihua during Sailfest; he was the organizer of the sailboat race. Sympathy goes out to his wife and family. I have no idea what needs to happen for them to ship him back to the States. The Mexicans love their paperwork. We spent the day on board. Jim is still suffering sinus congestion and we're wondering if we need to get him to a doctor to see if it's a sinus infection. He was able to get Skype up and running and made a couple of important phone calls. Our new fuel solenoid will be sent via DHL tomorrow. The winds were up today and we withstood 20 kts. for several hours. One boat dragged but was quickly reanchored before damage to it or the surrounding boats happened. Mañana stood her ground...good girl!! When a boat starts dragging, dinghies come rushing from all directions. Generally one or two people will hop on board the boat to see if they can start the engine and pull up the anchor gear. Other dinghies surround the dragging boat and will take a line to see if they can pull it, or else the dinghies will position themselves between the dragging boat and the boat that is in eminent danger of being hit. So far this strategy has worked fine. The Cat's Meow pulled into the anchorage late in the afternoon. We met Martin and Robin back in May 2004 when they ran into trouble in an anchorage up in the Sea of Cortez and we spent a week with other cruisers helping them refloat their boat. You can find that log under "Jan's Journal - Exploring the Sea of Cortez - May 21, 2004".
A Beautiful Egret
Mar. 9, 2008: Confusion reigns!!! The US has sprung forward one hour, but Mexico has not. So I taped up a note indicating that the east coast is now +2 hours and the west coast is -1 hour difference from us. We went to the club de golf for breakfast and Jim had his eggs benedict and I had my pan frances (french toast). Our meals were very good and not as expensive as I had expected. When we returned to the boat, Jim started the generator. We are still testing one of the components and will contact Fisher Panda to order a new part tomorrow assuming it passes (or perhaps fails) the test. I called my sister and in the middle of the phone call, the phone went dead. It appears that we were not set up correctly with Telcel. So there's another chore for tomorrow. Things would be a whole lot easier if our Spanish were better! Aurora came for dinner...we wanted to introduce them to Alice. I thought Jim (Aurora) was going to choke on his drink when a couple of the songs played! As Jim was cooking dinner on the BBQ several poisonous sea snakes swam by the boat. They ranged in size between about 8" to 2' in length...EEUUWWW!! Guess we'll have to be diligent about checking out the swim step and dinghy before steping off the boat.
Barra de Navidad
Mar. 8, 2008: Once again we bought a couple of treats from the French baker. He charges quite a bit more for the treats delivered out here as opposed to buying them at his store. I suspect that we'll pick up several olive loaves and baguettes before we leave here, as they freeze well. We went for a dinghy ride around the anchorage and ran into Lou from Cirque. After talking with him for a few minutes, we continued on to Fortino's, where we purchased a 24-hour internet card for 90 pesos. Pretty pricey given that the connection is extremely slow and occasionally marginal. And then we continued our lagoon tour by stopping at the dinghy dock at the golf course. Rumor has it that the golf course restaurant does a mean eggs benedict that has Jim salivating, so we walked around the grounds (which are beautiful) until we found the restaurant, and checked out its hours. The rest of the day was spent on board, periodically fighting with the internet, and relaxing. An announcement was made over the VHF that Mexico's president will be staying at the Grand Bay Hotel for the weekend. However, I doubt that news will affect those of us out here in the lagoon.
The pictures were taken by a fellow cruiser. The picture on the left shows the entrance into Barra de Navidad. It is a bar crossing, albeit a small one. You can see the town of Barra in the center of the picture, on the north side of the entrance. The Grand Bay Hotel (we've heard that the rooms run about US $450/night) and the marina are on the south side. The fuel dock is a short distance from the marina. The second picture shows part of the town of Colimilla and the lagoon; it is not big and it is not deep. In fact, in this picture, you can make out the brown areas where the water is extremely shallow. There are about 10 boats in this photo; right now there are about 50 boats.
Mar. 7, 2008: The French baker came through the anchorage and we bought a couple of goodies for ourselves and a loaf of olive bread to bring to Aurora tonight (we are thinking positively). Then we dressed in our "going to the Port Captain's" clothes, hailed a water taxi and headed into town. As usual, the check-in process was painless; the only stipulation this time was that we will have to come back to check out because we will be here for 10 days, give or take. Our laundry was ready and only cost 60 pesos -- such a bargain although I later discovered that it had not been folded. We ate our goodies for lunch and then kicked back and relaxed. Jim was able to contact Fisher Panda's tech support. They had him try a couple of things and our fingers and toes are crossed that one of their suggestions was the solution. Time will tell...We had a great evening on board Aurora and didn't return to the boat until 2200!
Mar. 6, 2008: Finally! We weighed anchor at 0800 bound for Barra de Navidad and for the first time in our travels north, we had a favorable current! And Murphy apparently missed the boat because the generator started and ran the entire way, allowing us to fill our water tank. Hooray! The lagoon is very crowded with over 50 boats at anchor. Jim decided to anchor on the outside of the fleet, towards the back of the lagoon...we've heard about too many boats dragging anchor during the winds and Jim didn't want to be in the middle. It's always fun to put a face and boat with what you hear on the radio and hopefully we'll get out and meet some of them. After lunch we hailed a water taxi and began running our errands. We dropped off the laundry, bought a new Telcel chip (we should have phone access tomorrow if the clerk did things correctly) and got an address for where we can have DHL ship our generator part. By the time we returned to the boat, the wind was blowing a steady 20-25 kts. with gusts to 30. Not fun! I was a bit anxious as to whether we, or anyone around us, would drag. Sure enough, two boats dragged, but neither were near us. Aurora had invited us to dinner, but we ended up taking a rain check (or would that be a wind check?). The wind finally subsided when the sun set and we had a very peaceful night with no wind, no waves, and no surf pounding in our ears.
Mar. 5, 2008: Another project day...I hauled items out of the hanging locker floor as I had noticed mold growing on several items. It appears that the butt joint is still weeping, causing the floor in the hanging locker to stay wet. I scraped the loose paint off the walls and got rid of a cardboard box. I also put our sleeping bags and a couple pairs of shoes out on deck to air in the sun. I hesitated to remove everything from the locker shelves...I don't think I really wanted to know how bad the mold situation is! Once that was done we transferred our remaining bottled wine (which isn't much) into a new box and the hanging locker door was left open for the rest of the day. I don't know if it will help to dry things out. Meanwhile, Jim hit the generator's ON switch and it started right up. Go figure! So we immediately began making water -- sort of like making hay while the sun shines! The generator kicked off a couple of times but each time Jim was able to have another clue as to the problem. He found a loose connection in the plug assembly of the fuel solenoid. Once that was tightened, we started the generator again and it continued to run for several hours before it shut down again. We restarted the water maker and Murphy's Law...red tide appeared in the anchorage, forcing us to shut the water maker off. This seemed like a good time to change the water maker's two pre-filters. Jim's pretty sure the problem is the fuel solenoid. Adios' farewell party ended up being a dinghy raft-up -- the beach surf was at the dangerous level and several people were hesitant to go ashore. This probably worked out better as there were over 20 dinghies. Everyone brought an appetizer to share and their own drinks. We "dinghy-pooled" with John and Leila (Yachtsman's Dream). A good time was had by all!
Mar. 4, 2008: We actually lowered the aft hatch last night because it was so cold and damp. This was the first day that we can remember that it was mostly cloudy all day. We headed to the beach at 0900. Once again the surf was up but we made it to shore dry. We walked the mile and caught the bus to Oscar's. Lucky for him, the zincs were finally in, although we had to wait over 40 min. for him to drive to the shipping office to pick them up. We had another adventure in getting back to the boat; not as exciting as yesterday but we were wet enough that we both had to change once we were on board. The wind was howling and Mañana was scooting all over the place so Jim made the decision to pull the stern anchor. It took him several tugs to break it free from the sandy bottom. Then he offered to pull Yachtsman's Dream's stern anchor up. After all, we were the reason they set it in the first place, so it was the least we could do. Decided to try the generator to see how long it would run and the answer came quickly -- it didn't start! So I've now UNaffectionately named it "that damn generator"! Jim says its not starting is actually a good thing because it gives us one more symptom to help diagnose the problem. We are not alone in our generator misery -- Masquerade-Brownsville, Catching Up and s/v Imagine are also struggling to repair theirs. So we ran the engine for several hours, just like we did for months when we were in the Sea and our last generator died (what is it with Mañana and generators?). Jim replaced the zinc and scrubbed the grass off the sides of the boat, plus scrubbed the flopper stoppers and their lines as well as the anchor bridle. After dinner we were readying the boat for a morning departure when Ray (Adios) came on the VHF and said that they were going to have an Adios party tomorrow at the Oasis Restaurant during happy hour. I told Ray that we'd wished we'd known earlier and Lovely Reta, monitoring the VHF channel, asked if we couldn't stay another day. What the heck!
Yachtsman's Dream at Sunset
Mar. 3, 2008: Airborne generously offered to do a propane run this morning and their little car was filled with propane tanks from about 12 cruisers. They didn't anticipate that it would take long so we joined Oya, Lovely Reta and Andante for a mid-morning snack at one of the local palapas while we waited for Airborne's return. Great timing -- they returned just as we were finishing our food! We put the propane tank into the dinghy, brought the dinghy to the water's edge and waited for a break in the incoming waves. When we felt we had a window, we pulled the dink out into the water and waited for a couple more waves to come in, holding the dinghy so it would not shoot up. Then I climbed into the dinghy and Jim reached in, started the engine, hopped in and gunned it, just as another set of waves headed our way. Unfortunately the engine died when he put it into gear...he hopped out quickly and grabbed the dinghy but I stayed put, getting wet. He tried it again, but the engine didn't catch and a second wave caught us. The third time was the charm, but by then we were both soaked and there was several inches of water in the bottom of the dinghy! We changed our clothes when we got back to the boat and spent an uneventful afternoon reading and sewing. Jim started the generator and it ran for about 15 minutes before shutting itself down. Now I am definitely pissed with this situation; Jim was to have contacted tech support today but forgot. A call was put over the VHF that a humpback whale was breaching outside the anchorage. We grabbed the camera and binoculars and ran up to the flybridge. Unfortunately it was too far away for any good photo shots but it was definitely a mom and baby. It is possible that this was a birth, since there was so much splashing going on initially; the baby was very small (for a whale). Whatever else it was, it was definitely fascinating to watch! Humpbacks throw a heckuva lot of water when they breach. Yachtsman's Dream invited us over for happy hour. Their boat is a large sailing catamaran out of Seattle. It was amazing to see how much Mañana danced on her two anchor rodes. We have a sensation of sideways movement when on board, but you don't realize just how much movement there is until you see it from afar. We had an enjoyable evening with John and Leila and returned home at 2000.
Mar. 2, 2008: Woke this morning to pea soup fog, but it was mostly burned off by 0800. We spent a quiet day on the boat, running the generator and making water. Once again, the generator stopped running after about an hour and Jim still can't figure out what's going on. He may have to put a call into tech support to run a couple of theories by them. We decided to pass on attending today's soccer game and instead, hopped into the dinghy, hoping to check out the lagoon. Unfortunately, though, the surf was headed straight into the lagoon entrance and neither of us wanted to chance getting pushed into the rocks injuring ourselves or damaging the dinghy. Instead, we headed to the base of the hill where people snorkel/dive. Although the water clarity has improved greatly over the past 36 hours, it didn't really impress us enough to want to get our gear out. We decided that this area isn't the greatest; it's just the greatest that Manzanillo has to offer! Several boats left the anchorage today and several new boats arrived; the anchorage seems to be maintaining about 25 boats here.
Mar. 1, 2008: We've been in Mexico for 6 full months now. Jim's Spanish has improved greatly although he still has difficulties with verb tenses. I've learned a lot of words but get confused as to which order they go in, so normally I spit out all the words and let the person rearrange them as necessary! We headed into town with Masquerade and went to our friendly fishing store to see if the zincs are in YET...NOT! Geesh...Oscar got on the phone when he saw us come in. He confirmed that there are now 15 zincs in Mexico City and our 3 zincs should arrive at his shop Monday evening. I told him that we were supposed to leave for Barra tomorrow but we would stay as long as he PROMISED that the zincs would be really and truly arrive, which he did (I think). So...we decided to provision today as planned and caught a bus to Comercial. However, as it was almost 1300, we ate first at a small taco stand where the woman was making and pressing tortillas by hand. We each had a huge quesadilla filled with cheese, carne (beef) and/or chorizo and a soda and the tab came to 75 pesos. Then we toured WalMart, buying some dijon mustard and cheese, just in case Comercial didn't have it. From there we walked to Comercial and filled the cart. We are now well provisioned in the wine and tonic water categories! We ran into Elusive and Scarlett O'Hara. They are both planning to do the big puddle jump to the Marquesas in a couple of weeks so they, too, were provisioning. It's always interesting to see what foods/drinks people feel are most important! Elusive had other errands to run so we shared a taxi back to the beach with Scarlett O'Hara and Jim helped John carry the multiple cases of Coca Cola to their dinghy The surf break is still running, although not as high as two nights ago. Still, it made getting in and out of the dinghy an adventure. We ran the generator and for unknown reason, it decided to stop on us after an hour. It started right up and Jim ran a bunch of diagnostics, but could find no cause for the stoppage. This is the third hiccup for the generator, although the first hiccup was installation error. But I'm not as convinced as Jim that this Fischer Panda was the best thing for us to buy. In my (simplistic) mind, something that costs 5 digits should work flawlessly forever!! Yeah, I guess that is a little unrealistic! I made up a marinade sauce of soy sauce, orange juice, garlic, ginger, etc. for the dorado that we had for dinner. Yum!!
Feb. 29, 2008: Happy Leap Year! We cruisers will celebrate anything! We spent another day on board, intermittantly doing chores and relaxing while we made more water. Masquerade brought a cruising guide over to us that has the waypoints for a new anchorage north of Mazatlan that we think we'd like to check out (Altata), along with the tide tables for Barra. I am more comfortable entering the lagoon at high tide although it's not absolutely necessary given our draft. Masquerade has joked that they will follow us in (they are a sailboat) but since their draft is deeper, I'd rather follow them! Dennis on Two Can Play also stopped by with a CD containing aerial photos of anchorages along the Gold Coast (aka the Mexican Riviera). We made copies of everything.
Feb. 28, 2008: We checked into the Amigo net this morning and learned that this swell is affecting all anchorages along the Riviera coast. It's being caused by storms in the Pacific Northwest and sounds like it will be with us for several more days. So we checked with the boats around us (Coastal Passage and Yachtsman's Dream) and set a stern anchor, which should give us an easier ride. Yachtsman's Dream decided not to set their stern anchor and at times we were close enough that we joked to one another that we should just tie our sterns together and do happy hour! We ran the generator/water maker for several hours; we'll need to go into Barra with a full water tank on Sunday. At 1630 we braved the surf break and headed to the beach. At one point, 4 dinghies were lined up waiting for a break in the surf. The 4 of us rode a smaller wave to shore and as we approached the beach, Jim started yelling, "Out! Out! Out!" This is not the time to have two left feet! I swung my legs overboard, we grabbed the lines on either side of the dinghy and took off running up the beach, pulling the dinghy with us, attempting to outrun the next incoming wave. Jim and I made it to shore dry and in one piece, but I can't say the same for Lovely Reta or Yachtsman's Dream. Today was Linda's 60th birthday (Tahoma) and a large group of cruisers met at the Oasis Restaurant for happy hour. After that, the majority of us stayed for dinner. It wasn't the cheapest restaurant but certainly was very good! Jim had a seafood lasagna and I had a chicken in walnut cream sauce. Unfortunately it appears that the no seeums are beginning to come out and those suckers hurt when they bite! How can such a tiny nothing hurt so bad?! The surf break challenge continued when it came time to return to our boat. We waited for the break in the surf and I hopped aboard but the dinghy decided to go sideways before Jim could get the engine started and climb on board. We didn't get swamped but Jim was wet from the hips down. How are cruisers like babies? We have wide eyes, big smiles and wet bottoms!
Feb. 27, 2008: The swell continued into the anchorage all day so rather than deal with the surf break, we elected to stay on board. We are totally out of fruits and vegetables but we're okay in all other aspects so there's no immediate need to go ashore. In the early afternoon, a large motor yacht pulled into the anchorage and anchored close to Masquerade. At 1630 we went over to Masquerade for another meeting with Alice. Lovely Reta, Adios and Gettin' Around were also there and this was to be Doug's introduction to Alice. We sant the chorus at the top of our lungs, hoping to chase the motor yacht away, but alas, it didn't work. Instead, someone sat on deck smoking a cigar, the smell being blown in our direction. Hmmm... As soon as the wind died down, all the boats in the anchorage went beam to the swell, giving us all another rolly night. We watched a couple of episodes of M*A*S*H before turning in.
Feb. 26, 2008: Jim spent a frustrating day uploading the website onto the internet. Unfortunately we would lose the connection whenever the boat swung, so the task was tedious at best and took the majority of the day. I continued working on my turtle project and read. The wind died and the swell picked up giving us a rolly ride throughout the night.
Feb. 25, 2008: We headed into town at 1500 and picked up our and Psyche's laundry. Then we walked to the fishing store, where we parked the laundry bags and our butts on the store's front steps and waited for the store to reopen from siesta. Normally siesta ends at 1600 but Oscar didn't open until 1630, and no, the zincs STILL weren't in. Ah, trouble in Mexico City, says Oscar. Jim conveyed that we absolutely need 1 zinc; the others are for the future. So Oscar said maybe Weds. or Thursday...I told him we'd return on Sat. We bought a 5 gal. drum of oil, hailed a taxi and returned to the beach. We made a laundry delivery to Psyche and returned to our boat. Gambit arrived while we were out and anchored next to us. Ed stopped by with his crew, Dave and Otis, and invited us to dinner, which we accepted. We brought an appetizer, Psyche brought a fruit salad and Ed made chicken fajitas. Dave acted as bartender and made outrageous daiquiris with a little brown sugar, 1 lime and rum. Personally, I stuck with wine because I'm not a rum drinker...and I think I was the only sober one in the group at the end of the evening! If you think Jim and I are crazy, you should meet Otis. For the last 3 years, he has taken his 22' speed boat from Huntington Beach, CA up the coast (not by trailer) and up to Skagway, Alaska one year, Victoria, BC another, and then back south into Mexico, where he turns around (just so he can say he was in Mexico) and heads home to Huntington Beach! He travels at 25 kts and his longest day has been 275 miles! Now THAT'S crazy!!
Feb. 24, 2008: The music at the palapas on the beach boom bada BOOM'ed until 0430...grrr! I'm not a happy camper when I'm tired. We'd had so much fun at last week's soccer game that several of us planned to go again. I made an announcement to the fleet about where and when to meet and we ended up with 23 people! Unfortunately Jim came down with a severe case of the droopy eye lids so he elected to stay on the boat and nap. It felt like we were going on a field trip as we lined up to get on the rather rickety-looking bus. Ray asked the driver if the bus was going to the hospital (that was our landmark) and when the driver said "si", we all climbed on. Stan and MJ got on in Santiago and cheers went throughout the bus. There were maybe 5 locals on the bus and I'm sure we had them convinced that gringos are loco! I'm not sure what the driver was thinking when the bus unloaded outside the hospital -- either he had a bunch of sickies on board or we were going to tour the hospital! Today's game was a lower division than last week, but the game was well played and once again, ended in a tie that required a kick-off. And once again, Manzanillo won! Because of the lack of buses on the secondary route, Stan recommended that everyone walk to the main street, about a 20-30 min. walk. It brought us out to Comercial and Walmart. Kathy and I were both wanting to check out Walmart so we detoured from the group. We did a little shopping and then headed to the bus stop, where we waited and waited, wondering if the buses stopped running after 1800. Finally a bus came along but it didn't say "Miramar" in the window. I confirmed with the driver that the bus would take us where we needed to go. All was going well until he made a right turn onto a narrow street. I looked at Kathy, who said "Whoops!" The route took us through a neighborhood called LaCruz, making left- and right-hand turns, up hills, down dales. This was pure suburb -- houses, small tiendas and taco shops. I was so lost that I couldn't have found my way back to the main road if I had tried! Just when we thought the main road would be straight ahead, the bus turned left again and headed up another large hill. At the top of the hill we could see water in the distance so our plan was to bail if the bus made another turn! A few minutes later the bus turned right onto the main street and continued on into Miramar. However, by that time it was well after 1930, it was dark outside and we still had a mile walk ahead of us. Meanwhile, Jim was on Mañana wondering what happened to us. He eventually contacted Masquerade who told him that we headed to the store, but that didn't lessen his worries. Our Sunday great adventure didn't end there because we had decided that we were going to drink that blue wine that we bought a couple of days ago. Well, that berry wine was berry gross -- sweet and carbonated -- and only Kathy thought it was okay, but not a repeat purchase. She baked biscuits and we enjoyed strawberry shortcake with whipped cream. The strawberries are deliciously sweet!
Feb. 23, 2008: The definition of a cruiser is one who has the ability to be flexible when life throws you a curve ball. So Plan A was to bring the dirty laundry to shore, walk a mile and catch the bus to Santiago Centro. However, when we arrived at the bus stop at 1000 we were told that a triathalon was going on and the road would be closed until 1400. So, Plan B...Jim talked to a police officer who suggested that we cross the street and take a bus that went on the secondary route. The trip took a little longer, but took us out into the burbs where we would never have had a reason to visit. After we dropped our laundry off, we walked to the Saturday market. I bought two more small ceramic bowls, Jim bought two beautifully-painted ceramic plates (he couldn't decide which one he liked better so he bought them both; that's how we ended up with the 2 wooden plates in Zihua), we bought a couple of CDs and a pound of fresh strawberries (cost $1.25/lb). Then it was on to Juanito's for lunch, after which we returned to the beach, but not before we checked out a small tienda at the bus stop. Kathy was told it sold all sorts of goodies that gringos love so being gringos, we just had to check it out. Sure enough, they sold Reynolds aluminum (the Mexican aluminum foil is as bad as their paper products), Smuckers jam, Skippy peanutbutter, pickles, relish, and graham cracker crusts. The surf was up when we finally got to the dinghies. That always makes for an adventure in getting off the beach without getting soaking wet!
Used Dinghy, Anyone?
Feb. 22, 2008: We went into town with Psyche. Our first stop was at the lavendaria (laundromat) to check out the hours, then we went to the fishing store to see if our zincs were in. Of course they weren't...I don't think Oscar had even ordered them...very typical! We hopped on another bus to Comercial but by then it was 1230 and we figured we'd better eat lunch before going shopping. Feeling rather adventurous, Kathy bought a bottle of berry wine. It cost less than $3.00 and is cobalt blue! We'll sample it one of these evenings. We bought out the store, or at least the weight of our backpacks had us feeling like we did! Steve & Kathy had heavy bags too, so we split the cost of a taxi (75 pesos) back to the beach, thereby avoiding the mile walk. At 1700 12 people invaded Mañana for the net controllers party. It was labeled as an appie potluck and BYOB which made for very little work for us. Ray (Adios) provided us with a copy of a CD that had the song (among others) "Who the F*ck is Alice?" (I'm not certain that's the real title). I'd never heard the song before but the chorus has a real catchy tune and of course everyone on board felt compelled to sing the chorus at the top of their lungs! Thankfully no one in the anchorage complained, nor did we hear other boats join in with us! Masquerade was the last to leave; Cindy and Tim were giving us great pointers regarding our upcoming trip to Alaska.
Feb. 21, 2008: No excuses today! We relocated the boat to be closer to the beach as we've heard tales that there is a free wi-fi connection from one of the hotels. Then we took the dinghy ashore. Jim removed the wheels and engine while I removed everything inside it. We flipped it over and wowee-zowee! Did we have barnacles!? There was nothing for it but to start scraping. Talk about a back breaking task but the bottom looked much better when we were finished. Jim righted the dink and then we went to town wiping the sand and bird poop out of the bottom and off the tubes. Mucho mejor! The signal strength of the free wi-fi was virtually non-existent...there's nothing that ticks me off more than the tease of a potential free internet connection! Jim hooked up our wi-fi antenna and was able to connect so he spent the day updating all our financials, etc. I'm sure my turn will come soon! We hosted happy hour for Psyche, Travel Bug and Inspiration at Sea. Travel Bug is also headed to the Pacific Northwest this summer and it might be nice to have company to talk to on the VHF as we go north.
Feb. 20, 2008: Another very chilly night...it got down to 59 degrees and Jim put the second quilt on us in the middle of the night. At this rate, I'm going to put the flannel sheets on the bed! We were supposed to take the dinghy to shore and scrape the barnacles off its bottom today but neither of us could get motivated. At 1145 Masquerade called us wondering if we wanted to go to the movies with them. Wednesdays are typically half-price movie days throughout most of Mexico. We didn't have to think hard on that invitation! We brought along our back pack as the movie theater is next to a grocery store. The earliest movie began at 1430 which gave us time to have lunch. Tim was able to find free wi-fi in the food court. We ended up seeing the new Will Smith movie, I Am Legend, or in Spanish, Soy Leyenda. It was in English with Spanish subtitles -- definitely not the type of movie we would normally pay money to see but we like Will as an actor. We did a bit of shopping at Soriano's. Although the shelves were all stocked well, it didn't have half the items on my list. On our way back to Mañana, we noticed a new boat in the anchorage anchored near us. It was our friends on Psyche! We stopped by briefly to welcome them to the neighborhood but we didn't stay long because the sun was going down behind the hillside and it was getting chilly. All the boats arriving from Zihua are complaining about how cold it is and even the boats that have come down from Mazatlan are complaining. The water temperature is 74 degrees, which is a far cry from the 85 down south. We all hope that it starts warming up...either that or we're all going to head south again! The late afternoon clouds cleared up in time to watch the full lunar eclipse. The color of the shadowed moon was very interesting.
Feb. 19, 2008: It was 65 in the cabin when we got up...brrr! We leave the quilt on the bed full time now. Today was our great adventure into Manzanillo centro. The 30 min. bus ride cost us 6 pesos each and we asked the driver to notify us when we got to our destination, which he did. Manzanillo is the largest port on Mexico's west coast, but not a particularly large tourist destination. A lovely park with gazebo is located along the malecon. Music pours out from the gazebo making it a relaxing spot to take in the harbor scene. We walked the streets with no destination in mind. Manzanillo's centro district is very similar to all the others that we've encountered except perhaps the streets and sidewalks are a bit narrower. When our stomachs started rumbling, we asked directions for the mercado publico (public market), where we assumed we'd be able to find an inexpensive lunch. On our way to the market we came across a tienda that was selling freshly roasted whole coffee beans. A kilo of beans WITH sugar (??) was 80 pesos whereas a kilo of beans WITHOUT sugar was 104 pesos. I have no idea why the beans with sugar is more, nor do I have any idea why the beans are roasted with sugar in the first place. But the beans looked good and smelled wonderful and at US $5 per lb, we decided not to pass up the opportunity to purchase a kilo (sin azucar). Manzanillo's public market is the nicest I've seen. It's in a large, airy and light enclosure. Bathrooms are on the 2nd level with the loncherias (mom and pop establishments that are open for lunch) on the 3rd floor. Jim had carne asada and I had pollo asada. Both came with beans, a salad and tortillas; we each ordered an orange soda. The price for our meal was 100 pesos. We got completely turned around after we left the public market and finally had to ask a policeman where the plaza was! We grabbed a bus back to Santiago and returned to the boat around 1430. This morning's net indicated that there would be a lunar eclipse either tonight or tomorrow. We stayed up until 2200 but there was no eclipse.
Feb. 18, 2008: We spent the day on board making electricity and water. I took advantage of the extra water in the tank and did a load of laundry as well. Jim read on the flybridge and I kept sewing away on my turtle project. At 1700 we joined Lovely Reta on Masquerade for dinner. Cindy made a large salad and a pot of spaghetti. After dinner the board game "Pegs and Jokers" came out. We teamed up guys vs. gals and it got a bit intense at times, but good naturedly, of course. Unfortunately the ladies lost the game, but it was a lot of fun nevertheless! Cindy turned the Southbound net on and the first thing we heard was, "Space station above Tenacatita!" All 6 of us ran out to the cockpit and looked up in time to see both the space station and the space shuttle passing overhead! Two bright lights, actually one brighter than the other, streaked across the sky, one behind the other. We don't know which was which but our guess is that the space station was the brighter of the two. Kewl!! We didn't leave Masquerade until 2230 and had a short, but chilly, ride back to our boat.
Feb. 17, 2008: At 1400 we met up with Adios, Lovely Reta, Masquerade and Stan, who used to be on Soul Mate. Stan and his wife, MJ, gave up cruising and now own a house in Santiago; they had invited us to watch the Manzanillo vs. Mazatlan soccer tournament. So 9 of us piled into Stan's van and he brought us to the stadium. Once there, MJ, Tahoma, Airborn and another couple who we did not know joined us. Then a man climbed the bleachers, introduced himself and wanted to know where we were from. It turned out he was the announcer and before the game started, he asked that everyone give a warm welcome to the guests from California and Washington! Cindy, Tim and Bob explained the rules as the game was being played so at least we had a bit of an idea of what was going on. The score was tied 1-1 at the end. There were several conferences on the field and then the players lined up and alternately attempted to kick the ball into the net. The team who reached 5 goals first won...and that turned out to be Manzanillo! On the return trip, Stan stopped at his house and gave us a tour. It is a fixer-upper but has an enormous amount of space. Of course, it is made entirely of concrete so Stan has started to become quite good at concrete work! Given what we saw, we've no doubt that the place will be airy and gorgeous when they are done. We didn't return to the beach until 1800. As always, there was a small surf break running. This time, Jim decided to launch the dinghy bow first. All was going well until Jim tried to start the engine and it didn't catch on the first try. By the time it caught on the 3rd pull, the dinghy had gone sideways to the swell. Seeing a rather large swell headed our way, he hopped out and turned the dinghy, but the wave caught us and water came pouring over the bow. Thankfully I stood up so I didn't get TOO wet (I learned my lesson when this happened before and I got soaked). Meanwhile, Jim was up to his thighs in water. So much for clean, dry shorts!! DC caught sight of us heading towards the boat and ran down the side deck. He loves to stick his head over the aft bulwarks to greet anyone who stops by. It was well past the cats dinner time and they wasted no time in letting us know that they did not appreciate being hungry! We had leftover sloppy joe with rice (we're out of rolls) for dinner.
Feb. 16, 2008: We headed into the beach with Masquerade, Adios and Lovely Reta and then walked about 1 mile to the bus stop. We hopped off in downtown Santiago where the Saturday market was in full swing. Jim and I headed off on our own to the fishing store 4 blocks away. We were hoping to buy a couple new propellor shaft zincs, but struck out. The owner said he could order them and they would arrive some time next week, so Jim ordered 3, as we only got 4 months out of the last one. Then we found our way to the ATM machine and stood in line. By the time our turn came, the machine was out of big bills and was only disbursing 50 peso (US $5) bills. The market covered at least one large block and initial glimpses showed it to be the same items that we have seen in the markets in other towns, so I didn't particularly care whether we poked through it or not. We ran into Masquerade and Lovely Reta; they were thinking about lunch and had heard that Juanito's served a mean hamburguesa con papas. We asked one guy for directions to Juanito's. Rather than tell us he did not know where it was, he gave us directions to three other restaurants! We eventually found the place and we each ordered a Texas hamburger...a cheeseburger with bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato plus fries. The cost was 45 pesos (US $4.50) and they were very good! After that we all caught the bus back to the beach, walked off the hamburguesa and returned to our boats. Jim and I have decided that we like this anchorage enough to stay here rather than going into Barra de Navidad. We will reprovision once the zincs come in and then head on up to Tenacatita.
Feb. 15, 2008: We didn't climb out of bed until after 0900 and even the cats slept in! Overnighters just wipe the heck out of all of us. We thought we'd spend a quiet day on the boat but when a call to the fleet in Santiago came over the VHF for a bocci ball tournament on the beach at 1500, we decided we'd head to shore. On our way to the beach we met two other net controllers. I guess this bay is a popular spot (there are 25 boats at anchor today)! The water here is much colder than in Zihua. Stepping in/out of the dinghy at the beach is a rude awakening and you can bet that I won't be willingly jumping off the boat for a swim! There were enough of us that we broke into 4 teams and then the winners from each team played each other. After the games were over, everyone headed to a palapa down the beach, where we took over 5 or 6 tables and stayed for an hour or so. Vendor after vendor came by wanting to sell the gringos something. The ceramic bowl guy got very lucky, as he was willing to negotiate and several people bought bowls -- Jim and I came away with 2 brightly painted bowls (we should have bought 4). When we finally returned to the boat, Jim made tuna and rice for dinner and the new bowls were just the right size for the accompanying salad.
Feb. 14, 2008: Happy Valentine's Day! We arrived Manzanillo at 1030 with Las Hadas as our destination. But as we were approaching the bay, an invitation for a birthday/Valentine party was issued to all cruisers. Jim asked the particulars and we decided to anchor in Bahia de Santiago instead. There's no better way to find your way around a new area than by getting together with cruisers who have been here a while. Niki Wiki hailed us to say hi as we entered the anchorage and we noticed that Spirit Quest is here. That is the 63' DeFever that we met in Tenacatita on our way south. As Jim was wiping the salt off the windows and rails, Ray and Janey on Adios stopped by to welcome us. Ray is also a net controller for the Southbound net. Ray told us that we can catch the bus to Manzanillo from here so we won't need to relocate to Las Hadas. At 1500 we joined a large group on board Tahoma for Bob's birthday party. One of the couples was Jay & Janice (Ceilidh). We'd met them in 2003 and spent time together in the Sea in 2004. Linda served one appetizer after another; there would be no need to cook dinner! Eventually the cockpit was so crowded that the ladies went below and left the guys on deck. We didn't leave there until well after 1800. We had a light snack for dinner, popped a sleeping pill, climbed into bed and that's all she wrote!
Caleta de Campos
Feb. 13, 2008: We listened to Don, the weather man, on the morning's Amigo net. He gave a thumbs up for the weather here on the Mexican Riviera. Jim spent the morning reworking the website, adding new chapters, etc. The more we travel, the more we see the need for separating the journal entries. We went to shore after working on the website. The surf break was up and I almost fell in the drink -- thank heavens I was able to hang on -- I had the camera in my fanny pack! We walked past the palapas to the paved road and followed it until we came to the center of town, which is stocked with most things. Jim was able to buy a new scraper (the handle broke off the old one when he was scraping the hull a couple of days ago), and after searching several tiendas, we located yogurt and some fresh veggies. There's a very lovely park in the middle of the center. Ficus trees were being trimmed for a function that is to take place tomorrow. We returned to Mañana in time for lunch. Our plan was to leave the anchorage at 1700. As we were eating our lunch, Hooligan entered the anchorage, followed shortly by (another) Aurora and Whirl Wind. By now the anchorage was seriously crowded and we had the primo anchor spot. Jim joked that we would leave the anchorage if another boat showed up. Sure enough, at 1515 we could see another boat on the horizon headed our way. So we upped anchor and headed out at 1530. The seas were what we expected, given that we had 12-15 kts. of wind on our nose, but we knew that they would be subsiding once the sun set. Unfortunately the wind never really died and we encountered a short sea swell that had us bashing our way north. Add the fact that we had a foul current that set us back 1.5 kts for nearly the entire passage. The windshield wipers became our best friend! I was on watch around 1900; the sun was setting and I was trying to get into "the zone", as I call it. Suddenly a whale's tail appeared directly in front of me! I hollared "Wow!" and throttled back. Jim came running from the aft cabin and asked what the matter was. Well, my mouth was moving but nothing intelligent was coming out (not that that is an unusual occurrence)! When I finally got the word "whale" out, he said he had seen a disturbance in the water about 100' from us and was that where the whale was? Yes! We watched our depth sounder change to reflect 6.9 feet, which we believe was the whale underneath our boat!! I think I said "Wow!" a dozen more times before I could formulate a real sentence! Why is it that the whales like to come up directly in front of us when I'm on watch??
Mañana in Caleta de Campos
Feb. 12, 2008: At last, an extremely comfortable and cool evening; Jim and I slept well. Aurora left the anchorage in the morning but we stayed, deciding that we will leave here at 1900 and run overnight to Manzanillo. We spent a peaceful day on the flybridge, reading and admiring the bay. It is such a change from the Zihua and Isla Grande anchorages...so quiet! There were no jet skis, no banana boats, no parasails. Only the noise from the occasional panga boat and kids' laughter on the beach. Caleta de Campos is such a pretty little village. Palapas, one after the other, ring the beach shaded by lush green palm trees. We saw no sign of life in the any of the palapas although they are all set up for customers with table cloths on the tables. There are a few small hotels on the hills above the beach and the main highway passes through town. Perhaps this is a weekend getaway for the area cities. Late in the afternoon Jim expressed a desire to hang here another day and I had no problem agreeing with him, partly because it is so peaceful and partly because I'm not looking forward to running overnight. Word has apparently spread in the town that the motor boat has candy. A couple of young boys paddled out to us asking, "mas dolce?" Si!
The Candy Kids Cometh
Feb. 11, 2008: Another horribly rolly and sleepless night. We weighed anchor at 0650 with Caleta de Campos as our destination. Aurora was 10 minutes behind us. We quickly realized how spoiled we were, sea-state wise, on our southbound passages. During the morning, we contended with leftover sea conditions of 1-2' closely-spaced swells. Not particularly comfortable, but we've been in worse. As the passage continued into mid morning to early afternoon, the seas and wind died down and afforded us a very comfortable ride. We saw three whales, all of which were in the process of diving deep when we spotted them so we only caught the flukes of one and the back of another. The afternoon on-shore winds developed and the last 4 hours of our trip were spent, again, in large, choppy waves. We'd made the passage from up on the flybridge and when the boat hit into some of the waves, spray flew everywhere, including as high up as the venturi screen (windshield) on the flybridge! We pulled into Caleta de Campos at 1700 and set our anchor. Aurora followed behind us. This is a small anchorage but well protected by a break water. Painted on the break water is "Bienvenidos a Bahia Bufadero". There are a couple of blow holes located nearby and it appears that the local community prefers to be known as Bahia Bufadero. Three local boys saw us coming into the bay and started to paddle out to us on their boogie boards. They reached us just as we were securing the boat. They got very excited when we offered them a bag of candy! The State of Michoacan's only Technical School of Navigation and Fishing is located here and many of the local boys and girls assist the fishing fleet. They also seem to be fascinated by the visiting cruseros who stop in for a night or two. The boys spoke no English, other than "thank you" and wanted to know if they could come aboard. Jim declined the request...we really didn't want three drippy wet kids (ages 10-12?) inside the cabin. Aurora hailed us, inviting us to dinner, which we accepted. I brought over my risotto rice and shrimp dish and Sheilagh provided tamales. We also did a mini book swap. As we were sitting in their cockpit, another sailboat arrived and anchored next to Mañana. As we are all out of practice for being underway, we made it a short night.
Feb. 10, 2008: Last night was rolly, rolly, rolly! And just to make the anchorage even more pleasant, the base drums from the discos in Ixtapa, about 2 miles away, began at 2200 and went until 0200. This anchorage is now 2 for 3 in rolliness and I wonder why we think it's nice...because it really isn't!! Jim spent several hours in the morning cleaning the bottom of the boat. The sides still need to be done, but that's another dive. While he was doing that, I was doing my own projects: polishing the stainless rails, cutting up a pineapple and doing the dishes. We relaxed on the flybridge, reading, in the afternoon. High clouds moved in keeping the afternoon sort of cool, but all things are relative! At 1700 Sheilagh and Jim (Aurora) came over for happy hour, bringing with them a pinot noir wine from the Rex Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster winery located in Gonzales, Calif. I'm not making that vineyard up! The wine actually wasn't too bad, but that may not be saying much coming from the folks who drink boxed wine that costs 26 pesos! I put together our favorite chicken casserole for dinner...leftovers will be served tomorrow if we find ourselves pulling an overnighter. Jim routed our course and we prepared the boat for sea. It's been a long time since we did this and I'm really not looking forward to getting underway. Sigh...
Feb. 9, 2008: We had breakfast with Nita and Ron (La Sirena) and I ordered my usual...pan frances (french toast). It's such a simple item to make, but we have no bread on the boat. Guess I could buy a loaf and freeze it. When we returned, Jim began working on the dive compressor and got it running. It's unbelieveably loud and obnoxious sounding, but if it puts air in his tanks, then I guess it's okay. While he was doing that, I gave the boat a fresh water bath and scrub down. It's not spotless but is much better. At 1300 we left the marina and an hour later we arrived at Isla Grande. Despite it being Saturday, there were only a handful of boats in the anchorage. Jim ran the Saturday night Southbound net and we climbed into bed shortly thereafter.
Feb. 8, 2008: I ran the morning net...my way of saying good-bye to Zihua. Gosh, I hate to leave this place. Jim took an hour and dove on the anchor chain to clean it off and then scrubbed the barnacles off the prop. I made us lunch and then we readied ourselves to get underway. The stern anchor was stuck big time. It took Jim several yanks and dances with the dinghy in various locations to break the anchor out of the mud. We left Zihua around 1300, me at the helm for the trip to Ixtapa. I tried giving the helm to Jim as we were approaching the entrance to the Ixtapa Marina, but he wouldn't take it. He decided to take the opportunity to remind me that I wanted to build my self-confidence and therefore had me bring the boat across the bar...and I did just fine! We wasted no time in getting the chore that brought us here in the first place out of the way. I spooled all 260' of anchor chain onto the dock and Jim measured and remarked in 25' intervals (makes figuring out how much chain we have out a breeze). The plan was to paint the last 10' of chain with florescent orange paint, but the can was old and tired so we marked it with zip ties instead. Then we reloaded all the chain back on the boat and into the chain locker. Dinner with La Sirena was changed to breakfast tomorrow after the net. Although we should be watching our pennies, we decided to have one last hurrah dinner out tonight justifying that it'll be a couple of weeks before we're in a spot where we can eat out again.
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