Thursday, December 31, 2009

Morelia

Monday, Lizz left to fly back home. Jena and Hugo were going to Morelia (and then on to Mexico City for New Year’s Eve) – so Hugo’s mother invited us to join them in Morelia. We gladly accepted. So the remaining 10 of us made the 4 hour drive inland to Morelia in 2 cars.

Morelia is in a valley at 6400’ elevation. So we went from Ixtapa (highs ca. 88, lows ca. 72) to Morelia (highs ca. 72, lows ca. 45) – fortunately they had warned us to bring a sweater. Morelia is a colonial city, founded in 1541 as Valladolid. In 1581 (?) it was made the capital of the state of Michoacan (which in those days encompassed more than just today’s state of Michoacan). In 1828 the name was changed to Morelia in honor of its native son, Jose Maria Morelos, who rose from the his low birth status to become the architect and hero of the Mexican War of Independence. The historic center of the city was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991.

We had a lovely 3-night / 2-day visit in Morelia. Magda (Hugo’s mother) was a gracious host. We stayed (along with Jena and Hugo) in her lovely house – 3 bedrooms plus an extra bedroom/bath that she had added in the back. She made us fresh-squeezed juice, fresh fruit, and bread / pastries every morning for breakfast. We had three lovely dinners – first at a local buffet restaurant, second at J.Campos – a local place with great tacos al pastor (see picture to right), and then at Las Trojes - a traditional Mexican restaurant (named after the traditional housing of the indigenous people of Morelia).

Hugo and Magda showed us around some of Morelia’s downtown spots – including the University which was the hot-bed of revolutionary thinking leading up to Mexico’s war for independence, the Palacio Clavijero (former Jesuit college) with its museum including a special exhibit on the archeology and hieroglyphs of the Mayans, the downtown Mercado along one side of the Palacio, and a House of Crafts in an old church cloister. The latter was a combination museum and workshop with copper items, pottery, ceramics, woodcarvings, lacquerware, and other crafts from the local region. In the evening they drove us up into the hills for a beautiful view looking down on the lights of Morelia.



On Wednesday morning we (with Jena, Hugo, and Magda) took a 4-hour private tour with Miguel (whose English was great) in his air-conditioned van (though we did get out and walk much of the time – particularly around the downtown sites). We went to the main cathedral downtown, Templo de las Rosas (a Dominican convent and home of the oldest school for liturgical music in the Western Hemisphere) and adjoining Jardin de las Rosas, the birthplace (and museum) of Morelos (who was a half Indian/half black whose mother had walked into town to market and gave birth to him essentially in the stable area of one of the large downtown homes), along the arches of an aqueduct (from late 1700’s was primary means of bringing water to the city that was built in a high part of the valley), the fountain of three women, along Calzada Fray Antonio de San Miguel (a tree-shaded pedestrian street with the summer homes of the more aristocratic families of early Morelia), to the Santuario of Guadalupe (lavish baroque church with highly ornate handmade painted ceramics adorning the walls).





That afternoon Cathy went to a place (that Jena, Hugo and Magda had already “tested”) for a haircut – hers was about $7.50 – more expensive than Doug’s, but hers included a shampoo.

Thursday morning, we took a bus non-stop from Morelia to Ixtapa. More comfortable than a plane! Air-conditioned, with thick curtains that closed well, full-length leg/foot rests, chairs that reclined almost to a bed, and 2 movies (one was even in English with Spanish subtitles).

What a great trip!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo

[GPS: N 17° 39' 59" W 101° 36' 58"]
Saturday, December 19 we moved on from the island to Marina Ixtapa. We had intended to stay in the marina just a couple days to wash down the boat, laundry, etc, and then move on to anchor in Bahia Zihuatanejo just around the corner. But with the visitors we had, and all the coming and going, it was much easier to be at a dock. So we ended up in the marina for 2 weeks. And this is now the farthest south and east the boat will go. From Berkeley Yacht Club, we have now traveled 20° 12’ to the south and 20° 42’ to the east.

Saturday was spent cleaning the boat and putting our laundry in to be done. There are no Laundromats in Ixtapa, but the marina has someone who picks up your laundry and does it for 16 pesos per kilogram. The restrooms/showers behind the marina office apparently have their water heated by solar tanks on the roof – so early morning showers are not advisable unless you need to cool off. The building housing the marina office looked like it had a deserted restaurant and club area – and signs around that we think translated to “in foreclosure”. Along the walk by the marina there are 5 or 6 restaurants – mostly overpriced – but there was a pizza place and a fish restaurant that were somewhat reasonable. And several shops – little grocery, yacht broker, liquor store, jewelry store, etc. We walked on out the road past some condos to the local beach. On the way back into our dock, we noticed the sign warning of crocodiles – not to feed them and no fishing. We sat in the cockpit as the sun went down, and watched a 6’ crocodile slowly swim by our transom as he pushed his tail to one side then the other.

Sunday we took the local bus (8 pesos) into Zihuatanejo – about 5-6 km away, over a hill – essentially the next little bay. Unlike Ixtapa which was invented/created as a resort community about 25 years ago, Zihuatanejo was an old fishing village and is rather quaint. Doug got a 30 peso ($2.50) haircut that was one of the best he’s ever gotten. We walked through town (most of the shops were closed on Sunday) to the municipal pier and beach. After lunch (con cervezas) on the beach, we walked through the local Mercado (market) on the way back to get the return bus.

Monday morning we scoped the “town” of Ixtapa. There are hotels all along the beach, with the main road behind them. Across the road are boutique shops, restaurants, banks, etc. We understand the restaurants there are struggling since many of the hotels are now “all inclusive” – i.e. room, food, drinks, entertainment all included for one price. We went into about 5 hotels to scope them out – two of them mentioned that they have day passes to use their beach area and pools even though you’re not staying there. Monday afternoon Lizz (our daughter) arrived. We had dinner at the Z-pizza place overlooking the marina.

Tuesday we decided to take advantage of those day passes at an Ixtapa hotel. We first stopped at the one where yesterday at the front desk they had told us just put a refundable deposit down for towel, pay for your food and drinks and you can use the pools and beach. No go. The manager was at the desk this time – and he said no way – they are full and their guests need to use the pool and beach chairs etc. So we went to the second which was an all-inclusive day pass. They gave us a hard time too, but we did end up getting the day passes for 550 pesos (ca. $45) each. We spent a relaxing day laying under a palapa on the beach reading and drinking margaritas – with occasional breaks for playing in the surf and eating at the restaurant.

Wednesday, Magda (Hugo’s mother) came to the boat to meet us. She took us to her house (she lives in Morelia but has a vacation townhouse in Ixtapa in a new community a few kilometers inland. She took us to the grocery in Zihuatanejo for some provisioning, and then we went to the airport to pick up Jena (our older daughter) and Hugo (her boyfriend).

Thursday (Christmas Eve), the girls spent mid-day at the local beach. Late afternoon we went to Magda’s for Christmas Eve dinner. We had a wonderful meal featuring bacalao - a Mexican dish made from dried salted cod that has been rehydrated. Also there were Christian (Hugo’s brother), and Fabian and Alfredo (Hugo’s cousins) – all in their early 20’s. After dinner we enjoyed some karaoke of Mexican songs, and then some present opening.

Lizz had brought some things down for us – besides some things needed for the boat, the best Christmas present was a book of Zack (our first grandson) pictures that Lynda and Paul had put together. And of course the new World Almanac from Doug’s mother. And a CD from cousin David of his pictures (he used real film!) from the Baja Ha-Ha.

Christmas day we invited the whole group (9 of us total) to go out on the boat to Isla Grande (Isla Ixtapa). We anchored in the cove, had lunch in the cockpit, then various of us went snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, dinghying, or just rested on the boat. All the guys and Jena went to shore and went snorkeling in the cove on the other side of the island - just 50 yard walk through the restaurant that has palapas on both coves. Since there were 6 of us and only 3 sets of snorkel gear, we camped out under a palapa drinking beer while we took turns snorkeling. There are no boats on this side – they used to anchor in the cove, but were destroying the coral there. But it was much more crowded with swimmers. The snorkeling was actually better in the cove on the side where we anchored. We tried sailing for a bit on the way back, but there wasn’t much wind. What a different Christmas Day!

Saturday morning we did some housekeeping on the boat after having it out. Then we went in Zihuatanejo and met our friends Kathie and Rick. We had seen them on their boat in La Paz – they moved to Zihuatanejo some 2-3 years ago. They met us on the beach and we walked with them to their beautiful house that they had built. They walked us around town, showing us some of their favorite shops and restaurants. Zihuatanejo was even better with the aid of locals! We had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, and then to a bar for drinks while listening to a gringo duo singing 50’s, 60’s and 70’s songs. Kathie and Rick offered that we stay at their house that night instead of heading back to Ixtapa – so we did. We were awakened by roosters crowing back and forth across the neighborhood - and then a cacophony of bird sounds from a nearby neighbor who raises parrots and other birds.



Sunday we spent the whole day on Playa Quieta with Hugo’s family. Playa Quieta is more on the north side of Ixtapa – there is a Club Med at the beach, and just off the beach is Isla Grande! Besides the 9 that we had for Christmas, Hugo’s uncle and aunt (Fer and Miriam) also joined us. The boys wanted to play with our kayak, so they tied it on top of one of the cars – with 6 in the car (one with feet sticking out) – it was quite a sight. We had a great day just relaxing on the beach.

[Alfredo not pictured since he took it...]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Life on the Boat – Water Management

Water, water everywhere - nor any drop to drink. One of the best decisions we made while outfitting the boat was to add a watermaker. Our Spectra watermaker is programmed to run in 1 hour increments. If the battery bank is above 85% (thank you solar panels) or if we foresee an extended period of motoring, we run the little desalination plant and top off our water tank. This allows us to shower daily, do a little hand laundry, wash the cockpit down, keep up with the dishes, and flush the head with fresh water.

We discovered early on while sailing in San Francisco Bay that it wasn’t what you flush down that creates the off-smell in the boat, but what one flushed with – seawater. Seawater is full of organisms that once sucked into the hoses, quickly die and give off a sulfur-like smell. Flushing with fresh water eliminates this, and in our experience, the need for using chemicals in the head.

No one on this boat likes to do dishes. Cathy feels strongly about not using disposable plates or cups. So through the day, we seem to accumulate a sink full of dishes. If we’re underway and the seas are calm enough, we try to wash up after every meal, even if it’s just 2 bowls, 2 spoons, and 2 cups. But after dinner, if we play some cards or watch a movie, once you’re tired, the thought of doing dishes before going to bed is too much to bear. And we usually just leave them until the morning.

Living onboard a boat with our daily activities, in an environment with daytime temperatures usually well into the 80's, and between 40 and 90 percent humidity, it gets hot. We look forward to arriving at our destination, a quick dive to check the anchor, a cool shower, followed by drinks in the cockpit (if the sun is low enough). However, there are days when no matter how few clothes you have on, you simply cannot cool off. Doug has taken to just living in his “pajamas” (Hugo – you know what we mean), and Cathy wears quick-dry Capri pants and the largest t-shirt she can find. She also keeps a moist bandana around her neck for the evaporation value.

We drink lots of water – desalinated water. If we’ve anchored out, even on the hottest days, once the sun is down and the land starts to cool off, the breezes turn coolish, and with the help of our 12volt fans, we are able to sleep in the V-berth somewhat comfortably. In anchorages, we can jump overboard and take a cool swim – and then rinse off with fresh water using the spigot in our cockpit. But in a marina, for two reasons – both health related – that is not a possibility. First of all, no one seems to use the pumpout stations here. In fact, some marinas don’t even have operational pumpout stations. And secondly, many of the marinas are built in natural estuaries, and at these latitudes, that means crocodiles. The first sign we saw alerting us to this was in Puerto Vallarta. And we actually saw a crocodile swim by our transom in Ixtapa just after sunset.

Actually the hardest place for water management is in the marinas. At least we don’t use as much, since for example we shower on shore. But we cannot make water in the marina since the water is generally too dirty and would gum up the membranes quickly. Is the water at the dock potable? In Cabo the marina office told us “well I drink it, but you probably shouldn’t”. While in La Paz we were told “it’s drinkable – but I wouldn’t drink it.” So we don’t. We use it to flush the toilet, wash down the boat, rinse out salty clothes (salt attarcts water, so clothes will never dry if the salt water hasn't been rinsed away) – but use our watermaker water for dishes, showers, and drinking.

Our water tank holds 170 gallons. With the watermaker, we really don’t worry that much about how much we use. And we carry 10 gallons of emergency water in 2 liter jugs and are never very far from land. I can’t tell you how much per day we really need – but I guess I could go back and calculate it from our records of watermaker usage. Our Ventura model watermaker will make about 8 gallons per hour. When we run it, we generally like to run it for several hours. We feel like this is most efficient, because we don’t collect the first gallon or so that comes off (but we do catch it in containers to use for flushing), and there is a fresh water rinse that happens at the end of the operation cycle. But more importantly, we found it is best after every use to take the filters out, rinse them and soak them with fresh water, and let them dry. We were a bit surprised when we were heading from Cabo to La Paz, and the water being produced had a very sulfury smell. Don’t want to put that in our tanks! So what do we do… read the manual! There it is – in warmer water that promotes a lot of algae growth, leaving seawater in the filters, allows the algae to die and give off a sulfur odor. (We knew that .....) The manual suggests the rinse/soak/dry cycle after each use.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Isla Grande (Ixtapa)

[GPS: N 17° 40’ 44” W 101° 39’ 25”]
Thursday morning early we got underway towards Isla Grande (Ixtapa) as we expected a fairly long day. We made good time – again mixed motoring and sailing. Even flew the asymmetric for a couple hours. Late afternoon, we pulled into the small cove anchorage on the north side of Isla Grande (Ixtapa). We had essentially made it to our destination. We celebrated with margaritas in the cockpit:


There was a lot of activity during the day – a couple large powerboats anchored, a couple jetskis running around, pangas bringing people and taking them out, several restaurants on the beach. But people are not allowed on the island at night. So shortly after 5pm, everyone started leaving – and then the restaurant crews cleaned up a little and also left. We had the anchorage to ourselves.

Friday morning we did some snorkeling along the rocks on the west side of the cove and out to the point – where we saw a good variety of reef fish. Blackdragon, a Catalina 34 that was on the HaHa had come into the anchorage, so we swam over and talked with them for a while – Steve & Tracey and their 2 children and dog – plus another couple with 1 child who were visiting them. In the afternoon we rowed to shore in our dinghy (didn’t want to bother getting the motor down), had fajitas, tacos, y cervezas at one of the restaurants. There was a vendor selling shells on the beach – including conch shells that he pound a small hole into so you could use it as a horn… we bought one! – but still working on being able to blow it reliably. We walked to the other side of the island (about 50 yards – the restaurants had tables on beaches on both sides). The cove on the south side had a lot of people snorkeling. Boats used to anchor in the south cove – but there is coral there, and the anchors were destroying the coral, so it is no longer allowed. There were a lot of people snorkeling on that side. We will save that for a day when we come back out here with our girls who are coming down for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Caleta de Campos

[GPS: N 18 ° 04’ 21” W 102 ° 45’ 03”]
Tuesday morning we got a leisurely start out. Our farthest possible target was about 24 hours away – if we kept good speed we would come in early in the dark, and if we were slow we would still get in during the day. We got another treat of dolphins tagging along with us – this time carrying a couple passengers - I think they are called remora fish:
video

We made pretty good time, mixed motoring and sailing – and came into Caleta de Campos at 8am. We anchored right around a breakwater in fairly shallow water (15' at low tide). There was a lot of activity in the water. Early in the morning pangas of fishermen went out, and older kids were fishing from the breakwater. There were families and kids on the beach. When some of the fishermen got back, there were about a dozen kids that took one of the pangas out into the cove, and were buzzing around pulling one kid on a wakeboard and another on a single ski. If someone fell, they would swim to shore – and other kids would swim out again to join the boat. They came close to us and yelled Chocolada? At first we waved them off and said no – but we did have some chocolate bars still in the freezer – so we pulled out 4 and called them over. As the panga approached, 4 or 5 of the kids dove into the water and swam towards the boat. We said – “solo cuatro” and indicated they needed to share. We signaled for the oldest kid who was driving the boat to come closer, and we gave them all to him to dole out.

Feeling rested from a morning nap, we decided to go to the beach to one of the restaurants – thinking if we stayed two nights, the next day we would walk on up into the town to go exploring. We rowed our dinghy to the corner farthest inside the breakwater to avoid any surf in our landing. The restaurants had large, fairly deserted covered areas overlooking the beach. We picked one, got our beers, and sat waiting for our food. As we looked out over our boat (picture to right), we could see how much the swell picked it up as it came to shore and broke as ca. 3 foot waves. We started feeling our boat was perhaps too close to shore. Then we saw 2 kids swim out towards our boat. They started playing with the float ball that we had attached to our anchor to indicate its location. We thought; "Please don’t fool around with that and trip the anchor.." . Then they swam over to the bow of the boat and started climbing on the chain – standing up where our snubber was attached to the anchor chain and diving off. Did we turn the breaker off for the windlass? If they climb up on the foredeck and accidentally step on those foot switches, they could screw up our anchor – what if the boat broke loose? Cathy went to the edge of the water and yelled, waving her arms. They eventually saw her, gave a friendly wave of their arms and swam away from the boat. Still sitting waiting for our food… and another couple kids swim out to the boat. They go to the stern, and start playing with our “tarzan” line that we have hanging from the arch to help us climb out of the dingy and onto the boat. Then one of them starting climbing into the cockpit. We both went to the edge of the water, yelling and waving. The people on the beach just looked at us blankly. The kids eventually started swimming away as well. We went to the kitchen and asked for our food to go!In Cathy's broken Spanish she said " Cena? No a qui....los ninos....(dinner? not here... the boys)" and then indicated with her fingers climbing. The owner and her maother had a heated discussion about los ninos, and the beautiful platters of lobster/shrimp/and fish we hjad ordered were quickly moved to styrofoam containers. It was ashame because they had taken so much time arranging the platters so creatively. After we got back to the boat, a teenage couple swam out. We invited them into the cockpit. They were just looking for a place to rest before swimming back. Curiosity?

Anyway, we decided we would not be leaving the boat there the next day to go more into town, so we may as well enjoy our dinner in the cockpit and plan to head on out in the morning.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Punta Mita to Barra de Navidad

[GPS (Punta Ipala): N 20° 14' 13" W 105° 34' 21"]
[GPS (Chamela): N 19° 35' 00" W 105° 07' 42"]
[GPS (Tenacatita): N 19° 17' 47" W 104° 50' 10"]
[GPS (Melaque): N 19° 13' 08" W 104° 42' 41"]

Friday morning we started the long trek southeast towards Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. There were mixed reports about how much the winds would have calmed down around Cabo Corrientes, so we thought we would leave early. When we got up at 6am, it was still dark. A boat had pulled in and anchored next to us, and during the night the wind had shifted and the boats had swung to where we were concerned that he was close to sitting on top of our anchor. So we decided to wait until light, so that we could see better in case we had to get too close to him as we pulled our anchor up. Turned out to be no problemo. As we passed the cape, the winds were only about 15 kts and only 3-4 foot seas, and we sailed by the cape making a little over 8 knots SOG (speed over ground) over a 2 hour period. Cabo Corrientes = Cape of Currents! – this time in our favor.

We went about 15 miles further down the coast to the first decent anchorage – Punta Ipala. It’s a narrow little cove with rocks on the left and right and a submerged one to avoid near the middle, a beach in front, with a little village on the left end of the beach with about 10 pangas scattered just out into the cove, and some moored net thing in the middle of the cove that we had to dodge. We were the only sailboat there, and plunked down in the middle of the clearest ? spot, to the amusement of some old people sitting on a breezy balcony on the shore. Then another boat came in about an hour after us.

Saturday we motored (no wind!) from Punta Ipala to Bahia de Chamela. We put a hand line out with a bright “Mexico” lure, and within an hour caught a little 19” Mexican bonito. And a little later we caught these dolphins on video:
video

It was a short day Sunday from Chamela to Tenacatita, so on the way we took detours to check out possible anchorages for the way back up.

The first, Paraiso, was instructive about the use of charts and cruising guides. First of all, the only paper charts are of such large scale (approx. 1:700,000) that they are not very useful for navigating close to shore into these small anchorages. And the electronic charts (except in city/harbor areas) are of such low resolution – and usually are about a mile off (we look to be further north or east than we really are) so it looks like we are anchoring on well inland. So we mostly rely on cruising guides. These are written by cruisers - we have Charlie’s Charts, Pat & John Rains’ Mexico Boating Guide, and Sean & Heather's book that just covers the Sea of Cortez. These books are great for the sketches of anchorages, including the approaches and rocks to watch out for, but are all “not for navigation”. Sometimes Charlie’s and Rains’ don’t really agree. Paraiso was a case in point, where Charlie’s makes it look like a nice, >1/4 mile across anchorage. There’s a plantation estate home there, that one of the books says has armed guards so don’t go ashore – wonder what they are growing :-). What Charlie’s doesn’t have is the huge rock that Rains’ has drawn in the middle of the anchorage. The rock IS there – and is huge! Like 100' tall and 100' in diameter. So the anchorage is MUCH more cozy than imagined. Rains had the rock, but the rocks in the entrance were much better represented by Charlie. When we’ve thought of it, we have captured images from Google Earth to help us – think we will try to be more diligent about doing that. It’s generally not a good idea to go into these unknown anchorages at night!

Next place we scoped out was Careyes, small 3-lobed anchorage in a gorgeous setting with cliffs around, luxurious private homes on the cliffs, and on the 3 beaches condos, club med, hotels, and restaurants. As we rounded Punta Farallon, there was an odd hemispherical building on the point (see right). And then it was on to Tenacatita, a large bay with several anchoring locations, a couple snorkeling spots, and a jungle river that you can do by dinghy. We’ll definitely spend time at these on the way back up.

For the next legs, we originally expected to do 3 or 4 day hops to Caleta de Campos, but instead decided to do a very short day on Monday to go into Barra de Navidad for fuel, and then do an overnight to Campos. We went through the channel on the eastern end of Bahia de Navidad, past the marina, and pulled into the fuel dock. There was another sailboat on the other side of the dock – and then we noticed the fuel pump was taken apart – at least there were a couple guys there working on it. The other boat (which was a delivery from Miami to Newport via the canal), said they had been waiting a couple hours, and it wasn’t clear when it would be fixed. We only needed about 30 gallons, so we decided to use our two 5-gallon jerry jugs and carted diesel in from the Pemex station up on the road near the fuel dock. Of course, just as we got back with the last jug, they got the pump working again! At least we saved the 13% mark-up for fuel dock services – since Pemex is nationalized, the government sets the price of gas, but marina fuel docks can add a service charge.

Most cruisers anchor in a large, shallow lagoon further on east from the fuel dock, but we decided to go out to the NW corner of Bahia de Navidad and anchored off Melaque. The beach had many fairly rundown looking restaurants and hotels, and a huge cell tower – so we figured we would get good internet connection there – but the 3G service kept dropping our connection…

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Paradise Village (Nuevo Vallarta) and back to Punta Mita

[GPS: N 20° 41' 53" W 105° 17' 40"]
Monday morning we made the trip across Banderas Bay to Paradise Village at Nuevo Vallarta in intermittent drizzle and showers. As we passed La Cruz we notice a rainbow remarkable in that it was so low that you could see where both ends touched the ground. It was the first time either of us had seen that.


We had been to P.V. before - 5 years ago with Bruce & Bobbie when we crewed for them aboard Music (IP40) on the 2004 Baja HaHa. As this was not an originally scheduled stop over and we didn’t have a reservation, we called the marina and crossed our fingers. Dick Markie came through and assigned us a slip and then sent out a panga to lead us to it... ALL the way down the river, just before a bridge. We passed 3 Island Packets on the way – Lyon Around (a 38), Armagh (a 40), and Crème Brulee (a 380 – Bill & Cynthia that we know from the Bay Area – but they were not there), and then pulled in next to another – Gratitude, a 370 with Frank, Nancy and son Nick aboard.

Doug walked back to the office to check in. When he did, he asked Dick Markie, the harbormaster, if he had a recommendation for someone to work on Raymarine electronics. He said Jorge – his shop is right in Paradise Village. And what about windlass. Again, Jorge. And he speaks English well. So Doug walked right back to the boat. As he approached, he saw someone in the cockpit with Cathy, working on the chartplotter. Jorge! What service. Dick must have called him, gave him our slip number, and he came right over and jumped on it. Before the end of the afternoon, the chartplotter was working (but we will probably send it to factory in February for some overhaul) and the windlass serviced and working well. But with high winds and square seas predicted around Cabo Corrientes (the cape heading south out of Bandaras Bay), we decided to just stay put for a few days.

Walking back along the docks, Armagh (the IP40) looked strangely familiar… red canvas… two Bruce anchors?? It had to be Music! The owners were not around. But then it turned out they stopped by later to see our arch. Sure enough, Armagh is the former Music that we had crewed on from San Diego to Nuevo Vallarta. They are the second owners since Bruce & Bobbie – it was Fire Escape in between.

Tuesday was mostly a relaxing day. In the morning we put up our Shadetree shades – they help keep the sun off the boat, but let the breeze blow under them. We got them years ago (off Craigs list?), but had never really set them up – so we spent a good bit of time just futzing with how to best deploy them. (I forgot to take any pictures, so will try to do so for a future posting). The afternoon included a swim in the pool at the resort (marina guests have resort privileges!) and that evening we had an excellent shrimp dinner at the resort in the restaurant on the beach during another beautiful sunset.

Wednesday morning was laundry, Pilates class for Cathy, and visit to the Port Captain for Doug (to check in and out – managed both with one visit since you can check in up to 48 hours after arrival and check out up to 24 hours before departure). Wednesday afternoon we took a bus into Puerto Vallarta, where we walked around the old town, including going by the places where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton stayed when filming Night of the Iguana in PV. Note bridge connecting the 2 houses... Then we walked down the Malecon, including going through a naval museum and admiring the sculptures on the beach. We ended up with an early dinner and 2-for-1 margaritas at a restaurant on the Malecon before catching the buses back to our boat.



Thursday we headed back to Punta Mita. It was a short trip, we had all day, it was a nice day, and there was 10 knots of wind. So even though the wind was on our nose, we sailed all the way out – tacking back and forth. The furling gear seemed to work smoother after the rain, maybe washing away some dirt and salt crystals from places we can’t reach with the hose. We put our anchor down very close to where we had been on Sunday night, watched some surfers riding the waves into the beach while we played another round of Mille Bornes in the cockpit, and then went to bed for another rolly night.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mazatlan to Punta Mita

[GPS: N 20° 45' 50" W 105 ° 31' 16"]
We left Mazatlan at 11am Friday, just after the high tide – expecting about 28-30 hours to Punta Mita, just inside the NW corner of Banderas Bay. There was no wind for the first 11 hours, so we had to motor. We noticed our alternator was not charging the batteries! Belts turning… stop engine… belts tight enough… made sure connections to regulator were tight… restarted engine… thankfully working ok! Then just after dark (following a spectacular sunset!), the chartplotter shut down, and still had power, but would not restart with the charts. We would use the handheld GPS, and plot our position on paper chart every hour through the night. We had to pull out the GPS manual to figure out how to manage waypoints and routes. Finally at 10pm the wind came up enough to sail – and at 11pm it started it drizzle, so we put the transition up (between the dodger and bimini) to try to keep the cockpit dry. We decided to skip Isla Isabela (and expect to stop there on the way back north) – besides the trouble with the chartplotter, and the rain, we would be getting there about 2am. We alternated between sailing and motoring until 4am, and then were able to sail the rest of the way to Punta Mita. It continued to rain off and on, which was really rather nice, as our sails and rigging could use the cleaning.

As we turned east into Banderas Bay, we could see some large splashes in the water miles ahead. After watching for water breaking over exposed rocks coming around Punta Mita the first thing Cathy thought of was “give me the binoculars” and “are we going that far in tonight?” But wait a minute ...” I see a big black stick come up and then a huge splash... oh my gosh I think it’s WHALES!” We were too far away to really enjoy the show or get pictures, but the boats anchored out in La Cruz must have had a front row seat. The activity lasted about 30 mins.

We turned north and anchored in the lee of a resort and golf course. The largest islet off Punta Mita is part of the exclusive Four Season’s golf course and is the site of a 196 yard par 3 hole (#3) that is the only true island green in North America. When the tide is in #3A is played from its location on shore.

As we put the anchor down – another small problem – our windlass clutch was slipping a little. We checked various connections on the chartplotter hoping for another easy fix, but could not get it working again. So, we decided rather than going on south, we would take a detour into Paradise Village at Nuevo Vallarta and get someone to help us with these little issues. And enjoy the pool, local yacht club and food.

After a vodka and grapefruit juice, and a game of Mille Bornes, it was off to bed in the rolly anchorage.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mazatlan

[GPS: N 23° 16' 16" W 106° 27' 15"]
We ended up spending 4 days and 4 nights in Marina Mazatlan. Not sure where all the time went – it seems like mostly chores! Let’s see, of course there was washing the boat down and vacuuming inside. And laundry! Cathy defrosted the frig (see picture to right) and we reprovisioned at the Mega (kind of like a super Walmart). That was a bus ride towards downtown. We got on the wrong bus coming back, and it turned around about a mile short of the marina so we just walked the rest of the way, dragging a cart and carrying 2 other bags full of groceries. Doug changed the engine oil/filter and fuel filter (for the first time completely on his own). We decided to fill our fuel tank by carting jerry jugs from the Pemex station across the road instead of stopping at a fuel dock. We needed about 40 gallons – which with our two 5-gallon jugs meant 4 trips. We can only manage 2 jugs on our handcart anyway. The overall process took about 4 hours. Doug went to Telcel to figure out how to pay for the next month of 3G data card service.

We also finished up some books. We both read Gringos in Paradise (which we had borrowed from Laurie – and she hadn’t even read it yet so we needed to return it before we left), a story about an American couple that moved to Sayulita (just north of Puerto Vallarta) and their adventures in building and furnishing a house there. Over the last couple weeks we also both read “The Collector” by Baldacci and “The Associate” by Grisham. After so many spy/detective novels, we wonder if the cruising folks we meet might really be in a witness protection program!

We did manage to have a little fun too.

Doug went to a baseball game. Patty on Pacific Voyager organized it. There was a group of 12 that went – there and back by pick-up truck “taxis” – the bed had seats along both sides and a cover over the top. The transportation safety board in the US would freak out, but it seemed natural here. The local team, the Mazatlan Vedanos (deer) was apparently champions last year, and won the first half of this season. It was a pretty good game, with the Vedanos losing to the Hermosillo “Orangemen “ 4 to 1. Level of play was about equivalent to US triple-A ball. Pacifico was the sponsor of Mazatlan, and Tecate the sponsor of Hermosillo – all the jerseys had big beer logos on the back. Doug had the requisite hot dog and beer (a Pacifico vendor was camped out right next to the section we were sitting in), as well as a fruit cup – freshly prepared at the seat with a sprinkling of pepper spices and fresh squeezed lime juice.


Patty took Marcia, Roz, Laurie and Cathy to old town Mazatlan including the Mercado downtown, for open art studios Friday. The old town Mercado reminded Cathy of the old French Market in New Orleans where she grew up. She has fond memories of shopping there with her parents when she was a young girl.



Please note: baby not for sale...

Even the central square with its Basilica de la Immaculada Concepcion looks like Jackson Square. To celebrate the Christmas season the locals erected a tree on one side of the square made from plastic bottles filled with different colored water.


And then of course there were meals and margaritas. We finally learned the secret of the best Margarita. Hugo and Jena, we use the lime squeezer a lot now. On Friday morning we said goodbye to Russ & Roz, whom we might see again in February in PV before they take off for the South Pacific, and to Michael & Laurie, whom we will probably see next along the “Gold Coast” between PV and Z-town after the new year, as we head north and they head south.