February 17, 2012, Costa Del Sol, El Salvador
So...after departing La Cruz after Christmas, Andiamo and crew headed south to Manzanillo. Gene flew in from work and took a 7 hour bus from Puerto Vallarta to meet up with the family in Manzanillo. There we enjoyed a couple days on the anchor and helped Anne from Serendipity celebrate her birthday. It was also the turnaround point for our good friends on Pearl. They are headed back north and we hope to see them again soon.
We departed Manzanillo and headed south to Zihuatenajo for a night and then on to Acapulco. We anchored next to our friends on Aquadesiac in Puerto Marques for a couple nights. Our refueling adventure there was truly an adventure. After that, we continued to press south and made it to Bahias de Huatulco. Gene had to return to work, once again leaving Tami and kids to hold down the fort.
Tami skippered the boat across the Gulf of Tehuanepec with the help of our good friends Doug, Linda, and Leo from Aquadesiac. And once again, Gene had to take a long bus ride from Huatulco to Puerto Madero (Chiapas) to be reunited with the family after his two weeks of work. We soon departed Chiapas bound for El Salvador.
We had a great trip down the coast and even sailed a good portion of the way. The weather was beautiful. We arrived a few hours early to the entrance of the estuary in Costa Del Sol, so we anchored offshore for a few hours. Just after sunrise, we called the marina and the pilot came out to meet us to help us cross the bar. It was quite uneventful. It was the perfect time, the perfect weather, and the perfect conditions. We motored across at 5 knots with not one single breaking wave. We are not complaining though. We were just happy to be here!
The sun is hot and this place is beautiful. We miss our friends in La Cruz and others across Mexico, but we are so glad to be here....finally.
January 1, 2012, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico
When our kids are old, and we are even older, I have no doubt we will talk and reminisce about the year we lived in Mexico. I'm certain it will bring smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts as we think of countless memories and life-changing experiences. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
Our family sailed into Mexico in late October 2010 aboard our Hans Christian 43 Andiamo III. We were part of giant flotilla of boats participating in the annual rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas called the Baja Ha Ha. Since then, we have enjoyed what is unarguably one of the best years of our lives. We have been to well known places like Cabo, La Paz, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta as well as many lesser known destinations such as Bahias Los Frailes y Los Muertos, Ensenada Grande, Isla Isabella, Chacala, Matanchen Bay, Yelapa, and La Cruz De Huanacaxtle. We've enjoyed two wonderful Thanksgiving holidays, well 3, if you count the Canadian Thanksgiving we celebrated this year with our good friends from Albatross. We have also enjoyed two amazing Christmas holidays wearing shorts and flip-flops and opening presents by our piñata and homemade Christmas trees with some of our closest friends. We've all celebrated birthdays in Mexico as well as a few very unique national Mexican holidays complete with fireworks and carnivals. We've enjoyed some wonderful food and some awesome cultural experiences. We even survived the intense Mexican summer heat and threats from at least 5 Pacific hurricanes.
But of all the destinations we have been, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in Nayarit, Mexico is the most special and the most memorable. We have lived aboard Andiamo in La Cruz for just over a year now - we sailed in just before Christmas in 2010. And like I said, it has been one of the best years of our lives.
Today is December 31, 2011, the last day of the year, and I suppose appropriately, the last day for Andiamo and her crew to be in La Cruz. It is time to move on. We have other parts of the world to see and other experiences to pursue. Leaving La Cruz is just as hard as leaving Olympia, WA. We have so many wonderful friends and so many fond memories that we would be kidding ourselves if we said leaving was easy.
Since I have been working this past year, I have had the privilege of spending only about 7 months in this great town. Tami and the kids, however, have lived every day here. They've done homeschooling, built amazing relationships, learned Spanish, endured the Mexican summer heat, and kept things under complete control while I commuted to and from the US for my job. Some friends of ours referred to Tami as "the anchor that is La Cruz". I think that is very appropriate. About a year ago, with the help of a few other ladies, Tami started the La Cruz Kids Club. This was a club for kids of our cruising community to spend time together, do activities, and just have something special that belonged to them. Over time, Tami even encouraged several kids from town to join in. At its peak, the club boasted numbers in the high teens with kids from over 14 cruising boats. The club met 3 times a week for the past year. They even made their own burgees! Activities ranged from baking cookies, to going to the beach and zoo, to hosting parties for the orphanage in Bucerias (Manos De Amor), to collecting treasures off the beach and making an amazing framed mirror that hangs in the yacht club office. These kids did some amazing stuff and had a wonderful time doing it. They hosted bake sales, took care of pets, played countless games, supported regattas in the bay, made crafts, hosted a tea party for the moms on mother's day and a hot wing party for the dads on father's day, won a chili cookoff, sang Christmas carols, and supported charity. It was an absolutely amazing organization. The club and Tami's hard work brought more boats to the marina. Families who would normally have anchored out paid for moorage simply to allow their children complete and unrestricted access to kid's club. It was truly one of the biggest highlights of the year.
Among other things, Tami built some amazing personal relationships with countless people. Interestingly enough, she probably became friends with more local Mexicans than she did with cruisers. Now don't get me wrong, we made some life-long friendships with some of the hard core La Cruz'ers, but it is Tami's personality that helped her become close with others in town. She was involved in just about everything. I think she could have probably run for mayor of La Cruz and won. Her social calendar and ability to squeeze it all in blew my mind on a regular basis. From marina activities, to the harbor master and marina staff, to Casa Hogar and Manos de Amor, to local restaurants, to Mario's Market, to the veterinarian, to the ice cream shop, to Amigos de La Cruz, to the boat yard, to Casa Maru, to the wine bodega, to tacos on the street, to Claudia and her husband who acted as our personal chauffer on many occasions, to Mexican train dominos, to happy hour, to Black Forest, to Huanacaxtle Café, to Philo's, to Anna Bananas, to Ikuai, and many many more, Tami, without question helped make our year in La Cruz absolutely amazing. And to all those listed here, and many others, we say THANK YOU! You have made our time in this great town extremely special and unforgettable.
To all our friends, each and every one of you, who ate, drank, talked, played, cried, and laughed with us this past year, we say THANK YOU. You all have become some of the most special people in our lives.
So, today, Andiamo III and her crew leave La Cruz for points south. We plan to participate in the Cruiser's Rally to El Salvador and from there, who knows? But one thing is for certain, of all the places we have been in Mexico, we consider La Cruz our home away from home. The hospitality and kindness we found there are second to none. We look forward to our next visit.
November 13, 2011, La Cruz De Huanacaxle
We all woke up early on Veterans Day. It was a big day 11~11~11 and Gene and our friend Kevin from S/V Albatross were loading up in Kevin's car to drive it back to Texas. Gene was along for the ride and helping out with some of the driving. Kevin needed to return their car so they could continue south to Panama and then on to their home in Texas.
Once the "boys" were on their way, Kevin's wife Lisa (also my closest friend here in Mexico) and I prepped Andiamo for a short trip back to the La Cruz anchorage from Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. We had been in Paradise Village for a few days rebuilding the head on Andiamo and a few other small repairs.
Lisa and I finish getting ready to motor out of the marina and then a possible sail. The engine starts up nicely and as it warms up I brief Lisa on our jobs while leaving the slip saving any other item for once out on the water, after all we are just out for a short trip in our back yard, very simple, very routine.
We got out of slip "E-something" without a hitch - motoring slowly since the tide is low and we want to be careful to stay in the channel and in deep water. Then once out to the entrance and breakwater I goose the engine for some added speed to maneuver over the incoming surge. And that's when our engine dies...
Now I am going to take a moment to brag on Lisa. Lisa was one step ahead of me the whole time. However since I saved showing everything to here until later she was not in a position to do much but keep us off the rocks and in deep water, all of which she did a great job of.
So as the engine dies I call Lisa to the helm, and she keeps us heading straight while I try to prime and restart the engine, but engine continues to die at every attempt. After 4 tries, Lisa says she has lost steerage and needs a sail. So I attempt to get any canvas out I can and after what felt like both an hour and 2 seconds, I get the main up and we are turned around and headed back to marina. We had to turn around as the wind was in our face and short-tacking a 40,000 lb sailboat out a narrow channel entrance was out of the question. As I think of going below to make a call to the marina, Lisa has her son Teagan call the marina and tell them "we are sailing in, no engine and taking first available slip on dock B"
Lisa stays at the helm since I know how to manage the rest and she turns Andiamo into the first available slip and we drop the main as quick as possible. The topping lift and mainsheet weren't secure so the boom swings out and now we need to keep it from hitting the pilings on the dock. Now we are blind and going way to fast, (I estimate it somewhere between 2 and 42 knots). Lisa gets Andiamo in perfect position for me to get off and attempt to secure the stern line on a cleat, but Andiamo is going too fast for me to stop it and the line burns right through my hands. With now blistered hands, I give up on the stern line and run to the bow just to watch her hit hard and ride up on the dock. The bow hit perfectly between two bolts and broke through 2 pieces of wood and then just hung there on the bobstay chain plate. Thank God for the sacrificial wood on the dock and a strong Taiwanese built hull!
After the boat finally came to a rest, I burst into tears as I see what happened on my watch with Andiamo. Just then, the harbor master walks down the dock along with a few helpers and helps Lisa and the kids secure Andiamo to the pier. My hands are not burned nearly as bad as they feel like they were but there is no way for me to grab hold of any thing. The harbor Master says to leave Andiamo for the night and I walk away to call Gene.
Let it be known Gene took the news very well. He even was very helpful with some quick fixes for the engine. It turns out this particular engine we have runs better if the fuel tanks are turned ON! (yes I'm being sarcastic here). Remember when I mentioned earlier we did a "few other simple repairs", one of those was replace the racor fuel filter and that requires turning the tanks off and then back on when finished. Very simple to overlook that last one.
We then had a few people "check out" Andiamo to make sure we weren't putting a sinking boat in the water. Following the damage assessment, I open the fuel valves just like Gene suggested and the engine fired right up and ran like a champ. We then ran Andiamo in reverse and had to use some winches to crank her off the dock but we managed and we didn't even chip the new bottom paint☺
We then secured Andiamo to the dock and ate a lovely dinner at the Vallarta Yacht club with the crew from Albatross and Ohana, who were also a huge help in getting Andiamo back off the dock and doctored up my hands too.
We stayed in Paradise until Sunday morning. I had gotten over my bruised ego and burnt hands and was ready to go back to La Cruz and set the anchor for a few weeks.
So here is what I learned
1. Come up with a fool proof plan for fuel. Ie a ribbon that you can't miss that indicated you need to turn it back on or place engine ignition key around tank knob while fuel is off so you can't start engine without checking if they are open.
2. Wear gloves when handling the lines of a heavy, fast moving boat!
3. If you have to sail in, attempt to burn off as much speed as possible before docking, don't let the adrenaline rule you and rush it.
4. Consider putting an anchor out. I considered it but gave the idea up since the water was shallow, with potential surf breaks and rocks all around.
In the end there were no major injuries a lot of soreness and hurt egos but not too bad. Of course the armchair quarterbacks whose boats haven't left the dock in years all had great suggestions on what we SHOULD have done and some of the suggestions were valid. But in the end, we handled the emergency as best we could and saved our home from being dashed against the rocks of the jetty or a potentially worse fate. All said and done, we have a slightly bent bobstay and a $200 bill from Paradise village Marina for the dock damage. I still second guess everything from that day but all in all it turned out not being as bad as it could have been. Lisa was so amazing and if I had anyone else with me I don't know how it would have turned out.
With wounds licked and hands healed, we are now safely anchored in the La Cruz anchorage enjoying life on the hook once again.
November 8, 2011, La Cruz Anchorage
We just set the anchor in the La Cruz anchorage, (yes still in Banderas Bay). The long journey of about 2 miles took us all day because in true "cruiser fashion" we HAD to do everything before we "left". Since we have been "Marina Rats" for almost a full year we figured it would be nice to join the cruising world again by living like a cruiser. Also the marina rates went up considerably so we really couldn't afford the marina anymore anyway.
All of us had gotten way too comfortable in the marina. We would watch TV, get online, update FaceBook and do a whole bunch of nothing. So we are back to the simple life.
So here we are anchor set, cold drinks in hands, smiles on faces and nothing to do except enjoy each others company. We have already seen the difference in our family and our family's interaction.
So for now, we are "happy on the hook". Hopefully this will be the first of many blogs now that we are back in the "swing of things".
July 4, 2011, Marina La Cruz, Mexico
Even though summer is here and most of the cruising crowd has left La Cruz, an impressive number of kids are still present. For this gang of young hoodlums and rebel-rousers, the transportation device of choice is the ever-popular scooter. They are lightweight, compact, and easy to ride.
Pictured here is one of the popular hangouts for this band of troublemakers. It just happens to be our boat, Andiamo III. At this particular watering hole, social misfits can get a variety of refreshments, watch their favorite movies or play a little Wii. These little people will ride their highly customized choppers to one of their favorite hangouts and park them outside. When I saw it, it reminded me of a biker bar from back home. Perhaps we could get Orange County Choppers to build a custom bike with a 'scooter' theme and dedicate it to the kids?
July 4, 2011, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know we know. Once again, we have neglected our blog and gotten way behind. Among being parked at the marina in La Cruz for the past 7 months, my going back to work in the states, and most of our good friends leaving for other exotic destinations, we feel like we have fallen out of the 'cruising' lifestyle. It is kinda sad really when we think about it - almost like we have gotten into a rut with nothing worthy of blogging.
Although we could probably a few things to complain about, life has been pretty good over the past few months. Andiamo and crew have decided to remain in Banderas Bay and Marina La Cruz for the summer (hurricane season) and resume active cruising this fall. With my job requiring frequent travel to and from the US, we find it convenient to be near the Puerto Vallarta airport. The weather is getting hot and wet with temperatures approaching 100 degrees in the daytime and frequent rain showers and thunderstorms. The boat cover and window unit air conditioner are pulling double duty as they try to keep the boat and family cool (cooler) and dry for the most part. The marina has quieted down and a majority of the cruising crowd has either crossed the Pacific, pressed south to El Salvador or headed north into the Sea of Cortez for the summer. We sure do miss a good many of our friends, but we look forward to seeing them again this fall.
We have not done much sailing the past 4 months as my work schedule has kinda put a damper on things. We did spend a long weekend anchored off of Punta de Mita where we had a wonderful time. We had a special dinner at the Four Seasons Resort that weekend too celebrating Mother's Day, our anniversary, and a few other overlooked holidays.
We have already survived two hurricanes this season as well. Hurricane Adrian reared its ugly head far offshore in early June and then more recently, Hurrican Beatriz (category 1) made a short run up the coast from Z-town to Banderas Bay where it fizzled down and headed back out to sea. Hopefully, these are not harbingers of worse weather yet to come. Nevertheless, we are staying vigilant and prepared in the event we have a more powerful storm hit La Cruz.
We had a trip to Tequila planned a couple weeks ago, but Hurrican Beatriz forced us to cancel and remain with the boat as they were forecasting 75 knot winds and heavy swell and rain. So, we did the responsible thing and cancelled our hotel reservations and readied the boat for heavy weather. The weather never got bad, but it was the responsible thing to do. To make up for our lost excursion, we spent the following weekend at the Paradise Village Resort enjoying the awesome pool, air-conditioned room, and time with our good friends on Albatross. It was a much needed getaway for Tami and the kids and we had a wonderful time.
So, the summer routine is upon us. I am working 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off with travel to the states in between. Tami is keeping a solid daily routine of homeschooling, coordinating marina social activities, and running the La Cruz Kid's Club (detailed blog to follow soon!). We are planning for a haul out of Andiamo in the near future as she needs a bottom job, new cutlass bearing, and a few other minor items. We are thoroughly enjoying our extended stay in La Cruz and have made some wonderful friendships over the past 7 months here. We are counting down the days until fall when the cruising season gets back into full swing and when we begin to make plans for heading further south.
Im sure I have missed some important details that I know Tami will correct me on later, but we will try to get caught up on those in future posts.
More to follow...