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Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Christmas in Paradise Village
12/23/2008, Puerto Vallarta

We arrived at Puerto Vallarta on December 18; we were lucky and got a slip in the Paradise Village marina, which is a very fancy, and huge resort. The good thing about it is that it is extremely luxurious, but the down side is that you could spend a year here and never know you were in Mexico. It is very Americanized and also isolated from town (a 20 minute bus ride).

That being said, we're enjoying our stay here a great deal.

There are crocodiles in the marina, so "No Swimming -- crocodile zone" and "Don't feed the crocodiles" signs are everywhere.

Some of the crocs here reach 17 feet in length.

Last night we enjoyed Jazz Night at the P.V. Yacht Club - they had a former keyboard player for Carlos Santana there, who was fabulous. along with an electric bass and a fantastic drummer from Cuba.

This evening we had dinner in town with friends Dan and Esther Carrico and David Schwarz. They both have bought hi-rise condos in P.V., which were gorgeous.

Dinner at The Barracuda restaurant was excellent.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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12/24/2008 | John
I can't believe you got into Paradise Village! That's great!! So I guess we know where you guys will be spending the rest of your winter... Don't rush back up here. Its wet, cold, and grey up here. Lots of snow though. Feliz Nvidad!!
12/25/2008 | Bruce Powell
hi John,
yes we were lucky to get a slip in Paradise Village, but I have to say, we much prefer the El Cid. Paradise Village is huge, and something gets lost in the process. We're looking forward to sailing further south in January.
Sunset in Chacala
12/17/2008, Chacala

We departed San Blas this morning and sailed about 20 miles south to the beautiful anchorage of Chacala. This bay is fringed with coconut palms and palapas, like this one where we enjoyed margaritas and guacamole & chips. We could see the sun set behind our boat CALOU as we enjoyed the margaritas and the boys played on the beach.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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12/21/2008 | Sherry in Anchorage
It looks beautiful! ...I wonder how the fishing is there? :o)
12/22/2008 | Bruce Powell
Chacala is renowned for its excellent fishing; we caught a tuna on the way down; it was very good eating!
Crocodiles in the jungle
12/16/2008, location

We got up early to catch a panga to take us upstream to the jungle. The 110 peso (8 dollar) fare was well worth it. In fact, in the U.S., one would easily pay the same fare in pesos... in dollars. The boat trip was magical, leading us through jungle where we had to duck our heads to make way. Exotic birds sang and showed themselves on the banks of the jungle estuary. We also saw turtles, weird land crabs, and, yes, crocodiles (or in Spanish, 'cocodriles'). Some of these monsters were ten feet long.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Getting Fixed Up In San Blas
12/15/2008, San Blas

It's so weird preparing for Christmas in Mexico with 80 and 90 degree temperatures! Yesterday we bought a 3' Christmas tree for the boat, and decorations, so we're getting in the spirit.

Christmas shopping is difficult, most stores carry products for people who earn five dollars a day.

This morning, I took a taxi at 9 a.m. from San Blas to Tepic, the capital of the state of Nayarit. The road there was beautiful, going first through lush jungle, banana, coffee, and clove plantations, and then to higher altitudes in the volcanic mountains of the regions. Finally at Tepic, we arrived at a machine shop that had every sort of lathe, mill, drill press, etc.

To extract the two bolts whose heads had broken off, they welded nuts onto the bolt shafts, so they could be turned out. For the aluminum stripper piece, they welded on a new base. All this was expertly done. The bill for services: 200 pesos (about 14 dollars).

That being done, I returned by taxi to San Blas (a one hour drive), and upon arriving, set to work reinstalling the windlass and reconnecting the heavy duty wires. This was finally completed around 5:30 p.m.

After this, we went to town to have dinner.

We had dinner in a very fancy colonial era hotel built in 1883, delicious prawns with chipotle cream sauce, for only 140 pesos (about ten dollars).

Tomorrow morning early, we are going to take a guided tour up the estuary, to see the jungle, tropical birds and crocodiles. We've heard from reliable sources it's one of the best guided tours in all of Mexico.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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First day in San Blas
12/14/2008, San Blas

After a good night's sleep, we got up at 6:30 this morning at Matenchen Bay, and raised the anchor by using the primary winches again. From there we sailed to the entrance of the San Blas channel, where Captain Norm, a.k.a. "Jama", agreed to meet us to escort us into the channel. The cruising guides say that San Blas channel is very tricky and not to enter it without such an escort.

Norm stood on the shore with a portable VHF and guided us in. After that we were invited to meet at Norm's place. Norm is a very amiable guy to acts as the de facto cruiser's ambassador in San Blas. He lives in a house in town with his wife, and has been there for over 40 years. While he regaled us with stories about San Blas and Mexico, his wife served us pineapple pastries and drinks in their lush garden.

First order of business, Norm promised to help us get our anchor windlass repaired. He arranged to have a taxi pick me up at 9 the next morning, and take me into Tepic, the capital of Nayarit State. There, he says, we could find a metal shop capable of repairing our windlass.

San Blas is a small, poor fishing village. There's very little tourism, and no modern hotels or condos, primarily because of the jejenes (pronounced "heheh-ness"), or Mexican so see-ums, that come around at sunset. Norm says San Blas is blessed by the jejenes, because this way it gets to remain a real Mexican town.

We did a little walking tour of the town, stopping to buy a Christmas tree and decorations, some groceries, and lunch at a restaurant called Mc Donald's. This one doesn't have golden arches, it's a regular Mexican restaurant, and I think they don't have to worry about the hamburger chain bothering them since the sign says "since - desde - 1952". I don't think the hamburger chain was even around then.

On the way back, we bought a kilo of giant prawns for 140 pesos (10 bucks), and had them for dinner sauteed with garlic butter. Delicious!

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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09/08/2011 | Capt Norm in San Blas
Dear Calou Friends
We are glad to know that you are all well and enjoying the beautiful Pacific.We remember you and the pleasant time we spent together.We look forward to your return to San Blas;the giant shrimp await you also.
With sincerest respect and admiration
Capt Norm and Janet Stay Beautiful
Arrival at San Blas
12/14/2008, Matenchen Bay

Departing from Isla Isabella, we made the passage to San Blas in the afternoon. We saw the most amazing display of two humpback whales, who were cavorting together just a hundred yards from our boat.

We arrived at San Blas at about 6 PM this evening as the sun was setting.

As we hauled up the anchor at Isla Isabella this afternoon, we found that the anchor windlass was broken. The anchor chain winds around a drum, and there's an aluminum stripper that is supposed to peel the chain off the drum. The stripper had cracked and broke off right where it was attached to the windlass with two bolts. We'll have to try to fix the windlass in San Blas.

With the windlass inoperative, we had to raise the anchor by hand. We did this by tying a rope to the anchor chain, and running the rope back to the primary winches. This way we could drag about 20 feet of chain onto the deck, then reattach the rope to the chain at the bow and raise another 20 feet until it was all in. Using our electric winch handle, this was surprisingly easy.

Anyway, we arrived in San Blas at sunset and got on the radio with Captain Norm, a.k.a. "Jama", on VHF channel 22. Jama is a longtime (40 years) resident of San Blas and the self appointed ambassador to cruisers coming into San Blas. He advised us to not try to enter the channel at night, but to anchor out at nearby Matenchen Bay, and to rendezvous with him outside the channel at 8 a.m. the next morning.

With the anchor down, Pascale made a delicious arrachera steak dinner.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Checking out Boobies at Isla Isabella
12/13/2008, Isla Isabella

We departed Mazatlan last night at sundown, heading west several miles and then south. Our friend Bob Soleway has joined us as crew. We sailed all night, arriving at Isla Isabella early this morning. It was a pleasant sail, with 5 to 10 knot winds from the west and flat seas.

Isla Isabella is a bird sanctuary, and has been featured in documentary films by National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau as a unique and spectacular bird habitat. The island lived up to reputation with its huge nesting grounds for blue footed boobies and frigate birds. The boobies are unafraid of us and let us approach them.

We left Isla Isabella around noon and are headed to San Blas.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Mazatlan is Paradise

Maaaazatlan is Paaaaradise!
This is a spoof of the book by a similar name, that is widely circulated here in Mazatlan... the joke being that many cruisers, once they get here, never leave.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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12/09/2008 | Jolea
Is it because it's so lovely, or is it a black hole?
12/09/2008 | Bruce
Both! It is a black hole..... because it is so lovely.

It reminds me of the song, Hotel California: "You can check in, but you can never leave"...

It is also known as "the velvet rut". A rut indeed, but such a nice one.

[raise arms forward like a zombie and repeat after me:]
Maaaaaaaazatlan is Paaaaaaaaaaradise!

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