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Back in Banderas Bay
03/27/2010, Nuevo Vallarta

We had a great week with Grandpa Roy, Aunt Jean and Uncle Leo in Puerto Vallarta. The boys had been so excited to see them - Marcus seemed to spend most of the week on Grandpa's lap!! We mostly hung out at the pool and talked and enjoyed several meals together. We took a few trips out including to La Crux, Bucerias, and into the town of Puerto Vallarta. We tried to take them to the turtle release but unfortunately none had hatched then so there was no release that evening...

We had hoped to take them out on the boat but unfortunately we've had our first big mechanical issue... The transmission needs to be replaced! We first had problems with it coming into the Paradise Village Marina. It would not go into forward gear from the neutral position. That made docking pretty stressful!! We tried it again a few days later and the same thing happened. We then consulted with a mechanic and he confirmed we needed a new clutch for it...when we looked at the cost of the parts, the labour, the shipping costs,and the age of the old transmission, it seemed to make better sense to order a new one

It should arrive today and the mechanic is scheduled to install it on Monday. We are thankful this happened here where we could make arrangements to get a new one and that there are amenities near would have been a much bigger issue if this would have happened in an anchorage in a remote place!!

On Tuesday we will need to boot over to Mazatlan as Conni and Gunnar are flying in on April 6th. We are very excited to see them!!

The other downside of the transmission has been that we were not able to race Journey in the Banderas Bay regatta. However, Craig was able to crew on Moontide, a 46 foot catamaran for the three races, and I got to race on Meschach a 48 foot trimaran for one day. We both really enjoyed the experience AND Moontide won second place in its division and Meschach won first in its division so that was pretty cool!

Yesterday, the boys and I went out on a bit of an adventure. We decided to check out the zoo in Mismaloya, a town past Puerto Vallarta. We had read about it on someone else's blog and decided it was a must see...So we hopped on a taxi for what turned out to be a very long taxi ride...about 45 minutes! It was a very scenic drive, through PV and along the shore to the other side of Banderas Bay. It was fun gawking at the beautiful condo's that line the ocean and go on for miles!! We passed the famous Los Arcos - protruding rocks with a tunnel that are a great scuba and snorkling spot. When we finally arrived in Mismaloya we began the steep climb through the uneven cobble stone streets. Out of no where a cow ran down the street and headed right for the cab. Our cab driver, Leondardo had to swerve to miss it. Once we arrived at the zoo, I was surprised to see only a few cars in the parking lot and no cabs in sight. I asked Leonardo if he thought we would be able to get a cab home and he cheerfully said, he would wait for us. So we invited him to join us for the walk through the zoo and he taught us the spanish names for the animals we saw. This stuff only happens in Mexico!!

Anyway, the zoo was great. You can pay an additional 50 pesos to buy food and feed many of the animals that you see. We fed camels, giraffes, goats, rabbits, a hippo (although he was sleeping and wasn't interested in a carrot), and flamingos. The zoo had tons of interesting animals from all over...lots of big cats, primates and other neat animals from Central and South America. The coolest part was the end where there was a 1 month old black panther and a 3 month old tiger that you could pet. The three month old tiger was about the size of a border collie and was too big for my liking but the one month old panther still nice and small. The three of us knelt down and had it sit on our laps to pet it. We could distinctly see the black spots on its black fur. It was very very cool!!

03/29/2010 | Grandpa Roy
Mel, I read your blog, very interesting. Did the boys ask to take the panther on the boat? We all had a great visit Mel but it's nice to be home and not have to walk so far for entertainment. After looking at Jeans pics of our trip I realized I left my camera bag on the stairs that Marky and I were sitting resting. Jean took the pic when you guys came back from shopping. I will buy another before my trip to Ed. in June. Thank you all for a great time Mel and God bless, Roy.
04/05/2010 | Sandra
Sorry to hear that you need a new transmission! It is great to read about your adventures. Happy Birthday!
05/07/2010 | Pam Robertson
Wow, you guys got to hold a baby panther!! That must have been so cool. I'm sitting in a hotel in Edmonton and loved reading more of your blog. It seems like life at home is so busy, but I'm here to teach a course so had a few rare moments to myself to spend reading about your adventures. Mexico is so beautiful -- thank you for sharing all your great adventures with usl. You guys are having such amazing experiences. I hope the boys remember us when you get home - it seems like it's been so long. We sure miss you and I find myself counting the weeks until you get home (when do you get home?) I'm thinking it's some time in June. Anyway, I'm hoping you can come up for a visit very soon. I can't wait to hear Marky say the names of all the places you've visited. Have the boys learned much Spanish? Well, stay safe. We'll be praying for your safe return. Love the chat we had on the phone Mel. I miss you so much!
Love Pam
Playing with Friends
03/12/2010, 19 11.9'N:104 43.1'W, Mexican Gold Coast

Well, unfortunately we were not able to see the butterflies in the state of Michoacan. With all the rain and flooding inland, the tours have been suspended due to infrastructure damage. In fact when we last checked in Zihuatenejo, it was snowing in the mountains and the poor Monarchs were hunddled together, no doubt thinking this was the very weather they were migrating from.

We left Zihuatenejo about a week earlier than planned because Craig got some late breaking news that he had to be in Seattle in early March. We returned to Tenacatita and Craig flew out of Manzanillo while the kids and I stayed in the anchorage. It is a nice safe place and there were tons of other kids in anchorage...including our long lost friends on Albatross that we had not seen since Christmas.

Craig was gone for 5 days and it was a great opportunity for me to get more comfortable with some of the requirements when we are at anchor such as: using the generator, using the water maker, driving the dinghy, landing the dinghy onthe beach etc.

The boys have been having fun jumping off the boat and swimming. The gaggle of kids seem to challenge one another to try more daring feats...where pretty soon I prefer not to look at the heights they are jumping from...

Tenacatita was great, but as with all places, there comes a time when it is 'time to go'! We left Tenacatita today and have moved to a small anchorage known as the 'secret anchorage' because it is not in the guide books. It is very pretty with an older hotel and some palapas on the beach. We are here with another kid boat "Whatcha Gonna Do" and are expecting "Albatross" a bit later today. Tomorrow it is off to Malachi where there is a week long Saint Patrick's Day festivities.

We will be saying good-bye to our friends for a few weeks/months as they are heading further south and we will north. We are meeting Craig's Dad, Aunt and Uncle in Puerto Vallarta in a few weeks. Also we entered Journey into a regatta so we will be racing the week before everyone arrives.

P.S. This was written a few days ago. Right now we are motoring north in a small weather window to try and get to Puerto Vallarta. It will probably take a few days since the wind picks up in the afternoon and then we're bashing into big waves, so it's better to sit at anchor and try again the next morning. We just left Barra de Navidad an hour ago.

03/13/2010 | zelma horvath
Hi Everyone - Just a 'REALLY-sorry' note that George and I can't join Jean, Leo and your Dad this trip. It would have been wonderful to see you all again. Alas, my Ear Specialist app't is the day before they depart. I think a vacation would be a cure-all for everything that ails me but whatareyougonnado? Smooth sailing...
Aunt Zee
03/14/2010 | Josee
Salut cocottte!

mes parents sont en visite chez nous et nous avons regardé vos belles photos et lu votre blogue! Gros becs de ma maman et mon papa!

Nous, la petite famille revient de Banff et nous avons passé des vacances formidables. J'ai beaucoup pensé à toi car c'est avec toi que je suis allée pour la première fois dans cette belle région.
Gros bisous à toi et tes hommes, de nous tous!

03/18/2010 | Sandra
Too bad you didn't get to see the butterflies!

Be careful out there...
Love to all of you.
It's all uphill from here...
02/17/2010, 17 38.1'N:101 33.3'W, Zihuatenejo

Well, we've arrived at our southern-most point in our 'journey' (ha!!)...we are in Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo. We debated about making this final jaunt as it was another 30+ hour sail and we weren't sure we wanted to undertake another one when really...we have seen a lot of beaches, towns, snorkeling areas...but we had heard so much about Z-Town that we thought we might as well go....otherwise we'd regret it. We are all thankful that we made the trek down here as it is definitely a wonderful spot!!

Ixtapa is a breath-taking place, full of very spendy hotels and restaurants and beaches lined with white sand. The vegetation is still quite tropical (versus the desert-like beauty of the Sea of Cortez) and the water temperature even warmer than anything we've experienced. The gauge on the boat says the water temperature is 91.6 degrees...but then that isn't all that surprising given that our latitude is at 17 degrees. We are almost three times closer to the equator than we are to Seattle!!

We spent two days in Ixtapa and it felt LUXURIOUS to be in a marina for a few days. The comfort of having a REAL shower and being able to consume water without being concerned about how full/empty our tanks are was a treat!!

The marina in Ixtapa is at the mouth of an estuary, so the brackish water means that crocs are possible visitors. There were signs everywhere indicating no swimming...boaters are advised not to let their dogs run on the dock and children must be supervised. The very day we arrived, around dusk, I noticed something lingering in the water near the gate of the dock we were on. We rushed over and gasped at the sight of a 6 foot croc being fed fish scraps by the security guards (about two feet away from the 'no feeding the crocs sign'). I guess it is not such a surprise, since the crocs' visit is pretty much a daily event. In addition, the security guard said that there is another one that comes by that is 4 meters (13 feet) long!!

Luckily, we didn't see him. We snapped a bunch of pictures so check out the photo gallery...including the one where the security guard is actually lifting the croc's tail!

We mostly did boat projects in Ixtapa so we really didn't see much of the town...however, after two days we moved on to Zihuatenejo and it is living up to its reputation of being a fun and great hang out for Cruisers. It is a town of about 100,000 people and there just always seems to be stuff going on...whether it is viewing the works of local artists or watching the local volleyball teams is just alive with people. It is also a stop for the Cruise ships so I can imagine that it will get very busy when the next one arrives tomorrow.

Today, we had a good day taking care of a few things...the 3 boys got their hair cut and then all four of us went to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned and Jordan got a tooth pulled. We thought he had a cavity as he said his teeth hurt, but it turns out that he was feeling the pressure of an adult tooth wanting to come out but couldn't as there wasn't enough room for it. Anyway, the dentist was wonderful and did a great job.

We plan to stay here for about 2 weeks before we head back up towards Manzanillo. We are going to explore the possibility of going to a place called Morelia to see the wintering grounds of the Monarch butterflies.

We'll see if that works out...that would be a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity....stay tuned...

02/19/2010 | Jackie
Hey guys make the effort to go see the Monarch butterfiles. Like you said it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you do go take a gizillion pictures. Every elementary curriculum includes a butterfly unit on Monarch butterflies. What a great experience that would be for the boys but the information you could bring back for teachers like me would be awesome!!!
02/28/2010 | Conni Elliott
Wow, crocs! Wish we would see them in Mazatlan...speaking of which, we have our reservations and are excited for our trip there! We are booked in at El Cid from 4/6-4/16, so that should make for some fun times. Gunnar has had great time with his new dog and being in soccer since January 8. He loves the photos of El Cid on the web, and is can't wait to check out the 2 pools and the swim up bar. No comment. I can't wait for sun and warm sand and the private beach, oh and old town, the lighthouse, etc. Can't wait to see YOU guys!!!
03/06/2010 | Pam Robertson
Well, Melanie, if you decide not to return to your work life as you knew it, you could always become a famous writer. We've really enjoyed your stories and your writing is excellent (I appreciate those kinds of things). Sounds like you are still having a fabulous time. Ben was quite impressed with the shark eaten fish in one of your albumns. We are off to Edmonton for spring break (and you think you're having fun!) We got Nolan's passport, but not mine yet so we couldn't have come to see you. We are SO looking forward to seeing you when you get home. Katie arrived in Guatemala today and we got a call that everyone is doing well. She was so excited to go. It's going to be an amazing trip for her. She will meet the girl we've been sponsoring through Impact Ministries for about 5 years. Can't wait to talk to you soon. We miss you.
Things are going well on the adoption front - exceptionally well, actually. we'll catch up soon.
Love you guys!
Pam and Ben

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