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Still in Mazatlan...
Melanie
04/22/2010, 23 16.1472'N:106 27.9054'W, Mazatlan

Well, you may be thinking that we are not making much progress on our journey north and you are right!! We had planned to be in Topolbampo by now, but alas, this is a hard place to leave!!

We had an amazing 10 days with Conni and Gunnar. The boys were ecstatic to see Gunnar. In fact, when they first saw one another, Gunnar ran at Jordan at full speed and tackled him. Thankfully, Jordan was on grass and had they had a soft landing!! The three caballeros spent countless hours in the pool together...and would go to be exhausted! It felt like every day was different...some days we did touristy things, some days we hung out by the pool, we took them out to a nearby island and Craig pulled the boys on the tube and of course played on the beach. I even got to have some girl time with Conni....trust me, it was wonderful to get away from all that testosterone!!

We're off tomorrow taking a bus to a town called Los Moches. That is the beginning of the train ride up through the Copper Canyon (apparently four times larger than the Grand Canyon). The mexican guidebooks describe it as a 'must see' and we've met several people who have been there and agree whole heartedly! The bus ride is about 6 hours and should be very comfortable. We will be off for about a week and then will return to Mazatlan and cross over to the baja side.

The down side is now we won't go to Topolobampo...not that there was anything that we wanted to see or do there....it's just such a fun name to say and would have been fun to add to the list of cool names of places we have visited. Sometimes Marcus will just say the cool names in sequence for the sheer fun of it....Tenecatita, Zihautenejo, Pichelingue, Topolobampo, Manzanillo....

04/23/2010 | Tanya
Hi Gang we are entering the channel to Topolobompo this morning after a rough sail from Altata. Hope to see you in Copper Canyon
05/01/2010 | george and berta
Wonderful news and so happy you are all well. Feliz Cumleanos Craig :) George is doing great and I have a LOT ofwork here with the little Spanish church in gcc. I will do the MC for ESL just like old times. mamacita is doing well too. Martin and Lolita are going strong. God keep you. we love you.
Reflections at Half Time
Craig
04/06/2010, 23 16.1472'N:106 27.9054'W, Mazatlan

This seems like a good time to reflect back on this journey. The "half time" title is appropriate despite the fact that we are 2/3 of the way through the trip since I had intended to write this in Zihuatenejo as we turned around and started heading back up. But as you all know I'm a bit of a procrastinator, so the electrons are just hitting the screen now, 450 miles and two months late. Besides it's my 41st birthday today (April 5th) and if we average the ages of all my grandparents I may be halfway through this larger journey on Earth too. Despite being an engineer, I'll resist the urge to share the standard deviation and other statistical measures of those ages.

How to rate the trip thus far.? To use Melanie's human resources business-speak I'd give it an "exceeds" in its performance rating. The good has definitely exceeded our expectations. The people are the highlight of the trip. Without exception the Mexicans have been warm, friendly and rightfully proud of their country. The cruisers are generally good people who share a sense of adventure and flexibility that makes spending time with them fun. The kids, Melanie and I have all made a larger number of good friends in the last five months than we made in the previous five years. Living closer to nature and further from urban sprawl turns strangers into people who can potentially help you cope with the more obvious dangers out here (weather, equipment breakdown, running aground, etc.) instead of the strangers actually being the less obvious but far more malevolent danger we fear in cities. Maybe in part it's our fear of the strangers who make the evening news that make us all less willing to engage with the other 99.9% of people we meet in the park. In any event, out here we expect others to be helpful and friendly, and they are.

Of course the family time has been incredible. By far the best part of the trip. This experience has of course confirmed that I chose spouses well. Even after practically living on top of one another for the last six months, I can't get enough time with Mel. A trip like this magnifies what you have, a good married becomes better (but if you have a shaky one, don't buy a boat!).

The safety has also exceeded our expectations. Since we've been to Mexico before, we knew the stories in the US and Canadian press did not reflect the reality on the ground here. But even we have been surprised by the nearly total absence of threats. We have not once felt our safety threatened or even felt like we were getting ripped off. Having zero interest in drugs and not being into getting drunk and staggering down the street (a GREAT way to say "mug me"!) has probably helped there. But we do regularly wander around the streets well after dark in poor neighbourhoods. You can't avoid poor neighbourhoods in towns were everyone is poor. We avoid touristy areas whenever possible.

The message from the Canadian news in particular is that in Mexico if the drug cartels don't kill you the Swine flu will. We've dodged both the lead and sickness bullets so far. In fact I've just gotten over a brief cold, making me the first person to even get the sniffles since we left. Living on a small sailboat is a lot like camping in that we are outdoors most of the time. It's a healthy way to live and not being cooped up with dozens of people in transit systems, schools and offices sure keeps the virus exposures low.

The wildlife has exceeded our expectations. Just two days ago we saw our first whale shark. Last week we were at the bow yet again riding above a dolphin that would frolic in the bow wave then roll onto his side and look in our eyes. Magic! As we watched him, we passed over top of a sea turtle! The turtle was about five feet below the surface and the same distance to the side of our bow. So Journey, the dolphin and us blasted over and just by him. He probably got home and said "Honey you'll never guess what happened to me today."

On the negative side, the work has exceeded our expectations too. I'm not referring to the boat since it has been very solid, and despite having to replace the transmission in Puerto Vallarta, it has been remarkably free from serious breakdowns. The three years of preparations have certainly paid off. The work I'm referring to it that of daily living. Melanie is very tired of having to do dishes by hand and cooking three meals a day, lugging laundry around is a pain and of course I do still have a case load. The fact that my work (and rather diminished income) has continued has been a huge blessing, but I am very busy. I've only read three books in six months and I can only think of a handful of days where I decided to just take it easy and read. I do take lots of time to run around on adventures with the kids and in towns, but just relaxing is rare. I'd probably get bored, so maybe it's for the best.

Before we left I said that home schooling was our biggest fear. Hurricanes came a distant second. My instincts were right and sadly even that expected difficulty has been exceeded. Hug a teacher for me today! I don't want to say too much in such a public forum (anyone under 30 is saying, "what an internet dinosaur!") but we're taking to steps to turn the corner of that issue soon. And I am happy to report that Marcus has made a huge leap forward with his reading!

On the whole it's been a wonderful journey and there is lots more to come. We are just about to re-enter the Sea of Cortez which is the part of the trip we have been looking forward to the most. As far as my larger journey on Earth is concerned, I'd give it an "exceeds" too. But we should always strive for continuous improvements...

04/06/2010 | Sue Walston
Melanie - I have thought of you often since you began your adventure and just received the link to your blog today. I have been reviewing all that you done. It sounds like you have quite an adventure. I'm glad that I've been able to catch up. Also looking forward to reading the blog as you journey home.
04/06/2010 | Sue Elliott
Hi Mel and Craig - enjoyed reading about your wonderful adventure. Conni and Gunnar should be there by now. They are so looking forward to seeing you guys. Hope you all have a wonderful couple of weeks.
04/08/2010 | Diana Holz
Hi Mel, Craig, Marcus and Jordan! I've enjoyed reading your blog and sharing it with others here at GRMS. Your friends are envious of your adventures (so am I!). Hope you enjoyed Easter. We have a new pastor at Grace. I think you'll like him. So much news to share but I need to keep to the limit of 1000 characters. Give our best to Conni and Gunnar. I bet the boys were excited to see them! Take care and bless you all.
Diana
04/12/2010 | Vicky P
Mel, Craig and the boys,

I have spent the past 3 hours reading your blog and looking at all the amazing pics ... needless to say that Converse has not gotten my undivided attention today!
I wish I would have the guts to embark on such an amazing adventure! But I'm sure glad you have - enjoy the rest and I'll be sure to look at your blog every week, in hopes to get more updates.

Jordan and Marcus, bets this beats sitting in school all day, doesn't it!???!!!!

Love Vicky
04/17/2010 | Jackie
HI guys,

Craig that was very well written, even for an engineer :)

Thanks for sharing your insight into the trip thus far, it's nice to hear how much you are enjoying your family time together. I think once we get into the crazy schedules of day to day life we forget about putting our family time first and really what's more important? Nothing as far as I'm concerned.

Also, thanks for the teacher hug. No one understands how much work teaching involves until you have to do it yourself.

Enjoy the rest of your adventures.
Love you, be safe.

Jx4

PS. As far as your larger journey on Earth goes you 'exceed' in the brother category as does Mel for sister-in-law.
Back in Banderas Bay
Melanie
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 by...it 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

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