Ten, Uh... Eleven Reasons to Return to Mazatlan
The Green Bus. $9.50 Pesos (about 80 cents US) gets you a ride from one end of town to the other. It's a big town - see photo above.
An artist community that appears to be alive and well. Lots of galleries and sophisticated graffiti. Yes, there is such a thing.
Veggie stands selling inexpensive fruits and produce - with no fruit ID stickers. Melody hates those things.
Home of Pacifico beer. Which Melody loves.
Pulmonias. Open air taxis derived from the old Volkswagen Thing. Fun and a little scary. Maybe it's the lack of seatbelts or pollution controls.
Long, scenic and all-night walkable seaside Malecon.
Birthplace of Pedro Infante, Mexico's beloved film and music star from the 40's and 50's.
Charming Historical District with restaurants and galleries to explore. And square trees.
Swimming pool at El Cid Marina. Melody's all-time favorite.
Boat repair central. If you're into that kind of thing. We happen to be.
Vibrant and alive US & Canadian expat community. Democrats Abroad? Mazatlan has a chapter. Curious? See links below.
Advertised as the Galapagos of Mexico, Isla Isabela is also a convenient stop for transiting up from Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan. This island is almost dead-on half-way between the two towns, being 90 miles to PV and 92 to Mazatlan. On our way down this fall, we bypassed it mostly because of its reputation as an "anchor eater", where cruisers have lost anchors due to submerged rocks and debris. Yet many sailors report just the opposite and given its convenient "Motel 6" location, we went for it this time on the way back north.
It was a great stop. The anchorage weather on the east side was mellow, with a good sand bottom for holding the anchor. Several other boats in the anchorage gave us good tips on where to put down. Couldn't have asked for a sweeter or more convenient spot to bed down for the night.
Isla Isabela is also a bird sanctuary and birds it does have. Millions, especially Blue-footed Boobies and Frigates. And OMG is it full of bird shit - all of it marinating during the day at a tropical 80 degrees.
We went for an afternoon hike and while it's possible to walk right up to the birds, their nests and their young with the birds rarely being alarmed, wow, did it ever smell! Maybe we're just not the wildlife people we fantasize ourselves as being, but we got the overwhelming impression while hiking the island of walking through a mega, free-range chicken coop. With Albert Hitchcock's "The Birds" thrown in for effect. Quite the eerie aerie, if you will.
Certainly Isla Isabela is a "must see" and we are very glad we overcame our concerns about the anchorage. Regardless, after about 24 hours of heavily fragranced air, it became something of a "must leave".
Gracias and Adios Banderas Bay
We've just spent the most wonderful warm and dry summer of our lives - all winter long in Banderas Bay. Having been born and raised in western Washington state where in winter rain is typically the order of the day, I have always wondered what continuous warm summer weather would feel like. Let there be no doubt that summer in the Pacific Northwest can be unbelievably beautiful. But, warm and sunny, day in, day out? Never. Occasionally there can be 20+ days of dry weather during a "good" summer, but the last two summers have been anything but that and both Melody and I began craving real summer sometime around... last summer.
We both understood that Mexico could offer warm winter weather and were looking forward to getting here. But I have to say we both thought that our time in Mexico would be more-or-less a drive-by and certainly NOT an extended stay like what has unfolded.
As we sat out on anchor at Punta de Mita, preparing for departure from Banderas Bay, the water was 74 degrees, the air temp 85 and there was a nice breeze across the bay, keeping us quite comfortable. It felt nothing like the April we're used to at home, it felt more like August.
We've not updated the blog since January. Yuck. My, um..., our bad. But it's been such a nice summer! Who wants to sit down and write blog entries in such fine weather? Isn't writing for cold, gray, rainy days? Well, no, not really but still, it truly has been so nice outside. For months.
We've also had a lot going on the past month - or has it been three? We've been home twice during this time, once for medical issues (and we're all OK) and another time to take care of business, federal income taxes to be specific. Those trips home actually took up about four weeks of the past few months, surprisingly enough, and who wants to write (or read) about all that garbage? Yet, that's not an excuse for not taking time to update the blog.
During our winter/summer, we've also had a couple of great visits from family. Our daughter Rachel, her husband Britton and their two fabulous children came to visit for a week. One of my sisters, Lisa, came for another week. Our son Ian and his girlfriend Jade came down for several days. Puerto Vallarta is such a great place for having visitors not only because there are a variety of activities in the area for everyone, it's just so easy for Seattleites to fly in and out due to the availability of daily non-stop flights on Alaska Air, among others.
If you look through the photo galleries, you can see all the stuff we did with everyone, ranging from zoo and botanical garden visits, to bar hopping (dare I say "clubbing"?) on the PV Malecon to walks on the beaches and even a little snorkeling off of Los Arcos and Tres Marietas. We participated as crew in the Banderas Bay Regatta with fellow cruisers Andy and Debra on their boat, Murar's Dream. We tried paddle boarding one afternoon where I proceeded to dump over a paddle board in something like 6 inches of water and filled every pocket in my shorts with beach sand. But let me stop there and not bore everyone with the daily details of our past few months. It's enough to say that our time has been more than filled with great visits, adventures and outings. We'll let the pictures fill in some of the details.
We were also able to get out of the bay for a few weeks between visitors and trips home, sailing south to Manzanillo and back, with several stops in between. The Mexican Riviera, as it's called, does have some very nice anchorages and lots of friendly cruisers. We also made a trip inland to Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city (a trip which really, should have it's own blog entry...). Our goal for next year is to get farther south, at least to Zihuatanejo, if not farther, and make a few more inland trips, Mexico City and Oaxaca. We would have done so this year, but between trips home and visitors from home, there was simply not an extended amount of time available to get farther south and back comfortably. Next year!
We're now heading north and aiming to explore more in the Sea of Cortez. We've been waiting for this spring cruising season in "The Sea" to start and in a way we're getting out of PV a few weeks late, but that's really a matter of opinion. One of the reasons we decided against the Puddle Jump this year is that we never got much of an opportunity to explore the Sea of Cortez last fall, as the weather closed in for the winter season rather quickly.
So... here we go! Adios Banderas Bay. Hola Sea of Cortez.
02/10/2012, Tenacatita Anchorage
Yeah, you're right. The title of this entry is a cheesy rip-off of Shakespeare, (made even more cheesy by the fact that admittedly, neither of us know zip about Shakespeare) but for months the question for us has been exactly this: To go or not to go. I think we've finally decided - and we're not going. Not going where? The South Pacific. "The Puddle Jump" as the crossing is called. At least for this year, we're not going to sail there.
It's not a decision taken lightly, not by us anyway. For the past few months it's been a daily item of conversation, waking up in the morning thinking about it and going to bed talking about it.
The thing about sailing to the South Pacific that makes the decision so pressing is that it has something of a sell-by date. For a variety of reasons, the best time to depart from the west coast of North or South America to the South Pacific only takes place once a year, during the months of March and April. If you miss this window, then it's best to wait another year before considering another attempt.
There are so many facets surrounding this decision that it began to make us crazy. (OK, crazier.) In trying to sort it all out, Melody even made a multiple page list of pro's and con's for going this year versus going next year and Melody almost never makes lists. This is serious stuff.
There are several reasons for us to wait until next year, but rather than detail it all here, I would have to say it mostly boils down to us not being ready to be so far away from home for such a long time. Besides the fact that sailing to the South Pacific takes place only once a year, sailing through it, from one end to the other, requires a minimum of six months. A year if you include cruising New Zealand and/or Australia or perhaps sailing home via Hawaii. Sailing to the South Pacific means that for that entire time, getting home would not be very easy. That's the detail we're not totally comfortable with. Not quite yet.
We're also not ready to leave Mexico. It seems that we've only scratched the surface here and we would like to slow down and dig a little deeper before bailing on this place. It's about as exotic as we're ready for at the moment and by jet-age standards, it's still reasonably close to home. Heck, we can leave Puerto Vallarta late afternoon and be back home in Kirkland by evening. For going from sub-tropical second-world to clean and shiny Seattle (comparatively speaking...), that's about as convenient as it gets. In some way, it's simply reassuring. On top of that, making the trip home from Mexico doesn't quite dent the checking account like a trip home from Tahiti might.
Given our decision not to "jump" this year, our cruising calendar now looks roughly like this: Pacific coast of Mexico until around April 1st, then back up to the Sea of Cortez until late May/early June. Stash the boat somewhere in Mexico or perhaps San Diego for the summer hurricane season, spending the summer back home in Kirkland. Come fall, we'll make our way back to the boat, take in another round of Mexico and see if we are ready, finally, to make that jump west.
Local color from around Banderas Bay. (Give it a minute to load. We vow to get better at this!)
01/11/2012, Marina Nuevo Vallarta
Did you go away to college? If so, do you remember the events and feelings surrounding Christmas Break, where you left the world of the university and went to visit a parallel universe called "home"? That's what we just did - we went home for the holidays, catching up with family and friends and taking a break from what sometimes seems like the University of Cruising. Now we're back in Mexico from Christmas Break, back to what for the moment feels like course work at good old UC. Studying, working (and playing) at the school of boating.
Personally, I've enrolled in a particularly difficult class this quarter called "Head Repair and Replacement". It's a 300 level self-guided class with a full-on lab where we remove saltwater heads and replace them with fresh water heads. The tuition for this class isn't bad, but the lab materials are expensive! The class also involves a unique style of yoga, where students tuck themselves into various Bilge Postions.
Our social calendar was booked for several days in advance within hours of returning to "campus". Everyone wants to party! Lisa and John on "Orcinius", Andy and Debra on "Murar's Dream", Elizabeth next door on "Sea Gnome". And we haven't even gone in search of anyone yet. At college, fun just happens, right?
Other classes we are working on:
Connecting Vessel Wide Area Networks via Telcel
Improving Reception on Single Side Band Radio Installations
Puddle Jump Routes; Departure Timing and Locations
Puddle Jump 201: Crew Selection and Transportation
Family and Friends Hospitality Techniques
Laundry Options in Remote Anchorages
Pre-Spanish (audit only)
Last semester I took a class on Margarita Cocktail Construction, which was ungraded, just Pass Out or Fail. I had quite a bit of fun over the holidays demonstrating my new-found skills in the dark art of Margaritas. Below I am giving tips on proper lime juicing techniques to Grandson Leif.
We are now back at the boat, which is located in Puerto Vallarta at Marina Nuevo Vallarta and moored directly under the ever-watchful eye of the Capitania de Puerto. All silliness aside, we did have a truly wonderful holiday with our family back home in Kirkland. Even got a day of skiing in with our sailor friends, Carol and Ted from Frannie B! Regardless, it is also nice to be back in Mexico, on our floating "home away from home".
Biggest impression about being home in Kirkland? It's dark! People wonder if we felt cold, but no, not at all. The cool weather was actually nice and invigorating. But the lack of daylight, where it's not really daytime until about 8:30 in the morning and dark again at 4:30 in the afternoon was kind of shocking. I've lived in the Seattle area pretty much all my life and while I knew it could be a grey place in winter, I never really understood just how grey it really can be until this Christmas trip back home. I dearly love and miss our family (and skiing and our home), but at this point, I'm not sure I can ever spend another winter in Kirkland. Have I seen the light? Maybe. It might just be a passing love affair with tropical sunshine. We'll see.