A recent conversation with a Canadian ex-pat couple down here in Mexico went something like this: Ex-Pats: "We moved here a year ago, and we love it so much that we haven't been back since!" Us: Wow, that's amazing! We've really enjoyed ourselves since we've been here as well. The country is even more beautiful than we imagined! But what is the weather like in the summer?" Ex-pats, leaning across the table with intense expressions: "It's a jungle here you know!" Us: "Uh... sure! So you've taken some exotic inland trips, have you?" Ex-Pats: "Oh, no. We've been enjoying our beachside resort condo and once in a while we go into town. But it's a jungle down here you know!" Us (still trying to glean some context from their comments): "The tropical weather certainly feels more like the jungle compared to the chilly winters in Canada!" The female half of the couple grabs Kim's arm and flicks her long hair over the shoulder of her leopard print dress: "Not a rain forest, A jungle!" Kim smiled nervously, and slowly withdrew her arm. Judging by the woman's appearance, Kim determined that Mexico's exotic (and slightly dangerous image as portrayed by the media) was what drew her to the country. But interestingly, she had little interest in exploring the imagined jungle that lurked outside the resort's gates!
There is SO MUCH to see in Mexico, by sea and land. And while we have plenty more exploring to do, we've certainly been impressed by the wildlife we've seen so far - some of it more exotic than others. A few days ago as we sailed from Bahia San Gabriel to Isla San Francisco and were entertained by a friendly seal who frolicked in the waves around our boat for close to an hour. While he seemed content to swim back and forth across our wake at first, once he realized he had our full attention he impressed us further by twirling, diving and then launching himself straight out of the water, landing in various positions. He splashed around, and blew huge bubbles before coming back to the surface, checking to make sure that we were still watching. We decided to pay him for his performance by sharing some of our freshly caught tuna with him! (See photo gallery)
The diversity of tropical fish here rivals anything we've seen on any other tropical locations. We've had some great snorkeling adventures over the past months, but it's so difficult to capture the beautiful images on film... underwater photography is quite an art! Maybe we should take some lessons from James!
We've grown accustomed to hearing peculiar slapping sounds in the middle of quiet bays, which most often are created by Skates (Manta Rays), who launch themselves straight out of the water and make spectacular belly flop landings. During one recent passage we noticed a school of Rays swimming in perfect formation, looking very much like stealth bombers in hot pursuit of a target.
We have also had the pleasure of seeing numerous humpback whales and dolphins are almost a daily occurrence.
Every once in a while when we're sailing along, we'll notice a strange looking creature like the one above and be unable to determine what it is... perhaps you can tell us!
Seabirds are also plentiful and diverse here. Spending an afternoon watching the pelicans and egrets fish around your boat can keep you interested for hours. Some birds actually dive from such a great height and so fast that they propel themselves 8-10 feet under the water! It's an amazing place with Rays trying to fly and seabirds doing their best to get below the surface!
There are so many different kinds of lizards - some the size of a German Shepherd, others no bigger than a mouse. They range in color from lime green to mustard yellow, to burnt orange, some are spotted and striped with spiky protrusions on their heads and back, and others are glossy smooth. Occasionally you'll see them running across the beach, and if you're very quiet and patient, mangrove bushes will come alive with huge iguanas perched precariously on branches, perfectly camouflaged to their surroundings, Some even venture out and onto marina docks, looking like they're contemplating hopping aboard!
The crocodiles are difficult to find in the wild, as they're incredibly shy. You might wonder why tourists are so interested in finding them when they grow as large as 12 feet, and 900 pounds! Tigers and spectacularly colored parrots are even harder to find in the wild (in fact tigers are not indigenous to Mexico) and much easier to photograph in Paradise Village Resort (see gallery). We realize we've been fortunate that we haven't been 'swarmed' by bees while cruising along the coastline, as some of our friends and other fellow cruisers have reported having been overcome by a fast moving black cloud of bees, looking for a new home (or to share a meal with them)!
It's a Jungle out there!
We spent our first day at Los Frailes relaxing in the cockpit reading, enjoying the view, catching up on our sleep, and being entertained by the 13 crew of a 200 foot yacht (which was our only neighbour in the bay). Apparently, they were traveling the world on a neverending fishing expedition. Sounds tought!!
The next day we had a great time snorkeling, surrounded by hundreds of tropical fish. We tested out our waterproof camera again, and we're starting to appreciate how difficult it is to capture spectacular sea life on film.
After dinner, our perfect blue skies were crowded out by dark, slate gray clouds. The air thickened and was heavily perfumed with the smell of approaching rain. Within minutes raindrops the size of quarters rinsed the salt from our decks. Thick white lightening blots struck nearby land and sea, and each strike was followed by deafening crashes of thunder. We quickly shoved as many electronics as we could fit into the oven to protect them from getting fried by electrical currents in the unfortunate event of being struck by lightning. Lucky for us, our efforts to prove the theory correct weren't tested by any direct hits!
What started out as an overcast, damp morning, cleared up by noon, and we had with a light breeze and wide, undulating 7 foot swells. We enjoyed our morning gliding along a glossy smooth emerald green sea. It was perfect. But because nothing in life is constant except change, by early afternoon the seas increased, and the wind whipped up the waves into stiff turquoise meringue peaks. With the wind blowing in the opposite direction to the swell, our ride became an unsettling rocking experience - up and down with a sideways grind, making it impossible to anticipate and roll with. Within no time, our light-hearted moods turned dark as we began to feel queasy and trapped, with no escape from the conditions until the wind gods altered their plans for us. It's amazing how uncomfortable conditions can play with your mind and your overall outlook. In fact it has become almost predictable that we'll both contemplate 'jumping ship' so to speak by trading in the cruising life altogether (but of course we never admit it to each other at the time!). The simplest tasks become an effort, and there is no way to control or change conditions. Niggling fears and doubts accumulate into a dense, oppressive fog. Then, miraculously, just as the chill and gloom of a foggy morning evaporate as the sun warms and brightens the day, our black moods brighten with renewed optimism about our adventures. At the end of the day, we feel lucky to be out here 'livin' the dream' - and wouldn't trade a moment of it!
Most of our crossing of the Sea of Cortez was calm with periods of winds coming from the front of the boat (on the nose). This did not make for great sailing and Tom was keen to try the new and improved rudder on the hydrovane (self-steering apparatus). Luckily at about two in the morning on Tom's last overnight watch the wind finally cooperated and came around to the side of the boat with enough strength to sail. The genoa came out, the engine was turned off, the hydrovane was set and it was like "look ma, no hands!" The hydrovane took over the steering from the regular autohelm and with very little effort the boat handled beautifully holding a course with less than 5 degrees of variation to the wind.
So what is a hydrovane? In simple terms it is an apparatus attached to the back of the boat that connects a rudder with a small sail or vane in the air. When the wind direction changes relative to the boat, it pushes on one side or other of the vane and this causes the rudder to turn. This in sequence causes the boat to turn as well and bring it back to the same angle to the wind it was on before the wind shift. This allows the boat to sail for extended periods without the help of a helmsman.
One may ask why bother with a hydrovane when you have a perfectly good hydraulic autohelm? But as you remember that was one of the reasons we were in PV for so long, replacing that 'reliable autohelm'! On sailboats redundancy is a very good thing. The other advantage of the hydrovane is that it requires no power as it is controlled and powered by the wind alone. Battery power on boats is always at a premium.
About 2 hours later the wind died completely and we were back to the engine. Oh well, I guess that is why we also have more than one way to propel the boat!
Its been over two weeks since we left the Pacific Mainland side of Mexico to enjoy more time sailing in the Sea of Cortez. Since then we've been exploring new islands and bays, and enjoying the intoxicating Baja landscape. (Since we left Nuevo Vallarta our blogging has been non-existent because we've had no internet coverage. Soon we'll learn how to post blogs via SSB so we can post more often, and without internet access!).
Our original plan was to head North from Banderas Bay to spend time in Chacala and San Blas before crossing the Sea. But the weather forecast indicated that conditions in the sea were expected to deteriorate in the next few days so we made a spontaneous decision to leave directly from Punta Mita for a two day sail over to Los Frailes (at the tip of the Baja Peninsula).
As it turned out our timing was perfect. High winds started blowing against opposing seas the day after we tucked ourselves into Bahia Los Frailes, which was well protected from the weather system. Our passage was a powerboater's dream: no wind and flat seas for two full days (with the exception of a mini-blow for five hours the second day). Five hours is just enough time for a jubilant mood to deteriorate, and a queasy feeling to arrive, making you question why you're out here!
(new photos in Gallery)
04/30/2012, Punta de Mita
So we travelled another 10 miles today, from La Cruz to Punta de Mita. Its a beautiful bay flanked by white sandy beaches, a few luxurious hotels and it's a surfer's haven. Ho hum, another picture perfect anchorage...
Here's a more unique topic:
You really don't have to go far to find interesting wildlife or critters around here. In fact sometimes you don't even have to leave the boat! How the sizeable crab in this photo squeezed into a through-hull (small drain opening at the bottom of the hull), swam up the line and wrangled itself through our partitioned sink drain is beyond us! We considered keeping it as a pet, but we don't have anything to feed it now that we have gotten rid of the cockroaches.
On the topic of onboard critters, we're happy to report that we haven't seen any cockroaches on board for over 2 months. We've become obsessive compulsive about never bringing anything onboard without inspecting it for hitchhiking insects, and all cardboard is discarded from packaged goods before coming inside the cabin (to prevent any cockroach eggs that may be embedded in the glue from hatching onboard... its true - cockroaches love laying their eggs in the glue that holds packages together!). We're meticulous about keeping our window screens secured and the mosquito net covering out companionway entrance - yep, cockroaches can fly too!!
To prevent any unseen pests from growing and reproducing in the perfect dark, warm environment of our cupboards, all of our grocery items are wiped down with a bleach solution before they're put away, and fruit and vegetables are soaked in an iodine solution to kill any bugs (and bacteria that our sensitive Canadian stomachs aren't accustomed to). That's why cruisers call it 'provisioning' and not 'shopping'. Its far more labour intensive, and you don't get a second chance to pick up everything you need for your next voyage.
Now you're getting a sense of what Kim keeps busy with when she's not helping Tom with boat projects!