02/02/2013, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta
On Thursday we left the swimming pools of Paradise Village and traveled a short 4 miles to Marina Vallarta, which is the marina that's closest to downtown Puerto Vallarta. Also, it's the only place in Banderas Bay that currently has an operating fuel dock. We needed fuel and also wanted to check out the marina, given that we'd seen all the others in the area, because we'll be coming back to the area in March to prepare for our departure for the South Pacific.
The marina lives up to its reputation of being in a state of prolonged disrepair. (Apparently it's been bankrupt for years, despite its prime location.) But buses to downtown are plentiful, cheap, and a short walk away. Also, several large supermarkets, a marine supply store, and a Walmart are all nearby.
Riding the bus is a memorable experience. The price to downtown is only 6.50 pesos (about 50 cents). Bus destinations are painted on the windshield. You climb onto the bus and then hang on as the bus hurtles down the street, passing cars and other buses, sometimes with only a few inches of clearance. When you get into the old part of town, the streets are cobblestone, so the buses and passengers bounce a lot. But the drivers all seem to be very skilled and attentive, and it's all kind of fun.
We've ridden into central Puerto Vallarta a few times. We've walked along the malecon and seen its odd statues, taken a peek inside a couple of historic churches, seen a female impersonator do a hilarious imitation of Bette Davis singing "You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch", eaten a meal or two, had a beer or two, snapped a photo or two.
Tomorrow (Sunday) we'll leave the big city and head south for awhile. We're looking forward to getting back to anchoring in more sparsely populated coves.
01/27/2013, Paradise Village, Nuevo Vallarta
Yesterday we traveled all of six miles to Nuevo Vallarta, which is a few miles north of Puerto Vallarta. We enjoyed La Cruz. Brian got his teeth cleaned by a local dentist (the fee was 27 USA dollars). There were large, green and orange iguanas, some four or five feet long including the tail, hanging out in the trees next to the dentist's office.
Nuevo Vallarta has a marina that is attached to a large resort, called Paradise Village. This place has hotels, restaurants, pools, spa, even a small zoo. Yet the moorage fees are pretty reasonable, so we're here for a few days. Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the largest pool, which has water slides shaped like crocodiles.
We're happy to have reconnected with the crew of the Canadian catamaran S/V LetItGo, whom we last spent time with in La Paz. We happened to be in La Cruz at the same time and they're now here at Paradise Village. We've enjoyed a couple of on-board dinners together, and today we took our dinghies up into the estuary that's beyond the marina, hoping to spot a crocodile or two. We only saw one, but he was a big one, standing on the estuary bank until he saw us (and heard our noisy outboard motors, no doubt), at which point he trotted into the water and disappeared, probably watching us as we passed by.
01/24/2013, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
Yesterday we traveled a short 10 miles to the Marina Riviera Nayarit at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, or what we gringos call "Marina La Cruz", since the full name is such a mouthful. La Cruz is a cute small town with tree-lined cobblestone streets and various small restaurants and tiendas (stores). We ate dinner at one of the restaurants and had pozole, which is a pork and hominy stew.
We are in the large Banderas Bay, which contains Puerto Vallarta. We'd like to visit Puerto Vallarta, but probably will not do so until March, when we return to Banderas Bay after spending February to the south.
The weather is definitely tropical. We've got all of our extra sun-shielding canvas rigged, which helps to keep the boat cabin and cockpit in the shade.
01/22/2013, Punta de Mita
We motored about 30 miles from Chacala to Punta de Mita yesterday. Brian caught a 27-pound fish, which we at first thought was a tuna but turned out to be a type of jack. Its meat is very red and has a strong, beefy taste, not as good as tuna. We've obviously got a lot of it so we'll do some cooking experiments to see what tastes best.
Punta de Mita is was formerly a fishing village and there are still a lot of fishing pangas (open boats with big outboard motors), but a large resort has been built, which overwhelms the shoreline. This is also a popular surfing area.
Last night there was a continuous display of distant "heat lightning", which was very impressive to watch, and we were glad that it was a long distance away.
We arrived in Chacala yesterday afternoon after an overnight passage from Mazatlan. Light wind forced us to motor almost all the way. Yesterday we saw lots of humpback whales breaching the surface, shooting vertically out of the water (except their tail fins) and collapsing sideways back into the water. I even heard one make a loud verbal chirp as it was breaching.
The anchorage here is, as the guidebook warned, quite rolly. A southwest ocean swell is coming directly into the anchorage. We've got bow and stern anchors out, to keep us aimed more or less into the swell. We'll stay here another night and then move on.
This is a small beach resort town. The beach is lined with several palapas (open-air, thatched-roof beach restaurants). Last night we beached the dinghy and ate at one of them. Dinner and beer was 100 pesos (about $8.00) apiece. Well, Brian's dinner was double that because he accidentally ordered two dinners. We're still working on our Spanish.
We've finally reached tropic winter weather. It's hot and sunny. Last night we turned on our cabin fans for the first time since I installed them back in Seattle.
(By the way, I added a new photo gallery, containing pictures of our time on the Baja Peninsula.)
01/17/2013, Marina Mazatlan
After almost a week in Mazatlan, we'll be leaving tomorrow. An overnight passage will take us to the small town of Chacala.
We've had a good time in Mazatlan. It's the biggest Mexican city that we've visited. The highlight is the downtown historic district, which is filled with brick and stucco 19th-century buildings in various states of renovation, repair, or near collapse. A renovated theater, Teatro Angela Peralta, and its adjoining performance arts studios are adjacent to the restaurant-ringed Plazuela Machado, so you can sit on a park bench and hear an opera lesson or a musician's practice session, or see ballet students socializing while waiting for dance class to begin.
Nearby is a large indoor meat and vegetable market and a tall cathedral.
The downtown area is 5 or 6 miles from the marina, but a city bus stops nearby and takes us downtown for 10 pesos (about 80 cents).
Like all of Mexico that we've seen so far, Mazatlan has a mix of money and poverty, with modern new buildings next to older buildings in need of repair, and half-finished, abandoned new construction projects next to well-kept homes and businesses. Tourist-oriented businesses, both upscale and downscale, are mixed in with businesses run by and for the local population. It's easy to find or to avoid, depending on your disposition, a Burger King or Domino's Pizza. It's also not too hard to get away from the most tourist-saturated areas of a city.
I'm enjoying the fact that in Mexico we can alternate among visits to large cities, small towns, and secluded anchorages. Our next stop is a small town.