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Sailing with the Andersons
Ixtapa and Morelia Trips
Lisa Anderson
01/14/2011, Ixtapa, Mexico

Night shot of Ixatapa Marina with S/V Stolen Kiss nosed into her slip!
January 14, 2011

Ixtapa and Morelia
How time ticks by. Happy New Year everyone! As much as we missed our families and friends for the holidays, we had a very nice Christmas here in Ixtapa and have really enjoyed the company of some of the other cruisers and crew that are here. We truly are like a little family and I cannot even express how good the camaraderie feels. Thank you Pax Nautica, Royal Albatross, Yat Ta Hey, and Adam and Zuzanna!
We have been busy though! The windless is fixed for the anchor. Also, one of the cars that run the main sail up and down the mast that came off on the way to Ixtapa is fixed, and the autopilot that stopped working on the way down here as well has been fixed by my amazing husband. You do know the definition of cruising don't you? Fixing your boat in exotic locations! And that is what we do best! Our new water maker (yes folks...45 gallons an hour this puppy makes!) arrived several weeks ago and Larry has been installing it for ten days. It is a huge job. There is a lot to be said for all of these mishaps, he is learning about this boat from the inside out, literally. But he is so crippled from tendon damage in his arm from having to hand raise the anchor so many times that the work is going painfully slow. Once again our buddy boat Santosha has moved on. We do however hope to catch up in the near future.
A highlight for Larry, Ben, and I was a three night inland trip we took just after Christmas. We took a luxury bus (big reclining cushy seats with foot rests, TV's for each passenger with a large selection of movies, documentaries, and internet, a beautiful bus attendant in high heels and all serving sodas, waters, chips and candy and...get this folks...cocktails!) The bathrooms were immaculate. It was amazing! So our five hour trip to the beautiful colonial city of Morelia cost us a whopping $37.50 each. Now, this was a rather adventurous thing for us to do, seeing as we really weren't sure where we were going, with no reservations, we just had one thing in mind...Monarch butterflies. Morelia had also just been the scene of a huge battle between drug cartels where they were literally turning over trucks and vehicles and setting them on fire to close off access for the police and the federali's to the city. There is so much fear brought on by the media that I have to say it is somewhat infectious. But we try to not let that influence us so we ask everyone, friends, tourists, taxi drivers, waiters, I mean everyone, "Would you go?" All but one said yes! So we went, and it turned out to be one the best trips we have ever taken. We stayed in the downtown historic section that reminded us of being in Europe. Morelia was founded in 1541 and its' historic area is a Unesco World Heritage site. The Hotel Virrey de Mondoza where we stayed was a spectacular old home renovated into a hotel with original walls dating back to the 1500's. We loved it and Ben was convinced it was haunted! After a lovely dinner at an outdoor restaurant on the town square with a view of the magnificent lit up church, the waiter helped set us up with a tour for the next day to the El Rosario Sanctuary of the monarch butterflies. Score! We did it! There are just a few things in life, such as Laguna San Ignacio where the mother gray whales give birth to their young that we stopped at on our way down the Baja, and now the butterflies here that we know if we don't stop and see them now, chances are we would never come back.
So, let me tell you why this "super generation" of butterflies is so special. This generation lives up to eight months, where the others only for one to two months. They have been coming to this area in Mexico for thousands of years, from Dec. - March, swarming and living in the pine trees, eventually mating in February. The males then die off and the females begin their migration north to Canada in March, depositing their eggs along the way and then they too die off. The new generation is born, depositing their eggs as they continue north and the cycle continues until the fourth generation which again will be the "super generation"! First of all, it is just fascinating that through some kind of genetic memory the subsequent generations know to return here year after year. Secondly, it is just incredibly beautiful and surreal to see these clusters of colorful butterflies in the trees and flying all around you, often landing on you. The pictures that you see just don't do them justice. We are so glad we went. The added benefit of this was that being on a small group tour, we got to meet people that were from other parts of the world and we had very interesting conversations. The ride was about 2 ½ hours each way, which went by surprisingly fast as we climbed from about 6ooo to 9000 feet. Some of the small villages we drove through reminded me of driving through the Alps. When our driver/tour guide made a stop along the way and insisted we buy chocolate for energy I knew this was the trip for me! Once we arrived at the sanctuary, having been at sea level just the day before, it is a bit of a shock on the system. And, it is cold! But, we managed just fine to hike the next 1000 and something feet to the butterflies. We returned back to Morelia tired but happy that evening with a lifetime memory. Ben was thrilled because he was able to get his dinner from Burger King (a rarity in Mexico), and then soak in a real bathtub in our hotel room! Dad and I were thrilled because we had a dinner date (alone!) at the elegant restaurant down stairs. Let me tell you, this trip has been good in so many ways!
Through some convincing by other tourists, we decided to stay an extra night and do a different tour the next day to Patzcuaro and Isla Janitzio. Once again we were with a great group of people where we even toasted in the new year (with tequila of course!) at 5 o'clock because one family was from the Netherlands so it was really midnight their time. (Perfect for us because we seldom make midnight!) Our first stop on this day was at the property of the artist, Juan Torres, who is well known for his Dia de los Muertos figurines. The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico around Nov. 2. It is a day of true celebration, giving families a reason to go visit their loved ones in cemetaries, often eating and drinking and listening to the favorite music of their deceased. The grounds of this artists haven were very unique in an artsy, funky sort of way. The gallery being in an old chapel.
Another interesting stop we made was in the village of Tzintzuntzan, meaning place of the hummingbird, in the indigenous language of the Purepecha Indians. We mostly stopped there to tour a beautiful religious complex called the Ex-Convento de San Francisco. As we toured these grounds, learning how this is where the Franciscan monks began the Spanish missionary effort in the state of Michoacan, we couldn't help but feel a little bit sad as we could look up the hill at ancient Tarascan ruins (from 600 BC) that had been blown up by the Spaniards because they thought there was gold inside. Somehow to us, the supposed love of Christ that they so wanted to force and the subsequent atrocities they committed on these people just don't seem to jive. As we walked around the property you can see stones with carvings from the ancient Purepecha that the Catholic Church "allowed" to be built into the buildings to gain the trust of the Indians and encourage them to turn their life towards Jesus. There are also ancient olive trees said to be the oldest in the America's, one for each year of Jesus's life, planted within the compound.
Lake Patzcuaro and Isla Janitzio were the highlight of the day. All around the lake are traditional Purepecha villages, each with its' own craft specialty which has maintained self sufficiency for the indigenous people. In the middle of the lake is Isla Janitzio, which reminded me of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France. We traveled to the island in this funky sort of barge boat, learning that 6000 people lived on it, no cars, and that everything is either carried up and down this island by hand or on their backs. Of course the thing to do was to hike up to the statue at the top, and so we did. Phew! And then once we reached the statue we wound our way up the stairs on the inside - stepping out at the top for an amazing view of the surrounding country. The statue is 40 meters high, representing independence hero Morelio. The murals inside depict his life. This colorful island really was something you have to see to believe.
We returned to Ixtapa the next day, tired but happy, mindful that we need to not only pay attention to the ocean that we are traveling on but the land that we pass by.

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Merry Christmas
Lisa Anderson
12/15/2010, Barra de Navida

View of the Grand Bay Hotel in Barra de Navidad, Mexico
December 15, 2010

Stuck in Paradise
Yes, we are still here, anchored in the lagoon of Barra de Navidad. As they say in the boating world, all plans are set in jello. They are jiggly, wiggly, and can fall apart or melt in a minute. Because, a minute can be all it takes for something to break...sigh....Santosha, our buddy boat family of Tammy, Patrick, and Jack, moved on a day early to Manzanillo to anchor in front of the lovely Las Hadas hotel. Tammy was feeling like she needed the extra day to finish her Christmas shopping in a larger city that would offer more. "No problem." we said, "We'll catch up to you on Saturday." Well, as we pulled up our anchor Larry quickly realized that our windless (the motor that pulls up our 75lb anchor and many feet of heavy chain) decided it was time to die. Now you might think, no big deal, just pull it up by hand and move on. But, it can only be pulled up at about six inches at a time, and at least we're only anchored in about 9 ft. of water here, therefore much less chain to pull in, only 50 feet. Could you imagine if we were in 30 - 60 ft of water, therefore having much more chain out? Besides, your anchor is kind of like your brake in an emergency. You wouldn't drive anywhere in your car if your brakes didn't work, would you? If our engine died as we were moving, our anchor could be the only thing that will keep us off the rocks. So, Ben and I patiently wait for days as poor Larry works on it, eventually hiring someone with expertise in these things. This person initially diagnosed it wrong as well, then sent the part to a shop in another town who eventually decided that they couldn't fix it! (Days slowly go by.) Next thing we has been shipped off to Guadalajara. Again...sigh.... So much is out of your control on a boat that it is overwhelming at times. We've been at anchor now for three weeks and it is somewhat challenging. Water is an issue for example. We hold about 250 gallons. We can go about six days on this. That is three of us drinking, showering, washing dishes, flushing the toilet can't make water in a lagoon, the water is kind of a brown, muddy color and I'm sure full of sediment that would instantly clog the membranes of a water maker. However, our water maker has finally made up its' mind to die anyway. It needed to. It was probably original with the boat, so for a water makers life span it was old. So what do we do? We drive the boat to the fuel dock, that has one water spicket for a hose with non-potable water and we run it through our fancy dancy water filter machine which takes about an hour and a half or so to fill our tanks. Mind you, Larry has had to pull up the anchor, six inches at a time, by hand, which as I said before, it is a long, hard, painful process. Then we drive three miles out to sea to macerate and discharge our holding tank (because you definitely don't do that at anchor either), and so our day goes. But you see...the days are ticking down to Christmas...and Ben and I are getting antsy...and we don't want to be stuck in this lagoon any longer. And we feel pressured, because we are now with a "buddy boat", and you don't want to hold them up because you have a problem. So, there are definitely pros and cons to this situation. We decide to leave, (after I have a mini breakdown!) and rather than stopping in Manzanillo to enjoy the Las Hadas resort, we will just travel 35 hours straight to Ixtapa, and yes, once again, Larry raises the anchor by hand.

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The Big One
Lisa Anderson
12/07/2010, Barra de Navida

Yesterday, just before we were pulling into Barra de Navidad, Ben caught his first MahiMahi/Dorado/Dolphinfish all by himself. It is so cute to watch him rig his lines on either side of the boat, one being a hand line, the other his pole. Then he lets out an empty liter bottle filled with some rocks. This creates a disturbance in the water, like a bait ball of fish would, therefore attracting the big fish and wham...there's Ben's Mahi! (Thank you Stan for this great fishing tip!) Needless to say, we really stink at killing things. I mean this is the most beautiful fish ever, bright lemon yellow, turquoise, light green, and silver, and it is fighting like heck for its' life. Larry says, "We can't kill it!" Ben says, "Why not?! It's dinner!" I stay quietly out of this one. Ben comes to his own decision to let him go. So Larry takes a picture of him just as Ben is pulling him in and then the fish falls off the hook (thank you Lord!). We have since had to convince Ben that he wasn't a 50 pounder, probably more like a thirty, but it's still the biggest story on the boat, The Mahi That Got Away.

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Lisa Anderson
12/06/2010, Tenacatita, Mx

Six AM. On the move to Barra de Navidad! The cute little town we spent five weeks in last May, in the beautiful Grand Bay Hotel marina. We are so excited to see our old friends there! Here is another place where we were able to find an English speaking church in the town of Melaque, making lifelong friends; Wynn, Lou, and Rouette.
After leaving Puerto Vallarta we had about a 24 hour trip to the anchorage of Tenacatita. We have been here as well before, this being the great spot where we took our dinghy on the 'jungle cruise" (see video on facebook, Lisa Anderson), as well as had daily visits by Nick and his gang, the friendly dolphins that come and scratch their backs on our anchor chain. Sure enough they were here again. The cool thing was, that this time we were able to kayak and paddle board around them. They keep their distance, but it still is a surreal experience. The night before we left Tenacatita, the 3 of us spent a quiet evening watching the documentary movie "The Cove". It is not easy to watch, but is a must see. It is about a small town in Japan that from Sept. thru March every year they round up dolphins into a cove, hand pick the ones they want to ship to various dolphin swim parks around the world (selling at $150K a piece) and hacking and slaughtering the rest to eat. It is a bloody scene. Watching this on film is difficult, but listening to the dolphins squealing and clicking in horror is almost too much to bare. Depressed yet full of activist fire, we made our way up on deck afterwards to check out the night sky, and what do you know, there they were, our friendly dolphins, swimming around our boat, scratching their back on the chain! Earlier that day, Ben actually hopped in the water with them. Now, that is the kind of "dolphin experience" we want to have.
The next morning we moved our boats a couple of miles to anchor in front of the small village of La Manzanillo. Cute and quaint, not only is this village full of artisans and friendly people, but enormous caymans as well. Ben and Jack got to feed them fish and we all watched in awe as these prehistoric creatures lolled about. We were so fortunate to hook up with a panga driver who picked us up from our boats, escorted us through town, and then took us by water to the spectacular resort called Tamarindo. As we walked the path along the beach of the resort it reminded me of a place you would see on the TV show "The Bachelor" or something. (Yes, I've been known to watch that show a time or two!) A niche of paradise, in a gorgeous location, decorated beautifully, down to the shell of a sea star in the sand ashtrays. We had a wonderful lunch by the pool, including their famous Tamarindo margaritas. We had been lucky enough to meet the owners last summer on their yacht and have wanted to come ever since. Definitely a place not to miss if you are ever in the area. Or, if you are ever looking for a quiet, beautiful, warm get away, (there is an award winning golf course as well), this would be the place.

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PV a day at the Zoo, Dr., Driving.......
Lisa Anderson
11/01/2010, Puerto Vallarta

It is 11:30 Sunday night, November 28, 2010. I am very sad. I have just started my night watch, out at sea, as we head south to an anchorage called Tenacatita. Our very good friends, Tammy, Patrick and their nine year old son Jack Finnerty, see, just pulled in on their beautiful catamaran to buddy boat with us for the next two years. That is a great thing, don't get me wrong, but we have been in Puerto Vallarta for six months and cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. It has been very painful to say goodbye to the friends we have made. It is not very often that you can say you are a better person having met someone, (Brenda, John, Luce), but we can honestly say that of several friends we have made over the last six months. So, it makes me sad to leave such beautiful people.
We were so blessed to have found a church home right in Paradise Village where we have been staying. The foundation of this church is to end poverty at the Puerto Vallarta dump transfer station through temporary support of the people and education. Being able to volunteer there twice weekly was the highlight of our stay. The resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me, but to be a part of it, to see it live is a whole new experience. I'll admit I was initially squeamish. The heat and the smell and the mud in this small Colonia of Majesterio this past summer was sometimes overwhelming...for me. You see I'm somewhat of a wimp, (bet y'all are surprised!) but when I hear stories of how it was there, even just a year ago I tell myself..."Buck up!". You see, it is no longer a dump, it is a transfer station. Trucks come and drop off the trash, that is then gone through by hand, and anything of recyclable value is pulled out. This is how many of the families up there survive. There is no longer anyone living in the dump. There are no longer any children working in the dump. Families at the Dump does many, many things, but seeing that 250 children are in school is truly what will changes lives. Education breaks the cycle of poverty.
It has been great for Ben to have surfing lessons, electric guitar lessons, and Muay Thai lessons for the last six months. Thank you, thank you Adrian and Louis. For not only teaching Ben, but for being his friend as well during a very lonely time for him. Until Jack arrived, we still had not hooked up with any cruising families. Ben still is insanely passionate about fishing, and caught his first Mahi Mahi in September on a fishing charter with our good friend Sandy!
We were so grateful to have had our mom's visit, and many friends! Thank you to Melissa, Gerry, Jenna, and Garrett (who stopped in for the day on a Carnival cruise ship), Krysten and Rene, Donna and Sandy, and Cathie and Gene. To share such wonderful experiences with you, catch up, laugh and reminisce about old times made us feel very privileged to have your company.
Fostering a kitten and a dog provided us with some much needed four legged love this summer. We were so fortunate to be able to place each into loving homes. The kitten was just a matter of being too young to survive on its own, plus it was really cute! The dog...well, we see many dogs running around in Mexico, cat's not so much. This one dog in particular was the worst thing I had ever seen in my life. And I saw him on several occasions over a six week period but could never get close enough. He was literally starving to death. Then one day we were driving by a street vendor roasting chickens and lo and behold, there he was, lying in front on the road. "Stop the car!" I yelled. We immediately bought him a chicken, which he literally about took our hands off eating, and after I asked in my (still) Tarzan and Jane Spanish with the chicken lady that the dog didn't have an owner, we scooped him up and placed him in the car. Larry angrily said, "We're not taking him on the boat!" About two blocks later and much convincing by Ben and myself he emphatically said, "Well, we're calling him Lucky!" The new owners have since renamed our Lucky to Kruiser. Get it? Cruiser with a "K" for the Lisa Kay! We had quite a time with our Lucky. Severe diarrhea, vomiting, hospitalization, IV fluids, multiple dewormings, all sorts of medications and special foods, but he survived and is thriving! Come to find out, the veterinarian didn't think he was going to make it. We all got "lucky" on this one!
Back to my night watch. It is very cool, being the only one awake, responsible for my family as they sleep while the Lisa Kay is underway. The night sky is gorgeous, with trillions of stars. It is not uncommon to see shooting stars, or dolphins racing up to your boat looking like torpedoes coming at you in the phosphorescence! (Phosphorescense is the dinoflagellates, or something like that, in the water that glow when it is disturbed.) So, that means any wake, wave, or fish darting around, lights up! I wish everyone could experience this just once in their lifetime.
So, go we must. Ready to meet new amazing people doing amazing things in faraway lands.
And now, for some humor!
A Day at the Doctor's
First you will notice there are no pictures in this section. Our time in Puerto Vallarta has been a whirl wind thus far. Meeting new people, exploring new places, trying to learn a new language, learning how to drive a car "like a Mexican" (their words, not mine), getting into a routine of activities for the three of us, and more medical appointments? Yes folks, doctor's visits! As my sister said, "You guys are always going to the doctor!" And it does seem that way, with the multiple appointments it took before our final departure for things like; Yellow Fever and Hepatitis B vaccinations, meeting with the travel nurse to get our typhoid vaccinations, malaria and assorted other medications for travel, eye exams, six month dental checks (throw in three root canals on the same tooth for Larry, and the tooth still hurts!), the last orthodontic visits for Ben etc., etc...but, now it's time for us to start all of our semi-annual/annual check upee sort of things. You know, those sort of "checking under the hood" sort of things that we all SHOULD be doing but aren't always real good at keeping up on? So, I thought I would put some of these experiences in writing, just to share some of my observations, going through this in a foreign country. I can't really say yet, whether the medical care here is better than the states or worse, but I definitely can say that it is very different. I can't even say if it is expensive, or inexpensive, because we never saw a bill from our medical provider in the states so we never knew how much a procedure cost. (But, we all certainly know how much we pay each month for medical insurance, don't we?!) Here, we pay for everything at the time of service in pesos, sometimes paper, sometimes plastic. I don't think that would always be possible in the states due to the exorbitant prices. So, let me back up here because you're probably like, "Why is she going on and on about this?" Well folks, today I had the really cool experience of being in the room with Larry for his colonoscopy. Now, some of you are probably on the floor gagging right about now, some of you are probably thinking "Wow, what a gal!", and some are probably laughing hysterically. After watching Katie Couric's colonoscopy on TV I kind of felt like this was déjà vu, in a weird sort of way. We got lost this morning (no street signs) trying to find the medical center where this procedure would take place, which was stressful of course. So, we're calling them hoping to be able to speak with someone there who speaks English and can possibly help guide us in the right direction. As we get closer, and we are told that we are to look for a green building, Larry starts pointing and saying, "if that's the green building, I'm not doing it"...and then pointing to another green building, "If that's the building I'm not doing it ." You see, as in any big city I'm sure, there are all kinds of buildings, nice ones and not so nice ones, all kind of intermingled together. We finally find it and make a quick determination that it is definitely worth it to take a look inside, after all Larry has been through heck with the "clean out" for this procedure and the thought of going through that again in the near future is worse than the thought of the actual test itself! We actually had to check in to a hotel room for the night because we would have exploded our holding tank if we didn't. You're probably wondering why I'm telling you all of this, but this is our world now and frankly sometimes it is funny! So, sitting in the waiting room, I make the observation of how casual all of the employees are dressed. I seriously doubt it was "wear jeans and platform sandals with opened toed shoes to work Thursday". Hmmm...but then I notice how nice some of the men are dressed, casual but nice. Ahhh, those must be the doctors. The other observation I make is how the men greet the female workers with a kiss! Could you imagine that in the workplace in America? Heaven forbid! I have to say, I found it endearing. They all seemed happy. They all seemed like they liked each other. Like they were a team, a unit. Next thing I know, shortly after Larry has been called in for his "procedure" and I am sneaking out the door, I hear my name. (For crying out loud, can't I just go get a Starbucks?) "Si?", says I. It's the doctor and he would like to know if I would like to be in the room for the test because so many times the patient wakes up afterwards and doesn't believe that anything was ever done, therefore I can be Larry's
witness. (My mind was screaming, "Oh that's okay, we'll believe that you actually did the test, really!), but my mouth said, "Cool.". And, that is how I ended up in a tiny room, with three other people, totally in the way, but was made to feel so comfortable. I learned more about colons than I would ever really care to know, but it was a good experience. $400.00 later, we walked away with a DVD and a biopsy of Larry's special event which yep, you guessed it, we'll take to another doctor's appointment tomorrow. And, so the story goes...welcome to paradise. A Day At The Zoo There have been many times during our travels in Mexico that we have made the comment, "Only in Mexico!". A day at the Puerto Vallarta zoo was definitely one of them. It felt like such a festive day for us because we got to celebrate this adventure with our new "boat people" friends, Nicole and Tom, in honor of their daughter, Mackenzie's, fifth birthday. Her brother Max, was also with us.
The zoo is about a 30 minute drive south of PV, near Mismaloya which is an incredibly beautiful, jungly area. For the first few hours I think we were the only ones in the zoo. We immediately knew it was going to be an unusual experience when at the front gate we all purchased a bag of goodies for the animals ranging from breadsticks, carrots, dried corn, grains etc...hmmm...but what do we feed to what? Oh, there's writing on the bag that we can somewhat decipher. I think the first animals we came across were monkeys. You know the cute kind that stole Ben Stiller's keys in "Night at the Museum"? Only these were mommies with their babies attached and we could stand right by them and they would gently reach out and take their piece of bread. We fed flamingos corn right out of our hands, bread crumbs to ostrichs off the tops of our heads (well, okay, I was the only one that did that!), and lo and behold we come around a corner and a giraffe is craning his long neck over his little two foot tall rock wall that is keeping him in, looking to see if we're coming. Yes, I fed the giraffe a carrot stick from my mouth. Did you know they have a really long, black, slimy tongue? I do now! Around the next corner, the young employees in bare feet and blue jeans rolled up, were giving a baby tiger a bath. Right in the middle of the path through the zoo! This is done every day, apparently, to the baby tigers and lions. Then they are bottle fed and for a nominal fee you can go in their pen and hold them. See what I mean? Only in Mexico. Ben was given the instructions, "If he bites, don't pull your arm away because he will rip your skin." And that is exactly what happened, but Ben didn't pull away and he took the few little puncture marks very well!
The kid's had a wonderful time. I was enlightened. I am not a zoo person. I don't believe our children need to see animals in cages in order to grow up with a mind of conservation and compassion. However, I found this zoo refreshing. It was far from perfect, don't get me wrong. But, the animals seemed happy. The caregivers seemed to genuinely care. We knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience...and so it was.
A Day Driving in Mexico
For the past five months, we have been blessed with a renting a Jeep Cherokee. $750 a month but worth every penny. We found it on "Craigslist" (yes they're in Mexico too). Cheaper than rental agencies but still hard on the budget. The car has given us the freedom to volunteer up at Families at the Dump, making the bi-weekly donation run where Sam's Club and Walmart are kind enough to donate their damaged/opened goods, as well as really explore Puerto Vallarta, so as to not be stuck in the "paradise bubble", as we like to call it. HOWEVER, driving in Mexico is a whole new experience. So, I thought I would share a little!
Here goes: First thing you have to learn, is that left turns or u-turns are made from the right lanes. Yes, you have to plan way ahead, so that you can pull over onto the frontage road to your right, in order to get into the left lane there, to make your left turn from the right of the main road! It is a little intimidating crossing four to six lanes to turn, especially when the green arrow on the light isn't really visible or is not working at all, but when people start honking, it generally means it is your turn to go!
NEVER stop at a stop sign. You WILL get hit! The stop signs are merely a suggestion, to be aware that there is merging traffic.
DON'T get excited if there is a cop car coming near you or behind you with their red lights on. They drive around with them on all of the time. Only pull over if they turn on their siren on.
Speaking of which, we have been pulled over several times. Sometimes, because we deserved it, sometimes not. Whoever thinks there aren't any rules in Mexico is wrong! However, the police can say whatever they want, and you really have to be strong and stand up to them, in a subtle sort of way, because we definitely don't want to end up in a Mexican prison!
So, the first thing that they do is make the driver get out of the car, therefore removing them from any passengers over hearing their conversation. Next, they ask to see your driver's license, car registration etc...also asking where you are staying. "You're on a boat eh? Hmmm..." I'm sure they see many $$$ signs, and in true Mexican fashion they offer to "take care" of the ticket for you for a mere 2000 pesos. That's about $160.
See the deal is, that you can promptly take them up on their generous offer to "take care" of the ticket for you and pay them the 2000 pesos, or they write you a ticket, keep your driver's license. If you take the ticket you can go the next day to wherever the government building is (good luck finding it) and pay your ticket (usually around 100 pesos!) and then get your driver's license back.
Then you say, "Well however will I drive the car without a license?". And they say, "Well you can't. You must leave the car here." (We have since learned that this is not true, your ticket is confirmation that you have (had) a driver's license, therefore you can continue driving.) So, what we have learned is to eagerly ask for the ticket, no...demand a ticket! Oh and, "Could we please get your name and badge
number?" They are appalled at this of course. "No, please, write me the ticket." So far they have just gotten angry, told us to forget it and huffed away!
I'm sure this will bite us in the butt one day, but we would still rather do the right thing and pay the right way rather than pay a bribe. Nothing makes Larry more furious. After a thirty year career in the fire service, serving the public, where trust is everything, being held up (they just don't point the gun at you) by a police officer, just about gives him a heart attack. It is our understanding that the officers' salary is a mere $20.00 a day, therefore in a sick sort of way, you can't blame them for wanting to supplement their salary.
Beware of herding cattle, or as we like to call it, "the running of the bulls". There have been several instances where we have been driving along and suddenly come across a herd of cattle on the road with cowboys and doggies and everything. It is slightly intimidating, weaving your car between them!
Number one rule here...the bus ALWAYS wins. Let's back up here by saying that buses are a major form of transportation here, as many people cannot afford to have their own car. Therefore there are a lot of buses, and they have to keep a schedule. Another words, they mean business on the road! Some buses have spikes on their wheels! Some have this sort of "Mad Max of Thunder Dome" type bumpers on the front, which is very frightening as they are barreling down on you. Needless to say, this gets back to my first sentence, the rule of tonnage...the bus always wins!
Cobblestone roads are quaint, charming, cute to look at...for about five minutes. And then when you start to feel the fillings in your teeth loosen, and you can't hear any conversation in the car from the rumbling as you roll over the street, you quickly get over the quaint, charming, cute thing.
Things to keep in your car: An umbrella for the torrential rains, or skin melting sun, your own personal supply of toilet paper (because not all restrooms have it), water, and at least 2 days of medications (sometimes you just never know if you're going to get to your destination or back to the boat!
DO get used to speed bumps ("Topes"), or as our friend Rick calls them, "uncomfortables". Heavy rope, dirt mounds, metal balls, some are marked, some are not, some are in the sun, some are in the shade (you totally don't see them), and... well at night...just forget it....because streetlights are virtually non-existent. Mexico is in love with speed bumps. They are everywhere! There are capable of removing the undercarriage of your car.
There are lot's of random one way streets, and you can't just tell by which way the cars are parked. I generally figure out I'm going the wrong way when cars start honking at me and people are pointing the other way. (Oops, sorry Christian!)
Use turn signals cautiously. If you do happen to put your turn signal on, it can mean to the driver behind you (which could be, and have been a "Mad Max" bus) that it is safe for them to pass you on that side. Therefore left hand turns can sometimes be tricky, and exciting.
It is not uncommon to see a family of four on a small motor scooter, a horse loaded in the back of a small pickup truck, or 6-10 people riding in the back of a pick-up (even in the rain). Beware of the rainy season. We have driven on more roads that turned into rivers. Sometimes Larry gets out of the car to walk the road first just to see if we can make it!
Well, there you have it. We survived and maintained quite a sense of humor. We thoroughly enjoyed driving everywhere!

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Boobies, Boobies Everywhere
Lisa Anderson
06/15/2010, Isla Isabella

No, we are not in St. Tropez, yet! But I did get your attention, didn't I? Ben is working on coming up with more interesting titles for his compositions so I thought I would practice what I preach. Thank you Calvert School for inspiring me! Now, back to the boobies... that would be blue footed boobies on Isla Isabella. Who knew? Like a little Galapagos right in our backyard. (If you live in California, Mexico really is practically in your backyard.) Let's back up though, let's see...where did we leave off? Oh yes, Cabo Expensive. A whopping $250 a night got us a slip in one of the boating mecca's of the world. We had barely pulled in our slip and we had someone washing and shining our boat, all for a price of course, but we were happy to have someone other than our tired bodies to wash the salt and grime off. You can find someone to do anything for you in Mexico. This is a "service" country. I love it. No one is standing at a red light, or a freeway off ramp, holding a sign asking for money. Everyone is doing something to earn a living. Whether it be drawing your picture, playing you a song, washing your windshield at a red light, keeping an eye on your car as you shop, then load your purchases then blow a whistle and back you out (yes, this was even done for us early one morning when there were not even any cars around!). I have to admire this. I know times are tough, but are too many people looking for a free hand out in the US? Even the dogs don't beg here. They are just very cool and nonchalant, and if a treat happens to make its' way to them, they are grateful. Okay, so let's get back to Cabo. We no sooner pull in, stock up at the grocery store (go figure), and realize our fridge and freezer are out. A couple of days and a $1000 later, with a new compressor we are back in business. Cabo was fun for a few days, but everyone begging you to come to their restaurant, or take their tour 24/7, or the very young child selling you Chicklet's gum, just gets old. We understand, but everyone just wants a piece of you. So far, we've only seen this in cities where cruise ships land. Hmmm.... And as we travel further into Mexico, we now realize that Cabo is not a particularly attractive town. So, we scoot up the Sea of Cortez, about 30 miles to the quiet little marina in Cabo San Jose. The grounds are meticulously groomed, the rocks are all placed in a distinct pattern (the dirt is even swept), colorful bouganvillia, palm trees, a beautiful beach and a wonderful meal at Habanero's in the quaint town. Here, is where we start to get a feel for boats/people/money. I just never really put a lot of thought into the fact that we would be meeting, and getting along with, the crew who work on boats. In my world, I just never thought about owning a boat and having a crew live on it full time, to bring it and have it ready, wherever I want, at my beck and call. This one crew/couple we met, even kept the family's dog with them on the boat. (I hated leaving my dog even if I went away for the weekend!). Not that I'm saying anything is wrong with this, I just never thought that we wouldn't necessarily be making friends with fellow boat owners. Frankly, we were so late leaving in the season, I'm beginning to wonder if there is anyone out there like us. What is us? We're not old, we're not young, we're not poor, we're not rich. We have no real schedule to keep. But, we are responsible for educating our nine year old, so we're not exactly free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, because the school thing is always looming it's head over our shoulder. And, as I'm finding out, Ben doesn't learn on my schedule. As Mrs. Price (one of Ben's favorite teachers) always told me, you sometimes have to teach them the same thing 14 times before they get it. Why can't he just get it the first time? I guess I'm trying to say, that we just haven't found where we fit in, in all of this.
Two days later we take off, to head a little further up into the sea on the Baja side before we make the leap across to Mazatlan. Los Frailes here we come. There are only three coral reefs in the United States and this is the only one on the west coast. Known to have giant manta rays and whale sharks. We CAN'T miss that! What a miserable ride though, beating into the wind and short steep waves. Larry kept saying it was just "the cape effect". That is when the wind whips off the end of a piece of land. I don't know, whatever it is it beats you up quick. So, we go to raise the main sail (in the short steep seas and howling wind) because this helps keep the boat from rolling so violently, and when the sail reaches the top, Larry, who is standing at the mast hears this, "Ping, ping."...Oh SH__! He starts screaming orders at me (I think I even heard an F word in there which in 19 years I have never heard from this man's mouth!). That's when I knew this was serious...and my knees start to tremble and buckle. The goose neck broke on the boom. As I reflect back now, it amazes me, that we had all of these things worked on, several times before we left on this journey, and no one knew there was supposed to be a cotter pin in there to prevent THIS EXACT THING FROM HAPPENING?! The seriousness of this is that, if the boom pulls out and swings wildly (in the short steep seas/howling wind) it could put a hole in the top of the boat, knock one of us over the side, get the drift. Amazing Larry just happened to have a bolt in the cockpit pocket for instances such as these. He has me hold the boom (yeah right, like I'm really gonna be able to hold this if it pulls all the way out!) but I make a valiant effort, while standing, balancing the short steep seas with trembling legs, while he lashes the boom to the mast and fetches his tools. Can I just say that he hammered a bolt back in for at least an hour, never giving up. Amazing. We motored on to Los Frailes, now our genoa AND main sail out of commission. (Thank God our engine still works...knock on wood!) We still have not been able to figure out the problem with the genoa since our harrowing experience just past Ensenada. Anchoring at Los Frailes is nice, quiet, but I have lost my sense of humor. How many more of these scary moments can I take? It's exhausting! It just knocks the wind out of you. Thirty years in the fire dept. must really have prepared Larry for this. It's traumatic for me. We sleep good and are up early the next morning to load our snorkel gear and ourselves into the dinghy and round the corner to the reef. We are the only ones there. (I can do this, I can do this, I'm telling myself as I am still battling fears of just jumping in the water anywhere with no one around!) And we do...and it's beautiful...and giant manta rays or whale sharks, but lot's of colorful fish. Ben is so awesome. This kid is truly more comfortable in the water than he is on land. It is hard to get him out of the water. Success! We feel like we've gone somewhere and seen something that most people don't get to see. (As I look back now I realize that this will be the case with many things along our journey) But, there is always this nagging feeling in your stomach, wishing you could be sharing this with family and friends. Even though the three of us are sharing this together, you would think that would be enough, but it's not. Which is why I write, this way I can share.
So off we go, tootling across the Sea of Cortez. This will be a day, and a night, and a most of the next day trip. It's warm, and there are whales, and dolphins, and we've been seeing these rays (baby manta rays?) jumping, no flying out of the water. It is hilarious! Someone has since told me that they are trying to get off something that is stuck on them? Anyway, the sea is calm, there is no wind so you don't feel any pressure that we should be sailing (we actually could now if we wanted to because Larry fixed the main sail while we were at anchor), and it is just so pleasant. You can walk around without having to hang on for dear life. You can cook without getting sick below. You can read and write and watch TV, and lay on the deck in the sun, listening to music and having a brewski. Oh, and there are birds sitting on turtles, just floating around. Funny. But, I have to say, there is just this weird thing that comes over you, when you're a few miles away from land, on the water, and like I is WARM. You just want to take all of your clothes off! Poor Ben. Not so poor Larry. (Isn't this every man's dream?!) NOT about ME! I don't mean that! I mean, don't most men wish their wife/partner/whatever you're into ran around naked? (Boobies, boobies everywhere)...that's right, I already said that. Just for the record, I keep my underwear on, for Ben's sake. (Nope, no Britney Spears here.) I go lay down around 8 PM, to rest before my 11 - 2 AM shift, and I hear Larry, around 9 (just as I'm dozing off), ruffling around down in the cabin. Turns out the auto pilot went out. Yep...deader than a door nail. And we drove in a complete circle before Larry figured out there was something wrong because the "motion of the ocean" felt different! Hand steer all night?! Heaven forbid! (How did the explorers do this with no modern conveniences?) AND, the power switch that feeds the circuit breaker that feeds the air conditioning (heaven forbid!) and our water maker (okay that is important) failed. Ho hum...another punch in the stomach. Now, let me tell you, we have made the all time fatal mistake of setting a schedule. The mistake of having to be somewhere by a certain time. The mistake of meeting someone who is flying in to stay with us, somewhere where we are not at yet! The THING that we said we would never do! Jessica is flying in to meet us in Puerto Vallarta, IN A FEW DAYS, AND WE NOW HAVE ALL OF THESE THINGS THAT WE HAVE TO FIX AND A HOLIDAY WEEKEND IS COMING UP! (Yes, I'm yelling.) It was cool, hand steering all the way across the Sea of Cortez. I put on the ipod and sang and danced the whole way. (One hand on the steering wheel of course.) The engine is so loud that it's kind of like singing when you vacuum. You actually sound good! So we pulled into Mazatlan (whoa...moist, tropical'ish, screeching jungly birds) thinking we were going to pull into this marina at a resort called El Cid. There, we would have use of all the amenities (pool/waiters who bring drinks to you by the pool!), but nooo, no room. Boo. Up this narrow, VERY shallow inlet a little further and we settled at Marina Mazatlan. Lo and behold we look across the way and there are some old friends from Ventura, John and Maryann on Old Moon! (We also run into more friends, Mike and Lisa on Blue Aweigh, who were lucky enough to get a slip at El Cid, and Stan and Val on Pax Nautica.) Now, let me just tell you, this feels like your childhood, when you run downstairs early Christmas morning and see all these new presents under the christmas tree. It is THAT much of a gift to see a familiar face! (Did I mention it feels very lonely out here?) This is the first time in about twelve weeks that Ben sees another child! There are two families here, both unfortunately heading north up into the Sea of Cortez, as opposed to south like us. Each family has a ten year old girl, which cheers Ben up some, but he still really misses his Fremont buddies. There are cats everywhere in the marina and two adorable kittens. Believe it or not, there is an organization here that spays and neuters and tips one of their ears when their done. But there are just a gajillion of them. It is so cute watching these kids build little kitty condos for them, keeps them busy all day, sweeping up, feeding, and just plain old rearranging. So, let me tell you our new nickname for ourselves, "The Pool Crashers". Because that's what we're getting really good at, hanging out at hotel pools that we are not officially a guest at. Don't worry we order lot's of food and drinks, we're not total moochers! This is where Ben makes friends with Tyler, who is visiting from Minnesota with his two moms. What a blessing this is and what a good time the kids have together! And this is the family we celebrate Easter with, hosting them on our boat for dinner. We like Mazatlan. Everyone, everywhere we have gone in Mexico, has been so darn nice. We start riding the public bus here. It is so convenient, easy, cheap, and appears to be very safe. What a treat to ride a bus to a big grocery store and get real food! Not just tortillas, a few tomatoes, onion, and avocado! Lettuce, cheeses, broccoli! Yeah! The marina we're at is eerily empty, but there are lovely restaurants (where you hardly ever see a soul eating at), and high rise condos built around it. In one of these restaurants is where I have a very interesting meal. Who knew that when I ordered the "seemingly" safe crepe with corn and truffle oil, that it would come stuffed with something black and mushy. Hmmm..."What is THAT?", asked Larry. "I don't know", replied I. However, I proceeded to eat half of it. It didn't particularly taste bad, nor did it taste good. BUT SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE I'M STARVING HERE! (Yes, I'm yelling again.) Have I mentioned how much I like to eat? (Trust me, wherever you are right now, I'm sure YOU can go out and get whatever YOU want to eat right now!) So, when the nice waiter returns to our table to check on us, I politely ask him, "What exactly is this?" He says scratching his chin, "Howz doooz we saiy?...Ummm, ahhh yezs, rotten corn." (You should have seen the look on our faces.) There was an awkward moment of silence, a quick look around for a camera, just in case Ashton Kutcher thought it would be funny to "punk us", and then we politely said, "Thank you." Turns out there is such a thing. It's called corn smut. Google it, I did. So, I survive. Nope, no Montezuma's revenge here! We change our daughters' flight to Mazatlan, instead of Puerto Vallarta. What's a few hundred dollars in the grand scheme of things? We need to get our boat fixed, and this is the place to do it. Service is great and very reasonable. It took four guys, two days (several hours each day) to fix our autopilot, and the total bill was $70.00! Our electrical issues are taken care of (again another one of those things we had had worked on for months) AND something that should have been changed back in the states wasn't, and we could have had a fire on board! So, Jessica carried in the necessary parts from the states. All fixed up and Jessica on board, we head south to Puerto Vallarta, via Isla Isabella.
Again, one of those places you would never go to unless you were on your own boat. We travel all night, knowing this could be a risky anchorage at Isla Isabella (known as "the anchor eater") and if the swell came in from the south we wouldn't be able to stay at all, so arriving first thing in the morning at least might give us a chance to set foot on this uninhabited island known to be a frigate breeding ground, and blue footed boobie nursery. Our 22 year old daughter, Jessica, bravely takes the 2 AM to 5 AM shift. How empowering, for this young woman to be responsible for the boat's and our safety, while we sleep below. Until you're alone, at night under the stars, just you and the ocean, I'm not sure you really know yourself. We are just motoring (no wind), and we have auto pilot, and a chart plotter, and radar with an alarm set if anything comes within a certain range, so it's not like you really have to DO anything, but you do have to keep an eye out...because anything can happen. She does a great job, and really enjoys it. We anchor the next morning at Isla Isabella, an uninhabited island with the exception of a few thousand frigates, and a few hundred blue footed boobies. We dinghy around the corner to a beach that is easier to land the dinghy, and come across a small fishing camp with a few families that are there over the Easter holidays. We trip along a rugged path, full of baby frigates perched in their nests in bush/trees at about eye level. Iguanas were all around our feet, and nothing seemed afraid of us, because they don't know any better. Frigates are those sea birds, that when you look up, they sort of form a W. They can fly for up to a week before touching down, just scooping up fish, on the fly. They care for their young, longer than any bird. The males puff up their bright red necks in courtship, mating with the same female year after year. We were told the Boobies were at the top of the hill, but the path sort of ended in 5 ft. tall grass that I just wasn't real comfortable walking through. We retrace our steps and come across a young Mexican teenager sitting with his Mom in an abandoned building. "Azur?"...and I mock flapping wings with my arms. (Yes, my Spanish charades' continues, although now, a month later, it has progressed a bit more to like "Tarzan meets Jane"!) The boy jumps up and motions for us to follow. At our request he takes us all the way to the top. We were sweating and out of breath, but lo and behold we saw Boobies! Their feet are the most unbelievable blue, kind of a Tiffany blue, and they were mostly in pairs and they really do, do sort of a dance. Our spontaneous guide pointed out the nests with eggs in them, that were so well camouflaged you wouldn't even know they were there if you didn't know what to look for, just before you stepped on them! Success again! We came, we saw, we conquered! We feel like we are getting better at this...this...sailing adventure stuff! So, with a $$ tip and a mucho gracias, we spend the rest of the day kayaking and snorkeling around the island. We lift anchor at 4 AM and make way to La Cruz, a small fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta. How charming this village is. When you walk the streets, you literally feel like you are on a backstage lot at Universal Studios of some cool, funky, slightly rugged Mexican village of days gone by. Colorful, unique, interesting architecture, tropical plants, dogs running on the cobblestone streets, peoples' front doors that are right on the street are open, babies crying...I know you can picture this. Out of the many unique restaurants here, our first night we find a pizza joint. PIZZA...YEAH! With live music, which even included an old guy playing the washboard! (Yes Freddy Wachter, THE WASHBOARD!) What a hoot! Puerto Vallarta, Just a six peso ride in the bus, has it all. Quaint old city, newer modern areas, surfing towns, green mountains with lush vegetation, and it is very well protected for hurricanes. Yes, this is where we decide to plant ourselves for the upcoming hurricane season. Will we be covered by our insurance if a named or numbered storm hits? No. But, we will be so protected where we will stay that we should be just fine. I am excited to immerse ourselves in this city. There are so many places to explore, out of town as well. If we rushed through Mexico, chances are we would never come back and have this opportunity. With Jessica gone, back to her real life, and with friends waiting for us in Barra de Navidad, we head south again. Our sail is uneventful (thank God!) And as we near our destination, with a quick call on the radio, our very good friend, Dave from Bella, and his dog DJ meet us at the harbor entrance in their dinghy and give us a personal escort into our slip. Wow, what can I say about The Grand Bay Hotel and Marina? Just google/drool over it, and you'll see. This quiet, secret, little get away in Mexico that we never would have known about if we were not on a boat. Ahhh! Within thirty minutes, we were poolside, sipping margaritas, Ben splashing in the multi-tiered pool with water slides, and we're planning dinner with Dave and Renae. The little town of Barra de Navidad (it was discovered on Christmas day and was built on a sandbar, hence the name) is just a short water taxi/panga ride away. Cobblestone streets (cars only appeared here about six years ago), restaurants with colorful tablecloths, waves crashing on the beach, a gentle Mexican breeze yet still so warm. Every morning the French baker drives his panga over to your boat with fresh baguettes and croissants. This is where we stay for a month. (We just pulled away yesterday, and it's almost hard for me to talk about without getting choked up.) We spent a little over four weeks on Isla Navidad, and I know we've made several friends for life. We've been touched by some of the staff at the Grand Bay Hotel like no other. We've also found an Irish coffee in one of the hotel's restaurant here like no other (Buena Vista eat your heart out!). We found an English speaking church in the nearby town of Melaque. God is good. He always knows just the people to put in your life at the right time. San Patricio by the Sea (yes, you can hear the waves crashing during the service) is in this sort of palapa style building, that is rented for less than a $100 per month. The pastor is only here for part of the year, and whoever would like, just kind of fills in the rest of the time. It's a small group right now, during off season, but it reminds us of why we go to church. We go to church, not to find God, because God is around us all of the time. We go to find people. "Church" is not a building. "Church" IS people. There are quite a few Americans and Canadians that live down here full time. What a treat it was to be invited into their homes for meals and friendship. We even took a road trip one day, with our new friends, to a little town called Villa Purification, with the third oldest church in Mexico. A mere 500 hundred years old! Followed by the best pizza we've had in a long time, in a lovely little restaurant on the square. Almost every Mexican town is built around the town square, which has the church on it, and an assortment of restaurants and shops. We visited a coffee farm/co-op run by women. The coffee just sort of grew wild in the shade of trees in a national bio-reserve, where these women would hike and pick the beans, sort them by hand, then roast them. It is delicious coffee by the way. No Folgers here! On our two hour drive home, going around a corner I ask, "Why is there a guy sitting in a little truck waving a flag out the window?" (Silly me!) "There's probably something around the corner." was the reply. Yes indeedy there was. COWS! And lot's of them! Running straight at us! On this highway! And they had big horns! And at the very last second they split and ran around the car. Geez, talk about running with the bulls! Needless to say we were all speechless. Ben said, "Cool." Yes, there are still real cowboys here, that apparently move their cattle on the main roads. We've seen horses loaded in the back of small pickup trucks, riding along just like a dog. Families of four, riding on the equilivent of a Honda 90 dirt bike. It seems we're always chuckling and shaking our head over something. Family is king here. That is what is important to the Mexican people. It is very endearing. The average income is 14K annually. Now, I realize with an average there is a huge range, but I would say the local people we meet are on the lower end of the spectrum, and they are happy. There is a universal healthcare plan of some kind. We have heard rave reviews from numerous people about the medical and dental care they have received here, all at a fraction of what you would pay in the States. Many of the Mexican people we meet have lived in the United States at one time or another, but have no real desire to go back. The school children I've met consistently tell me how much easier school was in the States. Hmmm... During our stay in Barra, one day we decided to hire a tour guide to take us to an active volcano, about two and a half hours away. Let me just add, there are very serious topes (speed bumps) everywhere! Apparently this is the only way they can get people to slow down. So this constant speeding up and slowing down to go over these (not always so clearly marked) bumps, adds a considerable amount of time to your day. (Not to mention, serious wear and tear on your car.) It was a long day but our tour guide, Ray (a total Jack Nicholson look alike!), of Ray's Tours in Melaque was just terrific. This is the way to go. Everything was planned out perfectly. Breakfast outside on the square in Colima, museums, an outdoor park/zoo displaying native birds and animals, a tour of the ex- Hacienda of Nogueras in Comala, where the late artist Alejandro Hidalgo lived and now left as a museum was incredible, a late afternoon drive up to about 5000 feet for the best view of the volcano (bummer, it didn't "puff" for us), and finally a meal in Comala (again, on the very picturesque town square) where you just pay for your drinks and they bring all the food for free. It was delicious! Have you ever heard of the "no tell, motels"? They are for real! (I'm so naïve sometimes.) They are these motels, on the outskirts of towns, with a wall built all the way around so you can't really see in. Each room has a private attached garage that you can pull into and close the door so no one can see your car. They are rented by the night, or the hour, and we hear they are very nice and clean. The exchange of money and/or room service is all done via a lazy susan system to guarantee privacy. I know it sounds sleazy, but think about it. If you were living under the same roof as your multi-generational family in close quarters, you would want some privacy. I'll leave the rest to your imagination! So, as I reflect back on the past year of our "new" life, it is still with mixed emotion. It has been really hard. Hard on Ben, hard on Larry, hard on me, and hard on our relationship. And I know you must just want to roll your eyes. We know how very lucky we are, but living on a boat, in very cramped quarters where if several things are out of place it looks like a bomb went off, where you have absolutely no privacy, where you can actually hear the other person think, is tough. The foods we love either don't exist here, or are extremely hard to come by. I get very creative with my cooking. If I just ate meat, my life would be so much easier. It is strange, but we have eaten less seafood, living on a boat. I don't know if it's because we feel karmically (is that a word?) connected to the fish, or if it's just the smelly fish we see swimming around in the sewage water that just kind of makes it a turn off. We have driven our boat through such large schools of fish that the "fish" smell is overwhelming! We've thoroughly enjoyed the evenings of phosphorescence in the water, tootling around in our dinghy. We marvel at all the different, colorful jelly fish. (When I make it to those big pearly gates in the sky, that is going to be my first question, "God, what's with all the jelly fish and cockroaches?") Ben has graduated from lizard hunting to gecko hunting, and is about two thirds finished with fourth grade. But, I believe he has dramatically improved academically being boat schooled. There is no day dreaming out the port hole with a class of one. Poor Larry still continues to get beat up on this boat. He is always bleeding from somewhere on his body that he has banged. He suffers so much from back pain that most days are a struggle to get through. The smallest wrong move can be a real set back. He has come to know our toilets intimately, on more than one occasion. (Yes, it's time for potty talk.) I have finally convinced him that NOTHING should go down our toilets except what naturally comes out of you. Nope, not even the expensive marine grade toilet paper. I can't even begin to put down in words what it is like to have your heads (toilets) all backed up in about 100 degree weather. As I help Larry to hold the mattress back, or whatever is in the way of wherever he needs to get to, to work on (and believe me, on a boat whatever you need to work on is in the most inconvenient spot!) I just go to my happy place. Sometimes I pretend I'm a contestant on the TV show Survivor, and it's one of those challenges that you have to climb a pole or something, and be in a very awkward position, and whoever can hold on the longest will win. Just so you know...I would win that challenge. The stench often brings me back to reality, but at least I went somewhere alone for a few minutes. A boat is essentially a city within itself. The water, the power, the propulsion, the sanitation system, the refrigeration etc... and then yes, there is the navigation. Speaking of which, we've been slowly navigating north, up to Puerto Vallarta. We thoroughly enjoy anchoring in Tenacatita Bay. We are the only ones there, of course, except for the resident dolphin Nick, and three of his buddies. Nick, has a huge nick out of his dorsal fin, hence the name. They came daily, often scratching themselves on our anchor chain. Tenacatita is famous for it's jungle cruise. A small sometimes hairy to enter inlet, depending on the waves, that once you're through the surf line, you are floating in this mangrove jungle. Very cool. At the end you reach a small village where you can tie up your dinghy and eat at one of the many (always empty) palapas. And feed the always adorable, mangy dog who comes to visit at your table. (Yes, I even order bottled water for the dog.) Maneuvering the dinghy out of the jungle cruise, through the now heavy surf, to get back to our boat is no easy feat. As hard as we try to time the waves, eventually I just have to become one with the front of the dinghy to weigh it down enough so that we won't flip over completely as we climb the incoming wave. We make it. I don't melt when I get wet. Ben gets slightly traumatized (here this kid has swam with sharks yet put him in a dinghy in the surf and he loses it!), but he survives. We try to anchor in front of this beautiful resort called El Tamarindo (google this little gem too, especially you golfers!) but the conditions just don't permit it, but we add it to our list of" things to do" on our way back down in November. Next stop we're hoping, is the little sea side village of Cayeres. Yes, Heidi Klum and Seal just recently renewed their wedding vows there. We pull in, in awe, over the bright, beautiful colors of every condo and home. There are also some incredible homes built up on the cliffs. Nope, no safe anchorage under these swelly conditions we're experiencing from the northwest. Sigh...onto to Chamela, where we know we can safely pull in. All of our travels are carefully planned out for circumstances such as these..."Well, just in case we can't stay here, where can we safely make it to before dark?"...and so the conversation goes. But we're disappointed. We leave Chamela around six at night, in order to come around Cabo Corrientes early the next morning to avoid the "cape effect". We take a beating with steep waves until around midnight when the swell finally calms down. Just remember, faith that is never tested, is not real faith. Tomorrow is Ben's birthday, and I promised him he would wake up in paradise. And paradise is now where we are at. That's Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta. This is where we will spend the next five months, waiting out hurricane season.
With a quick note I would like to add, we have felt great sadness here for the Mexican people because of how they have been affected by the lack of tourism. Between the swine flu scare, the economy, and the drug violence, they have suffered a dramatic decline. I can only share with you our experience for what it is worth, but we have not been sick once this year. There are beautiful, dramatic, interesting places to see, and have never felt that our safety has been compromised in any way. If you are considering a vacation this summer, don't wipe Mexico off your list! Adios dear friend, until next time.

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