03/21/2012, BAHIA BANDERAS
The KIEVIT crew added Ginger and David Hanson on March 14th. They will be aboard for two weeks and we have been having non-stop fun, sailing and exploring Banderas Bay during the first week. Their flight from San Francisco was delayed four hours and as you may know, there is no way to contact us, except by email. Well, we didn't think to check email until they were three hours late. As they were going to take the bus from the airport and get off on the highway at the first traffic light in La Cruz, Dave was waiting there to guide them about a half mile to the marina. Eventually, with two hours until David & Ginger might show up at the "stop", we got on internet and indeed they did arrive - no problema!
We strolled around La Cruz the first day and our meals for the next several days revolved around the Fish Market located right at the top of the local fishing fleet dock. We spent a couple of nights moored at Las Marietas - a national marine park. Great snorkeling, stargazing with I pad app, which was exquisite, and hiking and sailing. Then, on Sunday we motored, a cold front was on its way to the Bay and there was no wind for sailing. This afforded the opportunity to see dolphins and whales and particularly turtles - even to get good photos of these charming ancients. Yelapa is integrated into the tourist scene now, but just a few years ago, it had no electricity and was a true "real village." It is still only accessible by boat and therefore, still isolated. Now it is a very interesting town, built on a hillside that climbs into the jungle, and has a lovely waterfall at the end of the trail. Climbing to the waterfall, the path goes by many local homes along the stream flowing from the falls, which is also the town's water supply. Looks like you'd want to boil that water! We wandered through the rest of town on the way down to the beach where we had stored the dinghy. There was strong singing, accompanied by guitar. We found the source at the town church, which appeared full, and we further discovered they were in the midst of a weeklong revival. Further down the cobblestone path, we heard lively dance music and it was emanating from the town casino, which was also full and through the doorway had a strong brew aroma. We thought there was probably a relationship between the need for revival and heavy brew smells - assuming dancing is a positive element in most cultures, as I do!
Photos from the past week's adventures can be found in the gallery - just a click away on the right of this log.
Sunday night on a mooring in Yelapa, became more and more rolly, on the boat. We left Monday morning just in the nick of time before sideswiping a very large catamaran. This was a problem with how the mooring balls were located and I'm pretty sure the "Yelapa Mooring Co." would not assume any liability for their mismanagement of equipment and overall lack of expertise. Anyway, we got out of that possible scathing experience by good karma, only to be foiled by especially strong current and unprotected, too small slip, while docking in Paradise Village. Poor KIEVIT, newly polished in La Cruz, sustained a sizeable deep scratch on the port side.
We were moved to a different space, in a more agreeable spot, on Tuesday and have been aggressively preparing the boat and crew for racing in the Banderas Bay Regatta. Starts tomorrow, with a boat parade - I do hope there will be photos for your enjoyment. First race in afternoon after the parade and again, races the next two afternoons. We are expecting great wind and a flying good time! The next post will report the results. Hasta Luego!!
03/08/2012, SAN SEBASTIAN DEL OESTE, JALISO, MEXICO
KIEVIT crew had a great weekend and we didn't even go sailing. I'll have to start with the last event which extended the weekend through Monday.
The concert Sunday night in a hacienda courtyard in San Sebastian was extreme. We were so steeped in the energy of hours of great music, it was fabulous. Philo and the Mexican Shuffle Band started playing about 7pm. Guest artist, Oscar Fuentes, an awesome musician, http://www.myspace.com/eloscarfuentes, started out playing saxophone. He brought along his Rock Star Bass playing friend Carlos Avilez. Carlos plays for a famous Mexican rock band called CuCa. If curious: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuca_%28band%29 is an interesting read. There were 7-10 musicians in the band who played sets, while rotating about 10 other musicians who sat in at different times all evening. So, all through dinner until about 10 pm, the mostly rock and roll never stopped. A small bonfire was started in the middle of the courtyard and when the concert ended, the musicians went acoustic with Oscar, a charming personality, playing guitar and singing and crooning, into the night. He was backed up by some of the band and lots of guests sitting in. An extraordinary drumming session went on into the early hours of Monday. We were mesmerized by the drumming sets that went wild though the artists were in total control. Dave said he wished he could have Oscar's talent, but he could have his hat! You can see what I mean in the photo gallery. Maybe we can find one for Dave. We also wished many of our musician friends could have heard March 4th concert and bonfire session. But, Pieter Heida - it's not fair that we were there and you not!
We left La Cruz at 10:30 Sunday morning by chartered bus. The musicians drove up and all of their equipment went with us in the bus. After a drive through the beautiful valley and foot hills, the bus climbed up into the mountains with a view of a gorge on one side, then across it on a spectacular bridge. Here the road narrowed as we climbed into the pines and a turn off onto a dirt road lead up a bit further to San Sebastian, a 400 year old silver mining town of 600 people surrounded by pine trees and tequila farms located in the Mountains two hours from Puerto Vallarta. For more info and a cool video of San Sebastian click on this web address: http://vallartainfo.com/sansebasti.html.
Dave and I enjoyed the walk into town, as the bus had to park at the gate - busses not allowed in town because it's a special historic town. Well, that's a good thing, as the streets are narrow and cobblestone and locals ride a horse or walk. There is a family run coffee (locally grown) roasting business in an age old hacienda near the entrance. We bought some of the delicious product on Monday morning. We had lunch in a sweet little spot and discovered the owner was catering Philo's dinner that night. I had to try her pollo tamarindo, as I have become fascinated with this ingredient in many Mexican food products. The tamarind sauce was very tasty, citrus tart and sweetened - but as with most sauces, I would prefer on the side. The chicken breast dish was served with braised bananas. Then we walked all around the town on the one way road which circled through and then up the road in direction of the old mines. Primarily, we were bird watching and richly rewarded with two beauties: Russet-Crowned Motmot and Cinnamon Hummingbird. We checked in at the Hacienda Puente, one block back from the town square. Our room was large and comfortable with original (about 150 years old) windows and doors and particularly, the original hardware. Very charming. The rooms all opened on the courtyard. It was chilly once the sun went down, at 5000 ft. and we slept under comfy blankets for the first time since December. In fact, we were kind of excited when we realized this was the first we've slept off the boat in three months, fun can be so simple! We could have spent another day or so in San Sebastian - hiking and enjoying the local culture. However, it was such a great trip - felt like tagging along with the band, the Sunday night party was one we'll never forget because the musicians were so amazing and we got to sit in on their jam session in this treasure town San Sebastian.
PHOTOS IN THE GALLERY
03/01/2012, Around Banderas Bay
Kievit remains rocking at anchor in Bandaras Bay, just off of the small town of La Cruz. There are 50-60 mostly sailboats in the anchorage at any one time and maybe another 100 boats in the marina. La Cruz is known as a cruisers town. The crew has been enjoying life in La Cruz. There is an excellent fish market that is open every day until about 3 pm. The fishermen bring in big catches every morning and there are 6-8 vendors who sell the fresh fish, shrimp, squid, etc. Fish range from sardine size to 150 lb tuna. You don't have to buy the whole tuna, they will cut nice steaks from it to suit your order. Also, there is a nice market that brings in fresh vegi's and fruits every Tue and Fri. It really is fresh, the cost is low and the selection is wide. So, we don't suffer for good things to eat.
La Cruz is known for its good live music which takes place nightly in one or more of the numerous café/pub/restaurants in town. We have been to four such performances so far.
Also, La Cruz is a good walking town. You can get anyplace in town in a 10-20 min walk, and if you wish you could walk the beach all the way to Oldtown Puerto Vallata which is 15 mi to the south. We have taken several walks of 8-10 mi in that direction since arriving here a week ago.
Yesterday (Wednesday) we took a guided trip to several small towns on the south side of Bandaras Bay. The trip entailed driving about an hour until the road ended at Boca De Tomatlan. Then we hiked about 5 mi along an improved trail with the Bay on one side and the mountainous jungle on the other. We went to the small towns of Los Animas and Quimixto. These towns are accessible only by walking or water. A water taxi took us back to Boca in 20 min. It was a great outing and April of Wave House was a great tour guide.
We have booked a second trip with April to the Botanical Gardens for Friday. And, if that isn't enough getting off the boat we have booked a trip to the small mountain town of San Sabastian for over Sunday night. We are going on a bus with about 80 other people. One of the most established bands (Philo) here is arranging the trip. It includes the two hour bus trip up and back, hotel room for the night, dinner Sun evening, concert, all night bonfire and party if you can take it, and brunch the next morning. Hope we survive.
We keep finding new birds almost every time we go seriously looking. Lately we have found the Elegant Quail, White-tipped Dove, Streak-backed Oriole, Grayish Saltator, Purplish-backed Jay, Northern Jacana, Orange-chinned Parrot, and Squirrel Cuckoo. Hopefully, the trip to the Botanical Garden on Friday will give us some good views of the many species of hummingbirds that dart around here.
02/24/2012, LA CRUZ, MEXICO
Banderas Bay, Pacific Mexican Coast, February 2012 and Kievit has finally found warm waters, mellow temperature and pleasing wind. After spending the first week in the marina at Nuevo Vallarta which is a northern suburb of high-end condo/resort hotels, we sailed to anchorage in the harbor of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. La Cruz is a happenin' place for cruisers (that's what we're called), with small businesses and restaurant/bar/music venues to make living "on the hook", (anchor lowered to sea bed - holding boat in place as the tide turns and the winds blow) like living in a village.
While staying at the Paradise Village Marina, we really enjoyed taking dinghy rides throughout the lagoon that extends for some miles inland. We spent hours, several days, watching and identifying new birds. We have learned that these jungle habitats support a variety of big old trees with fruit or seeds that attract a splendid variety of colorful birds. We tie the dinghy to a limb here or there, watch, exclaim, and try to find the new ones in the somewhat unsatisfactory resource books available. The Orchard Oriole, with classic attire, is one of my favorites. Other Orioles, displaying bright orange or lemon yellow, highlighted by black, are major pleasers.
Now that we've moved north west, dry jungle with seasonal streams are located behind the beach. A lot of such area has been turned into civilization. We have gone for long beach walks - so far, we have not found any impediment to walking by beach around the Bay. Yesterday, we took the dinghy into the marina in La Cruz and then walked on the beach to the next town, Bucerias- which has not been upscaled with condos, so the town is real Mexico. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant and decided to take a table on the beach. So many vendors came by to sell all kinds of stuff we didn't want that it became amusing, if not, annoying. I'm going to have to find out more about the beach vendor culture - these folks see themselves as "salespeople", certainly not beggars. They are easily discouraged and very courteous. An interesting thing, is that I've only seen Mexican families chatting and buying from the vendors - so it looks to me that there is a cultural misunderstanding going on. Most intriguing yesterday, a 12ish boy stopped to offer me "chicklets", when Dave was away from the table (usually they go to him). I looked him in the eye, shook my head, smiled, and said "no,senor". He walked away in the typical manner and then turned and said "thank you", then as he walked on, crossed himself in the Catholic tradition. It was really touching, though I have no idea what he thought.
My pedometer clocked 7 miles when we got back to La Cruz. We bought ½ kilo of flounder at the fabulous fish market and dinghied back to the boat. In the photo gallery, You can see a tuna right off the boat, weighing 66 kilos. We had ahi tuna the day before. It's fun to see these enormous fish and buy just enough to eat - don't want to land one on Kievit. Dave agrees (almost).
Back on the boat, it was already 4pm and we both had to take a nap. We love to be at anchor in the Bay, it gives a free feeling as well as being without monetary cost. However, the boat rolls and rolls and rolls and rolls and rolls...you get the picture, maybe. Sleeping is lovely with a gentle rock, but this is a roll, so that sometimes one has to hang on to the mattress to stay put. So far, day three, the constant roll continues. When we wake up through the night and in the morning, there is not a rested feeling. But then, it's ok, cause we don't have a time schedule or anything we have to do.
The flounder was cooked with spinach (from the fabulous veggie market on Tues) and sesame seeds purchased at the medicinal semilla (remember, that means seeds) in Buscerias. Then we had to dinghy back to town to get a membership at Casa Maru, which is Maru's house where she provides services for cruisers, including a clean, real house shower. We took much needed showers and then walked back through town at 7 o'clock to go to the Marina's outdoor movie night, showing the Rolling Stones "Shine a Light", 2008 documentary by Martin Scorsese. Great film - so much energy, it gave me heartburn! How nice, sitting on the steps outdoors, in perfect comfort in light clothing, at 9pm on Feb 23.
This morning we're back at Casa Maru which also furnishes high speed internet. This solves the problem of feeling seasick, trying to work on computer on a rolling boat. Also, this new computer changes fonts and jumps programs and other oddities with movement - internet on terre firma is a luxury.
So, that's how we spend a day, though as you can understand, one day easily stretches into three, in paradise.
02/21/2012, Nuevo Vallarta - Paradise Village Marina
Blog Isabel to PV
We left Isla Isabel on Feb 7 and sailed 40 mi to Ensenada Mantanchen, which is just on the southern edge of San Blas. We anchored in the bay with 4-5 other boats. They were a friendly group. Mostly, we made friends with Vivian and Joel (and their cockatoo Juliet) on S/V Lady Ann. On Wednesday, we teamed up with Vivian and Joel for the Jungle Tour up Rio Tovara. It was great. In addition to the birds we listed in an earlier blog, we saw many crocodiles, iguanas and turtles. The river tour winds through mangrove forest, to marshy farm land, to the edge of the mountain range in a distance of 7-10 mi. The trip was great and well worth the $10 cost. The next day, we pulled the dinghy up on the beach and took a 8-10 mi hike along the beach.
We left Mantanchen on Feb 9 and sailed about 20 mi south along the coast to the small village of Chacala. What a nice little village this is. We poked around the small town and did some birding on the first day. More birding and a 5 mi hike to an old volcano crater on the second day. More birding and rain on the third day. A storm was expected and the port was closed, so we just had to hang around for the day. It rained, but there was never much wind. The beach was lined with palapas (small thatch covered restaurants) where we enjoyed local seafood dishes for all the days in Chacala.
We sailed out of Chacala to Bandaras Bay, which is the location of Puerto Vallarta and some other nice towns. We arrived at the town of La Cruz on the north shore of Bandaras Bay on Sunday and spent the night at anchor. Monday morning, we had a nice visit with Ralph and JoAnn Felton on S/V Ensueno before sailing off to the port of Nuevo Vallarta. Ralph and JoAnn are longtime friends from the Stockton Sailing Club. We wanted to be at the port because our friends Judith and Pat Jones had arrived on Feb 11th for a week stay at a nearby condo complex. The whole area of Nuevo Vallarta is a very upscale condo area. It's too far from the old town of Puerto Vallarta for easy excess, though we did take the one plus hour bus trip there on several occasions. Our time here has been mostly walking around birding, dinghying around the lagoons, long walks on the beach, or trips into Old Town PV to join our friends.
Eating here in Nuevo Vallarta has not been as much of an adventure as most other stops. All of the restaurants are upscale and located in the big condo complexes. Since all of the land is owned by the big condos, there aren't any of the small palapa-style eating places that are usually run by local families, cook old family favorites and are inexpensive. We did find one interesting place called Fajita Republic while out on a dinghy tour one day. They made a decent molcajete, but not as good as we found at Los 30 in Mazatlan or the small restaurant in La Noria.
The best eating experience here has been a restaurant in old PV called the Red Cabbage Cafe. They have very good traditional Mexican food at moderate prices. Much of the menu is based on the wedding dinner feast of Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo. Judith and Pat introduced us to this memorable spot, a favorite of theirs.
Friday, we took Judith, Pat, Judith's brother Paul and his wife Uma on a sail in the Bay. The wind was good and we had nice a two hour sail without anyone getting sea sick. The most exciting part of the trip was kissing the bottom twice while going out of the marina breakwater at low tide. Fortunately, we didn't hit too hard or get hung up on the bottom. The tide was up enough on our return that we didn't have any problem getting back to the dock. Kievit gave us a good ride on Banderas Bay and we finished the day with guacamole, molcajetes, and great conversation with our pals from Stockton.
02/12/2012, Pacific Slope Mexico - Sinaloa to Nyarit
Message to birder friends:
Over the last week, Marj and I have taken time to do some birding here in Mexico, while we sail our bird, Kievit, along the Pacific Coast. We did see many nesting birds on Isla Isabel, some 18 mi off the coast of Mexico. The nesting birds consisted mostly of Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown and Blue-footed Boobies. Also there were many Heerman's Gulls and Brown Pelicans. The highlight was surely a single Red-footed Booby. After Isla Isabel we sailed 40 mi to the San Blas area, where we took a "Jungle Tour" into one of the river estuaries. Among other more common birds seen there we spotted:
Bar-throated Tiger Heron
Several other small and medium size flycatchers we couldn't identify.
We left San Blas and sailed 20 mi south to the small town of Chacala. Here we birded ashore and found:
Black and white Warbler
Plus a dozen other species we couldn't identify. Identification is difficult, even for birds that we get a good look at. There doesn't seem to be a good Mexican Bird Fieldbook. We do have a Petersons guide to Mexican Birds, but pictures and descriptions are not complete and many birds are not included. So, it's frustrating to see a new life-bird and not get an ID, but it's still lots of fun. Come to Mexico and we'll show you.