03/02/2011, Santiago Bay
2011 Hola Mexico - Missive 14
February 19 - March 2, 2011: So much for leaving Las Hadas for Santiago Bay, we got side tracked for 5-6 days visiting with friends, pool lounging, a soccer game, grocery shopping and oh ya eating! It is so easy to say "manana" and fuss about things in general another day. We have enjoyed sharing dinners with old friends/dockmates from Shilshole as well as meeting other cruisers. The bond we share as sailors is quite phenomenal.
This past Sunday a call went out on the cruiser's net about a semi-pro soccer game in a nearby stadium. So the cruisers rallied, jumped the bus and cheered for the local team. It was a fun outing especially finally getting to put faces to boat names. Aside from watching our nephews practice soccer, this was our first game we ever attended. We definitely needed some education on this particular sport. Here are a few observations on this adventure:
• There were more gringos in attendance than locals cheering on the team.
• Beer was being served by kids too young to drink.
• Beer was being bought by & delivered to mom & dad by kids between 8-12 yrs old
• Toilets didn't have running water or toilet paper
• The 50 gal barrel of water outside the toilets was available to wash your hands ... hummmm!
• Being a good actor must be a requirement of a soccer player - there was a lot of drama on the field with fake injuries
• We admired the players endurance to play in the hot sun
• In regards to equipment - no score board, nets were torn or non-existent, the field was in ok shape with crab grass
Well you get the picture, not much for infra-structure in the stadium but that didn't deter the players from giving their all.
We did finally make it to Santiago Bay on Monday afternoon, an arduous 4 mile journey around the point from Las Hadas. There are 6 boats anchored here that are part of the Puget Sound Cruising Club and at least 15 boats that have hailing ports around the Seattle area.
We made our first beach landing and launch with the dinghy in great shape - only wet up to our knees. It is great spectator sport by the seasoned cruisers to watch newbies surf landing for the first time. I better not brag too much, it's only a matter of time before we screw up. It's like watching people anchor, everyone has their own technique - some better than others.
02/22/2011, Las Hadas, Manzanillo Bay
2011 Hola Mexico - Missive 13
February 15 - 17, 2011: We managed a trip to Melaque taking the long route thru the backroads of town; not a pretty sight. What was interesting was the stop the bus driver had to make to actually punch in on a time clock that was positioned in the middle of a block. I haven't quite figured out the logistics of this procedure or the reasons why. The town caters to gringos & locals alike with miles of beach to play on in the Bahia de Navidad - Melaque is on the north end while Barra de Navidad is located on the south end of the bay.
Thursday the artisans & craftsmen were in Barra along with the flea market. It wouldn't be hard to spend lots of money buying up pottery, linens & jewelry; good thing we don't have any extra room on the boat. Walking thru the flea market itself was quite interesting ... picture all the goods you can find in a department store (like a Walmart or K-Mart,etc) ... then picture a sample of all this merchandise laying out on tables covered overhead by tarps. There were tables of hardware/houseware stuff on one side and bras, undies, socks and clothing on the other side of the walkway. Peppered in between was food produce, tourist momentos, music cd's and your basic junk. And always ... "a good price for you" ... "almost free"!
What I really loved seeing were the brightly colored bras of every shape and size imaginable. Bra shopping here could be mistaken for an Easter egg hunt ... every color of the rainbow was displayed, too bad if you were looking for white or beige. Now, getting a good fitting bra can be a challenge - matching the correct cup size to chest measurement. Each bra fits differently and each woman needs their own special lift ... so how do you buy a bra you cannot try on? And if you buy ... and they don't fit ... what do you do with them? It's not like Nordstrom's or Macy's - no money back guarantee. I was pondering this question with Sharon Howard aboard "Jake". We decided we could use them like nets and store fruits & vegetables in them. Seriously, why throw away a perfectly good but non-fitting bra? (Per Bob, he claimed he had no problem watching the women try them on in the outdoor market and besides, he said, he didn't think the women planned to be wearing them for any length of time to worry about a good fit or not. Huh, so much for a man's point of view!)
This leads me to the subject about saving plastic jars/bottles, it was a good thing I had saved a peanut butter, mustard and miracle whip jars to salvage the leaking gallon of dish soap. It's not like you can run to the store around here and find a replacement in short order.
It's now Friday, the 18th and we need to move on to Manzanillo Bay; nothing like having your life's schedule based on how full your waste tank is and how empty your water tanks are. That's okay, I am ready for new scenery, fresh air and clean looking water.
February 18 - 22, 2011: We left Barra close to high tide and successfully exited the lagoon. During the past 10 days we saw at least 3-4 boats run aground and during one low tide event saw 2 boats (1- sail, 1 - power) heeled over due to being stuck in the mud. We ended up resetting anchor after the wind swung around out of the east placing us too close to the boats behind us (didn't help that these two boats came in after us and anchored far too close to us). To add insult to the ordeal, we couldn't get below to flake the chain in the chain locker and it got jammed while we were resetting the anchor. The wind was blowing 20 kts or so ... I couldn't leave the helm (too close to other boats) so Bob went below and dealt with the jam up. It took over an hour to get us back to a normal working condition - we couldn't haul in or let out chain while the pipe was jammed.
Fortunately our trip to Manzanillo Bay was peaceful and enjoyable - no wind but oh well. At least our holding tank is empty and we were making water. Panta Rhei's crew was eagerly waiting to share a wonderful dinner, stories and receive their packages.
The anchorage area in front of the Las Hadas & Barcelo Karmina Palace Resorts is quite nice with lovely views of the resorts and surrounding community. There is a constant swell, although not too uncomfortable, it gets compounded by the waves from jet skis and tour boats. Last but not least ... the never ending music never ends.
We have very much enjoyed going to the Las Hadas resort pool - it is so refreshing in the afternoon especially after bus rides and walks around the area. Bob & Larry went to downtown Manzanillo in search of oil engine hose, a journey that took several buses and one taxi ride. At least they had an adventure which included lunch at a working man's outdoor restaurant. They were quite sight - not too many 6-2 & 6-8 ft men walking about. But they enjoyed the food and sharing a table with some of the locals. No correct oil hose was found. We did however contact Jonco Marine Repair back in Barra de Navidad and they could help us out when we return there in a week or so.
Tomorrow we make the long trek to Santiago Bay - 4 nautical miles from here. We hope to snorkel around the ship wreck and coral reef plus hang out with the other cruisers.
02/14/2011, Barra de Navidad
2011 Hola Mexico - Missive 12
February 7 - 14, 2011: We left La Cruz about 1 pm on the 7th to pull a 20 hour passage arriving at Barra de Navidad around 10 am the next morning. The sail out of Bandaras Bay was excellent but that was it for wind the rest of the trip. See, we are jinxed when it comes to having nice sailing winds. But I guess too little is better than too much. Our highlight of the trip was seeing 3 whales breaching and what a splash they made.
We were welcomed warmly by Jake & Sharon on SV "Jake". Felt like old times around the Pacific NW seeing familiar faces. They had promised over a year ago that once we arrived in Mexico a dinner awaited us on their boat and sure enough a most delicious steak & prawn dinner was served; best in town as far as we were concerned. They served as our tour guides around Barra showing us the small but good tiendas, laundry services and eating establishments. So far we have not gone hungry here in Mexico.
Cruisers help each other out by transporting mail, supplies or parts needed as we travel up and down the coast. We had stuff for 3 separate boats and managed to deliver much needed glue to fix air leaks in dinghys for "Jake" and "Odessa". Once Panta Rhei arrives coming northbound from Zihautanejo we can clear out more items and our delivery services will be complete.
It is much warmer down here compared to La Cruz & Mazatlan so we have put on the hatch covers (sunbrella fabric), raised the boom tent made out of an old sail to shield the cabin top and zipped in our cockpit curtains to the bimini. All of these covers have helped immensely keeping the cabin cooler and shaded. I truly understand siesta time now ... it is too hot for anything else but resting in the shade.
Cruisers have been spoiled in this anchorage by "The French Baker" who delivers fresh breads, quiches, baguettes, croissants and individual pies. We look forward daily to our baguette and croissants for breakfast. It is truly a nice way to start the day.
We took a bus trip to Cihautlan with Mike & Nita on Odessa yesterday just to see what the town had to offer. It had a nice grocery store (one affiliated with Walmart) that we toured around and the downtown area was vibrant with residents shopping. We found a good restaurant for lunch and managed to get the correct bus back to Barra. A couple of cold beers at the Sand Hotel around the pool topped off our day's activities.
Here are some more observations and points of interest:
• A laundry mat here in Barra also ran out of water which left people scrambling to get their clothes cleaned
• There is water taxi service here that runs 24/7 - which is why you want your boat well lit at night
• Always use the water taxi service at night while your dinghy is securely attached to your boat
• We have heard about 3 outboard motors that gotten stolen in the last few weeks - the saying here is "lock it, lift it, or lose it". So our motor is locked to the dinghy and the dinghy is then hoisted out of the water high enough to deter theft. (rather sad isn't it)
• The economic downturn these last couple of years has really hit hard in Mexico - restaurants, hotels and shops are virtually empty
• Every night fires burn and smoke can get overbearing to smell
• The smoke does not seem to bother the bugs ... they have found their way to me and I plenty of bug bites to prove it! With screens on every hatch, port light, dorade and the companionway how do they get in?
• We have stopped running the generator to make hot water for showers ... the water in the tanks is a little on the cool side but makes for a refreshing shower in the hot afternoon.
• Cold beer, gin & tonics, margaritas taste better than wine for afternoon cocktails ... besides they are easier to find too.
And one other item ... the cruising kids around here have great radio protocol - they use the VHF radio like pros.
All for now ... Happy Valentine's Day!
02/07/2011, La Cruz
2011 Hola Mexico - Missive 11
January 25, 2011: We escaped Mazatlan early this afternoon and made it a whopping 12 nautical miles to the anchorage at Stone Island just around the breakwater from the entrance to the old harbor. Felt good to get away from the dock but we also endured the ocean swell. However, the sunset view was marvelous.
Stone Island 23 10.917N 106 24.409W
January 26 - 27, 2011: We must be jinxed ... another passage with no wind. It took us 24 hours to travel 166 nm to La Cruz so we averaged about 6.9 knots an hour. Since we were motoring we filled both water tanks taking advantage of our power situation. We finally got to see numerous turtles swimming leisurely along, lots of birds and a pod of dolphins. The weather, wind and seas were benign and we arrived at La Cruz around 9 am. As you probably have guessed already it didn't take long to anchor, chow down breakfast and go back to bed for a few hours of shuteye to make up for lost sleep last night.
La Cruz 20 44.775N 105 22.184W
January 27 - February 7, 2011: I am negligent in writing on a daily basis about our activities here in La Cruz. But there is only so much you can say about eating, visiting with cruisers, drinking beer/marguerites and exploring. And really one day melts into another and you wonder what you have accomplished. It has been very nice to hang out with fellow dockmates from Shilshole - Bill & Sue on Dilligaf, Paul & Judy on Grace and Bill & Kat on Island Bound.
Instead of boring you with daily activities I am going to list some observations and experiences:
• Never ever ride on the last row of seats in a bus; it will jar apart every joint in your body.
• If you see your favorite food or parts or whatever you need or might need ... buy it ... you may never find it again.
• Tips ... the major earning power for the average worker.
• Singers/guitar players traveling on buses to entertain gringos can't carry a tune.
• It does cloud over in Mexico ... not every day is sunny.
• Puerto Vallarta has capitalized on tourism; its old downtown is clean with a lovely waterfront walkway, nice restaurants (with US prices) and plenty of security.
• Cruiser's net - just like a small town; everyone knows each other's business, everyone listens in on conversations and everyone has something to say and everyone is willing to assist.
• So far my favorite beers are Negra Modelo & Modelo Especial ... Pacifico tastes like beer koolaid.
• Crackers taste like cardboard.
• Only 50% of equipment works on any given day in Mexico - don't bother asking "why" it doesn't get fixed especially noting all the junk piles of broken down crap lying everywhere.
• Toilet paper never goes in the toilet, only in the garbage can - very sensitive sewage system. Sometimes it's even hard to find the toilet paper - in Walmart the "one" dispenser was hung on the wall next to the sinks ... not in any stall. You definitely needed to plan ahead.
• Baby wipes and hand sanitizers are just as critical as money.
• Bread turns moldy in just a couple of days ... tortillas last for months.
• Marina Riveria Nayarit (LaCruz marina) has an outdoor movie theatre - Thursday is movie night.
• One restaurant here in La Cruz pours a mixed drink at your table and you tell the waiter when to stop pouring the alcohol. This practice will put them out of business rather quickly.
• Live music is everywhere - some good, some not so good.
• Mexico is dusty and dirty ... you and the boats are chronically covered with dust.
• Sooner or later cruisers get traveler's diarrhea no matter how careful you try to be - and it can be very serious if not treated.
• Manana doesn't necessary mean tomorrow, just means not today.
• How do you run a laundry service when you run out of water? So I leave my laundry anyway (it's Friday am) to get washed "manana" ... come back Saturday - laundry is cleaned however the place is closed and also closed on Sunday ... and Monday is a Mexican holiday. They must have needed dinero since they came to work on Monday.
• Ever seen 4 good sized adults in a small taxi with a trunk loaded with Costco purchases? Picture four us with toilet paper, paper towels and back packs on our laps heading back to La Cruz ... the taxi driver took the speed bumps and pot holes (they are one in the same) very slowly. I believe he was preserving his shocks not us.
Anyway you get the picture; I will pass more on as we experience this different culture! Time to leave for Barra de Navidad. The Ponderosa "not so fast delivery service" has goodies to deliver to various cruisers.
2011 Hola Mexico - Missive 10
January 15, 2011: Bob was doing this usual due diligence checking out the engine in preparation to depart on Monday. I am not sure if it was a blessing or a curse. Sure enough he found that our heat exchanger had been leaking; we lost all our antifreeze and ended up with seawater in our engine block ... not good! So we spent the day disconnecting the heat exchanger and then flushing the system with fresh water. We will have to wait until Monday to have it pressure tested by Total Yacht Works. Grrr...
January 16, 2011: Since we are powerless ... our best option today was watching football and drinking beer with Bill & Sue on Dilligaf. Our gut feeling on the heat exchanger was looking at replacement vs repair; that we knew would take awhile. So it's best to make good use of our time. I started sanding our woodwork especially since the Seahawk game was going in the toilet and I was losing interest in watching. I guess being retired means I have plenty of time to do yucky boat chores. Doing bright work definitely tops the list of yucky!
January 17 - 23, 2011: What exciting thing can I say about sanding and painting the woodwork? Well after 2 days of both Bob & I sanding and 3 days of painting, we have a very beautiful boat. I think I will cry when the first line comes whipping across the deck and scuffs up our finish. We had perfect weather each day which allowed us to wrap us this project in 6 days. This would be impossible back in Seattle.
While we were doing the woodwork, we hired "Pedro" to sew up chaps for the dinghy. This is a sunbrella cover that fits around the tubes to protect it from the UV rays. I had material leftover from making hatch and cushion covers that Pedro could incorporate into the chaps. This way we could identify our dinghy more readily from others with the same gray color. He did a great job and the chaps look great.
Between all the chores Dilligaf and Ponderosa were working on, we managed to enjoy some dinners together and live music featuring an excellent Mexican singer. It was sure nice to have familiar faces on the dock as we traded movies and supplies we each needed and we each could provide.
Bob had to do all the leg work getting our heat exchanger ordered and shipped. It was supposed to arrive Friday by 5 pm but the custom boys got into the mix; so much for express shipping. We are eagerly anticipating Monday. It's gets to be a very expensive part when you start adding up moorage you pay while waiting. We were also informed we may have to pay import duty. So much for having all the paperwork on our temporary import permit for the boat ... seems to be useless for getting parts duty free!
"Slacker", the cat, definitely rules the roost on dock 6. He has everyone well trained to feed him. He sleeps on any boat he wants and no dog gets the better hand. But he is a nice kitty and he keeps the other cats away. One night while walking to dinner we counted about 15 stray/feral cats around the marina. It's a tough life down here for animals.
The cruiser's net is like having a 50 party telephone line. It really is a helpful tool for everyone since it covers topics like: emergency traffic, arrivals/departures, weather, tides, who can carry mail to the states or Canada, announcements (like cruiser activities), local help and swaps/trades. Since we cannot conduct business in Mexico, people trade for "coconuts".
January 24 - 25, 2011: UPS finally came thru and we got our part Monday early afternoon. It took Bob the rest of the day to install the heat exchanger and now we have been flushing the entire engine system to clear out any remaining salt water and rust particles. This process does not make my top 10 items to do on my "bucket list". It's only a necessary evil to make the boat function - living on the boat is like living in a garage - something is always torn apart and being repaired. Yes, I seem to be lacking that spirit of adventure right now, but it too will pass just like getting thru these chores and repairs.
2011 Hola Mexico - Missive 9
January 5, 2011: I couldn't face another day being a tourist. In fact polishing our stainless steel dorades and railing sounded more appealing ... I must be a desperate woman. However the timing in the yard worked out for Bob to change zincs and grease the prop while I did my womanly duty and cleaned the stainless steel around the boat. The weather was quite nice - cool with cloud cover so it was quite comfortable to work outside most of the day. It is unnatural to fuss around the boat while it is on the hard. My balance is very pathetic so at least on the water I wouldn't have far to fall and wouldn't break any bones. Looking down 10 ft to the cement made me very uneasy but I sucked it up and did my chore.
January 6, 2011: Today we set out on a big adventure - going to Walmart, a two bus trip! I kid you not ... this was quite a challenge and we spent about 5 hours just getting to and from the store. And of course, it takes 2-3 times longer to shop while you figure out the product and the system. We were still in the yard, so I only wanted to buy dry goods and non-perishables. Since our new refrigerator system is keel cooled, while hauled out we had to shut the system down and use ice to keep the remaining food cold. I did manage to get 5 dozen eggs back to the boat via one bus and one taxi ride with only one cracked egg. The eggs were not refrigerated so I could leave them at room temperature until we splashed.
January 7, 2011: Not being able to cook while hauled out has forced us to wander about the neighborhood trying different restaurants and food dishes. Some meals have set real well while others have caused indigestion. Gus & Gus (pronounced Goose n Goose) has been our breakfast place and it is located at the head of dock 6 at Marina Mazatlan. They have the nicest young waiters working there in the morning; I have decided I wanted to adopt a couple of them. As I practice my Spanish with them, they practice their English. Their manners are impeccable and they so appreciate our business. In fact, they bring us little extras (like a serving of toast) while we wait for our breakfast. It has been fun to get to know them and a little about their personal lives.
Another first on this trip was a haircut in Mexico. A lovely young woman has just opened her hair salon here at the marina, she did a great job ... for $16 USD, a shampoo, cut and blow dry. I would pay $35 to $50 in the states for the same service.
We spent most of the day puttering around the boat and watching the yard crew polish the hull. Like the young lads at Gus n Gus, the crew that did the bottom paint and hull polishing were polite, hard working young men. We are so impressed by the quality of their work, in fact, the hull polish job far exceeded the same work we had done in Seattle and it cost one-quarter of what we paid up north. They cleaned, buffed and hand waxed the hull for $175 and boy does it shine! I was taking pictures and barely could get them to smile (very shy) for a picture to show off their hard work.
January 8, 2011: This morning we got to splash the boat and it was foggy! We spent the night in the travel lift sling which allowed the bottom of the keel to get painted and dry. Ponderosa is now sporting a pretty red bottom and shiny polished hull. After fueling we went back to Marina Mazatlan to the same slip - sure is easier the 2nd time around.
Although the yard was very clean and tidy, it's impossible to avoid the dirt and dust of the yard. It took us many hours to wash the topside of the boat - I couldn't believe the amount of grime, footprints and dirty water as we scrubbed and scrubbed.
Thankfully we got done in time to watch the Seahawk game at a local pub. Yahoo they won! It was almost better than winning a SuperBowl.
January 9, 2011: Sure feels good to be back on the water. Bob had an easy day watching all the football games while I polished the cockpit area. It helped a bit bringing back some shine to the fiberglass but I think it was a waste of elbow grease. Everyone is complaining how unseasonably "cold" it is down here but I happen to think it is perfect, mid-70's in the day and mid-50's at night.
The football commentators spoke Spanish so it was interesting to listen to their cadence while announcing the game. I can understand about 1 in every 10 words or so. I hope to improve my odds.
Our little dock kitty was back on board snoozing in the cockpit.
January 10, 2011: A couple of days a week, a local farmer hauls in a small truck load of fruits and vegetables to sell the cruisers and condo owners. We were planning to get our grocery shopping done today so I decided to check out what the farmer had first. He had a wonderful selection and I managed to fill up 3 market bags. It did take me, however, a good 2 hours to wash all the goodies in Microdyne before storing in the fridge.
We hopped the bus (the correct one) and made our way to the Gran Plaza (a new shopping mall) that was close to Mega Store. I was looking for the Telcel customer service center in order to deposit money on our Banda Ancha internet stick. We got there in a roundabout way and took care of our business. I had used the Google Translator and wrote out my request in Spanish; it sure helped the process. Then it was off to a bank and pharmacia before heading to the Mega Store. In order to get antibiotics now you have to have a prescription from a doctor, a new change in drug policy.
Another gringo in line checking out, struck up a conversation with us about our grocery bags. These are bags we received in BC, Canada at the Marketplace IGA ... nothing special about them but very handy and the right size. In the end, they offered to take us back to the marina since they were heading back that direction. What a nice gesture!
We are now in search for a sports bar to watch the Oregon game ... go Ducks!
January 11, 2011: What a great championship game to watch; too bad the Ducks didn't win. All the Mexican food this past week finally came back to haunt us, especially me. I was down the whole day with a terrible stomach ache and no energy. I managed to sack out for several hours huddled under a blanket so I knew I wasn't doing well. The only chore I got done was taking the dirty clothes to the lady at the laundry mat.
January 12, 2011: You never know who will drop into the neighborhood ... none other but our former neighbors at Shilshole, Bill & Sue on "Dilligaf". We were on our way to catch a bus to the Golden Zone and Bob points out the new boat on the dock. Wow we know that boat and seconds later it was hugs and handshakes all around. It really felt good to see old friends from up north and catch up on stories.
As Bill & Sue got settled in we continued our way to the malecon along the beach at the heart of the tourist district. We planned to take in a leisurely walk and enjoy the sandy beach and views. Now this is a nice flat, reasonably new, clean, wide walkway with benches and guardrails; couldn't ask for a nicer place. But I managed to find the one place to trip on and fall flat on my rear end. Aside from a bruised ego and left butt cheek, scrapped left calf, strained right wrist, twisted right knee, ankle & foot ... I am fine for the most part.
One pulmonia driver (golf cart taxi) was kind enough to stop and asked if I was okay or if I needed a ride. Thankfully I was ok just a little battered and shook up. We continued to walk further but the fun was gone so we got lunch and took the bus back to the marina. I iced my body and took a nap.
January 13 - 14, 2011: These last couple of days were spent just puttering around the boats. It's amazing how the days can fly by and nothing really gets accomplished yet one is busy all day. It must be a retirement phenomenon. We are planning to stay the weekend since the daily rates drops significantly on the 8th day ... watch some playoff games and then proceed on south on Monday. Our latest adventure is waiting patiently to get our propane tank filled. It's like watching grass grow - it takes days!