Sunday May 1, it's May Day and there is an International Worker's Union parade in the old town, zocalo, district of Acapulco near us -union workers in their white shirts and pants (uniforms?) went on for blocks. While the long, sandy beaches of downtown Acapulco are world-renown, the water is getting a bit of a reputation for pollution and we were longing to cool off with a dip in the 80 degree water. So we decided to take a bus all the way to the opposite end of Acapulco Bay to Bahia Puerto Marquez. We mentioned earlier that we had originally thought we'd anchor here while in Acapulco, but changed our minds when we saw how exposed it was. We were imagining a quiet, quaint little town with a long stretch of beach where we could do our first swimming. Boy were we surprised to see about 50 tour buses on the very narrow, dirt, roads of Puerto Marquez! The long beach was lined with Palapa restaurants and the entire beach and these restaurants were packed. It took us a while to find an open table in the shade, but then we enjoyed people-watching and pulled out our deck of cards for a few rounds of gin-rummy while we sipped our cold beverages and ate shrimp cocktails. There was no room in the water to swim. One interesting thing was that the restaurants seemed to provide PFDs and inflatable rings for their customers to use. Then when the tide came in, the folks down on the beach scrambled backwards and things got even more crowded, but everyone was having a grand time. When we took the bus back to the zocala area, we went to the central plaza again and enjoyed all that activity, along with an ice cream, while sitting in the shade. The plaza is huge but completely shaded with giant trees.
Monday May 2 we left Acapulco, saying our goodbye's and thank you's to Roberto and Luis (mentioned in previous blog). Roberto is looking forward to doing some cruising some day on his Hunter 40, a boat that he salvaged off the beach and is repairing and equipping. We plan to make a couple stops before we reach the marina near Huatulco, but the first opportunity to anchor requires an overnighter -our first in a while. We saw no sealife during the day, which was unusual. But just after sunset, when the sky wasn't completely dark yet, we saw a turtle with a bird hitchhiker on its back and some dolphins. The exciting part of our night passage was sheet lightning. It was so strange to see bright flashes of light across the sky when there were stars overhead in a nearly cloudless sky and no thunder.
Tuesday, May 3 it got into the 90's out on the water. But it wasn't as humid as when we were in Acapulco. We had seen several lighted boats (cruise ship, fishing boats) during the night passage, but otherwise uneventful after the lightning stopped. We arrived at Puerto Escondido (this one on mainland Mexico) in the early evening. The anchorage was full of pangas and one other sailboat. We anchored next to it, a ketch from Canada. We had a quick conversation across the water about anchoring spots, but didn't join up with them for a visit -they were headed north.
Wednesday, May 4 we planned for a day trip to Puerto Angel and that indeed worked out. We saw some rays jump high out of the water and do a triple flip. The seas were a bit confused that day with swell from the west but wind from the SE, but Virginia took her pills and felt fine. Again, the anchorage was full with pangas, but this time we were the only sailboat there, and thank goodness no one else arrived later as it appeared that we had found the only open place to anchor.
Thursday, May 5 Cinco de Mayo. We were awakened at sunrise by the sound of the fishing fleet of Puerto Angel setting off to sea all at once -imagine over two hundred outboard motors buzzing nearby at full throttle. As we were awake anyway and we wanted to arrive at the next port at high tide to clear the shoal, we soon got underway. We had just a short trip to Huatulco. We had no wind, but some swells that got Virginia a bit queasy; she quickly recovered. They had room for us in the marina which is great, as we hoped to do a land trip to Oaxaca from there to see some ruins. We'll feel better with the boat in a slip vs. at anchor while we are away, even if it ends up being just a day trip. The marina facilities are quite minimal...for instance, unheated, outdoor showers (like you see at the beaches in California). But we have showers on the boat, so no problem. Actually we've started taking showers on the boat with unheated water as the cooler water is quite refreshing. The rate is very reasonable and the docks are in relatively good shape. One thing we noticed is some of the vegetation around here is brown and dry, like we saw in the Sea of Cortez and northern Mexico. Previously, during the last few weeks we had been experiencing spots that were more stereotypical tropical with lush greenery (jungle river cruises, etc.). Check in was easy as the marina staff takes care of the paperwork but as we will be leaving the country after this port, check out will be a bit more complicated.
There are other cruisers here and some are headed south; finally someone going our direction, but unfortunately they are going earlier than us. We have met Bill and Dorene aboard Lanikai from The Dalles, Oregon. They are headed north. They have been cruising south of here in El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru for 9 ½ years. We will have them over to the boat soon to get some tips from them. On the other side of us are Ken and Sylvia Kondo aboard Ann Lucia from Japan. They started their journey with a 50 day passage from Japan to British Columbia Canada. They are one of the boats headed south, but will diverge from our planned route when they go through the Panama Canal. We have seen their boat in two other anchorages, but never got to visit with them. We had a quick discussion today, but need to invite them over as well. Another couple headed south are Julie and Andrew. They had their boat in Ventura West Marina, like we did, before heading down here in January. That is the 4th boat we have met on this trip that was in our Ventura marina. They are a young couple hitting all the good surf spots in their 27', 'no frills' sailboat -they have no refrigeration, so they get pretty excited about luxuries like ice and ice cream. Then we spoke with two couples whose boats "have grown roots" (their words) as they have been here for 3 years. They cruised the west coast of Mexico and found that they liked this spot best -"it reminds them of Santa Barbara 50 years ago"...hmmm I don't remember SB ever being 95+ degrees for weeks at a time.
Friday, May 6. Unexpectedly, we stayed up last night into the early hours of the morning because it was too hot to sleep and we were fussing with the dock lines. We noticed when we arrived that some of the boats were taking up a double slip as they had 3 or 4 lines off each side of their boats, half of which had to extend over the 'other' half of the double slip to reach a cleat. Around midnight, Libertad had adopted the same spiderweb of crossed lines, 4 on a side to keep us in position. There wasn't a hint of wind, yet the boats were all straining on their lines ad moving around vigorously from the tidal action. But Dennis got us secured in a way that minimized the motion and squeaking of the lines; we finally got some sleep. A provisioning and boat project day.
Saturday, May 7 Dennis went to town with the 'guys'. Chris of Misty Michael (one of the permanent residents on a big power boat) a few slips over, owns a car and drove. Dennis picked up a few small items he needed and had most of the hot spots of the town pointed out to him, but most importantly, he rented a car for our trip to Oaxaca. It was a hot day, 94 degrees at 1700. More project work today.
Sunday, May 8 - Mothers' Day (in USA). We locked up the boat and headed off in our rented car to Oaxaca. It was a beautiful drive through several mountain passes. It was lush green with lots of trees, including banana trees. Bunches of bananas were being sold along the roadside, but you had to buy the whole 'bunch' which was way too many for us, even if we shared with some other cruisers. Although it was only about 100 miles, it took us 6.5 hours. About 4 hours of that was winding mountain roads. The rest of the 'highway' that wasn't winding had speed bumps at every small village, comador (restaurant), or tienda along the way or was under construction. It was impossible to get up to the speed limit for long as you had to always be on the lookout for the "topas" as several of them were unmarked. Dennis got a lot of exercise clutching and shifting, as our rental was a standard transmission! We must have encountered more than 200 of them -no exaggeration. But despite that, we did really enjoy the ride. We arrived about 1730. Oaxaca is at about 5,000 feet, so the temperature was quite pleasant. We had reserved a room at Ollin, bed and breakfast. We hadn't stayed in a B&B before. It was a very pleasant experience. That night we walked the few blocks to the zocalo, center of town, for dinner. We listened to a traditional Mexican group playing on the cathedral steps and bought one of their CDs. We watched colorful dancers there as well; young men were dressed in matching pants, long capes, masks, and headdresses. The dance had a lot of stomping to it and they had jingle bells on their ankles. We walked over to another church and listened to a solo performer outside in the patio area who sang and played beautiful classical Spanish guitar. There were lots of people in the zocalo plaza; we have never seen so many balloons in one place.
Monday, May 9 at breakfast in our hotel we met Amy and Lauren, both from the Chicago area. Lauren, a lawyer, just changed jobs to be a full time administrator for a non-profit for Korean orphans that she and Amy founded a couple years ago. Amy is working for the US State Department and is now at the consulate in Monterey, Mexico. Her next assignment is in Vancouver. We were all headed to the Monte Alban ruins that morning and they hitched a ride with us. We hired a bilingual guide, Mario, and had a very informative tour. We learned about the various civilizations (starting with the Zapotec who are native to this area) that inhabited the site and built or re-built right on top of the original structures. His description of the botany of the area included the various uses of the plants and trees for curing both the body and the soul. He was very knowledgeable about the ruins, the various civilizations that lived there, and the architectural influences of the cosmos, seasons, and the jaguar. They had a hospital or medical training facility where they performed brain surgery and autopsies, which we found fascinating. There are several temples with altars and hidden tunnels so the priests could magically appear, personal residences for the royalty in power, saunas for healing, and a ball court in which the game was played with a rubber ball over 2500 years ago. It was a ceremonial game, watched only by the priests, so no throngs of cheering fans -ho hum, how dull. The site was huge and amazing. Excavations continue on part of that site. Later in the evening, the clouds filled in and brought rain and thunder.
Tuesday, May 10 Mothers' Day in Mexico. We drove up to the Northern Sierras to the "Joint Towns" which are in the pines at about 8,000 feet. We took a mountain bike tour (just the two of us) with a Zapotec guide. It was absolutely beautiful. At times we would leave the bikes and hike into a special site, such as a cave or great view of the valley. Virginia had to walk a few of the hills near the end of the 3 hour trip; we were both exhausted, but loved it. Just as our bike trip ended it started to sprinkle. Then we had lunch at a comador (small restaurant) where a woman was cooking over an open fire. That was a native Oaxacan meal for sure. We had squash soup in a very light tomato broth, chicken and rice with mole, and the typical huge Oaxacan tortillas that are grilled over an open fire (versus frying). In this completely out of the way place that had only two other patrons, we met a woman from Switzerland who spoke very good English and described how she came to live in and/or visit the Zapotec village. At the end of the meal, we became aware that the village was gathering for a celebration of music and dance for the mothers. By the time we started our drive back to town we had thunder and lightning again. The rain stopped in time for us to enjoy the Mothers' Day festivities in the Oaxacan zocalo, including a concert by an orchestra that was playing from the elevated gazebo in the middle of the zocalo plaza. The restaurant gave all mothers two red roses.
Wednesday, May 11 we walked into central Oaxaca in the morning to do a tour of some of the cathedrals and museums. The largest and most spectacular cathedral is Santa Domingo. The whole interior of the church is 3-D gold relief. It is really over the top. By contrast, the cathedral that is off of the zocalo plaza (there has always been a cathedral off the zocalo plaza in the towns we have visited) is very simple. The beautiful monastery buildings adjoining Santa Domingo house an extensive cultural museum. We visited the Governor's Palace which has been made into a museum. There are two lovely murals on the walls. The museum is geared for children and very high tech. We checked out of the B&B around noon. We would recommend the Ollin B&B. They have about 8 rooms surrounding a small swimming pool. Each room has a little patio area outside the front door. The breakfasts are different each day, always starts with fruit. We were introduced to a dark purple fruit from a cactus that we really enjoyed so we bought a few from a woman in the zocalo plaza to take back with us. It was so much cooler in Oaxaca than down where the boat is in Huatulco, so we really enjoyed the break from the heat. On the return trip Virginia decided to count the speed bumps. There were exactly 200 of them between our B&B and marina! Along the way we stopped for lunch at a roadside comador. At a comador restaurant there isn't a menu, you just eat what they have prepared that day. Sometimes there are a couple choices. This time they asked if we wanted the beef or chicken. We chose chicken and got bowls of Pozole - chicken and hominy with other grated vegetables offered on the side to sprinkle in the soup (radishes, cucumbers, onions, cabbage). It was delicious. That night, when we got back to the marina, we provisioned, as it was convenient to do with the rental car.
Thursday, May 12 - happy birthday to the twins Charlene and Colleen (Virginia's sisters). Today we devoted to checking out of Mexico. Our marina handled some of it, but we needed to take a taxi over to the Port Captain and Immigration to fill out some paperwork and pay some fees. We had fortunately taken our binder, where we store all our paperwork and receipts related to the boat, rather than just the list of items we understood were needed for checking out, because they asked us not only for our temporary visa, but the receipt that showed that we paid for that visa. It took a bit of searching, but we did have it in the binder, fortunately. It seemed strange that none of the cruising guides warn you about the requirement of this document. We were just glad we had it. Now we are on the boat waiting for the customs agent to do an inspection of our boat, supposed to arrive before 1900 tonight. Tomorrow at 0930 immigration comes for their inspection. We hope to leave around noon at high tide. A couple tips for those of you who may be in this position of checking out of Mexico in the future: keep your bank receipt as proof that you paid for your temporary visa, be prepared to be aboard all day the day prior to your departure as they can't give you a specific time for the customs visit. Also, regarding money changing - we went into a bank to exchange pesos for dollars, as the USD is the monetary unit in El Salvador. They won't make exchanges to dollars in the banks, but some of the ATMs provide an option to get your withdrawal either in local currency or in US dollars . The ATM is very convenient, but not all ATMs offer this option so it takes a bit of searching sometimes. We now have an abundance of pesos left over that we were going to exchange, but we are expecting that El Salvador will make the exchange to dollars for us.
Doreen and Bill came over in the evening to give us hints about cruising Central America. They brought us a big bag full of travel and cruising guides for the area - what a nice surprise. They will certainly come in handy. We had to interrupt our session when the customs agent came to do our departure inspection (about 1900). It was quick and simple. The Immigration inspection is tomorrow morning just before we head out.
Dennis' brother is joining us in Costa Rica. Now is the time to start firming up those plans. It will be fun to have company.
Friday, April 22 we decided to calculate how many miles we've traveled thus far (if our Hercules system computer had been operational when we left, it would have accumulated the miles for us but the 20+ year old gear decided to act up rest just prior to departure). So after manually adding up all the legs between anchorages and marinas we discovered we passed the 2000 mile mark on our leg on the way to Manzanillo.
In Ixtapa we met the crew of HappyNow: Dudley, Phillipa, and her sister Gill. They started their circumnavigation 11 ½ years ago and will be completing the route when they hit Cabo later this month. They are from San Francisco. Their cruising days are drawing to a close as they will take their Island Packet back to the Bay area with plans to sell it. Gill lives in Australia and over the years has joined them on the boat for several weeks at a time. We had dinner with them and they shared their very recent information on cruising and touring Central America as well as some of their experiences in other parts of the world.
Saturday, April 23 we took the bus into Zihuatanejo and did our touring. We went to the anthropological history museum (fortunately they provided a guide book in English for us) and walked the malecon with its lovely bronze statues and artisans selling their wares. We ate lunch in a palapa in the sand on the beach and watched the families playing in the water. Our waiter advised us that many of the families were camping on the beach for their spring break vacation -no frills camping as there was no vehicle access to the beach and most just had an umbrella, ice chest, and BBQ. The beach had a palapa set up with books, games, and art activities for the children. Our waiter spoke English quite well and explained that he had worked in San Pedro and lived in Long Beach for a few years, but then moved to Georgia where rent was lower. He said he was now making much less money, but glad to be back home with his "town, people, weather". It was very hot that day, 92 degrees in the late afternoon when we got back to the boat so likely warmer than that when we were doing our touring.
Sunday, April 24 - Happy Easter. Went aboard HappyNow to see their nightscope -very cool, gotta get us one of those (one more piece of 'safety' equipment). Treated ourselves to both lunch and dinner off the boat. For dinner we bicycled into Ixtapa central and had dinner in a restaurant playing Spanish MTV music videos - fun to listen to their popular music.
Monday, April 25 we took three round trip bus trips into Zihuatanejo. We thought we'd get an early start at 0730 to do some errands before the heat set in, but the shops weren't open at 0800 as we expected - not until 1000. So we walked to a nearby grocery and lugged several provisions back to the boat. Went back into Zihua at 1000 to the machine shop to have some brass fittings braised (for the bbq propane project we've mentioned), but had no luck at the plumbing store (still looking for final parts to set up our watermaker differently) so we did part two of our provisioning. After lunch on the boat, the marina suggested yet another plumbing store so we headed out again and had success. We decided on this trip to try and find "Rick's Bar", reportedly a cruisers' hangout. We circled the block it where it was supposed to be but could not find it. There was an empty spot for lease on that block, so perhaps places turn over pretty fast here as well.
We actually enjoyed riding the buses Ixtapa to Zihua. Although they were referred to as 'city' buses, they must be individually owned by the drivers. We suspected this in other parts of Mexico, but it was even more apparent here. The drivers decorate the inside of the buses with their personal things: religious items, items made by their children, radios or stereo systems. We included a photo of one in Zihua who actually gave his bus a name and the decorations inside carried on the theme. Also, they use young boys as facilitators. They stand at the door and keep an eye out for possible passengers and yell out to those on the street to ask if they want a ride, as they are willing to stop anywhere for a passenger. Sometimes to hurry things along they don't collect fares at the door, the boys come down the aisles later and collect. They were all so helpful and friendly. There was never much traffic so the transit time was short, the fare is ridiculously low, always less than US$1, and they had so many buses that we never had to wait more than a few minutes.
Tuesday, April 26 we took an early morning bike ride along the Cyclopista, a very well maintained and wide bike path. We made a loop where the first part had some challenging sections with some hills. When we got to Playa Linda and the cocodrilario (crocodile preserve) in the estuary, we hit an easier section with families with young children on bikes and many joggers. The path wound through the expansive estuary and it was like a jungle river tour on bikes. It was very fun. Later that morning we said goodbye to HappyNow as they headed north. That afternoon, Dennis took the bus into town to attend a Rotary meeting only to find that they had cancelled it 'for the holidays'. We biked into Ixtapa for dinner again. This time we hit a restaurant advertising a lobster special and 2 for 1 beers. It was a 'sports bar' and had several large screens showing the Stanley Cup playoffs -quite a contingent of Canadian fans were present wearing jerseys of their team. The lobster was very fresh and delicious -one and a half tails apiece and 4 beers for a total of $30. Our hostess had lived in Florida for 10 years - must have been as a child as she was in her early 20's. Virginia deftly rode her bike back to the boat after downing 2 beers -just a sailor on shore leave these days.
Wednesday, April 27 we fueled up and left at high tide (1030) to go over the bar. We liked this Ixtapa Nautica Marina. The staff were very friendly. They had dock help walking around with bright yellow shirts and caps all day long to assist as needed. Their showers/restrooms were cleaned several times each day. They had potable water. The only down side was that we had to be located quite a distance from the facilities given that it was Spring Break and the marina was busy with lots of large power boats on which families were staying for their vacation. As we motor-sailed along we passed nearby Brainstorm, a Catalina 40 headed north. It has been unusual for us to see many other boats when we are on a passage. A big ocean out there!
We caught two large yellowtail tuna! Again, they came on the lines at the same time so we had quite a challenge to manage it all, and we didn't - lost one off the swim step. They were both so large that we probably wouldn't have had room in the freezer. But that's the second time we've lost one so we'll design some mechanism (probably a net) for helping us maneuver the boat and deal with them individually. And we caught them while we were motoring this time, so that blows the theory about the noisy engine. We saw lots of turtles and a pod of dolphins. Since it was calm we were able to stop at Papanoa and avoid an overnight trip. We anchored behind a breakwater in front of the naval base. The marines (young boys) were doing on the water maneuvers, such as circling a buoy as close as they could in a large panga-type boat. We ate fresh bbq'd tuna while we watched children playing on the beach at water's edge at sunset.
Thursday, April 28 got underway at 0645 for the last leg to Acapulco. At early light there were quite a few pangas out fishing already so we had to dodge them. This was a record day for wildlife viewing. We saw many sea turtles and hit one -bumped him off to the side and he swam away. We saw several pods of dolphins and two whales. We had planned on anchoring in Bahia de Puerto Marques just southeast of Acapulco, but the swell was headed directly into it and we saw no other boats anchored there so we went on into Acapulco. We anchored behind the mooring field in the west corner near the marinas. Roberto from the nearby dive shop came out to see if we wanted to rent their mooring ball near us. We were already anchored, but thanked him and said we might move there later in the evening if a problem developed -the anchorage was quite deep, 50-70 ft. Indeed we did move to the mooring ball but not because we dragged. The local tour/party boat, Bonanza, liked to use the spot where we were anchored as his thoroughfare and asked if we could move over slightly. So the mooring came in handy. As we ate dinner in the cockpit we listened to music from the various clubs and party boats.
Friday, April 29 - Happy Birthday Kathleen (the 'other' grandma). Roberto came by to collect for his mooring and to offer us a spot on their shop's private dock for $.60US/foot/day. We had checked with the marina earlier in the morning to find that they would charge $3.15US/foot /day so his was a good deal. He didn't have showers and restrooms, but could provide electricity and water. We decided to go for it as he was being so helpful. It was our first attempt at med-mooring. It was exciting and required us to change the lines several times with the tide changes. Roberto and his cousin, Luis, stayed at shore late into the night, standing by to help us. Roberto, Luis, and Dennis took a car into town to refill our propane tank. We walked to the Port Captain to check in but they were closed until Tuesday and we'll be gone by then most likely. Dennis asked Roberto where we could go dancing and he directed us to Paradise - a bus ride away in Acapulco centro. But later that night Roberto said he had second thoughts about sending us into town late at night as the dancing doesn't start until 2100 or 2200. He recommended we stay 'around here' and just go on the party boat, Bonanza, for their 2200-0100 tour of the bay as they had two floors of dance music, with different music on each floor and it would be 'very safe'.
Saturday, April 30 was spent the morning on boat projects. In the afternoon we walked into the zocalo (old town area near us). We toured the fort (Fuerte de San Diego). It is a huge structure - a classic pentagonal fortification with 5 corners and lots of cannons overlooking the harbor. We spent a lot of time in the central plaza - touring the large Byzantine style blue-domed Nuestra Senora de la Soledad cathedral, shopping in the artisan market booths, sitting in the shade in the very crowded plaza people-watching. We ate dinner in a restaurant overlooking the plaza where we could feel the ocean breeze and listened to the live bands playing on the stage that is set up every weekend.
We plan to be here one more day, leaving on Monday headed for Huatulco, where we will check out of Mexico. We'll stop at Puerto Escondido along the way to break up the long trip.
Thursday, April 7 Still in Nuevo Vallarta - we needed to connect with Kay and Steve Van Slyke, who are the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) station hosts in Puerto Vallarta. We had ordered some charts in San Diego and had them mailed to PV c/o Kay and Steve. They also have a library of charts and we intended to copy of few of theirs -some of the first services we've taken advantage of as members of SSCA. They live in a condo overlooking the Marina Puerto Vallarta. We took the bus into town but ended up doing a lot of walking and it was a hot day. We picked up our charts and some from their library, walked to and back from a copy shop. We gave them a copy of one of our charts that they did not have in their library and bottle of wine, Gallo of course given our nephew works there. We walked and bused to a chandlery and Wal-Mart for provisioning and some more summer clothes. I think we have seen and/or used a Wal-Mart and Home Depot in every major city we have visited. Office Depot and Dominoes also seem to be everywhere. It was 2130 when we got back to the boat so we decided to eat out at a restaurant near the harbor. We went to Eddie's Place (had to try it in honor of our brother-in-law). They had live music and it was quite enjoyable sitting out under the stars.
The boat next to us, I'O with Robert and Bobby, included two large German Shepherds. They were very sweet and friendly and of course seeing that they had brought them all the way to PV with minimal problems, we immediately wondered if it would have worked out to bring Coco and Kiwi. Unfortunately we later learned that one of them had contracted cancer some time ago and had stopped eating the day we arrived. They had to put it to sleep the next day which put quite a grey cloud over us all.
Friday, April 8 in the morning, Dennis rode along with Robert and John of Molly J (another neighbor in the marina) on a mission to repair Molly J's heat exchanger. In addition, they planned to drop by a chandlery and Home Depot which gave Dennis a chance to look for fittings that would allow him to hook our BBQ up to or main propane tanks instead of using the small Coleman camping canisters. No luck on any of it that morning but Robert and John made another go at it after lunch while we decided to do our sight-seeing and provisioning. We took a bus back into PV and from the window on the bus, saw Robert and John at the next repair shop they tried. Arriving in PV, we realized we forgot our camera again -too focused on the tasks and not the fun! And we saw some wonderful things that we would have liked to share via photos: two cathedrals; a vast municipal plaza Mercado spanning the river that flows through the middle of town; intricate sand sculptures in progress; a man balancing stones into tall tower-like sculptures; the malecon with its many restaurants, bronze sculptures, and nightclubs; the naval history museum; cobblestone streets; and another plaza full of at least a hundred exercise enthusiasts doing aerobics in the hot afternoon sun. Although we muffed the photo ops, it was a very successful day. We found the propane fittings Dennis needed for the BBQ, a post office, and later learned that John had his heat exchanger fixed. We did some more provisioning at Costco and Wal-Mart. When we provisioned in La Paz with our bikes and trailer cart we could do it all in one big trip, but using the bus it takes several trips. We didn't get back to the boat until 2200 that night. We had ridden 5 buses and carried many pounds of provisions. We went to an Italian restaurant in the marina plaza and ordered pizza, we were just grateful the kitchen was still open. We hadn't had any pizza in months and it tasted pretty good. It was our first non-Mexican food ordered at a restaurant.
Saturday, April 9. In the morning we kayaked the estuary. We saw lots of birds and iguanas sunning themselves high in the tops of the mangrove trees. We saw warning signs about crocodiles, but we didn't see any. For an afternoon of sight-seeing in La Cruz Huanacaxtle (mostly called just La Cruz), after lunch we took a bus out of Nuevo Vallarta to the main highway where we got off and ran across the 4-lane freeway (following all others doing the same) to catch a bus heading in the opposite direction of PV -we had become the figures in those caution signs of crossing pedestrians on the 405 freeway in Camp Pendleton! We had anchored in La Cruz on our first night in Banderas Bay, but we didn't go ashore to visit the town. It was a long, hot ride, but quite interesting. A couple of times the driver stopped while someone came aboard and sold items to the passengers: chips sprinkled with hot sauce, incense, cold drinks, candy. It was 90+ degrees with no breeze and so we tried to keep to shady paths where possible. We walked the small town and it has a very cute and well-shaded central park where fishermen were ending their day repairing their nets. We walked through the new Marina Riviera Nayarit with its malecon and amphitheater and witnessed the end of what looked like an ocean swim competition. La Cruz also has cobblestone streets and it makes you wonder how long shock-absorbers on cars here last. We had expected to spend quite a few hours in La Cruz but we found ourselves finished with sight-seeing quite early and facing a hot afternoon bus ride back to the boat. So we decided on an early dinner that we would somehow stretch into the evening. We checked out 'Philos' which we'd read is a big cruiser hang-out and the 'Tacos in the Street' restaurant which was highly recommended by some cruiser friends. But both of these spots were fully enclosed and we sought an open-air place in hopes of an occasional breeze which we desperately needed. We found a restaurant (think it was called Glorietta's) on a corner of the intersection that has an island in the middle with a large cross made of Huanacaxtle wood, the tree of interest in the town (see full name of town above). It was a good choice, it was shaded, cool, and breezy -we had a great time there. The staff was very pleasant and kept telling us "think of this as your home". When we learned they did not take credit cards, they heard us talking about finding an ATM and they offered to drive Dennis to one while our food was being prepared. The meal was wonderful, a shrimp salad served in an avocado. We had to take a picture of it. It was huge and really hit the spot on that hot day. A couple from Canada walked in and sat next to us. We struck up a conversation and ended up visiting with them for a couple hours while we sipped our cold beverages -no problem stretching that dinner out till evening. After vacationing here, they had decided to buy a condo for retirement and would be finalizing the sale on Monday. They had driven down from Vancouver and had many stories to tell about their trip. They brought only what would fit into their Jeep Cherokee and gave the rest to their children who are still in Vancouver. They thought we were off on a big adventure, but we felt they were on a grand adventure themselves, moving into an empty condo in a foreign country which they really didn't know very well. We got back to the boat at 2000 and intended to invite our neighbors over for banana bread (bananas ripen so fast here!), but we were exhausted and needed to plan our passage for the next day. They are planning on heading south too (one of the few others we have met) so maybe we'll cross paths again.
Sunday, April 10 we cleaned off the boat, packed away our shade structure (which we had used for the first time in Nuevo Vallarta - it covers the back deck and really worked out well), brought the dinghy aboard, and left the marina about 1300. We had 17 knot winds from the southwest so we sailed across the bay - the famous Banderas Bay! We then headed into the wind and motored in the lee of the point for some protection towards Yelapa. Small towns and resorts dotted the coast along the south end of the bay. As the guide book warns, Yelapa experiences swell, so when we arrived we hooked up to a mooring ball being offered by one of the local fishermen. Dennis tried several configurations of our flopper stoppers but the problem was more one of yawing (bow to stern rocking) than rolling (side to side rocking) and so he didn't have much success. By 2330 we felt like we were in a washing machine - being bounced every which way, a leftover of that wonderful day of sailing. (Yes, Virginia had popped a double dose of her nausea pills and was feeling OK in that regard.) We had planned to leave early morning at 0300 to go around Cabo Corrientes. It is compared to Point Conception in California - where you need to find a time when the conditions are calm which is usually in the middle of the night/early morning. We decided to head out early as we figured it couldn't be any worse out there and we weren't going to get any sleep anyway.
Monday, April 11, it was definitely nicer 'out there' as we could choose the direction and speed we wanted to hit the swells. Making it comfortable took us off course and somewhat out to sea, but as you've read here before, we prefer to make it more comfortable even if it is a longer passage. The swells finally got to Virginia and nausea set in - but she didn't lose her dinner. We sailed all night with each of us sleeping briefly. We had intended to stop at Ipala, but our early departure would put us in there while it was still dark, so we continued on to Chamela. As we arrived, there was one boat leaving and two boats anchored. The anchorage was very calm and protected. The departing boat returned shortly - they were headed north and into the conditions we just escaped. As we waited for our dinner to cook we could hear music from one of the beach palapas.
Tuesday, April 12 five dolphins were playing around our boat in the morning. Another boat had joined us so now there were five in the Chamela anchorage. We went ashore for lunch, stopping by Aquadesiac - out of San Francisco - to visit. Linda and Doug decided to come ashore with us. We had lunch at a palapa on the beach and then walked the main street (small dirt road) visiting the three small tiendas and picking up a few things we needed. Linda and Doug are headed north with the three other boats in the anchorage to put their boat up and go home to Napa for the summer. They spent the summer in the Sea of Cortez last year and said the heat was unbearable in the north where they needed to be for insurance purposes. Doug mentioned the business he had retired from and it sounded a lot like what our son Darren does. It turns out that sometime back, Doug had indeed worked at the San Jose branch of the same company (Veeco). Ultimately he retired from a competing company making "atomic measuring devices" that he was sure Darren would recognize (we can't remember the name). He retired the same day as Dennis - March 31, 2009. Their friends Mel and Larry from Marina del Rey joined us for lunch. They were the boat we had seen leave the anchorage to return shortly thereafter. They were leaving to try and get a guest they had aboard to PV for a plane flight. But he was just as happy to take a bus from Chamela to PV, given the swell they were experiencing when they left the protection of the bay, so that is what they did. In the evening the four boats headed north together and we had the anchorage to ourselves. Four dolphins played around the boat that night. Two local boys came out in kayaks to chase them around the bay. Then the dolphins decided to play with our anchor chain and Virginia didn't think they were so cute anymore.
Wednesday, April 13 we made a short run to Paraiso - an anchorage behind some outcroppings of rocks that looked like it would be a good kayaking area. There are two small coves, each with a very small hotel on the beach. When we arrived, another Amel was in one cove and we anchored in the other. We were the only two boats there that night. We had lunch and read and napped all afternoon hoping the wind would calm a bit for an early-evening kayak adventure.
Thursday, April 14 we ended up kayaking early this morning and explored blow holes and sea caves. We paddled by the other Amel, but their dinghy was ashore and we guessed that they may have taken a room for the night as it had been a bit rolly and they looked more exposed than we had been to the swell. We considered it mild compared to Yelapa! We left later that morning and sailed all the way to Tenacatita - it was wonderful. There was a nice evening breeze in that anchorage, keeping away bugs and keeping us pleasantly cool. There were about ten boats there. Tenacatita is a 3 mi x 3 mi bay backed by jungle. There are several things we wanted to do there, one being a self-guided "jungle cruise" up the estuary, so we planned to spend at least two nights.
Friday, April 15 we took our jungle cruise in our dinghy. We got over the sand bar at the estuary entrance with minimal problems - very small surf. Dennis rowed a ways where it was shallowest, but then we slowly motored our way through the mangroves. We saw lots of beautiful birds and two small crocodiles but no iguanas in the mangroves like we'd seen in Mazatlan. The day was overcast (making it comfortably cool) so we figured that may be the reason we didn't see any sunning iguanas. We took our bug spray but had no problem with bugs. At the end of the estuary (about 1 ½ hours trip) there is a lagoon with a narrow berm to the beach. A government official met us there and asked where we came from. He dutifully wrote "California" is his spiral notebook and then asked Dennis to put our names next to that. He radioed the information to someone and with a smile let us pass, asking that if we had a camera we could take pictures of the sea only, not back toward the land. There wasn't a military installation there, so we figured the private residences on the beach likely made that request. We had hoped to have lunch at one of the beach-side palapa restaurants there mentioned in the guide book but with tourist season waning, they were all closed. We walked along the beach and then headed back knowing we hadn't spent enough time for the tide to come in, which would have made our trip across the estuary delta easier. As expected, the tide was very low and this time the shoal was completely exposed at the entrance and we would have to haul our dinghy quite a ways, so we ate a late lunch at the palapa restaurant on the beach there to allow the tide to come in some. We ordered the "rollo de mar" which we were told was "the thing" to order in this area and it was indeed delicious. It's a piece of fish wrapped around celery and shrimp, covered with an almond sauce. There was a campground next to the restaurant and we enjoyed watching the Mexican family there and listening to the beautiful music they had playing. There were two men in the group who fished the whole time; with lines, then with a net. We figured they must have been put in charge of dinner. There were foot-high waves breaking at the entrance of the estuary when we decided to leave so Dennis did his best to row over that shallow area but Virginia got a refreshing shower from one or two of the waves. A dinghy from a nearby powerboat had been cruising the area trying to find an opening to go ashore; they eventually decided not to go, but hung close by in case we needed assistance, or maybe they were just enjoying the free entertainment of our 'shore launch". It was a very fun day. The anchorage was very calm that night and we got a good night's sleep. We played dominoes in the cockpit watching the sunset.
Saturday, April 16 we headed for Manzanillo. There were several anchorages within a day's sail from Tenacatita that were recommended to us by other cruisers - too many choices. We saw sea turtles along the way, floating in the water. As we approached Manzanillo Bay, we saw blue whales - a mother and her calf - just behind the boat. They surfaced within view twice, gliding along so gracefully. We could see the large resorts along the oceanfront in both Santiago and Manzanillo bays. Only four boats were in the anchorage - we made five. We listened to music from the Las Hadas Resort all night long, and well into the wee hours of the morning (the Las Hadas Resort is in the northern section of the bay, several miles from Manzanillo which is a commercial marina prohibiting cruise boats and the anchorage is not protected. Las Hadas Resort is the location where the movie '10' with Bo Derek was filmed). The music was so loud; we first thought it was live when they were playing Spanish tunes, but then when the song "YMCA" came on, followed by a number of other popular American hits from past years we realized it must be a DJ.
Sunday, April 17 we rode the buses into Manzanillo Centro (yes, it's always 'buses'. The bus system is great in that there is a bus for where you want to go about every ten minutes BUT you have to learn all the connections). The bus stop at Las Hadas is up a steep hill at the top of the resort, so we got some exercise. The road from the resort to the main highway is cobblestone, narrow, and hugs the side of the cliff. The speed at which the bus driver drives it was a bit harrowing and we survived the trip out and back twice. In Manzanillo, we walked along the malecon and saw the various sculptures, including the HUGE swordfish. We went to the outdoor Mercado and bought some produce. We walked the cobblestone streets and kept hearing the church bells, but never found the church. We wandered through a bazaar along the waterfront. We saw the commercial harbor with numerous large freighters unloading and loading. When we got back to the boat, we barbequed the yellowtail we had in the freezer and ate it in the cockpit with a cool breeze keeping us comfortable as the moon rose over Manzanillo. A different resort had music playing that night, much softer as they were a bit further away. Las Hadas was quiet that night. So we got to sleep before 0200.
Monday, April 18 was another one of our errand days where we took the bus to an Auto Zone in Manzanillo to get some oil filters (no luck, out of our particular size), then over to Santiago (the neighboring bay) to a Chandlery/Hardware store that our harbormaster recommended for some particular plumbing parts we wanted (they didn't have them but they thought they knew who would but they were back in Manzanillo - the far side of town). Another bus ride in the opposite direction to that hardware store that also did not have the plumbing parts but did happen to have our oil filter size so the trip was worth it. Along the way we saw more of the area, including an outdoor church in Santiago. It had a roof, but no walls - quite practical for this weather actually. This day we paid $100 pesos (about $10.00 US) to use the marina and resort facilities which included showers, trash cans, the pool (including resort towels!) and the dinghy dock while we were out running errands. After we got back from our bus trips we had a refreshing swim in the beautiful pool, then ate dinner at one of the restaurants on the waterfront that had wifi. We enjoyed another "extended" dinner while we both logged onto the Internet to check email and our financial condition and download some tide tables for our next marina stop. Eventually our laptop batteries ran low and the mosquitoes came out and so we headed for the shelter of the boat where we haven't yet been bothered by bugs. We needed to get back to start our passage preparation anyway - checking on weather via grib files and such. One of the other boats in the anchorage was Lykke. We met the captain John Christopherson (spelling?) and had a nice visit with him ashore. He had been in that anchorage since November. He is part owner of a little bar in Manzanillo and lives on his boat. He takes the boat north during certain times of the year while his partner manages the business. We noticed that he seemed to be watching out for a smaller sailboat in the anchorage and asked him about it. He said that it actually is a boat that had been donated to a Sea Scout squadron down here. It needed some engine work and he volunteered to tackle that. He had been very involved with USPS when he lived in the states. He gave us a contact of a friend who lives in Huatalco (our last stop in Mexico).
Tuesday, April 19 we left at 0800 to allow for a potential 30-35 hour overnight trip to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. If the weather and sea conditions were calm, we planned to stop at a few intermediate anchorages and avoid the long passage. But the cruising guide warned that they were only fair weather anchorages so we wanted to be prepared. We saw several sea turtles this day, one with a sea bird hitching a ride atop its back. We had mild conditions and a minor northwest swell most of the day so we first checked the south side of Punta Cabreza Negra (about 50 miles south of Manzanillo) for anchoring. A south swell with the north swell rapping around the point there made for a very confused sea, so we decided to check out the north side of the point. Finding it much calmer, we anchored on the north side of with no other boats there. There was some swell and a current that kept us broadside to it, so as the sun was going down Dennis spent some time setting a stern anchor to point us into the swell. Somewhat successful, we settled into a gentle seesaw motion for the night. The beach was lined with expensive private homes.
Wednesday, April 20 we left at 0800 and motor-sailed all day. We saw sea turtles, whales, and several freighters that day. We anchored at Caleta de Campos, another 70 miles southeast. There were huge waves breaking on the beach - quite dramatic. There were several palapa restaurants on the beach but we weren't tempted to take the dinghy ashore not only because of the breakers, but also because the beach was packed. Knowing that Easter was the upcoming Sunday we figured it must be Spring Break in Mexico....a fact that was confirmed later. Again we listened to loud DJ-conducted music late into the night, coincidentally including a version of "Time of My Life", the theme of the movie Dirty Dancing which we had watched that evening.
Thursday, April 21 we pulled up the anchor at 0730 as we were expecting about an 11 hour trip to Ixtapa Marina which has a shoal at the entrance that deep draft vessels should only traverse at high tide -which explains the tide tables we downloaded in Manzanillo. We checked the tides and knew we wanted to go across around 1800-2000. We passed the commercial port at Lazaro Cardenas about noon and thus saw quite a few freighters either underway or anchored near the harbor. We had to keep careful watch as we crossed the shipping lane which was unusual for us as we could go a whole day now without seeing another cruiser heading north or south. We arrived at Ixtapa at 1830 and made it across the bar into a slip in the marina. As we walked our documentation over to the Harbormaster's office for check-in, we saw a six-foot crocodile swimming in the marina waters between the boats. We had been warned that the marina was built in an estuary which crocodiles called home. Signs warn you to keep your dogs on the boat (they've been dragged right off the dock) and keep small children in hand, away from the edge of the dock! It's quite warm and humid here, so things really slow down and activities (other than swimming) are reserved for the early morning and late evening. We will be staying here at least 4 days as tomorrow is Good Friday and most commercial places will be closed, so any errands other than provisioning will need to wait until Monday.
From here we plan to go to Acapulco. It will be about a 120 mile trip, so an overnighter for sure. But there doesn't appear to be any reasonable anchorages along the way, even in light conditions. We haven't done an overnighter in awhile and we will have had 4 or so days here to rest, so we should be up for that.
Thursday, March 31st Happy Birthday Dennis! We left Mazatlan's Stone Harbor at 0300 as planned. About 1030 we had a couple of humpback whale sightings; the first was just about 50 yards ahead and crossing our bow. It looked like a mother and its calf (one was a lot smaller than the other and they were going very slowly). We were motoring at the time and had to slow down to avoid hitting them. The second sighting was another one doing the tail-slapping routine that we'd seen before. At about 1330 a northwesterly filled in and we sailed with the spinnaker up all afternoon. Dennis got his birthday wish. We anchored on the east side of Isla Isabella and there were already four boats in a pretty small anchorage. This anchorage on Isla Isabella is a little open with only a large rock separating it from the island for protection from the north. In addition, the bottom is mostly rocks with only an occasional sandy spot. We broke out the anchor marker buoy/trip line for the first time in case we hooked a rock. It was blowing about 20 knots by the time we dropped the anchor but the swell was knocked down by the rock outcropping. By the time the sun set, two more boats had arrived and seven of us shared the little anchorage. We enjoyed barbequed fish for dinner.
Friday, April 1st we dinghied to the south end of the island and hiked. Isla Isabella is known as the Mexican Galapagos because of all the exotic wildlife. We saw green, brown, and blue-footed boobies, nesting frigates, iguanas, lizards, and a crater lake. We took both cameras with us so we have lots of photos to sort through for posting on the web. Some of the booby chicks looked larger than the guarding parent. There were so many of them that they would roost on or near the trail and as you got close squawking parents would send out a warning. The colored feet were so brilliant, especially the blue ones. The frigates were everywhere - hundreds in the sky, hundreds in tree-top nests - they were there in great numbers. It was quite a sight. We only saw one pair of iguanas sunning themselves. When we got back to Libertad, Christian from s/v Altair offered us some of the yellowtail that he had speared and already fileted. We readily accepted and gave him a chunk of our watermelon in return. Virginia baked banana bread and Dennis rigged screens for the hatches and installed two fans as we head to San Blas tomorrow and we are told that mosquitoes and no-see-ums are common around sunset/sunrise. We went over to visit Joyce and Scott on Life is Good for happy hour and had a nice chat about how we each got started in boating, how we chose our boats, the training we had, and our experiences with the "Captain Ron" that we each hired at one point. Although we had docked next to them in Ventura for months, we hadn't had a chance to really visit (remember that house remodel we were doing....).
Saturday, April 2nd Mexico switches to daylight savings time tonight/early tomorrow morning. A few days later we will be moving into the Central Time zone when we get to Puerto Vallarta so we will be changing our clocks a lot this week. We left Isla Isabella just after the pangas cleared the fishing nets they had set around our boat the previous night. We are right behind Life is Good as we head to Matanchen Bay just outside San Blas. It's very calm and we are motoring so Dennis took advantage of this time to pull everything out of the cockpit storage areas in search of our Velcro that he wanted to use for screens over the larger hatches. No matter how detailed we think we have made our inventory we keep identifying things that are missing from the list and require an extensive search. Bummer.
Sunday, April 3rd we went with Joyce and Scott on the La Tovara Springs jungle tour up a river just behind our anchorage. A panga takes you up the river/estuary and stops whenever you see something you want to look at further or photo. The guide also spotted a few things for us that we wouldn't have noticed. Hopefully the pictures can capture the beauty of all the various birds we saw. We also saw turtles and American crocodiles. It was quite a pleasant cruise through the mangroves in the early morning and we didn't have a problem with bugs. At the furthest point, is Tovara Spring where you can swim (in an area fenced off from the crocodiles) and enjoy a lunch or early dinner at the restaurant located there. We had worn our swim suits in anticipation of a dip, but the morning was cool and the restaurant wasn't open yet, so we just headed back. We were now more trained observers and had even more sightings of wildlife on the return trip.
We wanted to explore the town of San Blas. Joyce and Scott took a taxi. Dennis really wanted to dinghy the four miles. The trip over was relatively calm but four miles is a long way by dinghy; the wind had increased in the afternoon for our return trip and Virginia had a few white-knuckle moments as we surfed the downwind swells. But Dennis was quick to learn how to make the most of the following seas and we had a quick trip back. While in town we walked up to the fort (La Contaduria) and the charred remains of their original church/mission (Templo de la Virgin del Rosario). Amazingly the floor of red Mexican tiles was completely intact and looked beautiful amidst the ruins. We also toured the open market; we can never pass those up. It is so interesting to see the types of food and methods of preparation and presentation and we often need fresh produce. Since it was Sunday the post office, auto parts, and hardware stores were closed so those errands had to wait. We toured the central plaza to see the intricate bead work for which the Huichol women in San Blas are famous. We had lunch in town. It was the first time that we had so much trouble communicating our order. They didn't have langosta (lobster) items on the menu, however they had some on display and were really pushing them that day. Dennis was going to order an omelet with shrimp (camarone) but since they were offering lobster, he asked them to make it a langosta omelet instead. They looked at him like he must be very confused. They pulled him out of his seat and took him over to see what a langosta was, held one up for me to see, and appeared to be asking us how the heck they could fit a BBQ'd lobster in an omelet. We resorted to two items that were on the menu and graciously declined the lobster. That afternoon Joyce and Scott came over to Libertad for a visit and we enjoyed cold drinks and snacks out in the cockpit, listening to music from one of the beach restaurants. As the sun began to set, the mosquitoes and no-see-ums started to come out so they headed back to Life is Good; we closed up Libertad and watched a movie down below with the fans and screened hatches keeping us quite comfortable. We later discovered that while we were safe from the bugs on the boat, during the tour of the fort and the church, we had picked up quite a few bites -should have applied some repellent!
Monday April 4th Happy Birthday to Virginia's brother Danny! We did some chores in the early morning, changing engine oil and making an adapter for filters we found at the Home Depot in Mazatlan, to fit our watermaker. We've discovered that as the sea becomes warmer, the filters need to be changed and cleaned more regularly as they fill up with rapidly growing organisms. So we needed to increase our inventory of filters to rotate them more frequently. Our next stop, Chacala, is only a 24 mile trip so we delayed our departure hoping to get some afternoon wind (you are probably tired of hearing that from us). We left around noon and sailed the whole way. We also caught two yellowtail! Both rods went off at the same time so we had a flurry of activity as we eased the sails to slow the boat and reeled in both fish. We had both fish sitting on the back swim step, where Dennis installed the fileting board, as we reset the sails and got back on course. During that time one fish slipped away. But the remaining one was plenty for us. The anchorage in Chacala, is exposed to the swell and the wind is variable, so it can be quite rolly. Everyone was using bow and stern anchors to keep their boats pointed into the swell, so we did likewise. We have Channel Islands experience at placing two anchors, but that included an event of dragging the stern anchor in heavy swell, so our stern anchor is now a bit of a monster along with about 30 feet of chain making it always an adventure to deploy. Using the dinghy to drop the stern anchor we ran out about two hundred feet of rode -after hauling down on the stern rode, we were locked in good and tight. We then took the dinghy ashore and walked along the beach to the palapa restaurants to have a cold drink. We looked over at the table next to us and recognized Ed and Annette from Windsong. We had contacted them via email about 9 months before we left to ask about the tools the used for their website, as we were impressed with the gps track snippets and such. They mentioned that they were in Mexico but headed home for a few months and home happened to be in Oxnard; we agreed to try and get together for dinner. We were having a hard time finding a date with the busy schedules we both had. It turned out they were planning their wedding and they invited us to attend! It was such a pleasant surprise, but we did indeed attend it at one of the yacht clubs in Channel Islands Harbor and finally got to meet them. We approached their table at the restaurant on the beach in Chacala and reintroduced ourselves. They invited us to sit at their table with Jim and Lucy from Passage II (a Hunter) who are also from Ventura/Channel Islands. Ed and Annette have a new boat - Songbird (an Island Packet). We talked until sunset and then dinghied back to our boats as the bugs began to come out again.
Tuesday, April 5th we were the very last of 7 boats to leave the Chacala anchorage. That gave us lots of room to pick up our stern anchor using the windless. Much better than Dennis having to haul it in manually, albeit a bit more complicated. Headed for Banderas Bay, around lunchtime we saw a turtle floating in the water. Banderas Bay is the largest bay in mainland Mexico and very famous for its good sailing conditions -lots of wind and minimal swell -sort of like SF bay. So as we rounded the northern point, Punta Mita, and headed into the bay, we got about 17 knots of wind. Although Punta Mita and the Tres Mariettas islands at the northern end of the bay were enticing, we decided to go straight to La Cruz. We anchored in 17-20 knots in the La Cruz anchorage. There was some chop but no swell so it was comfortable; wind died down later in the evening and we had a gorgeous sunset. We ate the yellowtail we had caught the previous day - delicious. There were about 20 other boats with us in the anchorage - one power, the rest sail boats.
Wednesday, April 6th Happy Birthday to Virginia's sister Susan! We moved on to a marina in Nueva Vallarta as it would be centrally located between La Cruz and Puerta Vallarta with convenient buses between them. We are at the Marina Nueva Vallarta. It evidently was in disrepair for a number of years and they are now fixing it up and offering great rates as an enticement. So far we like it. We have some great neighbors and one has a car and already offered to take us anywhere we need to go. We dinghied over to Paradise Village Resort and Marina, which is right next door, to check out the market, laundry facilities, etc. and have lunch. We plan to stay here about three days to get caught up on our internet work, do some laundry, and reprovision...along with sight-seeing of course.
Tuesday, March 22nd Gail and Jan of Joy of Life (from Alaska) took us into Loreto for provisioning. We wanted to take them to lunch to thank them. After a ten minute drive to the "best" place around, we found it closed on Tuesdays! The next spot they picked was the 'campground restaurant'. We are fairly certain it is the same RV campground in downtown Loreto we stayed at with Darren on our land trip down here many years ago. We'll have to check our Baja campground book when we get back home - that would be pretty amazing. They also took us to a Mexican bakery. Dennis has become fond of Mexican baked goods so he was in heaven. That afternoon we went aboard Otter (the Island Packet one) where Randy and Gayle shared cruising guides and stories of their three years in Central America, Ecuador, and the Galapagos. They pointed out that it is 5 days to the Galapagos from Costa Rica and since it is about that same amount of time to make the passage as we had planned from Ecuador, a new idea is brewing. If we head over from Costa Rica to the Galapagos, we would have a better chance of getting there by early May before our cruising permit for that area expires. Then we can head "backwards" to mainland Ecuador, maybe go down to Peru, and then up to Panama and other areas we skipped by jumping off in Costa Rica. And it remains open then as to what point we would leave from to cross the Pacific to the Marquesas next season. But as always, plans remain flexible. The four of us then met up with Mary Lee and Lewis (s/v Merry Lee) for dinner. We had a great time. There were only a few customers besides us and we got a lot of attention from the owner/waiter. Pedro was a very charming man - well travelled in Europe and South America. Always multi-tasking, we ran back and forth to the laundry room during dinner as we were headed south the next day and wanted to get all clothes and towels clean.
Wednesday, March 23rd. Happy Birthday Virginia - a big one. Dennis announced it on the local radio net in the morning and she got the traditional radio clicks salute. We headed out of Puerto Escondido to Timbabiche. About four miles out of Puerto Escondido we saw two humpback whales breaching. Virginia got a bit of video on them, but it was so hard to predict where they would come up next that it won't be anything like the real thing. We got to sail some that day, but only to 10-11 knots of wind. The predicted 20-25 never materialized. About an hour after we anchored in Timbabiche, Manuel in a panga approached us selling langosta (lobster). We bought 4 grande ones for $100 pesos each and he threw in a fifth for a Coca Cola Light (Diet Coke); then we traded him 1 gallon of gasoline for his panga for a 6th one. Virginia haltingly told him in Spanish that it was her birthday and we would be celebrating with his lobster. We had leftovers for lobster cocktails a second night. We were the only yacht in that beautiful anchorage.
Thursday, March 24th we sailed, with spinnaker, to Isla Spiritu Santos, Bahia San Gabriel. As we neared the anchorage, we caught another Bonito (fish) - which supports our theory that the engine scares the fish away (but other cruiser friends of ours make the opposite claim, so who knows). We planned on making one more day trip south to Muertos and heading across to mainland Mexico from there, but the weather predictions were for good sailing conditions Friday and Saturday, with not much wind on Sunday. We decided to head straight across from Isla Spiritu Santos on Friday. Even though it would be a longer passage than from Muertos, we wanted to sail.
Friday, March 25th we started out at 3:00am for Mazatlan. We did get to sail, with spinnaker, most of Friday. That evening the wind died and it stayed relatively calm until we reached Mazatlan. But at least we got in the one day. We had a little activity that night to keep us alert - passed two large fishing boats and two cruise ships. We could see the glow of La Paz as we left and the glow of Guaymas to the northeast Friday evening.
Saturday, March 26th we arrived in Mazatlan at about 3:00pm, thus it was about a 36 hour passage. The channel was relatively narrow and shallow in areas; a dredge works constantly to clear away the sand that accumulates (sound familiar Santa Barbarians?) and was working overtime as a result of the tsunami impacts felt in Mazatlan. It was about mid-way to low tide and Dennis felt us plow through a shoal at the entrance. We met a very nice couple, Mary Lou and Joe Upton (s/v Anna), on the dock right next to us, as they returned to their boat from a bike ride.
Sunday, March 27th since we had mentioned enjoying bike riding in La Paz when we saw them ride up yesterday, they advised us this morning of a semi-organized "bike to brunch" ride happening today. Dennis had 30 minutes to assemble the bikes and off we went. We joined Mary Lou and Joe, and Darlene and Roy (s/v Scrimshaw) for the bike ride. It was quite pleasant and ended at a palapa restaurant on the beach. In addition to their cruising activities, Darlene and Roy also own a condo in Mazatlan so they spend a lot of time here and were a wealth of information about the local area. We took a bus into old town with Mary Lou and Joe that afternoon and the four of us spent the rest of the day walking tour of town. We went to the outdoor Mercado and looked at all the fresh fish, meat, and produce; a priest was saying mass right in the middle of one of the aisles for the benefit of the workers that couldn't get off to go to church. We toured the Cathedral, the beautiful plaza nearby, some quaint streets and courtyards, the malecon. We went to the rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Freeman and had a wonderful view out over the city as we sipped Limonade (limeade made with mineral water - delicious and so refreshing). Around 5:00pm we were headed back to the bus when we noticed a stage set up in the plaza across from the Cathedral. They were having a children's dance contest. It reminded us of Fiesta, slightly. They weren't doing flamenco, however; it was the type of dancing that the cheer squads do at college sports these days.
Monday, March 28th we made contact with Joyce and Scott Ross (s/v Life is Good) who were our neighbors in the Ventura marina. They have been here for a month or so and are soon headed south. We agreed to meet that evening for dessert and music at Tres Amigos rrestaurant nearby. Early in the morning we rode our bicycles to a bike shop for a lube and tune-up to protect them from the salty sea environment. Instead of the one hour timeframe we had been told to expect, he needed to keep the bikes all day as he was quite busy. So we hopped on the bus outside the shop and went into downtown again to do some errands: locate an upholsterer for a new piece of foam for one of our cushions, find a surf shop that had boogie boarding fins, etc. Once we finished those tasks, we still had plenty of time to kill so we went to the Aguamarine (Aquarium) which also has an aviary. It was quite nice and we would recommend it; unfortunately we did not have time to take in the seal show and the bird show which we are sure would have been worth the wait if we could have fit it into our schedule. We took the bus back to the shop to collect our bikes. As we were riding to the marina, enjoying the marked improvement in the operation of our bikes, Dennis caught something in his front spokes and went down hard. He didn't hit his head or break anything, but he has road burn on his hand and leg. It was amazing he wasn't hurt more. That man knows how to fall - just tucks and rolls. In the early evening we got together with Mary Lou and Joe aboard Anna to trade notes as we were cruising in opposite directions. We got some good hints about places south of here and we shared our experiences in the Sea. We were so surprised to have someone ask us for hints; the tables were turned for the first time. Guess that was a significant milestone in our cruising life. We took a taxi to Tres Amigos. Joyce and Scott brought 4 other friends and we had an enjoyable time visiting. They are headed to Isla Isabella next, as are we, but they are leaving Tuesday and we are waiting another day or so hoping for some wind.
Tuesday, March 29th was a day of chores, preparing for the next passage. Did laundry (actually just dropped it off at a service - getting lazy), provisioned at the local Mercado, took the bus into town for a few errands including using an ATM to get more pesos. Dennis tried to attend a Rotary meeting but got the run around (on his bike at night) about the location and never did find it. Virginia checked the weather forecasts and got caught up on Internet work.
Wednesday, March 30th we kayaked into the estuary. It was a nice leisurely kayak through a section of very large homes, a golf course where they had to stop playing as we kayaked by as they were hitting over the water at that hole, a preserve where we saw lots of birds. We took the bus into town to do a few errands at Home Depot and couldn't figure out which bus would take us back, so we hopped onto a Pulmaria (golf cart type open taxi). We did some overdue polishing of the stainless steel hardware and lifeline. Tonight around 6:00pm we are going to take a short jaunt out of this marina into Stone Harbor, the anchorage across from the commercial port, so that we can get an early start tomorrow morning without worrying about navigating the narrow channel out of the marina.
Tuesday, March 15th we left Puerto Escondido a bit later than we had planned as we were busy posting our last blog and sending an email to Kira and Devin (our granddaughters) - got to keep our priorities straight. About four boats left ahead of us and we followed them north. Wind and sea got a bit uncomfortable a few hours out as the wind was from the north and we were motor-sailing -again, not making much headway. The boats ahead of us had no sails up and also appeared to be having a rough time so we headed for shore as we were near an anchorage named Mangles and thought we might be able to sit out the afternoon there. But as we scoped it out we found that it was too shallow to get protection from the swell and in the meantime the wind and sea had calmed a bit. So we pressed on to Caleta San Juanico. We saw a whale along the way; Alegria (whom we had met and lunched with in Puerto Escondido) was about an hour ahead of us and alerted us on the radio to keep an eye out for it. As we entered Caleta San Juanico we were glad we had continued on. It was a beautiful bay with some interesting rock formations jutting out of the water on one side of the bay. There were seven boats on one side of those jutting rocks (deeper into the bay) and one boat on the other side. We decided to head for the less crowded area. As we approached, Randy and Gail on Otter (the second boat by that name we had encountered, this one an Island Packet) hailed us on the radio to say that there was plenty of room for us near them on a nice sandy bottom. That made the decision even easier. They came over in their dinghy after we had anchored and introduced themselves. We agreed to meet up again before we both left and visit more. That night we heard a saxophone playing. It resounded throughout the calm anchorage. It was hard to identify the source, but we think it may have been Randy or Gail. It was beautiful. We never did get to have that visit though as the next day south winds were forecast and Randy and Gail moved over to the other side of the anchorage for better protection.
Wednesday, March 16th in the morning, Mary Lee and Lewis (sv. MerryLee) came over and invited us to hike on the island with them. They had also been a part of that lunch group in Puerto Escondido. On the shore where we started our hike was the "Cruisers' Tree". Cruisers make art projects with their boat name on them and either hang them on the tree or lay them underneath -there were hundreds of contributions. At one point on the hike we were on a dirt road that had black obsidium stones scattered throughout. We picked up a few and will have to think of a good souvenir project for those. It was a nice hike up to the top of the hill to get the panorama view of the anchorage. When we got back to the boat we baked cookies, got our weather grib files for the next day, and did some chores. We invited Mary and Lewis to join us that evening after dinner for a dessert of cookies -they couldn't resist. Lewis came by briefly to show us his piece of artwork that they would add to the tree -a piece of bamboo with the name of their boat in maroon toenail polish, further decorated with dried starfish. They brought some special "sipping" tequila. We had that with the fresh cookies. Dennis couldn't drink more than one sip as straight tequila brings back not so pleasant memories of his bachelor party. We had planned on playing a game or watching a movie, but Mary and Lewis spent the evening describing the various places they have visited on mainland Mexico with Virginia taking good notes about where to find the grocery, laundromat, butcher, and most importantly the music and dancing. We shared our weather info with them as they don't have SSB. We were headed north and they were headed south, so we bid adieu for the season.
Thursday, March 17th. Happy St. Patrick's day. We listened to the Amigo and Sunrisa nets in the morning for the weather reports and decided all was well for heading north to Bahia Concepcion. On our hike up the hill yesterday, we found a red adobe tile fragment and Dennis had etched "Libertad" on it with the dremmel tool. He kayaked our art project over to the Cruisers' Tree and we pulled up anchor. Just before rounding Point Concepcion we were approached by a panga full of fishermen. Dennis had been trolling for over a week with no luck and we were longing for fresh fish, so we struck a deal for what we think was a 10 lb Flag Cabrilla -as best we could tell from our fish guide. Dennis spent the next 10 minutes gutting and filleting. There was no wind until we got near the entrance to Bahia Concepcion, but then we had good wind for sailing down into the bay. Along the way this day we saw a pod of about 100 dolphins that turned and all headed for our boat. We are still not very practiced with the video camera (our first one) but we got a bit of footage of that marvelous scene. The channel down the bay was very shallow at points; we were following another boat in and found ourselves too near the western shore (7.5 feet under us at one point and our keel is 6.5 feet!). Virginia kept an eye on the depth sounder and Dennis piloted us to the anchorage. We chose to anchor in Coyote Bay - the Playa El Burro anchorage. There are several anchorages in Coyote Bay and Virginia chose this one after reading in the guide book about all the fun things available there to do. We went ashore to the one restaurant, Bertha's, and had dinner. The waiter, Steve - an American and a very amicable character, invited us to an 'end of winter' party at his palapa/bus on the beach in the next cove over the following day - Friday. To entice us, he mentioned that he had prepared 100 jello shots.
Friday, March 18th at around 0800 someone was playing a recording of Amazing Grace - the bagpipe version, very, very loudly. It resounded through the anchorage. Beautiful. It sounded like it was coming from Gary's palapa. Gary is a local weather guru who does the weather reports on the Sonrisa net each morning. You can identify his palapa by the large HAM antenna. We decided we should do a few chores before we played so Dennis rigged thimbles on the cabin roof port and starboard handrails so when at anchor we can secure the main boom to the side for better solar panel exposure, without obstructing the deck. Virginia cleaned the oven. We then kayaked over to the next cove, Playa El Coyote and a bit beyond, searching for a hot spring. We saw tropical fish - beautiful small striped ones, a large turtle floating in the swells, a red starfish with about 20 legs but no hot springs. There was one boat in the anchorage and the owner was kayaking up to it just as we passed. It was Eric aboard Sea Genius, homeport Santa Barbara! He had lived in the Santa Barbara anchorage south of Stern's wharf and occasionally in the marina for three years to be near his daughter who was attending UCSB. About three years ago he headed down here. He pointed out the hot spring which was actually submerged along the shoreline so it was a saltwater hot spring. The wind was coming up so we decided to head back to the boat for lunch rather than experience it. In the early afternoon we had planned on hiking and attending the party, but the wind whipped up to 25 knots and so we stayed aboard doing chores and reading -Virginia was so looking forward to those jello shots. We had hung our sleeping bags over the booms to air out and you can guess what happened in the increased wind..... When we went up to secure some flapping halyards we found one was hanging over the lifeline and the other was floating about 20 yards from the boat. Dennis hopped into the dinghy and quickly rowed over to retrieve it. Oh well, too warm now for sleeping bags anyway (average daytime temp in the 80's, night time, high 60's). About 1700 the wind died and we decided to get in our hike up the hill. That was a great decision as it was a marvelous trip. We saw the petroglyphs that the guide book mentioned, which really pleased us as the trail was not well marked at the beginning and we were just rock climbing when Virginia spotted some. Depicting animals and undecipherable signs, these pieces of prehistoric art were pounded into large rocks with smaller stones. Each one would have taken days to complete. As we headed up the hill, the guide book also had us looking for 'bell rocks' -these rocks formed from volcanic heat contain a lot of iron and ring like a bell when you strike them. We knocked on several rocks on the way up the hill and after a while we decided we weren't going to find them. When we reached the top, Dennis climbed the pinnacle to get a good photo of the area and upon stepping on certain rocks, they produced a clang -he'd found the bell rocks! Now that we knew what they looked like, we found others on the path back down the hill. The sun set as we headed back down and we reached the bottom just as it was getting dark. An evening hike turned out to be perfect as much of the hillside was shaded. It was a fabulous hike - highly recommend it. We hadn't taken any water so we took a detour to the roadside café and treated ourselves to some Cokes. To top off the day we grilled some of the fresh fish we had bought from the fishermen it was very mild and tasty.
Saturday, March 19th we headed out of Bahia Concepcion and south again, in preparation of heading over to mainland Mexico. We want to do it from a point further south than Concepcion and we missed many of the islands and Baja mainland anchorages on our way north; we want to catch a few more on the return trip. We baked some bread this morning as we motored along. We saw three whales on the trip. We anchored at Punta Pulpito. We were all alone - no other boats, just a group of 5 dolphins. Dennis went up on deck after dinner and called down to Virginia "wow, you've got to see this". This was the night of the 'super moon' where it was 14% brighter than normal, a phenomenon that apparently only happens every 18 years. We were in a perfect spot to see it out here away from any city lights and under a clear sky. It was spectacular. The sky was so bright around it that you couldn't see any stars near it, yet across the sky you could tell that there were stars out. We had heard about it on the radio net that morning but then had almost forgotten about it.
Sunday, March 20th we started to put our kayaks in the water to explore the shoreline which offered several sea caves when the wind came up so we decided we had best get started on our way to Isla Carmen. About an hour out, a fishing boat came alongside and asked if we wanted to trade a yellowtail for a 'cheap bottle of tequila'. We only had wine aboard and still had fish in the freezer, so we passed on that offer. Besides, it's just not much fun cleaning a fish you didn't catch. But we do love yellowtail so it was tempting to bargain. As soon as we anchored at Ballandra cove, we put the kayaks in the water and paddled to the point, then we slowly worked our way around the shore checking out the tidepools and underwater sea life through the very clear water. We saw urchins, bright red starfish, part of a shipwreck, crabs, beautiful tropical fish about 4" in diameter which were black with bright orange and white stripes, a school of adolescent barracuda, and lots of sea plants. Unfortunately though, bees would fly around us spoiling our serenity. They seemed to be especially attracted to Virginia's sun tan lotion. There were two couples in a dinghy also cruising the anchorage. As we neared them, they explained that they were trying to escape the bees which had 'taken over their boat'. They were from Reno and Truckee. One couple has a palapa near Puerto Escondido and stay here most of the year. The other couple was headed home soon. They were aboard Impulse. When we got back to Libertad, we did have a few bees, but we went below, closed most of the hatches, leaving a couple smaller ones open for some air and we were soon bee-less. In the early evening they disappeared and we opened up the boat again. For dinner we decided to make our own papas rellenos, a new dish we had in La Paz (potatoes 'stuffed' with chorizo). We are running low on fresh produce. I think we have one orange, one banana, one tomato, and some cabbage left. We plan to return to Puerto Escondido to stock up as we plan to be there a few days because the forecast is calling for some serious NW wind over the next two days. They also have internet access so we can catch up on bill paying, our email, and postings to our website. We'll also return/swap some books that we blew through on our trip north -Dennis has started reading!
Monday, March 21st we motored the short distance from Ballandra on Isla Carmen to Puerto Escondido. We dinghied into shore to take showers and walk to the small tienda in Tripui to see what produce they might have (not much, only got limones and jicama). We decided to have lunch at the restaurant there as we had enjoyed it last week when we were here. We ended up visiting with Gail and Jan from Joy of Life. They are from Alaska and have spent winters here for the past 26 years. They look about our age (or younger). We mentioned that we intended to take the bus to Loreta tomorrow to reprovision and asked if they knew where to refill propane tanks. They kindly offered to give us a ride as Jan was headed there tomorrow in their van and yes, they knew where to get propane. The wind whipped up and we headed back to the boat to do some internet work, including posting this blog and hopefully some photos.