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Sailing the coast of Mexico

Sailing the coast of Mexico with friends
Who: Craig Blasingame & Sue Steven
Port: Coronado, California
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Cruising north to Puerto Vallarta
03/13/2013, La Cruz

It's been a while since we've posted a blog, so this one has to make up for a lot of time. We departed Barra de Navidad and spent over a week in Tenacatita. This is our favorite anchorage outside the sea of Cortez. Why? Because it is a safe large anchorage, it has a jungle river trip for your dinghy, there is a nearby quaint town of Manzanilla, there is a sea turtle nesting area, there is a nearby snorkeling area aptly called "the acquarium" and there are plenty of cruisers to play on the beach with or swim to shore with. Every morning is a cruisers radio network (the net) which outlines who's there, what's the weather and the day's activities. And it's all free!
We went to the weekly Friday night dinghy raft up/potluck and with over 30 dinghy's we met lots of interesting people. A few folks came down for the weekend in their boats from Puerto Vallarta, and held a mini sail fest in the bay. Craig got to sail/race on a beautiful catamaran with some folks from Austrailia. As a group we went into La Manzanilla for a local charity festival and enjoyed the local music and food.
One day I organized a group dinghy trip to "the Acquarium" for snorkeling. It is about a 45 minute dinghy ride from the anchorage, and thus safety in numbers. We get to this remote place, and no sooner had we jumped in the water when a power boat from Barra showed up with day trippers drinking beer and partying. It spoiled the mood, but most of them preferred to drink than snorkel, so it did not spoil the water.
We left Tenacatita for Chamela. Initially we anchored off the islands in the middle of the bay, but in the late afternoon the wind picked up and our anchor dragged a bit. We decided to move over to the beach which was better protected from the wind. However the swells were strong, so it was a very rolly night.
We left the next day for Ipala, anchoring only for the night as again it was very rolly. Finally we sailed around Cabo Corrientes with good seas, watching lots of turtles sun bathing on the surface, arriving at Paradise Village. After more than two weeks at anchor, it was nice to be attached to a dock.
We spent 10 days at Paradise Village, enjoying the pools, riding our bikes to nearby towns, and taking the bus to downtown Puerto Vallarta. We also took a day sail on a tourist catamaran boat to snorkel at Los Arcos and have lunch as Las Animas. On the way out, we saw a baby whale practicing how to breach. It jumped into the air a dozen times before we left it. The snorkeling at Los Arcos was very good, and we saw rays, free swimming eels as well as the usual tropical fish. Unfortunately on the sail back, Sue was stung three times with bees on her ankle and her finger and she has been swollen for many days.
We are now in La Cruz (Marina Riveria Nayarit) which is on the north side of Banderas Bay. We will be here for a few weeks, so unlikely to have a blog entry until we move again.

03/25/2013 | karalaine
It is so good to finally be almost caught up on my personal emails and have a chance to track down your blog and get caught up. I would give almost anything to be with you now. How long will you continue to sail? Work is trying to give me a nervous breakdown by telling me that they are going to be forced to make me retire at the end of August due to the NIH budget cuts. Work enviroment is very unpleasant and contributing to my secondary response of Abdominal spasms...I did not even know you could have these. Still I come everyday with a good attitude and a certain stress level as I wait my fate. I hear you guys are coming to the Russell reunion in August...that was the best news in a long time. Stay in you guys...kl
Monarch Butterflys - Ocampo
02/18/2013, Barra Navidad, Grand Bay Hotel Marina

Everyone should see the southern-most "hibernation" grounds for the Monarch Butterfly sometime in their lifetime.

I was expecting thousands of butterflies and what I saw were tens of thousands of the beautiful orange and yellow and black insects. For those who are not knowledgeable about this insects habits (like me), the Monarch has a very unusual life-cycle...even for a butterfly. The entire life-cycle of a cluster of Monarchs spans four generations and a year. Even though the average lifespan of an adult Monarch is only a few weeks every fourth generation produces butterflies that migrate from their summer feeding grounds (where that individual was born) all the way back to the "family" cluster area, in this case a sanctuary near Ocampo, Mexico. Sometimes they will even return to the same tree that their great-great grandparents left a year earlier. Once back to the cluster area, they hang around until its time to fly back north (like all the way to Texas) and then they mate, the males die and the females migrate back. To do this, the females have to extend their lifespan from a couple of weeks to 6-8 months! Combine this behavior with the typical life-cycle of any butterfly (e,g,, egg-caterpillar-chrysalis-butterfly) and you have one amazing animal.

Sue and I traveled by bus from Barra de Navidad, Jal, Mexico, where we left the boat in the hotel marina, to Morelia, Mexico. [ETN, first-class, about $250US each round- trip] This is a 10 hour bus ride. The back-up bus driver sleeps in a cubby under the bus just forward of your luggage! Because this was an overnight trip and we knew we wouldn't sleep very well, we decide to stay in a hotel in Morelia for a day before we took our tour up to see the butterflies. Morelia may be the largest city in Mexico that no one in the US has never heard of. It has a population of 1.2 million (granted, 1/3 of them are students) and a lot of beautiful and historic buildings including a Roman-style aqueduct. We stayed at the Hotel Solidad which was very nice with good food and right in the middle of the historic area near the cathedral. The last caused some negative comments from our fellow travelers since the cathedral has the habit of ringing its beautiful bells at all hours of the day and night. Sue and I slept right through it. Sightseeing in Morelia included many of the beautiful churches including one, Guadalupe, that was we decorated with gold leaf throughout. We were in Morelia on a Saturday and that appears to be a favorite day for Quinceanera celebrations. In Spanish tradition this is a coming of age party which a young lady turns involves a beautiful ball gown with her her brothers and other male friends dressed in color-coordinated costumes of her choosing. That it also includes a party, thrown by her father, and lots of dancing, should go without saying. Since the event includes a blessing by the priest, Sue and I say one group at the Guadalupe Church (with the boys dressed as old-time soldiers). We then saw this group and four others taking pictures (professional photographers) in the nearby park.

To get to the Monarch conservatory, we traveled 3 hours by van with 10 other visitors from Morelia. [Tour was with Michmex Guides. Our guide was Carlos and Sue really like the fact that he responded quickly by email. website -- about $50US each ] We then hiked strenuously for an hour to reach the peak of a mountain at about 7000 feet. For us flat-landers it was a trial, but well worth the effort when we got there. When we were about 15 minutes from the top we began to see Monarchs, usually grouped around wet ground finding water. When we arrived we saw flying Monarchs, ones on the ground, dead Monarch by the hundreds along the trail and then many many Monarchs in the trees in their "clusters". There were so many in the pine trees that they darkened the limbs and the clusters resembled large bee hives. Craig was convinced that they must have killed the limb because it had no leaves left that we could see. I have to tell you that even though there were about 100 other people standing and looking, when we reached the top, everyone spoke in a whisper. The sight was awe inspiring.

The return home was uneventful. We got back to Morelia about 8 in the evening and boarded our bus for Barra (with a transfer in Manzanillo). We got home about 8 am this morning after a reasonably good sleep in the bus's reclining seats.

02/18/2013 | Rachel
Beautiful Day on an Azur Ocean
02/09/2013, Zihuatanejo to Las Hadas

Today is one of those perfect weather days where the ocean is so blue it hurts your eyes and the swell is just great enough to remind you that you are afloat. We awoke in Z-wat bay to fine a light coating of dew that Craig used to clean the grime of our days of Sailfest off the deck. Leaving at first light we put out a fishing line with a diving blue sardine and hoped for something large. Lo and behold, that something large was a PANGA! Yes, Craig caught a panga with two fishermen and a 4 foot sailfish. The fishermen declined to give him the sail fish, but were kind enough to return our well worn lure. As they motored back to their long-line string, Craig reeled in his line. Those professional fishermen had cut it so perfectly that all he had to do was reattach the lure.

A little while later, after Sue had turned over the mid-morning watch to Craig, we spotted a disturbance in the calm water ahead. A pod of fifty or more dolphin were racing toward us, leaping out of the air, spinning in mid-air as they landed in the crystal clear water. They continued in their play as they passed us. A few of their comrades decided to come over to SEASILK and have a look-see. They played "the game" for about 30 minutes and then left us for points unknown. Have I told you about "the game" lately? No, well "the game" is all the rage in dolphin circles. No matter what you are doing (fishing, cruising, etc.) if a sailboat comes by you have to immediately stop what you are doing and race to the sailboat for a round of "the game". Now Sue and Craig are not quite sure what the rules of "the game" are, but they are sure that you get more points for crossing the bow of a moving boat and probably even more points depending on how close you come without touching. Finally, there must be a bonus if you can pull this off while swimming upside down.

We just passed Port Lazareo (means lizard in Spanish). I would assume there are lots of iguana on the rocks or something. Anyway, for us, since Port Lazareo is one of the largest in Mexico, it means lots of big ships going and coming. We watch carefully for big ships because we are so small they can't watch for us. We have a piece of equipment onboard that listens for the Automated Information System (AIS) broadcasts that big ships are required to put out and when it intercepts a signal that indicates a close call for SEASILK, we take action to avoid a collision. Because we have the AIS receiver, we frequently have many miles more warning of a close call than we would if we were relying on our eyes alone. The receiver also gives us information about the ship; like his course, speed and usually his name. The name is very valuable because if you want to contact the big boy and tell him that little-ol-you is nearby, you can usually do that much better if you are calling for "Cargo Vessel Ohmy this is the Sailing Vessel Seasilk 3 miles off your port bow, than if you calling for "Big Scary Ship off my port starboard quarter, this is the itty bitty sailing vessel you are about to run down!" Anyway, you get the idea. At night, it becomes even more important because it is harder to gage speed and direction. The AIS receiver coupled with good seamanship, a good lookout and radar keeps us safe and sound.

02/12/2013 | Rachel
Sue and Craig, a lovely description of the beautiful ocean and the huge pod of fun-seeking dolphins! How gorgeous, how idyllic. Love your journal writing and pictures. It's great to keep tabs on your activities and whereabouts and enjoy your cruise somewhat vicariously.
Here in San Diego we are feeling a little bit of winter chill and welcome rain. Otherwise, all is calm and decidedly non-adventurous for the moment. (Have to do something about that!)
Take care. Rachel
Sailfest Parade
02/08/2013, Zihuatanejo

Today was parade day on the Z-wat Sailfest calendar. Up early to swab the decks before 8 guests arrive to join us for the parade and a sil after. They are each paying at least 300 pesos (about $25US) to go for a ride. All the monies go to support underprivileged school children in the Zihuatanejo area. Before we can receive our guest from the pangas hired especially for the event, we have to put up our signal and other flags to do what is called "Dress Ship" in the navy. We get all our flags out including, of course, a Tweety flag and we are ready.

Our guests were wonderful company for the 3+ hour cruise around Z-wat bay and then over to Ixtapa bay and finally past the Port Capitanna's boat where we executed the "queen's wave". Sue had met all our guests down below and they had decided that this was the proper form of salute for our ragtag group. Good fun. We had people from Canada (there are a lot of Canadians in Z-wat), we had visitors from Mn and one young lady who was on vacation from her job in Homer Alaska. Sue and I had never met anyone from Homer other than the Homerians that we met when we were doing oceanography in Cook Inlet over 35 years ago. To stretch belief a bit further, one of the other sailboats in the parade, Northern Passage, was home-ported in Seldovia, AK. which is just across a small inlet from Homer. Craig flew into Seldovia from Homer in a small airplane in 1976 to set up a remote testing site while he as working for the CODAR (Coastal Offshore Doppler Array Radar) group in Boulder CO. If was such an exciting (think short runway) landing that Craig decided to take a boat back to Homer that evening!

The Sailfest events were orchestrated by an industrious and determined single-hander named Patricia on the S/V Precious Metal Patricia made everyone feel at home and seemed to have the knack of getting people to help do the work without it seeming like work. Thanks again Patricia for a wonderful week. Sorry we couldn't stay for the awards party to tell you in person.

02/07/2013, Zihuatanejo

Now before I begin, you have to understand that SEASILK has only been in one race before in the 7+ years we have owned her. That one was downwind in San Diego Bay from La Playa cove to the SD bridge. It involved a bet between yacht clubs which we won and go to go meet the French A/C 45 sailing team at the Coronado yacht Club as an award. I say we won because there was no handicapping and we got a great downwind start wing-in-wing.

A "Pursuit Race" is one in which boats start at staggered start times based on their speed rating (called PHRF). The idea is that by staggering the starts, you can tell who wins by the order of the finish. Good in theory, especially if the boats are somewhat similar. For Sailfest, we had mono-hull boats, catamarans, a very heavy sailing ketch and everything in between...including 5 Hobycats. It as wild! We took on 3 passengers who were donating to the children's cause for the privilege of joining. If Craig had known the three passengers were going to be 3 experienced racing sailors, he would have prepared to fly our A-sail and we might have caught the first place mono-hull. as it was, we came in 4th overall and second of the mono-hull with 13 boats plus 5 Hoby's participating. Including the "Calcutta" betting that went on for the benefit of the charity, we think over $3000 was raised today alone.

Tomorrow is a chilli-cook-off and a silent auction in town..

Goin South for the Winter
02/03/2013, Zihuatanejo

Well SEASILK is officially as far south as we ever plan to take her. We are anchored in beautiful Z-what bay. As we left the boat in our Dinghy to go into town and sign up for Sailfest/Check in with the Capitana de Puerto, we watched two fishermen catch a pelican. It was a U-tube moment as pelican grabbed the bait fish while the fisherman was swinging the line over his head in preparation to cast. Once the pelican had the bait fish we wasn't going to let go even though he was now flying in a circle over the fishermen's heads. The scene ended with a second pelican getting involved which caused the first pelican to drop the fish, but not before he became tangled in the fishing line and made another circle around the fishermen with the bait fish dangling between the two pelicans and the fishermen before the pelican crashed into the water. We continued on into the beach as the fishermen tried to separate their line and bait from some scared and angry pelicans.

Z-fest begins tomorrow evening with a captain's meeting, followed on Wednesday by a race. All proceeds go to support a local children's organization. SEASILK is signed up to take 12 people out for the race/parade...a privilege that the people will donate 300 pesos (about $27US) to do.

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