Ten Ways We Know We Are Back in Mexico
08 December 2017 | Puerto Vallarta
December 8, 2017
10. The Puerto Vallarta Airport has been beautifully remodeled only they didn't finish it. Loose wires dangle from the aluminum tubes exposed from the open ceiling.
9. Dozens of people stand on the side of the walkway as we exit customs, offering free tequila and the opportunity to buy a timeshare.
8, When we walk out from the air-conditioned airport we are wrapped in a sultry heat that smells of corn tortillas and lard.
7. The hotel elevator is broken and we are on the fourth floor. It breaks down five more times before they finally get it fixed.
6. Iguanas and crocodiles are our new neighbors.
5. We are awake for most sunrises and they are spectacular to witness.
4. A young Mexican woman gives up her seat for me when the bus is full.
3. The streets sing with music.
2. Sunday church service is packed and the entire congregation breaks out in song, giving me goosebumps.
1. Cadenza purrs through the water.
30 April 2017
Terri Potts-Chattaway, Photo by Casey Cartwright
Returning to Paradise Village Marina
April 30, 2017
I sit here on my couch, at home on Martha's Vineyard, staring out my front window. I am mesmerized by the bright light of sunshine. We have been here four days under a bed of clouds and chilly temperatures. We have seen rain for the first time in almost five months. Today, with not a cloud in sight, I watch spring unfold.
The birds have come back to nest in our trees, their songs light and airy, as they are, themselves. Rich, tonal sounds accompany them as the wind gently blows through the chimes hanging outside our bedroom window. Along the front of our house, the hydrangeas' limbs stretch out, bursting with buds in anticipation of the sun and warmth. The lilac tree, too, longs to bloom. Her leaves are open. Surely, the blossoms are soon to follow. But it is the young cherry tree, in the center of our yard, who will win this race. Her buds show a hint of red and youth is on her side. Already the grass is a deep green after weeks of rain. Today, I will work in the garden, but I will have rainboots on to combat the mud and I will wear a jacket to keep warm.
How different the landscape here is from the tropical jungle that surrounds Puerto Vallarta. It never ceases to amaze me, how far and how fast one can travel in such a short time. It hasn't even been two weeks since we left Mexico and yet, it seems to me, a dream. I remember back to our last days, cruising, when we had just celebrated my birthday along with the successful rescue of Molly J and we were awaiting a weather window to head back to port...
I would like to say it was good karma. We only had to wait two days for the good weather, and when we left Chamela Bay, the seas were flat and the wind was calm. We were on our way at dawn and arrived at Ipala prior to sunset. Just outside the anchorage, while we were dropping the sails, our motor started stuttering, as if it would quit. I looked at Jay, startled. (All I could think about was the Molly J and her engine problems. Wouldn't it be - sadly - ironic?) "Put it in neutral!" He told me as he ran below. He assessed the situation quickly and added oil. She was only thirsty. We had been pushing her hard, running her at 2000 rpms compared to our usual 1500. She is an old engine and needs attention. Once filled with oil, she purred, relieving our anxiety. Lucky for us, we still were the first ones in the anchorage and settled in for a good night's rest.
The following day, our good karma continued. We left Ipala at dawn, again, and rounded Cabo Corrientes it the early hours of the morning. What could easily have been a rough ride, considering the opposing currents and waves, turned out to be a smooth one. Upon reaching Banderas Bay, we were greeted by a couple of whales and 15-20 knots of wind. We had a great sail home.
As we were approaching the entrance to Paradise Village Marina, we heard a loud sound. "What was that?" I asked Jay, looking up to the sky. I couldn't see it at first because of the sail, but then, there it was! A plane! "Oh!" I felt so silly. Of course, it was a plane. But there it was. It pointed up how - when we are cruising - it can be like going back in time, when life was not filled with planes, trains and automobiles, or inundated by technology. Life may have been harder then, but in some ways, much simpler.
Back in the marina, we spent two weeks putting Cadenza to bed and saying goodbye to our friends. It was the first step back into a frenetic world and prepared us, somewhat, for our reentry into the U.S. of A.
On April 18, we left Mexico and spent a whirlwind week in California, surviving the freeways and visiting our children and grandchildren. We are now back on our island, where the pace is much slower, and much more to our liking.
Our life is very different here. We dig in the dirt, plant flowers and cut grass. We have a television and we drive a car to the store. We love our earthly existence, although it is quite tame compared to our adventures at sea. We are grounded, it is true. But not for long! Our 18' Herreshoff catboat, SkipJack, is to be launched May 10th and we will sail again. Maybe even cruise out for a weekend or two. You see, you can't keep an adventurer down for long.
Rescue at Sea
13 April 2017
Towing s/v Molly J. I took advantage of a lull in the waves, put the boat on autopilot, and quick shot this photo. While it looks flat here, the seas were lumpy, maybe four to six feet.
March 28, 2017
1700 - Jay and I had just finished preparing Cadenza for the next leg of our journey. The plan was to weigh anchor at dawn and head north to the next anchorage, Ipala, 50 nm. Since we would have no service for the next few days, Jay checked his email one more time. This is what he found:
Where is Cadenza currently anchored?
The sail boat Molly J, two souls aboard (Jon and Lisa) was enroute to Mazatlán from Barra de Navidad. Their last known position is N19º 49.072, W105º 27.426. Their engine has stopped. They have been in strong winds all night and they have decided to turn and run south to Chamela and will have to anchor under sail. Both have heavy sea sick issues and lack of sleep. They are attempting to sail southbound from that position to Chamela. It is unknown their current speed. It was advised that they will attempt to slow their forward movement for an early morning arrival in Chamela. They may need some help in the anchorage.
I will put out an emergency call on VHF 22 first thing on the net tomorrow. I will also put out an emergency call on Picante and Amigo nets in the morning.
If you have a cellular phone number I could call you with any updates as they become available.
My contact info is...
Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.
We decided to call s/v Linger Longer and ask them to watch out for the Molly J. They had just left the bay, heading north overnight to La Cruz. It wasn't that Linger Longer needed to do anything for them other than to let them know people were aware of their circumstances and ready to help if needed. We wanted to put their minds at ease. About an hour later, Linger Longer was able to connect to the Molly J via radio and relay to us that they were on their way to Chamela Bay. Linger Longer let them know we were keeping our radio on, as well as our spreader lights, to help guide them in when they got there. We kept the radio on, as I fixed dinner. Eventually, Linger Longer was out of radio range and the Molly J was in our radio range, so we took over from there.
We quickly learned that nothing was working. The engine was kaput. The radio was hit and miss. Jay asked about the mainsail and Jon said, "Frankly, we've been in the Barra marina for the last two years and we hadn't planned on sailing. We were going to make a straight shot up to Mazatlán, motoring." Then, said something to the effect that he couldn't raise the mainsail and his electric winch was broken. Understandably, Jon sounded exhausted and frustrated.
The next transmission we get, Jon says they have good wind and are sailing five knots. He is a little more hopeful, despite they will get to us after dark and he has never been in this bay before.
Approximately 2130, Jon radios us and says he is near the entrance to the bay, but the wind has died. They tried to make the entrance but got pushed south by the current. The situation was not looking good for them getting into the anchorage. Jay kept talking with him, trying to keep his spirits up. Jon was going to make another attempt.
Meanwhile, Jay and I were conflicted. Should we go out there and help them? It was pitch black. It was a dangerous proposition. We had never towed anyone and to go out and try to get them in the dark, could put all of us in danger. Still, it was a difficult decision as there were two people out there, tired, sick, and most likely, frightened.
Jon's second attempt failed. He called us on the radio and said that it looked like the only thing they could do was stay out there all night, away from shore, flopping around in the sea. Jay asked if they were okay, was anyone hurt, or were they in any serious danger. Jon said no, they were just tired. Jay asked if he understood why we couldn't come out there to help them that night. If they were in mortal danger, then, of course, we would try to help, but if not, it was just too risky. "Yes, of course I understand." He said. We promised to keep the radio on all night and check with him in the morning. Our last contact that night was midnight and they were away from shore and okay. Knowing this, didn't relieve our anxiety and it was a restless night, praying that they were safe.
March 29, 2017
0530 - Jay and I have tea and coffee and make our final preparations to leave the anchorage.
0700 - Dawn is arriving. (It arrives late here because we are on the most western side of the central time zone.) Jay calls Molly J on the radio. Lisa answers. "How are you doing?" Jay asks.
"Okay, but can you hold on a second. We just ripped the genny." Jay and I look at each other with the understanding that we have to go out and help them. Lisa comes back on the radio. "Hang on. Jon is coming."
Jon sounds like a man defeated. "We just ripped our genny on the radar tower." He sighs. He goes over everything that has gone wrong and finally says, "We're in dire straits here. If I throw you a line, could you come out here and tow us?"
"That's the plan. What is your waypoint?"
The waypoint was a bit off, but we finally saw them on radar and headed out their way. We were powering into the waves which were about four to six feet. It was much lumpier than we expected. There was little wind. Jay drove the boat in close, so Jon could throw me the line. I caught it, only he threw it mid-ship. "It's tied up! Why did he tie it up? I can't get it untied!" (Now, I understand. He wanted the weight of the bundle to drop over to our boat and not leave the line dragging in the water.) I had to get it from mid-ship to the stern quickly. Only this meant I had to get it around the kayak rack, the Lifesling and the solar panel, under the lifeline and through to the cleat in a manner of seconds. "It's pulling me! I can't get it untied! Jay!" I was caught between the dinghy and solar panel.
"Watch out for the solar panel!" Jay yelled as he ran over and took the line from me. He sent me to the helm. This is probably where I should have been in the first place.
After a few tense moments, we were tied together and I put Cadenza in gear and we started back. We were about four and a half miles from the entrance to the anchorage, going three knots. Towing a 40,000-lb. boat is risky. For many reasons, as you can imagine. Fortunately, we were now going with the waves, instead of against them. Still, they were four to six feet and sometimes, one would be on the crest and the other in the trough. If it was Molly J on the crest, she would start sailing down the wave, loosening the tow line. Then, we would rise up and snap! Jay was tending to the line, trying to prevent it from snapping. Once, the tow line whipped against his stomach, causing a bruise. Ouch! He was also worried it might break. The line Jon sent over was Dacron which doesn't stretch like nylon. When we got back to the anchorage, Jay noticed the tow line had worn and was close to breaking.
In Chamela Bay, Jon dropped the tow line and we waited for them to lower their anchor. Our next maneuver was to set their anchor by throwing the line back to them, so they could tie it up to their stern. This way we could pull them tight. The tow line was now wet and when Jay tried to throw it, it whipped around and slapped against his leg, causing a bruise about the size of a football. That one really hurt. He decided to use one of our lines and got it ready as I drove the boat around for another try. That didn't work either. Nor did the next try. Both times, it was pulled away before Jon and Lisa had a chance to tie it down. On the fourth go around, I said a silent prayer. I was proud of my driving ability - having to bring Cadenza so close to Molly J without hitting her - but I was tired and afraid I was pushing my luck. Success! The Molly J, with Jon and Lisa on board, was safely anchored in Chamela Bay.
I have no idea what time it was. Sometime around mid-day. Too late and too tired to sail to Ipala, Jay and I anchored our boat again, had a bite to eat and went back to bed. That is how I spent my birthday.
NOTE: Besides Dazzler, Linger Longer and Cadenza, there were a lot of other boaters who helped the Molly J. We heard from Lisa that a freighter stood by them on the 28th for two hours, making sure they were okay. That same day, s/v Karvi, with Dan and Nancy who were on their way to Ipala, turned around and sailed back to the Molly J. They stayed with them for four hours. Dan and Nancy had cell phone coverage and called around to see if they could be towed. Eventually, knowing the Molly J had sails, food and water for a week, and everyone on board was okay, Dan encouraged them to sail back to Chamela Bay where we took over. Once anchored, Mark on s/v Jolly Dogs spent an afternoon helping Jon check out his engine. There may be more, but you get the idea. The cruising community looks out for each other.
The Ins and Outs of Cruising
06 April 2017
Port Captain's office in Barra de Navidad
There is a whole other set of rules when traveling in another country. We have to get a visa, of course. For those of us who don't have temporary or permanent resident status in Mexico, our stay is limited to a six-month stint. When entering the country for the first time with a boat, you have to apply for a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). We must provide our documentation for the boat, as well as Mexican Insurance and pay a fee. The TIP allows us to keep our boat in Mexico for ten years.
When sailing from port to port, we must check in and check out with the Port Captain. (Not every anchorage, but mostly the larger ports that have marinas.) This requires us to physically go to the Port Captain's office with a copy of our boat documentation, our passports, and a crew list. They take photo copies for their files, give us two copies of the crew list that they have stamped and signed - one for us and one for the marina - and we are on our way. The first few times we went through this ritual, I was intimidated. (See blog entry dated, 11/9/13, "We're not in Kansas Anymore.") Now, it has become routine.
Getting in and out of marinas and anchorages can be tricky. With unknown anchorages, we have to always be on the alert for rocks and jetties and reefs. With marinas, each one brings its own set of problems. Usually, the fairways are very tight and maneuvering a 50' boat can be difficult.
Upon arriving at Marina Puerto de la Navidad, I got on the radio and called the marina office, asking for a slip assignment. We requested a starboard tie for a 45' boat. (We are 50 feet overall, but since the marinas charge by the foot, we stick with what is on our documentation papers.) Isabel told us to pick any slip on G-Dock and she would have someone there to meet us to handle our lines.
As we entered the marina, G-Dock sat on our right, vertically, while all the other docks were to our left and laid out in a horizontal manner. The fairway is already narrow, but on the end of each dock, on our left, at the end tie, were big power boats, making the fairway tighter. Jay headed along G-Dock, while I tried to scout out a slip. Not only were there no starboard ties, the pangas had taken all the good slips; the ones that are easier to get in and out of because of their location being opposite to an open fairway. To my left and in front of us, I spotted D-17. It would have been so easy to dock the boat there as it required little maneuvering, just a left and a slight right. Before I could get Jay's attention, we were at the end of G-Dock where it runs into F-Dock on the left. (Imagine an upside-down L. We were stuck in the northeast corner of it.) Now, Jay had to turn a 50' boat in a space that might have been, literally, only sixty feet, at best. To top it off, there was no one on G-Dock to help us out.
Against all these odds, Jay was trying his best to maneuver Cadenza in a three-point turn. There was wind. Not much wind, but enough to send us toward the pilings. "No! No! No!" I yelled. CRUNCH. The bow sprit rubbed against a piling and broke the port light. "Shit!" Now, I am really mad. I got back on the radio and called Isabel. She sends us to D-7. We go out of the marina, turn around, and make our entrance again. Meanwhile, I am still eying D-17 which would be a better fit for us. "Just go in that one." I say to Jay, my patience wearing thin.
Isabel radios us and says, "Someone just took D-7."
"Can we please go to D-17?" I ask. After a minute, she agrees. Jay turns into the slip and Israel comes over to take our lines. Geez, you would think they would understand the limitations of boat maneuverability.
Leaving the marina wasn't so graceful, either. We had several friends to help us out and all went smoothly - at first. Once out in the fairway, Jay was turning the wheel, but nothing was happening. The wind got hold of us again. (We have a very high freeboard.) and we were headed for a big powerboat. "No! No! No!" I yelled, again. I looked to Jay, not understanding what was happening. I was on the bow and he wasn't answering my questions.
Just then, a panga with a load of people came beside us and our friend, Ben, tossed a book aboard for Jay. "No! No! No! What is he doing?!" I ask no one in particular. We nearly hit the panga. The passengers fended us off and they escaped without injury. "Whew!"
Now the boat was clear of the power boat and panga, but we were drifting into yet another boat, across the fairway. "No! No! No!" I tried to fend off, but it looked like we were going to hit when two people on the dock pulled back the boat while I pushed away. Finally, Jay got the steering back and we were on our way. "What happened?" I asked.
"The auto-pilot was on." Jay answered, sheepishly.
Usually, this would never have happened, but he had been working on it the day before. Evidently, he had left it in the on position. When he turned on the boat, Cadenza was heading for a fixed waypoint somewhere, just not where we wanted to go. Ah, boats, you just never know what the day will bring.
P.S. Alison and Allan! No more Moaning Myrtle! She just squeaks and peeps now and again. Jay fixed her.
05 April 2017
One of our boat projects is keeping fresh water on board. Some people have water makers. We have one. A very old one. It is not very productive, as it only makes 1 ½ gallons per hour, so we don’t have it connected. If we were going to Central America, or across the Pacific Ocean, we would probably buy a new one. Since we carry two water tanks with a 100-gallon capacity in each, and the cost would be approximately $8,000 (That is American dollars.), Jay and I have decided to forego a new water maker and depend on local resources.
Some marinas have potable water. If that is the case, all we have to do is fill our tanks through a hose. We only use that water for washing dishes, showers and plumbing the head. For drinking water, I figure one gallon a day for two people. (Which is generous.) We usually stock 15-20 one-gallon containers for our offshore cruises. When we are at a marina, like Paradise Village, it can be as simple as walking to the market and purchasing the water. For a tip, one of the bag boys will bring it to the boat on a cart. It is not always as simple as that when in more remote ports.
In Barra de Navidad, our contact for water is Maria. We call her and place our order. She usually delivers the very next day. We needed to fill both tanks, but since she delivers by panga, we opted to do it over two days. The first day, we ordered 25 five-gallon containers. That was the easy part. The hard part is picking those babies up and transferring them through the funnel into the tank. That is Jay’s job, and it can be back-breaking. We also use them to fill our empty one-gallon containers. A few days later, we ordered another 15 five-gallon containers, and we were all set for our 150-nm journey back to Nuevo Vallarta. All this costed us about $1100 pesos or $55.00.
18 March 2017
The French Baker delivers fresh-baked goods to the Barra lagoon and marina by panga. It is one of the highlights of this area. Unfortunately, (for us) he is wanting to retire. His business is for sale. I am afraid Barra without the French Baker would be like La Cruz without Philo. It just wouldn't be the same.
French Baker, Part One – “Does Anybody Know What Day It Is?”
March 8, 2016
A call comes over the radio. “French Baker, French Baker. Are you on twenty-two?”
“The French Baker is off on Wednesdays. The next day he comes is Thursday.” A woman replies, but her connection is scratchy.
“What?” The man asks.
“The French Baker is off on Wednesday. He will be here on Thursday.”
“Oh, okay.” A long pause. “What day is it? Is this Tuesday?”
“Today is Wednesday.” She answers, laughing.
“Got it. Today is Wednesday. The French Baker will be here tomorrow, Thursday. Sorry. I’ve only been cruising for four months. I don’t know where I am or what day it is.”
“That’s okay.” She says with a smile in her voice. She, and everyone else who is listening, completely understands.
French Baker, Part Two – The Addiction
March 12, 2017
It is early morning. Jay and I are sitting in the cockpit, sipping our tea and coffee. A voice comes over the radio.
“French Baker entering the marina.” The man speaks with an authentic French Accent. I pick up the radio.
“French Baker, French Baker, Cadenza.”
“Yes, Cadenza.” He answers.
“Could you please come to D-Delta dock when you have a moment.”
“Can I save you something?”
“Yes, please. One chocolate croissant, one almond croissant, and one baguette.” He repeats my order. This produces a flurry of activity and suddenly several boats, both in the marina and in the lagoon, are calling him to place their order, fearful he will run out of goodies.
We watch as he goes to G dock, then B dock, then C dock. We naturally think D dock will be next, but no. He goes back to G dock. Jay eyes him anxiously, awaiting his breakfast. “He’ll come here next.” I say
A few minutes later, Jay stands up. “Where is he going? He is leaving the marina.”
“He is probably going to one of those big power boats.” I assure him. “He has our order. He will come back.”
Jay’s shoulders slump as he sits back down. “It’s like crack.”
The French Baker arrives on D dock. His panga is filled with fresh pastries, breads, pies, and quiche.
“Hello, lady.” Every morning, this is how he greets me. His inflection is exactly the same. English words, spoken with a French accent, sound like music. Even two words can sound lyrical.
He puts the two croissants in a brown paper bag and with a pair of long, silver tongs, he hands me the baguette. It is soft to the touch. As I walk back to Cadenza, I lift it up to my nose and inhale. If left alone, I would eat the entire loaf in one sitting. I hand Jay his croissant. It is rectangularly-shaped with just enough chocolate to leave you wanting for more. Today, I decided to order the almond croissant. It is in the traditional shape of a croissant and covered with slivered almonds. I take a bite. “Oh! There is almond cream in the middle.” I say, surprised. “Oh, my. It is so sweet and buttery.” The cream oozes. I lick my lips. I lick my fingers. I look at Jay. “We have to leave here.”