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Mariposa monarch
Ann
02/05/2012, Morelia, michoacan

I travel for those moments when my body stops and my heart fills, when my brain cannot categorize all that I see and my soul takes over to hold the moment. I will relive yesterday over and over again, because my heart and soul were nourished.

As we ( crews of Flight, Serendipity and Swift Current) walked in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, we immediately saw butterflies beside the path. It was just like home, when a butterfly's bright wing caught your eye. We stopped and photographed them - identifying the males by the dots on the lower third of their wings. As we climbed higher the sightings became more common. Our guide, Ricardo, led us ever higher for 45 minutes, and then we stopped. We saw a dozen or more butterflies milling about. Clouds covered the sky, and we were told the butterflies awoke with the warmth of the sun. We would wait, hoping for more. The longer we were stopped the more we saw. Our eyes took time to adjust. Was that a clutch of butterflies clinging to that yellow flower? Were there butterflies on that tree above us?
The first patch of blue appeared in the sky, and more flashes of orange and black began to quiver. The trees, swathed in gray, in the valley below us were not covered in moss, for the moss started to move. As the clouds moved along the the gray and the green became background. First dozens, then scores of butterflies flew before us, as the scores became hundreds and then thousands. My brain tried to categorize the images. At a distance they were like bats dancing in twilight, up close they showed the acrobatics of hummingbirds. We listened to the wings beating, forewarned that it would sound like rain. Yes, the constant tapping on a tent roof, or the murmur of a fountain. It had a water quality. Then one inadvertently landed on me. I was kissed by a fairy. The delicate legs oscillating pressure as the wings beat. As we watched the air filled and the trees emptied. First at the top, and then as the sun's warmth reached lower, the pines turned from grey to green. The valley no longer empty, but filled with orange life.
The continent of North America is funnel shaped, somewhat. Canada and the United States are the open port and it narrows to Mexico, serving as the spout. The monarch butterflies live in this funnel. They lay eggs in the wide area, where the milkweed grows, and then migrate down through the spout to the mountains of Michoacan. They rest on the oyamel at el rosario (a pine tree) from November to March. A multigenerational trek, for those resting now are the great, great grandchildren of last year's inhabitants.
It was over a three and a half hour drive from Morelia to the car park, from there we walked a quarter mile up through an alley, bordered with souvenir and food stalls. The food vendors cook on grills, fueled with wood scraps. Grey-blue tortillas lay on griddles. The color coming from the blue corn of the region. The souvenirs include baskets woven from the pine needles and cloth mats with butterfly motifs. Hundreds of butterfly nicknacks, that I feared would be the best display. When we reached our spot on the mountain, we could hear the mariachi quartet playing below. "I hear the butterflies, and they have a Latin beat." the smell of wood smoke gave way to the tang of the oyamel. The car park was half full,and there were 14 tour buses parked at the lower level. I was dismayed by the crowds - it was the Saturday of a three day weekend. Our driver, Jesus (I'm saving that introduction for later) promised me it would be alright. He walked us to the park entrance and found our park guide Ricardo. Pointing to Hugh, who has a bad back that has never stopped him from hiking or zip lining, Jesus asked Ricardo to help us see the butterflies. Ricardo requested permission for us to use a side trail, that was only 45 minutes instead of the hour to the top. This is how we ended up above a valley alone, with waves of butterflies surrounding us.

zipline
ann
01/23/2012, las Hadas

We had two zip line adventures this month. In La Cruz Dave got to zip lining with our friends from Grace. He had a great time, but before he jumped off the platform he had a moment of caution, but watching the eight year zip along steeled his nerve. He loved it, and I was a bit jealous.

As we were heading into Las Hadas, just north of Manzanillo, Serendipity asked if we wanted to join them on Anne's birthday present. They had arranged for zip lines. Our family joined the group - all thirteen. Kara had reservations, but she got dressed in the gear. She got up for the trial line, but her fear was too great. Other zip lines let you go in pairs, but not this one. I think Kara would have loved it, but it was a bit much to do all by herself at age seven.

Eleven of us hiked up to the first zip line. It was a steep climb, and we had to cross a net bridge, which was pretty tricky. One of the other kids started to voice reservations, and I was on the verge of offering to walk her back to the main camp, when Dave and Kara appeared. They came up to watch us zip. I watched eight people zipped - Anne was first, and couldn't wait to fly suspended over the treetops. With Dave their he could take the worried kids back to the base camp, so I had no excuse. I tried to tell him that he could take my place, but he turned a deaf ear. It was my turn. I let our guide Wally strap me in, and review the instructions. He asked if I was ready, and I said "NO!". Then Wally let go - he swore he heard yes. I hated those first ten feet. The tree tops were inches below my feet, and I was picking up speed as I fell down the arc of the cable. Then I was over the valley, and the trees were a hundred feet below me. I was going at maximum speed, and feeling light and fast. Exhilarating, exciting, exuberant - I was all of the ex- words, including excellent. I stepped up to the other three zip lines in anticipation, but none held the experience of the first. It was the highest, and the longest, but also the very special first.

The good news is that there are more zip lines in our future. There are quite a few in El Salvador. I guess this is the time to tell all that we are going to Central America this spring. We should be in El Salvador in the beginning of March. Our cruising life continues, with more sights, adventures and soul lifting sails.


Buddy Boating with Convivia
Ann
01/23/2012, Las Hadas, Manzanillo

Yesterday we separated from our buddy boat Convivia, they are headed back North, and we are going South. We met in La Cruz and headed south together to Manzanillo. We were a good match - similar preferences to sail rather motor, enjoying time at anchor and eating aboard and both our crews are seven year old girls. Convivia is a crew of four, with Tucker and Victoria (the parents) and Ruby (the asaid mentioned seven year old) and Miles (age four). Kara and Ruby had a great time together, mostly swimming and creating art projects. They played "sisters", where a great deal of time was spent deciding how old to be, and whether to have cruel parents, be orphans or have a demonic older sister. I hope my parenting is not reflected in these choices.
For Taking Flight we were hitting familiar spots. After Lisa and Patrick left us in Chamela, we sailed to Tenacatita. We met Bumfuzzle on the beach - a couple who sailed around the world in their 20's, and are now on a new boat for chapter two with their kids Ouest (age 2) and Lowe (5 months). Kara and Ruby were the big kids of the harbor, and enjoyed the independent role. They rowed the dinghy and kayak off by themselves. The kayak was a challenge for them, until they turned around. For some reason they have better control with the rudder in the front of the boat, instead of the traditional aft position.
After Tenacatita we went to Barre de Navidad. For once Dave and I stayed in the lagoon. We usually pass on the lagoon because of the boats dragging, mosquitoes and the gummy water you can't swim, but this time we opted for the convenience of a dinghy dock and pool ashore. The kids remember Barre for its excellent shopping. Miles bought a pen with a ball that sprang from the top, while he had buyer's remorse Kara and Ruby thought it was a great find. The next day Kara bought one, and then Ruby followed suit. To fund their buying urges the girls went into business. For 10 pesos (12 if you want glitter) the girls would paint your nails. They also made eyeglass holders and drawstring bags. They spent one sleepover frantically filling their orders. We indulged in buying from the French Baker, who comes through the anchorage in his dinghy to sell his wares. He would never compare to Madame Duma, but he makes a mighty fine pan au chacolat.
Our next stop was Las Hadas, a resort just North of Manzanillo. A red tide controlled the anchorage, so the kids were limited to pool swimming. Endeavour and Pearl were also in Las Hadas, so there were older kids. Kara and Ruby mostly played together, and art projects went into high gear. They made pop-up mermaid cards and a paper mache piggy bank. Flight was covered in glitter and paste.
We were not only sad to say goodbye to Ruby, but to the whole Convivia crew. We shared most meals, and had wonderful blended drinks concocted by Tucker. Miles was always happy to give a hug and explain how hid cannon worked. It was a hard goodbye. Serendipity tried to fill the void, and joined us for dinner last night. I'm so glad we get to buddy boat with them for a bit more.

La Cruz and Seahorse visits
Ann
01/13/2012, Barre de Navidad

We had a great time in La Cruz for two weeks. On Christmas Eve -known in our family as Ellie's birthday - there was a huge potluck on our dock. All the kids raced up and down the dock on scooters, whizzing by the food table and grabbing a nibble. It got to be too much for me, so I sat on a quiet finger with Lynn and Howard from Swift Current and Craig and Bruce from Gato Go. Dave joined us and soon Anne and Hugh from Serendipity sat down. It was an intimate dinner with one of the best buffets ever presented. We had such a good time with Craig and Bruce that I invited them to our Christmas dinner with Swift Current - Lynn and Howard were happy to add the boys.
Santa found Taking Flight, much to Kara's relief. Last year she was not a believer, but this year she figured that believing in magic was more fun than not believing, so she believes. Kara spent the day playing with her toys and Ruby (age 7 from Convivia). In the late afternoon we went over to Swift Current for a turkey dinner. I bought the turkey, but Lynn cooked it. After it was in the oven an hour she realized that it was smoked. Guess who likes smoked turkey? Yes, Kara has added to her food repertoire. Our boat is blessed with was our own game of Scribbalish. We played it after Christmas dinner, and laughed until our sides ached.
We ended our time in La Cruz at the anchorage for two nights, it aides our adjustment when leaving the dock. Our friends Lisa and Patrick from Seahorse (a name from 10 year ago, and this September in Arizona) joined us on New Year's Eve for a one week visit. We were all too tired to stay up until midnight, but Lisa and Patrick poked their heads out of the port when the fireworks started at midnight. We spent the first day of the New Year in Puerta Vallarta where Dave dropped off our new regulator to be fitted for a hooka hose. Now we can handle fish nets all by ourselves.
Lisa and Patrick wanted to sail for their vacation, so that is what we did. First, we went to Yelapa - an easy sail across Banderas Bay. We played at the beach in the afternoon, and had an early dinner ashore. Yelapa is a deep bay with mooring balls, so we took one for the night. The next morning Dave took a panga into PV to pick up the hooka hose and regulator. We were told that at 10 am we would have to move to another mooring ball, so we spent the morning waiting to find out which ball was ours. At 11:30 they came to move us. We were planning on leaving at 5 that afternoon, but they wanted to charge us for another night. We moved up close to shore and dropped the hook. We dropped in 30 feet, but only about 200 feet from shore. I was too anxious to leave the boat. We swam off the boat and waited for Dave, then got ready to leave at 4 pm.
We had a nice overnight sail with half engine half beam reach. In the morning the winds were more steady, so we passed our planned stop in Chamela, and went to Paraisio. Dave and I had tried to stop there last year, but the surf was unfavorable. The snorkeling was good, but we only needed to stay one night. The next day we sailed North to the islands off Chamela and enjoyed great swimming. We were anchored next to Serendipity, so had a chance to catch up. The next day they headed South and we went another two miles to Chamela. Convivia was already anchored there, so Kara went to play.
Our week with Seahorse came to an end. Lisa and Patrick took a bus back to Puerta Vallarta to catch their flight - that flexibility made them great guests. This started our buddy boating with Convivia. We stayed a few more days in Chamela, then Ruby came onto Flight to sail down to Tenacatita. Two nights there, and then Kara sailed on Convivia to Barre de Navidad. Kara and Ruby are great friends, and I love watching Kara include Miles, Ruby's little brother. It is all good.

Isla Isabel - old news, but fun
Ann
01/09/2012, Tenacatita

The New Year finds us in familiar places, enjoying old friends and making new ones. After our short stop in Mazatlan we headed for Isla Isabela - the bird sanctuary island. We sailed through the night, and the key word was sailed in all conditions. When we left it was blowing 15 to 20 and we had to power over the bar at the entrance. Serendipity left a few minutes before us and had reached the entrance when a port official came by Flight and announce the Port was closed. Serendipity was committed, and the tide was falling, making the crossing even harder. We decided to leave anyway, knowing that if we had problems the port would not help us. Otter followed our lead. We powered through, saw some single digits on the depth sounder, but made it through without incident. As soon as possible we got the sails up and motor sailed into 15 knots. Otter was not as lucky, for when they pounded over the bar a wave swept a jib sheet over the side, which got caught in the prop. They had no choice but to keep the motor going at a lower RPM. They got their sails up, and slowly beat their way out to clear water. They were fortunate, in that the line severed quickly, and little of it wrapped the shaft. Once past Mazatlan we could all turn and head downwind. We sailed into the night, and finally lost the wind in the wee hours. All three boats motored for a bit, and then took the morning breeze into the anchorage. Anne (Serendipity), Joyce (Otter) and the girls of Flight went ashore and had a great time exploring the nesting grounds. This was Joyce's first visit, so we all had fun showing her the frigate birds, and explaining their mating habits. She was impressed by the red balloons, and judged the nests for neatness. We came upon a pair of Boobies doing their intricate mating dance in the jungle. Then we walked around their dirt indentations, that they call nests. After a good night's sleep we left the next morning under spinnaker - three shoots all in a line. What an amazing sail we all had. I know I shouldn't brag, but Serendipity and Otter dropped their shoots when the wind dropped below 8 knots, but Dave and I decided to keep trying for a little longer. We ended up flying her another five hours. We had a 15 hour run. We finally put the main up as we turned into Banderas Bay. We turned on the engine an hour later, and were in La Cruz at 1 am.

Isla Isabel - old news, but fun
Ann
01/09/2012, Tenacatita

The New Year finds us in familiar places, enjoying old friends and making new ones. After our short stop in Mazatlan we headed for Isla Isabela - the bird sanctuary island. We sailed through the night, and the key word was sailed in all conditions. When we left it was blowing 15 to 20 and we had to power over the bar at the entrance. Serendipity left a few minutes before us and had reached the entrance when a port official came by Flight and announce the Port was closed. Serendipity was committed, and the tide was falling, making the crossing even harder. We decided to leave anyway, knowing that if we had problems the port would not help us. Otter followed our lead. We powered through, saw some single digits on the depth sounder, but made it through without incident. As soon as possible we got the sails up and motor sailed into 15 knots. Otter was not as lucky, for when they pounded over the bar a wave swept a jib sheet over the side, which got caught in the prop. They had no choice but to keep the motor going at a lower RPM. They got their sails up, and slowly beat their way out to clear water. They were fortunate, in that the line severed quickly, and little of it wrapped the shaft. Once past Mazatlan we could all turn and head downwind. We sailed into the night, and finally lost the wind in the wee hours. All three boats motored for a bit, and then took the morning breeze into the anchorage. Anne (Serendipity), Joyce (Otter) and the girls of Flight went ashore and had a great time exploring the nesting grounds. This was Joyce's first visit, so we all had fun showing her the frigate birds, and explaining their mating habits. She was impressed by the red balloons, and judged the nests for neatness. We came upon a pair of Boobies doing their intricate mating dance in the jungle. Then we walked around their dirt indentations, that they call nests. After a good night's sleep we left the next morning under spinnaker - three shoots all in a line. What an amazing sail we all had. I know I shouldn't brag, but Serendipity and Otter dropped their shoots when the wind dropped below 8 knots, but Dave and I decided to keep trying for a little longer. We ended up flying her another five hours. We had a 15 hour run. We finally put the main up as we turned into Banderas Bay. We turned on the engine an hour later, and were in La Cruz at 1 am.

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