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From little teenie tiny bugs called jejenes (no see ums) to giant man eating crocodiles, this Bay bites.
It was a fantastic sail from Isla Isabella - all the way with the gennaker, and made all the more cosmic with tons of dolphins riding our bow and whales jumping on the horizon. We arrived shortly before sunset, set our anchor, and breathed a sigh of relief that we weren't attacked by the area's infamous and dreaded "jejenes" during the process. It was amazing to soak in this suddenly tropical lush scenery.
By the time we got the dinghy down, the sun had dipped over the horizon and things were getting pretty dark. We had thought that there would be a dinghy landing area so that we could take Zig Zag ashore...but we found the landing area had become silted in, and what looked like an easy route in suddenly became a propeller grinding in sand. It was going to be a long, wet walk. I carried the dog in and tried to scout better landing areas while Paul circled in the dinghy, but it was for not. Zig and I were going to have to reunite with the dinghy via the dark water walk route...and I was praying no one had tipped off the jejenes that there was fresh meat in town.
We had a quiet and dark night in the Bay, except for some fantastic Samba/Brazilian music that a band was playing way off in the distance. It certainly wasn't coming from any of the palapas Zig Zag and I had visited - while there appeared to be seating for thousands, there were only about 5 folks on site. The fabulous band and its locale will remain a mystery.
The big thing to do in Matanchen Bay is the Jungle Tour, but we had told another couple whom we met at Isla Isabella that we would wait for their arrival so that we could all do the tour together. Thus, our first day in the Bay was focused on boat and work tasks, a small shore journey, and later a fantastic dinner hosted by another boat at the anchorage whom we had also met at Isla Isabella. Jeff and Julie on Buena Vida invited a bunch of folks together and a good time was had by all - they are fantastic hosts. Our new friends Keith and Olina from Isla Isabella on the s/v Anon had also arrived in time for the gathering, and so together we gleaned tips from the anchorage's 'old timers' (the folks who had arrived a day ahead of us) about where to land the dinghy and connect with the jungle tour.
TugTub and Anon crew headed out together the next day for the Jungle Tour, early enough to catch some birds but not so early that we'd be eaten alive by the dreaded jejenes...or so we hoped... Indeed, we saw an amazing myriad of birds, including a boat billed heron! Sadly I was unable to catch the boat bill with my camera. Lots of different herons, egrets, kingfishers... - the usual suspects - plus a roseate spoonbill too. Then, what to my wandering eyes did appear, but a not so miniature iguana with waaay more than eight tiny ears (ok-actually, spines or something, I dunno). Iguanas jumping from limb to limb in the trees, HUH? Who knew? Then....around another turn and...holy crap...crocodiles. I'm not sure if boating and crocodiles mix. Isn't it distracting enough to be thinking about jellyfish and ....??
We ventured further into the cocodrilaria, which I thought was going to be kind of a hatchling place to raise and release baby crocs, but it was actually a place where Mastadon sized crocs sunned themselves behind fences. In another cage, a jaguar lounged :-( :-(. Other cage areas included little wild boars, chickens (croc comida?) and a some interesting owls. If my Spanish was better, I'm sure I'd learn some happy things about this place - like maybe the jaguar was saved from eminent death and is deaf and dumb, unable to sustain itself in the wild - or the giant crocs are vegetarians due to bad teeth or something - so I tried to think happy thoughts instead of organizing some release effort from what seemed to potentially be a >
Getting on the happy thought train, we swang from the jungle swing and swam in the fresh water, fenced away from the Mastadon crocs. The weather had turned cool and cloudy so the swim was more about bragging rights on the jungle swing...and getting some kind of movement in before lunch. I was the absolute worst on the swing...I kind of forgot the purpose - which is hanging on vs. letting go! So I think I won 'best fat old lady jump', Paul won 'loudest jungle roar', Olena wins 'most graceful swing and plunge', and Keith wins 'longest swing and best entry form'.
Jungle swim was followed by Lunch in the croc-side cafe, then back on the river for more wildlife viewing. Next up, a cab ride into San Blas. The town was readying itself for Christmas, and I'd have to say that they had the most impressive Christmas trees on their town square that I'd seen in the past couple months. A little street market was going on, a mobile health facility was checking people in and up, we purchased little this's and thats, and then we searched out a trail to the old fort (La Contaduria) and church (Templo de la Virgen del Rosario). It was a nice uphill path once we found it, and just as promised, old building foundations, cannons, crosses, etc. This area is described in Henry Wadsworth Logfellow's poem 'The Bells of San Blas'. The cloudy day didn't make for a fantastic view, but overall it was still interesting to see the full San Blas harbor and town. On the way back down, we had to "feed" the local economy more by eating AGAIN... stands of smoked and cooked fish looked too good to pass up. By the time we made it back to the dinghy and boats, I think everyone had a mental and physical full day.
Zig Zag had gotten the short end of the stick during our tour so Paul and I took Zig Zag to shore for a run and that's when I discovered the mysterious jejenes. I needed to give Zig a lot of time on the beach, but my oh my, those little chompers sure did get me good! Blood sacrifice.
We were ready to change venues and left the next morning for Chacala. There was no sailing...Unfortunately it was the "Sail-a-Bago" the whole way. But, once we rounded into the bay, the difference in environment here made motoring worthwhile, it was pretty stunning and a change in weather probably helped. Sunny, sandy, tropical, warm... ahhhhh. A happy, happy place. ...
New Photos from Isla Isabella In Photo Gallery Albums
12/14/2011, Isla Isabella
Isla Isabella was complete magic. I mentioned in my previous blog entry that my mantra here became: "Christmas came early!" I could not believe what I was seeing! And, after talking with others, I've learned there's even more! More More More!
Birds, birds, birds. The island is a sanctuary, and while I've visited many wild places and sanctuaries, I don't think I've ever seen such a density of nesting birds. Birds with little fear of humans - birds who just look at you as you pass. We even had blue footed boobies who seemed to "show off" their eggs! It was very strange - time to study up on animal behavior - why would a bird actually move away from their egg so that you could see it?
The other amazing part about this experience was that I was actually observing Blue Footed Boobies! Holy Smokes! I still can't belive that these birds are here!! The frigates were amazing, the green footed boobies amazing, and then ... humpback whales off in the distance, flopping around waving their pectoral fins and breeching and just lolly-gaggin'. We did a bit of snorkeling, lots of pretty fish here too, but I later learned that the clarity and volume of fish was even more amazing in a different area. (OK, I'll add that to the list for next time!) We captured some views of lizards too, although they seemed to be more intent on hiding than the birds were. Overall, there was just something very special about this little island.
Boat wise, we had our first experience setting a 'trip line' for the anchor, as guidebooks warned about the rocks swallowing anchors here. Our anchorage seemed pretty close to a reef and rocks where big waves pounded and made bufadoras... We were fine....but you know how your eyes can play tricks with distances on the water. I slept easier by requesting that we set up the anchor alarm system. Kind of annoying and soothing all at the same time.
As with many anchorages, we met a lot of nice people who were heading off in our general direction and we had fun getting to know a little bit about the folks and their boats. Via radio, we learned of one boat nearing the island who had lost their engine. The drama unfolded as they kept in radio contact with their buddy boats already at the island. The engine-less boat decided against stopping at Isabella, and then the wind died for about 24 hours. We could see the little boat meandering past us for a long, long time. When it rains it pours...next something happened to contaminate their water tank and a boat from the anchorage motored out fresh supplies. A day or so later on the radio we heard of their safe arrival in a marina. The couple on the boat declared "it takes a village" and were sharing their thanks to a myriad of folks who had helped them along the way.
We listened to the weather and decided to take off so that we could get another full good sail in. It was really hard to leave...but vamanos...off we went, and had a fantastic FANTASTIC sail, gennaker the whole way, to the Bay called Matanchen. Throughout that journey, lots of dolphins and whales, once again.....
Adios for now, still catching up on blog and photo updates, more soon...
12/11/2011, Mazatlan to Isabella
Healing and Heeling
December 1 - December 10
I'm kind of stupified realizing so much time has passed without writing in the blog.
That could be a good thing: it may make me think - and write - in shorter clips! And hey, seein' as how today's the shortest day of the year, that could be a doubly good thing.
It's all a bit of a blur... By the time we arrived in Mazatlan in early December, I was having tremendous back pain. I was able to get to a chiropractor and after our first evening in town (Friday for the Mazatlan art walk) I was pretty much on my back, icing it and resting it. Everyone speaks so highly of Mazatlan, I was sad to not feel "up" for more explorations. A sweet city indeed. But I guess I'll have to catch more of it some other time.
We stayed in the Marina Mazatlan long enough for me to feel able-bodied. Four chiropractic visits and enough ice/rest seemed to do the trick. Of course the other factor in successful healing is people, and because we stayed in one place for about a week, we were able to meet quite a few great folks. Their collective energy all added to my plus factors in feeling better.
One fun event at the Marina was a seminar on the El Salvador Cruisers Rally. Listening to the presentations enabled the concept of "heading further south" to gel more in my head. I still have many questions about timing and such, but the folks organizing the rally put a lot of thought and time into the project. It was also great to see so many people from various marinas turn out for the seminar. Wow, so many cruisers in one spot! We ran into some folks we'd met before, who then introduced us to some others they had met along the way.
Funny thing about the internet...you can meet someone for the first time, only to realize you "know" them perhaps better than a lot of people you actually do"know." Que paso? Well, it's the strange gift of the blogosphere. It turns out that at the El Salvador rally, I was introduced to a woman named Kate whose blog I've been following for quite a while. I was looking at her...then I heard her boat name... slowly my brain is putting two and two together... 'wow! It's You!' Suddenly I found myself feeling giddy and nervous, strange considering I don't feel that itchy when meeting so many of the celebs and Forbes 400 types. Thinking about it later, I guessed it's because I've felt so 'close' to Kate through her blog, as we've led somewhat parallel sailing experiences and had some similar reactions. I let her know that her blog sharing had comforted me on many an occasion, and later we were able to visit for a little bit. I'm hoping we'll be in the same anchorage or marina in the future...but I know there will always be the virtual visits!
Another great experience in the Marina Mazatlan was a presentation by the folks on the boat Harmony. Virginia Gleser has written a wonderful book chronicling she and her husband Robert's adventures, and they offered a book signing/discussion session. I loved their background, their stories and their style. Later Paul and I were able to spend a bit more time visiting with them and I realized we had some friends, organizations and places in common. I'll work to close some of those circles in the future, and will also be looking forward to encountering Robert and Virginia down the road. Meantime, Virginia's book kept me company while we cruised to new places...another soothing voice of wisdom sitting with me in the cockpit on some of my watches.
Sailing from Mazatlan, our first leg was to Isla Isabella. Holy smokes, we had such an amazing sail to the island and then a couple of great days at this very very special place. My mantra became: "Christmas Came Early!"!!!
One of our "problems" throughout our travels this time around has been arriving too early to our destination. We keep sailing faster than we intend so we try to slow down, leave later, etc. to avoid the 3 a.m arrivals - which means that we we are stuck sailing around throughout the night, awaiting a sunrise. (I use the term "stuck" somewhat loosely, it's just that you get kind of tired of having to stay awake...the sailing part isn't bad, it's pinching yourself for the up-all-nights that gets a bit tiresome)
We weren't certain about tides and their impact on the ins and outs of the channel in Mazatlan, so we ended up having to leave there about 4 hours earlier than we wanted in order to avoid potential problems with currents and tide depths, etc. Our departure still ended up being interesting as we had to punch through some fair sized waves to make it out to sea. Then there were the obligatory fishing boats - eight of them coming at us ... one additional very, very, verrrry large ship too. Later we found our jib sheets had become cockeyed and we had to re-rig one of them. Crises' all averted...enabling beautiful beam reach sailing at 7++ knots.
We put a reef in our main and partially furled our jib so that we would slow down as we started calculating a midnight (no good!) arrival at Isla Isabella. Next step was changing course to go further out to sea than we needed, more time -killing strategy. Eventually we celebrated the realization that we were back in the Pacific Ocean for the first time in over a year!
Our Pacific sailing yielded a gorgeous sunset. Moonrise was also wonderful. Paul and I decided to eat above decks to enjoy the amazing skies...Natalie Cole was singing Christmas tunes...I delivered the dinner...and in no time the sea performed her magic, and it was dinner with a twist, upside down spaghetti. Zig Zag became official and invaluable crew at that moment, he was the best spaghetti cleaner-upper ever.
From Kate's blog, I copied her idea to try to write more in the log book. (Her idea was actually trying to write something each hour or so, but I was an immediate failure at this.) So, for my 6:30 a.m. Log journal, I wrote "the moon is still so bright in the sky, like a light someone forgot to turn off! At 0600 I could see the island - we're close! A beautiful beautiful sunrise - pastel pinks and blues and golden streaks, with a welcoming committee of boobies and frigates flying overhead. I had the moonbeams on the water behind me and the evolving sunrise in front. YUM!"
So, yes... ok...it's true. The girlie-girl in me likes the above log journal entry a lot better than "Time: Position: Course: Wind Force: Barometer: etc........." But it's still hard to keep track of where and when and what and why even with adjectives. At one point I wrote simply "Whales!!! 2 humpbacks - flukes and blows!" Considering my passion for those critters, it's hard to believe that's all I had to say about their visit!
12/02/2011, Marina Mazatlan
Wow, what a great couple of days we had, setting our own world record! Yes, our OWN world record...this means a whopping 33 hours fully under sail, without running the engine! In the end, the winds -- along with our impatience - conspired to get the better of us. Around 1 a.m., the winds died and kept clocking around part of the dial. Our mainsail was making too much racket...sleeping -- and getting into port to make some business calls-- won priority over sailing the whole Topolobampo to Mazatlan route.
The last two days were just super duper nice, the "what it's all about" kind of sailing, beam reaches almost the entire way down, and both mornings I had exciting marine mammal sitings. Day one, dolphins. Day two....spouts gave way to dorsal fins which then gave way to a HUMPBACK BREACHING! Yowzaa! From our distance it looked like a younger (smaller) whale and a larger one together. We had a brief fluke view too.
The moon and stars put on great shows, I saw many shooting stars on my watch, and phosporescence in the water too.
Leaving Topolobampo was hard, a sailing family pulled into port with a painful medical situation. Several doctor visits later it was determined that the patient was in the midst of dealing with a kidney stone. While the process is totally un-fun, we voiced collective sighs of relief that this situation had occurred when the cruising family was close enough to a port to get the needed medical help. And we had an unexpected bright side to all of this - one of the way-laid crewmembers was a fun and smart seven year old who enjoyed listening to Christmas music and making decorations as much as me and Zig Zag! Hopefully, her Dad is almost done with the ordeal, and we'll meet up with the family and other sailing friends again soon. They have their mast decorated fantabulously for the holidays!
While underway, I had round two of trying out one of my new boat toys, a pressure cooker. Stone Family legends of exploding baby food aside, these days, the pressure cooker is supposed to be every galley's best tool. But, I have to conceed that so far, I haven't been the best at using this miraculous one-pot wonder. Think Oliver: "Please sir, may I have some more?" ... minus the maggots (I hope). Cruel gruel....cruel gruel indeed.
We've been watching a lot of Miss Marple dvd's during this trip. So, as she would say: "Ohh Myyiiiihh, tsk tsk tsk..."