04/01/2011, San Blas
When we arrived back in Bandaras Bay from our travels south, we decided to apply for what is called a FM3 visa which is like a temporary Immigrant permit which you have to renew each year. The benefit for us was that we wouldn't have to leave Mexico every 6 months to renew our tourist visa's. Since we plan on staying her another full year, that is a savings of 4 return air fares. We may go home for a visit at some point and with the FM3 we can go when we want.
Anyhow, we had to wait around in La Cruz until we got them and it took just over 3 weeks. We were getting antsy to leave as the anchorage there has really been windy and rolly as well as we want to get on with starting to move more northwards.
We received them on Wednesday morning and by Thursday morning at 5am we were underway towards San Blas. It was a 60 mile trip and we wanted to make sure we arrived before dark which is why we started so early. We had a good trip and saw a few whales, a few dolphins and I saw 2 manta rays. The first one I saw from a distance and couldn't figure out what I was seeing as I saw a big black fin come out of the water. I thought maybe a shark but then another fin came out about 12 feet away from the first and it matched the other one except the bottom side was white. That's when I realized what I was seeing. The second one I had an up close view which was a little too close. Ian was down below having a nap, and I was on watch. We were motor sailing and the boat was slightly heeled over. I was sitting on the upwind side of the boat and could see down into the water on the other side. All of a sudden right beside the boat I saw the same kind of fin.I jumped over to the other side and saw a manta ray about 5 feet across swim right behind the boat. Any closer and we would have hit it. The worst part was Ian was dragging a fishing line and I had visions of this poor animal getting caught up in the line but happily that didn't happen.
When we arrived in Manachen Bay which is just a few miles outside of San Blas, our friends on Full and By, Dick and Anne were there. Dick rowed over once we got the anchor down and invited us to happy hour on their boat along with another boat. He even rowed us over so that we didn't have to take the dingy down. It was a really nice way to arrive in the bay. Of course we were dog tired and by 8 pm we were back on board in ready for bed.
This morning, we upped anchor and motored into the estuary of San Blas and came to the marina. We will stay here at the dock until Sunday when we can be hauled out of the water. So Sunday we start what we hope will only take 4 or 5 days to do. We are painting the boot stripe with black bottom paint as it is constantly growing barnacles and other sea life. And since we will be out we may as well throw on a coat of bottom paint onto the rest of the bottom too.
So that's about it for now, there is a pool here at the marina so maybe it's time for a swim...
03/26/2011, Bandaras Bay
Wow that was an experience. Ian and I got the chance to touch, feed and interact with dolphins which are in captivity, but were born in captivity and that is all they know. We didn't do the 'swim with the dolphins' thing, but we were lucky enough to meet 2 wonderful people who work with these dolphins and they let us share a few moments of what it is like to work with them. Thank you Sophie and Benjamin.
I am really confused about how I feel about dolphins in captivity now. I've always thought I was against it and I still am against the capture and containment of wild dolphins and whales. But these dolphins are born in this environment and are very dependent on the humans to feed them and protect them. It's no worse than the Lovebird I had for 13 years who was also born in a cage and lived her whole life in a cage. Anyhow there are arguments for and against and I have to say I am still on the fence about it all but also really enjoyed the chance to touch and interact with them. I think that if the people who come to swim with them every day each leave with a love of the dolphins and a desire to protect them by whatever means they can, then it is worth it.
They are incredibly playful and you can see how each one of them has her/his own personality, likes and dislikes. They learn really fast and they need to be constantly challenged with new things as they can become bored with routine. They feel very smooth and rubbery. These are the Pacific Bottlenose which are the biggest of this species. They can get up to a thousand pounds! These are the same kind of dolphins that we were seeing up in Tenacatita Bay earlier this year.
All in all I have to say that I am really glad to have had a chance to interact with them even though Ian and I are lucky enough to be able to see them in the wild whenever we go out sailing or move from one place to another. I've learned some things about dolphins that I never new before and now when I see them I will see them in a new light. I will still always want to reach out and touch them.
03/22/2011, Bandaras Bay
We are waiting in Bandaras Bay where Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz are, for our FM3 visa's to come in. This visa will allow us to stay in Mexico for up to a year before renewing the visa. That means we don't have to leave the country every 6 months.
In the meantime, we are going from place to place around the bay and using the local bus system to get from point A to B. I love the buses here. They can be frusterating when you can't tell which bus goes where, but also they can be fun as the most unusual people and entertainers board at any given time. Some of them sell things like calendars, books or cotton candy and chips, while some of them entertain. They get on for a few miles, sing a few songs, collect a few pesos and then they get off presumably to board the next bus and repeat the process while trying to make a living.
Each time it happens, Ian and I sit and grin at each other. No matter if they are 'talented' or not, it makes us happy to see them and we always make sure to give them a few pesos. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised when they belt out a beautiful song and we actually have heard it before.
It really makes riding the transit here much more enjoyable and interesting. Now if we could only figure out why some buses have such comfy seats while others make your teeth rattle...
I've added a few photos in a gallery of Bus entertainment and hope to add to it while we are in Mexico.
03/16/2011, La Cruz Anchorage, Bandaras Bay
Last week we decided to spend a few days at a marina because Ian was racing with our friends on their boat in the Bandaras Bay Regatta. Well it was a welcome treat as our budget dose not allow for very many nights at a dock. It was especially nice because lately the winds in the bay have been really blowing in the afternoon causing the boats at anchor to rock and roll.
The marina we were at was in Nuevo Vallarta which is about 10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta but still in the same bay. Bandaras Bay is huge its about 20 miles across and about 30 miles in length. Anyhow the price was right at Nuevo Vallarta at 49 cents a foot plus tax so for us it was about 20 dollars a night. It's a marina with very few ammenaties and it is somewhat under construction so it's not as popular as the other marinas in the area.
The first thing I did when we tied up was wash the boat on the outside. It hasn't been washed since the last time we stayed at a marina which was in late December! So she was both dirty and salty. Once that was done, I spent the next couple of days polishing the stainless steel - still not finished with that job - but the boat is looking pretty again. It's so nice to have access to fresh water to wash things with. We didn't fill the water tanks with the water as it seems to have a lot of sediment in it so we will continue to rely on our Watermaker to make our potable water.
Other things I enjoyed about our stay at the dock was the birds that were in the neighbourhood. I don't have a book on birds of this area unfortunatley, but I know there were swallows, beecatchers and the ever present but beautiful sounding grackles. It was very pleasant to polish the stainless and listen to the birds in the afternoon.
And you have neighbours you can chat with at any given time, just walk out on the dock and there is someone to strike up a conversation with. It's much more social on a dock that when you are at anchor. At the dock you can socialize from the deck of your boat as people are strolling by or go for a walk and meet the new people who just pulled in as you help them with their dock lines.
And one of the biggest advantages is that you can go for a walk when ever you want! You don't have to dingy ashore, land the dingy through the surf or find a safe place to leave the dingy. You just walk out the gate and go. On one of our walks, we came across this pool with dolphins and sealions. We watched from a distance as the trainer put the sealion through his paces and all of the tricks it could do. Impressive. In the background, the dolphins were playing on their own with no trainer around, and the thing that they kept doing was jumping out of the water onto the white padded mat as you can see in the above photo. They really seemed to like doing it and at times there were two at a time and they seemed to be trying to push each other off. It was so interesting to watch them. We got talking with one of the trainers, and the reason they are trained to jump out of the water like that is in case they need to move them to another location as they did during the tsunami, the dolphins jump out of the water on their own, they are picked up in these white mats by a crane and transported. It makes it less stressful for them than being caught and manhandled out of the water. I have very mixed feelings about dolphins and whales in captivity, I can see the alure in that you can get up close and personal with them where you can hardly ever do that in the wild, but I feel sorry for them in the small pools that they live in. Apparantly all of the dolphins in this place run by Vallarta Adventures are born in captivity. The main thing they do with them is to let people swim with them and touch them. I was very tempted but I'm sure it isn't cheap.
While we were at the dock we took advantage and did some major stocking up on canned foods and things that are harder to transport to the boat while at anchor. So all in all it was a good break from anchoring out. Normally I prefer anchoring out but I have to say that when you are in a rolly anchorage like we are now, the dock is a good alternative. But to be able to maintain this lifestyle, we are on a budget and so be it. A rolly day at anchor beats a day in the office any day!
03/13/2011, Bandaras Bay
Yeah Tapatai!! This is our friends Penny & Fred's boat that raced in the Bandaras Regatta and Ian crewed for them. They had a great time out there in the steady winds that Bandaras Bay produces each afternoon. I was all set to go out with them on Friday but the race was cancelled that day due to the Tsunami warning. Then on Saturday, I got sick and couldn't go so I missed out on the chance of being not only in a fast racing sailboat, but in a winning fast racing sailboat. All in all it's been a good weekend and spent in the company of some very great people.
03/11/2011, Bandaras Bay
We woke up this morning to the news of the big earthquake in Japan and the potential tsunami coming our way. We were at the marina at Nuevo Vallarta (Ian is racing with our friends on Tapatai and it was just more convenient to be at the dock than at anchor). Anyhow, the docks were alive with everyone out talking about the best course of action. Some said stay it would be fine, others thought the best course would be to head out to the bay. Ian at first decided to add extra lines to the boat which we did, but about an hour later, he changed his mind and decided that we should head out to deep water, so at about 11:30 am we headed out.
Channel 22 the cruisers channel, on the VHF radio was full of chatter, information and misinformation. One minute the ports were closed to all traffic and then they were only closed to commercial traffic. We decided that since our boat is our home we couldn't afford to take the chance on being caught at the dock in a big surge that could not only break the docks, but do lots of damage to our boat. So closed or not we left the marina.
It was a pleasant day with a light wind and very calm seas out there and we had a great day of sailing back and fourth across the bay. We made lots of fresh water and ran the engine a few hours to charge up the batteries.
Although the regatta was cancelled for the day, you would not have known it with all the boats out sailing.
We were hearing reports on the radio of surges of 2, 3 and 4 feet. A couple of docks broke in one marina and the outflow waters out of the estuaries (where most of the marinas are) was up to 14 knots. Around 5 pm we were tired of sailing and wishing we could go back to the dock but the ports at this point were really closed with the Mexican Navy guarding the entrance to our entry. So the only choice was to sail around all night or to anchor out. So despite the fact that we splurged on a marina for a few days, here we are back at anchor!
That being said, we are safe and sound and things could have been so much worse. Our hearts go out to the people who have been affected the most by todays disaster. We hope that things go back to normal for them as soon as possible.