Sitting on the beach in Yelapa in 1977 never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be sailing into the bay 35 years later.
Yelapa is a small town in Banderas Bay which is only accessible by boat. In the winter of 1977-78, I spent 3 months there living on less than 5 dollars a day. Me and two friends rented a small palapa on the hillside overlooking the bay - a million dollar view for 35 dollars a month! We spent our days walking, swimming, cooking and eating pie on the beach. Then the town had no electricity and no phone lines and of course the internet didn't even exist. Today there is electricity and telephone and internet but still no roads.
The main source of transportation back then was by horseback and I was pleased to see that that still holds true as many homes have a saddled horse tied up outside the house ready to go. We did see a few ATV's but not too many.
We arrived yesterday at noon and were greeted by an fellow name Ricardo who had a mooring bouy ready for us to use for 200 peso's including taxi rides to the beach and back. Yelapa is a very deep bay and shallows up very close to the beach so it is a tricky place to anchor. So we took a mooring. Shortly after, we set off on a hike up the river behind the beach to walk to the waterfall which we were told takes an hour. It took us 1.5 each way.
Arriving back at the beach, we saw that the wind had picked up during the afternoon and the swells coming into the bay were large and close together. Kasasa was rocking quite a bit and we both thought that we may have to leave the anchorage. Once we got to the boat however, it was not too bad on board and so we decided to stay. The winds calmed down by dark and around midnight dropped altogether. That meant that the boat was now not being held front into the swells which is the most comfortable way to take them. Instead we sat sideways to them all night long and the boat rocked side to side and made for a very uncomfortable sleep.
So we got up in the morning and after a walk through the village, we decided to head back to the La Cruz anchorage. As we untied from the mooring bouy, Ian hauled up the main and right then the engine died. He figured it was an air bubble in the fuel line as he had just switched tanks. So we hauled out the jib and in about 4 knots of wind, we tacked back and fourth in the bay until we were able to clear the point and head into Banderas Bay at which point Ian went down below and got the engine running again.
We managed to sail all the way back to La Cruz as the winds built from 4 knots to about 18 and mostly on the beam. I was having a good sleep down below to make up for the sleep I missed the night before. I did wake up for a few minutes for Ian to put a reef in the main as we were starting to heel over just a little too much.
03/16/2012, Banderas Bay
Had a great little tour today to a Mexican hot springs up a nice clear clean flowing river. It's a small tour organized by a woman in La Cruz with about 12 of us all together. We drove for about an hour out of Puerto Vallarta and then transferred into a 4x4 truck for the rest of the trip as we had to cross the river twice on the truck and then park it and walk in the rest of the way also crossing the river twice on foot. Along the way to my great surprise we saw this patch of Four Leaf Clover growing and right before St. Patrick's day too! So happy St. Paddy's day to you all from sunny Mexico.
03/14/2012, Nuevo Vallarta Marina
This BAT experience happened a few weeks back as we were leaving Santiago early one morning. It was just after daylight and we were motoring along (no wind) and I spotted a small what I thought was a bird flying around the boat but quickly realized it was a bat! Well if you know me at all, you know that I don't like things that crawl, slither or fly erratically in my vicinity. I picked up the fly swatter which happened to be sitting right there in the cockpit and wildly started to wave it back and forth in front of me all the while screaming rather loudly and trying to back into the companionway and close the hatch door! (All with no help from Ian I might add as he was finding the situation far to funny to do anything about it plus he loves bats!!)
The bat seemed to be hovering around the back of the boat and my theory is he thought maybe the companionway was the entrance to a cave where he could go hang out for the day. Not a chance Mr. Bat. Once I was safely inside the boat with all hatches safely closed and latched for good measure, Ian was instructed to find the critter and get rid of it. He thought he saw it land in the folds of the sail so he raised the main to see if it would fly out. He did see it fly but didn't see where it went so he convinced me it flew back to the shore. I timidly came out of hiding but took some safety measures and put the screens on all the opening windows and companionway door.
So it was back to sitting there staring out to sea as we continued our motor towards Barra de Navidad. Ian looks down at me and just about 20 inches from my feet he spots the bat hanging upside down off of the toe rail. Well I was up and back inside the boat in seconds flat. I passed Ian a container as we decided to capture it and set it free after dark (he decided). So the picture you see is the bat in a small plastic container. The bat itself is only about 3 inches total in size. Once he was in the container we put a screen over the top and tied it on so he could get air and also hang upside down. We put him in a dark locker for the day and later when it was dark Ian took him away from the boat (at my very insistent suggestion) to let the wee critter go. It was very dark so Ian didn't get to see if it flew off or just launched itself into the water and drowned (I hope he flew free as much as I don't like them close to me or in my boat, I think they are great when they are flying around catching bugs at night). So we have rescued a cat, a bat I really hope we don't have to rescue a rat!
We were both so excited Feb 14 finally arrived. We had had booked flights in September and this 2 week holiday just seemed to take forever to get here. We wanted to go to Zihuatanejo when we were cruisers ourselves back in 1997, but we did not go any further south than Manzanillo. We were very happy when Ian and Ellen said they would travel to Zihuat. After we "pushed the button and got the green light" at immigration gate (the lady directly in front of us got the red light) we saw the smiling faces of Ian and Ellen. Our small hotel, Canta del Mar, was wonderful and is run by a Mexican family. The hotel owner, Alicia was pleasant but did not speak english and as our spanish was very rusty, the fun of communications began. Fortunately, Alicia's daughter, Karla was very fluent in english and she dropped by regularly to help out. We spent 7 days at Canta del Mar and I have to say something about Alicia. One day Lynne caught her baby toe on a power pole guy wire. We thought it was broken. Alicia, a very kind and caring person, saw the swollen, black and blue foot, took over and began foot and temple massage, ice, ointment application and wrapping. Fortunately, the toe was not broken, but the therapy had Lynne back on her feet in no time.
Ian and Ellen had arrived the week before and we immediately benefited, with low cost collectivos (taxis, normally vans that share ridership with others), buses which are an even better value, great places to eat, shop and of course sights to see. A highlight included a day trip to Playa Linda to see the wild crocodiles. Wild is probably not a good adjective, as I am sure there is no such thing as a tame crocodile, but they were behind a big strong fence. We also took the dinghy into the lagoon at Zihuat. to look at the local crocs. There were around 15 of them in the water. Some were small and some were big! When you are in the dinghy with crocs swimming nearby, your butt is within easy biting distance. Ellen and Lynne were a little concerned, to put it mildly, when we got really close to take pictures.
Ian wanted to go on an overnight fishing trip that would take Kasasa 50 miles offshore and leave Ellen and Lynne at the hotel. The promise of catching large yellow fin tuna was very enticing. Kasasa weighed anchor and was out of the harbour by 6 PM. The next morning, the boys were 50 + miles offshore, the seas were lumpy and the fishing reels were quiet. They remained that way for the whole trip, unless you count 2 small inedible mexican tunny caught 5 miles outside the bay. Fortunately, there were many birds, porpoises and even a whale to see.
We were given a hand held VHF radio to keep in touch and were immediately introduced to the "Zihuatanejo Cruisers Net". Every day, at 9 AM, a controller would start the net and go through a checklist that among other things included roll call, arrivals, departures and the weather forecast. We used our old boat name "Two Jack" for radio identification. It was amazing as the days went by, we met other cruisers, knew their boat names and even experienced a sense of loss when some of the boats left for other destinations. Zihuat seems to be the place where cruisers decide to continue south to Central America and beyond or turn around and head back north.
After 7 days, we left the hotel and became Kasasa's crew. We decided to anchor out at Isla Grande, 10 miles to the north and very close to Ixtapa. We tucked Kasasa into a corner of the small bay to avoid the Pacific Ocean swells. The water was 25 C and although the visibility could have been better the snorkelling was fun and productive. The beach offered cold beer, margaritas and a chance to win a game of dominos. Every morning, Ian and Harvey went fishing in the dinghy. The reels were quiet. Ellen's galley would not get a chance to prepare a tasty ceveche dish made from fresh caught fish.
Lynne's loves weaving and she is an active member of the weaver's guild in Richmond. She also has a very busy tabletop loom in the spare bedroom. She was excited to find a store, close to Playa Centro selling hand woven rugs from Oaxaca. After watching a weaver completing a project, she noticed him hand finishing the tassels. The tassels were being twisted one at a time by hand. Lynne uses a special tool called a fringe twister that can twist many tassels at the same time. Harvey drew a picture so the weaver could understand the tool. It looks like it was a hit and would be very nice to see it being used the next time we are back.
Cruising is a unique way of traveling. While laying in the shade on a comfortable palapa chair, gently queezing a lime into a cold cervaza, enjoying an appetizer and watching your ship rolling gently in the ocean swells may sound like a beer commercial, it really is a lot of hard work. For us, traveling to new ports, meeting new people and enjoying an area from the comfort of your own boat were highlights that outweighed the high cost of running a boat, the hours spent doing repairs, difficult voyages, provisioning and of course, the constant vigilance. It was a real treat to relive the lifestyle again, especially since we were able to have all the benefits of cruising without the responsibility. We finished the last few days of the vacation in the Marina at Ixtapa. What a difference between the two towns! Ixtapa was developed and built for tourists! Zihuats history predates the Spanish conquest. Harvey was surprised at the lack of tourists! The beaches were empty and the number of restaurants with the managers practically begging for you to sit at their table was heart breaking. Zihuat. was suffering as well, but fortunately it seems to have a broader base for employment.
Sadly, all holidays must come to an end. Our last day was leisurely, as the flight was late in the afternoon. Ellen came as far as Zihuat where we transferred from one collectivo to another. We gave each other farewells and hugs good by before heading off to the airport. Ian and Ellen will leave their boat in the Baja when they return to Canada for a visit this summer. We will look forward to their visit and a chance to return their hospitality. Adios amigos and thank you for the wonderful holiday!
Harvey & Lynne (Two Jack)
03/03/2012, Santiago, Mexico
We've spent the last 3 weeks in Zihautanejo 2 of those weeks were spent in the company of our good friends Lynne and Harvey from Vancouver. Once again I won't go into to to much detail about their visit because they did say that they would send a blog and I will post it, but it was a good visit and we are happy they came and spent some time with us.
On March 1st, we decided it was time to head back north. The leg between Zihautanejo and Manzanillo is a long one with only a few very marginal anchorages to stop in none of which would be good in bad weather. So it is important to try and get a good weather window to leave in. The weather was calling for 10 knots from the SW and 10 to 15 from the W the next day. So with that we decided to go even though the W wind would be mostly on the nose. We had large swells which made for a lumpy trip but the winds were mostly on the light side but we were able to motor sail all the way. Basically motor sailing is really motoring with the sails up to catch what wind there is so instead of doing say 3 knots you are now doing 5 to 6 knots. We also lucked out with a current in our favour for over half the trip giving us almost an extra knot of speed. The wind was clocking around for most of the trip so some times we actually had great wind and we got up to 7.5 knots but only for a short time as the winds were also a bit gusty sometimes up to maybe 12 knots and other times maybe 6.
It took us 35 hours to do 185 miles which averages out to 5 and a quarter knots of speed which for those non sailors is about 5 miles an hour. Imagine driving 185 miles at 5 miles an hour! But we were happy with that and arrived in Santiago Bay at 9:30 pm last night. Since we had been here before anchoring in the dark was not a problem. Coming into the bay we had a big freighter go by us about half a mile away which sounds like a lot but when they are as big as they are it feels too close. Just after it passed us there was a huge splash as a whale breached about 100 feet away from the boat. So an exciting entrance in the dark. We did have a half moon but it was hidden in a cloud so didn't help too much.
Had a great night sleep and today we are still recuperating. Ian is suffering from a sore throat so we are taking it easy today. Tomorrow we will probably head out to Barra 24 miles north and the next day on to Tenacatita. We are in a bit of a rush to get to La Cruz as our FM3 visa's expire on March 22 so we need to get there in time to renew them. Too bad as we hate to rush.
So that's where we are for now. Things are good and life is great.
We arrived in Zihautanejo on the first day of Sailfest and jumped right in with both feet. We didn't really know what to expect having never been before but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Sailfest is a 5 day fundraising festival put on by the local gringo population here along with what ever boats that are here and want to participate. All the money raised goes to the local schools for supplies, new buildings, new schools, scholarships etc. This was the 11th annual Sailfest and I believe that this year they raised over 400 thousand pesos which equals over 30 thousand dollars.
There are various events all throughout and each event has a price to attend or participate. To enter your boat to participate in the Race or in the Sail Parade is 300 pesos. We decided to enter into the Sail Parade. Tickets are then sold to local people or visiting tourists at 300 pesos per person to go aboard one of the boats in the parade for the day. We had 9 guests on board Kasasa and it was a very fun day. The weather wasn't the greatest as it was overcast with a few rain drops here and there, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves anyhow.
Other events included a Chili Cook-off, a concert of local musicians, a beach day for the school children, a sailboat race as well as 2 auctions for local art and restaurant gift certificates and there were raffel ticket draws for great prizes all week long. It is amazingly well organized and my hats off to all the volunteers for making it such a fun event. It's a great way to have fun and help out at the same time.