Due West Adventures

The sailing adventures of Captain Kirk & Heidi, Tosh and Tikka Hackler . . .

17 March 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
25 December 2018 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
26 August 2018 | Puerto Vallarta MX, ABQ, NM, and SEA, WA
01 May 2018 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
24 December 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco Mexico
02 November 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
11 October 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
16 September 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
29 June 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX
26 May 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX
07 April 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX
26 February 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX
30 January 2017 | La Cruz, Nayarit, MX
24 December 2016 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
20 December 2016 | Banderas Bay
27 November 2016 | La Paz, B.C.S. Mexico
14 November 2016 | Bahia San Carlos Mexico
17 October 2016 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

¡La Vida es Chula!

17 March 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
Heidi & Kirk Hackler
Es la Vida...Life is what happens while you're busy making plans. So much for our plans to sail south for a few months, high tide washed them away...

Between a trip to the states for Heidi's dad's 88th birthday (where we had to wear WAY too many clothes!) and running into yet another engine glitch... Life is great!

The 88th Birthday King Verne and his wife Willa.

If we have to be stuck in paradise awaiting another engine part, at least we have visits from friends and family, and plenty of fun things to do! We had a fantastic time in February when two sets of friends visited us and we got to share whale watching in Banderas Bay with Laura & Will and Lal & Eric. Laura & Will also brought us some boat parts, and a few other items from the states that we can't find in Mexico. This week we have Heidi's brother Arne, sis-in-law Teresa, and our niece Annika, plus several of Anni's friends coming to hang out in Puerto Vallarta for spring break. Life is great!

Clockwise from left: Lal, Heidi, Judy, and Laura whale watching on a Juan Bravo Panga tour.

A lunch stop at Maraika Beach Club is always a delicious treat, and this time was no exception! Eulalie (Lal), Eric, Judy, Will, Heidi, and Kirk.

As you may recall, we had our engine water pump rebuilt here in Mexico last spring. Sadly the the rebuild was faulty... so BIG thanks Arne & Teresa for bringing us a brand new water pump this week! This is no small feat, as our 20 year old Perkins engine is no longer manufactured and spare parts are becoming harder to find. Luckily Kirk has a good stable of Perkins part dealers around the US, and when we need something he is usually able to find a part, but they are becoming fewer and further between, several times we've bought the last one available! With any luck at all, our trusty engine "Michael P" will be up and running, with leak-free oil and water pumps again by next week! Life is great!

Our most exciting news of late, is that Tosh is a medical miracle! He's recovering nicely from his nasal tumor, thanks to Homeopathic remedies from Australia! We have been extremely happy with the results from Holistic Animal Remedies, (another BIG THANKS to friends Wai-Lin & Terry for turning us on to them!) In fact, Tosh's vet here in Vallarta is blown away. He actually asked us for the information on what remedies we've been treating Tosh with, because he's never seen an animal recover from a nasal tumor like this. We've opted not to do another invasive biopsy procedure to confirm it's really all gone... but we are over the moon with Tosh's revived personality, increased energy levels, easier time eating, gaining weight again, and even the shape of his face is going back to normal. Kirk is excited to have his journeyman mechanic back helping him again! Tikka is also very excited that Tosh is back to chasing her around and pouncing on her while she's sleeping (NOT!), as siblings will do... We can hear her say "He's touching me!" Life is great!

Since we are currently short on time to write and long on photos this post is primarily a photo blog. A photo is worth 1000 words anyway, so sit back, relax, and enjoy! Be sure to check out our photo gallery for more photos of friends, family, and adventures around Banderas Bay!

A trip into PV wouldn't be complete without a stop at our favorite juice stand... on a street corner, they have a power cord running into a building, and run two blenders and a hand juicer making any combination of fresh juice to go. $30 pesos for a pint ($1.50 US) Heidi's fav is toronja, perejil, y jengibre (grapefruit, parsley and ginger, try it, it's SO refreshing!!) Kirk likes betabel, zanahoria, y jengibre (beets, carrots, and ginger, also super yummy and great for your heart!)

Another local attraction we love to share with visitors is the hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas. This 3-mile section of trail (one-way) winds up through lush jungle and open forest with ocean views, past waterfalls, and back down along the beach. Those who are more intrepid can continue another 1.5 miles to Quimixto, or 7-miles all the way to Yelapa. Water Taxis are available for the return for those who don't want to hike back. We recently hiked this trail with friends and fellow cruisers, Judy & Paul from s/v Grace, and Christina & Alex from s/v Blue Wind.

The trail is well maintained and well traveled through the jungle which would otherwise quickly take back the trail... Remember, just because you didn't see the Jaguar, doesn't mean he didn't see you!

The trail crosses playa Colomitas and winds up the hill giving an exquisite view back down onto Colomitas beach and the boardwalk trail along the shore we'd just walked on.

If you're thirsty at the end of your hike, fresh Cocos await! They'll machete off the top for you to drink the coconut water out of. Then when you're done drinking, they'll machete it in half and scoop out the coconut meat for a yummy snack!

What could be better than an old car show complete with Pink Cadillac and palm trees? Stay tuned for our next blog post to find out!

La vida es chula! (Life is Great!)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Heidi & Kirk, Tosh & Tikka

PS. Check out our photo gallery for more photos of friends, family, and adventures around Banderas Bay!
Vessel Name: Due West
Vessel Make/Model: Passport 40
Hailing Port: Seattle, WA
Crew: Captain Kirk & Heidi Hackler + Tosh & Tikka
Captain Kirk and First-Mate/Navi-Girl Heidi untied the dock-lines in Seattle in August 2015 and set sail for Mexico with our two-kitty crew Tosh & Tikka. We've been in Mexico since then.  
Kirk grew up sailing in Seattle and has been boating his whole life. [...]
Extra: See pix of our boat here: Due West Interior Photos and in the Photo Gallery.
Home Page: http://svduewest.com
Due West's Photos - Cuba-Conga! Part 3: Cienfuegos, Trinidad, y Viñales
Photos 1 to 68 of 68 | Main
Panorama of Valle Viñales, the best is yet to come...
Cienfuegos is where we chartered the sailboat. For perspective, by boat it was about a 1-hour motor across the big bay to the narrow opening (dodging freighters, ferries, tugs/tows, and fishing boats in this large port.) By car from Cienfuegos it was about a 90-minute drive south to Trinidad
Welcome to Cienfuegos, one of the larger port cities in Cuba, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s old colonial architecture.
Palacio de Valle, built by the Italian architect Alfredo Colli in 1913-1917, was the home of a Sugar Baron. Moorish-style former mansion is now a government operated high-end hotel. See more interior pix in photo gallery.
Our traveling buddies in Cuba: Val, Rob & Teresa, Kelly (back row), Heidi & Kirk at Palacio de Valle, Cienfuegos.
Beautiful example of Moorish architecture detail at the front entrance to Palacio de Valle Hotel.
Another example of Moorish architectural detail in the interior of the hotel, amazing complexity in the designs.
These present-day hotels were once Sugar Baron mansions.
Juxtaposed to the classical colonial buildings were “modern” 1960’s-era buildings, like this fancy hotel (in need of a paint job.)
Propaganda billboards were very common along the highways, like this one of Ché saying something along the lines of: “Actions speak louder than words.”
"A single Revolution, 60-years of New Victories"... another of the many propaganda signs along the highway.
Main Square, Trinidad.
Trinidad has cobblestoned streets with lots of horse carts. Even the public transportation is horse carts. These guys are delivering drinking water by horse cart... it’s a bit like stepping back in time.
In Trinidad, every house or shop seems to be painted a different, vibrant color. They also have ornate window and door grills, some resembling bird cages, fitting for their local pastime of building bird cages for their pet songbirds.
This is a government food ration stores in Trinidad. Cubans use a ration booklet and are allowed a certain amount of subsidized food per month. For example they can buy for very reduced cost:  7 lbs of white rice, 1/2- lb of black beans, 4 lbs of white sugar,  3 lbs of brown sugar, 5 eggs per person for the month, and a few other items. They can buy more of some things, but the extra above the rationed amount isn
Like cities around the world, parts of Trinidad are definitely more run down and in need of repair than others...
Drinking Canchánchara in Trinidad.
Ché’s figure is found on just about any souvenir trinket you can think of, like these pieces of leather?? Everywhere in Cuba we saw his image so much more often than images of Fidel.
Just like in Mexico, you can pretty much find the same Cuban trinkets in every town.
When Heidi opened up one of our gear bags, she discovered a BIG surprise! Kirk’s PFD (personal flotation device, a.k.a inflatable life jacket), had prematurely inflated! Nearest we can figure, the ‘jerk to inflate’ tab must have gotten caught on something in the bag, and been jerked. Thankfully this occurred after our sailing adventures, so we no longer needed it on this trip!
Taxi-driver Gustavo leading the way down a colorful street to find dinner… too bad the restaurant he had in mind was closed.
More Cow-bell! Val rocked the Maracas with the restaurant house-band. If only the food were as good as the band, LOL!
Old town Trinidad was beautiful at night. We had planned to take in some Cuban music but were all too tired from our overnight sailing passage the night before.
Main Square of Trinidad.
The Romantic Museum with art and period pieces from the Sugar Baron era.
The formal dining room of the former Sugar Baron Mansion that is now the Romantic Museum. In Spanish-style, the whole house was built around the courtyard with all rooms opening up onto it.
Heidi loves this photo juxtaposing modern Cuban pop-art against the 200+ year old painted walls in this Sugar Baron mansion-turned-gallery. This room was likely once an upstairs bedroom.
"Thank you sir for permitting me to live one more day." Is this about The Revolution or about the Catholic Church?  Draw your own conclusions.
Kirk took this photo of a 1956 Chevy blocking a street in the outskirts of Trinidad, he loves the grittiness… it’s one of his favorite photo of the entire trip!
Cuba map showing Viñales in the Piñar del Rio province.
The majestic Valle Viñales with its magotes is a popular tourist destination in Cuba.
The blue Casa Particular show where we stayed, and the green starburst shows the farm we rode horses to through the beautiful valley.
A delicious lunch at Restorante Vera consisted of:  grilled red snapper or pork served with family style sides of black bean soup, Moros y Cristianos (“Moors and Christians” - a.k.a. black beans and white rice!), a salad of cucumbers, shredded cabbage, fresh sliced tomatoes, and cooked carrot slices (interesting!), plus fried plantains chips, maduros (sweet fried plantains more like fried bananas) and boiled yucca root.
Inside the "Indian Caves" stalagmites and dripping wet stalactites overhead.
Exit from the boat ride on the river portion of our "Indian Caves" tour.
Kelly, Val, Heidi, Teresa, Rob, and Kirk disembarking from the Indian Caves boat ride.
Kelly, the farm-gal, was all too happy to hang on for an "8-second" ride on Tomás, the Water Buffalo!
This multi-colored spectacular Mural de la Prehistorica, stretches for 40 yards across a limestone outcropping at the foot of the Magote Pita. What was most interesting to us about this larger-than-life painted mural were the 1”-wide painted gray stripes, evenly spaced across all the colors. It seems hard enough to paint this behemoth mural, let alone painting even strips across the whole thing. (See inset) Note dog, and people on horseback for scale.
Other than farm animals, this Gecko and blue lizard were about the only wildlife we saw in Viñales.
The rural neighborhood in Viñales near by where we stayed.
Traditional Viñales wooden homes.
Newer cinderblock homes are now starting to be built as well. This was similar to the casa we stayed in.
Early morning view from our Casa Particular, looking across the farmland.
Feeding time for the plow animals.
Early morning tobacco field being plowed by oxen.
Vaqueros getting the horses ready for our ride.
Vaquero Yaniel and Bel, just before Bel
And we
Between the Ears: The countryside was so beautiful with the iron-rich red soil (supposedly what makes the Cuban tobacco the best), the verdant greenery, and the magote hills all around.
Lefty and Pancho! Kelly got a good sized horse, but Kirk
Riding past more Viñales Valley fertile farmland, so beautiful!
A tobacco field and drying shed that we rode past on the way to the Finca Brisas del Valle.
Our Finca (farm) tour guide Agnes and Heidi at the Brisas del Valle snack-bar where you could get fresh coconut water, mango water, guava water, coffee, and rum, all grown on this finca. A super-SMALL-world sidebar: back in Puerto Vallarta we recently found a new-to-us Cuban restaurant, CoHabana, and met the proprietress Jamie, who turned out to be from Viñales! We showed her our recent Cuban photos and when we got to this one, she exclaimed, “OH! That’s my friend Agnes!” Jamie hadn’t been back to Cuba in over 10-years, but recognized her friend. Too cool!
Thirst-quenching Coco-fresca is one of Heidi
Kelly, asked if she could plow a row of the tobacco field. They were astonished as they’d never been asked this before! But they gladly let her try. Afterward, Kelly said it was really hard work, and she’s used to doing farm work! This is the first step in growing the tobacco. The rows are plowed three times before they sow the seeds.
Cigar Rolling 101:  learning the process. Kelly, Teresa, Val, Heidi, and Bel our trusty interpreter!
Harvesting the Tobacco leaves: The leaves are back-breakingly picked by hand and draped over the picker’s arms, then slid off their arm as a unit onto wooden rails.
Pulling the Harvest to the Drying Shed ~ The oxen pull the picked tobacco leaves on the wooden rails back to the tobacco drying sheds. The leave seen here still on the stalks were leaves that were not chosen to make cigars, and will later be turned into cigarettes, used in herbal remedies, or plowed back into the ground for compost.
The Tobacco Drying Shed ~ The wooden rails are hung up in the tobacco drying sheds. Here they will dry for about a month. In the back you can see the fresh green leaves, and above the leaves are more cured. As the leaves dry, the rails are moved further up into the rafters, and the fresh green leaves are placed on the lower levels. The barns have palapa (palm frond) roofs and walls with openings on each side to let a little sun and breeze blow through and help with the drying process.
Closeup of drying tobacco - the leaves at the top are almost ready for fermentation process, while the greener ones at the bottom will be moved up higher as they dry making room for more new green leaves on the bottom.
This cute little boy is helping his dad and learning the plowing process at the same time. If we hadn
This “Marlborough Man” Palillo, has been a tobacco farmer and cigar maker his entire life. He showed us how to roll cigars, and said “If you don’t like smoking cigars in Viñales, you don’t like anything in life."
When in Rome… Kirk hadn’t smoked tobacco for over 50 years, but after watching Palillo hand-roll this cigar with honey, and listening to his promo about the “best cigars in the world”, Kirk couldn’t resist taking a puf, and giving his best “Ché” impression!
The farm grows sugarcane and guayabitas to make Guayabitas del Piñar, a speciality rum of the region. We all bought a bottle, and it was really nice rum.
Sunset over the town of Viñales as we said adios... we hope to be back again some day. The Valle Viñales was definitely the highlight of our trip to Cuba!
As a surprise for Kirk, Bel arrived in a Classic 1953 turquoise Chevy to take us to the airport! So sad to say our goodbyes to everyone. This had really been a trip of a lifetime us. Bel, Heidi, Kirk (in car) Val, Kelly, Teresa, and Rob. BIG THANKS to all of you!!
A fascinating read if you want to learn more about Cuban History, and some info that your US history lessons may have left out...