17 April 2022
Hacienda Labor de Rivera
Not to confuse you with the title, this is not a cliff hanger. It is a summary of the amazing season we have had this year sailing on the west coast of Mexico’s mainland.
We weren’t sure what to expect when we got back to Cadenza. It had been two long years. Fortunately, she was in good shape and after a couple of weeks putting her back together, we took her out for her first sail. Banderas Bay is perfect for day sailing. Practically every afternoon the winds pick up between 15 and 20 knots and the seas are flat. Humpback whales come each winter to have their babies and there was rarely a day we didn’t see at least one. We couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to our sailing season.
Our friend, Eunice, joined us early in January. Over the first few weeks we showed her around Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz. She spent a week in La Cruz and continued to explore the area. She went surfing and met some interesting people. She returned to our boat in late January and we took off for parts south.
It was so much fun introducing her to our cruising lifestyle and she and I had some fun times playing in the surf, jumping off the boat, kayaking and paddling. We spent several days at anchorage in Punta de Mita, Ipala, Chamela Bay and Tenacatita. Our final destination this season is one of our favorite towns, Barra de Navidad.
Barra is more than a town we visit. It is community. Not just between the cruisers but with the local Mexican nationals. We have made many friends over the years and follow their lives, hear about their children, their health, and share lots of laughter.
Some of my favorite things to do: ride the water taxi to and from town; order from the French Baker who delivers by boat to our boat; water volleyball; watch as the town comes alive at night; enjoy dinner and music; and watch the sun rise over the lagoon from the sixth floor of the hotel.
While in Barra, we participated in Cruise-In Week. This is where the cruisers get together and help to raise funds for the local schools. It’s a fun week filled with sailing, music, parties, games and a race. There is usually a work day where we paint or clear brush or whatever the schools need but with Covid still hanging around, the organizers felt we should skip it this year. Jay and I really missed that opportunity as we felt less of a connection to the children than we did the first time we participated in the event. Still, we are proud to have been a part of the group who raised over $15,000 US dollars.
Two weeks after we arrived in Barra, Eunice left to explore more of Mexico. Next up was our friends, Gail and Steve’s, arrival. Gail had sailed with us to Barra a couple of years back and loved it so much, she wanted to share it with Steve. It was a great visit.
We stayed for a couple more weeks and then headed back north. The day before we left, I fell down the companionway steps and bruised my ribs. Ouch! Six weeks of slow-moving. It put a bit of a damper on our journey back. I couldn’t jump off the boat and swim or paddle board. Bummer. I was able to get in the dinghy and go ashore to swim. The beach at Perula (Chamela Bay) is absolutely beautiful.
Every season, we try to take a road trip. We chose the town of Tequila this year. Mostly due to its close proximity to Vallarta. It is about a four-hour drive. We invited Alison and Allan from sv/Fly Aweigh (and dear friends from California). When I learned that the Guachimontone ruins were only an hour’s drive away from Tequila, I added another day to the trip. Jay and I had been there before and it was so interesting, we wanted to share it with Alison and Allan. (For more info on the Guachimontones see my blog, https://www.sailblogs.com/member/svcadenza/390217).
I happened to stumble upon a great hotel just outside the ruins, deep amongst the sugar plantations. After driving down a long dirt road full of bumps and holes, we came across a walled entrance. No one knew what to expect. (Except for me, as I saw the photos on the internet.) “Uh, Terri…where are you taking us?” Jay asked. “You’ll see.” We pushed a button and the concierge buzzed us in. The gates opened to reveal a long stone driveway with trees on either side. To the right was a pond with two ducks and a turtle sunning itself on a rock and to the left were some of the many horses they keep, grazing in a field. The hotel was a hacienda built in the colonial style and stood stately at the end of the driveway. When we got out of the car, we instantly felt a sense of peace.
The property is located on several acres and was originally used to process sugar. Besides the pond and the ruins of a mill, there is a restaurant, a spa, stables to house the horses, and even has its own chapel. It was quite special and we have thoughts to visit it again.
In Tequila, we stayed in the center of town. If the hacienda is what you would call old Mexico, the hotel was modern Mexico. We arrived late Sunday afternoon. Sunday is the family holiday in Mexico and there were throngs of people wandering the streets holding terracotta cups full of tequila. Some people were tipsy. Many were obviously drunk. Jay likened it to a Tequila Disneyland. Needless to say, our first impression wasn’t so great. But then on Monday morning when the streets cleared up, the town showed off its charm with its beautiful architecture. We found one small distillery just outside of town. There we took a tequila tour, learning how they make it and how to properly drink it. The next day, on the way back to Nuevo Vallarta, we stopped at the hip community of Sayulita for lunch on the beach and to celebrate my birthday.
One of the highlights for us this season was when Talia and Alex came to visit with Robby and Lilly. We took them sailing and to Rhythms of the Night. Rhythms of the Night is a great tour given by Vallarta Adventures. It is an hour boat-ride to the south shore where we were taken to a tropical paradise. We were led up the mountainside along winding paths with torches lighting the way and characters dressed in costume. Some were dressed like iguanas and were perched in the trees. Others were dressed as Indian natives announcing our arrival with the constant beat of drums. The entire setting is a magical fantasy. We were shown to our table that was on the beach just a few feet from shore. We ate dinner with the sea breeze caressing our bodies and the soft sounds of waves breaking. Afterwards we were treated to Savia, an amazing Cirque de Soliel show performed in an amphitheater under the stars.
Cruising isn’t all play and margaritas and since we have been back in Nuevo Vallarta (They are actually changing the name to Nuevo Nayarit – with some backlash from the locals.) Jay has been working, working, working, taking care of Cadenza. She is an old boat and needs some TLC. We have had some water intrusion from two years of rain which he is patching. We also decided to purchase a stack pack for the main sail. The stack pack is a cradle that is used to capture the main sail when it comes down. It just got too dangerous for Jay to be up on the cabin top tying the sail down while the boat is swaying back and forth in the waves. He actually almost fell when we were at sea and then did fall when we were at the dock. I told him, if we are going to continue to do this, we must make it safe. After all, we are getting older too.
On our last sail of the season, our friend, Carol, pointed out a tear in our main sail that ran along the seam. Not really wanting to spend the money, but realizing the sail was thirty years old, (Yes, I know!) we decided it was time for a new one. We are also going to put some non-skid on the cabin top. There is lots of upkeep to do on a boat and I’m grateful Jay is on it. Cadenza is a beautiful boat who has taken good care of us. We need to take good care of her too.
In a few days we will leave Nuevo Vallarta and head home. After our long absence due to Covid, I have a new appreciation for all that we have. This is a beautiful place and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to live this lifestyle.
17 February 2022 | Barra de Navidad
Photo by Alison Gabel
Jay and I have spent many Valentine's Day here in Mexico. One of my favorite memories is when we were in the Sea of Cortez. We were anchored at Isla Caleta Partida. We were joined by Casey & Diane on sv/Inkatu, and Ed & Barbara on sv/Barbara Ann. Brian and Diane on sv/INNcredible Sea Lodge were also in the cove with guests on board.
We had two evenings of full moon nights and took turns hosting dinner and cocktail hour. Friday evening, we were on sv/Barbara Ann. We toasted to Valentine's Day and watched the moon come up in a clear sky perfectly framed by two sides of the mountains over the sand spit. After dinner, Jay and I hopped into our dinghy and went back to our boat.
To finish the day with finesse, Jay pulled out his trumpet and serenaded me - and everyone else in the bay - with one of my favorite songs, "My Funny Valentine." His face was illuminated by the shine of the moon as the notes drifted across the water. He finished to a round of applause from the cruisers. So romantic.
Eight years later, we are in Barra de Navidad. This time, we shared Valentine’s evening with our good friends, Alison and Allan from Fly Aweigh II who just arrived a few days ago. I made reservations at Besame Mucho. It is a lovely restaurant on the cobblestone streets of Barra. Every table was decorated with pink tablecloths and hearts and Trish and Gordon set the mood with their lovely voices. The four-course meal was not only delicious but the chef took such care with the presentation of each serving. Small touches like carving the mashed potatoes and beets into hearts. Dessert was passion fruit mouse with a complimentary glass of sparkling rose. Perfect.
We finished the evening on Cadenza. There was a sultry breeze and an almost full moon. Shots of tequila were passed around. As has become tradition, Jay got out his trumpet and played “My Funny Valentine.” But by my look in the photo Alison took, I’m thinking “The Look of Love,” might have been more appropriate. 😊
Confessions of a Runaway Sailor
01 February 2022 | Barra de Navidad
My happy husband at the helm.
January 17, 2022
I have a book to finish writing. Instead, I sit in the cockpit with a cup of tea contemplating the Magnificent Frigatebirds that soar overhead. They are jet black and look prehistoric with their wide wing span and forked tails. Females have a white breast. They are so graceful, barely moving their wings and steer with their tails. But they are thieves! Magnificent Frigatebirds don’t have waterproof wings so they wait and watch other birds until they catch a fish and then the Magnificent Frigatebirds swoop in and take it from them. They are fascinating to watch and I lose track of time.
January 23, 2022
I have a book to finish writing. Instead, I count the turtles as they peak their tiny heads up out of the sea. Most are green turtles that are predominant in this area. We are sailing south and there is a sea turtle refuge nearby and it looks as if it is working. I counted twenty-five. Our destination this year is Barra de Navidad. But first we will visit several coves. Next is Chamela Bay, one of our favorites.
January 27, 2022
It is now day seven of our cruise. We have been anchored in Chamela Bay for four nights. The rhythm of my life is considerably slower and I can feel it in every fiber of my being. It is a great feeling; to just be. There are chores, of course. And everything on a boat tends to be complicated. We use every muscle in our bodies and I’m sore from what we call boat yoga. The sun is hot on my skin. But then I jump off the boat into the crystal-clear water and cool off. I climb up onto the paddleboard that is tied to the stern of Cadenza and drift, swaying with the gentle waves.
February 1, 2002
We are now in the marina at Barra de Navidad. I have a book to finish writing. Instead, I am writing this blog. From here, I may have to find my way to the pool. It is a hot and beautiful day. I could work on my book but... I think it will have to wait until spring.
No Ordinary Day
08 January 2022 | Banderas Bay
We were out for a day sail last Wednesday with our friends, Eunice, Brian, Tracy and Brian's dog, Zoey. Zoey is a small dog with short legs. She has been on our boat many times and moves around easily. But for some reason, this day I was worried about her falling off. If she sees something like a bird or a dolphin, she gets excited and runs after it, barking. I was afraid she was going to lose her footing and fall overboard.
I was below in the galley gathering lunch when I heard her start barking and everyone screaming. I ran to the companionway and saw Jay looking back with his arm pointing out toward the back of the boat. He kept it up and everyone was still running about excitedly. When Jay didn't put his arm down, I thought Zoey had gone overboard. My heart dropped. That is the first lesson you learn about people falling off the boat. One person points and never takes their eyes off them.
But it wasn't Zoey. Nor was it any of the crew. (Thank God.) Three humpback whales had breached right next to Cadenza's starboard aft quarter. We have seen whales many times. Most times they are off in the distance. Sometimes we get a close-up view only to watch as them swim away. But this visit was different. They came to us and they followed us. And they brought with them dolphins.
We were motor-sailing because the wind was light. Jay turned off the engine and we drifted along, slowly, through the bay. They circled us. They went under mid-ship and came out on the other side. Their visit lasted over five minutes. I know this because Tracy was trying to capture them on video.
Wonderous. Spiritual. Delightful. What a gift.
18 December 2021 | Nuevo Vallarta
Jay, our friends Larry and Yoshie, and I went out for Cadenza's maiden sail after a long absence last Wednesday. I struggled to find the right word to describe how incredible it was. Then I remembered our friends who have a boat they call Magic. It couldn't be a more appropriate name. And I thought, that's it. Magic. Our sail was nothing short of pure magic.
I have sailed on many boats and I know we all have our preferences, especially when it comes to our own boats. But, BUT! Cadenza is special. No. Really. She is. I have often referred to her as a thoroughbred and it is perfectly fitting. When she gets in her sweet spot, and her sails are trimmed perfectly, she just glides through the water. She naturally moves with the rhythm of the sea. And all I can think of is this is ... magic.
I had a talk with her before we left the dock. I told her how I had missed her and I knew how much she wanted to set sail. I thanked her for waiting patiently and told her we would sail many more miles together. I told her this because sailboats are meant to sail and it has been such a long, long time. I know. I know. It's an inanimate object. Well, maybe to you and to those who are practical. To me, she feels like an extension of my body, carrying me through the water with such ease. And we owe her so much as she has brought us safely through many, many miles. I am so grateful to have this moment in time; with Jay, and Larry and Yoshie, and with Cadenza, our faithful sailing vessel.
And have I mentioned we saw whales? And a turtle! And everything worked! With only ten knots of wind, we were sailing along at five knots. Magic. Pure magic.
...And We're Back!
14 December 2021 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
We are sitting at an outdoor restaurant on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta. I am eating a grilled vegetable quiche with greens and Jay is having Ricardo Zarendeado; red snapper, marinated and grilled whole. Hibiscus tea with ginger and lime is our drink of the day. Jay takes a bite and I can tell by his reaction, he is delighted by the taste. He shares a bite with me. The fish is tender and fresh. "What do you think the spices are?" I ask. It is covered in an unidentifiable red sauce. Jay is not sure. Whatever it is, it is quite good. It seems the recipe will remain a mystery as I am sure the chef would approve; enticing us to come back for more.
It is Sunday afternoon and the Malecon (what we Americans call the boardwalk on the eastern shore) is filled with pedestrians. There are many tourists, of course. There are two cruise ships in port. But many are Mexican nationals. Sunday is a work holiday for most and the Malecon with its beautiful beach is a popular spot.
People watching is a great lazy-day sport. All sorts of people stroll by. Three generations of a family pass, each finding something unique to amuse them, whether it be a souvenir, an ice cream cone, or watching the native performers from Vera Cruz as they unwind and swing upside down from a three-story pole, attached only by ropes on their feet. Others are mesmerized by the rhythm of the surf as it gently caresses the sand. A tattooed couple crosses our path as does a gay couple with their two dogs, one of which has only three legs.
But it is the two men who stand across from the restaurant that capture most of our attention. One is dressed as a Mexican revolutionary with a bandolier across his chest. He stands very still. At first you might think he is a statue. That is his play to bring you close but just as you begin studying him, he moves and you jump! He gets a great laugh out of this and invites you to join him for a photo. (For a few pesos, if you please.) We watch as he plays his game over and over. Today he is having so much fun, he comes out of character frequently, smiling and engaging with the tourists.
Next to him is a table and chairs with a chess set and another gentleman standing next to it. The entire set-up looks like a sand sculpture. Including the man. He, too, does not move, hoping to lure his victims only to surprise them with his movements. He is not so lucky. The Mexican revolutionary is much more popular and I'm afraid the sandman will go home with only a pittance of tips for his day of work. Hot work as we notice the sand and make-up melting off the faces of the two men.
"Would you like to buy some silver?" A man with a slight accent asks interrupting my thoughts. He is carrying an open briefcase filled with jewelry. It is attached to his neck by a strap to lighten his load. "No gracias." I answer as he moves along to the next table. He is just one of many such vendors that walk the Malecon in hopes of earning a living.
I turn my attention back to Jay. After all, it was I who invited him out for a date. We have been here two full weeks and he has been working non-stop putting Cadenza back together. After being gone almost two years, we were worried what we would find. It's a boat. And it sat through two hot and humid rainy seasons. Would the electronics work? How much mildew would we find? How many critters had made Cadenza their new home?
I am happy to report that all in all, she is in very good shape. Sure, there are always things that don't work. Inevitably that is the head. But the electronics are good. The engine is running. The dust and mildew had taken residence but no critters. Cadenza is now cleaned up and ready for a test drive/sail this week. Meanwhile, I needed a little attention from my husband. Thus, this date.
After lunch, we took a walk down the Malecon under the warm sun and light breeze. We visited an art show where I coveted a colorful oil painting depicting a fisherman on his panga with the city in the background. Unfortunately, I have no place to hang it on the boat.
We continued along the river where there are many local merchants selling their wares. I bought a beautiful handmade Christmas placemat to put on the center of our table.
It was a lovely day and good to be back in downtown Puerto Vallarta with its cobblestone streets and varied architecture. In Puerto Vallarta, we are much closer to the mountains and some of the houses and apartment buildings populate the sides of the hills. The lush, tropical foliage competes with the concrete and sometimes wins. Bright pink bougainvillea drapes over crumpling cement walls painted with graffiti. It is quite a mix of poverty and wealth, city landscape and rugged jungle. It is rich in cultural diversity and has a thriving LGBQT community. There is something for everyone and everyone is welcome. It is good to be back.