28 February 2019 | Paradise Village Marina
21 February 2019 | Punta de Mita
31 January 2019 | Paradise Village Marina
27 January 2019 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
25 January 2019 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
18 January 2019 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
03 January 2019 | Martha's Vineyard
24 May 2018 | Edgartown, Massachussetts
09 March 2018 | Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
27 February 2018 | Barra de Navidad
19 February 2018 | Barra de Navidad
05 February 2018 | Zihuatanejo
29 January 2018 | Zihuatanejo
24 January 2018 | Barra de Navidad
13 January 2018 | Barra de Navidad
08 January 2018 | Barra de Navidad
27 December 2017 | Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
18 December 2017 | Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
08 December 2017 | Puerto Vallarta
19 March 2019
Photo by Casey Cartwright
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines breath as 1: the act or power of breathing 2 : a slight breeze 3 : inflated or exhaled in breathing 4 : spoken sound 5: SPIRIT
I was lying flat on my stomach on the back of the boat. The sun was hot on my skin and the wind blew my hair, hitting my face. I kept pulling strands of it out of my eyes and tried to get comfortable. Finally, I lie resting as the boat glided across Banderas Bay. Once again, we were on a day sail with friends and had just finished lunch. Our chatter had quieted down as we were full and, along with the lull of the boat, felt sleepy. Just then, a whale breached at the back of the boat.
“Whoa!” came from those who witnessed it. And just as I heard their cry, I felt her breath ripple across the back of my blouse and a few sprinkles on my arms. I sprung up and ran to the stern rail. “No! No! I missed her!”
“No, you didn’t.” Cynthia said. “Look. There on the water, the slick on the water.”
I did see the glass slick and underneath it, a shadow of her large form. She breached two more times as we watched her slowly move away. One more time and then she dove down, leaving her tail for last as if to wave goodbye.
“I felt her breath!” I said, excitedly. I was moved, literally touched by her spirit. At least that is what I felt.
These massive yet gentle creatures are dying. We are killing the whales. It is the sad truth. Whales communicate, and sometimes navigate, by their songs. It is highly suspected that our noise pollution – caused by sonar, drilling and commercial shipping – is confusing them, often leading them astray. Beached whales are found to have pounds of plastic in their stomachs. Plastic. The bane of our existence.
Take a look around you. It is not just the plastic bags in the store, or water bottles, or the straws we put in our soda glass. Plastic is everywhere. It holds our shampoos, our liquid soaps, our toothpaste. We have plastic bowls, plastic utensils, plastic glasses, plastic Tupperware. We have plastic wrapping up our plastic containers. I always thought I was doing a good deed by cutting up the plastic that holds our six-packs. Now, as I cut it up, I think to myself, the fish won’t get caught in this, they will just ingest it. It is not only whales but our dolphins and fish who are being killed by pollution. Oh. And then there is the human population who eats the fish who has eaten the plastic. It’s a sad state of affairs. I suppose the best we can do is to become educated and try to be mindful of our footprint on this planet.
For I, for one, love the whales, the dolphins, our wildlife. I never get tired of seeing dolphins approach our boat. Every whale sighting has become something of a spiritual visitation for me. Especially this time. I felt her breath. Her SPIRIT.
The whales are a peaceful species who deserve the right to have their home in the ocean as much as we deserve the right to have our home on land. Please think of that the next time you pick up a piece of plastic.
The Fisherman and His Wife
28 February 2019 | Paradise Village Marina
In the wee hours, before the sun rises, I make my way across the marina by foot. I spot a small rowboat anchored in the fairway with one solo light beaming from a pole mid-ship. The fisherman leans back against the transom. He is but a silhouette on the water.
On one side of the boat leans a fishing rod. In his hand he holds a single line with a lure attached to the end. He pulls in his catch by hand. Sometimes, he stands and gathers his net just so. With one graceful move, he tosses the net out into the sea. It opens up in a beautiful display, like a large, woven doily. He watches as it sinks beneath the water. He waits. The fisherman is nothing if not patient.
Night after night, he spends on his boat, drifting gently under the light of the moon, dreaming. Of what, I do not know. As dawn comes up over the mountains, the commercial fishermen gather around his boat to purchase today’s bait. This will be used for today’s local charters. The fisherman collects his fees and disappears into the daylight.
I imagine he takes his boat and pulls it up onto the beach, tucking it into the mangroves in one of the nearby canals. He gets into his beat-up pick-up truck. It doesn’t start. But, like I said, the fisherman is patient. On the third try it turns over. He backs out and heads home.
The fisherman’s house lies along a dirt road. His neighborhood is full of dirt roads. Dogs, cats, chickens and sometimes horses, wander the streets. He arrives at his dwelling. It is a tiny cement structure painted pink; his wife’s favorite color. It has two small windows with no screens or glass, only metal bars. There is a front porch with two folding chairs. The front door is open and the fisherman can smell the scent of corn tortillas and carnitas wafting through the warm, humid air. He likes that smell and looks forward to his meal.
He enters a modest home. It is one room with an alcove for the kitchen and another they use as a bedroom. It holds only a mattress and is separated from the main room with a cloth attached to the ceiling. There is a bath with limited plumbing. On the roof of their house are two large black containers. These hold water and heat up with the sun. This is the source of their hot water, for showers and for dishes. The main room is adorned with pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jesus, a crucifix, and candles. There is a worn throw rug on the floor and blankets mask the holes in the couch. On one side of the room, near the alcove that holds the kitchen, is a Formica table with four chairs. The fisherman sits down.
The fisherman’s wife is in the kitchen. She is always in the kitchen. Except when she is outside on the porch gossiping with her sister. She tries to serve him coffee. Instead, he pops open a cerveza that he carried in with his cooler. Few words are spoken. The fisherman and his wife live simply.
Two young children run in from outside. “Hola Abuela! Buenos Dias Abuelo!” The children live down the street with their parents who have left for work. Their jobs are a long way from home and they must leave early to catch the bus. Each morning and afternoon the children come to their grandparents until their parents come home from work.
The little girl wants to know how many fish her Abuelo caught. “Suficiente.” (Enough.) He says. The older boy wants to know when he can go with his Abuelo fishing. “Pronto.” (Soon) The fisherman replies. Abuela tells the children to sit and eat their breakfast for soon it will be time for school. There is much chatter between them while the fisherman sits quietly, eating his breakfast and sipping his beer.
The children go off to school. The fisherman lies his tired bones on the soft mattress and falls into a deep slumber. The fisherman’s wife washes the dishes and then brings her coffee and pan dulce (sweet bread) outside and sits on the chair. Her sister arrives and they chat about the latest news of the neighborhood.
Later, the fisherman’s wife goes in to watch her soap opera. Her eyes fall heavy and for a few minutes, she sleeps. The children come home from school and their Abuela goes back into the kitchen to feed them snacks. The fisherman wakes up. The children’s parents arrive back from work. Dinner is served. The two chairs from outside are added to the kitchen table. They bow their heads and say a prayer of thanksgiving. They may not have much, but they have each other.
The sun sets. The fisherman’s wife packs his cooler and sends him off into the evening. He steps into his truck and on the third try he backs out and heads for the sea. All the while he sings a Mexican folk song. He smiles. He is content.This is his way of life.
Note: This story is a composite drawn from the many places we have visited and people whom we have met while here in Mexico.
Cruising on the Side
21 February 2019 | Punta de Mita
Everyone, no matter how far they cruise, find themselves marina bound at one time or another. It could be because of mechanical issues, family matters or health. Whatever the reason, it happens to all of us whether we are in Mexico, Fiji, or sail the US. This year it is our turn. We have a short season due to work commitments and Jay is healing from hand surgery. So, other than our day sails (with a little help from our friends) we are staying put. That doesn't mean we can't explore.
I think Jay sensed I was feeling a bit restless and secretly made a plan to take me away for Valentine's Day. He wanted to surprise me, but when it came down to two options - Marina Vallarta (downtown) or Punta de Mita (out of town), he asked my opinion. I chose the latter. I wanted to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and we had only been to Punta de Mita once before and only for lunch.
Punta de Mita is on the northwest point of the bay. It is a very small village with a few high-end hotels situated on the point. With help from Talia (a Marriott executive) Jay found the Hotel W and booked an ocean view room with our family discount.
Jay thought we might get a driver to take us there, but I disagreed. "No. We don't need a driver. We'll take the bus. Getting there is part of the adventure." I said with a smile.
The first bus was actually what the Mexicans call a "combi." It is a van. Some are new but most are old and rickety. They can have holes in the seats, no air conditioning and stuff as many people in as possible. Once, I counted 17 of us in one van. Most have no shocks. And Mexicans love their topes (speed bumps).
Evidently, Mexicans don't follow traffic rules, especially stop signs. To force the drivers to at least slow down, they put in topes. Imagine this. We go slow over the speed bump, then the driver hits the gas hard. We speed up as fast as we can but only go about 100 yards before another speed bump. He hits the brakes. This goes on for miles. Sometimes the sliding door doesn't fasten and it opens and closes with each speed bump and acceleration. It's crazy!
For 12 pesos each, we take the first "combi" to Walmart. All commercial travel seems to revolve around Walmarts. There is a Walmart stop if you are traveling north and there is a Walmart stop if you are traveling south. We went to the Walmart north to make our next connection. This time we catch the bus and for 20 pesos each, it will take us all the way to Punta de Mita. (Figure 20 pesos to the dollar.)
The buses aren't much better. (The local ones. The buses that take you from city to city are quite nice.) They are old with no shocks either. There is always a crack in the windshield. A rosary hangs from the rear-view mirror. If you are lucky, there is air conditioning and curtains on the window to protect you from the heat of the sun. Otherwise, the windows are open and you long for those few times there are no topes and the driver can speed up sending fresh air through the bus.
As we made the last turn toward Punta de Mita, we found ourselves on a winding road with jungle on either side. There are few places to stop so the driver hits the gas pedal. Jay and I mention we are glad we had a light breakfast as we twist and turn. We hold on. Our driver drives in the center of the road, going uphill on a two-lane highway. Another bus comes around over the hill. I shut my eyes and pray. "OMG!" I said. "Did you see that?" We laugh, nervously.
We pass the W to the left. We decided to go into town first and have lunch at Si Senor, a very nice Mexican restaurant that is right on the beach. We go another five miles, or so, and get off the bus and walk into town. It is basically, two streets.
Our lunch was wonderful. They made fresh guacamole and salsa at our table. Jay had a mahi mahi dish with adobo chili sauce and I had a traditional vegetarian plate with an enchilada, a tostada and a chili relleno. We decide to take a cab to the W. 500 pesos later we asked ourselves why. 500 pesos! To go about five miles! "I read that everything is expensive in Punta de Mita." Jay told me. Ouch.
So, instead of arriving by bus at a five-star resort, we arrived by cab. However, we were in shorts and flip-flops with only a backpack. We walked through the entrance at the top of the hill where we were ushered into a golf cart. "Your luggage?" the porter asked. I turned my back to him, "This is it." He looked a bit bewildered, then shrugged and got in. We drove down a narrow road, part cobblestone, part asphalt, toward the beach. More curves and more jungle. There was no hint of what lie ahead.
It was one of those breath-taking entrances. The lobby led into what they called "the living room." (A mere extension of the lobby.) Stairs led to the bottom floor where there was a bar in the center of the room. The entire room was open on either side. A view of the jungle could be seen where we had just arrived and a view of the pool with tall palm trees separating it from the beach was the view as we walked in. The décor is what we called contemporary Mexican with bright colors and exquisite artifacts. Even the lights that hung from the ceiling were works of art. We were welcomed with a special tequila cocktail and then taken by golf cart to our room. It was an unusual entrance, but everything about this hotel was unusual.
The hotel is divided into three parts; the ocean-front suites, a three-story building that was hidden in the jungle - we didn't even know it was there until we stumbled upon it while walking along a foot path - and single-story rooms set back against the hill. Everything about this hotel seemed to be designed to be in harmony with nature.
Ours was one of the single-story dwellings. The front door led us into an outdoor porch. It had a brightly colored basket chair hanging from the ceiling and a painting on the wall of Freida Kahlo with a skateboard. I wondered what she would have thought about such a whimsical portrayal of herself. From this, we entered through a sliding-glass door to our room. It was in keeping with the hotel theme and was decorated in turquoise and yellow and a mix of bright colors everywhere. There was another portrait of Freida, this one with a surfboard. Next to her was a painting of Diego Rivera. He was holding a skateboard. The back porch had a second bed and was designed to be completely private with a view of a lake. The room was described as "ocean-view," but was really more like a lake view. It didn't matter to us. The man-made lake was beautiful with the jungle off to one side and the ocean on the other. We had a peak of the ocean and could hear the surf crashing on the shore. The bathtub also had a large window overlooking the lake. Overall, the room was light and airy and fun.
Later, we explored the grounds. We found two pools, three Jacuzzis, several restaurants, and a long, white beach that was so empty, it felt like our own private beach. We also found the Chevcheria. It is a ceviche bar made out of a Chevy truck. So cool. The ceviche chef enjoyed showing off his skills and prepared us one of his specialty dishes while we sat memorized by the ocean view.
Two days of total relaxation and we were ready for the bus ride back to Nuevo Vallarta. With our flip-flops, shorts and back-packs, we took the golf cart up the hill and caught the next bus into town. From first class to third class in a matter of minutes. It can be that way here in Mexico.
Jay and I usually don't make much out of Valentine's Day, but he instinctively knew I needed a change of scenery. I really love visiting new places and hanging out at the W in Punta de Mita was incredibly romantic... Even if we did commute via chicken bus and combi!
Note: More photos in the photo gallery.
Farewell to Patches
31 January 2019 | Paradise Village Marina
We bought Patches second-hand over fifteen years ago for $1500. She was in immaculate condition. We outfitted her with chaps and wheels. We had davits built to carry her. She has been our boat “car” and Jay has spent many, many hours taking care of her. Fifteen years plus is a long time to own one dinghy and over that time we have shared so much together.
I took my first solo drive on Patches in Channel Islands Harbor. I was so proud of myself. I started her all by myself. My daughter jumped in and we took her through the canals of Oxnard to Vons. It was a five-minute car ride that took us half an hour in the dinghy, but that wasn’t the point. The point was – we could actually take a dinghy to the market and back. Just the girls! How cool was that!
When we got back to the dinghy with our groceries, I had a little trouble starting her again. Of course, a man offered to help. I hesitated. Almost surrendered. But then, “No thanks. I’ve got this.” I told him. A few tries later, she started and Talia and I motored back to the slip.
Jay and I dumped her a few times. Or maybe I should say, she dumped us. The first time was at Smuggler’s Cove on Santa Cruz Island in California. “Why is that silly person anchoring their dinghy and swimming instead of landing on shore?” We asked ourselves. We were about to find out.
The surf was bigger than we thought. We caught a wave and Jay came right over me as the dinghy folded in half. What a mess! Jay lost his glasses. We broke an oar. The radio went swimming. I got tangled up in the lines as waves continued to pound us. Worst of all, the motor was dunked in salt water. Yet, she survived and so did we.
The second time we were at Yellow Banks anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. Don and Bobbi were with us and their dog, Rags, needed to go to shore.
“No way. I’m not going.” I said.
“Me either.” Bobbi joined in.
“Drop us off on Cindy’s boat.” (Cabana Girl was anchored a few boats away.) Bobbi, Cindy, Dann and I drank margaritas and watched as the boys did it again.
They landed on shore and Rags was a happy dog, running up and down the beach. Back in the dinghy, they began rowing back to Cabana Girl. Only Rags had other ideas. He jumped overboard and swam back to shore. One thing led to another and oops! Up and over.
In San Diego, we took Patches to a concert. It was held at Humphrey’s on Shelter Island. All the dinghies in the neighborhood would gather outside in one of the fairways. There we would turn off our motors, sip our wine and listen to good music under the stars while the dinghies gently swayed in the water.
Patches has traveled thousands of miles with us. She’s visited both Santa Cruz Island and Catalina several times. She has explored Islas Espirtus Santos in the Sea of Cortez. In fact, we spent six weeks with her, visiting all the wonderful coves in the Sea of Cortez. She took us on a river ride through the jungle in Tenacatita. She has survived two hurricanes. She even ventured through the canals of Nuevo Vallarta while we searched for crocodiles. Once, Patches even caught a fish. Inadvertently
We were sailing down the Pacific Coast of Baja California somewhere between Turtle Bay and Santa Maria. Jay and Don were fishing off the stern. I can’t remember who reeled in the fish but as they were trying to release it, it jumped into the dinghy. Don climbed over the stern rail and into the swinging dinghy hanging on the davits. The fish was flapping. Don was squealing. Jay and I were laughing. Good times.
But Patches was also the one who bucked like a wild horse, throwing me off into the sea outside of La Cruz. I will never forget how she turned into a viscous monster aiming to attack me. And she did. She chopped up my leg and then turned around and headed for El Salvador. I have since forgiven her, but the memory still haunts me. It took me two seasons to do my first solo again and I shook all the way on the long, slow ride to the shore of Zihuatanejo.
Jay continues to try and save her. He put yet more patches on her yesterday. Poor Patches. I think the end is near. I am declaring this her last season. It is time to say thank you and farewell to our trusted dinghy, Patches.
Note: We actually never named her until a few years ago when our friend, George, came by and saw all the patches that were hiding under the chaps. He said we should call her Patches. And so we did.
Encounter at Sea
27 January 2019 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
It was another perfect day for sailing. Fifteen knots of wind. Flat seas. Nine souls on board. (+?) And, of course, we were searching for whales.
It was the dolphins we saw first. Then, off in the distance, someone saw the spray of whales' breath. "Ten o'clock! Whales!
We all watched as they continued to spout and show their tails. That was nice, but we wanted to see some up close. What is that old adage? Careful what you wish for.
We had just finished lunch. The wind was dying so we were headed home. I was standing up looking back toward the stern of the boat. Jay was at the helm so he was looking forward. Suddenly I heard a thunderous splash and a loud cry from the crew. Jay yelled, "Oh shit!" I turned around to see a huge wake in the water crossing the front of our boat.
"Oh my God! A Whale! It breached right in front of our boat." Jay said.
I stood very still, holding on to the standing rigging, prepared for a thud and silently praying we didn't hit it or it hit us. I looked down and saw a dark shadow descending on the starboard side. I started to breathe again.
Needless to say, there was a lot of nervous chatter and wide-eyed looks for several minutes. Everyone told their version of what they saw. Only a few actually saw the whale jump. The rest of us heard the loud sound and witnessed the aftermath.
A few minutes later, I notice something moving on the foredeck.
“What’s that? An iguana? How did that get here?”
Lots more chatter from the crew. He seemed stunned and we imagined him to be saying to himself, “How did I get out here?”
"Maybe the whale dropped him off?" I asked.
"He must have been hiding under the staysail cover." Someone said.
"Let's call him Iggy."
Iggy moved slowly over to the rail. He looked down and around trying to figure out what his next move would be.
"Don't jump Iggy!" A chorus of people cried.
We decided he must have been startled by the whale encounter and now that he was awake, he discovered he had a new problem; how to get off the boat.
We all settled down and quietly watched as Iggy finally decided to move up to the bowsprit and stay on board. We kidded that he was doing his version of "I'm king of the world!"
"Turtle!" Someone spotted a big sea turtle off the side of the boat. I looked at Richelle. "Whales, dolphins, turtles and even an iguana! This has been quite a day." We laughed.
Iggy actually stayed put until we got back into the slip. Even when I came up to get the dock lines, he didn't move. Once we were steady, he climbed down the fender line and onto the dock. However, he didn't go far.
We watched as he tried, unsuccessfully, to climb on board another boat. A little while later, Tommy said, "He's back." We were having after-sail drinks in the cockpit and telling stories of our adventures at sea. I turned around and there he was. Iggy was back on the deck.
"No. No. No, Iggy. You can't stay here." I told him as if he would understand. He started to leave, but no, I had to make a compromise. Iggy spent the night in our dinghy.
Rhythms of the Night
25 January 2019 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
We arrived on the south shore via power boat three nights after the blood moon. The waves were rough and we were being tossed back and forth, left and right. Four gentlemen (two on shore, two on the boat) connected a plank from the boat to land and then helped each passenger step off carefully. No one got hurt.
We followed a line of people along the footpath that was lit by small candles along each edge. Every ten feet or so, a torch stood tall guiding our vision. Slowly we climbed higher and higher. The beating of drums echoed through the jungle. The natives were restless.
Las Caletas. A hidden cove along the south shore of Banderas Bay which can only be reached by boat, horse, or on foot. In the daytime it is a tourists’ playground where children can fly through the air on zip-lines created just for them. They can ride a donkey, hike, snorkel, swim, or just lie along the beach. There are even waterslides.
At night, Las Caletas turns into “Fantasy Island” and from the moment you step on shore you are transported to a world far, far away. We were there with our friends to see the newest show from Rhythms of the Night, Savia: The Legend of the Five Suns, presented by Cirque du Soleil.
After stopping to take the obligatory photo with a woman dressed in costume, we were shown to our seats. We had splurged for VIP tickets, so we watched the performance from the third row.
We sat in an outside amphitheater surrounded by tall palms along the hillside. The stage was set to look like the exterior of an ancient pyramid. The story background is this:
“A small village surrounds the structure full of people who have lived in harmony with nature for generations. Each night, the spirit world of the ancients comes to life in a theatrical presentation.
“Legend has it there were four civilizations of humanity prior to ours. Each period saw the evolution of the human race as well as its demise. These previous worlds were destroyed by tornadoes, fires and floods, yet rituals and sacrifices have kept the human spirit alive. From the bones and ashes of the ancients come a celebration of the new Sun and hope for a better world.”
The lights dimmed. Dry ice shot up from the stage, creating a fog-like atmosphere. The music began and four native drummers were lowered down out of the sky. (via crane) All senses were involved, including scent through the use of incense. The mood was set.
It was an absolutely amazing show, complete with acrobatics, gymnastics, and graceful dances. Two women sang the vocals live. The rest was prerecorded. The music was haunting, rhythmic and authentic to the culture. Jay was so taken by it, he wanted to buy a CD, but alas, no joy. (Someone should speak to their promoters.)
Four Asian women folded themselves into pretzel-like forms and then stood on top of each other, balancing on one hand. A man hung from a rope with one hand. Only his his feet held his partner as they swung across the stage fifty feet in the air. A couple expressed their love through dance. There was so much going on we were overwhelmed, afraid we were going to miss something.
The costumes were fabulous too. They paid tribute to The Day of the Dead with all the performers dressed in skeleton leotards. A fifteen-foot skull danced across the stage.
Not to be left out, the court jester provided us with laughs.
After the show, we were escorted back down the footpath, through a bamboo jungle, to our dinner table. It was pitch black but we knew we were on the beach from the loud sound of the surf. It even splashed up once, covering our neighbor’s table as well as the harp player who, along with his band, was serenading us.
Dinner and dessert were served buffet style. Typical and decent.
We were told to head back to our boat at the sound of the bell ringing. Off we went, into the night.
We were served yet more drinks (drinks on the boat ride up and wine on the dinner table) and were entertained by our waiters. Lots of laughter. In the quieter moments, we couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the city lights twinkling around the bay.
All in all, it was one fantastic evening. If you ever come this way, don’t miss Rhythms of the Night.