Sunday, February 28, 2010

Culture Shock

La Cruz de Huancaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

February 28, 2010

Tsunamis, big regattas, El Presidente de Mexico, US/Canada Hockey excitement and we haven’t even back in Banderas Bay for 24 hours.

First off the tsunami wave went under us as we were crossing Banderas Bay.  We wouldn’t have even know anything about it, but we had called our good friends on shore in La Cruz to let them know we were just about to hit town.  The marina actually did have some excitement as they saw the water level quickly raise a couple of feet and then all drain out of the boat basin.  This coupled with the full moon low tide caused some havoc for boats trying to get in and out of the channel (for more on this:Totem's take on the tsunami here).


When we stayed in the marina for a few days in December space was not a problem.  We were told that would still be the case.  However, with a big Mex-ORC regatta starting today and the President of Mexico visiting the site this morning things were really jumping.  For instance, the marina has very few open slips.   We also had three of our very own personal Mexican Marines posted on our dock all day today.  You also would not believe the changes that have taken place since we left La Cruz.  The Mexicans can really put on a show when they know that they are going to be in the spotlight!!!! No wonder the trucks were working on finishing the addition to the breakwater 24-7 when we were here a couple of months ago!


I had a boat full of boys all afternoon so that some of the adults could go into town and watch the big Canadian-American hockey game.  When it is this warm out, it is a little weird to think about watching hockey, but we are truly happy that the Canadian men took the gold.  Our Canadian cruising friends commented that they were not sure what horrors would have been unleashed if it had turned out otherwise.

Meanwhile, we are busy making lists, ordering things and having them sent to whoever is the next person to be coming to the greater Banderas Bay Area, and planning errands around here.  We will also being a bit of general organizing of the boat before we take off the first of April.

Just Another Day at the Beach

Tenacatita, Jalisco, Mexico

February 24, 2010

I can’t say that it is a tough life, just different.  We have been staying in this very protected bay near Tenacatita. (The resort here is called Blue Bay, but everyone just calls this place Tenacatita or the inside anchorage – the town is around the corner or up the river on the other side of the mangroves.)  Since, this place is ideal, there are quite a few boats here and a loose community.  The beach is almost always accessible by dinghy and there is a palapa restaurant with cheap drinks and food right here.  With all those factors going for it, it is only natural that pretty much every afternoon, a large percentage of the fleet ends up on the beach.

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There is a little bit of organization.  At 1:30, there is a woman who swims to shore and invites anyone and everyone to join her for the swim and then a quick walk to the resort at the other end of the beach.  At 2:00, the Bocce ball gets going.  Bryce has played a couple of times with the fellows who are easily 40 years his senior, but welcome him to play nonetheless.   When the group returns from their walk, there is a game of Mexican train (dominoes) in the palapa.  This is my event!  Around 3:00, Brad and our friend, Brian have been partaking of the volleyball game.  Meanwhile, there is playing in the water and on the beach for kids who have finished their schoolwork in the morning.  As you can see, Tenacatita has been keeping us busy.

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Yesterday was a little different.  A boat called “Third Day”, who spent time with our friends, “Totem” in the Sea of Cortez, arrived here with a torn main sail.  The good news was that they have their own sewing machine aboard.  Even better news for them was that Brad hasn’t had to do any sail repair in awhile and helping them out was kinda fun for him.  They were able to set up their sewing machine to run off of their portable generator in the shade of one corner of the palapa.  After two days of sewing, they pretty much have a “new” 30 year old sail. 

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This morning, after getting the sewing well on its way toward completion, Brad and I were able to squeeze in a snorkel with Brian and Erin before the afternoon activities got going.  I had scoped out a spot in the kayak yesterday morning and it turned out to be a great place.  Brian and Erin had tried it out on the way south in December, but the visibility had not been as good as it was today.  We saw lots of fish, a couple of different eels and a bunch of string rays.

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We only have one more day here before the weather turns favorable on the outside for our final push back to Banderas Bay.  Tomorrow, we are planning on a trip to the town of La Manzinilla across the bay.  On Friday, we will head north, stopping at Chamela again and practicing sunken panga avoidance.  Then, we should be into La Cruz late Saturday.  The last two months of exploring Mexico’s Gold Coast have really been a great experience, full of variety!

Bashing Back to Banderas Bay

Tenacatita, Jalisco, Mexico

February 19, 2010

Bashing is the technical sailing term for going up wind.  Generally, this time of year, the winds should be against us for heading from Zihuatanejo to Banderas Bay.   I say this now because it may be my only chance: luckily, we seem to be experiencing an El Nino weather pattern year.  We have actually had winds with us or very light head winds.

Waves crashing on the beach at Caleta de Campos behind us 


The first leg for Capaz took us from Zihuatanejo to Caleta de Campos (the bay off a town called Buffadero).   We motored sailed most of the way and were the third boat in a very small bay.  Our buddy boat, Totem, took a pass on squeezing into the tight anchorage and they continued on doing an overnight passage to Las Hadas.  Something about the sea floor topography amplified the swell that was entering Caleta de Campos anchorage so that we were lifted what seemed like 10 feet and  by each one and then it broke about 5 boat lengths behind CRASHING on the beach.  We actually slept OK and had a leisurely day, but the swell continued to increase and we ended up leaving about an hour earlier in the afternoon than we had originally planned for our over night passage.

Sunrise over the coal power plant at Manzanillo

IMG_0892 The second stretch between Caleta de Campos and Las Hadas (Manzanillo) was just a little too long to do during the daylight hours of one day.  That leaves a couple options, one can get up really early (pre-dawn) and proceed at a set rate to make sure that arrival happens before sunset.  Then, there is the option of leaving during the late afternoon, planning for an arrival around dawn or just after unless sailing conditions are favorable.  Since pace is not an issue for this option, sailing works out great since you don’t worry about going a little slower now and then.  We chose the second option and tried out a different watch system.  We did much longer watches so that the off-watch time for sleeping was in longer stretches.  Brad seems to be OK (or so he says) with just about any system, but this seems to work out alot better for me.  We arrived in Las Hadas in the morning.  Our two days there were spent provisioning and swimming.  We lucked out and hit the bay on laundry and got fresh sheets while we were there.

The French Baker visits Totem in the  Barra de Navidad Lagoon bringing breakfast


The next stretch is shorter, from Manzanillo up a short stretch of coast and around the headland at Barra de Navidad.   We got in early enough in the afternoon to drop off the rest of the laundry.  The town was VERY sleepy and we finally realized that was Ash Wednesday, which conversely means that the night before had been the last night of  Carnival  (Fat Tuesday).  The next day things were back to normal and it was Market Day to boot.  We picked up our laundry, spent an hour at the fuel dock and then continued on the very short leg to Tenacatita.

Sunset coming into Tenacatita (gray clouds ended up being a squall)


No sooner did get ourselves anchored and a squall passed pretty much directly over us.  The hard driving rain gave CAPAZ a good fresh water rinse to complete the salt water wash that I had given on the way up here.  We almost got all the hatches closed before the worst of the rain hit us.  Our first day here has been very busy: snorkeling (the water is finally clear!!!); trolling (one of the other kid boats took the boys dinghy trolling); Brad dove almost the entire bottom and we attended a dinghy “raft-up”.  Whew! 

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We plan to stay here for a few days and then we will continue on north around Cabo Corrientes and back into Banderas Bay.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just South of Bismark

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico
February 10, 2010


OK, so maybe we not JUST south of Bismark, North Dakota, but we are on the same line of longitude and that's pretty far east.  All of Central America and the entire continent of South America still lie even farther east than we are here.  Zihuatanejo also marks our furthest point south in Mexico.  In the next couple of days, we will turn north and work our way back up to Banderas Bay where we will take the month of March to prepare for our departure to the South Pacific.

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We came straight down the coast from Manzanillo doing an overnight trip and arrived in the harbor here just in time to catch the last event of Sailfest, a benefit race that wrapped up several days of other fundraising events that the cruising community organizes.  All the money raised is poured back into the local community.  During this race, locals and tourists can make a donation to get a ride on either a race boat or cruising for the afternoon "race".  I believe I heard that this year the event raised about $40,000. 
Since we had been going overnight, Brad and I were mostly out of it for the first day we were anchored here.  However, Totem organized a dinner and we caught the tail end of the Super Bowl on Sunday.  The dinner was prepared by a local friend of the cruising community, Noemi and I have never tasted mole so good as hers.  We have done some exploring, including the local archeological museum, and some provisioning using Noemi's advice of tiendas!  On a second night at Noemi’s, we had fantastic pazole and re-established the tradition of painting boat names on the wall of the restaurant.

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Ixtapa is "truly" just north of here and we went up to Isla Grande, just off of Ixtapa, with our friends on Blackdragon in hopes of some good snorkeling.  We had great company, a nice swim and pleasant weather but last week’s weird weather has left the water cloudy and so the visibility was not good for snorkeling.  Blackdragon continued northward and Totem joined us thie next morning in hopes that the conditions were improving because there is a coral reef that we all really wanted to check out.  The visibility had not improved by the  afternoon, but with a lower tide the reef was dry and the few feet of water between it and the abrupt beach were teeming with fish (probably due to the Ixtapa touristas who were feeding them).  The kids had a great time snorkeling in about a foot of water.


Back to Zihuatanejo, to wait out some unsettled weather.  Carnival is in full swing here and there is a “show” at the main plaza on the beach pretty much every night.  Lots of music and the coronation of some part of the Carnival royalty every night.  There is also a different cruise ship in the harbor every morning (they don’t come on the weekends). 


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Waiting Out Weather

Las Hadas, Coima, Mexico

February 2, 2010

We are anchored off the resorts of Las Hadas which is on the north side of Manzanillo Bay in the rain.  Our first night in this area was around the corner in another bay called Santiago.  It was a nice calm anchorage and there were turtles around the boats that the kids tried to swim with in the morning.  We continued on to Las Hadas around noon.

Capaz in Santiago Bay


There were quite a few boats in this anchorage when we arrived AND it was a Mexican three day weekend.  Our friends on Mulan said it was the most action they had seen in the two weeks that they had been here.  We headed up to one of the resort pools and enjoyed an afternoon of the kids swimming and playing hard.  Giffords decided that they really needed to move south to pick up their guests in Zihuatanejo, but we were feeling a little rushed (the opposite of how cruising is supposed to be).  So, Totem went ahead and we decided to stay one more day and attend a local soccer game.The kids and Brad, along with the crew of Mulan, had a great time cheering on the local team to victory.  Brad even navigated his way back to marina on the bus without PJ. 

Fun at the resort pool with Totem and Mulan

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An afternoon of Futball!


We had prepared for an early start on Monday, but we awoke to RAIN.  OK, we are still Seattlites at heart and a little rain would not usually stop us, but rain, here, this time of year, is a little out of character.  Since, we still had good internet on the boat from one of the hotels, Brad started doing some serious weather checking and spotted some weirdness that was directly in our path and then mysteriously disappeared on the weather models.  We decided to wait til morning and see what the weather gurus on the SSB net had to say about the anomaly.  At 4 am, you don’t have to tell me twice to go back to bed!!

Sure enough, a little something was brewing.  It mostly concerned us because it doesn’t really seem to fit any pattern.  So, while we waited it out, I went on a huge provisioning run.  For the first time, I took a cab back from the grocery store(s).  With three huge supermarkets from which to choose, I got everything on my list a few extras.  The best find was pepperoni!!!!  With the weather changing it was overcast and muggy, but a quick dip in the pool in the afternoon felt great.IMG_0676

We awoke at midnight to more rain (on the boat awaking to rain entails making sure all hatches are closed quickly).  It has been rainy (though still pleasantly warm) all day.  The kids have been nostalgic with the wet weather, though I don’t think they are taking into consideration that 75* and raining is much different than Seattle’s typical 40* and raining.  We are expecting to see some wind this evening and it will be interesting to see how the landmasses around affect the incoming weather.  Once it passes, we will continue to south to our West Coast Mexican terminus: Zihuatanejo and rejoin Totem.

Waiting in the the Rain

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