Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tourists not Sailors

Shindig in her slip

After several days in the Paradise Village Marina, we dropped all boat projects and agreed on a Tourist date.  I convinced Rob to meet me at the bus station and grab a bus down to Puerto Vallarta, where we could walk along the Malecon and enjoy the afternoon.  The bus stop was easy to find, as well as a bus, which we happened to pick with cushy seats and A/C.  The only remaining seats were elevated at the very back.  It wasn't the Directo bus, as we wound our way about 30 minutes in the wrong direction thru each turnabout in a 5 mile stretch of  condos and hotels.  Finally we turned south.  Each bump was not only back jarring, but I was actually flying in the air. Quite an entertaining ride.  Usually these outings start with adventurous intentions taking the bus, and then we take cabs back.

 The symbol of Puerto Vallarta, a statue of a boy riding a seahorse.
We loved the Malecon but it's been years since we've been here.  Fun contemporary art, people watching and many shops and restaurants.  We also made it to Neptune's Plaza near the older Marina, and enjoyed walking around even more boats.  With the San Francisco 49'ers Championship game on, Rob convinced me to stop by a local watering hole so we could enjoy the final quarter.  The waiter was extra accomodating with his free card for welcome margaritas and chips and salsa, so we tucked into a table at Neptune's Plaza and had fiery chicken wings and a club sandwich.   Even Rob was impressed with my bottomless appetite.

Art on the Malecon

Malecon on Sunday

 Sand Castles Art Work

A work in progress

Example of Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) art

King Neptune near Old Marina

Male Gringos checking out the score during the 49'er championship game.
 Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe - one block from the beach

Beautiful Metal Work

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Banderas Bay. (La) Cruz to Paradise

We just moved Shindig to Paradise Village.  Sure was nice to get her out of the La Cruz Marina and on the water again, even if it was a one hour sail.  It's easy to get stuck in a marina, with walking access to the showers, laundry, yacht club, boating resources, yoga and fabulous restaurants including 30 peso street tacos in sleepy little La Cruz.  Being on the dock is also more social as we walk by slips of boats, coming and going, many that we've met over the last few months.  We enjoyed quite a few Shindigs in the last week, including having the S/V Fluenta family over (Max and Liz) with their two children, Victoria and Jonathan.  Everyone agrees these kids are inquisitive, articulate and cute as a button.  We missed them from our days in Chacala.

We'll be onboard a very large catamaran today, Kiapa, to join in the Vallarta Cup series sailing race.  It's the same course as the Banderas Bay regatta in March, which we are considering doing ourselves.  The next few days we look forward to exploring the Nuevo and Puerto Vallarta again ; it's been 9 years since we were here on a family land-based vacation.  We are becoming familar with the full bay so that we can be flexible tour guides when friends visit in late February.  Yes, that's you - Linda and Mike!

Another milestone in our cruising adventure is a return "home".  We'll be flying out soon to Placerville and the Bay Area to visit Nancy's mother,  Margaret, and her sister and brother-in-law, Elaine and JD and friends. Without our home, we've had to ask for couch space, actually extra bedroom space, while staying at seven different houses and boats over just  12 days.  The calendar is packed with doctor, business, personal, music and social appointments across over 200 miles. With only one car between us, it's more coordination than planning the meals for the Baja Ha Ha. While we can't visit everyone we'd like, we'll be back in the summer, for several months, with plenty of time to catch up.   After living on a boat for months, we are motivated to be the perfect house guests.

On the boat front, we believe we have finally cured the refrigeration.   The last leak was repaired and the system has been recharged.  So far it has been keeping beer cold and holding onto its refrigerant (134A).

The radar is still dead and we are mulling over repair/replace options.  Repair is tricky in Mexico and may take a long time without guaranteed results.  Replace is a good option but expensive as we look as sourcing electronics in Mexico or getting them when home next week.

Varnish work has been scheduled for when we are back in the Bay area.  We think that some new cockpit cushions are being made.  The Shindig maintenance and beautification project is ongoing.

Here's some photos of the last few weeks in Banderas Bay. 

Fishing Boats at La Cruz Marina
Farmer's Market - Fresh Mexican Cheese
Farmer's Market

Rob stops for a breakfast taco snack
Jennifer, Diane and Nancy

What is Nancy doing?!
Now this is plain weird!!

Surf's up in Sayulita
Colorful Truck selling all sorts of cleaning supplies
Our platter of fish tacos in Sayulita

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Toro Fish

These fish were swimming around Shindig picking off the bait fish all morning.
This footage was taken in Tenacatita a few weeks ago.
They are toro or "bull" fish and often mistaken for tuna.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Whale watching (and dodging) in Banderas Bay

"Definition of Tail Slapping: Whales like to lift their huge tails high above the water and slap them down on the surface making a tremendous splash. This can be heard for great distances by others and is probably associated with marking position. Because of the formidable power of the tail, this behavior should be interpreted as aggressive and the creature should be given plenty of room."

Whale playing on the surface

"Slow Down, he is crossing"

Cuidado!  Ballenas en el agua!  It is humpback whale season here in Banderas Bay.  For sailors, it's whale dodging.  On our approach, we changed course to avoid whales. During our 7 hour trip north around Cape Corrientes and into Banderas Bay, we counted dozens of whale sightings.  Rob says you can walk across Banderas Bay on the backs of all the whales.

Many of the sightings were side body views, with portions of the whale's body breaking the water horizon.  Others would be spotted first by their blowholes, puffy clouds of water and air mixed above the water, signaling their breath of air, before submerging again.  Some whales were solo; others were traveling in pairs.  We gave them as much room as possible, trying to anticipate their travel direction and possible change in course.   On the last sighting, one whale seemed to be reaching for the world record of tail slaps - we counted 28!

By 2 pm we were snuggly tied in the La Cruz Marina, re-connecting with more friends that are making their way south.  We were invited to a dinner party (not on a sailboat!)in a lovely furnished apartment here in La Cruz.   Rob particularly enjoyed going between the cold swimming pool and the hot tub. Nancy admired the washer and dryer.

We enjoying a few days of yoga, provisioning at the farmers market today, a Taste of La Cruz last night, street tacos and commenting on each other's sailboats and projects on the docks. 
With the help of some local workers the Shindig beautification process is well in hand.
The laundry is done, refrigerator defrosted with a sizeable leak found and fixed.  Today Nancy is going off on an adventure into the town of Bucerias while Rob test sails some spinnakers on a friends' giant catamarran.

It has also been determined that our radar is busted.... broken.... no worky.  They stopped making this unit over a decade ago so an upgrade may be in order.  It is going to be expensive as we'll have to replace our plotters too in order to be compatible with a new radar. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chamela with rose colored glasses

Good news!! Captain Rob is feeling much better, after several days down with a bad cold.  (And when the Captain is down, the whole boat is down)  On our trip north, we are now poised to round  Cabo Corrientes, which is the point just south of Banderas Bay, our destination.  We're about 95 miles away from Banderas Bay.  Corrientes has a reputation similar to California's Pt. Conception, so weather windows, sailor knowledge and common sense, as well as healthy captains, are mucho importante. 

Rob and I made it to shore today, via our large SUP.  We both sit on our knees, and take turns paddling.  It's a little wet, but fun.  Once ashore, we had a full view and access to the beautiful Chamela anchorage.  The beach must be over 6 miles long, a long crescent shape, very lightly populated with an occasional fishing panga, a few restaurants and vacation lodges.  There are a few super happy dogs and a handful of people spread out over miles of brilliantly golden sand. I had to take off my sunglasses to absorb all the colors.  The deep contrast between sand and blue water reminded me of the  final scene from the movie Shawshank Redemption, when Timothy Robbin's character finally reunites with Morgan Freeman's character on a remote Mexican beach.  That was supposedly Zihuateneja, but I think Chamela wins hands down. 

With 10 sailboats in the anchorage, we've learned that two others are also planning to head North tomorrow. The weather window looks good for our first 50 mile leg. We heard that that anchorage will have room for us, so that the final leg, around Cabo Corrientes, will be a "breeze".  
Some homemade coconut oatmeal cookies are waiting patiently for their debut tomorrow. 

Internet is very spotty here, and uploading photos takes too long.  Will post some when we're back in the mecca of sailing, Banderas Bay. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Refer Madness

Our refrigeration system is leaking..... slowly.

With a "sniffer" tool that Tana brought down with her from the states I have been able to locate one leak and stop it.  So far so good.  The beer is cold and we are making ice!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Turning point

Shindig has gone as far South as we will this season.

Las Hadas was our turn around point and we has just cleared out with the port captain in Barra de Navidad.

The Lagoon in Barra is calm and peaceful this morning

Anchor up in 10 minutes!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year, Las Hadas, Colima and 1000 bricks

After 105 days of sunshine (and 1 day of rain in San Diego), we had our first rainy day, New Years Day, in Mexico.  We enjoyed a quiet day, after a couple days and nights of revelry with our fellow sailing friends, Sue and John from Wizard, and Danny and Debra from Cyclades. 

We were invited to a delicious holiday homecooked meal aboard Cyclades several nights ago.  Debra astounded us all with her pork chops and vegetables dish, sauteed green beans and warm hospitality.  Their beautiful boat is spacious and comfortable with lots of interesting hanging out places including an outdoor sleeping platform.  Cyclades is a beautiful wooden boat, built in New Zealand in the early 1960's.  There is much love and pride in this seaworthy boat.  There was even a Christmas tree, the mast disguised with garland and decorated with sparkling lights and ornaments.  It really helped us remember the Holiday spirit. 
Debra and her beautiful dinner table

New Years Eve Day we went to the town of Salagua, closest to Las Hadas, via dinghy and taxi.  Headed to Tacos San Julio, our 2nd time there, to gobble up the skirt steak and adobado street tacos, served with bowls and bowls of condiments like fresh onion, cilantro, radishes, frijoles, mucho salsas.  Very Tasty.  Nancy doesn't want to leave this place!  Off to the air conditioned movies to view the Hobbit, English with Spanish sub-titles.  With our burgeoning Spanish, we were a little distracted trying to absorb more Spanish as Bilbo Baggins and the pack of Trolls were fighting the Orcs. Then a quick trip to Sorianas, which is like a Costco.  (New Years Eve is not a good time to have "quick shopping trips".)  Taxi ride to pick up 5 kilos of cleaned laundry, which was not ready after two days.  Nancy stayed behind, and let Rob and the rest of the gang go back to the Marina.  She arrived 30 minutes later, just as the rain started, with the precious bags of cleaned and folded clothes.  Love those lavanderias.
Shindig chill'n
Debra, Nancy and Sue on Cyclades

Then a quick spruce up and an acknowledgement that our Shindig was on, and New Years Eve started aboard Shindig.  We had a fun potluck dinner/bbq in the rain, and then the men set off their Mexican fireworks.  Impressive rockets were launched from the aft deck BBQ.  At midnight, the entire bay exploded with over a dozen different shows going off.  It was a New Years Eve to remember!

Danny, John, Rob

On January 3rd we took our first inland tour thanks to Danny (Cyclades) and another Dani, our tour guide. He picked us up in his air conditioned van, and we headed out of Las Hadas resort's hills, through the real port town of Manzanillo, and up into the mountains towards Colima, the capital of the state of Colima.  We stopped at a banana plantation along the way, marveling at the 50 acres (20 hectares) that were originally given by the government to local farmers generations ago as land.  Generally two crops are grown at a time; bananas and coconut palms, limes and coconut palms, or mangos and coconut palms.  The bananas grow fast, one big bunch per tree, and are harvested along with the full tree, down to the roots, each season.  The roots are fertilized and grow again.  The blue bags are put on about 2/3rds of the way thru the growing cycle, to prevent the bananas from turning brown. 
Banana Farm - all organic
Gotta love those bananas!
More bananas for the sailboats!

Armed with a giant stalk of bananas, we next stopped at a local brick "factory".  In a space of about 3 acres, there were two women forming bricks by hand, from the mud and water.  Each mold produced four bricks, and they were then dried in place, and then stacked for more time.  Finally the bricks were stacked and coconut husks burned to help the final drying process.  We were told that the woman earned about 450 pesos for each 1000 bricks she made or about $35. 
Debra (left) helps with brick molds

We continued along the road, stopped by a small coconut tienda to sample the coconut milk, and meat.  Our tour guide sharpened his machete skills by demonstrating how the coconut is opened.  We all enjoyed trying the coconut meat, first alone, and then seaesoned with lime and chile powder. 

Once in the Capital town of Colima, we strolled through a really nice museum filled with artifacts extended back from 1500 BC.  Also shopped in the clean streets around the city square, which reminded us both of Healdsburg and Sonoma Square, Mexico style.  After several other stops at smaller towns in higher elevation, we reached our lunch stop in a pretty town of Cuauhtemoc.  We enjoyed a shady backyard lunch near a coffee plantation, with delicious appetizers of guacamole, frijoles, special queso and salsas with blue and yellow corn tortillas.  Entrees included chile rellenos and skirt steak or pork fajitas.  Many  were disappointed that the rabbit and goat had run out, but we managed. 

After a brief stop down the hill at the town of Comala, where we sampled local liquors and did some more souvenir shopping, we settled into the van ride back to the marina.   It was a great 9 hour trip.  We piled into the Shin-dinghie, and delivered each friend to their respective sailboat.  Then Rob armed himself with a sharp knife, and went to each boat in the anchorage, offering up part of the large bunch of green bananas procured from the banana farm.   A Bueno Day!
Pretty cathedral in Colima
Arches in the square
Feliz Navidad decorations on display
Traditional masks hung at restaurant for children to use during celebrations
Dani stopped at several roadstands to find us the "Pineapple Watermelon" hybrid

Blackberry margaritas at Paradise Restaurant - Las Hadas