Saturday, February 23, 2013

Punta de Mita, La Cruz and back again

We're back to a week or two of real water play here in Banderas Bay.  After our trip home, we were eager to go exploring more of the greater bay, and actually don swim suits as our daily wear. 
Rob is getting very good at the SUP surfing.   We found a relaxing group of friends on the beaches of Punta de Mita (Mita for short) north of La Cruz.  Each day there would be radio talk on surf conditions and where to meet.  Several days a dinghy or two full of intrepid surfers, ages ranging from 10-65 would pile in with their boards, and head out to the 'happening' surf break.  Several hours later, usually after sunset, they would return, exhausted, but happy in their waveriding accomplishments.
I enjoyed exploring the small village of Mita, eyeing the dinner menus, possible sunset locations, and tiny tiendas as well as higher priced boutiques. Daily purchases would be fresh fruits and vegetables, but we enjoy dining out with friends each night.  With the nearby St Regis and Four Seasons, there is something for everyone.

Our Sailing buddies on a  reunion, margarita and dinner tour of La Cruz 

Victor completed our new cockpit cushions on time and on budget
Anclote (Anchor) Beach in Punta de Mita
The first of many fish taco plates 
Children's Mardi Gras parade in Punta de Mita
This is where we have been surfing at Anclote Beach.  The conditions here are perfect for  beginners.  You can catch waves all day.
Nancy and Elizabeth out for a morning paddle in La Cruz
Chicks on sticks - Cyn, Sue, Elizabeth and Nancy 
Nancy and Rob enjoying a day of sailing while Brian and Elizabeth captained our boat - Nice!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Radar/Plotter install complete

I'm happy to report that the radar and plotter installation is complete.
As usual every cabinet was opened and emptied and every tool was used.
The radar works great and the new plotter is a nice upgrade from 1990's technology.

New radar dome attached to the mast

Running wires from the new plotter to the base of the mast

Contents of cabinet all over the place as wires are run

Raymarine e125 installed in a new Navpod under the dodger

One cool feature of the new plotter is that you can dump screenshots to a micro SD card.  This shot was taken as we were heading from LaCruz to Punta de Mita.

Things I like about the new setup:
  1. Integrated GPS in the head unit.  This alleviates the need for an external antenna.
  2. WiFi that allows you to remote view or control the plotter with an iPad.
  3. Electronic Navionics charts are MUCH better than the C-Map charts in the old unit.
  4. The display quality is outstanding.  The touch screen is nice and easy to use.
  5. AIS integration is great.  Our old plotter was made before AIS was available.
  6. Firmware upgrades are easy and can be done by me and not a Raymarine tech.
  7. All my existing ST80 instruments talk to the new stuff.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Las Tres Marietas

Adventures in Las Tres Marietas 

The humming was constant, a musical note, wavering slightly, but clear, joyful, and certainly representing happiness.
Wow, our friend Brian must really be enjoying this underwater snorkeling adventure!  (Rob doesn't hum) 
Then we realized the sound were of whales. Very cool.  No matter how many tapes of whale music one may have heard over the years, hearing whales in person underwater is the real thing. Later we speculated on how much further sound travels under water than above (100x), as well as how much faster underwater it travels (4.5x). 

We had hired a panga driver to pick us up that morning from Punta de Mita and buzz us out to the nearby the Marietas.  Our friends from Autumn Wind, Brian and Elizabeth, joined us.  These national park  islands are known for their wildlife, another “Galapagos of Mexico”, with pelicans, terns, boobies on the volcanic rocks;  green coral and volcanic rock teeming underwater with all sizes and colors of tropical fish. 
We were earlier than any other panga boat of tourists, and swam through the opening of a deep cave that deposited us onto our own lagoon and beach.  After snorkeling along the outside perimeter, we made another stop was a beach drop off, with our morning snacks.  There we discovered several other beautiful hidden coves, small beaches, with impressive surge and tumbling rocks and wind.  The winds were picking up, and the panga driver encouraged one more stop, to get just the right photo.  There we perched on the panga bow, a rocky arch framing us in the background.  The photo is good, but a mirror would be better, to show the driver maneuvering the powerful panga through the surge, camera in one hand, and saying “smile” with his silver glistening silver capped teeth. 

It was a wild ride back to Punta de Mita’s anchorage. Winds were 15-20 knots, lots of swell and the panga riding the waves. We had chosen right to go via panga. While private boats are allowed there, we wouldn’t have found the secret spots, nor felt comfortable anchoring our sailboats while we explored.  
Nice view from beach hike

Drop off at the beach

Approaching secret beach from cave

Tiny blue fish with coral

Rob, Nancy, Brian and Elizabeth - Smile!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brown Towel 2.0

We'd been back in Mexico for three days, and Nancy happily visited the local laundry mat to do three loads of laundry.  Not sure how we got so many things dirty in a short period of time?  Usually we use the local lavanderias where the service is fluff and fold - you drop off the laundry and then try to pick it up the next day... or the next.  But Shindig has been in the marina of a resort, Paradise Village, in Nuevo Vallarta.  This is vacation land;  there are timeshares, tequila pool volleyball, an air conditioned shopping center with McDonalds, Dominos, beauty parlors and a large, do it yourself laundry mat.  Yippee!!

After a couple of hours, the two brown towels were neatly folded, and draped just so over the shower towel rack.  Rob had just finished a MUCHO grande project, which he may share via the blog.  It was time to play tourist again and check out the pool, and the beach. 

Rob, "How are we for towels"?"
Nancy, with calm, steady voice, "There are two clean brown towels you can grab".

See how a trip home helps keep things in balance?

I am happy to report that we really used only one of the brown towels for our pool excursion.  It's 80 degrees here, and things dry fast.

Time to untie to bow lines, and scoot out of Paradise Village.  We are eager to get going back to both La Cruz, as well as explore Punta de Mita.  And maybe actually sail.   And there are many clean, folded towels onboard. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Now that's an Anchor

Bow jewelry on a Nordhaven 55


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Importing stuff into Mexico with a Temporary Import Permit

I thought I'd share my experience using our Temporary Import Permit (TIP).  For our Mexico bound sailing friends, this might be interesting.  For our landlubber friends this will make no sense.

The Temporary Import Permit is purchased for boats entering (importing themselves)  the country without paying a duty or tax.  They are good for 10 years and can also be used to import replacement gear for your boat.  These TIPs are also used for vehicles, like motor-homes, that enter the country.

There is a lot of confusion about the proper procedure and rules for importing replacement boat parts.  In talking with other Americans/Canadians I've heard everything from, "no problemo" to "can't be done".  The most accurate explanation came from Dick Mackie, the harbor master at Paradise Village Marina.

I am by no means an expert on Mexican importing but thought I'd detail my experience in and out of the PV airport.(your mileage may vary).

Shindig's radar stopped working around New Years and after a lot of debugging I declared it dead.  There didn't appear to be any Raymarine repair services in Mexico so I decided to replace it.  This unit has been out of production for a long time, and the plan was to upgrade during the replacement to a new digital version.  A new plotter was needed as well because of compatibility issues. (of course)

Here was my plan after talking with many people that had different experiences with customs.
  1. Leave Mexico with the broken radar and plotter
  2. Itemize them with Customs at the PV airport on departure day
  3. Purchase replacement equipment in the US
  4. Return to PV with new gear
In theory, the replacement gear would be exempt from the 16% import duty.

I prepared a letter in English and Spanish (thank you Google translator) detailing what I was doing and included departure and return dates along with my TIP, vessel documentation, Tourist Visa and Passports.
The customs officials were very pleased with my preparation and I walked out of there with a document that detailed the equipment.
On the return trip I told the customs reps at the luggage scanners that, Yes,  I had items to declare and was pulled aside with my big radar box.

Customs had a problem with the new equipment.  It was not the same stuff I left with and they wanted to know what the value was.  I couldn't produce an invoice and this frustrated the customs official a great deal. With Nancy's suggestion,  I offered up a few conciliatory packages of cheese to declare, but even that did not help us get through.....

Funny thing, it was the same guy that had reviewed my exit paperwork two weeks ago.  Now the "process" had changed.  He seemed to expect me to return with ixed equipment, not new stuff. 

In the end I paid 16% duty on an estimated difference in the value of the old equipment and the new minus the $600 USD deduction that is allowed for two people traveling.  This duty amounted to $64 USD.

Overall, I got off easy but learned a few lessons.
  1. There is a lot of variability in what happens in customs based on this story and those of other sailors trying to use the TIP for getting boat parts into the country.
  2. If I had estimated the cost of the equipment I left with and shared this with customs before leaving Mexico my entry might have been easier.
  3. If I had an invoice that clearly stated that this was "replacement equipment" for the broken stuff I think it would have been smooth sailing.
Dick Markie, the harbor master at Paradise Village Marina ,is preparing a session with Customs and Immigration next week to help answer questions.  People are frustrated and can't set expectations.  I'm sure it will be a full house.

This year there is a new Mexican President and a change in political party.  It turns out that when this happens new "Hefes" (Bosses) are posted all over the government.  Even low level jobs.  This leads to a bit of chaos and new interpretations of laws that are on the books.

As I like to say, things in Mexico are "Flexible"........

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    Tortugas (Turtles) in Mexico

    Banderas Bay is home to several nesting areas for sea turtles. Four protected species nest along the coast of Nayarit, including leatherback turtles and Olive Ridley turtles, whose nesting season continues from June to November. Hatchings often take place right outside the resorts on Banderas Bay.  Here are photos of a recent release we participated in.  Tomorrow, I will attend a fund raiser at a local hotel for the volunteer program ; there is supposed to be tortuga/turtle inspired art work which will be fun to admire. 
    The Turtle release program in Banderas Bay is sponsored by a local volunteer organization to supplement the government preserve.  After the mother turtle lays her eggs, volunteers carefully collect them from their nests.  The eggs are replanted in a large wire cage, with dates and numbers. About 45-60 days later, they hatch.  And eager volunteers and tourists help the baby turtles make it to the water.

    At a sunset release time, we saw a very exciting display, with all ages of participants, including grandfathers, carefully cupping their one baby turtle in their hands.  We cheered for each released baby turtle; Volunteers discretely helped a few turn in the right direction before the waves could take them away. Not all were protected. Soon the circling frigates and pelicans started diving for the baby turtles that had just made it into the water. The air was filled with dismayed shouts from the crowd and banging of cans, along with waving sticks and scarves.... anything to shoo the birds away.  A few turtles were lost.
    We're sure that raising the local and tourist awareness of this fragile lifecycle, especially as eggs and baby turtles, is helping the population. When we were sailing up the coast last month, we saw many large turtles, lying in water, right around our sailboat perimeter. They would pick up their head, look at us, and then dive underneath.

    Turtle eggs are dug up and re-buried in a protected shade structure.Each tag indicates the quantity and the date.

    Handing out turtles to kids to be released.

    Click here to see the beach setting & families excitedly waiting for the baby turtles release time

    This is the cutest little fellow you've ever seen!
    Fundraiser for the Turtles

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    A Visit Home and Hasta Luego!!

    We are returning from a whirlwind trip through the San Francisco area, Sacramento and Santa Cruz.
    As we drove across the Golden Gate bridge towards our Sausalito dock friends, there was a deja-vu feeling, from the Sept 15th departure under the bridge.  Everything felt the same, except it had taken us three hours to fly home, after 140 days of going south. Even our previous slip was still empty.

    It was so nice to spend time with  my mom, Margaret, who turns 87 February 23rd.  We had an early celebration with birthday cake with my sister and brother-in-law.  Other days were filled (ok, jam packed) with meals, walks, shopping trips, haircuts, dentists, doctors, tax and finance appointments.  Lots of catch-up meals and visits with friends. I may have overdosed on Asian inspired cuisine, as it is hard to find in Mexico.  I won't bore you with the details or photos, but there were many bento box lunches, sushi, Burmese, Asian-fusion and Malaysian meals with friends.  Two fun music practices  on my piano were enjoyed, which is being babysat at a delightful couple's home at Stanford. A special thanks to our friends who graciously offered up places for us to stay, including sailboats, craftsmen homes, guest bedrooms and even a motor home.  None were refused!

    Will it take several days to ease into the Mexican lifestyle?   We hope so, as there are now more boat projects to finish up while we are still in Paradise Village Marina.  Rob was successful in scheduling the ordering and delivery of many boxes of  needed electronic parts.  We will be taking these down to Mexico, and are packed as efficiently as we can.  Thanks to friends who loaned us their extra large duffles with wheels!  With the addition of the Costco and Trader Joe's goodies, we don't know where all of this will be stored aboard Shindig.

    It was a wonderful but fast trip home; we look forward to more relaxing visits this summer when we both return in July and August.   Hasta Luego - "See you soon"

    Nancy and Mom