Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Life with Spirit and Resilience

We have one more post on our delightful trip last week across 3 Mexican states.
As you  may have figured out, our posts are not real-time.
While you wait for the last post, which we promise will be interesting, I wanted to give you a quick update.

Just returned from a wonderful long weekend trip to the greater Sacramento area.  It was my mother's Margaret Maxfield, 88th birthday.  She is doing great (Hi, Mom!), and was very generous with her time to allow me to visit daily, as well as enjoy great family visits with my sister Elaine and JD, their kitty, and my best friend Kate.  Mom continues to be interested in all sorts of things, as she has been an educator all her life.  One day she was interrupting her newest Agatha Christie murder mystery to work on some more mathematical challenges (She has a Ph.D in mathematics).  Her life in a nice assisted living home in Placerville suits her just fine.  The ladies at her dining table welcomed me back, and chided Mom that she was a "youngster", as one of them was almost 90 and the other 98.
Mom self-published a beautiful book a few months ago, titled Where Were We?  It includes her stories starting from great grandparents in the late 1800's all the way to her grandchild, my son, Bryan.

Her resilience and spirit for life kept me thinking of how our sailing friend, John, in La Paz, is responding to a very tragic boating accident last week.  While rescuing a man that was thrown from his dingy he was run over by the unmanned boat and sustained severe injuries to his leg and foot.  Rob and I are in awe of his spirit and courage as he has gone through very serious challenges and choices, starting in La Paz, and now at the UC San Diego medical center.  Our friends from La Paz Cruiser Supply, Jeanne and Tom, have done a wonderful job of pulling the community of friends together to keep us updated on our buddy as well as know how to help.
The link to this story is here:  Eagles Big Left Turn.

There are numerous ways to contribute towards John's medical bills, including a fundraiser March 5th and via PayPal that are outlined on their blog.

Here is the cover poem from my Mom's book.

Where Were We?

Where were we when we met before,
If we have ever met?
Or if you've happened on me now
And we don't know us yet,
Warm welcome to my life, my friend,
I'm glad to have you in it.
It's not too late for memory,
So let us now begin it.

-Margaret W. Maxfield

Mom and her daughters

John in profile with festive Katrina during Dias de los Muertos - November 2013

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Exploring Inland - Zacatecas (2 of 3)

Zacatecas beautiful Cathedral
Zacatecas is located another 4-5 hours away, in north-central Mexico, almost the same longitude as Lubbock, Texas.  It is the capital of the Mexican state of Zacatecas.  We felt the high elevation of over 8000 ft as we climbed the cobblestone stairs and roads.  Our little hotel centro was among buildings that were hundreds of years old.  There were lots of festivities in the streets and plazas, day and night.  Zacatecas is a beautifully maintained city with Gothic and majestic cathedrals and courtyards to admire.  We toured the El Eden Silver mine, which was fueled mostly with Indian slaves, boosting the Spaniards wealth through a silver dynasty starting over 400 years ago.  The cable car from one end of the valley to the other offered panoramic views of the town.

A young businessman, George, flagged us down in the cobblestone street.  He spoke English well, and was keen on understanding how we felt as tourists in their city, i.e. did we feel safe? (We did not know that safety in Zacatecas might be an issue)  He was well educated, and had worked at the Mexican embassy in Washington, DC.   Rob and Danny were interviewed on his iPhone about our visit.  He would use this to convince his lawyer friend in Miami to move to Zacatecas to help out with his financial business.  George joined us in our private tour of the Rafael Coronel museum that houses the world's largest collection of Mexican masks.  With this new friendship came more recommendations on dinner places, and the best location on where to buy quality silver.  George took Rob and Danny to one of many "Men only" cantinas where there were convenient troughs at the bottom of each bar stool,.  That meant one wouldn't lose your chair if you had to go to the bathroom!  Thankfully they also have regular "banos".

We all agreed we could stay a week in Zacatecas to fully enjoy the town.  It was a vibrant Capital city that had many treasures to explore, and to buy.  :)  Our last dinner was in a tiny home that felt like a Grandmother's house, filled with treasures in each nook and cranny.   It was a suggestion by George, and we would never have found it on a map.  In fact, city maps and English speaking tour guides were rare.  We were the only visible gringo tourists in this town, and despite our differences, felt very safe and welcome.

Plaza de Armas - town's main square.
Mexican Youth Scouts assembly

Pancho Villa is celebrated all over Mexico

Touring  La Mina "el Eden"
Incredible architecture

Some of the more that 3000 masks on display at the Rafael Coronel  museum

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Exploring inland - Guadalajara (1 of 3)

We just returned from a 6 day inland tour.  This post is part one of three that details our excellent adventure to the middle of Mexico.

Our friends Danny and Deborah from SV Cyclades have been saving time in February to do an inland tour together.  They have a nice Jetta that follows them around the anchorages and marinas which made our adventure much more flexible than taking the bus.  So with a map and a few hotel reservations, off we headed inland.

Each of us had a destination that was on the bucket list.  Guadalajara was first, about a 4-5 hour drive away, up and down windy roads for the first half, then more straight roads after our stop for lunch.

We spent two full days and nights admiring beautiful architecture, museums and enjoying restaurants and shopping.  Each night, there were singing troubadours in the lobby of our Hotel Frances, built in 1610.  Despite being the 2nd largest city( <1.5 million) in Mexico, Guadalajara's downtown Centro area, where we stayed, was clean, and felt very safe.  There were incredible shopping bargains in the suburb of Tonala, which is known for their outdoor markets, as well as hundreds of permanent stores offering all sorts of beauties for the home.  We all found treasures to load up in the car.  After a final walk around downtown, and good night's sleep, off we went towards Zacatecas.

Sunrise at the Metropolitan Cathedral (1561-1661) w/ multiple styles of architecture during this long construction

A gift from France 

These ladys were originally draped with clothing by the  modest Mexicans locals.

One of the pottery shops in Tonala 

Puppies for sale!

Colorful Dia de la Muertos Katrinas for sale in the Tonala

Torta Ahogado is Guadalajara's signature sandwich - similar to French Dip but with spicy sauce

Rob at this Ahogado stand after morning shopping in Tonala

The Institute Cultural Cabanas (1805)

Ceiling Murals painted by muralist Jose Clemente Orozco
"Man of Fire" 

Danny with a local artisan playing with a 3D puzzle

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Heading North along the "Happy Coast" to Banderas Bay

Our trip back from Costalegre (Happy Coast) to Banderas Bay was a success.  We delayed our departure one more day, as the day after the Superbowl is a Mexican holiday and the Port Captain was closed.  The weather forecast sounded good for going North.  So Tuesday was our departure day, and three days later, we arrived back in a familiar slip at La Cruz.   

We mostly motored, but were able to sail in the early mornings with 10 to 12 knots of offshore breeezes.  We even got the spinnaker out for an hour or so when the wind got behind us.

Our first stop was Tenacatita.  There were 25 boats in this beautiful anchorage that is one of the favorite places for cruisers along the Happy Coast.

Second stop was Chamela Bay.  We hosted an impromptu get together with new friends from Agave Azul, who gave us an informative lesson on their recent inland trip to the town of Tequila.  Then our friends from Aurora and Scot Free, Eh rounded the corner, coming south.  It was a reunion for the night.... and then time to go.

On our way to Chamela, we met another sailboat heading in the same direction.  With a quick intro on the radio, we were introduced to Randi and Neal on Windchime.  They had some motor problems on Day 2, which fortunately was not too serious.  A  large length of fishing line wrapped around their propeller and disabled their motor.  Fortunately there was enough wind for them to sail into the next harbor.  We launched the Shin-dinghy and helped them maneuver their boat for anchoring.  Shindig and Windchime buddy boated for the remainder of the passage, with a very tasty dinner ashore at Pt Ipala.  

Our last anchorage was in Punta Ipala.  This is a tiny fishing village that makes a nice staging stop in the lee of Cabo Corrientes

The weather predictions were correct and the rounding at Cabo Corrientes was a non event.  This can get really nasty with strong winds and currents.  Although the winds picked up to 20 knots, it was relatively smooth.  Perhaps it was because of Nancy's "flat passage" cookies, chocolate chip cookies that always come out flat. We shared with Windchime, to help the wind and wave gods keep our passage as flat as possible. As we sailed into Banderas Bay, we kept a look out for whales, dolphins, flying rays and all sorts of sea life that make this place so wonderful.   Pulling into the slip at La Cruz was another reunion, and we were quickly immersed in our familiar "home" in Banderas Bay.

Roughing it aboard Shindig
Pressure Cooked BBQ Ribs - First night dinner at Chamela Bay

The interior of Shindig during our passage - Looking pretty civilized

The Happy Coast - One of many unique fortresses on the coastline
Traditional Shrimping boat goes south - Need to avoid these guys!

Day Two: Sunrise in Tenacatita Bay as Windchime departs

Shindig under sail heading north - Still in shorts and barefoot

Checking out Neal's findings  - a fouled propeller with fishing rope.
Neil dives down with his hooka rig and cuts free 30 feet of 3/4 inch polypropylene rope from the the propeller and shaft.

This panga took us to shore on the last night so we could enjoy our dinner
The kids were treated to extra plate of "Flat Passage Cookies"

Quiero de galletas, Mama!
(Give me some of those cookies)
Fun Shark Statue at Pt. Ipala

Neal and Randi from SV Windchime -  Last dinner before rounding the cape and arriving at Banderas Bay

Monday, February 3, 2014

Barra de Navidad

Today is our last day in Barra de Navidad.  We were here for two or three weeks.  Time really flew.
We didn't plan on spending this long here, but one thing or another happened.
We stayed in the Marina the full time, enjoying the hotel amenities and dock life with friends. We used our paddle boards quite a bit, until Rob dislocated his thumb in a surfing crash with one of the locals. That was followed by a GI "challenge" but no worries, we are all now healthy.  We are also familiar with the hotel doctors, local clinics and labs.  The healthcare resources available to us in Mexico are good and inexpensive.

Getting to town each day was either via our own dinghy or taking the water taxis for 10 pesos a trip. Barra could be called "Venice in Mexico".  There are lots of restaurants lining both the seaside and the lagoon, funky little shops with fun Mexican handicrafts, little tiendas to look for fresh vegies and fruits.
The town grows on you, and after being here for this amount of time, it is actually hard to say goodbye.  We look forward to our return next season.

On our way to the Port Captain.  We check in and check out with him in the town of Barra de Navidad.

View from our boat towards the Grand Bay Hotel
Nancy at Yoga Class 

View from the Hotel balcony.  Sunrise over the Barra Lagoon and marina 
The Band arrives looking for a Shindig - I see one....

Rob's buddy Qunin from Winterlude was always up for a walk.  Quinn's favorite place is the beach.  He is a water dog!

There was a 3 day fishing tournament in the Marina.  Each day the boats would go out by 7AM in the dark and return by 5pm.  It was great people and fish watching.  The biggest marlin was 330lbs.  The three top prizes were Chevy cars.

Birthday girl Pam from Tisha Baby
We had a fun group celebration.  And enjoyed paddle boarding with Pam and her husband Richard.
In the canals on the way to a unique Chinese dinner

XieLi, from China, offers homemade dinner in her home for groups
We feasted on this beautiful buffet and returned for a Chinese New Year shindig

Rob got his cholesterol checked at the lab in the nearby town of Melaque.

The cost for the test is 290 pesos or $23 USD.  Very reasonable and the results were emailed to him that day.
All part of the motivation for healthy 2014.
Rob replaces a high pressure hose on the water maker.  We found a shop in Melaque that could make custom hydraulic hoses.  Water maker fixed!