Thursday, November 28, 2013


Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz
We had heard that La Cruz was the affordable option in the Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) area, so I was pleasantly surprised to arrive and discover a clean, modern marina with wonderful amenities.  There is a beautiful, air conditioned clubhouse with fast internet, although it doesn’t
reach the boat.  The showers are elegant and there is a little swimming pool, which feels pretty good is this heavy heat.  The village is close and there is even a small marine store.  Most services seem to be readily available at reasonable prices.  There is even a nice beach within walking distance.  A person could get very used to this place.
Pool at Marina La Cruz

Dancing Horses
Our first day here, we did very little.  It was a rest day.  Tina and I walked up to town in search of vegetables.  It was a holiday commemorating Mexico’s revolution and the town was celebrating.  The high school band was playing in the park and there was a competition to see which of the local caballeros could make his horse dance the best.  It was pretty interesting.  Some of the horses had it down pat, but there was a young one that wasn’t at all convinced that dancing was a good idea.  The band played the same song over and over and the women sat under the trees in the shade and ignored the whole spectacle.  Later, there was more music on a stage in the park.

Tina had been corresponding with a skipper who was anchored here and planned to meet up with him later in the afternoon.  We were going to eat dinner with them, but got separated.  Scott and I ate dinner in a restaurant located in someone’s front yard.  I ordered tacos and Scott ordered a burrito.  When we ordered beer, the owner ran across the street to the liquor store to buy them for us.  She didn’t speak English and Scott doesn’t speak Spanish, but he earned her respect by dousing everything with hot sauce.  She then brought out the special local hot sauce.  The food was so good we ordered seconds.  The whole meal cost us less than $15.

After dinner, we met Tina and Tom (who turned out to be a nice guy with a Cal 35) at the Octopus’ Garden (Jardin de Pulpo) to watch a performance of Latin dance.  The dancers were good and the costumes ornate, but the best part was the bilingual video that accompanied the performance, which featured old, old film clips of dance from the 30s and 40s and some pretty interesting stuff from the Dominican Republic in the 1980s.  After the performance, the dancers danced with the customers, some of whom were pretty good dancers themselves.  Even I danced with the owner of Capricorn Cat, who had plopped himself at our table and turned out to be a friendly and entertaining companion.  It was a very pleasant social outing and just what I needed after a month on boats, punctuated only with massive Ha-Ha parties where it was too loud to talk to anyone much.

Thursday, it was time to get down to the work we hoped to accomplish in La Cruz.  Like most boat chores, it began with a quest for parts.  Scott and I walked up to the main road and took a “collective” (a minivan crammed with passengers) down to the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta to go to the Home Depot.  Home Depot in Mexico is much like Home Depot in the United States, although there was a slightly smaller selection and they seemed to be out of a lot of things, including the ¼” hose we needed to modify our water maker.  We spent a lot of time asking questions and studying the available materials before Scott came up with a plan he thought would work.  We fared better with finding shade materials.  I bought short sections of PVC pipe and fittings to connect them to build a collapsible frame.  Then I bought shade fabric and fittings to connect it so that I can build a tent for the cockpit that we can raise with the mizzen halyard and secure to the shrouds.

I usually avoid Walmart, but all the other big grocery stores were off my themselves and the Walmart was in a strip mall with other stores.  Since we were taking the bus, it was more practical to just make the one stop, so off to Walmart we went.  Anyone who complains that Mexicans are taking over the United States should come here and see what Americans are doing here in Mexico.  Everywhere we go there are Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs, Office Depot’s, Home Depot’s, Starbuck’s and gringos everywhere, refusing to speak Spanish and generally failing to assimilate.  Our crew member, Chuck, is still trying to operate in U.S. dollars.  I had to sell him some pesos so he could ride the bus.  We bought groceries at Walmart and I did appreciate the well refrigerated produce.  Having spent all my money, I went to the bank and then we grabbed another collective and crammed all our parcels into the back seat for a cramped ride back to La Cruz.  It was a schlep from the bus stop back to the boat and we were very relieved when we made it to the marina and commandeered a dock cart from the first dock we reached.

La Cruz Yacht Club
Thursday night was movie night at the La Cruz Yacht Club.  All the cruisers got together to watch “42.”  Someone sold cold Coronas and we all sat in the air conditioned lounge, which had been rearranged to facilitate movie watching, and enjoyed the film.  Simple things take on new significance here.  It was a nice community event.  Carlos came over to visit after the movie and we made blender drinks and talked for a while.  We stayed up WAY past cruiser midnight (9 PM.)  Poor Carlos still doesn’t know what he is going to do, since family health problems have caused the boat he came here to join to cut short their voyage and he still doesn’t have a passport, which makes it hard for him to continue with us or another boat.  He may have to go to Mexico City to resolve the problem.

Friday was the day we finally set out to obtain our temporary import permit.  There is an office of Banjercito, the bank to which issuing temporary import permits and visas have been outsourced, in Puerto Vallarta.  I looked it up on Google Maps and even looked at street view so that I would know where to get off the bus.  We took the bus and got off close to where Google had told me to go.  I located the building right away, but there was no Banjercito branch there.  It was very hot, but we walked a few blocks, looking for the address.  Eventually, we found a shopping mall that had a branch of every other bank in Mexico, but no Banjercito.  There was, however, a Starbuck’s, so we got a couple of Frappuccinos and enjoyed the air conditioning for a few minutes.  A security guard at the Canadian embassy told us that Banjercito was back the way we came.  We stopped at the port captain’s office for directions and eventually located the very large and obvious building that we had passed without seeing it because Google had shown it located about two blocks further south.  For anyone seeking Banjercito, it is a modern glass and steel building on the main bus route, just before the south end of Marina Vallarta, across the street from the Galleria Vallarta.  The address is 2701 Blvd. Francisco Medina, but knowing the address didn’t help us much, since addresses are seldom displayed and Google Maps was inaccurate.

 The girls at Banjercito spoke very little English, but they were very helpful.  We had to go out and make a copy of Scott’s passport, but they told us where to find an internet café to make the copy.  That was another four blocks walking in the sun.  Apparently, when I applied online, they had sent Scott an email, asking for a copy of his passport.  The email got stuck in his spam filter and so we never answered.  Eventually, they closed the application.  It still remains to be seen whether the first fee I paid will ever be refunded.  There was a great deal of confusion due to the fact that we had been in the country for several weeks and had actually been in the country for a couple of weeks before checking in, due to the fact that Ensenada customs didn’t want to process all the Ha-Ha boats, so we all checked in at Cabo after the rally was over.  It was a real test of my Spanish speaking abilities to explain everything satisfactorily.  The woman helping me told me that she was glad I spoke Spanish because her English was pretty limited.  She was very nice and we were relieved when she pulled out the sheet of official paper to finally print our permit.  I had to pay a second time, but at least we had managed to acquire the permit without having to make a second trip.

Since we were across the street, we went to the Walmart to look for a box fan, but didn’t manage to find one.  Then we took a bus to the Home Depot and looked there.  Still no luck.  At that point, it was rush hour on a Friday evening and the traffic was thick.  For some reason, we didn’t see a single collectivo on our way back.  We had to wait for a big bus and it cost us an extra 6 pesos, which was still cheap.  It was dark by the time we got back to La Cruz, so we stopped at the same restaurant we had visited earlier.  The proprietress was happy to see us again.  She liked Scott so much that she gave him a bottle of Huichol hot sauce.  Our waitress was a little girl about eleven years old who much have been her daughter.  She did a pretty good job, although we had to remind her to charge us for our beers.  She was happy when I told her the change was hers to keep.

Saturday, Scott received an email from our potential insurer, stating that we would need to have three experienced crew at all times in order to be insured.  This depressed him so much that he barely came out of his cabin for two days.  Nothing I suggested seemed to make any difference, so I left him alone and busied myself with sewing a shade structure for the boat.  First, I made a square PVC frame and hoisted it up on the mizzen halyard.  Then, I made a side curtain that reached down to the cockpit combing.  Just that one curtain made a tremendous difference in the temperature of the cockpit.  The covering over the top was trickier, because I had to work around the mizzen mast and six shrouds.  I cut a square piece  and then removed a triangle from the rear edge.  I suspended the remaining piece just inside the side shrouds and outside of the rear ones.  The triangle I had removed, I then hung behind the mast and inside the rear shrouds.  It works pretty well, although my boat neighbor teases me about my “aviary.”  We definitely have the most headroom under our shade structure of any sailboat in the marina.  I plan the make another curtain to hang on the back to keep out the late afternoon sun and a half height one to cover the windshield.  For now, I have it covered with beach towels.  I used one of the side curtains from the lifelines that we weren’t using to cover the side windows on the south side.  The boat stays much cooler now.

Keeping the boat cool is everything.  This boat acts like a greenhouse and our main refrigerator can’t keep up with the heat.  Our air conditioning, which worked fine in California, is completely useless here.  It is a heat pump system and the water here is just too warm to take the heat out of the air.  Fans help some, but the most important thing is keeping the hatches and all the cabin doors open so that the breeze can circulate.  It is a constant battle to keep the door to the V-berth open, since it must be closed in order to reach the ice maker.  The ice maker only works off 110 power, but it is a lifesaver here in the marina.  With just the two of us aboard, it actually makes ice faster than we can use it.
Sunrise in La Cruz

Life here is La Cruz is actually pretty pleasant.  I can see why people just stay here.  Every morning there is a radio net and the cruising community really works together to solve problems for each other.  People share land rides and deliver things to and from the states for each other.  Virtually everyone here is dealing with some kind of boat or administrative problem and people are quick to offer advice and share resources.  A woman I just met in the lounge this morning is going to lend me her sewing machine to complete my shade cover.

Sunday, I got bored hanging around the boat with Scott being uncommunicative, so I decided to walk over to the Sunday market.  Along the way, I met up with a fellow named Ron that we had seen in Cabo and we had a nice conversation and I learned of an alternate insurer that might be more accommodating.  Unfortunately, we got there just as the market was being packed up, but we walked into town and I boat some chicken, fresh refried beans (in a plastic bag) and butter from a butcher shop and beverages from a corner store.  Then actually carried tonic water at a reasonable price, which was a real treat.  I asked for a dozen eggs and they gave them to me in a plastic bag.  I do have an egg container in the boat, but I had to be careful transporting them.  I think I like marketing in town much better than going to big box stores, although the produce at the big stores is superior.  It is much more fun and educational to talk to the different merchants.

Buying meat, here in Mexico, is a challenge because the cuts of meat are different from what we get at home.  Chicken isn’t so difficult, once you figure out what things are called in Spanish and you can get really tasty, spicy wings at any grocery store.  Red meat is a different story.  There is nothing resembling a roast anywhere.  Skirt steak, which is very expensive at home, is readily available at a reasonable price.  Pork shoulder just doesn’t exist here.  Pork comes in chops, loins and legs.  Legs are like ham without the curing process.  They taste OK, but don’t shred like pork roast.  Where do all the pork shoulders go?  Sausage seems to be limited to hot dogs (an amazing variety) and chorizo.  The turkey chorizo is pretty good and not at all greasy.  We really miss Italian sausage, though.

I wanted to buy a chicken, yesterday.  I didn’t see any at the butcher’s, so I asked if he had chickens.  “Hay pollo?” (“Is there chicken?”
“Pollos enteros?” (“Whole chickens?”)
 “Sí.  Quantos quiere?”  (“Yes, how many do you want?”)
“Solamente uno.” (“Just one.”)
At this point, he pulled out a hunk of chicken with a couple of legs sticking out of it and said, “Lo siento.  Este es todo que tenemos.”  (“I’m sorry.  This is all that we have.”)  I took it.  It was late on a Sunday afternoon and it was enough to feed the two of us.

"Cricket", a Cal 43
I spent Monday scraping old varnish, epoxy, caulking, dirt and who knows what off the port side of Fool’s Castle’s fiberglass deck.  Between a scraper and a wire brush, I was able to get most of it off.  “Cricket”, the Cal 43 docked next to us, is immaculately maintained and looks new despite being over 40 years old.  She has been a real inspiration.  I always thought I wanted to cruise on a Cal 39, but this boat has given me a new desire.  Unfortunately, there were only 14 ever made.  She is quite beautiful.

Carlos left Monday evening to help sail “Freya” down to Barra de Navidad.  Theoretically, he is going to come back in a day or two, straighten out his passport issues, and continue on with us.  I am holding my breath until he comes back.  He’s been wonderful.

Tuesday morning, Bob and Nancy from “High Road”, whom I had met the day before in the yacht club, arrived with their wonderful sewing machine.  I spent the day making another shade curtain to block the late afternoon sun and covers for the front windows.  We now have a large and airy outdoor space sheltered from the sun.  While I had the machine, I restitched the binnacle cover and some of the hatch covers.  It is so much easier than doing the work by hand.  Scott spent the day working on the water maker.  Since the relay controlled by the salinity sensor has died, we need to test the water by taste.  Scott was afraid that disconnecting and reconnecting the hoses would result in a leak somewhere.  He has routed the water from the water maker to the sink where we can taste it and then switch a valve to fill the water tank.  The pre-filter was missing an “O” ring and was leaking, so he installed a new one.  If we ever get our pressure pump rebuilt, we should be able to make water.

The Mexican equivalent of the IRS came to visit on Tuesday.  There were two federal agents who spoke English and were quite pleasant.  They were accompanied, however, by two soldiers with automatic rifles.  I guess the soldiers were for their protection in case someone got testy with them.  They were checking boat serial numbers against temporary import permits.  I guess someone has been illegally selling boats in Mexico without paying the import taxes.  We were glad that we had our temporary import permit it order.  They called Guadalajara to verify its authenticity and they was a moment of confusion because it was new and still not in the system, but it all turned out OK.  Our neighbor was a little worried because his TIP dated back to 1996 when they were issued for 20 years instead of the current 10, but they didn't give him any trouble.  The poor male agent had the task of taking photographs of the VIN numbers.  He had to hang over the water from our swim ladder with one hand while taking a picture with the other and then he had to crawl inside the neighbor's lazarette.  I wouldn't be that pleasant if I had to spend my day contorting myself like that.

Doing one’s own laundry seems to be frowned upon here in La Cruz.  There are several laundries, but no laundromats as were know them.  I hate sending out my laundry because it usually comes back ruined, but the woman who picks up laundry from the marina office and delivers it to your boat the next day did a nice job.  She even got the oil stains out of Scott’s Baja Ha-Ha sun shirt.  The service only cost me 35 pesos (<$3) more than doing it myself cost in Mazatlán and she folded everything very nicely and brought it to our boat.  I could get spoiled.

Frigate Bird Perch

Female Frigate Bird
We started seeing Frigate birds at Bahia Santa Maria.  They are very large birds, with a 6-7’ wingspan, but they only weight about 3 pounds.  The males are black and the females have white breasts.  One or two followed us most of the way across the Gulf of California, playing in the updrafts coming off our sails.  I missed them when they left.  The La Cruz Marina has installed numerous large perches that look like giant fly swatters in order to keep the birds from roosting on the boats.  This mostly works, although there seem to be more birds than perches and they keep chasing each other off.  We have also seen a lot of shearwaters while sailing and grackles while lounging around the pool.

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