Monday, December 23, 2013

BARRA DE NAVIDAD, MANZANILLO AND MELAQUE

Water Taxi Landing in Barra
We arrived in Barra de Navidad on Monday evening.  We almost immediately met Pancho, a fellow who maintains boats here.  He was concerned that he would wake us when he arrived the next morning to wash the boat next door and offered to take our five gallon jugs to town to get them refilled at a reasonable price. 

Tuesday, I went for a long run around the hotel property and Scott spent the morning removing the broken water maker pump.  Pancho returned with our water as promised.  

Port Captain's Office
After lunch, we took a water taxi across the estuary into the town to check in with the Port Captain. The water taxi costs 20 pesos for a round trip.  Barra de Navidad is very much a beach town.  There are low end hotels and restaurants scattered along a couple of sandy streets parallel to the beach.  The water taxi lands you at a rickety pier at the very edge of town.  Of course, the Port Captain was located on the other end of the town.  It was blazing hot and there was very little shade as Scott and I walked through town and wandered around the neighborhood where the Port Captain was located.  There is a housing development with three canals.  The houses on those canals have side ties and some people rent those slips.  Unfortunately, it was kind of a rat warren in there and it took us some time to recover from our attempted shortcut and get back to the main road where we could finally orient ourselves and find our destination.  Checking in actually took less than five minutes.

Barra's Plaza Dressed for Christmas
Walking back was somewhat quicker.  We stopped in a couple of tiendas looking for fresh fruit and vegetables.  I bought some bananas, but the rest of the produce had that limp, sitting in the heat without refrigeration, look about it, so I passed.  I did manage to find some seltzer in the second store.  Scott was on a mission, so I didn’t get to explore the town.  We did stop at the local water purification plant to ask who services their pumps.  They said it was someone in Chihuatlan (the next town over), but couldn’t give us a name or phone number.  They offered to tell a taxi driver how to take us there, but we didn’t have the pump with us.


It is very hot and humid here in Barra and there are mosquitoes.  According to the Weather Channel, it has been in the mid-eighties, but feels like 102.  I believe it.  We rested through the heat of the day and then I barbequed some skirt steak and Cole and I made latkes and salad.  It would have been a more pleasant temperature for eating in the cockpit, but I had to douse myself in insect repellent just to cook the meat, so we ate in the main salon.

Our mission for Wednesday, was to find someone to fix the pump.  I got up early and ran into Pancho on the dock.  He asked if we needed anything from Manzanillo because he was going to go there to take someone’s water maker pump to be repaired.  What were the odds of that?  I told him that our water maker pump also needed repair and he agreed to take it for us.  That gave us a free day.  Even Scott relaxed a little.  Cole and I spent the afternoon reading by the pool and throwing ourselves in the water when it got too hot.  Scott eventually came down and hung out at the pool bar.  I heard him talking to someone and wandered over to join him.  I hadn’t wanted to charge anything on his hotel tab, but he bought me a vast margarita.  I shared it with both Scott and Cole and was still so smashed by the time I finished it that I was useless for the rest of the evening.  Sixty pesos (about $4.75) seemed like a lot to pay for a drink in Mexico, but wasn’t bad since one was more than enough.


Landscaping in the Colimilla Area
While we were sitting at the bar, we talked to the owners of a large power boat who employ Pancho regularly.  They vouched for his honesty and resourcefulness.  The net had also recommended asking him for help.  He seems to be THE guy in the marina here.

I got up before dawn on Thursday and went for another long run.  Running is a great way to explore on shore, although I have to be wary of uneven pavement and loose dogs.  I ran through Colimilla and along the edge of the lagoon where many cruisers are anchored.  I ran completely around the golf course, which was beautifully landscaped with palm trees everywhere, and didn’t see a soul except guards and gardeners.  All the roads I have seen on this side of the estuary are surfaced with beautiful pavers and edged with nice gutters, street lights and sidewalks.  The street signs are all Mexican ceramic.  It looks like someone built the infrastructure for a luxury community and then never built the houses.  Aside from the fact that there are some very long, steep hills to climb, it’s a nice to run through the jungle and hear all the exotic bird calls.

It is amazingly hot here and very humid.  I have never had to live in humidity like this without air conditioning before.  Nothing ever gets really dry.  The dew is heavy enough to leave puddles.  We sweat constantly, so keeping up our electrolytes is a major problem.  Scott and I both suffer from leg cramps.  My wardrobe has evolved as the trip has progressed.  We started out wearing every layer we possessed.  Gradually, we shed our foulies and then progressed from long pants to capris to shorts.  The skort that I bought, and feared I would never wear because it seemed too short, is now my favorite piece of clothing.  T-shirts have given way to tank tops and, on really hot days, bikini tops.  At anchor, I have spent entire days in my bikini.  I am starting to understand how many boats become clothing optional.  I have white stripes across my feet from my flip flops and a strange tan on my back from the day I missed a spot with the sunscreen.   I spent the early afternoon hanging out in the hotel lobby, using the internet and luxuriating in the air conditioning.


Thursday afternoon, we all took the water taxi into Barra to explore a little and pick up a couple of things for dinner.  Scott left us to go get a haircut and Cole and I checked out the flea market.  Cole had gotten battery acid on his shorts and needed a new pair.  He found a perfect pair for 50 pesos.  I picked up a bra (When you lose a lot of weight, you need new underwear.) for 50 pesos.  The best deal of the day, however, was the haircut that I got for 25 pesos (about $2.)  The last haircut that I got in the U.S. was truly awful.  This woman straightened out the mess and even gave me a bag of rubber bands for my tail.  I gave her a 15 peso tip and I still feel like I cheated her.  It was worth the 25 pesos just to converse in Spanish with her for half an hour.  She was selling Christmas eggs filled with confetti for kids to smash on New Year’s Eve.  Scott paid 45 pesos for his haircut, but his salon was in the high rent district.

Bar in the Ruins of a Hotel

Eventually, we all met up in a beach bar that was operating in the ruins of a hurricane damaged building.  Barra was a hot spot in the 90’s and 2000’s, but was heavily damaged by a hurricane in 2009.  Since the economy has been lousy and tourism down, very little has been rebuilt.  I suspect that the reason the marina area has wonderful infrastructure, but very little development, is that the infrastructure was completed just before the hurricane and everything just halted at that point.  It was a beautiful afternoon and there was a breeze on the ocean side of town.  Scott and I enjoyed beers and Cole had a Michelada that tasted like it was pure beer and Worchestershire sauce over ice.  It was refreshing, though, and Cole doctored it up with hot sauce to keep himself from chugging it too quickly.  There wasn’t much in the way of decent produce in Barra, but we picked up some bananas, tortillas and seltzer and then took the water taxi back to the marina.

The French Baker
Mornings, here in Barra, start with the arrival of the French Baker.  He comes around every morning with decadent pastries to tempt even a Paleo eater like me.  Unfortunately (fortunately?) his prices are on a par with a U.S. Starbucks.  Scott succumbed the first morning, but quickly learned that spending $10 a day on pastries wasn’t reasonable.  Fortunately, I am usually running or in the shower when he comes.  Friday morning, I took a shortish run up the hill and around the hotel for a couple of miles.  I stopped at the top of the hill to admire the view and was admonished by a flock of chacalacas for disturbing their peace.  A chacalaca is a tropical forest bird that is secretive, but highly vocal.  The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America says that, “The sound of a flock in full chorus is memorable.”  I can concur.  They were not at all pleased with my presence near the tree where they were dining on leaf buds.

We took a bus into Manzanillo on Friday afternoon.  We went several places for Scott to look for a smart phone, stopped into a shoe store for him to replace his disreputable athletic shoes, and finally did our grocery shopping.  Manzanillo is stretched out in a crescent shape along the shore of the bay.  Every American chain store seems to be represented there.  We had arrived by first class bus, but got off before we reached the bus station.  To return, we were told that we needed to take a local bus to the Santiago bus station and catch the intercity bus there.  We got the local bus without incident, but ended up with an hour to kill in Santiago.  A gringo chatted us up on the sidewalk and told us that the guy to ask about sailing problems owned a restaurant across the street.  Since it was dinner time and we had an hour to kill, we went over there.  Manny runs a restaurant called “Schooners.”  Manny is a Mexican American who has lived in Manzanillo for a few years, but is getting ready to move on.  He is very involved with the Sea Scouts there.  He did give us the number of someone in Barra who could help us with our pump if the current guy fails us.  We also had a very good dinner, although we had to rush through it in order to catch our bus.

The bus was crowded, so we all had to take single seats.  First class busses have video screens.  They were playing a very old black and white Mexican movie from about the era of Laurel and Hardy.  It was a slapstick comedy about an incompetent fire fighter.  I found it very amusing and almost missed my stop.  I sat next to a fellow who had lived in the United States for many years.  He had a child in the United States with a Puerto Rican woman who was afraid to come to Mexico.  He hadn’t seen his son for two years.  I hate hearing stories of families separated by the border.  Our crew member, Carlos, still has not succeeded in obtaining a passport.  We would really like him to come with us to Panama, but he may just end up going back to Cabo to work for a few months if he can’t get his passport difficulties resolved.  Apparently, getting out of Mexico can be almost as difficult for a Mexican as getting into the United States.

Cole Doing the Cruiser Carry
I intended Saturday to be another lazy pool day, but Cole and I schlepped the laundry into Colimilla and bought a case of beer.  I also attacked the stains on the deck and cabin top with the Mexican equivalent of Soft Scrub for an hour or so before I finally made it to the pool.  For 20 pesos, this cleaner is a real deal.  It removed all the black caulking that was smeared around the windows we had rebedded and took the stains out of the fiberglass.  It even removed rust from the stanchions, cleaned the aluminum toe rail and brightened the lifelines.  I’ll get this boat ship shape eventually.  I did get in a few hours at the pool, but hurried home to meet the laundry lady when she delivered the laundry and start cooking enchiladas.  I spent another hour scrubbing the exterior of the boat while Cole went for a run (There was a breeze and it was cooler than usual.) and then we all ate a nice dinner together.  Theoretically, the pump should be back on Sunday.

Restaurant in Melaque

I went for another long run through the golf course on Sunday morning and then scraped varnish off the boat that I had been unable to see until I scrubbed off the dirt covering it.  We spent kind of a lazy morning and then I set off to explore Melaque.  Scott gave me a ride across the estuary in the dinghy and then I took a seven peso bus ride over there, got off at the central plaza and then walked down to the beach.  I ate barbecued ribs at a restaurant on the beach and then walked up and down the streets of the central area, looking for a Banamex branch that was rumored to be there.  I never did find it, but I got a good sense of Melaque. 

Hurricane Damage in Melaque
There are no big, fancy hotels in Melaque, but there are lots of medium and low end beach hotels and RV parks.  It’s a mellow place with a nice beach and an anchorage at the far end of town.  Melaque suffered its share of damage from the hurricane that ravaged Barra.  If you like to anchor out and ride your dinghy in to drink in a palapa bar, this is the place for you.  Melaque is actually bigger than Barra de Navidad.  The two places would probably have merged by now if there were not a lake between them.  I walked all the way back to Barra along the beach.  It’s a steep beach with fairly big surf and I kept getting wet, which kept me from overheating.
Anchorage in Melaque


Scott had taken the dinghy over to Barra to get our 5 gallon water bottles filled.  The Sands Hotel lets cruisers tie up to their sea wall for free.  On his second trip over there, he hit a rock with the outboard and broke the shear pin.  By the time he got the oars arranged, he had drifted onto a shoal and he broke one of the oars trying to shove the dinghy off the sand.  He rowed back with one and a half oars and was very grumpy when I met up with him in the marina.  My only mishap was that the ATM in Barra couldn’t read my card.  I hope this in just because I don’t have an RF chip in my card because it would be a pain to have to replace it.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

LA CRUZ TO BARRA DE NAVIDAD

Highway through Bucerias
While I had been at the music festival in Bucerias, Scott had made an attempt to reassemble the generator, but had stuck his pocket knife through the metal fitting between the exhaust manifold and the exhaust elbow.  Monday, we went off on another quest to get that repaired.  We took the bus to Mezcales and picked up a few things at the bolt store.  Unfortunately, the plumbing store next door did not have the 1 ½ “ by 2” piece of threaded iron pipe we needed.  We then walked a couple of blocks to a machine shop.  They agreed to remove the rusty piece of pipe from the manifold end plate and exhaust elbow, clean everything up and rethread the manifold plate for 300 pesos.  They promised to have it ready by 6 pm.  We then took the bus back to Bucerias to visit Ferre D’ Todo, where we were able to obtain the necessary piece of iron pipe.

We got back to the boat just in time for Scott to meet up with Mike from PV Sailing, who was coming to measure our boat for the used 150% headsail that he is cutting to fit Fool’s Castle.  When that was completed, Scott braved the trip back to the machine shop by himself, while I took a nap.  I hope this means he is starting to feel a bit more comfortable here.  They hadn’t finished when he arrived (of course), so he had to wait.  He did return with the parts in hand, however, and the work was satisfactory.  We had tamales for dinner and then I spent the evening working on my blog.

Scott spent Tuesday cutting new gaskets for the generator and reassembling the exhaust system.  It was hot and his back was bothering him, so Scott wasn’t too excited about working down in the engine compartment.  I spent the late morning and early afternoon, scraping varnish drips, epoxy, caulking and heaven knows what else off the starboard side of the boat.  It wasn’t as ugly as the port side had been, but it was still a lot of work.  There was a local woman scraping varnish off the boat next door and she offered me tips on how to get stains out of fiberglass.  I might get to that task, eventually, but I still have plenty of gook to get off the deck first.

My Favorite Butcher in La Cruz
Corner Grocery in La Cruz
When it got too hot to work on the deck anymore, I decided to go into town to get something to cook for dinner.  The last time I went into town and stopped at the Gecko Rojo for a beer, all the butcher shops were closed by the time I got out of there.  I figured they had closed at 5:00.  I stopped into the Gecko Rojo to get a schedule for the music festival in La Cruz and someone bought me a beer.  About 4:00, I declined a second beer and said, “I’ve got to go to the butcher shop before they close this time.”  The owner, Gregg, said, “Too late.  They close at 4:00.”  Not wanting Scott to think I was just hanging around drinking beer and not accomplishing my mission, I decided to try anyway.  The woman from Kenny’s butcher shop was mopping the floor, but she was still willing to sell me a kilo of chicken breasts.  We chatted for a bit and she told me that the La Cruz marina had been very expensive when they first opened, but had learned that they made more money with lower rates.  All the shop keepers were very happy with a marina full of customers for their enterprises.  I continued on to the grocery shop to get eggs, oranges and tortillas and then made my way back to the boat.


After dinner, Scott wanted to go to the Gecko Rojo to see Wolverine Immortal, which was featured at their movie night.  Many of the businesses around here have movie nights, since almost no one has television.  Apparently, it is very easy to get pirated copies of films here, because we have seen some very recent films.  I also learned that the local movie theater sells two tickets and a big bucket of popcorn for 108 pesos (<$10.)  They even have movies in English.  It would be fun to go if we were going to be here longer.  We had a nice, relaxing evening watching the film and didn’t get back to the boat until about 10:00 pm.

When we got home, we found Cole, a young man we had talked to about a crew position, waiting for us on the dock.  He had come in on the bus from Guadalajara.  We were tired, but we chatted for a few minutes, installed him in the forepeak, and went to bed.

Wednesday morning, Cole and I went in search of provisions for our trip south (Such faith!) while Scott worked on the generator.  First, we walked into town and bought beer and fruit, thinking it would save us from lugging heavy stuff back from Nuevo Vallarta.  We ran into Fabiola from our favorite restaurant at the market.  Then, we took the bus to the supermarket.  We ended up buying a lot of heavy stuff anyway.  Fortunately, Cole is a crossfitter, too, so we sucked it up and lugged 100 pounds of groceries home on the bus and then across La Cruz to the marina, figuring it was our workout for the day.

Thrilloblues Playing in the Bushes at Frascati
Our social schedule for Wednesday evening was too busy for me to cook dinner.  First, we went to the Gecko Rojo for a few games of Mexican Train dominoes.  Then I went to hear Thrilloblues at Frascati while Scott went to eat at our friend Fabiola’s restaurant.  Frascati is an Italian restaurant that somehow manages to be elegant, despite the fact that it is an open air restaurant located under a roof supported by tree trunks lashed together with manila rope.  The chandeliers are made from bundles of red wine bottles with halogen bulbs suspended inside of them.  There is a large raised planter at the back of the restaurant and they had located the band up there.  They were pretty much hidden by the bushes, which made it hard to see the musicians, but the sound was OK.  I splurged and had calamari and shrimp and a glass of merlot.  They served amazing warm fresh bread with sesame seeds and garlic in olive oil and both habanero and chipotle dips for the seafood.  They weren’t exactly Italian, but they were tasty. 

After the Thrilloblues set, I scurried over to Philo’s to meet Scott and listen to Luna Rumba.  Luna Rumba is the band formed by Geo and Cheko who had played at the benefit last week.  They play flamenco fusion and they are truly amazing.  If you like the Gypsy Kings, you’ll enjoy Luna Rumba.  Cheko plays rhythm guitar and sings.  Geo plays both lead guitar and wild gypsy violin.  He gives me goosebumps.  You can check out their music at www.reverbnation.com/lunarumbaTheir songs are available for download at Amazon.  Scott was sitting at the bar with my friend, Ron, and Sonja, the woman who does our laundry.  Ron was conversing with her using google translator on his laptop.  I guess technology does sometimes help us make human connections.

I went for a five mile run on Thursday morning and then finished up cleaning the crud off the starboard side of the boat.  Scott sent me on a mission to Mezcales to pick up a selection of bolts from the bolt store and I wanted to buy some acetone to clean the grime off our emergency fender that was leaving marks all over my now clean deck.  I took the bus to Mezcales and went to the bolt shop and then stopped into the hardware store to look for acetone.  They didn’t have it and suggested that I got to the pharmacy to get nail polish remover.  I then went to the paint store.  They didn’t have it, either, but told me where there was a Dupont outlet.  I crossed the highway on the pedestrian bridge and set off toward the Dupont store, but I ran across an auto paint store on the way and figured they had to have acetone.  They did, indeed, and were willing to put a liter in a bottle for me.

I hopped back on the bus and went out to my bank in Nuevo Vallarta to get money to pay for the headsail that PV Sailing is making for us.  I then took the bus to the Mega just outside Bucerias.  I had been passing the Mega for weeks and decided to check it out.  I had heard varying opinions as to who owns Mega, but it appears from the brands offered to be owned by Costco, although they sell in normal quantities.  It’s a nice store.  I managed to get more lemon lime Gatorade powder and a big bag of almonds.
I had seen a music store on the far edge of Bucerias and foolishly thought I could easily walk there from the Mega.  I managed to walk there, but it was probably two miles along the highway, sometimes on the highway.  I was looking for a ukulele or small guitar, but didn’t find anything cheap enough to tempt me.  From Bucerias, I took a bus back to La Cruz.

Tatewari at Masala
The music festival was in full swing, so we went out to listen to Tatewari and then stopped briefly at Philo’s to hear Philo’s band.  Tatewari was playing at Masala, which despite the Indian name is an elegant Italian restaurant.  They must have been trying to tone themselves down for the small venue, because they sounded more like a jazz lounge band than their usual energetic flamenco selves.  They did finish with a humorous medley of classic Mexican songs.  Philo’s band was murdering some of my favorite Emmylou Harris songs and we didn’t stay long.

Interior of Profligate
Richard at the Helm of Profligate
The Crazy Crew of Capricorn Cat
All the way through the HaHa, Michelle really wanted to get aboard the flagship, Profligate, a 60’ catamaran.  Friday morning, the owner Richard, was giving rides from La Cruz to the Vallarta Yacht Club in Paradise Village, so I hopped aboard.  I needed to go to Nueva Vallarta in search of 8D batteries, anyway, which was my excuse for goofing off and going for a boat ride.  We had a lovely ride over and a nice breakfast at the Vallarta Yacht Club while we listened to their spiel about the club.  We then had a free hour in Paradise Village, so I went to the Vallarta Chandlery and inquired about batteries.  We could get them delivered on Monday for slightly less than it would cost to take a taxi to Auto Zone and get them ourselves on Saturday.
Vallarta Yacht Club

While I was out gadding about the bay, Scott and Cole put the generator back together.  I went to play a game of volleyball in the pool with Richard from Latitude 38 and some of the other folks who had been on the boat earlier.  While I was gone, they got the generator started and Scott summoned me out of the pool to tell me the good news.  I came back on worked a while on cleaning the emergency fender and Scott eventually got the generator running and even producing electricity.  Success!  Ice maker!  Now we just need batteries and we can leave.

 Saturday, we got up in the morning and Scott and Cole heaved the 140 pound batteries out of the boat and into dock carts.  We called Ezequiel, our friendly taxi driver from the time we took the generator head to El Pittilal, and he arrived almost immediately.  We loaded the batteries into his trunk and headed off to Auto Zone.  First, we had to go to the bank.  The ATMs were functioning erratically and there was a long line.  The mall wasn’t swarming like it would have been in the US 10 days before Christmas, but there may have been more customers than usual, adding to the backup at the bank.  We waited in line for at least a half an hour before Scott was able to validate his new credit card.  We then crossed the parking lot to Auto Zone and purchased a couple of new 8D batteries and some oil filters for the generator.

Cole at the Helm
Back at the boat, Cole and I made our crossfit instructors proud by heaving the 140 pound batteries back up onto the boat.  He and Scott then jockeyed them back into place and Scott reconnected them.  I had intended for us to leave around 10 PM so as to miss the winds around Cabo Corrientes, but Scott didn’t want to pay for another night in the marina and preferred to leave right away, instead of anchoring for a few hours.  This wreaked havoc with my plans to barbeque chicken for dinner, but I threw it in the oven, instead, and we pulled out of La Cruz about 5:00.

We headed south across Banderas Bay and made for a point a few miles off Cabo Corrientes.  Instead of arriving there at two in the morning when the winds had died down, we arrived around 9:00 at night when they were at their strongest.  I’m sure it wasn’t blowing more than 20 knots, but the seas were large and we were rocking and rolling.  For my 8:00 to midnight watch, I had to stand with one foot braced against each side of the cockpit to keep from falling over, which is kind of a stretch for me.  Since there are only three of us and Cole is new to sailing, Scott and I are doing four hours on and four hours off.  Cole is sharing two hours of each of our watches, but we are each alone at the helm for two hours.  This was the first time I had been alone at the helm on this trip.  It was strenuous and I wasn’t really able to sleep after I was relieved because it was so rough.  I do like being alone at the helm at night, though.  Next time I do a night watch, I will remember to bring my iPod, though.  I could have used tunes.

Islands in Bahia Chamela
The winds started to calm down about 2 AM and conditions were actually pretty pleasant by the time I came back on deck at 4:00 AM.  It was actually fairly cool out there.  I was wearing the long sleeved t-shirt I was given by the tourism board in La Cruz (and was certain I would never wear) and a pair of capris, the most clothing I had worn since Bahia Santa Maria.  Sunrise was fairly unspectacular after the consistently gorgeous sunrises in La Cruz.  It was, however, nice to be able to see where we were going.  We coasted southeast a few miles offshore, past Roca Negra, and into Bahia Chamela where we anchored close to shore on the NW end of the bay just after noon.

My intention was to fire up the watermaker and fill our tank there in Chamela, but I first had to clean the system, since we hadn’t used it in a couple of weeks.  To clean the watermaker, I have to cycle a cleaning solution through it for a few hours.  I started that process and then we ate roast beef quesadillas and went for a swim.  I dove down and tried, unsuccessfully, to clean the paddlewheel on the knot meter.  Well, I was successful in cleaning it, but not successful in making the knot meter work.  Since we can’t lower the swim ladder without first lowering the dinghy, Cole and Scott had to haul me back up onto the boat, since we have a lot of freeboard.  That was embarrassing.  I finished cleaning the watermaker, but the pump was leaking air into the system, so we weren’t getting any water out of it, just air bubbles.  That threw a wrench into my plans to visit other anchorages on the way to Manzanillo because we were almost out of fresh water.

Chamela
We did have enough water left to make spaghetti and have a nice dinner in the cockpit with a bottle of good red wine.  It was nice and cool out there.  We had been somewhat concerned about forecasted southerlies making the anchorage rolly, but we passed a very calm night.  There isn’t much in Chamela and everything closed up tighter than a drum at sunset.  There were no loud bar bands keeping us awake and we all slept like babies.


Los Frailes
Monday morning, we got up with the sun and resumed our journey at 10:00 AM.  We headed south out of Bahia Chamela and then turned southeast around Punta Etiopia and followed the coast down, past Los Frailes, to Punta Hermanas and then across Bahia Tentacatita (Alas, our water situation caused us to miss that anchorage.), Around Cabeza de Navidad and into Bahia de Navidad and finally up the estuary to the Marina at Barra de Navidad.  The marina is associated with the Wyndham Gran Bay Hotel and it is very posh.  I feel like I am in Italy, rather than Mexico, until I try to take a shower and there isn’t any hot water.   Because we participated in the Ha-Ha, we get an incredible rate of 60 cents per foot.  The usual rate is $2.73 per foot.  For our $25/night, we get access to the hotel internet, pool, lobby and beach.  The grounds are gorgeous and it is a real steal.  The only problem is that we are on the opposite side of the estuary from the town of Barra de Navidad, so we have to take a water taxi across.  The taxis do operate 24/7.  Cole managed to go out to meet a friend for the evening and get back to the boat without incident.


Marina and Hotel in Barra de Navidad
Tuesday morning, the radio woke me up at 6:10, so I got up and went for a run.  I ran around the hotel property, which encompasses the entire point between the estuary and the bay.  There is a Pemex station and an attached fuel dock on one side of the marina and some empty buildings that once housed a yacht club and restaurants on the other side.  After running all around the marina, I headed up the hill (the first hill I had run up since leaving Benicia) and then down into the town of Colmilla.  It’s a tiny town, but there are a few restaurants, a laundry, and a grocery store where I can recharge my Mexican phone minutes.  On my way back up the hill, I encountered two friendly teenage dogs that wanted to chase me, so I had to slow down and walk until they finally lost interest.

Monday, December 9, 2013

ANOTHER WEEK IN LA CRUZ

Leon Wearing a Shirt with His Image
We returned to La Cruz around noon on Monday.  I spent the afternoon cleaning and oiling the teak on the aft deck.  Tuesday, Scott took the generator apart and came to the conclusion that the rings weren’t bad, but it needed a valve job.  I spent the day cleaning and oiling the teak in the cockpit and on the cabin top.

Funy Bones Benefit at YaYa's Cafe
Suave
Tuesday night, there was a benefit at YaYa’s CafĂ© to raise money to bring a free spay and neuter clininc to La Cruz for long enough to sterilize 200 dogs and cats.  It seemed every gringo in La Cruz was there.  It was a big party.  There were pozole and several kinds of tacos to eat.  A number of very talented musical acts played Spanish guitar.  My favorite was Geo and Cheko, a white guy who played both guitar and wild violin and a local guy from the band Luna Rumba.  They had met at a guitar festival in Zihuatanejo.   There were silent and live auctions and some fairly lame comedy.  They roasted one of the old time gringo residents.  Lots of alcohol was consumed. They raised enough money to pay for the free spay and neuter clinic for an extra week.  Homeless dogs are a problem in La Cruz and some Canadian women have started a dog rescue organization and were behind this benefit.  They are starting an educational campaign to convince the local men that neutering their dogs won’t make them sissy.  We have a dog named Suave on our dock who is very happy just being a dock dog.  She is a nice, attractive dog and a couple of people have tried to adopt her, but she always comes back to the marina.

We had run into Mike, from PV Sailing, at the party and he had given Scott a recommendation for a machine shop.  Scott went over there Wednesday morning to get directions and returned with the location marked on a map.  Since the head from the generator and exhaust manifold were heavy, we took a taxi to a suburb of Puerto Vallarta called El Pittilal, where we had been told we could find the Gonzalez Machine Shop.  The mark on the map showed the shop at the corner of Hidalgo and Independencia in El Pittilal, but when we arrived there (after struggling with one way streets for 10 minutes), it was nowhere to be found.  Our talkative taxi driver, Ezeqiel, asked someone who said there was a shop that repaired generators around the corner.  I was fairly sure it wasn’t the place, since we were looking for a machine shop, but we went in the hope that he would know of the Gonzalez Machine Shop (or Taller Gonzalez in this case.)

The generator guy was very friendly and got a good laugh out of our directions.  Taller Gonzalez had moved recently and I guess Mike hadn’t been there yet.  It wasn’t on the corner of Calle Hidalgo and Calle Independencia in El Pittilal.  It was on Calle Hidalgo in the colonia of Indendencia.  We were in the wrong town.  Fortunately, Ezequiel lived in Colonia Independencia and knew the way.  We arrived without further incident.  They took a look at our ancient parts and said they could repair them.  They asked us to call the next day for a price.

Puerto Vallarta
We had been resisting getting a Mexican phone, but I finally decided to cave in and get one.  We took the bus to Puerto Vallarta and went to the Telcel store in the Galleria Vallarta.  For 299 pesos (about $23) I got a cheap cell phone with 100 minutes.  We ate some lunch and did some more shopping in Puerto Vallarta and then took another bus back to La Cruz.  It was pretty late by the time we got home and later still by the time we finished barbecuing some steak strips, which we ate with salad and freshly cooked tortillas.

My big mission for Thursday was to call the machine shop and get the scoop on our generator.  Making phone calls in foreign languages is always stressful for me, but it went OK.  Their price for performing a valve job, cleaning everything, welding our decaying exhaust manifold and delivering it to us was 3500 pesos (<$300.)  Our machine shop in the U.S. would have laughed at us and told us to buy a new generator.  The valve job on my engine at home cost $1000.  It is refreshing to be in a place where people fix things instead of throwing them away.  They are very good at it.

I had cleaned the teak on the foredeck on Wednesday and oiled about half of it on Thursday before I had to go out to get pesos for the machine shop.   We walked out to the ATM at the OXXO on the edge of town and then made our way back from hardware store to hardware store, looking for a fitting to attach a garden hose to a kitchen sink, which would enable us to run water out of the forward tank fed by the water maker and into the aft tank.  So far, we have not found one, but I am getting good at describing plumbing fittings in Spanish.

The Gecko Rojo
I got up early on Friday and ran twice around the marina, which is about four miles.  We waited around Friday morning for the generator head to be delivered.  I finished oiling the foredeck.  They didn’t show up in the morning, as promised, but they did arrive about 2:30 and they had done a great job and even brought us some gasket material so that we could cut new gaskets for the ones that were too far gone to reuse.  Scott and I had intended to go to the Gecko Rojo for the Mexican train happy hour, but I went to Nuevo Vallarta to go to the bank and didn’t get back in time.  I did meet Scott at the Gecko Rojo, but he was jawing with the guys at the bar instead of playing.  I had Kalua pork in the oven, so we went home for dinner right after happy hour.

Beach in Bucerias
Saturday, we went on a quest for new nuts and bolts to reassemble the generator.  First, we went to Ferre D’ Todo, the big hardware store in Bucerias.  They were very helpful, but didn’t have what we needed in the way of bolts or the elusive adaptor for our sink.  While we were in Bucerias, I decided it was time to check out the town, instead of simply passing through it on the highway.  It is not very attractive from the highway, but is actually quite a pleasant little town.  There is a plaza near the beach and lots of market stalls and restaurants.  The beach is quite nice and there are palapa bars on the sand and waterfront seafood restaurants.  There are a lot of Canadians living there, too.


The hardware store in Bucerias sent us to another store in Mezcales.  We got back on the bus and headed out that way, but we got off one signal too soon and, after searching in vain through hardware and plumbing stores, ended up walking a couple of miles to the correct place.  It was worth the trip, however.  We found the mother lode of bolts.  There is a store in Mezcales that sells nothing but “tornillos.”  They even speak passable English.  Scott was in heaven.  They had everything we needed for the generator at great prices.  I cannot recommend them highly enough if you find yourself in the Puerto Vallarta area and need any kind of special bolt.  They are two lights east of the Mega, on the frontage road.  There is a giant bolt out in front of the store and a sign that says, “Tornillos.”  There is also a pretty good plumbing store next door, but they didn’t have our adaptor, either.

Sunday Market in the Plaza
La Cruz Farmer's Market
I got up early Sunday morning and went to clubhouse to use the internet.  While there, I chatted with a fellow who told me that there was a market in the plaza, as well as the farmer’s market, on Sunday mornings.  He recommended the tamale vendor in the park.  I went over there and bought some tamales, as well as some almonds.  The almonds were still expensive, but they were nice ones and I felt better giving my money to a vendor than to Walmart.  Then I continued around the marina to the farmer’s market.  What a spectacle!  There wasn’t much produce, but there was every other type of gourmet food and an equal number of stalls offering trinkets and artwork.  The market covered the entire breakwater and wrapped around the malecon, past the fish market.  I bought radishes from one vendor, lettuce from another, and peppers and avocadoes from a gentleman who was so insistant that I buy tomatoes (I didn’t need them.) that he ended up giving me one.  I also bought Scott a loaf of French bread to assuage his disappointment at having missed the French baker in Punta de Mita.

There was a music festival in Bucerias on Sunday afternoon/evening and, since Scott was being a stick in the mud, I went by myself after I finished oiling the teak on the foredeck.  I took the bus over there and, even though I got there a little late, the festival didn’t start for another hour after I got there.  I took a walk around the town.  I had intended to take pictures, but my camera batteries died.  I found a nice spot in the shade and chatted with some Canadians until the music started.  The first band was Tatawari.  They played traditional flamenco.  I really enjoyed them and was disappointed that they only played a short set.  The local mariachis realized they were going to have a slow day, so even they stopped to listen. Tatawari was followed by a Bolivian group featuring a flute and then a Bossa Nova group.  I lost interest when an Argentinian fellow was playing tango on his guitar.  Tango just isn’t tango without dancing and the crowd started to disperse.  I got up and went for a walk through the market stalls.

I bought a shift dress from a fellow named Abel and then we chatted for a while.  He told me that he had worked in San Francisco during the early 80’s.  He was doing well, working as a prep cook in a waterfront restaurant.  He used to take leftover food to the newly arrived Mexican men who hung out at Aquatic Park.  Some of them, as he put it, were “bad people.”  They would sell the food and buy alcohol.  One night, as he was bringing them food, the police came and rounded them up for drinking in public.  Abel was deported along with them and lost all the clothing and gifts he had collected over two years that he had planned to take home.  When they deported him, they sent him across the border in Texas, to make it harder for him to come back.  He took the hint and stayed in Mexico.


When I got back to the plaza, there was a really good jazz combo playing.  I hooked up with Jan and Ramona, some fellow HaHaers that I met playing Mexican train.  We danced for a bit and then sat down when a group from Vera Cruz, featuring a harpist, took the stage.  An African drum and dance troupe from Bucerias followed and then two sisters and a brother from Denmark who played traditional music from the Vera Cruz area on a variety of small stringed instruments that looked like ukuleles, but weren’t.  They were very good, but it was strange to hear that music coming out of those tall, blonde kids.  By this time, it was past the hour when the festival was supposed to end, but I refused to leave until Luna Rumba played.  Luna Rumba is Cheko’s band and he had organized the festival.  I guess they were ready to go home, because they only played a couple of numbers, even though the crowd was chanting, “Otra, otra.”  (Encore.)  We were really ready to go, but couldn’t tear ourselves away from the next dance troupe that took the stage.  First, there were three incredibly fit young men with tribal designs painted on their torsos who performed all kinds of athletic acrobatics.  I never knew there were so many ways to do flips.  They performed all these moves over bare concrete, too.  Their female counterparts were dressed in elaborate, skimpy, feathered carnaval costumes.  They danced in high heels that I couldn’t have worn from the car into the house.  They didn’t do flips, but none of the men in the audience cared one bit.  We finally left after that act and took the bus back to La Cruz.  It is a much quicker trip at 10 pm than it is during the day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

LA CRUZ TO PUNTA DE MITA AND BACK

Life in La Cruz becomes routine after a while except for cruiser social events.  One works on the boat, shops for groceries, and tries to stay cool.  The temperature is only in the 80’s, but the humidity never dips below 90%.  It gets oppressive.  Our shade structure keeps the cockpit fairly cool, but it gets sweltering below decks.  There hasn’t been much of a breeze.  There are a lot of pelicans here in the marina and every time one of them dives in after a fish, it sounds like someone has done a cannonball off the dock.


Wednesday, Scott was notified that someone was using his credit card in Seattle, so he had to cancel it.  In order for him to get a new one, he had to send them a request in writing.  They would not accept an email, so we had to go in search of a fax.  The marina office no longer uses faxes, so we had to go to a stationery store in town.  Poor Scott had to make three calls to his bank at $1.00/minute before they gave him the right fax number, but sending the fax only cost 15 pesos.   Now, we will have to wait here for four U.S. business days before they send him a new one.  With the holiday, I figure we will be here at least another week.  Hopefully, that will give Carlos a chance to straighten out his passport issue and return to La Cruz.  Unfortunately, he has been delayed by problems on “Freya”, the boat he helped to deliver to Barra de Navidad.

Thursday night, we went to the Gecko Rojo for Thanksgiving dinner.  They served prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, baked potatoes, cauliflower, and apple pie a la mode.  We were the only Americans there.  The owners and the rest of the guests were all Canadian.  I guess all the Americans were eating turkey at Philo’s, but we had been there the night before and I wasn’t impressed.  Their shindig was a potluck and I wasn’t feeling moved to try to cook traditional Thanksgiving food with the materials on hand.

Solar Panel on the Cabin Top
We had intended to go to Punta de Mita early Saturday afternoon so that we could run the water maker in clean water and empty our holding tanks along the way.  There was a cruiser swap meet Saturday morning, however, and Scott wanted to go.  We ended up buying a couple of 200 watt solar panels and a wind scoop for ventilation.  While Scott went back to the boat to get money, I went in search of an ATM that dispenses pesos.   The one in the marina only dispenses dollars.  I had to walk a couple of miles to a convenience store on the outskirts of town to find one.  On the way back, I stopped and got chilaquiles to go for lunch.  As I was walking back, I had to cross a small creek.  A pickup came along and I stopped to let him go by so I wouldn’t get splashed.  He then stopped and motioned for me to get in.  I thought he was just going to carry me over the creek, but he ended up driving me all the way back to the boat.  With the exception of the grouch lady who sent our fax, people here are very nice.

Looking Towards the Tres Marietas
Scott wanted to buy some MC4 connectors for the panels before we left, so we set off on a mission.  First, we went to the marine electronics store, but the technician wasn’t in and the woman there didn’t know much.  She told us that people usually just hard wire them.  When Scott pressed her, she sent us to a solar store two towns over in Mezcales.  We took a collectivo over there, but they didn’t sell pieces, just solar systems.  He sent us further down the highway to another solar store in Las Juntas.  They didn’t sell parts, either, but the girl there called around and tried to find them for us.  She found a place that could order them on Monday and maybe have them by Tuesday, but that wasn’t helping Scott get those panels up and running immediately.  We then walked over to Home Depot, but they didn’t have anything, either.  I did get some foam squares to insulate the top of the refrigerator.  We then took a very crowded bus back to La Cruz, stowed all our loose gear and finally left the marina at 5:00.


Despite our intentions of arriving at Punta de Mita in daylight, we got there just at dusk.  It was hard to see the anchorage until we were right on top of it.  We are anchored in 30’ of water in front of some big hotels.  It is kind of rolly.  I wanted to make latkes for Chanukah, but I didn’t have a grater or matzo meal.  I shaved the potatoes with a peeler, mixed them with onions, eggs and spices and made some pretty fair latkes.  At least I had thought to buy sour cream and applesauce to eat with them.
Panga Harbor in Punta de Mita


Punta de Mita Sunrise
It was pretty hard to sleep our first night at anchor in Punta de Mita, but at least I was awake for a beautiful sunrise. 
We had heard there was a French baker that comes around in a boat to sell his wares.  Scott was really disappointed when he didn’t appear.  I was just glad not to be tempted, since I am still trying to avoid grain products.  It has been harder here in Mexico, but I have lost weight even with frequent cheating because it is just too hot to eat most of the time.  At home, I got a lot of my calories from nuts and they are expensive and hard to find here.  It seems all the nuts in Mexico come from California.  Enjoy, Californians!  You live in nut heaven.  I had lost five or ten pounds in the weeks before we left because we were out at the boat all day instead of grazing at home.  I have lost about that much more since we left.  I actually spent all day, yesterday, in a bikini.  While I still don’t have a perfect body, I’m no longer embarrassed to be seen in a swimsuit.  I can’t believe I’ve lost almost 90 pounds.

Air Scoop
I spent most of our day at Punta de Mita reading and dozing.  I rigged the air scoop we bought at the swap meet over the forward cabin and it actually felt cool in there.  The air scoop not only channels air in, it also keeps the sun out, which gives us a hatch cover to use elsewhere.  Scott spent the day rigging one of the solar panels we bought.  With just one solar panel working, we were able to go all day without running the engine and still keep the refrigerator, freezer and water maker running.  Two solar panels will be awesome!  We made a tank of water while we were there.  We hadn’t wanted to use the water maker while we were in the dirty water of the marina.

Sunset over Punta de Mita
Our second night at Punta de Mita was much smoother than the first one.  I made coq au vin and there was a gorgeous sunset.  We got a good night’s sleep and didn’t get up until 8:00.  The baker still didn’t show his face, but I made bacon and eggs and we finished a cantaloupe and drank cold (we were out of ice) coffee.  We pulled out of the anchorage at 10 am.


I tested my theory that, if I downsized the PVC frame, we could use the shade structure underway.  It worked OK, although with the sun low in the sky in the direction we were sailing, I had to hang the curtain in front of the wheel.  We could see through it OK, although it was hard to see the compass and get in and out of the companionway.  If we had been heading south instead of east, it would have been better.  We will try that on the way to Manzanillo.

We are back in the same slip in La Cruz.  Scott determined that the rings on the generator are not frozen, so he thinks that he can fix it.  We will spend a few days here for that purpose.  That will also give me a chance to get our clothes washed again and make another trip to the grocery store (NOT Walmart!) before we head south.  We hope to rendezvous with Carlos and leave here Thursday night so as to round Cabo Corrientes in the middle of the night when the wind is quietest.  That will also allow us to arrive at the next anchorage, Chamela, during the late afternoon.