Wednesday, November 26, 2014


November 17, 2014

Once again, I got up early to run.  This time, I ran nearly three miles before heading for the showers.  I stopped to check my email for responses regarding my apartment search, but hadn’t heard from anyone.  Just about the time I finished my morning coffee, my phone started to ring.  The owner of the apartment building got back to me.  He seemed to consider three and a half months long term enough and was eager to show me his available places.  We agreed to meet at 17:00.  

Don and I flipped the dinghy over and soaped it down in search of the leak in one of the pontoons.  We had assumed it would be the valve or one of the seams leaking, but they all seemed OK.  Finally, we soaped down the whole pontoon and, though I never did see any bubbles, I could hear the leak.  It turned out to be a tiny pinhole in the fabric.  We pulled out the patch kit and glued a patch over the hole.  Later, we visited the owners of Deborah Rae, who were getting ready to return to Southern California until January and wanted to give us some of the fish they had caught.  We received a nice filet of dorado and some wahoo steaks.

Back at the boat, I got a text from the owners of the other possible rental, wanting me to come over and see it ASAP.  The house was right in town, close to the bus stop.  When I rang the bell, I was surprised to learn that the owners were a couple I had met the previous year when they had been partners in the Gecko Rojo.  They had a big house with three upstairs rooms that they rented.  Their nightly rate was $40, but they agreed to a rate of 6000 pesos (about $462) a month for the 3.5 months of my stay.  The room was large and airy, had a private bath, and a small outdoor kitchen.  The rent included house privileges, utilities, and internet.  There was a large shady yard and a rooftop patio.  I liked them and liked the idea of living in a house where everyone I knew in La Cruz would be coming and going, but wanted to see the other apartments before making a commitment.  While Greg and Jen assured me that beds could be found if I had guests, I still liked the idea of having two bedrooms.

Exotic Point Condominiums
At 17:00, I picked Kathy up at the beach club and we climbed up the hill to look at the apartments.  The Exotic Point complex was at the top of a hill overlooking La Cruz.  Getting there involved climbing a few blocks up a steep cobblestoned street.  The owner’s son, with whom I had spoken, had told me that it was below the big white cross, but there were two big white crosses, so it took us a few minutes to determine where to go.  When we finally got there, we were greeted by the caretaker, Benito.  The first apartment that we looked at was at the bottom of a long flight of stairs and was so large that I mistook the kitchen and living area for a common area.  The ad in Craigslist had said the two bedrooms were something like 325 square feet, but they were closer to 325 square meters.  The first one we looked at was nice, but the second one he showed us was really spectacular.  It had two large bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and a huge kitchen/living area.  The living area had lovely murals and was completely fronted by opening plate glass windows that offered a view of the entire Banderas Bay.  A built in circular banquette faced the windows.  At 8000 pesos per month (less than $600) it was a steal.  We also looked at the studios and one bedrooms, which were nice and somewhat cheaper, but nowhere near the value of the two bedrooms.  I decided to take the second two bedroom apartment.

View from My Apartment
The owner didn’t require a deposit, but wanted me to pay 50% of the season’s rental as a deposit and the rest upon move in.  I didn’t have that much on me and explained that I could only get about 7000 pesos per day out of the ATM.  I gave him the 2600 pesos that I had and promised to hoard as much cash as I could over the few days before I could move in.  We agreed that I would move in on Thursday.

Kathy and I were in a celebratory mood as we walked down the hill.  The owner of La Glorieta de Enrique (a restaurant) had invited me inside every time I passed last year and commenced doing so, again, when I returned.  This time we decided to stop in for at least a drink.  Enrique tempted us with the idea of coconut shrimp with mango salsa and we ordered what we thought would be an appetizer and turned out to be enough food to make dinner for both of us.  The prawns (too big to be called mere shrimp) were about five inches long and we got five of them.  They came served with rice, salad, and a baked potato.  I had a beer and Kathy ordered a margarita that, even with my assistance, she was unable to finish.  By the time we dragged ourselves back to the boat, cooking a full dinner was out of the question.  I made some guacamole and Don had chips and guac for dinner.  We all retired early.

November 18, 2014

Our mission for the day was to get a temporary import permit for Don’s boat.  We went into Puerto Vallarta to visit Banjercito, the naval bank that issues the permits and collects the fees.  Kathy decided to come along and visit her timeshare further down the coast to take care of some business there.  We took the bus into town.  Our stop came up rather unexpectedly, so we made a quick plan to meet at the entrance to Marina Vallarta at 17:00 unless Kathy texted us with a different plan and Don and I hopped off the bus.  We got off too soon, but didn’t walk nearly as far as Scott and I had, last year, before I realized we were in the wrong place.  We got on another bus and managed to disembark directly in front of our destination the second time.

Getting a temporary import permit (TIP) for your boat is the worst hassle about cruising in Mexico.  You are supposed to get it before you arrive and can supposedly do it online, but I don’t know anyone who has ever succeeded in doing so.  They keep changing the requirements and always seem to need some additional document.  The offices where they can be obtained are few and far between and there isn’t one in Cabo.  The previous year, Scott and I had obtained ours in Puerto Vallarta just the day before SAT (the Mexican IRS) agents stormed the marina and impounded all the boats without valid TIPs.

Banjercito in Puerto Vallarta

We arrived at Banjercito just after noon and soon learned that we would need a copy of the invoice for the dinghy or dinghy registration in order to get the TIP.  At first, we were stumped.  We had the packing list, but that was not acceptable.  Don’s new dinghy had never been registered in California, so we couldn’t go that route.  We had an order confirmation in an old email on Don’s tablet, but they wouldn’t take that, either.  They had to have an invoice, which Don had never received.  We retreated to the shopping mall across the street to get something to eat and think while enjoying the air conditioning.  While we ate tacos, I emailed Defender, where Don had purchased the dinghy, and they miraculously responded with a copy of the invoice before we finished lunch.  Fortunately, I knew where to find the internet café around the corner because we had had to go there to use the copy machine the previous year.  We printed out a copy of the invoice and headed back to Banjercito. 

It was about 14:00 when we got back.  The clerk was satisfied with our paperwork and set about entering all the information into her system.  The system kept crashing and it took her four or five tries to get to the stage of printing the actual TIP.  TIPs are holographic and printing them is a two-step process.  The clerk had no trouble with the first step which just involved feeding the form through a normal printer, but had terrible difficulty with the holographic printer.  She just couldn’t get it to work.  We waited for two hours while she called her IT department and grappled with the equipment.  The security guard locked the door and drew the curtains.  All of the other customers left and we were still there.  We were afraid we would have to come back another day, but about 16:15 she finally managed to get it to work.  We completed the process, Don paid the fee, and we just had enough time to take a bus down to Zaragoza Marine to do our shopping before meeting Kathy at 17:00.

Zaragoza Marina is a huge store and has a marvelous selection of boating parts and supplies, fishing gear, and water sport equipment.  Don needed some snaps to replace the cheesy ones we bought in Cabo that deformed when we installed them.  It took some digging on the part of the clerk, but he eventually found some nice stainless ones.  I picked up the gallon of teak oil that Scott had requested I buy for Fool’s Castle and some teak cleaner for good measure.  I had withdrawn 7,000 pesos from the ATM at Banjercito, but wanted to try to get some more.  While Don waited for Kathy, I tried a couple of different banks, but the network seemed to be down.  When I got back at 17:10, Kathy still hadn’t arrived.  The battery on my phone had died, so we didn’t know if Kathy had tried to text or not.  Someone had called me earlier in the day but, when I called the number, no one knew a Kathy Smith.  My voicemail was not set up, so I couldn’t access any messages she might have left.  We waited until 17:45 and then decided she must have gone home without us.  We took the bus back to La Cruz.

Kathy was not at the boat when we returned, but her phone was charging on the chart table.  I plugged in my phone and, after it charged for a few minutes, could see that someone had called again from the same number.  I compared the number to the listing of resorts and determined that the call had come from Kathy’s timeshare but, when I tried to call again, they still had no idea how to find her, since she wasn’t a guest there.  Apparently, there was a large 35th anniversary party going on.  Don and I hoped that Kathy had just decided to stay for the party and would try to call later.  We heated up some chili for dinner, since the fish I had planned to cook was frozen solid, and settled in for a quiet evening.  Kathy finally returned about 11:00, having stayed for the party and then taken the bus back.

November 19, 2014

Front View of Exotic Point Condos
I needed to get more cash, so I got up and set off to the Santander bank in Nuevo Vallarta.  Unfortunately, when I got there, I was still unable to withdraw money.  I had an appointment to meet with my new landlord at noon.  I had hoped to have more cash to give him, but went up there with the 7,000 pesos I had.  Jorge, the owner, was much more understanding than his son had led me to believe he would be.  

Figuring that maybe I could only withdraw cash once in a 24 hour period, I stopped in a little roadside restaurant for a bowl of meatball soup before walking up to the Oxxo (convenience store) on the edge of town to try the ATM there.  That ATM would only give me 2000 pesos at a time, so I didn’t want to waste what might be my only opportunity for such a small amount.  I got on a bus and went up to the Mega in Mezcales where there were a couple of banks.  None of them would give me money from my Bank of America account.  It dawned on me, while I was there, that I also had a Citibank account, but had left my Citibank ATM card at the boat with my US dollars and other stuff I never use in Mexico.  In desperation, I withdrew 7000 pesos using my credit card.  Then I hurried back to the boat to say goodbye to Kathy, who was flying out that afternoon.

It seemed like I barely had time to walk Kathy up to the bus stop and talk to my bank about unfreezing my ATM card before it was time to head up to the Gecko Rojo for Wednesday night Mexican train dominoes.  I knew about half of the players from last year, but things had gotten serious and they were now playing for money.  This left me in a pickle, since I had a severe shortage of cash.  After I lost the first round, Mike from PV Sailing had to lend me 10 pesos so I could stay in the game.  It was fun to see folks, but the game broke up early because Mike and Katrina had to get back to the marina for the pre-opening party at Frascati, an Italian restaurant that used to be on the circle at the entrance to town, but had just moved to the location upstairs at the marina.  I had some fish to cook at Don’s boat, so took the opportunity to duck out and return to the boat.  I made a salad and fried the last yam.  We barbecued the wahoo that our neighbors had given us.  We had thought about going out to hear some music after dinner, but neither of us was that motivated.  We stayed in and watched a bootleg copy of Interstellar that Don had picked up from the video vendor near the bus stop.  It was a terrible copy and it was often hard to tell what was going on.  It seemed like a good movie, despite being three hours long.  I barely managed to stay awake until the end.

November 20, 2014

Interior of My Apartment
With Kathy’s stuff out of the boat, it seemed very spacious in there.  I got up and started packing.  My next task was to return to the Santander bank to get more cash for my landlord.  This time, I remembered to take both ATM cards, so was able to get 14,000 pesos.  When I returned with the money, Don and I loaded all my belongings into a dock cart, wheeled them up to the parking lot and called a cab.  Don came along to help me move stuff.  After he left, I unpacked and put stuff away.  I walked down the hill to the local market and bought a few food items and some cleaning supplies.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning. The place looked tidy when I moved in, but was actually fairly dirty.  Soon it was time to return to the marina for movie night.

November 21, 2014

The sun really shone into my apartment in the morning.  The bedrooms were screened from all that brilliance, but it was rather shocking once I wandered out into the main living area.  I had volunteered to help John, a blind skipper, move his boat from Paradise Village to La Cruz and was due to meet by fellow volunteers at the marina at 9:30.  I walked down there and met the guys at the dock.  Then we walked up to the bus stop and took a bus to the Sam’s Club in Nuevo Vallarta where we were able to catch another bus to take us to Paradise Village.

John had a very nice Ericson 34 and it was a beautiful day, although there wasn’t enough wind to actually sail.  We motored across the bay to La Cruz and visited the fuel dock before delivering John to his slip.  It was amazing to see how well John was able to get around his boat and up and down docks without being able to see.  It scared the heck out of me when he hopped off the boat onto the dock when we arrived, but all went smoothly.  The whole process was completed before noon.  Since John’s slip was on the same dock as Comet, I stopped in to say hello to Don.  Then I decided to take advantage of my free afternoon to take another bus trip to the Mega for groceries and household items.

The Daunting Hill
I didn’t mean to purchase more than I could carry up the hill, but I started coming down with a cold while I was at the Mega and knew that I wouldn’t be up to carrying anything up the hill, anyway, so I bought most of what I needed and then took a cab back up the hill.  My place was nominally furnished, but lacked much in the way of dishes, cooking utensils or towels.  I bought some cheap items that I wouldn’t mind abandoning at the end of the season.  I was feeling pretty sick and had a terrible sore throat by the time I got home.  It was all I could do to put everything away.  I made a pot of hot Tang and retired to the couch.  I planned to sleep there all night, (The couch is much more comfortable than the bed.) but the neighbors were having a loud party that lasted literally all night and they finally drove me into the quieter bedroom about three in the morning.

November 22, 2014

Being sick and not having slept well the previous night, I slept late.  My throat was killing me.  Eventually, I got up and walked down the hill to the farmacia to get some aspirin and throat lozenges.  I picked up my laundry from Sonja on the way back.  Visiting with Sonja was always enjoyable.  She was usually eager to converse with me in Spanish and I got caught up on all the gossip from the marina.  Climbing back up the hill with my laundry took what little energy I had and I spent several hours napping and lounging on the couch.

I would have been content to stay right there on the couch, but there was a big party at PV Sailing at 16:00 and everybody was going to be there.  I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet people, so I hauled myself over there.  There were cheap beer and delicious fish tacos and a big crowd of sailors and marine purveyors.  I met a couple of my neighbors from Monte Calvario (the name of my street and the hill on which I live) and got filled in on the upcoming social calendar.  Don arrived fashionably late.  We stayed until the party started to wind down and then walked through the darkening town to the grocery store.  Don picked up a few groceries and I bought a broom and dustpan so that I could do battle with the alarming quantity of dead gnats accumulating on my apartment floor.  We parted there, agreeing to meet at the farmers’ market the following day.

November 23, 2014

Still not feeling too well, I slept and lounged in bed until 11:00.  I got up and decided to sweep the floor.  When I moved in, I was concerned about the lack of screens on the windows because I feared that mosquitoes would get in.  Mosquitoes weren’t a problem, but gnats were.  They weren’t bothersome while living, but died in droves, littering the white and light blue tiles and window ledges.  After two days, the place looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for a year.  I had to sweep the kitchen floor twice a day.  Three quarters of the way through the project, I realized that I had been supposed to meet Don at the farmers’ market.  I finished the floor, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out the door about 12:15.

My first stop was the smaller market in the plaza.  There had been a nut vendor there that I had frequented the previous year and I was happy to see him again because it is hard to find good almonds in Mexico.  I bought half a pound and he insisted on giving me a handful of candied pecans, which were delightful and way too tempting to ever buy any.  The woman selling tamales was there, too, and I bought several.  

The farmers’ market was still going when I got there, although not as busy as it had been the previous week when we got there earlier.  I bought a t-shirt for my friend, Cynthia, and strolled along, keeping an eye out for Don, until I came across a poster for my favorite band, Luna Rumba, at a stall selling coffee.  I had just started talking to the vendor, a gringo I recognized from last year, when Don came up behind me and startled me.  He distracted me, but not before I learned that Luna Rumba would be playing five concerts at Philo’s over the course of the season.  They must have been doing well because, instead of playing free shows every Wednesday night, they were now selling tickets for 100 pesos.  I was dismayed to discover that I would be in Chiapas during their first show and would have to wait until late January to see them (at least at Philo’s.)
Band Playing at the Farmers' Market

Don and I strolled out to the point and bought some cool juice.  There was a fun mambo band playing and we enjoyed the music, especially the horn section, in my case.  Don wanted to see the vendors in the park, so we stopped back by there on the way to Don’s boat.    I was starting to flag, but needed to pick up the jar of coffee I had left on the boat.  I collected the coffee and lounged in the cockpit until I collected enough energy to make it back up the hill.  Returning home, I camped on the couch and pretty much remained there until the following morning.

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