Wednesday, December 3, 2014


November 24, 2014

While still not feeling up to running, I felt a bit better on Monday morning.  I cooked breakfast, did a little housework, and posted to my blog.  Then I started researching my trip to Chiapas.  I had intended to take the bus, but there were no bus lines that went from Puerto Vallarta all the way to Chiapas.  I would have to change buses (and bus stations) in Mexico City or Puebla.  The trip would take nearly two days in each direction and would not be much cheaper than flying.  Eventually, I gave up and booked a flight, even though it meant that I would not be able to bring the $200 worth of teak oil and cleaner that I had purchased for Fool’s Castle.

Searching for a cheaper alternative, I had somehow (via Kayak, maybe?) ended up on the AeroMexico website, where flights (in pesos) were about $60 US cheaper than on US sites.  It seemed to accept my payment and I thought I had succeeded in booking a flight until I saw a notice that said I had made a reservation, but needed to call them before the flights could be ticketed.  Panic set in.  Speaking Spanish on the telephone was the least of my problems when trying to place calls in Mexico because dialing is fairly complex (different rules for land lines and cell phones and even differences between cell vendors) and I could never hear well enough to understand the messages when I inevitably made an error.  For this reason, I had never succeeded in even setting up the voice mail on my Mexican (or Panamanian) phones.  Of course the notice didn’t give me a number to call, but I eventually found the numbers for customer service on the website.  The first number I tried failed.  The second number looked like a US 800 number but, surprisingly, I got through.  I couldn’t navigate the menu on my first attempt (the mute button on my phone was on), but I eventually determined that was user error and spoke with the ticketing folks.  The problem seemed to be that I was trying to use a foreign credit card.  They eventually took the card, but not before changing the price to US dollars and the same amount as seen on all the US sites.  I wasn’t entirely surprised, as I had tried and failed to purchase plane tickets on French and Turkish sites in the past.  At least I hadn’t lost my reservation because there were only a few seats left.  By the time I got my travel plans squared away, it was 15:30.

My New Blender
My original mission for the day had been to go to Walmart to buy a coffee cone, cheap blender and some speakers for my iPod.  Even though it was getting rather late, I headed down the hill and caught a bus to Walmart.  I debated whether or not to buy a blender that I would, no doubt, end up leaving behind, but decided that three months’ worth of smoothies, margaritas and daiquiris would be worth the price.  I found a cheap Osterizer that looked like it would chop ice for 299 pesos (about $22.)  I also found a fairly nifty set of computer speakers (with sub-woofer) for 349 pesos (about $25) that would not only let me listen to my iPod, but would also make it possible to watch Netflix on my computer without straining to hear.  Those would not be a waste as they would eventually make their way to Fool’s Castle, where Scott and I had been watching movies by sharing one set of earbuds.

Makeshift Coffee Maker
                            I had already looked for a coffee cone at the market and plastic vendor in La Cruz and at the Mega in Mezcales.  While the Walmart carried the filters for a #2 coffee cone, they did not carry the actual cones.  It had never occurred to me that a furnished apartment would have no means for making coffee or that I wouldn’t be able to buy a cone if I needed one.  I scoured the store for a substitute that wouldn’t melt when I poured boiling water on it (like the soda bottle I had tried to use.)  Eventually, I settled on a sieve that would, at least, be useful to strain seeds out of lime juice.

Taking a collective with four shopping bags and a 6 liter bottle of water could have been challenging, but I lucked out and the first one to come along headed in the direction of La Cruz was extra spacious and had a seat open on the aisle in the front where there was plenty of room for my treasures.  I made it back without incident and was happy to discover that I was sufficiently recovered to be able to lug everything up the hill without gasping for breath.  I put everything away, fried up some spicy marinated chicken wings (Man, do I miss those when I’m not in Mexico!), and settled down to watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead, my latest Netflix addiction.

November 25, 2014

The cruisers’ radio net began at 8:30 and I always tried to be up in time for that.  Usually, I was dressed by then, but sometimes drank coffee in my nightgown while I listened.  My position on the hill gave me good reception on my VHF radio, even though I only had a handheld.  It was easy to while away the mornings, reading my email, working on my blog, keeping up with my friends on Facebook, and playing games.  Other than to run, I seldom left the house before early afternoon.  Sweeping up the daily harvest of dead gnats was another occupation.  My new blender and the frozen strawberries I had purchased the day before made it possible to resume my habit of drinking smoothies for breakfast.

My Dog Friend
Before I left Benicia, I had located a CrossFit gym in Bucerias and really looked forward to working out there.  By the time I arrived in La Cruz, however, the website had been suspended.  I had a bad feeling that the gym no longer existed, but decided it was worth going over there to check it out.  About 14:30, I left the apartment and strolled down the hill.  There was a playful young dog that lived on the street leading to my apartment.  His owners tried to keep him tied to the tree outside their front door, but he often chewed through his rope and came running to greet me and chew on my fingers.  He was adorable and clearly desperate for attention, tugging at my clothes if I ignored him.  He clearly desired a more present companion and it broke my heart to leave him sitting forlornly by the side of the road.  At least he was clean and seemed well fed.  I always stopped and gave him a scratch on my way past.

Abandoned CrossFit Gym
There was a collectivo waiting when I got to the bus stop and I took it to downtown Bucerias.  Giving the aggressive vendors in the Bucerias Flea Market a wide berth, I sought out the address where the CrossFit gym had been.  There seemed to be two separate numbering systems operating on Avenida Lazaro Cardenas, but I eventually found the spot where a CrossFit banner hung from one corner and weeds filled the yard.  Clearly, the gym had not succeeded.  I was disappointed, but not surprised.

Feeling like I needed to get some real exercise after my days of illness induced idleness, I decided to see if I could walk back to La Cruz along the beach.  While it was a much longer drive by the road, it looked to be less than four miles via the shore.  My only concern was that I was looking straight into the sun and couldn’t tell if the sand stretched all the way around to the marina.  I kicked off my flip flops and set off across the sand, figuring that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would have to return to the highway and take the bus back.
The Beach in Bucerias

Rocks at Pelican Point
The beach in Bucerias was wide and sandy and lined with expensive condominiums and beachfront bars and restaurants.  A cold front was passing through, so the weather was perfect for walking.  After the first couple of miles, the condos gave way to private homes and the beach became more secluded.

Between Bucerias and La Cruz, Pelican Point juts out into the bay.  A fancy condo complex covered the side facing Bucerias.  There was a nice beach fronting the condos, but the going got rocky as I started around the point.  The rocks extended far out into the bay, but the tide was low, so I had no trouble pressing on.  On the La Cruz side of the point, there were a number of nice resorts occupying sandy coves.  They didn’t look like they wanted strangers on their beaches, but there was no one around, so I walked purposefully on towards the marina.  Pelican Point was clearly named for the many pelicans that hung out there, fishing among the rocks.  Several kinds of egrets and herons fished there, also.  It was a great place to watch birds and I paused to take a few photographs.  Eventually, I cleared the resorts and relaxed as I reached the familiar public beach next to the marina where fishermen were launching pangas using a pickup truck.  I climbed onto the breakwater and circled the marina to drop in on Don and see if I could induce him to go out for tacos.

Heron Eating a Crab
Spectacular Sunset
When I reached Comet, I found Don scrap-ing the patch that we had so care-fully applied off of the dinghy.  It had held for a couple of days and then begun to leak.  I couldn’t believe that a four inch diameter patch couldn’t contain a pinhole leak, but it appeared that, not having a brush, we had applied too much glue and the air was able to escape from between the lumps.  Don cleaned all the rubber cement off the dinghy and I helped him apply three new layers, this time using a brush.  The glue went on much more smoothly, so we hoped our second patch would hold.  Don clamped it between two steel chain plates, just to be sure that it adhered properly.  We were hoping to go sailing to Punta Mita and Yelapa over Thanksgiving and wanted to be sure the dinghy would be operable.  The sun set while we worked on the dinghy and the colors were stunning.  Once we finished working on the dinghy, Don and I walked up to town and at tacos at our favorite street taco cart before I headed up the hill to my apartment.

November 26, 2014

Wednesday was a relaxing day.  I spent the day puttering around the apartment and working on my blog.  Before I knew it, it was time to head down to the Gecko Rojo for Mexican Train dominoes.  We played a couple of games and I won 60 pesos in the second game.  After dominoes, I went with Dani (a local woman who was involved in local animal charities) to catch some homeless puppies in an empty lot in La Cruz.  She had a home for one of them and wanted to take the others somewhere they could be cared for until they were adopted.  It was dark when we got there.  The puppy that had been spoken for was wandering around by herself, so we grabbed that one.  When we approached the others, an adult dog growled at us.  A female dog (not their absent mother) had adopted them and was nursing them.  We took the one puppy and decided to leave the others for the time being, since they were being well fed and had round little tummies.  I held the puppy while Dani drove us back to the bar.  She snuggled up to my chest and fell asleep.  She was precious.

November 27, 2014, Thanksgiving

Don and I had decided that we wanted to sail to Punta de Mita for Thanksgiving.  I packed enough things to go sailing for four or five days into Scott’s military duffle (with shoulder straps) and tossed what perishable food I figured wouldn’t last until my return into the ice chest Don had left at my place when I moved in.  I carried the whole load down the hill and met Don at the market in La Cruz where we picked up a few items to round out our provisions and then headed down to the boat.

The Anchorage at Punta de Mita
We left the marina just after noon.  It was only about eight miles to Punta Mita from La Cruz, but we sailed almost the whole way, so it took us nearly four hours of tacking back and forth to finally reach the anchorage.  It was a gorgeous mild day and we both felt extremely thankful to be where we were on that Thanksgiving Day.  We anchored close to the beach and then took the dinghy in behind a small breakwater where there was a sheltered spot to land.  The sand was very soft and the beach steep, so it was a chore to drag the dinghy up above the tide line, but we succeeded.  We stopped at El Coral for a celebratory margarita and then walked around the main drag of Punta de Mita.  Private homes and golf courses occupy the actual point.  Hotels and restaurants line the beach as far as the stream.  Further east, on the other side of the stream, there were more homes and condos. 
Margarita's on the Right

After checking out our options, we opted to eat at Margarita’s, on the far eastern side of the beach.  They were serving a turkey buffet, but we decided that it would be safer to order Mexican food if we wanted a delicious meal.  We started with a shrimp cocktail.  I ordered beef fajitas and Don got a chile relleno.  The waiter brought us some complimentary ceviche.  Everything was very good.  We ate in the restaurant where there was enough light to see our food, but there were candlelit tables set up out on the jetty with twinkling rope lights outlining the seating area that made for nice ambiance. We ate a leisurely meal and quaffed a couple of more margaritas in honor of the holiday.  I missed spending the holiday with friends and family, but could hardly complain about where I was.  We really did have a perfect evening.

November 28, 2014

Frigate Birds Chasing a Panga at Punta de Mita
After a number of margaritas the night before, we got a slow start.  We wanted to swim, but it was cool in the morning.  By the time we waited for it to warm up and finally swam and showered with water heated in the sun, it was 13:30.  We wanted to check out the Tres Marietas, a series of islands at the entrance to Banderas Bay.  There wasn’t much wind, so we motored out there.  By the time we made our way around to the far side where the preferred anchorage was, it was just after 15:00.  The tour boats were casting off their moorings and heading back to shore.  We could have grabbed a mooring and gone snorkeling, but we wanted to make it to Yelapa before dark.  We decided to leave exploring the Tres Marietas for another day when we could get an early start.

There still wasn’t any wind, so we motored the rest of the way to Yelapa.  We saw a pair of whales frolicking in the bay.  When we got close, a fellow in a panga zipped out to offer us a mooring.  The water in Yelapa was very deep, so it was difficult to anchor there.  We rented a mooring for 100 pesos.  It was 140 feet deep where we were moored.  A baby humpback whale flipped his tail at us a few times.  We never spotted his mother, which suited us just fine.  Yelapa was very green and tropical looking, with lots of palm trees sticking up out of the jungle.  Our first night there, we didn’t leave the boat.  We sipped cocktails and admired the scenery while I prepared pasta with sauce I had made previously and a big salad.  A chill breeze blew out of the mountains as soon as the sun set.  Even inside the boat, I needed my fleece jacket, which I hadn’t worn since Bahia Santa Maria.  Having left my warm sleeping bag back in the apartment, I slept in my fleece and woke up cold several times during the night.  It was definitely cooler than it had been the previous year when I spent my time in La Cruz madly constructing a shade structure to keep us from baking in the heat.  Without so much as a boom tent, the temperature aboard Comet stayed quite pleasant.
The Beach at Yelapa

November 29, 2014
Comet at Yelapa
We dawdled over coffee and breakfast, waiting for it to warm up enough for a swim.  The sun was warm and we eventually enjoyed swimming in the coolish deep water.  Patches of water were quite warm and other patches were decidedly chill.  We figured this phenomenon was the result of the cool river water mixing with the warm bay water.  After swimming and showering, we hopped in the dinghy and made our way to the shore and Domingo’s Restaurant who owned our mooring and promised to watch our dinghy while we explored Yelapa.  Our first stop was lunch or, in my case, breakfast.  I ordered huevos rancheros. 

The Main Street of Yelapa
Don at the Waterfall
After eating, we waded across the thigh deep and swiftly moving river and climbed up a flight of stairs to the wide path that served as the main street of Yelapa.  Yelapa was not served by a proper road and the only vehicles in evidence were ATVs.  Supplies and tourists arrived by boat.  We walked along the side of the hill to the center of town where another path followed a small stream uphill to a waterfall.  A few other tourists were drinking and eating at the restaurant at the base of the falls and some local youths were climbing the rocks and jumping into the pool at the base of the falls.  We weren’t tempted to swim in the chilly water when the water all around our boat was a much more pleasant temperature, but we did appreciate the scenery.  Yelapa is a well-known destination, but we were surprised to see that it was not terribly overbuilt or expensive.  A few tour boats disgorged passengers for long enough to walk through town and eat lunch, but the place was surprisingly sleepy.  We walked through town and picked up a few grocery items at the local tienda before heading back towards the boat.  On the way back, we decided to ford the river further upstream where the water was shallower.  The crossing was much easier, but we did have to pick our way through a terribly muddy stretch where the preferred path was actually across underwater sandbags, rather than through the calf deep mud where the water had receded.  We had to wash our feet and shoes before jumping in the dinghy to return to Comet.
The Ford at Yelapa

 Once again, I scrounged dinner and a salad in the boat.  It was just as cold as it had been the previous night.  Don broke out the pair of sleeping bags he had brought along for emergencies.  I slept cozily with a blanket pulled up to my chin for most of the night.

November 30, 2014

The Anchorage at Yelapa
Yelapa was beautiful, but there were other ports to explore in Banderas Bay.  After another slow moving morning and swim in the cool, clear Yelapa water, we set off for Los Arcos just after noon.  We followed the southern shore of Banderas Bay, past Mismaloya to the cluster of small islands known as Los Arcos because of the sea caves carved into their bases.  Once again, we arrived about 15:00 and had to choose between stopping to snorkel and arriving at our destination (Marina Vallarta) before dark.  We decided to leave swimming at Los Arcos for another day and headed downtown.
Entering Marina Vallarta

Empty Slips in Marina Vallarta
I had not been to Marina Vallarta for twenty years.  It was still a popular marina in 1994, but had fallen out of favor.  Having walked around the neighborhood when we came to get Don’s TIP, I knew it wasn’t because the neighborhood was bad.  We decided to check it out.  We couldn’t raise anyone on the radio, so motored down the channel and putted around the marina until we attracted the attention of security.  The guard said there was room for us, but told us we needed to go to the port captain’s office first.  We headed over there but, once we realized there was nowhere to tie up, I just called them on the radio, knowing we had already checked in at La Cruz.  Once I explained that we were merely coming from within the bay, the port captain gave us permission to continue to Marina Vallarta.  We couldn’t find the guard again, so pulled into an empty slip on the dock where he had directed us before sending us to the port captain.  Once we were tied up, both the guard and his supervisor arrived.  It was late on Sunday afternoon and the office was closed, but they looked at our check-in paperwork from La Cruz and other documents and decided we could stay.  It was immediately clear why cruisers eschew Marina Vallarta.  The docks were in very poor repair.  The gates did not lock and the trash containers were screwed shut.  There was no water or power on the dock and they wouldn’t give us a key to the restrooms.  Despite all these drawbacks, the nightly rate was about the same as in La Cruz.

Being self-sufficient, the lack of amenities didn’t disturb us overly much.  The security folks were very helpful and directed us to Victor’s restaurant where we had a tasty Mexican dinner and every beer and margarita came with a free shot of tequila.  After dinner, Victor stopped by our table and sent us complimentary Kahlua and creams.  We took a stroll along the malecon to counteract some of the alcohol and then slept well, happy to be out of the chilly Yelapa air.

December 1, 2014
Marina Vallarta in the Morning

Marina Vallarta was quiet in the morning.  We sipped our coffee and listened to the net.  Then we went to the office to pay for our slip.  While we were out, we went for a walk to Zaragoza Marine so that Don could get a new fitting for his outboard motor fuel line.  Many marine parts are quite expensive in Mexico, but that fitting cost about a third what it would have in the USA for the exact same thing.  We took a side trip up the road to an ATM and stopped at a drugstore on the way back for deodorant and popsicles.  By 11:30, we were underway again. 

Don had never been to Nuevo Vallarta, so we motored over there and took a cruise around the Nuevo Vallarta and Paradise Village marinas.  It was fun to see some of the boats we had been hearing on the net every morning.  It was a beautiful day, but there wasn’t enough wind to even bother raising the main sail.  An hour or so after leaving Nuevo Vallarta, we pulled back into Marina La Cruz, feeling satisfied that we had explored all the options and had selected by far the best location.  Upon our return, Don was disappointed that he was not assigned the same slip.  His new slip was on Dock 4, which was on the other side of the marina and a long walk from the office and restrooms, although much closer to town.  His disappointment soon turned to happiness, however, when he discovered that he had a strong Wi-Fi signal from his new location and could finally connect his computer to the internet.

My Building
I left the boat in the early afternoon and lugged my belongings back up the hill in the heat of the day.  I was happy to see my shower and glad to discover that, even though I had left the windows closed, the apartment was not too hot.  Best of all, the floor was not littered with gnat corpses.  After cleaning up, I spent the evening writing and catching up on email.

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