Saturday, January 31, 2015


January 21, 2015

I finally managed to get up early enough to run on Wednesday.  My friend, Cara, was due to arrive at 16:10 and I had promised to go to the airport to meet her.  After performing my usual morning routine, I hopped on a bus and headed off to the Walmart shopping center in Nuevo Vallarta to buy a battery for my Fitbit and some new headphones for my iPod.  Half way down the stairs (There were 134 stairs from the street up to my apartment.) it occurred to me that I should have verified that the flight was on time, but I was too lazy to walk back up to where I had Wi-Fi.

I found what I needed quickly, so had time to enjoy a cup of gelato and relax in the air conditioning for half an hour before dashing across the highway to catch another bus to the airport.  I wasn’t quite sure how the buses worked at the airport, but the bus stop was actually quite close to international arrivals.  I had only to walk around the end of the terminal and through the first set of doors.  Many people were standing outside of customs, waiting to collect friends and relatives.  Three planes had arrived nearly simultaneously and there was a steady stream of passengers debouching from customs.  I waited until the crowd thinned out and still saw no sign of Cara.  Finally, I pulled out my rudimentary Mexican cell phone and texted her to ask where she was.  She answered, “In bed in San Francisco.”  She had come down with a bad case of the flu the previous night and been unable to travel.  She had sent me a message, but I had neglected to read my emails.  By this time, it was nearly 17:00 and I had two 19:00 dinner reservations at Philo’s for a Luna Rumba concert.  I walked back around the airport terminal, crossed the foot bridge, and caught a bus back to La Cruz.  When I had arrived from Chiapas, it cost me 500 pesos for a taxi home.  The bus cost 17 pesos. 

It was 17:30 when I got back to La Cruz, so I had to move fast if I was going to unload my extra Luna Rumba ticket before the show at 20:00.  My first thought was to call Brad on White Wind to see if he wanted to go.  I hailed him, but got no answer.  I decided to take my radio and drop by the Gecko Rojo to see if anyone there wanted to go.  I arrived in the middle of the Wednesday night Mexican Train domino game.  I played for a while.  When I determined that no one there wanted to go, I tried hailing the fleet to see if anyone wanted a ticket because the show was sold out.  Still, I got no answer.  I had a 19:00 dinner reservation, so I left the Gecko Rojo at 18:45 when the domino game ended and started walking towards Philo’s.  I decided to take one last chance and hailed Brad again.  This time he answered and he somehow managed to make it with only 15 minutes’ notice.
Luna Rumba Playing at Philo's

I had reserved seats with a really great view of the band.  We shared a goat cheese, sun dried tomato and pineapple pizza that was actually pretty tasty.  The crust was thin and there was not a lot of cheese, so it didn’t leave me feeling stuffed.  Luna Rumba was amazing, as usual, and they played some new material.  Our only complaint was that they had a woman dancing to the music and she made it hard to see the band, while adding nothing to the show.  We figured she must be someone’s girlfriend.  All too soon, the show was over.  When I didn’t like the music at Philo’s, I had to listen to it until midnight.  The Luna Rumba show was over by ten.  We had really enjoyed celebrating Cara’s birthday.

January 22, 2015

I slept soundly after drinking a couple of margaritas at the Luna Rumba show, so moved slowly Thursday morning.  I did, however, finally meet my goal of doing 100 sit-ups and 100 squats and even threw in 22 push-ups. 

Cara’s illness caused me to rearrange my week.  I managed to reschedule our whale watching/ snorkeling/booze cruise on the Chica Locca during my cousin Tiffany’s visit.  Tiffany was already on the mend from the flu, so I hoped she would actually manage to arrive.  Brad had procrastinated leaving La Cruz for Barra de Navidad because he really didn’t relish sailing down there by himself.  Since I suddenly had some free time, we agreed that I would help him sail down after the last race of the Vallarta Cup series on Saturday.

Sunset from the La Cruz Jetty
Thursday was a relaxing day.  I drew, studied and played the guitar.  When evening came, I walked down to the marina to watch The Expendables 3 in the amphitheater.  I went down a little bit early so that I could enjoy the sunset from the jetty.  As wonderful as the view from my apartment was, I could not see far enough around the corner to see much of the sunset.  The clouds had been spectacular all day, so the sunset did not disappoint.  It was another beautiful evening for an outdoor movie.

January 23, 2015

I got up and went for a run and then made a second trip down the hill to meet Brad at the port captain’s office so that we could check out, since we had learned the previous week that the office closed at 14:30 and wasn’t open on the weekends.  (I heard a rumor that they were actually there 24/7 and would open up if you called them on the radio and needed to check out, but we didn’t want to test that information.)  Once again, the weather didn’t look too good for the weekend, but we decided to check out, anyway, so that we would have options.

Carnival Rides in Bucerias
Bucerias was celebrating their patron saint’s day and I had planned to attend the festivities with Cara.  Since she hadn’t come, I decided to head over there and see what was going on.  I once again descended the stairs and took a bus over there about 14:00.  The entire downtown was filled with food stalls, carnival games, and rides.  Unfortunately, none of it was open during the day.    It was, however, market day, so the place was still busy.  I wasn’t really in the mood to shop, but I bought a vanilla popsicle and wandered around, taking photographs.  I didn’t stay very long, but at least managed to satisfy my curiosity.  It would have been fun to attend the blessing of the fishing fleet on Saturday, but it was occurring during our race.  I returned home and spent an hour playing the guitar and working on my blog until it was time to make a fourth trip down to the Poolside Deli for Mexican Train Happy Hour.  I was beginning to suspect that the chronic soreness in my rear end resulted from running up my steep hill and constantly climbing the 134 stairs.

All the usual suspects materialized for the domino game.  Once again, Oscar whipped up tasty margaritas.  Brad checked in with Mike, our local weather guru, to see about the weather for our trip south.  It looked like a southerly was blowing up, which would make it hard to sail south and leave most of the anchorages unprotected.  We decided to sail to Yelapa on Sunday, since Yelapa was a good anchorage in a southerly.  From there, we could duck around the corner as soon as the weather improved or make a run all the way to Tentacatita, the next sheltered spot.  After dominoes, we ate dinner at the new fish taco restaurant, the Ballena Blanca, right outside the marina entrance.  I had a delicious shrimp burrito.  I probably wouldn’t have ordered it had I known it would be full of cheese, but I did enjoy it.  I would have liked to stay to hear the band, but was starting to fade.  I dragged myself home to finish my blog post before heading off to go sailing.

January 24, 2015

Rust Stains from Leaky Water Heater
Due to a projected rainstorm, we elected not to leave La Cruz until Sunday morning.  This made it easy for me to go racing on Wings on Saturday.  I had intended to sleep in late, but when I got up to go to the bathroom at 6:30, I stepped into water.  My water heater had rusted through during the night and rusty water had dripped down the shelves under the water heater and onto the floor.  Fortunately, I didn’t have anything stored on those shelves that wasn’t wrapped in plastic because the rusty water stained everything it touched.  The pretty blue and white paint job of my bathroom was ruined.

Amazing Sunrise
                                                                              I couldn’t reach the water heater to shut off the water, so I mopped up the water and put a bowl under the drip.  When I looked out the window, there was a most spectacular sunrise.  It was so gorgeous that I was almost glad the water heater had prevented me from sleeping through it.  I got up and make coffee and breakfast.

  At 8:00, I started looking for Benito, the maintenance man, but I couldn’t find him.  Thinking it might be his day off, I texted George, the owner’s son, and let him know what was going on.  Benito finally arrived about 10:30, just shortly before I had to leave to go racing.  I left him to handle the situation and headed down to the boat.

Olas Lindas Out in Front
It was the last race of the Vallarta Cup Series and our last opportunity to prove ourselves against that collection of opponents.  We had plenty of wind and a good two lap, windward leeward, course with two spinnaker sets.  For once, everything went right and we managed to come in second, being beaten only by Olas Lindas, the fancy German raceboat.  They only beat us by seconds, so we felt proud and had a relaxing and cheerful sail back to La Cruz.

Carol and Our Skipper, Fred
I stopped by Brad’s boat to finalize our plans and chat for a few minutes before heading back to my apartment to see what was going on with the water heater.  As I was passing the Gecko Rojo on my way home, some friends of mine were out front, smoking, and insisted that I come in for one beer.  I did so but, since it wasn’t my first beer of the day, I needed to eat something.  I ordered some fairly tasty spring rolls and visited with folks until I finished my food and beer.  Then I stopped by the market for some bananas for the trip and headed home for the evening.

When I returned home, the water heater had been removed and was sitting in the parking lot in front of the building.  It had not yet been replaced.  This was not a major problem, since I had another one in the other bathroom, although it did make it difficult to wash dishes.  I just hoped it would be replaced by the time I got back from Barra de Navidad so that I wouldn’t have to share a bathroom with Tiffany when she arrived.

January 25, 2015

Home in Yelapa
Brad and I were in no hurry to depart, since we were only headed to Yelapa.  We had agreed that he would come up to my place at 9:15 to help me carry my gear and food down to the boat.  He had a little trouble finding the place, but still arrived by 9:30.  We checked the weather one last time, deemed it satisfactory, and tripped off down to the boat.

We had an uneventful sail across the bay to Yelapa.  We saw a few whales and a large school of fish leaping out of the water, possibly being chased by tuna.  We arrived at Yelapa by mid-afternoon and picked up a mooring.  Neither of us felt the need to go ashore.  We bobbed on the mooring and Brad barbecued some chicken adobado while I fried some plantains that we ate with bacon slaw I had brought with us.  We drank a couple of beers and enjoyed the scenery.  Unfortunately, it was quite rolly in there so, although we retired early, we didn’t pass a very restful night.  White Wind creaked loudly and continuously and the anchor banged against its roller, which was loud up in the forepeak where I was sleeping. 

January 26, 2015

Cabo Corrientes
Neither of us had a hard time getting up at 4:00, since we were already awake.  We were ready to slip our mooring at 4:30.  We motored out of Yelapa in the dark and headed up the coast towards Cabo Corrientes.  It was our goal to round the cape at dawn, when the wind and seas would be calmest.  The last time I had rounded the cape, we had done it at 21:00 when I could barely stand at the wheel because we were pitching so badly.  Our strategy worked beautifully and we were able to raise the sails once we got out of Yelapa’s bay and sail peacefully around the corner.  Once we turned the corner and headed downwind, the small jib was completely blocked by the main, so we rolled it up and continued downwind, under main alone, all day.  It was still cloudy and rained a little, but the wind was ideal (between 10 and 15 knots) for most of the day and we saw lots of dolphins.

Second Reef in the Main
About 16:00, the wind started to build and finally reached 21 knots.  We were screaming along at 7.5 knots, which put us far ahead of schedule, since we had planned on a speed of 4 knots.  At 17:00, we decided the wind wasn’t going to die anytime soon, so we turned head to wind and put a double reef in the mainsail for the night.  Even with the double reef, we continued to do 5.5 knots, but the motion was much easier.

I cooked dinner during some of the roughest seas we saw.  We ate smoked pork chops, mashed yams and salad in the cockpit, but had to hang onto our plates and silverware because anything loose went flying.  About 20:30, I went below to sleep before my watch.  I went to sleep on the low side of the main salon, but Brad later gybed, putting me on the high side.  All at once, we hit a  big wave which bounced me out of my bunk where I crashed into the dining table before landing unceremoniously on the floor.  I switched to the opposite side of the salon, but didn’t sleep much more before my watch began at 23:30 because the 20 knot winds and large seas continued until just before I came on deck.  We had originally planned to arrive in Chamela around dawn and spend 24 hours there, but we arrived at midnight.  Not wanting to negotiate a strange anchorage in the dark, we decided to continue straight on to Tentacatita.

January 27, 2015

Dawn Near Tentacatita
The wind grew lighter on my watch, but the seas continued large for some time.  By this time the wind was under ten knots and we were slipping along at 3.5 to 4 knots, which was fine, since we didn’t want to reach Tentacatita before dawn.  Unfortunately, the course we were sailing intersected the land, so I was forced to gybe and head out to sea.  That gybe was much rougher and it was difficult to keep the sail from banging when we got ahead of the wind.  We continued in that uncomfortable direction for an hour or so until we were clear of the land and could return to the favored gybe.  By then, the seas were beginning to flatten and the rest of the night passed uneventfully.  Brad took over at 3:30 and I was actually able to get a bit of sleep until 7:00 when we arrived at the mouth of Tentacatita’s bay.

Unfortunately, our depth sounder took that moment to quit on us.  We whipped out our cruising guides and managed to avoid running aground until we could get to the anchorage and poll the crews of boats anchored there about the depths.  We made a quick loop through the anchorage and said, “Hello,” to Don on Comet and Peter and his guest, Vivian, on Skybird, before heading out into a bit deeper water and dropping our own hook.  Bahia Tentacatita offered much more than an anchorage.  There were several coves where boats could anchor and quite a community with daily activities in the main anchorage.  Provisions and entertainment could be found in the town of La Manzanilla and there were a mangrove swamp and snorkeling spots to explore.

Ketch Anchored at Tentacatita
Our first day in Tentacatita was so windy that all shoreside activities were cancelled.  We spent the entire day relaxing on the boat and catching up on sleep.  Around 16:00, I started cooking because we had invited Don from Comet and Peter and his guest, Vivian, from Skybird over for a dinner party.  I hadn’t planned on a dinner party when I shopped, but rooted around in the refrigerator and managed to find enough food to make a jicama and mango salad, curried cauliflower and chicken and peppers in green mole.  Peter brought some mahi mahi and I sautéed that in butter and garlic and we had quite a feast.  It was good to connect with friends in a new anchorage and we passed a pleasant evening exchanging tales of our adventures since the last time we had met.  White Wind had an exceptionally large and comfortable cockpit that was perfect for a party, prompting someone to say, "This isn't a cockpit.  It's a living room!"  I enjoyed sailing on a boat with a comfortable cockpit for a change.  White Wind even had a bimini to shade us from the sun and, for once, I didn't need to slather myself in sunscreen or wear a hat.  This reinforced my opinion that a proper cruising boat needs to have a comfortable "back yard."

January 28, 2015

Dawn in Tentacatita
Motoring Through the Mangroves
 Brad and I were well rested and got up nice and early so that we could put the dinghy into the water while the sea was calm.  Our mission for the day was to take the “jungle cruise” up the river emptying into Bahia Tentacatita, which was rumored to be fantastic.  By 10:00, we had the motor on the dinghy and headed for the mouth of the river.  The tide was a little bit too low for us to motor over the bar into the river, so I had to jump out into water up to my thighs and pull us over the bar and into the stream, but it was plenty deep once we made our somewhat clumsy entrance.  Mangroves quickly closed over the stream until we were motoring up a green tunnel.  We didn’t see any of the crocodiles that live in the river, but we saw many different kinds of herons, pelicans roosting in trees and colorful crabs clinging to the mangrove roots all along the banks.  It took us a good two hours to motor up the river to the lake at the far end where so many fish jumped that we wondered if they weren’t the jumping Asian carp that were invading western waters.  We stopped and chatted with a couple in another dinghy for half an hour or so and then proceeded back down the river to a palapa restaurant on the beach.  The current was with us on the trip back, so our return was much quicker.
Crabs of Many Colors Clung to the Mangroves
Odd to See a Pelican in a Tree

                                                                                                                                      We hauled our dinghy out on the river bank and were very glad for our dinghy wheels as we dragged the dinghy across the beach and around the bar where we could later launch it straight into the surf.  After working up a thirst, we repaired to the restaurant for cold beers and octopus ceviche, which we shared with the couple we had met earlier at the lake.  After lunch, we watched other cruisers launch their dinghies through the surf and then, eventually braved it ourselves.  We managed to get through the breakers and into the dinghy without capsizing and returned to the boat by late afternoon. 
Our Dinghy on the Beach with Wheels Down

We spent the remainder of the afternoon trying unsuccessfully to determine why the depth sounder wasn’t working.  Brad dug around in the boat, jiggling wires, while I called out when it was and wasn’t reading the depth.  Unfortunately, nothing we tried resulted in a repeatable result and the readings came and went even when Brad wasn’t touching anything.  Peter and Vivian had taken Skybird across the bay to La Manzanilla to pick up Leslie, the boat’s owner, who was returning from a few days in the USA.  Don stopped by for a visit at cocktail hour and brought me a book to read.  He left at dusk and Brad and I were ready to retire by 21:30.  It had been a satisfying day.

January 29, 2015

Fishermen Going Out at Dawn in Tentacatita
Once again, we got up fairly early and hauled the dinghy back onto the foredeck while the winds were light.  By 10:00, we had raised the anchor and were motoring towards Barra de Navidad in light air.  We raised the main, but the wind was so light that it didn’t contribute much to our speed.  Still, the seas were so flat that we made good time as we motored out of Bahia Tentacatita, around Cabeza de Navidad and across Bahia de Navidad to the harbor entrance.  Our depth sounder still wasn’t working, but I had put several waypoints into the GPS, which allowed us to arrive at the marked channel without mishap.  By 14:00, we were tucked into a slip in the gorgeous, very European Marina de Navidad, which is attached to the Isla Grand Bay Hotel, with its fabulous pools and manicured grounds.

The Hotel and Marina at Barra de Navidad
The Town of Barra de Navidad
For me, it was a strange sensation to return to that marvelous place for a second season.  I immediately began to meet people I knew from the previous year and I felt extremely blessed to be part of the community of sea gypsies who can follow the warm weather from one beautiful port to the next as our fancies direct.  I was exactly where I wanted to be and knew that I would be content to be there, again each year, for many years to come.

I took a shower while Brad checked into the marina and then we went up to the main desk to pay for the slip and get our internet passwords.  After taking care of business at the hotel, we flagged down a water taxi to take us across the channel to the town of Barra de Navidad so that we could check in with the port captain.  The port captain’s office is on the far side of Barra de Navidad, so I was able to give Brad a quick tour of the place as we hustled across town to get to the port captain’s office before it closed.  Fortunately, I remembered how to find the office, which was buried in a residential neighborhood deep in the town.  We took care of our business there and then made a quick stop at the bus station to scope out my return journey for the next day.  All business successfully executed, we rewarded ourselves with margaritas and quesadillas at the Best Sunset, my favorite watering hole in Barra, built in the ruins of a hurricane devastated hotel.

As we were boarding the water taxi to return to the marina, I looked up and saw my friends, Jan and Ramona from Jatimo stepping aboard.  I had been keeping an eye out for them all season and was very excited to finally connect with them.  They stopped for a visit aboard White Wind on their way back to their boat in the lagoon and shared their bag of ice with us.  It was great to see them again and we were sorry that I had to leave the next day, but vowed to meet again in La Cruz in a week or two.  I met more friends up at the pool when I went for a swim later in the evening.  Barra was feeling like a gathering of friends and I was sorry that I needed to leave so soon.

I heated up leftovers for dinner and we spent a quiet evening catching up on our internet tasks.  The temperature was perfect and I enjoyed a couple of hours of surfing the internet in the cockpit, although the mosquitoes were bothersome and I eventually retreated inside the boat despite a liberal coating of insect repellent.  The diversion of helping Brad bring White Wind to Barra had been entirely pleasurable.

Friday, January 23, 2015


January 14, 2015

Boca de Tomatlan
Wednesday morning, our tour guide, April, picked our group of seven sailors up at 8:30 for a hike from Boca de Tomatlan to the Quimixto waterfall along the southern shore of Banderas Bay.  It took us a little bit over an hour to drive through Puerto Vallarta during rush hour and then make our way through the fancy houses and hotels in Conchas Chinas and Los Arcos to the tiny town of Boca de Tomatlan where the main highway turns inland.  Boca de Tomatlan is the jumping off place for pangas to Yelapa and other spots along the southern shore that are not accessible (or at least not easily accessible) by road.

Anchorage in Boca de Tomatlan
 April parked the van in the shade in Boca de Tomatlan and we crossed the river and followed a trail that wound between the jungle on one side and the beach on the other to the pretty Playa Colomitos, so named for a sort of philodenron that grows there.  We then continued along the
Playa Colomitos

Las Animas
                                                                                                                                                    trail for several miles, up and down hills, past the resort at La Troza, to the village of Las Animas.  Las Animas of-fered a few restaurants on the beach and a some small hotels.  It was a laid back place to get away from it all.
La Troza
                                                                                                                                                      We ate lunch at a restaurant called Caracol.    For 110 pesos, I got three shrimp quesadillas, rice, beans and a strawberry margarita.  The food was exceptionally good and we were all very surprised at what a great value our lunch had been.  By the time we rolled out of there, we were all stuffed and some of us had been slowed considerably by margaritas.  I had purposely ordered a strawberry one because the fruit ones usually contain less alcohol and I knew we had a few more miles to cover.

Our Guide, April from Wave House
Quimixto Waterfall

From Las Animas, we continued another three miles or so to Quimixto where we paid a short visit to a friend of April’s who was renting a beach house that April and her husband had formerly occupied for five years.  April’s friend was caring for a neighbor’s dog and her one week old puppies.  We played with the babies for a few minutes and then continued up the beach into the very small town of Quimixto before turning inland and following the river uphill to a pretty waterfall.  There was a restaurant and swimming hole at the base of the restaurant.  We stopped there for a cold drink while some of our number tested the chilly water.  By the time we cooled off, it was time to wander back down to Quimixto and catch a panga back to Boca de Tomatlan.  By the time we made it back to La Cruz it was almost dark.  April dropped off the rest of the group at the marina and then she and I shared a couple of glasses of wine and some leftover Chinese food.  It was nice to hang out for a bit.

January 15, 2015

El Rey Bombon
Running seemed inadvisable after my long walk the day before.  I opted for doing 90 sit-ups and 90 squats instead.  I received a Facebook message from one of the other members of our hiking group from the day before, inquiring whether I might be available to take his place helping his friend, Brad, move his boat White Wind to Barra de Navidad.  The three of us got together for lunch to discuss the possibility.  Brad had a taste for ceviche, so we ate at El Rey Bombon, a seafood restaurant next door to Sonja’s laundry that I had been wanting to try.  I had a ceviche tostada.  I had also ordered a couple of shrimp tacos, but it was a good thing they forgot my order because the tacos were so huge that Brad couldn’t eat two of them, so shared one with me. The tacos were excellent, as was the ceviche, and very reasonable.

White Wind at the Fuel Dock
I decided that I would make the trip with Brad, so ran up the hill to get my passport so that we could check out with the port captain.  I went with them to the boat to check it out before committing to sailing anywhere.  Unfortunately, by the time I got the boat tour and we returned to the fuel dock, it was past 14:30 and the port captain’s office had closed.  We wanted to leave about midnight Friday night so as to get around Cabo Corrientes just before dawn when the winds were light.  Brad was planning to go on Aprl’s excursion to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens on Friday morning, which would have made it impossible for him to check out Friday morning before leaving unless he could work out some kind of arrangement with April.  The port captain was not open over the weekend.  I left my passport with him and he promised to figure out some way to get us checked out, even if he had to bail on the trip. 

The Gecko Rojo
I stopped at the Gecko Rojo for one beer on my way back up to my apartment, just to say hello to the denizens of the bar.  Then I went home to relax and eat dinner before heading back down to the marina amphitheater for movie night.  It was a lovely evening and just cool enough to need a light sweater.  After the movie, I dashed over to the Marisol Market for their Thursday night produce sale.  From 17:00 to 22:00 on Thursday evenings, they bring in a truckload of fresh produce and sell it off their loading dock.  Much of it goes to local restaurants, but they sell to individuals, too.  I was there to buy provisions for White Wind.  Their prices were quite reasonable.  For 55 pesos (under $4), I got a head of lettuce, two big avocados, a bunch of bananas, a couple of onions, and two yellow peppers.

January 16, 2015

I couldn’t tell if it was second day soreness from the hike or maybe just the result of all the squats I had done, but I wasn’t up to running.  Blair, Brad’s friend, hailed me on the radio right after the net.  He wanted to tell me that Brad had decided that the 20 knots of wind predicted for the next day would be too much for his light boat.  I didn’t disagree.  Hunters can get pretty uncomfortable in big wind and seas.  Brad had gone to the botanical garden, so I met Blair at Enrique’s restaurant to collect my passport.  We still hoped I would be able to help Brad deliver the boat, but we would have to work around the weather and my friend Cara’s visit.

Three Foot Brown Iguana
Blair was flying out that afternoon, but we made a trip back to the boat to drop off the provisions I had purchased for Brad.  On the way, we stopped at the plaza where Blair showed me a colony of huge brown (orange striped, actually) iguanas living in the trees there.  They seemed to prefer the leafless trees where they could sun themselves.  I had never noticed the lizards before, but they were everywhere once you started looking for them. 

We took the dinghy back out to the boat and hung out there for a couple of hours while Blair packed his bags and cleaned up the boat.  Blair was killing time until his flight left.  We brought the dinghy back to the marina and cruised up and down the docks, looking at the boats in the harbor.  Finally, we walked back up the hill and I left Blair at the bus stop.  I went home to grab some lunch and study languages and guitar for the rest of the afternoon until it was time to return to the marina for Mexican Train happy hour.
We had a large turnout for dominos.  Fortunately, I had brought my set of double 15 dominos, so we were able to set up two tables in the courtyard behind the deli.  I knew everyone at our table and we had a great time.  One of the marina security guards was a former bartender and he whipped up pretty decent margaritas.  We played until it got too dark outside to see and the mosquitos started to feast.
I went home and made myself dinner.  I spent a pleasant evening and was just about to go to bed at midnight when I remembered that Katrina had told me I could play Mexican Train online.  I checked it out and, before I knew it, it was two o’clock in the morning.

January 17, 2015

Having gone to bed much too late, I slept until the radio net awakened me at 8:30.  By then, it was too late to run.  I drank coffee and listened to the net.   I was moving slow and barely had time to get my act together by 11:00 when I needed to report to Wings for the third installment of the Vallarta Cup races.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we all enjoyed the hour’s trip to the starting line in Nuevo Vallarta.  The wind was light in the morning and the start was delayed for 15 minutes.  No sooner had the committee boat raised the postponement flag than the wind came up.  It was quite windy for the race.

Sky and Ray After the Race

Our Skipper, Fred

Having thought the wind would be light, the race committee had chosen a relatively short, but complicated, course involving three spinnaker sets.  After an excellent start, we sailed up to a windward mark, popped the kite and sailed down to the sea buoy off Puerto Vallarta.  We did much better than the previous week.  We left Gypsy, the winner of the previous week’s race, in the dust (although they beat us on corrected time) and even managed to keep up with Olas Lindas, the fancy German raceboat that owed us time.  Unfortunately, we followed Olas Lindas and both of us sailed right past the PV sea buoy, although we realized it before they did.  We probably would have beaten Gypsy if not for that error. 

From PV, we sailed back up to the windward mark, raised a second kite, and sailed down to a leeward mark near the starting line.  Rounding that, our performance class then took another lap around the windward mark before charging back down to the finish under spinnaker.  It got fairly exciting at the end as the wind gusted to 20 knots and the block holding the spinnaker guy broke and went flying just before we crossed the finish line.  I had been very actively grinding the spinnaker sheet on the last leg.  When we did an emergency spinnaker douse, no one on the foredeck was expecting it and the kite came in at the cockpit where I had my hands full hauling it out of the water.  I don’t think I had ever before worked up that much of a sweat during a sailboat race. 

The J 80, Sheva, was the clear winner, since they almost managed to keep up with the bigger boats.  Bright Star, which had trailed us the whole race the week before, had stayed in front of us the whole way.  We came in 4th, but were pleased that we had managed to beat Olas Lindas and stay with the pack.  The additional wind clearly favored Wings.  It was a quick race, but we had all worked hard in the hot sun.  We enjoyed cold beers on the commute back to La Cruz.  Getting home early, Rod, Carol and I had time to pay a visit to our crewmate Nick’s boat before they gave me a ride back up to the highway on their way back to Bucerias.  Usually, I am glad for the walk, but I was ready for a shower and a rest after that workout.

After my shower, I munched leftover pork chops and guacamole for dinner.  High season had clearly arrived.  Loud music was blaring from all over town.  At midnight, the gringo bands shut down, but then the Mexican ones cranked up.  I could hear two or three going, including one with very loud trumpets.  They were still at it when I finally fell asleep about 2:30.

January 18, 2015

Even the cannons firing in Bucerias couldn’t get me out of bed early enough to run after the music had kept me up half the night before.  I finally got up about 8:00.  I did 21 push-ups, 95 sit-ups and 95 squats and promised myself I would do better the next day.  I made a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs and enjoyed my coffee while working on my jigsaw puzzle.  The puzzle was one of the sorts where all the pieces are the same shape and fit in the wrong places just as well as the right ones.  It had been slow going, but I finally managed to finish the sky.  I studied languages and played the guitar for an hour.  After lunch, I had intended to go to the store, but ended up taking a nap instead.  The music had continued unabated until about 14:00, but finally quieted down and was silent all afternoon and evening.  I never left the house.  Instead, I made grilled chicken with a mango jicama salad for dinner and spent the rest of the evening catching up on my writing, which I had neglected all week.

January 19, 2015

Monday, there was a beautiful dawn, but I was still too sore to run.  I didn’t think it was the hiking, so must have been all the squats.  I spent a pleasant day, following my usual pursuits and made a trip to the Mega for a few groceries in the afternoon.

January 20, 2014

My friend, Cara, was due to arrive the next day, so I spent the entire morning washing the floor so that we could walk around without our feet turning black from the soot that drifted in through the open windows.  I doubt anyone had scrubbed that floor on hands and knees in years and there was all kinds of dirt that had collected where the walls met the floor.  I still had not finished when it was time to walk down to the Octopus’ Garden to meet Brad for lunch.  Brad had brought White Wind into the marina for a few days to wash the boat and take advantage of La Cruz’s social and culinary opportunities.  The Octopus’ Garden really only served breakfast, so we had chilaquiles for lunch, which suited me fine.

After lunch, I picked up my laundry and headed back up the hill to finish washing the floor.  By the time that task was done, I barely had time to study languages and practice the guitar before the day was over.

Friday, January 16, 2015


January 7, 2014

I had planned to attend the party with the kids from the orphanage at 15:00, but snagged a crew position on the race boat, Wings, and was disappointed to discover that I needed to be there at 15:00, since the race start was at 16:00.  Wings is a Peterson Serendipity 43, an older flush decked race boat with two cockpits.  My duty for the day was to mind the running backs, which put me in the aft cockpit with the owner/helmsman, Fred.  We had a crew of ten, which was more than we really needed, but enough that Fred and Judy should always have sufficient crew if some of us couldn’t make a given race.

We went out and sailed around a bit before the start to get a feel for the boat and working together.  A mother and baby humpback whale surfaced within a hundred feet of the boat.  We shouldn’t have been that close to them, but nobody told the whales that.  They appeared completely relaxed in our presence.  There wasn’t much wind.  Four boats showed up for the race.  The two cruising boats got a five minute head start and then we started with Blue, a J 160 that soon left us behind.  We sailed upwind until we got bored with the lack of wind and decided to withdraw, turn around, and practice gybing the spinnaker.  We accomplished that remarkably well for an untried crew and the skipper was pleased with us and optimistic about the coming season of racing.

We got back just about dinnertime.  I ran into Don (who had just returned from a trip back to LA for the holidays) and his friends, Peter and Leslie, as I headed into town.  We decided to go to the Red Chairs taco stand next door to Philo’s for dinner.  Like most of the taco vendors, they didn’t open until 19:00, so we had to kill about twenty minutes.  Fortunately, I just happened to have four beers in my bag that the owners of Wings wouldn’t let me contribute.  We sat, drinking beer and chatting, until they started to serve.  Our meals were very tasty, especially the tacos adobado.

After dinner, we headed over to Anna Banana's to listen to their live music.  Nick, who had played a couple of numbers at Greg and Jen’s party, was the featured act, but the opening act drove us away after one beer.  We were all tired.  Apparently, things really got rolling later, but I had turned into a pumpkin long before then.

January 8, 2014

Thursday was a blessedly free day.  I didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything.  I spent the day studying languages and guitar and completed my blog post for the week.  It was very relaxing and I enjoyed myself immensely.  After dinner, I walked down to the marina to watch Into the Storm in the marina amphitheater.  It was a beautiful starry night and never got the slightest bit chilly.  The marina deli served hot dogs, sandwiches and drinks.  There was a good crowd of cruisers and I was happy to see a number of local families, as well.    The movie was in English with Spanish subtitles so that everyone could enjoy it.  As poor as my hearing was, I was glad for the subtitles, too.

After the movie, I stopped at the Marisol Market to buy produce.  They get shipments on Thursdays and Sundays and are open until 22:00 so that people can buy fruits and vegetables.  I had been hearing about this market for two seasons, but they had closed up before I got there.  I did manage to buy some tomatoes, bananas and a head of romaine lettuce that wasn’t too limp.  I wanted salad fixings because Don, Peter and Leslie were coming over for dinner on Sunday.

January 9, 2014

I got up very early because I wanted to run before going on a trip to the old mining town of San Sebastian.  It was barely light by the time I returned from running around the marina and was downright dark on the way down.  The steep cobblestones were downright treacherous in the dark and I had to pick my way down rather slowly.

Road to San Sebastian
Our tour guide, April from Wave House, met us at PV sailing.  For political reasons, she was not allowed to drive her van onto the marina property.  April was an American who had lived in the Puerto Vallarta area since 1985 and had obtained her Mexican citizenship and was actually a licensed tour guide.  She had a very comfortable full sized Toyota van.  Used as I was to traveling in a minivan with up to 23 people in Chiapas, eight of us in that big van seemed positively luxurious.  We even had seat belts.  We drove into Puerto Vallarta and then took the road to Las Palmas through Ixtapa to Estancia, where we turned off onto the road for San Sebastian.  The road climbed steeply through a rare deciduous rainforest (only rainy during the rainy season) and eventually climbed into a forest of oaks and white pines.  There were thunderheads over the mountains and the sky looked quite dramatic.

Hacienda Jalisco
Silver was discovered in San Sebastian in the late 16th century and was mined there continuously until the revolution.  By the late 19th century, the mining operations were owned by multinational corporations.  When the revolution started, the foreigners managing the mines got nervous and left.  During the heyday of San Sebastian, there were seven large haciendas processing silver ore and five more smaller ones.  The town once had 20,000 inhabitants.  After the revolution, it was nearly abandoned and the population dropped to 200 people.  About ten years ago, the road to San Sebastian was finally paved and a bridge built to span the Mascota River.  Since then, tourism had revived San Sebastian to some extent and there were about 900 people living there.

Silver Smelting Oven
Our first stop was the Hacienda Jalisco.  Once a large silver refinery, it was abandoned after the revolution (1910-1917) and stood empty until the 1960s when an American bought it and turned it into a hotel.  Before the road was paved, San Sebastian was really only accessible by airplane and Hollywood celebrities used to vacation there.  Today, it is a museum and bed and breakfast.  All of the mining equipment was hauled off for scrap during the years it was abandoned, but the brick ovens when the ore was cooked remain, although the once 200 foot high chimney had been plundered for its bricks.

From the Hacienda Jalisco, we continued into the town proper and stopped at La Quinta Mary, a coffee coop where we sampled the local coffee while listening to the shrieking of two rainbow macaws.  San Sebastian had a very temperate climate and elevation (4200’) that allowed them to grow almost anything.  We saw peach, citrus, avocado, coffee and banana trees.  The homes had gardens that were a riot of edible and ornamental plants.  Most farmers grew at least some coffee and sold the beans to the coop.
Coffee Roaster at La Quinta Mary

Old Jail in San Sebastian
                                                                                      We ate lunch at a family style restaurant where we were served quesadillas, rice, beans, machaca (a hash of shredded beef and eggs), tortillas and chicken in a tasty red mole.  Our meal included agua de pina (a refreshing drink made from pineapple and water) and the price was 110 pesos, which wasn’t bad for such a nice meal.  After lunch, we walked around the town center.  The plaza was undergoing renovation and there were open trenches which made navigation difficult.  We visited a coffee shop located in the former company store and the old jail, where drunks are still confined from time to time.

The Plaza in San Sebastian
San Sebastian Neighborhood
After exploring the town, we got back in the van and drove as far as we could up towards the mines.  Eventually, we were forced to park the van and walk the last half mile or so up the hill.  We passed a number of mine entrances and finally stopped at the Santa Gertrudis mine.  For an operation that had once employed so many people, the mines were surprisingly small.  The tunnels were so small that the taller members of our party had to duck and so narrow that the ore had been carried out in slings before being loaded onto mule drawn wagons to be taken to the haciendas for processing.  The ore from the Santa Gertrudis mine had been processed at Hacienda Jalisco.  Many of the mine entrances had been overgrown with fig tree roots until they looked more like hobbit holes that mine shafts.  We walked into the Santa Gertrudis mine for about 80 meters until the tunnel ended in a collapse.  Until recently, the mine had extended all the way through to the other side of the mountain.  
Santa Gertrudis Mine Entrance
After exploring the mine, we walked back down to the van and drove straight back to La Cruz.  It was dinnertime by then, so I just walked back up the hill and ate leftover chicken wings and beans for dinner.  By the time I studied languages for an hour, chatted with Scott and practiced the guitar for a bit, I barely had time to watch an episode of The Walking Dead on Netflix before it was time to go to sleep.  I was tired.  My fitbit said I had covered 11.3 miles for the day.

January 10, 2014

I got up and forced myself to do 18 push-ups, 80 sit-ups and 80 air squats.  That woke me up, so I showered, listened to the net, and made breakfast.  I had just enough time to get my language study in before it was time to head down to the marina to go racing on Wings.  I arrived at 11:00 and we pulled away from the dock by 11:30.  The starting line was in Nuevo Vallarta, so it took us nearly an hour to motor over there.  As someone who has been on a lot of race boats, the skipper, Fred, warned me that he reserved the right to ask me to do anything and asked me to keep an eye out for things that seemed amiss.
Heading Out to Race on Wings

The start was delayed and there were two classes starting ahead of us, so we didn’t actually start until after 13:00.  Our first leg was a short one to weather, so I attended to the running backstays.   Next, we reached all the way to La Cruz.  A reach was not the best point of sail for Wings and we had a tough time in relation to the other boats.  We couldn’t carry a spinnaker when we first rounded the La Cruz mark, but we eventually worked our way high enough that we were able to fly the chute the rest of the way to the Puerto Vallarta sea buoy.  We raised the jib, rounded the mark and doused the chute like we’d been doing it on that boat for years and charged up to the weather mark, preparing to hoist a second chute at the mark.  The second chute didn’t go up quite as smoothly.  We got it tangled in the bag, but got it up without too much delay, although we snapped a Fastex buckle.  I dived below to catch the chute after we crossed the finish line and pull the loose fabric in through the hatch once the chute was dropped.  We hadn’t won, but we were pleased with our performance as a crew and had a pleasant sail back to La Cruz while we enjoyed cold beers and sorted and stowed sails and lines.  It had been a gorgeous day with decent wind.  At times we had reached a speed of nearly eight knots.  We were happy.

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so was in a hurry to get home and eat something, although I did stop at Philo’s to buy tickets for the upcoming Luna Rumba concert.  My friend, Cara, was arriving the day of the concert and wanted to go.  I got tickets and made a dinner reservation so that we would be assured of good seats.  Then I hustled up the hill to make dinner and spend the evening chatting with Scott, playing the guitar and writing.  Scott’s nonagenarian stepfather’s health had failed rather suddenly and he had just been put into hospice.  His 90 year old mother had been very ill with the flu, simultaneously, and Scott thought he would need to travel to Iowa to be with them.  We discussed whether or not I should come, too, but Scott didn’t think they needed me, also.  The internet often made me feel very close to people at home, but that situation made me feel very far away.  It would take me a day or two to get there, even if I were in a rush.   
January 11, 2014

Farmers' Market Booty
Sunday was the one day of the week with no 8:30 radio net and I used that as an excuse to sleep later than usual and, hence, usually did not run on Sundays.  I got up at 8:00 or so and had a nice leisurely morning.  I needed bread to make bruschetta for dinner, so I wandered down to the farmers’ market to pick up a fresh baguette.  I was very fond of the cucumber, kiwi, lime juice sold by the juice vendor at the end of the jetty, so I fought my way through the exceptionally large crowd to get a cup of refreshing juice and then picked up some strawberries and the bread before heading home.  The strawberries never lasted long, so I cleaned and froze them, right away.  Frozen strawberries make better smoothies (or strawberry margaritas), anyway.

Don and his friend, Leslie, were coming for dinner, so I needed to make a trip to the Mega for groceries, which seemed to be my Sunday routine.  I took a collectivo up there.  Those of us who live in California have long wondered why people  get killed trying to run across Highway 5 to avoid the immigration checkpoint in Oceanside.  I can tell you why.  In Mexico, we ran across the highway all the time.  I did it every time I went to the Walmart because the bus stops on the wrong side of the road.      There is actually a very nice pedestrian walkway across the highway at the Mega, but no one used it (except me.)  The bus stopped a block short of the overpass so that people could run across the highway before the safety fence began.
The Mega

After returning from the Mega, I barely had time to do my daily language lessons and a quick online guitar lesson before it was time to start cooking dinner.  I did not have an oven or toaster, so I fried the pieces of bread in olive oil to crisp them.  I diced the tomatoes and added olive oil and some of my Tuscan spice mix, plus a dash of Huichol hot sauce to give them a kick since we were, after all, in Mexico.  Don and Leslie arrived just as I was making the salad.  We mixed up a batch of margaritas (Lime Tang mixed double strength makes dandy margarita mix.) and I finished the salad, constructed the bruschette and sautéed Tuscan chicken cutlets while we drank and munched on pistachios.  It was a simple meal, but was different than the usual fare and was well received.  Leslie had brought some homemade rice pudding for dessert and we enjoyed that with fresh pears.  The evening flew by and it was 22:00 before we knew it and time to say goodnight.

January 12, 2014

Sonja's Laundry
There was nothing more exciting to me than a beautiful day with absolutely no obligations.    I rose about 6:30 and went for a run.  The clouds that had been ruining by sunrises had departed and it was a gorgeous dawn, turning the water a liquid copper and silhouetting the boats and mountains against the vivid sky.  I was back in plenty of time to complete my morning routine in time to enjoy me coffee while listening to the net.  With Scott in Iowa, we were now in the same time zone.     I was sorry to hear that his stepfather had passed the previous evening.  He was in his late 90’s and had been healthy until his last ten days or so, so it was comforting to know he had had a good life and been at peace with the process of leaving it.  Still, he would be missed.

After the net, I took my laundry down the hill to Sonja’s and then came back to enjoy a day of studying and playing the guitar.  After a brief nap, I drank a small glass of diet coke to energize myself.  The trouble with getting up early to run was that I often didn’t get more than about six hours of sleep and would start dropping off in the afternoon.  I didn’t want to waste any of my precious day sleeping.    I spent a fabulous day studying languages, playing the guitar and making another crayon drawing.  For dinner, I made strips of steak with a guajillo chile sauce.  It was a perfect day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
January 13, 2014

Tuesday was almost a repeat of Monday.  I spent some time cleaning the house, but mostly just enjoyed myself after doing 85 sit-ups and 85 squats.