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.

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